Ind. - Eddie Hoffman was feeling grand actually three grand - counting
bonuses following his victory in Saturday night's 50-lap late-model
season title race at Illiana Speedway. But fourth place on Saturday
was where the ultimate dividend was paid. That's the finish that Dave
Weltmeyer used to clinch his first-ever Illiana Speedway late-model
Weltmeyer and Mike White ended their year-long battle
for track supremacy the way they spent most of it, running together.
White finished third behind runner-up Ronnie Breese Jr., with
Weltmeyer only a couple of car-lengths behind him. Thus, Weltmeyer and
White completed an entire season in which they raced for the most part
as close as two racers could, without a single incident in which
either spun out or crashed. "That's why my hat's off to that
(White) team," Weltmeyer said. "I mean, we ran 16-17 nights
this year tooth and nail, qualifying, heat races, features, passing
each other, grinding each other.
"If we didn't set an example for these young guys that this
could be done, racing with the talent I didin Mike White, their eyes
weren't open. Chicagoland's got a lot of talent, and it showed this
White finished with, if not a flourish, definitely with a heaping
amount of pride. He had been passed in the early stages of the race by
Weltmeyer, but bounced back later on to eventually claim third.
"We worked on the car a little bit tonight, and took it from a
sixth-place car to a third-place car," White said. "We were
pretty good tonight. Dave Weltmeyer... man, he did what he had to do
to come through the pack and claim the championship." Weltmeyer
and his crew did what they had to do early in the night, after he lost
the clutch during the heat race. "The racing gods were on my
side," Weltmeyer said. "If it was the first lap of the
feature, we'd have lost it (the title). Being the first lap of the
heat, it gave me a chance to change it, and make the year a full
success." The "operation" on the No. 16 took nearly an
hour, with Weltmeyer working up a bigger sweat inside and outside of
the car in his pit stall than he did during the race. "Dave
Weltmeyer and his crew... amazing," White said. "I'm glad he
got to run because if he didn't get that car back out we'd have won by
default, and that's not how you want to win it. I'm happy for
him." Weltmeyer joined White and Chicagoland legend Ray Young in
being the only three drivers to capture late-model titles at Raceway
Park, Illiana Speedway and Grundy County Speedway. All three champions
posed for a group shot at the start-finish line following the feature.
"I'll tell you what. Ray Young has always been my hero. To get
a picture with him almost got me teary-eyed," Weltmeyer said.
"To be in the same place with Mike White and Ray Young, that's
some pretty good company. I'm proud of it." Brian Muick was the
first leader of the race, holding off Phil Splant but finally
surrendering to Joe O'Connor on lap seven. Breese, who started in the
fifth row but made rapid gains, caught O'Connor on lap 9 and made the
pass on lap 10. White spent a handful of laps in second place before
Weltmeyer passed him. The "Dyer Flyer" got a nose underneath
Breese on a couple of occasions, but didn't push his luck. "After
getting that warning in the heat race I took what we could get,"
Weltmeyer said. "I point-raced. I said all year I wasn't going
to, but the last race of the year I did. "I almost lost it in the
heat, but I got a second chance. You've got to take advantage of
A lap 28 restart bunched up the field and set up a chain of events
that would see Hoffman start on the outside and take over second place
from Weltmeyer. White was also able to muscle up and slide into third.
Finally, Hoffman took the lead from Breese with an inside move in Turn
4 as they were completing lap 30. Hoffman had taken the pre-race
"last to first" challenge, and netted nearly $2,000 for his
efforts. Add another auxiliary bonus and the regular purse, and he
left the speedway with more than $3,000.
"Three grand, that's as much as some of our NASCAR (Re/Max)
races," said Hoffman. "The car wasn't great, but it sure was
good. I was faster, but it wasn't an easy pass on Breese." Fifth
place in Saturday's main went to Brian Schwartz. A.J. D'Ambrose was