Throughout the early part of the 2015 season, Larry Schuler has been talking about getting better.
In Friday’s late-model feature at Grundy County Speedway, he was the best.
The Minooka native took the lead via the high side from Scott Koerner and ran away from the field.
Now that’s better.
“Tonight we were,” Schuler said with a smile. “(Teammate) Ricky Baker saw some things, and we changed the car around. “It was three springs and all four shocks. I kind of like this.”
Koerner, who earlier in the night won a heat race, commanded the front of the field for the first eight laps. But once Schuler caught him, he wasted no time sliding up to the high side and making a move.
“It’s real good up there. You have to be able to do that here,” Schuler said. “Scotty (Koerner) did a great job of giving me room. He raced hard and I like that.”
Schuler beat Eddie Hoffman to the checkered flag by 2.639 seconds. Baker was third, followed by John Nutley, David Einhaus and Brandon Clubb.
A special 30-lap feature for the 4-cylinders saw Kyle Royster prevail in a cloud of smoke.
The smoke came from the exhaust of Royster’s No. 51, in varying degrees from light with 10 laps remaining to heavy at the finish.
“I must have overfilled the oil,” Royster said, laughing. “I could smell the smoke, but I thought, ‘Just drive the wheels off and if it blows up it blows up.'”
It didn’t, and right behind him, Dan Schmeissing had all he could do to see where he was going.
“It was brutal,” Schmeissing said. “The smoke got bad there. I wish I could have that one back, or maybe have it a 35-lapper, because he was losing power.”
Schmeissing, who led the race from laps 11 through 16, was a car length behind at the finish. Third went to Ricky Wilson, followed by Jim Gross, Jacob Theissen and Will Shepherd.
Defending track champion Tom Knippenberg overtook Joe Vinachi on lap 18 of the 25-lap event and went on to take the checkered flag, but a postrace inspection turned up a fuel cell height violation.
The win was awarded to Vinachi, with Luke Baldwin second and Kevin Gentile third.
Fifth-place finisher Kenny Benson was also disqualified for the same violation that eliminated Knippenberg.
In the street stock feature, Tim Stewart held off a ferocious challenge by Christy Penrod to claim his first feature win of the season.
Stewart took the lead from Seth Blommaert on lap 16. Penrod, who had fast qualifying time, took over second place on lap 22, and chased Stewart down.
Over the final three laps she was on his back bumper, but couldn’t make the pass.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hold her off,” Stewart said. “I picked up such a bad push late in the race. It was challenging. She ran me clean and did a good job. It was a fun finish.”
Third went to Rita Fields, while Cheryl Hryn, Paul Polarek and Butch Kolbe completed the top six.
-Grundy County Speedway Press Release. Photo Credit: Brian Nolte- 4th Turn Photos
Fast time: Eddie Hoffman (15.304). 1st heat: 1. Scott Koerner, 2. Nathan Kelly, 3. James Gregait. 2nd heat: 1. Larry Schuler, 2. David Einhaus, 3. John Nutley. 30-lap feature: 1. Schuler, 2. Hoffman, 3. Ricky Baker, 4. Nutley, 5. Einhaus, 6. Brandon Clubb.
Fast time: Tom Knippenberg (16.372). 1st heat: 1. Joe Vinachi, 2. Matt Clemens, 3. Cody Clubb. 2nd heat: 1. John Ventrello, 2. Kenny Benson, 3. Knippenberg. 25-lap feature: 1. Vinachi, 2. Luke Baldwin, 3. Kevin Gentile, 4. Jim Kachel, 5. Chuck Yuris, 6. Clemens.
Fast time: Christy Penrod (17.553). 1st heat: 1. Butch Kolbe, 2. Seth Blommaert, 3. Zach Sontag. 2nd heat: 1. Tim Stewart, 2. Jake Bradley, 3. Penrod. 25-lap feature: 1. Stewart, 2. Penrod, 3. Rita Fields, 4. Cheryl Hryn, 5. Paul Polarek, 6. Butch Kolbe.
Fast time: Jim Gross (19.869). 1st heat: 1. Bryce Leake, 2. Chris Mihalski, 3. Dylan Marshall. 2nd heat: 1. Kyle Royster, 2. Ryan Lagestee, 3. Cirk Lindemuth. 30-lap feature: 1. Royster, 2. Dan Schmeissing, 3. Ricky Wilson, 4. Gross, 5. Jacob Theissen, 6. Will Shepherd.