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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Biding One’s Time=Clash Cash
    The 28thPutnamville Clash should be remembered as one of the better ones. The feature turned into a classic duel between two young veterans, one with plenty of both promise and ability and the other who can get more out of less as well as anyone around these parts. In the end, Kevin Thomas Jr. got the job done, passing Brent Beauchamp with ten laps to go and taking Brian Hodde’s checkered flag first and a bit later beginning to count the $4000 due the winning team. The event was part of the Indiana Sprint Car Series and will be aired on MAV-TV later.
    There were a few changes among both usual and rare suspects. J.J. Yeley hustled west from the Speedway to jump into the Barnhill 2x with his fellow Arizonian Casey Shuman shifting over to the Krockenberger creation. Scotty Weir was the latest to try out the Baldwin Brothers’ orange menace. Kyle Cummins spent the evening in Rick Pollock’s 21x. And Dave Darland was in Jeff Walker’s pride and joy.
    Speaking of pride and joy, the six year old riding mechanic was at his first race in close to a month. Invading the pits by 5:30, he grabbed his own notebook and began writing car numbers down. He finished with 23 with two late arrivals showing up after he had annihilated a cheeseburger.
    After supper he moseyed over to the Chad Boespflug and Company pit. Donnie Gentry put him to work, first tightening the right rear wheel, then scraping off some mud from Shane Wade’s pride and joy after wheel packing. Had he hustled a bit more, Mike Dutcher’s winning P and J was to be next. Much of this was put on Facebook almost immediately.
    When Logan Jarrett slid over the cushion on lap one of the first heat, the lead and the win was annexed by Brent Beauchamp. Scotty Weir was second and Kyle Cummins third. Max McGhee was part of a major fight for position and finished fourth. Jarrett came back on the last lap to take the last transfer spot from Jerry Coons Jr., who had come from ninth to run as high as fourth.
    Pole sitter Jon Stanbrough won the second heat with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Chad Boespflug came from seventh to third. Jeff Bland was fourth and J.J. Yeley was fifth.
    Tyler Courtney won the third heat from the outside first row after Mitch Wissmiller couldn’t answer the bell. Pole sitter Dave Darland was second. Brady Short came from last to finish third. Robert Ballou was fourth and Cole Ketchum fifth. Ketchum slid into Ballou in turn one. Robert eventually stopped, bringing out a yellow. Under caution Ballou sidled up to Ketchum and played a little nerf bar tag on the side. To the kid’s credit he still raced Ballou hard after the caution before getting passed cleanly.
    In the pick a winner contest, the score was Karston 2, Grandpa 1.
    Jerry Coons Jr. occupied the pole for the B and took off, leaving the others to fight it out for the other four spots. A late yellow foiled that plan but Coons still won. Scott Hampton was second with J.J. Hughes third. Brian Karraker took fourth and Mitch Wissmiller came from the tail spot to grab the honor of starting last in the feature. Shelby Van Gilder loaded up earlier than she had planned.
    Karston 3, Grandpa 1. He opted to sit out picking a feature winner. Said he preferred to watch the whole race rather than his pick.
    With Beauchamp and Stanbrough on the front row, 20 of the best took the green and Beauchamp grabbed the lead until a yellow waved for a four car goal line stand in turn one. All were able to continue. Beauchamp’s great start had been negated. But it was no trouble; he simply did it again and yet again after a lap two caution. Stanbrough’s dropping back a bit was startling as Courtney came to the front along with Thomas. The young man from Alabama needed about three laps after the re-start before he passed Courtney for second place. Next on the list was Beauchamp.
    For more than 10 laps Thomas stalked the leader, searching for an opening or maybe taking advantage of an error. Finally on lap 20, he made the pass.
    There was a pack of madmen behind the two leaders. Courtney, Darland, Leary, Ballou, Boespflug and Stanbrough were all engaged in a mad scramble for position. As laps wound down, Darland and Ballou seemed to be making a break from the group. A lap 26 yellow light for a J.J. Yeley spin would bring some changes on the re-start. With four laps to go, it was Thomas, Beauchamp, Darland, Ballou, Courtney, Boespflug, Stanbrough, Short, Leary and Cummins.
    The green waved and Thomas had things well in hand. But Beauchamp was ambushed by first Darland and then Ballou. The still young veteran had to be disappointed but certainly not ashamed. Fourth place in this crowd wasn’t shabby at all. The same could be said for Tyler Courtney, who came home fifth. Stanbrough was sixth, trailed by Short, Boespflug, Cummins and Weir.
    Ballou’s progress from 12th to third was the most notable. After knocking on the door several times this year, Thomas has won a few times and on this humid night ran a smart race and made the right moves.
    As my little companion and I left, little did we know what lay ahead.
    Threats and Promises (of Rain)—Fighting traffic going north on U.S. 31, I sneaked a look at the radar every so often on our way to Kokomo for the Bob Darland Memorial/Indiana Sprint Car Series event, later to be on MAV-TV. It didn’t look good. Rain was west of Lafayette and was moving slowly to the east. But we knew that the O’Connor family were right then planning as if there would be no rain. I never considered turning back once we left town on a warm Sunday afternoon.
    We found a good parking space, near where one of racing’s good guys, Rich Winings, was parked. After some visiting and weather prognostication, off the three of us went.
    27 sprint teams also defied the weather forecast and were raring to go race on a damp track tilled to perfection. The three heat races were all high speed, one lane, freight train like affairs. That didn’t bother me. I appreciated the speed and figured that the middle and bottom grooves would come into play later—if it didn’t rain.
    Again, that pesky grandson wanted to pick some winners. He found a familiar and easy mark, one Bob Clauson.
    Karston chose the 21x to win the first heat. Maybe he thought Kyle Cummins was in the car tonight, but it was really Chris Windom. It didn’t matter, because Windom won for Karston. Dave Darland was in the Steve and Carla Phillips’ pride and joy tonight and was second. Thomas Meseraull finished third and Robert Ballou fourth. Cole Ketchum had the last transfer, fifth, locked up but smacked the turn two wall on the last lap and lost a left rear wheel. Chris Gurley inherited fifth instead.
    Tyler Courtney won the B from the second row, taking the lead on the first lap. Chad Boespflug, Logan Jarrett, C.J. Leary and Max McGhee followed. This meant, had there been a B Main, Jon Stanbrough would have been in it.
    As a few sprinkles came down, the third heat began. Scotty Weir, still in the Baldwin Brothers’ hot rod, won. Justin Grant, Jerry Coons Jr., Kevin Thomas Jr. and Hunter Schuerenberg, who came from ninth, all would have made the feature, had there been one.
    But the sprinkles turned into a drizzle and we retreated to the little white truck to await whatever happened. Karston went with John Hoover and returned with a bottle of Gatorade. It wasn’t too many minutes later that the sad announcement came: No more racing tonight but the Bob Darland Memorial would be trying again next Sunday. To make sure I heard correctly I walked to Rich’s truck, thinking that he could hear at least as good as I could. Yep, it was true.
    We left the track and went to the Half Moon Restaurant, a popular place to eat and it doesn’t hurt that they sponsor Josh Spencer’s operation. One huge grilled chicken sandwich later (the little guy had eaten at the track and ordered some breaded mozzarella cheese sticks for this secondary meal) we were headed south with rain hounding us all the way home. Actually Karston slept and missed the fun.
    Surely it was a disappointment to get rained out. But we saw some fine, though limited, racin’, and visited with friends. And even before we went to the track, I made the happy discovery that Kokomo had maybe the lowest priced gas in Indiana. A bit over 12 gallons came to just less than $24. $1.989 per gallon—had to love it while it lasted.
    Investing in an ark building company, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    Finally the End
    On a downright hot and humid Indiana night, the gathering together of the sprint car community that follows USAC's Indiana Sprint Week saw yet another exceptional night of racing at its best. It culminated with Brady Short winning the battle (the 30 lap feature) and Robert Ballou winning the war, namely the Indiana Sprint Week title, all of this settled at the Tri-State Speedway in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana.

    We'll get this out of the way right now. It was hot. The temperature topped out in the mid 90s and no one disputed that.

    While I spent part of my time pontificating and part of it people watching, I did notice that 34 cars had decided to stop by and have a look.

    Justin Grant was the first of these to qualify and his lap of 13.421 held up. The track held up very well as Kevin Thomas Jr. went out last and was fifth quick.

    Dave Darland started things off right by winning the first heat. Moe of the Three Stooges must told the boys to "spread out" because that's what Darland and second place Thomas did. Chad Boespflug had his hands full fending off the challenge of fourth place Justin Grant.

    Aaron Farney has been beating his mentor on occasion lately with Terre Haute being the prime example. He did the same in the second heat, leading Robert Ballou to the line. Josh Hodges was third and Chris Windom rode home fourth.

    The third heat got off to a less than ideal start when Jarrett Andretti rode over Zach Daum's tire and missed a good chance to flip. Andretti bounced to a stop as Daum spun. Kent Schmidt also spun to miss the wreck. Brady Short came from fifth to win and I should have taken notice then. Chase Stockon passed Jeff Bland late to take second. Hunter Schuerenberg withstood a good bit of pressure from Daum to finish fourth.

    Dakota Jackson won the fourth heat from the pole. Kyle Cummins, in the family car tonight, was second. Brady Bacon, who entered the night only three points ahead of Ballou, was third. Jon Stanbrough started and finished fourth.

    During the heats I was reminded why I think sprint car/bullring racing is so cool and more appealing than the so called big time sports. It was nothing earthshaking. Instead it was first Jon Stanbrough, then later Dave Darland coming to the pit bleachers to watch the other heats. No doubt they were "working" as they watched the track and their competitors, but one cannot imagine this happening in any other sport, major or niche.

    C. J. Leary sat on the pole and led all the way to win the B Main. Tyler Courtney was second. Scotty Weir brought the Jeff Walker machine back to the line third. J. Andretti was fourth and Californian Jake Swanson took fifth. Thomas Meseraull passed Zach Daum on the white flag lap to take the last dance card.
    There would be no provisionals tonight, just the 22 survivors. Short and Windom saw Mo Wills' green flag first and Windom grabbed the early lead. Short had a little bobble at the start and dropped back to fourth as Windom led Thomas, Stockon, Short and Hodges early.

    No doubt that several were watching Ballou and Bacon, one of the few times that USAC fans watch the points closely. Bacon started eighth and Ballou tenth, but Robert was on the move early. By the tenth lap Ballou was definitely moving forward while the Hoffman Racing 69 was going the other way. In terms of the Sprint Week points, Ballou had the inside track, but the Mad Man wanted more.

    Lap 10 was when the leaders began encountering lapped traffic. Thomas challenged for the lead at every turn as both he and Windom negotiated the lappers. On lap 16, KT took the lead on the inside and it was tempting to think this race might be his.

    But, other than his crew, himself and maybe his fans, who would have thought that Brady Short would be a threat? His Indiana Sprint Week had been less than stellar until the C Main at Lincoln Park on Thursday night. But he passed cars by the bundle in both the B and A Mains at LPS and had to feel good going to his home track on Friday. But Bloomington rained out and there would be only one more chance to prove himself yet again worthy of challenging USAC regulars. His moment to shine was right around the corner, as it were.

    Short sized up Windom for second and made the pass with ten laps to go. And before I had the chance to ask “could he do it?” he did it. Reeling in Thomas and fighting lapped traffic, Short made the pass when KT was very briefly held up by a slower car. That was all the Bedford, Indiana native needed. Lap 22 was his and on he went to his first USAC win in four years.

    The action behind the leaders was no less compelling. Windom managed to keep third but Ballou ran down and passed Stockon near the end to take fourth. Josh Hodges, who has been impressive all summer here, was sixth behind Chase. Kyle Cummins picked up $300 extra for starting 16th and finishing seventh, $100 from Buck and Betty Rice and an extra $200 from the family of former USAC official Larry Williams, who was killed in an automobile accident on his way to Terre Haute last Wednesday. Justin Grant was eighth with Jon Stanbrough ninth. C.J. Leary, back in the family car, claimed tenth.

    The post-race quote of note was by the race winner, who said, “Traffic is huge here, and you’ve got to know how to maneuver around them.” Again, probably without knowing it, Mr. Short showed how racing imitates life and vice versa. We can’t ignore traffic of any kind in our lives and our races.

    My post-race meanderings gave me quite an insight of where this carnival we called ISW is going. Both the race winner and the points winner received the major attention. Ballou in particular was besieged by fans wanting a word, an autograph or picture. I’m glad that sprint car racing at this level is still fan friendly by and large. I’m very pleased that most all of these guys are accessible to fans and have no problem talking to them either before or after the race. And how cool is it that USAC sprints are on TV, albeit on a limited basis?
    If there is a concern, it’s that the racing that we love doesn’t get so big it forgets about its’ base, the fans who pay to watch, cheer, boo—and buy an extra hot dog. We’re not there yet, so let us enjoy this as it is.

    When most folks had enjoyed their time talking to the 2015 Indiana Sprint Week champion, I took my turn. It was ironic that a guy who’d rather win a race than a point championship won said title despite not winning any of the six races. I asked Mr. Ballou if he’d remembered what had happened here at Haubstadt a year ago. Surely he did. He had won the feature that night as Bryan Clauson had taken the series championship. After the race my grandson had accepted the invitation to “drive” the car to the weight scale and then to the hauler. Robert remembered that too. And I asked, suspecting the answer, which felt better, winning a race or this, the championship? Without hesitation, the answer was, “a race.”

    There’s nothing wrong with winning a championship of any kind; in fact, it’s to be applauded. It means that night in and night out, you’ve come to conduct serious business and doing what needs to be done to accomplish something very difficult to do. No matter who the racer is, he earns his championships and deserves the accolades that goes with it.

    Winning a solitary race requires a different mindset. It’s more immediate gratification. There can’t be anything like crossing a finish line first ahead of your competitors. Perhaps you can win a race and struggle for the rest of the campaign. But don’t be misled. Nothing can take away that feeling of being the first to see that checkered flag waving.

    Again, how ironic. Chase Stockon won at Gas City as ISW opened ten long days ago. He struggled the rest of the way until Haubstadt. Robert Ballou used consistency to win the title and the cool rocking chair that goes with it. One may have preferred the championship; the other prefers to win races. Both Chase and Robert accomplished much over the last few days, but it may be that neither got their wish.

    I wonder if they could change places, would they?

    Photoshopping and photobombing, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    Speed, Interrupted
    It was no fun going through yet another rainout, but there it was. With a packed house, a track ready for racing and a group of racers assembled to do just that, hopes were high. And through much of the program at the Bloomington Speedway, anticipation was evident that this would be another vintage Bloomington 30 lapper. But the skies over southern Indiana put a major damper on that and perhaps the feature will be run at a future date.
    Earlier in the afternoon, skies were only partly cloudy and it was quite warm, as in 87 degrees warm. But that was close to normal this time of year and few, if any, gave much thought to rain.
    37 teams made the trip to the red clay oval, which was lightning fast. Brady Bacon proved that right at the beginning as he went out and set a new non-wing sprint track record, a 10.854 lap. Chase Stockon went out a bit later and ripped off a 10.860. Five drivers in all came in under 11 seconds. The track was fast. It bit Landon Simon, who flipped off turn two on his first lap. Landon was okay.
    One wondered if there would be any passing in the heats, given the high speed condition of the track. There was, beginning with the first heat, won by Thomas Meseraull, again in the Goodnight car. Jerry Coons Jr. was second with Chris Windom third. Casey Shuman started on the pole and held on for fourth. Bacon slid off turn two and re-started, but didn’t make the cut.
    Brady Short won the second heat with Jon Stanbrough second. Dakota Jackson was third. Stockon took advantage of Robert Ballou and Dave Darland’s near tangle and scooted into fourth. They were both headed for the B. Chad Boespflug ran off with the third heat after starting fourth. Brent Beauchamp was second. Carson Short took third and Kevin Thomas Jr. had his hands full holding off Max McGhee for fourth. Chris Babcock flipped in turn four and popped out of the car. Chris would return for the B.
    Shane Cottle won a fourth heat that saw Lee Dakus flip after running over a right rear tire. It wasn’t all that bad; he re-started. A lap one incident between Jarett Andretti and Kyle Wissmiller started as a yellow, but the two cars were stuck together and the red was waved. After all this, six cars finished. Behind Cottle were Justin Grant, in his fifth car in six days, C.J. Leary and Aaron Farney. Hunter Schuerenberg went to the B.
    Eric Smith and Luke Bland won the 305 Raceceiver heats as lightning made what soon became a constant appearance to the northeast. In addition, the breeze picked up and the skies grew more and more gloomy. Hurry, boys.
    They tried. But the B Main was plagued by three yellows and one red flag. When the red flew for a Nick Bilbee flip in turn two, the cars circled the track for awhile as sprinkles fell. A few people left. But the green came back out to cheers from the crowd and the high speed chase was on. Ballou passed Bacon early on to win the 12 lapper. Darland was third and Josh Hodges was fourth. Schuerenberg and Tyler Courtney both transferred with Max McGhee and Scotty Weir coming up a bit short.
    Right after the completion of the B Main, the rain got serious and began to fall heavily. This lasted at least 30 minutes and eventually the plug was reluctantly pulled. As this is written in the wee hours of Saturday morning, a decision is expected to be made at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. In other words, while I’m well on my way to Haubstadt, Indiana.
    Despite the frustrating weather issues, Indiana Sprint Week has, so far, been all it’s cracked up to be. And now there awaits Tri-State Speedway, or as fans call it, Haubstadt. May the little old white Chevy truck get me down there.
    Inspecting Tiger Woods’ AARP application, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    30 laps of pressure
    The record will show that Brady Bacon started on the front row and led most of the race. But numbers and records don't lie; however, they don't necessarily tell the complete story. Mere numbers can't describe what Mr. Bacon had to deal with. They will show Kevin Thomas Jr. second and Jerry Coons Jr. third, but can't describe the efforts put forth by those who excelled on a warm Hoosier night at the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. Maybe sometimes, all is not what it seems to be.
    It seemed like the weather was warm and humid. But this didn’t stop 47 sprinters from stopping by and signing in for Indiana Sprint Week, Round Five. Making their debuts for ISW 2015 edition were Chris Phillips, Austin Prock, Kevin Studley, Cole Smith, Matthew McDonald. Missouri’s Clyde Knipp and some guy named Bryan Clauson. Tyler Courtney slapped on the number four tonight, keeping Tracy Hines in the owners’ points. Kyle Cummins was sidelined quickly with motor issues. 14 states and one Canadian province were represented, from Pennsylvania to California.
    One of two Missouri drivers, Hunter Schuerenberg, set quick time with a 12.953 lap. The track stayed fast as Carson Short went out 37th in line and rang up the fourth fastest time. Yet again, several front runners found that a mediocre time trial would put them in a hole for the duration of the night.
    Things started badly in the first heat, especially for Cole Smith. He tried to get between Chase Stockon and an infield tire early in the race with disastrous results. Smith was shaken a bit and the car was not in good shape either. Racing resumed and pole sitter Dave Darland won with Brent Beauchamp second. Schuerenberg was third and Mitch Wissmiller discovered the high groove working late in the race, using it to get around Stockon. Chase, Thomas Meseraull and Logan Jarrett were all headed to the B while Terre Haute winner Aaron Farney would suit up for the C.
    A pair of Chris’s led the way in the second heat. Windom won with LPS regular Phillips second. Max McGhee, not feeling too bad tonight, was third. Kevin Thomas Jr. was fourth. Jerry Coons Jr. began preparing for the B and Brady Short, who has struggled during this ISW, went to the C.
    The yellow flag plagued third heat was won by Robert Ballou over Jon Stanbrough. Scotty Weir was third and Chad Boespflug was fourth. Jake Swanson brought out one of the yellows. He indicated to Tyler Courtney that they needed to go ice fishing sometime.
    More mayhem showed up in the fourth heat. Pennsylvania visitor Tony DiMattia spun in turn two, leaving Justin Grant nowhere to go. Grant clouted DiMattia’s car and tipped over, then collected Bryan Clauson, who had suffered a subpar qualifying effort. After things settled down, Brady Bacon won with Josh Hodges second. Carson Short was third and Shane Cottle, back in the Paul Hazen rocket, was fourth. Four states were represented in the top four.
    Before the C Main, I ambled through the pits to see people thrashing about on broken or bent cars, tinkering with engines and generally getting stressed. It was too much work for me as I walked through the parking lot later, impressed with all the different license plates on the vehicles. This is a lot more than an Indiana event.
    Jarett Andretti had tipped it over in his heat, but came back to win the C. Moving to the B with him were Farney, Brady Short and Casey Shuman.
    The B started with ugliness as Landon Simon found a lack of racing room and went into the infield, bringing out a yellow. Soon after another yellow waved when Cole Ketchum, Kyle Robbins and Aaron Farney met in turn four. When racing began Jerry Coons Jr. took the lead and the win. Jake Swanson was second with C.J. Leary third in the family car. Brady Short had been saddled with a 19th starting spot after the C. Steadily he moved forward and when he found some grip on the high side, he began making some noise and passing some people. Short came alive enough to take fourth, improving 15 spots. Clauson was fifth and Meseraull sixth. Grant, Weir and Farney fell a bit short. The Terre Haute winner had an outhouse kind of evening after his penthouse view the night before. He would burn a provisional, along with Stockon, who was using his second for ISW.
    After Devin Gilpin won yet another mod feature, the sprints took over with McGhee and Bacon in the front row. Yet again the back half of the field had some noise makers. Bacon grabbed the lead as the green waved with McGhee in tow. Lap eight saw the yellow wave for Carson Short, who spun in turn two.
    Things were a bit sorted out in the running order. It was Bacon, McGhee (who benefitted mightily from the caution as he’d made a boo-boo just before it waved), Thomas, Coons, Schuerenberg, Weir, Swanson, Meseraull, Cottle and Windom. Early movers were Darland, 17th to 12th and Short, 22nd to 13th. And they weren’t done, not by a long shot.
    Lap 12 was when Swanson flipped in turn three, interrupting a great battle between Thomas and Coons for second. Jake was okay, but his impressive showing up to that point was done.
    For this re-start, it appeared that Coons caught Bacon by surprise. The still young man from Arizona led one lap before Bacon re-asserted himself and took back the lead. Thomas hadn’t gone away. He joined the dogfight up front which was cooled off briefly as Shane Cottle stopped in turn four.
    Now the cards were re-shuffled and it was Bacon, Coons, Thomas, Schuerenberg, Weir, McGhee, B. Short, Windom, Darland and Ballou. For the first few laps after this re-start, Ballou, Weir, Windom, Darland, Short and Jon Stanbrough engaged in a WWE-like battle, except this one wasn’t staged; it was as real as Bob Clauson’s coonskin cap. Hammer and tongs, tooth and nail, you name it. These boys were getting after it.
    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Bacon still led but he simply couldn’t shake those guys, Thomas and Coons. Brady had to be thinking like Butch and Sundance: “Who are those guys?” He knew, but he still couldn’t pull away.
    As the laps wound down, I’ll cheerfully admit that Brady Short was the Show. He kept passing people to the end and was gaining on another victim before the checkered waved. Bacon, Thomas and Coons were the podium occupants. Hunter Schuerenberg has quietly impressed for all of ISW; tonight, he’d come away with fourth. Then there was Brady Short. 22nd to fifth after transferring from the C and passing 15 cars in the B, enough said. Ballou got around Stanbrough late to finish sixth. Windom was eighth and Darland only came from 18th to take ninth. Chase Stockon passed a few people too. 23rd to tenth was a decent finish considering the problems he had earlier.
    And one should mention Aaron Farney, Terre Haute’s winner who started next to Stockon and made his way to 12th.
    All those numbers are pretty. Most are impressive. But obviously they can’t tell the whole story. Granted, it’s nice to read about how a racer overcomes obstacles and/or works extra hard. But seeing it live? Can’t beat that.
    In terms of points, Robert Ballou leads both the National and Sprint Week points. But not by a whole lot, said Brady Bacon.
    Miffed because ESPN the Magazine didn’t put me in their annual body issue, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     First Time Winner
    The older I get, the cooler it is to see a young racer get his (or her) first feature win. Sometimes that first win is a high profile accomplishment. And so it was for young Aaron Farney on a warm July night at the Terre Haute Action Track on Round Four of Indiana Sprint Week. If the victory itself wasn't enough, one should also note that the margin of the triumph was close to a straightaway.
    With the Vigo County Fair as a backdrop, 37 sprint cars (the only class for this night) jumped off the Ferris wheel to tackle something more exciting—the half mile slightly banked oval that has been around since the Eisenhower Administration. Naturally there were changes among the attendees. With Tracy Hines sidelined by that cracked rib, Josh Hodges took the number four so Hines could at least get some owners’ points. C.J. Leary was out of the Baldwin Brothers’ car and back in the family hot rod. Justin Grant took his place for the night at least. Max McGhee fell ill on the way to Terre Haute and Shane Cottle just happened to be in town without a ride. While Max dealt with the misfortune of being ill during Sprint Week, Shane stepped up. And Matt Goodnight put Thomas Meseraull in his family car for the night.
    Mitch Wissmiller was the first car out to qualify. His time of 21.361 held up despite several attempts by a bevy of heavy hitters. The track may have fallen off a bit, but not for Jerry Coons Jr., who went out 28th and was second quick.
    The first heat was won by Robert Ballou, who led only one lap, the last. Hunter Schuerenberg had to settle for second after Ballou’s perfect slider in turn three resembled a rattlesnake striking. Chad Boespflug was third and Landon Simon took fourth, sending fast qualifierWissmiller to the B.
    Chase Stockon ran away with the second heat win with Jon Stanbrough second. Kevin Thomas Jr. was a distant third, just ahead of Coons.
    Carson Short, absent from Sprint Week until tonight, won the third heat. Chris Windom, like Short, sporting a number 21, was second. Grant took third, coming from the third row. J.J. Hughes was fourth after receiving a dirty look and various gestures from Jarett Andretti afterHughes forced him into a spin and contact with the turn one wall.
    Logan Jarrett walked away with the fourth heat race with front row mate Brady Bacon second. Aaron Farney was third and Dave Darland was fourth. Hodges, Leary and Scotty Weir headed for the B.
    Ah, the B Main, maybe the best race all night? Any race, especially a 12 lap race that has the winner coming from a 17th starting position, has to be a good race. Thomas Meseraull did just that and second place Shane Cottle came from ninth to second after losing the lead to TMez on the last lap. Andretti, repairs made after his heat race incident, was third. M. Wissmiller, Brady Short and Weir all rolled into the feature, with Jake Swanson pressuring Weir for the last open spot.
    Farney and Grant led the assembled throng to the green. The yellow waved right away as Mitch Wissmiller’s night, which had started so promising, ended with him stopping on lap three. On the re-start, Ballou got around Boespflug for second. Little did we know that thesetwo boys would finish that way.
    Any halfway serious race fan will look back in the pack when the first two runners have big leads. And those fans saw some serious action. On each re-start, Farney and Ballou pulled away from the pack, led for most of the race by Chad Boespflug. After the third early race yellow, this one for Brady Short, the lap five order was Farney, Ballou, Boespflug, Grant, Thomas, Coons, Stanbrough, Darland, Windom and Schuerenberg. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed that Shane Cottle had already passed a few cars. He wasn’t the only one, far from it. Chase Stockon was doing the same. By lap 12 Stockon was up to seventh and Cottle was tenth.
    Halfway through the race, Farney caught up with lapped traffic. One might think this would be a chance for Ballou to pounce, but it wasn’t happening. The cushion was right against the wall in turns one and two as it was moving up to the turns three and four walls too. Farney was not fazed, flirting with disaster on every lap.
    A lap 17 red flag came out for Meseraull, who flipped in turn two. TMez, who later said he’d lost it, was unhurt with an otherwise fine drive ending badly. The regular shoe for this ride was Matt Goodnight, who deserved an ‘atta’ boy for putting the Californian into the 39.
    Now was an ideal chance for Ballou, among others, to attack the kid leader—on the re-start. Farney was having none of that; he was in his own little world. Well, maybe not so little. At any rate, he and Ballou checked out on the field again. Behind them on the re-start was Boespflug, Grant, Darland, Stockon, Coons, Stanbrough, Cottle and Schuerenberg. Both Darland and Stockon got around a slowly fading Grant. Darland was fourth and reeling in Boespflug as the laps wound down.
    After the lap 17 re-start, Farney again found lapped traffic on the 25th lap. Again, it didn’t matter. The kid from northwestern Indiana had ‘em all covered. Again, both he and Ballou left the others in the dust.
    At the end the prime suspects were Farney and Ballou, with Darland never giving up and passing Boespflug for third with five laps to go. Stockon came from 15th to fifth. Stanbrough was sixth after starting tenth. And Brady Bacon made a late charge from 18th to grab seventh. Grant, back again in the number five orange crush, finished eighth. Coons was ninth, trailed by Cottle, who picked his way through traffic to end up tenth after starting 21st.
    I played the role of American Western author Louis L’amour, who described himself as the stranger who sat in the shadows of the campfire, listening, watching and occasionally speaking or telling a story. The post-race scene around the young winner was a seemingly never ending series of photographs, frozen and real smiles, numerous heartfelt congratulations and a few interviews. Farney was still literally breathless and shaking with excitement at least five minutes after the race. He was basking in the moment and the spotlight on a night he will not forget in years to come. He was far from the only one.
    I thought of this scene as I found a seat on the inside wall coming out of turn four, about where Jay Drake had basically a career ending crash a few years back. I considered that a man can walk through this life and be fortunate enough to be among people he can love, appreciate and learn from. But at day’s end, that man will be alone with his thoughts, feelings and dreams. If he can think things through, feel good about what he’s accomplished and still dream of enjoying more triumphs, he can smile to himself and be thankful that it was a good day/week/month/year/life.
    Aaron Farney, not quite 20 years old, had one of those days. May he have more.
    As I finished making notes, sure enough, two good racing friends joined me. I enjoyed the interruption as we chatted a good 15 minutes, mostly about racing—and life. For me it was the end of a good day as well. And there’s hope for a few more.
    Forgetting what I was going to whine about on a message board, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Scared Rabbit?
    What was becoming a classic duel at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on another humid Hoosier night became a near runaway as Brady Bacon motored away from 2nd place Robert Ballou as USAC invaded the super-fast three eighths mile oval. It was technically Round three of Indiana Sprint Week with the intended round two finishing up at Kokomo Speedway on Monday night. (Later cancelled)
    The threat of rain hung over the proceedings until the clouds broke up enough to remove the potential spoiler of the night. Instead fans and teams were treated to both heat and humidity. Again, a Hoosier race promoter and crew labored extensively to give racers a decent track for racing. Racers obliged by making it a night of typical 'burg racing, ignoring the rough spots and prevailing.
    39 cars, stars and teams stormed the gates of the ‘burg and promptly found the pit area to be half lake and half quagmire. Parking the haulers would be a challenge.
    Several teams didn’t make the trip southeast from Kokomo to the banks of the Ohio and the Lawrenceburg Speedway. In some cases it was geography; in others it was damaged race cars. ‘Burg regulars helped boost the count. Michael Fischesser, who runs mostly with the BOSS group, was on hand, as were Lawrenceburg champs Joss Moffatt and Shawn Westerfeld. J.J. Hughes, out of college and racing this summer, was parked as was Rushville, Indiana’s Garret Abrams and Ohio’s Riley Van Hise.
    In qualifying, Jerry Coons Jr.’s 14.252 held up for quite awhile after he was the third car to qualify. The track appeared to be drying out as time trials went on, but a cloud cover arrived as the group finished. Brady Bacon was the 27th driver to qualify and his two laps were 14.119 and 14.116. If that wasn’t threading the needle enough, up next was Westerfeld, whose second lap was 14.115.
    At the other end of the spectrum was Shane Cottle who had something on the right front break as he barreled through turn four. He headed straight to the wall, hit it and tipped over. Unhurt but done.
    Thomas Meseraull outgunned his front row mate Chad Boespflug to win the first of four heats. Behind Boespflug was Kevin Thomas Jr. Justin Grant was fourth as Shawn Westerfeld and Jake Swanson picked up dance cards for the B.
    Kyle Cummins ran off with the second heat win. Dave Darland was second as Brady Bacon outran Robert Ballou to grab third. USAC point leader Chase Stockon and Landon Simon were headed to the B.
    The third heat got off to a rough start. Brady Short tried to get a right front under Jarett Andretti and spun in turn two before a lap was completed. At the other end of the track as Kody Swanson slowed, Jon Stanbrough got into Swanson’s rear nerf bar and suffered a flat right front tire, sending him to the B. Racing resumed and Short was strong early coming from the back. But Logan Jarrett won with Jarett Andretti second. Swanson was third and Chris Windom held off Short and Hunter Schuerenberg to transfer to the show.
    C.J. Leary won by a time zone in the fourth heat. Scotty Weir was second and Aaron Farney took third. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth with Bill Rose and Josh Hodges both close enough to give the fourth place finisher some concern.
    The B was a wild one. For the second straight night, many of us saw another triple flip. After three laps were completed, Chase Stockon hit a rut, bounced high and flipped, but not too hard. But he was hit by Tracy Hines and Jake Swanson, both of whom went over. Hines broke his shoulder here during Indiana Midget Week and might not have been a huge fan of the track at this point. Tracy was done for the night, Chase took a provisional for the feature and Jake was able to re-start. Hines suffered a broken rib and his Sprint Week is over.
    Things calmed down after that as Jon Stanbrough won. He took Schuerenberg, Westerfeld, Simon, Hodges and Garrett Abrams into the feature with him.
    After Joey Kramer won the mod feature, 23 sprints took over the track. Thomas and Farney were the front row. Before the first lap was completed, Bill Rose flipped in turn four, done for the night. KT led the first lap but Farney swept into the lead and it had to be a treat for the young man knowing that he was ahead of many of the best. But Brady Bacon had been busy after starting sixth. By lap six he was hounding the leader before taking over on lap seven and then checking out, but not before a yellow flag for Kyle Cummins and Chad Boespflug. They tangled in turn two with Cummins spinning.
    Bacon led the pack on the re-start with Farney, Ballou, Thomas, Grant, Andretti, Westrerfeld, Stanbrough, Darland and Windom all in the top ten. When Mo’s green table cloth waved Bacon took off and tried to hide. His lead was nearly a straightaway, but Ballou began closing the gap as the halfway mark of the race came and went. Bacon’s cause wasn’t helped by approaching lapped traffic, always a wild card. Soon enough, it was wheel to wheel combat while passing and dodging lappers. Ballou got around Bacon briefly before the Oklahoma native re-assumed the lead at the stripe.
    From there, Bacon acted as if Ballou was trying to take away his lunch money and pulled away from the Madman. His winning margin was several car lengths. Grant was third and Dave Darland was the Hard Charger, coming on strong at the end to take fourth after starting 11th. Farney faded only slightly to fifth, still a fine effort. Thomas was sixth and Andretti also had a good race in finishing seventh. Stanbrough started and finished eighth. Windom was ninth and Schuerenberg spent a lot of time in the high groove and earned a tenth place finish.
    Or maybe Bacon was doing an imitation of a rabbit startled by intruders.
    Ballou took over the season’s point lead as well as Sprint Week’s, thanks only in part to Stockon’s forgettable night.
    It was just another night at the races in many ways, seeing the ‘Burg Racing Council, Marv, Ed and Gregg, along with a host of new and old friends.
    Monday’s rains wiped out the Kokomo Speedway’s attempt to finish the Sunday night program. This means that: 1. All of the work that the O’Connor family and staff did to get the whole show done went down the drain, as it were. The effort and the desire was all there because these people know this is a part of promoting. In the long run, such work pays off. 2. Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track on Wednesday night.
    Sending some boxing gloves to Hope Solo, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Chaos, Interrupted
    Gathered together at the Kokomo Speedway on a Saturday night, most of us were very sure that rain was on its way. But none of us could know exactly when it would start. But at 9:15, after one lap of the B Main had been completed, the rain came and eventually forced the track and USAC to reschedule the ending of the program on Monday night. But before the rain, things were wild and woolly. In other words, typical Kokomo racing action.
    46 cars showed up, the same as Friday at Gas City. But Travis Welpott, Kody Swanson, Dallas Hewitt, Chris Gurley and Mike Gass weren’t at Kokomo while Brian Karraker, Dakota Jackson, Todd Gnat, Bill Rose and Steve Thomas were.
    So was Frank Daigh, a true friend of racing who made sure that several teams were well fed. Frank provided supper direct from the Half Moon Restaurant in Kokomo, the prominent sponsor on the Josh Spencer family sprinter. Certain unnamed persons ate too much.
    Time trials at Kokomo are a treat, whether they are group qualifying or the USAC system of individual car qualifying. Justin Grant was 25th of the 46 to go out and he set fast time with a 12.805. For those who keep track of such things, Tyler Courtney went out second and was second quickest. Brady Bacon went out 45th and was third with a 12.946 lap.
    The mayhem began late in the first heat. With only a couple of laps to go, Brady Short was leading when things got ugly behind him. Second place C.J. Leary got into the wall and bounced, collecting third place Thomas Meseraull. Along came Justin Grant with no place to go and he, too, was collected in the mess. All three flipped; Leary and Meseraull were set to the start the B while Grant’s night was over.
    Those behind the three who exited the race were Casey Shuman, Landon Simon and Scotty Weir. On the re-start, Simom was pushed into the wall and stopped. This moved Weir to third and Jackson to fourth and that’s how they finished behind Short and Shuman.
    Pole sitter Hunter Schuerenberg won the second heat with Jon Stanbrough second. Chris Windom was third and Aaron Farney was fourth. This one was quite tame compared to the first heat. Tyler Courtney was headed for the B along with Shane Cottle.
    Dave Darland swept to the lead on the first lap from his fourth starting position and won the second heat by a zip code. Brady Bacon took second, passing Robert Ballou midway through the race. Ballou made various gestures at Bacon after the race, no doubt reminding him that the NASCAR race was on TV tonight. Tracy Hines was fourth. Seventh fastest qualifier Max McGhee was sent to the B.
    Chase Stockon waved good-by to the others as he won the fourth heat. Josh Hodges held off Chad Boespflug to take second. Kevin Thomas Jr. was fourth. Logan Jarrett would be running the B, now scheduled for Monday.
    The C Main, needed again tonight, ran with dark clouds headed east from Lafayette. Travis Hery led a lap before a nasty flip by Nathan Moore brought out Mo Wills’ red cloth. The affable Texan tore up some Kokomo fence in turn one, but he was okay. Before another lap was run, New Jersey resident Anthony DiMattia found the turn one wall, and did a brief imitation of a helicopter before landing on all fours. Three laps later Brit Tom Harris, who had shown more speed all evening, maybe showed a bit too much speed coming out of four. The British stock car ace, flipped high just shy of the flag stand. Nathan, Anthony and Tom were all okay.
    Through all of this Hery still led. He’d win with Colton Cottle second. Jake Swanson was a close third. Josh Spencer will start last in Monday night’s running of the B.
    The boys were lined up for the B when a shower hit right as Meseraull led the first lap. All were slowed by the yellow for a couple of laps, then the red waved and the rain peppered down on the track and fans. Ten minutes later the rain stopped but the radar showed a mess to the west. Four heavy duty trucks took to the track and were actually making progress after nearly an hour of circling the oval. But sprinkles again fell and after a bit, both the O’Connor family and USAC came up with the Monday makeup.
    Hot laps will start at 7:00 p.m. and the B Main will be completed after that, followed by the 30 lap feature.
    For now, it’s on to Lawrenceburg—weather permitting, knowing that Dave Rudisell is doing his best anti-rain dance now.
    Playing bumper tag with Dale and Danica, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    Homeboys and Furriners
    As fans, we tend to root for our “own.” For example, here in the Hoosier state, if there happened to be a race where every driver was a born and bred Hoosier, fans would find a way to root for one and root against the others. Often this breaks down by region, northern versus southern Indiana perhaps. But bring together racers from all over the world and folks’ choices increase mightily. So maybe it was somewhat ironic that on a night where racers from three different countries gathered to race here in Indiana, the winner was born and raised here and still lives here. With USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week opening at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Chase Stockon took the lead from Arizona native Jerry Coons Jr. and won the first round of seven by a few car lengths.
    It isn’t very often that I leave my house while it’s raining to go to a race. But, to be fair, the race was a two hour drive. Rain followed me up to Shelby County, but finally faded away in Hancock County, never to bother me again. What did bother me was the amount of rain that has fallen on much of the northern part of my state. Delaware County seemed to be the hardest hit on the way to Gas City, but every county has suffered up there. Skies were cloudy and the temperature might have reached 80, but nary had a drop of rain fallen on the track on this fine Friday afternoon.
    Like many others, I’m missing the two hooligans who make me feel old and young both. As they spend July with their dad, I get the questions about where is the younger one—the serious race fan among the two. But sometimes life tosses us worthy substitutes in the form of other little kids. I was fortunate to have a bit of fun with young Parker Stockon, who may or may not have realized that Daddy had won the feature. He kept busy playing throughout the evening and even let me carry him around a bit. Made my night, it did.
    46 sprinters, and enough modifieds to need a B Main, filled the pits. Two drivers weren’t Amuricans (that’s the way I pronounce it). Lee Dakus has visited from Alberta, Canada the past two years, so it was no surprise that he showed up. But Tom Harris runs stock cars in Great Britain and his decision to come here was a surprise and a treat. His hot lap session was, I was told, his first time in a sprint car at speed.
    Others from around our nation stopped by. The only California visitor at Gas City was Jake Swanson. Josh Hodges has been here a few weeks and the New Mexico resident has been impressive, even though he flipped during qualifying. Tony DiMattia, from New Jersey was here for Indiana Midget Week and came back with a sprinter. Nathan Moore has been making the long haul from Tyler, Texas the past few years and was back again. And Iowa’s Robert Bell has been here for a few weeks.
    Brady Bacon checked out to win the first heat from the pole. Quick qualifier Chad Boespflug was second with Kyle Robbins third. Tracy Hines took fourth by a foot or two and sent Robert Ballou to the B.
    Thomas Meseraull won the second heat with Brady Short second. Tyler Courtney was third. Pole sitter Aaron Farney nipped Max McGhee at the line to take fourth and send Max to the B.
    If one liked yellow flags, they would have been ecstatic during the third heat. A red flag was added as well when Jarett Andretti flipped in turn one. He’d return later with a vengeance and excel. Three yellows slowed things down as well. Justin Grant finally won with Hunter Schuerenberg getting around Jerry Coons Jr. late to take second. C.J. Leary was fourth.
    Jon Stanbrough started the fourth heat on the front row and disappeared. Chase Stockon came on strong at the end to take second away from Scotty Weir, who was in the Jeff Walker-mobile tonight. Chris Windom edged Shane Cottle to take fourth with Cottle headed for the B.
    The ten lap C Main would move the top four to the B. Muncie, Indiana’s Cole Ketchum won from midpack with Logan Jarrett second. Landon Simon was third with Tony DiMattia edging out Tyler Hewitt by this much. Pole sitter Travis Welpott had a C Main he’d rather forget when he flipped right after taking the green as he entered turn one.
    Robert Ballou made a late pass of Kevin Thomas Jr. to win the B Main. Shane Cottle was third with Dave Darland fourth. Jarett Andretti had made repairs to his horse and took fifth. It was another close finish for a transfer spot as Logan Jarrett came from 18th to barely beat Cole Ketchum, who had started 17th, tow fine, but relatively unnoticed, runs.
    Windom and Coons led 20 of their best friends to the green with Coons taking the early lead. With so many hot dogs either going to the B or having a slower time trial, this group was loaded top to bottom. Of special note would be Leary starting 14th, Meseraull 16th, Grant and Stanbrough in the ninth row and Bacon back in the tenth row.
    Coons got the jump at the start as Stockon immediately grabbed second from the second row and began stalking the leader. After seven laps of hounding Coon for the lead, Stockon took over at lap eight. That didn’t last long as Coons skipped school the day they taught “Giving Up 101.” Jerry led the next four laps until losing the lead to Stockon for good on lap 13.
    While watching this duel up front, one had to be mindful of what was going on further back. A group that included Schuerenberg, Cottle, Darland, Short, Weir, Ballou and Thomas engaged in major battles for position on a track that suffered from the effects of all the rain the area has received the past few weeks, causing four flips and countless bounces. The second reworking of the track did the trick, with a somewhat smoother surface (if the O’Connors struggle with track prep, it must be atough track to prep…in my opinion).
    There was only one yellow waved, that on lap 14 for a Tyler Courtney spin. The reshuffling showed Stockon leading Coons, Schuerenberg, Ballou, Weir, Thomas, Cottle, Andretti and Short. Brady Bacon was up to 12th. On the re-start it was still Stockon all the way, but close racing dominated behind him. Schuerenberg, who struggled at Lincoln Park last weekend, wasn’t struggling tonight. He had worked his way forward and challenged Coons for second.
    Stockon’s margin of victory wasn’t all that large; he never really pulled away. Coming to the white flag, Schuerenberg passed Coons for second. Ballou was fourth and Thomas fifth. Weir hung on for sixth with Cottle seventh. Dave Darland finished eighth and Brady Bacon won the Hard Charger Award from Buck and Betty Rice for coming from 19th to ninth. Brady Short was tenth.
    The Hoosier boy was trailed by a Missouri native, who led an Arizona born boy. A Californian was fourth ahead of an Alabama born racer. Sixth, seventh and eighth were all Hoosiers. Bacon, an Oklahoman, was next then another Hoosier was tenth. Quite a mix it was. We’re Indiana-centric, but we do welcome out of staters (as well as the boys from across the border or ocean) and if they stay here long enough, we claim them as ours.
    The quote of the night came from the winner: “it was important to be able to see to get in the right spot.” Enough said. That was a good life lesson right there from Chase, without his thinking about it.
    Rather than fight the traffic, I moseyed around and ended up playing with Parker Stockon for awhile. It beat sitting in the truck, waiting on traffic to move. Parker is easy to pick up, compared to my youngest grandson (the oldest, the Swordman, is nearly as tall as friends J. Hoover and T. Watson now). And no, Landon Simon, he did not wet his pants…yet.
    Thinking that Indiana should change its motto to “Road Constrution Ahead,” I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Next Dave Darland?

    Granted, there is and will be only one Dave Darland, strictly speaking. But a young man who migrated here from California a few years back to chase his dream is surely making his mark on the Hoosier race scene. The young man is Justin Grant and he has always run well at the Kokomo Speedway. This year he won the King of Indiana Sprint Series feature at Kokomo in impressive fashion. And on another warm and humid Hoosier night, Grant won the initial event that will be part of the Indiana Sprint Car Series, the brainchild largely of Sean Buckley, headman of Jackslash.com and maybe the best video maestro around. Dave Darland was among the others chasing Grant to the line and might be wondering if this kid is a younger version of himself.

    Mr. Buckley has put together a series of races and Kokomo was the opener. All will be broadcast later on MAV-TV. Someone has been hustling for sponsorship and their efforts have yielded quite a few extra goodies for drivers and teams. Heat winners, first non-transfers, guys who barely make it into the feature, hard chargers, heck, everyone but the guy who bounces the hardest off the cushion, all get some extra cash. Winners get some extra essentials such as a seat, uniform, a right rear tire and a painted helmet while winning car owners get a DRC chassis kit, brake kit and four shocks.

    Then there is one cool trophy that will look good no matter where Grant or any other winner places it.

    Given the exposure on TV and the holiday weekend, 37 sprint teams shoehorned their way into the pits that held a bit over 100 cars in all.

    The format was four heats, two B’s and a 25 lap feature.

    After “letting” Tyler Courtney lead for the first three laps, Dave Darland took the lead and the win in the first heat. He was followed by three number 23s. How strange is that? The leading 23 was Courtney, followed by Jimmy Light and Brian Karraker.

    Two number 18s made up the front row of the second heat, Thomas Meseraull and Jarett Andretti. TMez won with C.J. Leary second and Andretti third. Aaron Farney was fourth and that meant Jon Stanbrough was headed for the B. 

    Justin Grant won the third heat, missing a great battle between Landon Simon and Shane Cottle for second. Kyle Robbins was fourth, sending Cole Ketchum, quick qualifier in his group, to the B.

    Pole sitter Max McGhee won the fourth heat, a race stopped for a nasty crash/flip. Robert Ballou came out of turn two on the fifth lap and got into Josh Hodges, who bounced off the wall and collected Jerry Coons Jr. The Arizona native was sent into at least two nasty flips down the backstretch. The previous night’s winner at Lincoln Park was unhurt, but owner Monte Edison was looking at a big and unexpected expense. Hodges ended up second and Ballou third. Chad Boespflug was fourth.

    The first of the two B’s was maybe the best race all night. At least it was the best finish. Only the top two would move to the feature and the finish was three wide. Inches separated winner Cole Ketchum and second place Josh Spencer. Chris Gurley was the recipient of the “Close but no cigar” award with his third place.

    The second B was almost tame as Jon Stanbrough romped. Logan Jarrett was second by a large margin as well.

    McGhee and Simon led 18 of their closest friends to the line and Max took off, leaving Landon to battle with Tyler Courtney, C.J. Leary, Thomas Meseraull and Justin Grant. McGhee stretched his lead until Leary broke free of the mob and began reeling in the leader. Over the next ten laps the distance between McGhee and Leary shrank. Meseraull and Grant were having their own mini-war for third.

    But lap 18 saw Grant get not one, but two breaks. Kyle Robbins spun in turn four. The high line had been the popular way around but Leary was diamonding off turn four on occasion trying to pass or harass the leader. On this lap he went low and collided hard with KRob, ending the night for both of them.

    That was a break for Meseraull and Grant. The running order was McGhee, Meseraull, Grant, Darland, Courtney, Simon, Ballou, Farney, Stanbrough and Cottle. But wait. TMez was circling the track with a right rear going flat. On the re-start, he dropped like a rock as Grant began chasing the leader.

    Meseraull’s misfortune was Grant’s second break and he made the most of it. With four laps to go he passed McGhee for the lead and the win, pulling away at the end.

    McGhee didn’t need to hang his head too much. At this rate, he will be winning races like this in the not too distant future. Darland came from eighth to third. Courtney, like McGhee, will quite possibly begin winning more races; he finished fourth. Ballou moved from 12th to a relatively quiet fifth. Another kid with promise is Aaron Farney, who came from 14th to sixth. The night’s Hard Charger was Jon Stanbrough, who may have passed more people than anyone else all weekend. On this night he rumbled from 18th to seventh. Hodges, Andretti and Boespflug completed the top ten.

    The Indiana Sprint Car Series made a successful debut. Mr. B’s. next effort will be at Lincoln Park on July 25.

    What’s that deal where USAC schedules seven races in nine nights all over Indiana? Oh, yeah. Sprint Week. It’s that time already? Be warned for some serious racing, starting July 9 at Gas City and ending at Tri-State/Haubstadt on July 18. 

    Weary of watching Big Ones at Daytona and during the Tour de France, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    A Night For Remembering
    A good friend mentioned to me that any writer should inform readers who won the race night's feature event in the first paragraph. So let the record show that Robert Ballou won the 30 lap feature on Friday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, a program sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series. But Ballou wasn't the only winner, far from it. The races were billed as the Bill Gardner "Sprintacular," Night One. Bill was about as selfless as a man could be. He began an online message board years ago and watched it grow into a major source of Hoosier sprint car information, opinions and many other things as well. If nothing else, I can say that I've made many good friends as a result of visiting www.IndianaOpenWheel.com over the past dozen or so years.
    For awhile I thought that this thing might get rained out. Not long after I arrived, the precipitation began to fall, almost hesitantly. It persisted for the better part of a half hour. Yet race cars of all types kept turning off U. S. 40 and entering the pits. I had to ask myself why all of these guys were seemingly ignoring the sky. The answer was easy. Most all racers want to race. Case closed. In addition, the same is true for Joe Spiker and crew, who want the same thing. They willingly took the gamble and opened the gates. Bill Gardner would have been pleased.
    The sky never did get dark and the sprinkles stopped just before the drivers' meeting. The sun tried really hard to come out. The pits were more crowded (94 cars total) and now the pit occupants weren't watching the rain; instead they were getting ready for another of racing at a Hoosier bullring.
    Sprint hot laps began at 6:30. The sun was shining. Bill Gardner would have been pleased. No matter what he might say about all the attention he and his memory was getting, it was, from my point of view, his night.
    The MSCS system of passing points would be in effect tonight, making for a bit more intensity. Dave Darland won the first of four heats with Robert Ballou coming from sixth to second. Jon Stanbrough started and finished third.
    Carson Short won the second heat from the pole. Max McGhee was second. Tyler Courtney finished third. Hunter Schuerenberg, doing more winged racing lately, hopped into Tony Epperson's mount and came from last to fifth behind A. J. Hopkins.
    Jerry Coons Jr. came from fourth to the lead in the first two turns and won the third heat. C. J. Leary was second. Mike Gass moved from sixth to take third.
    Shane Cottle held off Chad Boespflug, who started fifth, to win the fourth heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. started and finished third. And yes, Bill Gardner would have been pleased with the heats.
    The top 16 in passing points were locked in for the feature. Four more spots remained. The B Main was up next. Kurt Gross led most of the race until Kyle Cummins' late pass put him on the inside of the ninth row in the feature. Birthday boy Josh Spencer (30 already??) was third. Aaron Farney passed Brandon Mattox at the line to steal the last transfer spot not called a provisional, which was secured by Donnie Brackett. Yep, Bill Gardner would have been pleased, but maybe not the idea of provisionals.
    Veteran Dave Darland and youngster Mike Gass led 19 others to the green. Second row starting Robert Ballou stormed to the front to grab the early lead, but Darland was having none of that. He regained the lead a couple of laps later and now he'd be chased by the California native.
    The first of several yellows waved on lap five. Up front it was Darland, Ballou and Jerry Coons Jr. The next yellow flag slowed things again as A. J. Hopkins' ended up resting on Hunter Schuerenberg's car, the front to be exact. Darland was still leading when a charging Max McGhee misjudged his speed and smacked Ballou in the tail tank. Robert kept going but McGhee was parked in turn two, where he was immediately clouted by Mitch Wissmiller, who tipped over. This brought out a red flag. Mitch was okay.
    The word for the night could have been"treacherous" which could have described turn two. The cushion was pretty much gone by the feature, yet an adventurous few still tried the very high groove with mixed results. Shane Cottle did get some mileage from up top all the way around the five sixteenths oval.
    After the lap 11 red, the leading suspects were Darland, Ballou, Coons, Cottle, Boespflug, Thomas (from 14th), Stanbrough (from 13th), Courtney, Gass and Bacon. After yellow number four, the green prevailed and soon Ballou was giving Darland fits. The two greats battled until Ballou got around for the lead on lap 19.
    Things were getting interesting behind them as Stanbrough and Thomas made late charges. At about the same time Ballou took the lead, both entered the top five. Stanbrough was third but Thomas was coming on even stronger. With three laps to go Thomas was second and was cutting down the distance between him and the leader. Coming out of four to the checkered, Thomas' last shot fell a few feet short. Ballou's hot streak would continue. Bill Gardner would have liked the close finish.
    Behind Ballou and Thomas was Darland. Jon Stanbrough brought the familiar 53 to seventh. Shane Cottle was fifth. Boespflug, Leary, Coons, Courtney and Aaron Farney were the next five. Farney had been busy passing people. After making it into the feature by inches, he came from 20th to tenth. Yep, Bill would have liked that too.
    Up next on Saturday night would be USAC at LPS.
    Remembering the rebels, hoodlums and criminals that we call the Founding Fathers, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

     A Night For Remembering
    A good friend mentioned to me that any writer should inform readers who won the race night's feature event in the first paragraph. So let the record show that Robert Ballou won the 30 lap feature on Friday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, a program sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series. But Ballou wasn't the only winner, far from it. The races were billed as the Bill Gardner "Sprintacular," Night One. Bill was about as selfless as a man could be. He began an online message board years ago and watched it grow into a major source of Hoosier sprint car information, opinions and many other things as well. If nothing else, I can say that I've made many good friends as a result of visiting www.IndianaOpenWheel.com over the past dozen or so years.
    For awhile I thought that this thing might get rained out. Not long after I arrived, the precipitation began to fall, almost hesitantly. It persisted for the better part of a half hour. Yet race cars of all types kept turning off U. S. 40 and entering the pits. I had to ask myself why all of these guys were seemingly ignoring the sky. The answer was easy. Most all racers want to race. Case closed. In addition, the same is true for Joe Spiker and crew, who want the same thing. They willingly took the gamble and opened the gates. Bill Gardner would have been pleased.
    The sky never did get dark and the sprinkles stopped just before the drivers' meeting. The sun tried really hard to come out. The pits were more crowded (94 cars total) and now the pit occupants weren't watching the rain; instead they were getting ready for another of racing at a Hoosier bullring.
    Sprint hot laps began at 6:30. The sun was shining. Bill Gardner would have been pleased. No matter what he might say about all the attention he and his memory was getting, it was, from my point of view, his night.
    The MSCS system of passing points would be in effect tonight, making for a bit more intensity. Dave Darland won the first of four heats with Robert Ballou coming from sixth to second. Jon Stanbrough started and finished third.
    Carson Short won the second heat from the pole. Max McGhee was second. Tyler Courtney finished third. Hunter Schuerenberg, doing more winged racing lately, hopped into Tony Epperson's mount and came from last to fifth behind A. J. Hopkins.
    Jerry Coons Jr. came from fourth to the lead in the first two turns and won the third heat. C. J. Leary was second. Mike Gass moved from sixth to take third.
    Shane Cottle held off Chad Boespflug, who started fifth, to win the fourth heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. started and finished third. And yes, Bill Gardner would have been pleased with the heats.
    The top 16 in passing points were locked in for the feature. Four more spots remained. The B Main was up next. Kurt Gross led most of the race until Kyle Cummins' late pass put him on the inside of the ninth row in the feature. Birthday boy Josh Spencer (30 already??) was third. Aaron Farney passed Brandon Mattox at the line to steal the last transfer spot not called a provisional, which was secured by Donnie Brackett. Yep, Bill Gardner would have been pleased, but maybe not the idea of provisionals.
    Veteran Dave Darland and youngster Mike Gass led 19 others to the green. Second row starting Robert Ballou stormed to the front to grab the early lead, but Darland was having none of that. He regained the lead a couple of laps later and now he'd be chased by the California native.
    The first of several yellows waved on lap five. Up front it was Darland, Ballou and Jerry Coons Jr. The next yellow flag slowed things again as A. J. Hopkins' ended up resting on Hunter Schuerenberg's car, the front to be exact. Darland was still leading when a charging Max McGhee misjudged his speed and smacked Ballou in the tail tank. Robert kept going but McGhee was parked in turn two, where he was immediately clouted by Mitch Wissmiller, who tipped over. This brought out a red flag. Mitch was okay.
    The word for the night could have been"treacherous" which could have described turn two. The cushion was pretty much gone by the feature, yet an adventurous few still tried the very high groove with mixed results. Shane Cottle did get some mileage from up top all the way around the five sixteenths oval.
    After the lap 11 red, the leading suspects were Darland, Ballou, Coons, Cottle, Boespflug, Thomas (from 14th), Stanbrough (from 13th), Courtney, Gass and Bacon. After yellow number four, the green prevailed and soon Ballou was giving Darland fits. The two greats battled until Ballou got around for the lead on lap 19.
    Things were getting interesting behind them as Stanbrough and Thomas made late charges. At about the same time Ballou took the lead, both entered the top five. Stanbrough was third but Thomas was coming on even stronger. With three laps to go Thomas was second and was cutting down the distance between him and the leader. Coming out of four to the checkered, Thomas' last shot fell a few feet short. Ballou's hot streak would continue. Bill Gardner would have liked the close finish.
    Behind Ballou and Thomas was Darland. Jon Stanbrough brought the familiar 53 to seventh. Shane Cottle was fifth. Boespflug, Leary, Coons, Courtney and Aaron Farney were the next five. Farney had been busy passing people. After making it into the feature by inches, he came from 20th to tenth. Yep, Bill would have liked that too.
    Up next on Saturday night would be USAC at LPS.
    Remembering the rebels, hoodlums and criminals that we call the Founding Fathers, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    More than once I've watched a race that contained a driver who spent much of the race out front, trying to stink up the show. But late in the race he lost the lead and went home quite disappointed. This nearly happened to Shane Cockrum on Thursday night at the Terre Haute Action Track. But the Illinois resident hung tough and maintained the lead that he had lost late in the 100 lap feature in USAC Silver Crown competition. Officially Cockrum led 99 of the 100 laps with Jerry Coons Jr. leading lap 28. But a late caution waved just before C. J. Leary made the pass to come oh so close to taking the lead from Cockrum and maybe the win.

    Again this division had a decent car count with 24 teams deciding to turn off of U. S. 41 into the Vigo County Fairgrounds. Kody Swanson was the fourth qualifier and to no one's surprise, he set fast time, circling the half mile oval in 20.712 seconds. Dave Darland was second quickest until his time was disallowed after the car flunked the width test. Kent Wolters suffered the same fate with both cars measuring more than USAC would permit.

    The lineup in the front had Swanson on the pole with second generation racer Shane Cockrum on the outside front row. As the green waved, Cockrum somewhat surprisingly grabbed the lead from Swanson and began to ride off into the Terre Haute sunset. Jerry Coons Jr. assumed second at the outset but had his hands full trying to keep up.

    About ten laps after a lap 13 re-start Coons began harassing the leader and actually took the lead. This was on lap 28 and Cockrum promptly made his own statement, taking back the lead. Through several yellow flags, Cockrum had little trouble holding Coons off with each re-start.

    Meanwhile Dave Darland had been busy. After his demotion to the 11th row, the People's Champ had been passing more than anyone else. He was up to the 12th spot until his chances of contending went flat in the form of a right rear tire. The tire was changed but Darland's shot at a good finish was kaput.

    After a Tyler Courtney spin on lap 42, Cockrum's lead stretched at one point to a half straightaway margin. Coons remained second with Brady Bacon in third. Shane Cottle was fourth and Kody Swanson had faded to fifth, puzzling Silver Crown watchers who have seen the Bob Hampshire workhorse dominate SC action the past couple of years. C. J. Leary had started fifth and was sixth at the halfway mark. Chris Windom led his teammate Tracy Hines and Justin Grant was ninth. Kevin Thomas Jr. was securely in tenth, where he spent much of the race.

    Through three more cautions Cockrum had the field covered with another blinking yellow light setting up a tense finish. On lap 82, the field accelerated to the green flag, but the night's only red came out when Joey Moughan tipped over in turn four with Thomas ending up facing the wrong way. KT refired and tagged those left.

    As is often the case in these 100 lappers, business began picking up as the end neared. C. J. Leary was now a player and wanted to make some noise. After the lap 73 yellow he was fifth. First he picked off Shane Cottle. After the lap 82 slowdown the next victim was Brady Bacon. And after the red flag on lap 88, it was Jerry Coons Jr. who had a nice view of the Leary team's tail tank. But then came a yellow flag that severely damaged Leary's chance of winning. The young man from Greenfield, Indiana had passed the leader but the yellow that waved for a spinning Tyler Courtney appeared just before the pass. Shane Cockrum had to breathe a sigh of relief.

    On the lap 91 re-start no doubt many thought that Leary would get around the Hardy Boys' pride and joy, but the fire chief poured on some more coal and scooted away at the end. Jerry Coons, who used the high line all night, ran a strong third. Shane Cottle grabbed fourth over Brady Bacon. Justin Grant was sixth and Kody Swanson faded to seventh, but kept his point lead of 38 points. Chris Windom took eighth and Tracy Hines, still nursing a broken collarbone, managed a ninth. Kevin Thomas Jr. recovered from his late spin to finish tenth.

    Thanks to some extended efforts by Andy Hillenburg and several other dedicated racers, this series is back on its feet. Its life support status is now history. And on a cool July evening, people left a USAC Silver Crown race pleased with what they saw.

    Night one of four races in four nights was over.

    Earning a big tip as Bernie Ecclestone's bell hop, I'm...

    Danny Burton

     

     

    Dave’s House
    Perhaps you, too, have watched the children’s classic “The Wizard of Oz.” And you’d probably remember Dorothy’s affirmation that “there’s no place like home.” I’ve no idea if Dave Darland saw this movie that starred a young, talented and ultimately tragic Judy Garland, but would guess that he agrees with the sentiment. And after Sunday night’s thrill of a feature win at the Kokomo Speedway, his home track, it was even truer as Darland held off a charging Justin Grant to take the win and the money.
    The six year old woke up just in time to figure out where he was. A few minutes later he was on the prowl, wishing to hold Josh Spencer’s new baby boy. But Leland Spencer was busy enjoying his supper. The next stop was the Joe and Lyndsey Ligouri pit, where he ended up sitting in the car that Mrs. Ligouri would be wheeling tonight. She may be his new favorite driver because 1. She’s better looking than the others and 2. She has the same name (with different spelling) as his mother.
    Sure enough, he ended up on Facebook soon and wouldn’t have minded sitting in all 29 cars. Heck, he knows most of the drivers already. 29 was a good number that included at least a half dozen potential winners and several contenders for a good finish at the very least.
    One of these, Max McGhee, was fast qualifier in the first group and also won his heat race. Pole sitter Dave Darland was second with C.J. Leary, enjoying success in the Baldwin brothers orange crush, third. Jarett Andretti took fourth and the improving Cole Ketchum was fifth.
    It would be a night of flipping. My unofficial count was six, the first two of which would be in the second heat. Chris Gurley did a slider on Lyndsey Ligouri and slid too much, bouncing off the wall and collecting Ligouri, who had the most damage. She was done for the night; Gurley would return for the B Main. Aaron Farney won with Jon Stanbrough, back for a one off in the familiar 53, coming from seventh to second. Josh Spencer was third and Canadian Lee Dakus was fourth. Conner Donelson wrapped up the final transfer spot.
    Two more got upside down in the third heat. Joe Bares had a Tommy Tipover in turn one while Aussie Gary Rooke did the same a bit later. After things settled down Robert Ballou won with Justin Grant second. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. was third. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth with Logan Jarrett coming from eighth to grab the last transfer spot; he would start 15thin the feature.
    Flip number five came in the B Main as Missouri youngster Devin Huff flipped down the front stretch helicopter style. More drama ensued as Brian Karraker led 11 of the 12 laps before slowing on the last lap. Shane Cottle, who had mechanical issues and missed his heat, won from the last row/13th. Jamie Fredrickson started and finished second. Travis Hery was third. Chris Gurley, who was Cottle’s mate in the back, came on to finish fourth. Karraker had slowed but coasted across the line, inches ahead of Kurt Gross.
    Stanbrough and Farney led 18 more to the green. Jarett Andretti became the last of six that flipped; he went over on lap one. Like all the others, Jarett was okay. The pole sitter, who had ended his night at Paragon 24 hours earlier with a trashed race car, led the first five laps before Darland came calling from his second row start. Dave gradually lengthened his lead until a yellow waved when Josh Spencer coasted to a stop on lap 14. Justin Grant had passed Stanbrough for second just before the yellow and had to give it back. Leary was fourth and Ballou fifth.
    The green waved and Grant finally got around the veteran and set sail for the other Hall of Famer, Darland. As the laps wound down and lapped traffic became a player, Grant cut into the real estate between him and Darland. With two laps to go, he was setting up for the pass coming out of each turn. Heading for the checkered, Grant tried again on the low side coming out of four. But he came up a very few feet short and Dave had won again in his house.
    In the final laps, Leary had advanced to third behind Grant. Kevin Thomas Jr. was fourth and Robert Ballou had a fairly quiet time of it, finishing fifth. Stanbrough faded to sixth. Jerry Coons Jr. came from 12th to seventh. Shane Cottle rambled from B Main land, 16th, to eighth. Max McGhee was ninth and Farney took tenth.
    And the boys will close out the holiday weekend by visiting Kokomo again on Sunday night. For some it might be a test session for Sprint Week, which starts on the tenth at Gas City before heading to Kokomo on Saturday the 11th. Either way, they will be visiting the house of the guy who is unfailingly nice to all, young and old—until the green flag drops.
    Loaning Donald Trump my selfie stick, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Red Sea Parts

    Take nothing away from a racer who puts himself into a position where he can either win or grab a good finish. One never can know how things will work out. Occasionally, or maybe even rarely, a racer who runs third late in a race ends up winning. So it went for Chad Boespflug on a cool Saturday night at the Paragon Speedway. He was running third when a midrace collision between the two leaders, Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle, left them heading to the pits and Boespflug in the lead. It was a lead he would not relinquish as he won the 68 lap Chuck Amati Memorial driving, fittingly enough, the Amati Racing 66, owned by Chuck’s grandson, Shane Wade.

    Rain all over Indiana washed out Friday racing at Bloomington and a few tracks on Saturday as well, especially those north of Indianapolis. Paragon was racing, despite taking on its share of rain. The track was ready after a mighty effort by Keith Ford and crew. Water was more of an issue in parts of the pits and the parking lot and I came away with the wet tennis shoes to prove it. But if that was my biggest problem, I was in good shape.

    34 teams roared through town to assume positions at the track which lies in suburban Paragon, population 659. Scattered through the roster were a few guys who may have raced against Chuck Amati, saw him race, or at least had heard of him. All probably knew that he was an extraordinary racer who was popular with race fans across the sprint car universe.

    The first of four heats was won by Paragon semi-regular Andrew Prather. He led Nate McMillin to the line. Bub Cummings was third and David Hair, driving a retro designed car that he built himself, was fourth, making it into the feature.

    Chris Babcock started on the pole and led all the way to win the second heat. Josh Cunningham, a winner of this race in 2012, made the feature by holding off Chris Phillips, who was third. Jordan Kinser, in the Hurst Brothers’ pride and joy, was fourth.

    Chad Boespflug came from fourth to lead the first lap, as well as all the others, in winning the third heat. Dave Darland was a close second. Paragon regular Jake Scott was third. Jeremy Potts was fourth after trading positions multiple times with Nevil Algeio, who would try his luck in one of the B Mains.

    Shane Cottle took the early lead in the fourth heat, but Jon Stanbrough made an outside pass midway through the heat and won. Behind Cottle was Kent Christian. Matt Brannin came from the last row to finish fourth.

    Brandon Mattox had suffered mechanical troubles in hot laps, but things were fixed in time to tag the tail in the first B Main. He worked his way through the field and took the lead and the win. Behind him Eric Edwards and Nevil Algeio had a spirited fight for the remaining transfer spot. That ended when Algeio flipped in turn three, ending a trying night for him.

    Jensen Scott led all the way to win the second B. Hunter O’Neal had missed his heat race and started in back. Like Mattox, he made his way to the front and finished second, earning the 20th starting spot in the feature.

    The re-draw put Chris Babcock and Josh Cunningham on the front row. Jon Stanbrough would be lurking in the second row, but not for long. The same would be true for Shane Cottle, starting in the third row. Dave Darland and Chad Boespflug, in the fourth row, would be more than interested bystanders.

    Babcock could say he led at least one lap of the Chuck Amati Memorial, but the red flag waved on lap two as David Hair and Brandon Mattox collided in turn two with Mattox getting upside down. His mostly uphill night was done. On the re-start, Cottle was on a tear. He had charged to second at the initial waving of the green, but he wasn’t done. After a lap he had taken the lead from Babcock and dearly wanted to check out but Jon Stanbrough would have something to say about that. After getting around Babcock for second, Stanbrough began his chase of the leader, one that would become easier as lapped traffic came into play.

    As a lapped car slowed coming out of turn four, Cottle was blocked and delayed trying to pass the car. Stanbrough was in the higher lane and motored past to take the lead. Now things would get good. Slowly Cottle began to reel in the leader. Their battle was not unlike the Robert Ballou-Brady Short mano a mano scrap right here at Paragon two weeks before.

    A yellow flag waved at lap 34, the halfway mark. This was a huge break for Chad Boespflug, who had steadily advanced from his eighth starting position. The Californian turned Hoosier was substantially gaining on both Stanbrough and Cottle. The yellow merely made it a bit easier.

    The top ten at the halfway mark were Stanbrough, Cottle, Boespflug, Darland, Andrew Prather, Babcock, Chris Phillips, Bub Cummings, Jordan Kinser and Josh Cunningham. Cottle and Stanbrough resumed their fight as Boespflug held his own for a lap or two before reeling them in again. But then disaster struck for the two veterans up front. On lap 41 Cottle’s car appeared to drift into the turquoise blue 81. The two tangled and both went flipping down the backstretch. Both were okay, but no doubt displeased, especially Stanbrough.

    And now, Boespflug found himself the pleased recipient of a major gift, courtesy of two of the best in the business. On the re-start, Darland hung tough for a couple of laps before the Shane Wade machine took off. Not quite 24 hours later, in the pits at the Kokomo Speedway, Chad said the engine needed a few laps to get the right amount of heat to make it go. Worked for me. At any rate, the final segment of 20 plus laps was nearly mundane as Boespflug had the field covered.

    Darland was second, about six car lengths behind as the checkered flag waved. Chris Phillips, who needs to be considered when mentioning the most improved Hoosier sprint car driver this year, was third. Chris Babcock was a steady fourth. Bub Cummings came home fifth. Andrew Prather, who has done well at Paragon this year, despite a late start, was sixth. Jordan Kinser came from 14th to seventh. Josh Cunningham was eighth and Kent Christian was ninth, the first car one lap down. Matt Brannin started 16th and completed the top ten.

    Each result usually brings up questions that can’t be answered. Tonight’s unanswered question will be, could Boespflug have caught Stanbrough and Cottle had they not wrecked? We can guess with or without the evidence but we’ll never know.

    Given the excitement and excellence of the race, one might be prone to forgetting what I thought was the best story of the night. Shane Wade has been trying to win this race ever since Keith Ford began it after the death of his friend seven years ago. Finally, on a slightly cool Indiana evening, Chad Boespflug made it happen and promptly stated that it rated right next to his own first USAC win at Lincoln Park not long ago.

    Memories and tradition certainly have their places in our lives. We’d best at least acknowledge this and appreciate the efforts of those who went before us. I’d guess that Shane Wade understands this and I think that Chad Boespflug does too.

    Wishing that I could have fired Donald Trump, or at least his hair, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Chemistry 101

    If you’re like me, you struggled in high school chemistry. But if you’re like me, you learned over the years that chemistry takes on more than one form. The chemistry that many of us know has to do with people getting along together, working on mutual problems, having the same goals, then working together to reach those goals. This is what seems to be happening with the Shane Wade/Amati Racing team and their driver, Chad Boespflug. Because on a warm and humid night Mr. Boespflug and company put it all together and won themselves a 25 lap feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway before a good sized crowd.

    The pre-race pit stroll (walking sounds like too much work) took awhile. 128 cars of all types, 31 of which were sprint cars, filled up the LPS pit area pretty good. The usual players were there with a few surprises. Mitch Wissmiller made a rare Hoosier appearance. Lyndsey Ligouri was driving the family car tonight with Husband Joe turning wrenches and Grandpa Ralph supervising. J.J. Hughes and Dakota Jackson were home for the summer, taking a break from their higher education studies. With Paragon’s Chuck Amati Memorial falling victim to rain and high water, some of their regulars were present.

    C.J. Leary won the first of four heats over Kent Christian. Nate McMillin was third. Spencer Bayston spent most of the race mired in the back of the pack. But, perhaps with some coaching, he tried the neglected upstairs groove and passed two cars on the last lap, both of whom spun in turn four of the last lap after Bayston had made the pass.

    The dashing and debonair Shane Cottle held off Brady Short to win the second heat. Brent Beauchamp came from seventh to take third. Still a newlywed, Kevin Studley took the last ticket to the big show.

    Chad Boespflug grabbed the early lead and cruised to the third heat win. Josh Hodges, enjoying Indiana’s summer rather than New Mexico’s, was second. Jeff Bland came from eighth, last, to grab third. Tyler Hewitt, who begged off when I offered him some popcorn, took fourth.

    Pole sitter J.J. Hughes won the fourth heat. Mitch Wissmiller came from the back to take second. CoonorDonelson started and finished third. Jadon Rogers, all of 12 years old, was fourth. The race contained a very rare triple spin. Lucas Smith spun off turn two and Rogers with Matt Brannin both spun coming out of two.

    Scott Hampton won the B Main from the second row Chris Babcock came from sixth to take second. Pat Giddens would race again as would Dakota Jackson.

    Hughes and Boespflug saw Brian Hodde’s green flag first. But the next time around they were slowed as Chris Babcock brought out the yellow on the first lap. The boys tried again and Boespflug took off. First Hughes, then Leary held onto second before Shane Cottle came calling. So did Brady Short, who had started sixth. The race’s third yellow waved on lap six and by now Boespflug led Cottle and Short. The fourth caution waved a couple of laps later with no changes up front. Leary was fourth and Brent Beauchamp, who had started tenth, had already moved to fifth.

    The next green flag segment lasted several laps until the race’s fifth yellow waved on lap 16. Despite his best efforts, Short had been unable to get around Cottle. Three laps after the re-start, Short made the pass and tried to reel in the leader. But it wasn’t going to happen. Boespflug won by a half straightaway over Short. Cottle was third. Josh Hodges had started seventh and stayed there for much of the race. But his car seemed to get better as the race went on and he finally passed Beauchamp late to take fourth. Beauchamp still had reason to be a bit pleased with his fifth. Kent Christian, steady as ever, was sixth. Jeff Bland was seventh and Leary faded a bit to eighth. Spencer Bayston took ninth. Hughes was the tenth to see the checkered. 

    Chemistry matters. Chad Boespflug, who is one of my grandson’s best race driving friends, entered 2015 with high hopes. He had plans to run the USAC schedule this year, but that went away fairly quickly. After a short time adrift, an opening came up with the Amati Racing team, led by Chuck Amati’s grandson, Illinois trucking business owner Shane Wade. Things began to click right away. Good finishes have come to these guys and gals; Saturday night’s LPS win confirms that the Amati team will be a force to be reckoned with both USAC and the weekly Hoosier bullring scene. They have meshed, one could say.

    Let’s give them an A in Chemistry for now.

    Gently refusing the request made by a couple of St. Louis Cardinals employees to borrow my computer, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Mano y Mano
    People can talk about various aspects of any game or sport, but any activity that features rivalries is an activity that will survive and thrive. Rivalries, be they teams or individuals, create interest. People will attend in person, watch on TV, or listen on the radio when any event occurs. It doesn’t matter if it’s a niche sport (like sprint car racing) or major sport (stick and ball, NA$CAR, etc.). Rivalries should be celebrated and even encouraged in the spirit of fair competition.
    This brings us to Robert Ballou and Brady Short. Meet the most recent Hoosier sprint car racing rivalry. Maybe these two talented people can spark some added interest to the Hoosier scene as Indiana Sprint Week approaches. Their most recent meeting came this past Saturday night at the Paragon Speedway as the King of Indiana Sprint Series concluded. Ballou won, but he’d be the first to say that Short made him earn every bit of that victory. And whenever their next common race meeting is, fans should know about it and check it out.
    This particular Saturday was hot and humid, Indiana style. Should cloning become a reality in my lifetime, I’m ready to sign up. Most Saturdays during racing season we sprint car fans have this dilemma. Where should we go? How shall we decide? For the time being we can be at one place but can keep up with what’s happening elsewhere thanks to this still new technology. I did my part, offering updates on Twitter for KISS (as PR person) and staying reasonably informed about what was going on at Lawrenceburg, Lincoln Park and other out of state tracks. It keeps one busy, but that’s the idea here.
    30 teams signed in to test the uniquely shaped three eighths mile, paperclip shaped oval, Keith and Judy Ford’s pride and joy (well, most of the time). Here was a good mix. Short and Ballou weren’t the only bad boys out to pick up a spare $2500. Jon Stanbrough had been busy at his shop all week, presumably, but made the trip south of his Avon, IN home. Dave Darland had no midget ride for the weekend, having endured ordinary showings at the first three Indiana Midget Week races. But he did have his semi-regular sprint car ride with Jeff Walker. Throw in contenders and consistent runners like Casey Shuman, Kyle Robbins and now, Chris Phillips and there were enough skilled racers to make this interesting.
    Veteran Kent Christian won the first of three heats. Chris Phillips followed, then it was Casey Shuman, Andrew Prather and Frank Flud, who started tenth.
    Robert Ballou was quite the lonesome guy in the second heat as he ran away from the others after starting sixth. Kyle Robbins started and finished second. The ageless Josh Cunningham was third. Jeremy Potts came from ninth to fourth. Young Jaden Rogers was fifth.
    True, the feature would be a fine race of two racers doing their best to win, but the third heat should receive mention as well. Jake Scott took the early lead before Dave Darland roared to the front from eighth. Soon enough Jon Stanbrough cleared traffic and gave chase. Brady Short was also bottled up in the middle of the pack and patiently worked his way through the mob. With six laps gone, Short was third with “only” Darland and Stanbrough to pass. With two laps to go, Short took second, but he wasn’t done. Sizing up the leader, the Bedford, Indiana native dove low coming out of four to the checkered. He nipped Darland at the line by a couple of feet. Stanbrough took third with Scott hanging on to fourth, ahead of Dickie Gaines, who had started tenth.
    Nick Bilbee had bicycled big time in his heat and did some damage to the left front. But he came back for the B with a vengeance. From 11th he won going away over Travis Welpott, making the pass on the last lap. Eric Edwards was third with pole sitter Braxton Cummings fourth. Jensen Scott locked up the tail spot in the feature.
    The re-draw put Short and Christian on the front row and sure enough, Brady roared off to a big lead. Equally sure, Ballou came from fifth to second by the third lap. But lapped traffic approached. As Short did his best to negotiate the lappers, Ballou closed the gap. From there, right around lap ten, began a major battle for position between Short and Ballou, complete with multiple passes for the lead, slide jobs and dodging the ubiquitous lapped traffic.
    Many a breath was caught on lap 14 when the yellow waved for a Jadon Rogers spin. Short happened to be leading at this point over Ballou. Phillips was hanging tough in third. The Hall of Famers, Stanbrough and Darland, were next. Christian was sixth ahead of Robbins. And Nick Bilbee was at it again, moving from 16th to eighth. Prather and Br. Cummings were ninth/tenth.
    Naturally at the waving of the green, the two in front took up where they left off. More trading sliders and yet they still hadn’t touched, banged wheels, etc. And again, lapped traffic approached. This time, Ballou was leading when he spun in turn three while trying to get around a lapped car, but kept it going and was able to retain the lead.
    Expectations were high on the final re-start of the race on lap 26. Four laps would be plenty of time for more of the same. But, alas, it wasn’t going to happen. Short spun his tires on the re-start and Ballou ran off to a lead of several car lengths.
    It may be that these guys don’t like each other; that is not a concern. All I know was that Brady Snort came over and gave a hearty congratulations to Robert Ballou after the race; it was accepted graciously. There was one other tidbit of knowledge. This would be a race talked about in the days, weeks, months and maybe even years to come. For some it might take its place as the greatest—nothing wrong with that.
    While Ballou won the battle, Short won the war, taking the King of Indiana Sprint Series championship, his third. The $1200 for the title plus the cool helmet done by Jeff Van Horne (and a thanks to Doug Auld and Simpson Performance Products) would ease the pain somewhat for Mr. Short.
    Almost forgotten were Stanbrough and Darland, who finished third and fourth. After passing ten cars in the B Main, Nick Bilbee decided to pass some more in the finale, coming from 16th to fifth. Kent Christian was sixth, followed by Chris Phillips. Kyle Robbins took eighth in the race and wrapped second in KISS points. Jake Scott and Josh Cunningham, both of whom have a multitude of laps at Paragon, were ninth and tenth.
    A mention goes to Chad Boespflug, whose car broke at Bloomington the night before. By missing the last KISS race, he fell to sixth in the points, behind Dickie Gaines. KISS pays the top five in points. His cost Chad at least $600. Ouch.
    Accidentally setting Donald Trump’s hairpiece on fire, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    From Whom the Bell…Tolls?
    It’s not every day one can combine a race car driver with a noted novelist who enjoyed playing the role as a macho man, using some word play. Ernest Hemingway was the author and Christopher Bell is a successful race driver with the hope and the potential to enjoy untold accomplishments in the years to come. On a Friday night where rain seemed to hover around the track yet never fell, Bell won the 30 lap feature at the Bloomington Speedway. It was the third gathering for USAC’s immensely popular and intensely competitive Indiana Midget Week.
    Just getting to the red clay oval was a challenge. An accident not far from the Bartholomew/Brown County Line closed off the main link to Bloomington for fans coming from the east. Good buddy Keith Wendel, the semi-official Lawrenceburg Speedway track rat, alerted me to the need to detour. My navigator and I headed north to IN 252, turned left, then left again, going south on 135 at Morgantown to Nashville, where we connected with good old Indiana State Road 46, which has taken me to Terre Haute on the Hoosier state’s western border and to Lawrenceburg in the southeastern corner of my state many, many times.
    We were not late with all that and my grandson renewed acquaintances with some guys he’d not seen for a while like Justin Peck. Soon after he and his nacho loving friend Mike O’Leary had consumed their meals we retreated to the hillside. True to form, Karston would be hungry later.
    Rico Abreu was the quickest of the quick, setting fast time with a blistering 11.551 lap. 44 midget teams were signed in; incredibly, it seemed, Dave Darland was 43rd quickest of the 44.
    MIDGETS—HEATS, SEMIS AND FEATURE
    Abreu made a second statement in winning the first heat. The red flag waved when a rugby like scrum in turn two stopped things. Tracy Hines tipped over onto his top; four of the 11 car field were eliminated. C.J. Leary, in an infrequent midget start, was second. Darren Hagen and Ronnie Gardner secured feature starts. Gardner edged Australian Brett Thomas to get in.
    Chase Stockon got around Brenden Bright midway through the race to win the second heat. Bright held off Bryan Clauson to take second. Davey Ray was fourth.
    Pole sitter Nathan Smee was the victor in the third heat. Alex Bright and Kevin Thomas Jr. trailed. Jerry Coons Jr. had his hands full holding off Spencer Bayston to get into the show.
    The fourth heat got off to a less than stellar start as Brock Maskovich ran over a right rear and did a lazy, slow somersault over the turn two banking, landing on all fours. The New Zealander was unhurt for the most part. Christopher Bell came from sixth to win. Ryan Bernal was second. Hayden Williams and Brad Mosen had more success than their fellow Kiwi, finishing third and fourth.
    Hoosiers Shane Cottle and Dave Darland were among those advancing to the Midget B after they transferred from the C Main. In the B, Trey Marchum flipped on the first lap, not hurt. Tracy Hines won with his front row mate Spencer Bayston second. Tyler Thomas, Tyler Courtney, Midwesterners Jake Neuman and Chett the Jet Gehrke headed for the show. Karston’s buddy Justin Peck was running sixth when he made a slight bobble on the last lap, losing several spots.
    All three of the Keith Kunz cars started the feature in the first two rows. After his Lincoln Park Speedway monster crash, Tanner Thorson would be sitting out a dance or two while his mates Rico Abreu, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Christopher Bell would do their part to dominate. Thomas took the early lead with Bell never too far away. At times the Kunz juggernaut ran one/two/three with Clauson the only other to have anything for the super team. The only question came to be which KKR car would win.
    The “Bell” tolled, as it were, for Thomas on lap 22 and the kid from Oklahoma held on to the end. After the race while being interviewed a rueful Thomas maintained that he “threw the race win away.” Maybe so, but there wasn’t any shame in losing to Christopher Bell, no matter who you are.
    Clauson, a former Kunz team member, broke up the party on the podium, finishing third behind Bell and Thomas. Abreu was fourth and Coons hung on for fifth. Bayston came from 11th to sixth. Tyler Thomas picked his way through the crowd to take seventh after starting 17th. Tracy Hines salvaged a decent finish after his early setback, eighth. Chase Stockon was ninth and Brad Mosen finished up the top ten list.
    SPRINTS—HEATS, B, FEATURE, etc.
    26 sprints populated the pits that lie next to the tiny creek by the property. Most were there to see if they could derail the Brady Short Express. The Pottorff family car and driver have owned the red clay oval this year.
    Sure enough, Short won the first heat—from the pole, but, hey. Chad Boespflug was second. Max McGhee was third. Frank Flud, continuing his introduction to Indiana’s brand of sprint car racing, took fourth. Brandon Morin came from ninth to finish fifth. Chris Babcock hit an uneven part of the surface and bounced to a stop, headed for the B. Jeff Bland broke and was done for the night.
    C.J. Leary, occupying the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crush these days, won the second heat over Nick Bilbee. Jarett Andretti edged Shane Cottle for third. Chris Gurley started and finished fifth.
    Dave Darland held off Bryan Clauson, one of those few doing double duty, to win the third heat. Kevin Thomas Jr., Chase Briscoe and Bradley Sterrett, in the Krockenberger’s car, all would find themselves in the main event.
    The B Main, won by Jordan Kinser, had an interesting and diverse lineup. The winner bears a famous name, especially in the Bloomington area. Second was Chris Babcock, one of at least two second generation racers in the race. Third was Josh Hodges, visiting from New Mexico. And a father/son combination secured the last two transfer spots into the feature. Daddy Bub was fourth and son Braxton took fifth. Others included Aussie Gary Rooke, the lady Shelby Van Gilder, youngster Mike Gass and two pure Hoosier racers, Eric Edwards and Nate McMillin.
    Bryan Clauson drew the lucky number for the feature lineup and was determined to stink up the show. Three yellows kept that from happening but BC still had the field covered, continuing a successful week with both his midget and the McGhee’s sprinter.
    There wasn’t a lot of passing as the track was worn out by an extraordinary number of laps run on it all night. The cushion was at the very top of the banking in turns three and four. Fans who wanted or even expected lots of passing for position may have been disappointed. But had they noticed the tightrope act the front runners were traversing around the top of the groove they might have at least appreciated that.
    Nick Bilbee was second, followed by Darland, Short and Leary to make the top five. Bottom five was Thomas, Briscoe, Andretti, Morin and McGhee.
    My fellow traveler made it to the end, which was close to midnight. By the time we reached the east end of Schacht Road, he had conked out. Grandpa stayed awake, watching for errant deer all the way home.
    Doing good to tell an Audi from a Porsche, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    Versatility Has Its Rewards
    Half listening to Bryan Clauson being interviewed last night after his impressive victory at the Lincoln Park Speedway’s USAC Midget Series feature it occurred to me that we were seeing one of the most versatile, as well as talented, racers in our racing universe right now. He’s driven several different kinds of race cars with varying degrees of success. By far the most of that has been in the non-wing sprint cars and midgets.
    If that wasn’t impressive enough, consider that he prevailed over everything the mighty Keith Kunz stable could throw at him and one can appreciate the effort that much more.
    After only one night of IMW I was worn out. The two hour drive south from Gas City in the wee hours of Thursday morning was and remains enjoyable, despite aches and pains. Having most of the road (I-69 and IN State Road 9) to myself is, for me, a rare treat, even though the late arrival at home guarantees some weariness.
    Thursday daylight came quick enough and I had an “appointment” or maybe an audience with good friend Mike O’Leary, one of racing’s best writers. Our “mystery guest” soon joined us at Gondolfo’s on Bloomington’s west side. Mike, Kris Kirchner and I enjoyed it all, the food and the lively discussion. So usually Mike and I solve all of racing’s problems but on this occasion Kris was glad to help.
    We ended the lunch and the others went back to work while I headed for beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. I’d borrowed my wife’s Kindle to do some writing about the racing at Gas City. It worked out very well; the miniature TV/computer/writing tablet worked like a charm, usually guessing what words I’d write. I decided to stop at Cloverdale and find some shade so I could work on the stories from Wednesday night. What better place than the local graveyard? Sure enough, soon I found some shade at the edge of the property. As I wrote, I was liking the idea that my dear departed friend Bill Gardner could have had a look over my shoulder, wisecracking the whole time. At any rate I felt close to Bill, who is buried there, in my mind if nowhere else. Despite the 90 degree heat, it was a cool feeling to have.
    At the track it was more than 90 because there’s not much shade in the LPS pits except the numerous haulers already filling up the pits. Eventually there would be 42 midgets and 25 sprints in the corral.
    Time trials didn’t wear the track out; Tanner Thorson, Gas City victor, showed us that as he ripped off a 13.130 lap to be the fastest. Unhappily, his night would go downhill later.
    ALL MIDGETS: HEATS, SEMI-MAINS AND FEQATURE
    The first heat of the night saw the boys come out firing. But the night’s first red flag waved when Trey Marchum got a little behind in his steering and collected Anthony DiMattia, who got upside down. He was done for the race, but, unlike Thorson, his night would get better. Colton Cottle, Shane’s nephew, won the first heat with Tyler Courtney bringing Kenny and Reba Irwin’s car in second. After several laps of side by side racing with multiple passes for position, Tanner ended up third with Tyler Thomas also getting by Marchum and moving to the A.
    Pennsylvania’s Steve Buckwalter took the second heat as second place Bryan Clauson pressed hard for the lead at the end. Kiwi Brad Mosen was third with Chase Stockon moving up enough from seventh to make the show.
    Any heat race or any kind of race with Rico Abreu is going to be one where some people will hold their breath. Rico didn’t win his heat, the third, but he did spend a good part of it going where both angels and devils fear to tread. His teammate Christopher Bell won with Ryan Bernal second. Abreu was third and Dave Darland was the recipient of an early (or late) Christmas gift when Isaac Chapple spun while battling Spencer Bayston for third, sending them both to the B. Ol’ Dave was only too happy to take fourth.
    Pole sitter Gage Walker won the fourth heat with Pennsylvanian Alex Bright second. Tracy Hines punched his ticket to the A with a third. Kevin Thomas Jr. made it in with his fourth place finish.
    Another C Main was needed with Aussie Nathan Smee winning and taking Anton Hernandez, Justin Peck and Austin Nemire tagging the tail pf the B.
    Jerry Coons Jr. won a B Main that featured a rare six car pileup, turning LPS into a parking lot in turn one. No one got upside down and racing continued. Darren Hagen, who has had a quiet IMW so far, was second. Spencer Bayston was third and New Zealander Hayden was fourth. Tucker Klaamyer was fifth. Remember Tony DiMattia? After getting on his lid in his heat race, he came back to race his way into the feature, edging Justin Peck, who had come from the C Main. That, too, is racing.
    Brad Mosen was scheduled to start on the pole of the midget feature, but was penalized for not responding quickly enough to requests to appear for the push trucks to do their job. Mosen started fifth as both Buckwalter and Darland were penalized for the same offense. This put a pair of Thomases on the front row, Kevin and Tyler.
    Tyler grabbed the early lead for two laps before Rico Abreu came calling. The Californian had things his way for much of the race, holding off all contenders. But moving through the pack were a pair of contenders who had not introduced themselves to Mr. Abreu yet.
    Bryan Clauson had started 11th, but moved steadily through the field. At the first yellow he was already fourth behind Abreu, K. Thomas and T. Thomas. When Tyler made a bobble in turn two, BC was third briefly before taking second after Kevin did the same kind of miscue. After a Tanner Thorson spin, Clauson was on Rico’s tail tank for the lap 16 re-start. Both tried multiple lines in all turns but yet another yellow waved on lap 19. Clauson finally made the pass on lap 22. A lap later came the lowest point of the night when Thorson flipped violently in turn one, bringing out Brian Hodde’s red. Thorson would eventually be okay and receive a checkup at the hospital in Greencastle before being dismissed.
    In the midst of this Christopher Bell had been on the move. After the first yellow he was ninth after beginning from 17th. On lap 16, after Thorson’s spin, he was fourth. And after Thorson’s flip he was second and not satisfied yet.
    The shenanigans weren’t over. Another yellow and red (for a Larry Rice special/Tommy Tipover) would wave. The second red was on lap 25 for another pileup with Mosen getting on his side, another tipover. Bell had five laps to snare Clauson, but BC met the considerable challenge, holding off the Oklahoma kid.
    Bell was by far the Hard Charger, coming from 17th to second. Hines was third and padded his season point lead. Abrue was fourth. Coons was fifth. The second five were Hagen, T. Thomas, Stockon (from 20th to eighth), Bayston and K. Thomas Jr.
    Clauson thus became the IMW point leader.
    SPRINTS
    25 was not a bad sprint car count at all, considering it was a midweek show and all. Doublers would be Clauson, Darland, Coons and K. Thomas.
    Brady Bacon and the Hoffman team made a rare non-USAC sprint appearance, perhaps doing some pre-Indiana Sprint Week testing. Brady started things off right by winning the first heat. Another Brady, Mr. Short that is, won the second heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. took the third heat.
    Aaron Farney came on strong after a mid-race yellow to win the sprint B after starting sixth.
    A pair of 17s, Max McGhee and Kevin Thomas Jr., led the field to the green flag. KT grabbed the early lead when the race was stopped after Bill Rose got into the front stretch wall and tipped over, enough to end his race on lap three. Thomas increased his lead mightily on the re-start, but Brady Short assumed second place and gradually closed on Thomas, falling a bit short at the end.
    Behind Thomas and Short was Chad Boespflug, who came from 12th to third. Then came Dave Darland and Brady Bacon. Sixth was Bryan Clauson, who could have been forgiven if he was still on a USAC feature win kind of high. Max McGhee was seventh and Jarett Andretti came from 15th to eighth. Shane Cottle and Brandon Mattox closed out the top ten.
    Wondering how either or both NASCAR and Indy Car drivers would do wheeling a sprinter or midget around Lincoln Park, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Joy of Improvement
    It is a privilege and a satisfying experience to realize that you or someone else is improving at what they do. It doesn't matter if it's something one does for a living or a hobby. To learn and improve is a worthy goal. If you don't believe me, you might ask Tanner Thorson, Wednesday night's Midget feature winner at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway in the opening round of USAC's Indiana Midget Week, 2015.
    On the rare occasion of sprint cars taking the subordinate role, Bryan Clauson won the sprint feature. Overall it was a good night for Clauson and company. He second in the midget feature and Spencer Bayston ran third, joining his car owner on the podium.
    My usual navigator opted to watch some baseball instead. But he was very conflicted, wanting to do both. A brief conversation with Grandpa let him off the hook. His plan for now will be Bloomington on Friday and Kokomo on Sunday.
    I arrived to a pleasant surprise. No less than 35 sprints had checked in, along with 41 USAC midgets with a few POWRi, Australian, New Zealand and ARDC runners from east, west and from way down under trying their luck and skill.
    MIDGET TIME TRIALS AND HEATS
    Tracy Hines went out fairly late but still set fast time with a 12.390 lap.
    Ryan Bernal won the first of four midget heats. Hines was an impressive second. His fellow war horse Dave Darland came from seventh to take third. New Zealander Hayden Williams was fourth. Christopher Bell made a rare mistake and spun, making for a fun filled B main.
    Easterner Brendon Bright led the second heat early, but two of the Keith Kunz stable ended that. Tanner Thorson grabbed the lead and the win. His teammate Rico Abreu was second. Justin Grant was third and Australian visitor Nathan Smee came from ninth to earn a feature starting spot.
    The Kunz brigade was successful in the third heat as well. Kevin Thomas Jr. won with New Zealand's Brad Mosen second. Pennsylvania visitor Steve Buckwalter, who visits here a lot, came from seventh to third. Another from the east, Alex Bright, edged Spencer Bayston for the last transfer.
    Jerry Coons Jr. won a fourth heat that saw Bryan Clauson spin early. Tyler Thomas was second. Chase Stockon, making a rare start in a midget, took third. Despite a fun to watch recovery by Clauson, Brady Bacon held on to fourth, setting up an impressive B main lineup.
    SPRINT HEATS AND B MAINS
    Group qualifying saw Kyle Simon and Thomas Meseraull in the front row of the first heat. TMez grabbed the lead and led all the way to win, with Shane Cottle second and closing fast. Simon was third and Cole Ketchum edged Matt Goodnight for fourth.
    Tyler Courtney was again in the Pedersen family car and won the second heat. Kyle Robbins, Chris Gurley and rookie Frank Flud trailed. Josh Spencer made a little noticed but crucial move, at least for him as he passed two cars on the last lap to secure fifth. This gave Josh a front row start for the B, which he won and was able to make the feature.
    Bryan Clauson, along with Dave Darland, Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Courtney, Justin Peck, and Kevin Thomas Jr., was among the double dippers. BC came from third to win the sprint third heat. KT was second with Logan Jarrett third. Darland hung on for fourth.
    Coons won the fourth heat over Travis Welpott. Aaron Farney was next with Jarret Andretti ending up with the 16th starting position in the 25 lap feature.
    The (wise) call was made to run two sprint B's. Two would transfer out of each semi. Max McGhee took the lead early in the ten lapper and won. Steve Irwin made a late pass of Matt Goodnight to advance, the second time Matt was passed late in a race this evening.
    Josh Spencer's earlier move in his B paid off with a win. Travis Hery was second while Tyler Hewitt made it interesting.
    MIDGET C AND B MAINS
    Californian Ronnie Gardner did his best to stink up the C. He and three others moved on to the B. You know; the B that looked more like an A main.
    Bayston and Clauson led the field of 20 to Tom Hansing's green flag. The first two were pretty well decided but the action behind them was frantic. Brenden Bright and Tyler Courtney both passed Christopher Bell to finish third and fourth. Bell, who was having problems, managed a fifth place. ChettGehrke, Gardner's teammate, was sixth, squeaking into the show after a late pass on Isaac Chapple. Gage Walker had one of the best efforts all night as he rambled from C main land, 19th, to finish eighth.
    SPRINT A
    Cottle and Welpott were the first to see Tom Hansing's pretty green flag and Shane assumed the lead. But right away Clauson turned stalker, ready to pounce. A lap eight yellow flag slowed things briefly. The chase resumed and BC applied mucho pressure to the Kokomo Indiana veteran, which finally resulted in Shane sliding nearly over the turn two banking and giving Clauson the lead and the win.
    Behind Clauson and Cottle was Kevin Thomas Jr., who had closed the gap between second and third. Meseraull was fourth and Robbins fifth. Dave Darland came from 15th to sixth. Kyle Simon did well, taking seventh. Jerry Coons Jr. started and finished eighth. Chris Gurley was ninth and Max McGhee rumbled from 17th to tenth.
    MIDGET A MAIN
    Tanner Thorson and Ryan Bernal, two kids from Nevada and California respectively, led the pack to the green with Thorson immediately grabbing the lead. Racing behind him was crazy with cars briefly going five wide. Bryan Clauson started eighth and began working his way to the front. By lap seven he was in the top five and less than ten laps later he was second behjnd Thorson.
    A lengthy yellow flag period appeared on lap 20 when Brady Bacon dropped lots of liquid on the track. The re-start order was Thorson, Clauson, Spencer Bayston, Bell, Grant, Bernal, Stockon, Abreu, Hines and Coons.
    No sooner than they resumed the craziness, Bell flipped in turn three, bringing out the red. The young man, who just signed a deal to race for NASCAR star Kyle Busch, was okay.
    On this the final re-start of the night, try as he might, Clauson could close on Thorson and let him know an Indy 500 vet was behind him, but he couldn’t make the pass and had to settle for second. It was Thorson’s first USAC Midget division win.
    Spencer Bayston filled the rest of the podium and there were connections among the three occupants of the highest finishing cars. The Clausons own Bayston’s car. Bryan ran for Keith Kunz a few years back, graduating from Kunz Kollege with honors. And Thorson is the latest standout who has sat in one of the most coveted rides around.
    Grant started and finished fourth. Abreu started and finished fifth. Bernal was sixth, leading Coons to the line after Jerry had started 15th. But Tyler Thomas was the race’s Hard Charger, coming from 17th to seventh. Hines was ninth and Stockon’s rare midget ride landed him in tenth.
    If the rest of IMW is going to be anything like the opening night, fans will be in for a treat.
    Refereeing women’s wrestling matches at Wal-Mart, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    Boss of BOSS

    No matter where he and his team show up these days, Thomas Meseraull is finding himself in the winner’s circle, explaining how he won and carrying off some nice hardware and a bathtub full of cash. That’s a good sized bathtub. He did it again on a mild Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway in front of a good sized crowd, winning by a straightaway in the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series sanctioned feature.

    “Only” 27 cars dropped by the ‘burg for a night of racing. Lots of Hoosier tracks this year would give up their popcorn sales to get 27 cars. The cast of characters was a good mix of Lawrenceburg regulars and the guys running for BOSS points.

    One should not have been too surprised to see Kody Swanson, USAC Silver Crown ace, on the track this evening. At any rate, he won the first of four heats over Brandon Spithaler,  a dedicated young man who had gone back home in Pennsylvania to get a car for this show. The venerable Mike Miller was third, taking that from Chad Wilson at the line.

    Garrett Abrams from Rushville continues to impress. He was a lonely young man in the second heat as he ran away and left the others to fight each other. Dustin Smith was second. Joe Ligouri came from last to finish third, right on the Kokomo veteran’s tail tank and ahead of Cody Gardner.

    T. Meseraull drew the pole for the third heat and romped, though his margin wasn’t as big as I thought it might be. Home boy Drew Abel was second and BOSS regular Kirk Jeffrey was third. Youngster Cooper Clouse grabbed the last transfer spot.

    Another BOSS regular, Michael Fischesser, won the fourth heat. Veteran Kent Wolters (one of the few left who have raced at both the earlier configuration of the track and the current) was second. A Lawrenceburg champ, Joss Moffatt, was third after trying multiple sliders and making a few of them work. Justin Owen took fourth and would start 16th in the feature.

    Before the B, I found a shady spot in the pits to people watch. I had a good view of the Shawn Westerfeld pit where there was no sense of urgency. Earlier there had been as the 89 suffered a part failure which kept them out of their heat race. There was a good view of the old Seagram’s building, so old it was already old when I was young.

    Aaron Middaugh won the B, but ‘burg regular and track champ Westerfeld made it interesting as he came from 11th/last to come up a car length short in taking second. Matt Goodnight was third and PA’s Bob McMillin had his hands full keeping Steve Little at bay and wrapping up the 20th starting spot for the 25 lap feature.

    Abel and Fischesser led 18 more to Tim Montgomery’s green flag. Drew led the first two laps but Meseraull was on a serious charge. From eighth he was third after two laps. By lap four the California native swept into the lead and that would be that—as far as the lead was concerned. But there was a good amount of racing behind the leader.

    The race had only one yellow, that being on lap six for a spin. The re-start showed Meseraull leading Abel, Swanson, Abrams, Fischesser, Smith, Moffatt (from12th), Ligpouri, Westefeld (from 16th), and Miller. TMez resumed his big lead as Abrams got around both Abel and Swanson to take second. As Abel faded Smith joined Swanson for a spirited fight for third. Moffatt joined the top five at mid-race.

    By lap 20 Meseraull’s lead was a full straightaway and it was all over but the cheering. Nevertheless, Abrams’ second place was still impressive. Swanson held third over Moffatt, who came on strong at the end. Mike Miller, another past Lawrenceburg champion, quietly moved forward steadily to assume fifth at the end after starting 13th. Smith had a late issue, dropping to sixth. Westefeld’s charge to the front stalled with a result of seventh place. Abel was eighth with Ligouri ninth. Cooper Clouse came from 15th to take tenth.

    Once again, the Ohio boys had crossed the state line and pout on another good show for a good crowd.

    People might wonder why teams like the Keens (Meseraull’s car owners) and the Brady Short/Pottorff family don’t run with USAC either full time or more often. Some will make the absurd claim they are afraid of the competition. For me the obvious answer is why should they? Both hold their own with all comers. Both teams no doubt have a budget of sorts and it doesn’t include the traveling that USAC does—at least some of it. And maybe all concerned wish to stay home in Indiana to keep the traveling to a minimum.

    At any rate, maybe both will appear for Indiana Sprint Week. Maybe one or both will win a USAC feature. No one should be surprised. Right now there is no shame in losing to Thomas Meseraull in the Keen machine. It’s their “time” and they are no doubt enjoying it.

    Indiana Midget Week approaches as we get used to a new computer. The old Chevy truck is like a young colt, ready to run, not knowing or caring how old it is or how many miles lie ahead. The traveling companion (who does a mean imitation of a midget engine) is equally antsy.

    Hopes are high, which is as it should be.

    Fighting my personal aero push, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Beat Goes On

    Sooner or later, someone will show up at the Bloomington Speedway and win a feature and not answer to the name of Brady Short. As with anything else, this, too, shall pass. But until it happens, Brady is the Man to beat at Bloomington. So what if he has to start tenth after winning two features in a row, a Bloomington rule going back at the very least when Kevin Briscoe seemed to own the red clay oval. On a warm Friday evening, Mr. Short indeed came from tenth and won the 25 lap feature going away.

    Playing the rare role of passenger and riding with Butch Wilkerson is an experience. While I enjoyed Butch’s stories, my grandson was put to sleep by them, apparently. He conked out somewhere between Gnaw Bone and Nashville.

    But he woke up very quickly when we turned into the parking lot. Soon he joined me on the pit walk ritual that idle fans like me enjoy each weekend. We stopped and visited with a few folks, Mr. Short, Mr. Donnie Gentry (who says he’s not quite retired yet), Mr. Bill Babcock, Mr. Chad Boespflug (not racing but tooling around the pits on a bicycle with no clown horn to announce his arrival), and Mr. Chase Stockon. Karston ended up scraping some mud off the Gentry/Stockon car and was able to scrape some off the Briscoe family entry as well.

    Bloomington has gone to group qualifying such as Kokomo. Invariably the last group is the fastest, but the groups both qualify and race each other in their heats, of which there would be three. Jeff Bland led group one with a 12.134 lap while Stockon led the second group with an 11.362. Short would lead the final group with an 11.248 lap.

    Nick Bilbee won the first heat after letting Scott Hampton lead the first lap. Chase Stockon won the second heat, taking over early from Chase Briscoe. And Brady Short allowed Tyler Waltz to lead a lap before grabbing the third heat.

    As soon as the third sprint heat was done, Karston McIntosh made a beeline to the show car that sits behind the concession stand. Between the show car and the playground, he burned off a good deal of energy and calories.

    Sondi Eden won the first of two 305/Racesaver heats. Former Hornet racer Luke Bland won the second. Zach Hampton would win the feature.

    The little guy announced he was hungry. This was not long after he’d handled most of his nacho and cheese order, in honor of his traveling friend, Mike O’Leary. But a bit later he had obliterated a cheeseburger and was happy. As I received a feature lineup from Kimb Stewart, Karston was invited to sit in the announcer’s booth with none other than Brad Dickison. He occupied the seat normally filled by Dr. Pat Sullivan. No, as far as I know, there was no interview conducted.

    Chris Babcock and Chase Briscoe won the redraw and led the gang to the green flag. In the first five laps there were three different leaders. Briscoe led a led before yielding to Jeff Bland. But then Babcock came on strong to lead a lap before being victimized by a monster slide job by Stockon that left the Bloomfield resident parked just off turn four and perhaps a bit perturbed.

    This re-start read like this. Bland, Stockon, Shuman, Briscoe, Nick Bilbee, Short (already up from tenth), Brandon Mattox, Kent Christian, Scott Hampton and Max McGhee. A couple of laps after the green, Short passed Bilbee for fifth. A lap later it was Briscoe and now the Bedford Blaster was fourth.

    Midway through the race a yellow waved for Lyndsey Ligouri. Stockon had taken the lead but Bland got it back as the scoring reverted back a lap. Shuman was third and now Short was right behind him. The green flew and Short got around the Arizona native for third. The march continued as he passed Bland for second.

    Many felt this would be the outcome long before the feature reached this point; it would come down to the Gentry entry versus the Pottorff car. After a yellow for Scott Hampton, Short applied mucho pressure to the leader and grabbed the lead with five to go. Right after this, Stockon left the track with a shredded right rear. There would be another yellow on lap 21, but that was only a temporary delay for Short to take the checkered by a healthy margin over Shuman. Briscoe had dropped as low as fifth, but came back to take third. Bilbee was fourth and Bland ended up fifth.

    Jordan Kinser, in the Hurst Brothers’ old reliable, had the best run that few saw, coming from 14th to finish sixth. Kent Christian was seventh and Max McGhee was eighth. Brandon Morin was ninth and J.T. Stapp, in his first Bloomington appearance this year, was tenth.

    In the post-race interview, Short said he wasn’t a fan of the rule that puts feature winners back to tenth after two in a row, which may be understandable. But Mr. Short may be a promoter someday and maybe someone will dominate as he has been doing. Then he might change his position.

    Butch was driving and we told him it was his call when to leave. Seeing that his bedtime was rapidly approaching, we left. It was only 9:30. Our backseat rider, who had slept from Brown County to the track, promptly fell asleep before we reached the bottom of the big hill just east of town. After all, it had been a full night, working and playing in the dirt. Yeah, just like the older boys on the track with their beastly 410 engines.

    Reminding Jennifer Jo Cobb that stepping onto the track to make gestures at a fellow competitor isn’t the move of a brainiac, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    Neither Rain, nor Slide Jobs, Nor…

    Round Six of the King of Indiana Sprint Car Series meeting at the Tri-State Speedway (co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series) came this close to not happening. One of those Hoosier popup showers just happened to pop up over the track. It could have bypassed the track, but that wasn’t going to happen. Instead a fairly brief shower visited the Class Track and the track prep crew got busy.

    The rain stopped and the famous Haubstadt tractors patiently circled the track after the surface was dug up a bit by the tiller. Fans seemed to know the drill. Once the rain stopped there was no thought of cancelling this show. Instead there was more of a sense of anticipation that the rest of the night would see some seriously good racing. They would not be disappointed; Brady Short and Kyle Cummins would see to that. For Mr. Short would barely prevail in a duel for the lead and the win that folks will discuss down through time.

    The car count might have been a bit thin (20), but the quality was there. Considering the threat of rain, the crowd was adequate. It promised to be a good night and maybe the rainbow that appeared south of the track was an omen after all. Nevertheless, there was a feeling of urgency that the racing needed to be done before any rain hit. It worked out for the best.

    Mr. Cummins won the first heat that was noted more for its post-race maneuvering. Brady and Carson Short (no relation) engaged in some bumper car tactics after the checkered. If that wasn’t enough Cummins and Chase Stockon had their own meeting after the checkered. Later it was said that Kyle and Chase talked it out.

    The second heat was almost tame in contrast. Jeff Bland came from fifth to win over a stellar cast of characters, led by Chad Boespflug, back in the Amati Racing machine.

    Midway through the modified heats the rain came, emptying the stands and the track. Poor Mo Wills, the flag man braved it out and got soaked in the process. But the rain subsided and the heats were finished. Before we knew it, the sprint feature was lining up.

    Boespflug and Bland led the others to the green. But, what was this? A yellow waved as Robert Ballou spun in turn one, continuing a lousy night so far. Since Ballou started 18th, two more spots back wasn’t going to hurt that much.

    Bland had led since the start and held on until lap four when Cummins took over. But Brady Short was on the move. After starting ninth, he was already up to sixth when the first yellow waved. Soon he was up to second after dispatching Max McGhee, James Lyerla, Boespflug and Bland. And there was a whole 21 laps for Short to catch and pass Cummins.

    It wasn’t that easy. Short was able to reel in the local favorite, plus he had to make the pass. That he did on lap 21. Meanwhile, Ballou was carving his way through the crowd. While Short was fighting with Cummins, Ballou entered the top five despite a smoking engine. And his battle with Bland for third was vintage Tri-State/Haubstadt, complete with wheel banging and slide jobs on nearly every lap.

    Cummins did his best to get the lead back. When Short had taken the lead, he had not exactly checked out. Cummins sat up a bit straighter and gave chase. And coming to the checkered out of turn four Kyle made his move, getting a good bite and trying the low side. He nearly made it. Brady’s margin of victory was maybe several inches.

    Behind Short, Cummins and Ballou (who had started the race 18th), Bland was fourth. Carson Short was fifth while Boespflug took sixth. Stanbrough was a fairly quiet seventh. Stockon brought the Gentry Brothers’ mount home in eighth. McGhee and Kyle Robbins made up the rest of the top ten.

    It capped a weekend most racers dream of. Short had won at Bloomington’s KISS/MSCS program on Friday night. He spun while running in the top five in the MSCS show at Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday night. Amends were made on Sunday night.

    Short now leads both the KISS and MSCS point standings Robbins, who was the previous point leader, suffered two midpack finishes which have put him behind the eight ball with only one KISS race left.

    The sprint feature was over at 10:38 p.m., despite the showers.

    Remembering to thank my sponsors, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: What’s Your Name Again?

    A few years back at the Brownstown Speedway, Dave Darland had been beaten by a young man largely unknown to Hoosiers. Dave’s question after the race was to the young man was along the lines of, “What’s your name again?” The young man was, of course, Christopher Bell and we all know his name now.

    A similar situation occurred over the weekend when Thomas Meseraull had no idea who Shane Wade was. Now he knows. Mr. Wade, or one of his people, gave TMez a call asking if he could drive the red #66 hot rod campaigned by the Amati Racing Team in the MSCS show at the Lincoln Park Speedway this past Saturday. Meseraull ended up telling this story after winning the feature over second place Robert Ballou.

    If that wasn’t enough, Meseraull tipped the big red machine over in turn two—after the checkered flag waved. Neither driver nor car was hurt; as a result, many had a nice chuckle. ------------------- One of the best intervals of most any night at the races is the roaming of the pits (though the Lincoln Park popcorn isn’t bad either—more on that later). Everywhere one looks, talented people are there, drivers, mechanics, owners, media people and good old fans. It isn’t that difficult to fall into conversation with what starts out as total strangers.

    Later, after I had meandered to the bleachers on the main straight, the popcorn was purchased. Much later, it was finally consumed. After the sprint heats (won by Chase Stockon, Robert Ballou and Brady Short) it was time for a Bar-B-Q sandwich. With not enough help from my friends, the popcorn was finally finished off during the Bomber heats—just in time for the sprint B Main.

    Dickie Gaines, Mr. Happy Go Lucky himself, won the B and joined the gang for the feature.

    The popcorn was long gone, most of the visiting was over for the night and Chase Stockon and Thomas Meseraull populated the front row. TMez took the early lead with a yellow light blinking on lap four as Carson Short spun. The second yellow occurred right after the re-start when Brent Beauchamp and Robert Ballou collided with Beauchamp spinning.

    Meseraull had Ballou on his tail on this re-start and now it was Slide Job City with the two California natives having fun on an Indiana Saturday night. The lead was traded back and forth like a hot potato between the two. Stockon, who was third during much of this action, had a great view of it all and might have been thinking about the chances of the front two taking each other out — of the race, that is.

    Dickie Gaines spun on lap 21, nine laps to go and fans would have been forgiven if they were rubbing their hands in anticipation. Meseraull had the lead on the re-start with Ballou and now Brady Short ready to pounce. But the red 66 pulled away steadily on the re-start as Ballou seemed to struggle in turn two.

    The track was getting slick to the point where Short made a rare unforced error, spinning in turn one on lap 28. The race’s fourth yellow waved. Meseraull wasn’t out of the woods yet.

    But TMez didn’t worry. He kept the lead and grabbed the win over Ballou. Jon Stanbrough was third. Fellow all time great Dave Darland was fourth. Darland’s Kokomo neighbor Shane Cottle was fifth. The best race that not everyone saw was that of Brandon Mattox. He came from B Main territory, 19th to finish sixth and very nearly beat Cottle for fifth. Brent Beauchamp recovered nicely from his early spin to come back and take seventh. Max McGhee passed a few people as well, starting 15th and finishing eighth. Tyler Courtney, in a different ride for the night, began the race in 16th and ended up ninth. And Kent Christian, not sharing his secret Fountain of Youth formula, took tenth place.

    I would not have minded sticking around for the rest of the results, but had a fairly early meeting the next day with my son, daughter-in-law and, in a sense, the unborn child they are expecting in November.

    There are no doubt some people who would say that I’d wasted yet another night at a bullring watching cars go in circles, but I’m not one of those people. For me, it had been time well spent. I watched people, some of who I know personally, race each other hard and clean (with maybe a minor exception here and there). I’d spent time with friends on both sides of the oval, in the pits and in the bleachers. I’d watched track workers and the promotion team labor mightily and then get to enjoy the fruits of their laboring. And I left in a good mood, pleased for the winners, especially Mr. Meseraull. Finally, I left with high hopes for another grandchild, gender not important and not known yet.

    Maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to take that child to a race as I’ve done with his/her cousins not that many years ago. And I won’t have to ask their name either, even though I may call one of them the wrong name (as I sometimes call Landon by his little brother’s name, Karston).

    Sometimes, life ain’t bad at all.

    Loose in and tight out, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Domination and Opportunity

    The domination part of the title refers to one Brady Short, who simply owns the Bloomington Speedway these days. He did it again last Friday night, outrunning a strong field of cars and winning the Josh Burton Memorial.

    The opportunity part of the title belongs to the Bloomington promotion team. Mr. Short’s domination gives them the chance to ask fans who can beat the current Dominator. If this keeps up, maybe they can offer a bounty and then perhaps some bounty hunters will pay a visit to the red clay oval.

    Leading up to the Memorial for a popular and fallen racer, the promoters cranked it up. This was a co-sanctioned affair with the King of Indiana Sprint Series and the Midwest Sprint Car Series offering a larger than normal purse. Added to that were several incentives (read that extra cash), most all of which were offered by Jerry and Darlene Burton, Josh’s parents.

    From this seat, this couple has handled their unspeakable tragedy with maturity, class and a valued positive attitude. They could have disappeared from the racing scene here after Josh’s death and folks would have understood, but chose another road. They have stayed active, continuing to campaign the family car, now wheeled (and wheeled very well) by young veteran Jeff Bland. For this they deserve much respect.

    All of the pre-race promotion surely paid off at both gates, front and back. The crowd was at or near Indiana Sprint Week proportions. The pits were jammed with 113 race cars, with 39 of them sprints with a desire to compete, Brady Short or no Brady Short. The bleachers and the hillside were dotted with numerous Josh Burton t-shirts. It was the kind of sight that gives one hope, and not merely for the future of sprint car racing. Add the blue Hoosier sky, the green infield and the red clay high banked oval and it was a big slice of this fan’s own racing heaven.

    The KISS format would be used and this meant four heats and two B’s. The number 17 was as frequent as a Chris Judah corny joke; five cars had this popular number.

    Two seventeens were in the first heat and one of them, the 17 of Max McGhee, won from fourth. Dave Darland came from sixth to second. Kevin Thomas Jr. started eighth and stopped third. Chris Babcock grabbed fourth, sending Dickie Gaines, Carson Short and others to a B.

    Michael Koontz took a wild ride in the second heat, unwillingly joining the flip-past-the-turn-three-ditch club. He was okay but done for the night. As the field slowed for the Koontz flip, Kyle Robbins and Braxton Cummings got together in turn one, at the other end of the track. Braxton tipped it over but re-started. Nick Bilbee took the lead early from Brandon Morin and won. Brady Short was second with Morin taking third. Kyle Robbins finished fourth after Jeff Bland slid over the banking coming to the checkered while running fourth.

    Jon Stanbrough started on the pole of the third heat and won with Casey Shuman second. Chad Boespflug was in the Shane Wade/Amati Racing 66 tonight and took third. Veteran Kent Christian edged Brent Beauchamp for the final transfer by a cheeseburger.

    Shane Cottle won the fourth heat and Ethan Barrow came from seventh to finish second. Robert Ballou only came from eighth to grab third. Joe Ligouri hung on for fourth, sending Brandon Mattox to the B—or one of them.

    Two B Mains, taking the top two for 12 laps. Kyle Cummins had moved from tenth to fifth in his heat, coming up a bit short. From the pole he won the first B. Logan Hupp held off the late charge by Jeff Bland, but the sentimental favorite came up short. KISS has no provisionals but the Burton family 04 came out for the feature long enough to lead the field in some pace laps, a nice gesture.

    Brent Beauchamp had also come up a bit short in his heat. He won the second semi with Brandon Mattox holding off Scott Hampton to grab the last starting spot in the 30 lap feature. Cole Smith flipped after contact with Mattox, a racing accident that ended badly for the young man, who was unhurt. Bradley Sterrett also flipped in turn four after running over a right rear tire. He was shaken, but would race again on another night.

    Short and Bilbee shared the front row as the field of 20 came to Rusty Nunn’s green flag. Short grabbed the lead and was building it up until a lap five caution. On the re-start Brady resumed his spanking of the field.

    By now most of the field had given up on the top groove except for Chad Boespflug, who had started 11th and figured “what the heck, let’s try it.” Boespflug was part of a series of fights for position behind the leader involving Darland, Shuman, Cottle, Ballou, Thomas and Stanbrough.

    The race’s only other yellow waved on lap 23 when Ballou’s attempt to slide Cottle ended badly—for Cottle, who was not amused. The re-start order was Short, Bilbee, Darland, Shu, Ballou, Boespflug, Stanbrough, Thomas, Babcock and Barrow. The green flew and Short finished up his work, maybe tempted to start counting the dollars, of which there would be many.

    Behind Short at the checkered was the usual fighting. Bilbee was an impressive second ahead of Darland. Boespflug came from 11th to take fourth over a fast closing Thomas. Shuman was sixth with Stanbrough and Ballou finishing seventh and eighth. Kent Christian came on late from 15th to take ninth. Chris Babcock was a steady tenth.

    Short also took over the KISS point lead from Robbins, who was happy to finish 12th at a track he doesn’t visit very often.

    The dominator dominated and the promoters may well be scheming and mapping out their next move. Maybe they will tie a wheelbarrow to Short’s car. Or let Chris Judah and yours truly take turns driving it. Or something.

    Throwing a simultaneous slide job on Eddie Cheever and Scott Goodyear, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Inevitability of Kody Swanson

    For some time now, it has been Kody Swanson and his team’s “job” to dominate USAC’s Silver Crown division. They have figured out what it takes to take home the trophy and the $$$. Others in the pit could be excused for thinking about what second place pays as they watch the DePalma Motorsports-Radio Hospital #63/Maxim/Hampshire team unload the car off the trailer. And on a cool Thursday night at the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ one mile oval, Swanson and crew waltzed off with the trophy and the prize for the second straight year as they won the Hoosier 100 over a strong field. For the second straight year Swanson made an outside pass going into turn one for the lead and eventual win.

    It wasn’t that long ago that USAC’s Silver Crown Series was on life support. Then along came Andy Hillenburg, hired to resurrect an ailing series. Maybe his job isn’t done, but he’s done a fine job so far. Thursday night was more proof.

    I’m am admitted sucker for comeback stories, those who overcome obstacles to succeed, or those who have fallen flat on their faces only to get up and battle adversity again. This series is a good example.

    There was a fine mix of old and new faces and cars, too. Junior Kurtz made his return with a team led by Brian Tyler. Unfortunately, their night would be cut short by mechanical woes, but fortunately for Tyler, Randy Bateman exited his seat and put the USAC champ in his place with spectacular results. Also among the 29 cars who signed in was the former and familiar Tom Capie 153, now owned and driven by Tyler Courtney. The semi-retired Levi Jones appeared with a car owned by Evansville businessman Jack Rogers. Best of all was the reappearance of one Rickey Hood, 62 years old and making his first Hoosier 100 start in 19 years. He would excel later, outshining competitors less than half his age in the Fox Brothers’ (with Daddy Galen helping a bunch) pride and joy.

    Most of the usual suspects were on hand. One no show was Chris Urish, who had the best excuse a guy could have. His wife and he were in their native Illinois preparing to wave the green flag at a new arrival.

    The show ran smoothly as could be all evening. I sat on the stage during time trials, watching Andy Hillenburg play traffic cop, pointing, walking and occasionally yelling for the guys to get ready. It was worth it. Qualifications were a treat. Kody Swanson was next to last to take his one lap, but he was still quickest at 33.223, relegating A.J. Fike to second quick.

    After the preliminaries, including vintage cars and a drifting exhibition (plus a very brief interview of some guy not named Kevin Oldham who writes for hoseheads), the field lined up, with 27 of the 29 ready to rumble.

    Fike got the jump at the start, but the yellow waved immediately as Chris Fetter and Tad Roach had a meeting in turn one. Both were done for the night, two of the quickest exits made both for this or any other race. On the re-start, Fike held the lead and was wishing to check out, but the second yellow waved for a stopped Tracy Hines on lap ten.

    Not much changed at the top—yet. It was Fike, C.J. Leary, Swanson, Shane Cockrum, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Russ Gamester, Jacob Wilson, Brady Bacon and Shane Cottle, who would exit the race soon.

    For most of the first half of the race there was little change at the top. But further back, people were on the move. Early on Levi Jones moved from 21st to the top ten. His night ended on lap 40, however. Steve Buckwalter was also on the move, from 16th to as high as sixth before flipping on lap 54. Then there was Tyler, who had started as the caboose (27th) and steadily moved forward. By lap 40 he was up to 13th and was far from done.

    Meanwhile, Swanson was biding his time, but not opposed to passing Leary for second, which he did on lap 22. The lap 40 yellow for Jones and Austin Nemire erased Fike’s considerable lead. Now he had Swanson, Leary, Cockrum, Coons, Russ Gamester, Darland, Buckwalter, Bacon and Tyler behind him. Gamester dropped out during the yellow. Leary slowly faded as Tyler kept coming on. But Buckwalter’s misfortune brought a brief halt to proceedings. Steve was unhurt, but done for the night. He does plan to return here next month for Indiana Midget Week.

    Under the red flag there was action. Darland and Leary both had to change tires, but that was a no-no. Both were docked a lap, even though they maintained their place in line for the re-start. Tyler was now in the top five. Brady Bacon entered the top ten.

    A few laps after the re-start, it was show and tell time. Swanson applied massive pressure to the leader, whose tires were fading. Going into turn one on lap 68, Swanson made the pass—on the outside. Last year he had waited until lap 78 to take the lead. This would be for the win but there was a lot more to this race than that. (Box scores in any sport don’t lie, but they don’t tell the whole truth either.) Swanson began to pull away from Fike while Tyler tried to figure out how to pass Cockrum with the one lap down Dave Darland breathing down his neck. On lap 73 Tyler did the deed, passing for third place and gaining on Fike.

    A new player came to play. Aaron Pierce is known as a pavement wizard but he showed that he can handle these beasts on dirt as well. From 18th he didn’t crack the top ten until after the halfway mark. By lap 70 he was pressuring Coons for a top five spot. Both Pierce and Tyler needed a yellow flag. Sure enough, they got it when David Byrne stopped on lap 84.

    Swanson’s nice lead was gone. Fike was still second on the re-start but he was the blood in the water and the others were the sharks. Tyler, Cockrum and Pierce were the rest of the top five. Brady Bacon had been running a steady race and was sixth. Tyler Courtney had the old Capie machine up to seventh after starting 20th. Justin Grant had rambled from 19th to eighth. Wilson was hanging onto ninth. And the ageless Rickey Hood was now tenth.

    Swanson again checked out while positions were swapped right and left. On lap 96 Tyler and Pierce got around Fike and a lap later Pierce passed Tyler. Swanson motored on, trying hard not to count his money just yet.

    But the race’s final yellow waved with two laps to go when Courtney had a tire go away on the backstretch, ending an impressive top ten run for the SC rookie. Swanson would have to endure yet another late race re-start. But for him it was all anti-climactic as he rolled on to the checkered.

    Pierce was a strong second after beginning his race 18th. Tyler came from 27th to third. Fike faded only slightly to fourth with a worn out right rear tire. Justin Grant showed he can race for 100 laps as he came from 19th to fifth. Cockrum had a tire go away at the end, ending up sixth, a great effort all the same. And Rickey Hood hung around while the others had issues; the veteran made all of us middle aged guys proud by taking seventh. Patrick Lawson came on at the very end to finish eighth. Jacob Wilson was ninth, which was where he started. Brady Bacon dropped back at bit at the end with a tire gone bad and brought it home tenth.

    Joey Kramer spanked the UMP mod field, winning the feature by a healthy margin over the ageless Kenny Schrader.

    It was quite a night. The crowd could have been bigger, but the car count was a great improvement. They saw these high speed dinosaurs put on a good race. God willing, there’s a really good chance of a 2016 Hoosier 100.

    Foolishly dreaming of the few remaining dirt mile ovals being added to the Indy Car schedule, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    Hometown Boy

    People learn very early in life to “root for their own.” If a team or individual is from your home town, most likely you will hope that your team or athlete wins over the other school, town, state or nation. With that in mind, sprint car fans that live in or near Kokomo, Indiana, have many reasons to cheer. Younger Kokomo residents like Josh Spencer and Logan Jarrett have made their mark on the Kokomo racing scene and quite probably will continue to do so. Dave Darland is a local legend who has won more than his share of races at Kokomo (and many other places). But Sunday evening at the Kokomo Speedway it was yet another Kokomo boy, Shane Cottle, who won the feature on a partly cloudy evening with a slight threat of showers.

    My home town is no different. My earliest racing memories include racers like Ted Pfeiffer and Bobby Baker. A few years later and the name Bobby Black certainly rang a bell, along with Orval Yeadon and Allen Barr. Fast forward into the late 60s to the 70s and the local hot shoe was one Butch Wilkerson. Somewhere in there Gene and Russ Petro excelled in dirt late model racing. In the early 90s a young guy named Tony Stewart began making his way through the ranks. Not too many years later Derek Scheffel seemingly owned the Bloomington Speedway. Jason Knoke had some success racing open wheel cars at about the same time. And his nephew Logan Hupp is a Lawrenceburg Speedway champ, as is local boy Joss Moffatt.

    Two cities an hour from Indianapolis have a storied racing heritage. Youngsters move to the forefront as time passes. But at least in Kokomo on this Sunday night Mr. Cottle was the local boy in victory lane.

    The possible threat of rain probably kept a few cars and fans away. They missed a show. 22 sprint teams opted to race rather than watch the radar. Several familiar and usual suspects were among the 22. Occasional Lincoln Park runner Matt McDonald was a surprise entrant. Dustin Smith, yet another local boy who is hit and miss these days, had also showed up.

    The quickest of the three group qualifiers was Max McGhee, who ripped off a 13.136 lap in the last group. Justin Grant led the second group while Kevin Thomas Jr. topped Group One.

    Pole sitter Shane Cottle left the others behind in winning the first heat. Thomas was second and Jarrett Andretti took third. Jerry Coons Jr., Josh Spencer, Jamie Fredrickson and Lyndsey Ligouri trailed.

    Logan Jarrett won the second heat; like Cottle, he won from the pole as well as being a local boy like. C.J. Leary, Justin Grant, Travis Hery and Canadian Lee Dakus, making a return visit to the Hoosier state, followed.

    Casey Shuman, settled in the Eric Barnhill sprinter, won the third heat. Dave Darland, in Jeff Walker’s pride and joy, was second. Max McGhee came in third with Conner Donelson slipping from the pole to fourth. Cole Ketchum was fifth.

    The redraw had Kokomo residents in the first three starting spots. Jarrett, Cottle and Darland were up front, joined by Leary, Thomas, Shuman, Andretti, Grant, McGhee and Coons.

    It turned out to be Cottle all the way with the usual dogfights behind him throughout the race. The red lights blinked on lap two when Conner Donelson rode the fence and flipped in turn four. He was okay and able to stroll dejectedly back to the pits.

    The green stayed put for the next 23 laps and no one had anything for Cottle on a track that stayed fast all evening. Thomas scratched and clawed his way to second. He passed Jarrett late in the race when the local boy made the slightest of bobbles. Grant came from eighth to take fourth on a night when passing was tough. Leary rounded out the top five.

    Darland faded only slightly late in the race to finish sixth. Coons was seventh ahead of Shuman, Andretti and McGhee.

    My fellow traveler and I encountered a damp road just outside the city limits; the showers had come that close. He had spent a busy evening playing when the sprint cars were in the pits. He was just north of Westfield before he fell asleep, dreaming about “his guys.”

    Maybe someday he or a kid like him will take their places with those other local boys who preceded them. I like to think that all of them, from the earliest to the current, living or not, would smile at the prospect.

    Protecting the shield, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hurry Up mode

    Everyone at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway was in a hurry to get things done on an unsettled night in terms of weather. With precipitation in the area, both the O’Connor family and USAC officials truly wanted to get this show in before any rain came. Racers felt the same way, no matter what class was running. But as it turned out, no one was in a hurry more than Brady Bacon, who tired of playing follow the leader around the bottom and tried something a bit different, sweeping around Thomas Meseraull and Dave Darland to win the 30 lap feature, high and dry.

    28 teams toed the mark on a warm and humid Friday night. There were a couple of surprises, with Chris Windom making a rare appearance in the Rick Pollock machine and the familiar blue 11 of Jeff Walker’s nowhere to be found.

    My fellow traveler was raring to go as I picked him up after school was dismissed. He fell asleep just south of Shelbyville and slept most of the way to the track. Soon after he woke up he was roaming the pits, acting somewhat older than his six years.

    At the beginning the track was smooth but slick. It had absorbed a good bit of water when the rain poured down earlier on Friday after the track crew had added water. The first heat rolled off 30 minutes late, but things ran quite smoothly all evening.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the first heat despite a pesky Shane Cottle who kept the Alabama native on his toes. Brady Bacon, quick qualifier for the fourth time this year, was third and Jon Stanbrough was fourth.

    Chase Stockon made quite a statement in the second heat as he executed a last lap pass to win from sixth. Kyle Robbins sneaked into second with Logan Jarrett, who had led most of the race, falling to third. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth.

    The third heat was the best race all night—until the feature rolled around. Chris Windom was the third and last of three leaders. Aaron Farney, who lost the lead with three laps to go, was second. Dave Darland was third and Thomas Meseraull punched his feature ticket in fourth. Early leader Conner Donelson went to the B.

    Landon Simon charged from fourth to the lead on the first lap of the fourth heat. Robert Ballou came from sixth to finish second. New daddy Josh Spencer raced like the baby needed new shoes, taking third. C.J. Leary was fourth.

    The pits were a bit hectic as officials exhorted racers to head to the lineup chute for the B. 12 cars and 12 laps later, Justin Grant won the last chance with Tracy Hines second. Casey Shuman came from seventh to third. Max McGhee, Matt Goodnight and Conner Donelson trailed but would start a USAC feature.

    Meseraull and Stanbrough led Ballou, Darland, Stockon, Bacon, Hines, Grant, Cottle and Robbins to the green. TMez got the jump and immediately began to put some serious distance between him and his playmates. Darland got around Stanbrough early but the only thing that would slow Thomas down was a lap eight yellow for Kyle Robbins.

    The green flag would find Meseraull leading the People’s Champ, Stanbrough, Stockon, Bacon, Hines, Grant, Cottle, Simon and Ballou, who had been hip checked a time or two and lost some ground. This segment saw the frontrunners stay low, playing follow the leader while further back people were using the entire surface and then some. Finally Bacon decided to venture to the top and bingo!—he began passing some people. Darland had similar ideas as he took the lead from Meseraull on lap 13.

    When Casey Shuman brought out a yellow on lap 14, Bacon might have said some words he doesn’t use too often. He had come all the way to second when the yellow waved but had to give back two spots. So the order was Darland, Meseraull, Stanbrough, Bacon, Stockon, Hines, Leary (from 16th), Grant, Cottle and Thomas.

    Darland held on for another lap or so but Bacon would not be denied. Returning to the high side, he passed Stanbrough in one lap and TMez the next. On lap 17 it was Darland’s turn to watch the Mean Green Machine motor by.

    But this race was far from over. Lapped traffic, as it often does, became a huge factor. Bacon had pulled away somewhat from the duo of Darland and Meseraull, but both reeled in the Oklahoma native in lapped traffic. It appeared to me that Meseraull had actually led a lap but USAC timing and scoring said no. Nevertheless, both Meseraull and Darland refused to go away and made sure that the outcome would be in doubt until all exited the fourth turn to take the checkered. Bacon’s winning margin was less than a half second.

    Behind the trio of Bacon, Meseraull and Darland was Stanbrough running a quiet fourth. Leary ran the best race that not everyone saw as he charged from 16th to finish fifth, getting by Stockon near the end. Chase was also passed by Robert Ballou, who was sixth. After Stockon was Hines, Cottle and Kevin Thomas Jr., who also passed a few cars in coming from 17th to tenth.

    The checkered flag waved at 9:30 p.m. The assembled group of racers and officials had contested all heat races for three classes plus two B mains and the sprint feature in 90 minutes. I assume that no one complained.

    My six year navigator engaged in choosing winners all evening with Bob Clauson and John Hoover. He more than held his own with those two. And he had the highest finishing pick to win in the feature, choosing T. Meseraull to win. Thankfully for the two senior citizens, no money was exchanged.

    We headed south and, sure enough, the rains came, complete with a nifty little light show. My traveler slept most of the way home, conking out somewhere near Muncie. I do believe it was the earliest we’ve ever made it home from Gas City—11:50.

    In USAC points R. Ballou leads Stockon by two, Darland by 13, Bacon by 45 and Stanbrough is 97 points down from the Mad Man.

    Rivaling Roger Goodell as the most overpaid person in America, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Never, Ever, Give Up

    One of my favorite songs is an effort by British singer/songwriter Peter Gabriel. It’s called “Don’t Give Up” and is an exhortation to his working class countrymen who were going through hard times a few decades ago. How many times have you seen a racer make a significant boo-boo and recover to win the race? Not many, I’d guess. But on a warm, humid night, with rain close enough to make track officials a bit nervous about getting the whole show in, Brady Short did just that at the Bloomington Speedway. While trying to pass leader Nick Bilbee, Short slid off the backstretch, but recovered coming out of turn, losing one position, and then eventually getting past Bilbee for the lead and the win.

    I’m not sure, but I think Brady Short has Bloomington figured out.

    Rain was still in Illinois as 22 sprinters called the Order of the Red Clay Oval to order. The new Racesaver winged 305 sprints had half that number.

    Group qualifying was conducted and the top four of each heat were inverted. Michael Koontz was quickest of the first heat group, but Brady Short checked out from the green flag. Only a late yellow slowed him and made his margin somewhat smaller. Koontz was second ahead of Chris Babcock. Jordan Kinser, Levi Underwood, Brandon Morin and Braxton Cummings trailed.

    Bradley Sterrett won the second heat. Max McGhee, back after a nasty crash last weekend, was second. Kent Christian took third and travelin’ man Chris Gurley was fourth. Lynsey Ligouri gave husband Joe the night off from driving and drove to a fifth place finish.

    Ethan Barrow won the third heat despite heavy pressure from Nick Bilbee. Casey Shuman wasn’t too far back in third. Josh Cunningham, who gave the pre-race invocation, was fourth. Young Cole Smith was fifth.

    The number 17 was popular up front for the feature as Bilbee, McGhee and Koontz started one/two/three. Next to Koontz was Barrow with Sterrett and Short in the third row.

    Bilbee took the early lead over McGhee, but Short was already fourth after the first lap. McGhee slid off turn two and Brady took third. Cunningham brought out the first yellow as he spun in turn four on lap three. Bilbee led Koontz, Short, Sterrett, Babcock, Barrow, Shuman, Christian, Kinser and Gurley.

    Short grabbed second on the re-start and began reeling in Bilbee. Koontz slipped back bit by bit. As the leaders caught lapped traffic, Short was right on Bilbee’s tail tank. And then he nearly gave it all away as he slid off the backstretch. Short re-entered the track side by side with Shuman, but was able to get ahead of the Arizona native.

    A lap later Jordan Kinser brought out a yellow with Bilbee now leading Sterrett, Short, Shuman, Koontz, Babcock, Barrow, Gurley, Christian and Smith. It was lap 11.

    Ligouri stopped on lap 16 to bring out the yellow hankie. The top three were still the same and the turning point of the race was at hand, though who could know that at the time. Short wanted the second spot very badly and ran hard into turn three on the re-start, just clearing Sterrett with a skin tight but perfect dive bomb move.

    Short’s work wasn’t done as Bilbee still led, there were eight laps to go, and the young man leading would not be easy to pass. But the Bedford, Indiana native steadily gained ground on the leader and made the pass on lap 22. As far as the lead was concerned, that was the race.

    But behind Short and Bilbee, the usual wheel to wheel traffic issues made for a real dogfight. Shuman took over third place late from Sterrett and ended there after starting ninth. Behind Sterrett was an equally impressive Michael Koontz. Ethan Barrow was sixth and Cole Smith, improving bit by bit, came from 15th to finish seventh. Chris Babcock flirted with the top five for a spell before ending up eighth. Jordan Kinser was ninth and Max McGhee recovered from his early off track excursion to come back to tenth.

    Somehow the rain that covered a good part of southern Indiana missed the red clay oval. Wondering if I’d be handing out HARF t-shirts or not due to the rain was a waste of wondering. They were all given to feature winners, beginning with Mr. Short, who added to his collection and refused to give up.

    Eric Edwards led from flag to flag in winning the Racesaver 305 feature.

    There were a few sprinkles as I motored through Gnaw Bone (don’t ask), but that was it. Our Hoosier weather continually confounds. And this warm, humid, Saturday afternoon promises more of the same tonight.

    Loaning Tom Brady an air pump made especially for footballs, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Spin and Win

    After watching Justin Grant spin out, wipe out his huge lead, right his car and eventually win the third round of the King of Indiana Sprint Series event at the Kokomo Speedway on Sunday night, it wasn’t all that tough to recall jet setter Danny Sullivan’s similar move on his way to victory in the Indy 500. But win he did and capped off a wild race, 30 laps of controlled mayhem. It was a nice way to spend the ten minutes or so it took to run the feature and people will tell you that it was also typical Kokomo.

    For me, it was third consecutive night of this type of racing, starting with Gas City on Friday, continuing at Lawrenceburg on Saturday and culminating at Kokomo on Sunday night.

    As I climbed out of the truck Sunday afternoon the first thing I noticed was the breeze coming out of the southwest. Often this means a storm is coming. I was right about the storm, but wrong about the source. The breeze calmed down as the racing heated up. Reece O’Connor and the guys dropped enough water on the track to make sure that the dust would stay away and the track would get nowhere near dry/slick.

    Often in life we may wonder which is better, quality or quantity. It’s possible to have too many cars show up for an event. I’d think that promoters would prefer quality—as long as there is a good crowd to show up, buy a ticket, eat a hot dog and buy a t-shirt. The three races I saw were all well attended; given the quality of racing I saw, the car count wasn’t all that important. All I know was that the 22 assembled at Kokomo were a quality group, with maybe half the field holding onto a chance at winning the $2500 that the feature winner would take home.

    A couple of those quality cars produced a side by side finish in the first heat. Shane Cottle led flag to flag, but Jon Stanbrough came on strong at the end to make it a Noah’s Ark kind of finish (two by two, side by side). Robert Ballou was third and Casey Shuman held onto fourth. Aaron Farney was fifth.

    The second heat was a high speed freight train around the top as Brady Short won. Second place Justin Grant did test the middle a couple of times, perhaps thinking about later when traction would be equal in the middle or the bottom groove. Dave Darland was third and Chad Boespflug fourth. Dickie Gaines brought it home to fifth.

    It was C.J. Leary’s turn to play engineer as he won the third heat with Kevin Thomas Jr. in tow. Thomas Meseraull was third with Jerry Coons Jr. coming from the back to take fourth. KISS point leader Kyle Robbins was fifth.

    Short and Grant drew the front row for the 30 lap feature. Grant grabbed the lead at the start and did his part to try and stink up the show. In only a few laps he was simply gone. Lapped traffic didn’t hinder him at all, it seemed.

    But he was not minding the fact that he was missing a great race behind him. Short, Leary, Stanbrough, Meseraull, Cottle and Darland fought like the proverbial cats and dogs behind the unsuspecting Grant.

    But that all changed midway through the race when Grant spun in turn four, but kept it going. Unlike the night before at Lawrenceburg, the yellow didn’t wave. However, Short arrived quick enough to take the lead with Grant only a couple of car lengths back. It was looking like Justin was about to give away another win as he’d done at the ‘burg.

    At this point, Grant received a break in the form of Brady Short’s engine deciding to come apart at the seams as a yellow light blinked for a slowing Logan Jarrett. The re-start turned out to be fairly mundane as no one had anything for Grant, who, amazingly, had run about half the race with a broken right front shock.

    The rest of the top ten will show just how deep and talented this field was. Stanbrough was second ahead of Meseraull, who was coming on strong. Leary was fourth with Robert Ballou fifth. Shane Cottle was sixth, holding off Chad Boespflug. Jerry Coons Jr. was eighth and Kyle Robbins increased his point lead by finishing ninth after starting 15th. And finally, Kevin Thomas Jr., who had taken a nasty ride at Montpelier the night before, was tenth. Kids, that list represents a treasure load of feature wins and doesn’t even include Dave Darland, who dropped out mid-race, Casey Shuman or Dickie Gaines, a KISS champion in the series’ inaugural year of 2001.

    The sprint feature was over right around the 9 o’clock hour. Folks who wanted to hurry home and watch “Bonanza” ended up missing part of Hoss, Little Joe and the gang’s adventures.

    Holding down Floyd Mayweather so all those women he’s hit beat the unholy hell out of him, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: High Speed Poetry

    My farming buddy Kenny has in the past described no less than Jack Hewitt as a poet of sorts. Jack might be both amused and flattered by such a description, if not genuinely confused. After spending an evening of watching 20 odd sprint cars hurtling their way around the high banks of the Lawrenceburg Speedway with such grace, yet on the edge of control, I decided that our form of racing is high speed poetry, among other things, and on a beautiful Hoosier (even though two other states are nearby) night young C.J. Leary was the fastest poet of all. Not only that he was $2000 richer, plus he could say he was the King of the Midwest Sprints as he was last year. It may well be that the Greenfield resident has this track figured out.

    My fellow traveler ignored a pesky cold and signed up to make the trip east to one of his favorite race tracks. For both of us, it was our first trip to the ‘burg this year and it didn’t disappoint.

    21 cars paid a visit, plus a very good crowd. Much of the field assembled owned track championships and/or multiple feature wins. Leary drew the pole of the first heat and won, but not without some pressure from second place Justin Grant. Chris Babcock, making a very rare Lawrenceburg visit, was third ahead of ‘burg champ Shawn Westerfeld and Travis Hery.

    Garrett Abrams won the second heat. The Rushville resident beat J.T. Stapp and Nick Bilbee. Fourth was David Applegate and Todd Gnat nipped Jake Gindling at the line for fifth.

    Thomas Meseraull had stated that he’d be at Lawrenceburg for the evening and there he was, winning the third heat. Jarett Andretti was a strong second. Landon Simon edged out Justin Owen in another race to the finish line. Yet another track champ, Logan Hupp, was fifth.

    The redraw put Stapp and Abrams on the front row. Leary and Andretti were the second row with Grant and TMez the third. Abrams led the first lap but Leary took over for the next two. But Grant wanted to play at being the fastest poet. So he did for a couple of laps. But from there it was Leary all the way. He and Grant tried their best to put some distance between them and the rest of the field, though Meseraull didn’t exactly go away.

    Things went way south for Grant on lap 14 as he spun, bringing out the yellow flag. Most every track or sanctioning body has a rule that says if a car brings out a yellow, it doesn’t matter if they can keep going or not. Either way, they go to the tail. Nevertheless, it had to stink for Grant, who did retreat backwards.

    The re-start looked a lot like Leary, Meseraull, Andretti, Bilbee, Abrams, Simon, Joss Moffatt, Babcock, Stapp and Westerfeld. Again, Leary edged away from TMez. Nick Bilbee found some speed and began a fight with Andretti for third. Landon Simon also came on strong as he worried Andretti for fourth place.

    No one had anything for Leary, as it turned out. Meseraull crossed the line second but was docked two spots for nicking the cone on the re-start after the race’s lone yellow flag. However, after a video review, it was determined that Thomas and his car didn’t touch the cone. TMez was second again with Bilbee third and Andretti fourth. Simon was fifth. Moffatt was the hard charger, coming from 15th to sixth. Abrams was seventh and Babcock eighth. Hupp came from 18th to ninth. Westerfeld started and finished tenth.

    Arguing with a guy who thinks Al Yankovic is a poet, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Chief Bottle Washer

    Over the past off season, Jon Stanbrough must have looked at his 2015 options and decided to go his own way and start his own team, something he hasn’t done in a long time. With wife Melinda and crew chief/wizard Daryl Tate, Jon got busy and began his program, acquiring an impressive list of sponsors and preparing a car (and maybe more) for this season. And on a cool Friday night that was the season opener for the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Stanbrough took an early lead and earned his 22nd King of Indiana Sprint Series feature win.

    As a still new KISS PR goober, I’ve come to make it a habit of wondering the pits, which is nothing new, but now has more purpose. After I showed up, I began my meandering, making laps around the pit. It seemed like with each lap, another car or two would pull into the pits. Before I knew it, 32 sprints had invaded the pit area on the west side of Mr. Himelick’s property. With USAC off this week, a few regulars, including Mr. Stanbrough, ventured to the northeastern Indiana oval.

    Lots of water was dumped on the track and the program began a bit late, but the sprint feature was still over at a decent hour. By the time 7:45 rolled around, it was time to dodge some pellets that only Gas City can provide.

    It was the four heats/four transfer format. In the first heat Dickie Gaines led eight of the ten laps before Kevin Thomas Jr. made the pass on a really, really quick track to take the win. Behind Dickie was pole sitter Tyler Hewitt and Scotty Weir, tonight in the Pederson brothers’ car with its too cool open trailer.

    Thomas Meseraull got the jump on Max McGhee at the start to lead all ten laps of the second heat. Behind Max was veteran Dave Darland and his fellow Kokomo resident Shane Cottle. Last week’s Terre Haute/KISS winner, Brady Short couldn’t get around the Throttle and had to go play in the B.

    Travis Hery took the early lead in the third heat, but it was all too brief as he got some air in turn four and bounced to a stop without going over. Connor Donelson benefitted from this by re-starting on the front row and running away with the win. Kyle Robbins was second with Robert Ballou third. Pole sitter Aaron Farney was fourth, sending Chad Boespflug to the B.

    Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the fourth heat. Jon Stanbrough grabbed second place on the second lap and stayed there. Justin Grant was third. The excitement was seeing Chris Gurley pass Dallas Hewitt in lapped traffic late in the race to take the fourth position and start 16th in the 30 lap feature.

    One could call it the B Main from Hell. No doubt a few racers did just that. Before a lap was completed, a chain reaction/accordion deal left Joe Ligouri sitting sideways in turn four. Not content with a yellow flag, the red waved on the second do-over as Benji Koontz found himself upside down in turn two.

    Rookie Frank Flud, who had exited the race with apparent mechanical issues, rejoined the fight and tagged the field. No laps had been scored as of yet.

    The next red came after a couple of laps had been run. Spencer Bayston, tonight in a Clauson family sprinter, bounced to a stop and was clouted by Dallas Hewitt, who may have been smarting after his late loss of a transfer spot in his heat had helped put him in this position. Meanwhile, Seth Jackson might not have seen the yellow or heard race control as he sailed off turn three and began flipping—all the way to the fence, which caught him and let him go no farther. All were relatively unharmed, even the fence.

    Brady Short led the race from start to finish. After the mayhem the boys settled down with a decimated field left to race. Short and Chad Boespflug checked out to run one/two and Ligouri’s early misfortune became an afterthought as he waded through the carnage to take third. And young Frank Flud did the same and would start in the feature.

    The redraw had Jarrett and Meseraull leading the way with Stanbrough and Robbins in the second row. Jarrett led the first lap, but Stanbrough charged to the front on lap two. Max McGhee had already moved to second, but his night went ugly right away when he flipped coming out of turn two, bringing out the night’s final red.

    On the re-start Stanbrough now led Robbins, Meseraull, Thomas, Jarrett, Gaines, Donelson, Darland, Ballou and Grant. What followed was vintage Gas City, cutting and slashing with different mini-battles throughout the top ten for 26 laps. Stanbrough pulled away and Robbins did the same, though the 81’s tail tank kept getting smaller. Thomas broke free of the pack and began to close on KRob. With about five laps to go he passed the young New Castle resident for second.

    But a yellow waved when Cottle and Gurley got together on lap 28, bringing out a caution and setting up a green/white/checkered finish. Stanbrough’s good sized lead was gone and the always dangerous Kevin Thomas Jr. was on his tail now, ahead of Robbins, TMez, Gaines, Ballou, Jarrett, Weir, Darland and Short.

    However the finish was anticlimactic as Thomas bounced his way out of contention. Stanbrough cruised to victory and Robbins had his second consecutive good race in a row, following up his Terre Haute fourth place with a second here. Meseraull was third with Gaines a quiet, but impressive, fourth. Ballou came from 11th to take fifth.

    Jarrett slowly faded to sixth and Thomas dropped to seventh at the end. Weir came from 13th to eighth. Darland was an uncharacteristic ninth and Chad Boespflug came from 18th to grab a top ten finish.

    Robbins is the new KISS point leader with Short second as the gang heads for Kokomo on Sunday evening.

    Maybe the chief bottle washer will be there, too.

    Enjoying some crab legs with Jameis Winston, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Short, Rain, Short, $$$

    Brady Short had a profitable weekend, you could say. He’s shown time and time again he can win on whatever the red clay at the Bloomington Speedway is on a given night. And, after taking a rainy night away from racing, he did the same at the Terre Haute Action Track on a very chilly, breezy Sunday evening.

    The Sunday afternoon sun felt good as I lazily watched the track crew do their best to work with a track that has seen its share of rain, wind and even sun. 24 sprints (and 20 mods) stopped by for a spell. The co-sanctioning King of Indiana Sprint Series and the Midwest Sprint Car Series determined that all 24 would transfer to the 25 lap A Main; in other words no B Mains tonight.

    Pole sitter/local boy Brandon Mattox won the first heat. Ted Hines came from fifth to second. Dickie Gaines drove a familiar looking car for the night. It was wheeled by the late Jason Soudrette, a predominantly Lawrenceburg regular before illness put a fine young man on the sidelines. Brandon Morin and James Lyerla were fourth/fifth. Mitch Wissmiller was the show for awhile, coming from eighth to run as high as second before dropping out.

    Shane Cottle led early in the second heat. But Kyle Cummins went for a ride, taking a tumble that would bring out the red flag and inspiring some serious thrashing in the pits, because he would be back. Midway through the race, Brady Short took over and took the checkered first with Cottle next. Chad Boespflug came from last to take third. Shane Cockrum was fourth ahead of Carson Short.

    Jerry Coons Jr. started outside front row in the third heat and said adios to the rest of the field—until a yellow spoiled his one man party. It was only a temporary slowdown as the Arizona native motored off into the sunset to win. Chris Babcock had a tussle with Brent Beauchamp for second, but the Bloomfield resident (who has a two hour commute to work each day) prevailed. Aric Gentry was fourth and Ethan Barrow fifth.

    The redraw for the feature had Cottle on the pole for the second time this weekend. Next to him was Coons followed by Babcock, Hines, B.Short, Gaines, Beauchamp, Boespflug, Cockrum and Morin.

    A second or two after the green waved, things went to the scrap heap as Ted Hines was clipped and flipped several times going into turn one. Ted climbed out unhurt but smoke may have been coming out of his ears.

    Racked and stacked again, the race was plagued by yellows and reds early on. Cottle led through this period and B. Short had moved to second. After a lap five yellow, Shane led on the restart, but slowed on the backstretch with a reported broken shock, bringing out the yellow again.

    The boys made another lap before Aric Gentry spun in turn one with James Lyerla and Donny Brackett getting together and trying to do some synchronized flipping. The tired red flag waved again. This was an open red and fourth place running Chad Boespflug was sent to the rear when they lifted a tire off the ground, a no-no under the red flag. They went to the tail, then withdrew entirely.

    Another incomplete lap and another red, this one for nice guy Shane Cockrum, who flipped in turn four. Shane was beat up a little (<<understatement) but was able to get out of the Amati-mobile.

    Still lap seven and the order was B.Short, Coons, C. Short, Beauchamp, Babcock, Kyle Robbins, Gaines, Max McGhee, Wissmiller and Barrow. From here, Brady Short was the man with Coons doing his best to stay close. There was only one more yellow, this one on lap 18 for a stationary Jake Simmons. But that was all that slowed Short down. He had his way and missed some great racing behind him.

    Coons survived C. Short’s attempts to pass or stay close and took second. The younger Mr. Short came from 14th to take third. KRob came from 15th to fourth. Even more impressive was Wissmiller, who had dropped out of his heat and started 19th then came home fifth.

    Babcock was sixth and McGhee was the night’s hard charger, rumbling and rambling from 22nd to seventh. Gaines, Gentry and Barrow (sounds like a law firm) were the remainder of the top ten.

    It was quite chilly on Sunday night. Fans and teams deserved better weather but we were all obviously overruled. So one makes the best of it.

    The shy and retiring Kenny Wallace came back to Indiana and won the mod feature. He was beside himself when yours truly presented him with a Hoosier Auto Race Fans t-shirt. And he nearly cried when I told him that he’s now an official Hoosier (<<much of the preceding was made up).

    The Action Track fires up again next month with USAC’s Silver Crown Series paying a visit. This weekend KISS goes to Gas City on Friday and Kokomo on Sunday. The MSCS ventures way up north on Saturday.

    Complaining about my teammate going too slow, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Biding One’s Time

    One of life’s oldest rules is that there’s a time for most everything. The old folk song “Turn, Turn, Turn” which was lifted from the Biblical book of Ecclesiastes addresses this human condition. We’re told there’s a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time for war and a time for peace. And of course there’s a time to follow the leader and a time to take a different path which may make you the leader. And that is how Brady Short won the 25 lap feature at the Bloomington Speedway on a chilly Friday night over Shane Cottle. He passed a fellow veteran of many a sprint car war on the 21st lap to take the win.

    This would be a night where sprints were a support class, albeit the main supporting class. Modifieds were running for $2000 to win so center stage was theirs. They qualified but only had one lap to get it done. Josh Harris did just that, setting a new modified track record with a 12.518 lap. Much later, Kent Robinson won the feature named in honor of his late father.

    By the time sprint heats opened the ball, the track was wicked fast. The clouds had kept the red clay from getting very dry and Henry Bryant did his usual fine job as well.

    Unfortunately, things got ugly right away. Brandon Morin spun in turn two and Chad Boespflug arrived with nowhere to go except over someone’s right rear. He took a tumble and just like that, he and the Baldwin Brothers’ crew had work to do. On the re-start, Shane Cottle and Jeff Bland took off. Bland did his best to stay close, but Cottle won. Morin held off Jordan Kinser for third. Hunter O’Neal was fifth.

    Local boy Michael Koontz won the second heat with Chase Briscoe and his smoking engine second. Close behind him was Max McGhee in third. Chris Babcock was fourth and Braxton Cummings fifth.

    Tyler Waltz led most of the third heat. But he slid off the track as Brady Short passed him for the lead when the white flag waved. Josh Cunningham came out of hibernation to grab second. Ethan Barrow was third. Cole Smith started and finished fourth. Shelby Van Gilder ended up fifth.

    The draw for the feature had Cottle and Koontz on the front row. Shane’s had a tough year so far with the Hazen hot rod suffering from engine woes. But he got the jump at the start until…it happened again.

    As in the heat race, Brandon Morin spun in turn two and collected, who else, Chad Boespflug, who took his second ride over the banking in less than three hours.

    Chad was okay, but finally done for the night. Cottle maintained control on the re-start until Chris Babcock stopped on the backstretch with no power from the engine. The lineup was Cottle, Short, Briscoe, Bland, Barrow, McGhee, Koontz, Kinser, Cole Smith and Cunningham.

    For several laps Short was content to follow the leader around the bottom. Lapped traffic complicated matters but Cottle still held the lead. Cole Smith was a crowd pleaser as he alone negotiated the high groove until he spun on lap 17, bringing out a yellow which nearly became a red when his toasty brakes nearly became a flame.

    On this last re-start Cottle still prevailed but the natives, at least the one in second place, were getting restless. The track stayed racy all evening, nothing new, so the high groove beckoned Short. Finally on lap 21 the Bedford, Indiana native made his move around the top, sweeping around Cottle to take the lead and eventually stretch it out to most of a straightaway.

    In the post-race interview Short praised everyone from his team to his sponsors. But he didn’t forget to give kind words to Henry and the track crew.

    Cottle was second, still his best run so far in ’15. Briscoe had lost third to Bland but made a late pass to regain the bronze medal. McGhee was fifth. Ethan Barrow started and finished sixth. The best of the rest were Kinser, Koontz, Cunningham and Cummings.

    Whatever plans racers had for Saturday the 25th were washed away with the persistent showers that covered most all of the Hoosier state.

    Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track.

    Banging wheels with Will Power, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    KISS/MSCS Sprints at Terre Haute?

    Forgive my bias, but sprint cars opening the season at the Terre Haute Action Track are comparable to Father’s Day, a birthday, and Grandparents’ Day all rolled into one. A strong lineup of some of the best in the Midwest is expected to kick off the Action Track’s 2015 season on April 26.

    This event will be co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series and the King of Indiana Sprint Series. On April 11 at Lincoln Park Speedway, Chase Stockon grabbed the feature win and the early point lead in the 2015 debut of the MSCS. Terre Haute will be the opener for KISS, the first of seven scheduled events presented by seven of the finest bullrings in the nation.

    Among competitors expected to pay a visit to the Action Track on the 26th are Brady Short, 2013 KISS champion from Bedford, Indiana. Also Kyle Cummins, winner of five MSCS features and a native of Princeton, Indiana is expected to stop by for awhile.

    After the Terre Haute event, KISS heads north to Gas City on Friday, May 1, then to the multi-groove Kokomo Speedway on Sunday, May 3.

    The gang then goes southeast to the Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday, May 16 to challenge the lightning quick three eights mile oval.

    The following weekend will find the King of Indiana Sprint Series and the Midwest Sprint Car Series teaming up at the Bloomington Speedway and the high banked red clay oval on Friday, May 22.

    Two nights later, both groups again meet at the Tri-State Speedway, less than a two hour drive from Terre Haute to the Class Track.

    The 2015 KISS season closes out at the ageless Paragon Speedway on Saturday night, June 13.

    Jon Stanbrough, the all-time leader of KISS feature wins, also leads KISS/Terre Haute winners with three of the seven King of Indiana Sprint Series main events contested. Stanbrough won the 2001, 2003 and 2006 features. Tony Elliott (2002), Shane Cottle (2004), Levi Jones (2005) and Robert Ballou (2012) are single feature winners at THAT over the years.

    Unhappily, the rain has won the past two years. Right now, the extended forecast for Terre Haute on April 26 is 63 degrees and zero chance of rain. We’ll take it.

    UMP Modifieds are also on the program with NASCAR racer and TV personality Kenny Wallace expected to make an appearance; the gregarious veteran will be a real threat to win while his competitors will love nothing better to beat the “invader.”

    Hot laps are scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. and racing at 6:30.

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Jump in and Race

    In a time when specialists become more and more the norm, it’s both refreshing and rewarding to see an all round talent excel. And if that talent serves as the lone hope to do well in multiple categories, it’s all for the better. This brings us to Bryan Clauson, who has driven and done well in more than one type of race car. On a beautiful Indiana spring evening, Mr. Clauson made his way through a very talented group of racers and won the 30 lap feature at the Bloomington Speedway, a program co-sanctioned by USAC and MSCS.

    My now six year old traveling partner and I left town very early for a leisurely drive through the hills of southern Indiana to the famous red clay oval. While the little, but growing, guy played on the playground, I sat and watched the place fill up. The fans trudged up the hill, reminding themselves that they really needed to get in better shape. We arrived ahead of several race teams; after all, these guys had worked all day and leaving work early wasn’t an option for many.

    The unique vehicle that serves as an aid to track prep circled the track going clockwise as it’s done so many times. It didn’t have to worry about hitting any infield tires; they are gone.

    Soon after that most of the 35 sprints on hand took time to warm their engines. Through all this my partner continued to play, not caring that most of the kids were older and bigger than him.

    Track prep wizard Henry Bryant made a late call to give the track just a little more water, not too much. From my perch by the playground I could appreciate Henry’s concern. This kid understands what it takes to give racers a track where they can race.

    Also from my spot on the hill I could hear the ominous rumbling sounds of 410 cubic inch engines idling. Lurking beneath that sound was sheer power and speed, not unlike a predatory animal poised to strike.

    As I chatted a bit with racing buddy KT while his son and my grandson romped, hot laps began. It was almost time to go to “work.”

    The track held up well on this fine evening. True, quick time was set by the third guy out, Brady Bacon, but Kevin Thomas Jr. was 26th to turn two laps and his best effort was a whole .027 seconds slower than Bacon’s.

    Jeff Bland had the shortest night of anyone. He flipped in turn four as he was coming to take the green flag. Unhappily, his night was done.

    One could argue that the first heat race was the best all night. It certainly had the closest finish. Kyle Cummins led nine and seven eighths of the ten laps. Brady Bacon made a late charge at the end, passing for the lead on the outside at the line. Behind Cummins was Shane Cottle in third and Carson Short fourth.

    Yellow fever struck in heat two and Kevin Thomas Jr. must have been looking for a black cat and/or a full moon. He brought out the first yellow flag when he slid off turn four. The second waved when Ethan Barrow went too low in turn one not worrying about infield tires. He spun and collected Thomas, who was able to re-start. Sprint rookie Austin Prock, in the Wingo 77 that comes out to play once in a while, spun and nearly collected, who else, Thomas, but KT was able to drive away. That was the third series of blinks of the yellow light. Pole sitter Dave Darland won, leading fellow front row starter Robert Ballou, Tracy Hines and Chad Boespflug to the line.

    More yellow flag waving ensued in the third heat. Donnie Brackett stopped at the start/finish line. Aaron Farney slid off to bring out the second yellow. And Brackett spun again, this time collecting Jerry Coons Jr. Chase Stockon passed Justin Grant midway through the race to win. Bryan Clauson spent much of the race mired in mid-pack but charged late to take second. Grant was third ahead Max McGhee, who held off Jon Stanbrough to make the sweet 16 while JRS regrouped for the B.

    Landon Simon took the early lead in the fourth heat, but Daron Clayton halted things when he flipped in turn four, not a favorite of several guys on this night. On the re-start, Shane Cockrum grabbed and kept the lead with Simon maintaining second. Brady Short started and finished third as C.J. Leary, with a sick motor, held off Brandon Mattox for fourth.

    Mattox’s night got worse as he exited the track while lining up for the B. Chase Briscoe, making a rare Hoosier appearance, took the early lead but Logan Jarrett rained on that parade quickly. The Kokomo resident took the lead through the first two yellow periods. But after another D. Brackett spin, Kevin Thomas Jr., who had started on the pole, took the lead and the win. Jarrett held onto second and Stanbrough was a steady third. Briscoe hung on for fourth and Coons came from tenth to grab fifth. Ted Hines moved up late to annex the last available spot. Aaron Farney had the most headaches. He ran in the top six for most of the race, only to slide off the backstretch while trying to pass Stanbrough.

    Farney and Jarett Andretti took provisionals for the feature.

    Tracy Hines and Carson Short were occupants of the front row and Short grabbed the early lead. The young man from Marion, Illinois was quite impressive as he led the first 12 laps of a USAC feature, which many racers have never done. Behind him was a scramble with Tracy Hines doing his best to hold off Messrs. Leary, Bacon, Cottle and, yes, Bryan Clauson.

    Steadily working his way through a crowd of very talented racers, BC was soon sizing up C. Short for the pass, which he made easily. Reunited with dad Tim and team, Clauson made the pass and then made it look easy from lap 13 on.

    But behind him things were happening. With only an early yellow to slow things, lapped traffic made it interesting for everyone from second on back. Ninth starting Jon Stanbrough slowly but surely made his way forward. Behind him, 12th starting Chase Stockon, current USAC point leader, was doing the same as others slowly faded.

    It was Bloomington at its best, wheel to wheel on a narrow track, a high/middle/low groove to pick and the kind of bullring racing that makes my home state notable to race fans from all over.

    Late in the race Stanbrough took over second and held off Stockon. Tracy Hines faded only slightly to fourth. Brady Bacon ran well, just not quite well enough to challenge for the win. But BB and the Hoffman crew would settle for fifth. Carson Short should not have been ashamed. He had shown he could run with the big dogs, even though he dropped to sixth. Brady Short (no relation to you newbies), came from 13th to finish strong in seventh. Robert Ballou took eighth after starting 15th. Shane Cottle, after a weekend at Kokomo he’d rather forget, was ninth. His fellow Kokomo resident Dave Darland rambled from 18th to finish an impressive, though mostly overlooked, tenth.

    It was a homecoming of sorts for Clauson, who grew up at this track, among others. He’s branched out to winged sprint racing and is scheduled to run the Indy 500 this year, making him the sentimental favorite of sprint fans everywhere. He’s dabbled in stock cars, and under different circumstances might have done better at that part of the racing world. But it wasn’t meant to be. Instead he lives his life; it’s a dream life for those who only see the rewards, but a life well lived all the same.

    This is Saturday afternoon and four Hoosier bullrings host sprint cars tonight. One can hope some people bring their mounts out to play and all four do well. We all deserve that, but it, like nothing else, is guaranteed.

    Eagerly headed to a Jenny McCarthy lecture where she will tell me all I need to know about vaccines, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Hawk and the Kid

    It wasn’t that long ago that Darren Hagen was considered a kid himself. But time does what it does and yesterday’s kid is today’s veteran. As for today’s kid, meet C.J. Leary, a young man who is following his daddy Chuck’s footsteps and making his own path in the tangled web that is Indiana open wheel racing. And at the Kokomo Speedway on this past Saturday night, both of these gentlemen found themselves explaining to announcer fella Rob Goodman how they won their respective features in the 2015 edition of the Kokomo Grand Prix.

    Whether it was the sprint cars added to the program or the near perfect weather, the north central Indiana playground of speed was the scene of a very decent crowd. Given the rains of the past few days, the track crew had their hands full in preparing a raceable track, which they did. As the night wore on, the surface was choppy in parts, but the trained professionals out there racing adapted quite well and it was another vintage night of racing at the track that doesn’t disappoint.

    30 of USAC’s finest signed for the first race of the Honda National Midget Championship 2015 season. 14 area sprinters stopped by the pit “villa” and wrote their names. Seven of the 14, Kevin Thomas Jr., Justin Grant, Jerry Coons Jr., Isaac Chapple, Zach Daum, Dave Darland and Shane Cottle would be doing double duty for the night.

    Thomas was the quickest of the Midget qualifiers with a rapid 13. 175 lap. C.J. Leary had quick time for the sprints with a 12. 792 circuit.

    Grant won the first sprint heat; he was the third of three leaders in a quick eight laps. The second leader was Thomas, who finished second. Darland was third and Daum, who led the first lap, took fourth.

    Leary, like Grant, starting fourth, won the second heat. Jerry Coons Jr. led the first lap until Leary swept by. Lawrenceburg winner from a week ago Logan Jarrett was second and Coons took third. Expectant father Josh Spencer was fourth. Jamie Fredrickson rolled it over on lap two in turn four. He would get things patched up in time to run the feature.

    The Midgets took center stage and the pattern of the quick qualifier in each heat taking the victory continued for a bit.

    It took three laps to do it, but sixth starting Kevin Thomas Jr. grabbed the lead and rode off into the sunset while others fought for leftovers. Davey Ray was second and Mr. Coons, whose son took his first quarter midget win earlier in the day, was third. Tyler Thomas was fourth.

    In the second heat Andrew Felker gave fans (and maybe himself) a thrill as he thundered from sixth to first—on the first lap. Alex Bright was second and Zach Daum third. Dave Darland held on for fourth.

    Darren Hagen kept the streak going, winning the third heat from sixth. Tracy Hines was second and Tanner Thorson, in a Keith Kunz creation with KT tonight, was third. Early leader Shane Hollingsworth was fourth.

    Spencer Bayston started sixth in the fourth heat but couldn’t bring home the win. Instead it was Steve Buckwalter winning after beginning fifth. Justin Grant was next and Tyler Courtney, in a machine owned by Kenny and Reba Irwin, took third. Bayston was fourth and able to move on to the feature.

    Justin Peck started on the pole of the B Main and won with Ryan Greth, one of the Pennsylvania travelers, coming in a respectable second. Gage Walker was third and double dipper Isaac Chapple was fourth. Another young fellow from the east, Tucker Klassmeyer, was fifth and Jim Radney, yet another easterner who runs with the ARDC, annexed the last spot available for the main.

    Moving back to the sprints, Coons and Grant led the boys to the green with Grant grabbing the lead. Leary had redrawn the third spot for the lineup and soon began pestering Grant. He actually led one lap but Grant reclaimed the top spot until a lap 14 yellow flag waved for Kyle Robbins.

    A lap after the re-start, Leary made his move, charging to the lead. From there he checked out and didn’t even wave good-bye. Behind him was a typical Kokomo dogfight for second among Grant, Darland and Thomas. At the end, Thomas prevailed with Grant and Darland trailing. Coons held off Jarrett for fifth. Zach Daum, new to this sprint car deal, finished seventh.

    For the 30 lap curtain closer, Daum and Ray led Bayston, Hagen, Felker, Thomas, Hines, Buckwalter, Peck and Bright to the green flag. Ray commandeered the early lead as Hagen got around Daum on the second lap to take second. The red flag stopped things on lap two when Alex Bright flipped in turn one. The rapid and talented young man from the Keystone State was okay. The Iowa veteran held off the California native for several laps until the inevitable happened. Hagen took the lead on lap seven and tried mightily to check out.

    Check out he did until a lap 12 yellow waved for a Tyler Thomas spin in turn four. On the re-start, Daum had taken second over Ray, who had K. Thomas, Hines and Buckwalter eager to advance. But Bayston brought out a second yellow on lap 15 when he spun.

    For this re-start Hagen had Thomas to contend with as the Alabama native had moved on up. Daum, Hines and Buckwalter had moved Ray back. But things were about to go bad for Thomas. He did a half spin in turn two on lap 16 and was about to recover when Daum came calling, with no place to go. This collision was enough to park KT and send Daum to the tail.

    The next green waving saw Hagen now having Hines, Buckwalter, Felker, Ray, Thorson, Coons, Courtney, Hollingsworth and Darland behind him. Both Hagen and Hines were able to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Just as lapped traffic came into play Ryan Greth flipped over an infield tire that had been moved into the groove in turn four on the 24th lap. He was okay but done.

    The race’s last chapter had Thorson behind Hagen and Hines. The young man from Nevada made it interesting, giving Hines fits for a few laps. But it was Hagen, Hines and Thorson at the end. Buckwalter was fourth and Davey Ray persevered for fifth. Felker, Darland, T. Thomas, Coons and Courtney were the rest of the top ten.

    My clock read 10:15, a very decent time for a night’s racing to end. I’d done my share of networking, or as old buddy Jerry Russell would say, being a social butterfly. Whatever it was, truly it was time well spent.

    Remembering to thank my sponsors, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: That Time of Year

    This very evening many Hoosiers are escaping the nasty weather that so often visits Indiana in February. Many of those are in Florida, shivering in the (relatively) cold winter nights and either watching sprint car racing, working on cars or actually racing. All of them are no doubt a tad chilly. And they simply could not wait for spring’s arrival. Like them, the rest of us up here shoveling snow and bundling up to go outside have high hopes.

    It is both difficult and sad to imagine a life with no hope; it’s hardly a life at all and way too many people in this world are in that pitiful situation. Those of us who are not should take inventory every so often and be thankful. That would include sprint car fans for sure.

    For those in the racing community that don’t head for warmer climates than our Midwestern winters, hope is essential. This includes promoters who show that theirs is a full time job as they hustle for sponsors, talk with sanctioning bodies and maybe even other promoters, then come up with a schedule that is most always tentative.

    Racers and/or car owners spend the winter building up their own hopes. Those who don’t travel south stay home and maybe catch an indoor race (if they can get a ride), schmooze with a sponsor or two, and either A. work on their car or B. buy a new car. Most often it is A. They, too, decide what their schedule will be and this, too, shall be a tentative schedule. Many follow the money. Some run for points, be it an individual track or a sanctioning body (here it’s USAC, MSCS, or BOSS). A few are loyal to a track and/or a promoter. Those who can afford it head for Florida.

    Meanwhile fans try to hold on until spring by catching an indoor race, watching reruns of races online, haunting message boards and making up their own schedules. Depending on gas prices, some may wander a bit farther from home for a big race. In the Hoosier state, fans still working schedule vacations around Indiana Sprint Week or Indiana Midget Week—if not both.

    The one thing all these people have in common is, what else, hope. Other than baseball, no other sport in the Northern Hemisphere begins in the late winter/early spring. To these aging eyes, this seems natural. (Nor is it an accident that Easter, in both its pagan and Christian beginnings, is in the spring.)

    It’s a sometimes mean and dark world out there and, when they can, people need an escape from it. For us, that means losing ourselves in the tiny corner of the world called sprint car racing. Most of us want someone to cheer (and boo) while others merely enjoy what we see. This passion offers us hope when there are many other places we go offering little or no hope. For one evening, we can be inspired by what we see, racers who are like us but also different. We can identify with and admire the Dave Darlands of at least the Hoosier sprint car scene, a gentleman with a direct link to the working person whose achievements have been impressive indeed.

    Despite all the snow that many of us see these days, we are helped along by the knowledge that spring approaches. The temperatures will rise, the snow will melt and racing will begin—or at least will try to begin. Never mind the racing in Florida, our Pennsylvania cousins have already begun making the attempt to race while we Hoosiers will wait another month or so. Watching videos is great but experiencing all the action in person has no equal.

    After all these years, the itch is alive and well. Spring training is about to begin and the sights and sounds of sprint car engines can’t be too far off. (It’s somewhat humorous—and maybe understandable—that my personal 2015 season opener will be in North Carolina, not exactly a hotbed of sprint car racing.)

    This was written between bouts of shoveling snow. But even while my grandson and I were shoveling, visions of the red clay high banks of Bloomington, the Tri-State/Haubstadt tractor show, the Lincoln Park popcorn, the Kokomo pork chop sandwich, the Lawrenceburg state of the art grandstands, the tiny dirt pellets of Gas City, the timeless and rustic beauty of Paragon and the lightning fast speeds of Terre Haute all inspire me to keep shoveling, as it were.

    Soon we’re off to the mountains of North Carolina for lots of reading, writing, relaxing and…watching our fendered brethren mix it up at a few Carolina bullrings. We have hopes of enjoying ourselves and of coming back to yet another season of seeing some talented people do what they do best.

    Hoping that Kurt Busch will eventually get it, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Backwards Destination

    The old racer lay in an antiseptic room, breathing his last. He was ready, more or less. He believed that his suffering would be over soon, and was willing to admit that there was a bit of apprehension on his part, not knowing what was ahead of him. But his recent talks with the preacher had made him feel much better and he was at peace. He believed that soon he’d be reunited with his late wife and lots of other friends and family. At the very least he wanted to believe. He had plenty of hope.

    He may or may not have dozed off, but at any rate, he had traveled back 20 years or so. He could see himself as he prepared for his last feature. Somewhere way out West, he could recall the feeling. He had high hopes of winning the 30 lap feature, or at least finishing well. It had been a good career overall. Granted, he’d been gone from home too many times, but he had a family that needed and deserved a decent reward for his absences.

    For this last race, his wife and two of their three kids were able to make the trip west. In his mind’s eye (or somewhere) he could see Doreen and the kids waving at him as he slowly circled the track before the feature. Then there he was, racing for 30 laps, hoping for a good finish.

    Alas, he wasn’t going to win, but third place wasn’t a bad way to go out. After the winner had been interviewed, he was asked the usual retirement type questions. The only one answer he could recall had to do with hoping to spend more time with the family, helping Doreen at her flower shop and, of course, indulging the grandkids’ every whim.

    Had anyone been in his room at that moment, they might have seen a slight smile on his face. But his kids weren’t there yet. They were on their way, along with the grandkids.

    As he climbed back into the car one more time for the push back to the pits, he couldn’t help but think back 25 more years or so. He smiled inwardly, thinking of the old bomber that he bought after saving up the money. With some things gifted, others borrowed and still other things purchased on the cheap, he went racing with quite a few hopes and dreams.

    His first race was a heat race and, being a rookie, he started on the tail. He was on his way to the front when another driver spun in front of him. Luckily, the damage wasn’t too bad and he was able to make the feature after finishing third in the B, his first complete race.

    Two years later he’d get his first ride in a sprint car, which had been his goal from the beginning.

    Ah, the beginning. Where was it? In his mind (or somewhere) he went back 15 more years. He could now picture himself and his dad at a race. It was a long gone race track and lots of home made contraptions filled the infield. They were called supermodifieds back then and the little boy was overjoyed at the sight.

    Despite the dust and the crashes, the boy was hooked. For several days it was all he could talk about. The other kids at school must have thought he was a bit weird, but he didn’t care. He loved watching those races and would bug his dad to go. Thankfully, his dad was quite happy to take him along and sometimes his mom and kid sister went too.

    As the now old man lay there his slight smile reigned over his face, despite the pain and the sense that he was slipping away. He was conscious enough to know where he was and he knew that his family was on their way. He hoped he could hold on until then.

    But it simply wasn’t meant to be. His eyes closed and he stepped into that great unknown, at least to those still living. His smile was still there. Folks might wonder why the smile, but his good friends and family would know.

    His family arrived less than two minutes after he slipped away. A nurse was already there trying to get a response from him with no luck. She looked up at the family and burst into tears.

    “I tried, really I did,” she told them.

    The old racer’s son stood quietly, gazing at the smile on the old man’s face. He hugged his wife and said, “It’s okay, honey. Look at that smile. He took the checkered flag with a smile. How many people do that?” The son smiled himself, in spite of his tears.

    His kid sister, who had flown in earlier that day, stepped to the bed and held her daddy’s hand for the very last time.

    “Good-bye, Dad. Tell Mom hello for us.” She straightened up and gave her sister-in-law a hug, as well as her big brother, who had kept the tradition alive by going to races with his dad as much as he could. Both had tears, mostly of sadness but with a good bit of joy as well. Joy, along with hope, was what this is about.

    It’s easy for us to forget that racers are “people,” too in that they have their own set of hopes and dreams. They may approach life in a vastly different way than the rest of us, but they, too, have families. They, too, know heartache and risk. And, for the most part, they, too, are allowed to live out their lives and see the generations coming up behind them.

    As my favorite holiday arrives later this month, may we all look around and find things that we can call blessings. If we wrote out a list of things that we are thankful for, quite a few of us might have to take a break due to sitting in one spot too long.

    I know this because I’m one of those people. And the old racer in this story was surely another one.

    Eagerly awaiting the next version of the “Chase,” I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     



    dlb1600@yahoo.com


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