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The Hoosier Race Report
by Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: That Time of Year
This very evening many Hoosiers are escaping the nasty weather that so often visits Indiana in February. Many of those are in Florida, shivering in the (relatively) cold winter nights and either watching sprint car racing, working on cars or actually racing. All of them are no doubt a tad chilly. And they simply could not wait for spring’s arrival. Like them, the rest of us up here shoveling snow and bundling up to go outside have high hopes.
It is both difficult and sad to imagine a life with no hope; it’s hardly a life at all and way too many people in this world are in that pitiful situation. Those of us who are not should take inventory every so often and be thankful. That would include sprint car fans for sure.
For those in the racing community that don’t head for warmer climates than our Midwestern winters, hope is essential. This includes promoters who show that theirs is a full time job as they hustle for sponsors, talk with sanctioning bodies and maybe even other promoters, then come up with a schedule that is most always tentative.
Racers and/or car owners spend the winter building up their own hopes. Those who don’t travel south stay home and maybe catch an indoor race (if they can get a ride), schmooze with a sponsor or two, and either A. work on their car or B. buy a new car. Most often it is A. They, too, decide what their schedule will be and this, too, shall be a tentative schedule. Many follow the money. Some run for points, be it an individual track or a sanctioning body (here it’s USAC, MSCS, or BOSS). A few are loyal to a track and/or a promoter. Those who can afford it head for Florida.
Meanwhile fans try to hold on until spring by catching an indoor race, watching reruns of races online, haunting message boards and making up their own schedules. Depending on gas prices, some may wander a bit farther from home for a big race. In the Hoosier state, fans still working schedule vacations around Indiana Sprint Week or Indiana Midget Week—if not both.
The one thing all these people have in common is, what else, hope. Other than baseball, no other sport in the Northern Hemisphere begins in the late winter/early spring. To these aging eyes, this seems natural. (Nor is it an accident that Easter, in both its pagan and Christian beginnings, is in the spring.)
It’s a sometimes mean and dark world out there and, when they can, people need an escape from it. For us, that means losing ourselves in the tiny corner of the world called sprint car racing. Most of us want someone to cheer (and boo) while others merely enjoy what we see. This passion offers us hope when there are many other places we go offering little or no hope. For one evening, we can be inspired by what we see, racers who are like us but also different. We can identify with and admire the Dave Darlands of at least the Hoosier sprint car scene, a gentleman with a direct link to the working person whose achievements have been impressive indeed.
Despite all the snow that many of us see these days, we are helped along by the knowledge that spring approaches. The temperatures will rise, the snow will melt and racing will begin—or at least will try to begin. Never mind the racing in Florida, our Pennsylvania cousins have already begun making the attempt to race while we Hoosiers will wait another month or so. Watching videos is great but experiencing all the action in person has no equal.
After all these years, the itch is alive and well. Spring training is about to begin and the sights and sounds of sprint car engines can’t be too far off. (It’s somewhat humorous—and maybe understandable—that my personal 2015 season opener will be in North Carolina, not exactly a hotbed of sprint car racing.)
This was written between bouts of shoveling snow. But even while my grandson and I were shoveling, visions of the red clay high banks of Bloomington, the Tri-State/Haubstadt tractor show, the Lincoln Park popcorn, the Kokomo pork chop sandwich, the Lawrenceburg state of the art grandstands, the tiny dirt pellets of Gas City, the timeless and rustic beauty of Paragon and the lightning fast speeds of Terre Haute all inspire me to keep shoveling, as it were.
Soon we’re off to the mountains of North Carolina for lots of reading, writing, relaxing and…watching our fendered brethren mix it up at a few Carolina bullrings. We have hopes of enjoying ourselves and of coming back to yet another season of seeing some talented people do what they do best.
Hoping that Kurt Busch will eventually get it, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Backwards Destination
The old racer lay in an antiseptic room, breathing his last. He was ready, more or less. He believed that his suffering would be over soon, and was willing to admit that there was a bit of apprehension on his part, not knowing what was ahead of him. But his recent talks with the preacher had made him feel much better and he was at peace. He believed that soon he’d be reunited with his late wife and lots of other friends and family. At the very least he wanted to believe. He had plenty of hope.
He may or may not have dozed off, but at any rate, he had traveled back 20 years or so. He could see himself as he prepared for his last feature. Somewhere way out West, he could recall the feeling. He had high hopes of winning the 30 lap feature, or at least finishing well. It had been a good career overall. Granted, he’d been gone from home too many times, but he had a family that needed and deserved a decent reward for his absences.
For this last race, his wife and two of their three kids were able to make the trip west. In his mind’s eye (or somewhere) he could see Doreen and the kids waving at him as he slowly circled the track before the feature. Then there he was, racing for 30 laps, hoping for a good finish.
Alas, he wasn’t going to win, but third place wasn’t a bad way to go out. After the winner had been interviewed, he was asked the usual retirement type questions. The only one answer he could recall had to do with hoping to spend more time with the family, helping Doreen at her flower shop and, of course, indulging the grandkids’ every whim.
Had anyone been in his room at that moment, they might have seen a slight smile on his face. But his kids weren’t there yet. They were on their way, along with the grandkids.
As he climbed back into the car one more time for the push back to the pits, he couldn’t help but think back 25 more years or so. He smiled inwardly, thinking of the old bomber that he bought after saving up the money. With some things gifted, others borrowed and still other things purchased on the cheap, he went racing with quite a few hopes and dreams.
His first race was a heat race and, being a rookie, he started on the tail. He was on his way to the front when another driver spun in front of him. Luckily, the damage wasn’t too bad and he was able to make the feature after finishing third in the B, his first complete race.
Two years later he’d get his first ride in a sprint car, which had been his goal from the beginning.
Ah, the beginning. Where was it? In his mind (or somewhere) he went back 15 more years. He could now picture himself and his dad at a race. It was a long gone race track and lots of home made contraptions filled the infield. They were called supermodifieds back then and the little boy was overjoyed at the sight.
Despite the dust and the crashes, the boy was hooked. For several days it was all he could talk about. The other kids at school must have thought he was a bit weird, but he didn’t care. He loved watching those races and would bug his dad to go. Thankfully, his dad was quite happy to take him along and sometimes his mom and kid sister went too.
As the now old man lay there his slight smile reigned over his face, despite the pain and the sense that he was slipping away. He was conscious enough to know where he was and he knew that his family was on their way. He hoped he could hold on until then.
But it simply wasn’t meant to be. His eyes closed and he stepped into that great unknown, at least to those still living. His smile was still there. Folks might wonder why the smile, but his good friends and family would know.
His family arrived less than two minutes after he slipped away. A nurse was already there trying to get a response from him with no luck. She looked up at the family and burst into tears.
“I tried, really I did,” she told them.
The old racer’s son stood quietly, gazing at the smile on the old man’s face. He hugged his wife and said, “It’s okay, honey. Look at that smile. He took the checkered flag with a smile. How many people do that?” The son smiled himself, in spite of his tears.
His kid sister, who had flown in earlier that day, stepped to the bed and held her daddy’s hand for the very last time.
“Good-bye, Dad. Tell Mom hello for us.” She straightened up and gave her sister-in-law a hug, as well as her big brother, who had kept the tradition alive by going to races with his dad as much as he could. Both had tears, mostly of sadness but with a good bit of joy as well. Joy, along with hope, was what this is about.
It’s easy for us to forget that racers are “people,” too in that they have their own set of hopes and dreams. They may approach life in a vastly different way than the rest of us, but they, too, have families. They, too, know heartache and risk. And, for the most part, they, too, are allowed to live out their lives and see the generations coming up behind them.
As my favorite holiday arrives later this month, may we all look around and find things that we can call blessings. If we wrote out a list of things that we are thankful for, quite a few of us might have to take a break due to sitting in one spot too long.
I know this because I’m one of those people. And the old racer in this story was surely another one.
Eagerly awaiting the next version of the “Chase,” I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: One Missing Cape
Om a chilly Friday night, C.J. Leary wasn’t happy to tug on Superman’s cape. Nah. He stole it and made it his own. All he did at the opening night of the Kokomo Klash was take away the lead from no less than Dave Darland, a superman and legend in our little world of Hoosier sprint car racing midway through the feature and mosey on to win over a strong field of cars and racers.
Dave had a good night all the same as he won the Mighty Midgets 25 lap feature over Shane Cottle. And with about 100 cars in the pits along with a healthy sized, though frozen, crowd, the promoters had to be smiling at the fine front gate as well as shaking their heads at what race fans will endure to get their racing fix.
Of those 100 or so, 34 were sprints. Sprint car racing has some ride buying, but more common is ride hopping, either for one night or a longer period (“for the time being”). Jamie Fredrickson’s son Parker was in the family 58. A pair of S. Simon cars was in the house with Scotty Weir and Dallas Hewitt behind the wheel(s). Jon Stanbrough was back in the Wade 66. Robert Ballou had a ride in one of Ray Marshall’s bullets. Thomas Meseraull had taken over the Keen 18 machine. (Nice rhyming, eh?) Dave Darland occasionally has an outing with Jeff Walker and that would be the case tonight. Chad Boespflug was still in the Baldwin brothers’ orange crush. Shane Cottle showed up in the Olson brothers’ 77. Michael Koontz arrived with both a midget and a sprint. And Texan Peyton Pierce, who impressed on his last visit here, was back.
In southern Indiana the temperature was 69 when I left, with sunny skies. By the time I reached Kokomo, normally a two hour drive via white Chevy trucks, it was 62, cloudy, windy and getting cooler by the minute. Naturally there was an impressive crowd, proving that race fans, at least in Indiana, are seriously deranged.
After freezing near the top row with Richie and Keith, I retreated to row three for much of the night, with one J. Hoover, behind Big Steve until he disappeared. How does one lose a guy who hasn’t seen 250 pounds since the Clinton Administration?
Shane Cottle did his best to disappear in the first heat, but settled for merely winning. Thomas Meseraull, getting used to his new ride, took second on the last lap as early leader Jon Stanbrough nearly stopped in turn two before recovering to take third over S. Weir.
Dave Darland came from third to first in winning the second heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second and Justin Grant ran third. Robert Ballou grabbed the last spot for the feature. Chad Boespflug’s motor began smoking before flames appeared. He guided the speedy grill into the infield, finding a fuel line that had come loose. Well, at least he discovered that his fire suit worked. Chad would return later.
A.J. Hopkins won the third heat; like Darland, he came from third. Brady Short, making a rare trip north, was second. Pole sitter Bill Rose was third. Michael Koontz was fourth.
The fourth heat’s pole sitter, Chase Stockon, won with C.J. Leary second. Kyle Robbins started and finished third. Dallas Hewitt, making a rare Hoosier visit, took fourth over a hard charging Bryan Clauson, who biked it in turn four and nearly went over.
Running two 9 car B’s made semse, with the top two moving on. But the other classes had heats to run first.
Shane Hollingsworth won the first midget heat with underfunded but not untalented Chet Gehrke second. Gage Walker was third. Kevin Studley took fourth at the line, edging out Patrick Bruns.
Dave Darland, one of four double dippers, won the second heat over Trey Marchum. Another doubler, Michael Koontz, was third. Yet another, TMez, took fourth. Nick Spiedel edged Kurt Mayhew for the transfer.
Shane Cottle, the last of the four doing double duty, had a huge margin in the fourth heat when he slowed coming to the checkered. Spencer Bayston found himself winning after starting last. Tate Martz came from seventh to take second. Kyle Schuett was third and Ross Rankine, in one of three 39s in the field, was fourth. Justin Dickerson edged Cottle, who coasted across the line.
Back to the sprinters….Logan Jarrett started on the pole for the first B Main and won by a long straightaway. Travis Hery grabbed second. Only the top two moved on, but Jarett Andretti gave it a good try, coming from ninth/last to fourth.
Chris Gurley took the early lead of the second B, but his fellow occupier of the front row, Bryan Clauson, was just getting warmed up. BC took the lead on the second lap and won. Gurley had his hands full, holding off Chad Boespflug for several laps. Chris took second by a car length.
As it turned out, Boespflug would make the feature after all. Along with Josh Spencer, he would earn a provisional, a move that was communicated before the races started. For these two, their faithfulness in showing up every night and running well enough to finish high in the points would be rewarded.
Shane Cottle had no faltering machine in the midgets’ B. He won by a healthy margin over Alex Watson, Kurt Mayhew, Logan Arnold and Andrew Henning.
More than one person present no doubt said or thought that the sprint feature would be a cakewalk for Dave Darland, who had drawn the pole with S. Cottle on the outside, Meseraull and Leary in the second row. Bryan Clauson would need some timely yellows and a couple of other breaks to challenge from his 18th starting spot.
Sure enough, DD took the early lead over Cottle, who did a half spin in turn four on the third lap. Coons was collected and ran over an infield tire, nearly tipping it over. Grant slid to a stop as well.
Coons had a flat tire and was pushed to the pits, which brought forth a bit of controversy. During the drivers’ meeting the statement was made that should anyone pull off the track they were done for the evening. Apparently this rule was a one time only policy. And Jerry was a victim and not overly thrilled by it. The 2013 winner of this race would not win consecutive Klashes.
The re-grouping saw Darland ahead of Cottle, Leary, TMez, Stockon, Hopkins, Stanbrough, Short, Robbins and Rose. Clauson was already 13th. And when Cottle pulled off, BC advanced one.
So did Leary, who had Darland right where he wanted him, as it turned out. Two laps after the re-start, Leary did his cape stealing act—and there was nothing that “Superman” Dave could do about it. Leary led the rest of the way and was never threatened.
But behind the leader there was racin’, Kokomo style. On the ninth lap a yellow waved for an errant infield tire. Leary and Darland led Meseraull, Stockon, Stanbrough, Hopkins, Ballou (from 14th), Robbins, Clauson and Short. With the green waving, Stockon and Stanbrough showed ‘em all how it’s done as they fought tooth and nails for position, neither giving or taking anything less than the other’s best effort.
Around lap 15, lapped traffic began to play a role in the 25 lap drama. But a lap later the yellow waved for Scotty Weir. Meseraull had passed Darland; Thomas was enjoying this new gig with the Keen-mobile. Ballou was up to sixth. And Clauson had made it to seventh. Jarrett and Grant had invaded the top ten. On a track that had been both a bit choppy and lightning fast earlier, it was now a track where people could, and did, pass.
The race’s final re-start saw Ballou get a monster lap as he passed both Stockon and Stanbrough; Robert was enjoying his one night stand (or maybe not) in Ray Marshall’s yellow cannon. Up front Darland got around Meseraull for second. But no one had anything for Chuck Leary’s kid, who has seemed to improve week by week.
At the end it was C.J., Dave, Thomas, Robert, Chase, Bryan, Jon, Logan, Justin and Chad. (This is how my grandson knows these guys so I’m accommodating him. And yes, he knows there’s more than one Logan and Chase, for example.)
Leary wore the cape quite well. But Darland wasn’t done. He and few others had another race to run.
Shane Hollingsworth and Mr. D. shared the front row of the 25 lap midget feature. Darland grabbed the lead and held it for the first half of the race before Hollingsworth took over in lapped traffic.
This lasted only about four laps before Dave came calling again, taking a lead he’d not give back.
The best run most missed was that of Cottle’s. This Shane started 16th, entered the top ten within the first five laps and was sixth when a lap six yellow flew. At the halfway mark he was fourth. He was second and may have had something for Darland, but we’ll never know.
Didn’t matter; Dave won and Shane made it a Kokomo resident sweep of the top two spots. Hollingsworth was third with Spencer Bayston fourth. His teammate Trey Marchum took fifth. Gehrke finished sixth in the Don Moore Special. Tate Martz, Thomas Meseraull, Gage Walker and Alex Watson (from 18th) found some top ten money.
That’s a wrap for my sprint car racing this year. It’s been a full season with a lot of good and too much bad. But sometimes that’s life. (Cues up Frank Sinatra.)
Treating my bad back, caused by carrying bail money for NFL felons, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Defining Terms
One thing that people need to realize is that a given word can have varying definitions, or, to put it another way, a given word can have different definitions to different people.
Another thing people should remember is that certain words, or to be specific, superlatives are tossed about and either overused or misused. That brings us to a word that is, in my opinion, grossly abused. That word is “hero.” I’ll describe briefly a young man who is a hero, but not for the reasons that people, specifically race fans, might think.
That young man is Bryan Clauson, a hero among other heroes, because of the way he chooses (and has been taught) to conduct himself, on and off the track. Granted, the news people want to hear is that he won the 30 lap USAC sprint feature at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night. This was commendable, but again, in my opinion, not what makes him a hero.
These guys I watch and/or write about all have their less than stellar moments, just like the rest of us. But the overwhelming majority of them have come to realize that they are in the public eye. Obviously, this particular “eye” isn’t as pervasive as the public eye that athletes at the top level endure. But, nevertheless, they are being watched.
Often, it so happens that they are watched by children. And again, the vast majority realizes that this attention brings with it, scrutiny, admiration and even adulation from fans of all ages. To me, the way these young men (and yes, I include those in their 40s, much younger than me) conduct themselves most all the time in a heroic manner. Otherwise, I wouldn’t dare turn my grandson loose in the pits as I did on Saturday the 27th at the ‘burg.
Speaking of weather, it could not have been a nicer day to head east. The kindergarten student and I first headed west—to pick up Super Dave Foist, still battling health issues, but still wanting to catch another race before the season is over. We dropped Dave off, knowing that he’d be in good hands with the Section A crowd, and headed for the pits.
The five year old has taken to school in a big way, constantly counting, sounding out words and names, and then there are the questions. There’s always questions this guy has, but the best way to handle it is throw questions at him.
We grabbed a qualifying list at the USAC trailer and he began looking at the numbers, knowing who quite a few of the guys’ car numbers. As we’d walk by a car, I’d have him find the number on the paper. With 32 cars divided into four groups, I’d give him a break and tell him which group a certain car was in. He did the rest, including going up to the driver and showing him when he qualified. And if my information was correct, that was how Robert Ballou found out he was 12th to qualify.
I don’t think that Karston showed Dave Darland his time trial order (it was 13th). But Dave was the only guy to get below 14 seconds around the three eights mile high banked mini-monster.
After the first heat I knew that the B Main would be a delight. This wasn’t to be the case for Kevin Thomas Jr., who won. Nor for second place Thomas Meseraull, in the Keen 18 for the time being. Mr. Darland was third and Mr. Ballou took fourth. But the failure of both Justin Grant and Daron Clayton to transfer immediately made the B Main interesting.
C.J. Leary won the second heat. Bryan Clauson came from fifth to grab the runner-up spot. Hunter Schuerenberg was third. Jon Stanbrough annexed the last chair before the music stopped, sending the likes of Jarett Andretti, Kyle Robbins and Shawn Westerfeld to the B.
The third heat was nearly won by the yellow flag, which waved three times in the eight laps. But pole man Chad Boespflug, in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crush, won out over the busy flag. Jerry Coons spun early to avoid a sideways car in turn one. But he would have one of the best runs of the night as he clawed his way back to second. Logan Jarrett took third over Tracy Hines. The “Wild Child” and Landon Simon headed for B Main-land. Simon was the recipient of an awry Jac Haudenschild slider and let Jac know it.
Brady Bacon offered fans and competitors a preview of what was to come as he won the fourth heat. Shane Cottle (later honored as the 2014 KISS champ) was second and Mr. Chase Stockon was third. Chris Windom held on for fourth. Scotty Weir and multi-time ‘burg champ Joss Moffatt found themselves on the outside looking in—for awhile.
Before the B, we took another stroll in the pits. The little person has been in the pits many times at various tracks, but has seldom seen the pits when people were hard at work. But that didn’t stop him from taking the lineup sheet for the B and showing Weir and Westerfeld where they’d start in the B (sixth and tenth). Scotty would make the feature; Shawn, the 2014 track champ at Lawrenceburg, would not.
Haud led all the way to beat Grant for the B Main win. Grant had all he could handle from Clayton, who surely had his mettle tested these past few days after a tragic loss of his son, the third place runner. Jarett Andretti ran one of the best and smoothest races I’ve ever seen him run. From seventh to fourth, his race was quite impressive. Scotty Weir, armed with the vital information that Karston gave him, was fifth. Landon Simon had quite the race. He lost the last transfer position to Kyle Robbins early in the race, but fought back hard and nipped KRob at the line to make the show.
With Haud and Grant both having to transfer from the B, Stockon and Clauson found themselves on the front row. Chase didn’t have it on this night, but BC took off to lead not only the first lap but all 30. But Brady Bacon made it quite interesting.
By the fourth lap Bacon was second and spent a good part of the race trying to pass Clauson on the low side in turns three and four. It wasn’t happening, and the lack of yellows didn’t help the Oklahoma native.
Clauson was pulling away when the first yellow light blinked on lap 26 as Darland suffered a flat tire. Behind Clauson and Bacon at this point were Hines, Stanbrough, Grant, Stockon, Haudenschild, TMez, Leary and Coons. During this yellow Leary also found that he, too, had a flat tire, enabling Ballou to enter the top ten.
Another yellow flag, on lap 28, made no difference at the front. Bacon had nothing for Clauson, who sailed away to his fifth 2014 win in USAC sprint competition. Hines remained third and Grant was closing on Hines, but settled for fourth. For that matter, Jerry Coons Jr. had maybe the best run that few saw as he came from tenth on lap 26 to fifth after 30 laps after starting 14th. Stockon and Stanbrough both faded a bit to sixth and seventh. Ballou also had a good race, seeing that he started 16th and finished eighth. Chris Windom did some rambling as well as he came from 19th to grab ninth, advancing more than anyone else. And Darland recovered from his flat tire to come back to take tenth.
Now the USAC community hits the road, heading west to both California and Arizona. Their Midwest journey is done for 2014. As has been the case for ages, they have given fans some of the best racing on the planet all year.
For the last time this year, our own one car caravan headed west as the two old guys talked and the young guy slept. He was forgiven. After all, it had been a busy night, what with showing guys where they would qualify or start. Plus, he’d helped me with the popcorn, had some of Mike’s Gummy Bears and enjoyed a bag of chips that Leann was happy to share.
But he has already turned some attention to football. I’m fine with that but will check out some indoor go-cart tracks this winter. Somehow I doubt that he’d object. Besides, he can strap in and pretend he’s one of his many heroes.
I’m thankful that he has so many heroes, especially those who drive sprint cars for fun and profit. They have to pay attention to the $$$ for sure, but their impact on fans, especially the young ones, is priceless.
From Iowa comes the word that my friend Mr. James Morrison has received a new kidney and is doing well. In a community that bristles with nice guys and gals, James is one of the most treasured. Green flags to you, Jim. And come back to your Indiana home when you can.
Teaching Roger Goodell how to flip burgers, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Patience Can Pay Off
Did you ever set a goal and realize that it would take time to attain that goal as well as patience, and then know that you had to go for the goal with a very small window of opportunity? That was Brady Bacon on a cool Thursday night at the Terre Haute Action Track as he stalked Robert Ballou for much of the race before happily discovering that the low groove was finally the way to go.
Did you ever set that same goal and almost see the goal attained, only to have it snatched away near the very end? Unfortunately, that was Robert Ballou’s night at the Action Track. Frustration was the word for such a night.
Finally, did you ever decide that doing something a little different might be the way to go, at least for awhile, and then as you set out on your brief journey you fall flat on your posterior, getting your white shorts and most everything else muddy? That would have been me as I followed the gracefully aging Buckeye Rich Hollmeyer into the infield. My first step by the end of the turn four wall ended with much laughter, mostly at me. I didn’t mind. My head also hit the wall and I was concerned—about the wall.
It was a long, strange trip for sure just getting to Terre Haute. State Road 46 was still closed at the 46/59 intersection, so I used a county road to hook up with State Road 42, which took me to Terre Haute. The county road was narrow and gravel mostly. At the top of one hill I encountered about six ducks crossing the road. My brakes worked fine—had the road been asphalt. Instead, I picked off my first duck, sad to say. Over the years, I’ve hit dogs, deer, a squirrel or two, cats and countless woolly worms. But never a duck.
I wasn’t surprised much when the radio played the Grateful Dead’s “Truckin’.”
I was a bit surprised when ace push truck driver Joe Chambers approached me to tell me of a grievous error that I’d made. In the Flat Out magazine article I did on Joe’s push truck experiences, I noted that Joe drove a Chevy. In fact, he drives a Dodge. I was apologetic, but not enough for Joe, who executed a body slam, a full nelson and then an abdominal stretch that would have made Wilbur Snyder proud. After this I was groveling.
(The only thing true about the above paragraph is that Joe does drive a Dodge. And he is one of the nicest people in racing, which is saying a lot.)
I wasn’t surprised much when 22 cars showed up for a midweek show. This would be Chad Boespflug’s maiden voyage in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crusher. Terry Babb made a rare appearance from his Illinois home, but scratched early. Jac Haudenschild stepped away from his Outlaw’s ride the other day. Tonight he was in an extra Jeff Walker car.
The honoree for the night would be Jim Hurtubise, a remarkable person and a gentleman who begged a doctor to mold his badly burned hands so they would fit over the steering wheel of a race car, of course.
Jon Stanbrough went out early to qualify and was quickest with a 20.064 lap. Times in the 20 second bracket were very rare for later qualifiers. By feature time, it made for a good race as a few guys in the back moved forward.
The classic high/low groove battle commenced early in the first heat. Ballou and Stanbrough used the top to finish one-two. C.J. Leary used the bottom to take third. Chris Windom was fourth and Logan Jarrett fifth. The top five would get their times back for the feature. There would be no need for a B Main.
Bryan Clauson let Brandon Mattox lead the first lap of the second heat, but then led the rest of the way. Brady Bacon was second. Tracy Hines and Dave Darland were next. Mattox held on for fifth.
Jerry Coons Jr. was third of three leaders in the third heat, holding off the second leader, Shane Cottle. Hunter Schuerenberg was third. Chase Stockon had his hands full keeping Mr. Haudenschild at bay. It should be noted that Coons came from sixth to win.
Ballou and Stockon were the front row with Bacon, Coons, Darland, Stanbrough, Thomas, Hines, Grant and Windom eager to move up.
Right away the killer B’s drove away from the others, first Ballou, then Bacon. Stockon, Coons and Stanbrough trailed as the high groove saw more action than the bottom among the frontrunners. In the first half of the race, not a lot changed at the top, though Stanbrough checked up enough for Dave Darland to pass.
At around the half way mark, lapped traffic came into play. But, more to the point, Ballou and Bacon sailed away to eventually to a half lap away from third place. Behind them, things were heating up.
Stockon had been third for a good part of the race with Coons, Darland, Stanbrough and Hines battling for fourth. But Brady Short, better known for his success on quarter milers, was showing some late race speed. And so was Shane Cottle, who had started in the sixth row with Short.
Bacon had spent several laps dogging Ballou, occasionally trying out the bottom groove at the west end of the track. He kept getting closer and closer to the California native and finally grabbed the lead coming to the white flag. And that was that. Bacon won by a few feet.
Short’s late charge from 11th to third earned him a hard charger award and a podium finish. Cottle’s similar run landed him fourth after starting 12th. Stockon hung on for fifth. Darland faded slightly to sixth and Clauson came from 14th to seventh. Hines was eighth and Coons faded a bit at the end to ninth. Chris Windom was a quiet tenth, which was where he started.
Lots of people missed a great night of racing with nary a yellow flag waved except in hot laps…as far as I can recall.
I gave modified feature winner A.J. Fike a HARF t-shirt after his last lap victory over Kent Robinson, then after the sprint feature Bacon added a HARF shirt to his collection of goodies. After some visiting, it was time to head southeast, slowed only by a deer on State Road 59 who ambled across the road.
All of this time behind the steering wheel gave me time
to wonder—at least when the road was straight. Strangely enough, as I
neared my house, once again the Dead played “Truckin’,” a quite fitting
ending to a long day.
Some good and decent racing people were visited by an unspeakable tragedy a few days ago. Kinser Clayton, one year old son of Daron and Shelley, lost his life.
One simply cannot pretend to imagine the pain and suffering these people are facing. Psalms 46: 1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.”- New American Standard Version (1995) While we may believe this to be true, it won’t necessarily ease the pain at the moment.
Earlier today, I spent some time with a little boy. We sang along with the song on the radio, “Happy Boys,” by the Beat Farmers. We went to visit his great-aunt and play with her dog. Then we went to Subway to get sandwiches for his grandmother, other great-aunt and us, where he showed off his reading ability. As he ate, we watched a recording of the Outlaws at Lincoln Speedway. His mom came to pick him up. Grandpa was sad, but remembered how blessed he is. I prayed for a safe trip for my daughter and both of my grandsons. Because, no matter what, we only have them for a short time, regardless of the length of time. And it can end anytime; we are not promised any certain amount of time. Sometimes, no most always, that hurts.
And when they or we are gone, sadness prevails, but hopefully gives way to memories of good times. May love and hope prevail.
This one was for a precious little boy and his family.
Appreciating and trying to remember what is important, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: But For One Lapped Car…
Shawn Westerfeld no doubt wanted to end his regular season at the Lawrenceburg Speedway sweeping both the feature win and the 2014 championship so he could update his resume. He nearly did it, but for a lapped car that almost took him out of the race, never mind the championship. Justin Grant made the pass coming out of turn four and won the war. But Westerfeld wasn’t complaining a whole lot, taking second and beating out Joss Moffatt for the title.
What we had on Saturday afternoon was near perfect Hoosier weather. Only a few clouds dotted the sky. It was a tad cool but no one froze.
We also had a full pit of cars. 32 sprinters turned into the pits instead of the casino across the street. With nearby Florence Speedway quiet for the night, support classes jammed the pits; the semi-official total was 131 cars.
The first of four heats was a sort of preview of what was to come later. Matt Goodnight hustled on the first lap to take the lead. This lasted until lap seven when Grant made the pass. If that wasn’t bad enough for Goodnight, Grant’s teammate, Travis Hery, grabbed second at the finish line. Pat Giddens took the final feature transfer. Disaster was averted when Dwayne Spille dove into the infield coming out of turn two, came back onto the track, and was clipped by Jamie Ross.
Jarett Andretti led all the way to win heat number two. Drew Abel motored from seventh to third on the first lap, and then got around Aric Gentry to take second. Evan Gindling was fourth.
The third heat was one of the more competitive Lawrenceburg heats I’ve seen in awhile. Garrett Abrams made a late pass of Michael Fischesser to win. Joss Moffatt, who began the night tied for the points lead with Shawn Westerfeld, stormed from eighth to nip Fischesser at the end for second. Justin Owen came from seventh to take fourth, just ahead of J.T. Stapp.
Tony Main was the man of the fourth heat, leading all eight laps. Westerfeld, like Moffatt, had started last. Also like Moffatt, he came from last to second. They were still tied for the points lead. Joe Ligouri started next to Westerfeld and ended up third. Kyle Robbins had to sit up a bit straighter in the seat to edge Landon Simon for fourth, sending the native Buckeye to the B. As it turned out, Landon only lost one starting position for the feature.
The B was won by Simon from fourth, earning him the 17th starting spot for the feature. Stapp was second ahead of Adam Cruea. Cole Ketchum grabbed the last seat, ahead of Drew Webber.
The re-draw found Abrams and Hery on the front row, followed by Abel, Westerfeld, Grant, Main, Moffatt and Andretti. The track championship had come down to whoever would finish the highest in the final show.
Westerfeld got the jump early and took the lead on the first lap and began to check out. Grant fell back to sixth on the first lap before beginning his move to the front. By lap 12 he had taken second as Moffatt struggled to stay in the top five.
Grant was closing but would there be enough laps to get around Westerfeld? Finally, lapped traffic became a factor; in fact, it may have a hand in deciding the result. In turn four, with two laps to go Westerfeld was nearly taken out by a sideways J.T. Stapp, who apparently had a stuck throttle.
At any rate, Grant pounced and took the lead and win with Westerfeld settling for a good run that netted him second place as well as the ‘burg championship. Jarett Andretti came from eighth to third. Travis Hery’s race was as impressive as Andretti’s; he held on for fourth. Moffatt had to settle for fifth. But the homeboy will always be known as the only racer to have won track championships at both the old Lawrenceburg oval as well as the new one.
Abrams was sixth, ahead of Able, Gentry, Giddens and Justin Owen, who passed a fair amount of cars all night.
The decisions we make and events beyond our control affect our lives in ways we cannot always know. Had Shawn Westerfeld turned the steering wheel an inch either way, who can know what would have happened? Anything from disaster to total triumph could have occurred.
Personally, my parents’ decision to take me to a race at age one month launched quite a journey. Far as I know, it isn’t over yet.
Think about for very long and you might be a candidate for the guys in the white coats.
Persuading Roger Goodell that he’d be perfect for “The Colbert Report,” I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Good Old Fashioned….Spanking
There was no getting around it. Kody Swanson put the hurt on the field on Sunday, September 7, at the Illinois State Fairgrounds as USAC’s most storied division held its “Tony Bettenhausen 100.” Rather than moan about how little “action” there was, I spent a good part of the day marveling at how Swanson and his DePalma Motorsports team have had this Silver Crown deal figured out.
After the first attempt to run this race was rained out (sending me home, 255 miles away, in a funk after seeing just practice and time trials), I could see myself making a return trip northwest to see the classical looking beasts.
September 7 was a beautiful day, the kind civic officials love. 24 cars and teams had decided to enjoy the nice day as well. Sure enough, Kody Swanson was the fastest of these in qualifying. He went out toward the end of the line and ripped off a 31.999 lap. The only qualifier even close to that was Jacob Wilson, who was last in line and needed a push start to qualify. Wilson’s 32.140 was second quick but he would be penalized for the push start.
Bench racing with friends is an ideal way to pass the time before any race. It wasn’t lost on me that I was one of many here today wanting this series to succeed. For that matter, the same is true of the few one mile dirt ovals left in our country. Not only did one have a sense of history here, but that sense was matched by the desire that this very recent renaissance of USAC’s Silver Crown series continue. For that that, Mr. Andy Hillenburg needs to either take a bow or give fans that charming wave of the hand, made famous by the Queen of England.
With Wilson’s demotion to the seventh row, Tracy Hines would accompany Swanson in the front row. Brady Bacon, driving one of the McQuinn team cars, and Bobby East, in the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian machine, were the second row. A.J. Fike and Du Quoin winner Shane Cockrum occupied the third. Two of the best, Bryan Clauson and Dave Darland, made up the fourth row. Local boy Steven Russell and Caleb Armstrong would start from the fifth row.
The green flag waved and Kody Swanson didn’t mess around. He was already several car lengths ahead of Hines when Kenny Gentry stopped on the track, bringing out a yellow flag. On the re-start, Swanson again took off and left the others behind. He and Hines both stretched things out as Tracy’s tail tank became smaller and smaller to Bobby East’s eyes.
In less than 20 laps, lapped traffic came into play. The leaders’ overtaking the slower cars provided quite a few unintended thrills as the groove became smaller. But those behind Swanson couldn’t reel in the Californian turned Hoosier. And he had already put a half lap on the tenth place car.
Swanson’s huge lead disappeared on lap 41 when Caleb Armstrong stopped on the track, not quite making it to the pit entrance. A few laps before that, Shane Cockrum had exited the race. For the re-start, the boys were racked and stacked with Swanson leading Hines, East, A.J. Fike, Chris Windom, Brady Bacon, Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons Jr. and Dave Darland.
Thus began a long green flag period; this yellow would be the last and the checkered flag was 54 laps away. Not much changed up front, except Swanson kept extending his lead. At lap 66 Swanson’s lead over Hines was a full straightaway. In lapped traffic, East began to pressure Hines, but once the lappers were cleared, Hines motored away.
Usually at these 100 lap SC races “show and tell” time starts around lap 70. Sometimes the leader has used up his tires too much and begins to drop like a rock. If anyone was expecting Swanson to slow, they would have been disappointed. At lap 70 there were ten cars on the lead lap.
East again provided some brief drama as he closed again on Hines with ten laps to go. Swanson offered his share of tension as he wasn’t content to ride around, even at the race’s end. Lap 95 saw him put the semi-retired Levi Jones a lap down. And Swanson was hounding Dave Darland all the way up to the white flag, but Dave was able to hold off this year’s Silver Crown dominator.
Behind the winner, Hines was second, not quite a half lap in arrears. East, Fike, a two time winner of this race, and Windom were the rest of the top five. Clauson was sixth and Coons seventh after starting 12th. Darland started and finished eighth. Jones was ninth (after starting 16th) and Brady Bacon faded from third to tenth.
Russ Gamester had the best run that few saw as he came from the pits at the start to finish 11th.
Somewhat oddly, the top three finishers are also the top three in Silver Crown points.
The next race for this group is the much anticipated Eldora Four Crown on September 20. And I am studying the road map, trying to decide which route I’ll take to suburban Rossburg, Ohio.
Somehow I don’t think the little white Chevy truck will stink up any shows between here and Eldora. Kody Swanson I’m not.
Persuading Roger Goodell that he’d be better off overseeing the Keystone Kops, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Chase and the Chase
NASCAR has its ballyhooed “Chase,” a would-be attempt to have a playoff system like the stick and ball games. But sprint car fans in Indiana have their own “Chase.” He’s a pleasant young man who can wheel a sprinter about as well as anyone around these parts. He has just concluded a productive weekend. On Friday he was a close second at Bloomington to C.J. Leary; Chase drove his own car. Then, on Saturday, he hopped into the Gentry family’s car and won the “King of Non-Wing” feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway. (And yes, we also claim yet another “Chase,” who spends a good bit of time in North Carolina these. Of course, that would be Chase Briscoe.)
The weather wasn’t too far from perfect as our little three vehicle caravan motored toward beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. In terms of car count, there was, as always, no use trying to predict. “Only” 21 sprinters dropped by, but there were plenty of quality cars available. Of note was Chad Boespflug, driving the Stensland 41, or at least one of them. The guess is that engine woes still trouble the Hazen-mobile.
The night’s draw put A.J. Hopkins and Jeff Bland on the front row of the first heat. They ran one/two, which was to be predicted. But a preview of things to come was Mr. Stockon, who started seventh and moved smartly to third. Hud Cone, in the Hurst Brothers’ old reliable, was fourth ahead of Casey Shuman.
Max McGhee won the second heat, also from the pole. Hunter Schuerenberg was second. Brandon Mattox came from fifth to take third ahead of Kody Kinser and the ageless Kent Christian.
The pole sitters would be three for three as Chad Boespflug won the third ten lapper, holding off Brady Short. Chris Gurley started and finished third. Brian Hayden was fourth and Bloomington winner C.J. Leary was fifth.
The re-draw put the killer B’s, Bland and Boespflug, on the front row for the 30 lap feature. McGhee, Hopkins, Schuerenberg, Short, Stockon and Mattox would be looking to advance while slinging dirt.
Hopkins had a monster start and grabbed the lead right away. Bland hung tough as Boespflug slowly drifted back. And Stockon was coming on. The boys weren’t quite to the halfway mark before lapped traffic made playing a bit harder. Hopkins biked it coming out of turn four, but held his (now smaller) lead.
Lap 19 saw the first yellow of the race; in fact it would be the only one. Hud Cone rolled to a stop in turn four. The green flag would fly with Hopkins ahead of Stockon, Bland, Schuerenberg, Boespflug, Short, Mattox, Gurley, Kinser and McGhee. Stockon did a great stalker imitation as he followed Hopkins for several laps. The lead changed hands on lap 25 as Stockon took over. A turn four shuffle/tangle saw Hopkins drop back as Hunter briefly took second. But Hopkins came back and assumed second place. But no one had anything for the Sullivan, Indiana native who now lives in Elizabethtown, a short drive and a long run from where I sit.
Hopkins maintained second, though he had to be feeling a bit sorrowful at losing the lead. Bland was third after a late Hunter Schuerenberg bobble. Boespflug was fifth. Coming in sixth was Short with Mattox, Gurley and Kinser next. Leary started 15th for the second consecutive night. He didn’t pass nearly as many cars, but he did end up tenth.
I said my good-byes to my fellow travelers quickly because I was headed for the great state of Illinois. I had a room waiting for me at Danville, Illinois and left Putnamville for points northwest. Finding gas over twenty cents cheaper than anywhere else I’ve been made me smile a bit. And, sure enough, someone had left the light on for me.
It was time to get some sleep and head for Springfield, Illinois the next day to watch the world’s fastest dinosaurs race. It would be quite a treat.
Opting not to get on an elevator with Ray Rice, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Not How You Start…
The percentage of feature winners who start from the first row is well over 50%, I’d guess. Races where the winners come from the back, or even mid-pack are rare. But it happens. And often it is a treat. Granted, luck is involved. If there are accidents along the way, they are to be avoided if possible. Yellow and/or red flags need to be timely for a mid-pack car to advance. But none of this would happen without a car set up for the track and a race car driver who is not shy about passing people with his superior handling car. And so it was with C.J. Leary on the final race of the regular season at the Bloomington Speedway. All he did was start 15th, avoid some bad situations and mash the pedal when it was needed. He held off Chase Stockon to win his first Bloomington feature.
My brave riding team was quick to notice that it’s still summertime in Indiana, even though autumn is not far away. This would be Big Dave’s first race of 2014 and he’d picked one of the hottest days of the year to make the 45 mile trip to the west. With his health issues this year, it turned out to be some good medicine to get out of the house, head west, meet up with friends and watch some typical Bloomington Speedway racing.
29 cars braved the elements for the regular season finale. It was Chad Boespflug’s turn to sit in the Elson 27’s seat. Tyler Courtney was in the Pederson 4p for the night.
Boespflug got off to a great start, winning the first heat by a long margin. Ethan Fleetwood had his hands full holding off Chris Babcock and Dakota Jackson. Ethan Barrow would be saddling up for the B later. Kevin Chambers had an axle break as he was in turn two and went for a nasty ride, his first flip in 12 years he said later. The soreness would come later.
Max McGhee came from the second row to win the second heat with Jeff Bland not far behind. A good bit further back was Hunter O’Neal and Bub Cummings.
The third heat was the strongest and with only the top four transferring, at least one good car would have to run the semi. Landon Simon won and Chase Stockon nipped Nick Bilbee at the line for second. C.J. Leary started and finished fourth. Courtney and Brady Short didn’t make it.
Chris Gurley won the fourth heat by a straightaway. Jarett Andretti was second and Braxton Cummings was third. Like Mr. Leary, Kody Kinser started and finished fourth.
Ethan Barrow took the early lead of the B main but a Tyler Courtney spin erased that. Midway through the race Brady Short, who had started fifth, came on to make the pass. Behind Short and Barrow was Shuman, who hadn’t made it out for his heat race and started on the tail. Jared Fox won the honor of starting last in the feature.
The re-draw found Gurley and Simon on the front row, McGhee and Boespflug on the second, followed by Fleetwood, Bland, Stockon and Andretti, Babcock and O’Neal.
Gurley launched first out of the gate with Simon close behind. Boespflug passed his buddy a lap later to take second. Stockon was on the move. Soon Boespflug and Stockon were pressuring the leader. Nick Bilbee, who won this race last year, brought out the first yellow when he bounced over turn two, somehow avoiding a flip.
Racked and stacked now were Gurley, Boespflug, Stockon, Bland, Simon, Leary (already sixth after starting 15th), Babcock, Fleetwood, and Andretti. A lap later came Bloomington’s version of the Big One. A massive tangle in turn two found Brady Short arriving on the scene to take a wild flip—helicopter style. Those involved in varying degrees included, Fleetwood, Dakota Jackson, Braxton Cummings, Shuman, Simon, Andretti and anyone else my five year old spotter and I may have missed.
No doubt that Stockon was concerned about his fellow competitors, but he also had to be a tad frustrated because he had passed Gurley for the lead just as the mayhem broke out.
It was a shame in various ways. Watching Short move to the front would have been fun as he started 17th. For Brady and the other guys whose cars left the track on the hook, it was a rotten way to end the season. Thankfully, the only things hurt were feelings and race cars.
The lineup on the re-start was shuffled quite a bit now. The spotter counted 15 cars (the little showoff). Gurley still led Stockon and Boespflug. Bland advanced to fourth, followed by Leary, McGhee, Babcock, Barrow, Kody Kinser, and Hunter O’Neal.
Once again Stockon got around Gurley, who was beginning to have steering issues. But once again, the pass was negated due to Boespflug, of all people, spinning in turn four while running third. Somehow everyone missed him. Leary had passed Bland soon enough before the yellow to maintain third. As we’d see, he wasn’t done.
On the re-start, Gurley faltered with a beast of a car to handle and soon found himself in turn three, the meat of a Stockon/Leary sandwich. Leary had the high side and powered off turn four to grab the lead with only a few laps to go. Stockon gave chase, but couldn’t close on the young man from Greenfield, Indiana.
However, as the laps wound down, lapped traffic came into play. Stockon closed the gap as Leary struggled a bit with the lappers. But the checkered flag waved before Stockon could make a move.
Max McGhee was one of a few who came on strong at the finish, taking third. Chris Babcock did the same, coming from ninth to fourth. And all Nick Bilbee did was bring out the first yellow, re-start on the tail, stay out of trouble and find himself fifth.
Then there was Kody Kinser, who started 16th and didn’t quit until he was sixth at the end. Chris Gurley saw a really good finish turn to, well, good as his steering miseries caused him to fade to seventh. Jeff Bland was eighth and Jared Fox rambled from 20th to finish ninth. Dakota Jackson re-started after the early red flag and came back to grab tenth.
Throughout the top ten there were guys who had started in the back half of the lineup to come through the pack to grab respectable finishes. Like the winner, it didn’t matter where they started.
Wishing I could see, you know, actual history on the History Channel, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Battles, Wars and Championships
Whether we know it or not, we face battles every day. For many of us, it can be a battle getting out of bed to face another day.
We all face wars of some sort. It may be for some a matter of maintaining a semblance of sanity. It may be a serviceman or woman in mortal combat.
Very few of us deal with battles, wars and championships at the same time. Ever rarer is the winning of all three. But on a mild, yet humid, Hoosier Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway, Justin Grant settled for one out of three. He won the Vince Osman Memorial for the second consecutive year, barely holding off Bryan Clauson, who settled for the other two out of three. While Mr. Grant won the 25 lap battle, Mr. Clauson won the year long war and gained his first ever track point’s championship.
24 sprints populated a pit area also occupied by modifieds, street stocks and thunder cars. Tonight’s winner of musical car seats in the Elson 27 was Scotty Weir, winner of battles, wars and championships himself. A 17 year old young Texan with the name of Payton Pierce and company were spending a weekend going non-wing sprint car racing in Indiana.
As always, the last (third) group of qualifiers had the quickest times. Clauson’s 13.394 led the way. Grant and Jarett Andretti led the other two groups. Max McGhee dumped it in turn four during time trials. He was done for the night.
Rookie Garrett Miller was one happy boy for quite awhile as he won the first heat, no doubt his first win of any kind at Kokomo. Justin Grant made sure he earned it, finishing a close second after passing Tyler Hewitt on the last lap. Weir was fourth and Dustin Smith, who might have raced with Vince Osman a few times, was fifth.
Joe Ligouri won the second heat with Andretti right behind. Adam Byrkett, Jamie Fredrickson (another who may have raced with Vince Osman in the 90s) and Travis Hery all punched tickets to the feature.
Shane Cottle was in the Edison 10e while the usual occupant, Jerry Coons Jr., was Silver Crown racing at Du Quoin. The local boy made good and won his heat with Bryan Clauson second. Another local boy, Josh Spencer, was third yet another Kokomo racer, Logan Jarrett fourth. Brent Beauchamp was fifth.
Chad Boespflug won the B, which was down to seven cars through attrition. Chris Gurley was second and Conner Donelson took third. Two rookies would populate the last row of the feature, Cooper Clouse and Payton Pierce.
Grant and Miller, Ligouri and Cottle, and Clauson and Andretti were the first three rows after the re-draw. The green flag waved and Shane Cottle had a sense of urgency. From fourth, he powered to the lead and was in front when the first yellow flag made an appearance due to a Cooper Clouse spin.
Cottle still led when the second yellow waved after a Chad Boespflug/Tyler Hewitt tangle in turn two that left Chad’s Paul Hazen special on the hook. Five laps were in and it was Cottle, Grant, Clauson, Miller and Ligouri.
The Big Three of Cottle, Grant and Clauson tried to pull away but another slowdown came on lap nine when Josh Spencer rolled to a stop. Grant had taken the lead but had to give it back.
Yet another yellow came out when Miller and Byrkett had a meeting in turn four on lap 11. Chris Gurley suffered a flat left front tire and hustled to the puts to get it changed. This turned out to be a good move. Ligouri, Andretti, Jarrett, Weir, Beauchamp, Pierce and Donelson trailed the Big Three.
This didn’t last because Cottle as leader brought out the fifth yellow when he bounced into the turn two wall. That would be the turning point of the race. The lead was now Grant’s, but Clauson wasn’t about to concede anything. Under this yellow flag period, Donelson was run over from behind and suffered a flat right rear. Beauchamp headed for the infield, out of the race.
On this lap 13 re-start, the suspects were led by Grant, Clauson, Ligouri, Jarrett and Payton Pierce, who had quietly worked his way to the front after starting 20th. Remember, folks, this young man had never raced at Kokomo before.
Lap 18 saw Logan Jarrett spin and bring out one tired yellow flag for the sixth time. While the cars slowly circled the track, Pierce dropped out, ending an impressive race. The order was shuffled a bit with Grant leading Clauson, Ligouri, Andretti, Weir, Hery, Smith, Fredrickson and Byrkett.
Throughout these brief green flag periods, Clauson had been giving Grant about two headaches per lap. The boys showed the crowd how it’s done. They reminded me of those not so long ago good old days at Bloomington when Kevin Briscoe would scoot around the top as Kevin Thomas did the same on the bottom. Grant wasn’t shy about riding above the cushion, on the edge of disaster each lap while Clauson showed both patience and skill working downstairs.
The two leaders had taken the checkered as Ligouri flipped in turn two, bringing out the race’s only red flag. Joe was okay, but a good race was over too soon. But Grant now had to endure yet another re-start, knowing that Clauson would be right there. As it turned out, he was able to hold off the final charge by the Indy 500 vet, one of the very few who have raced at both the Brickyard and the Bullring.
At the end Scotty Weir had steadily advanced from tenth to take third. Another good run under the radar was that of Chris Gurley, who had started 17th, had a flat tire, re-started on the tail and then stormed back to take fourth. Andretti was fifth and Byrkett had recovered from a lap 11 spin to end up sixth. Josh Spencer’s story was much the same. After brining out an early yellow, he persevered and clawed his way back to seventh. Travis Hery came from 14th to eighth. The law firm of Smith and Fredrickson finished ninth and tenth.
Lest we forget, this race wasn’t named after just anyone. It’s endured over the years as a tribute to a guy who, by all accounts, was one of the nicer people who was a part of this northern Indiana community. No matter how long we live, unless we are famous for whatever reason, most likely there will be no memories of us a few generations down the road. That doesn’t necessarily matter either, because what counts is what we do while we’re here. If we can, may we make some good memories for those who will remember when we’re gone—just as quite a few race fans remember Vince Osman.
The curtain on Kokomo’s regular season closed with Bryan Clauson as the top guy for points, his first track championship. Justin Grant had won the battle, but BC had won the war, with another positive addition to his resume.
The day’s battles are done. And tomorrow we do it all over again and why not?
Getting North Dakota and South Dakota mixed up, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Ingredients for Excellence
We could agree on what ingredients go into a successful career, or person. Ability, desire, luck, a few others, these all matter. But I could add another, that being longevity. In racing that’s not always fair because this sport is the cruelest at times in that a life can be lost by racers in pursuit of excellence and/or a trophy. I’d not exclude a Robbie Stanley, to give a relevant example, from any discussion of great sprinters. But his was a promising career cut short. On the other hand, you have Dave Darland, who has all of those ingredients plus a good dose of longevity. He’s been driving a sprint car for 30 years or so. And he’s lost little, if any, off the old fastball. He continually proves it as he did yet again on Sunday night as the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown III finally brought down the curtain of the final act. If that wasn’t enough, he made my point about longevity as he broke Tom Bigelow’s 33 year old record for most sprint features won in USAC competition.
Though they didn’t wish for it, I still thought it was nice for the O’Connor family to go ahead and race on Sunday, which happened to be another milestone for me. Folks were only too happy to wish me well; it didn’t escape me that the vast majority of them were a bit younger than I. But life goes on; just because the finish line seems closer doesn’t mean it is.
Night Three of Smackdown had a different format. There was no qualifying. Instead, three qualifying race were run with the top three advancing. The B moved five more. The top eight in points for the previous two shows engaged in the popular King of the Hill, a series of three lap elimination runs with the top points getter squaring off again number eight, number two versus number seven, and so on.
Pole sitter Justin Grant won the first qualifier with C.J. Leary second and Logan Jarrett third. Brandon Mattox had a rough time of it, bouncing off two cars and not transferring along with Tyler Courtney, Brian Karraker and Chad Boespflug.
Front row starter Kevin Thomas Jr. took the second heat that was stopped for a nasty Max McGhee flip in turn four. Max was okay but the fence took a beating. The Kokomo crew has had more practice at mending fences than they wish, but they did get it fixed quickly. Brady Short and Casey Shuman also transferred. Landon Simon, PA’s Trevor Kobylarz and Parker Price-Miller began preparations for the B.
Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. won the third and last qualifier. Kyle Cummins, in the Rick Pollock special, was second and Tracy Hines took the last spot to transfer. Chris Gurley, Jarett Andretti and Josh Spencer would race at least one more time.
The crowd was pleased by the King of the Hill format and results. First up was one seed Robert Ballou verses eight seed Chase Stockon, who prevailed.
The crowd volume increased when number four Dave Darland faced number five Bryan Clauson. Darland won by a few feet as he took his usual high road and BC owned the bottom.
Seed number three Brady Bacon beat number six Chris Windom, who didn’t help his cause when he two-wheeled it in turn three.
Up next was two seed Jon Stanbrough and number seven Shane Cottle. Stanbrough easily won after local favorite Cottle did a near spin.
Round Two saw Darland eliminate Stockon by three car lengths, again using the high side.
Next up was Stanbrough and Bacon, who barely won and both avoided disaster as they collided just past the start/finish line.
This left local man Darland and Bacon. Right at the start Bacon took Dave’s preferred line up top and kept the People’s Champ at bay for all three laps, winning by two car lengths.
And just like that, the first eight spots for the feature, 40 laps worth, were decided.
The 15 lap B Main was wild and woolly. Whereas the heats were won by front row starters, it fell to Chad Boespflug to put that pattern aside. A lap one yellow waved when Kobylarz got sideways and collected Spencer, another local favorite. A couple of laps later Brandon Mattox’s bad night got worse as he flipped in turn one. Boespflug had already roared to the front.
Another flip, this one by Andretti in turn four, stopped action. Both Mattox and Andretti were able to walk away.
Boespflug and Courtney missed a dandy fight for third between Simon and McGhee, who had repairs made after his heat race accident with help from Jon Stanbrough himself. Price-Miller spun on lap ten while in a transfer position. Kobylarz put a pile driver on B. Karraker, who was running fifth, the last transfer. Chris Gurley and Josh Spencer benefitted from that as they fought for fifth.
Moving on were Boespflug (started seventh), Courtney, Simon, McGhee (from 11th) and Spencer. Karraker got a measure of revenge by using a provisional to start 23rd in the feature.
Bacon and Darland led 21 more to the Tom Hansing green flag. Brady grabbed the early lead but couldn’t shake Darland. And Robert Ballou wasn’t too far behind, but was plenty hungry as he passed Stanbrough and Stockon early. Darland took the lead on lap six and was there when the first yellow waved for Chris Windom, who was done for the night.
The tea leaves read it as being Darland, Bacon, Stanbrough, Stockon, Ballou (who had temporarily lost the two spots he’d gained), Leary, Clauson, Cottle, Grant and Cummins. The re-start saw Darland break away from the pack until lapped traffic brought Bacon back to Dave’s bumper.
The field regrouped after a Casey Shuman induced yellow just past halfway. Behind the two in front were Stanbrough, Ballou, Leary, Clauson, Stockon, Grant, Cottle and Cummins. A spirited fight broke out among Stanbrough, Clauson and Leary for third while Ballou renewed his charge and challenged Bacon for second.
Again, lapped traffic became a factor as Ballou reeled in Darland. But C.J. Leary ended a great run with a flat tire and stopped, bringing out a yellow Ballou surely didn’t wish to see. If that wasn’t enough, Robert had lost a right rear wheel cover. If enough mud made its way into the wheel, Ballou would be sunk.
As it turned out, Darland won with a flawless re-start and ownership of the high groove. Ballou held onto second with Clauson getting around Bacon at the end to take third. Stanbrough was fifth. Grant took sixth and Kevin Thomas Jr. came on at the end to take seventh. Stockon was eighth and Cummins seemed to spend most of the race in tenth place.
Darland was now the all-time leader in USAC sprint wins; his 53 topped Tom Bigelow, who was present to witness the milestone. Mr. Big took it with class, which was no surprise.
Ballou spent time on the Smackdown podium each night, finishing with two thirds and a second.
Boespflug passed 30 cars officially over three nights and was the hard charger. His car owner, Mr. Paul Hazen, won the inaugural Bill Gardner True Grit Award for overcoming his share of obstacles the past four days.
Those were just a few of the awards handed out.
The O’Connor family deserved some sort of award as well. Their persistence and hard work made all of this possible. Fans were left to already looking forward to the 2015 version of Smackdown. They had overcome the uncontrollable challenge of the weather and persevered.
One must ride high while they can. It can end at any time and it probably will. But it’s rare when someone can ride high as long as Dave Darland has ridden. In our personal dictionaries, we can place a picture of Mr. Darland next to the words “excellence” and “success,” not to mention “class.”
Handing out pillows for a fight between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Delayed Success
In an extended weekend that saw more rain and waiting around than actual racing, it was not surprising to see some serious scrambling of the Smackdown III 2014 schedule. Thursday’s program was shut down after two heats had been run. Persistent rain was the culprit. The rest of the show was deferred to Saturday while Friday’s racing went off without any major hitches after some feverish preparation. Saturday would have an ambitious schedule of running the rest of the Thursday show, emptying the joint to quickly get ready for the finale on Saturday night. Part of this happened. The Thursday version was completed and Dave Darland won the feature. But rain again invaded Kokomo and most of the Hoosier state. I’m frankly surprised that the promoters have any hair left. I’d loan them some if I could.
The eldest grandson was my running mate on Friday; his pick of Bryan Clauson was looking good until BC’s tiniest mistake put Jon Stanbrough in the winner’s circle. His little brother was fired up as usual on Saturday for some racing, as well as a trip or two wandering through the pits.
We had a late start and missed Brandon Mattox and Logan Jarrett winning their heats. We also missed Jon Stanbrough winning the semi. We had no complaints about missing Jarett Andretti and Thomas Meseraull flipping in the B. Nor did we mind missing the ragged start where Justin Grant got sideways and escaped, but left C.J. Leary and Clauson having to re-start on the tail.
Grant took control on the re-start as Robert Ballou, Jerry Coons Jr. and Shane Cottle fought for second. Serial caution flags ruled early on as the guys could only race for a lap before the lights blinked. Dave Darland was fifth on the re-start after the final early yellow but began a charge. About five laps later DD was second, having passed future Hall of Famers Stanbrough, Cottle and Coons.
Grant was in trouble though he had no way of knowing it. As lap 20 loomed, Darland caught Grant. On lap 24 the pass for the lead was made. A lap later Kyle Cummins smacked the turn one wall, bringing out another worn out yellow flag. Under yellow it was discovered that Bryan Clauson’s rotten luck continued as his left rear tire was flat.
The race’s final re-start had Darland, Grant, Ballou, Stanbrough, Brady Short, Chris Windom, Brady Bacon, Kevin Thomas Jr., Cottle and Coons taking the green. The top three stayed the same, but Grant made it interesting at the end. His final hardball slider didn’t quite do the trick and Darland prevailed, with USAC sprint feature win #52, tying him with Tom Bigelow.
Further down the order, Windom came on strong at the end, taking fourth after starting 12th. Stanbrough was fifth. Thomas, Bacon, Cottle, Short and Chase Stockon were the second five.
Dark clouds dominated the skies as feverish preparations were made for the regularly scheduled Saturday night show. The radar on cell phones didn’t look good. We retreated to Grandma’s car to wait it out after polishing off a pork chop sandwich and some nachos, one of which Karston shared with Jerry Shaw. Then the rain began.
After sitting in the car watching a local law man struggle with opening a locked car for a young couple, we idled through the parking lot, noting several empty spaces that weren’t there earlier. We asked Monica Clauson if they had heard anything. They hadn’t and we idled back to the north side of the parking lot in the steady rain. A chance encounter with Steve Phillips, with wife Carla the co-owner of Darland’s car, gave us a gloomy prediction. The track was near the point of no return for preparation. Sure enough, a few minutes later I read the announcement on my phone.
We began the long, wet two hour drive south. Rain followed us all the way home. Saturday night became Sunday morning and I was supposed to feel older, but honestly didn’t. Instead I looked forward to Sunday evening, when finally the 2014 version of Smackdown would conclude.
Avoiding full buckets of water, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Margin of Error
Face it, we are all one inattentive driver away from eternity; sometimes that driver could be us. The tiniest error can be fatal or at least produce an unhappy ending. On Friday night, the first full program of the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown III, Bryan Clauson had the feature won. It would have been well deserved as he’d fended off the challenges of (mostly) Jon Stanbrough. But in turn one of the 29th lap, BC made the slightest of bobbles. Stanbrough had been breathing down his neck for most of the race and sure enough, on this he pounced. It can easy to forget that these guys are human. Even they make mistakes. After all, it was the most recent Kokomo race where Stanbrough wadded up a good car in turn three.
The rain in Kokomo didn’t stop until late morning and when I ventured out to the track around noon, it didn’t look good. But there was no way I was going to give up on the O’Connor family. I was quite confident that these people would make it happen. Sure enough they did just that. It was a sort of déjà vu as they had faced a very similar challenge on Thursday. By 6:30 we had ourselves a race track.
For the second night in a row, Dave Darland set fast time. Also, for the second night in a row, Bryan Clauson drew the last number to qualify. He qualified only 11th quick, but ended up starting on the pole for the feature.
Passing was tough in the first heat as outside front row starting Kevin Thomas Jr. won. Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney and Brady Short all transferred from the first four starting spots. This meant that Dave Darland, Robert Ballou and Chad Boespflug all marched to the B.
Chris Windom checked out to win the second heat. Brady Bacon came on strong to grab second from sixth. Jon Stanbrough was third after making a last lap pass of Jerry Coons Jr.
Tracy Hines’ less than ideal time trial put him in the front row of the third heat and he won easily. Shane Cottle was second and Casey Shuman took third. Bryan Clauson was shuffled to the back early and worked like a one legged place kicker to claw his way to fourth.
Brandon Mattox made it four for four as he won the fourth heat from the front row. Chase Stockon was second and Max McGhee was third. Kyle Cummins played a major role in seeing to it that C.J. Leary and Scotty Weir went to the B.
Thomas Meseraull wasn’t able to not start the B, along with Daron Clayton, beset by engine woes. This put Robert Ballou in the front row with Dave Darland. Sure enough, those guys were one/two. Chad Boespflug came from seventh to take third. Logan Jarrett, Mr. Leary and Mr. Weir also would move on. Brian Karraker would grab a provisional.
With so many fast timers heading for the B, this put Clauson on the pole with Grant beside him. BC jumped to an early lead as Stanbrough hastily annexed second from the second row. By the time of the first yellow Darland had already motored to fourth after starting seventh.
The second yellow waved when Cottle offered a right rear to Darland. Contact was made, enough to remove DD from any chance of winning. The same was said for Cottle, who had issues later. It was Clauson, Stanbrough, Cottle, Ballou, Grant, Jarrett, Bacon, Cummins, Windom and Stockon.
A few more laps were green before Brian Karraker flipped in turn two, bringing out the red. Up front, Cottle had retreated to the pits. Windom had come from 16th and was running eighth. Darland rejoined the festivities.
The next green flag segment saw Grant exit the scene up front and Darland get lapped. Yes, Dave Darland was lapped.
The final yellow waved on lap 19. It remained Clauson, Stanbrough and Ballou at the front. Bacon was fourth, but Cummins was about to make his life either miserable or annoying.
Clauson maintained his lead, but it never was a more than a few car lengths over Stanbrough. And then there it was. BC made that small error and Stanbrough was there. Jon’s margin wasn’t exactly huge as Clauson wanted to be there just in case Mike Dutcher’s pride and joy made its own error. But it didn’t happen.
Ballou was disappointed in third but he had no reason to be too torn up about it. After all, he’d started eighth and had to pass a few strong runners. Cummins did get around Bacon for fourth with the Oklahoma native fifth. Stockon moved from 11th to sixth while Brady Short advanced from 12th to seventh. Leary rambled from 14th to eighth as Windom faded a bit at the end to grab ninth. And Logan Jarrett ran as high as fifth before slipping back to where he started, tenth.
As this is written in the wee hours of Saturday morning, later today the gang will finish off Thursday’s program, and then run the regular Saturday show. It shall be a long day and then some.
Annoying Calvin while I entertain Hobbes, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Think It'll Rain?
Kokomo Speedway's Smackdown III got off to wet start on a most humid Thursday evening. The wetness in the form of rain visited the track on Thursday morning, dumping a few boatloads of rain onto the oval. But a Herculean effort by the staff, led by track prep guru Reece O'Connor, gave fans a surface that all 35 teams could tackle.
Dave Darland was 12th to qualify and his 12.791 lap was quickest, a full two tenths faster than Robert Ballou's time. There was no question of the track going away for those who drew high numbers; Jerry Coons Jr. (fourth quick) and Bryan Clauson (third) proved that.
What was occasional lightning to the north during time trials became more visible and persistent when the first heat lined up. Lightning in the form of high speed struck the track as fifth starting C.J. Leary won with Mr. Darland second. Chris Windom recovered from a lap one bicycling excursion to come back and finish where he started, third. Pole sitter Chris Gurley held on for fourth.
When the second heat lined up, a few sprinkles got people's attention--or at least it got mine. Somehow all eight cars kept things under control. Chase Stockon won what must have been one of his wettest wins ever. Kevin Thomas Jr. was second. Justin Grant took third and Robert Ballou grabbed fourth after a terrific battle with Casey Shuman.
As the checkered waved Lots of folks, including me, quickly left the bleachers. I began a brisk walk to the north edge of the parking lot. By the time I arrived at the white Chevy truck, the drizzle had stepped up a bit. I managed to be drier than most.
Before I left the rain was in high gear and stayed that way for quite awhile after I'd checked into a motel. I set a slower than normal pace on the newly numbered 931 and arrived in one, mostly dry, piece.
The rain continued off and on overnight. As of noon on Friday, the track partly covered with water. Clouds still hung around and there was yet another good chance of more rain. Despite it all, the staff was doing all they could do to conduct racing for the evening. As always, time would tell.
Yet again we are reminded that we don't have a lot of control over many things.
Heading to a home improvement store to buy materials for an ark, I'm...
The Hoosier Race Report: Some of This,…
The Bloomington Speedway was the scene of quite an evening of Hoosier sprint car/bullring racing at its best on a warm and humid Friday night. Those who excelled earned everything they got. Others may not have had the desired results, but they, too, excelled in effort if nothing else. There were hard feelings, cut and slash moves, slicing and dicing, and at the end, Kyle Cummins standing in victory lane with a touch of controversy.
On this mid-August late afternoon, it struck me that this was the way to show up. I ran a bit late because my grandson and I insisted on our singing along with the Beat Farmers’ catchy tune, “Happy Boy,” that is played each Friday on WTTS-FM in Bloomington at 5:00 p.m. Wife/Grandma was duly impressed. But, even though the troubles of life persist, one must persevere and look forward to good and/or better times. Usually, it occurred to me, I show up at a race with a feeling of both anticipation and curiosity.
Sure enough, my anticipation brought me to a conversation between Butch Wilkerson and Tom Helfrich. For once I kept quiet, listening to stories, speaking only when Butch let me.
This was an MSCS show tonight and 28 groups of racers had notions of racing on the red clay oval. As is usually the case, enough USAC runners showed up to make the regulars frown, then assume a look of determination to outrun those guys.
Passing points mattered and Casey Shuman hustled from third to first and won the first heat by a healthy margin. Dave Darland, in the Stensland machine, made a late pass on a very fast surface to take second over Brandon Morin. Jeff Bland did the same as he took fourth after starting seventh/last.
Shane Cottle started second and maybe wished that he had a cell phone with him. This was because he had enough time to order a pizza for the guys. Jared Fox was second and Ethan Barrow took third. Ethan Fleetwood, like Barrow, started and finished in the same spot; for Fleetwood it was fourth after bringing out an early yellow.
Brady Short ran away with the third heat win with Kent Schmidt second. Robert Ballou came from fifth to finish third. Kyle Cummins came from sixth to end up fourth.
Brent Beauchamp won the fourth heat as Brandon Mattox, the pride of Terre Haute, was second. Chad Boespflug had made contact with Bill Elson recently and tonight was in the black 27; he started last and grabbed third. Daron Clayton brought out the familiar and popular 92, and then drove it to fourth.
Rather than walk around, I sampled the double cheeseburger and watched the modified heats. It was a bit disappointing that the Modified Maestro, Devin Gilpin, wasn’t here, but that didn’t matter.
The top 16 in points after the heats were locked in and the B would add four more. A yellow flag was unfurled when Kent Christian spun while running third. Donnie Brackett was much of the show as he clawed his way to win after starting eighth. Aaron Farney came from tenth to second, an effort no less impressive. Pole sitter Ethan Fleetwood was third. Chris Babcock came from ninth to fourth and wasn’t terribly with pleased with something Fleetwood had done. No matter, both were in the show.
Short and Shuman, two guys who aren’t members of each other’s fan club, led the gang to the green. The green turned yellow quickly as a three car meeting commenced in turn one. It was time to try again.
This try made it to turn two before four cars gathered with Robert Ballou tipping over. Robert would be put upright and start on the tail. He’d make noise later.
The third time wasn’t to be the charm as Brandon Mattox and Kent Schmidt missed a great chance at a double flip when they slid backwards at a good clip over turn one’s steep banking.
For the second time in one week I’d used up one full page taking notes on one complete lap.
The fourth time worked for awhile. Shuman took the lead and held it until Chad Boespflug stopped on lap six. The order was Shuman, Short, Beauchamp, Darland and Cottle for the first five. Kyle Cummins was sixth, which wouldn’t ordinarily be a big deal, but he had started back in 12th.
The next 16 laps were some of the most intense and riveting I’ve seen anywhere. Shuman kept his lead but Cummins had quickly moved to second. These two, with Short and Beauchamp, engaged in some serious mano a mano combat while they negotiated lapped traffic. Cummins led for a couple of laps until he slipped to fifth after being balked by a lapped car. Shuman regained the lead until lap 22 when a yellow flag for Daylon Chambers waved.
Suddenly Shu slowed with a flat left rear that may have come from Beauchamp not getting slowed in time for the yellow—one of those racin’ deals.
Beauchamp led now with Short, Cottle, Cummins and Daron Clayton not done yet. The green waved and Cummins again showed that he had this place figured out tonight. Soon enough he was challenging Beauchamp for the lead. By the time the lap 29 white flag waved Cummins was on the 34’s tail. Then came the slide job that didn’t quite work. Cummins’ car didn’t quite clear the front of Beauchamp’s. Both easily recovered but Cummins had this one in the bag. Behind Beauchamp was Short, then Cottle and next was none other than Robert Ballou. His charge had been largely unnoticed as people were watching the fun up front. Darland was sixth, followed by Farney (from 18th), Clayton and Ethan Barrow. Chris Babcock came from 20th to finish tenth.
Beauchamp wasn’t pleased by the last lap slider and said so but to his credit, Brent was a man about it. Cummins did immediately go to Beauchamp’s car and had some words after they stopped for post-race interviews, but that was it. Words, no other antics. Both guys were pros.
I hung around for a little while and then moseyed out to the parking lot. I was Terre Haute bound, staying there overnight, and then heading for a new (to me) track, the Springfield mile, where USAC’s Silver Crown division hoped to race on Saturday.
Clouds were the norm as I traveled northwest, but there had been little rain—so far. Occasional sprinkles were in progress as I arrived, but stayed away long enough for hot laps and time trials.
The track was in great shape and Tracy Hines did his best to crack the 30 second barrier. He was quickest with a 30.646 lap in a car that is for sale.
But as the boys lined up, the drizzle began and wouldn’t go away. A couple of pace laps later and the red flag waved. A few of us were bummed, but that’s the way it goes.
I’ve traveled farther than the 250 plus miles to Springfield to get rained out (think Perris, California in November 2011). If nothing else I’d gotten a glimpse of the Illinois State Fair, a shining symbol of an America many of us think has gone completely away, but hasn’t. The background that consisted of carnival rides off turn one represented a part of America that somehow refuses to go away—and I’m glad of that.
Again I moseyed out to the parking lot after saying my good-byes and headed home. It would be a long trip, partly because my Plan B, the Lincoln Park Speedway, had also rained out.
Two days later came the good news that this race, the 53rd Tony Bettenhausen Memorial, was rescheduled for September 7.
God help us if or when our hope, curiosity and feeling of anticipation all desert us. Because then we will not be living, but merely alive.
So it may be that another race or two lies ahead. More specifically, the Kokomo Speedway awaits racers and fans alike for this weekend will be Smackdown III, one of the best birthday presents a fan could want.
Thankful that Mr. Bodett leaves the light on, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Seven is as Good as Eight
On a night that sprint car racing won’t forget, the remarkable battled with the tragic for center stage. Sadly, the tragic will likely prevail. But take nothing away from Donny Schatz or Brady Short. Donny won at Knoxville, for at least this past weekend the Mecca of sprint car racing. Brady won an MSCS sanctioned feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. The Hoosier state is the week in and week out Mecca of sprint car racing (in my own opinion, of course).
It was the Hoosier weather we know and love, a bit warm and very humid with a threat of rain—that is Indiana in August. I’d spent the early part of Saturday at a local motel parking lot, ogling old cars, especially ’57 Chevys, and collecting food for one of our charities. But after a nap, it was time to head northwest.
Given that LPS trackrat Bill Gardner has taken this life’s checkered flag, I had mixed emotions, which is to be expected, I reminded myself. I held wide open the possibility that Bill would be there in spirit, if not at his usual perch, a golf cart at Brian Hayden’s pit.
Bill might have been tickled to see 44 sprints jammed into Joe Spiker’s little playground among about 120 cars overall. Some of the regular USAC runners may not have been on hand (Guys like Stanbrough, Coons, Bacon, Hines, Windom and Stockon, who was present but in relaxed mode, weren’t around), but a goodly number of hungry racers were in the neighborhood.
Chad Boespflug showed ‘em how to play the passing points game as he rambled from eighth to win the first heat. Dave Darland came from fifth to take second. Mike Terry Jr. was a strong third, giving ol’ Dave fits for a few laps. Kyle Cummins, MSCS mainstay, came from sixth to fourth. Jeff Bland ended up fifth.
Shane Cottle was the man of the second heat, coming from fourth to win. Casey Shuman started on the pole and took second. Jarett Andretti was third with Joe Ligouri fourth. A.J. Hopkins advanced from sixth to fifth.
The third heat must have been victimized by some voodoo doc somewhere over in Clay County. It began early, even before anyone crossed the start/finish line, when the travelin’ man, Bill Rose, spun in turn four. The next yellow flew when Chris Gurley spun in turn three of the first lap and was hit by Rose. Yellow flag number three was for Daron Clayton, tonight in the Wingo brothers’ 77. The boys did get a lap in. The fourth yellow involved the hapless vet, Mr. Rose again. When all was said and done, Robert Ballou won from the outside pole. Carson Short was second and Clayton recovered for third. Hayden took fourth and James Lyerla was fifth.
Brent Beauchamp told me he was happy to have the pole for the fourth heat, but knew it would hurt his starting spot for the feature if he won his heat (he was right, of course). Kevin Thomas Jr. came from fifth to second. Max McGhee pressured KT mightily but settled for third. Travis Welpott came from ninth to take fourth. David Applegate, a Lawrenceburg regular, made the long trip across our state and finished fifth.
C.J. Leary came from fifth to take the lead and win the fifth heat. Brady Short came from sixth to take second. Daltin Gabbard was third, where he started, and hounded Short for the last half of the race. Brandon Mattox rambled from eighth to take fourth. Daylon Chambers persevered to grab fifth.
Two B Mains would take the top two as the 16 highest point getters would make up the first eight rows of the feature. Joe Ligouri and Daltin Gabbard paced the field with Ethan Barrow leading the first group to call it a night. A.J. Hopkins banged wheels with Jarett Andretti at the start of the second B and motored on to win. Ethan Fleetwood came from sixth to take second. Jeff Bland was added to the feature lineup as a provisional.
Here they came. Darland and B. Short in the front row after a redraw of the top six heat race point getters. Then came Cottle, Thomas, Boespflug, Leary, Clayton, Ballou, Welpott and McGhee. There were only 30 laps to go.
As the boys lined up, fans could hear a sick sounding engine; it was Brady Short’s. To me it sounded like a cross between a lawn mower and an old Offenhauser midget engine. One could be forgiven for thinking that Brady might need to get out of everyone’s way.
It was not to be. Short’s crew thrashed before the feature and with help from others, their efforts were not in vain. Despite one cylinder inoperable, Short led all but one lap.
Darland grabbed the lead on the first lap, but Short, playing the bottom like a maestro, passed The Rave to take the lead. Darland took control of second with Boespflug coming on.
As the halfway mark approached, lapped traffic became a factor. Boespflug got around Darland to take second. Thomas, 11th starting Brent Beauchamp, Cottle, Leary and Ballou trailed.
The latter stages starred Ballou, who was coming on strong. He passed most of those guys and that included Boespflug at the end. Behind Short, Ballou and Boespflug was Darland in fourth. Thomas was fifth. Cottle was sixth with Beauchamp taking seventh after running as high as fifth. Casey Shuman came from 14th to finish eighth. Max McGhee was ninth and Kyle Cummins came from 16th to grab tenth. Ballou was the hard charger as he came from eighth to finish second.
It was Short’s tenth MSCS win, number nine coming the weekend before at Haubstadt. Cummins remains the MSCS point leader.
Brady Short showed much class as he praised and thanked people such as Mark Cummins, Brian Cripe and none other than Robert Ballou. These three, among others, pitched in and got the car as ready as it could be. Yet again my faith in humanity was restored.
I arrived home near midnight to find a tragedy no one needs, most certainly not the sprint car world. My faith would be tested.
By now, chances are good that readers know what happened at a dirt track in New York State on Saturday, August 9. People, many of them in the media and most online, became instant experts on sprint car racing. Too many have asserted that Tony Stewart is a murderer. Thankfully, a large number of people have used their knowledge, studied various videos and refrained from instant judgments to determine that Mr. Stewart was pretty much innocent of all charges, unless one counts racing too hard. But this got me to thinking.
The young man struck by Stewart’s car didn’t get the chance to learn one of life’s hardest lessons. Decisions we make in certain situations can have eternal after effects. Sadly, people can die as a result of a quick decision, no matter the intention of the decision and the actions that result from said decision. Many, beginning with the deceased young man’s family, will suffer.
Quite possibly sprint car racing will suffer. Mr. Stewart may rethink his desire to race his sprinter at bullrings, but that’s not a done deal. The instant experts will continue to weigh in, contributing to global warming more than anything else.
But it doesn’t have to be all bad. Quite often good things come from bad things. (After this past Saturday, ask Brady Short.) By that, I mean that race tracks and/or sanctioning bodies will begin penalizing drivers who exit their car and walk toward cars circling the track. (Obviously, if a driver in a car is in an unsafe position, he needs to exit—pronto.) Maybe enforcing this rule will save a life. Maybe Kevin Ward Jr. will not have died in vain.
Accidentally making an appointment to see a gynecologist, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: When You’re Hot…
Robert Ballou didn’t improve mightily as a sprint car driver overnight. He’s been this good for some time. But in the past few weeks, things have come together for the California native and he’s been on a roll. He did it again on Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway. He won a race that lots of guys would love to win, the Bob Darland Memorial, named after Dave’s late father (Bob was also Betty, Susan and Deb’s daddy too).
25 teams stopped by to spend another lovely Hoosier evening at a race track. All the usual suspects, or at least many of them, had unloaded thousands of horsepower.
Jon Stanbrough, Chris Windom and Justin Grant were all the quickest in their respective qualifying group. Dave Darland, sentimental and natural favorite, had an axle snap while time trialing with his group. A major thrash ensued in the pits. Thomas Meseraull had something go wrong for him in hot laps and was done for the night.
The heats resembled high speed freight trains. Scotty Weir won the first of three. Fellow front row mate C.J. Leary was second, trailed by Stanbrough, Shane Cottle and Jarett Andretti.
The second heat was Windom’s turn to shine as he came from fourth to win. Ballou was second with pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. third. Mr. Darland, whose car was repaired, came from last/eighth to finish fourth ahead of Travis Hery.
Dave Darland wasn’t the only one to have pre-feature troubles. In the third hear Lee Dakus got loose in turn two and Logan Jarrett swerved to miss the Canadian. In doing so, Logan’s car hit Justin Grant’s left front tire. It would be another trip to the pits and another thrash to get ready for the B. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won and Daltin Gabbard was second. Jarrett and Dakus ran third and fourth. Jamie Fredrickson got around Tyler Hewitt, who reminded me of a lion tamer fighting an ill handling beast, to take fifth.
The B had some promise of action with Grant and Josh Spencer both starting in the last row. Max McGhee came from fourth to win. Grant rambled from ninth to take second. Pole sitter Chris Gurley held on for third. Adam Byrkett was fourth. And after a battle with Hewitt and his untamed beast, Spencer, with his own car issues, came from tenth to take fifth, the last spot.
Windom and Weir were the first row of a 30 lapper that started slow before gaining speed. The first start was green until Stanbrough flipped hard in turn three. He was okay, but the car was trashed. The boys would try again with 19 cars.
This start was no better as the scene resembled NASCAR’s big one. Six cars piled up in turn one after Daltin Gabbard bicycled and collected Thomas, Leary, Hery, Cottle and Dakus. Gabbard and Leary were done.
Several guys benefitted from others’ misfortune. Windom and Weir now had Ballou and Coons as new occupants of the second row. Jarrett and Darland were now the third row; Darland advanced from the sixth row.
The third attempt was no good either as Spencer and Byrkett tangled in turn one. At least this was a yellow, not a red.
The fourth attempt reminded us why we were there. Weir took off and tried to stink things up. Windom followed with Ballou, Coons, Darland and Grant, who had moved up to tenth from 17th after the carnage, giving chase.
Ballou was still on a mission, a frequent occurance lately. After dispatching Windom, Robert took aim for the leader, passing Scotty as lapped traffic loomed ahead at the halfway mark. A lap or two later saw Grant get around Weir after he had disposed of Coons and Darland.
Ballou had no way of knowing that Grant had been quite busy but he was about to find out. Grant reeled in the leader and soon enough Ballou saw that he had unwanted company. Slicing and dicing, Kokomo style, ensued and Grant had a real shot at taking the lead. But he nearly spun in turn four coming to the white flag and Ballou was home free.
Robert took the money and the trophy that honored a guy who might have enjoyed watching the native Californian who gets as much out of his resources as anyone else these days.
There was no shame for Grant, who had passed a lot of cars in both the B and the A Main, ending up second. The same was true for Bob’s son Dave. Overcoming adversity early on, he had salvaged third place and then joined his family in congratulating the race winner. Weir’s still managed fourth after his early lead. Windom faded a little to take fifth.
Shane Cottle recovered from his first lap misadventure to end up sixth. Jerry Coons was seventh, with Thomas, Jarrett and Andretti finishing eighth through tenth.
Up next at Kokomo is one of the nicest birthday presents anyone could get me. I thank the O’Connor family for thoughtfully scheduling the immensely popular Smackdown late in August.
My usual traveling companion showed up in time to catch all racing. Between green and yellow flag periods he could be found down by the fence with several other kids waving at drivers stopped on the front straight. The only thing missing was his Wisconsin buddy Tim.
Thankfully he slept much of the way home because Monday was his first day of kindergarten. Where does the time go?
Not bothering to conserve fuel, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: New BOSS in Town
Each year, it seems, new faces arrive on the Hoosier bullring/sprint car scene. With or without much financial backing, young people (usually) enter the rough and tumble world that is open wheel racing in the Midwest in general and here in Indiana in particular. Some shine and eventually move on. Others run out of money. A few run out of talent. And a very few stick with it and become a fixture in Indiana sprint circles. The jury may be still out for C.J. Leary, but he is surely making strides toward being one who will either shine here and move on to another level or become a fixture here in the Hoosier State. He added another win to his resume on Saturday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway as he held off Joss Moffatt to win the 25 lap Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series sanctioned main event.
On a night when four tracks in the Indiana/Ohio area had races, all hosted at least 21 cars. The ‘burg had 36 of them with drivers from six states in the crowded pits. One might add that several drivers were out west at Belleville. One might also wish that all short tracks could have the pits jammed with a total of 97 cars, as Lawrenceburg did on this night.
Racing lost another fine young man last autumn when Jason Soudrette lost his battle with cancer. Lots of people were wearing Soudrette t-shirts and Jeff Harris, a ‘burg modified champ, was behind the wheel of the familiar orange 44.
The format tonight was four heats/top four advance/two B’s/top three advance to make up a 22 car feature.
Local ‘burg ace Shawn Westerfeld ran off and hid with the first heat win from the pole. Logan Hupp annexed second place. Aric Gentry, all the way from western Kentucky, was third. Justin Owen came from eighth to grab fourth.
Michael Fischesser won the second heat, also from the pole. But Joss Moffatt gave all who paid attention quite the show. Forced way down low at the start, Moffatt fell to eighth. But he began picking cars off at the rate of about one per lap. At the checkered, my fellow homeboy was second and gaining on Fischesser. Adam Miller was passed by Moffatt at the line and landed in third. Drew Abel was fourth.
The third heat gave thrills no real fan wishes to see. Landon Simon bicycled and smacked the turn two wall, bending the down tube. Landon walked away with aches and pains, but the hero was, along with the ‘burg crew, Joe Devin, whose welding had passed the stress test. Joltin’ Joe Ligouri won the third heat with Brandon Spithaler second. Jarett Andretti started and finished third. Dustin Smith did the same for fourth.
C.J. Leary was patient in waiting a couple of laps before passing Dwayne Spille. From there C.J. entered his own little world, winning by a straightaway. Adam Cruea was second and Spille third. Tony Main came from eighth to take fourth.
Rushville’s Garrett Abrams won the first B Main. Matt Goodnight came from fifth to second. T.J. Heil, improving rookie, grabbed third. Veteran Mike Miller won the second B. Wampum, Pennsylvania’s Bob McMillin was second and took Evan Gindling with him to the show. Promoter Dave Rudisell added Harris and the 44 to the field as a promoter’s option.
The re-draw placed Leary and Spithaler in the front row. The Greenfield, Indiana native and second generation racer (as is Spithaler) took the lead and built up quite a margin until lap seven. Lapped traffic had come into play, but the yellow waved for an Adam Miller spin in turn two. Poof! Just like that, Leary’s lead was gone.
They restacked with Leary leading Moffatt, Spithaler, Westerfeld, Ligouri, Hupp, Fischesser, Andretti, Cruea and Owen. This green flag period lasted four laps, but they were a bit tense and hard fought, as a war broke out over occupation of fourth, fifth and sixth among Andretti, Ligouri and Hupp.
The second yellow was for an involuntary meeting between Goodnight and Main on lap 11. The green flew again and there they went again. Westerfeld and Spithaler traded third place back and forth with Andretti, Hupp and Ligouri in the mix.
Caution light number three blinked on lap 15 as A. Miller spun again and had to exit. Behind the first two, it was Westerfeld’s turn to run third on the re-start. This green segment saw things cranked up yet another notch with wheel to wheel becoming commonplace as Spithaler, Westerfeld, Andretti and Hupp behaved as if second place was the Promised Land and they had to get there first.
The fourth yellow on lap 22 slowed things as Moffatt, who had applied some pressure to Leary, must have groaned in frustration. After a few green flag laps, Joss would reel in the leader only to have the dreaded (for him) yellow flag appear.
Ho-hum, it was more of the same for the last three laps with slide jobs, side by side racing, all out being the norm. Poor Leary was almost forgotten as he led Moffatt by several car lengths at the checkered. Andretti had an excellent race, coming from 11th to finish third. Spithaler also impressed with his final spot of fourth. Westerfeld had hung tough, settling for fifth.
Logan Hupp was sixth, just ahead of Michael Fischesser. Owen, D. Smith and Drew Abel made up the rest of the top ten. Abel tried an outside pass at the line and was squeezed into the wall, ending up parked in turn one, trying to grab just one more spot. And that, folks, is another trait of a racer.
By definition, the term “racer” can take on whatever meaning one wishes it to have. Most certainly 36 racers showed up at the ‘burg. In spirit at least, Jason Soudrette, among others, made it at least one more. And for this night, C.J. Leary was the racing “boss” of BOSS.
Lobbying both Dave Rudisell and Aaron Fry (‘burg promoter and the BOSS man) for a four spin rule (in case someone lets me take their car for a spin, as it were), I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Full Circle
Friday, August 1, was a day that saw me experiencing most every emotion in the book. It got underway in earnest with my little sidekick and I traveling from here to Cloverdale, IN to pay our last respects to Mr. Bill Gardner, the guy who started and ran www.indianaopenwheel.com. Bill had been battling cancer for a long time and we knew this day was coming, but somehow that doesn’t make it any easier to endure. From there we headed east, stopping by the mansion of Bob Black, president of the Hoosier Auto Race Fans. Bob gave us some t-shirts and free HARF memberships to the four feature winners at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway. Northeast we hustled and my companion exited the truck at the truck stop just off Exit 59 of I-69 to join his dad for the weekend. It was too bad because he missed seeing two of his buddies win. Chad Boespflug won the sprint feature after being hounded by Robert Ballou for all 25 laps. Justin Peck won the midget feature with no major issues.
The full circle came in the wee hours of Saturday as I arrived back home in the southern part of the state. I thought a lot about Bill and what he meant to those who knew and loved the guy. In short, he was a keeper.
Bill would have called me crazy for going from Cloverdale to Gas City to see a race—or maybe not. Nevertheless, I sauntered into the pits finding 21 sprinters and 15 midgets. Modified racer Bill Lewis brought a wild looking dirt late model, the sight of which would take someone back to the 1980s with it skyscraper-like sideboard. The car would show up later.
It’s still a bit new to see qualifications at a non-USAC event, but there it is. Scotty Weir’s 12.25 was quickest. The top four would be inverted in each heat. Top four finishers would get their times back.
Chad Boespflug let Chris Gurley lead the first lap of the first heat before taking over to grab the win. Behind Gurley was Weir and Canadian Lee Dakus, along with Matt Goodnight.
The second heat saw, near as I could tell, zero passes. For non-wing sprints, that is very rare. Pole sitter Josh Spencer won with Robert Ballou hounding his every move. Max McGhee was third, ahead of Justin Grant and Thomas Meseraull.
Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt won the third heat. Pennsylvania midget ace Trevor Koblarz was second with Logan Jarrett third. Travis Hery was the first to really test the low groove with mixed results; he was fourth ahead of Adam Byrkett.
As clouds, a fairly strong breeze from the south and a bit of thunder rolled in, the two midget heats were run with Michael Koontz winning the first and Colton Cottle holding off Justin Peck to win the second.
Rain just missed the track, so onward we went with Spencer and Boespflug leading 19 more to Mr. Hodde’s green. Josh led the first lap but Chad took it from there. By the third lap, third starting Ballou was second and began to reel in the leader.
By the halfway mark, lapped traffic became a factor. At times, Boespflug would be held up, letting Ballou challenge. But at other times, Chad would be able to increase his lead with Robert being slowed. The final margin was three car lengths, give or take a few inches. Boespflug was the first repeat winner at Gas City this year.
Justin Grant recovered from a miscue to take third. Chris Gurley came on strong in the latter part of the race to fourth over a fading Scotty Weir. Logan Jarrett started and finished sixth as Josh Spencer ended up seventh. Thomas Meseraull came on strong late in the race and was eighth after starting 14th. Travis Hery had a steady ninth and Max McGhee ran well early before slipping over the cushion midway through the race and salvaging tenth.
In the midget feature, Justin Peck held off challenges from Colton Cottle to win. Since his Indiana Midget Week flip at Lincoln Park that left him with a concussion, Peck has won two features in a row since his return to the cockpit.
Robert Ballou was scheduled to race the dirt late model, but he had engine issues. So Connor Donelson gave it a try, but couldn’t keep the pace of the DLM with the huge sideboard. Bill Lewis presumably pocketed some cash.
For some time now, it’s been no secret that the track is struggling. As this is written, rumors abound. There’s no need to repeat anything except…we should hope that somehow this bullring stays open on Fridays. No doubt the weather has bitten Gas City hard this year. Friday night’s races were only the ninth program of the year. Mistakes have been made but the efforts to offer fans and racers a Friday night racing fix have also been made. I pray that it isn’t too little and/or too late.
I entered the cul-de-sac a bit past midnight, early for Gas City, especially since I hung around to the end handing out HARF t-shirts to all feature winners. The only noise was the nighttime symphony of the night creatures that let us humans share space with them this time of year. Maybe it was my imagination but I thought I heard Bill Gardner telling me, “Get inside and get your poor dumb ass to bed, you dummy.” But it could have been my wife.
Going horseback riding with Sarah Fisher, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Fight to the End
He knew that cancer would eventually prevail, but he was determined not to give up against all odds. He decided that he would fight this disease as long as he had the strength. Sure enough, cancer won the war, at least the physical realm of the war. But the fighting spirit endured to the very end. Many of us believe that the spirit remains, and it continues to live in a world we cannot comprehend here. Whether we believe this or not, we can agree that Bill Gardner was a true man who may have lost the earthly battle with cancer, but a strong, determined, even stubborn man who cared about things that matter, namely family and friends, who loved racing and who could be found at the Lincoln Park Speedway (among others) on a given race night. Though he is not here in the physical sense, I firmly believe that, in one form or another, Bill Gardner lives and will live.
Don’t misunderstand; the aim here is not to deify Bill or anyone else. Instead, we aim to celebrate and mourn. Despite the tears, we must smile. Despite the smiles, we shed a few tears. Bill would cheerfully admit that he wasn’t anything near perfect. He had, like anyone else, his “moments.” He did not suffer fools gladly and presided over his creation, www.indianaopenwheel.com, accordingly. He was not shy about expressing his opinion when he felt like it. Seldom did he complain as he suffered more in his 42 years than most of us have suffered in a longer time on this earth.
Bill was a race fan from his childhood, much like the rest of us. A few years back he noticed a lot of people who went to races and most seemed to be by themselves or with a small group. From that observation came what was first known as usacfans.com before a certain sanctioning body looked unfavorably upon the name and copyright laws, etc. This was no huge problem; Bill renamed his baby indianaopenwheel.com and it was off and running.
No doubt there were times Bill wished he hadn’t created the message board. But, as in real time and life, one had to plow through the inevitable untruths, cyber attacks and other nonsense to find useful information. And while people were interacting online, perhaps they might get to know each other and maybe even enhance their night at the races.
Sure enough, this happened. Many that frequent the board can say, as I do, that they have made dozens of friends thanks to Bill Gardner. Many can say that they are glad of this. Many are thankful to have known Bill—and become his friend as well.
IOW.com has evolved into the best avenue of information for racing news in our state. One can find out right off if a track has suffered a rainout. One can find out if a friend or family member is sick. And one can find out who will be driving which car at a given track on a given night. Promoters have stepped up their game, quite possibly because of the extra scrutiny that IOW.com has bestowed upon our cherished Hoosier bullrings.
We have no way of knowing what lies ahead so we imagine. Some choose to believe that when life ends here that is it. Some have vague notions of an afterlife of some sort, but haven’t thought much about it. But maybe most have some ideas of what things will look like on the other side. First off, there is neither pain nor suffering. Instead there is joy, which is more permanent than mere happiness. There are lots of smiles and laughter. And for race fans such as Bill and others, there are either actual races and/or long enjoyable sessions of bench racing where racers share old memories. I choose to take the less traveled road and believe that Bill Gardner sits with these racers and takes it all in.
You see, we need concepts such as faith, belief and hope to carry us through this life, no matter what we believe of the next life. We are motivated by the “pie in the sky” idea that things will be better someday, somehow. Often these hopes are crushed, our beliefs stiffly challenged and our faith weakened. But we move on, we must move on or else face a dreary existence.
Bill Gardner did this. He was a man who suffered from his ailments for over half his short life and yet he moved on, defying the disease and the odds. He did so with love and grace and, dare I say, a certain amount of faith, hope and belief. For a lot of us he set an example to follow and carve out a better path for our own lives. Even though we miss him and mourn his passing on, we need to cherish the memories and, again, follow his example as he has faced what we all surely will face.
Bill, I hope and pray that you are settled in now and mixing and mingling with all those who have gone before. Say hello to fellow fans Jack, Dwight and Morty. Introduce yourself to Larry and Gary (Rice and Lee), Rapid Rich, Calvin, Sheldon and all the other racers who have taken this life’s checkered flag and the next life’s green. Take it easy, bud. Your suffering is over, finished, kaput, no more. For that we can all say, Amen.
With both a smile and a tear, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Points and Championships
Maybe the two best yardsticks to measure excellence in racing are the number of wins a driver has or the championships a driver has won. Excellence means a driver can be a “points racer” or a hard charger who races only to win and hang the points. On rare occasions a driver can do both, race for wins and points. Perhaps these days in Indiana at least, Bryan Clauson does both well. He races for points but isn’t shy about going for the win. Robert Ballou, on the other hand, is in it to win it, forget the points. As it turned out on Saturday night at the Tri-State Speedway, both excelled. Clauson was again the 2014 Indiana Sprint Week champion and won two of the six features. Ballou won at Tri-State/Haubstadt, his second ISW feature win of the series within a series.
Aiming to get good seats for my son and his girlfriend, we arrived super early on another beautiful summer’s day. I had the chance to wander around the pits, just looking—and thinking. As the pits filled up it occurred to me this could be described as the calm before the storm. Work was being done on the track as Tom Helfrich’s platoon of trucks circled the quarter mile paperclip shaped oval. The mood seemed to be laid back, with people joking and visiting.
Soon it was time to warm the engines, check things off the “to do list.” The first group came onto the track for their hot lap session. Slowly they idled around the track until everyone in the group was out there. Then Mo Wills waved the green flag and……
What resulted from the signal was temporary, but total bedlam. Noise, flying dirt, cars mere inches from the wall and/or disaster, you name it. The senses were assaulted and the checkered waved with the yellow flag and this group exited the track. That laid back feeling was but a recent memory. It was time to get serious.
Soon enough time trials began. Things got very serious for Chase Stockon right away. He broke an axle barreling into turn four and flipped. What followed this in the pits was a great example of this kind of racing at its best. Guys who race Chase wheel to wheel, who do their best to beat him, were scrambling with Chase and crew to fix the car. Tracy Hines, Robert Ballou, Logan Jarrett, Chad Boespflug and Jerry Coons Jr. were among those who repaired the wounded beast and made it race ready by the time Chase’s heat hit the track.
When the time comes for the HARF Sportsmanship awards this winter, all of those guys might need to split the award up X number of ways.
Jon Stanbrough was the fastest of the 36 cars on hand with a 13.203 lap.
Kyle Cummins timed in fifth quick and would be a force all night. He came from fifth in the first heat to win with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Stanbrough was third and C.J. Leary held on for fourth.
Max McGhee ran off to a bit lead while the boys behind him fought for position. Robert Ballou finally broke away from the pack and chased McGhee down. The California native closed on Max but fell short and settled for second. Brady Bacon caught Daron Clayton at the line to grab third. Clayton, a true racer if there ever was one, brought out his old reliable family sprinter to race after his Hank Byrum owned ride was sidelined with engine woes. He would start tenth in the feature on a track where he has excelled.
The third heat was one of the best ever, anywhere, anytime. Tracy Hines jumped out to the lead as a major skirmish broke out behind him. Donnie Brackett ran second for much of the race before faltering at the end. Some of the guys who had helped Stockon get back onto the track were now doing their best to beat him. Chase was in the middle of the fight which included Clauson, Boespflug and Coons. Positions changed with each turn. Toward the end Windom got around Brackett, who became a sitting duck for the predators. Incredibly Stockon dusted off BC and took third with Bryan fourth. Many were watching this action and missed Windom catching and passing Hines at the line.
Brandon Mattox led a comparatively tame fourth heat all the way. Carson Short spun early and was slightly clipped by Hunter Schuerenberg, who was able to continue. Justin Grant climbed the wall, but somehow didn’t flip and kept going. Dave Darland held second until late when Schuerenberg made the pass, relegating the PC to third. Grant recovered to take fourth.
Two early yellows slowed the B before Chad Boespflug won with Jerry Coons Jr. second. Casey Shuman was third and Donnie Brackett motored into the A in fourth. Richard Vander Weerd was fifth and Shane Cockrum made a late pass to grab the last empty chair. Kent Schmidt, who ran a strong race, maybe deserved better, but finished one spot off. Chase Briscoe came back from an early spin to finish eighth.
Jace Vander Weerd took the only provisional of the night.
As was the case at Lincoln Park, Ballou was on the front row. His partner was Cummins, who was just as hungry. Ballou jumped out to the early lead but simply could not shake Cummins. Sure enough, on the seventh lap, Kyle used the bottom lane to perfection and grabbed the lead on the seventh lap. Like Ballou, Cummins couldn’t shake the second place runner.
Casey Shuman slowed and brought out the race’s only yellow on lap 14. This would be Kyle’s undoing as Robert was ready. Behind these guys were Clauson, Stanbrough, Schuerenberg, Bacon, Clayton, Boespflug, Windom and Thomas.
On the re-start, Ballou swept around the outside to grab, and keep, the lead. Again, he could not put any appreciable distance between himself and Cummins. That was all she wrote as Robert hustled to his seventh USAC win—and second this week. Trailing Cummins was Stanbrough, who used up his tires in passing Clauson, who was fourth. Clayton’s story was about as impressive as any, seeing that his underfunded effort brought him fifth place after starting tenth. Bacon was a steady sixth. Schuerenberg and Coons were seventh and eighth. Leary came from 16th to ninth. Boespflug was tenth.
Chase Stockon, who won’t forget this night for quite awhile, moved from 22nd to 14th and claimed the Hard Charger award.
The diminutive race fan and his grandfather scooted through the gate at the start/finish line and joined the crowd gathered around the top three cars. The race winner asked a couple of little girls if they wanted to sit in the car, or even drive it to the weight scales. Both girls, quite shy, demurred. Robert turned to Karston and asked him if he wanted to drive the car, perhaps already knowing the answer.
Sure enough, I found myself perched on the right side nerf bars while Robert took the left and the little guy drove with the four wheeler providing the push. We stopped at the scales and Grandpa dismounted. Robert climbed in and made the minimum weight, Karston got back in and they rode off without me.
I caught up with them at the Ballou pit space and there he was, looking for me with a huge smile on his face. Apparently he has graduated from “merely” sitting in a race car.
What does all this mean? Many things, but one of them is that Robert Ballou, among many other of his competitors, gets it. Like some others, he can look ahead and see sprint car racing’s future when he sees kids turned loose in the pits to explore with wide eyed wonder. It doesn’t hurt that he, like many others, interacts very well with kids.
The terms “old school” and “outlaw” get tossed around like many other overused words. But Mr. Ballou is both. He won’t refuse the points (or the money), but would rather win. When I asked him his preference, I more or less knew the answer.
Certainly the track did its part when the public address guy exhorted fans to visit the pits after the feature. The pit area was simply jammed with fans, young and old, milling around gawking at the cars and maybe a familiar driver.
Mixed in the crowd somewhere was Bryan Clauson, who can win or race for points whenever either is needed. Somewhat lost in the mix was that Bryan won two ISW features, the same as Ballou. He can get the job done, no matter what the job is.
In the years to come, both of these young men, California natives, but Hoosier in spirit, will be well remembered by sprint car fans. They have raced each other since they were kids. Their styles are not usually the same but they do get results, namely wins and/or championships. They are a credit to sprint car racing, one polished and smooth on and off the track, the other a bit rough around the edges, but both quite likeable. No matter what their style, both have class, which is more important in the long run.
We should enjoy them while we can. None of this lasts forever except in our minds.
Pushing when I should pass and passing when I should push, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Big Girl Warms Up
While it might be said that Bryan Clauson has wrapped up the 2014 Indiana Sprint Week crown, one should be reminded of how easy it is to assume things. But one can bank on this: With his ultimately dominating win at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night, Mr. Clauson has the inside track on the championship—again.
Yet again Indiana was blessed by beautiful weather on this Friday afternoon. My traveling companion and I had surprisingly little traffic to drive me nuts. We rolled into the nearly full parking lot at 5 p.m. We stayed in the old truck long enough to hear Karston’s favorite song, “Happy Boy” by the Beat Farmers, a Friday afternoon tradition on WTTS.
An astounding 29 cars broke the old track record with Hunter Schuerenberg’s 10.920 leading them all.
This would be a night of many yellow and red flags flying in the breeze. The first heat was an indication. After a false start, Nick Johnson brought out a yellow as he slipped over the banking. As this happened, poor Jon Stanbrough was bumped twice with the second hit bringing him to a halt. Two more yellows followed before Jared Fox spun with another Johnson excursion off the track. Nick’s attempt to keep going was futile and he raised quite the dust storm in turn two, much of which landed on a sheriff’s vehicle. Finally, this one ended with Brady Bacon winning over Schuerenberg. Stanbrough came roaring back to take third. C.J. Leary was fourth.
It was worse in heat number two. Lap one, turn one and Brady Short seemed to get extra grip. In fact, it may have been too good as he commenced a series of nasty flips side over side, ending up off turn two. Jerry Coons Jr. and Mark Smith were collected with Coons out of the race. A mid-race yellow saw Brent Beauchamp and Tracy Hines touch wheels with both sailing off turn three. Somehow, neither one flipped. Shane Cottle passed Dave Darland late to win. Chris Windom was third and Chase Stockon was fourth. Another weird aspect of this race was a role reversal. Cottle won by using the high groove while DD, normally a rim rider, hugged the low side.
The third heat was fairly tame, which is to say there was only one yellow. Kevin Thomas Jr. won with Justin Grant second. Bryan Clauson was third, with a front row starting spot in his near future. Casey Shuman took the last transfer spot to be had.
Brandon Mattox made it three of four heat winners starting on the front row. He held off Chase Briscoe. Robert Ballou came from seventh to finish third. Logan Jarrett recovered from a turn one slide off with no flipping, but plenty of air to take fourth. Early contender Thomas Meseraull brought out the second slowdown with an ailing engine.
Chris Babcock won the C Main and Californian Brody Roa was second, making a late pass on Dakota Jackson. Chris Gurley grabbed the caboose for the B.
Chad Boespflug won the B over Californian Richard Vander Weerd. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti was third. Ethan Barrow was fourth. Carson Short was fifth with Jerry Coons Jr. making a valiant drive to take the last spot for the A.
With a Hall of Fame front row in Clauson and Darland, it was easy to think that one of these guys should win the 30 lapper. Darland took the early lead and kept it through three early yellows. Then the red flag waved for a rare Tracy Hines flip in turn two of lap 10. He was okay but done for the night. Behind Darland were Schuerenberg, Clauson, Leary, Grant, Windom, Stanbrough, Bacon, Jarrett and R. Vander Weerd.
This green flag segment lasted only a lap or two before Jarrett spun with or without help. Brandon Mattox also stopped on the track. On this re-start, Schuerenberg, who had been strong in the brief green flag periods, took the lead by flying solo up on the monster cushion while the others played down by the huggy pole.
Yet another yellow, this for a Bacon/Stanbrough spin, slowed things. Both continued with Thomas, who had caught part of Bacon as he tried to dodge the mess, exiting. On this re-start, Clauson began to move. A couple of laps later he passed Darland for second. Hunter was next. Clauson steadily reeled in the Nolan machine. It was halted only by yet another red flag, this for a Tyler Courtney flip in turn two—a popular meeting place on this cool Friday night. Sunshine was okay but done.
On the re-start, Clauson pounced, making the low side pass as he and Schuerenberg rocketed through turns three and four. From there, BC was home free, winning by several car lengths after taking the lead on lap 25.
Behind the two frontrunners, Darland was third with Leary a steady fourth. Windom came from ninth to fifth. But Ballou was the B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger for motoring from 21st to sixth. Grant took seventh as Shuman rambled from 15th to eighth. Stanbrough came back from his misfortune to finish ninth and R. Vander Weerd found himself with a top ten finish in a USAC feature.
As the sleepy youngster and I headed east, I was tempted to say this 27th Edition of Indiana Sprint Week all belonged to Clauson again. He had a ten point lead over Darland and Bryan has run well at Tri-State/Haubstadt. But no, this thing wasn’t over yet. Dave would see to that.
As usual, the little guy slept like a…not a baby, but like a little boy. Given his love of sprint cars, one wonders what his dreams are like. I don’t push this love of sprinters on him, far from it. The invitation is made and the next thing I know, we’re heading down the road singing “Happy Boy.”
The slightly overweight lady wasn’t going to join us just yet.
Starting my new career in real estate, capitalizing on that burgeoning Quonset hut market, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Racing on a Shoestring
Words or terms such as “resources,” “money,” “well to do,” and even “rich” are extremely vague. The obvious question that should be asked when such terms are used is “Compared to what?” Most USAC teams, be they full time campaigners or guys who are regulars at a track that hosts USAC at least once a year, do have somewhat limited resources. It’s not unusual to see a driver pitching in, doing whatever it takes to race. Look close enough and you’ll see a familiar face doing anything from driving the hauler to hawking t-shirts, not to mention actually working on the car. These guys understand Economics 101 and will do whatever it takes to cut costs—so they can go racing. Such a racer is Robert Ballou. On Thursday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway before a near capacity crowd, Ballou won a hard earned and well deserved victory over a guy who is, at the very least, one of the best racers in these or any other parts, namely Bryan Clauson. Thus ended a wild and wooly night at LPS, Round Five (counting the Lawrenceburg rainout) of the 27th Annual Indiana Sprint Week.
Times were slower toward the end of the qualification line. Guys like Clauson, Darland, and Boespflug all went out late and weren’t in the top ten. Chris Windom qualified right after Darland and set the tenth fastest time. Brady Short was 37th quick. Darland proved he could make errors when he tipped over the Phillips’ 71—after taking the checkered. Brady Bacon’s early 12.282 held up. A.J. Hopkins set the fifth fastest time on his first lap. Coming around to turn four to the checkered, he rode out a nasty flip, which made the photographers in turn four a bit nervous. A.J. was okay but done for the night; the car’s tail tank looked about as large as a double cheeseburger.
Tyler Courtney won the first heat and missed some beatin’ and bangin’ behind him. Thomas Meseraull was second and Aaron Farney was third. The skirmishing for fourth place was furious and almost guaranteed to leave some hard feelings, at least for the time being. The four way fight for fourth was won by Windom. Brandon Mattox, Brady Bacon and Chase Stockon trailed. Windom, Bacon and Mattox expressed their displeasure with each other after the race.
Casey Shuman won from the pole. Dave Darland’s car had sustained relatively little damage; he took second. Robert Ballou finished third ahead of Kevin Thomas Jr. The red flag waved when Lee Dakus rolled over in turn two. He re-started and finished the race.
The third heat C.J. Leary won as Hunter Schuerenberg followed. Chad Boespflug was third and track champ Brent Beauchamp ended up fourth. Mike Gass and Daron Clayton scratched. Clayton, without his Rock Steady horse, was in Mike Terry’s 85 for the night. Like any true racer, DC is scrambling to get back to the track. Shane Cottle went to the B.
Bryan Clauson came from the second row to win the fourth heat. Jeff Bland was second and Jerry Coons Jr. third. Tracy Hines came from eighth to finish fourth. Brady Short was ninth and didn’t make the B Main. But he had reached his low point of the night; things would look up soon.
Sure enough, Short came from fourth to win the Qualifying race/C Main/Last chance/You name it race. Three others, Richard Vander Weerd, Max McGhee and Mark Smith, moved to the tail of the B Main.
The B Main was stopped on lap two when Carson Short flipped side over side down the backstretch. Another one, okay but done. On the re-start Brady Bacon kept his lead to the end. Behind him there was little passing as Jon Stanbrough, Shane Cottle, Justin Grant, Chase Stockon and Jarett Andretti trailed.
Brady Short was last in the B, but….a provisional waited. Mark Smith and R. Vander Weerd also took Get out of Jail cards.
For the second straight night, some were late getting to the track. Boespflug, Bacon, Cottle, Andretti and Leary were docked two rows. Bacon’s crew was changing an engine. That might have made him late. This would be huge for Robert Ballou. It put him on the pole and the mad man was hungry.
For the first ten laps or so, the order up front was unchanged. It was Ballou, Windom, Meseraull, Boespflug and Thomas. Ballou increased his lead by what seemed to be inches each lap. Thomas began to inch his way forward, passing Boespflug. Meanwhile Clauson was joining the party after starting 12th. Near the halfway mark he was threatening to enter the top five. And he did just that before disaster struck.
Jeff Bland flipped a brand new car in turn three, landing among the billboards. Jeff was okay after his second nasty ride this month. The car? Not so sure.
The lap 18 re-start computed Ballou, Windom, Clauson, Thomas, Meseraull, Boespflug, Grant, Darland, Stanbrough and Beauchamp. Five laps later Windom was tapped (by Thomas?) and spun. Thomas was collected as was late arrival Grant. Somehow Clauson slipped through (think a lot of skill and a bit of luck).
Some reshuffling was in order for the last seven laps. Ballou now had Clauson starting on his tail tank. Meseraull was third followed by Boespflug, Stanbrough, Darland, Brady Short (what???), Cottle and Bacon. What followed was sprint car racing at its’ best.
Ballou chose the high road and Clauson worked the bottom as these two waged a fierce battle, several feet apart in the turns but side by side on the straights. Nary a wheel touched. Both hit their marks most every time. At the end, Ballou held off BC by only a few feet to grab his fourth USAC feature win. It was a combination of competition and class at their best.
Meseraull was, by comparison, a quiet third, but it was a finish that he and the Stenslands could savor. Stanbrough came from eighth to fourth. Darland, who had been on his top earlier in the evening, landed on all fours and grabbed fifth.
Under the radar was the remarkable night of Brady Short. He advanced from the C to the B. Burning a provisional after getting caught up in a crash and officially finishing last in the B, Short came from 24th to take sixth. Cottle recovered from his penalty to take seventh. Boespflug was eighth and Bacon’s new engine helped him to ninth. Stockon came from back in the pack, settling for tenth.
Tracy Hines qualified 33rd, started the feature in 22nd, and finished 11th, getting the Hard Charger award. Short didn’t get the award because he was, yep, using a provisional. All he got was an ‘atta boy.
Actually they all deserved an ‘atta boy.
It seems as if each track plays the game of Top This when Sprint Week rolls around. With the exception of the ‘burg (only because of the rain), all have been fine shows, well run, wild and crazy competition, and a deep feeling of appreciation, especially from fans who travel long distances to be here.
Clauson jumped from fourth to first in ISW points.
Next up is Bloomington.
But let us ponder what makes these guys tick. Why do they risk life, limb and bank account to drive these funny looking cars in circles? One could fill a book, but the simple answer is that they like to go fast and win. The money, the adulation and the other stuff is great, but some of these guys would still go fast and try to win, no matter what the pay or the vehicle used. They love that living on the edge of it all, knowing it won’t last, but enjoying it all the same.
Mr. Ballou, and most all of his fellow competitors, gets this, shoestrings be damned.
Delighted that I can still reach my shoestrings, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Time of Their Lives
Or…these are the good old days, at least for some. I was watching some of the drivers, crew and fans this evening at Terre Haute and the vast majority seemed to be in a pretty good mood. And why not? The weather was close to perfect, all who I observed were where they chose to be…and that was a good place—a race track. Not just any race track, but this was one of Indiana’s finest bullrings, the Terre Haute Action Track. By night’s end there would be thrills and spills, triumph and heartache, great efforts by front runners and underdogs and at the end, no one was more pleased than Bryan Clauson. The one grass roots racer that sprint car fans here and point to and say, “He has run in the 500.” In Indiana, there is still only one “500.” Clauson had finally won a feature at Terre Haute and watching him after the race, it struck me that he, too, was having the time of his still short life.
My little traveling companion and I arrived early. He wanted to sit on top of the wall in turn four, watching various vehicles circle the track, massaging it for the night’s action. Soon enough a water truck came our way. While others scattered, I ducked and held onto what soon was a wet little boy, laughing loud enough for many to hear and laugh with him.
This kid who uses the crayons at restaurants as pretend race cars patrolled the pits with me and we found 38 takers, minus a few names such as Chad Boespflug and Scotty Weir. The Vander Weerd brothers were absent as well.
Robert Ballou turned a 20.17 lap to lead all others. The track faded a bit. Late qualifier Justin Grant had to be wondering much later what his fate would be had he gone out a bit earlier. His late lap was 18th quick and he would start deep in the pack.
Shane Cottle came from the second row to win the first heat. Logan Jarrett started where he finished, second. Chase Stockon did the same, starting and finishing third. Ballou had to work like a, well, mad man to hold off Daron Clayton for fourth.
Jon Stanbrough’s highlight would be his heat race as he won after starting sixth. Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. was second. Brady Short took third and Grant faded but still managed a fourth place finish, sending Chris Windom to the B.
The third heat was marred by a lap one air show courtesy of Landon Simon. Pole sitter Kody Swanson spun and the boys in the inside row stacked up behind him. Simon ended up on his cage as a result. Brady Bacon won by a large margin as the top groove was abandoned for the time being. Dave Darland, who was one of those caught up in the first lap shenanigans, came from the tail spot to take second late over C.J. Leary. Chase Briscoe was fourth.
The fourth heat suffered the same fate as Shane Cockrum had a throttle stick on him and flipped nastily. Like Mr. Simon, Shane was okay. This race was the most competitive as Tyler Courtney, Casey Shuman and Bryan Clauson battled for the top spot, coming out of turn four three wide more than once. Courtney edged the Shu, who edged BC. After an early spin, Jerry Coons Jr. recovered to take fourth from local boy Brandon Mattox.
Chris Windom started and finished the B up front. Thomas Meseraull came from eighth to take second. Tracy Hines was third with Aaron Farney winning a race long battle with Kody Swanson to grab fourth. Brian Hayden had his own battle as he came from 14th to edge Brandon Mattox for the caboose. Daron Clayton was running second when his engine was mutilated, making his future plans problematic.
Jarett Andretti and Brody Roa used provisionals to join the 22.
Dave Darland was originally supposed to start on the outside front row but he was judged to be too late to join the field in lining up. This bumped him to the outside third row with Brady Bacon and Robert Ballou moving up. Bacon joined pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. in the front row.
Bacon and Coons had quite the battle for the lead over the first half dozen laps or so before the Oklahoma native pulled away. Clauson dropped back early from his third starting position to as low as sixth. He’d show up at the top a bit later. As Bacon and Coons battled, Ballou was closing on both and passed Coons. Stanbrough was running sixth when he stopped on the track, bringing out a yellow and finishing last. His chances of taking the ISW point title were pretty much shot.
The re-start order was Bacon, Ballou, Coons, Darland, Clauson, Windom, Cottle, Leary, Stockon and Jarrett on lap ten. Darland had a fine re-start and joined Bacon and Ballou for a spell before fading. At the halfway mark Clauson was up to third behind new leader Ballou and Bacon. Robert led only three laps before Clauson swept around the California native to take a lead he would not give back.
BC took over on the 17th lap and Ballou gave his all but fell short by about four car lengths. Bacon was third and Windom maintained his Sprint Week points lead with a fourth. Brady Short made a late charge and finished fifth. Justin Grant came all the way from 17th to take sixth and the Hard Charger award. Darland faded only a little and ended up seventh. Tracy Hines recovered from an early shunt to take eighth. Cottle and Stockon were ninth and tenth.
It was Clauson’s first Terre Haute win, hard as that is to believe.
Post-race we headed for the start/finish line. The diminutive one was able to pet Chevy, the most famous canine in Indiana now. He ran his own (foot) race on the front straightaway. He hustled to the pits and tried out Brady Short’s ride for a bit. Then he did the same for Brandon Mattox, adding to his total of seats occupied.
Needless to say, he was asleep as soon as we hit I-70 east to Indiana 46. He, too, is having the time of his life.
Lincoln Park Speedway beckons.
Intentionally walking Frank Robinson, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: That Which Will Not Be Controlled
Promoters all have a bit of control freak in them, so imagine how crazy rain on race day drives them. If Lawrenceburg Speedway promoter Dave Rudisell had longer hair he would have been pulling it out on Sunday night as the persistent rain ended Round Three of Indiana Sprint Week after three heats were run.
Fans, racers and everyone else should have known there was a serious chance of rain for Sunday evening. That may have deterred a few, but not famed racer Butch Wilkerson, his buddy Joe, my grandson and me. We met Butch and Joe in North Vernon and headed east.
The car count was an impressive 44 with all the major suspects in the house. But it would be awhile before they would make it out. That was because we arrived very early, which was not a problem. Karston rambled under the grandstand, checked out the concession stands (which had not opened yet) and even climbed into the flag man’s perch for a great view of a five year old (or any other age).
The wet weather subsided long enough for time trials on a quick and smooth surface. Jerry Coons Jr. was sixth man out and ripped off a 13.866 lap. Midway through the qualifying line, sprinkles of rain fell on the track and it may well have made it a faster oval. 13 second laps were not uncommon. A few minutes after the brief sprinkle, Bryan Clauson took quick time with a 13.797 circuit. But, no; it wasn’t over. Here came Chase Stockon, who set fast time with a 13.626. This looked good to the very end when the 44th qualifier, one Dave Darland, did his best to grab fast time. It wasn’t happening as the People’s Champ was fourth fastest.
Jarett Andretti ran an impressive race in winning the first heat. Chris Windom was second with early leader Richard Vander Weerd third. Chad Boespflug came from ninth to finish fourth. Stockon, Shane Cottle and Scotty Weir made sure that the B, if there was to be one, was filling up fast with hot dogs.
C.J. Leary passed Daron Clayton early to win the second heat. B. Clauson was third behind Clayton. Hunter Schuerenberg was fourth. Landon Simon got sideways in turn two on lap eight and collected Californian Brody Roa and Dickie Gaines. All were able to continue. Tracy Hines, sixth fastest qualifier, was shut out.
The third heat would be the last race we’d see, but it was a good one. Joss Moffatt, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Robert Ballou were not shy about going three wide at one point. Thomas won it with Ballou second. Coons took third and Brady Bacon started and finished fourth.
My friends and I witnessed a first last night. A certain five year old boy, who had missed his normal traveling-to-the-race nap, fell asleep during the heats. Only the soft rain falling on his face woke him. (No, he was not up half the night.)
The fourth heat was lining up when the sprinkles became drizzle and refused to go away. The cars went back to the pits and it was time to wait it out.
But there was no need to wait; the track was lost and the tough call was to tell everyone good night with no re-scheduling—let’s go home. Intermittent rain accompanied us all the way to North Vernon.
As expected, some fans wondered why there was no re-scheduling for either Monday or Tuesday. My very uneducated guess was that both the promoter and the sanctioning body, USAC, looked at the situation and agreed, more or less, that re-scheduling wouldn’t work out. Not that it was or is any of my business, of course.
All I knew was that the next race will be at the Terre Haute Action Track and my grandson looks forward to it as much as anyone around. Just as we can’t control the weather, it’s nice to know that the weather can’t control fans like him—unless he’s sleepy of course.
Sharing a pizza with Brian France and checking my funds, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Veterans 2, Youngsters 0
Granted, the above could change. It’s been said for many years that “youth must be served.” Quite possibly older folks (like myself) believe that. Maybe Friday night’s feature winner at Gas City, Jon Stanbrough agrees with that sentiment. And perhaps Saturday night’s winner of Round Two of Indiana Sprint Week, Dave Darland, does as well. If so, I’d guess that both would add, “But not yet.” Darland’s win was after an epic battle with Justin Grant, one of those young people and one of the most talented. Imagine how he must feel at this moment. On Friday Stanbrough held him off to take the win. Saturday Darland essentially did the same, as Grant tried mightily to win that race, and briefly led the last lap as well. But it wasn’t happening.
Rain, or its threat, caused more weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth (or gums in some cases). The huge mass on the radar made it to the Howard County line and scattered. After multiple rainouts last year, Kokomo has dodged some serious raindrops this year.
46 cars checked in with most of the main players back. The track was pumped and primed for high speed, rim riding, breath holding time trials. Ace photographer Chris Pederson stationed himself at the turn one fence during qualifying, remaining there as long as he could, getting great shots of all 46 cars as they barreled into turn one. Chris would duck away at the last second as dozens of tiny dirt clods hammered him when each car rode up around the wall of turns one and two. He reminded me of a kid who puts his finger up to a hot stove to see how hot it is—or maybe a kid who tries riding a bike with no hands. (I’m reminded of my childhood attempt to try and steer my bike with my feet. That had predictable results some 50 years ago, not far from where I sit here writing.)
Never mind all that. First Brady Bacon went out and set a new track record with a 12.589. But a bit later, Darland, who was 36th in line, broke that record with a 12.405. The track held up as Bryan Clauson was last to qualify, ringing up a 12.628, third fastest.
Tracy Hines’ win from the front row in the first heat meant that he made the big show but would start deep in the pack. It was one of many examples of how important a good qualifying effort was. Darland was second with Hunter Schuerenberg third. Chris Windom tagged along after a late pass of Scotty Weir. A red flag waved when Nathan Moore, Shane Cockrum and Ted Hines all got together in turn one, executing a very rare triple rollover.
Brent Beauchamp, one of Hoosier-land’s most underrated racers, won the second heat. His front row mate Shane Cottle was second. Robert Ballou started and finished third. After a most spirited battle, Brady Bacon secured fourth ahead of Justin Grant, sending him to the B.
Daron Clayton made it three front row starters in a row by winning the second heat over Chase Stockon. By now more and more guys were taking quick looks at the bottom, which was still a bit too moist. Bryan Clauson was third and Kevin Thomas Jr. took fourth. The second row starters, Richard Vander Weerd and Jerry Coons Jr., both headed for the semi.
Brady Short made it a sweep by winning the fourth heat from the pole. Jon Stanbrough was second with Matt Westfall next. Behind him was one of the better heat race battles ever seen as Thomas Meseraull and Chad Boespflug traded fourth place back and forth before TMez prevailed by a hair.
The Qualifying Race/C Main rolled off and Landon Simon wasted no time in sailing from fourth to first in less than a lap. He took Lee Dakus, Brody Roa and Gary Taylor (who started tenth) to the B with him.
Tyler Courtney took the early lead in the B, which was stopped for a Chris Gurley rollover. As this was happening, Josh Spencer and Casey Shuman had a brief meeting in turn four. All, including Gurley, continued. Courtney lost the lead as Chad Boespflug made a late charge and took over, leading to the end. Justin Grant, Courtney, C.J. Leary, Jerry Coons Jr. and Scotty Weir all would transfer with Grant nearly upsetting the Dave Darland applecart. Spencer and Shuman came up a little short after charging their way through the field.
It was Schuerenberg and Thomas’s turn to lead 23 more to the green as Jarett Andretti, Shane Cockrum and Richard Vander Weerd all burned a provisional. KT took the early lead but he wasn’t about to count his chickens, had he the time. Darland was on the move quickly, coming from sixth to third on the opening lap and taking the lead on the sixth lap. Dave started checking out on the seventh lap, but a lap nine yellow waved for Shane Cottle, who stopped on the track and finishing 25th.
Meanwhile Grant had made his way to second already after starting eighth.
This re-start, the only one of the race began with Darland leading Grant, Thomas, Schuerenberg, Windom, Bacon, Clauson, Ballou (from 14th), Leary and Meseraull. Again, Darland checked out as a battle developed among Windom, Schuerenberg, Clauson and Thomas for third place. And just past halfway, Darland’s lead began to shrink as he had trouble with lapped traffic. Grant was coming on strong and on lap 20 the boys were running nose to tail. Multiple sliders were exchanged. Grant never led a lap officially at the start/finish line, but he did lead for a few yards at times when he and Dave traded slide jobs. This included the last lap as Darland retook the lead coming out of turn two for good. The winning margin was all of .219 seconds, quicker than one could say “pork chop sandwich.”
It was a race that will be discussed for years to come by those who were there. Arguments will ensue about it being the best race ever. From here, it can be said that this one was about as good as it can get, like many others seen over the years.
Windom escaped the pack to finish third for the second straight night. Schuerenberg was fourth, holding off Clauson. Thomas, Ballou, Bacon, Meseraull and Leary ran six through ten. Brady Short was the B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger of the night, coming from 22nd to finish 13th.
Onward to Lawrenceburg, where rain would shut things down after three heats and a certain little boy forgot to take his going-to-the-races nap and conked out during the heat races. More on that later.
At some point today’s younger racers will grow older and become the next generation’s Dave Darland and/or Jon Stanbrough. But not yet.
Trying to be my generation’s next Mort Sahl, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Here We Go Again
I’m not anxious to count them, but there must be thousands of sub-cultures across America. And the tiny band of fanatics (along with casual fans) that populate the bullrings where non-wing sprints race have been gearing up for the two middle weekends in July. Most are Hoosiers, but folks come from most anywhere, be it just down the road or from overseas. For these people, Indiana is their Mecca, where they gather to race, talk, celebrate, mourn, laugh and, for some, hoist a drink or two. Whether they are “merely” fans or whether they earn their living by racing, they all love it. They packed the house on opening night of Indiana Sprint Week at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on a full moon Friday and watched Jon Stanbrough repeat his opening night victory a year ago. It was one race down and six more to go.
Neither traffic nor accidents nor crazy drivers would keep me from heading up I-69 to my destination, 100 miles from my house. Gas priced at $3.24 per gallon (Greenfield) made my smile even wider. I’d left early and despite the delays, I made it to the track to find Chef Craig hard at work on some of the best and thickest cheeseburgers one can find.
Well fed and medicated I wandered to the pits, wondering how long the track would hold up for time trials. With 53 sprinters, an impressive total, ready to attack the quarter mile oval, it might be understandable if the track became worn out after the first half of the field qualified. Wrong. A thin cloud cover helped, but track work was nothing short of outstanding as Mel’s maniacs did a Grade A job. Tracy Hines would agree. He was the 45th car to qualify and was fourth fastest, behind quick timer Dave Darland,
I’m not a fan of 12 car heat races, but understand the reasoning behind it. Three of the four heats were slowed by a yellow flag, but one could say that this is nothing new.
Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. won the first heat with Shane Cockrum second. Jon Stanbrough and Dave Darland would take a break until the feature. Elsewhere, an early yellow waved for Travis Hery, Jeff Bland and Mike Terry Jr. with an unscheduled meeting in turn four. Terry was the only one who could continue. A bit later his luck went from rotten to downright ugly as he flipped in turn two. Mike was okay, but no doubt feeling somewhat snake bit. Still later, Bland’s night would be downright nightmarish.
The second heat resembled the first as Adam Byrkett was turned by Chris Windom, one of those racing/accordion deals. Jace Vander Weerd was collected as he arrived at the scene. Brady Short won this one from the pole with Hunter Schuerenberg second. Windom led Scotty Weir in joining the A main lineup.
More of the yellow flag was spotted in the third heat as Robert Ballou won. Mark Smith trailed and Chase Stockon finished where he started, third. Richard Vander Weerd, with his brother making up two of the three USAC/CRA regulars traveling east, took fourth. Daron Clayton spun in turn four and collected Brady Bacon and Casey Shuman, who nearly got upside down. Shu was the only one who needed the hook.
The fourth heat stayed green as Bryan Clauson passed pole sitter Chad Boespflug to win. Behind Boespflug, who may have been a bit lonely running up top by himself, were Justin Grant and Tracy Hines.
USAC called the next race a “qualifying” race. Most everyone else called it a C Main. It didn’t matter; semantics don’t always matter. But with 53 cars in the house, this lineup would make for a very good A main at any other time. Shane Cottle, who had not qualified well, came from fourth to win. Pole sitter Matt Westfall was second. A.J. Hopkins, bad push and all, took third despite a turn four meeting with Logan Jarrett that ended with Jarrett pointed the wrong way. Chase Briscoe, who has been spending much of his time in NASCAR-land lately, had come up with the means to come back home and race. He was passed late by Hopkins and held on for fourth. These four tagged the B.
After a long wait for the mod feature (many yellows), the B began. Early on it got ugly for Bland, who had a wild and nasty ride off turn two. The car was messed up and Jeff eventually took a ride to the crash house, mostly to make sure all cylinders were clicking. Brady Bacon won this one over a power packed lineup. Josh Spencer, who had started third behind Bacon, followed the Oklahoma native and took second. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third with Thomas Meseraull fourth. Maybe the story of the race was Shane Cottle, who only rambled from 17th to take fifth. Pennsylvania’s Jimmy Light took the last non-provisional spot.
C.J. Leary, Jarett Andretti and Gary Taylor all burned a provisional.
Like it was a year ago, Jon Stanbrough won. He led all 30 laps, but second place Justin Grant was never very far away.
There was only one yellow and it came early when Scotty Weir, Mark Smith and Shane Cottle tangled in turn four. On the lap three re-start, Stanbrough resumed his domination. It was nothing unusual about Dave Darland giving people a reason to cheer, or at least take notice. As most of the other rode around the bottom, DD tried mightily to make the top side work—with limited success. Clauson and Thomas joined him for a time with similar results.
Behind Stanbrough and Grant was Windom, who was only a few car lengths back. Hines finished where he started, fourth. Stockon won the ProSource Hard Charger Award, coming from 13th to fifth. Bacon would take sixth, not bad considering that he’d been in a heat race scrum. The best under the radar run was that of Shane Cockrum, who came from 11th to finish seventh. Darland managed an eighth place finish as he tried the path less traveled. Jimmy Light had his own fine, little noticed, run as he came from 15th to ninth. And Mr. Clauson probably wasn’t overly thrilled with a tenth. But somehow one knew that he and Darland would be asserting themselves as we headed off to the next meeting.
Stanbrough has now won three of the last four USAC features. For points watchers, Stanbrough trails Brady Bacon and Dave Darland. He and Chris Windom are tied for the Indiana Sprint Week point lead.
As this is written, I have an eye on the radar, another on the clock, and still another online, wondering if Kokomo will race tonight. We’re all at the mercy of the weather. If they can run tonight, they will. Beyond that…I’m hoping to see several devotees of this tiny, but passionate, sub-culture.
Shunning my umbrella, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Underdog Has His Day
In writing about these people that race sprint cars in Indiana, I do my best to be objective. I know and like some more than others, but you won’t find out whom, at least not here. I’ve passed this on to my grandson, when asked who is his favorite, says, “All of them.” But I’ll cheerfully admit when an underdog wins I get an extra tickle. With all the criticism USAC gets (some justified, some not justified), one thing we should note is that underdogs do win every now and then. Those who may be a threat to win, but aren’t exactly expected to win don’t have a large hauler with one or more backup cars. They may not run the entire USAC schedule. But when they show up, they race. Once in awhile, they win. This brings us to Jerry Coons Jr. As Independence Day 2014 entered its final hours, Mr. Coons held off one of the best, Bryan Clauson, for most of the race at the Lincoln Park Speedway and won the 30 lap feature.
Given car counts and crowds lately, one had to wonder how things would go with LPS and Bloomington both running on a Friday night (Gas City decided to cancel its Independence Day racing and gear up for Sprint Week). Bloomington upped the ante with the decision to pay $2000 to win and $500 to start. Their annual fireworks show would guarantee a good crowd. The hope was that the extra dollars would bring out a few extra cars. As it turned out, apprehension was wasted. Both tracks had good crowds and car counts were decent by 2014 standards, 24 sprints for Lincoln Park and 28 for Bloomington.
No one could say that the track went away during time trials. First out was Jon Stanbrough, whose time was sixth best at the end. Shane Cottle was the fourth to qualify and his time bested Stanbrough’s. Bryan Clauson was 13th out and had fast time for awhile. There was more. Chad Boespflug, 17th, topped BC’s time. Finally, C.J. Leary ripped off a 12.403 lap, quick time and sixth from the last car out.
Daron Clayton started his night with a plus by winning the first heat. Brady Bacon was second and Leary took third after passing Dave Darland. The Rave finished ahead of Jarrett Andretti.
Hunter Schuerenberg won the second heat with Jerry Coons Jr. second. Shane Cottle eased into third. Then there was Robert Ballou, a late arrival. Robert arrived with no time to practice before qualifying. On the first lap of his heat, Ballou emerged from the mob scene with fourth place, which he maintained. Chad Boespflug took the last spot to transfer.
Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won the third heat. Fellow front row starter Chase Stockon led Bryan Clauson, Chris Windom and Tracy Hines to the feature. This left Jon Stanbrough out in the cold, headed for the B on a track where passing was a bit tougher than normal—rare for LPS.
Stanbourgh was unruffled as usual, winning the B. Casey Shuman was second. Long range traveler Lee Dakus made a USAC feature by taking third. Max McGhee led Aaron Farney, Brian Hayden and Chris Phillips to the 30 lap Promised Land.
Veterans Coons and Darland led the field of 22 to the green and Darland led the first lap before Coons decided that was enough and assumed the position. Brady Bacon was tapped and spun on lap four, bringing out a yellow.
It was about a half dozen laps after the re-start when Darland nearly spun in turn two and nearly stopped, then was tapped by the lapped car of Chris Phillips. The yellow waved and Dave was moved back from second to fifth, which was his position after recovering.
This re-start gave us Coons, Clauson, Leary, Cottle, Darland, McGhee, Boespflug, Stanbrough, Hines and Shuman, up from 16th. Another half dozen laps of green flag racing and the boys reached lapped traffic again with Clauson all over Coons like the proverbial cheap suit. With about ten laps to go, BC’s engine began smoking, even though it didn’t hurt his speed—yet. In lapped traffic Clauson took the lead for lap 26, but the smoking persisted and Coons returned the favor on the next lap.
It was all Coons’ show to the end as the only suspense was provided by Clauson. Soon after losing the lead, Clauson lost second to Leary. Then it was Cottle’s turn to pass as Bryan’s engine was toasted.
And so it went. This was Coons’ first 2014 USAC win, hard earned and well deserved for a true underdog. Leary capped off a quality night as he passed Dave Darland in his heat race and Clauson and Darland in the feature. Cottle finished where he started, third. Clauson and Darland were next. Stanbrough was sixth with Boespflug having, for him at LPS, an off night in seventh. Hines was eighth, Windom ninth and Shuman tenth.
Robert Ballou’s night ended up very well considering where it started. He started 19th in the feature and finished 12th behind Chase Stockon, winning the Hard Charger award on a track where passing was a real accomplishment.
There was no rest for the USAC guys with Midget rides as they headed north to Angell Park for the weekend. That didn’t apply to me as I sat out Saturday, getting my speed fix by mowing the yard.
Sprint Week approaches. Enough said. May the underdogs shine.
Loaning my traction control apparatus to Lewis Hamilton, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Test Session
Most everyone reading this, all three dozen of you, has owned, leased or stolen a car, truck or any vehicle with two or more wheels. Chances are very decent that before acquiring said vehicle, you took it for a spin, around the block, up the road or even into the next county. Common sense would dictate that, when possible, we should test any product before we buy it, or plan on using it for the long haul. So picture Indiana Sprint Week as a long haul, which in a way it is. Then picture a few of USAC’s finest racers showing up at the Kokomo Speedway for a test drive before Sprint Week arrives, which is next week as this is written. For a few the test drive was worth it, no doubt. But for Justin Grant, it was downright profitable as he passed one of the Masters of Kokomo, Shane Cottle, and won the 25 lap feature of the eve of one of America’s favorite holidays.
Not that I needed reminding, but again it hit me as I negotiated traffic on the north side of Indianapolis. I thanked my Supreme Being that I didn’t have to daily deal with the perpetual road construction, stop and go traffic, and the sheer volume of humans and vehicles, most of whom were headed home from work. I counted my blessings all the way to the new Kokomo bypass.
I arrived to find 26 of my closest friends parked just outside turn one. Chase Stockon had made the two + hour drive north to try out his USAC monster which had been wrecked in Pennsylvania a few weeks back. Shane Cottle was again in a Jeff Walker creation while Casey Shuman was again in the Bill Elson special.
Wheel packing, engine warming, etc. was done and it was time to sling some mud. The boys were only too happy to oblige. The first of three qualifying groups had Dave Darland leading the time sheet. The next group was led by Mr. Cottle, whose time was nearly a half second faster. Jerry Coons Jr. was the only non-Kokomo resident to lead his group, the third and final.
C.J. Leary took the early lead of the first heat. Darland had a slight bobble in turn two but kept going. But another local boy, Logan Jarrett, had his path blocked by DD and spun. Leary won the heat with Justin Grant holding Darland off to get the other re-draw lottery pick. Brandon Mattox, all the way from Terre Haute, was fourth and Jarrett came back from adversity to take fifth on the last lap.
With Adam Byrkett not answering the bell, Chad Boespflug moved to the front row to join Stockon. But Cottle snookered both of them and went way low to take the lead—and keep it. Stockon and Boespflug trailed. Shuman was fourth and Kyle Robbins took the last available spot.
Bryan Clauson, who has been here enough times this year to lead Kokomo points, won the third heat. Scotty Weir came on strong late to grab second over Coons. Josh Spencer was fourth and Travis Hery took fifth, sending Chris Gurley to the B.
Max McGhee, who ran so well this past Sunday, won the B Main over fellow front row mate Aaron Farney. Mr. Gurley had all the trouble he wanted from both Matt Goodnight and northern visitor Lee Dakus. All made the show. Elsewhere, heartaches and heartburn ruled. Daltin Gabbard, back with a new tin lizzie after his Bloomington debacle, had all kinds of handling issues and didn’t transfer. Garrett Miller took a medium tumble in turn four when Adam Cruea drifted up the track. Both would be spectators for the night.
Mr. Cruea and I had a getting-caught-up chat as he hasn’t been where I’ve been yet this year. I respect this likable young man and it’s gratifying to know that there are several others like him that populate the pits wherever I go. No matter what their expectations, young (and older) people like Cruea race when they can, do their best and smile at the end of the night, especially if they can 1. Load the car onto the trailer and 2. Take home enough cash to stop at the (your favorite restaurant here) on the long drive home.
The re-draw sat Grant and Leary on the front row. Next were Cottle, Stockon, Coons, Clauson, Darland and Boespflug. Mayhem or a sort ensued on the first lap when Kyle Robbins got sideways in turn two. Collected were Brandon Mattox, Travis Hery and Chris Gurley, who was caught up in the situation and ended up on his lid. This ended a night for Chris in which he may have wished he’d stayed home.
On the complete re-start, Cottle again dove low and grabbed the lead from the second row with Grant and Stockon chasing. A couple of laps later it was Grant’s turn to lead. At about the same time Dave Darland found the turn two wall, climbed it, slowed, then retreated to the infield. It may have been a treat to watch Dave work his way forward after starting seventh but it wasn’t meant to be.
Grant kept his lead until the red flag waved for Josh Spencer who flipped in turn one on lap eight. The crowd favorite was okay but done for the night. This re-start read Grant, Cottle, Stockon, Coons, Leary, Weir, Boespflug, Clauson, Shuman and McGhee, who had started 16th.
Cottle again took the lead using the bottom side and led until lap 17. Grant had been riding above the cushion in the fluffy area, singing Molly Hatchett’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster” no doubt. Shane, as usual, had been bottom feeding. Either way, after threatening to make the pass, Grant finally got it done and that was that. His J.J. Yeley-like method of running above the cush and diamonding down from the apex paid off big time. After his miseries of Sunday night here where he dropped out early, Grant both earned and enjoyed this a bit better.
Cottle held onto second with Coons third. Working as hard as anyone, Clauson got around Stockon to take fourth. Weir and Boespflug trailed Chase. Leary faded only a little to eighth. Shuman was ninth and Logan Jarrett, he who had spun in his heat, persevered and finished tenth.
And now Kokomo prepares for Sprint Week, which will be on the 12th. There should always be time for another test session. As this is written, my old white truck is ready for yet another one. And so am I.
Dealing with my post-World Cup depression, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Sticking With What Works
One of life’s more interesting decisions can be when one must decide which way to go. This, of course, can take many forms. Shall a young student go to college near home or far away…or go to college at all? Shall a potential retiree get out now or wait another year? Or…should a racer stick with what groove has worked so many times before or try a different one on a given night? On Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway, Bryan Clauson faced such a decision and had to decide a lot quicker than this was written. He stuck with the low lane and passed Jerry Coons Jr. late to take the 25 lap feature.
In what has become routine in the Hoosier state this year, rain was a threat on an otherwise lovely Indiana afternoon. Heading north, the little truck and I endured two showers, both south of Tipton County. From there it was dry—and I was hungry. A visit to the Half Moon Restaurant, the major sponsor of Josh Spencer’s beast, took care of the hunger. Dry and well fed, I traveled a few miles more to one of the many sprint car Meccas.
Two dozen teams occupied the pits. Casey Shuman had the Bill Elson ride for the night. Shane Cottle was in one of Jeff Walker’s monsters.
Each bullring has at least one place that offers a fairly unique view. At Kokomo it’s the pit bleachers in turn two. I planted myself there for group qualifying, jotting down numbers when I wasn’t dodging dirt clods. But seeing those guys coming right at you, sawing the wheel and seeming to brush the wall, is quite the treat. Robert Ballou, Chad Boespflug and Max McGhee were quickest in their groups.
Scotty Weir started on the pole of the first heat and immediately at least two races in one broke out. Weir and Cottle traded the lead back forth as Clauson and Ballou did the same with third place. Eventually it would be Weir, Cottle, Clauson, Ballou and lonesome Chris Gurley, fifth and headed to the A.
The second heat was almost ho-hum in comparison. Coons won from the pole with Hunter Schuerenberg second. Justin Grant was third and Boespflug fourth. Dave Darland, who had been caught in slower traffic in group qualifying, took fifth and would start back in the pack for the feature.
The third heat was more normal, at least to Kokomo standards. Max McGhee continued his impressive evening by winning from fourth. Logan Jarrett was second and Kyle Robbins was third after barely dodging a spinning Randy Johns. Shuman took fifth and Spencer locked up the 15th starting spot for the main event.
Rookie Garrett Miller won the B Main. Early leader, Canadian Lee Dakus, climbed the turn two wall and flipped at Kokomo for the second time this year. Travis Hery came on strong late to finish second and touch wheels with the winner at the line, spinning toward turn one. Adam Byrkett was third and homeboy Joss Moffatt was fourth in a very rare Kokomo appearance. Local favorite Jamie Fredrickson would share the last row of the feature with Moffatt.
For the 25 lapper it was McGhee and Coons taking the green first. In turn one it was the typical Kokomo five wide formation, albeit briefly. The kid McGhee led the first lap before the veteran Coons took over. But right away Robert Ballou’s car got an extra good bite of turn three’s dirt and tipped over, doing a pirouette before landing on its top. Just like that, the previous night’s Haubstadt winner would be last only 24 hours later, just as the Colombian fellow did in Indy car this past weekend. Hero to zero can hurt.
The lap three re-start was Coons, McGhee, Cottle, Jarrett, Schuerenberg, Weir, Grant, Clauson, Boespflug and Robbins. Grant turned hard left into the infield before the green waved, his night over. Coons took off and one could see that Clauson was already searching for some low groove traction. And brother, did he find it.
By the time Miller spun on lap nine, BC was sixth. Boespflug was seventh; neither was done. Miller’s second spin came on lap 16. Now the tea leaves read Coons, McGhee (still), Cottle, Schuerenberg, Clauson, Boespflug, Weir, Jarrett, Robbins and now Darland.
Soon after the green waved, Clauson passed Schuerenberg. Naturally, so did Boespflug. Next up for the Indy 500 veteran was Cottle, master of Kokomo’s low groove. But Clauson out-Cottled Cottle and took third place. Sure enough, Boespflug followed. Only a few laps later and Clauson passed McGhee for second. But not many laps were left and could Bryan catch the Coondog?
That he did, but Chris Gurley spun in turn one, setting up a true green/white/checkered. Immediately Clauson fans hurled bags of popcorn at Gurley. (Not really, but it can be fun making things up on occasion.)
Though one couldn’t assume, had we known it, Jerry Coons’s picture at this point could have served as the definition of a sitting duck in a dictionary. Jerry had been working the top for all it was worth and, for most of the race, it had been worth a lot. But things were different now and the Edison machine was at a disadvantage. To his credit, Coons did his best to claim the bottom line on the re-start, but he couldn’t get the car to do his bidding. It pushed up and Clauson was right there to grab the lead.
Coons held onto second, just ahead of Boespflug. Never mind that McGhee faded a bit to fourth. The young man ran a great race, capping off a quality night. Cottle finished where he started, fifth, as did Weir in sixth. Schuerenberg was seventh and Darland salvaged eighth after starting 14th. (Maybe that coney dog he was inhaling before wheel packing slowed him down.) KRob was another who finished where he began, ninth. Logan Jarrett was tenth.
They say that there will be fireworks on Thursday night at Kokomo. I scratched my head before figuring out that these fireworks would be in the sky, not on the track. Because, for my money and common sense, the real fireworks are on the track each night these guys show up to race.
And they most likely will stick with what works.
Keeping champagne bottles away from Brad Keselowski, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Second Chances and Eternal Links
It isn’t very often that life, or racing, gives us a second chance. But when it happens, we need to take advantage of such gifts. Dave Darland won his second Sheldon Kinser Memorial race on Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway; his first was in 1997. Not only did he get a second chance after a rare boo-boo on the first lap, he made the most of it, leading all 40 laps with second place Brady Short a straightaway behind. The eternal link matters because Darland, in his early years, raced against Sheldon Kinser. Of those he beat on this night, some are still teenagers. If those teenagers continue racing in the coming years, or even if they don’t, they can tell tomorrow’s young people that they raced with Dave Darland. This is another reason that, for me, history is cool. And it matters, too.
Rain, at least rain or any unwanted weather, must be the bane of any race promoter’s existence. For the second week in a row, Bloomington was plagued by wet weather. All the preparation nearly washed down the drain when a brief shower hit the track. But all concerned took to the track and a race ready surface was achieved, albeit an hour late.
Group qualifying was to be the format. By the time the fourth of four groups entered the track, it was one lightning quick quarter mile oval. Brady Short had the quickest time of the night, an 11.274 lap.
You didn’t have to be Nostradamus to see that heat races would be high speed, high groove, freight train affairs. The top side was in fine shape and, for now, the bottom was still a tad damp.
This was true of the first heat---for the first five laps. Leader Jordan Kinser had things under control, leading over Dave Darland until backmarker Jordan Blanton pushed high from the low groove into Kinser’s path. It was a classic case of left front/right rear contact and it sent Kinser sliding over the banking and flipping all the way to the fence. Third place Ethan Barrow, trying to avoid this, slid out of control and made it synchronized flipping, joining Kinser by the fence. Both were okay, but done for the night. Racing resumed with Darland and Shane Cottle running first and second. Kevin Chambers and Lee Dakus followed and, ironically, Blanton, the last car running, was fifth and would make the feature (as did everyone left, seeing that the B was cancelled).
Jeff Bland’s start in the second heat did not bode well—at least for awhile. He slid over the turn four cushion (which hadn’t formed yet), bringing out a yellow. He would come back strong in the race that saw Hunter Schuerenberg win over C.J. Leary. Jon Stanbrough was third with Bub Cummings having his hands full keeping Bland behind him. Ethan Fleetwood had been pressured by Bland for fifth and spun off turn four on lap nine, clouting the wall, ending his night.
The third heat was almost tame, though to say that any race including Daron Clayton is “tame” might be misleading. Clayton won sure enough, but his fiery brakes might spell trouble later on. Daltin Gabbard was second and Casey Shuman took third. Nick Johnson had fourth over Jared Fox, who did his best to get around NJ.
Terre Haute’s Brandon Mattox brought out the yellow when he nearly flipped in turn one. His front row mate Nick Bilbee grabbed the lead on the re-start and led about half the heat before Brady Short came calling. Behind Short and Bilbee were Carson Short and Mr. Mattox who, along with Eric Edwards, was able to take advantage of a late fumble by Braxton Cummings.
This edition of the Sheldon Kinser Memorial had two of the best up front, Darland and Schuerenberg. After that would be Clayton, B. Short, Cottle, Leary, Bilbee, Chambers, Gabbard and Stanbrough.
At the green Darland showed that he is human and can make mistakes like anyone else. He barreled into turn one too fast and too low, which sent him up and almost over the turn two banking. Dave lost about five spots before correcting. But behind him, a three car meeting resulted in a yellow flag. I don’t know that Hunter Schuerenberg is a young man prone to profanity, but he may have uttered a word or two at this.
On the re-start, Darland nailed the turn one entry and took a lead he’d never give up. Yellow number two waved on lap five for a Casey Shuman stop. Not a lot changed up front, but further back one might notice that Jeff Bland was already up to tenth from 17th.
For the next re-start, Schuerenberg’s luck worsened as he stopped in turn one and the yellow flag got another workout. And then it happened, a very rare event that you never wish to witness, though the ending was good.
Going into turn three Daltin Gabbard hopped a right rear tire of another car and sailed over the banking, flipping in midair and getting some real altitude. Parts of the Baldwin Brothers’ orange machine flew off even before it hit the ground, which brought on some more flips. It was easy to assume the worst. But amazingly, the young man from Arizona was out of the car in less than a minute, on his own. He nearly made it to the ditch, which doesn’t happen too often at Bloomington.
Three yellows and one red—plus, the race was still early with 35 laps yet to go. Darland led B. Short, Clayton, Cottle, Leary, Bilbee, Stanbrough, Bland, Bub Cummings and Brent Beauchamp, who had missed his heat race and started 20th.
The rest of the race was clean and green as Darland steadily pulled away. Behind him Brady Short did his best. Mid-race, lapped traffic nearly brought forth another yellow as Short, Cottle, Clayton and Stanbrough fought each other and lapped cars. Short emerged from this crowd in control of second, which he would keep. But as laps wound down, Bland was on his way as the track surface came to him. He motored by three of the best, Clayton, Cottle and finally, Stanbrough. Bland was reeling in Short in the final few laps, but it wasn’t going to happen.
Behind Darland, Short and Bland was Stanbrough, who had started tenth. Cottle was fifth. Leary started and finished sixth. Clayton, toasty brakes and all, faded slightly to seventh, but perhaps his late father-in-law would have appreciated the effort. Carson Short was eighth and Bub Cummings came from 14th to finish a quiet ninth. Nick Bilbee was tenth.
As usual, it had been quite a night. Things out of our control ruled, as is often the case. The rain threw the track a wicked curveball, but all who were responsible hung in there and smacked the curve off the right field wall, as it were. Like Dave Darland on the first lap of the feature, the track crew and the racers themselves saw a second chance after the shower was over and capitalized on the opportunity.
And ol’ Dave, along with several of his closest competitors, tackled those same high banks that Sheldon Kinser had done all those years ago. This circle was and is not about to be unbroken.
Trying to decide between an umbrella and an ark, I’m…
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Copyright © 2015 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