MORRIS – It’s been three weeks since the most recent D’Arcy GMC STARS National Midget event at Grundy County Speedway. During that brief summer break, some of the drivers relaxed. Some went on vacation. Some raced in other series. One driver prepped for the birth of his first child and one driver even got married. After the extensive amount of time off from STARS competition, drivers such as Rockford’s Tyler Baran are eager to get back into action in Saturday night’s Bob Tattersall Challenge.
“I’ve been itching to get back in [the car] for awhile,” Baran said. “Hopefully there isn’t any rust. If there is, then I guess that’s what hot laps will be for.”
It’s not as if Tyler, along with his brother, Nick, weren’t keeping themselves occupied during their month away from the track. After encountering a blown engine and a broken driveshaft in each of the BBOYZ Racing Team’s cars during the last STARS race they ran, the brothers spent several long nights in the shop putting their cars back together. Although the disappointment of the team’s troubles had hit them hard, happier times were on the horizon when the calendar flipped over to July. Just a few weeks ago, Tyler Baran married his girlfriend, Gabriella. This week, Nick Baran and his wife, Brittany, are expecting the birth of their first child, Luke.
“Besides the wedding and the repairs to both of the cars, we have really enjoyed having a few weeks off to just get caught up with everything,” Tyler said.
Saturday night’s event honors the memory of the late, great Bob Tattersall. The Pennsylvania-born driver, who made his mark in racing while residing and racing out of Streator, was a two-time UARA Midget champion in 1956 and 1959 as well as the USAC National Midget Champion in 1969 for car owner Jack Stroud. Tattersall even tried his hand behind the wheel of a car on the USAC Championship Car trail. Between 1965 and 1967, Tattersall made six starts on the one-mile dirt tracks in Sacramento, California; Springfield, Illinois; DuQuoin, Illinois; and Indianapolis, Indiana. In his final start in a champ car in April 1967 on the one-mile paved oval in Trenton, New Jersey, Tattersall earned his first top-10 finish driving the Vargo Excavating Meskowski/Offenhauser No. 52.
With all the accolades Tattersall earned in the United States, including his induction into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame, he perhaps made an even bigger impact on the racing scene in the land down under. The north central Illinois racer was one of the few American drivers of his era to compete regularly during the Australia and New Zealand midget (Speedcar) racing seasons. In the 13 winter seasons he spent racing in the Southern Hemisphere, Tattersall became a fixture in victory lane, winning more than half of the races he entered.
Tyler Trainor, who hails from Tattersall’s hometown of Streator, finished has in the top five in all three of the Tattersall Challenge events that he has competed in during his career. He has also been knocking on the door of capturing his first career STARS National Midget victory this season with a second-place and a fourth place finish in his last two feature races at Grundy County. The Tattersall Challenge is a race that has been circled on Trainor’s calendar since the day the STARS schedule was released. Hoisting the first place trophy in victory lane in this particular race would not only mean a lot to his team, but also to himself on a personal level.
“Winning the Tattersall Challenge would be an honor because Bob (Tattersall) is one of my racing heroes,” Trainor said. “Bob and I both come from Streator and knowing how much influence he had on midget racing and the fans, it would be awesome to bring a trophy back to Streator.”
Three-time STARS National Midget champion and Joliet native Jimmy Anderson has won the last two Tattersall Challenge events in 2012 and 2013 at Grundy County Speedway while Franklin, Indiana’s Travis Young earned the first STARS-sanctioned Tattersall Challenge back in 2011.
In the most recent STARS National Midget race, Danville, Indiana’s Kyle Hamilton made an inside pass on Mario Clouser for the lead in turn four on lap 11 and was able to pace the field for the remaining 40 laps to take the victory in the Freedom 50. It was Hamilton’s first win in the series on the season and second career Freedom 50 win.
After his third place finish in the Freedom 50 on July 5 while driving the backup car of fellow competitor Ryan Probst, Avon, Indiana’s Austin Prock was able to extend his lead in the STARS National Midget point standings to an 87-point advantage over Brad Greenup. Trainor, Billy Hulbert and Probst stand third through fifth, respectively. Mario Clouser, Anderson, Kyle Kettmann, Young and Hamilton round out the top 10.
Along with the STARS National Midgets, the Tattersall Challenge features the return of the Illini Racing Series, which is making its first visit since the first week of June. Also on the card for the night are the CSR Super Cups, INEX Legends and Classic Modifieds. Adult tickets are $12. Kids age 5-12 get in for $2. Children age 4 and younger are free. Grandstands open up at 5 p.m. and racing starts at 6:30. Grundy County Speedway is one mile north of Interstate 80 on Route 47 in Morris.