By: Rich Murray
Morris, Ill. (September 24, 2014)—It all comes down to Saturday night, September 27th, when the D’Arcy GMC STARS National Midgets trek to Grundy County Speedway for the final time in the 2014 season. The event is the 7th annual “Alex Pruett Memorial ‘Til the Wheels Fall Off’” presented by 3 Wide Life. The race is the third and final leg of the Safety-Kleen Triple Crown that has nine drivers vying for a $750 bonus.
On the STARS season, five drivers have pulled into victory lane. Austin Prock and Kyle Hamilton have each taken home four wins, while Nick Baran, Tyler Baran, and Travis Young have earned one win apiece. Hamilton, Prock, and Joliet, Illinois’ Jim Anderson are involved in a three-way tie at the top of the all-time STARS Midget wins list with eight. Going into the final race, Avon, Indiana’s Prock has all but sewn up the STARS point title with a 210-point advantage over Tyler Trainor, followed by Ryan Probst, Billy Hulbert, and Nick Baran
The race honors the life and racing career of versatile racer Alex Pruett, who passed away in 2007 at the age of 20. Pruett, who was born in Evanston, Illinois and was a native of Carefree, Arizona, raced from coast-to-coast in series such as USAC, SCRA, PRA, and UMARA, an organization with which he won the “Bob Lockard Memorial” at Grundy County Speedway in July of 2006. Off the track, Alex was known for his outgoing personality and his fun-loving attitude that made him popular among fellow competitors, fans, and race officials. Alex was even one of the creators of the popular independent motorsports show “3 Wide Life.”
Two former winners of the “Alex Pruett Memorial” are expected to compete in this year’s event. Current STARS Midget point leader, Prock, won the most recent edition in 2013 at Grundy County Speedway. Franklin, Indiana’s Travis Young, whose car carries sponsorship from 3 Wide Life, took the checkered flag in the Inaugural race in 2008 at Anderson, (IN) Speedway, a night that Young recalls as the highlight of his career.
“That race was the most special race to me,” Young reminisces. “It had more meaning than any other victory or championship that I have ever had. It was even more special knowing his family and friends were there. I don't get emotional very often, but I got emotional that night. In fact, every year, regardless of the outcome, this race is emotional after it’s over.”
The sponsorship that is adorned on the number 11 midget he drives is something that Young cherishes and is an honor for him to keep Alex’s legacy on the racetrack.
“3 Wide Life was Alex's dream and when he left us, a part of me left as well,” Young said. “To have his dream on the side of my car keeps part of what we all lost here with us. I know Alex will be there watching over us and smiling that we do this race for him, not because he was a fellow competitor, but because he made life so much better and he was one hell of a person with one hell of a heart.”
Young describes Alex as someone who loved to laugh and could lighten up any room he walked into.
“You could be having the worst day and as soon as you spent 20 seconds with Alex you would be smiling and laughing,” Young recalls. “He just made life better and more fun. On the track, you knew what to expect and you had better brought you’re A-game because you knew he would. He would drive you clean, but very close and aggressive. Alex and I had many races where we were wheel-to-wheel and racing for the win.”
For Young, getting back to victory lane after an up-and-down STARS season would be a great accomplishment. Yet, this race, with a deeper personal meaning to Travis than any other race on the STARS schedule, would surely be a night that would not soon be forgotten.
“It would mean everything to be the first two time winner and to have another trophy with his name on it,” Young exclaims. “To do it with his dream on the side of my car would be extremely special, even more than the first one because it's been a lot harder going for the second win.
The “Alex Pruett Memorial” will be the fifth 50-lap feature run at Grundy County Speedway in 2014. Hamilton has collected all three 50-lap STARS Midget features that he has competed in this season. Plainfield, Illinois’ Nick Baran was able to win the 50-lap duel with Prock to take the “Illinois State Championship” in August. Even more is on the line this Saturday night between Baran and Prock as they are among nine drivers aiming to take the title of Safety-Kleen Triple Crown Champion for 2014.
To win the Triple Crown, a driver must win each the “Illinois State Championship,” “Pavement Nationals,” and the “Alex Pruett Memorial.” Hamilton, who did not compete in the first Triple Crown race put the kibosh on Nick Baran’s bid to sweep all three events when he won at Grundy County on August 23rd. Now, the crowning of the Triple Crown goes to the driver who has the highest average finish in each of the three races. After scoring a pair of second place finishes in the first two Triple Crown events, Prock leads the way over Nick Baran and Kyle O’Gara who each have an average finish of 3.5. The other drivers who are eligible for the Triple Crown title include Billy Hulbert, Tyler Trainor, Ryan Probst, Patrick Bruns, David Gough, and Rich Corson. Each driver can easily be identified by the yellow tape that will be affixed to their car’s roll cage.
The night also features the season finales for the STARS Classic Modifieds, INEX Legends, CSR Super Cups, and Legacy Midwest Series. In the Classic Modifieds, Darren Ihrke holds a slim six point advantage over Greg Wills coming into the finale. The CSR Super Cup point battle has heated up in recent weeks with Dallas Frueh clinging to a 67-point lead over Jamie Domski with one race to go.
Kids are encouraged to come on out to the track to compete in the "The World Famous" Big Wheel Races that will be run during an intermission prior to the feature races. Furthermore, throughout the night, there will be plenty of giveaways, raffles, and maybe a surprise or two. Fans are encouraged to stay at the track after races are over so that they can partake in the season ending pit party featuring Babe's Hot Dogs and a DJ.
As part of a special deal to thank the fans for their commitment and devotion to the sport of auto racing and the Short Track Auto Racing Series, adult tickets are just $5! Kids age 5-12 get in for $2. Children age 4 and under are free! Pit gates open at 2 p.m. Grandstands open up at 5 p.m. Racing starts at 6:30 p.m. Grundy County Speedway is located one mile north of I-80 on Route 47 in Morris, Illinois.
ALEX PRUETT MEMORIAL FORMER WINNERS
CURRENT 2014 STARS NATIONAL MIDGET POINT STANDINGS (AFTER 11 OF 12 RACES):
SAFETY-KLEEN TRIPLE CROWN POINT STANDINGS (AFTER 2 OF 3 RACES)