CHICAGO – Gary Raven, a Chicago area stock car champion, passed away on Sept. 27 at the age of 58.
The Hometown, Ill., native was a two-time late model stock car champion at Blue Island’s Raceway Park, winning the titles in 1996 and again in ’98. Over the course of his racing career, Raven scored 55 late model feature wins at the World Famous Motordrome.
Starting his racing career in 1978, Raven was following the footsteps of his Dad, Dick Raven, who wheeled the No. 111 in various stock car divisions at Raceway Park. One night Dick Raven let his son take over his ride and a long racing career was set in motion.
Gary Raven was listed in Raceway’s sportsman division standings in 1979 as the fourth-ranking driver in his No. 111. He finished second in the sportsman division in 1980, winning two division feature races – his first on Aug. 31, 1980.
The 1982 season saw Gary Raven finish in the “top 10” in the late model point standings, ending up fifth in the final points tally. In 1986, Gary Raven won his first late model feature at Raceway Park on Sept. 21, 1986 and ended up ninth in the points standings. He was also racing in the sportsman division on the dirt at Santa Fe Speedway in Willow Springs, Ill., that year.
For a year or so, Gary Raven competed at Santa Fe but pretty much returned to Raceway Park full-time in 1991, ending up sixth in the late model points. From then on, Gary Raven would finish in the top-10 every year until the track closed after the 2000 season. He finished in the top-three for six consecutive years, 1995 through ’00.
Driving Rich Halligan’s 1994 Chevy Lumina No. 42, Raven won his first late model crown at Raceway Park in 1996, getting off to a fast start by winning the opening-day feature. Fifteen feature wins, 11 heat races victories and four trophy dash wins helped him to the championship. Driving the Halligan No. 42, Gary Raven won his second Raceway Park title in 1998 – this time winning 16 feature races, 12 heat races and eight trophy dash victories.
After Raceway Park closed, Gary Raven competed at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill., and Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind. He enjoyed a number of top-10 in points seasons at Grundy in his No. 72 late model, finishing 10th in 2002, seventh in 2003, sixth in 2004, ninth in 2005 and sixth in 2006. His last year of competition was at Grundy in 2011.