Scott Koerner, wheeling the LaVerne and Johanna Spencer-owned No. 1 midget, captured his seventh career Illini Racing Series midget championship.(Stan Kalwasinski Photo)

Seven-Time Champ Koerner Honored At Illini Banquet

NEW LENOX, Ill. — Posting an all-time-high seven series championship last year, Scott Koerner was honored at the annual Illini Racing Series midget racing banquet and awards at Beggars Pizza Saturday evening.

Koerner, now with six consecutive Illini titles under his belt, wheeled the LaVerne and Johanna Spencer-owned, GM Ecotec engine-powered, Hawk chassis No. 1 to his latest championship.  Koerner, from Joliet, Ill., scored five feature wins during the group’s 13-race schedule, giving Koerner 27 career Illini main event victories. 

Racing midgets since 2007, the 49-year-old Koerner, who began his speed career in go-karts, also competes in late model stock cars on the pavement at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill.  

Aaa Sjk 2834
Newly crowned seven-time Illini Racing Series midget champion Scott Koerner (center) is flanked by second place finisher Basil Hicks (left) and third place driver Doug Orseske. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)

Following Koerner in the final points standings were Basil Hicks and veteran racer Doug Orseske, who has made over 300 midget starts. Earlier in the day, Hicks was involved in a serious on-highway accident. He was hospitalized but made it in time to the banquet to receive his awards for his runner-up effort in the Aaron Willis Jr.-owned No. 5.

Rounding out the top 10 in points were Derek Bettenhausen, Travis Mahoney, Tom Schnabel, Mike Slabenak, Scott Shilkuski, Jim Hines and Mike Klein.

The third-mile Grundy oval saw eight visits by the Illini group which again raced at Grundy under the banner of “Midwest Mayhem Midgets” during the year. Closing its gates for good after the season concluded, Illinois’ Rockford Speedway hosted the Illini midgets on five occasions including during the track’s final event on Oct. 28.

Joining Koerner on the feature win list were Mahoney with six victories and Schnabel with two. One of Schnabel’s wins was the annual Aaron Willis Memorial Race at Grundy on Aug. 25.

Other Awards 

A number of special awards were given out during the evening including:

Mechanic of the Year – Tom Schnabel

Most Improved Driver – Derek Bettenhausen

Best Appearing Car – Mike Slabenak-driven/Jim Canterbury-owned No. 15

Sue Spencer Hard Charger – Travis Mahoney

Loran Critchett Jr. Sportsman of the Year – Scott Koerner

Rookie of the Year – C.J. Macaluso.

LaVerne and Johanna Spencer were honored with a special “Thank You” award for their years of supporting midget racing and guiding the Illini organization. Master of Ceremonies Stan Kalwasinski, who ended the evening with a presentation on the history of Chicago area midget racing, was given an Illini award for his commitment and dedication to local area auto racing.