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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton

    The Hoosier Race Report: Just(in) Time

    Round Four of USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week at the Lawrenceburg Speedway saw a race within a race. Justin Grant not only beat Chris Windom to Tom Hanson's checkered flag, he barely edged out the rain that had been approaching for the past hour from the west. That the rain turned out to be a brief drizzle only reinforced the futility and absurdity of trying to guess what the weather will be. It was Grant’s second ISW victory; his first had been at the ‘burg as well.

    For me, this year will be remembered for my wife's illness that kept me with her until it was determined I needed to give her a break and go to a race. I was delighted that she has recovered nicely from what could have been a serious health issue. But with a brand new pacemaker installed, she was breathing much easier and feeling somewhat better. Off I went, not worrying a whole lot about the weather forecast. Instead, I was happy to be going to a race featuring my favorite type of race cars at one of my favorite bullrings.

    My wife's crisis began Wednesday night. While we were at the local hospital, Tyler Courtney was winning at Eldora. Thursday night, as she was recovering from surgery, Shane Cottle was edging C. J. Leary at the finish line, winning his first Indiana Sprint Week feature at Gas City. On Friday night, my wife was happy to be back home and the internet told me that Mr. Courtney had won again, this time at Plymouth on night two of ISW. I dearly wanted to go to Kokomo on Saturday but discretion and common sense took a rare victory in my life and I stayed home, missing Chris Windom's first Sprint Week feature win since the year I retired, 2011. I also missed Scotty Weir's outstanding effort in leading most of the race, a true accomplishment for a low buck/no frills team.

    But it was obviously for the most important reasons I didn't feel terrible for missing all that. I was where I needed to be, no questions asked.

    Lawrenceburg promoter Dave Rudisell welcomed 30 USAC sprints to the pit area. There were a few excused absences such as Matt Westfall, after his unfortunate Kokomo experience. With the On the Gass sprinter torn up after more Kokomo misfortune, Dakota Jackson appeared with his own car. Scotty Weir, fresh off Kokomo success, was in the Kyle Simon ride. For me, it was my first time seeing Tom Harris this year. It was my first time ever to see Denton, Nebraska’s Terry Richards, another racer who was perhaps fulfilling a dream to at least visit Indiana and race with the best. And Joe Ligouri, always good for a smile, was in on hand as a teammate to rookie Callie Wolsiffer.

    In time trials, Chase Stockon went out first and his time stood for quite a while. But C. J. Leary, who was 23rd in line, grabbed quick time with a 14.112 lap. Levi Jones’ 12.926 record from 2008 was safe.

    Thomas Meseraull won the first heat, but was not thrilled with his qualifying effort, knowing that he would start back in the pack come feature time. The bottom groove was popular as Carson Short, Isaac Chapple and C. J. Leary all moved on.

    The second heat was pretty special for a young man named Dustin Christy, one of seven Sprint Week rookies. He led all the way to win the ten lapper. Chris Windom, Scotty Weir and Max Adams trailed the Washington, Indiana resident.

    Brody Roa took the lead early in the third heat to win over Justin Grant, Dakota Jackson and Brian VanMeveren.

    Tyler Courtney passed Dave Darland late in the fourth heat to win, with DD, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Josh Hodges all making ready for the show as the radar said to all concerned, "keep moving."

    There were no real surprises in the B. Brady Bacon won and Chase Stockon, Kyle Cummins, Jason McDougal, Jarett Andretti and Dickie Gaines all earned places to play in the feature. Tom Harris was the top non-transfer.

    I’d spent too much of the evening checking the progress of the green and yellow blob on the radar. My wife texted that the electricity shut off briefly and it had rained pretty hard. Seventy miles east, I hoped that the show would go on—and it did.

    At 9:15, cars were lining up and AccuWeather said that rain was coming in 52 minutes.

    Windom and Grant led the way to the green with the latter grabbing the lead, diving into turn one in front of Windom. But the race stopped on the second lap when Adams got a little sideways with the predictable imitation of a high speed accordion ensuing behind. USAC’s version of the Big One saw Hodges swerve to miss Adams with Andretti and VanMeveren flipping in turn four. Courtney was also involved and went to the work area as quickly as possible. I couldn’t help myself; I checked the radar. Rain, 20 minutes away.

    On the re-start, it was still Grant and Windom, who tried high and low, but could not get close enough to mount a serious charge. However, Windom stayed close enough to keep Grant from cruising. This continued to the end. Multiple times Windom slid under Grant in the turns, only to see the Californian launch off the top to pull away down the straightaway. Grant led at the line each time they crossed the start/finish line.

    Behind him was where slicing and dicing was about as common as rain in Indiana, with Leary, Short, and Thomas providing the show as they moved through lapped traffic, trading positions frequently.

    As the laps wound down, faint drops of precipitation could be felt. The wet stuff was arriving quicker than forecast, but there wasn’t enough to deter any racing. In fact, very little rain fell at the track before the program’s end.

    Behind Grant and Windom were Leary, Thomas and Short. Sixth was Bacon, ahead of McDougal, Stockon, Cummins and…Courtney, who had rejoined the field and raced back to tenth. Darland was the KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger, moving from 22nd/last to 11th.

    In both ISW and USAC season points, Leary continues to lead Windom.

    The events of the night and the past few days reminded me, whether I needed it or not, just how much control we have over things. Maybe it’s for the best; maybe progress and improvement come from setbacks, trials and tribulation. Maybe thinking about such matters can give one a headache.

    Sending a copy of Dante’s Inferno to Jeffrey Epstein, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: My Kingdom for a Yellow Flag

    This thought is quite possibly what went through the minds of Jordan Kinser and Thomas Meseraull in the closing laps of the Putnamville Clash at the Lincoln Park Speedway. This was because Shane Cottle dominated the race, leading all 30 laps and winning by a straightaway over Kinser and Meseraull, who waged a terrific battle over the last seven laps. The only way either Kinser or Meseraull would have a chance to challenge for the lead was a yellow flag. As we shall see, the “quota” for yellows were met during the heats. The Clash concluded a successful weekend for all three. Cottle had finished second to Meseraull at Gas City on Friday while Kinser won the Mike Johnson Memorial at Paragon on Friday.

    Of the 107 cars who came to race, 33 were sprinters. John Nicosen made a rare appearance. Mitchell Davis, a WAR regular, made the long trip east from Illinois. Dave Darland was back in Buddy Cunningham’s car. Thomas Meseraull, who drove the Stensland ride to victory at Gas City, had his own effort tonight. Shane Cottle moved to the Epperson car and later on, Tony Epperson was glad he did. Shane Cockrum took over the Jamie Paul car that Mr. Cottle ran second in at Gas City. Brent Beauchamp made a rare showing. Joe Stornetta was back in the Jerry Burton sprinter. Oklahoma’s Matt Moore was in the Krockmobile. Eric Shelton, who has run with the All-Stars, made the trip from Illinois.

    The first three of the four heats were, to be kind, caution plagued. Travis Berryhill won the first heat, taking fellow survivors Matt Moore, Sterling Cling and Alex Sipes to the feature with him. The first yellow waved when Harley Burns and Sipes made contact on the front straight. Both re-started, but before they did, Sipes sidled up to Burns and greeted him an encouraging gesture. The second yellow came on the re-start when Mario Clouser had to check up or spin another car. He spun and collected Jaden Rogers and... Harley Burns. All three were done. With A. J. Hopkins unable to start with a still balky engine, there were five of the original nine starters left and the race was green the rest of the way.

    It was more of the same in the second heat. Koby Barksdale avoided the party by staying out in front all the way. Joe Stornetta, Brent Beauchamp and Dave Darland all transferred. Joey Parker spun on the first lap, bringing out a yellow. On the re-start Brad Greenup spun off turn two and needed a wrecker. Beauchamp and Kent Christian touched wheels going into turn three and Christian spun. Four cars were left at the end of this one.

    The third heat wasn't a lot of fun either. Brady Ottinger and Matthew McDonald got crossed up coming out of turn two and collected Hunter O'Neal. McDonald and O'Neal were done. Then Ottinger flipped in turn four bringing out the red. He walked away. Four cars were left with Jordan Kinser leading Brian VanMeveren, Jesse Vermillion and David Hair to the feature.

    Finally, the fourth heat made sitting through all the rest worth it, at least the first half. Shane Cottle came out on top with Shane Cockrum, Thomas Meseraull and Mitchell Davis avoiding the pitfalls.

    Many of the wounded cars from the heats were ready to go in the semi-feature. Hopkins and crew fixed whatever was wrong with the engine, but he started in the back. No problem, A.J. passed Nate McMillin late in the race to win. Jaden Rogers and Mario Clouser, both of whom had rotten heat race luck, also advanced.

    Stornetta and Moore led the gang of 20 to the green with Cottle starting third. But ol’ Shane had no intention of staying third. Coming out of turn two on the opening lap, he went low and annexed the lead going into three. Behind him, Stornetta, Moore and Barksdale excelled. Those three turned out to be difficult to deal with for those coming from the rest of the pack. Kinser was the first who moved forward. After starting fourth, he fell back to fifth on lap five, but steadily worked his way forward, passing Barksdale and Moore to take third on the eighth lap. It took Kinser another lap to take second from Stornetta.

    Two laps later, Beauchamp joined the top five as Cottle increased his lead to a straightaway. On the 14th lap, Beauchamp took over fourth. He caught Kinser in two laps and they had a super fight for second with Kinser favoring the low groove and Beauchamp a bit higher. They were about to get some unwanted company.

    With ten laps to go, Meseraull had clawed his way to the top ten after starting 12th. On lap 22, eight to go, TMez passed Moore for fourth. Beauchamp was next. Meseraull was owning the top as he chased down his next victim. After a brief struggle, Meseraull took third and wasn’t quite done. Through all this Cottle went on his merry way. He had entered lapped traffic just before the halfway mark and it had been no problem for him. His straightaway lead didn’t shrink.

    Over the last five laps, the battle between Kinser and Meseraull was about as good as it gets. With Jordan giving a clinic on huggy pole racing and Thomas working the cushion, second place changed hands multiple times both officially and unofficially. When the white flag waved, Meseraull led. But Kinser was not one to give up. He made the final pass on the last lap and grabbed second with TMez having to settle for third after starting 12th. Beauchamp came from tenth to fourth. Barksdale started and finished fifth, a quality run for the Oklahoma native. Cockrum was sixth with Moore seventh. Hopkins came from the B, starting 17th, to take eighth. Darland was ninth and Clouser was the Kenny Clark hard charger, coming from last/20th to finish tenth.

    Shane and the boys reminded me why I chase races. In a life that is largely ordered and bound somewhat by schedules and obligations, the race track is a place where one would be foolish to try and predict what will happen. The carnage of some of the heats gave way to some well above average racing in the feature.

    Sprint Week beckons.

    Building a ring so Sebastian Bourdais and Takuma Sato can duke it out, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Thanks, Nick (and Others)

    Against my better, or more rational, judgement, I ignored the weather and the calendar, then headed northwest to the Terre Haute Action Track for Rumble at the Fair. This was the first time that the MSCS had scheduled a race during the Vigo County Fair. Nick Bilbee, more than most, would come to think that this was a great idea. He was the third of three leaders in the 25 lap feature, taking the lead near the halfway mark and winning by several car lengths over Max Adams.

    It might have been nice to have more than 17 cars on hand, but, as always, there were enough quality cars and drivers who came to play in the dirt. While point leader Kyle Cummins and second place Brady Short sat out the night, contenders for a trophy were Dakota Jackson, Nick Bilbee, Landon Simon, Max Adams, Isaac Chapple and Chase Stockon. Close to half of the 17 were sprint car feature winners.

    There was no getting around the fact that it was hot, even for Indiana. 94 was the temperature as I arrived just after 4:30. It helped very little to realize that 94 was probably the high temp for the day.

    After a round of giving and receiving my fair share of heckling, I retired to the truck and read while watching race haulers arrive. There was a bit of a breeze that teased me with a half hearted promise to cool me off. More of concern for me were the dark clouds over my left shoulder. I knew there was a chance of rain, but I tried to file it away as a negative thought (not that what I thought about the rain mattered in even the big or small picture).

    The rain visited Terre Haute, but it missed the fairgrounds. Clouds rolled above the oval and a breeze temporarily cooled things off as time trials went off without a hitch. Adams led the first group but Bilbee was the quickest of the second gang and everyone else with a 20.533 lap around the half mile, slightly banked oval with the Vigo County dirt surface.

    Dakota Jackson won the first heat by a healthy margin over Max Adams. Isaac Chapple was third and James Lyerla finished fourth after running second for seven of the eight laps. A late caution brought out by a slowing Kent Schmidt set up a one lap dash and Lyerla was passed by Adams and Chapple. Chase Stockon was fifth.

    In the second heat, the guys up front dove for the bottom, a tactic often used by many. Nick Bilbee decided that the high line would work best for him and besides, it's more fun. Bilbee swept from fourth to first and won by a half straightaway over Mitch Wissmiller, Landon Simon, Stephen Schnapf and Brandon Mattox.

    With clouds still surrounding the fairgrounds and the thermometer dipping below 90, Simon and Chapple led the crew to the green. Isaac spun his wheels a bit too much and Landon took the early lead. His time up front lasted just two laps as Wissmiller sailed into turn three, diving low and taking the lead.

    Not far behind, Bilbee was briefly biding his time. Starting fifth, Bilbee advanced to fourth quickly and remained there until the sixth lap until he passed Simon for third. Two laps later he got around Adams for third, using the turn one cushion as the others stayed on the bottom groove. A lap later, the ninth, saw Bilbee use that high path to take the lead from Wissmiller. There had been three different leaders in the first ten laps of the race.

    Bilbee and company seriously entered lapped traffic with ten laps done. He handled the lappers efficiently and quickly built up a substantial lead. Adams began pressuring Wissmiller for second. The young Californian caught the Illinois veteran and was poised to make the pass when Wissmiller slowed, bringing out a yellow flag with 15 laps complete. The race’s only re-start saw Bilbee leading Adams, Simon, Stockon and Jackson.

    By now most all of the front runners were using up the turn one cushion and getting close to the infamous Action Track wall. Try as he might, Bilbee couldn’t shake Adams, though he was never seriously threatened for the lead over the last ten laps. On the one hand, except for lapped cars, there wasn’t a lot of passing. On the other hand, all involved raced well and stayed out of trouble. There were a few drivers who had either zero or very little experience at Terre Haute. It was easy to conclude that they heeded Mo Wills’ admonition during the drivers’ meeting, in which Mo made sure they knew this track was not Haubstadt in several ways.

    Behind Bilbee and Adams was Simon and Jackson. Stockon took the Schmidt team car to fifth place. The second five was Chapple, Aric Gentry, Lyrela, Mattox and Schnapf.

    I should have thanked the winner personally. He and his cohorts combined to give the crowd and me a very decent race. Bilbee dominated the second half of the race, but had he faltered, Adams was there ready to swoop into the lead. Nick was an MSCS first time winner and, also important, is one of several fan friendly racers who had signed in.

    My trip home was spent missing out on the rain. Lightning, especially to the south, seemed to follow me to Spencer. The rain’s only appearance was just after I left Brown County. Joan Baez was singing to me about diamonds and rust when the shower hit. The rain was finished before Joan finished the song, a not so subtle smack upside the head of Bob Dylan. Arriving home, I found streets nearly flooded with the lightning giving my Decatur County neighbors a late night light show.

    Not your normal Wednesday.

    Demanding that every baseball game have at least one successful bunt and a successful stolen base, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Anatomy of a Rainout 7/6/19

    This is getting old. Against my wishes, I’m becoming a reluctant authority of racing related rainouts. I’m afraid to check my records to list the times I’ve either arrived at a track and got rained out or was rained out before I left home (or in some cases right after I woke up).

    The most recent victim of the elements was the Bill Gardner Sprintacular, Night Two, at the Lincoln Park Speedway, sanctioned by MSCS. We were teased with time trials, followed by modified hot laps. But that was it.

    For the second day in a row, the little truck and I encountered rain about five miles east of Mooresville. Both times it was over in five minutes or less. In other words, Mooresville itself was dry. So was the race track, though an afternoon shower had moved the schedule back an hour or so.

    Most of Friday’s players were present, with Dave Darland, Chase Stockon and Josh Hodges gone west. There were 33 in all, including Thursday’s Paragon winner A.J. Hopkins (who had suffered with engine trouble on Friday at LPS) and Friday’s winner Kyle Cummins. There was no shortage of contenders, which would have included Shane Cottle, Jordan Kinser and the new kid from California, Max Adams.

    Adams, Cummins, Dakota Jackson and Kinser were the quickest of their respective qualifying groups, with Kinser’s 13.118 the quickest on a track that got faster with each group.

    When the 33 were done setting heat race lineups, I moseyed back to the MSCS hauler. Looking northwest, I noticed the clouds that had been hanging around and were significantly closer. The magic radar on the magic phone told me that rain was imminent. The sun was taking its government mandated break.

    I did the same thing I did when I was working and rain was coming—I found a dry place, namely my truck in the parking lot off turn two. The clouds were ominous now, layered with shades of blue and gray. What had turned out to be a decent crowd in the bleachers began leaving.

    It was 7:50 and the sky was dark for the time of day. The wind picked up a few minutes later and I could see the red light in turn three, presiding over a vacant track. At 7:56 the wind began changing direction, with a few rain drops on the windshield. The radar was ugly, no other word for it.

    In my book, that was rain on my windshield at 8:02. Thankfully, the bleachers were almost empty. The wind died down somewhat and the rain shifted into a higher gear. At 8:07 I opened a book I brought along for such an occasion. I could see the outline of the sun through the rain and clouds. The first race team left the pits, a bomber with an open trailer.

    The good folks at AccuWeather said that the rain would end in five minutes as of 8:16. The western sky was somewhat brighter and the sun was trying to break through. But the rain continued. Five minutes later, more haulers were leaving. The rain was easing up some, and the sky was getting brighter yet.

    A line of haulers was backing up from the highway to the pit gate. The rain had slowed to a drizzle but the damage was done. The sun’s break was over and it peaked through the clouds. It was 8:24 and it was a full blown exodus of fans and race teams (95 teams in all). A minute later, a poster on indianaopenwheel.com, Bill Gardner’s creation, said the obvious: we were rained out. The traffic jam grew longer. My great-nephew posted on Facebook the same information. I’m still not sure of the source, but it didn’t matter. I’ve neither read nor heard about re-scheduling. I’m not holding my breath.

    Traffic was almost cleared out at 8:41 and I was thinking about doing the same. I took a last look at the facility. There are few things more forlorn looking than a rained out race track. I texted my wife and headed for the Arby’s at Cloverdale. Then the truck headed southeast; we arrived at 11:00, an ungodly early hour for Lincoln Park. I encountered very little rain on the way home, of course.

    Eagerly awaiting K.C. and the Sunshine Band coming back as a country music band, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: How Low Can You Go?

    It was another drama filled night, this time at the Lincoln Park Speedway, where Kyle Cummins played the huggy pole lane like the maestro he is, winning the opening night of the Bill Gardner Sprintacular, and extended his lead in the Brandeis MSCS point standings.

    Joe Spiker’s happy place was nearly filled with 37 sprints among a total of 95 cars. A few of the boys headed west but a few more who weren’t at Paragon signed in. Noteworthy among these were Missouri native Clinton Boyles and Californian Max Adams. They would meet later.

    On the way to the track, it was a given that there was a threat of rain. This didn’t help the crowd, but the hard core group was not deterred. I encountered a typical Indiana summer shower just east of Mooresville that ended about as quickly as it started. The track had a shower at 4 p.m., about the time I left home; this saved Mr. Spiker and company from having to add a last dose of water to the surface.

    I’ve developed this habit of standing nearby as cars are pushed off for wheel packing or hot laps. It’s become a ritual as well as a chance to do some observing of people. It has caused me to think a bit about rituals and what is good or bad about them. In one sense, rituals are good and necessary for many. They offer something that we can depend upon happening, giving us some badly needed security in some cases. They can be a part of our race track routine and something we can look forward to. Of course, the same could be said of anything from watching Ed Sullivan on Sunday night (kids, google it) to Lincoln Park’s giant bags of popcorn to, well, watching sprint cars get pushed away in a staging area. Rituals. They can be your friend.

    It was a five heat/top three advance kind of night. Travis Berryhill led A. J. Hopkins and Bill Rose to the line in the first heat.

    In the second heat it was Shane Cottle, Sterling Cling and Blake Vermillion moving on. Brandon Mattox was in a three car scrap with Cottle and Cling when he got upside down on the front stretch. Brandon walked back to the pits, where several team members came together in a major thrash in getting the car ready for the B.

    Kyle Cummins was the first to use the bottom line in winning the third heat over Brady Short and Hunter O'Neal. Later we would see how doing his “homework” paid off for Cummins.

    Jordan Kinser passed Thomas Meseraull midway through the fourth heat to win. Garrett Aitken was third.

    Dakota Jackson, perhaps still pumped up from the night before, stormed from fifth to win the fifth heat. Shane Cockrum was second and Max Adams came back from a spin to seize third from Clinton Boyles on the last lap.

    Harley Burns drove what was maybe the best race of his still young career and won the B main. Donnie Brackett, Garrett Aitken, Clinton Boyles and Koby Barksdale would tag the feature lineup. Matt McDonald deserved an 'atta' boy award for coming from 18 to fall just a bit short in sixth. Red lights came on when a multi-car tangle ensued in turn two. Among those involved were Ryan Bond, Chris Phillips and…Brandon Mattox, who once again walked dejectedly back to the pits, his friends’ and rivals’ hard work undone in a flash. Unfortunately, that, too, is racing.

    Two of the principals from the night before, Jackson and Kinser, sat on the front row for the 30 lap feature. Jackson got off to a bad start and Cummins sneaked into the lead from his third starting spot. The Princeton, Indiana resident extended his lead to a half straightaway quickly until Blake Vermillion stopped on the track with six laps complete.

    The order was Cummins, Kinser, Cottle, Jackson and Short. Two laps after the re-start, Cummins quickly built a good sized lead, missing a great battle for second behind him. With Cottle working the bottom and Kinser on a rail around the top, the runner-up spot was traded between the two several times. Brady Short was there, too, and dearly wanted to join the fight, but he had his own problem, namely Thomas Meseraull for the time being.

    Short had shaken TMez and put the clamps on Kinser, passing him for third when a yellow for Berryhill waved on the 22nd lap. Now the order was Cummins, Cottle, Short, Kinser and Meseraull. This turned out to be Cottle’s last, best chance at contesting the lead. And for a couple of laps, it seemed like we might have a fight for the lead as both Cummins and Cottle got down low as much as allowed. But Kyle had too much horsepower and forward bite for the big guy. He pulled away as lap 30 approached. Meanwhile, Cottle had all he cared to handle with Kinser as both seemed to take turns leading the other at the line.

    At the checkered, it was Cummins, Cottle, Kinser, Short and Meseraull. Sixth was Jackson, a much better result than the night before. Remember Max Adams’ late pass in his heat race? His 15th starting spot wasn’t much better than it would have been running in the B, but he came from back in the pack to take seventh. Rose was eighth and Cockrum finished ninth. Koby Barksdale came from 20th to grab tenth, a hard charging performance for sure.

    There is, as of this writing, one more night for the Sprintacular. I don’t pretend to know if Bill Gardner had a good view of the racing on Friday night. But if he did, I’m sure he would have enjoyed it. And maybe he would have appreciated my taking his advice and having a barbeque sandwich. I might have another one tonight, unless the tenderloin catches my eye. #winwin

    Begging in vain for NASCAR to do away with spotters, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Slipping and Sliding
    I'll cheerfully admit that I'm not a fan of slide jobs, but I understand that racers get desperate, greedy and optimistic, sometimes simultaneously. At the Paragon Speedway on a warm and humid Friday night, A. J. Hopkins won the Brandeis MSCS 30 lap feature, passing Jordan Kinser late in the race. Two thirds of the way through the race, Hopkins made contact with Dakota Jackson while battling for second place. Jackson was left on his top, his race done. Let the “discussions” begin.
    Josh Cunningham won the yellow plagued timed out Paragon sprint car feature.
    Combining both the MSCS and the track regulars has resulted in hefty car counts this year. Tonight’s was no exception as 33 of the MSCS runners signed in along with 26 Paragon sprinters. There were no major surprises, but Josh Hodges, Dave Darland and Chase Stockon may have hoped for an early night as all were headed west to Knoxville to join their USAC compatriots for the weekend festivities out there.
    Josh Hodges took the lead late in the first MSCS heat and won with Travis Berryhill second. Shane Cottle came from the back to finish third, ahead of Chase Stockon.
    Chris Babcock won the second heat, leading Garrett Aitken, Dave Darland and Shane Cockrum across the line.
    Jordan Kinser was the third heat winner, and Stephen Schnapf ran second. A. J. Hopkins and Andrew Prather made it to the show as well.
    The fourth heat saw Dakota Jackson win over Kyle Cummins, who started last/eighth. Donnie Brackett and the ageless Kent Christian scooted to third and fourth.
    Josh Cunningham came from last to win the first heat for the Paragon sprints. Jesse Vermillion, Adam Wilfong, David Truax and Brandon Spencer were the rest of the top five.
    Brandon Morin, driving a car that may or may not be older than him, won the second heat with Steve Hair, Collin Parker, Parker Fredrickson and Gary Hayden trailing.
    A pair of Jakes led the way in the third heat with Mr. Scott leading Mr. Henderson, Anthony Leohr, Joey Parker and Pete Johnson to the checkered.
    The MSCS ran a B to fill the last four spots in their feature. Thomas Meseraull, Brady Short, Tye Mihocko and Bill Rose completed the field of 20. Oops, Aric Gentry used a provisional to make it 21.
    Jackson and Kinser led the field to the green and Jordan Kinser did his best to check out. But a slowdown on lap four took away the real estate that Kinser had accumulated. Tye Mihocko spun in turn one and Kyle Cummins had a flat left rear. Both rejoined the field on the tail.
    On the re-start, Kinser stuck with the same plan and built a margin between himself and second place Josh Hodges and third place Dakota Jackson. Garrett Aitken was fourth when he had an unsatisfactory meeting with the turn four cushion, and flipped, but not terribly hard, on lap 12. He was pushed back to the pits and re-started the race with the rest of the mob.
    Off they went again and Jackson used a slider that barely cleared Hodges to take second. At this point Dave Darland was fourth with A.J. Hopkins fifth. A lap after Hodges lost second to Jackson, Darland passed the New Mexico native for third. Hopkins gave Hodges the same treatment and also passed Darland on lap 16. Shane Cockrum was running behind Darland on the 18th lap when he had to check up in turn four. Rather than clout the People’s Champ, Cockrum jumped the cushion and spun. Kinser led Jackson, Hopkins, Darland, Hodges, Rose (from 20th!), Babcock, Cottle, Cummins (from the tail) and Berryhill.
    Hopkins was hungry and dogged Jackson for second. On lap 22, he tried a slide job that didn’t clear the second place runner and there was side-to-side contact. Jackson hit the cushion and tipped over, bringing out the red. While the car was towed away, Jackson strode across the track to have some tea and cookies with Hopkins, who was stopped on the other end of the track. Cooler heads prevailed for the moment as Jackson was steered to the pits instead. Later, things heated up in the pits, but my guess is that harsh words were all that were exchanged.
    The yellow, then the green, waved and, all of a sudden, Kinser had a challenger who would not go away. Hopkins closed on the leader and tried a slider that didn’t work on lap 26. But a lap later, he tried again in turn one. This one stuck and Hopkins was gone. His margin of victory was several car lengths.
    As can be imagined, the winner was greeted with a mixture of cheers and boos when he exited his car at the start/finish line. Hey, it was a racing accident. Could the maneuver have been performed with a bit more skill and patience? Of course, but this was not a vicious attack; it was a slide job gone wrong. Ideally, time and perspective will push this into the background.
    Behind Hopkins (who had started 11th) and Kinser was Darland, with another top five run in Buddy Cunningham’s car. Kyle Cummins made his way to fourth after his early misfortune. Shane Cottle was a quiet fifth. Bill Rose was the hard charger as he came from 20th to sixth, using the low line like a maestro. Thomas Meseraull, like Rose, came from B Main-land, starting 17th and finishing seventh. Hodges, Babcock and Stockon completed the top ten.
    Up next were the Paragon sprints and this race was a combination of Purgatory and Groundhog Day. Eight yellows ensured that the 30 minute time limit would play a role. Josh Cunningham led all 13 laps before flagman Brian Hodde waved the checkered and yellow flags simultaneously. Jake Scott, Brandon Morin, David Truax and Steve Hair were the top five.
    This one is for the gang who got this racing deal to where it is now, specifically George, Thomas, Ben, John (both of them), Samuel, Paul, Betsy, James, Alexander, Henry and the rest. Thanks for your vision, determination and bravery.
    Surprised to learn that Alexander Hamilton drove a street stock at the time of Bunker Hill, I’m…
    Danny Burton







    This one is for the gang who got this racing deal to where it is now, specifically George, Thomas, Ben, John (both of them), Samuel, Paul, Betsy, Alexander, Henry and the rest. Thanks for your vision, determination and bravery.

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Time/Feel Good Winner

    Sometimes, if a racer puts himself in a position to do well, good things happen. Oftentimes, even though a racer does find himself in that favored position, he will find out that there is little he can control. This can be bad, but on occasion it can be good. Very good, in fact. Just ask J.J. Hughes after inheriting, and keeping the lead after two of his competitors crashed out of the lead late in the 25-lap feature at the Lawrenceburg Speedway. It was his first Lawrenceburg feature win after close to a decade of trying.

    With tracks all over Indiana featuring sprints as the headliner, folks were concerned about car counts. They needn’t have bothered worrying. Lawrenceburg had 22 sprinters (while Brownstown drew 30 and Lincoln Park 32) with the usual individuals and teams of note. Homeboy Logan Hupp made a rare appearance in the Gindling family vehicle. Of the 22, including Hupp, six were track champions. And a fourteen year old kid named Conner Leoffler was making his debut at the ‘burg. Of special note was his hometown, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, never known as a hotbed of sprint car racing. The youngster would turn a head or two, for good reason, before the night was over.

    For the first time this year, I had an expert navigator—as long as he stayed awake. The youngest grandson slept for awhile as we putt putted our way east on U.S. 50, trapped by road construction and a driver who didn’t have the sense of urgency that we had. But the navigator and I arrived just in time for hot laps. Our minor concerns about car counts disappeared soon after we did our own pit walk. We weren’t fazed by the huge counts of modifieds (33) or Hornets (40). It seemed like the 105 cars in the pits stretched halfway up to my friend Marv Fish’s house.

    The crowd was disappointing, knowing that the ninety degree plus temperatures kept lots of folks at home. The rest of us misplaced what common sense we have and showed up at the ‘burg, hoping for the best—and we got it.

    Despite two early yellows, Shawn Westerfeld won the first heat with Michael Fischesser finishing second. Nick Bilbee came from last to finish third ahead of Dickie Gaines and Dallas Hewitt.

    The second heat was extraordinary in its own way as Sterling Cling won, his first sprint car win. Just as extraordinary was Conner Leoffler, who put some distance between himself and third place Mike Miller. Travis Hery and Joss Moffatt trailed.

    Garrett Abrams came from sixth to win the third heat over J.J. Hughes and Logan Hupp. Brian VanMeveren and Adam Wilfong weren't far behind.

    Cling and Westerfeld led the crowd to Tim Montgomery’s green flag and the local kid jumped out to the early lead. Westerfeld had built a nice lead, but a lap six yellow took care of that when Tony McVey spun in turn four. Westerfeld led Abrams Cling, Hughes and Bilbee.

    On the re-start Hughes got around Cling to take third. A lap later, Bilbee passed the Oklahoma native for fourth. But the red flag came out with nine laps completed when Fischesser and Cling tangled in turn four with Fischesser flipping hard. Michael walked away, a promising feature over for both racers.

    This re-start saw Westerfeld leading Abrams, Hughes, Bilbee and Hewitt, who had started 13th. Soon after the green waved, Hewitt passed Bilbee for fourth. Meanwhile, Abrams was pressing Westerfeld hard. A well-executed slider by Abrams diving into turn one on lap 16 resulted in a new leader. At this point, both were dealing with lapped traffic and Abrams struggled even as he held onto his lead. Westerfeld stayed close as both wove their way around the lappers. But disaster awaited.

    With 18 laps in, Abrams and Westerfeld made contact as they exited turn two with Abrams briefly riding on Westerfeld’s hood before executing a “soft” flip, landing on his top. Abrams vacated his car and went for a brief discussion with Westerfeld. Both were out of the race. Hughes now led, but he had anything but an easy road to victory.

    For this final re-start, Hughes led Hewitt, Bilbee, Gaines and Moffatt. So far, Hewitt had been impressive marching through the field, taking Todd Keen’s car on and above the cushion. The constant question arose for situations such as this. Could Hewitt, or even Bilbee, have anything for the leader? The final seven laps would tell.

    Hughes didn’t exactly check out, but he held off Hewitt, winning by four or fine car lengths. Bilbee wasn’t far behind and Gaines finished fourth after starting tenth. Moffatt came from 14th to take fifth, nearly as good as Hewitt’s 13th to second run. The next best story was young Leoffler, who hung in there and had a smooth drive, belying his youth and experience, ending up sixth. Hupp was seventh and Travis Hery eighth. Brian VanMeverenfinished ninth while David Applegate had a good under-the-radar run, taking tenth after starting 17th.

    For most all reading this, it’s easy to point out how much and how often racing serves as a great metaphor for life itself. While chatting with JJ Hughes and his father after the race, less than 20 feet away, the Garrett Abrams team was quietly working on a wrecked race car that might have been the winning car. Like the Hughes team and the others assembled, Abrams and company had given their all, only to come up short. “The thrill of victory” and “the agony of defeat” personified was right there in front of Mr. Hughes and me, a reminder of how fleeting success can be. That told us how important it was to put yourself in a position to win and, if you win, enjoy it all you can because the giddy feeling won’t last.

    Then again, maybe it isn’t supposed to last.

    Trying to hum the Beatles’ “Revolution #9” in vain, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Win/Crash/Hospital

    What was a decent, though not spectacular, race turned into a nasty finish at the Kokomo Speedway on a mild Sunday night when winner Robert Ballou plowed into the stopped car of Koby Barksdale as the checkered flag waved. Ballou’s car flipped on its top after the contact. Several minutes later, Ballou was taken to the hospital while Dave Darland was interviewed post-race by Rob Goodman. Dave and family were there as is their custom for the race honoring the Darland family patriarch, Bob Darland.

    Until the finish of the sprint feature, the weather was on folks’ minds—a lot. A system headed for Kokomo on Sunday afternoon fizzled out. But we weren’t home free, not by a long shot. More rain was west of the track and it would take an extra effort to get the program done before the rain arrived.

    A few years ago the wise photographer/philosopher John Mahoney and I arrived at the Terre Haute Action Track at about the same time. There had been a threat of rain, but we, along with several others, took a gamble and made the trip to the Action Track. As he was unloading his gear, John said, "I knew there was a good chance of rain, but I didn't want to stay home and maybe miss a race at Terre Haute."

    I understood him completely. I feel the same way about the storied half mile oval in western Indiana. I feel the same about Kokomo. Despite leaving a little later than normal, I hustled north, detouring for road construction on I-465 through the big city, motoring through a series of old money neighborhoods until I reached familiar territory, namely the intersection of North Meridian Street and 465.

     The car and crowd count were down as a by-product of the rain threat. But eight or ten of the 21 sprinters were capable of winning. In other words, the quality was there. Of note was Darland in a car owned by Californian Dwight Cheney; the team’s original debut was supposed to be at the USAC race on Saturday at Lincoln Park. It was Dave’s first time in this car, though he has driven for Mr. Cheney out West. (Thanks to Mr. Wags himself, Ken Wagner.) Cheney is the fifth different car owner DD has driven for this year, not counting his own car.

    The three heats were hammer down all the way. Passing was rare on a lightning fast track. Ballou passed Tyler Hewitt coming to the white flag to win the first heat. Thomas Meseraull, Jarett Andretti and Cole Ketcham trailed. Anthony D’Alessio flipped in turn two, climbing the fence and landing upside down with a brief fire. He exited the car and walked back to the pits. The fence was repaired in the time it took me to eat a pork chop sandwich.

    Josh Hodges outran Dave Darland, Kevin Thomas Jr., Corey Smith and Brayden Fox in winning the second heat.

    Scotty Weir powered his way to the third heat win with Justin Grant keeping Chris Windom from joining the re-draw. Jaden Rogers and Max Adams trailed.

    As the rain inched its way across the map, Grant and Ballou took the green and they took off, with Ballou leading the way and gradually extending his lead. The action was behind the frontrunners. Darland took third at the start, but found Weir pressuring him after moving into fourth on lap seven (of 30). Then Weir found himself fighting off Windom’s charge.

    Windom passed Weir for fourth on lap 17. Two laps later, he got around Darland for third. Now, Windom needed a yellow because Ballou and Grant were close to a straightaway ahead. It wasn’t going to happen.

    Darland fell into the clutches of Weir, then Thomas as the laps wound down. By this time, Ballou’s lead over Grant was a full straightaway. It was a matter of Robert cruising to another victory—until it wasn’t.

    Koby Barksdale was on the verge of losing a lap to the leader as flag man Brian Hodde held the checkered flag, ready to wave at Ballou before the others. Barksdale hit the wall coming out of turn four hard enough to flatten at least one tire and nearly flipped. Right up against the wall, he slowed as he approached the start/finish line, then stopped. Ballou came barreling out of four seeing the checkered flag in and. If he saw Barksdale’s stricken car stopped in his path, he saw it too late to avoid sliding into the black #22. Smack it he did, bouncing once and flipping onto his top with that all too familiar and dreaded crunch we’ve heard too many times over the years.

    Removing Ballou from the car took an exceedingly long time as the medical team took their time, wanting to do this right. A backboard appeared and Ballou was placed on it and then wheeled to the ambulance. Reports from his PR person indicated that Robert had suffered a fractured arm in two places. On Monday morning there was this statement. “Robert is out of surgery and in recovery after a compound fracture in his radius and ulna.”

    I wish Robert the best as he begins his recovery. He’s been in this rodeo before and will know what lies ahead. Let’s hope he gets back in the car as soon as he’s able.

    With no winner to interview, Rob Goodman interviewed Dave Darland, who said all the right things, and said that he and Robert have had their “discussions” over the years, but their relationship has gotten better, especially since Ballou hired Darland to drive the #12 car late last year when Robert was suspended.

    Behind Ballou and Grant was Windom, who had started ninth and was the Brett Bowman Hard Charger. Weir held off Thomas for fourth. Darland took sixth and Hodges seventh. Andretti, Hewitt and Rogers completed the top ten.

    It was the earliest end of a sprint feature I’ve witnessed at Kokomo, 8:30.

    Catching my grandchildren using our satellite dish as a giant pizza pan, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Dominating 101

    When Thomas Meseraull and company decided to spend several Friday nights at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway this year, they surely hoped that they would do well whenever they unloaded the car. But it’s understandable if they didn’t dream of dominating the action as they have done so far this year. Despite the threat(s) of rain, complete with a few stray raindrops as the feature lined up, Meseraull rode roughshod over a strong field, winning the Jerry Gappens Sr. Memorial by nearly 2.4 seconds over Robert Ballou.

    Seeing that the weather was somewhat unsettled at Paragon, I decided that my best hope would be Gas City. I left fairly late for the trip to the northeast, 4:50 p.m. As I exited the city limits, sure enough, a sneak peek of my phone told me that Paragon wasn't racing tonight.Feeling somewhat proud of myself for dodging traffic from south of Greenfield to Anderson, using some obscure county roads, I was ambushed by a pack of wannabe racers on I-69, with a guy who tailgated every vehicle he could find until he exited at Muncie. With all that I arrived in time to catch the last three groups of sprinters hot lap.

    When I wasn’t watching tailgaters and other fools, I noticed that normally one would see corn nearing its full height. This year Indiana growing fields look more like rice paddies. In the racing world, track prep is even more of a challenge. Racers and promoters get tired of rainouts. And those people who have yards to mow spend their time either watching the rain or working extra long hours when the sun does shine.

    Tyler Hewitt won the first of five heats with Brady Bacon a distant second. Cody White edged Brian Karraker for third.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. was the second heat winner with A. J. Hopkins and Matt Goodnight trailing.

    In the third heat, Robert Ballou ran away with the victory over Dustin Ingle and Scotty Weir.

    The fourth heat saw Matt McDonald cruise to the win as Matt Westfall and Paul Dues make the show.

    Thomas Meseraull led all the way to win the fifth heat. Jarett Andretti had a redraw spot locked up until he biked it in turn three on the sixth lap, allowing Josh Hodges to take second place. Jarett settled for third, which meant he would be starting in the back half of the pack come feature time.

    Luke Hall edged a charging Max Adams to win the first of two B mains. Isaac Chapple won the second B and took Shane Cockrum and Mike Miller to the feature with him.

    For the second time this evening, rain and/or the threat of it, was a concern. Walking from the pits to the bleachers just before the feature, I felt some raindropsfallin’ on my head. But they subsided and the racing went on.

    McDonald and Meseraull led 19 of their buddies to Mark Orr’s green flag. TMez took the early lead as Thomas slid into second. With two laps complete, the red flag waved for a hard flip by Isaac Chapple in turn one. He climbed out a couple of minutes after catching his breath. The young man from Willow Branch had a racer’s kind of day. Originally heading for Paragon for his first time, Isaac and company reversed course and hustled up to Gas City in time for his heat race. After winning his B, he had reason to believe that he could move through the field when the feature began. Instead his car left the track, hanging helplessly from the wrecker.

    A lap after the re-start, a rare sight was witnessed by all watching when second place Kevin Thomas Jr. spun in turn two, collecting third place A.J. Hopkins with Paul Dues spinning to miss the duo. Only Dues re-started. This re-start saw a different cast of characters behind Meseraull. McDonald was still second, but now Ballou, Westfall and T. Hewitt trailed. A lap after this green flag saw Bacon pass Hewitt for fifth. Ballou took over second on the sixth lap and set sail for the leader. Westfall and Bacon chased Ballou.

    On the eleventh lap, another yellow waved for another rare event. This time it was Scotty Weir who spun in turn three. The hoard was turned loose again and Hewitt passed McDonald for fifth as Bacon took over third. This final green flag segment was both Ballou and Bacon’s last, best chance to catch Meseraull. But it didn’t happen. If anything, the gap between the leader and second place widened.

    As the laps wound down, Meseraull could see a huge mess of cars ahead. He may have thought, “Uh-oh,” or something less printable. Even if the potential lapped cars did a great job of moving over, it would still be a challenge. But time, the quickness of the lappers, and the number of laps left to run worked to his advantage. Meseraull caught the end of the pack just before the white flag waved. No problemo, said the leader.

    TMez crossed the finish line just before the ten o’clock hour with Ballou a whole 2.353 seconds behind. Bacon and Westfall were third and fourth. Jarett Andretti came from 15th to edge T. Hewitt (0.018 seconds) to take fifth and the Rob Goodman Hard Charger ‘Atta Boy. Weir recovered from his mid-race spin to finish seventh. Hodges took eighth and Goodnight was ninth. And Paul Dues came back from his early setback to annex tenth.

    The ride home was much more peaceful than the fun-filled encounters with a group of unskilled motorists. Why, I almost felt like I was dominating both I-69 and Indiana State Road 9.

    I should do this much more often, but hat tips to both Barb Nichols and Tyler Kelly, who are quick to indulge me and my questions and requests.

    Pouting in the living room after learning that the Lincoln Park/USAC show tonight is cancelled, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Don't Even Think of Giving Up

    On a night partly spent by watching the radar more than preferred, Travis Berryhill became the latest racer to take Winston Churchill's advice and not give up. With a late yellow flag necessitating a one lap dash, Berryhill edged Colton Cottle as they crossed the finish line, ending another wild and crazy race.

    Berryhill wasn’t the only one who refused to give up. Promoter Joe Spiker and most of those who were in attendance didn’t think of giving up the program as rain approached and invaded the track, shutting things down for about an hour. (When I left during the Super Stock feature, there was a persistent drizzle.)

    Gary Rooke won the second feature.

    For my three trips to Paragon this year, car counts have averaged 50. Tonight’s 47 sprints were a huge part of the 111 race cars that were shoehorned into the pit area.

    As has been the case, Keith Ford was among those present, still smiling and not having to worry about the things that promoters worry about.

    Six heats were scheduled with the top three moving to the first feature and the top two re-drawing for feature starting spots. Two B’s would take the top two, making a 22 car first feature.

    The first of the six heats was relatively tame as pole sitter Alec Sipes led all the way to finish first ahead of Travis Thompson and Cole Ketcham.

    Brandon Morin gave Johnny Johnson's buggy quite a ride as he won the second heat over Tim Creech II and Brandon Mattox.

    The third heat saw Koby Barksdale win, with Brandon Spencer and Parker Fredrickson also transferring to the feature.

    Caution flags slowed the fourth heat four times, but Travis Berryhill, Hunter O'Neal and Josh Cunningham didn't let that bother them as they crossed the finish one-two-three.

    The fifth heat was by far the most competitive as young Brayden Fox used patience and speed, making a late pass for the lead and the win over Colton Cottle and TyeMihocko.

    Finally, the sixth heat was plagued by three yellows as A. J. Hopkins took the win with Jaden Rogers and Chris Babcock trailing.

    Folks, including me, began looking at their phones even more than usual. It appeared that rain was on the way. Sure enough, it arrived pretty much on time. Sure enough, Mr. Spiker and most of us were determined to ride it out. And sure enough, the rain stopped, the track was worked over, and racing resumed.

    Joey Parker and Colin Parker ran first and second in the first B. Brady Ottinger and Chayse Hayhurst did the same in the second B. All four tagged the feature lineup.

    Hopkins and Fox took the green and A.J. took off. From fourth, Barksdale powered his way into second on what was a very fast track. But with two complete, he spun in turn four, with most all of the field approaching quickly. Among those caught up in this melee were O’Neal, Rogers, Ketcham and Ottinger.

    The order was shuffled on the re-start with Hopkins leading Berryhill, Fox, Morin and Cottle, who had started 11th. Another yellow waved a lap after the re-start for Joey Parker and Cottle was third. The green waved and Cottle passed Berryhill for second. He wasn’t quite done. A lap later he had a look under Hopkins coming out of turn two, leading for a split second. But Hopkins saw this and sat up a bit in the seat, pulling away from Cottle and everyone else.

    Hopkins’ impressive lead went away when Barksdale spun again in turn four with 17 laps complete. Behind Hopkins were Cottle, Berryhill and Josh Cunningham, who had started 16th. Fox was fifth. The next four laps would be Hopkins’ personal highlight of the race as he was leading when the next yellow waved on lap 21. Travis Thompson spun and Ottinger had to spin in order to miss a stricken car.

    One of the turning points of the race came when Hopkins exited the track while running under the lap 21 caution period, victim of a contrary shock. Cottle was the new leader, trailed by Berryhill, Cunningham, Fox, and Tim Creech II. With this re-start, Cottle kept control of the lead, but another turning point of the race was right around the corner.

    With 24 of 25 laps complete, C. Parker, Rogers, Ketcham and, yet again, poor Brady Ottinger came together in, where else, turn four. There would be a one lap sprint to the checkered. Again, Cottle got a good jump and held onto the lead. But wait, coming out of turn four, there was Berryhill diving low and making a banzai charge where Cottle had left enough room on the bottom. My perch in the press box gave me a very good view aligned behind the flagstand. He did it! That was the reaction as Berryhill crossed the line ahead of Cottle with several inches to spare.

    “Gutted” is a term that’s rapidly becoming overused, but it might have applied to Cottle, who had to settle for the silver medal. Cunningham, who had struggled in his heat race and had to start 16th, was third and Fox was a steady fourth, avoiding trouble all night. The same could be said for Creech, who was fifth. Brandon Mattox came from 14th to finish sixth. Arizonian TyeMihocko had a noteworthy run, coming from 17th to take seventh. Then there was Chris Babcock, coming from 18th to eighth. Brandon Spencer started and finished ninth. After running in the top five, Brandon Morin brought Johnny Johnson’s vehicle back to the pits with a tenth place result.

    Rain? What rain? Of the 25 scheduled starters for the second feature, 17 answered the call. Gary Rooke took the lead on the first lap and led all the way to win. Adam Wilfong, polesitter A.J. Nigh, Matt Thompson and Jesse Vermillion were the rest of the top five. Shelby VanGilder, Blake Vermillion, Gary Hayden, David Truax and Harley Burns were the second five.

    The second feature was over at…12:45 a.m., not bad at all when the large car count and the rain delay are considered.

    Whether they knew it or not, both Travis Berryhill and Joe Spiker taught us a lesson on Friday night, even though most of us probably are aware of the lesson. When it rains, wait it out as long as you can and maybe you’ll be rewarded. When there’s an opening as you’re coming to the checkered, go for it. You may lead for a split second or a foot, but you’ll be leading when it counts. And, as always, when you fall down, get up, dust yourself off, and proceed.

    Listening to the tornado warning siren all evening and humming “I Am the Walrus,” I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner

    It may seem odd to call Chris Windom a first time winner, but after a typically wild and woolly USAC Nos Energy Drink Midget Division feature, Windom was the one interviewed in Victory Lane at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night. It was his first career midget win. Windom was the fifth winner in five nights of Indiana Midget Week. With the Kokomo rainout, Logan Seavey became the 2019 IMW champion.

    Thomas Meseraull and ran down Brady Bacon and won going away in the sprint car feature.

    There were no new faces for this fifth round of IMW, but several were missing, which was normal by the time the band of gypsies arrived at Lawrenceburg. With the 18 sprints that appeared, there were 27 midgets. After Noah Gass flipped in turn three during hot laps, there were 26. He was taken to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital for further observation, according to USAC.

    The weather was cloudy and the temperature was in the mid-70s with a persistent breeze from the east. In terms of track conditions, that mattered. The cloud cover kept the track fairly equal for those taking time trials. Justin Grant qualified early and set fast time with a 14.412 lap. Andrew Layser was last and rang up the fourth fastest time.

    The double duty crew was Brady Bacon, Thomas Meseraull and Sterling Cling. Kevin Thomas Jr. had more free time since he didn’t bring his sprinter after winning the first four sprint features during IMW.

    With 27 entries the three heat format was in effect. Front row starter Logan Seavey won the first heat, heading to the feature with Justin Grant, Thomas Meseraull, Jerry Coons Jr. and Michael Pickens.

    Pole sitter Chad Boat won the second heat with Zach Daum, Shane Golobic, Chris Windom and Zeb Wise all moving on. Wisehad an engine issue in qualifying and came from last to make the feature.

    Karsyn Elledge also had a first; the third heat was her first USAC win of any kind. The rookie was followed by Brady Bacon, Kevin Thomas Jr., Tyler Courtney and Tanner Carrick, who nipped Jason McDougal at the line. For all three heats, the bottom was the most popular place to race.

    Sprint heats were next with Joss Moffatt taking the lead early and winning the first heat over Michael Fischesser and Shawn Westerfeld. Dickie Gaines came from fifth to take the lead and the win on the last lap of the second heat. Justin Owen and Sterling Cling trailed. J.J. Hughes led the first half of the third heat while Brady Bacon led the last half. Hughes edged Thomas Meseraull to take second.

    The midget B took the top seven with Tanner Thorson coming from sixth to win. Also making the feature were Tucker Klaasmeyer, Andrew Layser, Cannon McIntosh, Dave Darland, Jesse Colwell and Holly Hollan. By now, the high side was working as well as the bottom with a cushion most of the way up the hill.

    Cole Bodine and Jason McDougal took provisionals.

    Golobic and Coons were supposed to see Tim Montgomery’s green flag first, but Coons had a flat tire just before the feature’s start. He was sent to the rear of the lineup.

    Courtney took the early lead as cars spread out, using most all of the track. Sunshine was already putting distance between him and Golobic when a yellow waved for Andrew Layser on lap four. Behind Courtney and Golobic were McIntosh, already up from his eighth starting position, and Chris Windom, who was just getting started.

    Three laps after the re-start, Windom went to work and took the lead from Courtney on the seventh lap. At the same time, Boat had already come from 15th to take over fourth place. A lap later he was third. As Windom and Courtney battled, the next to move forward was Seavey, who had started 12th to run third on lap 14 as he and Courtney rode high and Windom hugged the bottom. Seavey passed Courtney for second two laps later. A little further back, McIntosh, Boat and Thorson engaged in their private battle.

    It was time to exhale on the 22nd lap when Courtney stopped with a flat tire. He rejoined the field at the tail. Windom still led and even though Courtney had been removed as a threat, there was still this kid from California who was fast and a known winner who was not shy about challenging anyone. McIntosh, in his best showing since his excellent run at Gas City, was third. Thorson, trying to duplicate his success at Lincoln Park, was fourth. Like Thorson, Boat had come from deep in the pack and now ran fifth.

    For the next six laps, Windom stayed ahead of the mob while they fought tooth and nail with sliders, great launches and plenty of lane changing. Pickens had joined this group and was running as high as fifth when he slowed, bringing out a yellow on lap 28.

    On this re-start, Windom dove low in turn one to stay ahead of Seavey, who jumped the cushion in turn three. Not only did this hurt his chances at catching Windom, now Seavey had to deal with attacks from Boat and Thorson.Seavey lost second to Boat when he got a wee bit above the turn two cushion on the last lap. Meanwhile, Windom held the advantage, staying with the bottom groove and crossing the line ahead of Boat by a mere 0.607 seconds.

    Windom had spent much of IMW starting way back in the lineup and then passing cars—lots of them. Coming from fifth to win had to be a pleasant experience in comparison. Boat came from 15th to second. Seavey started 12th and had to settle for third. Again, Thorson passed lots of cars and had a well-earned fourth place after starting 17th. McIntosh continued to impress as he hung with the big boys to finish fifth, handling the low groove like a pro. Under the radar, Zach Daum motored from 13th to sixth. Golobic was seventh and Bacon picked up a second top ten for the FMR group with an eighth. Thomas was ninth and Coons came from having to start last to grabbing tenth. Jerry actually passed more cars than KSE Racing Products/Prosource Hard Charger Chad Boat, but was ineligible for the award.

    With this triumph, Windom now has 32 USAC National victories, 23 in a sprinter and eight Silver Crown wins. The initial midget win has been a long time coming. He also received some more walking around money by winning the Prosource Passing Master Award. Windom passed officially passing 32 cars. The actual total was 46 as he used a provisional at Gas City to pass 14 competitors.

    The companion sprint car feature saw Brady Bacon take the early lead from Joss Moffatt and check out, leaving the scraps for Moffatt and the rest. But Thomas Meseraull was on the move. From his ninth starting spot, TMez was fifth on lap five, fourth a lap later and second on the eighth lap. By this time Bacon’s lead was most of a straightaway.

    As the halfway mark rolled around, Meseraull was visibly closing the gap. Bacon caught a gaggle of lapped cars on the 18th lap and the margin shrank to a few car lengths. A lap later he took the lead and never looked back. Bacon was second with Moffatt occupying third. Matt Westfall came from 12th to fourth. Westerfeld was fifth and Dickie Gaines took sixth. Michael Fischesser survived a near spin on the first lap to take seventh. Cody Gardner came from 15th to finish ninth. Luke Hall was tenth.

    As this is written on a wet Sunday afternoon, the word has already been handed down that tonight’s Kokomo finale has been cancelled, but a separate USAC Midget program might be in the future for Kokomo. That’s a nice consolation prize.

    Struggling to find grip on Indiana State Road 48, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Mano a Mano

    In our lives over time, there will be occasions when we have a major challenge, issue, problem, you name it. This can take the form of anything or anyone. It can be a physical, emotional or mental issue. Or it could be the wolf at the door, demanding payment. Maybe it could be a fast race car with a very good racer at the wheel who is determined to pass you and take what is yours away from you. This was what was surely on Tyler Courtney's mind as he fended off Logan Seavey's every attempt to make the pass and won the fourth session of the 2019 version of Indiana Midget Week at the Bloomington Speedway as USAC's Nos Energy Drink Midget Division again gave people a reason to enjoy themselves. All this was done with a rebuilt engine, no less. Here a challenge, there a challenge…

    Kevin Thomas Jr. made it four in a row as he won the sprint car feature. Cody Trammell won the MMSA mini-sprint feature.

    Attrition was taking its toll as the car count dropped to 32. The new kids in class were Justin Dickerson and Kendall Ruble. C. J. Leary was out of the FMR 76 and Brady Bacon was back in the car he has driven before with some success.

    I played my usual game of who set fast times and when they qualified. My discovery was that eight of the top ten qualifiers went out in the first half of the order with the top four all qualifying early and consecutively. Props went to Justin Grant and Karsyn Elledge, who were fourth and sixth fastest and went out 20th and 21st. Ethan Mitchell was one of the early birds and set fast time with an 11.652.

    Grant won the first of four heats with Tyler Courtney not far behind. Holly Hollans was thlird and Chris Windom edged Jason McDougal for fourth.

    Dave Darland won his second consecutive heat race, tonight's second heat. Lincoln Park winner Tanner Thorson was second and Karsyn Elledge took third. Noah Gass was fourth and prepared for the feature.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jesse Colwell traded the lead back and forth multiple times before KT took the win. Michael Pickens was third. Tanner Carrick and Brady Bacon traded fourth place multiple times before Carrick prevailed.

    In the fourth heat, Chad Boat slipped by Shane Golobic coming to the white flag and won. Behind Golobic was Thomas Meseraull with Jerry Coons Jr. making another IMW feature.

    The sprint count was down as well with 14 signing in. There wasn't a lot of drama in the two sprint heats. With the track receiving some moisture, the top side was the best place to be. Josh Hodges won the first heat with Thomas Meseraull and Dave Darland trailing. Kevin Thomas Jr. patiently waited for the chance to pass Gary Rooke and he did midway through the race. Rooke finished ahead of the closing TyeMihocko.

    Logan Seavey led all the way to win the B main. Brady Bacon, Jason McDougal, pole sitter Ethan Mitchell, Andrew Layser and Tucker Klaasmeyer would all move on.

    Grant and Meseraull led 22 fellow hungry racers to the green. Grant led early with Meseraull quickly engrossed in fighting off Boat, who had started fifth and was working the low groove with excellence. The first yellow came out on the fourth lap for LPS winner Tanner Thorson, spinning while running fourth. He rejoined the field, but things got much worse for him when he flipped in turn one three laps later, bringing out the red. Also involved were Colwell andGass. For Thorson, it was a painful lesson on the ups and downs of racing, not that he needed to be reminded.

    On the re-start, Grant’s headache was Boat, who had dispatched Meseraull and was threatening to take the lead. But that battle was halted on lap nine when Elledge slid off turn three to the ditch, then tipping over, bringing out a second red flag. On the re-start the California native was able to keep the lead, but another problem appeared for the Gas City winner. That would be Tyler Courtney, shut out of victory lane so far this week. These three waged a terrific, but brief, battle for the lead. They crossed the line three wide on lap 17 with Courtney in the middle and with Grant prevailing a short while longer.

    But Justin slowed, victim of a flat right rear and bringing out a yellow with 19 laps complete. The order was now Courtney, Boat, Mitchell, Seavey and Bacon. From there, Courtney might have had it made but for Seavey, who passed Boat for second on lap 21 and closed in on Courtney. For the rest of the race, it appeared that Seavey was glued to Courtney’s back bumper as both rode the cushion at the very top. It was going to take a perfectly executed monster slide job for Seavey to have any chance of winning his second IMW feature of the week. A tentative attempt at a slider on the last lap fell short as Courtney conquered the red clay oval for the second time in USAC Midget action.

    Behind Courtney and Seavey was Boat. Unnoticed by many was Windom’s steady charge to the front after starting 22nd and finishing fourth. He was also the KSE Racing Products/Prosource/Andy Peterson Re/Max Acclaimed Properties Hard Charger. Added to this accomplishment was the fact that, like his teammate Courtney, Windom was dealing with engine issues as well. Mitchell’s fifth place result was an impressive end to his evening. Bacon, reunited with his old team, was sixth. Pickens was a quiet seventh and Meseraull was eighth. Layser was ninth and Golobic came from 18th to finish tenth.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. didn’t run away and lap the field, but he had relatively little trouble in winning his fourth straight sprint feature this week. Dave Darland rang up his second runner-up finish for owner Buddy Cunningham. Thomas Meseraull recovered from an early slide-off to take the bronze medal. Josh Hodges, back in the Midwest, hopefully for the summer, was fourth. Sterling Cling made at least part of his double duty work as he came home in fifth.

    One could say that Courtney may not have had a good look at his challenge, but he knew it was there in the form of Seavey. Both gave it all they had. Who could ask of them for anything more?

    Points watchers noted that Seavey and Courtney passed Thorson to reside at the top of IMW standings going into Lawrenceburg.

    The quote of the night belonged to Courtney, who said, “…if this was easy, everybody would do it.”

    Accepting the self-imposed daily challenge of a thousand plus words per day here, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Comeback

    As long as I've been thinking critically and objectively, I've tried to find a story in every single race that I have observed, from the Indianapolis 500 to the local Bomber B main. There are at least as many stories as there are participants. But most always one story will be more compelling than all the others. On a warm June night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Tanner Thorson survived the racing equivalent of a 30 lap knife fight and won the USAC Nos Energy Drink Midget Division feature on night number three of Indiana Midget Week. He's a young man whose life was hanging in the balance only three months ago after he suffered multiple injuries in a highway accident.

     After Thorson’s triumph, Kevin Thomas Jr. won his third consecutive companion sprint car feature. Jac Nickles won the MMSA feature to close out a night of wild child racing.

    The car count was 36 midgets, 26 sprints and 25 mini-sprints with Sam Johnson the only new kid on the block among the 36. Double dippers for the night were Kevin Thomas Jr., Dave Darland, Sterling Cling and Thomas Meseraull.

    In one of the stranger occurrences, Jerry Coons Jr. was the last car to qualify. At Gas City he was the first. He was tenth fastest.

    The big news in time trials was Kyle Larson, new owner of the track record. His 12.383 lap eclipsed Kevin Thomas Jr.’s year old record. The track didn’t exactly go away as the 36 qualified. Logan Seavey went out just before Coons and also was faster than the old record.

    The first midget heat would have been the highlight of the night had the feature not been run. Slide jobs and position changes were the norm. At the end, pole sitter Jason McDougal won, leading Tanner Thorson, Tyler Courtney and Gas City winner Justin Grant to the line. The likes of Kyle Larson and Shane Golobic were relegated to the B.

    Dave Darland won the second heat over his front row mate C.J. Leary, Montpelier winner Logan Seavey and Jerry Coons Jr. Gas City runner-up Cannon Mcintosh was contending when he bounced to a stop, needed a wrecker and went to the B.

    Thomas Meseraull won the third heat, matching his teammate Darland. Tucker Klaasmeyer was second with Michael Pickens and Zeb Wise joining the A main party.

    Jesse Colwell won the fourth heat. KT, Zach Daum and Chris Windom transferred. Zane Hendricks flipped in turn two and was out of the car rather quickly.

    The sprint heats were up next and Dave Darland took the first of three heats. Lee Underwood, Thomas Meseraull, Brayden Fox and Nate McMillen all punched feature tickets.

    Brady Short finally took control and won the second heat. Joining him in the feature would be Brandon Mattox, Travis Berryhill, Shelby VanGilder and Korbyn Hazlett.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. led them all to the third heat checkered. Shane Cockrum started last and finished second. Sterling Cling, Gary Rooke and Harley Burns avoided the B.

    It was no surprise that Kyle Larson won the midget B. Chad Boat came from 11th to finish second. Shane Golobic, Dillon Welch, Tanner Carrick and Andrew Layser sneaked into the show. Cannon McIntosh and Karsyn Elledge tangled in turn two with Elledge getting upside down. With no damage, she re-started.

    Jaden Rogers won the sprint B with Wisconsin’s Ray Seach second. Kyle Hathaway, Jesse Vermillion and brother Blake tagged the A main.

    The midget feature began right at ten p.m. with Coons and Courtney in the front row. Courtney and Meseraull, who had started third, both broke out to run up front until TMez tapped Sunshine enough to cause him to spin. Meseraull slid to a stop and third place Logan Seavey had a sort of birthday present, the lead. During the rare boo-boo somehow Darland ended up facing the wrong way coming out of turn four before being towed to the pits.

    The order up front was Seavey, Thomas, Coons, Golobic and Colwell. Teammates Thomas and Coons traded places a time or two before the red light blinked when Layser flipped in turn four on lap 12. On this re-start, Pickens spun in turn two. Yellow, then green again and this time Thomas wanted the lead. He took it away on the 13th lap.

    Try as he might, KT couldn’t get away from those guys. Unnoticed at first, Thorson had entered the top ten and wasn’t done. By the time the yellow waved for Welch on lap 23, Thorson was up to third behind Thomas and Seavey and ahead of Larson and Coons. The next six laps were nothing short of amazing, tense, gripping and wild. It was a crazy slider party with positions changing multiple times each lap, Somehow Seavey kept the lead until lap 27, when Thorson took over.

    Larson was in the mix with the others, Thorson, Thomas, Coons and Seavey. He was running a strong third when he bounced off the turn two cushion and flipped. The NASCAR star got some serious air, but was out of the car. This was on lap 29, and the procedure is that the finish will be a green-white-checkered format. This gave the contenders an extra lap to take a shot at leader Thorson.

    The final two laps were what could now be considered the normal sliding, cutting and slashing. But Thorson prevailed with Seavey a close second. Coons edged his teammate Thomas by inches to take third, running the bottom like the master he is. Thomas was fourth and Windom had his best IMW finish so far, fifth after starting 14th. Golobic was sixth and Courtney came back from his early spin to grab seventh. Colwell was eighth and Daum came from 17th to finish ninth. After running as high as fifth, McDougal came from 18th to take tenth.

    It was somehow fitting that the winner of the race also won the KSE Racing Products/Prosource Hard Charger Award as Thorson started 15th.

    The sprint feature was again Kevin Thomas Jr.’s personal playground was as he took the lead from Thomas Meseraull on the 14th lap and cruised to the win. Meseraull held onto second, trailed by Shane Cockrum, Dave Darland and Brady Short in the top five. Six through ten were Lee Underwood, Brandon Mattox, Sterling Cling, Nate McMillin and Jaden Rogers, who re-started after flipping on lap 11.

    The race endured three red flags for flips. All involved exited their cars with no visible injuries.

    Comebacks within a race are newsworthy and should be noted. But to come back from severe injuries is rare and special. Add to that the fact that having a former employer hire you back is like the icing—well, almost. Don’t forget the “other” comeback, starting 15th and winning. Don’t forget the fighting spirit of Tanner Thorson and others like him.

    This one is for the boys who gave all at Utah, Omaha, Sword, Gold and June Beaches some 75 years ago.

    Starting to think I’m living out the movie “Groundhog Day,” I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Balance of Power

    The rain never arrived, despite dire predictions of thunderstorms (which struck elsewhere in Indiana), and when a late yellow flag waved, Justin Grant might have had the same thoughts about the checkered flag. One could understand why he would think that, but Grant survived that late race caution and beat young Oklahoman Cannon McIntosh by a few feet in Round Two of Indiana Midget Week at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, presented by the USAC Nos Energy Drink Midget National Series.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the sprint car feature. Kole Kirkman won the Micro-Sprint feature.

    The time between the checkered flag at Montpelier and the gates opening at Gas City are typically my downtime, a time of blessed solitude spent reading and maybe writing. My Gas City hideaway is at the edge of the city park down by the lazy river. The rustle of the leaves is occasionally punctuated by a passing car or motorcycle or even a golf cart. Birds talk to each other. The tree leaves and the grass are a part of a peaceful picture. The brown waters of the river move about as slow as I do most of the time.

    In many ways the track is near, but in other ways it’s as far away as the Atlantic Ocean. That might make sense to some but not others. Either way, it’s peaceful and comforting to sit on an unpadded picnic table’s bench and think—or contemplate.

    The Gas City car count was 40 with new players Brent Watson, Davey Ray, Justin Peck, Critter Malone and Kyle Larson, who was making the first of two scheduled appearances during IMW. Double dippers were Kevin Thomas Jr., Brady Bacon and Thomas Meseraull, all running sprints and midgets. Cole Ketcham and Brandon Rose participated in both sprints and micro-sprints.

    The track got faster as qualifications went on. The top five qualifiers were in the second half of those attempting to qualify. Justin Grant went out last and was fifth quick.

    The midget heats were up first and Tyler Courtney led from start to finish in winning the first heat, setting a new track record for a heat. Tucker Klaasmeyer, C. J. Leary and Kyle Larson trailed.

    Holly Hollan did the same in the second heat, leading all the way. Cole Bodine was second with Jesse Colwell third. Cannon McIntosh withstood pressure from Michael Pickens to make the feature.

    In a twist of fate, the previous night's winner and second place finisher started in the front row. Again, Logan Seavey prevailed with Zeb Wise second. Shane Golobic took third over a closing Justin Grant. Oliver Akard had a mean turn two flip. He climbed out of the car a couple of minutes later

    Kevin Thomas Jr. held off Chad Boat to win the fourth heat. Karsyn Elledge was third and Jason McDougal completed a late pass on Tanner Carrick to sneak into the show.

    It was time for the sprints’ heats and Brady Bacon charged to the front on the first lap to win the first of three heats. Max Adams, Cole Ketcham, Sterling Cling and Parker Fredrickson all advanced to the feature. 

    Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead on the second lap of the second heat and motored home to the win. Kyle Robbins, in his first sprint car race in several months, was second. Clinton Boyles was third, ahead of Brandon Rose. Thomas Meseraull came from the back to take fifth.

    Tim Creech II won the third heat with Corey Smith, Dustin Ingles, Lee Underwood and second generation racer Brayden Clark trailing.

    Bacon moved easily from his sprinter to his midget and won the C Main, taking Ethan Mitchell, Justin Peck and Michael Koontz with him to the B.

    The midget B was next and Tanner Thorson won. Michael Pickens finished second despite nearly stalling and stacking up a group behind him. Jerry Coons Jr., Tanner Carrick, Andrew Laser and Zach Daum all earned positions in the feature. Mitchell came up one position short, nearly coming from the C main to making the A Main.

    Korbyn Hazlett edged Tyler Hewitt to take the sprint B. Scotty Weir, repairs made by Scott Pedersen, charged from ninth to finish a close third. Newcomer Brad Greenup was fourth, ahead of Billy Cribbs.

    It was showtime and leading the pack to the green was Leary and Grant, who took the lead as Leary slowly faded. McDougal quickly took second as the race’s first yellow waved on the second lap. Leary was third, ahead of McIntosh and Thorson. On the re-start, McDougal’s assignment was to make Leary’s life miserable.

    He did until lap ten, when he passed Leary. A yellow came outin turn four with the race half over as Golobic and Coons banged wheels a bit too hard with Golobic, who ended up in turn four facing the wrong way. Grant led McDougal, McIntosh, Thorson and Leary.

    A lap after this re-start saw McIntosh pass McDougal, one promising Okie dueling with another. Jesse Colwell spun in turn four another lap later. The green waved again and this would be a longer all-out segment in which Grant built a good-sized lead to the point where he might have been tempted to count his eggs.

    Behind him, Pickens was on the move, with lap 28 approaching, he was third and had his sites on McIntosh. That was delayed as Klaasmeyer slid off turn four. Grant’s big lead was gone, and he had two hungry lions at his door, McIntosh and Pickens. The battling was delayed again when Coons and Elledge tangled right after the green light came on. Grant kept his cool, though it was surely difficult.

    On this last re-start, Pickens, who experienced accelerating problems earlier, couldn’t get up to speed as Grant and McIntosh ran away. In the scramble behind them, Kyle Larson (remember him?) annexed third place. Coming to the green, McIntosh dove low coming out of four and was nearly side by side with Grant at the line.

    Behind those two, Larson, who had stuck with the high groove for much of the race, finally saw that pay off with a third. McDougal could not have been pleased with fourth, but there it was. Thorson was fifth and Courtney was the KSE Racing Products/Prosource Hard Charger, coming from 15th to sixth. Daum, like McIntosh, was a single car team and took seventh. Carrick was eighth and Chris Windom came from provisional-land to take ninth, passing more cars than Courtney, but ineligible for being the official hard charger. Wise was tenth after starting 18th.

    The sprint feature was next and Nostradamus predicted that Thomas and Bacon would dominate, which they did. Bacon led the first lap, but Thomas took over from there, winning by a straightaway over Bacon. Behind those two was a dogfight with Californian Max Adams emerging from the pack to finish third. Corey Smith was fourth and Thomas Meseraull came from 14th to finish fifth. Tim Creech II was sixth and Scotty Weir was the hard charger, coming from the tail of the B to start 18th in the feature and finish seventh. Lee Underwood, Cole Ketcham and rookie Brandon Rose completed the top ten.

    After a forgettable night at Montpelier, Grant and crew didn’t hang their heads. Instead, they decided to move on and ignore the rear view mirror. Maybe we all should do that from time to time.

    Firing AccuWeather, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Don't Count These Guys Out

    Some of the speculation around the cheap seats concerning the competition within the USAC National Midget Division is that, without Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell and Rico Abreu signing in, one of the other teams will step up. But Logan Seavey might say, "Hold on, you pundits. Those guys aren't here, but I am.” On opening night of the 2019 edition of Indiana Midget Week at the Montpelier Motor Speedway, Seavey emphatically made his point. He took the lead early in the 30 lap feature from Zeb Wise and hung on to win with quasi-teammate Tanner Thorson less than a second behind.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the sprint car feature.

    The rain has hit Montpelier so hard, this was their first race of 2019, probably a record of some kind. Farmers in the area might say, “Tell us about it.”

    Perhaps a few of those pundits also decry the state of both USAC and POWRi’s midget series, saying that these multi-car teams are killing the sport they love. They aren’t killing it, at least from where I sit. For opening night of IMW, 38 cars showed up. Granted, a hefty percentage of the car count was made up of multi-car teams. But folks might not realize that, just because these guys are teammates doesn’t mean they don’t race each other hard. They surely do. I’m sure that their only team orders are not to crash each other—unless you are racing each other clean and hard. This isn’t Formula One, Indy Car or NASCAR. Thank God for that.

    Several states (12) and one foreign country (New Zealand) were represented with Indiana leading the way with ten drivers who list a hometown here. Oklahoma beat all others with seven. California had six of their own. Other states with racers included Arizona, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Kansas, Alabama, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Illinois.

    Tyler Courtney’s 14.029 laps was quickest of the 38. Kyle Larson’s year old record was safe.

    Tanner Carrick came from fifth to win the first heat with Kevin Thomas Jr. starting and finishing second. Justin Grant and Shane Golobic slipped into the show as Jesse Colwell smacked the turn four wall coming to the checkered.

    The second heat was a full moon type heat with all kinds of strange activity. On the first lap Logan Seavey attempted a turn three slide job which ended with Dave Darland flipping and Seavey stopped on the track. Dave re-started the race. Residual damage was incurred by Billy Wease and Dillon Welch. On the re-start, Seavey drove as if he was late for an important meeting, coming from the back to win on the last lap, negotiating the treacherous high side like a pro. Jason McDougal, Chad Boat (from last) and Tucker Klaasmeyer trailed.

    Zach Daum held off Tyler Courtney to win the third heat as Sunshine's attempt to use the high groove came up a bit short. Jerry Coons Jr. was third and Michael Pickens (arguably, the world’s fastest Kiwi) passed C. J. Leary on the last lap to scoot into the show.

    Cannon McIntosh must have been shot out of a cannon as he came from the back on the first lap and held on to win the fourth heat. Not far behind was Zeb Wise. Tanner Thorson took third with Chris Windom getting fourth after a struggle with Noah Gass.

    Thomas Meseraull, one of three racers (also, Thomas and Bacon) doing double duty, won the B over C.J. Leary, Dillon Welch, Dave Darland, Kyle Cummins and Zane Hendricks.

    The flying twins, Seavey and Wise, led the mob to the green with Wise taking control at the start. The only thing slowing either down was the race’s lone yellow flag on the fourth lapwhen Meseraull stopped on the backstretch. Seavey had made the pass for the lead but had to give it back. On the re-start, Wise led Seavey, Thorson, Courtney and Golobic.

    On the seventh lap, Seavey passed Wise for the lead, using a perfectly timed slide job, but couldn’t shake the youngster from Angola, IN (even farther north than Montpelier). Midway through the race, lapped traffic came into play, but the top three weaved their way through the crowd with seemingly little effort.

    If the lapped traffic wasn’t enough of a challenge, the cushion at both ends of the track was not much more than a sliver. Time and time again the frontrunners sailed around the top, inches from disaster. Most, but not all, lapped cars dove to the bottom as the leaders approached, but one had to remember that the lappers were racing for position as well.

    With only five laps to go, Thorson got around Wise for second. While he could stay close to his teammate/rival, Thorson could get no closer than 0.9 seconds at the end. Wise was third with Courtney fourth. Welch was an impressive fifth, considering that the front end of his car was beat up in his heat race. Golobic was sixth and McDougal was seventh. Thomas came from 15th to finish eighth. Carrick was ninth and Windom took tenth.

    This was Seavey’s first midget win this season. It was also his first IMW victory.

    The KSE Racing Products/Prosource Hard Charger was Coons, who came from 20th to 11th. Of note was McIntosh who started 21st and finished 12th.

    The sprint feature was won by Thomas, who followed race-long leader Meseraull for much of the 25 lap race before making the pass on a hard, dry and slick surface after a lap 23 re-start. The pass was a classic slide job, the only successful one that KT had attempted for the duration of the race. TMez was second with Lee Underwood passing Brady Bacon for third on the last lap. Korbyn Hazlett came from back in the pack to finish fifth.

    Contact between Clinton Boyles and Isaac Chapple sent Chapple flipping hard off turn two. Isaac was not thrilled and sought to discuss matters right away but was not successful—at least while on the track.

    The rain stayed away, as one and all hope it does for Gas City.

    Seavey had the quote of the night when he said, “Do you stay in line and follow them or try to get another car in between you and second place?  These are the decisions you have to make.” Why, we could all write another thousand words or so about how that works in our lives. Such wisdom from a “kid.”

    Thinking that I’m still a kid until I sit in one place too long, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes

    Who knows what motivates race drivers? It could be the need to make money to feed or clothe growing children. It might be the desire of beating one’s peers and rivals. Or maybe it’s the obsession of winning at a new race track, or an older, but familiar track. Perhaps it’s the sheer joy, or rush, if you will, of ripping the top groove at a favored track, inches from the wall, chased by a pack of snarling V-8 engines driven by friends, contemporaries and rivals who would love nothing more than taking away the leader’s position and grabbing the gold and glory for themselves. On a cool Sunday night, Justin Grant withstood the parrying and thrusting from first Clinton Boyles, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Thomas Meseraull to win the Kokomo Klassic. Minutes after Grant’s triumph, Anton Hernandez won the 305 Racesavers feature, an all-green affair.

    Just because it was warm and pleasant in southern Indiana didn’t mean that northern Indiana’s Sunday evening weather would be warm and pleasant. A cool breeze from either Peru or maybe Sault St. Marie, Michigan visited the track. But one dared not complain. There wasn’t a cloud to be found. Besides, the breeze shut down as the sun sank in the west.

    The Kokomo sprint count was 23, including Australia’s Gary Rooke, back for another summer of Hoosier racin’. Matt Cooley made the trek from Ohio, as did Lee Underwood. The 305s numbered 24, including guys like Ethan Barrow and John Paynter who have some non-wing experience.

    Group qualifying went pretty much as expected. Dave Darland, in Jamie Paul's entry, led the first group with a 13.207 lap. Thomas Meseraull was fastest in the second group, ringing up a 13.125. Scotty Weir was the quickest of all as he led the third group with a blistering 12.989.

    The first heat was a high flying freight train around the top with engineer Clinton Boyles leading Isaac Chapple, Darland, Mario Clouser and TyeMihocko to the feature.

    Justin Grant beat Thomas Meseraull to the checkered in the second heat by a very few feet. Tyler Hewitt, Koby Barksdale and Corey Smith trailed.

    Scotty Weir was back in fifth place temporarily in the third heat before darting between two cars and taking the lead on the second lap. From there he ran away with the win with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Cole Ketchum, Lee Underwood and Anthony D'Alessio avoided the B.

    The Racesavers had three heats of their own and Jeff Wimmenauer won the first with Anton Hernandez a distant second. Pole sitter SabanBibent was third, ahead of Ryan Tusing and Alfred Galedrige.

    Ethan Barrow was the second heat winner, trailed by a trio of cars numbered 23. Pilots were John Paynter, Jordan Welch and Bradley Sterret. Andy Bradley took the last position to transfer.

    Pole sitter Jackson Slone won the third heat over Justin Clark, Damon Fortune, Eli Lakin and A. J. Carlson.

    The 410 B winner was Ben Knight, with Travis Hery, Matt Cooley, Gary Rooke and Parker Fredrickson all tagging the field for the finale.

    Scott Bradley passed Rod Henning late in the race to win the Racesavers' last chance. Patrick Kren, Alex Nalon and Keith Champoux punched A main tickets.

    Grant and Boyles led the gang to Tom Hansing’s green flag. The first ten laps of this race were vintage Kokomo as first Grant, then Boyles would take the lead only to lose it. My very unofficial count was four lead changes at the line. That doesn’t count the changes in the turns and on the backstretch. By the time the tenth lap rolled around, Thomas joined the two frontrunners. With ten complete, he passed Boyles for second. And, three laps later, he passed Grant.

    Matt Cooley brought out the yellow on lap 14 (of 30). Thomas and Grant led Meseraull, who had crashed the party as well, relegating Boyles to fourth. Weir was fifth. After the re-start, three laps were completed when Ketchum flipped in turn two. Cole exited the car, which didn’t appear to be heavily damaged. Weir had passed Boyles for fourth.

    Soon after the re-start, Grant took the lead back, flying around the top of turn two on lap 19. The following lap saw Clouser spin in turn four, bringing out the yellow flag and lights. The top five were Grant, Thomas, Meseraull, Weir and Boyles.

    The last segment saw Thomas fade only slightly, but not without a fight. TMez made the pass on the 22nd lap. Try as he might, Meseraull could not close the gap much on Grant, though both put some distance between themselves and the field. Lap 25 saw Weir pass Thomas for third. As the leaders approached lapped traffic as Tom double checked to see if his white flag was ready, Meseraull had his best chance to steal this race. But Grant handled the traffic like the pro he is.

    The top five were Grant, Meseraull, Weir, Thomas and Boyles. Darland was sixth and Chapple was seventh. Hewitt started and finished eighth. Hery deserved a nod for coming from 17th to take ninth. Plus, Clouser recovered from his spin to grab tenth.

    Up next were the Racesavers and Jordan Welch took the early lead. That lasted one lap as John Paynter took over. He was looking like a possible winner, but Anton Hernandez was on the move. From fifth, the Texan was second with eight laps complete. The chase was on with both Paynter and Hernandez skillfully working their way through lapped traffic as Anton steadily closed the gap. Finally, on the 15th lap, the pass for the lead was made with Hernandez sealing the deal coming off turn two. From there, it was all Hernandez as the feature was all-green.

    Damon Fortune was third behind Hernandez and Paynter. Bradley Sterett came from 11th to take fourth. Ethan Barrow was fifth. Andy Bradley started 13th and finished sixth. Scott Bradley advanced from 16th to eighth. Jordan Welch, Ryan Tusing and Justin Clark completed the top ten.

    Presumably the baby got a new pair of shoes and maybe a new toy.

    Another series of big events in the Indiana open wheel scene awaits. As this is written, I hope to be furiously taking notes at the Montpelier Speedway in about 24 hours. It’s time for Indiana Midget Week awaits.

    Waltzing while the band plays disco, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Chief Rides High

    Shane Cockrum was leading this race and there weren’t too many laps to go. He wasn’t one to count his chickens too early and it was a good thing he didn’t. Out of the corner of his left eye, he saw a white car. Who in the wide world of slide jobs was that? So much for that big lead. So much for thinking that this race at the Lincoln Park Speedway would be his personal playground, especially after Brent Beauchamp had left the race with mechanical miseries. That was Jarett Andretti down there at the bottom and he was working it pretty good. But the top groove that Cockrum had been using and abusing for most all the race didn’t let him down. He gradually pulled away and won the mid-season championship after a race long struggle to ride the high side to the checkered.

    Of note among the 31 were some surprises. Kent Christian appeared with a mount containing an interesting number, 316. Not only does that refer to an often quoted Bible verse, it represents Kent's number, one, combined with his dad's number many years ago, 36. Third generation racer Brayden Fox was taking a break from winged sprints to further his racing education. With dad Brad and uncle Steve on hand, the youngster was sure to learn a lot. Pavement ace Jacob Wilson made an unexpected visit to the dirt. Brandon Morin was on hand, hoping that the team's engine woes were history. Finally, there was fifteen year old Connor Robertson, a third generation racer from Shelbyville...Illinois.

    Greencastle, Indiana's Jesse Vermillion won the first heat. Matt Moore was second. Jarett Andretti came from the back to take third. Arizona's TyeMihocko held on for fourth.

    Midway through the second heat Brent Beauchamp took the lead and disappeared. Zach Hampton was an impressive second. Blake Vermillion and Jaden Rogers both made the show.

    Shane Cockrum took the third heat, leading Brandon Mattox, Matt McDonald and front row starter Joey Parker transferred.

    Starting on the front row for a change, Joe Stornetta won the fourth heat. Colton Cottle was second. Travis Berryhill finished third and Jacob Wilson held on to grab fourth.

    Mario Clouser won the B main, earning the right to start 17th in the A. Alec Sipes was second and Harley Burns stuck with the high groove to take third. Brayden Fox was fourth and had made the feature in his first non-wing sprint outing. Koby Barksdale had trouble negotiating turn two on the last lap while running second. As a result, he missed the show and Fox was in.

    J. Vermillion and Beauchamp were the first to see the green and the kid from just up the road led the first lap. He might have been thinking to himself, “Man, I just took the lead from Brent Beauchamp!” Can’t blame him for thinking that. Alas, it wasn’t going to stay that way as Beauchamp took the lead on the third lap. Two laps later, Cockrum passed Vermillion for second. Not much later, that would be a crucial pass.

    It was crucial because Beauchamp slowed and pulled into the infield with six complete. Just like that, Cockrum was in the lead, and playing up high on the cushion with no one in front of him on the track. A lap later, Matt Moore spun in turn four, bringing out a yellow. Cockrum had Stornetta behind him now, the Californian who had passed many cars the night before at Paragon. J. Vermillion was third with C. Cottle and Mattox behind him.

    Worth noting was Andretti in sixth and Clouser tenth.

    Stornetta wasn’t going to let Cockrum get away and was a true threat. But it ended on the 12th lap when Joe came off turn four a bit out of shape. He hit the wall and flipped on the frontstretch. My man Brian Hodde might have had a better look at the flip than anyone else. But the flagger could be forgiven for ducking. After a few minutes of clearing his head, Joe exited the car.

    During the previous green flag segment, Andretti had been busy. On the re-start, he was third behind Cockrum and Cottle. Three laps later, on the 14th lap, Andretti passed Cottle for second. And he was gaining on the leader. But another yellow waved on lap 16 when Cottle spun in turn four. Everyone missed him, but a fine performance by the Illinois native was done.

    The front runners were Cockrum, Andretti, Mattox, J. Vermillion and Rogers. As had been their habit, Cockrum went high and Andretti worked the bottom. They broke away from the pack somewhat as a battle for third on back erupted. Berryhill was on the move. Sixth on the re-start, he was in the mix for third now.

    One final yellow waved on lap 21. It was show-and-tell time. Cockrum and Andretti ran mostly side by side for the first two laps of this re-start. But the bottom was not proving to be as effective for Andretti now as the Chief opened up a sizable gap, one that he would not allow to shrink.

    Behind Cockrum was Andretti, who had started ninth. Berryhill was a strong third after starting 12th. Clouser rambled from 17th to grab fourth; he was the race’s hard charger. Matt McDonald came from 11th to fifth. Pole sitter J. Vermillion may have faded to sixth, but it was still an impressive run. Rogers was seventh and Mihocko took eighth. Alec Sipes navigated his way to ninth after starting 18th. Finally, Brayden Fox, in his first non-wing sprint feature, came from last/20th to take tenth. Not a bad debut at all.

    The winner’s strategy is one we might be able to use at times. Stick with your plan even when things look like they might not be working out. Exercise a little patience and good things might come to pass.

    Mulling over my decision to switch to rain tires, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Three of a Kind

    The Midwest Sprint Car Series came calling to the Paragon Speedway for the first time in nearly a decade on a beautiful Friday night. The 27 teams that made the trip to the venerable three eighths mile paperclip oval combined to provide the crowd with some quality competition which ended with Kyle Cummins edging Dakota Jackson and Brady Short for the feature win. This was followed by the Paragon Speedway sprints’ feature, won by Josh Cunningham.

    The rain has delayed the planting season, but this particular part of Indiana enjoyed nice weather as the weekend approached. So I kept my cool when I was slowed by a, what else, farmer on his way to do what he did best, plow a field somewhere in Morgan County and hold up traffic. It was Friday, which meant traffic will always be a factor.

    I arrived just in time for the drivers’ meeting and to look around and see who had shown up. There were the 27 MSCS sprints joined by 23 Paragon sprints running a completely different program. The cast of characters featured no real surprises.

    A.J. Hopkins won the first MSCS heat with Jaden Rogers, Kyle Cummins, Colton Cottle and Chase Stockon (again, teaming with Kent Schmidt) all moving on to the feature.

    Dakota Jackson moved from fourth to first on the first lap and led all the way to win the second heat. Trailing were Brady Short, Brandon Mattox, Chet Williams and Brian Karraker.

    Pole sitter Jordan Kinser won the third heat with his front row mate Travis Berryhill second. As nearly everyone worked the bottom, Dave Darland (again in the Buddy Cunningham car), was third ahead of Aric Gentry and Hunter O’Neal.

    The Paragon sprints ran three heats with David Truax winning the first heat over Brian Cahill and Tres Mehler.

    Josh Cunningham won the second heat. Jesse Vermillion was second. These two would meet again later. Rookie Austin Nigh was third.

    Jake Henderson took the third heat with Cody Leohr second. Ben Knight was third.

    There would be no B Main for the Paragon sprinters, but the MSCS had their B and it, too, was a good one. Shane Cottle triumphed with Matt McDonald second. Chayse Hayhurst came from seventh to finish third. Donny Brackett came from ninth to fourth. Joe Stornetta had mechanical issues which caused him to miss his heat. From 12th he patiently made his way to the front, stealing fifth from Kyle Hathaway coming to the checkered flag. Mr. Stornetta wasn’t done with excellence for the night.

    Berryhill and Short led 19 of their classmates to the green. Right off the start, one could see that Jackson had a strong horse in this race. From fifth he advanced to second behind Berryhill as the first lap was completed. This lasted until the fourth lap when a yellow waved for Matt McDonald, who spun in turn four. Four laps later, nothing had changed between Berryhill and Jackson when Brandon Mattox spun while Chet Williams stopped on track. The two leaders were trailed by Short, Kinser and Cummins.

    On the re-start, Jackson dove low in turn two and won the drag race down the backstretch to take the lead. The third yellow flag of the race waved on lap 14 when Colton Cottle went over the turn four banking. The running order up front stayed the same, except Jackson now led Berryhill, Short, Kinser and Cummins.

    But things were about to get interesting. Lap 17 saw Cummins pass Kinser for fourth. Cummins’ next victim was Berryhill, who Kyle passed on the 19th lap. On the 20thlap, the top three were inches apart. As they exited turn two, Cummins found a tremendous amount of traction and passed both Berryhill and Jackson on the outside. From there he tried to pull from the other two, but not too far because Short and Jackson wouldn’t go away.

    Coming to the checkered, Cummins led by a few feet as Jackson and Short dueled side by side, giving it all they had to give. By inches, Jackson prevailed. Hopkins got around Berryhill late in the race to take fourth. Jaden Rogers, a Paragon winner this year, finished sixth. Kinser faded only slightly to seventh. Dave Darland rang up his second top ten finish for Buddy Cunningham with an eighth-place result. Joe Stornetta came from starting last in the B main to starting last in the feature, then ending up ninth and earning the Certified Rentals Hard Charger award. Shane Cottle came from the B to start 16th and finish tenth.

    Up next were the Paragon sprints and the story there was one of patience. Coming to the initial green flag waved by Brian Hodde, a scrum ensued that ended with the truly ageless Dave Peperak sitting in the infield with a messed up front end before crossing the start/finish line.

    The second attempt went better as Jesse Vermillion took the lead over Cody Leohr. A slowdown came on lap four when David Hair and Blake Vermillion tangled. J. Vermillion still led Leohr, Jake Henderson, David Truax and Josh Cunningham. Three laps after the re-start, Cunningham passed Truax for fourth. A lap later, Henderson was Josh’s next victim. Right around the halfway point, Cunningham passed Leohr for second.

    It was almost a given that the personable veteran would close the gap on leader J. Vermillion. But for the time being, Cunningham would stalk Vermillion, both using the high groove with a nice cushion on a track that had already seen a lot of traffic.

    On the 16th lap, the yellow waved when Brian Cahill stopped in the middle groove of the backstretch. Somehow everyone missed him. This re-start had Vermillion leading Cunningham, with Brandon Spencer now occupying third place. Would he have something for Cunningham?

    That answer would have to wait a short while as David Truax spun while running fourth before a lap was completed. The race’s final re-start saw Cunningham dive low coming out of the fourth turn and make the pass for the lead and eventually the win.

    By the time the 25 laps were completed, Josh had checked out, leaving J. Vermillion to hold off B. Spencer and take second. Cody Leohr was a steady fourth. Ben Knight came from ninth to finish fifth. Henderson was sixth and Travis Spencer motored from 15th to seventh. Colin Parker was the hard charger, coming from last/20th to end up eighth. Austin Nigh was ninth and B. Vermillion came back from his early spin to finish tenth.

    All that and it was over at 10:45 p.m. Not bad at all.

    I would think that most fans went home happy, no matter how their favorite did. Among the sprints, there were no red flags and I think all 50 sprints that showed were able to load their cars onto the trailer in one piece. Me, I was happy to go home in one piece.

    Incurring a drive-through penalty at McDonald’s, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Commitment

    Commitment takes many forms, but on Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, it paid off for Kevin Thomas Jr. as he chose the high groove to conduct his race when most others hugged the bottom. By the time they followed Thomas to the cushion, he was gone, taking the win in the MSCS sanctioned feature.

    Joe Spiker’s playpen was nearly filled as 98 cars or so signed in, with 40 of them sprint cars. As is usually the case, there were a few intriguing combinations. Dave Darland, who can drive for anyone with a sprint car, hooked up with Buddy Cunningham for the night. Western racers TyeMihocko (Peoria AZ, a Phoenix suburb) and Max Adams (Loomis CA, a small town next door to R. Ballou’s hometown of Rocklin).

    Group qualifying was the method for heat race lineups and Colton Cottle was quickest of all, turning a 12.435 lap. He ran with the fifth of five groups that qualified for position in their respective heats.

    The first heat was the proverbial wild and crazy. Jordan Kinser won with Bill Rose second. Early in the race Travis Berryhill and Andrew Prather tangled with Berryhill suffering a flat tire. On the last lap, Matt McDonald tangled with Prather and ended his race facing the wrong way on the backstretch. Matt was so excited about the proceedings he threw his steering wheel at Mr. Prather, who finished third after the excitement.

    The rest of the heats were relatively tame by Lincoln Park standards. Carson Short won the second heat with Brandon Mattox and Shane Cockrum moving to the main.

    Dave Darland cruised to the third heat win over Brady Short and Mario Clouser.

    Experimenting with the high and low grooves, Kevin Thomas Jr. won the fourth heat with Kyle Cummins second and Max Adams third.

    The fifth heat did have some drama as Robert Ballou won. Joe Stornettatraded positions with Stephen Schnapfuntil making the pass late in the race to take second.

    Collin Ambrose won the C Main and led four others to tag the B. Clinton Boyles led four more to tag the 25-lap feature.

    As is often the case, it must have been tempting to conclude that pole sitter Ballou had this one locked up. Sure enough, he jumped out to the early lead and was leading when the first yellow waved when Stephen Schnapf, Clinton Boyles, Aric Gentry and Nate McMillen all met in turn two.

    On the re-start, Ballou took off and tried to leave the rest behind, using the low groove that was popular with most of the field. But with each lap, it became apparent that the high side was looking good, especially if one of those testing that groove was named Kevin Thomas Jr. In the earliest laps, KT struggled to keep up with his friends down low, but gradually, either the low groove became slower or the land by the cushion became faster or…both?

    At any rate, Thomas began challenging the leader after the yellow and made the pass on the 11th lap. Soon after this, the red flag came out when Andrew Prather’s eventful night came to an end as he flipped off turn two. Andrew was able to climb out of the car by himself.

    McMillen spun on lap 13, slowing action again. Thomas still led Ballou and Kinser. It was now tempting to think that KT would check out and things would play out that way. Once again, trying to predict how things would end and what would happen would be a futile exercise. If anyone hoped that Thomas would check out, they were to be surprised and/or disappointed.

    Ballou decided that the high side wasn’t so bad after all. Thomas may or may not have known it, but Ballou was reeling him in as the laps wound down. And then the unexpected happened.

    The wounded car of Stephen Schnapf was stopped in turn one as the yellow waved. But it waved too late for Ballou, who bounced off Schnapf’s car to a stop. Kinser, who had been running third, slid to a stop to miss Ballou. And just like that, things changed just they can do in real life. I didn’t see Schnapf’s Kinser’s reactions, but Ballou was, to understate, livid.

    The finish would be an authentic green/white/checkered affair. But the drama was pretty much over, at least up front. Thomas wasn’t seriously threatened to win. Behind him were the guys who benefitted from Ballou’s and Kinser’s misfortune. Darland had been looking at a very decent third place finish, but was pleased to take second instead. The most entertaining aspect of the latter portions of the race was Bill Rose, who started ninth and put-putted around the huggy pole and nearly took second, but fell just a bit short. Speaking of Short, Carson had a decent race, ending up fourth. Shane Cockrum, under the radar all evening, came from 12th to take fifth.

    Mario Clouser came from 13th to finish sixth. Joe Stornetta finished where he started, seventh. Brady Short was eighth and Kyle Cummins was ninth. Chase Stockon came all the way from the B Main, 18th to take tenth.

    Thomas proved that sometimes one can benefit by recognizing the quickest way around the track and sticking with it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when one’s main competitor is taken out by a freak accident. But that’s part of racing, too. Like life, sometimes it’s fair and other times it isn’t.

    Making my new goal in life to consume the complete bag of Lincoln Park Speedway’s famous popcorn, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Love/Hate

    Robert Ballou stood at the start/finish line at the Bloomington Speedway last night and told PA maestro Brad Dickison that Bloomington was his worst track. Yet he admitted that he loves the place. After last night's feature, he loves it more.

    Ballou’s comments are somewhat typical. Racers like some tracks better than others, nothing wrong with that. But it’s one of life’s humorous ironies that a given racer will triumph at a track that has bedeviled him over time.

    For racers, the red clay oval is a challenge. Tight, narrow and very high banked, with straightaways that aren’t straight (ask my youngest grandson who has taken several laps there), Bloomington is an acquired taste. To win or even run well there is quite an accomplishment for any racer.

    This was the annual Josh Burton Memorial, remembering a young man who lost his life at Bloomington six years ago. Josh would be 28 years old now and might well be one of the best, not only at Bloomington, but perhaps lots of other places as well.

    My unofficial car count was a healthy 110 cars in the pits. MSCS Sprints accounted for 29 of those cars with 25 RaceSavers, 31 Midgets and 25 mods. This was the biggest gathering for a non-Sprint Week show at Bloomington in a long time.

    With USAC rained out, Ballou was joined by a few of his competitors, including Chase Stockon in a team car to Kent Schmidt. Isaac Chapple made the trip from Henry County. Dave Darland was in his Kokomo neighbor Dustin Smith’s car. Shane Cottle was reunited with Tony Epperson. Even Levi Jones stopped by with the USAC pace truck. (Remember that USAC is heavily involved with running this track with local racer A.J. Bowlen).

    Stephen Schnapf led all the way to win the first heat. Robert Ballou won the second. Isaac Chapple took the third heat after Kent Schmidt bobbled in turn four, nearly taking others out as well. A.J. Hopkins won the fourth heat.

    John Paynter Jr. won the first RaceSaver heat. Ethan Barrow took the second heat as Andy Bradley spun and collected Alfred Galeridge. Bradley Sterrett and Hot Rod Henning won heats three and four.

    Kendall Ruble, Sterling Cling and Jon Watson won the midget heats.

    Devin Gilpin, Will Krup and Jacoby Hines won the modified heats.

    The sprint B was a perfect illustration of the highs and lows of racing and life. Dave Darland started on the tail after exiting his heat with car trouble. He stormed through the field and took the lead with three laps to go. But it wasn’t going to happen. Again, he left the track with mechanical woes as Donnie Brackett won.

    The front row of Kyle Cummins and Jordan Kinser led the mob to the green with Cummins taking the early advantage. The first try to get things going was interrupted when Carson Short stopped on the first lap. A complete re-start was ordered and again Cummins jumped out to the early lead. But Robert Ballou was on the move. From his fifth starting position, Ballou steadily marched to the front. Riding high, he was second on lap four and had Cummins in his sights.

    Immediately after the crossed flags were displayed, Ballou took the lead from Cummins with Kinser and Hopkins in the neighborhood. Just moments later, Hopkins had a boo-boo but didn’t lose a position.

    As the laps wound down, Ballou pretty much had his way while Cummins, Kinser and Hopkins had a three-way war for second. At the end the front runners stayed the same with Dakota Jackson finishing fifth in his best Bloomington effort in some time. Dickie Gaines was sixth, followed by Joe Stornetta who charged from 16th to seventh. Isaac Chapple was eighth and Carson Short recovered nicely from his early troubles to take ninth. Shane Cottle was tenth.

    The RaceSavers took over and Kerry Kinser took the early lead, but Ryan Tusing was on a mission. With three laps in, Tussing passed Kinser for the lead, which he kept to the checkered flag. Andy Bradley was second. Ethan Barrow came on strong in the latter part of the race to finish third. Kinser was fourth and Damon Fortune took fifth. Scott Bradley, John Paynter, Bradley Sterrett, Jordan Welch and Alex Nalon were the second five.

    Up next were the Midgets with 27 cars starting the feature (no B main). Kendall Ruble was the early leader until lap ten when Sterling Cling took over. Cling led the rest of the way and stopped at the start/finish line to get his picture taken. Ruble was second with ChettGehrke third. Aaron Leffel was fourth and Patrick Ryan fifth. Jacob Denney, Cody Trammell, Cory Guingrich, Ian Creager and Jack Routson finished sixth through tenth.

    Ryan Thomas won the modified feature after Devin Gilpin broke.

    I would nominate the Bloomington Speedway as the early leader of anyone’s Comeback of the Year award. With its future up in the air not too long ago, the red clay oval is back, albeit with a reduced schedule. Navigating crowded pits for me is often a chore. It can be somewhat risky. But on a beautiful Friday night in southern Indiana, making my way through the pits might have been my biggest challenge all evening. I didn’t mind at all.

    Neither did I mind my homeboy Doug Southern sharing his buffalo quesadilla with me. (To be truthful, I ate most of it with no help from anyone, not even Mike O’Leary.) Unintentionally, Doug added another choice for me when my next suppertime at the Bloomington Speedway rolls around.

    Unlike Mr. Ballou, I love this old track, no matter what. Also, unlike Mr. Ballou, I have never won a feature at Bloomington.

    Inviting Simon Pagenaud to join me at Indiana Sprint Week, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Funeral for a Friend

    With apologies to Reginald Dwight, a/k/a Elton John. The overriding issue of the final night of the Hoosier Hundred was the sad fact that this was most likely the last time we would see USAC Silver Crown racing on the Indiana State Fairgrounds mile oval. But the melancholia was put aside for a few hours and the racers did what they did best, race. At the end of the wild and woolly racin', Tyler Courtney used a high side pass on a lap 92 restart on Kevin Thomas Jr. to pull away for a convincing win in the 64th running of this race.

    Folks, don't kid yourselves. Think of just about any race track you want and consider how close that track is to extinction. There are several ways for a track to go belly up; in fact, politicians need not be involved. Rather than weep and wail and gnash our teeth, let us support these tracks as much as we can.

    The Hoosier Hundred has been hijacked by the unholy alliance of politicians and the horse/casino crowd. Politicians have seen a potential revenue source in converting the oval into a year-round horse track. Add a few poker tables and slot machines and open the doors to the wannabe gamblers (racers, promoters and the like, are the real gamblers). Then start counting the money for the State Fair, the city and county, and maybe the state. Tradition be damned; there is money to be made—and distributed to the “right” people.

    Enough of that. I wandered around all evening, taking in as much as I could. Thirty-nine of the forty-two entries appeared. It was an interesting cast of characters, led by 1997 Hoosier Hundred winner Chuck Leary, wishing to tackle the old track one last time. There were a host of, well, graybeards, semi-retired types who wanted to turn some laps before the end. The likes of Eric Gordon, Jeff Swindell, Bill Rose, Johnny Heydenreich, Russ Gamester and Brian Tyler couldn’t resist one more shot at what….laps, good memories? At any rate, we were all fortunate to have them come out.

    Qualifying was interesting. A cloud cover appeared as time trials were winding down and some guys who went out late benefitted, or at least that what seemed to be. Quick timer Kevin Thomas Jr. went out twenty-ninth. Second quick Chris Windom was thirty-fifth in line. Kody Swanson was last to take two laps and was fourth quick, despite uncooperative brakes.

    The twenty-four fastest were locked into the show and fifteen others were to scratch and claw for the last six spots in the thirty-car field. Jason McDougal took the lead halfway through the twelve lap semi-feature from Eric Gordon and ran away from the field to win the privilege of starting twenty-fifth. McDougal wasn’t done impressing the crowd. Sadly, the senior Leary’s attempt to make the show fell one place short.

    The pre-race festivities were over and the cars eased away from the frontstretch, a beautiful sight to see. At 9:18 p.m. the green flag was waved and Windom took off from his outside front row spot to lead. But disaster quickly struck the Illinois native when he somehow shredded a right rear tire, lost control and flipped wildly just past the starter’s stand on the sixth lap. Windom got out of the car under his own power, not knowing that less than twenty-four hours later he would be involved in another vicious crash at the Speedway when another competitor spun in front of him, with both cars grinding along the turn three wall.

    The race re-started and Thomas inherited the lead with Courtney second. The extended middle part of the hundred lapper saw these two up front as others advanced or faded. Shane Cottle was strong early on before he had clutch trouble after moving from nineteenth to fifth, exiting the race on lap sixty-three. The other car drawing attention was that of McDougal, who discovered a rare cushion in the turns and wasn’t shy about using it. From twenty-fifth he steadily moved through the field, displaying uncommon ability and adaptability. Like Cottle, he ran as high as fifth before losing a spot near the end.

    Silver Crown races are like enduro racing compared to sprint and midget features. This one’s middle portion lasted a long time as Thomas maintained a healthy lead and drove away on each re-start after a yellow. But later in each SC race, it will be showandtell time. For this one, it came very late.

    Chris Dyson flipped coming out of turn two on lap ninety-three. The red waved again and this one was an open red. Teams would be allowed certain adjustments to their cars during the red flag period. Courtney and company made a few changes which surely helped. They were aware that McDougal had enjoyed success using the cushion to pass people. Sunshine considered this and waited on thegreen flag. It was show and tell time, courtesy of Chris Dyson’s misfortune.

    As the leaders approached turn one, the crowd’s roar was louder than all of the powerplants when Courtney sailed into the turn, on the cushion as planned, and swept around KT on the outside. From there, the only battles on track were elsewhere in the top ten as Courtney stretched his lead to at least ten car lengths.

    Behind Courtney and Thomas was Swanson. Justin Grant came from thirteenth to fourth. Brady Bacon had the best run that few people noticed as he started eighth, made an early race pit stop and rejoined the field in twenty-eighth place. From there he raced to fifth, passing McDougal late. The young Oklahoman, in only his second Silver Crowns start, was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, coming from twenty-fifth to finish sixth. David Byrne was a steady seventh. From the Keystone State, Steve Buckwalter rambled from seventeenth to an impressive eighth. Brian Tyler and Jacob Wilson rounded out the top ten.

    After the race, I stood alone in the grandstand watching the post-race festivities. Half of me wanted to leave and the other half wanted to just cut the cord and walk out without a look back. It was easy to rationalize. I detest sitting in traffic so I walked around for a while in the pits, talking with a few friends. Except for the memories, it was over for me. For every day of your life except one, there’s another race tomorrow.

    Watching Formula One cars navigate Monaco and imagining them on the dirt miles, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Way It Should Be

    Once upon a time, race fans in much of the nation could go to a bullring and see racers battle for a victory and then, a few days or weeks later, see the same racers battling for a win in the Indianapolis 500 or another Indy Champ Car event.

    Those days, sad to say, are gone forever and they are not coming back, as much as we graybeards might wish they would. But let us not despair. The young men who showed up to compete in the Hulman Classic on a warm Wednesday night were the closest thing we have to those days gone by. I like to think that the ghosts of racers like Sweikert, Sachs, Larson (Jud for you youngsters) and countless others would smile at the sight of these modern day racers doing what they love, namely barreling into a turn at the Terre Haute Action Track and coming out of the next turn to mash the gas. They would have nodded in approval at Chase Stockon, who endured several restarts and cruised to victory in this edition of one of wingless sprint car racing's biggest prizes.

    Given that the weather is most always an issue, I was a bit concerned on Wednesday morning. Rain had passed through Terre Haute but my concern was what time did it go through, how long did it rain and how much rain fell.

    My concerns were for naught. Certainly it was muddy, especially in the pits, but the track had less mud than the pits at 3:30. The infamous turn four moat was downright tiny compared to what it's been in the past. In short, there would be racing at the Action Track tonight.

    Came back to look at the track an hour later and sure enough it was taking shape. Digging and watering was the task at hand. The watering was not from the sky either.

    Part of the time I spent lounging in luxury, namely a 16-year-old pickup truck. I entered the fairgrounds at the west end of the property. One of the first things I saw was the sign that stands over the pit entrance. It says, "Welcome" and in bold print it says, "Terre Haute Action Track." I stared at the sign and remembered that it wasn't too many years ago this track was in danger of becoming another badly needed shopping center here on the Haute's south side. Thankfully that effort fizzled and hopefully it is somewhere out there with all the other hare-brained schemes that have been doomed to the oblivion they deserve.

    Sitting in the truck and staring at the sign made it easy for me to project my attention about 80 miles east to my state capital, where politics, greed, and undue influence have combined to end a cherished edition for the tiny world of USAC Silver Crown racing, especially on the dirt mile tracks and more especially on the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

    But I digress. Time trials had my attention. C.J. Leary set fast time. Chris Windom went out much later and had second fast time. Brady Bacon’s five-year-old track record was safe.

    Robert Ballou took the lead as Tom Hansing showed the crossed flags in the first heat and went on to win. C. J. Leary, Brandon Mattox, Brady Bacon, Isaac Chapple, Justin Grant and Steve Thomas trailed.

     

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the second heat with Chad Boespflug starting and finishing second. Chris Windom was a close third. Chase Stockon, Jason McDougal, TyeMihocko and Eric Perrott finished up. Mihocko, in his first Terre Haute visit, led the first two laps before reality intruded.

    The third heat saw Carson Short hold off Tyler Courtney to win. Paul May took third. Badger Bill Balog, Nate McMillen and Brian VanMeveren followed.

    With only twenty cars signed in, there would be no hooligan/last chance race, etc. Promoter Bob Sargent was smiling anyway. Hang the back gate; the front gate was more important and a good crowd filled most of the available seats.

    Short and Stockon led ‘em all to the green with the Haubstadt resident jumping out to the lead. Windom immediately moved from his fifth starting spot to challenge Short for second. The pass was made on the fourth lap and one could be forgiven for thinking that Stockon was in trouble.

    With seven laps completed, K. Thomas Jr. stopped in turn three to bring out a yellow. Mike Dutcher and crew did their best to get KT back on the track but it didn't happen. Stockon led Windom, Short, Courtney and Bacon. On the restart Stockon took off and Windom did well to stay as close as he could.

    Yellow number two waved when Short came to a stop on the eleventh lap. The top three remained the same as the green came out. Once again Stockon refused to allow anyone to get near him, though Windom surely tried.

    This green flag segment lasted eight laps as Stockon seemed to be cruising when Nate McMillen coasted to a stop in turn three. Leary and Bacon joined the top three as the green waved on lap nineteen.

    For the next three laps it was another case of deja Vu as yet again Stockon waved good bye to the field. Leary was fourth when he unhappily discovered that he had a flat right rear tire. By now Ballou and Grant had moved into the top five.

    With eight laps to go, there remained the real possibility that Stockon would lose the lead somehow. This last portion of the thirty lapper would be all green. And Stockon was unyielding. All poor Windom could do was watch the tail tank of the 32 car get a bit smaller with each lap. Besides, Chris had a bigger problem, which was named Tyler Courtney.

    At the end Stockon was followed by Windom, who held off Courtney to grab the silver medal. Sunshine was trailed by Ballou and Grant. Bacon took sixth with McDougal finishing seventh. Short came back from his early misfortune to take eighth. Leary did the same, recovering from his flat tire to finish ninth. Hard Charger Isaac Chapple came from sixteenth to grab tenth.

    After the race, Stockon gladly took possession of the unique trophy and there are now several shots of him pretending to take a shot at some poor, lost pigeon.

    It was time to go. Fans headed home and some racers did too. Several years ago, some of those racers would be thinking about to the big track on Sixteenth Street. This year, only Chris Windom would be doing that, hoping to move to the next level. All concerned here should wish him well. Who knows? Since the loss of Bryan Clauson, we need a short track (or several) guy in the show on Sunday.

    Unsuccessfully trying to talk the Indy Car Series into adding Springfield, Du Quoin and a certain half mile oval in western Indiana to the schedule, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Riding High

    On Friday at Gas City, I was struck by people’s ability to overcome obstacles. It’s a part of our lives and we all have to deal with it. Then came Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. While watching A.J. Hopkins use the cushion to ride to the win, I thought about the constant “battle” between the tangible and intangible. When it comes to choosing a favorite to win at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Mr. Hopkins’ name will come to mind right away. You might say that he is riding high at LPS these days—just as he did on a blessedly warm night in western Indiana.

    For the first time this year, the thermometer flirted with the ninety-degree mark for much of the day. It was a weekend to visit with family in this part of the state and with Lincoln Park just down the road, that part of the weekend was settled as well.

    Each year lots of people step up and go sprint car racing. Some don’t last very long. Others hang in for a while, but eventually have to step away, often due to financial issues. A few stick around. Over there was Shey Owens from Indianapolis. There was Jimmy Sivia from Illinois, but close enough to Wisconsin to love the cheese. Justin Lewis had traded in his mini-sprint for a 410 sprinter. Another member of the Hayden family, Gary, was on hand. And near as I can tell, Bobby Logan is from west of here. These guys joined the others to total twenty-six cars among the ninety-four in Joe Spiker’s favorite playground.

    To be sure, the usual LPS mob had signed in. Joining Mr. Hopkins were names like Barksdale, Cottle, McDonald, Cockrum, Darland and…Beauchamp? Since relocating, Mr. Beauchamp has had a long commute from the “other” Columbus, the one in Ohio.

    As the first of the three heats began, I saw something that I haven't seen all spring: dust. The breeze and the very warm temperatures turned the surface dry and slick. The action was harder to see, but it was good all the same. I saw more dust in the first heat than I’ve seen all year so far. I loved it.

    Koby Barksdale got things started with an impressive victory in the first heat. Scott Hampton and Travis Berryhill had an extended duel for second with Hampton prevailing. Evan Mosely and Brady Ottinger followed those guys into the feature.

    The second heat started badly for Jake Bland, who was squeezed into the front stretch wall and stopped in turn one with the rear tires askew. The race resumed and pole sitter Chris Babcock had what looked to be one of the easier wins he's ever had. Shane Cockrum came from the back to take second. Jesse Vermillion, Brent Beauchamp and Nate McMillen all transferred to the feature.

    Dave Darland could not answer the bell for the third heat and Colton Cottle held off a charging A.J. Hopkins to win. Joe Stornetta, Matt McDonald and Tim Creech (who had Racesaver head honcho Bob Shutts helping) all made ready for the show as the People’s Champ loaded up.

    Jimmy Sivia won the B and he, Chad Davenport, Gary Hayden, Harley Burns and Shey Owens would tag the A.

    For much of the first half of the feature, Hampton and Cottle fought for the lead with Hamp prevailing. Using the low line early, Hampton was strong until…the bottom groove’s advantage went poof! It was gone and only a few guys back in the pack tried the low line.

    The high side at LPS can be and is often treacherous. It has bitten many over the years as guys have either slid over the top or bounced off the cushion. One of those guys has been A.J. Hopkins. But racers keep coming back to test the top, miscues be damned. Hopkins started sixth and gradually worked his way forward, taking the lead from Hampton not long before the halfway mark.

    Meanwhile, from his mid-pack starting spot, Beauchamp was on the move. While most were watching the leader, Beauchamp appeared in second place, seemingly out of nowhere. When Hopkins’ teammate Ottinger spun, the yellow waved and Beauchamp lined up behind the leader. The ten lap duel to the finish was delayed a bit more when McDonald and Hayden tangled in turn two, bringing out a red as Hayden flipped. Gary climbed out of the car on his own.

    So now the stage was set. Two of the best cars and drivers were primed to duke it out to the checkered. How would it play out? As it turned out, Hopkins was up to the challenge. After Brian Hodde waved the green, A.J. gradually pulled away and won by a half straightaway.

    Beauchamp was second (started eleventh) with Cockrum not far behind. Hampton may have been disappointed with his fourth, but it was a good run anyway. Travis Berryhill was fifth after starting ninth. Stornetta brought the Burton Masonry machine home sixth. Cottle was seventh with Babcock taking eighth. McMillen came from fourteenth to ninth. Barksdale was tenth. Another good weekend of racing was over for me.

    Jaden Rogers won at Paragon, a first-time winner. Kyle Cummins dominated at Haubstadt. And Tricky Nick Bilbee won at the ‘burg. I’ve yet to figure out how to clone myself. A.J. Hopkins wasn’t the only Hoosier racer who was riding high.

    Mulling over the fact that Fernando Alonso and I have one thing in common (neither of us are starting in the Indianapolis 500), I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hurry Up and Wait

    It was a long night at the Gas City I-69 Speedway thanks to an untimely shower. For the racers in the pits, it was one of those hurry up and wait evenings. But when it was time to hurry, no one did it better than Thomas Meseraull, who came from fifth to take the lead from Matt Westfall to take the win in the sprint feature. Anton Hernandez, Tyler Nelson and Joey Paxson won their respective division’s features.

    A large part of our lives consists of dealing with one obstacle after another. They are meant, I believe, to be overcome when possible. Anyone who has encountered Hoosier road construction can identify with obstacles. So what if I arrived a little later than I planned; I was upright and at a race track. But obstacles still remained for all who were gathered together at the track, mostly in the form of rain, of course. It began at seven o'clock and stopped for good at 7:50. Cars were on the track by eight as the sun tried to peek through and the first heat began at 9:10.

    Neither was I alone. Thirty 410 sprints, twenty-four 305 Racesavers, thirty midgets and seventeen TQ midgets filled up most of the pits, with a few guys doing some extra duty.

    Tim Creech won the first of four heats, taking Tyler Hewitt, Cody White and Dallas Hewitt with him to the A Main.

    Michael Koontz held off Matt Westfall, Dave Darland and Koby Barksdale in winning heat number two.

    Shane Cottle won the third heat over Thomas Meseraull, Clinton Boyles and Kyle Robbins, making a rare sprint car appearance.

    JJ Hughes took the lead midway through the fourth heat and won with Brandon Rose, Anthony Dalessio and Paul Dues all moving to the show.

    Shawn Westerfeld beat a strong field in the B, as his fellow Lawrenceburg runner Garrett Abrams took second. Adam Byrkett was third and Landon Simon came from tenth to grab the last dance card.

    The 305/RaceSavers took over and Hot Rod Henning won the first heat over Ethan Barrow, Bradley Sterrett and Patrick Kren.

    Jackson Slone, from that hotbed of racing known as Nashville, Indiana, won the second heat with Scott Bradley, Mason Day and Ryan Tusing trailing.

    The third heat was taken by John Paynter as Alex Nalon, Anton Hernandez and Andy Bradley all moved to the feature.

    For the midgets, Emerson Axsom, Tyler Nelson and the aforementioned Michael Koontz won the heats. Gunnar Lucious won the B.

    TQ heat winners were Matt Lux and Ron Combs.

    The sprint car feature lined up with a front row of Westfall and T. Hewitt, Ohio and Indiana. Westfall was strong early as he took the early lead and did his best to run away—and for a while he did. Hewitt was left to fend with the others.

    Not too often do I notice such things so soon, but I recall thinking that Meseraull was strong and not content with fifth, which was where he started. By lap four, he had passed Cottle for third and set sail on T. Hewitt. Dodging lapped traffic as best he could, TMez closed on the second-place runner.

    With ten laps complete, starter Mark Ott waved the red when Koontz took a mean flip in turn four. Michael climbed out of the car after determining where he was. Westfall led T. Hewitt, Meseraull, Cottle, Boyles, Darland, Hughes, Creech, D. Hewitt and Dalessio.

    Action resumed and Meseraull grabbed second place, then began to reel in the leader. Behind him, Boyles was a potential threat to both Westfall and Meseraull as he passed T. Hewitt for third with ten to go. Meseraull caught the Buckeye and dove low in turn one to make the pass with seven to go. Boyles wasn’t done as he, too, passed Westfall for second with five to go.

    Could Boyles catch Meseraull? Not as it turned out. He may have gained a little ground, but TMez took the checkered with Boyles about ten car lengths behind. Westfall was third and Cottle fourth. T. Hewitt faded only slightly to fifth. Darland came from tenth to sixth. Hughes started and finished seventh. D. Hewitt came from thirteenth to eighth. Landon Simon won the Tyler Kelly Hard Charger Award by motoring from twentieth to finish ninth. Dalessio, a Floridian turned Hoosier, was tenth.

    The 410 feature was over at 11:40, not bad at all considering the rain delay.

    Up next were the Racesaver 305s’ feature. For the first part of this one, young Alex Nalon set the pace. But like Meseraull, Anton Hernandez was not to be denied. From eighth, he worked his way to the front and passed Nalon on lap nine. From there, Hernandez had ‘em all covered, with slicing and dicing going on behind him.

    Action stopped on lap eighteen when Jordan Welch flipped in turn four as Andy Bradley flipped in turn two. Hernandez led Nalon, Slone, Barrow and Sterrett. While no one was going to challenge Hernandez, Sterrett found a sweet spot/groove as he charged up to second at the end, a half a straightaway behind the winner. Nalon was third with Slone fourth. Barrow was fifth. The second five was led by Paynter, with A.J. Carlson coming from thirteenth to take seventh. Eli Lakin was eighth and Justin Clark rambled from twenty-second to ninth. Scott Bradley recovered from a spin to take tenth.

    Tyler Nelson won the midget A main, leading double dipper Michael Koontz, Nick Speidel, Aaron Leffel and RaceSaver winner Anton Hernandez to the checkered.

    Joey Paxson held off Tate Martz to win the UMRA TQ feature. Cory Clay, Matt Hedrick and Johnny Goff rounded out the top five.

    It was another fulfilling night. The full moon shining over the northern Indiana countryside added to the thrills and spills of the night. No wonder promoter Jerry Gappens named the program “Open Wheel Madness.”

     Almost forgetting what dust looks like, I'm...

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: That Which We Cannot Control

    Promoters and farmers, the true gamblers, have a common lament. Both say that their biggest headache is the weather. These days in Indiana and elsewhere, rain is scuttling the best laid plans of the gamblers. But the mere threat of rain won’t keep the gamblers from at least attempting to ply their trade; if it’s possible, they will farm—or race. Such was the dilemma of Lawrenceburg Speedway promoter Dave Rudisell, a group of racers and a hardy group of fans who had ignored or braved the cloudy skies and the mostly green radar. The program was moving right along until lap sixteen of the sprint feature. Dickie Gaines was leading when J.J. Hughes brought out a yellow. Soon after that the rains came and Tim Montgomery reluctantly waved his red flag. It was discouraging but not catastrophic. Such is racing.

    Of the seventy-one cars in the pits, a dirty dozen were sprinters. Among them, close to half were potential winners. The competition promised to be spirited. It ranged from the grizzled veterans to fresh-faced rookies.

    A rookie, high school sophomore Austin Nigh, wisely chose to move from his pole position draw to the tail. He had made his debut the night before at Paragon and now faced a track that can intimidate grizzled veterans. The young man is a long-distance runner for Greenfield Central High School, and this type of competition was a long way from running 3200 meters.

    Joss Moffatt, semi-grizzled veteran, won the first heat with young Garrett Abrams a close second. Dustin Webber was third. Tony McVey edged Michael Roehling for fourth. The very young Mr. Nigh trailed the field and stayed out of trouble.

    Dickie Gaines, a mostly-grizzled veteran, came from fifth to take the lead from Nick Bilbee on the second lap of the second heat. Nick was passed by J.J. Hughes for second late in the race. Chris Phillips, who was coming off a late night at Paragon, was fourth. Braxton Cummings faded from the front row to fifth. Sprint rookie and TQ racer Callie Wolfsiffer, who has tentative plans to race at the ‘burg this year, was sixth.

    Give all involved some credit; they knew that rain was coming and hustled to get as much of the program completed as possible. The sprints rolled out with Abrams and Moffatt leading the pack to the green. Moffatt took the early lead, but third starting Gaines was on the move. He passed Moffatt to take the lead on the fourth lap as Hughes and Abrams stayed close to the top two.

    Gaines tried to check out, but that wasn’t going to happen. Moffatt had his hands full with Hughes, who made the pass on the twelfth lap and began reeling in the leader. Hughes was making a race of it until the fifteenth lap. J.J.’s lap times were as much as a half second quicker than Dickie’s as he roared into the first turn. But Hughes’ left front tire hopped over Gaines’ right rear. His right front radius rod was bent upon contact. It got worse. Hughes’ right rear tire was going flat and he spun a lap later, bringing out a yellow that became a red flag when the rain began falling.

    The cars only circled the track a lap or two before it was decided to throw the red. Sixteen laps were complete and even a quick glance at the sky told the amateur meteorologists on hand that this shower would last a while.

    Gaines was declared the winner and Moffat took second. Abrams was third and Bilbee was fourth after falling back to eighth early in the race. Webber started and finished fifth.

    Dave Rudisell could have pulled the plug at three o’clock and only a few would have complained. Those who know better would have shrugged and started planning for the next race. But he hasn’t been one to sit around and wait for rain to come. Instead, he and many of his fellow promoters are like the unnamed motorist approaching a stoplight. Some street drivers think the light will stay green and will stop at the last second if the light turns yellow. Race promoters are the same way. They won’t cancel a program until they’re convinced that they won’t be able to race on a given date.

    The rest of us benefit each time the green flag waves.

    Mistaking my microwave for a TV, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Marathon

    Indiana weather in 2019 has prevented the simultaneous running of all three of our preferred Hoosier bullrings that race on Fridays. Sitting two hours or less from all three has meant delayed decisions in which oval would have to tolerate my presence. Last week, the Paragon and Bloomington Speedways were too wet and Gas City raced. On this past Friday the 10th, Gas City received two plus inches of unwanted rain and Paragon raced. Oh, how they raced. The usual hurry up and wait routine didn’t bother A.J. Hopkins one bit. He started on the pole and raced like a guy who had woke up from a nap, drank a cup of strong coffee (or more likely an energy drink) and had to go to the bathroom. A.J. led every lap to win the first of three features.

    Arriving a little after six, I wasn’t surprised to see a long line of folks waiting to sign in. Nor was I surprised that the line was moving quickly with some familiar Lincoln Park Speedway faces taking care of business. Soon enough, I overheard talk of more than fifty sprinters jammed into Joe Spiker’s newest playpen. The unofficial count was 53 sprints with a very unofficial count of 141 cars. Smart husband that I am, I immediately texted my wife that it would be a late night.

    I fell into conversation with Kenny Carmichael while watching the lengthy track prep with hopes of writing about the Terre Haute veteran racer for Dirt Monthly. That conversation lasted a bit over an hour and Kenny had plenty of stories left over. Keith Ford was wandering the pits with a huge smile on his face, not having to worry anymore about corralling a pit full of racers. He shared a couple of stories; that would have been another hour well spent.

    The parking lot was saturated with water and I, for once, was mindful of where I’d park. Superfan Jerry Shaw was in a hurry to park and paid the price, getting stuck in the mud up to his axle. Track workers extricated the Vigo County hot rod as soon as they were able.

    Seven heats would determine the first fourteen starters for the feature. The track was about as fast as I've seen it, no surprise there.

    A. J. Hopkins and Stephen Schnapf ran one/two in the first heat.

    Chris Phillips won the second heat as Casey Shuman took the Krockmobile from last to second.

    Paragon regular Jake Scott and Travis Spencer (?) punched tickets in the third heat.

    Shane Cottle, still in the Jamie Paul car, won the fourth heat, taking still young Jaden Rogers with him to the show.

    Shane's nephew Colton won the fifth heat by a straightaway over pole sitter Jesse Vermillion.

    Ethan Barrow won the sixth heat with Matt McDonald holding off the not-so-much-retired Brady Short, who had started in the back, for second.

    Brady Ottinger won the seventh heat. Michael Koontz had second place wrapped up until he tried to pass Ottinger coming to the checkered. Michael spun to the edge of Lake Ford as Kyle Hathaway took second.

    The first of three B mains began at midnight with Chris Babcock and Ben Knight moving on to the first feature.

    Josh Cunningham, who has as many laps around this place as anyone, won the second B and Aric Gentry also grabbed a spot in the feature.

    Brady Short won the third B with Thomas Meseraull picking up the twentieth starting position in the first feature.

    Mr. Hopkins sat on the pole and immediately took off like the proverbial scared rabbit as soon as Brian Hodde waved the green, leaving front row mate Chris Phillips to fight it out with the others.

    As Hopkins sailed away, Phillips had his hands full with Jake Scott, Shane and Colton Cottle, and Ethan Barrow all scrambling on what was still a racy surface.

    By the halfway point of the twenty-five lapper, Hopkins' had a half lap lead as he weaved his way through lapped traffic as if he was being guided by a video game pro.

    As A. J. took the white flag, Stephen Schnapf spun off turn two and flipped into the pit fence. After several minutes, he exited his car. Schnapf had been running fifth.

    The re-start would be a green/white/checker. With a few lapped cars between Hopkins and second place Scott, the real drama would be among those behind the top two. Sure enough, Colton Cottle passed his favorite uncle at the end to take third. Shane settled for fourth with Phillips fifth.

    Jaden Rogers was a steady sixth. Ben Knight started sixteenth and finished seventh, the last car on the lead lap. Brady Short started seventeenth and advanced to eighth. Not to be outdone, Thomas Meseraull came from last to finish ninth. Casey Shuman was tenth.

    Brandon Spencer won the caution plagued second feature, which fell victim to the track time limit. Michael Koontz was second.

    Pat Giddens closed out the sprint car feature number three by winning. He took Iron Man Brian Hodde’s checkered flag at 2:18 a.m.

    None of the time references are mentioned in complaint. Only a total airhead would see the pits jammed with dozens of cars and think all the night’s races would be done by midnight. This is real life racing, not the edited, commercial filled TV racing many folks are used to.

    It was a good night of racing in that most racers were able to load their cars in one piece onto their trailers. The crowd could have been a bit larger, but overall it was a pretty decent opening night. After three straight Fridays too wet to race, this was a good feeling all round.

    Pricing boats that will carry my wife, me, her jewelry and my books, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hail to the King

    Let us crown Chris Windom as the King of Kokomo. On a cool, but pleasant Sunday night, Windom bided his time before passing Justin Grant late in the thirty-lap feature to walk away with the trophy and his share of the money. Windom surely earned his crown and no doubt will get a discount at a certain fast food restaurant (or not).

    This was a quasi-USAC show, seeing that Kevin Thomas Jr., Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney, Chris Windom, Isaac Chapple and Dave Darland were in the pits. Throw in semi-regulars Thomas Meseraull, Clinton Boyles, Jarret Andretti, Chad Boespflug, Shane Cottle (tonight in Jamie Paul’s limo) and Scotty Weir as genuine threats to spoil the party and you had a quality group of teams. There were thirty-three sprints sprinkled among the 60 cars in the pits.

    Clinton Boyles, Chris Windom, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Justin Grant led their respective groups in qualifying.

    The first heat saw a major three-way fight at the finish with Dave Darland holding off Clinton Boyles by less than a car length. Boyles had made a late charge to take the runner-up spot from Thomas Meseraull, who had shadowed Darland for most of the race. Zane Hendricks was fourth.

    Chris Windom passed Jarret Andretti midway through the second heat to win. Scotty Weir was a strong third, ahead of Tyler Courtney.

    Chad Boespflug won the third heat with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Travis Hery was third. Nate McMillen edged Brian Karraker to make the show.

    Justin Grant was the fourth heat winner and Shane Cottle was second. Joe Stornetta passed Koby Barksdale late to take third.

    Rookie Dustin Christie won the B, holding off Dustin Smith. Isaac Chapple and Brian Karraker punched tickets to the feature. Anthony Dalessio came on strong at the end but his effort fell a few feet short.

    Boyles was scheduled to start eighth, but bent a pushrod after the heat and the guys couldn’t find another, a mighty fall after winning at Gas City on Friday night.

    The re-draw put Grant and Boespflug in the front row. Tom Hansing waved the green and the horde of twenty took off. But the yellow came out before everyone completed a lap when Meseraull spun in turn four, collecting Stornetta, Hendricks and Christie. TMez and Stornetta’s cars exited the track on the hook. The boys had to do a complete re-start.

    On the re-start, Grant took off and began to stretch his lead until Barksdale spun in turn four. The green came out again and Grant led a high-speed parade with most of the frontrunners up by the wall. But Weir and Cottle tested the bottom and found it agreeable. From sixth, Weir moved as high as third at one point. Cottle hung around the top five before.

    The race’s third yellow waved for rookie Zane Hendricks’ spun in turn four on lap seven. Grant still led with Darland, Cottle, Weir and Windom in the top five.

    The next segment was twenty laps of green flag/no holds barred/classic Kokomo racing. Grant led most of this part of the race, but he could not check out as he surely wanted to. On the move and joining the group at the front was Courtney, who had started fourteenth. Near the halfway mark, Sunshine had long since cracked the top five and he wasn’t done. During this time Windom was on the move as well. He and Courtney finally escaped the clutches of Darland and Weir and closed in on the leader. It was a three-way fight with Weir hovering not far behind. It was going to be good, no, even better. In lapped traffic, Windom passed Courtney. And just before the race’s final yellow waved, he passed Grant.

    Twenty-seven laps were completed when Jarett Andretti lost a right rear wheel in, where else, turn four. Windom led Grant, Courtney, Weir and Darland. This was shaping up to be another wild and wooly finish, given Kokomo’s history. But Windom refused to play. He kept his distance between him and Grant. Behind them, Courtney and Weir played “you slide by me and I’ll slide by you.”  Like the last team to score before a game’s end, Sunshine executed the last slider before he and Scotty took the checkered.

    Behind Windom, Grant, Courtney (who had started fourteenth) and Weir (who won the Do More with Less award), Darland was fifth. Cottle was sixth with Boespflug fading somewhat to seventh. Hery was an impressive eighth and Thomas finished ninth with another uncharacteristically mediocre result. Courtney’s charge to the front was certainly impressive, but maybe the best race that few saw was Isaac Chapple’s drive from nineteenth to tenth, gaining him the hard charger ‘atta’ boy.

    It might not have been the King of NASCAR or IndyCar, but there’s very few racers in the world of racing who were and are capable and talented enough to be the King of Kokomo. I’d wager that there were few kings of any kind who were as happy, deserving and content as this year’s king after the race as he was interviewed by Kokomo/Gas City track rat Rob Goodman.

    Here it is May and I have at least three Hoosier tracks that I’ve not seen yet. I’m hoping that changes this coming weekend.

    Consuming a Whopper wearing my own cardboard crown, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Cowboy Time

    On a damp and chilly night where one could see their breath, Clinton Boyles rode his bucking bronco, better known as the pride and joy of car owner Paul Hazen, to a dominating victory at the Gas City I-69 Speedway. The rain that has plagued the area left the surface of the quarter mile bullring more suitable for a motocross event, but the feature (along with all other races) was caution free.

    Any race track that races on Friday nights is a challenge to get there. Gas City is no exception. The traffic on Indiana State Road 9 was the usual. Getting to through Greenfield is always an ordeal. Dealing with the road construction on 69 is a given. But the grandsons and I arrived right at 5:00 and joined the line to get to the parking lot.

    As we arrived, I discovered that the temperature was a bit cooler up here, 100 hundred miles from my house. From 73° and partly sunny, we were greeted by 60° and cloudy. A t-shirt and shorts probably weren't the best choice of attire. But, seeing that this was the only track racing tonight with Bloomington and Paragon falling victim to the weather, I had other things to occupy my mind.

     

    Notable among the 35 sprints (out of about 115 cars) were Dave Darland, in Mike Dutcher's chariot, Kevin Thomas Jr., Brady Bacon in his own car, Thomas Meseraull with help from Dave Stensland, Justin Grant, Chad Boespflug, Jarret Andretti, Scotty Weir and a midget racer jumping into a 410 beast, Zane Hendricks. Also trying his luck was second generation race Shane O’Bannion. Unfortunately, he was the only sprinter to get upside down all night and that was during hot laps.

    Isaac Chapple led all the way to win the first heat. Thomas Meseraull couldn't overcome his eighth starting spot and headed to the B.

    Justin Grant came from fourth to take the lead and win the second heat.

    Clinton Boyles took the lead from Ben Knight midway through the third heat and won. Scotty Weir and Jarret Andretti went to the B.

    Anthony Dalessio started on the pole and won the fourth heat over Dave Darland by a couple of feet.

    Thomas Meseraull passed Scotty Weir midway through the first B and won, taking Weir with him to the show. Garrett Abrams easily won the second B with Travis Hery holding off Zane Hendricks to grab the 20th starting position in the feature.

    After a brief intermission where a few folks tried to toss a Frisbee into a barrel in back of a moving truck on the frontstretch, the sprint feature lined up. Promoter Jerry Gappens missed his target of finishing by eleven, but one shouldn’t complain given the number of cars jamming the pits. And given the weather conditions, Jerry was most likely pleased to see a very decent crowd hungry to see some racin’ after a long off-season.

    The front row of Darland and Chapple eyed starter Mark Orr’s green flag and took off at 10:45. Neither of the front row guys would lead a lap. From third, Boespflug got around both to leads the first three laps. But Boyles was coming on strong from his eighth starting spot. Owning the top groove, which was relatively free of ruts, Boyles sailed toward the front. He dove under first Darland, showing him a huge right rear tire, then Boespflug, taking the lead on fourth lap.

    Boyles extended his lead as the field spread out, and began dealing with the lapped traffic on the tenth circuit. Often we see leaders have issues with lappers, but that wasn’t the case on this chilly evening. Quickly, Boyles put distance and cars between himself and new second place runner Grant, who passed Boespflug at about the same time Boyles caught the tail end of the field.

    Given Grant’s track record, one might expect him to reel in the leader as the race went on, but it wasn’t happening tonight. Try as he might, the California native could not get any closer than a half straightaway behind the leader.

    Trailing Grant in third was Kevin Thomas Jr., who couldn’t seem to get untracked. Bacon was fourth while Tyler Hewitt had the best race that few saw, coming from fourteenth to finish fifth. Dave Darland was sixth, the last car on the lead lap. Andretti came from thirteenth to take seventh. Matt Westfall was eighth and Scotty Weir motored from nineteenth to ninth, making me a prophet in the process (Before the feature I had told Weir’s car owner Scott Pedersen that Scotty would be the hard charger—and he was). Paul Dues started and finished tenth.

    Announcer Rob Goodman said that the weather, cool, damp and a bit of fog, reminded him of London, England. Guess I should have told him it reminded me of London, Kentucky, where I’ve spent a few nights.

    We need to remember at least two things. One is that extended periods of rain are not a dirt oval’s best friend. These surfaces can be hard enough to prepare in ideal conditions, and complainers need to show up really early to observe these people doing their best to make the track as smooth as possible. The second thing is that, regardless of the results of their efforts, they do their best. We should not ask any more than that.

    Kudos to friend/superfan Keith Wendel, who loaned me one of his many sweatshirts and made sure that my top (heavy) half would be warm. Thankfully, he didn’t want it back on Saturday, when both Lawrenceburg and Lincoln Park rained out. Again.

    As this is written, I’m aiming for Kokomo on Sunday night and it looks like weather will be permitting.

    Cheering for all my favorite drivers like I’m at a strip club, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Budget Racing

    One might think that racing on a tight budget is nerve wracking and/or stressful. They would be right; it has to be a real challenge to make some tough decisions before heading to the local bullring. Lots of people would flee from the idea of risking life, limb and dinner for the feeling one gets while standing at the start/finish line holding a trophy and getting interviewed by Brad Dickison. Meet Thomas Meseraull, who has this budget racing deal down to a science, or an art. On a lovely Saturday night with rain on the way, Meseraull was by far the happiest individual in Putnam County as he inherited the lead-and the win-when leader A.J. Hopkins crashed out of the race at the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana.

    My inferior math skills helped me figure out that sprint cars made up 3/8 of the eighty-eight cars in the pits. Several of these guys were strangers, but they were racers all the same.

    The USAC race at Tri-State Speedway fell victim to both wet grounds and impending rain. LPS and Lawrenceburg served as Plan B for several of the guys who simply wanted to race. Promoters at both tracks made what was for them an easy decision to race until or if it rained.

    To race or not to race…

    A lot of fans went to Lincoln Park knowing that there was a good chance of late rain. They have learned that good promoters will race if there is any chance at all that rain won’t fall. This is true even when there’s a good chance that the promoter will lose money for the night. They are willing to suffer a short-term loss due to the threat of rain because their dedication to racing pays off in the long run. Hoosier sprint fans from Haubstadt to Gas City (and all points in between) know that if there’s a chance of rain and the promoter has plans to race, they are liable to show up, not wishing to miss any race at (Your track’s name here) Speedway.

    Remember Lee Dakus, the Canadian who raced in Indiana a few summers ago? He’s back here and listed as being from Mooresville, Indiana. He won the first heat over Kent Schmidt, Dave Darland and Jaden Rogers, who started back in eighth.

    Shane Cockrum won the second heat over A.J. Hopkins, Colton Cottle and Travis Berryhill, who also came from eighth to transfer into the feature.

    Hunter O’Neal was impressive as he passed both Kevin Thomas Jr. and Shane Cottle in winning the third heat. Cottle, Thomas and Jordan Kinser trailed. For the third heat in a row, the fourth-place finisher started eighth.

    Koby Barksdale won the fourth heat with TMez second. Joe Stornetta and Brandon Mattox punched A Main tickets.

    Nate McMillin, Brady Ottinger, Garrett Aitken and Dustin Christie all made the feature via the two B Mains.

    The redraw put Dakus and Cockrum on the front row. The Chief took the early lead and held it through the early laps, slowed by a case of yellow fever. Hopkins was on the move from his sixth starting position, using the high side to take the lead on lap nine.

    For much of the race, the bottom groove was ignored by most all the front runners. Hopkins rode on the cushion and extended his lead over first Cockrum, then Meseraull, who had started eighth. Then the unthinkable happened, something that was the race’s turning point. With seventeen complete, Hopkins got into turn three a bit high and found himself above the cushion, in the rough. He did a lot worse than make a bogey; the leader flipped hard, landing in turn four and bringing out a red flag.

    Now it was Meseraull, Cockrum, Thomas, Rogers and Darland up front as Brian Hodde waved the green. Thomas got around Cockrum for second and set sail for the leader, finding some traction down low. But as the race neared its end, one could see that all Meseraull had to do was avoid any mistakes. KT could not make up any ground and TMez took a well-earned win.

    After the race, Meseraull was his usual loquacious self, taking close to a minute thanking people, none of whom were big money sponsors. He marveled at Hopkins’ “rippin’ the cushion” before A. J.’s disaster struck. And he noted that he had showed up with three dollars in his pocket and that will make one race harder.

    Behind Meseraull and Thomas (who started eleventh) was Jadon Rogers, who flew under the radar for much of the race, steadily making his car work in the low groove after starting thirteenth. Cockrum faded a bit to take fourth. Joe Stornetta Jr., now in the Burton Masonry car, recovered nicely from an early race spin to come back and finish fifth. The second five was Darland, Berryhill (from fourteenth), Brandon Mattox (from sixteenth), O’Neal and Aitken (from eighteenth). The proverbial blanket could have been thrown over finishers three through seven at the end.

    A large percentage of racers typically sign in on a given race night knowing that they are one mechanical failure or one crash away from parking the car for however long it takes to get it fixed. They are, as they will tell you, nuts. But as addictions go, there may be worse ones. The point is to celebrate and appreciate the efforts of the budget racers to do what they love.

    As pure as the driven snow until I drifted, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Maestro

    Some trips we take go more smoothly than others. Often it boils down to traffic. Often negotiating traffic is an exercise in futility, but there are those few times one catches both the traffic and the green lights in such a way that we can permit ourselves a small victory celebration at the end of the journey. Consider Brady Bacon on a beautiful, if a bit cool, southern Indiana Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway. Brady didn’t have to worry about stoplights and minivans full of rambunctious children and inattentive drivers. But he did have to deal with continuous lapped traffic that he handled like, well, a maestro. It took Bacon exactly 407.18 seconds (6:47.18, breaking A.J. Anderson’s 18 year old record) to win the Larry Rice Classic, a USAC Amsoil Sprint Car production.

    The story behind the story…

    It wasn’t too many months ago that the Bloomington Speedway’s future was cloudy at best. People (well, I) were thinking the unthinkable. Would the red clay oval have any racing in 2019 or would it cease to exist? Rumors flew across social media at the usual blinding speed. They turned out to be another episode of fake news.

    Finally, the truth emerged as local race fan/former racer/realtor A.J. Bowlen and USAC stepped up and offered a plan. The track wouldn’t be open every Friday night, but seven (and maybe more) races were scheduled.

    I considered all this as I walked down pit lane, surrounded by tens of thousands of horsepower rumbling like wild animals barely under control, impatiently waiting to be unleased. Another dream had become a reality.

    The car count was lower than expected, with twenty-six cars signing in. The Racesavers had twenty-two cars. But, as usual, the quality was there. The track was immaculately prepared by Henry Bryant and crew. The new bleachers were in place. It was time.

    Chad Boespflug’s qualifying record was in jeopardy and, sure enough, C.J. Leary, first qualifier, beat the old record of 10.737 with a blistering 10.685. A few minutes later, Boespflug beat his old record, but not Leary’s with a 10.713. Brian VanMeveren had a good lap going when he flipped wildly off turn three. He was able to exit the car himself.

    Heat winners were Robert Ballou, Brady Bacon and Tyler Courtney. Chase Stockon won the B.

    RaceSaver heat winners were Jackson Slone, Andy Bradley and Ryan Tusing.

    Moving right along, the feature lined up a bit past nine. Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr. were the front row Bacon got the jump and did his best to check out. Until he reached lapped traffic on lap seven, Bacon was stretching his lead with every lap. The lappers would be a major challenge, as the move over flag had itself quite a workout. Often race leaders struggle with lapped traffic with the second-place runner taking advantage. But it wasn’t happening tonight.

    It seemed as if most of the field of twenty-two were in a huge scrum as Bacon approached. Thomas did close the gap somewhat until he, too, had to deal with some cars that weren’t that slow themselves. Bacon kept at least two cars between him and Thomas before he emerged from the pack on the nineteenth lap, leaving KT make his way through the lappers. The Alabama native broke away from the pack on lap twenty-four and set sail for the leader. But Bacon was too far ahead to catch.

    By now Thomas had his own problem, which was named Jason McDougal. As the race wound down, McDougal got close enough to Thomas to apply some pressure. He couldn’t make the pass, but was maybe two car lengths behind KT at the end.

    Bacon’s margin of victory was 2.158 seconds. Behind Thomas and McDougal was Courtney (the KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger) and Leary. Sixth was Grant with Boespflug seventh. Stockon was eighth with Chris Windom, in a backup car, ninth. Ballou completed the top ten.

    From where I sat and/or stood, the night was a success. It was a decent sized crowd and the new bleachers are a plus for some, while some who liked sitting in their lawn chairs at the top of the hill weren’t as crazy about the new arrangements.

    The track stayed fast and passing was difficult; Bacon had trouble passing some pretty good lapped cars. The Bloomington oval is narrow and many racers who excel elsewhere struggle at Bloomington. Conversely, those who excel at Bloomington do the same elsewhere.

    It was Bacon’s twenty-fourth USAC feature win (hat tip to R. Murray). In addition, this was Bacon’s first Bloomington Speedway feature victory.

    Following the USAC sprint’s feature, Ethan Barrow passed John Paynter Jr. midway through the twenty-five lap RaceSaver main event to hang on for the win. Anton Hernandez passed Paynter on the last lap to take second. Bradley Sterrett was fourth and Ryan Tusing recovered from a spin to race to a fifth-place finish.

    With the modified feature the last event, the RaceSavers’ feature was over at or around the ten o’clock hour. It was a pleasant surprise ending to a well-run program. The huge gamble taken by Bowlen and company was, in my opinion, off to a very good start.

    As this is written, rain and wet grounds have won both the Tri-State and Terre Haute races for tonight and tomorrow. Both Lawrenceburg and Lincoln Park/Putnamville are still aiming to race. But it may as well be me that says there’s a chance of rain at both tracks tonight. Another Indiana weekend in racing season. For every day in my life except the last one, I just shrug off the disappointment that rainouts bring and begin thinking about the next race…and the traffic.

    Liking WikiLeaks before I never heard of it, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Outhouse, Penthouse and... Vindication

    Oh, the ups and downs of racing, it's a part of what we see each week. Often it isn't very dramatic, except to a few. But sometimes it's there for all to see and react to. That’s how it went on the final night of the Kokomo Grand Prix as Kevin Thomas Jr. won the USAC Nos Energy Drink National Midget feature by .015 seconds over Justin Grant. This came after Grant had won the sprint feature, surviving an unwanted meeting with KT in turn three of the last lap. It was understandable if Thomas felt like he was on an emotional roller coaster.

    The weather couldn’t have been much nicer as twenty-nine USAC midgets and twenty-one Kokomo sprints gathered for another typical Kokomo brawl on the dirt. Among the sprints, C.J. Leary’s new sprint car ride was present while Brady Bacon and Jarett Andretti went racing at the ‘burg. Scotty Weir turned up with Scott Pedersen and their no frills/plenty of speed operation.

    Double dippers tonight were Dave Darland, Thomas Meseraull, Kevin Thomas Jr., Justin Grant, C.J. Leary and Jason McDougal, who had rung up two second place finishes on Friday night.

    It was a new day and a different track than Friday’s surface. Speeds were slower but the track was wider, which meant more opportunities to pass. If the track slowed down as the later qualifiers went out, it didn’t slow much. Young Zeb Wise was quickest at 13.542and he went out midway through the session.

    Local sprinters led off the fun with three heats. Weir won the first heat as challenger Clinton Boyles exited the track. Grant was second, ahead of Aaron Farney, Dustin Smith and Matt Goodnight.

    Dave Darland used the outside front row starting spot to win the second heat over his midget teammate Thomas Meseraull. Leary, Matt Westfall and Andrew Prather trailed.

    Jason McDougal won the third heat with K. Thomas second. Pole sitter Travis Hery was third with Minnsesotan Brian VanMeveren fourth. Fellow gopher Rob Caho Jr. took fifth.

    Jason McDougal won the first midget heat over Tanner Carrick, Zeb Wise and Logan Seavey, a race that had three of the Keith Kunz organization’s cars in the lineup.

    Tyler Courtney moved from sixth to take the lead and the win in the second heat. Chris Windom nipped Dave Darland at the line to take second. Meseraull was fourth. 

    In the third heat, Kevin Thomas Jr. overhauled early leader Jesse Colwell to take the win. Colwell and teammates Chad Boat and Dillon Welch all moved on to the show.

    Tucker Klaasmyer beat Justin Grant to the checkered and won the fourth heat. C.J. Leary sneaked past Jerry Coons Jr. at the line to grab third.

    Jake Newman won the B. Zane Hendricks, Holley Hollan, Ace McCarthy, Andrew Layser and Cole Bodine all punched tickets to the feature. Stirling Cling and Ethan Mitchell took provisionals.

    A different look…

    The story behind the story was the track. The speedway team that worked on the track labored as hard, if not harder, on the dirt on Friday as they did on Saturday. There may have been some complaining on Friday, but it was muted as people who should know were aware that this group of track workers is pros and they do their best each time a race is run.

    They do most of their work long before anyone else shows up, in fact, days before. Most of that work is done in obscurity and solitude, with patience also playing a key role. The weather is the one thing they cannot control and often it gives people such as Reese O’Connor heartburn as he and the crew try to guess what the weather conditions will be on race day.

    Friday’s track was a little rough around the edges. Saturday’s track was smoother and wider. The racing was, if possible, more spirited on Saturday. And the fans, at least, had a good time.

    ---

    The sprint feature had some high-speed drama. Pole sitter Scotty Weir led the first lap but Justin Grant emerged from mob up front to take the lead. Kevin Thomas Jr. took over second as Weir faded.

    Action slowed for a mid-race yellow. The green waved and Thomas pressured Grant for the lead. Then after the white flag waved, it appeared that KT had a good run off turn two going down the backstretch. He began an outside pass of Grant as turn three rapidly approached. Justin didn’t see him and moved up enough to put Thomas into the wall and fence, stopping suddenly and flipping onto the car’s side. The red flag waved.

    Needless to say, Thomas was not amused. Out of his car in no time, he took a tiny scooter and sped toward turn one where Grant was parked. A brief argument about the best banana bread recipe ensued, but only angry words were exchanged.

    On the re-start, Tom Hansing waved the green and white flags simultaneously. Grant cruised to a controversial win with Thomas Meseraull, Jason McDougal, C.J. Leary and Dave Darland in the top five.

    A tough act to follow.

    Up next was the midget A Main. Windom and McDougal were the front row, but Fate had placed Grant and K. Thomas in the second row. McDougal blasted his way to the lead at the start and pulled away for a spell, using a tried and true method of taking turn three up by the wall, then diving low in four to launch down the front stretch. This worked like a charm until the race’s first yellow waved on lap eight.

    On the re-start, Grant got the jump on the leader and took over. The California native began using McDougal’s line. Again, this tactic worked well. Friday winner Tyler Courtney removed himself from contenting for the lead when he flipped on lap fifteen.

    Thomas had been the forgotten man as he had spent much of the race in fourth or fifth. He had faithfully stuck with the groove by the wall, perhaps waiting for this lane to change into a winning tactic. Wouldn’t you know; this paid off. The yellow waved on lap twenty-nine and it was green-white-checkered. It was down to the combatants of the previous race. Both stuck to their lines and Thomas slid in front of the leader coming out of turn four. Both he and Grant were flat out. Who would win? It was KT, with the margin of victory .015 seconds or half of a tire.

    Behind Thomas and Grant, Zeb Wise was third and was gaining on both. McDougal and Leary rounded out the top five.

    Post-race, Thomas, speaking of Grant, said, “He’s been my friend for a long time.  He didn’t crash me on purpose, but I’d get mad at my grandma if she crashed me.”

    That sums it up pretty well.

    Misplacing my push to pass button, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ride ‘em Cowboy

    The Kokomo Grand Prix is one of many must attend events in my home state. Combine the baddest bullring with the USAC Nos Energy Drink National Midget Series and it’s a winner. So what if it was a little chilly? And so what if the track wasn't as wide as it usually is? Mother Nature plays rough here. Even though there was no rain, there's still plenty of water in the ground and even the best track massagers aren't able to guarantee a smooth surface. None of that mattered to Tyler Courtney as he took the lead over Kevin Thomas Jr. midway through the thirty-lap feature and survived several restarts to a KGP feature win for the second year in a row. Earlier, Chad Boespflug reunited with his former car owners and won his first Kokomo sprint car feature as sprints shared the card with USAC Midgets.

    Among the twenty-three sprints and thirty-two midgets assembled were the usual new teams and combinations. C.J. Leary was in the FMR team’s midget, replacing Brady Bacon. Holley Hollan has joined the KKM crowd. Chris Windom and Andrew Layserhooked up with the Clauson-Marshall group. Thomas Meseraull and Dave Darland were teammates for probably the first time in their careers. Kevin Thomas Jr., Cole Bodine and off roader Sterling Cling joined veteran Jerry Coons Jr. on the Petry team.

    As mentioned, Chad Boespflug was back with his former teammates Chuck Eberhardt and Fred Zirzow. Brady Bacon was also having a reunion with the Hoffman/Dynamic team. Kevin Thomas Jr. was part of a new team with Brodie Hayward. And Dave Darland, with the help of a lot of friends, bought a race car as his Briscoe Racing deal hit a snag.

    Darland, Merseraull, K. Thomas and Jason McDougal all had busy nights with rides in both series.

    The track may have been narrow as the land above the cushion was potentially treacherous, but it was lightning fast. The midget track record didn’t have a chance of surviving. No less than thirteen cars shattered Rico Abreu’s six-year-old track record for a midget with Dillon Welch setting fast time, turning a 12.665 lap, compared to Rico’s 13.009 effort from 2013. Among the sprinters, Boespflug’s 12.559 best time barely beat Welch.

    The sprinters began the festivities with three heats. Darland, Jared Andretti and Boespflug won their heats with Dave and Chad coming from fourth to take the win.

    Before the midgets came out for their four heats, it’s worth mentioning again that the way to win is to assemble the resources necessary for a multi-car "super team." If the sponsors and other money people are ready, willing and able, the team will come together. The final piece to the puzzle remains the same. That would be the one sitting in the seat. Without that particular part of the team, even the super teams will struggle.

    The days of a one car team on a tight budget showing up as the favorite to win are gone if they ever were here in the first place. Old and (young) timers may lament the passing of those "good old days" but this is today's reality, at least in midget racing, a reality that includes, I might add, healthy car counts and pretty decent action on the track.

    Tanner Carrick, Tyler Courtney (with a late race pass of Tyler Thomas), North Carolina’s Ethan Mitchell (with a Honda engine rebuilt by his dad) and Zeb Wise won the four heats. Justin Grant got a little above the cushion in heat three and flipped, ending his night in the midget division.

    Logan Seavey led quick timer and racing announcer Dillon Welch to win the B Main. Tyler Nelson flipped in turn one, exiting the car under his own power. Cole Bodine and Karsyn Elledge took provisionals.

    The sprint feature was next and Chad Boespflug did his part in “stinking” up the show. He dominated, leading all twenty-five laps and crossing the finish line as second place Jason McDougal was coming out of turn four. Justin Grant, Dave Darland and Jarett Andretti rounded out the top five. Clinton Boyles’ night ended better than it started as he came from eleventh to finish sixth. Kevin Thomas Jr. was seventh and Brady Bacon (who had a mechanical issue in his heat) came from twenty-first to take eighth, leading TMez and Cole Ketchum to the line. The race was all-green with flagger Tom Hansing keeping busy with the move over flag.

    K. Thomas and Meseraull led twenty-two others to Tom’s green flag. KT jumped out to the lead, but Courtney was on the move from his sixth starting spot. By the time Tony Dimattia flipped on lap four, Sunshine (on a cloudy day) had moved up to second. Thomas maintained the lead for a spell, but soon after a yellow for Justin Peck, Courtney began using the lowest groove like the pro he is. He took the lead on the fifteenth lap and did his best to check out. It’s true that Jason McDougal offered a mild threat later in the race with his best chance coming after a re-start with three laps to go. But it wasn’t gonna happen. Courtney had ‘em all covered.

    Behind Courtney and McDougal were Chris Windom, Zeb Wise (from twelfth and closing on Windom) and KT for the top five. Six through ten were Seavey, Meseraull, Welch, Leary and Carrick, who started sixteenth and was involved in one of the race’s several caution periods. Dave Darland motored from twenty-first to eleventh to take the KSE Racing Products/Sundollar Restoration Hard Charger money.

    The checkered flag waved at 10:45.

    It struck me that this kid Courtney hasn’t been mentioned as one of those who seek to “move up” to a racing series with higher visibility (read that as the Outlaws or NASCAR). There’s nothing wrong with this plan. Driving for Tim Clauson is probably more of a joyful reward than hooking up with another series and group of people anyway.

    We as fans and observers benefit from the decision that those such as Courtney, Grant, Windom and maybe McDougal have made to stay right where they are with the dynamic mix of kids younger than them and veterans who still have it.

    Super teams or not, enjoy this as long as it lasts.

    Trying to convince Harvard that my grandchildren are all world class badminton players, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: When in Carolina…

    If someone says something like “racin’ is racin’,” don’t argue. After all, they are partially correct. It’s just that things are done differently wherever you go. Obviously, it’s still race cars of some sort on a race track, but there are numerous differences in everything from the cars to the announcers to the menu at the concession stand. With this in mind, my abbreviated March stay in North Carolina allowed me one visit to the living history exhibit called the Hickory Motor Speedway, in the heart of NASCAR country.

    It was going to be cold on the Saturday as I left the little house on top of the little mountain 90 miles west of Charlotte and 70 miles southwest of Hickory. Thinking about the temperature topping out in the mid-50s didn’t slow me down, because I had three layers of clothing to help “brave” the elements. Thinking that the temperature was ten degrees warmer than Indiana at the moment didn’t help much in dealing with the cold evening, but sometimes it takes more than a chilly March evening to keep some people (especially race fans) inside.

    I was determined to find some common ground in comparing the racing at Hickory with the racing I see in Indiana from April through October. I found it sure enough, but there were times the common ground was obscured by the different way folks do things down here. Too often we all emphasize our differences in racing and in society and we’re all too happy to point out the differences as we claim whatever we deem to be “ours” is superior to “theirs.” For me this is a waste of everyone’s time because we spend too much time and energy tearing down the “other” when we’re all better off just noting that things are different elsewhere.

    Right away I found one positive. Each time I’ve been at Hickory, racing is delayed by an autograph session on the frontstretch. Race tracks everywhere might consider doing this more often. It doesn’t have to be every week, but while watching families shyly approach drivers who stood ready to offer hero cards or just shake hands, I was sold. The track was cleared and racing began maybe 15 minutes later than scheduled.

    My own highlight of the autograph session was a conversation with a younger gentleman whose last name I recognized. I asked him if he was related to the late Jimmy Pardue, who drove in NASCAR in the early sixties until his death in a tire test in 1964. Kenneth Pardue was proud to say that Jimmy was his cousin, but he was a baby when Jimmy was killed. I was reminded that I was a bit older than this guy, seeing that I remembered reading about it in my dad’s NSSN a few days after it happened.

    Considering the chilly weather, I thought it was a decent sized crowd that was hungry for some live racin’, not the TV stuff. As I thought of the TV racing, I wondered if NASCAR would consider bringing its AAA series back to Hickory as it did not too many years ago. Surely I was dreaming. Why and when would NASCAR want to go back to its’ roots?

    I missed Pat, Brad and the other Hoosier announcers. The group announcing at Hickory couldn’t mention enough times about how a given driver would bump another driver out of the way to win. I guess it’s accepted practice down here, but that doesn’t mean I like it. And to resort to such speculation to hype the next race is downright juvenile to me. But that’s the way it is in today’s fendered racing. It’s why I’m more of an open wheel fan myself. To each, etc…

    Car counts are of another culture here. There were six(!) classes of race cars, including the pickup trucks. Numbers ranged from eight to eighteen in counts. Some of the cars looked very similar, leading me to wonder why some classes couldn’t combine. But everybody races a feature; there is that.

    Speaking of features, that’s all I saw at Hickory. The format is practice, qualify and race a feature, ranging from twenty-five laps to forty. I should have asked a fan if they had ever heard of a heat race, or a consolation/B Main as well. They don’t exist here.

    By the night’s end, I figured out that, despite all of the things foreign that I experienced, I needed to get over myself and accept that the whole event is fine with fans and drivers. Six or more classes of cars? No problem. Light (by my standards) car counts? So what? Announcers boosting anticipation of wrecks and maybe fights? Why not? Lots of torn up race cars and hurt feelings? Big deal, it’s just another Saturday night of beatin’ and bangin’ at Hickory and that’s they way it’s done here, you ignorant Hoosier-tuckian.

    I had better add that I enjoyed a cheeseburger and French fries that were comparable to those found at any Hoosier bullring. (But hell will freeze over before I try fried bologna or livermush sandwich.) Best of all, without fail, every single person I encountered, from the ticket booth to the autograph session were as friendly as could be and all made me feel as if I were among friends. Will I go back? Probably, the next time I’m in North Carolina, which could be as early as September this year.

    With all the action, the last race was over at 10:45. I was back “home” just after midnight, thawed out and tired, but quite happy. The first race I’ve seen this year was done, with many more to come, I hoped.

    I keep coming back to the tangible and intangible. Many things are done differently in the Tarheel State as opposed to Indiana; that’s plenty obvious. But consider the intangibles, the race cars on a race track with fans cheering them on, the joy that each winner expressed after each race, the look of wonder that is on kids’ faces as they get up close to a race car, and, of course, the displeasure shown by someone who exited the race earlier than he had planned. Speed and competition still make this deal worthwhile, no matter what form it takes.

    Wondering why I didn’t tell certain colleges that my daughter was a Grade A student who played football, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    Requiem for a Racer

    King Chesterfield opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling. Apparently, he was still alive, he ruefully thought to himself. He turned his head to look at the bags that contained his pain killing medicine. They looked to be about half full. That meant the nurses wouldn't be bothering him. It also meant that if he was going to finish his last lap on Earth, he would have no one here to witness his passing, not that he cared.

    In his seventy-four years, King had burned countless bridges, exchanging harsh words and feelings with dozens of fellow racers, car owners, mechanics, sponsors, promoters and race officials. That didn't count three ex-wives, two siblings and four children, all adults now. The King was, on the surface, the epitome of an unlovable human being.

    As he saw it, the goal in racing was to do whatever it took to win. So what if winning involved some wheel banging at high speed? If the other guy came away from such high-speed contact with a torn-up race car and an intense desire to smack King upside the head, well, good luck to him, King always said. He had always been pretty good at verbal intimidation and had a reputation for settling matters with his fists or any heavy object that might be handy, such as a tire iron.

    But all that was in the past now. Decades of a wild off-track lifestyle had caught up with him. Rather than ponder his fate or think about his few victories, King ached to break out of this room and hit the road. Since retiring from racing, he had made a good living selling race parts. It wasn't as much fun as driving but it paid the bills and then some. His customers tolerated doing business with him only because of the quality of the products. King was careful not to cheat the customers too much lest he would be found out. It was a good gig, but it was over. King just didn't want to admit it. Then again, King had never been one to be honest with himself, let alone anyone else.

    King closed his eyes, reluctantly because he was not sure if he would ever open them again. So what, he thought to himself. If this is it, then he would have to ride it out. King had never given religion or an afterlife much thought. The way he figured it, a guy got what he could get while he lived and he didn't have time to consider other people's thoughts or feelings. King never was much for pondering the future in this life or the next.

    Opening his eyes with a start, King realized that he had nearly drifted off to, what, sleep? To keep his eyes open, he looked around the room, set up to look like a motel room, no matter what the intent of the hospice facility may have been. The TV in the corner, silent. It was just as well, King thought. The drivel on TV would put him to sleep. There it was again, the idea of closing his eyes and going to sleep.

    Truth be told, the King was a bit apprehensive about taking this checkered flag, though he would never admit it. It wasn’t quite the same as barreling into turn three at Terre Haute or any other track, not knowing what the car would do, glue itself to the cushion or jump the cush and smack the wall, or in some places, go over the banking. This was the last turn he’d encounter and he wasn’t exactly barreling into it.

    King exhaled and closed his eyes, promising himself that he would open them right away. But he didn’t. They stayed shut but he could see something in the distance. What was it? King guessed it was either clouds of some kind of fog. Through the fog, or whatever it was, figures seemed to be forming. Gradually they seemed to come closer. King wasn’t scared; instead he was curious. Inching their way along, he thought he could identify the figures.

    Slowly the figures became distinguishable and now King was somewhat anxious. The first form was that of his first ex-wife. She edged closer to him and King inwardly flinched. Their parting had not been pleasant. He had left with a convertible full of his belongings and all of their savings, leaving her and their eight-month-old baby destitute. A year after King had left, the mother had jumped off a bridge, clutching her and King’s baby, into an ice-cold river.

    With a start, King tried to open his eyes. He couldn’t. If that wasn’t distressing enough, another figure emerged from the fog. It was a racer King had known quite well. He had feuded with several competitors over the years, but this guy had been one of the first. He, too, came to a bad end, crashing to his death after King had banged wheels with the poor fellow. That sent him into a terrifying series of flips before he cleared the wall, flipping a couple of more times before hitting a tree and catching fire. His face and body form were disfigured and this grabbed at King’s heart. King had heard that the unfortunate racer had suffered horrible injuries and burns, but he had no way of how horrible it was. Officially, the encounter was judged to be a racing accident, but most folks in the pits and a few in the grandstands knew better. The racer left behind a wife and two small children while King motored to a third-place finish after the accident.

    More and more spirit creatures began to take form. One by one King recognized them, family members, teachers from his school years, old classmates, people with whom he had done business and fellow racers. Their ages didn’t matter; King still could tell who they were. Now he was downright scared and confused. Why were these figures from the past here? Where was he? And, how could he get out?

    One at a time, the apparitions drew closer, but each held out their “hands,” as if telling King to stop where he was. King had not been the brightest bulb in the room, but he guessed that the dozens of specters were either telling him to not even attempt to come closer or perhaps they were saying that it would be a bad idea for King to continue this encounter.

    The shadowy figures slowly faded back into the fog and King felt relief, though he was still confused where he was. Try as he might, King could not open his eyes and this was a great cause of concern. He had to admit to himself that he was genuinely scared, even terrified. And it wasn’t going to get better. Another, larger shape was slowly emerging from the fog. King’s fear was still within him, along with something he had never felt, namely the feeling of being intimidated. He had always been quick to tell anyone he encountered that he couldn’t be intimidated by any driver, official, business associate, or anyone else. But now, King Chesterfield was feeling intimidated and fear.

    The shadowy figure seemed to increase in size as it grew closer. King could see an outline of a face. It was no one he could recognize and this was a cause for more of the feeling he already had. As it drew ever closer, the shadowy figure began to bring forth a glow, a dim glow that became clearer and brighter as it came toward King. Strangely enough, King’s apprehension ebbed as the form advanced to him. It was a comforting presence, a foreign feeling to King.

    The large apparition held out what King assumed to be his hands, or something close to it. King correctly assumed that the being was inviting him to go to a better place. King must have indicated that he was refusing the invitation and the friendly being receded into the background. King wondered what was next.

    Soon he would find out. As the shadowy figure faded away, the other figures re-appeared and King’s discomfort returned. The same cast of characters returned, led by King’s ex-wife who now re-appeared carrying what appeared to be a baby. It was surely his baby who the ex-wife had held when she had jumped to her death.

    King was stung by this. Seeing these other specters was bad enough, but seeing that baby now held by her mother, gave King a new level of fear, along with a sense that he could feel a growing warmth that covered his own being. He found himself in a state of spiritual sweating. No matter how hard he tried to turn away, King could still see the mother and baby. He was in agony.

    Now the dying racer still could not open his eyes, but somehow he was able to communicate his wish for the spirits that tortured him to leave and for the lone figure of light and comfort appear. His desire to encounter the comforter was received and, to King’s surprise, the soothing peace that had radiated a portion of tranquility began to take its place as the unhappy reminders faded away one more time.

    The lone figure, which dominated King’s space now, held out what appeared to be his hands just as he had done moments ago. King, very unsteady and frightened, did the same. He was transported to what appeared to be a gigantic room, totally lit by a bright light, origins unknown. King’s apprehension, fear, anger, arrogance and ego all seemed to melt away, replaced by peace, contentment and even love, a new emotion for him. The room, or whatever it was, contained an infinite number of spirits, many of them, familiar to King. The eminent Spirit held his hand out, as if presenting the scene to King, and transmitted a soundless message to King, “Welcome.”

    King permitted himself a genuine and contented cosmic smile.

    Back in the hospice room where King’s earthly realm resided, a visitor arrived, too late to talk with King. Marcus Kerwin was the earthly opposite of King Chesterfield. Quiet, humble, devout without flouting his faith, Marcus enjoyed a successful career. He had raced against King several times, with Marcus usually finishing ahead of the guy whose results didn’t live up to his braggadocio. He had been friendly to King as he was to everyone, but King always had a putdown or insult in return. All the rude words rolled off Marcus, who would continue as if nothing was said. Other racers marveled at the two for vastly different reasons.

    Marcus looked at the body lying in the bed and was struck by the expression on King’s face. It was one he had never seen King have in his racing days or afterward. It was beatific, an almost smile, a look of total contentment. It was the look of serenity, a man at peace with himself and everything else.

    Marcus scratched his head and wondered about what had led to that look on King’s face. He guessed that, whatever it was, King must have made a last-minute decision to right the wrongs. Marcus chuckled and surmised that it could have taken a long time to make his peace. He couldn’t have been more wrong.

    After King had closed his eyes, the events that followed took less than ten seconds in earthly time. Eternity beckoned as King took his earthly checkered flag and his spiritual green flag.

    Wondering how TV preachers sleep at night, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Finishing Strong

    Justin Grant spent the first part of this year in a state of frustration, most likely. There were occasional decent results, but no victory lane interviews. Then in August, things changed. Who can know how or why things change? At any rate, Grant and company began to win. Since then, they haven’t stopped. And on a chilly northern Indiana night, Grant did it again, winning the last Indiana sprint car feature of 2018 at the Kokomo Klash XII.

    So much for Haubstadt being my last race of the year. I was reminded that Kokomo had a little race meeting the following weekend, and off I went, ignoring the threat of rain, the wind and the cold temperatures.

    One way to keep warm was to Meander and Loaf my way through the pits, gawking at both new and familiar faces and cars, occasionally stopping to talk with friends and acquaintances.

    There was a lot to see. Among the 115 odd cars jamming the pits, 27 were sprinters and 21 more were midgets. Chad Boespflug, plagued by a lack of funds most all year, had shown up to play one more time. The last time I saw Tom Davies, he was taking a trip to a Ft. Wayne hospital after a nasty flip at Gas City. But here he was, perhaps the epitome of a racer in its best form. Team Goodnight had three cars, one for Matt, one for Dave Darland and a third for Anthony Daleissio, a Florida racer. Modified/late model ace Brian Ruhlman was making his sprint car debut. Scotty Weir took his turn in the Pedersen open trailer special.

    There was the usual group qualifying, but with a Klash wrinkle, no inverts. The fast qualifier would start on the pole. One result of this was the treat of seeing two races in one as the faster group would break away.

    Dave Darland edged Jarret Andretti to win the first heat, as the field settled into two races in one. Tyler Hewitt edged Chad Boespflug for third. Cole Ketchum led the second group and took fifth, locking him into the feature.

    Justin Grant won the second heat, which became a three-car breakaway at first before Grant pulled away. C.J Leary took second just ahead of Scotty Weir. Stratton Briggs led the second group and finished fourth ahead of Brian Ruhlman.

    Chris Windom made it three pole sitters in a row in winning the third heat. Clinton Boyles led the first half of the race, but settled for second with Shane Cottle a close third. Matt Goodnight took fourth and Ted Hines passed Dustin Webber on the last lap to finish fifth.

    Dustin Webber won a competitive B main. Brian Van Meveren came from ninth to finish second. John Gurley edged Parker Fredrickson for third. Mike Roehling came from last/12th to grab the last spot in the last feature of the year (for most of us). Chris Miller flipped after running over a right rear tire on the second lap. He exited the car fairly quick. Anthony Daleissio spun in turn two after the re-start—while leading. Somehow everyone missed him.

    Darland and Grant were the front row for the feature. It turned out that they would be the show, too. The first five laps would be about as intense as it gets for Kokomo; that is saying something. Darland, Grant, Leary, Windom and Andretti engaged in a carnival of slide jobs at both ends of the track, with no one gaining a clear advantage. This was interrupted by a Dustin Webber spin on the fifth lap.

    On the re-start, Tyler Hewitt and Matt Goodnight found themselves parked in turn one, adding a bit more to Tom Hansing’s workload. The boys tried again and went green all the way, reaching lapped traffic about five laps after the green waved.

    Grant officially led every lap of the first half of the race, but Darland was never far away. Both opted to hang out up against the wall, where the cushion must have been microscopic and disaster was inches away. Grant and Darland showed why they remain two of the best at Kokomo (and pretty much anyplace else they race).

    Darland dove low in turn one just past the halfway mark and grabbed the lead. But Grant wasn’t done. He stalked the Hall of Famer, searching for a way around as the laps wound down. Sure enough, Grant returned the favor with two laps to go and made the pass stick. He pulled away at the end, winning by 1.077 seconds.

    Behind Grant and Darland was Leary, with Windom ending up fourth. On a night when passing was tough, Cottle came from ninth to finish fifth. Andretti was sixth and Weir took seventh. Ketchum came from 13th to grab eighth. Boespflug was ninth and Boyles tenth for Paul Hazen, who should be in the Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

    As expected Clauson—Marshall teammates ran one/two in the midget feature, with Zeb Wise winning and Cole Bodine second. Bodine spun on the second lap while leading, giving Wise the lead. The youngster from Angola, Indiana was never threatened for the lead. Bodine atoned for his error by charging through the field and taking second. Shane Cottle, the night’s only double dipper, came from last/21st to conclude his race in third. The ageless Russ Gamester was fourth. Alex Watson was fifth. The second five was Justin Dickerson, Jon Steed (from 17th), Chett Gehrke, Chase Jones, and Aaron Leffel.

    Blane Culp won the 600cc Micro feature. Jesse Simmons, an Illinois resident, won the last race I saw this year, besting 19 other Thunder Cars.

    Finally, all the racing was over. The teams loaded up and went home or maybe a nearby motel. The track workers picked up their tools of the trade and immediately began thinking of the Saturday portion of the Kokomo Klash. Track prep began soon after a late model took a few hot laps around the oval.

    I hung around hoping to tie up loose ends for a story. I wanted to leave, but didn’t want to leave. You know that feeling? I’m sure that it’s not confined to racing people. But reality asserted itself (Or did it rear its ugly head?). I ambled out to the little white truck with the racing decals. For me, another year was complete. Thoughts would turn to the upcoming holidays and grandchildren. After that, plans would be made for North Carolina, my beloved self-imposed exile. And after that? I would be ready for yet another six or seven months of chasing races and stories. A goal of being a published author finally came true in 2018. Who could know what 2019 would bring?

    I’m glad to say I am closing 2018 strong, if I do say so myself. (<<sarcasm lives!)

    Thanking Allan, Justin, Jim, Dave, Jill, Tommy, Mike, Adam, Rick, Reece, Marv, Joe, Loris, Jerry, Mallorie and many others, especially Anita, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Curtain Closer

    Somehow C. J. Leary outran a strong field and impending rain to win the season's final race at the Tri-State Speedway, with his wallet bulging courtesy of an extra five grand. The program, an aptly named Harvest Cup, was a joint effort of the MSCS and POWRi/WAR sprints.

    Going into the evening, there was a good bit of chatter about Kyle Cummins and the BELL Racing USA Triple Crown Challenge finale, a late addition to the festivities as a part of WAR’s co-sanction. As shall be shown, the Princeton, Indiana ace's effort to collect the $20K for winning all three legs of the miniseries came up just a little short.

    As a hardy group of fans assembled, ignoring the chilly weather, my meandering the pits resulted in my finding a strong group of racers. There were a few USACers hoping to run off with the five thousand. Among them were Dave Darland, C.J. Leary, Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney and local favorite Chase Stockon. There were the MSCS regulars such as Carson Short, the 2018 MSCS champ, Donnie Brackett, Chet Williams, Kent Schmidt and Brandon Mattox. And there, parked in the midst of them all, was Robert Ballou, on the outs with USAC and a few tracks, but not here. That story is not over. What the winter will bring is anyone’s guess. One thing for sure is that it will bring more heat than light.

    Kyle Cummins led a depleted field to the checkered flag in winning the first heat by a large margin over Dave Darland. Carson Short was third and the Big B, Brian Van Meveren, took fourth. Tri-State visitor Trey Gropp and Josh Hodges got upside down in turn two of the first lap after an unwanted meeting. Donnie Brackett was also involved and had to retire from the race.

    Robert Ballou took the lead midway through the second heat and went on to win. Justin Grant was second. Jason McDougal finished third and Landon Simon, who led the first half of the race, ended up fourth.

    C. J. Leary grabbed the lead early in the third heat and romped to the win. Kent Schmidt made a late pass of Brandon Mattox stick and took the silver medal. Pole sitter Aric Gentry finished fourth behind Mattox.

    Chase Stockon was the third of three leaders and won the fourth heat. Tyler Courtney was the second leader and finished second. Jarret Andretti made a late pass of Chet Williams to finish third.

    Donnie Brackett came from fifth to win the B, a race that would be hard to top. James Lyerla was second. Brandon Morin was a lonely third. He missed a great scrap behind him. Two newcomers to Haubstadt, Trey Gropp from Nebraska and Riley Kreisel from Missouri, both wanted fourth place badly. For most of the race they fought for the chance to start 20th in the feature. At the end, Gropp took the last card and would tag the field for the 30-lapper.

    The evening had started early as Cummins and Ballou led 18 of their classmates to Tom Hansing’s green flag. Rain was on the way, according to the radar. The green waved at 8:05 after a brief intermission. Cummins took the early lead, with visions of about twenty $1K bills inviting him to race even harder. But Leary was in the mood to be the spoiler. After starting third, he passed Ballou on the second lap. Not happy with that, he motored by Cummins a lap later.

    Nine laps were complete when Brandon Mattox flipped high and hard in turn one, knocking some Gibson County soil off the wall. Tom Hansing brought out the red flag and Mattox gingerly exited the car. The front row occupants had been displaced as Leary and Schmidt had annexed first and second. Ballou and Cummins trailed with Grant residing in fifth place.

    During the red I stole a look at the radar. Rain appeared to be imminent. Green shades covered all around Haubstadt, but wasn’t quite ready to fall. I was somewhat agitated, especially after Friday’s Terre Haute USAC race fell victim to the rain, my third consecutive rainout.

    The green lights blinked and Grant passed Cummins for fourth. Kyle did a half spin a lap later and righted himself. But Darland, Brackett and Lyerla were all collected as Cummins drove away. On this re-start, Leary and Schmidt led Ballou and Grant for a lap before the two California natives swapped positions. A lap later Andretti passed Ballou as well.

    Landon Simon brought a halt to the proceedings when he flipped in turn four with 14 laps completed. Again, I checked the radar and again the green on the image covered most all of southwestern Indiana. The lineup now was Leary, Schmidt, Grant, Andretti, Ballou, Cummins, Short, Williams, Stockon and Gentry.

    The rest of the race was a frantic and determined performance by those left running. Cummins gained new life and began to move forward. Five laps after the re-start, he passed Ballou. On the next lap, he passed Andretti for fourth, an impressive feat considering that the third- generation race had advanced through the field after starting 12th.

    But the story—and the show—was, even more than Leary, Schmidt, who got under the Greenfield, Indiana native several times in trying to take the lead as the laps wound down. Kent came up short, but had reason to celebrate, which he surely did. Grant was third and Cummins came up short in his bid for the pot full of money. Andretti was fifth, a fine finish. Ballou faded slightly to sixth and Stockon was seventh. Williams roared from 16th to take eighth. Brackett started 17th, was involved in a yellow flag, and still finished ninth. Gentry came from 15th to end up tenth.

    The time was 8:34 p.m. Central time and the rain still had not arrived. Reluctantly I left midway through the modified feature, heading to the truck stop just south of the track to fill up the tank. On the way up U.S. 41, moisture appeared on the windshield of the white Chevy Cruze. As I went by the track, it was apparent that racing was done for the night and the year. All three classes squeezed in their main events before any precipitation arrived. It was a gift well-deserved for the racers and the track.

    That, in essence, closed out my own 2018 racing season. It began with stock car racing in North Carolina and, if the weather isn’t too cold, could end on this coming Sunday at Salem with a, you guessed it, a stock car race. Otherwise, Haubstadt was the curtain closer and a good one it was, too.

    Voluntarily releasing my tax returns, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Rain Magnet

    Fans, race teams and the personnel of the Kokomo Speedway endured another rainout on what became a very wet Saturday evening. As this is written late on Saturday night 100 miles south of Kokomo, the rain date is for Sunday, October 7, even though the Sunday forecast doesn’t look the greatest.

    Even as I motored north, I was very aware that rain might make an appearance at the track, but no way was I going to take the chance that somehow the race would happen. This was to be an open wheel banquet, offering up the All-Star Circuit of Champions and the POWRi Wingless Auto Racing league. Over 80 cars jammed the pits, with plenty of unfamiliar faces mixed with the familiar.

    I’ve concluded that if there is any rain north of Indianapolis, it will surely visit Kokomo, especially the northwest side of town. Arriving early, there were several mini-ponds of standing water in the parking lot, the pits and the edge of the track’s infield. With a nice snazzy pair of new tennis/racing shoes, I had to dodge countless mud puddles in order to keep the shoes clean.

    As I ambled around the pits, it became unnecessary to look at the radar. This was because the sky northwest of the track grew more and more ominous. Dark and menacing clouds moved ever closer. It was only a matter of time. Rather than gawk any more at the cars, I decided to retreat after a quick trip to the concession stand. I made it to the truck just in time before the first drops fell.

    At approximately 5:15 the rain started. Five minutes later, it was a mini-deluge. It was difficult to see across Davis Road and the little truck wasn’t parked that far away. I stayed where I was, reading and enjoying some popcorn. I didn’t want to drive in that mess and I wanted to get the word from somebody about the inevitable postponement and possible re-scheduling.

    A half hour after the rain began, the word came down that we would try again on Sunday. I started the truck, hoping I wouldn’t get stuck pulling out of the parking lot from my spot near the sign out front. The wheels spun a little, but I made my escape, hoping to get home around 8:00.

    The rain became a drizzle and persisted until I reached the Howard-Tipton county line. By the time I reached Hamilton County, U.S. 31 was dry. Other than a brief shower while I traversed the northernmost point of I-465, the trip home was uneventful.

    Baseball on TV was an unsatisfactory Plan B. After that I found the recording of F1 qualifications. That would have to do, thanks be to the DVR. Instead of watching sprinters fly around the badass oval that is Kokomo, I settled for watching F1 racers take it to the limit, rain be damned.

    Sunday would be another day and, I hoped, another race.

    Trying not to throw the remote at the TV when Gene Kelly dances and sings his way through “Singin’ in the Rain,” I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Big Mo

    The Oxford Dictionary of Sports Science defines psychological momentum as, "the positive or negative change in cognition, affect, physiology, and behavior caused by an event or series of events that affects either the perceptions of the competitors or, perhaps, the quality of performance and the outcome of the competition.”

    One of the more puzzling and fascinating conditions of the human spirit is that of momentum. It seems to appear mysteriously, then it will sooner or later disappear in the same way. Justin Grant and company have been searching for success all year in USAC action. This past Thursday night at Kokomo, they won and who could know what would happen next. Their finish at Gas City could be considered ordinary. Then came the Fall Nationals at Lawrenceburg. And then came another big money paying victory as Grant chased down Brady Bacon and took the lead and eventually the win, which made it $20,000 in prize money in three nights.

    With 27 modifieds and approximately 15 vintage cars parked in the pits (now home of the Dave Rudisell Media Center, which, to my delight, is in truth a public restroom), 26 USAC sprints made for a mostly full house. Iowan Frank Rodgers and his 305 sprinter returned. Pennsylvania racer Brandon Spithaler was in the ride usually occupied by veteran Dustin Smith. Justin Peck was again in the Jerry Burton car. The locals were well represented by Dickie Gaines, Nick Bilbee, Jarett Andretti and 2018 ‘burg champ Garrett Abrams. It may not have been the last USAC race this year in Indiana (Terre Haute on October 14), but it was the last Lawrenceburg race this year.

    The track was its usual unpredictable self. Rather than slow down as time trials went on, it didn’t exactly follow that pattern. C.J. Leary drew a mid-pack number and set fast time with a 13.977 lap, nearly a second slower than the track record, held by Levi Jones in 2008. Kevin Thomas Jr., the James Dean Classic winner on Friday night, was second quick and went out 19th. Third fastest was Brady Bacon, who qualified, naturally, first. Chris Windom flipped on his first qualifying lap and had to scramble, bringing out the backup car.

    Leary made an opening statement of note, coming from sixth to win the first of three heats with a last lap pass. Dakota Jackson led every lap but the last, taking second. Justin Grant was third. Shane Cottle was fourth and fourth fastest qualifier Chase Stockon finished fifth, the last spot available for the feature.

    The second heat began with a four-wide jam in turn two, but the boys handled it flawlessly. Carson Short led all the way to win. Pole sitter Matt Westfall was second. Second row mates Jarett Andretti and Dave Darland were next. But K. Thomas beat out Tyler Courtney for the last dance card.

    Brady Bacon took the lead midway through the third heat and won with Dickie Gaines second. Josh Hodges took third ahead of Justin Peck. Jason McDougal was fifth after a fierce battle with Isaac Chapple.

    Courtney won the B, leading Windom, Chapple, Dallas Hewitt, Tyler Thomas, Spithaler and Nick Bilbee, making a last lap pass on Minnesota visitor Brian VanMeveren.                                                                                                                                                                            

    Darland and Grant occupied the front row for the 30 lapper. They had Courtney and Chapple to thank. Grant took off as Tim Montgomery waved the green and led the first lap before Bacon snatched it away. Leary, who had started sixth, barreled into turn one a bit too hard and caught the wall, flipping hard. After a few minutes, he climbed out of the car and was on his way to the crash house for some X-rays.

    The re-start saw Grant and Bacon trade classic ‘burg sliders, zigging and zagging as if they were in a team competition for synchronized slide jobs. Bacon tired of this and broke away from Grant, but wasn’t able to check out.

    Grant caught a break that might have been the turning point of the race when Brandon Spithaler spun in turn four with 11 laps complete. After sizing up the leader on the re-start, Grant reclaimed the top spot. But Bacon wasn’t going away; he stayed within ten car lengths the rest of the way.

    Those who knew what to watch had their eyes on Windom, who had started 19th. When Leary had his unfortunate encounter on the second lap, Windom had already blasted his way to 14th. By the time Spithaler had his moment on the 12th lap, Windom was seventh. He was far from done.

    At the race’s halfway mark, the group up front consisted of USAC’s dominators in 2018: Grant, Bacon, Courtney, K. Thomas and Windom. After carving his way through the field, Windom’s charge stalled as he fought with Thomas for fourth. He finally made the pass on KT after battling for several laps. Thomas, for his part, found Darland unwilling to give up and go away. He briefly lost fifth place to DD before regaining the spot.

    At the end, Grant finished first and could think about counting some serious coin. Bacon was second and perhaps was talking to himself after coming so close. Courtney was third, perhaps disappointed with a position some would sell their favorite beanbag chair to take. Windom was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, coming from 19th to fourth. K. Thomas beat out Darland for fifth. Andretti was a quiet and efficient seventh. Stockon faded slightly from third to finish eighth. A night after his second USAC podium, Chapple found himself mired in ninth, but still no shame considering the eight ahead of him. Hodges loaded his car into the hauler after finishing tenth.

    Somewhat reluctantly, I left. As of now, my schedule shows two visits to Kokomo, one to Terre Haute and one to Haubstadt. I’ve already waved bye-bye to the others, again reluctantly. It happens every year. Sprint car racing goes on the back burner and soon thoughts will turn to the return to the mountains of North Carolina and lots of reading, writing and leaving the arithmetic to my wife.

    The momentum is building; I can feel it.

    Persuading my stomach that, no, we did not go to Taco Bell, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Biding One's Time

    The title of this report came close to the tried and true First Time Winner, but Kevin Thomas Jr. had other ideas. Let us give KT his due. He motored around race long leader Isaac Chapple on the 26th lap of the feature at the Gas City I-69 Speedway and went on to win the inaugural James Dean Classic. But now emerged yet another young racer who could well be a threat to grab his first USAC sprint car victory. With two third place finishes in his last three races, Isaac Chapple had reason to believe that he can break into the win column soon.

    Of the 95 cars in the Gas City pits, 33 were tried and true USAC sprinters. Among them was Thomas Meseraull in his own creation with a good bit of assistance. Tony Diamattia and Josh Hodges, the college educated duo, were back. Frank Rodgers, an Iowan used to racing winged 305s and 360s, headed east to see what the fuss is about Indiana racing. There was an assortment of BOSS racers, including the World’s Fastest Beekeeper, Bob McMillin, who made the long haul from Pennsylvania.

    The track was a speed magnet and it stayed that way throughout time trials. To prove it, Chris Windom went out late and set fast time, an 11.988. The top 20 qualifiers were within a half second of each other.

    Tyler Courtney emerged from a mean three-car fight for the lead with the win in the first heat. Clinton Boyles, 2018 Gas City track champ, held onto second, keeping Windom third. Shane Cottle was fourth; that sent Justin Grant to the B main.

    Isaac Chapple gave evidence of things to come as he passed Dallas Hewitt and Brady Bacon on the same lap to win the second heat. C.J. Leary was fourth behind Hewitt and Bacon in a race that saw only five of eight finish.

    The third heat was won by front row starter Kyle Cummins. Kevin Thomas Jr. came from sixth to second. Jason McDougal took third and Tony Dimattia used a last lap pass to sneak into the show ahead of Matt Goodnight and Josh Hodges.

    In a bit of a surprise, Michigander Dustin Irwin held off the likes of Dave Darland to win the fourth heat. Carson Short, in the Chase Briscoe Racing bullet as opposed to his own, was third with Chase Stockon advancing far enough to make the feature without running the B.

    Justin Grant salvaged a seventh starting spot in the feature when he won the B. Hodges, Tyler Thomas, Matt Westfall and Thomas Meseraull were second through fifth. Tyler Hewitt came on strong at the end to take sixth and find himself sharing the back row in the show with Dallas Hewitt, no relation.

    Two young racers led 20 of their partners in standing on the gas to Brian Hodde’s green flag, namely McDougal and Chapple. Chapple, from east central Indiana, took the lead and dug his claws into the top spot. K. Thomas annexed second quickly, leaving McDougal to fend off a host of others who wanted to pass somebody, anybody. Chapple couldn’t shake Thomas, never leading by more than ten car lengths, but KT couldn’t make any kind of charge either.

    Behind them, things were the usual, interesting at worst and compelling at best. Windom, running fifth, began pressuring Stockon for fourth. It took him every bit of ten laps to make that pass before he did. Leary also was moving forward after dropping a few spots at the start of the race. Before long, he, too, would be doing his best to make Stockon’s life even more stressful.

    The race’s first yellow waved for a Dallas Hewitt spin in front of the leaders on the 18th lap. The pressure would be on Chapple on the re-start. Lined up behind him was K. Thomas, who may well have been plotting his first green flag move. But KT had pressure of his own, courtesy of McDougal. Windom was fourth and Stockon was ahead of Leary, but not for long.

    Two laps later the second yellow waved for a Tony Dimattia spin near where D. Hewitt had spun. Leary had made the pass and was now fifth. He was far from done, as a few people were to find out. This final re-start found Chapple still holding off Thomas, guarding the lower line. But the Alabama native kept looking for the chance to make a pass—on the outside if he couldn’t pass on the bottom. Finally, in turn two, on the 26th lap, Thomas got around Chapple for the lead.

    Isaac’s troubles were not over. McDougal was coming on, still determined to move up. On the last lap, going into turn three, McDougal got into the side of Chapple, getting both out of shape. Along came Hodges, who hit Chapple’s car, straightening it out, but Hodges and McDougal ended their race parked in the infield of turn three as the checkered waved.

    The checkered flag was quickly replaced by the red flag when D. Hewitt flipped in turn two. Dallas was out of the car quickly as everyone else stopped on the track. At the end, K. Thomas was the winner with Leary second. Chapple was third because he established the lower groove and invited all to pass him on the outside. Only K. Thomas and Leary could do that.

    Missing the podium was Windom in fourth. Stockon came away with a fifth. Darland came from 12th to finish sixth. Cummins was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, moving from 18th to seventh. Grant was eighth and T. Thomas took ninth. Boyles did the track regulars fine by coming from 20th to take tenth.

    Thus concluded the 2018 season for the Gas City/I-69 Speedway. After lying dormant for the past few years, along came Jerry Gappens, a local boy who showed that, on occasion, one can go home again (with all due admiration and respect for one of my favorite authors, Thomas Wolfe). Not only did he come home, Mr. Gappens must have read about the mythical bird, the phoenix, that rose from its own ashes to fly again, because this track has done the same.

    Rather than ponder that accomplishment for very long, Grandson #2 and I left as soon as we could. After all, he had a football game at 9 A.M. on Saturday morning (which he won and threw a pass for a two point conversion).

    Biding my time, I’m…

    Danny Burton  

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: It's About Time

    It could be said that Justin Grant and the TOPPS crew have not had the year they were capable of having, but all that was washed away as Grant won his first USAC victory of 2018. What a win it was as the California native kept no less than Tyler Courtney at bay in the grand finale of the Smackdown at the badass bullring also known as the Kokomo Speedway.

    Mike Miller won the BOSS feature with a last lap pass.

    A portion of my day was spent in Bloomington, having lunch with two wise advisors, namely Mike O’Leary and Doug Vandeventer. We ate too much. Doug bought my lunch. I tipped the server big time, leaving my company a better man who headed north to Kokomo.

    The survivors of a twice rained out Smackdown were a hardy 23 cars in the Kokomo pits, sharing space with 31 BOSS teams, most of them Buckeyes with a few Hoosiers sprinkled within. The USAC portion of the pits included no surprises, unless one included Robert Ballou, MIA for the rest of the season for written and/or verbal communication that ran afoul of USAC rules. Making rare appearances with BOSS were the likes of Josh Cunningham, Andrew Prather, J.J. Hughes and Tyler (Son of a) Gunn, a young man from northwestern Ohio with wing and non-wing experience. Justin Peck was in Jerry Burton’s car, a first-time pairing (far as I know).

    Action began with four BOSS heats. The first was case of two veterans who know how to race. Josh Cunningham and Bill Rose ran side by side for most of the eight-lap heat before Cunningham prevailed. Andrew Prather was third and Travis Hery took fourth.

    The first two heats saw people sticking with the lower half of the groove, especially in turns one and two. This worked well for pole sitter Mike Miller, who won the second heat. Dustin Smith was second. Ty Tilton finished third and Dustin Ingle was fourth. Justin Peck hit a rough spot in turn one and ended up against the wall, done for the night.

    Before the third heat, some agriculture work was done in the turns one and two vicinity and the groove moved a little closer to the top. Jake Scott came from fourth to win. Michael Fischesser was second and Steve Irwin was third, which was where he started. Steve Little made a last lap pass of Korbyn Hayslett to sneak into the A.

    When Brandon Spencer jumped the start, Dallas Hewitt found himself on the pole. He used the promotion to win the fourth heat. J. J. Hughes was second. Tyler Gunn was third and Paul Dues came from last to take fourth. The groove was inching higher.

    USAC Comes to Play

    The USAC boys had two heats to run, in addition to the King of the Hill tournament. Logan Seavey, in one of two Briscoe Racing cars, won the first heat. Pole sitter Kyle Cummins, owner of a new book, was second. Scotty Weir was third and Dakota Jackson fourth. Seavey’s teammate, Carson Short, took fifth.

    C.J. Leary used his outside pole position to win the second heat, Pole sitter Chase Stockon was second. Jarett Andretti finished third. Clinton Boyles and Isaac Chapple ended up fourth and fifth. Everyone made the feature.

    The King of the Hill was next as the top eight in Smackdown points would square off in three lap slidefests. The winners advanced; the losers slunk away to the pits, doomed to starting in the second, third and fourth rows. First up was Tyler Courtney against Jason McDougal, who edged Sunshine, sending the point leader to the third row of the feature. Dave Darland beat Brady Bacon by a decent margin. Tyler Thomas romped to the win over Kevin Thomas Jr. Justin Grant topped Chris Windom.

    It seemed like whoever could get to the top of turn two would lead all the way. In the second round, Darland did just that to get the better of McDougal. Grant eliminated T. Thomas.

    This left Grant and Darland. Most of the first lap saw some tight wheel-to-wheel action before DD bobbled at the end of lap one. The pole belonged to Grant.

    Back to BOSS

    Aaron Fry’s merry band of racers took over, running a B main before their feature. The 12-lap dogfight would move the top six to the A. Cole Ketchum led all the way to win. Brandon Spencer was second and Chad Wilson third. Korbyn Hayslett finished fourth. Mike Roehling was fifth and Buddy Lowther sneaked into the feature by making a last lap pass on local boy Parker Fredrickson.

    The front row of the feature was the Mike and Mike show with Fischesser and Miller leading 20 more to Brian Hodde’s green flag. Dustin Smith would come from third to lead the first lap. Fischesser had enough of that and took the lead on the next lap.

    Travis Hery had moved from 13th to the top five before encountering a lapped car and spinning and bringing out a yellow. After the re-start, Miller took over second from Smith and stalked the leader until Hughes brought out a yellow with a flat tire incurred while running in the top five on the 22nd lap.

    With two laps of the 25-lapper remaining, Paul Dues flipped on the front stretch with the red flag waving. He exited the car quickly.

    Fischesser had handled the previous re-start with no trouble. But after the red, Miller made the pass on the race-long leader and saw the checkered first. It was a bitter pill for Fischesser, who had run a flawless race up front for most of the time. Smith was third and Gunn came on strong from 12th to finish fourth. Scott was fifth with Irwin taking sixth after starting 11th. Prather was seventh while Hewitt concluded his night in eighth. Ketchum advanced from 17th to finish ninth and Rose rounded out the top ten.

    40 Laps of…

    Grant and Darland led the thundering herd to the green and when they came back around, Grant led by a nose. That, as it turned out, would be the closest anyone would get to him for the next 40 laps. Grant began stretching his lead in the opening laps. Behind him, Darland, T. Thomas and Bacon found themselves under attack from Courtney, who passed Bacon for fifth place on the tenth lap. Sunshine wasn’t done; his next challenge was T. Thomas, who had a good view of the Clauson/Marshall/Newman rocket a lap later. He wasn’t done, but not before lapped traffic became a factor.

    At approximately the same time, Grant caught up with lapped traffic. Darland still owned second place and Courtney was now becoming McDougal’s biggest headache. The Daigh/Phillips sprinter was passed by Courtney close to the halfway mark. Next up in his march to the front was Darland, still in second. Sunshine made this pass and soon after that, Darland had a minor bobble in turn four and lost a few spots. Courtney now had only Grant ahead of him—along with a few lappers who were engaged in their own battle.

     A bit further back in the pack, Leary was on a charge forward as well. Right around the halfway mark, he was knocking on the door of the top five. Rather than wait for the door to open, he did it himself, passing the same hot dogs that Courtney had dealt with.

    After 29 laps, the race’s first yellow waved for Chris Windom, who slowed for a flat right rear while running fifth. Courtney had been gaining on Grant bit by bit, but this yellow erased whatever lead there was. The rest of the order was McDougal, Leary, Darland, Bacon, T. Thomas, Stockon, K. Thomas and Andretti.

    Fans might have been rubbing their hands with glee as the stage was set for a real dogfight, or maybe their hands were cold as the temperature nosedived into the low 50s. Either way, the temperature didn’t matter; the last 11 laps would provide enough heat for all.

    But, surprisingly, the tooth and nail battle didn’t happen. It was true that Grant didn’t run away from everyone else, but Courtney could not get close enough to threaten. Grant took away Tyler’s favored low line in turns three and four while riding up by the wall in turns one and two. Try as he might, Courtney couldn’t make it happen and a very happy Grant invaded the Bryan Clauson Victory Lane with an extra $10k headed to himself and the team.

    Leary overtook McDougal late to take both third place and the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS HARD CHARGER after starting tenth. McDougal was an unhappy fourth with Bacon fifth. Positions six through ten were taken by Windom (an impressive comeback after his tire issue), Darland, T. Thomas, Stockon and K. Thomas.

    Courtney now leads the season’s points over K. Thomas by seven. It was Grant’s first USAC win in 59 races. Grant is the first driver to win in all three of USAC’s premier divisions.

    As this is written, the Gas City/I-69 Speedway eagerly awaits the invasion of race teams, fans and, of course track officials. For another makeup date after an earlier rainout. Smackdown now occupies our rear-view mirror, and another memory as yet another racer overcomes year long challenges. Indeed, it was about time.

    To put things in perspective, USAC flag man and one of the nicest guys in or out of racing, Tom Hansing, has a very significant challenge of his own these days. Just know that we are thinking of you and yours during this trying time, bud.

    Dillying when I should be dallying, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Saving the Best for Last

    The 37th Annual Four Crown Nationals at the Eldora Speedway Saturday night was typically wild and wooly with its share of wrecks, highs, lows and fierce action on the storied half mile high banks. It was somehow fitting that the night ended with a superb side-by-side effort, with C.J. Leary and Kevin Thomas Jr. the primary players, that lasted throughout the second half of the 50-lap USAC Silver Crown affair. This curtain closer of the Four Crown eclipsed three very decent features that preceded it with Tyler Courtney sweeping the USAC Midget and Sprint features and Aaron Reutzel taking the All-Star Circuit of Champions finale, set at 27 laps in remembrance of Greg Hodnett, who died in a racing accident in Pennsylvania on Thursday.

    Rain was falling as I left home, but through the miracles of electronics I wasn’t concerned. My trusty phone teamed up with the trusty radar told me that western Ohio was dry and likely to stay that way. What’s more, the persistent cloudy sky served a noble purpose: the dust was, to my aging eyes, negligible. The track in the early stages was wet and fast before the pounding of 127 cars (and the usual small army of push trucks) turned it into a high-speed skating rink later.

    My Eldora high point is invariably assuming my position between turns one and two for hot laps. There have been occasions when this is the highlight of the night, but that would be far from true tonight. I caught a few observations of guys (and Holly Shelton) negotiating the turns, sometimes hands were sawing back and forth on the steering wheel; other times hands seemed to hardly move.

    Wandering the pits, I noticed sprint ace Dickie Gaines idle by after his hot lap session. I noticed this even more so because I was standing less than ten feet from Jack Hewitt. It was hard for me to not think of the last time Dickie and Jack met. It was a racing accident at the Twin Cities Raceway Park and Jack’s racing career was over. Neither noticed that the other was nearby. Maybe the main thing was that Jack and Dickie, like most of us, have moved on. But what stories both could tell.

    I also noticed that extraordinary people were willingly, even eagerly, climbing into these extremely fast contraptions. I always notice this, but given the tragic accident a few days ago, it was something to be noted. The fastest of these cars were circling Eldora in 13 seconds, an insane concept perhaps, but none of these guys flinched at the situation. They were and are masters of compartmentalization, the ability to put aside whatever thoughts they have had about the accidents that have taken away Jason Johnson and Greg Hodnett. How many of us could do that?

    USAC Sprints

    Justin Grant, fast qualifier, began what would become a recurring theme for the night by coming from sixth to win the first heat over pole sitter Matt Westfall, Brady Bacon and Tim Buckwalter.

    In the second heat, Kevin Thomas Jr. did the same as Grant, taking the lead midway through the eight- lapper. Dave Darland was second with Chris Windom making a last lap pass on pole sitter Nick Bilbee to grab third.

    The night’s most fantastic (outrageous?) move of the night came on the opening lap of the third heat when C. J. Leary swept around the top from sixth to take the lead coming out of turn two. Of those left behind, Robert Ballou was second with Dakota Jackson third. Aric Gentry made a late pass on Corey Smith to claim a spot in the feature.

    One might think that Chase Stockon would roar to victory from sixth place in the fourth heat, but the Ft. Branch, Indiana resident struggled. Instead, Tyler Courtney came from fifth to win. Dustin Ingle held off Jason McDougal to take second. Ty Tilton was fourth.

    The sprint B was an outstanding prelude to the main event. Dickie Gaines came from seventh to take the lead in turn four and the win on the last lap. Shane Cottle started ninth and nearly won, but settled for second. Pole sitter Stockon was third and Carmen Perigo took fourth. Isaac Chapple was fifth, not knowing that better things were ahead. Jacob Wilson was sixth, which meant his impressive fifth fastest qualifying lap wasn’t wasted.

    Courtney and Ballou benefitted from Stockon and Wilson’s not transferring out of their heats; they would lead 20 of their playmates to Tom Hansing’s green. Right away things got crazy on the second lap when Leary spun coming out of turn two. Seeing that he was running third, one would have thought this would have been a multi-car scrimmage, but everyone missed Leary, who re-started on the tail and would liven things up shortly.

    On the re-start, Ballou took the lead, but Courtney wanted it and took over on the third lap. Sunshine was on a rail, stretching his lead to a full straightaway until Brady Bacon slowed on the 13th lap. Suddenly, Courtney’s lead went poof! Ballou was still second ahead of Grant, Thomas and Chapple, who had started tenth. Gaines and Bilbee had cracked the top ten. Worth noting was Leary, tenth after re-starting on the tail.

    A lap after the re-start, Ballou had his issue with the wall on the backstretch, ending up facing the wrong way with heavy traffic coming his way. Again, it was a one car accident.

    The stage was forming up for a battle. Grant was now second and ready to harass the leader. Right behind those guys Thomas, Chapple, Windom and Leary commenced a four-way fight for third. Gaines and Bilbee continued to excel. It occurred to me that these guys raced at Lawrenceburg on most Saturday nights. Eldora is a larger version of the ‘burg’s three eighths mile high banked oval. 

    By lap 20, Leary was in the top five and not done. Grant was cutting into Courtney’s lead. We had a great finish coming up. Leary was gaining on Courtney and Grant. Thomas was giving Chapple fits as they fought for fourth and Isaac stubbornly held to the low groove that was working for him. Windom tried to hang with that group.

    But the deck was reshuffled when Grant became the next to find the turn two wall. A great run was ruined. Now we would find out if Leary’s charge through the field would stop at second place. We would also find out if Thomas could get around Chapple.

    Tom waved his green flag and Courtney took off. C.J.’s great effort would stop at second. The best scrap was that of Chapple and Thomas. It wasn’t from a lack of trying but KT came up short, with Chapple earning his first USAC podium. Thomas was fourth and Windom completed the top five. Stockon managed a sixth with Darland coming from 14th to take seventh, passing both Gaines and Bilbee at the end. The Nickster had a good run anyway. While Leary passed more cars after his early race miscue, Bilbee was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, coming from 19th to finish eighth. Gaines faded a little at the end but came from 16th to ninth. Bacon came back from his tire issue to take tenth.

    It was Courtney’s tenth USAC sprint win of the year. He joined some pretty exclusive company in winning a Four Crown feature in sprints, midgets and Silver Crown. Add Tyler Courtney to a list that has Jack Hewitt, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland and Kyle Larson.

    USAC Midgets

    The mighty Midgets were the first of four features and Tyler Courtney was not to be denied as he ran away with the feature win. Among other things, this added credence to the subtle power shift going on in the USAC Midget division. As the Clauson-Marshal team gathers strength, one might be tempted to think that the Keith Kunz Motorsports dynasty is fading. That’s a discussion that others can have while the rest enjoy the racing.

    Rico Abreu may be forgiven if he has hard feelings toward Eldora. After last year’s devasting crash, Rico was back and set to rumble. But when Chris Baue spun in turn three, Abreu arrived soon after with no place to go but into the other car. He made a trip to the hospital, but returned in time to watch the Four Crown features.

    It was Tyler Courtney’s night so far and he set fast time in qualifying. Then he accomplished a rare feat. After winning the fourth sprint car heat, Courtney hopped into his midget ride and promptly won the first midget heat—from sixth, of course. Logan Seavey, Sam Johnson, Spencer Bayston and Chad Boat trailed.

    Continuing the trend, Zeb Wise won the second heat from sixth, trading the lead twice between turn four and the start/finish line. Jason McDougal was second. Kevin Thomas Jr., Ryan Robinson and Justin Grant were the rest of the top five.

    Front row occupant Tucker Klaasmyer won the third heat with teammate Tanner Carrick second. Alex Bright, Holly Shelton and sixth starting Brady Bacon all kept their qualifying times.

    Shelton and Grant led the crew to the green. Grant took the early lead and was leading when Chase Jones spun on the third lap. On the re-start, one lap was run until Wise stopped on the track, done for the night. Grant and Bacon led Courtney for this reloading. A lap later, Courtney passed Bacon for second. Two laps after that, Bayston passed Bacon for third.

    The red flag waved for the scariest wreck of the night on lap ten. Bayston contacted Courtney’s left rear tire and flipped wildly through turn one, first helicopter style, then end over end. Just recovered from an injury, Bayston got out of the car. Eight laps were complete and Grant had to know that Courtney was behind him, plotting.

    Sure enough, a lap after the green Courtney made his move, passing Grant and simply checking out. The rest of the 25-lapper was yellow free and Courtney built his advantage to a full straightaway. Grant kept his hold on second. Seavey made a late charge, earning the Hard Charger award for moving from 13th to third. K. Thomas Jr. was fourth. Carrick was fifth. Shelton took sixth ahead of Klaasmyer, who came from 15th to seventh. Robinson was eighth and McDougal took ninth. Bacon, the only racer to run in all four divisions, faded to tenth.

    All-Star Sprints

    I discovered that trying to watch the All-Stars’ heats while eating a cheeseburger is a tall order. Paul McMahon won the first heat from the pole. Pennsylvania’s Brock Zearfoss, Ryan Smith, Carson Macedo and Brady Bacon were all heat winners.

    Zearfoss and Indana’s Parker Price-Miller won the dashes. Second Generation racer Lee Jacobs led three more into the feature as he won the B.

    Price-Miller took the early lead as Aaron Reutzel patiently (as much as one can be patient running laps in traffic in the 13 second neighborhood) worked his way forward from his eighth starting spot.

    Reutzel took the lead on a re-start and led from the 12th lap to the end. Price-Miller withstood a sustained attack from Gio Scelzi, who started 11th and finished third. Travis Philo came from 15th to take fourth. Cole Duncan was fifth. The race’s hard charger was Outlaw/NASCAR veteran Dave Blaney, who hustled from 18th to sixth. Brady Bacon took seventh with Ryan Smith, Max Stambaugh and Shawn Dancer rounding out the top ten.

    USAC Silver Crown

    The hour was close to midnight and fans had witnessed three very competitive features. The track was like a skating rink by now. One could say that it was a driver’s track with the smarter ones placing the proverbial egg between their right foot and the accelerator. Those same smart guys would do well to try and race the track as if it was a paved surface. Sure enough, during the 50-lap affair, I saw some of those guys riding up by the forbidding wall and it looked like they were at the Salem Speedway, the badass of high banked paved tracks.

    Pole sitter Shane Cottle grabbed the early lead over front row mate and fellow veteran Jerry Coons Jr. Action stopped quickly as David Byrne flipped in turn four, tearing up some of the fence as well. Byrne exited the car and the track crew acted like they had seen this before. The fence was repaired in a matter of a few minutes.

    Action resumed and Chris Windom passed Coons for second. But he slowed a couple of laps later with the car suffering from a broken rear end. Coons was back in second.

    The second red flag came out when Tyler Courtney’s magical night ended with him flipping in turn one while running in the top ten. Sunshine exited his car, his otherwise spectacular night done. Dave Darland, competing in his 200th Silver Crown race, pitted for a flat tire under the red. Cottle and Coons now led Leary, K. Thomas and 2018 Silver Crown champ Kody Swanson.

    The Throttle had a decent lead and it didn’t seem like a huge deal when Leary passed Coons for second on the 16th lap. A couple of laps later Thomas took over third and shadowed Leary. Then, almost suddenly, Leary caught the leader and Thomas wanted to play, too. What resulted was a three-way battle for the lead for several laps. On the 30th lap, the three combatants crossed the finish line three-wide. A lap or two later, Cottle slightly faded to third while Leary and Thomas fought tooth and nail for the lead. KT stuck to the middle groove, which served him well. C.J. chose the high road, the Jack Hewitt groove, up against the wall, flirting with disaster on every lap. There were eight lead changes officially, but countless more on the track.

    Leary took the lead for good on the 47th lap. Thomas tried in vain to make another charge but ran out of laps. At the end, Cottle’s last twenty laps of the race was comparatively tame as he finished third. Jason McDougal brought Chris Dyson’s car home in fourth. Swanson was a somewhat calm fifth. Coons, Justin Grant, Brady Bacon, Kyle Robbins and Jacob Wilson completed the top ten.

    Thomas was the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/LARRY RICE HIGH PERFORMANCE HARD CHARGER after moving up to second after starting tenth.

    It was Leary’s second Silver Crown victory.

    My phone told me that the temperature was 54 degrees and it was one a.m. It was time to head home. I chuckled as I remembered how the Silver Crown feature ended at 2:45 a couple of years ago. This time, I was somewhere between New Castle and Rushville at 2:45. It was a small price to pay for a full night of Eldora crazy magic—which ended with the best race of the night.

    Drama continued on Sunday and Monday as Robert Ballou and track owner Tony Stewart had a brief dust-up on Twitter. It defused rather quickly, but at least the keyboard jockeys had some red meat to chew on  for a while.

    Upset because I misplaced my tin foil hat, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hey, Landlord; Let’s Hustle

    How often does a landlord outrun a tenant? Quite often, as I read the local news in the newspaper.  But on a race track? Probably not as often. That’s what happened on a warm Saturday night at the Tri-State Speedway as Kevin Thomas Jr., landlord, outran everyone else, including new tenant Jason McDougal and won his second straight Haubstadt Hustler, a 40 lap feature and a co-sanction by the MSCS and USAC.

    The Saturday drive southwest to Haubstadt was somewhat smoother than the Friday drive to Terre Haute. Traffic in Bloomington was heavy as Indiana University beat up on perennial powerhouse Ball State 38-10.

    The car count was a respectable 34 with a few guys returning after excused absences. Tony Dimattia was back, at least for the night. The usual southwestern Indiana/tri-state gang was present, led by Kyle Cummins, along with Donnie Brackett, Chase Stockon (with a foot in both the USAC and SW Indiana camps), Collin Ambrose, Aric Gentry, second generation racer Chayse Hayhurst, Kent Schmidt, Brian Wallace, Stephen Schnapf, Eric Perrott, Chet Williams and Kendall Ruble. The Pottorff/Short cars would be wheeled by Chad Boespflug and Josh Hodges, whose car was present, but minus an engine.

    With this event being a USAC/MSCS co-sanction, MSCS rules were in effect for time trials, four groups simultaneously racing the clock. Robert Ballou’s 13.810 was quickest.

    The first heat was superb. Brady Bacon edged C.J. Leary by .035 seconds to win the first heat. Kyle Cummins was third and Donnie Brackett was fourth.

    The second heat featured a last lap pass for the win. Stephen Schnapf got around Kent Schmidt coming out of turn two and held on to win. Ballou was third and Isaac Chapple was the second consecutive to start on the pole and finish fourth.

    Chris Windom patiently worked his way forward to win the third heat over Dave Darland. Chase Stockon started and finished third. Carson Short was fourth.

    The fourth heat was a portent of things to come. The landlord, Kevin Thomas Jr., started and finished first. The tenant, Jason NcDougal, was second, beating out Justin Grant, who had started third, by a bumper. Tyler Courtney also started and finished in the same position; Sunshine was fourth.

    With 18 cars fighting for six spots, certainly some good cars would be sitting down early. Front row mates Daron Clayton and Aric Gentry finished one/two. Chet Williams was third. Kendall Ruble, Critter Malone and Tony Dimattia all made the show. It was a surprise that both Pottorff/Short cars missed the cut. Other decent rides closed down early, including Dakota Jackson and Stevie Sussex. If not for a provisional, Brandon Mattox would have been done early, too.

    It was time for the tractor show, loved by some, hated by others, and talked about by all. Just like any other race track that one frequents, one should have a good idea of what to expect before arriving. Each track has its own method of preparing itself for an evening of work. It’s up to all present, especially fans, to make the most of the down time. At Tri-State, after the tractors have re-worked the track, there’s a real good chance that the race following will be quality. For some, the delay, aggravation, whatever you want to call it, is worth it when the race turns out to be, at worst, above average. The feature on this warm Saturday night would be no exception.

    The method for determining the starting lineup was a mystery to me, not that I worried about it. But Kent Schmidt and C.J. Leary would lead 21 fellow racers to Tom Hansing’s green flag. Without consulting USAC stats/trivia guru Richie Murray, my guess was that this was Schmidt’s first pole position in a USAC feature. Seconds after the green, again there was a likely first for Schmidt as he led the first lap, even though he led it by inches over Leary. On the next lap, Leary took the lead.

    Chris Windom stumbled on the fifth lap and things behind him were bottled up. Daron Clayton spun, bringing out the yellow. By this time Thomas had passed Schmidt for second. Schnapf was fourth and McDougal was fifth. Windom pitted and went a lap down. Schnapf spun a lap after the re-start. Windom returned, but would not be a factor. Brady Bacon took Schnapf’s place in the top five.

    At this point, Bacon was looking strong. He passed McDougal for fourth and Schmidt was next. But Kent slowed and Brady ran over his left rear tire, flipping in turn three on lap 13. Bacon got out of the car and, after a quick thrash in the pits, returned to the race. The rest of the race was uninterrupted, unless one counts the yellow that waved with the checkered.

    Leary took off after the red flag period and tried to get away from Thomas. But he couldn’t shake the Mean Green machine. A few laps later, lapped traffic came into play. At about the same time, the fact that this race was 40, not 30, laps also came into play. Leary maintained his lead, but KT simply wouldn’t go away or fade. Finally, Thomas made his move and passed Leary on the 37th lap coming out of turn four. The Greenfield resident stayed close, though he had McDougal to worry about as well.

    But the top three stayed the same. After the checkered, Thomas and McDougal, along with tow other cars, had an unscheduled post-race meeting in turn two. Thomas celebrated by standing atop his roll cage at first, but was escorted via four-wheeler to the start/finish line to celebrate and be interviewed. McDougal had his own escort as he and Thomas joined Leary, who had missed out on the post-race carnage and was the only racer on the podium who could drive his car around to the front stretch.

    Behind Thomas, Leary and McDougal, Darland was an unnoticed fourth. Short came from 15th to take fifth, winning the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger dough. Courtney came from 16th to grab sixth. Ballou was seventh and Stockon eighth. Cummins and Brackett, local favorites like Stockon, were ninth and tenth.

    This was the third Haubstadt Hustler won by Thomas.  

    It had been quite the weekend. I had to wonder why it isn’t called the “Hurtubise/Hustler” weekend. But that idea floated through my mind briefly as I remembered that I had a two and a half hour drive ahead of me. Thanks to the miracle of electronics (namely a long-distance phone call), I-69 didn’t cause me to doze off. The hills and curves of State Road 46 alone made sure that I’d stay awake all the way home and begin thinking about the next weekend. (Eldora?)

    Watching Sergio Perez pretend that he’s driving a Bomber/Thunder Car/Pure Stock, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Killer B's

    It certainly wasn't inevitable but it seemed like the main event was going to boil down to a mano a mano clash between Brady Bacon and Robert Ballou. Sure enough, that was the case as Bacon held off the California native and won the Jim Hurtubise Classic as USAC sprints invaded the Terre Haute Action Track.

    On a very warm September afternoon, getting to the Action Track was half the fun. My first stop on the way was planned and went smoothly, thanks to a former coworker. She took the package (containing a book, Racing with Faith, shameless plug) and I was on my way, or so I thought. From there, it was one challenge after another. But neither road construction nor Friday afternoon traffic nor more road construction would deter me. I wasn't all that late as it turned out.

    The pits weren't exactly jammed, but a significant number of the 24 cars on hand had resumes that most racers would love to have. Josh Hodges was back in the Hoosier state for a spell. Bill Rose made a rare appearance, as he is known to do. And a young man named Shawn Arriaga, who has done some 360 winged racing at Antioch Speedway (2015 champ), made the long haul from Antioch, California to try his luck.

    Four drivers qualified under 20 seconds on a fast track. From fourth to first they were Tyler Courtney, Chase Stockon, Brady Bacon and fast timer Robert Ballou, who achieved a 19.621 lap.

    Robert Ballou was the third of three leaders in the first heat, taking the lead from Carson Short with two laps to go. Kevin Thomas Jr. passed Short on the last lap and took second after an earlier thrash, with major assistance from some of his competitors in getting back to the track. Short was third ahead of Tyler Courtney and Justin Grant.

    Josh Hodges kept Brady Bacon at bay for eight laps and won the second heat. Chris Windom finished third and C. J. Leary was fourth. Isaac Chapple was fifth of the five cars still running. Jarett Andretti slid into Nate McMillen in turn two. Nate tipped over lightly but he was done for the night.

    Dave Darland used a last lap pass to win the third heat with his "victim" Nick Bilbee finishing second. Jason McDougal was third and Shane Cottle took fourth. Chase Stockon was fifth.

    Cottle and Leary led 21 colleagues to the green with the kid from Greenfield, Indiana jumping out to the lead. Right away, Bacon was on the move from his third row starting spot. When the race’s first yellow waved for contact between Hodges and Bilbee, Leary was the only immediate obstacle between Bacon and first place. And when Leary had a moment in turn four on the sixth lap, Bacon was there to capitalize on Leary’s catching a rough spot.

    Ballou got busy on the re-start, coming from fifth to third two laps later. He was hungry for more, but Leary wasn’t about to give up another spot, at least for the time being. However, three laps later, as the race approached its midpoint, Ballou made the pass and set sail for the leader.

    Robert caught a break when Dave Darland stopped in turn two on the 13th lap. Behind Bacon and Ballou were Leary, Windom and Cottle. During the yellow, Courtney pitted and rejoined the chase on the tail spot. The green waved and Windom got around Leary and briefly it looked like he would catch Ballou and try to make Robert’s life miserable for a few moments. Certainly the effort was there, but on this night the horsepower might not have been.

    One last yellow waved for Justin Grant, or more specifically, his smoking engine on the 25th lap. So one last time the two who entertained the possibility of at least harassing the leader would do what they could. But Bacon wasn’t allowing any such pretensions. As he had done for most all of the race, Bacon maintained his lead, At the end, he was a good ten car lengths ahead of Ballou.

    Behind Bacon (a father for the third time as of Monday) and Ballou was Windom. In the post-race interview, Ballou allowed that he had a second-place car and, perhaps picking up on that, Windom said that his was a third-place car. Logic lives!

    Leary was fourth with Thomas recovering nicely from his qualifying misfortune to take fifth after starting 12th. KT was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger. Cottle was sixth and Courtney hurried back to seventh after his unscheduled pit stop. Stockon, Stevie Sussex and Jason McDougal completed the top ten with McDougal coming from 17th.

    It was Bacon’s second Jim Hurtubise Classic victory and his 22nd USAC sprint car win.

    After walking away with $15,000 in winning the inaugural BC 39 at the Brickyard, Bacon finished up a rewarding week’s work. The extra funds will buy a lot of diapers.

    The B’s ruled.

    Nervously ignoring a phone call from Robert Mueller, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: And Now, For Something Completely Different...

    I'm inclined to think that the opening night of the initial Driven 2 Save Lives BC39 was a success. The racing was typical of USAC’s Midget Series, which is to say that there was no shortage of close wheel to wheel action on a track that had a goodly amount of character early on. But the smallish quarter mile oval, built from scratch by a guy who knows a little about such a project, yielded some of the best racing all night long with minor tweaks.

    Early on, I wanted to note as many firsts as I could. As the cars came out for the first of 12 hot lap sessions at 5:30, I knew there would be many more.

    The first red flag didn't wave until the ninth group when Michael Koontz flipped in turn four. He climbed out, but was done for the night.

    With 108 cars running 12 heats, there was no shortage of interesting characters who had made their way to the event.

    Guys with experience at NASCAR'S top three rungs included Ricky Stenhouse Jr., J. J. Yeley, Chase Briscoe, Christopher Bell, Landon Cassill, Tracy Hines and Chad Boat. Nick Drake, who has some NASCAR experience, made the haul from North Carolina. Indy Car's Conor Daly secured a ride with Landon Simon; this would be his first ever ride in a midget.

    Racers came from all over our nation and beyond. My very unofficial survey showed 25 Hoosier natives and 17 racers from Illinois. There were 21 states represented along with one Australian racer, Braydon Willmington. The fair states of Minnesota, Connecticut, Wyoming and Mississippi all had one racer each among all the Hoosiers, Illini, Californians, Oklahomans, and Pennsylvanians, all of whom had five drivers or more jammed into the pits.

    Lance and Olivia Bennett, from Colorado, wee the quite rare husband/wife combination.

    Hot laps were completed at 6:55.

    The first heat went green at 7:21 and the first yellow was a minute later. Tyler Courtney must have felt like a human yo-yo during the first heat. He flew from fifth to lead the first lap. But he spun during the first yellow and was sent to the tail. The caution plagued race also had the first red, which waved when Tyler Nelson tipped over with David Prickett also getting upside down. In between these interruptions, Courtney was moving forward and he won the first heat.

    During the second heat a double rainbow appeared as rain was on the other side of town. California’s Maria Cofer, subbing for the injured Spencer Bayston, became the first female racer to lead a lap. A few minutes later, Ms. Cofer became the first lady to win a heat race.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. came from fifth to win the third heat.

    As the fourth heat, the double rainbow remained. Dave Darland, who had finished second in the first heat, joined the crowd. Dave saw his former Kokomo mate, Shane Cottle, win. Cottle was the first winner who had started on the pole.

    Tucker Klassmyer won the fifth heat after starting seventh (out of nine).

    J.J. Yeley showed people that he had not forgotten how to drive an open wheel car on a choppy bullring as he won the sixth heat after a race long duel with Shane Golobic.

    The seventh heat was one of the best. Jason McDougal and Steve Buckwalter engaged in a slidefest for several laps until McDougal did a half spin, enabling Buckwalter to win. Zach Daum flipped coming out of turn two, but was able to walk away.

    Pole sitter Christopher Bell ran away from the field in the eighth heat so seasoned fans watched the battle for second, eventually taken by Korey Weyant, who had started eighth.

    Tyler Thomas and Chad Boat had a race long scrap for the lead in the ninth heat. Every two or three laps there would be a yellow (and one red when Texan Jeb Sessums flipped). At the end, Thomas used a turn four/last lap pass to edge Boat for the win.

    Ryan Robinson came from fifth to lead every lap of the tenth heat.

    Alex Bright was the first to win his heat, the 11th, after starting last.

    The final heat race saw Brady Bacon edge Ricky Stenhouse Jr. for the win.

    The night ended with the pursuit race. A few of us could recall seeing Australian pursuit races back in the 60s. This was similar, but the 20-lap race would be divided into five segments of four laps each. Whoever had been passed when the segments were over exited the race. There were 24 starters and after a tough start (which caused me to think that maybe this wasn’t a good idea—boy, was I wrong) things settled down as the field was whittled down to seven cars after the third segment.

    Young Zeb Wise had been on the move from the back. After three segments, Brayton Lynch led Alex Bright, with Wise up to third after starting 18th. Bright eliminated Lynch in the fourth go-round. Starting the last part of the race Bright led Wise, Yeley, Stenhouse, Jerry Coons Jr. and Klaasmyer.

    The Pennsylvania veteran did his level best to hold off the kid from the northeaster part of Indiana, but Mr. Wise would not be denied, taking the lead on the last lap and sailing away to the win.

    It may or may not have been a coincidence that Wise’s number is 39BC. Interpret as you wish, but at least believe that it was a pretty neat deal.

    This left those in attendance anxious to see what night number two would be like.

    It’s interesting that we have the capability of learning what’s important. Dealing with traffic, food prices higher than we’re used to paying and assorted rules and regulations that don’t apply at your typical bullring are all issues we have to deal with not only in going to a race but in our everyday lives at well. But here’s the thing. From the time that the first car entered the track until the last checkered flag, I’ll suggest that several of those in attendance put all of those minor annoyances (in most cases) aside and concentrated on the “business at hand,” namely race cars driven by several skilled race car drivers on a challenging but rewarding race track. Personally, watching and writing about race cars serves as my own Mecca/therapy. And doing this at the Mecca of auto racing made for a nice cherry on top.

    If Wednesday nights’ festivities (even with the comedy team of Butch Wilkerson and Rodney Reynolds keeping a smile on my face all night) weren’t something completely different, my name is Monty Python.

    Pining away for the job of navigator on the Reece O’Connor water truck, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Quite the Weekend

    Not only did Jason McDougal win his first USAC sprint car race on Saturday night at I-55 Speedway, he made the trip back to Indiana pay off as the Oklahoma native won his first Kokomo Speedway feature on Sunday night. It would seem that Steve and Carla Phillips, along with Frank Daigh, are back as major players on the Hoosier sprint scene with their newly hired racer, a kid that Steve compared in demeanor to Rich Vogler.

    “When he loses, he’s mad,” Steve said.

    “At who?” I cleverly asked.

    “Everyone,” Steve answered.

    Case closed, I said to myself. That spoke volumes.

    Two dozen sprinters were among a bit over 100 cars jamming the pits for the Vince Osman Memorial. There were a few guys (Thomas Meseraull, Steve Thomas, Cole Ketchum, Braxton Cummings and Parker Fredrickson) who had been at Lawrenceburg the night before. A couple made the long haul from the USAC race at Pevely MO. Colten Cottle was in the Burton 04.

    Isaac Chapple made a turn four/last lap pass on Stevie Sussex to win the first heat. Matt Westfall started and finished third. Pole sitter Steve Irwin was fourth. Parker Fredrickson took fifth.

    The low groove was like the new girl at her first dance when all the boys want to dance with her. Brian Karraker used it well to win the second heat over Minnesota’s Rob Caho. After trading spots with Dave Darland a time or two, Cole Ketchum prevailed to grab third. DD was fourth and Braxton Cummings was fifth.

    Jason McDougal used a lapped car as a pick to pass Tyler Hewitt on the last lap in winning the third heat. Thomas Meseraull was third with Scotty Weir fourth. Colten Cottle was fifth, earning him a 15th starting position in the feature and sending Clinton Boyles to the B.

    I looked in on one of the Hornet heat races. The winner drove much of the race with his hood up, blocking most of his view. I’ve seen people everywhere from here to Kokomo with a complete view of the road who could not negotiate a straight road with little traffic.

    Boyles went from third to first within a half lap and went on to win the B. Travis Hery, Mitch Wissmiller, Billy Cribbs and Adam Byrkett all would tag the tail in the feature. Cribbs collided with local racer Dustin Smith, who promptly spun in turn two. Second generation racer Brandon Clark had nowhere to go and smacked Smith's car. Smith's reaction to Cribbs as he drove by under the yellow indicated that he was not thrilled. Steve Thomas got a bit sideways coming out of turn two and flipped. The veteran exited the car under his own power.

    The re-draw found Sussex and Karraker on the front row of the feature. The Arizona native took the early lead and McDougal came calling quickly after starting sixth. He was second when Wissmiller stopped in turn four on the third lap, bringing out the yellow. McDougal wasn’t the only one on the move; Dave Darland had already grabbed sixth place after starting 11th.

    On the re-start, Sussex held off McDougal for a few laps, a battle between Arizona and Oklahoma natives. McDougal took the lead on the tenth lap and checked out. Oh wait. No, he didn’t. Sussex didn’t exactly disappear. He stayed within ten car lengths for the rest of the race, needing the leader to make an unforced error or maybe having a yellow wave, after which he might get the jump on McDougal during the re-start.

    Meanwhile, Meseraull had hustled to third place after starting ninth. He assumed third on the sixth lap and seemed to be closing on the top two. Had he been able to maintain that pace, what a race it would have been. But TMez could get no closer.

    Darland was in a similar situation. He was able to pass Hewitt and Karraker, but stalled as the race went on. Perhaps, he, too, could have used a re-start.

    McDougal led Sussex, Meseraull, Darland and…Clinton Boyles to the line. Boyles was the hardest of chargers as he came from the B, starting 16th, to fifth. Hewitt was sixth and Westfall finished where he started, seventh. (Matt also finished where he started in his heat race. A rare occurrence, one might say.)  Chapple was eighth and C. Cottle came from 15th to ninth. Weir was tenth.

    Post-race, McDougal seemed overwhelmed at what he had accomplished. He has raced well enough to win, especially since moving to the Daigh-Phillips team. It seemed like it would be a matter of time before the kid broke through. And he did in a big way.

    Who can know how long this success will last. In the crazy mini-society of Hoosier sprint car racing, personnel changes are made all the time. One learns that all things are temporary and that whatever success one has will be only a short time. Racers learn to enjoy it while it lasts. Perhaps without realizing it, they are being educated while chasing their dreams.

    If he’s in a position to notice, surely Rich Vogler offers a knowing smile.

    Reminding Sebastian Vettel that he can’t win a race, even a Formula One race, on the first lap, but he can surely lose one, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Catch Me If You Can

    With apologies to the Dave Clark Five…Garrett Abrams won his second feature of the year at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a warm and humid Indiana night. When he was hung up in lapped traffic, second place Dickie Gaines closed in and made it interesting at the end, coming up a few car lengths short.

    After a disappointing night at Bloomington, where a persistent drizzle sidelined the Bob Kinser Memorial for the second time, I was a bit apprehensive as I eyed the radar on Saturday afternoon. Most certainly rain was on my mind as I headed east on State Road 46. I had a lovely view of dark clouds in the eastern sky for much of the 75-minute drive. Arriving early at the track, I parked as close to the front row as I could, lazily not wishing to carry books any farther than necessary. I considered making the long walk to the pit shack, but I wisely stayed put. Because the next ten minutes or so saw a hard rain fall, creating lots of mud puddles. The rain stopped almost as quickly as a snap of the fingers. The sky cleared and the heat returned. It was time to walk.

    Among the 23 sprinters braving the brief downpour were many of the usual ‘burg suspects and few surprises. With the BOSS race at Route 44 Speedway up the road cancelled, it was a bit of a surprise that some of the guys didn’t head south.

    The rain had been a blessing for the track. No water truck was needed and track prep must have been comparatively easy for a change.

    In a heat that was interrupted twice for a red flag, Landon Simon went from third to first in one lap to win the first preliminary. Braxton Cummings was second with Tony Main finishing third despite being involved in both red flag incidents. Chris Phillips took fourth and David Applegate rounded out the top five. On the fourth of eight laps, Chad Wilson flipped in turn two. On the re-start, Joss Moffatt flipped coming out of turn two. Ted Hines was also involved. All concerned were a bit shaken but exited their cars with little help.

    Garrett Abrams showed that he, too, could go from the bronze medal to the gold in one lap. He won the second heat after a fierce battle with second place J. J. Hughes and third place Michael Fischesser. Thomas Meseraull was fourth and Drew Abel, the pride of North Vernon, Indiana, was fifth.

    Dickie Gaines ran away from the others and breezed to the third heat triumph. Cole Ketchum grabbed second. Tony McVey was third with Pat Giddens coming from the back to finish fourth. Parker Fredrickson was fifth.

    The last of the preliminary races was the school bus feature, a ten-lap affair with about a dozen buses negotiating the high banks of Lawrenceburg. After the race there was a significant loss of the crowd. If given enough time, I think I could guess why. But perhaps the point was that promoter Dave Rudisell could explain the allure—as he smiled and counted the box office receipts.

    The feature got underway at 10:10 as Abrams and Simon led the crew to Tim Montgomery’s green flag. Simon was a rocket ship as he grabbed the lead. He had to be as Abrams was flying as well, flirting with the imposing wall at each end of the track. Cummings was a strong third but the front two pulled away.

    Disaster struck for the leader on the ninth lap as he began to deal with lapped traffic. David Applegate spun (with help) in turn one. Simon came flying into the turn and found instant trouble as Applegate’s car directly in his path. With other cars involved, the red flag came out as the wreckage was removed.

    This gave Abrams the lead, followed by Gaines, Cummings, Fischesser, Hughes, Meseraull, Phillips, Abel, Giddens and McVey. On the re-start, the top two waved goodbye and Cummins came under attack from Fischesser. After a brief battle staying ahead of Meseraull, Fisschesser extricated himself from that situation and passed Cummings for third just before the halfway mark.

    With about ten laps to go, Abrams had problems with two lapped cars, involved in their own race within a race. As Garrett struggled to pass both cars, Gaines closed the once hefty gap, closing to less than ten car lengths. This baby wasn’t over yet. Dickie aimed to make the kid earn it.

    Try as he might, Gaines couldn’t quite close the deal. Perhaps a late race yellow would have helped. But that didn’t happen and it would be tempting to ask “what if…”. For that matter, Landon Simon could be asking the same question. It’s the sort of speculation we all engage in from time to time. Nothing is resolved from that. It’s why we race—or live.

    Abrams’ advantage at the end was maybe ten car lengths. Both of his sprint car wins have been at Lawrenceburg. He’s also the point leader. Apparently he likes this place; he certainly does well there.

    Behind the team of Abrams and Gaines was third place Michael Fischesser. He had a strong motor and ran a flawless race. TMez was the Grasshopper Hard Charger as he came from 11th to claim fourth. J.J. Hughes, hopefully with engine woes behind him, was fifth. Braxton Cummings may have dropped from fourth at the start to sixth, but there was no shame in that. Chris Phillips was seventh and Pat Giddens finished eighth. Drew Abel came from 14th to end up ninth. Tony Main, armed with a new book (mine), settled for tenth.

    Try as they might, no one could catch Mr. Abrams.

    Imagining Aretha Franklin and John McClain whooping it up in the next realm, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Rainouts and Flooded Parking Lots

    I woke up late on Saturday morning hoping against hope. I shuffled to the window of the motel room and looked outside, knowing what I would see before I saw it. Sure enough, there it was. Rain was falling at a steady clip. Not surprised, but disappointed, I checked my prime social media outlets. There was no word yet on the status of the final night of Smackdown 2018. That wasn’t a surprise either, not sitting at the track, my guess was that the deciders were either pondering the chance of racing on Saturday night or postponing the grand finale and finding another date to re-schedule.

    As of noon, there was no word and I was hungry. I tried out the Pizza Hut in Logansport, 25 miles northwest of Kokomo. I checked the usual sources and there was no word yet. I stopped in Walton, Indiana, a tiny place in Cass County, to send off a few text messages and check yet again. Finally! There it was. I relaxed, if, in fact, I had been tense. There was word and it made sense.

    The makeup for Smackdown was re-scheduled for Sunday, September 9. This will cap quite a special weekend. It starts very early with the historic two-day show at the Speedway, the BC 39 on the new oval built from scratch by Kokomo’s track guru Reece O’Connor. That will be on September 5-6. USAC sprints will be at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on Friday the seventh. Modifieds headline Lincoln Park on Saturday, but sprints will also run. Lawrenceburg will be dark on Saturday. That leaves Sunday for the 39.

    Sounds easy, but such things seldom are. No matter. Hopefully, this series of races will be smooth and trouble free.

    I stopped at the track and saw a good portion of the parking lot was flooded. I asked Dave Darland, heading to his car, if he had seen his sister. No. I said thanks and headed south. My meeting with the sister, Susan, would wait. She wanted to buy the book I’ve written, but that can happen later.

    My major job was fighting Saturday afternoon traffic, especially on I-465. Thankfully, most all drivers behaved. At Exit 80, I had enough. I took county roads home. The sky was cloudy but the sun was trying to shine. It was considerably warmer and more humid, but that’s not unusual. Indiana does have multiple climate zones.

    I watched part of the Indy Car race on TV. Will Power won.

    Indiana also has great racin’. It continues this coming weekend. I need to rest up.

    Receiving immunity from the prosecutor, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner (Redemption)

    On a night when people did their best to knock down the Kokomo Speedway’s unyielding turn two wall, Tyler Thomas, driving Tony Epperson’s pride and joy, spent most of the 30-lap feature as close to the walls as he could without contact while he won the Friday version of the Kokomo/USAC/Smackdown. It was redemption of sorts from last year when he led much of the race before seeing it go away at the end.

    The weather for this festival has been somewhat cool, but pleasant. But on Friday, the wind was somewhat brisk and very persistent. This made track prep even more of a challenge for the Kokomo crew. Try as they might, dust was a constant, but minor annoyance. The surface demanded that racers race with precision as the fast way around for most was up against the wall. As we shall see, it bit a few good racers.

    The car count was 36 with some leaving and others arriving. Gabe Griffith was in town from Illinois. Muncie’s Cole Ketchum made his 2018 Smackdown debut. Local racer Dustin Smith made a rare appearance. Joe Ligouri was back in his own car after having Korey Weyant in the seat earlier. Teammates Logan Seavey and Carson Short traded Briscoe Racing mounts, a rare occurrence.

    The track was very wet before the cars came out. This wouldn’t last. Kevin Thomas Jr. qualified early and his 12.740 lap held up. The track changed and the quick time was .2 seconds quicker than second. Justin Grant went out last and still had the fifth fastest time, so there’s that.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. used a last lap pass to edge Shane Cottle in winning the first heat. Grant was third and Chris Windom was fourth in a race that had three of the strongest sprinkled through the lineup. Dakota Jackson was the first of several to encounter the turn two wall. His car climbed the wall, perched on two wheels, then slowly tipped over. Kyle Cummins led much of the race until he climbed the same wall and fell back.

    The second heat saw Brady Bacon come from fourth to take the lead and win with Robert Ballou second. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was third and Carson Short finished fourth.

    Tyler Courtney, Thursday’s winner, came from sixth to third on the first lap. Halfway through the race he took the lead and went on to win. Dave Darland was second ahead of Jarett Andretti. Brandon Mattox had his hands full in holding off Tim Buckwalter for the last dance card.

    Jason McDougal won his first USAC heat race, the fourth. Pole sitter Stevie Sussex was second. Behind them, there was a three-way battle for the last two spots. Tyler Thomas took one of the spaces, finishing third. Chase Stockon edged Brian Karraker to grab the last one. C.J. Leary rolled to a stop while leading and rolled out the backup car.

    Clinton Boyles ran a flawless race to win the B. Logan Seavey, a disappointment this week, was second. Kyle Cummins settled for third. Scotty Weir came from eighth to take fourth. Matt Westfall started and finished fifth. Dakota Jackson edged C.J. Leary for the final spot. Leary had started last. His charge through the field fell a few feet short. Tim Buckwalter and Leary used provisionals. Stevie Sussex switched to a backup car and started the feature last.

    Andretti and Ballou were the front row and the California native jumped out to the lead. For the first eight laps, no one had anything for Ballou, nor T. Thomas, who was second. Action stopped when Boyles flipped in, where else, turn two, bringing out one of several red flags. Clinton exited the car. Ballou led T. Thomas, Andretti, Grant, K. Thomas, Cummins, Darland, Courtney, Windom and Bacon.

    On the re-start, Windom made a rare unforced error, sliding to a stop in, yep, turn two. K. Thomas was trying the middle groove while most stayed up top. KT never got a chance to experiment even further because Andretti caught the turn two wall and flipped on lap 12, collecting Thomas, who went for his own ride. After a Herculean effort, he rejoined the chase.

    Three laps later, it was Ballou’s turn to fight the wall and flip while leading. This put T. Thomas in the lead with Courtney in second. Try as he might, Sunshine never could rattle the leader enough to cause an error. TT hit his marks at every corner. But he wasn’t home free yet.

    Sussex was the last to say hello to the turn two wall, flipping and bringing out flagman Tom Hansing’s tired red flag one more time on lap 27. Courtney had only a few more chances to make it two in a row. He surely tried hard enough, but Thomas wasn’t interested in giving this race away again after doing that last year. He crossed the line several car lengths ahead of Courtney.

    Completing the post-race interviewees was Grant. Bacon was fourth after starting ninth and Darland was fifth after starting tenth. Leary’s up and down night ended with a sixth-place finish after starting the race 22nd. His provisional ticket kept him from getting the hard charger award. McDougal was an impressive seventh. Windom recovered from his early spin to take eighth. Stockon received the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS HARD CHARGER recognition by coming home ninth after starting 17th. Short was tenth after starting 16th.

    Ballou and T. Thomas led an equal number of laps, 15 each.

    Windom leads Courtney by 15 points in the national standings. Courtney leads Grant by 11 points in Smackdown’s rundown.

    It all ends on Saturday. In past Smackdowns there have been a series of crazy and dramatic incidents. For those who pay attention to such things, the moon is full on Saturday. That could make things even crazier. The inscrutable turn two wall, with its colleagues, patiently awaits the onslaught sure to come on Saturday.

    Hiring the best people, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Courtney Conquers Kokomo

    In this life all victories are temporary and defeats surely outnumber victories. But when the victories are accomplished, it’s time to enjoy it while you can. The acclaim and feelings of having done something special don’t last, so when one triumphs, it’s worth a celebration or at least a nod. So it went for Tyler Courtney as he won the feature at the Kokomo Speedway on night two of Kokomo’s and USAC’s Smackdown series. This was the first night that USAC points were in play and Mr. Courtney helped himself in the points. But the victory mattered. To say you have won at Kokomo on most any night, now that was something to admire.

    For the second night of four, the car count was a more normal 35. Most, if not all, of the first timers had left with only Braxton Cummings getting any satisfaction. Making his 2018 Smackdown debut was Kyle Cummins. Minnesota’s Brian Van Meveran was paying another visit to the Hoosier state, as was New Mexico’s Josh Hodges. Chad Wilson was in his own car after giving the keys to Cap Henry the night before. Finally, Matt Westfall and company were back after his nasty flip on Wednesday night, albeit with a backup car.

    Justin Grant set fast time in qualifying with a 12.643 lap. It was mildly interesting that three of the fastest five qualifiers were in the bottom half of the qualifying order. This track seldom goes away after the early contestants take their laps; Grant went out 21st of 35.

    Shane Cottle survived ten laps of relentless pressure by Brady Bacon to win the first heat. Tyler Thomas was third and seemed to be closing on Bacon at the end. Mr. Grant was content, after a fashion, with a fourth.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. used a mid-race re-start to charge from third to first in the second heat after starting sixth. Scotty Weir was second. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was third.  Chase Stockon had a brief tussle with Kyle Cummins for fourth, sending the Princeton, Indiana native to the B. Jarett Andretti looked to be in good shape to transfer until he bobbled coming out of turn four late in the heat.

    Chris Windom was content to follow Carson Short for most of the third heat until he came on strong to make the pass and take the win. C.J. Leary and Tyler Courtney also passed the Illinois native to take second and third. For a few laps early in the race there were up to six of the nine cars fighting for positions, covered by the proverbial blanket. Robert Ballou dropped out of the race while leading. His night would not get any better.

    Coming from sixth, Dave Darland won the fourth heat by a large margin, 5.8 seconds, over Tim Buckwalter. Mr. Buckwalter celebrated his fine run by flipping on lap 11 (after the checkered flag, in other words). Tim returned for the feature. Jason McDougal was third and pole sitter Carmen Perigo held on for fourth. Chad Boespflug flipped in turn two in an incident similar to the one on Wednesday. After a couple of minutes, he climbed out of the car, done for the night.

    The B main lineup was jumbled when Boespflug scratched and Andretti was tardy in lining up. Pole sitter Cummins won with Ballou second. Logan Seavey, unexpectedly quiet these first two nights, was third. Dakota Jackson took fourth and Andretti wasn’t bothered by his demotion as he finished fifth. Josh Hodges came from 13th to take the last card in the deck and race one more time. Matt Westfall and Tony Dimattia used provisionals.

    With Cummins not transferring out of the feature, Leary started on the pole with T. Thomas next to him. The Greenfield, Indiana resident shot out to the lead as Brian Hodde waved the green. Early on, T. Thomas stayed with him, but soon came under attack by Darland and Courtney. Leary did his best to run away and hide, but lapped traffic became a player on lap nine. Courtney stayed close and left Darland to deal with the likes of Bacon and Grant. Grant passed the Kokomo favorite and so did Bacon a lap before the yellow flag waved lap 19 for K. Thomas, who stopped on the track with a flat right rear tire.

    KT returned and tagged the field led by Leary, Courtney, no less than seven lapped cars, Grant, Bacon, Darland, T. Thomas, Wednesday’s winner Windom, McDougal, Stockon and Cummins. The green waved briefly before the yellow made a return visit when Chapple got low in turn two and bounced to a stop and collided with Jackson while doing so.

    This re-start stuck and Courtney got busy. He dove low under Leary in turn one to take the lead on the 20th lap. One might have been tempted to begin celebrating, but this is Kokomo. As it turned out, no one had anything for Sunshine. Leary remained in second until he climbed the wall coming out of turn four and nearly got upside down, but kept going, losing two positions.

    The next yellow waved on lap 24 when Buckwalter and Ballou tangled in turn two. Robert was upset and took a stroll to the Buckwalter machine, but was persuaded to postpone any sharing of information. Now it was Courtney, Grant, Bacon, Leary, Darland, Windom, T. Thomas, McDougal, K. Thomas and Stockon.

    Courtney had smooth sailing but Leary wasn’t done. Grant was running second when he tried to climb the wall—twice—on consecutive laps, thanks in part to the buildup of dirt by the wall making a mini-ramp. Leary passed both Grant and Bacon but ran out of time to catch Courtney. On the last lap in turn four, a mad scramble left T. Thomas stuffed in the wall, losing multiple positions.

    AS the checkered waved, it was Courtney leading Leary across the line. Bacon was third and also earned the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS HARD CHARGER award for advancing from eighth to third. (Tony Dimattia moved from 24th to 16th, but was ineligible for the award because he took a provisional). Grant managed to salvage fourth. Windom came from tenth to take fifth. Darland was sixth and McDougal was seventh. Cummins was eighth as T. Thomas fell back to ninth at the end. K. Thomas came back from his misfortune to finish tenth.

    The track became quite slick and dusty as the race wore on, but it didn’t hurt the racing. One should be prepared for it. As post-race interviews were conducted, the track crew had the big blade out and it headed for turn two, getting a nice jump on the Friday festivities. But here’s the thing. These guys, for the most part, don’t care what shape the track is in. They simply race, both the track and each other. And they race well.

    Courtney now has 14 USAC feature wins. Already. And the conquering is not finished, but then it never is.

    Friday was to a be a special day in many ways. But mainly, it would be the third round of Smackdown.

    Not being able to remember if I’m winding down or winding up, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Catch Him If You Can

    The track was fast and Chris Windom was going to be a tough one to catch. It was going to take an incident with a lapped car or a rare unforced error to foil the Canton, Illinois native’s plan to win. This was #GYATK Night at the Kokomo Speedway and opening night of Kokomo’s seventh annual Smackdown, featuring USAC sprints at their best, as well as the track management, who decreed this to be a salute to fans and offering free admission.

    My car count guessing abilities are very suspect. The crazy guess of 40 sprinters in the pits was a bit low. A very surprising 54 cars jammed the O’Connor family’s hangout and therapy facility. An astounding 14 of these were first time visitors to Indiana’s baddest bullring.

    The format was going to be different, more of a Kokomo plan than USAC. Group qualifying was conducted with Dave Darland, Kokomo’s favorite son, quickest of all with a 12.843 lap. Six heats would move the top three to the show. The fast four of group qualifying would be inverted. With the large number of cars, a C main would be on the agenda with the top four tagging the B. The pressure to advance to the feature out of a heat race would be intense.

    Brady Bacon took the lead midway through the first heat and simply checked out. Scotty Weir settled for second while Isaac Chapple grabbed the last place to transfer.

    Justin Grant won the second heat with Tyler Thomas taking the runner-up spot. The Oklahoma native's luck went away coming to the checkered as a mechanical gremlin struck, parking him for the night. Thomas Meseraull had to work harder than I would care to as he fought his way to third place.

    Chris Windom took the lead midway through the third heat and went on to win. Robert Ballou had problems during his time trial and had to start last. In the first two laps he roared from ninth to fourth. By race's end, Ballou was second. Tim Buckwalter took third. Carson Short tagged the wall, bringing out a yellow. This misfortune would put him in the C main. As we shall see, this turned out to be a treat for the assembled throng to witness.

    Tyler Courtney won the fourth heat with quick qualifier Dave Darland second. Chase Stockon was happy with leftovers in the form of third place.

    Shane Cottle was the fifth heat winner. He missed a nice argument over who would be second. Jarett Andretti prevailed over Clinton Boyles.

    For the first time in quite a while I saw a sixth heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. looked strong on winning. C. J. Leary was second with Chad Boespflug third. Matt Westfall was battling with Boespflug and a lapped car when he was squeezed in the middle. There wasn't enough real estate and Westfall flipped down the backstretch. He climbed out the car, done for the night.

    Carson Short was worth the price of admission, had there been one, in both the C and B main. He came from 15th to win the C over Travis Hery, Cap Henry and Josh Cunningham.

    If that wasn't enough, Short came from back of the pack to add even more excitement to the B. This was easily the tensest, and most spectacular, race of the night. The top five would advance and for much of the race six cars scrapped for positions. At the end, Stevie Sussex pulled away to a four-car length lead, the largest margin of the race. Short came from 19th to finish second. Dakota Jackson, in the Hank Byram entry, was in the dogfight and came away with a third. Chet Williams refused to go away when it seemed like he was passed. He finished fourth. Of course, the battle for the last spot, fifth, was a nailbiter with Tony Dimattia edging Jason McDougal, enjoying his new ride in the Daigh-Phillips machine. McDougal was spectacular and gave the car a ride. Twice he split two cars while fighting for position. But he came up just a bit short. Co-owner Carla Phillip was spotted after the race in the pits, smiling and shaking her head after watching her car perform some racing acrobatics.

    The B main was going to be a tough act to follow. Windom and Courtney led 20 other snarling beasts to the green. Windom jumped out to the lead and Grant slid in front of Courtney to annex second place. This lasted only two laps before Courtney took second and did his best to keep up with the leader.

    A bit further back Dave Darland was trying to move forward. From ninth, Dave was sixth by lap six (of 27). Two laps later he passed Shane Cottle for fourth. But that was it for him. Darland was able to pressure third place Grant, but couldn’t seal the deal.

    Lapped traffic came into play nearly halfway through the race. It was Courtney’s best chance to bother Windom. But that wasn’t happening as Windom was unfazed by the lapped cars. No one was going to catch the “Big Daddy” tonight unless they walked through the pits faster than he did.

    Behind Windom and Courtney was Grant, joining the duo at the start/finish line after the race. Darland was fourth and Bacon took fifth. Ballou was sixth and Leary took away seventh place money. Cottle ran in the top five early, but faded just a bit to eighth. K. Thomas had an ordinary (for him) ninth place finish. Jarett Andretti was tenth.

    Had there been a hard charger award, it would have gone to Short, who maneuvered his way to 12th after starting 19th. Officially, he passed 24 cars in the C, B and A.

    Braxton Cummings was the #GYATK rookie winner for the night. After finishing 13th in the B, he collected a cool $1500 for the night.

    This first night was a “special event” with no points awarded. But Thursday would see things getting a little more serious. It would be worth the wait.

    Incited, but not indicted, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Here a Challenge, There a Challenge

    Through much of the feature contest at the Lincoln Park Speedway on a warm and humid night, eventual winner Brent Beauchamp prevailed. Challengers A. J. Hopkins, Carson Short and Colten Cottle did their best to make the leader’s life miserable. But in the end Beauchamp was too much, feathers unruffled by the repeated attempts and multiple lead changes that dominated the 30-lap, MSCS sanctioned, main event.

    One of the first things I noticed as I arrived was that this part of Indiana had considerably more than the south central part of the state. But rain doesn’t slow down race promoters. At Lawrenceburg, Dave Rudisell had a late afternoon shower, the worst time for any water from the sky on a race night. Apparently, he and his crew got to work and the ‘burg started a little late. It was the same at Lincoln Park as Joe Spiker and crew shrugged off the possible roadblock and ended up with a track that was tricky early in the program, but a gem at feature time.

    The MSCS drew 35 cars with the noticeable observation being MSCS point leader Carson Short in the Briscoe team car that has been a consistent threat no matter who has been behind the wheel. Garrett Aitken was in the Pottorff car occupied recently by Chad Boespflug; the Aitken car was last seen clearing the turn one wall at Terre Haute. Thomas Meseraull, last week’s LPS winner, was in his own car. Shane Cockrum was a late arrival from Springfield. He would tag his heat and pass people all night long. Colten Cottle was in the Burton 04 instead of his own car.

    One didn’t need to be reminded that the rain made for lots of mud when Harley Burns slipped over the turn two bank and became stuck, needing more than a push truck. The facility’s tractor was summoned to extract Burns and car from the mud. Brandon Mattox, second in MSCS points, had a major problem with the back end of the car during time trials. Somehow, it was fixed in time for his heat race.

    A.J. Hopkins passed Tim Creech III for the lead and went on to win the first heat. Creech was second ahead of Jordan Kinser. Collin Ambrose came on to finish fourth, the last spot available for the show.

    The second heat was the Heat from Nightmare Lane. Things began early with Brandon Mattox taking a wild ride after contact from Thomas Meseraull. Thus ended a bad night for Mr. Mattox. The re-start was no better. Colten Cottle made slight contact with Meseraull and the California native flipped, not wildly, but enough to send him to the B. The third re-start lasted a lap before newcomer Ayrton Olsen spun/bounced to a stop just past the finish line with a flat tire. With attrition, we were down to four cars, meaning all would make the feature. The boys settled down and Cottle won with Brandon Morin, Jaden Rogers and Travis Spencer moving on.

    The third heat wasn’t much better. Eric Perrott slowed and was clipped by Justin Meneely, bringing out a yellow. Then Travis Berryhill had a spin/stop bringing out the overworked yellow again. Again, the guys settled down and raced. Carson Short won with Matt McDonald finishing second. Berryhill came back to take third. Pole sitter Ben Knight was fourth.

    Beauchamp won the relatively tame fourth heat. Nate McMillin was second. Koby Barksdale took third. There was an outstanding battle for fourth with Garrett Aitken grabbing the spot, sending Shane Cockrum and Aric Gentry to the B.

    Mr. Cockrum won the B leading Gentry to the line. Olsen came from tenth to finish third. MSCS regular Donnie Brackett was fourth. There were no provisionals.

    The re-draw put Morin and Creech in the front row. Morin took the early lead with third starting Beauchamp giving chase. A yellow flag waved on the fourth lap for a Travis Berryhill/Ben Knight tangle with Berryhill pitting for a flat tire. Morin still led, but Beauchamp was greedy. Coming out of turn four, Brent took the lead on the fifth lap. A lap later, Short took over second. After a lap nine yellow, the order was Beauchamp, Short, Morin, Hopkins, Cottle, McMillin, Barksdale, Creech, Aitken and Kinser.

    This segment saw Morin slowly fade for the moment as Hopkins and Cottle passed. Barksdale was on the move until he carried too much speed into turn four and flipped, bringing out the red on lap 15. Shane Cockrum had entered the top ten. He wasn’t done.

    After meeting the challenge of Morin, Beauchamp had two more problems, namely Short and Hopkins. Two laps after the re-start, Short took the lead coming out of turn two, but not for long as Beauchamp reclaimed the lead a lap later. Back and forth it went with several instances of changing positions. Hopkins was in third, feeling a little left out. He joined the group, making it a terrific three-way fight for the lead that lasted until a lap 23 yellow for Tim Creech III.

    This final re-start saw Beauchamp leading Hopkins, Short, Cottle, Morin, McMillin, Berryhill, Aitken, Cockrum and Kinser. It was now Hopkins’ turn to fight with Beauchamp for the lead. A.J. led a couple of those laps with the unofficial lead changes far outnumbering the official. Cottle entered the leaders’ battle, fighting with Hopkins for second and threatening Beauchamp for the lead. A rejuvenated Morin made a brief comeback, fourth at one point ahead of Short.

    Beauchamp finally began to get some breathing room, leaving the others to fight for the crumbs, as it were. He won by several car lengths over Cottle, a successful first outing for Jerry and Darlene Burton. Hopkins settled for third. Berryhill came back strong from his early misfortune to finish fourth after starting 11th, going to the tail spot and roaring to the front. Cockrum did some roaring of his own, coming from B Main land, 17th, to grab fifth and the Keizer Aluminum Wheels Hard Charger of the Race. Short faded to sixth and McMillin was seventh after running in the top five for a while. Ambrose was a quiet eighth after starting 13th. Morin’s ninth place didn’t reflect his good race. He was up to fourth before Short sailed into his side, hurting the result if not the effort. Aitken made a decent debut in the Pottorff car, motoring from 16th to tenth.

    Given all the delays, a 10:45 checkered flag was a reasonable time. Early on, the track turned very slick. But when the sprint feature took the green, the moisture made a welcome appearance to the surface and cars ran high and low in the eternal quest for speed and…meeting challenges.

    Smackdown approaches. Need I say more?

    Hoping that the Russians don’t hack C-SPAN, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Shared Spotlight

    It wasn’t a case of stolen thunder. Instead it was an occasion to celebrate—twice. As Robert Ballou correctly enjoyed another feature win at the Terre Haute Action Track, Jon Stanbrough quietly (as always) celebrated his last race, ending a remarkable career of hundreds of victories and universal respect from his competitors, fans and everyone else in racing.

    As usual, getting there was half the fun. A minute after I eased into the little white truck, rain began to fall. It poured down until I reached the middle of town, where the sun began to shine seconds after the rain stopped. By the time I reached the State Road 46/I-65 intersection the road was dry. Thus ended my rain experience for Sunday.

    The Midwest Sprint Car Series brought together 30 sprint teams to the Action Track. Along with Mr. Stanbrough and his teammate Travis Berryhill, Englishman Tom Harris dropped in, along with the MSCS regulars and a few USAC runners too. Stevie Sussex was back and would occupy the Michael Dutcher ride.

    Group qualifying was the preferred method of lining up the heats. Three groups tackled the Action Track and Donnie Brackett found himself tackled by the Action Track when he flipped in turn four during his group’s qualifying laps. Donnie was able to walk on his own back to the pits. Chris Windom’s 20.071 lap was quickest of all.

    The first heat was halted when Dave Darland took a nasty ride like Mr. Brackett’s, except Dave’s mishap was in turn two. He exited the car with no big problem. Later, we had an attempt at a conversation; Dave was still a bit fuzzy. Action resumed and Brandon Mattox won with Carson Short second. Robert Ballou had a motor issue in qualifying and had to start last in his heat. He roared to the front and finished third. Stevie Sussex was fourth. Isaac Chapple took the last spot for the feature.

    Justin Grant won the second heat with Mr. Stanbrough second. Shane Cottle was third and pole sitter Mr. Harris took fourth. Garrett Aitken hung on to fifth place after starting on the pole.

    Chris Windom made it look easy in the third heat, winning over Daron Clayton. Chase Stockon started and finished third. Travis Berryhill annexed fourth. Koby Barksdale got around Brandon Morin to pass go in the feature.

    As the sun slowly disappeared over the Illinois state line, the B Main was contested with Aitken winning from the front row. Pole sitter Nate McMillan was second with Kent Schmidt taking third, James Lyerla and Tony Main would occupy the tenth row in the feature. Brandon Morin was running third when his engine began smoking, his night done. Collin Ambrose used a provisional to tag the field.

    While the sprinters prepared for 25 laps of rain’ the modified feature was won by Kenny Wallace, who made a late race pass stick. The exploits of Brian Shaw were a treat. He arrived very late, started last of 20 cars, and made his way to sixth, all under the green flag.

    At 9 p.m., Carson Short and Chris Windom led 19 of their closest friends to the green. Short led the first three laps, but green turned to red when Travis Berryhill suffered the night’s third flip. Travis would return to the chase. On the re-start Short led Windom, Grant Stanbrough and Ballou. The Madman was on the move, getting a tremendous jump coming out of turn two. Meanwhile, Windom had taken the lead and was out in front when the red waved for a Garrett Aitken trip and flip over the turn one wall. After a few tense moments, Garrett appeared by the wall.

    Windom led Ballou, Short, Stockon and Grant on this re-start. But the promising battle was interrupted again when Cottle stopped with a flat left rear tire. Windom had been holding off Ballou, but that ended on lap nine when Ballou took the lead. It was mid-race and the top four all opened significant gaps between them with Ballou, Windom, Stockon and Short leading the way. Lapped traffic came into play but was not a factor as all four deftly weaved their way through the crowd, with nary a yellow flag in sight.

    Ballou’s margin was the better part of a straightaway. Windom was runner-up for the second night in a row. Stockon occupied the third spot on the podium. Short was fourth and Stevie Sussex had the best race that comparatively few saw, coming from tenth to finish fifth and closing on Short at the end. Grant was sixth and Jon Stanbrough closed out his phenomenal career with a seventh-place finish. Daron Clayton, back in the saddle, was eighth. Isaac Chapple came from 13th to finish ninth. I’m pretty sure this was Koby Barksdale’s first visit to the Action Track and he was surely pleased to go home with a tenth after starting 15th. Collin Ambrose made good use of his provisional start by taking 12th place after starting 21st.

    It was rather odd to watch the activity at the start/finish line after the race. Two distinct groups milled around the winner of the race and the racer who was saying good-bye to something he has done for such a long time. One could almost get the feeling that there were two winners. In a way, there were two. One had excelled on this warm summer night at a track where he’s had success. The other had excelled over decades at multiple tracks and was leaving on his own terms. There was much to celebrate.

     Colliding when I should be colluding, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Say Hello to the Dominator

    For the past few years, Kody Swanson and company have outrun, beat, dominated, you name it, USAC's Silver Crown division. Why should it have been any different at the Salem Speedway on a hot August Saturday night? All Mr. Swanson did was lap everyone except runner up Chris Windom in the 75-lap Joe James/Pat O’Connor feature. There is also the fact that Swanson passed another legend, Mr. Jack Hewitt, in the number of Silver Crown victories.

    Maybe the first thing I think of when I either ponder or arrive at the Salem Speedway is history, either mine or the track’s. It’s a shared history. This is perhaps the most meaningful. My own history of going to races along with the long and colorful history of this storied track hits home. When I arrive at this track, it’s impossible for me not to think about my boyhood trips to the .555 mile, high banked, and paved oval. This shared history gives me a clear perspective, watching it go through its ups and downs over the years. These are memories that can be timeless and hard to suppress, whether one wishes to or not.

    Along with that shared history is the changing look of the facility over the past 50 plus years. In the past few years, the infield has undergone a major makeover. Gone is most of the grass, replaced by a oval, paved of course, complete with a figure eight track as well. Walls have replaced the guard rails. If racers leave the track, they have to hurtle over the walls and not smash through the guard rail. The track now has lights and many summer races are conducted after dark. Long gone is the bridge that used to allow fans to reach the infield at any time. (I recall looking down on the cars as they whizzed by below me.) The front stretch seats have not had a cover for several years. New bleachers have been added to the existing seats. There is a better view of the golf course now.

    With all those changes, don’t be fooled. It’s the same old, intimidating high banks. The surface has not been repaved for a very long time. One wonders if the owners are afraid that repaving the old girl would ruin the racing. Many may recall the disastrous Winchester Speedway repaving over 20 years ago. Racers still face the challenge and might be inclined to puff their chest out and say that they raced at Salem.

    My own Salem education, with my dad as instructor, consisted of more stock car than open wheel racing. From Nelson Stacy to Iggy Katona to Don White to Mike Eddy, I was fortunate enough to see these guys and many more from the 1950s to now. I also saw the occasional sprint car races at Salem, with Parnelli Jones’ famous #51/Fike Plumbing Special making a huge impression on me.

    Ordinarily, one wouldn’t get too excited about a car count of twenty. But when the 2017 edition of the Joe James/Pat O’Conner Memorial drew only 14 cars, twenty looked pretty good. The noteworthy crowd included Eric Gordon, semi- or three quarters retired, in a car owned by Brad Armstrong, former pavement racing ace. Cody Gallogly was in the Williams car, normally piloted by Shane Cottle. And Hot Rod John Heydenrich was in the Nix family car at least for the night.

    Time trials saw several set fast time as the line to qualify shrank until there was only one car left to take the two laps. That car was Kody Swanson’s and he claimed the pole with a 16.001 lap, a tick slower than his track record, set last year.

    After a very decent Salem stock car race, which had some rubbin’ and racin’, it was time for the Silver Crown cars to line up on the front stretch for fans to collect autographs and driver introductions. At 9:15, after a couple of parade laps with Pat O’Connor’s son Jeff driving a vintage Champ Car, the green flag waved and Swanson outdragged Jerry Coons Jr. to the lead in the first turn. No surprise there, but David Byrne came out of the gate and would be the first to try his hand at catching the leader. On the fourth lap he passed Coons for second and, for a few laps, was breathing down Swanson’s neck. They were part of an early six car breakaway, which included Swanson, Byrne, Coons, Bobby Santos III, Chris Windom and Eric Gordon.

    Coons was slowly fading and Santos took over third place on lap eight. The six-car jailbreak was five as Gordon lost the connection and found himself dealing with Justin Grant and Kyle Hamilton.

    The yellow flag made an appearance on lap 15 when Matt Goodnight slowed while on track. Swanson led Byrne, Santos, Coons, Windom, Gordon, Grant, Hamilton, Dave Darland and Jacob Wilson. While the field circled under the yellow, Gordon pitted, and eventually dropped out. 

    On the re-start, Swanson resumed his disappearing act. Six laps later, Windom passed Coons for fourth and found Santos harassing Byrne for second. On lap 38 Santos made the pass in lapped traffic and tried to reel in the leader. A lap later, Windom got around Byrne as well. By then, Swanson was gone.

    Kody may have been doing his best to stink up the show, but the others made things quite interesting. Windom ran down Santos and took over second place on lap 53. Swanson enjoyed close to a half lap lead at this point and Windom’s chances at cutting into that margin were close to nil.

    The only drama was watching Swanson lap everyone except Windom. Lap 58 saw him lapping Byrne, who had been so strong early. Seven laps later it was sixth place Grant’s turn. The lap after that saw Hamilton get a nice view of Swanson’s tail tank. There were more. On the 70th lap Coons, who was fourth, was lapped. Three laps later, third place Santos was the next victim. This left Windom unlapped but still over eight seconds behind.

    Behind Swanson, Windom, Santos, Coons, Hamilton and Grant was Jacob Wilson in seventh. David Byrne faded to eighth. Dave Darland was ninth, two laps behind. Travis Welpott finished tenth.

    This was Swanson’s fifth Silver Crown victory in a row, a record. It was his 24th career Silver Crown win, putting him one up on Jack Hewitt. The James/O’Connor Memorial was his third consecutive. It is no coincidence that Bob Hampshire has been the wrench for both champions.

    It was a quality night. There was a decent crowd, an interesting race and a timely return to my personal racing roots. And a truly talented and affable young man took some more steps to racing immortality.

    Leo Durocher was wrong in this case and many others on the Hoosier open wheel scene. Nice guys finish first, too.

    Mulling over whether to wear my new ostrich coat to the zoo, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Spiritual Racin’

    Races done in memory of racers gone too soon have always had a place in bullring history. Perhaps some race a little harder knowing who the race is honoring and remembering. Perhaps racers know that this departed comrade was a lot more than merely one who left us too soon, no matter how long ago that may have been. Maybe they wish that they could have known or even raced with a competitor who is, we always believe, in a better place. At any rate, C.J. Leary won his second Jason Soudrette Memorial on a muggy Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway. C.J. had a right rear tire going flat at the end of the 25-lap feature. Another lap and…well, let’s say that second place Dickie Gaines was closing in on Leary at the end. Dickie was driving the Soudrette family sprinter and how neat would that have been? But it wasn’t meant to be and Mr. Leary no doubt will appreciate both unique trophies he has carried off, two snazzy looking guitars that he can place side by side—and admire from time to time.

    Jason Soudrette’s number was 44 and Dave Rudisell had the idea of scraping up $2044 for the feature winner. To their credit, the Soudrette family has continued to race since Jason’s passing and Dickie Gaines has been the wheelman for most of the time. Dickie would be a threat to win, but there would be several others who would race for the money, trophy and the honor as well. These included Lawrenceburg point champs such as Joss Moffatt, Jarett Andretti and Shawn Westerfeld. USAC campaigner Isaac Chapple stopped by, as did Brandon Morin, who made the long tow from the other side of the state, Jasonville to be exact. Throw in usual suspects such as Nick Bilbee and Michael Fischesser and you had a decent collection of hungry sprinters.

    Group qualifying was the format with the four fastest inverted in their heats. Nick Bilbee was quickest of all qualifiers with a 14.189 lap in the third group.

    The first heat included two of the Lawrenceburg champs and one of them, Joss Moffatt, with a brand new car, was the winner. Isaac Chapple, promoted to the pole after Chris Phillips jumped the start, was second and gained a redraw membership. Another 'burg champ, Shawn Westerfeld, was third. Phillips was all over Westerfeld like paint on a wall but settled for fourth. Brett Hankins was fifth.

    The second heat saw a three- way fight for the first two spots. Travis Hery won with J. J. Hughes and Garrett Abrams all over the leader and each other in a tense looking battle for second, which Hughes came away with. Michael Fischesser was fourth and Brandon Morin finished fifth.

    The third heat was no snoozer. C. J. Leary led every lap except the first as he held off an eager Nick Bilbee. Dickie Gaines was fourth after multiple position changes with Jarett Andretti. Pat Giddens had a good view of the action from fifth.

    Track massaging went on while the redraw was conducted. Chapple and Moffatt picked up a couple of new friends, the kids who drew for them. The field of 21 was reduced when Westerfeld couldn’t start the race.

    Tim Montgomery waved the green and Moffatt took the lead as Leary found room behind him after starting fourth. The Greenfield resident reeled in my homeboy and made the pass on the outside coming out of turn two on the fourth lap. A couple of laps later, Leary had built his lead and was already catching lapped traffic. Conceivably, this could have been a chance for someone to catch the leader. But nothing could slow him—unless it was a yellow flag.

    Moffatt spun but kept going on the 11th lap. The yellow waved for debris and Joss kept his position behind Leary. The suspects were Leary, Moffatt, Bilbee, Gaines, Hughes, Abrams, Andretti, Chapple, Phillips and Hery.

    If Bilbee was going to threaten the leader he needed to dispatch Moffatt first. He did that on the re-start and set sail after Leary. But C.J. was on a rail and Nick had other problems at this point in the form of Dickie Gaines. Just past the halfway mark Gaines got around Moffatt for third. Then on lap 16, he dove under Bilbee’s car coming out of turn four and took second. Now the question was if Gaines had anything for Leary.

    Tony McVey gave Gaines the chance to answer the question when he spun on the 23rd lap in turn two. Leary’s full straightaway lead went poof! and now would be Dickie’s only and last chance to win the race for the Soudrette family. Certainly a sentimental favorite, he did his best, but Leary wanted to win this race, too. Perhaps his trophy/guitar from his initial Soudrette Memorial was lonely. Whatever the circumstance, Leary had ‘em covered on the re-start. Despite a tire going flat, he won with Gaines not far behind. Bilbee was third. Andretti had the best run that many didn’t see, moving from 12th to take fourth at the end, picking up some extra lunch money. Abrams was fifth as Moffatt faltered at the end with a problematic right front end, finishing sixth. Hughes was seventh and Chapple took eighth. Phillips and Hery completed the top ten.

    Maybe C. J. Leary should start taking guitar lessons.

    Not taking that man behind the curtain seriously, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Things That Never Get Old

    Sometimes I notice the reactions of feature winners. All are exuberant; very seldom will a feature winner fail to at least smile and that could be a situation where one has a loved one in mind who is ill, for example. But when Thomas Meseraull wins a feature, he fails miserably at hiding his elation. And why not? With his Frankenstein car, TMez took the lead early and sailed to victory at the Gas City I-69 Speedway on Friday night. True to form, he was one happy winner after the race.

    I may not have been a winner but I was happy to arrive at Gas City at a decent hour, exchanging pleasantries with the likes of chaplain Dave Cochran and PA wizard Rob Goodman. To the south I saw some ominous looking skies but they avoided the track like the plague and no one complained.

    On my way north, frequently I was surrounded by a wall of corn on both sides of the road. Meandering through the pits I enjoyed the wall of engine sounds. It’s all subjective as most might call it noise while to me it’s a comforting sound. It endures and abides.

    The pits were quite crowded with 103 race cars plus four race busses. Sprinters led the way with 26. Among those, Dave Darland was re-united with Mike Dutcher for the night. Having raced midgets in recent years, Chase Jones and Zane Hendricks waded into the thicket of the sprint car world. Jones was wheeling and dealing with major help from Davey Ray. Hendricks was in a Goodnight family car.

    A pair of eighteens led the way in the first heat. Jarett Andretti passed Dallas Hewitt midway through and held on to win. Clinton Boyles was third and second-generation racer Evan Mosley finished fourth. Adam Byrkett had his hands full, denying Matt McDonald the last spot and requiring him to run the B.

    Shane Cockrum used his pole position to run away with the second heat. Chase Jones attracted a crowd behind him as he managed a second place. Third was Shane Cottle with Isaac Chapple owning fourth. Matt Goodnight held off Garrett Abrams to take fifth and send the Rushville resident to the B.

    Thomas Meseraull had an easy time of it in the third heat. Travis Hery was several yards behind but had no pressure in finishing second. Dave Darland made a late pass of Tyler Hewitt and took third. With Hewitt taking fourth, Billy Cribbs was fifth and Ted Hines would try his luck in the B.

    Before the B, I had a brief conversation with Matt McDonald and told him that he would be starting 16th in the feature. When Brian Hodde waved the green Garrett Abrams jumped out to the lead with McDonald seemingly content with second. But he must have remembered my prediction as he passed Abrams on the last lap to take the win and start the feature sixteenth. Behind Abrams were Goodnight, Hines and Ohio's Gage Etgen.

    The rookie and the veteran, Chase Jones and Thomas Meseraull, led 18 like-minded racers to the green. Surprisingly, Jones grabbed the early lead with Meseraull in tow. The rookie hung tough until a tire issue forced him to the pits as the race stayed green.

    With Jones exiting the race, D. Hewitt assumed second place. Behind this duo, Travis Hery was holding his own with a hungry pack of blood thirsty monsters nipping at his tail tank. The list of racers stacking up behind Hery grew as Cockrum, Cottle and Darland were joined by Boyles and Andretti. The proverbial blanket could have covered this crowd.

    With five laps to go, Meseraull and D. Hewitt rolled on, swiftly dealing with lapped traffic as the track’s groove had widened and people could pass—and did. At this time, Cottle made the pass on Hery for third place and tried to pull away. But Shane would have unwanted company as Cockrum and Darland also passed the Ohio resident.

    Meseraull and D. Hewitt kept their positions as Brian Hodde waved the checkered. Cottle completed the podium, had there been one. Darland passed Cockrum to annex fourth at the end after starting ninth, with the fire chief settling for fifth. Boyles was sixth, just ahead of Andretti. Chapple was eighth with Hery fading to ninth after an impressive race early on. Abrams came from 17th to come away with a tenth.

    Standing by his car after the race, TMez was his usual talkative self, quite happy and very thankful to the fans. He seems to be one of those who feed off the crowd’s energy and with a good-sized crowd there was plenty of that.

    One of his many comments was that the right rear tire on his car had served him well, but it was time to get a new one. What did he do after the interview was over? He was found at the new Hoosier tire shed buying, of course, a brand-new right rear. Kids, that’s what racers do.

    Chet Gehrke won the D2 Midget feature. Gehrke, Stratton Briggs and Aaron Leffel won their heats.

    Matt Hedrick’s dream year continued in UMRA TQ action as he won their feature. With Hedrick, Tate Martz and Robbie Roland were heat race winners.

    It may have been the same old deal, another night at another Hoosier bullring but it never gets old.

    Throwing shade and accidentally hitting my wife's favorite lamp, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Sprint Week Aftermath

    Car counts that contained both quantity and quality. Huge crowds at most every track. On-track racing at its best with five winners in seven races. After a near rainout and an actual rainout, perfect weather prevailed. A long-time favorite picked the best time to break out of a slump. That all sums up the 31st edition of Indiana Sprint Week.

    Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend each race of ISW for the past 15 years or so. The racing matters, but I’ve learned to appreciate the people that I’ve encountered over the years. If the racing is the chocolate, then the relationships are the peanut butter. Combined, it becomes the best nine days of the racing year.

    From Lincoln Park Speedway Bar-B-Q sandwiches to the wall of noise at Lawrenceburg, from dodging rain at Plymouth to smiling all the way up I-69 after the concluding night at Tri-State, it was my personal Magical Mystery Tour.

    What follows is a list of mostly people who made their mark on me over the nine special days of ISW. I consider each of them a gift of sorts, or blessing if you prefer. They all combined to make it a short time of everlasting memories.

    Plymouth Speedway, Dave Cochran, James Carter, Railroad Joe, Chad Boespflug, Monica Clauson, Robert Bell, Lawrenceburg Speedway, Frank Hoban, Shane Cockrum, Donnie Gentry, Indiana State Road 46, Fred Zirzow, Dave Foist, Brenda Cochran, Rich Hollmayer, Susan St. Catherine, Nick Bilbee, Mike Padfield, Isaac Chapple, Kody Swanson, Kokomo Speedway, Bob Clauson, Reece O’Connor, Chris Windom, Mike Heimel, Steve Fox, Dave Darland, Jill O’Connor Demonbreun, Bob Gatten, Tyler Hewitt, John Hoover, U.S. Road 31, Rich Winings, Kathy Hooper Fernung, Richie Murray, Dawn Moss, Shane Cottle, Bob Sargent, Chris Pedersen, Terre Haute Action Track, Dave Argabright, Brent Goodnight, Jerry Shaw, John Mahoney, Chris O’Connor Naranjo, Todd Clemons, Steve Ulrich, Robert Ballou, Wayne Trill, Joe Spiker, Steve Lafond, Lincoln Park Speedway, Tyler Kelly, Shondra Gardner, Pat Sullivan, Dan Hetser, Duane Price, Kevin Oldham, Doug Vandeventer, Tom Hansing, Rob Goodman, Diana Clauson, Bloomington Speedway, Brandon Morin, Kimb Stewart, Josh Cunningham, Brad Dickison, Tim Montgomery, Jim Goerges, Joe Chambers, Jim Wever, Larry Nordman, Denise Weltzin, Kirk Spridgeon, Deb Taylor, Rick Lane, Gale Baertschi, Mike O’Leary, Kelly Perkins, Staci Girard, Brandon Murray, Loris Helfrich, Curt Gross, Jen Kelly Morgan, Jason Adams, Devon Hanrahan, Tri-State Speedway, Andy Randall, Kenneth Redfern, Lesley Prince, Brian Hodde, Eric AERO Lehman, Dave Roach, Ron Miller, Jeff VanWinkle, Keith Wendel, Ryan Kent, Matt McDonald, Rich Ulrich, Brad Marvel, Ryne Meece, Steve Morin, Leann Gray Clemons, Greg Littleton, Tim Clauson, Eldora Mark Friitz, Henry Bryant, Phyllis Gatten, Danny Roberts, David Mitchell and many more.

    I apologize for anyone I have forgotten.

    Indiana Sprint Week 2019. Let us look forward to it.

    Treating my buddy Vlad's soccer ball like it was an exhaust pipe right after hot laps, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Man Who Came to…Race (And Mr. Consistency)

    Many years ago, a play (and later a movie) called “The Man Who Came to Dinner” featured a man who came to visit a family for a few days. The gentleman broke his leg at the residence and extended his stay, making the family’s collective lives rather miserable. To a certain extent, this applies to Dave Darland, the man who defies convention and refuses to go gentle into that good night, to borrow a title of a noted poem (written by a guy who died at a young age). Here is a fellow who hangs around and, just when you wonder if maybe he’s lost his edge or that the years are catching up to him, here he comes again, outrunning the pack again. He did it one more time on Saturday night at the Class Track, or Tri-State Speedway, winning the swan song of another memorable Indiana Sprint Week. In addition, it was Darland’s first feature win at Tri-State/Haubstadt in over 30 years of racing there.

    As the Darland entourage celebrated the victory after the race, less than 50 feet away another group had their low-keyed celebration as Mr. Consistency a/k/a Big Daddy a/k/a Chris Windom won the ISW title, despite not winning a race. But consider Windom’s results. Second at Plymouth, fourth at Lawrenceburg and Kokomo, sixth at Terre Haute, second at Lincoln Park, third at Bloomington and second to Darland (again) at Tri-State. There’s no shame in either term, “champion” or “race winner.”

    I have this love/hate relationship with Indiana State Road 46. To be sure, most of the time it’s love because 46 is part of the route to several of my race track destinations, such as Lawrenceburg, Bloomington, Terre Haute, and now with I-69 operating in southern Indiana, Haubstadt. As had been the case on Friday, I spent too many minutes and burned too much fuel sitting in the car, pondering the landscape. Ah, well.

    For the third time in seven races, the car count was 42. Richie Murray, the Ayatollah of USAC/Indy 500 statistics, informed me that this was Tri-State’s highest car count since 2007, when 45 sprinters stopped by to romp at Tom and Loris’s playhouse. A few locals/MSCS runners joined the party for their only ISW appearance. Collin Ambrose, Kendall Ruble, Aric Gentry, Mario Clouser, Brian Wallace, Chet Williams, Kent Schmidt, Stephen Schnapf, Critter Malone and Donnie Brackett were all making their first ISW appearance. Daron Clayton was out for the second time. Clinton Boyles was in a team car with RJ Johnson’s group.

    Time trials saw Kevin Thomas Jr. go out 41st and set fast time (and second fast time) with a 13.378 lap. The track record of 12.644, set by Levi Jones in 2000, would stay unchanged.

    The caution plagued first heat was won by front row starter Thomas Meseraull. Dave Darland made TMez earn it, finishing second. Daron Clayton started and finished third. Kevin Thomas Jr., looking for every point he could get, ran as high as third before ending up fourth. Robert Ballou led the rest to either the C or B.

    Pole sitter Chet Williams withstood pressure from second place Tyler Courtney and won the second heat. Carson Short came from the last row to finish third. Timmy Buckwalter edged Kyle Cummins by a double cheeseburger to grab the last space for the feature.

    Rookie Steven Schnapf ignored the action behind him and sailed to the third heat win. C. J. Leary kept him honest, taking second. Justin Grant, Brady Bacon and Josh Hodges had a terrific battle for third and fourth. Only two would make it to the feature in the heat and Hodges wasn't either of them.

    The fourth heat had its own drama, a caution plagued affair that saw only six of ten starters finish. Four of them were Chris Windom, Shane Cottle, Chase Stockon and Tony Dimattia.

    With car counts being so above normal, C mains have been the norm. Critter Malone, Brandon Mattox, Collin Ambrose and Kent Schmidt tagged the B.

    The B? Yes, it was a wild one. Josh Hodges took the lead from Chad Boespflug early. Midway through the race, festivities were halted when Robert Ballou and Dakota Jackson went for the same real estate at roughly the same time. Jackson flipped a couple of times and exited the car under his own power. Action continued with total anarchy breaking out by six cars fighting for two positions. It couldn’t last. A four- car scrum in turn four ended that craziness, but the boys excelled with their efforts to make the show. Transferees were Hodges, Boespflug, Cummins, Andretti, Clouser and Ruble. Ballou and Chapple used provisionals.

    It might have been tempting to bet that a front row occupant would win, given that Courtney and Windom were there. They had Hodges and Cummins to thank as both narrowly missed making the show via their heats. Windom took the early lead as Courtney fell back almost immediately. K. Thomas second place in ISW points, had to be pained as Windom grabbed the lead. All Chris had to do was finish fifth or better. KT’s slim chances were nearly anorexic now. As Windom took the lead, Stockon was doing his best to make the leader’s condition miserable. Again and again, he tried but couldn’t make his car stick Windom stayed put.

    Right after the leaders caught lapped traffic, on the 14th lap, Clayton stopped in turn four, bringing out the yellow. Behind Windom and Stockon were Darland, Thomas, Leary, Grant, Cummins, Courtney, Hodges and Schnapf, who had rambled from 18th. The green waved again, but only for a few seconds when Cottle, Short, Andretti and Williams met in turn four. The boys would try again.

    This next segment saw a remarkable circumstance. Mario Clouser, one lap down, found magic on top and unlapped himself—under green flag conditions. Indirectly, this was a crucial development because Darland witnessed this and filed it away for later. Dave couldn’t try out this maneuver right away. Thomas Meseraull found the turn four wall and flipped lap 18 and collected Robert Ballou, causing Tom Hansing to grab the red flag.

    On this re-start, Darland got around Stockon in turn two and now Windom had a new headache in the world’s fastest grandfather who wasn’t done passing people. Sure enough, the Peoples’ Champ made the pass on lap 24. Clouser brought out a yellow with a spin just as Stockon had passed Windom for second. It didn’t count and the local kid would have to try again. Another yellow waved on this re-start which only served to ramp up the tension and the stakes.

    But the last few laps were about as anti-climatic as Tri-State gets. Darland took the checkered, the trophy and the dollars. Windom collected one of the coolest rocking chairs one can have. He earned it. Stockon occupied the third spot on the podium with Thomas, the 2017 Indiana Sprint Week champ, taking fourth. Leary, the Bloomington winner, was fifth. The second five was Grant, Cummins, Hodges, Courtney and Schnapf, who was in the running for the Hard Charger award until Brady Bacon, who began ISW with a victory at the other end of the state, scooting from 21st to 11th took it away.

    The man who came to race wasn’t the only one, of course. But he’s been at it so long and shows no sign of letting up. Don’t count him out yet. He might have wanted to win the rocking chair, but he’s not acting like he’s ready to try it out.

    Another Sprint Week is over. Most are taking a breather while others head to the next race immediately as the merry-go-round continues. The sofa looks inviting and reminds me to take it easy.

    Getting Alex Jones to autograph my tin foil hat, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: High Speed Insanity

    Put 24 fast cars with 24 drivers who love to go really fast on a wicked fast oval. Arrange it so they race as fast as they can around the oval for 30 green flag laps. Add a few thousand screaming fans and you can have a recipe for disaster. But it doesn't mean that you will witness a disaster. More likely you will enjoy a few minutes of high speed insanity, but only if Hoosier style sprint car racing is a totally foreign concept. It's okay, we understand. To many of us, it's just another night of Indiana Sprint Week. So Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway, the fastest of the fast was C. J. Leary, who grew up immersed in this sort of thing. For sure, people had the opportunity to race with Mr. Leary, but they simply could not keep up. It was Leary's first USAC victory this year.

    This year has seen, not counting the rain that plagued Plymouth and Kokomo, excellent weather and Bloomington was no exception. The temperature struggled to hit the 80-degree mark as the 40 teams assembled in the fastest Romper Room in town. Of note, were first timers and, in some cases, Bloomington regulars, Daylan Chambers, Josh Cunningham, Alec Sipes, Jeff Bland, Lee Underwood and Brandon Morin. Then there were the relatively few racers, officials and fans who have been present for every race, laboring to become Indiana Sprint Week’s versions of Lou Gehrig (or Cal Ripken for you young people).

    If the track slowed much during qualifications, it wasn’t very much. After all, Brent Beauchamp and Thomas Meseraull qualified in the top six despite going out 29th and 30th. Kevin Thomas set fast time, a lap of 11.244, even though his draw was somewhere in the middle.

    Isaac Chapple led all the way to the flag and won the first heat. Chris Windom kept his distance and finished second. Chase Stockon wasn't too far behind, taking third. Fast qualifier Kevin Thomas Jr. bided his time and did all he needed to do, namely grab a top four finish.

    The track was in great condition at this point and the lads put on a clinic in the second heat with plenty of passing, slicing and dicing. C. J. Leary won this one, taking the lead from Dakota Jackson with three laps to go. Thomas Meseraull was third, catching and nearly passing Jackson. Jarett Andretti had an up and down race. He started third and was shuffled as far back as sixth. During a caution period for a Josh Hodges slide-off, Andretti sidled up to Brady Bacon and gave him a "how ya doing" gesture. When the green waved, Jarett sat up straight and stormed back to fourth, sending Bacon to the B.

    I wouldn't call the third heat boring but Carson Short ran away from the pack to win. Arizona's RJ Johnson was second. Shane Cockrum was third with Jeff Bland emerging from an attention getting battle to grab fourth. The likes of Brent Beauchamp and Kyle Cummins headed to the B.

    The fourth heat ended with a near photo finish as Scotty Weir beat Justin Grant by the length of the ink pen that I use. Dave Darland, fresh from his Lincoln Park win the night before, was a calm third, if there is such a thing. Jordan Kinser, who runs at this place as well as anyone, moseyed from seventh to take fourth and mail Tyler Courtney and Robert Ballou to the B, first class of course.

    The C main was comparatively tame and/or predictable. Brody Roa was the third of three leaders and outran Brandon Mattox, who was second. Pole sitter Kody Swanson was third and Matt Westfall was the last to prepare for the B.

    Brady Bacon started on the pole and led all the way to win the B. Kyle Cummins, Lawrenceburg and Terre Haute winner Tyler Courtney, Tyler Thomas, Brent Beauchamp and Robert Ballou all moved on.

    Timmy Buckwalter and Tony Dimattia burned provisionals.

    Leary and Windom saw the green flag first and, as you should know, Leary took the lead. But Meseraull got around Windom to fall in behind the leader as the first lap was completed. But Kevin Thomas Jr. was in gear, too. From sixth, he moved to second in only three laps. It was tempting to think that this could get good up front.

    It didn’t, but there was some dog eat dog racing going on behind the leaders. Meseraull, Windom, Bland and Bacon were running nose to tail but not able to separate themselves from each other. Up front, Leary caught lapped traffic and this might be a chance for KT to close the gap. But other things changed that.

    Courtney and Ballou made some contact in turn four on the eleventh lap. It was said that Ballou had a flat tire when he spun and collected Grant. That contact spun Grant around and he tipped over the TOPPS machine. The red flag waved. As the emergency personnel helped Grant out of his car, a brief fire broke out. It was put out about as quickly as my buddy Steve Lafond can take a selfie with whoever is present. Grant was okay and Ballou went to the work area, rejoining the field before the green waved.

    Leary and K. Thomas led Meseraull, Windom, Bland, Bacon, Stockon, Beauchamp, Courtney and Cummins. As Tom Hansing waved the flag, the full moon rose over the trees to the east of the track, a benevolent presence that didn’t bring any of the bizarre incidents it gets blamed for doing. Completely unrelated, Windom passed Meseraull for third on the re-start. Bland was also under siege as first Bacon then Courtney shuffled the Bloomington regular back two spots. If that wasn’t enough, Stockon came along and passed both Bland and Courtney and took sixth.

    Stockon was pressuring Bacon for fifth place when Short lost an argument with the turn two cushion and flipped on the eighteenth lap. This final re-start saw no changes up front. But a bit further back Courtney was busy. All he did was pass both Stockon and Bacon, not an easy assignment.

    Leary took the checkered at 9:45, not threatened by K. Thomas and perhaps fortunate in not having to deal with lapped traffic. It’s quite possible that it wouldn’t have mattered. Windom, Meseraull and Courtney completed the top five. Bacon was sixth, followed by Stockon, Ballou (who came from the tail after the early incident involving Grant), Bland and Beauchamp.

    Ballou passed more cars, but Thomas was the KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger, advancing from sixth to second and showing how tough it was to pass all night on the lightning fast surface.

    Windom maintained a nice 18-point lead over Thomas as the caravan moved southwest to Haubstadt for the ISW finale on Saturday night.

    It had been a trying day until I set foot in the pits. In its collective wisdom, the state of Indiana saw fit to make improvements to State Road 46 in two different locations, both east of Gnaw Bone (yes, we know the jokes). I reached the Bartholomew/Brown County line in an hour, a segment that usually takes about 20-25 minutes. The usual hour plus trip to the track was two hours. If that wasn’t enough, my dear daughter had a fender bender on the interstate. (Daughter doing fine, car not so much)

    The above is not noted to solicit sympathy; instead, it is shared so we can be aware that there are multiple bumps in life’s road. We fall, pick ourselves up and move on. Having a sense of perspective helps. In racing terms, it happens all the time. One night’s feature winner is the following night’s also-ran.

    Advising Motel 6 to contact John Kelly to be their spokesperson, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Not Ready (For the Rocking Chair)

    The extraordinary, if repeated often enough, becomes something closer to normal. This isn't always fair to the individual whose achievements remain, in my opinion, extraordinary no matter how often they happen. In other words, Dave Darland, aged older than all of his competitors, won the feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway on a beautiful Thursday night. It was his first 2018 Indiana Sprint Week victory and his 61st USAC feature win.

    There were plenty of clouds in the sky, but all they did was keep the sun away and helped keep things cool and the track wet. Lincoln Park has been fortunate this year in terms of rain on Saturday night. Tonight wasn’t Saturday, but it was dry anyway.

    The car count was an ISW high so far, with 48 sprints crowding into the pits. Several were LPS regulars, including Colten Cottle, A.J. Hopkins, Matt McDonald, Tim Creech II, Shelby Van Gilder (the first lady to compete this year during ISW), Brady Ottinger, Shane Cockrum, Clinton Boyles and Nate McMillin. Shane Cockrum was in a different car, one that been raced by Chuck Amati, I was told. Several of the regulars were making their initial Sprint Week appearance. Jadon Rogers and Kevin Studley were making their ISW debuts.

    Brady Bacon was the 39th car to qualify, but his late draw was no bother as he set fast time with a 12.276 lap. The late Bryan Clauson’s record of 12.034, set in 2010, was safe for another year.

    The first heat was red flagged on the fourth lap when Jason McDougal tried to pass Jake Swanson on the outside on the front stretch. The car hit the wall and stopped on a thin dime. Jason exited the car with minimal assistance. Chad Boespflug won the heat, leading every lap. Pole sitter Josh Hodges was second and Kevin Thomas Jr. was third. Chase Stockon held off Brady Bacon to take fourth. Bacon and Jerry Coons Jr. were among those who would have to race again if they wanted to make the big show.

    Like Boespflug, Justin Grant started on the outside pole and won his heat. Carson Short led briefly but settled for second. Dave Darland started and finished third. Dakota Jackson made fewer errors than those who chased him and was rewarded with a starting spot in the feature.

    The third heat got off to a less than desirable start when Shane Cottle, Nate McMillen and Matt McDonald all were caught up in one of those checking up deals. All restarted except McDonald. Tyler Courtney showed that he was very interested in winning even after taking two Sprint Week features so far as he executed a gutsy three wide pass to take the lead after a second yellow late in the race. Shane Cockrum, Kody Swanson and Nate McMillin (again) had an unscheduled meeting between turns three and four with Swanson and McMillin's cars getting stuck together. C. J. Leary was second behind Courtney with Brent Beauchamp and Kyle Cummins, who worked the cushion like an expert, trailing.

    Jordan Kinser won the fourth heat for the local guys, leading Brody Roa to the line. Roa had his hands full keeping Chris Windom at bay. Isaac Chapple was fourth, benefitting from Thomas Meseraull's misfortune. TMez had fourth place locked up when he jumped the turn two cushion and flipped. He was out of the car quickly.

    The very rare C main was won by Matt Westfall. Robert Ballou, Tony Dimattia and Clinton Boyles also graduated to the B. These were four names that are used very often in sharing C main results.

    The B main, power packed as usual, saw Tyler Thomas beat his front row neighbor Brady Bacon to the checkered first. A. J. Hopkins was third and Timmy Buckwalter had an impressive run to fourth. Shane Cockrum took fifth and Brandon Mattox used his favorite groove, the middle, to take sixth and force Ballou to take a provisional.

    For the 30-lap feature, the front row would be occupied by a young man who moved here from California approximately a decade ago and went sprint car racing. He has enjoyed a significant amount of success, along with his share of ups and downs. To his right, he saw a veteran who has been a major part of the USAC/Hoosier bullring sage over the past 30 years. There you had them, Chad Boespflug, a Hoosier by choice and Dave Darland, a Hoosier by birth.

    Tom Hansing waved the green and off they went. The “seasoned veteran” didn’t even wave good-by to the kid and the rest of the pack. Darland jumped out to the lead and the scratching and clawing behind him drew several pairs of eyes. Alas, Boespflug and his car weren’t up to the challenge as Carson Short and Kevin Thomas Jr. tried in vain to reel in the leader. A lap six yellow flag for a Brandon Mattox spin gave the contenders a chance at sneaking past Darland on the re-start. Behind Darland, K. Thomas, Short, Chris Windom and Justin Grant lay in wait.

    The track had been through quite a night and was black from top to bottom. The top shelf on the wall (figuratively speaking) was fought over by most all as the bottom line was treated as if it had contacted a social disease. Slide jobs were common as people tried to pass other people. Lots of people bounced off or jumped over the cushion, but they kept digging, as it were.

    On the re-start, as Darland pulled away, Tyler Thomas caught fire. From eighth, he had a rocket ship, advancing to third before an unfortunate encounter with the turn two cushion.

    The red flag made an appearance on lap 13 when Timmy Buckwalter flipped in turn two. He exited the damaged car without assistance. Darland now led K. Thomas, Hopkins, Short, T. Thomas, Windom, Boespflug, Bacon, Grant and Beauchamp.  

    Darland was unruffled by all this. For him each time, it was just another re-start and neither KT nor anyone else could run with the big dog. Yet another yellow waved a bit later when Bacon spun but kept going. It’s a pity that fans don’t have access to drivers’ meetings because USAC reminds all listeners that if you spin, the yellow will wave even if you do a 360 and keep going. The spinner moves to the tail of the field and Bacon did.

    It was Hopkins’ turn to make a run at the boss after contact with K. Thomas put the Alabama native third. But Beauchamp spun, a rare occurrence, on lap 21. Windom had annexed third place and immediately attacked Hopkins. A.J., a five-time winner at Lincoln Park this year, found the turn two cushion after contact with Windom and was shuffled back. Did Windom have anything for Darland tonight? No way.

    The huge crowd roared approval as DD took the checkered at 11 p.m. Windom trailed with Hopkins, who had been bumped back to fifth before racing back to third, joining the first two on the front stretch after the race. K. Thomas was fourth and Grant was a somewhat quiet fifth. Short finished sixth after running much of the race in the top five. Leary was one of several who showed how important qualifying is as he moved from 17th to seventh. Boespflug faded some to take eighth. Stockon was ninth and Californian Brody Roa continued to race well, ending up tenth.

    Kyle Cummins salvaged the KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger award, going from 22nd to 11th.

    It was Darland’s 19th ISW win, first since 2014. (Thank you, Richie.) The rocking chair will have to wait.

    Despite going winless so far (in ISW action), Windom stretched both his Indiana Sprint Week lead and his lead in regular season standings with two more races for ISW/NOS 2018. Should Chris prevail, he, too, will be rewarded with a rocking chair, albeit for a completely different reason.

    Next stop, Bloomington.

    Reminding my skeptical wife that I have the greatest words, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Flying Low

    When he is on his game, Thomas Meseraull is tough to beat. He loves the Kokomo Speedway and his victory on a beautiful Tuesday night in northern Indiana compounded that love for sure. It was Meseraull's second USAC sprint win this year.

    The trip north didn't start very well. Twice in the first 20 minutes I was slowed by road construction, Indiana's summer tradition. But the rest of the trip was as smooth as it gets.

    Rolling onto the property, I wasn't surprised to see that much of the parking lot was already filling up. Considering that for many it was a work night, that made the crowd even more impressive. I parked the little white truck and set off to find…a fortune, but not in the tangible terms that we think of when we think of fortunes.

    In the space of 20 minutes, I had two interesting conversations. I had a nice chat with a young man from The Netherlands. His English-speaking skills were much better than my Dutch so we conversed in English and I found him to be a fascinating and dedicated young man, here at the Kokomo Speedway, of all places.

    A few minutes later I found myself talking to a no less interesting man and his wife. Larry Nordman is a retired teacher who happens to be a serious sprint car racing fan. He and I have a shared history. Many years ago, the Nordmans lived next door to my parents, about four blocks from the high school (the older one). We also have memories of the racing and racers from those long-ago days that, sadly, recede into obscurity each day. No matter what, it was time well spent. As I walked away, we said, see you at Bloomington, the track closest to our homes.

    A meet-and-greet was scheduled for the drivers before racing began. The gang assembled at the picnic tables. Feeling like sitting down, I sat at the table closest to the back wall, thinking that this table would not be occupied by any drivers. How wrong did that turn out to be? Soon I was surrounded by Dave Darland on one side and Chris Windom on the other. Across from me sat Kyle Cummins. Kody Swanson was nearby, as was Tyler Courtney. Notice that none of those guys won. A fan had a picture of the drivers on a card with lots of room for autographs, as did many others. After Windom signed his card, the gentleman gave us a laugh when he said to me, “Could you sign this, Mr. Bell?” Now I was fairly sure he didn’t mean the inventor of the telephone, which meant he thought I was Robert Bell. We had a good chuckle at that one. And later, the real Robert Bell got a kick out of the case of the missing race driver. (Robert was there, standing at the end of the table.

    The autograph session caused the program to start late, but the sprint feature was over long before 11. Complainers would have to find something else to criticize.

    On another happy note, Dave Argabright, John Mahoney and Dr. Pat Sullivan have released a work of art. The three have collaborated to come up with a remarkable book called Modern Thunder, a history of USAC sprint car racing from 1981-2017. It is an early birthday present; the usual birthday present is a little deal called Smackdown. 

    There were a few interesting attendees that invaded the O'Connor family's pit area. Delayed by a few days, England's Tom Harris had made another trip across the Atlantic to race in our state. Kody Swanson was in the car normally piloted by Brian Karrakher. Tyler Hewitt was making his 2018 Sprint Week debut.

    The Kokomo Speedway surface is noted for its ability to offer qualifiers some consistency, no matter what number is drawn. It happened again as Dave Darland set fast time and he was the 29th car to qualify.

    Jason McDougal continues to impress. After Jarett Andretti swept into the lead on the first lap of the first heat, McDougal didn't go away. He passed Andretti on the third lap and sped to the win. Andretti was second and Clinton Boyles came from seventh to take third. Isaac Chapple was equally impressive as he hustled from ninth to snatch away the last transfer and send the likes of Brady Bacon, Dave Darland, Tyler Thomas and Josh Hodges to the B.

    Like McDougal, C. J. Leary won his heat from the outside pole. Chris Windom came from fifth to finish second. Pole sitter Jake Swanson was third and Kyle Cummins was fourth. Later he would benefit from others' misfortune and start the feature on the front row.

    The third heat saw winner Carson Short and second place Kody Swanson leave the others behind to fight for the next two positions. At the end, third row starter Chase Stockon fought his way to third. His third row mate Thomas Meseraull would take fourth. They would race together a little later.

    Robert Ballou took the lead midway through the fourth heat to win. Lawrenceburg winner Tyler Courtney was second with Brody Roa third. Justin Grant used a last lap pass to steal the fourth spot, sending Timmy Buckwalter to the B.

    After watching the sprint heats with author/TV reporter Dave Argabright, we went in different directions. So did the track. The surface wasn't up to the usual standards and the crew went to work before the B main. When they were done, I was reminded of the book and movie, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The track could only be described as nasty fast for the B and the feature with cars able to race high and/or low.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. was the fastest of a fast group in winning the B. Tyler Thomas, still in the Epperson car, finished second. Brady Bacon took third and pole sitter Dave Darland was fourth. Behind these guys was maybe the best racing of the night. At the end Josh Hodges found himself in fifth after starting 14th. Timmy Buckwalter was passed by Hodges but still made it into the show. Chad Boespflug had a spirited duel with Hodges for sixth over most of the 12 laps but came up short. He and Matt Westfall would take provisionals.

    Tom Hansing waved the green and the thundering herd, with Cummins and Andretti in the front row, took off. With these guys, frantic is normal. Cummins led early, but the chase was stopped for the moment as Ballou flipped in turn four. It was one of those “check-up” deals, which left Robert muttering to himself. Also involved were Bacon, Boespflug and McDougal; all three re-started.

    When the green waved again, Meseraull, who had started fourth, passed Cummins and dearly wanted to check out. Such things seldom happen at Kokomo. Windom was on the move and passed Cummins a lap after TMez had gotten around Kyle. But they were about to have company in the form of…Chase Stockon.

    The year has not gone as well as Stockon and company have wished. But on this night, he was hooked up. He started in the third row next to Windom and was late getting to the front. By the sixth lap, Stockon took fourth by passing Cummins. Grant was next and a couple of laps later, Stockon relegated the California native-turned-Hoosier to fourth place.

    Carson Short spun in turn two on lap 13, bringing out a yellow. Meseraull’s lead over Windom disappeared and now we would find out who was or wasn’t going to prevail, Tmez, Windom or Stockon. It was shaping up as typical Kokomo drama as the possibilities were considered. Meseraull had it comparatively easy, as Windom had to deal with Stockon. A lap after the re-start, Chase got a good grip on the bottom coming out of turn two and took over second place.

    We had no way of knowing that it was all over but the shouting. The leaders approached lapped traffic with seven laps to go. This would have been Stockon’s best chance to make a move. But Meseraull was not to be denied. He negotiated the lappers skillfully and used the high side when he could. The margin was only a few car lengths. It was Meseraull’s second consecutive ISW/Kokomo win.

    Grant grabbed third from Windom late in the game to get his post-race interview. K. Thomas was fifth with Darland sixth. Courtney was a quiet seventh while T. Thomas was an impressive eighth. Leary came from 14th to finish ninth. Hodges passed more cars in both the B and A mains then a crazed I-465 commuter, coming from 21st to tenth and taking the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER award.

    It’s onward to the Terre Haute Action Track, where the cliché about expecting the unexpected is, like most clichés, true.

    Confiscating the tear gas carried by French gendarmes at the Tour de France, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Unflinching

    Sunday night’s edition of the NOS Energy/USAC/Indiana Sprint Week feature at the Lawrenceburg Speedway brought forth a choice of titles for this space. I settled on “Unflinching” because to me that described Tyler Courtney’s race as he fought off challenges from Dave Darland and C. J. Leary as he won the 30-lap feature on one of the coolest ISW races (temperature wise) at the ‘burg over the past few decades.

    Never try to guess car counts for any Sprint Week meeting. I would never have guessed 42 sprints easing into the pits, with quite a few wet spots back there thanks to the rain that has fallen in the Lawrenceburg area the past few days. There were no major surprises. Jerry Coons Jr. was in the Mike Dutcher car, perhaps a one-off deal. Lawrenceburg regulars included Shawn Westerfeld, Riley Van Hise, Tony McVey, Jordan Kinser and Nick Bilbee signed in.  Oklahoma’s Koby Barksdale was making his ISW debut for the year. Throw in as assortment of USAC regulars, semi-regulars and out of state visitors. Soon you would have 42.

    After the drivers’ meeting, it was time to heat the engines. I walked down the pit lane where cars were parked on both sides of the lane. Most were idling; that menacing rumble caused me to think that I was walking between walls of sound, meager apologies to Phil Spector, who invented the musical wall of sound.

    Now, before racing started, was the time to consider all the things we cannot control, especially rain. I suppose that, in the big picture, we may need reminders that we can’t control everything. It doesn’t matter if we are control freaks. Good promoters (the ones I deal with in my travels) may be control freaks but they realize that rain and other bumps in the road are going to happen, no matter what. We would do well to remember this ourselves. Living in an area where the average rainfall is at least 45 inches a year means that we Hoosiers not get overly whiny about the weather. Having shared that, let us hope that rain won’t be a factor for the rest of ISW.

    Time trials got off to a spectacular (and disquieting) start as Joe Stornetta took the green flag and promptly stuffed it into the fence, which won. Joe climbed out of the car and was done for the night—just like that. Generally speaking, the early qualifiers were quicker unless your name was, surprise, Tyler Courtney who timed in seventh quick and was 24th in line.

    Carson Short passed Scotty Weir midway through the first heat and went on to win. Weir held on for second with a real dogfight for the last two spots. Pole sitter Robert Ballou escaped with third and Nick Bilbee was the show as he recovered from an early spin to come back and take fourth, sending no less than Kevin Thomas Jr. and Justin Grant to the B main.

    Brady Bacon checked out to take the second heat. Like Short, he missed a great race behind him. Chase Stockon barely edged Jason McDougal for second; McDougal had started seventh. Dave Darland had to workextra hard to grab fourth ahead of Isaac Chapple.

    Pole sitter Landon Simon left 'em all behind in winning the third heat. Chris Windom was second with third row starters C. J. Leary and Tyler Courtney finished third and fourth.

    The fourth heat followed the pattern of the others with the winner running away from the pack and the rest of the players fighting for positions. Josh Hodges won from the outside pole and Jerry Coons Jr. edged Shane Cottle for second. Chad Boespflug had his work cut out for him as he took fourth from Tony Dimattia.

    For the first time in quite a while, I witnessed a C main, ten laps, top four move on. Matt Westfall, Jarett Andretti, Tim Buckwalter and Kody Swanson had the honor of tagging the field for the B.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the B. The impressive Brady Roa came from the third row to finish second. His fellow Californian, Jake Swanson, was third. The persistent Isaac Chapple was fourth. Brent Beauchamp and Thomas Meseraull took the last two openings. Justin Grant’s star crossed night included a bouncing exhibition in turn four, knocking him out of a transfer spot to the show and causing him to burn a provisional (along with Buckwalter).

    With K. Thomas and Beauchamp not transferring to the feature via their heats, the front row would be Boespflug and Courtney. As it turned out, this was significant. Tom Hansing waved the green and Courtney took off, leaving Boespflug to deal with the hungry wolves behind him. This party was interrupted when someone (Nick Bilbee?) checked up enough in turn four to cause Carson Short to do a half spin. Short was clouted by Beauchamp, who did more of a Tommy Tipover then a flip. Thomas Meseraull barely clipped Beauchamp as he went by. Nevertheless, the red flag waved on the second lap. Beauchamp rejoined the fray, Short also re-started and Bilbee would drop out a lap or so after the resumption of green flag racing. Poor TMez was done.

    From fifth place, Dave Darland was the first to harass Courtney, getting underneath on the low side more than once, letting Sunshine know that the Deputy was not fooling around. This lasted through green flag segments punctuated by two yellow flags. After the second of the two, Shane Cottle got around Darland and tried to at least keep up with the leader.

    Tension was on center stage when Short, who had been passing some serious competition, tangled with K. Thomas in turn two. Surviving that, Short then engaged in a series of trading sliders with Leary, who was running fourth. That ended when Short spun in turn two, bringing out the yellow on lap 19.

    Courtney could not have been thrilled to see that because he knew that some wild animals masquerading as racers were behind him. Cottle, Darland, Leary, K. Thomas, Windom, Weir, Bacon, Grant and Roa were bent on passing somebody, anybody in front of them.

    After Jerry Coons Jr. stopped on track, bringing out another quick yellow, it was Leary’s turn to pressure the leader. He got around the two veterans easily and set sail for Courtney. Using the high groove mostly, the top two engaged in another slidefest with Leary inching ahead at times. But each time Courtney would be the official leader of the lap.

    Short, who had re-started at the tail after his spin, brought out another yellow when he slowed for a flat tire on lap 28. Again, Courtney surely wasn’t too pleased. After the re-start, there would be another yellow which transformed into a red flag period. Grant and Cottle tangled going into turn one, seemingly locked together at the wall. Down in the lower groove, Isaac Chapple flipped hard immediately after the yellow waved. Chapple was able to exit the car on his own, Grant re-started at the tail, but Cottle was done after a very decent run.

    The timing of this made it a green-white-checkered re-start. With two top ten cars now out of contention, the next man up to try and make Courtney’s life miserable was Thomas. Surprisingly KT could only keep second and not mount any kind of a charge on the leader. Behind Courtney and Thomas, was Bacon, who came from 14th to take the bronze. Windom also started back in the back but came from 15th to fourth. Leary made a slight bobble at the end and fell to fifth. Darland faded only slightly and took sixth. Ballou picked up the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER award as he rambled from 21st to seventh. Weir was a steady and quiet eighth. Roa led the California racers with a ninth. And Hodges advanced six place to make it to tenth.

    In post-race interviews, Thomas was typically hard on himself while Courtney was downright philosophical. “We’re professionals.  We’re hired to do what we do.  But you got to keep those things out of your head.  You got to do your job.” So what if his grammar might make English teachers cringe. The kid knew that flinching was not an option. Sometimes that matters even more than good grammar (says the guy who normally insists on good grammar practices—ask my daughter).

    And here I read that Shane Cottle has parted ways with the Steve and Carla Phillips/Frank Daigh team and taken up with long time sprint car owner Jason Goacher. No word on who will jump into the 71p, but I have my suspicions.

    On to Kokomo. #GYATK

    Wondering which celebrity my photographer buddy Steve Lafond is going to find to have my picture taken with (all there on Facebook), I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report:  Patience and Perseverance

    Success in all its forms often includes patience and perseverance. Opening night of the 31st annual Indiana Sprint Week at the Plymouth Speedway saw USAC exercise both qualities in completing the program despite the elements, namely the persistent sprinkles and/or mist. The same could be said for the feature winner, who bided his and struck at the right time, taking the lead from Chase Stockon midway through the feature and firing the first shot in what promises to be the best racin' on the planet for my meager amount of money.

    The phrase "half the fun is getting there" certainly didn't apply to my trip from southern to northern Indiana. One wreck, at the I-65/465 interchange, plus multiple occasions of slowing or stopping for road construction added an hour to the journey. But I kept thinking that the temporary inconveniences were just that, temporary. Despite the less than promising weather forecast, I had hopes that if there was a way to have any racin', USAC would do it.

    This was to be my first visit to the Plymouth Speedway and I confess to having my doubts at times I would even get that far north to even see the facility. But whatever concerns I may have had melted away when I arrived. Sprint Week is like Easter or Christmas at church. Fellow travelers gather together and there are welcome faces not seen but once a year, if that. Seeing these friends made the earlier trials trivial.

    Other than the usual caravan that is part of a USAC show, Sprint Week would bring forth some different players. It isn’t unusual for ISW to have an international flavor and this year was no exception as Braydon Willmington, a 20-year-old Australian, made the long haul to Indiana with lots of help from Davey Ray. Shane Cockrum had an apparent one-off deal with Michael Dutcher. A pair of Californians, Jake (the Moose) Swanson and Brady Roa, went against Horace Greeley’s advice and went east. The same was true for Arizonan RJ Johnson. Brandon Mattox hooked up with Fitzpatrick Autosports, a group from Australia while Travis Thompson came out of semi-retirement to wheel the Mattox machine. Tyler Thomas was in the Tony Epperson familiar white 2E. Another Tyler, Mr. Clem, came up from Florida to try his hand in the Hoosier state.

    Plymouth Speedway is a quarter mile bullring with dirt piled upon the pavement a few years back. It is in a very rural area and it’s way north of where I live, 161 miles. That’s about the same distance from my house to my ancestors’ home, Adair County, Kentucky. But the main thing was that I felt at home.

    During time trials Chris Windom set a new track record which he enjoyed for about 45 seconds before C.J. Leary broke it with a 12.996 lap, a full .010 seconds faster. After a brief shower, the track was quite fast and smooth except for a bump going into turn one.

    Dave Darland came from the second row to win the first heat. Leary came from sixth to grab second over Shane Cottle, who came from the fourth row. Justin Grant was fourth as Mattox led a group to the B.

    The low groove was the most popular for the second heat, won by Chase Stockon by nearly a full straightaway. Pennsylvanian Tim Buckwalter was second with Windom third. Tyler Courtney was fourth as Carson Short missed out.

    Pole sitter Chad Boespflug was the first front row starter to win a heat. Thomas Meseraull, riding in Eldora/NASCAR Truck winner Chase Briscoe’s sprinter, was second. Robert Ballou came from the fourth row to take third. Jarett Andretti started and finished fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. had a meeting with Ballou midway through the heat and found himself facing the turn two wall.

    Brady Bacon came from sixth to win the fourth heat over Isaac Chapple, who would find himself on the pole for the feature. Matt Westfall ended up third and pole sitter Kody Swanson hung on for fourth. Tyler Thomas ran well early but dropped out with a front-end issue.

    It’s Sprint Week (courtesy of the folks at NOS Energy Drink) and that means each B Main has plenty of A Main talent. Both of KT and TT’s crews were doing some serious thrashing work in the short time between the heats and the B. As it turned out. Kevin won with Tyler second. Carson Short was third. Taking the last three invitations to the dance were Joe Stornetta, Josh Hodges and Brady Roa. Clinton Boyles missed a great chance to flip when he encountered the turn one bump.

    More precipitation arrived just past ten but it took a break after a few minutes. The feature was lining up at 10:30, an amazing development given the conditions all evening. Chapple and Stockon led 21 of their cohorts to Tom Hansing’s green flag and Stockon grabbed the lead.

    He tried to check out as Chapple held onto second as long as he could. Bacon began pressing the Willow Branch, Indiana resident and finally made the pass on the 13th lap. Bacon’s next assignment was to reel in the leader and that he did just past the halfway mark, getting under Stockon coming out of turn two.

    It wasn’t like Bacon ran away with the race at this point; his lead was never more than a few car lengths over second place, no matter who was running second. Windom passed Stockon for second on the 19th lap as Chase was slowly fading. The race’s only yellow waved on lap 25 when Ballou spun. Windom had been gaining slowly on Bacon, but now Bacon had a potential problem on his hands, with Windom re-starting right behind.

    But it didn’t happen. Bacon kept his lead but never really pulled away at the end. Windom kept second with Darland not too far behind as well. Grant might have been happy with fourth as he battled with Stockon and Courtney at the end. Sunshine settled for fifth after starting 12th, which earned him the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER award. Short was sixth. Stockon faded to seventh as Leary took away the eighth spot. K. Thomas may well have lost any chance to contend for the lead after his heat race shunt and ended ninth. Meseraull was tenth.

    It was an exceptional night. Somehow the boys and girls of USAC managed to keep the serious rain away and they were rewarded with a very decent crowd and some very decent racing.  It was a good start to ISW XXXI (with a passing nod to the Super Bowl). All concerned showed plenty of patience and perseverance.

    Up next would be Kokomo…the Good Lord’s willing and the creeks not rising. I’m fine with the former but not so sure about the latter.

    Reminding my skeptical wife that I have the greatest words, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Racing for Your Supper

    Racers are motivated by many things, such as the love of speed, the love of beating the next guy, the cheers of the crowd and the thrill of racing on the ragged edge. Sometimes, racers are motivated by a payday, any day. Not knowing or wanting to know any racer’s financial situation, it appeared to me that Thomas Meseraull was motivated by all of the factors mentioned above. Whatever the reason, there he stood at the start/finish line of the Lincoln Park Speedway on a very Hoosier/humid night, smiling and happy to have won, dollars or no dollars. There are few things like winning and going fast—at the same time.

    I was heading northwest toward Putnamville when I noticed dark skies ahead. Giving it little thought, I proceeded. When sprinkles became frequent enough I turned on the windshield wipers... intermittent. Not a problem.

    Arriving at the track, it was business as usual. I checked the radar and, sure enough, the Lincoln Park Speedway had dodged another round of rain.

    Of note among the 31 sprints was Shane Hollingsworth, subbing for Brent Beauchamp. Thomas Meseraull was present, wheeling the familiar 00 but minus the advertisements.

    Shelby Van Gilder outran them all to win the first heat. Lee Underwood started and finished immediately behind the winner. Colten Cottle and Tim Creech II both came from the back row and annexed the last two transfer tickets. Korbyn Hazlett spun in turn three and ended up with a closer look at the billboards than he probably wanted.

    Pole sitter Matt McDonald didn't mind missing all that went on behind him as he won the second heat. On turn four of lap one Justin Meneely spun and collected Jeff Nanney, Thomas Meseraull and A. J. Hopkins. They were all able to continue. In fact, TMez raced back to finish second. Shane Hollingsworth was third and Hopkins passed Nate McMillen on the white flag lap to take fourth.

    The third heat was clean and green with Andrew Prather cruising to the win. Jeff Bland made an important pass on the last lap to grab second, plus secure a redraw spot for the feature. Shane Cockrum also passed Travis Berryhill late to take third. Berryhill did transfer at least.

    The fourth and final heat, which contained three cars with the number four, had its issues. The leaders, Daylan Chambers and Scotty Weir, tangled on the second lap in turn one. A lap later, Brady Ottinger did a half spin in front of the field. Collected were Koby Barksdale, Jaden Rogers and Aaron Davis. Only Davis would continue. Weir recovered to win. Ottinger was second as Chambers was unable to make the pass--and the redraw. Davis was fourth and would start 16th in the feature.

    After the heat races were done, I moseyed back to the pits to see if the damaged cars were getting a makeover. Happily, progress was being made on both the Barksdale and Rogers cars. I left before getting too tired. Besides, my back was doing its best to put me in an ill humor. Thankfully, it failed.

    The B Main had its share of drama. Front row mates Nate McMillin and Josh Cunningham simply took off and ran away from the others as if they had a contagious disease. Koby Barksdale had third wrapped up until he spun in turn four coming to the checkered. Chris Phillips had the last starting spot for the feature wrapped up until he had to stop rather than crash into Barksdale. For every one or two who have something bad happen, there are one or two who benefit. Two youngsters were able to avoid the partially blocked turn four and assume the last two positions available in the feature. Jaden Rogers came from a wrecked car in his heat to starting the B 12th. From there he took third and would race one more time. Korbyn Hazlett came from ninth to finish fourth in the B.

    The redraw put Weir and Prather on the front row. Yet again came the familiar and, for me, beloved sound of 410 engines rumbling as they made their way down the backstretch into turn three. A silent countdown and they were off as soon as Brian Hodde did what he does so well, waving the green with authority. Weir took the early lead in the Gass family car with Prather in tow. McDonald passed Andrew for second as the first lap was completed.

    Behind these guys, one has to wonder if Meseraull knew that he had a really good chance of winning this thing. He started sixth and was in the top five by lap two. The fourth lap saw TMez in third, behind Weir and McDonald. Green flag conditions prevailed, which helped some and hurt others. Meseraull was helped as he took over second place with only Weir left to pass a couple of laps before the crossed flags.

    Back in the pack, Hopkins was making waves. Firing off from the seventh row, he was mowing them down as he marched to the front. By the time Meseraull took the lead with ten to go, A.J. was sixth, with Colten Cottle the next guy to pass. Hopkins made the move to pass coming out of two when they bounced off each other with Cottle avoiding disaster as he slid to the top of the banking, desperate to maintain control.

    Meseraull, among others, couldn’t have been cheered to see the race’s lone yellow flag wave with a lap to go. I spoke of discipline on Friday night when Kyle Cummins had to maintain his pace to keep his lead at Bloomington. Now Meseraull had to do the same for a lap and hope that Weir, or somebody, didn’t sneak by using a different line. While cars were lining up as they idled around the track, Cottle drove up to Hopkins and expressed his opinion. One could be sure that Cottle wasn’t sharing his opinion about whether Lincoln Park’s best sandwich is the Bar-B-Q as opposed to the cheeseburger.

    Whatever tension TMez felt was gone as Mr. Hodde waved the checkered flag at him first. Weir was second with Hopkins ripping off one more good lap to take third after starting 14th. Bland was fourth, his second top five of the weekend. Cockrum came from 11th to take fifth. Cottle took sixth. Hollingsworth showed that he wasn’t all that rusty as he didn’t stop until he had taken seventh. McDonald was impressive early on before fading a bit at the end to eighth. Berryhill advanced from 15th to ninth. Prather wrapped up the race in tenth.

    Post-race Meseraull spoke of his “Frankenstein” car and thanked the guys who helped him put it together. And he thanked the fans too, telling them “we love ya.” One doesn’t hear that too often, even from winners.

    Presumably, Thomas won enough to buy some groceries.

    Sprint Week awaits. I’m as ready as ever and hope all that participate in any way are ready too.

    Preparing for Indiana Sprint Week by playing 18 at Turnberry, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Nerve Wracking Discipline

    Race fans might have watched Kyle Cummins start on the pole at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night and concluded that he coasted to the win. After all, he never was threatened seriously for the lead and he puttered around the bottom line for all 25 laps. But after the race, KC told Kimb Stewart that it was “nerve wracking” to stay on the low lane, not knowing if anyone was closing the gap. What he didn’t say that it took all the discipline a good racer needs to hold his line and not overdrive the race. On a night when the track played mean tricks on people, Cummins’ effort stood out.

    In other feature action Jeff Wimmenauer won the RaceSavers feature. Bradley Sterrett won the celebrity Hornet feature.

    It was a pleasant surprise to find 26 sprints in the pits along with 17 RaceSavers. Jon Stanbrough, now a part-timer before retiring to tend to his business and new baby, was on hand to race but engine troubles sidelined the all-time great during hot laps. Bradley Sterrett took a turn on the Burton 04 car. Chad Boespflug, impressed with my t-shirt, was settled in the Pottorff car.  

    Kyle Cummins took the lead with an inside pass of Jordan Kinser to win the first heat. Jeff Bland passed Kinser late to take second and was gaining on the winner. Kinser held on for third with Andrew Prather fourth. Kevin Chambers made the feature with his fifth-place finish.

    The caution plagued second heat was won by pole sitter Brandon Morin, who missed the action behind him. Robert Ballou came from the back to grab second. Chad Boespflug was third. Isaac Chapple started and finished fourth. Travis Berryhill sent Kody Swanson to the B.

    Scotty Weir grumbled about the long drive to southern Indiana. He felt better when I told him that’s how I feel when I go to Gas City. He felt better yet when he won the third heat. Tony DiMattia was second. Daylon Chambers took third ahead of Sterrett and Jaden Rogers. Dakota Jackson and Josh Cunningham found themselves getting ready for the B.

    The RaceSavers took over and Anton Hernandez won the first heat over John Paynter Jr., who made a last lap pass of Patrick Kren. Hot Rod Henning won the second heat with Jeff Wimmenauer finishing second. Collin Parker triumphed in the third heat. Luke Bland and Andy Bradley trailed.

    Jackson won the 410 sprints’ B Main over Michael Koontz. Jake Scott came from the back to take third. Kody Swanson struggled to a fourth-place finish. Cunningham hung on for a fifth-place result. Lee Underwood was left out in the cold.

    But wait a minute. Dakota Jackson had a mechanical issue and Underwood was added to the field of 20.

    By now the track had turned quite slick. The green flag waved for the feature and DiMattia and Sterrett both slid off turn one, bringing out the yellow before a lap was completed. Sterrett never stopped but DiMattia did. The gang tried again and Weir tried mightily to use the cushion to get around Cummins. But that wasn’t working as Morin took second while sticking to the bottom.

    Kinser slid into D. Chambers just before halfway; both kept going for a lap or so in the lower reaches of the top ten. But Chambers slowed to a stop going into turn one. The yellow waved and Kinser also stopped with a flat tire. He would return but Chambers was done. The top ten Hit Parade was Cummins (who saw his huge lead evaporate), Morin, Weir, Bland, Ballou, Boespflug, Prather, Chapple (who spun immediately after the yellow waved but kept going), Berryhill and…Cunningham.

    With this re-start, Weir and Boespflug tried to make something happen up on the cushion. Cummins was missing a great five-car dogfight for second. Morin, Ballou, Bland, Weir and Boespflug slipped and slid all over the track battling for position. Bland slipped under Weir and took second. This turned out to be an unfortunate outcome for Morin. On lap 19 Bland slid into Morin with the 98 car getting upside down and flipping multiple times. Brandon was out of the car quickly.

    The seven-lap dash saw Cummins still leading and Weir having a precarious hold on second. Ballou, Bland and Chapple rounded out the top five. Prather was sixth ahead of Cunningham, who excelled on the race track disguised as an ice rink. Rogers, Koontz and Underwood trailed.

     The most notable outcome of the final segment was the sight of Scotty Weir dropping back. No one had anything for Cummins but that was no surprise. It’s possible that Ballou may have run out of laps, but he settled for second. Bland took the bronze medal and Chapple recovered from his spin to finish fourth. Prather came from ninth to end up a steady fifth. Cunningham may have been the most impressive. He barely transferred out of the B, yet picked his way through traffic to take sixth, the hard charger by a long shot. Rogers also had a quality run from 15th to seventh. Kinser came back from his flat tire to grab eighth. Weir faded to ninth after a good run for most of the race, perhaps with tired tires. Michael Koontz came from 17th to finish off the top ten.

    Bradley Sterret won a wild and woolly celebrity Hornet special show, paying $500 to win. An unofficial total of &7,836 was raised for St. Jude’s Hospital. No doubt that number increased as Sterrett pledged his winnings to the total.

    Patrick Kren led the first part of the RaceSavers’ feature. A yellow flag waved when Anton Hernandez was turned around after contact from Collin Parker. Anton was not pleased. Both retained their positions but Hernandez was on the move after the re-start. He was up to third before jumping the turn four cushion and flipping on lap ten.

    Kren was still leading but his time as leader was not for long. Terry Arthur took the lead but he, too, would be a temporary occupant. Jeff Wimmenauer was on the move and he would be the final leader and winner after starting 11th. Luke Bland ran up front all race and took second after starting seventh. John Paynter Jr. came from tenth to conclude his night with a third place. Arthur hung on for fourth and Kren faded to fifth.

    The drive home wasn’t nerve wracking (no deer sighting), but discipline was required in passing people on Indiana State Road 46 between Bloomington and Nashville. It helped that 46 didn’t have a red clay surface.

    Pranked by Sacha Baron Cohan, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Cushion—Friend and/or Foe

    The cushion at the Lincoln Park Speedway. Over the years it has bitten some of the best. The unforgiving curb does its best to foil the best laid plans of the best racers around. But sometimes the racers win. On a cool Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana, Justin Grant scored a well-earned MSCS victory on Night Two of the Bill Gardner Sprintacular. He did it by conquering the imposing shelf of clay that is the most challenging this side of the Bloomington Speedway, passing Carson Short midway through the feature.

    In short track racing, a common occurrence is multiple cars with the same number. When the car count is 42, as it was on Saturday, you can bank on several cars sharing the same numbers. Within the sprint car population, no less than six number fours were among the 121 race cars sneaking into Joe Spiker’s man cave. There were “only” three cars numbered five. Several USAC holdovers were joined by some MSCS regulars. There would be group qualifying with five heats taking the top three. Sure enough, there was a C Main that would take the top five into the loaded B, which would advance five to the show.

    It would be desperation time for every heat with more than three good cars in each heat. Carson Short won the first heat with Isaac Chapple not far behind. Pole sitter Steven Schnapf grabbed the last spot, with Colten Cottle, Garrett Aitken and Donnie Brackett making ready for the B.

    Robert Ballou won the second heat from the pole. Tony Dimattia became the first of several to bounce off the turn two cushion, bringing out a yellow. A. J. Hopkins took second after Jason McDougal had his own cushion banging incident but hung on for third. Jeff Bland, Thomas Meseraull and Mario Clouser would head for the B.

    Justin Grant took the third heat from the pole. Shane Cottle was second and Kody Swanson recovered nicely from a less than satisfactory time trial to advance from seventh to third. Kent Schmidt, Nate McMillen and Jordan Kinser had to settle for the last chance race.

    The fourth heat seemed as if it was contested under a full moon. Shane Cockrum was one lonely guy as he won from the pole. The first yellow came when Dave Darland was tapped just enough to spin and collect C. J. Leary and Jaden Rogers. Only Rogers continued. A little later Brent Beauchamp executed a half spin in turn four. Chris Phillips, with nowhere to go, completed the spin for Beauchamp and spun himself. After Cockrum and second place Joe Stornetta crossed the finish line, Rogers and Phillips tangled in turn for coming to the checkered flag. Beauchamp ended up third while Phillips, Eric Perrott and Rogers staggered to the B.

    The fifth heat was somewhat tamer. Kevin Thomas Jr. had it fairly easy in winning. Aric Gentry was fighting for a transfer spot when he was gently eased into a spin. Well, maybe not that gently. A few laps later Chad Boespflug inexplicably spun to a stop in turn two. While leading, no less. KT was home free after that with Brandon Mattox second and Kyle Cummins third. Boespflug, Gentry and Tim Creech II would race in the B.

    The C main was for the guys who had not been having a good time so far. Josh Hodges, Dave Darland, Jay Waugh, Koby Barksdale and Collin Ambrose all would tag the B.

    The night had been plagued by yellow fever, so imagine the happy surprise when the B was all green. Colten Cottle had his own way in winning the 12 lapper. Chad Boespflug was second. Thomas Meseraull made it to the feature by coming from seventh to take third. Jeff Bland hung onto fourth. MSCS regular Kent Schmidt was fifth. Mario Clouse used a provisional to tag the field.

    When things shook out, Short and Ballou were the front row, leading Grant, Cockrum, Thomas, Chapple, Hopkins, S. Cottle, Stornetta and Maddox to the green. Right away Short took the lead, mastering the low line as Ballou kept him honest in working the cushion. Behind them, most all opted for either the very top or the very bottom except for Mattox, who has discovered the race track equivalent of a gold mine in the middle groove.

    Eleven laps were complete when the first yellow waved when Joe Stornetta spun in turn two. The law firm of Short and Ballou led Grant, Thomas, Cockrum, Maddox, Chapple, C. Cottle, Meseraull and Beauchamp. The green lights came alive and so did Grant. He got around Ballou, who soon after the re-start suffered a broken left front wheel. As Grant applied serious pressure on Short, using Ballou’s line up top, Robert faded steadily. Short led after the halfway mark, but Grant’s efforts up high were paying off as he took the lead as the second half of the 30 lapper began.

    On lap 18, Ballou’s wounded front end finally gave up as he flipped it in turn four. Robert quickly exited the car. Now, with 13 laps to go, the ten most wanted were Grant, Short, Cockrum, Mattox, Chapple, Thomas, C. Cottle, Beauchamp, Cummins and Meseraull. With ten laps to go, Swanson spun in turn four, bringing the race’s final interruption.

    The final segment of the race was about what we’ve come to expect. Thomas put on a charge to the front. Short’s treasured bottom line was fading a bit and so did he. Beauchamp was coming on strong at the end. But Grant was probably oblivious to all this as he sailed to the win. Thomas ended up second. Short hung onto third. Beauchamp came from 14th with his late race charge earning a fourth. Meseraull’s effort may have been even more impressive as he moved from B Main land, 18th, to fifth. TMez earned the Keizer Aluminum Wheels Hard Charger of the Race.

    The second five was led by Chad Boespflug, who passed a few cars himself, coming from 17th to sixth. Chapple hung around close to the top five for most of the race and finished seventh. Mattox used his middle groove for much of the race and faded a bit at the end to eighth after running as high as fourth. Cockrum faded late in the race to ninth. Hopkins had his ups and downs as he held on for tenth.

    I could imagine Bill Gardner nodding his head in appreciation, muttering to himself that the jackwagons had done pretty good. The best of them, Mr. Grant, had found the infamous Lincoln Park cushion to be a friend during this Sprintacular.

    There are few things that would cause me to miss a race at Kokomo. One of them is two years old and is simply too much fun. It’s getting tougher for Grandpa to keep up with her, but it’s worth it.

    Nervously eyeing Ricky Stenhouse in my rearview mirror, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Nice Job, You Jackwagons

    It was one of those nights in which the unexpected became routine. With one surprising occurrence after another, a full house of race fans was treated to quite a night of racin', Hoosier style at the Lincoln Park Speedway. When the feature ended at 11:30, Tyler Courtney found himself standing on top of his roll cage waving the checkered flag, enjoying his victory in the first night of the Bill Gardner Sprintaculer, an event that lived up to its name. If Bill had been watching from his celestial seat, he might have smiled and said, "Nice job, you jackwagons."

    Certain events have been established either by USAC or one of the Hoosier bullrings over the past few years and the Bill Gardner Sprintaculer has quickly become one that has gained popularity since Bill's passing in 2014. Seeing that it was an Indiana Sprint Week size crowd made it plain, at least in my opinion.

    Thirty-Seven sprints were among about 121 cars shoehorned into Joe Spiker's rumpus room. LPS regulars A. J. Hopkins, Brent Beauchamp and Shane Cockrum were present and aimed to give the USAC boys a run for their money. Mr. Cockrum's usual Jamie Paul ride wasn't there, so he hooked up with Jerry Burton and company for the evening.

    For hot laps and qualifications, I was privileged to sit with who I consider racing royalty, namely Richard Briscoe and Brad Marvel, with Brandon Mattox joining us for a while. We saw Carson Short go out early and set fast time, cowboy style. But finding a pattern where the track slowed down was elusive. After all, Tyler Courtney was 29th to qualify and he was the fourth quickest. Brady Bacon was next and he turned in the third fastest lap.

    Thomas Meseraull, in the Kevin Briscoe lookalike car, won the first heat over Jordan Kinser. Pole sitter Robert Ballou was third. A.J. Hopkins helped send Chad Boespflug and Carson Short, who had a terrific battle for fifth, to the B.

    Tim Creech II won the second heat. His front row mate Colten Cottle was second and C.J. Leary was third. Tony DiMattia hung one for fourth as Jarett Andretti flipped while racing DiMattia for the last cookie in the cookie jar. Tony and Jarett had been doing their share of chopping and hammering. You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see this result coming. Andretti emerged from the car, done for the night at least.

    The third heat had its moments. Pole sitter Mario Clouser did a half spin and collected Isaac Chapple. Kevin Thomas Jr. arrived on the scene and somehow managed to keep going. Chapple left on the hook and Kyle Cummins dropped out, done for the night. Justin Grant won, leading what began as a strong group. Chase Stockon was second. Thomas came back to take third. Brady Bacon was fourth. Chris Windom was B Main bound.

    Tyler Courtney made a case for considering him to be the one to beat as he won the fourth heat, roaring from sixth to the lead in three laps. Pole sitter Dave Darland was second and Brent Beauchamp was third. Brandon Mattox started and finished fourth.

    The B had 19 cars fighting for six spots. No wonder it was plagued by yellow flags early in the 12-lap affair. Carson Short emerged as the winner. Jason McDougal came from 12th to finish second in the Krockenberger family hot rod. Clouser came from eighth to take third. Josh Hodges was fourth. Windom rambled from 11th to fifth. Kody Swanson hung on to take sixth, the last spot in the parade. Isaac Chapple burned a provisional.

    With Short and Swanson making it into the show via the last chance event, Kinser and Thomas landed on the front row. Tom Hansing waved the green and Thomas took off. But he had to slow down as a yellow came out for a Brady Bacon flat tire on the third lap. After the re-start, a couple more laps were run until Brent Beauchamp and Colten Cottle tangled with Beauchamp flipping on the frontstretch. Brent walked away but the front end of the car was mangled somewhat.

    The prime suspects on this re-start were Thomas, Hopkins, Kinser, DiMattia, Courtney, Swanson, Leary, Short, Mattox and Creech. The green flag prevailed as Thomas immediately began to stretch his lead, entering lapped traffic about seven laps after the resumption of racing. It was an extraordinary effort that saw KT coming upon some pretty good racers such as Grant and Ballou, both of whom went a lap down.

    Behind the leader, action was the usual fast and furious. For the time being, Courtney was the only one who was seriously on the move. Just past halfway, he made what turned out to be an important pass as he got around Hopkins to take second place. A few laps later that pass loomed large.

    It all ended for Thomas on lap 23 when he bounced off the infamous turn two cushion a bit too hard and flipped to the fence on the backstretch. Thomas was out of the car and the Hoffman team conducted a virtuoso thrash to get the car fixed and back on the track, tagging the field. Leary suffered a flat tire during the red, giving up third and joining Thomas at the back.

    With eight to go, it was Courtney’s turn to shine. His partners in speed included Hopkins, Kinser, McDougal, Swanson, Mattox, Meseraull, Darland and Windom. Several of these had come from back in the pack, seemingly unnoticed. For this final stint, Windom drove as if he was chased by an army of bill collectors. It paid off at the end. But Courtney emerged as the winner.

    During the post-race interview, Courtney spoke volumes with one little sentence. “It’s about putting yourself in the right position.” Simple maybe, but quite true in racing and in life overall.

    Joining Sunshine on the frontstretch after the race were Hopkins, who one would think could be the next to win his first USAC feature, and McDougal, who was here for Midget Week and decided to stick around for a while. He was also the KSE Racing Hard Charger, coming from 22nd to finish third, a remarkable performance in its own right. Windom’s late race charge was equally impressive as he motored from 21st to fourth. Kinser was fifth and Meseraull did well as he came from 13th to sixth. Darland was yet another racer who hustled his way to seventh after starting 20th. Brandon Mattox was a steady eighth and Ballou came from 17th to take ninth. Josh Hodges settled for tenth.

    Chett Gehrke edged Hot Rod Johnny Heydenriech by a bag of Lincoln Park popcorn to win the USAC Engler IMRA/Midwest Thunder Speed2 Midget 20-lap feature.

    And just think. As this is written these jackwagons, or at least several of them, will get to do this again tonight as USAC exits and the MSCS arrives for Night Two of the Bill Gardner Sprintacular.

    Looking for my birth certificate so I can get my driver’s license renewed, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Seize the Moment

    Race car drivers, at least when they are on the clock, make decisions an infinite number of times faster than we do, whether we are on the clock or not. Some of their decisions are guesswork, while others are based on previous experience. Sometimes racers make decisions with disastrous results, which can mean anything from a harmless spinout to a serious accident. Once in a while, racers have to deal with lapped traffic. On somewhat infrequent occasions, a racer who may be leading a race has to deal with lapped traffic. Guesswork, experience and reaction all come into play. The leader can get hung up by lapped traffic and find out that he’s not the leader anymore. A competitor takes the lead and is gone, seeing the checkered flag first. That is more or less what happened at the Kokomo Speedway on the eve of the Fourth of July. Leader Chris Windom was stymied briefly by lapped traffic and Kevin Thomas Jr. was there to capitalize on the leader’s misfortune. KT saw Tom Hansing’s checkered flag waving at him first after he had taken the lead midway through the race and then pulled away from the field on a late re-start.

    Dark clouds surrounded me as I left home. The didn’t follow me to Kokomo. I had a great view of the clouds—in my rearview mirror. After reaching the big city, I was reminded of the adventure that is rush hour traffic in a large American city. It had been awhile since I have had this experience. My nerves were calmed by the thought most of my fellow travelers on I-465 have to deal with this every work day while I’m usually being lazy at home. What really mattered was that I arrived at my destination/shrine in plenty of time.

    Twenty-five sprinters had signed in with a few USAC runners such as Dave Darland, Kevin Thomas Jr., Justin Grant, Chris Windom and C.J. Leary (in the family car but minus mechanical guru Donnie Gentry). Occasional USAC/Kokomo players included Scotty Weir in the Gass family 17G, Shane Cottle, Thomas Meseraull, Jarett Andretti, Isaac Chapple, Tony DiMattia and Tyler Hewitt.

    Dave Darland led all the way to the first heat win. Justin Grant passed Tyler Hewitt midway through to keep and take second. Hewitt held onto third ahead of Tony Dimattia. Shane Cottle scampered from ninth after having bounced off the wall in hot laps/time trials to fifth on the first lap and stayed there.

    Like Darland, Jarett Andretti shot out of the outside front row to lead all eight laps and win the second heat. Thomas Meseraull was second with Isaac Chapple taking third. Aaron Farney kept control of fourth and Jake Scott squeezed into fifth.

    The third heat featured four Kokomo Speedway champions. The first, C. J. Leary, got a good jump on another champ,Chris Windom, and took the third heat win. Windom kept trying out the huggy pole line to no avail and came up a little short to take second. Kevin Thomas Jr., also a champ, got around Clinton Boyles early and tried in vain to get to second place and a redraw opportunity. KT was third and Boyles was a lonely fourth. Scotty Weir was the fourth of the four Kokomo champs to make the show.

    After some cutting and slashing with Cole Ketchum for the first few laps, Ben Knight pulled away to win the B main. Travis Hery came from the last row to grab second. Mario Clouser recovered from his pre-heat mechanical woes to finish third and move on to the feature. Ketchum slipped a bit at the end but managed a fourth. And Aussie Jay Waugh took the last ticket to the main event. The heat races had been the high speed/freight train affairs. The B Main had feature a lot of changing positions. The feature looked promising.

    Some younger race fans conducted the redraw and determined that the front row would be Meseraull and Darland. Absent was from this ceremony was Grant, who had an injured motor after his heat race and exited the premises. His misfortune was Bryan VanMeveren’s good fortune as he would start 20th in the show.

    TMez led the first lap of the feature and right away things got crazy and nearly disastrous as a few of the boys went three-wide coming out of turn two on the second lap. To quote various TV announcers, it was a wreck that didn’t happen. In the early laps Meseraull and Andretti led the way, but Windom was about to break up that little party. On lap five he passed Andretti for second. Then the Illinois native passed for the lead on the tenth lap, diving under Meseraull in turn four, using a unique line that worked well for much of the race, going into turn three above the cushion and then diving low into four with a full head of steam.

    At this point Windom had no way of knowing that Thomas was quietly but steadily moving forward from his eighth starting spot. He charged into fifth on the fifth lap. Three laps later he passed Leary for fourth and would do it again a few laps later. Lapped traffic entered the equation.

    Windom barreled into turn three with about ten laps to go and encountered lapped traffic. For just a second, maybe two, he was bottled up and stuck behind one of the lappers. That was all KT needed. He guessed correctly and made the pass, as did Leary. A yellow flag waved on lap 19, with Thomas leading Leary, Windom, Darland and Cottle. Here was a chance for those behind Thomas to get a jump.

    But it wasn’t happening. Mr. Hansing waved the green and KT took off and Leary saw a decent amount of Kokomo soil. Another yellow, this one for a T. Meserraull spin on lap 24, merely delayed the inevitable. The one lap dash didn’t change anything up front. It was still Thomas, Leary and Windom for the top three. Darland held off a persistent Cottle for fourth. Like the race winner, Cottle advanced seven positions, from 12th to fifth. Andretti was sixth and Weir came from 16th to seventh. The youthful trio of Boyles, Chapple and Farney completed the top ten.

    It was time for fireworks, but I’d seen my share of fireworks in a manner of speaking. I headed south. It was a decision made nearly as quick as a racer coming up on lapped traffic.

    Channeling my inner George M. Cohan, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Not a Done Deal

    How many times has this happened? A fan looks over the entry list and easily picks out a favorite or two that should win or run up front. But then the feature race begins and the said fan begins to question his earlier assertion. While it was true that Brady Bacon, reunited for a race with his former team, won the feature on Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, it was also true that Nick Bilbee made Mr. Bacon earn the victory. Bilbee was a strong second and showed again that he has this place figured out.

    Let’s say that it was hot and be done with it. The temperature according to my trusty phone was 93 degrees when I arrived at the ‘burg. The heat would be a challenge for everyone. Who had it the toughest? Perhaps the drivers in their suits had it worst. Maybe the mechanics toiling away on the cars. Possibly the track workers or photographers in the infield or around the track suffered the most. My vote was for flagman Tim Montgomery, who was covered with sweat when I met up with him during the intermission. Lawrenceburg promoter Dave Rudisell made a good decision in pushing the program back an hour. I was more fortunate than most. I prefer hot weather over cold and for many years I did most of my work outside.

    Of the twenty cars who paid a visit, Mr. Bacon and the Hoffman Auto Racing team were a bit of a surprise. On occasion these guys have been known to pay a visit to their home track when USAC doesn’t have a sprint car race elsewhere. C.J. Leary and company also showed up, maybe for a test session with Indiana Sprint Week a few weeks away.

    Possibly the two best cars were in the first heat. Sure enough, Brady Bacon and C. J. Leary finished one/two as Bacon dove low in turn two of the first lap to take the lead. Working a lot harder than I do, Nick Bilbee fought his way to third. Michael Fischesser, Bret Hankins, Garrett Abrams and Kyle May trailed.

    Avoiding near disaster when the cars of Scott Hampton and Tony McVey touched on the backstretch, Jarett Andretti won the second heat, taking the lead from Hampton on the sixth lap. Dakota Jackson took second away from Scott at the line. This mattered, at least in terms of the redraw. Behind Hampton was Tony Main and the other Tony, Mr. McVey.

    The third heat had three Lawrenceburg champs. One of them was Shawn Westerfeld, who led Dickie Gaines, another champ, to the line. Kody Swanson, fresh off another Silver Crown win (which tied him with Jack Hewitt), was third and the third 'burg champ, Joss Moffatt, was fourth, ahead of Braxton Cummings.

    I don't believe in coincidences, but after the sprint heats I fell into conversation with Braxton's grandfather, Mr. Terry Cummings, an interesting, literate and humorous gentleman with a large number of racing stories. No doubt most all of them were true. Naturally, we knew a lot of the same people.  Time well spent.

    Dickie Gaines benefitted from the redraw, claiming the pole position for the feature. That, sad to say, would be his highlight of the race. In turn three of the first lap, Dickie slid in front of C.J. Leary, who couldn’t avoid tapping Gaines. He spun in front of the field. Somehow the gang missed Dickie, who had a good view of oncoming traffic.

    On the re-start Leary took the lead for a lap before Bacon took over. It was tempting to think that Bacon would waltz all the way to the end. But Leary wouldn’t go away. Not only that but Nick Bilbee had made his way to third on the seventh lap after starting seventh. After clearing traffic, Bilbee was closing on the leaders, who run most of the USAC schedule.

    Lapped traffic began to play a role midway through the 25-lapper. The proverbial blanket was unrolled to cover the top three of Bacon, Leary and Bilbee. The high-speed dance was slowed by a lap 21 yellow, brought out when Gaines did a half spin and collected fourth place Jarett Andretti, who kept going. Dickie’s race ended because this was his second spin.

    The stage was set for a four-lap trophy dash. My memory of the trophy dash was four cars running four laps and the winner got a trophy. No more. But this re-start would be tense. Bilbee, the fly in the ointment, was quite capable of winning this race. He didn’t but Bacon knew he was there. The Oklahoma native ran four textbook Lawrenceburg laps and he had to because Bilbee was right there at the end.

    Behind the Brady and Nick Show was Andretti. Leary was slowed at the end with what may have been a wounded engine and barely edged Kody Swanson for fourth. The second five was Jackson, Garrett Abrams, Moffatt, Westerfeld and Main. Abrams advanced from 16th to seventh and was the Grasshopper &63 Hard Charger.

    One could have predicted that Bacon would have won this race, but maybe just as important was how he won. If anyone thought Bacon should have coasted to victory, the race certainly didn’t play out that way. It reminded me of the saying, “It’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it.” The race proved to me why I battle the obstacles to visit the tracks here in Indiana most every weekend from April to October.

    Trying to eradicate hate speech with love speech, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Kevin Briscoe Line

    It wasn’t that many years ago (was it?) that the familiar white number five roamed the high banks of the Bloomington Speedway. It was driven by a young man with uncommon talent, a guy who could have taken a different path that might have made him more famous than what he was. But he chose to stay close to home for the most part. He left a legacy of excellence on the track along with dignity and respect off the track. But he simply owned the cushion that has been a trademark at Bloomington for decades. And on a very warm, humid Indiana evening, Jordan Kinser spent most of the feature riding the same cushion that Mr. Briscoe, among others, occupied for so many years. It paid off as Kinser rebuffed all challenges to win the 25-lap feature on the red clay oval.

    Cushion or no cushion, it was quite warm. Track prep guru Henry Bryant surely added a large amount of water to the oval and, once again, he came up with a racing surface that yielded a multi-groove track. Eighteen 410 sprints and twenty-one 305 Racesavers took up much of the space in the pits. Anton Hernandez was the only driver racing in both classes.

    Jordan Kinser got his night off to a good start as he won his heat. Brandon Morin passed Dakota Jackson early and hung on to second. Jackson was third, leading Levi Underwood and Braxton Cummings to the checkered. Flagman Rusty Nunn was smacked with a flying object during this heat. It was about the 150th object to hit Rusty in all the years he’s been flagging.

    Chad Boespflug was in the Pottorff car again and won the second heat from the pole. Jeff Bland was second. Jarett Andretti took third. Josh Cunningham was fourth, ahead of Jason McDougal, from Broken Arrow, Olkahoma, again in the Krockenberger car.

    Daylan Chambers won the third heat. Jaden Rogers was second. Anton Hernandez started and finished third. Kevin Nanney and Harley Burns were fourth and fifth.

    Here came the Racesavers, often exceeding the non-wings’ car count. Twenty-one cars would run three heats.

    Things got dicey quickly in the first heat when Coleman Chasteen spun in front of the field in turn four on the first lap. Somehow everyone missed him. Despite stumbling on a re-start, Chris Babcock recovered to take the lead and back and win with Jeff Wimmenauer second. Ryan Tusing took the bronze medal.

    John Paynter Jr. came from fifth to win the second heat. Andy Bradley came from sixth to finish second. Terry Arthur was third.

    Anton Hernandez hasn’t been in Indiana long enough to be called a Hoosier, but he took a step in the right direction as he won the third heat. Ethan Barrow came from sixth to grab second. Kerry Kinser crossed the line third.

    The scheduled fireworks would have to hold off as there was plenty of daylight left at 8:53 p.m. Plan B was to run the sprint feature first. It would begin with the familiar low rumble of a collection of V-8 engines, the kind that one seldom hears when driving down the road these days.

    Kinser and Boespflug, along with sixteen of their partners in “crime,” saw Rusty’s green flag and took off. Kinser took the early lead as Chambers took second away from Boespflug for the first lap. But Chad took it back the next lap. On the move was Jeff Bland. From fifth he advanced to second by the eighth lap. But Kinser missed all this as he extended his lead to a straightaway and began encountering lapped traffic.

    Kinser’s lead went away on the 16th lap when Chambers coasted to a stop and brought out a yellow. Kinser and Bland led Boespflug, Andretti, Jackson, Rogers, Underwood, Cunningham, McDougal and Morin. Two laps later, Jackson made an unscheduled trip over the turn one bank, bringing out another yellow. The biggest gain in that short interval was made by McDougal, the latest in a long line of young people who have pulled up stakes elsewhere and come to Indiana. He hustled from ninth to sixth.

    For this segment, Kinser had trouble escaping Bland’s claws. Jeff saw that the cushion was working well for the leader and was able to stay with him using the same groove. But passing would be a challenge. It wasn’t happening, at least not until a lap 24 yellow for Braxton Cummings brought out a late yellow. This created a one lap dash (I cringe at using the word shootout, being a retired postal worker).

    Bland’s best option would be to hang with the leader at the green and in turns one and two, then try a slider in turn three. He had a real chance at this until turn two, when he slipped over the bank and several cars passed him up. Kinser won fairly easily and Jaden Rogers sneaked his way to an impressive second place finish, the best race I’ve seen him run. Boespflug was third with Andretti advancing from eighth at the start to fourth. Lee Underwood came from tenth to take fifth. Morin fell back to as low as tenth but came back to finish sixth. Buddy Cunningham’s son Josh came from 11th to take seventh. Chambers recovered from his misfortune to annex eighth while Jackson recovered from his own miscue to take ninth. Hernandez was the tenth to see the checkered.

    Before my chauffeur Mr. Foist was ready to escape, we hung around for the Racesavers’ feature. Terry Arthur started on the pole and took the lead. Chris Babcock took it away on lap six. He had only a lap to enjoy the front before Ryan Tusing came calling after starting seventh.

    From there, Tusing had the field covered until lapped traffic came into play near the end. As laps wound down, Anton Hernandez (remember him?) had charged to second and was closing on the leader when the checkered waved. John Paynter Jr. quietly moved from eighth to third. Ethan Barrow came from 12th to finish fourth after looking like he would finish even higher before faltering. Jeff Wimmenauer was fifth after beginning the race tenth. Chris Babcock faded a bit to sixth. Scott and Andy Bradley were next. Arthur struggled as the race went on and ended up ninth. And Hot Rod Henning rounded out the top ten.

    It was 9:44 and getting dark. Two aging gentlemen agreed that it was time to go home. They had both seen plenty of fireworks displays over the years at various Hoosier bullrings. They were sure that this one would be nice, but they had been out in the heat long enough.

    Off they went, 40 miles east on one of Indiana’s curviest roads. But each curve was negotiated easily. All the chauffeur had to do was keep riding the cushion. After all, it worked for Jordan Kinser and Ryan Tusing pretty well. No doubt Kevin Briscoe would smile in approval.

    Explaining to my non-racing friends what a cushion is, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Living History

    History nerd that I am, it’s always a treat when people realize its importance. This isn’t confined to American history, my area of prime interest. Thankfully, there are plenty of people involved in racing who are quite aware of the significance of history. With that in mind, the Kokomo Speedway began remembering Bob Darland several years ago with a program contested in his honor and memory. Given the man’s reputation and accomplishments, racers regard a victory in this race more special than most. The winner’s share, $3 thousand, is an incentive of course, but the prestige means as much and maybe more. On a cool Sunday evening at the Kokomo Speedway, Chris Windom stood in the Bryan Clauson Victory Lane, surrounded by the Darland family including his rival Dave Darland, with Windom holding the trophy and accepting the congratulations for his first Bob Darland Memorial victory.

    The trip north was uneventful, slowed only by the obligatory road construction, a Hoosier tradition. This was on Keystone Avenue, just north of I-465. Fortunately, the delay was relatively brief.

    I was pleasantly surprised to find thirty sprints on the O’Connor family’s turf with a talented group of USAC regulars part of the crowd. My unofficial count of feature winners, USAC and otherwise, was at least half of the group.

    I sat on the backstretch for the heats and the B. The boisterous and good-natured group was mighty happy after the hometown favorite, Mr. Darland, won the first heat. His margin over second place Clinton Boyles would have been quite a long walk for some folks. Isaac Chapple was third and Jarett Andretti took fourth. Kody Swanson hung on to take the last chair for the show with Critter Malone leading a group to the B.

    Pole sitter Shane Cottle led all the way to win the second heat. Robert Ballou took second and C. J. Leary, in Mr. S. Pedersen's pride and joy, was third. Mario Clouser held on for fourth and Colten Cottle sneaked into the last transfer slot. Ted Hines led the others to the B.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the third heat over Chris Windom. Brent Beauchamp, in a relatively rare Kokomo appearance, started and finished third. Pole sitter Thomas Meseraull was fourth. Dakota Jackson was fifth over a closing Josh Hodges, who headed to the B Main.

    The B main lineup would produce five more players for the feature. Malone led the first half of the race before Hodges took over. The young New Mexican won with Critter taking second, ahead of the ageless Mr. Hines. Tyler Hewitt was fourth, edging Tony Dimattia. There were more than five good cars in this race. Sure enough, a few of them were done, including Chet Williams, Dallas Hewitt and recent Lawrenceburg winner Garrett Abrams.

    Sunshine was still part of the setting as the green flag waved at 8:37 p.m. S. Cottle and K. Thomas led eighteen other racers to the line and Cottle took the early lead with the Phillips-Daigh Special and Mr. Thomas close behind. Ballou and Windom made sure the front runners didn’t get too far away. Thomas temporarily lost second to Ballou but recovered a lap later. And a lap after that, as C.J. Leary headed to the infield, KT got around Mr. C. for the lead on the fifth lap.

    Thomas was looking quite strong and it may have appeared that no one would have anything for the Alabama native. Behind him, somewhere around the ten-lap mark, a classic Kokomo battle broke out among Cottle, Ballou and Windom, with Windom emerging with second place. At this point, Thomas had an impressive lead by Kokomo standards. But a new challenge was pending for the leaders, that being lapped traffic.

    Windom closed the gap and was knocking on the door. Just past Brian Hodde’s crossed flags, on lap 16, Windom caught and passed Thomas for the lead. One might think that he would have driven away, but it didn’t happen. Indeed, Thomas stayed close and made it interesting. And if a two-way battle wasn’t good enough for those with demanding expectations, Ballou was also part of the mix. Thomas might have been busy pressuring Windom, but KT couldn’t afford to let up with the Madman on his tail.

    As the checkered flag waved, the top three finishers were on the main straightaway. Dave Darland has won this race honoring his father twice; this evening he would be fourth. S. Cottle faded a little and ended up with a fifth. Beauchamp surely enjoyed his rare Kokomo visit as he took sixth. Andretti, racing with a burden that no one should wish on anyone else, was seventh. Chapple was eighth and Boyles brought a ninth-place finish back to Paul Hazen. Swanson was tenth.

    Tyler Hewitt’s heat race didn’t proceed according to plan as he made the feature through the B. He salvaged hard charger honors as he motored from 19th to 11th.

    Windom was outnumbered by Darlands, but for the moment he was an unofficial member of the Darland family. Maybe Bob Darland would have liked that, at least appreciating that true racers had done their best in his memory.

    The race was all-green and was over in about seven minutes. The sun was still shining as I left the home away from home and headed south, arriving home at 11:00.

    Looking in vain for the Tallahassee Trail, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Catch ‘em if You Can

    Carson Short missed a decent race Saturday night. It wasn’t his fault, nor did he do anything wrong. On the contrary, he did everything right as he started on the pole and led all 25 laps of the feature on a cool night at the Lincoln Park Speedway. Short has been on a roll lately. This was his third consecutive feature win. It came on a night when the stars and the weather converged on the Putnam County bullring.

    Upon signing in, who did I see but a smiling Joe Spiker? I distinctly heard him say that there were 49 sprints and 130 cars total in the crowded pits. This may have been the most since the Patriot 100 several years ago. Of note was Chad Boespflug in the Pottorff machine that has taken Brady Short to many a victory lane the past few years. A new combination of the Krockenberger family and Oklahoma's Jason McDougal was on the scene. After his impressive showing during Midget Week, expectations would ideally be reasonable. With every other track in the area rained out or taking the night off, one could have guessed that there would be a large number of cars. But 49? Yowsa.

    Koby Barksdale led all the way to win the first heat, but Landon Simon made him earn it. Dakota Jackson came from the back to worry Simon, even though he was headed to one of the Bs.

    Pole sitter Colten Cottle held off Brandon Mattox to win the second heat. Evan Mosley led the others to the B.  Brady Ottinger spun early and collected Chad Boespflug and just like that, Boespflug’s night became a lot more challenging.

    A. J. Hopkins patiently waited for an opportunity to make a pass for the lead in the third heat, which he did on the last lap. The "victim" was Jaden Rogers, who made the feature anyway. Brandon Morin led the rest to the B. This was the race interrupted by the rain. It began around 7:30 and quit ten minutes later. The track was race ready at 8:05. The rain was the proverbial blip on the radar.

    Patience may have paid off as well for Mario Clouser, who followed Shelby VanGilder for six laps before taking the lead on the white flag lap of the fourth heat. Tim Creech II was a close third.

    Carson Short led all the way to win the fifth heat. Josh Hodges was a strong second.  J. J. Hughes came from last/eighth to finish third and secure a decent starting spot for his B main.

    The sixth heat (rare for me to write "sixth heat") had a pair of twenty-fours on the front row. One of them, Shane Cockrum, won with Jeff Bland working his way around Nate McMillen, the other twenty-four, to take second.

    I can't remember the last time I was at a race that had three Bs. Doesn't happen much for sure. Dakota Jackson had his hands full with Tim Creech II harassing him for all twelve laps of the first last chance race. Those two transferred, as did Tony Dimattia, who grabbed the third and last spot after starting eighth.

    The caution plagued second B was won by J. J. Hughes with Pat Giddens second. Chad Boespflug raced hard after starting ninth and received some well-timed yellows to finish third.

    The third B also had a case of yellow fever. Pole sitter Brandon Morin missed a lot of good racin' behind him as Garrett Aitken took over second place late in the race. Thomas Meseraull held off a charging Chris Phillips to take the 21st starting position in the feature.

    Four of the top six starters in the feature were from neighboring Illinois, with two of them, Short and Cockrum, in the front row. Short took the lead as Brian Hodde waved the green flag for about the one hundredth time of the night. Another Illini, Colten Cottle, got around Cockrum to occupy second, It was somewhat interesting to note that the top two were Short and Cottle and it wasn’t Brady Short or Shane Cottle, but Carson and Colten.

    In the early laps, Hopkins advanced to third behind Cottle. After his encounter with Cottle two weeks ago, Hopkins seemed to make sure that there wouldn’t be a repeat of that. He gave plenty of room to the second-place runner, but the top line didn’t seem to be working too well.

    The race’s only yellow waved on the 12th lap. Coming out of turn four, it appeared that Landon Simon was tapped by Garrett Aitken. Simon spun and kept going. Somehow everyone missed him. But Landon tangled with Dakota Jackson in turn one, ending his race. Jackson continued. The order was Short, Cottle, Hopkins, Cockrum, Mattox, Barksdale, Bland, Clouser, Hodges and Aitken.

    Mattox began to assert himself, using the same middle groove he used a couple of weeks ago to great effect. After starting eighth, he had quietly made his way into the top five. Under attack by Bland, Mattox pulled away and passed Cockrum on the 18th lap. He wasn’t done. Hopkins finally made the top groove work and passed Cottle, who was passed by Mattox a lap later. Mattox challenged Hopkins for second in the waning laps but couldn’t quite close the deal. It didn’t help that A.J. dropped to the middle of the turns, taking away Brandon’s preferred line.

    Short missed all this but it’s doubtful that he minded. He cruised to victory by a half straightaway over Hopkins. Mattox was third and Cockrum was a steady fourth. Cottle faded just a bit to fifth. Bland came from 12th to sixth. Hodges was seventh after starting 11th. Aitken was eighth. Boespflug was by far the hard charger, moving from 20th to ninth. Barksdale completed the top ten.

    To everyone’s credit, the sprint feature checkered at 10:55. Despite the 130 cars jamming Joe Spiker’s palatial estate, all the extra races due to the car count, and the half hour delay for the briefest of showers, the program kept moving.

    This one is for two people who have recently taken life’s checkered flag. One is Nancy Hetser, who passed away two weeks ago. Nancy and her husband Dan were frequent visitors at various Hoosier bullrings. May God comfort Dan and his children, including son Trent. The other is World of Outlaws competitor Jason Johnson, who died after a racing accident on Saturday night.

    Unlocking the ethics watchdogs’ doghouse, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Contrition and Forgiveness

    By all accounts, A.J. Hopkins should have been joyful as he stood at the start/finish line accepting the trophy. But he was apologetic and remorseful, not pleased with himself. Hopkins won the feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway, but it was clouded as A.J. slid into race leader Colten Cottle late in the event, knocking Cottle out of the lead and the race.

    Despite, rain, the threat of rain, detours, more than usual traffic and a gas stop, I entered beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana in plenty of time to see what was going on. The rain had already visited Lincoln Park but the track was ready when hot laps began at 6:45. I had retreated to the little Chevy truck to learn something from my friend William Faulkner. But when I heard that sound of 410 c. I. engines on the track, I told Mr. Faulkner that I'd be back.

    Twenty-two sprint cars were among eighty-nine cars in the pits. Of note was Eric Burns, a past champ at LPS and counting his son Harley as one of his competitors.

    The rain may have hurt the car count as well as the bleacher count, but the show would go on. The Anthem was played while the water truck added some Putnam County liquid to the track at 7:25.

    With A. J. Hopkins on the pole of the first heat, betting on him was easy. He won the caution plagued event over Colten Cottle. Tim Creech II was third, leading Joe Ligouri to the line. Harley Burns was fifth on what had become a very slick surface.

    The second heat had two number twenty-fours and two number seventy-sevens, a potential headache for a new fan. It just so happened that the twenty-four cars ran first and second. Nate McMillen held off Shane Cockrum to take the win. Hunter O'Neal, driving one of the seventy-sevens, was third. Matt McDonald came from last to finish fourth. Eric Burns, the other track champ in this heat along with Cockrum, was fifth.

    After Dakota Jackson was rained out at an Illinois race, he was a late arrival. With no practice, Jackson won a close one over Brent Beauchamp. Pole sitter Kent Christian was third. School teacher Shelby Van Gilder took fourth. Brady Ottinger was fifth.

    All twenty-two cars advanced to the feature.

    After the Super Stock heats and before the four Bomber heats, the track was reworked on the very top side in all four turns. For the sprint feature, most of the gang opted for the very high side, above the cushion. There wasn’t a lot of passing and slide jobs were the only semi-reliable weapon that people had to pass someone. But it wasn’t a bad race. There were some notable errors made, but it was a slicker than normal surface.

    Cottle and Jackson were the front row and Cottle took the lead when Brian Hodde waved the green flag at 9:40 p.m. Hopkins passed Jackson on the second lap to settle in behind Cottle. Two laps later Beauchamp also passed the young man from the same county that has produced racers such as Bobby Black, Derek Scheffel and T. Stewart.

    Travis Berryhill spun on the eighth lap to bring out the first yellow. McMillen had passed Jackson for fourth. Not much changed up front by the time the second slowdown period came on lap fourteen when Patrick Lee, from Greentown (east of Kokomo), spun in turn two. The prime suspects were Cottle, Hopkins, Beauchamp, McMillen, Jackson, Cockrum, O’Neal, Christian, Creech and Ligouri.

    On the re-start, Beauchamp passed Hopkins, but A.J. made sure it didn’t last, returning the favor a lap later. Jackson and Cockrum got around McMillen, but that, too, didn’t last. After Hopkins passed Beauchamp to regain second, he set his sights on the leader. Then came the defining moment of the race.

    On the twenty-first lap, Hopkins tried a banzai slider on Cottle going into turn three. It didn’t work. Cottle was sent skidding over the cushion and for an instant looked like he was going to hit one of the billboards and/or flip. After leading every lap, Cottle’s night was done.

    The rest of the race was almost anti-climatic as Hopkins took the green and was never threatened for the last four laps. To be fair, there was some intense racing a bit further back. McMillen came on strong at the end, coming from fifth at the last re-start to pass Jackson for second at the finish line. Cockrum was fourth. Behind the Chief was the veteran, Kent Christian, who was fifth after starting ninth. Creech was sixth, trailed by Ligouri. Beauchamp faded to eighth with O’Neal and McDonald completing the top ten.

    After the race, Hopkins was remorseful, subdued and sorry for the incident which he admitted was his fault. It happens. Even the best racers make errors, mistakes, boo-boos, etc. Hey, it happens. Hopkins’ words and body language indicated a young man who was contrite. Hopefully, he can be forgiven and all concerned move on.

    After pulling weeds in the sun for an hour on Friday, I sat out both Bloomington (305 Racesaver feature won by Luke Bland) and Gas City (feature won by Clinton Boyles after a lengthy rain delay). Haubstadt was rained out and so was Kokomo on Sunday. We needed the rain but not on the weekend.

    Thankful that there is no tariff on open wheel racing, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: KT Wins the Battle; SB Wins the War

    The Kokomo Speedway was the scene of the last act of the extravaganza known as Indiana Midget Week. Kevin Thomas won the feature and Spencer Bayston won the IMW points and, for good measure, took the points lead in the USAC P1 Insurance National Midget Championship points. Both gentlemen were no doubt exhausted but also elated that it had been a memorable and successful week.

    There was no rain, no heat and no support classes at Kokomo on Sunday. My fellow traveler and I ambled through the pits and eventually discovered twenty-nine USAC P1 Midgets and twenty-one sprints. Add to that several comments directed at my navigator such as, “Wow, have you grown!”

    The temperatures were ideal, but the relentless northern Indiana wind made track prep a real challenge for Reece O’Connor and crew. It didn’t slow much after the sun went down and this was one of the colder June races I’ve attended.

    Rico Abreu has the track record at Kokomo for a Midget car and he was the fastest qualifier, even though his 13.503 was a bit slower than his record of 13.009. Sixteen of the twenty-nine qualifiers were under fourteen seconds.

    Tucker Klaasmeyer came from third to win the first heat. Pole sitter Alex Bright was second. Holly Shelton was third and Jason McDougal took the last spot for the feature. Sam Johnson brought out the red flag after a series of violent flips in turn two. He climbed out of the car and returned later to run the B and the A. Abreu headed to the B.

    Justin Grant won the second heat, missing the mini-war behind him. Tyler Carrick took second and Kevin Thomas Jr. was third. Ryan Robinson engaged in a wheel banging, slide jobbing battle with former teammate Tanner Thorson through most of the heat. Robinson scooted to fourth and Thorson nearly spun, which left him looking at the B.

    Brady Bacon won the third heat over Lincoln Park winner Chad Boat. Spencer Bayston was third and Logan Seavey passed Chase Jones midway through the race to take fourth and send Jones to the last chance dance.

    Tyler Courtney made a strong statement as he swept from fifth place to the lead on the first lap of the fourth heat. Second by a wide margin was Tyler Thomas. Zeb Wise took third and Brayton Lynch hung onto fourth after starting on the pole. Jerry Coons Jr. added the B Main to his list of things to do.

    Rico Abreu started on the pole for the B and led one lap before pulling into the infield with a sick sounding engine. Thorson took the lead and won by the length of a couple of battleships. Justin Dickerson finished second. Coons, Jones, Tyler Nelson and Johnson all added their names to the starting lineup.

    Sprints

    Justin Grant won the first of three heats, outrunning Chris Windom. Kody Swanson was third. Jarett Andretti started and finished fourth. Thomas Meseraull overcame a spin to come back to finish fifth.

    Brian Karrakher led all the way to win the second heat with Tyler Hewitt edging Shane Cottle for second place. Kevin Studley and Bryar Schroeder trailed.

    Pole sitter Isaac Chapple easily took the third heat with C. J. Leary second. RJ Johnson finished third and Tony Dimattia grabbed fourth. Charles Davis Jr. brought it home fifth.

    After the re-draw Cottle and Grant found themselves on the front row for the twenty-five lap feature. The California import took the lead at the outset, but Chris Windom was on the move. From sixth he hustled to third after the first lap before passing Grant for the lead two laps later. The pass had been made but Grant refused to go away, hanging close. In addition, Leary and Cottle were engaged in a battle for third as they both chased the leaders. As the later laps clicked off Cottle made the pass for third.

    Windom and Grant led Cottle, Leary (in the Pederson’s Open Trailer Special-a name I just made up), K. Thomas, Andretti, Johnson, Clinton Boyles (from sixteenth), Brent Beauchamp (from eighteenth) and Meseraull.

    KT’s run may have been the most impressive of all. After dropping out of his heat, he was relegated to the back of the pack, twentieth. Thomas made his way to fifth at the end. His night would get even better several minutes later.

    Midget Feature

    Speaking of Mr. Thomas, he and Mr. Courtney were the front row. The track surface was simply worn out from the dry air, the wind and the pounding of several dozen race cars over dozens of laps. But somehow, these guys (and one gal) made it work. Few opted to race in the middle; most worked the bottom of the track while a brave few rode the Jack Hewitt/Dave Darland line around the wall. Courtney jumped into the lead at the start as Thomas had a slight bobble with first Bayston hounding him.

    The first yellow waved on the seventh lap and it could be hoped that Courtney was enjoying the lead. K. Thomas, McDougal, Wise, Bayston, Seavey, Grant, Klaasmeyer, Thorson and Bacon were the top ten.

    Chad Boat had been forced to bring out a backup car and started last/twenty-second. On this first re-start, he was already fourteenth.

    Another yellow waved a lap later for Wise and Bayston, who collided and found themselves in the work area with one flat tire each. Both returned to race some more. Boat was busy during the short green  flag period. With two ahead of him pitting, now the Arizona native was tenth.

    The race resumed and Courtney went to the bottom which had served him well. But K. Thomas was flying high up by the wall and it was working. He took the lead at the line on the eleventh lap. But this baby was far from over. KT may have kept his lead, but the action wasn’t far behind him.

    Robinson flipped on the thirteenth lap in turn four. He re-started the race after a quick trip to the work area. This re-start saw K. Thomas leading McDougal, Courtney, Grant, Seavey, Klaasmeyer, Thorson, Boat, Bacon and T. Thomas. Grant passed Courtney after the green. Seavey tried some wild and crazy sliders. And Brian Hodde had to reach for his least favorite flag, the red, again on lap twenty-five.

    The lineup and the IMW point standings experienced a major shuffling when Grant flipped in turn two. He collected Courtney and Thorson in the process. Sunshine’s chances at taking the IMW points title were cloudy at best. Grant and Thorson re-started.

    There were still five laps to run. K. Thomas had been strong, but this was Kokomo and the guys behind him weren’t inclined to let him coast to the checkered. This was especially true of Bayston, who had roared back into the top five after his shunt that sent him to the tail spot early on. In the last segment he went from fourth to second, inspiring the usual question of could he have caught the leader.

    K. Thomas and Bayston were joined by Seavey on the podium. McDougal was fourth at the end and made sure that more people knew of him now than before. T. Thomas came on strong in the last half of the race to finish fifth after starting tenth. Bacon came from thirteenth to take sixth. Wise came from the tail spot early to grab seventh. Klaasmeyer was eighth and Boat’s charge to the front from the rear stalled at ninth, still not too shabby. He was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger. Shelton ended her otherwise frustrating IMW with a tenth. All of them had an eventful race and week.

    Bayston ended up the IMW champ by twelve points over Courtney with Boat eight more points behind.

    One can hope that Gas City and Bloomington can get their IMW dates re-scheduled. Rainouts are always disappointing and when bigger events get rained out, the disappointment compounds.

    My navigator, having collected autographs from Grant and KT, conked out on me before we reached the midpoint of Tipton County. He was up on Monday playing with his collection of sprint cars, most purchased the past few years at Lincoln Park.

    Excited to learn that flossing is also a dance, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Not To Be Denied

    It seemed to be inevitable that Spencer Bayston would eventually step up and obtain a result that reflected his ability. Sure enough, he did just that at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night, marching from his sixth starting spot to the lead on the twenty-second lap and surviving a late threat from Tanner Thorson to win the USAC Midget feature on the next to last night of Indiana Midget Week. It was Bayston’s first USAC feature win this year.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. made it three for three as he won the sprint car feature.

    It was no shock to see twenty-four USAC Midgets signed in at the ‘burg. It was a surprise that thirty sprints had invaded Dave Rudisell’s playpen. Logan Seavey joined Brady Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr. in racing both a sprint and midget for the night. Seavey was in the Chase Briscoe family car. Bacon was in a Hoffman Racing car number 69OT in memory of the Old Timer, Mr. Gus Hoffman.

    Bayston was also the quickest qualifier, going out first to hustle around the three-eights mile high banked oval in 14.511 seconds. For some, the track may have slowed, but Tanner Thorson went out twenty-third to rip off a 14.667, seventh quick.

    Rico Abreu, who has not enjoyed the IMW success he’s had in the past, won the first heat. Zeb Wise was second. Thorson was third and Tyler Carrick finished fourth. It took him six laps, but Bayston passed KKM teammate Holly Shelton to take fifth.

    Ryan Robinson led all the way to win the second heat. Tucker Klaasmeyer, pole sitter, was second. K. Thomas Jr. was third. Lincoln Park winner Chad Boat took fourth. Logan Seavey ended up fifth.

    The third and final midget heat was won by Tyler Thomas. Another Tyler, Courtney, was second. Bacon took third ahead of Matt Moore. Courtney’s teammate Justin Grant was fifth.

    There would be no B Main.

    Sprints

    There were four sprint heats with the top four not having to run the B Main. K. Thomas Jr., winner of the last two sprint features that have accompanied IMW, won the first heat. Nick Bilbee came from the back row to take second. The most recent Lawrenceburg winner, Garrett Abrams, was third. A past L’burg points champ, Jarett Andretti, was fourth. Logan Seavey and another Lawrenceburg Champion, Dickie Gaines, went to the B.

    Brady Bacon came from the last row to take the lead in three laps and coasted to the second heat win. Arizona’s RJ Johnson was second. The ageless Mike Miller finished third. Another racer from the Cactus State, Charles Davis Jr., was fourth. Michael Fischesser, Clinton Boyles and Justin Owen all prepared for the B.

    Pole sitter Dallas Hewitt won the third heat. His front row mate Jordan Kinser was second. Joss Moffatt took third and Isaac Chapple grabbed the last available spot. Another track champ, Shawn Westerfeld, J.J. Hughes and Stevie Sussex all would have to race their way into the show via the B.

    C.J. Leary made his way from fifth to win the fourth heat over Thomas Meseraull. Pole sitter Kody Swanson was third. Matt Westfall came from last to finish fourth. Tony Dimattia was among some more people going to the B.

    The last chance affair had its share of drama, along with more than four cars with a good shot at finishing in the top four. Seavey took the lead and led until his engine began emitting smoke with eight laps completed. The yellow waved for both Seavey and Tony McVey, who stopped in turn three. Hughes assumed the lead, but Boyles had other ideas. He got around J.J. a lap after the re-start and won the B main. Hughes was second and Fischesser took third. Gaines was flagged fourth but was penalized for running over the cone placed in turn four on the re-start. Dickie’s place in the feature was taken by Dimattia.

    Kinser and K. Thomas led eighteen fellow escapees to look for Tim Montgomery’s green flag. Thomas grabbed the lead with Kinser in tow, but Nick Bilbee was on his way. He passed Kinser for second on the third lap. But soon Nick had bigger problems than Mr. Kinser. Brady Bacon was on the way to the front. But by the time Bacon had taken over second, Thomas had built a straightaway lead.

    Bacon needed a yellow if he was going to have a chance at the lead. He got it when Fischesser spun in turn three on lap fourteen. The prime suspects were Thomas, Bacon, Leary, Bilbee, Kinser, Meseraull, Andretti, Hewitt, Abrams and Chappell. Here was Bacon’s opportunity.

    It wasn’t happening. KT pulled away on the re-start and was never challenged. Behind him there were some real racin’, ‘burg style. After twenty-five laps, Thomas led Bacon, Leary, Meseraull, Andretti, Bilbee, Abrams, Kinser, Hewitt and Moffatt. Andretti was the Grasshopper $63 Hard Charger award in memory of Bryan Clauson recipient after advancing from thirteenth to fifth.

    Midget Feature

    Courtney and Seavey were the front row at the start and Seavey promptly dropped back when he bobbled on the first lap. Thorson bounced to a stop in turn two of the initial lap. He re-started on the tail and would return…to the front, that is.  Courtney had the lead and was still leading when Mitchell spun on the eleventh lap. On the re-start third place Carrick had a brush or two with the wall but kept going.

    The re-start order was Courtney, Grant, Carrick, Bayston, Boat, K. Thomas, Bacon, Seavey, Wise and McDougal. Sunshine couldn’t pull away from these guys and in the middle part of the race a four-way battle royal was on with Courtney, Grant, Boat and Bayston the players. Boat religiously stuck to the bottom line while the others favored the top for the most part. Thorson entered the top ten midway through the race. He was far from done.

    Bayston caught and passed Courtney for the lead on the twenty-second lap. Lapped traffic was beginning to come into play but the red waved on the same lap. Grant flipped in turn two up by the wall. He was out of his car and out of the race.

    Bayston had a clear track ahead of him and it looked to be comparatively easy for him to roll to victory. Lap twenty-five saw another red flag wave for Zane Hendricks, who flipped on the backstretch. He walked away from the wrecked car. Bayston wasn’t home free. He led Courtney, Boat and now Thorson, who was racing like a man possessed.

    Sure enough, on the re-start Thorson got around Boat and Courtney on the first lap and was knocking on Bayston’s door. He was all over Bayston but a slight bobble coming out of turn two on the last lap hurt his chances. The margin of victory was 0.664 seconds. Thorson had re-started the race early from twenty-third and roared through the field to come up just short.

    Taking the final spot on the podium was Boat, followed by Carrick and Bacon. Abreu was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, moving from sixteenth to seventh. T. Thomas, Seavey and K. Thomas made up the rest of the top ten.

    Bayston had been knocking on the door of victory all year. This time it opened as if it was inevitable.

    The gang does it one more time to put on another great race at the Kokomo Speedway.

    Still waiting to see Du Quoin appear on the Indy Car schedule, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Goliath, Say Hello to…

    A favorite Bible story is the one concerning some punk kid who was a mere shepherd but was willing to step up and take on a giant of a man, armed with a slingshot and a deadly aim. If one looks at the situation from a certain angle, there are parallels in the Bible story and the unlikely triumph of Chad Boat over the multi-car teams that dominate USAC’s Midget Division in these times. It isn’t that the second-generation racer and his team are chronically underfunded; the correct observation might be that Chad and his dad Billy have the resources but are simply outnumbered by the teams with three or more cars. Nevertheless, their victory at the Lincoln Park Speedway on Thursday was, if not an upset, a significant surprise.

    After Boat’s win, Kevin Thomas Jr. won the sprint feature.

    Thirty-two USAC Midgets were among the eighty-four cars on Joe Spiker’s playground on a cloudy evening where the threat of rain was constant. Thirty-three sprints signed in, the first time I can remember the sprints outnumbering the headliners in the existence of Indiana Midget Week.

    In the house as a spectator was Hall of Famer (in mine for sure) Jon Stanbrough, accompanied by his wife and infant girl. The guy who is alleged to hardly ever smile was smiling to be sure as he is racing occasionally this year before hanging it up.

    Again, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Brady Bacon were the only racers doing double duty.

    KT set a new track record with a 12.535 lap. He was the third to qualify and it was easy to assume that the track went away for later qualifiers. But Chad Boat, who was last to qualify, didn’t get the memo, or else wasn’t buying it as his 12.779 lap was sixth quick. That should have been a sign that the kid from Phoenix was going to be tough.

    Holly Shelton started on the outside front row, led all the way, and held off a charging Kevin Thomas Jr. to win the first heat. Spencer Bayston was third and Jerry Coons Jr. took fourth place, sending Brady Bacon, among others, to the B.

    Logan Seavey ran away with the second heat, beating one of his teammates, Tucker Klaasmeyer. Ryan Robinson overcame a post qualifying penalty and came from last to third. Chad Boat took the last ticket, leaving Tyler Carrick to race his way in via the B.

    For the time being, people were using the middle and bottom of the 5/16-mile oval. Brayton Lynch used it to perfection in winning the third heat. Behind him was a terrific scrap between Alex Bright and Justin Grant, with Bright prevailing to take second. Zeb Wise finished fourth.

    The fourth heat was halted when Hudson O’Neal, a true dirt late model ace, bounced off the cushion and flipped in turn three. Hudson walked away from the wreck, done for the night. Tanner Thorson won the race, which ended with a green/white/checkered flag sequence after the lap eight red flag. Tyler Courtney, like the winner, came from the third row and finished second. Rico Abreu was third and Zane Hendricks was fourth, ensuring that Tyler Thomas joined the crowd that would be in the last chance fandango.

    Bacon started on the pole and won the B Main. Behind him was the Gunfight at the Spiker Corral. Teammates Matt Moore and Jason McDougal emerged ahead of Ethan Mitchell, Tyler Carrick and Sam Johnson. Tyler Thomas and Jake Neuman burned provisionals.

    Sprints

    Announcer Brad Dickison was correct as usual. When the sprints came out to play, the cars seemed outsized compared to the top class on this evening. But they could race and race hard. It started with Kevin Thomas Jr. winning the first heat with Brandon Mattox second. These two would meet again later. Shane Cockrum was third and Arizona racer Charles Davis Jr. was fourth, making sure that Isaac Chapple and A.J. Hopkins went to the B.

    Dave Darland started on the pole in Michael Dutcher’s machine and traded the lead with Jarett Andretti a couple of times before taking the second heat win over Andretti. Third was Chad Boespflug, in a one off in the Tony Epperson-owned sprinter. Tim Creech II was fourth. Thomas Meseraull spun, which put him in the B along with Dakota Jackson.

    C.J. Leary, driving the Pedersen car, won the third heat after starting sixth. Pole sitter Colton Cottle was second. Tony Diamattia was third and Stevie Sussex was fourth. Justin Meneely fought the turn two cushion and lost, bouncing high in the air, landing hard, but not flipping. A red was waved for good measure. For this race, the top groove was popular.

    RJ Johnson, getting used to Hoosier bullrings, won the fourth heat. Brady Bacon was second. Minnesota’s Rob Caho was third. Nate McMillen started and finished fourth. Shelby VanGilder hung onto a transfer position for most of the race, but found herself in the B. The same was true of homeboy J.J. Hughes.

    Two sprint B’s were run. A.J. Hopkins nipped Isaac Chapple at the line to take the first consolation race; only the top two would move on. Thomas Meseraull traded the lead with J.J. Hughes a time or two before taking the second.

    The track had avoided the rain that stayed north of Putnam County. Lightning flashed northeast of the track as the sprint feature lined up, immediately following the midget feature.

    RJ Johnson and C.J. Leary led eighteen of their good friends to the green. The dreaded accordion affect came into play as the back of the field exited turn two. Dimattia and Sussex found themselves parked on the low side of the track while Chapple’s car was perched on Hopkins’ left front. All continued except Chapple.

    The green waved again and Johnson charged into the lead, trailed by Darland. As soon as the third lap Mattox decided to play. He had found the proverbial sweet spot in the middle of each turn and was already third. Four laps were complete when Dimattia and Hughes had an unscheduled meeting on the backstretch, bringing out another yellow. JJ was done for the night.

    This early rundown had Darland leading Mattox, Johnson, Leary, K. Thomas, Bacon, Andretti, Cockrum, C. Cottle and Hopkins, who had started seventeenth. Three laps after the green waved, the yellow waved again for Tim Creech II who stopped on the backstretch. Mattox had passed Darland but had to give it back.

    On the re-start, Mattox took the lead from Darland and dearly wished to exploit that middle groove while others went either high or low. The red flag came out when the turn two cushion bit Johnson, who flipped. RJ climbed out of his car and walked away. Darland was no longer Mattox’s biggest threat. K. Thomas had taken second from Dave

     Yet another interruption came when Sussex flipped in turn two. He walked away, not happy with himself.  Behind Mattox, Thomas and Darland were Bacon, Leary, Andretti, Cockrum, Cottle, Meseraull and Davis.

    K. Thomas had found his own sweet spot up on the cushion and it helped propel him to get around Mattox just past the halfway mark. The lightest of sprinkles began to fall, but that was about it for precipitation. As Thomas passed Mattox, Bacon passed Darland, who had an engine with a sick sound. A bit further back, Cockrum had his hands full with Andretti trying to find a line even lower than that which the Chief was running.

    The last half of the race was caution-free as Thomas took the win over Mattox, who didn’t exactly fade away. Bacon was third and Darland, sick engine and all, held onto fourth. Leary was fifth. Cockrum was sixth and Andretti a close seventh. C. Cottle was eighth and TMez came from eighteenth to finish ninth. Arizona visitor Davis was tenth.

    KT must be a strong perfectionist. After the race, he was pleased to have won, but not happy with his effort in the midget. I’m not totally convinced that was a bad thing. I’d guess that beating oneself up continually can work or not.

    Midget Feature

    Thorson and Boat started on the front row and what a battle they had from the beginning, interrupted by yellow flags. Ethan Mitchell spun on the third lap. K. Thomas was in the top five and spun in the third turn on the ninth lap. As noted, he was still upset with himself several minutes later. Thorson and Boat were trailed by Wise, Bacon, Courtney, Klaasmeyer, Bayston, Grant, Abreu and Sam Johnson.

    Light sprinkles fell on the re-start, but not nearly enough to stop this show. However, an accordion effect back in the pack brought out the red. Hendricks got upside down with McDougal, K. Thomas, T. Thomas and Mitchell also involved. Boat was still chasing Thorson between these interruptions. Bacon created another when he spun on lap fourteen in turn three while running fifth.

    Thorson had no way of knowing and would have scoffed at the idea, but his time as the leader was about to end. Soon after the re-start, he and Boat exchanged a series of slide jobs, dips and dives, you name it to offer fans a great interlude of prime cut and slash USAC Midget racing at its best. Boat finally took the lead on lap seventeen and would lead the rest of the way as Thorson faded.

    As the laps wound down, Grant came calling on the leader. He made it close and Boat knew that Justin-or someone-was there. After Boat and Grant, Courtney was third. Wise was an impressive fourth. Thorson faded at the end, taking fifth place money. Bayston was sixth. Seavey came from seventeenth to finish seventh. Abreu was a quiet, for him, eighth. Robinson overcame his share of roadblocks to start twenty-second and come home ninth, earning the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger award. Coons was tenth.

    Next stop, Bloomington. Maybe the Goliaths will prevail tonight (Friday).

    Introducing my personal psychic to my favorite televangelist, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Witnessing Excellence

    Over parts of seven decades spent going to races, I’ve been fortunate enough to see some racers who were considered to be the best. Names like Foyt, Andretti, Petty, Pearson, Earnhardt, Gordon, Stewart and Kinser come to mind. If things keep going the way they are, I may have to add another name to this list, namely Kyle Larson. Because on Tuesday night at the Montpelier Motor Speedway, all Larson did was qualify the quickest, win his heat and then win the thirty-lap feature in an impressive manner. After the race, he confessed to his love for driving different kinds of race cars. One likes to think that race cars of the open wheel variety are his favorites. For Larson and company, it was a great start to the 2018 version of USAC’s ever popular Indiana Midget Week.

    Montpelier’s pits were occupied by thirty-six USAC Midgets, twenty-one sprint cars and twenty mods.  IMW seems to bring out some interesting participants. While the popular New Zealander Michael Pickens was MIA, his countryman Max Guilford was present. Argentinian Damian Lopez didn’t have a short trip either. (Folks, if needed, get out your maps and see how far these people came and appreciate their determination.) On the sprint car side, it was a comparatively short haul for RJ Johnson, Dustin Ingle and Charles Davis Jr. to travel here from Phoenix. (Davis was listed as being from Buckeye, AZ, which is a Phoenix suburb.) Kevin Thomas Jr. and Brady Bacon had rides in a midget and a sprint.

    In qualifying, Larson set the pace with a 13.712 lap. Eleven of the thirty-six cars that took a time trial were under fourteen seconds.

    Larson won the first heat, methodically working his way to the front from sixth. Pole sitter Alex Bright was second with Justin Grant taking third. One of Larson’s teammates, Spencer Bayston, took the last starting spot available for the show. Tyler Thomas led a strong group to the B.

    A red flag stopped the second heat when Ryan Robinson slid into Zane Hendricks. Both flipped with Tanner Carrick sliding off the track to avoid the mess. Both would return for the B. Tyler Courtney won the heat with Tucker Klaasmeyer second. Rico Abreu was third. Chase Jones sneaked into the feature by coming from last to take fourth. Take a bow, Davey Ray.

    Tanner Thorson won the third heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. was second. Brayton Lynch, the pole sitter, hung on for third. Kyle Craker, a teammate to Brady Bacon, was third. Holly Shelton had a race that she would just as soon forget, spinning twice and heading to the B.

    Jason McDougal, like Bacon from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, won the fourth heat. Chad Boat was a close second. McDougal’s neighbor was third. Sixteen year old Zeb Wise was fourth and would be racing against some people who were more than twice as old as he.

    An underappreciated treat of both Midget and Sprint Week is that fans get to see two features instead of one. True, the B Main is shorter, but the talent level is most always worthy of a regular feature. With that in mind, the B was won by Logan Seavey with Tyler Thomas second. Ryan Robinson came back from his heat race encounter to finish third. Jerry Coons Jr. started and finished fourth. Tanner Carrick was fifth. Jake Neuman grabbed sixth, the last feature space left. Zane Hendricks just missed. C.J. Leary flipped in turn four to bring out a red flag. He was not pleased with Matt Moore for some reason.

    Sprints

    The night was quickly over for Dave Darland, who had been scheduled to drive Mark Hery’s car. Engine woes sidelined the People’s Champ. He was supposed to start on the outside front row of the first sprint heat. Instead, Thomas did and rambled to the win. Tyler Hewitt held off Thomas Meseraull for second.

    Matt Westfall won the second heat, driving a Ray Marshall owned hot rod. Joe Stornetta got around Clinton Boyles late in the race to take second.

    Isaac Chapple won the third heat with Brady Bacon harassing him at the end, but not quite getting around. Charles Davis Jr. was third in his Montpelier debut. Stornetta and Bacon were on the front row. The kid from California led the first eight laps.

    The Sprints’ A Main was run after the Midget’s finale. Stornetta and Bacon led ‘em all to the green and the kid from California got the jump and the lead for the first eight laps. The yellow waved on the ninth lap as Bacon slowed. A lap after the re-start K. Thomas took the lead and would beat Johnson, who had started ninth, by a few feet after twenty-five laps. Westfall was third and Stornetta was fourth. Meseraull came home fifth with Chapple finishing where he started, sixth. After stopping on the track earlier in the race, Lee Underwood hustled to a seventh-place finish after starting fifteenth. Boyles started and finished eighth. Caho was ninth and Davis took tenth.

    Midgets, Part Two

    Klaasmeyer and Grant led twenty-one of their best friends to the green with Klaasmeyer, a Kansas resident, taking the lead for the first nine laps. That would be his high point. A yellow flag came out for Grant, who spun. On the re-start, Larson sailed around Klaasmeyer and lengthened his lead between caution periods.

    After a lap thirteen yellow for Bacon, Courtney found himself in second behind Larson on the re-start. One had to think that maybe Sunshine, who won this race a year ago, would have something for Larson. But it wasn’t happening. Larson pulled away every time the green waved for a re-start. Officially at the end, Courtney was 2.178 seconds behind the winner. He also picked up the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger award, coming from fourteenth to second.

    Seavey was third and Coons came from thirteenth to finish fourth. K. Thomas was fifth. Thorson moved up from fifteenth to sixth. Bayston took seventh and Wise was eighth. Abreu was an uncharacteristic ninth. And Robinson came from twentieth to finish tenth.

    The rains finally came as expected to Gas City on Wednesday afternoon and the second round of IMW was not run. I read that they will try to reschedule. That would be great, but I’m not betting the little white truck on it.

    Up next is Lincoln Park Speedway.

    Nominating the Flat Earth Society to take the next trip in space, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Wild and Woolly

    The Kokomo Speedway doesn’t disappoint fans and this past Sunday night proved it yet again. The program was called the BC Indiana Double. For the uninitiated, this would be a show that honored and remembered the late Bryan Clauson, who hustled north after competing in the Indianapolis 500 to race that evening at his favorite track. There were quite a few fans who did their own double, doing what they could to pull into the Kokomo parking lot in time to see some of the best bullring racin’ this side of heaven.

    There were only sixteen sprints in the pits with at least a half dozen of those with a good chance of getting interviewed from the BC victory lane after the race. Quality trumps quantity.

    The first heat got off to a terrible start if your name was Kevin Thomas Jr. Pole sitter Tyler Courtney slid into KT's left rear tire and just like that, the night became an unexpected challenge for Thomas, who was seen carrying a shock toward his car in the pits. When the green was waved again, Courtney took the lead, but led just the first lap as Dave Darland grabbed the lead and took the win. Courtney was second with Joe Stornetta third. Tyler Hewitt was fourth and Matt Goodnight finished fifth.

    The second heat was one of the best I've seen this year, a fine three car battle for the lead with multiple changes for position. Eventually Josh Hodges prevailed over Chris Windom and Shane Cottle. Isaac Chapple was about ten car lengths behind, a lonely fourth. Jamie Fredrickson was fifth.

    As an aside, I will say that all heats in all three classes ran their heats in forty-five minutes.

    The redraw put two of the local boys on the front row, Cottle and Darland. I made sure to keep an eye on Thomas, who would be on the charge as soon as Brian Hodde waved the green.

    Neither local boy led the first lap. Instead, it was the third starting Courtney who swept by the two veterans to lead the first lap. It was not a shock when Darland took the lead on the second lap. He maintained the top spot for the next three laps before Courtney came back and returned the favor.

    Meanwhile, Thomas had been busy. From sixteenth at the start, he motored to eleventh on the first lap and ninth on the second. He was far from done.

    The middle part of the race settled down about as much as Kokomo racin' can settle down. Up front Courtney, Darland and Windom set the pace with Hodges trying to keep Cottle behind him. And Thomas was sixth after seventeen laps.

    But things changed big time when the twentieth lap rolled around. Courtney tangled with a lapped car and ended up on his lid, losing the lead and the race. Perhaps Thomas permitted himself a small smile as he looked at Sunshine’s car with all four wheels in the air. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was Dave Darland was leading.

    During the red a skirmish of sorts broke out in front of the bleachers near turn one. Order was quickly restored before anyone official got involved.

    Darland led Windom, Cottle, Hodges, Thomas, Stornetta, Hewitt, Chapple, Goodnight and Adam Byrkett. On the re-start, Dave made the tiniest of boo-boos in turn two and Windom pounced. If that wasn’t bad enough, Cottle had discovered some extra traction on the bottom and used it to pass Darland for second.

    And that was that. Windom had hung around the front until others’ misfortune became his fortune. He earned it; that can be the breaks. Cottle was second after starting on the pole and dropping as low as fifth. Darland had to settle for third and may not have been overly happy with himself. Thomas had a measure of redemption after his night started so unhappily. From last he didn’t stop passing cars until he got to fourth. Hodges was fifth and should not have felt any shame for finishing behind the four that were ahead of him. Hewitt was sixth and Stornetta was seventh. Chapple started and finished eighth. Goodnight started and finished ninth, recovering from his encounter with Courtney. Byrkett was tenth.

    Just another typical evening of racing at Indiana’s baddest bullring.

    Sending my Dale Carnegie books to any celebrity who can read, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: What's Your Hurry?

    Carson Short took the lead midway through the feature last night and hurried to the checkered at the Lincoln Park Speedway with the MSCS sanctioning the show.

    Isolated showers fell all around the track but missed beautiful downtown Putnamville. Of the 105 cars shoehorned into Lincoln Park’s pit area, thirty were sprinters. There were no major surprises, unless one counted Dave Darland occupying the seat normally filled by A.J. Hopkins for the night. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges was back.

    Pole sitter Stevie Sussex ran away with the first heat win. Dave Darland passed Shelby Van Gilder on the last lap to take second. Shelby could say that she kept Dave Darland behind her for nine laps before he used the top groove to move on. Kellen Conover was fourth. Nate McMillen led a group to the B.

    Kyle Cummins won the second heat from the pole. Josh Hodges was a close second. Koby Barksdale was third and Matt McDonald occupied fourth, sending Colton Cottle, among others, to the B.

    The third heat was different in that the players made it an exciting race despite the fact that no positions changed places after the first lap. A decent sized blanket could have covered winner Shane Cockrum, second place Carson Short and third place Robert Ballou. Tim Creech II was a lonely fourth. Clinton Boyles had a very short race and evening after he smacked the turn one cushion right after the green flag waved and flipped hard. He was able to exit the car on his own.

    Brandon Mattox was leading the fourth heat when he was forced into the infield by a lapped car. Jeff Bland won with Jon Stanbrough second. Mattox recovered to take third but losing a chance to start closer to the front. Minnesota’s Brian Van Meveran was fourth.

    Colton Cottle led all the way to win the B Main. Garrett Aitken took second. Pole sitter Nate McMillen was third. After a battle with Jaden Rogers for most of the race, Daylen Chambers took the last ticket. Donnie Brackett took an MSCS provisional.

    Stanbrough and Short led the crew to the green. The now ageless veteran/new daddy led the first four laps before Bland got underneath Stanbrough coming out of turn two on the fifth lap, taking the lead.

    A lap later Short passed Stanbrough for second and gave chase to the leader. Cummins came on strong and was gaining on the leaders.

    Midway through the twenty-five lapper, Short took the lead much like Bland did earlier, getting a good bite out of two and taking Bland's low line. But try as he might, Short had trouble pulling away.

    A bit further back in the pack, Cummins, Stanbrough, Ballou and Darland were having their own battle for positions three through six. In fact, Cummins waved good-bye to the others as he caught and passed Bland for second. But as the race ended Kyle coasted into the infield, dropping him down in the order.

    Short and Bland were followed by Stanbrough. Ballou was fourth after starting eleventh. Darland, subbing for A.J. Hopkins who was racing a mini-sprint up at Peru, took fifth. Hodges was an impressive sixth. Mattox avoided calamity to take seventh, advancing from twelfth. Despite dropping out, Cummins salvaged an eighth-place finish. Sussex was ninth and Cockrum, last week’s feature winner, was tenth.

    This race was an all-green affair. Traffic was not as bunched up as it had been the night before, but these people showcased their talent, racing hard and not over-driving, staying within their ability and what the car could or could not do. Sometimes these guys make it look easy, when it’s anything but easy. I’m happy just to watch.

    Searching in vain on YouTube for a video featuring a cow head butting a goat, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Rush Hour

    The feature race at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night reminded me of I-465 at most any time of day—except rush hour when traffic is often start/stop. For much of the race the leaders weaved their way through lapped traffic; all involved, both leaders and lappers, gave fans an exciting race and showed off their considerable talent. Of all nights, this had to be the night when the life of Josh Burton was celebrated. Oh yeah, the winner was Tyler Courtney, who edged Robert Ballou by a whole car length.

    Since Josh Burton’s untimely passing five years ago, his parents have played major roles in keeping their son’s memory alive through their shared passion. This takes a lot of fortitude, desire and marketing skills. Sponsors have seemingly fallen over themselves to be a part of the Josh Burton Memorial. It has become one of the track’s most anticipated dates.

    I cannot imagine a worse scenario than burying one of my kids or grandchildren. Those of us who have not experienced this terrible misfortune can’t know what we would do or say in such a situation. We all grieve in our own way. It seems to me that Mr. and Mrs. Burton (no relation as far as I know—they don’t have family in south central Kentucky) have chosen a healthy way to grieve. They have chosen to celebrate as they continue to deal with this tragedy. It seems as if they have refused to allow grief to take over their lives. They seem to have chosen to celebrate the brief time they had their son here and this keeps his memory alive through racing.

    This is all pure conjecture on my part just from observing the annual Memorials I have attending—along with some serious thinking about life.

    There was no conjecture concerning the strong field of twenty-six sprinters gathered in the pits. With USAC’s Silver Crown division pavement pounding at IRP, there was a sprinkling of USAC level talent at this MSCS show. Guys like Kevin Thomas Jr., Tyler Courtney and Robert Ballou were present and all too happy to take away some of the prize money and prizes, too. Jon Stanbrough, now running part-time, was present as well.

    This event featured single car qualifying and the boys didn’t disappoint. The track was wicked fast and nearly all of the twenty-six were below twelve seconds, led by Jeff Bland’s 11.467. The surface stayed fast as Bland was twenty-second in line to take the two laps.

    Brandon Morin ignored the hot dogs behind him as he ran away with the first heat win. Stanbrough was second with Thomas third. Stevie Sussex, in the Burton family 04, was fourth. Daylen Chambers was the last to secure a starting spot in the feature.

    Robert Ballou won the second heat. Kellen Conover was an impressive second. Kyle Cummins won the bronze medal with Shelby VanGilder taking fourth. Donnie Brackett came from last to transfer.

    Tyler Courtney checked out to win the third heat, a harbinger of things to come. Bland was a distant second with Thomas Meseraull third. Carson Short, the MSCS point leader, was fourth. Clinton Boyles, with his first win for Paul Hazen under his belt, was fifth. Braxton Cummings slipped over the turn four cushion and flipped, but not violently. Braxton exited his car, disgusted with himself.

    Hunter O’Neal started on the pole and led all the way to win the B. Garrett Aitken started and finished second. Strangely enough, Brandon Mattox started and finished third. Lee Underwood took fourth. Matt McDonald came from last to grab the last spot for the show.

    At this point I must mention that I spent much of the evening mostly listening to the wit and wisdom of Daryl Tate, a gentleman who may not have seen it all, but who has seen enough. I love it when I say so long to people knowing more than I did before talking with them.

    At 9:56 p.m., pole sitter Jon Stanbrough and front row mate Tyler Courtney took the green and the chase was on with a track surface that was still lightning fast. Courtney took the initial lead as Ballou muscled his way into second as the first lap ended. With five laps completed, the race’s first yellow waved for a Braxton Cummings spin. The top ten was Courtney, Ballou, Bland (who would exit shortly), Morin, Thomas, Stanbrough, Meseraull, Conover, Sussex and Cummins. Two more laps were recorded before the second yellow waved for a Brandon Mattox spin in turn three. The rest of the race was all-green and what a race it was.

    Fourth on the re-start after the Mattox spin, Thomas sailed around the top of turns one and two, taking the lead from Courtney, a maneuver that left many agog with its audacity and skill. This only lasted a couple of laps before Courtney came back, in part due to admitted errors by Thomas.

    Near the halfway mark, there was a large group of lapped cars, close to half the field, for the leaders to deal with. Ballou also passed Thomas and set sail for Courtney, fighting through the lapped traffic, weaving past one car in the high groove, then the next in the low groove.

    Try as he might, Ballou never got around the leader, though he did take the lead for a very brief moment. At the end, Courtney won by a car length over Ballou with Thomas not far behind. Meseraull came from ninth to finish fourth. MSCS point leader Short was the hard charger, coming from twelfth to take fifth. Sussex brought the Burton family car back with a sixth. New daddy Stanbrough was seventh. Cummins was eighth and Morin faded to ninth but had a decent night all the same. VanGilder was tenth, the last car on the lead lap. She, too, had a very decent night.

    People who were there will argue that it was the best Bloomington race they have ever seen. I won’t go there, but I will say that the latter half of the race showcased some excellent racing by all on the track, especially those stuck in the big pack of cars, both leaders and lappers. Multiple battles for position were going on simultaneously and each racer was surely at the top of his (and her/Shelby VG) game. They combined to show us that these guys are skilled at this and they showed folks who may have been at Bloomington that, when it comes to sprint car racing, week in and week out, Indiana is still the place to be.

    Like announcer Brad Dickison, I like to think that Josh Burton, wherever his spirit may be, was able to enjoy this race and the fact that he is still remembered and loved.

    Post-race interviews lasted as long as the race, ten minutes. Ballou praised the track prep, saying that it was fast all night. (Take a bow, Henry Bryant.) Thomas verbally beat himself up, agitated because of a couple of driving miscues. Courtney paid tribute to Josh Burton and his family, the heavy lapped traffic and the need to know when to zig and when to zag.

    Zagging when I need to be zigging, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Inevitable

    My friend, Mr. Merriam-Webster told me that the word “inevitable” means and I quote, “incapable of being avoided or evaded.” This word came to mind on another beautiful Thursday night as the laps of the Hoosier 100 wound down. Because, yet again, Kody Swanson, displaying uncommon discipline and purpose, won his fourth Hoosier 100 in a row at the Indiana State Fairgrounds as veteran Brian Tyler crashed out of the race while leading.

    Thirty-nine entries were nothing to sneeze at. Noteworthy was Dave Darland getting a one-off start courtesy of Bill Rose, who had given up his ride to Chris Windom at Terre Haute. For this race, the two veterans would be teammates. Then there was the ageless Ken Schrader, the only double dipper of the evening. He showed up with his own modified, winning the feature, and had a ride in Dennis McQuinn’s car. Sprint car racer Kyle Robbins was set to make his mile oval debut. Kevin Thomas Jr. joined Brad and Steve Fox for his Silver Crown debut.

    During time trials the surface seemed to hold up well. Jerry Coons Jr. held the quickest time after going out early. But Kody Swanson was sixteenth in line and set fast time with a 33.522 lap. Try as they might, both Shane Cockrum and Shane Cottle drew high qualifying numbers and ripped off the only other sub-thirty-four second laps.

    After the drivers’ meeting, l decided to take a walk around the inside of the mile oval before practice began. I suppose that I wanted to soak up some of the history of this facility. I also knew that the day would come when I would not be able to walk this far.

    Off I went. I was quickly reminded that this track is not totally flat. Even from the grandstand, the turns look flat. The eyes, like other essential body parts, play their tricks on us.

    Looking to the horse barns outside turns one and two reminded me of the wild ride that A.J. Sheperd took in 1961, landing next to one of the barns. Amazingly, he survived.

    As exiting turn two, I could see nothing but buildings. Somewhere out there was the Mini-Indy track where my grandson had an excellent time with a quarter midget on the tiny oval.

    Years ago, a politician (later having to resign in disgrace) said in effect all ghettos were the same. It’s easy to say the same about American cities, especially those in the Midwest. I don’t buy this. While Indianapolis has all the common ingredients other metropolis’s have, good and bad. There is a vibrant downtown, sprawling suburbs, interstates crisscrossing and surrounding the city. But no other city anywhere has the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or the Indiana State Fairgrounds. I could elaborate but won’t.

    Making my way down the backstretch I heard a beautiful sound. V-8 engines were rumbling in anticipation of practice beginning. If I hustled, I could make it back to the pits in time to see the cars push off for the first practice session.

    That wasn’t going to happen, the hustling part, that is. In turn three I discovered a small pond populated with an assortment of feathered creatures who had obviously not bought tickets. I wondered how they would react when cars sped by their vantage point. Speaking of surprises, it was a treat to see racing buddy Ben Andres, who was parked by the fence in turns three and four. It’s always a treat to talk with Ben, who had a wild hair a few years ago and did some sprint car racing.

    As I entered turn four I needed a second wind that wasn’t there. Though the weather was beautiful, it was still warm. To my temporary chagrin I looked toward the start/finish line and my only access to re-enter the pits was via the track itself. I hoofed it and completed the walk just before cars began practice. It was enjoyable, educational and good for me.

    The pre-race ceremonies caused me to think that I wouldn’t mind if our state song was sung before every race. Hoosier bias lives.

    First up was the fifteen-lap last chance dance, with the top six joining the locked in twenty-four to make up a thirty-car field. Neil Sheperd won, taking Casey Shuman, Brady Bacon, Dave Darland, Steve Buckwalter and Korey Weyant with him to the show. Austin Nemire and Travis Welpott used provisionals to get in.

    Ironically, the two combatants at Terre Haute, Swanson and Cottle, would start side by side in the front row. Given the class exhibited by both after the Action Track incident that took Cottle out of the race and cost Swanson a likely win, it was unlikely either would be up for a repeat. As the cars rolled off, Kyle Robbins could not get going and needed a push, which dropped him to the tail spot.

    The green waved and I noticed Bacon passing a lot of cars. He would pass even more later. Swanson led the pack going into turn one and Cottle fell into line. On lap ten Cockrum passed Cottle for second and began pressuring the leader, even leading for a very few seconds at one point on the twelfth lap.

    A stopped car on the backstretch brought out the first yellow on the twenty-first lap. The prime suspects were Swanson, Tyler (who passed Cockrum a lap before the yellow), Cockrum, Cottle, Tyler Courtney, Windom, C.J. Leary, Jerry Coons Jr., Justin Grant and David Byrne.

    Right after the re-start Tyler was not content with second. He passed Swanson on the front stretch and took the lead on lap twenty-nine. He promptly began to put more distance between him and Swanson. But a lap forty yellow waved for Robbins, who tagged the turn three wall, ending an otherwise good beginning. Not a lot changed in the top ten except Windom, with brake issues, was dropping and Bacon was ascending.

    With this segment of green flag racing, Tyler didn’t pull away as much, but Swanson seemed to be content to let the veteran have his way for the time being. However, Tyler’s excellent run ended on the fifty-sixth lap when some debris became lodged in his brakes. As a result, he smacked the turn one wall and brought out the race’s third caution period. The pits got busy as Leary, Windom, Byrne and Shuman all pitted, most with tire issues.

    The deck was reshuffled with Swanson back in the lead with Cockrum, Cottle, Courtney, Coons, Grant, Bacon, Joe Ligouri, Johnny Petrozelle and Jacob Wilson. Six laps after this re-start, Grant slowed on the front stretch and dropped out of the race, moving the others ahead one spot. A few laps later, Bacon had a good run from the back to the top ten go away and he exited with mechanical problems.

    The race’s last yellow waved on lap eighty-eight when fifth running Jerry Coons Jr. contacted the turn three wall. Petrozelle made his entrance into the top five with the misfortunes of Coons, Grant and Bacon. It would be Cockrum’s last chance to harass Swanson and perhaps getting a shot at the lead. But Kody wanted no part of it. All he had to do was keep up the same consistent pace he had been keeping for most of the race. His margin of victory was an impressive 2.7 seconds over the Chief.

    Behind Swanson and Cockrum, Courtney passed Cottle for third with less than five laps to go. Petrozelle had his best Silver Crown effort in his short time with these cars as he rambled from eighteenth to fifth. Others gained ground as the race wore on. Wilson came from twenty-first to sixth. Ligouri was seventh and Byrne overcame a pit stop to finish eighth. With the one off in Bill Rose’s car, Dave Darland came from the last chance race to start twenty-eighth and finish ninth, earning the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Award. And rookie Austin Mundie managed to take tenth after starting twenty-fourth.

    Swanson’s victory was his fourth straight in this race, putting him in good company. Al Unser Sr. has been the only driver to win the Hoosier 100 four times.

    Thus ended another Hoosier 100, an event that was on life support not that long ago. It has regained much, if bot all, of its luster from the glory days. The renaissance of the Silver Crown division has mirrored that of this race. They are both back in a big way.

    And Kody Swanson has been there to make his mark on this series. His mere presence means that he will certainly be in the hunt for the trophy after any race. You could say it’s inevitable.

    Confused as I keep thinking that Indiana’s Marengo Cave is the ‘deep state,’ I’m…

    Danny Burton  

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: One Man's Ceiling, Etc.

    It was difficult not to think of an old Paul Simon song from days gone by after Wednesday night's Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track. Because after a lap twenty-one red flag for a flipping car, Tyler Courtney passed race long leader Chase Stockon and hustled to the win on a perfect Hoosier evening while Stockon faded in the last nine laps.

    After an exciting two and a half hour drive (think road construction and traffic) northwest to Terre Haute, an extended break was in order. Seeing familiar faces wouldn’t hurt. The first one I saw was Mr. James Carter, a true traveling man and a friend of sprint car racing, especially the non-wing version. There would be several more.

    Twenty-three sprinters occupied the pits with no surprises. It was no shock when Kevin Thomas Jr. was the eighth to take time trials and set fast time with a 20.574. The track may have went away some, but not critically. Bob Sargent and team did some gentle massaging of the track after qualifications.

    Thomas made an emphatic opening statement to the judge and jury as he methodically worked his way from sixth to the lead right after the white flag lap. KT got around race long leader Nick Bilbee going into turn one and won easily. Kyle Cummins was third behind Bilbee with Chris Windom settling for fourth. Chase Stockon started and finished fifth.

    Chad Boespflug was kind enough to let Bill Rose lead the first lap of the second heat. CB took the lead on the second lap and moseyed on to the victory. C. J. Leary was second and Tyler Courtney took third. Rose hung on for fourth. Jerry Coons Jr. took fifth.

    Justin Grant led all the way to the checkered in the third heat. Robert Ballou reeled him in and made what looked like a half-hearted attempt at a slider on Grant in turn three of the last lap, a sort of a "Hi, Justin. I'm here." Ballou settled for second with Dave Darland third. Brady Bacon was fourth and Shane Cottle, in the car that Mr. Darland used to drive, was fifth.

    The track received another minor makeover before the feature. The sun disappeared over the Illinois state line. It was time to play hardball.

    Cottle and Courtney led the other twenty-one to the green and immediately the cutting and slashing began. Courtney led the first lap, but third starting Stockon hijacked the lead in turn two of the second lap and did his best to extend the lead. But Courtney couldn’t bring himself to allow that and stayed within striking distance.

    A bit further back, Cottle was fading a bit and Thomas, who started sixth, began his march to the front. The trouble was that KT wasn’t closing on the leaders. Stockon may not have been counting his prize money, but he may have been counting the laps down. Everyone except Chase wanted a caution.

    Instead, they got a red flag when Jaden Rogers caught the turn four wall and flipped crazily along the wall as he was being lapped with twenty-one laps completed. Stockon got through okay, and Courtney came this close to getting caught up in the accident. As it was, his right rear tire made what looked like slight contact with the flying car. Sunshine did some serious steering to avoid disaster. Rogers exited the car, probably to race again, but not on this night.

    The running order was Stockon, Courtney, Thomas, Windom, Grant, Cottle, Ballou, Leary, Bacon, and Darland. The green waved and the usual craziness of a re-start began. Courtney dove low in turn one to take the lead. Stockon did the same in turn three. But Chase had no way of knowing that this was as good as it would be for the rest of the race. A lap later, Thomas made the pass for second and did his best to close the gap on the leader.

    But it wasn’t going to happen. KT could not close and Courtney took the checkered flag with a lead of several car lengths. Behind Thomas was Cottle, who had found some traction on the bottom and charged from sixth to third in the last nine laps. Windom was fourth and Stockon, who led most of the race, faded to fifth, thanks in large part to a worn out right rear tire. Leary was sixth and Ballou advanced from twelfth to seventh. Grant started fifteenth and ran as high as fifth but finished eighth. Bacon was ninth and Boespflug took tenth.

    At day’s end, for Courtney it was a ceiling, riding high. For Stockon, it was the floor, thinking about what might have been had there been no red flag.

    Courtney was presented with one of the more creative trophies, a rifle. This is an Action Track tradition that goes back several decades. It was somewhat ironic that Courtney is not a hunter. Nevertheless, it’s a good bet that this trophy will be cherished by Mr. Courtney and his loved ones for a very long time.

    The sprint feature was over at 9:30. Will Krup won the modified feature at 9:50. The impressive crowd, at least those who had to go to work the next morning, no doubt appreciated the program running so smoothly.

    Fretting because I can’t decide between Yanny and Laurel, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Chief in a Hurry

    At the end of a wild night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Shane Cockrum stood at the start/finish line, enjoying a victory that was well earned. Sure, he had a break or two, but the fact was that this racer started in the middle of the twenty-one car field, avoided the incidents that could have involved him and sped to the win by a healthy margin over Joe Stornetta.

    On a weekend that saw several tracks have to cancel races, Lincoln Park stood out. Mostly clear skies greeted the assembled throng of racers and fans.  

    Thirty-four sprints shoehorned their way into a pit that contained 113 race cars in all. The guys to watch included Jarett Andretti, A. J. Hopkins, Shane Cockrum, Scotty Weir (in the Mike Dutcher beast), Stevie Sussex and one Thomas Meseraull, with his own creation, a guy who will race any way he can.

    The format for the night would be five heats with the top three moving to the show. Two B's would send the top three on with the feature starting twenty-one.

    Shelby VanGilder started the first heat on the pole and led all the way. Josh Cunningham used every one of his considerable skills to gift Shane Cockrum with the final transfer spot.

    A. J. Hopkins had his way with the second heat. Thomas Meseraull came from the back to take second. Tim Creech II came from last to take third from Joe Ligouri on the last lap.

    Stevie Sussex ran away with the third heat. West coast visitor Joe Stornetta was sent to the tail spot for a pre-race infraction. But he came on to participate in a slide fest with Jarett Andretti midway through the race before moving on. Stornetta caught J. J. Hughes on the last lap to grab second. Andretti was not far behind, but he was one of the good cars preparing for the B.

    The fourth heat was stopped when Scotty Weir went for a mean ride down the frontstretch after contact with Andrew Prather. Scotty emerged from the car wondering for a moment what happened. As for the race, Brandon Mattox took the lead on the second lap and led all the way. Hunter O'Neal came from the third row to finish second. And for the third race in a row, a last lap pass was made for position when Harley Burns passed Brady Ottinger to steal the last chair before the music stopped.

    Pole sitter Kent Christian meant business as he hustled to the fifth heat win. Ethan Barrow was second, missing a good scrap behind him. Chris Phillips earned third place and last week's Lawrenceburg winner Garrett Abrams made sure he did. But the latest Rushville Rocket headed to one of the B's instead.

    Jarett Andretti easily won the first of two Bs. Behind him was a fair amount of mayhem. Koby Barksdale was second and Garrett Abrams picked up a bronze medal. Jamie Fredrickson slid into another car and tipped over. Parker Fredrickson spun and collected Eric Perrott, who flipped. All were okay.

    Jake Scott was victorious in the second last chance race. Pole sitter Joe Ligouri was second. Nate McMillen came from the back to finish third, barely beating Andrew Prather, who also started way back there.

    Hopkins and Mattox made up the front row and both were determined to get the jump going into turn one after seeing Brian Hodde’s green flag. Disaster was barely averted when they tangled in front of nineteen of their best friends. Hopkins slid over the turn two banking, but was able to continue, as was Mattox. But third starting Kent Christian was happy to take advantage of the “kids’” misfortune and grab the lead. Red lights blinked with two laps complete when Mattox tipped over in turn four. Christian led Sussex, Hopkins, Meseraull and Stornetta. About two seconds after the re-start, the yellow came out when a turn one collision among Hopkins, Meseraull and Sussex changed the running order up front. All three went to the tail spot and Stornetta was second.

    Not a lot of notice was given to Cockrum, who had started eleventh and was now sixth. A lap after the re-start, he was fifth. Two laps after that Stornetta dove low in turn one to take the lead over the pesky veteran Christian, who promptly took it back. But Cockrum was quite busy himself. A couple of laps after Christian had supplanted Stornetta in the top spot, Cockrum took the lead in turn one.

    From there, the fire chief checked out, weaving his way through lapped traffic. Stornetta had a comfortable margin himself over Andretti, who had come from the B to start sixteenth and make his way to third. Further behind the top three, there was action aplenty. Meseraull came from his early reassignment- to the tail spot to take fourth. Christian hung in there for fifth. Hopkins had quite an up and down race. From his first lap excitement to his turn one adventure to a mid-race hiccup when his car may have jumped out of gear, Hopkins ended up sixth. Barrow ran in the top five throughout most of the race before finishing seventh. Hughes, Creech and Barksdale finished out the top ten.

    My days of running to my vehicle of choice immediately after the sprint feature are long gone. In fact, I hung around long enough (making notes) to see Jordan Wever hold off Derek Groomer and won the modified finale. I ambled out to the car, quite the opposite of the guy who drove for twenty-five laps as if he were chasing a fire.

    Not minding if my grandchildren grow up to be as classy as James Hinchliffe, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner

    The title of this story is one I’ve used several times over the past fifteen plus years. It’s my favorite title for what should be obvious reasons. No matter what it is, the first time is special and memorable for all time. Just ask Garrett Abrams from Rushville, Indiana, hometown of one Wendell Willkie. On a warm Saturday night, with a gentle breeze from the south, Abrams stalked leader Joss Moffatt for several laps, took the lead, then swapped the lead with Mr. Moffatt twice on the final lap before diving low coming out of turn four to see Tim Montgomery’s checkered flag first. It was Abram’s first sprint car feature win and it came at the challenging Lawrenceburg Speedway.

    There were only thirteen sprints in Dave Rudisell’s peanut gallery, not great, but enough to run a couple of heats and a feature. Among the lucky thirteen were four track champs, Moffatt, Shawn Westerfeld, Dickie Gaines, and Mike Miller.

    Their number may have been small but all were racing to win. Pole sitter Matt Cooley jumped the start and traded places with sprint car rookie Brett Hankins, who led a mini-freight train to the checkers. It was his first heat race win in a sprinter. Hankins was pressured by Cooley, Garrett Abrams, Shawn Westerfeld, Dickie Gaines, Tony McVey and another rook, Kyle May.

    Pole sitter Braxton Cummins led the second heat until stopping in turn four. Joss Moffatt took over from there and won. The ageless Mike Miller was second. Michael Fischesser was driving Buddy Lowther's car since his own had an ailing engine. He was third, ahead of Travis Hery. David Applegate had a time of it getting his engine to fire before it did. But midway through the heat he sailed into turn one at an unfortunate angle and bounced to a stop, fortunate in that he was lucky not to go over.

    At different points throughout the evening, I pondered sprint car counts for the weekend. Were the low counts an aberration or here to stay for a spell? Was it a matter of too many tracks on a given night running traditional sprint cars? Are the days of running sprints each week at s given track over? Is the B Main on the endangered species list?

    But what about Lincoln Park, you may ask? They consistently get twenty plus sprints each weekend, plus they host sprints pretty much every Saturday night. What is Joe Spiker and crew doing differently than the others?

    If promoters have a good car count for other classes if not sprints, and if they have decent crowds show up, how long will they not only keep sprints as the headliner class, but switch to another class?

    Like many others, I have these questions and more rattling around upstairs. Unlike some, I have no easy answers except to promise that time will tell.

    But, but, but…the feature lined up, my good buddy Tim Montgomery waved the green flag and all of the worries about car counts and oversaturation disappeared with the flag waving at the assembled throng of thirteen.

    Nothing else mattered as Mike Miller took the early lead with Joss Moffatt in hot pursuit. My unofficial record showed Moffatt taking the lead on lap six. It would be easy to think that this race was over. Moffatt increased his lead as I noticed that this Abrams kid was on the move. It was the tenth lap, or close to it, when Abrams made the pass on Miller to take second.

    The top three remained the same as the race’s halfway mark arrived. Pole sitter Matt Cooley was fourth and under attack by…Brett Hankins. The rookie struggled a few weeks ago when I saw him at the ‘burg. But he has learned, big time. Just past the halfway mark, Hankins made the pass for fourth.

    Meanwhile, Moffatt had unwanted company. Abrams took the lead, diving low in turn one. Now it looked like we would see a first-time winner for sure. But wait. Hankins spun in turn four, bringing out a yellow with twenty-two laps complete. Abrams and Moffatt led the pack. And there was a new player in third place. Shawn Westerfeld had started seventh and had made his way to the front. With Miller in fourth, this meant that Abrams had no less than three track champions immediately behind him, ready to pounce.

    As it turned out, only Moffatt would be a threat. But what a threat the homeboy was. He would not let Abrams get away. Then came the white flag. Moffatt dove low in turns one and two but couldn’t get around the leader. But Joss made a perfect banzai move going into turn three, and it paid off—for about fifty feet. Abrams had one last trick and he used it, returning the favor coming out of turn four, diving below the temporary leader to cross the line first.

    Moffatt was a surely disappointed second, but it was a great effort all the same. Westerfeld was third and Braxton Cummings came from tenth to take fourth at the end. Miller was fifth. Travis Hery was sixth with Cooley seventh. Dickie Gaines was, surprisingly, not a factor. He finished eighth. Michael Fischesser brought home the Lowther hot rod in ninth. Despite his spin, Hankins came back to take tenth and was impressive the whole race except for the spin.

    The issue of car counts probably won’t go away anytime soon. But I was struck by how much it didn’t matter for twenty-five laps. I like to think that much of the issue will correct itself and a certain amount of order will prevail.

    Eagerly awaiting my invitation to Prince Harry’s bachelor party, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Smart and Fast=Chicken and Egg

    Smart/fast, chicken/egg, and heredity/environment are all what various people call correlations. My good friend Mr. Merriam-Webster (one of those stuffy British types) told me that correlation is defined as “a relation existing between phenomena or things or between mathematical or statistical variables which tend to vary, be associated, or occur together in a way not expected on the basis of chance alone.”  In other words, all three of the examples listed above have a relationship and are linked together. In general, when it comes to racing, one must possess that link between smart and fast in order to have a decent chance to win any race, or at least put oneself into a position to win. Often we fans miss this, but a racer’s mind is working much faster than the car—at least a winning racer’s mind. This may not seem to have much to do with the sprint car feature at the Bloomington Speedway on a lovely Friday night, but certainly does. Because Jeff Bland noticed at a crucial point in the feature that he needed to try a different groove to be faster. One can say that Mr. Bland was smart and fast; he could not have cared less which came first, the smart or the fast. All that mattered was that he was the happy guy interviewed after the race by Kimb Stewart.

    With a much younger navigator, we once again set off to Bloomington and took the scenic route. The navigator was used to straighter and wider roads, which meant that he had some attention getting moments in the hills of Brown and Bartholomew counties. I need to take that kid and his big brother to North Carolina someday, specifically to the road from Asheville to Chimney Rock.

    Three heats and no B main was the order of the day. Homeboy Jamie Williams had his hands full keeping Brady Short at bay in the first heat. Lee Underwood, who travels from Ohio to race at Bloomington, was third. Dirt late model/second generation ace Hudson O’Neal took fourth with Kevin Chambers and the ageless Dave Peperak trailing.

    Jeff Bland won the second heat over Kody Swanson. Brandon Morin eked out a third-place finish with Garett Aitken fourth. Jaden Rogers and Eric Perrott trailed.

    I was grumbling to myself about having three heats instead of two for just seventeen cars until the third heat. Four of the five starters in this one put together maybe the best heat race of the year. Josh Cunningham led nine of the ten laps before an ever so slight bobble on the last lap. Not only did winner Stevie Sussex make the pass on the last lap, so did Jordan Kinser who capitalized on Mr. Cunningham’s misfortune. Josh settled for third, just a few feet ahead of fourth place Hunter O’Neal. Bobby Griffiths dropped out early.

    The redraw hatched a front row of Bland and Sussex, with Williams and Short in the second row. Bland jumped out to the early lead with Sussex and fifth starting Swanson falling in behind. About one third of the way through the race, first Swanson, then Short passed Sussex. Bland was cruising and it was looking like an easy looking win.

    But a yellow flag with seventeen laps completed changed things for Bland. After all, his nice lead was gone. Jaden Rogers found the front stretch wall, which brought out Rusty Nunn’s yellow hankie. Bland still led Swanson, Short, Sussex and Kinser. On the re-start, the leader stayed low for the first couple of laps, but he felt like the bottom groove was too slow. As he moved up top, Swanson and Short had their own battle for the runner-up spot. As Bland romped to the victory, Swanson edged Short by a nine iron and a putter. Sussex was able to hold off Kinser for fourth. Underwood, who runs well here, was sixth. Morin had a decent night, taking seventh. Aitken, in his second year in a sprinter, was eighth. Hunter O’Neal was ninth despite spinning off turn four at the end. Rogers came back from his spin to take tenth.

    The weather was as close to perfect as it could be. The car count may not have been the greatest, but there were enough cars to have a very decent and well-run program. (Twenty cars showed up at Gas City, where Clinton Boyles scored his first victory for the venerable Paul Hazen. Twenty-four cars signed in at Eldora’s USAC show.) Folks who weren’t at Bloomington, Gas City, or Eldora missed some good racing.

    Inviting my good friend Mr. Merriam-Webster to a Hoosier bullring, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Trifecta

    Not too often does a bullring racer sweep the weekend’s features. Given the level of competition on the Hoosier bullring/sprint car scene, winning three races in a row is exceedingly difficult. But Kevin Thomas Jr. is on a roll and is a force to be reckoned with whenever he strolls through the pit gate. He added an exclamation point on his weekend on Sunday night as he held no less than Dave Darland at bay for thirty laps and won the King of Kokomo title at the Kokomo Speedway on a breezy northern Indiana evening. The kid who came up here from Alabama a few years ago quickly showed people that he wasn’t afraid to mash the gas pedal. But all too often he ended his night with a torn-up race car on the hook. Those days are emphatically gone. The ex-crasher has become a threat to win and he is at the top of his game. Feature wins at Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Plymouth Speedway (a USAC win), and finally at Kokomo were the icing and the cake.

     It was going to take more than some rain in southern Indiana to keep me at home. After resting on Friday, my carefully laid plans were shattered by a mean old bug that knocked me down all day Saturday. No ‘burg or LPS for me. Kokomo was my last hope to get to a race on this first weekend in May. I left the warmer southern Indiana temperatures for a brisk northern breeze and it felt good to be out and about. So what if it turned a bit chilly later on.

    Thirty sprinters were signed in and now retired racer Josh Spencer served as tour guide for fans who paid an extra three dollars to check out the sprints along with the D2 Midgets and the few Hornets populating the pits.

    There would be three, not four, heats for the assembled throng of thirty. But heats would be ten laps, not the usual eight.

    Dave Darland started on the pole and led all ten laps of the first heat. Logan Seavey was second, holding off Chris Windom. Darland's front row mate and fellow local boy, Shane Cottle, was fourth. Tony Dimattia possessed the last available feature spot.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. passed C. J. Leary coming to the halfway mark of the second heat and took the win. Leary maintained second with pole sitter Kyle Cummins third. Jarett Andretti was fourth and Nate McMillen finished fifth ahead of a fast closing Matt Goodnight.

    The third and final heat got off to a bad start when Justin Grant and Stevie Sussex touched coming out of turn two. Sussex had the worst of it, hitting the wall and tipping over. Stevie and fellow front row starter Joe Stornetta, who exited the track before the heat began begat front row to Carson Short and Grant; Grant won with Short second. Thomas Meseraull was third and Isaac Chapple took fourth. Travis Hery finished fifth in a race that had more than usual lapped traffic.

    There were quite a few decent cars in the B. Before this last chance dance, the track was re-worked and it must have been like racing two ovals in one night, especially for the guys who hadn’t raced at Kokomo much. Clinton Boyle started from the pole and simply checked out. But the twelve-lap race wasn’t a snoozer. Stevie Sussex came from twelfth to take second at the checkered flag.  Joe Stornetta, knocked out of his heat with a reported throttle linkage issue, came from fifteenth/last to finish third, edging Matt Goodnight on the last lap. Tyler Hewitt, who had his troubles in the preliminary race, started eleventh and took the last transfer card.

    The kids handled the redraw and the front row was Thomas and Grant. Seavey and Short were the second row with Leary and Darland’s kids drawing the five and six cards. This didn’t matter to DD as he stormed from sixth to second behind Thomas in the first three laps. It looked like KT might have his hands full.

    Action stopped when Dimattia flipped hard in turn four with seven laps completed. Tony crawled out of the wrecked mount. He fared better than the car and a part of the fence. The running order was Thomas, Darland, Grant, Seavey, Windom, Short, Cottle, Leary, Cummins and Meseraull.

    On the re-start nothing changed with the top three but Windom was on the move. He got around Seavey to grab fourth and gradually closed on Grant. Soon after, midway through the race, Short passed Seavey as well. Up front, it seemed as if Darland closed the gap in lapped traffic, but Thomas made sure that the People’s Champ never got really close enough to threaten.

    At the end the top five was Thomas, Darland, Grant, Windom, and Kyle Cummins, who had the best race that few people saw, finishing strong. Short was sixth, followed by Leary, Meseraull, Seavey and Andretti.  

    Chett Gehrke and Andy Vaughn won the D2 midget heats. Chase McDermand won the D2 main.

    A good race is, like many things, in the eye of the beholder. Looking at the box score of this race would lead one to believe that it was a boring parade. I hear the same criticism of the Outlaws’ races quite often, especially the heats. But watching the race from my perch, I saw lots of fast and faster cars, circling a bullring at frightening speeds, dodging lapped traffic and often putting their cars as close to the unforgiving wall as they could. The group in the front half of the twenty-car field was evenly matched on a fast track. But was it a bad race, at least from a mostly objective view? I can’t and won’t say that. There are quite a few of us who don’t feel the need to see photo finishes every time. This isn’t NASCAR, thank God. We don’t care to sit through micro-managed affairs, made for TV. We abide by the proverb that says, “You had to be there.”

    Believing that women are like races, loving all, just loving some more than others, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Right Place, Right Time

    We, most of us, could not handle decision making at high speeds for very long. Bad things would happen all too often. Instead we watch people who do that almost routinely multiple times in a very short time. These people, at their best, have a very good success rate. Even the most ordinary racer makes more successful choices than the unsuccessful. Justin Grant, who is one of the best at what he does, made untold successful decisions on a cool Sunday evening at the Terre Haute Action Track as USAC’s Silver Crown series presented the Sumar Classic. Grant avoided a late race collision between Shane Cottle and leader Kody Swanson to take the win.

    Twenty-nine teams signed in on a sunny Sunday afternoon. Two prominent points contenders, Chris Windom and Kory Swanson, found trouble quickly in the form of engine failures. Swanson and company changed the engine of the DePalma team car in a little over an hour. This was the start of a roller coaster of a day for those guys. Windom and company got together with Bill Rose after his Nolen team’s engine emitted a sizable puff of smoke during practice and made a deal which landed Windom in the Rose car, complete with a new number for points purposes.

    Tyler Courtney was second in line to qualify and his 22.990 lap held up as fast time. Justin Grant, on the other hand, was one of the last to take the two laps and his 23.068 was good enough for third quick, a tick slower than Jerry Coons Jr.

    The top sixteen qualifiers were locked into the Classic. All others lined up for a fifteen-lap last chance qualifying race with the top eight tagging the field. David Byrne qualified seventeenth fastest and started on the pole. He led all fifteen laps to take the win. Kody Swanson, new engine and all, came from twelfth to finish second. Kyle Robbins, Steve Buckwalter, Matt Goodnight, Neil Shepherd and Mike Haggenbottom all raced their way into the main event. Korey Weyant spun while running eighth.

    Courtney and Coons led twenty-three others to the green. Coons led the first lap as the yellow waved for Brady Bacon, who spun and retired from the race. Coons and company tried to go racing again and the yellow waved for the second time when Courtney spun with Austin Mundie and Coleman Gulick getting the worst of it. Sunshine re-started on the tail.

    Two yellows in five laps? One wondered if this was going to be a pattern. Not quite, but there would breaks in the action later. On the re-start, Coons committed to the low side, next to the infield fence, while C. J. Leary and several others used what was left of the cushion, right against the wall. Coons would only lead until lap eleven, when Leary made the pass to take the point. But Justin Grant was on the move. By the twenty-second lap, he had passed Coons for second and immediately informed Leary that he had more company. Coons didn’t exactly fade away; he had a great view of Grant’s tail tank.

    On lap thirty-six, Grant caught Leary in turn three with lapped traffic all around and took the lead. By now Shane Cottle had taken over third place and begun a series of slide jobs, taking the position for a few dozen feet before relinquishing it when Leary dove low coming out of the turn. But Joss Moffatt put a stop to all that when he smacked the wall coming out of turn four and flipped hard with forty-six laps completed. Joss crawled out of the car, which will need major repairs.

    With this re-start, Grant led Leary, Cottle and Coons. Oh, by the way, Kody Swanson had started eighteenth and had steadily worked his way forward and was now fifth. Cockrum, Windom, Courtney (from the tail), Jacob Wilson and Casey Shuman were six through ten. Two laps later, Cottle passed Leary. A lap later, Coons passed Leary in turn two. And a lap after that, it was Swanson making the pass in turn four.

    Meanwhile, Cottle was gaining on Grant as first Coons, then several others began using the middle of the all black surface, slick as Yul Brynner’s head (Google it, kids). Fifty-six laps were done when a yellow waved for an unscheduled meeting among David Byrne, Travis Welpott and Steve Buckwalter in turn four. Coons had passed Cottle for second.

    The next segment was all too brief as Wilson flipped in turn one on the sixty-fifth lap. Cockrum and Shuman were also involved, but both re-started. Jacob walked away from his wrecked car. The prime suspects were Grant, Coons, Cottle, Swanson, Leary and Courtney. It was show-and-tell time.

    Cottle resumed his slide job show and it finally paid off on lap seventy. But Grant returned the favor a lap later. And the 800-pound gorilla had appeared on the scene in the form of Kody Swanson, the guy to beat in Silver Crown racing. On lap seventy-seven, Swanson was more like Superman as he swept from third to first. Cottle passed Grant for second before Neil Shepherd spun and brought out a yellow with twenty laps to go.

    After lap seventy-five, caution laps didn’t count. Eighty-three laps were complete when the turning point of the race smacked all of us in the face, but no one more than Kody Swanson. Cottle tried a banzai move from third place going into turn three, but his momentum carried him into Swanson, causing both to spin. Somehow Grant missed both of them and was leading again. Cottle was done and Swanson suffered a flat left rear tire. He pitted and rejoined the race, his chances of winning greatly diminished if not shot.

    The leaders were now Grant, Coons, Leary, Courtney and Cockrum. The green waved and Leary passed Coons on lap eighty-four. The gorilla was on the prowl again. Would he have enough laps left to challenge for the lead? As Leary had claimed second, Swanson was fifth and far from done. But Grant had checked out. With six laps to go, Swanson was second and began a desperate chase with Grant a straightaway ahead. Kody cut that lead to a mere 1.33 seconds at the end. Justin was surely glad that this wasn’t a 105-lap race.

    Every one of the top ten had a story to tell. It was Grant’s first Sumar Classic win and it put him in the points lead as the series heads to Toledo. Swanson had the most compelling story. After an engine change, he came from the tail spot to run second in the non-qualifiers’ race. From eighteenth, he charged to the lead only to be taken out. After getting a tire replaced, he charged again to the front, falling a few feet short. Courtney was third after his own comeback from the tail spot early in the race. Then there was Windom. His engine gave up during practice and he borrowed Bill Rose’s car with zero practice. He brought it home fourth, avoiding all the potential detours. Leary was up and down all evening, always near the front; he was fifth. Cockrum was sixth, recovering from his involvement in an accident. Coons ran strong most of the race and faded a bit to seventh. Joe Ligouri had the best run that few people saw, rambling from twenty-first to eighth. My North Carolina buddy Johnny Petrozelle is still learning about Silver Crown racing. He stayed out of trouble all night and picked up a lot of laps and experience. He was rewarded with a ninth place. Finally, Shepherd came back from his spin to grab tenth.

    Then there was Shane Cottle. He apologized to Kody Swanson in person and on the often-maligned social media. Kody accepted and wiped the slate clean. There’s a message there for the rest of us.

    Racing, drama, dust, a huge tenderloin sandwich that lasted about as long as the modified feature, and a long drive home. Just another night at the Action Track. Can’t wait to come back.

    Nervously eyeing Daniel Ricciardo in my rear-view mirror, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Precision Racing 101

    Never mind the cold. Those few who showed up at any outside activity on Saturday night knew it would be cold, at least in Indiana. But the real story in my mind was watching some very good-and underrated-racers do what they do best. They fought the elements and a tricky surface and most of them prevailed. Of course, none prevailed as Brent Beauchamp did. He negotiated the tricky five sixteenths oval we call the Lincoln Park Speedway better than anyone else and won the twenty-five lap feature on said chilly Saturday night, holding at bay a racer of equal ability, A.J. Hopkins.

    My nine-year-old navigator was not quite seventy years younger than Friday’s eagle eye. We arrived in time to conduct our usual pit inspection. We found twenty-six cars on hand, with ample quality teams and drivers, despite the USAC event at Haubstadt. Karston got out the trusty mud scraper and went to work on Paul Hazen’s car as he has done several times before. Along with PA man Brad Dickison, Paul noticed right away how much this kid has grown since last fall.

    The format was three heats, with the top five advancing to the show. The three heats were a good opening act for the main event.

    It took A. J. Hopkins one lap to motor from his second row starting spot to take the lead and the win in the first heat. Jeff Bland was second and Clinton Boyles hung on to third. In the battle of the number twenty twos, Coby Barksdale took fourth ahead of Shelby VanGilder.

    Shane Cockrum began the second heat with a spectacular series of moves to go from seventh to second on the first lap of the second heat. Two laps later he passed leader Brandon Morin and coasted to the win. Unfortunately, this would be the highlight of the night for the chief. Colton Cottle was second with Tim Creech II finishing third. Morin hung on for fourth and Chris Phillips came from the back to take fifth.  Rookie Bryar Schroeder flipped in turn four and walked away.

    Scott Hampton got jump on front row mate Brent Beauchamp and led the first two laps of the third heat. But the cagey veteran bided his time and took control, winning the heat. Hampton had his hands full holding off an impressive effort by Jaden Rogers to maintain second. After bringing out an early yellow, Kent Christian came back to take fourth. Brady Ottinger came from the back to take the final feature spot available.

    Josh Cunningham dominated the B, leading every lap. Nate McMillin took second. Parker Fredrickson avoided various pitfalls to finish third. New Zealand’s Nevil Algeio, back in the States for another summer of racing, was fourth. Second generation racer Harley Burns was fifth. Matt McDonald, in the Don Smith car normally driven by Lukas Smith, had a feature spot locked up when he lost power near the race’s end.

    We retreated to the little truck after the sprint B. I listened to the sounds of race cars while Karston borrowed my phone to watch racing videos. The USAC Silver Crown race at Phoenix really got his attention. I guess the little guy isn’t used to seeing many races on the pavement.

    The feature was lining up as we returned with Hopkins and Cockrum in the front row. A.J., who had circulated on the front stretch bleachers giving out freebies, took the lead as Brian Hodde waved the green. Fredrickson stopped with one lap complete, bringing out a yellow. The second yellow flag came with three completed laps as Kent Christian found himself pointing the wrong way after a turn two scrum.

    The order on this re-start was Hopkins, Cockrum, Beauchamp, Bland and Cottle. As the green waved, Cockrum spun in turn one and somehow everyone missed him. He kept going but dropped out of the top ten. No yellow waved as Shane recovered quickly. This put Beauchamp in second and Hopkins was the recipient of a headache, namely car number thirty-four. Boyles found a gap and hustled through it, getting around Bland and Cottle.

    Beauchamp took the lead on the ninth lap and the red flag came out as Koby Barksdale found himself upside down in turn two. Jaden Rogers was facing the wrong way and re-started the race. For the next eight laps, Beauchamp led, but wasn’t able to pull away from the pesky Hopkins. Eighteen laps were complete when the red lights went to work after Scott Hampton flipped coming out of turn four after contact with Cockrum. Hampton wasn’t happy. Given how his race was going, I’d doubt if the fire chief was thrilled himself. He had worked his way up to seventh.

    The order up front had not changed. It was still Beauchamp leading Hopkins, Boyles, Bland and Cottle. Bland got around Boyles on the twenty-first lap, as the race’s final yellow waved for Shelby VanGilder, who stopped on the track, ensuring that it was a bad night for the number twenty-two.

    The three lap dash didn’t see any crazy stuff and the top five remained the same. Creech was a steady sixth place. Morin had a good race, moving from eleventh to seventh. Algieo was the hard charger of the race, coming from nineteenth to finish eighth. Phillips advanced from fourteenth to ninth. And Nate McMillin also grabbed a top ten spot after racing his way into the feature from the B, seventeenth to tenth.

    Thankfully, the little white truck has a heater that warms up quickly. We thawed out long before we stopped for gas north of Cloverdale. The little guy slept most of the way-no shock there, perhaps dreaming of race cars needing a mud scraper. Or maybe racers who know how to race with precision.

    On the day of his birth, singing Willie Nelson songs (especially On the Road Again) all the way to Terre Haute, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Fountain of Youth-Business as Usual

    It may be true that youth must be served, but it’s also true that sometimes respect is due the elders of any given activity, even sprint car racing. On a mild, albeit a little chilly, southern Indiana night at the Bloomington Speedway, Dave Darland kicked off the first USAC sprint car race of 2018 with a convincing win over a typical USAC-quality field. It was Darland’s 60th USAC victory. Ryan Tusing came from twelfth to win the RaceSaver feature.

    Last week I wrote of challenges. The trip to the red clay oval saw my ace navigator, Dave Foist, and I checking out the back roads of Bartholomew and Brown Counties on our way west. Both of us were traveling on roads for the first time in our long lives. The reason for all this was a deep desire to avoid waiting in traffic thanks to road construction, even if it meant an extra ten miles. For me, it was worth it.

    The icing on the cake was arriving at the track that is pretty much my home track. Again, familiar faces abounded. People I hadn’t seen for months were a welcome sight. I stood in the pits as cars rumbled their collective tune while getting heat in the engines. It occurred to me that here was an example of one man’s noise being another man’s sound. It was beautiful music to me just loafing behind the pit bleachers. I was home.

    Tyler Thomas was second in line to qualify and his 10.954 lap was the only sub-eleven second time. Jeff Bland did the local guys proud as his 11.240 time was fifth quick. Kyle Cummins’ car didn’t sound too great as he qualified due to a broken spark plug, but the results didn’t show that. The same was true for Jerry Coons Jr. in the Krockenberger family car. Like Cummins, he made the feature.

    Robert Ballou won the first heat over Brady Bacon by a couple of car lengths. Dakota Jackson started on the pole and guarded the bottom like I guard my cheeseburger. It worked; Dakota was third, with Chase Stockon settling for the last promotion to the show. T. Thomas and Jeff Bland headed to the B.

    Kyle Cummins, sick sounding engine repaired, won the second heat from the outside pole. Chad Boespflug was second and Kevin Thomas Jr., in Boespflug’s 2017 ride, took third. Jerry Coons Jr., with the Krockmobile's engine still popping, hung on to fourth, sending Kody Swanson and California visitor Joe Stornetta to the B.

    Nick Bilbee tried his best to be the third consecutive winner from the outside front row, and he nearly did it. But a brief bobble with two laps to go, gave Dave Darland an opening and, Dave being the racer he is, took the lead and the win. Nick was second with C. J. Leary cruising to third. Jordan Kinser put the Hurst brother's pride and joy in the feature, taking fourth. Justin Grant suffered a flat tire and didn't re-enter the race, heading to the B.

    The fourth heat was, in my opinion, ten laps of some talented people doing their job and giving a clinic on how to negotiate a challenging surface. Tyler Courtney won from the second row. Lee Underwood was a calm second. Isaac Chapple was a comfortable third. Behind him was the show. Chris Windom came out in front of the pack, taking the last spot. Steve Sussex and Logan Seavey finished up a bit short but had no reason to be ashamed.

    One could say the same for the B. T. Thomas led all the way with Stornetta grabbing second. Bland was third and Seavey came on strong at the end to take fourth. Grant was fifth after a fierce battle. Sussex hung on to annex the last spot available. Swanson just missed putting the Rock Steady Racing mount in the field, but used a provisional to get in.

    RaceSaver Heats

    Twenty of the winged sprints signed in. Past RaceSaver champ Luke Bland won the first heat over former 410 sprinter John Paynter Jr. Andy Bradley was third.

    Kerry Kinser won the second heat from the second row. Kendall Ruble came from the third row to finish second. Anton Hernandez, who has quite a bit of open wheel experience elsewhere, recovered from a pre-race spin while lining up to take third.

    Ethan Barrow was the third heat winner. Ryan Tusing came from the third row to get the silver medal. Pole sitter Terry Arthur was third.

    -------

    When Tyler Thomas and Stevie Sussex failed to transfer from their respective heats, Chase Stockon and Dave Darland were the beneficiaries. The green flag waved and fans were quickly the beneficiaries as these two put on a clinic of their own, giving us vintage Bloomington competition. Darland occupied the  top shelf, playing the cushion like a maestro while Stockon showed a different kind of discipline as he worked the bottom groove. No way could unofficial lead changes be counted.

    This exhibition was interrupted on lap three when Dakota Jackson flipped in turn three. Dakota walked away from the wreckage. Robert Ballou spun rather than hit the wrecked car. On the re-start, Darland and Stockon resumed their high-low dance. Kevin Thomas Jr. slipped over the turn three banking and ruined his chances at a good finish. When Stockon led laps seven through twelve, I began to think that maybe the top was going away. Boy, was I wrong. Darland took the lead on the thirteenth lap and led the rest of the way.

    A few laps after losing the lead, Stockon began to fade. C.J. Leary and Chris Windom made their way to the front, or close to the front. Neither threatened the leader; Dave had things pretty much his own way, riding the Kevin Briscoe groove all the way. Windom hung on for second. Seavey had the best race that relatively few people saw, earning the KSE RACING PRODUCTS/PROSOURCE HARD CHARGER award by coming from fifteenth to third. Boespflug hung around the front all race, using the Briscoe-Darland line to take fourth place money. Leary was a well earned fifth.

    Bland represented the local guys well by finishing sixth. Stockon faded to seventh. Bacon came from thirteenth to eighth. Stornetta was a steady ninth, impressive for a first timer. Courtney was tenth.

    In addition to Darland’s record setting number of feature wins, it was also his 700th start, also adding to his record. This win was Dave’s first since November, 2016.

    USAC sprint fans were cheered by the 9:15 p.m. ending of the race. Those who had fought road construction seemingly in every direction from the track were rewarded with a well-run program.

    Certainly, friend and mentor Mike O’Leary, Bloomington’s new general manager, worked like a wild man to get this done. During our brief conversation Mike exclaimed, “These are the first cars I’ve seen on the track tonight.” This was after hot laps and time trials.

    The RaceSaver feature was next and pole sitter Luke Bland jumped out to the early lead. Through multiple yellow flag periods, including one red for a Tommy Tipover, Bland maintained the lead with John Paynter not far behind. But behind them, Ryan Tusing was on the move. From his twelfth starting spot, Tusing made his way to the front and passed Bland with four laps to go. At the end, Tusing and Bland were trailed by Paynter, Andy Bradley, and young Kendall Ruble.

    In a few hours, I plan to be heading northwest to the Lincoln Park Speedway with a much younger navigator. He will be armed with his own mud scraper and will be ready to remove a lot of mud after hot laps.

    Finding out that my own Fountain of Youth is a sink full of dirty dishes, I’m…

    Danny Burton  

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Gold (and Cold) Dust

    On a chilly, no, make it cold, Indiana night amidst the swirling dust, Justin Grant showed why he is a threat each time he climbs into a race car. Over the years, he has driven for several owners and it’s funny how he has found success with each of them. His current ride with the TOPPS team may be his best, but time can only tell. But on this night with a steady breeze coming from the north, Grant outran a strong group to win the feature at the Lawrenceburg Speedway’s 2018 opener.

    You can go several months without seeing people and places, and when you do see them, you think to yourself, "Man, it looks like I never left." I get this feeling quite often in the month of April and as I walked to the pits at Lawrenceburg, there it was again.

    There was the sight of people scurrying to get things ready combined with the sweet sounds of rumbling 410 engines. As cars made their way through the pits, I reminded myself to be careful. It's dangerous there no matter how many times one meanders through the pits. And smiling benevolently over the whole scene was the distillery, just as it did when I was just a skinny little kid coming here with my dad.

    Among the twenty one cars signed in were some USAC guys who were weathered out at Montpelier and who wanted to race. Chris Windom, Shane Cottle and Justin Grant had hopes of raiding Dave Rudisell's piggy bank while they were in town. 'Burg regulars Shawn Westerfeld, Joss Moffatt and Jarett Andretti, track champs all, might have said, "Not so fast, guys."

    It was no big surprise to see Chris Windom win the first heat. It was a bit of a surprise that second place C. J. Leary, driving the Pedersen sponsorless machine, with the cool open trailer, stayed as close as he did. New poppa Cody Gardner was third and Michael Fischesser recovered from an early mishap to take fourth.

    Despite a contrary engine during hot laps, Shane Cottle ran away with the second heat win from the pole. Dickie Gaines was second with Aric Gentry third. Trevor Kobylarz edged Joss Moffatt for fourth.

    The third heat saw Landon Simon hold off Justin Grant for the win. Jarett Andretti was third with Shawn Westerfeld bringing it in fourth.

    For the first time at Lawrenceburg, I bought a huge tenderloin sandwich. It took me most of the support classes heats to finish. That is no complaint. I won’t give up cheeseburgers, but may try the tenderloin again.

    The unsponsored 4P, driven by C.J. Leary, was on the pole with Shane Cottle, Friday night’s winner at Gas City, on the outside. ‘Burg flagger Tim Montgomery, who was probably colder than the rest of us, waved the green and Grant, who started fourth, shot to the front immediately and had a spirited duel with Leary for the first few laps. Grant was leading with four laps completed when the race’s only yellow waved for Drew Abel, who was spotted facing the wrong way in turn four.

    The order was Grant, Leary, Windom, Cottle, Simon, Gaines, Gentry, Andretti, Westerfeld and Gardner. On the re-start, the top three stayed the same, but Simon slipped by Cottle to take fourth. Gaines did the same, relegating the Throttle to sixth. Grant slowly but surely pulled away as Leary had his hands full with Windom. For many laps, the sprint car with no decals held off the car with several stickers on it, along with a larger amount of cubic dollars behind it. But on lap 17, Windom got around Leary and did his best to try and catch the leader. That didn’t happen; instead Chris found himself fighting off the pesky Leary lap after lap.

    Up front, Grant cruised to the win, finishing about ten car lengths ahead of Windom. Leary earned an impressive third place. Simon, bedeviled by handling issues at Gas City, was strong all race and took fourth. Gaines, who makes me feel even older with his gray hair among the brown, started and finished fifth. Gas City winner Cottle was sixth. Andretti, second at Gas City, was seventh. Abrams was the hard charger of the race, coming from nineteenth to take eighth place and winning a free Dave Rudisell hero card. Westerfeld and Kobylarz completed the top ten.

    It was cold and it was dusty, at least for the feature. I didn’t mind the dust. It’s a dirt track for the love of Brian France. But the wind from the north made sure that I was halfway to Batesville before I thawed out. In the end, none of that stuff mattered much. I was privileged to see old friends that I haven’t seen for months. I saw a decent race and a well-run racing program. I saw a few guys who are all time greats and will be in various Halls of Fame someday. I didn’t get the chance to heckle Dave Rudisell, but maybe next time. And Rick Lane found a pole positioned behind me and snapped yet another picture. All of that was more important to me than cold weather and a bit of dust.

    Auditioning for the manager’s vacancy for the Cincinnati Reds, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Obstacle? What Obstacle?

    It’s not uncommon for any racer who drives for other people to be between rides. I would think that this could be stressful at times, but I would also think that many racers don’t let it get to them. They just wanna race and have no qualms about putting the word out they are ready to race for…you, or maybe Steve and Carla Phillips. However it all happened, Shane Cottle joined forces with Steve and Carla a few weeks ago. Frank Daigh wanted to be a part of this small group and he was welcomed. One had to figure that this would be a team of winners, on and off the track. After an ordinary debut at Kokomo last week, Mr. Cottle and company decided to conduct a test session at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on a chilly Friday night. It worked out quite well for them with Cottle finding himself parked at the start/finish line, collecting the trophy, congratulations, and some of new promoter Jerry Gappens’ moolah.

    Without exception we are all presented with obstacles multiple times each day in varying degrees. Personally, my biggest obstacle for Friday was dealing with road construction. I stopped counting the big orange diamond shaped signs on Indiana State Road Nine before I reached Greenfield. But all of these would be obstacles didn't stop me on my chosen path. However, they did make me think.

    All too often, we determine that encountering an obstacle means that we should turn around and give up. But it would seem that a better plan is in order, along with a change in attitude. I'm inclined to think that looking at that road construction sign could be interpreted as being a challenge to be dealt with, or to overcome. I guess what mattered was that the grandsons and I arrived at Gas City safe and sound. The would-be obstacles were forgotten, as they should be. Perhaps the Phillips/Cottle/Daigh team felt the same way.

    The sprint feature winner wasn’t the only one facing obstacles. New promoter Jerry Gappens has been working outrageously long hours getting ready for Opening Night. A lazy person like myself could get tired of thinking about all the things Gappens and company had to do before unlocking the gate on Friday. Somehow it all was done and came together. No doubt there were opening night glitches, but overall it seemed like a success.

    Twenty-two sprint teams were among the sixty-six cars in the pits. There were no huge surprises, but it was interesting to see Missouri’s Clint Boyles in the venerable Paul Hazen’s car that has had its own Hall of Fame group of racers who have sat in the seat. I asked Clint if this was a one-night deal. He laughed and said, “I hope not.” Among those who chose not to go to Brownstown for the Jesse Hockett/No Way Out 40 were Brandon Mattox, Jarett Andretti, and Brandon Morin, all of whom opted to take the longer trip to Gas City.

    At 8:02 p.m. Kyle Robbins took Brian "Twinkletoes" Hodde's green flag and grabbed the early lead in the first heat. Landon Simon brought out the first yellow of the year on the first lap. After exchanging the lead with Brandon Morin a few times, KRob went on to win. Morin was second and Tyler Hewitt took third. Dallas Hewitt (no relation for those who didn't know) was fourth, ahead of Brandon Mattox.

    Clinton Boyle jumped out to the lead as the second heat began, but did a little bicycling act in turn one. Shane Cottle pounced and was gone. Behind Cottle was Boyle. The ageless Ted Hines finished third and Matt McDonald took fourth. Ohio's Matt Cooley was fifth.

    Things got ugly in the third heat right away. Parker Fredrickson flipped as he negotiated turn three, ending up in turn four near the fence. He climbed out and walked away. Racing resumed with new pole sitter Isaac Chapple taking the lead and the win. Jarett Andretti was second, with Travis Hery third. Garrett Abrams was fourth and Lee Underwood completed the top five.

    During the drivers’ meeting, it was mentioned that a B Main would be contested, but that plan was changed.

    Robbins and Morin, a pair of somewhat recent new daddies, made up the front row. KRob led the first lap but Cottle was on the move from his fourth starting spot and swept around both front row occupants to take the lead a lap later.  

    He was extending his lead when the yellow waved for Landon Simon, who spun his ill handling scooter in turn two. On the re-start, sprint rookie Luke Harbison had himself a Tommy Tipover, brining out the red. The top ten was Cottle, Robbins, Andretti, Chapple, Morin, Boyles, Hines, T. Hewitt, D. Hewitt, and Mattox.

    Not much changed up front after this re-start as Cottle steadily built his lead. Clinton Boyles was on the move, using the outside groove to good use. He put the pressure on Andretti for third, while Jarett did the same to Robbins.

    Action slowed again as Jamie Fredrickson spun in turn one on lap twelve. It was still Cottle, Robbins and Andretti up front. Boyles was now fourth ahead of Chapple. On this re-start, Boyles stuck with success and passed Andretti on the outside for third. A lap later the positions switched again. And another lap later, Boyles found a rough spot on the track and lost fourth to Chapple.

    Meanwhile up front, while Cottle was having his way, Robbins had his hands full holding off Andretti for second. With five laps to go, on lap twenty, Andretti got a very good bite coming out of four to make the pass for the place position.

    Shane’s margin of victory was the better part of a straightaway as Andretti could not get close enough to threaten. Robbins held on for an impressive third place finish. Chapple was fourth. Morin, after dropping back early in the race, rallied to take fifth. After running as high as second (very briefly), Boyles still had a positive beginning in Paul Hazen’s masterpiece and finished sixth. On a night when passing was frequent, T. Hewitt started and finished seventh. Mattox came from thirteenth to take eighth after running as high as sixth. Mr. Hines was ninth and Rushville, Indiana’s Garrett Abrams took tenth.

    As for the new promoter and his team, their opening night, if not a home run, was a bases loaded triple. The facility was looking as good as ever. The track workers were friendly and efficient. About the only glitch was that the track had a wee bit of extra water, making it quite slick. Had it been July, it would have been the right amount of water. But it didn’t matter in the end. Guys adapted to it. The people who usually ran well did so, no matter what the surface was like. The mood was positive and upbeat among everyone I talked to. We all owe a big thank you to Jerry Gappens and crew.

    Ignoring obstacles such as no cheese for my cheeseburger, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Sunshine Lights Up the Kokomo Grand Prix

    Not that anyone needed reminding, but Tyler Courtney has proven to be a threat to win wherever he shows up at a bullring. Like most racers, he loves the Kokomo Speedway. It's fast, wide and well prepared. On opening night of the Kokomo Grand Prix, all Courtney did was post his first USAC Midget Series victory, keeping a talented group of racers at bay. Chris Windom won the sprint feature, helping to make up for a frustrating night with the Baldwin Brother's midget.

    There was a decent chance of rain for the otherwise beautiful Friday in north central Indiana. This may have hurt the size of the crowd and the car count, but 23 sprints and 34 USAC midgets weren't too shabby. There were six double dippers, K. Thomas, T. Thomas, Darland, Bacon, Windom, and Leary.

    Courtney was among the first to time trial and he ripped off an impressive 13.168 lap. This held up until Justin Grant went out late (28th) and put together a 13.154. This is not uncommon for Kokomo; quite often the quick timer is among the latter group.

    The sprints ran their heats first and Kevin Thomas Jr came from fourth to first on the first lap of the first heat to hold off Jarett Andretti for the win. Isaac Chapple was third with Colton Cottle fourth. Missouri's Clinton Boyle started and finished fifth.

    Chad Boespflug won the second heat with local boy Dave Darland second in the Goodnight team car. Pole sitter Tony Dimattia was third and Shane Cottle brought the Phillips/Daigh steed home fourth. After an early close call with Dimattia, C. J. Leary recovered to take fifth.

    As did Boespflug in the second heat, Chris Windom used his outside front row starting spot to win the third heat. Brady Bacon made it close, but had to settle for second. Matt Westfall finished third in his new Marshall Racing ride. Tyler Thomas was fourth and Pennsylvania's Trevor Kobylarz took fifth.

    All 23 sprinters would start in their feature.

    It was time for the four midget heats, with the top four moving on. Tucker Klaasmyer overhauled early leader Andrew Felker, then held off Logan Seavey to win the first heat. Justin Grant overcame early adversity to take third. Felker beat out Holly Shelton to grab the last ticket to the show.

    As best he could, Jerry Coons Jr. ignored the battle behind him and won the second heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. edged Tyler Courtney for second. Tyler Carrick started and finished fourth.

    Yet another Tyler, Thomas, swept from fourth to first on the first lap, then held on to win the third heat over a charging Brady Bacon. Ryan Robinson was third and Alex Schuett grabbed fourth, earning him a place in the feature.

    Thomas Meseraull hustled from third to first on the initial lap of the fourth heat, then kept the lead and the win. Youngster Zeb Wise was second with Chad Boat third. Spencer Bayston flat stole fourth from Dave Darland at the line, sending the People's Champ to the B.

    After a brief intermission, the Midget B Main rolled off. Pole sitter Holly Shelton won with fourth starting Dave Darland second. New Jersey’s Alex Bright was third, with Kyle Craker fourth. Chase Jones came from 11th to take fifth. Brayton Lynch hung on to take the last dance card.

    Gage Walker and Matt Moore used provisionals to get in.

    Next up was the sprint feature. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead at the start as Chris Windom settled into second early. Things heated up as Windom reeled in the leader by lap 10 and the slidefest was on, with Thomas and Windom trading sliders and the lead at each end of the track. But Windom finally took the lead near the midway point and gradually pulled away.

    Thomas maintained second with Brady Bacon nipping Dave Darland at the end to take third. Jarett Andretti was fifth. Chad Boespflug finished sixth and Tony DiMattia took seventh. Tyler Thomas was eighth with the Cottle clan, Uncle Shane and nephew Colton, rounding out the top ten.

    Adam Byrkett took a wild ride after snagging an infield tire and flipping high as he exited turn four. He was able to walk away.

    It was time for the main event. Kevin Thomas Jr. found himself in familiar territory for the start, namely the pole position. Seavey, Bayston, Robinson, Courtney, Grant, Bacon, Boat, Shelton and Carrick filled out the first five rows. Seavey took the lead at the green, but just as the first lap was completed, the red waved as Matt Moore found himself on his lid in turn four. Gage Walker and Chase Jones were nearby, facing the wrong way.

    Trying again, Seavey took the lead again on the green with Bayston giving chase. Another red flag waved with eight complete as Darland was parked in turn four upside down with Coons sitting nearby. Dave was made upright and both rejoined the gang. It was too bad for Seavey as he had built a near straightaway lead over Bayston, Courtney, Boat and Grant.

    On the re-start, Courtney dispatched Bayston and commenced another vintage Kokomo battle with Seavey, trading the lead too many times to recount. Officially, Courtney led laps ten and eleven and Seavey regained the lead on lap 12. But Sunshine was not to be denied, taking the lead for good on lap 13. Boat took over second place near the halfway mark and briefly challenged the leader in lapped traffic. But it wasn’t happening. Two late race yellows didn’t mean beans to Courtney either. He kept control of the race and saw the checkered first.

    Boat came from eighth to grab second. Bacon came on late to take third. Bayston and Grant were fourth and fifth. Young Zeb Wise was sixth after starting 12th. Despite an impressive run, Seavey faded to seventh. The noted law firm of Meseraull, Robinson, and K. Thomas Jr. rounded out the top ten.

    Thomas Meseraull was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, moving from 16th to eighth.

    Courtney had the quote of the night when he said, “If you get yourself too confident, you kind of get yourself in trouble.” Ain’t that the truth?

    We humans seem to have a need to take sides. We choose sides for different reasons. Like most things in life, this is neither inherently good or bad. Instead, it’s what we make of it. With that said, it seems as if a certain number of fans are warming to Tyler Courtney. It may be that some of them were (and are) fans of the late Bryan Clauson. (I’ll admit it. Writing those last three words still hurts.)

    Is there anything wrong with this? Of course not. The fact of the matter is that most all these guys and gals are quality people and they are worthy of our respect as well as our cheers. I’m like my grandson, who missed out with the rest of us on Saturday night when Night Two of the KGP was rained out. I like ‘em all.

    Just now figuring out that Cambridge Analytica is not a nasal spray, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The following is a brief figment of my imagination. I don’t pretend to know what heaven is like other than believing that it’s a better place than earth. I recognize that we all have our own ideas of heaven. I even recognize that there are those who don’t believe in an afterlife at all. I’m fine with all that. The following is not meant to be a discussion of what that next realm is like, or even that it exists. I’m not trying to convert anyone; if anything, I’m hoping that what I put on this screen might make people think a bit. It’s just my imagination running close, but not too close, to the guardrail of what we believe and love. DB

    The Ultimate in Bench Racing

    The old man rubbed his eyes, as if he was just waking up. But it was strange. He didn’t feel like he had been asleep. However, here he was in a strange place, hard to tell where. There seemed to be a haze hanging over the whole scene. He couldn’t tell if he was in or outside; the haze obscured his long-distance vision. The old man decided to wander around and see what he could see.

    With his first step, the old man felt like he was floating more than walking. The haze was such that he couldn’t see his feet, but it felt as if they were not touching the ground, or floor, or whatever he was walking on. He set his course for what appeared to be a door, or an opening of some sort.

    Walking through the door—literally, without opening it, he saw a multitude of beings like himself. It seemed to be a massive party of people talking and laughing for the most part. Unsure of how it happened, he gravitated toward a group of people who looked vaguely familiar. After a couple of hellos, he figured out that these were relatives, all long gone from their earthly existence. He also figured out that his time in that realm was over; he had passed over into this new life and his troubles, aches and pains from before were all gone. He spent an undetermined amount of time visiting with his family. Soon he learned that in this place there was no concept of time. All was eternity and each encounter would be a new experience.

    He determined from a friendly spirit who turned out to be his dad that there were an uncountable number of racers here. Finding them would be no problem. He was anxious to see some of the racers that he had watched race back in their time on earth. Not needing directions, it was if all he had to do was aim himself in a given direction and he would find the racers he hoped to meet.

    They set out to find some of their long-gone heroes. They arrived in a vast area which contained several of what appeared to be benches, most all of which were occupied by a number of spirits, most of whom were laughing and telling stories.

    He recognized several of them, but there were several more who were strangers. They were the not-so-famous who had taken their previous life’s checkered flag, but here it didn’t matter. Nor did it matter if one had never driven. The area was filled with a variety of mechanics, car owners, track workers, and fans, lots of fans.

    The new arrival and his dad split up. The son wandered about, looking around and finding that all he had to do was look at someone and that someone would smile and nod. He sat down with one group, mostly, he thought, because there appeared to be an empty space for him to occupy.

    The racer next to him said hello, and began to tell his story. He had raced throughout the American Midwest after WWII in the late 40s into the 50s. He never did make it to the Indianapolis 500, as many young men aimed to do in those days, but he came close. Without the newbie asking, the racer, in his matter of fact demeanor, told of his earthly demise in 1953, just before he was to have met with a car owner about a ride in that year’s 500. The racer didn’t seem to be saddened by the experience at all. When asked why, he only related that there was no use spending the rest of eternity whining or feeling sorry for himself. As a result, he was spending eternity like this, engaging in heavenly bench racing and welcoming new arrivals, including the wife he had left behind. He was quite content.

    Sitting next to him was another spiritual being who had also passed on about the time rear engine cars were taking over in Indy car racing. His earthly checkered flag waved when he crashed one of those cars and was badly burned. His accident, among others, resulted in safety advances for those who came later. He and others like him were both loved and respected by all the heavenly occupants that had raced. This was a familiar theme, as the old man would find out soon.

    The new arrival next encountered another racer who he had met at some point in his earthly past. Unlike his previous behavior, now he appeared to be relaxed and happy. The two were happy to exchange memories. The racer had been an excellent pavement racer and stuck with that surface. Ironically, he had passed to this life after an accident at a pavement track. He also shared that, when he first arrived here, some of the older residents took him aside and reminded him that his passing away from his previous dwelling would not be in vain. Changes would be made to these race cars to make them safer, meaning that drivers would have similar accidents and survive to race again. That made the racer feel quite at peace with himself. The new arrival marveled at that.

    He meandered about, recognizing a lot of familiar faces, or at least the earthly version of faces. He saw dozens of Indy 500 winners, stock car racers, sprinters who had passed, and many promoters, including one who had been famous for wearing a big cowboy hat and chewing on a huge cigar.

    After a certain, unmeasurable, amount of time, he stepped away. He found his own Savior/Teacher/Example sitting with a group of people, patiently taking time to answer all questions. He patiently waited until the Rabbi/Prince of Peace/Emmanuel noticed him and bade him welcome.

    He stood before the holy figure and asked, “Lord, I have questions.”

    His answer was, “I know you do. And I have answers. Go ahead and ask, my son.”

    “Why do so many die so young? I’m aware that so many die so young and that they do not die in vain. I’m referring to the drivers I’ve met here, but I’m aware that several of them left behind small children. I’m aware that life in the realm I just left is not fair and it isn’t supposed to be fair. But parents leave when their children are young and, not only that, children pass on at such young ages. I’m not bitter, Lord, but I have to ask why the little, innocent ones suffer so?”

    The Messiah/Son of God/Light of the World smiled. His countenance fairly glowed. The student was surprised when the King of the Jews/Bread of Life/Alpha and Omega warmly greeted Gandhi and the group that had been seeking knowledge from all spiritual teachers. More surprises were in store when the old man became aware of such famous historical figures, here instead of some history book. There was recent arrival Billy Graham. Not far away was King Constantine, from the fourth century. Mind boggling it was “seeing” Ray Harroun visiting with President U.S. Grant—an odd couple for the ages.

    The new kid on the heavenly block returned his attention to the Son of Man/High Priest/Lamb of God, who prepared his answer to this great mystery by saying…

    “Danny, wake up.”

    “Huh?”

    “Wake up. You were mumbling some stuff in your sleep that I couldn’t make any sense of.”

    It was my wife and I looked around the room in total confusion.

    “Were you having a dream? If you were, what were you dreaming about?”

    I sat up and said, “I’m not sure you would believe me.”

    Wondering why there were no televangelists in my dream, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: My Favorite Bloomington Speedway Memory

    A few weeks ago, my good friend Mike O’Leary asked people to share their memories of the beautiful red clay oval that lies 45 miles west of me. Here are a few memories of Bloomington.

    I would love to say that my favorite memory of what I lovingly call the red clay oval was my first visit. My dad always said that I was one month old when my parents and I went to Bloomington. Dad told stories of a car ending up in a lake in the infield and said that it was a cold day.

    My favorite memory came along about 49 years and 11 months later. My birthday fell on a Friday and for me it was business as usual. I recall standing near the concession stand, watching hot laps. At some point, my good friend Dave Foist and I began talking. There was nothing unusual about that; Dave and I have had hundreds of such meetings before and since. But Dave mumbled something about going up the hill to meet some people. That seemed a bit odd, but I told Dave to have fun. When he asked me to tag along, I was more confused than suspicious. But I dutifully followed Dave up the hill to the picnic area.

    As I neared the top of the hill, I knew that I’d been fooled—and surprised. It was a surprise birthday party for me at age 50. Assorted family and friends had assembled for the occasion, organized by my wife with crucial assistance from Dave Foist and Bloomington’s marketing guru, Chuck Welsh.

    The turnout astounded me, a collection of family and friends all having a chuckle at my expense, as well as some birthday cake. There was a lot of laughing, storytelling and the cake steadily became smaller. It was tough to try and keep up with what was happening on the track with so many people making a fuss over a 50 year old geezer.  

    I don’t recall all the details, but I do remember that Dickie Gaines won the feature that night and I found myself at the start/finish line after the race. It may have been a HARF Night, which meant the feature winner received a neat t-shirt, as well as a year’s free membership. It was my first time to talk with Dickie, but, thankfully, far from the last.

    To make the spotlight even brighter, public address announcer Kimb Stewart read a letter from John Levan, the editor of www.openwheelracing.com, the website that I wrote for in those days. The brighter the light shone on me, the more I squirmed. But it was a special night all the same.

    In the past 15 years since that special night, a lot has happened. We lost Chuck Welsh a little over a year ago. Chuck’s smile alone made everyone at Bloomington feel at home. It’s been almost nine years since John Levan passed away. John was instrumental in encouraging me to write about racing beginning just before 2000. One of those who celebrated with me, Ron Harris, lost his life about five years later in a motorcycle accident. Ron was only days from taking an anticipated early retirement.

    Good things have happened as well. Dickie Gaines still races on occasion and lets folks know that he’s still around. I’ve made dozens if not hundreds of new friends since then, one of them another writing mentor, Mike O’Leary. The red clay oval carries on, now with who else but Mike O’Leary as general manager. Dave Foist remains a friend and serious race fan, overcoming illness to spend most of his Friday nights at Bloomington, eating some ice cream and enjoying himself.

    Over the years, I have a few memories of the early 1960s. Bob Kinser, Cecil Beavers and a guy I knew personally, Mac Vails all are etched in my memory bank. There was a night when a stock car went over the turn one banks and the driver sailed out of the car, landing near where the fence that separates the track from the parking lot. He survived. I remember one night when my dad tried a different route home. Whatever happened, we were lost somewhere in eastern Monroe County, long before the area was taken over by urban sprawl. This would have been in 1963.

    After a few years away, I returned to see the red clay again on a regular basis in the mid-90s. These were the years of Derek Scheffel and his four Bloomington Speedway championships. There were the frequent battles between two of the best, Kevin Briscoe and Kevin Thomas (the original). It wasn’t too many years ago when Dickie Gaines was involved in an accident that left him and his car stuck against the front straight fence like a fly stuck in a spider’s web. There were battles between the Briscoe and a young Bryan Clauson that stand out, including the night BC flipped across the finish line.

    More recently, many of my memories have involved my youngest grandson at the track. With little or no persuasion, he has served as pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer. He’s not above helping scrape mud off the sprints after hot laps. He loves the playground at the top of the hill. And he enjoys the show car behind the announcers’ booth.

    It’s a waste of time to speculate much on how many more years I’ll be haunting what comes closest to serving as my home track. What matters is that the gracefully aging red clay oval will still be there when I’m gone, entertaining a whole new generation of race fans. Let us hope that is the case.

    Pandering to my base, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First In Class

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Never Give Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Gamechangers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Insanity Revisited

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: An Atonement of Sorts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Knowing and Going Anyway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Holly Shelton moved from 14th to sixth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We all are, of course, nuts.

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ideas and Implementation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: He Hustles Hard For His Money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Man Standing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Racin’ For Your Supper

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    The sprint feature concluded at 9:10.

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

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

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

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Cat, Meet Mouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It was Swanson’s fourth win of the season.

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Wild and Woolly

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Flippin’ and Winnin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Catch Me If You Can

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Opening Statement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Satisfaction of Living Well

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    RaceSavers…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Sometimes the Rabbit Wins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Bugs Bunny must have been smiling in approval somewhere.

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Scratching the Itch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Leaking, but not peeking, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Can You Go Home Again?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Right Place, Right Time

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Making It Look Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    He made it look easy.

    Making retirement look easy, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton  

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Fine Lines and Home Cookin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Old Fashioned Whuppin’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Rain Magnets

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Let us set the stage again and see what happens.

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Joy of Work Well Done

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Next stop, Gas City.

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report : Chemistry 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    It was Meseraull's first Sprint Week win.

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

    Meseraull is the early leader in Sprint Week points.

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

     

     

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

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Musical Chairs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Rush Hour

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: What Does and Does Not Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: High Speed Poetry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Ignoring the voices in my raceiver, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Where Most Dare Not Tread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Kokomo should be fun.

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Changing of the Guard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Next stop is the Lawrenceburg Speedway.

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Challenges Met

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Can You Top This?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Turnaround

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Bizarro Racing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    With a lap completed, there was an unscheduled meeting in turn two with Tyler Hewitt, Parker Fredrickson and Isaac Chapple the attendees. On this re-start, Shane Cottle, using the low line to perfection, got around KT, who was up against the wall, for second. Then Aussie Sean Zemunik did a half spin which brought out yellow number two. While everyone was lining up, Tyler Hewitt exited, ending a weekend he’d just as soon forget. The top ten were Grant, Cottle, Thomas, Underwood, Leary, McGhee, Jarrett, Cribbs, and Hery. Four laps were in when Travis Hery spun and collected Josh Spencer and, yes, Isaac Chapple.

    Let’s try again. On this re-start, ugliness prevailed. As the green flag waved, Cottle’s car simply quit running. Shane tried to get out of the way, but with all of the field except Grant behind him, that was quite an assignment. Collected in this melee were Dimattia, McGhee, Jarrett, Cribbs, Underwood and Leary, who was able to escape. In a related, but separate incident, there was a three car tangle among Dave Gross, Travis Hery, and, again, Isaac Chapple, whose red hair must have been turning gray by now. There were three tow trucks available; normally that’s plenty, but it wasn’t tonight. 12 of the 17 cars were left. The top ten now was Grant, Thomas, Leary, Cribbs, Hery, Jamie Fredrickson, Zemunik, Spencer, Chapple and P. Fredrickson.

    A lap was completed when the fourth yellow flag came out due to a, who else, Isaac Chapple spin. Parker Fredrickson brought out number five with a spin. Poor Isaac Chapple spun and caused the weary caution lights to blink again. After this slowdown, Thomas got busy. Midway through the race, he sailed around Grant and took off. A couple of laps later, even Grant spun, but he corrected matters and resumed the chase with no yellow waving. He did lose two spots, which he regained.

    Thomas had matters well in hand when the seventh yellow flag waved for a Travis Hery spin with 19 complete. KT led Leary, Grant, Spencer and Cribbs. The yellows were done, at least for the sprint feature. Thomas cruised home and won a very strange race. Leary (second after starting 11th), Grant, Spencer (from 13th) and Cribbs were the top five. Lee Underwood was sixth and T. Hery somehow finished seventh. Max McGhee, also saddled with an ill handling beast, managed eighth, last car on the lead lap. J. Fredrickson was ninth, a lap down and the Aussie, Mr. Zemanik, left Kokomo with a top ten finish.

    Perhaps the track was a bit slicker than normal; who knows for sure? It was all quite bizarre. But there seems to be one constant about my Kokomo trips. Sure enough, as I crossed into Tipton County, I was hit with a, thankfully, brief shower. Rain and anything related to Kokomo seem to go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

    This epic is wrapping up on the eve of Indiana Midget Week. It begins at Montpelier, then heads a few miles west to Gas City. Following that, the caravan heads southwest to Lincoln Park, then to Bloomington on Friday. The circus closes with Lawrenceburg and back to Kokomo on June 11, Sunday. I’m ready to do this one more time.

    Busy starting a novel about a guy who is actually writing a novel, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ninety Eight, Ninety Nine, …

    Life has been described as lots of things, good, bad and indifferent. One can include the fact that most all lives of any length consist of one milestone after another. In my town on the first Saturday in June, both high schools held graduation ceremonies. We watched about 300 young people symbolically end one chapter of their lives and begin another, not knowing what highs and lows lie ahead in their journey. Later on Saturday, at the Lincoln Park Speedway, another young man took a step toward a personal milestone. Brady Short won a hard fought 25 lap feature over A.J. Hopkins, and mentioned during the victory interview that this was his 99th sprint car feature victory.  

    My 12th race of the year, eighth Hoosier race, would be on another warm, but ideal evening. The rain clouds that have bedeviled and confounded promoters like Joe Spiker were a dim memory. Enough water was on the track and it was just as well because the water system in beautiful downtown Putnamville was broken, and not just at the race track. Port-a-potties ruled at LPS for one night anyway.

    With USAC’s bad boys racing at Knoxville and Lawrenceburg taking the night off after hosting the Outlaws, Hoosier sprinters had Lincoln Park or Paragon to choose from—unless they wanted to hit Illinois’ version of Midget Week. LPS drew 24 with the attendance of Shawn Westerfeld and Michael Fischesser somewhat surprising. Both BOSS regulars are from the greater Cincinnati area and had a bit of a haul. Then again, there was Koby Barksdale from Oklahoma.

    Westerfeld, seldom seen in these parts, led most of the first heat before Brady Short made the pass with two laps to go. Logan Jarrett started and finished third. That worked for Terre Haute's Brandon Mattox, who was fourth. Barksdale took the last chair when the music stopped.

    Dickie Gaines won the second heat with J. J. Hughes not far behind. Tony Dimattia won the bronze medal and Matt McDonald came on late to take fourth. A. J. Hopkins hustled from eighth to fourth on the first lap, but dropped back as far as sixth before recovering to pass Jadon Rogers to end up fifth.

    Max McGhee was the third front row starter in a row to win a heat. He left second place Shane Cockrum nearly a full straightaway behind. Brent Beauchamp was third and Daylon Chambers started and finished fourth. Travis Berryhill made a late pass on Jamie Williams to sneak into the feature.

    The Ohio resident, Mr. Fischesser, who has a decent amount of seat time at LPS, won the last chance affair. Nate McMillin came from tenth/last to nip Jadon Rogers on the last lap for second. Kent Christian, with a new car, was fourth. Tim Creech II edged Shelby VanGilder to take the 20th starting position in the feature.

    I spent some quality time with the venerable Mr. Al Pierce, the Eminence of Lincoln Park. It could be said that Al is to LPS what Marv Fish is to the Lawrenceburg Speedway, senior citizens who simply won’t act their age—in a good way, of course. Leaning on the railing at the top of the bleachers and talking to Al between races is always time well spent.

    Al, myself, and several hundred of our closest friends watched Westerfeld and McGhee lead the gang to the green, most of whom had impressive sprint car racing resumes. Max McGhee took the early lead before Daylon Chambers spun, bringing out the yellow. Unfortunately, Daylon would repeat the spin a few laps later, sending him to the pits. Yes, it was slick out there.

    During green flag racing, the high groove ruled for the leaders with occasional slide jobs executed with occasional success. The third yellow waved on lap nine when Travis Berryhill had a problem in turn three. McGhee still led with Short, Cockrum, Gaines, Westerfeld, Beauchamp, Dimattia, Hopkins, Mattox and Barksdale all in the top ten.

    Logan Jarrett interrupted the next green flag segment, bringing out the yellow. Gaines had passed Cockrum, but reluctantly gave the position back under the caution period. Another brief slowdown followed, then several laps of full tilt racing occurred. Short was pressing hard on McGhee, passing him at about the same time Cockrum found a turn one rut, upsetting his progress. Hopkins was on the move after starting 14th. He was up to third behind Short and McGhee when Matt McDonald spun in turn one, and the race’s sixth caution session began.

    A lap after the re-start, craziness took over and a four car scrimmage jumbled the running order. Apparently McGhee and Hopkins had some contact in turn two, with McGhee slowing as he went down the backstretch. Max collected Westerfeld, with Gaines and Mattox also involved. Shawn had a tipover, which brought out the red. Dickie and Brandon were both parked just off the track going into turn three. McGhee walked across the infield to where the Hopkins car was parked. There was no fist shaking, no drama, just an exchange of recipes for rhubarb pie—or something. In addition to the backstretch drama was Tony Dimattia pointed the wrong way in turn one and Travis Berryhill parked next to him.

    Only 13 cars were running with Short still leading, but Hopkins, who runs well at this track, right behind him and A.J. had five laps to make his play. Cockrum was third, followed by Beauchamp and Barksdale. It seemed like this might be a notable duel between two of the best.

    It wasn’t going to happen. Short sat up a bit in the seat and pulled away from Hopkins, who had a tough scrap with Cockrum. Both traded clean slide jobs before A.J. prevailed.

    Short’s victory margin was a half straightaway over Hopkins. Cockrum was a close third. Hughes came back from early misfortune to finish fourth. Barksdale came from 13th to rack up a top five finish. Beauchamp was sixth, suffering a deflating tire at the end. McMillin came from 17th to grab seventh. The ageless Kent Christian topped that, starting 19th and finishing eighth. Dimattia was ninth and Creech motored from 20th to tenth.

    The unofficial time of the feature was 40 minutes. No full moon was available to take the blame. Wild and woolly seemed like a tame and lame description. Instead we can merely call it another milestone for Brady Short and the Lincoln Park Speedway.

    Wondering why Indy Car follows up the greatest race at the greatest track with a…street race? I’m…Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Thrill of Victory…

    On another lovely Hoosier evening at the red clay oval that is Bloomington Speedway, there was plenty of drama to supply your average TV soap opera, especially after the last race of the night. At the end of the 410 sprint feature, Brady Short stood smiling at the start/finish line, holding a big trophy given to him by an eight year old boy. Not long after that, a somewhat bewildered Jared Fox did the same after apparent 305 Racesaver winner Dakota Jackson was disqualified.

    For the second week in a row, the rain decided to stay away. The 45 mile drive west to Bloomington was drama free. The navigator fell asleep somewhere west of Nashville, which meant that he would wake up ready to ramble all night, which he did. Car counts for both 410s and 305s were in the low 20s each. Jake Scott provided the only excitement by flipping in turn two during hot laps. He would return to race again several minutes later.

    Kody Swanson passed Lee Underwood to won the first of three 410 heats. Underwood was second, ahead of Shane Cockrum. Ethan Fleetwood was fourth and Billy Cribbs passed Dakota Jackson at the line to finish fifth. All transferred to the feature.

    Jordan Kinser won the second heat with Josh Cunningham second. Michael Koontz, Hunter O’Neal, and Brandon Morin rounded out the top five.

    Max McGhee won the third heat with Brady Short a close second. Jadon Rogers started and finished third. Tyler Hewitt came down from Marion, Indiana to finish fourth and rookie Steven Schnapf was fifth.

    The Racesavers took over with Ethan Barrow, joining Dakota Jackson as the only two who had rides in both classes, winning the first heat. Ryan Tusing came from sixth to finish second. Brinton Marvel, of the racing Marvels, was third, Jeff Wimmenauer fourth. and Danny Clark fifth.

    The second heat was downright crazy. John Paynter led early before Andy Bradley passed for the lead, only to spin while leading. On the re-start, Paynter led again until K