Doug Kimber, the late model’s former competitor, tells a funny story about the day he decided to retire and put James Gregait behind the wheel.
It was the holiday season during the winter of 2011.
“When I was driving, every year between Christmas and New Years I would take the team to an indoor go-kart track,” Kimber said. “I would offer them a program consisting of three elimination races and a feature film.”
Gregait, who has been on Team Kimber since he was a teenager, has won the event six years in a row.
“I once had a good friend from Texas who had his own electric go-kart,” Kimber said. “He came and these two faced off. But James still conquered the guy who had his own kart.
“When I saw this I thought, ‘Hey, maybe I have the wrong guy in my car.’ And I was ready to quit anyway. It’s a lot of work, trying to be the driver and maintaining the car.
More than a decade later, the Kimber-Gregait team is still racing near the front of the latest model pack at Grundy County Speedway.
Going into Friday’s schedule, Gregait was fifth in points. He won one heat and two top sixes.
“We’re getting points in the playoff races and getting decent to solid finishes in the specs,” Gregait said. “We just keep on getting by, trying to be consistent and get points.”
It’s a breath of fresh air for Gregait after three turbulent previous seasons.
Gregait saw 2019 come to an abrupt end on July 5, when his car was badly damaged in a racing wreck.
In 2020, he was in a practice session at Grundy when a car ran out of the infield and caused another major crash.
In 2021, Gregait had his wildest wreck, flipping over and crashing into the wall at Turn 1. Luckily he was fine, but that was it for the season.
“You feel it in slow motion and you’re like, ‘God, this isn’t good,'” Gregait said. “I remember pressing the button on my radio to tell everyone I was fine. The problem was that when the car rolled over, the radio was thrown out the window.
“No one could hear me for a good few minutes. It was not a fun situation and I will be happy never to do it again.
Top finishes are another story.
“We really need to get winning features,” Gregait said. “We are in the basic stage. We just have to find the right situation on the track – that little thing in the setup that will give us that extra boost.
The double of the baker: Ricky Baker won both late model 25-lap features to capture the Illinois State Championship event.
Baker beat Jim Weber every time. The second was a real battle that was only decided in the closing laps.
“I usually like longer runs, so I was really concerned with the short stuff,” Baker said. “But it worked.
“The pass on Jim at the end… I tried to calm him down with him. We hung out a lot, and I just wanted it to be clean. He ran well with me. Everyone ran me very well.
DJ Weltmeyer was third in both races, while Joe Vinachi was fifth and fourth.
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Lockdown : Kristi Odom became the fourth different 4-cylinder winner in four races.
The Braidwood police officer chased Danielle Dobczyk for much of the 25-lap stage before making the pass just five laps from the finish.
“I had to earn it,” Odom said. “And I couldn’t have deserved it against a better person. I love racing against Danielle. I love racing against everyone here.
“She had the hit, even running outside after the pass, but I feel really good in this car. It’s brand new, with a new setup.
Kevin Murphy won the Illinois State Championship in the Sportsman Division, winning the first feature over David Einhaus and finishing third in the second feature.
Vince Cooper won the second race ahead of Sean Matthuis.
Scotty Gardner and his father, Scott, shared the wins in both 25-lap street races. Scotty Gardner won the overall title. Jacob Senerchia won both ends of the Twin-25s for the Super Cup cars.