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The Hoosier Race Report
by Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: The Future of Racing
The little boy was lost in thought—thinking God knew what. One could see the four year old intently studying the sprint car that was parked in the pit area, needing some mud scraped off before the B Main, and wondering what it would be like to not merely sit in the car (old hat to him) but actually drive it.
Meanwhile, his grandfather was “busy” chatting with a team member of the J.R. Douglas car on another Saturday night at a Hoosier bullring, namely Lincoln Park Speedway. Soon the conversation turned to the little boy. The grandfather opined that he could not and would not buy the boy a quarter midget or any other kind of car for quite awhile. Instead he figured that the little guy could start at the bottom, doing the small jobs that people take for granted—such as cleaning the mud off the car after hot laps.
J.R.’s friend immediately went over to get a bucket with water and a washing glove. He set the bucket by the boy and the youngster picked up the glove and began his chore, washing the Lincoln Park mud off the 09, along with an older boy who was with the Douglas crew.
The little boy was already happy to help, but then the crew member pulled two dollars out of his wallet and gave the money to the boy, whose eyes lit up. Even four year old kids know about money.
After many thanks and good luck wishes, the boy and the old man hiked to the other side of the track to watch the B Main and sprint feature. Hoosier sprint fans know that the souvenir stand at LPS is right behind the bleachers. Not long after we finished the long walk, the little boy talked the grandfather into looking at something he found at the stand; naturally it was a toy sprint car. But there was one problem.
The car was four dollars and the boy only had a dollar his mom had given him and the two he had earned. Could he borrow a dollar off Grandpa?
Anyone reading this can guess the answer. Soon enough the boy had another race car to add to his collection. Without any kind of encouragement or pressure, the tyke had roamed the pits, sat in a few cars, washed part of one, bought another car and made a bunch of great memories for all who encountered him.
From an early age, this child has shown an uncommon interest in racing, especially of the open wheel variety. He loves this crazy activity more than his brother, his parents and his uncle—combined. He has never been pushed to go; all I’ve done is ask him. The answer he gives is obvious.
Starting last year, 2012, he began accompanying me to races quite often, when his schedule permitted. Soon enough he was sitting in sprint cars nearly every time he went to a race. My only rule was insisting that he ask a driver or crew member permission to sit in the car. Unfailingly, his request is granted. It’s amusing to see these tough, macho guys melt at the sight of a kid wanting to sit in the car. The smiles all round are priceless; racers have something in them that loves kids that show such interest.
2013 saw him continuing to not only watch but learn. My friends and I get a kick out of him telling people who’s driving which car. I wondered at the start of the year how he’d handled the annual ride swapping that goes on here. I wondered about nothing. Right off the bat, he picked up on all the changes, even the one offs. By year’s end he was doing better with double digit numbers as well.
He does equally well with tracks, at least the ones he frequents. Watching videos online, he can usually tell which track it is. He learned that both Gas City and Kokomo have the sprint car up in the air. He’s learning that different tracks have different friends. If Bob and Monica are at Kokomo, then Marv and Gregg will be at Lawrenceburg. Lincoln Park, Bloomington and Kokomo are all situated for him to go to the fence after the feature and get a good look at the winning driver, who he may well already know.
In a world where many race fans can’t tell a sprint car from a midget, this kid can. He knows of Indy car and Formula One cars and will soon, I’m fairly sure, be able to tell the differences between them—as well as the many types of stock cars. Like Grandpa, he leans toward open wheel machines, but will watch stock cars on TV as a substitute (except the top three NASCAR series).
In my mind at least, even more important than all the names and numbers that he’s learning, are the intangibles. Karston is learning about people of all ages and gathering a sense of what is right and what is wrong. In addition, like two of his great-grandfathers (my late father and father-in-law), he knows few, if any, strangers. Once he’s comfortable with people, he is friendly as can be—and doesn’t care how young or old they are.
For 2014 the plan is to start teaching him which roads take us to whichever tracks. In October this lesson began with my pointing out road signs and telling him that this is the way we go to Kokomo. (county roads—I-65—U.S. 31—all north)
This guy reminds us that learning need not stop when one graduates from school at any level. When one reaches a goal of learning or anything else, one needs to set new goals; the bar needs to be set a bit higher. The sky is the limit, or at least it should be. Too often our limit is the one we see in the mirror.
I’ve heard more than once people comment that soon this kid should have Grandpa or someone buy him a race car. My response is that he will have to pass many more tests and learn a lot more before he climbs into a race car. He will have to start at the bottom and work his way up. This, of course, includes washing the mud off a car after hot laps. Should the interest continue, he can move on to more challenging jobs. We’ll have to see; there is time.
He may find himself becoming bored with this and move on to something else. Already he has developed an interest in baseball and football. And so what if he does? It’s still a kid we’re speaking of here. Like his big brother, he needs to grow up on his terms as much as he can. Grandpa may dream of big brother designing a race car with little brother driving it, but both most likely will have different ideas. That’s fine as long as they do their best and do good as well.
The clichés are so true about grandchildren being so much fun. There’s more time to enjoy them and watch them grow up. It’s the same with time and how it flies, or seems to fly. Before we know it, grandkids are grown and our own kids begin to know the trials of being adults.
We close with another story, one which is summed up by the title of this. Those who have heard this story, please forgive me as we share it again. Karston and I were at Gas City/I-69 Speedway for opening night of Indiana Midget Week in 2012. Darren Hagen had won that night and Karston wanted to go down to the fence and see the winner (and especially his car) up close. This we did and I had to hold him so he could see.
After the winner’s interview, Hagen came to the fence and went through the gate. This was no big deal until he made a beeline for us. Darren took off the white Mopar cap he was wearing and gave it to Karston. If that wasn’t enough, he did the same with his USAC winner’s medallion. We hadn’t done anything special; apparently this feature winner noticed this kid in the crowd with that look of wonder that kids have when they are in awe of what they’re seeing. Hagen had it right when he explained to me, “This is racing’s future right here.” He was right. And the cap is covered with autographs while the medallion is there for him to wear whenever he wants to play racing (running around the family room, pretending to be whoever he thinks of at the time racing at whichever track he thinks of).
The little boy is learning about life; he’s growing up almost as we speak. And, from where I sit, he could not have a better classroom than an Indiana bullring to do his learning.
Bullying Richie Incognito, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Battle of the Gray Haired Gang
While it’s true that youth must be served, it’s also true that experience serves us well. Mix in Kokomo Speedway’s last race of 2013 with some extra walking around money, add some seasoned veterans who aren’t shy about slicing and dicing with each other and that sums up your typical 25 lap feature at the O’Conner family’s pride and joy. At the end it was Jerry Coons Jr., sprouting a few more gray hairs than he did just a few years ago, holding off a fast closing Dave Darland and Jon Stanbrough to take home the trophy and some cold (very cold) cash.
The Kokomo pits were jammed on an otherwise lovely autumn evening in northern Indiana with 119 cars and four of the five classes being open wheelers. 32 of these were sprinters with the usual assortment of USACers and area runners.
One of these, Gas City 2013 champ Scotty Weir, was quickest in group qualifying. His 12.774 was more than good enough.
Heat races were high speed, one groove affairs with passing quite an accomplishment. C.J. Leary won the first with front row mate Gary Taylor second. Chris Windom was third and Braylon Fitzpatrick grabbed the last transfer.
Like Mr. Leary, Wes McIntyre won the second heat from the outside front row spot with Mr. Coons finishing second. Dave Darland took third and Shane Cottle showed that one could pass as he came from eighth to finish fourth in a heat that sent some good cars to the B’s.
Scotty Weir came from fourth to annex the third heat as
Jon Stanbrough won the fourth heat; Bloomington champ Brady Short was second. Blake Fitzpatrick took third and Robert Ballou, with an invisible 12 on his tail tank, finished fourth.
The two consis would advance two each and Kyle Robbins left all others behind in winning the first of the two. Jarett Andretti was second.
The second semi took awhile to get going as there seemed to be a bit of confusion in starting order. Mike Terry Jr. held off Grant as Justin tried every which way to pass, but failed, seeing that Terry had the preferred high line. Not to worry, the feature had its share of passing.
Logan Jarrett and Chris Gurley were added to the field, making 22 to start.
Taylor, Coons, Leary, Stanbrough, Spencer, McIntyre, Weir, Short, Windom and Darland were the front half of the field and Coons jumped out to a lead that was negated when Byrkett spun, the first of two spins which sent Adam packing. After the first slowdown, Coons again took over until lap five when poor Byrkett did it again.
The next green flag segment lasted only two laps until WesMac spun in turn two. It was Coons, Taylor, Darland (from tenth already), Stanbrough and Windom on the third re-start. Behind Coons a terrific dogfight broke out among Darland, Taylor, Stanbrough, Windom, Weir and Cottle—all wanting second.
The low groove had made an appearance and people were using it. Slowly but surely, Darland and Stanbrough broke away from the pack to chase Coons. As they gained on the leader, neither could decide who would run second as they passed and re-passed each other as they inched closer to Coons.
But it wasn’t happening; Coons won by at least a couple of car lengths over Darland, with Stanbrough close behind. It made for a gray haired podium, but none of the three minded too much.
Windom took fourth as Taylor slowly faded to fifth. Weir was sixth and Ballou rambled from 16th to take seventh. Short started and finished eighth. Robbins came from B-land, 17th, to end up ninth. Andretti did the same, scooting from 19th to tenth. And Gurley deserved mention as he came in 11th after starting last.
Maybe the youngsters wish the older fellows would fade away, but it ain’t happening yet. For the time being the Hoosier sprint scene will include the likes of Jerry, Dave, Jon—and others such as Tracy (Hines) and Shane, along with the local boys who continue to race with quality results.
Youth must be, and sometimes is, served, but not yet—or not on the cold Friday night at the 2013 Kokomo Klash.
A bit later, Shane Cottle simply checked out to win the midget feature. Chris Miller won the 600cc mini-sprint A main. Nick Speidel won the UMRA TQ Midget feature, the UMRA point championship, all this after already winning the MTQRL championship.
Sprint car racing in Indiana is, as far as I know, done for the year. Granted, USAC and its caravan is headed West, but Hoosier tracks are quiet for a few months. It’s been quite a year, with the highest highs and too many of the lowest of lows.
Soon it will be time to hunker down for the winter and, before we know it, the spring will be on the horizon as race fans’ thoughts turn to…..?
Avoiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ locker room, I’m…
(the gray haired) Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: Doubler
As this is written in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Bryan Clauson is two for two this weekend so far. Friday night saw him win at Gas City in his own car. Saturday night was a repeat at Lawrenceburg as Clauson took the lead just past the halfway mark and beat a loaded USAC field. Once again, talent, hard work, good luck and a ton of desire yielded excellent results.
The great weather deity again gave Indiana a lovely day. Tonight’s riding partner was a bit older than my usual companion, but about as much fun. Given his health issues the past few years, ol’ Dave has been battling as hard as any racer he loves to watch, with good enough results.
37 race teams arrived at the ‘burg, ready willing and able. The track was the same: ready, etc. It held up quite well, with Clauson going out last and setting fast time. With the USAC sprints’ points race getting extra attention, BC had to pleased with the three points for fast time.
Young Aaron Farney, mentored by Robert Ballou, ran off with the first heat win. Joss Moffatt held off Clauson for second. Justin Grant stole fourth from Jerry Coons Jr. at the line, sending the Monte Edison owned team to the B.
C.J. Leary won the second heat, but had an oil line issue after taking the checkered and bailing out after he stopped the car on the backstretch as flames began to spread. C.J. was okay and Ted Hines had a good view of the excitement from second place. Dave Darland was third with Chris Windom taking fourth ahead of B bound Kevin Thomas Jr.
The third heat saw Chad Boespflug, again in Mike McGhee’s car tonight, take the lead from Scotty Weir late to win. Daron Clayton was third with Gary Taylor ending up fourth. Logan Jarrett led a group to the semi.
Tracy Hines’ unsatisfactory qualifying effort landed him on the front row where he left all others behind in the fourth heat. Fellow front row starter Tyler Courtney was second and Chase Stockon was third. Shawn Westerfeld, ‘burg regular, impressed with his fourth quick time trial and his fourth place finish put him in the A.
Brady Bacon had missed the call for the first heat, but his qualifying effort was good enough to start him third in the B. He took the lead from Thomas on the second lap and led the rest of the way. KT was second and Coons took third. Jarett Andretti was fourth and Matt Westfall finished fifth ahead of Kyle Cummins. Robert Ballou just missed getting around Cummins for the last musical chair available and used a provisional.
Who would be able to pass front row starters Dave Darland and last year’s winner of this race Chase Stockon? Second row gunners Grant and Westerfeld? Or the third row’s Taylor and Clauson? Further back was Thomas, Westfall, Bacon and Boespflug.
Stockon took the lead at the green and held off Darland while Clauson advanced to fourth on the first lap behind Grant. Five laps later Clauson was up to third as Darland got around Stockon for the lead, if only for a lap. Two laps later Dave bobbled only slightly and Clauson pounced, now second and after the leader, who soon would commence wrestling with lapped traffic.
BC is about as good as anyone around at handling lapped traffic. At Gas City the night before he had beaten Kevin Thomas Jr. on the last lap in large part because he had negotiated the lappers better than KT. And on lap 17, Clauson did it again, passing Stockon to take a lead he’d not give up.
Stockon didn’t exactly fold up his tent. The young man from Sullivan, but now living right down the road from here hung tough, not giving Clauson much room for error. He finished second ahead of Darland, who was just a bit off for the night. Thomas came from seventh to take fourth. Grant was fifth as the guy who now occupies Grant’s former ride, Gary Taylor in the Hery 40, took sixth. Coons gave the Edison 10 a good ride, coming from 12th to seventh. Boespflug was eighth with Bacon starting and finishing ninth. Chris Windom was tenth.
Just like Gas City, this race was all-green.
Clauson’s lead over Darland is now a whopping 13 points as the boys leave the Midwest for the sunny Southwest—Canyon Speedway, Peoria, Arizona on October 25.
(The following is a made up conversation, but it could have been real.)
“I’m tellin’ ya, Clauson cheated!” “Huh?” “Yes, he did cheat.” “How could you tell?” “Did you see how he pulled those guys coming out each turn? He didn’t spin his wheels once!” “You know, maybe you’re right.” “I know I’m right, man. Clauson has had them guys put traction control on that car. USAC should check that out and ban him now.” “You don’t understand.” “Huh?” “You’re half right. He does have traction control.” (a smirk) “So you do say I’m right?” “Yeah, but it ain’t what you think.” “Whaddya mean??” “His traction control is right there.” (points toward Victory Lane) (Squints) “Where?” “Right there. See that right foot? There’s his traction control right there.” (Stomps off in disgust while his ex-buddy chuckles)
Shutting down, but only for a few hours, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Eyes on the Prize
Racers don’t give up. You may see an occasional car and driver riding around the track, but, at least during that time, that driver is not a racer. Racers don’t give up. Bryan Clauson is a racer, as if we didn’t know. Not that he had to prove it, but he surely did on Friday night at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway as he stalked leader Kevin Thomas Jr. for most of the last half of the race and won on the last lap of the 25 lap feature. The feature was minus any yellow flags and Clauson came from tenth to win on an outstanding track. For Clauson, as well as the fans and staff, it was fine way to end the 2013 season.
The curtain closer for Gas City came on a beautiful autumn evening with clouds taking the night off. 30 sprint teams came to play, not taking the night off.
The night’s only flip came in hot laps when George Wessel tipped it over in turn one. George wasn’t hurt and was able to race again later.
After the first heat one had to like Kevin Thomas Junior’s chances in the finale. He came from seventh to win the first of the eight lap heats, passing Matt Goodnight with two laps to go. Goodnight held onto second with Kyle Cummins third. Logan Jarrett was fourth, edging Dave Darland, who had come out on the short end of an encounter with Thomas, who did a half spin in turn four and slowed Darland’s progress and sent Dave and his Stensland 41 to the B.
Chad Boespflug was in Mike McGhee’s 17 for the night after Chad’s car owner, Mr. Paul Hazen, found himself in the crash house after an accident at his home. Paul is expected to recover. Boespflug led most of the second heat but Jerry Coons Jr. won with Chad second. Bryan Clauson was third with Brady Bacon getting by Jarett Andretti for fourth.
Kyle Robbins started on the pole for the third heat and led all the way to win. A.J. Hopkins was second with Todd Keen third. Chris Gurley hung on for fourth with Travis Hery penciling in a B Main start.
Gary Taylor won the fourth heat over Adam Byrkett, benefitting from a front row start. Conner Donelson was third with Travis Welpott fourth. Joe Ligouri just missed making the show.
Darland and Andretti, two famous racing names, made up the front row of the B. Dave took off and hid, winning by a large margin over Aldo’s grandson. C.J. Leary was third and Travis Hery came back to pass Josh Spencer on the last lap to grab the 20th starting spot in the feature.
Robbins and Byrkett drew front row starting spots for the A. Starting behind this duo were Taylor, Goodnight, Boespflug, Thomas, Coons, Hopkins, Cummins and Clauson. Gary Taylor came from third to take the lead for the first lap and several more as Boespflug, Thomas, Robbins (all numbered 17) and Coons battled for position. Within the first few laps Coons’ brakes were already glowing. But Coons, Thomas and Boespflug couldn’t make up their minds who would run second. Thomas took second and only two laps later, just before the halfway mark, took the lead from Taylor.
About three laps later, Thomas found lapped traffic. Behind him, Clauson was finding his groove. With his own car and with a little help from friends, the sponsorless number seven worked quite hard to pass first Coons, then Taylor. But Thomas seemed out of reach; a caution would have helped. Or so we thought.
KT struggled a bit with lapped traffic and Clauson closed rapidly. Thomas’s lead was less than five car lengths at the white flag. But he slipped up a wee bit in turn two and that was all Clauson needed as they ran side by side down the back stretch with more lapped traffic ahead. Thomas went high, Clauson went low and made the pass in turn four to take the win by a few feet.
After Clauson and Thomas, Taylor, Coons and Boespflug ran third/fourth and fifth. Robbins held on very well for sixth, barely beating Hopkins. Cummins was eighth with Darland coming from 17th to finish ninth, just ahead of Logan Jarrett.
No matter where they finish, racers don’t give up. Tonight provided several examples.
BC was just getting started. Next stop, Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Buying an NFL team so I can go on welfare, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Paging Meat Loaf
The cheesy reference to the 70s rotund singer concerns his hit “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.” As Saturday night turned into early Sunday, Chris Windom might have been saying the same thing. His Midget result at Eldora’s Four Crown National wasn’t exactly what he wanted. But his sprint car win atoned somewhat for that as he inherited the lead and the win due to Tracy Hines’ misfortune. Windom wrapped up the night’s curtain closer with a hard fought Silver Crown win that was made a bit easier when his closest pursuer, Mr. Hines, had a bad case of déjà vu when he flipped again in turn four coming to the white flag. It was another classic Wide World of Sports moment, with both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat vying for center stage.
20 was a decent car count for the cars that some may see as archaic and others elegant. (I’ll vote for both.) After Robert Ballou flipped during hot laps, one might have figured the count was 19, but Ballou and company came back for the feature with a repaired car.
Bobby East, on the verge of winning the 2013 Silver Crown championship, picked up three valuable points with his quick time of 16.517.
He and Hines occupied the front row and East took the lead early. But Windom made a strong move to take the lead on the fourth lap. Three early yellows slowed things, but a six lap green flag stretch saw Windom fend off a huge challenge by Christopher Bell. Lap 15 saw Windom perform a half spin in turn two and collect Bell, who hit Windom’s car at the right angle to keep the RW/Curb/Agajanian Special going straight. Bell also continued but brought out the race’s fourth yellow with a flat tire a lap later.
After 16 of the 50 laps were completed Windom led Hines, Jerry Coons Jr., Shane Cockrum, East, Taylor Ferns and…Robert Ballou, seventh after starting last. A few laps after the green waved, Coons slowed, done for the night. A couple more laps and Ballou followed, a mighty effort thwarted.
All the while, it was Windom and Hines up front as positions behind them changed. By lap 35 Cockrum had taken third with Matt Westfall fourth. The Buckeye had started fourth, dropped back and had scooted forward, passing Ferns on lap 40 and Cockrum two laps later.
And then Tracy Hines had the unthinkable happen.
Hines is one of those guys who seldom tears up equipment. He has a vested interest in the cars he races and rare is the night where he has to struggle loading the car onto the hauler. After flipping his sprinter coming to the checkered a bit earlier, incredibly, he did it again. The sprint flip was more of a tipover, but the Silver Crown flip was a bit more substantial. Tracy was okay physically. Otherwise he may well have been a bit sick.
The re-start would be an authentic green-white-checkered and Windom maintained his lead to take the win. Westfall was second with Cockrum coming from tenth to finish third. Taylor Ferns had one of her most impressive races, coming from 13th to take fourth. Dave Darland brought the Pierce Chevy home fifth. Yes, positions two through five benefitted from attrition, but they still had to navigate Eldora. Enough said.
Bobby East was sixth and also claimed the championship. Joe Ligouri was seventh in his Silver Crown debut. Kody Swanson drove Eddie Sachs Jr.’s car to eighth. Hines salvaged ninth place and Patrick Lawson was tenth.
Of those few who ran all three features, Darland had the low score with two fifths and a third.
The Silver Crown Series hangs on, sometimes seeming to be on life support, but Lord have mercy. It was a decent race and it’s always a treat to see those pros wrestle those relatively heavy beasts around the high banks of Eldora.
The little guy missed the last feature, having fallen asleep (he’d sleep all the way home). But thanks to technology and some talented people, he watched it online a few days later sitting in this old chair by himself. He also had his sitting in a race car wish fulfilled, taking the seat in several of the vintage cars gathered.
Like Mr. Windom, Karston was two out of three (races watched).
Trying to persuade those at IMS to present a horse race on the road course, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Leading Can Be Perilous
Just about any leader can affirm that leading can be a less than secure situation. This is true in any capacity, including competition of any kind. The top dog of the moment can be instantly yesterday’s news in the twinkling of the eye. And sometimes it’s best to be a sleeping dog, with one eye open for any opportunity that may arise. Call first Daron Clayton, then Tracy Hines the temporary top dogs. Call Chris Windom the sleeping dog who looks up in time to see…a checkered flag waving for none other than himself. Windom led a few hundred feet of the Sprint Car portion of the Four Crown Nationals at Eldora on Saturday night, but they were the feet that counted as Tracy Hines remarkably spun, tapped the turn four wall and tipped over with the checkered flag in sight. What was it that Yogi Berra said?
Maybe my young fellow traveler was excited to see Eldora for the first time. But he fell asleep somewhere near New Castle, Indiana, waking up in time to see the storied half mile rising on the northern horizon, a bigger facility than what he’s used to seeing, Winchester and Terre Haute aside.
36 was a healthy car count for an Eldora date. Tracy Hines made an impressive opening statement by setting fast time, then coming from sixth to win his heat.
Daron Clayton, getting used to the Hank Byrum beast, was equally impressive in winning his heat, coming from fifth. Gary Taylor and Robert Ballou won their heats.
Then there was Dave Darland. During his heat he was noticeably off the pace, eventually exiting. A bit later the word came down that Dave would jump into a backup car. He’d have to start on the tail spot in the semi main. Should he make the feature, he’d still have to start behind everyone else.
To Dave, his fans, and anyone watching points with interest (especially Bryan Clauson), this was potentially a big deal. Things were looking good for Clauson, but for Darland, not so much. However Dave, among others, would show why they race rather than speculate or merely go by what the odds and/or would be experts say.
By lap three of the semi, Darland was already ninth and eight cars would transfer. He was far from done, eventually taking second behind winner Dallas Hewitt after starting 18th. For all that, Dave would start 25th in the feature.
Clauson and Clayton were the front row and Clayton took off, stretching his lead on every lap. A lap seven yellow for a C.J. Leary spin was the only thing that could slow the 35.
Another yellow at the halfway mark saw Clayton still leading Chase Stockon, Brady Bacon, B. Clauson, T. Hines, C. Windom, Jac Haudenschild, R. Ballou, Justin Grant and Jon Stanbrough. Things were about to get weird.
On the re-start Bacon met the turn two wall and flipped, helicopter style. Brady was okay, but he and the Hoffman team took a major hit in those infernal points. Meanwhile, Ballou hit the pits with a flat tire. Stockon hit the pits and stayed there with a terminal engine issue. Darland had yet to crack the top ten—yet.
On this re-start Clayton had an unwanted visitor in Tracy Hines, who applied a good bit of pressure to the Missouri native. Sure enough, the turn two wall collected another one when Clayton made contact and flipped hard while leading and trying to pass a lapped car. It was lap 24 and one had to like Hines’ chances.
Hines (who my grandson had picked to win) led Windom, Haud, Clauson, Stanbrough, Grant (tonight in Bill Elson’s car), Taylor, Darland (yep, eighth), Wes McIntyre and Kevin Thomas Jr.
Now the fun would be watching Darland chase Clauson as it would appear that Hines would have no trouble with Windom. That would be half true. But Hines had his encounter with turn four coming to the checkered, presenting Windom with a nice surprise, the lead.
The re-start would be a combination green/white flag with Windom ahead of Haudenschild, Clauson, Darland (yep, he passed a few more) and Stanbrough. Haud had given the Simon family’s 22 a good ride, but he had nothing for Windom. Darland had no idea what giving up means as he passed Clauson on the last lap to take third. Almost lost in the shuffle was Ballou. After re-starting on the tail following Bacon’s flip, Ballou had done some passing of his own. This netted him fifth place. Stanbrough was sixth, followed by Taylor (from 16th), Grant, Thomas and Jarett Andretti, who started 20th.
One couldn’t blame Clauson for thinking that he had a prime chance to put some larger numbers between him and Darland. But it didn’t happen. At the same time, one couldn’t blame Hines for thinking that he might win his second straight Four Crown sprint feature. That, too, didn’t happen.
All one could do was shake one’s head. Yet again, racing imitated life…or was it the other way around? Yet again, we were reminded that the race ain’t over until we cross that finish line, be it a 30 lap sprint car feature or our own lives.
Persuading Franco Harris to come out of retirement, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Double Domination
If you have enough money, you want to go fast, and you have a significant degree of racing ability, then by all means call Keith Kunz and go racing full sized midgets. Your chances of success are very decent. If your name is either Rico Abreu or Christopher Bell, you will excel and your racing future is bright. To add more proof of that, Mr. Abreu and his teammate Mr. Bell both smoked a strong field on Saturday night at Eldora as USAC’s Four Crown Nationals once again gave fans their money’s worth. After a terrific duel, Abrue took the win with Bell a close second.
This year’s car count was up some. 20 teams signed in for battle. Abrue set fast time. Brad Kuhn, looking for more speed, found the turn two wall instead and flipped wildly down the backstretch on his second qualifying lap. He was unhurt, but one good car was scratched.
The third member of the Kunz squad, Tanner Thorson, won his heat, as did Bell and Chris Windom.
Bryan Clauson took the lead at the start of the feature and enjoyed that until he left with problems, giving the lead to Abreu. Bell made sure that Rico didn’t coast home, offering one slide job after another. But the young Californian with the short stature but a heavy right foot and lots of, uh, desire would not be denied. The win was his.
There was racing behind the Kunz speed twins. Tracy Hines made a last lap pass to take third from Bobby East. Dave Darland executed his own last lap pass, taking fifth from Thorson. But with Keith Kunz cars finishing one-three-six, it wasn’t a bad night for the crew that houses it’s stable of cars about five minutes from where I sit—literally.
The Kunz model of racing is one of the ways to go chasing glory and checkered flags. A lot is made of the money part of the deal and maybe it should be. But one must never forget a crucial fact: All the money in the world will not replace talent.
Right about here is where one could say, “But what about guys with equal ability and only one has the bucks to go racing?” It’s a fair question with no good answer. With that talent, some people need that burning desire to succeed, no matter what their wallet contains. And there’s no guarantee that’ll be enough. To say that life isn’t fair is no consolation prize; we all know that already.
A good friend wondered aloud a few years ago if Tony Stewart could make it in today’s racing/economical climate. There’s no way of knowing, but I’m inclined to say yes he could. If a driver doesn’t have family money, there are sponsors and/or owners out there who might notice. In other words, for every Rico Abreu, there is one (or more) Kyle Larson. I’m reminded of Trent Reznor’s words (with the late Johnny Cash’s voice), “I will find a way.”
The average fan may not know or care about how these guys get to this level or higher. All they know is that young men like Abreu, Bell, or Larson and older racers like Darland, Hines or Coons can race. They all have desire and talent.
Put all that together at Eldora on a cool Saturday evening in September, sit back and enjoy the show. Put aside all the issues that bedevil midget racing these days and appreciate for a short while the talent and desire these guys bring.
Giving that Brian France 100%, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Hustling for Ten Grand
Money has always been a great motivator. Show a racer some extra money to be won by racing another ten laps in a feature and I’ll show you a racer with some sudden hunger pangs. In my earlier working days, I was not averse to working overtime and having an inflated check that showed my hourly wage plus another half of that. But a crucial difference between my former job and that of a racer was that I didn’t get any satisfaction from working more overtime than my peers. A racer not only collects the cash, but also can say that he beat his peers to get it. That would be Kevin Thomas Jr., winner of the Haubstadt Hustler on a cool Saturday night at the Tri-State Speedway. All KT did was take the lead from another hungry racer, Brady Short, and motor home to grab a cool $10,000 for his night’s work. Nice work if you can not only get it, but do it as well.
Once in awhile, we get something close to a perfect day. This one was close enough, at least in the southwestern corner of our state of Indiana. Twice I’d made the trip here in 2013 and twice the Power that is decided that many fans, racers and I would leave without our collective racing fix. But not tonight; this promised to be a typical Tri-State Speedway night, which was to say it would be full of the usual high speeds, slicing and dicing and….the tractor show.
Yes, the tractor show is a fixture at Tri-State. Folks complain, which is their right, but we all should realize that, if you’re headed to Haubstadt, you will see at least one massage session for the track. Or you, if you’re like me, can opt for another plan. Have supper, visit with friends, read a book (or magazine), even go for a walk—all of these choices trump just sitting in one’s seat, grumbling about Mr. Helfrich’s efforts. It’s what you make of it, as is often the case.
The night’s show would be a joint USAC-MSCS affair with no qualifying, passing points in the heats (four of them), the top 16 in points would be locked into the feature, a B that took the top four and USAC points for the feature—as I understood it. 29 candidates took the physical challenge. The 40 lap feature paid ten grand and the stage was set.
Dave Darland put a hurtin’ on the boys in the first heat after starting fourth. Blake Fitzpatrick was second. Kyle Cummins, still in Rick Pollock’s hoss, passed Curt Gross late to take third. Chase Stockon and crew arrived late after truck trouble on the way. With little prep time he finished where he started, fifth. Tyler Courtney took sixth. Daron Clayton, brakes glowing, was seventh and Bradley Sterrett trailed the pack.
Tracy Hines led Bryan Clauson to win the second heat. Brady Short came from sixth to third. Wes McIntyre started and finished fourth. Jeff Bland Jr. was fifth, still in Jerry Burton’s 04. Aric Gentry trailed all but Robert Ballou, who scratched for the heat.
Brady Bacon made a last lap pass on Seth Parker to win the third heat after starting fourth. Pole sitter Nick Drake was third with Carson Short fourth, coming from fifth. Chase Briscoe came from last to grab fifth. Chet Williams and Kevin Chambers trailed.
Kevin Thomas Jr. came from third to win the fourth heat after a battle with Shane Cottle, another who finished where he started—second. Jon Stanbrough came from sixth to third. A.J. Hopkins, tonight in his own car, was fourth. Chris Babcock was fifth, ahead of Kent Schmidt. Braylon Fitzpatrick scratched for the night.
Stockon had it hooked up enough to win the B over Clayton, who came from the back to pass Hopkins late. Tyler Courtney would start 20th in the feature. Bland and Ballou battled through much of the race, fighting for fifth, as it turned out. A Bland wheelie saw him land on Ballou, who escaped into the infield and charged back to battle some more with a bit of post-race gesturing and words not used just anywhere.
Short and Hines made up the front row of the finale with Thomas and Darland behind them. The Bedford native took the lead and began to build it when the yellow waved for Hopkins on lap two. Clayton had started 18th and was up to 11th already.
Short kept his lead on the re-start as Darland gave chase along with Thomas and Bacon as Hines slowly faded. Bacon passed Thomas and began pressuring Darland before Thomas made a return call. KT began pressuring Darland with Short not that far ahead. In the space of two laps Thomas passed both, then Darland slowed to a stop with gear issues on lap 28. A few had noticed that Stockon, who had started 17th, was up to sixth.
The re-start was Thomas, Short, Bacon, Stanbrough, Cummins, Stockon, Hines, Clauson, Cottle and Clayton. Stockon was hungry. Right away he passed Cummins for fifth. Stanbrough did the same to Bacon, who returned the favor four laps later. No one had anything for the two leaders.
Right after Thomas took the checkered Hopkins did a slow tipover on the last lap, freezing all in their positions. Short was second with Bacon and Stanbrough third and fourth. Cummins re-passed Stockon, who encountered a right rear shock gone bad, for fifth. Clayton came on strong at the end after struggling to pass Cottle, moving up to seventh. Like Stockon, the MDC came a long way—from 18th. Hines was eighth with Clauson finishing an ordinary, for him, ninth. With Darland’s misfortune, BC re-took the point lead anyway. And Shane Cottle, after his Gas City head scratcher (beginning his heat with an engine minus oil—I checked with him before hot laps to make sure that oil was in the Epperson engine) started and ended up tenth.
Just another night at the races—where people race for love and money.
Kevin Thomas Jr. and company have had an eventful 2013 so far. They’ve had their ups and down on and off the track, especially off. With more consistency they’d be giving both Darland and Clauson a lot of points related headaches. No matter what issues they may have, these guys race.
Adding Darrell Waltrip to the Chase, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Celebrating the Journeyman
Younger racers might do themselves a favor by watching what their so-called elders do and/or say. They would learn a lot and might win a few races too. They’d also learn how to be a class act and maybe even make a decent living slinging sprint cars around Hoosier bullrings. On Friday night at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, they had the chance to watch Jerry Coons Jr. in more ways than one. For after he took the lead from Todd Keen midway through the 25 lap feature, Mr. Coons led the rest of the way, keeping at bay a strong group of younger racers who were reminded that this veteran isn’t ready to step aside any time soon.
The original title of this slop was to be “Long Pants and Coonskin Caps” but as usual, the actual racing trumped everything else. True, it was chilly and lots of long pants, jackets and even a certain coonskin cap were in attendance. On track action did its part to aid in coping with the cold (a mere two days after near record setting heat).
The cash register rang up 32 teams ready to rumble on this cool evening. Interesting matchups were Mike Fedorcak in the Stensland 41 (first time I’ve seen the Munchkin Man race outside in many years), A.J. Hopkins in the R & R Motorsports 48 and Shane Cottle in a Jeff Walker creation. Rare campaigners included Nevil Algieo (truly one of racing’s great names), Kyle Simon in the family machine and Mark Hall, not seen by myself in some time.
Matt Goodnight led throughout the first heat and held off a fast closing Jerry Coons Jr. to win from the pole (Coons started sixth). A blanket could have covered the next four. Only two made it straight to the feature, those being Justin Grant (in Bill Elson’s hot rod) and Logan Jarrett, who started seventh. Ohio’s Adam Cruea and Kokomo’s Josh Spencer prepared for the B.
Pole sitter Chad Boespflug won the second heat over Gary Taylor, who had some sheet metal flapping throughout the race. Ted Hines started and finished third. C.J. Leary and Kyle Robbins traded fourth a few times before Leary prevailed over the New Castle native, who had started last.
Todd Keen made it three for three, starting from the pole and winning his heat. Front row mate Jarrett Andretti was second with Kevin Thomas Jr. coming from last to finish third. If that wasn’t enough passing, Scotty Weir came from seventh to grab fourth from A.J. Hopkins, who bobbled slightly late in the race to find himself in the B.
The fourth heat started weirdly, but only because pole sitting Shane Cottle’s car quit—word was that someone forgot to add oil to the engine and that wasn’t a good plan. The boys stacked up behind Cottle, bringing out a red flag, even though no one was upside down. Brandon Morin, Travis Welpott, Travis Hery and Mark Hall were all involved. Chris Gurley took the lead on the re-start and won, despite a sick sounding engine. Welpott, Morin and Hery all transferred.
The B Main was plagued by yellow fever. Poor Adam Byrkett had a race he’d probably wish to forget as he spun twice, not something he’s in the habit of doing. George Wessel did the same, spinning twice and then sent to the pits. Hopkins won this one finally with Robbins second. Spencer was third with the lawman, Joe Bares, fourth. Kyle Simon had a trying race, spinning once, and then shunted to the infield before narrowly missing the last spot.
The semi was a huggy pole festival. Sure enough out came the big toys to re-work the track. And sure enough, it was a resounding success as we’d see a bit later.
The deck was shuffled to find a pair of eighteens, Andretti and Keen on the front row, followed by Coons, Goodnight, Taylor, Boespflug, Gurley (who opted to start in the back with his balky engine), Welpott, Grant and Hines.
Keen took the lead at the start with Coons annexing second right away. The Arizona native stalked Keen for several laps, finally getting by on lap 12. Keen’s troubles were only beginning. Behind him were Andretti (who was holding up the pack), Grant, Taylor, Boespflug and Thomas, all quite hungry.
A Kyle Robbins induced yellow waved right about the same time Grant tapped Andretti, sending the third generation racer to the infield. The re-start was Coons, Keen, Grant, Boespflug, Taylor, Jarrett, Welpott, Thomas, Weir and Hines.
Thomas and his car came alive, with the Alabama native quickly advancing to fifth in three laps after the re-start. Jarrett, too, was on the move. He was challenging Taylor for second behind Coons when disaster struck both Boespflug and Grant on lap 21. Chad hit the binders to avoid smacking someone and was clouted from behind, ending his night as well as Grant’s, who was caught up in the mess. It was time for a four lap trophy dash with Coons leading Taylor, Jarrett, Thomas, Hopkins, Weir, Leary, Welpott, Hines and Bares.
As it turned out, no one had anything for Coons, who gave Monte Edison another W. Taylor held off Thomas, who had passed Jarrett with a lap to go. Hopkins kept fifth. Weir edged Leary by an eyelash for sixth. Hines was eighth with Welpott and Bares filling out the top ten.
Not quite lost in the aftermath of a popular win were some good runs by a few. Thomas had rolled off 11th while Hopkins had come from B Main-land, 17th. Don’t forget Scotty Weir, who rambled from 15th. Finally there was the law officer, Mr. Bares, who only came from last/20th to take a tenth.
But the star of stars was Jerry Coons Jr., who sets a fine example for young racers or most anyone else. Like his counterparts, Mr. Darland, Mr. Stanbrough, Mr. Tracy Hines and various others, he gets to enjoy his job while making enough dough to feed and house his family. Times are tough for those guys, none of whom can be classified as kids, but they soldier on. Meanwhile we as fans get to enjoy and appreciate their efforts.
Watch them closely. They won’t be around forever. Thankfully, there are younger racers, not kids themselves anymore, who will become tomorrow’s grizzled veterans. Those of us who shall be around will appreciate them as well.
Keeping busy by making up new rules for NASCAR, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Attack of the Killer B’s
With little, if any, apology to Saturday Night Live, the B’s invaded Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday night, of course. They were led by Jeff Bland Jr., who won the sprint car feature on a night when modifieds ruled with the 10th annual Patriot 100.
There would be no 24, or even 12, hours of Lincoln Park this year. The car count was down, for whatever reasons, but 143 cars were plenty—including 30 sprinters.
The 30 included surprises such as Ohio refugees Dallas Hewitt and Derek Hastings. There sat ageless veterans Troy Link and Eric Burns, making a very rare appearance. Both would shine later in the B. Yet another blast from the past was Jason Robbins, not seen too much on the track lately. Young Cole Smith showed up with a nifty black paint job. Adam Cruea was another traveling Buckeye. Ryan Pace was present but suffered a brief evening after engine troubles arose. David Applegate, Lawrenceburg regular, made the trip west on I-74. Jimmy Wingo, car owner, was in a spare Brian Hayden effort.
Jerry Coons Jr., in Gene Nolan’s car (still maintained by previous owners Kevin and Beth Noblitt from…Columbus, Indiana) held off Bloomington maestro Brady Short to win the first heat. Illini Carson Short (no relation) was third with Max McGhee fourth.
A.J. Hopkins won the second heat over Ohio traveler Matt Westfall. Jarett Andretti nailed down the show position and Casey Shuman was fourth.
Brian Hayden, in line to win the 2013 LPS sprint title, won the third heat with Ethan Barrow, a past LPS champ, in second. Logan Jarrett was third with Derek Hastings sending teammate Dallas Hewitt to the B.
Another LPS points king, Brent Beauchamp, won the fourth heat, the fourth straight front row starter to win, rare for Lincoln Park. Jeff Bland Jr., again in Jerry Burton’s pride and joy, was second with Adam Cruea far back in third. L’burg semi-regular J.T. Stapp grabbed the fourth spot.
B Mains are sometimes the best race of the night. It was so at LPS for sure as certain racers found a Fountain of Youth somewhere on the premises, perhaps in the water. Hewitt took the lead on the second lap and won, but the show was behind him. First Troy Link, then Eric Burns experimented with the high groove, you know, the one above the cushion. Link started seventh and was up to fourth at the halfway mark. He wasn’t done and Burns was just getting started. The Brazil, Indiana resident started tenth and decided to give the same groove a try. At the end, both had passed all but the leader with Link second and Burns third. Another guy who’s raced a bit, Kent Christian, was fourth.
After the Patriot 100 modified feature, dominated by Joey Kramer, was over, the track was black and a good bit slick. Passing would be difficult and at a premium up front, though a few would give it a try.
Bland and Barrow were the front row and Bland won the drag race to turn one. Up front not a lot changed as the high groove ruled. Link’s quality night ended on lap seven as he stopped on the track, bringing out a yellow flag.
On the re-start third place Brady Short tried a slider on second place Barrow. It didn’t work as Brady slid back into position just ahead of Beauchamp before losing third a bit later.
Lap 11 saw Hewitt tip over, with a red flag waving. Dallas nearly landed on Derek Hastings, his teammate. They re-stacked with Bland leading Barrow, Beauchamp, B. Short, Coons, Hayden, Hopkins, Westfall, Shuman and Cruea. Again Brady tried a slider and again to no avail on the re-start. Beauchamp, meanwhile, passed Barrow as Ethan made a slight bobble.
Sprinkles and lightning added a bit of urgency to the last laps of the race, but they held off. Jerry Coons Jr. coasted into the infield with only a few laps to go with a mechanical issue. The final rundown was Bland, Beauchamp, Barrow, Brady Short, and Brian Hayden in the top five. In terms of points at LPS, Hayden still led Beauchamp, but not by much. Westfall was sixth with Shuman getting an ‘atta boy for coming form 14th to finish seventh. Hopkins and Cruea were eighth and ninth. And Max McGhee had himself a top ten.
The sprinkles picked up a bit and the track tried to get the super stock feature off and running quickly but it wasn’t happening. For the second week in a row, with drought conditions over most of the Hoosier state, Lincoln Park had a show cut short due to rain. For those who were sure this would be another long drawn out affair, it wasn’t so bad, relatively speaking. The rain came at 1 a.m., a lot earlier than last year’s program.
The checkered flag has already fallen on several tracks in Hoosier-land. But LPS has four more scheduled dates. Hoosier sprint fans will be running on fumes come October.
Loaning Michael Waltrip $300,000 at my usual interest rate of 55%, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Dodging Dirt Cars and Rain Drops
All year long the Terre Haute Action Track has suffered through one rainout after another. When rain wasn’t expected, it seemed to show up uninvited. But on Saturday night, the tables were turned. For most of the evening those assembled watched darkening skies, felt occasional sprinkles, sweltered, then shivered as the temperature dropped. While the weather was on many minds, the on-track action was the main focus. At the end of the night Jerry Coons Jr. was the man, the one who outran both the potential rain and 22 of his peers.
The last late afternoon of August was surely one of the hottest of the year—until the clouds rolled in. As the clouds thickened, all concerned had that sense of urgency—just in case it actually rained.
23 teams showed up ready to race. Of note was Kyle Cummins, who became the latest to occupy the Pollock 21x.
The track was impeccably prepared once again and qualifying times included several (six) under 20 seconds. Kevin Thomas Jr. led all with a 19.807 lap.
After time trials it was suppertime. All was well—a cheeseburger, my notebook and, all of a sudden, a rapid increase in the wind coming out of the north commanded my attention. Supper was nearly blown away along with the notebook and pen (two items that old fogies use). For whatever reason I thought of Judy Garland and Toto as I scrambled to secure some of my most prized possessions.
I also thought of Randy Mortland, recently deceased and former THAT regular. I wondered if Morty was having a chuckle at my expense. It was worth it, if that was the case.
Jon Stanbrough came from fourth to take the lead early and hold off Dave Darland to win. I was reminded of Noah’s Ark during this race and not because of the weather. Stanbrough and Darland were paired up for first and second. Shane Cottle and Brady Bacon ran close together for third and fourth. Thomas held off Chris Windom for fifth as the top five finishers kept their qualifying times for the feature. (No B Main)
Daron Clayton and Tracy Hines dueled throughout much of the second heat before Hines took the lead with two laps to go. Clayton was second ahead of Blake Fitzpatrick by a good-sized margin. Kyle Cummins was fourth and Justin Grant fifth.
The pride of Washington, Indiana, Curt Gross, led the first two laps of the third heat before Bryan Clauson took over after starting sixth. Chase Stockon grabbed second and Braylon Fitzpatrick was third. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth, cementing his pole position for the feature. Robert took fifth over a fading Gross.
Lightning and persistent sprinkles spurred the hurry up mode. There must have been a window over Paris (Illinois) because the showers never came to Terre Haute. Despite the late start, the clock had yet to strike nine.
Coons and Cummins led the 21 others to the green. Groans and curses no doubt were uttered when a four car pileup slowed things on the first lap. Nick Drake, Curt Gross, Brandon Mattox and Jake Simmons (the latter two local guys) were all involved. Gross and Mattox were out on the spot. The rain stayed away.
The re-start was good and 30 laps of classic green flag/Action Track racing followed. Coons jumped out to the lead, with Bacon and Hines in pursuit. Remarkably, these three dominated the front spots for all 30 laps. There were constant threats for positions; passes were returned in kind. Lapped traffic “complicated” matters from time to time.
Bacon passed Hines late in the race to take second behind Coons, who led all 30 laps. Clauson was fourth, a few car lengths ahead of Darland. Ballou passed Stanbrough on the last lap to annex sixth. Windom was eighth with Stockon finishing ninth. Clayton brought the Bynum-mobile tenth after starting 17th.
I hung around after the race. As usual I had no desire to join the mad dash out to U.S. 41. There was no hurry. Besides I had no problem watching the modified feature. It was a good one, in fact, with Richie Lex winning by taking the road less traveled, in the high groove, to win. Robert Frost would have been proud. (Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference. From “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost)
Truth be told, I didn’t want to leave, traffic or no traffic. I knew this was Terre Haute’s last race of 2013 and I wanted to hang around and simply appreciate where I was and how fortunate I am.
Thankfully all the rainouts and disappointments suffered by the Action Track were in the rear view mirror. It was time to look ahead. I ambled out to my car and left this storied and lovely old girl for the last time this year. Both my car and I were dry. The rain had fallen all over my state, washing out several races, but it missed the Vigo County Fairgrounds.
Next stop, Haubstadt, Indiana (and we know how that turned out).
With you saying V-eye-go while I say V-ee-go, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Oops, He Did It Again
Seven times this year Brady Short has been interviewed after a Bloomington Speedway feature win. It’s his turn. Others have dominated before and others will dominate in the future, but now it’s Brady’s time to rule the red clay oval. Rule number one for these deals is always to enjoy it while it lasts, then have fond memories of it on down the road. People my grandson’s age and a wee bit older will be able to speak of Mr. Short as various old timers speak of various Kinsers, Kevin Briscoe and Jon Stanbrough, who can still bring it.
Who would have thought that the hottest race of the year would be on Labor Day weekend? It’s been another strange year in terms of weather. A wet spring has been followed by another dry summer. Track prep has been a challenge but the young man who has taken over this thankless job at Bloomington has been hitting his stride in the last month or so. In other words, track prep for this night was basically a non-issue. The oval stayed racy all night.
Of the 23 invaders, there were a few different pairings and sometime campaigners. Hud Cone made a rare appearance, this one in the Hurst Brothers’ orange crush. Hot Rod Henning was on hand, as was Charlie Beldon Jr.
Nick Bilbee came from the last row to win the first heat, giving Ethan Barrow a good look at his right rear in the process. Ethan wasn’t pleased. Kevin Chambers came from sixth to finish second. Bub Cummings was third, followed by Belden. Levi Shields recovered from an over the bank excursion to take fifth. Barrow, Henning and Simmons trailed.
Carson Short was the third leader of the heat race and won when Casey Shuman, who had started last, lost a wheel right after taking the white flag. Chris Babcock was third with Jordan Kinser, tonight a teammate of Brady Short, fourth. Early leader Eric Edwards was fifth and rare campaigner Lance Grimes sixth, just ahead of Tyler Waltz.
Jon Stanbrough held off Brady Short to win the third heat, which resembled a sparring session between two boxers who would meet in the main event later. Danny Holtsclaw had a good view of the top two. Jeff Bland Jr., driving the Burton family’s 04, was fourth. Aaron Berryhill, Mr. Cone and John Knepper had to settle for the caboose section.
Up front for the feature were C. Short, Bilbee, B. Short, Babcock, Chambers, Stanbrough, Cummings, Kinser, Holtsclaw and Belden. Barrow scratched and Daylon Chambers had engine trouble in hot laps, leaving 21 to take the green.
Right away Short took the lead after the first start was called back. The race was plagued early on by yellow fever plus a red for a Charlie Belden Jr. tipover. Charlie desired to re-start and once his car was upright, he did just that.
A long green flag stretch saw B. Short do some stretching of his own, extending his lead over Bilbee. Midway through the race a wild melee dominated the middle of the pack as Edwards, Cummings, Shuman, Bland, and Berryhill scrapped for position.
A lap 21 yellow waved for a Levi Shields spin. The reset was B. Short, Bilbee, Stanbrough, Kinser, Babcock, Chambers, Edwards, Shuman, Cummings and Bland. Stanbrough made a rare error on this re-start, nearly sliding all the way over the banking in turn one. Most of the excitement was watching him claw his way back.
No one had anything for Brady Short, who breezed to his third straight win here. Bilbee finished where he started, second. Kinser came from eighth to third. Stanbrough fought his way back to take fourth after his near disaster. Babcock was a steady fifth. Chambers was an impressive sixth with Shuman having the best race that few saw. Shu motored from 20th to bring the Krock-mobile home seventh. Edwards, Bland and Cummings added top tens to their resumes.
Before making the long 45 mile drive east, my little companion was up for a stroll through the near empty pits. He only sat in one car, Chris Deckard’s hornet. Then he decided that we’d tackle the oval—literally. With most everyone gone, we ambled around the quarter mile, both of us for the first time. What struck me was that the straights are not really, well, straight. One is constantly turning here. It’s always been a tough place to figure out for newcomers. But the grandson handled it just fine, running both high and low.
The trip home featured something I’ve not seen on this run in quite awhile: lightning. But there was no rain, at least not where we were. Like Brady Short, dry weather dominates—right now.
Neither twerking nor working, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Enjoying the View
Mr. Jerry Coons Jr. recieving money from Mr. Karston Lee McIntosh? Photo by Andrew Quinn taken on August 24, 2013 at the Kokomo Speedway.
On Friday night of Smackdown 2 after Shane Cottle had come from last to win a B Main that looked more like an A Main, I told Reese O’Conner, one of the family that owns and runs the Kokomo Speedway, that nothing could top that and why didn’t we just go home now? He laughed, appreciating my sickly attempt at humor. Sure enough, the Friday feature had a bit of everything and ended with Dave Darland in victory lane. And Saturday night was more of the same; at least it ended the same way. Dave Darland spanked a strong field to walk away with a big wad of dough and a huge smile. Smackdown 2 was a success in every way. And the O’Conners were kind enough to schedule the last night of the three day extravaganza on my annual reminder that I’m not getting any younger.
The final night gave us a different format. No qualifying, three heats, a B Main with the top eight in points from the first two nights locked into the feature. Those eight would run against each other, one on one, for three laps with the winner escaping with the pole position and a generous amount of cash for a three lap run. Heat race finishes determined the starting spots in the feature from ninth to 17th. Positions 17-22 would be determined by the B Main. The top three from the three heats transferred to the 40 lap feature.
The first heat took all of three laps before the red flag flew, as if there were any doubts that tonight would be even more intense. Dakota Jackson was racing Tracy Hines hard for second when they collided on the backstretch with Jackson ending up on his side with a broken front end. Blake Fitzpatrick had this one in the bag before a huge smoke cloud exited his car and fouled both the air and Blake’s chances at any success for the night. Scotty Weir ended up winning with Hines second after they traded spots more than once on the last lap. Braylon Fitzpatrick fared better than his brother, taking third over Logan Jarrett.
Shane Cottle for once didn’t have to pass anybody; he started on the pole and won the second heat over Casey Shuman. Chris Gurley had his hands full holding off Gary Taylor to take third. Hunter Schuerenberg flipped hard and bounced off the fence and landed hard on the track in turn one as the tail tank went flying. Except for bumps, bruises, aches and pains, Hunter would be okay. The fence wasn’t, but after some repairs by the track crew, it was time to race again.
Chris Windom made it three in a row from the pole as he won the third heat. His fellow front row partner Wes McIntyre was second. Jerry Coons Jr. labored mightily to take third and was rewarded for his efforts. Daron Clayton went to the B after a good effort of his own.
Up next was the King of the Hill, a winner take all with the elimination format.
First up was Tyler Courtney vs. Dave Darland. Tyler’s lead was so brief, one could have blinked… Dave moved on.
Chad Boespflug on the inside vs. Robert Ballou and Chad’s win was surprisingly convincing.
The Chase Stockon/Bryan Clauson duel was a close one until BC made a slight bobble on the last lap.
Next was Brady Bacon outrunning Jon Stanbrough; it was Jon’s last race with the beard and moustache. Brady moved on.
Round Two saw Darland eliminate Boespflug and sew up a final showdown.
Stockon handled Bacon and would face Darland, a classic young vs. not-so-young battle to be King.
It was a bit of an upset, but Stockon showed the popular local boy the short way around—at least for three laps. Chase would start on the pole for the 40 lapper with Dave next to him.
Daron Clayton started on the pole and won the B Main, his first win for Hank and crew. Thomas Meseraull came from sixth to take second. Logan Jarrett survived a terrific battle with Gary Taylor to take third. Kyle Robbins bobbed and weaved his way to take the last spot, leaving Darren Hagen standing when the music stopped.
Behind Stockon and Darland for the feature lineup were Bacon, Boespflug, Stanbrough, Clauson, Ballou, Courtney, Weir and Cottle. Darland jumped out to the early lead and was there when Stanbrough stopped on lap five, bringing out Tom’s nice clean yellow flag.
Cottle was already up to fifth, apparently not content with passing all those cars the night before. In fact, he was still hungry. The local boy inhaled both Stockon and Bacon and was content to follow Boespflug for a couple of laps before taking second.
Not a lot changed up front as the halfway mark found Darland still leading Cottle, Boespflug, Bacon, Windom, Weir, Clauson, Hines, Coons and McIntyre. Soon after that Bacon passed Boespflug, who, unknown to most all, was having motor issues.
A yellow blinked on lap 25 when Gary Taylor spun. Boespflug went to the pits with a flat tire, but didn’t return. Chad’s night was done; he’d finish last as the motor had other ideas.
For the last, desperate dash, it was Darland, Cottle, Bacon, Stockon, Weir, Windom, Clauson, Hines, Coons and WesMac. Dave had ‘em covered; the outcome wasn’t in a lot of doubt. It was no shame for Cottle to finish second. His last two Smackdown nights had been something to remember; in two nights, Shane had passed 50 cars, more than many fans passed on their way to the track. Despite a broken shock, Stockon passed Bacon for third on a night when he had to have his mom (laid to rest one year ago) on his mind at least a little bit. Windom came from 11th to wind up fifth, nipping Bacon at the end. Clauson was sixth and his three night results were good—but not as good as Darland’s, who now leads BC by 31 points for the year. Weir was seventh and Jerry Coons Jr. came from 17th to finish eighth. Hines and Courtney made it ninth and tenth.
For some, the night was over as many fans headed home. Others were ready to party and had a legitimate excuse to do so. Then there were those who migrated to the pit area to talk with their favorite drivers, obtain a few autographs on most any surface and sit in race cars if they were a certain age.
That would have been my diminutive traveling companion who had spent the night getting his money’s worth in constant motion—except when race cars were on the track. “Babysitting” this guy is so easy, superfan Tim Watson applies for the job each time he visits Indiana.
At any rate, off to the pits we went with the usual routine. If he expressed an interest in a car and/or driver, it was his job to approach the driver or owner and ask politely if he could sit in the car. Most all the time these big, tough, grizzled and competitive racers are soon wrapped around this kid’s finger and are more than willing to help him into the seat. Several know him and don’t even wait for him to ask. The fact that it was a bigger race than normal meant little to him.
He and some of the racers were happy to get the attention of Mr. Andrew Quinn, who had collected a nice little bundle of cash (after publicizing it on the www.indianaopenwheel.com message board) to hand out to some of the guys that had raced all three nights. AQ had his camera and took several shots of our little buddy handing checks to some happy and patient drivers. Darland, Cottle, Stockon, Stanbrough, Weir, Boespflug, Coons, Bacon, these guys were all genuinely surprised and happy to find a four year old kid handing them some extra cash. (Actually Weir and Bacon weren’t found by Andrew until later when the young race fan and I were headed south.) To quote Darren Hagen one more time (no doubt others have said the same), “These kids are the future of our sport.”
Aging is a lot of things and bittersweet would be one of those. As I celebrated a milestone, I was very aware that others were hurting. In addition to thinking of the Stockon family, I had Randy Mortland and his family on my mind. August 24, 2013 was the day we lost Randy, race fan, community leader, loving husband, dad, soon to be grandfather and simply a super and quality individual.
Morty was and is one of those people I knew and liked, then wished I’d known even better. More than just a “race fan” he was a man who seemed to have no strangers (not unlike my dad). We had a few conversations over the past few years; each one left me admiring and respecting this guy even more.
I suppose (or like to think) that God might have needed another race fan up there for some fine and spirited bench racing. Perhaps Jack Kraemer and Dwight Clock, among many others, had a seat ready for Randy.
It’s our loss and while we must grieve, let us, especially the family, hold on tight to those great memories of this special man. Let us continue to go to races and enjoy our brief time here. I’m fairly sure that Morty would smile that smile and heartily approve.
My birthdays, however many more there shall be, will be a time to celebrate, as this one was. But I’ll always take time to think of Morty and Mrs. Laura Stockon. As ever, in the midst of celebration, there is sorrow. As ever, the converse is equally true.
May your view be at least half as rewarding as mine.
Many thanks to the promoters, drivers, mechanics, car owners, track crew, sponsors, fans, friends and my families for making August 22-24, 2013 one to remember.
Enrolling at Trump University, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Some of This, Some of That
Words by Danny Burton & Photos by Kris Keath
Night two of Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown Two was another extraordinary night. There was an abundance of plots and subplots. Should one talk about Shane Cottle’s astounding night of first lows and then highs? Or Bryan Clauson or Brady Bacon’s quality efforts and finishes? How about the late race collision between Chase Stockon and Kevin Thomas, which led to post-race confrontations which involved the local law enforcement personnel? Nah, all that stuff was newsworthy, but the ultimate story was that of the winner, Dave Darland. After getting his lunch handed to him the night before by Mr. Clauson, the popular veteran came back strong and put Steve and Carla Phillips’ pride and joy into victory lane. I’ve called him a rich man before as well as the so-called old bull. But one can also call him the world’s fastest grandfather. He gives the rest of us hope. He refuses to go away. And Indiana sprint car racing is better off for it.
36 cars were in the corral on another fine Hoosier evening. Missing on Friday night were Justin Grant, Travis Welpott (gone to Bloomington), Landon Simon (ditto) and Conner Donelson. Two were added, Kyle Robbins and Todd Keen.
Qualifying was the usual for the first 35 qualifiers. Chad Boespflug was first out and set the bar fairly high with a 12.863. A bit later Nick Drake impressed with a 12.851. Two cars later was Scotty Weir, stopping the clock at 12.844. A few minutes later it was Brady Bacon ripping off a 12.798. That time was looking good. Only Chase Stockon could crack the 13 second barrier with a 12.938. But the last car out was Dave Darland, anxious to make a statement. Did he ever, as he set both fast time and a new track record at 12.618. It only would get better.
Beatin’, bangin’ and spinnin’ was the norm for the heats. Jon Stanbrough won the first heat over Tracy Hines and Dave Darland. Braylon Fitzpatrick came from eighth to trail the three future hall of famers and beat out Gary Taylor for the transfer. Thomas Meseraull and Chad Boespflug had an unwanted meeting in turn three, bringing out a yellow. Meseraull in particular wasn’t thrilled.
Hunter Schuerenberg won the second heat, his first win for his new ride, the Stensland 41. Brady Bacon was second and Chase Stockon finished third. C.J. Leary was fourth and sent Daron Clayton to the B.
Kevin Thomas Jr. used a last lap pass to edge Chris Windom in winning the third heat. Christopher Bell came on strong at the end to take third from Tyler Courtney. Shane Cottle nearly made it into the feature after starting eighth. He had to start out back because of a driveshaft problem in hot laps. Shane would shine later.
Blake Fitzpatrick held off Bryan Clauson to win the fourth heat. Dakota Jackson started and finished third. Wes McIntyre held off Logan Jarrett to grab fourth.
The B Main would be one of those races that people will discuss for some time—for all the right reasons. Weir and Drake led 17 others to the green and Cottle immediately began a charge to the front that didn’t end until 12 laps later. By lap four he was sixth, this after starting 19th/last. With seven of 12 laps done he was third. A lap later he took the lead and simply checked out. A lap ten yellow was all that could slow Cottle and that was only temporary. Pole sitter Weir was second with Casey Shuman third. Robert Ballou was fourth with Chad Boespflug beating his new “best friend” TMez for fifth. Daron Clayton used a provisional.
The main event, it was clear, would have a tough act to follow. But the boys did their best.
Thomas and McIntyre were the front row crew and KT took the early lead after sitting on the pole for the second straight night. WesMac found himself under attack by Stockon, Bell and…Dave Darland. Bell had worked his way up to second by lap ten. Braylon Fitzpatrick brought out the first yellow on the 14th lap. Thomas led Bell, Darland, Stockon, McIntyre, Bacon, Weir, Hines, Shuman and…Cottle, from 22nd.
Thomas was able to hold off the “old bull” until the 17th lap, when Bell brought out a red flag after clipping the turn four wall and flipping wildly down the front straight. Christopher was okay, but had beat up race car. For a bit longer it was Thomas, Darland, Bacon, Stockon, Hines, McIntyre, Cottle, Weir, Clauson and Meseraull (from 17th).
Darland used his familiar high line and grabbed the lead on lap 19 and was happy to open a decent sized margin over Thomas, who now had to deal with Bacon and Stockon. This lasted until lap 25, when McIntyre and Meseraull met in turn three to exchange Labor Day greetings. One last time, it was Darland, Thomas, Bacon, Stockon, Hines, Clauson, Cottle, Weir, Shuman and Ballou. Let the record show that Clauson passed Cottle on lap 24, the only time anyone passed the Epperson spaceship all night—under green flag conditions.
The final re-start was typically crazy. Darland may have felt a bit lonely, but behind him was mayhem, Kokomo style. Thomas and Stockon had a meeting going into turn four that left the Alabama native bouncing out of the groove and Stockon taking over second, where he’d finish. Bacon was third and Clauson came on strong at the end to take fourth. Thomas crossed the line fifth, but was disqualified after the checkered for not stopping at the weight scales. This made Cottle fifth with Hines sixth and Chris Windom coming on late to take seventh after starting 16th. Shuman was eighth and Weir ninth; Robert Ballou grabbed a top ten.
Thomas wasn’t happy with Stockon and let it be known after the race by some bumping and an attempt to spin Stockon out. Missing the scales added insult to injury. Tempers were steaming and many words were spoken quite loudly and forcefully. Law officers became involved and cooler heads prevailed. What, if anything, that will come of this remains to be seen.
We all get mad at one time or another; this is seldom the issue. What we do with that anger is another, usually more important, matter. Decisions made while angry can have long term, negative effects. All of us need to be aware of this, because acting up when losing our cool will bite us, sooner and/or later.
Counseling NASCAR fans who are still in a stressful situation because Tony Stewart actually chooses to race sprint cars, I’m…
Kris Keath photos
The Hoosier Race Report: Expectations + Effort = Excellence
Words by Danny Burton & Photos by Kris Keath
While the above would certainly apply to Bryan Clauson, given his results at the opening night of the Kokomo Speedway’s second annual Smackdown, it would also apply to the track and staff as well. A lot of factors, people and hard work came together to put Mr. Clauson in victory lane (twice) and to establish the Smackdown as a must see event(s) already.
Since the last USAC gathering in the Hoosier state, there had been some serious ride hopping. Hunter Schuerenberg, late of the Hank Byrum crew, had exited there as well as a brief appearance with Mark Batcheldor and company. He landed in the Stensland 41, occupied recently by Dave Darland for non-USAC shows and earlier Landon Simon. Daron Clayton was in the Byrum car at Kokomo. Jarrett Andretti was back in a sprinter; several weeks ago a Gas City crash had put the third generation racer down for a spell. Christopher Bell was making a fairly rare sprint car showing. And Darren Hagen was the latest in the Pollock 21x that has had quite a few different people behind the wheel this year.
38 cars on a Thursday night were respectable, depending upon expectations. For time trials Andretti was first out. His first lap was a very decent 13.008 (12th quick), a lot better than his flip on lap two. Impressively, he would return for his heat race. Justin Grant was fastest in a Jeff Walker high flyer with a 12.739 lap. After Bryan Clauson could manage only 17th fastest, his chances at a feature win looked dim at best. Little did we know. C.J. Leary also flipped when an axle failed in turn two. He was okay, but done.
Clauson won the first heat from the front row with Tracy Hines a strong second. Dave Darland was third and Casey Shuman gamely hung on to take fourth, moving to feature-land and sending Tyler Courtney to the B. Grant took a nasty ride in turn four, flipping multiple times and walking away, though shaken up a good bit. His racing was over for the night as the Walker machine suffered a bent cage. Ugly.
Chase Stockon won the second heat over Shane Cottle, who had started fifth. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third and Robert Ballou made a nifty last lap pass of Gary Taylor to take fifth.
Chris Windom won the third heat as Brady Bacon made him sweat at the end. Christopher Bell was third with Scotty Weir holding off Hunter Schuerenberg for fourth.
Jon Stanbrough was the first to win a heat from anywhere but the front row, passing Wes McIntyre late for the win. Jerry Coons Jr. was third with Chad Boespflug making a late pass on Dakota Jackson to grab the last feature transfer.
The B Main’s start was a wild one. Schuerenberg had the pole with Clayton, in Hunter’s former ride, next to him. Schuerenberg was perhaps a bit eager as he took off at the green and barreled into turn one a little too hard. He spun in front of the whole pack of 20 cars and somehow managed to hit nothing and avoid being hit. Courtney took over the pole and the re-start was good as Clayton took the lead and kept it. Thomas Meseraull came from tenth to take second, one of the unsung runs of the night. Courtney was third with Blake Fitzpatrick fourth. Gary Taylor took fifth and Darren Hagen started 11th and finished sixth, taking the last spot that would come from the B. Chris Gurley won the IPC Close Call Award for finishing seventh in the B. It was even more impressive that he came from 13th to take seventh and was gaining on Hagen.
Thomas and Coons were the front row boys and the coondog led the first lap before KT took over. That didn’t last long as Darland came calling from the second row. After letting Thomas lead three laps, DD grabbed the lead and began to check out. But behind him, things were getting interesting.
Bryan Clauson was quickly on the move from 14th. By lap ten he was eighth and still moving up. Two laps later Darland hit lapped traffic in a race that went green all the way. Two laps later Clauson was already fourth, owning the bottom lane. At the halfway mark he was second and it looked inevitable. Darland’s once big lead was shrinking faster than an ice cube in Phoenix.
For the next few laps it was DD running up top and BC on the bottom and the margin was down to feet. Clauson took the lead on lap 23 and that was that. Soon after the lead change Brady Bacon tapped Thomas into a half spin and KT had the presence of mind to keep going and not bring out a yellow, though he probably wasn’t too pleased.
Behind Clauson and Darland was the guy who had the best race that few noticed, Jon Stanbrough, who had started 13th. Bacon was fourth and Coons was a very respectable fifth. Tyler Courtney was a steady sixth, a good under the radar run. Thomas and Ballou ran seventh/eight. Christopher Bell came on strong at the end to finish ninth after starting 18th. Boespflug brought the Hazen-mobile home tenth.
From time to time, we see runs such as last night’s. Someone who has things hooked up passes a bunch of heavy hitters and wins. When that someone does this often enough, ideally we realize that this someone stands at the top of his profession with few peers. On this night at Kokomo, that someone was surely Bryan Clauson, who has pulled off similar feats at Kokomo (among other places) before. It was a classic case of expectations being high, a strong effort and desired and excellent results.
The same applies to the folks at the Kokomo Speedway. They came up with an Outlaws-like format, a three day show with the biggest payout on Saturday night. The first edition last year was immensely popular with all the ingredients to grow, maintain and increase interest. Perhaps other tracks might tackle something like this for race fans who called themselves non-wing fans. It would be another great addition to the USAC schedule. Shucks, I can name four tracks in Indiana right away that could do this.
As Friday night’s second night of Smackdown II approaches, it could be déjà vu again. History tells us it’s not likely, but…that’s a big reason why we go to not only look but see. And appreciate, cheer, boo, argue, laugh and, yes…eat.
Trying to get Johnny Manziel’s autograph, I’m…
Kris Keath photos
The Hoosier Race Report: Fast, But Fragile Beasts
For me, the sight of a winged sprinter on the high banks of the Winchester (or Salem) Speedway is one of racing’s most arresting sights. Any trip to Winchester to see these boys (and occasion girl) promises speed, drama and more speed. Brian Gerster was the “old” boy who gave fans a good bit of all three.
Sprint cars, of course, aren’t exactly built for enduros. They are often as fragile as they are blindingly fast. And there is where the drama rears its (sometimes) ugly head. Winchester had plenty of both this past Sunday as I meandered northeast to see the MustSeeRacing series do their thing.
18 cars made the trip and right off the bat Gerster made his opening statement. Winged sprint shows can just about guarantee fans a performance with time trials alone. Gerster led ‘em all with a blistering 13.169 lap.
The part-time announcer at Gas City, along with Jojo Helberg and Troy DeCaire, ran away with his heat, setting up a 30 lap feature with drama and, of course, speed.
Helberg and Gerster started in the fourth row and it would be a matter of who could get to the front first. Mike Larrison took the early lead from the first row, but one knew it would be a matter of time before Larrison had company. On the sixth lap Helberg passed Gerster for fourth with DeCaire next on the list.
Jojo’s way to the front was quicker as he was second to Larrison at the halfway mark. Gerster was up to fourth behind Brian Olson. Helberg took the lead two laps later and it was time for BG to get busy.
A lap 21 yellow found Gerster in third place and on the re-start he passed Larrison and set sail for Helberg. Gerster later said he could see that Jojo’s right rear tire was not long for racing. Sure enough the black number seven swerved on the 23rd lap; a blistered right rear was the culprit and Gerster took the lead as Helberg stopped on the track, bringing out the race’s final yellow.
From there, Gerster, the race’s third and final leader, had things his way. DeCaire was a very respectable second. Olson was third with Tom Tolbert fourth. Sondi Eden, teammate to the luckless Aaron Pierce, brought it home fifth.
And it was time for everyone to catch their breath.
After qualifying and before racing started I had hidden myself in the fourth turn, alone more or less with my thoughts and my lunch. I found a bit of shade on the north side of a push truck from Eldora and enjoyed the lunch, the view—and the memories.
This track is older than most all of us and one has to (or should) wonder what would the real old timers think if they could somehow see this old joint (along with its surviving cousin, Salem). What would they make of the speed, the safety measures on both cars and the track, or even the price of hot dogs?
And it occurred to me that they’d be about as dumbfounded today’s young people would be if they were somehow transported back in time when those long gone (in body if not in memory) old timers tackled these same high banks under vastly different conditions and times.
A bit more thinking and I considered what all eras of racing have in common. There is plenty. Young people (and young at heart people) still wish to go fast, win and outrun their competitors. Car owners still wish to have a faster car that wins, beating their competitors. Fans still like to watch and maybe root for a favorite. Then there are the railbirds, always with us. It’s always been a fast and dangerous deal; speeds and safety are always relative.
I thought a bit more about what is pleasing to the eye. Can I help it if a race car, any type of race car, gliding on the high banks (or broadsliding through a turn or even bouncing off a cushion) is a more pleasing sight to my eyes than most any painting? Sorry, Vincent.
This gave me a headache. Luckily it was time for the first heat. I tossed the hot dog wrappers into the nearest trash can, pulled out the notebook and went off to check the heat race lineups. Life was good.
Now it’s almost time for some Smackdown, speed and some more fragile beasts attacking the Kokomo speedway.
Trying to talk Juan Pablo Montoya into starting a new sprint car team, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Roller Coaster
The life of a racer resembles a roller coaster in many ways. Highs and lows are frequent, especially the latter. Not only that, often a high can instantly become a low point—just like that. A racer’s life has plenty of those dips in fortunes, be they instantly or gradually. If that racer’s name is Justin Grant, the recent lows are becoming a dim memory because high points have dominated his racing these past few weeks. Sure enough, he was one happy young man on Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, where he held off a charging C. J. Leary to win the Dick Gaines Memorial while driving a Jeff Walker rocket.
There is no point in preaching to the racing choir when it comes to Dick Gaines. Not much new can be said. Simply put, he must be included in any discussion of all time great sprint car drivers/racers. Many of us have our own memories, long ago they may be, of this remarkable man.
22 racers, teams and cars turned into the Dearborn County Fairgrounds rather than hit the casino across the street. They were all into another type of gambling, the Type A variety. This crew included Dick’s son Dickie, who had high hopes of running again in this special event honoring his daddy. But it wasn’t meant to be as Dickie and crew hit a low spot with a car that contained a broken rear end.
Mr. Grant opened the bidding in the first heat by coming from the back to win a race that had both Gaines and Chase Stockon missing. The Gentry family’s speed-mobile had an injured piston after hot laps and Chase was done for the night. Leary was second with Ted Hines, Garrett Abrams, David Applegate and Steve Thomas (probably the only guy entered who raced with both Dick Gains and his son) trailing.
The second heat saw Joss Moffatt win with Shawn Westerfeld second. Todd Gnat took third with T. J. Heil, in his first sprint car action, taking fourth. TQ midget veteran Ronnie Combs was fifth with Evan Gindling dropping out early.
Disaster was averted in the third heat when Thomas Meseraull ended up facing the wrong way after contact with Drew Abel. TMez and his Baldwin brothers’ machine headed for the pits for a bit of a thrash. Otherwise, it was the Fitzpatrick brother’s show with Blake winning over Braylon. Logan Hupp passed Bret Burdette on the last lap to take third. Abel came back to finish fifth with Eric Semple sixth.
All who could went to the feature; 19 cars answered the bell. Gaines and Stockon were joined on the sidelines by Burdette, who had his own engines miseries. These three were at the bottom most part of the roller coaster.
The brothers occupied the front row when the green waved, with Braylon leading. But that didn’t last long as he coasted into the infield while leading on the sixth lap. The yellow waved, but for Gindling, who stopped on the backstretch. Blake took the lead with his brother’s exit with Grant, Leary, Moffatt, Westerfeld, Hines, Abrams, Meseraull, Hupp and Abel filling out the top ten dance card. It was easy to see that Meseraull had moved from his back in the pack starting spot to eighth already. He wasn’t done, at least not yet.
On the re-start, Leary briefly passed Grant for second, but Grant was offended enough to re-pass the young man from Greenfield, IN and then pass Fitzpatrick for the lead. But Meseraull was flying. He passed three good cars on the first lap, then grabbed fourth from Moffatt. The view from TMez’s roller coaster had to be good, but it didn’t last. He brought another caution flag on lap 11 when his rear axle decided to take the rest of the night off in turn two. Pieces of the axle put a hole in the gas tank and the red flag waved to soak up the leaking fuel. Thomas had gone from a true high to a deep low in only a few seconds. That’s racin’ too, sad to say.
This re-start saw Grant leading Fitzpatrick, Leary, Moffatt, Westerfeld, Abrams, Hupp, Hines, Gnat and Heil. Leary took over second right after the green waved and began chasing Grant. But a lap 20 yellow for Heil pulled the field back together. Not a lot had changed, except that Landon Simon had cracked the top ten as part of his own roller coaster ride.
The final segment saw two extraordinary efforts. Leary stalked his prey for the last five laps and nearly caught Grant at the line, but fell only a few feet short. A bit further back Ted Hines, the poster child for a wily veteran, found magic on the bottom groove. From eighth at the last re-start, he moved smartly to fifth and was gaining on fourth.
Behind Grant and Leary was Moffatt, who had passed Bl. Fitzpatrick for third. Hines was followed by Westerfeld and Hupp. Landon Simon’s eighth place finish didn’t adequately reflect his trying night. Driving the car normally wheeled by the injured Mike Kennedy, Simon missed his heat as the boys hustled back to the shop to get a necessary part after suffering a broken spindle. He, too, started at the back with zero laps after the car was fixed. Abrams and Gnat made up the rest of the top ten.
Dick Gaines, a man who had endured his own ups and downs, would surely have approved. Grant, who has overcome an off-track injury and scuffled for rides this year, liked the view from the highest peak—for the time being.
For the second night in a row, a race fan who’s been battling health issues made the trip. Dave Foist enjoyed the trip to Bloomington so well that he felt good enough to make the trip east on Saturday night. With our being both members of the Buckeye Auto Racefans Club and quite hungry, we arrived at the ‘burg early for the annual Polish Luau. Dave may have been quite tired at night’s end, but his first two outings of the year were therapeutic for him and the rest of us.
Trying to decide between the roller coaster or the merry-go-round, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Inevitable
Death and taxes, lots of them, are certainly inevitable. And after watching Brady Short, the Bloomington Speedway maestro, tame not only the red clay oval, but also 19 other tried and true racers, it’s tempting to say that a Short victory at Bloomington is close to inevitable. He did it again on a cool and pleasant Friday night, winning another feature, his second in a row.
27 cars and teams were in the neighborhood and decided to stop by and race. Notables included a new car driven by Hunter Schuerenberg and prepared by a super team led by Mark Batcheldor, along with Steve and Brad Fox. Others included Chase Stockon in the Gentry family car, both of the Fitzpatrick brothers, Justin Grant in a Jeff Walker creation and Jason Shields, making his sprint car debut in the Burton family’s 04, perhaps with Josh riding along.
Mr. Short made a strong opening statement in the first heat, coming from fourth to win. Blake Fitzpatrick was second with H. Schuerenberg third in the car’s debut. Sad to say, Mr. Batcheldor and crew were done for the night after an issue with the engine, a broken valve retainer, enough to sit them down. Grant was fourth and Jon Stanbrough was fifth. Brandon Mattox recovered nicely from an early spin to finish sixth, only a couple of lengths behind the Amati Racing 66.
There was action of the type you don’t like to see (well, I don’t) in the second heat. While running fourth, Dickie Gaines got sideways and was smacked by Jeff Bland Jr. Gaines took a tumble and Bland’s car suffered front end damage as it went over as well. Also collected was Jared Fox. Nick Bilbee passed Dakota Jackson late in the race to win. Stockon was third with Daylon Chambers fourth. Levi Shields took the last spot for the feature.
Pole sitter Dalton Gabbard won the third heat with Braylon Fitzpatrick second. Fitz gave all a thrill as his engine spouted flames for a few laps. Turned out it was too much oil put into the engine and it burned itself out. Jordan Kinser was third and Danny Holtsclaw came from ninth to finish fourth. Ethan Barrow was fifth.
After the heats, people were busy, unlike me. The Bland crew thrashed away at the front end, and had it ready for the B, an impressive feat with several joining in to help. The Gaines guys did some work and then left, hopefully to have the Pederson-mobile ready for the ‘burg on Saturday. Jared Fox was done for the night. And Casey Shuman, in the R. Pollock machine for the night, spent too much of the night trying to get the motor to fire to no avail.
In the B Main, pole sitter Mattox took the early lead. But the show was Bland, who started in the back and rode the high wire to the front and won by a half straight. It was my second straight race night to witness a fine B Main effort, with last week’s Lincoln Park B run by A.J. Hopkins only slightly more impressive than Bland’s. Chris Babcock was second with B. Mattox third. Kent Schmidt was fourth and 2013 Bloomington feature winner Bub Cummings took fifth. Due to Schuerenberg’s misfortune, Ethan Fleetwood, who finished sixth, made the feature. Long ago Paul Simon sang “One Man’s Ceiling Is Another Man’s Floor.” How true it can be in racing.
The 25 lap feature got off to a bad start, especially for Dalton Gabbard, who flipped hard in turn two of the first lap. Dalton was able to walk to the ambulance and won a trip to the hospital for observation. About 20 minutes later the boys tried again. Pole sitter Dakota Jackson took the early lead over Bl. Fitzpatrick, Short and Kinser. But Short wasn’t happy with that order. He took over second on lap three and then assumed the lead three laps later.
Brady stretched out his lead immediately to a straightaway as Bl. Fitzpatrick worked his way past Jackson. By the seventh lap Stanbrough had moved from 12th to fifth. At the halfway mark, lapped traffic became a factor, but not for the leader.
Only one thing could slow Short down and that was a yellow flag for Nick Bilbee. With two lapped cars between them on the re-start, Short led Bl. Fitzpatrick, Kinser, Jackson, Stockon, Stanbrough, Grant, Barrow, Br. Fitzpatrick and Bland.
A lap later Jackson slid off the bank, bringing out another yellow. In the interim, Stockon passed Fitz and Kinser to wind up second behind Short on the race’s last re-start. If anyone had anything for the leader, now was the time. But Stockon did well to keep Short in sight. Chase had to settle for second after starting seventh. Kinser came from eighth to finish third. Blake Fitzpatrick hung on for fourth. Grant was fifth and Stanbrough came home sixth. Bland passed more cars than anyone all night as he began the race 15th and finished it in seventh. Holtsclaw, Br. Fitzpatrick and Chambers were the rest of the ten.
One need not be a math major to notice that many positions were exchanged. For the second week in a row, track prep wasn’t an issue, which is to say that the surface was one which allowed racing and passing. All benefitted and Hammering Henry, learning about track preparation every week, hit a home run again.
Death and taxes are eternal, but for a time many things can be inevitable. These days, either a good run and/or a win by Brady Short at Bloomington is as close to certain as anything can be, unless you count certain fans always showing up at the red clay oval on a Friday night.
Finally, this trip saw a first time traveling companion for 2013. Dave Foist, who has been battling health issues, bravely rode shotgun as we headed west last evening. It turned out to be just what the doctor ordered. It was fun and different to talk to someone instead of to myself.
Chasing Damion Gardner across the Bonnieville Salt Flats, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Chasing Dreams
I stood watching my grandson, who stood by the fence on the front straightaway at the Lincoln Park Speedway. He was watching feature winner Robert Ballou being interviewed by Brad Dickison. Most likely he was watching the car and the small crowd of people that were gathered around the winner and his car. And on the way home it occurred to me. Robert and Karston have much in common. They are fortunate enough to still dream. They can still chase them. And, like many of us, they live their dreams as well. Dreams are, for me, one of God’s most underrated gifts we can receive.
37 sprints stormed the pits at Lincoln Park, accompanied by the MSCS. It was most of the ordinary crowd, which was a good thing. It was the usual near-USAC quality field, which was, well, another good thing.
The passing points system was in force for the night with the top 16 in points moving on to the 30 lap feature. Bradley Sterrett, a modified ace still figuring out this sprint car deal, showed that he’s on the way by winning the first heat. Chase Stockon racked up big points by moving from eighth to second. Jerry Coons Jr. was third, followed by Jeff Bland Jr., Brady Short, Shane Cottle, J.R. Douglas, Kent Christian and Levi Shields, who found himself pointed the wrong way after an opening lap shunt.
It’s rare that pole sitters win heats at LPS, or it seems that way. But Ryan Pace, like Sterrett, won from the pole with Brent Beauchamp second. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third with Braylon Fitzpatrick fourth. Jon Stanbrough came from seventh to finish fifth. Dave Darland started tenth after his car arrived late and took sixth. Chase Briscoe, in the Davis family’s well-traveled 96, was seventh, trailed by Carson Short, Max McGhee and Aaron Farney.
Robert Ballou came from fourth to win the third heat over Blake Fitzpatrck, who started eighth. Joe Ligouri started and finished third. Brian Hayden took fourth, with C.J. Leary, Chris Babcock, A.J. Francis and Conner Donelson headed for one of the two B’s.
Kyle Cummins made it three for four as he won the fourth heat from the pole. Chad Boespflug was second and Dakota Jackson came from sixth to take third. Nick Drake was fourth with Brian Karrakher fifth. A.J. Hopkins was sixth, fated to give all a thrill later. Jared Harris, who has been MIA for quite awhile, finished seventh with Ethan Fleetwood and Jake Simmons getting a spot in a B.
By now the Big Boy Cushion was around the top; it couldn’t have been much shorter than my grandson. The last chance races would take only two, with no provisionals. Leary and Cottle ran away to run one/two for the first one.
The move of the night/week/month/year—you name it, was done by A.J. Hopkins in the first lap of the second B Main. He swept from third to first on the first lap. To do that, all he did was pass both Brady Short and Dave Darland—on the outside where there was barely enough room to ride a bicycle. Had the more famous A.J. been in attendance, he’d have nodded in approval. The rest of the race was all downhill as Hopkins raced all by himself with Short finishing second. Darland was, incredibly, done for the night. And that, folks, is a part of sprint car racing in Indiana.
Jackson and Sterrett led 18 others chomping at the bit to the green. Jackson, another of my neighbors, led Ballou, Beauchamp, Stockon (still another) and Sterrett early. But Ballou wasn’t to be denied tonight with his new Maxim. He took the lead on the seventh lap and yearned to check out. Stockon would have none of that but could not get quite close enough to challenge. Beauchamp did the local boys proud as he ran third for well over half the race. Jackson hung in there to take fourth. Boespflug came from tenth to fifth.
Stanbrough put on his own passing clinic on a rubbered down slickie, coming from 16th to sixth. Cummins was seventh with Ryan Pace a steady eighth. A.J. Hopkins backed up his stellar B Main win by moving from 18th to ninth. Brady Short passed a few cars too, coming from 20th to tenth.
This race had zero/nada/zilch yellow flags.
Robert was, as always, appreciative of everyone from Maxim to the fans that come out to the races. He’s the most entertaining interview this side of Thomas Meseraull.
An expected part of any race where the diminutive grandson goes is a pit visit or two. Asking drivers if he can sit in their cars is almost routine for him. All I do is tell him that he has to be the one doing the asking—and he does. It doesn’t matter if it’s a new car or an old favorite (C. Boespflug is one of several); he loves each seat session. But J.R. Douglas’s team put him to work.
I was talking to one of J.R.’s guys after the heats and mentioned that, instead of dipping into my retirement and buy him a quarter midget, I’d rather turn him loose in the pits and put him to work; then we’ll see how dedicated he is. I said that he enjoys helping around the house and with that, the guy came up with a bucket of water and a big mitten/rag. The 09 was a bit muddy after his heat and it has a goodly amount of white paint. Sure enough, the four year old (with an older helper, a young guy about 11) went at it, not stopping until he was told.
He came away from his first job with two bucks. Combined with the dollar he already had and a dollar from me, he did what any racer would do. Sure enough, he went back to the souvenir shop behind the bleachers and bought…a sprint car for four dollars.
He was sound asleep long before the U.S. 231/40 intersection.
It would occur to me that anyone without dreams (or hopes) is one who may well be the proverbial dead man walking. Those dreams, among racers, take many forms. Some may plan for the decades down the road. Others may only plan for next week, or week to week. There’s no way of knowing, but I wonder how different Robert Ballou’s dreams are from a four year old boy that he, Robert (among several others), genuinely appears to enjoy seeing again and again. I’d not be surprised that they are quite similar in some ways, with both dreaming of fast cars and passing other racers while bouncing off a cushion as the checkered flag waves.
Getting lost on I-84, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Passing It On
Battles over time have been fought by people who won’t benefit by whatever is gained. This is especially true, of course, in war. It’s also true in other endeavors, namely labor. (Puts on his partisan cap) I, and most likely you, benefit from the battles fought by my predecessors. Their hard fought gains enable me to live a retiree’s dream life. Friday night at Bloomington was the track’s annual promotion for the South Central Building and Construction Night and, for me, a reminder of how good I have it and why.
This is true in racing as well. Today’s racers benefit from lessons taught by their elders, predecessors and their own mistakes. And somewhere among the crowd is a kid who’s watching—and learning lessons that may come in handy later. If any kid was watching Brady Short win the 25 lap feature at Bloomington on Friday night, he could have learned a lot. Brady bided his time when he needed to do so; he raced hard when it was the best time and he worked extra hard to beat a guy who has taught so many racers over the years and who remains the Man of the Hoosier sprint racing scene, Jon Stanbrough.
We won’t argue that Knoxville is the center of the sprint car world—this week. But week in and week out, Indiana remains the center, the Mecca, a sprint car fan’s idea of heaven on earth. I could see and feel it in my aching and aging bones.
The track was looking good and stayed good all night. If people are going to criticize a race track’s preparation when it doesn’t go well, then they’d better give equal praise when track prep yields good racing. This was maybe Bloomington’s best racing surface all year. It produced the usual racing, lightning fast heats where passing is tough, followed by a feature that featured the wheel-to-wheel racing that Bloomington is known for providing.
20 cars gave us quality if not quantity. The relatively low car count at both Bloomington and up at Gas City (23) was a result of several factors, weather, dollars (or lack of), the start of school, and maybe even a few were scared off by the trying conditions of the red clay earlier in the year. One can’t worry about those who are not present, for whatever reason. Instead, one can enjoy what’s available and, on this mild Friday night, it was plenty.
Jordan Kinser ran off with the first heat with Eric Edwards leading a crowd, namely Daylon Chambers, Chris Babcock, Kevin Studley, Kent Christian and Carson Short, who exited early.
Jared Fox, driving and not wrenching tonight, won the second heat over Jon Stanbrough, Nick Bilbee, Chase Briscoe (tonight in the Davis family’s 96, a car only slightly younger than Chase’s 18 years), Dakota Jackson and Ethan Fleetwood.
The statement was made in the third heat when Brady Short came from fourth to win. Casey Shuman dropped out early while running second, but Short passed Levi Shields and leader Danny Holtsclaw on the last lap to take the win. Holtsclaw, Shields, Bub Cummings and Jake Simmons trailed.
Kinser and Stanbrough led the boys to Rusty Nunn’s green flag, which was soon laid aside so the yellow could get some exercise. In turn two of the first lap, Studley got sideways and collected Christian. On the second try, it was déjà vu as Shields had his half spin with Fleetwood getting the blunt end of the stick.
Yellow number three waved on lap three for a Jake Simmons spin in turn four. The boys ran four laps before the race’s final yellow as poor Shields coasted to a stop in turn one. The rest of the race was all-green, all the time.
Stanbrough had led the brief green flag sessions and this stayed that way on the final re-start. But second place Kinser was having big trouble named Brady Short, who took second on lap nine and began closing in on Stanbrough. Three laps later lapped traffic came into play. Halfway through it was Stanbrough, Short, Kinser Bilbee and Holtsclaw, but changes were coming.
Short grabbed the lead on lap 14 and that was it—or so it seemed. Stanbrough didn’t exactly fade away, but could come no closer than a couple of car lengths at the end. Bilbee had passed Kinser on lap 18, but a late bobble put Kinser back to third with Nick settling for fourth. Holtsclaw was fifth. Babcock led the second five with Jackson seventh after starting 14th. Opening night winner Cummings was eighth. Chambers (who deserves praise for hanging tough and showing up with the open trailer) took ninth. And Jake Simmons came back from his early spin to grab tenth.
Brady Short praised the track preparation, as well he should. It was the way the old red clay oval has been prepared many times over the years, not unlike the preparation done by all those who came before us, from racers to soldiers and sailors.
Subbing for Tony Stewart at Eldora, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Persistence Pays Off
Not that long ago, Justin Grant was out of a ride and prospects weren’t exactly glowing. His early season stint with Jeff Walker didn’t yield results that either wanted, so Justin began contacting folks who owned sprint cars and who liked to see them go fast and win. One of these was Bill Elson, father of Andrew, who has had success with the family car. So Mr. Elson and Mr. Grant hooked up and began running various races with decent results, but no win. On Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, a place that both car and driver seem to like, Grant took the lead early from Joss Moffatt and claimed victory in a Buckeye Outlaw Super Sprint sanctioned feature. Given the ups and down the young California native has had the past several months, it was vindication of sorts. His persistence paid off in a big way.
On a night when five tracks, Plymouth, Haubstadt, Lincoln Park, Waynesfield and Lawrenceburg, were featuring non-wing sprints, the ‘burg did well to have 34 sprinters in the pits. There was a good mix of Lawrenceburg and BOSS regulars, with a surprise here and there.
One of those surprises was, for me, Joe Ligouri, who ran off with the first heat win. Another was Dickie Gaines in the Pederson family’s wagon, who finished second. Ted Hines, more concerned with Lawrenceburg points, came from ninth/last to take third from Garrett Abrams.
A BOSS regular who used to run the ‘burg weekly, Mike Fischesser, won the second heat. Tony Beaber, who had showed up with cars for both him and his dad Johnny, was second. Tony was another former Lawrenceburg runner who now runs with BOSS. Another Buckeye, Todd Gnat, was third and local boy David Applegate was fourth.
The third heat was loaded with hot dogs. One of these, Joss Moffatt, slipped at the start from his sixth starting spot to last. Another, Brett Burdette, stopped in turn three with engine troubles, ending his night. Justin Grant won with Moffatt charging back to take second. ‘burg point leader C.J. Leary was third. PA traveler Brandon Spithaler was fourth.
2012 Lawrenceburg point champ Logan Hupp won the fourth heat. Chad Wilson was second and Drew Abel, like Hupp a neighbor of yours truly, was third. Chad’s dad Chuck was fourth.
The top six finishers of the B would move on. On the first lap Andre Leyfield, pole sitter and leader, spun coming out of turn two. In the melee that followed, Aaron Middaugh took a tumble, ending his night and his streak of starting every feature that BOSS has ever run. Chris Gurley’s luck was about as bad. Chris and crew had spent a good part of the evening working on a contrary engine. Their hot lap session was for naught. They skipped the heat race. They tagged the tail of the B and ran less than a half lap before getting caught up in the craziness. (In addition the Gurley crew had a very long drive back home---to northwest Indiana.) And, sure enough, Leyfield re-started—and did well. Shawn Westerfeld won with Pat Giddings second. Kirk Jeffries was third. Kory Crabtree took fourth over another Lawrenceburg champ, Mike Miller. And Andre Leyfield? All he did was come back and take the last spot for the feature away from Johnny Beaber---on the last lap.
Hupp and Chad Wilson started up front for the 25 lap feature with Grant and Moffatt in the second row, eyeing each other and the checkered flag. Hupp jumped out to the early lead before Moffatt took over on lap four. A lap later Grant took second from Hupp.
Lap nine saw Applegate spin, bringing out the first yellow. They stacked up with Moffatt leading Grant, Hupp, Fischesser, Gaines, Leary, Ligouri, Hines, Chad Wilson and Spithaler. This didn’t last as Ligouri slowed with a flat tire before a lap was completed. Joe returned and tagged the field.
A lap later Applegate did it again---after Moffatt and Grant had traded the lead, with Grant leading the last completed lap. This second spin sent Applegate to the pits as now the order was Grant, Moffatt, Hupp, Fischesser, Gaines, Leary, Hines, Chad Wilson, Spithaler and Garrett Abrams.
At the crossed flags, not much had changed except that Leary was on the move. He was up to fifth place and was giving both Gaines and Fischesser fits. Lots of exhaling was done when Kirk Jeffries spun on the 18th lap, bringing out the race’s fourth and final yellow. Now it was Grant, Moffatt, Hupp, Gaines, Leary, Fischesser, Hines, Chad Wilson, Spithaler and Abrams.
For the rest of the race, none of the top three changed. But Leary came on strong at the end, taking fourth after starting 11th. Gaines and Fischesser had reason to be pleased with their fifth and sixth place finishes. Spithaler was impressive, moving from 15th to take seventh. Westerfeld came on strong at the end as well, ending up eighth after starting 17th. Hines faded to ninth and Drew Abel grabbed tenth at the end.
Grant’s third BOSS feature win ties him with Jack Soderman for the most features won in the still young and growing series.
Ignoring the persistent ringing in my ears, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: It’s Still a Team Sport
Pitchers in baseball, centers in basketball and quarterbacks in football get the lion’s share of credit and/or blame when their team’s success (or lack of) is discussed or analyzed. It’s part of both human nature and the nature of each of those games. It tends to be true in racing as well. Drivers are under that spotlight as well. But any good or smart driver will tell you it’s a team sport. Individual efforts are nice and necessary but alone can only take one so far. With that in mind I give you the team of Paul Hazen and Chad Boespflug, a dynamic duo that is racking up the victories as the 2013 season moseys on. Sure enough, on a lovely Indiana evening at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, they did it again. Boespflug and the ageless Mr. Hazen showed the others how to get it done on a lightning fast quarter mile oval. Chad started ninth and passed some pretty strong players to get to the front.
I’m inclined to think that the weather (threat of rain) didn’t do Gas City any favors on Friday evening. The crowd was down a bit. Too bad, they missed a good night at the races. The sprint car count was a respectable 23.
My grandson and I arrived early so he could cruise the pits before the driver’s meeting began. He wasted no time in temporarily occupying the seats of Chad Boespflug, Shane Cottle, Justin Grant, Thomas Meseraull, Jamie Fredrickson, Cole Smith, Adam Byrkett, Logan Jarrett (who kicked in another hero card for our refrigerator door), Gary Taylor, Travis Hery, Dustin Ingle, Kyle Simon and Steve Irwin. That was 13 of the 23 car field. Moving to the modifieds he sat in seats normally filled by Rodney Harris and Steven Hogue. Darek Snyder added a decal to Karston’s collection.
Like so many in racing, especially among drivers, these guys realize that kids like this are racing’s future at least at the weekly short track level. Some promoters (including Gas City’s) also get this.
More importantly, little kids are watching. They imitate what they see; it’s a very human trait. We all, drivers, crew members, fans, parents and yes, grandparents, need to be very aware of this. If we do, maybe it will improve our behavior. Add to that the fact that it will improve kids’ behavior as well.
While we were at it, we watched an impressive performance in the first of three heats. Shane Cottle was wheeling a Jeff Walker creation tonight, the 39. He patiently worked his way from sixth to take the first heat. Thomas Meseraull was second with Scotty Weir coming on to take third. Ted Hines, who had overcome mechanical gremlins just to make it to the track, hung on for fourth. Todd Keen grabbed the fifth spot to advance.
Max McGhee came from fourth to win the second heat by a straightaway. Steve Irwin was second, edging Chris Gurley. Dustin Ingle was fourth and Logan Jarrett came from last (eighth) to finish fifth.
Gary Taylor beat out his front row mate Matt Goodnight to win the third heat. Chad Boespflug came from sixth to take third. Justin Grant, again in the Elson 27, was fourth with Jamie Fredrickson hanging on for fifth.
For the second race in a row, Josh Spencer and crew were absent. It was strange and a bit sad to see such a good group struggle, in this case with engine miseries. But, as we often say, that’s racin’. Hurry back, all.
Adam Byrkett, in only his second time out this year, won the B Main. Kyle Simon worked his way from fifth to finish second. Conner Donelson, again in the ageless wee 3, was third. Garrett Abrams was fourth and Arizona’s Nathan Gabbard had to work hard to get fifth from Travis Welpott. Travis Hery had something break and coasted to a stop going into turn one. Travis was in some pain but hopefully that subsided. The car was done; this would be the only red flag of the night.
Goodnight and Taylor led McGhee, Meseraull, Irwin, Cottle, Weir, Gurley, Boespflug and Hines to Brian Hoddy’s green flag. Matt led the first lap over Gary, but Mr. Taylor changed that on the next lap. He led until lap six, when the race’s only yellow flag waved as Logan Jarrett spun in turn one.
The re-start saw Taylor leading Max McGhee, then Goodnight. Behind Goodnight was Chad Boespflug, already in fourth after starting ninth. Cottle was fifth with Irwin, TMez, Weir, Gurley and Grant trailing. Two laps after the green, McGhee was passed by Boespflug, who aimed for Taylor next. It took him awhile but Chad made the pass on Taylor in lapped traffic just past the halfway mark. But Boespflug had a new problem named Shane Cottle.
The “throttle” had passed Taylor and closed on Boespflug—until lapped traffic helped the leader. In fact, Cottle was threatened by Taylor, who wished dearly to have second place back. But the Washington State native fell a bit short at the end.
Boespflug scored his fifth win of the year, including one USAC victory, by a comfortable margin. Cottle was second with Taylor not far behind. Scotty Weir was fourth with Justin Grant overcoming a two spot penalty to finish fifth after starting 12th. McGhee may have slipped from third to sixth, but the kid ran a quality race. Meseraull loaded it up on the Baldwin brothers’ trailer after taking seventh. Gurley started where he finished, eighth. Goodnight took ninth and Adam Byrkett rambled from 16th to grab tenth.
The grandson sat in four of the first five finishers and had Scotty Weir and crew arrived early, no doubt it would have been five for five. I’d guess he will have plenty to say about it, if not already.
We’ve all seen good drivers hook up with good mechanics and/or teams, then fall flat. We ask ourselves, “Did ___ forget how to drive?” “Did ___ forget how to work on cars?” The answer in both cases is “of course not.” Human chemistry matters greatly. If you doubt that, ask Chad Boespflug and Paul Hazen, a prime team, odd couple, unlikely dynamic duo.
Teaming up with (former Hoosier education chief) Tony Bennett to reform the school grading system, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Making the Old Man Proud
Many of us have been heavily influenced by our fathers or a major father figure. Hopefully most of us have been influenced in a positive way. I don’t pretend to “know” that my own dad still keeps tabs on me, but most of the time I try to act as if he does. He’s been dead for over a quarter century and he still casts a (loving) shadow over me. All this time and I still try to do something that would make him proud of me. Lots of you can relate. Among those that could includes Dave Darland, whose father played a crucial role in Dave’s success over the years. When Bob Darland passed away a few years ago, it didn’t take long for the Kokomo Speedway to bring forth a program that would honor Mr. Darland. And Sunday night’s racing would have brought a smile to Bob Darland’s face. His son didn’t win, but Dave was there to congratulate the feature winner, Wes McIntyre. Dave’s comments included the fact that his dad would have appreciated not only Wes winning, but how he won. The young man from McCordsville, Indiana rode his sprinter around the top for most all of the 30 lapper, bouncing off the wall, flirting with disaster, yet bringing it home in one piece, showing the veterans how it’s done at least on this one night.
Call them the Dirty 30 with that many teams signing in for the night. Once again, Hoosier weather was more like September than July—cloudy, breezy and somewhat cool.
Dave Darland, the unofficial “host” for the evening, set fast time with his group and overall in qualifying. In the third and last group, his 12.967 set the standard.
Saturday night at Lincoln Park, Chad Boespflug was the man to beat. Less than 24 hours later, he was leaving the premises. The Hazen 57 broke a u-joint while leading the first heat. That ended their night way too early. Elsewhere in the heat, Brian Karrakher did a half spin while running fifth. He and Joe Bares ended up hooked together in the infield. Wes McIntyre won the heat with Blake Fitzpatrick second in what I believe to be his first Kokomo visit this year. Jon Stanbrough, back for a reunion with the Fox brothers (and that mysterious guy who hangs around them every so often), took third. Thomas Meseraull, again racing with the Baldwin brothers, was fourth. Youngster Aaron Farney punched his A Main ticket, taking fifth.
Midway through the second heat Shane Cottle took the lead and the win. Jerry Coons Jr., Friday’s Gas City winner, was second. Scotty Weir finished third with Robert Ballou fourth. Gary Taylor was happy to inherit fifth after Kevin Thomas Jr. bounced off the turn two all while running fourth.
Chris Windom came from third to take the lead in the fourth heat right off the bat. His second row mate Dave Darland gave chase but fell a bit short. Both were way ahead of third place Parker Price-Miller, who had a good margin on Logan Jarrett. Pole sitter Chris Gurley hung on for fifth.
Drama came in the B when Thomas found himself caught up in an early race tangle and nearly flipped. That, along with a flat right rear, sent him packing, showing again how competitive weekly Hoosier racing is. Often even minor mistakes can end up with an early exit, even among the best—including KT, Mike Dutcher and company. Justin Grant had to work extra hard to win the B and keep Conner Donelson behind him. Adam Byrkett moved from 11th to take third in his initial Kokomo outing. Dakota Jackson held onto fourth and past Kokomo champ Dustin Smith would start last for the 30 lap feature.
This promised to be good, no matter how it turned out. It would be a typical Indiana bullring sprint feature, almost a USAC quality field. McIntyre and Coons sat on the front row and would have their hands full with Windom, Cottle, Fitzpatrick and Darland.
Things stopped right after they started as Jarrett flipped hard in turn two and collected Taylor. Logan was okay, the car, not so much. A couple of laps later Farney flipped, not far from where Jarrett took his ride. He, too, was unhurt. As the boys whoaed down for the red, Fitzpatrick’s right front tire introduced itself to Darland’s cockpit; no harm, no foul.
The green would prevail for the next 25 laps or so. On the second re-start Coons took the lead from WesMac and annexed the huggy pole as McIntyre stayed up against the wall. Cottle assumed third place and this order stayed the same until McIntyre took the lead right at the halfway mark.
Others tried the high line but Wes had ‘em all covered. As the coondog faded, Cottle moved up as did Darland. A lap 28 yellow flag for a Dakota Jackson spin set up a late race dash. Lined up were McIntyre, Cottle, Darland, Weir, Ballou, Coons, Windom, Stanbrough, Gurley and Meseraull.
The mad dash at the end showed little change as WesMac pulled away from Cottle and DD to take his first Bob Darland Memorial. Weir was fourth with Ballou coming from 11th to take fifth. Coons faded to sixth and Windom was seventh. The Stanbrough-Fox 2013 debut was not all that satisfactory was they soldiered home eighth. Chris Gurley earned an “’atta boy” award as he moved quietly from 15th to ninth. TMez finished where he started, tenth.
McIntyre had to feel some positive emotions as Darland told him after the race that his dad, Dave’s, would have been proud of that young man winning the race way up on the cushion and against the wall. High praise, indeed.
Kokomo now takes a break until the Smackdown, coming up on August 22-24. But there’s a lots of racing between now and then. I aim to get to as many as I can. My dad might even be proud.
Reminding Kurt Busch that Indy cars don’t have fenders as such, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Last Lap Passes
Races won on the last lap are dramatic, to say the least. Fans should appreciate hotly contested races where guys race each other hard but clean, where guys respect and trust each other, and where no one can know who will lead the last lap. Surprises often abound in Hoosier bullring/sprint car racing. And so it was at the Putnamville Clash, 26th edition on Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway. Just when one thought that this race would go to 2012 Clash winner Shane Cottle, Chad Boespflug made the pass on the last lap to take home the trophy, the money and, maybe most of all, the prestige of beating one of the best.
For reasons too numerous to even guess, 20 sprints settled into the pits at LPS on a relatively cool evening. The quantity may not have been present, but quality surely was with several potential winners among the 20.
Mr. Cottle was surely one of those as he took the lead from Jeff Bland Jr. on a late re-start in the first heat and won. Dave Darland also got around Bland to take second. Wes McIntyre was fourth with Brian Karrkher, John Nicosen and Jimmy Romig trailing.
Ryan Pace won the second heat as Mr. Boespflug patiently worked his way forward to take second after starting sixth. Brady Short was third with pole sitter Blake Fitzpatrick fourth. Bradley Sterrett, Brandon Mattox and Seth Parker brought up the rear.
Jon Stanbrough led early in the third heat and nearly tipped it over in turn two, losing the lead to young Max McGhee. But the veteran regained his cool (if he even lost it) and came back to win on, yes, the last lap. Behind McGhee was Brent Beauchamp in third. Brian Hayden was fourth with Keeton Dobbs and Levi Shields ending up starting deep in the A Main lineup.
One of the best PA guys I’ve ever heard helped Brad Dickison with the feature lineup. So what if he’s nine years old. Conner Wade, Chuck Amati’s grandson, I do believe, outshone other announcers I’ve heard over the years.
Conner and Brad combined to tell us that Cottle and Pace were the front row for the 30 lap feature. Behind them were Stanbrough, Darland (a Hall of Fame row for sure), Boespflug, McGhee, Bland and Short.
Mayhem commenced early. A seven car pileup stopped matters on the first lap in turn two. It was LPS’s version of the Big One. Collected were McGhee, Hayden, Fitzpatrick, Karrakher, Dobbs, Mattox (who tipped over), and Shields. Hayden, Fitzpatrick and Karrakher re-started.
On the second try Cottle jumped out to the lead with Boespflug coming from fifth to second in one lap. Shane had his hands full and Boespflug passed for the lead on lap six.
Stanbrough had his hands full with a balky left front wheel, probably a broken shock. Funny, but the man raced with basically three wheels better than many with four. However, he gradually dropped back.
Boespflug and Cottle simply checked out from the rest of the pack. Behind Pace, Darland, Short and Beauchamp were all itching to get around the 44. By the halfway mark the two leaders had a half lap lead on Darland, who passed Pace right around lap 12. Short and Beauchamp assumed fourth and fifth spots, chasing Dave the Rave in his new non-USAC Stensland-owned ride.
Lapped traffic played a role as Boespflug first built, then lost a good sized lead over Cottle. But Stanbrough’s car finally gave out and the yellow waved on lap 24 when Jon stopped in turn four, his night done after a hard fought win at Bloomington the night before. The stage was set.
The re-start would be Boespflug, Cottle, Darland, Short, Beauchamp and McIntyre, the only cars on the lead lap. As the green waved Cottle got a good jump and took the lead and promptly began using Boespflug’s high line. But the California native with strong Hoosier roots didn’t give up. He stayed close to the leader and made his move diving under the Epperson 2 going down the backstretch and making it stick through turns three and four. Just as he may have surprised Boespflug when he took the lead, Cottle may have received his own surprise at that point. Either way, neither had anything to be ashamed of; both raced hard and that’s all that anyone can wish to see.
Darland had a much better run than the night before at Gas City, taking third. Short racked up yet another top five finish with a fourth. WesMac got around Beauchamp near the end to take fifth. Pace was seventh and Seth Parker came from 20th to grab hard charger honors and end up eighth. Fitzpatrick came from near disaster on the first lap to finish ninth and Bradley Sterrett rounded out the top ten.
Chad and Shane reminded me (and anyone else who was there) to never, ever leave before the last lap (barring extreme emergency, of course). You never can know what you miss.
Burning Anthony Weiner’s camera, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Perils of Prognostication
Admit it; you’ve done this before. As soon as you find out who has shown up for the night’s race, you look over the list and decide who should or will win the feature. You may even place a friendly wager with someone, betting on your pick. But then the race is run and once again, you are reminded why these guys actually get out and race. What may appear to be a done deal on paper (or computer screen) may not be reality. The so-called favorite doesn’t always win. The folks who may have bet on USAC hotshot Kevin Thomas Jr. to win at Gas City/I-69 Speedway on Friday night would have lost money and/or prestige. Jerry Coons Jr. reminded us why the race is run: to see who will win. Predictions, guesses and assumptions don’t always amount to much in Indiana sprint car racing. Mr. Coons saw to that as he fought off the challenges of both KT and Scotty Weir.
Under partly cloudy skies and relatively cool temperatures, 28 sprints invaded Jiggs Thomasson’s speed palace. Regulars included Josh Spencer, Chad Boespflug, Logan Jarrett and Scotty Weir. Gary Taylor and C.J. Leary stopped by. Thomas Meseraull was back in the Baldwin brothers’ orange crush. And Dave Darland was in the Stensland 41. Lawrenceburg regular Shawn Westerfeld had made the trip north.
Coons won the first heat over Chris Gurley. A late race scramble found Todd Keen third with Meseraull fourth. Left out in the cold was Jarrett, who wasn’t happy with TMez after the smoke cleared. Jarrett and Westerfeld were B Main bound.
Thomas easily won the second heat over Taylor. Boespflug spent half the race bottled up, but escaped to finish third. A.J. Francis was fourth after quite a tussle with Ft. Wayne’s Stuart Hanft.
Conner Donelson, in the wee three car that is probably older than my oldest grandson, won the third heat, holding off Scotty Weir, who had started fifth. Dave Darland was third with Robert Ballou hanging on to take fourth. Max McGhee and Joe Ligouri would race again.
Josh Spencer came from third to take the lead on the first lap of the fourth heat and win. Later he would struggle in the feature, still suffering with engine gremlins. The ageless Ted Hines was second as C.J. Leary came from last to finish third. Matt Goodnight was fourth.
Logan Jarrett won the last chance race from the pole. Aaron Farney came from seventh to take second. Travis Welpott started eighth and took the checkered in third place. Shawn Westerfeld was fourth. After Todd Keen scratched for the feature, Ligouri was added. Max McGhee came from 11th to come up just a bit short.
Spencer and Coons led 18 more to the green. Boespflug promptly put himself in a hole by sliding over the bank on the first turn, dropping to last. Chad would salvage a decent finish later. Coons took the early lead as Donelson hung tough early. A lap three yellow saw Dave Darland exit the track with engine woes while running fourth (after starting 11th). Another yellow flag waved on the re-start and Coons was up to the challenge.
Three laps after the re-start Donelson was passed by Thomas, Gurley and Weir. Thomas began applying pressure to the leader, edging a bit closer with each lap.
Aaron Farney’s second spin of the race sent him to the pits and brought out the race’s third yellow on lap eight. Now it was Coons, Thomas, Weir, Gurley, Ballou (from 15th), Donelson, Taylor, Hines, Spencer and Jarrett (from 17th).
Coons and Thomas commenced a classic duel, trading the lead back and forth more than once per lap with KT leading one of them at the line (maybe even more as several times these guys crossed the start/finish line side by side). But Thomas had a new and unwanted problem named Scotty Weir, who had been gaining on both Coons and Thomas. Four laps after Thomas had taken a brief lead, he now was third as Weir blasted by the Alabama native. And Thomas Meseraull was coming on strong as well.
Ted Hines spun, bringing out the race’s fourth and last caution flag on lap 17. Now the lineup read Coons, Weir, Thomas, Meseraull, Gurley, Ballou, Taylor, Donelson, Spencer and Boespflug. Weir grabbed the lead from Coons on this re-start, but couldn’t shake the tenacious Monte Edison owned rocket. Here was another two car fight much like the earlier scrap with Thomas. Again Coons prevailed, passing Weir with five laps to go.
The margin of victory was only a few car lengths, Coons over Weir. The favorite, at least on paper, Thomas, was third. There was no shame in finishing behind Coons or Weir at this place. Meseraull fought his way to fourth after starting 13th. Ballou was fifth, coming from 15th. Taylor was sixth and Gurley edged a charging Chad Boespflug for seventh. Huge kudos went to Conner Donelson for taking a (gracefully) aging car to ninth after running well early. And Shawn Westerfeld came from last to nab a top ten spot.
Up front, my very unofficial count showed five lead changes among three drivers, with several other lead changes elsewhere on the track over the course of the whole race. One cannot, and should not, ask for any more than that. In fact, all 28 should be commended for giving their best efforts to race. Guys who know that their chances of transferring to the feature still come to race and their efforts, too, should be applauded.
Being human we will naturally give extra credit to some. Those who pass lots of cars to secure a good finish, those who finish up front, as well as those who get the most out of limited resources, deserve an extra mention. And a simple “thank you” always makes them smile as well. It’s nice to be appreciated. Jerry Coons Jr., TMez, Ballou, Boespflug, Donelson and Westerfeld—take an extra bow. Weir, Thomas, Gurley and Spencer—all these guys did what they could to win and/or compete. God bless all 28.
Instead of picking feature winners, I’ll take up forecasting the weather.
Wondering if I could possibly outrun that snail (in the movie “Turbo”), I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Gentle Ending
Tri-State Speedway promoter Tom Helfrich and crew can do many things as a promoter and staff. Simply put, he’s one of the best. (At this point I’ll refuse to engage in the petty internet disputes that boil down to “my track/promoter is better than yours.”) As good as this group is, they could not hold back the rain that fell on a warm and humid Saturday night in southwestern Indiana.
So when the final round of Indiana Sprint Week 213 came down to a rainout, disappointment was widespread, except for maybe 2013 ISW champ Bryan Clauson. Perhaps BC might have preferred to win the rocking chair by winning the 30 lap feature, but it didn’t matter. Forces much stronger than Tom Helfrich, his crew, and all his world class track preparing tools made sure that this race wasn’t gonna happen.
I dropped my fellow travelers off at the casino in Evansville and headed back north with dark and ominous clouds staring me in the face. Tri-State Speedway temporary weather lady Monica Clauson said it wasn’t raining but the wind was blowing (and she didn’t mean Bob). After our conversation the wind began buffeting the car as I motored up I-164, then I-69. The temperature according to the car dropped 20 degrees.
At the track a brief shower passed through at 6:00 p.m. The dark clouds to the north remained. All we could do was wait. The equipment that had been circling the track headed for the pits or infield. The “we” included all—teams, USAC, promoter and fans.
I passed the time with a double cheeseburger (lots of food may have gone uneaten, sad to say) and a book. At approximately 7:20, the announcement was made. In effect, it was said “no racing tonight.”
Hopes and dreams all washed down the drain, as it were. A good promoter lost money. Racers traveled great distances and didn’t turn a wheel. USAC missed a great chance to showcase its stars and cars. Fans, many of whom traveled a good bit, missed their chance to root for or against someone, as well as enjoy a night at the races. Writers missed the chance to observe racers deal with whatever would be laid upon them and write about it all.
Sprint Week 2013 exited with a whimper, not a bang as it started at Gas City so many nights ago. It won’t diminish the accomplishments of Bryan Clauson, one of those we watch who is headed for multiple halls of fame on down the road.
The weather reminded us, yet again, of how little we are in control here in this life. Like it or not, setbacks and even tragedies must be a part of our lives as are the good times. Granted the rainout was disappointing (as were various other events and incidents of ISW 2013) but perspective is needed. There comes a time when we should measure our disappointment with other life vents, especially the trials and tribulations of those less fortunate than us.
Was this disappointing? Of course it was. But we hop in our vehicles and head on down the road. Whether we’re around to enjoy it or not, there’s another race coming up really soon. Let’s try and be there.
Many thanks to Brenda Cochran who supplied me with a pen when I thought that I’d left mine in the hotel room. (All my moments are senior moments.)
This one was for all the people on the track, in the pits, in the grandstands, and behind the wheel who made my Indiana Sprint Week one to cherish and remember.
Politely refusing Ryan Braun’s offer to sell me some of his “vitamins,” I’m…
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Copyright © 2013 by "Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News." Do not reproduce anything from these pages without the permission of the photographers, writers or webmaster.
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