Jeremiah Senko is conquering new worlds at Grundy County Speedway.
The New Lenox native — a former 4-cylinder champion — is wheeling around the oval in Blake Brown’s 2021 sportsman championship car.
It’s a learning process, to be sure.
“Oh, it’s definitely a challenge,” Senko said. “I’m enjoying every minute of it. I have some good teammates to lean on to help learn how to drive this car. I have the best people behind me.”
He has car owner and crew chief Scott Ingram, who was a champion driver in the 4-cylinder division.
He has Jeff Olson, who previously owned the car and maintained it last season for Brown during his title run.
Add in crew members Jeff Veronda and Justin Pebelske, and Senko isn’t hurting 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’ll go over and we’ll 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 Friday night before dropping out with mechanical woes in the feature.
Senko, 22, is a graduate of Lincoln-Way Central. He played football during his freshman year, and as a senior was a member of the school’s state-qualifying bowling team.
He and Ingram met during an on-track autograph session in 2017 at Grundy.
“I came down from the stands and told Scott, ‘Hey, I want to do this. What do I have to do?’” Senko said. “Then, I started helping him at the shop, 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 final feature but finished second behind Matt Chester by nine points. He bounced back in 2020 to win it all.
Expectations in his new adventure are high, given he’s behind the wheel of a championship car.
“I’m a rookie, so a lot of people are like, ‘Sit back and learn,'” Senko said. “I try not to put too much pressure on myself. But still, I’m trying to stay focused and get better every week.”
Dash and you: The Frank Welch Memorial Twin-25s for late models had two different winners in two different ways.
Ricky Baker led wire-to-wire and didn’t have any takers most of the way. DJ Weltmeyer outran Dave Gentile Jr. for second, with Eddie Hoffman, Stan Zolodz and Jim Weber following.
“I was kind of happy the race went all green,” Baker said. “The car wasn’t that great. I thought it was actually a little better in the second race.”
Baker, however, had to settle for third in the finale. Weber won in that one after a ferocious battle with Anthony Danta.
Weber made the winning pass on Danta with nine laps remaining. Danta held on for second, ahead of Baker, Weltmeyer, Zolodz and Hoffman.
“Anthony Danta is probably the best driver I’ve ever seen race at this track,” Weber said. “To have him on my back the last lap after I had to move him to get to the front was kind of scary. But we were a little bit better.”
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Back(pack) it: Sportsman division competitor Cheryl Hryn was back behind the wheel of her No. 8 car for the first time since a serious crash during a June 3 feature race.
“It’s been an excruciatingly long two months,” Hryn said. “I was super nervous while driving here. But once I got out for the first practice, things went really well.
“We had a couple of 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 street stock points leader Scotty Gardner with 13 laps remaining to win the Candyman Special. James Dean finished second, ahead of Gardner and Michael Gerike.
“I finally got this one,” Weese said. “I won it one time before, but I had a fuel cell problem and got disqualified. This time, we’re 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 on Kevin Murphy to win the sportsman feature. David Einhaus took third.