KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips


CHICAGO — “Mother Nature” pretty much played havoc with most area short tracks this past weekend with only Rockford Speedway getting in its regularly scheduled weekend night of stock car racing as other tracks fell victims to the rainy weather.

The high-banked, quarter-mile (actually .29-mile) Rockford paved oval got its Saturday night show in with veteran Steve Rubeck of Rockford claiming top honors in the 30-lap, NASCAR-sanctioned late model stock car feature race over Alex Papini. Papini, the 23-year-old, second generation, driver from Machesney Park, has been tough to beat at Rockford this season, already winning four feature races and leading the division standings at the speedway. Rockford has been suffering some low car counts in its late model ranks so far this season with only eight cars listed in the final feature finish this past Saturday.

Sycamore Speedway, celebrating its 50th year of operation, was set to host a big night of racing Saturday, featuring DIRTcar United Midwestern Promoters late models and modifieds, but the special program was rained out. The event was to showcase the return of “full-bore” late models to the track for the first time in over a decade.

Indiana’s Illiana Motor Speedway, Shadyhill Speedway and Plymouth Speedway were also victims of the rain. Young Paul Shafer Jr. leads the late model division standings at Illiana. Shafer is only in his second season of late model action at the Schererville half-mile paved oval. Shafer is the son of Paul Shafer, a front running Late Model dirt track competitor from years past, who currently competes in the Legends division on Illiana’s quarter-mile asphalt track.

Mark Ross Jr. put his name in the record books on May 4 as the 23-year-old Highland resident captured the 30-lap Schepel Buick GMC Super Late Model stock car feature. Scoring his first super late model victory, Ross kept his Chevrolet Impala SS out front for all 30 circuits.

The car Ross wheeled to the win is a former Jeff Cannon-driven machine, which Cannon, the three-time Illiana champion, helped Ross get ready for the new racing season. Ross had raced late models in 2011, but sat out the 2012 season.

“I couldn’t have done it without him (Cannon),” Ross commented. “He helps me with the setup and tells me what I need to do. He pretty much tells me everything about racing that I don’t know. I wouldn’t be here without him and the rest of my crew and family.”

Another Indiana raceway, South Bend Speedway got in its scheduled heat races for the night, but the rains came after intermission and washed out the feature races. The high banked, quarter-mile, paved South Bend oval will present the 16th annual Jim Blount Memorial Race on July 24. $7,500 will be awarded to the winner of the outlaw late models feature.

Grundy County Speedway in Morris tried everything to get its regular Friday night racing card in with all racing completed except for the late model 30-lap main event — another rain victim. The Tom Smith-promoted Kankakee Fairgrounds Speedway canceled its entire Friday night of dirt track racing, rescheduling its weekly action to Sunday evening.

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Stan Kalwasinski
Stan Kalwasinski has been involved in auto racing for nearly 50 years as both a writer and photographer. He has a particular interest in Chicagoland auto racing — primarily stock car racing. Look for him at tracks in the Chicagoland region of Illinois.