Augie Grill Takes Glass City 200 Title Back to the South
Two-Time Snowball Derby Winner Adds Outlaw Late Model Triumph
By Matt Prieur
Birmingham, Alabama invader, Augie Grill made the 11-hour trip north to the ARCA Sanctioned Toledo Speedway in Toledo, Ohio worthwhile.

The two-time Snowball Derby Champion, driving for Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada veteran, Jerry Artuso, made the most of his first ever appearance in the Buckeye State and first time driving an Outlaw Bodied Super Late Model by winning the 23rd running of the Glass City 200 Presented by Great Lakes Helicopters and become the first driver ever to win both the Snowball Derby and the Glass City 200.

There were 41 teams on the grounds at the fast half-mile high-banked paved oval located just south of the Michigan / Ohio state line on a cold and blustery afternoon and evening that saw the temperatures never got above 50 degrees, and at night get done to just above freezing.  In turn, this forced teams to alter their strategies throughout the race and in turn, attrition would become a factor throughout the 200-lap affair.

Plymouth, Indiana veteran, J.R. Roahrig started the day off by shattering the all-time Toledo Speedway Outlaw Super Late Models Track Record as he toured the fast ½ mile at a 14.718 which measured out to 122.229mph. The Overall Outlaw Super Late Model Track Record was set by Derrick Griffin back on April 17th, 2010 as he went a 14.809 while the Glass City 200 Track Record was set one year ago by Scott Hantz who went a 14.815. Roahrig destroyed both records in one ultra quick lap.  The Top 20 in Qualifying were locked into the show.

The field was competitive from top to bottom as three-time Glass City 200 champion and Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame member, Steve Sauve would have to start on the pole of the 25-lap B Main to transfer into the 200-lap Feature. The Saginaw, Michigan veteran easily won to earn the 21st starting spot in the race. George Rangel, Justin May, Derek Wiley, Marcus Malcuit, and Howard Kelley, Jr., would also transfer as well. 

Provisionals awarded included the top three in the final 2011 ARCA Gold Cup Super Late Model Series (A five race series between ARCA sanctioned tracks, Flat Rock and Toledo) points standings as Joe Hawes and Steve Cronenwett, Jr., would be awarded the first two. Originally there would be three ARCA Gold Cup points provisional’s awarded, but the third place provisional featured a tie between veteran Rick Sheppard and Angola, Indiana veteran, three-time CRA Super Series Champion, Scott Hantz, who was enroute to the track after qualifying for the Seal Wrap Repair Tape Fall Brawl Weekend down at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Indiana.

ARCA Officials elected to add both drivers and in turn, add an extra starting spot to the Glass City 200 starting line-up. Hantz would fly in and get to the track only five minutes prior to Driver Introductions. In addition, a 2011 Flat Rock Speedway, Toledo’s sister track to the north in Flat Rock, Michigan, was awarded a provisional as well and that went to former Flat Rock Track Champion Paul Pelletier. This would set the 31-car starting field.

Roahrig drew a 13 for an inversion.  Berlin Raceway regular, Barry Hartwell and Toledo favorite, Jake Francis would lead the massive field to the green flag to start the race and as the field drove into turns one and two, contact between Pro Cup racer Brad Rogers and Brent Jack sent the field scattering to bring out the first of a whopping 15 cautions that would be waved throughout the race. As a result, several cars pitted for repairs and came back out. In the end, only two cars were done for the night and ARCA officials ordered a complete restart.

On the ensuing restart, Francis would grab the point while the rest of the field sorted themselves out behind him. Augie Grill, who qualified fourth fastest and would start 10th after the inversion, quickly maneuvered his way through the field and by lap 12, was up to second and reeled in Francis, who had built up a sizable lead.

The next lap, Grill drove underneath the Buckeye State driver to take over the top spot officially on lap 13 and he then tried to build up a sizable lead himself over the rest of the pack. Francis and Mike Luberda, Jr., the winner of two recent 100-lap shows at Owosso Speedway in Ovid, Michigan and Auto City Speedway in Clio, Michigan and 2011 ARCA Gold Cup Super Late Model Series Champion, Dennis Strickland battled amongst themselves for second through fourth while Grill pulled away.

Francis went spinning to bring out another caution and a few laps later, Luberda., who was running second, lost a motor and was done for the night. This placed Strickland in second and he tried to keep up with Grill’s torrid pace. Soon, two-time defending CRA Super Series Champion, Johnny VanDoorn, who started 11th, worked his way up to third and was on Strickland’s back bumper as Grill would lead the field into the lap 101 halfway break. Grill, Strickland, VanDoorn, Johnny Beloit, and former three-time ARCA Trucks Series Champion Chad Guinn were the top five heading into the break. 

On the restart, VanDoorn quickly drove around Strickland for second and set his sights on Grill. The two stout competitors put on an epic battle before VanDoorn would take the lead on lap 124 and try to pull away from Grill and the rest of the field, Grill tried to keep pace with VanDoorn before eventually losing ground to the Coopersville, Michigan driver.

As VanDoorn continued to pull away, an oil pump broke on his mount on lap 136 and smoke poured out of the back of his #61 Port City Racecars machine, ending his night and ending his chances at winning.  This gave the lead back to Grill who once again had Strickland on his back bumper. On the next restart, Grill would again try to pull away from Strickland and the rest of the pack which was low on numbers due to attrition, but Strickland would never let Grill stray too far out in front, but could never quite get close enough to muster a challenge.

After all was said and done, Grill, who was in Canadian veteran, Jerry Artuso’s #5 Algoma Industrial Supplies /Grand American Racecars machine, would lap all but the top five cars on the track and would take the checkered flag to win the 23rd running of the Glass City 200 Presented by Great Lakes Helicopters and take home a nice payday of $7,850 from the $57,000 total purse.

"The car was just flawless all night long. I thought for sure we would've had a great fight on our hands with the 61 car (Johnny VanDoorn)," stated the Birmingham, Alabama driver in Victory Lane. "When I saw him go high and slow down, I knew I just had to keep running my line and we'd be alright."

“That 90 car (Dennis Strickland) just wouldn’t go away," laughed the 34-year-old who in addition to winning the Snowball Derby twice, also has won the Snowflake 100, the World Crown in Georgia, and is considered one of the top stars in Southern Super Late Models racing.  “I have to thank Jerry and all the guys with the team for giving me a great car. These Outlaw cars are a lot of fun to drive and I hope I can come back next season and do this more often.”

Strickland finished second while Belott, Guinn, and Dakota Carlson were the top five and the only cars remaining on the lead lap. Jack Varney Jr., finished sixth as Steve Cronenwett Jr., Ricky Kargel, Barry Hartwell, and Nick Grodi would finish off the top 10.

“I’m so happy with our finish, especially after the way yesterday went.” Strickland stated during post-race ceremonies. The day before during the optional practice at the track, the rear spoiler on Strickland’s #90 entry came loose and he lost control of the car and made contact with the turn two wall causing extensive damage. “The crew worked all night long getting this car fixed and it was actually better than it has been all season. This Port City car is great and it’s been a great season for us.” The Carelton, Michigan driver added.

Also finishing on the podium would be Mt. Morris, Michigan driver, Johnny Belott who would steer his #0 John Belott & Sons Auto Purchasing entry to a third place finish in only his second start behind the wheel of an Outlaw Super Late Model this season after taking the last two seasons off.

“We worked hard tonight that’s for sure. Had a good battle going there with the 5 car (Chad Guinn).” He explained. His only other appearance in 2011 was two weekends previous at Owosso Speedway in Ovid, Michigan. Before that, he last raced in the 2009 Glass City 200. “We didn’t qualify too well, but we hung around in the top 10 and top five all day, so we’ll take it and move on to next season.”

Grill joins an impressive list of previous winners of the Glass City 200 including; Joy Fair, Joe Ruttman, Bob Senneker, Danny Byrd, John Anderson, Jim Bickerstaff, Ed Cooper, Tim Felver, Tim Ice, Junior Hanley, Steve Sauve, John Doering Jr., Jack Landis, Brian Campbell, Dave Kuhlman, and Harold Fair Jr.

Augie Grill (center, with car owner Jerry Artuso at left), celebrates his Glass City 200 victory.
(James MacDonald / Photo)
Grill (#5) cruises en route to victory.
(James MacDonald / Photo)