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The Hoosier Race Report
by Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: Ingredients for Excellence
We could agree on what ingredients go into a successful career, or person. Ability, desire, luck, a few others, these all matter. But I could add another, that being longevity. In racing that’s not always fair because this sport is the cruelest at times in that a life can be lost by racers in pursuit of excellence and/or a trophy. I’d not exclude a Robbie Stanley, to give a relevant example, from any discussion of great sprinters. But his was a promising career cut short. On the other hand, you have Dave Darland, who has all of those ingredients plus a good dose of longevity. He’s been driving a sprint car for 30 years or so. And he’s lost little, if any, off the old fastball. He continually proves it as he did yet again on Sunday night as the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown III finally brought down the curtain of the final act. If that wasn’t enough, he made my point about longevity as he broke Tom Bigelow’s 33 year old record for most sprint features won in USAC competition.
Though they didn’t wish for it, I still thought it was nice for the O’Connor family to go ahead and race on Sunday, which happened to be another milestone for me. Folks were only too happy to wish me well; it didn’t escape me that the vast majority of them were a bit younger than I. But life goes on; just because the finish line seems closer doesn’t mean it is.
Night Three of Smackdown had a different format. There was no qualifying. Instead, three qualifying race were run with the top three advancing. The B moved five more. The top eight in points for the previous two shows engaged in the popular King of the Hill, a series of three lap elimination runs with the top points getter squaring off again number eight, number two versus number seven, and so on.
Pole sitter Justin Grant won the first qualifier with C.J. Leary second and Logan Jarrett third. Brandon Mattox had a rough time of it, bouncing off two cars and not transferring along with Tyler Courtney, Brian Karraker and Chad Boespflug.
Front row starter Kevin Thomas Jr. took the second heat that was stopped for a nasty Max McGhee flip in turn four. Max was okay but the fence took a beating. The Kokomo crew has had more practice at mending fences than they wish, but they did get it fixed quickly. Brady Short and Casey Shuman also transferred. Landon Simon, PA’s Trevor Kobylarz and Parker Price-Miller began preparations for the B.
Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. won the third and last qualifier. Kyle Cummins, in the Rick Pollock special, was second and Tracy Hines took the last spot to transfer. Chris Gurley, Jarett Andretti and Josh Spencer would race at least one more time.
The crowd was pleased by the King of the Hill format and results. First up was one seed Robert Ballou verses eight seed Chase Stockon, who prevailed.
The crowd volume increased when number four Dave Darland faced number five Bryan Clauson. Darland won by a few feet as he took his usual high road and BC owned the bottom.
Seed number three Brady Bacon beat number six Chris Windom, who didn’t help his cause when he two-wheeled it in turn three.
Up next was two seed Jon Stanbrough and number seven Shane Cottle. Stanbrough easily won after local favorite Cottle did a near spin.
Round Two saw Darland eliminate Stockon by three car lengths, again using the high side.
Next up was Stanbrough and Bacon, who barely won and both avoided disaster as they collided just past the start/finish line.
This left local man Darland and Bacon. Right at the start Bacon took Dave’s preferred line up top and kept the People’s Champ at bay for all three laps, winning by two car lengths.
And just like that, the first eight spots for the feature, 40 laps worth, were decided.
The 15 lap B Main was wild and woolly. Whereas the heats were won by front row starters, it fell to Chad Boespflug to put that pattern aside. A lap one yellow waved when Kobylarz got sideways and collected Spencer, another local favorite. A couple of laps later Brandon Mattox’s bad night got worse as he flipped in turn one. Boespflug had already roared to the front.
Another flip, this one by Andretti in turn four, stopped action. Both Mattox and Andretti were able to walk away.
Boespflug and Courtney missed a dandy fight for third between Simon and McGhee, who had repairs made after his heat race accident with help from Jon Stanbrough himself. Price-Miller spun on lap ten while in a transfer position. Kobylarz put a pile driver on B. Karraker, who was running fifth, the last transfer. Chris Gurley and Josh Spencer benefitted from that as they fought for fifth.
Moving on were Boespflug (started seventh), Courtney, Simon, McGhee (from 11th) and Spencer. Karraker got a measure of revenge by using a provisional to start 23rd in the feature.
Bacon and Darland led 21 more to the Tom Hansing green flag. Brady grabbed the early lead but couldn’t shake Darland. And Robert Ballou wasn’t too far behind, but was plenty hungry as he passed Stanbrough and Stockon early. Darland took the lead on lap six and was there when the first yellow waved for Chris Windom, who was done for the night.
The tea leaves read it as being Darland, Bacon, Stanbrough, Stockon, Ballou (who had temporarily lost the two spots he’d gained), Leary, Clauson, Cottle, Grant and Cummins. The re-start saw Darland break away from the pack until lapped traffic brought Bacon back to Dave’s bumper.
The field regrouped after a Casey Shuman induced yellow just past halfway. Behind the two in front were Stanbrough, Ballou, Leary, Clauson, Stockon, Grant, Cottle and Cummins. A spirited fight broke out among Stanbrough, Clauson and Leary for third while Ballou renewed his charge and challenged Bacon for second.
Again, lapped traffic became a factor as Ballou reeled in Darland. But C.J. Leary ended a great run with a flat tire and stopped, bringing out a yellow Ballou surely didn’t wish to see. If that wasn’t enough, Robert had lost a right rear wheel cover. If enough mud made its way into the wheel, Ballou would be sunk.
As it turned out, Darland won with a flawless re-start and ownership of the high groove. Ballou held onto second with Clauson getting around Bacon at the end to take third. Stanbrough was fifth. Grant took sixth and Kevin Thomas Jr. came on at the end to take seventh. Stockon was eighth and Cummins seemed to spend most of the race in tenth place.
Darland was now the all-time leader in USAC sprint wins; his 53 topped Tom Bigelow, who was present to witness the milestone. Mr. Big took it with class, which was no surprise.
Ballou spent time on the Smackdown podium each night, finishing with two thirds and a second.
Boespflug passed 30 cars officially over three nights and was the hard charger. His car owner, Mr. Paul Hazen, won the inaugural Bill Gardner True Grit Award for overcoming his share of obstacles the past four days.
Those were just a few of the awards handed out.
The O’Connor family deserved some sort of award as well. Their persistence and hard work made all of this possible. Fans were left to already looking forward to the 2015 version of Smackdown. They had overcome the uncontrollable challenge of the weather and persevered.
One must ride high while they can. It can end at any time and it probably will. But it’s rare when someone can ride high as long as Dave Darland has ridden. In our personal dictionaries, we can place a picture of Mr. Darland next to the words “excellence” and “success,” not to mention “class.”
Handing out pillows for a fight between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Delayed Success
In an extended weekend that saw more rain and waiting around than actual racing, it was not surprising to see some serious scrambling of the Smackdown III 2014 schedule. Thursday’s program was shut down after two heats had been run. Persistent rain was the culprit. The rest of the show was deferred to Saturday while Friday’s racing went off without any major hitches after some feverish preparation. Saturday would have an ambitious schedule of running the rest of the Thursday show, emptying the joint to quickly get ready for the finale on Saturday night. Part of this happened. The Thursday version was completed and Dave Darland won the feature. But rain again invaded Kokomo and most of the Hoosier state. I’m frankly surprised that the promoters have any hair left. I’d loan them some if I could.
The eldest grandson was my running mate on Friday; his pick of Bryan Clauson was looking good until BC’s tiniest mistake put Jon Stanbrough in the winner’s circle. His little brother was fired up as usual on Saturday for some racing, as well as a trip or two wandering through the pits.
We had a late start and missed Brandon Mattox and Logan Jarrett winning their heats. We also missed Jon Stanbrough winning the semi. We had no complaints about missing Jarett Andretti and Thomas Meseraull flipping in the B. Nor did we mind missing the ragged start where Justin Grant got sideways and escaped, but left C.J. Leary and Clauson having to re-start on the tail.
Grant took control on the re-start as Robert Ballou, Jerry Coons Jr. and Shane Cottle fought for second. Serial caution flags ruled early on as the guys could only race for a lap before the lights blinked. Dave Darland was fifth on the re-start after the final early yellow but began a charge. About five laps later DD was second, having passed future Hall of Famers Stanbrough, Cottle and Coons.
Grant was in trouble though he had no way of knowing it. As lap 20 loomed, Darland caught Grant. On lap 24 the pass for the lead was made. A lap later Kyle Cummins smacked the turn one wall, bringing out another worn out yellow flag. Under yellow it was discovered that Bryan Clauson’s rotten luck continued as his left rear tire was flat.
The race’s final re-start had Darland, Grant, Ballou, Stanbrough, Brady Short, Chris Windom, Brady Bacon, Kevin Thomas Jr., Cottle and Coons taking the green. The top three stayed the same, but Grant made it interesting at the end. His final hardball slider didn’t quite do the trick and Darland prevailed, with USAC sprint feature win #52, tying him with Tom Bigelow.
Further down the order, Windom came on strong at the end, taking fourth after starting 12th. Stanbrough was fifth. Thomas, Bacon, Cottle, Short and Chase Stockon were the second five.
Dark clouds dominated the skies as feverish preparations were made for the regularly scheduled Saturday night show. The radar on cell phones didn’t look good. We retreated to Grandma’s car to wait it out after polishing off a pork chop sandwich and some nachos, one of which Karston shared with Jerry Shaw. Then the rain began.
After sitting in the car watching a local law man struggle with opening a locked car for a young couple, we idled through the parking lot, noting several empty spaces that weren’t there earlier. We asked Monica Clauson if they had heard anything. They hadn’t and we idled back to the north side of the parking lot in the steady rain. A chance encounter with Steve Phillips, with wife Carla the co-owner of Darland’s car, gave us a gloomy prediction. The track was near the point of no return for preparation. Sure enough, a few minutes later I read the announcement on my phone.
We began the long, wet two hour drive south. Rain followed us all the way home. Saturday night became Sunday morning and I was supposed to feel older, but honestly didn’t. Instead I looked forward to Sunday evening, when finally the 2014 version of Smackdown would conclude.
Avoiding full buckets of water, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Margin of Error
Face it, we are all one inattentive driver away from eternity; sometimes that driver could be us. The tiniest error can be fatal or at least produce an unhappy ending. On Friday night, the first full program of the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown III, Bryan Clauson had the feature won. It would have been well deserved as he’d fended off the challenges of (mostly) Jon Stanbrough. But in turn one of the 29th lap, BC made the slightest of bobbles. Stanbrough had been breathing down his neck for most of the race and sure enough, on this he pounced. It can easy to forget that these guys are human. Even they make mistakes. After all, it was the most recent Kokomo race where Stanbrough wadded up a good car in turn three.
The rain in Kokomo didn’t stop until late morning and when I ventured out to the track around noon, it didn’t look good. But there was no way I was going to give up on the O’Connor family. I was quite confident that these people would make it happen. Sure enough they did just that. It was a sort of déjà vu as they had faced a very similar challenge on Thursday. By 6:30 we had ourselves a race track.
For the second night in a row, Dave Darland set fast time. Also, for the second night in a row, Bryan Clauson drew the last number to qualify. He qualified only 11th quick, but ended up starting on the pole for the feature.
Passing was tough in the first heat as outside front row starting Kevin Thomas Jr. won. Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney and Brady Short all transferred from the first four starting spots. This meant that Dave Darland, Robert Ballou and Chad Boespflug all marched to the B.
Chris Windom checked out to win the second heat. Brady Bacon came on strong to grab second from sixth. Jon Stanbrough was third after making a last lap pass of Jerry Coons Jr.
Tracy Hines’ less than ideal time trial put him in the front row of the third heat and he won easily. Shane Cottle was second and Casey Shuman took third. Bryan Clauson was shuffled to the back early and worked like a one legged place kicker to claw his way to fourth.
Brandon Mattox made it four for four as he won the fourth heat from the front row. Chase Stockon was second and Max McGhee was third. Kyle Cummins played a major role in seeing to it that C.J. Leary and Scotty Weir went to the B.
Thomas Meseraull wasn’t able to not start the B, along with Daron Clayton, beset by engine woes. This put Robert Ballou in the front row with Dave Darland. Sure enough, those guys were one/two. Chad Boespflug came from seventh to take third. Logan Jarrett, Mr. Leary and Mr. Weir also would move on. Brian Karraker would grab a provisional.
With so many fast timers heading for the B, this put Clauson on the pole with Grant beside him. BC jumped to an early lead as Stanbrough hastily annexed second from the second row. By the time of the first yellow Darland had already motored to fourth after starting seventh.
The second yellow waved when Cottle offered a right rear to Darland. Contact was made, enough to remove DD from any chance of winning. The same was said for Cottle, who had issues later. It was Clauson, Stanbrough, Cottle, Ballou, Grant, Jarrett, Bacon, Cummins, Windom and Stockon.
A few more laps were green before Brian Karraker flipped in turn two, bringing out the red. Up front, Cottle had retreated to the pits. Windom had come from 16th and was running eighth. Darland rejoined the festivities.
The next green flag segment saw Grant exit the scene up front and Darland get lapped. Yes, Dave Darland was lapped.
The final yellow waved on lap 19. It remained Clauson, Stanbrough and Ballou at the front. Bacon was fourth, but Cummins was about to make his life either miserable or annoying.
Clauson maintained his lead, but it never was a more than a few car lengths over Stanbrough. And then there it was. BC made that small error and Stanbrough was there. Jon’s margin wasn’t exactly huge as Clauson wanted to be there just in case Mike Dutcher’s pride and joy made its own error. But it didn’t happen.
Ballou was disappointed in third but he had no reason to be too torn up about it. After all, he’d started eighth and had to pass a few strong runners. Cummins did get around Bacon for fourth with the Oklahoma native fifth. Stockon moved from 11th to sixth while Brady Short advanced from 12th to seventh. Leary rambled from 14th to eighth as Windom faded a bit at the end to grab ninth. And Logan Jarrett ran as high as fifth before slipping back to where he started, tenth.
As this is written in the wee hours of Saturday morning, later today the gang will finish off Thursday’s program, and then run the regular Saturday show. It shall be a long day and then some.
Annoying Calvin while I entertain Hobbes, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Think It'll Rain?
Kokomo Speedway's Smackdown III got off to wet start on a most humid Thursday evening. The wetness in the form of rain visited the track on Thursday morning, dumping a few boatloads of rain onto the oval. But a Herculean effort by the staff, led by track prep guru Reece O'Connor, gave fans a surface that all 35 teams could tackle.
Dave Darland was 12th to qualify and his 12.791 lap was quickest, a full two tenths faster than Robert Ballou's time. There was no question of the track going away for those who drew high numbers; Jerry Coons Jr. (fourth quick) and Bryan Clauson (third) proved that.
What was occasional lightning to the north during time trials became more visible and persistent when the first heat lined up. Lightning in the form of high speed struck the track as fifth starting C.J. Leary won with Mr. Darland second. Chris Windom recovered from a lap one bicycling excursion to come back and finish where he started, third. Pole sitter Chris Gurley held on for fourth.
When the second heat lined up, a few sprinkles got people's attention--or at least it got mine. Somehow all eight cars kept things under control. Chase Stockon won what must have been one of his wettest wins ever. Kevin Thomas Jr. was second. Justin Grant took third and Robert Ballou grabbed fourth after a terrific battle with Casey Shuman.
As the checkered waved Lots of folks, including me, quickly left the bleachers. I began a brisk walk to the north edge of the parking lot. By the time I arrived at the white Chevy truck, the drizzle had stepped up a bit. I managed to be drier than most.
Before I left the rain was in high gear and stayed that way for quite awhile after I'd checked into a motel. I set a slower than normal pace on the newly numbered 931 and arrived in one, mostly dry, piece.
The rain continued off and on overnight. As of noon on Friday, the track partly covered with water. Clouds still hung around and there was yet another good chance of more rain. Despite it all, the staff was doing all they could do to conduct racing for the evening. As always, time would tell.
Yet again we are reminded that we don't have a lot of control over many things.
Heading to a home improvement store to buy materials for an ark, I'm...
The Hoosier Race Report: Some of This,…
The Bloomington Speedway was the scene of quite an evening of Hoosier sprint car/bullring racing at its best on a warm and humid Friday night. Those who excelled earned everything they got. Others may not have had the desired results, but they, too, excelled in effort if nothing else. There were hard feelings, cut and slash moves, slicing and dicing, and at the end, Kyle Cummins standing in victory lane with a touch of controversy.
On this mid-August late afternoon, it struck me that this was the way to show up. I ran a bit late because my grandson and I insisted on our singing along with the Beat Farmers’ catchy tune, “Happy Boy,” that is played each Friday on WTTS-FM in Bloomington at 5:00 p.m. Wife/Grandma was duly impressed. But, even though the troubles of life persist, one must persevere and look forward to good and/or better times. Usually, it occurred to me, I show up at a race with a feeling of both anticipation and curiosity.
Sure enough, my anticipation brought me to a conversation between Butch Wilkerson and Tom Helfrich. For once I kept quiet, listening to stories, speaking only when Butch let me.
This was an MSCS show tonight and 28 groups of racers had notions of racing on the red clay oval. As is usually the case, enough USAC runners showed up to make the regulars frown, then assume a look of determination to outrun those guys.
Passing points mattered and Casey Shuman hustled from third to first and won the first heat by a healthy margin. Dave Darland, in the Stensland machine, made a late pass on a very fast surface to take second over Brandon Morin. Jeff Bland did the same as he took fourth after starting seventh/last.
Shane Cottle started second and maybe wished that he had a cell phone with him. This was because he had enough time to order a pizza for the guys. Jared Fox was second and Ethan Barrow took third. Ethan Fleetwood, like Barrow, started and finished in the same spot; for Fleetwood it was fourth after bringing out an early yellow.
Brady Short ran away with the third heat win with Kent Schmidt second. Robert Ballou came from fifth to finish third. Kyle Cummins came from sixth to end up fourth.
Brent Beauchamp won the fourth heat as Brandon Mattox, the pride of Terre Haute, was second. Chad Boespflug had made contact with Bill Elson recently and tonight was in the black 27; he started last and grabbed third. Daron Clayton brought out the familiar and popular 92, and then drove it to fourth.
Rather than walk around, I sampled the double cheeseburger and watched the modified heats. It was a bit disappointing that the Modified Maestro, Devin Gilpin, wasn’t here, but that didn’t matter.
The top 16 in points after the heats were locked in and the B would add four more. A yellow flag was unfurled when Kent Christian spun while running third. Donnie Brackett was much of the show as he clawed his way to win after starting eighth. Aaron Farney came from tenth to second, an effort no less impressive. Pole sitter Ethan Fleetwood was third. Chris Babcock came from ninth to fourth and wasn’t terribly with pleased with something Fleetwood had done. No matter, both were in the show.
Short and Shuman, two guys who aren’t members of each other’s fan club, led the gang to the green. The green turned yellow quickly as a three car meeting commenced in turn one. It was time to try again.
This try made it to turn two before four cars gathered with Robert Ballou tipping over. Robert would be put upright and start on the tail. He’d make noise later.
The third time wasn’t to be the charm as Brandon Mattox and Kent Schmidt missed a great chance at a double flip when they slid backwards at a good clip over turn one’s steep banking.
For the second time in one week I’d used up one full page taking notes on one complete lap.
The fourth time worked for awhile. Shuman took the lead and held it until Chad Boespflug stopped on lap six. The order was Shuman, Short, Beauchamp, Darland and Cottle for the first five. Kyle Cummins was sixth, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, but he had started back in 12th.
The next 16 laps were some of the most intense and riveting I’ve seen anywhere. Shuman kept his lead but Cummins had quickly moved to second. These two, with Short and Beauchamp, engaged in some serious mano a mano combat while they negotiated lapped traffic. Cummins led for a couple of laps until he slipped to fifth after being balked by a lapped car. Shuman regained the lead until lap 22 when a yellow flag for Daylon Chambers waved.
Suddenly Shu slowed with a flat left rear that may have come from Beauchamp not getting slowed in time for the yellow—one of those racin’ deals.
Beauchamp led now with Short, Cottle, Cummins and Daron Clayton not done yet. The green waved and Cummins again showed that he had this place figured out tonight. Soon enough he was challenging Beauchamp for the lead. By the time the lap 29 white flag waved Cummins was on the 34’s tail. Then came the slide job that didn’t quite work. Cummins’ car didn’t quite clear the front of Beauchamp’s. Both easily recovered but Cummins had this one in the bag. Behind Beauchamp was Short, then Cottle and next was none other than Robert Ballou. His charge had been largely unnoticed as people were watching the fun up front. Darland was sixth, followed by Farney (from 18th), Clayton and Ethan Barrow. Chris Babcock came from 20th to finish tenth.
Beauchamp wasn’t pleased by the last lap slider and said so but to his credit, Brent was a man about it. Cummins did immediately go to Beauchamp’s car and had some words after they stopped for post-race interviews, but that was it. Words, no other antics. Both guys were pros.
I hung around for a little while and then moseyed out to the parking lot. I was Terre Haute bound, staying there overnight, and then heading for a new (to me) track, the Springfield mile, where USAC’s Silver Crown division hoped to race on Saturday.
Clouds were the norm as I traveled northwest, but there had been little rain—so far. Occasional sprinkles were in progress as I arrived, but stayed away long enough for hot laps and time trials.
The track was in great shape and Tracy Hines did his best to crack the 30 second barrier. He was quickest with a 30.646 lap in a car that is for sale.
But as the boys lined up, the drizzle began and wouldn’t go away. A couple of pace laps later and the red flag waved. A few of us were bummed, but that’s the way it goes.
I’ve traveled farther than the 250 plus miles to Springfield to get rained out (think Perris, California in November 2011). If nothing else I’d gotten a glimpse of the Illinois State Fair, a shining symbol of an America many of us think has gone completely away, but hasn’t. The background that consisted of carnival rides off turn one represented a part of America that somehow refuses to go away—and I’m glad of that.
Again I moseyed out to the parking lot after saying my good-byes and headed home. It would be a long trip, partly because my Plan B, the Lincoln Park Speedway, had also rained out.
Two days later came the good news that this race, the 53rd Tony Bettenhausen Memorial, was rescheduled for September 7.
God help us if or when our hope, curiosity and feeling of anticipation all desert us. Because then we will not be living, but merely alive.
So it may be that another race or two lies ahead. More specifically, the Kokomo Speedway awaits racers and fans alike for this weekend will be Smackdown III, one of the best birthday presents a fan could want.
Thankful that Mr. Bodett leaves the light on, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Seven is as Good as Eight
On a night that sprint car racing won’t forget, the remarkable battled with the tragic for center stage. Sadly, the tragic will likely prevail. But take nothing away from Donny Schatz or Brady Short. Donny won at Knoxville, for at least this past weekend the Mecca of sprint car racing. Brady won an MSCS sanctioned feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. The Hoosier state is the week in and week out Mecca of sprint car racing (in my own opinion, of course).
It was the Hoosier weather we know and love, a bit warm and very humid with a threat of rain—that is Indiana in August. I’d spent the early part of Saturday at a local motel parking lot, ogling old cars, especially ’57 Chevys, and collecting food for one of our charities. But after a nap, it was time to head northwest.
Given that LPS trackrat Bill Gardner has taken this life’s checkered flag, I had mixed emotions, which is to be expected, I reminded myself. I held wide open the possibility that Bill would be there in spirit, if not at his usual perch, a golf cart at Brian Hayden’s pit.
Bill might have been tickled to see 44 sprints jammed into Joe Spiker’s little playground among about 120 cars overall. Some of the regular USAC runners may not have been on hand (Guys like Stanbrough, Coons, Bacon, Hines, Windom and Stockon, who was present but in relaxed mode, weren’t around), but a goodly number of hungry racers were in the neighborhood.
Chad Boespflug showed ‘em how to play the passing points game as he rambled from eighth to win the first heat. Dave Darland came from fifth to take second. Mike Terry Jr. was a strong third, giving ol’ Dave fits for a few laps. Kyle Cummins, MSCS mainstay, came from sixth to fourth. Jeff Bland ended up fifth.
Shane Cottle was the man of the second heat, coming from fourth to win. Casey Shuman started on the pole and took second. Jarett Andretti was third with Joe Ligouri fourth. A.J. Hopkins advanced from sixth to fifth.
The third heat must have been victimized by some voodoo doc somewhere over in Clay County. It began early, even before anyone crossed the start/finish line, when the travelin’ man, Bill Rose, spun in turn four. The next yellow flew when Chris Gurley spun in turn three of the first lap and was hit by Rose. Yellow flag number three was for Daron Clayton, tonight in the Wingo brothers’ 77. The boys did get a lap in. The fourth yellow involved the hapless vet, Mr. Rose again. When all was said and done, Robert Ballou won from the outside pole. Carson Short was second and Clayton recovered for third. Hayden took fourth and James Lyerla was fifth.
Brent Beauchamp told me he was happy to have the pole for the fourth heat, but knew it would hurt his starting spot for the feature if he won his heat (he was right, of course). Kevin Thomas Jr. came from fifth to second. Max McGhee pressured KT mightily but settled for third. Travis Welpott came from ninth to take fourth. David Applegate, a Lawrenceburg regular, made the long trip across our state and finished fifth.
C.J. Leary came from fifth to take the lead and win the fifth heat. Brady Short came from sixth to take second. Daltin Gabbard was third, where he started, and hounded Short for the last half of the race. Brandon Mattox rambled from eighth to take fourth. Daylon Chambers persevered to grab fifth.
Two B Mains would take the top two as the 16 highest point getters would make up the first eight rows of the feature. Joe Ligouri and Daltin Gabbard paced the field with Ethan Barrow leading the first group to call it a night. A.J. Hopkins banged wheels with Jarett Andretti at the start of the second B and motored on to win. Ethan Fleetwood came from sixth to take second. Jeff Bland was added to the feature lineup as a provisional.
Here they came. Darland and B. Short in the front row after a redraw of the top six heat race point getters. Then came Cottle, Thomas, Boespflug, Leary, Clayton, Ballou, Welpott and McGhee. There were only 30 laps to go.
As the boys lined up, fans could hear a sick sounding engine; it was Brady Short’s. To me it sounded like a cross between a lawn mower and an old Offenhauser midget engine. One could be forgiven for thinking that Brady might need to get out of everyone’s way.
It was not to be. Short’s crew thrashed before the feature and with help from others, their efforts were not in vain. Despite one cylinder inoperable, Short led all but one lap.
Darland grabbed the lead on the first lap, but Short, playing the bottom like a maestro, passed The Rave to take the lead. Darland took control of second with Boespflug coming on.
As the halfway mark approached, lapped traffic became a factor. Boespflug got around Darland to take second. Thomas, 11th starting Brent Beauchamp, Cottle, Leary and Ballou trailed.
The latter stages starred Ballou, who was coming on strong. He passed most of those guys and that included Boespflug at the end. Behind Short, Ballou and Boespflug was Darland in fourth. Thomas was fifth. Cottle was sixth with Beauchamp taking seventh after running as high as fifth. Casey Shuman came from 14th to finish eighth. Max McGhee was ninth and Kyle Cummins came from 16th to grab tenth. Ballou was the hard charger as he came from eighth to finish second.
It was Short’s tenth MSCS win, number nine coming the weekend before at Haubstadt. Cummins remains the MSCS point leader.
Brady Short showed much class as he praised and thanked people such as Mark Cummins, Brian Cripe and none other than Robert Ballou. These three, among others, pitched in and got the car as ready as it could be. Yet again my faith in humanity was restored.
I arrived home near midnight to find a tragedy no one needs, most certainly not the sprint car world. My faith would be tested.
By now, chances are good that readers know what happened at a dirt track in New York State on Saturday, August 9. People, many of them in the media and most online, became instant experts on sprint car racing. Too many have asserted that Tony Stewart is a murderer. Thankfully, a large number of people have used their knowledge, studied various videos and refrained from instant judgments to determine that Mr. Stewart was pretty much innocent of all charges, unless one counts racing too hard. But this got me to thinking.
The young man struck by Stewart’s car didn’t get the chance to learn one of life’s hardest lessons. Decisions we make in certain situations can have eternal after effects. Sadly, people can die as a result of a quick decision, no matter the intention of the decision and the actions that result from said decision. Many, beginning with the deceased young man’s family, will suffer.
Quite possibly sprint car racing will suffer. Mr. Stewart may rethink his desire to race his sprinter at bullrings, but that’s not a done deal. The instant experts will continue to weigh in, contributing to global warming more than anything else.
But it doesn’t have to be all bad. Quite often good things come from bad things. (After this past Saturday, ask Brady Short.) By that, I mean that race tracks and/or sanctioning bodies will begin penalizing drivers who exit their car and walk toward cars circling the track. (Obviously, if a driver in a car is in an unsafe position, he needs to exit—pronto.) Maybe enforcing this rule will save a life. Maybe Kevin Ward Jr. will not have died in vain.
Accidentally making an appointment to see a gynecologist, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: When You’re Hot…
Robert Ballou didn’t improve mightily as a sprint car driver overnight. He’s been this good for some time. But in the past few weeks, things have come together for the California native and he’s been on a roll. He did it again on Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway. He won a race that lots of guys would love to win, the Bob Darland Memorial, named after Dave’s late father (Bob was also Betty, Susan and Deb’s daddy too).
25 teams stopped by to spend another lovely Hoosier evening at a race track. All the usual suspects, or at least many of them, had unloaded thousands of horsepower.
Jon Stanbrough, Chris Windom and Justin Grant were all the quickest in their respective qualifying group. Dave Darland, sentimental and natural favorite, had an axle snap while time trialing with his group. A major thrash ensued in the pits. Thomas Meseraull had something go wrong for him in hot laps and was done for the night.
The heats resembled high speed freight trains. Scotty Weir won the first of three. Fellow front row mate C.J. Leary was second, trailed by Stanbrough, Shane Cottle and Jarett Andretti.
The second heat was Windom’s turn to shine as he came from fourth to win. Ballou was second with pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. third. Mr. Darland, whose car was repaired, came from last/eighth to finish fourth ahead of Travis Hery.
Dave Darland wasn’t the only one to have pre-feature troubles. In the third hear Lee Dakus got loose in turn two and Logan Jarrett swerved to miss the Canadian. In doing so, Logan’s car hit Justin Grant’s left front tire. It would be another trip to the pits and another thrash to get ready for the B. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won and Daltin Gabbard was second. Jarrett and Dakus ran third and fourth. Jamie Fredrickson got around Tyler Hewitt, who reminded me of a lion tamer fighting an ill handling beast, to take fifth.
The B had some promise of action with Grant and Josh Spencer both starting in the last row. Max McGhee came from fourth to win. Grant rambled from ninth to take second. Pole sitter Chris Gurley held on for third. Adam Byrkett was fourth. And after a battle with Hewitt and his untamed beast, Spencer, with his own car issues, came from tenth to take fifth, the last spot.
Windom and Weir were the first row of a 30 lapper that started slow before gaining speed. The first start was green until Stanbrough flipped hard in turn three. He was okay, but the car was trashed. The boys would try again with 19 cars.
This start was no better as the scene resembled NASCAR’s big one. Six cars piled up in turn one after Daltin Gabbard bicycled and collected Thomas, Leary, Hery, Cottle and Dakus. Gabbard and Leary were done.
Several guys benefitted from others’ misfortune. Windom and Weir now had Ballou and Coons as new occupants of the second row. Jarrett and Darland were now the third row; Darland advanced from the sixth row.
The third attempt was no good either as Spencer and Byrkett tangled in turn one. At least this was a yellow, not a red.
The fourth attempt reminded us why we were there. Weir took off and tried to stink things up. Windom followed with Ballou, Coons, Darland and Grant, who had moved up to tenth from 17th after the carnage, giving chase.
Ballou was still on a mission, a frequent occurance lately. After dispatching Windom, Robert took aim for the leader, passing Scotty as lapped traffic loomed ahead at the halfway mark. A lap or two later saw Grant get around Weir after he had disposed of Coons and Darland.
Ballou had no way of knowing that Grant had been quite busy but he was about to find out. Grant reeled in the leader and soon enough Ballou saw that he had unwanted company. Slicing and dicing, Kokomo style, ensued and Grant had a real shot at taking the lead. But he nearly spun in turn four coming to the white flag and Ballou was home free.
Robert took the money and the trophy that honored a guy who might have enjoyed watching the native Californian who gets as much out of his resources as anyone else these days.
There was no shame for Grant, who had passed a lot of cars in both the B and the A Main, ending up second. The same was true for Bob’s son Dave. Overcoming adversity early on, he had salvaged third place and then joined his family in congratulating the race winner. Weir’s still managed fourth after his early lead. Windom faded a little to take fifth.
Shane Cottle recovered from his first lap misadventure to end up sixth. Jerry Coons was seventh, with Thomas, Jarrett and Andretti finishing eighth through tenth.
Up next at Kokomo is one of the nicest birthday presents anyone could get me. I thank the O’Connor family for thoughtfully scheduling the immensely popular Smackdown late in August.
My usual traveling companion showed up in time to catch all racing. Between green and yellow flag periods he could be found down by the fence with several other kids waving at drivers stopped on the front straight. The only thing missing was his Wisconsin buddy Tim.
Thankfully he slept much of the way home because Monday was his first day of kindergarten. Where does the time go?
Not bothering to conserve fuel, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: New BOSS in Town
Each year, it seems, new faces arrive on the Hoosier bullring/sprint car scene. With or without much financial backing, young people (usually) enter the rough and tumble world that is open wheel racing in the Midwest in general and here in Indiana in particular. Some shine and eventually move on. Others run out of money. A few run out of talent. And a very few stick with it and become a fixture in Indiana sprint circles. The jury may be still out for C.J. Leary, but he is surely making strides toward being one who will either shine here and move on to another level or become a fixture here in the Hoosier State. He added another win to his resume on Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway as he held off Joss Moffatt to win the 25 lap Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series sanctioned main event.
On a night when four tracks in the Indiana/Ohio area had races, all hosted at least 21 cars. The ‘burg had 36 of them with drivers from six states in the crowded pits. One might add that several drivers were out west at Belleville. One might also wish that all short tracks could have the pits jammed with a total of 97 cars, as Lawrenceburg did on this night.
Racing lost another fine young man last autumn when Jason Soudrette lost his battle with cancer. Lots of people were wearing Soudrette t-shirts and Jeff Harris, a ‘burg modified champ, was behind the wheel of the familiar orange 44.
The format tonight was four heats/top four advance/two B’s/top three advance to make up a 22 car feature.
Local ‘burg ace Shawn Westerfeld ran off and hid with the first heat win from the pole. Logan Hupp annexed second place. Aric Gentry, all the way from western Kentucky, was third. Justin Owen came from eighth to grab fourth.
Michael Fischesser won the second heat, also from the pole. But Joss Moffatt gave all who paid attention quite the show. Forced way down low at the start, Moffatt fell to eighth. But he began picking cars off at the rate of about one per lap. At the checkered, my fellow homeboy was second and gaining on Fischesser. Adam Miller was passed by Moffatt at the line and landed in third. Drew Abel was fourth.
The third heat gave thrills no real fan wishes to see. Landon Simon bicycled and smacked the turn two wall, bending the down tube. Landon walked away with aches and pains, but the hero was, along with the ‘burg crew, Joe Devin, whose welding had passed the stress test. Joltin’ Joe Ligouri won the third heat with Brandon Spithaler second. Jarett Andretti started and finished third. Dustin Smith did the same for fourth.
C.J. Leary was patient in waiting a couple of laps before passing Dwayne Spille. From there C.J. entered his own little world, winning by a straightaway. Adam Cruea was second and Spille third. Tony Main came from eighth to take fourth.
Rushville’s Garrett Abrams won the first B Main. Matt Goodnight came from fifth to second. T.J. Heil, improving rookie, grabbed third. Veteran Mike Miller won the second B. Wampum, Pennsylvania’s Bob McMillin was second and took Evan Gindling with him to the show. Promoter Dave Rudisell added Harris and the 44 to the field as a promoter’s option.
The re-draw placed Leary and Spithaler in the front row. The Greenfield, Indiana native and second generation racer (as is Spithaler) took the lead and built up quite a margin until lap seven. Lapped traffic had come into play, but the yellow waved for an Adam Miller spin in turn two. Poof! Just like that, Leary’s lead was gone.
They restacked with Leary leading Moffatt, Spithaler, Westerfeld, Ligouri, Hupp, Fischesser, Andretti, Cruea and Owen. This green flag period lasted four laps, but they were a bit tense and hard fought, as a war broke out over occupation of fourth, fifth and sixth among Andretti, Ligouri and Hupp.
The second yellow was for an involuntary meeting between Goodnight and Main on lap 11. The green flew again and there they went again. Westerfeld and Spithaler traded third place back and forth with Andretti, Hupp and Ligouri in the mix.
Caution light number three blinked on lap 15 as A. Miller spun again and had to exit. Behind the first two, it was Westerfeld’s turn to run third on the re-start. This green segment saw things cranked up yet another notch with wheel to wheel becoming commonplace as Spithaler, Westerfeld, Andretti and Hupp behaved as if second place was the Promised Land and they had to get there first.
The fourth yellow on lap 22 slowed things as Moffatt, who had applied some pressure to Leary, must have groaned in frustration. After a few green flag laps, Joss would reel in the leader only to have the dreaded (for him) yellow flag appear.
Ho-hum, it was more of the same for the last three laps with slide jobs, side by side racing, all out being the norm. Poor Leary was almost forgotten as he led Moffatt by several car lengths at the checkered. Andretti had an excellent race, coming from 11th to finish third. Spithaler also impressed with his final spot of fourth. Westerfeld had hung tough, settling for fifth.
Logan Hupp was sixth, just ahead of Michael Fischesser. Owen, D. Smith and Drew Abel made up the rest of the top ten. Abel tried an outside pass at the line and was squeezed into the wall, ending up parked in turn one, trying to grab just one more spot. And that, folks, is another trait of a racer.
By definition, the term “racer” can take on whatever meaning one wishes it to have. Most certainly 36 racers showed up at the ‘burg. In spirit at least, Jason Soudrette, among others, made it at least one more. And for this night, C.J. Leary was the racing “boss” of BOSS.
Lobbying both Dave Rudisell and Aaron Fry (‘burg promoter and the BOSS man) for a four spin rule (in case someone lets me take their car for a spin, as it were), I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Full Circle
Friday, August 1, was a day that saw me experiencing most every emotion in the book. It got underway in earnest with my little sidekick and I traveling from here to Cloverdale, IN to pay our last respects to Mr. Bill Gardner, the guy who started and ran www.indianaopenwheel.com. Bill had been battling cancer for a long time and we knew this day was coming, but somehow that doesn’t make it any easier to endure. From there we headed east, stopping by the mansion of Bob Black, president of the Hoosier Auto Race Fans. Bob gave us some t-shirts and free HARF memberships to the four feature winners at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway. Northeast we hustled and my companion exited the truck at the truck stop just off Exit 59 of I-69 to join his dad for the weekend. It was too bad because he missed seeing two of his buddies win. Chad Boespflug won the sprint feature after being hounded by Robert Ballou for all 25 laps. Justin Peck won the midget feature with no major issues.
The full circle came in the wee hours of Saturday as I arrived back home in the southern part of the state. I thought a lot about Bill and what he meant to those who knew and loved the guy. In short, he was a keeper.
Bill would have called me crazy for going from Cloverdale to Gas City to see a race—or maybe not. Nevertheless, I sauntered into the pits finding 21 sprinters and 15 midgets. Modified racer Bill Lewis brought a wild looking dirt late model, the sight of which would take someone back to the 1980s with it skyscraper-like sideboard. The car would show up later.
It’s still a bit new to see qualifications at a non-USAC event, but there it is. Scotty Weir’s 12.25 was quickest. The top four would be inverted in each heat. Top four finishers would get their times back.
Chad Boespflug let Chris Gurley lead the first lap of the first heat before taking over to grab the win. Behind Gurley was Weir and Canadian Lee Dakus, along with Matt Goodnight.
The second heat saw, near as I could tell, zero passes. For non-wing sprints, that is very rare. Pole sitter Josh Spencer won with Robert Ballou hounding his every move. Max McGhee was third, ahead of Justin Grant and Thomas Meseraull.
Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt won the third heat. Pennsylvania midget ace Trevor Koblarz was second with Logan Jarrett third. Travis Hery was the first to really test the low groove with mixed results; he was fourth ahead of Adam Byrkett.
As clouds, a fairly strong breeze from the south and a bit of thunder rolled in, the two midget heats were run with Michael Koontz winning the first and Colton Cottle holding off Justin Peck to win the second.
Rain just missed the track, so onward we went with Spencer and Boespflug leading 19 more to Mr. Hodde’s green. Josh led the first lap but Chad took it from there. By the third lap, third starting Ballou was second and began to reel in the leader.
By the halfway mark, lapped traffic became a factor. At times, Boespflug would be held up, letting Ballou challenge. But at other times, Chad would be able to increase his lead with Robert being slowed. The final margin was three car lengths, give or take a few inches. Boespflug was the first repeat winner at Gas City this year.
Justin Grant recovered from a miscue to take third. Chris Gurley came on strong in the latter part of the race to fourth over a fading Scotty Weir. Logan Jarrett started and finished sixth as Josh Spencer ended up seventh. Thomas Meseraull came on strong late in the race and was eighth after starting 14th. Travis Hery had a steady ninth and Max McGhee ran well early before slipping over the cushion midway through the race and salvaging tenth.
In the midget feature, Justin Peck held off challenges from Colton Cottle to win. Since his Indiana Midget Week flip at Lincoln Park that left him with a concussion, Peck has won two features in a row since his return to the cockpit.
Robert Ballou was scheduled to race the dirt late model, but he had engine issues. So Connor Donelson gave it a try, but couldn’t keep the pace of the DLM with the huge sideboard. Bill Lewis presumably pocketed some cash.
For some time now, it’s been no secret that the track is struggling. As this is written, rumors abound. There’s no need to repeat anything except…we should hope that somehow this bullring stays open on Fridays. No doubt the weather has bitten Gas City hard this year. Friday night’s races were only the ninth program of the year. Mistakes have been made but the efforts to offer fans and racers a Friday night racing fix have also been made. I pray that it isn’t too little and/or too late.
I entered the cul-de-sac a bit past midnight, early for Gas City, especially since I hung around to the end handing out HARF t-shirts to all feature winners. The only noise was the nighttime symphony of the night creatures that let us humans share space with them this time of year. Maybe it was my imagination but I thought I heard Bill Gardner telling me, “Get inside and get your poor dumb ass to bed, you dummy.” But it could have been my wife.
Going horseback riding with Sarah Fisher, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Fight to the End
He knew that cancer would eventually prevail, but he was determined not to give up against all odds. He decided that he would fight this disease as long as he had the strength. Sure enough, cancer won the war, at least the physical realm of the war. But the fighting spirit endured to the very end. Many of us believe that the spirit remains, and it continues to live in a world we cannot comprehend here. Whether we believe this or not, we can agree that Bill Gardner was a true man who may have lost the earthly battle with cancer, but a strong, determined, even stubborn man who cared about things that matter, namely family and friends, who loved racing and who could be found at the Lincoln Park Speedway (among others) on a given race night. Though he is not here in the physical sense, I firmly believe that, in one form or another, Bill Gardner lives and will live.
Don’t misunderstand; the aim here is not to deify Bill or anyone else. Instead, we aim to celebrate and mourn. Despite the tears, we must smile. Despite the smiles, we shed a few tears. Bill would cheerfully admit that he wasn’t anything near perfect. He had, like anyone else, his “moments.” He did not suffer fools gladly and presided over his creation, www.indianaopenwheel.com, accordingly. He was not shy about expressing his opinion when he felt like it. Seldom did he complain as he suffered more in his 42 years than most of us have suffered in a longer time on this earth.
Bill was a race fan from his childhood, much like the rest of us. A few years back he noticed a lot of people who went to races and most seemed to be by themselves or with a small group. From that observation came what was first known as usacfans.com before a certain sanctioning body looked unfavorably upon the name and copyright laws, etc. This was no huge problem; Bill renamed his baby indianaopenwheel.com and it was off and running.
No doubt there were times Bill wished he hadn’t created the message board. But, as in real time and life, one had to plow through the inevitable untruths, cyber attacks and other nonsense to find useful information. And while people were interacting online, perhaps they might get to know each other and maybe even enhance their night at the races.
Sure enough, this happened. Many that frequent the board can say, as I do, that they have made dozens of friends thanks to Bill Gardner. Many can say that they are glad of this. Many are thankful to have known Bill—and become his friend as well.
IOW.com has evolved into the best avenue of information for racing news in our state. One can find out right off if a track has suffered a rainout. One can find out if a friend or family member is sick. And one can find out who will be driving which car at a given track on a given night. Promoters have stepped up their game, quite possibly because of the extra scrutiny that IOW.com has bestowed upon our cherished Hoosier bullrings.
We have no way of knowing what lies ahead so we imagine. Some choose to believe that when life ends here that is it. Some have vague notions of an afterlife of some sort, but haven’t thought much about it. But maybe most have some ideas of what things will look like on the other side. First off, there is neither pain nor suffering. Instead there is joy, which is more permanent than mere happiness. There are lots of smiles and laughter. And for race fans such as Bill and others, there are either actual races and/or long enjoyable sessions of bench racing where racers share old memories. I choose to take the less traveled road and believe that Bill Gardner sits with these racers and takes it all in.
You see, we need concepts such as faith, belief and hope to carry us through this life, no matter what we believe of the next life. We are motivated by the “pie in the sky” idea that things will be better someday, somehow. Often these hopes are crushed, our beliefs stiffly challenged and our faith weakened. But we move on, we must move on or else face a dreary existence.
Bill Gardner did this. He was a man who suffered from his ailments for over half his short life and yet he moved on, defying the disease and the odds. He did so with love and grace and, dare I say, a certain amount of faith, hope and belief. For a lot of us he set an example to follow and carve out a better path for our own lives. Even though we miss him and mourn his passing on, we need to cherish the memories and, again, follow his example as he has faced what we all surely will face.
Bill, I hope and pray that you are settled in now and mixing and mingling with all those who have gone before. Say hello to fellow fans Jack, Dwight and Morty. Introduce yourself to Larry and Gary (Rice and Lee), Rapid Rich, Calvin, Sheldon and all the other racers who have taken this life’s checkered flag and the next life’s green. Take it easy, bud. Your suffering is over, finished, kaput, no more. For that we can all say, Amen.
With both a smile and a tear, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Points and Championships
Maybe the two best yardsticks to measure excellence in racing are the number of wins a driver has or the championships a driver has won. Excellence means a driver can be a “points racer” or a hard charger who races only to win and hang the points. On rare occasions a driver can do both, race for wins and points. Perhaps these days in Indiana at least, Bryan Clauson does both well. He races for points but isn’t shy about going for the win. Robert Ballou, on the other hand, is in it to win it, forget the points. As it turned out on Saturday night at the Tri-State Speedway, both excelled. Clauson was again the 2014 Indiana Sprint Week champion and won two of the six features. Ballou won at Tri-State/Haubstadt, his second ISW feature win of the series within a series.
Aiming to get good seats for my son and his girlfriend, we arrived super early on another beautiful summer’s day. I had the chance to wander around the pits, just looking—and thinking. As the pits filled up it occurred to me this could be described as the calm before the storm. Work was being done on the track as Tom Helfrich’s platoon of trucks circled the quarter mile paperclip shaped oval. The mood seemed to be laid back, with people joking and visiting.
Soon it was time to warm the engines, check things off the “to do list.” The first group came onto the track for their hot lap session. Slowly they idled around the track until everyone in the group was out there. Then Mo Wills waved the green flag and……
What resulted from the signal was temporary, but total bedlam. Noise, flying dirt, cars mere inches from the wall and/or disaster, you name it. The senses were assaulted and the checkered waved with the yellow flag and this group exited the track. That laid back feeling was but a recent memory. It was time to get serious.
Soon enough time trials began. Things got very serious for Chase Stockon right away. He broke an axle barreling into turn four and flipped. What followed this in the pits was a great example of this kind of racing at its best. Guys who race Chase wheel to wheel, who do their best to beat him, were scrambling with Chase and crew to fix the car. Tracy Hines, Robert Ballou, Logan Jarrett, Chad Boespflug and Jerry Coons Jr. were among those who repaired the wounded beast and made it race ready by the time Chase’s heat hit the track.
When the time comes for the HARF Sportsmanship awards this winter, all of those guys might need to split the award up X number of ways.
Jon Stanbrough was the fastest of the 36 cars on hand with a 13.203 lap.
Kyle Cummins timed in fifth quick and would be a force all night. He came from fifth in the first heat to win with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Stanbrough was third and C.J. Leary held on for fourth.
Max McGhee ran off to a bit lead while the boys behind him fought for position. Robert Ballou finally broke away from the pack and chased McGhee down. The California native closed on Max but fell short and settled for second. Brady Bacon caught Daron Clayton at the line to grab third. Clayton, a true racer if there ever was one, brought out his old reliable family sprinter to race after his Hank Byrum owned ride was sidelined with engine woes. He would start tenth in the feature on a track where he has excelled.
The third heat was one of the best ever, anywhere, anytime. Tracy Hines jumped out to the lead as a major skirmish broke out behind him. Donnie Brackett ran second for much of the race before faltering at the end. Some of the guys who had helped Stockon get back onto the track were now doing their best to beat him. Chase was in the middle of the fight which included Clauson, Boespflug and Coons. Positions changed with each turn. Toward the end Windom got around Brackett, who became a sitting duck for the predators. Incredibly Stockon dusted off BC and took third with Bryan fourth. Many were watching this action and missed Windom catching and passing Hines at the line.
Brandon Mattox led a comparatively tame fourth heat all the way. Carson Short spun early and was slightly clipped by Hunter Schuerenberg, who was able to continue. Justin Grant climbed the wall, but somehow didn’t flip and kept going. Dave Darland held second until late when Schuerenberg made the pass, relegating the PC to third. Grant recovered to take fourth.
Two early yellows slowed the B before Chad Boespflug won with Jerry Coons Jr. second. Casey Shuman was third and Donnie Brackett motored into the A in fourth. Richard Vander Weerd was fifth and Shane Cockrum made a late pass to grab the last empty chair. Kent Schmidt, who ran a strong race, maybe deserved better, but finished one spot off. Chase Briscoe came back from an early spin to finish eighth.
Jace Vander Weerd took the only provisional of the night.
As was the case at Lincoln Park, Ballou was on the front row. His partner was Cummins, who was just as hungry. Ballou jumped out to the early lead but simply could not shake Cummins. Sure enough, on the seventh lap, Kyle used the bottom lane to perfection and grabbed the lead on the seventh lap. Like Ballou, Cummins couldn’t shake the second place runner.
Casey Shuman slowed and brought out the race’s only yellow on lap 14. This would be Kyle’s undoing as Robert was ready. Behind these guys were Clauson, Stanbrough, Schuerenberg, Bacon, Clayton, Boespflug, Windom and Thomas.
On the re-start, Ballou swept around the outside to grab, and keep, the lead. Again, he could not put any appreciable distance between himself and Cummins. That was all she wrote as Robert hustled to his seventh USAC win—and second this week. Trailing Cummins was Stanbrough, who used up his tires in passing Clauson, who was fourth. Clayton’s story was about as impressive as any, seeing that his underfunded effort brought him fifth place after starting tenth. Bacon was a steady sixth. Schuerenberg and Coons were seventh and eighth. Leary came from 16th to ninth. Boespflug was tenth.
Chase Stockon, who won’t forget this night for quite awhile, moved from 22nd to 14th and claimed the Hard Charger award.
The diminutive race fan and his grandfather scooted through the gate at the start/finish line and joined the crowd gathered around the top three cars. The race winner asked a couple of little girls if they wanted to sit in the car, or even drive it to the weight scales. Both girls, quite shy, demurred. Robert turned to Karston and asked him if he wanted to drive the car, perhaps already knowing the answer.
Sure enough, I found myself perched on the right side nerf bars while Robert took the left and the little guy drove with the four wheeler providing the push. We stopped at the scales and Grandpa dismounted. Robert climbed in and made the minimum weight, Karston got back in and they rode off without me.
I caught up with them at the Ballou pit space and there he was, looking for me with a huge smile on his face. Apparently he has graduated from “merely” sitting in a race car.
What does all this mean? Many things, but one of them is that Robert Ballou, among many other of his competitors, gets it. Like some others, he can look ahead and see sprint car racing’s future when he sees kids turned loose in the pits to explore with wide eyed wonder. It doesn’t hurt that he, like many others, interacts very well with kids.
The terms “old school” and “outlaw” get tossed around like many other overused words. But Mr. Ballou is both. He won’t refuse the points (or the money), but would rather win. When I asked him his preference, I more or less knew the answer.
Certainly the track did its part when the public address guy exhorted fans to visit the pits after the feature. The pit area was simply jammed with fans, young and old, milling around gawking at the cars and maybe a familiar driver.
Mixed in the crowd somewhere was Bryan Clauson, who can win or race for points whenever either is needed. Somewhat lost in the mix was that Bryan won two ISW features, the same as Ballou. He can get the job done, no matter what the job is.
In the years to come, both of these young men, California natives, but Hoosier in spirit, will be well remembered by sprint car fans. They have raced each other since they were kids. Their styles are not usually the same but they do get results, namely wins and/or championships. They are a credit to sprint car racing, one polished and smooth on and off the track, the other a bit rough around the edges, but both quite likeable. No matter what their style, both have class, which is more important in the long run.
We should enjoy them while we can. None of this lasts forever except in our minds.
Pushing when I should pass and passing when I should push, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Big Girl Warms Up
While it might be said that Bryan Clauson has wrapped up the 2014 Indiana Sprint Week crown, one should be reminded of how easy it is to assume things. But one can bank on this: With his ultimately dominating win at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night, Mr. Clauson has the inside track on the championship—again.
Yet again Indiana was blessed by beautiful weather on this Friday afternoon. My traveling companion and I had surprisingly little traffic to drive me nuts. We rolled into the nearly full parking lot at 5 p.m. We stayed in the old truck long enough to hear Karston’s favorite song, “Happy Boy” by the Beat Farmers, a Friday afternoon tradition on WTTS.
An astounding 29 cars broke the old track record with Hunter Schuerenberg’s 10.920 leading them all.
This would be a night of many yellow and red flags flying in the breeze. The first heat was an indication. After a false start, Nick Johnson brought out a yellow as he slipped over the banking. As this happened, poor Jon Stanbrough was bumped twice with the second hit bringing him to a halt. Two more yellows followed before Jared Fox spun with another Johnson excursion off the track. Nick’s attempt to keep going was futile and he raised quite the dust storm in turn two, much of which landed on a sheriff’s vehicle. Finally, this one ended with Brady Bacon winning over Schuerenberg. Stanbrough came roaring back to take third. C.J. Leary was fourth.
It was worse in heat number two. Lap one, turn one and Brady Short seemed to get extra grip. In fact, it may have been too good as he commenced a series of nasty flips side over side, ending up off turn two. Jerry Coons Jr. and Mark Smith were collected with Coons out of the race. A mid-race yellow saw Brent Beauchamp and Tracy Hines touch wheels with both sailing off turn three. Somehow, neither one flipped. Shane Cottle passed Dave Darland late to win. Chris Windom was third and Chase Stockon was fourth. Another weird aspect of this race was a role reversal. Cottle won by using the high groove while DD, normally a rim rider, hugged the low side.
The third heat was fairly tame, which is to say there was only one yellow. Kevin Thomas Jr. won with Justin Grant second. Bryan Clauson was third, with a front row starting spot in his near future. Casey Shuman took the last transfer spot to be had.
Brandon Mattox made it three of four heat winners starting on the front row. He held off Chase Briscoe. Robert Ballou came from seventh to finish third. Logan Jarrett recovered from a turn one slide off with no flipping, but plenty of air to take fourth. Early contender Thomas Meseraull brought out the second slowdown with an ailing engine.
Chris Babcock won the C Main and Californian Brody Roa was second, making a late pass on Dakota Jackson. Chris Gurley grabbed the caboose for the B.
Chad Boespflug won the B over Californian Richard Vander Weerd. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti was third. Ethan Barrow was fourth. Carson Short was fifth with Jerry Coons Jr. making a valiant drive to take the last spot for the A.
With a Hall of Fame front row in Clauson and Darland, it was easy to think that one of these guys should win the 30 lapper. Darland took the early lead and kept it through three early yellows. Then the red flag waved for a rare Tracy Hines flip in turn two of lap 10. He was okay but done for the night. Behind Darland were Schuerenberg, Clauson, Leary, Grant, Windom, Stanbrough, Bacon, Jarrett and R. Vander Weerd.
This green flag segment lasted only a lap or two before Jarrett spun with or without help. Brandon Mattox also stopped on the track. On this re-start, Schuerenberg, who had been strong in the brief green flag periods, took the lead by flying solo up on the monster cushion while the others played down by the huggy pole.
Yet another yellow, this for a Bacon/Stanbrough spin, slowed things. Both continued with Thomas, who had caught part of Bacon as he tried to dodge the mess, exiting. On this re-start, Clauson began to move. A couple of laps later he passed Darland for second. Hunter was next. Clauson steadily reeled in the Nolan machine. It was halted only by yet another red flag, this for a Tyler Courtney flip in turn two—a popular meeting place on this cool Friday night. Sunshine was okay but done.
On the re-start, Clauson pounced, making the low side pass as he and Schuerenberg rocketed through turns three and four. From there, BC was home free, winning by several car lengths after taking the lead on lap 25.
Behind the two frontrunners, Darland was third with Leary a steady fourth. Windom came from ninth to fifth. But Ballou was the B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger for motoring from 21st to sixth. Grant took seventh as Shuman rambled from 15th to eighth. Stanbrough came back from his misfortune to finish ninth and R. Vander Weerd found himself with a top ten finish in a USAC feature.
As the sleepy youngster and I headed east, I was tempted to say this 27th Edition of Indiana Sprint Week all belonged to Clauson again. He had a ten point lead over Darland and Bryan has run well at Tri-State/Haubstadt. But no, this thing wasn’t over yet. Dave would see to that.
As usual, the little guy slept like a…not a baby, but like a little boy. Given his love of sprint cars, one wonders what his dreams are like. I don’t push this love of sprinters on him, far from it. The invitation is made and the next thing I know, we’re heading down the road singing “Happy Boy.”
The slightly overweight lady wasn’t going to join us just yet.
Starting my new career in real estate, capitalizing on that burgeoning Quonset hut market, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Racing on a Shoestring
Words or terms such as “resources,” “money,” “well to do,” and even “rich” are extremely vague. The obvious question that should be asked when such terms are used is “Compared to what?” Most USAC teams, be they full time campaigners or guys who are regulars at a track that hosts USAC at least once a year, do have somewhat limited resources. It’s not unusual to see a driver pitching in, doing whatever it takes to race. Look close enough and you’ll see a familiar face doing anything from driving the hauler to hawking t-shirts, not to mention actually working on the car. These guys understand Economics 101 and will do whatever it takes to cut costs—so they can go racing. Such a racer is Robert Ballou. On Thursday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway before a near capacity crowd, Ballou won a hard earned and well deserved victory over a guy who is, at the very least, one of the best racers in these or any other parts, namely Bryan Clauson. Thus ended a wild and wooly night at LPS, Round Five (counting the Lawrenceburg rainout) of the 27th Annual Indiana Sprint Week.
Times were slower toward the end of the qualification line. Guys like Clauson, Darland, and Boespflug all went out late and weren’t in the top ten. Chris Windom qualified right after Darland and set the tenth fastest time. Brady Short was 37th quick. Darland proved he could make errors when he tipped over the Phillips’ 71—after taking the checkered. Brady Bacon’s early 12.282 held up. A.J. Hopkins set the fifth fastest time on his first lap. Coming around to turn four to the checkered, he rode out a nasty flip, which made the photographers in turn four a bit nervous. A.J. was okay but done for the night; the car’s tail tank looked about as large as a double cheeseburger.
Tyler Courtney won the first heat and missed some beatin’ and bangin’ behind him. Thomas Meseraull was second and Aaron Farney was third. The skirmishing for fourth place was furious and almost guaranteed to leave some hard feelings, at least for the time being. The four way fight for fourth was won by Windom. Brandon Mattox, Brady Bacon and Chase Stockon trailed. Windom, Bacon and Mattox expressed their displeasure with each other after the race.
Casey Shuman won from the pole. Dave Darland’s car had sustained relatively little damage; he took second. Robert Ballou finished third ahead of Kevin Thomas Jr. The red flag waved when Lee Dakus rolled over in turn two. He re-started and finished the race.
The third heat C.J. Leary won as Hunter Schuerenberg followed. Chad Boespflug was third and track champ Brent Beauchamp ended up fourth. Mike Gass and Daron Clayton scratched. Clayton, without his Rock Steady horse, was in Mike Terry’s 85 for the night. Like any true racer, DC is scrambling to get back to the track. Shane Cottle went to the B.
Bryan Clauson came from the second row to win the fourth heat. Jeff Bland was second and Jerry Coons Jr. third. Tracy Hines came from eighth to finish fourth. Brady Short was ninth and didn’t make the B Main. But he had reached his low point of the night; things would look up soon.
Sure enough, Short came from fourth to win the Qualifying race/C Main/Last chance/You name it race. Three others, Richard Vander Weerd, Max McGhee and Mark Smith, moved to the tail of the B Main.
The B Main was stopped on lap two when Carson Short flipped side over side down the backstretch. Another one, okay but done. On the re-start Brady Bacon kept his lead to the end. Behind him there was little passing as Jon Stanbrough, Shane Cottle, Justin Grant, Chase Stockon and Jarett Andretti trailed.
Brady Short was last in the B, but….a provisional waited. Mark Smith and R. Vander Weerd also took Get out of Jail cards.
For the second straight night, some were late getting to the track. Boespflug, Bacon, Cottle, Andretti and Leary were docked two rows. Bacon’s crew was changing an engine. That might have made him late. This would be huge for Robert Ballou. It put him on the pole and the mad man was hungry.
For the first ten laps or so, the order up front was unchanged. It was Ballou, Windom, Meseraull, Boespflug and Thomas. Ballou increased his lead by what seemed to be inches each lap. Thomas began to inch his way forward, passing Boespflug. Meanwhile Clauson was joining the party after starting 12th. Near the halfway mark he was threatening to enter the top five. And he did just that before disaster struck.
Jeff Bland flipped a brand new car in turn three, landing among the billboards. Jeff was okay after his second nasty ride this month. The car? Not so sure.
The lap 18 re-start computed Ballou, Windom, Clauson, Thomas, Meseraull, Boespflug, Grant, Darland, Stanbrough and Beauchamp. Five laps later Windom was tapped (by Thomas?) and spun. Thomas was collected as was late arrival Grant. Somehow Clauson slipped through (think a lot of skill and a bit of luck).
Some reshuffling was in order for the last seven laps. Ballou now had Clauson starting on his tail tank. Meseraull was third followed by Boespflug, Stanbrough, Darland, Brady Short (what???), Cottle and Bacon. What followed was sprint car racing at its’ best.
Ballou chose the high road and Clauson worked the bottom as these two waged a fierce battle, several feet apart in the turns but side by side on the straights. Nary a wheel touched. Both hit their marks most every time. At the end, Ballou held off BC by only a few feet to grab his fourth USAC feature win. It was a combination of competition and class at their best.
Meseraull was, by comparison, a quiet third, but it was a finish that he and the Stenslands could savor. Stanbrough came from eighth to fourth. Darland, who had been on his top earlier in the evening, landed on all fours and grabbed fifth.
Under the radar was the remarkable night of Brady Short. He advanced from the C to the B. Burning a provisional after getting caught up in a crash and officially finishing last in the B, Short came from 24th to take sixth. Cottle recovered from his penalty to take seventh. Boespflug was eighth and Bacon’s new engine helped him to ninth. Stockon came from back in the pack, settling for tenth.
Tracy Hines qualified 33rd, started the feature in 22nd, and finished 11th, getting the Hard Charger award. Short didn’t get the award because he was, yep, using a provisional. All he got was an ‘atta boy.
Actually they all deserved an ‘atta boy.
It seems as if each track plays the game of Top This when Sprint Week rolls around. With the exception of the ‘burg (only because of the rain), all have been fine shows, well run, wild and crazy competition, and a deep feeling of appreciation, especially from fans who travel long distances to be here.
Clauson jumped from fourth to first in ISW points.
Next up is Bloomington.
But let us ponder what makes these guys tick. Why do they risk life, limb and bank account to drive these funny looking cars in circles? One could fill a book, but the simple answer is that they like to go fast and win. The money, the adulation and the other stuff is great, but some of these guys would still go fast and try to win, no matter what the pay or the vehicle used. They love that living on the edge of it all, knowing it won’t last, but enjoying it all the same.
Mr. Ballou, and most all of his fellow competitors, gets this, shoestrings be damned.
Delighted that I can still reach my shoestrings, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Time of Their Lives
Or…these are the good old days, at least for some. I was watching some of the drivers, crew and fans this evening at Terre Haute and the vast majority seemed to be in a pretty good mood. And why not? The weather was close to perfect, all who I observed were where they chose to be…and that was a good place—a race track. Not just any race track, but this was one of Indiana’s finest bullrings, the Terre Haute Action Track. By night’s end there would be thrills and spills, triumph and heartache, great efforts by front runners and underdogs and at the end, no one was more pleased than Bryan Clauson. The one grass roots racer that sprint car fans here and point to and say, “He has run in the 500.” In Indiana, there is still only one “500.” Clauson had finally won a feature at Terre Haute and watching him after the race, it struck me that he, too, was having the time of his still short life.
My little traveling companion and I arrived early. He wanted to sit on top of the wall in turn four, watching various vehicles circle the track, massaging it for the night’s action. Soon enough a water truck came our way. While others scattered, I ducked and held onto what soon was a wet little boy, laughing loud enough for many to hear and laugh with him.
This kid who uses the crayons at restaurants as pretend race cars patrolled the pits with me and we found 38 takers, minus a few names such as Chad Boespflug and Scotty Weir. The Vander Weerd brothers were absent as well.
Robert Ballou turned a 20.17 lap to lead all others. The track faded a bit. Late qualifier Justin Grant had to be wondering much later what his fate would be had he gone out a bit earlier. His late lap was 18th quick and he would start deep in the pack.
Shane Cottle came from the second row to win the first heat. Logan Jarrett started where he finished, second. Chase Stockon did the same, starting and finishing third. Ballou had to work like a, well, mad man to hold off Daron Clayton for fourth.
Jon Stanbrough’s highlight would be his heat race as he won after starting sixth. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. was second. Brady Short took third and Grant faded but still managed a fourth place finish, sending Chris Windom to the B.
The third heat was marred by a lap one air show courtesy of Landon Simon. Pole sitter Kody Swanson spun and the boys in the inside row stacked up behind him. Simon ended up on his cage as a result. Brady Bacon won by a large margin as the top groove was abandoned for the time being. Dave Darland, who was one of those caught up in the first lap shenanigans, came from the tail spot to take second late over C.J. Leary. Chase Briscoe was fourth.
The fourth heat suffered the same fate as Shane Cockrum had a throttle stick on him and flipped nastily. Like Mr. Simon, Shane was okay. This race was the most competitive as Tyler Courtney, Casey Shuman and Bryan Clauson battled for the top spot, coming out of turn four three wide more than once. Courtney edged the Shu, who edged BC. After an early spin, Jerry Coons Jr. recovered to take fourth from local boy Brandon Mattox.
Chris Windom started and finished the B up front. Thomas Meseraull came from eighth to take second. Tracy Hines was third with Aaron Farney winning a race long battle with Kody Swanson to grab fourth. Brian Hayden had his own battle as he came from 14th to edge Brandon Mattox for the caboose. Daron Clayton was running second when his engine was mutilated, making his future plans problematic.
Jarett Andretti and Brody Roa used provisionals to join the 22.
Dave Darland was originally supposed to start on the outside front row but he was judged to be too late to join the field in lining up. This bumped him to the outside third row with Brady Bacon and Robert Ballou moving up. Bacon joined pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. in the front row.
Bacon and Coons had quite the battle for the lead over the first half dozen laps or so before the Oklahoma native pulled away. Clauson dropped back early from his third starting position to as low as sixth. He’d show up at the top a bit later. As Bacon and Coons battled, Ballou was closing on both and passed Coons. Stanbrough was running sixth when he stopped on the track, bringing out a yellow and finishing last. His chances of taking the ISW point title were pretty much shot.
The re-start order was Bacon, Ballou, Coons, Darland, Clauson, Windom, Cottle, Leary, Stockon and Jarrett on lap ten. Darland had a fine re-start and joined Bacon and Ballou for a spell before fading. At the halfway mark Clauson was up to third behind new leader Ballou and Bacon. Robert led only three laps before Clauson swept around the California native to take a lead he would not give back.
BC took over on the 17th lap and Ballou gave his all but fell short by about four car lengths. Bacon was third and Windom maintained his Sprint Week points lead with a fourth. Brady Short made a late charge and finished fifth. Justin Grant came all the way from 17th to take sixth and the Hard Charger award. Darland faded only a little and ended up seventh. Tracy Hines recovered from an early shunt to take eighth. Cottle and Stockon were ninth and tenth.
It was Clauson’s first Terre Haute win, hard as that is to believe.
Post-race we headed for the start/finish line. The diminutive one was able to pet Chevy, the most famous canine in Indiana now. He ran his own (foot) race on the front straightaway. He hustled to the pits and tried out Brady Short’s ride for a bit. Then he did the same for Brandon Mattox, adding to his total of seats occupied.
Needless to say, he was asleep as soon as we hit I-70 east to Indiana 46. He, too, is having the time of his life.
Lincoln Park Speedway beckons.
Intentionally walking Frank Robinson, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: That Which Will Not Be Controlled
Promoters all have a bit of control freak in them, so imagine how crazy rain on race day drives them. If Lawrenceburg Speedway promoter Dave Rudisell had longer hair he would have been pulling it out on Sunday night as the persistent rain ended Round Three of Indiana Sprint Week after three heats were run.
Fans, racers and everyone else should have known there was a serious chance of rain for Sunday evening. That may have deterred a few, but not famed racer Butch Wilkerson, his buddy Joe, my grandson and me. We met Butch and Joe in North Vernon and headed east.
The car count was an impressive 44 with all the major suspects in the house. But it would be awhile before they would make it out. That was because we arrived very early, which was not a problem. Karston rambled under the grandstand, checked out the concession stands (which had not opened yet) and even climbed into the flag man’s perch for a great view of a five year old (or any other age).
The wet weather subsided long enough for time trials on a quick and smooth surface. Jerry Coons Jr. was sixth man out and ripped off a 13.866 lap. Midway through the qualifying line, sprinkles of rain fell on the track and it may well have made it a faster oval. 13 second laps were not uncommon. A few minutes after the brief sprinkle, Bryan Clauson took quick time with a 13.797 circuit. But, no; it wasn’t over. Here came Chase Stockon, who set fast time with a 13.626. This looked good to the very end when the 44th qualifier, one Dave Darland, did his best to grab fast time. It wasn’t happening as the People’s Champ was fourth fastest.
Jarett Andretti ran an impressive race in winning the first heat. Chris Windom was second with early leader Richard Vander Weerd third. Chad Boespflug came from ninth to finish fourth. Stockon, Shane Cottle and Scotty Weir made sure that the B, if there was to be one, was filling up fast with hot dogs.
C.J. Leary passed Daron Clayton early to win the second heat. B. Clauson was third behind Clayton. Hunter Schuerenberg was fourth. Landon Simon got sideways in turn two on lap eight and collected Californian Brody Roa and Dickie Gaines. All were able to continue. Tracy Hines, sixth fastest qualifier, was shut out.
The third heat would be the last race we’d see, but it was a good one. Joss Moffatt, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Robert Ballou were not shy about going three wide at one point. Thomas won it with Ballou second. Coons took third and Brady Bacon started and finished fourth.
My friends and I witnessed a first last night. A certain five year old boy, who had missed his normal traveling-to-the-race nap, fell asleep during the heats. Only the soft rain falling on his face woke him. (No, he was not up half the night.)
The fourth heat was lining up when the sprinkles became drizzle and refused to go away. The cars went back to the pits and it was time to wait it out.
But there was no need to wait; the track was lost and the tough call was to tell everyone good night with no re-scheduling—let’s go home. Intermittent rain accompanied us all the way to North Vernon.
As expected, some fans wondered why there was no re-scheduling for either Monday or Tuesday. My very uneducated guess was that both the promoter and the sanctioning body, USAC, looked at the situation and agreed, more or less, that re-scheduling wouldn’t work out. Not that it was or is any of my business, of course.
All I knew was that the next race will be at the Terre Haute Action Track and my grandson looks forward to it as much as anyone around. Just as we can’t control the weather, it’s nice to know that the weather can’t control fans like him—unless he’s sleepy of course.
Sharing a pizza with Brian France and checking my funds, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Veterans 2, Youngsters 0
Granted, the above could change. It’s been said for many years that “youth must be served.” Quite possibly older folks (like myself) believe that. Maybe Friday night’s feature winner at Gas City, Jon Stanbrough agrees with that sentiment. And perhaps Saturday night’s winner of Round Two of Indiana Sprint Week, Dave Darland, does as well. If so, I’d guess that both would add, “But not yet.” Darland’s win was after an epic battle with Justin Grant, one of those young people and one of the most talented. Imagine how he must feel at this moment. On Friday Stanbrough held him off to take the win. Saturday Darland essentially did the same, as Grant tried mightily to win that race, and briefly led the last lap as well. But it wasn’t happening.
Rain, or its threat, caused more weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (or gums in some cases). The huge mass on the radar made it to the Howard County line and scattered. After multiple rainouts last year, Kokomo has dodged some serious raindrops this year.
46 cars checked in with most of the main players back. The track was pumped and primed for high speed, rim riding, breath holding time trials. Ace photographer Chris Pederson stationed himself at the turn one fence during qualifying, remaining there as long as he could, getting great shots of all 46 cars as they barreled into turn one. Chris would duck away at the last second as dozens of tiny dirt clods hammered him when each car rode up around the wall of turns one and two. He reminded me of a kid who puts his finger up to a hot stove to see how hot it is—or maybe a kid who tries riding a bike with no hands. (I’m reminded of my childhood attempt to try and steer my bike with my feet. That had predictable results some 50 years ago, not far from where I sit here writing.)
Never mind all that. First Brady Bacon went out and set a new track record with a 12.589. But a bit later, Darland, who was 36th in line, broke that record with a 12.405. The track held up as Bryan Clauson was last to qualify, ringing up a 12.628, third fastest.
Tracy Hines’ win from the front row in the first heat meant that he made the big show but would start deep in the pack. It was one of many examples of how important a good qualifying effort was. Darland was second with Hunter Schuerenberg third. Chris Windom tagged along after a late pass of Scotty Weir. A red flag waved when Nathan Moore, Shane Cockrum and Ted Hines all got together in turn one, executing a very rare triple rollover.
Brent Beauchamp, one of Hoosier-land’s most underrated racers, won the second heat. His front row mate Shane Cottle was second. Robert Ballou started and finished third. After a most spirited battle, Brady Bacon secured fourth ahead of Justin Grant, sending him to the B.
Daron Clayton made it three front row starters in a row by winning the second heat over Chase Stockon. By now more and more guys were taking quick looks at the bottom, which was still a bit too moist. Bryan Clauson was third and Kevin Thomas Jr. took fourth. The second row starters, Richard Vander Weerd and Jerry Coons Jr., both headed for the semi.
Brady Short made it a sweep by winning the fourth heat from the pole. Jon Stanbrough was second with Matt Westfall next. Behind him was one of the better heat race battles ever seen as Thomas Meseraull and Chad Boespflug traded fourth place back and forth before TMez prevailed by a hair.
The Qualifying Race/C Main rolled off and Landon Simon wasted no time in sailing from fourth to first in less than a lap. He took Lee Dakus, Brody Roa and Gary Taylor (who started tenth) to the B with him.
Tyler Courtney took the early lead in the B, which was stopped for a Chris Gurley rollover. As this was happening, Josh Spencer and Casey Shuman had a brief meeting in turn four. All, including Gurley, continued. Courtney lost the lead as Chad Boespflug made a late charge and took over, leading to the end. Justin Grant, Courtney, C.J. Leary, Jerry Coons Jr. and Scotty Weir all would transfer with Grant nearly upsetting the Dave Darland applecart. Spencer and Shuman came up a little short after charging their way through the field.
It was Schuerenberg and Thomas’s turn to lead 23 more to the green as Jarett Andretti, Shane Cockrum and Richard Vander Weerd all burned a provisional. KT took the early lead but he wasn’t about to count his chickens, had he the time. Darland was on the move quickly, coming from sixth to third on the opening lap and taking the lead on the sixth lap. Dave started checking out on the seventh lap, but a lap nine yellow waved for Shane Cottle, who stopped on the track and finishing 25th.
Meanwhile Grant had made his way to second already after starting eighth.
This re-start, the only one of the race began with Darland leading Grant, Thomas, Schuerenberg, Windom, Bacon, Clauson, Ballou (from 14th), Leary and Meseraull. Again, Darland checked out as a battle developed among Windom, Schuerenberg, Clauson and Thomas for third place. And just past halfway, Darland’s lead began to shrink as he had trouble with lapped traffic. Grant was coming on strong and on lap 20 the boys were running nose to tail. Multiple sliders were exchanged. Grant never led a lap officially at the start/finish line, but he did lead for a few yards at times when he and Dave traded slide jobs. This included the last lap as Darland retook the lead coming out of turn two for good. The winning margin was all of .219 seconds, quicker than one could say “pork chop sandwich.”
It was a race that will be discussed for years to come by those who were there. Arguments will ensue about it being the best race ever. From here, it can be said that this one was about as good as it can get, like many others seen over the years.
Windom escaped the pack to finish third for the second straight night. Schuerenberg was fourth, holding off Clauson. Thomas, Ballou, Bacon, Meseraull and Leary ran six through ten. Brady Short was the B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger of the night, coming from 22nd to finish 13th.
Onward to Lawrenceburg, where rain would shut things down after three heats and a certain little boy forgot to take his going-to-the-races nap and conked out during the heat races. More on that later.
At some point today’s younger racers will grow older and become the next generation’s Dave Darland and/or Jon Stanbrough. But not yet.
Trying to be my generation’s next Mort Sahl, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Here We Go Again
I’m not anxious to count them, but there must be thousands of sub-cultures across America. And the tiny band of fanatics (along with casual fans) that populate the bullrings where non-wing sprints race have been gearing up for the two middle weekends in July. Most are Hoosiers, but folks come from most anywhere, be it just down the road or from overseas. For these people, Indiana is their Mecca, where they gather to race, talk, celebrate, mourn, laugh and, for some, hoist a drink or two. Whether they are “merely” fans or whether they earn their living by racing, they all love it. They packed the house on opening night of Indiana Sprint Week at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on a full moon Friday and watched Jon Stanbrough repeat his opening night victory a year ago. It was one race down and six more to go.
Neither traffic nor accidents nor crazy drivers would keep me from heading up I-69 to my destination, 100 miles from my house. Gas priced at $3.24 per gallon (Greenfield) made my smile even wider. I’d left early and despite the delays, I made it to the track to find Chef Craig hard at work on some of the best and thickest cheeseburgers one can find.
Well fed and medicated I wandered to the pits, wondering how long the track would hold up for time trials. With 53 sprinters, an impressive total, ready to attack the quarter mile oval, it might be understandable if the track became worn out after the first half of the field qualified. Wrong. A thin cloud cover helped, but track work was nothing short of outstanding as Mel’s maniacs did a Grade A job. Tracy Hines would agree. He was the 45th car to qualify and was fourth fastest, behind quick timer Dave Darland,
I’m not a fan of 12 car heat races, but understand the reasoning behind it. Three of the four heats were slowed by a yellow flag, but one could say that this is nothing new.
Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. won the first heat with Shane Cockrum second. Jon Stanbrough and Dave Darland would take a break until the feature. Elsewhere, an early yellow waved for Travis Hery, Jeff Bland and Mike Terry Jr. with an unscheduled meeting in turn four. Terry was the only one who could continue. A bit later his luck went from rotten to downright ugly as he flipped in turn two. Mike was okay, but no doubt feeling somewhat snake bit. Still later, Bland’s night would be downright nightmarish.
The second heat resembled the first as Adam Byrkett was turned by Chris Windom, one of those racing/accordion deals. Jace Vander Weerd was collected as he arrived at the scene. Brady Short won this one from the pole with Hunter Schuerenberg second. Windom led Scotty Weir in joining the A main lineup.
More of the yellow flag was spotted in the third heat as Robert Ballou won. Mark Smith trailed and Chase Stockon finished where he started, third. Richard Vander Weerd, with his brother making up two of the three USAC/CRA regulars traveling east, took fourth. Daron Clayton spun in turn four and collected Brady Bacon and Casey Shuman, who nearly got upside down. Shu was the only one who needed the hook.
The fourth heat stayed green as Bryan Clauson passed pole sitter Chad Boespflug to win. Behind Boespflug, who may have been a bit lonely running up top by himself, were Justin Grant and Tracy Hines.
USAC called the next race a “qualifying” race. Most everyone else called it a C Main. It didn’t matter; semantics don’t always matter. But with 53 cars in the house, this lineup would make for a very good A main at any other time. Shane Cottle, who had not qualified well, came from fourth to win. Pole sitter Matt Westfall was second. A.J. Hopkins, bad push and all, took third despite a turn four meeting with Logan Jarrett that ended with Jarrett pointed the wrong way. Chase Briscoe, who has been spending much of his time in NASCAR-land lately, had come up with the means to come back home and race. He was passed late by Hopkins and held on for fourth. These four tagged the B.
After a long wait for the mod feature (many yellows), the B began. Early on it got ugly for Bland, who had a wild and nasty ride off turn two. The car was messed up and Jeff eventually took a ride to the crash house, mostly to make sure all cylinders were clicking. Brady Bacon won this one over a power packed lineup. Josh Spencer, who had started third behind Bacon, followed the Oklahoma native and took second. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third with Thomas Meseraull fourth. Maybe the story of the race was Shane Cottle, who only rambled from 17th to take fifth. Pennsylvania’s Jimmy Light took the last non-provisional spot.
C.J. Leary, Jarett Andretti and Gary Taylor all burned a provisional.
Like it was a year ago, Jon Stanbrough won. He led all 30 laps, but second place Justin Grant was never very far away.
There was only one yellow and it came early when Scotty Weir, Mark Smith and Shane Cottle tangled in turn four. On the lap three re-start, Stanbrough resumed his domination. It was nothing unusual about Dave Darland giving people a reason to cheer, or at least take notice. As most of the other rode around the bottom, DD tried mightily to make the top side work—with limited success. Clauson and Thomas joined him for a time with similar results.
Behind Stanbrough and Grant was Windom, who was only a few car lengths back. Hines finished where he started, fourth. Stockon won the ProSource Hard Charger Award, coming from 13th to fifth. Bacon would take sixth, not bad considering that he’d been in a heat race scrum. The best under the radar run was that of Shane Cockrum, who came from 11th to finish seventh. Darland managed an eighth place finish as he tried the path less traveled. Jimmy Light had his own fine, little noticed, run as he came from 15th to ninth. And Mr. Clauson probably wasn’t overly thrilled with a tenth. But somehow one knew that he and Darland would be asserting themselves as we headed off to the next meeting.
Stanbrough has now won three of the last four USAC features. For points watchers, Stanbrough trails Brady Bacon and Dave Darland. He and Chris Windom are tied for the Indiana Sprint Week point lead.
As this is written, I have an eye on the radar, another on the clock, and still another online, wondering if Kokomo will race tonight. We’re all at the mercy of the weather. If they can run tonight, they will. Beyond that…I’m hoping to see several devotees of this tiny, but passionate, sub-culture.
Shunning my umbrella, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Underdog Has His Day
In writing about these people that race sprint cars in Indiana, I do my best to be objective. I know and like some more than others, but you won’t find out whom, at least not here. I’ve passed this on to my grandson, when asked who is his favorite, says, “All of them.” But I’ll cheerfully admit when an underdog wins I get an extra tickle. With all the criticism USAC gets (some justified, some not justified), one thing we should note is that underdogs do win every now and then. Those who may be a threat to win, but aren’t exactly expected to win don’t have a large hauler with one or more backup cars. They may not run the entire USAC schedule. But when they show up, they race. Once in awhile, they win. This brings us to Jerry Coons Jr. As Independence Day 2014 entered its final hours, Mr. Coons held off one of the best, Bryan Clauson, for most of the race at the Lincoln Park Speedway and won the 30 lap feature.
Given car counts and crowds lately, one had to wonder how things would go with LPS and Bloomington both running on a Friday night (Gas City decided to cancel its Independence Day racing and gear up for Sprint Week). Bloomington upped the ante with the decision to pay $2000 to win and $500 to start. Their annual fireworks show would guarantee a good crowd. The hope was that the extra dollars would bring out a few extra cars. As it turned out, apprehension was wasted. Both tracks had good crowds and car counts were decent by 2014 standards, 24 sprints for Lincoln Park and 28 for Bloomington.
No one could say that the track went away during time trials. First out was Jon Stanbrough, whose time was sixth best at the end. Shane Cottle was the fourth to qualify and his time bested Stanbrough’s. Bryan Clauson was 13th out and had fast time for awhile. There was more. Chad Boespflug, 17th, topped BC’s time. Finally, C.J. Leary ripped off a 12.403 lap, quick time and sixth from the last car out.
Daron Clayton started his night with a plus by winning the first heat. Brady Bacon was second and Leary took third after passing Dave Darland. The Rave finished ahead of Jarrett Andretti.
Hunter Schuerenberg won the second heat with Jerry Coons Jr. second. Shane Cottle eased into third. Then there was Robert Ballou, a late arrival. Robert arrived with no time to practice before qualifying. On the first lap of his heat, Ballou emerged from the mob scene with fourth place, which he maintained. Chad Boespflug took the last spot to transfer.
Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won the third heat. Fellow front row starter Chase Stockon led Bryan Clauson, Chris Windom and Tracy Hines to the feature. This left Jon Stanbrough out in the cold, headed for the B on a track where passing was a bit tougher than normal—rare for LPS.
Stanbourgh was unruffled as usual, winning the B. Casey Shuman was second. Long range traveler Lee Dakus made a USAC feature by taking third. Max McGhee led Aaron Farney, Brian Hayden and Chris Phillips to the 30 lap Promised Land.
Veterans Coons and Darland led the field of 22 to the green and Darland led the first lap before Coons decided that was enough and assumed the position. Brady Bacon was tapped and spun on lap four, bringing out a yellow.
It was about a half dozen laps after the re-start when Darland nearly spun in turn two and nearly stopped, then was tapped by the lapped car of Chris Phillips. The yellow waved and Dave was moved back from second to fifth, which was his position after recovering.
This re-start gave us Coons, Clauson, Leary, Cottle, Darland, McGhee, Boespflug, Stanbrough, Hines and Shuman, up from 16th. Another half dozen laps of green flag racing and the boys reached lapped traffic again with Clauson all over Coons like the proverbial cheap suit. With about ten laps to go, BC’s engine began smoking, even though it didn’t hurt his speed—yet. In lapped traffic Clauson took the lead for lap 26, but the smoking persisted and Coons returned the favor on the next lap.
It was all Coons’ show to the end as the only suspense was provided by Clauson. Soon after losing the lead, Clauson lost second to Leary. Then it was Cottle’s turn to pass as Bryan’s engine was toasted.
And so it went. This was Coons’ first 2014 USAC win, hard earned and well deserved for a true underdog. Leary capped off a quality night as he passed Dave Darland in his heat race and Clauson and Darland in the feature. Cottle finished where he started, third. Clauson and Darland were next. Stanbrough was sixth with Boespflug having, for him at LPS, an off night in seventh. Hines was eighth, Windom ninth and Shuman tenth.
Robert Ballou’s night ended up very well considering where it started. He started 19th in the feature and finished 12th behind Chase Stockon, winning the Hard Charger award on a track where passing was a real accomplishment.
There was no rest for the USAC guys with Midget rides as they headed north to Angell Park for the weekend. That didn’t apply to me as I sat out Saturday, getting my speed fix by mowing the yard.
Sprint Week approaches. Enough said. May the underdogs shine.
Loaning my traction control apparatus to Lewis Hamilton, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Test Session
Most everyone reading this, all three dozen of you, has owned, leased or stolen a car, truck or any vehicle with two or more wheels. Chances are very decent that before acquiring said vehicle, you took it for a spin, around the block, up the road or even into the next county. Common sense would dictate that, when possible, we should test any product before we buy it, or plan on using it for the long haul. So picture Indiana Sprint Week as a long haul, which in a way it is. Then picture a few of USAC’s finest racers showing up at the Kokomo Speedway for a test drive before Sprint Week arrives, which is next week as this is written. For a few the test drive was worth it, no doubt. But for Justin Grant, it was downright profitable as he passed one of the Masters of Kokomo, Shane Cottle, and won the 25 lap feature of the eve of one of America’s favorite holidays.
Not that I needed reminding, but again it hit me as I negotiated traffic on the north side of Indianapolis. I thanked my Supreme Being that I didn’t have to daily deal with the perpetual road construction, stop and go traffic, and the sheer volume of humans and vehicles, most of whom were headed home from work. I counted my blessings all the way to the new Kokomo bypass.
I arrived to find 26 of my closest friends parked just outside turn one. Chase Stockon had made the two + hour drive north to try out his USAC monster which had been wrecked in Pennsylvania a few weeks back. Shane Cottle was again in a Jeff Walker creation while Casey Shuman was again in the Bill Elson special.
Wheel packing, engine warming, etc. was done and it was time to sling some mud. The boys were only too happy to oblige. The first of three qualifying groups had Dave Darland leading the time sheet. The next group was led by Mr. Cottle, whose time was nearly a half second faster. Jerry Coons Jr. was the only non-Kokomo resident to lead his group, the third and final.
C.J. Leary took the early lead of the first heat. Darland had a slight bobble in turn two but kept going. But another local boy, Logan Jarrett, had his path blocked by DD and spun. Leary won the heat with Justin Grant holding Darland off to get the other re-draw lottery pick. Brandon Mattox, all the way from Terre Haute, was fourth and Jarrett came back from adversity to take fifth on the last lap.
With Adam Byrkett not answering the bell, Chad Boespflug moved to the front row to join Stockon. But Cottle snookered both of them and went way low to take the lead—and keep it. Stockon and Boespflug trailed. Shuman was fourth and Kyle Robbins took the last available spot.
Bryan Clauson, who has been here enough times this year to lead Kokomo points, won the third heat. Scotty Weir came on strong late to grab second over Coons. Josh Spencer was fourth and Travis Hery took fifth, sending Chris Gurley to the B.
Max McGhee, who ran so well this past Sunday, won the B Main over fellow front row mate Aaron Farney. Mr. Gurley had all the trouble he wanted from both Matt Goodnight and northern visitor Lee Dakus. All made the show. Elsewhere, heartaches and heartburn ruled. Daltin Gabbard, back with a new tin lizzie after his Bloomington debacle, had all kinds of handling issues and didn’t transfer. Garrett Miller took a medium tumble in turn four when Adam Cruea drifted up the track. Both would be spectators for the night.
Mr. Cruea and I had a getting-caught-up chat as he hasn’t been where I’ve been yet this year. I respect this likable young man and it’s gratifying to know that there are several others like him that populate the pits wherever I go. No matter what their expectations, young (and older) people like Cruea race when they can, do their best and smile at the end of the night, especially if they can 1. Load the car onto the trailer and 2. Take home enough cash to stop at the (your favorite restaurant here) on the long drive home.
The re-draw sat Grant and Leary on the front row. Next were Cottle, Stockon, Coons, Clauson, Darland and Boespflug. Mayhem or a sort ensued on the first lap when Kyle Robbins got sideways in turn two. Collected were Brandon Mattox, Travis Hery and Chris Gurley, who was caught up in the situation and ended up on his lid. This ended a night for Chris in which he may have wished he’d stayed home.
On the complete re-start, Cottle again dove low and grabbed the lead from the second row with Grant and Stockon chasing. A couple of laps later it was Grant’s turn to lead. At about the same time Dave Darland found the turn two wall, climbed it, slowed, then retreated to the infield. It may have been a treat to watch Dave work his way forward after starting seventh but it wasn’t meant to be.
Grant kept his lead until the red flag waved for Josh Spencer who flipped in turn one on lap eight. The crowd favorite was okay but done for the night. This re-start read Grant, Cottle, Stockon, Coons, Leary, Weir, Boespflug, Clauson, Shuman and McGhee, who had started 16th.
Cottle again took the lead using the bottom side and led until lap 17. Grant had been riding above the cushion in the fluffy area, singing Molly Hatchett’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster” no doubt. Shane, as usual, had been bottom feeding. Either way, after threatening to make the pass, Grant finally got it done and that was that. His J.J. Yeley-like method of running above the cush and diamonding down from the apex paid off big time. After his miseries of Sunday night here where he dropped out early, Grant both earned and enjoyed this a bit better.
Cottle held onto second with Coons third. Working as hard as anyone, Clauson got around Stockon to take fourth. Weir and Boespflug trailed Chase. Leary faded only a little to eighth. Shuman was ninth and Logan Jarrett, he who had spun in his heat, persevered and finished tenth.
And now Kokomo prepares for Sprint Week, which will be on the 12th. There should always be time for another test session. As this is written, my old white truck is ready for yet another one. And so am I.
Dealing with my post-World Cup depression, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Sticking With What Works
One of life’s more interesting decisions can be when one must decide which way to go. This, of course, can take many forms. Shall a young student go to college near home or far away…or go to college at all? Shall a potential retiree get out now or wait another year? Or…should a racer stick with what groove has worked so many times before or try a different one on a given night? On Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway, Bryan Clauson faced such a decision and had to decide a lot quicker than this was written. He stuck with the low lane and passed Jerry Coons Jr. late to take the 25 lap feature.
In what has become routine in the Hoosier state this year, rain was a threat on an otherwise lovely Indiana afternoon. Heading north, the little truck and I endured two showers, both south of Tipton County. From there it was dry—and I was hungry. A visit to the Half Moon Restaurant, the major sponsor of Josh Spencer’s beast, took care of the hunger. Dry and well fed, I traveled a few miles more to one of the many sprint car Meccas.
Two dozen teams occupied the pits. Casey Shuman had the Bill Elson ride for the night. Shane Cottle was in one of Jeff Walker’s monsters.
Each bullring has at least one place that offers a fairly unique view. At Kokomo it’s the pit bleachers in turn two. I planted myself there for group qualifying, jotting down numbers when I wasn’t dodging dirt clods. But seeing those guys coming right at you, sawing the wheel and seeming to brush the wall, is quite the treat. Robert Ballou, Chad Boespflug and Max McGhee were quickest in their groups.
Scotty Weir started on the pole of the first heat and immediately at least two races in one broke out. Weir and Cottle traded the lead back forth as Clauson and Ballou did the same with third place. Eventually it would be Weir, Cottle, Clauson, Ballou and lonesome Chris Gurley, fifth and headed to the A.
The second heat was almost ho-hum in comparison. Coons won from the pole with Hunter Schuerenberg second. Justin Grant was third and Boespflug fourth. Dave Darland, who had been caught in slower traffic in group qualifying, took fifth and would start back in the pack for the feature.
The third heat was more normal, at least to Kokomo standards. Max McGhee continued his impressive evening by winning from fourth. Logan Jarrett was second and Kyle Robbins was third after barely dodging a spinning Randy Johns. Shuman took fifth and Spencer locked up the 15th starting spot for the main event.
Rookie Garrett Miller won the B Main. Early leader, Canadian Lee Dakus, climbed the turn two wall and flipped at Kokomo for the second time this year. Travis Hery came on strong late to finish second and touch wheels with the winner at the line, spinning toward turn one. Adam Byrkett was third and homeboy Joss Moffatt was fourth in a very rare Kokomo appearance. Local favorite Jamie Fredrickson would share the last row of the feature with Moffatt.
For the 25 lapper it was McGhee and Coons taking the green first. In turn one it was the typical Kokomo five wide formation, albeit briefly. The kid McGhee led the first lap before the veteran Coons took over. But right away Robert Ballou’s car got an extra good bite of turn three’s dirt and tipped over, doing a pirouette before landing on its top. Just like that, the previous night’s Haubstadt winner would be last only 24 hours later, just as the Colombian fellow did in Indy car this past weekend. Hero to zero can hurt.
The lap three re-start was Coons, McGhee, Cottle, Jarrett, Schuerenberg, Weir, Grant, Clauson, Boespflug and Robbins. Grant turned hard left into the infield before the green waved, his night over. Coons took off and one could see that Clauson was already searching for some low groove traction. And brother, did he find it.
By the time Miller spun on lap nine, BC was sixth. Boespflug was seventh; neither was done. Miller’s second spin came on lap 16. Now the tea leaves read Coons, McGhee (still), Cottle, Schuerenberg, Clauson, Boespflug, Weir, Jarrett, Robbins and now Darland.
Soon after the green waved, Clauson passed Schuerenberg. Naturally, so did Boespflug. Next up for the Indy 500 veteran was Cottle, master of Kokomo’s low groove. But Clauson out-Cottled Cottle and took third place. Sure enough, Boespflug followed. Only a few laps later and Clauson passed McGhee for second. But not many laps were left and could Bryan catch the Coondog?
That he did, but Chris Gurley spun in turn one, setting up a true green/white/checkered. Immediately Clauson fans hurled bags of popcorn at Gurley. (Not really, but it can be fun making things up on occasion.)
Though one couldn’t assume, had we known it, Jerry Coons’s picture at this point could have served as the definition of a sitting duck in a dictionary. Jerry had been working the top for all it was worth and, for most of the race, it had been worth a lot. But things were different now and the Edison machine was at a disadvantage. To his credit, Coons did his best to claim the bottom line on the re-start, but he couldn’t get the car to do his bidding. It pushed up and Clauson was right there to grab the lead.
Coons held onto second, just ahead of Boespflug. Never mind that McGhee faded a bit to fourth. The young man ran a great race, capping off a quality night. Cottle finished where he started, fifth, as did Weir in sixth. Schuerenberg was seventh and Darland salvaged eighth after starting 14th. (Maybe that coney dog he was inhaling before wheel packing slowed him down.) KRob was another who finished where he began, ninth. Logan Jarrett was tenth.
They say that there will be fireworks on Thursday night at Kokomo. I scratched my head before figuring out that these fireworks would be in the sky, not on the track. Because, for my money and common sense, the real fireworks are on the track each night these guys show up to race.
And they most likely will stick with what works.
Keeping champagne bottles away from Brad Keselowski, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Second Chances and Eternal Links
It isn’t very often that life, or racing, gives us a second chance. But when it happens, we need to take advantage of such gifts. Dave Darland won his second Sheldon Kinser Memorial race on Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway; his first was in 1997. Not only did he get a second chance after a rare boo-boo on the first lap, he made the most of it, leading all 40 laps with second place Brady Short a straightaway behind. The eternal link matters because Darland, in his early years, raced against Sheldon Kinser. Of those he beat on this night, some are still teenagers. If those teenagers continue racing in the coming years, or even if they don’t, they can tell tomorrow’s young people that they raced with Dave Darland. This is another reason that, for me, history is cool. And it matters, too.
Rain, at least rain or any unwanted weather, must be the bane of any race promoter’s existence. For the second week in a row, Bloomington was plagued by wet weather. All the preparation nearly washed down the drain when a brief shower hit the track. But all concerned took to the track and a race ready surface was achieved, albeit an hour late.
Group qualifying was to be the format. By the time the fourth of four groups entered the track, it was one lightning quick quarter mile oval. Brady Short had the quickest time of the night, an 11.274 lap.
You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see that heat races would be high speed, high groove, freight train affairs. The top side was in fine shape and, for now, the bottom was still a tad damp.
This was true of the first heat---for the first five laps. Leader Jordan Kinser had things under control, leading over Dave Darland until backmarker Jordan Blanton pushed high from the low groove into Kinser’s path. It was a classic case of left front/right rear contact and it sent Kinser sliding over the banking and flipping all the way to the fence. Third place Ethan Barrow, trying to avoid this, slid out of control and made it synchronized flipping, joining Kinser by the fence. Both were okay, but done for the night. Racing resumed with Darland and Shane Cottle running first and second. Kevin Chambers and Lee Dakus followed and, ironically, Blanton, the last car running, was fifth and would make the feature (as did everyone left, seeing that the B was cancelled).
Jeff Bland’s start in the second heat did not bode well—at least for awhile. He slid over the turn four cushion (which hadn’t formed yet), bringing out a yellow. He would come back strong in the race that saw Hunter Schuerenberg win over C.J. Leary. Jon Stanbrough was third with Bub Cummings having his hands full keeping Bland behind him. Ethan Fleetwood had been pressured by Bland for fifth and spun off turn four on lap nine, clouting the wall, ending his night.
The third heat was almost tame, though to say that any race including Daron Clayton is “tame” might be misleading. Clayton won sure enough, but his fiery brakes might spell trouble later on. Daltin Gabbard was second and Casey Shuman took third. Nick Johnson had fourth over Jared Fox, who did his best to get around NJ.
Terre Haute’s Brandon Mattox brought out the yellow when he nearly flipped in turn one. His front row mate Nick Bilbee grabbed the lead on the re-start and led about half the heat before Brady Short came calling. Behind Short and Bilbee were Carson Short and Mr. Mattox who, along with Eric Edwards, was able to take advantage of a late fumble by Braxton Cummings.
This edition of the Sheldon Kinser Memorial had two of the best up front, Darland and Schuerenberg. After that would be Clayton, B. Short, Cottle, Leary, Bilbee, Chambers, Gabbard and Stanbrough.
At the green Darland showed that he is human and can make mistakes like anyone else. He barreled into turn one too fast and too low, which sent him up and almost over the turn two banking. Dave lost about five spots before correcting. But behind him, a three car meeting resulted in a yellow flag. I don’t know that Hunter Schuerenberg is a young man prone to profanity, but he may have uttered a word or two at this.
On the re-start, Darland nailed the turn one entry and took a lead he’d never give up. Yellow number two waved on lap five for a Casey Shuman stop. Not a lot changed up front, but further back one might notice that Jeff Bland was already up to tenth from 17th.
For the next re-start, Schuerenberg’s luck worsened as he stopped in turn one and the yellow flag got another workout. And then it happened, a very rare event that you never wish to witness, though the ending was good.
Going into turn three Daltin Gabbard hopped a right rear tire of another car and sailed over the banking, flipping in midair and getting some real altitude. Parts of the Baldwin Brothers’ orange machine flew off even before it hit the ground, which brought on some more flips. It was easy to assume the worst. But amazingly, the young man from Arizona was out of the car in less than a minute, on his own. He nearly made it to the ditch, which doesn’t happen too often at Bloomington.
Three yellows and one red—plus, the race was still early with 35 laps yet to go. Darland led B. Short, Clayton, Cottle, Leary, Bilbee, Stanbrough, Bland, Bub Cummings and Brent Beauchamp, who had missed his heat race and started 20th.
The rest of the race was clean and green as Darland steadily pulled away. Behind him Brady Short did his best. Mid-race, lapped traffic nearly brought forth another yellow as Short, Cottle, Clayton and Stanbrough fought each other and lapped cars. Short emerged from this crowd in control of second, which he would keep. But as laps wound down, Bland was on his way as the track surface came to him. He motored by three of the best, Clayton, Cottle and finally, Stanbrough. Bland was reeling in Short in the final few laps, but it wasn’t going to happen.
Behind Darland, Short and Bland was Stanbrough, who had started tenth. Cottle was fifth. Leary started and finished sixth. Clayton, toasty brakes and all, faded slightly to seventh, but perhaps his late father-in-law would have appreciated the effort. Carson Short was eighth and Bub Cummings came from 14th to finish a quiet ninth. Nick Bilbee was tenth.
As usual, it had been quite a night. Things out of our control ruled, as is often the case. The rain threw the track a wicked curveball, but all who were responsible hung in there and smacked the curve off the right field wall, as it were. Like Dave Darland on the first lap of the feature, the track crew and the racers themselves saw a second chance after the shower was over and capitalized on the opportunity.
And ol’ Dave, along with several of his closest competitors, tackled those same high banks that Sheldon Kinser had done all those years ago. This circle was and is not about to be unbroken.
Trying to decide between an umbrella and an ark, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Different Perspective
On Friday night at Bloomington I sat in the open air “media suite” next to the announcers and scorers territory. It offers a great view of the bullring. One can appreciate the panoramic view, very close to some of the shots one can enjoy if they subscribe to jackslash.com or watch Mr. Buckley’s work on MAV-TV. But Saturday night brought a different perspective. I spent most all evening residing in Joe Chambers’ push truck at the Lincoln Park Speedway, more specifically in the infield a good part of the time. As a result, I had a good and distinct view of Chad Boespflug’s hard earned feature win as he spent the last few laps fighting off repeated challenges from Jerry Coons Jr.
For the time being, quite a few sprint cars seem to be parked or out of town. But 21 sprinters were enough to provide a good program. And the view from the truck at the guys I watch most every week gave me a new appreciation of what the unheralded push truck drivers do.
I relaxed as Joe eased up to Kent Christian’s tail tank and off we went. KC started on the front row of the first heat and ran second to winner Chris Phillips. Canadian Lee Dakus came from the back to finish third over Ethan Fleetwood and Lukas Smith.
The second heat was A.J. Hopkins’ turn to shine as he came from fifth to win. Daltin Gabbard was second and Dickie Gaines had his hands full holding off Jerry Coons Jr. to take third. Infrequent competitor A.J. Francis was fifth.
Mr. Boespflug won the third heat as Brent Beauchamp came from fifth to finish second. The ageless Brian Hayden was third and Landon Simon was fourth after starting last. Tony Main would start 15th in the main show.
Two veterans, one young (Boespflug) and the other young at heart (Christian), led 19 colleagues to the green with a yellow quickly replacing the green. Gabbard and Beauchamp tangled in turn three, now they would tag the field (after both had started in the third row). Lukas Smith brought out the second yellow with a spin and Mr. Chambers with his quite willing passenger (me) was right there to provide a push.
The third yellow came on lap four after poor Gabbard was involved in another shunt, this one sending him to the pits. In the abbreviated green flag runs, Boespflug led Hopkins, Christian, Phillips, Hayden, Simon, Mike Terry Jr. (already from 20th!), Coons, Ethan Fleetwood and Dakus.
Number four wasn’t far in the future with Mike Gass and Smith getting together. Here came yellow number five on lap seven; now Coons had moved to third, Hayden fourth and Simon fifth. Dickie Gaines had started eighth, dropped back, but was back to eighth.
Green flag laps followed with some serious slicing and dicing among Boespflug, Hopkins and Coons. High, low, slide jobs, you name it, the boys had at it. Lap 12 saw Simon bring out the sixth yellow flag. Brent Beauchamp, who had come from the back, had rejoined the top ten by now, running sixth behind Terry.
More of the same green flag action was interrupted on lap 17 when Boespflug slid high and Hopkins made what appeared to be the slightest contact with Chad’s right rear. It was one of those racing accidents, nothing intentional—far from it, but A.J.’s chance at the win were pretty much gone.
The re-start button was pressed and it was Boespflug, Coons, Beauchamp, Hayden, Christian, Gaines, Terry, Phillips, Fleetwood and Brandon Morin.
This caution period, the seventh, would be the last. And the taste of furious competition just experienced wasn’t over. Up front Boespflug fended off repeated challenges from Coons and held on for the win, his fourth of the year. Beauchamp, with that never give up attitude, kept third. A trio of veterans, Hayden, Gaines and Christian, followed. Terry’s run was impressive; after starting 20th, he ran as high as fifth before settling for seventh at a track where he had one nasty accident about a year ago. Simon, despite his troubles, was eighth and Phillips was ninth. Francis persevered to finish tenth, just ahead of Hopkins.
It was barely 9 p.m. and time for a delayed Bar-B-Q sandwich. Much of Joe Chambers and crew’s work was done, except for the occasional modified or stock car that needed a push.
Sometimes it doesn’t hurt a person to look at things from a different angle. You never know; you may learn something—or at least have something new to talk about.
Running for President of the Vernon Dent Fan Club, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Riding the Cushion 101
If there was such a thing as a formal sprint car university (thank God there isn’t), one of the classes taught would have to do with sprinters riding the cushion. One can imagine, for example, a Professor Kevin Briscoe, complete with graphics, explaining how to ride the cushion and use it to one’s best advantage. Not too many years ago, perhaps a young man named Jeff Bland watched the good professor conduct clinics on cushion riding as he dominated action at the Bloomington Speedway not that many years ago. One thing is for sure: No matter who Mr. Bland watched, he learned his lessons well. It’s paid off a few times this year. And Friday night was no exception as he ran away and hid from the pack, winning the 25 lap feature on the red clay oval. In the race previous, A.J. Bruns did the same, riding the cushion to win the inaugural Midwest Open Wheel Association sanctioned feature at Bloomington.
The high speed/high banked track dodged major rain bullets all day. Rain fell as close as the other side of town; only a few drops were reported at the track. Certainly enough rain fell on Gas City to force yet another cancellation upon the beleaguered northeastern Indiana bullring. Even though it was raining at my house when my fellow traveler and I left, we headed west, hoping for blue skies and fast cars. A brief shower just west of Nashville gave me pause, but onward we went. Sure enough, Bloomington and Monroe County were dry. Very, very humid, but still dry.
As Karston invaded the playground on the hill (one of the best investments made at this facility in recent years) I tried to figure out who was who. MOWA has never been this far east and I was seeing some of these guys for the first time. The count was a very decent 28 with three locals and one MOWA regular shedding the wing. MOWA uses the passing points system and runs a dash that combines heat winners and passing point leaders.
The ageless Danny Smith was in the house tonight and he promptly won the first heat. One that doubled up for the night, Chris Babcock, was second. Korey Weyant edged Australian Jamie Veal for third. Jimmy Light, who spent some time in our fair state a few years back, was fifth.
The second heat was on a lightning fast track (as were the others, of course) that yielded little passing. Pole sitter Bruns won with Critter Malone second. Critter was united with the Fox brothers for the night, a partnership that would produce quality results. Late arrival Paul Nienheiser was third. Another veteran, Tom Busch, was fourth. Jeremy Standridge did do some passing, quickly coming from last (ninth) to fifth.
Unexpected (to me) visitor Kevin Swindell won the third heat and reached lapped traffic by lap seven (of ten). Joey Moughan was second with Jake Blackhurst third. Jeff Bland took fourth and Kody Kinser was fifth after bringing out the first of three yellow flags.
A.J. Bruns made a statement by winning the six car dash. Chris “Critter” Malone was a strong second until he went over the turn three banking. This put young Paul Nienheiser in second with Danny Smith third. K. Swindell, Korey Weyant and Critter trailed as these guys would occupy the first three rows of the feature.
Only the top four would advance from the MOWA B. Jerrod Hull showed the way with his fellow front row starter Logan Faucon second. From tenth Paul May was on the move until he cooked it a bit much in turn three and spun. Flying Farmer Chris Urish and Cale Thomas eased into the A as Aussie Ryan Davis came up a bit short, ending his race in turn four against the front straight wall.
Bruns and Nienheiser led 18 of their closest friends to the green and Bruns started to take off. A yellow nearly waved when Swindell spun in turn two on the first lap, but kept going. He trailed the whole field but would reappear later.
Bruns and the other frontrunners met lapped traffic early, around lap four. He, Nienheiser and Malone were leading when the yellow flew on the sixth lap for a Joey Moughan spin. It was Bruns, Nienheiser, Malone, Smith (who had benefitted from the yellow after a ride over the turn four banking), Jamie Veal, Weyant, Kinser, Babcock, Standridge and Blackhurst. Swindell was on the move.
No one had anything for Bruns during the race’s middle section either. With two more yellows flying, re-starts were owned by the pride of Lincoln, Illinois who had won in MOWA competition once this year.
The last caution light came on lap 18 when Carson Short slowed and collected Tom Busch. Now it was Bruns, Nienheiser, Malone and both Veal and Smith, now fourth and fifth. Swindell was sixth. On the last green flag segment Smith slid high and Swindell was there. Nienheiser did the same and Malone, too, was there. But Veal was coming on strong and took second away from Critter.
Bruns led all 25 laps. Had the feature been 30, who can know what Veal had in store for the leader? Malone held off Swindell to take third and one had to wonder what Swindell might have done with five more laps. But…..that’s all speculation.
Kody Kinser was a “quiet” fifth after starting 12th. Danny Smith survived his bobble to take sixth. After his late slideoff Nienheiser was seventh. Hull had a good under the radar run, coming from 17th to eighth. Weyant was ninth and Moughan recovered from his spin to finish tenth.
Post-race interviews featured a happy Critter Malone saying that it was the best track he’d raced on at Bloomington in, well, a long time (Critter has been around awhile).
We’d see how it would be for the non wingers.
Of the 16 that showed up, it was tempting to give it up for Brady Short right off the bat, but 15 other guys had other ideas.
One of those guys was Jeff Bland, would be professor. From his outside pole starting spot, he checked out to win the first of two heats. Nick Johnson was second. Doubling up, Chris Babcock came from eighth to take third over Landon Simon and Carson Short, who had his own issues. After an unhappy ending to his winged sprint adventure, Short went over the turn two banking then re-entered the track idling until he stopped in turn three, bringing out a caution.
Already this early, there was a monster cushion building.
Pole sitter Dakota Jackson won the second heat. Jordan Kinser was second with Brady Short third. Bub Cummings took fourth over Kevin Chambers.
The difference in sound between the winged sprints and the non-winged was glaring. The continual roar of the wingers around the track contrasted with the non-wing sprint heats. The boys minus the extra metal had to get off the gas in the turns. Wing sprint heats are usually flat out and even my ears figured that out. (By feature time the MOWA guys were on the brakes—hard to the point of glowing.) I might add that the regular sprinter heats had more passing.
Kinser and Johnson took the green first with Kinser leading the first lap. A lap two yellow waved for the luckless Carson Short. A lap after the re-start saw Bland blast his way to the lead. It was basically game over when it came to the leader. Behind him it was fast and furious. Slowly but surely, Brady Short was edging his way to the front from sixth. As lapped traffic became a factor, just past halfway, Short was still fourth behind Bland, Kinser and Jackson.
A lap 16 yellow surely didn’t thrill Bland. His huge lead was gone, but he didn’t need to worry. On the other hand, Kinser and Jackson had a lot of worry in the form of Brady Short, who passed Jackson right after the re-start. As Bland drove merrily away, riding the cushion as if he was on a rail, Kinser had his hands full holding Short at bay. But the young man did just that, taking the runner-up spot over a guy who loves dry and slick surfaces but who doesn’t exactly embarrass himself on wet, fast, and heavy tracks.
Jackson and Cummings took fourth and fifth. The best run that few saw was that of Canadian Lee Dakus, who is experiencing both Hoosier sprint car racing and Hoosier humidity at the same time. The Edmonton, Alberta, Canada resident came from 11th to finish sixth. Kevin Chambers was seventh and Carson Short salvaged eighth.
Indeed, the new professor had shown the class how it needed to be done. No doubt retired professors would have approved.
Waving the black flag back at the flag man, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Preparation and Professionalism
Over the four days of Indiana Midget Week I sat in various locations, ranging from the top row of bleachers to an open air press box to Section A. I spent a good amount of time in the pits, often just watching people work and/or interact with each other. During that time I saw and heard things that made me cringe. I observed childish behavior on occasion. Statements bordering on incoherence were made frequently. Language was used that would get lots of people in trouble with their mothers. And all of the previous was from fans. Among the drivers, mechanics, stooges, etc. I saw a healthy degree of professionalism and consideration among people who didn’t necessarily do this racing gig for a full time living. It was encouraging and appreciated to be sure. It culminated on Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway after the USAC Midget feature as I listened to the top three finishers being interviewed. These guys are pros. Better yet, they have class. They all made their point with their words as well as their racing. They were, of course, winner Bryan Clauson, second place Tracy Hines and third place and the 2014 Indiana Midget Week champ, Rico Abreu. If it was left to these guys and others like them, the problematic state of midget car racing would be in a lot better shape than it is now. This was re-affirmed after the companion sprint car feature, won by Justin Grant.
This would be the final night of this edition of both Indiana Midget Week and the open wheel fans’ special events reunion. Too often reunions are sad affairs, such as funerals (even though funerals need not be totally sad). But this meeting of the happy and dysfunctional fans from Kokomo itself to faraway lands was, as usual, one to treasure.
Midget Heats, B Main and Feature
It was no huge shock that Abreu set fast time of the 36 cars during time trials. Neither was it a shock when his 13.278 lap would have been a competitive time in sprint car qualifying.
Brady Bacon won the first heat from the second row. Michael Pickens banged wheels with Justin Grant in turn one of the first lap; both continued. Pickens was second and Abreu third. Brenden Bright had his best showing of IMW, coming from last to finish fourth. Grant didn’t quite make it.
Ronnie Gardner won the second heat from the pole. Zach Daum came from the third row to take second, ahead of POWRi runner Garrett Aitken. Dave Darland nipped his sprinter teammate, Thomas Meseraull, at the line to grab the last transfer. TMez would make the show through the B.
In the first turn of the third heat one had to hope a photographer caught the spectacular view of six wide at one point. Christopher Bell came from sixth to win after things settled down somewhat. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was second. Steve Buckwalter made a deal of some sort with Dave Ronk and guided his temporary ride from seventh to third; apparently the Buckwalter horse was broken. Andrew Felker punched his A Main ticket, taking fourth.
Tanner Thorson won the fourth heat with Kevin Thomas Jr. winding up where he started, second. Bryan Clauson was third and Tracy Hines, smooth and consistent despite no feature wins, was fourth.
Chris Windom, apparently rested somewhat after a very long Saturday, won the B over Shane Cottle. Tyler Thomas was third after starting 12th. Tyler Courtney was even more impressive, coming from 17th to finish fourth. Meseraull was fifth with the ageless Sandy car and Justin Grant took the last spot through the B. Alex Bright just missed the show.
Parker Price-Miller and Trey Marcham took provisionals.
At the other end of the 24 car field were Daum and Pickens. The first yellow flew on turn two of lap one. Only three laps later the second waved when Bell stopped on the front straight. He would return. Except for lap two, when Pickens was scored as the leader, Daum had led so far. But Rico Abreu wanted some of the action and led laps six and seven.
The red flag waved for an Isaac Chapple flip in turn two on lap eight, his second Kokomo flip this year, both in turn two. Daum led Abreu, Pickens, Clauson (already from eighth), Hines, Darland, Windom, Felker, Cottle (from 14th) and Thorson. Daum led two more laps and it was again Abreu’s turn. And it was tempting to write in Rico’s name under the heading “Winner.”
Abreu still led at lap 16 when a yellow came out for a Ronnie Gardner spin. But Clauson had advanced and was now second ahead of Daum. Right after the re-start, Clauson made his move and became the race’s fourth leader on lap 17. A couple of laps later Abreu appeared to slow and Hines, Darland and Daum all passed. But the remarkable young man regrouped and made it to the podium.
He joined winner Clauson and the steady Hines in post-race interviews. Darland was fourth and Daum hung on for fifth. Pickens finished sixth with Kevin Thomas Jr. coming from 16th to take seventh. Thorson, Felker and Bacon completed the top ten.
As mentioned, the interviews were top notch with three guys who have become fairly comfortable in front of a microphone. No griping or whining, just descriptions of their own race and a lot of love for fans and sponsors.
Abreu increased his season points’ lead and also won the IMW points race as the next race for this division will be at Angell Park on July 5-6.
Sprints Heats, B and Feature
Clauson’s night was busy to be sure. He hopped into his sprinter, the trusty 7c, and won the first heat. Robert Ballou was second ahead of Tyler Courtney, another doubler for the night. C.J. Leary with a backup car after his ‘burg spill, was fourth and local boy Logan Jarrett took the last feature transfer.
Jerry Coons Jr., lacking a midget ride for most of IMW, won the second sprint heat over pole sitter Justin Grant. Dave Darland was third and Kevin Thomas Jr. came from eighth to fourth. Thomas Meseraull finished fifth.
Chad Boespflug used his outside pole start to win the last heat over Scotty Weir. Kyle Robbins started and finished just ahead of Chris Windom. Travis Hery wrapped up the 15th starting spot in the feature.
Jon Stanbrough had another night he’d just as soon forget as he and two others scratched for the B. Lap four saw Adam Byrkett spin, but a lap later Kody Kinser took a ride when he found the turn two wall. Dalten Gabbard led all the way to win with Chris Gurley second. Josh Spencer came from tenth to take third. Brian Karraker started and finished fourth. Jarret Andretti would start 20th in the 25 lapper to follow.
Grant and Ballou led 18 more to the green with Grant taking the lead over Ballou, Boespflug, Coons and Clauson. Ten laps in and lapped traffic became the wild card. Coons, Clauson and Boespflug had a nasty battle for position which was ended on lap 12. Ballou bounced off the turn one wall. As Robert slowed, along came Chris Gurley with nowhere to go but….a tipover. Ballou kept going.
The re-start read Grant, Ballou, Boespflug, Clauson, Coons, Courtney, Weir, Thomas, Jarrett and Windom. In the final laps Clauson did all he could to make Boespflug’s life miserable—or not. BC got around CB at one point, but Boespflug took third place back. Up front there was no change. Ballou had nothing for Grant.
After the 25, Grant and Ballou led Boespflug, Clauson and Coons. Courtney was sixth and Weir seventh. Thomas, Jarrett and Windom trailed. To give one an idea of the both the competition level and how evenly matched these guys are, Dave Darland was 12th—in a non-USAC race at his home track.
Clauson’s motor started smoking in the last few laps as he kept Coons at bay. Gamely he kept going to the checkered. But when BC stopped in turn two after the race, a fire broke out and was quickly extinguished. Talk about your blaze of glory…
Of course my little traveler made a beeline for the pits after a night of watching races and playing or conversing with drivers during red flags. With little help (me), he steered Justin Grant’s midget ride onto the trailer, with huge thanks to car owner Larry Gardner. Off he went looking for a sprint car or two. At the west end of the pits he found Kevin Thomas Jr.’s sprinter still sitting outside. With KT providing some assistance, Karston did his part to load the car onto the trailer as Thomas said the guys were headed way up north soon.
It was no shock that he fell asleep as the lights of Kokomo receded in the background. But one has to wonder what kids in general dream, from the delightful to frightful. As for grandpas, it’s much simpler than that. Some of the lucky ones live the dream. Spoken as a trained professional grandpa, I might add.
Padding my post count on www.indianaopenwheel.com, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Domination, Sliders and Hard Feelings
I’ve learned not to have any preconceived expectations when I leave this house where I live. It’s best to be as general as possible when trying to guess what will happen. If you aren’t going to be surprised at what happens, then being amazed continually will work most every time. So at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a beautiful Saturday night, Round Three of Indiana Midget Week provided fans with enough twists and turns to leave all wanting more. At the end, Rico Abreu won the midget feature and heard scattered boos after his encounter with the previous leader, Alex Bright. In the sprint car feature, it was a tired Chris Windom taking the Jeff Walker machine to victory after multiple yellow and red flags, slide jobs, and a race that seemed as if it would never end.
One could easily live with 35 USAC Midgets and 31 sprinters in the pits. There was the usual clan doing double duty. In addition, Chris Windom and Tracy Hines had competed in the Silver Crown race at Gateway International Speedway and were flown to Cincinnati, then chauffeured to the 3/8 mile oval. Talk about hectic.
The “other” member of the Keith Kunz team, Tanner Thorson, set fast time in qualifying. His lap came midway through the line, which could have meant many things, among them that the track didn’t go away, as it were. Kevin Thomas Jr. flipped in qualifying, but would return for the B.
Dave Darland hadn’t gone away; he won the first midget heat from the pole. Christopher Bell, Bloomington winner, was second. Long distance traveler Windom was third and Thorson edged Seth Motsinger at the line to take fourth.
Rico Abreu used a textbook slide job on veteran Shane Cottle to win the second heat. Behind Cottle was POWRi ace Andrew Felker and frequent flyer Tracy Hines. The red flag came out when Isaac Chapple tipped over in turn two after a spin.
The first lap of the third heat saw Zach Daum have a “moment” on the backstretch as he did a half spin, nearly losing it in front of the whole crowd. He recovered, but lost a few positions. Aussie Domain Ramsey led from the pole until Bryan Clauson stopped by for a visit and to extract the lead. Daum came back strong to take second. Alex Bright was third and Ramsey bounced over the cushion at one point, but still held onto fourth, making a USAC feature. K. Thomas just missed the transfer.
Brady Bacon decided to have his own race, with just him, meaning that he would win. New Zealander Michael Pickens was second with Tyler Thomas third. Australian Jaimie McKinlay took the last spot from Trey Marcham as the high groove was quite popular throughout the heats.
Marcham did not despair. He won the B Main with Californian Alex Schutte second. Marcham’s teammate, Brock Maskovich, was third. Remember Kevin Thomas Jr.? They guy who flipped in time trials? He came from 11th to finish fourth. Another Californian, Ronnie Gardner, was fifth. Both Gardner and Pennsylvania’s Brenden Bright held off Aussie Nathan Smee to advance to the feature.
Sprint Heats and (No!) B
Dustin Webber led the first lap of the first sprint heat, but found the turn four wall a lap later to end his race. Kevin Thomas Jr. led the rest of the way. Thomas was double dipping tonight but second place Christ Windom was triple dipping. Chad Boespflug came from eighth to third while Ted Hines was fourth. Joss Moffatt was fifth.
The second heat contained Robert Ballou, Justin Grant and Jon Stanbrough, in other words, some cool, calm customers. Ballou took a couple of laps before taking the lead for keeps. Another young man in a hurry, C.J. Leary, was second. Kody Kinser was third with local boy Shawn Westerfeld took fourth, which was where he started. Grant came from last to fifth. Stanbrough dropped out.
Pole sitter Eric Semple took the early lead of the third heat. Outside pole sitter Landon Simon was crowded a bit and eagerly wanted to regain momentum. He and Justin Owen got together exiting turn two and Owen ended up against the wall and not happy. (Later the two would talk it through and all was settled.) After the yellow, Simon went for the lead but Dave Darland beat him to it. Behind Dave and Landon were Semple, Travis Hery and David Applegate.
Alex Bright and Tracy Hines led the mob to the green. Both Fike cars, with Chris Windom and Michael Pickens, held down the second row. Pickens, not being the Santa type, took away the lead on lap two. Early on it was a freight train of Pickens, A. Bright, Hines, Windom, Abreu and Thorson, who dropped out on the sixth lap.
Lapped traffic closed up the gaps up front and Bright pressured Pickens. A Bright slide job in turn two ended with Pickens against the wall and left the Kiwi not pleased. Ten laps later some people would forget this—apparently.
The lap 17 re-start read Bright, Hines, Abreu, Windom, Bell, Clauson, Marcham, Schutte, Bacon and Cottle. Five laps and a few dozen slide jobs later, the yellow waved for Alex Schutte. Abreu had moved to second and Bright’s night of good fortune was about to end.
Again it was turn two where another turning point of the race unfolded. On lap 27, Abreu slid Bright coming out of two with the Keystone State resident balked. As Bright’s car bounced a bit, Abreu waltzed away. For the second straight year, Alex had lost the feature late. To cap it off, Bright’s car found the turn three wall on the last lap as guys went high and low to miss.
The scramble on the last lap found Abreu leading Hines, Bell, Clauson and Bacon, who had the best race that few saw, coming from 18th to fifth. Darland came from 15th to seventh with Windom eighth. Zach Daum and Brock Maskovich took the bottom two spots of the top ten.
Rico heard his share of boos because of the late race incident. He took it well, especially considering that he’s been racing with a broken collarbone. Folks should have cheered when Alex Bright strode to Victory Lane to shake hands with the little man with the big…foot. Tracy Hines allowed that he was tired (after racing earlier in the day about 350 miles to the west). He wasn’t about to be a part of the slide job madness.
They had made it so far. Now the caravan would head north.
But the fans’ night wasn’t done. Neither were the sprinters.
Sprint Car Feature
What followed was the closest thing a sprint car race could be to a pro wrestling cage match with 20 contestants and a 3/8 mile high banked oval as the cage.
Chris Windom, in his third race of the day, shared the front row with Kevin Thomas Jr. But company in the form of Dave Darland, C.J. Leary, Robert Ballou, Landon Simon, Chad Boespflug and Kody Kinser promised extreme competition.
It turned out to be an omen when the yellow waved on lap one and then the red a lap later when Leary flipped in turn four while running second.
Thomas led Windom, Darland, Ballou and Simon to the green. (With no B, all 26 cars started.) But KT’s night was short lived as his engine went on a smoking binge. His exit put Windom out front with Ballou and Darland next. Justin Grant came up to contest Simon for fourth in heavy lapped traffic.
It was hard to believe but there was no change up front on lap 18 when Travis Hery flipped hard in turn two. He climbed out and walked away.
Windom, Ballou, Darland and Grant were joined by Boespflug. As some might say, it was a festival of slide jobs until lap 20 and time for another yellow flag. Action resumed with Ballou and Grant, in particular, offering up some vicious sliders. But Robert tried a slide job on Darland, but jumped the cushion and flipped in turn four.
This re-start saw Windom still ahead of Darland, Grant (who had started 13th), Boespflug, Stanbrough (from 16th), Kinser, Simon, Aaron Farney, Courtney and Westerfeld. Another break for debris as Stanbrough exited the race with a flat tire. And a fifth yellow for more debris, a wheel cover—Windom’s.
Lap 23 saw yet another amber light, the race’s sixth as Boespflug stopped in turn three—out of fuel. Grant had passed Darland. Windom had to be sweating bullets with those two behind him. The last two laps saw multiple lead changes on each lap. I wasn’t about to count them among Windom, Darland and Grant. It was about as close to hand to hand combat as racing can be. These people ran within inches of each other without their cars touching, a huge reason why I love open wheel racing.
At the end, it was an exhausted Chris Windom taking the checkered flag first ahead of Darland, who had passed Grant during the melee. Kody Kinser had one of the quietest fourth places runs ever. He patiently worked the bottom, avoided trouble and loaded the car on the trailer. Landon Simon’s eventful night ended with him sixth, where he began the race.
Young Aaron Farney was impressive as well. He came from 21st to finish sixth. The rest of the top ten were Westerfeld, Hines, David Applegate and Matt Goodnight.
Windom had to be tired. After all, three races in one day in two states will wear anyone out. His win was even more remarkable when this was factored in. But the guy he led was quite a racer too. After all, his age was about the same as the other two guys on the podium—combined.
It was quite the night. And Kokomo loomed in the near future.
Eating all my vegetables, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Challenging the Juggernaut
In the tiny corner of the world that is American open wheel/short track racing, there are ebbs and flows of dominance just as there is in all walks of life at every level. The past few years, in midget car racing, Keith Kunz Racing has been the hot ticket. However if you end up in his employ, and if you have ability (plus $$$); he will build you the car to get you to wherever you wish to go in racing. Kyle Larson is only one exhibit. In this year of 2014, so is Rico Abreu. Improving rapidly is Tanner Thorson. And the one who may outshine them all is Christopher Bell. For after enduring a nasty crash at Lincoln Park Speedway on Thursday night, Bell came back 24 hours later to dominate Round Two of Honda/USAC’s Indiana Midget Week.
Sometimes, often without warning, you can find yourself at near total peace among the madness of life. You can feel at ease and experience a strong degree of contentedness.
So it was around 5:30 on a lovely Hoosier afternoon as I sat on the blocks that lie on the side of the hill of the still new playground that my grandson and countless other kids love.
As I enjoyed a double cheeseburger, the sounds of kids playing mixed with the rumble of both sprints and midgets idling around the pits as engines warmed and components were checked.
The sight was pleasant to the eyes. The parking lot filled up, the familiar colors were alive. The blue sky, the green grass and trees, these mixed ideally with the red clay oval that is Bloomington, or at least my favorite location in all of Monroe County.
On this Friday the 13th, superstitions were to be ignored, and I felt fairly sure that I was where I needed to be. Granted, it didn’t rank with healing the sick, but at least I could offer kind words to friends or strangers as well as watch over a little boy who discovers new things each day. He was the fifth generation to be at this secular shrine and that made me feel good.
Tanner Thorson is much improved over last year. He’s the forgotten man of the Keith Kunz triumvirate and all he did on Friday evening was set fast time during qualifying. The KKR trio had three of the four fastest times.
35 was the car count. Domain Ramsey, Dave Darland and Tyler Courtney were the double dippers.
Midget Heats and B Main
Pole sitter Zach Daum won the first midget heat. Chris Windom took second and Bryan Clauson, the most likely to break the domination of the Kunz team, was third. But Thorson showed as much patience as one can in an eight lap heat race and worked his way to fourth after passing Justin Grant and Davey Ray.
Pole sitter Dave Darland won the second heat over Christopher Bell. Steve Buckwalter came from seventh to take third. Parker Price-Miller made a late pass to take a feature spot from Ryan Criswell.
Tracy Hines wasn’t the third heat pole sitter, but he did win with Kevin Thomas Jr. coming in second. Andrew Felker came through the lineup to grab third after starting seventh, just as Mr. Buckwalter had done. Alex Bright was fourth.
Alex Schutte had things his way in the fourth heat—until he slid over the turn three bankimg while leading. This gave the lead to Nathan Smee, who led until Rico Abreu showed up. Behind Abreu and Smee was Trey Marcham. Damion Gardner was tapped coming to the checkered but spun across the line in fourth, backing into the feature one might say. Jaimie McKinlay tipped it over, bringing out a red.
Michael Pickens won the B with Brady Bacon second. Tyler Courtney was third and Seth Motsinger was an impressive fourth as he found magic in the high groove after starting 15th. Justin Grant and Brock Maskovich eased into the big show.
Sprint Heats and B
Chase Briscoe took the early lead in the sprints’ first heat. But Shane Cottle lurked and passed early to win. Briscoe edged Jordan Kinser for second. Seth Parker was fourth, taking the last transfer.
Brady Short drew an outside pole spot and used it to his major advantage in winning the second heat. Tyler Courtney was second, ahead of Carson Short. Logan Jarrett hung on for fourth.
In the third heat, Jeff Bland brought out the yellow flag when he went over the banking in turn two. Then he came back to win with Jon Stanbrough, in the Fox Brothers’ 53, second. (Apparently Keith Kunz felt that Christopher Bell, who has been behind the wheel for Brad and Steve lately, needed to focus more on this midget ride. After the midget feature, this made good sense.) Casey Shuman came from the last row to take third. Chris Babcock did the same to finish fourth.
Aaron Farney took the early lead of the fourth heat, but Dave Darland had other ideas. Dave and the Stensland 41 annexed the win with Farney, Bub Cummings and Eric Edwards all moving on.
The top three starters in the sprint B were Nick Bilbee, Kent Christian and Ethan Barrow—and that’s how they finished. Domain Ramsey would start 20th in the 25 lapper. Both Kody Kinser and A.J. Hopkins had good runs but fell short.
Damian Gardner and Chris Windom occupied the front row as the green flag waved. Three of the next four spots were filled by teammates Abreu, Bell and Thorson. The Demon took the early lead, but Bell was on the move immediately from fifth.
Thorson jumped the cushion on lap four and brought out a yellow. Bell was already second behind Gardner as Thorson went to the tail. But the Oklahoman passed California’s Gardner on the re-start and that was that.
Granted, the field regrouped when Andrew Felker flipped in turn four on the 11th lap. This re-start order was Bell, Abreu, Clauson, Windom, Pickens, Gardner, Price-Miller, Smee, A. Bright and Hines. There may have been little change up front, but Thorson was on the move, having the best race that few saw.
Alex Bright brought out the yellow on lap 27. Thorson and Zach Daum had cracked the top ten. Another late caution light, on lap 29, didn’t change things much. Bell, Abreu, Clauson and Windom still ruled the front when the checkered finally waved. Thorson’s impressive charge put him fifth. And Daum, too, had a good race as he moved from 14th to seventh. Pickens, Gardner, Price-Miller and Hines finished up the ten.
The score now was Team Kunz one, all others one.
Darland had finished an unsatisfactory 14th in the USAC midget A. He and Jeff Bland led 18 others to the green, out of the original 31. Dave took the lead right away as Brady Short challenged. A classic Bloomington battle raged as Darland stayed up top and Short used the low groove. One could easily be reminded of past battles between those such as Kevin Thomas (the original in more ways than one) and Kevin Briscoe.
Finally, midway through, Short edged ahead to stay. Darland slowly faded back, though second was still his. Chase Briscoe brought it home third. Shane Cottle was fourth and Bland slipped back to fifth. Jordan Kinser took sixth and Casey Shuman made a late charge to get to seventh. Carson Short, Jon Stanbrough and Bub Cummings settled in for eighth through tenth.
The last Friday the 13th full moon most of us will ever see shone brightly over the now worn out red clay oval as local boy Devin Gilpin came from tenth to close out the night with the trophy for winning the modified feature.
Thinking there may be a midget’s version of the Boston Celtics dynasty, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Long Day’s Journey
The marathon that was opening night of the 10th edition of USAC’s Indiana Midget Week concluded at just past midnight. For most it was a long and (for several) stressful day. For a few it was painful, in more ways than one. At the end, it was Dave Darland showing the kids that he can still get around Lincoln Park Speedway quicker than them. All “ol’ ” Dave did was grab the lead on the first lap after starting fourth and hold off fellow veteran and the crowd pleasing Rico Abreu to claim Round One of Honda/USAC’s IMW. At the bewitching hour of midnight, after folks had spent much of the evening watching for rain that never came, Chad Boespflug took the checkered first after leading every lap of the sprint feature. The rain that had forced Gas City and crew to reluctantly cancel missed LPS. Any discussion of “racing luck” must include weather.
On the surface, it would be easy to assume that Midget racing in these times is alive and well. After all, some would reason, look at the Chili Bowl and its 250 plus entries each year. Look at Indiana Midget Week and its impressive car counts. And increasingly, look at POWRi’s Illinois Midget Week. So it came to pass that, for the next four days, Midget racing was, is and will be well. Many know that isn’t really the case, but, as usual, there are no set or easy answers, at least not here.
44 of the best signed in, a spicy mixture of USAC regulars, along with a few ARDC boys from the east and several POWRi hot shoes from the west. Throw in a few Aussies and Kiwis and you had bullring racing at its wildest and woolliest.
Maybe 10 minutes after my grandson briefly “stole” young Justin Peck’s seat, the personable young man from just down the road (Mooresville, IN) took a mean ride in turn two right after the checkered had waved for the third hot lap session. Taking their time, the emergency crew removed Justin from the car. He was no doubt hurting and was taken to the hospital for observation.
Sprint Heats/B Main
23 sprinters, an impressive number for a work night, strolled onto the grounds with Dave Darland and Christopher Bell doing double duty, as was Aussie Domain Ramsey.
What was a nifty move came when Chad Boespflug passed Max McGhee on the last lap to win. Chad secured the pole on the redraw as it turned out. Behind McGhee were Brian Karraker, Shane Cottle and Logan Jarrett, who came from last.
Christopher Bell owned the bottom in the second heat. Jerry Coons Jr. came from sixth to second. Dave Darland led Chris Gurley and Shelby Van Gilder; all transferred. After Bell’s flip in his midget, Tyler Courtney drove the Fox Brothers’ 53 in the feature.
Kent Christian held off Jon Stanbrough and Casey Shuman to win the third heat as the crowd’s approval was louder than the engines. Brady Short came from last to fourth. Aaron Farney hung on to take fifth.
Domain Ramsey made a last lap pass to grab the B over Kody Kinser. Kelly’s son led Daylon Chambers, Ethan Fleetwood and Mike Gass to their collective occupation of the feature lineup’s last five starting spots.
Midget Heats/B Main
The big news in the first heat should have been Rico Abreu coming from sixth to win, but instead it was Christopher Bell’s nasty flip in turn two. The youthful Oklahoman was dealing with a headache and no doubt other ailments; both he and his car were done for the night. The third member of the Kunz stable, Tanner Thorson, was second. Pole sitter Domain Ramsey was third and Thomas Meseraull, driving the ageless Sandy 16, passed at least two cars in the last two laps to take fourth after starting ninth.
Bryan Clauson’s mediocre qualifying effort put him on the pole of the second heat. From there, BC won with Pennsylvania’s Steve Buckwalter second. Kiwi Michael Pickens and Tracy Hines also moved on. James Edens, driving a Zach Daum team car, tipped it over.
The third heat was your wild and woolly type. Colton Cottle won with Brady Bacon, Dave Darland and Brendon Bright advancing. During the race Justin Grant spun—under yellow. California’s Ronnie Gardner was tapped on a re-start by Bright, who was later hip checked by Darland.
Alex Bright made off with the fourth heat win. Front row starter Tyler Courtney and Parker Price-Miller trailed. Chris Windom came from seventh to finish fourth.
The C Main was put on the shelf and one huge B Main ran. Right off the bat Austin Brown flipped. A little later Jaimie McKinlay did the same. Add three yellow flags and this one took awhile. Lightning was spotted but there was still no rain. POWRi champ Andrew Felker won, taking Damian Gardner, Garrett Aitken, Grant, Ronnie Gardner and Nathan Smee with him.
Zach Daum and Kevin Thomas Jr. took provisionals.
Buckwalter and Thorson took the green first with the yellow waving immediately as Thorson spun and collected Bacon and A. Bright, who was done for the night. The re-start put Darland on the outside pole and Dave was up to the task. He grabbed the lead on the second waving of the green and motored on, using the bottom lane, especially in turns three and four.
Abreu, as is his wont, provided much of the excitement. Rico started sixth and soon began challenging Tracy Hines for second. His repeated attempts to ride the cushion nearly bore fruit, but it wasn’t happening.
The best run that few saw, far and away, was that of Bryan Clauson’s. BC started the night with a mid-pack qualifying effort. He began the feature in 18th and steadily began an impressive charge through the field. With no well-timed (for him) caution periods, Clauson did all his handiwork under green and cracked the top five.
Darland led all 30 laps and Hines never threatened, but held Abreu off for third. Clauson finished fourth behind the little man with a heavy right foot who has been racing in pain after breaking a collarbone in a nasty wreck at Angell Park earlier this month. Michael Pickens took fifth in one of the Fike cars.
Felker, Buckwalter, D. Gardner, C. Cottle and Garrett Aitken were the second five.
With two drivers shaken up, the night had its less than stellar moments, but both Justin Peck and Christopher Bell were able to walk away. Peck was reported to have a concussion, however. As we shall see, Bell did a bit more than walk away.
The mod feature, won by Randy Shuman, divided the midget and sprint features so the double dippers, Darland and Domain Ramsey, could get ready.
Chad Boespflug didn’t mind. It only delayed slightly his plan to try and stink up the show.
The native Californian took off from his pole spot and simply checked out. This didn’t stink up the whole show because there was plenty enough action behind him.
Max McGhee didn’t have time to settle in before Jon Stanbrough came calling and took it for himself. It wasn’t too many laps before Shane Cottle began to pressure Stanbrough and became the new owner of second. Jerry Coons Jr. felt the need to add himself into the mix. If that wasn’t enough, Casey Shuman, the winner on May 31, made a late charge.
Boespflug won by a straightaway over Cottle. Shuman nipped Coon for third. Stanbrough was fifth. Darland concluded a decent night, adding a sixth to his midget win. Brady Short was seventh; he and Darland would race each other again 24 hours later. McGhee was eighth with Chris Gurely ninth. Ageless one Kent Christian faded slowly back to tenth after starting up front in the Franken-sprinter.
It was one long night. My fellow traveler ran out of gas after a hard day of playing. It was easy to tell he was either tired or sick when he parked himself in Grandpa’s lap for all three features. But he’d already seen plenty, as had the impressive work night crowd top heavy with vacationers and aging retirees. He sat in a car or two, talked with a couple of his buddies, and pirated some of my popcorn.
To borrow a phrase, it was a long day’s journey into night.
Hiding Lady Gaga’s wig, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Solid Foundation
I’m fortunate enough to live in a small city that is known world wide for its architecture. We have buildings of all types here, old and new, that draw tourists from around the world. But not all of our buildings here have lasted. Many structures have fallen victim to the wrecking ball, or worse, decay and neglect. But this would-be All-American City is home to many fine monuments to both humans and a Higher Power. All have one thing in common: a solid foundation. And this has lots to do with the Lawrenceburg Speedway, the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, BOSS boss Aaron Fry and Saturday night’s BOSS/’burg feature winner Thomas Meseraull. Let’s look this over.
I’ve been moaning too much lately about low car counts; the moaning ceased on Saturday evening as I strolled through the pits with my good friend Marv Fish. 39 cars with drivers from six states crowded the pit. It was the predictable mix of BOSS regulars, most from Ohio, ‘burg runners and points chasers, as well as various people who chose not to go to Pennsylvania with USAC’s Eastern Storm tour. (And Landon Simon, who left the Keystone State early to come back and run for points at Lawrenceburg.) No doubt there were a few who thought of it being cherry picking festival.
Things started badly as J.T. Stapp flipped hard in hot laps. J.T. was a bit woozy as he descended the turn two banking to the crash-mobile, but was otherwise okay.
A young man who stays fairly close to home (Lebanon, IN), Joe Ligouri, ran off with the first heat win. Joe missed a good race behind him as local favorite Shawn Westerfeld held off Kokomo favorite Shane Cottle to take second. Pole sitter Aaron Middaugh was fourth.
Dickie Gaines won the second heat from the pole. The guy who gets a lot of speed out of the low buck operation that is the Pederson family’s car led a fellow ‘burg track champ, Joss Moffatt to the line. Yet another track champ, Mike Miller, was third. Mike Fischesser was fourth.
Tyler Courtney showed up with the Rick Pollock 21x as his ride and promptly won the third heat over Dustin Smith. Brandon Spithaler was third and a Buckeye racer named Derek Hastings took fourth, the first of two Ray Marshall team cars to make the feature.
The fourth heat saw Landon Simon get tagged with a penalty that many felt unjust; he was booted to the second row inside after being ticketed for jumping the initial start. Revenge was sweet though as Simon won convincingly over Thomas Meseraull. Behind TMez was Jordan Kinser in the Hurst Brother’s car. Drew Abel came from last to take fourth.
After a few false starts, the first of two B Mains took the green with Chris Gurley, who often travels from his northwest Indiana home to Lawrenceburg, winning. Adam Miller was a very close second and rookie T.J. Heil was third. Only the top three would make the feature.
Chad Wilson won the second semi, with Logan Hupp hanging on for second. Bob McMillin, a BOSS regular who made the long trip from Pennsylvania, grabbed third from Tony Beaber. With the word “provisional” not a part of the BOSS vocabulary, Tony, a BOSS points champ, was done for the night. Oh, and Mr. McMillin started seventh.
Ligouri and Westerfeld led 20 other hungry lions to the green and Westerfeld jumped to the early lead with Ligouri second. A couple of laps of this was enough for Meseraull, who took second on lap three. Westerfeld had built up a nice lead when a blinking yellow light slowed things. Good-bye, big lead as Mike Miller stopped in turn two with a flat tire on lap 10.
The reset button saw Westerfeld and Meseraull leading Ligouri, Moffatt, Gaines, Courtney, Simon, Cottle, Spithaler and Smith. Westerfeld led the first lap after the re-start, but TMez wasn’t to be denied. He took the lead on the twelfth lap after exchanging leads and slide jobs with Westerfeld.
This would remain Meseraull’s race for the rest of the way, but action behind him was hot, heavy and hair raising. Passing was tough on the high banked 3/8 mile oval but a few managed quite well. Behind TMez, Westerfeld and Ligouri was Courtney, who had started eighth. Simon was fifth, despite two near spins. Moffatt slipped back a couple of spots late but took sixth. Gaines grudgingly gave ground as he salvaged seventh. Fischesser, a BOSS regular with a lot of laps here, came from 14th to take eighth. Logan Hupp passed plenty of cars as he rambled from 20th to finish ninth. Shane Cottle was tenth.
I left reluctantly but took time to consider a few things. Unlike many things, tangible or intangible, that are built, BOSS has been constructed deliberately, slowly if necessary, with an eye toward doing right by racers and fans. Seemingly little things (to most fans) such as a no tire rule add up in time to a climate that will attract racers like bees to honey. Fair rules enforced fairly help as well. Since 2011 BOSS has been building steadily on its solid foundation. Are the good folks that run this outfit done? Hardly. I’ve no doubt that Aaron Fry has more of the same in mind. May they continue to grow, but at a rate where the growth is one that will last. This isn’t rock and roll; you don’t want to make a splash (and some quick $$) and burn out. You want to build things as seemingly different as race schedules and rules as opposed to relationships with racers, track owners, promoters and, yes, fans in a manner that will make your organization one to be admired.
As BOSS prepared to head east to Pennsylvania and the ‘burg prepared for Indiana Midget Week, I moseyed home.
Watching Chris Simon imitate a butterfly, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Lemons into Lemonade
At 7:30 on Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway the natives could be forgiven if they were a bit restless. The track’s crew found out that too much water can be dropped on a track and the bottom all the way around the red clay oval was a sloppy mess. But give them credit; they kept at it and persevered. Give the fans credit as well. In a society where most everything is instant, they too, hung in there and were rewarded with a well run efficient program, with the sprint feature done before 10:30. Finally, give Casey Shuman a lot of credit. He passed Chase Briscoe midway through the 25 lapper and held off one last charge from the third generation racer and won the feature by all of ten feet. It seemed as if the earlier trials were forgotten, at least for the time being. Thanks to Mr. Shuman, the track prep didn’t turn out to be the main story—at least from these tired old eyes.
There are no excuses, nor is there any getting around it. The guys guessed wrong and dropped too much water on the track. A brief wheel packing session by the sprints was no answer. Two big pieces of equipment running the bottom finally yielded a track where guys could race. While waiting I found a reference to the word “patience” in the Holy Bible. (Roman 5: 3-4 summed it up: …but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.--King James Version). It would be a bit more narrow than normal. It would be tough to pass. But it would also be lightning fast. Those were three of the fastest non wing sprint car heats I’ve ever seen anywhere. Track bigwig Kris Kirchner timed some of the heat race laps at 11.8—or less.
The first of three heats took to the track a wee bit after 8 p.m. Jordan Kinser took the lead on the first lap after starting fourth and cruised to the win, showing that passing wasn’t totally impossible. In his draft were Ethan Barrow, Bub Cummings (from last), Kevin Chambers and Aric Gentry. Tyler Waltz eased (or was eased) off turn four coming to the checkered while running second.
Danny Harris led most of the second heat—until Casey Shuman came calling and that was that. The ageless Kent Christian was third, then came Braxton Cummings and Shelby Van Gilder.
Chase Briscoe jumped out to the lead in the third heat, then his smoking engine with a little fire added in brought forth the yellow flag. But both smoke and fire went away and so did Briscoe—to the victory. Brady Short, Dakota Jackson, Jeff Bland Jr. and Chris Babcock trailed.
Things were moving right along. The sprint feature was up and running by 10 p.m. with Barrow and Briscoe on the front row. Chase grabbed the early lead and had it when the first yellow waved on lap three. The second yellow waved right away on the re-start when someone drove too low in turn four, slowing, and then the field became jumbled up. Five cars were involved in the low speed Big One—Harris, Christian, Anthony Leohr, Babcock and Chambers. Christian and Leohr continued.
Harris and Chambers had been running in the first half of the field. But now the top ten were Briscoe, Shuman, Barrow, Kinser, Short, Bub Cummings, Bland, Jackson, Gentry and Braxton Cummings. Now it was time to go.
Noah’s Ark came to mind as the frontrunners broke into pairs, with Briscoe fighting off Shuman, Barrow being hounded by Short, followed by Kinser and Bland. Shuman got around Briscoe on lap 12 but the third generation racer refused to go away. As both left the others behind, laps wound down and lapped traffic became a factor.
Finally, on the last lap, Briscoe made one last banzai move, a slide job that seemed like it started on the Brown County line and ended in turn four. Disaster was averted as Briscoe banged wheels with Shuman, who was not to be denied. Somehow Casey managed to keep control of the car and the race, winning over Briscoe by a car length.
Shuman was magnanimous in victory, saying that he would have tried the same thing. Well…maybe. Who can know?
My watch read 10:22, which was not bad at all after the delay. Many folks, including me, stated that it was worth the wait.
Brady Short passed Ethan Barrow late to take third. Mr. Bland, who has been on a roll lately, came from 12th to finish fifth. Jackson, Kinser, Bub Cummings, Christian and Braxton Cummings ran sixth through tenth.
As both the track crew and Casey Shuman showed us, perseverance can pay off. As water becomes wine, lemons can become lemonade.
Packing heat at Chipotles, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Going Away Present
Bryan Clauson and a few dozen of his closest friends planned on heading east to Pennsylvania for USAC’s popular Eastern Storm tour. But before leaving for the Keystone State (and having raced at Knoville, Iowa the night before) Clauson wanted to squeeze another race in. He’s probably glad he did as he held off Dave Darland to win Sunday night’s feature at the Kokomo Speedway.
I prefer to think that threatening skies held down the size of the crowd on a warm Sunday evening. It was their loss as they missed another night of typical Kokomo competition. With people like Darland, Clauson, Weir, Boespflug and Grant, fun, speed and thrills were to be had.
Two groups qualified and Kyle Robbins was a bit of a surprise quick timer in the first group with a 13.872. No surprise that Justin Grant was quickest of the second group with his 13.394.
The first heat was a high speed freight train with Chris Gurley leading Dave Darland to the line. Josh Spencer was third, with Robbins and Beospflug following.
The second heat saw a pair of Bryans leading the way. Brian Karraker edged Bryan Clauson to grab the win as BC knew he’d locked up the redraw. It would take nothing away from BK as BC applied massive pressure all the same as he nosed around the bottom groove, planning ahead. Grant was third with Carson Short fourth. Travis Hery took fifth.
The redraw had Gurley and Spencer leading Clauson, Grant, Darland and Karraker to the green. Clauson made a nifty move to take the lead on the first lap but Spencer grabbed it right back. Joe Bares and Travis Hery tangled in turn two of the second lap. Hery re-started, but the Michigan lawman was done for the night. When the green waved again, Spencer held off Clauson for two laps before the Noblesville resident took the lead over the local guy. Grant pressured Spencer until he dropped out of the race just before a yellow waved for Short and Karraker, who banged wheels in turn two on the seventh lap.
This re-start saw Clauson leading Spencer, Darland, Boespflug (already up from ninth), Gurley, Scotty Weir, Max McGhee, Aaron Farney and Dustin Smith. A lap later Darland passed Spencer and the duel of two Hall of Famers was on. Boespflug also got around Spencer and was determined to make it a three way battle. Spencer was under attack by Weir when he headed for the infield, victim of a flat tire, ending a fine race up to then.
For the next five or six laps nothing changed up front, except….Boespflug was reeling in Darland with each lap. But Dave caught a break as it turned out when Adam Byrkett spun on lap 22. Nose to tail was BC, DD and CB. Weir was fourth and Gurley had made his way back to fifth after running as low as seventh.
But the last few laps were as anti-climatic as Kokomo gets with no change up front and not a lot further back. Boespflug had nothing for Darland, who had to watch Clauson take the checkered flag first. Behind those three, Weir maintained fourth with Gurley fifth. Farney came from 12th to sixth. Short was seventh and McGhee eighth. Kyle Robbins was ninth and veteran Dustin Smith, a Kokomo champ, made it to tenth.
Incredibly it was only eight p.m. The threatened rain dissipated as it often does. I could guess what would be next—in addition to the last two features.
Sure enough, the question was asked. “Grandpa, can we go to the pits?” And we did after the racing was done. Karston gave winner Clauson a high five, made a beeline to both the Spencer and Bospflug cars, sitting in both. He wasn’t done; Scotty Weir and Dave Darland both let him take their seat for a few minutes. The highlight came when he steered the Paul Hazen owned rocket into the hauler. Mr. Hazen seemed a bit nervous at first but couldn’t help but smile.
We wished the guys going east safe travels and retreated to the old white truck. Many of them had spent a lot of time, money and energy just to get to Kokomo to race once more before heading east. None got rich in monetary terms doing all this. But I like to think that they realize that, like Karston, they are having the time of their lives.
Neither twerking or working, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Car Count, Schmar Count
Being a numbers obsessed society, all too often we focus more than we should on numbers. As an example, people pay more attention to the guy who hits 40 home runs a year than to the guy who hits “only” 20, but with ten of those being game winning homers. So it goes with lots of sprint car fans who fall victim to the notion that a 50 car field will somehow mean a better show than having “only” 25 cars show up. That’s the way it was at Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday night. 20 cars started the feature, but enough of those 20 were legitimate shots to take home some of Joe Spiker’s hard earned cash. The biggest share went to Casey Shuman, son of Ronnie and nephew of Billy. Mr. Shuman didn’t coast to victory. He had to pass two of the best, first Chase Stockon and then Chad Boespflug to grab the win.
Family history was made as my traveling companion’s grandmother wanted to go see what the fuss was concerning this child. She found out fairly quickly.
She also found out that Lincoln Park’s sprint heats are competitive. Rare LPS visitor Joss Moffatt, who hails from the same town as I do, won the first heat over Chad Boespflug, who came from last/seventh. Carson Short, Tony Main and Joltin’ Joe Ligouri trailed.
Another infrequent face at LPS, Scott Hampton, jumped to an early lead from fourth before Chase Stockon, in the Gentry brothers’ 2x, took over. Casey Shuman patiently worked his way to second at the end. Brandon Mattox started and finished third. Hampton slipped to fourth, where he had started. A.J. Francis was fifth.
Seth Parker came from fourth to win the third heat. Handsome Brian Hayden was second with Brazil’s (IN) Daylan Chambers third. Rookie Mike Gass and Illinois’ Matt Harms ran fourth and fifth.
With the lack of a B Main in any class, the sprint feature lined up at 8:30. Less than five minutes later, front row sitter Parker had slid over the turn two banking and was essentially done for the night. Stockon took the early lead from his inside second row assignment with Boespflug right behind—or side by side. Shuman was third early on.
Midway through the race lapped traffic became a factor as Boespflug used the upper reaches of the groove to take the lead. Stockon’s night wasn’t enhanced by Casey Shuman, who immediately got around the Sullivan, IN native (who now lives in Bartholomew County). Shu made quick work of Chase and began his assault on Boespflug.
It was a classic high/low duel with CB up top and the Shu down low. Finally, with two laps to go, Shuman took the lead for keeps and held on for the win.
Stockon’s night ended on a disappointing note as he barely tapped a lapped car coming to the checkered and did the gentlest tipover ever seen. This gave third place to Carson Short. Joss Moffatt started and finished fourth. Brandon Mattox was fifth, maybe the best run that few saw. The next five were Hayden, Hampton, Ligouri, McGhee (from 20th) and Stockon.
While his grandmother waited in the car, the little racer and I cruised the pits for a spell. He had to say hello to a couple of his buddies, Mr. Boespflug and Mr. Stockon. Of course he could sit in the car…what? You can get in by yourself? Sure enough, he did. And for good measure he sat in his first modified, that of Jimmy Hayden, who was only too pleased to let this kid take over for a bit.
To top things off, there was another Bill Gardner sighting.
Finally figuring out that the flagman is waving that blue flag with the yellow stripes at me, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Extra Effort
How often are you going to see someone pass Dave Darland on the outside at one of his home tracks and pull away for the win? Obviously, not too often, but that’s exactly what Justin Grant did on Friday night at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway. Not only did he pass Darland, but he kept another Hall of Famer, Jon Stanbrough, at bay to win the 25 lap feature under clear skies and lovely weather.
27 sprinters showed up at the quarter mile dirt oval, with some of the usual heavy hitters with glittering resumes. Extra effort was needed on my end to take delivery of HARF t-shirts from El Presidente Bob Black. The actual delivery, at the I-70/Mt. Comfort exit, was easy. Getting there was fun. Other than the usual Friday night traffic and road construction, I slowly drove by a vintage Cadillac, or at least its sheet metal, sitting by the highway in a smoking heap. At least it wasn’t an omen.
Chris Gurley won the first of four heats over Mr. Grant, who may have played it safe to secure a redraw opportunity. Shane Cottle came from last to finish third, ahead of Max McGhee.
Jon Stanbrough easily won a second heat that was halted after a mean Tyler Hewitt flip. He had run over Matt Goodnight’s right rear and took his tumble in turn three. Tyler was okay but may be parked for awhile. Scotty Weir, Kyle Robbins and Goodnight all transferred.
In the third heat, Chad Boespflug and Jerry Coons Jr. missed quite a race behind them as two guys who brought out two early yellows, Dalton Gabbard and Josh Spencer, came back and took two feature starting spots. Aaron Farney and last week’s winner, A.J. Hopkins, were shuffled off to the B Main.
Fourth heat front row starters Dave Darland and Travis Hery had a similar situation. While they were running one/two in the heat, behind them was quite a rasslin’ match between Cincinnati lawyer Mike Weber and Conor Donelson. Travis Welpott joined the party and, if that wasn’t enough, so did Tony Main, who made his way to third at the end ahead of Donelson.
The semi was stopped because of another flip in turn four. Logan Jarrett appeared to get too much of a bit going through the turn and over he went—after coming from ninth to fourth in only two laps. Todd Keen won with Farney, Hopkins and Welpott grabbing feature spots 17-20.
Grant and Darland enjoyed their redraw, as they would occupy the front row. Stanbrough, Hery, Coons, Boespflug, Gurley, Weir, Cottle and Robbins loaded up the first half of the 20 car field. Darland jumped out to a decent lead until a lap seven yellow due to Dalton Gabbard slowed things. On the restart, Stanbrough passed Grant for second, but two laps later Grant returned the favor. Poor Gabbard brought out the second yellow.
Ten laps in and on this, the final re-start of the race, Darland led Grant, Stanbrough, Coons, Ballou, Weir, Cottle, Hery, Spencer and Farney. Before anyone bestowed the win upon Darland, Grant got around the People’s Champ right near the halfway mark. Dave’s miseries weren’t over as Stanbrough passed for second late in the race. That’s how the top three finished.
Coons was fourth with Weir fifth. The six through ten spots were Cottle, Gurley, Spencer (from 15th), Hery and A.J. Hopkins. Last week’s winner had to hustle to get into the feature. He got the ‘atta boy award for coming from 19th to take tenth.
Both grandsons helped hand out HARF memberships (and t-shirts) to all Gas City winners on Friday night. The younger of the two wanted to go sit in some sprint cars yet again. He was persuaded to wait till another night. Naturally the other night(s) would be Saturday and Sunday. Like Mr. Grant at Gas City, his extra effort paid off at Lincoln Park and Kokomo.
Just as naturally, Justin Grant drives one of his toy race cars now. Everybody loves a winner.
Counting empty seats at Dover, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Wings in Indiana? Why Not?
Just about any kind of oval racing can be found in our state and hosting the World of Outlaws made sense, especially if your name was Dave Rudisell. Once again the Outlaws came to the Lawrenceburg Speedway and once again they did not disappoint. At night’s end, it was Donny Schatz motoring past Sammy Swindell to grab the feature, his fourth of 2014.
Ol’ Rudy had predicted over 40 cars but 37 was close enough. It was the usual mix of Outlaw regulars, part-timers and regional runners who bolted on a wing. My pit walk’s first impression was $$$$. It was a pit full of NASCAR-like haulers, backup cars, t-shirts for sale and all the trappings of a NASCAR race not that many years ago. There was lots of money here, invested, spent and earned, surrounding me. None of it was mine.
One of “our guys,” meaning a non-wing regular, Gary Taylor, flipped right away in hot laps. His crew chief for the night, Chad Boespflug, had some work to do, I surmised, so I didn’t bother Chad for the rest of the night. With Taylor, familiar faces for me included Brady Bacon, driving the Fox brothers 53, Brad and Steve Fox, of course, Logan Hupp, driving now for Ray Marshall of the Buckeye State, Christopher Bell, driving for my neighbor Keith Kunz, Dallas Hewitt and one Robert Ballou.
Time trials viewed from the turn three bleachers were a treat. It’s safe to say I’ve never seen this kind of speed at the ‘burg, unless one counts the All-Stars, who were here a few years ago as Dale Blaney won on the last lap. Shane Stewart edged Schatz for quick time, a 12.234 lap.
Non-wing/Outlaw fans complain about the lack of passing being the reason they would rather watch a non-wing show and it’s true; there is not a lot of passing except for the first two or three laps when the green waves. This is true for the heats at least. So what is the appeal of these wicked fast beasts? Near as I can tell it’s the speed. Passing is the icing on the cake, but watching a Jac Haudenschild ride inches from that imposing Lawrenceburg wall, this close to being out of control at nearly 100 mph is a thrill, whether there’s a car nearby or not. In other words, if a fan watches an Outlaw race expecting the same kind of action he/she expects when the non-wing crowd races, they will be sorely disappointed. (Side note: The same holds true for USAC’s Silver Crown races, which are usually 100 laps, not 30.)
People also talk about how well the Outlaws are marketed and it’s true. Individual drivers are promoted as part of the show. There was no shortage of booths to purchase a t-shirt, or most anything else churned out by the Outlaw marketing machine.
Then there is Johnny Gibson, the best racing announcer in the business. No one can stir up a crowd like Johnny. In addition to firing up the crowd, Johnny read through several promotions throughout the evening, and he did them quickly. Seldom, if at all, did he stumble over any words.
The pits were dominated by professionalism. I didn’t take a survey but I’d guess that a majority of the 37 teams have at least one full-time employee and probably more than that. There were few weekend racers or hobbyists here tonight. These people were here to play for keeps.
With all these observations settling in my head amidst the dust, the highlight of pre-race ceremonies was Dave Rudisell’s offer to the “retiring” King, Steve Kinser, to race at the ‘burg next year minus the wing. It’s easy to forget that the King won a few races earlier in his remarkable career without a wing on.
Heat races began with Haudenschild winning the first heat from sixth. The race’s lone yellow flag waved when Trey Gustin smacked the turn four wall. On the double file re-start, Kevin Swindell, who had been leading, inexplicably chose the inside land, giving the outside to, yep, Haud. That was all she wrote. Haudenschild won with Bell, Swindell, Daryn Pittman and Stewart trailing.
Cody Darrah won the second heat from the pole. David Gravel, Mr. Schatz, Joey Saldana and D. Hewitt also transferred. Logan Schuchart was running fifth when his left rear wheel decided to exit the rest of the car. The cushion was inching upward.
Danny Holtgraver won the third heat. Kerry Madsen led Paul McMahon to the line for second and third. Despite a smoking engine, Paul May was fourth. Brady Bacon made a late pass of Greg Wilson to grab the last available transfer.
Sammy Swindell came from fourth to take the last heat. S. Kinser and Sammy ran one/two for much of the race. Brad Sweet and Randy Hannagan had a terrific duel behind the two giants. Then a case of flat tire fever broke out. Robert Ballou brought out a caution with a flat tire as the same fate befell S. Kinser and Logan Hupp. All of this happened on the white flag lap. (Debris on the track?) Behind S. Swindell were Hannagan, Sweet, Cole Duncan and Kory Crabtree.
The heats took the top five; the B would usher in four more to the show. Fromt row partners S. Kinser and Gustin ran one/two, leaving Wayne Johnson and Schuchart to grab the last two spots. Kraig Kinser, struggling all night, took a provisional.
Holtgraver and Pittman were the front row for the dash, but when Holtgraver jumped the start, S. Swindell moved to the pole. This would have a negative impact on Holtgraver later. Pittman won the right to have the feature’s pole, with Swindell, Schatz, Haudenschild, Holtgraver, Stewart and Darrah taking the lineup back to eighth.
This 35 lap feature was plagued by yellows with the first arriving on the scene with a D. Gravel spin with Paul May clouting the Outlaws only Nutmeg State racer. Kerry Madsen spun while running sixth three laps later. The next re-start saw the Wild Child running up against the wall with a screaming crowd as part of the soundtrack. Haud moved from fourth to the lead in only two laps, but the race’s third amber light negated the pass and Sammy went back to the front.
Haudenschild’s high wire act took a beating after the next green flew. He scraped the wall in turns three and four, but the real damage occurred when Jac stopped on the front stretch on lap 13, apparently with something broken on the car. Cars scrambled to miss the Ohio native, but Danny Holtgraver (whose jumped start came back to bite him) didn’t miss and flipped end over end into turn one. Poor Gravel was also involved. The re-start order was Swindell, McMahon, Pittman, Schatz, Saldana, Hannagan, Stewart, Bell, Darrah and…Steve Kinser.
The race was nearly half done and Schatz began to make noises up front. When the fifth yellow waved on lap 15 for a slowing Christopher Bell, Schatz was third, having passed Pittman. Next was McMahon a couple of laps later. Soon it would be Sammy’s turn as the T. Stewart rocket was hooked up. A Kevin Swindell spins slowed things one last time before Schatz passed for the lead. And that was that except for a D. Hewitt/Brady Bacon meeting on lap 32.
The last three laps were relatively uneventful as Schatz had them all covered. Swindell led the others with Pittman, Saldana and McMahon making up the top five. Sixth was none other than Steve Kinser after starting 17th. Hannagan, Stewart and Madsen were seventh through ninth. Kraig Kinser’s provisional didn’t deter him from scratching his way from 25th to tenth. Chalk up one Hard Charger award for the third generation racer.
I’d done what I set out to do, namely see the King of the Outlaws run at least one more time. At this point who can know what his plans are for next year? Along with his fellow veterans Sammy and the Wild Child, the King showed that there is plenty left in the tank.
Thinking that maybe Kurt Busch could handle one of these jets, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: One Man’s Ceiling….
…is another man’s floor. That phrase can mean lots of things, but it can describe the contrast between Chris Windom’s night at Kokomo on a holiday Sunday and Dave Darland’s. Windom was leading Darland and looking strong when he tangled with a lapped car during the 30 lap feature. He was ready to hit the ceiling. From there Darland took the lead and the win on another wild and wooly night at the Kokomo Speedway. You could say that Dave floored it to win.
Given that post-500 traffic might be a thick on U.S. 31 north of Indy, I did some deviating that led me through part of Noblesville, as well as the big town of Atlanta, where Mr. Darland and family currently reside—I think. Nevertheless, it was a good plan and I arrived at the northern Indiana jewel with minutes to spare.
Late arrival Steve Thomas made it 23 cars on hand. That left plenty for racing down south at Haubstadt, where 30 cars showed.
The surprise quick qualifier in group time trials was Tyler Hewitt, who was faster than playmates Justin Grant and Robert Ballou; Tyler’s 13.763 edged Grant’s 13.785. As usual, all quick times were in the last group to play.
The first heat was a Dave Darland clinic. From fourth he swept to the lead in one lap, up by the wall naturally. His lead was five car lengths at lap one, 10 car lengths on lap two. A lap three yellow reset matters and the lead at the checkered was half a straightaway. Scotty Weir was a distant second. Jerry Coons Jr. was third. Also moving on to the 30 lap feature were Dalton Gabbard and Logan Jarrett.
Chad Boespflug did nearly the same thing in the second heat, winning by a large margin over Chris Windom. Bryan Clauson, in the T. Stewart missile tonight, was third with Landon Simon and Brian Karraker trailing.
Chris Gurley won the third heat over a fast closing Justin Grant by maybe two feet. Josh Spencer, fast qualifier Tyler Hewitt and Adam Byrkett all made it to the feature.
Todd Keen ran off with the B Main win. Young Garrett Miller, improving each time out, was second. Dickie Gaines, still in the S. Pederson 4p, was third. Travis Hery and Keaton Dobbs would make up the last row of the feature.
With Grant and Boespflug on the front row, those two alone guaranteed a few hair raising experiences. The Paul Hazen machine took the early lead but Grant was not to be denied as he took over on the second lap (of 30). Darland dropped to fifth early and was still fifth when the first yellow waved on lap six.
It was Grant leading Boespflug, Windom, Weir and Darland on the re-start. Windom had a monster getaway, rocketing from third to the lead, only to have it called back when Dickie Gaines spun. Grant was restored to the lead but again Windom made short work of the native Californian and began to check out—or at least try to.
Deputy Dave was on the move as well. In only a few laps he dispatched Weir, Boespflug and then put a monster slider on Grant. Next up was Windom and sure enough, Darland was closing the gap, even taking the lead on one lap. But Chris sat up in the seat as they say and re-assumed the point. He was putting a bit of Kokomo dirt between himself and Darland, in fact, when disaster struck.
A lap 23 turn four tangle between the leader and Logan Jarrett ended up with Jarrett against the wall and Windom with a flat tire. The Bear was not pleased. But his terrible luck was Darland’s good. Now it was Darland, Grant and Bryan Clauson, who had been charging through the field from eighth. Jerry Coons Jr. was now fourth and Boespflug had faded only a bit to fifth.
Another yellow waved on lap 25 with no change in the front five. I’d grabbed the HARF t-shirts, prying them out of Brett Bowman’s hands after a vicious tug of war (<<<kidding!) and ambled down to the turn one entrance to the pits from the track. It was hard for me to see but it looked like Landon Simon and Josh Spencer had tangled in turn four under yellow. Landon was quite displeased and was led away to the pits. He was done while Josh re-started.
The final laps were, mercifully, fairly uneventful. Yet again, no one had anything for Darland. At the end it was Grant and Clauson, with Boespflug getting around Coons to grab fourth. Scotty Weir was sixth and Chris Gurley was seventh. Behind the gentle giant was Dalton Gabbard. Ninth was Spencer, who had a good run after his misfortune. And Travis Hery had the best run that few saw, rambling from 19th to tenth.
Just another night at Kokomo with the usual blend of excitement, controversy, close competition and flat out speed. And finally the O’Connors were rewarded with a very good crowd and a healthy back gate. Dave Darland was stuck with a HARF t-shirt that may end up being a bit snug, but he wasn’t complaining. God knows he has enough of them at home.
Ceiling, meet floor.
Went home the “normal” way, enjoying the perpetual road construction that is U.S. 31 and the pothole heaven that is I-65 from Indy south. Gas was $3.69 at the Speedway on what’s now 931 where the Fox brothers tried to lock me in one night.
Hoping not to get shot by accident at either of our local Wal-Marts, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Fitting Ending and…Beginning
It is appropriate that we remember and honor those who lived their lives to the fullest and have passed from this scene. It seems to be a need of the living to do so and, when done properly and with respect, all benefit. We don’t seem to be geared to merely shrug off the death of loved ones or those admired from a distance. We have to do or say something to honor the dead. This can be anyone from one’s parent, those who died in one of our nation’s wars, or young men who died doing what they loved. That brings us to Josh Burton, who lost his life a year ago at his home track, the Bloomington Speedway. The first annual Josh Burton Memorial was held on Friday night and at the appropriate times words and deeds were said and done to honor an extraordinary young man. As it turned out, 43 sprinters jammed the Bloomington pits, all wanting to be a part of the evening—and maybe grab the unique trophy that went to the winner. At the end of a long night, it was Hunter Schuerenberg hoisting a Henry Golden Boy rifle and taking home $2000, along with some good memories of his own.
Right around 6 p.m. I turned off Schacht Road onto Fairfax and immediately noticed…a rapidly filling parking lot. I was already impressed as my first thought was that lots of people wanted to be there to celebrate Josh Burton’s life. My second thought was that it would be a long night when I saw the long line at the pit gate. No problem with any of that.
In addition this was an MSCS sanction and with USAC off for a few days, lots of strong contenders were in the pits. Tonight the passing points system would be determining the feature lineup.
Dakoda Jackson had to be feeling better after Thursday night’s encounter with the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ turn one wall when he won the first of five heats. Bradley Sterrett didn’t feel too bad either as he came from sixth to finish second. Mark Smith has returned to visit again all the way from Pennsylvania and he took third. Brandon Mattox was fourth, leading a young Missouri racer to the line, Devon Huff.
Seth Parker won the second heat as Dave Darland came from fifth to take second. Jon Stanbrough was third after starting seventh. Chase Stockon ended up fourth ahead of Chris Babcock. After the checkered Darland and Stockon had a pitside discussion about driving styles. I figured that there would be no fight when both took their helmets off, making it easier to bark at each other.
The third heat saw young Levi Shields win and Kyle Cummins take second from Nick Bilbee on the last lap after starting sixth. Logan Hupp started and finished fourth. Carson Short was fifth. Kevin Chambers came closer than his result would indicate. For much of the heat he seemed to own the bottom, making the boys pass on the outside which they eventually did.
Mr. Schuerenberg came from fourth to win the fourth heat. Robert Ballou was second. Pole sitter Ethan Barrow was third and Bub Cummings held on for fourth. Daron Clayton could advance only one spot to fifth and ended up in one of the B’s.
Jeff Bland Jr., driving the Burton family 04, won the fifth heat over Brady Short. Jordan Kinser was third and South Dakota visitor Bret Mellenberndt came back here and began his visit with a fourth. Nick Johnson came from eighth to finish fifth.
A solid hour long break was next to rework the track. Few were pleased, but most anyone who was paying attention could see that the red clay was nearly all black and as slick as an ice rink. As it turned out, it was worth the wait. Both B’s and the feature were fast, furious and competitive.
Each B Main would take the top two and would be 12 laps. The first few laps of the initial B were some of the fastest I’ve seen at Bloomington. Nick Bilbee led the flying choo-choo until he spun in turn four midway through the race while trying to pass a lapped car on the outside. Daron Clayton inherited the lead and the win with Casey Shuman doing all he could do to hold off Carson Short to grab the last spot available.
The star of the second 12 lap affair would be Brent Beauchamp, who came from sixth to win by using the rim riding technique to perfection. Chase Stockon was second to Beauchamp, who was the race’s fourth leader.
Yet again the two hall of famers occupied the front row, Darland on the pole and Stanbrough outside. Stanbrough took the early lead over Darland, but Hunter Schuerenberg wanted to join the party. By the time the first yellow waved for a Daron Clayton spin, Hunter had dispatched Dave and now eyed the other maestro of Hoosier bullrings.
Stanbrough did all he could do, holding off the Missouri native for several laps until lap 14 when Schuerenberg took the lead. Stanbrough was never more than two or three car lengths behind, but the Gene Nolan owned machine was up to the challenge as both traded grooves, high and low.
Behind them there was plenty of speed and passing. Kyle Cummins started sixth and didn’t crack the top five until the ninth lap. Right after Schuerenberg passed for the lead, Cummins had moved to fourth. Just a few laps later and the Princeton, IN native took care of Darland.
The best run that few saw was that of Brady Short, who started 14th and steadily moved through the field. With less than five laps to go he passed Mark Smith for fifth.
At the end it was Schuerenberg by all of three feet over Stanbrough. Cummins, Darland and Short completed the top five. Jeff Bland Jr. did the 04 and crew proud with a sixth place finish. Smith faded just a bit but still had a very decent seventh place run. Bradley Sterrett ran strong early but faded to eighth. Robert Ballou was fairly quiet, but hung in for ninth. And Casey Shuman had another good run that few saw as he dodged traffic, etc. to come from 19th to tenth.
The hour was late, but it didn’t matter. The first Josh Burton Memorial was an unqualified success. The pits, bleachers and the hillside were all jammed with fans and cars. The delay for reworking the track was the equivalent of a teeny tiny speed bump. A few need to realize that these things happen, albeit rarely. Track workers, along with the whole staff, do their best. And if their best isn’t good enough the first time, then they will try again with better results.
It was an evening where Josh Burton would have felt right at home.
Lots of choices for the rest of the weekend for bullring/sprint car racing and at Gas City on Friday night A.J. Hopkins came from eighth to win. Where is that cloning machine so I can catch a few more?
Waiting on Paul Tracy to make a comeback, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Dinosaurs That Refuse to Die
Those who wished that the USAC Silver Crown Series would go away may be sorely disappointed these days. The same goes for those wishing for the demise of the Hoosier 100. Both the race and the Silver Crown cars could be and no doubt have been called dinosaurs. On Thursday night, the Indiana State Fairgrounds was witness to the sights and sounds of these old school race cars barreling around the mile oval. At night’s end it was Kody Swanson basking in victory as he rocketed around Bobby East on the outside going into turn one on lap 78. It’s a whimsical but fitting thought that perhaps the ghosts of various Hoosier 100 racers from the past smiled down upon the old track and its current crop of competitors.
More than once the USAC Silver Crown Series, which ideally would be a “destination” series for racers, has been on life support. Not too long ago it was on the brink of extinction. “Mourners” stood by the grave, shovels in hand, ready to perform the last rites and get it over with. The same was true for the Hoosier 100, a race nearly as old as me that has seen its share of ups and downs.
The history is this race is exceeded only that of the big track on the other side of town. Fans should take a look at this history. All the names you’d expect are there: Foyt (six time winner 1960-61-64-65-68-69), Unser (Big Al, a four time winner from 1970-1973), Bryan (1954-1956), Andretti (1966-67), Jones, Ward, Larson (Jud, not Kyle), Gurney, Hewitt, Darland, Elliot and Coons, taking us to 2014. The one time horse track hosted the first Hoosier 100 on September 19, 1953. As is often the case in Indiana, it was rained out and rescheduled a week later and ’55 500 champ Bob Sweikert won.
Then along came Andy Hillenburg, called upon to breathe new life into the Series. That he has done. Car counts are up and there is a new enthusiasm to right this ship. 29 cars were entered with nearly all showing up. Even though the track record, set by Johnny Parson Jr. in 1995, was safe, Bob Sargent and crew prepared a smooth track from top to the more popular bottom. Tracy Hines was quick timer as he was sixth from last to qualify, meaning that the track held up.
With short track racing all over the state leading up to the Race on Sunday, a few guys found themselves doing double (or more) duty. The Little 500 up at Anderson had its time trials on Thursday afternoon and a decent number who qualified for the Little 5 hustled down I-69 to qualify for the Hoosier 100. Caleb Armstrong, two time winner Jerry Coons Jr., Aaron Pierce, Jacob Wilson, Chris Windom, Russ Gamester and Jarett Andretti were double dipping on this most prominent racing weekend.
Joey Kramer led Ken Schrader to the line as UMP modifieds ran first. It was Kramer’s second win in a row for the opening act.
A few minutes later and it was time to rumble. Few racing sights are more awe inspiring than 25 of these beasts on their pace lap. The green waved, quickly followed by the yellow as Jon Stanbrough spun in turn one. Somehow he wasn’t clobbered as all made it past—except for young Dakoda Jackson, who missed Stanbrough but smacked the turn one wall with his right front. Sadly, Dakoda would finish 25th.
Hines had gotten the jump on the first start, but Bobby East was not to be denied as he grabbed the lead going into turn one. East steadily built up his margin until lap 12 when Armstrong clouted the turn four wall. The re-start read East, Hines, Swanson (who had started eighth), Silver Crown rookie Shane Cockrum and Windom.
The green waved again and East again checked out until Tulsa, Oklahoma’s John Hunt flipped in turn three on lap 30, bringing out the red. John was able to amble away. Déjà vu resumed on this segment; soon East’s lead was a half straightaway. Lap 63 saw another yellow with little change up front. This re-start saw folks begin to make noise. Coons was on the move. He passed Windom for fifth on the re-start. Swanson sprinted down the backstretch to overtake Hines on lap 73 and suddenly East’s lead wasn’t as imposing.
The pass for the lead was the move of the night as Swanson caught and passed going into turn one—on the outside. With 22 laps to go it would be all over except for the cheers for both Swanson and long time car owner Bob Hampshire.
Business picked up in the final laps as Swanson motored away. East maintained second and Hines third, but Tracy was pressured at the end by Coons. Windom was fifth. Zach Daum had spent much of the race trying to get around Chris Urish. In the closing laps Daum closed the deal, ending up sixth. Aaron Pierce spent most of the race trying to break into the top ten. His late charge found him seventh at the end. Urish, the world’s fastest farmer, finished eighth. A.J. Fike was ninth, which was where he started. Christopher Bell was a quiet tenth, holding off Joe Ligouri, who had far and away the best race that few folks saw. Ralphie the Racer’s grandson started 24th and steadily made his way through the field.
My post race pit walk gave an up close look at the cars. No longer did they look so glamorous and pristine. They looked dirty, bent, beat up and/or exhausted. In short, they looked like they had run 100 laps. The overall mood was a combination of weariness and unwinding. Some joked and smiled while others here and there were still upset about whatever may have happened on the track. Either way, it was time to head south.
The Silver Crown Series heads west next time, across I-70 to Gateway Motorsports Park.
With two sprinter choices for Friday, it would be a tough call for me with the Josh Burton Memorial edging out Gas City—this time.
Remembering the men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice from Bunker Hill to Kabul, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Milestones
Similar to goals, milestones matter and are necessary if a person wishes to excel. Some are more difficult than others. For example, achieving or reaching a certain number of a certain accomplishment has to give one some satisfaction, a sense that they have been able to endure and excel. Longevity combined with success equals a rare space that few occupy. This brings us to Dave Darland, who rang up USAC sprint feature win number 50 at the Terre Haute Action Track on a Wednesday night when rain threatened from beginning to end. Adding to Darland’s success is longevity as his first Hulman Classic win was 21 years ago, before some of his competition was born. Wrapping it up, Dave’s first USAC win was at, yep, the Action Track.
In addition to sprint car history, the weather was on people’s minds. As I drove northwest to Terre Haute the sky gradually became darker. Arriving at the Vigo County Fairgrounds, folks seemed to be waiting on rain as the track was prepared. Festivities began late but it didn’t matter; the sprint feature was over at a decent hour (9:30 p.m.) for working people. Other than a few sprinkles, rain stayed to the north with reported rain on Terre Haute’s north side. There must have been a window over Mattoon (Illinois).
23 cars and teams braved the threat of rain, knowing how fickle Hoosier weather can be. It was a no brainer to dispense with the B. Three heats and top five finishers would get their qualifying time back. Lost in the shuffle amid concerns about rain was the very fast surface prepped by Reece O’Connor and crew. It yielded a new track record in qualifying by Brady Bacon, a 19.225 lap. Can an 18 second lap be far behind?
Hunter Schuerenberg’s highlight of the night would be winning the first heat over Bacon, pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr., Jon Stanbrough and C.J. Leary. Later, Hunter would find himself facing the wrong way in turn four during the feature.
In the second heat Shane Cottle jumped out to a big lead and coasted home for the win over a closing Chris Windom. Chase Stockon, Justin Grant and Dave Darland all got their times back.
Bryan Clauson made an early move to the lead in heat number three but Tracy Hines quickly caught and passed the Indy car veteran. Behind BC, Daron Clayton, Carson Short and Kevin Thomas Jr. finished as a brisk breeze from the south caused a bit of nervousness on my part.
My nervousness increased as the call was made for the modifieds to run their feature first. Winner Jacob Poole may have been even more so after he sideswiped leader Ken Schrader in turn four of the last lap. Post-race, the winner was subdued in his comments, apologizing all over the place. Stay tuned.
Thomas and Darland made up the front row and KT (the original KT was minding his business in the house tonight) jumped out to the lead with Stanbrough taking second early on. Darland assumed second and was there when the first yellow waved on lap 10 when Tracy Hines stopped coming out of four. Lightning, quite persistent, was spotted.
The green waved with Thomas leading Darland, Stanbrough, Bacon, Stockon, Windom (in Jeff Walker’s team car), Leary, Robert Ballou, Clauson and Schuerenberg. DD now stalked Thomas, searching for a way around as the cushion crept ever closer to the wall. And then it happened, the move of the race.
Thomas was very briefly balked by a lapped car in turn two and Darland swept around the outside, a patented move of his. Dave took the lead on lap 22 and that was it. A Hunter Schuerenberg spin stacked ‘em up again with Thomas, Stanbrough, Bacon and Stockon lined up behind the People’s Champ. No dice; KT could do nothing but hope second place would be his. Bacon did pass Stanbrough for third. A lap 26 yellow for a stopped Carson Short was pretty much the same.
The top five stayed the same with Darland, Thomas, Bacon, Stanbrough and Stockon. Windom took sixth with Ballou moving up to seventh. One of the best runs few saw was Hines, who re-started on the tail after bringing out the first caution and methodically passed people to end up eighth. Shane Cottle followed Hines with both finding success on the bottom; the Throttle was ninth, ahead of Clauson.
Rain? What rain? On my way home I saw lots of lightning, mostly to the north, and some wind, but no rain. Remnants of rain appeared on Bloomington city streets, but that was it. Gasbuddy.com was my friend. On my town’s southeast side I found gas at $3.57 and gave the old Chevy a nice drink. It would get me to Indy for the Hoosier 100.
It was, in the end, a night to reflect, as most nights can be. The ultimate gamblers, the O’Connor family, gambled and won. The crowd and the car count were all decent considering the weather. Dave Darland reached a milestone that few racers reach, 50 wins in a series. He can add it to his others. Any future book on sprint car history (paging either Dr. Pat Sullivan or Dave Argabright) will have to feature the world’s fastest grandfather.
Wondering if DD has ever heard of Ponce de Leon, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: You Can Go Home Again
I would guess that author Thomas Wolfe and Dave Darland have little in common other than that they have vigorously pursued their passions. Mr. Wolfe was a southern writer and is one of my favorites to this day. His passion was writing with a unique eye for detail. Probably his most famous book is a classic called “You Can’t Go Home Again.”
Mr. Darland can relate to the passion part but his is mightily different from Mr. Wolfe’s. Mr. Darland’s pursuits are nothing resembling writing as he negotiates the cushion around the top groove of the Kokomo Speedway. Instead he races and wins. One might call him an artist at what he (and his competitors) does, but he would surely scoff. But unlike Mr. Wolfe, Mr. Darland has shown time and time again that you can go home again. A big part of that home is Victory Lane at Kokomo. On a near perfect Sunday night, Darland won his heat and led all 25 laps of the feature. It was his second feature win in a row at Kokomo.
32 cars made for a good count on a decent night in terms of weather. The annual on track autograph session resulted in things getting underway a bit late, but it was no problem. The program was its usual efficient self.
Young Carson Short may be the most improved driver so far this year. He won the first heat, holding off Jon Stanbrough, who may have been looking at the big picture, meaning that the redraw for feature starting spots would include the first two finishers in each of the four heats. It was Short’s first Kokomo win.
Scotty Weir did the same to Bryan Clauson in heat two, leading BC, Justin Grant and Robert Ballou to the line.
Chad Boespflug came from third to first in the first lap and continued on to win the third heat over Chris Gurley, Josh Spencer and Logan Jarrett. Chris Windom had a transfer locked up until he literally climbed the turn two wall, losing positions and heading for the B. Chad’s new uniform was, uh, different. I couldn’t decide if he looked like a bar code, a half zebra or a convict. The jury remains out.
Dave Darland won a fourth heat that saw little passing, a Kokomo rarity. Kevin Thomas Jr., in a second Jeff Walker-mobile, was second, followed by Jerry Coons Jr. and C.J. Leary.
Windom came back to win the first of two B’s with Kyle Robbins also moving on. Landon Simon appeared to slow coming out of four and Todd Keen climbed Simon’s right rear wheel and tipped over. Keen wasn’t pleased, but again neither was Simon who had engine troubles after a good run the night before.
More ill will followed in the second B as Jarett Andretti tapped Tyler Hewitt enough to send him around—on turn one of the first lap. Mr. Hewitt was not very impressed and briefly expressed his displeasure after the race. Shane Cottle won with young Andretti taking the 20th starting position in the feature. Canadian Lee Dakus has been here in Indiana for the past several weeks. His visit was not enhanced as he spun midway through the race in turn two, then flipped in turn four, all on the same lap. He was not happy, but nor was he hurt.
Not too often is there a Hall of Fame front row, but at Kokomo it was the case with Stanbrough and Darland leading a strong field of younger racers to the green. Darland took the lead at the start and simply checked out, using his beloved high line. Stanbrough had his hands full keeping Kevin Thomas Jr. behind him. But midway through the race, Jon nearly flipped in turn two and lost second to Thomas, who promptly lost it to Clauson.
BC had the chance to catch Darland when a lap 22 yellow bunched the field. It wasn’t going to happen. As Darland again checked out for the last three laps, he missed a good race behind him. Clauson had his hands full fending off a charging Jerry Coons Jr. Not far behind was Thomas, then Justin Grant. Stanbrough, the previous night’s winner at Lawrenceburg, was sixth. Boespflug was seventh ahead of Robert Ballou (from 14th), Weir and Josh Spencer.
Maybe somewhere in the great beyond Thomas Wolfe was smiling and shaking his head. Dave Darland had shown again that you can leave, have success and then come home and have even more success.
Line dancing with Miley Cyrus, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Cherry Picking? Not Here
Seems like the days of a hot dog stopping by a bullring to dust off the locals and haul a nice wad of cash away are no more. Racers still pick which races they want to enter, but the lack of competition is not a factor. That’s because it seems like, no matter where you go, there are going to be other hot dogs with the same idea. Plenty enough hot dogs and other dedicated racers showed up at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a chilly Saturday night for the ‘burg’s hosting a KISS show. They didn’t fail to please, far from it. When the dust (not that there was that much) settled, Jon Stanbrough stood in Victory Lane, smiling and counting his money after passing Daron Clayton in traffic late in the feature.
Only racers themselves can explain why they show up where they do on a given night. Perhaps they are running for points at either a given track or a traveling series. If a guy is near the top of the points and the monetary reward isn’t too shabby, off he will go in that direction.
Money talks at times. It matters not just how much the race pays to win, but how the purse is spread out. The XX thousand to win looks good but a discerning racer will look at what the other positions pay—as well they should. And it’s not uncommon for racers to bypass a better paying show to race for half whatever the purse is.
Often distance matters. Sometimes it will trump everything else. Along with money, often distance makes my race decision for me. Racers have to consider such niceties as fuel, perhaps a motel room(s) or food costs.
In some cases, a track’s surface or condition matters. Tracks get reputations, sometimes fair and sometime not, for being hard on equipment. Some tracks have been known to have…a rut or two, a dry and slick surface, a heavy and/or wet surface, nastier crashes, a negative effect on engines (as in causing engine failures), and a negative effect on tires. No doubt there are tracks which are not prepared consistently, if at all. Some racers drive right by such tracks while others show up faithfully.
Like many things in life, it boils down to personal choice. Racers, promoters, mechanics and fans all gripe, but go wherever they’re going to go anyway. They/We must love it.
21 cars showed up at the ‘burg and nary a cherry picker was in sight. One could easily make a case that 1/3 of the field had a reasonable shot at taking the feature.
Clayton made a strong opening statement in the first heat, coming from fifth and passing Shane Cottle, Joss Moffatt and Shawn Westerfeld to grab the win.
The second heat made me think of Moe Howard and one of his signature phrases, “spread out!” Jon Stanbrough won it after taking the lead on the second lap and leaving all others in the dust (what there was of it at this point).
The third heat saw J.T. Stapp take and hold the lead for much of the race before grazing the wall coming out of turn two and then falling back. This gave the lead to Brady Short, who led Jerry Coons Jr. (in Gene Nolen’s mount for the night) to the checkered.
The redraw shook out with Clayton and Short on the front row for the 30 lap feature. Clayton rocketed to the lead with Stanbrough not far behind. The substantial difference in speeds saw lapped traffic as early as lap four. A yellow flag on lap nine slowed matters temporarily with Clayton leading Stanbrough, Short, Cottle, C.J. Leary, Coons, Mike Terry Jr., Kevin Thomas Jr., Moffatt and Westerfeld.
Leary had a strong few laps before the yellow returned on lap 15, halfway. He was up to third behind the two veterans. Quietly, Landon Simon, who had hit the wall in his heat and started 21st, had made his way up to tenth. Leary hung close to the leaders for the rest of the way.
Remember that lapped traffic already mentioned? It determined the outcome as Clayton was boxed in by a lapper with four laps to go. Stanbrough pounced and that was it. Clayton was a close second followed by Leary. KISS point leader Cottle was fourth with Short fifth. The second five was Coons, Thomas, Moffatt, Simon and Westerfeld.
In Victory Lane, Jon didn’t look like a cheery picker, not at all. He did look like a racer.
Post-race my traveling companion was kept busy by Stanbrough’s car owner Mike Dutcher who put him in the seat to steer the car on the hauler. A bit later he sat in Moffatt’s seat while Joss’s dad Bill and I yakked. To close out, Chris Simon needed a driver to put the ninth place car into the hauler. Sure enough, Karston stepped up. A thrill for the little person that has yet to wear off, he didn’t nod off until we reached the Ripley County line.
Next up for the ‘burg is the World of Outlaws on Monday night.
Reminding Kurt Busch to get some sleep on Saturday night, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: In the Nick of Time
We’re all guilty of saying things such as “I finished that just in time.” Often this refers to getting the lawn mowed before the rains come. More than once I’ve finished mowing just as the sky opens up. This is how it was at the Kokomo Speedway on Sunday night. Feature winner Dave Darland was glad that the feature was its regular 25 laps. Second place Justin Grant might have been wishing the race could have been 26 laps as Darland won another race at his home track. Jon Stanbrough was third, only a few feet behind Grant. He edged Bryan Clauson, who was fourth. Given that the top four battled as fiercely four racers can battle without crashing each other out, this race should be one to remember for those who were present.
Rain was a significant part of Sunday’s racing. The O’Connor family was watching the maps all evening and ran races with no dilly-dallying. I, too, was watching maps as I headed north. A fairly small spot on the map showed precipitation near the big city. Sure enough, rain began at the Whiteland exit and came down in large buckets until I reached the southeast side of Indianapolis. Didn’t matter. Kokomo was dry.
Hoosier bullrings have few, if any, bad vantage points. There are several angles at seeing a track that people should try at least once. One that comes to mind is the pit bleachers at Kokomo during group qualifying. Doesn’t matter how close to the top you sit; you will get smacked with dirt clods. One huge recommendation is to not choose that few minutes to have a cheeseburger.
25 cars, three heats and first heat pole sitter Logan Jarrett had things his own way in the first heat—for the first few laps. Kevin Thomas Jr., quick timer in this group, stormed from fourth to win over Jon Stanbrough, Parker Price-Miller, Jarrett and Chris Gurley.
The second heat wasn’t too shabby as Dave Darland paced the field. Bryan Clauson passed C.J. Leary for second on the last lap and made the redraw. Chad Boespflug was fourth and rookie Mike Gass had a terrific battle with Aaron Farney to grab the last feature transfer.
Jerry Coons Jr., who was the quickest in the third group, loaded up early and sat out the rest of the night while the crew went home or, more likely, to the shop. Shane Cottle, tonight in the Bill Elson car, led all the way to win the third heat. Justin Grant came from sixth to take second. Jarett Andretti led a pair of 18s as he finished third ahead of Todd Keen. Carson Short grabbed the last chair before the music stopped.
Josh Spencer took the lead in the B, but Scotty Weir was coming on. No sooner than he took the lead, Weir coasted into the infield, done for the night. Spencer found himself back in the lead and the 16th starting position in the feature—minus his power steering. Aaron Farney was second with Adam Byrkett, Tyler Hewitt and Mike Terry Jr. all tagging the A.
Ominous clouds were gathering to the northwest and were getting too close for comfort. No one was messing around and Clauson and Darland led 18 more to the green at 8:00 p.m. Who knew that this race would top most others they have seen? For most, it would or will be one to be discussed in the future.
Super Dave took the lead at the start as Clauson fell to third behind Stanbrough, who had started fourth. Thomas was fourth, but feeling early pressure from Grant. Eight laps in and Grant had fourth. He wasn’t done.
Lap 11 would not be a favorite of a few. First, Price-Miller flipped after contact with Gass. Parker was roughed up a bit, and took a precautionary trip to the hospital. On the re-start, it was Tyler Hewitt’s turn to go over, along with Carson Short. Josh Spencer’s power steering woes had not been a factor early on as he’d moved from 16th to tenth. But Josh struggled getting through turn one as he had tire trouble and the other two had nowhere to go.
The lineup read DD, Stanbrough, Clauson, Grant, KT, Cottle, Jarrett, Leary and Boespflug. The green waved and the two Hall of Famers put on a show, trading the official lead at least four times. Darland took the high road and Stanbrough had the low. But neither could know that Grant was coming on. He passed Clauson in lapped traffic and set his sights on the front two. He caught them and passed Stanbrough on the last lap. And astonishingly, he very nearly passed Darland. My aging eyes seemed to think that Dave had held on, but I wasn’t sure. The transponders told the tale: Darland by inches.
That wasn’t all, far from it. Stanbrough was only a few feet behind Grant for third. And Clauson was fourth by maybe a car length or two. Boespflug did all he could to make Thomas’ last few laps miserable, but KT hung on for fifth with the Hazenmobile sixth. Cottle, Leary, Jarrett and Gurley wrapped up the top ten. The best run that few saw was that of Tyler Hewitt. After flipping (not terribly hard), he re-started and raced his way up to 12th. He had come from the B Main, flipped, and re-started at the tail of the field with only 14 laps left.
No less than any of the others, Tyler Hewitt is a racer.
It was only 8:35 and I wasn’t in a hurry, not that it mattered. Someone had parked my truck in a mud bog out by the highway. I found Reece O’Connor and explained my plight. After he was done laughing, Reece said it would be no problem. Sure enough, after some more heckling, the little white truck was freed from its bondage and we headed south.
Soon after turning onto what is now IN 931, a brief storm passed through Kokomo not long after most had left. My idea to take a break at the Speedway on 931 was a good one. After my own re-start, I had some rain but missed the brunt of the storm.
As the race ended in the nick of time for Dave Darland, the storm ended in the nick of time for me. At least that’s what I like to think.
Wondering if the Indiana Pacers all suffer from schizophrenia, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Student Bests Teacher
On a night when passing was tough at the Lincoln Park Speedway, feature winner Brady Short took the lead from early pacesetter Jon Stanbrough and held on to win the 25 lap feature under a clear nighttime sky. It was a case of the former student beating the teacher. After repeated attempted slide jobs and a few feints at a slider, Short made his last try stick. Professor Stanbrough no doubt wasn’t appeased by knowing that the still young man who beat him no doubt learned many lessons from his teacher. It’s called passing it on and it’s how we progress in this world, racing and non-racing.
Given the weather over the weekend, one could wonder if any Hoosier bullrings would host racing. Gas City fell victim to the rain on Friday night; there is a hope that the King of Indiana Sprint Series date can be made up at the northeastern Indiana quarter mile oval. On Saturday morning, heavy rain hit my town, causing me to wonder if I’d be shut out two nights in a row. Lawrenceburg was hit with enough rain to cause promoter Dave Rudisell to pull the plug. But northwest of here, the staff at the Lincoln Park Speedway was readying themselves and the track for another Saturday night of racing, Hoosier style. The old truck and I headed in that direction. As Simon Pagenaud (Pahjeno) took the checkered at Indy I checked in at LPS. It would be a tough call to determine who was happier, the flying Frenchman or me.
37 cars were a part of a busy pit area. In the mix were a few USAC runners, Paragon regulars, and a couple of guys normally at the ‘burg.
Jon Stanbrough started on the front row of the first heat and promptly left the others behind. Brian Karraker was second and behind him Chris Phillips kept Dave Darland behind him to take the third and last transfer available. DD was, incredibly, headed for one of the two B’s.
In the second heat Brady Short made his opening statement, checking out to win over Travis Berryhill and his uniquely numbered 401k. Dickie Gaines held off Mike Terry Jr. to take third.
Chad Boespflug had a monster start in the third heat, moving from fourth to first on the first lap and won with Bradley Sterrett coming from last to make a white flag lap pass of Nick Bilbee to take second. Seth Parker spun early and came back to fourth, one spot shy of making the show through the heat.
Jeff Bland Jr. came from fifth to win the fourth heat with Brent Beauchamp runnerup. Arizona’s Dalton Gabbard was third, sending Chase Stockon (in the Gentry family’s 2x) and Jordan Kinser (Hurst Brothers) to the B.
With Chris Windom over in Illinois at the POWRi midget race (won by Christopher Bell who had to make the lineup through the B), Justin Grant returned to the Walker 11 seat for the night and won the fifth and final heat. Casey Shuman had his hands full holding off Kent Christian as both transferred. Jarrett Andretti pounded the turn four cushion one time too many and flipped. Jarrett was okay but done. The number one ruled as Grant’s 11 led Shu’s 21k and Christian’s 1c to the checkered.
Each B took three and Darland, Parker and Ethan Barrow moved on after the first semi. Stockon, Logan Jarrett and Illinois’ Carson Short found themselves negotiating lapped traffic as they locked up the last three available spots.
With Stanbrough and Short, teacher and one time student, on the front row, one knew that the race just between these two would be a good one. As most everyone went to the top of a slickie track with the monster cushion, Stanbrough grabbed the early lead, fighting off expert slide jobs on turn two of most of the early laps. Stanbrough would re-take the lead coming out of two and lead until Short would slide him in turn one. A turn three slider secured the lead for Short on lap 11. Boespflug, who had started third, slid Stanbrough just as Dave Darland brought out a yellow flag after contact with Travis Berryhill.
The lap 17 re-start read Short, Stanbrough, Boespflug, Bland, Karraker, Sterrett, Grant, Shuman, Beauchamp and Gaines. The top still ruled and cushion bouncing was not uncommon. Close contact racing was the norm as well with Stanbrough and Short making contact and Bland getting by Boespflug temporarily.
Not much changed at the top for the last eight laps. Short’s margin over Stanbrough was only a few car lengths. Boespflug came back to take third from Bland. Sterrett was fifth with Grant sixth. Shuman, Beauchamp and Karraker followed as BK fell back a bit during the final laps. Bilbee was tenth.
One should add that over 100 kids showed up ready to race their bicycles around the 5/16 mile oval. There were no yellows and nary a slide job. No doubt there was a future sprint car student in the mix. As always, time will tell.
Sending my extra crying towels to Sebastian Vettel (via Mikey Waltrip), I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Productive Weekend
To win a race, we who haven’t raced for real money cannot imagine what all it takes to win just one race. Nothing against us; it’s just the way it is. To win a race and then the very next night finish second by only a few feet adds to the mystique and the accolades. To top it off, throw in a third race and a wild finish that resulted in an unlikely win. One cannot make this up. It happened this past weekend as Shane Cottle passed Brady Short on the while flag lap to win at Bloomington on Friday. He came up a few feet short to Kevin Thomas Jr. at Lawrenceburg on Saturday. Finally on Sunday he inherited the lead and the win after a last lap Bryan Clauson-Daron Clayton encounter. Productive weekend, indeed.
It would be a long day, but one fulfilled with a bit of everything. I’d received the green flag from Reece O’Connor to stalk him all day for a future story in Flat Out Magazine. I stood around, walked a lot, rode in the water truck and took disjointed notes from 1:30 until wheel packing started at around 6. 33 teams hit the pits for this, Kokomo’s version of the KISS caravan.
A few of the USAC guys made the long haul from Nebraska to Kokomo, no doubt a magical mystery tour of its own. But Bryan Clauson, Dave Darland, Jon Stanbrough, Justin Grant and C.J. Leary made it back home to Indiana to race one more time.
Daron Clayton also came to play and won the first heat from the pole. Clauson ran away with the second heat where the major action was watching Chad Boespflug tiptoe his way through traffic to grab fourth. Josh Spencer held off a closing Jerry Coons Jr. in the third heat as Kyle Robbins sent Dave Darland to the B. While on his way to the fourth heat win Cottle passed two cars in turn one with a strong and nifty move in his domain—the bottom. Logan Jarrett fought an ill handling car until he flipped in turn two—his second in only a few days.
Darland won the B with Robert Ballou, Grant, and Arizonan Dalton Gabbard all tagging the feature. Tyler Hewitt flipped in turn one, not hurt but a spectator.
Scotty Weir had come to play hard and he took the lead from his outside pole spot with Bryan Clauson making all the right moves from his sixth starting position. By lap ten Clauson passed Weir for the lead and began to put land between him and all others. But from the fourth row, Daron Clayton was on the march. Just past the crossed flags, he passed Cottle for second and tried mightily to catch Clauson. He may have gained a bit on the Clauson family car, but a yellow waved on lap 29---with one lap to go.
This would be a one lap dash and would leave Clauson muttering to himself and Clayton frustrated as well. As the boys charged into turn one Clayton “tapped” Clauson’s left rear. BC had a flat left rear and Clayton spun, causing major scrambling as the rest of the field arrived. Jon Stanbrough ended up on his top in the melee. Clauson ambled over to Daron, still in his car, to have a chat. Words were exchanged but nothing more. Classy for sure, but disappointing to those thirsty for a scrap.
The boys would try it again. From third on back, the boys moved up two spots. Guess who now led? Sure thing, it was Cottle. He controlled the start and rode around another lap, holding off Coons. 2013 KISS champ Brady Short was third after starting 11th. Kevin Thomas Jr. was fourth ahead of Weir. Gary Taylor was sixth with Ballou edging Chad Boespflug (who found the wall coming to the checkered) for seventh. Justin Grant came from 19th to ninth and Kyle Robbins was a well earned tenth.
The boys do it again in a few hours (as this is written). Gas City awaits. Nervously looking at the weather forecast, someone may have another productive weekend. Hopefully it isn’t the weather gurus.
Consoling Johnny Manziel as he cries all the way to the bank, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Gotta Race
Kevin Thomas Jr. is a young man who has had his ups and downs in the past few years since he moved up here from Alabama. He’s made some very smart moves on and off the track and occasionally made some others too. His most recent move, leaving the Mike Dutcher team earlier this year, had some nodding as if they knew why the move and others scratching their heads. Sitting here, it seems that it’s the business of only the parties involved and, by the way, let’s go racing. Putting together a new team, Thomas and head wrench Davey Jones found the winner’s circle at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a lovely Saturday night, taking home the $2000 and a title, King of the Midwest Sprints. Like him or not, he’s a racer. It’s good enough for me.
19 cars and teams showed. Why so few? I won’t pretend to know, but will guess that it isn’t any one factor. Saturday nights are a tough sell when the supply of teams is spread fairly thin. I worried more about who was there than who wasn’t there. It paid off with an above average feature—at the very worst.
Several of the 19 were quality rides and racers. The heats were better than expected for the second night in a row. Even though these guys knew they’d start the feature, they raced like there was a B Main.
Garrett Abrams won the first heat over a fast closing Shawn Westerfeld. Gary Taylor took the second heat over Shane Cottle, who maybe thought better of pressing the issue, seeing that the first two finishers would redraw. Landon Simon provided the most action, passing J.T. Stapp on the inside, not an easy task. Then he got around Jordan Kinser—on the outside. KT won the third heat with Logan Jarrett in tow. They’d meet again later.
Jarrett and Westerfeld led the rowdies to the green. That low rumbling sound as they motored slowly down the backstretch was music to many ears. The ‘burg’s imposing walls kept that sound in. It was a matter of time before the rumble turned into a massive snarl.
Jarrett took the early lead as Thomas grabbed second. Five laps done and the Kokomo Kid had lengthened his lead. But Thomas was beginning to close as a lap 16 yellow waved for debris on the track. Jarrett could not have been happy, no matter who was behind him. Neither could know that Shane Cottle was lurking. By the halfway mark of the race Cottle had taken third. In fact, he had passed Thomas before the debris yellow. The order on the re-start was Jarrett, KT, the Throttle, Westerfeld, Simon, Taylor, Joss Moffatt, Abrams, and two veterans, Dickie Gaines and Ted Hines.
This re-start was a wild one with three wide racing not unusual. Jarrett, Thomas and Cottle gave the fans a show before Thomas and Cottle began to pull away slightly to settle it among themselves. The long neglected bottom groove began to get some love from the two frontrunners while most others stayed up top.
At any rate, Thomas held on with Bloomington winner Cottle making it close for second. Jarrett was third and wondering what might have been. Westerfeld was fourth. Gary Taylor passed Landon Simon for fifth on the last lap. Gaines advanced late to end up seventh, a good effort by a low budget team with a lot of heart. Moffatt took eighth after starting 12th. Abrams was ninth and the ageless Ted Hines was tenth.
For whatever reason, Kevin Thomas Jr. isn’t with the Mike Dutcher team anymore, so he is staying closer to his current home base for financial reasons probably. Maybe all that matters is that he must enjoy this deal and by staying in the Hoosier state he will get plenty of chances to race. After all, the kid’s gotta race.
To close, the best race may have been in the pits as Dave Rudisell chased Chris Simon, whose feet were barely faster than Rudy’s quasi-Shriners’ scooter, complete with clown horn. Alas, it will not be on Youtube, but at least three people will chuckle about it from time to time.
Attaching an anchor to Kyle Busch’s street car, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Perseverance
A few days ago I was watching TV with my wife and it was one of those human interest stories that made me pay attention—at least a little bit. A young lady had an accident that should have been fatal and nearly was. By all measures she should have not survived her injuries, but she did. No doubt there were several reasons we could all name that spared her life. But I’m inclined to believe that one of them may well have been the fact that the young lady didn’t give up. She kept pushing and eventually recovered, defying the odds. It’s neat when people defy the odds and succeed at something.
Now winning a race cannot compare with a person’s life; let’s get that straight now. But when a racer is leading a race as laps wind down and is passed by another racer who is a regular winner at a race track but wins anyway, odds are defied and it’s kind of neat. Sure enough, it happened on a chilly Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway as Shane Cottle passed Brady Short as the white flag flew in the 30 lap King of Indiana Sprint Series feature and held on to win. These days, to beat Brady Short at Bloomington is news. For Mr. Cottle and company, it was good news. For Mr. Short and company, it wasn’t the greatest news, but there cannot be any shame in being beaten by Shane Cottle.
It was quite chilly in the Hoosier state on the first Friday in May. My running mate and I arrived very early and secured the best parking spot we’ve ever enjoyed, not far from turn one’s imposing banking. The little guy slept as I watched the track come to life. Fans and race teams arriving, track workers working on everything from concessions to last minute track preparations, it was all part of a laid back atmosphere—on the surface. But somewhere in the mix, surely someone was stressed. Perhaps someone forgot something. Maybe there wasn’t enough coffee ordered for such a cold night. Perhaps a race team was missing a crucial tool or part needed for the car---or the hauler (Chad Boespflug’s grandpop Bob Gatten said that Chad’s car owner, the venerable Paul Hazen, had mechanical issues on the hauler coming down from northern Indiana. Chad’s competing was in doubt until Paul advised that the part was fixed and he was headed south.). Then there would be the fan who forgot to bring his medicine; somehow I survived my drug free night. Good racin’ will make one forget mere physical aches and pains.
33 sprinters populated the pits. USAC’s regulars had headed west to Nebraska, but this was still a quality group. Cottle and Short were joined by frequent USAC competitors Jerry Coons Jr., Mr. Boespflug, Kevin Thomas Jr., Landon Simon and Robert Ballou. Throw in a few Bloomington runners and it was a field that would offer some of the best racing one might see all year.
It was a shame that the crowd wasn’t what the promoters deserved. The cold temperatures kept casual fans away, leaving the hard core sprint car/Bloomington fans to show up.
The four heats were a full bore treat. The red clay oval hasn’t always allowed a lot of passing during heats, but that wouldn’t be the case. While lining up for the first heat, pole sitter Nick Johnson banged wheels with outside pole’s Jerry Coons Jr., who was not amused. While Johnson had a heat he’d rather forget, Coons took the win.
Thomas won the second heat from the front row as Carson Short grabbed second from Casey Shuman. This mattered because of the re-draw. This was the heat where vapor trails appeared from right rear tires as the boys exited turn four, always a cool sight, no matter how cold it was.
The wild and crazy third heat saw two red flags. First up was Shelby Van Gilder, who ran over Bub Cummings’ right rear and quickly found out how steep the banking is on the wrong side of turn one. The young lady was not hurt. After five laps of green it happened again. This wasn’t so bad as Kent Christian tapped Gary Taylor coming out of four, sending the Washington state resident onto his top. Both were done for the race, but both returned for the B. Cottle and B. Short ran one/two. Chris Babcock and Mr. Simon benefitted from the Christian/Taylor mishap and moved on to the big show.
Robert Ballou outran front row mate Dalton Gabbard for the fourth heat win. Boespflug came from last to third and Levi Shields held onto fourth after a late bobble.
The B Main rivaled the A as the best race. Three yellows slowed the action with Jordan Kinser bringing out the first as he slid off turn four and managed to miss the wall. He had started second and would now go to the tail. No problem. Cummings and Dakota Jackson traded the lead back and forth as Kevin Chambers and Taylor fought to hold off Christian. But here came Kinser, using the high groove, riding the cushion. Lap seven (of 12) saw two different races interrupted. Cummings and Jackson’s fight for the lead and Chambers, Kinser, Christian and Taylor’s fight for the last dance card. Jackson edged Cummings to win as Kinser made his way back to third. And Taylor ended up taking the 20th starting spot for the feature.
The redraw put Gabbard and Coons in the front row. Gabbard took the lead and ran strong for a good part of the race. Coons slowly faded. By the time the race’s second yellow waved on lap 13, Gabbard and Cottle led C. Short, Coons and B. Short.
B. Short passed Coons before lap 16 saw Jackson spin and Shields found himself with nowhere to hide or do anything else except tip it over, bringing out a red. Next up for the Bloomington maestro was Carson Short, no relation, not that it mattered. On the re-start Brady made quick work of Carson and began reeling in Gabbard and Cottle. With less than ten laps to go Gabbard bobbled coming out of turn two and quickly found himself in third place. Short passed both leaders and Cottle ran over Short’s right rear in turn three with no damage.
As the laps wound down Short maintained his lead, but something funny happened. He wasn’t checking out. In fact, Cottle was hanging close, hugging the bottom as Brady stayed in the middle which had worked for him thus far. It was looking like another W for the Bedford native.
But the guy in second place wouldn’t give up. Coming to the white flag, Cottle passed Short and held on to win some extra spending money. Half the crowd cheered and the other half was unhappy. That, too, is racin’.
Dalton Gabbard was third, one of his best efforts around here if not the best. Two vets, Coons and Shuman, trailed the Baldwin family car. Thomas was sixth with Ballou fading the seventh; both futilely tried to make the cushion work. Ethan Barrow came from 13th to finish eighth. Carson Short was ninth. Once again, Bub Cummings came out of the B Main to get a top ten finish.
You could say that Bub, too, isn’t one to give up. We could all take a lesson from Bub, Shane and that young lady who came back from life threatening injuries and not give up so easily.
Enjoying a nice meal of crabs with Jameis Winston, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Time of Their (Our) Lives
“It has been given me that I live in the moment, with an awareness heightened by every impression of the senses. No doubt a part of it was natural to me, but it was also conditioned in me by Jim Sotherton.”—Louis L’Amour in the book “Kiowa Trail”
As far as I know old Louie didn’t do much racing, but what he wrote here shows that he understood the concept of the here and now. To add to that, we should keep a fine balance among the past, present and future. All too often, all too sadly, we find ourselves overemphasizing one of the three at the expense of the other two. Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway I sat and observed several hundred people living “in the moment.” The record will show that Logan Hupp won his second feature in a row at the ‘burg. Obviously much preparation needed to be done by racers before they headed to the track. Quality preparation can lead to, not only the checkered flag, but also being the first to receive the checkered. That, folks, is a fine example of living in the moment.
This particular trip to Lawrenceburg was to be done on a beautiful, warm Hoosier day. As is his custom, my fellow traveler stayed awake until we’d passed through North Vernon. He was quite rested when we arrived. The pleasant aroma from the distillery told me that the wind was coming from, for awhile at least, from the southwest.
Car counts are an ongoing topic among racing people. Predicting car counts is about as futile as predicting the weather. For those keeping score, 20 sprinters were parked in the pits.
Rookie T.J. Heil won the first heat, holding off Shawn Westerfeld, who repeatedly slid past Heil in turn one, only to have Heil duck underneath in turn two and motor on. Hupp started on the pole of the second heat and ran off as if he’d robbed a bank; the final margin wasn’t quite a half lap. Mike Miller missed a heck of a race behind him as he won the third heat. Joss Moffatt made several attempts to get past Drew Abel to no avail.
During the down time before the feature, Karston entertained himself and any other observers by getting his cars out for their own feature. Certainly it helped the ‘burg car count. No one will ever know who won, but for me at least, it was another of those times to be enjoyed right then—with memories to follow. He did interrupt his race to join in for the wave lap and the feature on the big track.
Miller and Hupp led 18 more to the green and right away a yellow flew for Michael Fischesser, who ended up stopped at the start/finish line. On the re-start Miller took the early lead with Hupp and Westerfeld joining the party. Hupp took the lead on lap 11 and tried mightily to check out.
A lap 13 yellow blinked and this re-start had Hupp leading Westerfeld, Miller, Kyle Robbins, Moffatt, Landon Simon, Heil, Dalton Gabbard, J.T. Stapp and Adam Webber. The dry/slickie oval yielded a very popular top groove with multiple sliders and a slew of near misses.
Six laps after a lap 15 re-start Miller lost power and was nearly collected by a charging Landon Simon, who lost two spots dodging the Buckeye vet. The yellow waved again, replaced by the red as David Applegate crashed hard in turn three. The result was one torn up race car, but the driver walked away.
The race’s last segment was as tense as ‘burg racing gets. With the cushion up by the wall the boys flirted with disaster on every turn. Hupp’s win was only a few car lengths over Westerfeld, who had led briefly but saw Hupp take it back. Robbins had threatened early, but settled for third. Moffatt and Gabbard ran fourth and fifth. Simon came from 12th to finish sixth, with Heil, Garrett Abrams and Jordan Kinser trailing. Fischesser recovered from his early mishap to end up tenth.
Elsewhere around the state, Brady Short continued his domination at Bloomington on Friday. I saw Tracy Hines come from tenth to win the USAC feature at Gas City. Saturday at Lincoln Park, Chad Boespflug was the winner. And Daron Clayton didn’t just spank a strong USAC lineup at Tri-State/Haubstadt on the same night. He locked them all in their rooms for 25 laps, lapping up to sixth place. “Impressive” seems like an inadequate word to describe the Cowboy at times. (Spectacular, anyone?)
Come to think of it, Clayton, as well as the other weekend winners here, may well have something in common with Mr. L’Amour, who may well have appreciated the efforts of not only the winners, but all who raced.
Maybe he would have appreciated my own feelings as I sat there, alternately watching some good old fashioned open wheel racing, bantering with my friends Ed, Gregg and Marv, and, most of all, enjoying the company of a little boy who often seems to love racing as much as the four of us combined. It was an evening full of one of those “in the moment” feelings that will sustain me for some time to come.
P.S. I had every intention of going to the MSCS/KISS show at the Terre Haute Action Track on Sunday afternoon. I made it to Spencer and checked my impeccable sources. I sat under the golden arches and bided my time as rain moved east toward the Vigo County Fairgrounds. Sure enough, soon after 5:00 the word came down. Plug pulled—no race. You win some…
Taping Donald Sterling’s mouth shut, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Rocking Chairs Not Needed
They refuse to go away, it seems. They hang around for years and the younger ones are often frustrated by this group of guys with a bit of gray in their hair and maybe a limp or two due to one crash too many. The frustration of the younger ones isn’t because the older ones get in the way. Instead it’s because often the older ones outrun the kids. And sure enough, a guy who’s been around for awhile found a groove to his liking and motored to victory on Friday night at the Gas City/I-69 speedway. Midway through the 30 lapper, Tracy Hines began advancing through the field and took the lead from another veteran, Shane Cottle, and led the last six laps to win. Hines was the fourth of four leaders in the race, his 999th USAC race. It was his 46th USAC sprint victory, tying him with Jack Hewitt.
When I first noticed it was windy outside, I didn’t have to be Willard Scott to know that it would be even windier up north. And I didn’t have to be Tom Helfrich or Henry Bryant to know that track prep tonight would be tricky. But by feature time, the boys had a track that would allow a good bit of passing.
The east end of the quarter mile oval, turns one and two, had some spots that got people’s attention, most especially Landon Simon, who flipped on his first qualifying lap. Amazingly, Landon and his crew, including Chris the so-called old man of the group, had the car ready to race later.
Brady Bacon was the lone qualifier to come in under 12 seconds. And in the first heat, the Oklahoma native was strong, passing two cars on a re-start to win his heat from sixth. Robert Ballou took a nasty ride when he smacked the turn four guardrail and flipped hard down the frontstretch. He was okay; his car was not.
The second heat was one of attrition. Jarett Andretti did a half spin and collected Kevin Thomas Jr., back in his own car after splitting with Mike Dutcher, and Thomas Meseraull. Justin Grant had the lead and performed a half flip, which lost him the lead and gave him a flat right rear tire. Logan Jarrett took the lead and promptly slowed, out of the race. This gave the lead to pole sitter C.J. Leary, who held on to win. Grant gamely carried on with the flat tire, but yielded the final transfer spot to Texan Nathan Moore, who earned major respect last year during Indiana Sprint Week, getting all he could out of his shoestring operation. Chase Stockon survived an early shunt and recovered to take third.
Jon Stanbrough ran off with the third heat as Jerry Coons Jr. passed Shane Cottle on the last lap to take third behind Arizona’s Dalton Gabbard.
Washington’s Gary Taylor has returned to the Hoosier state with an Arizona car and won the fourth heat with it. Local favorite Josh Spencer held off Tracy Hines to grab the last transfer spot.
Hines wasn’t overly upset as he easily made the feature through the B. Thomas Meseraull grabbed the last spot after passing Travis Welpott on the white flag lap. Logan Jarrett’s lousy night continued as he flipped in turn three—he was okay. Time for re-working the track.
Andretti and Bryan Clauson led 21 others to the green with Clauson leading the first lap. But Taylor was caught up in a turn two mess and stopped, bringing out the first of five yellows and a red. On the re-start, Cottle motored around Clauson and took the lead. But Brady Bacon was coming on.
He passed Cottle on the outside at the start/finish line to grab the lead on lap eight. An Andretti spin on lap 12 saw Bacon ahead of Cottle, BC, Darland, Thomas, Stockon, Scotty Weir, Hines, Hunter Schuerenberg and Chris Windom. And then folks couldn’t be blamed for checking to see if it was a full moon.
At the halfway mark, Bacon spun in turn four. Cottle re-assumed the lead. At first it appeared that no one would have anything for the big guy from Kokomo. Yellow number five waved on lap 17 for Dave Darland, who bounced to a stop in turn three after an encounter with a cushion that was high enough for my grandson to jump off. Others would do the same.
This re-start was Cottle, BC, Thomas, Weir and Hines, who had started tenth and had calmly (it seemed) made his way forward. The track was changing and for many the catfish groove was their best bet. But no one could bottom feed like the wily vet Hines. He passed Cottle for the lead on lap 25, just after Clauson had pounded the cushion a bit too much and dropped to sixth.
Jon Stanbrough was also using the high side and flipped in turn four, bringing out the red flag with three laps to go. In another extraordinary event, Stanbrough returned in time for the last green flag segment. From there it was a matter of Hines holding off the mob by putt-putting around the bottom and getting great traction coming out turns two and four. But Clauson made it interesting. With most of the frontrunners hugging the infield tires, BC blasted around the top on the re-start from fifth. He made it to second and was only a few feet behind Hines at the checkered. While his car owner wants championships, it appeared that the driver wanted a win—and nearly grabbed it.
Hines and Clauson were followed by Weir, Cottle and Windom. The second five was Stockon, Thomas, Coons, Schuerenberg and Leary. No one advanced more spots than the winner.
With all the complaints, some legitimate, it was a wild and woolly night. Track prep was not nearly the issue it apparently was last week, even though the surface changed mightily during the feature. Two of “my guys,” Nathan Moore and Josh Spencer, made the feature and a bit of money. Theirs was another good example of “what racing’s all about.” It was quite a sight to see people negotiating the cushion with mixed results. I met new people and renewed acquaintances with old friends. Sitting between Mark Fritz and John Hoover most all night, I knew I was safe. Oh, and I saw a heaping helping of good racing with those so-called old men showing the kids the fast way around. The youngster will have their day. But April 25, 2014 at Gas City wasn’t that day.
Becoming ill after eating some Wrigley Field birthday cake, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Doubler
For the second straight weekend, I witnessed a sweep of sorts. Last weekend saw Rico Abreu win both nights of the Kokomo Grand Prix as USAC/POWRi Midgets invaded the jewel of north central Indiana. As for the weekend just concluded, it was Brady Short taking up where he left off last year. All the Bedford, Indiana resident did was win the feature at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night, then do it again at the Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday night. Each night a late race pass sealed the deal. After Chad Boespflug had appeared to take Short by surprise in grabbing the lead late in the race, Brady recovered and pounced when Chad steamed into turn one too hard and washed up turn two, giving Short the pass and win.
If I was the race counting type, I could count two races attended on Saturday. I had the extremely satisfying privilege to watch both my grandsons tackle a race car for the first time. A.J. Nigh’s Mini-Indy quarter midget program had an arrive-and-drive on Saturday afternoon and both boys tackled the tiny oval on the northeast side of the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The eldest held his own as his car was set for full power. Somehow he kept it off the wall and emerged from the car with eyes as big as saucers. His younger brother is maybe the most hard core of the family. He enjoys sprint car/open wheel racing as much as his brother, parents and grandparents combined. He was as fired up about the ride after he took the checkered (and promptly drove into the infield) as he was before.
A few hours later we rolled into the Lincoln Park Speedway for the first time in 2014. Not long after that, my diminutive companion found himself washing mud off Paul Hazen’s 57, driven by Chad Boespflug not once, but on two different occasions. Given the 57’s performance later, his work didn’t hurt.
It was 27 cars trying their luck on an ideal Indiana mild spring night. Seth Parker held off Brady Short to win the first heat as Boespflug came from eighth to finish third ahead of Daylan Chambers and Brian Hayden.
The second heat was the classic duel between the young and, well, young at heart. As winner Jeff Bland Jr. sailed off into the sunset, Troy Link and Dakota Jackson traded slide jobs/positions twice a lap for maybe half of the race. The ageless one prevailed over the young man whose age is maybe one third of Mr. Link’s. Right behind the team of Link and Jackson was Ethan Barrow and Carson Short, nursing a sick motor.
A.J. Hopkins checked out to win the third heat over Brent Beauchamp and Chris Gurley, who only made his way to the front after starting ninth. Brian Karraker was fourth with Tyler Hewitt grabbing the last empty chair.
Over the years, several cars have ended up wearing one of the billboards in turns three and four. Matt Brannin joined the club as he smacked one of the ads during the third heat, actually catching a wooden post. Matt Thompson nearly joined the club a few laps later.
Robert Cummings won the B in a photo finish over Bradley Sterrett. Jason Robbins, who has returned after an extended absence, was third. Hunter O’Neal and Braxton Cummings would be the last row for the 25 lap feature.
It could not be assumed that Brady Short would walk away with the feature win. Seth Parker, for one, would have none of that as he jumped to the lead from his pole position. Jeff Bland was running third when he spun on lap two in turn two. Somehow everyone missed him but young Hunter O’Neal spun and even younger Karston McIntosh learned the term “Tommy Tipover” as Grandpa explained the difference between a flip and a T. Tipover. One takes one’s teaching moments when one can get them.
Parker, B.Short, Beauchamp, Jackson and Hopkins led the crew on the restart. It didn’t take Short long before he took the lead. But something strange happened; Parker wouldn’t go away. Not only that but Beauchamp was pestering Parker for second on a track that allowed passing high or low. To complicate matters more, Boespflug was on the move from his seventh starting spot.
Lap seven brought a rare moment as Bland spun again. This next green flag segment saw a real battle between Short and Parker with Seth taking a brief lead, using the cushion up top while Short hugged the bottom. But they were about to have unwanted company. While Short and Parker dueled, Boespflug seemingly came out of nowhere (when in fact he had been steadily moving forward) and grabbed the lead from both on lap 21. But it would only be that one lap as Chad went into turn one on the bottom, but carried too much speed into two. Short, still in his 20s but already a wily veteran, had taken the higher line and dove under Boespflug coming out of turn two and that was that. Brady was home free and had doubled up, winning at two tough Hoosier bullrings in two nights.
Boespflug was trailed by Beauchamp, Parker and Gurley. Robert Cummings came from 16th to place sixth, just ahead of Troy Link. Ethan Barrow and the two Brians, Hayden and Karraker, finished up the top ten.
Elsewhere in these parts, Shane Cottle won on Friday at Gas City. Logan Hupp won at Lawrenceburg. Just across the state line, USAC sprints invaded Eldora and Dave Darland brought home some bacon.
None of them had any more fun than a five year old who emerged from the quarter midget with eyes as big as right rear tires and a smile as wide as the Commonwealth of Kentucky (about 420 miles). But Brady Short with two wins over the weekend might argue.
Asking Sebastian Vettel how it feels to be number two on his team, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: If You Wanna Be The Man….
A couple of years ago at the Bloomington Speedway, Brady Short had just outrun Bloomington maestro Jon Stanbrough. Needless to say, Short was fired up after beating a guy who has had lots of success at Bloomington (among several other places). Interviewed after this race not that long ago, Brady made a comment I’ve not forgotten. It was something much like, “If you wanna be the man, you gotta beat the man.” Here we are a couple of years later and now maybe it’s Brady Short who is the man. After a dominating 2013 season at Bloomington, Short has started strong this year. After a fourth place in last week’s feature, Short passed Nick Bilbee after a lap 17 restart and held on to grab his first 2014 Bloomington victory.
Each spring in Indiana finds us visiting our favorite tracks for the first time in several months. Though they are out of sight, they are never totally out of mind. And if one is slow to get the itch to get back to any track, hopefully that itch returns with a vengeance when they drive into the parking lot.
More likely, one has that itch and naturally said itch begs to be scratched. On Friday, April 18, 2014, I was more than pleased to be able to scratch that itch at Bloomington. Most everything was the same, the beautiful red clay that reminds me of yet another home away from home (western North Carolina), the green grass that covers the infield and a clear blue sky that features the warming of the sun.
The three heats did what heat races should do—give one a great deal of anticipation for the feature. Nick Bilbee won over a fast closing Brady Short, who had started seventh in the first heat. Dakota Jackson ran away with the second heat and missed the proverbial blanket finish behind him as Chris Babcock edged both Seth Parker and Bradley Sterrett. Casey Shuman came from sixth to run away with the final heat with Jared Fox second.
Kent Christian took a big lead for most of the B with his Frankensprinter. But Ethan Barrow, who had suffered a mechanical problem in his heat, cut the margin to a car length by the lap 12 checkered flag.
The feature saw Bilbee and Jackson in the front row. Arch rivals Shuman, last week’s winner, and Short in the second row. Bilbee jumped out to the early lead as Jackson faded a bit. Two yellows in the first five laps slowed matters as Short passed Jackson for second after the second yellow.
The night’s only red flag waved when Brandon Morin flipped coming out of turn four on lap seven. Brandon was not hurt but had some repairing to do, mostly on the front end. The triumvirate of Bilbee, Short and Shuman broke away from the pack on the restart as a fight broke out for fourth place among Jackson, Babcock, Jeff Bland Jr. and Parker.
The major move of the race came on the lap 17 restart after a yellow when Short passed Bilbee for the lead and ultimately the win. But Brady didn’t exactly run off into the sunset (even though it was already dark). Nick hung tough and also had his hands full holding off Shu for second. Jackson came back and edged Parker for fourth. Chris Babcock was a steady sixth, trailed by Jordan Kinser.
I’d commented to young track prep guru Henry Bryant that he’d given Ethan Barrow a good track to pass on, assuming that Ethan’s car was running well. Sure enough, Barrow actually made me look like a Grade C prophet as he came from 17th to finish eighth. Jeff Bland took the Burton Construction machine to ninth. Carson Short recovered from an early yellow to come back and take tenth. In a few hours, Grandpa here will watch both grandsons strap into quarter midgets courtesy of A.J. Nigh and pretend they are….only they can say. No doubt they will dream of being the man. No doubt will they have stories to tell their friends.
Ignoring team orders, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Broom Boys
Night Two of the Kokomo Grand Prix saw not only Rico Abreu duplicating his victory of the night before, post-race donuts and all, but both of his teammates joining him on the podium Saturday night. Few, if any, can doubt now that the Keith Kunz operation totally dominates midget racing in the Midwest. They have the total package, speed, handling and talented racers in Mr. Abreu, second place Tanner Thorson and third place Christopher Bell.
The weather at the Kokomo Speedway was even nicer than Friday. The cast of characters was pretty much the same as the night before. And once again, Dave Darland was quickest in qualifying with a 13.319 lap. Again the track held up well as Darland was 44th, next to last, to qualify.
For fans the weather was close to perfect, but the relentless wind proved to be a major challenge for much of the evening in terms of track preparation. Like a driver chasing the handling of a car, Reese O’Conner and crew re-worked the racy quarter mile oval until they nailed it in time for the B and A Mains.
The first of the four heats was a high speed freight train around the top side. Pole sitter Steve Buckwalter was the engineer with Chris Windom second. Dave Darland and Parker Price-Miller also moved on to what would be a 40 lap feature.
In the second heat Bryan Clauson tried the bottom with limited success as Spencer Bayston took the Corey Tucker hot rod to the line first. Clauson, Tanner Thorson and Alex Bright transferred as a killer B Main was shaping up.
Jake Blackhurst kept the streak alive; he was the third pole sitter to win his heat. Michael Pickens was second, a good bit behind the winner. Further back was Austin Brown, who held off Rico Abreu for third.
The night’s first yellow flag waved in the fourth heat. Again, pole man Colton Cottle ran away with the win over Brady Bacon, who did some hustling to get that spot. Tracy Hines was third and Tyler Courtney aided in sending Darren Hagen, among others, to the B.
Things got ugly at the start of the C Main. I had decided to watch the ten lapper from the pit bleachers. As the field took the green and headed my way, Isaac Chapple took a nasty ride in turn two right in front of me. He sat in the car for a few minutes before exiting to cheers and expressions of relief. Jake Neuman won with Chet Gehrke, Justin Peck and Daniel Robinson all tagging the B.
Peck’s night got worse as he tipped it over on lap three of the B. He re-started only to flip again, this time much harder a lap later. Big Steve’s comment was that Justin had to go to the pits because of the two flip rule. Ouch.
The most recent track massage session worked—big time. The B Main was as good as Kokomo gets, which is to say very good. Christopher Bell stalked Kevin Thomas Jr. much of the race and beat the Alabama native to the line at the checkered. Those moving on to the show were Darren Hagen, Caleb Armstrong, Tyler Thomas, Zach Daum, Andrew Felker and Shane Hollingsworth.
The continued attempts to fix the track paid dividends, both in the short and long term. Here in the Hoosier state this business of a promoter going the extra mile for fans and racers is not that uncommon and the O’Conner family is either the best or among the best, depending upon each race fan’s mileage. The final touchup before the feature did the trick as well, making sure the boys and girls had a track to race on.
Tyler Courtney had a great start from his second row position and led the first three laps. The red flag waved when Spencer Bayston flipped, the last flip of the night but far from the last yellow. K. Thomas had started eighth but was hooked up, thanks in part to his B Main/test session. He took the lead on lap four and dearly wished to check out. Christopher Bell would have none of that.
Bell’s time at the top, both of the track and the standings, lasted only five laps. As Austin Brown stopped on the backstretch, Bell smacked the wall in turn four. He bounced to a near stop and limped to the pits with an issue with his right rear, along with K. Thomas, who pitted with a flat tire. Both rejoined the field at the tail.
Enter Rico Abreu. The popular Californian had started fifth and had hung around the top five for much of the early part of the race, searching for a groove. With Bell and K. Thomas’s misfortune, Bryan Clauson led Abreu on the re-start until Rico grabbed the lead running on the top in turn two. It was lap 14 and one could think that Rico might have himself a sweep—if he stayed out of trouble for the next 26 laps.
Over the next 10-15 laps Abreu and Clauson put some distance between themselves and the others. BC did a remarkable job staying as close as he did. Steve Buckwalter stopped on lap 29, bringing out a yellow. Abreu and Clauson would have unwanted company in the form of Pickens, Thorson, Hagen, Hines, Bright, Windom, Bell (who had passed a few cars) and T. Thomas.
The next few laps were crazy weird. The boys had just taken the green when Bright lost a tire and nearly collected Bell, who continued. A couple of laps later, Clauson was on the cushion in turn two and began the bouncing act. Pickens had nowhere to go and clouted BC. Along came Hagen who was collected by Pickens. Just like that, three of the leaders were out.
The sixth caution resulted in Abreu leading his teammate Thorson (who did a fine imitation of Bryan Clauson using the bottom groove), Hines, T. Thomas, Bell, Windom, K. Thomas, Courtney, Felker and Daum. Five laps after the green waved, Bell was third with his two teammates ahead of him. Windom dropped out just before the last yellow waved when Courtney stopped on lap 37.
With the Kunz boys running one-two-three on the last re-start, two dirty words came to my head: team orders. We’ll never know and it doesn’t matter much. At any rate, they finished in the same order as they had been when the last green flew. It is, after all, a team.
Abreu, Thorson and Bell were followed by Hines, T. Thomas (from 17th), K. Thomas, Felker (from 18th), Daum, Parker Price-Miller and Shane Hollingsworth, who navigated his way from 24th.
The Kokomo Grand Prix was co-sanctioned by USAC and POWRi. Seems like it came off pretty well. Whatever bickering, if any, was done behind closed doors. I would have loved to see more fans on both nights, but what can one do? Overall, it was a plus and I’d not be offended if all concerned schedule this again next year—with similar weather, maybe with a little less wind.
Nervously eyeing Will Power in my rear view mirror, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Obstacle? What Obstacle?
We should all be continually amazed and appreciative at the obstacles that people overcome in their lives. To use the term “handicapped” to describe such people is as laughable as it is insulting. Those who routinely overcome what most of us would consider an obstacle or roadblock deserve our appreciation and praise. Rico Abreu is one such person. He has the required heavy right foot, lightning reflexes and desire to win. His height, or lack of it, is no obstacle to him. Perhaps if anything, it spurs him on to greater success. And, on the opening night of the inaugural Kokomo Grand Prix at the Kokomo Speedway, Mr. Abreu commandeered the lead on the first lap and never looked back. He led all 30 laps and survived a collision at the finish line as the checkered flag waved. Once again, excitement had been the norm at the O’Conner family’s racy little bullring.
Few might argue that the Kokomo Grand Prix doesn’t sound as elegant, or even sexy, as the Monaco Grand Prix, but the racing is just as intense at Kokomo—with a lot more overtaking—oops, make that passing. It involved the race track, USAC and POWRi all putting this two day event together. This insured a healthy car count and a track that is noted for speed, thrills and close competition. The race was rained out last year, causing much angst and disappointment. But the weather was close to perfect. It would take more than perpetual road construction to keep my now five year old navigator and me away.
We left home very early and arrived at the track long before wheel packing began. Time was occupied by the grandson sitting in Shane Hollingsworth’s car (courtesy of Shane and Rich Winings) and then Chris Windom’s Liberty Village black beauty. Bryan Clauson was nonplussed when Karston politely declined an offer to sit in BC’s Chili Bowl winning ride. Maybe it was because when he races, he pretends to be Bryan, among others.
Again, it didn’t matter when one qualified; Dave Darland, in the RW/Curb-Agajanian rocket at least for the weekend, set fast time with a 13.299 lap. Out of the 43 cars (of 46) who qualified, Dave was 33rd in line.
Among those not able to turn a lap, Darren Hagen had a night he’d just as soon consign to the dustbin. He was able to start the first heat last/12th. He worked his way to fifth quickly and was threatening Taylor Ferns for the last available transfer. But his slider thrown at the young lady failed; she didn’t even flinch as Miss Ferns sent Hagen to the C Main. Chris Windom (who stormed from fourth to the lead on the first lap), Kevin Thomas Jr. and Darland led Ferns to the A Main.
The second heat saw Steve Buckwalter exit after a tangle with New Zealander Michael Pickens. Pole sitter Shane Cottle won as Christopher Bell stalked him, waiting for an opening but not desiring to press the issue. Brady Bacon and Justin Peck also transferred.
Shane’s nephew Colton Cottle won the third heat from the pole. Tyler Courtney picked up the quality ride that is the Wilke-Pak team in the off-season and finished second. R. Abreu just nipped Shane Hollingsworth at the line for third.
Tracy Hines had a great start and took the early lead of the fourth heat, but Davey Ray had other ideas and took the lead midway through the race. B. Clauson was second with Hines hanging on to third. Zach Daum had his hands full holding off Austin Brown to advance.
With 46 cars, a C Main was held and Darren Hagen pretty much had his way, winning from the back. POWRi ace Andrew Felker was second with Seth Motsinger and Pennsylvania’s Kyle Lick tagging the B.
The 12 lap B was won by the third racer in the Keith Kunz stable, Tanner Thorson. Michael Pickens, scheduled to spend his winter/our summer here, provided the excitement and a bit of controversy. He had a meeting with Justin Grant which ended with last week’s Lawrenceburg winner parked for the night and not pleased with Mr. Pickens’ style. After the re-start, Pickens smacked the turn two wall and did a helicopter imitation without flipping—somehow. His night was done with another damaged car. In a separate incident, Steve Buckwalter flipped. All were okay, but had work to do before the next night. Easing into the big show were Thorson, Alex Bright was second after starting ninth. Jerry Coons Jr., Austin Brown, Darren Hagen (who came from the back), Daniel Robinson, Seth Motsinger and Tyler Thomas would all reload for 30 more laps.
The opening lap of the feature was one of the most spectacular I had ever seen—ever since the first lap heat. Like Chris Windom, Rico Abreu rocketed from fourth to first in less than a half lap. That was that, but hometown favorite Dave Darland made a valiant effort to reel in the Californian. Like the B, this race was plagued by intermittent yellow flags; most all for one car incidents. A pattern emerged where Abreu would wave good-by until the next yellow light. On each re-start, off he’d go again, most always riding the rim, literally inches from disaster.
It was one of the rare times that passing was difficult at Kokomo; the high line was far and away the most favored by the leader. There wasn’t enough grip on the bottom and several tried from time to time. If there is to be a predominantly a one groove track, people tend to enjoy it more, especially from the bleachers and, in many cases, from the cockpit.
It doesn’t mean there was no excitement or bad racing. It was almost fitting that Rico took the checkered flag behind a slowing Taylor Ferns and nearly trashed his Kunz-mobile. He missed a spirited fight for second behind him as Darland held off Bell assume the runner-up position on the podium. Chris Windom was fourth and Tracy Hines made a late charge to take fifth. Kevin Thomas Jr. finished sixth over a fading Bryan Clauson. Zach Daum, Shane Hollingsworth and Tanner Thorson were the rest of the top ten.
Other than the usual thank you’s from the winner to his supporters, the most interesting comment was that Rico was extremely pleased that he ended up in Victory Lane this time because on his last visit here, he left the track in an ambulance.
All involved loaded up and went home or retreated to a motel, RV, or any other sleeping arrangement in order to do it again on the next night—which is nearly here as this is scribbled.
For me, Rico’s comment about leaving the track in an ambulance and returning to conquer was telling. It spoke volumes about a young man overcoming yet another obstacle and savoring the triumph over setbacks and his peers.
On the lookout for kissing Congressmen, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Sometimes the Hare Wins
As the Sumar Classic began at the Terre Haute Action Track on Sunday evening, I could see with my own eyes Tracy Hines, seasoned veteran, and Kody Swanson, young lion, on the front row. I commented to my racing buddy Kenny that this might be a case of the tortoise and the hare. He agreed. Sure enough, Swanson led 98 of the 100 laps and breezed to victory over Hines, Jerry Coons Jr. Bobby East and Zach Daum.
The USAC Silver Crown division has struggled for years, but better days may well lie ahead as new Silver Crown chief Andy Hillenburg is doing all he can to bring this series back to where it could be again. The Sunday race at the Action Track was a good start. 24 cars were expected with 21 showing up.
Local boy Jake Simmons got off to an ugly start, flipping in turn one as hot laps began—while I was walking through the tunnel to the infield. Later Jake would return for a cameo appearance in the feature and would finish 20th, ahead of Jarett Andretti, whose car wouldn’t fire for the feature.
Tracy Hines went out fifth and set fast time with a 21.112. Kody Swanson went out 20th and had the second fastest time, 21.159.
The first part of the 100 lapper was plagued with yellow flags and one red flag for a Dakota Jackson flip. Through it all, Swanson led until a re-start saw Chris Windom take the lead for one lap before giving way to Hines, who also led a lap. Swanson then decided that this would be enough of that foolishness and took the lead for good on lap 38.
At about the same time Hines was the first to abandon the high line that most everyone was using and began bottom feeding. Soon the others followed and there would be no more brushes with the wall as someone must have sprayed some Cushion-Be-Gone up there. Somehow no one smacked the wall terribly hard, though many came close.
As things settled down and the field spread out, Swanson expanded his lead and did his best to stink up the show. He failed, unless one expects close finishes to every race they see.
After running strong early, Windom had to retire when his motor began sounding like my sinuses when they act up. This was lap 71.
Zach Daum, Shane Cockrum and Dave Darland provided some tension late in the race. All three were battling for fifth place as the laps wound down. But the leader was fast approaching. For a few laps Swanson was held up as Hines cut the wide margin to a merely healthy margin. But things were sorted out. Daum took fifth, followed by Cockrum and Darland. Swanson lapped them all, which meant that only four cars were on the lead lap.
Double dippers, guys who raced on Saturday and Sunday included Bobby East, Tracy Hines, Jerry Coons Jr., Chris Windom, Dave Darland and Shane Cockrum. Darland was second at Lawrenceburg on Saturday and seventh on Sunday. Coons had a fine weekend, third both nights.
All in all, it was a good day. Depending upon one’s expectations, it could be called a decent car count. (Which year do you want to compare the 21 car count with? Go back far enough and you’ll find SC races that started 18 when these cars were a part of USAC’s storied Championship Trail.) The crowd was decent. Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace showed up for race their modifieds and Schrader won. And, for the third time in my life, I had the pleasure of carrying a baby boy to the infield fence and showing him the cars as they had some extra practice time. That, folks, is a treat.
The Silver Crown Series next travels to Lucas Oil Raceway Park next month. One race does not a season or final judgment make. It remains to be seen if Mr. Hillenburg is to be the Moses who leads this division out of the wilderness. The “full field” may not have been “full,” whatever that is, but it beat the 15 cars at the Action Track the last time I saw them at the wicked fast half mile. We’ll take it.
Mailing my prized crying towel to Sebastian Vettel, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Game of Inches
Be it life, tiddly winks or racing, inches matter. An inch, even a fracture of an inch, can mean life or death. Certainly in any game or sport, an inch can mean the difference between victory and, say, fifth place. So it went for Jon Stanbrough on a chilly Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway. On a re-start with only two laps to go, Stanbrough and his Mike Dutcher rocket, caught a rut in turn one and didn’t stop bouncing until he was in fifth place. The recipient of Stanbrough’s misfortune was Justin Grant, who only came from 11th to win the 30 lap USAC feature.
There are those who may say that Grant would have passed Stanbrough anyway and it was true that he was coming on strong. But that’s another subject for another time. While we speculate, let’s also ask what might have happened had the yellow not waved? Could Justin have caught Jon? There are those who would say that it wasn’t likely, but, again, we can never know for sure. The checkered flag ends the race but not the speculation.
It promised to be cold, but for my traveling companion and me not nearly cold enough to keep us home. We were prepared, with multiple layers and a nice little blanket for the little guy. I’ve been to many races where the weather was much colder.
This was my first Indiana race for 2013. March was spent in North Carolina and I was sure to see some stock car racing. Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC; Hickory Speedway in Hickory, NC; Carolina Speedway in Gastonia, NC and Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, SC are four bullrings that would be well suited for sprints, but, except for rare visits, one isn’t likely to see sprints at any of them. It was the way it was. They were race cars on a race track and I was happy to be there.
But the need for sprint car speed and action was real and ready to be fulfilled. Apparently I wasn’t alone. Despite the cold weather, it was a decent sized crowd.
The crowd was decent in the pits too, helped along by Lincoln Park’s postponement of the tribute to Bill Gardner/Indiana Open Wheel Racin’ Fest. 42 teams answered the bell. The track may have had some “character” but it held up all night. There was zero dust and time trials were conducted on a track that didn’t change radically. Jon Stanbrough was the next to last car to qualify and he set quick time with a 13.727 lap.
Bryan Clauson won the first heat. Unfortunately for BC, it would be his high point of the night. There was the almost obligatory post-race bumping between Stanbrough and Thomas Meseraull after some real cutting and slashing during the heat.
Robert Ballou won the second heat with notables Brady Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr. heading for the B. Thomas would experience miseries in the feature.
Justin Grant came from fourth to win the third heat. Jerry Coons Jr. had what turned out to be an oil leak that looked worse than what it was. He’d excel later.
Chase Stockon made it three out of four who won their heat from the fourth starting spot. Travis Hery took the early lead in the Most Improved category. He outran 2013 ‘burg track champ C.J. Leary to take third. And Leary edged Daron Clayton, in Hank Byrum’s mount, for the last transfer.
Given the condition of the track, it was a tribute to the guys that there were only two flips all night—with several near misses. In the B, Ted Hines was fighting for sixth, the last available. But he may or may not have clipped a tire going into turn one and took a tumble. Ted was okay, but it looked like the car would need a little work. None of my mates could recall the last time the older of the Hines brothers had gotten upside down. Most certainly it was the first time my little companion had seen Ted crunch it.
Bacon and Thomas ran one/two to make the feature. The show was Logan Jarrett, who came from 14th to grab sixth on the last lap, sending both Brady Short and Jeff Bland home too early.
For the 30 lapper, Dave Darland and Thomas Meseraull were the front row occupants. TMez was driving the SST 41, a car that Dave knows quite well. Darland led the first five laps before the yellow waved. During the caution, Meseraull exited with a lack of brakes. Chris Windom had charged from tenth to third and found himself with a flat tire. He returned and re-started in the back, but was never a factor.
A second yellow waved a lap later. I blinked and looked twice at Logan Jarrett, who had started 22nd/last and had already moved to 12th. Stanbrough powered around Darland on the outside coming out of four to take the lead on the tenth lap.
Not long after that, Bryan Clauson hit a rut and nearly tipped it over. He was collected by Chris Gurley. Along came Kevin Thomas Jr. who smacked Gurley and did tip over, bringing out a red.
On the re-start Stanbrough pulled away with a lead nearly the length of the straightaway. But Grant was coming on. After a terrific duel with Darland the native Californian took second and set sail for the leader. But it appeared that the only way Grant could catch Stanbrough would be via a caution light.
Quite unintentionally C.J. Leary provided Grant the break he needed. C.J. brought out a caution on lap 28 when he stopped in turn one. On the re-start Stanbrough didn’t play it safe. He barreled into turn one like a kid half his age. But he caught a hole and bounced multiple times. By the time Jon recovered he was fifth, where he finished. Grant, of course, took complete advantage and coasted to the win over Darland and Jerry Coons Jr., whose Edison motor was still smoking. Brady Bacon brought the Hoffmanmobile home fourth ahead of Stanbrough.
The time was 10:25 p.m.
Granted (to coin a phrase), the track was rough. No doubt internet keyboard experts somewhere will complain if they haven’t already. But one must consider the adventures that come with track prep. Quite often weather calls the tune and any promoter plays the hand dealt him or her. On Saturday both the promoters of Lincoln Park and Lawrenceburg did just that. As it happened, LPS had to pull the plug early. With a world class drainage system, the ‘burg raced. Many of us can remember when the old configuration was under water after a rain.
But there’s no guarantee that Jon Stanbrough is buying or even cares about the above. But, for an inch or two, this story might well have been about Stanbrough winning yet another race. Ah, well. Except for your very last race, there’s always another one on the horizon.
Running through the pits and looking for dead celebrities, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Assault of the Five Senses
My position is that no sport assaults its fans’ senses like sprint car racing. Each of the five senses that most of us have knows when we’ve been to a sprint car program. All five take a beating, but aren’t apt to complain. In fact, we should be thankful. The last time I checked, we weren’t meant to check out of this life/race with all five senses unused. The constant ringing in my ears is proof enough for me.
Sight: Of course, I’m being subjective. But I do love the sight of a freshly mowed baseball playing field, the crisp white lines before the game starts, the players warming up, the vendors hawking their wares and the look in my grandson’s eyes.
But even that pales when compared to a full pit of sprinters, an infield so green you shade your eyes from the seeming glare, a full parking lot, a well prepared dirt track (especially Bloomington’s beautiful red clay), push trucks lined up and ready to do their duty, sprints three wide coming out of turn two (or four), the three or four wide salute to fans, shiny new paint jobs and/or sponsors on cars, and even a flagman who knows, loves and does his job—well. And that doesn’t even count the pretty girls, always an added attraction.
Sound: I’m a sucker for the sound of a baseball hitting a bat, a wooden bat, of course. And that sudden whap! when a baseball hits the catcher’s mitt just right.
But nothing compares to the sound of 20 or more 410 c.i. engines firing up as they come out of turn four to take the green flag. Or the rumbling sound the engines make coming into the pits, usually accompanied by the occasional revving the engine. And maybe a few of you have heard a child imitate these same sounds. For me, it’s been months since I’ve heard my grandson make that noise as he pretends to race. He may have outgrown this so it may have to be added to the memory bank.
I should add that the sounds of a good public address announcer are one of the more underrated blessings at your local bullring. A good P.A. person does their part to excite the crowd. True, the key word is “good.”
Smell: Nothing compares to the smell of methanol. It may be an acquired smell, but nevertheless, it’s an aroma to be savored. At a paved sprint car race, I appreciate the rich smell of tire rubber. A car owner might say it’s like smelling money burning.
Then there is the food smell. Popcorn, hamburgers, pizza and Kokomo’s pork chop sandwich are a few of the smells that come to mind. For those with the sweet tooth, funnel cakes and others like it rule.
Close your eyes next time you’re at the track and follow your nose. Maybe not literally; you may bump into the guy carrying four beers. But the point is to appreciate the smells of a race track even more.
Taste: Closely related to smell is taste—if you’re talking food here. Mosey through the parking lot and enjoy fried chicken leg a friend offers you. Have a cold beverage of your choice to go with it. Walk a bit farther and more friends are celebrating a birthday. Have some cake. Thirsty? Have a beer for the birthday boy. Head through the gate and check out the choices. Prepare to spend some money, especially if you have kids with you. Sandwiches, drinks, French fries, peanuts, popcorn plus various desserts—elephant ears, candy, funnel cakes. Ideally one can associate certain items on a menu with certain tracks. At Tri-State, I’m good for a double cheeseburger. At Kokomo, it’s the pork chop sandwich. At Lincoln Park, it’s that huge bag of popcorn.
Touch: During the race, one of the few things you may wish to touch might be the dirt pellets that bombard you during hot laps at Gas City. Personally I get a kick out of watching the grandkids try to dodge them—always failing, but always laughing at each other.
Don’t forget seats. Some are more comfortable than others. Lawrenceburg’s seats with backs are a treat to aging backs.
One treat that isn’t mentioned very often is when old friends from out of state make the pilgrimage to the non-wing sprint car’s Mecca, namely Indiana. Hearty hugs and handshakes abound. Information is exchanged. Often, sad to say, less than grand medical news is shared, often concerning a mutual friend. Many of us are at that age; the golden years aren’t always that.
But just as often new friends are made. People who know of each other finally meet and bingo! a new friend is made. This, too, is part of the whole experience. To avoid or shun it entirely is one’s own loss.
Finally, if you bring young people with you at a sprint car race, take them to the pits every chance you get. You will find a group of racers who will be more than willing to let a kid sit in a race car, fenders or no. What cooler feeling for a kid is sitting in a race car and let their imagination go? Convincing the youngster that it’s time to get out of the car may be the toughest job of the night. Watching hard core racers melt at the sight of a kid enjoying him or herself while sitting in a race car is worth whatever the price.
You may be making a fan for life, or a driver, or a mechanic.
This is being written while hiding out in the mountains of western North Carolina. We’ve spent the month of March down here, vacationing from our Indiana retirement. I’ve been to four races whole down here. Being North and South Carolina, the races I’ve seen were stock cars, dirt and pavement.
It’s too easy to point out the differences between short track racing down here and racing in my home state. They’re too obvious, at least the cars are. Tracks down here are a bit more casual about moving the show along. No one seems to be in a hurry. Lots of things we Hoosiers expect and take for granted are foreign down here. But there’s plenty of common ground.
Racers still races. Fans still cheer and/or boo. The sights are pleasing to the eye, even with the excess of sheet metal. Shut your eyes and it will be difficult to tell the difference between the sound of a sprinter and that of a dirt late model. Concession stands aren’t all that different when it comes to smell. But each section of America has its own special food choices. While Perris has wine, down here it’s either boiled peanuts of fried bologna sandwiches (not a favorite). Good tasting food can be found; I stumbled onto a nice helping of French fries at Hickory, the same night I met Bobby Allison. And Greenville-Pickens Speedway had a pre-race autograph session with the drivers. Kids had a field day. I chatted briefly with Nick Drake, who is going stock car racing this year, but said he hopes to head north and race his sprint car a few times this year.
The itch is alive and well. God willing, April will find us hitting the ground running. Schedules are pretty much set. Winter stubbornly inches away and warm weather begins to assert itself. The old truck has been serviced and is ready. It’s all good.
Soon to emerge from Bat Cave, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Racing Flags 101
It was a hot Saturday night in sprint car America. A father and son were enjoying boys’ night out as mom and sister went to a movie for girls’ night out. The two males were headed to Port Royal, or Eldora, or Lawrenceburg or Perris or…well, you get the picture.
The ten year old boy was not lacking in self-confidence. But while he thought he knew a good bit about sprint car racing, he was always ready to learn from his dad.
They arrived before hot laps began. Dad had sprung for pit passes, which he did on occasion. The son never failed to be awestruck at how many people in the pits his dad knew.
One of those was the flagman, a former driver who still loved hanging around race tracks. He was maybe the friendliest person around and greeted the father and son as if they were long time friends.
After the two fans finished chatting with the flagman, they began the trek back to the grandstand. The son asked his dad a question about lapped cars. The older man saw a teaching moment and seized upon it.
“Son,” he said, “let’s talk about the flags and I’ll be better able to answer your question.” The boy had little choice but to listen.
As they ambled to the bleachers, the father said, “Son, I know you’re aware of what the green flag is, as well as most of the others. But let me tell you that these racing flags also have a lot to do with your everyday life.”
The kid was all ears, but a bit skeptical.
“As the green flag starts the race, so it does with our lives. In our lives we need to get up, go and do from the day we are born. In this life we only get one lap. So it would make sense for us to make the most of this and run that lap as best as we can. There will be times we may take the corner too fast; we may even spin out, but we can get it righted and move on.
“In our lives there will certainly be yellow flags. On the track it means to slow down; there is trouble somewhere. In life it means to slow down, yes, but it means we sometimes need to slow down and take inventory of our lives. There are times that we need to check ourselves out. Maybe our life needs revamping. Maybe we need to identify things about us we don’t like and then make every effort to change them.”
“So, Dad. What about the red flag? Does that mean we just stop?”
“Sure does. But it can also mean that in our lives, the worst things can happen.”
“Do you mean like when Grandpa died?”
“Exactly. Or at least something like that. Bad things happen and there’s no avoiding it. We stop whether we want to or not and deal with whatever it is. We reflect; we grieve, or else we’ll be worse off. Ignoring the red flag in a race or life is about as intelligent as running a red light at a busy intersection.
“Son, I assume you’re familiar with the blue flag with the yellow stripe?”
“Sure, Dad, but we don’t see it much—except during the feature.”
“You got it, bud. Just like in the race, in life we don’t set the same pace. It pays us to be halfway courteous and get out of the way of people setting a quicker pace. You never know. Somewhere down the road we may be setting a quicker pace than someone and we’d want them to give us room to pass. If you give someone a hard time while they try to pass, that may well come back and bite you later. Doesn’t matter if it’s a 30 lap feature or fighting traffic on the freeway.
“Bet you’re wondering about the black flag about now.”
“Yeah, Dad. But let me take a shot at it.”
“Sometimes we do bad things and have to pay for them. In a race it means we probably won’t win…..Was that close?”
“Very. When life shows us the black flag, it can mean that we stumbled, messed up, you name it. While the racing black flag might mean that your race is over, in life, it can mean much more. Sure, we have stumbled, but we also have the chance to get back up and recover—to race or try again. Just like the red flag, the black flag can be a learning experience, however painful or expensive it may be.”
The father and son had finished their long walk back to the grandstand. The boy turned around and could see sprint cars, four-wheelers and push trucks gathered together, waiting for hot laps to begin.
“Well, Dad, are there just two flags left? Or am I missing one?”
“Nah, you’re correct. Just the white and checkered. You may have them figured out, but humor me a bit, will you?”
“Sure, Pop. All it’ll cost you is a hot dog and a Dr. Pepper.”
“As you know, the white flag means the end is near, but not quite there. You have to maintain and run another good lap. If you’re in a close fight with someone, you want to beat them, but realize that crashing should not be an option. You don’t want to crash so close to that reward that awaits.
“Neither do you necessarily want to cruise home. After all, the race isn’t quite over. There’s still the checkered flag. In a race, you’ll see racers cross that finish line and, most always, ease up. Some will be disappointed; others will be upset. More than a few will happy, if for no other reason they were able to push the car into the hauler in one piece.
“When you think about it some, our lives are like that. Not long before he died, my Grandpa told me this. He said we need to be ready to take that checkered flag, but we also should be ready for whatever came next. Now, just like a racer who doesn’t know what the next race will bring, we can’t know what it’s like after we cross the finish line. But I like to believe that your Grandpa and mine are somewhere, having a great time at the races somewhere in the mystic, watching some of the guys they watched when they were here. But hey. That may be just a dream or something I imagine.
The boy looked at his dad with a sad face. “I miss Grandpa.”
Dad looked at his son and gently cuffed the back of the boy’s head. “So do I, but think of the good times we all had. Think of the good times to come. And maybe most of all, think of the good times that are now. You gotta remember, son, there’s no avoiding either if we’re going to live in this world and, especially, hang around race tracks. There’ll be both good times and bad.
“Just know that the checkered flag means the end of one chapter—or race—and maybe the beginning of another. Just like life.”
The boy was on the edge of boredom. “Dad, can I sit with Uncle Marv tonight?”
“Sure, but why? Are you afraid of Dave?”
“Not a bit. It’s just that I do better at picking winners than Uncle Marv. Dave and Gregg are pretty good at picking race winners.”
“Son, I’m sure that Uncle Marv will be delighted to hear that. Let’s get something to eat. Look, there’s Bob and John at the picnic table. Go sit with them while I get us something to eat.”
Dozing through another Super Bowl, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Hope of Christmas
(The following is made up, but it could well be true. At least that’s what I like to think.)
The old racer lay in his hospice bed and knew that his personal checkered flag was in plain sight. Too much booze, cigarettes and so-called good times had brought him here.
As he lay there, his sadness was almost overwhelming. He didn’t necessarily regret the booze, cigarettes and ladies, but now, at the end, he could see what kind of person he had been at the core. Sure, he had his race fans out there somewhere, but there were no doubt many more who booed, ridiculed or cursed his very name. With all the success he had enjoyed, it was overshadowed in many folks’ minds by his boorish behavior to most that he met.
And now, with the end in plain sight, he was finally looking at himself with honest eyes and it wasn’t a pretty picture.
It was a struggle to keep his eyes open and he dared not close them. He wasn’t giving up just yet. If he closed his eyes, there would be total darkness and frankly, that scared him. He’d never thought about the afterlife, at least not until the past few days when he was fighting to keep his eyes open. But keeping his eyes open was becoming such a chore.
Though he had no way of knowing it, a visitor was approaching the room.
Not just any visitor, but this was one of the old racer’s adversaries. For the few years their careers overlapped, the younger man’s accomplishments outshined most others. With track championships, USAC wins, he had the respect and admiration of most all who either saw him race or encountered him off the track. He had the almost comically infuriating ability to both outrun and outnice people he raced. Fans loved him, mostly because his humble interviews were not an act. Fellow drivers at least respected him, even when he beat them—and that was rare among drivers.
But at the moment, he approached the old man’s room with considerable apprehension. He was questioning his decision to even come here. His wife had encouraged it, but he wasn’t about to blame her. He knew this was the right thing to do. Despite the fact that the dying racer had been an ass a good part of the time, he didn’t deserve all that he was going through right now. Maybe the younger man could find some words that would comfort his old competitor.
The door was open so the younger man entered the room slowly, trying to determine if the dying racer’s eyes were open. They were—barely.
The visitor said, warily, “Earl? Are you awake?”
The old man could hear a voice, but couldn’t respond.
The visitor approached the bed slowly and said, “This is Kenny. We raced each other a couple of times.” A brief pause and, “Earl, squeeze my hand if you can hear me.”
Kenny took the old man’s hand and, sure enough, Earl gave it a weak squeeze.
For a solid minute, except for Earl’s labored breathing, there was silence. Finally, after a quick prayer and deep breath, Kenny spoke. “Earl, I came here to say good-by. But I also came here to say that all is forgiven. What’s done is done. We both know that you’re about to cross that finish line, man. But I’m here to tell you that whatever you’ve done that maybe you shouldn’t have done is in the past. Now’s a good time to wipe that slate clean. Squeeze my hand, Earl, if you buy that.”
Sure enough, Kenny felt a bit of pressure on his hand.
After another moment of silence, Kenny said, “It’s time for me to go, Earl. May your next journey be a good one. Maybe at your next stop you can do some serious bench racing.”
Despite the emotional and physical pain, Earl smiled and squeezed the young racer’s hand. Kenny slowly and deliberately disengaged his hand, laid the old man’s hand on the other, and left the room with a tear or two in his eyes.
The old man knew his fellow racer had gone. It was strange but the younger man’s words had left him with a peaceful feeling. He was still sad and remorseful for his past deeds, but, at the same time, a weight was off his shoulders. He even smiled a bit. He looked up at the ceiling and could have sworn he saw images of other racers who had already taken that checkered flag. He wondered, were they beckoning him to join them? Well, why not?
A strange feeling came over him, a light, almost giddy feeling. Each breath was more difficult. It was time to let go. Apprehension mixed with relief as the old man inched away from one realm into another. His very last thought before he slipped away was that now he had some hope of better things. The smile was gone, replaced by a peaceful countenance on his face.
He shut his eyes and the Great Flagger pointed the checkered flag at the old racer, who crossed over the line with a promise of a new adventure.
Wishing you a Merry Christmas and any other special day at this time of year, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Future of Racing
The little boy was lost in thought—thinking God knew what. One could see the four year old intently studying the sprint car that was parked in the pit area, needing some mud scraped off before the B Main, and wondering what it would be like to not merely sit in the car (old hat to him) but actually drive it.
Meanwhile, his grandfather was “busy” chatting with a team member of the J.R. Douglas car on another Saturday night at a Hoosier bullring, namely Lincoln Park Speedway. Soon the conversation turned to the little boy. The grandfather opined that he could not and would not buy the boy a quarter midget or any other kind of car for quite awhile. Instead he figured that the little guy could start at the bottom, doing the small jobs that people take for granted—such as cleaning the mud off the car after hot laps.
J.R.’s friend immediately went over to get a bucket with water and a washing glove. He set the bucket by the boy and the youngster picked up the glove and began his chore, washing the Lincoln Park mud off the 09, along with an older boy who was with the Douglas crew.
The little boy was already happy to help, but then the crew member pulled two dollars out of his wallet and gave the money to the boy, whose eyes lit up. Even four year old kids know about money.
After many thanks and good luck wishes, the boy and the old man hiked to the other side of the track to watch the B Main and sprint feature. Hoosier sprint fans know that the souvenir stand at LPS is right behind the bleachers. Not long after we finished the long walk, the little boy talked the grandfather into looking at something he found at the stand; naturally it was a toy sprint car. But there was one problem.
The car was four dollars and the boy only had a dollar his mom had given him and the two he had earned. Could he borrow a dollar off Grandpa?
Anyone reading this can guess the answer. Soon enough the boy had another race car to add to his collection. Without any kind of encouragement or pressure, the tyke had roamed the pits, sat in a few cars, washed part of one, bought another car and made a bunch of great memories for all who encountered him.
From an early age, this child has shown an uncommon interest in racing, especially of the open wheel variety. He loves this crazy activity more than his brother, his parents and his uncle—combined. He has never been pushed to go; all I’ve done is ask him. The answer he gives is obvious.
Starting last year, 2012, he began accompanying me to races quite often, when his schedule permitted. Soon enough he was sitting in sprint cars nearly every time he went to a race. My only rule was insisting that he ask a driver or crew member permission to sit in the car. Unfailingly, his request is granted. It’s amusing to see these tough, macho guys melt at the sight of a kid wanting to sit in the car. The smiles all round are priceless; racers have something in them that loves kids that show such interest.
2013 saw him continuing to not only watch but learn. My friends and I get a kick out of him telling people who’s driving which car. I wondered at the start of the year how he’d handled the annual ride swapping that goes on here. I wondered about nothing. Right off the bat, he picked up on all the changes, even the one offs. By year’s end he was doing better with double digit numbers as well.
He does equally well with tracks, at least the ones he frequents. Watching videos online, he can usually tell which track it is. He learned that both Gas City and Kokomo have the sprint car up in the air. He’s learning that different tracks have different friends. If Bob and Monica are at Kokomo, then Marv and Gregg will be at Lawrenceburg. Lincoln Park, Bloomington and Kokomo are all situated for him to go to the fence after the feature and get a good look at the winning driver, who he may well already know.
In a world where many race fans can’t tell a sprint car from a midget, this kid can. He knows of Indy car and Formula One cars and will soon, I’m fairly sure, be able to tell the differences between them—as well as the many types of stock cars. Like Grandpa, he leans toward open wheel machines, but will watch stock cars on TV as a substitute (except the top three NASCAR series).
In my mind at least, even more important than all the names and numbers that he’s learning, are the intangibles. Karston is learning about people of all ages and gathering a sense of what is right and what is wrong. In addition, like two of his great-grandfathers (my late father and father-in-law), he knows few, if any, strangers. Once he’s comfortable with people, he is friendly as can be—and doesn’t care how young or old they are.
For 2014 the plan is to start teaching him which roads take us to whichever tracks. In October this lesson began with my pointing out road signs and telling him that this is the way we go to Kokomo. (county roads—I-65—U.S. 31—all north)
This guy reminds us that learning need not stop when one graduates from school at any level. When one reaches a goal of learning or anything else, one needs to set new goals; the bar needs to be set a bit higher. The sky is the limit, or at least it should be. Too often our limit is the one we see in the mirror.
I’ve heard more than once people comment that soon this kid should have Grandpa or someone buy him a race car. My response is that he will have to pass many more tests and learn a lot more before he climbs into a race car. He will have to start at the bottom and work his way up. This, of course, includes washing the mud off a car after hot laps. Should the interest continue, he can move on to more challenging jobs. We’ll have to see; there is time.
He may find himself becoming bored with this and move on to something else. Already he has developed an interest in baseball and football. And so what if he does? It’s still a kid we’re speaking of here. Like his big brother, he needs to grow up on his terms as much as he can. Grandpa may dream of big brother designing a race car with little brother driving it, but both most likely will have different ideas. That’s fine as long as they do their best and do good as well.
The clichés are so true about grandchildren being so much fun. There’s more time to enjoy them and watch them grow up. It’s the same with time and how it flies, or seems to fly. Before we know it, grandkids are grown and our own kids begin to know the trials of being adults.
We close with another story, one which is summed up by the title of this. Those who have heard this story, please forgive me as we share it again. Karston and I were at Gas City/I-69 Speedway for opening night of Indiana Midget Week in 2012. Darren Hagen had won that night and Karston wanted to go down to the fence and see the winner (and especially his car) up close. This we did and I had to hold him so he could see.
After the winner’s interview, Hagen came to the fence and went through the gate. This was no big deal until he made a beeline for us. Darren took off the white Mopar cap he was wearing and gave it to Karston. If that wasn’t enough, he did the same with his USAC winner’s medallion. We hadn’t done anything special; apparently this feature winner noticed this kid in the crowd with that look of wonder that kids have when they are in awe of what they’re seeing. Hagen had it right when he explained to me, “This is racing’s future right here.” He was right. And the cap is covered with autographs while the medallion is there for him to wear whenever he wants to play racing (running around the family room, pretending to be whoever he thinks of at the time racing at whichever track he thinks of).
The little boy is learning about life; he’s growing up almost as we speak. And, from where I sit, he could not have a better classroom than an Indiana bullring to do his learning.
Bullying Richie Incognito, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Battle of the Gray Haired Gang
While it’s true that youth must be served, it’s also true that experience serves us well. Mix in Kokomo Speedway’s last race of 2013 with some extra walking around money, add some seasoned veterans who aren’t shy about slicing and dicing with each other and that sums up your typical 25 lap feature at the O’Conner family’s pride and joy. At the end it was Jerry Coons Jr., sprouting a few more gray hairs than he did just a few years ago, holding off a fast closing Dave Darland and Jon Stanbrough to take home the trophy and some cold (very cold) cash.
The Kokomo pits were jammed on an otherwise lovely autumn evening in northern Indiana with 119 cars and four of the five classes being open wheelers. 32 of these were sprinters with the usual assortment of USACers and area runners.
One of these, Gas City 2013 champ Scotty Weir, was quickest in group qualifying. His 12.774 was more than good enough.
Heat races were high speed, one groove affairs with passing quite an accomplishment. C.J. Leary won the first with front row mate Gary Taylor second. Chris Windom was third and Braylon Fitzpatrick grabbed the last transfer.
Like Mr. Leary, Wes McIntyre won the second heat from the outside front row spot with Mr. Coons finishing second. Dave Darland took third and Shane Cottle showed that one could pass as he came from eighth to finish fourth in a heat that sent some good cars to the B’s.
Scotty Weir came from fourth to annex the third heat as
Jon Stanbrough won the fourth heat; Bloomington champ Brady Short was second. Blake Fitzpatrick took third and Robert Ballou, with an invisible 12 on his tail tank, finished fourth.
The two consis would advance two each and Kyle Robbins left all others behind in winning the first of the two. Jarett Andretti was second.
The second semi took awhile to get going as there seemed to be a bit of confusion in starting order. Mike Terry Jr. held off Grant as Justin tried every which way to pass, but failed, seeing that Terry had the preferred high line. Not to worry, the feature had its share of passing.
Logan Jarrett and Chris Gurley were added to the field, making 22 to start.
Taylor, Coons, Leary, Stanbrough, Spencer, McIntyre, Weir, Short, Windom and Darland were the front half of the field and Coons jumped out to a lead that was negated when Byrkett spun, the first of two spins which sent Adam packing. After the first slowdown, Coons again took over until lap five when poor Byrkett did it again.
The next green flag segment lasted only two laps until WesMac spun in turn two. It was Coons, Taylor, Darland (from tenth already), Stanbrough and Windom on the third re-start. Behind Coons a terrific dogfight broke out among Darland, Taylor, Stanbrough, Windom, Weir and Cottle—all wanting second.
The low groove had made an appearance and people were using it. Slowly but surely, Darland and Stanbrough broke away from the pack to chase Coons. As they gained on the leader, neither could decide who would run second as they passed and re-passed each other as they inched closer to Coons.
But it wasn’t happening; Coons won by at least a couple of car lengths over Darland, with Stanbrough close behind. It made for a gray haired podium, but none of the three minded too much.
Windom took fourth as Taylor slowly faded to fifth. Weir was sixth and Ballou rambled from 16th to take seventh. Short started and finished eighth. Robbins came from B-land, 17th, to end up ninth. Andretti did the same, scooting from 19th to tenth. And Gurley deserved mention as he came in 11th after starting last.
Maybe the youngsters wish the older fellows would fade away, but it ain’t happening yet. For the time being the Hoosier sprint scene will include the likes of Jerry, Dave, Jon—and others such as Tracy (Hines) and Shane, along with the local boys who continue to race with quality results.
Youth must be, and sometimes is, served, but not yet—or not on the cold Friday night at the 2013 Kokomo Klash.
A bit later, Shane Cottle simply checked out to win the midget feature. Chris Miller won the 600cc mini-sprint A main. Nick Speidel won the UMRA TQ Midget feature, the UMRA point championship, all this after already winning the MTQRL championship.
Sprint car racing in Indiana is, as far as I know, done for the year. Granted, USAC and its caravan is headed West, but Hoosier tracks are quiet for a few months. It’s been quite a year, with the highest highs and too many of the lowest of lows.
Soon it will be time to hunker down for the winter and, before we know it, the spring will be on the horizon as race fans’ thoughts turn to…..?
Avoiding the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ locker room, I’m…
(the gray haired) Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: Doubler
As this is written in the wee hours of Sunday morning, Bryan Clauson is two for two this weekend so far. Friday night saw him win at Gas City in his own car. Saturday night was a repeat at Lawrenceburg as Clauson took the lead just past the halfway mark and beat a loaded USAC field. Once again, talent, hard work, good luck and a ton of desire yielded excellent results.
The great weather deity again gave Indiana a lovely day. Tonight’s riding partner was a bit older than my usual companion, but about as much fun. Given his health issues the past few years, ol’ Dave has been battling as hard as any racer he loves to watch, with good enough results.
37 race teams arrived at the ‘burg, ready willing and able. The track was the same: ready, etc. It held up quite well, with Clauson going out last and setting fast time. With the USAC sprints’ points race getting extra attention, BC had to pleased with the three points for fast time.
Young Aaron Farney, mentored by Robert Ballou, ran off with the first heat win. Joss Moffatt held off Clauson for second. Justin Grant stole fourth from Jerry Coons Jr. at the line, sending the Monte Edison owned team to the B.
C.J. Leary won the second heat, but had an oil line issue after taking the checkered and bailing out after he stopped the car on the backstretch as flames began to spread. C.J. was okay and Ted Hines had a good view of the excitement from second place. Dave Darland was third with Chris Windom taking fourth ahead of B bound Kevin Thomas Jr.
The third heat saw Chad Boespflug, again in Mike McGhee’s car tonight, take the lead from Scotty Weir late to win. Daron Clayton was third with Gary Taylor ending up fourth. Logan Jarrett led a group to the semi.
Tracy Hines’ unsatisfactory qualifying effort landed him on the front row where he left all others behind in the fourth heat. Fellow front row starter Tyler Courtney was second and Chase Stockon was third. Shawn Westerfeld, ‘burg regular, impressed with his fourth quick time trial and his fourth place finish put him in the A.
Brady Bacon had missed the call for the first heat, but his qualifying effort was good enough to start him third in the B. He took the lead from Thomas on the second lap and led the rest of the way. KT was second and Coons took third. Jarett Andretti was fourth and Matt Westfall finished fifth ahead of Kyle Cummins. Robert Ballou just missed getting around Cummins for the last musical chair available and used a provisional.
Who would be able to pass front row starters Dave Darland and last year’s winner of this race Chase Stockon? Second row gunners Grant and Westerfeld? Or the third row’s Taylor and Clauson? Further back was Thomas, Westfall, Bacon and Boespflug.
Stockon took the lead at the green and held off Darland while Clauson advanced to fourth on the first lap behind Grant. Five laps later Clauson was up to third as Darland got around Stockon for the lead, if only for a lap. Two laps later Dave bobbled only slightly and Clauson pounced, now second and after the leader, who soon would commence wrestling with lapped traffic.
BC is about as good as anyone around at handling lapped traffic. At Gas City the night before he had beaten Kevin Thomas Jr. on the last lap in large part because he had negotiated the lappers better than KT. And on lap 17, Clauson did it again, passing Stockon to take a lead he’d not give up.
Stockon didn’t exactly fold up his tent. The young man from Sullivan, but now living right down the road from here hung tough, not giving Clauson much room for error. He finished second ahead of Darland, who was just a bit off for the night. Thomas came from seventh to take fourth. Grant was fifth as the guy who now occupies Grant’s former ride, Gary Taylor in the Hery 40, took sixth. Coons gave the Edison 10 a good ride, coming from 12th to seventh. Boespflug was eighth with Bacon starting and finishing ninth. Chris Windom was tenth.
Just like Gas City, this race was all-green.
Clauson’s lead over Darland is now a whopping 13 points as the boys leave the Midwest for the sunny Southwest—Canyon Speedway, Peoria, Arizona on October 25.
(The following is a made up conversation, but it could have been real.)
“I’m tellin’ ya, Clauson cheated!” “Huh?” “Yes, he did cheat.” “How could you tell?” “Did you see how he pulled those guys coming out each turn? He didn’t spin his wheels once!” “You know, maybe you’re right.” “I know I’m right, man. Clauson has had them guys put traction control on that car. USAC should check that out and ban him now.” “You don’t understand.” “Huh?” “You’re half right. He does have traction control.” (a smirk) “So you do say I’m right?” “Yeah, but it ain’t what you think.” “Whaddya mean??” “His traction control is right there.” (points toward Victory Lane) (Squints) “Where?” “Right there. See that right foot? There’s his traction control right there.” (Stomps off in disgust while his ex-buddy chuckles)
Shutting down, but only for a few hours, I’m…
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Copyright © 2014 by "Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News." Do not reproduce anything from these pages without the permission of the photographers, writers or webmaster.
Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News,PO Box 42, Drums PA 18222-0042