PEORIA – There is a group of drivers for whom racing at Peoria Speedway this summer is a cinch.

Literally.

the Children’s mod division in full swing on the 400 meter high oval dirt road off Farmington Road.

The group of around a dozen novice drivers are aged 9 to 15 and race at 55 mph in modified cars every alternate Saturday as part of the event’s regular lineup.

“I learned to drive from my dad,” said 9-year-old Blake Crebo. “He taught me how far I can drive around the corners and how high to run on the track, to stop just before the sparks fly.

“I love how fun the race is. I love the excitement when I stop on the track.”

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Crebo lives in Hanna City and attends Limestone Walters Elementary School. He won three of the first six Kid Mods races. Ariyonnah Kalb has won twice. The prospective Limestone High School student is at a stalemate with Crebo atop the points standings for the season.

“My mom (Nichole) walks with me all the time and says ‘Why can’t you pick something to do that doesn’t involve a motor?’ laughed Kalb, 14, a small but mighty 4-foot-9, 84-pounder. “My dad (Johnny Kalb) raced cars too. My car was bought fully built and race ready. Being in the car is just amazing, I love it. I grew up driving golf carts , carts and four-wheeled vehicles. “

Ariyonnah Kalb poses for a portrait beside her car at Peoria Speedway on Saturday, July 22, 2021.

Grow up fast

Brian Crebo was looking for a way to reach kids with the sport he loves. He approached Peoria Speedway owner Brendon Dean with the idea of ​​a Kid Mods series.

“Any kid who thinks they want to try this should try it,” said Crebo, 40, from Washington who now lives in Hanna City. “There are a lot of young racing talent that we just haven’t discovered. The next generation. Kids don’t run for money. They get a trophy. They get experience.”

Crebo Motorsports is the title sponsor of the series. And the supplier of the trophies for the children. There is no cash prize, but every now and then a local business will donate a few hundred dollars to be split evenly among the children to help cover costs.

“I’m responsible for buying the trophies, ironically, because Blake has won three of the first six races and continues to bring things home,” Crebo said with a laugh. “He said to us, ‘I’d like to do that.’ And he was serious. “

9-year-old Blake Crebo cleans mud from his car's tires at Peoria Speedway on Saturday, July 24, 2021. Before Saturday night's races, Crebo had won three of the first six Kid Mods races.

Under the hood

Kid Mods cars must be built with a 4.3L dirt-modified v6 engine, like that of a Chevrolet S10 truck or Blazer, or a 2300 OHC engine from an old Ford Mustang.

The average track speed for these cars is 55 mph. It costs around $ 5,000 for a typical car build.

“We build these cars with special seats and gauges for children, all the safety features, of course,” Crebo said. “These kids started driving and racing at a very young age. Blake started karting when he was 4 years old.”

Drivers are not eligible to race in Kid Mods if they have previously competed in a V8 engine class. All cars are subject to inspection and must be owned by someone over the age of 18. Five-point safety harnesses, flame retardant racing suits, shoes and gloves, and of course, hard hats are required.

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There is a detailed list of rules and regulations that covers every inch of the car, right down to the specific parts that can be used, and every inch of driver safety as well.

“They are required to have a UMP license to drive these modified on the Speedway and on other tracks,” Crebo said. “Every driver has to have it. And there is a specialized license that we are required to have.”

Blake drives a 1995 car his father drove in 2008 at Spoon River Speedway.

“I said to him, ‘Son, if this is something you want to do, then do it.’ The next morning I plugged it in and pulled it out of the weeds.

“Blake was in the pits with me from the moment he knew how to walk. He knows all the rules and the flags.”

Blake Crebo poses for a portrait beside his car at Peoria Speedway on Saturday, July 22, 2021.

Help

Kid Mods series pilots go through training and testing to get a special license to fly Modifieds.

They also learn more than just driving.

“I can help shift gears, change tires and do a little bit of bodywork,” said Blake. “We have to wash the car every week. And I check and make sure all the bolts are tight on the car.”

He enjoys watching drivers Bobby Pierce and Nick Hoffman on the Summer Nationals Tour. At Peoria Speedway, his essential driver is Chris Morefield.

Kalb does not monitor drivers by name, but rather by location.

“When I watch the races on TV I like to watch the drivers in the back rows, I want to study their strategy and how they maneuver to get up and get to the front,” she said. “And I love working on the car. My dad lets me help, if something’s broken he shows me how to fix it. I can change gears, change shocks and change the oil on my own.”

She won a race earlier last week at Macon Speedway.

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There are other tracks in Illinois that host Kid Mod races. Young drivers like Crebo and Kalb move to these tracks and race, trying to get as much competition and experience as possible.

They are also building a sequel.

“When my teachers found out via Facebook that I was starting to race, they showed up to the Speedway to support me,” said Kalb, who rode off-road at the age of 4. “It was so cool.”

Blake Crebo leaves the track at Peoria Speedway after testing the track conditions after a weather delay on Saturday July 24, 2021.

The finish line

The destination of Kid Mods pilots is to be the next generation of Modified and Late Model pilots as adults. Many of them break in while racing quarter-midget, go-kart and 4-cylinder races.

AJ Foyt started in a midget quarterback. So are Johnny Rutherford, Swede Savage, Bobby Labonte, Terry Labonte, Jimmy Vasser, Sarah Fisher and Ryan Newman.

Joey Logano started running in the midgets at the age of 6. Jeff Gordon was 5 years old and won a championship at the age of 8.

“It’s a great sport and these kids are having fun,” said Brian Crebo.

Addition of Blake Crebo, 9 years old:

“And everyone treats you like family.”

Kid Mods at Peoria Speedway

The Kid Mods Race starts again on July 31, which is Fan Appreciation Night and includes a special $ 5 entry. They run again on August 7, August 21, September 4, September 25 and October 2.

All races are held at Peoria Speedway (3520 W. Farmington Rd.), Which takes place every Saturday with rounds and features across multiple classes. General admission is $ 10 and children under 10 are admitted free. Adult passes cost $ 30 and children’s passes are $ 15.

The stands open at 4 p.m. and the stands open at 5 p.m. The hot laps / time trial are at 6 p.m. Race starts at 6.30 p.m.

Dave Eminian is the Sports Columnist for The Journal Star and covers Bradley’s men’s basketball, the Rivermens and the Chiefs. He writes the sports column Cleve In The Eve for pjstar.com. Contact him at 686-3206 or deminian@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.


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