KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips


CHICAGO — “Fast Eddie” Hoffman has been pretty darn fast recently in Chicago are late model stock car racing, winning a number of races including the recent ASA Midwest Tour Wayne Carter Classic at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris on July 20.

Hoffman put his Tony D’Ambrose T1 Racing-built chassis, Feece Oil-sponsored Ford Fusion No. 8 into victory lane at the Morris third-of-a-mile paved oval, scoring his second Carter Classic victory of his career — his first coming back in 1998 when the race was part of the old NASCAR Elite series.

Hoffman bested ASA series point leader Minnesota’s Jonathan Eilen and visiting NASCAR driver and former area speedster Erik Darnell in the 100 lapper. Local racer Dave Gentile did a nice job and came home fourth, followed by new qualifying track record holder Chris Wimmer.

Seemingly having won championships and races all over the place throughout his career, Hoffman posted his first career ASA Midwest Tour victory that night, appropriately coming at the Grundy speed plant where Hoffman has won three late model track championship crowns, including last season’s.

Winning a lot of races at Grundy over the years, Hoffman has won five George Appleton Memorial events (including this year’s), four season-ending Lee Schuler Memorial races and a 150-lap NASCAR Elite contest in 2001.

Coming from his fourth starting spot, Hoffman worked his way inside race leader Wimmer with 25 laps to go and set sail to the checkered flag.

“It (a win) was in doubt from the beginning,” commented Hoffman after his victory. “I could hang with the leaders, but I really couldn’t do anything with them. (Jonathan) Eilen was pretty much on me for the first 50 or 60 laps. It was a matter of just making really good corners just to hold him off. I almost gave it up to him (Eilen). I didn’t want to hold him up if he had something for Wimmer.

“I didn’t think I had anything for Wimmer. We were all slipping and sliding after the restart. The tires fell off about three-tenths (of a second). We didn’t fall off as much (as the rest of the field). We had a good car at the end and I drove it for all it was worth the last 30 laps.”

Darnell, in the area for last Sunday’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, came home third after starting 11th in his dad Danny’s No. 85 car.

“The car was decent in practice and we made some changes for qualifying and didn’t qualify worth a darn,” Darnell said after the race. “The car was good in the heat race, but we couldn’t move up because everybody was racing side-by-side.

“On the restart, the 6-car (Dave Gentile) got shoved into me and I went over his left rear tire. It bent something in the front end, but not bad enough to put us out of the race. I just kept on plugging away and ended up third.”

Darnell hopes to make at least one more ASA Midwest Tour event this year as he plans on competing in series action during the annual Oktoberfest Weekend at the LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis., in early October.

Car count was way down for this year’s Carter Classic as only 18 entries were on hand compared to 42 pre-race entries seen last year. The series-mandated Hoosier F-25 and F-48 tires were probably the main reason for the shortage of entries as local late model racers use the Hoosier F-40 and F-50 tires for the weekly competition. Besides Hoffman and Gentile, other racers with local ties that were on hand included Boris Jurkovic, who finished seventh, Mike White, who finished 17th and Pat Kelly — 18th. White dropped out of the race with a damaged rack and pinion assembly, while Kelly gave up his front row pole starting spot because of a burnt sparkplug wire and only completed one lap.

Confusing Track Records — It was announced that Wimmer set a track record of 14.741 seconds during time trials, breaking an old record of 14.759 set by former three-time Grundy champion Mike Varner on May 13, 1994. I guess Mark Martin still holds the “all-time” qualifying track record as Martin zipped around the Grundy oval in 14.683 seconds during ARTGO late model action Aug. 18, 1981.

Before the main event, Hoffman and Eilen battled in three, four-lap “match races” with Hoffman coming home the overall winner. Next up was a series of match races for the track’s leading street stock drivers — Johnny Senerchia and Nathan Kelly. Senerchia grabbed the overall win with Kelly winning the division’s 25-lap main event at the end of the program. Also during the evening’s racing, Wisconsin’s Dann Barber scored the victory in the 50-lap ASA Truck contest.

How many remember the biggest match race in Grundy history?

The late Dale Earnhardt and Mark Martin went “head to head” on Aug. 13, 1991 during an ARTGO Challenge Series program. Martin bested Earnhardt in the first and third four-lap heats for the overall win. More than 8,000 fans were on hand and saw Wisconsin’s Kevin Cywinski win the ARTGO 100 lapper over Tracy and Larry Schuler with Matt Kenseth grabbing fourth. Steve Carlson and Joe Shear rounded out the top six.

Over at Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind., Hoffman has been on a tear, winning in his Tom Kmak-owned, Lisa Thomas Salon-sponsored, TK Racing Ford Fusion. Hoffman, now with seven victories at Illiana for the year, has won six of the last eight feature races held at the half-mile paved oval, including last Saturday evening’s headliner.

Devin Gilpin of Columbus, Ind. leads the current DIRTcar United Midwestern Promoters (UMP) national modified stock car point standings over Nick Allen of Wheatfield, Ind., the five-time UMP modified track champion at Shadyhill Speedway, in Medaryville, Ind.

At last count, the 21-year-old Gilpin had won 27 UMP modified features compared to Allen’s 14. Gilpin posted his 24th win at the Shadyhill oval on July 4 when he won the track’s annual Firecracker 50.

“The car has been flawless all season and it makes my job easy,” said Gilpin after his win at Shadyhill.

Gilpin comes from a racing family as his dad raced and both of his grandfathers on both sides of the family raced. Gilpin started racing go-karts as a youngster before moving into four-cylinder, mini-stock competition.

“I’ve been racing modifieds since I was 14,” Gilpin said. “I’ve been in this spot (near the top of the UMP standings) before and led the national points before. I led the points in 2010 from the beginning of the season until two weeks to go.

“I’m not thinking about the points right now. I’m just racing and trying to log wins. If the points play out at the end of the season and we’re the winner, we’re the winner. Right now, we’re just racing and trying to back it up W’s (wins).”

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



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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.