LOCAL CHURCH HOLDS SPECIAL SERVICE, BLESSING FOR DRIVERS, CREW OF ROUTE 66 RACEWAY AS SEASON NEARS GREEN LIGHT

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Roy Taylor has come to expect unique services at Plainfield's Plymouth Congregational Church. But until Sunday, he'd never seen dragsters parked on the lawn.

Racers, emergency crews and track personnel from Route 66 Raceway were given a special blessing Sunday at the church, where the church's pastor, Rev. Bill Beagle, a regular at the track, welcomed each visitor in attendance before the congregation said a special prayer over the 2009 season. They even sang a "Racer's Hymn."

Beagle cares deeply for his racers, he said, and wants to make the season, racer and car Blessing an annual event.

Taylor, of Yorkville, said the church often hosts different activities for members, like a Harvest Home dinner or outdoor services, but this is the first time he can remember dragsters parked next to the church sign.

"I thought it was nice that (Rev. Beagle) was able to give attention to something that was important to him," said Taylor, who stopped a minute to check out the cars with his children, 6-year-old Jerry and 2-year-old Mallory, and aunt Ada Findlay, of Plainfield. "You can tell he's passionate about ministering to the race folks."

Beagle's dedication was appreciated by Ed Marquardt, 36, of Channahon, who races a Pro E.T. 1967 Chevy Nova at Route 66 Raceway with his family.

"This was nice," Marquardt said. "This was really nice. I've known Bill for years. He's a good guy. He always makes it a point to come and see the kids at the trailer."

Marquardt and his son Cody, 3, took advantage of the warm weather after the service to check out Bill Butusov's dragster parked in front of the church with a few others.

Cody took his first trip to Route 66 at two weeks old, Marquardt said, and made his first appearance in the winner's circle that weekend when Ed won the race. He and his wife Rachel will also raise their daughter Tara, now five weeks old, within the drag racing community.

Route 66 Raceway's season starts with a Test and Tune session April 18. Tech inspections are at neighboring Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday.

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