Jeremiah Senko conquers new worlds at the Grundy County Speedway.
The New Lenox native – a former 4-cylinder champion – drives around the oval in Blake Brown’s 2021 sports car.
It is certainly a learning process.
“Oh, it’s definitely a challenge,” Senko said. “I enjoy every minute. I have some good teammates to lean on to help learn to drive this car. I have the best people behind me.”
He has car owner and crew chief Scott Ingram, who was a championship driver in the 4-cylinder division.
He has Jeff Olson, who previously owned the car and serviced it for Brown on his title run last season.
Add crew members Jeff Veronda and Justin Pebelske, and Senko doesn’t hurt for help in the pits.
“You’re only as good as the people around you,” Senko said. “Scott works on the car during the week, and I go over there and we work on it together. Jeff Vernoda and Justin help us in the pits and Jeff Olson helps with the setups. ”
Senko had the third fastest qualifying time on Friday night before retiring with mechanical problems in the position.
Senko, 22, is a Lincoln-Way Central graduate. He played football during his freshman year and was a senior member of the school’s state-qualifying bowling team.
He and Ingram met during an autograph session at the track in 2017 at Grundy.
“I came off the stands and said to Scott, ‘Hey, I want to do this. What should I do?'” Senko said. “Then I started helping him in the store and we built me a car.”
Ingram won the 4-cylinder title in 2018. Senko, in his rookie season, was sixth in points.
In 2019, Senko battled for the track title and won the last feature, but finished second behind Matt Chester by nine points. He bounced back in 2020 to win it all.
Expectations are high in his new adventure as he is behind the wheel of a championship car.
“I’m a rookie, so a lot of people say, ‘Sit back and learn,'” Senko said. “I try not to put too much pressure on myself. But still I try to stay focused and get better every week.”
Dash and dig: The Frank Welch Memorial Twin-25s for late models had two different winners in two different ways.
Ricky Baker led wire-to-wire and had no takers most of the way. DJ Weltmeyer defeated Dave Gentile Jr. for second place, followed by Eddie Hoffman, Stan Zolodz and Jim Weber.
“I was quite happy that the race was all green,” said Baker. “The car wasn’t that great. I thought it was actually a little better in the second race.”
However, Baker had to settle for third place in the final. Weber won after a fierce battle with Anthony Danta.
Weber made the winning pass on Danta with nine laps to go. Danta remained second, ahead of Baker, Weltmeyer, Zolodz and Hoffman.
“Anthony Danta is probably the best driver I’ve ever seen racing on this track,” Weber said. “It was pretty scary having him on my back for the last few laps after I had to move him to get to the front. But we were a little better.”
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Back (packing) on it: Sportsman division competitor Cheryl Hryn was back behind the wheel of her number 8 car for the first time since a serious crash during a June 3 feature race.
“It’s been two excruciatingly long months,” Hryn said. “I was super nervous driving here. But once I was free for the first practice, it went really well.
“We had a few snags getting it ready… but it is what it is. It felt good to be back in the car.”
The Joliet resident also handed out more than 424 backpacks filled with school supplies and a bag of candy as part of a back to school event.
Randy Weese passed Scotty Gardner, street stock points leader, with 13 laps to go to win the Candyman Special. James Dean finished second, ahead of Gardner and Michael Gerike.
“I finally got this one,” said Weese. “I’ve won it once before, but I had a fuel cell problem and was disqualified. This time we are all good.”
Dan Schmeissing was a runaway winner in the 4-cylinder feature over Kyle Brick and Danielle Dobczyk. Tim Stewart made a late pass to Kevin Murphy to win the sportsman feature. David Einhaus came in third.