by Stan Kalwasinski
December 27, 2016
Chicago, Ill.—With a new year almost upon us, let’s take a look at Chicago
area racing track and association champions for the 2016 season.
Anthony Danta (#51 below) captured the late model stock car championship at the Grundy
County Speedway in Morris, winning four feature races and besting four-time
track champion Eddie Hoffman and veteran Larry Schuler in the final points
of Danta’s victories was the season-ending Lee Schuler Memorial 61 lapper. It
was Danta’s first track title at the third-of-a-mile paved Grundy oval. Danta
had won the late model crown last year at the now-shuttered and dismantled
Illiana Motor Speedway in Schererville, Ind.
Ron Vandermeir Jr. nailed down his first career stock car championship,
winning the Mid American Sportsman title at Grundy, capturing seven feature
races along the way. A
former two-time champion at the speedway, John Senerchia was the street
stock division titlist at Grundy in 2016, adding this championship to his
previous street stock (in 2013) and Mid American (in 2006) crowns. Winner
of six main events during the season, Michael Tobuch claimed top honors in
the track’s four-cylinder division.
Michael Bilderback was the NASCAR late model champion at the quarter-mile
paved Rockford Speedway. Bilderback
posted four feature wins during the campaign and finished ahead of former
track champions Jon Reynolds Jr. and Jake Gille in the final points tally.
Brett McCoy claimed his third consecutive track title in Rockford’s All
American Sportsman division, which marked the sixth time McCoy has won the
class championship. 2013
division champ, Nick Cina Jr. was the American Short Tracker titlist, while
Chris McQuality won his first Roadrunner crown and Tyler Deschainen the
(Hornets) four-cylinder championship.
Kankakee County Speedway saw Chad Osterhoff win the UMP Pro Late Models
championship for the second year in a row, besting Tom Knippenberg in the
final points rundown. Mike
McKinney won an impressive nine feature races during the season, giving
McKinney his second UMP Modified title at the quarter-mile dirt track. McKinney
finished ahead of Adam Pockrus and Kevin Hastings in the points. Other
Kankakee champions include Joe Hillman (UMP Stock Cars), Jon Robbins (UMP
Pro Modifieds) and Kory Kohler (UMP Sport Compacts).
Jay Brendle, a 12-year racing veteran, was the super late model titlist on
the dirt at the Sycamore Speedway. Brendle
won his third straight title over Dale Markham and Dan White. Derek
Walker claimed Sycamore’s late model crown, while Mike Nelms was the pure
stock champion. Other
Sycamore champions include Mallory Jackson (spectator), Starr Roach (powder
puff), Johnny Lovett (compact), Mike Cunz (sport compact) and Matt Schuch (socker
Nearby speedways in Indiana, Shadyhill Speedway in Medaryville, Plymouth
Speedway and Daugherty Speedway in Chase all raced on Saturday nights and
all featured UMP modifieds as their headlining division.
Nick Allen (#21 below) was again the modified division champion at Shadyhill, winning
seven feature races and becoming an eight-time track champion as he defeated
last year’s champion Brad DeYoung and Jesse Bitterling in the final
was Allen’s sixth championship at Shadyhill over the last eight seasons. Jon
Robbins was the I-Mod division champion. Other
Shadyhill champions include Gregg Tarr (pure street), Jesse Gaylord (sport
compact) and Hannah Jones (Teen 4s).
Derek Losh claimed his first UMP modified crown at the Plymouth speed plant. Losh
bested former track champions Frank Marshall and Jamie Lomax in the final
points standings. Roger
Duszynski was the track’s super streets division titlist. Other
Plymouth champions include Shane Sanders (thunder stocks), Kevin Atkins (pro
sprints) and Chad Hartzell (600 sprints).
Mark Grosvenor was the UMP modified champion at the Daugherty dirt oval,
finishing ahead of last year’s champion Tim Reynolds and Justin Gregory in
the final points rundown. For
the second year in a row, Mike Staggs was the track’s Pro Late Model
Krick was another two-straight-championships winner as he took top honors in
the track’s stock car division. Other
Daugherty champions include Zach Drake (pure streets) and Jacob Wilkinson
(sport compact), which was also his second straight championship at the
A late model stock car racer at Grundy on Friday nights, Scott Koerner also
competed with the Illini Racing
Series midget group and was crowned the Illini Racing Midwest Pavement
Series champion. With
five feature wins to his credit, Wisconsin’s Brandon Waelti was the champion
of the Badger Midget Racing Association, which made several appearances at
the Sycamore dirt oval in 2016. Kurt
Mayhew, from DeMotte, Ind., finished second in Badger points.
Wisconsin’s Jeremy Schultz, with two feature wins to his credit, was the
champion of the Interstate Racing Association Bumper-to-Bumper Outlaw Sprint
Series traveling circuit. Other
association champions include Bobby Pierce (DIRTcar UMP Late Models), Mike
Harrison (DIRTcar UMP Modifieds), Ty Majeski (ARCA Midwest Tour), Cody
Coughlin (ARCA CRA Super Series and ARCA CRA JEGS All Stars), Michael
Bilderback (Big 8 Late Model Series) and Ryan Gutknecht (Mid American Stock
Some highlights of the season included…
Dennis Erb Jr. (#28 below), of Carpentersville, captured the $100,000 “Dirt Late Model
Dream” 100 lapper at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway on June 11. Erb
also took home the $20,000-to-win 42nd version of the “National 100” at East
Alabama Motor Speedway in Phoenix City, Ala., on November 6 and the
$10,000-to-win UMP Summer Nationals victory at Illinois’ Spoon River
Speedway on June 23.
Rockford Speedway got turned into a dirt oval for a few days with Donny
Schatz winning the World of Outlaws sprint car event on June 29 and Brian
Shirley capturing the World of Outlaws Late Model Series contest the
following evening (June 30).
Shirley started off the local racing scene by grabbing the $15,000-to-win,
75-lap, fifth annual Thaw Brawl late model stock car special at the LaSalle
Speedway on March 26. It
was two wins in as many nights for Shirley at the high-banked, quarter-mile,
dirt oval as he won Friday night’s $5,000-to-win, 50 lapper. Getting
away from weekly programs, LaSalle only hosted special events in 2016.
Part of Illiana’s schedule since 1962, the 55th annual
Tony Bettenhausen Memorial 100 late model special was moved to Grundy County
Speedway on and was won by Ricky Baker on September 17.
A four-time late model champion at Illiana, Jeff Cannon captured the ARCA
CRA Jegs All-Stars 100 lapper at Lucas Oil Raceway (Clermont, Ind.) on
The year was not without sorrow as a number of members of the area racing
community passed away including former stock car drivers Roy Acuff, Dennis
Burgan, Stan Dante, Dave Evans, Art Fehrman, Don Jefferies, Jimmy Johnson,
Norm Legner and Rich Wade in addition to current stock car speedsters Jake
Bradley and John Meyer Jr., as well as former midget racers Frank Burany and
Denny Cullick. Other
who passed on include two-time Santa Fe Speedway motorcycle champion Pat
McHenry, car owners Carl Haas, Sam Delisi, Dave Birch and Phil Hines, racing
photographer Bob Sheldon, Kankakee area racing journalist Dennis Yohnka,
Grundy County Fair official Burdette Carter and Rockford track official Stan
In Peace, Gentlemen.
Also passing away was Bob Pochinskas Jr., better known as “Pooch” to the
racing community, suddenly on December 13. Pochinskas
tried his luck as a stock car driver at Blue Island’s Raceway Park in the
early 1980s and moved up into the track’s late model ranks around 1983,
wheeling a Corvette late model. He
finished 10th in
the 1987 late model standings at Raceway Park, wheeling his ’87 Pontiac
Trans Am No. 53.
After his driving days were over, Pochinskas worked as a crewman for various
stock car teams, including working for Mike Varner, Tom Jones, Lorz
Motorsports, Roulo Brothers Racing and the Wisconsin-based Don Fanetti team,
meeting countless people along the way. Pooch
always seemed to know someone in order to borrow a part at a local short
track or walk right into the NASCAR garage at Daytona to get the part.
Above his competitive driving or his crew member skills, Pochinskas was
always thinking about others, taking care of people and providing plenty of
examples of “giving the shirt off your back.” For
the last several years, he took the time out of his busy schedule to take
former area racing tire distributor, Tommy “Turtle” Weckler to the races as
Weckler’s health began to get affected by signs of dementia and Alzheimer’s. Bob
Pochinskas Jr. “Pooch” will be missed by a lot of people.
The address for news and comments is 9618 Cypress Ave., Munster, Ind.
46321-3418 or e-mail to email@example.com.