Nice driving, Tim Ludke.
Now kindly remove your No. 20 Late Model car from Sycamore Speedway.
Racing reality surely tastes bittersweet for Ludke these days. By earning his second straight Late Model points title Saturday night, the 25-year-old St. Charles resident, by rule, also made himself ineligible to race in that class in 2014.
“It’s really surreal, you know,” Ludke said. “For one, I never thought that I’d become a champion racing. And then to be forced out of a class in racing for winning consecutive championships is weird, man. I don’t even know how to comprehend what is happening right now.”
Ludke edged friend Jordan Jackowiak of DeKalb, 235-226, once all the tabulating was done after the final full show of the track’s 50th anniversary season.
Ludke entered the night with a one-point edge, but the lead changed because scoring is tied to qualifying, trophy dashes, heats and semi-features before the feature race.
“We went in there one point ahead, and by the time we got to the feature we were one down,” said Scott Ludke, Tim’s dad and crew chief. “Oh, my. I’m surprised I didn’t have a little extra paramedic with me on standby.”
Naturally, the 50-lap feature was dripping with drama, too.
About 15 laps into the race, Ludke and Jackowiak tangled bumpers, and Jackowiak wound up on the marking tires lining the inside of the track as he tried the same wriggling maneuver as Ludke.
Working his way back after the restart, Jackowiak later encountered another collision and broke his radiator. He finished the feature 15 laps down, but Ludke sealed the deal – and his Late Model exit – by placing second.
Still, Jackowiak’s fate was foremost on Ludke’s mind.
“I was so mad all night. I couldn’t really enjoy the championship because of what happened,” Ludke said. “I’d be crushed if it happened to me, and I’m sure he was, too. But we talked it over afterward. He came up to me before I could even get to him to make sure I knew everything that happened on the track was just racing.
“You can’t say enough about that, that kind of sportsmanship.”
Ludke has drawn his own accolades during his rise through the Speedway circuit, which included a memorable tie with mentor Jimmy Stephens for the Spectator title in 2010. Rebounding from early spring car trouble in 2011, he placed third in his Late Models debut that season, then won the title in 2012.
Ludke hopes to hear humming engines and track announcements from pit row next season, but already is preparing himself for the possibility of a brief return to life as a small “s” spectator.
The Speedway’s seventh back-to-back Late Model winner since 1973, he can return to the circuit in 2015.
If he wants to race at Sycamore in 2014, however, Ludke would have to move up to the Super Late Model ranks. That will take some learning to maneuver, and developing a new car likely would be out of Ludke’s price range, he said.
To that end, he’s already been in touch with Super Late Models owners at the track.
“It would basically be they own the car, I get in and drive it and do as best I can for them,” Ludke said.
If Ludke can swing a deal, he knows that beats the alternative. “Wait ‘til next year” isn’t supposed to be a refrain for winners.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @kevindruley.