Ross Jr. earns first late-model victory at Illiana Speedway
By Tony Baranek Sun-Times Media May 4, 2013 11:34PM
Updated: June 6, 2013 7:30AM
SCHERERVILLE — Mark Ross Jr. got just about every kind of thrill a first-time late-model feature winner could have Saturday night at Illiana Speedway.
He led much of the 30-lap event by a comfortable margin. He had pressure applied in the closing stages by veteran Anthony Danta. Finally, he had to go through the nervous moments of a yellow flag situation, and a three-lap dash to the finish.
All the while, he kept his cool.
“I was just telling myself I couldn’t look back. I had to stay out in front of them and not slip up in the turns,” the 23-year-old Highland native said. “I had to make them... if they were going to go around me, go around on the outside.
“We were battling tightness all day long. I didn’t expect this at all.”
Ross led the 17-car field from start to finish. Early on, the closest to him was Jack Kalwasinski. But neither Kalwasinski nor Danta really made him sweat until the last 10 laps of the race.
Danta was on Ross’s back bumper with three laps remaining when Dean Patterson and Bobby Gash collided between Turns 3 and 4, bringing out the yellow.
“I think that helped me because toward the end my brakes were starting to fade,” Ross said. “It gave me a chance to cool my tires off a bit and think about how to finish off the last three laps.”
For Danta, the yellow was not so helpful.
“It kind of hurt me,” Danta said. “He was starting to miss his corners down into Turn 1. But my car wasn’t good all day. To finish where we finished... we’ll take it and go figure out what’s going on with it.”
The final lap of the race saw Danta get well underneath Ross as they roared out of Turn 2, and draw side-by-side between Turns 3 and 4. The run to the wire saw Ross hang on via the outside. Fast qualifier Jeff Cannon came from well back to finish third, while Kalwasinski, John Nutley and Paul Shafer Jr. completed the top six.
In the turbo stox main, Eddie Wolf took the lead from Bobbie Jean Wall on lap three, but Wall didn’t go away. Wall hung in second with five-time champion Bill Serviss behind her, and eventually got back within a car-length. She was bumper-to-bumper with Wolf on the final lap before Wolf was able to pull away in the final two turns.
“She was keeping up real good, and I was just saving a little in case we needed something there at the end,” Wolf said. “When she caught me, that’s when I ran hard. We were all right.”
Serviss was third, followed by Jacob McKown, Matt Arvia and John Senerchia.
Some early shuffling saw three different leaders in the first four laps of the Legends feature, but once Chris King was able to wrestle the top spot away from Alex Arelano, it was a smooth run to the finish.
“We got through traffic and we were able to get to him early on,” said King, who finished second behind Arelano on opening night. “We were able to get by him, and it was a matter of just hanging on. Alex is a good racer, Garrett Harris, he’s a good racer. The field is to tight, getting through traffic early is a key.”
On a lap nine restart, Garrett Harris eased by Arelano into second place. Fourth went to Randy Harris, ahead of Paul Shafer Sr., and Ben Fidone.
The pure stocks feature went to Ryan Lagestee over Ricky Wilson and Melissa Wilson.