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The Hoosier Race Report
by Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: The Eldora
The Hoosier Race Report: Taking
Care of Business
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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…
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).
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…
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…
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…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Show
Must Go On
To the Family of Bryan Clauson
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…
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…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Josh and Joss Show
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…
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…
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…
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…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Not So Gentle Reminder
People associated with racing realize, or should realize, that weather can be their best friend --or their worst enemy. And so it was at the Terre Haute Action Track on an evening that featured quite warm temperatures, with thickening clouds and eventually rain, lots of it. This forced Track Enterprises main man Bob Sargent to reluctantly pull the plug around 5:00 p.m., giving ace photographer Bob Sells and yours truly the bad word as he walked by. The timing was interesting as less than five minutes later the heaviest rainfall yet invaded the Vigo County Fairgrounds and the county fair that is here this week. Round Four of USAC’s stupendous Indiana Sprint Week had been rained out.
Traveling west, how could I not notice the dark clouds to the west? But I pressed on, not wanting to miss a race at Terre Haute.
By the time I pulled into the parking lot, thunder and lightning, in addition to the clouds, made their presence known. Ace photographer John Mahoney had it right, though. If we had stayed home and this race had been run, there would have been at least two angry and disgruntled racing people sitting at home.
25 minutes after the call was made, the rain continued and the pits were nearly deserted. The USAC trailer remained as both the Landon Simon and Amati Racing team trailers left.
I had need of supper and to drive 100 miles southeast.
On the way home, with surprisingly light traffic, I had occasion to question decisions that the racing community makes sometimes. At a true race track (for me that is an oval one mile or smaller, usually dirt) one subjects oneself to considerable discomfort, pain and even danger. We dodge dirt clods and other flying objects. We choke on dust later in the same evening, angering our sinuses. We inhale methanol fumes at a frightful rate sometimes. We stand next to fences that may or may not keep a flying sprinter on the good side of said fence. We expose our ears to the thunderous sounds of 410 cubic inch engines, usually without mufflers of any kind. We enjoy race track food that would make a professional dietician faint. And we drive for hours, knowing that there is a good chance a race can be rained out, “wasting” gas and time.
Sooner or later the above habits catch up with us. A dirt clod or rock can hurt, especially when it hits the face (personal experience). The years of exposure to dust takes their toll on sinuses (I have the prescription medicine to prove it). The same applies to methanol and other fumes. Some of us have been struck by car parts or fence parts (another personal experience). Tinnitus is a real annoyance. (I go to sleep and wake up with ringing ears.). I’ve consumed my share of cheeseburgers over the years. I’ve put hundreds of thousands of miles on various vehicles going to races, many of which were rained out after I arrived.
I won’t argue with someone who would say that all of the above acts show irrational behavior. Little, if any, of the things that racing people do makes sense. The amounts of time and money spent in any race related activity has nothing to do with common sense. The hours on the road leave one poorer, exhausted and badly in need of sleep and rest. For me, adding the hours spent staring at a (sometimes blank) computer screen contributes to the lack of sleep and various aches and pains.
But here’s the point. Here is what matters. It’s called love, or passion if you prefer. As this is written, many of us are thinking about the next race. For those following Sprint Week, this means Lincoln Park, Bloomington and Haubstadt/Tri-State Speedways. Despite those challenges, we will be there, dodging dirt clods and other flying objects, loving the aroma of methanol mixed with hamburgers on the grill, ignoring the ringing in our ears and the lack of sleep with its many side effects. Like any true love, there is no rational explanation. We’ll leave it at that.
I’d better add that the race wasn’t cancelled. It was postponed, something entirely different. Come Sunday night, the Terre Haute Action Track will close out ISW. Some folks may have to miss it due to their own schedules, but this was a good caIl.
Too lazy to look for my work ethic, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Back to “Normal”
After two nights of admittedly surprise winners, on Sunday night Bryan Clauson “finally” stepped forward to convincingly claim the victory, the trophy and the dollars at the Lawrenceburg Speedway. It was his 98th of 200 scheduled races this year. This was his 24th win of 2016 as well. And it was Round Three of Indiana Sprint, concluding the first weekend.
It was a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon as one who whipped a serious illness and a ne’er-do-well headed east to the ’burg. The car count was down only slightly as 42 teams came to play. A few Lawrenceburg regulars and semi-regulars signed in. These included Justin Owen, Michael Fischesser, Joss Moffatt, Garrett Abrams and Shawn Westerfeld. Among those sitting out were Kent Schmidt, Jerry Coons Jr., Brent Beauchamp, A.J. Hopkins, Brian Karraker, Joe Bares, Jeff Bland, Tim Creech, Ted Hines, Critter Malone, Brandon Mattox, Jimmy Light and Josh Spencer.
After taking a day off, hot weather of a sort returned to ISW. Until the sun went down, it was a bit toasty and dry outside. But this didn’t deter what may well have been the biggest crowd so far in the front half of Sprint Week. Many yellow shirts dotted the crowd; these were fans who had hopped onto two busses at the Lincoln Park Speedway and rode across the state to Lawrenceburg. It was a master stroke by one of Indiana’s foremost race promoters, Mr. Joe Spiker. Not only did he arrange this magical mystery tour, he footed the bill, too.
Unlike the bus riders, Brady Bacon was feeling downright anti-social in the first heat as he took the lead on the first lap and led all the way to win after starting third. Hunter Schuerenberg was a distant second and Jarett Andretti spent several laps holding off Bryan Clauson for third. Robert Ballou, whose subpar time trial had him starting eighth, was headed for the B.
Front row starters Nick Bilbee and Kyle Wissmiller finished that way in the second heat. Tyler Courtney and Josh Hodges locked up the other two spots. The talent heading for the B was considerable as Chase Stockon, ‘burg and BOSS champ Shawn Westerfeld and Tyler Thomas added their names to the list.
It was more of the same in the third heat with Chris Windom winning. His second row mate Zach Daum was second. Pole sitter Landon Simon was third and Justin Grant, whose late qualifying attempt didn’t keep him from setting the third fastest time, took fourth. This heat was loaded. Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins, multi-time winner Kevin Thomas Jr., four time USAC winner Chad Boespflug, and another frequent winner, Thomas Meseraull, all went to the B.
Jon Stanbrough passed Dave Darland at the end to win a fourth heat that got ugly when Aaron Farney and C.J. Leary made contact coming out of turn two. Farney’s car bounced a couple of times before flipping into turn three. Justin Owens and Jamie Williams were collected in the wreckage with my homeboy Williams flipping a couple of times into the infield, scattering people there with cameras. Tony Dimattia was also involved. He and Leary continued. Joss Moffatt was third and Logan Jarrett took fourth with Leary heading to the B.
How strange is it to see hot shoes starting in C Mains? Less and less each night as it was Chad Boespflug’s turn to race in the C. He won with Garrett Abrams, Thomas Meseraull (another fast boy in the C) and Dickie Gaines all tagging the B.
Leary won the B with Ballou coming from 12th to take second. KT was third and T. Thomas was fourth. Behind this group was an intense battle, no holds barred. Cummins made it to fifth after starting tenth. And Stockon took the last spot to transfer by inches. Westerfeld missed the feature by that much after taking the white flag in fifth. Also in the mix to the end was Cole Ketchum, who finished where he started. Isaac Chapple spun in turn three, collecting Meseraull and Farney, who was in a backup car. The lanky kid from near Lafayette had two damaged cars in one night, but at least he would have until Wednesday to get at least one fixed before returning to the scene of his only USAC win, at Terre Haute. Meseraull and Boespflug grabbed provisionals; Chad had to be pleased at least a little when Stockon made the race, freeing up a pass for him.
Schuerenberg and Jarrett benefited from others’ misfortune in transferring directly to the show, namely Kyle Robbins, along with Farney and KT. Hunter grabbed the lead, but Bryan Clauson, starting sixth, made his moves early. A yellow on the second lap for a Kyle Wissmiller spin found Clauson already third. Right after the re-start, he passed Jarrett for second. Up next was the leader and BC got around Schuerenberg quickly, but a Jarett Andretti spin negated the pass. The re-start saw Clauson make the pass again and my attention turned to Josh Hodges, an impressive young man from New Mexico who had dropped back from third, but who began to regroup. At the time Clauson was taking control, Hodges was passing Grant, Jarrett and finally Hunter.
It appeared that Hodges wasn’t going to let Clauson get away and maybe his best chance came after the next yellow, which waved on lap 13 for an unscheduled rendezvous among Darland, Bilbee and Daum. The major suspects were Clauson, Hodges, Schuerenberg, Courtney, Leary, Grant, K. Thomas, Windom, Bacon and T. Thomas.
As late as lap 20, Hodges was still only a few feet behind the leader, but Clauson began pulling away, bit by bit. Hodges had a pair of new problems named Tyler Courtney and Hunter Schuerenberg, especially the former. And Windom joined the party quickly. All three had passed Hodges, but Schuerenberg’s fine run ended on the 27th circuit when his engine went kablooey, bringing out a yellow flag one last time.
Despite his time up front, Clauson hadn’t been able to leave the others far behind. The re-start would be crucial. It was BC, Courtney, Windom, Hodges, Leary, Grant, Bacon, K. Thomas, Ballou and Andretti. The leader knew he would need an exceptional re-start and he did it. His lead at the line was about as large as it had been throughout the race. There were no changes of position among the first seven in the last three laps. But Kyle Cummins came on strong at the end. From outside the top ten, he edged Ballou for eighth, the second night in a row that Robert had served as Cummins’ foil. K. Thomas was tenth.
His late charge earned Cummins the Hard Charger prize, coming from 20th to eighth.
It wasn’t as dramatic as the first two nights. No tiny margins of victory, no first time winner, nor an underdog holding up the trophy. But the fans I observed, including myself, didn’t leave unhappy. The favored team is going to win their share. Sometimes things will be normal.
Kokomo wrap-up…Many thanks to Mr. Frank Daigh, a true friend of racing, the Half Moon Restaurant and the Spencer racing team for feeding several dozen hungry racing people, including me. I must add that Jason Setser, former sprint car driver before his career was curtailed by a racing accident, won the UMRA TQ feature on Saturday night.
Lawrenceburg aftermath…Leave it to the internet to tell me that Thomas Meseraull and Amati Racing ended their relationship after the race. And the game of musical seats continues.
Comforted by the fact that commercials will be interrupted if there’s a huge wreck, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Broken Record
It may not be getting old, but it's getting very familiar these days. Here we go again with another first time USAC feature winner. This time it was Kyle Cummins who won the 30 lap feature at the Kokomo Speedway on a chilly Saturday night. His margin of victory over second place Robert Ballou was maybe a half car length—if not less. Thus ended Round Two of racing heaven, also known as Indiana Sprint Week.
After Tyler Courtney's amazing win at Gas City on Friday, one had to wonder if the second program would even come close. Far be it from me to measure so it's best to say that both nights met even the loftiest expectations.
47 cars were again on the entry list but they were not the same 47. Gone were Casey Shuman, Cole Smith and Travis Hery. Present were Critter Malone, Jeff Bland and Brian Karraker.
Gas City winner Tyler Courtney set quick time, but Kyle Cummins went out at the end and nearly grabbed the prize. Poetic justice, in a way.
Thomas Meseraull may have led the early laps of the first heat, but Chase Stockon wasn't content with second. He passed TMez midway through the race and won by a half straightaway. C. J. Leary was third and Jerry Coons Jr. came from seventh to finish fourth. With the coondog overcoming the invert, Josh Hodges, Brent Beauchamp and Gas City winner Tyler Courtney prepared for the B.
Brady Bacon won the second heat after taking the lead from Jarett Andretti. Andretti took second and missed a great fight behind him. Robert Ballou was third and Kyle Cummins came on strong at the end to take the last cookie. This sent Dave Darland, Zack Daum and Critter Malone to the last chance follies. A. J. Hopkins was running third when he dropped out.
Pole sitter Tyler Thomas led all the way to win the third heat. Chris Windom survived a half spin to hang on to second. Bryan Clauson picked his way through the pack to take third. Cole Ketchum started second, was at one point out of a transfer position, and came back to grab fourth. The yellow waved when Hunter Schuerenberg spun out while trying to avoid Windom. He and Colton Cottle would be in the last chance dance.
The fourth heat had its share of drama. On lap seven, Logan Jarrett got out of shape in turn two. Before getting it straightened out, he clipped Landon Simon, who suffered a flat tire and got sideways himself. He clipped Joe Bares, who flipped after the contact from Simon, who was a bit displeased and done for the night. Lost in all this was Chad Boespflug, who passed Shane Cottle early for the lead and the win. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third behind the Throttle with Jarrett hanging in to take fourth.
Jeff Bland won the C main from the pole. Tony Dimattia was second. Aaron Farney, flirting with the wall most every lap, was third. Jimmy Light came from the back of the pack to take the last spot for the B.
Dave Darland led every lap of the B except the last one. Late in the race, Jon Stanbrough mounted a charge that saw him pass Tyler Courtney, Hunter Schuerenberg and Mr. Darland, who lost his lead coming to the checkered. Schuerenberg was third and Courtney ended up fourth. Hodges was fifth and Kent Schmidt took the last apple from the tree and found himself in an Indiana Sprint Week feature. Leary and Farney took provisionals.
K. Thomas and Windom led the gang to the green and Windom took the early lead. Cole Ketchum brought out the first yellow on lap three when he stopped.
On the restart Windom again asserted himself and kept the lead but Thomas simply wouldn't go away. Behind them, things were starting to heat up when the caution lights blinked on the ninth lap for Josh Hodges, whose car broke.
Windom led K. Thomas, Boespflug, Stockon, Cummins, Bacon, Clauson, Ballou, Darland and Schuerenberg. Next up was a four lap green flag segment. Boespflug was passed by Stockon for third. The 13th lap was unlucky for Thomas Meseraull, Tyler Thomas, Max McGhee and Jon Stanbrough, whose car left via a wrecker.
On this re-start, Thomas got around Windom but a red flag came out for Hunter Schuerenberg, who tipped over in turn three. Brady Bacon had been running fifth when he spun, with or without help, and collected C.J. Leary, Logan Jarrett and Tyler Thomas (again). Windom had his lead back with K. Thomas, Stockon, Boespflug, Cummins, Clauson, Ballou, Darland, Courtney and Farney, who had started 24th.
In the next eight laps, things began to happen. For one thing, Kyle Cummins arrived on the scene and declared himself a player. He dispatched Boespflug and Stockon quickly. For that matter, he passed Thomas a lap after waving good-bye to Stockon. But then came the incident that changed things more.
After getting around Stockon, Cummins aimed for Windom. Going low through turns three and four, Kyle bobbled just a bit and made contact with Windom, who spun and collected both Stockon and Clauson. Chris was not thrilled, which was understandable. But even though Cummins was leading, things weren’t automatically easy just yet.
This re-start lineup read Cummins, K. Thomas, Ballou, Jerry Coons Jr. (flying under the radar, coming from 22nd), Boespflug, Courtney, Farney, Darland and Bacon. There were nine laps to go and Ballou wasn’t done.
After Robert passed KT, he went after the leader. But Cummins was pulling away and things were looking good. However, there was another challenge in the form of a yellow flag on lap 28, setting up a green/white/checkered, the authentic kind. This was USAC, not NASCAR. Leary, Farney and Darland tangled in turn four.
This re-start, no matter what the outcome would be, was huge. Cummins controlled the bottom as best he could, holding Ballou at bay. But coming out of turn four to the checkered flag, Ballou got under Cummins and nearly stole the race.
Behind the top two was K. Thomas, occupying the final podium position. Coons was easily the Hard Charger, coming from 22nd to fourth, no doubt making car owner Monte Edison smile. Bacon recovered nicely from his misfortune to come back and take fifth, which actually helped him increase his season’s point lead over Thomas Meseraull and was his second straight fifth place finish. Boespflug faded slightly, new engine and all, to sixth. Courtney started and finished seventh. For the second straight night, Jarett Andretti passed quite a few cars, coming from 18th to wind up eighth. Windom recovered somewhat from his problem in turn four and grabbed ninth. Shane Cottle came from 17th to make it two top tens.
Only 19 years ago, Brad Fox and Bill Rose scored consecutive first time USAC/Indiana Sprint Week feature wins. (Thanks to Richie Murray)
In a few hours as this is written, the spotlight shines on the ‘burg as Round Three heads southeast to try and tame another Hoosier bullring.
Purchasing heavy duty footwear for both Presidential candidates to protect their feet when they shoot themselves, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Why They Race and Why We Watch
It's a cliché to say every race is different as it's a given that we should never assume. The unexpected can rear its head in many ways. Only a fool would say that he or she has seen it all. And though it may be tempting to say that I've seen it all, I won't. But Tyler Courtney's amazing victory to kick off the 2016 edition of USAC's ever popular Indiana Sprint Week will be discussed for many years when race fans gather. All the young man did was come from last/24th after he spun on the first lap to pass no less than Bryan Clauson on a late race restart to win. I haven't seen it all but I did come a bit closer on a fun Friday night at the Gas City I 69 Speedway as Round One proved to cement the belief that we Hoosiers have it pretty good here.
Rain hit home pretty hard on Friday morning, but at 1:45 p.m., the clouds were mainly south of me; perhaps the folks in Seymour had some rain, too. So I kissed my wife good-bye (I mean, come on. This is the girl who scheduled her knee surgery between Midget Week and Sprint Week.) and headed north. This time of year, when traveling through the country, the color is green and lots of it. Trees, grass and mostly corn dominate the scene. To me it’s just as pleasing a picture as the mountains of North Carolina and that’s saying a lot. It’s home and despite its many faults and shortcomings in important areas of concern, I love Indiana all the same.
Call it what you wish, but Indiana Sprint Week could be described as a (dysfunctional) family, or a church at either Christmas or Easter. Folks you encounter only once or twice a year show up, many of them from the great state of California. I can say that it never gets old. As I sat with one of those Californians, photographer Steve Lafond, he said, “Danny, I’m having the time of my life.” Another cliché, true, but aren’t most clichés, well, true? Steve understands and it’s why he and guys and gals like him are like treasures, or family, however you want to name it.
Arriving when the pits were opened at 4, I wandered around, taking in the sights and considered that most of the 47 entries had a feature and/or championship as part of their resume. I made a mental note to ask another good friend, USAC’s Richie Murray, if he could somehow add up all of these wins and championships. We’re talking thousands here, folks. What other racing series, other than the World of Outlaws, sprints and late models, can make this claim?
The racing all night was great, and time trials set the tone. Just when you thought that maybe the track was going away, someone would go out and set another fast time. Chad Boespflug went out eighth and his 12.464 held up for quite awhile. But a comparative unknown (except to hard core freaks like me) Cole Smith qualified 29th and his second lap was an impressive 12.460. Along came Zach Daum, 35th in line and tearing off a 12.340 lap. Four cars later and it was Brady Bacon who settled it with a 12.175.
Chase Stockon ran away with the first heat from the pole. Hunter Schuerenberg was and Isaac Chapple did a fine job in taking third. A spirited four-way fight for fourth ended with Brady Bacon annexing a feature spot. No less than Casey Shuman, Justin Grant and Kyle Cummins went to the B.
After a couple of hiccups the second heat began and Kyle Robbins led all the way to win. Jerry Coons Jr. took second and midget ace Zach Daum was third. Aaron Farney held off Chris Windom, who had an eventful race. While cars with were lining up, he pulled to the infield with an issue before heading to the pits. A lap one yellow gave the Baldwin Brothers team time to correct the problem. Windom did the rest, nearly grabbing a transfer spot.
Tyler Courtney led all the way to win the third heat but Bryan Clauson made him sweat on the last lap. BC was second by inches. Little did we know this was to be a warmup for the feature. Robert Ballou started and finished third. Brent Beauchamp made a strong move mid-race to take fourth over C. J. Leary and Kevin Thomas Jr.
Shane Cottle started the fourth heat on the pole but his jumping the start sent him to the second row. It also riled the Kokomo resident a little as he came from third to lead every lap. Thomas Meseraull was second. Max McGhee was third and Chad Boespflug overcame a lap one spin (avoiding a half spinning Meseraull) to hurry back and edge Logan Jarrett for the last spot.
The C main lineup would have been a good feature lineup ordinarily. Such is the nature of Sprint Week. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti won as Dave Darland came on strong to make it a close one. Josh Hodges was third and A. J. Hopkins took the last ticket to the B after starting tenth.
It would later be overshadowed by the A Main, but the B had its own share of excellence. Kevin Thomas Jr. won, which was impressive as he held off Chris Windom. But C Main winner Andretti, finishing third, simply owned the inside as he roared from 15th to run the alphabet, C, B, A. Justin Grant was one of the guys Andretti passed and the California native was fourth. Jarett wasn’t the only guy who raced from the C to a feature spot. A.J. Hopkins rambled from 18th to fifth, passing even more cars than Andretti. Kyle Cummins started and finished sixth. C.J. Leary and Dave Darland took provisionals.
With a front row of Schuerenberg and McGhee, with Tyler Courtney back in 16th, who could have predicted what was about to occur? Then when Courtney spun on lap one, bringing out a yellow and re-starting last/24th, what was about to occur was would be even more amazing. But that would come later as Hunter Schuerenberg took the early lead.
A lap eight yellow for Justin Grant allowed people to catch their breath. The PA intoned that C. J. Leary had already moved from 24th to 13th. What was left unsaid, though no one’s fault, was that Courtney had moved from 24th to 15th.
Schuerenberg and Chad Boespflug ran one/two on the re-start, but Boespflug immediately slowed and went to the pits with an ignition problem, with the yellow waving again. Chad re-started last but wouldn’t be a factor tonight.
With this re-start, Bryan Clauson, a clear favorite to win every race that he will contest during ISW, was second, but not for long. BC took the lead on the tenth lap and began to put some space between himself and everyone else, using the high groove perfectly. About halfway through, Brady Bacon came calling on Clauson until he slipped over the edge in turn two (I think) and fell to seventh. Here is when my notes say that Courtney was on the move. At lap 13, he was fifth and not done.
With seeming ease, he passed Chris Windom, Hunter Schuerenberg and Max McGhee. Now he was second to Clauson and appeared to be gaining. Courtney wasn’t the only one moving up as Shane Cottle had joined the party and cracked the top five after starting 18th. Though there were some riding high, such as Clauson, most were hugging the bottom with Courtney and Cottle doing it better than anyone else.
A lap 22 yellow for Thomas Meseraull in turn four made Courtney’s task a bit easier. On the re-start, Courtney went low and Clauson stuck it high with, at this point, predictable results. In 23 laps the kid from the big city had come from last to first, passing some of the best in the business. It was all over, except for the race for second. With Clauson staying up top and the tandem of Windom and Cottle going low, the fight for second was a treat itself.
Clauson ended up with second and Windom was third. Cottle took fourth after starting 18th and Bacon could only manage a fifth after his off-track excursion. Jerry Coons Jr. was a “quiet” sixth and Max McGhee was seventh. Robert Ballou was next and A.J. Hopkins had the best run that few saw, coming from 22nd to finish ninth. This was the young man who had transferred from the C to the B to the show. He had to pass more cars than anyone else all night. And Zack Daum rounded out the top ten.
The quote of the night came from third place Windom. “I couldn’t believe when Tyler (Courtney) went by me how slow he was going, but how fast he was at the same time.” To me that said volumes, which is how long this story seems.
On to Kokomo, where the question shall be asked, can they top this?
Encouraging John Wes Townley and Spencer Gallagher to take dancing lessons, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Thomas Thinks He Can
On a night when a rainout should have happened—according to the radar—both Lincoln Park Speedway promoter Joe Spiker and feature winner Thomas Meseraull ignored the forecast and the images on people’s phones to present a great night of competition that ended with TMez standing on top of his roll cage waving at the crowd after winning the sprint feature on the concluding night of the Bill Gardner Sprintacular with the Midwest Sprint Car Series promoting.
With fellow race fan big Dave riding shotgun, we, too, ignored what the radar showed us. Until we read that a heavy rain storm had hit the track, we would continue northwest. We arrived to find well over 100 cars in the pits with 38 of them being sprinters. Several teams that had raced at LPS the night before, including winner Robert Ballou, were still there for another night with a completely different track.
The MSCS has taken up the group qualifying format. Four groups took their turns. Brent Beauchamp, Tyler Hewitt, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Carson Short were the quickest in their respective group. MSCS point leader Brandon Morin flipped in turn four of his qualifying session. He and his crew, featuring dad Steve, did some thrashing and had the car ready for its heat.
Tonight's heats didn't have all that much passing but were as much of a treat as the night before. The damp, heavy track conditions made for some serious speed. Nary a yellow flag waved during the four heats.
C. J. Leary won the first heat from the pole. Brent Beauchamp tried a banzai move on the last lap and was fortunate to keep second ahead of Chase Stockon. Dickie Gaines was fourth. Beauchamp and Stockon engaged in a bit of post-race pleasantries with no harm done. Shane Cockrum led the B main participants.
Josh Hodges won the second heat by a decent margin over Thomas Meseraull. Pole sitter A. J. Hopkins took third. Jon Stanbrough made a late pass on Tyler Hewitt to sneak into the show.
At the end of the third heat, one could have covered the top five with the proverbial blanket. Dave Darland led all the way but he couldn't escape Jarett Andretti, who was a close second. Shane Cottle was third and Brady Short grabbed fourth and made sure that Kevin Thomas Jr. ended up in the B.
Robert Ballou ran away with the fourth heat win. Jeff Bland was second and Chad Boespflug started and finished third. Tyler Thomas, as impressive as ever while he learns these tracks, passed Carson Short on the white flag lap to secure a spot.
The B Main’s beginning and end made me wonder if a full moon was hiding behind the clouds. Flag man Billy Shipman didn’t like the first start. Barreling into the first turn on the second attempt, Max McGhee got some air and flipped. Max exited the car by himself. The third and fourth attempts resulted in jam sessions in turns one and two. On the fifth try, pole sitter Shane Cockrum took the lead. Midway through the 12 lap race, Carson Short took over the lead. Throughout the race Kevin Thomas Jr. had stayed up front, in either second or third. Short led only three laps before Cockrum re-assumed the point. Shane led as the white flag waved, but Short took it back and led going into turn three. But he and Cockrum both slid a bit high in four and Thomas was there to steal it. KT led from turn four to the finish line, but that was enough. Short was second and Cockrum settled for third. Compared to the top three, Tyler Hewitt’s race was downright boring, but he took his fourth place finish and went to the show. Brandon Morin started 12th, ran sixth and took a provisional to make it a 21 car feature lineup.
Oops, make it 20. Jarett Andretti’s car wouldn’t start as the field lined up. This was bad enough, but to make it worse, he was scheduled to start second, next to Jeff Bland. Brent Beauchamp joined Bland in the front row. Bland took the lead when the green waved as Beauchamp dropped back at first. Third starting Meseraull committed immediately to the high groove, along with C.J. Leary, both of whom seemed like they weren’t far from bouncing off the billboards in three and four. The other frontrunners stayed on the bottom mostly, though a few switched back forth, looking for the fast way around.
Bland had a decent sized lead over TMez at the beginning but the California native began cutting into it as lap ten—and the first caution period—approached. The yellow lights blinked for a Carson Short spin. The top suspects were Bland, Meseraull, Darland, Beauchamp, Ballou, Leary, Hodges, Stockon, T. Thomas (from 16th) and Cottle.
The next green flag segment saw Bland hang onto the lead, but just barely. Three laps later Morin and Hewitt hooked up in a way they surely didn’t prefer. Brandon re-started and Tyler was done. Ballou had passed Darland to grab third but that was negated.
On the re-start, Meseraull stepped up his game a little and powered around Bland on the outside to grab the lead. Darland held off Ballou some more as Robert probably kept seeing this white car in his peripheral vision. That would have been Brent Beauchamp, hovering around Ballou like a diabolical mosquito that won’t go away. Brady Short made his first appearance in the top ten.
Three more laps were completed when one had to wonder, again, if there was a full moon up there. Jon Stanbrough spun unassisted in turn two. It was just past halfway through the 30 lapper and one could think that TMez might have this one in the bag.
Lap 22 saw the last yellow wave for a Tyler Thomas spin in turn four. It seemed as if Meseraull and Bland would be safe from any onslaughts from behind. But Darland, still third on this last re-start, still had Ballou to worry about. And Beauchamp was still there behind Robert, running fifth.
Up front at least, the last eight laps were anti-climactic. It was the team of Meseraull and Bland one/two. Ballou did get around Darland at the end, taking third. Beauchamp ran fifth, an impressive effort. Leary was a steady sixth. Cottle was seventh and Stockon eighth. Dickie Gaines made a late charge and edged Brady Short for ninth.
No one marched through the field, which is often the case. But no one watching complained. The wheel to wheel competition was that good.
As the tough guy/cancer survivor and I headed for my car, I thought about how pristine the track looked at the beginning of the evening. The cloud cover, cooler temperatures and what water Joe Spiker had to add, made for a pretty picture, at least in my mind. The pretty as a postcard picture wasn’t meant to last, of course. By the sprint feature’s end, the track looked used, as it should have, of course. As we get older, images like these are some of the things in this world we should hold on to. As the old song says, we may never pass this way again.
As it turned out, I’d not be passing by Kokomo on a very wet Sunday. Disappointing to be sure, but that’s the only time Kokomo disappoints, if any.
Indiana Sprint Week awaits a small army of USAC officials, race teams, promoters, vendors, track workers and fans. Of course the hope and prayer is for safety, as well as thankfulness that so many of us are able to pursue what we love—living the dream, some say. But let’s add to that the hope and prayer that we leave Haubstadt, Indiana in a few days, truly entertained and even educated. May we be able to say that these are the good old days, no matter how many days we have left.
Bill Gardner didn’t teach me that, but he could have.
Reminding Nico Rosberg that it’s best to turn right when approaching a right hand curve, not go straight, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Cruisin’ (Or So It Seemed)
Let us all remember that just because something looks easy to do doesn’t mean that it is easy. On a somewhat cool July evening in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana, Robert Ballou “cruised” to his fourth USAC feature win of 2016 in Night One of the Bill Gardner “Sprintacular” at the Lincoln Park Speedway.
There are people who aren’t with us anymore in a physical sense that need to be more than remembered. They deserve being honored and celebrated. Bill Gardner is one of these, even though he would scoff at the idea. Let him scoff. Not only did he come up with the idea of people talking about open wheel racing (mostly in Indiana) online, he lived his life in a way that inspired those who came to know him, no matter how well or how closely. Bill battled a disease for too many years and did it with grace, courage, strong will, and even a good bit of humor. He may yet be missed, but his memory continues to burn brightly in our little corner of the world.
It would be a long, but rewarding day. Before heading northwest to Lincoln Park, I headed west to Bloomington for lunch and intelligent conversation with good friend Mike O’Leary, a gentleman who has done his share of writing about racing over the years. Mike is one of those few people who can make you feel both better and smarter after an hour or so of…not just talking, but speaking. But, alas, Mike had to go back to work and I climbed into the little truck and headed north via U.S. 231. A shady spot in Cloverdale served as a quite satisfactory temporary sanctuary where a loner could spend some time reading, writing and shivering a bit—there was quite the cool breeze as the thermometer struggled to reach 80, quite rare for July.
After an hour plus of that, the 5/16 mile oval beckoned and soon I was wandering the pits, doing the usual routine, chatting with friends, seeing who was in attendance and taking notes with a brand new notebook.
In prowling the pits, of note was Hunter Schuerenberg in the T. Epperson car, Brandon Mattox back in his own mount, Casey Shuman back with the Krockenbergers, Ted Hines in a relatively rare visit and Brent Beauchamp, who would uphold the cause of the track regulars.
Josh Hodges has been here in Indiana for several weeks this year after doing the same last year. The college student (New Mexico Tech) has shown steady improvement, with a recent feature win at Kokomo. And tonight he impressed by taking fast time in qualifying. His 12.633 was the only official sub 13 second lap.
The first heat was a treat, pure and simple. Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead early from Schuerenberg and led most of the way. But a late yellow waved and Hodges came on strong at the end. On the restart he was fifth one spot away from making the feature. Hodges used the high side to make his way to the front and win the heat. Thomas was second after leading the white flag lap. Chris Windom came from seventh to finish third. Schuerenberg hung on for fourth with C. J. Leary left at the altar.
Jerry Coons Jr. and Landon Simon traded the lead back and forth for the first half of the second heat. But Robert Ballou muscled his way to second and claimed it at the checkered. Chase Stockon came on late to take third. Simon was fourth and engaged in a session of sign language with Ballou post-race.
Jon Stanbrough had a good sized lead for part of the third heat, but Chad Boespflug never gave up. He caught the leader on the last lap and won after starting fifth. Brady Bacon was third and pole sitter Cole Ketchum passed Dave Darland on the last lap to move on to the main while the People's Champ would run in the B.
And the fourth heat was like the others with plenty of trading position. The two major suspects here were Shane Cockrum and Jarett Andretti. Aldo's grandson worked the bottom groove to perfection and held off the Chief. Thomas Meseraull was third with Brent Beauchamp fourth after he had escaped misfortune. BB did a half spin on the seventh lap, but continued. Shane Cottle wasn't as lucky and had to either hit Beauchamp or stop. The Throttle was going to the B.
C. J. Leary led every lap of the all green B main and missed a good show behind him. Cottle was second and his Kokomo neighbor Logan Jarrett took third. Dave Darland started and finished fourth. Casey Shuman and Aaron Farney held off Max McGhee to fill out the field. Max and Bret Mellenberndt took provisionals.
A pair of California natives, Boespflug and Ballou, occupied the front row. Ballou’s outside starting spot would be a big factor overall as he launched to the immediate lead. as soon as Tom Hansing waved the green flag. For this race at least, the high side would work best—for Ballou anyway.
By the fifth lap, Ballou’s lead had increased as Boespflug had his hands full holding off Brady Bacon. A bit further back, Chase Stockon, Josh Hodges, Shane Cottle and Thomas Meseraull fought for the fourth spot. Just before halfway lapped traffic began to loom large in Ballou’s future. Boespflug appeared to be gaining slightly as he and Ballou weaved their way through traffic.
The race’s only yellow waved when TMez had something break on the car and clouted the turn four wall while running fifth. The re-start was Ballou, lapped car, Boespflug, lapped car, Bacon, Stockon, Cottle, Hodges, Darland, Leary, Thomas and Coons.
Ten laps remained and this time Ballou didn’t run away as Boespflug stayed close enough for Robert to know he was there. Bacon was third and was now 104 points ahead of Meseraull in season points. Cottle was one of several who showed that passing was quite doable as he came from 12th to fourth. Darland did the same as he finished fifth after starting 14th. Stockon was sixth with Hodges seventh. Hunter Schuerenberg moved up from 13th to eighth. No one advanced more than Max McGhee, who took the green in 23rd and the checkered ninth. But since Max took a provisional he wasn’t eligible for the KSE Hard Charger award. Chris Windom came from 22nd to tenth and took it instead.
This is written hours before Night Two of the Sprintacular as the MSCS will sanction it. One should expect no less. Someone will “cruise” to the victory and make some think how easy that looked.
Accidentally bumping into a certain former president and a current Attorney General at the airport, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Here We Go Again (Yet Another First Time Winner)
No matter how important or how seemingly obscure, witnessing a bit of history is something we should all appreciate. Maybe we can even be inspired by or learn something when we witness a significant event. I mean, I’d not mind trying to sit through a coronation of a king or queen. But I’d just as soon go to a sprint car race and watch some racer win his or her first race, whether it’s in a certain kind of car, track or sanctioning body. Maybe it’s me but this kind of thing has been happening a good bit lately. The latest first time winner is Tyler Thomas, for the past few years running midgets with POWRi and impressing quite well. On Friday night at Bloomington, he turned his first laps in a non-wing 410 sprinter and received some positive attention after he finished sixth. On Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, the young man did even better. He started on the pole of the feature, jumped out to the lead and never looked back, running a smooth 25 laps to collect some of promoter Joe Spiker’s hard earned money.
Options for open wheel racing were plenty on a humid Hoosier Saturday night. USAC was out west with its regular band of gypsies. Paragon was open for business and Andrew Prather won. With Lawrenceburg not racing due to the fair, Twin Cities hosted sprints and J.J. Hughes picked up his first sprint feature win. Daugherty Speedway, formerly Kamp’s, was visited by the MSCS crew with Mitch Wissmiller winning. Midgets were the headliners at Montpelier with Chett Gehrke winning.
But my traveling companion and I were found at the Lincoln Park Speedway. Like the other tracks, Lincoln Park had enough for a full field with everyone eligible for the feature. Strolling the pits, picking out possible winners, we noticed usual suspects Brady Short, Jeff Bland, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Shane Cockrum, along with guys plenty capable of top five finishes like Chris Babcock, Jarett Andretti, and Kyle Robbins. However, none of these guys were Tyler Thomas, who would make his statement later.
Karston applied for work with the Jeff Bland crew and was given a mud scraper. That was all he needed and the car was much cleaner a bit later while the temporary help was a good bit dirtier. He repeated the process with the Babcock family’s car, giving dad Bill a brief break. The little guy wanted to drive Bill’s four wheeler, but that wasn’t happening—yet.
Brady Short took the lead midway through the first heat and held on to win. Tyler Thomas led early and still claimed second. Cole Smith came in late to take third. Chris Phillips was fourth, ahead of Matt McDonald. Kevin Thomas Jr. had a rocker arm go bad in hot laps and sat this dance out. Like Thomas, he would be heard from later.
Kyle Robbins ran away with the second heat. Shane Cockrum came from seventh to finish second. Jarett Andretti overcame a spin to come back and grab third. Dalyn Chambers was fourth with Jake Henderson taking fifth.
My grandson was feeling good after the two cars he cleaned off ran first and second in the third heat, which was the most competitive of the three. Chris Babcock earned the win after starting fourth. Jeff Bland, sporting a clean sprinter along with Babcock, was second. Tim Creech II was a strong third. Nate McMillen settled for fourth. Pole sitter Jaden Rogers finished fifth.
T. Thomas and Babcock led 20 of their fellow recipe club members to Brian Hodde’s green flag. Kevin Thomas Jr., repairs made, joined the rest and had a good view of the lineup ahead of him—until the green waved. How often will two racers with the same surname start a race at opposite ends of the field?
One thing both Thomas boys had in common was that no one had anything for them. As T. Thomas shot out to an early lead, K. Thomas immediately began passing people. As Tyler stretched out his lead, KT was passing about two cars per lap. Behind T. Thomas and second place Kyle Robbins, a pitched battle for third was fought by Brady Short, Shane Cockrum and Jeff Bland. Midway through the race, all three caught and passed Robbins. K. Thomas was now in the top ten and wasn’t done as lapped traffic separated Bland, Short and Cockrum from the leader. A bit later this would be advantageous to T. Thomas.
The race’s only yellow waved on lap 20 when Dylan Shaw slowed. Cockrum must have nicked the Shaw car as he went by. At any rate, Shane pitted with a flat tire and rejoined the fight at the tail. The re-start order was T. Thomas, a lapped car, Bland, lapper, Short, two lapped cars, Robbins, K. Thomas, Babcock, Andretti, Cole Smith, Tim Creech II and Chris Phillips.
T. Thomas got a great jump on the re-start, virtually assuring himself of victory as the other fought lapped traffic and each other. Bland kept his second place position over Short. K. Thomas passed Robbins after the re-start and was gaining on Short when the checkered waved. KRob settled for fifth with Andretti sixth. Creech was an impressive seventh and Phillips eighth. Cockrum recovered nicely after his late race misfortune and ended up ninth. Babcock faded at the end and salvaged a tenth.
In the post-race celebration, the only person that could be any happier than the driver was the car owner, Jerry Burton, a deserving winner himself who has given much more to this shared obsession than he will ever receive.
Each race I watch makes me wish I had a few extra eyes, but this one more than most. Trying to watch K. Thomas carve his way from 22nd to fourth was entertaining enough, but I also tried to watch the leader as he marched to a personal milestone. Then there was the fight among Short, Bland and Cockrum, which was a treat all by itself. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday night.
Gently reminding Jay Leno that cars can flip when they are on two wheels, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Homecoming
The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner
For the third time in a month, I’ve been fortunate enough to see a first time winner. It’s one of the better occasions that I get to witness every so often. Last month I saw Scotty Weir grab his first USAC Sprint victory at Gas City. Earlier this month I was back at Gas City to see Spencer Bayston pick up his first USAC Midget win. And on a very warm Sunday evening, with the sun still quite visible, Josh Hodges, age 21, from Socorro, New Mexico found himself being interviewed by the Kokomo Speedway’s announcer Rob Goodman in Victory Lane. All the young man had done was win the sprint feature, taking the lead from race-long leader Jerry Coons Jr. late in the race.
The car count was a bit slim at 21, but, have mercy, there was a surplus of quality entries. Close to half the field had a decent shot at winning the feature. And a majority of the 21 had feature wins on their collective resume. My very unofficial count showed nine USAC winners of the 21.
Things got off to a rotten start for Brian Karraker, who tangled with Travis Hery, dug into turn two Kokomo soil and flipped. BK walked away. Racing resumed and Chris Windom and Dave Darland gave folks a preview of what was to come, dueling for the lead. Windom prevailed with the People's Champ second. Shawn Westerfeld took third after Aaron Farney had a slight slip in turn three. Hery finished fifth behind Farney. Karrakher and C. J. Leary would try and get things fixed for the feature.
Shane Cottle was fighting off Kevin Thomas Jr. like the pro he is until he coasted to a stop in turn two midway through the second heat. From there Thomas took control and held off Josh Hodges' last ditch effort coming to the checkered to win. Jarret Andretti was third with Shane's nephew Colton Cottle coming in fourth. Local boy Corey Smith was fifth and Conner Donelson trailed.
Pole sitter Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the third heat. Jerry Coons Jr. avoided disaster when Max McGhee's turn four slider just missed him and crossed the line second. Max was third with Justin Grant fourth. After an intense battle with Josh Spencer, Matt Goodnight came home fifth. Tyler Hewitt had a near spin and trailed the pack.
19 of the 21 answered the call for the feature with Leary and S. Cottle involuntarily sitting it out. Hodges and Coons were the front row and Jerry took the lead and did his best to run away. Lapped traffic came into play on the tenth lap as Coons would scoot away only to have Hodges close up again.
Behind the two up front, no one could seem to make a charge forward. Darland took over third place at the outset and planted himself there for all 25 laps. Logan Jarrett held off Kevin Thomas Jr. for the duration.
Things were heating up between the two Southwest natives. As lap 16 rolled by, Coons’ lead was substantial, but five laps later the kid was back, diving low through each turn, cutting into the lead. Jerry had to know the youngster was there. With two laps to go, Hodges made the pass stick, but Coons wouldn’t give up. His best efforts fell a bit short and Hodges had a Kokomo Speedway feature win, a huge addition to an already impressive resume.
Darland, my eldest grandson’s pick to win, was third while Jarrett took fourth over my pick, Kevin Thomas Jr. On a night when it was tough to pass, Justin Grant came from 12th to finish sixth. Andretti was seventh and McGhee edged Farney for eighth. Brian Karraker recovered nicely from his heat race misfortune by ending up tenth after starting 16th.
There was plenty of sunlight left and we decided to watch a street stock feature before heading south. With only a solitary yellow, one more than the sprint feature, the sun still shone as we left. It was strange getting home from Kokomo so early, but there were no complaints.
Applying for police chief of Oakland, California, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Family
The Hoosier Race Report: Wings on the High Banks
It isn’t very often that the Bloomington Speedway, like every other Hoosier bullring, hosts sprint cars with wings. For some, once is too much. But, no matter what one’s opinion is, we Hoosier sprint car fans will have to “suffer” through a winged sprint show every now and then. And on a beautiful Friday night at Bloomington, the boys with the huge bed frames, put on a great program. The Midwest Open Wheel Association came east and made a great impression on many. Not to downgrade any accomplishments, but MOWA standout Jerrod Hull stalked Hunter Schuerenberg for much of the 25 lapper before making the pass on the last lap when Hunter made a slight bobble. At the risk of being ex-communicated from the brother(and sister)hood of non-wing sprint freaks, I wouldn’t mind if those guys come back again sometime.
We already knew that wings plus Bloomington's high banks equal serious speed. Each of the first seven qualifiers set a quicker time than his predecessor. Kody Kinser went out midway through the line and tore off a blistering 9.737 lap. And the track held up all night, despite 121 cars of all kinds pounding the red clay all night long.
A few guys who have run without the wing this year tried their luck with the sheet metal added. A few of the RaceSaver regulars at Bloomington also decided to try their luck.
Pole sitter Ethan Barrow briefly lost the lead in the first heat but regained it to win with Hunter Schuerenberg second. Jake Blackhurst was third, barely beating Kody Kinser to the line. C. J. Leary, making his initial appearance with the wing, was fifth
A. J. Bruns had his hands full in the second heat with Critter Malone providing the headaches. But Critter had to hold off Parker Price-Miller to keep second. Jimmy Light, in a rare Hoosier wing show, was fourth and Jeremy Standridge took fifth. Australian Jack Lee had his troubles adjusting to the narrow red clay oval, executing first a half spin and then a full circle a couple of laps later.
Veteran Jim Moughan won the third heat with MOWA standout Jerrod Hull nipping the charging Danny Smith for second. Carson Short, another one adding the fast billboard, was fourth and Mike Terry Jr., yet another, was fifth.
Jared Fox came from the second row to make a late pass and win the B over pole sitter Dakota Jackson. Cory Bruns was third and Casey Shuman, making a rare trip east this year, was fourth. And when the music stopped, the ageless Tom Busch was fifth and secured himself a feature start.
Bloomington pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer made the offer to my young co-traveler to take a ride in the push truck before the feature. The answer (yes, of course) came quickly and the little guy settled into the big truck and got an experience very few get to enjoy.
If he looked behind him, he would have seen Schuerenberg and Moughan in the front row. Hunter took the early lead and quickly built up a significant margin over Moughan, with A.J. Bruns and Hull trailing. Within the first ten laps, lapped traffic came into play as Moughan and company tried to close the gap.
The first yellow waved when Cory Bruns spun in turn four. By now Hull had passed A.J. Bruns for third. The second caution light blinked right after the re-start when Parker Price-Miller and Jim Moughan tangled going into turn three. Near the halfway mark, Schuerenberg led Hull, A.J. Bruns, Jake Blackhurst, Ethan Barrow, Danny Smith, Kody Kinser, Carson Short, Jimmy Light and C.J. Leary.
Another yellow appeared for a Carson Short spin and Dakota Jackson stoppage. The green waved and business picked up at the front as Schuerenberg and Hull exchanged pleasantries in the form of sliders. Neither could shake the other and the lead traded hands several times, officially at the line and unofficially around the track.
Kody Kinser was doing his best to move forward, having begun the race in tenth. When Blackhurst had a minor bobble in turn two, Kinser pounced and was fourth and heading for a visit with third place Bruns. But his car broke and slowed in turn four as the white flag was displayed. Hull and Schuerenberg would have to wait a bit more to resume their battle.
On this final re-start, a green/white/checker, Hunter had the lead but bobbled only slightly in turn two. This terminated his chances of victory as Hull was right there and took advantage quickly. Schuerenberg could only watch helplessly as Hull notched his fourth MOWA feature win of the year and 22nd career MOWA victory. Bruns completed the podium. Blackhurst was fourth for much of the race and Smith came from ninth to fifth. Leary’s venture into winged racing went well after he finished sixth after starting 13th. Light went to the trailer with a seventh. Barrow held his own with an eighth. Shuman came from B Main land to grab a ninth after starting 19th. And Mike Terry Jr. was tenth.
So winged sprints can actually pass each other. Granted, many of my friends aren’t interested in that, but they remain friends, of course.
Quaffing so I won’t be coughing, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Promise and Potential
We see them every year. Young racers emerge to try their hand at driving an open wheel car, usually a sprinter, but not always. Their first couple of years may not yield much in results, but improvement is noted and soon race results affirm that said racer is learning and applying his lessons. From being a mid-pack runner to contender to…a track or sanctioning body champion. If the racer’s name is Shawn Westerfeld, the resume includes both—in his case a Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ as well as the defending Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series champion. So it wasn’t exactly a shock to witness the young man put a whippin’ on the field at the ‘burg.
Summer arrived in the Hoosier state with a hefty increase in temperatures; the thermometer flirted with 90 much of day. Thankfully a decent breeze offered a small amount of relief. Having worked outside much of my life, I always preferred hot and humid to anything in January, so there were no complaints here.
BOSS headman Aaron Fry can be called the workingman/racer's friend. He has created a traveling group of racers that has grown a little each year. Aaron applies the Golden Rule in his operation of BOSS. This shows up in the rulebook, especially in the lack of a tire rule. Little things mean a lot sometimes. BOSS has a treasure trove of smaller sponsors that coughs up extra money for heat race winners, hard luck racers, and so on. And it doesn't hurt that Aaron Fry is one of racing's nice guys. Nor does it hurt that he has a strong working relationship with Lawrenceburg Speedway promoter Dave Rudisell, which expands the series’ Ohio boundary a bit west.
As can be expected, sometimes higher dollar teams may show up and try to walk off with some extra spending money. Maybe that was the case with Jarett Andretti, or not. He ran away with the first heat win, a straightaway lead over second place Logan Hupp. Chad Wilson was third and Michael Fischesser was fourth. Hupp made a nice recovery after spinning on the first lap and collecting Fischesser, Aaron Middaugh and Steve Little.
Shawn Westerfeld tried to do Andretti one better and win by an even larger margin. He was nearly a half lap ahead of Bub Cummings in winning the second heat. Tony Main was third and Ohio's Bobby Distal took fourth.
Brandon Spithaler won the third heat after early leader Joss Moffatt bounced off the wall, flattened a tire and damaged his front axle. Dallas Hewitt was second. Cooper Clouse finished third and barrister Mike Weber came from last to fourth. Moffatt would return for the B.
The fourth heat was a rarity for the 'burg. It was almost sedate. Garrett Abrams took the lead from the second row on the first lap and hung on to take the win. Cody Gardner was second. Veteran Kirk Jeffries was third. Comparatively new daddy Drew Abel grabbed the last spot to make the feature.
As dusk approached, Mr. Rudisell noticed that the track was quite dry and slick. Seeing that things were running smoothly, he staged the redraw for all four classes running with kids representing each driver who was redrawing. This took awhile, so the track was reworked while the top two finishers in each heat race had a young fan draw a low number…hopefully. Perhaps extra trips to the concession stand were made and there’s nothing wrong with that either.
The B Main was a pretty fair race after the massaging of the track. Joss Moffatt came from the back of the pack to split the two leaders going into turn one on the last lap to take the lead and the win. Andy Feil was second and pole sitter Bub Cummings finished third. Aaron Middaugh was fourth with steady Steve Thomas fifth. Justin Owen edged David Applegate at the line to take the last available spot in the 22 car feature after starting tenth.
Westerfeld and Spithaler led 18 hungry racers to Tim Montgomery’s nice green washcloth and Westerfeld took off. Garrett Abrams, starting in the second row, moved smartly into second by the end of lap one. Jarett Andretti, starting behind Abrams, grabbed third as Spithaler began to fade.
By lap 10, lapped traffic was a factor. But any hope of catching the leader was slim, unless there was to be a yellow flag—which there wasn’t. Westerfeld negotiated lapped traffic smoothly as Andretti continually pressured Abrams for second. Behind this group, for much of the race Dallas Hewitt resided in fourth place, a somewhat lonely spot with real estate in front of and behind him.
When Westerfeld cleared lapped traffic, his margin grew to a straightaway as the fight for second continued. It stayed like this to the end, with the Guilford, Indiana (hometown of the wife of the University of Cincinnati’s football coach) resident cruising to the win. Abrams hung on for second as Andretti couldn’t quite make the pass and settled for third. Hewitt was fourth and Cooper Clouse came from 11th to take fifth. Joss Moffatt was easily the hardest charger of the race, coming from the back of the B to starting 17th in the feature to ending up sixth. Fellow homeboy Logan Hupp was seventh. Michael Fischesser was eighth after starting 13th. New daddy Tony Main was ninth and Cody Gardner was tenth.
Along with the winner, the rest of the top ten would fit the same description, youngsters (to me, they all are youngsters) who began with promise and potential. All works in progress and all fun to watch—they enjoy what they do.
Really excited about beginning my new diet, endorsed by Juan Pablo Montoya, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Mud Scraping and Wheel Banging
Indiana Midget Week closed the book on its 2016 version on a lovely night at what many will say is America’s finest bullring, the Kokomo Speedway. For the fifth race in a row, a Keith Kunz motorsports car sat in Victory Lane with Rico Abreu more than happy to close out IMW with his first win. He was also the fifth winner in five nights.
But one could argue that Bryan Clauson won the war. Despite not winning a single feature, BC easily won the IMW points title. He was second at Montpelier, Gas City and Lincoln Park, third at Bloomington (missing second place by inches) and sixth at Kokomo.
If that wasn’t impressive enough, Clauson also won the sprint car feature, as well as winning the sprint features at Montpelier, Gas City and Lincoln Park.
The mud scraping began early after sprint hot laps. Mud scraper in hand, my grandson attacked Paul Hazen’s grand old bullet, cleaning off the nerf bars on the side, avoiding anything remotely hot. From there he went next door, where Josh Spencer and family also had excess mud to remove. Finally, he took a cleaning utensil and finished off the cleaning of Tyler Hewitt’s car. It was the easiest supervising job I’ve had, unless one counts “supervising” his big brother, “The Sword Man,” when mowing my yard.
“Only” 33 midgets showed up for the last IMW meeting for this year. Many went home because of work obligations. Others no doubt for geographical reasons, still others for financial concerns. But most of the big boys were in town. “Big” doesn’t have to refer to physical size at all. Rico Abreu may be short in stature, but he races big. Kokomo would be no exception as he started off right by setting quick time, a 13.332 lap.
Bryan Clauson won the first of four heats with Californian Chase Johnson, who was impressive most all week, second. Steve Buckwalter, ARDC standout, took third and Mr. Abreu came on to grab fourth and punch his ticket to the A.
Front row mates Carson Macedo and Tyler Nelson ran first and second in the second heat. Third row mates Chad Boat and Christopher Bell finished third and fourth. Second row starters Jimi Quin and Holly Shelton would later appear in the B Main/last chance/consolation/semi-feature/hooligan, etc.
Pole sitter Ryan Greth won the third heat with Zach Daum second. Oklahoma native Brady Bacon grabbed the bronze medal. Lincoln Park winner Tanner Thorson was fourth, sending to the B a couple of young people who had been impressive the past few days, Gage Walker and Tyler Thomas.
Iowa’s Davey Ray won the last heat race, beating out Gas City winner Spencer Bayston. Ryan Robinson, survivor of a wild ride over Bloomington’s steep turn two banking on Friday night, was third. Dave Darland fell back a bit from his pole position, but held on to fourth, making sure that his fellow Kokomo resident, Logan Jarrett, and West Coaster Shane Golobic both finished behind him.
Pole sitter Holly Shelton won the B with Golobic second. Thomas took third and would keep his record of perfect attendance in IMW features. Walker was fourth and Quin fifth. Western Australia’s Dayne Kinghsott locked up the last spot for the final 2016 IMW feature.
The last feature for this remarkable week (really two weeks) of racing was at hand. The front row was a pair of non-Kunz cars, Chad Boat and Bryan Clauson. Billy Boat’s son led when the first yellow waved for a three car meeting in turn two. Tyler Nelson spun and collected Dave Darland and Gage Walker. Behind Boat and Clauson was Spencer Bayston, who had already moved from eighth. Rico Abreu was still where he started, sixth.
The red flag came out on the 11th lap when Nelson flipped going into turn three. He was able to walk away. Boat still led but Bayston had moved to second. Christopher Bell had moved to third and Abreu fourth, relegating Clauson to fifth. Brady Bacon, Zach Daum, Tanner Thorson, Ryan Robinson and Tyler Thomas, up from 14th, were sixth through tenth.
Midway through the race, Abreu passed Bell for third. The red waved again when Holly Shelton flipped on the front stretch. She was able to climb out of the car. Boat and Bayston had a new, unwanted, playmate, namely Abreu. After the re-start, Abreu slid into Bayston as they fought through turn four. Banging wheels, Abreu got the better of the encounter and began to run down the leader as Bayston strove to keep pace.
The slide and the pass for the lead was made on lap 22 and it was all over but the shouting. Well, that and who would get second place. Bayston ran down Boat and grabbed second place at the line, only a half second behind Rico. Behind the third place Boat was Bacon with Bell fifth. Clauson was sixth, but claimed the 2016 Indiana Midget Week title. Thorson was seventh; his teammate Carson Macedo was next in line. Davey Ray came from 15th to ninth. Ryan Robinson took home tenth place money.
Keith Kunz continues to dominate USAC (and other) Midget racing. Six of the top ten at Kokomo were Kunz cars. Five of the top ten in points belonged to the gentleman with the overflowing shop on the north side of Tony Stewart’s home town. And his brother Rusty turned the wrenches on the champion’s car.
Clauson’s dominance of the “support” class for IMW continued. He took the lead in the sprint feature when Kevin Thomas Jr. banged wheels with leader Colton Cottle. While both struggled to maintain control, Clauson sped by and was never headed.
Finally, a little bit past 11 p.m., my riding mechanic/mud scraper and I left, tired but happy. For me, it was the last of 10 races in 12 days, with a Lawrenceburg rainout giving me (and lots of other folks) a day off. By Sunday night, I was feeling my age and then some. But what a ride it was. Beginning with Robert Ballou’s win at Terre Haute to the wins by Rico Abreu and Bryan Clauson at Kokomo, it was an odyssey filled with thrills, antics, drama, comedy, weariness, friends and a lot of written words, over 10,000 and counting.
It’s difficult to reach a certain age or point in one’s life and not wonder how much longer one will be able to do things and go places. But the best way to answer this question is to not worry about how much longer. Instead the best way, for me, is to enjoy things I do as well as the places I go and not worry about how much longer this goes on.
And if anyone hears me complaining, feel free to kick me hard.
Bummed out because I wasn’t invited to Bristol Palin’s wedding, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Are These the Best Years?
What a great Round Four of USAC’s Indiana Midget Week I saw at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night, June 3. Christopher Bell won the feature, reminding folks yet again that here is a special talent, a young man whose future seems so bright, maybe we all should wear shades. Behind him were two of the best who should be included in any “best” conversation/argument, namely Dave Darland and Bryan Clauson, who spent a goodly part of the feature fighting for second place, proving yet again the quality of their “work.” It was Bell’s third straight Bloomington Speedway win during Midget Week. And Kevin Thomas Jr. won the 410 sprint feature.
It is exceedingly difficult to measure one era against another. Race fans will argue into the wee hours of any morning over the merits of racers of days gone by and how much better (and tougher) they were than these “snot-nosed kids” of today. I’m not much for engaging in these discussions because for me, it’s apples and oranges—or maybe pineapples. For me, the only way to determine who is best is to compare how they do against their contemporaries. From there, the discussion invariably changes from comparing the record of, for example, Steve Kinser versus Donny Schatz, followed by comparing Joey Saldana versus Mr. Schatz.
After last week’s dry/slickie track, this week the red clay oval as we’ve known it was at its best. The first indicator was in qualifications when Bell was the very last car to qualify. All the Oklahoma native did was set a new track record for Midgets—a blistering 11.301. It wasn’t that long ago that 11 second laps were rare. 30 of the 37 cars who took time (three were unable to complete a qualifying lap) stopped the clock at under 12 seconds.
Rico Abreu, another racer who gets mentioned as one of the best and maybe the most exciting to watch, ran away from the others in winning the first heat. Second place Jimi Quin put a bit of the red clay between himself and Davey Ray. Carson Macedo was fourth and Mr. Bell was the odd man out, headed to the B.
Tanner Thorson started on the front row of the second heat and took the win over Brady Bacon. Pole sitter Garrett Aitken finished third. Shane Golobic took fourth. Tyler Thomas had a subpar time trial and was headed to the B with Zach Daum. Bryan Clauson was running in a transfer spot when he slowed and exited the race. He would return later with a backup car in the B.
Illinois native Austin Brown won the third heat from the front row. Pole sitter Steve Buckwalter was second. Dave Darland was third and Gas City winner Spencer Bayston had his hands full holding off Justin Peck for the last spot available.
Tucker Klaasmyer, a Kansas resident, won the fourth heat over Australia’s Dayne Kingshott. Jerry Coons Jr. was third while young Gage Walker came from ninth to grab fourth. Tyler Nelson and Holly Shelton began preparations for the B Main.
Teammates C. Bell and Shelton ran one/two in the B. Zach Daum and Chad Boat were next. But the real story of the B was Clauson, who roared from the back of the pack to take fifth. Tyler Thomas took the last non-provisional spot for the show. Ryan Greth and David Budres took the provisionals.
Bloomington Speedway pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer sidled up to me and wondered about my grandson (who was absent) taking a ride with him. Doug was disappointed that the little guy wasn’t in attendance but instead settled for me. I’ve ridden in pace vehicles before and it’s a major understatement to say that it’s a very different perspective—not only the cars rumbling by but the track itself. The oval looked much smaller from the passenger seat of the pace truck. The “straight” in the front and backstretch was barely discernable, if at all. I knew the surface wouldn’t be smooth and, sure enough, it was.
From the infield, I saw pole sitter Darland take the lead, but Bell was coming on. He took the lead on the seventh lap and somehow one could tell that the kid would be tough to catch, let alone pass. But if anyone could do the job, it would be Bryan Clauson.
From eighth, Clauson moved forward, though not as rapidly as Bell. Most everyone up front was working the bottom of the track, but not BC. He apparently didn’t get the memo that the middle and top were not the quick way around. The Indy Car veteran began picking them off, one by one. But, as Bell went on his merry way, Clauson encountered Darland, motoring along in second. Here was the battle that had to be witnessed to appreciate. Side by side as the laps wound down, the two Hall of Famers battled, never once did their cars touch. The leader was almost forgotten, at least by me.
Behind Bell, second place was contested to the checkered flag. I had no clue who was second from my perch in the infield. It was Super Dave by about a quarter of a second. Almost ignored by all was Shane Golobic with his best IMW finish, fourth. Spencer Bayston had another good finish, fifth. The law firm of Macedo, Bacon and Boat crossed the line sixth, seventh and eighth. Tyler Thomas, once again, passed a bunch of cars, coming from 21st to ninth. Rico Abreu was an uncharacteristically quiet tenth.
Kevin Thomas Jr. tried to run off and hide while winning the sprint feature. Jeff Bland passed Brady Short late to take second.
Two 305 RaceSaver features were run, one of them a makeup. Ethan Fleetwood won the first. Luke Bland won the second with Fleetwood second.
Those checking Saturday’s weather were not optimistic about Lawrenceburg. They were correct. The ‘burg reluctantly pulled the plug fairly early on Saturday.
I left a home away from home for my own home thinking that I’d seen several great examples of greatness at high speed. It didn’t matter to me if they are or are not any greater than their predecessors; greatness needs not be bound by a calendar.
Trying to figure out how a guy born in Indiana is a Mexican, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Cut and Slash/Take the Cash
With nothing better to do on another Indiana evening, it was time to head northwest to the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana and see what would happen. Expectations were considerable for seeing some serious dueling, or to be more apropos, a multi-car battle royal. In the end, expectations were met with Nevada’s Tanner Thorson holding the trophy, the third winner in three nights of USAC’s immensely popular Indiana Midget Week. What made this sweeter to Thorson was the fact that a year ago when he was here, he left in an ambulance after a nasty flip. Bryan Clauson, denied victory in the midget feature, won the sprint car main.
45 midgets and 32 sprints were crowding the LPS pit area as Round Three of IMW took shape. Most of the usual suspects were in place in both divisions. It was no surprise that five the top eight qualifiers were from the Keith Kunz stable, which had dominated so far. But Brady Bacon was quickest of them all, tearing off a 13.308 lap.
Rico Abreu’s time trial hadn’t been near what he would normally have so he started in the second row of the first heat and won. Dave Darland started and finished second. Bacon was third and Californian Shane Golobic took the last transfer spot.
Tyler Thomas, one of the non-Kunz teams that has impressed, won the second heat. Pennsylvania’s Steve Buckwalter started and finished second—just as Dave Darland had done earlier. Bryan Clauson was third and Jerry Coons Jr. made it to the big show, despite his 30th fastest qualifying time. Spencer Bayston led the group to the B.
In a sign of things to come, Tanner Thorson ran off and hid from the others in winning the third heat after starting sixth. Young Gage Walker was second and Jake Neuman third. Zach Daum began the night with no qualifying effort, which gave him a good view of all those in front of him in his heat. It wasn’t a problem as the Illinois resident scooted into the feature with a fourth.
Carson Macedo also came from sixth to win his heat, taking the lead on the last lap. Aussie Dayne Kingshott was second ahead of Ryan Robinson. Another Pennsylvanian, Ryan Greth, took the last position available, sending Colton Cottle to the B.
It was somewhat strange to see Chad Boat in the C, but there he was, in it and winning. He took Michael Koontz, Tucker Klaasmyer, and Austin Prock to the B with him.
After a major reworking of the track, Gas City winner Spencer Bayston led all the way to win the B. His teammate Holly Shelton was second. Chase Johnson started and finished third. Chad Boat, from the C Main, stormed from 15th to fourth. Tyler Nelson, originally from the eastern part of North Carolina and now living in Indianapolis, was fifth after starting tenth. And a Hoosier kid, Logan Jarrett, came from 11th to grab the last chair before the music stopped. Tony DiMattia flipped midway through the race and walked away.
Robinson and Clauson saw the green first and off they went. Robinson grabbed the early lead and was still there when Shane Golobic flipped on the sixth lap. Clauson was second, but Thorson had already moved to third after starting sixth. Not long after this re-start, Thorson attacked Clauson and took second. The stalking of the leader had begun.
When Robinson had a minor booboo, Thorson was all over it and took the lead on lap 14, just as they approached lapped traffic. A lap later saw a yellow flag slow things down temporarily. If Thorson had a mirror, he’d have seen Robinson, Clauson, Bacon, Bayston, Abreu, Johnson, Macedo, Shelton and Buckwalter.
Two laps later, lap 17, another yellow waved, slowing Abreu’s progress as he quickly moved to third behind teammates Thorson and Robinson. By the time of Logan Jarrett’s stoppage on the 19th lap, Rico was second. Yet another waved on lap 22 as Abreu slid the leader, but had to give the lead back. Eight laps to go and people had to be thinking, “This oughta be good.” During this caution period, Bacon pulled into the infield while running third under the radar.
One last yellow flag on lap for Chase Johnson slowed things one last time. On this final re-start, Abreu threw a last slide for the lead but instead found himself third behind a rejuvenated Clauson. Rico, with one desperation move after another, fell back in the closing laps as Clauson had enough left in the tank to make Thorson sweat. BC was less than a second behind as the checkered waved.
Another guy under the radar, Tyler Thomas, was third after starting tenth. Abreu recovered somewhat to finish fourth. Bayston was fifth with Macedo sixth. Steve Buckwalter had his own underappreciated effort, coming from 16th to take seventh. Early leader Robinson faded to eighth. Jerry Coons Jr. spent much of the race passing cars, starting 23rd and ending up ninth. And Chad Boat came from the C Main to start 20th in the feature and finishing tenth. Two largely unnoticed runs were made by native Arizonans.
In terms of points, it was a good night for Clauson, who took the lead for season points as well as Midget Week points.
You won’t find Keith Kunz’s face on milk cartons; instead you’ll find his mug in IMW 2016 victory photos. Keith’s kids were now three for three.
Avoiding the annoying clickbait out there on Facebook, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner
For the second straight race at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, there was a first time winner. A few weeks ago Scotty Weir won the USAC Sprint car feature after a terrific battle with Brady Bacon. On what turned out to be a beautiful Hoosier evening, Spencer Bayston won Round Two of Indiana Midget Week, outrunning the likes of Bryan Clauson and Kyle Larson.
There was a decent crowd on hand, but threatening weather no doubt scared away some fans, especially those from longer distances. Somehow the rain that fell west of Gas City missed the track.
I made a rare wise decision to stay at a motel after the Montpelier race. I had some so-called free time on Wednesday afternoon and went looking for a park for some peace and quiet. I found a pair of cemeteries in Marion and Gas City. It was an afternoon of reading, writing and walking with no one to heckle me while I relaxed. Compulsive reader that I am, the tombstones in both cemeteries gave me lots to think about, especially the old saying about the dash. That would be the dash between your birth date and your death.
Many folks were nervously eyeing their phones, looking at the huge green blob west of Gas City. The weather gurus were saying an 80% chance of rain for the evening. The promoters, racers and fans ignored the forecasts and carried on.
Rico Abreu set fast time, just a tick past 12 seconds. It was tempting to think that the track went away, putting late qualifiers at a disadvantage. But Christopher Bell went out next to last of the 45 and was 11th quickest. And Zach Daum was last and was sixth.
Pennsylvania resident Ryan Greth won the first heat over a closing Rico Abreu. Kyle Larson, getting another race in before returning to his NASCAR job, was third. Gage Walker kept Dave Darland from making the feature through this heat, taking fourth.
Tanner Thorson took four laps to take the lead and win the second heat. Pole sitter Shane Golobic was next, followed by a pair of fives, third place Chris Windom and the 5D of Zach Daum. Justin Peck ran well early in Kenny and Reba Irwin’s black beauty but fell back. Ryan Robinson was involved in the race’s only caution and would be bound for the B.
Christopher Bell started fourth and won the third heat. Bryan Clauson started behind him and was second. Anthony DiMattia started in front of Bell and was third. And Jerry Coons Jr. started next to Bell and held off Austin Prock and Chad Boat to take the last chair before the music stopped.
Brady Bacon was the fourth and final leader of the fourth heat. Spencer Bayston was second. Justin Grant drove a smart race, bringing an underpowered machine home with the bronze medal. Dayne Kingshott had his hands full, taking fourth but not without a fight from Tyler Thomas and Carson Macedo.
Jake Neuman, Kellen Conover, Kyle Schuett and Chett Gehrke led the rest in the C Main and would race again in the B.
Tyler Thomas only came from 12th to win the B, quite the achievement. Ryan Robinson was second. Justin Peck took third with Californian Chase Johnson, Chad Boat and Jimi Quin all moving on to the show.
Bayston and Daum led 20 of their closest friends to the green and the Lebanon, Indiana native grabbed the lead and held it. By the time the red waved for a Chase Johnson flip, it was clear that this kid could be headed for his first USAC National Midget Series feature win. Daum was second but would be under perpetual attack from Kyle Larson and Bryan Clauson. Both passed Daum by lap 13 as Bayston went on his merry way. The leaders entered lapped traffic on the eighteenth lap but the guy up front was unfazed. And as Larson and Clauson fought over who would be second, the 2015 USAC National Midget Series Rookie of the year benefited.
But Bayston’s path to the checkered was delayed by a yellow flag for Tanner Thorson’s stopping on the track with seven laps to go. The same routine resumed when Tom Hansing’s green flag re-appeared, Bayston with a decent lead that he maintained while the two better known stars behind him fought for position.
Clauson won that battle over Larson with Daum finishing an impressive fourth. Bell came from 11th to take fifth. Abreu started and finished sixth. Bacon was seventh and Golobic was the night’s KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER, moving from 17th to eighth. Justin Peck and Jerry Coons Jr. completed the top ten.
Bryan Clauson took the early lead to win the first sprint car heat. A.J. Hopkins won the second heat over Coons. Scotty Weir, in a team car to Matt Goodnight, won the third heat. Jimmy Light’s late race bobble made his win over Shane Cottle a close one.
Clauson won the sprint feature after a tussle with Brady Bacon, who spun mid-race but kept going, losing two spots. Weir was second, followed by Dave Darland, Bacon and Kyle Simon, who started 13th and excelled running the “Scotty Weir” line around the bottom.
Clauson took a slim two point lead for IMW heading southwest from Gas City to Lincoln Park.
I took the short way home, down I-69 and deviated from the normal route (State Road 9 from Pendleton to Shelbyville to an assortment of county roads) and stayed on 69 to 465 to 65 to State Road 252. Can’t seem to stay away from the back roads and the solitary experience they provide—for the most part.
Remembering the guy who may well be floating like a butterfly these days, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Battle of the Titans
Perhaps here is the occasion to add another great race to the list of 2016 standouts. USAC’s wildly successful Indiana Midget Week opened this year at the Montpelier Speedway and it was one that folks who were there will remember down through the years. Despite a mighty effort, Bryan Clauson could not get around Kyle Larson, who showed that he hasn’t forgotten how to wheel one of these lightning quick beasts. Larson passed teammate Tanner Thorson on lap 26 and held off Clauson to begin IMW with a bang. BC did claim victory in the sprint car feature that followed.
It seemed to me that maybe this was an audition for a possible Indiana Sprint Week date from USAC for 2017. If that was the case, the audition was, to me, a success. The biggest if not the only problem would be adding more seats because a Sprint Week date will bring people out of the woodwork, and other places too.
Midget Week offers a special treat for open wheel fans, with sprints, midgets and, at Montpelier, UMP modifieds. There are always double dippers; tonight would see Jerry Coons Jr., Bryan Clauson, Dave Darland, Brady Bacon, Michael Koontz and a visitor, Harli White, campaign in both sprint and midget rides. 45 midgets, including some people that made me do some homework, along with 27 sprints plus about 27 modifieds (including the nomadic Kenny Wallace) jammed the Montpelier pits.
Steve Buckwalter won the first midget heat as fast qualifier Christopher Bell went to the B. Chris Windom, in a Baldwin Brothers’ midget, was second. Brady Bacon was third with New Zealand’s Jimi Quin fourth.
One of Keith Kunz’s eight drivers, Carson Macedo, came from fourth to win the second heat. Chad Boat, taking a break from NASCAR racing, was second. Bryan Clauson was third with Jerry Cons Jr. bringing Shane Hmeil’s bullet home fourth. 21 year old Ariel Biggs, already with 15 years of racing behind her, ran well early but ended up fifth.
Rico Abreu came from fourth to take the lead on the first lap and hold on to win. His teammate Spencer Bayston came from sixth to finish second. Their teammate Holy Shelton was third. Dave Darland’s dictionary doesn’t include the words “give up.” He only came from ninth to grab the last spot for the feature.
Kyle Larson became the third from the Kunz team to win a heat; he took the fourth with teammate Tanner Thorson taking second. And again, their teammate Ryan Robinson was third with Justin Peck impressing in Kenny Irwin Sr.’s 7K taking fourth place from Tyler Thomas.
Davey Ray won the C Main. Jake Neuman, Aussie Dayne Kingshott and local boy (well, Kokomo) Logan Jarrett all moved to the B with veteran Scott Hatton done for the night.
Christopher Bell had his way in the B, starting from the pole and winning with Zach Daum second. West Coaster Shane Golobic was third and Tyler Thomas finished fourth. Gage Walker and Tony DiMattia took the last two spots for the feature with Davey Ray making them sweat. From 15th the pride of Davenport, Iowa ended up seventh.
Larson and Clauson led a talented group to Tom Hansing’s green flag. But Tom had to bring out the yellow right away as a three car meeting convened in turn two. The impromptu club members were Bell, Walker and DiMattia.
On the re-start, Larson took the lead but Thorson had other ideas, grabbing the top spot on the second lap. The red waved for a Steve Buckwalter tipover on lap 5. Dave Darland was also involved but re-started. Thorson and Larson led Clauson, Bacon, Bayston, Boat, Macedo, Robinson and Abreu. Bell, who had re-started, was up to 17th.
A lap later saw a yellow wave and Bell was now 11th and not done. When yet another came out on lap eight, he was seventh. On this re-start, Larson and Thorson began trading perfect sliders with each other, allowing Clauson to join the party. BC pounced when Larson had a minor bobble and took second. The chase for Thorson was on.
Lapped traffic came into play on the 17th lap, but Spencer Bayston spun on the following lap. Where was Christopher Bell? He was up to fifth behind Thorson, Clauson, Larson and Macedo. Could Larson get around those two with only eight laps to go? BC tried a slider on the leader, but ended up getting passed by Larson, who now had only his teammate to deal with.
While watching this duel among midget racing’s best, it occurred to me that these Kunz boys and girl don’t race each other like teammates; Keith Kunz himself would laugh and scoff at the notion. Proving this, Larson dogged Thorson’s every move, both flying around the top, using what cushion was left. And it happened on lap 26, when Larson made the winning pass. A Gage Walker spin a lap later only postponed the inevitable. Kyle pulled away and Thorson’s race ended on turn four of the last lap when he and teammates Macedo and Robinson found themselves parked instead of seeing the checkered flag.
Bryan Clauson finished second, nearly two seconds behind. Christopher Bell, remember him, benefited from his teammates’ misfortune and joined Larson and Clauson on the podium after what could have been a disaster. Outside of Mrs. Amy Coons, few saw one of the best underappreciated efforts of the night as Jerry Coons Jr. came from 14th to finish strong in fourth. Brady Bacon moved from ninth to fifth. Chad Boat was sixth. Another good run not noticed by many was that of Dave Darland, who averaged passing a car every other lap, starting 22nd and finishing seventh. Chris Windom wasn’t shy about passing people, going from 21st to eighth. Tyler Thomas was yet another who marched forward, 20th to ninth. And Jimi Quin debuted with a tenth place finish.
In the future, the generations behind many of us will speak of these guys with something approaching awe, much like today’s old timers speak of Kinser(s), Vogler and Wolfgang, among others. Let us be thankful that we have been able to witness the excellence of these future members of various Halls of Fame.
Don’t forget the sprinters, who played the rare role of support class. 27 showed up, a very impressive number on a Tuesday night. Chad Boespflug edged Dave Darland to win the first heat. Brady Bacon won the second heat with Bryan Clauson cruising to take the third heat. Harli White took the B.
Clauson salvaged something over and above his second place in the midget feature by winning the sprint finale by a good sized margin. Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland and Chad Boespflug trailed.
Next stop, Gas City.
Graduating with honors from Trump University, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Thrill of Victory, etc.
Those of us old enough to recall ABC’s Wide World of Sports are quite familiar with the phrase, “the thrill of victory, and the agony of defeat.” This is yet another cliché that is true. At least a thousand of my fellow racing fans saw this play out on a beautiful Sunday night at the Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana. Chris “Critter” Malone dominated the Midwest Sprint Car Series 25 lap feature for 24 laps before a spin by a lapped car found him stopped in turn four of the last lap. A surprised Chase Stockon was the beneficiary of Critter’s awful luck and knew it.
Being so used to the hills of southern Indiana, it’s easy for me to forget that much of the southwestern part of the state is as flat as most of northern Indiana. Not knowing much of truly ancient history, I’m guessing that the glaciers didn’t have enough sense to stop melting somewhere around Terre Haute.
The complexities of nature yielded some prime farm land. When the settlers (more so than the military) eased the native Americans a bit further west, they began farming and that activity continues to this day.
But a certain farmer wasn’t content to merely work the rich soil of these parts. Oh, no. Tom Helfrich continues the family tradition of combining racin’ and farmin’. He handles both quite well. On the Sunday of the Memorial Day weekend, he was rewarded for his efforts with a great night of racing, witnessed by a very decent crowd, one of whom was me.
It was a proper conclusion to the weekend, remembering those boys and girls who gave their all for our nation. As a bonus, I’d spent some time with all three grandchildren as the children arranged things so that all Grandma and Grandpa had to do was show up. Is there a more precious gift than grandchildren?
The format was the same as at LPS, 23 cars, group qualifying, each group racing together in their heats, no B Main tonight. Jeff Bland led the first group with a 13.799 lap. But the track changed and each of the quickest of the two following groups would top that. Dakota Jackson led the second crew with a 13.676. Quickest of all was Carson Short with his 13.494 with the last crowd.
Bland led much of the first heat until Stockon pulled off a massive, and textbook, slider to grab the lead eight laps in and hold on for the win. Bland was second with Brady Short, Tyler Hewitt and Chet Williams trailing.
Critter Malone won the second heat, leading all the way. Dakota Jackson, already a veteran at age 20, was second. Brandon Mattox was third. The other Brandon, Mr. Morin, started and finished fourth. Aric Gentry, of the famed racing family, took fifth.
Local favorite Kyle Cummins won the third heat over C. Short. New Zealand’s Nevil Algeio started on the pole and finished third. Mitch Wissmiller fought the proverbial ill handling beast and managed a fourth. Bub Cummins was fifth.
With Stockon on the pole and Malone outside, one might be tempted to assume that the local boy would check out, at least until the likes of both Shorts, Bland and/or Cummins would run him down. But it wasn’t like that at all.
The guys couldn’t quite make a half lap before a three car scrum in turn two brought out a yellow. Carson Short ended up stopped on the track with a flat tire. His crew changed it and he rejoined the craziness from the tail spot.
Donnie Brackett and Braxton Cummings brought out the next yellow, again in turn two on the first lap. Algeio exited the track and the rest tried again, especially Malone. On the re-start, he tried to disappear from Stockon and the others, nearly succeeding. Lapped traffic came into play fairly quickly. Brady Short made his move, getting around Cummins, then Bland. Stockon stayed put and began gaining a little on the leader in lapped traffic.
That became a moot point on lap 16 when the race’s first yellow waved for the first Jadon Rogers spin. The scorecard said Malone, Stockon, B. Short, Bland, Cummins, Jackson, C. Short (from the back, remember), Hewitt and Morin. Here was an opportunity for Chase to get the lead on the re-start—except it didn’t happen. By lap 20 things were getting good as the leaders frantically negotiated lapped traffic; Malone, Stockon, B. Short and Cummins were giving fans their money’s worth.
This six lap segment ended on the 22nd lap for Rogers’ second spin. The front runners reloaded and the green waved again. Just as things were looking good for Critter two laps in, he entered turn three, headed for the checkered. He never made it. Instead he was forced to stop for a spinning Jadon Rogers, his third. In general, it would seem that many people there were as stunned as they were outraged, Critter possibly being one of them.
The show must go on and it did with an anti-climactic one lap shootout in which Stockon held on for the win. B. Short was second and Cummins third, three southern Indiana boys on the podium. Chase was emphatic in saying that he didn’t like winning that way, but there wasn’t much one could do. All three podium occupants mentioned lapped traffic, wishing that people would hold their racing line, a lament that race leaders have been voicing since Barney Oldfield let me ride in his car with him.
Jeff Bland was fourth, followed by C. Short, who came back from adversity to earn a top five finish. Jackson, was sixth, followed by Hewitt, Morin, Malone and Gentry.
It was a night that young (14 years old) Jadon Rogers would have liked to forget. Three spins in the feature (plus one more as the checkered flag waved) and one of them took out a deserving winner. Since the time of Jeff Gordon’s emergence as a child prodigy, the debate has raged about putting younger teenagers in sprint cars. Many reading might be familiar with both sides of the story.
I’ve seen races where the young man has impressed. He’s not in the habit of spinning any more than many of his fellow competitors. One can only speculate what was going on this past Sunday. An ill handling car not set up for the track, short of asking someone in a position to know, who can know? It’s easy to assume, but one would be best advised not to judge too harshly. The kid was last year’s HARF Rookie of the Year, so let’s allow him to race—and learn.
Wondering when Wide World of Sports will show the cliff divers and snippets of a NASCAR race on ABC, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Thomas and Thomas at the Midnight Hour
When the word came of rain at the Lincoln Park Speedway, one need not be a soothsayer to figure out that it would be a late night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. But that didn’t faze a good sized crowd; after all, these people knew that promoter Joe Spiker would rather go out and buy a pet skunk than cancel a race—especially after noticing that a goodly number of folks had already settled into their seats, patiently watching the heavy moving equipment circle the track, making it presentable. Most of them were in their seats several hours later when Thomas Meseraull stood at the start/finish line, holding up the trophy and smiling as a disappointed Kevin Thomas Jr. had to settle for second place.
After nice chats with Curt Gross, Steve Morin and the guy who signs me in, it was time to see who else had showed up. This was a Midwest Sprint Car Series sanctioned race, which meant there would be plenty of cars and several of them would be threats to win.
After taking inventory, I moseyed toward the front straight bleachers. I saw Paul Hazen ambling toward his outfit. Watching him out of the corner of my eye, it occurred to me that if I was going to build the ideal sprint car owner, I’d create something like a Paul Hazen. Shuffling along rather than striding, Paul never seems to hurry. He’s thin without being emaciated, an ever present cigarette dangling from his mouth. Looks serious, but Paul’s not exactly the intimidating type. His actions are much louder than his words. Serious, yes, but he offers an easy smile and an easy going demeanor. Always on an even keel, Paul no doubt makes every penny count.
The MSCS has gone to group qualifying this year. By 8:50 the track was ready and the first group went out to try their luck and skill. C. J. Leary was quickest of this crew. Casey Shuman led the second. Brandon Mattox came close to beating Leary’s time, but fell short with his 13.652 only .030 seconds off C. J.’s best lap. Shane Cockrum led the last posse of qualifiers.
Of the 103 cars jamming the pits at LPS, 35 were sprints. Other than those mentioned, Chad Boespflug was subbing for Shane Cottle again, as he was at Anderson for the Little500. Contenders such as Jeff Bland, Brady Short and Jon Stanbrough stopped by for a visit. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges, Australia’s Gary Rooke, New Zealand’s Nevil Algeio and South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt made the long haul. The rest was a lively mixture of kids and veterans.
After the rain, the track was quite fast, high octane racing for all four heats. For once, the heats didn’t have a lot of passing, rare for LPS. Thomas won the first heat over Leary, Tyler Hewitt and Illinois’ Terry Babb.
Nate McMillin got the jump on Brady Short to win the second heat. Short and Shuman were second and third. Borespflug nipped Hunter O’Neal at the line to grab fourth and a spot in the show. During time trials, Stanbrough, again in the Wingo’s car, had trouble passing Brady Ottinger, who was having trouble keeping one lane. When coming up to lap Ottinger in the heat race, Jon instead headed for the pits.
Thomas Meseraull got around pole sitter Josh Hodges to win the third heat. Brandon Mattox was third and Conner Donelson was fourth in his 2016 debut.
Jordan Kinser scratched for the night and missed quite a fourth heat. Brent Beauchamp prevailed as Shane Cockrum took second. Mitch Wissmiller was third and young Dylan Shaw was fourth. J.J. Hughes slammed the cushion in turn two, knocking him out of the race while running second.
Stanbrough and Bland both were done for the night and the B went on without the two. Bret Mellenberndt won from the pole with Mario Clouser second. With repairs made, Hughes came from the back to finish third. Algeio was fourth. Rooke flipped in turn one on the second lap, but was able to walk away.
Thomas and McMillin led 19 others to the green as Brandon Morin used a provisional to make the feature. But Meseraull stormed from the second row to grab the lead. Action was stopped quickly as Mattox flipped hard in turn one. He, too, would walk away after a few minutes.
When the green waved again, Meseraull left the crowd and went on his merry way. Lapped traffic didn’t seem to faze the California native as he weaved through seemingly with little effort, lapping up to eighth place. A Dylan Shaw spin on lap 22 slowed things momentarily. TMez led Thomas, Leary, Hodges, Short, Beauchamp, Boespflug, Cockrum, Hewitt and Hughes.
On the re-start, Thomas had nothing for the leader, who sped to his third MSCS feature win. In the post-race interview, TMez noted that it had been a year since he had hooked up with Shane Wade and crew. It was a great way to celebrate.
Kevin Thomas Jr. had to settle for second, but continued a streak of good endings. C. J. Leary was third and Josh Hodges, learning Indiana bullrings more with each outing, was fourth. Brent Beauchamp, overcoming a pre-race penalty, took fifth ahead of Brady Short, who started where he finished, sixth. Chad Boespflug came from 14th to take seventh. Shane Cockrum ended up eighth, which was where he started. Tyler Hewitt, also penalized (unjustly as it turned out, started and finished ninth. J.J. Hughes showed that he, too, is a racer, overcoming a heat race fiasco, repairing the car, transferring to the feature and then coming from 19th to finish tenth.
Over the years, I’ve seen rainouts that had not nearly as much precipitation as Lincoln Park had on a warm Saturday afternoon. But Hoosier bullring promoters get it for the most part. They make every effort to race, even if it means a loss of income for the night. Sometimes this attitude pays off immediately as it did Saturday night and sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, the effort is made; fans and racers were rewarded for their patience, a quality that is tougher and tougher to possess as we become more and more an instant gratification loving society.
Even at my age, sometimes staying up late pays off.
Telling Chris Berman that he’s going “back, back, back…” to the temporary unemployment line, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: An Eighth of a Mile
Brady Short didn’t just beat 19 others to win the Josh Burton Memorial at the Bloomington Speedway on a beautiful Hoosier Friday night; he put a serious hurt on the group, which included some pretty far racers, including a few present and future hall of famers. At the end his margin of victory over Jordan Kinser was a half lap on a track that went to the dry and slick mode early on.
It was my third race in three nights, with two more to go on this holiday weekend. It was tempting to have the impression that, if you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But like people, not all racing ovals are created the same, nor equal. They all have their quirks and funny little ways, just like people.
Bloomington is no exception. It is one of the oldest facilities around, over 90 candles would have to crowd onto a birthday cake. The red clay reminds some of us of the Carolinas, where it is much more common. The track layout itself is relatively narrow; cars racing in three grooves is risky at best. I was told, and agree, that it’s a finesse track, where you have to pick your spots to challenge for a position. This is truer later in the program, when the surface typically slows the speeds.
On rare occasions, tracks don’t turn out like drivers, owners and fans wish it to be. This was Bloomington on Friday the 27th. As the racing began, it was evident that passing would become a chore not likely to be completed.
In what would be a pattern, Nick Bilbee started on the pole and won the first heat. Jeff Bland, Brady Short and Jordan Kinser also won heats. Passing wasn’t impossible as Hunter O’Neal spun in the third heat, tagged the tail of the field, and came back to earn a transfer into the feature. On the other hand, cars that are normally running up front had trouble passing cars that run well, but are not usually in the winner’s circle. Jordan Kinser is a quality racer and the Hurst Brothers field quality cars, but even with that combination, people like Dave Darland and Robert Ballou usually can pass in normal situations. But not on this evening as Jordan held off the two standouts to win as Ballou tried high and low to make the pass.
Josh Hodges, spending time in Indiana as he did last summer, started on the pole and won the B. Of note was Dakota Jackson, who came from eighth to fourth, securing the final spot in the feature and showing that it could be done.
Chad Boespflug, back in Paul Hazen’s car while Shane Cottle was getting ready for Saturday’s Little 500, and Jordan Kinser were the front row for the feature. Brady Short and Robert Ballou were the second row. One need not be the Amazing Kreskin to know that the race would be to the bottom when Rusty Nunn’s green flag waved. Pole sitter Boespflug did his best to keep Short behind him. He was successful for the first half of the first lap as Short got a good jump coming out of two and took the lead.
As far as the lead went, that was it. Brady might have been lonely, but wasn’t sad. Not even lapped traffic could hold him up. Kinser wasn’t too bad on this dry, slick stuff either. He owned second place from lap two on. Jon Stanbrough made an appearance in the Wingo brothers car that runs well when they come out to play and came from tenth to third, advancing more than anyone else. Thomas Meseraull was fourth and Kevin Thomas Jr. fifth.
The second five was led by Jeff Bland in sixth. Boespflug fell to seventh and Dave Darland moved from 12th to eighth. Kyle Cummins started 13th and finished ninth. Jarett Andretti took the tenth spot.
Many people were unhappy with the track conditions, racers, fans, you name them. Some said that they won’t be back for Indiana Midget Week this Friday. But most every track I’ve attended with any regularity over the years has missed the setup once in a while, just like race teams. I’m not one to bet, but if I was, I’d wager a tiny portion of my retirement that the track will be what has been the “normal” Bloomington surface this Friday. And seeing that sprints will accompany the midgets as the support class, I’d wager that Brady Short will do well, win or not, on what may well be a track that will be anything but dry/slick.
Chiding Martin Truex Jr. for stinking up the show, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Silver Crown/Silver Fox
In my opinion, the greatest stock car/NASCAR driver I ever saw was David Pearson, also known as the Silver Fox. In head to head results with the NASCAR king, Mr. Petty (an all-time great in his own right), Pearson had more wins. In percentages of wins, no one had a higher percentage than the Spartanburg, South Carolina resident. One of the things he was best known for doing was hanging around the front of the pack for much of the race, not worrying about leading a lot of laps until it was show time. When a given race was winding down, Pearson’s number was quite often on the leader board. If he was able (health issues) and so inclined, perhaps Mr. Pearson would appreciate the efforts of a young man hailing from California named Kody Swanson, who seems to use the same modus operandi in winning USAC Silver Crown races, especially the Hoosier 100. For on a day that saw typical Hoosier humidity, rain showers and even some sunshine, Mr. Swanson bided his time and made his move late in the race, passing one of the best, Shane Cottle, on the 67th lap and going on to earn his third straight Hoosier 100 victory, joining a couple of guys named Jimmy Bryan and Al Unser in pulling this off.
In my own little fantasy world, the mile dirt ovals would still be a part of the Indy Car Championship trail. For me, there could be no better link to Indy Car racing history than the addition of Springfield, Du Quoin and the Indiana State Fairgrounds for three of maybe 18-20 races on the schedule. With a little seat time, the current Indy Car hotshots would not make fools of themselves; to the contrary, they would excel eventually. But it ain’t happening. It’s only a dream and rather than shed tears, we must enjoy what is…and it is a lot.
37 teams submitted entries and 33 of them took their one lap time trial with Brady Bacon going out late and ripping off a 34.396 lap, displacing Jerry Coons Jr. and taking the pole.
Pre-race ceremonies, at least part of them, could be called bittersweet as Eddie Sachs Jr., along with Dave McDonald’s son and widow was there to remember their fallen family members from the tragic 1964 Indy 500 accident. And Tony Elliott, a two-time winner of this race who was killed last fall in an airplane crash, was also fondly remembered.
The command to start engines was given and right away one of the contenders had trouble. Shane Cockrum needed a push start, which sent him back to the tail end of the field. For the Chief, things would only get worse as he dropped out midway through the race.
Jerry Coons Jr. grabbed the lead at the green to lead the first lap, but Brady Bacon had other ideas and took the lead on the next time around. Early on, the two leaders could not break away from each other. A yellow waved on lap 24 for Joe Ligouri, who stopped in turn four. Soon after the re-start, Coons took the lead again and held on until the next yellow, when Steve Buckwalter stopped on the backstretch.
The lineup for the lap 36 re-start was Coons, Bacon, Bryan Clauson, Kody Swanson, Shane Cottle (up from 14th), Justin Grant (from 15th), Dave Darland, Chris Windom (whose original Fred Gormley ride was sidelined, with Brian Tyler giving up his Harry McQuinn seat to Windom), David Byrne and Pennsylvania’s Mark Smith.
Cottle was far from done. He worked his way up to second just before the third yellow waved on the 45th lap for an Aaron Pierce stop. Coons would have his hands full and, sure enough, Cottle would take over on lap 58.
But not too far behind, as others faded, even just a little, Swanson was ready to make this race his. He had never been lower than fourth according to my notes, and was not worried as Cottle had flown by him earlier. The California native passed Bacon and Coons and was second when Russ Gamester, making his 22nd Hoosier 100 start, took a wild ride down the backstretch on the 65th lap, bringing out the red flag. Russ was able to walk away after a few minutes.
Two laps after the re-start, Swanson pounced and passed Cottle. He didn’t exactly run away but now the race was under his control as others would falter eventually. Bacon exited the race on lap 71. Swanson led Cottle, Grant, Coons, Clauson, Windom, C.J. Leary, Darland, Casey Shuman and Davey Ray. It was all over but the shouting.
The only thing that could stop Swanson was another red flag, this one for veteran Jeff Swindell, two-time winner who flipped in turn three. Swanson may have kept his lead but Cottle simply refused to go away. However, Shane’s efforts were in vain as he settled for second, ahead of Coons. Clauson’s fourth place was the best of any Indy 500 veteran’s in many years. (Paging Richie Murray). Windom was most impressive, moving from 17th to fifth. Leary was sixth and Byrne went spent part of the race out of the top ten before coming in seventh. Davey Ray came on strong late in the race, starting 18th and finishing eighth. Mark Smith was ninth and Dave Darland took tenth.
The Silver Fox would have been pleased.
Maybe Jo Quinn and Roger Wolcott, who were the original movers and shakers of this race when I was a toddler, would have appreciated the whole scene as well. It was only a few years ago that professional naysayers were proclaiming the death of the Hoosier 100. But they, along with many others, didn’t count on people like Andy Hillenburg who devoted his heart and soul into reviving both the race and the Silver Crown series. Andy and his team deserve the thanks of all of us.
Inviting Alexander Rossi to accompany me to Indiana Midget Week, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The
Challenge of Repeating
The Hoosier Race Report: Extra
The Hoosier Race Report: A Bland Breakthrough
When Jeff Bland made the decision to resurrect his own team this year, it would have been easy to question his motives and/or sanity. But people, for better or worse, need to make their own decisions when they can, seeing that so many things in this life are totally out of our control (think of kids and the weather). But Bland’s choice to run his own car this year looked pretty good on a beautiful Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana at the Lincoln Park Speedway. He led all 25 laps of the feature, holding off first Shane Cockrum and then Shane Cottle to win his first feature of 2016 (far as I know).
After a dreary start of the day, the sun broke through much of Indiana just in time for our Saturday night bullrings to open the gates and feature some of the best short track racing in the land. Meandering through the pits, soaking in the atmosphere, with nary a care in the world, my reverie was broken by a healthy blast of the water truck’s horn. I didn’t jump but my attention turned toward a smiling Joe Spiker, who no doubt would have been happy to soak me in something much wetter than the atmosphere.
23 sprints were among the unofficial count of 109 cars in the pits. Around the state, sprint car counts were in the 20s. Obviously this diluted the quality of cars at each track, but there were plenty of hot dogs at each bullring. At Lincoln Park, the notorious Shane Cottle was among those signed in, along with Jeff Bland, Shane Cockrum and Casey Shuman.
Bland made his opening statement a good one as he came from sixth to win the first heat. Kyle Simon, all the way from the Buckeye State, was second. Nate McMillin was third. Lee Underwood was fourth and Jared Chastain edged Charlie Belden to the last transfer spot.
Shane Cockrum won the second heat with J. J. Hughes second. Tyler Hewitt was third and homeboy Jamie Williams, making a relatively rare appearance, started and finished fourth. Casey Shuman came on late to edge Shelby VanGilder at the line to send her to the B.
Shane Cottle started on the pole and disappeared, winning the third heat by a straightaway over young Mike Gass. Matt McDonald was third and Chris Phillips barely beat the ageless Bill Rose for fourth as only five of the seven starters could answer the bell.
Cole Smith won the B with Charlie Belden, Shelby VanGilder, Lukas Smith and Ben Phillips all tagging the back end of the 20 car field.
Bland and Cockrum loved the redraw results with them in the front row. Cottle and Simon were the second row, followed by Hughes, Gass, McMillin, Hewitt, C. Phillips and Underwood.
Bland jumped out to the lead but action was stopped on lap two when Hughes, running third, hit the turn three cushion just a bit too hard, bounced a bit and tipped over, bringing out the red. It was somewhat similar to the Jon Stanbrough tipover the previous night at Gas City. Hughes’ car didn’t bounce as high and he was able to re-start the race.
The early rundown was Bland, Cottle, Cockrum, McMillin, Simon, Williams, Hewitt, Shuman, C. Phillips and Underwood. A lap after the re-start saw L. Smith spin in turn four, prompting Brian Hodde to wave the yellow cloth. The rest of the race was all-green, all the time.
Bland opened up a half straightaway lead as Cottle and Cockrum battled for second. Cottle opted for the high groove for the most part while Cockrum occupied the bottom and made the pass two laps after the re-start. As Bland cruised, this Cottle character wouldn’t go away. When the “other” Shane was briefly bottled up in lapped traffic, the new Grandpa Cottle, driving Paul Hazen’s ageless rocket, pounced and took back second place—still up top. That was the race within the race.
Bland won fairly easily and was understandably happy after the race talking to Brad Dickison. Behind Cottle and Cockrum was Nate McMillin in fourth. Kyle Simon ran fifth for much of the race. Tyler Hewitt was sixth and Casey Shuman came from 14th to finish seventh in the Krockenberger family car. Jamie Williams was eighth with Bill Rose and Chris Phillips, a pair of number sixes, ending up ninth and tenth.
This race may not have been a photo finish, with multiple exchanges of the lead along with lots of wrecks. But neither did it have double file re-starts, a lucky dog award, competition yellows, boogities, or manufactured drama. It was pretty much pure, unfiltered, not watered down speed and competition.
You can’t beat it, no matter what various pundits tell you.
Booking my flight to North Korea to introduce dirt track racing to the Dear Leader, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: An Upset?
The Hoosier Race Report: Flirtin’
The Hoosier Race Report: What Might
The Hoosier Race Report: Nick +
The Hoosier Race Report: What to
The Hoosier Race Report: Second
Verse, Same as the First
The Hoosier Race Report: The Reader
The Hoosier Race Report: Bloomington Revisited
I would be remiss, if not forgetful, if I didn’t give some attention to the RaceSaver Series of winged sprints with 305 engines on Friday night at Bloomington. It turned out to be the Ethan Barrow show as the young veteran won both his heat race and the 20 lap feature.
12 cars answered the call on Friday. In the first heat, Luke Bland took the early lead but Barrow was having none of that. He passed Bland early and pulled away for the win. Bland was second with Ryan Tussing third and Ethan Fleetwood fourth.
Tony Anderson took the early lead in the second RaceSaver heat, but Vincennes, Indiana native Kendall Ruble had other ideas. He grabbed the lead on the third lap and checked out, only to lose see a yellow flag brought out by Sondi Eden. But Ruble held off Anderson with Jared Fox third and veteran Brian Gerster fourth.
The feature lined up according to points, which put Bland on the pole with Anderson outside. Luke took the early lead with Eden second. Midway through the race, Sondi was passed by Ruble for second. She fell further back when both Jared Fox and Ethan Barrow passed her for position. In a couple more laps Barrow would pass Fox and bear down on Ruble.
Misfortune struck Bland as he coasted to a stop in the infield, giving Ruble the lead. He, Barrow and Fox had a lively battle for position before Barrow made the pass for the lead. That was it as far as he was concerned. Barrow won easily with Ruble second. Fox was third and Ethan Fleetwood came from eighth to finish fourth. Sondi Eden took the checkered in fifth place.
It was Barrow’s first RaceSaver feature win.
Posting videos of my wife’s cat writing this article, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Ungrateful Host
It’s common courtesy and common sense to treat your visitors in a way that makes them feel welcome. You may visit their house someday and it’s only right and proper that you could expect the same treatment. This works in our Western society at large. We should strive to be the most hospitable people we can be. After all, Hoosier Hospitality is not a myth.
But none of this applies to racers. If you come to their home track, you may be greeted a number of people who are glad to see you, even some of their regulars. But that’s about as far as it will go. And if you plan to visit the Bloomington Speedway to race, beware of Brady Short. If asked, he might well stand by the pit gate and greet all who enter. But later, on the track racing, he will become The Ungracious Host. And that was how it went on a cool Friday evening at the red clay oval. Short had no serious challengers until the end as he scored his first feature win at Bloomington this year, beating out a closing Jeff Bland.
Once in awhile, a race chaser leaves home while it’s raining, having faith that the radar and forecast are accurate. It’s a risky game that sometimes pays off. Friday evening, April 22, was one of those evenings. Heading 44 miles west, I had enough faith to get me to Bloomington. Sure enough, at the Indiana State Road 46/I-65 intersection, the rain stopped. The sun tried to shine. And by the time I reached the Brown County line, the road was dry. Later, at the track, the clouds disappeared.
Minus my usual traveling partner, I ambled through the pits, pleased to see 20 sprinters with faith enough to show up despite the threat of rain (which missed the track). A few USAC regulars and semi-regulars stopped by, perhaps hoping to do some cherry picking or just to race.
The first of three heats had enough drama to last much of the evening. Braxton Cummings was towed off the track as the field lined up. Then Robert Ballou collided with Brandon Mattox, who spun to a stop in turn one right after the green waved. Mattox was out of the race and was not impressed with the 2015 USAC Sprint car champion, who had a flat left rear tire changed in the work area and returned to the race. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti took the early lead, but was passed by Kevin Thomas Jr. Ballou came on strong late to take the lead and the win with Andretti, Thomas Meseraull, Nick Bilbee and Thomas trailing.
The second heat was much tamer by comparison with Jeff Bland Jr. passing C.J. Leary late to win. Max McGhee was third behind Leary with Shelby Van Gilder fourth and Jaden Rogers coming home fifth.
Moe Howard would have been impressed with the third heat. His frequent command to “spread out” was followed for a change as Short won with Shane Cottle second. Ethan Barrow was third with Hunter O’Neal fourth. Cody Clarkson was about a lap down in fifth.
There would be no B Main tonight and the sprints began lining up around 9:00 P.M. Short and Andretti were the front row. The start was less than ideal. With a scrum in turns one and two, Meseraull was bumped from behind and smacked the car ahead of him (Bland, I believe), then slowed in front of most of the field. In the potential melee, Van Gilder spun as TMez exited the track. This necessitated a complete re-start.
Short and Andretti ran one/two early, but soon the third generation racer had pressure from Leary. C.J. passed the North Carolinian, then along came Ballou to do the same. Jeff Bland shuffled Andretti back another spot as nothing changed up front. But if anyone was on the move, it was Bland, running his own deal this year. The high side seemed to be the most popular groove but Bland used the huggy pole line to move forward. Showing his prowess at this most difficult track to master, Bland passed USAC regulars Ballou and Leary to take second. He was closing on the leader but the 25 lap feature wasn’t long enough.
Short, who commented that this was his house and he couldn’t let the visitors walk away with the money and the trophy, led Bland by several car lengths. Leary was third and Ballou was fourth. Shane Cottle, last week’s winner at Lincoln Park, finished a quiet, for him, fifth. McGhee was sixth and Andretti faded to seventh. Thomas started 13th and finished eighth. Nick Bilbee, in his first Bloomington outing, was ninth. And Braxton Cummings came from 16th to complete the top ten.
The visitors would have to wait for another race to hope for a gracious host.
Scratching my head while thinking about the sanctioning body that welcomes back one of its most notable drivers, then fines him $35 big ones, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Like a
The Hoosier Race Report: Take For
The Hoosier Race Report: First Time
The Hoosier Race Report: Tire
The Hoosier Race Report: 2015
The Hoosier Race Report: Mr. Five
The Hoosier Race Report: Oldest
Driver Plus Oldest Car=Winning
The Hoosier Race Report: Closing the Book on 2015
The silence you hear or imagine is the void left by sprint cars as another Hoosier sprint car racing season has concluded for all intents and purposes. Though many fields still contain corn and other crops, many more have been harvested. The air has a distinct chill to it, even in the daytime. School is well underway and high school and college football take center stage as both Indiana and Purdue University’s football teams wallow in mediocrity—at best. And Halloween is not far away. But melancholy is often a waste of time. Especially if you are Thomas Meseraull, a/k/a TMez. Landing himself in the Shane Wade/Amati Racing Team’s ride has also landed him in Victory Lane twice in a row in USAC Amsoil sprint car action. After winning the feature at Eldora’s Four Crown a few weeks ago, Meseraull and Company won a cool $10,000 at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a chilly Saturday night. Besides it being his second USAC win in a row, it was TMez’s tenth feature win overall this year.
For the second straight night my fellow Hoosier sprint freaks would brave chilly conditions. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as cold on Saturday. But folks were still bundled up like Eskimos and my four layers were sufficient.
34 teams ignored the weather and the casino across the street, preferring instead to go racin’. Pennsylvania resident and IU student Tony DiMattia was camped in the pits with his recent acquisition from the Gentrys. USAC’s Silver Crown champ Kody Swanson stopped by, as did Illinois’ Terry Babb. For one last time we’d see the guy so many fans have “adopted,” namely Robert Bell, who has had the time of his life this year, open trailer and all. Dustin Ingle came down from northwest Ohio to race. Chad Boespflug was in Gene Nolen’s creation for the night. Mini-sprint standout Beau Stewart pulled up a seat at the table. And World of Outlaws’ Shane Stewart took off the wing and made some adjustments, wishing to try his luck and maybe pick up some extra walking around money.
C.J. Leary was 12th to take his two spins around the three eighths mile high banked monster. His 13.898 stood up against the rest, though Kyle Robbins tore off a 13.963 after Leary’s run. Surprisingly, DiMattia was second quick. Shane Stewart met disaster coming to the green flag. Barreling into turn three he lost the handle and flipped hard. Shane was okay but his outing minus the wing was done for the night and maybe for a long, long time. Some message board experts were correct in applauding Mr. Stewart for at least trying to tackle the ‘burg without his usual configuration.
Chris Windom led all but the first lap of the first heat, winning with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Pole sitter Max McGhee was third and fast qualifier Leary was fourth. Kyle Cummins, Casey Shuman and Kody Swanson went to the B.
Brady Bacon let Aaron Farney lead the first lap of the second heat before assuming the lead and the win by a large margin. Farney was second by a good distance over Jerry Coons Jr. Pole sitter Dustin Ingle held on for fourth, sending Chad Boespflug and second quick Tony DiMattia B Main bound.
Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the third heat. Scotty Weir, in Todd Keen’s pride and joy, was second. Thomas Meseraull was a fairly tame third. Jarett Andretti was fourth and this meant third fastest qualifier KRob went to the B.
Robert Ballou had not helped his points situation with his less than ideal time trial. But it put him on the pole of the fourth heat and he won easily. Dave Darland, third in points, came from sixth to second. Justin Grant was third. Chase Stockon, second in points, started and finished fourth. Hall of Famers Jon Stanbrough and Tracy Hines went to the B.
Robbins started the consolation race on the front row and jumped out to the lead. By now the cushion in turns three and four was right against the wall, where many racers like it. Robbins was one of those guys until the sixth lap when he spun into the wall, a good night ruined. Kyle Cummins took over the lead but Kody Swanson wanted the lead, too. After a pair of yellows, the expectant daddy took the lead and held on for the win. Joining him in the Show would be Cummins, Stanbrough, Boespflug, Hines and Garret Abrams, who edged Casey Shuman, the new headman of the WAR sprint series.
Brady Bacon led the first lap of the feature from his outside pole beginning point, but Meseraull was having none of that. Before that all happened, Dave Darland had a second consecutive night of rotten luck as his car appeared to jump out of gear on the backstretch right after Tom Hansing’s green flag. Just like that, the People’s Champ went from his fifth spot to 22nd. It didn’t do him any favors in the points race with Ballou and Stockon.
On the re-start, Meseraull grabbed the lead from Bacon and kept his distance. Thomas passed Bacon as well but could not close on the leader. By the 12th lap, TMez began dealing with lapped traffic. Kyle Cummins, who had been flirting with the top five, slowed just before halfway and left the race. Stockon, who started tenth, was up to fifth just past the lap 15 mark. Ballou, who started 21st of 22, and Darland were both languishing in the back of the pack, but Robert did pick up some spots eventually. That would be crucial at race’s end.
Incredibly, Meseraull lapped Darland with nine laps to go. The top five of TMez, Thomas, Bacon, Stockon and Weir stayed the same for several laps. But Chase was soon under attack from Chris Windom, who had advanced steadily from the eighth row. When Stockon bounced off the wall on the white flag lap, he lost more spots.
But no one had anything for Meseraull. Thomas was a worthy second with C.J. Leary moving up in the race’s latter stages to take third. Bacon was fourth ahead of Windom, who had started 15th. Kody Swanson was a steady sixth. Stockon salvaged seventh and Weir was eighth. Stanbrough came from 14th to ninth. Ballou was the night’s hardest charger as he rallied late to grab tenth after starting halfway to the Ohio River.
Ballou lost six points off his point lead over Stockon, who now trails by 19 as the boys head West. Darland is now 24 behind Stockon.
The winner was his usual loquacious self, quite happy and not afraid to say it. He’s considered controversial by many because his words are not only frequent but also stinging at times to some. I don’t pay that much mind; all I know is the kid (they are all kids to me, the retiree) can wheel a race car and right now he and the Shane Wade gang have it together and are in a great position to play spoiler out West.
The modifieds took over as I hung around, still tired from the night before but not wanting to leave this place. At that moment April seemed a long way off before my hoped for return to the finest dirt tracks in the nation overall. Time marches on; in my opinion it’s a circle, not a line. So all we can do is aim for the next starting point in the circle next spring, assuming and hoping that it’s meant to be. But the idea is to live one’s life as if doing the things you should do and should enjoy will be the last time you get to do them. Things like enjoyment, appreciation and even legacies matter. Let’s take that with us going down the road.
Giving my old buddy Benjamin Netanyahu a history lesson, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Maybe Thomas Wolfe Was Wrong?
Mr. Wolfe, one of our better American authors (my opinion only), was the guy who wrote the book, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It received critical acclaim, except for where his real life home was, namely Asheville, North Carolina. It seemed like the locals weren’t fond of ol’ Thomas and his unflattering description of the city.
But in racing, one goes go home all the time. Take that rascal Shane Cottle. Over the years, Shane has traveled many miles from his Kokomo home (even though he’s an Illinois native, I believe). He’s one of several Kokomo racers over the years who have excelled. And he did it again on a downright cold October evening at the Kokomo Speedway as he won the sprint car portion of the ninth annual Kokomo Klash, leading all 25 laps. It was ironic (and unfortunate for him), but another Kokomo standout, Dave Darland, dropped out of the feature before it even started with a stalled race car. So Kokomo boys bookended the field on the curtain closer for the thrill a minute quarter mile oval.
For what it’s worth, this didn’t apply to midget winner Spencer Bayston, who won the midget feature. He is based in nearby Lebanon, Indiana.
Somewhere in the mob scene that was the Kokomo Speedway pit area was a grand total of 29 sprints in the more than 160 race cars just off the north side of the track. Within this group were an assortment of players, some new ones and other familiar faces, cars and teams. Of note was Brandon Mattox, taking over the Jerry Burton owned 04 and Casey Shuman in the championship car driven by Scott Hampton at Lincoln Park Speedway this year.
Heat races would be based on time trials and would start straight up. The top five would move on from the three heats and the feature would line up with the same method. Group qualifying as usual and Justin Grant was quickest of the three groups to qualify, ripping off a 13.021 lap.
Dave Darland moved from the outside front row to the lead and win in the first heat. Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Mattox was third ahead of Michigan’s Joe Bares and Indy’s Travis Berryhill. Kyle Robbins spun on the first lap and found his way to the B. His night would get better.
Max McGhee took the lead on the second lap of the second heat and won. Front row starter Logan Jarrett, a part of the Kokomo gang, was second. Pole sitter Brady Short took third, with Jarret Andretti fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. edged Casey Shuman for the last slot available.
Shane Cottle beat his front row mate Justin Grant to win the last eight lapper. Chris Gurley finished third ahead of Shane’s nephew Colton. Tony DiMattia started and finished fifth in a car the IU student recently bought from the Gentry family.
The sprint B was a yellow flag festival. When Brian Hodde’s checkered waved, it was the Shu winning, and taking with him KRob. Another homeboy, Josh Spencer, beat Canadian Lee Dakus by a right front tire width for third. And Chris Miller grabbed the last transfer over Mike Gass by a Kokomo Speedway pork chop sandwich. .
32 midgets were scattered through the pits with Tracy Hines making a rare non-USAC appearance, preparing to maintain his point lead in the USAC Midget series. Casey Shuman, C.J. Leary, Justin Grant, both Cottles and Michael Koontz were the double dippers, though Leary’s sprinter fell victim to engine gremlins.
Justin Peck has shown for some time now that he can wheel one of these tiny beasts with anyone and he won the first midget heat by a zip code. Kellen Conover, Nick Speidel and Dalton Camfield finished second, third and fourth.
Mr. Bayston started as well as he finished, winning the second midget heat. Justin Grant made a late pass to take second from Austin Prock. Dave Camfield was fourth and would move on.
Shane Cottle had fun in the third heat, winning from the second row. C.J. Leary came from the back to finish second. Wisconsin veteran Scott Hatton grabbed third after starting last and Kevin Studley settled for fourth.
Tracy Hines came from fifth to win the third heat. Casey Shuman started eighth and concluded the race second. Shane Hollingsworth, whose racing is limited these days, was third. Ryan Greth hung on for fourth.
Seymour, Indiana’s Logan Arnold won the B Main, which saw Ken Drangmeister take a mean ride down the backstretch. He was shaken, but okay. Michael Koontz was second, leading Justin Dickerson and Kurt Mayhew to the line.
Dave Darland was scheduled to start the feature on the pole, but while lining up, his Jeff Walker bullet just stopped on the track, unable to refire. This put Cottle on the pole with Max McGhee next to him as the boys took the green flag from Tony Elliott’s son Brandon, one last tribute to a guy who dominated at Kokomo over the years.
Cottle assumed the lead at the start as McGhee dropped back. The first yellow waved for Joe Bares on lap three as Jerry Coons Jr. had taken second from Logan Jarrett. A lap later Brandon Mattox spun. On this re-start, Brady Short had moved into third and was threatening Coons for second. But Jerry was up to that challenge and Justin Grant came on to pass Short midway through the 25 lapper.
Lapped traffic came into play at this time and the third yellow waved for a Grant/Mattox tangle when Justin tried an inside pass. It was Cottle, Coons, Short, Thomas (from 14th), Jarrett, McGhee, Casey Shuman (from 16th) Kyle Robbins (from 17th) and Travis Berryhill. Three laps later, on lap 14, it was McGhee’s turn to spin in turn two.
Cottle kept control but it was time for Kevin Thomas Jr. to shine. After the McGhee yellow, KT was fourth. After a couple of green flag laps, he passed Short and began pressuring Coons for second. There was time to catch Cottle, but, though he did close in somewhat, Thomas had to settle for second behind the local boy.
Coons hung on for third, ahead of Short. Jarrett was fifth. Shu did some serious moving coming in seventh. So did KRob, who finished eighth. Scotty Weir was ninth and Colton Cottle came on at the end to take tenth.
It had been cold and was getting colder but I hung around for both the Thunder Car feature, then the midget finale.
Peck and Bayston led 18 others to Brian Hodde’s green and Tracy Hines promptly spun out in turn three, a very rare event. Justin Peck took the early lead before Shane Cottle, hoping to double up, took the lead as Hines carved his way through the field.
But Cottle’s fine run ended on lap 10 as he coasted into the infield. Peck took the lead and tried mightily to check out, weaving through lapped traffic. Behind him were Shuman, Hines, Bayston and Hollingsworth. Shuman slowed and exited on lap 18 and Bayston passed Hines. But Peck bobbled in turn four and stopped in turn two with a broken torsion stop, bringing out the yellow after Hines had passed Bayston for second, then the lead.
With five laps to go it looked like Hines might complete an impressive recovery, coming from his early spin to lead. On the restart he took the bottom groove and Bayston was alone up top. The kid from Lebanon, home of another outstanding midget racer, kept at it and passed the veteran with three laps to go and sailed home for the pink and white checkered flag (a nod at the fight against breast cancer).
Hines held onto second with Hollingsworth third after starting 12th. Behind Shane was Shelbyville’s Nick Speidel. C.J. Leary was fifth.
It was just past 12:30 a.m., a very rare late night at Kokomo. My phone told me it was 34 degrees in Kokomo. This was the coldest I’d been at a race since March, when I was parked in North Carolina and settling for stock car racin’. It seemed like I had come full circle, but not quite.
I had one more track to say goodbye to before the curtain came down. The ‘burg awaited me and many others. Like folks say, Kokomo never disappoints. They also say “Get your ass to Kokomo” and if you want to see Hoosier sprint car racing at a high level, Kokomo, among others, needs to be on your list.
And unlike my buddy Thomas Wolfe, I was going home again.
This one was for Lloyd and Gail.
Designing new fourth down plays for the Colts, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Cut to the Chase
Despite the nice weather, it was the kind of night that would make promoters look for the sturdiest tree they could find and strike it vigorously with their head. Why? Well, the weather was near perfect, 75 cars jammed the pits, including 25 sprinters, plus there was at least a half dozen potential winners in the feature lineup. The track was ready to yield high speeds, close competition and passes for positions. But one had to remember that a larger form of competition exists outside the confines of TSS.
Multiple fall festivals dotted the landscape throughout the state this past weekend. No doubt some fans and race teams were in Illinois either racing or watching. And surely many people stayed at home watching the St. Louis Cardinals lose to the Chicago Cubs. Most of those fans in southwestern Indiana might have wished that they had gone to the races instead. That part of the state is predominantly Cardinals country (observed the Cincinnati Reds fan).
It would be the usual passing points format with the top 16 in points moving to the feature. The top four in the B Main would transfer too. The top six of the 16 would redraw for starting positions in the show.
But crowd or not, there was a race to run. Kevin Thomas Jr. started on the front row of the first heat and simply checked out, winning by a straightaway. Donnie Brackett came from seventh to take second. Brandon Mattox improved to finish third. Carson Short came from eighth to grab fourth. James Lyerla, Chet Williams, 2015 MSCS Rookie of the Year Brandon Morin and Nick Johnson trailed.
The second heat was loaded with hot dogs, with all the accessories. Chase Stockon passed Brady Short on the seventh lap to see Mo Wills' checkered first. Behind Mr. Short was the ageless Critter Malone. Kyle Cummins struggled to get fourth. Kent Schmidt was next, ahead of Brian Karraker, Kendall Ruble and Dylan Shaw.
Jeff Bland started the third heat seventh and was leading by the third lap. From there he ran away to take the win. Aric Gentry was second. Pat Giddens held off Jadon Rogers for third. Jim Shelton, Patrick Budde and Dave Gross finished up.
Chet Williams took the lead on the second lap and motored away to win the B Main. Dakota Jackson, after a heat race mishap and a family thrashing in the pits to get ready for the B, came from last to second. Patrick Budde was third. Brandon Morin overcame a broken shock, yet still made a late pass of young Kendall Ruble to take the last feature spot available.
Despite MSCS public relations ace Eldon Butcher’s assertion that the lineup he gave me was unofficial, I wasn’t surprised to find out it was correct all the same. Chase Stockon and Jeff Bland led 18 of their playmates to Mo Wills’ green one more time. These two took off and ran one/two, reaching lapped traffic by lap six. But an unwanted Donnie Brackett/Critter Malone meeting in turn four brought out a red flag.
The yellow waved soon enough and the gang lined up behind Mr. Stockon, who led Bland, Mattox, Thomas, Cummins, C. Short, B. Short (who had been honored before the feature for his 2015 MSCS championship), Karraker, Williams (already up from B Main land) and Gentry. Two laps after Mo waved his green flag on the restart, Mattox and Bland banged wheels coming out of turn two, with Brandon immediately sensing something bent or broken. He exited to the relative calm of the infield.
Cummins wasted little time in getting to second and began his chase of Chase. Both pulled away from third place Kevin Thomas. Bland and Brady Short were next as the crossed flags made their appearance.
Easily the highlight of the race was the mastery shown by Stockon in simply attacking lapped traffic. And Cummins was equal to the task, dogging his new neighbor’s tracks (Cummins is from nearby Princeton, while Stockon has moved to near Haubstadt). In, out and through traffic they raced with the leader not able to pull away any farther than six or seven car lengths. Behind them it was much the same for the guys still on the lead lap and even some of the lappers as well.
Stockon had lapped everyone up to sixth place when Brian Karraker slowed on the backstretch. What timing BK had; there was one lap to go. The green and white flags would be waved simultaneously, an honest one lap duel. This was pressure, at least it was potential pressure. But Stockon took care of that. He hit his marks expertly and there was nothing Cummins could do after Mo expertly waved both flags.
It was Stockon’s third MSCS win of 2015.
Behind Cummins was Thomas, who was less than pleased with his effort and finish. The Shorts, no relation, were fourth and fifth, Brady, then Carson. Critter Malone moved from 14th to finish sixth. Bland was seventh with Schmidt coming from 15th to finish eighth. Even more impressive was Williams, starting 17th after winning the B and bringing it home ninth. James Lyerla occupied tenth.
Another final visit to one of my homes away from home and reluctantly I ambled out to my wife’s car. The crowd wasn’t what it could have been; promoters can’t do business if only the hard core fans show up. There’s lots of competing events out there for casual fans, most of which have little to do with racing. But may the Lord have mercy. They missed a great night, from the on track racing to the cheeseburgers to the racing souvenirs.
Sipping a beer every time the TV announcers mention The Chase and getting tipsy quickly, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Race Track Reading 101
Over the years I’ve read most of the novels written by Louis L’Amour. Several of his characters had the ability to “read sign.” That meant they were able to find and keep a trail, often when looking for someone who was missing or an outlaw. In their own way, racers can read sign as well. Many times we’ve seen racers standing at the edge of a track while it’s being reworked, trying to figure out the quick way around. Whether it was Scotty Weir or his car owner Todd Keen plotting their race, the result couldn’t have been better. Seeing that the nonstop wind had finally done a number on the surface of the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Weir went straight for the bottom groove and stayed there pretty much the whole race. His late race pass of Dave Darland gave the pride of Marion, Indiana the victory, his first of the year.
As my growing but still small fellow traveler and I motored northeast to Gas City, it was hard not to have the weather on our minds, well, at least my mind as I struggled to keep the little white Chevy truck on the road. The wind refused to take a break; it certainly wasn’t giving me one either. On we went, not knowing what we’d find for sure, but confident there would be loud and fast sprint cars in our near future.
Sure enough, there they were—at least most of them. 32 sprinters braved the elements to race on this last race of the year for Gas City. There were a few guys in unfamiliar cars, which is not all that uncommon for a local show. Justin Grant was still in the Baldwin Brothers machine. Dave Darland was in the Ohio based Jamie Paul car. Dakota Jackson was in the Stensland 41. Casey Shuman, new owner of the Wingless Auto Series/WAR, was in the 4J normally piloted by Lincoln Park champ Scott Hampton. C.J. Leary was in the S. Pederson owned 4P. A.J. Hopkins was in the Rick Davidson 42.
Four groups of eight did the group qualifying dance. Quickest in their respective pack were Max McGhee, Justin Grant, Kyle Robbins and Critter Malone, making a rare but welcome appearance. The four quickest in each group were inverted for their heats.
Robert Ballou started on the pole and held off Shane Cottle to win the first heat. Max McGhee was third with Canadian Lee Dakus, perhaps wondering if he was back up north in the cooler weather, bringing it to fourth.
Scotty Weir took the second heat, which featured two close battles behind him for position. Logan Jarrett shot to second from his sixth starting position. He kept it, edging Justin Grant to keep the runner-up spot. Chris Gurley beat Brandon Mattox by a wheel to grab the last transfer spot.
The third heat was taken by Dave Darland. Pole sitter Tyler Courtney was second. Kyle Robbins locked himself into the feature with his third place. And Nick Bilbee was fourth, meaning that he’d start 15th later.
A.J. Hopkins passed pole sitter C.J. Leary early to win the fourth heat. Behind Leary was Matt Goodnight. Critter Malone started and finished fourth.
The program was moving right along. All involved were committed, partly because it was so chilly and partly because rain was off to the southeast and heading for Grant County.
Brandon Mattox owned the B Main, holding off fellow front row started Colton Cottle. Casey Shuman was third and had his hands full with a snarling pack immediately behind him. Dakota Jackson made the feature by the length of one of my grandson’s miniature sprint cars. Michigan’s Dustin Ingle had to load up too early.
The redraw put Jarret and Hopkins on the front row, Weir and Courtney on the second. Weir made his move as Brian Hodde’s green flag waved. Scotty went straight to the bottom in turn one while most others went for the middle or top. The track had changed radically from a hammer down surface to one that was feeling the effects of the constant wind and the near 100 cars all over it.
Hopkins took the early lead. Jarrett had a bad start and ran over a right rear tire (Courtney’s?) and nearly flipped in turn four on lap two. Logan didn’t flip, to everyone’s relief seeing that he’s been off for several weeks with the aftermath of head injuries. But he landed hard on the rear tires and Brian waved the red, stopping the action. Jarrett was not hurt, but was done for the night.
Hopkins led as the green hankie waved again with Weir second. Scotty was the man, having figured out this tricky track. But Dave Darland was on the move. After starting seventh, he was fourth on the restart and quickly caught the leader.
Behind the front runners there was a serious dogfight that lasted for several laps with Hopkins, Grant, Robbins, McGhee, Ballou, Leary, Malone and Mattox, who was coming on strong from B Main-land.
Midway through the race Darland made his move, taking the lead, where else, on the high side. Dave spent part of his time taking away Scotty’s low groove but couldn’t stay away from the top, like many others. In other words, it wasn’t a huggy pole parade, far from it.
Max McGhee had been trying slide jobs for all he was worth, but brought out a yellow on the 19th lap. The prime suspects were Darland, Weir, Courtney, Cottle, Ballou, Grant, Mattox (from the B), Leary, Malone and Hopkins. Darland, one would think, had a great chance to wrap this one up, but Weir had other ideas and the execution of those ideas was at the bottom of the track. After a brief tussle with Courtney, Scotty stayed with his plan and it worked. With two laps to go, he got around the leader and rode it home to the checkered.
So what if the elements made for a tricky track? Racers raced, as they are known to do. Behind Weir was Darland, Courtney, Cottle and Ballou. Mattox came from 17th to take sixth from Grant at the end. Leary was eighth. Critter Malone came from 16th to take ninth. And Casey Shuman rambled from 19th to round out the top ten.
The time was 9:25 and an old man with his grandson were frozen with a two hour drive ahead. Saying our goodbyes to yet two other KTs, Mr. Tennant and son (that’s Kevin and Kellen), we headed south.
It was sad to say goodbye to another track for 2015, but it was inevitable. With Bloomington, Terre Haute and Lincoln Park, Gas City joins the list that we won’t be able to haunt again this year. But except for one time, there’s always next year, we can hope.
Saying goodbye to one of my treasured bullrings has been expected, but saying the same to a Hoosier sprint car legend certainly was not as Tony Elliott, with three others, perished in an airplane crash not too far from where I spend my month of March, in the upstate of South Carolina. Quite possibly inclement weather was a cause.
Many tributes to this extraordinary racer and man have already been put in place. It’s difficult to add any more. But one thing occurred to me after I’d had the chance to digest the sad news. As my uncle said about my dad as he spoke at Dad’s funeral, “He never knew a stranger.” It was my uncle the minister’s finest eulogy. Those words surely applied to Tony as well. We can never forget that ever present smile of a guy who was not just a great racer, but a sprint car fan too. RIP, sir.
Soon it’s off to Haubstadt one more time as the leaves begin to turn and the crops are coming in as we speak (thank you, Buddy Baker).
Rounding up the usual suspects, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Winning Ugly
By the time he reached Brad Dickison’s ever present microphone on Saturday night, Brent Beauchamp probably knew what he was going to say. He was happy that he’d won the 25 lap sprint feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway, the last of the year at the entertaining oval just east of Terre Haute, but he wasn’t all that pleased with how he had done it. Beauchamp had taken the lead with a less than perfect slide job on race long leader Jeff Bland with three to go. As he said to Brad at the start/finish line after the race, it wasn’t the way he wanted to win it. But, needless to say, he took the win, the trophy and the money, as racers do.
My last trip to beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana was uneventful—unless one counted the several drops of rain that periodically caused me to activate my windshield wipers, which kept saying, “make up your mind” to me all the way to Mooresville.
Sprint cars accounted for 21 of the 99 cars in the Joe Spiker pit garden. Several were at either Eldora for the Four Crown or the Tri-State Speedway for the MSCS sprints and the POWRi midgets. One shouldn’t worry about who is or is not at a given race; one should appreciate those who are there. Tonight some guys who don’t get to run up front all the time would do so.
The first heat had its drama. Ethan Barrow, in his first outing in a long time, shared his right rear tire with J. J. Hughes coming to the green. He led until a slight bobble put Hughes into the lead coming to the white flag. But J. J. got the left front up in the air coming out of turn two and broke the right front. Barrow regained the lead and won with Mitch Wissmiller, who had been gaining on the leaders, taking second from a limping Hughes at the line. Lee Underwood was fourth with Jaden Rogers, Eric Burns and Jamie Fredrickson trailing.
The second heat was tamer. Jeff Bland started on the pole and led all the way. Hunter O'Neal was second and Travis Berryhill came from last to take third. Jake Henderson, who spent most of his Saturdays this year at Paragon, edged Connor Donelson for fourth. Ben Phillips was sixth, ahead of David Hair.
The third and final heat was vintage Lincoln Park. Most every lap saw at least one position change. Brent Beauchamp shot from fifth to second on the first lap, then passed the ageless Troy Link for the lead a couple of laps later for the win. Shelby van Gilder was third, holding off 2015 Lincoln Park Speedway champ Scott Hampton. Kevin Studley, Chris Babcock and Dylan Shaw trailed.
After my last bar-b-que sandwich (thank you again, Bill Gardner), the support class heats, and the year-end awards presentations, it was time for the last feature at LPS this year.
The Killer B’s, Barrow, Bland and Beauchamp, occupied the first three spots in the A, along with Mitch Wissmiller. But Mitch brought out the first yellow as he barreled into turn three a bit too hot. He didn’t come close to tagging one of the billboards, but he did spin to a stop. On the complete restart, Troy Link got into the front stretch wall and dropped out. Bland led early and the next yellow waved on lap three.
Most all were sticking to the high side and three laps later the third yellow flag appeared. This one was full moon material as Ben Phillips and Steve Hair tangled. Shelby van Gilder stopped on track and Jamie Fredrickson spun at the other end of the original yellow.
The prime suspects were Bland, Beauchamp, Barrow, Hunter O’Neal, and Travis Berryhill—with Hampton, Hughes, Underwood, Donelson and the ageless Eric Burns making up the second five. This green flag segment lasted four laps until the yellow came out when Dylan Shaw spun in front of the leaders. Nothing had changed in front but Hampton had moved to fifth.
Slide jobs seemed to be the best way to pass. So far there had been no contact. The fifth caution flag waved on lap 15 after contact between Wissmiller and Donelson. It was still the B’s up front with Hampton fourth. Hughes was next with O’Neal, Berryhill, Wissmiller, Kevin Studley and L. Underwood the top ten.
Beauchamp had been right on Bland much of the time and made the pass on lap 19 with a less than pretty slider. But yellow number six waved when Shaw spun. No word if Beauchamp flipped the bird to the young man, but Brent did appear to signal to Bland that he knew the slider wasn’t too great.
On the last restart, Bland took off and pulled away briefly. But Beauchamp was coming on and tried another slider going into turn one. Again, it wasn’t an artistic success and Bland found himself over the turn two cushion—and in second place. And that was it as Beauchamp went on to win.
In the post-race interview, Brent was not overly happy with himself, saying that it wasn’t the way he wanted to win. But like most racers, he’d take it.
Behind Bland was Barrow and track champ Hampton. Hughes was fifth. O’Neal, Berryhill, Wissmiller (who came from the tail after his early spin), Studley (from 15th) and Jadon Rogers were the top half.
Don’t be fooled. Unless you are a die-hard partisan fan of Jeff Bland or whoever, the race winning move wasn’t a dirty one. And Brent Beauchamp isn’t a dirty driver. He knew it wasn’t his best move on the race track and that was that.
Having said that, I’m no fan of slide jobs because…all too often they end up with someone either making contact or else impeding the progress of the passed car, which was what happened on Saturday night. Granted they are certainly legal and when executed perfectly, they can be worth watching and appreciating.
Having said that, I’m a Brent Beauchamp fan—just as I’m a Jeff Bland fan. They are two young men who represent our passion well and their efforts are appreciated by many, including me.
Good-bye Lincoln Park—till we meet again.
Messing with Sasquatch one time too many, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: From Over the Fence to Victory Lane
In the blink of an eye, fortunes can easily become misfortunes. Sometimes in a different context changes aren't that quick. Nevertheless they are no less appreciated. Just ask Brady Short, who two weeks ago found himself sailing over the turn two fence at the Tri-State-Speedway. Fortunately his only discomfort was only a few extra aches and pains, the kind that one notices after a few years pass. But on a cool Saturday night at the fabled bullring in southwestern Indiana, Short returned to the scene of his scary ride and won the Haubstadt Hustler. With that win, Brady walked away with $10,000 after taking the lead when race long leader Kyle Cummins collided with a stationary car.
The rain and humidity had passed through the southern part of Indiana, replaced by cooler temperatures and a breeze out of the north. It was a long and leisurely drive on interstates 65 and 64.
I arrived at the track to find 30 sprinters waiting on me. The Hustler was a co-sanctioned affair between USAC and the MSCS. The feature would be 40 laps, almost an enduro for sprints in these parts. The passing point system would be used; heat races lineups were determined by the draw. The top 16 in passing points were locked into the feature.
The first heat began with a barrel full of ugly. A scramble at the start left Mike Terry Jr. with a flat tire. On the second try Nick Johnson got sideways and eventually Robert Ballou, Shane Cottle, C. J. Leary and Justin Grant were all collected. Ballou and Cottle were done for the race as Robert tipped it over. Dave Darland ended up winning with Leary second. Remember Mike Terry Jr.? He came back to finish third. Grant recovered to take fourth. Johnson, Robert Bell, Ballou and Cottle trailed.
The second heat was relatively tame. Kyle Cummins won with Chris Windom second. Chase Stockon moved up to third. Thomas Meseraull came from last to fourth. Jon Stanbrough, Aaron Farney, Jeff Bland and James Lyerla finished the rundown.
The third heat began on a sour note as Kevin Thomas Jr. slid into Chet Williams, bringing out a yellow. Williams was not overjoyed and let KT know it. Brady Bacon won from the pole with Daron Clayton, back to try and repeat last year's remarkable win, second. Short, Thomas, Brandon Mattox, Williams and Chad Boespflug followed.
Donnie Brackett impressed as he won the last of the heats. So did Dakota Jackson who finished second. Tracy Hines took third. Kent Schmidt banged wheels with Carson Short and was fourth. Short, Lee Dakus and Hunter Schuerenberg trailed.
The B main had its ugly moments. C. Short tipped over in turn four before a lap was completed. His long shot at the MSCS title got a lot longer. There was a turn four scramble on the restart, but the real fun was in turn two. Jeff Bland flipped with Jon Stanbrough trying and failing to miss the mess. He would burn a provisional later. Things settled down and Brandon Mattox won, some redemption after missing the show 24 hours earlier. Farney was second. Schuerenberg came from ninth to third. Ballou started 11th and finished fourth while Shane Cottle motored from 12th to fifth. Finally Chad Boespflug came from 13th to grab the last spot for the feature. Stanbrough and Lyerla used provisionals.
Passing points put two local favorites, Clayton and Cummins, in the front row. Yet again, a race got off to a rough start. Windom and Lyerla spun in turn one of the first lap. Trying again, this time Grant bounced to a stop in turn three. By now it was evident that Clayton had an ill handling beast on his hands. Soon he would exit the race.
This left Cummins in the lead and he tried to check out. By the time the next yellow waved on the ninth lap, Kyle was lapping people. Mo Wills waved the hankie when Hunter Schuerenberg got sideways and collected Stanbrough. There was still 31 laps to go and Cummins led Jackson, Leary, B. Short, Brackett, Bacon, Thomas, Darland, Meseraull and Stockon. One should have noted that Short had started 12th.
On the restart, Cummins motored away again, but Short was making his way to the front. Three laps after the restart he passed Leary for third. Then the Bedford Blaster (well, that’s what announcers call him) passed Jackson for second and he could see the white 3R car, which soon entered lapped traffic almost at the halfway mark. As Kyle negotiated the lappers, the Pottorff-mobile was gaining. Could it be? Would this be another wild finish?
Not exactly. As lap 35 approached it seemed that the margin between Cummins and Short had stabilized. Maybe the local (Princeton) kid would walk away with a nice pile of cash. But on lap 35 that pile wasn’t cash, if you get my drift. A tangle right at the start/finish line left Aaron Farney sitting in the groove. Cummins tried to miss him but instead his right rear caught Farney’s car. With a snap of the fingers, his race and outstanding effort was over. And guess who was now leading? Yep.
But wait. While most all were watching the Cummins-Short battle Kevin Thomas Jr. had made his way up to second. My knowledgeable USAC source said that KT had not won a USAC race since way back in February way down in Florida. This told me that the kid might be both hungry and anxious. But it wasn’t to be.
On the restart Short gradually pulled away and was the first to spot Mo’s checkered flag. Thomas settled for second. Jackson had a simply outstanding effort, the best I’ve seen him race in some time. The young man from Elizabethtown, Indiana was third and Brady Bacon was fourth. Stockon passed Darland late for fifth. Ballou had to make do with the Hard Charger award and money, coming from 20th to seventh. Windom came back from his early spin to take eighth. Leary was ninth and Meseraull tenth.
The quote of the night came from Dakota Jackson, who said, “…I was just running the race of my life and having so much fun running up there with those guys.”
For Brady Short, it was redemption of sorts. His flight over the fence two weeks earlier faded a bit more into the mists of memory, though it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He started the night by accepting from yours truly the way too cool helmet for winning the King of Indiana Sprint Series championship again this year. After congratulating him on behalf of the 2015 KISS promoters and staff (Terre Haute, Gas City, Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, Bloomington, Tri-State and Paragon), he was asked if he’d put this one on the shelf to admire or would he use it? Guess it’s going on the shelf and will be a reminder of what’s been a special year for Short and the Pottorff team.
It was time for the long trip home via Vincennes to visit more family and then head east.
Loaning Donald Trump my selfie stick, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Seizing the moment
Most all of us have encountered situations that were urgent and needed a decision made quickly, as in a matter of days, hours or even minutes. And there may be times, especially while driving down the highway, that we need to make a very quick decision and hope it's the best. Robert Ballou found himself in a spot like that on a warm and humid Hoosier night at the Terre Haute Action Track. When leader Chris Windom bounced off the turn two wall on lap 27, Ballou had a quick decision to make. It put him in the lead and he went on to grab his first feature win at Terre Haute and his 10th USAC win of the year.
This would be the first of a two night treat, USAC sprints at Terre Haute, followed by the Haubstadt Hustler on Saturday a few miles south on U.S. 41. This one was named for two distinguished people in racing, Tony Hulman and Jim Hurtubise. Each in their own way gave much to this sport we all love.
There was a threat of rain; in fact Terre Haute had a fairly heavy shower on Friday morning. It headed east and I encountered scattered sprinkles on my way to Bloomington for lunch with a good friend who has taken the name of Mike O’Leary. From there it was go (north) west young man. Visiting with family in Terre Haute and then time to head to the track.
27 hungry racers stopped by for a few cheeseburgers and hot laps. Thomas Meseraull was in the Chuck Amati Racing Team’s hot rod, replacing Chad Boespflug who was in the Krockenberger family tradition.
In qualifying, the track stayed fast. Maybe the cloud cover helped. At any rate, Jerry Coons Jr. went out 26th and ripped off a 20.490.
Robert Ballou stated his case very well in the first heat, coming from third to first on the first lap in winning the first heat. Incredibly, Jon Stanbrough spun in turn four. Chase Stockon tried to miss him, but didn’t. Stanbrough restarted while Stockon headed for the pits and the B. Meseraull was second in his Amati debut. Coons was third with Indiana Sprint Week/Terre Haute winner Aaron Farney fourth. Stanbrough came back to finish fifth.
Brady Short led all the way to win the second heat. Shane Cottle gave him enough discomfort to last awhile, but settled for second. Chris Windom was third and Hunter Schuerenberg brought the Jeff Walker speed wagon in fourth. Kyle Robbins hung on for fifth.
C.J. Leary did a fine job of holding off Dave Darland to win the third heat. Behind DD was newlywed Kevin Thomas Jr. Justin Grant started and finished fourth. Tracy Hines brought out his backup car and had to start last. But he finished fifth and transferred into the show, even though he’d start last again.
Chase Stockon led 11 and one quarter laps of the B Main. But Brady Bacon made the pass in turn two of the last lap and won by a car length. Tyler Courtney was third. Jarett Andretti was fourth ahead of J.J. Hughes, who had a race long battle with sprint car rookie Mario Clouser. Chad Boespflug started and finished seventh.
Windom and Stanbrough were the first to see Mo Wills waving the green at them. Up next would be Thomas, Schuerenberg, Darland, Coons, Bacon, Stockon, Grant and Ballou. A mad scramble commenced immediately in turn one. While those ahead of him seemed to dither (actually fight for position), Darland sneaked low and grabbed the lead coming out of turn two. Ol’ Dave promptly began to check out and leave all others behind. As lightning made an appearance to the north, Darland was as fast as greased lightning, as it were. By lap eight he was a straightaway ahead of Thomas and Windom, plus Darland had already reached lapped traffic.
Ballou was busy too. From tenth he was sixth by lap four. Three laps later he was fifth. Another lap and he’d climbed to fourth and wasn’t done. And then came the first game changer.
Mario Clouser’s good night went bad in an instant as he flipped in turn two. Darland probably groaned as did his fans (I know this because I was sitting with one of them.). His huge six plus second lead was gone. Not only that, there was only one lapped car between him and his nearest pursuers.
Darland wasn’t the only one groaning (or offering various choice words). During the red Brady Bacon was pushed into the pits with a flat right rear tire, giving up fifth place.
The restart order was Darland, Windom, Ballou, Thomas, Stanbrough, Schuerneberg, Coons, Stockon, Cottle and Grant. A few things needed to be noted after the green waved. With Jarett Andretti opting to go to the rear, there was only one lapped car between Darland and Windom. Stanbrough and Thomas had a terrific fight for fourth place with Jon eventually making the pass of the Alabama native. And even more noticeable, Darland wasn’t able to stretch out his lead as he had done at the race’s beginning.
We had, for a few laps, a three car battle for the lead. Soon enough, lapped traffic came into play for the leaders, who were nearly a half straightaway ahead of fourth place Stanbrough. First Windom struck, passing for the lead in turn two on lap 23. Ballou was next, getting around the People’s Champ for second. Robert now had the leader in sight and seven more laps to make some noise. Then it happened, another turning point of the race. Windom had a decent lead when he smacked the wall in turn two (it was a wonder how many others kept from doing that). As Chris fought to regain control of his car, Ballou made his move, took the lead and led the last three laps of the race.
Ballou had seized the moment and made the most of it.
For the first time since J.J. Yeley’s 13 win season in 2003, a USAC racer had double digit feature wins.
Darland held on for third with Stanbrough fourth. Coons was fifth, trailed by Thomas, Stockon, Leary (from 18th), Bacon (nice recovery from the early flat tire) and Tyler Courtney, who walked away with the Hard Charger award (and some spending money) for coming from 21st to tenth.
Post-race, as the crowd filed out, I watched the top five finishers and their cars parked on the front straight. Four of them smiled painful smiles as they signed autographs and had maybe hundreds of pictures taken. They might vigorously disagree, but in some eyes and ways, they, too, were winners. Quite a few kids and a few adults walked away from their brief meetings with the top five runners quite happy—as it should be.
The best post-race comment came from the winner: “Sometimes, you have to have some luck, and it's especially true coming from tenth to win here." This statement is partly true. One must take advantage of that elusive luck and run with it. Ballou certainly did that.
As this is written, the Haubstadt Hustler is a few hours away. I’m thankful for the hour that I’ll gain driving there. A king is scheduled to be crowned and I have the crown.
As is the case most weekends, many Hoosier sprint car fans may wish they could be cloned. Both Lawrenceburg and Lincoln Park are running tonight. Any crackpot inventors in the house?
Trying not to make a fool of myself on social media and everywhere else—and failing—I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Restarts Matter
C.J. Leary found out the hard way that restarts matter. On a chilly Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Leary was surprised by Brent Beauchamp, who briefly took the lead during the sprints’ 25 lap feature. But later in the race, Leary showed that he’d learned his lesson. Oftentimes a restart can change a racer’s race into a direction that one wishes to avoid. And another lesson learned was that a good racer never stops learning. It’s a never-ending process, this learning deal. Not unlike life itself.
Summer took Saturday off and this meant folks bundled up a bit before venturing outside. Shorts were replaced by long pants. T-shirts were covered by coats and jackets. I figured that if I was going to be cold, I may as well go see a race.
32 sprints helped jam the pits as 120 cars occupied much of the town of Putnamville. All cars had their hot laps and then…rain fell. A brief shower delayed things an hour or so. Blue skies were visible and the radar on my phone showed a tiny green dot—right over the track apparently.
The green flag waved at 8:15 for the first heat and the program ran like a clock the rest of the night. Brent Beauchamp took the lead on the second lap and won. C.J. Leary came from sixth to second. Kyle Robbins came from seventh to finish third. Jadon Rogers took fourth.
Front row starters of the second heat Troy Link and Bub Cummings ran side by side for a lap before colliding at the start/finish line. In the temporary craziness, Mike Gass sneaked through the crowd and took the lead. He checked out and led the rest of the way—after starting sixth. Cummings was second with Austin Prock third. LPS point leader Scott Hampton was fourth.
Jeff Bland won the third heat as two of the eight cars scheduled scratched. A.J. Hopkins was second. Shane Cockrum, in town to drive the Jamie Paul car, was third. J.J. Hughes, engine smoking and firing, passed Brandon Mattox late to take the last transfer.
Max McGhee came from third to lead all the way in the fourth heat. Chad Boespflug, second to Hampton in points, was in the Krockenberger machine for the night. He was second. Lee Underwood hung tough to take third. Jordan Kinser would start 16th in the feature, a tidbit worth remembering.
Troy Link may have led the first half of the B, but Brandon Mattox came on to grab the lead and win. Brandon Morin was second. Braxton Cummings and Mr. Link would start in the last row of the feature. Hot on Troy’s heels were Chris Babcock, Chris Gurely and Pat Giddens.
Bub Cummings and Leary were the front row for the feature and Leary took the early lead. Mattox brought out the first yellow on lap five, slowing Leary’s march. McGhee and Beauchamp trailed.
Beauchamp got around McGhee on the restart as Leary began to check out. But Hopkins lost a driveline on the front stretch and another yellow waved, courtesy of Brian Hodde.
It was Leary, Beauchamp, McGhee, Bland, Bub Cummings, Boespflug, Cockrum, Hampton, Prock and Kinser, from 16th to tenth in 11 laps. Beauchamp grabbed the lead on this restart, but Hughes stopped in turn three before a lap was completed. Brent had to give it back. C.J. took notice.
It didn’t happen on this restart. Leary controlled this session, which lasted until lap 18 when McGhee slid into Bland, who stopped in turn four. The top ten was shuffled a bit. Leary, Beauchamp, McGhee, Boespflug, Cockrum, Bub Cummings, Kinser, Hampton, Mattox and Kyle Robbins.
Up front nothing changed in the final seven laps. It was Leary all the way. Second through fifth stayed the same. Kinser moved to sixth after starting 16th. Robbins made a late charge to take seventh. Bub faded a bit to eighth. Hampton was ninth and ended up in turn one facing the wrong way after the checkered. He was not thrilled with Mattox, who had started 17th, dropped to last and made his way to tenth.
The close point race drew more of my attention than normal. Hampton finished as the 2015 Lincoln Park champ, leading Boespflug by one point at the end.
We’ll never know if Mr. Leary would have passed Mr. Beauchamp because another yellow flag waved before he had the chance. The restart was quite important as it turned out.
I’m reminded of the shower that could have washed out the festivities but didn’t. In a sense, the resumption of the program was a restart. And it was good. Sometimes life is like that.
Trying to sell my work ethic on eBay, I’m…
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Copyright © 2016 by "Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News." Do not reproduce anything from these pages without the permission of the photographers, writers or webmaster.
Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News,PO Box 42, Drums PA 18222-0042