KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips


CHICAGO — Former Chicago racer and resident Bill Venturini and his Venturini Motorsports team enjoyed the fruits of victory as the North Carolina-based team saw John Wes Townley wheel one of its four entries to victory at Daytona Int’l Speedway in Automobile Racing Club of America stock car action.

Townley won the Lucas Oil 200 presented by MAVTV American Real, the season opener for the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards Feb. 18.

Townley, the 23-year-old Georgia racer, drove his Zaxby’s-sponsored, Venturni Motorsports-owned Toyota to the victory in the 80-lap event on the high banks of Daytona. It was the first Daytona victory for Venturini Motorsports in the 31-year history of the organization.

Celebrating his 60th birthday on Valentine’s Day, Bill Venturini made his first appearance at Daytona in ARCA competition in 1982 and went on to win two ARCA driving titles, capturing the crowns in 1987 and 1991. Venturni, who along with his wife, Cathy, and son, Billy, head up the multi-car ARCA team. Venturni started his racing career at the Rockford Speedway in 1972, following the steps of his dad, Tony, who raced at Chicago’s Soldier Field in the 1950s.

Venturni Motorsports also fielded cars in the ARCA contest for Milka Duno, Justin Boston and Darrell Wallace Jr. with Duno sharing the front row for the start of the race with Townley, who was the event’s fastest qualifier.

It was the 27th career victory for the Venturini family, which saw the first victory on June 18, 1983 at Michigan’s Flat Rock Speedway, where Bill won his career-first ARCA race on the tiny quarter-mile oval. Townley became the 10th different driver to win under the Venturini Motorsports banner.

Other winners for Venturini Motorsports include Billy Venturini, Scott Lagasse Jr., Joey Logano, Sean Caisse, Mikey Kile, Steve Arpin, Alex Bowman and Brennan Poole. “Big Bill” won the most among all of his drivers with 12 victories from 1983 through 1992.

Townley will continue to drive a limited ARCA schedule for the Venturini team and will also drive for the team when Venturini Motorsports makes its NASCAR Nationwide Series debut later this season — March 16 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Dennis Erb Jr. of Carpentersville captured two victories during early season late model dirt track racing in Florida this month. The 40-year-old Erb won the season opener DART Winternationals Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series event at the East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., Feb. 11 and then came back two days later and took home $10,000 for his winning effort again at East Bay Raceway Park.

The tentatively scheduled ARCA CRA JEGS All-Stars Tour late model season opener at Illiana Motor Speedway (Schererville, Ind.) April 7 has been cancelled. About a week ago, officials announced the cancellation with the series season opener now moving to Michigan’s Springport Speedway April 28.

The annual Race & Performance Expo at the Pheasant Run Resort in St. Charles seems to be growing and growing. This past weekend’s sixth annual event saw organizers pretty much offer something for every motorsports enthusiast, including a large Circle Track Expo.

Nearly 150 manufacturers, race tracks and associations took part in the three-day event. Most area oval tracks took advantage of the event, announcing their opening dates, passing out schedules and other goodies to fans.


LaSalle Speedway will kick off the area racing season, hosting a big two-day dirt track show March 29-30. The “Spring Thaw Brawl” will be highlighted by a $10,000-to-win late model special on the 30th.

Rockford Speedway kicks off its season with its 36th annual Spring Classic season opener April 14. The program will be highlighted by competition from both the Big 8 Late Model Series and the Mid American Stock Car Series. Rockford gets its regular weekly racing action underway on April 20.

Other opening days that have been announced so far include: Illiana Motor Speedway, April 27; Grundy County Speedway (Morris), April 26; Kankakee County Speedway, May 3; Sycamore Speedway, April 27; and the converted-to-dirt Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway with its Cabin Fever Weekend on April 12-13.

Local midget racing gets under way with the Illini Racing Series hosting its season lid lifter on May 18 at Sycamore Speedway and the Short Track Auto Racing Series kicking off its season at the Grundy County Speedway June 1.

Officials of the Badger Midget Auto Racing Ass’n released an 18-race schedule for the Badger 600 Micro Series, including three “stand-alone” events on the dirt at the Sycamore Speedway June 22, July 20 and Aug. 24, competing with the track’s regular Saturday night stock car racing divisions.

The 22nd annual Chicagoland Auto Racing Memorabilia and Collectibles show will be March 24, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Will County Fairgrounds in Peotone. For more information, call (708) 558-1232 or (219) 923-1475 (evenings).

The address for news and comments is 9618 Cypress Ave., Munster, Ind. 46321-3418 or email to [email protected]