Hank DeLonjay says he always had a sense The Kid would be able “to do OK” behind the wheel of one of those temperamental modifieds.
But there’s quite a difference between doing OK and outright domination.
Steven, who will be a sophomore at John Wood Community College when classes start in a couple of weeks, drove to his sixth straight feature victory Sunday night. The win tied the track record of another modified legend, Michael Long, who won six in a row in both 2008 and 2007.
Steven’s potential date with destiny comes next Sunday night in what could be a historic run at the Broadway Bullring. That’s when he attempts to become the first driver to win seven straight in-season features at the track.
“There is no pressure,” Steven insists. “I’ll just come to the track … and let it play out. My confidence is up. Winning races is what it’s all about. The focus is always on getting to the front.”
DeLonjay has done little else but win ever since he got behind the wheel of a car at 8000 Broadway, first in a hornet in 2006-07, then a modified since 2008. His dad retired as a driver after the 2007 season to oversee the career of his talented son.
“He came around right off the bat,” Hank said. “I told everyone before he started he’d be OK.”
Steven has won 70 races, including 27 features, since his career began in April 2006. Forty-one of those victories, including 17 features, have been in a modified.
The teenager already has two track titles of his own (he won both hornet crowns before that series was discontinued) and has finished no lower than third in points in any of his three previous seasons in a modified.
That first modified title might come this season, considering he now holds an 85-point lead over his closest challenger, defending track champ Jared Schlipman.
“By no means is the points thing over,” said Steven, who did admit, though, it’s much for fun to be the hunted rather than the hunter. In previous seasons he found himself playing catch-up most of the summer after a slow start in April and/or May, but this time around he’s been at or near the top in points right from the outset.
“I’m just going to try and continue doing what I’m doing,” he said.
And in case anyone was wondering, papa Hank has no inclination to want to come out of retirement and join his son on the track.
“Steven has done an excellent job, and just I’m having a blast watching him,” The Crank said.
DeLonjay’s latest victory saw him come from the back of the pack after a lap six crash. Twelve circuits later, he had taken the lead and held on for the final seven laps of a feature that was marred by 10 cautions.
DeLonjay entered the night as part of a four-driver scrum at the top of the standings that also included Schlipman, Dave Wietholder and Shawn Deering. All but DeLonjay were knocked out of the feature by lap six.
DeLonjay (660), Schlipman (575), Wietholder (572) and Deering (546) remain the first four in points, but the gap between DeLonjay and the rest widened considerably Sunday night.
SUNDAY NIGHT FEATURE WINNERS
Late models: Justin Reed (3rd) became the first driver in this series to go back-to-back this season.
Crate late models: Bobby Daughterman was the class of a field fo 10.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay (7th) finished 1.95 seconds ahead of Robbie Reed.
Stock cars: Abe Huls (3rd) won for the third time in four weeks.
Hobby stocks: Brandon Symmonds (1st) had been knocking on the door. Sunday night be knocked it down.
Wild things: Seth Woodruff (1st) finally reeled in Casey Kendrick on the 10th lap.
SUNDAY NIGHT HEAT WINNERS
Late models: Keith Pratt (4th), Matt Bailey (2nd).
Crate late models: Bobby Daughterman, Mark Oller.
Modifieds: Jared Schlipman (6th), Shawn Deering (6th).
Stock cars: Andrew Griffin (3rd).
Hobby stocks: Bobby Anders (7th), Jim Powell (1st).
Wild things: Robert Thompson (3rd), Seth Woodruff (3rd).
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS AT THE BULLRING
5 Stars: Steven DeLonjay. Who else?
4 Stars: Justin Reed looks a man possessed in the late model class.
3 Stars: Abe Huls is quietly putting together a monster second half of the season in the stock car division.
2 Stars: Brandon Symmonds not only won his first hobby stock feature, but is second in second-half points with 152. Only Jake Powers (157) has more.
1 Star: The scoreboard. It never looked better! It was the like the return of an old friend. Track officials were finally able to figure out what had knocked it out of commission for the past month.
UNOFFICIAL TRACK POINTS LEADERS
Late models: Justin Reed 201, Keith Pratt 194, Denny Woodworth 194, Lonnie Bailey 188, Joey Gower 187, Matt Bailey 184.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjayt 660, Jared Schlipman 575, Dave Wietholder 572.
Stock cars: Aaron Brocksieck 260, Terry Houston 255, Kevin Tomlinson 247.
Hobby stocks: Steve Carlin 404, Jake Powers 384.
Wild things: Casey Kendrick 386, Seth Woodruff 383.
SECOND-HALF POINTS LEADERS
Late models: Justin Reed 123, Joey Gower 119, Denny Woodworth 119, Keith Pratt 116, Matt Bailey 114.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay 300, Jared Schlipman 235, Dave Wietholder 206.
Stock cars: Terry Houston 147, Aaron Brocksieck 146, Kevin Tomlinson 141, Jerry Jansen 140.
Hobby stocks: Jake Powers 157, Brandon Symmonds 152, Steve Carlin 151, Tanner Klingele 148, Nathan Anders 147.
Wild things: Robert Thompson 153, Seth Woodruff 152, Casey Kendrick 152.
HERALD-WHIG PERFORMANCE POINTS LEADERS
Late models: Denny Woodworth 189, Joey Gower 167, Keith Pratt 153, Justin Reed 152, Lonnie Bailey 146.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay 215, Jared Schlipman 178, Dave Wietholder 154, Shawn Deering 149.
Stock cars: Aaron Brocksieck 218, Terry Houston 169, Kevin Tomlinson 163, Jerry Jansen 136, Abe Huls 127.
Hobby stocks: Steve Carlin 173, Jake Powers 164, Bobby Anders 147.
Wild things: Casey Kendrick 176, Seth Woodruff 145, Kimberly Abbott 131, Craig Bangert 131, Todd Nelson 127, Austin Uppinghouse 114.
Late models: 13 (season average 16.4)
Modifieds: 16 (season average 15.4)
Stock cars: 9 (season average 8.3)
Hobby stocks: 12 (season average 11.5)
Wild things: 10 (season average 9.5)
Late models: 4
Modifieds: 12 (season high; track record for modifieds is 20 on April 29, 2007.)
Stock cars: 2
Hobby stocks: 3
Wild things: 0 (wild things have had only four cautions the entire season).