MORRIS – On the day Luke Baran was born, his father, Nick, made a promise to his son that he was going to bring home a trophy to put in his nursery. The victory did not happen, and in fact, the team’s future was initially thought to be in peril after Nick lost his second engine of the season. Just one week later, as Nick took over the reins of his brother, Tyler’s, yellow No. 11, Lady Luck finally shined on the BBOYZ Racing Team as Nick Baran was able to earn his first career D’Arcy GMC STARS National Midget victory in a thrilling, 50-lap Illinois State Championship feature at Grundy County Speedway. The trophy came a week later than Nick promised, but it was a delivery that has been a long time in the making.
The number of mechanical issues the BBOYZ Racing Team has encountered this year has tested the Baran brothers’ patience as well as their wallets. Along with multiple engine failures, both brothers’ cars have suffered from drivetrain issues all season. The first engine that let go on Nick was on June 14 at Grundy County. The second engine predicament that put them on the sideline was just last week when a belt broke while Nick was running in second place with just a little more than one lap to go in the feature. Nick went through this past week believing he would be playing the role of crew member, but less than 24 hours before the race, Nick received a lifeline from his brother.
“Last night, Tyler called me and said, if I was interested, I could drive his car,” Nick said. “It blew me away. I was really overwhelmed by that.”
Driving an unfamiliar car, Nick wondered if his fortunes would be any different than in any of the previous weeks on the 2014 STARS schedule. After the first hot lap session, it appeared as if Baran might be in store for another frustrating night. The team was absent from the second hot lap session while they were tearing the car apart, even taking the driveshaft out of it, in order to remedy a few of the mechanical issues they were having. Whatever problems the crew discovered, they had apparently fixed, as Nick qualified third fastest behind Tyler Trainor and Ryan Probst.
The three-car inversion for the feature put Baran on the pole alongside Probst on the front row. From the opening lap, Baran was able to jump out to a comfortable advantage over Probst with nothing but clean air and an empty track in front of him. On Lap 9, three-time STARS winner this season, Austin Prock, beat Probst in a race to the bottom groove in turn one to take the second spot. From that point onward, the battle was on between Baran and Prock. For the next 24 laps, Prock was hounding Baran’s machine as both drivers weaved their way through lapped traffic with Prock waiting to pounce on any miniscule mistake that Baran might make.
With just 17 laps to go, Baran and Prock split the lapped car of Patrick Bruns, causing Prock to drift high and out of the groove which allowed Baran to briefly extend his lead to six car lengths. That gap was short-lived as Prock quickly made up ground and began to challenge once again. With just two laps to go, Prock made one more effort to get by Baran in turns one and two. Baran left a one car width lane on the inside of turn one that Prock used to get up alongside him, but Baran was able to get a good run coming out of turn two and down the backstretch to ward off the challenge. Prock’s car got sideways on the final lap betweens turns one and two and was unable to recover in enough time to make another challenge for the lead. The rest of the top-ten included Probst, Kyle O’Gara, Trainor, Billy Hulbert, Nick Wagner, Brandon Wagner, Bruns and Kyle Kettmann.
The win was the first career STARS National Midget victory for the 27-year-old Plainfield native who was the 2013 STARS National Midget division rookie of the year. He becomes the ninth different Illinois driver to earn an Illinois State Championship victory and the second consecutive Illinois native to win the Illinois State Championship race following up Brad Greenup’s win last year.
In other action, Mike Anderson was able to hold off a hard-charging Jimmy Clark to earn his second Illini Racing Series Midget win at Grundy County in 2014. Ed Ensor won the Classic Modified feature after passing Greg Wills with two laps remaining. Cullen Camasta was victorious for the first time this season in the INEX Legends feature. In the CSR Super Cup feature, Dallas Frueh took the lead at the midway point, negotiated traffic effectively and held off Brody Hayes for his fifth consecutive victory at Grundy County.
This Saturday night, the USAC National Midgets, in conjunction with STARS, will take part in the “Border Battle” which is part of First Community Bank Night at Grundy County Speedway. In last year’s race, Danville, Indiana’s Kyle Hamilton took the victory. In this edition of the Border Battle, Nick Baran expects to be back in his familiar white No. 87 while Tyler Baran will return to the cockpit of the yellow No. 11.
Also on the docket next Saturday night, along with the USAC/STARS National Midgets, are the CSR Super Cups, INEX Legends, Classic Modifieds, and the Legacy Midwest Series.