After busy offseason for some, drivers glad to get back on track at Illiana
By Ryan Haskell Post-Tribune correspondent April 27, 2013 11:30PM
Official Starter Tom White waves the checkered flag to end the Legends Class heatat The Illiana Speedway in Schererville, IN on Saturday, April 27, 2013. | Jim Karczewski~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: May 30, 2013 3:07PM
SCHERERVILLE — The roars from Illiana Motor Speedway hummed through the air as the region’s only racetrack opened its gates for the 66th straight season on Saturday night.
Defending 2012 Illiana Legends division champion Alex Arelano was one of those drivers revving his engine around the track as the three-time winner hoped to get a jump on the leaderboard.
“It’s nice to be back but it would’ve been better if we would’ve won,” Arelano said. “It’s been a busy offseason. I can’t believe (the season) is here already.”
Arelano and his fiancé, Amanda, had their first child together in the fall. Colin Arelano was born on Oct. 25, 2012. His arrival kept the couple busy all offseason.
“The car is a little behind but it’s not running bad,” he said. “My dad (Gil) has been a big help trying to get the car ready.
“There’s a few kinks right now like the handling and the breaking but that’s stuff you deal with all year; I like to drive hard.”
Crown Point resident Michael Gerike, who has been driving for eight years, also had a big offseason. The 22-year-old bought a new car this year and moved up to the turbo stox division.
The operating engineer at U.S. Steel and volunteer firefighter at Lake Hills said he’s been working 40 hours a week for months to get his new car ready for Opening Night.
“It just wasn’t fun for me driving four-cylinders,” said Gerike, who finished third in pure stox in 2011. “I was finally in a financial position where I was ready to move up.”
Gerike didn’t get off to the good start, though, when the rear-end gears broke before the race. But fellow pure stox driver Jacob McKown gave him a rear-end section and his crew worked feverishly to get him back to working condition. Gerike started the final heat in the second-to-last position.
Former late model champion driver Jeff Cannon was busy working on two cars during his offseason. But he spent even more time with his 2-year-old, Cale, who was in attendance.
Cannon gave his son quite a show, finishing third behind second-place finisher Mike White and defending late model champion, “Fast” Eddie Hoffman.
“He’s 100 percent about racing,” Cannon said. “I went into the stands and he was like, ‘CARS! RACING!’ The loud noise doesn’t bother him one bit.”
Cannon only raced in two Illiana events last season but plans to spend more than half of racing season in Schererville this season. He said it’s hard not to when Govert’s Auto Body shop is 15 minutes away from the track.
“It’s too convenient not to come here,” the Kouts resident said. “But it’s not going to be about division championships. With the little one, it’s just about getting out here and having fun.”