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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Extra Effort
    Yet again, there was another nail biting feature at the Kokomo Speedway on a beautiful Sunday evening. The last five laps in particular were not for the faint of heart. Taking one’s blood pressure during that time would not have been a good idea. Kevin Thomas Jr. led most of the race until Shane Cottle came calling. Cottle led the white flag lap, but KT never gave up, taking the lead on the last lap and the win. Not one to use the word “never” as a rule (as well as the word “always”), it appears that, as some fans say, “Kokomo never disappoints.”
    Over the years of wandering around the pits at each of my favored bullrings, I’ve noticed how certain teams set up shop in the same location each time the track is racing. At Kokomo, the first car I usually see is the Monte Edison entry, driven by Jerry Coons Jr. Next to them is the Baldwin Brothers team, with Chris Windom driving. Walk a bit further and angle a bit to the left and you will see, side by side, the cars owned by Jerry Spencer and Paul Hazen, Josh Spencer and Shane Cottle serving as wheelmen. It reminds me of the people at church who do the same thing more or less.
    Group qualifying has its fans and detractors, as does single car time trials. I like both. Cottle was quickest of the first group, Jarett Andretti led the second and Dave Darland, whose car owner Jeff Walker is usually found at the west end of the pits with our fendered cousins, led the last group with the only 12 second lap, 12.927.
    Kokomo sprint heats are typically similar to Bloomington’s, high speed, and not a lot of passing. The format would be three heats/top five move on. The invert number was four, which meant each group’s quick boy started fourth.
    Thomas shot from his outside front row spot to win the first heat, taking Windom, Cottle, Travis Hery and Chris Gurley with him. Hery slowed noticeably at the end as he and Gurley barely edged Matt Goodnight.
    Like Thomas, Jerry Coons Jr. launched from the outside front row to win the second heat. Justin Grant was second. Jarett Andretti bumped C. J. Leary coming out of turn four and took third. Leary was fourth and was clearly irritated with the move. Drama continued later that evening. Brent Beauchamp had a good view of the proceedings from fifth.
    Dave Darland took two laps to take the lead and stretch it out to a straightaway and win the third heat. Tyler Hewitt started and finished second. Logan Jarrett was third. Jimmy Light, making a rare visit from Pennsylvania, was fourth. Josh Spencer challenged for fourth before settling for fifth.
    The B Main got off to a bad start, especially for Matt McDonald, who flipped in turn four on the second lap. He was okay, but both disappointed and done. Colton Cottle led much of the race. But Cole Ketchum spun while running second, setting up a crazy finish. At the end, South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt seemingly came out of nowhere, namely seventh at the start, to take the lead with a sick sounding motor. Cottle hung on for second. Chad Boespflug, who had mechanical issues in his heat, came from ninth to third. In the midst of the craziness, Adam Byrkett started and finished fourth. And Cole Ketchum improbably came back from his spin to redeem himself with a fifth place finish and a spot in the feature.
    Grant and Thomas led 18 of their good friends to the green and KT immediately took control as Grant began a steady descent. Windom and Darland passed Justin early and Coons came calling a couple of laps later. Not only that but Shane Cottle was on the move. As the halfway mark approached so did the leader approach lapped traffic. Grant flipped in turn four and the red prevailed.
    Thomas led Windom, Darland, Coons, S. Cottle, Andretti, Leary, Beauchamp, Hewitt and Jarrett to the green flag. Leary passed Andretti and Windom, Darland and Cottle couldn’t decide who would run second. Thomas had run away temporarily as the scrap behind him continued. Andretti’s stopping interrupted for a moment one fine race.
    Now it was Cottle behind Thomas and Darland. Windom was fourth with Coons soon to attack. Chad Boespflug had moved from B Main land, 18th to eighth, but that was short lived as he and Jarrett hooked up in a way neither would want on the re-start.
    So the boys tried again and now Thomas knew that he had company in one of Indiana’s fiercest competitors in Cottle. Back and forth the lead went as both used up much of the Howard County soil to try and get, or keep, the lead. Cottle led at the white flag, but KT wasn’t done, far from it. The Alabama native and the Illinois native turned Hoosier came off turn four side by side with Thomas winning by a few feet. Coons wasn’t too far back, having to settle for third. Windom was fourth and Darland fifth.
    Leary led the second five, ending a night of controversy, as well as on and off track meetings (even spilling onto social media); he was ahead of Beauchamp, who came from 14th to seventh. Hewitt came from 16th to eighth, the hardest of hard chargers and the winner of a season pass to an opera house somewhere in Nebraska. Light ran ninth and Spencer rambled from 17th to tenth.
    The sprint feature was over at 9:00, not bad for a work night for many and a school night for others. With gentle encouragement from his grandpa, one of those others curled up in the seat and fell asleep as the lights of Kokomo were soon a part of the rear view mirrors scenery. How he went so quickly from excitement to slumber escaped me. But that he did, perhaps dreaming of sprint cars and baseball like so many kids before and, we pray, the kids to follow.
    One should take time and think about what these kids could tell their grandchildren someday. The little ones of the future will sit and marvel at these exploits of the early 21st Century.
    Maybe these are the good old days.
    Doing some insider trading with Phil Mickelson, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: A Bland Breakthrough

    When Jeff Bland made the decision to resurrect his own team this year, it would have been easy to question his motives and/or sanity. But people, for better or worse, need to make their own decisions when they can, seeing that so many things in this life are totally out of our control (think of kids and the weather). But Bland’s choice to run his own car this year looked pretty good on a beautiful Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana at the Lincoln Park Speedway. He led all 25 laps of the feature, holding off first Shane Cockrum and then Shane Cottle to win his first feature of 2016 (far as I know).

    After a dreary start of the day, the sun broke through much of Indiana just in time for our Saturday night bullrings to open the gates and feature some of the best short track racing in the land. Meandering through the pits, soaking in the atmosphere, with nary a care in the world, my reverie was broken by a healthy blast of the water truck’s horn. I didn’t jump but my attention turned toward a smiling Joe Spiker, who no doubt would have been happy to soak me in something much wetter than the atmosphere.

    23 sprints were among the unofficial count of 109 cars in the pits. Around the state, sprint car counts were in the 20s. Obviously this diluted the quality of cars at each track, but there were plenty of hot dogs at each bullring. At Lincoln Park, the notorious Shane Cottle was among those signed in, along with Jeff Bland, Shane Cockrum and Casey Shuman.

    Bland made his opening statement a good one as he came from sixth to win the first heat. Kyle Simon, all the way from the Buckeye State, was second. Nate McMillin was third. Lee Underwood was fourth and Jared Chastain edged Charlie Belden to the last transfer spot.

    Shane Cockrum won the second heat with J. J. Hughes second. Tyler Hewitt was third and homeboy Jamie Williams, making a relatively rare appearance, started and finished fourth. Casey Shuman came on late to edge Shelby VanGilder at the line to send her to the B.

    Shane Cottle started on the pole and disappeared, winning the third heat by a straightaway over young Mike Gass. Matt McDonald was third and Chris Phillips barely beat the ageless Bill Rose for fourth as only five of the seven starters could answer the bell.

    Cole Smith won the B with Charlie Belden, Shelby VanGilder, Lukas Smith and Ben Phillips all tagging the back end of the 20 car field.

    Bland and Cockrum loved the redraw results with them in the front row. Cottle and Simon were the second row, followed by Hughes, Gass, McMillin, Hewitt, C. Phillips and Underwood.

    Bland jumped out to the lead but action was stopped on lap two when Hughes, running third, hit the turn three cushion just a bit too hard, bounced a bit and tipped over, bringing out the red. It was somewhat similar to the Jon Stanbrough tipover the previous night at Gas City. Hughes’ car didn’t bounce as high and he was able to re-start the race.

    The early rundown was Bland, Cottle, Cockrum, McMillin, Simon, Williams, Hewitt, Shuman, C. Phillips and Underwood. A lap after the re-start saw L. Smith spin in turn four, prompting Brian Hodde to wave the yellow cloth. The rest of the race was all-green, all the time.

    Bland opened up a half straightaway lead as Cottle and Cockrum battled for second. Cottle opted for the high groove for the most part while Cockrum occupied the bottom and made the pass two laps after the re-start. As Bland cruised, this Cottle character wouldn’t go away. When the “other” Shane was briefly bottled up in lapped traffic, the new Grandpa Cottle, driving Paul Hazen’s ageless rocket, pounced and took back second place—still up top. That was the race within the race.

    Bland won fairly easily and was understandably happy after the race talking to Brad Dickison. Behind Cottle and Cockrum was Nate McMillin in fourth. Kyle Simon ran fifth for much of the race. Tyler Hewitt was sixth and Casey Shuman came from 14th to finish seventh in the Krockenberger family car. Jamie Williams was eighth with Bill Rose and Chris Phillips, a pair of number sixes, ending up ninth and tenth.

    This race may not have been a photo finish, with multiple exchanges of the lead along with lots of wrecks. But neither did it have double file re-starts, a lucky dog award, competition yellows, boogities, or manufactured drama. It was pretty much pure, unfiltered, not watered down speed and competition.

    You can’t beat it, no matter what various pundits tell you.

    Booking my flight to North Korea to introduce dirt track racing to the Dear Leader, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: An Upset? Maybe
    One of the great things about many touring series is the fact that a local or regional standout can show the regulars how to get around a given oval. The Pennsylvania Posse is famous for giving World of Outlaws regulars fits, winning quite often. It happens with USAC as well, perhaps not as often. But it’s far from rare. Just ask Scotty Weir, who held off a charging Brady Bacon to win the 30 lap feature at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on a cool Friday night that stayed dry until the checkered flag waved.
    The weather, as always, would be a factor on this mid-May evening. A breeze came from the east, letting us know that rain was on the way. The cloud cover kept the quarter mile oval nice and tacky for a decent part of the night. This resulted in some blazing fast laps in qualifying.
    The phrase for time trials would have been “good bite.” This didn’t refer to my grandson tearing into his cheeseburger, but to the wheelies so many guys did during their two lap runs. Robert Ballou’s time of 11.809 held up for much of the session. But Thomas Meseraull went out 31st of the 40 cars on hand and tore off an 11.720 lap, taking quick time.
    Numbers often are interesting. Duplicate numbers can be either amusing or maddening. Part of the charm of bullring racing can be the popularity of certain digits. For example, the first heat of the night contained two twenty fours, two seventeens and two sixty sixes. Sure enough, one of them won. C. J. Leary/17 won with Meseraull/66 moving from sixth to second. Pole sitter Landon Simon/24 was third and Colton Cottle fourth. A. J. Hopkins flipped going into turn four as the leaders took the checkered. He was okay, but done for the night.
    Jon Stanbrough won the second heat over a closing Robert Ballou. Kevin Thomas Jr. started and finished third. Brady Bacon spun early but came back to nip Chris Windom for the last feature transfer. This would be huge for Brady later. Tony DiMattia would make contact with Kyle Robbins on the second lap. Robbins flipped and emerged from his car to offer some advice on some good books to read to DiMattia. It was KRob’s second flip in five days. Ouch, buddy.
    The third heat was even more of a barnburner, with two races within one occurring simultaneously. At the end, Justin Grant, in his initial outing with the Epperson sprinter, won it by inches over Jerry Coons Jr., who in turn edged Chase Stockon for second. Scotty Weir took fourth over Jarett Andretti by mere inches. For Weir, this would be huge later.
    The fourth heat had a tough act to follow. Shane Cottle could have cared less as he romped to the win over Dallas Hewitt. Lined up behind him, all following in the high groove were Chad Boespflug and Tyler Courtney.
    Having 40 cars dictated that USAC have a C Main in place of the unpopular non-qualifiers’ race. This has been well received the past two years. Four would tag the B, with Travis Hery taking the lead midway through and winning. Tyler Hewitt was second with early leader Isaac Chapple third. Still new daddy Tony Main would race one more time.
    In yet another close finish, Dave Darland won the B Main, coming from behind and edging Max McGhee at the line. Kyle Cummins was third with Chris Windom fourth. Jarett Andretti missed another close finish behind him as Aaron Farney never gave up, using the high groove to barely beat low side runner Cole Ketchum for the very last spot available.
    Weir and Bacon had kept their qualifying times by finishing fourth in their heats by a few inches. This put them on the front row for the feature and Bacon promptly took the lead over the local favorite. While Bacon was on his merry way, Stockon pressured Weir for second and made the pass on the tenth lap. But five laps later, Stockon spun in turn one, bringing out a yellow and several incredulous looks. It was something that seldom happens.
    On the re-start, now it was Bacon, Weir, C. Cottle, Cummins, Courtney, Ballou, Stanbrough (from 16th), Meseraull, Thomas, and McGhee. But this green flag session was short lived as Stanbrough hit a bump and bounced high before tipping over onto his top, ending an impressive run. This put Leary into the top ten.
    What followed was an example of the reason that people are so crazy about Hoosier bullring racing. While Bacon had pretty much had his own way up to this point, now it was Weir’s turn to step up. Scotty showed that he had the discipline to run the catfish lane as well as anyone on earth. He took the lead on lap 17 as Bacon no doubt looked to his left and stepped up his own game on the high side.
    Brady edged ahead on lap 21 and Weir’s chances seemed to dim. But with an assist from lapped traffic, Scotty took back the lead coming to the white flag. That was the race as Weir would not be denied. Bacon was a few car lengths behind and understandably disappointed. The winner’s knowledge of the track, gained over the past dozen years or so, paid off with his first USAC feature win since his 2003 debut.
    The victor had the quote of the night, sage advice for us all. “…we started catching him and I just told myself, ‘Okay, just slow down.’” Sometimes most all of us need to do that and, over and above that, we need to know when to “slow down” to go faster or even do better. Scotty Weir did just that and snatched victory away from arguably the best out there on the USAC trail right now.
    Almost lost in the commotion was third place Kevin Thomas, who came from 14th to pick up the KSE Hard Charger award and some spending money. Max McGhee had plenty reason to smile as he took fourth. Tyler Courtney was fifth. Colton Cottle impressed as he ran with or near the leaders for much of the race, ending up sixth. Kyle Cummins started and finished seventh. C. J. Leary came from 13th to eighth and Chris Windom was ninth. Dave Darland overcame mechanical gremlins in his heat to come from the B to starting 15th and finishing tenth.
    As the sprinters loaded up and the modifieds hit the track for their feature, the occasional drops of rain became some out and out sprinkles. After circling the track several times in an attempt to save the track, the gang was able to make it a complete program.
    Heading south, the rain was persistent, seemingly determined to follow me home. I didn’t mind. Sometimes I beat the rain home and one can say that it may well be an upset.
    Starting rumors that Kevin Harvick is going to Formula One, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Flirtin’ With Disaster
    With apologies to Molly Hatchet…
    With each bullring that I frequent, I have an indelible image in my mind that I associate with said race track. To my eyes and imagination, they are a fond thought. With the Kokomo Speedway, that image is a sprinter, most likely minus the wing, flying through either end of the track, right up against the wall, inches from disaster and on the very edge of control. I don’t assume that they will make it out of turns two or four, but they most always do somehow. Many a talented racer has tested those walls and lost; the laws of physics and averages respect no one, be it a Hornet driver peddling for all it’s worth or a Hall of Fame racer who has negotiated those turns thousands of time. So on a cool Sunday evening at Kokomo, Kevin Thomas Jr. became the latest to test his skills and luck against those imposing walls and succeed. He won the King of Kokomo crown over a steadily advancing Chris Windom, despite bouncing off those walls a time or two. No matter, he earned every penny of that $2500 the O’Connors forked over.
    I have other indelible images in my mind that aren’t nearly as pleasant as the Kokomo Speedway. That would be every inch of I-65 south of Greenwood these days. For a 20 plus mile stretch, this ribbon of mostly concrete conspired to make me arrive at the track at least 30 minutes later than I’d planned. But whatever frustration that caused dissipated as soon as I walked inside and began perusing the pits, searching for and finding 32 sprinters ready to rumble.
    There were no huge surprises, but Corey Smith was present as a link to Kokomo’s past life as a flat, narrow quarter mile true bullring. Bryan Clauson’s Circular Insanity tour had brought him to town, hoping for another W. Justin Grant was in his new ride, the Steve and Carla Phillips mount that has seen its share of glory at Kokomo and elsewhere.
    Grant began well, leading his qualifying group with a 13.967 lap. C.J. Leary led group number two with a 13.765. The track continued to get faster as Shane Cottle led the next group with 13.240. And Tyler Courtney in the final group was quickest of all with a sub 13 lap, 12.903, not far off the track record.
    Thomas led every lap of the first heat with Windom close enough to keep KT nervous. Grant wasn’t far behind either. Fourth place Tyler Hewitt was nearly a half lap back but he would still be in the show.
    Jarett Andretti won the second heat, which was stopped when Kyle Robbins climbed the turn four wall and flipped. In trying to avoid him, Logan Jarrett also flipped, though not quite as hard. Both were okay. Leary was second with Jerry Coons Jr. coming from the third row to third. Robert Ballou was fourth.
    Dave Darland took off and tried to hide as he won the third heat. Brent Beauchamp, Mr. Cottle (the still new grandpa) and Josh Spencer all would race one more time later.
    Bryan Clauson took the lead halfway through the fourth heat and led Tyler Courtney to the stripe. A.J. Hopkins was third and Matt Goodnight ignored the temporary smokescreen he produced to finish fourth.
    For the second night in a row, I witnessed two B Mains. Good car counts will cause that. Chad Boespflug won the first B with Brian Karraker also transferring. Travis Hery and Landon Simon paced the second last chance contest.
    Andretti and Thomas led 18 of their brethren to Tom Hansing’s green flag with KT leading the first lap. But a red flag waved when Dave Darland flipped hard into the turn one fence with the car sticking to the fence like it was glued. After several minutes of removing the car from the fence, car and driver were righted with the driver able to walk away—after several minutes of being inverted.
    The re-start order was Thomas, Windom, Andretti, Courtney, Leary, Clauson, Cottle, Hopkins, Ballou and Hewitt. Clauson, as he has often done, tried the bottom while the others played close to the wall. Slowly but surely, he began working his way forward. Lapped traffic was Thomas’s reward for leading at the halfway mark. He had opened up a sizable lead over Windom. Andretti was third, but was about to receive some unwelcome company in the form of Courtney and Clauson. By lap 20 both had passed the third generation racer and now Clauson tried his best to get around Courtney.
    Meanwhile, Windom was gaining on Thomas, but he ran out of time. With three laps to go, Clauson made the pass but he wasn’t going to challenge the front two. Thomas would take the win with Windom, Clauson, Courtney and Shane Cottle trailing. Cottle had made his own advance in the last half of the race, moving from 13th to fifth, winning a video that will show him how to change diapers for improving his position more than anyone else. Beauchamp started and finished sixth. Ballou came from 14th to take seventh. Andretti faded a little to eighth. After having his own episodes with the wall, Leary ended up ninth. And Chad Boespflug rambled from 17th to tenth.
    They all had flirted with disaster and, with the exceptions of Robbins, Jarett and Darland, all had come away relatively unscathed. Hopefully all will return to this jewel of a race track to challenge it again.
    I was thankful that my only challenge was to avoid being pulled over by the law in Howard, Tipton, Hamilton, Marion, Johnson and Bartholomew counties.
    Waiting on the phone call asking me to be the Vice-Presidential nominee, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: What Might Have Been
    From time to time we may wonder about how different things might have been had we taken a different path, made a different choice, or even left the house a little later on a certain day. My personal opinion is that it’s not necessarily so bad to revisit those occasions in our lives, but it’s not usually a great idea to dwell upon them. Simply put, you might go crazy turning things over in your mind. So when Jon Stanbrough held off Kyle Cummins to win the King of the Midwest title at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a somewhat chilly Saturday night, one might be tempted to speculate that, had the race been a 30 lapper, Cummins would have been hauling off some of Dave Rudisell’s piggy bank money. And at this point Mr. Stanbrough only would say, “But the race was 25 laps,” and he’d be correct.
    Let us declare right now that there is a certain element in the racing community that is certifiably and clinically crazy, to use the correct scientific term. This isn’t confined to drivers; it also includes team members, team owners, race promoters, track workers (especially those ruthless photographers) and, most assuredly, fans. Several hundred of the above showed at the only Hoosier track with sprints as the marquee class crazy enough to race on what was to be a cold night.
    I shamefully admit that I was one of those. The desire to catch a race at the ‘burg trumped, as it were, the misgivings of spending an evening trying to keep warm. So I bundled up and headed east for 70 miles.
    The pre-racing pit amble was educational. It included the usual copying down numbers and the occasional name amidst other people who, for the most part, were dressed like Eskimos in January. There was Landon Simon and company, with an extra car to be driven by Thomas Meseraull. Landon’s dad Chris later said that Thomas was summoned to wheel this car to help determine if the car was misbehaving. Kyle Cummins had come all the way across the state to try and take some of those Rudisell wooden nickels. Bloomington winner Nick Bilbee hoped to make a bit more money. I kept walking and walking until I reached the back row. Unofficially there were 129 cars parked in the sprawling real estate and I could almost holler up to my friend Marv Fish’s house from the last row.
    37 of those cars were sprints and it looked like it could be a late night. Ten of those took the green with Shane Cottle outrunning Stanbrough for the win in the first heat. Bilbee was third with Meseraull fourth. Cody Gardner took a wild ride after he bounced off the wall right in front of flag man Tim Montgomery and slid into the infield without tipping over.
    Kevin Thomas Jr. was the second pole sitter to win a heat, taking the second. Simon was second after starting sixth. Michael Fischesser came from eighth to finish third. Chad Boespflug, in the Stensland machine, grabbed the last chair before the music stopped.
    Cummins made it three for three as he won the third heat while Chris Windom charged from seventh to second. Jarett Andretti was a half straightaway behind in third. Shane Cockrum came from last/ninth to fourth.
    The fourth heat had its share of weirdness. Pole sitter Dickie Gaines was sent to the second row after jumping the start. This put Dave Darland on the pole. Unfortunately for him, that would be Dave’s highlight of the night. He led the first lap but banged wheels hard with Joss Moffatt and dropped back while Moffat and Shawn Westerfeld moved to the front. Then Darland slowed and was bumped by Gaines going into turn three on lap five. Dave was out of this race, but would return later after a faulty freeze plug was discovered (based on what I was told). Behind the two track champs, Moffatt and Westerfeld, was another, C.J. Leary, up from eighth. Matt Goodnight held off Gaines for fourth.
    Mr. Rudisell wasted no time in determining that two B mains were needed. Each would take the top two. Travis Hery won the first of these. Dallas Hewitt used a strong move to get around Garrett Abrams to take the sole remaining spot.
    Dickie Gaines took the second last chance opportunity with Dave Darland, repairs made, second. Dave had a moment when Anthony DiMattia got into his left rear and nearly spun. Instead it was the young man from back east who spun and was hit by Matt Brannin. Matt tipped over, bringing out a red flag.
    The front row was Stanbrough and Westerfeld leading 18 of their buddies to the line. The young man who lives only a hop, skip and jump from the track grabbed the lead for the first couple of laps before the veteran from an Indianapolis suburb took over. But the looming threat was behind them, and was moving forward steadily.
    From eighth, Kyle Cummins was up to sixth after two laps. By the ninth lap he was third, having passed people such as KT, Shane Cottle, Chris Windom and Landon Simon. As lapped traffic came into play halfway through the race, Stanbrough still had a fairly safe lead over Westerfeld, but Cummins was coming on strong. The top three weren’t quite nose-to-tail, but they could have fit into a picture. Three laps later, the Princeton, Indiana resident made the pass for second and took after the leader.
    But it wasn’t going to happen. Time ran out. Jon’s lead was a good three car lengths as Tim waved his formerly spotless checkered flag. Behind Cummins and Westerfeld was Cottle in fourth. C.J. Leary came from 12th to fifth, earning a free breakfast at Bob Evans, courtesy of Madonna for advancing the most positions. (Dickie Gaines also got around seven cars, from 18th to 11th.) Windom, Thomas, Bilbee, Fischesser and Andretti were sixth through tenth.
    In the post-race interview, Stanbrough said that he hadn’t planned on going to Kokomo on Sunday. The promoters at Lawrenceburg and Kokomo were paying $2500 to their feature winners this past weekend. Had someone swept both features, they were ready add another $1000 to the winner’s share. Jon seemed to be rethinking his position after winning at Lawrenceburg, his first win of the year. But alas, Stanbrough and company were not at Kokomo on Sunday night.
    To this, one can only say, “what might have been.”
    Reminding Nico Rosberg that it’s never a good idea to crash yourself and your teammate, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Nick + Bloomington=Love
    And why not? Why wouldn’t Nick Bilbee love Bloomington? Because he’s one of the relative few who has this place figured out. The list of people who have conquered the lightning fast red clay oval isn’t all that long among active racers. You may know some of the usual suspects, names such as Stanbrough, Short, Darland and Clauson. And you may want to add the name of Nick Bilbee to the list of racers who can handle the tricky high banks that lie just south of town. Because he put the whuppin’ on a fairly strong field of 20 on a chilly Friday night in May.
    My usual traveling companion had a makeup baseball game to attend (and play catcher), so this was a solo journey through the hills of Bartholomew, Brown and Monroe counties—on a typical Friday night. In other words, there was no point in hurrying.
    Of note in the pit stroll was Chris Windom, back in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange special, Lawrenceburg regular Shawn Westerfeld, the Canadian/part-time Hoosier Lee Dakus, and Chris Gurley in his first visit to Bloomington this year. The most recent ‘burg winner, Jarett Andretti, was parked in the north end of the pits. Kevin Thomas Jr. was on hand as was Dakota Jackson, first time on the red clay this year.
    The pits were fairly crowded. Of the 106 cars jamming the area, 24 were non-wing sprints and there were 15 RaceSaver 305 c.i. sprints that had stopped by.
    Brandon Mattox won the first heat from the front row, beating Andretti, Westerfeld, Shane Cockrum (again in the Jamie Paul ride), and Braxton Cummings.
    Pole sitter Windom took the second heat as the track was a bit choppy around the top and people stayed in the low groove for the most part. Mr. Bilbee was second and Jeff Bland was third. Hunter O’Neal was fourth and Chris Babcock claimed the last transfer spot.
    There wasn’t much passing in the first two heats, but the third heat made up for that. Kevin Thomas Jr. stormed to the lead from the second row and used the high side to do his damage. But something broke on lap three and Thomas was out of the lead and the race. Dakota Jackson inherited the lead and held off Brady Short until the last lap when the local ace made an outside pass stick. Jackson was second, trailed by Gurley, Brandon Morin and Shelby VanGilder.
    A few heat races, a 30 minute delay for a super stock taking a wild ride off turn two, and a short delay for some race track massaging later, the Racesavers tried to begin their first of two heats. But Bub Cummings got upside down and took his own nasty ride. Fortunately, he was unhurt but might have felt some aches and pains on Saturday morning.
    The blade applied to the choppy surface yielded what I thought to be a near perfect track, smoother and very fast. And the 305s, like them or not, are the quickest class of cars on a regular Bloomington program.
    With the mess removed, Tom Busch won the heat with Jordan Kinser, along with Bub doing double duty, second. Luke Bland, Sondi Eden and Kerry Kinser were the rest of the top five.
    The boys behaved much better in the second heat as Jared Fox led Ethan Fleetwood and Brian Gerster to the line.
    The feature was red flagged from the beginning as rain moved in from the west.
    The 410 sprint B was won by Kevin Thomas Jr., who took the lead after a brief red for a Lukas Smith tipover. Jordan Kinser was second. Lee Dakus edged Bub Cummings for third. Billy “the Kid” Cribbs made the show and would start 20th.
    Andretti and Bilbee, with the others behind, took the green first with Nick opening up a wide lead within the first five laps. Andretti was a strong second until Brandon Mattox took over on the sixth lap. Bilbee was sizing up lapped traffic when Bub Cummings and Cribbs spun at the start/finish line right in front of him. Nick avoided this meeting and Bub must have been wondering about that Friday the 13th deal a bit.
    The field lined up behind Bilbee, who had lost his huge lead. Behind him and Mattox were Andretti, Windom, Jackson, Westerfeld, Bland, Cockrum, Short and Gurley. But another yellow waved a couple of laps later for a Braxton Cummings spin. In that short interim, Windom passed Andretti for third.
    The rest of the race was all-green as again Bilbee rode off into the sunset, or the equivalent. For a lap or so, it appeared that Windom might have something for the winner, but it wasn’t happening. Behind the Illinois native was Dakota Jackson, who ran tough all night. Jeff Bland was fourth and Kevin Thomas Jr. came from 16th to fifth, winning a free cheeseburger from Taco Bell. Brady Short never could break through after starting tenth; a long time Bloomington rule says that anyone who wins two features in a row gets the honor of starting tenth the next time out. Mr. Short was sixth and Brandon Mattox seventh. Pole sitter Ansdretti faded to eighth. Shawn Westerfeld’s initial outing on the red clay oval netted him a ninth place finish. Chris Babcock came on late to grab tenth.
    Maybe the others love Bloomington too, but it can be said that Nick Bilbee really loves Bloomington.
    Soon after, the sprinkles began and later became a shower that sent everyone home—sooner or later.
    Crushed because Sebastian Vettel won’t return my calls, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: What to Expect
    When (not if) I eat certain foods, I expect to get sick in some way. When I’m driving in my home state, especially in the summer, I can expect to find some road construction. When I go to the county library here, I expect to check out more books than I have the time to read (and end up renewing them). And when I go to the Eldora Speedway, I expect a wild night, complete with hair raising speeds, nasty crashes, a few fans who have imbibed a bit more than they ordinarily imbibe, a track that turns dry and slick, a cushion up against the wall, a plethora of slide jobs (some successful, others not so much) and even a little dust. In short, I get everything I expect, plus a little more. But then so did both Chad Boespflug and Kerry Madsen, feature winners on a cool, but comfortable Saturday night at the House That Earl Built. Boespflug gathered up his second USAC win and initial Eldora triumph while Madsen won at Eldora for the second consecutive night.
    It was going to take more than road construction on I-70 east of New Castle to stop me from making the 132 mile trip to see the second night of the joint USAC/WoO/Eldora venture. There was the brisk breeze from the west to deal with, but that, too, was hardly a hindrance.
    After some visiting (Brent, the Z Man,Doug, Ted from South Carolina and various others), I ambled to turn one of the infield for hot laps, one of the best views anywhere of sprint cars and drivers teaming up to negotiate turns one and two. I enjoyed it so much I stuck around for USAC qualifications. I saw Chris Windom set fast time and later saw Thomas Meserall go out and nearly take it away. And when the wing boys went out, Joey Saldana was quickest with a scorching 13.160 lap to set fast time for the Outlaws.
    Some racing series are known for ride buying, but in USAC sprints one will see ride hopping more often. Eldora, night two, was no exception. Justin Grant vacated the Baldwin Brothers car, replaced by Dallas Hewitt on Saturday. Windom set his fast time with Mark Hery’s familiar white #40 with gray trim, Grant’s ride last year.
    There were only three who were kept extremely busy all night, racing with both series. Bryan Clauson, Brady Bacon and Tyler Courtney did their fair share of ride hopping all night. Clauson and Bacon made both features while Sunshine did well without the wing but missed the Outlaw feature.
    Scotty Weir won the first USAC heat from the pole as Chad Boespflug was second over Carson Short. Chris Windom made sure that Bryan Clauson stayed behind him. Windom prepared for the feature while Clauson made plans for the B.
    The second heat saw the red wave for C.J. Leary, who slid into an unsuspecting Thomas Meseraull. Both flipped in turn four and went to backup cars later. Shane Cottle won with Chase Stockon second. Matt Westfall was third and Kyle Cummins was a close fourth.
    Robert Ballou’s high point of the night was his third heat win by a large margin. Landon Simon started and finished second, way ahead of Tony DiMattia, who started and finished third. Pole sitter Aaron Farney was fourth.
    Another red waved in the fourth heat when Max McGhee rode the turn four wall for several feet before flipping, with the car’s nerf bar sailing into the pits. No one was injured, though I’m sure the flying object got the attention of a few people in the pits. Pole sitter Dallas Hewitt won the heat, a nice start in a new car for him. Dave Darland was second with Tyler Courtney and Kody Swanson trailing.
    Unlike USAC, which inverts the top six in each heat, the World of Outlaws invert zero, nada, zilch. Daryn Pittman, David Gravel, Jason Johnson and Kerry Madsen won their heats. Third heat pole sitter Joey Saldana was ruled to have jumped the start, finding himself demoted to the second row, but he still transferred.
    The USAC B Main’s front row contained two guys who had handling issues in their heats. It was no shock when Brady Bacon and Bryan Clauson ran first and second. Thomas Meseraull and company brought out a backup car and started tenth. He weaved his way to third. C.J. Leary had done the same and came from last/12th to finish fourth. Cole Ketchum found himself making another USAC feature, as did Brandon Whited.
    Halfway through the Outlaws’ B, sometime non-winger Gary Taylor flipped while running in a transfer spot. Like all others who got upside down on this crazy night, Gary was okay. Paige Polyak, residing a bit northeast of Eldora and a young lady in a hurry, won the B, or Last Chance Showdown if you prefer. Clauson, Sheldon Haudenschild and Bacon all transferred as well.
    Boespflug and Swanson led 21 friends to Tom Hansing’s green flag with Max McGhee taking a provisional. Chad immediately took the lead and began stretching it out. But a red flag flew when Robert Ballou slide job on Chris Windom ended badly for both, with Windom’s car doing a poor imitation of a helicopter. Chris was less than thrilled.
    On the re-start, Boespflug resumed his romp as Swanson had his hands full with Bacon, up front quickly after starting tenth. By lap ten, Boespflug’s lead was an astounding straightaway in length over Bacon before the Oklahoma native began closing a bit at a time. A lap 17 yellow for debris did the rest of Bacon’s work in getting to the back of the leader, even though four lapped cars separated the two. Behind Bacon at the restart was Meseraull, Courtney, Darland (up from 15th), Leary, Clauson, DiMattia and Stockon, who was off the pace.
    Bacon got around the lappers with ease and set his sights on the leader. But he wasn’t going to catch anything but a view of Boespflug’s tail tank, despite more restarts for yellows (including one for Dave Darland, who rode the turn two wall without flipping) and a red when Hewitt got into the turn two wall, flipped and collected Ketchum.
    Major attrition meant that only 12 cars were running at the end with Boespflug winning by ten car lengths over Bacon. Meseraull and his backup car was third, not bad for the birthday boy. Leary with his substitute car came from 14th to fourth. Courtney was an impressive fifth after starting 11th. Clauson was sixth and Swanson seventh. Carson was a quiet eighth after starting 12th. Stockon was ninth and Scotty Weir hung in there for tenth.
    The quote of the night came from the winner, who said, “I kept telling people I didn’t want to be a one-hit-wonder. I guess we’re not that now.”
    Finally, it was time for the grand finale. Actually it wasn’t that late, 10:30 or so. The air was much cooler but the action on the track was about to heat up again. Kerry Madsen and Joey Saldana were set to lead the field to the green.
    Madsen jumped out to the lead with Daryn Pittman in the proverbial hot pursuit as Saldana had a less than great start. Joey’s race got a lot worse on lap two as he rode the turn four wall and flipped. I was not quite shocked, but decided that if Joey Saldana could test that wall one time too many, anyone could.
    On the restart, Madsen led Pittman, Jason Johnson, David Gravel and Shane Stewart. Few noticed at the time, but Chad Kemenah was back in tenth place. Soon he would become the show. By lap 10 lapped traffic came into play and Kemenah was on the move, marching by his competitors one by one until he was second to Madsen by lap 23 and threatening to grab the lead, pulling even at some points. But Kerry figured out where Chad was doing his best business and decided to try the same line with satisfactory results—namely his second Eldora win in two nights.
    Behind Kemenah was Pittman, followed by Gravel. Shane Stewart was fifth. Johnson was sixth with Donny Schatz was seventh behind the Cajun. Kraig Kinser came from 16th to finish eighth. Brad Sweet was ninth and Greg Wilson started 18th and motored to tenth.
    After the checkered, Paul McMahon flipped in turn two and the race winner had to spin to miss the wreck. It was the last of several good moves he made over the weekend.
    I rolled out of Tony Stewart’s race track around 11:30 p.m. I rolled into his hometown around 2:30 a.m., stopping in New Castle to top off the tank and buy a diet cola. It was pretty late, but what do you expect? The rain which had been threatened, if not expected, missed that prime real estate in western Ohio.
    Pleased that my grandson only took two guesses to know who won the USAC feature, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Second Verse, Same as the First
    The title of this not so monumental literary work could have been the old Four Tops ditty, It’s the Same Old Song, and it would have been just as accurate as what I chose. But no matter what the title would have been, the main point was one of dominance by Brady Short at his home track, the Bloomington Speedway. For the second week in a row, he motored to a feature win on a beautiful Hoosier night in the southern part of the state.
    And it wasn’t like he outran 21 members of your local Senior’s Center, including me. Dave Darland was second, about a half straightaway behind.
    On a mild and cloudy afternoon, grandson number two and I headed west to the beloved red clay oval. Imagine our surprise when the sign in line at the pit gate stretched nearly halfway back to the main fan entrance. 40 plus modifieds and about two dozen crate late models had invaded the place and it seemed like all were converging on poor Leslie Prince’s doorstep at once. Almost lost in the shuffle was the fact that 22 sprinters squeezed into the pits.
    Several of the 22 had reason to believe that they could break Brady Short’s stranglehold on Victory Lane interviews. Parked somewhere in the midst of the orgy of sheet metal were those such as Mr. Darland, in a rare appearance in the Jamie Paul scooter, which had carried Shane Cockrum to the feature win at Lincoln Park last Saturday. Logan Jarrett and Shane Cottle had made the long trip down from Kokomo as well. C. J. Leary and company had decided to stop by. And when Chad Boespflug is not running with USAC this year, he can be spotted in the Stensland 41, which has hosted several hot shoes over the past few years.
    Bloomington, like other tracks have done, now incorporates group qualifying into hot laps—or is it vice versa? At any rate, C. J. Leary led the first group, Tim Creech II the second group and Jarett Andretti led the final group with the night’s quick time of 11.236.
    Leary made a strong move on early leader Shane Cottle to win the first heat. Behind Cottle was Brandon Mattox, Jordan Kinser and Shelby Van Gilder.
    A.J. Hopkins took the second heat with Brady Short closing in at the end before settling for second. Pole sitter Chris Babcock was third and Nick Bilbee returned to the pits after finishing fourth. Tim Creech II was fifth.
    Pole sitter Dave Darland won the third heat as second place Jarett Andretti closed markedly at the end when DD had trouble with a lapped car. Jeff Bland started and finished third. Logan Jarrett took fourth and Chad Boespflug fifth.
    All-time greats Short and Darland led the field of 22 to the green. Cottle, Andretti, Leary and Hopkins would start directly behind the dynamic duo. One could assume that the top five finishers could come from this group. One should hardly ever assume. Darland took the early lead over Short. Cottle was strong briefly, but suffered a couple of slide offs, the first after he had passed Short for second, at least for a lap.
    Darland had his own bobble right around the seventh lap and Short took control. Meanwhile, Leary had his talented hands full with ninth starting Jeff Bland, who had a temporary eureka(!) moment when he discovered some major traction down low on the track.
    The race’s lone yellow flew on lap 12 with Short kissing his near straightaway lead good-bye. Behind him were Darland, Leary, Bland, Hopkins, Bilbee, Cottle, Andretti and Kinser. On the re-start, Bland began making noise. Three laps under green and he was in second place, having passed two of the best, first Leary, then Darland and was gaining on the leader.
    But with five or so laps left, Bland’s charge to the lead was history. He gave up the bottom lane as Darland and Leary came back to give the local kid reason for concern.
    Short didn’t pay much attention to the race behind him. He took the checkered as Bland and company were negotiating turn four.
    The red flag waved simultaneously because Jordan Kinser flipped coming off turn two. As things wound down, the safety crew headed to the backstretch to check on Kinser, who was able to walk away.
    Bland held onto second over Darland and Leary. Cottle battled back from his unfortunate encounters with the tall cushion to finish fifth. Andretti was sixth with Boespflug advancing more than anyone, coming from 15th to finish seventh. Jarrett, Hopkins and Babcock were the bottom part of the top ten.
    The RaceSavers had 13 teams ready to race. Alfred Galeridge and the ageless Brian Gerster won the heats. After last week’s misfortune, which saw him spectating from the infield, Luke Bland became the third feature winner in three races after starting fifth. Gerster was second and Kerry Kinser third. Ethan Fleetwood and Tony Anderson were fourth and fifth. Veteran James Dugan flipped on the first lap, landing on his wing. Perhaps a bit shaken, he was okay.
    Bloomington’s next sprint car racing will be on May 13.
    This was finished on a cloudy Saturday evening, at a time when I’d feel as much at home at a Hoosier bullring as here, about three miles east of the house where Tony Stewart grew up (for trivia buffs).
    Tomorrow offers fellow sprint freaks two excellent choices (Kokomo and/or Terre Haute) to get their fill for the weekend—as always, weather permitting. Come to think of it, our weather is predictable in its bottomless bag of tricks. We can often predict that we have no clue what the weather will do. We can only guarantee that it will elude certainty.
    Not unlike Brady Short, who we can predict to win at Bloomington, one way or another.
    Wishing that the USAC Stock Car Division was still in operation so they could honor and remember Don White, recently deceased, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Reader
    The skills and talent of both Brady Bacon and the Hoffman Auto Racing team were on display at the Montpelier Speedway on Saturday night. Bacon took the lead on lap 12 and led the rest of the way to hold off Kyle Cummins to win the USAC Sprint series debut at the Montpelier Motor Speedway. As it turned out, a big factor in Bacon’s win was in reading the changing track conditions.
    The ability to read is one of our most treasured gifts, one many of us take for granted. I must point out that reading is a lot more than words in a book, on a screen or on a road sign. Racers try to read track conditions at every race. Not only do they try to see what the track looks like at that moment, they try to project what it will look like the next time they race on it.
    Merely reading a book or a race track won’t guarantee success and/or an education. When reading, ideally one should determine what the words really mean. For example, racers can look at a track and see the formation of a cushion. Perhaps the cushion can be put to good use later, when the money is on the line. The final step in reading asks the question, “What am I going to do with this information? I see what the weather is right now. I’m pretty sure of what the track is going to do. And I know how the car is set up and what it should do.” Part of the beauty of this racing we all love and enjoy is watching how people read, comprehend and act. It happens in one way, shape or form most every race. It’s both fun and fascinating to see.
    Much of the previous paragraph was inspired by spending time with Grandpa Joe, the Railroad Man and KO/Kevin Oldham, race writer extraordinaire and occasional radio commentator. Those two, among many others, made my first visit to Montpelier a positive reading experience, which I live for.
    All race tracks have their own little quirks. Montpelier has at least two. It’s not often you see houses within shouting distance of a race track, but it’s been that way for years. The 11 P.M. curfew is a great motivator for moving the show along and Montpelier does that. Also, it’s not too often you see a railroad track on the opposite border of a race track. Sure enough, the Norfolk Southern Railroad was busy on Saturday, with two trains barreling by at a good clip.
    The track stayed remarkably consistent in time trials. Shane Cottle was out first and qualified fifth fastest. Kyle Cummins came out much later, 20th of the 25 who qualified and his time was sixth quick. And Brady Bacon set fast time with a 14.199 lap, making his run 16th in line.
    A.J. Hopkins won the first heat from the first row. Aaron Farney, Dave Darland, Brady Bacon and Carson Short all transferred. Jon Stanbrough did his best to see if the high groove was productive. It wasn’t and he would try again in the B; his many attempts to get around Short failed.
    Robert Ballou started outside front row and brought home the second heat win. Justin Grant was second and, despite a balky engine, Thomas Meseraull took third. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was fourth after TMez got around him late. Shane Cottle started and finished fifth.
    The final heat saw the third consecutive outside front row starter win, namely C.J. Leary. Behind him were two clinics in racing wheel to wheel without any NASCAR-like shenanigans. In the end Chase Stockon edged Chad Boespflug for second. Kyle Cummins outdueled Max McGhee for fourth.
    Jerry Coons Jr. won the B from, naturally, the outside front row spot. J. Stanbrough, Colton Cottle, Matt Goodnight, Cole Ketchum, Landon Simon and South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt all found themselves in a USAC feature.
    Between sprint races I meandered, occasionally chatting with whomever was around (especially Tom Brenner) and tried to count the cars on the train that roared by the track. I moseyed back to the little Chevy truck to get a jacket. There was to be some massaging of the track, but it was delayed somewhat briefly. The fellow who handled that was called away, I was told, to help deliver a calf. But the delivery must have been drama-free as he returned and did his best to dig up the top side. Little things like this are what should keep us all from saying things like, “Now I’ve seen everything.” I loved it; this will make a good story to tell around the campfire someday.
    Just before the clock struck nine, the green flag waved with Darland and Cummins leading 20 of their friends to speed, competition and maybe a bit of glory.
    Dave was strong around the top early, leading the charge with most up there with him as well. But, mired very briefly back in sixth place where he started, Brady Bacon began picking off those ahead of him, one at a time, a lap at a time, stubbornly sticking it down on the bottom while the others rode the cushion. Meseraull was his first victim. Fifth place wasn’t going to get it so Bacon then dispatched Stockon one spot back. Now came the trio of Darland, Cummins and S. Cottle. The Throttle was caught and passed on the tenth lap. Next was Cummins and he was soon third a lap later. This left Darland, who led the 11th lap and then saw something fast to his left. It was Bacon, taking the lead and at this point, it was the classic case of monkey see, etc. Suddenly, there was a race to the bottom, but it was too late to do anything with the leader.
    Or was it? Cummins got around Darland to make it close for Bacon. But all that slowed or stopped him was an A.J. Hopkins spin on lap 19, followed by a brief red flag. Apparently a fan was smacked with a rock, not something that enhances one’s racing experience. Having been an unwilling recipient of a rock to the face, I’ll testify as to how much fun that is.
    The re-start saw Bacon maintain control, slowed by a Bret Mellenberndt spin on lap 24. But the Oklahoma native held the lead, despite Cummins keeping it from being a laugher. Darland was third ahead of S. Cottle. Stockon was fifth and kept his point lead over Cummins, two southwestern Indiana boys atop USAC’s sprint car standings. Leary was the Hard Charger, coming from 15th to sixth. Coons came from 12th to finish seventh. Short was eighth, Stanbrough ninth and Grant tenth.
    The quote of the night belonged to the winner, who said, “We’re working hard because we haven’t had the start to the season we wanted, so we made some changes to the car and the first race out we won. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going into the summer.” This could be bad news for the others. As always, time will tell.
    For one night at least, he had read the book, decided what he needed to do with the knowledge gained, and proceeded apply that knowledge.
    Hiding from Presidential candidates until after our primary on May 3, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Bloomington Revisited

    I would be remiss, if not forgetful, if I didn’t give some attention to the RaceSaver Series of winged sprints with 305 engines on Friday night at Bloomington. It turned out to be the Ethan Barrow show as the young veteran won both his heat race and the 20 lap feature.

    12 cars answered the call on Friday. In the first heat, Luke Bland took the early lead but Barrow was having none of that. He passed Bland early and pulled away for the win. Bland was second with Ryan Tussing third and Ethan Fleetwood fourth.

    Tony Anderson took the early lead in the second RaceSaver heat, but Vincennes, Indiana native Kendall Ruble had other ideas. He grabbed the lead on the third lap and checked out, only to lose see a yellow flag brought out by Sondi Eden. But Ruble held off Anderson with Jared Fox third and veteran Brian Gerster fourth.

    The feature lined up according to points, which put Bland on the pole with Anderson outside. Luke took the early lead with Eden second. Midway through the race, Sondi was passed by Ruble for second. She fell further back when both Jared Fox and Ethan Barrow passed her for position. In a couple more laps Barrow would pass Fox and bear down on Ruble.

    Misfortune struck Bland as he coasted to a stop in the infield, giving Ruble the lead. He, Barrow and Fox had a lively battle for position before Barrow made the pass for the lead. That was it as far as he was concerned. Barrow won easily with Ruble second. Fox was third and Ethan Fleetwood came from eighth to finish fourth. Sondi Eden took the checkered in fifth place.

    It was Barrow’s first RaceSaver feature win.

    Posting videos of my wife’s cat writing this article, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Ungrateful Host

    It’s common courtesy and common sense to treat your visitors in a way that makes them feel welcome. You may visit their house someday and it’s only right and proper that you could expect the same treatment. This works in our Western society at large. We should strive to be the most hospitable people we can be. After all, Hoosier Hospitality is not a myth.

    But none of this applies to racers. If you come to their home track, you may be greeted a number of people who are glad to see you, even some of their regulars. But that’s about as far as it will go. And if you plan to visit the Bloomington Speedway to race, beware of Brady Short. If asked, he might well stand by the pit gate and greet all who enter. But later, on the track racing, he will become The Ungracious Host. And that was how it went on a cool Friday evening at the red clay oval. Short had no serious challengers until the end as he scored his first feature win at Bloomington this year, beating out a closing Jeff Bland.

    Once in awhile, a race chaser leaves home while it’s raining, having faith that the radar and forecast are accurate. It’s a risky game that sometimes pays off. Friday evening, April 22, was one of those evenings. Heading 44 miles west, I had enough faith to get me to Bloomington. Sure enough, at the Indiana State Road 46/I-65 intersection, the rain stopped. The sun tried to shine. And by the time I reached the Brown County line, the road was dry. Later, at the track, the clouds disappeared.

    Minus my usual traveling partner, I ambled through the pits, pleased to see 20 sprinters with faith enough to show up despite the threat of rain (which missed the track). A few USAC regulars and semi-regulars stopped by, perhaps hoping to do some cherry picking or just to race.

    The first of three heats had enough drama to last much of the evening. Braxton Cummings was towed off the track as the field lined up. Then Robert Ballou collided with Brandon Mattox, who spun to a stop in turn one right after the green waved. Mattox was out of the race and was not impressed with the 2015 USAC Sprint car champion, who had a flat left rear tire changed in the work area and returned to the race. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti took the early lead, but was passed by Kevin Thomas Jr. Ballou came on strong late to take the lead and the win with Andretti, Thomas Meseraull, Nick Bilbee and Thomas trailing.

    The second heat was much tamer by comparison with Jeff Bland Jr. passing C.J. Leary late to win. Max McGhee was third behind Leary with Shelby Van Gilder fourth and Jaden Rogers coming home fifth.

    Moe Howard would have been impressed with the third heat. His frequent command to “spread out” was followed for a change as Short won with Shane Cottle second. Ethan Barrow was third with Hunter O’Neal fourth. Cody Clarkson was about a lap down in fifth.

    There would be no B Main tonight and the sprints began lining up around 9:00 P.M. Short and Andretti were the front row. The start was less than ideal. With a scrum in turns one and two, Meseraull was bumped from behind and smacked the car ahead of him (Bland, I believe), then slowed in front of most of the field. In the potential melee, Van Gilder spun as TMez exited the track. This necessitated a complete re-start.

    Short and Andretti ran one/two early, but soon the third generation racer had pressure from Leary. C.J. passed the North Carolinian, then along came Ballou to do the same. Jeff Bland shuffled Andretti back another spot as nothing changed up front. But if anyone was on the move, it was Bland, running his own deal this year. The high side seemed to be the most popular groove but Bland used the huggy pole line to move forward. Showing his prowess at this most difficult track to master, Bland passed USAC regulars Ballou and Leary to take second. He was closing on the leader but the 25 lap feature wasn’t long enough.

    Short, who commented that this was his house and he couldn’t let the visitors walk away with the money and the trophy, led Bland by several car lengths. Leary was third and Ballou was fourth. Shane Cottle, last week’s winner at Lincoln Park, finished a quiet, for him, fifth. McGhee was sixth and Andretti faded to seventh. Thomas started 13th and finished eighth. Nick Bilbee, in his first Bloomington outing, was ninth. And Braxton Cummings came from 16th to complete the top ten.

    The visitors would have to wait for another race to hope for a gracious host.

    Scratching my head while thinking about the sanctioning body that welcomes back one of its most notable drivers, then fines him $35 big ones, I’m…

    Danny Burton  

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Like a Rolling Stone
    With apologies to Bob Dylan, it seems like Shane Cottle and his car owner, Paul Hazen, are two good examples of a rolling stone, steadily advancing to its destination. In the case of the Hazen-Cottle team, that destination was the start/finish line at the Lincoln Park Speedway on another beautiful Hoosier spring night.
    Over 100 race cars jammed Joe Spiker’s personal playground. This was another way of remembering the late Bill Gardner, who spent many an evening at Lincoln Park. It would be the Bill Gardner’s/Indiana Open Wheel Racin’ Fest and Fireworks Extravaganza, to put it properly. The winner would haul off $4,000 and $300 was the lowest amount a racer could take home.
    27 teams decided to hang out at LPS for the night, three of whom could be considered favorites to win, namely Kevin Thomas Jr., Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle. But the other guys would want a say in the proceedings and they did their best.
    Cottle won the first heat from the second row, passing pole sitter Jordan Kinser early. Outside front row starter J.J. Hughes was third. Shane Cockrum, tonight in the Jamie Paul car, was fourth ahead of Kyle Robbins, who had a slipup early but roared back to take the last transfer spot from Ethan Barrow on the last lap.
    Jeff Bland won the second heat from the outside front row. Brandon Mattox, in the Jerry Burton car that Bland drove last year, was a distant second. Cole Ketchum was third, which was where he started. Colton Cottle and Tony DiMattia also moved on, sending Mitch Wissmiller and Logan Jarrett to the B.
    The third heat saw a three car breakaway. Kevin Studley won with Kevin Thomas Jr. passing Jon Stanbrough at the end to take second. Tyler Hewitt was fourth and Tim Creech II took fifth and would start 15th in the feature.
    Ethan Barrow would not be denied, taking the B Main from the pole. Wissmiller started and finished second. Chris Babcock was third and Jarrett fourth. Nate McMillan used the high groove while most stayed low to take the last musical chair.
    Cottle and Bland were the front row. That was how they ran for the first several laps before Bland did a perfect 360 and kept going. This moved Thomas to second and KT would never allow Cottle to get away too far.
    A Tim Creech spin on lap 17 erased the large margin that Cottle and Thomas had built up. They had company in the form of Jon Stanbrough, who had struggled in his heat and started ninth. Kinser was fourth and Bland had worked his way back to fifth. Studley had run very well early but was sixth by now. Cockrum, Robbins, C. Cottle and Mattox were the rest of the top ten.
    On the re-start, Stanbrough had three lapped cars between him and the leaders. By lap 20 he had cleared them and seemed to be gaining slightly on Cottle and Thomas, who were engaged in their own private war. But it wasn’t going to happen. Stanbrough couldn’t catch the two up front and Thomas stayed close to Cottle, finishing only two car lengths behind as Brian Hodde waved the checkered flag.
    Mattox flipped hard in turn three at the checkered. No doubt he may have felt it on Sunday morning, but Brandon was able to walk to the ambulance.
    Behind Stanbrough was Jordan Kinser, who started and finished fourth. Shane Cockrum moved from tenth to fifth. Bland recovered from his spin to nip Robbins at the line for sixth. No one advanced more than Logan Jarrett, who started 19th and ended up eighth. Studley ran well early before fading to ninth. Cole Ketchum was tenth.
    This race was a classic example of a box score not telling the whole story. People who don’t attend a given race often see where a race winner starts on the pole and leads every lap, as Cottle did on Saturday night. Seeing this, they assume that the race was a stinker. But a box score can’t show the pressure on Cottle through most all of the race courtesy of Thomas. Neither can it describe the fights for various positions all throughout the field. And we can peruse all the box scores of any game or sport we choose and none of them will describe what it’s like being there. Even when attending a race, words struggle to describe the sheer joy of race winners or the disappointment of those whose results were not what they hoped for.
    Promoter Joe Spiker stopped by to say hey as the modified feature began. His smile was about as wide as the Wabash River. And why not? Over 100 cars in the pits, a near Sprint Week sized crowd to see racing and fireworks, and near perfect weather makes for a happy promoter.
    And rolling on down the road, savoring their latest victory, were Shane Cottle and Paul Hazen, smiling the whole time.
    Disappointed that David Hobbs is not eligible to run for President, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Take For Granted
    It is a very human nature to take most things for granted. We easily fall into the trap of assuming. Whether it’s flipping a switch and expecting a light to come on immediately or turning a key to start a car or open a door, we react, often badly, when the expected doesn’t happen. But most always the lights, cars and doors work as they should and we move on to the next assumption.
    It’s like this in racing as well. As cream rises to the top, literally and figuratively, we’ve come to take for granted this will be true in racing in general and in Hoosier sprint car racing in particular. On a beautiful Friday night in Bloomington, the usual frontrunners were, well, running up front, led by Bryan Clauson, one of the best, if not the best, all-round open wheel racer around these days. All he did on his Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway opener was come from 11th to take the lead in less than 20 laps and motor on to his fourth consecutive USAC feature win at Bloomington. Sounds like something folks might be tempted to take for granted.
    35 cars and stars signed in with few surprises. Chase Stockon’s time was looking like the quickest until C.J. Leary went out as the fifth from the last qualifier and set a new non-wing track record with a 10.842.
    Brent Beauchamp came from fourth to win the first heat with Hunter Schuerenberg, united with Seth Motsinger Motorsports for much of the year, coming home second. Leary was third and Brady Short came back from a near slide off in turn four to claim fourth.
    Chad Boespflug also came from fourth to win the second ten lap event with Jeff Bland, in his own car this year, second. Stockon was third after starting sixth and Kyle Cummins took fourth, which meant that Robert Ballou and Kevin Thomas Jr., in the familiar Epperson entry on a part time basis, went to the B.
    The third heat was plagued with yellow fever and the pretty hanky waved three times. It was a close one with Thomas Meseraull edging Jon Stanbrough at the line to grab the win. Pole sitter Aaron Farney was third and Brandon Mattox, driving for Jerry Burton this year, came on strong at the end to send Matt Goodnight to the B. Max McGhee and Isaac Chapple tangled in turn two while trying to race their way into the feature; neither finished the race.
    Mr. Clauson was the third of three heat race winners starting the race fourth. Brady Bacon was second and would find himself in the same spot later. Early leader Shane Cottle was third and Dave Darland was fourth.
    Carson Short led a strong field to the green for the 12 lap B Main. He led much of the race until Ballou made the pass for the win late in the race, which was slowed by four yellows. Jarett Andretti was an impressive second after starting sixth. Short was third and Landon Simon fourth after starting 13th. Thomas was fifth with Max McGhee grabbing sixth after having to start the race last/17th. The Bloomington cushion, property of those such as Kevin Briscoe in the past, was alive and well.
    Boespflug and Beauchamp led 22 others to the green and the red promptly came out for a C.J. Leary flip in turn one. He was okay but finished for the night. On the re-start, Brent Beauchamp had a good view of Brady Bacon’s right rear going into turn one. He was forced over the cushion and also flipped big for red flag number two. Boespflug had been leading during this time but on this re-start, Bacon assumed control. He was leading when Thomas stopped on lap nine, bringing out a yellow.
    Bacon led Boespflug, Schuerenberg, Stockon and Ballou for the top five. Meseraull, Darland, Clauson, C. Short and B. Short were the rest of the top ten. Ballou bobbled in turn four and dropped back to eighth. Another yellow waved on lap 13 for Jeff Bland as Bacon still led. Clauson was up to fifth. He passed Boespflug and benefitted when Schuerenberg slid off turn four. BC was third and breathing down Stockon’s neck. With the resident of Haubstadt, Indiana behind him, Clauson took after Bacon and it was only a matter of time.
    He made the pass on lap 19 and that was that. Clauson never pulled away that much from Bacon; the margin of victory was maybe a half straightaway. Behind them, Meseraull passed Stockon for third on the last lap. Last year’s champ, Ballou, was fifth. Dave Darland came from 14th to sixth; next to the winner he was the Hard Charger. Schuerenberg edged Jarett Andretti for seventh. Brady Short was ninth and Max McGhee ended an eventful night with a tenth place finish.
    It was Clauson’s sixth USAC win of this still young season. And it’s tempting to take for granted that Bryan will win each time he shows up, especially at a USAC event.
    The most interesting quote of the night belonged to Brady Bacon, who spoke a truth—at least sometimes. “When you’re the leader, it’s hard to know where to go.” Speaking as both a parent and a grandparent, I can relate to that, even at this advanced age.
    Taking nothing for granted since I lost my celebrity wannabe score card, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner
    The title is one of my favorites, a title I’ve used in the past. And C.J. Leary, a second generation racer, has shown steady improvement over the last few years in both sprints and Silver Crown beasts. He’s won races at the regional level and now can say he’s a USAC Silver Crown winner after taking the lead on lap 94 from race long leader Justin Grant to win the Terre Haute Action Track’s Sumar Classic.
    After freezing from head to toe at Lawrenceburg the night before, I was ready for more of the same on Sunday afternoon, taking the heaviest coat I could find, among other potential layers. Conditions were breezy and plenty chilly, but it was nothing like the deep freeze at the ‘burg.
    The track was, predictably, dry and slick with the quickest way around for both time trials and much of the race was at the top, up by the wall. Grant and Leary were the only two of the 20 qualifiers to time in under 22 seconds, with the California native the quickest.
    Mindful of the weather, the show went on efficiently with Kenny Wallace, a gentleman who always seems to be having the time of his life (maybe he is), winning the UMP Modified feature before the Silver Crown cars lined up on the front stretch for driver introductions for what I felt was a decent crowd, given the weather.
    Grant and Leary were the front row and both attempted to check out early. And Justin’s big lead was sent packing when the race’s first yellow came out for young Austin Nemire, who suffered a flat right rear tire and stopped in turn two on lap 22. Behind Grant and Leary were Kody Swanson, Brady Bacon, Chris Windom, Shane Cockrum, Shane Cottle, Dave Darland, Steve Buckwalter, and Bryan Clauson.
    Again the top two checked out on the re-start. As the sun dipped low in the west, visibility barreling into turn three was no doubt a major concern. But these guys were pros; there was nary an incident at either end of the track all day. By lap 40 the cushion at both ends of the track was nearly gone. Soon people would begin giving the bottom lane a try, hoping for some grip.
    There was little change at the front of the field as the halfway mark came and went. 11 cars remained on the lead lap as Grant maintained control, but with Leary never too far back. Buckwalter dropped out on lap 58, having bounced off the wall on at least one occasion. Bacon passed Swanson to take third. Jerry Coons Jr. and Dave Darland both went a lap down.
    Lap 70 came and went and now the bottom groove ruled. Leary had a brief tussle with Bacon, who wanted second. With 22 laps to go, Leary was third. At this point, who would have thought he’d win this race? But on the 84th lap he passed Bacon and caught a break that would be huge later on.
    For the second time Nemire had a right rear go flat on him, bringing out the race’s second yellow flag on lap 89. With only the lapped car of Robert Ballou to deal with, Leary was coming on strong. Grant was struggling and the Greenfield, Indiana native got the advantage coming out of turn four, passing the leader on the bottom with six laps to go and taking a lead he’d not give up, winning by nearly a half second.
    Swanson came on strong to nip Bacon at the end to take the final podium space. Windom was fifth. The Shanes ran sixth and seventh, with Cottle leading Cockrum. Clauson came from 14th to finish eighth. Coons was ninth and Darland tenth, both Hall of Famers a lap down.
    USAC’s somewhat peculiar point system had Grant leading the points after the first Silver Crown race of the year. With Justin setting fast time and leading the most laps, the six points earned gave him the lead with 73 and Leary 70. But C.J. wasn’t about to quibble. With a second at Lawrenceburg and this win, he had a weekend to remember.
    The quote of the day belonged to the winner, who said, “It kind of feels surreal.” Not too often is the word “surreal” used in a post-race interview.
    The USAC Silver Crown Series heads to Toledo Speedway for the Rollie Beale Classic on April 30.
    The Terre Haute Action Track’s next race is May 1, when the Midwest Sprint Car Series invades the half mile oval along with UMP Modifieds.
    Hoping to make the Honor Roll at the University of North Carolina majoring in Punditry, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Tire Management 101
    It is forever interesting how different people respond to the same situation or, shall we say, the same challenge. In racing, all competitors face the same conditions, no matter what they are. The only difference is starting position. To paraphrase an otherwise undistinguished politician, we go race with the weapons/assets/knowledge that we have. This means that Dave Darland may not have shown the others the fast way around the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a bone chilling cold night, but he certainly showed all the smart and winning ways around the wind swept three eighth mile, high banked oval.
    Let’s note right away that it was cold, one of the coldest races I’ve attended going back to those days when straight talking Harry Truman occupied the White House. It was windy too, which, like cold weather, can occur in Indiana, even in April. The wind, especially, would affect not only coffee and hot chocolate sales, but track conditions as well.
    36, close to a “perfect” car count, race teams braved the elements, along with a few downright crazy people, two of which were my eldest grandson (a teenager now—where does time go?) and myself. The usual runners were in the pits, minus Tracy Hines, now keeping busy elsewhere. Kevin Thomas Jr. landed in the T. Epperson machine. C.J. Leary was in Mike Dutcher’s pride and joy. Kody Swanson, Kent Wolters, and Steve and Carla Phillips showed up with two cars, both numbered 71. And Dave Darland was reunited with Jeff Walker for what seemed like the 57th time.
    The track was, predictably dry and slick, thanks to the relentless wind. Leary went out second of 36 and set fast time with an impressive 13.861 lap. The first three qualifiers were the three quickest. With Leary was Justin Grant and 2015 USAC Sprint champ Robert Ballou. But Max McGhee was fourth fastest and went out 31st. How impressive was that?
    Chase Stockon held off C.J. Leary to win by inches the first of four heats. The second heat had its own story. Chad Boespflug passed Jon Stanbrough on the last lap to win it. Jarett Andretti had it comparably easy in winning the third heat. Thomas Meseraull used the slide job judiciously in coming from fifth to win the fourth heat.
    The boys had played nice all night until the start of the B Main, with 20 cars scratching and clawing for six spots. Outside front row occupant Kody Swanson got just a little sideways in turn four coming to the green. Behind him, things stacked up quickly and ugliness prevailed. At least six cars collided with Kent Wolters and last year’s winner Logan Jarrett tipping over, blocking the track. By the time things were tidied up, four cars were eliminated. Pole sitter Max McGhee won with Kevin Thomas Jr. second
    TMez and local favorite Shawn Westerfeld led 22 others to the green. Westerfeld led early before Ballou came calling from his outside second row starting spot to grab the lead on lap four. He would lead for the next 21 laps.
    The high groove had worked for some in the preliminary races. But right away people noticed that it wasn’t working anymore and it quickly became a case of monkey see, etc. There were 24 bottom feeders on the track with Ballou as the head catfish. This was the case for the first half of the race, which had been an all green flag affair. That didn’t last.
    Kyle Cummins spun on lap 13, bringing out Tom Hansing’s yellow hankie. A few laps later Cole Ketchum did the same. But on the 19th lap the fun began. That fun was a festival of shredded tires, starting with Justin Grant, who was running third behind Ballou and Meseraull. Dave Darland, meanwhile, had advanced smartly from tenth to fourth at the start of the race and had been biding his time, perhaps noting Grant’s woes and maybe even smiling to himself.
    And so it continued, one yellow after another. The sixth yellow flag waved when Shane Cottle and Jerry Coons Jr. had an unscheduled meeting in turn two. The next victims would be Carson Short and Chad Boespflug, both with flats. T. Meseraull’s right rear tire had some of the cord showing; it was that far gone. It would be a matter of time and sure enough, TMez brought out the yellow and acquired a new tire. And now the leader was exhibiting the same symptom. Ballou’s right rear didn’t have long to go and that it did as the 25th lap began. This was the race’s tenth caution flag.
    Now it was Dave Darland, he of the relatively pristine right rear shoe, assuming the lead. His patience in watching the California trio of Grant, Meseraull and Ballou burn up their right rear tires had paid off. But behind him, tires were still caving in under the wear and tear of sliding on the dry, slick and rubbered down surface. After Ballou, it was Brady Bacon’s turn. Then came young Aaron Farney stopping on the track. The 13th (by my count) yellow waved for a Landon Simon spin.
    USAC officials called for a red flag for that rarest of reasons, a fuel stop. Some fans had left but my thinking was that the Sword Man and I had toughed it out this long and we could hang in there for a bit longer. If his namesake wasn’t going to win, Landon was rooting for Darland, one of the guys who was driving when he was a toddler playing on the playground at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway.
    The final three laps were anti-climactic, except that Chase Stockon had a right rear that looked shaky. But all three laps went green with Darland adding to his all-time leading USAC sprint car feature win record. C.J. Leary had been patient as well, bringing it home second. Scotty Weir had noticed early on what the track would do and he was rewarded with third. Stockon had started 16th after a subpar qualifying effort. He finished fourth. Max McGhee took fifth.
    Dallas Hewitt advanced more spots than anyone, coming from 21st to sixth. Meseraull came back to take seventh with his fellow California natives Ballou and Grant trailing. Farney was tenth after changing a tire.
    2016 marks the 24th straight year that Dave Darland has won a USAC feature, a remarkable feat that many of us will never see equaled.
    Darland summed it up by saying, “I knew from the beginning that it was going to be tough to save tires, but I knew everybody else was in the same boat, so we just had to make the best of it. We were fast, but had to save our stuff and I’m glad we could hold on and get it done.”
    There were the usual complaints about the track and tire wear. But with cold temperatures, a clear blue sky and a nasty wind out of the west, track prep was going to be even more of a challenge. Had the race been cancelled, complaints would have been made as well. Not every race can be like what we see on TV each Sunday with manufactured close finishes. And after having spent the month of March in the Carolinas and seeing races down there all month, believe me when I can say how good we have it up here in many ways.
    Buying my tires off Fred Flintstone, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: 2015 Retrospective
    It would seem to me that the things that we love, enjoy or cherish reveal that we are, among other things, lacking in logical decision making. Taking the emotions and feelings away makes the concept of love very difficult to justify. The same is true of our faith, whether it’s in a Higher Power or the belief that every time you fire up your computer, great things will happen. More and more, as the years fly by, I find the same is true of racing, most especially sprint car racing and even more especially in the state of Indiana. The year concluded was, thankfully, more of the same. For fans and maybe some racers too, undue worrying about things either were diminished or disappeared as we pulled into a parking lot and anticipated a good time. With all its issues, at least the ones that are legitimate concerns, a night at the races may have had little to do with logic, but somehow it was time well spent for many reasons.
    Since retiring this open wheel racing loving Hoosier has spent some time in the Carolinas, where our fendered brethren reign. 2015 was no exception as I bundled up, left the mountaintop and headed first to Gastonia, North Carolina, a beautiful red clay oval, nearly as nice as one of my home tracks about 44 miles west of here. The next night I saw some modified racing of the NASCAR variety at the Hickory Motor Speedway. A week later, I made a fairly long drive to the Anderson Motor Speedway, not the Anderson which hosts the Little 500. This one was in South Carolina. Watching stock cars was okay, but it was time to head north and see what was happening up here.
    I missed Logan Jarrett’s first USAC feature win at Lawrenceburg and still kick myself for that. My first Hoosier race in April was the Kokomo Grand Prix, with Darren Hagen winning the midget feature and C.J. Leary taking the sprint feature. The following weekend the six year old race fan came along with me to our red clay oval to see a USAC/MSCS show won by Bryan Clauson. A minor footnote at the time was a Robert Ballou coming from 15th to eighth. Chad Boespflug won at Lincoln Park on Saturday in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crush. Brady Short dominated the Bloomington show the following weekend while Lawrenceburg rained out, the first of many. April closed out with the first King of Sprint Series race, co-sanctioned by MSCS, at Terre Haute with Brady Short winning.
    The first weekend in May was my first three race weekend with no rain. On a cool Friday night, the Gas City/I-69 Speedway was the scene of the second KISS event with Jon Stanbrough winning. The following night found my traveling partner and me at the Lawrenceburg Speedway where C. J. Leary took the win. Round three of the KISS tour was Sunday evening and Justin Grant overcame a spin to win. The next weekend began at Bloomington with Brady Short surviving a slide off midrace and recovering to win. Saturday night’s destination was to be the Lincoln Park Speedway, but rain took care of that. The mid-month weekend was a pair of Hoosier bullrings in action on Friday and Sunday with Saturday rained out. USAC came calling at Gas City with Justin Grant winning. Rain won at Lawrenceburg on Saturday and Shane Cottle excelled at Kokomo on Sunday night. Four races in four nights lay ahead with Kody Swanson winning the Hoosier 100 as Aaron Pierce came from 18th to second and Brian Tyler came from 27th to third. The ageless Ricky Hood checked in with a top ten finish. B. Short did it again at Bloomington, winning the Josh Burton/KISS/MSCS show and some extra cash. Thomas Meseraull won at Lincoln Park and Short edged Kyle Cummins on Sunday night at Tri-State Speedway. Closing out May, Short won again at Bloomington.
    Meseraull kept winning, this time at a BOSS sanctioned Lawrenceburg party as June arrived on time. All of a sudden, it was time for Indiana Midget Week. Tanner Thorson’s first USAC win came at Gas City as Bryan Clauson won the sprint feature. BC won the midget A at LPS the following night and Kevin Thomas Jr. won the sprint finale. Christopher Bell took a break from stock car racing to win the USAC midget feature at Bloomington as Clauson was the sprint winner. KISS duties took me to Paragon on Saturday as Robert Ballou had a tremendous battle with Brady Short before winning. Brady was the 2015 KISS champ. Rico Abreu ended up as IMW champ. Rain prevented a Kokomo/IMW curtain closer. More rain hit Bloomington five days later and Chad Boespflug took the Shane Wade beauty to an LPS win. Rain wiped out Kokomo and Bloomington again. Boespflug won again, this time at Paragon’s Chuck Amati Memorial after Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle collided. Dave Darland closed out June with a win at his home track, Kokomo.
    Midseason arrived with Shane Cockrum winning the USAC/Silver Crown affair at Terre Haute. Lincoln Park remembered the one and only Bill Gardner with an MSCS/USAC double header. Robert Ballou won on opening night over a fast closing KT Jr. Jerry Coons Jr. won the USAC show on Saturday night. At Kokomo on Sunday, Justin Grant won an Indiana Sprint Car Series event. Indiana Sprint Week began at Gas City with Chase Stockon winning after I left home in southern Indiana during a rain shower. Unfortunately, Kokomo was rained out 24 hours later, rescheduling in a few weeks leading off Smackdown. Brady Bacon was the Lawrenceburg winner. Taking Monday and Tuesday off, the caravan began the next leg of ISW with Aaron Farney leading all the way to win his first USAC feature. Bacon returned to Victory Lane at Lincoln Park on Thursday. Rain returned, this time to Bloomington. Brady Short took the ISW last roundup at Tri-State with Robert Ballou taking the Sprint Week title—and the cool rocking chair. Kevin Thomas Jr. stopped by LPS on the 24th and won the feature, the Putnamville Clash and another ISCS production. Sean Buckley’s impressive promotional effort, the ISCS, was on hand at Gas City, where Ballou edged Jon Stanbrough. Just like that, July was over.
    Shawn Westerfeld enjoyed the first of August as he won the BOSS at the ‘burg show. Justin Grant did it again at Kokomo on Sunday night as folks remembered Bob Darland. Lincoln Park ran two nights in a row, the first a rare Friday affair with Brady Short winning. If that wasn’t enough, Brady did it again under MSCS sanction. The young man from Bedford, Indiana was on a roll, winning the following Friday at Bloomington, another MSCS event after Ballou spun and collected Stanbrough. Prior commitments kept me near home on Saturday but I was back at Bloomington the next Friday to see Nick Bilbee win the Sheldon Kinser Memorial and Jon Stanbrough emerge as the champ of the ISCS, winning one cool trophy courtesy of Mr. Buckley. Brent Beauchamp won at Lincoln Park and the Smackdown was in my immediate future. Chris Windom won the makeup Sprint Week feature on Wednesday. Robert Ballou won the official opening night of SD, with the popular production going to four nights in 2016. Chase Stockon and Dave Darland won the final two features. August was done.
    Labor Day weekend is a treat for Midwestern open wheel fans. But my grandson and I were rained out at Gas City. We motored east to Lawrenceburg on Saturday to see Kyle Cummins take the checkered first. And I made the long journey west to Du Quoin to see Shane Cockrum win the Ted Horn Memorial and lead the guys for a dip in the lake. C.J. Leary won at LPS and R. Ballou won the USAC feature at Terre Haute. Brady Short won the Haubstadt Hustler 24 hours later, a USAC/MSCS deal and two weeks after Short had sailed over the fence into the pits at Haubstadt. Brent Beauchamp ended September at LPS with a win, though he was not pleased with himself after a slide job removed Jeff Bland from contention.
    October opened with a chilly trip to Gas City. My wingman spent part of the time at the playground with his buddy Kellen. But both boys joined Grandpa (me) and Dad (Open Wheel KT himself) to see Scotty Weir win the feature. It was a good thing we went because the ‘burg was rained out the following night. Back to Tri-State one more time to see Chase Stockon win. Shane Cottle won on a chilly Kokomo night as all open wheel cars ran the first night of the Kokomo Klash. Spencer Bayston took the midget A. Thomas Meseraull closed out my outdoor racing season with an impressive win at Lawrenceburg before the USAC road show headed west.
    At year’s end I could be found in soggy Ft. Wayne, Indiana, watching Russ Gamester win the midget feature as the Rumble Series invaded the War Memorial Coliseum. Sunday evening was the curtain closer as another Rumble veteran, Billy Wease, won his fifth Rumble Series feature.
    Sometimes we look back at things we’ve done in the past and wonder how we did them. Remembering that it wasn’t that long ago I worked 40 plus hours a week at a mentally and physically demanding job, went to over 60 races per year and wrote tens of thousands of words about what I had seen. It’s not part of my plan to dwell on the how. I could pay good money to a trained professional to explain. More important to me is why. Somewhere inside many of us lies the reasons that we embrace this completely irrational passion of ours. Our level of devotion may vary, but inside each of us is this love of fast race cars, close competition and the thrill, for many, of seeing a personal favorite win.
    On the surface, at its base, nothing about this love, or most any love, makes sense. We watch people race in circles, round and round. We drive thousands of miles each year, spend untold amounts on gas, food and sometimes motel rooms. By my rough estimate, I went to nearly 70 races in 2015, drove approximately 11,000 miles, ate dozens of cheeseburgers and wrote over 70,000 words for Mr. Holland alone, not counting my other writing stories and projects. And for what?
    It’s understandable that my non-racing friends would wonder the same. Why drive all over the state for something that seems to be so absurd, so trivial? There are no easy answers, at least from this seat. All I know is that I’m better off chasing races and writing about them and aim to do so as long as I’m able. This “hobby” has given me every emotion under the sun, from one extreme to another. Maybe even more importantly, it has given me the opportunity to hang around some extraordinary people at every level, from ticket takers to the movers and shakers of this American sub-culture that we call sprint car racing. No complaints, just an untold number of blessings.
    Getting my Shi’ites and Sunnis mixed up, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Mr. Five Time
    Had things worked out a bit differently Billy Wease might have had a decent career in either NASCAR or even USAC by now. But for whatever reason that didn’t work out. Wease doesn’t race all that much these days, but he’s a regular in the Rumble Series at the War Memorial Coliseum in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Not only that, he’s always a threat to win the midget feature. Sure enough, he did just that on a chilly Sunday evening, taking the lead on lap 16 and hanging on for his fifth Rumble win after a less than stellar Saturday in which he didn’t make the feature.
    It was a long afternoon after a late breakfast at the Liberty Diner. I spent a goodly amount of time watching what seemed like an endless series of go-kart races. Part of the time was spent standing as near to the track as I cared to be, appreciating the outrageously quick cornering speeds of these little bullets. Naturally, part of the time was spent ambling through the pits in the catacombs of the Coliseum, mostly people watching. It was family time for most all the teams with people tackling a variety of tasks, working on the karts, eating, playing video games, reading, talking or even resting.
    It reminded me of a friend’s (Matt Hamilton?) observation that much of racing is waiting for six hours to race for five minutes…or something like that.
    Thankfully, when possible, the show moved right along, showing that promoters are also organizers. As one group left the track after their race, the next was already entering.
    Since qualifying had taken place on Saturday, midget heats for the three midget classes began right after the last go-kart feature.
    Things got ugly right away in the midget’s first heat. J.T. Crabtree nearly lost control going down the backstretch but righted himself. However, Dameron Taylor came along and clipped Crabtree’s right rear, flipping into the fence, tearing up a section and moving the wall. Worst of all, two medical workers standing near the wall were hit and injured. They were taken to a hospital and were not believed to be seriously injured. Taylor was not injured, but was done for the night.
    After a 40 minute delay, the fence was repaired and pole sitter Lynsey Ligouri won the first heat with Geoff Kaiser holding off Derek Bischak to make it to the main.
    Kyle O’Gara won the second heat with Matt Westfall a distant second. Joe Ligouri and Chris Neuenschwander would have to try their luck in the B.
    The most underappreciated win was that of Justin Peck in the third heat. He came from fourth to win, using a low line coming out of turn two and diving under people to pass below the accumulated rubber. One of those passed was Billy Wease, who was second. Wease’s teammates Dave Darland and second generation racer Tyler Roahrig readied themselves for the B.
    Michigan’s Nick Landon won the fourth heat with Russ Gamester winning a side by side duel with Jim Anderson to take second.
    The fifth heat saw some craziness. After a lot of bumping, beating and banging, last starter Cory Setser won with Bryan Nuckles second. My notes said Grant Galloway bumped Nuckles, who returned the favor. Then Justin Grant tangled with Nuckles with Grant done for the night. Rich Corson was bumped, costing him a transfer spot. After the race there was a lot of shouting and fingers being pointed. Galloway was dismissed from the proceedings and Corson left as well on his own accord. It was a sad way for Rich to end his Rumble career.
    Derek Bischak won the first of two B’s with Tyler Roahrig bringing it home second, making two of the three Randy Burrows cars in the feature.
    A pair of eights, those of Chris Neuenschwander and Joe Ligouri, made their way to the big show after the second B. Two Rumble winners were done, Jim Anderson and Dave Darland, who was in the third Burrow car.
    After Larry Jo Sroufe won the Non-Wing 600 Outlaw midget feature, the headliners came out to romp. Westfall and Wease made it all nines and all W’s for the front row. Westfall’s #9 took the lead at the start and withstood a good bit of pressure from Wease for the first ten laps before Setser slowed, collecting Kaiser who ended up facing the wrong way. The yellow came out and the order was Westfall, Wease, Nuckles, Peck and Gamester.
    Peck was attracting a large portion of oohs and ahhs as he negotiated the second groove with limited success. Meanwhile, Wease made his move in turn one, diving under Westfall for the lead. From there it was adios, baby, as Wease pulled away for the win, and hopes of maybe tying Tony Stewart’s record of nine Rumble feature wins.
    Behind the leader, Westfall had his hands full with a host of vultures lined up to pounce. Nuckles took second and Bischak was on his game, coming from 11th to finish third, right behind the Ohio native’s nerf bar. O’Gara was equally impressive after an unhappy Saturday, coming from eighth to fourth. Peck, for all his trouble, grabbed fifth after running the upper lane for much of the race.
    Cap Henry closed out the proceedings with a feature win with his 600cc Winged Outlaw Midget.
    I walked away appreciating all I’d seen the past two days. This eased my way to thoughts about the state of full sized Midget racing in these parts. When pondering the health of this branch of the sport, perhaps we should first, as Woody Allen would say, define our terms. If we decide to look only at special events, especially indoor events, Midget racing is doing quite well. There was nothing wrong with 39 cars on opening night of the Rumble. The 800 pound gorilla known as the Chili Bowl routinely tops the 300 mark.
    Special shows that are conducted under God’s own skies aren’t struggling, if their name is Indiana Midget Week. For many, this exceeds Indiana Sprint Week as a favorite. But a closer look reveals a bit more.
    IMW is supplemented by a regular sprint car program. Fans get a double helping of open wheel action and love it. Could Midgets alone carry this load? It’s understandable if one doubts it. Plus, other sanctioning bodies provide a decent amount of cars to this USAC sanctioned series of races. Take away the POWRi and ARDC cars and how many cars would there be? One has to ask.
    The Montpelier Speedway, up in northeastern Indiana, has made a real effort in recent years to race Midgets on a semi-regular basis. At times they have struggled for cars, but it seems to be progressing at a slow but steady rate.
    Part of the problem is that pavement Midget (and sprint car) racing is barely hanging on—outside as opposed to inside races. In addition, expense and safety have reduced both car counts and the number of venues at half mile tracks. The few remaining tracks larger than a quarter mile struggle to get cars and, in some cases, fans.
    You won’t find any solutions, or even suggestions, here. Yours are quite possibly the same as mine, if there are any answers to the real questions that confront this type of racing that we do love in varying degrees. For sure, all involved must, and I hope, will figure out how to build on what we have in these times. It can be done.
    Maybe what matters was that I’d seen some very good indoor racing and a young man who may not have become a well known name among many fans, but who once again showed what he could do—namely race.
    Mistakenly naming Miss Kentucky as the winner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Oldest Driver Plus Oldest Car=Winning
    One of the most appealing characteristics of indoor racing is the fact that a kid has a good chance of beating his veteran competitors as the veteran has the same chance to do the same to the kids. But when a veteran takes a car that is nearly as old as he is and wins, well, how special is that? It’s very rare, unless you are Russ Gamester and you show up at the 19th running of the Rumble Series at the Ft. Wayne, Indiana Coliseum. On a rainy Saturday night in December, the last Friday of 2015, Gamester took a Grant King built midget and motored to victory on the first of two nights of the Rumble. Russ himself is at the 50 mark while the car dates back to 1976, a mere 39 years ago. Where else in racing can a 39 year old car be both competitive and a true threat to win?
    Over the past half century or so, indoor racing has had a mixed record of success. Ft. Wayne’s history of indoor racing is long and varied. One could argue that it gets better each year, should one choose. Either way, it’s race cars on a race track and one should not complain.
    The Rumble Series has evolved into a two or three day party where a race or two will break out. Dozens and dozens of go-karts, with a multitude of classes within that division, quarter midgets, non-wing dirt outlaw 600 midgets, Winged Outlaw Modified Midgets and the headline class, full sized midgets where the rules are relaxed somewhat, making for a heady brew of racing with racers ranging from age four to 64 trying their luck.
    Midgets qualified Eldora style with the first lap counting for the Saturday portion of the show and the second lap used for the Sunday wrap up. One of eight past Rumble winners on hand, Derek Bischak, set quick time on both laps, one of only three to click the timer on both nights under eight seconds.
    Pavement wizard Bobby Santos’ Rumble got off to a bad start when he spun with or without help on the first lap of the first heat. A bit later, part of Brandon Knupp’s car ended up on top of Billy Wease’s. After a delay both re-started. The top two of the five heats would advance. The first heat had four past winners. Two of them, Gamester and Bischak, moved on. The others would have to scramble through one of the three B’s.
    Amazingly the second heat was all green. Jim Anderson won with Brad Greenup second. Geoff Kaiser, Aaron Pierce and Dave Darland were among those who would try again.
    Justin Peck, the youngest ever Rumble winner, won the third heat and took Joe Ligouri with him to the show.
    Bryan Nuckles won the fourth heat, which was marked by a mean t-bone applied by Alex Watson to Nick Richards in turn four. Nick was not pleased. Local boy Cory Setser was second, holding off Tyler Roahrig, recovered from a nasty crash in a late model at the Anderson Speedway.
    The fifth heat was simply weird, interrupted by five yellow flags. Young Austin Nemire grabbed the lead from third when front row starters Justin Grant and Grant Galloway got together at the start. Matt Westfall stayed out of trouble and took the other transfer.
    The first of the three B Mains was no less bizarre, with five more yellows waving. The top two would be the only runners to move on. Galloway won with Kaiser second, having his hands full keeping Nick Landon at bay.
    Chris Neuenschwander started on the pole of the second hooligan and won with the ageless Rich Corson second. Justin Grant, not as comfortable on indoor pavement as on dirt, missed the show.
    More craziness marked the third B. After a false start J.T. Crabtree didn’t get stopped in time and hit Bobby Santos, knocking the talented New Englander out of the race. Santos ended up getting more laps run in time trials than in his actual races. A little later leader Kyle O’Gara spun while leading. Crabtree ended up winning with Aaron Pierce making a rare outside pass to finish second after he had spun—twice—earlier.
    Brad Greenup and Russ Gamester were the front row of the 40 lap feature. Greenup took the early lead until the first yellow waved for a J. Ligouri spin, with assistance from Bryan Nuckles. Ligouri got his spot back and Nuckles went to the tail. On lap 14 it was Galloway’s turn to spin. Up front the order hadn’t changed with Greenup leading Gamester, Setser, Westfall and Bischak.
    Ligouri spun again on the 17th lap. There was no change up front until lap 26, when Greenup spun going into turn three all by himself. Gamester was now the leader and Setser second. Cory had not been able to get close to the Peru, Indiana veteran throughout the race and that wouldn’t change.
    Three more yellows and three more restarts didn’t help Setser’s cause either. Gamester took Tom Hansing’s checkered flag first as Setser led a freight train consisting of Westfall, Bischak and Peck. Ten cars were running out of the 16 that started.
    Another veteran racer, John Ivy, took the lead at halfway and won the Winged 600 feature over his teammate Cap Henry. It was Ivy’s fourth Rumble win.
    Blane Culp closed things out with a win in the non-wing outlaw midget feature, a rock ‘em sock ‘em affair that Gamester ran with less satisfying results after he was squeezed into the front stretch wall and flipped. He was about as perturbed with Jason Ormsby, the squeezer, as Culp was happy after the race.
    Just past 11:00 P.M. and a light rain still fell. Not seeing any animals ambling two by two, I was relieved. If the city didn’t flood, there would be racing on Sunday afternoon.
    Wondering if the yellow flag was getting time and a half pay, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Closing the Book on 2015

    The silence you hear or imagine is the void left by sprint cars as another Hoosier sprint car racing season has concluded for all intents and purposes. Though many fields still contain corn and other crops, many more have been harvested. The air has a distinct chill to it, even in the daytime. School is well underway and high school and college football take center stage as both Indiana and Purdue University’s football teams wallow in mediocrity—at best. And Halloween is not far away. But melancholy is often a waste of time. Especially if you are Thomas Meseraull, a/k/a TMez. Landing himself in the Shane Wade/Amati Racing Team’s ride has also landed him in Victory Lane twice in a row in USAC Amsoil sprint car action. After winning the feature at Eldora’s Four Crown a few weeks ago, Meseraull and Company won a cool $10,000 at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a chilly Saturday night. Besides it being his second USAC win in a row, it was TMez’s tenth feature win overall this year.

    For the second straight night my fellow Hoosier sprint freaks would brave chilly conditions. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as cold on Saturday. But folks were still bundled up like Eskimos and my four layers were sufficient.

    34 teams ignored the weather and the casino across the street, preferring instead to go racin’. Pennsylvania resident and IU student Tony DiMattia was camped in the pits with his recent acquisition from the Gentrys. USAC’s Silver Crown champ Kody Swanson stopped by, as did Illinois’ Terry Babb. For one last time we’d see the guy so many fans have “adopted,” namely Robert Bell, who has had the time of his life this year, open trailer and all. Dustin Ingle came down from northwest Ohio to race. Chad Boespflug was in Gene Nolen’s creation for the night. Mini-sprint standout Beau Stewart pulled up a seat at the table. And World of Outlaws’ Shane Stewart took off the wing and made some adjustments, wishing to try his luck and maybe pick up some extra walking around money.

    C.J. Leary was 12th to take his two spins around the three eighths mile high banked monster. His 13.898 stood up against the rest, though Kyle Robbins tore off a 13.963 after Leary’s run. Surprisingly, DiMattia was second quick. Shane Stewart met disaster coming to the green flag. Barreling into turn three he lost the handle and flipped hard. Shane was okay but his outing minus the wing was done for the night and maybe for a long, long time. Some message board experts were correct in applauding Mr. Stewart for at least trying to tackle the ‘burg without his usual configuration.

    Chris Windom led all but the first lap of the first heat, winning with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Pole sitter Max McGhee was third and fast qualifier Leary was fourth. Kyle Cummins, Casey Shuman and Kody Swanson went to the B.

    Brady Bacon let Aaron Farney lead the first lap of the second heat before assuming the lead and the win by a large margin. Farney was second by a good distance over Jerry Coons Jr. Pole sitter Dustin Ingle held on for fourth, sending Chad Boespflug and second quick Tony DiMattia B Main bound.

    Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the third heat. Scotty Weir, in Todd Keen’s pride and joy, was second. Thomas Meseraull was a fairly tame third. Jarett Andretti was fourth and this meant third fastest qualifier KRob went to the B.

    Robert Ballou had not helped his points situation with his less than ideal time trial. But it put him on the pole of the fourth heat and he won easily. Dave Darland, third in points, came from sixth to second. Justin Grant was third. Chase Stockon, second in points, started and finished fourth. Hall of Famers Jon Stanbrough and Tracy Hines went to the B.

    Robbins started the consolation race on the front row and jumped out to the lead. By now the cushion in turns three and four was right against the wall, where many racers like it. Robbins was one of those guys until the sixth lap when he spun into the wall, a good night ruined. Kyle Cummins took over the lead but Kody Swanson wanted the lead, too. After a pair of yellows, the expectant daddy took the lead and held on for the win. Joining him in the Show would be Cummins, Stanbrough, Boespflug, Hines and Garret Abrams, who edged Casey Shuman, the new headman of the WAR sprint series.

    Brady Bacon led the first lap of the feature from his outside pole beginning point, but Meseraull was having none of that. Before that all happened, Dave Darland had a second consecutive night of rotten luck as his car appeared to jump out of gear on the backstretch right after Tom Hansing’s green flag. Just like that, the People’s Champ went from his fifth spot to 22nd. It didn’t do him any favors in the points race with Ballou and Stockon.

    On the re-start, Meseraull grabbed the lead from Bacon and kept his distance. Thomas passed Bacon as well but could not close on the leader. By the 12th lap, TMez began dealing with lapped traffic. Kyle Cummins, who had been flirting with the top five, slowed just before halfway and left the race. Stockon, who started tenth, was up to fifth just past the lap 15 mark. Ballou, who started 21st of 22, and Darland were both languishing in the back of the pack, but Robert did pick up some spots eventually. That would be crucial at race’s end.

    Incredibly, Meseraull lapped Darland with nine laps to go. The top five of TMez, Thomas, Bacon, Stockon and Weir stayed the same for several laps. But Chase was soon under attack from Chris Windom, who had advanced steadily from the eighth row. When Stockon bounced off the wall on the white flag lap, he lost more spots.

    But no one had anything for Meseraull. Thomas was a worthy second with C.J. Leary moving up in the race’s latter stages to take third. Bacon was fourth ahead of Windom, who had started 15th. Kody Swanson was a steady sixth. Stockon salvaged seventh and Weir was eighth. Stanbrough came from 14th to ninth. Ballou was the night’s hardest charger as he rallied late to grab tenth after starting halfway to the Ohio River.

    Ballou lost six points off his point lead over Stockon, who now trails by 19 as the boys head West. Darland is now 24 behind Stockon.

    The winner was his usual loquacious self, quite happy and not afraid to say it. He’s considered controversial by many because his words are not only frequent but also stinging at times to some. I don’t pay that much mind; all I know is the kid (they are all kids to me, the retiree) can wheel a race car and right now he and the Shane Wade gang have it together and are in a great position to play spoiler out West.

    The modifieds took over as I hung around, still tired from the night before but not wanting to leave this place. At that moment April seemed a long way off before my hoped for return to the finest dirt tracks in the nation overall. Time marches on; in my opinion it’s a circle, not a line. So all we can do is aim for the next starting point in the circle next spring, assuming and hoping that it’s meant to be. But the idea is to live one’s life as if doing the things you should do and should enjoy will be the last time you get to do them. Things like enjoyment, appreciation and even legacies matter. Let’s take that with us going down the road.

    Giving my old buddy Benjamin Netanyahu a history lesson, I’m…

    Danny Burton  

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Maybe Thomas Wolfe Was Wrong?

    Mr. Wolfe, one of our better American authors (my opinion only), was the guy who wrote the book, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It received critical acclaim, except for where his real life home was, namely Asheville, North Carolina. It seemed like the locals weren’t fond of ol’ Thomas and his unflattering description of the city.

    But in racing,  one goes go home all the time. Take that rascal Shane Cottle. Over the years, Shane has traveled many miles from his Kokomo home (even though he’s an Illinois native, I believe). He’s one of several Kokomo racers over the years who have excelled. And he did it again on a downright cold October evening at the Kokomo Speedway as he won the sprint car portion of the ninth annual Kokomo Klash, leading all 25 laps. It was ironic (and unfortunate for him), but another Kokomo standout, Dave Darland, dropped out of the feature before it even started with a stalled race car. So Kokomo boys bookended the field on the curtain closer for the thrill a minute quarter mile oval.

    For what it’s worth, this didn’t apply to midget winner Spencer Bayston, who won the midget feature. He is based in nearby Lebanon, Indiana.

    Sprints Preliminaries

    Somewhere in the mob scene that was the Kokomo Speedway pit area was a grand total of 29 sprints in the more than 160 race cars just off the north side of the track. Within this group were an assortment of players, some new ones and other familiar faces, cars and teams. Of note was Brandon Mattox, taking over the Jerry Burton owned 04 and Casey Shuman in the championship car driven by Scott Hampton at Lincoln Park Speedway this year.

    Heat races would be based on time trials and would start straight up. The top five would move on from the three heats and the feature would line up with the same method. Group qualifying as usual and Justin Grant was quickest of the three groups to qualify, ripping off a 13.021 lap.

    Dave Darland moved from the outside front row to the lead and win in the first heat. Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Mattox was third ahead of Michigan’s Joe Bares and Indy’s Travis Berryhill. Kyle Robbins spun on the first lap and found his way to the B. His night would get better.

    Max McGhee took the lead on the second lap of the second heat and won. Front row starter Logan Jarrett, a part of the Kokomo gang, was second. Pole sitter Brady Short took third, with Jarret Andretti fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. edged Casey Shuman for the last slot available.

    Shane Cottle beat his front row mate Justin Grant to win the last eight lapper. Chris Gurley finished third ahead of Shane’s nephew Colton. Tony DiMattia started and finished fifth in a car the IU student recently bought from the Gentry family.

    The sprint B was a yellow flag festival. When Brian Hodde’s checkered waved, it was the Shu winning, and taking with him KRob. Another homeboy, Josh Spencer, beat Canadian Lee Dakus by a right front tire width for third. And Chris Miller grabbed the last transfer over Mike Gass by a Kokomo Speedway pork chop sandwich. .

    Midget Preliminaries

    32 midgets were scattered through the pits with Tracy Hines making a rare non-USAC appearance, preparing to maintain his point lead in the USAC Midget series. Casey Shuman, C.J. Leary, Justin Grant, both Cottles and Michael Koontz were the double dippers, though Leary’s sprinter fell victim to engine gremlins.

    Justin Peck has shown for some time now that he can wheel one of these tiny beasts with anyone and he won the first midget heat by a zip code. Kellen Conover, Nick Speidel and Dalton Camfield finished second, third and fourth.

    Mr. Bayston started as well as he finished, winning the second midget heat. Justin Grant made a late pass to take second from Austin Prock. Dave Camfield was fourth and would move on.

    Shane Cottle had fun in the third heat, winning from the second row. C.J. Leary came from the back to finish second. Wisconsin veteran Scott Hatton grabbed third after starting last and Kevin Studley settled for fourth.

    Tracy Hines came from fifth to win the third heat. Casey Shuman started eighth and concluded the race second. Shane Hollingsworth, whose racing is limited these days, was third. Ryan Greth hung on for fourth.

    Seymour, Indiana’s Logan Arnold won the B Main, which saw Ken Drangmeister take a mean ride down the backstretch. He was shaken, but okay. Michael Koontz was second, leading Justin Dickerson and Kurt Mayhew to the line.

    Sprint Feature

    Dave Darland was scheduled to start the feature on the pole, but while lining up, his Jeff Walker bullet just stopped on the track, unable to refire. This put Cottle on the pole with Max McGhee next to him as the boys took the green flag from Tony Elliott’s son Brandon, one last tribute to a guy who dominated at Kokomo over the years.

    Cottle assumed the lead at the start as McGhee dropped back. The first yellow waved for Joe Bares on lap three as Jerry Coons Jr. had taken second from Logan Jarrett. A lap later Brandon Mattox spun. On this re-start, Brady Short had moved into third and was threatening Coons for second. But Jerry was up to that challenge and Justin Grant came on to pass Short midway through the 25 lapper.

    Lapped traffic came into play at this time and the third yellow waved for a Grant/Mattox tangle when Justin tried an inside pass. It was Cottle, Coons, Short, Thomas (from 14th), Jarrett, McGhee, Casey Shuman (from 16th) Kyle Robbins (from 17th) and Travis Berryhill. Three laps later, on lap 14, it was McGhee’s turn to spin in turn two.

    Cottle kept control but it was time for Kevin Thomas Jr. to shine. After the McGhee yellow, KT was fourth. After a couple of green flag laps, he passed Short and began pressuring Coons for second. There was time to catch Cottle, but, though he did close in somewhat, Thomas had to settle for second behind the local boy.

    Coons hung on for third, ahead of Short. Jarrett was fifth. Shu did some serious moving coming in seventh. So did KRob, who finished eighth. Scotty Weir was ninth and Colton Cottle came on at the end to take tenth.

    It had been cold and was getting colder but I hung around for both the Thunder Car feature, then the midget finale.

    Peck and Bayston led 18 others to Brian Hodde’s green and Tracy Hines promptly spun out in turn three, a very rare event. Justin Peck took the early lead before Shane Cottle, hoping to double up, took the lead as Hines carved his way through the field.

    But Cottle’s fine run ended on lap 10 as he coasted into the infield. Peck took the lead and tried mightily to check out, weaving through lapped traffic. Behind him were Shuman, Hines, Bayston and Hollingsworth. Shuman slowed and exited on lap 18 and Bayston passed Hines. But Peck bobbled in turn four and stopped in turn two with a broken torsion stop, bringing out the yellow after Hines had passed Bayston for second, then the lead.

    With five laps to go it looked like Hines might complete an impressive recovery, coming from his early spin to lead. On the restart he took the bottom groove and Bayston was alone up top. The kid from Lebanon, home of another outstanding midget racer, kept at it and passed the veteran with three laps to go and sailed home for the pink and white checkered flag (a nod at the fight against breast cancer).

    Hines held onto second with Hollingsworth third after starting 12th. Behind Shane was Shelbyville’s Nick Speidel. C.J. Leary was fifth.

    It was just past 12:30 a.m., a very rare late night at Kokomo. My phone told me it was 34 degrees in Kokomo. This was the coldest I’d been at a race since March, when I was parked in North Carolina and settling for stock car racin’. It seemed like I had come full circle, but not quite.

    I had one more track to say goodbye to before the curtain came down. The ‘burg awaited me and many others. Like folks say, Kokomo never disappoints. They also say “Get your ass to Kokomo” and if you want to see Hoosier sprint car racing at a high level, Kokomo, among others, needs to be on your list.

    And unlike my buddy Thomas Wolfe, I was going home again.

    This one was for Lloyd and Gail.

    Designing new fourth down plays for the Colts, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Cut to the Chase
    On a beautiful, if a little chilly, southwestern Indiana October night, sprint feature winner Chase Stockon must have felt a bit like Butch and Sundance, the movie version of course, while they were being chased by the law all the way to South America. Except the feature winner is not exactly an outlaw being chased by the guys wearing badges. No, Stockon was closely followed for much of the 30 lap feature by Kyle Cummins, like Chase a local favorite. Together, with a few of their friends, they closed out the 2015 season at the Tri-State Speedway. It was also the curtain closer for the Midwest Sprint Car Series’ 2015 season.

    Despite the nice weather, it was the kind of night that would make promoters look for the sturdiest tree they could find and strike it vigorously with their head. Why? Well, the weather was near perfect, 75 cars jammed the pits, including 25 sprinters, plus there was at least a half dozen potential winners in the feature lineup. The track was ready to yield high speeds, close competition and passes for positions. But one had to remember that a larger form of competition exists outside the confines of TSS.

    Multiple fall festivals dotted the landscape throughout the state this past weekend. No doubt some fans and race teams were in Illinois either racing or watching. And surely many people stayed at home watching the St. Louis Cardinals lose to the Chicago Cubs. Most of those fans in southwestern Indiana might have wished that they had gone to the races instead. That part of the state is predominantly Cardinals country (observed the Cincinnati Reds fan).

    It would be the usual passing points format with the top 16 in points moving to the feature. The top four in the B Main would transfer too. The top six of the 16 would redraw for starting positions in the show.

    But crowd or not, there was a race to run. Kevin Thomas Jr. started on the front row of the first heat and simply checked out, winning by a straightaway. Donnie Brackett came from seventh to take second. Brandon Mattox improved to finish third. Carson Short came from eighth to grab fourth. James Lyerla, Chet Williams, 2015 MSCS Rookie of the Year Brandon Morin and Nick Johnson trailed.

    The second heat was loaded with hot dogs, with all the accessories. Chase Stockon passed Brady Short on the seventh lap to see Mo Wills' checkered first. Behind Mr. Short was the ageless Critter Malone. Kyle Cummins struggled to get fourth. Kent Schmidt was next, ahead of Brian Karraker, Kendall Ruble and Dylan Shaw.

    Jeff Bland started the third heat seventh and was leading by the third lap. From there he ran away to take the win. Aric Gentry was second. Pat Giddens held off Jadon Rogers for third. Jim Shelton, Patrick Budde and Dave Gross finished up.

    Chet Williams took the lead on the second lap and motored away to win the B Main. Dakota Jackson, after a heat race mishap and a family thrashing in the pits to get ready for the B, came from last to second. Patrick Budde was third. Brandon Morin overcame a broken shock, yet still made a late pass of young Kendall Ruble to take the last feature spot available.

    Despite MSCS public relations ace Eldon Butcher’s assertion that the lineup he gave me was unofficial, I wasn’t surprised to find out it was correct all the same. Chase Stockon and Jeff Bland led 18 of their playmates to Mo Wills’ green one more time. These two took off and ran one/two, reaching lapped traffic by lap six. But an unwanted Donnie Brackett/Critter Malone meeting in turn four brought out a red flag.

    The yellow waved soon enough and the gang lined up behind Mr. Stockon, who led Bland, Mattox, Thomas, Cummins, C. Short, B. Short (who had been honored before the feature for his 2015 MSCS championship), Karraker, Williams (already up from B Main land) and Gentry. Two laps after Mo waved his green flag on the restart, Mattox and Bland banged wheels coming out of turn two, with Brandon immediately sensing something bent or broken. He exited to the relative calm of the infield.

    Cummins wasted little time in getting to second and began his chase of Chase. Both pulled away from third place Kevin Thomas. Bland and Brady Short were next as the crossed flags made their appearance.

    Easily the highlight of the race was the mastery shown by Stockon in simply attacking lapped traffic. And Cummins was equal to the task, dogging his new neighbor’s tracks (Cummins is from nearby Princeton, while Stockon has moved to near Haubstadt). In, out and through traffic they raced with the leader not able to pull away any farther than six or seven car lengths. Behind them it was much the same for the guys still on the lead lap and even some of the lappers as well.

    Stockon had lapped everyone up to sixth place when Brian Karraker slowed on the backstretch. What timing BK had; there was one lap to go. The green and white flags would be waved simultaneously, an honest one lap duel. This was pressure, at least it was potential pressure. But Stockon took care of that. He hit his marks expertly and there was nothing Cummins could do after Mo expertly waved both flags.

    It was Stockon’s third MSCS win of 2015.

    Behind Cummins was Thomas, who was less than pleased with his effort and finish. The Shorts, no relation, were fourth and fifth, Brady, then Carson. Critter Malone moved from 14th to finish sixth. Bland was seventh with Schmidt coming from 15th to finish eighth. Even more impressive was Williams, starting 17th after winning the B and bringing it home ninth. James Lyerla occupied tenth.

    Another final visit to one of my homes away from home and reluctantly I ambled out to my wife’s car. The crowd wasn’t what it could have been; promoters can’t do business if only the hard core fans show up. There’s lots of competing events out there for casual fans, most of which have little to do with racing. But may the Lord have mercy. They missed a great night, from the on track racing to the cheeseburgers to the racing souvenirs.

    Sipping a beer every time the TV announcers mention The Chase and getting tipsy quickly, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Race Track Reading 101

    Over the years I’ve read most of the novels written by Louis L’Amour. Several of his characters had the ability to “read sign.” That meant they were able to find and keep a trail, often when looking for someone who was missing or an outlaw. In their own way, racers can read sign as well. Many times we’ve seen racers standing at the edge of a track while it’s being reworked, trying to figure out the quick way around. Whether it was Scotty Weir or his car owner Todd Keen plotting their race, the result couldn’t have been better. Seeing that the nonstop wind had finally done a number on the surface of the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Weir went straight for the bottom groove and stayed there pretty much the whole race. His late race pass of Dave Darland gave the pride of Marion, Indiana the victory, his first of the year.

    As my growing but still small fellow traveler and I motored northeast to Gas City, it was hard not to have the weather on our minds, well, at least my mind as I struggled to keep the little white Chevy truck on the road. The wind refused to take a break; it certainly wasn’t giving me one either. On we went, not knowing what we’d find for sure, but confident there would be loud and fast sprint cars in our near future.

    Sure enough, there they were—at least most of them. 32 sprinters braved the elements to race on this last race of the year for Gas City. There were a few guys in unfamiliar cars, which is not all that uncommon for a local show. Justin Grant was still in the Baldwin Brothers machine. Dave Darland was in the Ohio based Jamie Paul car. Dakota Jackson was in the Stensland 41. Casey Shuman, new owner of the Wingless Auto Series/WAR, was in the 4J normally piloted by Lincoln Park champ Scott Hampton. C.J. Leary was in the S. Pederson owned 4P. A.J. Hopkins was in the Rick Davidson 42.

    Four groups of eight did the group qualifying dance. Quickest in their respective pack were Max McGhee, Justin Grant, Kyle Robbins and Critter Malone, making a rare but welcome appearance. The four quickest in each group were inverted for their heats.

    Robert Ballou started on the pole and held off Shane Cottle to win the first heat. Max McGhee was third with Canadian Lee Dakus, perhaps wondering if he was back up north in the cooler weather, bringing it to fourth.

    Scotty Weir took the second heat, which featured two close battles behind him for position. Logan Jarrett shot to second from his sixth starting position. He kept it, edging Justin Grant to keep the runner-up spot. Chris Gurley beat Brandon Mattox by a wheel to grab the last transfer spot.

    The third heat was taken by Dave Darland. Pole sitter Tyler Courtney was second. Kyle Robbins locked himself into the feature with his third place. And Nick Bilbee was fourth, meaning that he’d start 15th later.

    A.J. Hopkins passed pole sitter C.J. Leary early to win the fourth heat. Behind Leary was Matt Goodnight. Critter Malone started and finished fourth.

    The program was moving right along. All involved were committed, partly because it was so chilly and partly because rain was off to the southeast and heading for Grant County.

    Brandon Mattox owned the B Main, holding off fellow front row started Colton Cottle. Casey Shuman was third and had his hands full with a snarling pack immediately behind him. Dakota Jackson made the feature by the length of one of my grandson’s miniature sprint cars. Michigan’s Dustin Ingle had to load up too early.

    The redraw put Jarret and Hopkins on the front row, Weir and Courtney on the second. Weir made his move as Brian Hodde’s green flag waved. Scotty went straight to the bottom in turn one while most others went for the middle or top. The track had changed radically from a hammer down surface to one that was feeling the effects of the constant wind and the near 100 cars all over it.

    Hopkins took the early lead. Jarrett had a bad start and ran over a right rear tire (Courtney’s?) and nearly flipped in turn four on lap two. Logan didn’t flip, to everyone’s relief seeing that he’s been off for several weeks with the aftermath of head injuries. But he landed hard on the rear tires and Brian waved the red, stopping the action. Jarrett was not hurt, but was done for the night.

    Hopkins led as the green hankie waved again with Weir second. Scotty was the man, having figured out this tricky track. But Dave Darland was on the move. After starting seventh, he was fourth on the restart and quickly caught the leader.

    Behind the front runners there was a serious dogfight that lasted for several laps with Hopkins, Grant, Robbins, McGhee, Ballou, Leary, Malone and Mattox, who was coming on strong from B Main-land.

    Midway through the race Darland made his move, taking the lead, where else, on the high side. Dave spent part of his time taking away Scotty’s low groove but couldn’t stay away from the top, like many others. In other words, it wasn’t a huggy pole parade, far from it.

    Max McGhee had been trying slide jobs for all he was worth, but brought out a yellow on the 19th lap. The prime suspects were Darland, Weir, Courtney, Cottle, Ballou, Grant, Mattox (from the B), Leary, Malone and Hopkins. Darland, one would think, had a great chance to wrap this one up, but Weir had other ideas and the execution of those ideas was at the bottom of the track. After a brief tussle with Courtney, Scotty stayed with his plan and it worked. With two laps to go, he got around the leader and rode it home to the checkered.

    So what if the elements made for a tricky track? Racers raced, as they are known to do. Behind Weir was Darland, Courtney, Cottle and Ballou. Mattox came from 17th to take sixth from Grant at the end. Leary was eighth. Critter Malone came from 16th to take ninth. And Casey Shuman rambled from 19th to round out the top ten.

    The time was 9:25 and an old man with his grandson were frozen with a two hour drive ahead. Saying our goodbyes to yet two other KTs, Mr. Tennant and son (that’s Kevin and Kellen), we headed south.

    It was sad to say goodbye to another track for 2015, but it was inevitable. With Bloomington, Terre Haute and Lincoln Park, Gas City joins the list that we won’t be able to haunt again this year. But except for one time, there’s always next year, we can hope.

    Saying goodbye to one of my treasured bullrings has been expected, but saying the same to a Hoosier sprint car legend certainly was not as Tony Elliott, with three others, perished in an airplane crash not too far from where I spend my month of March, in the upstate of South Carolina. Quite possibly inclement weather was a cause.

    Many tributes to this extraordinary racer and man have already been put in place. It’s difficult to add any more. But one thing occurred to me after I’d had the chance to digest the sad news. As my uncle said about my dad as he spoke at Dad’s funeral, “He never knew a stranger.” It was my uncle the minister’s finest eulogy. Those words surely applied to Tony as well. We can never forget that ever present smile of a guy who was not just a great racer, but a sprint car fan too. RIP, sir.

    Soon it’s off to Haubstadt one more time as the leaves begin to turn and the crops are coming in as we speak (thank you, Buddy Baker).

    Rounding up the usual suspects, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Winning Ugly

    By the time he reached Brad Dickison’s ever present microphone on Saturday night, Brent Beauchamp probably knew what he was going to say. He was happy that he’d won the 25 lap sprint feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway, the last of the year at the entertaining oval just east of Terre Haute, but he wasn’t all that pleased with how he had done it. Beauchamp had taken the lead with a less than perfect slide job on race long leader Jeff Bland with three to go. As he said to Brad at the start/finish line after the race, it wasn’t the way he wanted to win it. But, needless to say, he took the win, the trophy and the money, as racers do.

    My last trip to beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana was uneventful—unless one counted the several drops of rain that periodically caused me to activate my windshield wipers, which kept saying, “make up your mind” to me all the way to Mooresville.

    Sprint cars accounted for 21 of the 99 cars in the Joe Spiker pit garden. Several were at either Eldora for the Four Crown or the Tri-State Speedway for the MSCS sprints and the POWRi midgets. One shouldn’t worry about who is or is not at a given race; one should appreciate those who are there. Tonight some guys who don’t get to run up front all the time would do so.

    The first heat had its drama. Ethan Barrow, in his first outing in a long time, shared his right rear tire with J. J. Hughes coming to the green. He led until a slight bobble put Hughes into the lead coming to the white flag. But J. J. got the left front up in the air coming out of turn two and broke the right front. Barrow regained the lead and won with Mitch Wissmiller, who had been gaining on the leaders, taking second from a limping Hughes at the line. Lee Underwood was fourth with Jaden Rogers, Eric Burns and Jamie Fredrickson trailing.

    The second heat was tamer. Jeff Bland started on the pole and led all the way. Hunter O'Neal was second and Travis Berryhill came from last to take third. Jake Henderson, who spent most of his Saturdays this year at Paragon, edged Connor Donelson for fourth. Ben Phillips was sixth, ahead of David Hair.

    The third and final heat was vintage Lincoln Park. Most every lap saw at least one position change. Brent Beauchamp shot from fifth to second on the first lap, then passed the ageless Troy Link for the lead a couple of laps later for the win. Shelby van Gilder was third, holding off 2015 Lincoln Park Speedway champ Scott Hampton. Kevin Studley, Chris Babcock and Dylan Shaw trailed.

    After my last bar-b-que sandwich (thank you again, Bill Gardner), the support class heats, and the year-end awards presentations, it was time for the last feature at LPS this year.

    The Killer B’s, Barrow, Bland and Beauchamp, occupied the first three spots in the A, along with Mitch Wissmiller. But Mitch brought out the first yellow as he barreled into turn three a bit too hot. He didn’t come close to tagging one of the billboards, but he did spin to a stop. On the complete restart, Troy Link got into the front stretch wall and dropped out. Bland led early and the next yellow waved on lap three.

    Most all were sticking to the high side and three laps later the third yellow flag appeared. This one was full moon material as Ben Phillips and Steve Hair tangled. Shelby van Gilder stopped on track and Jamie Fredrickson spun at the other end of the original yellow.

    The prime suspects were Bland, Beauchamp, Barrow, Hunter O’Neal, and Travis Berryhill—with Hampton, Hughes, Underwood, Donelson and the ageless Eric Burns making up the second five. This green flag segment lasted four laps until the yellow came out when Dylan Shaw spun in front of the leaders. Nothing had changed in front but Hampton had moved to fifth.

    Slide jobs seemed to be the best way to pass. So far there had been no contact. The fifth caution flag waved on lap 15 after contact between Wissmiller and Donelson. It was still the B’s up front with Hampton fourth. Hughes was next with O’Neal, Berryhill, Wissmiller, Kevin Studley and L. Underwood the top ten.

    Beauchamp had been right on Bland much of the time and made the pass on lap 19 with a less than pretty slider. But yellow number six waved when Shaw spun. No word if Beauchamp flipped the bird to the young man, but Brent did appear to signal to Bland that he knew the slider wasn’t too great.

    On the last restart, Bland took off and pulled away briefly. But Beauchamp was coming on and tried another slider going into turn one. Again, it wasn’t an artistic success and Bland found himself over the turn two cushion—and in second place. And that was it as Beauchamp went on to win.

    In the post-race interview, Brent was not overly happy with himself, saying that it wasn’t the way he wanted to win. But like most racers, he’d take it.

    Behind Bland was Barrow and track champ Hampton. Hughes was fifth. O’Neal, Berryhill, Wissmiller (who came from the tail after his early spin), Studley (from 15th) and Jadon Rogers were the top half.

    Don’t be fooled. Unless you are a die-hard partisan fan of Jeff Bland or whoever, the race winning move wasn’t a dirty one. And Brent Beauchamp isn’t a dirty driver. He knew it wasn’t his best move on the race track and that was that.

    Having said that, I’m no fan of slide jobs because…all too often they end up with someone either making contact or else impeding the progress of the passed car, which was what happened on Saturday night. Granted they are certainly legal and when executed perfectly, they can be worth watching and appreciating.

    Having said that, I’m a Brent Beauchamp fan—just as I’m a Jeff Bland fan. They are two young men who represent our passion well and their efforts are appreciated by many, including me.

    Good-bye Lincoln Park—till we meet again.

    Messing with Sasquatch one time too many, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: From Over the Fence to Victory Lane

    In the blink of an eye, fortunes can easily become misfortunes. Sometimes in a different context changes aren't that quick. Nevertheless they are no less appreciated. Just ask Brady Short, who two weeks ago found himself sailing over the turn two fence at the Tri-State-Speedway. Fortunately his only discomfort was only a few extra aches and pains, the kind that one notices after a few years pass. But on a cool Saturday night at the fabled bullring in southwestern Indiana, Short returned to the scene of his scary ride and won the Haubstadt Hustler. With that win, Brady walked away with $10,000 after taking the lead when race long leader Kyle Cummins collided with a stationary car.

    The rain and humidity had passed through the southern part of Indiana, replaced by cooler temperatures and a breeze out of the north. It was a long and leisurely drive on interstates 65 and 64.

    I arrived at the track to find 30 sprinters waiting on me. The Hustler was a co-sanctioned affair between USAC and the MSCS. The feature would be 40 laps, almost an enduro for sprints in these parts. The passing point system would be used; heat races lineups were determined by the draw. The top 16 in passing points were locked into the feature.

    The first heat began with a barrel full of ugly. A scramble at the start left Mike Terry Jr. with a flat tire. On the second try Nick Johnson got sideways and eventually Robert Ballou, Shane Cottle, C. J. Leary and Justin Grant were all collected. Ballou and Cottle were done for the race as Robert tipped it over. Dave Darland ended up winning with Leary second. Remember Mike Terry Jr.? He came back to finish third. Grant recovered to take fourth. Johnson, Robert Bell, Ballou and Cottle trailed.

    The second heat was relatively tame. Kyle Cummins won with Chris Windom second. Chase Stockon moved up to third. Thomas Meseraull came from last to fourth. Jon Stanbrough, Aaron Farney, Jeff Bland and James Lyerla finished the rundown.

    The third heat began on a sour note as Kevin Thomas Jr. slid into Chet Williams, bringing out a yellow. Williams was not overjoyed and let KT know it. Brady Bacon won from the pole with Daron Clayton, back to try and repeat last year's remarkable win, second. Short, Thomas, Brandon Mattox, Williams and Chad Boespflug followed.

    Donnie Brackett impressed as he won the last of the heats. So did Dakota Jackson who finished second. Tracy Hines took third. Kent Schmidt banged wheels with Carson Short and was fourth. Short, Lee Dakus and Hunter Schuerenberg trailed.

    The B main had its ugly moments. C. Short tipped over in turn four before a lap was completed. His long shot at the MSCS title got a lot longer. There was a turn four scramble on the restart, but the real fun was in turn two. Jeff Bland flipped with Jon Stanbrough trying and failing to miss the mess. He would burn a provisional later. Things settled down and Brandon Mattox won, some redemption after missing the show 24 hours earlier. Farney was second. Schuerenberg came from ninth to third. Ballou started 11th and finished fourth while Shane Cottle motored from 12th to fifth. Finally Chad Boespflug came from 13th to grab the last spot for the feature. Stanbrough and Lyerla used provisionals.

    Passing points put two local favorites, Clayton and Cummins, in the front row. Yet again, a race got off to a rough start. Windom and Lyerla spun in turn one of the first lap. Trying again, this time Grant bounced to a stop in turn three. By now it was evident that Clayton had an ill handling beast on his hands. Soon he would exit the race.

    This left Cummins in the lead and he tried to check out. By the time the next yellow waved on the ninth lap, Kyle was lapping people. Mo Wills waved the hankie when Hunter Schuerenberg got sideways and collected Stanbrough. There was still 31 laps to go and Cummins led Jackson, Leary, B. Short, Brackett, Bacon, Thomas, Darland, Meseraull and Stockon. One should have noted that Short had started 12th.

    On the restart, Cummins motored away again, but Short was making his way to the front. Three laps after the restart he passed Leary for third. Then the Bedford Blaster (well, that’s what announcers call him) passed Jackson for second and he could see the white 3R car, which soon entered lapped traffic almost at the halfway mark. As Kyle negotiated the lappers, the Pottorff-mobile was gaining. Could it be? Would this be another wild finish?

    Not exactly. As lap 35 approached it seemed that the margin between Cummins and Short had stabilized. Maybe the local (Princeton) kid would walk away with a nice pile of cash. But on lap 35 that pile wasn’t cash, if you get my drift. A tangle right at the start/finish line left Aaron Farney sitting in the groove. Cummins tried to miss him but instead his right rear caught Farney’s car. With a snap of the fingers, his race and outstanding effort was over. And guess who was now leading? Yep.

    But wait. While most all were watching the Cummins-Short battle Kevin Thomas Jr. had made his way up to second. My knowledgeable USAC source said that KT had not won a USAC race since way back in February way down in Florida. This told me that the kid might be both hungry and anxious. But it wasn’t to be.

    On the restart Short gradually pulled away and was the first to spot Mo’s checkered flag. Thomas settled for second. Jackson had a simply outstanding effort, the best I’ve seen him race in some time. The young man from Elizabethtown, Indiana was third and Brady Bacon was fourth. Stockon passed Darland late for fifth. Ballou had to make do with the Hard Charger award and money, coming from 20th to seventh. Windom came back from his early spin to take eighth. Leary was ninth and Meseraull tenth.

    The quote of the night came from Dakota Jackson, who said, “…I was just running the race of my life and having so much fun running up there with those guys.”

    For Brady Short, it was redemption of sorts. His flight over the fence two weeks earlier faded a bit more into the mists of memory, though it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He started the night by accepting from yours truly the way too cool helmet for winning the King of Indiana Sprint Series championship again this year. After congratulating him on behalf of the 2015 KISS promoters and staff (Terre Haute, Gas City, Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, Bloomington, Tri-State and Paragon), he was asked if he’d put this one on the shelf to admire or would he use it? Guess it’s going on the shelf and will be a reminder of what’s been a special year for Short and the Pottorff team.

    It was time for the long trip home via Vincennes to visit more family and then head east.

    Loaning Donald Trump my selfie stick, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Seizing the moment

    Most all of us have encountered situations that were urgent and needed a decision made quickly, as in a matter of days, hours or even minutes. And there may be times, especially while driving down the highway, that we need to make a very quick decision and hope it's the best. Robert Ballou found himself in a spot like that on a warm and humid Hoosier night at the Terre Haute Action Track. When leader Chris Windom bounced off the turn two wall on lap 27, Ballou had a quick decision to make. It put him in the lead and he went on to grab his first feature win at Terre Haute and his 10th USAC win of the year.

    This would be the first of a two night treat, USAC sprints at Terre Haute, followed by the Haubstadt Hustler on Saturday a few miles south on U.S. 41. This one was named for two distinguished people in racing, Tony Hulman and Jim Hurtubise. Each in their own way gave much to this sport we all love.

    There was a threat of rain; in fact Terre Haute had a fairly heavy shower on Friday morning. It headed east and I encountered scattered sprinkles on my way to Bloomington for lunch with a good friend who has taken the name of Mike O’Leary. From there it was go (north) west young man. Visiting with family in Terre Haute and then time to head to the track.

    27 hungry racers stopped by for a few cheeseburgers and hot laps. Thomas Meseraull was in the Chuck Amati Racing Team’s hot rod, replacing Chad Boespflug who was in the Krockenberger family tradition.

    In qualifying, the track stayed fast. Maybe the cloud cover helped. At any rate, Jerry Coons Jr. went out 26th and ripped off a 20.490.

    Robert Ballou stated his case very well in the first heat, coming from third to first on the first lap in winning the first heat. Incredibly, Jon Stanbrough spun in turn four. Chase Stockon tried to miss him, but didn’t. Stanbrough restarted while Stockon headed for the pits and the B. Meseraull was second in his Amati debut. Coons was third with Indiana Sprint Week/Terre Haute winner Aaron Farney fourth. Stanbrough came back to finish fifth.

    Brady Short led all the way to win the second heat. Shane Cottle gave him enough discomfort to last awhile, but settled for second. Chris Windom was third and Hunter Schuerenberg brought the Jeff Walker speed wagon in fourth. Kyle Robbins hung on for fifth.

    C.J. Leary did a fine job of holding off Dave Darland to win the third heat. Behind DD was newlywed Kevin Thomas Jr. Justin Grant started and finished fourth. Tracy Hines brought out his backup car and had to start last. But he finished fifth and transferred into the show, even though he’d start last again.

    Chase Stockon led 11 and one quarter laps of the B Main. But Brady Bacon made the pass in turn two of the last lap and won by a car length. Tyler Courtney was third. Jarett Andretti was fourth ahead of J.J. Hughes, who had a race long battle with sprint car rookie Mario Clouser. Chad Boespflug started and finished seventh.

    Windom and Stanbrough were the first to see Mo Wills waving the green at them. Up next would be Thomas, Schuerenberg, Darland, Coons, Bacon, Stockon, Grant and Ballou. A mad scramble commenced immediately in turn one. While those ahead of him seemed to dither (actually fight for position), Darland sneaked low and grabbed the lead coming out of turn two. Ol’ Dave promptly began to check out and leave all others behind. As lightning made an appearance to the north, Darland was as fast as greased lightning, as it were. By lap eight he was a straightaway ahead of Thomas and Windom, plus Darland had already reached lapped traffic.

    Ballou was busy too. From tenth he was sixth by lap four. Three laps later he was fifth. Another lap and he’d climbed to fourth and wasn’t done. And then came the first game changer.

    Mario Clouser’s good night went bad in an instant as he flipped in turn two. Darland probably groaned as did his fans (I know this because I was sitting with one of them.). His huge six plus second lead was gone. Not only that, there was only one lapped car between him and his nearest pursuers.

    Darland wasn’t the only one groaning (or offering various choice words). During the red Brady Bacon was pushed into the pits with a flat right rear tire, giving up fifth place.

    The restart order was Darland, Windom, Ballou, Thomas, Stanbrough, Schuerneberg, Coons, Stockon, Cottle and Grant. A few things needed to be noted after the green waved. With Jarett Andretti opting to go to the rear, there was only one lapped car between Darland and Windom. Stanbrough and Thomas had a terrific fight for fourth place with Jon eventually making the pass of the Alabama native. And even more noticeable, Darland wasn’t able to stretch out his lead as he had done at the race’s beginning.

    We had, for a few laps, a three car battle for the lead. Soon enough, lapped traffic came into play for the leaders, who were nearly a half straightaway ahead of fourth place Stanbrough. First Windom struck, passing for the lead in turn two on lap 23. Ballou was next, getting around the People’s Champ for second. Robert now had the leader in sight and seven more laps to make some noise. Then it happened, another turning point of the race. Windom had a decent lead when he smacked the wall in turn two (it was a wonder how many others kept from doing that). As Chris fought to regain control of his car, Ballou made his move, took the lead and led the last three laps of the race.

    Ballou had seized the moment and made the most of it.

    For the first time since J.J. Yeley’s 13 win season in 2003, a USAC racer had double digit feature wins.

    Darland held on for third with Stanbrough fourth. Coons was fifth, trailed by Thomas, Stockon, Leary (from  18th), Bacon (nice recovery from the early flat tire) and Tyler Courtney, who walked away with the Hard Charger award (and some spending money) for coming from 21st to tenth.

    Post-race, as the crowd filed out, I watched the top five finishers and their cars parked on the front straight. Four of them smiled painful smiles as they signed autographs and had maybe hundreds of pictures taken. They might vigorously disagree, but in some eyes and ways, they, too, were winners. Quite a few kids and a few adults walked away from their brief meetings with the top five runners quite happy—as it should be.

    The best post-race comment came from the winner: “Sometimes, you have to have some luck, and it's especially true coming from tenth to win here." This statement is partly true. One must take advantage of that elusive luck and run with it. Ballou certainly did that.

    As this is written, the Haubstadt Hustler is a few hours away. I’m thankful for the hour that I’ll gain driving there. A king is scheduled to be crowned and I have the crown.

    As is the case most weekends, many Hoosier sprint car fans may wish they could be cloned. Both Lawrenceburg and Lincoln Park are running tonight. Any crackpot inventors in the house?

    Trying not to make a fool of myself on social media and everywhere else—and failing—I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Restarts Matter

    C.J. Leary found out the hard way that restarts matter. On a chilly Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Leary was surprised by Brent Beauchamp, who briefly took the lead during the sprints’ 25 lap feature. But later in the race, Leary showed that he’d learned his lesson. Oftentimes a restart can change a racer’s race into a direction that one wishes to avoid. And another lesson learned was that a good racer never stops learning. It’s a never-ending process, this learning deal. Not unlike life itself.

    Summer took Saturday off and this meant folks bundled up a bit before venturing outside. Shorts were replaced by long pants. T-shirts were covered by coats and jackets. I figured that if I was going to be cold, I may as well go see a race.

    32 sprints helped jam the pits as 120 cars occupied much of the town of Putnamville. All cars had their hot laps and then…rain fell. A brief shower delayed things an hour or so. Blue skies were visible and the radar on my phone showed a tiny green dot—right over the track apparently.

    The green flag waved at 8:15 for the first heat and the program ran like a clock the rest of the night. Brent Beauchamp took the lead on the second lap and won. C.J. Leary came from sixth to second. Kyle Robbins came from seventh to finish third. Jadon Rogers took fourth.

    Front row starters of the second heat Troy Link and Bub Cummings ran side by side for a lap before colliding at the start/finish line. In the temporary craziness, Mike Gass sneaked through the crowd and took the lead. He checked out and led the rest of the way—after starting sixth. Cummings was second with Austin Prock third. LPS point leader Scott Hampton was fourth.

    Jeff Bland won the third heat as two of the eight cars scheduled scratched. A.J. Hopkins was second. Shane Cockrum, in town to drive the Jamie Paul car, was third. J.J. Hughes, engine smoking and firing, passed Brandon Mattox late to take the last transfer.

    Max McGhee came from third to lead all the way in the fourth heat. Chad Boespflug, second to Hampton in points, was in the Krockenberger machine for the night. He was second. Lee Underwood hung tough to take third. Jordan Kinser would start 16th in the feature, a tidbit worth remembering.

    Troy Link may have led the first half of the B, but Brandon Mattox came on to grab the lead and win. Brandon Morin was second. Braxton Cummings and Mr. Link would start in the last row of the feature. Hot on Troy’s heels were Chris Babcock, Chris Gurely and Pat Giddens.

    Bub Cummings and Leary were the front row for the feature and Leary took the early lead. Mattox brought out the first yellow on lap five, slowing Leary’s march. McGhee and Beauchamp trailed.

    Beauchamp got around McGhee on the restart as Leary began to check out. But Hopkins lost a driveline on the front stretch and another yellow waved, courtesy of Brian Hodde.

    It was Leary, Beauchamp, McGhee, Bland, Bub Cummings, Boespflug, Cockrum, Hampton, Prock and Kinser, from 16th to tenth in 11 laps. Beauchamp grabbed the lead on this restart, but Hughes stopped in turn three before a lap was completed. Brent had to give it back. C.J. took notice.

    It didn’t happen on this restart. Leary controlled this session, which lasted until lap 18 when McGhee slid into Bland, who stopped in turn four. The top ten was shuffled a bit. Leary, Beauchamp, McGhee, Boespflug, Cockrum, Bub Cummings, Kinser, Hampton, Mattox and Kyle Robbins.

    Up front nothing changed in the final seven laps. It was Leary all the way. Second through fifth stayed the same. Kinser moved to sixth after starting 16th. Robbins made a late charge to take seventh. Bub faded a bit to eighth. Hampton was ninth and ended up in turn one facing the wrong way after the checkered. He was not thrilled with Mattox, who had started 17th, dropped to last and made his way to tenth.

    The close point race drew more of my attention than normal. Hampton finished as the 2015 Lincoln Park champ, leading Boespflug by one point at the end.

    We’ll never know if Mr. Leary would have passed Mr. Beauchamp because another yellow flag waved before he had the chance. The restart was quite important as it turned out.

    I’m reminded of the shower that could have washed out the festivities but didn’t. In a sense, the resumption of the program was a restart. And it was good. Sometimes life is like that.

    Trying to sell my work ethic on eBay, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     



    dlb1600@yahoo.com


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