Krolak races ahead of 33,104 contestants

SPRING VALLEY — And they're racing toward the checkered flag, and the winner is ... Sue Krolak of Spring Valley!

Krolak beat out 33,104 other participants nationwide to win this week's prize in the Checkered Flag Challenge, sponsored locally by the Bureau County Republican and nationally by Second Street Media.

It was Krolak's first time to enter one of the BCR's online contests.

"We've gotten the Republican for years, and you see all these contests for the football and the basketball and all that stuff," she said. "This one, my daughter says to me, 'Mom, you watch this all the time. You know everybody.'"

In the Checkered Flag Challenge, participants pick the 10 drivers they think will finish first through 10th for each week's featured NASCAR race. Points are awarded on how each driver finishes in a race. First place is worth 150, second place is worth 125 and so on through 43rd place, and bonus points are awarded for every driver that comes in the exact order they were picked to finish.

This week's race was the 54th Daytona 500, scheduled for Sunday but delayed until Monday by rain.

Krolak might not know a lot about football or basketball, but she knows her NASCAR.

"I enjoy watching NASCAR races and watching my favorite drivers," she said.

So Krolak went online, registered for the contest, and picked who she thought might do the best.

But Krolak knew that watching NASCAR and knowing the drivers was no guarantee of how things would work out.

"You know that all you have to do is have one big wreck, and everybody can be out," she said. "That's actually what happened all weekend with all the NASCAR races. Everybody was getting in wrecks."

Krolak watched the race into the early hours of Tuesday morning. She didn't remember exactly who she had picked, but she did know her favorite, Dale Earnhardt Jr., had finished second, just as she had predicted.

And then she went to bed, only to be woken by her daughter Shelly Krolak when she called at 6 a.m.

"She said, 'Mom, I'm number 44, you've got to check," Krolak said with a laugh.

So Krolak went to her computer.

"'OK, it says 1,' I told her," Krolak said. "She said, 'What do you mean, 1?'"

And that was how Krolak discovered she had won both the local and national contests. Her picks for the Daytona 500 were, in order, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Matt Kenseth, Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Ryan Newman.

Those choices earned her 900 points, with the most points coming from Earnhardt's second-place finish — the exact place she had chosen — and Kenseth's win. She picked seven of the top 10 finishers, with three of them finishing in the exact place she predicted.

Krolak won the local contest — and a $10 gift card to Fast Stop — by 141 points. She won the national contest — and a NASCAR Fathead of her choice — by 24 points.

"The national race?" she said. "How did that happen? There's probably so many people who are doing that."

Krolak credited her victory to luck.

"I guess my fellows didn't wreck. They stayed in there," she said. "I guess it has to be luck, but I do watch a lot of NASCAR."

The contest continues with Sunday's Sprint Cup Series at Phoenix and is scheduled through the Ford 400 on Nov. 18, and not surprising ... Krolak plans to keep on playing.

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How can you play too?

Information about the BCR's contests is available online.

To date, there are 89 participants in the Checkered Flag Challenge, which awards weekly prizes as well as grand prizes for those with the best 15 picks of the 37-race series.

The March Mayhem contest will begin March 13, but participants can register now and return to pick their teams after Selection Sunday March 11.

Contests still to come are the Wedding Bells Sweepstakes with prizes for brides and mother/mothers-in-law to win, plus a golf contest.

Local participants who did well in earlier contests were Brock Hansen, who was 71 out of 23,715 nationally in the College Bowl Challenge; and Terry Madsen, who was 2,612 out of 219,753 nationally, in the Pro Pigskin Challenge.