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STARS series returns to Grundy this Saturday

Baran can pick up second leg of Triple Crown

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 8:39 p.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 8:40 p.m. CDT

MORRIS – The D’Arcy GMC STARS National Midget series makes its return to the Grundy County Speedway on Saturday night for the D’Arcy GMC Summer Pavement Nationals presented by Bell Helmets. Though the Shoot-Out is only four years old, it quickly has established itself as one of the premier races on the pavement midget racing calendar. The total purse of more than $14,000 with a winner’s share of $3,500 has the STARS Midget competitors taking notice. The race is also Round 2 of the Safety-Kleen Triple Crown, which could net Illinois State Championship feature winner Nick Baran a $2,000 bonus at the end of the season.

Baran, the Plainfield driver who earned his first career STARS Midget victory in the first round three weeks ago at Grundy County, is in position to earn the big payout. If Baran is able to win the Pavement Nationals, he would be two-thirds of the way toward earning a $2,000 bonus for winning all of the Triple Crown races. If he is unable to win Saturday night’s race, the shift turns to which driver can earn the most points throughout the Triple Crown, which concludes with the Alex Pruett Memorial on Sept. 27. The driver and team that accomplishes that feat will earn a $750 bonus.

In the first year of the Pavement Nationals in 2011, it was Auburn native and Grundy County Speedway’s one-lap track record holder in a midget, Mario Clouser, who took the checkered flag. The two most recent editions of the race were won by a pair of drivers who have been familiar faces in victory lane this season: Austin Prock and Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton, the 2012 winner, has only run a limited schedule this season, taking part in only four features, but has won two of them. Prock, who won the most recent Pavement Nationals event in 2013, is coming off yet another win a week ago at Kalamazoo, Michigan. Prock, who leads the STARS point standings, is also batting .500 this year after winning his fourth race in the eight features.

Hamilton, the Danville, Indiana, native who makes his home in West Lafayette, Indiana during the school year as a student at Purdue University, has shown his prowess at Grundy County in recent years, particularly in the 50-lap features. In fact, all five of Hamilton’s midget wins at Grundy have come in the 50-lappers.

The purse of $14,075 for the Pavement Nationals is the biggest payout of the STARS season. The pursuit of big money is an enticement for drivers to step up their game

The recent internet phenomenon, the ALS “Ice Bucket Challenge,” has Hamilton getting involved in the fundraising campaign for a great cause.

“I don’t really see the money that is earned from race wins,” he said. “We put that money back into the pot that keeps us racing throughout the season, although, this week will be a little different. I was challenged by a few people to do the ALS ‘Ice Bucket Challenge,’ so I’ll donate a portion of my winnings to the ALS Foundation along with completing the challenge.”

Along with the STARS National Midgets, the D’Arcy GMC Summer Pavement Nationals presented by Bell Helmets features the STARS Classic Modifieds, INEX Legends, CSR Super Cups and Legacy Midwest Series. Adult tickets are $12. Kids ages 5 to 12 get in for $2. Children age 4 and younger are free. Grandstands open up at 5 p.m. Racing starts at 6:30. Grundy County Speedway is located one mile north of Interstate 80 on Route 47 in Morris.

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