KALWASINSKI: A Look Back In Chicago History

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Brett Sontag and his No. 5 late model dominated the action at Grundy County Speedway in 2010. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)
Brett Sontag and his No. 5 late model dominated the action at Grundy County Speedway in 2010. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)
Kalwasinski Chicago
Stan Kalwasinski.

CHICAGO — Before getting too far into 2020, let’s take a look at Chicagoland auto racing, 10 and 25 years ago – the years were 2010 and 1995.

2010 – Pretty much the dominant driver every Friday night, Brett Sontag scored another late model stock car track championship at Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., giving Sontag a total of five late model crowns at the third of a mile paved fairgrounds speedway.

Sontag won nine feature wins during the year on his way to his third-straight track championship. Among Sontag’s victories were the 94-lap Frank Welch Memorial event and a season finale 40-lapper during the Steve Thinnes/United Midget Auto Racing Ass’n-hosted event. Robbie Pyle won the 61-lap Lee Schuler Memorial race.

NASCAR late model stock car action at the Rockford Speedway saw Tim Sargent post his first career track championship, winning five feature races on his way to winning the title at the high-banked, quarter-mile, paved oval. Grundy champion Brett Sontag captured Rockford’s National Short Track Championships 200.

Being the first driver in track history to win two division championships in a single season, Jeff Cannon added his name into the Illiana Motor Speedway record books a couple of more times during the season. Cannon captured his third super late model title at the Schererville, Ind., half-mile, paved oval, winning four feature races during the campaign.  He also was the track’s limited late model division champ, scoring an impressive 10 feature wins. Boris Jurkovic won Illiana’s traditional Tony Bettenhausen 100 late model special.

Ted Loomis was the late model champion at the Kankakee County Speedway, which was part of DIRTcar UMP late model competition. Loomis posted two feature wins during the season at the third of a mile dirt oval, winning his third driving crown at the fairgrounds track, previously winning in 2004 and ’05.

John Provenzano took home UMP late model track championship honors at the LaSalle Speedway. Provenzano won his third LaSalle title, having previously won in 1993 and again in 2002 at the quarter-mile dirt track.

Sycamore Speedway saw Charlie Olson win his first super late model championship at the dirt speedway, which features quarter-mile and third-mile ovals.

Nick Allen was again the UMP modified division champion at the Shadyhill Speedway in Medaryville, Ind. – his fourth modified crown at the quarter-mile dirt oval. Allen won eight feature races at Shadyhill, giving him a total of 14 in Midwest action with Allen finishing third in UMP national modified point standings.

Indiana’s Mario Marietta was crowned the midget driving champion of both the United Midget Auto Racing Ass’n and the United States Speed Ass’n with both groups co-sanctioning a number of events. Marietta scored six victories with Don Kenyon’s USSA open-wheel group.

For the second consecutive year, Allen Gillis was the midget driving champion for the Illini Racing Series. Gillis won six features on his way to the title.

Illinois’ Jason Cox was both the champion and rookie of the year for the Hoosier Outlaw Sprint Series. His Dad, Tim was the series champion in 2009 and 2005. Young Cox turned in a victory at Illiana in August. For the third straight year, Alaska native Billy Balog was the champion of the Interstate Racing Association Bumper to Bumper Outlaw Sprint Series.

For the second time in his career, Eddie Hoffman was the champion of the Late Model Northern Series, formerly known as the ASA Late Model Series Northern Division. Also the series champion in 2008, Hoffman scored two victories on his way to the title.

Tony Izzo Jr., pictured here at Michigan's Hartford Speedway, had a banner year on the dirt in late model stock car competition in 1995, winning 31 feature races during the season. (Jim Denhamer Photo)
Tony Izzo Jr., pictured here at Michigan’s Hartford Speedway, had a banner year on the dirt in late model stock car competition in 1995, winning 31 feature races during the season. (Jim Denhamer Photo)

1995 – Tony Izzo Jr. enjoyed a dream come true type of season as the 25-year-old, second-generation racer picked up 31 feature race victories in late model dirt track action and garnered the UMP King of Dirt National driving title.

Izzo, the son of longtime Chicagoland dirt track ace, Tony Izzo, and in his sixth full season of late model competition, nailed down three season track championships, winning titles at Kankakee, LaSalle and at Michigan’s Hartford Speedway. At one point during the year, Izzo scored 15 consecutive feature wins in as many starts and ended up with a 46% winning average (31 wins in 68 starts).

Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs host its final racing program in 1995. The dirt track facility would see Frank Reaber win his fourth career late model title. Reaber finished ahead of John Provenzano and Bill Knippenberg in the final points. Provenzano won the final National Clay Track Championship – a 100 lapper. Perhaps the most popular and well known short track in the Chicago area, Santa Fe had been hosting racing action since 1953.

Bobby Wilberg was the NASCAR late model track champion at the Rockford Speedway – his first of six straight to come. Wisconsin’s Steve Carlson won the ARTGO Challenge Series-sanctioned National Short Track Championships 300 lapper for the third time.

Among 11 different feature winners during the season, Mike White took home late model title honors at Grundy County Speedway and finished ahead of Dave Finney and Brian Clubb in the points. Capturing 10 feature wins, Frank Gawlinski won his eighth late model crown at Illiana Motor Speedway, besting White and John Nutley in the standings. Dave Weltmeyer was the winner of the annual Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 lapper.

Racing up his first title, Kevin Reidy was the late model champion at Raceway Park near Blue Island, Ill. Reidy posted 14 feature wins and finished ahead of John Brolick and Gary Raven in the points.

On the dirt, Pete Hatch was the super late model division titlist at Sycamore Speedway.   Bill Nannenga grabbed late model honors at Crown Point, Indiana’s Southlake Speedway, the former Broadway Speedway. Second generation driver Eddie Hoffman was the champion of the Mid American Stock Car Series.  In open wheel action, John Warren claimed his third UMARA midget title with Sue Spencer being named UMARA’s sportsman midget champion for the second straight year.

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