Morris, Illinois — (July 26, 2014) — To finish first, you must first finish. This old proverb was never more apparent than it was during Saturday night’s D’Arcy GMC STARS National Midget feature at Grundy County Speedway. In the 30-lap war of attrition, several front runners suffered mechanical trouble that relegated them to the pit area while only five cars were able to make their equipment last the distance. In the end, it was 18-year-old Avon, Indiana resident Austin Prock who was able to weather the storm of futility and enable himself to bask in the limelight of victory lane once again in 2014 after winning the “Bob Tattersall Challenge.”
In qualifying, Danville, Indiana’s Kyle Hamilton posted the top speed of 14.382 seconds (83.354 mph) around the 1/3-mile paved oval. In heat race one, it was Plainfield, Illinois newlywed, Tyler Baran who scooted off from his starting position on the pole to take top honors in front of the Hamilton brothers (Nick and Kyle). The second heat race featured 2013 Bob Tattersall Hard Charger Award recipient, Austin Prock, navigating his way from the fourth starting spot to earn the victory over Ryan Probst and Nick Wagner.
Due to the eight car inversion, fast qualifier Kyle Hamilton started from the outside of the fourth row. It was an all Illinois front row featuring New Lenox’s Ryan Probst and Channahon’s Billy Hulbert leading the field to the green flag. Probst got the jump on the start and took a stranglehold of the top spot during the opening laps. Yet, it was Kyle Hamilton who showed his meddle by passing five cars in the first seven laps to maneuver into the third spot behind Probst and Prock.
The first caution of the night came out when Kyle O’Gara and Hulbert made contact with each other in turn three on lap eight while battling for the fourth position. Hulbert dropped out of the race due to the incident while O’Gara was able to continue, albeit with a bent right front and without right front brakes. The caution erased the gap that Probst had built while running at the front. However, on the restart, Probst was able to maintain the top spot while Prock and Kyle Hamilton waged in a war for second place. On lap 12, Hamilton was finally able to grab second at the flag stand after getting a strong run off of turn four. As Hamilton closed on the tail tank of race leader, Probst, on lap 14, Hamilton’s car suddenly slowed down and came to a stop in turn three with engine trouble. It was a disappointing end for the 22-year old driver who had earned the fast qualifier award in the previous two races and won the most recent STARS race on July 5th.
On the ensuing restart with 16 laps to go, Prock, while running second, was able to motor by Probst on the inside to take the lead for good. As Prock took a commanding lead and distanced himself from the rest of the field, the battles behind him kept the crowd entertained. Nick Baran, who welcomed his newborn son, Luke, into the world the previous day, moved himself into third place by passing Nick Hamilton with 14 laps remaining. Second place-running Ryan Probst fell to the wayside with a driveshaft problem with 11 laps to go, which moved Nick Baran into second and Nick Hamilton into third.
While coming to the white flag, Nick Baran, who was running in second place and just within reach of earning his best career STARS finish, began to slow and became yet another victim of mechanical misfortune with engine woes. It was Austin Prock, however, who was able to capitalize and take his third STARS victory of the season at Grundy County while also extending his points lead in the STARS Midgets standings. Rounding out the top five were the only other drivers who completed all 30 circuits: Nick Hamilton, O’Gara, Tyler Baran, and Tyler Trainor, who shares the same hometown, Streator, Illinois, as Bob Tattersall did.
Prock acknowledged that he did not have the fastest car in the field, but he still had the vibe that if there was an opportunity to get the lead, he would have to take advantage of it. As it turns out, opportunity knocked at Prock’s door on the finial restart.
“The 99 (Probst) was a rocket ship and the only place I knew I could get by him was on the restart,” Prock said. On both previous restarts, I saw him push on the entry, so I just assumed he would do that on that restart. I gave him a little bit of a nudge, but not too much, got him up a groove, went under him, and never looked back.”
Prock now holds a commanding 118-point lead over Tyler Trainor in the STARS Midgets point standings with six races remaining. Despite the season championship being within Prock’s sight, he contends that he is not going to start points racing and is actually still seeking improvement for the team.
“I really do want to win the championship, but I’m just here to win races,” Prock said. “We got a lot of work to do on this racecar. It really hasn’t showed its full potential yet. We’re just going to keep picking at it and hopefully keep picking off these wins too.”
In other action at Grundy County, Patrick Bruns earned a complete sweep of the night by qualifying with the quickest time, winning his heat race, and taking the checkered flag in the 36-lap feature after passing his Mike Wallace Racing teammate, Jimmy Clark, for the win with 20 laps remaining. Also earning a sweep on the night was Dallas Frueh in the CSR Super Cups. Frueh continued his dominant season at Grundy County by collecting his fourth feature win in four tries at the track this season. Anthony Metallo held off a race-long challenge from Cullen Camasta to take the INEX Legends victory. Tom Schnabel won his heat and parlayed that into his third Classic Modified feature win of the year at Grundy County.
STARS racing action resumes next Saturday night, August 2nd with the Illinois State Championship presented by Chicagoland Speedway. The race is a makeup of the rained out event that was to take place on July 12th. The event is also round one of the Safety-Kleen Triple Crown. Also on tap along with the STARS National Midgets are the Illini Racing Series Midgets, CSR Super Cups, INEX Legends, and Classic Modifieds. Adult tickets are just $12. Kids age 5-12 get in for $2. Children age 4 and under are free! Grandstands open up at 5 p.m. Racing starts at 6:30 p.m. Grundy County Speedway is located one mile north of I-80 on Route 47 in Morris, Illinois.
STARS National Midgets – Grundy County Speedway – July 26, 2014
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. #33 Kyle Hamilton-14.382; 2. #87 Nick Baran-14.437; 3. #99 Kyle O’Gara-14.499; 4. #25 Tyler Trainor-14.516; 5. #32h Nick Hamilton-14.544; 6. #41 Austin Prock-14.585; 7. #88 Billy Hulbert-14.622; 8. #99p Ryan Probst-14.656; 9. #11 Tyler Baran-14.664; 10. #32w Nick Wagner-14.792; 11. #6 Kyle Kettmann-15.000; 12. #15 Rich Corson-15.070; 13. #9 Adam Wilsdon-16.142; 14. #4 Brad Greenup-No Time.
HEAT RACE 1: (8 Laps)
1. T. Baran, 2. N. Hamilton, 3. K. Hamilton, 4. Hulbert, 5. O’Gara, 6. Kettmann, 7. Wilsdon
HEAT RACE 2: (8 Laps)
1. Prock, 2. Probst, 3. Wagner, 4. Trainor, 5. N. Baran, 6. Corson, 7. Greenup
FEATURE: (30 Laps)
1. Prock, 2. N. Hamilton, 3. O’Gara, 4. T. Baran, 5. Trainor, 6. N. Baran, 7. Probst, 8. K. Hamilton, 9. Kettmann, 10. Hulbert, 11. Wagner, 12. Corson, 13. Greenup, 14. Wilsdon (DNS)
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Probst (Laps 1-14), Prock (Laps 15-30)