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Illini Racing Series
BRUNS DOMINATES ROCKFORD FEATURE ON WAY TO THIRD STRAIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP By Zach Tasker                 An unseasonable warm and beautiful night greeted the Illini Racing Series midgets at Rockford Speedway in Loves Park, Illinois on Saturday September 27. Fifteen of restricted midget racings best drivers and teams were on hand for the 2014 season finale. The storyline all weekend was that of the season long championship battle between Patrick Bruns and Jason Allen. Bruns entered the night with a 198 point lead on Allen. The championship drama quickly faded after qualifying however when Bruns set fast time with a lap of 13.725 seconds and Allen qualified in the 10th position. This meant the 2 time and defending IRS champion had earned enough points to clinch the title no matter what happened in the heat race or the feature.                 A near capacity crowd was still eager to see what the nights racing had in store for them. The first of the two 8 lap heat races was won by rookie sensation Jimmy Clark Jr., who had a nice mid race battle with Mike Anderson, before Anderson faded back to 3rd position behind Bruns.                 In the second and final heat race, even though Jason Allen had been eliminated from championship contention after the qualifying session, he was out to prove a point and took the heat race by the throat taking the lead early and holding on to win over Industrial Truck Repair teammates Dan Smith and Mike Stroik.                 Next up was the 50 lap National Short Track Championship feature, the longest race of the IRS season. Scott Koerner would start on pole position alongside Mike Wallace. Wallace, the team owner who raced part time this season would jump to the lead immediately and start to put a significant gap on the field.  The Plainfield, Illinois native would lead the first few laps of the race until his driver Jimmy Clark Jr jumped in front for a few laps until he was overtaken by Bruns a couple of laps later after the champion started in 6th position.                 After a couple of mid race yellow flags things started to get a little chaotic on lap 22. The field all stacked up coming out of turn 4 with Wallace and Mike Anderson getting the worst of it crashing into each other and the wall. Both cars would be done for the night, a disappointing end for both drivers as both had shots at a good finish.                 The last 28 laps went yellow flag free as Bruns drove off into the sunset and as has been the case multiple times this year, once he got in clean air it was “adios” to the rest of the field. The Champaign, Illinois resident would score his 6th IRS win of the season. It was fitting that a dominating season would end with a dominating performance on track. “It’s an honor to be the first to win three straight IRS championships. It’s an honor to go out for Mike Wallace and MWR technology; it’s an honor to represent all of these guys. I’m blessed to have had the opportunities I’ve had this year and I’m looking to a long and enduring business friendship with these guys. Mike works really well, I tell him what the car is doing and he makes a twist here and a twist there and all I have to do is drive it.                 The driver of the #10b Darcy GMC/Mobil 1/Triple T Car Wash & Lube/MWR Lightning/Ecotec didn’t even know that he had a straightway lead on the rest of the field at the end of 50 laps “I had no idea; I was just out there cruising around. Lapped traffic was pretty easy to maneuver through and I enjoyed being out there. I was hoping we would get a 1-2-3 finish, it was a shame to see Mike get taken out otherwise we could have pulled off a 1-2-3 finish which would have been a pretty spectacular way to end the season.”                 Bruns becomes the first driver since the Illini Racing Series inception since 1992 to win three straight IRS championship and moves into 3rd on the all-time championship list behind Sue Spencer and Joe Knippel who have 5 series championships each. “This is the 4th year going into the National Short Track Championship that we had the point lead going in, and this is the 3rd year in a row we have come out with the points lead. This is probably the most challenging season we have had. It was challenging walking in here today knowing we had to lay down a good qualifying lap, have a good heat race and it’s just remarkable to come out on top with a feature win again tonight. I feel like I need to win for these guys, they bust their asses in the shop day in and day out. I feel like I owe it to them, the least I can do is win them a race. This is definitely a team effort.”                 Team owner Mike Wallace was relieved and excited to see his team wrap up an unbelievable year “It’s very rewarding, we have definitely put in the time that it takes to get it right. We did overcome some challenges. We are always trying to develop our product into a better piece for everybody, our customers and ourselves. We have had some trials and tribulations, we have had some things thrown at us, so basically its Patricks expertise, and his feedback along with Jimmys expertise and my past history of driving that allowed us to put our heads together to make this unit function as one, and I do believe that we have shown that we have come out on top.”                 The Joliet, Illinois based squad didn’t have a perfect season, they had to bounce back from a slew of mechanical failures, crashes and points losses due to technical infractions, but seemed to always land on their feet with the team owner Wallace at the helm “I grew up in the city of Chicago, and basically grew up with a never say die attitude and when things get tough, you grab your bootstraps and you trudge on. You never drop your head, you never put your head in the sand and we have a great group of guys who whether it be Russ or Scott or Scott Carter or Brad, everybody hones their specialty. And when things get down the right people step up and that’s what it takes. Tonight we celebrated with a bottle of champagne that was given to me by John Meyers in 2002 when I won rookie of the year with UMARA which is now STARS.  John gave it to me, he said good job, when you get your first championship, celebrate with this. So here we are in 2014 and Patrick got to give everybody a taste of how good it gets. It was a very special night.”                 Finishing in 2nd position in the feature was Jimmy Clark Jr. The driver of the #10c MWR Lighting/Ecotec was proud after also picking up another heat race win “I’m really fortunate to be associated with Mike Wallace Racing, they really take care of all the duties on the race team and allow me to show up and put my best effort in. I really can’t thank those guys enough. I definitely had nothing for Patrick tonight, I ended up losing my brakes pretty early in the race, it was kind of affecting me out there and I had to get off the gas early and I was kind of coasting it through the corners and I just had too much speed through there so I was kind of fighting it all night, but to come home in 2nd place I couldn’t be more proud of my team.”                 Rounding out the podium was a driver who was on a bit of a hot streak to end the season. Scott Koerner, driver of the #55 Hawk/Ecotec had three podium feature finishes in the last 4 races, and held off an impressive and hard charging Erica Ensor at the finish.  “We had some engine issues yesterday so I only got a couple practice laps after I thought it was fixed then after being nowhere as fast as a speeding bullet in qualifying today we found another ignition issue. By feature time the issues were fixed, the car was good, just not good enough to win. It was an ok finish to the season, time to get to work on next year.”                 Thus ends the 2014 season for the premier restricted midget racing series in the Midwest, another season of great racing on paved and dirt tracks across Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. The season featured an astounding 8 different feature winners and 2015 promises to be even better as a talented rookie crop came to the forefront this season. The series now turns its attention to the IRS swap meet at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Illinois on Sunday October 12 and the annual awards banquet Saturday November 8 also in Morris.   UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: FEATURE (50 Laps) 1)#10b Patrick Bruns 2)#10c Jimmy Clark Jr. 3)#55 Scott Koerner 4)#16 Erica Ensor 5)#6s Dan Smith 6)#54a Jason Allen 7)#2a Andrew Hennig 8)#0 Doug Orseske 9)#17 Chad Ziegler 10)#12 Bryce Dunn 11)#10 Mike Wallace 12)#15 Mike Anderson 13)#9 Mike Stroik 14)#6c Lamont Critchett 15)#43 Buddy Luebke (DNS) HEAT RACE #1 (8 Laps) 1)#10c Jimmy Clark Jr 2)#10b Patrick Bruns 3)#15 Mike Anderson 4)#10 Mike Wallace 5)#55 Scott Koerner 6)#2a Andrew Hennig 7)#6c Lamont Critchett HEAT RACE #2 (8 Laps) 1)#54a Jason Allen 2)#6 Dan Smith 3)#9 Mike Stroik 4)#0 Doug Orseske 5)#17 Chad Ziegler 6)#12 Bryce Dunn 7)#43 Buddy Luebke QUALIFYING: 1)#10b Patrick Bruns (13.725) 2)#16 Erica Ensor (13.993) 3)#10c Jimmy Clark Jr (14.092) 4)#10 Mike Wallace (14.101) 5)#15 Mike Anderson (14.162) 6)#2a Andrew Hennig (14.215) 7)#55 Scott Koerner (14.344) 8)#6c Lamont Critchett (14.529) 9)#9 Mike Stroik (14.642) 10)#54a Jason Allen (14.683) 11)#0 Doug Orseske (14.723) 12)#6s Dan Smith (14.822) 13)#12 Bryce Dunn (15.045) 14)#17 Chad Ziegler (15.108) 15)#43 Buddy Luebke (15.426)  
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ATTENTION ALL IRS TEAM OWNERS, CREW MEMBERS AND DRIVERS:  The annual IRS winter rules meeting will be at Hero's West in Joliet on Sunday January 25. Lunch will be at 11:30am with the meeting beginning at 1pm and lasting approximately one hour. The 2015 racing schedule will be released and any rules changes for this year will be announced. Please spread the word...