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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First In Class

    It was quite encouraging to see a rare all-green feature to close out the year. The race may not have been the barnburner that Kokomo had the night before, but it was no less exciting, hectic, and tense. C. J. Leary did a great job of working his way through lapped traffic and earned his first victory at the Tri-State Speedway's Harvest Cup on a breezy Saturday night that wrapped up racing for both the track and the Midwest Sprint Car Series.

    After enduring a Brown County traffic jam (peak season for the changing colors of the trees), I made up some of the lost time thanks to setting the cruise control at 80 when I drifted on to I-69. I still arrived in time for most of the drivers’ meeting. The biggest surprise among the 27 cars was the appearance of Chase Briscoe, now a NASCAR driver, in his own car for the night.

    The luck of the draw created a very strong first heat lineup. At least one front runner would end up in the B. Pole sitter Chase Stockon won as second place Kevin Thomas Jr. had his hands full holding off C. J. Leary to take second. The boys appreciated Chase Briscoe showing up, but that didn't stop them from moving him back to fourth after he began the race on the front row. Nate McMillen was fifth and made sure that Brady Short and Tyler Thomas went to the B.

    The second heat was a challenge, one could say. It featured two red flags and two yellows. Kyle Cummins won with Chet Williams finishing second. Steven Schnapf, Ben Knight and Parker Fredrickson all transferred to the A. Brandon Mattox spun and was tackled by Kent Schmidt, who then turned over.  Knight and Collin Ambrose collided coming out of turn two with Ambrose clouting the wall and flipping. After a few minutes, he climbed out of the car.

    The third heat was not quite as challenging. After two early yellows, things settled down somewhat with Carson Short taking the win. Donnie Brackett recovered from an early spin to roar back and finish second, ahead of a perplexed Robert Ballou. Aric Gentry and Jadon Rogers grabbed the last two transfer spots.

    Tyler Thomas ran away from everyone to win the B. Brady Short was a comfortable second. Doc Wallace took third. Illini Mitch Davis could say that his Tri-State debut was successful as he finished fourth. Brandon Mattox provided some undesirable excitement as he made a late pass on Kendall Ruble stick, smoking engine and all.

    It was somehow fitting that the front row of the feature would be occupied by local boys Stockon and Cummins. The green flag waved and Stockon promptly tried to leave the others behind. Had it not been for Leary, he would have been successful.

    From seventh, the Greenfield resident got busy right away. After one lap, he was fifth. Another lap was scored and Leary was now second. It was a matter of time at that point. With the decent sized lead Stockon had built, it took C.J. a little longer to catch up. But he quickly reeled in the hometown favorite and made the pass on the seventh lap.

    It was somewhat surprising that Leary didn’t exactly check out. It would be more accurate to say that both Leary and Stockon ran away from the field, both skillfully negotiating the lapped traffic, which came early and stayed on as a factor.

    The all-green contest was over in less than seven minutes, about as long as it took me to devour on the Tri-State’s double cheeseburgers. It was a testament to all 21 starters.

    Behind Leary and Stockon, Cummins held on for third. Kevin Thomas Jr., the Kokomo Klash winner the night before, was fourth. Briscoe, who had not been expected to appear, came from tenth to finish fifth. Williams was sixth and sprint rookie Schnapf closed out his first year with an impressive seventh. Ballou spent the race mired in traffic and managed an eighth. Brackett was ninth, a lap down. B. Short settled for tenth, but won the war, as it were, crowned as the MSCS 2017 champ before racing began. Brady advanced more than anyone, 17th to seventh.

    Post-race, Leary was quick to note that this was his first win at Tri-State. After congratulating Leary’s ace mechanic Donnie Gentry, who has raced at the Class Track for more years than one can remember. Donnie said that this was the first time he had stood at the start/finish line in any capacity. It was both surprising and neat to hear that this.

    It was time to make the long trip northeast. I took time to wish MSCS Race Director Eldon Butcher well before leaving. Brandon Mattox, relaxing after a long, trying night, waved good-by. I had been fortunate enough to visit with many all evening. But it was time to say good-by to all, as well as a treasured Hoosier bullring.

    It also meant adios to my 2017 race chasing. It began back in April at Lawrenceburg (with Chris Windom winning the USAC feature, his first at the ‘burg), then off to North Carolina a couple of weeks later. Back home again in May and I was off and running, not stopping until I walked through the pit gate at Tri-State one last time.

    Supposedly, now I shall have more time for other projects, most of which are non-racing activities. My jewelry making wife has an open house scheduled, which means I spend time lifting heavy objects like tables and then hiding when customers show up (not a good idea to scare them off).

    One writing project is looming large and the hope is to see that come to fruition. It involves fiction, which is another animal entirely. Stay tuned.

    Inadvertently jumping over the wall to help Matt Kenseth’s crew, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Never Give Up

    One of the many lessons that Hoosier bullring racin' teaches us is that we must never give up. Even when the odds and common sense tell us to pack it in, if we keep our eyes on the prize, there is a chance that good things might happen, win, lose, or draw. A young man named Tyler Courtney learned to never give up at some point in his racing education. On a mild Friday night at the Kokomo Speedway, Courtney stayed close enough to race long leader Dave Darland before making the pass for the lead as both came to the checkered flag. This, the Kokomo Klash, was the curtain closer for 2017 and fans could not have asked for a more dramatic ending.

    Arriving in time for the drivers’ meeting, I soon learned that 127 cars had jammed the O’Connor family’s pit are, spilling over to the parking lot. There were no major changes in the sprint car roster, 35 cars. Ted Hines made a rare appearance. Drivers’ ages ranged from teenager Jadon Rogers to long time Social Security eligible Al Thomas.

    The big news was the announcement that this would be Josh Spencer’s last race. Josh and company will be missed. It will be strange and bittersweet to walk into the Kokomo pits and see either an empty spot next to the Paul Hazen trailer or someone new occupying it.

    The program was somewhat different. Group qualifying as usual, but the fast qualifier would start on the pole of his heat. Four heats and two B mains would determine the 20 lucky ones.

    The first heat was about as good as it gets. Positions changed multiple times most every lap. Almost lost in the shuffle was winner Dave Darland, who took the lead on the second lap and never looked back. The same was true for second place Scotty Weir. The action was from third through fifth with Tyler Courtney, Chad Boespflug, and Shane Cottle engaged in a series of vicious cuts and slashes at each end of the track. The checkered flag waved with Cottle going to the B. Courtney appeared to be unhappy with Boespflug post-race. It happens.

    The second heat was not quite as tense as Chris Windom benefited from C. J. Leary's misfortune. Leary smoked and stopped after a lap had been completed, victim of a fried engine. Tony Dimattia was second with Ted Hines coming from ninth to take third. Jaden Rogers held off BOSS champ Dustin Smith to grab fourth.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. led all the way in the third heat to see Tom Hansing's checkered flag first. Jaret Andretti won the silver medal and Tyler Hewitt was third. Colton Cottle also made it to the feature.

    More craziness came with the fourth heat when David Hair entered turn three too high, caught the wall, and flipped hard after a lap had been completed. David walked away, no doubt not liking the loud bells ringing in his head. Kyle Cummins checked out and had nearly a half lap lead when Gabe Griffith smacked the tire in turn four. The tire resembled a salmon swimming upstream as it rolled up the track. Cummins won, trailed by Josh Spencer, Michael Koontz, and Steve Thomas.

    There were 23 midgets throughout the pits. They wouldn’t bother with a B. Heat winners were Shane Cottle Justin Peck and Zeb Wise.

    It was impressive that all 14 heats for all cars were completed at 9:05 p.m.

    Only the top two of each sprint B would transfer to the show. Shane Cottle won the first with Matt Goodnight coming from seventh to commandeer second. Travis Hery romped in the second last chance affair with Lee Underwood finishing second.

    After the two B mains each for sprints and the Thunder Cars, along with a break for some minor track massaging, it was a little after 10 when the cars lined up, led by the front row of Darland and Windom. Looking over the lineup, I wisely concluded that a good bet was the winner coming from the front two rows. I picked Tyler Courtney, who was starting ninth, to be the one who would advance the most. Wrong on both counts.

    At the start, Darland used his familiar turn two launch to leap ahead of Windom and Thomas. Right from the beginning, two cars stood out. First, Courtney had already begun his passing. He marched to the top five by lap three. That was no surprise and neither should anyone have been surprised at Shane Cottle’s storming from B Main territory. By the fourth lap, he found himself in sixth after starting 17th.

    Darland built up a several car lengths lead by the ninth lap, when the yellow waved for a Ted Hines spin. The “whoosh” sound was the crowd exhaling from nine typical green flag laps at Kokomo. Darland led Thomas, Windom, Courtney, Andretti, S. Cottle, Cummins, Weir, C. Cottle, and Boespflug.

    Courtney went to work on the re-start. He passed Windom a lap later. A lap after that it was KT’s turn to watch helplessly as Courtney went by. Sunshine still had over half the race to catch Darland. I cheerfully confess that I didn’t think Courtney would catch Dave Darland, let alone pass him, on “his” track. But lap after lap, without the benefit of a yellow flag, the kid did just that. Slowly but surely, he inched a bit closer. Once or twice, Dave cleared lapped traffic easier, but the Indianapolis resident never gave up.

    Almost suddenly, the white flag came out. For Courtney, it was time. Even at a still young age, he knew what he had to do to pass the leader. Perhaps even Tyler couldn’t say when he decided to make his move, but one thing he knew: Giving up was not an option. Win or lose, he felt compelled to make the effort.

    Sure enough, Tom Hansing was waiting with the checkered flag. Neither Tom nor the flag could know who would arrive there first. Diving low under Darland coming out of turn four, Courtney gave it all he had. Just about 20 feet from the line, the pass was made, and Courtney had done what could seem impossible, beat Dave Darland not on the last lap, but within a tiny space of several…inches.

    Almost forgotten was Shane Cottle. He was easily the hardest of chargers, getting every bit of horsepower of Paul Hazen’s cannon, going from 17th to third. Windom hung around the top five for the whole race, ending up fourth while Thomas did the same in taking fifth.

    Andretti was sixth, followed by Weir, Cummins, Hewitt, and Boespflug. My pre-race predictions were wrong as usual. Someone outside the first two rows won and Cottle, not Courtney, was the hard charger.

    Rather than mosey to the pits, I saw Cottle, one of three double dippers, win the midget feature over Gage Walker, who made a late pass of another with two rides, Windom, to take second. Landon Simon made his own late pass of Jerry Coons Jr. to seize fourth at the end. The second five was Justin Peck, Chett Gerkhe, Zeb Wise (who recovered from a mid-race spin), Kyle Simon, and Nick Speidel.

    That was it for me. With the usual feeling of relief and bittersweet, I ambled to the little white truck and headed south, saying good-by to one of my personal treasures. There was only one more race on my 2017 schedule and, as this is written, I’ll be heading further south to Tri-State/Haubstadt in a few minutes to watch these guys go in circles one more time.

    Politely denying the Weinstein brothers’ invitation to party, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Gamechangers

    It may not happen every day, but we’ve all had days when one incident either made or ruined your day. We have all seen races like that as well. An incident benefits some and hurts others. It’s not, in my opinion, productive to just call it bad luck. Just because an opportunity falls into your hands doesn’t mean that you’re automatically going to take advantage of it. You still must act upon that opportunity, er—gamechanger. That’s exactly what Kevin Thomas Jr. did on a warm Saturday night at the Terre Haute Action Track as USAC sprints made their final appearance in the Midwest this year one to remember and appreciate. He took the lead from Chase Stockon on the 28th lap of the 30 lap feature and won the Tony Hulman/Don Smith Classic. It was KT’s fifth USAC feature win of 2017, not counting a non-point special event at Kokomo.

    Trackside Enterprises and USAC made a great decision to have a pit party before the evening’s races. Fans were allowed to roam the pits, get autographs, chat up drivers and generally get a closer look at the behind the scene activities. My grandson was all over this, securing 31 autographs, which happened to be the number of sprint cars in the pits, with several signing twice.

    Qualifying produced few surprises. Dave Darland went out early and his 19.895 lap held up despite some good efforts. Unfortunately, Jon Stanbrough’s last USAC/TH appearance as a full time racer went bad quickly when he broke in hot laps. Shane Cottle was in a one off appearance in Mike Dutcher’s car while Arizona’s Stevie Sussex was in a car owned by Rick Pollock.

    Darland made a second statement in the first heat as he moved from sixth to the lead on the third lap and stayed there. C.J. Leary was second and Chase Stockon grabbed third from Shane Cottle on the last lap.

    Brady Bacon won the second heat, leading Kevin Thomas Jr. to the line. Jarett Andretti was third and Shane Cottle made a late pass of Aric Gentry to take fourth.

    While the others fought for every other position, pole sitter Kyle Robbins won the third heat. Robert Ballou broke free of the pack to close on the leader, but settling for second. Kyle Cummins was third and USAC sprint points leader Justin Grant took fourth.

    Tyler Courtney went from third to first on the opening lap and won the fourth heat. Chris Windom was second. Josh Hodges was third and Chad Boespflug annexed fourth.

    Things got a little crazy in the B Main. Pole man Tyler Hewitt spun in turn two and Chet Williams, with no place to go, flipped and landed on all fours. The Michigan lawman, Joe Bares, led all the way to take the first of six remaining spots in the feature. My fellow native of the Athens of the Prairie, Joss Moffatt, was second. Jerry Coons Jr. was third after his involvement in the first lap fracas sent him to the back. Stevie Sussex finished fourth. Local boy Brandon Mattox took fifth and Dylan Shaw had a remarkable end of the race, coming from his 14th/last starting spot to edge Isaac Chapple and take sixth.

    With everyone up front retaining their qualifying times, the front row was Andretti and Stockon. These two ran one/two for the first six laps before a yellow flag waved for Robert Ballou’s slowing car. It appeared to be a front end problem and the Madman was done.

    Stockon and Andretti led Thomas, Grant, Windom, Cottle, Darland, Bacon, Courtney, and Leary. Jarett bobbled on the start and was shuffled back as Thomas took the second spot. Stockon had built a good sized lead for the laps leading up to his catching lapped traffic near the halfway mark. But Thomas was cutting away at the lead, seemingly inch by inch. A bit further back in the pack, both Darland and Bacon were on the move. DD had dropped as low as seventh at the start, but began steadily moving forward, running fourth at the crossed flags. He passed Windom for third on lap 20 and this was shaping up to be a three way fight for the lead, with Windom and Bacon not too far back.

    It was slide job time and Thomas began with an unsuccessful slider for the lead. Darland added insult to injury as he passed KT for second. The Peoples’ Champ had been strong much of the night and now looked to have a great chance to ring up his first USAC win of the year. It seemed like Stockon, while hanging tough, could be had.

    We’ll never know because the race’s turning point/gamechanger arrived on the 25th lap with Dylan Shaw catching the turn four wall and flipped. Thus ended an up and down night for the young man. After a mechanical issue had kept him from turning a qualifying lap, he tagged the B and eked his way into the feature. Shaw spent a good part of the race getting laps and trying to stay out of the leaders’ way, which was what he was doing when he got too high in turn four and smacked the wall.

    The unintended consequence of all this was a late mad dash up front. Stockon led Darland, Thomas, and Windom when the final green waved. An abundance of slide jobs left Thomas taking over a lap before the white flag. Windom was also a player in this, sliding his way to second. Stockon salvaged third and had to be wondering what might have been. Bacon came on strong at the end to edge Darland for fourth, taking the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger prize after starting 13th. Courtney, Grant, Leary, Cummins, and Coons were six through ten.

    The winner surely felt some redemption for his last THAT race, where he ran out of fuel while leading.

    With such a large crowd and the fairly early hour, we made our way to the start/finish line to observe the post-race routines. The grandson patiently waited to get some time with the winner and had his picture taken, complete with a Hoosier Tire headband to wear. From there we walked to the pits to see what was there. Again, after waiting patiently, he helped Joe Bares and crew push their car into the hauler. If that wasn’t enough, he had yet another encounter with the winner (his third of the night), guiding the race winning car into their hauler.

    Spending my post-race time watching this boy entrusted to my care, I couldn’t help but enjoy the fact that this kid, along with too few others, gets to interact with his heroes on a personal level. He has seen plenty of other athletes on TV, but has chatted with everyone from Dave Darland to Dave Gross. He’s far from the only kid to visit the pits routinely, and ideally it compensates for the things he doesn’t have.

    It reminded me of TV preachers, strangely enough. Too many of them have the fame, money, and attention while the local preacher struggles to reach people with something closer to the real deal. When an avid TV watcher experiences one of life’s bad breaks, his TV preacher isn’t going to interrupt his busy schedule to pay a visit.

    It is not unlike the kid who writes a note to his favorite athlete for an autograph as opposed to the kid who can walk right up to his favorite athlete and get an autograph, a high five, or sit behind the wheel and dream.

    Who knows, a little attention to a kid or anyone else might be a gamechanger.

    Trying not to hit the ladder that someone left on the track, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Insanity Revisited

    Saturday, October 7, was a mild and windy day. One didn’t have to be Jim Cantore to see that the wind might bring some precipitation to the area. The forecast for much of Indiana was at least a 50% chance of rain over the state, including Putnam County, in the western part of Indiana, midway between Terre Haute and Indianapolis. Nevertheless, a few dozen race teams, two race tracks and staff, as well as several hundred fans ignored all predictions of rain and tried mightily to have some racin’ for all concerned. As far as Saturday night was concerned, it wasn’t going to happen.

    I’m not ashamed to admit that I was one of these people who abandoned common sense and drove the 75 miles northwest to the Lincoln Park Speedway, in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. At least I wasn’t alone as 23 sprints were among the 75 cars in the pits.

    Sure, it was cloudy and the radar showed rain over in Illinois. But there were two promoters also gripped by the desire to have races at their tracks. Tommy Helfrich at Tri-State and Joe Spiker at LPS were determined and gave it their best shot. I was along for the ride.

    Of note among the 23 were Jon Stanbrough, Jeff Bland, J.J. Hughes, Shane Cockrum and USAC regular Isaac Chapple. Brian VanMeveren, from St. Paul, Minnesota, was set to make his first appearance at Lincoln Park. Matt Cooley, a BOSS campaigner, was parked in the southeast corner of the pits.

    The first heat had a ragged beginning before the rains came. Two yellows waved before Brian Hodde had to wave a wet red flag. The first yellow came out when there was a near pileup coming to the green with Chapple and Cooley caught up in it. Then Tony DiMattia spun and Shane Cockrum found himself with a close up view of the billboards nearest turn four. The Jamie Paul car was hauled off on a wrecker and Mr. Paul found himself with a car in need of repairs.

    As the wrecker exited the scene, car on hook, those remaining circled the track under the yellow before the red waved. Thus ended the night’s on track action. The wind suddenly shifted and it was a matter of seconds before the drizzle arrived, followed by a hard rain. Those few in the bleachers found dry places. I joined a small group under the open air pole barn in the pits, all of us huddled on the east end of the building with the rain and win coming from the west.

    The rain eased up a little within 15 minutes, but the damage was done. The track was lost and a small river of water ran through the westernmost driveway of the pits.

    I headed for the little truck and, naturally, got my shoes, socks and feet wet. I texted my wife and could imagine her thinking things like, “You knew there was a good chance of rain, so…” At the same time, she knew why I went. It was pretty much the same reason everyone else, from the most insignificant observer (with a wet notebook, shoes, socks, and feet) to Joe Spiker himself had traveled to the oval about halfway between Terre Haute and Indianapolis. Put simply and bluntly, we were all insane.

    Before anyone becomes overly critical about people who go to races that have a good chance of being rained out, allow me to suggest that maybe we all should have some things that we love, cherish, and appreciate that will cause others to shake their heads. There are plenty worse activities that the assembled “throng” could have been pursuing—anything from bank robbing to watching endless reruns on the boob tube (even I’ve been known to do that).

     I’m suggesting that we have a need for something that can entertain and, ideally, educate at the same time. For me, this need is usually fulfilled at a race track, with race cars and the people who drive them, work one them, watch them, push them to get them started, and wave flags at them. For you, it may be the opera, ballet, or even watching Andy Griffith Show reruns, and all of those are great. All the above are or can be interesting in their own way.

    The opera buff may scoff at we unkempt rednecks going to a race that has little chance of happening due to the weather, but the same opera buff may, in fact, do the same, braving the elements to travel to see a new production of “The Marriage of Figaro” or “Carmen.” Now, who’s crazy?

    If I didn’t know any better, I’d say we all are.

    Gently suggesting to Tom Cruise that he might find a better source of entertainment and education than Scientology, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: An Atonement of Sorts

    After the USAC sprint feature at Montpelier on Friday night, Kevin Thomas Jr. was not happy. Both he and Chris Windom had been snookered by C.J. Leary on the last lap, which saw Leary taking his second straight USAC feature and his fifth of the year. Thomas was quoted as saying, “I’ll go faster tomorrow.” It can be said that, come Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, KT did exactly that, leading all 30 laps to take his fifth USAC win of the year and two of the last four.

    I had mixed emotions about this, the last Lawrenceburg race of 2017. My navigator was more concerned about having some fun. Who was I to rain on his parade? Fatigue is a factor, but late season melancholy is a reality each year. Thankfully, I don’t dwell on it. 

    24 was the car count, a bit low, but plenty of good cars were on hand. The only thing close to a surprise was Lawrenceburg/BOSS standout Shawn Westerfeld sitting in Mike Dutcher’s Tin Lizzie. There wasn’t much mud to scrape, so Karston settled for a cheeseburger instead.

    Aric Gentry might have preferred an overcooked cheeseburger more than flipping in hot laps. Aric and the crew did some serious thrashing and he would re-appear for the feature.

    Dave Darland went out first and set fast time with a 14.016 lap. The track may have faded a bit, but Robert Ballou might have demurred. Going out 20th of the 22 that took time, Ballou was sixth fastest and would find himself on the pole come feature time.

    There were three heats tonight, with five keeping their times. Pole sitter Tyler Courtney led all the way to win the first heat. Joss Moffatt was second with Dave Darland third. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges started and finished fourth. C.J. Leary passed Shawn Westerfeld on the white flag lap to take fifth.

    Chase Stockon held off Nick Bilbee to win the second heat. Justin Grant was third and Chris Windom passed pole sitter J.J. Hughes midway through the race to finish fourth. Stockon hit the hump un turn one at an awkward angle and bounced a time or two on the first lap. Kyle Robbins tried to avoid what looked like a sure spin and spun himself. Later, Jerry Coons Jr. stopped in turn four to bring out a second caution.

    Isaac Chapple used his front row starting spot to win the third heat with Chad Boespflug not far behind in second. Robert Ballou was third and Brady Bacon started and finished fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. didn’t give any hints that he would be so fast later as he finished fifth.

    Ballou and Grant, a pair of California natives, occupied the front row with Leary and Thomas in the second row. The green flag waved and Thomas charged to the front immediately, taking the lead by sweeping around the top of turn two on the first lap. The race’s first yellow came out a lap later when Chad Boespflug was squeezed into the front straight wall with a sick looking front end, minus both tires.

    Thomas led Grant, Ballou, Leary, and Darland to the second waving of the green. Leary tried to put a slider on Ballou for third and caromed off Robert’s car instead. Leary went on to battle with Grant and Darland for second. Ballou fell to sixth for the time being.

    Eight laps were done when Darland passed Grant for second. Leary pressed the California native for third. Thomas hadn’t checked out, but had a comparatively comfortable lead at this point. Darland’s quality run ended on the 13th lap when he stopped in turn three after closing the gap on the leader. The reported problem was a broken U-joint. Thomas now led Grant, Leary, Ballou, Windom, Hodges, Courtney, Bacon, Bilbee, and Moffatt.

    Thomas maintained control of the race as Leary did his best to make things interesting when he passed Grant for second on lap 19. A bit further back, Tyler Courtney was on the move. After the lap 13 re-start, he was seventh. As the leaders approached lapped traffic with five laps to go, Courtney had entered the top five. The lapped traffic favored Leary as the Hoosier native closed the gap on Thomas with the laps winding down.

    But it wasn’t happening. Thomas took the win, his 16th USAC victory. Leary was second, a half second behind. Grant was third and Ballou salvaged fourth. Courtney was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, coming from 16th to fifth. Bacon passed Windom for sixth late in the race. Hodges, who won this race a year ago, was eighth. Coons came from 20th to finish ninth in the Krockenberger carriage. Stanbrough also made his way forward, taking tenth after starting 19th.

    Grant had dealt with adversity on Friday at Montpelier and Windom had made a significant gain in the points race. Justin made up some of the ground at the ‘burg, now leading by 45 points as the gypsy train heads west.

    The feature was over at a reasonable time, 9:12.

    KT added $10K to his piggy bank. It beat the stress he added to his plate the night before.

    So pleased that USAC isn’t re-setting the points as they head West, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Knowing and Going Anyway

    Suppose you and I, race fans, decide to go to a race track, one that we’ve visited many times before. Having been there before, we should know what to expect, correct? Suppose we show up and, sure enough, things are they have usually been in the past. Then, as we go home in the wee hours of the morning, we bitch, gripe and moan about what we’ve seen. Worse than that even, instead of praising the likes of Spencer Bayston, C.J. Leary, Brady Bacon, and Tyler Courtney, we talked more about the very things that often have been part of our Eldora Speedway experience. Let us pause for a moment and appreciate the efforts of the four mentioned, winners of the USAC Midget, USAC Sprint, All-Stars Sprint, and USAS Silver Crown main events at the 36th Annual running of the Four Crown Nationals at Eldora.

    Yes, it gets a little dusty. Yes, what cushion there is resides for most of the night right by the imposing walls in all four turns. Yes, often it runs late. And yes, for many of us, it’s a long drive; in my case, it’s close to 140 miles, usually my longest trip of the year. After all this, there is no guarantee that we’ll enjoy a great night of racing, yet we go anyway We all endure some form of discomfort to enjoy something that matters to us. None of the above deter me from dealing with various and sundry discomforts. Despite the above, on Saturday night, we found one of the biggest crowds for a Four Crown in some time.

    The pits were jammed and then some. 120 cars for the four divisions signed the guest book. The All-Stars, as expected, rang up 43 cars. 36 USAC sprints, 24 Silver Crowns, and 18 Midgets were good to go. Most of the Silver Crown teams were parked past the gate at the turn three entrance.

    All too often, people complain, with occasional justification, that the track goes away after so many cars qualify. Not tonight. Fast qualifier Brady Bacon was the 23rd to go out. C.J. Leary went out 27th and that didn’t hinder him from turning the fourth quickest time. Then there was Robert Ballou, who was last to take a couple of laps and was sixth quick.

    An unplanned addition to the opening ceremonies was an errant rabbit. Elmer Fudd’s services weren’t needed as the unruly beast flirted with the cushion hear the turn three gate before darting to the gate—and freedom.

    The USAC sprints ran their heat races first and Brady Bacon executed a perfect last lap pass to win the first with Isaac Chapple finishing second. Aric Gentry was third and Chase Stockon took the last chair.

    Tyler Courtney swept around the top to take and keep the lead in the second heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. placed and Robert Ballou took the show spot as he passed Dave Darland on the last lap. Dave might not have minded too much; he was in the feature.

    Thomas Meseraull was the second straight heat winner to start second and win. Shane Cottle was runner-up and Dallas Hewitt started and finished third. Justin Grant was fourth.

    Chris Windom edged C.J. Leary to win the fourth heat. Chad Boespflug waited until the last lap to pass the ageless Bill Rose for third.

    The midgets’ first of two heats saw pole sitter Dave Darland lead all eight laps with Tyler Courtney second. Justin Grant inadvertently pushed Brady Bacon to the front stretch wall, with disaster averted. They still finished third and fourth. Tanner Thorson was fifth.

    The second heat began with a wicked series of flips courtesy of Rico Abreu. He smacked the wall in turn one and flipped all the way to the apex of turns one and two. Rico climbed out of the car. When action resumed, Shane Golobic won from the pole with Spencer Bayston coming from seventh to take second. Chad Boat came from last to grab third after a last lap pass of Tyler Thomas. Jerry Coons Jr. started and finished fifth.

    Joey Saldana won the first of four All-Stars heats with T.J. Foos second. Cole Duncan was third and Ian Madsen came in fourth. Gary Taylor used a last lap pass to take fifth, the last available position, from Todd Kane.

    Chad Kemenah dominated the second heat with Brian Nuckles finishing second. Caleb Helms, John Garvin, and Shawn Dancer all made big plans for the feature.

    Brady Bacon, the only racer who was racing in all four divisions, won the third heat from the pole. Brandon Wimmer was second. Lee Jacobs took the bronze medal. Hunter Schuerenberg annexed fourth and Steve Buckwalter was fifth.

    Travis Philo led all the way to win the fourth heat over Max Stambaugh, Dan McCarron, Brandon Matus, and Rob Chaney, who knows Eldora fairly well.

    After all ten heats were run, it was time for Silver Crown time trials. 2017 USAC Silver Crown Champion Kody Swanson set fast time, a 19.570 lap. Joss Moffatt and Austin Nemire fared less well. Moffatt found the turn four wall with unhappy results. Nemire did the same in turn one, almost the same spot where he had parked his sprinter during qualifications. Patrick Bruns could have said, “Yeah? That’s nuthin’. I hit the first turn wall and flipped. Hard.” Patrick suffered a broken foot.

    Brady Bacon won the All-Stars’ dash and surely knew that Joey Saldana was not far behind. Bryan Nuckles was third. Immediately following, Cap Henry won the strong B, as Caleb Armstrong, Stuart Brubaker, and the ageless (over 50) Todd Kane all made ready for the feature. All four would advance significantly in the feature.

    Up next was the USAC semi, a relatively tame affair by Eldora standards. Scotty Weir took the lead midway through and won, leading Kody Swanson, Nick Bilbee, Matt Westfall, pole sitter Kyle Cummins, and Tyler Thomas, who traded positions with Josh Hodges for the last spot multiple times. Hodges took a provisional.

    The law firm of Bayston and Boat were the front row for the Midget feature. Bayston jumped out to the lead, but the yellow came out quickly for Tyler Courtney, who stopped while on track. Tyler was singing the blues, but would change his tune much later.

    Bayston controlled the re-start and proceeded to check out—until a yellow waved for Justin Grant, who had an unfortunate encounter with the wall on the 12th lap while running second. Like his teammate, Sunshine, Grant was done.

    On this re-start, Bayston maintained his grip on the lead, but second place Dave Darland was soon under attack as first Shane Golobic and then Brady Bacon worked their way around the People’s Champ. Using the low line, Bacon closed on Golobic, but to no avail. Behind the podium boys, Darland held onto fourth and Tanner Thorson was fifth.

    Holly Shelton moved from 14th to sixth.

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    USAC Sprints were next on the card; it was 11:40. I was pleasantly surprised.

    Grant, one of several doing triple duty, roared from fourth to the lead on the first lap, to the dismay of front row occupants Ballou and Stockon. That was a very brief shining moment for the still new papa as Leary took over on the second lap and never looked back.

    Much of the race featured Bacon, again passing cars and doing his best to hound the leader in the later stages after getting around Grant in the first half of the 30 lapper. As he did in the Midget feature, the Oklahoma native closed the gap, but couldn’t quite grab the prize. He’d have to wait until the next race for that.

    Behind Leary and Bacon was Ballou, who had been the pole sitter and drifted back to sixth at one point. The Mad Man was quite vocal in his opinion of the track. Kevin Thomas Jr. came on late to take fourth with Grant taking fifth. Weir, Windom, Meseraull (who also voiced his concerns about the track), Stockon, and Westfall were the rest of the top ten.

    Westfall, who can claim Eldora as his home track (about 30 miles away) and runs well there, was the KSE Racing Products/Larry Rice Performance Hard Charger, coming from 21st to tenth.

     

    Third in line would be the All-Stars. Brady Bacon was slowed by a couple of yellows and a red flag when T.J. Foos flipped on lap 19. Bacon led all 30 laps and missed out on a lot of fighting for position behind him. After trading places a time or two with Max Stambaugh, Bryan Nuckles was second with Mad Max settling for third. Third generation racer Lee Jacobs was fourth after starting 11th. Hunter Schuerenberg came from 13th to fifth. Dan McCarren was sixth and started 12th. Ian Madsen also advanced, from 14th to seventh. Joey Saldana faded late in the race to eighth. No one moved forward more than Caleb Armstrong, who went from the B to 22nd starter to finish ninth. John Garvin also got into the cat, 16th to tenth.

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The curtain closing Silver Crown series made their appearance, ending the festivities with the traditional 50 lap feature. The clock spoke 12:40 a.m. Not bad.

    Tyler Courtney got the jump on pole sitter Kody Swanson and tried mightily to check out. Dave Darland, reunited with Steve and Carla Phillips, was second and did his best to keep Courtney in sight. Lapped traffic, which appeared on lap 11, did little to bother Courtney. Leary was a stubborn third, holding off Shane Cottle.

    The first yellow waved on the 22nd lap, when Aaron Pierce was sideswiped by Leary inadvertently and ended up by the wall. C.J. remained third behind Courtney and Darland. Windom had assumed fourth and Cottle was fifth.

    Not much changed up front until lap 31 when sixth running Kody Swanson flipped hard in turn one. The Silver Crown champ walked away from a trashed race car. It was still Courtney, Darland, Leary, Windom, and Cottle. On the re-start, Leary stumbled and found himself in sixth with a tire going flat and a DNF on the record a few laps later.

    As laps wound down, Windom replaced Darland as Courtney’s biggest headache. Windom was never farther away than a few car lengths. Cottle also got around Darland to take the third spot on the podium. Dave was fourth with Brady Bacon making one last charge, coming from 18th to fifth to earn the Hard Charger award. The second five was Grant, Schuerenberg, David Byrne, Ballou, and Jerry Coons Jr.

    The clock read a bit after one o’clock. Not bad. After some post-race visiting, I left a little after 1:30, arriving home at 4:15 a.m. It was a lot earlier than last year. 

    It was dusty, the track was dry with the cushion up against the wall. The program ran well past midnight. People, drivers, fans, others, were complaining and for good reason, when you get down to it, despite the fact that many of us knew ahead of time how it would be. And here’s one last thing. Many who complained will come back. Again and again.

    We all are, of course, nuts.

    Taking a picture of Tim Tebow and Colin Kaepernik both kneeling, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ideas and Implementation

    On a wild night which saw too many torn up race cars and a plethora of bad driving decisions, Brady Short and Jeff Wimmenauer prevailed at the Bloomington Speedway’s Fall Sprint Car Double. Short was the sprint victor while Wimmenauer garnered the highest point total for the RaceSavers by two consistent runs. It was the last sprint car program of 2017 for the red clay oval. To add weirdness to melancholy at another season’s end, it was a night where red flags outnumbered the yellow variety. Thankfully, there were no serious injuries.

    Dealing with one of my favorite people, Lesley Prince, one last time, I began my pit wandering by thinking about families. I didn’t walk too far before I found four generations of the Marvel family. Arriving a little later than most others was three generations of the Chambers family. Parked near them was three generations of Babcocks. Up and down pit lane were several two generation teams. I must add that my grandsons are fifth generation Bloomington race attendees; as a child, I remember well heading to the little track in the hills with my father and grandfather (and getting lost somewhere in Monroe County one night on the way home in the early 1960s when the track was out in the boondocks).

    Tonight’s format was different and, in theory, it had potential. But a series of problems made the night a challenge. The car count was a bit light, but things dragged anyway, making for a later than normal evening. But I’ll maintain that a bad night at the races beats a good night most other places.

    In group qualifying, the quickest in each group was exempt from running a qualifying heat. The quick sprint boys were Braxton Cummings, Jeff Bland, Brady Short, and Michael Koontz. Hunter O’Neal won the 15 lapper on a lightning quick surface, with Lee Underwood, Bub Cummings, Billy Cribbs, and Ethan Barrow, the night’s only racer to do double duty, in the top five.

    RaceSaver quick timers were Jeff Wimmenauer, former Super Stocker Terry Arthur, Dakota Jackson and E. Barrow. Andy Bradley won the RaceSavers’ qualifying race. Not far behind was 2017’s Bloomington RaceSaver champion, Ryan Tusing. Trailing were Chris Babcock, John Paynter, and Jared Fox. Tom Busch launched over the turn two bank and landed hard before flipping to the fence bordering the road to the pit entrance. He was taken to the hospital for observation. Alex Nalon flipped in turn two later. Then Rod Hennings and Bob Shutts conducted a double flip in turn three. At this point, it was red flags three, yellow flags zero.

    The sprints showed that they, too, could encounter trouble. In their first of two features, pole sitter Braxton Cummings slowed as the green waved. The yellow lights blinked and were quickly replaced by red as Billy Cribbs flipped coming out of turn two. Jeff Bland held off Brady Short to take the victory. O’Neal was third and Barrow fourth. Rookie Stephen Schnapf was fifth.

    Up next was the RaceSavers’ first feature. Dakota Jackson took the lead at the start and setting a furious pace with Mr. Barrow not far behind. John Paynter brought out the caution with a turn two spin. Jackson controlled the re-start and was looking good until lapped traffic came into play. With two laps to go, he hopped the right rear of Eric Perrott and went over the turn three banks, somehow keeping all four wheels on land. Barrow took the lead and the win from there with Wimmenauer second. Tusing was third, ahead of Bradley and Jared Fox.

    The finale for the 410 sprints was the Brady and Jeff Show, with Mr. Short winning by a car length over his cohort. Both started in the fourth row and both had early leader Travis Welpott in their sights by lap five of 30. Three laps later, Short took the lead just before a Stephen Schnapf spin that brought out a yellow. That was all she wrote as Bland took second immediately after the re-start and tried his hardest to stay close to the leader, both attacking the high banks with a mixture of apprehension and appreciation on my part. Michael Koontz had flipped early off turn four, bringing out the race’s lone red flag.

    Near the end, lapped traffic, a concern in most every race, enabled Bland to close on Short at the end. But Indiana’s fastest auto salesperson came up a bit short and Mr. Short hung on to claim the $4,000 winner’s share. Barrow, O’Neal, and Welpott rounded out the top five.

    The long evening closed out with the RaceSavers’ feature. Here was a problem. With two of the slowest cars on the front row, trouble could well be waiting. Somehow, everyone raced with no problems until lap eight, when A.J. Carlson suffered a bent front end from contact on the backstretch. He slowed going into turn three, then drifted up the track into the path of a group of cars at full speed. A.J. tipped over, bringing out the red.

    Alfred Galedrige had led from the beginning after starting fourth. After the red flag, Galedrige led Brinton Marvel, Jared Fox, Ryan Tusing, and Dakota Jackson. Two laps after the re-start were completed when Marvel and Tusing tangled with Tusing getting upside down in turn two. This brought Wimmenauer to third ahead of Jackson and John Paynter. For the rest of the race, Fox gave Galedrige fits as he hounded the leader’s every move, getting underneath to briefly take the lead at one point.

    There would be one last attempt for Fox to take the lead as Andy Bradley spun on the white flag lap, necessitating a one lap dash. Try as he might, Jared couldn’t quite get it done. Galedrige earned a well deserved win with Fox, Wimmenauer, Jackson, and Paynter, who had started 14th, trailing. By virtue of his consistency, with second and third place finishes, Wimmenauer took home the winner’s portion.

    The time was almost midnight, late for Bloomington. It had been a frustrating night for all concerned. But there is hope that other race nights will be better. We need that pie in the sky to keep going. And the Bloomington Speedway has been doing just that since the Roaring 20s. Once again, good ideas and good implementation will prevail—and a treasured bullring will flourish.

    Not caring much who does or doesn’t take a knee as long as the Colts win, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: He Hustles Hard For His Money

    After the previous night’s headaches that probably had him mumbling to himself, Kevin Thomas Jr. fought off a late race challenge from Kyle Cummins and won the 40 lap Haubstadt Hustler by the miniscule margin of .053 seconds at the Tri-State Speedway. Thomas walked away with $12,500, by far one of the biggest paydays he has earned.

    My personal ideal car count is 32. I can live with less or more, but 32 is about right and that’s how many cars and teams invaded suburban Haubstadt, Indiana. Many of USAC’s regulars and semi-regulars, along with several MSCS teams, had that lean and hungry look.

    Group qualifying was the order of the day. Brandon Mattox, Chad Boespflug, Chase Stockon, and Kyle Cummins were the fastest in their groups with Cummins picking up extra cash for being the fastest.

    Without exception, all four heats were lightning fast. Passing was an effort and a major accomplishment when done. Pole sitter Thomas Meseraull won the first heat. Donnie Brackett had his hands full in keeping Josh Hodges behind him. Jon Stanbrough made a late pass on Brandon Mattox to take fourth and lock up a spot in the show.

    Chet Williams was impressive as he ran away with the second heat win, a harbinger of things to come. C. J. Leary grabbed second with Isaac Chapple third. After a mechanical problem kept him from qualifying, Tyler Courtney beat out Chad Boespflug for the last spot after starting on the tail. Brian Karraker flipped into the billboards in turn two, with the car lodged between the wall and the billboard. He walked away.

    Second row starters Kevin Thomas Jr. and Chase Stockon finished one/two in the third heat. Aric Gentry held on to earn third. Dakota Jackson had a most impressive heat race run as he came from eighth to fourth, sending no less than Dave Darland to the B.

    Kyle Cummins’ first lap of his heat, the fourth, was the most impressive lap. All he did was pass Shane Cottle, Justin Grant, and Robert Ballou to take the lead and disappear. Grant was second and Cottle traded positions with Chris Windom a time or two before taking third.

    The B main lineup looked a lot like a Sprint Week lineup. Chad Boespflug had Robert Ballou hounding him all the way before taking the win. Behind Ballou was Carson Short in third. Dave Darland was fourth and Brady Short came from 11th to finish fifth. Brandon Mattox fended off threats from first Brady Bacon and then Scotty Weir to make the feature. Bacon used a provisional, as did Kendall Ruble

    At 9:20 the field of 24 circled the track with Leary and Brackett on the front row. Several hot dogs were starting from the seventh row on back; this promised to be a feast of fast cars racing for the Hard Charger award. The green waved and things go crazy right away. Go figure. Brackett did a half spin, collected Hodges, and both motored away. Leary had led at the green, but that lasted a few seconds as he stopped in turn two after his car jumped out of gear. Somehow, everyone missed him and the boys would try again.

    For the second attempt at a start, Cummins inherited the pole and, given his heat race performance, one could be forgiven for thinking that this might be a runaway. No way. Cummins jumped out to the lead before the race’s second yellow waved for a Brady Short/Kendall Ruble meeting in turn four on the second lap. Both re-started. The top five was Cummins, Thomas, Williams, Meseraull, and Brackett.

    Cummins led at the re-start, but Thomas was determined and coming out of turn two made the pass to lead lap four. It was like some guy tugging on Superman’s cape. Somewhat surprisingly, he began to open some distance between him and Cummins. By lap eight lapped traffic became a factor. Cummins tried to close the gap, but couldn’t just yet. The third caution light blinked for Shane Cottle, who stopped in turn one. Behind the Dynamic Duo were Meseraull, Williams, Hodges, Courtney, Windom, Brackett, Stockon, and Grant.

    The top five settled in as the race moved to the last half of the 40 laps. While most were working around the top, Windom opted to try the bottom with modest results. Again, a yellow came out as the leaders approached lapped traffic. Jon Stanbrough spun in turn four on the 24th lap. Courtney had taken fifth and Windom was sixth. Those two were the first of the guys who started back in the pack to move forward.

    The order up front hadn’t changed when yellow number five waved as Dakota Jackson spun in turn four on lap 27. But the second half of the top ten was dominated by guys who had passed quite a few cars. Now behind Windom was Boespflug, Ballou, Brackett, and B. Short, who was not done passing people.

    Nine laps were completed when the yellow waved for the sixth time. Dave Darland had a flat right rear. The top five, Thomas, Cummins, Meseraull, Williams, and Courtney, had not changed. With four more laps to go, I refused to believe that this order would stay the same. I figured that the late race craziness at Terre Haute would re-appear at Tri-State.

    I was wrong about the finishing order, but right about the craziness. On the 38th lap, the yellow lights, weary from overwork, blinked again. A four car scrimmage in turn four left Hodges, Brackett, Chapple, and Stockon all pointed in various directions. One could understand if KT’s stomach was churning. He had survived several re-starts, swatting away all challenges by Cummins. Could he do it again?

    The green waved and Cummins immediately attacked, diving low in turn one and taking the lead for a second or two before Thomas grabbed it back by diving under coming out of two. He took the white flag and Cummins wasn’t close enough to try a slider in turn one. But he slid KT cleanly going into turn three of the last lap. It worked, but again, Thomas was ready. He dove low coming out of four and the two were side by side as the checkered waved. By a teeny margin Thomas had prevailed.

    In post-race comments, Thomas said that he nearly ran out of fuel for the second consecutive night. Sure enough, buying a larger fuel tank is at the top of the Kevin Thomas Jr. To-Do List this week before Eldora.

    The top five stayed the same. Thomas and Cummins were followed by TMez, almost forgotten in the late race excitement. But the best run that few noticed was that of Chet Williams, who occupied fourth spot much of the race, unfazed by fifth place Tyler Courtney’s repeated attempts to pass. For his part, Sunshine came from 14th to fifth, outstanding when one considered his difficult beginning. Windom did his fair share of passing, 16th to sixth. But the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger dollars went to Brady Short, 21st to seventh. Robert Ballou’s run from 18th ended with the Madman eighth. C.J. Leary came back from early misfortune to finish ninth, the unofficial hard charger. Justin Grant was tenth and stands 70 points ahead of Windom in the points race.

    It was the second consecutive race at Haubstadt that featured a last lap encounter between Thomas and Cummins. Kyle had passed KT in July to close out Sprint Week.

    Thomas and Courtney have combined to win five of the last seven USAC sprint car features.

    Among the very first to greet the winner with a handshake and a hug was…the guy he beat. Classy? Sho’ thing.

    In my opinion, the group qualifying format seemed to favor the last of the four groups. But one couldn’t deny that it made things interesting in the feature.

    The Four Crown is right around the corner. Time is flying, or if you prefer, hustling.

    Unnerved by a stopped ambulance in the middle of I-465, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Man Standing

    Chris Windom played the starring role on a warm Hoosier night at the Terre Haute Action Track as he avoided trouble all around and prevailed at the end of the Jim Hurtubise Classic. It was his third straight victory at the Action Track.

    There was the opportunity to arrive early and watch the proceedings come to life. Things would build to a crescendo, but it happened slowly. Haulers full of race cars and the accessories pulled easily into parking spaces. Those gathered had and took the time to chat. The subject wasn’t always about racing; people would find that they more in common than racing. It was and is a time to meet new people or get to know others better. Things began to get serious when the drivers’ meeting commenced a bit past six p.m.

    The half mile dirt oval held up well as Robert Ballou went out 18th of 27 and set fast time with a 20.477. Brady Bacon had a sick sounding motor as he qualified an uncharacteristic 22nd quick.

    Windom won the first heat by a healthy margin over Jon Stanbrough, who had his hands full dealing with third place Robert Ballou. Carson Short and Scotty Weir both moved on to the feature.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. was equally impressive in winning the second heat with pole sitter Tyler Courtney finishing second. Shane Cottle was third. C. J. Leary and Aaron Farney made sure that USAC Sprints point leader Justin Grant went to the B.

    Chase Stockon came from his second row starting position to grab the lead on the first lap and never give it up. Brady Bacon, mechanical miseries no more, advanced from ninth to second. Chad Boespflug, Dave Darland, and pole sitter Aric Gentry all secured their feature appearance.

    After some adjustments made between races, Grant ran away with the B main win, with the top seven transferring. Josh Hodges, Jarett Andretti, Mario Clouser, Isaac Chapple (from ninth), J. J. Hughes, and Kyle Robbins all prepared to race one more time.

    Thomas and Weir led the gang of 22 to Tom Hansing’s green flag just before 9:30. KT jumped out to an early lead and sailed off to the high groove, up by the wall. He led Weir and Farney as the first lap was completed. Robert Ballou was on the move early on. From sixth, he was already fourth by the second lap. Two circuits later, he was third. A lap after that found the California native in second, as Thomas had checked out to a near straightaway lead.

    The race’s first yellow waved when Gentry stopped on the track on the 11th lap. Thomas lost his big lead, and led Ballou, Farney, Windom, Weir, Boespflug, Grant, Darland, Stockon, and Andretti. Everyone took to the high road and Windom passed Farney on lap 12. The top five was the same for several laps with Thomas, Ballou, Windom, Farney, and Boespflug setting the pace as lapped traffic came into play around the 19th lap. Thomas had some trouble getting away from Ballou until the lappers gave KT very little resistance. On the 24th round, Farney returned the favor and passed Windom for third.

    Thomas had a decent lead on Ballou when Robert’s right rear tire shredded on lap 26. Thomas now led Farney, Windom, Boespflug, Grant, Tyler Courtney, Stockon, Bacon, Weir, and Cottle. A lap wasn’t completed as Isaac Chapple brought out the race’s third yellow when he stopped in turn two. On this re-start, Windom got around both Farney and Thomas to take the lead a lap later when he made a dive bomb stick on KT in turn three. Near disaster was the call when Thomas and Farney tangled coming out of turn two. They kept going, but Shane Cottle stopped, bringing out the fourth yellow, the third in two laps.

    Windom now controlled the start. KT was second, but things began going south right away for him as he slowed as the green waved and coasted into the pits, apparently out of fuel. Boespflug was second as no yellow waved for KT. Courtney raced under the radar much of the race, coming on at the end to take the final podium spot after starting 16th. Grant was fourth and Farney was credited with fifth after getting tangled up with Justin at the line, then skidding toward turn one before beginning a series of vicious flips that saw him land on the pit wall near turn one. Aaron walked to the ambulance and took a ride to the crash house for observation.

    Stockon came from 12th to sixth. Bacon was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, coming from 22nd to seventh. Weir was eighth and Leary dodged all the drama to take ninth after starting 18th. Darland was tenth.

    Grant led Windom by 82 points as the band of modern day gypsies headed south down U.S. 41 to Haubstadt to race for some extra money on what would surely be a wild Saturday night in southwestern Indiana.

    Thankful that Mr. Holland has not encumbered any of my stories yet, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Racin’ For Your Supper

    Try to imagine that you’re a race car driver who gets the vast majority of his income from racing. Place yourself in the Midwest, Indiana to be exact. You have a family and bills to pay. Good rides are out there, and every so often you get one. But too often you find yourself scrambling for rides. Usually they are good rides, but they are temporary, as in one night only. Imagine the pressure and say hello to Dave Darland. It may be second nature to him, but it can’t be easy. He can’t help if sometimes he makes it look easy. On a near perfect Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Darland capitalized on Shane Cockrum’s misfortune and won the 25 lap feature over Jeff Bland.

    Summer is on the verge of leaving us behind. You might say that summer here has taken the white flag. The afternoon sun was greatly appreciated on this Saturday, but when the sun disappeared in the west, the air had a bit of a chill to it. Autumn beckons, no matter what we wish.

    25 sprints were on hand. Scott Hampton was again in the pits after a long absence. Shane Cockrum had no other obligations and was again in the Jamie Paul effort. Tony Dimattia made an appearance, as did Dakota Jackson.

    Sharp eyed PA man Brad Dickisin noted that some standouts occupied every inside row in the first heat. He was correct as usual. Pole sitter A. J. Hopkins was pressured at the end by third starting Jeff Bland. Brandon Mattox came from fifth to finish third. Shane Cockrum was fourth after starting seventh. Naturally, Koby Barksdale moved from last, ninth, to grab the last available feature transfer spot.

    Tony Dimattia passed Nate McMillen midway through the second heat to win. Bub Cummings started and finished third. The ageless Kent Christian was fourth. Dakota Jackson came from the last row to take fifth from Cole Ketchum on the last lap. Cole was not pleased.

    Pole sitter Dave Darland may have been lonely, but he was certainly not sad as he ran away from the pack to win the third heat. He missed a great battle for second as Jaden Rogers held off Scott Hampton and Brent Beauchamp. Tim Creech II took his brand new car to fifth, passing Josh Cunningham on the last lap.

    Chris Phillips got tired of the huggy pole midway through the B main and scooted up top to take the lead and the win. Josh Cunningham was second with Bub Cummings third. Kyle Robbins was a quiet fourth and Cole Ketchum had an up and down race, finishing fifth. Ketchum brought out the race's second yellow when he spun while trying to pass Cunningham.

    The third yellow of the race waved after a three wide formation didn’t work out. Alex Sipes ended up stopped and in need of a wrecker. But he exited the car and assumed a “what were you thinking?” pose as Eric Burns idled by.

    This is twice in the last three weeks I’ve seen a driver exit his car while cars were circling the track. I like to think that promoters will take note and administer some discipline to the offending party. I understand that emotions run high on the track. We all get emotional at times. That’s part of being human. The problem is what we do with that emotion, in this case anger. I’d like to think that people have learned from the unspeakable tragedy in New York a few years ago. Am I wrong to think that?

    I double checked the time as the A Main lined up. It was 8:43 when Brian Hodde waved the green. Pole sitter Rogers jumped out to the early lead, but Tim Creech II stopped, bringing forth a yellow and a complete re-start. This time outside front row starter McMillen took the lead, but Bland was on the move. On the second lap, he passed Rogers for second. A lap later, the lead was his.

    This lasted until lap six, when Jeff spent unwanted time way above the turn four cushion and lost two positions. One wondered if he was trying to read some of the billboards that border the north end of the track. McMillen regained the lead and would keep it for the next five laps. The “other” 24, namely Shane Cockrum, had been busy passing some good cars after starting the race tenth. By the seventh lap, Cockrum was fifth. He took the lead only three laps later, a lap before the yellow flag waved.

    Cockrum led McMillen, Darland, Beauchamp, Bland, Hampton, Hopkins, Christian, Mattox, and Jackson. On the re-start, Darland passed McMillen for second. Poor Nate found himself fifth a lap later as Beauchamp and Bland passed him. 

    The race’s lone red flag came out when Jaden Rogers flipped in turn four with 15 complete. He walked away from the car under his own power. On this re-start came the race’s turning point. Cockrum’s front end broke and he spun into the turn four infield tire. His race was over and Darland was the new leader. Dave wasn’t home free as Beauchamp, Bland, Hopkins, and McMillen trailed.

    After Cockrum’s misfortune, Darland and most of the frontrunners stayed low—all except Hopkins, who wished to test the cushion. He passed Beauchamp and was challenging Bland for second. But a tire issue led to a spin on the 20th lap and A.J.’s night was over.

    On this final re-start, Darland now led Bland, Beauchamp, McMillen, and Koby Barksdale to the green. The last five laps were relatively tame as DD stuck to the bottom groove through all turns and no one could mount a charge, but Bland did make it close at the end. Beauchamp advanced the most positions, coming from 12th to third. Mattox was up and down, starting seventh, dropping back to ninth at one point, but coming on late to finish fourth. Hampton came from ninth to grab fifth place. McMillen faded to sixth, but it was an impressive run all the same. Barksdale moved from 13th to seventh after running as high as fifth. Jackson also did his share of passing, coming from 14th to eighth. Kent Christian was ninth and Bub Cummings rambled from 18th to tenth.

    The sprint feature concluded at 9:10.

    This was Darland’s seventh feature win of the season. Two of those wins have been in Michael Dutcher’s car. In his post-race interview, Dave said that he and Mike would be teaming up for the two USAC shows this coming weekend at Terre Haute and Tri-State/Haubstadt.

    If he does well at both tracks, it could mean the difference between supper at Rally’s or at the Texas Roadhouse.

    Driving by the Subway to stop at Dunkin’ Donuts, I’m…Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Cat, Meet Mouse

    It seemed like Kody Swanson, like any good feline, never lost sight of his goal of taking the lead and winning the Ted Horn Memorial at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds’ Magic Mile after passing Jeff Swindell with nine laps to go. It was Swanson’s second USAC Silver Crown victory at Du Quoin, seven years after his first.  

    After a brief respite, warm and humid weather returned to the southern part of the Midwest. There were no complaints here as I navigated those limited areas of southern Indiana and Illinois that are flat. My timing was impeccable for change.

    It remained impeccable as I showed up in time to sample some of ace chef Suzy Winings’ cooking. Her race chasing husband Rich was too busy to talk. It didn’t matter as I stuffed myself with enough calories to get me through the next few hours.

    One of the first things I noticed in the pits were the nameplates on several of the 38 entries. They read “Bateman” as in Randy Bateman, who lost his battle with ALS early this year.

    Practice and qualifying were smooth, except for Chris Windom finding a water barrel at the pit entrance in turn four. (No, Tyler Thomas was nowhere near the barrel and no steering wheels were thrown.) The track held up very well during time trials as pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. went out 21st of the 35 that were scheduled to qualify.

    With some free time before the cars were pushed onto the front straight, I confirmed a long held suspicion. USAC Silver Crown racing is, arguably, more popular in Illinois than any other state. That’s true if you checked out drivers’ home towns. 11 of the 34 racers introduced before the race were Illinois natives, including Shane Cottle, who has lived in Indiana for many moons. Seven were Hoosiers, five were from Missouri, and three were from California. Pennsylvania and Arizona both had two native sons starting. North Carolina, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Ohio all had a single representative.

    The green flag waved at 8:29 after the start was delayed for Patrick Lawson’s stalled vehicle. I speculated to myself and good friend Kenny that this might turn into a fuel mileage race as it did a few years ago when Chris Urish was the upset winner. The boys had been running the cushion in both practice and qualifying, the long way around the mile oval probably made it a bit more than a mile. But, far as I know, nary a car ran dry.

    Outside from row starter C.J. Leary beat pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. to the first turn and took the early lead. In the early laps, there was frequent changes of position throughout the field. Leary led Coons, Jeff Swindell, and Kody Swanson after the first lap. Swindell had started sixth and Swanson eighth. Kody wasn’t satisfied with fourth; he kept passing people and took the lead on lap eight. But Leary chose to return the favor the next lap.

    Swindell liked what he was seeing up front and invited himself to the party. The epitome of the wily “old” veteran did some passing of his own and took second from Swanson on the 12th lap. The race’s first yellow flag waved a lap later when Steve Buckwalter slowed on the track. Leary led Swindell, Swanson, Justin Grant, Chris Windom, Coons, Shane Cockrum (two time winner of this race), David Byrne (from 16th), Joey Moughan, and Dave Darland.

    On the re-start, Coons was the picture of rejuvenation as he took to the cushion to pass the bottom feeders, moving from sixth to fourth.  21 laps were complete when Swindell passed Leary coming out of turn two and out-gunning the Greenfield native down the backstretch. For the time being, Swanson was an interested observer. By lap 30 the leader had stretched it out to a half straightaway as Swanson faced a challenge from Windom for third.

    The second yellow came out lap 32 when Keith Burch stopped in turn three. It was still Swindell leading Leary, Swanson, Windom and Coons. Cockrum and Cottle were starting to make noise. On this re-start, Leary found himself under attack by Swanson. But Johnny Petrozelle spun in turn two to bring out the third caution on lap 46. Cockrum had replaced Coons in fifth. Cottle was ninth and another veteran, Brian Tyler, had made the top ten.

    The next green flag segment saw Windom and Cockrum trading positions a time or two. Swanson passed Leary to take second. But Windom regained fourth and began harassing Leary for third. On the 56th lap, Windom dispatched Leary to fourth and established himself as a contender. Lapped traffic was a factor as Windom pressured Swanson, nearly making the pass on lap 62. But the California native was having none of that. Even before the fourth yellow light blinked, Swanson was gaining on Swindell.

    That yellow was brought out on lap 73 by Robert Ballou, who stopped on turn three. Swindell would never be a lonely frontrunner again in this race. He now led Swanson, Windom, Cockrum, Leary, Coons, Grant, Cottle, Tyler, and Casey Shuman. Show and tell time had arrived.

    Sure enough, Windom dove under Swanson in turn one after the re-start to take second. He appeared to be primed to give Swindell some major headaches. Jeff would have headaches later, but not because of Windom, who must have had a migraine as he coasted into the pits on the 81st lap, done for the night.

    Swindell was not home free. The laps were counting down, but Swanson seemed to have new life. He was steadily reeling in the leader and made the pass coming out of turn four on lap 91. The final few laps were not without drama for the new leader, who had to split two lapped cars to keep Swindell behind. If that wasn’t bad enough for the Tennessean, Swindell’s tires appeared to be toasted as Cockrum passed him for second after a brief struggle with four laps to go.

    At the end, it was Swanson, Cockrum (easily the crowd favorite), Swindell, Leary, Coons, Grant, Cottle, Tyler, Mark Smith (a late arrival to the top ten), and Shuman, who was the KSE Products Hard after moving from 24th to tenth.

    It was Swanson’s fourth win of the season.

    One could say that Mr. Swanson is one cool cat.

    Glad that my daughter doesn’t ask, “Daddy, can I go with you?”, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Go When It’s Time to Go

    If you were traveling down a highway and a foreign object was crossing the road, you might have some choices in how to react. Do nothing and hope you don’t hit it. Slow down and let the object pass in front of you. Or you could mash the gas pedal and beat the object to that spot in the road where you’d be home free. That’s kind of what Kyle Cummins did on a beautiful, if slightly chilly, Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway. He was the third of three leaders in a feature that had its fair share of drama. Cummins can now add King of the Non-wings to his list of victories, along with the $3000 to his bank account. All present would run in a feature and the second of these was won by Joe Ligouri, who methodically worked his way forward to take the lead late in the race.

    My frequent companion slept much of the 75 mile trip to LPS, which meant he was raring to go when we arrived and he woke up. The track didn’t have a lot of mud during wheel packing and hot laps, so he kept busy writing down the numbers of the sprinters. The count was a hefty 44, with the usual interesting temporary arrangements. Arizona’s Stevie Sussex was in the Baldwin Brothers’ car for the night. Rob Caho had made another trip from Minnesota. Scott Hampton made a rare appearance. Dave Darland was in the Jamie Paul scooter. The father/son combination of Eric and Harley Burns were on the list. Casey Shuman and Jerry Coons Jr. were in Team Krockenberger cars. Shuman, Coons, Darland, Shane Cottle, and C.J. Leary were all stopping by on their way to Du Quoin on Sunday night.

    Brent Beauchamp won the first heat with Brady Short coming home second. Billy Cribbs took the last musical chair.

    Isaac Chapple held off Jeff Bland to win the second heat. Tim Creech II was third, sending Stevie Sussex to the B.

    Kyle Cummins checked out to take the third heat. Brandon Mattox edged A. J. Hopkins to get the silver medal. This would push Hopkins back to the 15th starting spot for the feature—and make things interesting.

    Pole sitter Shane Cottle led fellow Kokomo resident Dave Darland to the checkered in the fourth heat. Travis Berryhill beat Nate McMillen to the line to nab a feature spot.

    Jerry Coons Jr. took the victory in the fifth heat. Scotty Weir, still in the Gassmobile, was a close second.  Koby Barksdale was a lonely third. Eric Burns flipped in turn three. He exited the car, went back to the pits and led a thrash to get the car ready for the B.

    Another pole sitter, C. J. Leary, won the sixth heat. Casey Shuman was second. J. J. Hughes locked up the 18th starting position in the feature by taking third.

    Scott Hampton won the first of two B's. Kent Christian made a late pass on Mitchell Davis to take the only other spot available.

    Proving to be a master of the high groove, Nate McMillen won the second B over Stevie Sussex, with Jamie Williams set to run the second feature.

    Leary and Coons led 20 more to the green and Coons got the early jump. Leary led Cummins, Cottle, and Beauchamp after the first lap. Cottle went too high in turn four and the order was jumbled as Shane banged wheels with Darland, who bumped into Short while trying to avoid the Paul Hazen owned sprinter. This reshuffling found Beauchamp in third ahead of Cummins and Jeff Bland.

    The yellow waved when Leary spun in turn two with nine laps complete. C.J. must have had some help, seeing that he rejoined the field after pulling alongside of Beauchamp to exchange pleasantries. Jeff Bland suffered more than anyone else as he tried in vain to avoid Leary’s car; his car left the track on the wrecker. The order was Coons, Beauchamp, Cummins, Cottle, Shuman, Darland, Short, Hopkins, Mattox, and Weir. Beauchamp passed Coons to take the lead just before the halfway mark in the 30 lapper. A few laps later, Cummins passed the Arizona native for second. A bit further back, Cottle and Shuman waged a terrific battle for fourth, trading position way too many times to count. Neither could have been pleased to find Hopkins joining in the fight after a few laps.

    Beauchamp led for seven laps before Cummins made the pass on lap 20 in turn two. Two laps later, McMillen brought out a yellow when he spun in turn four. The lineup now was Cummins, Beauchamp, Cottle, Shuman, Hopkins, Coons, Darland, Weir, Short, and Mattox. Cummins would not be seriously threatened for the last eight laps. He was the third of three leaders in a fine effort.

    Beauchamp retained second as Hopkins bounced off Shuman in turn four of the 28th lap to grab third after starting 15th. (This prompted a brief social media dustup, but sanity prevailed quickly.) The Shu had started 12th and settled for fourth. Cottle had his best run in quite some time, taking fifth. Darland was sixth ahead of Weir, Short, Mattox, and Leary, who came back after his spin to pass a few cars.

    Mitchell Davis, a sprint car rookie from Illinois, and Jamie Williams, who doesn’t advertise that he and I are from the same town, led the others to Brian Hodde’s green flag. Davis led the first lap, but Williams grabbed the lead after three circuits (of 20) were completed.

    Sticking to the cushion, Williams could have been forgiven for thinking of seeing the checkered flag first. But Danny Harris stopped on the track with 15 laps complete. In addition, Joe Ligouri had been advancing from his seventh starting position. By the sixth lap, he was second and seemed to be stronger than Williams.

    The re-start told the tale. Joltin’ Joe made the pass on lap 17 and was ready to check out. But Davis spun in turn two on the 18th lap, bringing out a yellow. It didn’t matter, at least not to Ligouri. He was as smooth and fast as necessary in taking the checkered first just past 10:30.

    Matt McDonald hung around the top five for the whole race and came on strong at the end to take second. Rob Caho came from 12th to finish third. Williams faded at the end to fourth, still a good run. Adam Wilfong was fifth. Jeff Wimmenauer motored from 14th to sixth. Brandon Spencer was seventh. Jake Gordon, with help from Brad Fox, finished eighth. Lee Underwood solved his mechanical woes in time to tag the field, then charge to a ninth place finish (from 22nd). Eric Burns, with a little help after flipping in his heat, came from 16th to finish tenth.

    My fellow traveler didn’t scrape much mud, but it was still a full night. It was too bad a photographer didn’t get a picture of Jerry Coons Jr.’s son, Donnie Gentry’s grandson, and my youngest grandson all building race tracks in the pits using some of Joe Spiker’s gravel.

    It was no surprise that he fell asleep before we reached the interstate.

    Watching Joel Osteen’s bicycle float away along with his credibility, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Wild and Woolly

    One of the few things I’ve learned over 66 years is that I’ve not seen it all—and never will. But it’s tempting to say that after the final night of Smackdown VI. After multiple re-starts, Tyler Courtney emerged as the winner Saturday night at the Kokomo Speedway. The events leading up to the checkered flag were as compelling as the win itself. The post-race antics added a bit more spice to the evening and the fallout from that remains to be seen.

    With time to kill/spend/waste, I opted for the relative peace and quiet of Foster Park in midtown Kokomo. Fellow walkers, kids playing on playgrounds, and a sizable flock of ducks made for idyllic scene here in my home state. To drown out the noise, I summoned my friend Pandora, who provided music from Ludwig van Beethoven to John Prine. It couldn’t quite drown out the occasional siren, but that was fine.

    After a two mile walk, phone conversation with my wife, and some reading, it was time to head to the track one more time. The calm was about to give way to the storm—and what a storm it was.

    The final edition of Frank’s Feast was a great way to relax and visit while wandering the pits. Milling around the pits were folks associated with the 36 cars, ready to confront the Smackdown Saturday format.

    No qualifying, just heats and the top two advancing to the 40 lap feature. The B Main would take the top six. The eight highest in points would engage in the King of the Hill, three lap dashes where two would deal mano a mano. The winner would advance, tournament style, to the finals. Fans love it.

    Before the first heat, Friday winner Tyler Courtney circled the track once, doing an engine check. It didn’t sound so good. Hmmm….

    Chad Boespflug and Scotty Weir, who has done well in the Gass family’s car all week, transferred out of the first heat.

    Jarett Andretti won the second heat by two car lengths over Chase Stockon. The yellow waved for Colton Cottle, who stopped with smoke coming from the engine.

    Chris Windom won the third heat with Dave Darland second. Dave did some experimenting by running above the turn three cushion and diving low coming out of four.

    Justin Grant took the fourth heat with Shane Cottle finishing second and relegating front row starter Kody Swanson, who had flipped hard the night before, to the B.

    Next was the King of the Hill. C.J. Leary, Thursday’s winner, eliminated Brady Bacon. Tyler Thomas, he of the high groove, shut down Kyle Cummins. Hunter Schuerenberg put away Robert Ballou, who said he doesn’t like the KotH anyway. Kevin Thomas Jr. ended the first round by sending Tyler Courtney packing.

    The semi-finals saw T. Thomas beat Leary by about 15 feet. K. Thomas romped over Schuerenberg and then there were two.

    Both of the two were named Thomas, meaning that anyone clever enough to bet on “Thomas” to win could start counting money. K. Thomas won and the $400 that went with it.

    The B Main was wild and woolly enough on its own. It was three extra laps and that made a huge difference for some. Aaron Farney made it through unscathed to win. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was second. Josh Hodges was third. Kody Swanson was fourth and things behind him were intense. Tyler Hewitt came from 12th to claw his way to fifth after a hotly contested battle. Mario Clouser hung on tight and secured the 22nd starting spot for the feature. Brady Short had moved from ninth to challenge for fourth, but faded at the end, missing the show.

    Each year for Smackdown, the drivers gather just south of the bleachers by the Turn Five Bar for introductions. Each of the 22 pick out an introductory clip of a song and then parades before the fans, sauntering down the wide walkway in front of the crowd. They carry a t-shirt, which gets tossed into the crowd. Thankfully, none of them chose “Y.M.C.A.”

    Finally! It was time for 40 laps of cutting and slashing, Kokomo style. The Thomas boys occupied the front row, with King of the Hill K. Thomas on the pole. But T. Thomas took off as if his hair was on fire. He quickly began putting distance between himself and the others. Even with that pace, it was 11 laps before T. Thomas encountered lapped traffic.

    The leader had been doing a fine job of negotiating lappers until lap 15, when he had side to side contact with Chapple, who hit the fence bottom side first and flipped. Tom Hansing brought out the red flag. T. Thomas led K. Thomas, Ballou, Leary, Courtney, Cummins, Schuerenberg, Boespflug, and Windom.

    Thomas remained the leader until lap 19, when Boespflug spun in turn four. He and Andretti, who had no place to go, were stopped, facing the wrong way. Ballou had passed KT; Courtney had passed Leary and K. Thomas. On the re-start, he lined up behind T.  Thomas and Ballou.

    Watching the leader, Ballou could have thought he was following his younger self, flat out, right up against the wall. Not too far back, Bacon and Hodges were having their own party. They missed a good chance to flip right in front of Tom Hansing, who was ready to flip the switch and bring out the red. Instead, Tom waved the yellow as both banged wheels and slowed, bringing out the yellow on lap 26. Both were in the top ten and moving up. Now they pitted and returned. The order was T. Thomas, Ballou, Courtney, K. Thomas, Cummins, Windom, Schuerenberg, Grant, Darland, and Leary.

    Two laps later, Bacon spun in turn four. Windom had passed Cummins and wasn’t done. On the re-start, T. Thomas launched off turn two and was looking ever stronger. But this race was 40 laps, not the usual 30. The turn two cushion was shrinking by the minute. Courtney and K. Thomas bounced off the wall. Ballou had a major bobble and fell back temporarily. Windom was using the Dave Darland line in turn three, above the cushion. T. Thomas continued on his merry way.

    With a couple of laps to go, T. Thomas led Windom, Ballou and Courtney. But Sunshine chopped in front of Ballou on the front straightaway and Ballou’s car climbed on Courtney’s rear nerf bar. Somehow they disengaged and went on. Ballou probably wasn’t pleased.

    The yellow waved on lap 38 for another Bacon spin. It was still T. Thomas up front with K. Thomas, Windom, Courtney and a seething Ballou trailing. This would be the first of multiple attempts to finish. KT tried mightily to get around TT on the re-start, but couldn’t get it done. Ballou clouted Courtney’s rear nerf bar; somehow, Sunshine maintained control. KT’s next encounter with turn two was a disaster as he flipped, bringing out the red.

    Under red, Cummins exited to the pits with a flat tire, ruining a quiet, but good run. Once again, T. Thomas, Windom, Courtney, and Ballou led. All eyes were on those five. Windom was on fire for the re-start. He launched a major slider on Thomas, who came back strong out of two. But they collided and Windom’s race ended on the last lap, facing the wrong way on the backstretch. Like Ballou with Courtney, Windom was not pleased with T. Thomas. He exited the car and decided that Thomas needed an extra steering wheel, two no-nos at once.

    Yet again, another green/white/checkered. This time, Courtney slid under Thomas in turn one. The Oklahoma Kid’s good friend, turn two, let him down and Courtney was home free. The crowd was decidedly pro-Sunshine as he crossed the finish line.

    As fireworks exploded in the Kokomo sky, other kinds of fireworks exploded after the race. Ballou went over to have a brief chat with Courtney. Windom emerged from the pits, still irate at Thomas. He made a beeline to the car where Thomas still sat. There was a brief flurry of pushing, shoving, naughty words, and maybe a few punches. Windom was “encouraged” to return to the pits and he did.

    During post-race interviews Courtney was quite happy, Thomas was classy as he apologized to Windom for running over his left rear tire. Ballou was subdued and even philosophical.

    Behind the top two, Ballou was third. A fine race that few saw was that of Scotty Weir, who motored from 13th to fourth. The same was true for Dave Darland, 15th to fifth, and earning the KSE Products Hard Charger Award. Grant came from 12th to sixth. Leary was seventh. Andretti came back from his incident to take eighth, as did Boespflug, who was ninth. Chase Stockon was one of the few smiling after the race and he finished tenth.

     Yet another year, Kokomo, USAC, and Smackdown delivered. Great racing, crazy on-track moves and post-race theatre prevailed again. No wonder people are already planning on Smackdown 2018.

    I still haven’t seen it all, but I can say I’ve seen a little.

    Enjoying my new job of counting Floyd Mayweather’s money, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Flippin’ and Winnin’

    It’s probably a safe bet that Tyler Courtney and crew would have preferred a less difficult path to victory on Friday night at the Kokomo Speedway. But it’s doubtful they are complaining. They all should feel good about overcoming the odds to do what Sunshine and the team did, namely take a tumble during qualifying, fix the car quickly, and end up in Victory Lane on the second points race of Smackdown VI.

    When I arrived at the track on Friday afternoon, 37 sprinters were in the pits. There was a late arrival, Thursday night’s hard luck driver Logan Jarrett, who had assured me that they would be back on Friday. And they were. Tony Dimattia was the only new kid on the block tonight. Thomas Meseraull sat himself down for the rest of the weekend after his nasty flip on Thursday night left him with what may have been a concussion.

    Courtney’s 12.891 lap set the standard early until Tyler Thomas came along and ripped off a 12.754 to set fast time. In a strange development, 15 of the 38 cars were limited to one lap of qualifying because they did not participate in wheel packing the track—or they didn’t participate soon enough.

    Shane Cottle had his best moment of Smackdown so far, taking the first heat. Tyler Thomas showed that he meant business in moving from sixth to second. C.J. Leary came on strong late in the race to grab third. Tyler Hewitt hung on for fourth.

    Englishman Tom Harris won the second heat with Kyle Cummins second. Brady Short took third ahead of Justin Grant. Courtney didn’t quite make the cut and would race in the B.

    Dave Darland took off and left the crowd behind in the third heat. Chris Windom was second and Hunter Schuerenberg finished third. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple took fourth, sending Josh Hodges, Kody Swanson, and Wednesday winner Kevin Thomas Jr. to the B.

    The fourth heat showed a bit of the drama and emotion that Smackdown seems to bring out each year. Chase Stockon was the third leader of this heat and the winner. Early leader Robert Ballou engaged in some wheel banging as he and Brady Bacon both dove low in turn three late in the race. Ballou was shoved out of the way and Bacon was slowed up enough for Stockon to win. Ballou and Bacon worked feverishly on their hand signals after the race, but that was about it—for the time being. I was reminded that this ain’t Bowman-Gray Stadium where beating, banging and all sorts of theatrics are expected. Bacon and Ballou were followed by Jarett Andretti. Chad Boespflug would run the B.

    Tonight, a C Main was contested and Matt Goodnight led three others to the B. Travis Hery steadily worked his way up to second. Logan Jarrett overcame his obstacles and moved up from seventh to third. Brandon Mattox made a late pass on Jamie Fredrickson to grab the last spot available. Robert Bell tipped over after hitting Mattox, who had spun on the first lap. Later, Robert gladly accepted $50 in hard luck money.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead early from Tyler Courtney to win the B. Also moving on to the feature were Kody Swanson, Aaron Farney, Scotty Weir, and Josh Hodges, who started 11th. Chad Boespflug burned a provisional.

    Courtney, Swanson, and Dimattia’s B Main appearances meant that K. Thomas and Hewitt were the front row. These guys, and nearly everyone else up front, dove for the bottom of turn one as Tom Hansing waved the green. Leary had a different idea. He stayed up top and sailed around the others, taking the lead after starting fourth. But this great plan turned to disaster as he roared into turn one way too hot after a lap was completed. He flipped hard and in an instant went from winner to last place in 24 hours. The red waved.

    It was a good thing Tom didn’t put the red flag away because he needed it again just one lap later. Coming out of turn four, Kody Swanson was squeezed a bit and caught the infield tire. He flipped hard and, like Leary, Kody climbed out unaided. Both would get some hard luck money later, $45 each.

    Through all this Schuerenberg had inherited the lead from Leary. The guys tried again, but a yellow flag came out for Hewitt, who coasted to a stop, ending his night. In four laps, we had lost three cars. Hunter led Grant, T. Thomas, Andretti, and Courtney to the green.

    Courtney was on the move. In only a few laps, he moved forward to challenge Scheurenberg for the lead and took it fairly easily going low in turn four on the tenth lap. Poor Tyler. He was missing a great race behind him. Schuerenberg found himself in a fight with both Thomases, and then, a few laps later, Bacon for second. Though Courtney was leading through all this, his lead wasn’t that large. As late as lap 22 Schuerenberg was still nipping at the leader’s heels after he had regrouped.

    The final slowdown on the night was on lap 24, when Cottle stopped in turn four. The order was Courtney, Schuerenberg, K. Thomas, T. Thomas, Bacon, Cummins, Weir, Grant, Ballou, and Windom. These final laps would be something.

    Certainly they were. No one could do anything with Courtney, but he still wasn’t home free. Bacon and K. Thomas cleared the pack and were only a very few car lengths behind Courtney as the checkered flag waved. All three were on the front straight at the end. T. Thomas was fourth, completing a quality night in the Dutcher-mobile. Schuerenberg’s fifth didn’t reflect on how well he ran. Ballou charged to sixth in the final few laps. Cummins, the model of consistency, was seventh. Grant was eighth. Weir and Windom finished up the top ten.

    Bacon’s run from 18th to second earned him the KSE Hard Charger award. Ballou’s 21st to sixth wasn’t too shabby either.

    The top eight drivers in terms of points will be in the King of the Hill showdown tonight, Saturday. They are Brady Bacon, Kevin Thomas Jr., Hunter Schuerenberg, Kyle Cummins, Robert Ballou, Tyler Courtney, C.J. Leary, and Scotty Weir. They are locked into the grand finale tonight, with a cool $10K to win.

    The quote of the night was from the winner, who said, “My guys never give up on me and I never give up on them.” (Many thanks for Richie Murray.)

    It was Courtney’s fourth USAC feature win of the year.

    Robert Bell, C.J. Leary, and Kody Swanson shared the $140 that was collected for the hard luck racers for the night.

    Letting long time country singer Stonewall Jackson know that he can’t perform in the North anymore, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Catch Me If You Can

    In spite of the chilly conditions, the crowd at the Kokomo Speedway saw C. J. Leary do an outstanding imitation of a scared rabbit, running away with the 30 lap feature on the first points awarding program of Smackdown. Granted, he started on the pole and led every lap, but three re-starts after yellow flags meant that there were three chances for second place Brady Bacon, among others, to make a move. But it wasn’t happening. The second night of Smackdown 2017 belonged to the young man from Greenfield, Indiana.

    Many times I get to the track as early as I can, just to observe the pre-race rituals. Each track has its own routine and most all tracks’ preparations start long before I arrive. As for Kokomo, Reece O’Connor and his crew began preparing the track for Thursday’s race right after Kevin Thomas Jr. and company exited the Bryan Clauson Victory Lane on Wednesday. If I had to pick a favorite part of the ritual, it would be wheel packing.

    Preparing a track for a night’s racing is, of course, crucial. Many don’t see the laps taken by the track vehicles, or later, when the sprints come out to slowly circle the quarter mile oval at slow speed, slipping and sliding, working their way to the bottom groove of the track, the last part to receive attention. It’s a preliminary that I never get tired of watching.

    Each night of Smackdown features a different cast of characters. Ten of the 44 cars the night before were no shows. Four new players appeared, Travis Hery, Josh Hodges, Cole Ketchum and England’s Tom Harris.

    After a night with a different format, tonight’s program returned to USAC’s regular routine, beginning with single car qualifying. Justin Grant went out 23rd of the 38 on hand and set fast time, 12.685, not far off Dave Darland’s track record of 12.405 seconds. Thomas Meseraull’s night crashed and metaphorically burned when he tested the turn one fence after taking the green. He walked away, but the Briscoe Racing Team was done for the night.

    Chances were that pole sitter Aaron Farney could win the first heat and so he did, leaving Scotty Weir, Robert Ballou, and Justin Grant in his wake.

    Hammer down was the mode for the second heat as Jarett Andretti outpaced Chase Stockon, Hunter Schuerenberg, and Chad Boespflug. Tyler Thomas, who had turned the second quick time, exited before the green waved and would appear later for the B.

    “Intense” could describe the third heat as Dave Darland took advantage of his front row starting position to win it. Chris Windom was second and Kyle Cummins was third. C.J. Leary was fourth. It was a less than great race for the Cottle family. Shane brought out a yellow after he spun in turn four. Nephew Colton tried to climb the turn two wall with his rear wheels first to bring out another yellow. Both would return for the B. Shane’s spin turned out to be crucial for Leary, who not only made the feature, but would take pole position.

    Making a strong run from his fourth starting spot, Josh Hodges won the fourth heat. His second row mate, Tyler Courtney, was second. Brady Bacon was third and Kevin Thomas Jr. made a last lap pass of Brady Short to transfer into the show.

    Perhaps the most dramatic moment played out in the B Main. T. Thomas led S. Cottle, Mario Clouser, Brady Short, Kody Swanson and Brian Karraker to make the feature. Isaac Chapple was making a late charge for the last spot when he collided with sixth place Logan Jarrett. Both cars flipped wildly in turn four, giving the position to Karraker. Jarrett ended up winning the $75 hard luck money for the night.

    Each of the first three rows had a USAC feature winner. Unofficially, only five of the 22 starters had yet to score a USAC Sprint win. Of that small group, one, Kody Swanson, could claim success in the form of Silver Crown championships.

    A pair of gassers, Leary and Schuerenberg, were the first to see Brian Hodde’s green flag. Leary had already built up a decent lead when the first yellow waved on lap three when some beating, banging, and bouncing resulted in Grant stopped in turn two on the third lap. Just like that, the point leader was out of the race.

    Coming on like gangbusters, Bacon took second even as smoke and the occasional flame threatened to consume his motor. But after a few laps it went away and Bacon never broke stride. Midway through the race, as the first three settled down, Ballou was on a tear. Ninth on the early re-start, he made his way forward and cracked the top five after a third of the race was run.

    Helplessness could have described Shane Cottle’s demeanor when he lost a tire and spun in turn three on lap 17 after contact with Chris Windom, ending his race. For this next segment, Leary led Bacon, Schuerenberg, K. Thomas, Ballou, T. Thomas, Boespflug, Swanson, Cummins, and Windom.

    This was Ballou’s turn to shine. He scooted his way to third and dearly wanted more. But a yellow waved for Tyler Thomas and his flat tire on lap 23. Leary, Bacon, and Ballou led the rest and one had to have some anticipation of a real scrap here. For the contenders to do anything with Leary, now was their last, best chance.

    C.J. was having none of that. Yet again, he pulled away from Bacon and Ballou, stretching his lead to nearly a half straightaway by the time Mr. Hoddy waved that welcome checkered flag. Wednesday winner K. Thomas Jr. was fourth. Schuerenberg was fifth. Boespflug, who had his own battle for position with Hunter, was sixth. Cummins was seventh and Swanson ran well even though his eighth place might not show it. Windom advanced from 15th to ninth and Hodges finished tenth.

    Leary benefitted from caution flags in the feature as he did in his heat race. Each time he approached the lappers, the yellow waved. Ironically, one of those was brought out by S. Cottle. C.J. might want to thank Shane…in a few days.

    Rest assured, he thanks Donnie Gentry, ace mechanic and still not quite retired from driving. This combination as clicked all year and they aren’t done yet.

    Brady Short was the KSE Racing Products hard charger, coming from 20th to 12th.

    Leary’s first USAC win came last year during Smackdown. History repeats, more or less.

    Certainly thrilled to sport Josh Spencer and Corey Smith’s number for another 364 days, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Opening Statement

    There is something about the Kokomo Speedway that gets Kevin Thomas Jr.'s attention. It beckons to him, saying, "Come on, big boy. Let's see what you got." Invariably, the lightning fast quarter mile oval finds out what the Alabama native has. That would be the ability to tame the track and the 21 other contenders, including the best USAC'S Sprint car series has to offer. On a beautiful late August evening, Kokomo's immensely popular Smackdown began with Thomas taking the lead on the seventh lap and never looking back.

    Six years ago, the folks at the Kokomo Speedway stayed up late at night, trying to determine what would be a good retirement/birthday present for me. Bless their hearts, they came up with the Kokomo Smackdown, four nights of hard core, no holds barred sprint car racing at its best. I should add that the only part of the preceding that’s true is the clause that starts with “they came up.” In six years this mini-series has become a must attend event.

    Among the 44 cars signed in were some new combinations. Scotty Weir emerged to wheel the Gass family’s blue bullet. Brady Short and Hunter Schuerenberg were in identical Arizona cars. Brady Bacon made a semi-rare sprint car appearance.

    With this being more like a local show, group qualifying was the order of the day with C. J. Leary’s 12.727 fastest of all. C.J. was in the fourth of six groups to qualify. The top three advanced to the 27 lap feature…27 laps in memory of Bryan Clauson.

    Scotty Weir liked his new ride enough to win the first heat. Mario Clouser was second with Tyler Courtney not far behind.

    A bit of near mayhem was the story of the second heat. It appeared that Justin Grant's motor stumbled as the field began to gas it. He may have been tapped by Jarett Andretti, which sent Grant around. Andretti ended up winning the heat and Thomas Meseraull was second. Hunter Schuerenberg grabbed the last spot available. The McGhee team loaded up early and set out to find the problem.

    When Brady Short exited the track on the pace lap, Dave Darland slid into Brady's spot on the outside of the front row. The People's Champ checked out to win the third heat. Robert Ballou was second and Brandon Mattox took third.

    Chris Windom won the fourth heat, a race that was interrupted by a nasty ride taken by Clint Boyles. He climbed out of the car under his own power. Later, his pain was eased a little as he was presented with $205 that was collected by a few fans for the hard luck racer of the night. (This will continue for each night of Smackdown.) C. J. Leary was second and Kyle Cummins took third.

    The fifth heat was dominated by guys named Thomas. Kevin Thomas Jr. made an early statement before the Statement by winning the fifth heat. Tyler Thomas, who started the race next to KT in the second row, was second. Josh Cunningham was third.

    Travis Welpott closed out the heats with a win with a fast closing Aaron Farney second. Brian Karraker was third.

    Attrition determined that there would be no C Main. Instead, 22 answered the bell for the B with Chad Boespflug coming from fourth to take the lead on the first lap and lead all the way to earn the 19th starting spot in the A. Brady Bacon was second and Colton Cottle third. Chase Stockon took the only cookie left.

    Cars were lined up on the front straight doe driver introductions for the 27 lap feature. The first car was pushed off at 10:00. All 22 fired and seven minutes later Tom Hansing waved the green flag with Windom and Welpott on the front row after the re-draw. Windom took the early lead and was looking good, but the yellow waved for Welpott. The Pendleton, Indiana educator slowed on the backstretch. Behind him, and perhaps due to the accordion affect, several cars met in turn two, pointed in every direction but the preferred one.

    Windom led Andretti, K. Thomas, Darland and Farney. Thomas didn’t mess around. Before a lap was completed, he passed Andretti for second. On the seventh lap, he dispatched Windom with an outside pass coming out of turn two and the lead was his. Nothing was going to stop Thomas, not lapped traffic, or any mechanical issue, and certainly not any competitors. He maintained a half straightaway lead for most of his time up front.

    Two laps after Thomas took the lead, Darland acted like he might have something for the younger racer as he passed Windom for second. But Windom recovered and returned the favor on lap 19. DD was fading just a bit. With Ballou coming on strong at the end, he took third from Darland on the white flag lap after starting tenth.

    Courtney was fifth after starting 13th. Had this been a USAC points race, the Sunshine could have picked up the hard charger award. Leary was sixth, followed by Andretti, who ran well early. Unnoticed by many was Kyle Cummins’ rambling from 16th to eighth, matching Courtney’s advance. Farney and Meseraull, who started side by side in the fourth row, ended ninth and tenth.

    Thomas had the quote of the night when he said, ““There’s always little things you can change to make these things just a tick better…” Without realizing it, he gave us all some good advice, no matter who we are. As I celebrate yet another lap around the sun, that attitude is good here as well.

    We get to test that theory again tonight. Plus, we’ll find out if the track gets KT’s attention again.

    Trying to steer my driver-less car, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Doesn’t Matter Where You Start

    How many times have you looked at the results of a race, read that the pole sitter won the race, and thought to yourself that this must have been a boring race? I’ve done the same—at races I didn’t attend. This weekend just concluded contained two features that saw the winners start and finish first. Having seen both races, I was not about to say either was boring.

    Robert Ballou started on the pole with a new chassis, and he led all 25 laps to win the Dick Gaines Memorial at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on another Indiana night where the temperature and humidity were surely about the same. Though Kevin Thomas Jr. did his best to worry Ballou, all he could do was take second place, which gave him two good finishes for the weekend.

    With USAC’s Silver Crown division running at Springfield, Illinois, a race won by Justin Grant, the car count was a bit lower. But 19 was plenty enough for a good program. Among those gathered were Dickie Gaines, still looking to win the race dedicated to his father. The boss of BOSS, Aaron Fry, stopped by to make a rare appearance behind the wheel. Adam Strausser also paid the ‘burg a rare visit.

    KT won the first heat with Jordan Kinser not far behind. Trailing were Tony Main, J.J. Hughes, Braxton Cummings, Aaron Fry, and Nick Bilbee, who stopped on the track with mechanical woes that would be fixed in time for the feature.

    Tyler Thomas, flirting with the imposing Lawrenceburg wall, was the third of three leaders in the second, winning over Shawn Westerfeld, Dickie Gaines, Garrett Abrams, Cody Gardner, and Chris Olding.

    Jarett Andretti won the third heat after early leader Josh Hodges bounced off the turn four wall. Robert Ballou was second and Hodges third, ahead of Michael Fischessor, Adam Strausser and Eric Semple.

    The re-draw put Ballou and K. Thomas on the front row. Tim Montgomery waved the green flag and Ballou grabbed the lead and slowly built it up over the first few laps. Lapped traffic didn’t bother the leader; he was able to maintain a lead of a near straightaway.

    Behind Ballou and K. Thomas, third place Andretti had his hands full holding off T. Thomas, who put his Mike Dutcher-mobile nice and close to the wall. Further back, Bilbee was making noise after starting last. By mid-race he had cracked the top ten and wasn’t done

    Both the drama and test for Ballou first came on lap 18, when someone tapped an infield tire, which wandered onto the track. The front runners were Ballou, K. Thomas, Andretti, T. Thomas, and Hodges.

    On the re-start, KT threw a couple of sliders at Ballou, coming up short, but close enough to get the leader’s attention. Two laps later, another yellow for another errant tire, gathered the field back together. The order up front was the same and K. Thomas again traded slide jobs with Ballou for the first two or three laps after the green waved. The Alabama native took the lead a time or two, but for only a couple of seconds before Ballou re-assumed control. By lap 23, he had pulled away somewhat and took the win (and $3,000) by about ten car lengths.

    Behind Ballou and K. Thomas were Andretti and Westerfeld. Gaines came on strong at the end to take fifth. Hodges, who won this race a year ago, was sixth. Bilbee was the advancing man, coming from last to finish seventh, making lemonade out of a few lemons while winning the Grasshopper Award of $63 in memory of Bryan Clauson. T. Thomas struggled at the end and was eighth. Jordan Kinser and Tony Main filled out the top ten.

    One, not I, could argue that had Ballou started further back, he would not have won. Such hypotheticals often are laughable because speculation does not equal certainty, though some seem to think so. The 12 car was strong and Robert was pleased with his new chassis, a Boss. KT had some good chances to grab the lead and simply could not close the deal. It was a decent race, with the outcome in doubt until near the end.

    The Dick Gaines Memorial has been run 14 times at Lawrenceburg and there have been 14 different winners, beginning with Bryan Clauson in 2004 (thanks to Sandy Lowe).

    Closing out with one of the late Dick Gregory’s one liners, “A Klaner (KKK) is a cat who gets out of bed in the middle of the night and takes his sheet with him.”…I’m

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Satisfaction of Living Well

    It’s been an interesting few weeks for A.J. Hopkins, a friendly young man who has seemed to mature substantially in the last few years. With this maturing, he often finds himself finishing well, even winning. But the real test of anyone comes from how they handle setbacks. These recent weeks have seen Mr. Hopkins holding a checkered flag and/or trophy after a given race (such as Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway). He has also been seen flipping into the parking lot at Bloomington, as well as enduring unwelcome situations caused by others. But on a Hoosier hot August night at the red clay oval, a night where Leon Gentry was paid homage for a life and career well done, A.J. Hopkins took the lead when the early leader spun and held off challenges from one of the best to prevail and hold the trophy and the flag.

    An hour or so later, Andy Bradley won the RaceSavers’ 305 feature after taking the lead midway through the race.

    Fans were in for a treat as this was a quasi-USAC show, given all the regulars in the pits. Chase Stockon, with a Gentry family connection, led the USAC attendees. Full time and occasional USAC racers included Robert Ballou, Kevin Thomas Jr., Kyle Cummins, Aaron Farney, Tyler Thomas, and Jarett Andretti. Aric Gentry also made the trip northeast to race in honor of his Uncle Leon.

    The first heat lineup reminded me of a USAC/Sprint Week lineup. It would be guaranteed that at least one good car would go to the B Main. The top five finishers were Cummins, Hopkins, Ballou, K. Thomas Jr., and Farney. Bloomington wizard Brady Short left out and ran the B.

    Chase Stockon won the second heat over two famous names, Jeff Bland and Jon Stanbrough. Matt Westfall made the long haul from Ludlow Falls (Ohio) to finish fourth. Tim Creech II was fifth.

    T. Thomas won the caution plagued third heat, coming from fourth to take the lead on the first lap. Nick Bilbee started and finished second. Jarett Andretti did the same, taking third. Logan Seavey, new kid on the block from California, finished fourth in his first time driving a traditional sprint car, one of the two cars entered by Chase Briscoe and family. (Thomas Meseraull was an early scratch.) Ethan Barrow hung on for fifth.

    The B lineup was no slouch. Lee Underwood made a late pass on Brady Short to win. Jordan Kinser traded third with Braxton Cummings for much of the race, finally prevailing. Matt McDonald came from ninth to earn a 20th starting position in the feature.

    RaceSavers…

    There were nearly as many of the winged 305 prints as the headliners. Alfred Galeridge hustled from the last row/seventh to win the first heat over Ryan Tusing.

    Ethan Barrow came from fifth to win the second heat. Brinton Marvel came from seventh to take the runner-up spot.

    Terry Arthur was having none of that. He started on the pole and no one could catch him as he won the third RaceSaver heat over Kerry Kinser.

    It may have been a first for Brady Short, running two B’s in one night. After finishing second in the 410 B, he won the RaceSaver’s B. Chris Babcock, new to running with the wing, started and finished second.

    Hopkins and T. Thomas led 19 cohorts to the green as Aric Gentry started 21st with a promoter’s option. Thomas took the lead and promptly checked out, loving his new Mike Dutcher ride. Lapped traffic appeared fairly early, but the leader negotiated the lapped cars with ease.

    But it all went away on lap ten when Thomas spun in turn four, bringing out a yellow. Jeff Bland inherited the lead, with Stockon, Hopkins, Cummins, and Andretti making up the top five. Bland held onto the lead for all of one lap before the rejuvenated pole sitter took the top spot. Hopkins could not shake Bland, who soon began having his own troubles with Cummins, who made the pass for second on lap 18 while Hopkins was trying to check out.

    A yellow waved a lap later and Cummins dove low into turn one on the re-start, taking the lead for maybe four seconds before Hopkins returned the favor quickly.

    As the laps were winding down, one of the biggest traffic jams ever seen at Bloomington assembled in turn one on lap 24. Five cars were involved and finished for the night; the yellow flag immediately became a red due to the track being blocked and having the field circle the track, even under yellow, wasn’t a good plan. Eliminated were McDonald, Ballou, Stockon, Farney and Gentry.

    It would be an authentic green/white/checkered finish. Try as he might, Cummins had nothing for Hopkins, who drove the high banks about as smooth as one could. K. Thomas Jr. came from tenth to get the bronze medal. Bland was fourth. Logan Seavey’s second traditional sprint car start was even more impressive than his first. He came from 12th to complete the top five.

    Andretti led the second five with B. Short earning a seventh place finish after starting 17th, the hardest of chargers. Westfall’s long haul paid off with an eighth. T. Thomas came back his spin to take ninth. Cummings rambled from 19th to tenth.

    It was so typical of racing and racers that Hopkins went from the outhouse (the parking lot excursion, etc.) to the penthouse (getting interviewed by Kimb Stewart after a win). This was made even sweeter as Leon Gentry, patriarch of a respected racing family, joined the crowd by the winning car for some pictures.

    To top it off, this was Hopkins’ first Bloomington feature win.

    After a modified feature won by Jacoby Hines, the RaceSavers hit the high banks with Andy Bradley taking the lead from Terry Arthur on lap five and motoring on for his first Bloomington win. Ryan Tusing came from 12th to take second. Arthur took third after a late pass by Tusing. Ethan Barrow was fourth and John Paynter made a strong charge at the end to grab after beginning 13th. Alfred Galedrige ran as high as third before falling back to sixth. Jared Fox came home seventh. Jeff Wimmenauer finished eighth, with Jeff Bland and Matt Lux filling out the top ten.

    Jason Setser closed out the night by winning the TQ Midget feature.

    Urging that colleges include weekly tours of the local Wal-Mart as a requirement for Anthropology 101, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Sometimes the Rabbit Wins

    It might not be a bad idea to bet on the tortoise over the hare as a rule, but there are always exceptions. On another beautiful Indiana evening, Kody Swanson was a hare that didn’t let up as he won a convincing victory in the 58th edition of the Joe James-Pat O’Connor Memorial at, where else, the Salem Speedway as USAC’s Silver Crown division once again invaded the high banks.

    This was Swanson’s second straight James-O’Connor triumph. Chris Windom was second, just as he was in 2016.

    On a personal level, this old track has a hold on me. This is because here is where a lot of my childhood memories were made. Whether it was running in circles in the infield or sitting in the old, long gone, covered grandstands, I can easily picture my younger self at Salem. If I wasn’t watching MARC (the predecessor of today’s ARCA), USAC or ASA stock cars, I saw the familiar open wheel legends wrestle sprint cars around the imposing—and occasionally deadly—high banks. Those memories are still alive and well. Along with the promise of some pretty hard core racing, those memories brought me back to Salem.

    My home town was well represented in the crowd and the pits. Three of the 14 cars had a local connection. Joss Moffatt is a maestro of the Lawrenceburg Speedway high banks, but this is his rookie year in USAC’s Silver Crown Series. Gene Nolan had two cars locked and loaded, to coin a phrase, with the Columbus Container company serving as a sponsor. In addition, long time Nolan mechanic Kevin Noblitt was another home boy hard at work.

    In both the pits and the bleachers were several local fans, led by the shy and retiring Butch Wilkerson, who entertained local open wheel notable Greg Littleton and his son. Father and son racing standouts Dave and Kerry Norris were also sitting nearby. Roaming the pits were two other local Daves, Foist and Bozell, long time fans of open wheel racing. Finally, a surprise visitor appeared, namely my wife, who spent a good bit of time with her (our) friend, local track rat Terri.

    K. Norris was observant enough to note that, while Kody Swanson’s new track record was quite impressive, he may well have benefitted from the rubber that had been laid down by the earlier qualifiers, which would have included everyone else. At any rate, 15.923 seconds around the intimidating high banks deserved much respect.

    The stock cars had run their feature, the vintage cars had taken a few laps, and the Silver Crown cars made a beautiful sight lined up on the front stretch. Swanson and Aaron Pierce were the front row. Chris Windom and David Byrne were next. Bobby Santos and Justin Grant, in the Nemire family car, occupied the third row. A pair of Juniors were the fourth row, Jerry Coons and Davey Hamilton. Jacob Wilson, the 2008 James-O’Connor winner in a sprint car, and Indy 500 veteran Davey Hamilton (Senior) were in the fifth row.

    As a fire (apparently under control) burned just off turn one at the airport, the green flag waved. Try as he might, Swanson could not get the jump going into turn one. Pierce grabbed the lead and made an admirable attempt to put some space between himself and Swanson. Windom, Byrne and Santos trailed until Grant got around Santos early to take fifth. It would be the highlight of Grant’s race.

    Windom was strong early, diving low on nearly every lap to let Swanson know that he was there. Pierce still led as the top six tried to break away from the rest. Wilson dropped out on lap 18, the first to do so. A lap later, Grant spun in turn four while trying to pass Byrne for fourth. As the field prepared to re-start, Byrne pitted for a flat tire, but soon exited the car as a more serious issue emerged. The top five was Pierce, Swanson, Windom, Santos and Hamilton Jr.

    After stalking Pierce’s every move, Swanson took the lead by diving low going into turn one on lap 30. Two laps later, Grant did it again, spinning again in turn four. On the re-start, Swanson built up a comparatively sizable lead as Pierce had his hands full rebuffing Windom’s repeated challenges to take second. Along with Santos, the top four opened up a gap from the others.

    Windom made the pass and by lap 50, he and Swanson had driven away from Pierce, who now had Santos to deal with. On the 52nd lap, both approached lapped traffic with Santos getting the better of the deal, using Joss Moffatt as a pick and taking over the final podium spot. Meanwhile, for the time being, the issue up front was still in doubt as Swanson could not shake the pesky Windom. But as the laps wound down, Swanson gradually pulled away, solidifying his lead.

    At the end, Swanson’s lead was a half straightaway lead over Windom. In third place, a full straightaway behind, was Santos with Pierce not far behind in fourth. Hamilton Jr was fifth. Coons, Grant, Hamilton, Florida’s Shane Butler, and Hoosier born and bred Joss Moffatt were the second five.

    Swanson won the Understatement of the Night Award when he said after the race, “This place is incredibly difficult.” One does not go to Salem to see passing on every lap. Some get impatient when racing there, while trying to pass. That often leads to disaster, or at least a yellow flag for a spin. The patient ones bide their time, looking for even the smallest advantage. An attempted pass at Salem is about as wondrous to see as a well executed slide job at most any bullring.

    Whatever the strategy, Kody Swanson is taking his place with an excellent group of racers who have raced with the Silver Crown Series. On this lovely evening, he played the role of the rabbit quite well.

    Bugs Bunny must have been smiling in approval somewhere.

    Making the not so startling discovery that there are terrorists that look somewhat like me, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Scratching the Itch

    Thankfully, the itch that will be described is not the kind caused by the pesky little beasts that congregate most every summer’s evening. This itch is scratched by victims of something that isn’t necessarily pesky, little or a literal beast. It is, of course, auto racing, most particularly sprint car racing. One victim has the itch so bad, he commutes about 220 miles one way to race at the Lincoln Park Speedway every chance he gets. On a seasonably cool evening, the travelin’ man, Brent Beauchamp, found himself being interviewed after putting a hurt on the field after taking the lead on the second lap and skillfully maneuvering his way through lapped traffic to win the 25 lap feature.

    While strolling through the pits, it was easy to fall into conversation with Bill and Chris Babcock. This evening, both found themselves in a new role, helping out the Alex Sipes team. This is their first year in a long time not completely involved with this activity, addiction, whatever you want to call it. This made me think.

    Bill, Chris, and countless others, including you and me, have what we could call The Itch.

    This Itch takes several forms, but the form that exists at bullrings like Lincoln Park is what we can address here. Over the years I've seen several folks come and go. Many of those moved on and found another passion. Others have left and found out how much they missed this business. While the Itch went away for some, it has remained for others and they have discovered that it still needs scratching. Bill Babcock is just one example.

    When one walks away and finds that the Itch is still there, tough choices must be made. Then again, maybe they aren't so tough. At any rate, don't be surprised if Bill and others with the same affliction hang around in some way. As a result, racing is better off.

    Before the usual leadoff of sprint car heats, three makeup features were ran, one super stock and two bombers. There was no need to fret about a late night; all three races were relatively free of slowdowns of any type. The regular program began at 8:30.

    Tim Creech II took advantage of a minor bobble by Travis Berryhill and won the first heat. Jon Stanbrough came from last to make Creech earn it. Berryhill was third, leading Nate McMillen and Harley Burns to the line.

    Riding high through the turns, Billy Cribbs won the second heat. Mitch Wissmiller was second, just ahead of A. J. Hopkins. Matt McDonald took fourth and Josh Cunningham wrestled the proverbial ill handling beast to a fifth place finish.

    Brent Beauchamp checked out to take the third heat. The ageless Kent Christian was second. Chad Davenport started and finished third. Brady Ottinger and Eddie Lake trailed.

    A pair of veterans, both sporting the number one on their tail tanks, led all to Brian Hodde’s green flag. Pole sitter Kent Christian took the early lead over second row starters Jon Stanbrough and Brent Beauchamp as Mitch Wissmiller fell back his fromt row perch. On the second lap, Beauchamp sailed around Christian to take the lead as Stanbrough fell to fourth. Cribbs passed the Hall of Famer to temporarily grab third, but only for a couple of laps.

    The first of two yellow lights blinked as Cribbs spun in turn two on the sixth lap while running fourth. A lap later Ottinger spun in nearly the same spot as Brent Stapp chose to stop instead of clouting Ottinger. Beauchamp led Christian, Stanbrough, Hopkins, Berryhill, McDonald, McMillen, Davenport, and Cunningham.

    Beauchamp promptly checked out when the green waved, but behind him was a hotly contested struggle with Stanbrough and Hopkins getting around Christian. The fight for second place went on for much of the middle part of the race.  Lapped traffic played a big part in settling things. As Beauchamp sailed into the figurative sunset, Stanbrough found himself blocked behind two slower cars. Jon went low as A.J. went high and cleared the gathering. Stanbrough untangled himself, but Hopkins had made the pass and began a (futile) chase after the leader.

    Perhaps Hopkins did cut into Beauchamp’s lead, but the Columbus, Ohio resident still won by a comfortable margin. Stanbrough was third. McMillen had an impressive race as he came from tenth to grab fourth. McDonald did essentially the same, coming from 11th to fifth. Christian faded to sixth. Berryhill started and finished seventh. Koby Barksdale was the advancing positions king, as he came from last to finish eighth. Davenport was ninth and Cribbs came back from his spin to finish tenth.

    Later this month, another round of the much anticipated Kokomo Smackdown will commence. At this time of year, many teams are hurting for funds to replace broken or worn out parts and other important items. The following is aimed at fans who are ready, willing, and able to help a buddy (or a complete stranger) out with a donation of any size. On any given night, there are several teams who are one broken part from parking. As individuals, we may not be able to replace that part, but together maybe we can pool our resources and give a team a break.

    Last year at the Smackdown, an unofficial total of $830 was handed out to deserving racers who suffered some bad luck over the three nights. Each was very appreciative and they all still race nearly a year later.

    Earlier we wrote about the Itch. One thing that should be mentioned is that this Itch costs money, no matter who you are, from promoter to sponsor to racer to fan. We’re not suggesting that people take money away from other deserving causes, far from it. Folks should make up their own minds where to spend their money, for whatever reason. But if you have a few dollars left over, this is something to consider. I assure you that racers appreciate not only the money, but the gesture.

    Leaking, but not peeking, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Can You Go Home Again?

    According to one of my favorite American authors, you cannot. But I can safely say that Thomas Wolfe never met Dave Darland. Maybe the talented man of letters would have come to realize that a few folks can go home again. Mr. Wolfe was from Asheville, North Carolina and seldom came back after he left for the big city. Mr. Darland has raced far and wide, but comes back home to Kokomo to race and live. On another beautiful Sunday evening, Darland refused to wilt under pressure by Max McGhee early on to win the Kokomo Klassic, delayed by rain one week.

    Strange as it may have seemed, this was my grandson’s first Kokomo outing this year. During baseball season, weekly practices were on Sunday evenings. Tonight he would make up for lost time. We bought a mud scraper and soon after he put it to good use at the Kokomo Speedway. Adding to his mud scraping duties for Shane Cottle and Tyler Hewitt, was an impromptu stint as playmate/role model for two year old Leland Spencer, son of Josh.

    22 sprints and 15 midgets populated the pits. Dave Darland was back in the Hery 40, which had let him down on Friday night at Rte. 44. Thomas Meseraull was in a Mike Dutcher car. Max McGhee was in the family car.

    Meseraull won the first heat from the front row, but McGhee made sure that he earned it. Logan Jarrett started and finished third. Tyler Hewitt was fourth pole sitter Lee Underwood drifted back to fifth.

    Shane Cottle owned the second heat. Billy Cribbs, Josh Spencer, Jamie Fredrickson, and Dusty Shriver gave chase to no avail.

    Dave Darland waited until turn one of the last lap to take the third heat win. Colton Cottle was second. Travis Hery, Brian Karraker, and Corey Smith trailed.

    The mud had been scraped, two cheeseburgers, a hot dog and a bag of popcorn had disappeared, and it was time for the 30 lap feature.

    The law firm of S. Cottle and Cribbs led the prime suspects to Brian Hodde’s green flag. From the second row, McGhee shot to the front. Darland, who started fourth, was no doubt impressed, but determined that he could do better. DD scooted to the front, passing Max and taking the lead on the third lap.

    Darland could not pull away. Then came a red flag when the other Mark Hery car, driven by Travis Hery, flipped in turn two. Travis got out of the car and walked away.

    The re-start was Darland, McGhee, Meseraull, S. Cottle, C. Cottle, Jarrett, Spencer, Cribbs, Underwood, Hewitt, and Karraker. The green waved again and Darland tried to put some of the Kokomo soil between him and McGhee. Soon lapped traffic was in play. Darland had pulled away while in a more solitary condition, but McGhee came roaring back as DD struggled with some lappers. Max took the lead briefly in lapped traffic, but was passed by the time they reached the s/f line.

    A few laps later Darland was still holding on when the race’s lone yellow waved for his most prominent challenger. McGhee coasted to a stop coming out of turn two with less than ten laps to go. What can be considered reliable information was that he ran out of gas after the short handed crew forgot to fill the thank pre-race.

    This re-start saw Darland leading the pack, with Meseraull right behind. Dave wasn’t home free. This is pure Indiana bullring racing and one dare not leave early even if the guy who practically owns this join was re-starting up front. But TMez, despite his best efforts, had nothing for Darland and had to settle for second.

    Shane Cottle was third overall, but first in the Cottle family, leading his nephew Colton to the line. Logan Jarrett wrapped up a good weekend. After finishing second on Saturday night at Lawrenceburg, he was fifth. Tyler Hewitt came from tenth to take sixth. Brian Karraker moved from 12th to seventh. The unofficial hard charger was yet another local, Josh Spencer, who improved his position by seven, 15th to eighth. Billy Cribbs was ninth and Lee Underwood took tenth.

    It had been a feast or famine for Darland this past weekend. After a disappointing beginning, he closed out the weekend by winning in two different cars. He sipped a cold one courtesy of Jerry Spencer and took time to have his picture taken with one of his fans, an eight year old boy who would conk out just past the Howard County line on his way home.

    Right after the sprint feature was the USAC Speed2 Midwest Thunder midget feature, won by Stratton Briggs. Aaron Leffel finished second ahead of Kent Christian, Cory Guingrich and Korbyn Hayslett.

    One can debate whether the boy ever left his Kokomo home. One can say that Thomas Wolfe, whoever he was, is full of it. But I prefer to think that both can be possible. Some can go home again and others can’t.

    Having lunch with the Mooch and his pooch, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Right Place, Right Time

    Often in life, one man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. What’s good for me might be bad for you. Ask Shawn Westerfeld and Jordan Kinser how that works out. At the Lawrenceburg Speedway on another fine Hoosier Saturday night, Westerfeld made a very uncharacteristic error when he dove a little low in turn four, catching the berm, spinning and tipping over—while leading, no less. Second place Jordan Kinser became first place Jordan Kinser and ran away with the victory in the Buckeye Outlaw Super Sprints sanctioned program.

    Around the Hoosier state on Saturday were no less than three choices for sprint fans and teams. Any concerns about any of the three tracks, Lincoln Park Speedway, Lawrenceburg Speedway, and Paragon Speedway were put to sleep as each track had 23 or more cars, with the ‘burg welcoming 36 cars to the playground.

    Passing in the four heats was routine. Scotty Weir came from sixth to win the first heat. Runner-up Logan Jarrett started eighth and motored to second. Tony Dimattia, pole sitter, was third. Steve Little also avoided the B main.

    Shawn Westerfeld won the second heat, making an early pass on pole sitter J. J. Hughes, who stayed close. Kokomo's Dustin Smith was third and Cody Gardner came from sixth to fourth on the last lap to squeak into the feature.

    Carmen Perigo won the third heat from the front row. Jordan Kinser passed Andy Heil midway through the race to take second. Behind Heil was Dickie Gaines.

     The bump developing in turn three bothered Drew Abel not a whit as he won the fourth heat over seventh starting Landon Simon. Garrett Abrams was third and Michael Fischesser came from ninth to grab a feature spot.

    Cole Ketchum came from ninth to win the first B, taking Chad Wilson and Matt Cooley to the feature with him. This was after race leader Justin Owen smacked the turn three wall. Owen was also the BOSS point leader.

    Past Lawrenceburg champ Joss Moffatt won the next one, with Tony Main and pole sitter Braxton Cummings preparing to start 20th and 22nd in the feature.

    Seeing that this was billed as the Jason Soudrette Memorial, Dickie Gaines, in the Soudrette family car with the number 44, led the others in a four wide salute. After this, Dickie joined his eighth row mate, Michael Fischesser. Neither would stay there long.

    Westerfeld and Kinser led 20 others to Tim Montgomery’s favorite green flag. The local kid (Guilford) grabbed the early lead and was looking good until his misfortune. The red flag waved and Shawn exited the car on his own.

    On the re-start, Kinser took control of the lead with Pennsylvania’s Perigo second and Jarrett third. Gaines had already advanced to tenth after starting 15th. Kinser steadily increased his lead as Jarrett began to annoy Perigo for second. Lap 21 was good to the kid from Kokomo, whose lone USAC victory came at Lawrenceburg. He got around Perigo and tried in vain to catch the leader.

    But that wasn’t going to happen. Kinser found friendly territory on the bottom and would not be denied. His gap over Jarrett at the checkered was the better part of a straightaway. Jarrett and Perigo settled for silver and bronze medals. Lawrenceburg regular Drew Abel was fourth for most all of the race. Landon Simon was a steady fifth after passing Scotty Weir early. Speaking of Weir, he kept sixth, driving a Jamie Miller owned car. Michael Fischesser was the passing king as he roared from 16th to finish seventh. Gaines’ effort wasn’t too shabby either as he started 15th and brought the Soudrette family machine home eighth. Kokomo’s Dustin Smith was ninth. Rushville’s Garrett Abrams took home tenth place money.

    It was a good day and night. Big Dave and I were a little later than normal because I spent some time holding my grand-niece, age one. Later, I spent more quality time with Dave Rudisell, age, uh, a bit older than my grand-niece—and her mother. We talked a lot about weather and how it affects racing. How it is all promoters don’t have gray hair is beyond me. The temperature was perfect, but the same north breeze that Bloomington had on Friday was at the ‘burg on Saturday, as the humidity and dew point combined to provide another challenge for any track preparation. Though the weather was discussed quite a bit, nothing was done about it—again.

    At Hoosier bullrings, two Hall of Famers and a talented young man with a Hall of Fame name prevailed. Along with Jordan Kinser, Shane Cottle (the BOSS show at Rte. 44 Speedway and Paragon) and Dave Darland (Lincoln Park) won features.

    Sometimes one finds oneself in the right place, but the wrong time (thanks to Dr. John). But every now and then, it all clicks and one finds oneself being interviewed after the race while holding a trophy—in Kinser’s case, a guitar in honor of Jason Soudrette, who also played a little guitar.

    Pitching my great idea to TV network suits, a show called Dancing With the Cars, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Making It Look Easy

    It’s common knowledge, or should be, that when people make their job look easy, they are doing it well. Granted, some jobs are more difficult by any standard than others. One of the most difficult is wrestling a sprint car around a bullring as fast as possible. Not too many people excel at this. A few of them were at the Bloomington Speedway on a beautiful Friday evening at the Bloomington Speedway. They all tackled the red clay oval, but only one could win. That was Brady Short, who can drive a sprint car around this track as well or better than any active racer currently. Short took the win over another guy who gets around Bloomington pretty well, Jeff Bland.

    There was a breeze coming from the north and it gave Henry Bryant, the young man who preps the track, a mild headache. But he managed to make it look easy and poured the water to the track. The time had arrived for hot laps and soon we’d see the oval take shape.

    The track didn’t agree with young Kendall Ruble, who flipped hard off turn one during the first hot lap session. The Vincennes native didn’t make it into the parking lot, as A.J. Hopkins had two weeks earlier during Sprint Week, but he came close. I was watching closely, because my chauffeur, Mr. Dave Foist (Esq.), had parked not far from the track. Kendall popped out of the car, done for the night.

    There was a bit of ride hopping among the 17 sprints signed in. Jon Stanbrough hopped into the Jamie Paul car. Casey Shuman, rained out west of here, hustled back to sit in the Krockmobile. Tony DiMattia occupied the Rick Pollock hot rod.

    Short drew the pole for the first heat and predictably checked out. Shuman was a distant second, followed by Jordan Kinser. Stanbrough was fourth and DiMattia edged Josh Cunningham to take fifth.

    Bland followed Ethan Barrow for every lap except the last, making the pass to take the win. Thomas Meseraull overcame a slide-off midway through the race to come back and finish third. Pole sitter Lee Underwood was fourth, ahead of Billy Cribbs.

    Despite a red flag during a mini-sprint heat, the feature rolled off at 8:50 with Barrow and Short on the front row.

    After Ethan jumped the first start, the boys tried again and Short took the lead coming out of turn two and led all the way. Bland and Meseraull immediately attacked Barrow’s position and assumed second and third place.

    Underwood brought out the race’s only yellow light with three laps complete when he slipped over the turn two bank and did the obligatory stop to bring out the yellow flag and lights. The re-start order was Short, Bland, TMez, Barrow, Shuman, Kinser, Stanbrough, DiMattia, Cunningham and Cribbs.

    For the rest of the race, there would be little change in positions six through ten, with no changes among the top five. Early on, most everyone abandoned the bottom groove, opting to glide around the top, using the considerable cushion.

    By the 20th lap, Short’s lead was most of a straightaway and he had lapped up to seventh place. The top five had taken to heart philosopher Moe Howard’s advice to “spread out!” Bland was comfortably ahead of Meseruall, who had put some real estate between him and Barrow. Shuman was about as comfortable as a fifth place runner could be. Stanbrough got around Kinser mid-race to grab sixth. DiMattia was seventh with Cunningham eighth, one lap down. Lee Underwood passed more cars for position than anyone as he came back from his early issue to take tenth.

    It was nine o’clock as Brady answered Brad Dickison’s questions at the start/finish line.

    I wandered over to Mr. Foist’s seat and reminded him that I could stay or leave at any time. He drove us home, negotiating the curves of Monroe and Brown counties.

    He made it look easy.

    Making retirement look easy, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

    …but that didn’t keep Lawrenceburg Speedway promoter Dave Rudisell and crew from trying to get their program done on a Saturday night complete with temperatures in the 90s, typical Hoosier humidity, a rainy period that parked everyone for three hours, and finally, approaching lightning which was enough for the track to consider public safety. Reluctantly, after two sprint heats had been run, Rudy pulled the plug and sent everyone home.

    Before leaving I had checked the weather map several times. According to my trusty weather service, Dart Boards Ltd., rain was due to begin at Lincoln Park before it was to begin at Lawrenceburg. By this reasoning, it made more sense to head east rather than northwest. Naturally, LPS had no rain and A.J. Hopkins showed the way, roaring back from his scary Bloomington Sprint Week shunt to take the win.

    I cast my lot with the ‘burg, finding 25 cars in the pits. Dave Darland was in the Mark Hery 40 again, with his USAC ride with the Phillips family done as Steve and Carla has made the tough call to park the 71 for financial reasons. Past Lawrenceburg champ Logan Hupp was in the Gindling seven, making a mini-comeback, but that effort ended early against the turn two wall during hot laps when the crankshaft reportedly broke. C.J. Leary was one of a quality group of cars, including ‘burg hot dogs Joss Moffatt, Shawn Westerfeld, Dickie Gaines, Jarett Andretti, Jordan Kinser, J.J. Hughes, and the handsome and dashing Nick Bilbee.

    Chris Olding voluntarily gave up his pole position of the first heat and scooted to the back. This put Darland on the pole and he took off like a dog chasing a rabbit. His margin was a full straightaway over Westerfeld, who passed Garrett Abrams at the checkered flag. Gaines was fourth after starting ninth. Braxton Cummings secured a spot in the feature had there been one.

    Nick Bilbee came from fifth to win the second heat over Joss Moffatt. Jordan Kinser started and finished third. Drew Abel came from eighth to take fourth. Pole sitter Paul Dues held off J.J. Hughes to grab fifth. J.J. would have prepared for the B had there been one.

    As the third heat lined up with Cody Gardner on the pole, thunder was easily audible over the rumble of the engines. About a lap from the start, I felt the breeze shift, a very similar situation at Terre Haute during Sprint Week. My reaction was the same; I headed for the little white truck.

    I was too slow. The rain began falling and I had a long way to get to the truck.  But I was very lucky. There was an abandoned pit shack on the road to the pits, not used anymore, except by old men who are too slow to get to their vehicle before it rains. That would be my temporary office.

    The rain had begun at 7:10 p.m. At 7:25, the sun was trying to break through the clouds with middling success. But, even though the rain was brief, it was a hard rain and there would be some down time while the track crew could try to circle the high banks to make it race-able.  

    After hundreds of laps run by track vehicles to make the oval ready, the call went out for the third heat sprinters to come out and run some practice laps. They did, but left a few minutes later, replaced by a group of modifieds, who did the same.

    While this was going on, there was more rain coming. There was an impressive light show to the southwest over the distillery. If the radar could have talked, it would have said, there’s rain on the way. Before that happened, the call was made to terminate activities at 10:10.

    Some were not happy, thinking that the track was ready much earlier. I scratched my head at that and ambled to the truck, foiled again. Mr. Rudisell might have been better off to pull the plug after the rain delay, but that’s called hindsight.

    I refused to call it time wasted. After all, I spent some time with the likes of Ryan Kent, Keith Wendell, J.J. Hughes. I missed my man Marv Fish, but hopefully there will be another time.

    The lightning seemed to surround me as I headed home, mostly on Indiana 48 (not 46). Rain caught me while I was on the outskirts of Napoleon. It lasted all the way to Greensburg.

    The last time I’d looked, the weather for Kokomo on Sunday night looked promising. This story is being written on a calm Sunday evening, 100 miles south of Kokomo. So much for that; Kokomo was hammered by mean weather, an all too frequent occurrence. A bad race at Kokomo would have been better than the “race” I saw on TV, the travesty that the Brickyard 400 has become.

    Having my fill of lucky dogs, two wide re-starts, “overtime periods,” and being told by TV announcers what great racing I’m seeing, I’m…

    Danny Burton  

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ballou Wins the Battle While Thomas Wins the War

    Both Robert Ballou and Kevin Thomas Jr. can now point to nice additions to their racing resumes. A rain plagued Indiana Sprint Week ended under mostly clear skies on a beautiful Sunday evening at the Lincoln Park Speedway with Ballou holding the trophy for winning the 30 lap feature and Thomas looking forward to a bit of relaxation in the John Youngs built rocking chair that traditionally goes to USAC's Sprint Week champion.

    At first, it seemed like the mood was somewhat deflated. “Only” 24 cars had signed in. The exciting finish at Tri-State the night before seemed like a better sendoff to Indiana Sprint Week. Lots of travelers had left for home.

    But that was at first. The bleachers began to fill up. It would not be wall-to-wall fans, but it was another impressive crowd. And I thought to myself, “there are quite likely a few fans here who might have only one ISW race this year. And this is it.” Though the pits looked like a deserted car lot, when the green flag dropped, there was no more thoughts about deflating.

    I pay attention to Hoosier sprint car points races once a year and it is during Sprint Week. K. Thomas Jr. came to Putnamville with a not so safe 21 point lead over Ballou. I thought that it wasn’t a given, but the title was KT’s to lose.

    Thomas helped his cause by setting fast time with a smooth 12.594 and his lead was now 23. The track stayed fast as Thomas was the 15th of 24 to take time. C.J. Leary went out just before KT and was second quick. To make things stranger, Chad Boespflug was third fastest and he went out, ready?, just before Leary.

    Pole sitter Chris Windom won the first heat over Brady Short, Jerry Coons Jr., Boespflug and K. Thomas.

    Josh Hodges was the second heat winner by a large margin over Ryan Bernal. Dave Darland’s Phillips ride broke during time trials and he jumped into Mike Dutcher’s backup car. With zero practice, DD qualified 17th and finished third behind his temporary teammate. Tyler Courtney was fourth, ahead of Jarett Andretti.

    Ballou won the third heat; it was clear he was on a mission. Leary was second and Thomas Meseraull third. Brent Beauchamp overcame a poor qualifying time to take fourth with Farney coming in fifth.

    There may have been “only” nine cars in the B, but most had impressive records. Chase Stockon, Tri-State winner Kyle Cummins, Kody Swanson, Justin Grant, Tyler Thomas, Jon Stanbrough, and Nate McMillin filled out the starting 22.

    Ballou and Farney started the feature on the front row. K. Thomas started sixth. If Ballou won, Thomas had to finish eighth to win the championship. But Boespflug upset Ballou’s plan temporarily as he used the high line to lead the first lap after starting fourth. This got Robert’s attention as he worked the bottom to perfection and grabbed the lead on the second lap.

    Thomas didn’t get off to the greatest start. He bobbled early on and dropped from sixth to eighth. If that wasn’t enough, he did it again a couple of laps later. This was getting good, because Ballou was leading all this time.

    But Ballou was soon to have his own thrill. It was named Brady Short and the Bedford Blaster was on the move from his tenth starting spot. He steadily passed a lot of good cars and was reeling in the leader. Short was set to make the attempted pass when the yellow waved on lap 20 for Josh Hodges, who spun and was hit by Brent Beauchamp. This may well have been the defining moment as Short was quite possibly going to take the lead.

    The order at the re-start was Ballou, Short, Courtney, Boespflug, Farney, Leary, K. Thomas, Stockon, Grant, and Windom. Ballou jumped out to a five car length lead. Two laps later, Leary took a nasty ride in turn three, exiting the car quickly. The top five remained the same. Thomas had moved to sixth.

    It appeared that Short’s car had excelled on the race’s initial long green flag session. Now, Brady was struggling. On the re-start after the red, Courtney passed Short and Boespflug did the same a couple of laps later. Thomas passed Farney to take fifth, a bit of insurance.

    Tyler Thomas brought out the race’s last caution flag on the 27th lap. On the re-start, Ballou was in control. No one had anything for him. A half straightaway behind was Courtney, who led Boespflug to complete the podium. Short was fourth, just ahead of the 2017 Indiana Sprint Week champion, Kevin Thomas Jr. Grant was sixth and Hodges came roaring back from his spin to finish seventh and was the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER after starting 14th. Farney faded a bit to eighth. Windom was ninth and Darland, who may or may not have a regular sprint ride for a spell, was an impressive tenth.

    At the end, pictures said a lot. Side by side on usacracing.com, there was Ballou, standing on his roll cage, enjoying the moment, another battle won. And there was Thomas, looking out of place in a rocking chair that’s more my style, but savoring the war that was both over and won. He was tired, but quite happy. True, there are more races to run, but until the end of time, the record book will show who are the Indiana Sprint Week champions.

    If possible, I was sad and glad. Sad that it was over. I’d seen some great racing, with the usual drama, triumph and defeat. I’d seen old friends, locals and those who make the pilgrimage here every year, and made a few new ones.

    Glad it was over. Two trips that yielded two rainouts, the usual lack of sleep, the usual computer/internet adventures and those aching body parts that ache a bit more each year made me glad that it was over for another year. But the preceding was not a complaint. Like racers and fans, I/we all choose to do this, whatever it is.

    Hiring Floyd Mayweather’s accountant to do my taxes, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Fine Lines and Home Cookin’

    So much of our lives is determined by inches or fine lines. Sometimes the result of something doesn’t become apparent until much later, either hours or years. Little things that may not attract much interest matter at a later time. If we’re not watching, they can sneak up on us. This may or may not be good. During his heat race at the Tri-State Speedway on a beautiful Saturday night, Kyle Cummins was in trouble. Only four cars would make the feature and he wasn’t one of them. He didn’t wish to have to race into the feature via the B main; he wanted and needed to take fourth place. And on the last lap of the second heat, Cummins got around Critter Malone to stake his claim to a starting spot in the 30 lap feature. Not just any starting spot, this would be on the outside of the front row. This didn’t hurt Kyle’s chances. After trailing race long leader Kevin Thomas Jr. for 29 and three quarters of the 30 lap feature, Cummins gave the high groove a shot and used it to pass Thomas to win round five of USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week. It was his second USAC/ISW victory and this one came before a hometown crowd, who offered up a cheer nearly as loud as the engines.

    It's a somewhat longer trip for me to Haubstadt, Indiana than to Kokomo. But once past the bustling metropolis that is Bloomington, it’s all rural. As one enters Daviess County, it might be a surprise to see that much of southwestern Indiana is as flat as most of the northern section of the state. It’s not a surprise but it’s always a treat to head south on U.S. 41 and see the Helfrich farm through the windshield.

    Justin Grant set fast time with a lightning quick 13.362. You can’t say that the surface went away; it held up well through time trials. Chad Boespflug qualified third quick and going out 30th of 35 didn’t hurt him. It was the same for Bloomington winner Kevin Thomas Jr., 34th out and fourth fastest.

    Grant methodically worked his way through the pack to win the first heat. Pole sitter Carson Short was second and Brody Roa was third. Tyler Courtney started and finished fourth. Dave Darland and Tyler Thomas added the B main to their list of things to do.

    Pole sitter Josh Hodges was the second heat’s winner. His front row mate Brady Short was second. The fastest qualifier of this group, Thomas Meseraull, was third. And on the last lap Kyle Cummins got around Critter Malone to take fourth. This was impressive to be sure, but later it became extremely important for at least two reasons. Malone and Jon Stanbrough would add a lot of talent and character to the consolation 12 lapper.

    Jarett Andretti took the lead from Brian Karrakher on the second lap and held on to win the third heat. Robert Ballou, Chad Boespflug and Ryan Bernal trailed. Karrakher and Aaron Farney would run in the B.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the fourth of four heats over Chase Stockon and Chris Windom. Dakota Jackson had his hands full staying ahead of C.J. Leary, who would start sixth in the B.

    Speaking of which, it was wild and woolly. Critter Malone sped his way to the lead on the first lap after starting fifth. But four laps later he brought out the yellow when he stopped in turn one, ending an outstanding collection of laps led. One had to wonder…had he held off Cummins in his heat race what might have happened. The lead went to Dave Darland, who won.

    A yellow flag turned red after no less than five cars made an instant used sprint car parking lot in turn two. The red was for Brandon Mattox, whose car caught fire, but was extinguished early. No one was hurt. Action resumed with Darland holding off Stanbrough, Donnie Brackett (started 12th), Leary, Karrakher, and rookie Stephen Schnapf, who started 11th. Farney used a provisional.

    K. Thomas blasted his way to the lead from third on the first lap of the feature. Cummins, who started on the outside third row, settled into second. But an interesting thing happened. KT was not pulling away as he did at Bloomington. He wasn’t the only car that was handling this quarter mile, high banked, paperclip shaped bullring. Cummins was never more than six to eight car lengths behind and often was closer than that. This remained true as lapped traffic became a factor right around lap 12. Thomas deftly maneuvered his way through the lappers, who weren’t that much slower than he was.

    This temporary Dynamic Duo had separated themselves from the group behind them as laps wore down. It was beginning to look as if Cummins would have to settle for second. But then came the turning point of this race. A lap 28 caution flag waved for Brackett, who spun in turn four. Thomas surely was not pleased.

    But he held onto the lead on the re-start. But another yellow came out on the 29th lap for Dave Darland, whose smoking car caused him to stop. I’m told that now each last lap caution will necessitate a green/white/checkered finish.

    And so it was. Cummins had no luck getting around KT while both hugged the low groove coming to the white flag. But the local kid decided that he may as well try to the top. And so he did. After the white flag waved, Cummins got along side of Thomas as both sped down the backstretch. Sailing into turns three and four, Cummins dove low and Thomas slid high. Coming out of four, they traded places on the track, with a bit of wheel banging. Cummins made the pass as KT nearly lost control of the car—and the race.  

    With the cheers adding to the sounds, Cummins crossed the start/finish line about two car lengths ahead of KT. Post-race, Thomas was classy, disappointed to lose like that, but admitting it was on him. Cummins thanked everyone except Brian France. He was a happy dude, as he should have been.

    Almost forgotten, Courtney passed Grant at the end to get his own post-race interview. Meseraull was fifth. The second five was Ballou, Andretti, Boespflug, Bernal and C. Short, who won the hard charger money for coming from 16th to tenth.

    K. Thomas bumped his ISW points lead to 21 over Ballou, 348 to 327 with the rained out Lincoln Park show left to go.

    We all may as well face it. Those fine lines, wherever they may show up, aren’t going away.

    Persuading Kevin Olson to take on the challenge of being Sebastian Vettel’s driving coach, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Old Fashioned Whuppin’

    There was little doubt about it; Kevin Thomas Jr. did his best to stink up the show at the Bloomington Speedway on a beautiful Friday night. But all one needed to do was check out the action going on behind him as USAC's finest wrestled with each other and a track that was a bit slick. This didn't mean that people couldn't race each other. On the contrary, they could and did. It turned out to be another good evening as USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week, round four (originally round six before rain captured Terre Haute and Lincoln Park) could be called a win with another huge crowd and enough action to tide us over until Saturday night at Haubstadt.

    One of the first things I noticed at Bloomington was that the place had a huge crowd. I heard one guy opine that people were hungry to see some racin’ after the rain scuttled plans for Terre Haute and Putnamville. Each of the Sprint Week tracks have had their weather issues this year and Bloomington was no exception, suffering through four consecutive rainouts in a row. But the weather tonight was outstanding.  

    40 sprints and 25 Racesavers populated the pits.  Casey Shuman and Jerry Coons Jr. were both scheduled to be in Krockenberger family cars for Terre Haute and Lincoln Park. Rain took care of that, but Coons was in a Krock-car while the Shu had duties west of here with the WAR series.

    Then there was Mike Dutcher, whose luck has been abysmal at best. He was caught up in a chain reaction deal in Indy on Thursday with major damage done to his truck. His driver Ryan Bernal was in the Gass family car, same number, different car.

    Carson Short went out early and was the only driver to turn in a sub eleven second lap. His 10.842 held up as the track slowed for most, but not all as Thomas Meseraull and Chad Boespflug turned in top eight times after drawling a high qualifying number.

    This was followed by a four part harmony of the National Anthem. In addition, USAC’s Richie Murray was honored with another award. One should think that this young man is liable to earn a few more before he’s done. Given his background in sprint car racing from his childhood, one should not be surprised, but should be quite pleased for Richie.

    C. J. Leary, ISW point leader when the night began, won the first heat from the pole. K. Thomas Jr., Jeff Bland, and Brady Short trailed. Fifth fastest qualifier Lee Underwood, Coons, Justin Grant, Jarett Andretti, and Aaron Farney would insure a quality B main.

    Robert Ballou led a California 1-2-3 sweep in the second heat. Kody Swanson and Ryan Bernal were the other two West Coast finishers. Fourth place Josh Hodges calls New Mexico home. Chris Windom’s car would not start, putting him in the B.

    Pole sitter Brody Roa won the third heat. Dakota Jackson, Tyler Courtney, and Thomas Meseraull all could relax for a spell. Max McGhee, Hunter Schuerenberg and 2016 ISW/Bloomington winner Brent Beauchamp made ready for the B.

    In the fourth heat, it was Chad Boespflug (from fifth), Dave Darland, Shane Cottle, and Tyler Thomas transferring. An All-Star lineup of Jon Stanbrough, Jerry Coons Jr., Chase Stockon and Kyle Cummins went to the B.

    Coons led a parade containing Beauchamp, Farney, and Jamie Williams to tag the B Main.

    McGhee made up for a bad heat by winning the B. Schuerenberg, Grant, Underwood, Stockon, and Windom all moved on to race one more time. A.J. Hopkins was involved in a scary incident when he flipped in turn one, landing in the parking lot after plowing through the fence, damaging a couple of vehicles. A.J. was taken to the crash house for observation, but his Facebook page indicated that he was out and about as of Saturday morning.

    Andretti and C. Short, who was edged out of the B at the finish line, used provisionals.

    Boespflug and Meseraull, a pair of kids (well, to me they are), led 22 more to the green as Chad took the lead and TMez found trouble right away. K. Thomas made contact with Meseraull’s left front tire, messing up the front end. Later, KT shouldered 100% of the blame. It would be the race’s only yellow.

    On the re-start, K. Thomas was second, but not for long. He made quick work of Boespflug, grabbing the lead on lap three and immediately checking out. Meanwhile, Boespflug had his hands full with Lee Underwood hounding his every move and trading second place with the California native.

    If that wasn’t enough, Tyler Thomas, who was overdue for a quality performance, was making noise. He spent much of the race in the top five, giving the likes of Ballou, Bland and Schuerenberg as good as he received.

    The famous (or infamous) Bloomington Speedway curb began forming with the first hot lap group. By feature time, it was tall enough for a child to jump off it and make its mother a bit apprehensive. KT worked it to perfection, and lapped traffic (which became a factor about midway through the feature) was no problem for the leader. He handled it like a pro.

    Behind K. Thomas at the checkered was Boespflug, who held off T. Thomas to claim second. Simply put, Lee Underwood had the race of his young life. He spent a large majority of the race in a podium position before T. Thomas made a late pass. Underwood was closely followed by Robert Ballou and Jeff Bland, who came from 12th to take sixth. Chris Windom also had a strong finish, moving from 13th to seventh. And continuing the pattern of advancing six spots, Tyler Courtney came from 14th to finish eighth. Chase Stockon was ninth and hard charger Brady Short motored from 22nd to tenth.

    John Paynter, Jeff Bland (from seventh), and Matt Lux won the Racesaver heats. Ryan Tussing won the first Racesaver B’s that I’ve ever seen.

    In the 25 lap Racesaver feature, Terry Arthur took the early lead when both Lux and Andy Bradley flipped at opposite ends of the track, bringing out a red flag. A couple of laps later, Arthur exited the track while a yellow flag was out. The new leader was Luke Bland. But Paynter, after starting sixth, reeled in the leader and took the lead just before the halfway mark. He would simply check out, leaving Bland to hold off Tussing (who rambled to the front from 16th), Jared Fox (12th), and Danny Clark.

    For me, personally, the red clay oval, home of my first race (in the Harry S. Truman administration) came through again. All the ISW promoters, as well as USAC, have deserved great crowds, and Bloomington certainly had a large contingent on hand.

    C.J. Leary’s 21st finish dumped him back in the pack for the points race. After Bloomington, K. Thomas is the leader in the chase for the cool rocking chair that traditionally goes to the ISW point champ. His lead over Ballou, however, is only five. Leary is now third, seven behind Ballou.

    Explaining to my wife why I had to meet with a nice looking Russian lady in her hotel room, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Rain Magnets

    The stage was set. The cars and stars were there. The Vigo County Fair was in high gear on the midway just east of the Terre Haute Action Track. Richie Murray, Pat Sullivan and Donald Davidson treated fans to some THAT/Indy 500/Tony Hulman history. Indiana Sprint Week’s race number four was soon to commence and racers were ready to put on a performance of what we’ve come to expect from USAC’s National Sprint Car series. The dark clouds from the north got darker as the afternoon went on, but hey. There was only a miniscule chance of rain. The only irritant was the brutal heat. When I worked (yes, I did—some), I did so in similar weather. As I dealt with the heat (unofficially 98 degrees), I remembered that I walked up to 15 miles in one day when I was much younger. As if that bit of realization made it any cooler, but at least it gave me some perspective.

    After extensive track prep, wheel packing began. The clouds drew closer. Lightning to the northwest made its presence known. Forgotten, at least temporarily, was the forecast for a 20% chance of rain. Hot laps began with the clouds and lightning. The track looked good. But then came a scary incident after hot laps began. Isaac Chapple took a nasty ride in turn four. It took awhile for the guys to get Isaac out of the car. A few hours later, I read this from Isaac Chapple Racing on their Twitter page. “Isaac was involved in a wreck during hot laps. He was transferred to Terre Haute Regional Hospital where he is being well taken care of. He is awake and doing okay, but will be held overnight for observation. We appreciate your prayers and concerns.”

    While the medical team was tending to Chapple, sprinkles started. The wind direction changed almost immediately. It was time to either get wet or head for the little white truck, which was parked near the pit gate. I walked at a brisk pace to the truck. About 20 minutes after the rain began, it kicked into high gear. It didn’t take long for USAC and Track Enterprises to call it a night.

    USAC Racing’s Facebook said, “We are rained out for the night. Hold on to your wristbands for any Terre Haute event yet in 2017! The USAC National Sprint cars will return to Terre Haute on September 15th and October 14th.”

    A disappointment to some, heartbreak for others (think promoters and staff), this race simply wasn’t going to happen. With rain coming down steadily and with a significant dose of wind, I headed home. The back roads to State Road 46 were pretty much deserted, but there were several tree limbs and branches down, along with one tree. Going through the town of Riley, the rain was pounding on the little white truck. It eased up somewhat in Clay County, but a second round of hard rain near Bowling Green (IN) slowed my pace a bit. From there, the rain downshifted and the rest of the drive was uneventful with sprinkles and/or light rain.

    Earlier, on the way to the track, I had time to think about some things while behind the wheel. What triggered this was the lack of traffic on 46 east of Nashville. Those moments when one has such a road to themselves are special to me; it helps that I enjoy driving in general.

    You see, from Nashville to the eastern part of Clay County, 46 is a challenge, especially driving through Bloomington at certain hours. On rare occasions, usually late at night, it is one my life’s little pleasures. With little or no traffic and good driving weather, this trip is both exhilarating and peaceful, if that makes sense. It brings to me a measure of contentment.

    But of course those moments are fleeting and temporary (especially approaching larger towns). The rest of life gets in the way in the form of a guy who was riding a scooter through Brown County, steering with one hand while holding on to a bag full of something with the other at 30 miles per hour. Or the moment a mother deer and child decided to cross the road in broad daylight; this, too, got my attention. Maybe those special times, good, bad, indifferent, are meant to be special, maybe not. Or maybe we are to decide if they are special or not on our own. Maybe trying times, not matter how severe or how long they last, are what defines us. If or when we are given challenges of any kind, how we respond says more about us than we’d rather know. But one can make the case that the truest picture of an individual is how they face adversity (or are given a significant amount of power and influence).

    This has plenty to do with racing and race teams. Stroll through the pits and one can see teams where everything is clicking (very few) or teams that are struggling and scrambling. If I could, I’d remind them that, whatever you are going through now, just remember that it won’t necessarily always be this bad (or good). Enjoy the good times and try to remember them when things aren’t going well. Appreciate what you have here; have some perspective. Set goals, knowing that you may or may not reach them. If you reach them, set new ones.

    This one is for Isaac Chapple, a young man chasing a dream or a goal. I’d not be surprised to see him back at a track soon.

    Let us set the stage again and see what happens.

    Offering to turn a certain section of I-69 into a series of dirt ovals, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Leary and Company Go Two for Three

    With nasty weather on the horizon, a group of dedicated and motivated racers did some serious battling as the storm approached. When it was over, while the sky grew even darker, C. J. Leary, his family and crew, stood in Victory Lane with smiles all around. It was his third USAC National Sprint feature win.

    Given the weather forecast for northeastern Indiana, this race should never have happened. Against all odds and common sense, the promoters, teams and fans converged on the tight and racy quarter mile, in a state of limbo these past few years. Knowing that the attendance might be a good bit less than Saturday's sellout at Kokomo, the O'Connor family were still determined to have this event happen.

    If the weather had Reece and crew talking to themselves before the first car entered the track, it would have been understandable. Many folks had the same information that those at the track had, but made the tough call to stay away. And that, too, is understandable. But the threat of rain surely affected the size of the crowd. And the postponement from last Friday surely hurt the car count, which was still a respectable 32.

    A lot of water was dumped on the track in the assumption that it would not rain. It turned out to be a good call. In hot laps, Justin Grant ripped off an 11.921 lap. Unfortunately, that would be his highlight of the night.

    Thomas Meseraull's four year old track record was threatened but the best Chase Stockon could do was 11.837, not too shabby.

    New Mexico's Josh Hodges won the first heat with Hunter Schuerenberg, C. J. Leary and Chase Stockon all locking up a feature spot. Ryan Bernal, Kyle Cummins and Matt Westfall began loading up the B.

    While everyone else hugged the bottom, Aaron Farney chose the road less traveled and won the second heat using the cushion. Justin Grant, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Chad Boespflug all went to the show. Dave Darland would race in the B.

    From sixth, Robert Ballou was strong in winning the third heat, using the same groove that had worked for Farney. Second was Jarett Andretti with Shane Cottle and Brody Roa trailing. Brady Bacon and Tyler Courtney added their ticket to the B.

    Kody Swanson owned the fourth heat; Kokomo winner Thomas Meseraull was second ahead of A. J. Hopkins and Tyler Thomas. This one sent two certain Hall of Famers to the B, Jon Stanbrough and Brady Short.

    Brady Bacon took the lead on the second lap of the B from Dave Darland and led all the way. For the second consecutive night, the last dance card, sixth place, changed hands more than once. Behind Bacon and Darland, it was Windom, Courtney, Short and Cummins. Bernal burned a provisional.

    Cottle and Leary saw the green flag first and the Kokomo resident led the first lap. Starting third, Meseraull came calling and took the lead on the third lap. TMez ended up leading a majority of the 30 laps.

    Leary dropped back from his front row starting position to fifth briefly, as Meseraull and Cottle led the way. About one third of the way in, Ballou took second and was looking stronger than he had the first two nights. Meseraull stretched his lead to about eight car lengths over Ballou at the halfway point. Cottle was third and Leary fourth. A couple of laps later, Leary took over third.

    Ballou had discovered some magic dirt on the bottom and reeled in Meseraull. He passed for the lead, but the yellow came out on lap 20 for Ryan Bernal, who had a meeting with the turn four guard rail. On the restart it was Meseraull, Ballou, Leary, Windom, Cottle, Stockon, Boespflug, Darland, Grant and Cummins.

    The green waved and Ballou quickly took the lead when Meseraull drifted high off turn two. Things didn't improve for TMez as Leary dispatched him to third.

    It seems like the Gas City soil dries up quicker than most other tracks, despite water being added frequently all evening. And it was getting slick out there. The top six cars separated themselves from the others, with Leary sticking to the high side. He kept at it, showing considerable amount of patience, discipline and skill. On lap 26, it paid off as C.J. grabbed the lead from Ballou. With a mighty effort, Windom got around Ballou and Windom, but a yellow for a T. Thomas 360 spin negated both passes. Ballou was not pleased with Windom. Despite Robert’s best efforts, Leary did not budge from the lead and the cushion, where he had been camped most all the race.  

    Ballou had his problems with Windom, but held him off to take the silver medal. Behind Windom in fourth was Boespflug, who had quietly worked his way up from tenth. Bacon did the same, coming from 11th to finish fifth. Cottle faded slightly to sixth. So did Meseraull, as the early leader was seventh. Grant was a quiet eighth. Quick qualifier Stockon was ninth. Hodges came on strong at the end to finish tenth after starting 16th. Courtney was the hard charger, moving from 18th to 11th.

    Lest we forget, Donnie Gentry had a hand in this win, too.

    The last time anyone won two straight Sprint Week races was 2013, when Bryan Clauson put the hurt on the best around.

    The sprints’ feature was over at 8:50 p.m. The modified feature was done at 9:05. A light rain began to fall at 9:10 as I sat in my truck working on the first draft of this article. Somehow the complete show avoided any precipitation.

    The trip home was not nearly as exciting as I thought it might be. There was some rain in Grant County, but it went away quickly. Lightning was west of me for the first part of the trip home. And when arriving home, it was warm and humid—as usual.

    Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track, beginning Part Two of ISW.

    Tearfully parting with my Frankie Avalon records, I'm... Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Joy of Work Well Done

    If you follow any kind of competition fairly close, you might see how certain team members move from team to team. Then you might see how a team improves when certain personnel are added. Don't be fooled; the driver is paramount as he or she should be in the world of sprint car racing. But attention should be paid to the guys who turn the wrenches. First and foremost, C. J. Leary ran like a scared rabbit to win the second round of Indiana Sprint Week at the Lawrenceburg Speedway. And, at the same time, let's give a nod to Donnie Gentry, one of the best mechanics roaming the pits these days. Donnie seems to attract checkered flags like your potato salad attracts flies at the family picnic. Just as it was at Kokomo, chemistry counted.

    I opted for a view of the track that I don't normally take. The top row of the pit bleachers at the 'burg is superb, to put it mildly. One of the many pleasures was seeing the guys come out of turn two, mashing the pedal and hustle toward me. A quick flick of the wheel to the right, then back left, then to the right again going into three. And that moment is special. Because there is that imposing concrete wall, inviting, beckoning, tempting and daring the driver to see how close he can get without disaster striking.

    In time trials, Dave Darland set quick time after drawing an eight, an early qualifying attempt. Thomas Meseraull, the Kokomo winner, showed that the track didn't go away that much as the 41 cars tried their luck. TMez was 25th in line and was the second fastest. If that wasn't enough, Josh Hodges went out 39th and was a respectable 16th.

    Dave Darland used a last lap pass of Tyler Courtney to win the first heat. Hunter Schuerenberg and Brady Bacon also made it to the feature. Chad Boespflug and Aaron Farney headed for the B.

    Pole sitter Kody Swanson won the second heat with Thomas Meseraull second. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Brady Short followed. The B main suddenly got a lot more competitive as Kyle Cummins, Californian Brody Roa, Nick Bilbee and Chase Stockon found themselves on the outside for the time being.

    C. J. Leary was giving us a sample of what was to come as he came from sixth to win the third heat. Jon Stanbrough made a late pass on Jarett Andretti to finish second. Mario Clouser held off Shawn Westerfeld to move on.

    By the time the fourth heat took the green, there was not much cushion up top. Pole sitter Carson Short didn't seem to mind as he won the heat over Josh Hodges, Justin Grant and Chris Windom. Ryan Bernal and Robert Ballou insured that two more Californian would be in the B.

    Brandon Mattox, Landon Simon, J. J. Hughes and Tom Harris went from the C main to the B.

    From the B to the show went Bernal, Cummins, Ballou, Roa, Farney and Chapple. The sixth and final transfer changed hands at least three times with Chapple passing Nick Bilbee at the line after starting the race 13th.

    Schuerenberg and Bacon made up the front row with Bacon jumping out to an early lead. But Leary was on a mission. After letting Brady lead the first two laps, it was time to take over and check out, which he did.

    At the same time, Bacon had his hands full dealing with Darland, who engaged in a terrific battle for second, a fight that would last most of the 30 laps.

    An errant infield tire found its way onto the track, bringing out the race's lone yellow with 12 laps complete. Leary led Bacon, Darland, Ballou, Thomas, Schuerenberg, B. Short, Meseraull, Windom and Andretti.

    This would be the best chance of the contenders to catch Leary. The green waved and still no one could keep up with the Greenfield, Indiana native. Not even lapped traffic was a major problem for Leary. The only tense moment came when Cummins bounced off the wall right in front the leader. There was very little cushion left, but that was no problem either.

    Behind Leary and Bacon at the end was Thomas, who made a late charge and earned the Hard Charger award after starting ninth. Darland and Ballou were the rest of the top five. Windom, Kokomo winner Meseraull, Roa, B. Short and Andretti occupied positions six through ten.

    Next stop, Gas City.

    Figuring out how to mail a cheeseburger to Mr. Allan Holland, I'm...

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report : Chemistry 101

    To be obvious, auto racin' is a little more than a bunch of parts put together with a driver behind the wheel. No matter how good or new the parts are, if the people involved with a car don't mesh, get along with each other, or don't approach problems the same way, that
    rare. But when people and machine come together, good things happen. If you don't believe me, please get in touch with Thomas Meseraull, the opening night winner of the 30th annual Indiana Sprint Week at the Kokomo Speedway. From seventh, Meseraull worked his way to the front and won an all green flag 30 lap feature.

    If you are going to Kokomo for a Sprint Week program, you may want to go early, but only if you want a decent parking place. I arrived just before four o'clock and found a satisfactory spot not far from the Howard County line. No problem. I needed to walk anyway.

    This was surely the biggest crowd ever at this gracefully aging jewel of a race track. 45 sprints and 25 TQ midgets jammed the pits, along with the usual Sprint Week visitors. It was a nice problem to have, not unlike Easter Sunday at church.

    The best of the pre-race activities had to be a Q and A session with open wheel historian Donald Davidson and USAC's Richie Murray, who is a valuable resource of information in his own right. I could have listened to those two tell stories, rattle off statistics or just share their observations a lot longer than the 45 minutes that they took.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. was the fastest qualifier, but that would be his highlight of the night. Jarett Andretti won the first heat with Kody Swanson, Thomas and Isaac Chapple all heading to the show and Chase Stockon heading to the B.

    Passing in the heats was a tough job unless you were Kyle Cummins in the second heat. He came from fifth to win over pole sitter Josh Hodges, Brent Beauchamp and Brady Short. Brady Bacon and Justin Grant were added to the B main lineup.

    Two veterans started up front in the third heat, Ted Hines and Shane Cottle, who was leading when his engine quit. C. J. Leary took the win from fifth and California visitor Ryan Bernal was second. Robert Ballou came from ninth to third, making him the instant favorite to win the Hard Charger award. Another West Coast racer, Brody Roa, was fourth. Thomas Meseraull went to the B, which turned out to be no problem.

    Chris Windom was the fourth heat winner with Carson Short trailing. Chad Boespflug and Tyler Courtney punched their tickets for the A main. Dave Darland and Aaron Farney prepared for the B.

    Oklahoma's Koby Barksdale won the C, with Brandon Mattox, Cole Ketchum, Tyler Hewitt and Great Britain's Tom Harris all tagging the B. But Ketchum didn't answer the bell for the B after being tagged by Hewitt accidentally after the checkered.

    Meseraull was also the B main winner, taking Bacon, Darland, Farney, Hopkins, and Stockon with him to the feature. Of note was Tom Harris, who rambled from 17th to seventh, just missing out. Grant and Hunter Schuerenberg used provisionals to join the party.

    C. Short and Bernal led the snarling pack of beasts to the green. The race's only yellow flag waved when Chad Boespflug did a half spin and Hunter Schuerenberg, Josh Hodges and Aaron Farney held an unscheduled and unwanted meeting in turn two.

    The boys tried again and this time they keep it all green. Meseraull exploded from his fourth row starting spot to begin harassing Short for the lead two laps after the green waved. TMez took the lead on the ninth lap and did his best to stink up the show.

    Behind him, multiple battles for position were the rule. The major mover up front was Brady Bacon, who started eleventh and methodically worked his way forward. By lap 20, he was third and doing his best to deal with Short, who hung tough.

    This was far from a romp, as Short kept the leader in sight, but could never get any closer than about five car lengths. As could be expected, the victor was his usual exuberant self in Victory Lane. He could not praise his new car owners enough.

    It was Meseraull's first Sprint Week win.

    Behind Short in second was Bacon, who is not running the full Sprint Week series. Tyler Courtney was fourth, with Kyle Cummins hanging on for fifth. Dave Darland took sixth and his fellow Kokomo maestro Kevin Thomas Jr. was seventh. C. J. Leary faded slightly to finish eighth. Chris Windom brought it home ninth and Robert Ballou picked up some Hard Charger money by coming from 22nd to take tenth.

    Meseraull is the early leader in Sprint Week points.

    Not embarrassed when I have no clue where NASCAR is racing on a given weekend, I'm...Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Sprint Week, Delayed
    I’ve been thinking a lot about racing rainouts lately. Given that we’ve had quite a few this year, one can’t be blamed for thinking about racing interrupted or delayed.
    With all this in mind, I set off for the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on a warm and humid Friday afternoon, knowing that there was a good chance of rain, but deciding that the gamble was well worth it. After all, it was to be opening night for the 30th Annual Indiana Sprint Week, for me, pretty close to sprint car heaven. What if the rain decided to go north or even south of the track? So off I went. For all I knew, Tyler Courtney might come from last to first and win again.
    By two o’clock I was in Shelby County heading north. The sun was shining, even though there were numerous clouds in the area. Looking north, the clouds seemed to be closer together—and a bit darker.
    This continued all the way through Hancock and Madison counties, but now the dark clouds dominated the view to the north. Occasionally I checked the radar. It didn’t look good. There was no word on the races being rained out. I kept going.
    Now on I-69, I entered Delaware County and the dark clouds were straight ahead of me. If I kept going, the little white truck would get a nice washing. I stopped at Exit 241 and a late lunch at Subway sounded good. My timing was flawless. Midway through my sub, the rain began.
    Rain was coming down in buckets soon enough. I decided to stay put in the restaurant for a few minutes until the rain slowed. It did just that eventually and I retreated to the truck. My timing was impeccable as the rain kicked into high gear soon after getting behind the wheel. It was close to 3:30 when the word came down—no racing tonight and, best of all, the Gas City edition of Sprint Week would be Monday.
    Heavy rain or not, I headed south. The rain accompanied me all the way to just south of Greenfield. Everywhere I looked, an abundance of standing water was in most fields, reminding me that racing promoters aren’t the only ones who don’t need this much water. It’s true; the drought is over.
    There was nothing left to do except surf the internet and halfway watch a NASCAR Modified race (a recording), the only NASCAR watching I do as a rule (even though I broke the rule on Thursday to watch Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe and J.J. Yeley race pickup trucks).
    Saturday shall roll around and we’ll all try again. I have faith in the O’Connor team that I’ll see a race track ready for racing when the evening comes.
    I would normally be on my way home as this is written. Enough said.
    Kicking back on a deserted beach with Chris Christie, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Musical Chairs

    There’s nothing new about racers switching cars multiple times in a year’s time. Some jump from one ride to another seemingly about as often as Hollywood types get married and divorced. Others score solo appearances in other cars and sometimes do quite well, thank you. Kevin Thomas Jr. is a prime “suspect” in all this. What’s more, he has shown that he can win, no matter what ride he’s in at a given race. He did just that at the Lincoln Park Speedway on a warm Saturday night, winning the MSCS portion of the Bill Gardner Sprintacular after USAC’s opening night to honor Mr. Gardner was washed out on Friday.

    Friday’s rainout was disappointing to all, and it occurred to me that the folks who can’t get out to their local or favorite track very often might be even more disappointed than the rest of us sprint car freaks. But the rain passed through, cancelling races in its path, Lincoln Park, Bloomington and, for good measure, the late model show at Terre Haute.

    Anyone who has tried to keep score or write down car numbers could appreciate the challenge of multiple numbers. With a hefty car count of 40, duplicate numbers are a given. At least one third of the field had duplicate digits, most with letters also included. There were two fours and two 66’s. Then there were three fives, 24’s, 17’s and 32’s. The most notable of these were the numbers 32 of Garrett Abrams and Garrett Aitken. Having the same numbers wasn’t enough for these guys; they also had the same initials.

    40 cars meant five heats, a C and B main, and potentially a late night. Major dust during sprint cars’ hot laps meant major surgery performed on the track with a late start. As it turned out, it wasn’t all that late. Thomas took the checkered flag a bit after 11:00 p.m. More importantly, the surgery cured the track of its ailment and racing was top notch.

    Only the top three transferred out of their heat and, given the car count, the B main had its share of hot dogs. A.J. Hopkins, in the Ottinger machine, won the first heat over Kody Swanson and Matt Westfall.

    Pole sitter Kent Schmidt won the second heat with Shane Cottle and Brady Short trailing.

    Garrett Aitken has steadily improved each night out in a sprinter and he won the third heat. Jon Stanbrough in the Wingo Brothers car and C.J. Leary in the Scott Pedersen mount both transferred. LPS track champ Shane Cockrum and MSCS point leader Carson Short headed to the B, along with Bloomington track champ Jeff Bland.

    Thomas Meseraull got together with the Briscoe family and took this new ride to the fourth heat’s checkered flag first by a straightaway. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was second and Tyler Hewitt took third. Robert Ballou, Chase Stockon and Hunter Schuerenberg, in the Pace Electronics car, all prepared for the B.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. gave a sneak preview of things to come as he won the fifth heat by a healthy margin over Jarett Andretti and Brent Beauchamp.

    The ten lap C main saw Kyle Robbins, Zach Hampton, Lee Underwood, Garrett Abrams and Shelby Van Gilder get the chance to race again, tagging the B main lineup.

    The 15 lap B lineup looked like a decent feature with a fair amount of race winning entries. Ballou took the lead early and held on to win. He would be joined by Meseraull, Ryan Bernal (from tenth), Stockon and Schuerenberg (from 14th) in making the show.

     For one more tribute to Mr. Gardner, Jon Stanbrough paced the field for a couple of parade laps. Hopkins and Schmidt paced 19 of their buddies to the green and A. J. jumped out to the lead. But Tyler Hewitt brought out the red when he flipped in turn one. He walked away.

    The boys got another lap completed before Jarett Andretti did a half spin, which clogged things up behind him. C.J. Leary stopped on track with a flat tire for a yellow flag. In two laps, Robert Ballou had already advanced to tenth. Hopkins led Aitken, who would continue to impress.

    It was a struggle, this early part of the race. Andretti was involved with another yellow when he stopped to dodge a situation in front of him a couple of laps later. The top ten now was Hopkins, Aitken, Meseraull, Thomas, Stanbrough, Ballou, Cottle, Swanson, Bernal and Schmidt.

    Now came the “meat” of the race, several laps of typical Hoosier competition as Hopkins fought Aitken and Meseraull for the lead. TMez took the lead from Aitken on the sixth lap; he was the third leader already. K. Thomas was hanging around as well and had moved up to second behind TMez when they found lapped traffic around the tenth lap. The first two put some distance between then and a huge pack several car lengths behind them. This group included Aitken, Hopkins, Swanson, Stanbrough, Ballou, Cottle, B. Short, Bernal, Schuerenberg and Beauchamp. Positions seemed to change every lap and this aided the top two as they put a little real estate between themselves and the scrum.

    Coming out of turn four, Ballou collided with Aitken and slowed. The yellow came out officially for Andretti, who had stopped. Robert had a flat tire and stopped by the work area long enough for a tire change. There were seven laps to go and Meseraull led Thomas, Hopkins, Bernal, Stanbrough, Swanson, Cottle, C. Short, Aitken and B. Short.

    The double file re-start would tell the tale. Meseraull had been dominating, but Thomas had been strong. The crowd braced for a seven lap pseudo war among the top two.

    Thomas put that talk to rest as he grabbed the lead when the green waved and left all others behind. Ryan Bernal no doubt put a huge grin on Mike Dutcher’s face as he battled for a podium spot at the end. He made a late pass of Meseraull stick and took second after starting 18th. Swanson flew under the radar for much of the night and ended fourth behind fellow California native Meseraull. Stanbrough was fifth. Hopkins faded only a bit to take sixth. Carson Short came from 21st to finish seventh. Cottle was eighth and Brady Short settled for ninth. Chase Stockon started 19th and grabbed tenth.

    Ballou and Aitken, who ran eleventh and twelfth, deserved better results. Aitken’s race was a pleasant surprise. 

    By my unofficial count, three of the top ten have been in the same car or with the same team for every race this year. Kody Swanson, Carson Short, and Chase Stockon.

    No doubt there was some grumbling earlier when hot laps were conducted in a dust bowl before the reworking of the track. And there was surely no doubt that many who grumbled early were happy later after having seen an excellent race. The makeover and the setting sun combined for a racy surface that yielded some of the best doing their best.

    Who could ask for anything more? (I’ve Got Rhythm)

    Sprint Week beckons. Yet again, the plan is to catch ‘em all, from the opener at Gas City to the closer at Tri-State, one quadrant of my home state to another. I don’t dare add up the miles driven, the food bill, the lack of sleep and the number or words tapped here by this disheveled retiree. But that is more than negated by the wheel to wheel action, greeting old friends, making new ones and appreciating it all as new memories join old ones. Hope to see some of you there.

    Having a picture made of me walking through the pits put on Time magazine, then posting it at the entrances of such tracks as Gas City, Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, Terre Haute, Lincoln Park, Bloomington and Tri-State, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Rush Hour

    If we’ve driven vehicles on public roads, streets and highways, we’ve encountered the dreaded rush hour, either in the morning or afternoon as much of working America commutes from home to employment and back home in the afternoon. We’ve all probably encountered (and maybe have been) the crazed motorist who switches lanes in a semi-controlled frenzy, sometimes two lanes at once. This same escapee from the local zoo thinks nothing of tailgating, cutting in front of other vehicles, and disdaining the use of their turn signals. All this time they may be gesturing, screaming, or frequently testing the volume of the vehicle’s horn. None of these guys (and they are most always guys) is Brent Beauchamp, a racer who knows how to negotiate traffic. He proved it on a cool Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway as he spent the first part of the 25 lap feature chasing Jarett Andretti, then made the pass, becoming the chasee, as it were, as the third generation racer chased Beauchamp through some of the heaviest traffic seen on the five sixteenths mile oval. Too bad that a comparative few were there to see how it’s done properly, so they could drive with some degree of control on I-465 come Monday.

    No two nights at any race is the same. My resident navigator/mud scraper was on his way to a Mississippi beach, passing through the land of his ancestors on the way. Tyler Hewitt was sporting a buzz haircut in an effort to find more speed. As we shall see, it worked. Hot laps found the track in need of some work. All four turns were dug up after hot laps. More work would be done later on the oval with excellent results.

    I admire and respect these guys, from the youngest kid (14 year old Jadon Rogers) to the oldest. Tonight that was probably Dave Peperak, a surprise entry and a fine addition to any field. 25 cars were among the 90 plus in Joe Spiker’s golf course. One of these was the Jamie Paul effort normally driven by Shane Cockrum, but with the Chief occupied elsewhere, Nick Bilbee was in the seat, his first ride in anything but a family owned car.

    Clouds of dust made visibility a challenge but I could see Jarett Andretti race dust free in winning the first heat. Garrett Abrams, making his first appearance in a few years at LPS, was second. Ohio’s Paul Dues, N. Bilbee and Billy Cribbs all punched A main tickets.

    T. Hewitt used his new haircut to run away with the second heat win. Kyle Simon came on late to take second. Kent Christian was third. J. Rogers and eighth starting Matt McDonald could take a break until the feature.

    Brent Beauchamp was the third heat victor, leaving Kody Swanson second after a battle with late arrival Robert Ballou. Tim Creech II and Oklahoma’s Koby Barksdale made the cut.

    Shelby Van Gilder came up short in her heat, but hustled to the B main win. Her fellow front row starter, Tilton Trucking owner Ty Tilton, was second. Lee Underwood was third. Relative newcomers Harley Burns and Adam Wilfong would find themselves making an LPS feature.

    The feature began at 9:40 p.m., with plenty of light left in the sky. It would precede the fireworks and would provide its own fireworks. There was even time for another track makeover.

    Pole sitter Andretti grabbed the lead when the green waved. Right away Beauchamp took second, sending Hewitt to third. If the pace wasn’t frantic enough, the lapped traffic added to the merriment beginning on lap seven. A couple of laps later, Beauchamp guessed correctly and passed Andretti in lapped traffic, taking a lead he would not give up.

    But it wouldn’t be that easy. The leader never could put much of a gap between himself and the second place runner. Lapped traffic was relentless and plentiful. I had no trouble thinking of my own misadventures on 465 over the years. How long could these guys keep this up? Not only was there a fight for the lead, but a bit further back, Swanson, Simon, Abrams and Ballou were fighting for fourth place behind the comparatively lonely third place Hewitt.

    A yellow flag waved, but it didn’t involve the combatants up front. Adam Wilfong coasted into the infield, but didn’t dare run into the area where the fireworks were to be set off. This left him too close to the track and the yellow came out on lap 20.

    On the re-start, with five laps to go, Beauchamp led Andretti, Hewitt, Swanson, Ballou, Simon, Abrams and Bilbee. The five laps to the end were almost, but not quite, anti-climactic, at least up front. Positions changed further back. But overall, it was a well driven race by the 20 starters, given the fact that so many lapped cars were running at similar speeds.

    Beauchamp built up a lead of several car lengths at the end over Andretti. Hewitt may decide to keep the Marine cut as he ran well and finished third. Ballou came on at the end to take fourth after starting ninth. Swanson was fifth. Simon was sixth and Bilbee’s initial ride in a strange car resulted in a steady seventh place effort. Abrams, on a rare night away from Lawrenceburg, was eighth. Dues in ninth and McDonald were ninth and tenth; it was Matt’s second straight top ten finish at LPS.

    The boys didn’t mess around. The feature was only about nine minutes in length. The mods had their feature before the fireworks began.

    I hit the road and meandered back home. Even though it wasn’t rush hour, I avoided I-465 like the plague.

    Getting tossed out of a local golf course for driving my golf cart onto the putting green, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: What Does and Does Not Matter

    Ask any promoter which would be his or her preference, a high car count or a good crowd. My uneducated guess is any competent promoter would choose the latter, a good crowd. No car count can guarantee a great program, topped by a great feature. Very few races here in Indiana, with the possible exception of Indiana Sprint Week, feature a majority of the best in the Hoosier sprint car scene. Maybe the car count was down a bit, but the competition was as fierce as ever at the Lincoln Park Speedway on another beautiful Indiana Saturday night as A.J. Hopkins battled with Brent Beauchamp before pulling away for the sprint feature triumph.

    My trusty wingman took his usual nap on the way northwest, but it was somewhat abbreviated. No matter, we arrived just before wheel packing and hot laps. He commandeered a pen, the notebook and began writing numbers down. Here is a kid who learned his numbers at the race track. He’s on the verge of learning the invert system used in time trials.

    Before the cars were pushed to the staging area, Karston had agreed to do some mud scraping for young Harley Burns (Eric’s son) and Luke Smith. I was more than happy to watch the work being done while chatting with Eric Burns and Don Smith. For good measure, the little guy accepted a couple of decals from Jamie Williams, along with an invitation to come out and visit his shop in southern Bartholomew County. One of the decals was immediately added to the Chevy truck and a Luke Smith t-shirt given him by Don replaced his original shirt. If that wasn’t enough, one of the guys helping the Burns effort slipped Karston a dollar, which went toward a drink.

    With the numbers written down and at least two cars with mud removed, we made the long walk to the front stretch bleachers. Once again, I gave up the pen and notebook.

    With Karston taking over the tough job of scoring, A. J. Hopkins ran away with the first heat win. Tyler Thomas came on strong at the end to take second. Oklahoman Cody Barksdale made a late pass to finish third ahead of Shelby Van Gilder. Minnesota's Rob Caho was fifth.

    Matt McDonald did as Mr. Hopkins, winning the second heat by a healthy margin. Brent Beauchamp took second near the end, passing Garret Aitken. Shane Cockrum moved up from last to take fourth. Pole sitter Nate McMillen was fifth.

    With 15 cars, there was no B Main, and heat winners Hopkins and McDonald led the rest to the green. The young sidekick handled the scoring for the first ten laps. Hopkins took the early lead with Tyler Thomas showing early strength, grabbing second for the first few laps ahead of Beauchamp before the Indianapolis based veteran took it away. A lap later, Beauchamp became the new leader, passing Hopkins on the backstretch on lap five.

    The order up front remained unchanged with Beauchamp leading Hopkins, Garrett Aitken, Matt McDonald and Tyler Thomas at the halfway mark. A lap 16 caution flag for Aitken, who spun in turn three, changed things. Thomas was sent to the tail for avoidable contact, joining Aitken. After the green waved again, Beauchamp found himself in trouble as a rejuvenated Hopkins made the pass coming out of turn two, pulling away.

    The order remained the same as the checkered waved and Beauchamp had to settle for the runner-up spot. McDonald was third, ahead of Caho, who started ninth and McMillen, who began the race in tenth. Our homeboy Jamie Williams moved up from 12th to sixth. Lee Underwood had a good race for the second consecutive night, starting last/15th and finishing seventh. Aitken, Thomas and Shelby Van Gilder rounded out the top ten.

    The time was 8:52 p.m. and there was still a healthy dose of sunlight. We were in no hurry to go home. Grandson and I made a deal. When the first yellow of the mod feature waved, we’d head for the pits and see who was around.

    It turned out to be a bit more than that. Karston said hi to new friends and waved at others. At the end of the pit lane usually occupied by the sprinters was Matt McDonald. We visited with Matt for awhile and Karston let me know that he would like to steer the car into the hauler. My policy when he wants to do something like that is for him to ask the driver or owner himself. He did just that and Matt grinned and said, of course. I’m not sure who enjoyed the experience the most, kid, young racer or+ the old guy who mostly watched and smiled to himself.

    And he wasn’t done. He wanted to get a look at A.J. Hopkins’ car, one that he’s removed mud from in the past. Before we left the Hopkins team and said good-bye, the little guy had his second t-shirt of the night, courtesy of A.J Hopkins.

    I don’t share all this to bring attention to myself or my grandson. The real story here is a group of people who love racing and, just as importantly, realize that they need to do all they can to see that this form of racing that we love and enjoy is carried on by the next generation.

    It’s a form of paying it forward, similar maybe to the guy in front of you at the drive-through buying your supper. I repeat Darren Hagen’s words to me when Karston was about three years old. He had just won a Midget Week feature at Gas City and was being interviewed. The little guy wanted to go down the steps to the fence, the better to see the car and driver. After the interview, the driver spotted the little guy being held high by his grandfather (I was much younger and Karston was much lighter then.). He came through the gate underneath the flagstand and gave a cap to the little boy, cementing a love for open wheel racing that is alive and well. Hagen pointed to the boy and said, “That’s the future of racing right there.” It was true then and it’s true now.

    Drivers and car owners get this. At least in Indiana, many promoters do, too. Joe Spiker’s policy of admitting children to the pits for free is one of many examples. We old goats grumble, but involving kids in procedures like the re-draw for the feature is another way to create new fans for the future, and the present as well (think concession stand, souvenir shop, and so on).

    Behind the outer appearance of the racing itself, is a business conducted by people who play for keeps. For some, it’s their bread and butter. Few, if any, expect to get rich quick. Those who do seldom last more than a couple of years. The smarter ones are in it for the long haul. They would like to see multiple generations of fans and racers coming to race with them. They, along with racers such as Matt McDonald, A. J. Hopkins, Jamie Williams, Harley Burns, Luke Smith and many, many more, can see ahead sometimes and realize that this little kid who gets an autograph, a t-shirt or a decal might grow up to be a fan someday, or a mechanic, driver, owner or, God help him or her, a promoter.

    Waiting breathlessly to see that weird guy running North Korea show up at Indy next May, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: High Speed Poetry

    Seldom will you see racing mentioned in the same breath as poetry, but perhaps we should take a look at that. My buddy Kenny way up in northern Illinois maintains (correctly) that Jack Hewitt was a poet by definition. I’ll maintain that Jack was and is not alone. After a caution filled feature, the last four laps of the 25 lap feature at the Bloomington Speedway on a hot and humid night, those noted poets Jeff Bland and Brady Short engaged in an all out duel to the finish with Bland prevailing as the checkered flag waved. The RaceSaver feature was won by Alex Nalon, great-grandson of noted IndyCar driver Duke. It was young Nalon’s first RaceSaver feature win.

    My partner in crime and I arrived a bit later than normal. Our pit walk was quite lengthy as the little guy wrote down lots of numbers. We learned that Brady Short was subbing for Dakota Jackson in his Flynn Racing RaceSaver ride. Jeff Bland was in the seat of Jackson’s usual sprinter. Dakota was in Pennsylvania for the USAC Silver Crown race at Williams Grove. Short was also back in his regular Pottorff sprint car ride. It was odd and ironic that both were driving for Waltz Contracting and would be fighting for a win. And both were the only doublers for the night.

    The RaceSavers were 18 strong and Kerry Kinser won the first heat by nearly a straightaway over Brinton Marvel and John Paynter.

    Alex Nalon won the second heat, beating Jeff Wimmenauer and Jeff Bland to the line.

    The third heat was, uh, a bit ragged. Shayne McElhiney spun in turn four and was clipped by Brady Short, whose left front wheel sheared off in the process. Jared Fox was also involved. Both Fox and Short were done for the race. The yellow flag became a red as too many cars were in harm’s way. Eric Perott had a flat tire that was changed with help from Ethan Barrow and some of the Kendall Ruble team, including Kendall himself. Andy Bradley ended up the winner as poor McElhiney spun twice more. Late arrival Tom Busch was second.

    Max McGhee won the first 410 sprint car heat from the pole as Brady Short trailed. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges won the bronze.

    The second heat was slowed by a couple of yellows. Jordan Kinser won with Lee Underwood second and Billy Cribbs third. Tyler Thomas was involved in both yellows, but came on to take fourth.

    Pole sitter Jeff Bland won the third heat, which was slowed by four yellow flags. Shelby VanGilder came from seventh to second. Brandon Morin was third and Jake Gordon, Eric’s son, was fourth.

    Car count was such that there was nary a B Main. For the A’s, first up were the RaceSavers. On the pole was Nalon with A.J. Carlson outside. On the first lap, Ryan Tusing spun in turn three. Nalon controlled the re-start and tried to check out as Brinton Marvel and Kerry Kinser gave chase. Just past halfway, Carlson brought out a yellow. Nalon led Marvel, John Paynter, Kinser and Ethan Barrow.

    If anyone was waiting for the likes of Jared Fox, Jeff Bland, Andy Bradley or Tusing to carve their way to the front, they would have been surprised to see these guys mired in the pack. Up front, Nalon was in control, and not turning a single wheel wrong, and pulling away from Marvel and the rest.

    There were plenty of contested positions from third on back, where people were scratching and clawing for any advantage they could get. Barrow made his way to third at the checkers, after starting ninth. Paynter was fourth and Fox motored through the crowd to fifth from his 18th starting position.

    Speaking of ultimate turnarounds, Nalon had finished last in the previous feature, only to go to the head of the class one week later.

    The sprints’ feature was next and this one was plagued by yellow flags, but provided a healthy dose of excitement, tension and yes, poetry. Underwood and Bland led all to the green and Underwood was leading when the first of many yellows waved. This one was for sprint rookie Stephen Schnapf. Underwood was leading Bland, Kinser, VanGilder, and McGhee.

    The re-start saw Bland doing his best to make Underwood’s life miserable, riding the cushion as Underwood worked the bottom. But yellow number two came out when VanGilder and Cribbs collided with Shelby left in a stationary position on the track.

    With this re-start, Bland finally made the pass and took the lead. Lee Underwood’s time at the front was sweet, but way too short. The boys (and girl) got a lap in before Parker Fredrickson went spinning. We were close to the halfway point and Bland led Underwood, McGhee, Kinser, Hodges, Creech, Short, Thomas, Morin and Cummings. For those counting, that was three cautions.

    Brady Short had started tenth and anyone with a pulse could determine that he’d not stay back there. Now he began checking out the middle, looking for the edge or a weakness. When Max McGhee was bitten by the infamous Bloomington cushion, the overworked yellow flag waved for the fourth time. With this re-start, Hodges and Creech would feel the pressure from the multi-time track champ.

    But first, there was a yellow for an unknown car slipping over the bank in turn two. The yellow became a red when Landon Simon flipped in turn three. Bland still led, but Short was now fifth. And this high speed skating rink was a Brady Short kind of track.

    Now came a few green flag laps and Bland was sitting pretty out front. Tim Creech was running quite strong, up to third. Short dispatched Hodges and Jordan Kinser and was fourth.

    The weary caution lights blinked for the sixth time for Tyler Thomas, who spun and ended a fine segment of Bloomington style racing. Up front it was still, Bland, Underwood, Creech, Short and Kinser. Then came another lengthy yellow for Ethan Fleetwood. That re-start was semi-crazy as Underwood showed that he wasn’t going away. He briefly took the lead before Bland returned the favor. Short was lurking.

    Garrett Aitken, known primarily as a midget ace, brought out number seven on lap 21. Short and Creech both passed Underwood and were second and third, hungry for more. On this final re-start, it was four laps of racing at its best, no matter what level. Nearly every lap Brady dove low going into turn one, seemingly trying a half-hearted slider, knowing it wouldn’t work, but hoping it could rattle the leader. Given who the leader was, that wasn’t happening. Short threw everything he could at Bland, used all his tricks to no avail.

    After all the interruptions, the last four laps were what I’d chose to remember. I could appreciate the effort of two still young veterans who know each other and their home track so well, using all their abilities in the eternal chase for excellence.

    Underwood came back to take third with Creech having an impressive fourth. Hodges finished fifth. Max McGhee came back strong after his misfortune to finish sixth. Jordan Kinser was seventh and Josh Cunningham, the Flying Preacher, rambled from 17th to take eighth. Brandon Morin was ninth and finishing tenth was Thomas, who also recovered from a calamity.

    It was time to go home. The little guy conked out fairly quickly on the way home. After all, riding in the pace truck with his buddy and handing out trophies count as hard work when you’re eight.

    Ignoring the voices in my raceiver, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Where Most Dare Not Tread

    Spencer Bayston added a prestigious jewel to his figurative crown on Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway as the 2017 version of USAC’s quite popular Indiana Midget Week wrapped up at the crown jewel of the track in north central Indiana. Unlike most of his competitors, Bayston spent a majority of the 30 laps up by the unforgiving wall, flirtin’ with disaster (thank you, Molly Hatchett). Kevin Thomas Jr. won the sprint feature using similar strategy. And Shane Golobic was Mr. Consistency as he walked away with the IMW Championship.

    Driving south after the racing was over gave me time to consider how much all of us flirt with disaster. We all do, but certainly not like young Mr. Bayston and his competitors. Driving home right around the midnight hour is not nearly as hazardous or stressful as fighting rush hour traffic, but any time you drive anywhere, you are taking a considerable chance. In our travels we’ve all seen (or been) one of those diving from one lane to another for whatever reason possesses the driver.

    It’s a much more mundane activity to many, but the simple act of eating can easily be hazardous. It is not usually an immediate hazard, but if I gorge myself on junk food, then have a huge slice of cake, I’m risking quite a lot as well, somewhere down the road.

    The differences between our own dancing with the devil and the exploits of Mr. Bayston and about 21 of his friends are that people do pay money to watch other people drive like a high speed version of the Keystone Cops or eat till they get sick and die too soon. We watch racers race each other because of the speed and competition as well as seeing them deal with danger, and conquering it so they can race again the next time. Sometimes, sadly, that line is crossed, and we mourn instead of cheer. But we do cheer when our favorite racer wins. We also cheer when any racer walks away from any nasty wreck.

    With that in mind, I felt the strange combination of sadness and relief as I headed north to Kokomo. I knew what to expect and wasn’t disappointed. 28 of USAC’s finest of its Midget division and 23 sprinters were in the pits. Reece O’Connor and company were working on the track; all was well on this little corner of the planet.

    Golobic was the first qualifier and his time of 13.373 held up, despite some who came close, including Bayston, who went out 24th and managed a 13.601.

    The first heat was, as it turned out, a preview of what was to come as Bayston ran away with the win, leading Lawrenceburg podium occupant Holly Shelton, Golobic and Tanner Carrick to the line.

    Tanner Thorson took the second heat, beating Jerry Coons Jr., Davey Ray and Justin Grant.

    Tyler Thomas was the first to win a heat race from a front row starting position. All he did was lead Rico Abreu, Michael Pickens and Alex Bright to the checkered in the third heat.

    Tyler Courtney was the fourth heat winner as Chad Boat started and finished second. Pole sitter Jimi Quin was third and Dave Darland also would race in the feature.

    Brady Bacon’s engine sounded sick in his heat and he jumped into a backup car and started last in the B Main. Pole sitter Gage Walker won and Ronnie Gardner, Ryan Robinson and Bacon all would go feature racing.

    Tyler Courtney was doing double duty tonight (along with Dave Darland an Tyler Thomas) and had nearly a half lap lead when Aaron Pierce flipped hard coming out of turn four. He walked away. Courtney kept the lead in the one lap re-start with Travis Hery, Josh Spencer, Billy Cribbs and Gary Rooke trailing. Later, after the heats, the TOPPS racing team left. The word was that they were testing the car, making sure it was ready for the Eastern Storm swing this week.

    Brady Short took the second heat while Colton Cottle, the only non-resident of Kokomo in the third heat, won it, beating out his uncle Shane.

    After the heats, the track received a lot of TLC and was ready for the two features. The Midgets were up first with Keith Kunz Motorsports teammates Thorson and Bayston starting up front. Bayston took the lead at the beginning as Thorson and Courtney traded back and forth for second. In a few more laps, Grant joined the fray, moving Thorson back to third. Courtney was strong; he took the lead on lap 11, but Bayston would not be denied. The Lebanon, Indiana native returned the favor two laps later.

    The race’s first yellow waved on lap 13 when Davey Ray was left sitting in the infield by turn four. The trio of Bayston, Courtney and Grant still were at the front. Bayston was still working up top, where there was little cushion left against the wall.

    Three laps later, the red flag waved when Ryan Robinson took a nasty ride in turn four. He walked away from a mangled car. Bayston and Courtney were still one/two, but Bacon had moved from eighth to take third. Grant was fourth and Thorson fifth. Six through ten were Golobic, Pickens, Abreu, Coons and T. Thomas, who would spin two laps later, bringing out another yellow.

    The final 12 laps were green as Courtney did all he could to keep up with the high flying Bayston. Sunshine led laps 20 and 21, but it wasn’t happening as Bayston regained the lead and stretched his margin to a half straightaway at the end. Behind him, things were tense, somewhat typical for Kokomo. Courtney was passed at the end by Golobic, which put the Californian into first in IMW points. Courtney was third and Grant was fourth. Bacon was fifth, ahead of Lawrenceburg winner Abreu and two time winner Pickens in seventh. Boat was the hard charger for the night and the week, moving from 18th to eighth. Thorson and Coons were ninth and tenth.

    The attendance surely brought a smile to the O’Connor family. As the traffic jam filled up Davis Road, announcer/do-it-all guy Rob Goodman and I stood by the press box on the top row of the bleachers and talked. We pretty much agreed that the six race deal had been a success all way around, given the large number of ticket buyers at every stop and the on-track competition. Midget racing has been dismissed from intensive care and has either been dismissed from the racing/medical facility or is about to be. Even though I’m considerably older than Rob (and most of his friends), I had to agree that these are good times.

    With that said, six races in six nights take their toll on an older person such as I. One can easily make the case that IMW is a bit more of a grind than Indiana Sprint Week, which gives all a three day break. Though the day is coming that I won’t be able to spend that much time on the road, it isn’t here yet.

    Living on the edge by eating Cheerios instead of Wheaties, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Changing of the Guard? Not So Fast, Buddy Boy

    A day after writing that there was a chance of the superteam known as Keith Kunz Motorsports having passed their peak, now it’s time to clarify that it’s not a great idea to assume that the team that has gone winless in 2017 was in decline. This was confirmed on another lovely night in southeastern Indiana as Rico Abreu, Tanner Thorson, and Holly Shelton found themselves on the Lawrenceburg Speedway podium after Abreu passed Shelton to lead laps 28-30. That was how close history was nearly made. Ms. Shelton came within three laps of becoming the first woman to win a USAC national feature event. Maybe just as compelling, this was another barnburner of a race with many of the 30 laps being a slide job clinic as several throughout the field used the crossover move to perfection. None used the tactic better than Abreu, won from the tenth starting spot. And now KKM has won a USAC feature this year. What a feature it was, this round five of Indiana Midget Week.

    The car count usually goes down at Lawrenceburg when IMW comes to town, but of the 25 there were several contenders. The current situation in USAC Midget Series racing is the fact that two teams field up to ten cars per race, nine with the forced departure of Kyle Larson to do his NASCAR duties. It would be reasonable to assume that the two teams would dominate IMW, but Michael Pickens might beg to differ. The point is that competition is alive and well in this division.

    There were the usual racers tackling the high banks in two different divisions. Dave Darland, Justin Grant and Alex Bright had sprint and midget rides. But let’s not forget Mike Weber and Brian Gray were competing in both a sprint car and a modified.

    The weather was somewhere between warm and hot, the breeze was coming from the distillery (southwest) and the decent sized crowd was about to get their money’s worth.

    Tanner Carrick, the new kid in the Kunz stable, set quick time with a 14.588. The track faded somewhat, but by feature time, none of the above mattered.

    Rico Abreu won the first heat with Justin Grant second. Trailing those two were Ryan Robinson, Shane Golobic, and Chad Boat, whose time trial was wiped off the books when he tested too light at the scales (We all should have this problem.)

    Tyler Courtney wrestled the lead from Dave Darland to win the second heat over DD, Spencer Bayston, Ronnie Gardner and Tanner Thorson.

    The third of three heats went to Jerry Coons Jr., who held off Michael Pickens. Third was Brady Bacon, with Tyler Thomas and Holly Shelton avoiding the B Main.

    Fast qualifier Tanner Carrick won the B and would start seventh in the feature, a development that gave his teammate Robinson the pole. Steve Buckwalter had a new ride and used it to finish second. Alex Bright, Trey Marcum, Ryan Greth, Brayton Lynch and Vermont resident Adam Pierson all made it to the show.

    20 sprints were in the Dave Rudisell Surf Shop/pit area. Three heats and no B Main. Heat winners were Tony Dimattia, Shawn Westerfeld and Dave Darland. Justin Grant got upside down in turn three, bringing out a red flag. He walked away, but the car was done for the night.

    KKM cars had the first three starting positions, with Robinson on the pole, Shelton outside and Thorson sharing the second row with Grant. Things got off to an ugly start when four cars met in turn two. Bright, Pierson, Coons and Pickens were involved. Pickens re-started but didn’t last long. The others were done.

    Shelton controlled the re-start as Grant was second, but having a tough time of keeping Bayston behind him. The kid from Lebanon, Indiana made the pass before Bacon stopped in turn two. Ten laps were complete and Shelton led Bayston, Grant, Courtney, Abreu, Robinson, Thorson, Golobic, Thomas, and Boat, who had started last.

    Tim Montgomery waved the green and Abreu went to work. The slide-meister picked off Courtney and Grant before he set his sights on his teammate Bayston. Both the second and third place runners were closing on the leader—until they began racing each other, throwing vicious sliders to take and re-take a position. This had the effect of Shelton leaving those two fighting each other while Grant, closed the gap from third to fourth.

    When Dave Darland stopped to bring out a yellow, Shelton could be forgiven for being a little nervous, what with Bayston and Abreu behind her. There were no team orders here. If anyone still needed to be convinced, watching Shelton and Bayston bang wheels a few laps after the re-start should have become a believer. Bayston slid sideways into turn one as somehow everyone missed him. He limped around the track before stopping with a flat tire on lap 23. Tim waved his yellow flag.  

    Shelton was still in no position to breathe easier because Abreu and Thorson were behind her on this final re-start of the race. For the next three of four laps Abreu put on a sliding clinic, repeatedly diving low into a turn, only to slide past the leader, but see her re-assume the lead by dipping lower than he did. Finally Abreu cleared Shelton’s car after a turn two slider and led from lap 28 to the end.

    Thorson also passed Shelton to grab second at the end. The California native settled for third, but should know that the wins will come if she keeps racing as she did. Golobic flew under the radar for much of the race, coming from 15th to fourth. Courtney was fifth. Pole sitter Robinson was sixth. Grant faded a little to seventh. Bayston came back to take eighth. Ronnie Gardner held on for ninth. Boat came from last to tenth.

    Here are the IMW points heading to Kokomo for the sixth and final round:

    NEW USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Pickens-322, 2-Golobic-321, 3-Courtney-319, 4-Bacon-313, 5-Abreu-310, 6-Grant-301, 7-Bayston-293, 8-Thorson-266, 9-Boat-265, 10-Shelton-224.

    I see six who have a shot at the IMW points title.

    I suppose some funny people could tell the 19 guys who finished behind Holly Shelton that “you got outrun by a girl.” The response to that should be, “So? No shame in that. You think that you could outrun her?” Of course not.

    Kokomo should be fun.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. started on the pole and led all the way to win the sprint feature. Dave Darland, C.J. Leary, Nick Bilbee and Jordan Kinser were the rest of the top five. It was a nice way for KT to begin the trip East for USAC’s sprint car invasion of Pennsylvania this coming week.

    Laughing at the notion that Keith Kunz Motorsports (and other multi-car teams) have so-called team orders, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Changing of the Guard?

    Any changing of any kind of guard would seem to be inevitable. Times, circumstances and personnel change and eventually are replaced by things and people that are new and shiny. A lot of times, it’s awkward at best. Or it can be either gradual or sudden. And maybe it’s all in the imagination. With all that, on a beautiful Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway, the still new Clauson-Marshall team put an exclamation point on what many racing people already know. This team is to be reckoned with and the proof was found in victory lane at the red clay oval. There stood the top three finishers in round four of Indiana Midget Week, namely winner Tyler Courtney, second place finisher Justin Grant and third place Shane Golobic. And, a few hundred feet away in the pits, several other contenders were wondering if this new group of racers was going to be the team to beat now. Perhaps some of those racers were part of the Keith Kunz Motorsports team, a group of people who have set the standard of excellence in this little corner of the world for well over a decade. As always, time will tell, but the competition level of USAC’s Midget Division has been raised substantially. Time will also tell if, in fact, this is a changing of the guard.

    The car count was down a bit at Bloomington as my young traveling buddy was replaced by an older gentleman who refuses to act his age. For me it’s win/win. Dave Foist has been around racing since our home town had its own race track just outside of town and featured the likes of Freddy Wilbur, Bobby Baker and Ted Pfeiffer. None of it mattered; 35 midgets would be plenty in terms of quality and quantity. Chad Boat was the third to attempt qualifying and his time of 11.764 held up. Michael Pickens, the flying Kiwi who had won two IMW features in a row went out last and nearly beat Boat’s time with an 11.920.

    Tonight’s drivers doing double duty were Jeff Bland (410 sprints and 305 RaceSavers), Dakota Jackson (the same), Tyler Thomas (USAC Midget and a 410), and Alex Bright (same and his first try in a 410 sprint car.

    Lincoln Park’s near winner Spencer Bayston won the first USAC Midget heat. Boat was second, ahead of Pickens and Gage Walker.

    Jerry Coons Jr. jumped to an early lead after starting third and won the second heat over Brady Bacon, Alex Bright, and Tanner Thorson.

    The third heat was one of the most competitive I’ve seen in a long time. Tanner Carrick and teammate Holly Shelton ran away and missed a good race behind them. In no particular order, Dave Darland, Justin Grant, Zach Daum and Brayton Lynch fought for third place for much of the race. Positions changed every few seconds. Grant eventually prevailed with Darland joining him in the feature.

    Shane Golobic won the fourth heat over Tyler Thomas. Ryan Robinson (who had a nasty flip here last year in time trials) and Davey Ray would move on.

    Tyler Courtney won the B with Rico Abreu, Zach Daum, Ronnie Gardner, Tyler Nelson and Trey Marcum all getting to race one more time tonight.

    Coons and Pickens led 20 more to the green flag and Coons took the early lead. Abreu was the lone high side racer at the beginning. The track was like a skating rink by now and the low side was very popular for a little while. Behind Coons and Boat a tremendous battle for positions three through seven broke out with the main contestants being, Pickens, Golobic, Abreu, Courtney and Grant.

    Courtney weaved his way through this crowd and set sail for leaders Coons and Boat. By lap 17 he had caught them and a lap later, Courtney swept by both to take the lead and keep it. He had gone from third to first in one lap.

    From there, it was all over but the shouting. Courtney’s lead was stretching with each lap. Grant had also broken free of the mob behind the leaders and taken second. Golobic was third and Coons was a strong fourth. Boat was fifth. Bacon led the second five, with Gage Walker coming from 13th to seventh. Abreu was eighth and Pickens faded to ninth. Zach Daum was tenth.

    Pickens still leads Indiana Midget Week points, 18 ahead of Bacon.

    For the first time this week, Alex Bright did not start on the pole.

    Courtney’s 24th place finish at Gas City hurt his chances at an IMW title. In contrast, Pickens has two wins, a second and a ninth.

    Bacon, Pickens, and Golobic have all finished in the top ten in each feature.

    Courtney’s wins thus far have been his first two in the USAC Midget Division.

    Ryan Tusing won the RaceSaver 305 feature after starting 11th. Andy Bradley, Jared Fox, Jeff Bland and Dakota Jackson were the rest of the top five.

    Coming to the white flag, Brady Short passed Jeff Bland to win the sprint feature. Jordan Kinser edged Bland to take second. Ethan Fleetwood and Max McGhee were fourth/fifth.

    Next stop is the Lawrenceburg Speedway.

    The times may change, but some things remain the same.

    Trying to convince the kids and grandkids that I do not want a romper suit for Father’s Day, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Challenges Met

    Whether you’re going to a race track or to the store, at times that can be a challenge with obstacles placed in a way seemingly designed to make you throw your hands and give up. Or perhaps one would be tempted to say that it wasn’t meant to be. Perhaps. But on a day that presented a set of personal challenges to me and my fellow traveler, they were nothing compared to those facing Michael Pickens and team. After not being able to participate in hot laps, the New Zealander and his group overcame whatever was standing in their way to get the car onto the track. And later, during the feature, Pickens overcame the repeated challenges of Spencer Bayston to win the third meeting of Indiana Midget Week at the Lincoln Park Speedway. Chris Windom, who has had his share of challenges over the years, won the sprint feature.

    It is and will be safe to say that the Midget feature was one to remember, open wheel bullring racing at its best. Many of us will say in the future, “I was there when…”.

    Waking up later than I should didn’t get the day off to a timely start. Watching Google Chrome stage a sitdown strike didn’t help either. I was to pick up the ace mud scraper in Nashville, then head to Lincoln Park. The party meeting me was told I was running late and that turned out fine. But then there was the detour near Bean Blossom. This took us out of the way and now I had to wonder if we’d get there in time for hot laps. Seeing that the detour was in Brown County, Indiana’s contribution to the tourism business, that meant lots of curves and hills. Kind of like western North Carolina, but not as steep or curvy. But we made it just before wheel packing started.

    When the sprints came back to the pits, covered with mud as always, I noticed that Dave Gross had parked near where we were headed. I’ve admired this gentleman for some time and mentioning him here has been long overdue. Dave is a one man band, arriving with the open trailer hooked to the back of an aging van. The sprinter he drives is relatively ancient, going back to the pre-down tube days. But it had its share of mud and Karston shyly asked Dave is he could scrape some mud off the number 37. Dave was both amused and happily surprised. Of course, he said. While the little guy slaved over the nerf bars, Dave and I talked and later I concluded that, in his own way, Dave Gross and guys like him are also heroes in their own way. With very little, if any, help, here’s a gentleman who knows his limitations and accepts them. All he desires is to run a few laps at a safe speed before he gets lapped. When he’s lapped, Dave pulls off the track and sits patiently in the infield until the race is over. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a feature, Dave adheres to the same routine. The fans I talk with have much respect for Dave. We all wish just a little that we could do something similar. But we don’t and Dave is out there while we watch and appreciate.

    37 USAC Midgets and 24 sprints had signed in. There were two double dippers tonight, Tyler Thomas in a sprint and a midget and Rico Abreu in a midget and winged mini-sprint.

    Michael Pickens went out early (third) and set fast time. But that didn’t mean the track lost speed. Brady Bacon had the second quick time and he went out last.

    Midget heats were first and Ronnie Gardner led Rico Abreu, Tanner Thorson and Michael Pickens to the checkered. Gardner’s teammate Courtney Crone collided with Tyler Courtney with the young lady from California flipping. She walked away.

    The new kid on the Keith Kunz block, Tanner Carrick, won the second heat over second row mate Brent Beauchamp. Brady Bacon and Ryan Greth also transferred.

    Alex Bright held off Spencer Bayston to take the third heat. Gage Walker and Tyler Thomas ran third and fourth.

    Pole sitter Zach Daum won the fourth heat with Justin Grant taking the silver medal. Dave Darland and another Hall of Famer, Jerry Coons Jr., would make the feature.

    So would Shane Golobic, who won the B Main. Tyler Courtney, Chad Boat, Holly Shelton, Ryan Robinson and Brayton Lynch all got to race one more time. For Lynch, it was the first IMW feature he had made.

    The sprints took over and Brady Short won. Matt McDonald spun after a lap was completed and collected Isaac Chapple and Shane Cottle as the perpetrator got away. Kevin Thomas Jr. was second, followed by Carmen Macedo, McDonald and Cottle.

    Chris Windom passed Shane Cockrum with a lap to go and won the second heat. Chad Boespflug also passed the chief and took second. Behind Cockrum were Brandon Mattox and Jaden Rogers.

    Tyler Thomas took the Jerry Burton owned machine to the third heat win. Tim Creech II, Kent Christian, Kyle Simon and Lee Underwood moved on the show.

    C.J. Leary, in the Pedersen mount, won the sprint B over Aussie Gary Rooke, Chase Stocken, Brandon Morin and Shelby VanGilder.

    Up next was the Main Event, the one that most all had come to see. For the third consecutive night, Alex Bright would start on the pole with Brent Beauchamp, the young man who accomplishes more with fewer resources than many people realize, on the outside front row. Bright took the lead and was soon joined by second row starters Abreu and Bayston. Not too many were up over the cushion, but Bayston gave it a try with positive results. After passing Abreu, he needed only a couple of laps more to get around Beauchamp. From there, he took the lead on lap 13 just before a yellow waved for a Brayton Lynch/Tyler Thomas meeting in turn two.

    The re-start order was Bayston, Bright, Beauchamp, Boat (fourth of the impromptu Killer B’s), Abreu, Grant, Pickens, Courtney, Coons and Golobic. The green hankie waved and Boat passed Beauchamp and tried in vain to catch the leader. Behind him, Pickens was on the move, using the high groove above the cushion. As retired racer Brian Hayden pointed out, there was plenty of real estate up there and these guys had been too busy making the track much narrower than it needed to be. Pickens was on the way and passed Boat for second.

    He caught a break, needed or not, with 25 laps complete when caution lights blinked as Beauchamp stopped. One could understand if Bayston was nervous. He had Pickens behind him with five to go. What to do, what to do?

    The green came out and Pickens began pressuring the talented young racer. Finally, going down the backstretch, the pass was made and Pickens was the first to see the white flag. But wait, there’s more. Bayston wasn’t done. On the last lap Pickens nearly spun in turn one. Bayston closed quickly and temporarily took the lead in turn three with a perfect slide job. Neither was Pickens done. He dove low coming out of the fourth turn and took the lead to the line, winning by a few feet.

    Folks, that was about as good as it gets. And even behind those two leaders, it was good. Tyler Courtney came from 20th to finish third. He was trailed by Abreu, Grant, Golobic, Boat, Bacon (who couldn’t get his engine fired in time to join the lineup and started on the tail), Bright and Coons.

    It was truly a night of challenges. Pickens had not been able to do any hot laps. Bayston’s crew had an engine change. And Courtney passed everyone this side of my grandson to grab a podium finish. USAC’s Twitter feed said there were five lead changes in the last two laps. And people who think NASCAR is the epitome of racing competition wonder why we love open wheel/bullring racing.

    After Rico Abreu won the mini-sprint feature, the sprint closer was next. Pole sitter Brady Short took a brief lead before Chris Windom took over. The race was interrupted twice for yellows. The second caution flag came out after some wheel banging between Kevin Thomas Jr. and Chad Boespflug, who have not been known for playing together. Windom withstood threats for his lead throughout the race. Boespflug was second when he clouted Windom as both negotiated turn three. It appeared that Chad’s closing speed combined with Chris’s slower speed at that point was what happened, in other words, a racing deal. Boespflug nearly tipped over, but was done with 22 laps complete. After cars had circled the track under caution, Boespflug’s car was hit by Tim Creech II—as he was just getting out of the car. A near miss. Windom controlled the re-start and Thomas was not going to let him cruise to victory. Coming to the checkered, KT dove low and nearly stole the win. Windom was the winner by a wheel plus inches.

    It was, as one could guess, quite a night. The only challenge left for the caravan of racing people was to get home or to the Bloomington Speedway, which was on the list of things to do on Friday.

    Fantasizing about doing jumping jacks with Jennifer Lopez, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Can You Top This?

    After watching a tremendously competitive USAC Midget Week feature at the Gas City I-69 Speedway on a chilly Wednesday night, perhaps a few of those who stuck around for the sprint might have wondered how the 410 sprints could be any better than what they had just seen. In other words, both features were top notch, with racers doing what they do best, and in most cases, loving it. But few, if any, enjoyed the night more than Michael Pickens, who won a grueling, hard fought Midget feature, and Kevin Thomas Jr., who led only one lap of the sprint car feature, the last one, of course.

    Staying in a motel in Marion was one of my few intelligent choices lately. I spent a good bit of the day doing what I do best, being lazy (“working” on the Montpelier article and talking with Rich Winings).

    Lunch was at the place that features curly fries and a decent place to sit, eat and read. After a good bit of the latter, I moseyed out to the far east side of Gas City and watched a race track come to life.

    The gates opened at three o'clock and by then parking lot already contained several vehicles, including RV's, cars and trucks. The major sounds were from the water truck circling the track, the occasional blat sound that a midget engine makes, and the traffic on State Road 22.

    From a sleepy, seemingly deserted patch of land, the track came to life as more people entered the grounds, which was turning into a Mecca of speed, competition, and open wheel racing for the night. People spent time walking and talking, or working on cars. Track prep was non-stop.

    Around six o'clock, the track was truly waking up. The driver's meetings had been held, and they strapped themselves into their cars, with the ritual of wheel packing in mind. ATV's pushed cars to the pit exit, right off turn four. USAC's Staci Girard, the best looking traffic cop I've ever seen, was directing ATV's and push trucks as each did their immediate task with great efficiency.

    We were off and running, with hot laps and time trials soon to follow. Tonight’s track presented a special set of problems, oops, make that challenges for the 41 midgets and 31 sprints in the pits. Preparing the track that’s been idle except for two races the last couple of years, is a true challenge. But, like the situation at Montpelier, the very best effort to bring forth a track that people could race on was made with often spectacular results.

    The track didn’t give up during time trials. Justin Grant was out second and ripped off a 12.642 lap. Genius here thought that might be the time to beat and it was…by five others, topped by Kyle Larson, who set fast time for the second consecutive night with a 12.386. Let the heats begin.

    Front row starter Chad Boat won the first heat with pole sitter Brendan Bright holding off Larson for second. Tanner Carrick slipped by Tyler Thomas midway through the race to transfer to the show.

    Shane Golobic was the man in the second heat, beating out Rico Abreu. Zach Daum ran second early on until he had a minor bobble, dropping him to third. Justin Grant was fourth, sending Ryan Robinson to the B.

    Alex Bright won the third heat with Spencer Bayston making a late pass of Jerry Coons Jr. to take second. Brady Bacon settled for the last dance card.

    Pole sitter Holly Shelton cruised to the fourth heat win with a fellow Californian, Ronnie Gardner second. Montpelier winner Tyler Courtney was third. 2016 USAC Midget champ Tanner Thorson trailed. Michael Pickens, who had qualified fourth quick, would run in the B in what turned out to be a minor bump in the road.

    Again, a C main was needed and Chance Morton carved his way through the field to move on to the B, taking Steve Buckwalter, Gage Walker and Chris Baue with him.

    Things were looking up for Michael Pickens as he withstood a fierce challenge from Tyler Thomas to win the B main. Brent Beauchamp was third and Chance Morton passed a few more cars to come from the C to the A main by finishing fourth. Ryan Robinson and Justin Peck also made the feature with Steve Buckwalter just missing out.

    It was the sprints’ turn to take center stage. Terre Haute’s Brandon Mattox won the first heat. Pole sitter Shane Cottle took the second heat, which saw Brady Short flip in turn four while wheeling Arizona’s Andy Reinbold’s sprinter. Short walked away dejectedly. Brady Bacon and Kyle Simon won the other two heats. Missouri’s Clinton Boyles won the B Main.

    Another massaging of the track and it was showtime. Pole sitter (for the second straight night) Alex Bright led briefly, but his next door neighbor Tanner Thorson took the lead before the first lap was over. Justin Grant was coming on strong, but caught some uneven surface and bounced like a basketball before stopping and brining out a yellow.

    Bright got his spot back behind Thorson, but now he had unwanted company in the form of Rico Abreu, Kyle Larson and Brady Bacon. A lap later, Ryan Robinson brought out another yellow doing what Grant had done, but collecting Zach Daum in the process.

    This re-start saw Abreu get busy. He made short work of Bright and caught Thorson quickly, taking the lead on the seventh lap. The New Jersey hot shoe fell victim to some bad boys chasing him. A tremendous battle of quality racing, car control, cut and slashing among Larson, Bacon, Montpelier winner Tyler Courtney and…Michael Pickens. Those last two guys bore watching, especially Pickens, who was scheduled to start seventh, but was demoted to 11th for being late to the grid.

    This party was interrupted with 18 laps complete when Chance Morton’s exceptional night came to an end when he flipped in turn one. The Oklahoma native walked away from the car after having an impressive run from the bottom of the heap to the top. Now it was Thorson still leading Abreu, Pickens, Bacon, Courtney, Beauchamp, Bright, Bayston and Golobic.

    When the green waved Pickens dispatched Abreu to third and had Thorson in his sights. But Courtney’s great effort ended when he stopped on track, necessitating another yellow. The car was taken to the work are and Sunshine aimed to return to the chase. But that plan ended with a huge puff of smoke as the push truck began pushing; the kid from Indy’s night was over.

    He had no way of knowing it, but Thorson’s time in the lead would be short lived. Pickens was not to be denied as he sneaked under the leader’s left side coming out of two and grabbed the top spot. From there, the New Zealander pulled away, leaving Thorson to fight off Bacon, who made the pass for second with a couple of laps to go.

    Behind the trio of Pickens, Bacon and Thorson was Abreu. Bayston was fifth, which put three KKR cars in the top five, but extending the powerhouse outfit’s dry spell. Kunz racing is zero for 2017 so far in midget wins.

    T. Thomas was sixth, followed by Beauchamp (maybe the most impressive run of them all), Golobic, Ronnie Gardner and Tanner Carrick.

    Gardner’s effort was mostly under the radar, but the fact was that he came from 22nd to get his top ten finish.

    The sprint feature had a hard act to follow, but the 20 warriors were up to the job. Brady Bacon jumped out to the early lead before Shane Cottle worked the low line to perfection and took the lead on the eighth lap. After a lap 12 yellow, the bottom must have went away as Bacon came roaring back to send Shane to second place on the 15th lap.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. had been quiet all through the race—until now. He also got around Cottle and looked ready to give Bacon fits. A lap 24 spin/yellow gave him his chance and fans were treated to one of the most exciting and tense brief moments in time as Thomas and Bacon passed each other multiple times on the last lap before Thomas prevailed. Cottle was third and Justin Grant took fourth. Robert Ballou came from 14th to finish fifth. Not to be outdone, Jarett Andretti motored from 15th to sixth. Isaac Chapple, Tyler Hewitt, Colton Cottle and Brandon Mattox were the best of the rest.

    A two hour drive lay ahead, about 100 miles of interstate. A Sprite and old goat rock and roll kept me awake. That was so I could get a little sleep and do it again at the Lincoln Park Speedway for the third round of a racing feast.

    Shopping for a pole vault to give to Jimmy Dawson, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Turnaround

    It was only two days ago that Tyler Courtney was spotted by air traffic controllers in Des Moines, Iowa, trying to fly out of Knoxville Speedway. Somehow he escaped major injuries and would race again. In fact, he showed up at the Montpelier Speedway on a chilly Tuesday night none the worse for wear. A few hours later, he stood in victory lane, smiling because he had just won the opening night of the 2017 version of USAC’s Indiana Midget Week, outrunning the proverbial best in the business. Brady Bacon, who finished fourth in the midget feature, won the non-sanctioned sprint car feature.

    41 midgets, 20 sprints and 27 modifieds sneaked into the pit area that borders a railroad track (shades of Martinsville VA Speedway). Strolling the pits, I could find just two double dippers, Brady Bacon and Chris Windom. Ten states and three countries were represented. Keith Kunz and company were seven strong, led by NASCAR’s newest youthful hope, Kyle Larson.

    Larson made an impressive opening statement by setting a new track record of 13.965. People should have paid more attention to Courtney’s 14.102 lap, but didn’t.

    The first midget heat featured Kyle Larson and a few guys who wanted badly to outrun him. One of these was Larson's fellow Californian Shane Golobic. But a lap nine yellow changed things. Golobic won with Larson second, but Alex Bright and seventh starting Justin Peck came on at the end to send Davey Ray and Tyler Thomas to the B.

    Tanner Thorson took the second heat win, with Tyler Courtney overcoming a midrace bobble to end up second. Pole sitter Ronnie Gardner was third. Chris Windom held on for fourth. Steve Buckwalter and sixth fastest qualifier Ryan Greth went to the B.

    In the third heat, Tanner Carrick led all the way to take the victory. Behind him was some major slicing and dicing. At the end Michael Pickens possessed second, Justin Grant third and Chad Boat elbowed Rico Abreu out of the way to grab that last position. Rico’s teammate, Ryan Robinson, would join him in the B.

    Spencer Bayston showed plenty of skill and patience as he won the fourth heat. Zach Daum came from the third row to get second. Jerry Coons Jr. fought hard to take third. Brady Bacon got around Dave Darland, who ran most of the race in the top four, to make his way into the feature. Dave and Holly Shelton would prepare for the B.

    Sprint cars play second fiddle to no other class in Indiana…until IMW rolls around. Chris Windom won the first of three heats. Jarett Andretti and Shane Cottle won the other two heats on a track that was dry and slick by then.

    Before the C, the track was re-worked as it was getting a bit slick. Internet track prep experts may have been hyperventilating, but perhaps they forget that factors such as weather and car counts can mightily affect track conditions. Any dirt track worker can tell you the same. With all that, only six of 11 answered the bell (or Staci’s siren) for the C Main. Oklahoma’s Chance Morton, Jake Neuman, Courtney Crone and Justin Dickerson transferred to the B.

    Pole sitter Tyler Thomas won the locked and loaded B Main. Ryan Robinson was second and his teammate Rico Abreu was a subdued (for him) third. Davey Ray came from eighth to finish fourth. Dave Darland made it into the feature with a fifth and Holly Shelton, another of the Kunz clan, was sixth. Steve Buckwalter was done too soon. Jake Neuman used a provisional to make the starting field 23.

    The surprise front row was Alex Bright and Zach Daum, with Bright taking the early lead over Daum and Courtney, who moved up quickly from fifth. Courtney made quick work of Daum before overhauling Bright on the fifth lap. Not too far away were Bacon and Larson. Fourth starting Michael Pickens insisted on a seat at the table and he installed himself in the top three for the last two thirds of the race. But nothing or no one would seriously challenge Courtney, who has emerged as a force to be reckoned with in USAC racing.

    They certainly had their chance to challenge when Tyler Thomas brought out a yellow when he stopped in turn four after 26 laps were complete. Bacon, Pickens, Bright and Larson all had their best chance to see what this kid could do. Tom Hansing waved the green and they found out what the kid called Sunshine could do, that being a Hi-yo Silver and riding off into the dust (the sun had already set).

    Behind Courtney, there was a mad scramble for the leftovers. Pickens, who won Illinois’s version of Speed Week last week, was second. Larson came on at the end and stole third from Bacon. Bright was slightly demoted to fifth. Golobic came from 14th to finish sixth and win the Hard Charger award. Grant was seventh after starting 12th. Three Keith Kunz troopers filled out the top ten: Thorsen, Robinson and Bayston. Rico Abreu was an ordinary 14th.

    Of course, I’d hang around for the sprint feature. So what if it was getting a bit chilly? Brady Bacon started on the pole and led all the way to see the checkered flag first. This wasn’t a done deal as Chris Windom did his best to keep up on a track that was again, a slick, black surface. Behind Bacon and Windom were Kokomo winner Kevin Thomas Jr., Shane Cottle and Isaac Chapple, who deserved a good run after his Kokomo misadventures.

    Here’s a good idea. Let’s head for Gas City for Round Two of Indiana Sprint Week.

    Venting to Dr. Phil about dry and slick race tracks, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Bizarro Racing

    For the second consecutive night at a Hoosier bullring, strange things happened on track. After a multi-car crash combined with a separate incident elsewhere on the track at Lincoln Park on Saturday night had heads being scratched, the guys did it again on Sunday night at Kokomo. A favorite to win, Justin Grant, spun while running second, but kept on going. Isaac Chapple was involved in most of the seven yellow flags waved, as well as the race’s lone red flag. Lost in all this craziness was the quality performance of Kevin Thomas Jr., who passed Grant on his way to the win.

    It is next to impossible to oversleep while taking a nap, but I managed. I left for Kokomo nearly an hour later than I’d planned. There was no need to hurry, since I usually leave quite early. Sure enough, wheel packing had just begun when I showed up, wide awake. Still no hurry, no worries.

    The car count was down a bit. Grant, Thomas, Chapple, Leary and Shane Cottle made the long haul from Iowa to race at Kokomo; they were part of the 17 who made the effort.

    Justin Grant won the first heat with Isaac Chapple an impressive second. Pole sitter Max McGhee, in the Pedersen #4p instead of the Ottinger 4, was third. Shane Cottle was fourth and C.J. Leary finished fifth after starting in the front row.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the second heat after passing early leader Lee Underwood. Tony Dimattia got around Underwood to take second. Billy Cribbs was fourth and Tyler Hewitt, who battled engine troubles all weekend, was fifth.

    Instead of re-drawing for feature starting positions, someone had the great idea of the top three finishers in each heat having a bike race to see who would start where. Since the program already had a kids’ bike race, why not? Justin Grant bulldozed his way to victory and is now considering the Tour de Kokomo.

    Grant and Thomas led the others to the green. All was well until Isaac Chapple did a half spin from his sixth starting position. Somehow everyone missed him, with Josh Spencer doing a nifty job of missing Chapple, who was far from done. This didn’t bring out the yellow as Grant took the lead with Thomas in tow.

    With a lap completed, there was an unscheduled meeting in turn two with Tyler Hewitt, Parker Fredrickson and Isaac Chapple the attendees. On this re-start, Shane Cottle, using the low line to perfection, got around KT, who was up against the wall, for second. Then Aussie Sean Zemunik did a half spin which brought out yellow number two. While everyone was lining up, Tyler Hewitt exited, ending a weekend he’d just as soon forget. The top ten were Grant, Cottle, Thomas, Underwood, Leary, McGhee, Jarrett, Cribbs, and Hery. Four laps were in when Travis Hery spun and collected Josh Spencer and, yes, Isaac Chapple.

    Let’s try again. On this re-start, ugliness prevailed. As the green flag waved, Cottle’s car simply quit running. Shane tried to get out of the way, but with all of the field except Grant behind him, that was quite an assignment. Collected in this melee were Dimattia, McGhee, Jarrett, Cribbs, Underwood and Leary, who was able to escape. In a related, but separate incident, there was a three car tangle among Dave Gross, Travis Hery, and, again, Isaac Chapple, whose red hair must have been turning gray by now. There were three tow trucks available; normally that’s plenty, but it wasn’t tonight. 12 of the 17 cars were left. The top ten now was Grant, Thomas, Leary, Cribbs, Hery, Jamie Fredrickson, Zemunik, Spencer, Chapple and P. Fredrickson.

    A lap was completed when the fourth yellow flag came out due to a, who else, Isaac Chapple spin. Parker Fredrickson brought out number five with a spin. Poor Isaac Chapple spun and caused the weary caution lights to blink again. After this slowdown, Thomas got busy. Midway through the race, he sailed around Grant and took off. A couple of laps later, even Grant spun, but he corrected matters and resumed the chase with no yellow waving. He did lose two spots, which he regained.

    Thomas had matters well in hand when the seventh yellow flag waved for a Travis Hery spin with 19 complete. KT led Leary, Grant, Spencer and Cribbs. The yellows were done, at least for the sprint feature. Thomas cruised home and won a very strange race. Leary (second after starting 11th), Grant, Spencer (from 13th) and Cribbs were the top five. Lee Underwood was sixth and T. Hery somehow finished seventh. Max McGhee, also saddled with an ill handling beast, managed eighth, last car on the lead lap. J. Fredrickson was ninth, a lap down and the Aussie, Mr. Zemanik, left Kokomo with a top ten finish.

    Perhaps the track was a bit slicker than normal; who knows for sure? It was all quite bizarre. But there seems to be one constant about my Kokomo trips. Sure enough, as I crossed into Tipton County, I was hit with a, thankfully, brief shower. Rain and anything related to Kokomo seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

    This epic is wrapping up on the eve of Indiana Midget Week. It begins at Montpelier, then heads a few miles west to Gas City. Following that, the caravan heads southwest to Lincoln Park, then to Bloomington on Friday. The circus closes with Lawrenceburg and back to Kokomo on June 11, Sunday. I’m ready to do this one more time.

    Busy starting a novel about a guy who is actually writing a novel, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ninety Eight, Ninety Nine, …

    Life has been described as lots of things, good, bad and indifferent. One can include the fact that most all lives of any length consist of one milestone after another. In my town on the first Saturday in June, both high schools held graduation ceremonies. We watched about 300 young people symbolically end one chapter of their lives and begin another, not knowing what highs and lows lie ahead in their journey. Later on Saturday, at the Lincoln Park Speedway, another young man took a step toward a personal milestone. Brady Short won a hard fought 25 lap feature over A.J. Hopkins, and mentioned during the victory interview that this was his 99th sprint car feature victory.  

    My 12th race of the year, eighth Hoosier race, would be on another warm, but ideal evening. The rain clouds that have bedeviled and confounded promoters like Joe Spiker were a dim memory. Enough water was on the track and it was just as well because the water system in beautiful downtown Putnamville was broken, and not just at the race track. Port-a-potties ruled at LPS for one night anyway.

    With USAC’s bad boys racing at Knoxville and Lawrenceburg taking the night off after hosting the Outlaws, Hoosier sprinters had Lincoln Park or Paragon to choose from—unless they wanted to hit Illinois’ version of Midget Week. LPS drew 24 with the attendance of Shawn Westerfeld and Michael Fischesser somewhat surprising. Both BOSS regulars are from the greater Cincinnati area and had a bit of a haul. Then again, there was Koby Barksdale from Oklahoma.

    Westerfeld, seldom seen in these parts, led most of the first heat before Brady Short made the pass with two laps to go. Logan Jarrett started and finished third. That worked for Terre Haute's Brandon Mattox, who was fourth. Barksdale took the last chair when the music stopped.

    Dickie Gaines won the second heat with J. J. Hughes not far behind. Tony Dimattia won the bronze medal and Matt McDonald came on late to take fourth. A. J. Hopkins hustled from eighth to fourth on the first lap, but dropped back as far as sixth before recovering to pass Jadon Rogers to end up fifth.

    Max McGhee was the third front row starter in a row to win a heat. He left second place Shane Cockrum nearly a full straightaway behind. Brent Beauchamp was third and Daylon Chambers started and finished fourth. Travis Berryhill made a late pass on Jamie Williams to sneak into the feature.

    The Ohio resident, Mr. Fischesser, who has a decent amount of seat time at LPS, won the last chance affair. Nate McMillin came from tenth/last to nip Jadon Rogers on the last lap for second. Kent Christian, with a new car, was fourth. Tim Creech II edged Shelby VanGilder to take the 20th starting position in the feature.

    I spent some quality time with the venerable Mr. Al Pierce, the Eminence of Lincoln Park. It could be said that Al is to LPS what Marv Fish is to the Lawrenceburg Speedway, senior citizens who simply won’t act their age—in a good way, of course. Leaning on the railing at the top of the bleachers and talking to Al between races is always time well spent.

    Al, myself, and several hundred of our closest friends watched Westerfeld and McGhee lead the gang to the green, most of whom had impressive sprint car racing resumes. Max McGhee took the early lead before Daylon Chambers spun, bringing out the yellow. Unfortunately, Daylon would repeat the spin a few laps later, sending him to the pits. Yes, it was slick out there.

    During green flag racing, the high groove ruled for the leaders with occasional slide jobs executed with occasional success. The third yellow waved on lap nine when Travis Berryhill had a problem in turn three. McGhee still led with Short, Cockrum, Gaines, Westerfeld, Beauchamp, Dimattia, Hopkins, Mattox and Barksdale all in the top ten.

    Logan Jarrett interrupted the next green flag segment, bringing out the yellow. Gaines had passed Cockrum, but reluctantly gave the position back under the caution period. Another brief slowdown followed, then several laps of full tilt racing occurred. Short was pressing hard on McGhee, passing him at about the same time Cockrum found a turn one rut, upsetting his progress. Hopkins was on the move after starting 14th. He was up to third behind Short and McGhee when Matt McDonald spun in turn one, and the race’s sixth caution session began.

    A lap after the re-start, craziness took over and a four car scrimmage jumbled the running order. Apparently McGhee and Hopkins had some contact in turn two, with McGhee slowing as he went down the backstretch. Max collected Westerfeld, with Gaines and Mattox also involved. Shawn had a tipover, which brought out the red. Dickie and Brandon were both parked just off the track going into turn three. McGhee walked across the infield to where the Hopkins car was parked. There was no fist shaking, no drama, just an exchange of recipes for rhubarb pie—or something. In addition to the backstretch drama was Tony Dimattia pointed the wrong way in turn one and Travis Berryhill parked next to him.

    Only 13 cars were running with Short still leading, but Hopkins, who runs well at this track, right behind him and A.J. had five laps to make his play. Cockrum was third, followed by Beauchamp and Barksdale. It seemed like this might be a notable duel between two of the best.

    It wasn’t going to happen. Short sat up a bit in the seat and pulled away from Hopkins, who had a tough scrap with Cockrum. Both traded clean slide jobs before A.J. prevailed.

    Short’s victory margin was a half straightaway over Hopkins. Cockrum was a close third. Hughes came back from early misfortune to finish fourth. Barksdale came from 13th to rack up a top five finish. Beauchamp was sixth, suffering a deflating tire at the end. McMillin came from 17th to grab seventh. The ageless Kent Christian topped that, starting 19th and finishing eighth. Dimattia was ninth and Creech motored from 20th to tenth.

    The unofficial time of the feature was 40 minutes. No full moon was available to take the blame. Wild and woolly seemed like a tame and lame description. Instead we can merely call it another milestone for Brady Short and the Lincoln Park Speedway.

    Wondering why Indy Car follows up the greatest race at the greatest track with a…street race? I’m…Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Thrill of Victory…

    On another lovely Hoosier evening at the red clay oval that is Bloomington Speedway, there was plenty of drama to supply your average TV soap opera, especially after the last race of the night. At the end of the 410 sprint feature, Brady Short stood smiling at the start/finish line, holding a big trophy given to him by an eight year old boy. Not long after that, a somewhat bewildered Jared Fox did the same after apparent 305 Racesaver winner Dakota Jackson was disqualified.

    For the second week in a row, the rain decided to stay away. The 45 mile drive west to Bloomington was drama free. The navigator fell asleep somewhere west of Nashville, which meant that he would wake up ready to ramble all night, which he did. Car counts for both 410s and 305s were in the low 20s each. Jake Scott provided the only excitement by flipping in turn two during hot laps. He would return to race again several minutes later.

    Kody Swanson passed Lee Underwood to won the first of three 410 heats. Underwood was second, ahead of Shane Cockrum. Ethan Fleetwood was fourth and Billy Cribbs passed Dakota Jackson at the line to finish fifth. All transferred to the feature.

    Jordan Kinser won the second heat with Josh Cunningham second. Michael Koontz, Hunter O’Neal, and Brandon Morin rounded out the top five.

    Max McGhee won the third heat with Brady Short a close second. Jadon Rogers started and finished third. Tyler Hewitt came down from Marion, Indiana to finish fourth and rookie Steven Schnapf was fifth.

    The Racesavers took over with Ethan Barrow, joining Dakota Jackson as the only two who had rides in both classes, winning the first heat. Ryan Tusing came from sixth to finish second. Brinton Marvel, of the racing Marvels, was third, Jeff Wimmenauer fourth. and Danny Clark fifth.

    The second heat was downright crazy. John Paynter led early before Andy Bradley passed for the lead, only to spin while leading. On the re-start, Paynter led again until Kerry Kinser’s ill advised slide job didn’t work as he tangled with the leader. A somewhat surprised A.J. McElhenny inherited the lead and the win with Bradley coming back to take second. Kinser was third and Eric Perrott took fourth and Matt Lux fifth.

    Pole sitter Dakota Jackson won the third Racesaver heat as Jeff Bland, in a Waltz family car after his was trashed last week at Lincoln Park, came from last to grab the silver medal. Distant relative Luke Bland was third. Kendall Ruble passed Jared Fox at the line to take fourth.

    The track had been set up for the late models, at least it appeared to be so. But it didn’t matter a whole lot. It was dry and slick, but there was a decent amount of passing and contending along with a monster cushion at both ends of the track. But it was a Brady Short kind of track (even though I’ve seen him win on different surfaces before, including the hammer down type).

    Koontz and Cockrum led the gang to Rusty Nunn’s green flag. Short carved his way to the lead from third in the first lap. Cockrum was offended by this and took the lead on lap two. After an early yellow flag, Cockrum led on the re-start, only to see Short motor by a lap later. The fire chief was passed another lap later by McGhee, who had started sixth.

    Lapped traffic became a factor about halfway through as McGhee stalked the leader throughout. On lap 14 Ethan Fleetwood spun while running tenth. Short led McGhee, Cockrum, Jackson, Kinser, Koontz, Swanson, O’Neal, Barrow, and Underwood. A lap after the re-start, Cockrum slipped over the turn two banking, but kept going.

    It was like a skating rink on the red clay oval. Navigating the cushion left little room for error. No one had anything for Short. McGhee was a respectable second and Jackson came from ninth to finish third. Kinser was fourth and Swanson took fifth. From starting 11th, O’Neal passed Koontz at the end to take sixth. Barrow came from 14th to eighth. Billy the Kid Cribbs was ninth and Lee Underwood grabbed tenth.

    Closing out the night would be the Racesavers, which have seen a substantial increase in car count this year. Danny Clark and John Paynter led 19 of their cohorts to the green and Paynter took off right away to take the lead. Five laps were in when the yellow waved for Paynter, who slid off turn two and Kinser, who stopped on the track. This put Jackson in the lead.

    Barrow hung with the leader as best he could and a lap 13 yellow slowed things again. Behind Jackson and Barrow were Bradley, Tusing, Fox, Marvel, J. Bland, Ruble, Clark, and L. Bland. The next green flag segment was only three laps, but there was movement up front. Bradley passed Barrow for second and Fox passed Tusing for fourth. Neither Jared nor Ryan were done.

    Bradley was not far behind Jackson when he spun in turn two while running second. Fox and Tusing had passed Barrow and now would re-start behind the leader. Yellow fever was still rampant as two more spins slowed matters.

    On each re-start, Jackson was in control. His final winning margin was several car lengths over Fox. The group assembled at the start/finish line included photographers, trophies bearers, and Kimb Stewart, who would interview the winner. Everyone expected that Dakota Jackson would come back to the track after weighing in. But there was much surprise, consternation, disappointment and jubilation simultaneously as the blue and white 56 was pushed to the s/f line. Jackson had been disqualified, but no one said why. Folks might have guessed that his car was under the required weight, but I never heard for sure.

    While Dakota felt the sting and agony of defeat, Jared Fox was smiling, maybe not in ecstasy, smiling all the same. Hey, it’s racin’ with all its ups and downs.

    The top three did some serious passing. Fox started 11th, Tusing was 12th and J. Bland passed the most as he began the race 15th and finished third. Barrow started and finished fourth. Ruble was fifth, ahead of Marvel. McElhiney was seventh (started 14th) and Eric Perrott took eighth. L. Bland was ninth and Paynter came back from his spin to finish tenth.

    After a few years of getting off the ground the 305 Racesavers are one of the few classes of race cars that is growing in numbers. Some deplore the possible eclipse of the beloved 410 true sprint cars. Others fear that the 410s will become dinosaurs. Still others say it’s all good. As usual, I shrug my shoulders and say, “whatever.” All sides have a point. The bottom line is that fans will decide the fate of any racing class more than any other factor, in my own opinion. In the meantime, let us hope racing continues in a way that keeps racers, fans and everyone else happy.

    Inviting Lewis Hamilton to the Colonies to do some racin’ (Indy cars, NASCAR and some sprints on dirt), I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Same Script, Different Day

    Years from now, if someone is bored or curious enough to read what will be relatively ancient history of sprint car racing, they will stand a good chance of finding a number of articles that will feature Dave Darland and/or the Kokomo Speedway. To his credit, he makes it difficult to come up with a new angle with each victory or milestone. And, to the continual disquiet of his competitors, Darland still is considered among those who are the toughest to beat. This high standard has been maintained for nearly three decades and I don’t see any slowing down for the time being. On a beautiful Indiana evening at the Kokomo Speedway, the home town boy held off the challenges of younger foes and won the Indiana Double, a tribute to the memory, honor and excellence of Bryan Clauson. This was also the finale of Sean Buckley’s brainchild, the successful Indiana Sprint Car Series that is seen on MAV-TV.

    After the Sunday rainout, one didn’t have to be the Amazing Kreskin to see that the event would be postponed only one day. Given the size of the crowd, the fact that this was, for many, a work night didn’t deter too many folks or racers. 27 sprints and 10 USAC D2 Midgets populated the pits, along with people such as “leg man” Jim Carter, racer extraordinaire.

    Group qualifying saw Justin Grant, in the second of three groups, setting quick time with a 12.758.

     Chad Boespflug used his front row starting spot to take the victory in the first heat, with Jarett Andretti not too far behind. Max McGhee passed Jon Stanbrough late to finish third. Tony Dimattia edged pole sitter Colton Cottle to annex the last spot to transfer to the A. Stevie Sussex had a guaranteed feature appearance locked up until he flipped coming out of turn four. He would return to take the green flag in the B.

    Dave Darland won a loaded heat number two with Justin Grant right on his heels. Shane Cottle, who nearly took the lead on the first lap after starting sixth, was third. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. hung on fourth. Isaac Chapple eased into the last available ticket when Chris Windom slowed with a flat right rear. Parker Fredrickson hit the turn four wall and flipped. Like Mr. Sussex, he would return to race in the B.

    C. J. Leary moved from fourth to the lead in two laps and held on to win the third heat. Tyler Courtney took advantage of a minor bobble by Robert Ballou to finish second. Mr. Ballou was third by a healthy margin over pole sitter Travis Hery. And Tyler Hewitt overcame earlier mechanical issues to come from last to take fifth, earning a feature appearance.

    By now the track was screaming to be worked on. But first, the B main was conducted. Chris Windom was lonely working the high groove, but made a late pass on Stevie Sussex to win the last chance race. Behind the Arizona resident was Illinois' Colton Cottle in third. Josh Spencer worked the bottom to perfection and finished where he started, fourth. Tim Creech II raced his way to a 20th starting position in the feature. The dry and slick conditions were about to be replaced by a vintage Kokomo surface.

    The redraw put Darland and Courtney in the front row, with Boespflug, Andretti, Leary, Grant, McGhee, S. Cottle, Ballou, and Stanbrough in the front half of the field. The quality from top to bottom for most Hoosier features is impressive, which is an understatement.

    Darland grabbed the lead as Tom Hansing waved his trusty green flag with Courtney hanging with the legend all the way. Second row starter Boespflug began to fade with Andretti doing his best to stay up front. Most everyone wanted to run high after the track massage, but no one could run it like Darland. Grant ventured low on occasion as he slowly worked his way forward.

    Lapped traffic became a factor early as Darland and Courtney continued their duel. It was mid-race when the kid called Sunshine made the pass for the lead. But the seasoned expert tolerated that for about two laps and re-assumed the lead. A couple of laps later Grant passed Andretti after a struggle and set his sights on Courtney. It appeared that Grant and Andretti were both gaining on the two leaders.

    The point was moot when C.J. Leary flipped in turn two with 28 of 30 laps complete. He walked away and his accident set up a true green/white/checkered finish. No doubt that speculation was widespread as was anticipation to see how the last two laps would play out. But Darland put a stop to all that by doing the same thing on the last two laps that he had done on 26 of the first 28, namely lead the pack.

    Courtney might have been disappointed with a second, but there’s never any shame in running second to a legend. Grant was third and may have been the fastest at the end, but the race was for “only” 30 laps and that was that. Andretti was an impressive fourth. Ballou came from ninth to finish fifth when passing up front was a challenge.

    Chris Windom did some serious passing, coming from 16th to take sixth. McGhee started and finished seventh on a night when he was again racing with a family car. S. Cottle also finished where he started, eighth. Boespflug may have missed the setup; at any rate, he faded to ninth. Tony Dimattia was tenth, the last car on the lead lap.

    I hung around for the D2 Midget feature and saw Justin Peck win with Davey Ray second and Zeb Wise third. If I was a sprint car owner and was looking for a driver, Mr. Peck is one that I’d have to seriously consider. Davey Ray has probably forgotten more than most people know about racing. And Mr. Wise, from way up in Angola, Indiana, is racing under the banner of Clauson—Marshall Racing, another one to watch in the future.

    Having avoided rain all day, I should have known it was too good to last. I didn’t pay much attention to the clouds south of me. But as I entered Hamilton County, I saw a vast streak of jagged shape lightning. Surely the rain wasn’t far away. It wasn’t, but at least it faded away on Indy’s southeast side.

    I’m just thankful that I don’t have to mow a yard again.

    Thinking that some sprint car owners need to look at this Sato fellow, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Cowboy Up
    On a night when there was much discussion (and cussin’) about a race track that was less than ideal for many, at the end there was still one winner who overcame the track’s challenges and found himself getting to chat with Brad Dickison (despite Brad’s sore throat). A.J. Hopkins didn’t have to pass nearly as many cars as he did at Bloomington on Friday night to finish second, but his Saturday effort at the Lincoln Park Speedway was equally as impressive. After battling with Stevie Sussex, and then Brady Short, Hopkins took the checkered after a race that resembled an enduro at times.
    This was a Midwest Sprint Car Series event at the 5/16 mile oval in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. It attracted 30 cars, including a few USAC guys who weren’t in the Little 500. It was my own ninth race of the year, but only my fifth Hoosier bullring visit. My grandson and I brought my mom and her significant other; it was their second visit ever to LPS and first of this year.
    There was a couple of one off rides for the night. Bloomington winner Kevin Thomas Jr. showed up as a teammate to Brady Short. With Shane Cottle at Anderson making his annual pavement excursion, Chad Boespflug was re-united with Paul Hazen for the night. My grandson did his share of scraping mud on the 57 car, thinking his buddy Shane was in the cockpit before learning it was his buddy Chad. And he made a new friend in Brandon Mattox, who was happy to let the not so little guy scrape off several pounds of Putnam County clay.
    After animated discussion among drivers and race officials, nearly all of the 30 came out to try and get turns three and four into racing condition. It worked for that part of the track, but elsewhere, things weren’t as smooth. I can recall the late Tony Elliott describing a track in similar shape years ago as having “character.”
    The first of three heats was a surprise in that there was not much passing. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti won with little visible trouble. A.J. Hopkins was second and K. Thomas was third. Brady Short stumbled briefly at the start, but recovered to take fourth. Robert Ballou, who was vocal about the track all evening, was fifth.
    Fire Chief Shane Cockrum was also a pole sitting winner in the second heat. Stevie Sussex was second and Brandon Mattox came from seventh to finish third. Front row starter Nate McMillin faded a bit, but still was fourth. Jadon Rogers was fifth. Both Brandon and Jadon were beneficiaries of an unwanted hookup between Donnie Brackett and Brandon Morin as they came out of turn two wanting to occupy the same space while running fourth and fifth. Brackett was done for the night while Morin would return and experience a night he’d rather forget.
    Chad Boespflug grabbed the third heat win with pole sitter Jon Stanbrough second. Carson Short was third and Kent Schmidt came from eighth to take fourth. Joltin’ Joe Ligouri was fifth and grabbed the last transfer through the heats.
    Dickie Gaines hustled to the B Main win. Pole sitter Kyle Cummins was second. Dylan Shaw was third. Front row starter Cody Barksdale took fourth and Max McGhee made his way to fifth after starting tenth.
    Andretti and Cockrum led 19 others to the green as Morin burned a provisional to start 21st. The third generation racer took the early lead over Cockrum and Boespflug, who slowed after completing a lap with a damaged front end.
    What would follow was a series of slowdowns with one stoppage. With four complete, Sussex got into K. Thomas just past the start/finish line, sending the Alabama native flipping. The red lights came on and KT was out of the car as soon as it was stationary. He headed to Sussex’s car to have a meeting. Perhaps Stevie apologized as Kevin had done the night before at Bloomington.
    Andretti led on the re-start with Sussex next to him as the MSCS has gone to double file re-starts except for the last five laps. With six complete, Sussex did almost the same thing to Andretti as he had done to Thomas. Jarett missed a good chance to flip, but slammed into an infield tire instead, ending his night.
    This left Sussex, who was about as popular with the crowd as Al Sharpton at a KKK rally, in the lead with Hopkins, C. Short, B. Short, Cockrum, Ballou, Stanbrough, Mattox and Gaines in the top ten.
    Hopkins was passed just before another yellow, brought out when Rogers spun. On this re-start, Hopkins pounced moving from third to first before a meeting of Kent Schmidt, Dylan Shaw and, again, Brandon Morin brought out a yellow. Ten laps were complete.
    On this re-start, Sussex lined up on the pole as leader Hopkins chose the high line that had worked for him so well so far. The green waved, but Sussex jumped the start by a considerable margin. All lined up, the boys tried again. This time Hopkins got the jump. To some it appeared that A.J. did the jumping. At any rate, off he went.
    Only two green flag laps were in before the fifth yellow waved for Sussex, who spun in the treacherous turn two. A few people cheered (not I). The top ten were Hopkins, B. Short, C. Short, Ballou, Mattox, Cockrum, Stanbrough, Gaines, McGhee, and McMillin.
    What followed was sprint car racing at its best for ten whole laps. B.Short and Hopkins traded the lead at least twice officially before Hopkins secured the lead. But Brady would not go away, applying maximum pressure on the leader. If that wasn’t enough, C. Short and Ballou weren’t far behind, waging their own war. Hopkins had extended his lead to a half straightaway over the battling trio.
    This ended on lap 22 when poor Brandon Morin spun in, where else, turn two. My uneducated guess was that the 98 car was an unruly beast (not unlike my wife’s housecat) to handle after all it had been through. As he motored by the stopped car, Hopkins shook his fist at Morin. (just kidding, all). This was the race’s sixth yellow.
    The last three laps were incident free as Hopkins wasn’t seriously threatened, sticking with what had gotten him this far. His habit of driving as straight as he could into turn one, avoiding the pitfalls of the uneven soil, worked like a charm. By contrast, the last three laps weren’t as kind to B. Short. He fell from second to fourth at the end.
    It was Hopkins and C. Short leading Ballou (who started 13th) and B. Short (from tenth) to the line. Cockrum was fifth. Jon Stanbrough sixth and Dickie Gaines was seventh after starting 16th. But no one passed more cars all night than Max McGhee, who came from the back to transfer out of the B and then came from 20th to eighth. The law firm of Mattox and Rogers (world’s youngest lawyer) were ninth and tenth.
    There was much online discussion about track conditions (not counting Robert Ballou’s post-race comments). Right or wrong, good or bad, all sides have a point. If the situation is corrected, the observations might change for the better. If not, well, we won’t go there. But on some, if not most, nights, bullrings are good for racing for most everyone. On other nights, people who do track prep show that they are human. The track doesn’t shape up very well, even though those people give the same effort at any other time.
    So much for that.
    Rain Magnet
    The way things are going, this could be the Kokomo Speedway’s nickname. The Indiana Double, in memory and honor of Bryan Clauson, was postponed until Monday. It was disappointing, of course. Any racing program that includes midgets and sprints is a winner here. Mother Nature had other ideas.
    Heading north of U.S. 31, I noticed dark clouds to the north. Uh-oh. By the time I made it to Tipton County, the windshield wipers went to work big time. As I neared the Howard County line, I could see brighter skies to the north. Thankfully, they weren’t racing in Tipton County.
    It had rained at Kokomo, but things were drying nicely as I strolled the pits, seeing who had shown up, saying hi to folks. By six o’clock, skies to the west had that dreary, all too familiar look. Dark clouds promised more rain. I retreated to the truck. A steady, soaking rain commenced, as I started losing hope to see a race on a Sunday night. It quit briefly at 6:45, but began again, this time pulling out all the stops.
    A few minutes after seven, I opened the truck’s window to try and hear an announcement. All I could make out was that we would have racing on Monday. I put my book aside and left. Ironically, the sun came out as the parking lot and the pits emptied.
    The ride south was dry, but still more clouds awaited me as I eased into Marion County. Yet again, the wipers went to work.
    Going down I-465 on the east side, I saw a sight that never gets old. It was a rainbow; briefly, it was a double rainbow. A little further south and the rainbow looked like that big arch in St. Louis, only more glorious. At times, I thought that I was going to drive under the arch and enter heaven itself. As I neared Greenwood, the image began to fade and I moseyed on down the road, thinking about rainbows and such.
    Like it or not, maybe rainbows are a lot about the finer things in life. They are not meant to be forever, as hard as that sounds, reads, or is written. But they are meant to provide us with memories as we travel down the road of life.
    This lengthy report is finished just an hour before heading back north to Kokomo as the boys and girls will try again to get a show in on a Monday holiday.
    Remembering the boys and girls who gave all from Bunker Hill to Kabul, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Impressive—In More Ways Than One

    The Bloomington Speedway honored a popular and fallen racer again on a mild Friday night and people there got their money’s worth. Josh Burton left this realm all too soon four years ago after an accident that some have said didn’t look that bad. The family, friends, fans, racers and the track show no signs of forgetting that is as it should be. The feature turned out to be a treat as Kevin Thomas Jr. came from 12th to win the Josh Burton Memorial. And almost lost in the shuffle was A.J. Hopkins, who started 17th and rambled all the way to second place.

    There were a number of one off efforts among the 35 sprinters (out of about 100 cars) that jammed the pits. Chris Windom was Silver Crown racing at Lucas Oil Raceway Park (or as we stubborn types call it, IRP) and Dave Darland was in the Baldwin Brothers seat. Pennsylvania’s Mark Smith eased into the Rock Steady Racing hoss with Kyle Cummins in the Rick Pollock creation. Justin Grant was also testing the pavement and Stevie Sussex was keeping the seat warm and working with Sam McGhee. Missouri’s Clinton Boyles had made the long trip. The Wingos had two cars, one for Jon Stanbrough and another for Travis Berryhill.

    The usual pattern of Bloomington track prep held true. Group qualifying and heat races were crazy fast speeds with little passing, but by feature time people could and did pass. Yet again, Henry Bryant needed to take a bow, which the feature winner agreed with in so many words.

    With 35 cars, the format was the usual, four heats, two B Mains and the feature.

    The first heat was won by C.J. Leary, which would be his highlight of the night as mechanical problems sidelined the Greenfield resident. Tyler Thomas, Robert Ballou and Kevin Thomas Jr. trailed.

    Shane Cockrum won the second heat. After some wheel banging, Jordan Kinser held off Jon Stanbrough to take second. Jeff Bland was fourth. Quite possibly, Mr. Stanbrough filed that away for possible future happenings.

    Kyle Cummins outran his usual ride to win the third heat. Mark Smith was second. Ethan Barrow had his hands full holding off Brady Short for third.

    Brandon Mattox and Cole Smith started and finished first and second in the fourth heat. Kent Schmidt and Lee Underwood did the same, finishing where they started. The only caution in the sprint heats came when Jaden Rogers jumped the cushion in turn four and stopped.

    With Leary done for the night, the first of the two B’s would take three. The track was changing for the better. Dave Darland won the first B, with Stevie Sussex taking second. Chad Boespflug passed Clinton Boyles to grab the last spot.

    A.J. Hopkins came from fifth to win the second B. Jarett Andretti dropped back early, but recovered nicely to take second away from Shane Cottle.

    Both last chance races went too quick for the grandson, who persuaded pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer to hire him as navigator.

    Cockrum and Cummins led 18 cohorts to the green. The Chief took the early lead before Cummins made the pass. But the Princeton, Indiana resident bounced hard off the turn one cushion, enabling Cockrum to take it back. Just a few laps later, Cummins spun in turn two while leading, bringing out a yellow flag.

    The top ten at this point was Cockrum, Kinser, Mattox, Ballou, T. Thomas, C. Smith, K. Thomas, Barrow, M. Smith and Bland. Not only do cautions often breed cautions, they can breed red flags too. Right after the re-start, on lap 13, K. Thomas tapped C. Smith coming out of turn two, sending Cole into a spin. Collected were Bland, Barrow and M. Smith. Both Bland and C. Smith had torn up race cars to show for their efforts.

    While the red flag waved, there was a brief, but intense, fire in the back of the Pace machine of K. Thomas. After a hasty exit, the fire was extinguished and KT returned to his seat.

    The top ten was all shook up now with Cockrum leading, Kinser, Ballou, Mattox, T. Thomas, K. Thomas, A.J. Hopkins, Jon Stanbrough, Dave Darland, and Hunter O’Neal. On this re-start it didn’t take Kinser long to unseat Cockrum as leader of the pack, passing him at the line just before Ballou was caught up in a jam and was spun, bringing out another yellow.

    Meanwhile, K. Thomas had been on the move, now running fourth. Right with him was Hopkins, now fifth. After the race’s last re-start, the Alabama native wasted no time in passing Mattox, Cockrum and Kinser in one fell swoop. He pulled away for the win, oblivious to the scrambling behind him. Hopkins had dogged his every move and ended up second. T. Thomas, driving the Burton family machine, dropped back as far as eighth at one point, before recovering to finish third. Kinser and Cockrum faded to fourth and fifth.

    Stevie Sussex came on late to finish sixth after starting 18th. Stanbrough was seventh with fellow Hall of Famer Darland eighth after starting 16th. Brady Short struggled with a ninth place finish and Ballou came back from the tail spot to take tenth at the end.

    It was true that passing was at a premium early on, but it seemed to be the price all had to pay to get a multi-groove track that allowed passing at the end of the night’s program. It was also true that some of those who heard K. Thomas apologize for starting the melee that tore up some good cars were reluctant to accept the apology, not believing it to be sincere. In the heat of the moment, we all do and say things that can come back to us later, good or bad.

    Carried further, it’s also true that the alternative to the current track prep performed by Mr. Bryant on the red clay may or may not be better than any other alternative. For some, the waiting for the track to “come in” is worth it when there’s a feature such as Friday night’s. And to take it one more step, maybe Mr. Thomas truly meant it when he apologized. Only he can answer that question. In addition to that, time can and probably will tell if KT was sincere.

    Next stop, Lincoln Park Speedway.

    Wondering why my wife smacks my hand when I try to hold hers, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Well, They Tried
    On a humid, then rainy, Saturday night, yet again I saw another example of the boundless optimism of race fans, racers and promoters. Even though most other Indiana bullrings were rained out, the Lawrenceburg Speedway carried on—despite the forecast of rain interrupting the festivities before the evening’s conclusion. The Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series was the attraction and accordingly drew 41 cars to the jewel of Dearborn County. After their five heat races, the ominous clouds off to the west had the attention of many. The program moved along as quick as it could, to no avail.
    Rarely will one find a promoter or sanctioning body chief express much disappointment with “only” 41 cars. But my buddy Aaron Fry seemed to think there could have been even more, what with every other sprint show in Indiana, plus the USAC rainout in Missouri, all congregating at the ‘burg. To add some perspective, there were more cars at Lawrenceburg than there were at the Speedway. (It grieves me somewhat to write the preceding.)
    Pole sitter Landon Simon won the first post-North Carolina heat race that I witnessed. Brady Short came from seventh to take second. Only three would transfer and Kody Swanson was third.
    C.J. Leary came from fifth to take the lead on the first lap of the second heat and motor on for the win. Dustin Smith was second and Brandon Morin, one of the many long distance travelers, took third.
    Dickie Gaines made a last lap pass to win the third heat. Kirk Jeffries, who had led from the beginning, got a bit loose coming out of turn two on lap eight, and finished second. J.J. Hughes was liking his new car and finished third.
    2016 BOSS champ Shawn Westerfeld won the fourth heat. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti was second. Justin Grant came from the back row to take third. Parker Fredrickson and Cody Clarkson could not answer the bell.
    Max McGhee ran away with the fifth heat with Terre Haute’s Brandon Mattox taking second. Jordan Kinser was a strong third.
    Support class heats began and I noticed that no one was wasting time, be it racers or race officials. It was a good thing because those clouds were getting closer. The radar reflected a good bit of precipitation one county west. It was coming.
    I moseyed back to the pits, where Mr. Fry had posted the two B Main lineups, but was advising people to get ready to either prepare for the coming rain or get very wet. Several were already loading up. On the walk to the pits and while I was in the pits, the air was still and it felt humid to me. That wouldn’t last.
    The modified heats were done, three heats and 22 cars. The first of four Hornet heats took the green at 8:06, impressive given the 7:00 start. I left the pits and walked to the pretty white truck, which was parked off turn two near one of the barns. Turning around to look at the sky, I saw that the lightning was getting the attention of many people.
    At 8:08, the wind picked up, coming from the west. During the heat races I had noticed that the wind was coming from the east, usually a good sign that precipitation is one the way. Five minutes later, I was in the truck and could not hear any race cars on the track. There wasn’t much to do but watch and wait. I didn’t have to wait long. Sprinkles began at 8:23 and the rain began at 8:25. I left and drove through rain until I reached Decatur County.
    On the way home, I had time to think about some of the times I’ve been rained out. One conclusion is that not all rainouts are identical. Though the result is often the same, circumstances can be different.
    I’ve had occasion to run across promoters during a rainout. Most still have some perspective and, to their credit, their sense of humor remains intact. They’ve been in racing for so long, little could surprise them. It’s very rare to see a promoter freak out when it rains. These people are the ones who are not afraid, as a rule, to gamble that it won’t rain. Their attitude is that, if it doesn’t rain and they’ve cancelled a scheduled race, a lot more is lost than gained.
    At Lawrenceburg, Dave Rudisell rolled the dice and nearly made it. Had the rain held off only a few minutes, he might have gotten the show in. The crowd was down because, like Rudy, they, too, gambled and lost. But at least they will get to see another non-Sprint Week show for free later this year. The race teams were in that same boat. Several had traveled hundreds of miles only to see rain ruin their plans.
    None of these people, promoters, sanctioning body heads, fans, racers or even semi-literate writers, are anything close to normal. Against the odds, they are willing to head to a race track, no matter what the weather forecast is.
    I’m reminded of a conversation that I had with ace photographer John Mahoney at Terre Haute last year. We had parked next to each other, near the pits. There had been a decent chance of rain that night, yet there we were, heading to the pits or infield to do our thing. John’s comment described the thinking of many people that love this crazy sport. He said, in so many words, that he didn’t want to stay home and find out that they had raced. There was a very good chance that he would have missed a great race. He was, of course, absolutely correct.
    As I sit here in my new home on a cool Monday evening, I have been checking Terre Haute’s weather in the next few days. Sure enough, there’s a good chance of rain. But my guess is that Bob Sargent and company will do everything they can to have the track race ready on Wednesday night.
    My plan is to head west northwest on Wednesday afternoon and not stop until either I arrive at the Action Track or I get the word that there’ll be no racing on Wednesday night.
    I wouldn’t have it any other way.
    Telling people that I was the first to say “clean and green,” I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: McCune and His Broom

    One didn’t have to be Nostradamus to figure out that Jimmy McCune quite likely would dominate on the final night of the MustSee Sprint Car Series’ southern tour. Sure enough, on a warm and humid Saturday night at the Hickory Motor Speedway, Mr. McCune led every lap of the 50 lap feature, beating both the competitors and the approaching rain (more on that later).

    I’ll cheerfully admit that my preference in racing matters runs to open wheel cars with no wings and my surface of choice is dirt. Lots of people who hang or used to hang around a handful of Hoosier bullrings would understand. But with all that, an evening at Hickory was an outstanding Plan B. About 70 miles northeast of my North Carolina temporary dwelling, the drive is worth it, even minus the scenery that is a treat all its own.

    I rambled around the pit area, looking for familiar faces perhaps, but just enjoying the atmosphere. On the surface, the impression is one of being laid back, a time to simply absorb all one can see, hear or even smell (once the concession stand opened), but behind the scenes, people are starting to get serious. Most all the usual suspects from the night before at Anderson were in attendance. Georgia’s Jay Dunham and Ohio’s Charlie Shultz, with one of the more impressive resumes in the pits, had made the trip to the middle of the Tar Heel State, making a car count of 16.

    In time trials, the biggest question was how close to the 12 second mark someone would qualify. Tom Jewell went out early and turned a 13.641. Several cars later, Jerry Caryer rang up a 13.170. Then came Jacob Wilson, who broke into the 12 second bracket with a 12.645. Dirt tracking Johnny Bridges was the next to last qualifier and took fast time up to that point with a 12.235. But Mr. Bridges dared not take a bow because Jimmy McCune was the last candidate for time trials. His first lap was second fastest, but the final lap of qualifications was the gold standard with a blistering 12.158, a mere .08 off Hoosier Brian Gerster’s track record. One had to wonder that had time trials been conducted later in the day, when the track surface would have been cooler, would we have seen an 11 second lap.

    As a child, I remember when the late 50’s—early 60’s version of the supermodifieds would have “slow,” “middle,” and “fast” heats. The MustSee folks did the same thing. The heats, in theory and sometimes in fact, would be more evenly matched.

    With three of the five cars in the first heat sporting a number four, one might have been tempted to bet on a number four car to win. Bronzie Lawson IV made that a winning bet as he grabbed the lead on the second lap of the first heat race and went on to win his first MustSee race of any kind. Ohio’s Joe Speakman was second, ahead of Bronzie Lawson III, Anthony Linkenhoker, a veteran of the Virginia Sprint Series, Joe Larkin and Jay Dunham, who was a DNS.

    Jeff Bloom passed fellow veteran Charlie Shultz to win the second heat. Pole sitter Tom Jewell, another long time campaigner, was third. Anthony McCune was fourth and Jerry Caryer dropped out with engine woes.

    The fast heat was a treat as Johnny Bridges, he of the smoking right rear tire, passed both Jacob Wilson and Jimmy McCune on his way to the win. Behind McCune and Wilson were Bobby Santos and Johnny Petrozelle.

    With rain showing on the radar in Hickory, but not falling at the track, J. McCune and Wilson led the field to the green flag. Joe Speakman dropped out before the race began. McCune grabbed the lead and began an effort to shake Wilson, who was as relentless as the leader.

    But a yellow flag waved on lap six for sprinkles, just as Bronzie Lawson IV slowed to a stop. Thankfully, the cars kept circling the track and the precipitation faded away. McCune had not pulled away from Wilson and anyone who had proclaimed that the Michigan driver would romp may have been questioning themselves.

    Another yellow waved for Jay Dunham, who stopped on track at lap 11.

    On the re-start, McCune led Wilson, Bridges, Petrozelle, and Santos. McCune gradually pulled away from Wilson and experienced eyes may have turned to the others as Wilson had his hands full holding off Bridges for second. Both seemed to gain on the leader in lapped traffic, but McCune broke away when he cleared the lappers. With nine laps to go, sixth place Jeff Bloom went a lap down. And Petrozelle, who had been fighting an ill handling car, was lapped on lap 48, two laps till the checkered.

    Nostradamus would have been proud.

    McCune’s margin of victory was close to 3.5 seconds. It was his 18th career MustSee Racing win.

    At the finish, the top five were J. McCune, Wilson, Bridges, Santos and Bloom, who made a late pass on Petrozelle to take fifth.

    The MustSee schedule shows that the caravan heads north to Michigan’s Berlin Raceway on May 13.

    Trying to persuade Ann Coulter and Michael Moore to team up and appear on Dancing with the Stars, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hot April Night
    While Hoosier race fans were either freezing at the Plymouth Speedway or getting rained out at the Bloomington Speedway, there were quite a few race fans at the Anderson Motor Speedway, near Anderson, South Carolina who enjoyed early summer like temperatures as open wheel racing continued to make its mark on the Carolina racing scene. At night’s end, no one was hotter than Jimmy McCune, who grabbed the lead midway through the 50 lap feature and cruised to victory as the MustSee Sprint Car Series impressed the crowd on the first of a two night visit to what is usually considered stock car country.
    Arriving early despite the annual road construction on I-85 near Greenville and the near 90 degree heat, I found the moderately banked and paved quarter mile jewel in the western portion of the Palmetto State. 14 MustSee sprints and ten of the USAC Eastern Midgets had invaded the jammed pit area.
    Watching hot laps from the infield was a treat, as is often the case at most tracks. Anderson is banked more than appears from the bleachers. And there was plenty of sawing going on as the winged sprinters were a challenge during their hot lap session.
    Among the 14 were some interesting characters. Jeff Bloom, age 68, was more than three times as old as some of his competition. Johnny Bridges, a rarity in that he’s a North Carolina resident who is all about sprint cars, was quite the show in hot laps and qualifying. He was dirt tracking it in the turns, smoke coming from the right rear. After a while, I started feeling sorry for the tire, but it lasted all night. Anthony McCune, Jimmy’s nephew, was doing double duty, going back and forth from his sprinter to the midget he was driving for the night.
    In time trials, a new quick time was set no less than ten times out of a possible 28. J. McCune’s second and last qualifying lap was the quickest of all, a 13.249 effort.
    Keeping it in the family, A. McCune was the fast timer for USAC Eastern Midgets with a 15.593 lap. But Nolan Allison made it interesting. He was the last car to take time and his second lap was 15.396.
    Tom Jewell held off Anthony McCune to win the first of two heats. Pole sitter Bronzie Lawson IV was third. Ohio’s Joe Speakman, driving a car that was older than several of the younger racers, was fourth. Anthony Linkenhoker, Joe Larkin, and Bronzie Lawson III trailed.
    Jimmy McCune took the lead from Jeff Bloom on the second lap and went on to win the second heat. Johnny Bridges, still dirt tracking, was third. My fellow Hoosier Jacob Wilson was fourth with Hoosier resident Bobby Santos, veteran Jerry Caryer and North Carolina’s Johnny Petrozelle finishing up.
    There was not much of a rain threat, so an autograph session was held for the sprint car drivers, with a few USAC racers also joining in. Even though I’d be happy if they would just go racing, I understand why promoters do such things. Fans, young and old, seldom get the chance to meet these people. However fleeting or superficial, relationships are established and perhaps a fan gains another reason to go to a race. And seeing that these were open wheel cars in an area that’s always been stock car country, maybe a few of these stock car fans will enjoy a sprint race every now and then. They probably won’t be converted, but they may be more likely to catch the rare sprint car race.
    Santos and Wilson led the others to the green after the field lined up in the missing man formation, remembering one of the best at pavement open wheel racing, Dave Steele. Santos took the early lead and Wilson fell in behind him. But J. McCune was on the move after starting fifth. After a lap he was fourth. Five laps were in the books when he passed Bloom for third. It took McCune five more laps to pass Jacob Wilson for second. Santos’s job was suddenly more difficult. McCune reeled in the leader and they ran nose to tail for at least five laps before the third generation racer made a pass for the lead on the outside on the 19th lap.
    The new leader set out to lengthen his lead as much as he could. By lap 35 of 50, his lead was a straightaway over Santos. Jimmy seemed to be content with that and cruised to victory. By race’s end, McCune had lapped up to seventh place Johnny Bridges. Santos kept second with Wilson third. Bloom was fourth and Petrozelle was fifth. McCune’s margin of victory was just under five seconds.
    The 50 lapper was caution free and was over quickly, in 12 minutes and 40 seconds with an average speed of nearly 89 mph.
    George Fultz led all 35 laps to win the USAC Eastern Midget feature over Jessica Bean. It was the 14 year old Colorado resident’s second straight win.
    On the way home, I stopped counting how many times I had to adjust the windshield wipers’ varying speeds. Mini-showers popped up all along I-85. By the time I made it back to the mini-mountain, everything was dry.
    The next stop would be another visit to Hickory Motor Speedway.
    Channeling my inner Rick Steves, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Carolina Observations/Same Message, Different Delivery
    Before we began our annual North Carolina visit, I knew that folks do several things different down here. I already knew that this includes how they conduct their racing programs. The pace of life in this tiny dot in the western part of the state is much slower than what I’m used to as I travel all over the Hoosier state. I’ve not dwelt upon such differences, except to realize there’s nothing I can do to change things. But to really give these racing, cultural and social differences some thought, I had to go to church.
    Yes, church. To be specific, I willingly visited a church that, on the surface, has little in common with my home church, which is an American Baptist Church. I was struck by the differences in the program and rituals that these Episcopalians followed. Some of those habits are foreign to me, but I was there to learn, among other things.
    This Easter Sunday experience reminded me of my racing experience the night before at the Hickory Motor Speedway, maybe my favorite Carolina track, paved or dirt. Having gone to a few races here for a few years, I knew what I was in for and still I went willingly.
    Down here, the schedule is seldom followed. I was there to see the Easter Bunny 150, plus the other races scheduled. Time trials were to begin at 4:30. I arrived right on time and qualifying began promptly at…4:50. I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t even upset. Like my friend Rich Hollmayer has said, I’m alive and I’m at a race track surrounded by friends. I was surrounded by strangers to be sure, but they were all friendly. Women down here call me “honey” even though they are less than half my age, to use just one example. It’s the custom here. I don’t mind.
    Regular programs down here typically race up to nine different divisions of race cars, with several divisions indistinguishable from others. Heat races are rare. Each class hot laps, qualifies and runs a feature. As most of you know, we don’t do anything like that back home.
    Thankfully, Hickory had none of that going on. After time trials, the featured late models ran a 15 lap qualifier’s race, setting the starting spots in the back of the 32 car field. Up next were the USAC Ford Focus Midgets, with a young man named George Kurtz winning by a straightaway over Hoosier Jessica Bean. This was followed by a Legends feature.
    At this point, Hoosier sprint fans would have been chomping at the bit, ready for the feature. Instead, all late model teams were instructed to push their cars out to the front stretch and the fans could go onto the track and meet/greet the drivers, many of whom were armed with hero cards and Sharpies. Thinking about how various sprint car fans would react to this “time wasting” gesture, I had to smile. Several Midget and Legends teams joined the crowd and brought their cars out as well.
    I talked briefly with Ms. Bean, as well as USAC’s 2016 Midget Champ Tanner Thorson, who is angling to move on to stock cars as the opportunity arises. The sun was starting to set and just the one race, the 150 lapper, remained.
    Up to now, I’ve emphasized the differences in both different religious denominations as well as in different forms of racing. I’ve thought about all the people who would rather wade knee deep in cow dung than go to a different (or any) church. And I’ve thought about race fans who would rather wade knee deep in more cow dung than see other kinds of race cars instead of their favorites.
    One conclusion I’ve determined is that these people have more in common with each other than they care to admit. At a stock car race I see the same passion for the on track action as I do at my favorite Hoosier bullrings when sprints are the main attraction. Like their sprint car cousins, late model stock fans wear the t-shirts, drink beer, cheer and boo all night long. There’s not really anything wrong with that…as far as it goes.
    At churches of different denominations, I see people sing, pray and listen (ideally) to the speaker. You don’t see much cheering or booing (at least not verbally), but you do see people acting very much like their (fill in the denominational blank) brothers and sisters. Like it or not, they have more in common than one would think.
    Here’s what all this means. Maybe we should acknowledge our differences in this life and celebrate what we have in common. How different is the passion of a, say, Dave Darland fan compared to the passion of, say, a Brad Keselowski fan? Obviously, there are also huge differences in the type of cars those two drive, but maybe what’s more important is the fact that both are racers, champions who compete to win to the best of their abilities. And if they were to sit down together and talk about racing, they could relate to what the other describes.
    These intangibles that drive this world, everything from the desire to win to the searching for spiritual hope, are the things that truly matter. At the Episcopalian church here in the mountains, I saw the same spiritual feelings as I do at the Baptist church a few blocks from my Indiana home. At the Hickory Motor Speedway, I saw the same passion and spirit of competition among fans and drivers that I do at my beloved Hoosier bullrings, from Lincoln Park to Bloomington--Lawrenceburg—Kokomo—Haubstadt--Terre Haute--Gas City—Paragon—Salem—Brownstown—Eldora--the mile dirt tracks. And it’s true at every Carolina track I’ve visited these past few years.
    And maybe at this Easter season where hope abounds, we ought to remember these things.
    Rolling open the tomb and getting a nice surprise, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Exclamation Point
    A win may be merely a win but it’s not uncommon that some wins mean or say more than others. Some of this can be fact, but most of it is perception. For the first night of the 2017 Kokomo Grand Prix, both the sprint and midget features ended with winners making statements and even assertions. Up first was Justin Grant, who cemented his position as eventual successor to Dave Darland in mastering the lightning fast quarter mile oval we call the Kokomo Speedway. Closing out the night was Brady Bacon, winner of the USAC Midget feature. All he did was re-take the lead from Spencer Baytson and slowly pull away for the win. In the past few years, the occasion of anyone outrunning any of the Keith Kunz stable of excellence has been rare. Could there be a shift in the balance of power in the USAC Midget division? Could the Kunz juggernaut be toppling? I tend to doubt it but predicting such things is about as futile as predicting what various insomniacs will tweet at three o’clock in the morning.
    On a pleasant but eventually chilly Saturday late afternoon, 35 USAC midgets and 19 sprints ambled to the pit gate to say hello to Jill O’Connor Demonbruen and sign in. But what really made Jill and her family smile was the front stretch bleachers that were mostly occupied by a large group of race-hungry race fans.
    Matt Westfall, ill sounding engine and all, held off Chris Windom in winning the first heat. C.J. Leary was third and pole sitter Kyle Robbins was fourth. Isaac Chapple, hailing from the metropolis of Willow Branch, Indiana in eastern Hancock County, was fifth.
    Dave Darland was in a one-off ride as a teammate to Travis Hery and he was strong as he won the second heat. His second row partner, Justin Grant, was second, trailing his former ride. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. was third. Brady Bacon was fourth with Aaron Farney, in the family car, taking fifth.
    USAC Midgets took over with Spencer Bayston, who set quick time and was 19th of the 35 qualifiers, making an opening statement by coming from sixth to win the first heat. Dave Darland, one of five double dippers (the others were Kevin Thomas Jr., Chris Windom, Brady Bacon and Justin Grant), was second. Thomas and Ryan Robinson ran third and fourth, locking up feature spots.
    Tyler Thomas, all the way from Oklahoma, led all the way in winning the second heat. Californian Shane Golobic, teammate to Grant with the Clauson/Marshall team, was second heat. Nevada’s Tanner Thorson took third and Arizona’s Chad Boat was fourth.
    Grant made his own statement in coming from fifth to win the third heat. Tucker Klaasmeyer, all the way from Kansas, was second. Chris Windom started and finished third. After some close, wheel banging moments, Brady Bacon edged Holly Shelton for fourth.
    If that wasn’t enough, Tyler Courtney came from sixth to win the fourth heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Pole sitter Jake Newman was third. The pride of Davenport, Iowa, Davey Ray, wrapped up the last feature spot via heat races with a fourth.
    Front row starter Holly Shelton won the B Main. Alex Bright came from sixth to finish second. Gage Walker started 11th officially and took third. Tanner Carrick, a rookie and the newest member of the Kunz team, was fourth. Tyler Nelson came from deep in the pack to place fifth. Ryan Greth hung on for the sixth and last spot in the feature.
    The sprint feature was up next and it evolved quickly into a mano a mano battle between a guy who has owned this track since before its excellent makeover and a guy who is threatening to claim the title of King of Kokomo. Matt Westfall and the current king, Dave Darland fired off from the front row. Justin Grant was back in the third row. Darland took the early lead and put a substantial amount of real estate between him and the pack until lap five, when Cole Ketchum’s engine emitted a lot more smoke than was healthy, bringing out the yellow.
    Dave may or may not have known who was second. It was Grant, who was second, ahead of Kevin Thomas Jr., Bacon and Windom. Lapped traffic came into play midway through the race, but Darland held off the young Californian until another caution light blinked on lap 15.
    Ten laps to go and DD knew he was in for a struggle. For five laps the two racers went at it, slide jobs, over/under moves, you name it. They never touched or even came that close. But with five laps to go, Grant dove low and took the lead for good. Darland faded at the end with an ailing engine. Bacon and Windom both passed Darland before the checkered. Thomas was fifth. C.J. Leary was sixth, ahead of Aaron Farney and Tyler Hewitt. Isaac Chapple and Matt Westfall filled out the top ten.
    Adding a bit of trivia, the top five sprint finishers were all racing in both features.
    Some time was allowed for the double dippers to hop out of their 410 fire breathers and into their midget rides. The sprint feature had been vintage Kokomo. How could the midget feature be any better?
    We found out right away as Brady Bacon leaped from his fourth starting position to take the lead on the first lap before the others knew what hit them. Bacon maintained his lead when the yellow waved on lap ten. Pole sitter Chad Boat was second, Tyler Courtney was third and Spencer Bayston led the Kunz contingent, fourth overall.
    On the re-start, Courtney got upside down and flipped hard in turn one, landing on and bouncing off Justin Grant’s hood. Tyler tossed his steering wheel out of the car before it settled in one spot and was out of his seat soon after. Dave Darland, who had been sixth at the re-start, went to the pits with a flat tire. Grant went to the pits, made minor repairs and, along with Darland, returned, tagging the field.
    Another re-start and it was Bayston’s turn to shine. He dispatched of Boat quickly and began pressuring the leader. Bayston and Bacon traded slide jobs a few times before the Lebanon, Indiana native took the lead on lap 13. Davey Ray stopped on track, bringing out a lap 18 caution flag.
    For the second time in less than an hour, we were to witness another one on one battle. Just because the kid had grabbed the lead from the still young (27) veteran didn’t mean that Bacon was done. With some people thinking that here was another Kunz team victory, Bacon determined not to give up. He traded positions a few times with the leader before reassuming the lead on the 24th lap, never to be threatened.
    Bayston had to settle for second. Spencer’s teammate Tanner Thorson, last year’s USAC Midget champ, was third. A pair of juniors, Kevin Thomas and Jerry Coons, were fourth and fifth. The bottom half of the top ten was led by sprint winner Justin Grant, who came from the tail spot after his misfortune. He was followed by Chris Windom, last week’s double winner. Tyler Thomas was eighth and Dave Darland ninth after coming from the back. Ryan Robinson made sure that the Kunz outfit had three in the top ten.
    It was also a good night for K. Thomas and Coons. Along with Bacon, they made the top five in both features. Darland had at least a top ten finish in both races.
    I was home by midnight, always a plus but also a testament to both the track and USAC in moving the show along.
    I missed the Sunday night edition of the Kokomo Grand Prix as both Grant and Bacon repeated. I spent a good part of the day with a little boy who isn’t that little any more. He was eight years old on Sunday and I watched him at baseball practice, running, throwing, catching, hitting and running some more with the kind of energy all kids need to have and some adults too. Later, his grandmother and I took him to Arni’s for some pizza.
    Monday began our annual North Carolina retreat, the latest we’ve ever gone south. For my first time, I’m scheduled to catch four sprint car races down there. The plan is to send some articles here as well as Flat Out. Always before we’ve made the visit in March, but seeing that we were between houses, we delayed the trip. The changes have been many the past few weeks as we left a house after 26 years to downsize into a house when we return from the Tarheel State.
    We are living the old quote about change being inevitable. And I’m reminded how true that is in racing. Is Karston’s buddy Dave Darland’s reign over the Kokomo Speedway at an end? Maybe, but not necessarily. Is the domination of the Keith Kunz powerhouse of USAC Midgets over? See previous answer.
    Hovering over my phone, eagerly awaiting an invitation to Mar-a-Logo, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Broomboy
    Given the level of both excellence and parity that routinely is status quo for all of USAC racing, a weekend sweep is fairly rare. When it happens, people should take notice. One weekend does not a season make, but there’s no denying that Chris Windom has the upper hand as the Hoosier/Midwest/USAC 2017 season gets underway. On a surprisingly mild Sunday evening, Windom methodically made his way to the front and dominated the 100 lap Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track. He was the fourth of four leaders in the race. Given his Lawrenceburg win from Friday night, his broom had a nice workout.
    After a Saturday night spent mostly with a rambunctious seven-year-old, I settled for a laid back 50-year-old, namely my niece’s husband who’s spent a few evenings at the Action Track over the years. As we parked, dust could be seen from the track as the first hot lap session had begun. I didn’t panic. I’ve seen dust at Terre Haute and this was nothin’. Sure enough, after several massaging sessions, dust was a minor factor, if that.
    There were an impressive 35 entries before the race with no less than 12 rookies trying their luck against some of the best. Three of those, Damion Gardner, Joss Moffatt and Travis Welpott, intended to make every show, but Welpott’s machine wasn’t ready just yet.
    The track did slow down after hot laps. Lots of wheel spinning marked the qualifying session and lap times were easily two seconds slower than practice times. Kody Swanson’s lap of 23.599 led the clan. Only 11 of the 31 cars taking time trials were under 25 seconds. (Shrug shoulders. It happens.)
    USAC stats-meister Richie Murray informed me that my grandson has never been able to attend a Silver Crown last chance race. Karston was born in April, 2009. The last time the division had a last chance race was at Eldora in 2008. Good news for Silver Crown, and another goal for Karston.
    Mark Smith, hailing from Pennsylvania and driving for long time New York open wheel standout Malcolm Lane, started on the pole of the 15 lap semi-feature and ran away with the win. The top eight moved to the 100 lap show with Shane Cottle second. Gardner, who suffered through a subpar qualifying effort, came from 11th to finish third. Dave Darland, still a bit sore from Saturday night’s mayhem, came from eighth to fourth. The ageless Bill Rose was fifth. Rookie Moffatt started and finished sixth. Young Austin Nemire was seventh. And front row starter J.C. Bland held on for eighth.
    After driver introductions and pre-race ceremonies, Kody Swanson and Casey Shuman led 22 more to Tom Hansing’s green flag. Fourth starting Shane Cockrum grabbed the lead on the first lap and held the lead when North Carolina’s (yes, you read that right) Johnny Petrozelle spun in turn four on lap 12. Cockrum led last year’s Sumar winner C.J. Leary, Swanson, Shuman, Brady Bacon, Justin Grant (who was attempting to win the first race of each of USAC’s three top divisions this year), Windom, Hunter Schuerenberg (who, like Darland, had to be a bit sore after a Lawrenceburg mishap), teammate Jerry Coons Jr. and Smith, who had already come from 17th to tenth.
    On the re-start, Leary gave the Chief fits and finally took the lead on lap 19. This stint at the top would be brief for the Greenfield, Indiana resident. Seven laps later, Swanson, who had eased Cockrum from second, took his turn up front. Lap 30 saw the second yellow wave as pavement ace Aaron Pierce spun in turn four. Under the yellow, Justin Grant dropped out. On the re-start, Swanson led Leary. By now Chris Windom had made his way from his ninth starting spot to third. Bacon was fourth, trailed by Schuerenberg, Cockrum, Coons, Cottle (from 18th), Rose and Smith.
    Cottle’s night ended early soon after the re-start as he trailed smoke all the way to the infield pit area. As this happened, Windom was all over Leary and took second. From there, the Canton, Illinois native reeled in the leader. It was only a matter of time.
    That time came at the halfway mark, lap 50 as Windom got around Swanson to take the lead and do his best to imitate his dominating Eldora Four Crown performance last September. Lapped traffic didn’t bother him as those chasing him were busy swapping positions.
    By now, the low groove was popular as Swanson pretty much abandoned his effort at working the cushion. But it was far from follow the leader stuff. As some people used up their tires quicker than others, some moved forward while others struggled.
    Just past the 60 lap mark, Cockrum’s night ended as he went up in smoke after falling out of the top five. At about the same time, a rejuvenated Leary passed Swanson for second. Windom kept increasing his lead. He was just over a straightaway ahead of Leary when the last yellow flag waved for Bill Rose stopping just as he exited turn four on lap 82.
    This final re-start was maybe Leary’s best chance to make some noise. Windom did stretch his lead somewhat, but Leary noticeably closed with ten laps to go. It wasn’t happening; Windom cruised to another dominating win. Behind Leary was Swanson. Schuerenberg held off his teammate Coons to take fourth. Bacon hung on and finished where he started, sixth. Darland’s night was quite unlike the night before as he came from 20th to take seventh. Gardner soldiered home eighth after starting 19th. And two of my local boys rounded out the top ten. Dakota Jackson, part of the Nolen three car team, was ninth and Joss Moffatt, in his first Silver Crown ride, came from 22nd to take tenth, admitting post-race that this 100 lap deal was a bit more taxing than the 30 lap sprint car features that he’s used to running.
    The feature was over at 8:39, making for some happy race fans who had to work the next day.
    Nephew and uncle moseyed back to the pits to visit. It was time well spent. I was happily surprised to see car owner Malcolm Lane’s brother and my longtime friend Ron (along with Ron’s wife and daughter) at the Action Track. Through Ron, I was introduced to a man whose name I’d read many times in years past in the National Speed Sport News. I spent an educational session with both Malcolm and another Lane sibling, Calvin—who had some racing stories of the two wheel variety of his own to tell.
    In terms of conversation, meeting people and learning more about people and this crazy world we live in, it was a rewarding evening. I learn a little bit more about grass roots racing every time I talk with Bill Babcock, a friendly man who loves this sport nearly as much as his family—and that’s saying a lot. I learn more about writing, racing and life every time I talk with Dave Argabright, a man who’s experiences in this crazy sport of ours is both timeless and priceless. And to finally meet a man I’ve admired from afar for literally decades, Malcolm Lane and his brother Calvin, was like the icing and the cherry on top of the cake. And there were several others with whom I had brief conversations. Those, too, were valued.
    Of course, there were those I missed seeing, but if God wills it, those will be seen at a race track soon.
    Just as racers find a way to put themselves into a position to win or do well, often we can do the same if we show up, look around and be friendly to people. This was certainly the case. I’ve found that one cannot meet too many nice people in racing and in life, which at times may be the same thing for some of us.
    Hugging a tree and getting slapped by said tree, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Multiple Flips and Glowing Brakes

    On a wild opening night, marred by some terrifying accidents, Chris Windom rang up his first USAC victory at the Lawrenceburg Speedway as a robust crowd ignored the chilly temperatures that had folks seeing their breath after the sun went down. It was the ’burg’s opening night as well as the USAC Sprint Cars’ Midwestern opener.

    It was also the first race of 2017 for my almost eight-year-old fellow traveler. Wasn’t it last week when his big brother was attending his first race at Winchester Speedway? Now the older one is taller than I am, while the younger can now read words as well as numbers. Neither know any strangers.

    Healthy car counts for all three divisions meant a late night with the sprint feature concluding at 11:15. Of the 96 cars jamming Dave Rudisell’s playground, 35 were USAC sprinters. As always, there were a few changes, among them Michael Fischesser changing his number to 44 in honor and memory of recently deceased Greg Staab. Max McGhee took over the Ottinger ride that Kevin Thomas Jr. did so well in last year. Meanwhile, KT was in the Pace family car. Hunter Schuerenberg and the Motsinger family came together and debuted a new ride. Kody Swanson was in the Epperson 2E. Chad Boespflug and company merged with the Hoffman family with the same car and the Mean Green sponsorship. Justin Grant ended 2016 with Mike McGhee and that was still the case. Jeff Bland and Mike Dutcher were hooked up. And Aric Gentry was recovered from his ugly Lawrenceburg crash from last year.

    Hot laps were a treat as usual with C. J. Leary setting quick time with a 13.618. Unfortunately for him, that would be his highlight of the night.

    Justin Grant went out first and was the fastest qualifier with a 13.251 lap. Several cars gave all, especially the chauffeurs; there were a few hair raising moments as a few left rear tires left the ground and a few cars got up on two wheels. Cooper Clouse hit the turn two wall and flipped before he completed his first lap, becoming the night’s first, but not last, casualty.

    Nick Bilbee won the first heat from the pole. Jarett Andretti was second and Chad Boespflug third. Shawn Westerfeld used the neglected high side to pass Justin Grant no less, and locked himself into the feature with Grant heading for the B.

    Chase Stockon came from sixth to win the second heat. This would be the highlight of his night as he would meet misfortune later. Max McGhee was second and Hunter Schuerenberg won the battle of the number twos as he took third ahead of Kody Swanson.

    Jeff Bland won the third heat, the second car to win from the pole. Jon Stanbrough was impressive all night and was second. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges, who can now say he is a Lawrenceburg feature winner, came back to Indiana and was third. Dallas Hewitt passed Landon Simon on the last lap to grab the fourth and final transfer spot as Mr. Simon missed a chance to flip, bicycling on two wheels in turn four.

    Shane Cottle made it three for four as he won a stacked fourth heat. There wasn’t a great amount of passing because the field was so balanced. Carson Short was second and Chris Windom was third. Dave Darland got around Tyler Courtney for third.

    The B Main had an ugly start as Travis Hery, Matt Goodnight and Riley Van Hise had a turn two meeting. Hery and Goodnight collided and Van Hise ended up on his side. Three wreckers got busy. On the re-start, Kevin Thomas Jr. nearly went over. C.J. Leary swerved to miss a car but went in the path of Michael Fischesser, who had nowhere to go but the wall. Leary went to the work area and rejoined the race while Fischesser’s night was over too early. Justin Grant led 11 of the 12 laps before Tyler Courtney stole the lead and the race on the last lap. Thomas was third, followed by Corey Smith. Tyler Thomas came from seventh on the last re-start to take fifth. Landon Simon hung on for sixth. Isaac Chapple used a provisional to get into the show.

    It would be Boespflug and Windom leading the gang to Tom Hansing’s green flag. But things turned nasty early as Dave Darland and Chase Stockon came together in turn one after the start and flipped wildly, losing their tail tanks and a good bit more. Each car was heavily damaged but both drivers walked away. This wiped out the third row, moving everyone else up a row. On the re-start, Windom simply drove away, the loneliest guy at the track, but maybe the happiest.

    When the yellow flag waved for Carson Short on the eighth lap, Windom’s lead was a straightaway as Boespflug had his hands full holding off Grant. On this re-start, Schuerenberg was on the move and it seemed for a brief time he might have something for Windom. But we never found out as Hunter got upside down in turn two, executing another nasty series of flips. He, too, walked away and another good race car was trashed.

    The lineup was Windom, Boespflug, Grant, Stanbrough, Simon, Westerfeld, Swanson, Hodges, Courtney and K. Thomas. Not much changed up front as Windom was simply too strong. He reached lapped traffic on the 19th lap and here would be his biggest challenge. Boespflug and Grant closed the gap somewhat but Windom’s biggest issue was brakes that glowed brightly as he sailed into each turn. Lap 24 saw the Illinois native clear lapped traffic and then he got another break of sorts.

    Shane Cottle had been working his way through the field before spinning on lap 25. The field bunched up behind Windom, but his brakes got a break, as it were. Sure enough, on the re-start, Windom pulled away again, and won by a comfortable margin over Boespflug. Grant was third and Stanbrough was a quiet, but impressive, fourth. Simon ran near the front for all 30 laps, taking fifth. Hodges was a close sixth and Westerfeld showed he could run with the big boys, taking seventh. K. Thomas was eighth and Andretti was ninth. Cottle recovered from his spin to take tenth after starting 21st.

    It was 11:15 and we were ready to call it a night. The little guy was asleep before we reached Aurora, surely a new record for him.

    Next stop, Terre Haute for another look at the USAC Silver Crown Series.

    Attempting to filibuster the weather, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: PRI 2016/The Gathering

    For me, it's logical that the largest gathering of racing people would meet in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana at the Convention Center. People that are connected in some small or large way roamed the aisles, gawking at the displays. Others held forth at their company's booth, hawking their wares, many of which were shining examples of the latest technology in racing products. Still others hosted press conferences and/or seminars.

    I joined the gawkers, shaking my head in wonder at the variety of items displayed. Company reps eagerly demonstrated how to operate complex machines for onlookers. Racing celebrities (Donny Schatz, anyone?) were interviewed. Show cars of every type of racing (Tyler Courtney’s sprinter, anyone?) abounded, with everything from NASCAR’s version of stock cars to space age vehicles that weren’t built for grocery shopping spread throughout the massive complex.

    Right around the noon hour on Thursday I found Aaron Fry, the creator of the successful Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, holding forth with a group of interesting people. Aaron’s daughter Elizabeth let me know that the 2017 BOSS schedule is not quite complete.

    Aaron wanted me to know a little about the Collins Career Technical Center-Powersports Program. This is the first high school to enable young people to build a sprint car as part of their senior project. To aid these projects contributions in the form of anything from cash to tail tanks are accepted.

    I left for home on Thursday afternoon, making the long walk on a cold and windy day to the little white truck. It had been an educational first day and I determined that I’d spend more time on Friday walking and talking.

    Sure enough, that happened. I began another day of ambling, seeing some familiar faces and learning a thing or two. I looked over the USAC schedule for its top three divisions. The Gas City/I-69 Speedway was listed for two races, one each for Midget and Sprint Weeks. I had a good look at a new safety measure, three bright green lights lying horizontally across the back side of the roll cage. The green lights are for the top three in a given race. Yellow or red lights will activate on every car when there is a spin and/or accident. There will be a light on each car’s dashboard as well. This is a result of the Bryan Clauson tragedy this past summer. Sharp eyed Kevin Briscoe and I seemed to think they were plenty bright enough and wondered if these lights might be a distraction. Time will tell and perhaps adjustments will be made. But at the very least, USAC (and Toyota, who is putting up the funds for all of this) should be applauded for the attempt to make these things four wheeled rockets a little safer.

    (As an aside, sure enough, the social media gurus had their say about this new development. Yet again, opinions, often misinformed, was presented as fact with little regard for the reasoning behind the changes.)

    In other USAC news, I learned that former Silver Crown headman Andy Hillenburg won’t be replaced and Levi Jones will be handling all three divisions, midgets and sprints in addition to the SC tour. He will have some able assistants, but come summertime, Richie, Spridge and company might be on the road more than at home. I asked Levi if he preferred Tums or Rolaids, as well as Bayer or Tylenol. He laughed and basically said all of the above.

    On another chilly Hoosier morning, I headed north to the big city for the last day of PRI. There would be one more day of hands being shaken, acquaintances made, seeing old and new friends, schedules made, begun (or fine-tuned), press conferences, interviews and seminars.

    I caught up with the aforementioned Mr. Fry for some more bench racing and plotting, of course.

     I searched in vain for the booth that was supposed to be occupied by the good folks of Badlands Motor Speedway, which is up for sale at a cool $9.75 million.

    Nearly $10 bought me a hot dog, a bag of chips and a small Sprite. Every eating location in the Convention Center was pretty much packed so I retreated to a stairway and enjoyed my lunch there.

    Tracking down Justin Zoch of Flat Out Magazine, I had a productive meeting with a guy I’ve been writing for the past two years. I didn’t dare complain about the cold weather to the Minnesota resident.

    Speaking of guys I write for, I had a good chuckle at the ID card mailed to my house. It showed my residence as Drums, Pennsylvania. Right, and Allan Holland is a Hoosier, too.

    Gas City/I-69 Speedway has just the two races I know of, and I heard that the O’Connor family will oversee those two shows. This is good news for several reasons. A well run program, pork chop sandwiches (I hope) and the playground where my grandson will visit between sprint car races. And a race track lives on.

    There were several seminars, press conferences and “media opportunities” all three days. There was no way I could make all of them. In fact, I didn’t catch one (even though going to the seminar concerning safety would have been a good idea). I felt bad at first, but then I thought about how I spent my time talking to people like Kevin Briscoe, Aaron Fry and his daughter Elizabeth, USAC’s Richie Murray, Levi Jones, Jim Appleget of Dirt Late Model Magazine and Justin Zoch.

    By Saturday afternoon, I was ready to head south again. It had been an educational three days. If nothing else, it had been a more positive experience than my first visit (which was marred only by the introduction of the infamous USAC Silver Crown car that could have doubled as a vacuum cleaner). Though I was tired due to age, three straight days of negotiating I-65, and walking up to five miles per day, it was time very well spent.

    I watched a group of dedicated, motivated and energetic people going about their business, which was racing in all its forms. It occurred to me that this snapshot of the PRI show could lead one to believe all is well with racing in general and open wheel racing in particular. I’d not be the one to believe that all is well, but it appeared to me that racing’s health, like my own, is generally good.

    These thoughts took my mind to the concepts of perception, reality, accuracy and distortion. We see these in every aspect of life. There are those who wish to look at everything they see through a very small looking glass. They do get a picture, but it’s a distorted and incomplete picture. And if they are predisposed to have a certain opinion, well, it isn’t difficult to add that opinion to a tiny slice of reality that they see through the figurative looking glass. In effect, they end up believing that opinions, even lies, are the truth.

    Within the racing world this is very true as well. As we are predisposed to resist changes, good or bad, our knee jerk reactions will most always be negative, at least initially. Too often the result is a group of people who end up saying that racing is doomed. Or, to be more specific, they’ll say that putting lights behind a roll cage won’t work.

    Perhaps in earlier times they would have protested the additions of a roll cage or a nerf bar. And to add to the absurdity, most of the complainers have never driven a race car of any kind.

    On a much brighter note, few of the nay sayers were roaming the Convention Center. Instead, I saw a good sized and good natured crowd of people who either make their living in the racing business, love racing in general, or both. God knows we can’t have too many of them showing up at the PRI show or at your favorite race track, from that big track out on Indy’s west side to the bullrings that dot this land of ours.

    Looking in vain for Heckle and Jeckle, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: As It Should Be

    We can say lots of good things about the 2016 USAC/Indiana/open wheel season, but we can’t ignore the cloud that is the loss of Bryan Clauson two months ago. But we carry on. Racers race and people step away from social media and electronic devices to watch them race. And, despite the tragedy that shook so many, the curtain closer at the Terre Haute Action Track was one to appreciate. After a battle that seemed to last for most all of the 30 laps, Chris Windom finally prevailed over Chad Boespflug in the Jim Hurtubise Classic. Mr. Hurtubise was one of a kind, a fun loving sort who liked to go fast. The car number we remember him by is 56. That number would have fit quite nicely on either the winning 5 or the second place 98.

    Thanks to a combination of great weather and a desire to present a race, fans streamed into the Vigo County Fairgrounds in the knowledge that this would be the last Hoosier/USAC sprint car race that they would witness in 2016. Little did they know it would be one to remember and a good time would be had by most all.

    Carson Macedo’s resume has been missing racing sprints without a wing. On this night he would add to his experience by climbing into the Krockenberger family sprint. Thomas Meseraull was back in his own effort (with a little help here and there), open trailer and all. He was still banged up from his Kokomo flip the night before, but was ready to race. And with this being a USAC points race, Kevin Thomas Jr. was, again, sporting Robert Ballou’s number one while Ballou continues to recover from injuries. The car count was a somewhat slim 22, which meant the three heat format would rule. One had to finish in the top five to keep their qualifying time.

     Chase Stockon was quickest in practice and time trials. After turning a practice lap under 20 seconds, the still young Hoosier had a quick time of 20.424.

    Chris Windom missed a great first heat, but didn’t mind. He won by a large margin. Behind him, C.J. Leary, Chad Boespflug, Dave Darland, and Chase Stockon could have been covered by the proverbial blanket.

    Tyler Courtney won the second heat; like Windom, he started fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Bret Mellenberndt got together coming out of turn two with the South Dakota native missing a good chance to take a tumble. Pole sitter Brady Bacon was second. Aaron Farney took third. Thomas was fourth and T. Meseraull grabbed fifth.

    Jon Stanbrough took the lead from Corey Smith early in the third heat and motored on to win. Sure enough, Stanbrough started fourth. Kokomo veteran Smith was second and Justin Grant, on a tear with Mike McGhee’s car, took third. Jerry Coons Jr., in what may have been his last race for long time car owner Monte Edison (who is reportedly retiring from racing), ended up fourth. Carson Macedo settled for fifth.

    Things were moving right along. Even with a track blocking scene at the start of the modified feature, sprinters were lining up for the 30 lap feature just past 8:35.

    It’s very difficult for me to name the greatest race I’ve ever seen. There have been so many I’ve witnessed in person that most run together. Some stand out, be it for either wrong or right reasons. I wasn’t ready to say this was the best race I’ve ever seen. But it must rank up there. Simply put, Chris Windom and Chad Boespflug showed why we enjoy this so much. It was a race between these two with all the ingredients for a memorable 30 laps. Speed, of course, close competition, and one yellow flag for a harmless spin meant folks got their money’s worth.

    Grant and Meseraull led the 22 to Tom Hansing’s green flag. TMez fell back quickly as Grant took the lead. Boespflug, who started third, charged to the lead on the third lap. Windom, who began the race seventh, was coming on early. With four complete he was second. A lap later and he grabbed the lead from Boespflug. The tone was set.

    The lone yellow waved for J.J. Hughes, who had steering issues and spun to a stop in turn four on lap eight. Windom and Boespflug led Grant, Stockon, Coons, Stanbrough, Farney, Courtney, Meseraull and Leary. The top two began to separate themselves from the rest. Windom worked the low groove in turns three and four to perfection as Boespflug hung it out in the Jack Hewitt groove, right by the wall.

    Back and forth the lead changed, often more than once within a given lap. Officially Boespflug took the lead on the 17th lap, but Windom wasn’t done. With lapped traffic becoming an issue the tension increased, if that was possible. Though Windom was like the proverbial rocket ship coming out of turn two, Boespflug still held him off.

    But it wasn’t going to last. Windom grabbed the lead on lap 28 with a textbook slide job in turn three and pulled away the last three laps to wrap up his second 2016 USAC sprint triumph. It was Windom’s second Jim Hurtubise Classic win as well.

    USAC’s numbers guru Richie Murray said there were 26 actual lead changes in addition to the four official lead changes at the start/finish line. This was accomplished with no beating and banging, no bump and run, and only one re-start after a yellow flag.

    The feature ended just shy of nine o’clock. I mingled a bit among the crowd, not in a hurry to leave. For me, it was the last outdoor race of the year. A mixture of feelings hit me as I strolled around this home away from home. After chatting with a few friends (and nearly getting run over by Mr. Boespflug), I somewhat reluctantly headed to the car.

    Lost in the excitement up front was Jerry Coons Jr., who finished third after dropping out of the top five early. Stockon and Grant completed the top five. The second five was Courtney, Bacon, Stanbrough, Leary and Farney.

    Brady Bacon was the KSE Racing Products hard charger, coming from 17th to seventh.

    The quote of the night belonged to Jerry Coons Jr., who said, “I wish I could’ve been up there to spice it up a little bit.” Uh, I’m not sure my heart could have taken much more spice.

    Not worrying about the results being rigged, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Dash and Klash
    Indiana weather in mid-October can offer residents anything from bone chilling cold to oppressive heat; on rare occasions this can be within 24 hours. But if our weather is unpredictable, we can count on some things that are very predictable. One of these, of course, is open wheel racing at the Kokomo Speedway, 2016 edition. When the first night of the Kokomo Klash was over on this past Friday, Justin Grant stood holding the trophy and, perhaps, counting his money after winning the sprint car feature. A few minutes later, Chris Windom was in the same spot after doing the same in the USAC Regional Midget feature.
    24 sprints and 31 midgets were among close to 100 cars in the pits. Of note concerning the sprints were Thomas Meseraull in a one off in the 04 that has been occupied by Tyler Thomas most of the summer. Dakota Jackson was again in the Waltz family-mobile. Matt Westfall was in a Ray Marshall production.
    Thomas Meseraull took the Burton Masonry sprinter to the first heat win, but C. J. Leary made it close at the end, falling a few feet short. Jarett Andretti was third and pole sitter Kyle Robbins ran fourth. Scotty Weir came from eighth/last to take the last piece of candy and Ted Hines prepared for the B.
    In the second heat, pole sitter Justin Grant led all the way with Chris Windom second. Jerry Coons Jr. didn't let a subpar time trial deter him from grabbing third. Dave Darland started and finished fourth. Travis Hery overcame a bad start to recover and edge Dakota Jackson for fifth.
    Two laps of the third heat were completed and the second row had annexed the first two positions. Shane Cottle and Kevin Thomas Jr. had things well in hand before KT jumped the cushion and flipped hard. Thomas was out of the car quickly and would return for the B. Behind Cottle were a pair of Matts, Goodnight and Westfall. The Tree City Tornado, a/k/a J. T. Stapp, was fourth. Local vet Corey Smith took fifth.
    Dakota Jackson controlled things from start to finish in the B Main. Thomas, some repairs made, came from sixth to gradually work his way to second with an ornery handling beast. Ted Hines, Joe Bares, and Jaden Rogers added their names to the feature lineup.
    At the other end of the lineup were Meseraull, Cottle, Leary and Grant. Cottle took the lead as the green waved. Two laps were complete when a turn two scrum brought out a yellow. J.T. Stapp appeared to have been the one who did a half spin with several checking up behind him. Travis Hery didn’t check up quick enough and spun.
    It was Cottle, TMez and Grant. Thomas had already come from 17th to 12th. A lap after the re-start, the red waved when Ted Hines tipped over. Six laps later another yellow came out for a stopped Stapp.
    Now it was still Cottle and his buddy Meseraull, but Grant was third, followed by Windom, Leary, Andretti, Westfall, Darland and….Kevin Thomas Jr.
    Again, calamity struck, this time it was Meseraull above the cushion and smacking the wall in turn one, injuring some of the fence as well. The boys had not yet run ten green flag laps. Three laps after the re-start Thomas spun on the backstretch unassisted but kept it going. No yellow was waved and track rules basically state that it’s a case of no harm/no foul.
    At about the same time, Grant’s mastery of the high line paid off as he got around the master of the low line, Cottle, for the lead. Justin never could totally shake the “wily veteran” but his margin was maybe ten car lengths. Behind Mr. Cottle was Jerry Coons Jr., who hung around the top five all 25 laps. Chris Windom was fourth. Jarett Andretti wrapped up his 2016 racing at Kokomo with a creditable fifth. Dave Darland started 11th and ended sixth. Matt Westfall was seventh and Dakota Jackson came from 16th to finish eighth. K. Thomas Jr. overcame a heat race flip and a spin in the feature to still grab ninth after starting 17th. Kyle Robbins finished where he started, tenth.
    Midgets
    Though the Kunz juggernaut didn't end up in the Bryan Clauson Victory Lane, they excelled in the heats. Carson Macedo left teammate Ryan Robinson and the others behind in winning the first heat. Tanner Thorson made it a sweep of the top three spots for Kunz Motorsports. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth and Gage Walker took fifth.
    In the second heat it was Spencer Bayston's turn to lead the charge. Dave Darland was second and Davey Ray overcame a last place starting spot to maneuver his way to third. Holly Shelton was fourth and Oklahoma's Chett Gherke grabbed fifth.
    Chris Windom came from fourth in the third heat to the lead in two laps. Tony Dimattia came along for the ride, running second until dropping out midway through. Windom won easily with Kyle O'Gara second. Ryan Secrest finished third and Dave Camfield was fourth. Donnie O'Keefe transferred to the show.
    Tony Diamatta took the lead on the white flag lap to win the B over New Zealander Anton Julian. Veteran Kurt Mayhew was third. Ryan Seach and Cole Fehr earned the right to race one more time. Pole sitter Shane Cottle made an early exit before things heated up.
    Robinson and Darland led 18 others to the green. Chris Windom took the early lead when Tanner Thorson spun after a lap was complete, collecting Jerry Coons Jr. and Tony Dimattia. They weren’t able to continue but Thorson was.
    On the re-start, Windom retained the top spot with the Kunz duo of Robinson and Macedo giving chase. Seven laps were complete when Julian spun and was smacked by Fehr. Windom led Robinson, Macedo, Bayston and Darland. Sixth was Ray, trailed by O’Gara, Shelton, Walker and Thorson. Three number 67s were in the second five, a scorekeeper’s nightmare.
    Right after this re-start, a tremendous battle broke out among Macedo, Robinson, Darland and Bayston. Davey Ray joined the party soon enough. Darland discovered an advantage on the very bottom of the track and exploited it to confound the higher horsepower runners. Dave was occupying third place when the red waved on lap 20 for a Spencer Bayston meeting with the turn one wall. The wall won and a good effort was terminated.
    On the re-start Windom still led Robinson, Darland, Thorson (!), Ray, Macedo, Walker, Shelton, O’Gara and Gherke. Soon after this, Gage Walker made a charge, taking fifth. Darland was busy, too, He passed Robinson and did his best to catch the leader. Dave came up short as Windom won by about three Cadillacs parked bumper to bumper. Thorson came on strong to take third, edging Walker. Shelton finished a strong fifth. Ray was an impressive sixth. Robinson and Macedo faded to seventh and eighth. Gherke and O’Gara made it ninth and tenth.
    The Kunz team is alive and well. They have had a successful year. But the midget portion of the Klash showed that they can be beaten. Windom and the Baldwin Brothers crew are relatively new running midgets but showed themselves to be a force perhaps down the road. Darland may have been working with less horsepower, but he showed why he is and will be a member of various Halls of Fame.
    Thorson’s run was quite impressive after having to re-start on the tail after his early spin and finishing third. He quite possibly didn’t make any friends by stating that he preferred to race a winged sprint rather than the Indiana sprint car design, which usually is minus the wing. But driving one of those little screamers that Keith Kunz and company build for him is a lot of fun, he said, so we’ll give him that.
    Next stop, Terre Haute.
    Neither clowning nor frowning, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Pure Domination
    Kevin Thomas Jr. put the hurt on a strong field at the Tri-State Speedway on a chilly night, the finale for the Midwest Sprint Car Series. The following dialogue between two race fans told much of the story.
    Race Fan 1: Man, how long have you been here? I thought I was early and I’m parked at least halfway to the farm house.
    Race Fan 2: There were a few cars here when I showed up right after lunch. It was kinda cool to watch all the car come in.
    RF1: You haven’t been drinking any beer, have you?
    RF2: (Laughs) No, I quit, remember?
    The pits were jammed with 82 race cars in residence. 26 were sprinters, among them Kevin Thomas Jr., Chase Stockon, Carson Short, Kyle Cummins, Brady Short, Aaron Farney, Tyler Hewitt, Jarett Andretti, Critter Malone and Donnie Brackett.
    Group qualifying was the order of the day and Kevin Thomas Jr. was in the third group. His time of 13.255 was quickest of all. The top four of each group were inverted for each heat.
    RF2: Did you see that? How did he (Kyle Cummins) squeeze that car in there?
    RF1: I don’t know. It was quite the move. I wonder if Andretti knew he was there. And what happened to Critter?
    RF2: I think he was bangin’ wheels one time too many. It was a shame.
    The first sprint heat's finish would be hard to duplicate. Kyle Cummins made an outside pass on Jarett Andretti to grab the win. Aaron Farney wasn't too far back in third. Colin Ambrose was fourth and Kent Schmidt started and finished in fifth, the last available spot. Critter Malone led the first seven laps and was engaged in a fine fight with Andretti and Cummins for the lead when some wheel banging left him parked in turn two.
    RF1: Did you see Tyler give ol’ J.T. that wheel?
    RF2: Yeah. I wonder what brought that on. Retaliation?
    Pole sitter Brian Karraker led all the way to win the second heat. Tyler Hewitt made it close and took the silver medal. J. T. Stapp was third. Ben Knight and Tony Lawrence trailed. Donnie Brackett, who had been the quickest qualifier of this group, dropped out early with engine woes.
    RF1: I don’t know, man. I think they should have called that one back. Carson Short’s engine must have burped or something.
    RF2: Hey, we agree. Brady Short was lucky not to wreck. KT was strong, though.
    In the third heat, Carson Short had a bad start, which resulted in Brady Short getting a worse start. The opportunistic Kevin Thomas Jr. capitalized on this and passed early leader Chase Stockon to win. C. Short was third. B.
    Short made a late pass of Jaden Rogers to take fourth.
    RF1: I could see that comin’. That kid got in there too fast.
    RF2: Yeah. That would have been fun watching Donnie move up. Critter was tough even though he got a break.
    The B main got off to a flying stop when Tony Lawrence did the classic half spin and collected a few competitors. Jared Chastain and Brian Wallace re-started. Jim Shelton and the luckless Donnie Brackett were done. Lawrence also exited with a flat tire. From starting tenth, Critter Malone advanced to fourth after the attrition bug bit. On the restart he charged to the lead and checked out for the win. Ted Hines, Brandon Morin, Kendall Ruble and Chet Williams would race again.
    RF1: I knew Tommy would bring the tractors out, but I wasn’t sure when. I’m gonna get a cup of coffee. You want one?
    RF2: Yes, but I’m going to walk around a bit, too. If I sit here watching the tractor show, I’ll freeze. Maybe I’ll mosey back to the pits and get the feature lineup.
    RF1: Yeah, and see that girl again.
    RF2 (feigning ignorance) What girl?
    RF1: You know!
    RF2 walked away without a rebuttal.
    15 minutes later and Race Fan 2 rejoined his friend. He had taken a picture of the lineup with his phone.
    RF1: Okay, who’s on the pole and what was her name?
    RF2 (with a bit of a smirk): Chase Stockon and her name is Gale.
    RF1 (took the phone from his friend): Chase should be tough. Let’s see, Hewitt, Andretti, KT, Karraker, Cummins, Farney…where’s the Shorts? Oh, here. They have a tough row to hoe.
    RF1 handed the phone back.
    RF1: No picture of Gale? How do I know you’re just making that name up?
    RF2 (another smirk): You don’t.
    RF1: Ah…
    Stockon did indeed take the lead when the green waved and held it for several laps. But Thomas was busy, too. With two complete he was second and Stockon’s time as the leader was to be brief. Thomas caught up with Stockon and they engaged in a brief, but intensive, slide job exchange. The Alabama native made the pass on the local boy (now residing in nearby Ft. Branch) and promptly began to pull away.
    Lapped traffic didn’t become a factor until midway through the 30 lapper. It wasn’t a factor for Thomas, but the quartet of Stockon, Cummins, Andretti, and C. Short all had to fight with each other for position and the lapped cars, who were in their own personal battles.
    By lap 19 Thomas had a half lap lead over Andretti. At the end, Thomas cruised to the win and missed some classic Tri-State/Haubstadt cut and slash racing action. Cummins made his way to second when the checkered waved. C. Short came from ninth to finish third. Andretti faded only slightly and still ended up fourth. Critter Malone came from B Main land, 16th, to fifth, the hardest of hard chargers. Stockon faded to sixth. B. Short was seventh. Aaron Farney brought Mike Dutcher’s mount home eighth. Brian Karraker and 2016 MSCS Rookie of the Year Tyler Hewitt occupied ninth and tenth.
    The two race fans watched part of the modified feature before departing. They walked behind the front straightaway bleachers toward the pits.
    RF1: Be safe, buddy. I’ll see you next weekend? Kokomo and Terre Haute?
    RF2: Sure thing.
    Race Fan 2 angled toward the pits. His buddy noticed this and grinned.
    RF1: Going to talk to KT?
    RF2: Maybe.
    RF1: Tell him I said hi and congratulations. Oh, and tell Gale hello too for me, okay?
    Hoping, not groping, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Happy Endings and First Time Winners
    It’s very difficult to say that 2016 has been a good year. When your favorite sport loses one of its most popular and best participants, saying that it’s been a good year rings very hollow. But good things have happened this year as well. One of those has been the coming out party of a young man named Josh Hodges. It has been a breakout year for the New Mexico resident. And as the year winds down, he put an exclamation point on his 2016 with a convincing win at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a beautiful Hoosier night. Hodges pulled away from the rest of the field to earn his first USAC feature win.
    My traveling companion had already experienced a busy day. So why not grab a quick nap on the way to the ‘burg? That he did, conking out as we left North Vernon, Indiana and not waking up until we turned off Eads Parkway to the track.
    The car count may have been down a bit at 26, but there was quality galore. MIA was Thomas Meseraull, who was set to return to the Shane Wade team for the night, but who fell ill. C.J. Leary and Jon Stanbrough were in their family cars. Justin Grant was again in the McGhee team’s car. And Aaron Farney is, for now, in Mike Dutcher’s chariot. Steve and Carla Phillips brought out their trusty bullet tonight and Arizona’s Stevie Sussex would be the chauffeur of note.
    Mr. Sussex must have been raring to go as he set quick time with an impressive 13.453 lap. Talk about an auspicious debut.
    Chad Boespflug won the first heat as flames erupted from his engine as he crossed the finish line. He would roll out the backup car for the feature. Chad’s fellow front row starter, Drew Abel, held off Josh Hodges to take second. Kyle Cummins was fourth and Jon Stanbrough grabbed the last empty chair, sending Sussex and C.J. Leary to the B.
    Kevin Thomas Jr. was the second heat winner with Tyler Courtney the runner-up. Pole sitter Joss Moffatt was third with Carson Short coming from last, ninth, to take fourth away from A.J. Hopkins. Three of the best went to the B, Chase Stockon, Nick Bilbee and Justin Grant.
    Brady Bacon ran away with the third heat win. Dave Darland stole second from Isaac Chapple at the line. South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt held off Chris Windom, who was not pleased, for fourth. Jarrett Andretti, Aaron Farney and Dickie Gaines prepared for the B.
    The front row of Stevie Sussex and Justin Grant ran one/two in a fairly tame B Main. Leary, Stockon, Andretti, Bilbee and Farney all made it to the feature. With three heats, five moved on and seven transferred from the B. Landon Simon used a provisional to get in.
    With three of the six fastest qualifiers relegated to the B, tenth quick qualifier Hodges and ninth quick Darland were the front row for the 30 lap feature. Back in the lineup, Sussex, Hopkins and Moffatt were tardy in reporting; they were moved back two rows and required to write in the Lawrenceburg dirt “I will not be late” ten times (just kidding about the writing).
    Darland jumped out to the lead as the green waved with Hodges second. Windom passed Cummins on the second lap for third. Courtney and Stanbrough were next and this order stayed put for the first ten laps or so. But things were about to happen.
    The top three closed up as lapped traffic came into play. In the middle part of the race Darland, Windom and Hodges had a spirited fight for the lead. Darland found himself stuck behind Joss Moffatt, who was fighting to stay in the lead lap. Hodges pounced and took the lead with 17 laps completed. A lap later Windom got around Darland to take second. It was tempting to think that Windom, now free of all other traffic, would have something unpleasant for Hodges, the new leader.
    But it wasn’t happening. The kid scooted away from Windom and stretched his lead out to ten car lengths at least. Joining Hodges in post-race interviews were Windom and Darland. Kyle Cummins seemed like the quiet guy at a loud party as he finished fourth, which was where he started. Justin Grant was a respectable fifth. The law firm of Courtney and Stanbrough were sixth and seventh. Stevie Sussex’s debut appeared to be a success and he brought Steve and Carla’s baby home eighth. Bacon padded his point lead a little as he came from 13th to ninth. Andretti settled for tenth.
    The race was an all-green affair and Hodges set a Lawrenceburg 30 lap race record of 7:21.09.
    There is no replacing the Tony Elliotts and Bryan Clausons of the racing world. They will always be one of a kind. But young racers emerge to stake their own claim to a spot in our sport. Mr. Hodges is one of them. He was USAC’s seventh first time feature winner in 2016.
    Carson Short had an eventful night. His two attempts to qualify were terminated as the car refused to stay in gear. Things were looking better after his heat as the Illinois resident transferred into the show. From 20th his negotiated his way to 13th and picked up the KSE Hard Charger award.
    Bacon has a healthy point lead over Stockon and Darland with fourth in points Robert Ballou injured and fifth place Thomas Meseraull in a hospital suffering from dehydration.
    Originally this was to be the last USAC sprint race in the Midwest, but a re-scheduled rainout at Terre Haute, the Jim Hurtubise Classic, is now set for October 15.
    Scrolling and trolling, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Eldora Experience
    First off, I love the Eldora Speedway. I love the history of the place. I love the biography of Earl Baltes that Dave Argabright wrote a few years ago because the story of Earl and the story of the track are forever intertwined. And by and large, I love what “new” owner Tony Stewart has done with the old track and facility. I love the new structure in the infield, concession stand, restrooms, media center and a roof designed for those wanting to view the half mile oval from a different angle. Most of all, I love the racing I see at Eldora. I inwardly root for each racer out there as he/she flirts with disaster every lap, cheering for everyone to finish each race—which seldom happens. I love the speed as racers sail around the very top groove, inches from the wall and certain calamity. And despite the difficulty of the act, I love the passing at Eldora, even the professionally executed slide jobs.
    I hate the wrecks, accidents, flips and the general destruction that visit most every program at Eldora. Careers have been ended and lives have been lost there over the years, making Eldora like most American bullrings. But I love it when a racer is able to walk away from a trashed race car, usually choosing to race again at Eldora if the funds can be secured.
    I’m no stranger to the other things that people talk about when racing conversation turns to Eldora. There has never been a shortage of beer and beer drinkers. For some, it’s a necessary part of their Eldora experience. Neither has there ever been a shortage of dust, though it’s been much worse than it was for this year’s Four Crown. The cars were easily visible from the grandstand.
    After the Four Crown just completed, all of the above were on hand. It was the largest Four Crown crowd in recent memory, probably because of the addition of the All Stars to the Crown of Four. The racing itself was largely top notch as each of the four classes put on a multitude of great performances. Stories abounded with racers experiencing every emotion from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory.
    Take Rico Abreu for example. He ran off and hid in the USAC Midget feature. His margin of victory should have been measured in yards. But he crashed out of the All-Star feature while leading. His night might be described as bittersweet. Ian Madsen, who benefitted from Abreu’s elimination, might disagree. It was Madsen’s first Eldora victory.
    There was Chris Windom, who dominated the final event of the night, USAC’s Silver Crown 50 lap feature. Had it been a 60 lap feature, Windom might have lapped the field. I was too astounded at this flogging to consider it a boring race.
    With Windom’s win and Kody Swanson’s misfortune, the 2016 Silver Crown championship slipped through the California native’s hands into Windom’s. Kody’s rare error saw him spin after contact with another car. There was enough damage to keep Swanson from coming back to challenge. Had he finished third he would have been the champ again. He finished fifth, five points behind Windom.
    It wouldn’t be Eldora without a nasty crash every now and then. I was in the infield during qualifying and watched Carson Macedo go flying after contact with the treacherous turn two wall entering the backstretch. Later, with a Keith Kunz backup car, he would finish seventh in the Midget feature. Tony Dimattia took two ugly rides, with his midget and sprinter. Both young men walked away.
    The feel good story was that of Justin Grant, who’s been casting about lately for a regular sprint car ride. Perhaps he’s found one with the Mike McGhee team. He certainly made a good case for it on Saturday night with a convincing win in the sprint car feature.
    The Comeback Kid of the sprints had to be Mr. Windom. He nearly flipped in his heat race and started on the tail of the B Main. From there he sliced and diced his way to an impressive third place finish. In the feature, he gave Grant plenty of worries before settling for second.
    Finally, there was Brady Bacon, riding under the radar all night. Along with Tyler Courtney, Bacon competed in all four divisions of the Four Crown. He may not have matched Jack Hewitt’s record of four wins, but four top fives was not an effort to discount for Bacon. Instead of extra money for winning all four features, he got an “‘atta’ boy” from four car owners, among others.
    The preceding stories were just some of the 120 plus at Eldora on Saturday night. Ideally those racers’ exploits are what fans should have been talking about the past few days, but that hasn’t been the case, at least on social media. Instead, what I’m reading are a lot of complaints about the program not ending until 2:45 a.m. Qualifying over 120 cars took a long time, understandably. Then the massaging of the track took up close to two hours. The heat races didn’t start until ten.
    To hard core fans, this may not have been a big deal. They know that Eldora can mean dust (at a dirt track, no less) and/or a late exit after the last race of the night—or early morning. As long as their tired old bodies and bank accounts can endure the Eldora experience, they will be back, no matter what, no questions asked. They may grumble a bit, but they are hooked.
    One problem is that they are not kids themselves. We senior citizens are not the future of this crazy, exciting and spell binding activity. Younger people in every capacity are needed at open wheel/bullring races.
    Another problem is that ending a program at 2:45 in the morning isn’t the best way to grab a first time visitor who goes to their first race with or without a friend. Chances are decent that the first time visitor won’t be back. And if that visitor, or any casual fan, has younger children along, they probably wouldn’t make it much past midnight, if that. This will result in fewer tickets sold, fewer beers drunk, fewer hot dogs consumed and fewer t-shirts purchased.
    Personally, one of the sadder sights I see at races is a young family leaving early, with one of the parents carrying a sleeping child. Sometimes I wonder if that has been their first visit to a race track. And sometimes I wonder if that’s their last visit to a race track.
    Fortunately, at Eldora there are people in charge who are more aware than any of us that long running shows, unless they are on Broadway, are not a satisfactory inducement to get fans to return to this outstanding track/facility. My inner optimist says that they will fix this. Tweaking the Four Crown format is nothing new. It’s been done several times over its 35 years. Mr. Optimist says that they will figure it out.
    One downside is that of former fans not returning. I’ve read the words of several the past few days, swearing they won’t be back. In some cases, this is probably true. I have hope and faith that most will return—and will be glad they did.
    I plan to do so myself. I still love Eldora. Probably I will always love it.
    Introducing Brad Pitt to Miley Cyrus, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Taking Care of Business
    On a rare Friday night program at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Brady Short showed why he is usually someone other racers have to reckon with whenever and wherever he signs in. Despite periodic pressure from another true racer, Thomas Meseraull, Short still won the 25 lap feature over the Californian turned Hoosier by about ten car lengths under clear skies over west central Indiana.
    The Friday afternoon trip northwest was much slower than usual; dealing with the extra rush hour traffic is not something my fellow traveler and I are used to doing when we head for LPS. But we weren’t late and we weren’t overly stressed.
    The little guy woke up from his usual pre-race nap ready to work. First Brady Short, then Parker Fredrickson ended up with cleaner cars after wheel packing and hot laps. Later, Brady’s and Parker’s nights would be, in terms of results, almost complete opposites.
    The first heat didn’t begin well for my grandson’s most recent employer. P. Fredrickson bounced off the front straightaway wall and limped into turn one, where he tipped over right after the green waved. After the re-start Ethan Barrow missed a great chance to flip in turn two while running second. A little later, race leader and 2016 Lincoln Park Speedway points champ Shane Cockrum did a half spin in turn four, collecting Kevin Thomas Jr. and Kyle Robbins, both of whom were running in transfer positions. The chief drove away and led until Thomas Meseraull slipped by coming out of turn four to take the win. Cockrum was second and A.J. Hopkins was third. Dakota Jackson, in the Waltz family’s car, took fourth. Thomas came back to grab the last spot and move to the feature.
    Pole sitter Brandon Mattox won a relatively tame second heat. Kent Schmidt was second and Matt McDonald third. Jaden Rogers finished fourth. All of these guys started and finished in the same positions. Chris Gurley came from ninth to take fifth.
    The third heat didn’t start well as Shelby VanGilder did a half spin with inadvertent help from J.J. Hughes. Tyler Thomas was collected and nearly tipped over as others escaped. Rookie Jacob Brown spun twice and was dismissed from class after two more yellow flags waved. And then Hughes flipped hard in turn two, bringing out a red flag. J.J. exited the car and was done for the night. Brady Short led all the way to win with Josh Hodges, back from New Mexico, second. VanGilder recovered to take third and Bradley Sterrett was fourth. Thomas had fifth in hand until he bobbled in turn four and saw Nate McMillin take both the advantage and the 15th starting spot in the show.
    The B Main was a series of reds and yellows with the occasional green. Very late arrival Kent Christian tagged the B and lasted to the second turn before getting caught up in a mess, ending his night almost immediately after it began. That same mess caught up Parker Fredrickson, who tipped over for the second time in less than two hours. T. Thomas won with Ethan Barrow, Hunter O’Neal (in the former Jon Sciscoe car that has visited the winner’s circle a few times), Kyle Robbins and Daylan Chambers trailing.
    Cockrum and Short led 18 of their playmates to the green and the fire chief jumped out to the lead. After a couple of laps, Short decided that enough was enough and took the lead. Soon Cockrum was under pressure from TMez, who grabbed second on lap seven and began to stalk the leader.
    But this was interrupted on the eighth lap when Matt McDonald spun in turn four. The lineup was Short, Meseraull, Cockrum, Hodges Hopkins, Mattox, K. Thomas (from 13th), Schmidt and VanGilder. Two laps later, another interruption came in the form of a nasty Tyler Thomas flip in turn one. Tyler was out of the car (minus its fuel tank) and walked away. During the red Hunter O’Neal and Shane Cockrum went to the work area.
    The next green flag segment lasted five laps. The top five of Short, Meseraull, Hodges, Hopkins and Thomas pulled away from the rest of the field. Meseraull actually took the lead a time or two, but only for a few dozen feet and seconds as Short countered the slider with a nifty crossunder move to regain the lead. But their playtime was stopped briefly when Jadon Rogers stopped on the front straight with a shredded tire. Mattox, Schmidt, VanGilder, Bradley Sterrett and Kyle Robbins were the second five.
    As the laps wound down, Short was able to keep a decent amount of track between him and Meseraull, with lapped traffic not a huge factor. Behind them, Hopkins got around Hodges right after the last re-start but couldn’t close on the two up front. Thomas, too, got around Hodges near the end of the race.
    Behind Short, Meseraull, Hopkins, K. Thomas and Hodges were Mattox, Schmidt, VanGilder (who started ninth and ran one of her better races in some time), Cockrum (who returned to the race and hustled to a top ten) and Sterrett. K. Thomas advanced more than anyone else, coming from 13th to finish fourth.
    The sprint feature was over at 11 p.m. and the navigator conked out just after we entered I-70, not to awaken until we made it home. It had been quite a night. He had scraped mud off two cars, talked me into buying him another toy sprinter, and talked Al Pierce into letting him sit in Al’s comfortable lawn chair for awhile.
    He would stay home the next night while Grandpa attended the marathon that is called the Four Crown.
    Loaning Gary Johnson my map of Syria, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: .038 Seconds

    Dodging wrecks and raindrops while ignoring the full moon peeking through the clouds, Shawn Westerfeld made it to the finish line with a last ditch effort to barely beat 2016 Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ Jarett Andretti by .038 seconds, after stalking the third generation racer for much of the 25 lap feature. Andretti didn’t need to hang his head in shame, though. The race was somewhat typical of his season at Lawrenceburg, as well as elsewhere. He ran near the front for all 25 laps, leading most. His mistakes were few and far between. At the end, he gave Westerfeld the smallest of openings coming out of turn four and Shawn grabbed it.

    With rain plaguing several Hoosier bullrings this past weekend, open wheel fans had either the ‘burg or Haubstadt as their choices on a cloudy and pleasant, though a bit humid, Saturday night. With Lawrenceburg a lot closer, my traveling companion and I headed east. Somewhere just east of North Vernon he conked out. This meant he would be busy tonight between races, talking to drivers, getting a few autographs—and helping the tech guy check weights of Hornets and Pure Stocks after their heats (videos on Facebook).  His teacher would have been pleased to see him reading four digit numbers and giving the drivers a thumbs up.

    26 of the 85 odd cars in the pits were sprints. Brent Beauchamp was a pleasant surprise to see this far southeast as Lincoln Park’s oval simply had too much rain for them to race. J.J. Hughes, often found at LPS, was in the pits as well. Logan Hupp, no stranger to the ‘burg, was in the Gindling’s familiar white 7x. And Cole House, Trey’s son, a true rookie, had also made the tow to the corner of our 200 year old state.

    Nick Bilbee and Travis Hery hooked up with a two man draft and left the others behind, running one/two in the first heat. Garrett Abrams was third and Joss Moffatt, a three time Lawrenceburg points champ, came from seventh to fourth. Logan Hupp, with his own ‘burg points title, came from ninth to fifth and locked up a feature spot.

    Shawn Westerfeld, yet another track champ, tried to run away with the second heat, but Kyle Robbins made it close in finishing second. Pole sitter Cody Clarkson was third. Pat Giddens took fourth despite spinning and going while Stratton Briggs was fifth. Cole House had a rude introduction to the ‘burg as he caught the turn two wall and flipped wildly down the backstretch. J.J. Hughes spun on the front straight and left with a flat left front tire.

    Jarett Andretti made it three for three in front row starters winning heats as he checked out. Joe Ligouri, in the Greg Staab-mobile, was second. Drew Abel came from last to third. Brent Beauchamp came from seventh to take fourth. And Brad Stevens, in a very rare Lawrenceburg appearance, locked up a feature appearance with his fifth place finish.

    Hughes came from fifth to win the B Main. Greenville, Ohio resident Matt Cooley was second. Brian Gray started and finished third, edging Logan Hupp at the line. And Tony McVey, modified veteran turning to sprints, would start 20th in the feature.

    The re-draw left a front row of Ligouri and Bilbee. At the beginning we should have known that this one would be a wild affair. Ligouri was ruled to have jumped the start and this put Westerfeld on the pole. On the second try, Tony Main was nudged into a turn one spin and unwanted meeting with the wall. The third time was a charm. Bilbee took the lead, but the red waved with two laps complete when a multi-car tangle left Brian Gray’s car on its side in turn three after some serious flipping. He walked away after a bit. Others involved included Stevens, Robbins, McVey and Giddens.

    Bilbee led on the re-start with Andretti second. By taking the green flag, Jarett was officially the 2016 Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ, joining an illustrious list of predecessors, three of whom were in the race.

    With five laps complete one of those champs, Joss Moffatt, found the turn two wall and flipped against the fence, bringing out another red. Joss walked away. Bilbee led Andretti, Westerfeld, Hery, Beauchamp, Clarkson, Abrams, Hughes, Ligouri and Hupp. 14 cars were running. Hery got way out of shape and lost several spots. With seven laps completed, Andretti passed for the lead in turn four.

    Hard racing was throughout the field. Clarkson raced hard into turn three on Ligouri’s inside. He got into the yellow 44’s side and hurt the left front. Ligouri stopped coming out of turn two as the left front wheel fell off, bringing a yellow on lap 11. Under yellow Joe signaled to Cody that he had a free one way ticket to North Korea waiting for him after the race. (Not really, but Ligouri was not pleased.)

    Just before the yellow waved, Westerfeld passed Bilbee for second. Beauchamp had moved from 12th to fourth and Hughes had come from 16th to fifth. The second five were Abrams, Clarkson, Abel (after changing a tire under the first red), Hupp and Hery. We were down to 12 cars running.

    This green flag segment was a treat. The top four ran close with all hugging the bottom, especially in turns three and four. No positions changed, but disaster struck Bilbee on the 20th lap in turn four. Nick spun, did a nice wheelie trying to right things, and landed on Beauchamp, who had no place to go. There were no injuries; neither did anyone flip, but the race’s third red waved just in case. Neither racer was hurt and Beauchamp was able to re-start.

    As the cars were pushed off to start, one of the push trucks ran over Stratton Briggs’ right rear, nearly tipping the truck. Briggs was able to re-start. It was about this time when my buddy Gregg Sauer pointed out the full moon peeking through the clouds and reminding me of Lawrence Talbot (classic movie fans know about ol’ Larry). According to my grandson, we had ten cars left with Hughes exiting with a flat tire, ruining a fine run until then.

    Attrition had meant some serious re-shuffling. Most of the last six laps was uneventful. But Westerfeld was plotting as he trailed Andretti. And when the leader pushed a little high in turn four coming to the checkered, Westerfeld made his move going down the straightaway. His gambit worked and it created a super-close finish, .038 seconds. Jarett would have to take comfort that he had won the war—a championship. And there was nothing wrong with losing to a young man who has improved steadily the past few years.

    Most all the rest of the top ten benefitted from the carnage that left just ten running. But there was no shame there. They had managed to miss, for the most part, the calamities that had claimed so many of their mates. Abrams was third and Abel took fourth after overcoming a flat tire. Hupp advanced more than anyone, coming from 19th to fifth. Hery was sixth and Beauchamp came back from near disaster to finish seventh. Briggs, Clarkson and Giddens completed the top ten.

    The feature took nearly an hour to run.

    Andretti was the champ with Moffatt, Abrams, Westerfeld and the absent Dickie Gaines the top five in points.

    The ‘burg closes things out on October 1, with the last 2016 USAC race in the Midwest before the band of gypsies heads west.

    Borrowing John Prine’s illegal smile, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: No Place Like Home

    Go to Tri-State Speedway and you’ll find that fans there are like fans everywhere—they like the local heroes. At Tri-State, in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana, the local favorites are guys like Donnie Brackett, Chase Stockon and…Sunday night’s winner Kyle Cummins, who won the Midwest Sprint Car Series feature after passing early leader Chris “Critter” Malone on a mid-race restart. And fans weren’t unhappy that Sikeston, Missouri’s Hunter Schuerenberg won the Midwest Open Wheel Association’s companion feature on a beautiful Labor Day Eve.

    The MOWA portion of the program was a makeup for an earlier rainout. A very good crowd would get a second helping of open wheel action. The anti-wingers could take a longer break should they choose.

    Four racers were doing double duty. Chase Stockon, Zach Daum, Carson Short and Joe B. Miller hoped to make a little bit of spending money. Stockon, Daum and Short made both features; Joe B. made the MOWA show. I stood for awhile next to Stockon as we tried to listen to the dueling drivers’ meetings. MSCS and MOWA conducted the meetings simultaneously. I didn’t know about Chase but it was my first time trying to listen to the proceedings of two drivers’ meetings.

    MSCS had group qualifying while MOWA went the single car route. Max McGhee, back from a brief sabbatical, was the quickest of the non-wingers with a 13.333 lap. Schuerenberg was nearly a second quicker with a 12.353.

    C. J. Leary took the lead early in the first MSCS heat and won by a half straight over Kent Schmidt. Dakota Jackson was third and Donnie Brackett finished fourth. Chet Williams, who was the quickest qualifier of this group, hung on for fifth.

    Chase Stockon led all the way to win the second heat. Justin Grant, in a second Mike McGhee sprinter, was a close second. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt took third. Zach Daum, the only racer to race at Du Quoin and in both classes at Haubstadt, was fourth. Carson Short started and finished fifth.

    Max McGhee came from fourth to win the third heat. Kyle Cummins wasn't far behind in second. Critter Malone finished third and Brady Short was shuffled back to fourth after starting on the pole. Jeff Bland grabbed the last empty chair for the feature.

    Hunter O'Neal won a crazy B main. Brandon Morin was second with Jaden Rogers coming on late to take third. James Lyerla did the same to take fourth. Colin Ambrose edged Nick Johnson at the line to take the last spot. Ambrose made it interesting after a major bobble midway through the race dropped him from second to seventh.

    The MOWA heats inverted zero, which meant that the quickest qualifiers had the inside track to the win. Sure enough, Hunter Schuerenberg won the first heat, which meant he would end up with the sweep of quick time, first heat and feature win. Paul May was second, a full straightaway back. Kody Kinser was third. Jacob Wilson, who had raced at Du Quoin the night before, was fourth. Trey Datweiler locked up the last transfer.

    A.J. Bruns won the second heat by another large margin over Parker Price-Miller. Chase Stockon was third with Jim Moughan fourth. Jeremy Standridge was happy to inherit fifth when Jason Keith spun, even though he kept going. It was his second spin of the race.

    The third heat was true to form with pole sitter Zach Daum winning over outside pole man Chris Urish, another who had been at Du Quoin. Carson Short started and finished third. The ageless Danny Smith was fourth and Joey Moughan grabbed fifth in turn four of the last lap, sending Joe B. Miller to the B.

    The MSCS B saw Hunter O’Neal win from third. Brandon Morin was second and Jadon Rogers was third. James Lyerla was fourth and Collin Ambrose was fifth—by inches. Ambrose had recovered nicely after a mid-race bobble put him in the infield briefly. He nicked Nick (sorry about that) Johnson at the line. Jared Chastain used a provisional to make it 21 for the feature.

    The MOWA B saw yet another last lap pass, this one for the lead. Mike Terry Jr. got around Jake Blackhurst to insure a 15th starting spot in the feature. Joe B. Miller, in his third straight race of the night, grabbed third. MOWA point leader Jerrod Hull was fourth and Dustin Adams would end up being the 20th starter in the main.

    Heat winners Leary, Stockon and McGhee led a strong field to the green and Stockon led the first two laps. But seemingly out of nowhere came Critter Malone from ninth to take the lead on the third lap and promptly began to check out. He wasn’t the only surprise. From eighth, Tyler Hewitt got off to a strong start, passing some of the same people Malone had passed. But yet another was coming from mid-pack.

    Kyle Cummins had started sixth but dropped back to tenth before finding some magic on the bottom groove. By the tenth lap he had passed C.J. Leary for fourth. And he was far from done.

    11 laps were complete when the red lights flashed for a Hunter O’Neal flip in turn two. Jadon Rogers slid to a stop before making any contact. Hunter walked away. Malone’s huge lead was gone. Stockon was second and Cummins had passed Hewitt for fourth. Leary was fifth, trailed by Grant, Brackett, B. Short and McGhee.

    Cummins took second on the 14th lap and began reeling in the leader. A lap later the lead was his and the local kid was gone. But a Kent Schmidt spin on the 29th lap set up a green-white-checkered finish. It didn’t bother Cummins as he rolled on to the win.

    Malone was second and after the race mentioned that a bad vibration developed when the race re-started. Coming on strong at the end was Donnie Brackett, taking the bronze medal after starting tenth. Another somewhat under the radar was Carson Short, who came from 14th to fourth. Justin Grant started and finished fifth. Hewitt faded a bit to sixth, a great effort nevertheless. Tyler said the engine lost some power near the end, but he still finished ahead of Leary, yet another who had raced at Du Quoin the night before. Brady Short was eighth. Stockon lost power on the last lap but was still credited with ninth. Daum was tenth.

    Stockon, Daum and C. Short all hustled to get into their winged mounts and Chase led the gang to another green flag. He led the first two laps before Short rolled to a stop, his MOWA feature done early. Hunter Schuerenberg had started eighth but was already up to fourth. He was far from done. By lap nine he was pressuring Stockon for the lead. Hunter took the lead two laps later and was ready to check out.

    On the 12th lap Dustin Adams met up with the wall in turn two, flipping and bringing out the red. He walked away. Schuerenberg led Stockon, Kinser, Urish, Bruns, Price-Niller, Daum, Smith and Datweiler. By lap 16 (of 25) the lead was nearly a straightaway. Lapped traffic loomed a lap later but Schuerenberg was not deterred. One final yellow waved for Paul May, who stopped in turn three with 21 complete. But that was only delaying the inevitable.

    Schuerenberg cruised to the win with Stockon settling for second. Kody Kinser was third. Zach Daum dropped back early but came back to finish fourth. PPM was fifth, Bruns sixth. Smith came from 12th to take seventh. Urish was eighth and Jim Moughan ninth. Miller came from 18th to grab tenth.

    For the season, Price-Miller took over the point lead from Hull with five races left in the 2016 season.

    As great as the weekend was, with two outstanding programs at Du Quoin and Haubstadt, the highlight was watching, holding and playing with a nine month old girl who is taking some unsteady steps but will soon be motoring around the house, getting into things and pestering her patient and loving four legged friend.

    The racing was the icing.

    Reminding my wife that Roger Ailes can be a really friendly guy, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Bridesmaid No Longer

    Chris Windom has won his share of races over the years, but had yet to win on one of the dirt miles on the USAC Silver Crown schedule. But on a downright beautiful Saturday night, the Canton, Illinois native squeaked by race leader Jeff Swindell to finally grab the checkered, the trophy and the indescribable satisfaction of checking off another item on the bucket list, a win at the Du Quoin Magic Mile, namely the Ted Horn 100.

    As the winds of change blow or breeze through our lives, a few things remain the same. There is still nothing in or out of racing like dirt mile ovals featuring USAC’s Silver Crown Series cars. They of the chunky tail tank showed up in force, with 35 taking a lap around the track in qualifying. I was stuck at the back gate at the end of the backstretch for the duration of practice, but this was a positive. The view from back there was unique as I ignored the rule of never turning your back on a speeding race car and watched cars barreling into turn three as they practiced. Hunter Schuerenberg, in one of three Nolen Racing entries, smacked the wall in turn three not long after I arrived. I did see Tad Roach exit the track and then his car when it began emitting an unacceptable amount of smoke and maybe fire as well.

    It seemed to me that Chris Windom was getting into three a bit faster than the others. But in time trials he was only ninth quickest, with Kody Swanson setting quick time with a 31.932 second lap, far from Tyler Walker’s 29.138 in 2004. Justin Grant went out third from the last and found himself on the outside pole with an impressive 32.048.

    With the vintage Silver Crown Gilmore Special leading the way, Windom and Grant led C.J. Leary, the ageless Jeff Swindell, two time and defending Du Quoin champ Shane Cockrum, Illinois native and Hoosier resident Shane Cottle, A.J. Fike, David Byrne, Windom and Davey Ray to Tom Hansing’s green cloth. The raccoon that had entertained part of the crowd with his romp in the rafters of the covered grandstand presumably found a good seat and settled in for 100 laps of racing in its purest form—or close to it.

    Swanson predictably took the lead at the start and Windom immediately began his climb, passing Fike for eighth on the fifth lap. A near disaster was avoided when veteran Jackie Burke ran over someone’s right rear and lost control enough to collect Chris Fetter, who smacked the turn one wall on the eighth lap. All involved were okay. Windom had climbed to sixth behind Swanson, Swindell, Cockrum, Grant and Leary.

    On the re-start, a spirited three way battle broke out briefly for the lead among Swanson, Swindell and Cockrum. Swindell took the lead on lap 16 and, with Cockrum in tow, tried mightily to check out. Meanwhile, Windom had taken over fourth place as Swindell made his move for the lead. Three laps later, the Canton, Illinois native grabbed third from Swanson. Swindell pulled away from Cockrum, who had a new problem named Chris Windom, who passed his fellow Illini on the 22nd lap.

    Almost lost in this shuffle for the time being was Casey Shuman, driving Patty Bateman’s rocket. From 21st, the Shu was already 13th on lap 25. Up front Swindell soon had Windom to deal with. After repeated attempts, Windom made the pass for the lead in the third turn on lap 36. Two laps later Joey Moughan brushed the turn two wall and rolled to a stop to bring out another yellow. Windom led Swindell, Cockrum, Swanson, Leary, Grant, Fike, Cottle, 16th starting Jerry Coons Jr., 15th starting Brady Bacon and Brian Tyler. Under yellow, cars dove to the front straight pit wall so crew members could inspect the tires as best they could. Running through the moist dirt didn’t hurt the tires either.

    A brief yellow for debris slowed Windom’s playtime briefly on the 44th lap. At the halfway mark, Shuman had entered the top ten. Windom had extended his lead by a few car lengths when Grant, running seventh, slowed in turn four with the first flat right rear on lap 57. Justin lost a lap and would not contend for a good finish.

    On the re-start Cottle went forward as Cockrum went backward. Cottle was now fourth behind the trio of Windom, Swindell and Swanson with the Chief slipping back to seventh. Up front there was another change in the leader as Swindell got around Windom to lead the 64th lap. Shuman passed Cockrum on the same lap and now was seventh.

    Windom refused to go away quietly, making repeated looks inside of the leader. With 69 laps complete, they passed under the flagstand side by side before Swindell slammed the door shut. Two laps later Jacob Wilson stopped in turn two, bringing out the race’s fifth yellow. On the re-start Swindell either got a great jump or Windom’s car wouldn’t go. In any event it was no harm, no foul. Cockrum passed Shuman, one of the few to do that all night. By lap 81 Windom had edged closer to the leader. Either way, it didn’t matter as Austin Nemire slowed in turn four with a flat tire while Shane Cottle slowed almost simultaneously.

    Now it was still Swindell up front, with Windom, Swanson, Fike, Bacon, Shuman, Tyler, Cockrum, Coons and Joe Ligouri, making his first appearance in the top ten. Windom had a better re-start this time and dogged Swindell hard. On the 87th lap Swindell again slammed the door as he and Windom entered turn one. Cockrum was on the move again, entering the top five again with ten laps to go.

    Just as Windom dive bombed Swindell going into the third turn on the 93rd lap, the seventh yellow waved for Aaron Pierce, who spun in turn four. The last re-start came with five to go. Swindell and Windom traded the lead back and forth in turn three. On the 98th lap, Windom made an outside pass of Swindell going into the third turn, the final lead change of the race.

    Windom’s margin of victory was about 10-12 car lengths, or 1.274 seconds, over Swindell. Swanson was third and now led Windom by ten points as the show goes to Eldora in three weeks. Shuman wasn’t the KSE/Martens Hard Charger, despite coming from 21st to fourth. (Bill Rose made his way from 33rd to 13th.) Cockrum seemingly passed or was passed on nearly every lap, but ironically ended up where he started, fifth. Bacon came from 15th to sixth. Coons started 16th and brought it home seventh. Tyler was eighth and Ligouri ninth. David Byrne started the race in the top ten, dropped out for much of the race and ended up tenth. A.J. Fike lost a good run late with, what else, a flat tire.

    Here are a few parting shots. When the biggest complaint is that the race started a half hour late (due to a big car count as much as anything), that means the whole program was a total success. 35 cars, a good crowd, and an above average to excellent race—it was time well spent.

    Ironically, Jeff Swindell won the Ted Horn 100 in 1990…the year Chris Windom was born, if my information is correct.

    It was the fourth consecutive year an Illinois native has won, starting with Chris Urish in 2013 to Shane Cockrum in 2014-5 and now Windom.

    Brian Tyler is the leader among active drivers with 17 Silver Crown wins. Chris Windom has four, but Tyler might want to keep an eye on this Kody Swanson character, who has 15.

    Reminding John Hunter Nemechek that running a guy into the wall to win a race is not good for the reputation, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Road Trip

    Not too often can one take a weekend jaunt and cover lots of ground, not to mention the miles. This upcoming 2016 Labor Day holiday is one to anticipate and, hopefully, remember. I get to enjoy two of my favorite passions. One is going to a pair of what should be two great races at two great facilities. The other can be called grandfather time, an occasion to watch a baby grow into a toddler, maybe hold her for awhile (if she allows—she’s getting more mobile) and say hello to her parents as well, of course.

    Saturday afternoon should find me wandering around the pits at the Magic Mile, the gracefully aging one mile dirt oval at the Illinois State Fair/Du Quoin. The first automobile race at Du Quoin was held 70 years ago, a sprint car race won by Sprint Car Hall of Fame member Jimmy Wilburn. Two years later open wheel standout Ted Horn was killed at Du Quoin. This weekend’s race does a lot to keep Horn’s memory alive.

    The Horn Memorial entry list contains past winners Brian Tyler (2008), Jeff Swindell (1990), Kody Swanson (2010), Shane Cockrum (2014 and 2015), Chris Urish (2013) and Shane Cottle (2007). 36 cars are entered for the Saturday night race, the highest number of entries in many years.

    Dave Darland has 19 starts, more than anyone else entered. Tyler and Jerry Coons Jr. each have taken the green flag 15 times.

    Half of the 36 are residents of Illinois and Indiana, with the Illini State presenting ten of its own.

    Four rookies will attempt to start; all four are known to Midwest sprint car fans. Three are Hoosiers, Dakota Jackson, Joe Ligouri and Matt Goodnight. Hunter Schuerenberg hails from Sikeston, Missouri.

    Granddaughter time is planned between races. After playtime with her on Sunday afternoon, I hope to be heading south down U.S. 41 to Tri-State Speedway, where sprints will dominate. The non-wing MSCS and the winged MOWA sprinters are two thirds of the show with UMP mods also on Tom Helfrich’s quarter mile oval. The Midwest Open Wheel wingers are a makeup date from an earlier rainout.

    Kyle Cummins won this race last year and Jon Stanbrough in 2014. Daron Clayton has won it three times, Hunter Schuerenberg twice.

    Jerrod Hull is the MOWA point leader, 58 points ahead of Parker Price-Miller. MOWA feature winners this year include Price-Miller, Hull, A.J. Bruns, Zach Daum and Bill Balog.

    History, of both race tracks and sanctioning bodies, is an underappreciated part of open wheel rsacing culture. Like any other history, collecting data is a never ending challenge. Over time race tracks have not been as diligent as they could be in keeping and maintaining coherent records.  Some sanctioning bodies are the same, even though USAC is a shining exception.

    As time passes, myths, legends and facts mix together to create stories, the life blood of not only racing but our society. On Saturday evening as I turn my gaze across the beautifully maintained Du Quoin oval, it can be easy to take myself back 40 or 50 years. We look back and think of racers who powered their way around the track. We marvel at the memories and declare that surely “there were giants on the earth in those days” of Biblical proportions.

    But as we look at Du Quoin through 2016 eyes, as it were, let us acknowledge that there are giants in our presence this coming weekend, people with names like Swanson, Cockrum, Darland, Tyler and Coons. Our succeeding generation of fans will look upon these gentlemen as we look back to the Foyts, Andrettis, Bransons and Unsers. Today’s giants deserve their place in the history books and our memories.

    The same applies to Tri-State Speedway @Haubstadt. Its history may not be a lengthy or storied but it has its share of giants, past and present.

    As we celebrate our blessings on this very underrated holiday weekend, such as family, the life of Bran Clauson, race tracks such as Du Quoin and Tri-State, and the opportunity to see giants of racing test themselves against the elements and each other, let us live in the moment as much as we can. Let us enjoy our passion, cheering or, if you are like me, just marveling and admiring how these people do what they do. And, let us enjoy and appreciate the other blessings, those that come in small packages and grow up before you know it.

    Persuading Anthony Weiner to slowly back away from the computer, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Exclamation Point

    In the world of USAC/Indiana sprint car racing, Kevin Thomas Jr. has come as close as anyone to dominating in an environment where parity rules. His 11th sprint car victory of 2016 (and second of the week) came on a hot August night at the Kokomo Speedway on the final night of Smackdown, a collaboration of Kokomo and USAC that has quickly become a must see for sprint fans from literally around the world. Surely people are already thinking about the 2017 version of Smackdown.

    Friday had been a longer than usual day. The Kokomo portion of it began at the Half Moon Restaurant, the culinary choice of racers visiting town and long time sponsor of Josh Spencer and clan. Rain in the late afternoon insured that it would be a later than normal night. By Saturday this old man was almost dragging—until race cars were on the race track.

    There was no shortage of fund raising associated with Smackdown. Fans opened their wallets, purses and treasure chests to fight cancer, raise awareness of organ donation (with Bryan Clauson and family leading the way), various and sundry prizes for racers, and money raised to ease the pain of hard luck racers. Thousands of dollars changed hands as fans went above and beyond to do the right thing.

    Pre-race found Chaplain Dave Cochran and I engaged in a long discussion of both spiritual and racing matters. We encountered several racing stories that mirrored Biblical stories and teachings. We agreed that many things happening in our world are not part of our plan, but one both higher and different than ours.

    The last night of Smackdown brings a different format. There is no qualifying. The top three would transfer out of each of three heats. The B Main would take the top five, not six. But the major departure would be the King of the Hill, a fan favorite. The top eight in points from the first two nights would square off in three lap segments, single elimination tourney style. The King would start on the pole of the 40 lap feature.

    Robert Ballou started on the pole of the first heat and won going away. This meant that he would start ninth in the feature. Kyle Cummins was second and Zach Daum edged Tyler Thomas for third.

    Dave Darland, strong all week, ran off with the second heat. Second fellow Kokomo resident Shane Cottle. Third was Jarett Andretti. Aaron Farney was a distant fourth.

    Brady Bacon made it three for three in pole winners leading the others to Tom Hansing’s checkered flag. Jon Stanbrough started and finished second. Most impressive of all was Brent Beauchamp. This was his first Smackdown visit, which meant that he’d tag the tail of the last heat. He passed Colton Cottle with three laps to go and waltzed away with third place and a spot in the show. Cole Ketchum smacked the wall on the backstretch and flipped hard while running fourth. He was done for the night and maybe for the year. The hard luck monetary award would ease the pain a bit.

    Round one of the King of the Hill saw Chase Stockon, eighth in points, facing point leader Thomas Meseraull, who made sure that Stockon would start eighth.

     Next up was Chad Boespflug, who outran C. J. Leary.

     The third pair to step up was Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom. This three lap sprint was the most competitive, with at least two lead changes before Courtney prevailed.

    The last first round matchup was Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. with the Alabama native, Thomas, besting the California native.

    The second elimination round saw a pair of Californians square off, with San Jose’s Meseraull besting Hanford’s Boespflug.

    Courtney, almost a local boy (Indianapolis) dispatched Thomas and would face Meseraull for the title of King.

    Though they were never very far apart, Courtney crossed the line first and would occupy the pole for the feature, with Meseraull beside him.

    Tyler Thomas won the B, leading Farney, C. Cottle, Logan Jarrett and Kyle Robbins, who passed the ailing car of Tyler Hewitt with two laps to go.

    At 10:15, after fireworks, the fan friendly driver introductions (the missing man formation, and the wave lap Lauren Stewart waved the green flag and 22 gentlemen proceeded to do their best to smack each other down.

    Courtney jumped out to the lead from pole with TMez and Boespflug close behind. But Thomas was on the move early, getting around Boespflug before the first yellow waved for Meseraull, who hammered the turn four wall on the third lap after something in the steering broke. Just like that, KT was second. Courtney’s moments as the leader were numbered and it was a small number.

    Thomas took the lead on lap six, but didn’t exactly check out. Courtney hung tough, never letting the leader get too far away until Boespflug took second a lap later. Action took a break when Zach Daum flipped hard in turn one with eight complete. He exited the car under his own power. Thomas led Boespflug, Courtney, Windom, Darland, Grant, Cummins and Leary.

    Not much changed up front for the next few laps. 14 laps were complete when Kyle Robbins fell victim to the uneven surface in turn one. Tyler Thomas had entered the top ten after starting 18th. This would be the last stoppage or interruption as those remaining fought tooth and nail, yet nary a yellow or red would wave again.

    As green flag racing resumed, K. Thomas continued to lead but simply could not shake Boespflug—or Windom, for that matter. Further back, Kyle Cummins was using the low groove to perfection. The Princeton, Indiana resident got around Darland and Courtney to enter the top five. Meanwhile, Boespflug was giving Thomas a bad case of heartburn with ten more laps to go. And Windom had spent much of the race riding above the cushion at both ends of the track. He was giving Boespflug his own brand of harassment in trying to take second.

    Lapped traffic was there, of course, but it didn’t seem to matter, especially to the leader. Thomas took the checkered by a few feet over Boespflug and Windom, ending Smackdown the way he started it, in Bryan Clauson Victory Lane. Darland, a three time winner of Smackdowns past, was fourth after starting tenth. Cummins held onto fifth. Grant was sixth and Courtney faded to seventh. Bacon and Leary followed. T. Thomas was the KSE Hard Charger, coming from B Main-land, 18th, to tenth.

    It was not quite 11 p.m. and suddenly it was over. For the past four days, we had seen rain, destruction of large parts of the host city, emotional memories of one gone so soon, new and old friends getting acquainted and re-acquainted, incredible displays of generosity and…laps upon laps completed by some talented and determined young men asking and giving no quarter.

    I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    Warily turning down Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s invitation to join them in a friendly game of draw poker, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: (Another) First Time Winner

    Our lives contain various and sundry signposts, or turning points. We’ve all had specific events, good and bad, that we refer to as we mosey on down life’s highway. The whole year of 2016 has featured, for all of us, a few of these, most notably just a few days ago when we lost Bryan Clauson. For C. J. Leary, more than just a second generation racer, this year has had its ups and downs; perhaps one could say he’s had multiple signposts this year, going from one ride to another. But it’s been far from all bad, as he has moved from one sprint ride to another. He is the first USAC driver since Kyle Larson in 2011 to get his first USAC win in two divisions in the same year. Back in the spring Leary scored his first USAC Silver Crown victory at Terre Haute. And on a long night delayed by rain, he rang up his first USAC Sprint car win at the Kokomo Speedway on the second night of Smackdown.

    Not feeling overly sociable (the introvert in me), I retreated to the little white truck after a light rain began to fall right after six o’clock. I recently purchased from ace photographer Chris Pedersen a 1974 book Stand On The Gas, a brief history of sprint car racing up to then, written by Joe Scalzo, one that I read many years ago. I read and looked at the sky. To me, it was like being in racing’s version of Purgatory. I was at a place I love, but was unable to fully enjoy being there—though the book wasn’t a terrible substitute.

    At approximately a quarter past eight, the rain had long since passed and I could hear the siren call of V-8 engines. Wheel packing had begun, despite cloudy skies all around and an ominous looking radar. Purgatory was over.

    Qualifying began and Chad Boespflug went out midway through the order and ripped off a 13.109 lap to set fast time of the 44 cars mudding in the pits. Jon Stanbrough went out 43rd and was seventh quick. The track held up and wasn’t touched all evening. The rain made for a fast and heavy/wet surface. Dirt clods flew all night. Turn one was a challenge as several who took the challenge bounced their way through it. The late Tony Elliott would have said turn one had character.

    The first heat race got off to a less than ideal start when Brian Karraker’s car had a bad push and skidded into the path of Jerry Coons Jr., who flipped in turn one after running over Karraker’s right rear. Of the hard luck racer money collected, Jerry received $100. While the red lights were on, the sky began dropping some rain. The yellow flag was waved and a hot lap session was in order to try and keep the Howard County soil from getting too wet. The sprinkles stopped and racing resumed. Zach Daum won the first heat with Leary second. Boespflug got around Karraker midway through the race to take third.

    Thomas Meseraull took the lead early to win the second heat. Chase Stockon was second and his southwestern Indiana neighbor Kyle Cummins was third. Early leader Matt Westfall was fourth, holding off Cole Ketchum to hang onto the last transfer spot.

    Dave Darland used his front row starting position to win the second heat. Pole sitter Robert Ballou had his hands full keeping Jarett Andretti behind him. Tyler Courtney was fourth as Thursday night winner Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jon Stanbrough went to the B.

    Pole sitter Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat. Brady Bacon trailed and Justin Grant was third. Tyler Hewitt was fourth, edging Chris Windom, who would join Shane Cottle in the stacked B Main.

    When my homeboy Joss Moffatt pushed wide in turn one at the start of the C Main, his front row mate Colton Cottle pounced. Shane’s nephew led all the way, taking Tyler Thomas, Dustin Smith and Matt Goodnight with him to tag the B.

    Pole sitter Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the last chance event. Windom, S. Cottle, Stanbrough, K. Thomas and Ketchum all scooted into the big show. Tyler Thomas came from 16th to fall short by one, ending up seventh.

    Periodic drops fell from the sky as the feature lined up just past 11:30. Meseraull and Leary were the front row, two guys who had basically traded rides this year. Leary took the lead at the start and led a six car breakaway from the rest of the pack, bringing Meseraull, Courtney, Boespflug, Jarrett and Grant with him. The leaders approached lapped traffic at the tenth lap, but Leary was unfazed. Meseraull, however, had Courtney to deal with. Then both began to reel in the leader. Things were getting good when Chase Stockon had an encounter with the turn two wall and slowed with 17 laps in the book.

    The boys regrouped with Leary leading Courtney, Meseraull, Boespflug, Jarrett, Grant, Bacon (from 15th), S. Cottle, Windom and Andretti. No sooner than the green waved when Brian Karraker bounced to a stop in turn one. While under caution, Bacon discovered a flat left rear and exited to the pits, returning before Tom Hansing waved the green.

    A lap was completed before Cole Ketchum lost it and collected birthday boy Tyler Hewitt. There went $100 donated by fans to perhaps replace a front axle, which was bent even though Hewitt returned to action. While under caution it appeared that Meseraull had a flat left rear, but he stayed out. Cottle had passed Grant before the yellow and now was sixth. On this re-start, he got around Jarrett to enter the top five. Otherwise, nothing changed up front.

    Hunter Schuerenberg brought out the last yellow as 24 laps were completed. He guided his smoking car to the pits. Now it was Leary, TMez, Courtney, Boespflug, Cottle, Jarrett, Windom, Andretti, Grant, and Robert Ballou, who had started 21st.

    Again, it was show and tell time. On this final re-start, the crafty one, Shane Cottle, slipped under Chad Boespflug, expertly negotiating the now treacherous low groove in turn one. Leary, meanwhile, was still having his way, hugging the monster cushion at each end of the track. And at just past midnight on August 27, 2016, he joined the elite group of USAC Sprint car feature winners. Grabbing the silver medal was Meseraull, flat or nearly flat left rear and all. Thomas held off Tyler Courtney, who did his share of bouncing through the turns and off the wall. From receiving the hard luck cash the night before, Shane Cottle came from 12th to fourth. Chad Boespflug was fifth.

    The second five was led by Chris Windom in sixth. Jarett Andretti came from 14th to finish seventh. Justin Grant and Logan Jarrett were eighth and ninth. The KSE Hard Charger was Robert Ballou, who came from 21st to tenth.

    Ballou and Jarrett did a little beating and banging the last few laps. On the post-race cool down lap, they practiced their sign language skills.

    Leary was the sixth first time winner in USAC sprints this year. Surely this would be a major signpost in his racing life.

    Going in to the final night of Smackdown, Meseraull leads in Smackdown points. For the year, Brady Bacon maintains a comfortable lead.

    Giving that pharmaceutical guy who has jacked up the prices of needed medicine a copy of Dante’s Inferno, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Lonely Leader

    Quite often, it can be lonely for any leader for various reasons. Leaders of nations, businesses and organizations of any kind have to make decisions all the time and they get to live with the results. But a racer can be a lonely leader for very different reasons, namely that he kicked everyone else’s ass. That was Kevin Thomas Jr., enjoying a very successful year in the Ottinger family car. His win on Thursday at the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown was maybe his most impressive this year—so far.

    Even though opening night was a washout, it was still time well spent. The scheduled Celebration of Bryan Clauson’s life was partially complete before the rain returned, causing a mass retreat for dryer places (such as my truck). But enough stories were told, some of them new ones (to many of us), so that the goodness and the quality of this young man was cemented in our minds and hearts until our own appointment with destiny.

    Rather than lament the rain that interrupted the stories, perhaps we should appreciate the fact that the celebration happened at all. Because those stories that were told served and will serve as part of the fabric that our memories will carry with us. And there is nothing to prevent our retelling these stories in the coming years.

    Unfortunately, with the rain was a nasty tornado that devastated much of Kokomo’s south side. Thankfully there were no deaths, even though property damage was extensive. There was no thought of cancelling the Thursday program and that was appropriate because life goes on. The O’Connor family placed a box for fans to leave donations for local tornado victims by the ticket booth.

    With the passing of Bryan Clauson and the horrible weather that hit a good portion of Indiana, we were reminded of just how much is out of our control. Most changes that we experience are forced upon us and how we deal with those changes speaks volumes. And the celebration of the life of an extraordinary young man was both good and necessary. But I can imagine somewhere out there in the mystic BC was good naturedly grumbling, “Drop the flag and race, boys.” And so they did.

    It was an impressive car count of 45, nearly as impressive as the track prep done by the crew. The track stayed consistent throughout qualifying. Chase Stockon went out seventh and set an early quick time before Dave Darland bested that, going 14th. DD’s time was looking good until Chad Boespflug beat it barely, 35th to qualify. Six cars later, it was Robert Ballou’s turn to stop the clocks quickest. But then came along Thomas Meseraull, third from the last to take his two laps, one of which was 13.205.

    As usual, the track was fast and passing was possible, but difficult. C. J. Leary proved that in the first heat. Tyler Hewitt led for about 9.8 laps of the first heat before Leary made his move coming to Tom Hansing’s checkered flag to steal the win. Another Tyler, Mr. Courtney, was third and Darland edged Meseraull for the final spot to make the show.

    Jon Stanbrough passed Jerry Coons Jr. midway through the second heat to win. Stockon and Ballou were third and fourth. Shane Cottle was running third when he was tapped by Ballou in turn two, spinning. I’d rather sit through a disco concert than spin any of these guys out, especially Mr. Cottle.

    There wasn’t a whole lot of passing in the first two heats but the third more than made up for it. Up near the front, it seemed as if positions were exchanged most every lap. When it ended, Tyler Thomas won from fourth. Chad Boespflug came from sixth to second. Jarett Andretti started on the pole, dropped back to fourth and nearly fifth, but regrouped and finished an impressive third. Kevin Thomas Jr. hung on for fourth.

    Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat and Cole Ketchum came from fourth to second, Justin Grant, filling in for Max McGhee, was third. Chris Windom was fourth and pole sitter Brandon Mattox barely missed out.

    With 45 cars jamming the pits, the C Main had several desperate people who wanted to race some more. Brian Karraker passed Isaac Chapple late to win it. Chapple and two local shoes, Josh Spencer and Corey Smith, moved to the B.

    The B was plagued by four yellows as Brady Bacon edged Thomas Meseraull for the win after they traded the lead back and forth a time or two. Kyle Cummins, quiet all night, was third. Zach Daum was fourth. Logan Jarrett came from 11th to fifth. And Colton Cottle was sixth after Uncle Shane stopped on the backstretch, bringing out one of the yellows.

    Aaron Farney and Isaac Chapple took provisionals.

    It was time for the main event. K. Thomas and Stockon led the 24 to the flag after the lineup shifted into the missing man formation as a remembrance to Bryan Clauson. One of the announcers summed it up just before the race, saying we must cry, laugh and now race. And so they did.

    Thomas jumped out to a lead early and missed seeing Dave Darland putting on a brief show. Dave dropped back from his third starting position but was roaring back to the front, getting around Chris Windom and Chase Stockon. His quest to reach the leader was squelched when Cole Ketchum’s car went on strike coming out of turn four right in the middle of a large pack of cars with two laps complete. Though there was some bumping and swerving, no one else was involved. 

    The lineup was K. Thomas, Stockon, who had returned the favor to third place Darland, Windom, Ballou, Leary, Grant, Meseraull, Boespflug and Cummins. A couple of laps later, Darland was back in second and Stockon was engaged in a true dogfight for third with Windom. Lapped traffic came into play on the 11th lap. None of this seemed to bother Thomas or the others up front as the battle for third continued.

    With 17 laps in, a yellow flag waved for a stopped Logan Jarrett, erasing a big lead for Thomas, and interrupting the Stockon/Windom drama. Now it was unchanged up front, Thomas, Darland, Windom, Stockon, Ballou, Grant, Leary, Bacon, Meseraull and Cummins. The green waved and Thomas took off again. Lapped traffic would not be a factor again.

    Behind the lonely leader a continuance of the charge by Windom was the most watched on track action. With maybe four laps to go, he passed Darland for second. This sparked a constant question for many races, that being could he have caught the leader. Of course, we’ll never know, but a little speculation isn’t all bad.

    At the end, Thomas was followed by Windom (from eighth), Darland, Stockon, Grant, Ballou, Bacon, Meseraull, Courtney and Leary. Jon Stanbrough was the KSE Hard Charger, coming from 19th to finish 12th.  Most certainly Thomas didn’t mind being “lonely.”

    With all the various incentives that surface during Smackdown days, with a lot of help, I collected money for the hard luck racers for the evening. Casey Shuman and Shane Cottle were deserving winners of $215 each and both could not be more appreciative. With money left over due to my lack of counting skills, there will be some solace for some racer this evening.

    The second round of this series awaits in a few hours as this is written. As for me, it’s time to do some food shopping and have lunch.

    Nervously eyeing the shark that wants to jump me, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Education of a Young Man

    In the course of chasing their dreams, young racers receive an invaluable education, whether they are aware of it or not. Part of this education involves passing it on. In other words, as they go from race to race, they are setting an example for those who are watching them, mostly younger kids who have their own dreams. Race car drivers are no different than the rest of us in that they can have no clue how much impact a simple gesture could have on another person, especially a kid. It wasn’t enough that Justin Grant made a last lap/turn four pass of Jarett Andretti, who was nursing a wounded car, to win the sprint car feature at the Bloomington Speedway Friday night. After the celebrating and the Kimb Stewart interview, the young California native possessed, in addition to the money and the accolades, a huge trophy. Mr. Grant, no doubt, has several trophies at home. But whatever the reason, he chose to give this one to a little boy, the one who is often found with me at various Hoosier bullrings. Who can know how that seemingly simple act will affect a little boy? You can imagine the immediate effect. This was one happy child, maybe as happy as the winner and his team, the McGhee family and friends.

    On this last points night at Bloomington, 26 410 sprinters and 14 Racesavers were among over 100 cars jamming the pits. As mentioned, Justin Grant was in a one off deal with the McGhees. Brady Short and company loaded up and left, reportedly for South Dakota where some big money was up for grabs. This was after a subpar result in group qualifying. Scott Hampton was in Jamie Paul’s car, usually driven by the chief, Shane Cockrum. Dickie Gaines was in Daryl Tate’s Racesaver, his first winged ride in a few years…I think. ARCA points leader Chase Briscoe was in the pits spectating, as was his dad, an all time Bloomington maestro, Kevin. Jon Stanbrough was back in the Pedersen family’s old reliable, open trailer and all. And most of the usual suspects were present, including Chris Babcock and family, with my little navigator scraping some mud off Bill’s car for some cookies and a drink from Debbie Babcock. Earlier he had climbed into Luke Bland’s Racesaver, but was persuaded to vacate the ride so Luke could try out some new stuff.

    Jon Stanbrough started on the pole of the first heat and simply checked out, not bothering to wave. Bub Cummings edged Jordan Kinser for second. Matt McDonald was fourth and Chris Phillips held off Travis Berryhill to grab the last vacancy. A lap two red flag waved when Jaden Rogers slid off turn one and flipped. He would return for the B and make the A.

    With my helper deciding to keep track of positions in the second heat, my alleged job was easier. According to Karston, Justin Grant won with Jeff Bland second. Tyler Thomas made a late pass on Chris Babcock to finish third. Scott Hampton was fifth. He even caught the yellow flag that came out for Anthony Leohr on the fifth lap.

    Brent Beauchamp won the third heat by a healthy margin. Jarett Andretti got around Lee Underwood midway through the race to take second. Brandon Morin pressured Underwood, but settled for fourth. And Hunter O'Neal put himself in position to start 15th in the feature.

    Pole sitter Travis Berryhill ran away with the last chance race with Brandon Mattox second. Shelby Vangilder, J.T. Stapp and Jadon Rogers, repairs made, would tag the tail of the feature.

    It was off to the infield for the feature as pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer was joined by the little person. Brent Beauchamp and Jarett Andretti led 18 of their best friends to the green. Andretti jumped out to a lead that he’d increase with each lap as Beauchamp fought with Jeff Bland for second. From fifth, Justin Grant joined the fight after passing Bub Cummings on the second lap.

    At the halfway mark the yellow lights were at work for a Jadon Rogers spin in turn four. Andretti may have snarled in Rogers’ direction as he idled by under the yellow. Jarett had put some Bloomington red clay between himself and his pursuers on every lap, even after lapped traffic became a factor. The rundown was Andretti, Bland, Grant, Beauchamp, Kinser, Stanbrough, Thomas, Bub Cummings and Morin.

    Now was the chance for the hungry coyotes to attack the leader, but it didn’t happen. Andretti pulled away again as Bland, Beauchamp and Grant had a brief, but intense, dogfight. By the 17th lap Grant had dispatched the other two and was beginning to reel in Andretti.

    But then the red flag (the hardest working of the flags) waved. Grant had caught Andretti when Travis Berryhill flipped in turn two with 23 laps completed. Travis exited the car and attention turned to Andretti’s car. Coming to the start/finish line when the red lights blinked, Grant actually got around Andretti and his left rear tire may have contacted Jarett’s right front, which may have been out of alignment.

    On the re-start Andretti pushed up the track in turn two and found himself out of shape as Tyler Thomas came calling. Thomas tipped it over and Andretti was able to continue. Another red, another re-start and Aldo’s grandson was far from being home free. Grant was still there behind him and there were still two laps to go.

    The green waved for the last time and the two lap pitched battle was on. Andretti’s car may have had handling issues, but he held off the challenger for one and three quarters laps, much of that spent side by side. Grant got the big bite of traction off the fourth turn and led Andretti to the line, winning by a few feet. Beauchamp was third with Bland finishing fourth and claiming the 2016 Bloomington Speedway championship. Stanbrough was fifth with Cummings hanging on for sixth. Kinser took seventh with Matt McDonald eighth. Mattox rambled from 17th to end up ninth. Brandon Morin completed the top ten.

    As the post-race interview concluded, my grandson began walking away with the trophy. I honestly thought he was walking away with it until someone told me that the trophy was his. My mood changed a bit and I had to chuckle and shake my head. Later, Mr. Grant signed the trophy and we all decided it will sit here at home where he can see it whenever he’s here (which is often).

    It shall serve as a tangible example of the continuing education of a little boy who will probably remember the night he took home a trophy.

    Saturday…

    First off, here's a reminder that race promoters aren't like the rest of us. They are optimistic gamblers. Many of them will try to race even when the weather looks less than promising.

    The most immediate and recent example came on Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway. The area had been hit hard by rain in the early afternoon hours. The track was a quagmire at best, but Joe Spiker and crew were not deterred. For several hours they did their best to prepare a track that would yield some racin' Hoosier style. But, alas, their efforts were for naught and the gang threw in the towel just past 6:30... about five minutes after I arrived.

    I knew of the possibility of that happening, yet I pressed on. Just west of Franklin the rain began and it was rather intense until I motored through Bargersville. The rain eased up and by the time I reached Mooresville, the sun was breaking through the clouds. My hopes increased, even though I figured it would be a late night.

    But it wasn't to be. I would be going home quite early. I, like several others, gambled and lost. I'd imagine that none gambled as much as the folks that present racing here each week.

    Whiners, second guessers and the usual knights of the keyboard may well would have found a reason to blame the promotion team for waiting so late to pull the plug. Maybe they don't understand the mind of any promoter, the fact that they don't necessarily think like us. Joe Spiker didn't call me and threaten to spray paint my house if I didn't show up; it was all my idea, knowing that the night's festivities might be cancelled.

    And I'm already over it. Far as I know, more races are scheduled next week. Smackdown, anyone?

    Not letting certain American swimmers near my bathroom, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Good Things Come to Those Who…Race

    It was a 28 year gap between appearances by USAC’s Silver Crown division at the Salem Speedway. In 1988, both of my kids, now parents themselves, were in elementary school. Ronald Reagan was winding up his Presidency. Quite a few of the field had not taken the green flag yet. And Bryan Clauson, absence still felt, was a year away from his birth. Winner Kody Swanson was born in the spring of 1988. 28 years later, he made his mark as he profited from Aaron Pierce’s misfortune, taking the lead and the checkered for the 15th time in Silver Crown history, tying him with no less then J.J. Yeley. It was somehow appropriate that the Swanson car’s number was 63, one used by Clauson quite often. And the running of this race was the Joe James-Pat O’Conner Memorial, the first of these events run without wings in several years.

    As time trials began, it was a given that the track record would fall multiple times; the only question would be how many. First qualifier Patrick Lawson was first, followed by Chris Windom, David Byrne, Jerry Coons Jr., Jacob Wilson, and finally Swanson, who was three tenths faster than everyone else with a 15.978 lap.

    Rain somehow missed Salem most all day—until the pre-race ceremonies were nearly done. It was a fairly brief shower, but it delayed the start of the 75 lap feature for 20 minutes or so. With the waving of the green, Swanson took the lead. The yellow flag came out immediately as Austin Nemire spun and made contact with the wall. Casey Shuman and Lawson were also involved but drove away.

    The track was cleared and the green waved again, with Aaron Pierce scooting by Swanson coming out of turn two and grabbing the lead. A few laps later, lap 14, Jacob Wilson slowed and exited the race with a malfunctioning weight jacker. Windom passed Swanson for second. The top three were running nose to tail when they entered serious lapped traffic on the 19th lap. Five laps later, fourth place Jerry Coons Jr. joined the crowd.

    The second yellow light blinked on lap 25 when Shane Cottle coasted to a stop. It was still Pierce, Windom, Swanson, Coons and Byrne. On this re-start, Windom made an attempt to get around the leader, but couldn’t close the deal. The first three broke away from the others while Byrne pressed Coons for fourth and Bobby Santos III did his best to distract Byrnes. The 41st lap saw Swanson get back around Windom for second as a dark cloud passed over the high banks, but still no rain came with it. Nine laps later, Swanson was right behind Pierce and ready to pounce. Santos passed Byrne for fifth. Kody was like a batter waiting patiently for a good pitch to hit, biding his time. But it didn’t work out that way.

    60 laps were in and Pierce barreled into turn three with maybe a two car length lead on Swanson. Then things changed as Pierce either had something break or he lost it, spinning out in front of Swanson. He re-started on the tail of the field. The re-start order was Swanson, Windom, Coons, Santos and Byrne. It was Show and Tell time. Swanson gradually increased his lead over the last 15 laps. Behind him, things were busy. Justin Grant, quiet all race, passed Byrne, as did Aaron Pierce. While Swanson and the others cruised, Grant had his hands full keeping Pierce at bay.

    Swanson’s margin of victory was ten car lengths. Windom, Coons, Santos and Grant, the newlywed, were the rest of the top five as the caravan began looking west toward Springfield, site of the next Silver Crown race.

    The threat of rain hurt the crowd and probably didn’t do too much for the car count either. 13 cars were enough for a decent race and this was an above average race, much more competitive than I’d hoped for. I saw enough to warrant a return visit of these cars to Salem. I hoped Andy Hillenburg and Richard Deaton, two quality people, felt the same way.

    Heading to Springfield, Swanson’s point lead over Windom is 13.

    In my dream world, I wish to see the Silver Crown series become a destination station, not a launching pad to NASCAR or even Indy Car. My dream includes a 20 race schedule, pretty much divided between pavement and dirt. While the half mile ovals are a bit small for these beasts, reality intrudes upon my dreams and allows for the Terre Hautes, Eldoras and the Salems to be a part of the schedule.

    A guy can dream, right?

    Singing Roy Orbison’s It’s Over to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Back in the Saddle

    The initial shock of the sudden passing of Bryan Clauson was only beginning to wane and racing at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night the 12th was the signal that, grieving or not, it was time to race. I think that BC wouldn’t have it any other way. And Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead midway through the feature and parked it at the start/finish line, taking the win over Tyler Thomas, no relation.

    21 410 sprints and 15 Racesaver/305 sprints had braved the annoying humidity. Many of the usual suspects were present, with Kerry Kinser doing double duty, but with the same car. Wandering the pits yielded bumping into an interesting mix of people, most notably friend and race writer extraordinaire Mike O’Leary. He’s one of those few people who leave me feeling as if I’ve learned something worthwhile after every conversation.

    Max McGhee built up an impressive lead before winning the first heat over Bloomington point leader Jeff Bland. Brady Short was a distant third. Matt McDonald edged Chris Babcock for fourth. Bub Cummings and Dave Gross brought up the rear.

    Jarett Andretti used his front row starting position to win the second heat over Tyler Thomas. Thomas Meseraull, in the Wingo brothers’ car, was third. Shane Cottle, in Jamie Paul’s prize possession, was fourth. Nick Bilbee, Brandon Morin and pole sitter Jaden Rogers trailed.

    KT not only won the feature, he also dominated the first heat after starting on the pole. Jordan Kinser was second. Hunter O’Neal, tonight in the Waltz family car, took third. Cody Clarkson finished fourth, ahead of Michael Gass. Bub Cummings and Kerry Kinser would find themselves starting the feature way back there.

    Mike Terry Jr. led all the way to win the first Racesaver heat. Veteran Jim Dugan was second ahead of Kerry Kinser. Ryan Tusing won the second heat. Pole sitter Kendall Ruble was second and Jared Fox finished third.

    After some competitive kids’ bike races, the feature lined up. The re-draw left T. Thomas and McGhee leading the other to the green. Thomas took the lead and was in control when the race’s first yellow light blinked for Hunter O’Neal, who stopped on lap five. T. Thomas led McGhee, K. Thomas, Bland, J. Kinser, Short, Andretti, Meseraull, Cottle and McDonald. This would be a somewhat caution plagued race with a few laps of intense action between slowdowns.

    Matt McDonald brought out the second yellow with eight laps completed. He wasn’t thrilled with Nick Bilbee, who inherited tenth. On the re-start the hapless McDonald tangled with Braxton Cummings, who spun down the backstretch and tipped over, bringing out the red. Braxton was okay. On this re-start, KT began to put the pressure on McGhee for second. This segment would last only three laps before O’Neal spun. Cottle had gotten around Meseraull for eighth.

    Yet another yellow waved for McDonald, who went over the banking in turn two. Simultaneously, Jaden Rogers did the same thing in turn four. This was on lap 13 and T. Thomas still led. At the re-start K. Thomas passed McGhee for second. Two laps later it was time to attack and make the pass for the lead. McGhee also got around T. Thomas.

    The next yellow was after 16 laps were done when Brandon Morin spun. Now it was K. Thomas, McGhee, T. Thomas, Bland, J. Kinser, Cottle, Short, Andretti, Meseraull and Bilbee. Soon after this re-start, Cottle cracked the top five, using the bottom groove to perfection. Bland and T. Thomas passed McGhee. The yellow flag was put away and the last nine laps were vintage Bloomington, with positions constantly changing among the top ten.

    But none of this had anything to do with the leader. K. Thomas only increased his lead. T. Thomas came back and reclaimed second place. Bland increased his point lead with a third. McGhee was fourth. Cottle’s charge to the front stalled with him taking home fifth place money after starting 11th. Andretti moved forward late and finished sixth. J. Kinser faded a bit to seventh. Meseraull was eighth and Short faded to ninth at the end. And Clarkson came on at the end to edge Bilbee for tenth.  

    The Racesaver 305 feature had a tough time getting underway. The first start was called back and Eric Perrott slid down the backstretch and tipped over on the second. The third time was the charm and Ethan Fleetwood was on his horsey and took off. His lead began to shrink as Kerry Kinser, with the wing bolted on, found some speed on the cushion and reeled in Fleetwood, passing him at the halfway mark, lap 10. But Fleetwood had no notion of giving up. As K. Kinser started to fade, the race’s original leader came back to re-take the lead coming to the while flag. Fleetwood and J. Kinser were trailed by what may have been the fastest car on the track for much of the race, that of Dakota Jackson, who had started 14th, easily the race’s hard charger. Luke Bland and Jared Fox rounded out the top five.

    Accidentally spilling my glass of red wine on Hillary Clinton’s new white pantsuit, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Show Must Go On
    On one of the saddest Sunday evenings the racing community has ever endured, 21 sprint car teams gathered together at the Kokomo Speedway, knowing that one of their own was in a bad way with a grim prognosis. The show did go on, no doubt that Bryan Clauson would have insisted that it be so. And though the overall mood at the Kokomo Speedway was subdued, the actual racing was as quick as ever—high speeds, slashing through traffic, slide jobs and even some people irritated with each other. When it was over, Thomas Meseraull, in yet another new ride for him, was holding a trophy and reminding us all that Bryan Clauson was on our minds and all we could do was think good thoughts.
    All three heats were high speed, one groove around the top affairs. But there was room to pass.
    In the first heat, Robert Ballou proved that one could pass as he came from fourth to win. Pole sitter Matt Goodnight was second. Colton Cottle was third with a sick sounding engine. Tyler Hewitt finished fourth and young Mike Gass was fifth. Steve Thomas took sixth and Logan Jarrett slowed, stopped, and had to play caboose.
    Thomas Meseraull blasted off from his front row starting spot and won the second heat. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti brought home his new car in second. Max McGhee, quick qualifier in this group, was third. Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Thomas, Kyle Robbins and Billy Cribbs trailed.
    Seeing that this was the Bob Darland Memorial, son Dave might have sat up a bit straighter in the seat. He made pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. work extra hard to get the third heat race win. Chris Windom was third. Early leader C. J. Leary edged Kokomo resident Shane Cottle for fourth. Lawman Joe Bares and another local boy, Josh Spencer, brought up the rear.
    The redraw yielded a front row of Andretti and Meseraull. TMez grabbed the lead and ran, putting some Howard County real estate between him and the North Carolina resident. Ballou wanted to break up this party, but the best he could do was follow Andretti.
    The race's first yellow waved on lap 22 for Leary. Meseraull's big lead went...poof! On the restart TMez led Andretti, Ballou, K. Thomas, McGhee, Darland, Cottle, Windom, Coons and Jarrett, who had started 19th. The green flag waved and McGhee passed KT for fourth. Jarrett and Cottle were on the move. But Shane brought out a yellow on lap 29, ending a good run.
    This set up a one lap dash, always fun unless you’re a driver. But TMez had things under control, winning the race, some money and a trophy from the Darland family. Andretti bested Ballou in the battle for second. McGhee was fourth and K. Thomas was fifth. Darland started and finished sixth in the race honoring his dad. Coons took home seventh place money and Windom was eighth. Josh Spencer ended up being the race’s hard charger, coming from last/21st to ninth. Kyle Robbins passed a few cars as well, crossing the line tenth after starting 17th.
    Jarrett’s great run was spoiled in turn four coming to the checkered as he ended up facing the wrong way after tangling with T. Thomas.
    Few in attendance knew that BC was in the process of taking life’s checkered flag as they left Kokomo. But racers did what they do, namely race. Fans did what they do as well. Personally, being at a race track seemed better therapy than sitting at home brooding. There has been plenty of time to ponder the sad events of the last two days, including Aric Gentry’s suffering a broken leg after a nasty crash at Lawrenceburg. Grieving and healing take time; people don’t recover as TV characters do. This is hard core reality. (There is no other kind.)
    On August 24, opening night of Kokomo’s Smackdown, there will be a celebration of the life of Bryan Clauson. It will be, I’m sure, a fitting and necessary tribute, as well as a turning point in the racing community’s healing journey. Oh, and there will be a bit of racin’ that night.
    We can be pretty sure that BC would want it that way.
    Double checking my birth certificate, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    To the Family of Bryan Clauson
    First off, please know that now is not the time for the usual attempts at comforting such as “it was his time to go,” “at least you were able to watch him grow up,” “it’s God’s plan, not ours,” “at least he died doing what he loved,” “life is not fair,” “he’s in a better place,” or my favorite, “I know how you feel.” There might be a time in the future when such sentiments will mean more, but now is not that time. Now is the time to hurt, cry, feel sick and even figuratively shake your fist at God (who I firmly believe understands your pain). The sudden loss won’t be healed suddenly, if at all. And even if in time you are at all healed, the scars will remain to the end of your own days.
    Cry if you must, be angry if you must and hurt as well. Just know that when there are no more tears, you will not be alone. Most certainly you will have the love, caring and support of literally thousands of people, most of whom never met Bryan personally but watched him from afar, anywhere from television to the bleachers to the pits. He made an impression on countless people he never met and be glad that it was no doubt a good one. In their own way, they hurt and grieve as well. They loved the young man that they would never really get to know because of both his accomplishments on the track and his behavior off the track. Long after the mainstream media has moved on to the next story, please know that Bryan’s friends and fans will continue to lift you up and pray that the healing process begin when it should.
    Speaking as a father and grandfather, I can recall the last encounter between Bryan and my seven year old grandson. It may have been in the pit area of the Kokomo Speedway, either this year or last year, not that it matters. We were walking through the pits as we normally do, with no set plan in mind. I was people watching and Karston was as wide eyed then as he was when he first visited a pit area at a short track. Bryan approached us, which was nothing unusual. We were acquaintances and we usually said hi to each other when neither was engaged in conversation or otherwise busy. But as I recall, Bryan saw Karston first and had his hand out for a high five (or was it a low five?). Both grinned at each other.
    At the time, I didn’t give it much thought. My grandson knows several of the drivers by sight and most by name. Bryan was one of those he knew well enough and he’s had several similar experiences with a group of drivers who appreciate the boy’s interest in what they do.
    But now, thinking about it as I deal with this sudden loss of a fine young man, as well as the sinking feeling in my stomach, that brief encounter might go a long way in describing Bryan, not only as a public figure, liked, respected and admired, but perhaps showing that, no matter how famous he might be or become, there were kids all about him watching. And he seemed to be very aware of that. In the midst of the usual interviews he gave after a victory, one could see, if they looked, a decent young man who raced with a determination and ferocity seldom matched, but who came across as a literate, affable, and likable young man. The kind of young man you might want your grandson to watch and learn from.
    My religious and spiritual beliefs tell me that there is no greater love than one who dies so others may live. Though it’s most certainly involuntary, Bryan’s last gift(s) will perhaps allow someone else, if not others, to live. This is true in a tangible way. A heart that began its existence in one body can now be transplanted to another, who shall live. At some point, this should be celebrated.
    But please consider the intangibles. Consider Bryan’s competitive spirit, that desire along with those gifts he used to race and win against some of the most talented racers anywhere. Consider his kindness to those who felt like they knew him and he knew them, even though that couldn’t be so. Consider his willingness to use a good part of his off-track time to doing for others less fortunate. And finally consider his sense of family; he never seemed to stray from those basic values taught him at home.
    The tears may stop at some point, at least externally. And at some point, we must begin to claim the memories and the Lord knows there are many. Most all of these memories will be, I trust and pray, good ones. And at some point, may you, Bryan’s family, be able to smile or even laugh through the tears. We’re not there yet, but we can hope that day will come in its own time.
    We all must grieve in our own way and eventually move on. These words have been my primary way of dealing with this unspeakable tragedy. I can hope and pray that they, in some small way, can comfort you all at this time of trial and tribulation.
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Steady as It Goes

    One might have picked A.J. Hopkins to win a feature race on a lovely Saturday night; however, given the talent that was spread throughout the lineup, he would have been something between a contender and a long shot. But the young man bided his time, took the lead from one of the best, Brent Beauchamp, and negotiated the tricky five sixteenth oval we call the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. Hopkins took the lead on the fifth lap and led the rest of the way, bagging $3,000 and his first Midwest Sprint Car Series victory.

    It wasn’t quite as humid as Friday at Bloomington, but it wasn’t exactly cool outside at LPS. More importantly, 28 cars had marked their X’s at the pit gate with several notables on the property. As the would be mud scraper and I ambled through the pits, close to half the assembled throng was capable of winning and quite a few others had a shot at a top five finish.

    Pole sitter C. J. Leary won the first heat, but Kyle Cummins made sure that he earned it. There was a similar battle for third place as Jeff Bland edged Max McGhee. Jon Stanbrough, back in his own car, secured the last empty chair.

    In the second heat, A. J. Hopkins led the first nine laps before a slight boo-boo in turn two on the last lap put him in second place. Shane Cottle figured that he might as well take advantage after running second the whole race. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt was third and Brandon Mattox took fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. managed a fifth after a first lap encounter with Hewitt, who was the meat in a three wide sandwich and had no place to go. KT used a yellow flag slowdown to inform Tyler that now would be a good time to have a chat. Tyler politely disagreed. During an early caution, Carson Short exited the track. He would be back out for the semi. Jadon Rogers flipped after Brandon Morin’s right rear contacted Rogers’ left front. Jadon, too, would return for the B.

    Chad Boespflug methodically worked his way to the front after starting fourth to win the third heat. Pole sitter Brent Beauchamp was second. Brady Short survived a brief excursion off turn two to grab third. Robert Ballou survived his own moment, a turn three half spin, to get fourth. MSCS regular Donnie Brackett had his hands full in keeping Jimmy Light from taking fifth.

    The aforementioned Mr. Light led every lap of the 12 lap B Main to win after starting third. Carson Short came from 11th to finish second. Nate McMillin came from seventh to third. Pole sitter Matt McDonald was fourth and Brandon Morin hung on to get the chance to start 20th in the feature, after an expert mud scraping operation was performed on the car following the semi. Jarod Chastain took a provisional.

    Quality cars were, like Friday night, sprinkled all through the field for the 30 lap feature. Beauchamp and Hopkins were the front row, which meant whoever started behind those two had some work to do. Beauchamp jumped out to the lead at the waving of the green with Hopkins committing to the outside groove early. This worked for him as he closed the gap on the leader and made the pass on the fifth lap. By the tenth lap, Hopkins’ lead was the better part of a straightaway.

    Behind these two, Boespflug and Cummins couldn’t make up their minds about third and fourth places. They traded positions several times over the first half of the race. And Leary passed Cottle on the third lap to annex fifth, only a car length or two behind those two.

    Despite the relative lack of passing up front, this was another fine event. In the closing laps Beauchamp began to reel in the leader. On lap 25, five to go, Hopkins made enough of a bobble on the cushion to allow Beauchamp to close the gap to just a few feet. When the checkered waved at 9:48 p.m. for a race that was caution free, the margin of victory was less than five car lengths. Boespflug, using the high line for the whole race, finally secured third from Cummins, who tried both the top and bottom lanes in his search for speed. Leary was fifth, but through much of the race he had unwanted company in both Ballou and B. Short. Ballou was sixth and Stanbrough passed a slightly fading Short to take seventh. McGhee was ninth and Thomas made it ten.

    Ballou was hard charger coming from 12th, but Stanbrough passed a few cars coming from 13th. Carson Short started 17th and scooted up to 11th as well.

    MSCS points-wise, Brady Short increased his lead over Brandon Morin and Tyler Hewitt.

    With my wife “trumping” opponents left and right (at the card game euchre, silly), I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Zigging and Zagging

    On a hot August night at the Bloomington Speedway, the action was as frantic as ever with Jeff Bland holding off Robert Ballou to win the 25 lap 410 non-wing sprint feature. Ballou closed the gap in the closing laps as both negotiated lapped traffic like the pros they are, but fell short by a few feet.

    It was another example of looking at the numbers and concluding that it was “boring.” Bland started second and led all the way, but his lead and win were far from a done deal. Ballou saw to that, along with the lapped cars who were engaged in their own battles.

    Ethan Barrow won the Racesaver 305 winged sprint feature, leading all the way and winning over Ryan Tusing by a few car lengths.

    The temperature was in the upper 80s, but it was the Hoosier humidity that made going to a race a true challenge. This didn’t stop two aging gentlemen and their seven year old fellow traveler. Neither did the threat of a popup rain shower as little pockets of showers seemed to surround Bloomington.

    23 sprints and 14 Racesavers occupied the pits, which contained close to 100 cars. Of note were Jon Stanbrough in the Pedersen brothers 4p, Thomas Meseraull in the Wingo family machine and Jarett Andretti in a new car with new colors after destroying his DRC at Lawrenceburg last Saturday. Only Dakota Jackson was doing double duty, with the family 410 sprinter and his Racesaver ride that’s helped him to multiple Bloomington feature wins this year.

    My man Henry Bryant did his usual magic on the track and was helped by the persistent cloud cover that kept a goodly amount of moisture where it needed to be. The heat races were of the high speed/freight train variety. By feature time, the usual two grooves, high and low, appeared. Passing was still tough but doable.

    Shelby Van Gilder won the first heat from her outside front row spot. Pole sitter Daylan Chambers was a close second. Billy Cribbs was third and Brandon Morin took fourth after having his hands full keeping Jon Stanbrough in fifth.

    Matt McDonald ran the best heat race of his racing career as he kept Robert Ballou behind him in winning the second heat by a whole car length. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third and Brady Short finished fourth. Dakota Jackson took fifth while he had Chris Babcock nipping at his heels.

    It was Jordan Kinser making it unanimous with heat race winners winning from the front row as he won the third heat. Jeff Bland was second. Thomas Meseraull gave the 77 a good ride in taking third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Jaden Rogers started second, slipped up early and hung on to take fifth with Brandon Mattox coming up just a bit short.

    Dakota Jackson won the first Racesaver heat over Ryan Tusing. Mike Terry Jr. was the victor in the second heat with Luke Bland taking second.

    Chris Babcock controlled the B Main all the way with Brandon Mattox a close second. Third and fourth belonged to the Cummings family with Braxton leading dad Bub to the line. Cody Clarkson would start 20th in the feature.

    For maybe the first time in his racing career, Daylan Chambers would lead the 19 others to the green. Sprinkled through the field were some pretty strong cars. Next to Chambers was Bland, who grabbed the lead. Chambers held second for the first few laps until Ballou got around him and set sail for Bland, who had built a straightaway length lead and maintained his lead even after slipping over the banking.

    By the halfway mark lapped traffic was a factor as Ballou slowly but surely chipped away at Bland’s lead. Behind them Jordan Kinser settled into third—until K. Thomas and Meseraull came up to pay their respects. Jordan hung onto third as Thomas and TMez traded position more than once as they, too, fought with the lappers.

    In the closing laps Ballou clearly gained ground on the leader. But he ran out of laps and Bland had made it tough for anyone to get close to him. And the lack of a yellow flag in this race would produce more hypothetical situations such as how would the leaders have handled a re-start.

    In the end none of that stuff mattered and Jeff Bland stood at the start/finish line being interviewed by Kimb Stewart and accepting a trophy from a seven year old who recently had scraped mud off the winning car at Lincoln Park.

    Behind Bland and Ballou was Kinser, who settled for the bronze medal. K. Thomas made the late pass to finish fourth with Meseraull taking fifth. Brady Short advanced more than anyone else, coming from 11th to finish sixth. Chambers, from the big city of Bowling Green, Indiana, hung on for seventh. Cribbs was an impressive eighth, leading Andretti to the line. And Jadon Rogers came from 15th to finish tenth.

    An extra goody for the winner was a $500 parts voucher from Unique Breedz through Extreme Performance from Ellettsville, IN.

    Ethan Barrow won the Racesaver feature, leading Ryan Tusing to the checkered by only a few car lengths. Jared Fox was third and pole sitter Andy Bradley was fourth. Ethan Fleetwood came on late to take fifth.

    A little on the cranky side since I lost my coloring book, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Josh and Joss Show
    For many years, young men (and a few women as well) have migrated to Indiana with the intention of racing against some of the best in terms of weekly sprint car racing as well as sanctioning bodies that bring together some pretty good racers. Many of these young people give it a try for a year or two and either move on to another level of racing or disappear. Most all of them come away from the experience wiser and can say that they gave it a shot. If they stay here long enough and have the ability and desire, they will excel in time. With that in mind, consider New Mexico’s Josh Hodges, in his second summer of Hoosier racing. He’s already won a feature event at Kokomo this year, beating a future Hall of Famer, Jerry Coons Jr. And his win at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, sanctioned by the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, added to his resume and reputation. If there was any doubt before, now it shall be that here is a young man that the others will have to reckon with. The local boys, the ‘burg regulars, made him earn it, with multi-time track champ Joss Moffatt coming home a close second.
    There are few things in this world that could keep me away from the Bloomington Speedway on a Friday night. A couple of years ago, it was an illness that kept me home, realizing that negotiating State Road 46 on a Friday evening while feeling faint wouldn’t be a good idea. All I missed was a clinic put on by Brady Short, who only came from last to win the feature that night.
    This past Friday, I was the dinner guest of an eight-month old baby girl who smiles more than any ten people you could name. My three grandchildren will keep me away from a race, even at Bloomington—if I can’t take them with me.
    Not only did the smiling baby keep me home from Bloomington, she “made” me arrive late at Lawrenceburg on Saturday. Sprint car hot laps were completed by the time I began wandering through the pits, checking out ‘burg and/or BOSS regulars, a would be cherry picker here and there, and an assortment of guys who only hoped to get in some laps, whether or not they made the feature. Of the 96 cars parked in Dave Rudisell’s playground, 40 were sprinters.
    This was another of the memorial races that are held with the idea of remembering racers who have taken life’s checkered flag. Tonight it was Jason Soudrette who was honored for his valiant fight against the disease that finally claimed him in December, 2013.
    As the fragrant aroma from the distillery teased my sense of smell, Landon Simon won the first heat. He had some fast company in second place Chad Wilson and third place Travis Hery. The red flag came out when Tobey Alfrey spun in turn three and was smacked by Lee Underwood, who flipped in the process. They were fighting for the fourth and final transfer spot. Earlier Dickie Gaines, still in the Soudrette family car, dropped out. With only five cars left, Steve Little finished fourth and grabbed a feature start.
    A few stray sprinkles greeted second heat runners, but nothing came of it. Josh Hodges made a superb opening statement as he came from sixth to the lead in two laps. He was trailed by two Kokomo residents, Dustin Smith and Logan Jarrett. Logan Hupp, in Jake Gindling’s car, was fourth.
    Jarett Andretti passed Kody Swanson on the second lap of the third heat and went on to win by a healthy margin. The ageless Ted Hines was third behind Swanson. Mike Miller came from the last row to annex fourth. It would, sadly, be the highlight of the night for the one time Lawrenceburg points champ as he couldn’t answer the bell for the feature.
    C.J. Leary, now out of the Mike Dutcher machine, was the latest to try out Shane Wade’s 66 and he led all the way to win the fourth heat. Garrett Abrams was a somewhat distant second. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt was third and local boy Justin Owen came from last to fourth.
    Lawrenceburg standouts Shawn Westerfeld and Joss Moffatt began the fifth heat in the third row and finished it one/two. Moffatt was in former ‘burg modified racer Tony McVey’s sprinter while his engine is being rebuilt by ace engine builder Roger Williams Third place was pole sitter Cody Gardner. Dallas Hewitt came from the last row to fourth. Joe Ligouri was in Dwayne Spille’s car and was tapped on the backstretch, enough to send him spinning wildly without getting on his top. Joe was running third at the time and if that wasn’t bad enough, it was on the last lap.
    Todd Keen had been stuck behind a sputtering car in his heat which put him in the first of two semi features. He won the first and took Cooper Clouse with him to the show. In the second of the last chance races, Dickie Gaines had a spectacular run as he came from eighth to pass Steve Thomas on the last lap to secure a spot in the A for the Soudrette family. Thomas held onto second.
    The front row of the 25 lapper would be Leary and Moffatt. It was tempting to just give the race to Leary right then as he’d been quite impressive in his heat. But C.J. spun in turn two on the first lap, deliberately as it turned out. The word was that fuel was leaking into the cockpit and the young man from Greenfield quickly decided to exit the race and the car.
    This moved Garrett Abrams to the pole position on the re-start. Moffatt took the lead at the beginning as Hodges began his move from fourth. For the next several laps he and Moffatt traded the lead back and forth, often more than once within one lap.
    Behind them Westerfeld was on the move early as he shot toward the front after starting ninth. By the sixth lap he was fourth and was pressuring third place Abrams. Westerfeld took third just a couple of laps before a yellow flag waved on lap 15 for Steve Little, who spun into the infield, re-entered the track, and stopped on the backstretch.
    The lineup was Hodges, Moffatt, Westerfeld, Abrams, Simon, Andretti, Jarett, Hery, Smith and Clouse. With this re-start, Moffatt made a last gasp challenge to take the lead. It nearly worked. Then Landon Simon’s fine run ended on lap 18 when he stopped against the wall in turn four. He had advanced to fourth before his misfortune.
    After this break, it was Andretti’s turn to shine on the re-start. John’s son was fourth when the green waved and got around Westerfeld with a strong move. He gave chase to Moffatt who was second and not far behind the leader. Andretti had just passed Moffatt when he pounded the turn four wall, which won. The car commenced a series of nasty flips with a phalanx of race traffic headed his way. Somehow everyone missed him. And somehow Jarett got out of the car and would walk away.
    The re-start order was Hodges, Moffatt, Westerfeld, Jarrett, Abrams, Clouse, Swanson, Hery, Smith and Gaines. There were four laps to go and racing was far from done.
    True, Hodges was in control to the end, opening up a bit of a margin over Moffatt. Jarrett passed Westerfeld to take third after starting 12th. Then there was Cooper Clouse, who ran under the radar for the first part of the race. From 22nd he weaved his way through traffic to finish fifth. Swanson was sixth, which was where he started. And Dickie Gaines nearly equaled Clouse as he motored from 23rd to take seventh at the end. Abrams ran well early before fading to eighth. Hery and Smith filled out the top ten.
    I’m not much for autographs at this advanced age, but I did seek out Mr. Aaron Fry to secure his autograph. This wasn’t just any old scribbling. Mr. Fry has made this group into a viable and friendly outlet for the workingmen/racers. His impressive car counts have been no accident. Though it’s an Ohio based group, Mr. Fry has no qualms about crossing Ohio’s borders and visiting what’s become their Hoosier home away from home. I can relate to much of the above—except the working part, of course. But it’s why I sought out Mr. Fry earlier this year to see what he thought about my writing a story about him and BOSS for Flat Out Magazine. He was very much in favor of that idea. So with some friends, Aaron and I sat down and talked…and talked for nearly 90 minutes. It was time well spent. And he liked the story too. Sure enough, he was happy to sign his name on the accompanying picture with the story.
    Someday, maybe one of the grandchildren will own that magazine that now resides here at home. Maybe they can tell their grandkids about their grandpa and all the neat people he met at various race tracks around the state. And let us hope and pray that by then, race tracks will still exist in some form similar to what we see each weekend.
    Still confused about the difference between hay and straw, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Beauchamp Beats the Heat

    Extreme weather, like anything else that’s extreme, brings out the best and the other in people. Fortunately for him, it apparently brings out the best in Brent Beauchamp, who won the 25 lap feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway on a toasty Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana.

    For the first time in nearly a month, the not so diminutive traveler reclaimed his seat on the passenger side of the little white Chevy truck. It was just as if he’d never left. Not long after a quick cheeseburger for him, we strolled the pits and he found A.J. Hopkins’ cars covered in mud after wheel packing and hot laps. Soon enough he was busy scraping mud off a sprint car, getting dirty without bring reprimanded, actually helping out. No doubt the homemade slushy was plenty compensation for his labors. And A.J. Hopkins was probably added to the list of drivers he knows and likes.

    Car counts were down at LPS, which was no huge surprise. The heat, the usual Saturday night dilution of the pool of sprinters in this area and maybe the post Sprint Week blues kept some fans and racers home. But of the 18 gathered in the Joe Spiker Recreational Park (really the pits), at least a half dozen was quite capable of winning with a few more capable of a top five.

    A.J. Hopkins, with the help of his junior mud scraper, took off from the front row and won the first heat. Thomas Meseraull, in Stan Courtad’s car tonight with help from assorted benefactors, rocketed from eighth to finish second. Enjoying his new title of Bloomington/USAC/Indiana Sprint Week winner, Brent Beauchamp started and finished third. Mario Clouser started and finished fourth. Tim Creech II took fifth.

    Like Mr. Hopkins, Shane Cockrum started on the outside front row and won the second heat. The first four finishers weren't that far apart as Jeff Bland was second. Right behind him, in Bland's former ride, was Tyler Thomas. Kevin Thomas Jr. moved from eighth to finish fourth. Half a straightaway back was Hunter O'Neal.

    The draw for the feature found Bland and Meseraull on the front row with Cockrum and Hopkins in row two. Beuachamp, T. Thomas, Clouser and K. Thomas Jr. would make it a crowd.

    TMez took the early lead over Bland, Hopkins, Beauchamp and T. Thomas. Three laps in and Beauchamp took over third. Two laps after that, he passed Bland for second. Meseraull had hustled to a healthy lead when the red flag waved on the seventh lap and his nice lead went poof when Casey Shuman stopped in turn four with flames threatening to consume his engine. Smart guy that he is, the headman of the Wingless Auto Racing series based in Missouri stopped immediately and had to call it a night.

    The re-start was Meseraull, a lapped car, Beauchamp, Bland, Hopkins, Cockrum, T. Thomas, K. Thomas, Clouser, J.J. Hughes and Nate McMillin. Getting around the lapped car quickly, Beauchamp joined Meseraull and they began to separate themselves from the others. Behind them, Hopkins passed Bland for third. Then Jadon Rogers spun into the infield, but was close enough to the track to bring out a yellow flag. Jadon re-started on the tail.

    On the re-start, Beauchamp made his move and took the lead, but Meseraull took it back. A lap later, TMez’s pass was negated as another yellow waved, this one for Hughes, who spun into the infield off turn four. J.J. was running eighth at the time and re-started on the tail.

    This re-start saw Beauchamp leading Meseraull, Hopkins, Cockrum, Bland, K. Thomas, T. Thomas, McMillin, Billy Cribbs and Creech. But another red, the second, appeared when Mario Clouser got upside down in turn two with Jeff Bland’s car sitting in the infield. Both were done for the night. Clouser was out of the car quickly. There were eight laps to go.

    When the yellow came out and the field re-started, Creech found himself with a flat right rear tire, but he opted to stay out. The green flag flew and Meseraull got a great jump on the leader. Side by side they went down the backstretch, with TMez hanging on to lead a lap. That would be his last hurrah as Beauchamp reassumed control a lap later and began to build a small lead. Meseraull would have issues with Hopkins, who made a strong run and took second briefly before accidentally shutting off the car in turn four, slowing and exiting the race.

    At the end Beauchamp’s lead was a half straightaway over Meseraull with K. Thomas coming on strong at the end for third. Cockrum was fourth and T. Thomas finished fifth. Hughes came back from his mid-race spin to grab a well-earned sixth. McMillin was eighth and Rogers came back from his spin to take ninth. Through it all, Hunter O’Neal started and finished tenth.

    Surely it was one of the hottest, in terms of weather, races I’ve been to in some time. Enduring the heat was no problem while the green flag was out and the boys fought it out to the end. But I was sympathetic to those who couldn’t make it due to the weather, especially for health reasons.

    What perturbed me was and is the ranting of internet keyboard jockeys who seem to delight in sharing their wisdom in all matters. In extreme weather, summer or winter, they pontificate how today’s people, especially young people, are soft—or “namby-pamby to quote one. These internet pundits fail to see the irony of telling people how weak they are while the pundit quite possibly types away in the comfort of his own—air conditioned—home. And I’d imagine some of those experts would have to look up the word “irony.” I can be further perturbed upon knowing that quite possibly these esteemed thinkers work inside to make their living. Nothing wrong, of course, with working inside, but don’t put down people who either choose or are forced to stay inside.

    Enough of that. It was 91 degrees in Greencastle when we arrived. It did cool off. Some. My grandson and I had a great time and saw some good racin’ all evening. That’s what matters.

    Helping Melania Trump write her next speech, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: A Fitting End

    Perseverance, desire, ability—all of these things and more are needed to excel in the topsy turvy world of Indiana/Midwest/USAC sprint car racing. All of these have been on display since Friday, July 8, when Tyler Courtney shocked a lot of people by coming from last to first and winning his first USAC feature at Gas City. Since that special night three more, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Carson Short have joined Courtney as first time winners. Bryan Clauson and Brady Short combined to ring up victories, adding to their totals. And as the caravan made its last stop at the Terre Haute Action Track, one could always imagine that another shocker would step forward to join the Fab Four. It wasn’t going to happen. Chase Stockon saw to that as he smiled for all the cameras holding the trophy for winning the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week finale at the Terre Haute Action Track, holding off a determined Robert Ballou to close out a memorable ten days.

    Brady Bacon may have been happier, though such things are hard to measure. His string of consistent finishes brought him and the Hoffman team the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week championship, along with some money, prestige, bragging rights and one cool rocking chair, ideal for rocking babies to sleep.

    32 teams chose to attack the Action Track after having been rained out last Wednesday. It was no surprise that several were missing; this has been a pattern over the years. A few hot dogs were missing, such as Justin Grant and the Steve and Carla Phillips team, Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins, Shane Cottle (actually Shane was there but not the car), Bloomington winner Brent Beauchamp and Josh Hodges, who probably had plans to head back to New Mexico. This was a bit of a disappointment as the young man has to be considered as someone who could be the next USAC first time winner.

    There were still plenty of quality cars in the pits. One of them was Bryan Clauson, who set fast time with a 21.051 lap. The track did slow down for later qualifiers, but the 90 degree temps and a hot July sun will do that to race tracks. BC went out 16th to qualify, which made his time even more impressive.

    Clauson gave people reason to think that he might be the one holding the trophy later as he came from sixth to win the first heat. C. J. Leary was second and early leader Dave Darland was third. Tri-State/Haubstadt winner Carson Short was fourth, moving to the show.

    Brady Bacon then made his case to the jury by winning the second heat, also from sixth, passing Robert Ballou in the process. Ballou was second, followed by Tyler Thomas, his first time at Terre Haute in a sprint car and perhaps any kind of race car. Chad Boespflug was fourth.

    Tyler Courtney has impressed throughout ISW and won the third heat. In an upset of sorts, South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt was second. Jon Stanbrough, presumably in his last ride for Amati Racing Team, was third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Aaron Farney had a close encounter with the turn four wall before stopping and bringing out a yellow. On the re-start Chris Windom slowed and went to the pits. Both he and Farney would return for the B.

    Thomas Meseraull swept to the lead from fourth place on the first lap and led all the way to win the fourth heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Logan Jarrett came from sixth to third. Chase Stockon was fourth, giving no indication what lay ahead.

    After a brief massaging of the track, the semi feature was won by Chris Windom, who led all the way, but was pressured by Aaron Farney. Tom Harris was third and made his first ISW feature—I think. Kevin Thomas Jr. cruised to a fourth place finish. Missouri’s Riley Kreisel made his first Sprint Week feature just like Harris and finished fifth. Max McGhee was sixth.

    With the preliminary events done, all Brady Bacon had to do was finish fifth or better and he would win the ISW title. As it turned out, he started fifth.

    After a few minutes for a scheduled intermission, Stockon and Courtney led the gang of 22 to Mo Wills’ green flag. No sooner than a lap (led by Stockon like all the others) had been completed than Harris flipped in turn four, bringing out the red. He was out of the car quickly.

    Stockon took off as the green waved for the re-start and began to stretch his lead out over second place Tyler Courtney. As of lap six the lead was the better part of Terre Haute’s wide, sweeping curves. Meanwhile, Clauson, running sixth, began pressuring Bacon. Lapped traffic began to be a factor around the 11th lap. This helped Ballou somewhat as he passed Courtney for second on the 23rd lap. A lap later Clauson, who had just passed Courtney, hit the turn four wall and pitted with a flat tire. Mo’s yellow hankie was waved.

    The six lap dash had Stockon leading Ballou, Courtney, Bacon, Farney, Jarrett, Windom, Leary, Coons and Boespflug. Up front, there wasn’t much in the way of changing positions, but one can say that Ballou made it interesting on each lap, or better yet, at both ends of the track. Time and again Robert dove low in either turn one or three, letting the leader know he was there. But still young (from my perspective) man now living in Fort Branch, Indiana withstood every attempt to make the pass. In the last three laps or so, Stockon inched away and won by a few car lengths, becoming the seventh winner in seven nights of Indiana Sprint Week.

    Behind Stockon and Ballou was Courtney and Bacon, who won the war, becoming the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week champ. 2015 Action Track/Sprint Week winner Aaron Farney came from 11th to finish fifth. Chris Windom got around Logan Jarrett late to grab sixth. Behind Jarrett was hard charging Jerry Coons Jr., starting 18th and finishing eighth. Remember Bryan Clauson? Of course you do. After his meeting with the wall on the 24th lap, BC hustled back to take ninth. C.J. Leary was tenth.

    It was a strange and unpredictable series of races. Who could have predicted that Tyler Courtney, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Carson Short would win features and Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Chad Boespflug and Thomas Meseraull (who jumped from one ride to another) would not?

    Racers who aren’t with us anymore were remembered. Tony Elliott was honored at Kokomo. Sheldon Kinser was remembered at Bloomington after the Sheldon Kinser Memorial was no more. Don Smith, Terre Haute businessman/community leader, had this race named after him.

    Carson Short’s win was the 10,000th USAC race going back to my pre-school years. (Or…USAC has been around for quite awhile).

    Tyler Courtney’s last to first run at Gas City will rank as one of the most amazing races I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t like he was racing against Rodney Reynolds and yours truly. There were a few future Hall of Famers in that crowd.

    I’d better quit while I’m behind.

    Speeding up the recording I made of the truck race at Eldora, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ho Hum

    At this rate we’ll have to search a thesaurus for more adjectives to describe this year’s Indiana Sprint Week feature results. I’ve started with…wacky, unprecedented, mind boggling, crazy, unusual (massive understatement) and improbable. Yet again, another first time winner took the cheers, the trophy and the money last night at the Tri-State Speedway in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana. That would be Carson Short, from just down the road in Marion, Illinois holding off Kyle Cummins to take the checkered flag first after 30 laps.

    There was one fairly obscure fact that jumped out at me as I toured the pits. Let the record show that only seven racers had raced their way into each of the five previous races. They were points leader Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Chris Windom, Kevin Thomas Jr., Jarett Andretti, Chase Stockon and Hunter Schuerenberg. With Hunter a no show, that number dropped to six for the finale at Terre Haute.

    I arrived early enough to watch a race track come to life. It was late afternoon but as I sat, walked, talked and watched, bit by bit, the pace and intensity picked up. Teams arrived, some early, others a little later, and people began unloading race cars and equipment out of their haulers. The three teams with open trailers got the job done a bit quicker. Concession stand workers fried hamburgers or hauled ice. Various tents went up, either to add a little shade or to sell something. Fans tailgated, playing corn hole, sitting around talking and/or drinking a few cold beverages. The old girl that is called The Class Track for good reason was picking up steam and intensity. It was time to get serious.

    The car count was a very decent 39. It was the most I’d seen at a Tri-State/Indiana Sprint Week program in years. How many years? I wondered for a moment and asked USAC’s resident stats maestro Richie Murray. Surprisingly, Richie didn’t have it memorized, but in about two minutes he had the answer. In 2007, the count here for ISW was a seams bursting 50, counting a few cars that didn’t take time trials.

    Josh Hodges was quite serious about becoming the next first time winner. He was also one of the earliest qualifiers and tore off a 13.319 lap. Just when one might wonder if the track was going away, Chad Boespflug, who was the 38th of 39 to qualify, hustled to lay down a 13.367.

    Robert Ballou continued his pattern of a mid-pack qualifying effort, a heat race win (this was the night's first heat) and passing lots of cars in the feature. Tyler Courtney was closing in on Ballou, but not nearly fast enough. Brady Short was third and had his hands full holding off Hodges. Brady Bacon added the B main to his plans.

    Thomas Meseraull, enjoying his new ride, ran away with the second heat win. Critter Malone was second. Jon Stanbrough held off Chad Boespflug to make the dance with the Amati Racing Team's hoss. C. J. Leary and Dave Darland would think about what they would do in the semi feature.

    The third heat was the Jarrett and Jarett show. Logan Jarrett won from the pole with Mr. Andretti taking second. Local favorite Kyle Cummins passed Dakota Jackson on the last lap to steal third. Chris Windom led a group to the last chance race.

    The record will show that Jeff Bland sat on the pole and led every lap to win the fourth heat. Numbers shouldn't be expected to tell the whole story. The top four of this race were so close together they could have almost fit in my two car garage. Bland was trailed by Carson Short, Tyler Thomas and Chase Stockon. Max McGhee and Donnie Brackett would try their luck in the B.

    Brandon Morin did a half spin in turn two of the first lap of the C main. All of a sudden we had a thinned out crowd. Of the original scheduled nine starters, five were left. Brian Karraker, Brandon Mattox, Brandon Morin and Daylon Chambers would tag the B. Robert Bell tried.

     

    The semi feature had some unwanted drama. Isaac Chapple had been sent to the tail of his heat after passing the pace truck. He vehemently disagreed. So in the B, he came from the third starting position to take the lead, blowing by Brady Bacon. Chapple must have been motivated and led until lap seven when the yellow waved for a spin. On the restart Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead and Chapple got a bit loose, then collected Donnie Brackett, who had also passed Bacon. Donnie flipped once and landed hard, but exited the torn up new car somewhat displeased. The lineup on this restart was K. Thomas, Bacon, Windom, McGhee, Darland and Farney; this was the order when the checkered waved.  Dave and Aaron were unwittingly benefited by the misfortunes of Chapple and Brackett. C. J. Leary and I. Chapple took provisionals.

    Nothing at all against them, but it was a bit of a surprise front row with Carson Short and Jarett Andretti leading 22 of their partners in “crime” to the line. Short took the lead and almost immediately Andretti was under attack by Kyle Cummins, who passed Aldo’s grandson and began to cut into Short’s lead. No matter, the yellow waved on the seventh lap when T. Thomas and Jeff Bland had an unscheduled meeting. Short led Cummins, Andretti, Stockon, Bacon, Hodges, Ballou, Boespflug, Malone and K. Thomas.

    On the re-start, Cummins would not let Short get away. He could stay close but couldn’t close the deal. A bit past the tenth lap Stockon passed Andretti for third. Lapped traffic came into play on the 17th lap as the pace was frenzied, in other words, typical Haubstadt. Some good cars were getting lapped. And Robert Ballou was on the move, to no one’s great surprise.

    Beginning the race way back in 16th, Ballou was already seventh by the first caution. On the re-start, he passed Brady Bacon and Josh Hodges to enter the top five. Up next was Jarett Andretti and Ballou was fourth with six laps to go. He had Stockon ahead of him and was gaining ground.

    Back up front the pace was frantic and dicey as the leader and challenger wove their way through lapped traffic as the laps wound down. Cummins nearly had a shot at the lead when Short bobbled briefly, but it wasn’t happening. At the end it was C. Short, Cummins and Stockon on the podium, a real treat for local fans to see three of their own having the privilege of chatting with USAC’s announcer Dillon Welch after the race.

    Robert Ballou also had a speaking role afterwards as he was the hard charger, coming from 16th to finish fourth. And how about that Jarett Andretti? He may have faded a bit from second to fifth, but he remained one of the very few who had made every feature without having to use a provisional. Then there was occasional campaigner Critter Malone, who came from 14th to finish sixth while Brady Bacon was seventh. The law firm of Boespflug, K. Thomas and McGhee rounded out the top ten.

    At this point only one more round of ISW remained with Bacon only ten points ahead of Ballou in Sprint Week points. Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track.

    Trying to convince the pig to wear the lipstick, not eat it, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Definitely Not Getting Old

    Looking around the pits at each race I attend, I’ve been scouting out possible first time USAC feature winners. There are still some out there, but this edition of ISW has thinned the herd of racers yet to win a national USAC series feature. And at Bloomington Speedway on a beautiful Friday night, the herd got a bit smaller as Brent Beauchamp joined the club, leading most of the 30 lap feature and winning convincingly.

    48 sprinters and 17 Racesavers jammed the pits. Making their ISW debuts were Matt McDonald, Jordan Kinser, Aric Gentry, Chris Babcock and Dakota Jackson. Back after a brief absence was Jeff Bland.

    The boys were flirting with a new track record in hot laps, but that doesn’t count. It did count when Chad Boespflug went out to qualify and set a NTR with a blistering 10.737, the fastest a non-wing sprinter has ever toured the red clay oval.

    With USAC sticking to B Main-sized heat races, stocking the actual C and B, this called for a different kind of racing, more intense if possible. Chris Windom won the first heat from his front row starting spot. He was so far ahead; he could have chased Pokémon. Windom’s front row mate, Brandon Mattox, was second, open trailer and all. Chad Boespflug had some speed left and grabbed third. A.J Hopkins may have missed the inversion, but he still came on to finish fourth after starting seventh.

    Chase Stockon passed Robert Ballou early and won the second heat from the second row. And his second row partner, Dave Darland, was second. Pole sitter Ballou took third and his front row mate Brady Short was fourth.

    Logan Jarrett won the third heat with Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins second. Brent Beauchamp was tough in his heat, took third.  Josh Hodges, perhaps a future first time winner of a USAC feature, was fourth. Two racers from Bartholomew County in this heat struggled. Jamie Williams signed up for the C Main. Dakota Jackson spun on lap seven and was hit by Nick Bilbee and Shane Cottle. Dakota tipped over, bringing out a red flag.

    Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat in which Tyler Courtney basically ended his chances of being the 2016 ISW Champ. Barreling into turn one right after the green waved, he got over the cushion, began to bounce and flipped hard over the banking. He was out of the car surveying the damage quickly. Courtney and company would bring out the backup which was set up for winged racing. Brady Bacon was second and Jerry Coons Jr. took third. C.J. Leary grabbed the last cookie from Aaron Farney at the line, maintaining his fourth place start in the feature.

    It was very strange to see Jon Stanbrough in the C Main, but there he was. From fourth starting spot he won. Cole Smith started and finished second. Missourian Riley Kreisel was third after taking the initial green flag third. And Terre Haute’s Daylen Chambers would tag the consolation.

    Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won the semi feature over Thomas Meseraull, liking his new gig driving for Landon Simon. Tyler Thomas was third in Jerry Burton’s car and Jarett Andretti made his fifth straight Sprint Week feature by finishing fourth. Dakota Jackson came back from his heat race misfortune and finished fifth. Bloomington regular Jordan Kinser took the last transfer spot, forcing Jon Stanbrough and Isaac Chapple to burn a provisional.

     It was Darland and Bacon on the front row with Beauchamp starting third and for all 30 laps, Darland and Beauchamp were the Show. Officially there were seven lead changes between these two, but on the track there were multiple lead changes on most of the 30 laps. Dave owned the top as he’s done many times while Brent, who has struggled at this often difficult oval, kept to the bottom.

    The first yellow came out on the tenth lap when Jackson and Stockon collided with Chase coasting to a stop. Beauchamp and Darland were trailed by Bacon, Hodges, Leary, K. Thomas, Andretti, Meseraull, Coons and Boespflug. Noting Brady Short’s success the night before at Lincoln Park, I noticed that he was already 12th after starting 17th.

    Poor Stockon had another moment on lap 14 when he and Jordan Kinser had a meeting in turn four. On this re-start Short had entered the top ten. But in the next green flag segment, which was basically the last half of the race, wasn’t too kind to the Lincoln Park winner. By the time lapped traffic came into play on the 25th lap, Beauchamp had stretched out his lead to a whole three or four car lengths, leading the last 11 laps of the 30 lapper as the high side started to fade away somewhat, hindering Darland’s progress. To the very end the still young veteran (who I recall seeing run the long gone Thursday night Midget shows at the Indianapolis Speedrome) clung to the bottom and maintained a decent sized lead over Bacon at the end.

    Yes, Brady Bacon, who passed Darland at the end to take second with DD third. K. Thomas was fourth and Meseraull took fifth, his second fifth place finish in a row. The second five was Leary, Hodges, Coons, Andretti and Ballou, who was the KSE/B&W Auto Mart Hard Charger, coming from 17th to tenth.

    Beauchamp was the third first time winner of ISW so far, with Brady Short the only multiple USAC winner for the 2016 edition of Sprint Week.

    Courtney’s misfortune was Bacon’s windfall as he took over the ISW point lead and added to his season point lead.

    The night was an all-sprint affair as the RaceSaver 305s were the support class. Luke Bland won the first heat while Dakota Jackson, the only driver doing double duty, won the second.

    Ryan Tusing led all 20 laps to win the feature. Jackson came from his tenth place starting spot to nip Bland at the line for second.

    Finding Pokémon parked between Chase Stockon and Nick Bilbee, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     


    dlb1600@yahoo.com


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