UMARA: Sportsman at Grundy speedway

Near the start of the season I asked the question, "Would the year 2000 bring the Sportsman class into the 15-second range?" Loran Critchett Jr. tried and came very close with a new Sportsman track record of 16.027 seconds around the oval at ...

Near the start of the season I asked the question, "Would the year 2000 bring the Sportsman class into the 15-second range?" Loran Critchett Jr. tried and came very close with a new Sportsman track record of 16.027 seconds around the oval at Grundy County Speedway, in Morris IL. With this Saturday the 26th being the Illinois State Championship, was he holding back to be first Pilot into that 15-second bracket, for what is sure to be the largest crowd of the year? Or will our other fast qualifiers, Joe Knipple, Sean Murphy, Doug Orseske, or Roger Bettenhausen take that honor for themselves?

The young Jim Opatic would have the pole for the first heat, with a pack of point hungry wolves behind. This seasons point chase has been a close one and one bad night for any driver could cost a position or two. As the green flag flew Jim knew these wolves would be hot on his tail, but Jim stayed calmed and kept them at bay as long as he could. Sean Murphy made his attempt to pass stick in lap 5, and than in lap 6 Roger Bettenhausen followed Sean's lead to take second position and than tried to work some magic around Sean. Jim tightened his line and was not about to let anyone else through. In the final lap Roger once again tried to get around the Red Bullet of Sean Murphy, but Sean did not back down and crossed the line first.

Sean Murphy # 5
Roger Bettenhausen # 58
Jim Opatic # 52
Loran Critchett Jr. # 17c
Doug Orseske # 0
Matt Daily # 31
Bob Guess # 38
Joe Knipple # 33

The second heat could be compared to a trip to the dentist, something that needs to be done but almost far to messy and painful to want to happen to often, and we are lucky heats likes this one don't happen but maybe once a year. It would take four starts to get the heat the underway and by than one car was already out of the race. They appeared to look like they where going to keep it clean that was until lap 7. Both Mark Shuck and David Thompson would find themselves spinning around the track, with some help from Mick Bilhorn while they were working on bettering their field position. After attempting to restart, all three of those pilots found themselves leaving the track due to trouble caused from the contact. Basil Hicks who had actually lead the first 4 laps of the race found himself back out in front and would take home a win, over Jim Ziarkowski, and Mike Smith, the other two drivers who managed to keep their cars out of harms way.


Basil Hicks # 22
Jim Ziarkowski # 69
Mike Smith # 88
Mark Schuck # 6
Mick Bilhorn # 10
David Thompson # 28
Dave Ohlendorf # 1

The goal of the 3rd heat was to keep it clean and right from the start that is our Pole sitter Rich Peceniak set them up to do. Jolene Deheve-Slomka would sit on the front row for the first time since taking off her rookie flag. These Midgets flew around the track lap after lap. In lap 5 both Rich Peceniak and Bob Kenning would drop out due to small engine trouble, and Rich Sponholtz would take command of the heat. Holding back Major Jack Knox was no easy task, but Rich did just that. In the final lap Cade Southall a new rookie all the way from Melbourne Australia pushed his way into the second place, and gave Rich a last dash for the win. Rich Sponholtz held on for his first heat win of the season.


Rich Spohnholtz # 9
Cade Southall # 34
Jack Knox # 57
Kevin Langston # 28k
Joline Deheve-Slomka # 94
Rich Peceniak # 99
Bob Kenning # 77

Joe Knipple had the pole for the U.M.A.R.A. Sportsman feature. The air was starting to chill which should mean the cars would be seeing their fastest times of the night. Now all Joe and the rest of the 21 drivers had left to do was to keep focused and run a good race. Joe took off and not long after our fast qualifier was hot on his trail, but it almost looked to late as Joe's INR Beatty Lumber Midget was hooked up tonight. Sean Murphy was not about to let Joe out of his sights as that would have surely not only lead to him finishing behind him on the track but also to Joe pulling further ahead in the points race. By only the eight lap these three along with Doug Orseske, would find themselves not only trying to get around each other but lap traffic. In lap 13 Cade Southall would experience motor trouble bringing out the yellow and bunching up the field. Sean took advantage and on the restart he passed Loran Critchett Jr. however it was short lived as Loran passed him right back in the next lap. This would go on until lap 19. Sean Murphy drop out and soon after Joe Knipple would also leave the track due to trouble in his driveline. Loran Critchett Jr. was now in command of the race with Doug Orseske making up ground fast. Bob Guess also saw his chance, and started charging hard to make up lost ground. This would the closest finish the U.M.A.R.A. Sportsman Midgets history, not only at the start finish line but at the back straight as well. Jim Opatic made slight contact with another car sending him into a back flip on the backstretch. Jim was fine but had it started a spilt second sooner it would have brought out a yellow flag, instead his roll started right after the checkered flag was thrown on the front stretch. In a finish that the officials had to verify but checking the reply Doug Orseske in his Momence Speed and Marine Midget passed Loran Critchett Jr. and won the race.


Doug Orseske # 0
Loran Critchett Jr. # 17
Bob Guess # 38
Mick Bilhorn # 10
Matt Daily # 31
Roger Bettenhausen # 58
Basil Hicks # 22
Jim Ziarkowski # 69
Mike Smith # 88
Dave Ohlendorf # 1
Mark Schuck # 6
Jack Knox # 57
Rich Spohnholtz # 9
Bob Kenning # 77
Jim Opatic # 52
David Thompson # 56
Joline Deheve-Slomka # 94
Joe Knipple # 33
Sean Murphy # 5
Cade Southall # 34
Rich Peceniak # 99

Saturday Aug. 26th Grundy County Speedway in Morris IL will host the Illinois State Champion. First race is scheduled for 7:15. The is easily the largest show of the year hosted by U.M.A.R.A. and with the competition heating up a race you won't want to miss. The rain date is scheduled for Sunday the 27th races starting at 1pm. <pre> U.M.A.R.A. Point leaders for 8/22/00

PLACE TOTAL DRIVER CAR # 1 2520 Joe Knipple 33 2 2423 Sean Murphy 5 3 2375 Loran Critchett Jr. 17C 4 2318 Doug Orseske 0 5 2285 Matt Daily 31 6 1800 Rich Peceniak 99 7 1653 Mick Bilhorn 10 8 1628 Jim Ziarkowski 69 9 1578 Jack Knox 57 10 1550 Mike Smith 88

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About this article
Series Midget
Drivers Sean Murphy , Mike Smit