Rocky Ragusa's Speed Week column
He is affectionately known as “Tater.” Tyler Roth has been associated with the Fairbury American Legion Speedway as a member of the track prep crew and now drives the #20R in the CR Towing Sportsman Division.
Roth, a Fairbury resident, has worked diligently since a young age to fulfill a dream shared by his father and uncle to build a race car and race.
“My Dad and Uncle Bob were both into drag racing. They had a dream of building a car for the strip,” recalls Roth. “Uncle Bob passed away and in his will he left me his tools. A note from him read to use the tools to build a race car that we never got to build together, and I did that.”
Living five blocks from the track and hearing the sounds from the speedway drew the attention of Roth as a young boy.
“I would drive my bicycle over to West View and stand on a treehouse. I would stay up there until they stopped taking money at the gate. Then I would go to the track and watch the features,” remembers Roth.
Besides working at the track in a pack truck and driving a wrecker, Roth helped McKay Wenger in his modified days. Roth learned a lot from Wenger and was ready to give racing a chance.
“I went with the sportsman class because it is an affordable way to go racing. A person can run up front on a small budget and not go broke,” Roth said. “I always told myself that I wouldn’t have racing break me.”
After a rash of bad luck last year, Roth is finding himself racing with the leaders this season.
“The car I have is new to me,” Roth said. “It’s a 30-year-old, Jig-A-Lo Chassis with a Camaro clip. Jay Ledford and his guys have really helped me a lot with the car. It’s a fast car, but there is still work to be done.
Racing for five years, Roth has his goals and recalls some of the memories. A highlight was racing at Macon Speedway.
“The first time I went there, I won a heat race and finished fourth in the feature,” he said. “It’s a fun little track.
“I have always wanted to race at Eldora Speedway and the Springfield Mile. If I get to race at those two places, I would be happy, but I still want to get that feature win.”
Besides racing, Roth is a member of the Saunemin Fire Protection District. As a volunteer fireman and with the help of a friend, Roth had an opportunity to work last year at the Chicagoland Speedway during the NASCAR race weekend.
“I was on a NASCAR Fire Safety Crew and worked the garage area,” Roth said. “I saw a lot of things that the race teams would do and I have tried to incorporate that into my program.”
Roth is known by “Tater” throughout the racing community and came about it in a rather peculiar way.
“Aaron Ricketts was having a party and he was calling me every name in the books,” laughed Roth. “I have been going by it since high school.”
As for making sure he is able to take the track, Roth is quite grateful to those who help him out.
“I have to thank my Dad, Ryan Boring, and Moose for helping me at the shop and track. Flessner Farms, Ledford Farms, B-Ham Signs and Designs, Racing 411.net, Quad County Fire Equipment, FTR, County Line Ranch, Formula 500 Racing Oil, Pit Bull Engines, Rink’s Detailing, and Can’t Say Racing have helped keep the car running and looking good. We hope to get back to Macon and a couple other tracks this year, but we will go out there and do our best.”
Farmer City Raceway
The biggest paying event in the history of the track will take place this Thursday and Friday night. On Thursday, the late models will have a $3,000-to-win race, along with pro late models and street stocks.
There have been 59 late model drivers who pre-registered for the “Farmer City 74” that will pay the Friday night winner, $20,000.
Joining the late models on Friday will be the modified class in a $5,000-to-win special. The late model race is being co-sanctioned by the MARS and ALMS racing series. Hot laps start at 6:30 p.m. and racing at 7:30 both nights.
Last Friday, Scott Schmitt (late model) and Jeffrey Ledford (modified) were among the race winners.
Grundy County Speedway
Four divisions on racing will be held this week at the fairground oval, located in Morris. Defending late model track champion, Anthony Danta opened defense of his title by taking the feature win.
Kankakee County Speedway
In existence for 67 years, the speedway will open this week with a pro late model race paying $1,000 to the winner. Racing begins at 7:30 p.m.
The track will take the night off this week. Guy Taylor (pro late model) and current modified national point leader Ray Bollinger took feature wins last week.
Fairbury American Legion Speedway
Late models headline the program with a 50-lap, $10,000-to-win race that is co-sanctioned by the MARS and ALMS racing series. Modified drivers will battle for a $2,000 first prize and sportsman drivers have $400 to the race winner. Qualifying starts at 6:30 p.m. and racing will follow.
The POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget series and POWRi Speedway Motor Micro series will be featured. Pro late models, street stocks and hornets will also be in competition. Hot laps at 6 p.m. and racing at 7.
Jason Plumer, 2016 UMP Promoter of the Year, and his crew have worked feverishly to get the track back into shape. Heavy rains and flooding caused major damage to the grounds, but officials stated the track would be ready this Saturday. A full program is planned with racing at 6 p.m.
Spoon River Speedway
The MARS and ALMS series will conclude their swing through Illinois Sunday night with a $5,000-to-win show for the late models. Modified teams will do battle in a $1,000-to-win special and hornets round out the card. Hot laps start at 5:15 and racing at 6.
Pit Notes: Young Mikey Ledford of Pontiac took his first ever KidzMod feature win last Saturday night at the Highland Speedway. … Defending UMP national modifed champion Mike Harrison had nine wins in nine starts until running into a stout field of drivers last Friday at Farmer City. Harrison finished in fourth in a race won by Jeffrey Ledford. … Nick Clubb was one of four modified drivers involved in a first-lap wreck during their feature. Clubb had his bell rung and, after he was cleared by SELCAS, on good advice went to the hospital where he was cleared. … Early point leaders at Fairbury include Ryan Unzicker (late model), TD Burger (modified), Amber Crouch and Rick Thomas (sportsman), and AJ Meiferdt (street stock).