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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: McCune and His Broom

    One didn’t have to be Nostradamus to figure out that Jimmy McCune quite likely would dominate on the final night of the MustSee Sprint Car Series’ southern tour. Sure enough, on a warm and humid Saturday night at the Hickory Motor Speedway, Mr. McCune led every lap of the 50 lap feature, beating both the competitors and the approaching rain (more on that later).

    I’ll cheerfully admit that my preference in racing matters runs to open wheel cars with no wings and my surface of choice is dirt. Lots of people who hang or used to hang around a handful of Hoosier bullrings would understand. But with all that, an evening at Hickory was an outstanding Plan B. About 70 miles northeast of my North Carolina temporary dwelling, the drive is worth it, even minus the scenery that is a treat all its own.

    I rambled around the pit area, looking for familiar faces perhaps, but just enjoying the atmosphere. On the surface, the impression is one of being laid back, a time to simply absorb all one can see, hear or even smell (once the concession stand opened), but behind the scenes, people are starting to get serious. Most all the usual suspects from the night before at Anderson were in attendance. Georgia’s Jay Dunham and Ohio’s Charlie Shultz, with one of the more impressive resumes in the pits, had made the trip to the middle of the Tar Heel State, making a car count of 16.

    In time trials, the biggest question was how close to the 12 second mark someone would qualify. Tom Jewell went out early and turned a 13.641. Several cars later, Jerry Caryer rang up a 13.170. Then came Jacob Wilson, who broke into the 12 second bracket with a 12.645. Dirt tracking Johnny Bridges was the next to last qualifier and took fast time up to that point with a 12.235. But Mr. Bridges dared not take a bow because Jimmy McCune was the last candidate for time trials. His first lap was second fastest, but the final lap of qualifications was the gold standard with a blistering 12.158, a mere .08 off Hoosier Brian Gerster’s track record. One had to wonder that had time trials been conducted later in the day, when the track surface would have been cooler, would we have seen an 11 second lap.

    As a child, I remember when the late 50’s—early 60’s version of the supermodifieds would have “slow,” “middle,” and “fast” heats. The MustSee folks did the same thing. The heats, in theory and sometimes in fact, would be more evenly matched.

    With three of the five cars in the first heat sporting a number four, one might have been tempted to bet on a number four car to win. Bronzie Lawson IV made that a winning bet as he grabbed the lead on the second lap of the first heat race and went on to win his first MustSee race of any kind. Ohio’s Joe Speakman was second, ahead of Bronzie Lawson III, Anthony Linkenhoker, a veteran of the Virginia Sprint Series, Joe Larkin and Jay Dunham, who was a DNS.

    Jeff Bloom passed fellow veteran Charlie Shultz to win the second heat. Pole sitter Tom Jewell, another long time campaigner, was third. Anthony McCune was fourth and Jerry Caryer dropped out with engine woes.

    The fast heat was a treat as Johnny Bridges, he of the smoking right rear tire, passed both Jacob Wilson and Jimmy McCune on his way to the win. Behind McCune and Wilson were Bobby Santos and Johnny Petrozelle.

    With rain showing on the radar in Hickory, but not falling at the track, J. McCune and Wilson led the field to the green flag. Joe Speakman dropped out before the race began. McCune grabbed the lead and began an effort to shake Wilson, who was as relentless as the leader.

    But a yellow flag waved on lap six for sprinkles, just as Bronzie Lawson IV slowed to a stop. Thankfully, the cars kept circling the track and the precipitation faded away. McCune had not pulled away from Wilson and anyone who had proclaimed that the Michigan driver would romp may have been questioning themselves.

    Another yellow waved for Jay Dunham, who stopped on track at lap 11.

    On the re-start, McCune led Wilson, Bridges, Petrozelle, and Santos. McCune gradually pulled away from Wilson and experienced eyes may have turned to the others as Wilson had his hands full holding off Bridges for second. Both seemed to gain on the leader in lapped traffic, but McCune broke away when he cleared the lappers. With nine laps to go, sixth place Jeff Bloom went a lap down. And Petrozelle, who had been fighting an ill handling car, was lapped on lap 48, two laps till the checkered.

    Nostradamus would have been proud.

    McCune’s margin of victory was close to 3.5 seconds. It was his 18th career MustSee Racing win.

    At the finish, the top five were J. McCune, Wilson, Bridges, Santos and Bloom, who made a late pass on Petrozelle to take fifth.

    The MustSee schedule shows that the caravan heads north to Michigan’s Berlin Raceway on May 13.

    Trying to persuade Ann Coulter and Michael Moore to team up and appear on Dancing with the Stars, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Hot April Night
    While Hoosier race fans were either freezing at the Plymouth Speedway or getting rained out at the Bloomington Speedway, there were quite a few race fans at the Anderson Motor Speedway, near Anderson, South Carolina who enjoyed early summer like temperatures as open wheel racing continued to make its mark on the Carolina racing scene. At night’s end, no one was hotter than Jimmy McCune, who grabbed the lead midway through the 50 lap feature and cruised to victory as the MustSee Sprint Car Series impressed the crowd on the first of a two night visit to what is usually considered stock car country.
    Arriving early despite the annual road construction on I-85 near Greenville and the near 90 degree heat, I found the moderately banked and paved quarter mile jewel in the western portion of the Palmetto State. 14 MustSee sprints and ten of the USAC Eastern Midgets had invaded the jammed pit area.
    Watching hot laps from the infield was a treat, as is often the case at most tracks. Anderson is banked more than appears from the bleachers. And there was plenty of sawing going on as the winged sprinters were a challenge during their hot lap session.
    Among the 14 were some interesting characters. Jeff Bloom, age 68, was more than three times as old as some of his competition. Johnny Bridges, a rarity in that he’s a North Carolina resident who is all about sprint cars, was quite the show in hot laps and qualifying. He was dirt tracking it in the turns, smoke coming from the right rear. After a while, I started feeling sorry for the tire, but it lasted all night. Anthony McCune, Jimmy’s nephew, was doing double duty, going back and forth from his sprinter to the midget he was driving for the night.
    In time trials, a new quick time was set no less than ten times out of a possible 28. J. McCune’s second and last qualifying lap was the quickest of all, a 13.249 effort.
    Keeping it in the family, A. McCune was the fast timer for USAC Eastern Midgets with a 15.593 lap. But Nolan Allison made it interesting. He was the last car to take time and his second lap was 15.396.
    Tom Jewell held off Anthony McCune to win the first of two heats. Pole sitter Bronzie Lawson IV was third. Ohio’s Joe Speakman, driving a car that was older than several of the younger racers, was fourth. Anthony Linkenhoker, Joe Larkin, and Bronzie Lawson III trailed.
    Jimmy McCune took the lead from Jeff Bloom on the second lap and went on to win the second heat. Johnny Bridges, still dirt tracking, was third. My fellow Hoosier Jacob Wilson was fourth with Hoosier resident Bobby Santos, veteran Jerry Caryer and North Carolina’s Johnny Petrozelle finishing up.
    There was not much of a rain threat, so an autograph session was held for the sprint car drivers, with a few USAC racers also joining in. Even though I’d be happy if they would just go racing, I understand why promoters do such things. Fans, young and old, seldom get the chance to meet these people. However fleeting or superficial, relationships are established and perhaps a fan gains another reason to go to a race. And seeing that these were open wheel cars in an area that’s always been stock car country, maybe a few of these stock car fans will enjoy a sprint race every now and then. They probably won’t be converted, but they may be more likely to catch the rare sprint car race.
    Santos and Wilson led the others to the green after the field lined up in the missing man formation, remembering one of the best at pavement open wheel racing, Dave Steele. Santos took the early lead and Wilson fell in behind him. But J. McCune was on the move after starting fifth. After a lap he was fourth. Five laps were in the books when he passed Bloom for third. It took McCune five more laps to pass Jacob Wilson for second. Santos’s job was suddenly more difficult. McCune reeled in the leader and they ran nose to tail for at least five laps before the third generation racer made a pass for the lead on the outside on the 19th lap.
    The new leader set out to lengthen his lead as much as he could. By lap 35 of 50, his lead was a straightaway over Santos. Jimmy seemed to be content with that and cruised to victory. By race’s end, McCune had lapped up to seventh place Johnny Bridges. Santos kept second with Wilson third. Bloom was fourth and Petrozelle was fifth. McCune’s margin of victory was just under five seconds.
    The 50 lapper was caution free and was over quickly, in 12 minutes and 40 seconds with an average speed of nearly 89 mph.
    George Fultz led all 35 laps to win the USAC Eastern Midget feature over Jessica Bean. It was the 14 year old Colorado resident’s second straight win.
    On the way home, I stopped counting how many times I had to adjust the windshield wipers’ varying speeds. Mini-showers popped up all along I-85. By the time I made it back to the mini-mountain, everything was dry.
    The next stop would be another visit to Hickory Motor Speedway.
    Channeling my inner Rick Steves, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Carolina Observations/Same Message, Different Delivery
    Before we began our annual North Carolina visit, I knew that folks do several things different down here. I already knew that this includes how they conduct their racing programs. The pace of life in this tiny dot in the western part of the state is much slower than what I’m used to as I travel all over the Hoosier state. I’ve not dwelt upon such differences, except to realize there’s nothing I can do to change things. But to really give these racing, cultural and social differences some thought, I had to go to church.
    Yes, church. To be specific, I willingly visited a church that, on the surface, has little in common with my home church, which is an American Baptist Church. I was struck by the differences in the program and rituals that these Episcopalians followed. Some of those habits are foreign to me, but I was there to learn, among other things.
    This Easter Sunday experience reminded me of my racing experience the night before at the Hickory Motor Speedway, maybe my favorite Carolina track, paved or dirt. Having gone to a few races here for a few years, I knew what I was in for and still I went willingly.
    Down here, the schedule is seldom followed. I was there to see the Easter Bunny 150, plus the other races scheduled. Time trials were to begin at 4:30. I arrived right on time and qualifying began promptly at…4:50. I wasn’t surprised. I wasn’t even upset. Like my friend Rich Hollmayer has said, I’m alive and I’m at a race track surrounded by friends. I was surrounded by strangers to be sure, but they were all friendly. Women down here call me “honey” even though they are less than half my age, to use just one example. It’s the custom here. I don’t mind.
    Regular programs down here typically race up to nine different divisions of race cars, with several divisions indistinguishable from others. Heat races are rare. Each class hot laps, qualifies and runs a feature. As most of you know, we don’t do anything like that back home.
    Thankfully, Hickory had none of that going on. After time trials, the featured late models ran a 15 lap qualifier’s race, setting the starting spots in the back of the 32 car field. Up next were the USAC Ford Focus Midgets, with a young man named George Kurtz winning by a straightaway over Hoosier Jessica Bean. This was followed by a Legends feature.
    At this point, Hoosier sprint fans would have been chomping at the bit, ready for the feature. Instead, all late model teams were instructed to push their cars out to the front stretch and the fans could go onto the track and meet/greet the drivers, many of whom were armed with hero cards and Sharpies. Thinking about how various sprint car fans would react to this “time wasting” gesture, I had to smile. Several Midget and Legends teams joined the crowd and brought their cars out as well.
    I talked briefly with Ms. Bean, as well as USAC’s 2016 Midget Champ Tanner Thorson, who is angling to move on to stock cars as the opportunity arises. The sun was starting to set and just the one race, the 150 lapper, remained.
    Up to now, I’ve emphasized the differences in both different religious denominations as well as in different forms of racing. I’ve thought about all the people who would rather wade knee deep in cow dung than go to a different (or any) church. And I’ve thought about race fans who would rather wade knee deep in more cow dung than see other kinds of race cars instead of their favorites.
    One conclusion I’ve determined is that these people have more in common with each other than they care to admit. At a stock car race I see the same passion for the on track action as I do at my favorite Hoosier bullrings when sprints are the main attraction. Like their sprint car cousins, late model stock fans wear the t-shirts, drink beer, cheer and boo all night long. There’s not really anything wrong with that…as far as it goes.
    At churches of different denominations, I see people sing, pray and listen (ideally) to the speaker. You don’t see much cheering or booing (at least not verbally), but you do see people acting very much like their (fill in the denominational blank) brothers and sisters. Like it or not, they have more in common than one would think.
    Here’s what all this means. Maybe we should acknowledge our differences in this life and celebrate what we have in common. How different is the passion of a, say, Dave Darland fan compared to the passion of, say, a Brad Keselowski fan? Obviously, there are also huge differences in the type of cars those two drive, but maybe what’s more important is the fact that both are racers, champions who compete to win to the best of their abilities. And if they were to sit down together and talk about racing, they could relate to what the other describes.
    These intangibles that drive this world, everything from the desire to win to the searching for spiritual hope, are the things that truly matter. At the Episcopalian church here in the mountains, I saw the same spiritual feelings as I do at the Baptist church a few blocks from my Indiana home. At the Hickory Motor Speedway, I saw the same passion and spirit of competition among fans and drivers that I do at my beloved Hoosier bullrings, from Lincoln Park to Bloomington--Lawrenceburg—Kokomo—Haubstadt--Terre Haute--Gas City—Paragon—Salem—Brownstown—Eldora--the mile dirt tracks. And it’s true at every Carolina track I’ve visited these past few years.
    And maybe at this Easter season where hope abounds, we ought to remember these things.
    Rolling open the tomb and getting a nice surprise, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Exclamation Point
    A win may be merely a win but it’s not uncommon that some wins mean or say more than others. Some of this can be fact, but most of it is perception. For the first night of the 2017 Kokomo Grand Prix, both the sprint and midget features ended with winners making statements and even assertions. Up first was Justin Grant, who cemented his position as eventual successor to Dave Darland in mastering the lightning fast quarter mile oval we call the Kokomo Speedway. Closing out the night was Brady Bacon, winner of the USAC Midget feature. All he did was re-take the lead from Spencer Baytson and slowly pull away for the win. In the past few years, the occasion of anyone outrunning any of the Keith Kunz stable of excellence has been rare. Could there be a shift in the balance of power in the USAC Midget division? Could the Kunz juggernaut be toppling? I tend to doubt it but predicting such things is about as futile as predicting what various insomniacs will tweet at three o’clock in the morning.
    On a pleasant but eventually chilly Saturday late afternoon, 35 USAC midgets and 19 sprints ambled to the pit gate to say hello to Jill O’Connor Demonbruen and sign in. But what really made Jill and her family smile was the front stretch bleachers that were mostly occupied by a large group of race-hungry race fans.
    Matt Westfall, ill sounding engine and all, held off Chris Windom in winning the first heat. C.J. Leary was third and pole sitter Kyle Robbins was fourth. Isaac Chapple, hailing from the metropolis of Willow Branch, Indiana in eastern Hancock County, was fifth.
    Dave Darland was in a one-off ride as a teammate to Travis Hery and he was strong as he won the second heat. His second row partner, Justin Grant, was second, trailing his former ride. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. was third. Brady Bacon was fourth with Aaron Farney, in the family car, taking fifth.
    USAC Midgets took over with Spencer Bayston, who set quick time and was 19th of the 35 qualifiers, making an opening statement by coming from sixth to win the first heat. Dave Darland, one of five double dippers (the others were Kevin Thomas Jr., Chris Windom, Brady Bacon and Justin Grant), was second. Thomas and Ryan Robinson ran third and fourth, locking up feature spots.
    Tyler Thomas, all the way from Oklahoma, led all the way in winning the second heat. Californian Shane Golobic, teammate to Grant with the Clauson/Marshall team, was second heat. Nevada’s Tanner Thorson took third and Arizona’s Chad Boat was fourth.
    Grant made his own statement in coming from fifth to win the third heat. Tucker Klaasmeyer, all the way from Kansas, was second. Chris Windom started and finished third. After some close, wheel banging moments, Brady Bacon edged Holly Shelton for fourth.
    If that wasn’t enough, Tyler Courtney came from sixth to win the fourth heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Pole sitter Jake Newman was third. The pride of Davenport, Iowa, Davey Ray, wrapped up the last feature spot via heat races with a fourth.
    Front row starter Holly Shelton won the B Main. Alex Bright came from sixth to finish second. Gage Walker started 11th officially and took third. Tanner Carrick, a rookie and the newest member of the Kunz team, was fourth. Tyler Nelson came from deep in the pack to place fifth. Ryan Greth hung on for the sixth and last spot in the feature.
    The sprint feature was up next and it evolved quickly into a mano a mano battle between a guy who has owned this track since before its excellent makeover and a guy who is threatening to claim the title of King of Kokomo. Matt Westfall and the current king, Dave Darland fired off from the front row. Justin Grant was back in the third row. Darland took the early lead and put a substantial amount of real estate between him and the pack until lap five, when Cole Ketchum’s engine emitted a lot more smoke than was healthy, bringing out the yellow.
    Dave may or may not have known who was second. It was Grant, who was second, ahead of Kevin Thomas Jr., Bacon and Windom. Lapped traffic came into play midway through the race, but Darland held off the young Californian until another caution light blinked on lap 15.
    Ten laps to go and DD knew he was in for a struggle. For five laps the two racers went at it, slide jobs, over/under moves, you name it. They never touched or even came that close. But with five laps to go, Grant dove low and took the lead for good. Darland faded at the end with an ailing engine. Bacon and Windom both passed Darland before the checkered. Thomas was fifth. C.J. Leary was sixth, ahead of Aaron Farney and Tyler Hewitt. Isaac Chapple and Matt Westfall filled out the top ten.
    Adding a bit of trivia, the top five sprint finishers were all racing in both features.
    Some time was allowed for the double dippers to hop out of their 410 fire breathers and into their midget rides. The sprint feature had been vintage Kokomo. How could the midget feature be any better?
    We found out right away as Brady Bacon leaped from his fourth starting position to take the lead on the first lap before the others knew what hit them. Bacon maintained his lead when the yellow waved on lap ten. Pole sitter Chad Boat was second, Tyler Courtney was third and Spencer Bayston led the Kunz contingent, fourth overall.
    On the re-start, Courtney got upside down and flipped hard in turn one, landing on and bouncing off Justin Grant’s hood. Tyler tossed his steering wheel out of the car before it settled in one spot and was out of his seat soon after. Dave Darland, who had been sixth at the re-start, went to the pits with a flat tire. Grant went to the pits, made minor repairs and, along with Darland, returned, tagging the field.
    Another re-start and it was Bayston’s turn to shine. He dispatched of Boat quickly and began pressuring the leader. Bayston and Bacon traded slide jobs a few times before the Lebanon, Indiana native took the lead on lap 13. Davey Ray stopped on track, bringing out a lap 18 caution flag.
    For the second time in less than an hour, we were to witness another one on one battle. Just because the kid had grabbed the lead from the still young (27) veteran didn’t mean that Bacon was done. With some people thinking that here was another Kunz team victory, Bacon determined not to give up. He traded positions a few times with the leader before reassuming the lead on the 24th lap, never to be threatened.
    Bayston had to settle for second. Spencer’s teammate Tanner Thorson, last year’s USAC Midget champ, was third. A pair of juniors, Kevin Thomas and Jerry Coons, were fourth and fifth. The bottom half of the top ten was led by sprint winner Justin Grant, who came from the tail spot after his misfortune. He was followed by Chris Windom, last week’s double winner. Tyler Thomas was eighth and Dave Darland ninth after coming from the back. Ryan Robinson made sure that the Kunz outfit had three in the top ten.
    It was also a good night for K. Thomas and Coons. Along with Bacon, they made the top five in both features. Darland had at least a top ten finish in both races.
    I was home by midnight, always a plus but also a testament to both the track and USAC in moving the show along.
    I missed the Sunday night edition of the Kokomo Grand Prix as both Grant and Bacon repeated. I spent a good part of the day with a little boy who isn’t that little any more. He was eight years old on Sunday and I watched him at baseball practice, running, throwing, catching, hitting and running some more with the kind of energy all kids need to have and some adults too. Later, his grandmother and I took him to Arni’s for some pizza.
    Monday began our annual North Carolina retreat, the latest we’ve ever gone south. For my first time, I’m scheduled to catch four sprint car races down there. The plan is to send some articles here as well as Flat Out. Always before we’ve made the visit in March, but seeing that we were between houses, we delayed the trip. The changes have been many the past few weeks as we left a house after 26 years to downsize into a house when we return from the Tarheel State.
    We are living the old quote about change being inevitable. And I’m reminded how true that is in racing. Is Karston’s buddy Dave Darland’s reign over the Kokomo Speedway at an end? Maybe, but not necessarily. Is the domination of the Keith Kunz powerhouse of USAC Midgets over? See previous answer.
    Hovering over my phone, eagerly awaiting an invitation to Mar-a-Logo, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Broomboy
    Given the level of both excellence and parity that routinely is status quo for all of USAC racing, a weekend sweep is fairly rare. When it happens, people should take notice. One weekend does not a season make, but there’s no denying that Chris Windom has the upper hand as the Hoosier/Midwest/USAC 2017 season gets underway. On a surprisingly mild Sunday evening, Windom methodically made his way to the front and dominated the 100 lap Sumar Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track. He was the fourth of four leaders in the race. Given his Lawrenceburg win from Friday night, his broom had a nice workout.
    After a Saturday night spent mostly with a rambunctious seven-year-old, I settled for a laid back 50-year-old, namely my niece’s husband who’s spent a few evenings at the Action Track over the years. As we parked, dust could be seen from the track as the first hot lap session had begun. I didn’t panic. I’ve seen dust at Terre Haute and this was nothin’. Sure enough, after several massaging sessions, dust was a minor factor, if that.
    There were an impressive 35 entries before the race with no less than 12 rookies trying their luck against some of the best. Three of those, Damion Gardner, Joss Moffatt and Travis Welpott, intended to make every show, but Welpott’s machine wasn’t ready just yet.
    The track did slow down after hot laps. Lots of wheel spinning marked the qualifying session and lap times were easily two seconds slower than practice times. Kody Swanson’s lap of 23.599 led the clan. Only 11 of the 31 cars taking time trials were under 25 seconds. (Shrug shoulders. It happens.)
    USAC stats-meister Richie Murray informed me that my grandson has never been able to attend a Silver Crown last chance race. Karston was born in April, 2009. The last time the division had a last chance race was at Eldora in 2008. Good news for Silver Crown, and another goal for Karston.
    Mark Smith, hailing from Pennsylvania and driving for long time New York open wheel standout Malcolm Lane, started on the pole of the 15 lap semi-feature and ran away with the win. The top eight moved to the 100 lap show with Shane Cottle second. Gardner, who suffered through a subpar qualifying effort, came from 11th to finish third. Dave Darland, still a bit sore from Saturday night’s mayhem, came from eighth to fourth. The ageless Bill Rose was fifth. Rookie Moffatt started and finished sixth. Young Austin Nemire was seventh. And front row starter J.C. Bland held on for eighth.
    After driver introductions and pre-race ceremonies, Kody Swanson and Casey Shuman led 22 more to Tom Hansing’s green flag. Fourth starting Shane Cockrum grabbed the lead on the first lap and held the lead when North Carolina’s (yes, you read that right) Johnny Petrozelle spun in turn four on lap 12. Cockrum led last year’s Sumar winner C.J. Leary, Swanson, Shuman, Brady Bacon, Justin Grant (who was attempting to win the first race of each of USAC’s three top divisions this year), Windom, Hunter Schuerenberg (who, like Darland, had to be a bit sore after a Lawrenceburg mishap), teammate Jerry Coons Jr. and Smith, who had already come from 17th to tenth.
    On the re-start, Leary gave the Chief fits and finally took the lead on lap 19. This stint at the top would be brief for the Greenfield, Indiana resident. Seven laps later, Swanson, who had eased Cockrum from second, took his turn up front. Lap 30 saw the second yellow wave as pavement ace Aaron Pierce spun in turn four. Under the yellow, Justin Grant dropped out. On the re-start, Swanson led Leary. By now Chris Windom had made his way from his ninth starting spot to third. Bacon was fourth, trailed by Schuerenberg, Cockrum, Coons, Cottle (from 18th), Rose and Smith.
    Cottle’s night ended early soon after the re-start as he trailed smoke all the way to the infield pit area. As this happened, Windom was all over Leary and took second. From there, the Canton, Illinois native reeled in the leader. It was only a matter of time.
    That time came at the halfway mark, lap 50 as Windom got around Swanson to take the lead and do his best to imitate his dominating Eldora Four Crown performance last September. Lapped traffic didn’t bother him as those chasing him were busy swapping positions.
    By now, the low groove was popular as Swanson pretty much abandoned his effort at working the cushion. But it was far from follow the leader stuff. As some people used up their tires quicker than others, some moved forward while others struggled.
    Just past the 60 lap mark, Cockrum’s night ended as he went up in smoke after falling out of the top five. At about the same time, a rejuvenated Leary passed Swanson for second. Windom kept increasing his lead. He was just over a straightaway ahead of Leary when the last yellow flag waved for Bill Rose stopping just as he exited turn four on lap 82.
    This final re-start was maybe Leary’s best chance to make some noise. Windom did stretch his lead somewhat, but Leary noticeably closed with ten laps to go. It wasn’t happening; Windom cruised to another dominating win. Behind Leary was Swanson. Schuerenberg held off his teammate Coons to take fourth. Bacon hung on and finished where he started, sixth. Darland’s night was quite unlike the night before as he came from 20th to take seventh. Gardner soldiered home eighth after starting 19th. And two of my local boys rounded out the top ten. Dakota Jackson, part of the Nolen three car team, was ninth and Joss Moffatt, in his first Silver Crown ride, came from 22nd to take tenth, admitting post-race that this 100 lap deal was a bit more taxing than the 30 lap sprint car features that he’s used to running.
    The feature was over at 8:39, making for some happy race fans who had to work the next day.
    Nephew and uncle moseyed back to the pits to visit. It was time well spent. I was happily surprised to see car owner Malcolm Lane’s brother and my longtime friend Ron (along with Ron’s wife and daughter) at the Action Track. Through Ron, I was introduced to a man whose name I’d read many times in years past in the National Speed Sport News. I spent an educational session with both Malcolm and another Lane sibling, Calvin—who had some racing stories of the two wheel variety of his own to tell.
    In terms of conversation, meeting people and learning more about people and this crazy world we live in, it was a rewarding evening. I learn a little bit more about grass roots racing every time I talk with Bill Babcock, a friendly man who loves this sport nearly as much as his family—and that’s saying a lot. I learn more about writing, racing and life every time I talk with Dave Argabright, a man who’s experiences in this crazy sport of ours is both timeless and priceless. And to finally meet a man I’ve admired from afar for literally decades, Malcolm Lane and his brother Calvin, was like the icing and the cherry on top of the cake. And there were several others with whom I had brief conversations. Those, too, were valued.
    Of course, there were those I missed seeing, but if God wills it, those will be seen at a race track soon.
    Just as racers find a way to put themselves into a position to win or do well, often we can do the same if we show up, look around and be friendly to people. This was certainly the case. I’ve found that one cannot meet too many nice people in racing and in life, which at times may be the same thing for some of us.
    Hugging a tree and getting slapped by said tree, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Multiple Flips and Glowing Brakes

    On a wild opening night, marred by some terrifying accidents, Chris Windom rang up his first USAC victory at the Lawrenceburg Speedway as a robust crowd ignored the chilly temperatures that had folks seeing their breath after the sun went down. It was the ’burg’s opening night as well as the USAC Sprint Cars’ Midwestern opener.

    It was also the first race of 2017 for my almost eight-year-old fellow traveler. Wasn’t it last week when his big brother was attending his first race at Winchester Speedway? Now the older one is taller than I am, while the younger can now read words as well as numbers. Neither know any strangers.

    Healthy car counts for all three divisions meant a late night with the sprint feature concluding at 11:15. Of the 96 cars jamming Dave Rudisell’s playground, 35 were USAC sprinters. As always, there were a few changes, among them Michael Fischesser changing his number to 44 in honor and memory of recently deceased Greg Staab. Max McGhee took over the Ottinger ride that Kevin Thomas Jr. did so well in last year. Meanwhile, KT was in the Pace family car. Hunter Schuerenberg and the Motsinger family came together and debuted a new ride. Kody Swanson was in the Epperson 2E. Chad Boespflug and company merged with the Hoffman family with the same car and the Mean Green sponsorship. Justin Grant ended 2016 with Mike McGhee and that was still the case. Jeff Bland and Mike Dutcher were hooked up. And Aric Gentry was recovered from his ugly Lawrenceburg crash from last year.

    Hot laps were a treat as usual with C. J. Leary setting quick time with a 13.618. Unfortunately for him, that would be his highlight of the night.

    Justin Grant went out first and was the fastest qualifier with a 13.251 lap. Several cars gave all, especially the chauffeurs; there were a few hair raising moments as a few left rear tires left the ground and a few cars got up on two wheels. Cooper Clouse hit the turn two wall and flipped before he completed his first lap, becoming the night’s first, but not last, casualty.

    Nick Bilbee won the first heat from the pole. Jarett Andretti was second and Chad Boespflug third. Shawn Westerfeld used the neglected high side to pass Justin Grant no less, and locked himself into the feature with Grant heading for the B.

    Chase Stockon came from sixth to win the second heat. This would be the highlight of his night as he would meet misfortune later. Max McGhee was second and Hunter Schuerenberg won the battle of the number twos as he took third ahead of Kody Swanson.

    Jeff Bland won the third heat, the second car to win from the pole. Jon Stanbrough was impressive all night and was second. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges, who can now say he is a Lawrenceburg feature winner, came back to Indiana and was third. Dallas Hewitt passed Landon Simon on the last lap to grab the fourth and final transfer spot as Mr. Simon missed a chance to flip, bicycling on two wheels in turn four.

    Shane Cottle made it three for four as he won a stacked fourth heat. There wasn’t a great amount of passing because the field was so balanced. Carson Short was second and Chris Windom was third. Dave Darland got around Tyler Courtney for third.

    The B Main had an ugly start as Travis Hery, Matt Goodnight and Riley Van Hise had a turn two meeting. Hery and Goodnight collided and Van Hise ended up on his side. Three wreckers got busy. On the re-start, Kevin Thomas Jr. nearly went over. C.J. Leary swerved to miss a car but went in the path of Michael Fischesser, who had nowhere to go but the wall. Leary went to the work area and rejoined the race while Fischesser’s night was over too early. Justin Grant led 11 of the 12 laps before Tyler Courtney stole the lead and the race on the last lap. Thomas was third, followed by Corey Smith. Tyler Thomas came from seventh on the last re-start to take fifth. Landon Simon hung on for sixth. Isaac Chapple used a provisional to get into the show.

    It would be Boespflug and Windom leading the gang to Tom Hansing’s green flag. But things turned nasty early as Dave Darland and Chase Stockon came together in turn one after the start and flipped wildly, losing their tail tanks and a good bit more. Each car was heavily damaged but both drivers walked away. This wiped out the third row, moving everyone else up a row. On the re-start, Windom simply drove away, the loneliest guy at the track, but maybe the happiest.

    When the yellow flag waved for Carson Short on the eighth lap, Windom’s lead was a straightaway as Boespflug had his hands full holding off Grant. On this re-start, Schuerenberg was on the move and it seemed for a brief time he might have something for Windom. But we never found out as Hunter got upside down in turn two, executing another nasty series of flips. He, too, walked away and another good race car was trashed.

    The lineup was Windom, Boespflug, Grant, Stanbrough, Simon, Westerfeld, Swanson, Hodges, Courtney and K. Thomas. Not much changed up front as Windom was simply too strong. He reached lapped traffic on the 19th lap and here would be his biggest challenge. Boespflug and Grant closed the gap somewhat but Windom’s biggest issue was brakes that glowed brightly as he sailed into each turn. Lap 24 saw the Illinois native clear lapped traffic and then he got another break of sorts.

    Shane Cottle had been working his way through the field before spinning on lap 25. The field bunched up behind Windom, but his brakes got a break, as it were. Sure enough, on the re-start, Windom pulled away again, and won by a comfortable margin over Boespflug. Grant was third and Stanbrough was a quiet, but impressive, fourth. Simon ran near the front for all 30 laps, taking fifth. Hodges was a close sixth and Westerfeld showed he could run with the big boys, taking seventh. K. Thomas was eighth and Andretti was ninth. Cottle recovered from his spin to take tenth after starting 21st.

    It was 11:15 and we were ready to call it a night. The little guy was asleep before we reached Aurora, surely a new record for him.

    Next stop, Terre Haute for another look at the USAC Silver Crown Series.

    Attempting to filibuster the weather, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: PRI 2016/The Gathering

    For me, it's logical that the largest gathering of racing people would meet in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana at the Convention Center. People that are connected in some small or large way roamed the aisles, gawking at the displays. Others held forth at their company's booth, hawking their wares, many of which were shining examples of the latest technology in racing products. Still others hosted press conferences and/or seminars.

    I joined the gawkers, shaking my head in wonder at the variety of items displayed. Company reps eagerly demonstrated how to operate complex machines for onlookers. Racing celebrities (Donny Schatz, anyone?) were interviewed. Show cars of every type of racing (Tyler Courtney’s sprinter, anyone?) abounded, with everything from NASCAR’s version of stock cars to space age vehicles that weren’t built for grocery shopping spread throughout the massive complex.

    Right around the noon hour on Thursday I found Aaron Fry, the creator of the successful Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, holding forth with a group of interesting people. Aaron’s daughter Elizabeth let me know that the 2017 BOSS schedule is not quite complete.

    Aaron wanted me to know a little about the Collins Career Technical Center-Powersports Program. This is the first high school to enable young people to build a sprint car as part of their senior project. To aid these projects contributions in the form of anything from cash to tail tanks are accepted.

    I left for home on Thursday afternoon, making the long walk on a cold and windy day to the little white truck. It had been an educational first day and I determined that I’d spend more time on Friday walking and talking.

    Sure enough, that happened. I began another day of ambling, seeing some familiar faces and learning a thing or two. I looked over the USAC schedule for its top three divisions. The Gas City/I-69 Speedway was listed for two races, one each for Midget and Sprint Weeks. I had a good look at a new safety measure, three bright green lights lying horizontally across the back side of the roll cage. The green lights are for the top three in a given race. Yellow or red lights will activate on every car when there is a spin and/or accident. There will be a light on each car’s dashboard as well. This is a result of the Bryan Clauson tragedy this past summer. Sharp eyed Kevin Briscoe and I seemed to think they were plenty bright enough and wondered if these lights might be a distraction. Time will tell and perhaps adjustments will be made. But at the very least, USAC (and Toyota, who is putting up the funds for all of this) should be applauded for the attempt to make these things four wheeled rockets a little safer.

    (As an aside, sure enough, the social media gurus had their say about this new development. Yet again, opinions, often misinformed, was presented as fact with little regard for the reasoning behind the changes.)

    In other USAC news, I learned that former Silver Crown headman Andy Hillenburg won’t be replaced and Levi Jones will be handling all three divisions, midgets and sprints in addition to the SC tour. He will have some able assistants, but come summertime, Richie, Spridge and company might be on the road more than at home. I asked Levi if he preferred Tums or Rolaids, as well as Bayer or Tylenol. He laughed and basically said all of the above.

    On another chilly Hoosier morning, I headed north to the big city for the last day of PRI. There would be one more day of hands being shaken, acquaintances made, seeing old and new friends, schedules made, begun (or fine-tuned), press conferences, interviews and seminars.

    I caught up with the aforementioned Mr. Fry for some more bench racing and plotting, of course.

     I searched in vain for the booth that was supposed to be occupied by the good folks of Badlands Motor Speedway, which is up for sale at a cool $9.75 million.

    Nearly $10 bought me a hot dog, a bag of chips and a small Sprite. Every eating location in the Convention Center was pretty much packed so I retreated to a stairway and enjoyed my lunch there.

    Tracking down Justin Zoch of Flat Out Magazine, I had a productive meeting with a guy I’ve been writing for the past two years. I didn’t dare complain about the cold weather to the Minnesota resident.

    Speaking of guys I write for, I had a good chuckle at the ID card mailed to my house. It showed my residence as Drums, Pennsylvania. Right, and Allan Holland is a Hoosier, too.

    Gas City/I-69 Speedway has just the two races I know of, and I heard that the O’Connor family will oversee those two shows. This is good news for several reasons. A well run program, pork chop sandwiches (I hope) and the playground where my grandson will visit between sprint car races. And a race track lives on.

    There were several seminars, press conferences and “media opportunities” all three days. There was no way I could make all of them. In fact, I didn’t catch one (even though going to the seminar concerning safety would have been a good idea). I felt bad at first, but then I thought about how I spent my time talking to people like Kevin Briscoe, Aaron Fry and his daughter Elizabeth, USAC’s Richie Murray, Levi Jones, Jim Appleget of Dirt Late Model Magazine and Justin Zoch.

    By Saturday afternoon, I was ready to head south again. It had been an educational three days. If nothing else, it had been a more positive experience than my first visit (which was marred only by the introduction of the infamous USAC Silver Crown car that could have doubled as a vacuum cleaner). Though I was tired due to age, three straight days of negotiating I-65, and walking up to five miles per day, it was time very well spent.

    I watched a group of dedicated, motivated and energetic people going about their business, which was racing in all its forms. It occurred to me that this snapshot of the PRI show could lead one to believe all is well with racing in general and open wheel racing in particular. I’d not be the one to believe that all is well, but it appeared to me that racing’s health, like my own, is generally good.

    These thoughts took my mind to the concepts of perception, reality, accuracy and distortion. We see these in every aspect of life. There are those who wish to look at everything they see through a very small looking glass. They do get a picture, but it’s a distorted and incomplete picture. And if they are predisposed to have a certain opinion, well, it isn’t difficult to add that opinion to a tiny slice of reality that they see through the figurative looking glass. In effect, they end up believing that opinions, even lies, are the truth.

    Within the racing world this is very true as well. As we are predisposed to resist changes, good or bad, our knee jerk reactions will most always be negative, at least initially. Too often the result is a group of people who end up saying that racing is doomed. Or, to be more specific, they’ll say that putting lights behind a roll cage won’t work.

    Perhaps in earlier times they would have protested the additions of a roll cage or a nerf bar. And to add to the absurdity, most of the complainers have never driven a race car of any kind.

    On a much brighter note, few of the nay sayers were roaming the Convention Center. Instead, I saw a good sized and good natured crowd of people who either make their living in the racing business, love racing in general, or both. God knows we can’t have too many of them showing up at the PRI show or at your favorite race track, from that big track out on Indy’s west side to the bullrings that dot this land of ours.

    Looking in vain for Heckle and Jeckle, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: As It Should Be

    We can say lots of good things about the 2016 USAC/Indiana/open wheel season, but we can’t ignore the cloud that is the loss of Bryan Clauson two months ago. But we carry on. Racers race and people step away from social media and electronic devices to watch them race. And, despite the tragedy that shook so many, the curtain closer at the Terre Haute Action Track was one to appreciate. After a battle that seemed to last for most all of the 30 laps, Chris Windom finally prevailed over Chad Boespflug in the Jim Hurtubise Classic. Mr. Hurtubise was one of a kind, a fun loving sort who liked to go fast. The car number we remember him by is 56. That number would have fit quite nicely on either the winning 5 or the second place 98.

    Thanks to a combination of great weather and a desire to present a race, fans streamed into the Vigo County Fairgrounds in the knowledge that this would be the last Hoosier/USAC sprint car race that they would witness in 2016. Little did they know it would be one to remember and a good time would be had by most all.

    Carson Macedo’s resume has been missing racing sprints without a wing. On this night he would add to his experience by climbing into the Krockenberger family sprint. Thomas Meseraull was back in his own effort (with a little help here and there), open trailer and all. He was still banged up from his Kokomo flip the night before, but was ready to race. And with this being a USAC points race, Kevin Thomas Jr. was, again, sporting Robert Ballou’s number one while Ballou continues to recover from injuries. The car count was a somewhat slim 22, which meant the three heat format would rule. One had to finish in the top five to keep their qualifying time.

     Chase Stockon was quickest in practice and time trials. After turning a practice lap under 20 seconds, the still young Hoosier had a quick time of 20.424.

    Chris Windom missed a great first heat, but didn’t mind. He won by a large margin. Behind him, C.J. Leary, Chad Boespflug, Dave Darland, and Chase Stockon could have been covered by the proverbial blanket.

    Tyler Courtney won the second heat; like Windom, he started fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Bret Mellenberndt got together coming out of turn two with the South Dakota native missing a good chance to take a tumble. Pole sitter Brady Bacon was second. Aaron Farney took third. Thomas was fourth and T. Meseraull grabbed fifth.

    Jon Stanbrough took the lead from Corey Smith early in the third heat and motored on to win. Sure enough, Stanbrough started fourth. Kokomo veteran Smith was second and Justin Grant, on a tear with Mike McGhee’s car, took third. Jerry Coons Jr., in what may have been his last race for long time car owner Monte Edison (who is reportedly retiring from racing), ended up fourth. Carson Macedo settled for fifth.

    Things were moving right along. Even with a track blocking scene at the start of the modified feature, sprinters were lining up for the 30 lap feature just past 8:35.

    It’s very difficult for me to name the greatest race I’ve ever seen. There have been so many I’ve witnessed in person that most run together. Some stand out, be it for either wrong or right reasons. I wasn’t ready to say this was the best race I’ve ever seen. But it must rank up there. Simply put, Chris Windom and Chad Boespflug showed why we enjoy this so much. It was a race between these two with all the ingredients for a memorable 30 laps. Speed, of course, close competition, and one yellow flag for a harmless spin meant folks got their money’s worth.

    Grant and Meseraull led the 22 to Tom Hansing’s green flag. TMez fell back quickly as Grant took the lead. Boespflug, who started third, charged to the lead on the third lap. Windom, who began the race seventh, was coming on early. With four complete he was second. A lap later and he grabbed the lead from Boespflug. The tone was set.

    The lone yellow waved for J.J. Hughes, who had steering issues and spun to a stop in turn four on lap eight. Windom and Boespflug led Grant, Stockon, Coons, Stanbrough, Farney, Courtney, Meseraull and Leary. The top two began to separate themselves from the rest. Windom worked the low groove in turns three and four to perfection as Boespflug hung it out in the Jack Hewitt groove, right by the wall.

    Back and forth the lead changed, often more than once within a given lap. Officially Boespflug took the lead on the 17th lap, but Windom wasn’t done. With lapped traffic becoming an issue the tension increased, if that was possible. Though Windom was like the proverbial rocket ship coming out of turn two, Boespflug still held him off.

    But it wasn’t going to last. Windom grabbed the lead on lap 28 with a textbook slide job in turn three and pulled away the last three laps to wrap up his second 2016 USAC sprint triumph. It was Windom’s second Jim Hurtubise Classic win as well.

    USAC’s numbers guru Richie Murray said there were 26 actual lead changes in addition to the four official lead changes at the start/finish line. This was accomplished with no beating and banging, no bump and run, and only one re-start after a yellow flag.

    The feature ended just shy of nine o’clock. I mingled a bit among the crowd, not in a hurry to leave. For me, it was the last outdoor race of the year. A mixture of feelings hit me as I strolled around this home away from home. After chatting with a few friends (and nearly getting run over by Mr. Boespflug), I somewhat reluctantly headed to the car.

    Lost in the excitement up front was Jerry Coons Jr., who finished third after dropping out of the top five early. Stockon and Grant completed the top five. The second five was Courtney, Bacon, Stanbrough, Leary and Farney.

    Brady Bacon was the KSE Racing Products hard charger, coming from 17th to seventh.

    The quote of the night belonged to Jerry Coons Jr., who said, “I wish I could’ve been up there to spice it up a little bit.” Uh, I’m not sure my heart could have taken much more spice.

    Not worrying about the results being rigged, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Dash and Klash
    Indiana weather in mid-October can offer residents anything from bone chilling cold to oppressive heat; on rare occasions this can be within 24 hours. But if our weather is unpredictable, we can count on some things that are very predictable. One of these, of course, is open wheel racing at the Kokomo Speedway, 2016 edition. When the first night of the Kokomo Klash was over on this past Friday, Justin Grant stood holding the trophy and, perhaps, counting his money after winning the sprint car feature. A few minutes later, Chris Windom was in the same spot after doing the same in the USAC Regional Midget feature.
    24 sprints and 31 midgets were among close to 100 cars in the pits. Of note concerning the sprints were Thomas Meseraull in a one off in the 04 that has been occupied by Tyler Thomas most of the summer. Dakota Jackson was again in the Waltz family-mobile. Matt Westfall was in a Ray Marshall production.
    Thomas Meseraull took the Burton Masonry sprinter to the first heat win, but C. J. Leary made it close at the end, falling a few feet short. Jarett Andretti was third and pole sitter Kyle Robbins ran fourth. Scotty Weir came from eighth/last to take the last piece of candy and Ted Hines prepared for the B.
    In the second heat, pole sitter Justin Grant led all the way with Chris Windom second. Jerry Coons Jr. didn't let a subpar time trial deter him from grabbing third. Dave Darland started and finished fourth. Travis Hery overcame a bad start to recover and edge Dakota Jackson for fifth.
    Two laps of the third heat were completed and the second row had annexed the first two positions. Shane Cottle and Kevin Thomas Jr. had things well in hand before KT jumped the cushion and flipped hard. Thomas was out of the car quickly and would return for the B. Behind Cottle were a pair of Matts, Goodnight and Westfall. The Tree City Tornado, a/k/a J. T. Stapp, was fourth. Local vet Corey Smith took fifth.
    Dakota Jackson controlled things from start to finish in the B Main. Thomas, some repairs made, came from sixth to gradually work his way to second with an ornery handling beast. Ted Hines, Joe Bares, and Jaden Rogers added their names to the feature lineup.
    At the other end of the lineup were Meseraull, Cottle, Leary and Grant. Cottle took the lead as the green waved. Two laps were complete when a turn two scrum brought out a yellow. J.T. Stapp appeared to have been the one who did a half spin with several checking up behind him. Travis Hery didn’t check up quick enough and spun.
    It was Cottle, TMez and Grant. Thomas had already come from 17th to 12th. A lap after the re-start, the red waved when Ted Hines tipped over. Six laps later another yellow came out for a stopped Stapp.
    Now it was still Cottle and his buddy Meseraull, but Grant was third, followed by Windom, Leary, Andretti, Westfall, Darland and….Kevin Thomas Jr.
    Again, calamity struck, this time it was Meseraull above the cushion and smacking the wall in turn one, injuring some of the fence as well. The boys had not yet run ten green flag laps. Three laps after the re-start Thomas spun on the backstretch unassisted but kept it going. No yellow was waved and track rules basically state that it’s a case of no harm/no foul.
    At about the same time, Grant’s mastery of the high line paid off as he got around the master of the low line, Cottle, for the lead. Justin never could totally shake the “wily veteran” but his margin was maybe ten car lengths. Behind Mr. Cottle was Jerry Coons Jr., who hung around the top five all 25 laps. Chris Windom was fourth. Jarett Andretti wrapped up his 2016 racing at Kokomo with a creditable fifth. Dave Darland started 11th and ended sixth. Matt Westfall was seventh and Dakota Jackson came from 16th to finish eighth. K. Thomas Jr. overcame a heat race flip and a spin in the feature to still grab ninth after starting 17th. Kyle Robbins finished where he started, tenth.
    Midgets
    Though the Kunz juggernaut didn't end up in the Bryan Clauson Victory Lane, they excelled in the heats. Carson Macedo left teammate Ryan Robinson and the others behind in winning the first heat. Tanner Thorson made it a sweep of the top three spots for Kunz Motorsports. Jerry Coons Jr. was fourth and Gage Walker took fifth.
    In the second heat it was Spencer Bayston's turn to lead the charge. Dave Darland was second and Davey Ray overcame a last place starting spot to maneuver his way to third. Holly Shelton was fourth and Oklahoma's Chett Gherke grabbed fifth.
    Chris Windom came from fourth in the third heat to the lead in two laps. Tony Dimattia came along for the ride, running second until dropping out midway through. Windom won easily with Kyle O'Gara second. Ryan Secrest finished third and Dave Camfield was fourth. Donnie O'Keefe transferred to the show.
    Tony Diamatta took the lead on the white flag lap to win the B over New Zealander Anton Julian. Veteran Kurt Mayhew was third. Ryan Seach and Cole Fehr earned the right to race one more time. Pole sitter Shane Cottle made an early exit before things heated up.
    Robinson and Darland led 18 others to the green. Chris Windom took the early lead when Tanner Thorson spun after a lap was complete, collecting Jerry Coons Jr. and Tony Dimattia. They weren’t able to continue but Thorson was.
    On the re-start, Windom retained the top spot with the Kunz duo of Robinson and Macedo giving chase. Seven laps were complete when Julian spun and was smacked by Fehr. Windom led Robinson, Macedo, Bayston and Darland. Sixth was Ray, trailed by O’Gara, Shelton, Walker and Thorson. Three number 67s were in the second five, a scorekeeper’s nightmare.
    Right after this re-start, a tremendous battle broke out among Macedo, Robinson, Darland and Bayston. Davey Ray joined the party soon enough. Darland discovered an advantage on the very bottom of the track and exploited it to confound the higher horsepower runners. Dave was occupying third place when the red waved on lap 20 for a Spencer Bayston meeting with the turn one wall. The wall won and a good effort was terminated.
    On the re-start Windom still led Robinson, Darland, Thorson (!), Ray, Macedo, Walker, Shelton, O’Gara and Gherke. Soon after this, Gage Walker made a charge, taking fifth. Darland was busy, too, He passed Robinson and did his best to catch the leader. Dave came up short as Windom won by about three Cadillacs parked bumper to bumper. Thorson came on strong to take third, edging Walker. Shelton finished a strong fifth. Ray was an impressive sixth. Robinson and Macedo faded to seventh and eighth. Gherke and O’Gara made it ninth and tenth.
    The Kunz team is alive and well. They have had a successful year. But the midget portion of the Klash showed that they can be beaten. Windom and the Baldwin Brothers crew are relatively new running midgets but showed themselves to be a force perhaps down the road. Darland may have been working with less horsepower, but he showed why he is and will be a member of various Halls of Fame.
    Thorson’s run was quite impressive after having to re-start on the tail after his early spin and finishing third. He quite possibly didn’t make any friends by stating that he preferred to race a winged sprint rather than the Indiana sprint car design, which usually is minus the wing. But driving one of those little screamers that Keith Kunz and company build for him is a lot of fun, he said, so we’ll give him that.
    Next stop, Terre Haute.
    Neither clowning nor frowning, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Pure Domination
    Kevin Thomas Jr. put the hurt on a strong field at the Tri-State Speedway on a chilly night, the finale for the Midwest Sprint Car Series. The following dialogue between two race fans told much of the story.
    Race Fan 1: Man, how long have you been here? I thought I was early and I’m parked at least halfway to the farm house.
    Race Fan 2: There were a few cars here when I showed up right after lunch. It was kinda cool to watch all the car come in.
    RF1: You haven’t been drinking any beer, have you?
    RF2: (Laughs) No, I quit, remember?
    The pits were jammed with 82 race cars in residence. 26 were sprinters, among them Kevin Thomas Jr., Chase Stockon, Carson Short, Kyle Cummins, Brady Short, Aaron Farney, Tyler Hewitt, Jarett Andretti, Critter Malone and Donnie Brackett.
    Group qualifying was the order of the day and Kevin Thomas Jr. was in the third group. His time of 13.255 was quickest of all. The top four of each group were inverted for each heat.
    RF2: Did you see that? How did he (Kyle Cummins) squeeze that car in there?
    RF1: I don’t know. It was quite the move. I wonder if Andretti knew he was there. And what happened to Critter?
    RF2: I think he was bangin’ wheels one time too many. It was a shame.
    The first sprint heat's finish would be hard to duplicate. Kyle Cummins made an outside pass on Jarett Andretti to grab the win. Aaron Farney wasn't too far back in third. Colin Ambrose was fourth and Kent Schmidt started and finished in fifth, the last available spot. Critter Malone led the first seven laps and was engaged in a fine fight with Andretti and Cummins for the lead when some wheel banging left him parked in turn two.
    RF1: Did you see Tyler give ol’ J.T. that wheel?
    RF2: Yeah. I wonder what brought that on. Retaliation?
    Pole sitter Brian Karraker led all the way to win the second heat. Tyler Hewitt made it close and took the silver medal. J. T. Stapp was third. Ben Knight and Tony Lawrence trailed. Donnie Brackett, who had been the quickest qualifier of this group, dropped out early with engine woes.
    RF1: I don’t know, man. I think they should have called that one back. Carson Short’s engine must have burped or something.
    RF2: Hey, we agree. Brady Short was lucky not to wreck. KT was strong, though.
    In the third heat, Carson Short had a bad start, which resulted in Brady Short getting a worse start. The opportunistic Kevin Thomas Jr. capitalized on this and passed early leader Chase Stockon to win. C. Short was third. B.
    Short made a late pass of Jaden Rogers to take fourth.
    RF1: I could see that comin’. That kid got in there too fast.
    RF2: Yeah. That would have been fun watching Donnie move up. Critter was tough even though he got a break.
    The B main got off to a flying stop when Tony Lawrence did the classic half spin and collected a few competitors. Jared Chastain and Brian Wallace re-started. Jim Shelton and the luckless Donnie Brackett were done. Lawrence also exited with a flat tire. From starting tenth, Critter Malone advanced to fourth after the attrition bug bit. On the restart he charged to the lead and checked out for the win. Ted Hines, Brandon Morin, Kendall Ruble and Chet Williams would race again.
    RF1: I knew Tommy would bring the tractors out, but I wasn’t sure when. I’m gonna get a cup of coffee. You want one?
    RF2: Yes, but I’m going to walk around a bit, too. If I sit here watching the tractor show, I’ll freeze. Maybe I’ll mosey back to the pits and get the feature lineup.
    RF1: Yeah, and see that girl again.
    RF2 (feigning ignorance) What girl?
    RF1: You know!
    RF2 walked away without a rebuttal.
    15 minutes later and Race Fan 2 rejoined his friend. He had taken a picture of the lineup with his phone.
    RF1: Okay, who’s on the pole and what was her name?
    RF2 (with a bit of a smirk): Chase Stockon and her name is Gale.
    RF1 (took the phone from his friend): Chase should be tough. Let’s see, Hewitt, Andretti, KT, Karraker, Cummins, Farney…where’s the Shorts? Oh, here. They have a tough row to hoe.
    RF1 handed the phone back.
    RF1: No picture of Gale? How do I know you’re just making that name up?
    RF2 (another smirk): You don’t.
    RF1: Ah…
    Stockon did indeed take the lead when the green waved and held it for several laps. But Thomas was busy, too. With two complete he was second and Stockon’s time as the leader was to be brief. Thomas caught up with Stockon and they engaged in a brief, but intensive, slide job exchange. The Alabama native made the pass on the local boy (now residing in nearby Ft. Branch) and promptly began to pull away.
    Lapped traffic didn’t become a factor until midway through the 30 lapper. It wasn’t a factor for Thomas, but the quartet of Stockon, Cummins, Andretti, and C. Short all had to fight with each other for position and the lapped cars, who were in their own personal battles.
    By lap 19 Thomas had a half lap lead over Andretti. At the end, Thomas cruised to the win and missed some classic Tri-State/Haubstadt cut and slash racing action. Cummins made his way to second when the checkered waved. C. Short came from ninth to finish third. Andretti faded only slightly and still ended up fourth. Critter Malone came from B Main land, 16th, to fifth, the hardest of hard chargers. Stockon faded to sixth. B. Short was seventh. Aaron Farney brought Mike Dutcher’s mount home eighth. Brian Karraker and 2016 MSCS Rookie of the Year Tyler Hewitt occupied ninth and tenth.
    The two race fans watched part of the modified feature before departing. They walked behind the front straightaway bleachers toward the pits.
    RF1: Be safe, buddy. I’ll see you next weekend? Kokomo and Terre Haute?
    RF2: Sure thing.
    Race Fan 2 angled toward the pits. His buddy noticed this and grinned.
    RF1: Going to talk to KT?
    RF2: Maybe.
    RF1: Tell him I said hi and congratulations. Oh, and tell Gale hello too for me, okay?
    Hoping, not groping, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Happy Endings and First Time Winners
    It’s very difficult to say that 2016 has been a good year. When your favorite sport loses one of its most popular and best participants, saying that it’s been a good year rings very hollow. But good things have happened this year as well. One of those has been the coming out party of a young man named Josh Hodges. It has been a breakout year for the New Mexico resident. And as the year winds down, he put an exclamation point on his 2016 with a convincing win at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a beautiful Hoosier night. Hodges pulled away from the rest of the field to earn his first USAC feature win.
    My traveling companion had already experienced a busy day. So why not grab a quick nap on the way to the ‘burg? That he did, conking out as we left North Vernon, Indiana and not waking up until we turned off Eads Parkway to the track.
    The car count may have been down a bit at 26, but there was quality galore. MIA was Thomas Meseraull, who was set to return to the Shane Wade team for the night, but who fell ill. C.J. Leary and Jon Stanbrough were in their family cars. Justin Grant was again in the McGhee team’s car. And Aaron Farney is, for now, in Mike Dutcher’s chariot. Steve and Carla Phillips brought out their trusty bullet tonight and Arizona’s Stevie Sussex would be the chauffeur of note.
    Mr. Sussex must have been raring to go as he set quick time with an impressive 13.453 lap. Talk about an auspicious debut.
    Chad Boespflug won the first heat as flames erupted from his engine as he crossed the finish line. He would roll out the backup car for the feature. Chad’s fellow front row starter, Drew Abel, held off Josh Hodges to take second. Kyle Cummins was fourth and Jon Stanbrough grabbed the last empty chair, sending Sussex and C.J. Leary to the B.
    Kevin Thomas Jr. was the second heat winner with Tyler Courtney the runner-up. Pole sitter Joss Moffatt was third with Carson Short coming from last, ninth, to take fourth away from A.J. Hopkins. Three of the best went to the B, Chase Stockon, Nick Bilbee and Justin Grant.
    Brady Bacon ran away with the third heat win. Dave Darland stole second from Isaac Chapple at the line. South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt held off Chris Windom, who was not pleased, for fourth. Jarrett Andretti, Aaron Farney and Dickie Gaines prepared for the B.
    The front row of Stevie Sussex and Justin Grant ran one/two in a fairly tame B Main. Leary, Stockon, Andretti, Bilbee and Farney all made it to the feature. With three heats, five moved on and seven transferred from the B. Landon Simon used a provisional to get in.
    With three of the six fastest qualifiers relegated to the B, tenth quick qualifier Hodges and ninth quick Darland were the front row for the 30 lap feature. Back in the lineup, Sussex, Hopkins and Moffatt were tardy in reporting; they were moved back two rows and required to write in the Lawrenceburg dirt “I will not be late” ten times (just kidding about the writing).
    Darland jumped out to the lead as the green waved with Hodges second. Windom passed Cummins on the second lap for third. Courtney and Stanbrough were next and this order stayed put for the first ten laps or so. But things were about to happen.
    The top three closed up as lapped traffic came into play. In the middle part of the race Darland, Windom and Hodges had a spirited fight for the lead. Darland found himself stuck behind Joss Moffatt, who was fighting to stay in the lead lap. Hodges pounced and took the lead with 17 laps completed. A lap later Windom got around Darland to take second. It was tempting to think that Windom, now free of all other traffic, would have something unpleasant for Hodges, the new leader.
    But it wasn’t happening. The kid scooted away from Windom and stretched his lead out to ten car lengths at least. Joining Hodges in post-race interviews were Windom and Darland. Kyle Cummins seemed like the quiet guy at a loud party as he finished fourth, which was where he started. Justin Grant was a respectable fifth. The law firm of Courtney and Stanbrough were sixth and seventh. Stevie Sussex’s debut appeared to be a success and he brought Steve and Carla’s baby home eighth. Bacon padded his point lead a little as he came from 13th to ninth. Andretti settled for tenth.
    The race was an all-green affair and Hodges set a Lawrenceburg 30 lap race record of 7:21.09.
    There is no replacing the Tony Elliotts and Bryan Clausons of the racing world. They will always be one of a kind. But young racers emerge to stake their own claim to a spot in our sport. Mr. Hodges is one of them. He was USAC’s seventh first time feature winner in 2016.
    Carson Short had an eventful night. His two attempts to qualify were terminated as the car refused to stay in gear. Things were looking better after his heat as the Illinois resident transferred into the show. From 20th his negotiated his way to 13th and picked up the KSE Hard Charger award.
    Bacon has a healthy point lead over Stockon and Darland with fourth in points Robert Ballou injured and fifth place Thomas Meseraull in a hospital suffering from dehydration.
    Originally this was to be the last USAC sprint race in the Midwest, but a re-scheduled rainout at Terre Haute, the Jim Hurtubise Classic, is now set for October 15.
    Scrolling and trolling, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Eldora Experience
    First off, I love the Eldora Speedway. I love the history of the place. I love the biography of Earl Baltes that Dave Argabright wrote a few years ago because the story of Earl and the story of the track are forever intertwined. And by and large, I love what “new” owner Tony Stewart has done with the old track and facility. I love the new structure in the infield, concession stand, restrooms, media center and a roof designed for those wanting to view the half mile oval from a different angle. Most of all, I love the racing I see at Eldora. I inwardly root for each racer out there as he/she flirts with disaster every lap, cheering for everyone to finish each race—which seldom happens. I love the speed as racers sail around the very top groove, inches from the wall and certain calamity. And despite the difficulty of the act, I love the passing at Eldora, even the professionally executed slide jobs.
    I hate the wrecks, accidents, flips and the general destruction that visit most every program at Eldora. Careers have been ended and lives have been lost there over the years, making Eldora like most American bullrings. But I love it when a racer is able to walk away from a trashed race car, usually choosing to race again at Eldora if the funds can be secured.
    I’m no stranger to the other things that people talk about when racing conversation turns to Eldora. There has never been a shortage of beer and beer drinkers. For some, it’s a necessary part of their Eldora experience. Neither has there ever been a shortage of dust, though it’s been much worse than it was for this year’s Four Crown. The cars were easily visible from the grandstand.
    After the Four Crown just completed, all of the above were on hand. It was the largest Four Crown crowd in recent memory, probably because of the addition of the All Stars to the Crown of Four. The racing itself was largely top notch as each of the four classes put on a multitude of great performances. Stories abounded with racers experiencing every emotion from the agony of defeat to the thrill of victory.
    Take Rico Abreu for example. He ran off and hid in the USAC Midget feature. His margin of victory should have been measured in yards. But he crashed out of the All-Star feature while leading. His night might be described as bittersweet. Ian Madsen, who benefitted from Abreu’s elimination, might disagree. It was Madsen’s first Eldora victory.
    There was Chris Windom, who dominated the final event of the night, USAC’s Silver Crown 50 lap feature. Had it been a 60 lap feature, Windom might have lapped the field. I was too astounded at this flogging to consider it a boring race.
    With Windom’s win and Kody Swanson’s misfortune, the 2016 Silver Crown championship slipped through the California native’s hands into Windom’s. Kody’s rare error saw him spin after contact with another car. There was enough damage to keep Swanson from coming back to challenge. Had he finished third he would have been the champ again. He finished fifth, five points behind Windom.
    It wouldn’t be Eldora without a nasty crash every now and then. I was in the infield during qualifying and watched Carson Macedo go flying after contact with the treacherous turn two wall entering the backstretch. Later, with a Keith Kunz backup car, he would finish seventh in the Midget feature. Tony Dimattia took two ugly rides, with his midget and sprinter. Both young men walked away.
    The feel good story was that of Justin Grant, who’s been casting about lately for a regular sprint car ride. Perhaps he’s found one with the Mike McGhee team. He certainly made a good case for it on Saturday night with a convincing win in the sprint car feature.
    The Comeback Kid of the sprints had to be Mr. Windom. He nearly flipped in his heat race and started on the tail of the B Main. From there he sliced and diced his way to an impressive third place finish. In the feature, he gave Grant plenty of worries before settling for second.
    Finally, there was Brady Bacon, riding under the radar all night. Along with Tyler Courtney, Bacon competed in all four divisions of the Four Crown. He may not have matched Jack Hewitt’s record of four wins, but four top fives was not an effort to discount for Bacon. Instead of extra money for winning all four features, he got an “‘atta’ boy” from four car owners, among others.
    The preceding stories were just some of the 120 plus at Eldora on Saturday night. Ideally those racers’ exploits are what fans should have been talking about the past few days, but that hasn’t been the case, at least on social media. Instead, what I’m reading are a lot of complaints about the program not ending until 2:45 a.m. Qualifying over 120 cars took a long time, understandably. Then the massaging of the track took up close to two hours. The heat races didn’t start until ten.
    To hard core fans, this may not have been a big deal. They know that Eldora can mean dust (at a dirt track, no less) and/or a late exit after the last race of the night—or early morning. As long as their tired old bodies and bank accounts can endure the Eldora experience, they will be back, no matter what, no questions asked. They may grumble a bit, but they are hooked.
    One problem is that they are not kids themselves. We senior citizens are not the future of this crazy, exciting and spell binding activity. Younger people in every capacity are needed at open wheel/bullring races.
    Another problem is that ending a program at 2:45 in the morning isn’t the best way to grab a first time visitor who goes to their first race with or without a friend. Chances are decent that the first time visitor won’t be back. And if that visitor, or any casual fan, has younger children along, they probably wouldn’t make it much past midnight, if that. This will result in fewer tickets sold, fewer beers drunk, fewer hot dogs consumed and fewer t-shirts purchased.
    Personally, one of the sadder sights I see at races is a young family leaving early, with one of the parents carrying a sleeping child. Sometimes I wonder if that has been their first visit to a race track. And sometimes I wonder if that’s their last visit to a race track.
    Fortunately, at Eldora there are people in charge who are more aware than any of us that long running shows, unless they are on Broadway, are not a satisfactory inducement to get fans to return to this outstanding track/facility. My inner optimist says that they will fix this. Tweaking the Four Crown format is nothing new. It’s been done several times over its 35 years. Mr. Optimist says that they will figure it out.
    One downside is that of former fans not returning. I’ve read the words of several the past few days, swearing they won’t be back. In some cases, this is probably true. I have hope and faith that most will return—and will be glad they did.
    I plan to do so myself. I still love Eldora. Probably I will always love it.
    Introducing Brad Pitt to Miley Cyrus, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Taking Care of Business
    On a rare Friday night program at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Brady Short showed why he is usually someone other racers have to reckon with whenever and wherever he signs in. Despite periodic pressure from another true racer, Thomas Meseraull, Short still won the 25 lap feature over the Californian turned Hoosier by about ten car lengths under clear skies over west central Indiana.
    The Friday afternoon trip northwest was much slower than usual; dealing with the extra rush hour traffic is not something my fellow traveler and I are used to doing when we head for LPS. But we weren’t late and we weren’t overly stressed.
    The little guy woke up from his usual pre-race nap ready to work. First Brady Short, then Parker Fredrickson ended up with cleaner cars after wheel packing and hot laps. Later, Brady’s and Parker’s nights would be, in terms of results, almost complete opposites.
    The first heat didn’t begin well for my grandson’s most recent employer. P. Fredrickson bounced off the front straightaway wall and limped into turn one, where he tipped over right after the green waved. After the re-start Ethan Barrow missed a great chance to flip in turn two while running second. A little later, race leader and 2016 Lincoln Park Speedway points champ Shane Cockrum did a half spin in turn four, collecting Kevin Thomas Jr. and Kyle Robbins, both of whom were running in transfer positions. The chief drove away and led until Thomas Meseraull slipped by coming out of turn four to take the win. Cockrum was second and A.J. Hopkins was third. Dakota Jackson, in the Waltz family’s car, took fourth. Thomas came back to grab the last spot and move to the feature.
    Pole sitter Brandon Mattox won a relatively tame second heat. Kent Schmidt was second and Matt McDonald third. Jaden Rogers finished fourth. All of these guys started and finished in the same positions. Chris Gurley came from ninth to take fifth.
    The third heat didn’t start well as Shelby VanGilder did a half spin with inadvertent help from J.J. Hughes. Tyler Thomas was collected and nearly tipped over as others escaped. Rookie Jacob Brown spun twice and was dismissed from class after two more yellow flags waved. And then Hughes flipped hard in turn two, bringing out a red flag. J.J. exited the car and was done for the night. Brady Short led all the way to win with Josh Hodges, back from New Mexico, second. VanGilder recovered to take third and Bradley Sterrett was fourth. Thomas had fifth in hand until he bobbled in turn four and saw Nate McMillin take both the advantage and the 15th starting spot in the show.
    The B Main was a series of reds and yellows with the occasional green. Very late arrival Kent Christian tagged the B and lasted to the second turn before getting caught up in a mess, ending his night almost immediately after it began. That same mess caught up Parker Fredrickson, who tipped over for the second time in less than two hours. T. Thomas won with Ethan Barrow, Hunter O’Neal (in the former Jon Sciscoe car that has visited the winner’s circle a few times), Kyle Robbins and Daylan Chambers trailing.
    Cockrum and Short led 18 of their playmates to the green and the fire chief jumped out to the lead. After a couple of laps, Short decided that enough was enough and took the lead. Soon Cockrum was under pressure from TMez, who grabbed second on lap seven and began to stalk the leader.
    But this was interrupted on the eighth lap when Matt McDonald spun in turn four. The lineup was Short, Meseraull, Cockrum, Hodges Hopkins, Mattox, K. Thomas (from 13th), Schmidt and VanGilder. Two laps later, another interruption came in the form of a nasty Tyler Thomas flip in turn one. Tyler was out of the car (minus its fuel tank) and walked away. During the red Hunter O’Neal and Shane Cockrum went to the work area.
    The next green flag segment lasted five laps. The top five of Short, Meseraull, Hodges, Hopkins and Thomas pulled away from the rest of the field. Meseraull actually took the lead a time or two, but only for a few dozen feet and seconds as Short countered the slider with a nifty crossunder move to regain the lead. But their playtime was stopped briefly when Jadon Rogers stopped on the front straight with a shredded tire. Mattox, Schmidt, VanGilder, Bradley Sterrett and Kyle Robbins were the second five.
    As the laps wound down, Short was able to keep a decent amount of track between him and Meseraull, with lapped traffic not a huge factor. Behind them, Hopkins got around Hodges right after the last re-start but couldn’t close on the two up front. Thomas, too, got around Hodges near the end of the race.
    Behind Short, Meseraull, Hopkins, K. Thomas and Hodges were Mattox, Schmidt, VanGilder (who started ninth and ran one of her better races in some time), Cockrum (who returned to the race and hustled to a top ten) and Sterrett. K. Thomas advanced more than anyone else, coming from 13th to finish fourth.
    The sprint feature was over at 11 p.m. and the navigator conked out just after we entered I-70, not to awaken until we made it home. It had been quite a night. He had scraped mud off two cars, talked me into buying him another toy sprinter, and talked Al Pierce into letting him sit in Al’s comfortable lawn chair for awhile.
    He would stay home the next night while Grandpa attended the marathon that is called the Four Crown.
    Loaning Gary Johnson my map of Syria, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: .038 Seconds

    Dodging wrecks and raindrops while ignoring the full moon peeking through the clouds, Shawn Westerfeld made it to the finish line with a last ditch effort to barely beat 2016 Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ Jarett Andretti by .038 seconds, after stalking the third generation racer for much of the 25 lap feature. Andretti didn’t need to hang his head in shame, though. The race was somewhat typical of his season at Lawrenceburg, as well as elsewhere. He ran near the front for all 25 laps, leading most. His mistakes were few and far between. At the end, he gave Westerfeld the smallest of openings coming out of turn four and Shawn grabbed it.

    With rain plaguing several Hoosier bullrings this past weekend, open wheel fans had either the ‘burg or Haubstadt as their choices on a cloudy and pleasant, though a bit humid, Saturday night. With Lawrenceburg a lot closer, my traveling companion and I headed east. Somewhere just east of North Vernon he conked out. This meant he would be busy tonight between races, talking to drivers, getting a few autographs—and helping the tech guy check weights of Hornets and Pure Stocks after their heats (videos on Facebook).  His teacher would have been pleased to see him reading four digit numbers and giving the drivers a thumbs up.

    26 of the 85 odd cars in the pits were sprints. Brent Beauchamp was a pleasant surprise to see this far southeast as Lincoln Park’s oval simply had too much rain for them to race. J.J. Hughes, often found at LPS, was in the pits as well. Logan Hupp, no stranger to the ‘burg, was in the Gindling’s familiar white 7x. And Cole House, Trey’s son, a true rookie, had also made the tow to the corner of our 200 year old state.

    Nick Bilbee and Travis Hery hooked up with a two man draft and left the others behind, running one/two in the first heat. Garrett Abrams was third and Joss Moffatt, a three time Lawrenceburg points champ, came from seventh to fourth. Logan Hupp, with his own ‘burg points title, came from ninth to fifth and locked up a feature spot.

    Shawn Westerfeld, yet another track champ, tried to run away with the second heat, but Kyle Robbins made it close in finishing second. Pole sitter Cody Clarkson was third. Pat Giddens took fourth despite spinning and going while Stratton Briggs was fifth. Cole House had a rude introduction to the ‘burg as he caught the turn two wall and flipped wildly down the backstretch. J.J. Hughes spun on the front straight and left with a flat left front tire.

    Jarett Andretti made it three for three in front row starters winning heats as he checked out. Joe Ligouri, in the Greg Staab-mobile, was second. Drew Abel came from last to third. Brent Beauchamp came from seventh to take fourth. And Brad Stevens, in a very rare Lawrenceburg appearance, locked up a feature appearance with his fifth place finish.

    Hughes came from fifth to win the B Main. Greenville, Ohio resident Matt Cooley was second. Brian Gray started and finished third, edging Logan Hupp at the line. And Tony McVey, modified veteran turning to sprints, would start 20th in the feature.

    The re-draw left a front row of Ligouri and Bilbee. At the beginning we should have known that this one would be a wild affair. Ligouri was ruled to have jumped the start and this put Westerfeld on the pole. On the second try, Tony Main was nudged into a turn one spin and unwanted meeting with the wall. The third time was a charm. Bilbee took the lead, but the red waved with two laps complete when a multi-car tangle left Brian Gray’s car on its side in turn three after some serious flipping. He walked away after a bit. Others involved included Stevens, Robbins, McVey and Giddens.

    Bilbee led on the re-start with Andretti second. By taking the green flag, Jarett was officially the 2016 Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ, joining an illustrious list of predecessors, three of whom were in the race.

    With five laps complete one of those champs, Joss Moffatt, found the turn two wall and flipped against the fence, bringing out another red. Joss walked away. Bilbee led Andretti, Westerfeld, Hery, Beauchamp, Clarkson, Abrams, Hughes, Ligouri and Hupp. 14 cars were running. Hery got way out of shape and lost several spots. With seven laps completed, Andretti passed for the lead in turn four.

    Hard racing was throughout the field. Clarkson raced hard into turn three on Ligouri’s inside. He got into the yellow 44’s side and hurt the left front. Ligouri stopped coming out of turn two as the left front wheel fell off, bringing a yellow on lap 11. Under yellow Joe signaled to Cody that he had a free one way ticket to North Korea waiting for him after the race. (Not really, but Ligouri was not pleased.)

    Just before the yellow waved, Westerfeld passed Bilbee for second. Beauchamp had moved from 12th to fourth and Hughes had come from 16th to fifth. The second five were Abrams, Clarkson, Abel (after changing a tire under the first red), Hupp and Hery. We were down to 12 cars running.

    This green flag segment was a treat. The top four ran close with all hugging the bottom, especially in turns three and four. No positions changed, but disaster struck Bilbee on the 20th lap in turn four. Nick spun, did a nice wheelie trying to right things, and landed on Beauchamp, who had no place to go. There were no injuries; neither did anyone flip, but the race’s third red waved just in case. Neither racer was hurt and Beauchamp was able to re-start.

    As the cars were pushed off to start, one of the push trucks ran over Stratton Briggs’ right rear, nearly tipping the truck. Briggs was able to re-start. It was about this time when my buddy Gregg Sauer pointed out the full moon peeking through the clouds and reminding me of Lawrence Talbot (classic movie fans know about ol’ Larry). According to my grandson, we had ten cars left with Hughes exiting with a flat tire, ruining a fine run until then.

    Attrition had meant some serious re-shuffling. Most of the last six laps was uneventful. But Westerfeld was plotting as he trailed Andretti. And when the leader pushed a little high in turn four coming to the checkered, Westerfeld made his move going down the straightaway. His gambit worked and it created a super-close finish, .038 seconds. Jarett would have to take comfort that he had won the war—a championship. And there was nothing wrong with losing to a young man who has improved steadily the past few years.

    Most all the rest of the top ten benefitted from the carnage that left just ten running. But there was no shame there. They had managed to miss, for the most part, the calamities that had claimed so many of their mates. Abrams was third and Abel took fourth after overcoming a flat tire. Hupp advanced more than anyone, coming from 19th to fifth. Hery was sixth and Beauchamp came back from near disaster to finish seventh. Briggs, Clarkson and Giddens completed the top ten.

    The feature took nearly an hour to run.

    Andretti was the champ with Moffatt, Abrams, Westerfeld and the absent Dickie Gaines the top five in points.

    The ‘burg closes things out on October 1, with the last 2016 USAC race in the Midwest before the band of gypsies heads west.

    Borrowing John Prine’s illegal smile, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: No Place Like Home

    Go to Tri-State Speedway and you’ll find that fans there are like fans everywhere—they like the local heroes. At Tri-State, in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana, the local favorites are guys like Donnie Brackett, Chase Stockon and…Sunday night’s winner Kyle Cummins, who won the Midwest Sprint Car Series feature after passing early leader Chris “Critter” Malone on a mid-race restart. And fans weren’t unhappy that Sikeston, Missouri’s Hunter Schuerenberg won the Midwest Open Wheel Association’s companion feature on a beautiful Labor Day Eve.

    The MOWA portion of the program was a makeup for an earlier rainout. A very good crowd would get a second helping of open wheel action. The anti-wingers could take a longer break should they choose.

    Four racers were doing double duty. Chase Stockon, Zach Daum, Carson Short and Joe B. Miller hoped to make a little bit of spending money. Stockon, Daum and Short made both features; Joe B. made the MOWA show. I stood for awhile next to Stockon as we tried to listen to the dueling drivers’ meetings. MSCS and MOWA conducted the meetings simultaneously. I didn’t know about Chase but it was my first time trying to listen to the proceedings of two drivers’ meetings.

    MSCS had group qualifying while MOWA went the single car route. Max McGhee, back from a brief sabbatical, was the quickest of the non-wingers with a 13.333 lap. Schuerenberg was nearly a second quicker with a 12.353.

    C. J. Leary took the lead early in the first MSCS heat and won by a half straight over Kent Schmidt. Dakota Jackson was third and Donnie Brackett finished fourth. Chet Williams, who was the quickest qualifier of this group, hung on for fifth.

    Chase Stockon led all the way to win the second heat. Justin Grant, in a second Mike McGhee sprinter, was a close second. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt took third. Zach Daum, the only racer to race at Du Quoin and in both classes at Haubstadt, was fourth. Carson Short started and finished fifth.

    Max McGhee came from fourth to win the third heat. Kyle Cummins wasn't far behind in second. Critter Malone finished third and Brady Short was shuffled back to fourth after starting on the pole. Jeff Bland grabbed the last empty chair for the feature.

    Hunter O'Neal won a crazy B main. Brandon Morin was second with Jaden Rogers coming on late to take third. James Lyerla did the same to take fourth. Colin Ambrose edged Nick Johnson at the line to take the last spot. Ambrose made it interesting after a major bobble midway through the race dropped him from second to seventh.

    The MOWA heats inverted zero, which meant that the quickest qualifiers had the inside track to the win. Sure enough, Hunter Schuerenberg won the first heat, which meant he would end up with the sweep of quick time, first heat and feature win. Paul May was second, a full straightaway back. Kody Kinser was third. Jacob Wilson, who had raced at Du Quoin the night before, was fourth. Trey Datweiler locked up the last transfer.

    A.J. Bruns won the second heat by another large margin over Parker Price-Miller. Chase Stockon was third with Jim Moughan fourth. Jeremy Standridge was happy to inherit fifth when Jason Keith spun, even though he kept going. It was his second spin of the race.

    The third heat was true to form with pole sitter Zach Daum winning over outside pole man Chris Urish, another who had been at Du Quoin. Carson Short started and finished third. The ageless Danny Smith was fourth and Joey Moughan grabbed fifth in turn four of the last lap, sending Joe B. Miller to the B.

    The MSCS B saw Hunter O’Neal win from third. Brandon Morin was second and Jadon Rogers was third. James Lyerla was fourth and Collin Ambrose was fifth—by inches. Ambrose had recovered nicely after a mid-race bobble put him in the infield briefly. He nicked Nick (sorry about that) Johnson at the line. Jared Chastain used a provisional to make it 21 for the feature.

    The MOWA B saw yet another last lap pass, this one for the lead. Mike Terry Jr. got around Jake Blackhurst to insure a 15th starting spot in the feature. Joe B. Miller, in his third straight race of the night, grabbed third. MOWA point leader Jerrod Hull was fourth and Dustin Adams would end up being the 20th starter in the main.

    Heat winners Leary, Stockon and McGhee led a strong field to the green and Stockon led the first two laps. But seemingly out of nowhere came Critter Malone from ninth to take the lead on the third lap and promptly began to check out. He wasn’t the only surprise. From eighth, Tyler Hewitt got off to a strong start, passing some of the same people Malone had passed. But yet another was coming from mid-pack.

    Kyle Cummins had started sixth but dropped back to tenth before finding some magic on the bottom groove. By the tenth lap he had passed C.J. Leary for fourth. And he was far from done.

    11 laps were complete when the red lights flashed for a Hunter O’Neal flip in turn two. Jadon Rogers slid to a stop before making any contact. Hunter walked away. Malone’s huge lead was gone. Stockon was second and Cummins had passed Hewitt for fourth. Leary was fifth, trailed by Grant, Brackett, B. Short and McGhee.

    Cummins took second on the 14th lap and began reeling in the leader. A lap later the lead was his and the local kid was gone. But a Kent Schmidt spin on the 29th lap set up a green-white-checkered finish. It didn’t bother Cummins as he rolled on to the win.

    Malone was second and after the race mentioned that a bad vibration developed when the race re-started. Coming on strong at the end was Donnie Brackett, taking the bronze medal after starting tenth. Another somewhat under the radar was Carson Short, who came from 14th to fourth. Justin Grant started and finished fifth. Hewitt faded a bit to sixth, a great effort nevertheless. Tyler said the engine lost some power near the end, but he still finished ahead of Leary, yet another who had raced at Du Quoin the night before. Brady Short was eighth. Stockon lost power on the last lap but was still credited with ninth. Daum was tenth.

    Stockon, Daum and C. Short all hustled to get into their winged mounts and Chase led the gang to another green flag. He led the first two laps before Short rolled to a stop, his MOWA feature done early. Hunter Schuerenberg had started eighth but was already up to fourth. He was far from done. By lap nine he was pressuring Stockon for the lead. Hunter took the lead two laps later and was ready to check out.

    On the 12th lap Dustin Adams met up with the wall in turn two, flipping and bringing out the red. He walked away. Schuerenberg led Stockon, Kinser, Urish, Bruns, Price-Niller, Daum, Smith and Datweiler. By lap 16 (of 25) the lead was nearly a straightaway. Lapped traffic loomed a lap later but Schuerenberg was not deterred. One final yellow waved for Paul May, who stopped in turn three with 21 complete. But that was only delaying the inevitable.

    Schuerenberg cruised to the win with Stockon settling for second. Kody Kinser was third. Zach Daum dropped back early but came back to finish fourth. PPM was fifth, Bruns sixth. Smith came from 12th to take seventh. Urish was eighth and Jim Moughan ninth. Miller came from 18th to grab tenth.

    For the season, Price-Miller took over the point lead from Hull with five races left in the 2016 season.

    As great as the weekend was, with two outstanding programs at Du Quoin and Haubstadt, the highlight was watching, holding and playing with a nine month old girl who is taking some unsteady steps but will soon be motoring around the house, getting into things and pestering her patient and loving four legged friend.

    The racing was the icing.

    Reminding my wife that Roger Ailes can be a really friendly guy, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Bridesmaid No Longer

    Chris Windom has won his share of races over the years, but had yet to win on one of the dirt miles on the USAC Silver Crown schedule. But on a downright beautiful Saturday night, the Canton, Illinois native squeaked by race leader Jeff Swindell to finally grab the checkered, the trophy and the indescribable satisfaction of checking off another item on the bucket list, a win at the Du Quoin Magic Mile, namely the Ted Horn 100.

    As the winds of change blow or breeze through our lives, a few things remain the same. There is still nothing in or out of racing like dirt mile ovals featuring USAC’s Silver Crown Series cars. They of the chunky tail tank showed up in force, with 35 taking a lap around the track in qualifying. I was stuck at the back gate at the end of the backstretch for the duration of practice, but this was a positive. The view from back there was unique as I ignored the rule of never turning your back on a speeding race car and watched cars barreling into turn three as they practiced. Hunter Schuerenberg, in one of three Nolen Racing entries, smacked the wall in turn three not long after I arrived. I did see Tad Roach exit the track and then his car when it began emitting an unacceptable amount of smoke and maybe fire as well.

    It seemed to me that Chris Windom was getting into three a bit faster than the others. But in time trials he was only ninth quickest, with Kody Swanson setting quick time with a 31.932 second lap, far from Tyler Walker’s 29.138 in 2004. Justin Grant went out third from the last and found himself on the outside pole with an impressive 32.048.

    With the vintage Silver Crown Gilmore Special leading the way, Windom and Grant led C.J. Leary, the ageless Jeff Swindell, two time and defending Du Quoin champ Shane Cockrum, Illinois native and Hoosier resident Shane Cottle, A.J. Fike, David Byrne, Windom and Davey Ray to Tom Hansing’s green cloth. The raccoon that had entertained part of the crowd with his romp in the rafters of the covered grandstand presumably found a good seat and settled in for 100 laps of racing in its purest form—or close to it.

    Swanson predictably took the lead at the start and Windom immediately began his climb, passing Fike for eighth on the fifth lap. A near disaster was avoided when veteran Jackie Burke ran over someone’s right rear and lost control enough to collect Chris Fetter, who smacked the turn one wall on the eighth lap. All involved were okay. Windom had climbed to sixth behind Swanson, Swindell, Cockrum, Grant and Leary.

    On the re-start, a spirited three way battle broke out briefly for the lead among Swanson, Swindell and Cockrum. Swindell took the lead on lap 16 and, with Cockrum in tow, tried mightily to check out. Meanwhile, Windom had taken over fourth place as Swindell made his move for the lead. Three laps later, the Canton, Illinois native grabbed third from Swanson. Swindell pulled away from Cockrum, who had a new problem named Chris Windom, who passed his fellow Illini on the 22nd lap.

    Almost lost in this shuffle for the time being was Casey Shuman, driving Patty Bateman’s rocket. From 21st, the Shu was already 13th on lap 25. Up front Swindell soon had Windom to deal with. After repeated attempts, Windom made the pass for the lead in the third turn on lap 36. Two laps later Joey Moughan brushed the turn two wall and rolled to a stop to bring out another yellow. Windom led Swindell, Cockrum, Swanson, Leary, Grant, Fike, Cottle, 16th starting Jerry Coons Jr., 15th starting Brady Bacon and Brian Tyler. Under yellow, cars dove to the front straight pit wall so crew members could inspect the tires as best they could. Running through the moist dirt didn’t hurt the tires either.

    A brief yellow for debris slowed Windom’s playtime briefly on the 44th lap. At the halfway mark, Shuman had entered the top ten. Windom had extended his lead by a few car lengths when Grant, running seventh, slowed in turn four with the first flat right rear on lap 57. Justin lost a lap and would not contend for a good finish.

    On the re-start Cottle went forward as Cockrum went backward. Cottle was now fourth behind the trio of Windom, Swindell and Swanson with the Chief slipping back to seventh. Up front there was another change in the leader as Swindell got around Windom to lead the 64th lap. Shuman passed Cockrum on the same lap and now was seventh.

    Windom refused to go away quietly, making repeated looks inside of the leader. With 69 laps complete, they passed under the flagstand side by side before Swindell slammed the door shut. Two laps later Jacob Wilson stopped in turn two, bringing out the race’s fifth yellow. On the re-start Swindell either got a great jump or Windom’s car wouldn’t go. In any event it was no harm, no foul. Cockrum passed Shuman, one of the few to do that all night. By lap 81 Windom had edged closer to the leader. Either way, it didn’t matter as Austin Nemire slowed in turn four with a flat tire while Shane Cottle slowed almost simultaneously.

    Now it was still Swindell up front, with Windom, Swanson, Fike, Bacon, Shuman, Tyler, Cockrum, Coons and Joe Ligouri, making his first appearance in the top ten. Windom had a better re-start this time and dogged Swindell hard. On the 87th lap Swindell again slammed the door as he and Windom entered turn one. Cockrum was on the move again, entering the top five again with ten laps to go.

    Just as Windom dive bombed Swindell going into the third turn on the 93rd lap, the seventh yellow waved for Aaron Pierce, who spun in turn four. The last re-start came with five to go. Swindell and Windom traded the lead back and forth in turn three. On the 98th lap, Windom made an outside pass of Swindell going into the third turn, the final lead change of the race.

    Windom’s margin of victory was about 10-12 car lengths, or 1.274 seconds, over Swindell. Swanson was third and now led Windom by ten points as the show goes to Eldora in three weeks. Shuman wasn’t the KSE/Martens Hard Charger, despite coming from 21st to fourth. (Bill Rose made his way from 33rd to 13th.) Cockrum seemingly passed or was passed on nearly every lap, but ironically ended up where he started, fifth. Bacon came from 15th to sixth. Coons started 16th and brought it home seventh. Tyler was eighth and Ligouri ninth. David Byrne started the race in the top ten, dropped out for much of the race and ended up tenth. A.J. Fike lost a good run late with, what else, a flat tire.

    Here are a few parting shots. When the biggest complaint is that the race started a half hour late (due to a big car count as much as anything), that means the whole program was a total success. 35 cars, a good crowd, and an above average to excellent race—it was time well spent.

    Ironically, Jeff Swindell won the Ted Horn 100 in 1990…the year Chris Windom was born, if my information is correct.

    It was the fourth consecutive year an Illinois native has won, starting with Chris Urish in 2013 to Shane Cockrum in 2014-5 and now Windom.

    Brian Tyler is the leader among active drivers with 17 Silver Crown wins. Chris Windom has four, but Tyler might want to keep an eye on this Kody Swanson character, who has 15.

    Reminding John Hunter Nemechek that running a guy into the wall to win a race is not good for the reputation, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Road Trip

    Not too often can one take a weekend jaunt and cover lots of ground, not to mention the miles. This upcoming 2016 Labor Day holiday is one to anticipate and, hopefully, remember. I get to enjoy two of my favorite passions. One is going to a pair of what should be two great races at two great facilities. The other can be called grandfather time, an occasion to watch a baby grow into a toddler, maybe hold her for awhile (if she allows—she’s getting more mobile) and say hello to her parents as well, of course.

    Saturday afternoon should find me wandering around the pits at the Magic Mile, the gracefully aging one mile dirt oval at the Illinois State Fair/Du Quoin. The first automobile race at Du Quoin was held 70 years ago, a sprint car race won by Sprint Car Hall of Fame member Jimmy Wilburn. Two years later open wheel standout Ted Horn was killed at Du Quoin. This weekend’s race does a lot to keep Horn’s memory alive.

    The Horn Memorial entry list contains past winners Brian Tyler (2008), Jeff Swindell (1990), Kody Swanson (2010), Shane Cockrum (2014 and 2015), Chris Urish (2013) and Shane Cottle (2007). 36 cars are entered for the Saturday night race, the highest number of entries in many years.

    Dave Darland has 19 starts, more than anyone else entered. Tyler and Jerry Coons Jr. each have taken the green flag 15 times.

    Half of the 36 are residents of Illinois and Indiana, with the Illini State presenting ten of its own.

    Four rookies will attempt to start; all four are known to Midwest sprint car fans. Three are Hoosiers, Dakota Jackson, Joe Ligouri and Matt Goodnight. Hunter Schuerenberg hails from Sikeston, Missouri.

    Granddaughter time is planned between races. After playtime with her on Sunday afternoon, I hope to be heading south down U.S. 41 to Tri-State Speedway, where sprints will dominate. The non-wing MSCS and the winged MOWA sprinters are two thirds of the show with UMP mods also on Tom Helfrich’s quarter mile oval. The Midwest Open Wheel wingers are a makeup date from an earlier rainout.

    Kyle Cummins won this race last year and Jon Stanbrough in 2014. Daron Clayton has won it three times, Hunter Schuerenberg twice.

    Jerrod Hull is the MOWA point leader, 58 points ahead of Parker Price-Miller. MOWA feature winners this year include Price-Miller, Hull, A.J. Bruns, Zach Daum and Bill Balog.

    History, of both race tracks and sanctioning bodies, is an underappreciated part of open wheel rsacing culture. Like any other history, collecting data is a never ending challenge. Over time race tracks have not been as diligent as they could be in keeping and maintaining coherent records.  Some sanctioning bodies are the same, even though USAC is a shining exception.

    As time passes, myths, legends and facts mix together to create stories, the life blood of not only racing but our society. On Saturday evening as I turn my gaze across the beautifully maintained Du Quoin oval, it can be easy to take myself back 40 or 50 years. We look back and think of racers who powered their way around the track. We marvel at the memories and declare that surely “there were giants on the earth in those days” of Biblical proportions.

    But as we look at Du Quoin through 2016 eyes, as it were, let us acknowledge that there are giants in our presence this coming weekend, people with names like Swanson, Cockrum, Darland, Tyler and Coons. Our succeeding generation of fans will look upon these gentlemen as we look back to the Foyts, Andrettis, Bransons and Unsers. Today’s giants deserve their place in the history books and our memories.

    The same applies to Tri-State Speedway @Haubstadt. Its history may not be a lengthy or storied but it has its share of giants, past and present.

    As we celebrate our blessings on this very underrated holiday weekend, such as family, the life of Bran Clauson, race tracks such as Du Quoin and Tri-State, and the opportunity to see giants of racing test themselves against the elements and each other, let us live in the moment as much as we can. Let us enjoy our passion, cheering or, if you are like me, just marveling and admiring how these people do what they do. And, let us enjoy and appreciate the other blessings, those that come in small packages and grow up before you know it.

    Persuading Anthony Weiner to slowly back away from the computer, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Exclamation Point

    In the world of USAC/Indiana sprint car racing, Kevin Thomas Jr. has come as close as anyone to dominating in an environment where parity rules. His 11th sprint car victory of 2016 (and second of the week) came on a hot August night at the Kokomo Speedway on the final night of Smackdown, a collaboration of Kokomo and USAC that has quickly become a must see for sprint fans from literally around the world. Surely people are already thinking about the 2017 version of Smackdown.

    Friday had been a longer than usual day. The Kokomo portion of it began at the Half Moon Restaurant, the culinary choice of racers visiting town and long time sponsor of Josh Spencer and clan. Rain in the late afternoon insured that it would be a later than normal night. By Saturday this old man was almost dragging—until race cars were on the race track.

    There was no shortage of fund raising associated with Smackdown. Fans opened their wallets, purses and treasure chests to fight cancer, raise awareness of organ donation (with Bryan Clauson and family leading the way), various and sundry prizes for racers, and money raised to ease the pain of hard luck racers. Thousands of dollars changed hands as fans went above and beyond to do the right thing.

    Pre-race found Chaplain Dave Cochran and I engaged in a long discussion of both spiritual and racing matters. We encountered several racing stories that mirrored Biblical stories and teachings. We agreed that many things happening in our world are not part of our plan, but one both higher and different than ours.

    The last night of Smackdown brings a different format. There is no qualifying. The top three would transfer out of each of three heats. The B Main would take the top five, not six. But the major departure would be the King of the Hill, a fan favorite. The top eight in points from the first two nights would square off in three lap segments, single elimination tourney style. The King would start on the pole of the 40 lap feature.

    Robert Ballou started on the pole of the first heat and won going away. This meant that he would start ninth in the feature. Kyle Cummins was second and Zach Daum edged Tyler Thomas for third.

    Dave Darland, strong all week, ran off with the second heat. Second fellow Kokomo resident Shane Cottle. Third was Jarett Andretti. Aaron Farney was a distant fourth.

    Brady Bacon made it three for three in pole winners leading the others to Tom Hansing’s checkered flag. Jon Stanbrough started and finished second. Most impressive of all was Brent Beauchamp. This was his first Smackdown visit, which meant that he’d tag the tail of the last heat. He passed Colton Cottle with three laps to go and waltzed away with third place and a spot in the show. Cole Ketchum smacked the wall on the backstretch and flipped hard while running fourth. He was done for the night and maybe for the year. The hard luck monetary award would ease the pain a bit.

    Round one of the King of the Hill saw Chase Stockon, eighth in points, facing point leader Thomas Meseraull, who made sure that Stockon would start eighth.

     Next up was Chad Boespflug, who outran C. J. Leary.

     The third pair to step up was Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom. This three lap sprint was the most competitive, with at least two lead changes before Courtney prevailed.

    The last first round matchup was Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. with the Alabama native, Thomas, besting the California native.

    The second elimination round saw a pair of Californians square off, with San Jose’s Meseraull besting Hanford’s Boespflug.

    Courtney, almost a local boy (Indianapolis) dispatched Thomas and would face Meseraull for the title of King.

    Though they were never very far apart, Courtney crossed the line first and would occupy the pole for the feature, with Meseraull beside him.

    Tyler Thomas won the B, leading Farney, C. Cottle, Logan Jarrett and Kyle Robbins, who passed the ailing car of Tyler Hewitt with two laps to go.

    At 10:15, after fireworks, the fan friendly driver introductions (the missing man formation, and the wave lap Lauren Stewart waved the green flag and 22 gentlemen proceeded to do their best to smack each other down.

    Courtney jumped out to the lead from pole with TMez and Boespflug close behind. But Thomas was on the move early, getting around Boespflug before the first yellow waved for Meseraull, who hammered the turn four wall on the third lap after something in the steering broke. Just like that, KT was second. Courtney’s moments as the leader were numbered and it was a small number.

    Thomas took the lead on lap six, but didn’t exactly check out. Courtney hung tough, never letting the leader get too far away until Boespflug took second a lap later. Action took a break when Zach Daum flipped hard in turn one with eight complete. He exited the car under his own power. Thomas led Boespflug, Courtney, Windom, Darland, Grant, Cummins and Leary.

    Not much changed up front for the next few laps. 14 laps were complete when Kyle Robbins fell victim to the uneven surface in turn one. Tyler Thomas had entered the top ten after starting 18th. This would be the last stoppage or interruption as those remaining fought tooth and nail, yet nary a yellow or red would wave again.

    As green flag racing resumed, K. Thomas continued to lead but simply could not shake Boespflug—or Windom, for that matter. Further back, Kyle Cummins was using the low groove to perfection. The Princeton, Indiana resident got around Darland and Courtney to enter the top five. Meanwhile, Boespflug was giving Thomas a bad case of heartburn with ten more laps to go. And Windom had spent much of the race riding above the cushion at both ends of the track. He was giving Boespflug his own brand of harassment in trying to take second.

    Lapped traffic was there, of course, but it didn’t seem to matter, especially to the leader. Thomas took the checkered by a few feet over Boespflug and Windom, ending Smackdown the way he started it, in Bryan Clauson Victory Lane. Darland, a three time winner of Smackdowns past, was fourth after starting tenth. Cummins held onto fifth. Grant was sixth and Courtney faded to seventh. Bacon and Leary followed. T. Thomas was the KSE Hard Charger, coming from B Main-land, 18th, to tenth.

    It was not quite 11 p.m. and suddenly it was over. For the past four days, we had seen rain, destruction of large parts of the host city, emotional memories of one gone so soon, new and old friends getting acquainted and re-acquainted, incredible displays of generosity and…laps upon laps completed by some talented and determined young men asking and giving no quarter.

    I wouldn’t want it any other way.

    Warily turning down Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s invitation to join them in a friendly game of draw poker, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: (Another) First Time Winner

    Our lives contain various and sundry signposts, or turning points. We’ve all had specific events, good and bad, that we refer to as we mosey on down life’s highway. The whole year of 2016 has featured, for all of us, a few of these, most notably just a few days ago when we lost Bryan Clauson. For C. J. Leary, more than just a second generation racer, this year has had its ups and downs; perhaps one could say he’s had multiple signposts this year, going from one ride to another. But it’s been far from all bad, as he has moved from one sprint ride to another. He is the first USAC driver since Kyle Larson in 2011 to get his first USAC win in two divisions in the same year. Back in the spring Leary scored his first USAC Silver Crown victory at Terre Haute. And on a long night delayed by rain, he rang up his first USAC Sprint car win at the Kokomo Speedway on the second night of Smackdown.

    Not feeling overly sociable (the introvert in me), I retreated to the little white truck after a light rain began to fall right after six o’clock. I recently purchased from ace photographer Chris Pedersen a 1974 book Stand On The Gas, a brief history of sprint car racing up to then, written by Joe Scalzo, one that I read many years ago. I read and looked at the sky. To me, it was like being in racing’s version of Purgatory. I was at a place I love, but was unable to fully enjoy being there—though the book wasn’t a terrible substitute.

    At approximately a quarter past eight, the rain had long since passed and I could hear the siren call of V-8 engines. Wheel packing had begun, despite cloudy skies all around and an ominous looking radar. Purgatory was over.

    Qualifying began and Chad Boespflug went out midway through the order and ripped off a 13.109 lap to set fast time of the 44 cars mudding in the pits. Jon Stanbrough went out 43rd and was seventh quick. The track held up and wasn’t touched all evening. The rain made for a fast and heavy/wet surface. Dirt clods flew all night. Turn one was a challenge as several who took the challenge bounced their way through it. The late Tony Elliott would have said turn one had character.

    The first heat race got off to a less than ideal start when Brian Karraker’s car had a bad push and skidded into the path of Jerry Coons Jr., who flipped in turn one after running over Karraker’s right rear. Of the hard luck racer money collected, Jerry received $100. While the red lights were on, the sky began dropping some rain. The yellow flag was waved and a hot lap session was in order to try and keep the Howard County soil from getting too wet. The sprinkles stopped and racing resumed. Zach Daum won the first heat with Leary second. Boespflug got around Karraker midway through the race to take third.

    Thomas Meseraull took the lead early to win the second heat. Chase Stockon was second and his southwestern Indiana neighbor Kyle Cummins was third. Early leader Matt Westfall was fourth, holding off Cole Ketchum to hang onto the last transfer spot.

    Dave Darland used his front row starting position to win the second heat. Pole sitter Robert Ballou had his hands full keeping Jarett Andretti behind him. Tyler Courtney was fourth as Thursday night winner Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jon Stanbrough went to the B.

    Pole sitter Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat. Brady Bacon trailed and Justin Grant was third. Tyler Hewitt was fourth, edging Chris Windom, who would join Shane Cottle in the stacked B Main.

    When my homeboy Joss Moffatt pushed wide in turn one at the start of the C Main, his front row mate Colton Cottle pounced. Shane’s nephew led all the way, taking Tyler Thomas, Dustin Smith and Matt Goodnight with him to tag the B.

    Pole sitter Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the last chance event. Windom, S. Cottle, Stanbrough, K. Thomas and Ketchum all scooted into the big show. Tyler Thomas came from 16th to fall short by one, ending up seventh.

    Periodic drops fell from the sky as the feature lined up just past 11:30. Meseraull and Leary were the front row, two guys who had basically traded rides this year. Leary took the lead at the start and led a six car breakaway from the rest of the pack, bringing Meseraull, Courtney, Boespflug, Jarrett and Grant with him. The leaders approached lapped traffic at the tenth lap, but Leary was unfazed. Meseraull, however, had Courtney to deal with. Then both began to reel in the leader. Things were getting good when Chase Stockon had an encounter with the turn two wall and slowed with 17 laps in the book.

    The boys regrouped with Leary leading Courtney, Meseraull, Boespflug, Jarrett, Grant, Bacon (from 15th), S. Cottle, Windom and Andretti. No sooner than the green waved when Brian Karraker bounced to a stop in turn one. While under caution, Bacon discovered a flat left rear and exited to the pits, returning before Tom Hansing waved the green.

    A lap was completed before Cole Ketchum lost it and collected birthday boy Tyler Hewitt. There went $100 donated by fans to perhaps replace a front axle, which was bent even though Hewitt returned to action. While under caution it appeared that Meseraull had a flat left rear, but he stayed out. Cottle had passed Grant before the yellow and now was sixth. On this re-start, he got around Jarrett to enter the top five. Otherwise, nothing changed up front.

    Hunter Schuerenberg brought out the last yellow as 24 laps were completed. He guided his smoking car to the pits. Now it was Leary, TMez, Courtney, Boespflug, Cottle, Jarrett, Windom, Andretti, Grant, and Robert Ballou, who had started 21st.

    Again, it was show and tell time. On this final re-start, the crafty one, Shane Cottle, slipped under Chad Boespflug, expertly negotiating the now treacherous low groove in turn one. Leary, meanwhile, was still having his way, hugging the monster cushion at each end of the track. And at just past midnight on August 27, 2016, he joined the elite group of USAC Sprint car feature winners. Grabbing the silver medal was Meseraull, flat or nearly flat left rear and all. Thomas held off Tyler Courtney, who did his share of bouncing through the turns and off the wall. From receiving the hard luck cash the night before, Shane Cottle came from 12th to fourth. Chad Boespflug was fifth.

    The second five was led by Chris Windom in sixth. Jarett Andretti came from 14th to finish seventh. Justin Grant and Logan Jarrett were eighth and ninth. The KSE Hard Charger was Robert Ballou, who came from 21st to tenth.

    Ballou and Jarrett did a little beating and banging the last few laps. On the post-race cool down lap, they practiced their sign language skills.

    Leary was the sixth first time winner in USAC sprints this year. Surely this would be a major signpost in his racing life.

    Going in to the final night of Smackdown, Meseraull leads in Smackdown points. For the year, Brady Bacon maintains a comfortable lead.

    Giving that pharmaceutical guy who has jacked up the prices of needed medicine a copy of Dante’s Inferno, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Lonely Leader

    Quite often, it can be lonely for any leader for various reasons. Leaders of nations, businesses and organizations of any kind have to make decisions all the time and they get to live with the results. But a racer can be a lonely leader for very different reasons, namely that he kicked everyone else’s ass. That was Kevin Thomas Jr., enjoying a very successful year in the Ottinger family car. His win on Thursday at the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown was maybe his most impressive this year—so far.

    Even though opening night was a washout, it was still time well spent. The scheduled Celebration of Bryan Clauson’s life was partially complete before the rain returned, causing a mass retreat for dryer places (such as my truck). But enough stories were told, some of them new ones (to many of us), so that the goodness and the quality of this young man was cemented in our minds and hearts until our own appointment with destiny.

    Rather than lament the rain that interrupted the stories, perhaps we should appreciate the fact that the celebration happened at all. Because those stories that were told served and will serve as part of the fabric that our memories will carry with us. And there is nothing to prevent our retelling these stories in the coming years.

    Unfortunately, with the rain was a nasty tornado that devastated much of Kokomo’s south side. Thankfully there were no deaths, even though property damage was extensive. There was no thought of cancelling the Thursday program and that was appropriate because life goes on. The O’Connor family placed a box for fans to leave donations for local tornado victims by the ticket booth.

    With the passing of Bryan Clauson and the horrible weather that hit a good portion of Indiana, we were reminded of just how much is out of our control. Most changes that we experience are forced upon us and how we deal with those changes speaks volumes. And the celebration of the life of an extraordinary young man was both good and necessary. But I can imagine somewhere out there in the mystic BC was good naturedly grumbling, “Drop the flag and race, boys.” And so they did.

    It was an impressive car count of 45, nearly as impressive as the track prep done by the crew. The track stayed consistent throughout qualifying. Chase Stockon went out seventh and set an early quick time before Dave Darland bested that, going 14th. DD’s time was looking good until Chad Boespflug beat it barely, 35th to qualify. Six cars later, it was Robert Ballou’s turn to stop the clocks quickest. But then came along Thomas Meseraull, third from the last to take his two laps, one of which was 13.205.

    As usual, the track was fast and passing was possible, but difficult. C. J. Leary proved that in the first heat. Tyler Hewitt led for about 9.8 laps of the first heat before Leary made his move coming to Tom Hansing’s checkered flag to steal the win. Another Tyler, Mr. Courtney, was third and Darland edged Meseraull for the final spot to make the show.

    Jon Stanbrough passed Jerry Coons Jr. midway through the second heat to win. Stockon and Ballou were third and fourth. Shane Cottle was running third when he was tapped by Ballou in turn two, spinning. I’d rather sit through a disco concert than spin any of these guys out, especially Mr. Cottle.

    There wasn’t a whole lot of passing in the first two heats but the third more than made up for it. Up near the front, it seemed as if positions were exchanged most every lap. When it ended, Tyler Thomas won from fourth. Chad Boespflug came from sixth to second. Jarett Andretti started on the pole, dropped back to fourth and nearly fifth, but regrouped and finished an impressive third. Kevin Thomas Jr. hung on for fourth.

    Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat and Cole Ketchum came from fourth to second, Justin Grant, filling in for Max McGhee, was third. Chris Windom was fourth and pole sitter Brandon Mattox barely missed out.

    With 45 cars jamming the pits, the C Main had several desperate people who wanted to race some more. Brian Karraker passed Isaac Chapple late to win it. Chapple and two local shoes, Josh Spencer and Corey Smith, moved to the B.

    The B was plagued by four yellows as Brady Bacon edged Thomas Meseraull for the win after they traded the lead back and forth a time or two. Kyle Cummins, quiet all night, was third. Zach Daum was fourth. Logan Jarrett came from 11th to fifth. And Colton Cottle was sixth after Uncle Shane stopped on the backstretch, bringing out one of the yellows.

    Aaron Farney and Isaac Chapple took provisionals.

    It was time for the main event. K. Thomas and Stockon led the 24 to the flag after the lineup shifted into the missing man formation as a remembrance to Bryan Clauson. One of the announcers summed it up just before the race, saying we must cry, laugh and now race. And so they did.

    Thomas jumped out to a lead early and missed seeing Dave Darland putting on a brief show. Dave dropped back from his third starting position but was roaring back to the front, getting around Chris Windom and Chase Stockon. His quest to reach the leader was squelched when Cole Ketchum’s car went on strike coming out of turn four right in the middle of a large pack of cars with two laps complete. Though there was some bumping and swerving, no one else was involved. 

    The lineup was K. Thomas, Stockon, who had returned the favor to third place Darland, Windom, Ballou, Leary, Grant, Meseraull, Boespflug and Cummins. A couple of laps later, Darland was back in second and Stockon was engaged in a true dogfight for third with Windom. Lapped traffic came into play on the 11th lap. None of this seemed to bother Thomas or the others up front as the battle for third continued.

    With 17 laps in, a yellow flag waved for a stopped Logan Jarrett, erasing a big lead for Thomas, and interrupting the Stockon/Windom drama. Now it was unchanged up front, Thomas, Darland, Windom, Stockon, Ballou, Grant, Leary, Bacon, Meseraull and Cummins. The green waved and Thomas took off again. Lapped traffic would not be a factor again.

    Behind the lonely leader a continuance of the charge by Windom was the most watched on track action. With maybe four laps to go, he passed Darland for second. This sparked a constant question for many races, that being could he have caught the leader. Of course, we’ll never know, but a little speculation isn’t all bad.

    At the end, Thomas was followed by Windom (from eighth), Darland, Stockon, Grant, Ballou, Bacon, Meseraull, Courtney and Leary. Jon Stanbrough was the KSE Hard Charger, coming from 19th to finish 12th.  Most certainly Thomas didn’t mind being “lonely.”

    With all the various incentives that surface during Smackdown days, with a lot of help, I collected money for the hard luck racers for the evening. Casey Shuman and Shane Cottle were deserving winners of $215 each and both could not be more appreciative. With money left over due to my lack of counting skills, there will be some solace for some racer this evening.

    The second round of this series awaits in a few hours as this is written. As for me, it’s time to do some food shopping and have lunch.

    Nervously eyeing the shark that wants to jump me, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Education of a Young Man

    In the course of chasing their dreams, young racers receive an invaluable education, whether they are aware of it or not. Part of this education involves passing it on. In other words, as they go from race to race, they are setting an example for those who are watching them, mostly younger kids who have their own dreams. Race car drivers are no different than the rest of us in that they can have no clue how much impact a simple gesture could have on another person, especially a kid. It wasn’t enough that Justin Grant made a last lap/turn four pass of Jarett Andretti, who was nursing a wounded car, to win the sprint car feature at the Bloomington Speedway Friday night. After the celebrating and the Kimb Stewart interview, the young California native possessed, in addition to the money and the accolades, a huge trophy. Mr. Grant, no doubt, has several trophies at home. But whatever the reason, he chose to give this one to a little boy, the one who is often found with me at various Hoosier bullrings. Who can know how that seemingly simple act will affect a little boy? You can imagine the immediate effect. This was one happy child, maybe as happy as the winner and his team, the McGhee family and friends.

    On this last points night at Bloomington, 26 410 sprinters and 14 Racesavers were among over 100 cars jamming the pits. As mentioned, Justin Grant was in a one off deal with the McGhees. Brady Short and company loaded up and left, reportedly for South Dakota where some big money was up for grabs. This was after a subpar result in group qualifying. Scott Hampton was in Jamie Paul’s car, usually driven by the chief, Shane Cockrum. Dickie Gaines was in Daryl Tate’s Racesaver, his first winged ride in a few years…I think. ARCA points leader Chase Briscoe was in the pits spectating, as was his dad, an all time Bloomington maestro, Kevin. Jon Stanbrough was back in the Pedersen family’s old reliable, open trailer and all. And most of the usual suspects were present, including Chris Babcock and family, with my little navigator scraping some mud off Bill’s car for some cookies and a drink from Debbie Babcock. Earlier he had climbed into Luke Bland’s Racesaver, but was persuaded to vacate the ride so Luke could try out some new stuff.

    Jon Stanbrough started on the pole of the first heat and simply checked out, not bothering to wave. Bub Cummings edged Jordan Kinser for second. Matt McDonald was fourth and Chris Phillips held off Travis Berryhill to grab the last vacancy. A lap two red flag waved when Jaden Rogers slid off turn one and flipped. He would return for the B and make the A.

    With my helper deciding to keep track of positions in the second heat, my alleged job was easier. According to Karston, Justin Grant won with Jeff Bland second. Tyler Thomas made a late pass on Chris Babcock to finish third. Scott Hampton was fifth. He even caught the yellow flag that came out for Anthony Leohr on the fifth lap.

    Brent Beauchamp won the third heat by a healthy margin. Jarett Andretti got around Lee Underwood midway through the race to take second. Brandon Morin pressured Underwood, but settled for fourth. And Hunter O'Neal put himself in position to start 15th in the feature.

    Pole sitter Travis Berryhill ran away with the last chance race with Brandon Mattox second. Shelby Vangilder, J.T. Stapp and Jadon Rogers, repairs made, would tag the tail of the feature.

    It was off to the infield for the feature as pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer was joined by the little person. Brent Beauchamp and Jarett Andretti led 18 of their best friends to the green. Andretti jumped out to a lead that he’d increase with each lap as Beauchamp fought with Jeff Bland for second. From fifth, Justin Grant joined the fight after passing Bub Cummings on the second lap.

    At the halfway mark the yellow lights were at work for a Jadon Rogers spin in turn four. Andretti may have snarled in Rogers’ direction as he idled by under the yellow. Jarett had put some Bloomington red clay between himself and his pursuers on every lap, even after lapped traffic became a factor. The rundown was Andretti, Bland, Grant, Beauchamp, Kinser, Stanbrough, Thomas, Bub Cummings and Morin.

    Now was the chance for the hungry coyotes to attack the leader, but it didn’t happen. Andretti pulled away again as Bland, Beauchamp and Grant had a brief, but intense, dogfight. By the 17th lap Grant had dispatched the other two and was beginning to reel in Andretti.

    But then the red flag (the hardest working of the flags) waved. Grant had caught Andretti when Travis Berryhill flipped in turn two with 23 laps completed. Travis exited the car and attention turned to Andretti’s car. Coming to the start/finish line when the red lights blinked, Grant actually got around Andretti and his left rear tire may have contacted Jarett’s right front, which may have been out of alignment.

    On the re-start Andretti pushed up the track in turn two and found himself out of shape as Tyler Thomas came calling. Thomas tipped it over and Andretti was able to continue. Another red, another re-start and Aldo’s grandson was far from being home free. Grant was still there behind him and there were still two laps to go.

    The green waved for the last time and the two lap pitched battle was on. Andretti’s car may have had handling issues, but he held off the challenger for one and three quarters laps, much of that spent side by side. Grant got the big bite of traction off the fourth turn and led Andretti to the line, winning by a few feet. Beauchamp was third with Bland finishing fourth and claiming the 2016 Bloomington Speedway championship. Stanbrough was fifth with Cummings hanging on for sixth. Kinser took seventh with Matt McDonald eighth. Mattox rambled from 17th to end up ninth. Brandon Morin completed the top ten.

    As the post-race interview concluded, my grandson began walking away with the trophy. I honestly thought he was walking away with it until someone told me that the trophy was his. My mood changed a bit and I had to chuckle and shake my head. Later, Mr. Grant signed the trophy and we all decided it will sit here at home where he can see it whenever he’s here (which is often).

    It shall serve as a tangible example of the continuing education of a little boy who will probably remember the night he took home a trophy.

    Saturday…

    First off, here's a reminder that race promoters aren't like the rest of us. They are optimistic gamblers. Many of them will try to race even when the weather looks less than promising.

    The most immediate and recent example came on Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway. The area had been hit hard by rain in the early afternoon hours. The track was a quagmire at best, but Joe Spiker and crew were not deterred. For several hours they did their best to prepare a track that would yield some racin' Hoosier style. But, alas, their efforts were for naught and the gang threw in the towel just past 6:30... about five minutes after I arrived.

    I knew of the possibility of that happening, yet I pressed on. Just west of Franklin the rain began and it was rather intense until I motored through Bargersville. The rain eased up and by the time I reached Mooresville, the sun was breaking through the clouds. My hopes increased, even though I figured it would be a late night.

    But it wasn't to be. I would be going home quite early. I, like several others, gambled and lost. I'd imagine that none gambled as much as the folks that present racing here each week.

    Whiners, second guessers and the usual knights of the keyboard may well would have found a reason to blame the promotion team for waiting so late to pull the plug. Maybe they don't understand the mind of any promoter, the fact that they don't necessarily think like us. Joe Spiker didn't call me and threaten to spray paint my house if I didn't show up; it was all my idea, knowing that the night's festivities might be cancelled.

    And I'm already over it. Far as I know, more races are scheduled next week. Smackdown, anyone?

    Not letting certain American swimmers near my bathroom, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Good Things Come to Those Who…Race

    It was a 28 year gap between appearances by USAC’s Silver Crown division at the Salem Speedway. In 1988, both of my kids, now parents themselves, were in elementary school. Ronald Reagan was winding up his Presidency. Quite a few of the field had not taken the green flag yet. And Bryan Clauson, absence still felt, was a year away from his birth. Winner Kody Swanson was born in the spring of 1988. 28 years later, he made his mark as he profited from Aaron Pierce’s misfortune, taking the lead and the checkered for the 15th time in Silver Crown history, tying him with no less then J.J. Yeley. It was somehow appropriate that the Swanson car’s number was 63, one used by Clauson quite often. And the running of this race was the Joe James-Pat O’Conner Memorial, the first of these events run without wings in several years.

    As time trials began, it was a given that the track record would fall multiple times; the only question would be how many. First qualifier Patrick Lawson was first, followed by Chris Windom, David Byrne, Jerry Coons Jr., Jacob Wilson, and finally Swanson, who was three tenths faster than everyone else with a 15.978 lap.

    Rain somehow missed Salem most all day—until the pre-race ceremonies were nearly done. It was a fairly brief shower, but it delayed the start of the 75 lap feature for 20 minutes or so. With the waving of the green, Swanson took the lead. The yellow flag came out immediately as Austin Nemire spun and made contact with the wall. Casey Shuman and Lawson were also involved but drove away.

    The track was cleared and the green waved again, with Aaron Pierce scooting by Swanson coming out of turn two and grabbing the lead. A few laps later, lap 14, Jacob Wilson slowed and exited the race with a malfunctioning weight jacker. Windom passed Swanson for second. The top three were running nose to tail when they entered serious lapped traffic on the 19th lap. Five laps later, fourth place Jerry Coons Jr. joined the crowd.

    The second yellow light blinked on lap 25 when Shane Cottle coasted to a stop. It was still Pierce, Windom, Swanson, Coons and Byrne. On this re-start, Windom made an attempt to get around the leader, but couldn’t close the deal. The first three broke away from the others while Byrne pressed Coons for fourth and Bobby Santos III did his best to distract Byrnes. The 41st lap saw Swanson get back around Windom for second as a dark cloud passed over the high banks, but still no rain came with it. Nine laps later, Swanson was right behind Pierce and ready to pounce. Santos passed Byrne for fifth. Kody was like a batter waiting patiently for a good pitch to hit, biding his time. But it didn’t work out that way.

    60 laps were in and Pierce barreled into turn three with maybe a two car length lead on Swanson. Then things changed as Pierce either had something break or he lost it, spinning out in front of Swanson. He re-started on the tail of the field. The re-start order was Swanson, Windom, Coons, Santos and Byrne. It was Show and Tell time. Swanson gradually increased his lead over the last 15 laps. Behind him, things were busy. Justin Grant, quiet all race, passed Byrne, as did Aaron Pierce. While Swanson and the others cruised, Grant had his hands full keeping Pierce at bay.

    Swanson’s margin of victory was ten car lengths. Windom, Coons, Santos and Grant, the newlywed, were the rest of the top five as the caravan began looking west toward Springfield, site of the next Silver Crown race.

    The threat of rain hurt the crowd and probably didn’t do too much for the car count either. 13 cars were enough for a decent race and this was an above average race, much more competitive than I’d hoped for. I saw enough to warrant a return visit of these cars to Salem. I hoped Andy Hillenburg and Richard Deaton, two quality people, felt the same way.

    Heading to Springfield, Swanson’s point lead over Windom is 13.

    In my dream world, I wish to see the Silver Crown series become a destination station, not a launching pad to NASCAR or even Indy Car. My dream includes a 20 race schedule, pretty much divided between pavement and dirt. While the half mile ovals are a bit small for these beasts, reality intrudes upon my dreams and allows for the Terre Hautes, Eldoras and the Salems to be a part of the schedule.

    A guy can dream, right?

    Singing Roy Orbison’s It’s Over to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Back in the Saddle

    The initial shock of the sudden passing of Bryan Clauson was only beginning to wane and racing at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night the 12th was the signal that, grieving or not, it was time to race. I think that BC wouldn’t have it any other way. And Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead midway through the feature and parked it at the start/finish line, taking the win over Tyler Thomas, no relation.

    21 410 sprints and 15 Racesaver/305 sprints had braved the annoying humidity. Many of the usual suspects were present, with Kerry Kinser doing double duty, but with the same car. Wandering the pits yielded bumping into an interesting mix of people, most notably friend and race writer extraordinaire Mike O’Leary. He’s one of those few people who leave me feeling as if I’ve learned something worthwhile after every conversation.

    Max McGhee built up an impressive lead before winning the first heat over Bloomington point leader Jeff Bland. Brady Short was a distant third. Matt McDonald edged Chris Babcock for fourth. Bub Cummings and Dave Gross brought up the rear.

    Jarett Andretti used his front row starting position to win the second heat over Tyler Thomas. Thomas Meseraull, in the Wingo brothers’ car, was third. Shane Cottle, in Jamie Paul’s prize possession, was fourth. Nick Bilbee, Brandon Morin and pole sitter Jaden Rogers trailed.

    KT not only won the feature, he also dominated the first heat after starting on the pole. Jordan Kinser was second. Hunter O’Neal, tonight in the Waltz family car, took third. Cody Clarkson finished fourth, ahead of Michael Gass. Bub Cummings and Kerry Kinser would find themselves starting the feature way back there.

    Mike Terry Jr. led all the way to win the first Racesaver heat. Veteran Jim Dugan was second ahead of Kerry Kinser. Ryan Tusing won the second heat. Pole sitter Kendall Ruble was second and Jared Fox finished third.

    After some competitive kids’ bike races, the feature lined up. The re-draw left T. Thomas and McGhee leading the other to the green. Thomas took the lead and was in control when the race’s first yellow light blinked for Hunter O’Neal, who stopped on lap five. T. Thomas led McGhee, K. Thomas, Bland, J. Kinser, Short, Andretti, Meseraull, Cottle and McDonald. This would be a somewhat caution plagued race with a few laps of intense action between slowdowns.

    Matt McDonald brought out the second yellow with eight laps completed. He wasn’t thrilled with Nick Bilbee, who inherited tenth. On the re-start the hapless McDonald tangled with Braxton Cummings, who spun down the backstretch and tipped over, bringing out the red. Braxton was okay. On this re-start, KT began to put the pressure on McGhee for second. This segment would last only three laps before O’Neal spun. Cottle had gotten around Meseraull for eighth.

    Yet another yellow waved for McDonald, who went over the banking in turn two. Simultaneously, Jaden Rogers did the same thing in turn four. This was on lap 13 and T. Thomas still led. At the re-start K. Thomas passed McGhee for second. Two laps later it was time to attack and make the pass for the lead. McGhee also got around T. Thomas.

    The next yellow was after 16 laps were done when Brandon Morin spun. Now it was K. Thomas, McGhee, T. Thomas, Bland, J. Kinser, Cottle, Short, Andretti, Meseraull and Bilbee. Soon after this re-start, Cottle cracked the top five, using the bottom groove to perfection. Bland and T. Thomas passed McGhee. The yellow flag was put away and the last nine laps were vintage Bloomington, with positions constantly changing among the top ten.

    But none of this had anything to do with the leader. K. Thomas only increased his lead. T. Thomas came back and reclaimed second place. Bland increased his point lead with a third. McGhee was fourth. Cottle’s charge to the front stalled with him taking home fifth place money after starting 11th. Andretti moved forward late and finished sixth. J. Kinser faded a bit to seventh. Meseraull was eighth and Short faded to ninth at the end. And Clarkson came on at the end to edge Bilbee for tenth.  

    The Racesaver 305 feature had a tough time getting underway. The first start was called back and Eric Perrott slid down the backstretch and tipped over on the second. The third time was the charm and Ethan Fleetwood was on his horsey and took off. His lead began to shrink as Kerry Kinser, with the wing bolted on, found some speed on the cushion and reeled in Fleetwood, passing him at the halfway mark, lap 10. But Fleetwood had no notion of giving up. As K. Kinser started to fade, the race’s original leader came back to re-take the lead coming to the while flag. Fleetwood and J. Kinser were trailed by what may have been the fastest car on the track for much of the race, that of Dakota Jackson, who had started 14th, easily the race’s hard charger. Luke Bland and Jared Fox rounded out the top five.

    Accidentally spilling my glass of red wine on Hillary Clinton’s new white pantsuit, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Show Must Go On
    On one of the saddest Sunday evenings the racing community has ever endured, 21 sprint car teams gathered together at the Kokomo Speedway, knowing that one of their own was in a bad way with a grim prognosis. The show did go on, no doubt that Bryan Clauson would have insisted that it be so. And though the overall mood at the Kokomo Speedway was subdued, the actual racing was as quick as ever—high speeds, slashing through traffic, slide jobs and even some people irritated with each other. When it was over, Thomas Meseraull, in yet another new ride for him, was holding a trophy and reminding us all that Bryan Clauson was on our minds and all we could do was think good thoughts.
    All three heats were high speed, one groove around the top affairs. But there was room to pass.
    In the first heat, Robert Ballou proved that one could pass as he came from fourth to win. Pole sitter Matt Goodnight was second. Colton Cottle was third with a sick sounding engine. Tyler Hewitt finished fourth and young Mike Gass was fifth. Steve Thomas took sixth and Logan Jarrett slowed, stopped, and had to play caboose.
    Thomas Meseraull blasted off from his front row starting spot and won the second heat. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti brought home his new car in second. Max McGhee, quick qualifier in this group, was third. Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Thomas, Kyle Robbins and Billy Cribbs trailed.
    Seeing that this was the Bob Darland Memorial, son Dave might have sat up a bit straighter in the seat. He made pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. work extra hard to get the third heat race win. Chris Windom was third. Early leader C. J. Leary edged Kokomo resident Shane Cottle for fourth. Lawman Joe Bares and another local boy, Josh Spencer, brought up the rear.
    The redraw yielded a front row of Andretti and Meseraull. TMez grabbed the lead and ran, putting some Howard County real estate between him and the North Carolina resident. Ballou wanted to break up this party, but the best he could do was follow Andretti.
    The race's first yellow waved on lap 22 for Leary. Meseraull's big lead went...poof! On the restart TMez led Andretti, Ballou, K. Thomas, McGhee, Darland, Cottle, Windom, Coons and Jarrett, who had started 19th. The green flag waved and McGhee passed KT for fourth. Jarrett and Cottle were on the move. But Shane brought out a yellow on lap 29, ending a good run.
    This set up a one lap dash, always fun unless you’re a driver. But TMez had things under control, winning the race, some money and a trophy from the Darland family. Andretti bested Ballou in the battle for second. McGhee was fourth and K. Thomas was fifth. Darland started and finished sixth in the race honoring his dad. Coons took home seventh place money and Windom was eighth. Josh Spencer ended up being the race’s hard charger, coming from last/21st to ninth. Kyle Robbins passed a few cars as well, crossing the line tenth after starting 17th.
    Jarrett’s great run was spoiled in turn four coming to the checkered as he ended up facing the wrong way after tangling with T. Thomas.
    Few in attendance knew that BC was in the process of taking life’s checkered flag as they left Kokomo. But racers did what they do, namely race. Fans did what they do as well. Personally, being at a race track seemed better therapy than sitting at home brooding. There has been plenty of time to ponder the sad events of the last two days, including Aric Gentry’s suffering a broken leg after a nasty crash at Lawrenceburg. Grieving and healing take time; people don’t recover as TV characters do. This is hard core reality. (There is no other kind.)
    On August 24, opening night of Kokomo’s Smackdown, there will be a celebration of the life of Bryan Clauson. It will be, I’m sure, a fitting and necessary tribute, as well as a turning point in the racing community’s healing journey. Oh, and there will be a bit of racin’ that night.
    We can be pretty sure that BC would want it that way.
    Double checking my birth certificate, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

     

    To the Family of Bryan Clauson
    First off, please know that now is not the time for the usual attempts at comforting such as “it was his time to go,” “at least you were able to watch him grow up,” “it’s God’s plan, not ours,” “at least he died doing what he loved,” “life is not fair,” “he’s in a better place,” or my favorite, “I know how you feel.” There might be a time in the future when such sentiments will mean more, but now is not that time. Now is the time to hurt, cry, feel sick and even figuratively shake your fist at God (who I firmly believe understands your pain). The sudden loss won’t be healed suddenly, if at all. And even if in time you are at all healed, the scars will remain to the end of your own days.
    Cry if you must, be angry if you must and hurt as well. Just know that when there are no more tears, you will not be alone. Most certainly you will have the love, caring and support of literally thousands of people, most of whom never met Bryan personally but watched him from afar, anywhere from television to the bleachers to the pits. He made an impression on countless people he never met and be glad that it was no doubt a good one. In their own way, they hurt and grieve as well. They loved the young man that they would never really get to know because of both his accomplishments on the track and his behavior off the track. Long after the mainstream media has moved on to the next story, please know that Bryan’s friends and fans will continue to lift you up and pray that the healing process begin when it should.
    Speaking as a father and grandfather, I can recall the last encounter between Bryan and my seven year old grandson. It may have been in the pit area of the Kokomo Speedway, either this year or last year, not that it matters. We were walking through the pits as we normally do, with no set plan in mind. I was people watching and Karston was as wide eyed then as he was when he first visited a pit area at a short track. Bryan approached us, which was nothing unusual. We were acquaintances and we usually said hi to each other when neither was engaged in conversation or otherwise busy. But as I recall, Bryan saw Karston first and had his hand out for a high five (or was it a low five?). Both grinned at each other.
    At the time, I didn’t give it much thought. My grandson knows several of the drivers by sight and most by name. Bryan was one of those he knew well enough and he’s had several similar experiences with a group of drivers who appreciate the boy’s interest in what they do.
    But now, thinking about it as I deal with this sudden loss of a fine young man, as well as the sinking feeling in my stomach, that brief encounter might go a long way in describing Bryan, not only as a public figure, liked, respected and admired, but perhaps showing that, no matter how famous he might be or become, there were kids all about him watching. And he seemed to be very aware of that. In the midst of the usual interviews he gave after a victory, one could see, if they looked, a decent young man who raced with a determination and ferocity seldom matched, but who came across as a literate, affable, and likable young man. The kind of young man you might want your grandson to watch and learn from.
    My religious and spiritual beliefs tell me that there is no greater love than one who dies so others may live. Though it’s most certainly involuntary, Bryan’s last gift(s) will perhaps allow someone else, if not others, to live. This is true in a tangible way. A heart that began its existence in one body can now be transplanted to another, who shall live. At some point, this should be celebrated.
    But please consider the intangibles. Consider Bryan’s competitive spirit, that desire along with those gifts he used to race and win against some of the most talented racers anywhere. Consider his kindness to those who felt like they knew him and he knew them, even though that couldn’t be so. Consider his willingness to use a good part of his off-track time to doing for others less fortunate. And finally consider his sense of family; he never seemed to stray from those basic values taught him at home.
    The tears may stop at some point, at least externally. And at some point, we must begin to claim the memories and the Lord knows there are many. Most all of these memories will be, I trust and pray, good ones. And at some point, may you, Bryan’s family, be able to smile or even laugh through the tears. We’re not there yet, but we can hope that day will come in its own time.
    We all must grieve in our own way and eventually move on. These words have been my primary way of dealing with this unspeakable tragedy. I can hope and pray that they, in some small way, can comfort you all at this time of trial and tribulation.
    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Steady as It Goes

    One might have picked A.J. Hopkins to win a feature race on a lovely Saturday night; however, given the talent that was spread throughout the lineup, he would have been something between a contender and a long shot. But the young man bided his time, took the lead from one of the best, Brent Beauchamp, and negotiated the tricky five sixteenth oval we call the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. Hopkins took the lead on the fifth lap and led the rest of the way, bagging $3,000 and his first Midwest Sprint Car Series victory.

    It wasn’t quite as humid as Friday at Bloomington, but it wasn’t exactly cool outside at LPS. More importantly, 28 cars had marked their X’s at the pit gate with several notables on the property. As the would be mud scraper and I ambled through the pits, close to half the assembled throng was capable of winning and quite a few others had a shot at a top five finish.

    Pole sitter C. J. Leary won the first heat, but Kyle Cummins made sure that he earned it. There was a similar battle for third place as Jeff Bland edged Max McGhee. Jon Stanbrough, back in his own car, secured the last empty chair.

    In the second heat, A. J. Hopkins led the first nine laps before a slight boo-boo in turn two on the last lap put him in second place. Shane Cottle figured that he might as well take advantage after running second the whole race. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt was third and Brandon Mattox took fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. managed a fifth after a first lap encounter with Hewitt, who was the meat in a three wide sandwich and had no place to go. KT used a yellow flag slowdown to inform Tyler that now would be a good time to have a chat. Tyler politely disagreed. During an early caution, Carson Short exited the track. He would be back out for the semi. Jadon Rogers flipped after Brandon Morin’s right rear contacted Rogers’ left front. Jadon, too, would return for the B.

    Chad Boespflug methodically worked his way to the front after starting fourth to win the third heat. Pole sitter Brent Beauchamp was second. Brady Short survived a brief excursion off turn two to grab third. Robert Ballou survived his own moment, a turn three half spin, to get fourth. MSCS regular Donnie Brackett had his hands full in keeping Jimmy Light from taking fifth.

    The aforementioned Mr. Light led every lap of the 12 lap B Main to win after starting third. Carson Short came from 11th to finish second. Nate McMillin came from seventh to third. Pole sitter Matt McDonald was fourth and Brandon Morin hung on to get the chance to start 20th in the feature, after an expert mud scraping operation was performed on the car following the semi. Jarod Chastain took a provisional.

    Quality cars were, like Friday night, sprinkled all through the field for the 30 lap feature. Beauchamp and Hopkins were the front row, which meant whoever started behind those two had some work to do. Beauchamp jumped out to the lead at the waving of the green with Hopkins committing to the outside groove early. This worked for him as he closed the gap on the leader and made the pass on the fifth lap. By the tenth lap, Hopkins’ lead was the better part of a straightaway.

    Behind these two, Boespflug and Cummins couldn’t make up their minds about third and fourth places. They traded positions several times over the first half of the race. And Leary passed Cottle on the third lap to annex fifth, only a car length or two behind those two.

    Despite the relative lack of passing up front, this was another fine event. In the closing laps Beauchamp began to reel in the leader. On lap 25, five to go, Hopkins made enough of a bobble on the cushion to allow Beauchamp to close the gap to just a few feet. When the checkered waved at 9:48 p.m. for a race that was caution free, the margin of victory was less than five car lengths. Boespflug, using the high line for the whole race, finally secured third from Cummins, who tried both the top and bottom lanes in his search for speed. Leary was fifth, but through much of the race he had unwanted company in both Ballou and B. Short. Ballou was sixth and Stanbrough passed a slightly fading Short to take seventh. McGhee was ninth and Thomas made it ten.

    Ballou was hard charger coming from 12th, but Stanbrough passed a few cars coming from 13th. Carson Short started 17th and scooted up to 11th as well.

    MSCS points-wise, Brady Short increased his lead over Brandon Morin and Tyler Hewitt.

    With my wife “trumping” opponents left and right (at the card game euchre, silly), I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Zigging and Zagging

    On a hot August night at the Bloomington Speedway, the action was as frantic as ever with Jeff Bland holding off Robert Ballou to win the 25 lap 410 non-wing sprint feature. Ballou closed the gap in the closing laps as both negotiated lapped traffic like the pros they are, but fell short by a few feet.

    It was another example of looking at the numbers and concluding that it was “boring.” Bland started second and led all the way, but his lead and win were far from a done deal. Ballou saw to that, along with the lapped cars who were engaged in their own battles.

    Ethan Barrow won the Racesaver 305 winged sprint feature, leading all the way and winning over Ryan Tusing by a few car lengths.

    The temperature was in the upper 80s, but it was the Hoosier humidity that made going to a race a true challenge. This didn’t stop two aging gentlemen and their seven year old fellow traveler. Neither did the threat of a popup rain shower as little pockets of showers seemed to surround Bloomington.

    23 sprints and 14 Racesavers occupied the pits, which contained close to 100 cars. Of note were Jon Stanbrough in the Pedersen brothers 4p, Thomas Meseraull in the Wingo family machine and Jarett Andretti in a new car with new colors after destroying his DRC at Lawrenceburg last Saturday. Only Dakota Jackson was doing double duty, with the family 410 sprinter and his Racesaver ride that’s helped him to multiple Bloomington feature wins this year.

    My man Henry Bryant did his usual magic on the track and was helped by the persistent cloud cover that kept a goodly amount of moisture where it needed to be. The heat races were of the high speed/freight train variety. By feature time, the usual two grooves, high and low, appeared. Passing was still tough but doable.

    Shelby Van Gilder won the first heat from her outside front row spot. Pole sitter Daylan Chambers was a close second. Billy Cribbs was third and Brandon Morin took fourth after having his hands full keeping Jon Stanbrough in fifth.

    Matt McDonald ran the best heat race of his racing career as he kept Robert Ballou behind him in winning the second heat by a whole car length. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third and Brady Short finished fourth. Dakota Jackson took fifth while he had Chris Babcock nipping at his heels.

    It was Jordan Kinser making it unanimous with heat race winners winning from the front row as he won the third heat. Jeff Bland was second. Thomas Meseraull gave the 77 a good ride in taking third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Jaden Rogers started second, slipped up early and hung on to take fifth with Brandon Mattox coming up just a bit short.

    Dakota Jackson won the first Racesaver heat over Ryan Tusing. Mike Terry Jr. was the victor in the second heat with Luke Bland taking second.

    Chris Babcock controlled the B Main all the way with Brandon Mattox a close second. Third and fourth belonged to the Cummings family with Braxton leading dad Bub to the line. Cody Clarkson would start 20th in the feature.

    For maybe the first time in his racing career, Daylan Chambers would lead the 19 others to the green. Sprinkled through the field were some pretty strong cars. Next to Chambers was Bland, who grabbed the lead. Chambers held second for the first few laps until Ballou got around him and set sail for Bland, who had built a straightaway length lead and maintained his lead even after slipping over the banking.

    By the halfway mark lapped traffic was a factor as Ballou slowly but surely chipped away at Bland’s lead. Behind them Jordan Kinser settled into third—until K. Thomas and Meseraull came up to pay their respects. Jordan hung onto third as Thomas and TMez traded position more than once as they, too, fought with the lappers.

    In the closing laps Ballou clearly gained ground on the leader. But he ran out of laps and Bland had made it tough for anyone to get close to him. And the lack of a yellow flag in this race would produce more hypothetical situations such as how would the leaders have handled a re-start.

    In the end none of that stuff mattered and Jeff Bland stood at the start/finish line being interviewed by Kimb Stewart and accepting a trophy from a seven year old who recently had scraped mud off the winning car at Lincoln Park.

    Behind Bland and Ballou was Kinser, who settled for the bronze medal. K. Thomas made the late pass to finish fourth with Meseraull taking fifth. Brady Short advanced more than anyone else, coming from 11th to finish sixth. Chambers, from the big city of Bowling Green, Indiana, hung on for seventh. Cribbs was an impressive eighth, leading Andretti to the line. And Jadon Rogers came from 15th to finish tenth.

    An extra goody for the winner was a $500 parts voucher from Unique Breedz through Extreme Performance from Ellettsville, IN.

    Ethan Barrow won the Racesaver feature, leading Ryan Tusing to the checkered by only a few car lengths. Jared Fox was third and pole sitter Andy Bradley was fourth. Ethan Fleetwood came on late to take fifth.

    A little on the cranky side since I lost my coloring book, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: The Josh and Joss Show
    For many years, young men (and a few women as well) have migrated to Indiana with the intention of racing against some of the best in terms of weekly sprint car racing as well as sanctioning bodies that bring together some pretty good racers. Many of these young people give it a try for a year or two and either move on to another level of racing or disappear. Most all of them come away from the experience wiser and can say that they gave it a shot. If they stay here long enough and have the ability and desire, they will excel in time. With that in mind, consider New Mexico’s Josh Hodges, in his second summer of Hoosier racing. He’s already won a feature event at Kokomo this year, beating a future Hall of Famer, Jerry Coons Jr. And his win at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, sanctioned by the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, added to his resume and reputation. If there was any doubt before, now it shall be that here is a young man that the others will have to reckon with. The local boys, the ‘burg regulars, made him earn it, with multi-time track champ Joss Moffatt coming home a close second.
    There are few things in this world that could keep me away from the Bloomington Speedway on a Friday night. A couple of years ago, it was an illness that kept me home, realizing that negotiating State Road 46 on a Friday evening while feeling faint wouldn’t be a good idea. All I missed was a clinic put on by Brady Short, who only came from last to win the feature that night.
    This past Friday, I was the dinner guest of an eight-month old baby girl who smiles more than any ten people you could name. My three grandchildren will keep me away from a race, even at Bloomington—if I can’t take them with me.
    Not only did the smiling baby keep me home from Bloomington, she “made” me arrive late at Lawrenceburg on Saturday. Sprint car hot laps were completed by the time I began wandering through the pits, checking out ‘burg and/or BOSS regulars, a would be cherry picker here and there, and an assortment of guys who only hoped to get in some laps, whether or not they made the feature. Of the 96 cars parked in Dave Rudisell’s playground, 40 were sprinters.
    This was another of the memorial races that are held with the idea of remembering racers who have taken life’s checkered flag. Tonight it was Jason Soudrette who was honored for his valiant fight against the disease that finally claimed him in December, 2013.
    As the fragrant aroma from the distillery teased my sense of smell, Landon Simon won the first heat. He had some fast company in second place Chad Wilson and third place Travis Hery. The red flag came out when Tobey Alfrey spun in turn three and was smacked by Lee Underwood, who flipped in the process. They were fighting for the fourth and final transfer spot. Earlier Dickie Gaines, still in the Soudrette family car, dropped out. With only five cars left, Steve Little finished fourth and grabbed a feature start.
    A few stray sprinkles greeted second heat runners, but nothing came of it. Josh Hodges made a superb opening statement as he came from sixth to the lead in two laps. He was trailed by two Kokomo residents, Dustin Smith and Logan Jarrett. Logan Hupp, in Jake Gindling’s car, was fourth.
    Jarett Andretti passed Kody Swanson on the second lap of the third heat and went on to win by a healthy margin. The ageless Ted Hines was third behind Swanson. Mike Miller came from the last row to annex fourth. It would, sadly, be the highlight of the night for the one time Lawrenceburg points champ as he couldn’t answer the bell for the feature.
    C.J. Leary, now out of the Mike Dutcher machine, was the latest to try out Shane Wade’s 66 and he led all the way to win the fourth heat. Garrett Abrams was a somewhat distant second. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt was third and local boy Justin Owen came from last to fourth.
    Lawrenceburg standouts Shawn Westerfeld and Joss Moffatt began the fifth heat in the third row and finished it one/two. Moffatt was in former ‘burg modified racer Tony McVey’s sprinter while his engine is being rebuilt by ace engine builder Roger Williams Third place was pole sitter Cody Gardner. Dallas Hewitt came from the last row to fourth. Joe Ligouri was in Dwayne Spille’s car and was tapped on the backstretch, enough to send him spinning wildly without getting on his top. Joe was running third at the time and if that wasn’t bad enough, it was on the last lap.
    Todd Keen had been stuck behind a sputtering car in his heat which put him in the first of two semi features. He won the first and took Cooper Clouse with him to the show. In the second of the last chance races, Dickie Gaines had a spectacular run as he came from eighth to pass Steve Thomas on the last lap to secure a spot in the A for the Soudrette family. Thomas held onto second.
    The front row of the 25 lapper would be Leary and Moffatt. It was tempting to just give the race to Leary right then as he’d been quite impressive in his heat. But C.J. spun in turn two on the first lap, deliberately as it turned out. The word was that fuel was leaking into the cockpit and the young man from Greenfield quickly decided to exit the race and the car.
    This moved Garrett Abrams to the pole position on the re-start. Moffatt took the lead at the beginning as Hodges began his move from fourth. For the next several laps he and Moffatt traded the lead back and forth, often more than once within one lap.
    Behind them Westerfeld was on the move early as he shot toward the front after starting ninth. By the sixth lap he was fourth and was pressuring third place Abrams. Westerfeld took third just a couple of laps before a yellow flag waved on lap 15 for Steve Little, who spun into the infield, re-entered the track, and stopped on the backstretch.
    The lineup was Hodges, Moffatt, Westerfeld, Abrams, Simon, Andretti, Jarett, Hery, Smith and Clouse. With this re-start, Moffatt made a last gasp challenge to take the lead. It nearly worked. Then Landon Simon’s fine run ended on lap 18 when he stopped against the wall in turn four. He had advanced to fourth before his misfortune.
    After this break, it was Andretti’s turn to shine on the re-start. John’s son was fourth when the green waved and got around Westerfeld with a strong move. He gave chase to Moffatt who was second and not far behind the leader. Andretti had just passed Moffatt when he pounded the turn four wall, which won. The car commenced a series of nasty flips with a phalanx of race traffic headed his way. Somehow everyone missed him. And somehow Jarett got out of the car and would walk away.
    The re-start order was Hodges, Moffatt, Westerfeld, Jarrett, Abrams, Clouse, Swanson, Hery, Smith and Gaines. There were four laps to go and racing was far from done.
    True, Hodges was in control to the end, opening up a bit of a margin over Moffatt. Jarrett passed Westerfeld to take third after starting 12th. Then there was Cooper Clouse, who ran under the radar for the first part of the race. From 22nd he weaved his way through traffic to finish fifth. Swanson was sixth, which was where he started. And Dickie Gaines nearly equaled Clouse as he motored from 23rd to take seventh at the end. Abrams ran well early before fading to eighth. Hery and Smith filled out the top ten.
    I’m not much for autographs at this advanced age, but I did seek out Mr. Aaron Fry to secure his autograph. This wasn’t just any old scribbling. Mr. Fry has made this group into a viable and friendly outlet for the workingmen/racers. His impressive car counts have been no accident. Though it’s an Ohio based group, Mr. Fry has no qualms about crossing Ohio’s borders and visiting what’s become their Hoosier home away from home. I can relate to much of the above—except the working part, of course. But it’s why I sought out Mr. Fry earlier this year to see what he thought about my writing a story about him and BOSS for Flat Out Magazine. He was very much in favor of that idea. So with some friends, Aaron and I sat down and talked…and talked for nearly 90 minutes. It was time well spent. And he liked the story too. Sure enough, he was happy to sign his name on the accompanying picture with the story.
    Someday, maybe one of the grandchildren will own that magazine that now resides here at home. Maybe they can tell their grandkids about their grandpa and all the neat people he met at various race tracks around the state. And let us hope and pray that by then, race tracks will still exist in some form similar to what we see each weekend.
    Still confused about the difference between hay and straw, I’m…
    Danny Burton

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Beauchamp Beats the Heat

    Extreme weather, like anything else that’s extreme, brings out the best and the other in people. Fortunately for him, it apparently brings out the best in Brent Beauchamp, who won the 25 lap feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway on a toasty Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana.

    For the first time in nearly a month, the not so diminutive traveler reclaimed his seat on the passenger side of the little white Chevy truck. It was just as if he’d never left. Not long after a quick cheeseburger for him, we strolled the pits and he found A.J. Hopkins’ cars covered in mud after wheel packing and hot laps. Soon enough he was busy scraping mud off a sprint car, getting dirty without bring reprimanded, actually helping out. No doubt the homemade slushy was plenty compensation for his labors. And A.J. Hopkins was probably added to the list of drivers he knows and likes.

    Car counts were down at LPS, which was no huge surprise. The heat, the usual Saturday night dilution of the pool of sprinters in this area and maybe the post Sprint Week blues kept some fans and racers home. But of the 18 gathered in the Joe Spiker Recreational Park (really the pits), at least a half dozen was quite capable of winning with a few more capable of a top five.

    A.J. Hopkins, with the help of his junior mud scraper, took off from the front row and won the first heat. Thomas Meseraull, in Stan Courtad’s car tonight with help from assorted benefactors, rocketed from eighth to finish second. Enjoying his new title of Bloomington/USAC/Indiana Sprint Week winner, Brent Beauchamp started and finished third. Mario Clouser started and finished fourth. Tim Creech II took fifth.

    Like Mr. Hopkins, Shane Cockrum started on the outside front row and won the second heat. The first four finishers weren't that far apart as Jeff Bland was second. Right behind him, in Bland's former ride, was Tyler Thomas. Kevin Thomas Jr. moved from eighth to finish fourth. Half a straightaway back was Hunter O'Neal.

    The draw for the feature found Bland and Meseraull on the front row with Cockrum and Hopkins in row two. Beuachamp, T. Thomas, Clouser and K. Thomas Jr. would make it a crowd.

    TMez took the early lead over Bland, Hopkins, Beauchamp and T. Thomas. Three laps in and Beauchamp took over third. Two laps after that, he passed Bland for second. Meseraull had hustled to a healthy lead when the red flag waved on the seventh lap and his nice lead went poof when Casey Shuman stopped in turn four with flames threatening to consume his engine. Smart guy that he is, the headman of the Wingless Auto Racing series based in Missouri stopped immediately and had to call it a night.

    The re-start was Meseraull, a lapped car, Beauchamp, Bland, Hopkins, Cockrum, T. Thomas, K. Thomas, Clouser, J.J. Hughes and Nate McMillin. Getting around the lapped car quickly, Beauchamp joined Meseraull and they began to separate themselves from the others. Behind them, Hopkins passed Bland for third. Then Jadon Rogers spun into the infield, but was close enough to the track to bring out a yellow flag. Jadon re-started on the tail.

    On the re-start, Beauchamp made his move and took the lead, but Meseraull took it back. A lap later, TMez’s pass was negated as another yellow waved, this one for Hughes, who spun into the infield off turn four. J.J. was running eighth at the time and re-started on the tail.

    This re-start saw Beauchamp leading Meseraull, Hopkins, Cockrum, Bland, K. Thomas, T. Thomas, McMillin, Billy Cribbs and Creech. But another red, the second, appeared when Mario Clouser got upside down in turn two with Jeff Bland’s car sitting in the infield. Both were done for the night. Clouser was out of the car quickly. There were eight laps to go.

    When the yellow came out and the field re-started, Creech found himself with a flat right rear tire, but he opted to stay out. The green flag flew and Meseraull got a great jump on the leader. Side by side they went down the backstretch, with TMez hanging on to lead a lap. That would be his last hurrah as Beauchamp reassumed control a lap later and began to build a small lead. Meseraull would have issues with Hopkins, who made a strong run and took second briefly before accidentally shutting off the car in turn four, slowing and exiting the race.

    At the end Beauchamp’s lead was a half straightaway over Meseraull with K. Thomas coming on strong at the end for third. Cockrum was fourth and T. Thomas finished fifth. Hughes came back from his mid-race spin to grab a well-earned sixth. McMillin was eighth and Rogers came back from his spin to take ninth. Through it all, Hunter O’Neal started and finished tenth.

    Surely it was one of the hottest, in terms of weather, races I’ve been to in some time. Enduring the heat was no problem while the green flag was out and the boys fought it out to the end. But I was sympathetic to those who couldn’t make it due to the weather, especially for health reasons.

    What perturbed me was and is the ranting of internet keyboard jockeys who seem to delight in sharing their wisdom in all matters. In extreme weather, summer or winter, they pontificate how today’s people, especially young people, are soft—or “namby-pamby to quote one. These internet pundits fail to see the irony of telling people how weak they are while the pundit quite possibly types away in the comfort of his own—air conditioned—home. And I’d imagine some of those experts would have to look up the word “irony.” I can be further perturbed upon knowing that quite possibly these esteemed thinkers work inside to make their living. Nothing wrong, of course, with working inside, but don’t put down people who either choose or are forced to stay inside.

    Enough of that. It was 91 degrees in Greencastle when we arrived. It did cool off. Some. My grandson and I had a great time and saw some good racin’ all evening. That’s what matters.

    Helping Melania Trump write her next speech, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: A Fitting End

    Perseverance, desire, ability—all of these things and more are needed to excel in the topsy turvy world of Indiana/Midwest/USAC sprint car racing. All of these have been on display since Friday, July 8, when Tyler Courtney shocked a lot of people by coming from last to first and winning his first USAC feature at Gas City. Since that special night three more, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Carson Short have joined Courtney as first time winners. Bryan Clauson and Brady Short combined to ring up victories, adding to their totals. And as the caravan made its last stop at the Terre Haute Action Track, one could always imagine that another shocker would step forward to join the Fab Four. It wasn’t going to happen. Chase Stockon saw to that as he smiled for all the cameras holding the trophy for winning the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week finale at the Terre Haute Action Track, holding off a determined Robert Ballou to close out a memorable ten days.

    Brady Bacon may have been happier, though such things are hard to measure. His string of consistent finishes brought him and the Hoffman team the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week championship, along with some money, prestige, bragging rights and one cool rocking chair, ideal for rocking babies to sleep.

    32 teams chose to attack the Action Track after having been rained out last Wednesday. It was no surprise that several were missing; this has been a pattern over the years. A few hot dogs were missing, such as Justin Grant and the Steve and Carla Phillips team, Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins, Shane Cottle (actually Shane was there but not the car), Bloomington winner Brent Beauchamp and Josh Hodges, who probably had plans to head back to New Mexico. This was a bit of a disappointment as the young man has to be considered as someone who could be the next USAC first time winner.

    There were still plenty of quality cars in the pits. One of them was Bryan Clauson, who set fast time with a 21.051 lap. The track did slow down for later qualifiers, but the 90 degree temps and a hot July sun will do that to race tracks. BC went out 16th to qualify, which made his time even more impressive.

    Clauson gave people reason to think that he might be the one holding the trophy later as he came from sixth to win the first heat. C. J. Leary was second and early leader Dave Darland was third. Tri-State/Haubstadt winner Carson Short was fourth, moving to the show.

    Brady Bacon then made his case to the jury by winning the second heat, also from sixth, passing Robert Ballou in the process. Ballou was second, followed by Tyler Thomas, his first time at Terre Haute in a sprint car and perhaps any kind of race car. Chad Boespflug was fourth.

    Tyler Courtney has impressed throughout ISW and won the third heat. In an upset of sorts, South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt was second. Jon Stanbrough, presumably in his last ride for Amati Racing Team, was third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Aaron Farney had a close encounter with the turn four wall before stopping and bringing out a yellow. On the re-start Chris Windom slowed and went to the pits. Both he and Farney would return for the B.

    Thomas Meseraull swept to the lead from fourth place on the first lap and led all the way to win the fourth heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Logan Jarrett came from sixth to third. Chase Stockon was fourth, giving no indication what lay ahead.

    After a brief massaging of the track, the semi feature was won by Chris Windom, who led all the way, but was pressured by Aaron Farney. Tom Harris was third and made his first ISW feature—I think. Kevin Thomas Jr. cruised to a fourth place finish. Missouri’s Riley Kreisel made his first Sprint Week feature just like Harris and finished fifth. Max McGhee was sixth.

    With the preliminary events done, all Brady Bacon had to do was finish fifth or better and he would win the ISW title. As it turned out, he started fifth.

    After a few minutes for a scheduled intermission, Stockon and Courtney led the gang of 22 to Mo Wills’ green flag. No sooner than a lap (led by Stockon like all the others) had been completed than Harris flipped in turn four, bringing out the red. He was out of the car quickly.

    Stockon took off as the green waved for the re-start and began to stretch his lead out over second place Tyler Courtney. As of lap six the lead was the better part of Terre Haute’s wide, sweeping curves. Meanwhile, Clauson, running sixth, began pressuring Bacon. Lapped traffic began to be a factor around the 11th lap. This helped Ballou somewhat as he passed Courtney for second on the 23rd lap. A lap later Clauson, who had just passed Courtney, hit the turn four wall and pitted with a flat tire. Mo’s yellow hankie was waved.

    The six lap dash had Stockon leading Ballou, Courtney, Bacon, Farney, Jarrett, Windom, Leary, Coons and Boespflug. Up front, there wasn’t much in the way of changing positions, but one can say that Ballou made it interesting on each lap, or better yet, at both ends of the track. Time and again Robert dove low in either turn one or three, letting the leader know he was there. But still young (from my perspective) man now living in Fort Branch, Indiana withstood every attempt to make the pass. In the last three laps or so, Stockon inched away and won by a few car lengths, becoming the seventh winner in seven nights of Indiana Sprint Week.

    Behind Stockon and Ballou was Courtney and Bacon, who won the war, becoming the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week champ. 2015 Action Track/Sprint Week winner Aaron Farney came from 11th to finish fifth. Chris Windom got around Logan Jarrett late to grab sixth. Behind Jarrett was hard charging Jerry Coons Jr., starting 18th and finishing eighth. Remember Bryan Clauson? Of course you do. After his meeting with the wall on the 24th lap, BC hustled back to take ninth. C.J. Leary was tenth.

    It was a strange and unpredictable series of races. Who could have predicted that Tyler Courtney, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Carson Short would win features and Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Chad Boespflug and Thomas Meseraull (who jumped from one ride to another) would not?

    Racers who aren’t with us anymore were remembered. Tony Elliott was honored at Kokomo. Sheldon Kinser was remembered at Bloomington after the Sheldon Kinser Memorial was no more. Don Smith, Terre Haute businessman/community leader, had this race named after him.

    Carson Short’s win was the 10,000th USAC race going back to my pre-school years. (Or…USAC has been around for quite awhile).

    Tyler Courtney’s last to first run at Gas City will rank as one of the most amazing races I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t like he was racing against Rodney Reynolds and yours truly. There were a few future Hall of Famers in that crowd.

    I’d better quit while I’m behind.

    Speeding up the recording I made of the truck race at Eldora, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Ho Hum

    At this rate we’ll have to search a thesaurus for more adjectives to describe this year’s Indiana Sprint Week feature results. I’ve started with…wacky, unprecedented, mind boggling, crazy, unusual (massive understatement) and improbable. Yet again, another first time winner took the cheers, the trophy and the money last night at the Tri-State Speedway in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana. That would be Carson Short, from just down the road in Marion, Illinois holding off Kyle Cummins to take the checkered flag first after 30 laps.

    There was one fairly obscure fact that jumped out at me as I toured the pits. Let the record show that only seven racers had raced their way into each of the five previous races. They were points leader Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Chris Windom, Kevin Thomas Jr., Jarett Andretti, Chase Stockon and Hunter Schuerenberg. With Hunter a no show, that number dropped to six for the finale at Terre Haute.

    I arrived early enough to watch a race track come to life. It was late afternoon but as I sat, walked, talked and watched, bit by bit, the pace and intensity picked up. Teams arrived, some early, others a little later, and people began unloading race cars and equipment out of their haulers. The three teams with open trailers got the job done a bit quicker. Concession stand workers fried hamburgers or hauled ice. Various tents went up, either to add a little shade or to sell something. Fans tailgated, playing corn hole, sitting around talking and/or drinking a few cold beverages. The old girl that is called The Class Track for good reason was picking up steam and intensity. It was time to get serious.

    The car count was a very decent 39. It was the most I’d seen at a Tri-State/Indiana Sprint Week program in years. How many years? I wondered for a moment and asked USAC’s resident stats maestro Richie Murray. Surprisingly, Richie didn’t have it memorized, but in about two minutes he had the answer. In 2007, the count here for ISW was a seams bursting 50, counting a few cars that didn’t take time trials.

    Josh Hodges was quite serious about becoming the next first time winner. He was also one of the earliest qualifiers and tore off a 13.319 lap. Just when one might wonder if the track was going away, Chad Boespflug, who was the 38th of 39 to qualify, hustled to lay down a 13.367.

    Robert Ballou continued his pattern of a mid-pack qualifying effort, a heat race win (this was the night's first heat) and passing lots of cars in the feature. Tyler Courtney was closing in on Ballou, but not nearly fast enough. Brady Short was third and had his hands full holding off Hodges. Brady Bacon added the B main to his plans.

    Thomas Meseraull, enjoying his new ride, ran away with the second heat win. Critter Malone was second. Jon Stanbrough held off Chad Boespflug to make the dance with the Amati Racing Team's hoss. C. J. Leary and Dave Darland would think about what they would do in the semi feature.

    The third heat was the Jarrett and Jarett show. Logan Jarrett won from the pole with Mr. Andretti taking second. Local favorite Kyle Cummins passed Dakota Jackson on the last lap to steal third. Chris Windom led a group to the last chance race.

    The record will show that Jeff Bland sat on the pole and led every lap to win the fourth heat. Numbers shouldn't be expected to tell the whole story. The top four of this race were so close together they could have almost fit in my two car garage. Bland was trailed by Carson Short, Tyler Thomas and Chase Stockon. Max McGhee and Donnie Brackett would try their luck in the B.

    Brandon Morin did a half spin in turn two of the first lap of the C main. All of a sudden we had a thinned out crowd. Of the original scheduled nine starters, five were left. Brian Karraker, Brandon Mattox, Brandon Morin and Daylon Chambers would tag the B. Robert Bell tried.

     

    The semi feature had some unwanted drama. Isaac Chapple had been sent to the tail of his heat after passing the pace truck. He vehemently disagreed. So in the B, he came from the third starting position to take the lead, blowing by Brady Bacon. Chapple must have been motivated and led until lap seven when the yellow waved for a spin. On the restart Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead and Chapple got a bit loose, then collected Donnie Brackett, who had also passed Bacon. Donnie flipped once and landed hard, but exited the torn up new car somewhat displeased. The lineup on this restart was K. Thomas, Bacon, Windom, McGhee, Darland and Farney; this was the order when the checkered waved.  Dave and Aaron were unwittingly benefited by the misfortunes of Chapple and Brackett. C. J. Leary and I. Chapple took provisionals.

    Nothing at all against them, but it was a bit of a surprise front row with Carson Short and Jarett Andretti leading 22 of their partners in “crime” to the line. Short took the lead and almost immediately Andretti was under attack by Kyle Cummins, who passed Aldo’s grandson and began to cut into Short’s lead. No matter, the yellow waved on the seventh lap when T. Thomas and Jeff Bland had an unscheduled meeting. Short led Cummins, Andretti, Stockon, Bacon, Hodges, Ballou, Boespflug, Malone and K. Thomas.

    On the re-start, Cummins would not let Short get away. He could stay close but couldn’t close the deal. A bit past the tenth lap Stockon passed Andretti for third. Lapped traffic came into play on the 17th lap as the pace was frenzied, in other words, typical Haubstadt. Some good cars were getting lapped. And Robert Ballou was on the move, to no one’s great surprise.

    Beginning the race way back in 16th, Ballou was already seventh by the first caution. On the re-start, he passed Brady Bacon and Josh Hodges to enter the top five. Up next was Jarett Andretti and Ballou was fourth with six laps to go. He had Stockon ahead of him and was gaining ground.

    Back up front the pace was frantic and dicey as the leader and challenger wove their way through lapped traffic as the laps wound down. Cummins nearly had a shot at the lead when Short bobbled briefly, but it wasn’t happening. At the end it was C. Short, Cummins and Stockon on the podium, a real treat for local fans to see three of their own having the privilege of chatting with USAC’s announcer Dillon Welch after the race.

    Robert Ballou also had a speaking role afterwards as he was the hard charger, coming from 16th to finish fourth. And how about that Jarett Andretti? He may have faded a bit from second to fifth, but he remained one of the very few who had made every feature without having to use a provisional. Then there was occasional campaigner Critter Malone, who came from 14th to finish sixth while Brady Bacon was seventh. The law firm of Boespflug, K. Thomas and McGhee rounded out the top ten.

    At this point only one more round of ISW remained with Bacon only ten points ahead of Ballou in Sprint Week points. Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track.

    Trying to convince the pig to wear the lipstick, not eat it, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     

     

    The Hoosier Race Report: Definitely Not Getting Old

    Looking around the pits at each race I attend, I’ve been scouting out possible first time USAC feature winners. There are still some out there, but this edition of ISW has thinned the herd of racers yet to win a national USAC series feature. And at Bloomington Speedway on a beautiful Friday night, the herd got a bit smaller as Brent Beauchamp joined the club, leading most of the 30 lap feature and winning convincingly.

    48 sprinters and 17 Racesavers jammed the pits. Making their ISW debuts were Matt McDonald, Jordan Kinser, Aric Gentry, Chris Babcock and Dakota Jackson. Back after a brief absence was Jeff Bland.

    The boys were flirting with a new track record in hot laps, but that doesn’t count. It did count when Chad Boespflug went out to qualify and set a NTR with a blistering 10.737, the fastest a non-wing sprinter has ever toured the red clay oval.

    With USAC sticking to B Main-sized heat races, stocking the actual C and B, this called for a different kind of racing, more intense if possible. Chris Windom won the first heat from his front row starting spot. He was so far ahead; he could have chased Pokémon. Windom’s front row mate, Brandon Mattox, was second, open trailer and all. Chad Boespflug had some speed left and grabbed third. A.J Hopkins may have missed the inversion, but he still came on to finish fourth after starting seventh.

    Chase Stockon passed Robert Ballou early and won the second heat from the second row. And his second row partner, Dave Darland, was second. Pole sitter Ballou took third and his front row mate Brady Short was fourth.

    Logan Jarrett won the third heat with Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins second. Brent Beauchamp was tough in his heat, took third.  Josh Hodges, perhaps a future first time winner of a USAC feature, was fourth. Two racers from Bartholomew County in this heat struggled. Jamie Williams signed up for the C Main. Dakota Jackson spun on lap seven and was hit by Nick Bilbee and Shane Cottle. Dakota tipped over, bringing out a red flag.

    Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat in which Tyler Courtney basically ended his chances of being the 2016 ISW Champ. Barreling into turn one right after the green waved, he got over the cushion, began to bounce and flipped hard over the banking. He was out of the car surveying the damage quickly. Courtney and company would bring out the backup which was set up for winged racing. Brady Bacon was second and Jerry Coons Jr. took third. C.J. Leary grabbed the last cookie from Aaron Farney at the line, maintaining his fourth place start in the feature.

    It was very strange to see Jon Stanbrough in the C Main, but there he was. From fourth starting spot he won. Cole Smith started and finished second. Missourian Riley Kreisel was third after taking the initial green flag third. And Terre Haute’s Daylen Chambers would tag the consolation.

    Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won the semi feature over Thomas Meseraull, liking his new gig driving for Landon Simon. Tyler Thomas was third in Jerry Burton’s car and Jarett Andretti made his fifth straight Sprint Week feature by finishing fourth. Dakota Jackson came back from his heat race misfortune and finished fifth. Bloomington regular Jordan Kinser took the last transfer spot, forcing Jon Stanbrough and Isaac Chapple to burn a provisional.

     It was Darland and Bacon on the front row with Beauchamp starting third and for all 30 laps, Darland and Beauchamp were the Show. Officially there were seven lead changes between these two, but on the track there were multiple lead changes on most of the 30 laps. Dave owned the top as he’s done many times while Brent, who has struggled at this often difficult oval, kept to the bottom.

    The first yellow came out on the tenth lap when Jackson and Stockon collided with Chase coasting to a stop. Beauchamp and Darland were trailed by Bacon, Hodges, Leary, K. Thomas, Andretti, Meseraull, Coons and Boespflug. Noting Brady Short’s success the night before at Lincoln Park, I noticed that he was already 12th after starting 17th.

    Poor Stockon had another moment on lap 14 when he and Jordan Kinser had a meeting in turn four. On this re-start Short had entered the top ten. But in the next green flag segment, which was basically the last half of the race, wasn’t too kind to the Lincoln Park winner. By the time lapped traffic came into play on the 25th lap, Beauchamp had stretched out his lead to a whole three or four car lengths, leading the last 11 laps of the 30 lapper as the high side started to fade away somewhat, hindering Darland’s progress. To the very end the still young veteran (who I recall seeing run the long gone Thursday night Midget shows at the Indianapolis Speedrome) clung to the bottom and maintained a decent sized lead over Bacon at the end.

    Yes, Brady Bacon, who passed Darland at the end to take second with DD third. K. Thomas was fourth and Meseraull took fifth, his second fifth place finish in a row. The second five was Leary, Hodges, Coons, Andretti and Ballou, who was the KSE/B&W Auto Mart Hard Charger, coming from 17th to tenth.

    Beauchamp was the third first time winner of ISW so far, with Brady Short the only multiple USAC winner for the 2016 edition of Sprint Week.

    Courtney’s misfortune was Bacon’s windfall as he took over the ISW point lead and added to his season point lead.

    The night was an all-sprint affair as the RaceSaver 305s were the support class. Luke Bland won the first heat while Dakota Jackson, the only driver doing double duty, won the second.

    Ryan Tusing led all 20 laps to win the feature. Jackson came from his tenth place starting spot to nip Bland at the line for second.

    Finding Pokémon parked between Chase Stockon and Nick Bilbee, I’m…

    Danny Burton

     


    dlb1600@yahoo.com


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