Rocky Ragusa's Speed Week column
It was an emotional week for the family of area racing legend Dick Turner of Cullom. Turner, a former track champion at Fairbury, passed away on April 28 after a battle with cancer.
While everyone that came in contact with Turner will mourn his loss, family members are finding solace at the area race tracks.
Grandson Torin Mettille was at the Fairbury speed plant last Saturday and reflected on the patriarch of the family.
“Words can’t really speak for what my grandpa had done for me and my racing,” Mettille said. “My grandparents taught us so many lessons in life. Any question we would have for them, they would always have the answer.
“The racing deal will be tough, but we will hang on. Grandpa would want me to keep racing because that is what he lived for; it was his enjoyment.”
In 2017, Mettille and Jay Morris entered the final night at Kankakee County Speedway tied for points in the pro late model division. A $1,200-to-win special, the race drew many of the heavy hitters. Mettille won the race, while Morris finished in the third position. With his third win of the year, Mettille was able to clinch the track championship.
“It was an excellent feeling for our team to win that title,” said Mettille.
Mettille has been out on the track twice this year in his pro late model, but has competed against the super late models at Fairbury.
“We don’t come here with high expectations,” said Mettille. “We have used Fairbury to mainly test and tune to see what we can do to make the car better.
“The first race, I got a sixth place finish, which was amazing. If the track is heavy our car is at a disadvantage over the super late models. Once it dries off and it doesn’t have that cushion to lean on, our car can be competitive and hopefully bring home a top ten.”
For this year, Mettille will be in a new rocket race car.
“Mark Richards and his team build a solid car,” said Mettille. “The car suits my driving style. I really love the car.”
As the Kankakee track opens this Friday, Mettille hopes to add another title to his mantle.
“Our plans are to be at Kankakee every Friday night,” stated Mettille. “We will hit a few races on Saturday, when the schedule is free. The race track is my wife, Lacey, and I our date night. A lot of our family come to the track to help and support us.”
A small team, Mettille’s family has always played a huge part since his karting days.
“I thank my grandparents. They always made sure we would have what we would need to be competitive,” Mettille said. “Grandpa was so in love with racing. He let me keep the car, trailer, and all the equipment in his shop.
“I have to thank my wife and kids. Lacey might not want to go racing, but she does understand. Donnie Masching and Brett von Qualen have both been a tremendous help, either at the shop or track. CNC Auto and Towing, TCI Trucking, Legends Automotive, Grubbs Farms, Miller Insurance Agency, Wallrich Welding and TNT Auto Sales and Body Shop, plus we just added Pontiac Community Heart and Soul. They all have believed in me and been a great help in putting the #116 on the track.”
The feel good story early in the 2018 season had to be from last week’s Earl J. Hubert Memorial race. The 43-lap race saw four different leaders.
Streator’s Pete Odell took the lead from AJ Meiferdt on the 25th lap and held off Meiferdt for the $2,000-plus prize and his first-ever Fairbury win. The ninth edition of the Hubert race has now seen nine different winners.
Unlike a lot of today’s street stocks, where teams buy cars and engines from manufactures, Odell, along with his father Dan, built the 1976 Camaro and their own motor. Also, Odell pulls his car on an open trailer and races on an old leaf spring suspension.
Farmer City Raceway
The first night of the “Farmer City 74” will feature pro late models and street stocks. After the nights racing, modified and late model teams will have a practice session. Hot laps at 6:30 p.m. and racing at 7:30.
Farmer City Raceway
Awaiting the winner of the co-sanctioned MARS/ALMS Late Model “Farmer City 74” will be a $10,000 check. Modified drivers will battle for a $2,000 payday to round out the show. Hot laps are at 6:30 p.m. and racing at 7:30.
With the Lucas Oil Late Model series off, expect a few of the regulars to join in at the DeWitt County Fairground track.
Grundy County Speedway
The 1/3-mile paved oval will feature a full show of late models, sportsman, street stocks and pure stocks. Racing will began at 8 p.m.
Kankakee County Speedway
The 68th year of racing starts at the fairground track with a $750-to-win pro late model special. I-mod drivers will also have big bucks on the line in a $500-to-win throw down. Modified, street stock and sport compact classes will also be in action. Hot laps start at 6 p.m. and racing at 7:30.
Fairbury American Legion Speedway
The MARS/ALMS Series will invade the quarter-mile fairground oval with a 50-lap, $10,000 show. Shannon Babb, Nick Hoffman, Jimmy Mars, Tanner English, Dennis Erb Jr. and Jason Feger will be among the drivers to battle Ryan Unzicker, Mike Spatola, Scott Schmitt and Kevin Weaver.
Mike McKinney will look to add another feature win to his resume in a $2,000-to-win modified special, but expect heavy hitters to take home the loot.
Sportsman drivers will have added money in a $400-to-win contest. Brandon Pralle, Richard Craven and Steve Mattingly have taken wins thus far, but look out for Amber Crouch to give the fellas a run of the money. Hot laps at 6p.m., qualifying at 6:30, and racing will follow.
Will Vaught won last Saturday's $3,000 Lucas Oil MLRA Late Model race over Chad Simpson, Tony Jackson Jr., Chris Simpson and Billy Drake. The next race will be on June 1-2 with the Lucas Oil Late Model series in a $25,000 to win feature.
The POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget series will tackle the 1/5-mile dirt oval. Joining the open wheel stars will be pro late models, street stocks, hornets and micros. Hot laps at 6 p.m. and racing at 7.
A regular weekly program in six classes will be on the program. Races start at 6 p.m. Jason Jaggers (steel block late models) and Charley Hess pulled double duty win in the late model and modified.