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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Inevitability of Kody Swanson

    For some time now, it has been Kody Swanson and his team’s “job” to dominate USAC’s Silver Crown division. They have figured out what it takes to take home the trophy and the $$$. Others in the pit could be excused for thinking about what second place pays as they watch the DePalma Motorsports-Radio Hospital #63/Maxim/Hampshire team unload the car off the trailer. And on a cool Thursday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ one mile oval, Swanson and crew waltzed off with the trophy and the prize for the second straight year as they won the Hoosier 100 over a strong field. For the second straight year Swanson made an outside pass going into turn one for the lead and eventual win.

    It wasn’t that long ago that USAC’s Silver Crown Series was on life support. Then along came Andy Hillenburg, hired to resurrect an ailing series. Maybe his job isn’t done, but he’s done a fine job so far. Thursday night was more proof.

    I’m am admitted sucker for comeback stories, those who overcome obstacles to succeed, or those who have fallen flat on their faces only to get up and battle adversity again. This series is a good example.

    There was a fine mix of old and new faces and cars, too. Junior Kurtz made his return with a team led by Brian Tyler. Unfortunately, their night would be cut short by mechanical woes, but fortunately for Tyler, Randy Bateman exited his seat and put the USAC champ in his place with spectacular results. Also among the 29 cars who signed in was the former and familiar Tom Capie 153, now owned and driven by Tyler Courtney. The semi-retired Levi Jones appeared with a car owned by Evansville businessman Jack Rogers. Best of all was the reappearance of one Rickey Hood, 62 years old and making his first Hoosier 100 start in 19 years. He would excel later, outshining competitors less than half his age in the Fox Brothers’ (with Daddy Galen helping a bunch) pride and joy.

    Most of the usual suspects were on hand. One no show was Chris Urish, who had the best excuse a guy could have. His wife and he were in their native Illinois preparing to wave the green flag at a new arrival.

    The show ran smoothly as could be all evening. I sat on the stage during time trials, watching Andy Hillenburg play traffic cop, pointing, walking and occasionally yelling for the guys to get ready. It was worth it. Qualifications were a treat. Kody Swanson was next to last to take his one lap, but he was still quickest at 33.223, relegating A.J. Fike to second quick.

    After the preliminaries, including vintage cars and a drifting exhibition (plus a very brief interview of some guy not named Kevin Oldham who writes for hoseheads), the field lined up, with 27 of the 29 ready to rumble.

    Fike got the jump at the start, but the yellow waved immediately as Chris Fetter and Tad Roach had a meeting in turn one. Both were done for the night, two of the quickest exits made both for this or any other race. On the re-start, Fike held the lead and was wishing to check out, but the second yellow waved for a stopped Tracy Hines on lap ten.

    Not much changed at the top—yet. It was Fike, C.J. Leary, Swanson, Shane Cockrum, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Russ Gamester, Jacob Wilson, Brady Bacon and Shane Cottle, who would exit the race soon.

    For most of the first half of the race there was little change at the top. But further back, people were on the move. Early on Levi Jones moved from 21st to the top ten. His night ended on lap 40, however. Steve Buckwalter was also on the move, from 16th to as high as sixth before flipping on lap 54. Then there was Tyler, who had started as the caboose (27th) and steadily moved forward. By lap 40 he was up to 13th and was far from done.

    Meanwhile, Swanson was biding his time, but not opposed to passing Leary for second, which he did on lap 22. The lap 40 yellow for Jones and Austin Nemire erased Fike’s considerable lead. Now he had Swanson, Leary, Cockrum, Coons, Russ Gamester, Darland, Buckwalter, Bacon and Tyler behind him. Gamester dropped out during the yellow. Leary slowly faded as Tyler kept coming on. But Buckwalter’s misfortune brought a brief halt to proceedings. Steve was unhurt, but done for the night. He does plan to return here next month for Indiana Midget Week.

    Under the red flag there was action. Darland and Leary both had to change tires, but that was a no-no. Both were docked a lap, even though they maintained their place in line for the re-start. Tyler was now in the top five. Brady Bacon entered the top ten.

    A few laps after the re-start, it was show and tell time. Swanson applied massive pressure to the leader, whose tires were fading. Going into turn one on lap 68, Swanson made the pass—on the outside. Last year he had waited until lap 78 to take the lead. This would be for the win but there was a lot more to this race than that. (Box scores in any sport don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole truth either.) Swanson began to pull away from Fike while Tyler tried to figure out how to pass Cockrum with the one lap down Dave Darland breathing down his neck. On lap 73 Tyler did the deed, passing for third place and gaining on Fike.

    A new player came to play. Aaron Pierce is known as a pavement wizard but he showed that he can handle these beasts on dirt as well. From 18th he didn’t crack the top ten until after the halfway mark. By lap 70 he was pressuring Coons for a top five spot. Both Pierce and Tyler needed a yellow flag. Sure enough, they got it when David Byrne stopped on lap 84.

    Swanson’s nice lead was gone. Fike was still second on the re-start but he was the blood in the water and the others were the sharks. Tyler, Cockrum and Pierce were the rest of the top five. Brady Bacon had been running a steady race and was sixth. Tyler Courtney had the old Capie machine up to seventh after starting 20th. Justin Grant had rambled from 19th to eighth. Wilson was hanging onto ninth. And the ageless Rickey Hood was now tenth.

    Swanson again checked out while positions were swapped right and left. On lap 96 Tyler and Pierce got around Fike and a lap later Pierce passed Tyler. Swanson motored on, trying hard not to count his money just yet.

    But the race’s final yellow waved with two laps to go when Courtney had a tire go away on the backstretch, ending an impressive top ten run for the SC rookie. Swanson would have to endure yet another late race re-start. But for him it was all anti-climactic as he rolled on to the checkered.

    Pierce was a strong second after beginning his race 18th. Tyler came from 27th to third. Fike faded only slightly to fourth with a worn out right rear tire. Justin Grant showed he can race for 100 laps as he came from 19th to fifth. Cockrum had a tire go away at the end, ending up sixth, a great effort all the same. And Rickey Hood hung around while the others had issues; the veteran made all of us middle aged guys proud by taking seventh. Patrick Lawson came on at the very end to finish eighth. Jacob Wilson was ninth, which was where he started. Brady Bacon dropped back at bit at the end with a tire gone bad and brought it home tenth.

    Joey Kramer spanked the UMP mod field, winning the feature by a healthy margin over the ageless Kenny Schrader.

    It was quite a night. The crowd could have been bigger, but the car count was a great improvement. They saw these high speed dinosaurs put on a good race. God willing, there’s a really good chance of a 2016 Hoosier 100.

    Foolishly dreaming of the few remaining dirt mile ovals being added to the Indy Car schedule, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    Hometown Boy

    People learn very early in life to “root for their own.” If a team or individual is from your home town, most likely you will hope that your team or athlete wins over the other school, town, state or nation. With that in mind, sprint car fans that live in or near Kokomo, Indiana, have many reasons to cheer. Younger Kokomo residents like Josh Spencer and Logan Jarrett have made their mark on the Kokomo racing scene and quite probably will continue to do so. Dave Darland is a local legend who has won more than his share of races at Kokomo (and many other places). But Sunday evening at the Kokomo Speedway it was yet another Kokomo boy, Shane Cottle, who won the feature on a partly cloudy evening with a slight threat of showers.

    My home town is no different. My earliest racing memories include racers like Ted Pfeiffer and Bobby Baker. A few years later and the name Bobby Black certainly rang a bell, along with Orval Yeadon and Allen Barr. Fast forward into the late 60s to the 70s and the local hot shoe was one Butch Wilkerson. Somewhere in there Gene and Russ Petro excelled in dirt late model racing. In the early 90s a young guy named Tony Stewart began making his way through the ranks. Not too many years later Derek Scheffel seemingly owned the Bloomington Speedway. Jason Knoke had some success racing open wheel cars at about the same time. And his nephew Logan Hupp is a Lawrenceburg Speedway champ, as is local boy Joss Moffatt.

    Two cities an hour from Indianapolis have a storied racing heritage. Youngsters move to the forefront as time passes. But at least in Kokomo on this Sunday night Mr. Cottle was the local boy in victory lane.

    The possible threat of rain probably kept a few cars and fans away. They missed a show. 22 sprint teams opted to race rather than watch the radar. Several familiar and usual suspects were among the 22. Occasional Lincoln Park runner Matt McDonald was a surprise entrant. Dustin Smith, yet another local boy who is hit and miss these days, had also showed up.

    The quickest of the three group qualifiers was Max McGhee, who ripped off a 13.136 lap in the last group. Justin Grant led the second group while Kevin Thomas Jr. topped Group One.

    Pole sitter Shane Cottle left the others behind in winning the first heat. Thomas was second and Jarrett Andretti took third. Jerry Coons Jr., Josh Spencer, Jamie Fredrickson and Lyndsey Ligouri trailed.

    Logan Jarrett won the second heat; like Cottle, he won from the pole as well as being a local boy like. C.J. Leary, Justin Grant, Travis Hery and Canadian Lee Dakus, making a return visit to the Hoosier state, followed.

    Casey Shuman, settled in the Eric Barnhill sprinter, won the third heat. Dave Darland, in Jeff Walker’s pride and joy, was second. Max McGhee came in third with Conner Donelson slipping from the pole to fourth. Cole Ketchum was fifth.

    The redraw had Kokomo residents in the first three starting spots. Jarrett, Cottle and Darland were up front, joined by Leary, Thomas, Shuman, Andretti, Grant, McGhee and Coons.

    It turned out to be Cottle all the way with the usual dogfights behind him throughout the race. The red lights blinked on lap two when Conner Donelson rode the fence and flipped in turn four. He was okay and able to stroll dejectedly back to the pits.

    The green stayed put for the next 23 laps and no one had anything for Cottle on a track that stayed fast all evening. Thomas scratched and clawed his way to second. He passed Jarrett late in the race when the local boy made the slightest of bobbles. Grant came from eighth to take fourth on a night when passing was tough. Leary rounded out the top five.

    Darland faded only slightly late in the race to finish sixth. Coons was seventh ahead of Shuman, Andretti and McGhee.

    My fellow traveler and I encountered a damp road just outside the city limits; the showers had come that close. He had spent a busy evening playing when the sprint cars were in the pits. He was just north of Westfield before he fell asleep, dreaming about “his guys.”

    Maybe someday he or a kid like him will take their places with those other local boys who preceded them. I like to think that all of them, from the earliest to the current, living or not, would smile at the prospect.

    Protecting the shield, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hurry Up mode

    Everyone at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway was in a hurry to get things done on an unsettled night in terms of weather. With precipitation in the area, both the O’Connor family and USAC officials truly wanted to get this show in before any rain came. Racers felt the same way, no matter what class was running. But as it turned out, no one was in a hurry more than Brady Bacon, who tired of playing follow the leader around the bottom and tried something a bit different, sweeping around Thomas Meseraull and Dave Darland to win the 30 lap feature, high and dry.

    28 teams toed the mark on a warm and humid Friday night. There were a couple of surprises, with Chris Windom making a rare appearance in the Rick Pollock machine and the familiar blue 11 of Jeff Walker’s nowhere to be found.

    My fellow traveler was raring to go as I picked him up after school was dismissed. He fell asleep just south of Shelbyville and slept most of the way to the track. Soon after he woke up he was roaming the pits, acting somewhat older than his six years.

    At the beginning the track was smooth but slick. It had absorbed a good bit of water when the rain poured down earlier on Friday after the track crew had added water. The first heat rolled off 30 minutes late, but things ran quite smoothly all evening.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the first heat despite a pesky Shane Cottle who kept the Alabama native on his toes. Brady Bacon, quick qualifier for the fourth time this year, was third and Jon Stanbrough was fourth.

    Chase Stockon made quite a statement in the second heat as he executed a last lap pass to win from sixth. Kyle Robbins sneaked into second with Logan Jarrett, who had led most of the race, falling to third. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth.

    The third heat was the best race all night—until the feature rolled around. Chris Windom was the third and last of three leaders. Aaron Farney, who lost the lead with three laps to go, was second. Dave Darland was third and Thomas Meseraull punched his feature ticket in fourth. Early leader Conner Donelson went to the B.

    Landon Simon charged from fourth to the lead on the first lap of the fourth heat. Robert Ballou came from sixth to finish second. New daddy Josh Spencer raced like the baby needed new shoes, taking third. C.J. Leary was fourth.

    The pits were a bit hectic as officials exhorted racers to head to the lineup chute for the B. 12 cars and 12 laps later, Justin Grant won the last chance with Tracy Hines second. Casey Shuman came from seventh to third. Max McGhee, Matt Goodnight and Conner Donelson trailed but would start a USAC feature.

    Meseraull and Stanbrough led Ballou, Darland, Stockon, Bacon, Hines, Grant, Cottle and Robbins to the green. TMez got the jump and immediately began to put some serious distance between him and his playmates. Darland got around Stanbrough early but the only thing that would slow Thomas down was a lap eight yellow for Kyle Robbins.

    The green flag would find Meseraull leading the People’s Champ, Stanbrough, Stockon, Bacon, Hines, Grant, Cottle, Simon and Ballou, who had been hip checked a time or two and lost some ground. This segment saw the frontrunners stay low, playing follow the leader while further back people were using the entire surface and then some. Finally Bacon decided to venture to the top and bingo!—he began passing some people. Darland had similar ideas as he took the lead from Meseraull on lap 13.

    When Casey Shuman brought out a yellow on lap 14, Bacon might have said some words he doesn’t use too often. He had come all the way to second when the yellow waved but had to give back two spots. So the order was Darland, Meseraull, Stanbrough, Bacon, Stockon, Hines, Leary (from 16th), Grant, Cottle and Thomas.

    Darland held on for another lap or so but Bacon would not be denied. Returning to the high side, he passed Stanbrough in one lap and TMez the next. On lap 17 it was Darland’s turn to watch the Mean Green Machine motor by.

    But this race was far from over. Lapped traffic, as it often does, became a huge factor. Bacon had pulled away somewhat from the duo of Darland and Meseraull, but both reeled in the Oklahoma native in lapped traffic. It appeared to me that Meseraull had actually led a lap but USAC timing and scoring said no. Nevertheless, both Meseraull and Darland refused to go away and made sure that the outcome would be in doubt until all exited the fourth turn to take the checkered. Bacon’s winning margin was less than a half second.

    Behind the trio of Bacon, Meseraull and Darland was Stanbrough running a quiet fourth. Leary ran the best race that not everyone saw as he charged from 16th to finish fifth, getting by Stockon near the end. Chase was also passed by Robert Ballou, who was sixth. After Stockon was Hines, Cottle and Kevin Thomas Jr., who also passed a few cars in coming from 17th to tenth.

    The checkered flag waved at 9:30 p.m. The assembled group of racers and officials had contested all heat races for three classes plus two B mains and the sprint feature in 90 minutes. I assume that no one complained.

    My six year navigator engaged in choosing winners all evening with Bob Clauson and John Hoover. He more than held his own with those two. And he had the highest finishing pick to win in the feature, choosing T. Meseraull to win. Thankfully for the two senior citizens, no money was exchanged.

    We headed south and, sure enough, the rains came, complete with a nifty little light show. My traveler slept most of the way home, conking out somewhere near Muncie. I do believe it was the earliest we’ve ever made it home from Gas City—11:50.

    In USAC points R. Ballou leads Stockon by two, Darland by 13, Bacon by 45 and Stanbrough is 97 points down from the Mad Man.

    Rivaling Roger Goodell as the most overpaid person in America, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Never, Ever, Give Up

    One of my favorite songs is an effort by British singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel. It’s called “Don’t Give Up” and is an exhortation to his working class countrymen who were going through hard times a few decades ago. How many times have you seen a racer make a significant boo-boo and recover to win the race? Not many, I’d guess. But on a warm, humid night, with rain close enough to make track officials a bit nervous about getting the whole show in, Brady Short did just that at the Bloomington Speedway. While trying to pass leader Nick Bilbee, Short slid off the backstretch, but recovered coming out of turn, losing one position, and then eventually getting past Bilbee for the lead and the win.

    I’m not sure, but I think Brady Short has Bloomington figured out.

    Rain was still in Illinois as 22 sprinters called the Order of the Red Clay Oval to order. The new Racesaver winged 305 sprints had half that number.

    Group qualifying was conducted and the top four of each heat were inverted. Michael Koontz was quickest of the first heat group, but Brady Short checked out from the green flag. Only a late yellow slowed him and made his margin somewhat smaller. Koontz was second ahead of Chris Babcock. Jordan Kinser, Levi Underwood, Brandon Morin and Braxton Cummings trailed.

    Bradley Sterrett won the second heat. Max McGhee, back after a nasty crash last weekend, was second. Kent Christian took third and travelin’ man Chris Gurley was fourth. Lynsey Ligouri gave husband Joe the night off from driving and drove to a fifth place finish.

    Ethan Barrow won the third heat despite heavy pressure from Nick Bilbee. Casey Shuman wasn’t too far back in third. Josh Cunningham, who gave the pre-race invocation, was fourth. Young Cole Smith was fifth.

    The number 17 was popular up front for the feature as Bilbee, McGhee and Koontz started one/two/three. Next to Koontz was Barrow with Sterrett and Short in the third row.

    Bilbee took the early lead over McGhee, but Short was already fourth after the first lap. McGhee slid off turn two and Brady took third. Cunningham brought out the first yellow as he spun in turn four on lap three. Bilbee led Koontz, Short, Sterrett, Babcock, Barrow, Shuman, Christian, Kinser and Gurley.

    Short grabbed second on the re-start and began reeling in Bilbee. Koontz slipped back bit by bit. As the leaders caught lapped traffic, Short was right on Bilbee’s tail tank. And then he nearly gave it all away as he slid off the backstretch. Short re-entered the track side by side with Shuman, but was able to get ahead of the Arizona native.

    A lap later Jordan Kinser brought out a yellow with Bilbee now leading Sterrett, Short, Shuman, Koontz, Babcock, Barrow, Gurley, Christian and Smith. It was lap 11.

    Ligouri stopped on lap 16 to bring out the yellow hankie. The top three were still the same and the turning point of the race was at hand, though who could know that at the time. Short wanted the second spot very badly and ran hard into turn three on the re-start, just clearing Sterrett with a skin tight but perfect dive bomb move.

    Short’s work wasn’t done as Bilbee still led, there were eight laps to go, and the young man leading would not be easy to pass. But the Bedford, Indiana native steadily gained ground on the leader and made the pass on lap 22. As far as the lead was concerned, that was the race.

    But behind Short and Bilbee, the usual wheel to wheel traffic issues made for a real dogfight. Shuman took over third place late from Sterrett and ended there after starting ninth. Behind Sterrett was an equally impressive Michael Koontz. Ethan Barrow was sixth and Cole Smith, improving bit by bit, came from 15th to finish seventh. Chris Babcock flirted with the top five for a spell before ending up eighth. Jordan Kinser was ninth and Max McGhee recovered from his early off track excursion to come back to tenth.

    Somehow the rain that covered a good part of southern Indiana missed the red clay oval. Wondering if I’d be handing out HARF t-shirts or not due to the rain was a waste of wondering. They were all given to feature winners, beginning with Mr. Short, who added to his collection and refused to give up.

    Eric Edwards led from flag to flag in winning the Racesaver 305 feature.

    There were a few sprinkles as I motored through Gnaw Bone (don’t ask), but that was it. Our Hoosier weather continually confounds. And this warm, humid, Saturday afternoon promises more of the same tonight.

    Loaning Tom Brady an air pump made especially for footballs, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Spin and Win

    After watching Justin Grant spin out, wipe out his huge lead, right his car and eventually win the third round of the King of Indiana Sprint Series event at the Kokomo Speedway on Sunday night, it wasn’t all that tough to recall jet setter Danny Sullivan’s similar move on his way to victory in the Indy 500. But win he did and capped off a wild race, 30 laps of controlled mayhem. It was a nice way to spend the ten minutes or so it took to run the feature and people will tell you that it was also typical Kokomo.

    For me, it was third consecutive night of this type of racing, starting with Gas City on Friday, continuing at Lawrenceburg on Saturday and culminating at Kokomo on Sunday night.

    As I climbed out of the truck Sunday afternoon the first thing I noticed was the breeze coming out of the southwest. Often this means a storm is coming. I was right about the storm, but wrong about the source. The breeze calmed down as the racing heated up. Reece O’Connor and the guys dropped enough water on the track to make sure that the dust would stay away and the track would get nowhere near dry/slick.

    Often in life we may wonder which is better, quality or quantity. It’s possible to have too many cars show up for an event. I’d think that promoters would prefer quality—as long as there is a good crowd to show up, buy a ticket, eat a hot dog and buy a t-shirt. The three races I saw were all well attended; given the quality of racing I saw, the car count wasn’t all that important. All I know was that the 22 assembled at Kokomo were a quality group, with maybe half the field holding onto a chance at winning the $2500 that the feature winner would take home.

    A couple of those quality cars produced a side by side finish in the first heat. Shane Cottle led flag to flag, but Jon Stanbrough came on strong at the end to make it a Noah’s Ark kind of finish (two by two, side by side). Robert Ballou was third and Casey Shuman held onto fourth. Aaron Farney was fifth.

    The second heat was a high speed freight train around the top as Brady Short won. Second place Justin Grant did test the middle a couple of times, perhaps thinking about later when traction would be equal in the middle or the bottom groove. Dave Darland was third and Chad Boespflug fourth. Dickie Gaines brought it home to fifth.

    It was C.J. Leary’s turn to play engineer as he won the third heat with Kevin Thomas Jr. in tow. Thomas Meseraull was third with Jerry Coons Jr. coming from the back to take fourth. KISS point leader Kyle Robbins was fifth.

    Short and Grant drew the front row for the 30 lap feature. Grant grabbed the lead at the start and did his part to try and stink up the show. In only a few laps he was simply gone. Lapped traffic didn’t hinder him at all, it seemed.

    But he was not minding the fact that he was missing a great race behind him. Short, Leary, Stanbrough, Meseraull, Cottle and Darland fought like the proverbial cats and dogs behind the unsuspecting Grant.

    But that all changed midway through the race when Grant spun in turn four, but kept it going. Unlike the night before at Lawrenceburg, the yellow didn’t wave. However, Short arrived quick enough to take the lead with Grant only a couple of car lengths back. It was looking like Justin was about to give away another win as he’d done at the ‘burg.

    At this point, Grant received a break in the form of Brady Short’s engine deciding to come apart at the seams as a yellow light blinked for a slowing Logan Jarrett. The re-start turned out to be fairly mundane as no one had anything for Grant, who, amazingly, had run about half the race with a broken right front shock.

    The rest of the top ten will show just how deep and talented this field was. Stanbrough was second ahead of Meseraull, who was coming on strong. Leary was fourth with Robert Ballou fifth. Shane Cottle was sixth, holding off Chad Boespflug. Jerry Coons Jr. was eighth and Kyle Robbins increased his point lead by finishing ninth after starting 15th. And finally, Kevin Thomas Jr., who had taken a nasty ride at Montpelier the night before, was tenth. Kids, that list represents a treasure load of feature wins and doesn’t even include Dave Darland, who dropped out mid-race, Casey Shuman or Dickie Gaines, a KISS champion in the series’ inaugural year of 2001.

    The sprint feature was over right around the 9 o’clock hour. Folks who wanted to hurry home and watch “Bonanza” ended up missing part of Hoss, Little Joe and the gang’s adventures.

    Holding down Floyd Mayweather so all those women he’s hit beat the unholy hell out of him, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: High Speed Poetry

    My farming buddy Kenny has in the past described no less than Jack Hewitt as a poet of sorts. Jack might be both amused and flattered by such a description, if not genuinely confused. After spending an evening of watching 20 odd sprint cars hurtling their way around the high banks of the Lawrenceburg Speedway with such grace, yet on the edge of control, I decided that our form of racing is high speed poetry, among other things, and on a beautiful Hoosier (even though two other states are nearby) night young C.J. Leary was the fastest poet of all. Not only that he was $2000 richer, plus he could say he was the King of the Midwest Sprints as he was last year. It may well be that the Greenfield resident has this track figured out.

    My fellow traveler ignored a pesky cold and signed up to make the trip east to one of his favorite race tracks. For both of us, it was our first trip to the ‘burg this year and it didn’t disappoint.

    21 cars paid a visit, plus a very good crowd. Much of the field assembled owned track championships and/or multiple feature wins. Leary drew the pole of the first heat and won, but not without some pressure from second place Justin Grant. Chris Babcock, making a very rare Lawrenceburg visit, was third ahead of ‘burg champ Shawn Westerfeld and Travis Hery.

    Garrett Abrams won the second heat. The Rushville resident beat J.T. Stapp and Nick Bilbee. Fourth was David Applegate and Todd Gnat nipped Jake Gindling at the line for fifth.

    Thomas Meseraull had stated that he’d be at Lawrenceburg for the evening and there he was, winning the third heat. Jarett Andretti was a strong second. Landon Simon edged out Justin Owen in another race to the finish line. Yet another track champ, Logan Hupp, was fifth.

    The redraw put Stapp and Abrams on the front row. Leary and Andretti were the second row with Grant and TMez the third. Abrams led the first lap but Leary took over for the next two. But Grant wanted to play at being the fastest poet. So he did for a couple of laps. But from there it was Leary all the way. He and Grant tried their best to put some distance between them and the rest of the field, though Meseraull didn’t exactly go away.

    Things went way south for Grant on lap 14 as he spun, bringing out the yellow flag. Most every track or sanctioning body has a rule that says if a car brings out a yellow, it doesn’t matter if they can keep going or not. Either way, they go to the tail. Nevertheless, it had to stink for Grant, who did retreat backwards.

    The re-start looked a lot like Leary, Meseraull, Andretti, Bilbee, Abrams, Simon, Joss Moffatt, Babcock, Stapp and Westerfeld. Again, Leary edged away from TMez. Nick Bilbee found some speed and began a fight with Andretti for third. Landon Simon also came on strong as he worried Andretti for fourth place.

    No one had anything for Leary, as it turned out. Meseraull crossed the line second but was docked two spots for nicking the cone on the re-start after the race’s lone yellow flag. However, after a video review, it was determined that Thomas and his car didn’t touch the cone. TMez was second again with Bilbee third and Andretti fourth. Simon was fifth. Moffatt was the hard charger, coming from 15th to sixth. Abrams was seventh and Babcock eighth. Hupp came from 18th to ninth. Westerfeld started and finished tenth.

    Arguing with a guy who thinks Al Yankovic is a poet, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Chief Bottle Washer

    Over the past off season, Jon Stanbrough must have looked at his 2015 options and decided to go his own way and start his own team, something he hasn’t done in a long time. With wife Melinda and crew chief/wizard Daryl Tate, Jon got busy and began his program, acquiring an impressive list of sponsors and preparing a car (and maybe more) for this season. And on a cool Friday night that was the season opener for the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Stanbrough took an early lead and earned his 22nd King of Indiana Sprint Series feature win.

    As a still new KISS PR goober, I’ve come to make it a habit of wondering the pits, which is nothing new, but now has more purpose. After I showed up, I began my meandering, making laps around the pit. It seemed like with each lap, another car or two would pull into the pits. Before I knew it, 32 sprints had invaded the pit area on the west side of Mr. Himelick’s property. With USAC off this week, a few regulars, including Mr. Stanbrough, ventured to the northeastern Indiana oval.

    Lots of water was dumped on the track and the program began a bit late, but the sprint feature was still over at a decent hour. By the time 7:45 rolled around, it was time to dodge some pellets that only Gas City can provide.

    It was the four heats/four transfer format. In the first heat Dickie Gaines led eight of the ten laps before Kevin Thomas Jr. made the pass on a really, really quick track to take the win. Behind Dickie was pole sitter Tyler Hewitt and Scotty Weir, tonight in the Pederson brothers’ car with its too cool open trailer.

    Thomas Meseraull got the jump on Max McGhee at the start to lead all ten laps of the second heat. Behind Max was veteran Dave Darland and his fellow Kokomo resident Shane Cottle. Last week’s Terre Haute/KISS winner, Brady Short couldn’t get around the Throttle and had to go play in the B.

    Travis Hery took the early lead in the third heat, but it was all too brief as he got some air in turn four and bounced to a stop without going over. Connor Donelson benefitted from this by re-starting on the front row and running away with the win. Kyle Robbins was second with Robert Ballou third. Pole sitter Aaron Farney was fourth, sending Chad Boespflug to the B.

    Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the fourth heat. Jon Stanbrough grabbed second place on the second lap and stayed there. Justin Grant was third. The excitement was seeing Chris Gurley pass Dallas Hewitt in lapped traffic late in the race to take the fourth position and start 16th in the 30 lap feature.

    One could call it the B Main from Hell. No doubt a few racers did just that. Before a lap was completed, a chain reaction/accordion deal left Joe Ligouri sitting sideways in turn four. Not content with a yellow flag, the red waved on the second do-over as Benji Koontz found himself upside down in turn two.

    Rookie Frank Flud, who had exited the race with apparent mechanical issues, rejoined the fight and tagged the field. No laps had been scored as of yet.

    The next red came after a couple of laps had been run. Spencer Bayston, tonight in a Clauson family sprinter, bounced to a stop and was clouted by Dallas Hewitt, who may have been smarting after his late loss of a transfer spot in his heat had helped put him in this position. Meanwhile, Seth Jackson might not have seen the yellow or heard race control as he sailed off turn three and began flipping—all the way to the fence, which caught him and let him go no farther. All were relatively unharmed, even the fence.

    Brady Short led the race from start to finish. After the mayhem the boys settled down with a decimated field left to race. Short and Chad Boespflug checked out to run one/two and Ligouri’s early misfortune became an afterthought as he waded through the carnage to take third. And young Frank Flud did the same and would start in the feature.

    The redraw had Jarrett and Meseraull leading the way with Stanbrough and Robbins in the second row. Jarrett led the first lap, but Stanbrough charged to the front on lap two. Max McGhee had already moved to second, but his night went ugly right away when he flipped coming out of turn two, bringing out the night’s final red.

    On the re-start Stanbrough now led Robbins, Meseraull, Thomas, Jarrett, Gaines, Donelson, Darland, Ballou and Grant. What followed was vintage Gas City, cutting and slashing with different mini-battles throughout the top ten for 26 laps. Stanbrough pulled away and Robbins did the same, though the 81’s tail tank kept getting smaller. Thomas broke free of the pack and began to close on KRob. With about five laps to go he passed the young New Castle resident for second.

    But a yellow waved when Cottle and Gurley got together on lap 28, bringing out a caution and setting up a green/white/checkered finish. Stanbrough’s good sized lead was gone and the always dangerous Kevin Thomas Jr. was on his tail now, ahead of Robbins, TMez, Gaines, Ballou, Jarrett, Weir, Darland and Short.

    However the finish was anticlimactic as Thomas bounced his way out of contention. Stanbrough cruised to victory and Robbins had his second consecutive good race in a row, following up his Terre Haute fourth place with a second here. Meseraull was third with Gaines a quiet, but impressive, fourth. Ballou came from 11th to take fifth.

    Jarrett slowly faded to sixth and Thomas dropped to seventh at the end. Weir came from 13th to eighth. Darland was an uncharacteristic ninth and Chad Boespflug came from 18th to grab a top ten finish.

    Robbins is the new KISS point leader with Short second as the gang heads for Kokomo on Sunday evening.

    Maybe the chief bottle washer will be there, too.

    Enjoying some crab legs with Jameis Winston, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Short, Rain, Short, $$$

    Brady Short had a profitable weekend, you could say. He’s shown time and time again he can win on whatever the red clay at the Bloomington Speedway is on a given night. And, after taking a rainy night away from racing, he did the same at the Terre Haute Action Track on a very chilly, breezy Sunday evening.

    The Sunday afternoon sun felt good as I lazily watched the track crew do their best to work with a track that has seen its share of rain, wind and even sun. 24 sprints (and 20 mods) stopped by for a spell. The co-sanctioning King of Indiana Sprint Series and the Midwest Sprint Car Series determined that all 24 would transfer to the 25 lap A Main; in other words no B Mains tonight.

    Pole sitter/local boy Brandon Mattox won the first heat. Ted Hines came from fifth to second. Dickie Gaines drove a familiar looking car for the night. It was wheeled by the late Jason Soudrette, a predominantly Lawrenceburg regular before illness put a fine young man on the sidelines. Brandon Morin and James Lyerla were fourth/fifth. Mitch Wissmiller was the show for awhile, coming from eighth to run as high as second before dropping out.

    Shane Cottle led early in the second heat. But Kyle Cummins went for a ride, taking a tumble that would bring out the red flag and inspiring some serious thrashing in the pits, because he would be back. Midway through the race, Brady Short took over and took the checkered first with Cottle next. Chad Boespflug came from last to take third. Shane Cockrum was fourth ahead of Carson Short.

    Jerry Coons Jr. started outside front row in the third heat and said adios to the rest of the field—until a yellow spoiled his one man party. It was only a temporary slowdown as the Arizona native motored off into the sunset to win. Chris Babcock had a tussle with Brent Beauchamp for second, but the Bloomfield resident (who has a two hour commute to work each day) prevailed. Aric Gentry was fourth and Ethan Barrow fifth.

    The redraw for the feature had Cottle on the pole for the second time this weekend. Next to him was Coons followed by Babcock, Hines, B.Short, Gaines, Beauchamp, Boespflug, Cockrum and Morin.

    A second or two after the green waved, things went to the scrap heap as Ted Hines was clipped and flipped several times going into turn one. Ted climbed out unhurt but smoke may have been coming out of his ears.

    Racked and stacked again, the race was plagued by yellows and reds early on. Cottle led through this period and B. Short had moved to second. After a lap five yellow, Shane led on the restart, but slowed on the backstretch with a reported broken shock, bringing out the yellow again.

    The boys made another lap before Aric Gentry spun in turn one with James Lyerla and Donny Brackett getting together and trying to do some synchronized flipping. The tired red flag waved again. This was an open red and fourth place running Chad Boespflug was sent to the rear when they lifted a tire off the ground, a no-no under the red flag. They went to the tail, then withdrew entirely.

    Another incomplete lap and another red, this one for nice guy Shane Cockrum, who flipped in turn four. Shane was beat up a little (<<understatement) but was able to get out of the Amati-mobile.

    Still lap seven and the order was B.Short, Coons, C. Short, Beauchamp, Babcock, Kyle Robbins, Gaines, Max McGhee, Wissmiller and Barrow. From here, Brady Short was the man with Coons doing his best to stay close. There was only one more yellow, this one on lap 18 for a stationary Jake Simmons. But that was all that slowed Short down. He had his way and missed some great racing behind him.

    Coons survived C. Short’s attempts to pass or stay close and took second. The younger Mr. Short came from 14th to take third. KRob came from 15th to fourth. Even more impressive was Wissmiller, who had dropped out of his heat and started 19th then came home fifth.

    Babcock was sixth and McGhee was the night’s hard charger, rumbling and rambling from 22nd to seventh. Gaines, Gentry and Barrow (sounds like a law firm) were the remainder of the top ten.

    It was quite chilly on Sunday night. Fans and teams deserved better weather but we were all obviously overruled. So one makes the best of it.

    The shy and retiring Kenny Wallace came back to Indiana and won the mod feature. He was beside himself when yours truly presented him with a Hoosier Auto Race Fans t-shirt. And he nearly cried when I told him that he’s now an official Hoosier (<<much of the preceding was made up).

    The Action Track fires up again next month with USAC’s Silver Crown Series paying a visit. This weekend KISS goes to Gas City on Friday and Kokomo on Sunday. The MSCS ventures way up north on Saturday.

    Complaining about my teammate going too slow, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Biding One’s Time

    One of life’s oldest rules is that there’s a time for most everything. The old folk song “Turn, Turn, Turn” which was lifted from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes addresses this human condition. We’re told there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time for war and a time for peace. And of course there’s a time to follow the leader and a time to take a different path which may make you the leader. And that is how Brady Short won the 25 lap feature at the Bloomington Speedway on a chilly Friday night over Shane Cottle. He passed a fellow veteran of many a sprint car war on the 21st lap to take the win.

    This would be a night where sprints were a support class, albeit the main supporting class. Modifieds were running for $2000 to win so center stage was theirs. They qualified but only had one lap to get it done. Josh Harris did just that, setting a new modified track record with a 12.518 lap. Much later, Kent Robinson won the feature named in honor of his late father.

    By the time sprint heats opened the ball, the track was wicked fast. The clouds had kept the red clay from getting very dry and Henry Bryant did his usual fine job as well.

    Unfortunately, things got ugly right away. Brandon Morin spun in turn two and Chad Boespflug arrived with nowhere to go except over someone’s right rear. He took a tumble and just like that, he and the Baldwin Brothers’ crew had work to do. On the re-start, Shane Cottle and Jeff Bland took off. Bland did his best to stay close, but Cottle won. Morin held off Jordan Kinser for third. Hunter O’Neal was fifth.

    Local boy Michael Koontz won the second heat with Chase Briscoe and his smoking engine second. Close behind him was Max McGhee in third. Chris Babcock was fourth and Braxton Cummings fifth.

    Tyler Waltz led most of the third heat. But he slid off the track as Brady Short passed him for the lead when the white flag waved. Josh Cunningham came out of hibernation to grab second. Ethan Barrow was third. Cole Smith started and finished fourth. Shelby Van Gilder ended up fifth.

    The draw for the feature had Cottle and Koontz on the front row. Shane’s had a tough year so far with the Hazen hot rod suffering from engine woes. But he got the jump at the start until…it happened again.

    As in the heat race, Brandon Morin spun in turn two and collected, who else, Chad Boespflug, who took his second ride over the banking in less than three hours.

    Chad was okay, but finally done for the night. Cottle maintained control on the re-start until Chris Babcock stopped on the backstretch with no power from the engine. The lineup was Cottle, Short, Briscoe, Bland, Barrow, McGhee, Koontz, Kinser, Cole Smith and Cunningham.

    For several laps Short was content to follow the leader around the bottom. Lapped traffic complicated matters but Cottle still held the lead. Cole Smith was a crowd pleaser as he alone negotiated the high groove until he spun on lap 17, bringing out a yellow which nearly became a red when his toasty brakes nearly became a flame.

    On this last re-start Cottle still prevailed but the natives, at least the one in second place, were getting restless. The track stayed racy all evening, nothing new, so the high groove beckoned Short. Finally on lap 21 the Bedford, Indiana native made his move around the top, sweeping around Cottle to take the lead and eventually stretch it out to most of a straightaway.

    In the post-race interview Short praised everyone from his team to his sponsors. But he didn’t forget to give kind words to Henry and the track crew.

    Cottle was second, still his best run so far in ’15. Briscoe had lost third to Bland but made a late pass to regain the bronze medal. McGhee was fifth. Ethan Barrow started and finished sixth. The best of the rest were Kinser, Koontz, Cunningham and Cummings.

    Whatever plans racers had for Saturday the 25th were washed away with the persistent showers that covered most all of the Hoosier state.

    Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track.

    Banging wheels with Will Power, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    KISS/MSCS Sprints at Terre Haute?

    Forgive my bias, but sprint cars opening the season at the Terre Haute Action Track are comparable to Father’s Day, a birthday, and Grandparents’ Day all rolled into one. A strong lineup of some of the best in the Midwest is expected to kick off the Action Track’s 2015 season on April 26.

    This event will be co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series and the King of Indiana Sprint Series. On April 11 at Lincoln Park Speedway, Chase Stockon grabbed the feature win and the early point lead in the 2015 debut of the MSCS. Terre Haute will be the opener for KISS, the first of seven scheduled events presented by seven of the finest bullrings in the nation.

    Among competitors expected to pay a visit to the Action Track on the 26th are Brady Short, 2013 KISS champion from Bedford, Indiana. Also Kyle Cummins, winner of five MSCS features and a native of Princeton, Indiana is expected to stop by for awhile.

    After the Terre Haute event, KISS heads north to Gas City on Friday, May 1, then to the multi-groove Kokomo Speedway on Sunday, May 3.

    The gang then goes southeast to the Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday, May 16 to challenge the lightning quick three eights mile oval.

    The following weekend will find the King of Indiana Sprint Series and the Midwest Sprint Car Series teaming up at the Bloomington Speedway and the high banked red clay oval on Friday, May 22.

    Two nights later, both groups again meet at the Tri-State Speedway, less than a two hour drive from Terre Haute to the Class Track.

    The 2015 KISS season closes out at the ageless Paragon Speedway on Saturday night, June 13.

    Jon Stanbrough, the all-time leader of KISS feature wins, also leads KISS/Terre Haute winners with three of the seven King of Indiana Sprint Series main events contested. Stanbrough won the 2001, 2003 and 2006 features. Tony Elliott (2002), Shane Cottle (2004), Levi Jones (2005) and Robert Ballou (2012) are single feature winners at THAT over the years.

    Unhappily, the rain has won the past two years. Right now, the extended forecast for Terre Haute on April 26 is 63 degrees and zero chance of rain. We’ll take it.

    UMP Modifieds are also on the program with NASCAR racer and TV personality Kenny Wallace expected to make an appearance; the gregarious veteran will be a real threat to win while his competitors will love nothing better to beat the “invader.”

    Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30.

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Jump in and Race

    In a time when specialists become more and more the norm, it’s both refreshing and rewarding to see an all round talent excel. And if that talent serves as the lone hope to do well in multiple categories, it’s all for the better. This brings us to Bryan Clauson, who has driven and done well in more than one type of race car. On a beautiful Indiana spring evening, Mr. Clauson made his way through a very talented group of racers and won the 30 lap feature at the Bloomington Speedway, a program co-sanctioned by USAC and MSCS.

    My now six year old traveling partner and I left town very early for a leisurely drive through the hills of southern Indiana to the famous red clay oval. While the little, but growing, guy played on the playground, I sat and watched the place fill up. The fans trudged up the hill, reminding themselves that they really needed to get in better shape. We arrived ahead of several race teams; after all, these guys had worked all day and leaving work early wasn’t an option for many.

    The unique vehicle that serves as an aid to track prep circled the track going clockwise as it’s done so many times. It didn’t have to worry about hitting any infield tires; they are gone.

    Soon after that most of the 35 sprints on hand took time to warm their engines. Through all this my partner continued to play, not caring that most of the kids were older and bigger than him.

    Track prep wizard Henry Bryant made a late call to give the track just a little more water, not too much. From my perch by the playground I could appreciate Henry’s concern. This kid understands what it takes to give racers a track where they can race.

    Also from my spot on the hill I could hear the ominous rumbling sounds of 410 cubic inch engines idling. Lurking beneath that sound was sheer power and speed, not unlike a predatory animal poised to strike.

    As I chatted a bit with racing buddy KT while his son and my grandson romped, hot laps began. It was almost time to go to “work.”

    The track held up well on this fine evening. True, quick time was set by the third guy out, Brady Bacon, but Kevin Thomas Jr. was 26th to turn two laps and his best effort was a whole .027 seconds slower than Bacon’s.

    Jeff Bland had the shortest night of anyone. He flipped in turn four as he was coming to take the green flag. Unhappily, his night was done.

    One could argue that the first heat race was the best all night. It certainly had the closest finish. Kyle Cummins led nine and seven eighths of the ten laps. Brady Bacon made a late charge at the end, passing for the lead on the outside at the line. Behind Cummins was Shane Cottle in third and Carson Short fourth.

    Yellow fever struck in heat two and Kevin Thomas Jr. must have been looking for a black cat and/or a full moon. He brought out the first yellow flag when he slid off turn four. The second waved when Ethan Barrow went too low in turn one not worrying about infield tires. He spun and collected Thomas, who was able to re-start. Sprint rookie Austin Prock, in the Wingo 77 that comes out to play once in a while, spun and nearly collected, who else, Thomas, but KT was able to drive away. That was the third series of blinks of the yellow light. Pole sitter Dave Darland won, leading fellow front row starter Robert Ballou, Tracy Hines and Chad Boespflug to the line.

    More yellow flag waving ensued in the third heat. Donnie Brackett stopped at the start/finish line. Aaron Farney slid off to bring out the second yellow. And Brackett spun again, this time collecting Jerry Coons Jr. Chase Stockon passed Justin Grant midway through the race to win. Bryan Clauson spent much of the race mired in mid-pack but charged late to take second. Grant was third ahead Max McGhee, who held off Jon Stanbrough to make the sweet 16 while JRS regrouped for the B.

    Landon Simon took the early lead in the fourth heat, but Daron Clayton halted things when he flipped in turn four, not a favorite of several guys on this night. On the re-start, Shane Cockrum grabbed and kept the lead with Simon maintaining second. Brady Short started and finished third as C.J. Leary, with a sick motor, held off Brandon Mattox for fourth.

    Mattox’s night got worse as he exited the track while lining up for the B. Chase Briscoe, making a rare Hoosier appearance, took the early lead but Logan Jarrett rained on that parade quickly. The Kokomo resident took the lead through the first two yellow periods. But after another D. Brackett spin, Kevin Thomas Jr., who had started on the pole, took the lead and the win. Jarrett held onto second and Stanbrough was a steady third. Briscoe hung on for fourth and Coons came from tenth to grab fifth. Ted Hines moved up late to annex the last available spot. Aaron Farney had the most headaches. He ran in the top six for most of the race, only to slide off the backstretch while trying to pass Stanbrough.

    Farney and Jarett Andretti took provisionals for the feature.

    Tracy Hines and Carson Short were occupants of the front row and Short grabbed the early lead. The young man from Marion, Illinois was quite impressive as he led the first 12 laps of a USAC feature, which many racers have never done. Behind him was a scramble with Tracy Hines doing his best to hold off Messrs. Leary, Bacon, Cottle and, yes, Bryan Clauson.

    Steadily working his way through a crowd of very talented racers, BC was soon sizing up C. Short for the pass, which he made easily. Reunited with dad Tim and team, Clauson made the pass and then made it look easy from lap 13 on.

    But behind him things were happening. With only an early yellow to slow things, lapped traffic made it interesting for everyone from second on back. Ninth starting Jon Stanbrough slowly but surely made his way forward. Behind him, 12th starting Chase Stockon, current USAC point leader, was doing the same as others slowly faded.

    It was Bloomington at its best, wheel to wheel on a narrow track, a high/middle/low groove to pick and the kind of bullring racing that makes my home state notable to race fans from all over.

    Late in the race Stanbrough took over second and held off Stockon. Tracy Hines faded only slightly to fourth. Brady Bacon ran well, just not quite well enough to challenge for the win. But BB and the Hoffman crew would settle for fifth. Carson Short should not have been ashamed. He had shown he could run with the big dogs, even though he dropped to sixth. Brady Short (no relation to you newbies), came from 13th to finish strong in seventh. Robert Ballou took eighth after starting 15th. Shane Cottle, after a weekend at Kokomo he’d rather forget, was ninth. His fellow Kokomo resident Dave Darland rambled from 18th to finish an impressive, though mostly overlooked, tenth.

    It was a homecoming of sorts for Clauson, who grew up at this track, among others. He’s branched out to winged sprint racing and is scheduled to run the Indy 500 this year, making him the sentimental favorite of sprint fans everywhere. He’s dabbled in stock cars, and under different circumstances might have done better at that part of the racing world. But it wasn’t meant to be. Instead he lives his life; it’s a dream life for those who only see the rewards, but a life well lived all the same.

    This is Saturday afternoon and four Hoosier bullrings host sprint cars tonight. One can hope some people bring their mounts out to play and all four do well. We all deserve that, but it, like nothing else, is guaranteed.

    Eagerly headed to a Jenny McCarthy lecture where she will tell me all I need to know about vaccines, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Hawk and the Kid

    It wasn’t that long ago that Darren Hagen was considered a kid himself. But time does what it does and yesterday’s kid is today’s veteran. As for today’s kid, meet C.J. Leary, a young man who is following his daddy Chuck’s footsteps and making his own path in the tangled web that is Indiana open wheel racing. And at the Kokomo Speedway on this past Saturday night, both of these gentlemen found themselves explaining to announcer fella Rob Goodman how they won their respective features in the 2015 edition of the Kokomo Grand Prix.

    Whether it was the sprint cars added to the program or the near perfect weather, the north central Indiana playground of speed was the scene of a very decent crowd. Given the rains of the past few days, the track crew had their hands full in preparing a raceable track, which they did. As the night wore on, the surface was choppy in parts, but the trained professionals out there racing adapted quite well and it was another vintage night of racing at the track that doesn’t disappoint.

    30 of USAC’s finest signed for the first race of the Honda National Midget Championship 2015 season. 14 area sprinters stopped by the pit “villa” and wrote their names. Seven of the 14, Kevin Thomas Jr., Justin Grant, Jerry Coons Jr., Isaac Chapple, Zach Daum, Dave Darland and Shane Cottle would be doing double duty for the night.

    Thomas was the quickest of the Midget qualifiers with a rapid 13. 175 lap. C.J. Leary had quick time for the sprints with a 12. 792 circuit.

    Grant won the first sprint heat; he was the third of three leaders in a quick eight laps. The second leader was Thomas, who finished second. Darland was third and Daum, who led the first lap, took fourth.

    Leary, like Grant, starting fourth, won the second heat. Jerry Coons Jr. led the first lap until Leary swept by. Lawrenceburg winner from a week ago Logan Jarrett was second and Coons took third. Expectant father Josh Spencer was fourth. Jamie Fredrickson rolled it over on lap two in turn four. He would get things patched up in time to run the feature.

    The Midgets took center stage and the pattern of the quick qualifier in each heat taking the victory continued for a bit.

    It took three laps to do it, but sixth starting Kevin Thomas Jr. grabbed the lead and rode off into the sunset while others fought for leftovers. Davey Ray was second and Mr. Coons, whose son took his first quarter midget win earlier in the day, was third. Tyler Thomas was fourth.

    In the second heat Andrew Felker gave fans (and maybe himself) a thrill as he thundered from sixth to first—on the first lap. Alex Bright was second and Zach Daum third. Dave Darland held on for fourth.

    Darren Hagen kept the streak going, winning the third heat from sixth. Tracy Hines was second and Tanner Thorson, in a Keith Kunz creation with KT tonight, was third. Early leader Shane Hollingsworth was fourth.

    Spencer Bayston started sixth in the fourth heat but couldn’t bring home the win. Instead it was Steve Buckwalter winning after beginning fifth. Justin Grant was next and Tyler Courtney, in a machine owned by Kenny and Reba Irwin, took third. Bayston was fourth and able to move on to the feature.

    Justin Peck started on the pole of the B Main and won with Ryan Greth, one of the Pennsylvania travelers, coming in a respectable second. Gage Walker was third and double dipper Isaac Chapple was fourth. Another young fellow from the east, Tucker Klassmeyer, was fifth and Jim Radney, yet another easterner who runs with the ARDC, annexed the last spot available for the main.

    Moving back to the sprints, Coons and Grant led the boys to the green with Grant grabbing the lead. Leary had redrawn the third spot for the lineup and soon began pestering Grant. He actually led one lap but Grant reclaimed the top spot until a lap 14 yellow flag waved for Kyle Robbins.

    A lap after the re-start, Leary made his move, charging to the lead. From there he checked out and didn’t even wave good-bye. Behind him was a typical Kokomo dogfight for second among Grant, Darland and Thomas. At the end, Thomas prevailed with Grant and Darland trailing. Coons held off Jarrett for fifth. Zach Daum, new to this sprint car deal, finished seventh.

    For the 30 lap curtain closer, Daum and Ray led Bayston, Hagen, Felker, Thomas, Hines, Buckwalter, Peck and Bright to the green flag. Ray commandeered the early lead as Hagen got around Daum on the second lap to take second. The red flag stopped things on lap two when Alex Bright flipped in turn one. The rapid and talented young man from the Keystone State was okay. The Iowa veteran held off the California native for several laps until the inevitable happened. Hagen took the lead on lap seven and tried mightily to check out.

    Check out he did until a lap 12 yellow waved for a Tyler Thomas spin in turn four. On the re-start, Daum had taken second over Ray, who had K. Thomas, Hines and Buckwalter eager to advance. But Bayston brought out a second yellow on lap 15 when he spun.

    For this re-start Hagen had Thomas to contend with as the Alabama native had moved on up. Daum, Hines and Buckwalter had moved Ray back. But things were about to go bad for Thomas. He did a half spin in turn two on lap 16 and was about to recover when Daum came calling, with no place to go. This collision was enough to park KT and send Daum to the tail.

    The next green waving saw Hagen now having Hines, Buckwalter, Felker, Ray, Thorson, Coons, Courtney, Hollingsworth and Darland behind him. Both Hagen and Hines were able to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Just as lapped traffic came into play Ryan Greth flipped over an infield tire that had been moved into the groove in turn four on the 24th lap. He was okay but done.

    The race’s last chapter had Thorson behind Hagen and Hines. The young man from Nevada made it interesting, giving Hines fits for a few laps. But it was Hagen, Hines and Thorson at the end. Buckwalter was fourth and Davey Ray persevered for fifth. Felker, Darland, T. Thomas, Coons and Courtney were the rest of the top ten.

    My clock read 10:15, a very decent time for a night’s racing to end. I’d done my share of networking, or as old buddy Jerry Russell would say, being a social butterfly. Whatever it was, truly it was time well spent.

    Remembering to thank my sponsors, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: That Time of Year

    This very evening many Hoosiers are escaping the nasty weather that so often visits Indiana in February. Many of those are in Florida, shivering in the (relatively) cold winter nights and either watching sprint car racing, working on cars or actually racing. All of them are no doubt a tad chilly. And they simply could not wait for spring’s arrival. Like them, the rest of us up here shoveling snow and bundling up to go outside have high hopes.

    It is both difficult and sad to imagine a life with no hope; it’s hardly a life at all and way too many people in this world are in that pitiful situation. Those of us who are not should take inventory every so often and be thankful. That would include sprint car fans for sure.

    For those in the racing community that don’t head for warmer climates than our Midwestern winters, hope is essential. This includes promoters who show that theirs is a full time job as they hustle for sponsors, talk with sanctioning bodies and maybe even other promoters, then come up with a schedule that is most always tentative.

    Racers and/or car owners spend the winter building up their own hopes. Those who don’t travel south stay home and maybe catch an indoor race (if they can get a ride), schmooze with a sponsor or two, and either A. work on their car or B. buy a new car. Most often it is A. They, too, decide what their schedule will be and this, too, shall be a tentative schedule. Many follow the money. Some run for points, be it an individual track or a sanctioning body (here it’s USAC, MSCS, or BOSS). A few are loyal to a track and/or a promoter. Those who can afford it head for Florida.

    Meanwhile fans try to hold on until spring by catching an indoor race, watching reruns of races online, haunting message boards and making up their own schedules. Depending on gas prices, some may wander a bit farther from home for a big race. In the Hoosier state, fans still working schedule vacations around Indiana Sprint Week or Indiana Midget Week—if not both.

    The one thing all these people have in common is, what else, hope. Other than baseball, no other sport in the Northern Hemisphere begins in the late winter/early spring. To these aging eyes, this seems natural. (Nor is it an accident that Easter, in both its pagan and Christian beginnings, is in the spring.)

    It’s a sometimes mean and dark world out there and, when they can, people need an escape from it. For us, that means losing ourselves in the tiny corner of the world called sprint car racing. Most of us want someone to cheer (and boo) while others merely enjoy what we see. This passion offers us hope when there are many other places we go offering little or no hope. For one evening, we can be inspired by what we see, racers who are like us but also different. We can identify with and admire the Dave Darlands of at least the Hoosier sprint car scene, a gentleman with a direct link to the working person whose achievements have been impressive indeed.

    Despite all the snow that many of us see these days, we are helped along by the knowledge that spring approaches. The temperatures will rise, the snow will melt and racing will begin—or at least will try to begin. Never mind the racing in Florida, our Pennsylvania cousins have already begun making the attempt to race while we Hoosiers will wait another month or so. Watching videos is great but experiencing all the action in person has no equal.

    After all these years, the itch is alive and well. Spring training is about to begin and the sights and sounds of sprint car engines can’t be too far off. (It’s somewhat humorous—and maybe understandable—that my personal 2015 season opener will be in North Carolina, not exactly a hotbed of sprint car racing.)

    This was written between bouts of shoveling snow. But even while my grandson and I were shoveling, visions of the red clay high banks of Bloomington, the Tri-State/Haubstadt tractor show, the Lincoln Park popcorn, the Kokomo pork chop sandwich, the Lawrenceburg state of the art grandstands, the tiny dirt pellets of Gas City, the timeless and rustic beauty of Paragon and the lightning fast speeds of Terre Haute all inspire me to keep shoveling, as it were.

    Soon we’re off to the mountains of North Carolina for lots of reading, writing, relaxing and…watching our fendered brethren mix it up at a few Carolina bullrings. We have hopes of enjoying ourselves and of coming back to yet another season of seeing some talented people do what they do best.

    Hoping that Kurt Busch will eventually get it, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Backwards Destination

    The old racer lay in an antiseptic room, breathing his last. He was ready, more or less. He believed that his suffering would be over soon, and was willing to admit that there was a bit of apprehension on his part, not knowing what was ahead of him. But his recent talks with the preacher had made him feel much better and he was at peace. He believed that soon he’d be reunited with his late wife and lots of other friends and family. At the very least he wanted to believe. He had plenty of hope.

    He may or may not have dozed off, but at any rate, he had traveled back 20 years or so. He could see himself as he prepared for his last feature. Somewhere way out West, he could recall the feeling. He had high hopes of winning the 30 lap feature, or at least finishing well. It had been a good career overall. Granted, he’d been gone from home too many times, but he had a family that needed and deserved a decent reward for his absences.

    For this last race, his wife and two of their three kids were able to make the trip west. In his mind’s eye (or somewhere) he could see Doreen and the kids waving at him as he slowly circled the track before the feature. Then there he was, racing for 30 laps, hoping for a good finish.

    Alas, he wasn’t going to win, but third place wasn’t a bad way to go out. After the winner had been interviewed, he was asked the usual retirement type questions. The only one answer he could recall had to do with hoping to spend more time with the family, helping Doreen at her flower shop and, of course, indulging the grandkids’ every whim.

    Had anyone been in his room at that moment, they might have seen a slight smile on his face. But his kids weren’t there yet. They were on their way, along with the grandkids.

    As he climbed back into the car one more time for the push back to the pits, he couldn’t help but think back 25 more years or so. He smiled inwardly, thinking of the old bomber that he bought after saving up the money. With some things gifted, others borrowed and still other things purchased on the cheap, he went racing with quite a few hopes and dreams.

    His first race was a heat race and, being a rookie, he started on the tail. He was on his way to the front when another driver spun in front of him. Luckily, the damage wasn’t too bad and he was able to make the feature after finishing third in the B, his first complete race.

    Two years later he’d get his first ride in a sprint car, which had been his goal from the beginning.

    Ah, the beginning. Where was it? In his mind (or somewhere) he went back 15 more years. He could now picture himself and his dad at a race. It was a long gone race track and lots of home made contraptions filled the infield. They were called supermodifieds back then and the little boy was overjoyed at the sight.

    Despite the dust and the crashes, the boy was hooked. For several days it was all he could talk about. The other kids at school must have thought he was a bit weird, but he didn’t care. He loved watching those races and would bug his dad to go. Thankfully, his dad was quite happy to take him along and sometimes his mom and kid sister went too.

    As the now old man lay there his slight smile reigned over his face, despite the pain and the sense that he was slipping away. He was conscious enough to know where he was and he knew that his family was on their way. He hoped he could hold on until then.

    But it simply wasn’t meant to be. His eyes closed and he stepped into that great unknown, at least to those still living. His smile was still there. Folks might wonder why the smile, but his good friends and family would know.

    His family arrived less than two minutes after he slipped away. A nurse was already there trying to get a response from him with no luck. She looked up at the family and burst into tears.

    “I tried, really I did,” she told them.

    The old racer’s son stood quietly, gazing at the smile on the old man’s face. He hugged his wife and said, “It’s okay, honey. Look at that smile. He took the checkered flag with a smile. How many people do that?” The son smiled himself, in spite of his tears.

    His kid sister, who had flown in earlier that day, stepped to the bed and held her daddy’s hand for the very last time.

    “Good-bye, Dad. Tell Mom hello for us.” She straightened up and gave her sister-in-law a hug, as well as her big brother, who had kept the tradition alive by going to races with his dad as much as he could. Both had tears, mostly of sadness but with a good bit of joy as well. Joy, along with hope, was what this is about.

    It’s easy for us to forget that racers are “people,” too in that they have their own set of hopes and dreams. They may approach life in a vastly different way than the rest of us, but they, too, have families. They, too, know heartache and risk. And, for the most part, they, too, are allowed to live out their lives and see the generations coming up behind them.

    As my favorite holiday arrives later this month, may we all look around and find things that we can call blessings. If we wrote out a list of things that we are thankful for, quite a few of us might have to take a break due to sitting in one spot too long.

    I know this because I’m one of those people. And the old racer in this story was surely another one.

    Eagerly awaiting the next version of the “Chase,” I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: One Missing Cape

    Om a chilly Friday night, C.J. Leary wasn’t happy to tug on Superman’s cape. Nah. He stole it and made it his own. All he did at the opening night of the Kokomo Klash was take away the lead from no less than Dave Darland, a superman and legend in our little world of Hoosier sprint car racing midway through the feature and mosey on to win over a strong field of cars and racers.

    Dave had a good night all the same as he won the Mighty Midgets 25 lap feature over Shane Cottle. And with about 100 cars in the pits along with a healthy sized, though frozen, crowd, the promoters had to be smiling at the fine front gate as well as shaking their heads at what race fans will endure to get their racing fix.

    Of those 100 or so, 34 were sprints. Sprint car racing has some ride buying, but more common is ride hopping, either for one night or a longer period (“for the time being”). Jamie Fredrickson’s son Parker was in the family 58. A pair of S. Simon cars was in the house with Scotty Weir and Dallas Hewitt behind the wheel(s). Jon Stanbrough was back in the Wade 66. Robert Ballou had a ride in one of Ray Marshall’s bullets. Thomas Meseraull had taken over the Keen 18 machine. (Nice rhyming, eh?) Dave Darland occasionally has an outing with Jeff Walker and that would be the case tonight. Chad Boespflug was still in the Baldwin brothers’ orange crush. Shane Cottle showed up in the Olson brothers’ 77. Michael Koontz arrived with both a midget and a sprint. And Texan Peyton Pierce, who impressed on his last visit here, was back.

    In southern Indiana the temperature was 69 when I left, with sunny skies. By the time I reached Kokomo, normally a two hour drive via white Chevy trucks, it was 62, cloudy, windy and getting cooler by the minute. Naturally there was an impressive crowd, proving that race fans, at least in Indiana, are seriously deranged.

    After freezing near the top row with Richie and Keith, I retreated to row three for much of the night, with one J. Hoover, behind Big Steve until he disappeared. How does one lose a guy who hasn’t seen 250 pounds since the Clinton Administration?

    Shane Cottle did his best to disappear in the first heat, but settled for merely winning. Thomas Meseraull, getting used to his new ride, took second on the last lap as early leader Jon Stanbrough nearly stopped in turn two before recovering to take third over S. Weir.

    Dave Darland came from third to first in winning the second heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second and Justin Grant ran third. Robert Ballou grabbed the last spot for the feature. Chad Boespflug’s motor began smoking before flames appeared. He guided the speedy grill into the infield, finding a fuel line that had come loose. Well, at least he discovered that his fire suit worked. Chad would return later.

    A.J. Hopkins won the third heat; like Darland, he came from third. Brady Short, making a rare trip north, was second. Pole sitter Bill Rose was third. Michael Koontz was fourth.

    The fourth heat’s pole sitter, Chase Stockon, won with C.J. Leary second. Kyle Robbins started and finished third. Dallas Hewitt, making a rare Hoosier visit, took fourth over a hard charging Bryan Clauson, who biked it in turn four and nearly went over.

    Running two 9 car B’s made semse, with the top two moving on. But the other classes had heats to run first.

    Shane Hollingsworth won the first midget heat with underfunded but not untalented Chet Gehrke second. Gage Walker was third. Kevin Studley took fourth at the line, edging out Patrick Bruns.

    Dave Darland, one of four double dippers, won the second heat over Trey Marchum. Another doubler, Michael Koontz, was third. Yet another, TMez, took fourth. Nick Spiedel edged Kurt Mayhew for the transfer.

    Shane Cottle, the last of the four doing double duty, had a huge margin in the fourth heat when he slowed coming to the checkered. Spencer Bayston found himself winning after starting last. Tate Martz came from seventh to take second. Kyle Schuett was third and Ross Rankine, in one of three 39s in the field, was fourth. Justin Dickerson edged Cottle, who coasted across the line.

    Back to the sprinters….Logan Jarrett started on the pole for the first B Main and won by a long straightaway. Travis Hery grabbed second. Only the top two moved on, but Jarett Andretti gave it a good try, coming from ninth/last to fourth.

    Chris Gurley took the early lead of the second B, but his fellow occupier of the front row, Bryan Clauson, was just getting warmed up. BC took the lead on the second lap and won. Gurley had his hands full, holding off Chad Boespflug for several laps. Chris took second by a car length.

    As it turned out, Boespflug would make the feature after all. Along with Josh Spencer, he would earn a provisional, a move that was communicated before the races started. For these two, their faithfulness in showing up every night and running well enough to finish high in the points would be rewarded.

    Shane Cottle had no faltering machine in the midgets’ B. He won by a healthy margin over Alex Watson, Kurt Mayhew, Logan Arnold and Andrew Henning.

    More than one person present no doubt said or thought that the sprint feature would be a cakewalk for Dave Darland, who had drawn the pole with S. Cottle on the outside, Meseraull and Leary in the second row. Bryan Clauson would need some timely yellows and a couple of other breaks to challenge from his 18th starting spot.

    Sure enough, DD took the early lead over Cottle, who did a half spin in turn four on the third lap. Coons was collected and ran over an infield tire, nearly tipping it over. Grant slid to a stop as well.

    Coons had a flat tire and was pushed to the pits, which brought forth a bit of controversy. During the drivers’ meeting the statement was made that should anyone pull off the track they were done for the evening. Apparently this rule was a one time only policy. And Jerry was a victim and not overly thrilled by it. The 2013 winner of this race would not win consecutive Klashes.

    The re-grouping saw Darland ahead of Cottle, Leary, TMez, Stockon, Hopkins, Stanbrough, Short, Robbins and Rose. Clauson was already 13th. And when Cottle pulled off, BC advanced one.

    So did Leary, who had Darland right where he wanted him, as it turned out. Two laps after the re-start, Leary did his cape stealing act—and there was nothing that “Superman” Dave could do about it. Leary led the rest of the way and was never threatened.

    But behind the leader there was racin’, Kokomo style. On the ninth lap a yellow waved for an errant infield tire. Leary and Darland led Meseraull, Stockon, Stanbrough, Hopkins, Ballou (from 14th), Robbins, Clauson and Short. With the green waving, Stockon and Stanbrough showed ‘em all how it’s done as they fought tooth and nails for position, neither giving or taking anything less than the other’s best effort.

    Around lap 15, lapped traffic began to play a role in the 25 lap drama. But a lap later the yellow waved for Scotty Weir. Meseraull had passed Darland; Thomas was enjoying this new gig with the Keen-mobile. Ballou was up to sixth. And Clauson had made it to seventh. Jarrett and Grant had invaded the top ten. On a track that had been both a bit choppy and lightning fast earlier, it was now a track where people could, and did, pass.

    The race’s final re-start saw Ballou get a monster lap as he passed both Stockon and Stanbrough; Robert was enjoying his one night stand (or maybe not) in Ray Marshall’s yellow cannon. Up front Darland got around Meseraull for second. But no one had anything for Chuck Leary’s kid, who has seemed to improve week by week.

    At the end it was C.J., Dave, Thomas, Robert, Chase, Bryan, Jon, Logan, Justin and Chad. (This is how my grandson knows these guys so I’m accommodating him. And yes, he knows there’s more than one Logan and Chase, for example.)

    Leary wore the cape quite well. But Darland wasn’t done. He and few others had another race to run.

    Shane Hollingsworth and Mr. D. shared the front row of the 25 lap midget feature. Darland grabbed the lead and held it for the first half of the race before Hollingsworth took over in lapped traffic.

    This lasted only about four laps before Dave came calling again, taking a lead he’d not give back.

    The best run most missed was that of Cottle’s. This Shane started 16th, entered the top ten within the first five laps and was sixth when a lap six yellow flew. At the halfway mark he was fourth. He was second and may have had something for Darland, but we’ll never know.

    Didn’t matter; Dave won and Shane made it a Kokomo resident sweep of the top two spots. Hollingsworth was third with Spencer Bayston fourth. His teammate Trey Marchum took fifth. Gehrke finished sixth in the Don Moore Special. Tate Martz, Thomas Meseraull, Gage Walker and Alex Watson (from 18th) found some top ten money.

    That’s a wrap for my sprint car racing this year. It’s been a full season with a lot of good and too much bad. But sometimes that’s life. (Cues up Frank Sinatra.)

    Treating my bad back, caused by carrying bail money for NFL felons, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Defining Terms

    One thing that people need to realize is that a given word can have varying definitions, or, to put it another way, a given word can have different definitions to different people.

    Another thing people should remember is that certain words, or to be specific, superlatives are tossed about and either overused or misused. That brings us to a word that is, in my opinion, grossly abused. That word is “hero.” I’ll describe briefly a young man who is a hero, but not for the reasons that people, specifically race fans, might think.

    That young man is Bryan Clauson, a hero among other heroes, because of the way he chooses (and has been taught) to conduct himself, on and off the track. Granted, the news people want to hear is that he won the 30 lap USAC sprint feature at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night. This was commendable, but again, in my opinion, not what makes him a hero.

    These guys I watch and/or write about all have their less than stellar moments, just like the rest of us. But the overwhelming majority of them have come to realize that they are in the public eye. Obviously, this particular “eye” isn’t as pervasive as the public eye that athletes at the top level endure. But, nevertheless, they are being watched.

    Often, it so happens that they are watched by children. And again, the vast majority realizes that this attention brings with it, scrutiny, admiration and even adulation from fans of all ages. To me, the way these young men (and yes, I include those in their 40s, much younger than me) conduct themselves most all the time in a heroic manner. Otherwise, I wouldn’t dare turn my grandson loose in the pits as I did on Saturday the 27th at the ‘burg.

    Speaking of weather, it could not have been a nicer day to head east. The kindergarten student and I first headed west—to pick up Super Dave Foist, still battling health issues, but still wanting to catch another race before the season is over. We dropped Dave off, knowing that he’d be in good hands with the Section A crowd, and headed for the pits.

    The five year old has taken to school in a big way, constantly counting, sounding out words and names, and then there are the questions. There’s always questions this guy has, but the best way to handle it is throw questions at him.

    We grabbed a qualifying list at the USAC trailer and he began looking at the numbers, knowing who quite a few of the guys’ car numbers. As we’d walk by a car, I’d have him find the number on the paper. With 32 cars divided into four groups, I’d give him a break and tell him which group a certain car was in. He did the rest, including going up to the driver and showing him when he qualified. And if my information was correct, that was how Robert Ballou found out he was 12th to qualify.

    I don’t think that Karston showed Dave Darland his time trial order (it was 13th). But Dave was the only guy to get below 14 seconds around the three eights mile high banked mini-monster.

    After the first heat I knew that the B Main would be a delight. This wasn’t to be the case for Kevin Thomas Jr., who won. Nor for second place Thomas Meseraull, in the Keen 18 for the time being. Mr. Darland was third and Mr. Ballou took fourth. But the failure of both Justin Grant and Daron Clayton to transfer immediately made the B Main interesting.

    C.J. Leary won the second heat. Bryan Clauson came from fifth to grab the runner-up spot. Hunter Schuerenberg was third. Jon Stanbrough annexed the last chair before the music stopped, sending the likes of Jarett Andretti, Kyle Robbins and Shawn Westerfeld to the B.

    The third heat was nearly won by the yellow flag, which waved three times in the eight laps. But pole man Chad Boespflug, in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crush, won out over the busy flag. Jerry Coons spun early to avoid a sideways car in turn one. But he would have one of the best runs of the night as he clawed his way back to second. Logan Jarrett took third over Tracy Hines. The “Wild Child” and Landon Simon headed for B Main-land. Simon was the recipient of an awry Jac Haudenschild slider and let Jac know it.

    Brady Bacon offered fans and competitors a preview of what was to come as he won the fourth heat. Shane Cottle (later honored as the 2014 KISS champ) was second and Mr. Chase Stockon was third. Chris Windom held on for fourth. Scotty Weir and multi-time ‘burg champ Joss Moffatt found themselves on the outside looking in—for awhile.

    Before the B, we took another stroll in the pits. The little person has been in the pits many times at various tracks, but has seldom seen the pits when people were hard at work. But that didn’t stop him from taking the lineup sheet for the B and showing Weir and Westerfeld where they’d start in the B (sixth and tenth). Scotty would make the feature; Shawn, the 2014 track champ at Lawrenceburg, would not.

    Haud led all the way to beat Grant for the B Main win. Grant had all he could handle from Clayton, who surely had his mettle tested these past few days after a tragic loss of his son, the third place runner. Jarett Andretti ran one of the best and smoothest races I’ve ever seen him run. From seventh to fourth, his race was quite impressive. Scotty Weir, armed with the vital information that Karston gave him, was fifth. Landon Simon had quite the race. He lost the last transfer position to Kyle Robbins early in the race, but fought back hard and nipped KRob at the line to make the show.

    With Haud and Grant both having to transfer from the B, Stockon and Clauson found themselves on the front row. Chase didn’t have it on this night, but BC took off to lead not only the first lap but all 30. But Brady Bacon made it quite interesting.

    By the fourth lap Bacon was second and spent a good part of the race trying to pass Clauson on the low side in turns three and four. It wasn’t happening, and the lack of yellows didn’t help the Oklahoma native.

    Clauson was pulling away when the first yellow light blinked on lap 26 as Darland suffered a flat tire. Behind Clauson and Bacon at this point were Hines, Stanbrough, Grant, Stockon, Haudenschild, TMez, Leary and Coons. During this yellow Leary also found that he, too, had a flat tire, enabling Ballou to enter the top ten.

    Another yellow flag, on lap 28, made no difference at the front. Bacon had nothing for Clauson, who sailed away to his fifth 2014 win in USAC sprint competition. Hines remained third and Grant was closing on Hines, but settled for fourth. For that matter, Jerry Coons Jr. had maybe the best run that few saw as he came from tenth on lap 26 to fifth after 30 laps after starting 14th. Stockon and Stanbrough both faded a bit to sixth and seventh. Ballou also had a good race, seeing that he started 16th and finished eighth. Chris Windom did some rambling as well as he came from 19th to grab ninth, advancing more than anyone else. And Darland recovered from his flat tire to come back to take tenth.

    Now the USAC community hits the road, heading west to both California and Arizona. Their Midwest journey is done for 2014. As has been the case for ages, they have given fans some of the best racing on the planet all year.

    For the last time this year, our own one car caravan headed west as the two old guys talked and the young guy slept. He was forgiven. After all, it had been a busy night, what with showing guys where they would qualify or start. Plus, he’d helped me with the popcorn, had some of Mike’s Gummy Bears and enjoyed a bag of chips that Leann was happy to share.

    But he has already turned some attention to football. I’m fine with that but will check out some indoor go-cart tracks this winter. Somehow I doubt that he’d object. Besides, he can strap in and pretend he’s one of his many heroes.

    I’m thankful that he has so many heroes, especially those who drive sprint cars for fun and profit. They have to pay attention to the $$$ for sure, but their impact on fans, especially the young ones, is priceless.

    From Iowa comes the word that my friend Mr. James Morrison has received a new kidney and is doing well. In a community that bristles with nice guys and gals, James is one of the most treasured. Green flags to you, Jim. And come back to your Indiana home when you can.

    Teaching Roger Goodell how to flip burgers, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Patience Can Pay Off

    Did you ever set a goal and realize that it would take time to attain that goal as well as patience, and then know that you had to go for the goal with a very small window of opportunity? That was Brady Bacon on a cool Thursday night at the Terre Haute Action Track as he stalked Robert Ballou for much of the race before happily discovering that the low groove was finally the way to go.

    Did you ever set that same goal and almost see the goal attained, only to have it snatched away near the very end? Unfortunately, that was Robert Ballou’s night at the Action Track. Frustration was the word for such a night.

    Finally, did you ever decide that doing something a little different might be the way to go, at least for awhile, and then as you set out on your brief journey you fall flat on your posterior, getting your white shorts and most everything else muddy? That would have been me as I followed the gracefully aging Buckeye Rich Hollmeyer into the infield. My first step by the end of the turn four wall ended with much laughter, mostly at me. I didn’t mind. My head also hit the wall and I was concerned—about the wall.

    It was a long, strange trip for sure just getting to Terre Haute. State Road 46 was still closed at the 46/59 intersection, so I used a county road to hook up with State Road 42, which took me to Terre Haute. The county road was narrow and gravel mostly. At the top of one hill I encountered about six ducks crossing the road. My brakes worked fine—had the road been asphalt. Instead, I picked off my first duck, sad to say. Over the years, I’ve hit dogs, deer, a squirrel or two, cats and countless woolly worms. But never a duck.

    I wasn’t surprised much when the radio played the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’.”

    I was a bit surprised when ace push truck driver Joe Chambers approached me to tell me of a grievous error that I’d made. In the Flat Out magazine article I did on Joe’s push truck experiences, I noted that Joe drove a Chevy. In fact, he drives a Dodge. I was apologetic, but not enough for Joe, who executed a body slam, a full nelson and then an abdominal stretch that would have made Wilbur Snyder proud. After this I was groveling.

    (The only thing true about the above paragraph is that Joe does drive a Dodge. And he is one of the nicest people in racing, which is saying a lot.)

    I wasn’t surprised much when 22 cars showed up for a midweek show. This would be Chad Boespflug’s maiden voyage in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crusher. Terry Babb made a rare appearance from his Illinois home, but scratched early. Jac Haudenschild stepped away from his Outlaw’s ride the other day. Tonight he was in an extra Jeff Walker car.

    The honoree for the night would be Jim Hurtubise, a remarkable person and a gentleman who begged a doctor to mold his badly burned hands so they would fit over the steering wheel of a race car, of course.

    Jon Stanbrough went out early to qualify and was quickest with a 20.064 lap. Times in the 20 second bracket were very rare for later qualifiers. By feature time, it made for a good race as a few guys in the back moved forward.

    The classic high/low groove battle commenced early in the first heat. Ballou and Stanbrough used the top to finish one-two. C.J. Leary used the bottom to take third. Chris Windom was fourth and Logan Jarrett fifth. The top five would get their times back for the feature. There would be no need for a B Main.

    Bryan Clauson let Brandon Mattox lead the first lap of the second heat, but then led the rest of the way. Brady Bacon was second. Tracy Hines and Dave Darland were next. Mattox held on for fifth.

    Jerry Coons Jr. was third of three leaders in the third heat, holding off the second leader, Shane Cottle. Hunter Schuerenberg was third. Chase Stockon had his hands full keeping Mr. Haudenschild at bay. It should be noted that Coons came from sixth to win.

    Ballou and Stockon were the front row with Bacon, Coons, Darland, Stanbrough, Thomas, Hines, Grant and Windom eager to move up.

    Right away the killer B’s drove away from the others, first Ballou, then Bacon. Stockon, Coons and Stanbrough trailed as the high groove saw more action than the bottom among the frontrunners. In the first half of the race, not a lot changed at the top, though Stanbrough checked up enough for Dave Darland to pass.

    At around the half way mark, lapped traffic came into play. But, more to the point, Ballou and Bacon sailed away to eventually to a half lap away from third place. Behind them, things were heating up.

    Stockon had been third for a good part of the race with Coons, Darland, Stanbrough and Hines battling for fourth. But Brady Short, better known for his success on quarter milers, was showing some late race speed. And so was Shane Cottle, who had started in the sixth row with Short.

    Bacon had spent several laps dogging Ballou, occasionally trying out the bottom groove at the west end of the track. He kept getting closer and closer to the California native and finally grabbed the lead coming to the white flag. And that was that. Bacon won by a few feet.

    Short’s late charge from 11th to third earned him a hard charger award and a podium finish. Cottle’s similar run landed him fourth after starting 12th. Stockon hung on for fifth. Darland faded slightly to sixth and Clauson came from 14th to seventh. Hines was eighth and Coons faded a bit at the end to ninth. Chris Windom was a quiet tenth, which was where he started.

    Lots of people missed a great night of racing with nary a yellow flag waved except in hot laps…as far as I can recall.

    I gave modified feature winner A.J. Fike a HARF t-shirt after his last lap victory over Kent Robinson, then after the sprint feature Bacon added a HARF shirt to his collection of goodies. After some visiting, it was time to head southeast, slowed only by a deer on State Road 59 who ambled across the road.

    All of this time behind the steering wheel gave me time to wonder—at least when the road was straight. Strangely enough, as I neared my house, once again the Dead played “Truckin’,” a quite fitting ending to a long day.
    -------------------------
    Kinser Clayton

    Some good and decent racing people were visited by an unspeakable tragedy a few days ago. Kinser Clayton, one year old son of Daron and Shelley, lost his life.

    One simply cannot pretend to imagine the pain and suffering these people are facing. Psalms 46: 1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”- New American Standard Version (1995) While we may believe this to be true, it won’t necessarily ease the pain at the moment.


    I’m fortunate enough to be a member of a church, a labor union, two lodges, a large extended family and a racing community. Whenever and wherever any member of any of my “families” suffers, so do I. We can only pray that time can somewhat ease the burden and grief of the child’s parents and family.

    Earlier today, I spent some time with a little boy. We sang along with the song on the radio, “Happy Boys,” by the Beat Farmers. We went to visit his great-aunt and play with her dog. Then we went to Subway to get sandwiches for his grandmother, other great-aunt and us, where he showed off his reading ability. As he ate, we watched a recording of the Outlaws at Lincoln Speedway. His mom came to pick him up. Grandpa was sad, but remembered how blessed he is. I prayed for a safe trip for my daughter and both of my grandsons. Because, no matter what, we only have them for a short time, regardless of the length of time. And it can end anytime; we are not promised any certain amount of time. Sometimes, no most always, that hurts.

    And when they or we are gone, sadness prevails, but hopefully gives way to memories of good times. May love and hope prevail.

    This one was for a precious little boy and his family.

    Appreciating and trying to remember what is important, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: But For One Lapped Car…

    Shawn Westerfeld no doubt wanted to end his regular season at the Lawrenceburg Speedway sweeping both the feature win and the 2014 championship so he could update his resume. He nearly did it, but for a lapped car that almost took him out of the race, never mind the championship. Justin Grant made the pass coming out of turn four and won the war. But Westerfeld wasn’t complaining a whole lot, taking second and beating out Joss Moffatt for the title.

    What we had on Saturday afternoon was near perfect Hoosier weather. Only a few clouds dotted the sky. It was a tad cool but no one froze.

    We also had a full pit of cars. 32 sprinters turned into the pits instead of the casino across the street. With nearby Florence Speedway quiet for the night, support classes jammed the pits; the semi-official total was 131 cars.

    The first of four heats was a sort of preview of what was to come later. Matt Goodnight hustled on the first lap to take the lead. This lasted until lap seven when Grant made the pass. If that wasn’t bad enough for Goodnight, Grant’s teammate, Travis Hery, grabbed second at the finish line. Pat Giddens took the final feature transfer. Disaster was averted when Dwayne Spille dove into the infield coming out of turn two, came back onto the track, and was clipped by Jamie Ross.

    Jarett Andretti led all the way to win heat number two. Drew Abel motored from seventh to third on the first lap, and then got around Aric Gentry to take second. Evan Gindling was fourth.

    The third heat was one of the more competitive Lawrenceburg heats I’ve seen in awhile. Garrett Abrams made a late pass of Michael Fischesser to win. Joss Moffatt, who began the night tied for the points lead with Shawn Westerfeld, stormed from eighth to nip Fischesser at the end for second. Justin Owen came from seventh to take fourth, just ahead of J.T. Stapp.

    Tony Main was the man of the fourth heat, leading all eight laps. Westerfeld, like Moffatt, had started last. Also like Moffatt, he came from last to second. They were still tied for the points lead. Joe Ligouri started next to Westerfeld and ended up third. Kyle Robbins had to sit up a bit straighter in the seat to edge Landon Simon for fourth, sending the native Buckeye to the B. As it turned out, Landon only lost one starting position for the feature.

    The B was won by Simon from fourth, earning him the 17th starting spot for the feature. Stapp was second ahead of Adam Cruea. Cole Ketchum grabbed the last seat, ahead of Drew Webber.

    The re-draw found Abrams and Hery on the front row, followed by Abel, Westerfeld, Grant, Main, Moffatt and Andretti. The track championship had come down to whoever would finish the highest in the final show.

    Westerfeld got the jump early and took the lead on the first lap and began to check out. Grant fell back to sixth on the first lap before beginning his move to the front. By lap 12 he had taken second as Moffatt struggled to stay in the top five.

    Grant was closing but would there be enough laps to get around Westerfeld? Finally, lapped traffic became a factor; in fact, it may have a hand in deciding the result. In turn four, with two laps to go Westerfeld was nearly taken out by a sideways J.T. Stapp, who apparently had a stuck throttle.

    At any rate, Grant pounced and took the lead and win with Westerfeld settling for a good run that netted him second place as well as the ‘burg championship. Jarett Andretti came from eighth to third. Travis Hery’s race was as impressive as Andretti’s; he held on for fourth. Moffatt had to settle for fifth. But the homeboy will always be known as the only racer to have won track championships at both the old Lawrenceburg oval as well as the new one.

    Abrams was sixth, ahead of Able, Gentry, Giddens and Justin Owen, who passed a fair amount of cars all night.

    The decisions we make and events beyond our control affect our lives in ways we cannot always know. Had Shawn Westerfeld turned the steering wheel an inch either way, who can know what would have happened? Anything from disaster to total triumph could have occurred.

    Personally, my parents’ decision to take me to a race at age one month launched quite a journey. Far as I know, it isn’t over yet.

    Think about for very long and you might be a candidate for the guys in the white coats.

    Persuading Roger Goodell that he’d be perfect for “The Colbert Report,” I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: A Good Old Fashioned….Spanking

    There was no getting around it. Kody Swanson put the hurt on the field on Sunday, September 7, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds as USAC’s most storied division held its “Tony Bettenhausen 100.” Rather than moan about how little “action” there was, I spent a good part of the day marveling at how Swanson and his DePalma Motorsports team have had this Silver Crown deal figured out.

    After the first attempt to run this race was rained out (sending me home, 255 miles away, in a funk after seeing just practice and time trials), I could see myself making a return trip northwest to see the classical looking beasts.

    September 7 was a beautiful day, the kind civic officials love. 24 cars and teams had decided to enjoy the nice day as well. Sure enough, Kody Swanson was the fastest of these in qualifying. He went out toward the end of the line and ripped off a 31.999 lap. The only qualifier even close to that was Jacob Wilson, who was last in line and needed a push start to qualify. Wilson’s 32.140 was second quick but he would be penalized for the push start.

    Bench racing with friends is an ideal way to pass the time before any race. It wasn’t lost on me that I was one of many here today wanting this series to succeed. For that matter, the same is true of the few one mile dirt ovals left in our country. Not only did one have a sense of history here, but that sense was matched by the desire that this very recent renaissance of USAC’s Silver Crown series continue. For that that, Mr. Andy Hillenburg needs to either take a bow or give fans that charming wave of the hand, made famous by the Queen of England.

    With Wilson’s demotion to the seventh row, Tracy Hines would accompany Swanson in the front row. Brady Bacon, driving one of the McQuinn team cars, and Bobby East, in the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian machine, were the second row. A.J. Fike and Du Quoin winner Shane Cockrum occupied the third. Two of the best, Bryan Clauson and Dave Darland, made up the fourth row. Local boy Steven Russell and Caleb Armstrong would start from the fifth row.

    The green flag waved and Kody Swanson didn’t mess around. He was already several car lengths ahead of Hines when Kenny Gentry stopped on the track, bringing out a yellow flag. On the re-start, Swanson again took off and left the others behind. He and Hines both stretched things out as Tracy’s tail tank became smaller and smaller to Bobby East’s eyes.

    In less than 20 laps, lapped traffic came into play. The leaders’ overtaking the slower cars provided quite a few unintended thrills as the groove became smaller. But those behind Swanson couldn’t reel in the Californian turned Hoosier. And he had already put a half lap on the tenth place car.

    Swanson’s huge lead disappeared on lap 41 when Caleb Armstrong stopped on the track, not quite making it to the pit entrance. A few laps before that, Shane Cockrum had exited the race. For the re-start, the boys were racked and stacked with Swanson leading Hines, East, A.J. Fike, Chris Windom, Brady Bacon, Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons Jr. and Dave Darland.

    Thus began a long green flag period; this yellow would be the last and the checkered flag was 54 laps away. Not much changed up front, except Swanson kept extending his lead. At lap 66 Swanson’s lead over Hines was a full straightaway. In lapped traffic, East began to pressure Hines, but once the lappers were cleared, Hines motored away.

    Usually at these 100 lap SC races “show and tell” time starts around lap 70. Sometimes the leader has used up his tires too much and begins to drop like a rock. If anyone was expecting Swanson to slow, they would have been disappointed. At lap 70 there were ten cars on the lead lap.

    East again provided some brief drama as he closed again on Hines with ten laps to go. Swanson offered his share of tension as he wasn’t content to ride around, even at the race’s end. Lap 95 saw him put the semi-retired Levi Jones a lap down. And Swanson was hounding Dave Darland all the way up to the white flag, but Dave was able to hold off this year’s Silver Crown dominator.

    Behind the winner, Hines was second, not quite a half lap in arrears. East, Fike, a two time winner of this race, and Windom were the rest of the top five. Clauson was sixth and Coons seventh after starting 12th. Darland started and finished eighth. Jones was ninth (after starting 16th) and Brady Bacon faded from third to tenth.

    Russ Gamester had the best run that few saw as he came from the pits at the start to finish 11th.

    Somewhat oddly, the top three finishers are also the top three in Silver Crown points.

    The next race for this group is the much anticipated Eldora Four Crown on September 20. And I am studying the road map, trying to decide which route I’ll take to suburban Rossburg, Ohio.

    Somehow I don’t think the little white Chevy truck will stink up any shows between here and Eldora. Kody Swanson I’m not.

    Persuading Roger Goodell that he’d be better off overseeing the Keystone Kops, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Chase and the Chase

    NASCAR has its ballyhooed “Chase,” a would-be attempt to have a playoff system like the stick and ball games. But sprint car fans in Indiana have their own “Chase.” He’s a pleasant young man who can wheel a sprinter about as well as anyone around these parts. He has just concluded a productive weekend. On Friday he was a close second at Bloomington to C.J. Leary; Chase drove his own car. Then, on Saturday, he hopped into the Gentry family’s car and won the “King of Non-Wing” feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway. (And yes, we also claim yet another “Chase,” who spends a good bit of time in North Carolina these. Of course, that would be Chase Briscoe.)

    The weather wasn’t too far from perfect as our little three vehicle caravan motored toward beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. In terms of car count, there was, as always, no use trying to predict. “Only” 21 sprinters dropped by, but there were plenty of quality cars available. Of note was Chad Boespflug, driving the Stensland 41, or at least one of them. The guess is that engine woes still trouble the Hazen-mobile.

    The night’s draw put A.J. Hopkins and Jeff Bland on the front row of the first heat. They ran one/two, which was to be predicted. But a preview of things to come was Mr. Stockon, who started seventh and moved smartly to third. Hud Cone, in the Hurst Brothers’ old reliable, was fourth ahead of Casey Shuman.

    Max McGhee won the second heat, also from the pole. Hunter Schuerenberg was second. Brandon Mattox came from fifth to take third ahead of Kody Kinser and the ageless Kent Christian.

    The pole sitters would be three for three as Chad Boespflug won the third ten lapper, holding off Brady Short. Chris Gurley started and finished third. Brian Hayden was fourth and Bloomington winner C.J. Leary was fifth.

    The re-draw put the killer B’s, Bland and Boespflug, on the front row for the 30 lap feature. McGhee, Hopkins, Schuerenberg, Short, Stockon and Mattox would be looking to advance while slinging dirt.

    Hopkins had a monster start and grabbed the lead right away. Bland hung tough as Boespflug slowly drifted back. And Stockon was coming on. The boys weren’t quite to the halfway mark before lapped traffic made playing a bit harder. Hopkins biked it coming out of turn four, but held his (now smaller) lead.

    Lap 19 saw the first yellow of the race; in fact it would be the only one. Hud Cone rolled to a stop in turn four. The green flag would fly with Hopkins ahead of Stockon, Bland, Schuerenberg, Boespflug, Short, Mattox, Gurley, Kinser and McGhee. Stockon did a great stalker imitation as he followed Hopkins for several laps. The lead changed hands on lap 25 as Stockon took over. A turn four shuffle/tangle saw Hopkins drop back as Hunter briefly took second. But Hopkins came back and assumed second place. But no one had anything for the Sullivan, Indiana native who now lives in Elizabethtown, a short drive and a long run from where I sit.

    Hopkins maintained second, though he had to be feeling a bit sorrowful at losing the lead. Bland was third after a late Hunter Schuerenberg bobble. Boespflug was fifth. Coming in sixth was Short with Mattox, Gurley and Kinser next. Leary started 15th for the second consecutive night. He didn’t pass nearly as many cars, but he did end up tenth.

    I said my good-byes to my fellow travelers quickly because I was headed for the great state of Illinois. I had a room waiting for me at Danville, Illinois and left Putnamville for points northwest. Finding gas over twenty cents cheaper than anywhere else I’ve been made me smile a bit. And, sure enough, someone had left the light on for me.

    It was time to get some sleep and head for Springfield, Illinois the next day to watch the world’s fastest dinosaurs race. It would be quite a treat.

    Opting not to get on an elevator with Ray Rice, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Not How You Start…

    The percentage of feature winners who start from the first row is well over 50%, I’d guess. Races where the winners come from the back, or even mid-pack are rare. But it happens. And often it is a treat. Granted, luck is involved. If there are accidents along the way, they are to be avoided if possible. Yellow and/or red flags need to be timely for a mid-pack car to advance. But none of this would happen without a car set up for the track and a race car driver who is not shy about passing people with his superior handling car. And so it was with C.J. Leary on the final race of the regular season at the Bloomington Speedway. All he did was start 15th, avoid some bad situations and mash the pedal when it was needed. He held off Chase Stockon to win his first Bloomington feature.

    My brave riding team was quick to notice that it’s still summertime in Indiana, even though autumn is not far away. This would be Big Dave’s first race of 2014 and he’d picked one of the hottest days of the year to make the 45 mile trip to the west. With his health issues this year, it turned out to be some good medicine to get out of the house, head west, meet up with friends and watch some typical Bloomington Speedway racing.

    29 cars braved the elements for the regular season finale. It was Chad Boespflug’s turn to sit in the Elson 27’s seat. Tyler Courtney was in the Pederson 4p for the night.

    Boespflug got off to a great start, winning the first heat by a long margin. Ethan Fleetwood had his hands full holding off Chris Babcock and Dakota Jackson. Ethan Barrow would be saddling up for the B later. Kevin Chambers had an axle break as he was in turn two and went for a nasty ride, his first flip in 12 years he said later. The soreness would come later.

    Max McGhee came from the second row to win the second heat with Jeff Bland not far behind. A good bit further back was Hunter O’Neal and Bub Cummings.

    The third heat was the strongest and with only the top four transferring, at least one good car would have to run the semi. Landon Simon won and Chase Stockon nipped Nick Bilbee at the line for second. C.J. Leary started and finished fourth. Courtney and Brady Short didn’t make it.

    Chris Gurley won the fourth heat by a straightaway. Jarett Andretti was second and Braxton Cummings was third. Like Mr. Leary, Kody Kinser started and finished fourth.

    Ethan Barrow took the early lead of the B main but a Tyler Courtney spin erased that. Midway through the race Brady Short, who had started fifth, came on to make the pass. Behind Short and Barrow was Shuman, who hadn’t made it out for his heat race and started on the tail. Jared Fox won the honor of starting last in the feature.

    The re-draw found Gurley and Simon on the front row, McGhee and Boespflug on the second, followed by Fleetwood, Bland, Stockon and Andretti, Babcock and O’Neal.

    Gurley launched first out of the gate with Simon close behind. Boespflug passed his buddy a lap later to take second. Stockon was on the move. Soon Boespflug and Stockon were pressuring the leader. Nick Bilbee, who won this race last year, brought out the first yellow when he bounced over turn two, somehow avoiding a flip.

    Racked and stacked now were Gurley, Boespflug, Stockon, Bland, Simon, Leary (already sixth after starting 15th), Babcock, Fleetwood, and Andretti. A lap later came Bloomington’s version of the Big One. A massive tangle in turn two found Brady Short arriving on the scene to take a wild flip—helicopter style. Those involved in varying degrees included, Fleetwood, Dakota Jackson, Braxton Cummings, Shuman, Simon, Andretti and anyone else my five year old spotter and I may have missed.

    No doubt that Stockon was concerned about his fellow competitors, but he also had to be a tad frustrated because he had passed Gurley for the lead just as the mayhem broke out.

    It was a shame in various ways. Watching Short move to the front would have been fun as he started 17th. For Brady and the other guys whose cars left the track on the hook, it was a rotten way to end the season. Thankfully, the only things hurt were feelings and race cars.

    The lineup on the re-start was shuffled quite a bit now. The spotter counted 15 cars (the little showoff). Gurley still led Stockon and Boespflug. Bland advanced to fourth, followed by Leary, McGhee, Babcock, Barrow, Kody Kinser, and Hunter O’Neal.

    Once again Stockon got around Gurley, who was beginning to have steering issues. But once again, the pass was negated due to Boespflug, of all people, spinning in turn four while running third. Somehow everyone missed him. Leary had passed Bland soon enough before the yellow to maintain third. As we’d see, he wasn’t done.

    On the re-start, Gurley faltered with a beast of a car to handle and soon found himself in turn three, the meat of a Stockon/Leary sandwich. Leary had the high side and powered off turn four to grab the lead with only a few laps to go. Stockon gave chase, but couldn’t close on the young man from Greenfield, Indiana.

    However, as the laps wound down, lapped traffic came into play. Stockon closed the gap as Leary struggled a bit with the lappers. But the checkered flag waved before Stockon could make a move.

    Max McGhee was one of a few who came on strong at the finish, taking third. Chris Babcock did the same, coming from ninth to fourth. And all Nick Bilbee did was bring out the first yellow, re-start on the tail, stay out of trouble and find himself fifth.

    Then there was Kody Kinser, who started 16th and didn’t quit until he was sixth at the end. Chris Gurley saw a really good finish turn to, well, good as his steering miseries caused him to fade to seventh. Jeff Bland was eighth and Jared Fox rambled from 20th to finish ninth. Dakota Jackson re-started after the early red flag and came back to grab tenth.

    Throughout the top ten there were guys who had started in the back half of the lineup to come through the pack to grab respectable finishes. Like the winner, it didn’t matter where they started.

    Wishing I could see, you know, actual history on the History Channel, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Battles, Wars and Championships

    Whether we know it or not, we face battles every day. For many of us, it can be a battle getting out of bed to face another day.

    We all face wars of some sort. It may be for some a matter of maintaining a semblance of sanity. It may be a serviceman or woman in mortal combat.

    Very few of us deal with battles, wars and championships at the same time. Ever rarer is the winning of all three. But on a mild, yet humid, Hoosier Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway, Justin Grant settled for one out of three. He won the Vince Osman Memorial for the second consecutive year, barely holding off Bryan Clauson, who settled for the other two out of three. While Mr. Grant won the 25 lap battle, Mr. Clauson won the year long war and gained his first ever track point’s championship.

    24 sprints populated a pit area also occupied by modifieds, street stocks and thunder cars. Tonight’s winner of musical car seats in the Elson 27 was Scotty Weir, winner of battles, wars and championships himself. A 17 year old young Texan with the name of Payton Pierce and company were spending a weekend going non-wing sprint car racing in Indiana.

    As always, the last (third) group of qualifiers had the quickest times. Clauson’s 13.394 led the way. Grant and Jarett Andretti led the other two groups. Max McGhee dumped it in turn four during time trials. He was done for the night.

    Rookie Garrett Miller was one happy boy for quite awhile as he won the first heat, no doubt his first win of any kind at Kokomo. Justin Grant made sure he earned it, finishing a close second after passing Tyler Hewitt on the last lap. Weir was fourth and Dustin Smith, who might have raced with Vince Osman a few times, was fifth.

    Joe Ligouri won the second heat with Andretti right behind. Adam Byrkett, Jamie Fredrickson (another who may have raced with Vince Osman in the 90s) and Travis Hery all punched tickets to the feature.

    Shane Cottle was in the Edison 10e while the usual occupant, Jerry Coons Jr., was Silver Crown racing at Du Quoin. The local boy made good and won his heat with Bryan Clauson second. Another local boy, Josh Spencer, was third yet another Kokomo racer, Logan Jarrett fourth. Brent Beauchamp was fifth.

    Chad Boespflug won the B, which was down to seven cars through attrition. Chris Gurley was second and Conner Donelson took third. Two rookies would populate the last row of the feature, Cooper Clouse and Payton Pierce.

    Grant and Miller, Ligouri and Cottle, and Clauson and Andretti were the first three rows after the re-draw. The green flag waved and Shane Cottle had a sense of urgency. From fourth, he powered to the lead and was in front when the first yellow flag made an appearance due to a Cooper Clouse spin.

    Cottle still led when the second yellow waved after a Chad Boespflug/Tyler Hewitt tangle in turn two that left Chad’s Paul Hazen special on the hook. Five laps were in and it was Cottle, Grant, Clauson, Miller and Ligouri.

    The Big Three of Cottle, Grant and Clauson tried to pull away but another slowdown came on lap nine when Josh Spencer rolled to a stop. Grant had taken the lead but had to give it back.

    Yet another yellow came out when Miller and Byrkett had a meeting in turn four on lap 11. Chris Gurley suffered a flat left front tire and hustled to the puts to get it changed. This turned out to be a good move. Ligouri, Andretti, Jarrett, Weir, Beauchamp, Pierce and Donelson trailed the Big Three.

    This didn’t last because Cottle as leader brought out the fifth yellow when he bounced into the turn two wall. That would be the turning point of the race. The lead was now Grant’s, but Clauson wasn’t about to concede anything. Under this yellow flag period, Donelson was run over from behind and suffered a flat right rear. Beauchamp headed for the infield, out of the race.

    On this lap 13 re-start, the suspects were led by Grant, Clauson, Ligouri, Jarrett and Payton Pierce, who had quietly worked his way to the front after starting 20th. Remember, folks, this young man had never raced at Kokomo before.

    Lap 18 saw Logan Jarrett spin and bring out one tired yellow flag for the sixth time. While the cars slowly circled the track, Pierce dropped out, ending an impressive race. The order was shuffled a bit with Grant leading Clauson, Ligouri, Andretti, Weir, Hery, Smith, Fredrickson and Byrkett.

    Throughout these brief green flag periods, Clauson had been giving Grant about two headaches per lap. The boys showed the crowd how it’s done. They reminded me of those not so long ago good old days at Bloomington when Kevin Briscoe would scoot around the top as Kevin Thomas did the same on the bottom. Grant wasn’t shy about riding above the cushion, on the edge of disaster each lap while Clauson showed both patience and skill working downstairs.

    The two leaders had taken the checkered as Ligouri flipped in turn two, bringing out the race’s only red flag. Joe was okay, but a good race was over too soon. But Grant now had to endure yet another re-start, knowing that Clauson would be right there. As it turned out, he was able to hold off the final charge by the Indy 500 vet, one of the very few who have raced at both the Brickyard and the Bullring.

    At the end Scotty Weir had steadily advanced from tenth to take third. Another good run under the radar was that of Chris Gurley, who had started 17th, had a flat tire, re-started on the tail and then stormed back to take fourth. Andretti was fifth and Byrkett had recovered from a lap 11 spin to end up sixth. Josh Spencer’s story was much the same. After brining out an early yellow, he persevered and clawed his way back to seventh. Travis Hery came from 14th to eighth. The law firm of Smith and Fredrickson finished ninth and tenth.

    Lest we forget, this race wasn’t named after just anyone. It’s endured over the years as a tribute to a guy who, by all accounts, was one of the nicer people who was a part of this northern Indiana community. No matter how long we live, unless we are famous for whatever reason, most likely there will be no memories of us a few generations down the road. That doesn’t necessarily matter either, because what counts is what we do while we’re here. If we can, may we make some good memories for those who will remember when we’re gone—just as quite a few race fans remember Vince Osman.

    The curtain on Kokomo’s regular season closed with Bryan Clauson as the top guy for points, his first track championship. Justin Grant had won the battle, but BC had won the war, with another positive addition to his resume.

    The day’s battles are done. And tomorrow we do it all over again and why not?

    Getting North Dakota and South Dakota mixed up, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ingredients for Excellence

    We could agree on what ingredients go into a successful career, or person. Ability, desire, luck, a few others, these all matter. But I could add another, that being longevity. In racing that’s not always fair because this sport is the cruelest at times in that a life can be lost by racers in pursuit of excellence and/or a trophy. I’d not exclude a Robbie Stanley, to give a relevant example, from any discussion of great sprinters. But his was a promising career cut short. On the other hand, you have Dave Darland, who has all of those ingredients plus a good dose of longevity. He’s been driving a sprint car for 30 years or so. And he’s lost little, if any, off the old fastball. He continually proves it as he did yet again on Sunday night as the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown III finally brought down the curtain of the final act. If that wasn’t enough, he made my point about longevity as he broke Tom Bigelow’s 33 year old record for most sprint features won in USAC competition.

    Though they didn’t wish for it, I still thought it was nice for the O’Connor family to go ahead and race on Sunday, which happened to be another milestone for me. Folks were only too happy to wish me well; it didn’t escape me that the vast majority of them were a bit younger than I. But life goes on; just because the finish line seems closer doesn’t mean it is.

    Night Three of Smackdown had a different format. There was no qualifying. Instead, three qualifying race were run with the top three advancing. The B moved five more. The top eight in points for the previous two shows engaged in the popular King of the Hill, a series of three lap elimination runs with the top points getter squaring off again number eight, number two versus number seven, and so on.

    Pole sitter Justin Grant won the first qualifier with C.J. Leary second and Logan Jarrett third. Brandon Mattox had a rough time of it, bouncing off two cars and not transferring along with Tyler Courtney, Brian Karraker and Chad Boespflug.

    Front row starter Kevin Thomas Jr. took the second heat that was stopped for a nasty Max McGhee flip in turn four. Max was okay but the fence took a beating. The Kokomo crew has had more practice at mending fences than they wish, but they did get it fixed quickly. Brady Short and Casey Shuman also transferred. Landon Simon, PA’s Trevor Kobylarz and Parker Price-Miller began preparations for the B.

    Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. won the third and last qualifier. Kyle Cummins, in the Rick Pollock special, was second and Tracy Hines took the last spot to transfer. Chris Gurley, Jarett Andretti and Josh Spencer would race at least one more time.

    The crowd was pleased by the King of the Hill format and results. First up was one seed Robert Ballou verses eight seed Chase Stockon, who prevailed.

    The crowd volume increased when number four Dave Darland faced number five Bryan Clauson. Darland won by a few feet as he took his usual high road and BC owned the bottom.

    Seed number three Brady Bacon beat number six Chris Windom, who didn’t help his cause when he two-wheeled it in turn three.

    Up next was two seed Jon Stanbrough and number seven Shane Cottle. Stanbrough easily won after local favorite Cottle did a near spin.

    Round Two saw Darland eliminate Stockon by three car lengths, again using the high side.

    Next up was Stanbrough and Bacon, who barely won and both avoided disaster as they collided just past the start/finish line.

    This left local man Darland and Bacon. Right at the start Bacon took Dave’s preferred line up top and kept the People’s Champ at bay for all three laps, winning by two car lengths.

    And just like that, the first eight spots for the feature, 40 laps worth, were decided.

    The 15 lap B Main was wild and woolly. Whereas the heats were won by front row starters, it fell to Chad Boespflug to put that pattern aside. A lap one yellow waved when Kobylarz got sideways and collected Spencer, another local favorite. A couple of laps later Brandon Mattox’s bad night got worse as he flipped in turn one. Boespflug had already roared to the front.

    Another flip, this one by Andretti in turn four, stopped action. Both Mattox and Andretti were able to walk away.

    Boespflug and Courtney missed a dandy fight for third between Simon and McGhee, who had repairs made after his heat race accident with help from Jon Stanbrough himself. Price-Miller spun on lap ten while in a transfer position. Kobylarz put a pile driver on B. Karraker, who was running fifth, the last transfer. Chris Gurley and Josh Spencer benefitted from that as they fought for fifth.

    Moving on were Boespflug (started seventh), Courtney, Simon, McGhee (from 11th) and Spencer. Karraker got a measure of revenge by using a provisional to start 23rd in the feature.

    Bacon and Darland led 21 more to the Tom Hansing green flag. Brady grabbed the early lead but couldn’t shake Darland. And Robert Ballou wasn’t too far behind, but was plenty hungry as he passed Stanbrough and Stockon early. Darland took the lead on lap six and was there when the first yellow waved for Chris Windom, who was done for the night.

    The tea leaves read it as being Darland, Bacon, Stanbrough, Stockon, Ballou (who had temporarily lost the two spots he’d gained), Leary, Clauson, Cottle, Grant and Cummins. The re-start saw Darland break away from the pack until lapped traffic brought Bacon back to Dave’s bumper.

    The field regrouped after a Casey Shuman induced yellow just past halfway. Behind the two in front were Stanbrough, Ballou, Leary, Clauson, Stockon, Grant, Cottle and Cummins. A spirited fight broke out among Stanbrough, Clauson and Leary for third while Ballou renewed his charge and challenged Bacon for second.

    Again, lapped traffic became a factor as Ballou reeled in Darland. But C.J. Leary ended a great run with a flat tire and stopped, bringing out a yellow Ballou surely didn’t wish to see. If that wasn’t enough, Robert had lost a right rear wheel cover. If enough mud made its way into the wheel, Ballou would be sunk.

    As it turned out, Darland won with a flawless re-start and ownership of the high groove. Ballou held onto second with Clauson getting around Bacon at the end to take third. Stanbrough was fifth. Grant took sixth and Kevin Thomas Jr. came on at the end to take seventh. Stockon was eighth and Cummins seemed to spend most of the race in tenth place.

    Darland was now the all-time leader in USAC sprint wins; his 53 topped Tom Bigelow, who was present to witness the milestone. Mr. Big took it with class, which was no surprise.

    Ballou spent time on the Smackdown podium each night, finishing with two thirds and a second.

    Boespflug passed 30 cars officially over three nights and was the hard charger. His car owner, Mr. Paul Hazen, won the inaugural Bill Gardner True Grit Award for overcoming his share of obstacles the past four days.

    Those were just a few of the awards handed out.

    The O’Connor family deserved some sort of award as well. Their persistence and hard work made all of this possible. Fans were left to already looking forward to the 2015 version of Smackdown. They had overcome the uncontrollable challenge of the weather and persevered.

    One must ride high while they can. It can end at any time and it probably will. But it’s rare when someone can ride high as long as Dave Darland has ridden. In our personal dictionaries, we can place a picture of Mr. Darland next to the words “excellence” and “success,” not to mention “class.”

    Handing out pillows for a fight between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Delayed Success

    In an extended weekend that saw more rain and waiting around than actual racing, it was not surprising to see some serious scrambling of the Smackdown III 2014 schedule. Thursday’s program was shut down after two heats had been run. Persistent rain was the culprit. The rest of the show was deferred to Saturday while Friday’s racing went off without any major hitches after some feverish preparation. Saturday would have an ambitious schedule of running the rest of the Thursday show, emptying the joint to quickly get ready for the finale on Saturday night. Part of this happened. The Thursday version was completed and Dave Darland won the feature. But rain again invaded Kokomo and most of the Hoosier state. I’m frankly surprised that the promoters have any hair left. I’d loan them some if I could.

    The eldest grandson was my running mate on Friday; his pick of Bryan Clauson was looking good until BC’s tiniest mistake put Jon Stanbrough in the winner’s circle. His little brother was fired up as usual on Saturday for some racing, as well as a trip or two wandering through the pits.

    We had a late start and missed Brandon Mattox and Logan Jarrett winning their heats. We also missed Jon Stanbrough winning the semi. We had no complaints about missing Jarett Andretti and Thomas Meseraull flipping in the B. Nor did we mind missing the ragged start where Justin Grant got sideways and escaped, but left C.J. Leary and Clauson having to re-start on the tail.

    Grant took control on the re-start as Robert Ballou, Jerry Coons Jr. and Shane Cottle fought for second. Serial caution flags ruled early on as the guys could only race for a lap before the lights blinked. Dave Darland was fifth on the re-start after the final early yellow but began a charge. About five laps later DD was second, having passed future Hall of Famers Stanbrough, Cottle and Coons.

    Grant was in trouble though he had no way of knowing it. As lap 20 loomed, Darland caught Grant. On lap 24 the pass for the lead was made. A lap later Kyle Cummins smacked the turn one wall, bringing out another worn out yellow flag. Under yellow it was discovered that Bryan Clauson’s rotten luck continued as his left rear tire was flat.

    The race’s final re-start had Darland, Grant, Ballou, Stanbrough, Brady Short, Chris Windom, Brady Bacon, Kevin Thomas Jr., Cottle and Coons taking the green. The top three stayed the same, but Grant made it interesting at the end. His final hardball slider didn’t quite do the trick and Darland prevailed, with USAC sprint feature win #52, tying him with Tom Bigelow.

    Further down the order, Windom came on strong at the end, taking fourth after starting 12th. Stanbrough was fifth. Thomas, Bacon, Cottle, Short and Chase Stockon were the second five.

    Dark clouds dominated the skies as feverish preparations were made for the regularly scheduled Saturday night show. The radar on cell phones didn’t look good. We retreated to Grandma’s car to wait it out after polishing off a pork chop sandwich and some nachos, one of which Karston shared with Jerry Shaw. Then the rain began.

    After sitting in the car watching a local law man struggle with opening a locked car for a young couple, we idled through the parking lot, noting several empty spaces that weren’t there earlier. We asked Monica Clauson if they had heard anything. They hadn’t and we idled back to the north side of the parking lot in the steady rain. A chance encounter with Steve Phillips, with wife Carla the co-owner of Darland’s car, gave us a gloomy prediction. The track was near the point of no return for preparation. Sure enough, a few minutes later I read the announcement on my phone.

    We began the long, wet two hour drive south. Rain followed us all the way home. Saturday night became Sunday morning and I was supposed to feel older, but honestly didn’t. Instead I looked forward to Sunday evening, when finally the 2014 version of Smackdown would conclude.

    Avoiding full buckets of water, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Margin of Error

    Face it, we are all one inattentive driver away from eternity; sometimes that driver could be us. The tiniest error can be fatal or at least produce an unhappy ending. On Friday night, the first full program of the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown III, Bryan Clauson had the feature won. It would have been well deserved as he’d fended off the challenges of (mostly) Jon Stanbrough. But in turn one of the 29th lap, BC made the slightest of bobbles. Stanbrough had been breathing down his neck for most of the race and sure enough, on this he pounced. It can easy to forget that these guys are human. Even they make mistakes. After all, it was the most recent Kokomo race where Stanbrough wadded up a good car in turn three.

    The rain in Kokomo didn’t stop until late morning and when I ventured out to the track around noon, it didn’t look good. But there was no way I was going to give up on the O’Connor family. I was quite confident that these people would make it happen. Sure enough they did just that. It was a sort of déjà vu as they had faced a very similar challenge on Thursday. By 6:30 we had ourselves a race track.

    For the second night in a row, Dave Darland set fast time. Also, for the second night in a row, Bryan Clauson drew the last number to qualify. He qualified only 11th quick, but ended up starting on the pole for the feature.

    Passing was tough in the first heat as outside front row starting Kevin Thomas Jr. won. Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney and Brady Short all transferred from the first four starting spots. This meant that Dave Darland, Robert Ballou and Chad Boespflug all marched to the B.

    Chris Windom checked out to win the second heat. Brady Bacon came on strong to grab second from sixth. Jon Stanbrough was third after making a last lap pass of Jerry Coons Jr.

    Tracy Hines’ less than ideal time trial put him in the front row of the third heat and he won easily. Shane Cottle was second and Casey Shuman took third. Bryan Clauson was shuffled to the back early and worked like a one legged place kicker to claw his way to fourth.

    Brandon Mattox made it four for four as he won the fourth heat from the front row. Chase Stockon was second and Max McGhee was third. Kyle Cummins played a major role in seeing to it that C.J. Leary and Scotty Weir went to the B.

    Thomas Meseraull wasn’t able to not start the B, along with Daron Clayton, beset by engine woes. This put Robert Ballou in the front row with Dave Darland. Sure enough, those guys were one/two. Chad Boespflug came from seventh to take third. Logan Jarrett, Mr. Leary and Mr. Weir also would move on. Brian Karraker would grab a provisional.

    With so many fast timers heading for the B, this put Clauson on the pole with Grant beside him. BC jumped to an early lead as Stanbrough hastily annexed second from the second row. By the time of the first yellow Darland had already motored to fourth after starting seventh.

    The second yellow waved when Cottle offered a right rear to Darland. Contact was made, enough to remove DD from any chance of winning. The same was said for Cottle, who had issues later. It was Clauson, Stanbrough, Cottle, Ballou, Grant, Jarrett, Bacon, Cummins, Windom and Stockon.

    A few more laps were green before Brian Karraker flipped in turn two, bringing out the red. Up front, Cottle had retreated to the pits. Windom had come from 16th and was running eighth. Darland rejoined the festivities.

    The next green flag segment saw Grant exit the scene up front and Darland get lapped. Yes, Dave Darland was lapped.

    The final yellow waved on lap 19. It remained Clauson, Stanbrough and Ballou at the front. Bacon was fourth, but Cummins was about to make his life either miserable or annoying.

    Clauson maintained his lead, but it never was a more than a few car lengths over Stanbrough. And then there it was. BC made that small error and Stanbrough was there. Jon’s margin wasn’t exactly huge as Clauson wanted to be there just in case Mike Dutcher’s pride and joy made its own error. But it didn’t happen.

    Ballou was disappointed in third but he had no reason to be too torn up about it. After all, he’d started eighth and had to pass a few strong runners. Cummins did get around Bacon for fourth with the Oklahoma native fifth. Stockon moved from 11th to sixth while Brady Short advanced from 12th to seventh. Leary rambled from 14th to eighth as Windom faded a bit at the end to grab ninth. And Logan Jarrett ran as high as fifth before slipping back to where he started, tenth.

    As this is written in the wee hours of Saturday morning, later today the gang will finish off Thursday’s program, and then run the regular Saturday show. It shall be a long day and then some.

    Annoying Calvin while I entertain Hobbes, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Think It'll Rain?

    Kokomo Speedway's Smackdown III got off to wet start on a most humid Thursday evening. The wetness in the form of rain visited the track on Thursday morning, dumping a few boatloads of rain onto the oval. But a Herculean effort by the staff, led by track prep guru Reece O'Connor, gave fans a surface that all 35 teams could tackle.

    Dave Darland was 12th to qualify and his 12.791 lap was quickest, a full two tenths faster than Robert Ballou's time. There was no question of the track going away for those who drew high numbers; Jerry Coons Jr. (fourth quick) and Bryan Clauson (third) proved that.

    What was occasional lightning to the north during time trials became more visible and persistent when the first heat lined up. Lightning in the form of high speed struck the track as fifth starting C.J. Leary won with Mr. Darland second. Chris Windom recovered from a lap one bicycling excursion to come back and finish where he started, third. Pole sitter Chris Gurley held on for fourth.

    When the second heat lined up, a few sprinkles got people's attention--or at least it got mine. Somehow all eight cars kept things under control. Chase Stockon won what must have been one of his wettest wins ever. Kevin Thomas Jr. was second. Justin Grant took third and Robert Ballou grabbed fourth after a terrific battle with Casey Shuman.

    As the checkered waved Lots of folks, including me, quickly left the bleachers. I began a brisk walk to the north edge of the parking lot. By the time I arrived at the white Chevy truck, the drizzle had stepped up a bit. I managed to be drier than most.

    Before I left the rain was in high gear and stayed that way for quite awhile after I'd checked into a motel. I set a slower than normal pace on the newly numbered 931 and arrived in one, mostly dry, piece.

    The rain continued off and on overnight. As of noon on Friday, the track partly covered with water. Clouds still hung around and there was yet another good chance of more rain. Despite it all, the staff was doing all they could do to conduct racing for the evening. As always, time would tell.

    Yet again we are reminded that we don't have a lot of control over many things.

    Heading to a home improvement store to buy materials for an ark, I'm...

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Some of This,…

    The Bloomington Speedway was the scene of quite an evening of Hoosier sprint car/bullring racing at its best on a warm and humid Friday night. Those who excelled earned everything they got. Others may not have had the desired results, but they, too, excelled in effort if nothing else. There were hard feelings, cut and slash moves, slicing and dicing, and at the end, Kyle Cummins standing in victory lane with a touch of controversy.

    On this mid-August late afternoon, it struck me that this was the way to show up. I ran a bit late because my grandson and I insisted on our singing along with the Beat Farmers’ catchy tune, “Happy Boy,” that is played each Friday on WTTS-FM in Bloomington at 5:00 p.m. Wife/Grandma was duly impressed. But, even though the troubles of life persist, one must persevere and look forward to good and/or better times. Usually, it occurred to me, I show up at a race with a feeling of both anticipation and curiosity.

    Sure enough, my anticipation brought me to a conversation between Butch Wilkerson and Tom Helfrich. For once I kept quiet, listening to stories, speaking only when Butch let me.

    This was an MSCS show tonight and 28 groups of racers had notions of racing on the red clay oval. As is usually the case, enough USAC runners showed up to make the regulars frown, then assume a look of determination to outrun those guys.

    Passing points mattered and Casey Shuman hustled from third to first and won the first heat by a healthy margin. Dave Darland, in the Stensland machine, made a late pass on a very fast surface to take second over Brandon Morin. Jeff Bland did the same as he took fourth after starting seventh/last.

    Shane Cottle started second and maybe wished that he had a cell phone with him. This was because he had enough time to order a pizza for the guys. Jared Fox was second and Ethan Barrow took third. Ethan Fleetwood, like Barrow, started and finished in the same spot; for Fleetwood it was fourth after bringing out an early yellow.

    Brady Short ran away with the third heat win with Kent Schmidt second. Robert Ballou came from fifth to finish third. Kyle Cummins came from sixth to end up fourth.

    Brent Beauchamp won the fourth heat as Brandon Mattox, the pride of Terre Haute, was second. Chad Boespflug had made contact with Bill Elson recently and tonight was in the black 27; he started last and grabbed third. Daron Clayton brought out the familiar and popular 92, and then drove it to fourth.

    Rather than walk around, I sampled the double cheeseburger and watched the modified heats. It was a bit disappointing that the Modified Maestro, Devin Gilpin, wasn’t here, but that didn’t matter.

    The top 16 in points after the heats were locked in and the B would add four more. A yellow flag was unfurled when Kent Christian spun while running third. Donnie Brackett was much of the show as he clawed his way to win after starting eighth. Aaron Farney came from tenth to second, an effort no less impressive. Pole sitter Ethan Fleetwood was third. Chris Babcock came from ninth to fourth and wasn’t terribly with pleased with something Fleetwood had done. No matter, both were in the show.

    Short and Shuman, two guys who aren’t members of each other’s fan club, led the gang to the green. The green turned yellow quickly as a three car meeting commenced in turn one. It was time to try again.

    This try made it to turn two before four cars gathered with Robert Ballou tipping over. Robert would be put upright and start on the tail. He’d make noise later.

    The third time wasn’t to be the charm as Brandon Mattox and Kent Schmidt missed a great chance at a double flip when they slid backwards at a good clip over turn one’s steep banking.

    For the second time in one week I’d used up one full page taking notes on one complete lap.

    The fourth time worked for awhile. Shuman took the lead and held it until Chad Boespflug stopped on lap six. The order was Shuman, Short, Beauchamp, Darland and Cottle for the first five. Kyle Cummins was sixth, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, but he had started back in 12th.

    The next 16 laps were some of the most intense and riveting I’ve seen anywhere. Shuman kept his lead but Cummins had quickly moved to second. These two, with Short and Beauchamp, engaged in some serious mano a mano combat while they negotiated lapped traffic. Cummins led for a couple of laps until he slipped to fifth after being balked by a lapped car. Shuman regained the lead until lap 22 when a yellow flag for Daylon Chambers waved.

    Suddenly Shu slowed with a flat left rear that may have come from Beauchamp not getting slowed in time for the yellow—one of those racin’ deals.

    Beauchamp led now with Short, Cottle, Cummins and Daron Clayton not done yet. The green waved and Cummins again showed that he had this place figured out tonight. Soon enough he was challenging Beauchamp for the lead. By the time the lap 29 white flag waved Cummins was on the 34’s tail. Then came the slide job that didn’t quite work. Cummins’ car didn’t quite clear the front of Beauchamp’s. Both easily recovered but Cummins had this one in the bag. Behind Beauchamp was Short, then Cottle and next was none other than Robert Ballou. His charge had been largely unnoticed as people were watching the fun up front. Darland was sixth, followed by Farney (from 18th), Clayton and Ethan Barrow. Chris Babcock came from 20th to finish tenth.

    Beauchamp wasn’t pleased by the last lap slider and said so but to his credit, Brent was a man about it. Cummins did immediately go to Beauchamp’s car and had some words after they stopped for post-race interviews, but that was it. Words, no other antics. Both guys were pros.

    I hung around for a little while and then moseyed out to the parking lot. I was Terre Haute bound, staying there overnight, and then heading for a new (to me) track, the Springfield mile, where USAC’s Silver Crown division hoped to race on Saturday.

    Clouds were the norm as I traveled northwest, but there had been little rain—so far. Occasional sprinkles were in progress as I arrived, but stayed away long enough for hot laps and time trials.

    The track was in great shape and Tracy Hines did his best to crack the 30 second barrier. He was quickest with a 30.646 lap in a car that is for sale.

    But as the boys lined up, the drizzle began and wouldn’t go away. A couple of pace laps later and the red flag waved. A few of us were bummed, but that’s the way it goes.

    I’ve traveled farther than the 250 plus miles to Springfield to get rained out (think Perris, California in November 2011). If nothing else I’d gotten a glimpse of the Illinois State Fair, a shining symbol of an America many of us think has gone completely away, but hasn’t. The background that consisted of carnival rides off turn one represented a part of America that somehow refuses to go away—and I’m glad of that.

    Again I moseyed out to the parking lot after saying my good-byes and headed home. It would be a long trip, partly because my Plan B, the Lincoln Park Speedway, had also rained out.

    Two days later came the good news that this race, the 53rd Tony Bettenhausen Memorial, was rescheduled for September 7.

    God help us if or when our hope, curiosity and feeling of anticipation all desert us. Because then we will not be living, but merely alive.

    So it may be that another race or two lies ahead. More specifically, the Kokomo Speedway awaits racers and fans alike for this weekend will be Smackdown III, one of the best birthday presents a fan could want.

    Thankful that Mr. Bodett leaves the light on, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    dlb1600@yahoo.com


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