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The Hoosier Race Report
by Danny Burton
The Hoosier Race Report: McCune and His Broom
One didn’t have to be Nostradamus to figure out that Jimmy McCune quite likely would dominate on the final night of the MustSee Sprint Car Series’ southern tour. Sure enough, on a warm and humid Saturday night at the Hickory Motor Speedway, Mr. McCune led every lap of the 50 lap feature, beating both the competitors and the approaching rain (more on that later).
I’ll cheerfully admit that my preference in racing matters runs to open wheel cars with no wings and my surface of choice is dirt. Lots of people who hang or used to hang around a handful of Hoosier bullrings would understand. But with all that, an evening at Hickory was an outstanding Plan B. About 70 miles northeast of my North Carolina temporary dwelling, the drive is worth it, even minus the scenery that is a treat all its own.
I rambled around the pit area, looking for familiar faces perhaps, but just enjoying the atmosphere. On the surface, the impression is one of being laid back, a time to simply absorb all one can see, hear or even smell (once the concession stand opened), but behind the scenes, people are starting to get serious. Most all the usual suspects from the night before at Anderson were in attendance. Georgia’s Jay Dunham and Ohio’s Charlie Shultz, with one of the more impressive resumes in the pits, had made the trip to the middle of the Tar Heel State, making a car count of 16.
In time trials, the biggest question was how close to the 12 second mark someone would qualify. Tom Jewell went out early and turned a 13.641. Several cars later, Jerry Caryer rang up a 13.170. Then came Jacob Wilson, who broke into the 12 second bracket with a 12.645. Dirt tracking Johnny Bridges was the next to last qualifier and took fast time up to that point with a 12.235. But Mr. Bridges dared not take a bow because Jimmy McCune was the last candidate for time trials. His first lap was second fastest, but the final lap of qualifications was the gold standard with a blistering 12.158, a mere .08 off Hoosier Brian Gerster’s track record. One had to wonder that had time trials been conducted later in the day, when the track surface would have been cooler, would we have seen an 11 second lap.
As a child, I remember when the late 50’s—early 60’s version of the supermodifieds would have “slow,” “middle,” and “fast” heats. The MustSee folks did the same thing. The heats, in theory and sometimes in fact, would be more evenly matched.
With three of the five cars in the first heat sporting a number four, one might have been tempted to bet on a number four car to win. Bronzie Lawson IV made that a winning bet as he grabbed the lead on the second lap of the first heat race and went on to win his first MustSee race of any kind. Ohio’s Joe Speakman was second, ahead of Bronzie Lawson III, Anthony Linkenhoker, a veteran of the Virginia Sprint Series, Joe Larkin and Jay Dunham, who was a DNS.
Jeff Bloom passed fellow veteran Charlie Shultz to win the second heat. Pole sitter Tom Jewell, another long time campaigner, was third. Anthony McCune was fourth and Jerry Caryer dropped out with engine woes.
The fast heat was a treat as Johnny Bridges, he of the smoking right rear tire, passed both Jacob Wilson and Jimmy McCune on his way to the win. Behind McCune and Wilson were Bobby Santos and Johnny Petrozelle.
With rain showing on the radar in Hickory, but not falling at the track, J. McCune and Wilson led the field to the green flag. Joe Speakman dropped out before the race began. McCune grabbed the lead and began an effort to shake Wilson, who was as relentless as the leader.
But a yellow flag waved on lap six for sprinkles, just as Bronzie Lawson IV slowed to a stop. Thankfully, the cars kept circling the track and the precipitation faded away. McCune had not pulled away from Wilson and anyone who had proclaimed that the Michigan driver would romp may have been questioning themselves.
Another yellow waved for Jay Dunham, who stopped on track at lap 11.
On the re-start, McCune led Wilson, Bridges, Petrozelle, and Santos. McCune gradually pulled away from Wilson and experienced eyes may have turned to the others as Wilson had his hands full holding off Bridges for second. Both seemed to gain on the leader in lapped traffic, but McCune broke away when he cleared the lappers. With nine laps to go, sixth place Jeff Bloom went a lap down. And Petrozelle, who had been fighting an ill handling car, was lapped on lap 48, two laps till the checkered.
Nostradamus would have been proud.
McCune’s margin of victory was close to 3.5 seconds. It was his 18th career MustSee Racing win.
At the finish, the top five were J. McCune, Wilson, Bridges, Santos and Bloom, who made a late pass on Petrozelle to take fifth.
The MustSee schedule shows that the caravan heads north to Michigan’s Berlin Raceway on May 13.
Trying to persuade Ann Coulter and Michael Moore to team up and appear on Dancing with the Stars, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Hot April
The Hoosier Race Report: Carolina
Observations/Same Message, Different Delivery
The Hoosier Race Report:
The Hoosier Race Report: Broomboy
The Hoosier Race Report: Multiple Flips and Glowing Brakes
On a wild opening night, marred by some terrifying accidents, Chris Windom rang up his first USAC victory at the Lawrenceburg Speedway as a robust crowd ignored the chilly temperatures that had folks seeing their breath after the sun went down. It was the ’burg’s opening night as well as the USAC Sprint Cars’ Midwestern opener.
It was also the first race of 2017 for my almost eight-year-old fellow traveler. Wasn’t it last week when his big brother was attending his first race at Winchester Speedway? Now the older one is taller than I am, while the younger can now read words as well as numbers. Neither know any strangers.
Healthy car counts for all three divisions meant a late night with the sprint feature concluding at 11:15. Of the 96 cars jamming Dave Rudisell’s playground, 35 were USAC sprinters. As always, there were a few changes, among them Michael Fischesser changing his number to 44 in honor and memory of recently deceased Greg Staab. Max McGhee took over the Ottinger ride that Kevin Thomas Jr. did so well in last year. Meanwhile, KT was in the Pace family car. Hunter Schuerenberg and the Motsinger family came together and debuted a new ride. Kody Swanson was in the Epperson 2E. Chad Boespflug and company merged with the Hoffman family with the same car and the Mean Green sponsorship. Justin Grant ended 2016 with Mike McGhee and that was still the case. Jeff Bland and Mike Dutcher were hooked up. And Aric Gentry was recovered from his ugly Lawrenceburg crash from last year.
Hot laps were a treat as usual with C. J. Leary setting quick time with a 13.618. Unfortunately for him, that would be his highlight of the night.
Justin Grant went out first and was the fastest qualifier with a 13.251 lap. Several cars gave all, especially the chauffeurs; there were a few hair raising moments as a few left rear tires left the ground and a few cars got up on two wheels. Cooper Clouse hit the turn two wall and flipped before he completed his first lap, becoming the night’s first, but not last, casualty.
Nick Bilbee won the first heat from the pole. Jarett Andretti was second and Chad Boespflug third. Shawn Westerfeld used the neglected high side to pass Justin Grant no less, and locked himself into the feature with Grant heading for the B.
Chase Stockon came from sixth to win the second heat. This would be the highlight of his night as he would meet misfortune later. Max McGhee was second and Hunter Schuerenberg won the battle of the number twos as he took third ahead of Kody Swanson.
Jeff Bland won the third heat, the second car to win from the pole. Jon Stanbrough was impressive all night and was second. New Mexico’s Josh Hodges, who can now say he is a Lawrenceburg feature winner, came back to Indiana and was third. Dallas Hewitt passed Landon Simon on the last lap to grab the fourth and final transfer spot as Mr. Simon missed a chance to flip, bicycling on two wheels in turn four.
Shane Cottle made it three for four as he won a stacked fourth heat. There wasn’t a great amount of passing because the field was so balanced. Carson Short was second and Chris Windom was third. Dave Darland got around Tyler Courtney for third.
The B Main had an ugly start as Travis Hery, Matt Goodnight and Riley Van Hise had a turn two meeting. Hery and Goodnight collided and Van Hise ended up on his side. Three wreckers got busy. On the re-start, Kevin Thomas Jr. nearly went over. C.J. Leary swerved to miss a car but went in the path of Michael Fischesser, who had nowhere to go but the wall. Leary went to the work area and rejoined the race while Fischesser’s night was over too early. Justin Grant led 11 of the 12 laps before Tyler Courtney stole the lead and the race on the last lap. Thomas was third, followed by Corey Smith. Tyler Thomas came from seventh on the last re-start to take fifth. Landon Simon hung on for sixth. Isaac Chapple used a provisional to get into the show.
It would be Boespflug and Windom leading the gang to Tom Hansing’s green flag. But things turned nasty early as Dave Darland and Chase Stockon came together in turn one after the start and flipped wildly, losing their tail tanks and a good bit more. Each car was heavily damaged but both drivers walked away. This wiped out the third row, moving everyone else up a row. On the re-start, Windom simply drove away, the loneliest guy at the track, but maybe the happiest.
When the yellow flag waved for Carson Short on the eighth lap, Windom’s lead was a straightaway as Boespflug had his hands full holding off Grant. On this re-start, Schuerenberg was on the move and it seemed for a brief time he might have something for Windom. But we never found out as Hunter got upside down in turn two, executing another nasty series of flips. He, too, walked away and another good race car was trashed.
The lineup was Windom, Boespflug, Grant, Stanbrough, Simon, Westerfeld, Swanson, Hodges, Courtney and K. Thomas. Not much changed up front as Windom was simply too strong. He reached lapped traffic on the 19th lap and here would be his biggest challenge. Boespflug and Grant closed the gap somewhat but Windom’s biggest issue was brakes that glowed brightly as he sailed into each turn. Lap 24 saw the Illinois native clear lapped traffic and then he got another break of sorts.
Shane Cottle had been working his way through the field before spinning on lap 25. The field bunched up behind Windom, but his brakes got a break, as it were. Sure enough, on the re-start, Windom pulled away again, and won by a comfortable margin over Boespflug. Grant was third and Stanbrough was a quiet, but impressive, fourth. Simon ran near the front for all 30 laps, taking fifth. Hodges was a close sixth and Westerfeld showed he could run with the big boys, taking seventh. K. Thomas was eighth and Andretti was ninth. Cottle recovered from his spin to take tenth after starting 21st.
It was 11:15 and we were ready to call it a night. The little guy was asleep before we reached Aurora, surely a new record for him.
Next stop, Terre Haute for another look at the USAC Silver Crown Series.
Attempting to filibuster the weather, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: PRI 2016/The Gathering
For me, it's logical that the largest gathering of racing people would meet in downtown Indianapolis, Indiana at the Convention Center. People that are connected in some small or large way roamed the aisles, gawking at the displays. Others held forth at their company's booth, hawking their wares, many of which were shining examples of the latest technology in racing products. Still others hosted press conferences and/or seminars.
I joined the gawkers, shaking my head in wonder at the variety of items displayed. Company reps eagerly demonstrated how to operate complex machines for onlookers. Racing celebrities (Donny Schatz, anyone?) were interviewed. Show cars of every type of racing (Tyler Courtney’s sprinter, anyone?) abounded, with everything from NASCAR’s version of stock cars to space age vehicles that weren’t built for grocery shopping spread throughout the massive complex.
Right around the noon hour on Thursday I found Aaron Fry, the creator of the successful Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, holding forth with a group of interesting people. Aaron’s daughter Elizabeth let me know that the 2017 BOSS schedule is not quite complete.
Aaron wanted me to know a little about the Collins Career Technical Center-Powersports Program. This is the first high school to enable young people to build a sprint car as part of their senior project. To aid these projects contributions in the form of anything from cash to tail tanks are accepted.
I left for home on Thursday afternoon, making the long walk on a cold and windy day to the little white truck. It had been an educational first day and I determined that I’d spend more time on Friday walking and talking.
Sure enough, that happened. I began another day of ambling, seeing some familiar faces and learning a thing or two. I looked over the USAC schedule for its top three divisions. The Gas City/I-69 Speedway was listed for two races, one each for Midget and Sprint Weeks. I had a good look at a new safety measure, three bright green lights lying horizontally across the back side of the roll cage. The green lights are for the top three in a given race. Yellow or red lights will activate on every car when there is a spin and/or accident. There will be a light on each car’s dashboard as well. This is a result of the Bryan Clauson tragedy this past summer. Sharp eyed Kevin Briscoe and I seemed to think they were plenty bright enough and wondered if these lights might be a distraction. Time will tell and perhaps adjustments will be made. But at the very least, USAC (and Toyota, who is putting up the funds for all of this) should be applauded for the attempt to make these things four wheeled rockets a little safer.
(As an aside, sure enough, the social media gurus had their say about this new development. Yet again, opinions, often misinformed, was presented as fact with little regard for the reasoning behind the changes.)
In other USAC news, I learned that former Silver Crown headman Andy Hillenburg won’t be replaced and Levi Jones will be handling all three divisions, midgets and sprints in addition to the SC tour. He will have some able assistants, but come summertime, Richie, Spridge and company might be on the road more than at home. I asked Levi if he preferred Tums or Rolaids, as well as Bayer or Tylenol. He laughed and basically said all of the above.
On another chilly Hoosier morning, I headed north to the big city for the last day of PRI. There would be one more day of hands being shaken, acquaintances made, seeing old and new friends, schedules made, begun (or fine-tuned), press conferences, interviews and seminars.
I caught up with the aforementioned Mr. Fry for some more bench racing and plotting, of course.
I searched in vain for the booth that was supposed to be occupied by the good folks of Badlands Motor Speedway, which is up for sale at a cool $9.75 million.
Nearly $10 bought me a hot dog, a bag of chips and a small Sprite. Every eating location in the Convention Center was pretty much packed so I retreated to a stairway and enjoyed my lunch there.
Tracking down Justin Zoch of Flat Out Magazine, I had a productive meeting with a guy I’ve been writing for the past two years. I didn’t dare complain about the cold weather to the Minnesota resident.
Speaking of guys I write for, I had a good chuckle at the ID card mailed to my house. It showed my residence as Drums, Pennsylvania. Right, and Allan Holland is a Hoosier, too.
Gas City/I-69 Speedway has just the two races I know of, and I heard that the O’Connor family will oversee those two shows. This is good news for several reasons. A well run program, pork chop sandwiches (I hope) and the playground where my grandson will visit between sprint car races. And a race track lives on.
There were several seminars, press conferences and “media opportunities” all three days. There was no way I could make all of them. In fact, I didn’t catch one (even though going to the seminar concerning safety would have been a good idea). I felt bad at first, but then I thought about how I spent my time talking to people like Kevin Briscoe, Aaron Fry and his daughter Elizabeth, USAC’s Richie Murray, Levi Jones, Jim Appleget of Dirt Late Model Magazine and Justin Zoch.
By Saturday afternoon, I was ready to head south again. It had been an educational three days. If nothing else, it had been a more positive experience than my first visit (which was marred only by the introduction of the infamous USAC Silver Crown car that could have doubled as a vacuum cleaner). Though I was tired due to age, three straight days of negotiating I-65, and walking up to five miles per day, it was time very well spent.
I watched a group of dedicated, motivated and energetic people going about their business, which was racing in all its forms. It occurred to me that this snapshot of the PRI show could lead one to believe all is well with racing in general and open wheel racing in particular. I’d not be the one to believe that all is well, but it appeared to me that racing’s health, like my own, is generally good.
These thoughts took my mind to the concepts of perception, reality, accuracy and distortion. We see these in every aspect of life. There are those who wish to look at everything they see through a very small looking glass. They do get a picture, but it’s a distorted and incomplete picture. And if they are predisposed to have a certain opinion, well, it isn’t difficult to add that opinion to a tiny slice of reality that they see through the figurative looking glass. In effect, they end up believing that opinions, even lies, are the truth.
Within the racing world this is very true as well. As we are predisposed to resist changes, good or bad, our knee jerk reactions will most always be negative, at least initially. Too often the result is a group of people who end up saying that racing is doomed. Or, to be more specific, they’ll say that putting lights behind a roll cage won’t work.
Perhaps in earlier times they would have protested the additions of a roll cage or a nerf bar. And to add to the absurdity, most of the complainers have never driven a race car of any kind.
On a much brighter note, few of the nay sayers were roaming the Convention Center. Instead, I saw a good sized and good natured crowd of people who either make their living in the racing business, love racing in general, or both. God knows we can’t have too many of them showing up at the PRI show or at your favorite race track, from that big track out on Indy’s west side to the bullrings that dot this land of ours.
Looking in vain for Heckle and Jeckle, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: As It Should Be
We can say lots of good things about the 2016 USAC/Indiana/open wheel season, but we can’t ignore the cloud that is the loss of Bryan Clauson two months ago. But we carry on. Racers race and people step away from social media and electronic devices to watch them race. And, despite the tragedy that shook so many, the curtain closer at the Terre Haute Action Track was one to appreciate. After a battle that seemed to last for most all of the 30 laps, Chris Windom finally prevailed over Chad Boespflug in the Jim Hurtubise Classic. Mr. Hurtubise was one of a kind, a fun loving sort who liked to go fast. The car number we remember him by is 56. That number would have fit quite nicely on either the winning 5 or the second place 98.
Thanks to a combination of great weather and a desire to present a race, fans streamed into the Vigo County Fairgrounds in the knowledge that this would be the last Hoosier/USAC sprint car race that they would witness in 2016. Little did they know it would be one to remember and a good time would be had by most all.
Carson Macedo’s resume has been missing racing sprints without a wing. On this night he would add to his experience by climbing into the Krockenberger family sprint. Thomas Meseraull was back in his own effort (with a little help here and there), open trailer and all. He was still banged up from his Kokomo flip the night before, but was ready to race. And with this being a USAC points race, Kevin Thomas Jr. was, again, sporting Robert Ballou’s number one while Ballou continues to recover from injuries. The car count was a somewhat slim 22, which meant the three heat format would rule. One had to finish in the top five to keep their qualifying time.
Chase Stockon was quickest in practice and time trials. After turning a practice lap under 20 seconds, the still young Hoosier had a quick time of 20.424.
Chris Windom missed a great first heat, but didn’t mind. He won by a large margin. Behind him, C.J. Leary, Chad Boespflug, Dave Darland, and Chase Stockon could have been covered by the proverbial blanket.
Tyler Courtney won the second heat; like Windom, he started fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Bret Mellenberndt got together coming out of turn two with the South Dakota native missing a good chance to take a tumble. Pole sitter Brady Bacon was second. Aaron Farney took third. Thomas was fourth and T. Meseraull grabbed fifth.
Jon Stanbrough took the lead from Corey Smith early in the third heat and motored on to win. Sure enough, Stanbrough started fourth. Kokomo veteran Smith was second and Justin Grant, on a tear with Mike McGhee’s car, took third. Jerry Coons Jr., in what may have been his last race for long time car owner Monte Edison (who is reportedly retiring from racing), ended up fourth. Carson Macedo settled for fifth.
Things were moving right along. Even with a track blocking scene at the start of the modified feature, sprinters were lining up for the 30 lap feature just past 8:35.
It’s very difficult for me to name the greatest race I’ve ever seen. There have been so many I’ve witnessed in person that most run together. Some stand out, be it for either wrong or right reasons. I wasn’t ready to say this was the best race I’ve ever seen. But it must rank up there. Simply put, Chris Windom and Chad Boespflug showed why we enjoy this so much. It was a race between these two with all the ingredients for a memorable 30 laps. Speed, of course, close competition, and one yellow flag for a harmless spin meant folks got their money’s worth.
Grant and Meseraull led the 22 to Tom Hansing’s green flag. TMez fell back quickly as Grant took the lead. Boespflug, who started third, charged to the lead on the third lap. Windom, who began the race seventh, was coming on early. With four complete he was second. A lap later and he grabbed the lead from Boespflug. The tone was set.
The lone yellow waved for J.J. Hughes, who had steering issues and spun to a stop in turn four on lap eight. Windom and Boespflug led Grant, Stockon, Coons, Stanbrough, Farney, Courtney, Meseraull and Leary. The top two began to separate themselves from the rest. Windom worked the low groove in turns three and four to perfection as Boespflug hung it out in the Jack Hewitt groove, right by the wall.
Back and forth the lead changed, often more than once within a given lap. Officially Boespflug took the lead on the 17th lap, but Windom wasn’t done. With lapped traffic becoming an issue the tension increased, if that was possible. Though Windom was like the proverbial rocket ship coming out of turn two, Boespflug still held him off.
But it wasn’t going to last. Windom grabbed the lead on lap 28 with a textbook slide job in turn three and pulled away the last three laps to wrap up his second 2016 USAC sprint triumph. It was Windom’s second Jim Hurtubise Classic win as well.
USAC’s numbers guru Richie Murray said there were 26 actual lead changes in addition to the four official lead changes at the start/finish line. This was accomplished with no beating and banging, no bump and run, and only one re-start after a yellow flag.
The feature ended just shy of nine o’clock. I mingled a bit among the crowd, not in a hurry to leave. For me, it was the last outdoor race of the year. A mixture of feelings hit me as I strolled around this home away from home. After chatting with a few friends (and nearly getting run over by Mr. Boespflug), I somewhat reluctantly headed to the car.
Lost in the excitement up front was Jerry Coons Jr., who finished third after dropping out of the top five early. Stockon and Grant completed the top five. The second five was Courtney, Bacon, Stanbrough, Leary and Farney.
Brady Bacon was the KSE Racing Products hard charger, coming from 17th to seventh.
The quote of the night belonged to Jerry Coons Jr., who said, “I wish I could’ve been up there to spice it up a little bit.” Uh, I’m not sure my heart could have taken much more spice.
Not worrying about the results being rigged, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Dash and
The Hoosier Race Report: Pure
The Hoosier Race Report: Happy
Endings and First Time Winners
The Hoosier Race Report: The Eldora
The Hoosier Race Report: Taking
Care of Business
The Hoosier Race Report: .038 Seconds
Dodging wrecks and raindrops while ignoring the full moon peeking through the clouds, Shawn Westerfeld made it to the finish line with a last ditch effort to barely beat 2016 Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ Jarett Andretti by .038 seconds, after stalking the third generation racer for much of the 25 lap feature. Andretti didn’t need to hang his head in shame, though. The race was somewhat typical of his season at Lawrenceburg, as well as elsewhere. He ran near the front for all 25 laps, leading most. His mistakes were few and far between. At the end, he gave Westerfeld the smallest of openings coming out of turn four and Shawn grabbed it.
With rain plaguing several Hoosier bullrings this past weekend, open wheel fans had either the ‘burg or Haubstadt as their choices on a cloudy and pleasant, though a bit humid, Saturday night. With Lawrenceburg a lot closer, my traveling companion and I headed east. Somewhere just east of North Vernon he conked out. This meant he would be busy tonight between races, talking to drivers, getting a few autographs—and helping the tech guy check weights of Hornets and Pure Stocks after their heats (videos on Facebook). His teacher would have been pleased to see him reading four digit numbers and giving the drivers a thumbs up.
26 of the 85 odd cars in the pits were sprints. Brent Beauchamp was a pleasant surprise to see this far southeast as Lincoln Park’s oval simply had too much rain for them to race. J.J. Hughes, often found at LPS, was in the pits as well. Logan Hupp, no stranger to the ‘burg, was in the Gindling’s familiar white 7x. And Cole House, Trey’s son, a true rookie, had also made the tow to the corner of our 200 year old state.
Nick Bilbee and Travis Hery hooked up with a two man draft and left the others behind, running one/two in the first heat. Garrett Abrams was third and Joss Moffatt, a three time Lawrenceburg points champ, came from seventh to fourth. Logan Hupp, with his own ‘burg points title, came from ninth to fifth and locked up a feature spot.
Shawn Westerfeld, yet another track champ, tried to run away with the second heat, but Kyle Robbins made it close in finishing second. Pole sitter Cody Clarkson was third. Pat Giddens took fourth despite spinning and going while Stratton Briggs was fifth. Cole House had a rude introduction to the ‘burg as he caught the turn two wall and flipped wildly down the backstretch. J.J. Hughes spun on the front straight and left with a flat left front tire.
Jarett Andretti made it three for three in front row starters winning heats as he checked out. Joe Ligouri, in the Greg Staab-mobile, was second. Drew Abel came from last to third. Brent Beauchamp came from seventh to take fourth. And Brad Stevens, in a very rare Lawrenceburg appearance, locked up a feature appearance with his fifth place finish.
Hughes came from fifth to win the B Main. Greenville, Ohio resident Matt Cooley was second. Brian Gray started and finished third, edging Logan Hupp at the line. And Tony McVey, modified veteran turning to sprints, would start 20th in the feature.
The re-draw left a front row of Ligouri and Bilbee. At the beginning we should have known that this one would be a wild affair. Ligouri was ruled to have jumped the start and this put Westerfeld on the pole. On the second try, Tony Main was nudged into a turn one spin and unwanted meeting with the wall. The third time was a charm. Bilbee took the lead, but the red waved with two laps complete when a multi-car tangle left Brian Gray’s car on its side in turn three after some serious flipping. He walked away after a bit. Others involved included Stevens, Robbins, McVey and Giddens.
Bilbee led on the re-start with Andretti second. By taking the green flag, Jarett was officially the 2016 Lawrenceburg Speedway track champ, joining an illustrious list of predecessors, three of whom were in the race.
With five laps complete one of those champs, Joss Moffatt, found the turn two wall and flipped against the fence, bringing out another red. Joss walked away. Bilbee led Andretti, Westerfeld, Hery, Beauchamp, Clarkson, Abrams, Hughes, Ligouri and Hupp. 14 cars were running. Hery got way out of shape and lost several spots. With seven laps completed, Andretti passed for the lead in turn four.
Hard racing was throughout the field. Clarkson raced hard into turn three on Ligouri’s inside. He got into the yellow 44’s side and hurt the left front. Ligouri stopped coming out of turn two as the left front wheel fell off, bringing a yellow on lap 11. Under yellow Joe signaled to Cody that he had a free one way ticket to North Korea waiting for him after the race. (Not really, but Ligouri was not pleased.)
Just before the yellow waved, Westerfeld passed Bilbee for second. Beauchamp had moved from 12th to fourth and Hughes had come from 16th to fifth. The second five were Abrams, Clarkson, Abel (after changing a tire under the first red), Hupp and Hery. We were down to 12 cars running.
This green flag segment was a treat. The top four ran close with all hugging the bottom, especially in turns three and four. No positions changed, but disaster struck Bilbee on the 20th lap in turn four. Nick spun, did a nice wheelie trying to right things, and landed on Beauchamp, who had no place to go. There were no injuries; neither did anyone flip, but the race’s third red waved just in case. Neither racer was hurt and Beauchamp was able to re-start.
As the cars were pushed off to start, one of the push trucks ran over Stratton Briggs’ right rear, nearly tipping the truck. Briggs was able to re-start. It was about this time when my buddy Gregg Sauer pointed out the full moon peeking through the clouds and reminding me of Lawrence Talbot (classic movie fans know about ol’ Larry). According to my grandson, we had ten cars left with Hughes exiting with a flat tire, ruining a fine run until then.
Attrition had meant some serious re-shuffling. Most of the last six laps was uneventful. But Westerfeld was plotting as he trailed Andretti. And when the leader pushed a little high in turn four coming to the checkered, Westerfeld made his move going down the straightaway. His gambit worked and it created a super-close finish, .038 seconds. Jarett would have to take comfort that he had won the war—a championship. And there was nothing wrong with losing to a young man who has improved steadily the past few years.
Most all the rest of the top ten benefitted from the carnage that left just ten running. But there was no shame there. They had managed to miss, for the most part, the calamities that had claimed so many of their mates. Abrams was third and Abel took fourth after overcoming a flat tire. Hupp advanced more than anyone, coming from 19th to fifth. Hery was sixth and Beauchamp came back from near disaster to finish seventh. Briggs, Clarkson and Giddens completed the top ten.
The feature took nearly an hour to run.
Andretti was the champ with Moffatt, Abrams, Westerfeld and the absent Dickie Gaines the top five in points.
The ‘burg closes things out on October 1, with the last 2016 USAC race in the Midwest before the band of gypsies heads west.
Borrowing John Prine’s illegal smile, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: No Place Like Home
Go to Tri-State Speedway and you’ll find that fans there are like fans everywhere—they like the local heroes. At Tri-State, in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana, the local favorites are guys like Donnie Brackett, Chase Stockon and…Sunday night’s winner Kyle Cummins, who won the Midwest Sprint Car Series feature after passing early leader Chris “Critter” Malone on a mid-race restart. And fans weren’t unhappy that Sikeston, Missouri’s Hunter Schuerenberg won the Midwest Open Wheel Association’s companion feature on a beautiful Labor Day Eve.
The MOWA portion of the program was a makeup for an earlier rainout. A very good crowd would get a second helping of open wheel action. The anti-wingers could take a longer break should they choose.
Four racers were doing double duty. Chase Stockon, Zach Daum, Carson Short and Joe B. Miller hoped to make a little bit of spending money. Stockon, Daum and Short made both features; Joe B. made the MOWA show. I stood for awhile next to Stockon as we tried to listen to the dueling drivers’ meetings. MSCS and MOWA conducted the meetings simultaneously. I didn’t know about Chase but it was my first time trying to listen to the proceedings of two drivers’ meetings.
MSCS had group qualifying while MOWA went the single car route. Max McGhee, back from a brief sabbatical, was the quickest of the non-wingers with a 13.333 lap. Schuerenberg was nearly a second quicker with a 12.353.
C. J. Leary took the lead early in the first MSCS heat and won by a half straight over Kent Schmidt. Dakota Jackson was third and Donnie Brackett finished fourth. Chet Williams, who was the quickest qualifier of this group, hung on for fifth.
Chase Stockon led all the way to win the second heat. Justin Grant, in a second Mike McGhee sprinter, was a close second. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt took third. Zach Daum, the only racer to race at Du Quoin and in both classes at Haubstadt, was fourth. Carson Short started and finished fifth.
Max McGhee came from fourth to win the third heat. Kyle Cummins wasn't far behind in second. Critter Malone finished third and Brady Short was shuffled back to fourth after starting on the pole. Jeff Bland grabbed the last empty chair for the feature.
Hunter O'Neal won a crazy B main. Brandon Morin was second with Jaden Rogers coming on late to take third. James Lyerla did the same to take fourth. Colin Ambrose edged Nick Johnson at the line to take the last spot. Ambrose made it interesting after a major bobble midway through the race dropped him from second to seventh.
The MOWA heats inverted zero, which meant that the quickest qualifiers had the inside track to the win. Sure enough, Hunter Schuerenberg won the first heat, which meant he would end up with the sweep of quick time, first heat and feature win. Paul May was second, a full straightaway back. Kody Kinser was third. Jacob Wilson, who had raced at Du Quoin the night before, was fourth. Trey Datweiler locked up the last transfer.
A.J. Bruns won the second heat by another large margin over Parker Price-Miller. Chase Stockon was third with Jim Moughan fourth. Jeremy Standridge was happy to inherit fifth when Jason Keith spun, even though he kept going. It was his second spin of the race.
The third heat was true to form with pole sitter Zach Daum winning over outside pole man Chris Urish, another who had been at Du Quoin. Carson Short started and finished third. The ageless Danny Smith was fourth and Joey Moughan grabbed fifth in turn four of the last lap, sending Joe B. Miller to the B.
The MSCS B saw Hunter O’Neal win from third. Brandon Morin was second and Jadon Rogers was third. James Lyerla was fourth and Collin Ambrose was fifth—by inches. Ambrose had recovered nicely after a mid-race bobble put him in the infield briefly. He nicked Nick (sorry about that) Johnson at the line. Jared Chastain used a provisional to make it 21 for the feature.
The MOWA B saw yet another last lap pass, this one for the lead. Mike Terry Jr. got around Jake Blackhurst to insure a 15th starting spot in the feature. Joe B. Miller, in his third straight race of the night, grabbed third. MOWA point leader Jerrod Hull was fourth and Dustin Adams would end up being the 20th starter in the main.
Heat winners Leary, Stockon and McGhee led a strong field to the green and Stockon led the first two laps. But seemingly out of nowhere came Critter Malone from ninth to take the lead on the third lap and promptly began to check out. He wasn’t the only surprise. From eighth, Tyler Hewitt got off to a strong start, passing some of the same people Malone had passed. But yet another was coming from mid-pack.
Kyle Cummins had started sixth but dropped back to tenth before finding some magic on the bottom groove. By the tenth lap he had passed C.J. Leary for fourth. And he was far from done.
11 laps were complete when the red lights flashed for a Hunter O’Neal flip in turn two. Jadon Rogers slid to a stop before making any contact. Hunter walked away. Malone’s huge lead was gone. Stockon was second and Cummins had passed Hewitt for fourth. Leary was fifth, trailed by Grant, Brackett, B. Short and McGhee.
Cummins took second on the 14th lap and began reeling in the leader. A lap later the lead was his and the local kid was gone. But a Kent Schmidt spin on the 29th lap set up a green-white-checkered finish. It didn’t bother Cummins as he rolled on to the win.
Malone was second and after the race mentioned that a bad vibration developed when the race re-started. Coming on strong at the end was Donnie Brackett, taking the bronze medal after starting tenth. Another somewhat under the radar was Carson Short, who came from 14th to fourth. Justin Grant started and finished fifth. Hewitt faded a bit to sixth, a great effort nevertheless. Tyler said the engine lost some power near the end, but he still finished ahead of Leary, yet another who had raced at Du Quoin the night before. Brady Short was eighth. Stockon lost power on the last lap but was still credited with ninth. Daum was tenth.
Stockon, Daum and C. Short all hustled to get into their winged mounts and Chase led the gang to another green flag. He led the first two laps before Short rolled to a stop, his MOWA feature done early. Hunter Schuerenberg had started eighth but was already up to fourth. He was far from done. By lap nine he was pressuring Stockon for the lead. Hunter took the lead two laps later and was ready to check out.
On the 12th lap Dustin Adams met up with the wall in turn two, flipping and bringing out the red. He walked away. Schuerenberg led Stockon, Kinser, Urish, Bruns, Price-Niller, Daum, Smith and Datweiler. By lap 16 (of 25) the lead was nearly a straightaway. Lapped traffic loomed a lap later but Schuerenberg was not deterred. One final yellow waved for Paul May, who stopped in turn three with 21 complete. But that was only delaying the inevitable.
Schuerenberg cruised to the win with Stockon settling for second. Kody Kinser was third. Zach Daum dropped back early but came back to finish fourth. PPM was fifth, Bruns sixth. Smith came from 12th to take seventh. Urish was eighth and Jim Moughan ninth. Miller came from 18th to grab tenth.
For the season, Price-Miller took over the point lead from Hull with five races left in the 2016 season.
As great as the weekend was, with two outstanding programs at Du Quoin and Haubstadt, the highlight was watching, holding and playing with a nine month old girl who is taking some unsteady steps but will soon be motoring around the house, getting into things and pestering her patient and loving four legged friend.
The racing was the icing.
Reminding my wife that Roger Ailes can be a really friendly guy, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Bridesmaid No Longer
Chris Windom has won his share of races over the years, but had yet to win on one of the dirt miles on the USAC Silver Crown schedule. But on a downright beautiful Saturday night, the Canton, Illinois native squeaked by race leader Jeff Swindell to finally grab the checkered, the trophy and the indescribable satisfaction of checking off another item on the bucket list, a win at the Du Quoin Magic Mile, namely the Ted Horn 100.
As the winds of change blow or breeze through our lives, a few things remain the same. There is still nothing in or out of racing like dirt mile ovals featuring USAC’s Silver Crown Series cars. They of the chunky tail tank showed up in force, with 35 taking a lap around the track in qualifying. I was stuck at the back gate at the end of the backstretch for the duration of practice, but this was a positive. The view from back there was unique as I ignored the rule of never turning your back on a speeding race car and watched cars barreling into turn three as they practiced. Hunter Schuerenberg, in one of three Nolen Racing entries, smacked the wall in turn three not long after I arrived. I did see Tad Roach exit the track and then his car when it began emitting an unacceptable amount of smoke and maybe fire as well.
It seemed to me that Chris Windom was getting into three a bit faster than the others. But in time trials he was only ninth quickest, with Kody Swanson setting quick time with a 31.932 second lap, far from Tyler Walker’s 29.138 in 2004. Justin Grant went out third from the last and found himself on the outside pole with an impressive 32.048.
With the vintage Silver Crown Gilmore Special leading the way, Windom and Grant led C.J. Leary, the ageless Jeff Swindell, two time and defending Du Quoin champ Shane Cockrum, Illinois native and Hoosier resident Shane Cottle, A.J. Fike, David Byrne, Windom and Davey Ray to Tom Hansing’s green cloth. The raccoon that had entertained part of the crowd with his romp in the rafters of the covered grandstand presumably found a good seat and settled in for 100 laps of racing in its purest form—or close to it.
Swanson predictably took the lead at the start and Windom immediately began his climb, passing Fike for eighth on the fifth lap. A near disaster was avoided when veteran Jackie Burke ran over someone’s right rear and lost control enough to collect Chris Fetter, who smacked the turn one wall on the eighth lap. All involved were okay. Windom had climbed to sixth behind Swanson, Swindell, Cockrum, Grant and Leary.
On the re-start, a spirited three way battle broke out briefly for the lead among Swanson, Swindell and Cockrum. Swindell took the lead on lap 16 and, with Cockrum in tow, tried mightily to check out. Meanwhile, Windom had taken over fourth place as Swindell made his move for the lead. Three laps later, the Canton, Illinois native grabbed third from Swanson. Swindell pulled away from Cockrum, who had a new problem named Chris Windom, who passed his fellow Illini on the 22nd lap.
Almost lost in this shuffle for the time being was Casey Shuman, driving Patty Bateman’s rocket. From 21st, the Shu was already 13th on lap 25. Up front Swindell soon had Windom to deal with. After repeated attempts, Windom made the pass for the lead in the third turn on lap 36. Two laps later Joey Moughan brushed the turn two wall and rolled to a stop to bring out another yellow. Windom led Swindell, Cockrum, Swanson, Leary, Grant, Fike, Cottle, 16th starting Jerry Coons Jr., 15th starting Brady Bacon and Brian Tyler. Under yellow, cars dove to the front straight pit wall so crew members could inspect the tires as best they could. Running through the moist dirt didn’t hurt the tires either.
A brief yellow for debris slowed Windom’s playtime briefly on the 44th lap. At the halfway mark, Shuman had entered the top ten. Windom had extended his lead by a few car lengths when Grant, running seventh, slowed in turn four with the first flat right rear on lap 57. Justin lost a lap and would not contend for a good finish.
On the re-start Cottle went forward as Cockrum went backward. Cottle was now fourth behind the trio of Windom, Swindell and Swanson with the Chief slipping back to seventh. Up front there was another change in the leader as Swindell got around Windom to lead the 64th lap. Shuman passed Cockrum on the same lap and now was seventh.
Windom refused to go away quietly, making repeated looks inside of the leader. With 69 laps complete, they passed under the flagstand side by side before Swindell slammed the door shut. Two laps later Jacob Wilson stopped in turn two, bringing out the race’s fifth yellow. On the re-start Swindell either got a great jump or Windom’s car wouldn’t go. In any event it was no harm, no foul. Cockrum passed Shuman, one of the few to do that all night. By lap 81 Windom had edged closer to the leader. Either way, it didn’t matter as Austin Nemire slowed in turn four with a flat tire while Shane Cottle slowed almost simultaneously.
Now it was still Swindell up front, with Windom, Swanson, Fike, Bacon, Shuman, Tyler, Cockrum, Coons and Joe Ligouri, making his first appearance in the top ten. Windom had a better re-start this time and dogged Swindell hard. On the 87th lap Swindell again slammed the door as he and Windom entered turn one. Cockrum was on the move again, entering the top five again with ten laps to go.
Just as Windom dive bombed Swindell going into the third turn on the 93rd lap, the seventh yellow waved for Aaron Pierce, who spun in turn four. The last re-start came with five to go. Swindell and Windom traded the lead back and forth in turn three. On the 98th lap, Windom made an outside pass of Swindell going into the third turn, the final lead change of the race.
Windom’s margin of victory was about 10-12 car lengths, or 1.274 seconds, over Swindell. Swanson was third and now led Windom by ten points as the show goes to Eldora in three weeks. Shuman wasn’t the KSE/Martens Hard Charger, despite coming from 21st to fourth. (Bill Rose made his way from 33rd to 13th.) Cockrum seemingly passed or was passed on nearly every lap, but ironically ended up where he started, fifth. Bacon came from 15th to sixth. Coons started 16th and brought it home seventh. Tyler was eighth and Ligouri ninth. David Byrne started the race in the top ten, dropped out for much of the race and ended up tenth. A.J. Fike lost a good run late with, what else, a flat tire.
Here are a few parting shots. When the biggest complaint is that the race started a half hour late (due to a big car count as much as anything), that means the whole program was a total success. 35 cars, a good crowd, and an above average to excellent race—it was time well spent.
Ironically, Jeff Swindell won the Ted Horn 100 in 1990…the year Chris Windom was born, if my information is correct.
It was the fourth consecutive year an Illinois native has won, starting with Chris Urish in 2013 to Shane Cockrum in 2014-5 and now Windom.
Brian Tyler is the leader among active drivers with 17 Silver Crown wins. Chris Windom has four, but Tyler might want to keep an eye on this Kody Swanson character, who has 15.
Reminding John Hunter Nemechek that running a guy into the wall to win a race is not good for the reputation, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Road Trip
Not too often can one take a weekend jaunt and cover lots of ground, not to mention the miles. This upcoming 2016 Labor Day holiday is one to anticipate and, hopefully, remember. I get to enjoy two of my favorite passions. One is going to a pair of what should be two great races at two great facilities. The other can be called grandfather time, an occasion to watch a baby grow into a toddler, maybe hold her for awhile (if she allows—she’s getting more mobile) and say hello to her parents as well, of course.
Saturday afternoon should find me wandering around the pits at the Magic Mile, the gracefully aging one mile dirt oval at the Illinois State Fair/Du Quoin. The first automobile race at Du Quoin was held 70 years ago, a sprint car race won by Sprint Car Hall of Fame member Jimmy Wilburn. Two years later open wheel standout Ted Horn was killed at Du Quoin. This weekend’s race does a lot to keep Horn’s memory alive.
The Horn Memorial entry list contains past winners Brian Tyler (2008), Jeff Swindell (1990), Kody Swanson (2010), Shane Cockrum (2014 and 2015), Chris Urish (2013) and Shane Cottle (2007). 36 cars are entered for the Saturday night race, the highest number of entries in many years.
Dave Darland has 19 starts, more than anyone else entered. Tyler and Jerry Coons Jr. each have taken the green flag 15 times.
Half of the 36 are residents of Illinois and Indiana, with the Illini State presenting ten of its own.
Four rookies will attempt to start; all four are known to Midwest sprint car fans. Three are Hoosiers, Dakota Jackson, Joe Ligouri and Matt Goodnight. Hunter Schuerenberg hails from Sikeston, Missouri.
Granddaughter time is planned between races. After playtime with her on Sunday afternoon, I hope to be heading south down U.S. 41 to Tri-State Speedway, where sprints will dominate. The non-wing MSCS and the winged MOWA sprinters are two thirds of the show with UMP mods also on Tom Helfrich’s quarter mile oval. The Midwest Open Wheel wingers are a makeup date from an earlier rainout.
Kyle Cummins won this race last year and Jon Stanbrough in 2014. Daron Clayton has won it three times, Hunter Schuerenberg twice.
Jerrod Hull is the MOWA point leader, 58 points ahead of Parker Price-Miller. MOWA feature winners this year include Price-Miller, Hull, A.J. Bruns, Zach Daum and Bill Balog.
History, of both race tracks and sanctioning bodies, is an underappreciated part of open wheel rsacing culture. Like any other history, collecting data is a never ending challenge. Over time race tracks have not been as diligent as they could be in keeping and maintaining coherent records. Some sanctioning bodies are the same, even though USAC is a shining exception.
As time passes, myths, legends and facts mix together to create stories, the life blood of not only racing but our society. On Saturday evening as I turn my gaze across the beautifully maintained Du Quoin oval, it can be easy to take myself back 40 or 50 years. We look back and think of racers who powered their way around the track. We marvel at the memories and declare that surely “there were giants on the earth in those days” of Biblical proportions.
But as we look at Du Quoin through 2016 eyes, as it were, let us acknowledge that there are giants in our presence this coming weekend, people with names like Swanson, Cockrum, Darland, Tyler and Coons. Our succeeding generation of fans will look upon these gentlemen as we look back to the Foyts, Andrettis, Bransons and Unsers. Today’s giants deserve their place in the history books and our memories.
The same applies to Tri-State Speedway @Haubstadt. Its history may not be a lengthy or storied but it has its share of giants, past and present.
As we celebrate our blessings on this very underrated holiday weekend, such as family, the life of Bran Clauson, race tracks such as Du Quoin and Tri-State, and the opportunity to see giants of racing test themselves against the elements and each other, let us live in the moment as much as we can. Let us enjoy our passion, cheering or, if you are like me, just marveling and admiring how these people do what they do. And, let us enjoy and appreciate the other blessings, those that come in small packages and grow up before you know it.
Persuading Anthony Weiner to slowly back away from the computer, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Exclamation Point
In the world of USAC/Indiana sprint car racing, Kevin Thomas Jr. has come as close as anyone to dominating in an environment where parity rules. His 11th sprint car victory of 2016 (and second of the week) came on a hot August night at the Kokomo Speedway on the final night of Smackdown, a collaboration of Kokomo and USAC that has quickly become a must see for sprint fans from literally around the world. Surely people are already thinking about the 2017 version of Smackdown.
Friday had been a longer than usual day. The Kokomo portion of it began at the Half Moon Restaurant, the culinary choice of racers visiting town and long time sponsor of Josh Spencer and clan. Rain in the late afternoon insured that it would be a later than normal night. By Saturday this old man was almost dragging—until race cars were on the race track.
There was no shortage of fund raising associated with Smackdown. Fans opened their wallets, purses and treasure chests to fight cancer, raise awareness of organ donation (with Bryan Clauson and family leading the way), various and sundry prizes for racers, and money raised to ease the pain of hard luck racers. Thousands of dollars changed hands as fans went above and beyond to do the right thing.
Pre-race found Chaplain Dave Cochran and I engaged in a long discussion of both spiritual and racing matters. We encountered several racing stories that mirrored Biblical stories and teachings. We agreed that many things happening in our world are not part of our plan, but one both higher and different than ours.
The last night of Smackdown brings a different format. There is no qualifying. The top three would transfer out of each of three heats. The B Main would take the top five, not six. But the major departure would be the King of the Hill, a fan favorite. The top eight in points from the first two nights would square off in three lap segments, single elimination tourney style. The King would start on the pole of the 40 lap feature.
Robert Ballou started on the pole of the first heat and won going away. This meant that he would start ninth in the feature. Kyle Cummins was second and Zach Daum edged Tyler Thomas for third.
Dave Darland, strong all week, ran off with the second heat. Second fellow Kokomo resident Shane Cottle. Third was Jarett Andretti. Aaron Farney was a distant fourth.
Brady Bacon made it three for three in pole winners leading the others to Tom Hansing’s checkered flag. Jon Stanbrough started and finished second. Most impressive of all was Brent Beauchamp. This was his first Smackdown visit, which meant that he’d tag the tail of the last heat. He passed Colton Cottle with three laps to go and waltzed away with third place and a spot in the show. Cole Ketchum smacked the wall on the backstretch and flipped hard while running fourth. He was done for the night and maybe for the year. The hard luck monetary award would ease the pain a bit.
Round one of the King of the Hill saw Chase Stockon, eighth in points, facing point leader Thomas Meseraull, who made sure that Stockon would start eighth.
Next up was Chad Boespflug, who outran C. J. Leary.
The third pair to step up was Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom. This three lap sprint was the most competitive, with at least two lead changes before Courtney prevailed.
The last first round matchup was Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. with the Alabama native, Thomas, besting the California native.
The second elimination round saw a pair of Californians square off, with San Jose’s Meseraull besting Hanford’s Boespflug.
Courtney, almost a local boy (Indianapolis) dispatched Thomas and would face Meseraull for the title of King.
Though they were never very far apart, Courtney crossed the line first and would occupy the pole for the feature, with Meseraull beside him.
Tyler Thomas won the B, leading Farney, C. Cottle, Logan Jarrett and Kyle Robbins, who passed the ailing car of Tyler Hewitt with two laps to go.
At 10:15, after fireworks, the fan friendly driver introductions (the missing man formation, and the wave lap Lauren Stewart waved the green flag and 22 gentlemen proceeded to do their best to smack each other down.
Courtney jumped out to the lead from pole with TMez and Boespflug close behind. But Thomas was on the move early, getting around Boespflug before the first yellow waved for Meseraull, who hammered the turn four wall on the third lap after something in the steering broke. Just like that, KT was second. Courtney’s moments as the leader were numbered and it was a small number.
Thomas took the lead on lap six, but didn’t exactly check out. Courtney hung tough, never letting the leader get too far away until Boespflug took second a lap later. Action took a break when Zach Daum flipped hard in turn one with eight complete. He exited the car under his own power. Thomas led Boespflug, Courtney, Windom, Darland, Grant, Cummins and Leary.
Not much changed up front for the next few laps. 14 laps were complete when Kyle Robbins fell victim to the uneven surface in turn one. Tyler Thomas had entered the top ten after starting 18th. This would be the last stoppage or interruption as those remaining fought tooth and nail, yet nary a yellow or red would wave again.
As green flag racing resumed, K. Thomas continued to lead but simply could not shake Boespflug—or Windom, for that matter. Further back, Kyle Cummins was using the low groove to perfection. The Princeton, Indiana resident got around Darland and Courtney to enter the top five. Meanwhile, Boespflug was giving Thomas a bad case of heartburn with ten more laps to go. And Windom had spent much of the race riding above the cushion at both ends of the track. He was giving Boespflug his own brand of harassment in trying to take second.
Lapped traffic was there, of course, but it didn’t seem to matter, especially to the leader. Thomas took the checkered by a few feet over Boespflug and Windom, ending Smackdown the way he started it, in Bryan Clauson Victory Lane. Darland, a three time winner of Smackdowns past, was fourth after starting tenth. Cummins held onto fifth. Grant was sixth and Courtney faded to seventh. Bacon and Leary followed. T. Thomas was the KSE Hard Charger, coming from B Main-land, 18th, to tenth.
It was not quite 11 p.m. and suddenly it was over. For the past four days, we had seen rain, destruction of large parts of the host city, emotional memories of one gone so soon, new and old friends getting acquainted and re-acquainted, incredible displays of generosity and…laps upon laps completed by some talented and determined young men asking and giving no quarter.
I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Warily turning down Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin’s invitation to join them in a friendly game of draw poker, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: (Another) First Time Winner
Our lives contain various and sundry signposts, or turning points. We’ve all had specific events, good and bad, that we refer to as we mosey on down life’s highway. The whole year of 2016 has featured, for all of us, a few of these, most notably just a few days ago when we lost Bryan Clauson. For C. J. Leary, more than just a second generation racer, this year has had its ups and downs; perhaps one could say he’s had multiple signposts this year, going from one ride to another. But it’s been far from all bad, as he has moved from one sprint ride to another. He is the first USAC driver since Kyle Larson in 2011 to get his first USAC win in two divisions in the same year. Back in the spring Leary scored his first USAC Silver Crown victory at Terre Haute. And on a long night delayed by rain, he rang up his first USAC Sprint car win at the Kokomo Speedway on the second night of Smackdown.
Not feeling overly sociable (the introvert in me), I retreated to the little white truck after a light rain began to fall right after six o’clock. I recently purchased from ace photographer Chris Pedersen a 1974 book Stand On The Gas, a brief history of sprint car racing up to then, written by Joe Scalzo, one that I read many years ago. I read and looked at the sky. To me, it was like being in racing’s version of Purgatory. I was at a place I love, but was unable to fully enjoy being there—though the book wasn’t a terrible substitute.
At approximately a quarter past eight, the rain had long since passed and I could hear the siren call of V-8 engines. Wheel packing had begun, despite cloudy skies all around and an ominous looking radar. Purgatory was over.
Qualifying began and Chad Boespflug went out midway through the order and ripped off a 13.109 lap to set fast time of the 44 cars mudding in the pits. Jon Stanbrough went out 43rd and was seventh quick. The track held up and wasn’t touched all evening. The rain made for a fast and heavy/wet surface. Dirt clods flew all night. Turn one was a challenge as several who took the challenge bounced their way through it. The late Tony Elliott would have said turn one had character.
The first heat race got off to a less than ideal start when Brian Karraker’s car had a bad push and skidded into the path of Jerry Coons Jr., who flipped in turn one after running over Karraker’s right rear. Of the hard luck racer money collected, Jerry received $100. While the red lights were on, the sky began dropping some rain. The yellow flag was waved and a hot lap session was in order to try and keep the Howard County soil from getting too wet. The sprinkles stopped and racing resumed. Zach Daum won the first heat with Leary second. Boespflug got around Karraker midway through the race to take third.
Thomas Meseraull took the lead early to win the second heat. Chase Stockon was second and his southwestern Indiana neighbor Kyle Cummins was third. Early leader Matt Westfall was fourth, holding off Cole Ketchum to hang onto the last transfer spot.
Dave Darland used his front row starting position to win the second heat. Pole sitter Robert Ballou had his hands full keeping Jarett Andretti behind him. Tyler Courtney was fourth as Thursday night winner Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jon Stanbrough went to the B.
Pole sitter Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat. Brady Bacon trailed and Justin Grant was third. Tyler Hewitt was fourth, edging Chris Windom, who would join Shane Cottle in the stacked B Main.
When my homeboy Joss Moffatt pushed wide in turn one at the start of the C Main, his front row mate Colton Cottle pounced. Shane’s nephew led all the way, taking Tyler Thomas, Dustin Smith and Matt Goodnight with him to tag the B.
Pole sitter Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the last chance event. Windom, S. Cottle, Stanbrough, K. Thomas and Ketchum all scooted into the big show. Tyler Thomas came from 16th to fall short by one, ending up seventh.
Periodic drops fell from the sky as the feature lined up just past 11:30. Meseraull and Leary were the front row, two guys who had basically traded rides this year. Leary took the lead at the start and led a six car breakaway from the rest of the pack, bringing Meseraull, Courtney, Boespflug, Jarrett and Grant with him. The leaders approached lapped traffic at the tenth lap, but Leary was unfazed. Meseraull, however, had Courtney to deal with. Then both began to reel in the leader. Things were getting good when Chase Stockon had an encounter with the turn two wall and slowed with 17 laps in the book.
The boys regrouped with Leary leading Courtney, Meseraull, Boespflug, Jarrett, Grant, Bacon (from 15th), S. Cottle, Windom and Andretti. No sooner than the green waved when Brian Karraker bounced to a stop in turn one. While under caution, Bacon discovered a flat left rear and exited to the pits, returning before Tom Hansing waved the green.
A lap was completed before Cole Ketchum lost it and collected birthday boy Tyler Hewitt. There went $100 donated by fans to perhaps replace a front axle, which was bent even though Hewitt returned to action. While under caution it appeared that Meseraull had a flat left rear, but he stayed out. Cottle had passed Grant before the yellow and now was sixth. On this re-start, he got around Jarrett to enter the top five. Otherwise, nothing changed up front.
Hunter Schuerenberg brought out the last yellow as 24 laps were completed. He guided his smoking car to the pits. Now it was Leary, TMez, Courtney, Boespflug, Cottle, Jarrett, Windom, Andretti, Grant, and Robert Ballou, who had started 21st.
Again, it was show and tell time. On this final re-start, the crafty one, Shane Cottle, slipped under Chad Boespflug, expertly negotiating the now treacherous low groove in turn one. Leary, meanwhile, was still having his way, hugging the monster cushion at each end of the track. And at just past midnight on August 27, 2016, he joined the elite group of USAC Sprint car feature winners. Grabbing the silver medal was Meseraull, flat or nearly flat left rear and all. Thomas held off Tyler Courtney, who did his share of bouncing through the turns and off the wall. From receiving the hard luck cash the night before, Shane Cottle came from 12th to fourth. Chad Boespflug was fifth.
The second five was led by Chris Windom in sixth. Jarett Andretti came from 14th to finish seventh. Justin Grant and Logan Jarrett were eighth and ninth. The KSE Hard Charger was Robert Ballou, who came from 21st to tenth.
Ballou and Jarrett did a little beating and banging the last few laps. On the post-race cool down lap, they practiced their sign language skills.
Leary was the sixth first time winner in USAC sprints this year. Surely this would be a major signpost in his racing life.
Going in to the final night of Smackdown, Meseraull leads in Smackdown points. For the year, Brady Bacon maintains a comfortable lead.
Giving that pharmaceutical guy who has jacked up the prices of needed medicine a copy of Dante’s Inferno, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Lonely Leader
Quite often, it can be lonely for any leader for various reasons. Leaders of nations, businesses and organizations of any kind have to make decisions all the time and they get to live with the results. But a racer can be a lonely leader for very different reasons, namely that he kicked everyone else’s ass. That was Kevin Thomas Jr., enjoying a very successful year in the Ottinger family car. His win on Thursday at the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown was maybe his most impressive this year—so far.
Even though opening night was a washout, it was still time well spent. The scheduled Celebration of Bryan Clauson’s life was partially complete before the rain returned, causing a mass retreat for dryer places (such as my truck). But enough stories were told, some of them new ones (to many of us), so that the goodness and the quality of this young man was cemented in our minds and hearts until our own appointment with destiny.
Rather than lament the rain that interrupted the stories, perhaps we should appreciate the fact that the celebration happened at all. Because those stories that were told served and will serve as part of the fabric that our memories will carry with us. And there is nothing to prevent our retelling these stories in the coming years.
Unfortunately, with the rain was a nasty tornado that devastated much of Kokomo’s south side. Thankfully there were no deaths, even though property damage was extensive. There was no thought of cancelling the Thursday program and that was appropriate because life goes on. The O’Connor family placed a box for fans to leave donations for local tornado victims by the ticket booth.
With the passing of Bryan Clauson and the horrible weather that hit a good portion of Indiana, we were reminded of just how much is out of our control. Most changes that we experience are forced upon us and how we deal with those changes speaks volumes. And the celebration of the life of an extraordinary young man was both good and necessary. But I can imagine somewhere out there in the mystic BC was good naturedly grumbling, “Drop the flag and race, boys.” And so they did.
It was an impressive car count of 45, nearly as impressive as the track prep done by the crew. The track stayed consistent throughout qualifying. Chase Stockon went out seventh and set an early quick time before Dave Darland bested that, going 14th. DD’s time was looking good until Chad Boespflug beat it barely, 35th to qualify. Six cars later, it was Robert Ballou’s turn to stop the clocks quickest. But then came along Thomas Meseraull, third from the last to take his two laps, one of which was 13.205.
As usual, the track was fast and passing was possible, but difficult. C. J. Leary proved that in the first heat. Tyler Hewitt led for about 9.8 laps of the first heat before Leary made his move coming to Tom Hansing’s checkered flag to steal the win. Another Tyler, Mr. Courtney, was third and Darland edged Meseraull for the final spot to make the show.
Jon Stanbrough passed Jerry Coons Jr. midway through the second heat to win. Stockon and Ballou were third and fourth. Shane Cottle was running third when he was tapped by Ballou in turn two, spinning. I’d rather sit through a disco concert than spin any of these guys out, especially Mr. Cottle.
There wasn’t a whole lot of passing in the first two heats but the third more than made up for it. Up near the front, it seemed as if positions were exchanged most every lap. When it ended, Tyler Thomas won from fourth. Chad Boespflug came from sixth to second. Jarett Andretti started on the pole, dropped back to fourth and nearly fifth, but regrouped and finished an impressive third. Kevin Thomas Jr. hung on for fourth.
Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat and Cole Ketchum came from fourth to second, Justin Grant, filling in for Max McGhee, was third. Chris Windom was fourth and pole sitter Brandon Mattox barely missed out.
With 45 cars jamming the pits, the C Main had several desperate people who wanted to race some more. Brian Karraker passed Isaac Chapple late to win it. Chapple and two local shoes, Josh Spencer and Corey Smith, moved to the B.
The B was plagued by four yellows as Brady Bacon edged Thomas Meseraull for the win after they traded the lead back and forth a time or two. Kyle Cummins, quiet all night, was third. Zach Daum was fourth. Logan Jarrett came from 11th to fifth. And Colton Cottle was sixth after Uncle Shane stopped on the backstretch, bringing out one of the yellows.
Aaron Farney and Isaac Chapple took provisionals.
It was time for the main event. K. Thomas and Stockon led the 24 to the flag after the lineup shifted into the missing man formation as a remembrance to Bryan Clauson. One of the announcers summed it up just before the race, saying we must cry, laugh and now race. And so they did.
Thomas jumped out to a lead early and missed seeing Dave Darland putting on a brief show. Dave dropped back from his third starting position but was roaring back to the front, getting around Chris Windom and Chase Stockon. His quest to reach the leader was squelched when Cole Ketchum’s car went on strike coming out of turn four right in the middle of a large pack of cars with two laps complete. Though there was some bumping and swerving, no one else was involved.
The lineup was K. Thomas, Stockon, who had returned the favor to third place Darland, Windom, Ballou, Leary, Grant, Meseraull, Boespflug and Cummins. A couple of laps later, Darland was back in second and Stockon was engaged in a true dogfight for third with Windom. Lapped traffic came into play on the 11th lap. None of this seemed to bother Thomas or the others up front as the battle for third continued.
With 17 laps in, a yellow flag waved for a stopped Logan Jarrett, erasing a big lead for Thomas, and interrupting the Stockon/Windom drama. Now it was unchanged up front, Thomas, Darland, Windom, Stockon, Ballou, Grant, Leary, Bacon, Meseraull and Cummins. The green waved and Thomas took off again. Lapped traffic would not be a factor again.
Behind the lonely leader a continuance of the charge by Windom was the most watched on track action. With maybe four laps to go, he passed Darland for second. This sparked a constant question for many races, that being could he have caught the leader. Of course, we’ll never know, but a little speculation isn’t all bad.
At the end, Thomas was followed by Windom (from eighth), Darland, Stockon, Grant, Ballou, Bacon, Meseraull, Courtney and Leary. Jon Stanbrough was the KSE Hard Charger, coming from 19th to finish 12th. Most certainly Thomas didn’t mind being “lonely.”
With all the various incentives that surface during Smackdown days, with a lot of help, I collected money for the hard luck racers for the evening. Casey Shuman and Shane Cottle were deserving winners of $215 each and both could not be more appreciative. With money left over due to my lack of counting skills, there will be some solace for some racer this evening.
The second round of this series awaits in a few hours as this is written. As for me, it’s time to do some food shopping and have lunch.
Nervously eyeing the shark that wants to jump me, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Education of a Young Man
In the course of chasing their dreams, young racers receive an invaluable education, whether they are aware of it or not. Part of this education involves passing it on. In other words, as they go from race to race, they are setting an example for those who are watching them, mostly younger kids who have their own dreams. Race car drivers are no different than the rest of us in that they can have no clue how much impact a simple gesture could have on another person, especially a kid. It wasn’t enough that Justin Grant made a last lap/turn four pass of Jarett Andretti, who was nursing a wounded car, to win the sprint car feature at the Bloomington Speedway Friday night. After the celebrating and the Kimb Stewart interview, the young California native possessed, in addition to the money and the accolades, a huge trophy. Mr. Grant, no doubt, has several trophies at home. But whatever the reason, he chose to give this one to a little boy, the one who is often found with me at various Hoosier bullrings. Who can know how that seemingly simple act will affect a little boy? You can imagine the immediate effect. This was one happy child, maybe as happy as the winner and his team, the McGhee family and friends.
On this last points night at Bloomington, 26 410 sprinters and 14 Racesavers were among over 100 cars jamming the pits. As mentioned, Justin Grant was in a one off deal with the McGhees. Brady Short and company loaded up and left, reportedly for South Dakota where some big money was up for grabs. This was after a subpar result in group qualifying. Scott Hampton was in Jamie Paul’s car, usually driven by the chief, Shane Cockrum. Dickie Gaines was in Daryl Tate’s Racesaver, his first winged ride in a few years…I think. ARCA points leader Chase Briscoe was in the pits spectating, as was his dad, an all time Bloomington maestro, Kevin. Jon Stanbrough was back in the Pedersen family’s old reliable, open trailer and all. And most of the usual suspects were present, including Chris Babcock and family, with my little navigator scraping some mud off Bill’s car for some cookies and a drink from Debbie Babcock. Earlier he had climbed into Luke Bland’s Racesaver, but was persuaded to vacate the ride so Luke could try out some new stuff.
Jon Stanbrough started on the pole of the first heat and simply checked out, not bothering to wave. Bub Cummings edged Jordan Kinser for second. Matt McDonald was fourth and Chris Phillips held off Travis Berryhill to grab the last vacancy. A lap two red flag waved when Jaden Rogers slid off turn one and flipped. He would return for the B and make the A.
With my helper deciding to keep track of positions in the second heat, my alleged job was easier. According to Karston, Justin Grant won with Jeff Bland second. Tyler Thomas made a late pass on Chris Babcock to finish third. Scott Hampton was fifth. He even caught the yellow flag that came out for Anthony Leohr on the fifth lap.
Brent Beauchamp won the third heat by a healthy margin. Jarett Andretti got around Lee Underwood midway through the race to take second. Brandon Morin pressured Underwood, but settled for fourth. And Hunter O'Neal put himself in position to start 15th in the feature.
Pole sitter Travis Berryhill ran away with the last chance race with Brandon Mattox second. Shelby Vangilder, J.T. Stapp and Jadon Rogers, repairs made, would tag the tail of the feature.
It was off to the infield for the feature as pace truck driver Doug Vandeventer was joined by the little person. Brent Beauchamp and Jarett Andretti led 18 of their best friends to the green. Andretti jumped out to a lead that he’d increase with each lap as Beauchamp fought with Jeff Bland for second. From fifth, Justin Grant joined the fight after passing Bub Cummings on the second lap.
At the halfway mark the yellow lights were at work for a Jadon Rogers spin in turn four. Andretti may have snarled in Rogers’ direction as he idled by under the yellow. Jarett had put some Bloomington red clay between himself and his pursuers on every lap, even after lapped traffic became a factor. The rundown was Andretti, Bland, Grant, Beauchamp, Kinser, Stanbrough, Thomas, Bub Cummings and Morin.
Now was the chance for the hungry coyotes to attack the leader, but it didn’t happen. Andretti pulled away again as Bland, Beauchamp and Grant had a brief, but intense, dogfight. By the 17th lap Grant had dispatched the other two and was beginning to reel in Andretti.
But then the red flag (the hardest working of the flags) waved. Grant had caught Andretti when Travis Berryhill flipped in turn two with 23 laps completed. Travis exited the car and attention turned to Andretti’s car. Coming to the start/finish line when the red lights blinked, Grant actually got around Andretti and his left rear tire may have contacted Jarett’s right front, which may have been out of alignment.
On the re-start Andretti pushed up the track in turn two and found himself out of shape as Tyler Thomas came calling. Thomas tipped it over and Andretti was able to continue. Another red, another re-start and Aldo’s grandson was far from being home free. Grant was still there behind him and there were still two laps to go.
The green waved for the last time and the two lap pitched battle was on. Andretti’s car may have had handling issues, but he held off the challenger for one and three quarters laps, much of that spent side by side. Grant got the big bite of traction off the fourth turn and led Andretti to the line, winning by a few feet. Beauchamp was third with Bland finishing fourth and claiming the 2016 Bloomington Speedway championship. Stanbrough was fifth with Cummings hanging on for sixth. Kinser took seventh with Matt McDonald eighth. Mattox rambled from 17th to end up ninth. Brandon Morin completed the top ten.
As the post-race interview concluded, my grandson began walking away with the trophy. I honestly thought he was walking away with it until someone told me that the trophy was his. My mood changed a bit and I had to chuckle and shake my head. Later, Mr. Grant signed the trophy and we all decided it will sit here at home where he can see it whenever he’s here (which is often).
First off, here's a reminder that race promoters aren't like the rest of us. They are optimistic gamblers. Many of them will try to race even when the weather looks less than promising.
The most immediate and recent example came on Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway. The area had been hit hard by rain in the early afternoon hours. The track was a quagmire at best, but Joe Spiker and crew were not deterred. For several hours they did their best to prepare a track that would yield some racin' Hoosier style. But, alas, their efforts were for naught and the gang threw in the towel just past 6:30... about five minutes after I arrived.
I knew of the possibility of that happening, yet I pressed on. Just west of Franklin the rain began and it was rather intense until I motored through Bargersville. The rain eased up and by the time I reached Mooresville, the sun was breaking through the clouds. My hopes increased, even though I figured it would be a late night.
But it wasn't to be. I would be going home quite early. I, like several others, gambled and lost. I'd imagine that none gambled as much as the folks that present racing here each week.
Whiners, second guessers and the usual knights of the keyboard may well would have found a reason to blame the promotion team for waiting so late to pull the plug. Maybe they don't understand the mind of any promoter, the fact that they don't necessarily think like us. Joe Spiker didn't call me and threaten to spray paint my house if I didn't show up; it was all my idea, knowing that the night's festivities might be cancelled.
And I'm already over it. Far as I know, more races are scheduled next week. Smackdown, anyone?
Not letting certain American swimmers near my bathroom, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Good Things Come to Those Who…Race
It was a 28 year gap between appearances by USAC’s Silver Crown division at the Salem Speedway. In 1988, both of my kids, now parents themselves, were in elementary school. Ronald Reagan was winding up his Presidency. Quite a few of the field had not taken the green flag yet. And Bryan Clauson, absence still felt, was a year away from his birth. Winner Kody Swanson was born in the spring of 1988. 28 years later, he made his mark as he profited from Aaron Pierce’s misfortune, taking the lead and the checkered for the 15th time in Silver Crown history, tying him with no less then J.J. Yeley. It was somehow appropriate that the Swanson car’s number was 63, one used by Clauson quite often. And the running of this race was the Joe James-Pat O’Conner Memorial, the first of these events run without wings in several years.
As time trials began, it was a given that the track record would fall multiple times; the only question would be how many. First qualifier Patrick Lawson was first, followed by Chris Windom, David Byrne, Jerry Coons Jr., Jacob Wilson, and finally Swanson, who was three tenths faster than everyone else with a 15.978 lap.
Rain somehow missed Salem most all day—until the pre-race ceremonies were nearly done. It was a fairly brief shower, but it delayed the start of the 75 lap feature for 20 minutes or so. With the waving of the green, Swanson took the lead. The yellow flag came out immediately as Austin Nemire spun and made contact with the wall. Casey Shuman and Lawson were also involved but drove away.
The track was cleared and the green waved again, with Aaron Pierce scooting by Swanson coming out of turn two and grabbing the lead. A few laps later, lap 14, Jacob Wilson slowed and exited the race with a malfunctioning weight jacker. Windom passed Swanson for second. The top three were running nose to tail when they entered serious lapped traffic on the 19th lap. Five laps later, fourth place Jerry Coons Jr. joined the crowd.
The second yellow light blinked on lap 25 when Shane Cottle coasted to a stop. It was still Pierce, Windom, Swanson, Coons and Byrne. On this re-start, Windom made an attempt to get around the leader, but couldn’t close the deal. The first three broke away from the others while Byrne pressed Coons for fourth and Bobby Santos III did his best to distract Byrnes. The 41st lap saw Swanson get back around Windom for second as a dark cloud passed over the high banks, but still no rain came with it. Nine laps later, Swanson was right behind Pierce and ready to pounce. Santos passed Byrne for fifth. Kody was like a batter waiting patiently for a good pitch to hit, biding his time. But it didn’t work out that way.
60 laps were in and Pierce barreled into turn three with maybe a two car length lead on Swanson. Then things changed as Pierce either had something break or he lost it, spinning out in front of Swanson. He re-started on the tail of the field. The re-start order was Swanson, Windom, Coons, Santos and Byrne. It was Show and Tell time. Swanson gradually increased his lead over the last 15 laps. Behind him, things were busy. Justin Grant, quiet all race, passed Byrne, as did Aaron Pierce. While Swanson and the others cruised, Grant had his hands full keeping Pierce at bay.
Swanson’s margin of victory was ten car lengths. Windom, Coons, Santos and Grant, the newlywed, were the rest of the top five as the caravan began looking west toward Springfield, site of the next Silver Crown race.
The threat of rain hurt the crowd and probably didn’t do too much for the car count either. 13 cars were enough for a decent race and this was an above average race, much more competitive than I’d hoped for. I saw enough to warrant a return visit of these cars to Salem. I hoped Andy Hillenburg and Richard Deaton, two quality people, felt the same way.
Heading to Springfield, Swanson’s point lead over Windom is 13.
In my dream world, I wish to see the Silver Crown series become a destination station, not a launching pad to NASCAR or even Indy Car. My dream includes a 20 race schedule, pretty much divided between pavement and dirt. While the half mile ovals are a bit small for these beasts, reality intrudes upon my dreams and allows for the Terre Hautes, Eldoras and the Salems to be a part of the schedule.
A guy can dream, right?
Singing Roy Orbison’s It’s Over to Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Back in the Saddle
The initial shock of the sudden passing of Bryan Clauson was only beginning to wane and racing at the Bloomington Speedway on Friday night the 12th was the signal that, grieving or not, it was time to race. I think that BC wouldn’t have it any other way. And Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead midway through the feature and parked it at the start/finish line, taking the win over Tyler Thomas, no relation.
21 410 sprints and 15 Racesaver/305 sprints had braved the annoying humidity. Many of the usual suspects were present, with Kerry Kinser doing double duty, but with the same car. Wandering the pits yielded bumping into an interesting mix of people, most notably friend and race writer extraordinaire Mike O’Leary. He’s one of those few people who leave me feeling as if I’ve learned something worthwhile after every conversation.
Max McGhee built up an impressive lead before winning the first heat over Bloomington point leader Jeff Bland. Brady Short was a distant third. Matt McDonald edged Chris Babcock for fourth. Bub Cummings and Dave Gross brought up the rear.
Jarett Andretti used his front row starting position to win the second heat over Tyler Thomas. Thomas Meseraull, in the Wingo brothers’ car, was third. Shane Cottle, in Jamie Paul’s prize possession, was fourth. Nick Bilbee, Brandon Morin and pole sitter Jaden Rogers trailed.
KT not only won the feature, he also dominated the first heat after starting on the pole. Jordan Kinser was second. Hunter O’Neal, tonight in the Waltz family car, took third. Cody Clarkson finished fourth, ahead of Michael Gass. Bub Cummings and Kerry Kinser would find themselves starting the feature way back there.
Mike Terry Jr. led all the way to win the first Racesaver heat. Veteran Jim Dugan was second ahead of Kerry Kinser. Ryan Tusing won the second heat. Pole sitter Kendall Ruble was second and Jared Fox finished third.
After some competitive kids’ bike races, the feature lined up. The re-draw left T. Thomas and McGhee leading the other to the green. Thomas took the lead and was in control when the race’s first yellow light blinked for Hunter O’Neal, who stopped on lap five. T. Thomas led McGhee, K. Thomas, Bland, J. Kinser, Short, Andretti, Meseraull, Cottle and McDonald. This would be a somewhat caution plagued race with a few laps of intense action between slowdowns.
Matt McDonald brought out the second yellow with eight laps completed. He wasn’t thrilled with Nick Bilbee, who inherited tenth. On the re-start the hapless McDonald tangled with Braxton Cummings, who spun down the backstretch and tipped over, bringing out the red. Braxton was okay. On this re-start, KT began to put the pressure on McGhee for second. This segment would last only three laps before O’Neal spun. Cottle had gotten around Meseraull for eighth.
Yet another yellow waved for McDonald, who went over the banking in turn two. Simultaneously, Jaden Rogers did the same thing in turn four. This was on lap 13 and T. Thomas still led. At the re-start K. Thomas passed McGhee for second. Two laps later it was time to attack and make the pass for the lead. McGhee also got around T. Thomas.
The next yellow was after 16 laps were done when Brandon Morin spun. Now it was K. Thomas, McGhee, T. Thomas, Bland, J. Kinser, Cottle, Short, Andretti, Meseraull and Bilbee. Soon after this re-start, Cottle cracked the top five, using the bottom groove to perfection. Bland and T. Thomas passed McGhee. The yellow flag was put away and the last nine laps were vintage Bloomington, with positions constantly changing among the top ten.
But none of this had anything to do with the leader. K. Thomas only increased his lead. T. Thomas came back and reclaimed second place. Bland increased his point lead with a third. McGhee was fourth. Cottle’s charge to the front stalled with him taking home fifth place money after starting 11th. Andretti moved forward late and finished sixth. J. Kinser faded a bit to seventh. Meseraull was eighth and Short faded to ninth at the end. And Clarkson came on at the end to edge Bilbee for tenth.
The Racesaver 305 feature had a tough time getting underway. The first start was called back and Eric Perrott slid down the backstretch and tipped over on the second. The third time was the charm and Ethan Fleetwood was on his horsey and took off. His lead began to shrink as Kerry Kinser, with the wing bolted on, found some speed on the cushion and reeled in Fleetwood, passing him at the halfway mark, lap 10. But Fleetwood had no notion of giving up. As K. Kinser started to fade, the race’s original leader came back to re-take the lead coming to the while flag. Fleetwood and J. Kinser were trailed by what may have been the fastest car on the track for much of the race, that of Dakota Jackson, who had started 14th, easily the race’s hard charger. Luke Bland and Jared Fox rounded out the top five.
Accidentally spilling my glass of red wine on Hillary Clinton’s new white pantsuit, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Show
Must Go On
To the Family of Bryan Clauson
The Hoosier Race Report: Steady as It Goes
One might have picked A.J. Hopkins to win a feature race on a lovely Saturday night; however, given the talent that was spread throughout the lineup, he would have been something between a contender and a long shot. But the young man bided his time, took the lead from one of the best, Brent Beauchamp, and negotiated the tricky five sixteenth oval we call the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. Hopkins took the lead on the fifth lap and led the rest of the way, bagging $3,000 and his first Midwest Sprint Car Series victory.
It wasn’t quite as humid as Friday at Bloomington, but it wasn’t exactly cool outside at LPS. More importantly, 28 cars had marked their X’s at the pit gate with several notables on the property. As the would be mud scraper and I ambled through the pits, close to half the assembled throng was capable of winning and quite a few others had a shot at a top five finish.
Pole sitter C. J. Leary won the first heat, but Kyle Cummins made sure that he earned it. There was a similar battle for third place as Jeff Bland edged Max McGhee. Jon Stanbrough, back in his own car, secured the last empty chair.
In the second heat, A. J. Hopkins led the first nine laps before a slight boo-boo in turn two on the last lap put him in second place. Shane Cottle figured that he might as well take advantage after running second the whole race. Pole sitter Tyler Hewitt was third and Brandon Mattox took fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. managed a fifth after a first lap encounter with Hewitt, who was the meat in a three wide sandwich and had no place to go. KT used a yellow flag slowdown to inform Tyler that now would be a good time to have a chat. Tyler politely disagreed. During an early caution, Carson Short exited the track. He would be back out for the semi. Jadon Rogers flipped after Brandon Morin’s right rear contacted Rogers’ left front. Jadon, too, would return for the B.
Chad Boespflug methodically worked his way to the front after starting fourth to win the third heat. Pole sitter Brent Beauchamp was second. Brady Short survived a brief excursion off turn two to grab third. Robert Ballou survived his own moment, a turn three half spin, to get fourth. MSCS regular Donnie Brackett had his hands full in keeping Jimmy Light from taking fifth.
The aforementioned Mr. Light led every lap of the 12 lap B Main to win after starting third. Carson Short came from 11th to finish second. Nate McMillin came from seventh to third. Pole sitter Matt McDonald was fourth and Brandon Morin hung on to get the chance to start 20th in the feature, after an expert mud scraping operation was performed on the car following the semi. Jarod Chastain took a provisional.
Quality cars were, like Friday night, sprinkled all through the field for the 30 lap feature. Beauchamp and Hopkins were the front row, which meant whoever started behind those two had some work to do. Beauchamp jumped out to the lead at the waving of the green with Hopkins committing to the outside groove early. This worked for him as he closed the gap on the leader and made the pass on the fifth lap. By the tenth lap, Hopkins’ lead was the better part of a straightaway.
Behind these two, Boespflug and Cummins couldn’t make up their minds about third and fourth places. They traded positions several times over the first half of the race. And Leary passed Cottle on the third lap to annex fifth, only a car length or two behind those two.
Despite the relative lack of passing up front, this was another fine event. In the closing laps Beauchamp began to reel in the leader. On lap 25, five to go, Hopkins made enough of a bobble on the cushion to allow Beauchamp to close the gap to just a few feet. When the checkered waved at 9:48 p.m. for a race that was caution free, the margin of victory was less than five car lengths. Boespflug, using the high line for the whole race, finally secured third from Cummins, who tried both the top and bottom lanes in his search for speed. Leary was fifth, but through much of the race he had unwanted company in both Ballou and B. Short. Ballou was sixth and Stanbrough passed a slightly fading Short to take seventh. McGhee was ninth and Thomas made it ten.
Ballou was hard charger coming from 12th, but Stanbrough passed a few cars coming from 13th. Carson Short started 17th and scooted up to 11th as well.
MSCS points-wise, Brady Short increased his lead over Brandon Morin and Tyler Hewitt.
With my wife “trumping” opponents left and right (at the card game euchre, silly), I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Zigging and Zagging
On a hot August night at the Bloomington Speedway, the action was as frantic as ever with Jeff Bland holding off Robert Ballou to win the 25 lap 410 non-wing sprint feature. Ballou closed the gap in the closing laps as both negotiated lapped traffic like the pros they are, but fell short by a few feet.
It was another example of looking at the numbers and concluding that it was “boring.” Bland started second and led all the way, but his lead and win were far from a done deal. Ballou saw to that, along with the lapped cars who were engaged in their own battles.
Ethan Barrow won the Racesaver 305 winged sprint feature, leading all the way and winning over Ryan Tusing by a few car lengths.
The temperature was in the upper 80s, but it was the Hoosier humidity that made going to a race a true challenge. This didn’t stop two aging gentlemen and their seven year old fellow traveler. Neither did the threat of a popup rain shower as little pockets of showers seemed to surround Bloomington.
23 sprints and 14 Racesavers occupied the pits, which contained close to 100 cars. Of note were Jon Stanbrough in the Pedersen brothers 4p, Thomas Meseraull in the Wingo family machine and Jarett Andretti in a new car with new colors after destroying his DRC at Lawrenceburg last Saturday. Only Dakota Jackson was doing double duty, with the family 410 sprinter and his Racesaver ride that’s helped him to multiple Bloomington feature wins this year.
My man Henry Bryant did his usual magic on the track and was helped by the persistent cloud cover that kept a goodly amount of moisture where it needed to be. The heat races were of the high speed/freight train variety. By feature time, the usual two grooves, high and low, appeared. Passing was still tough but doable.
Shelby Van Gilder won the first heat from her outside front row spot. Pole sitter Daylan Chambers was a close second. Billy Cribbs was third and Brandon Morin took fourth after having his hands full keeping Jon Stanbrough in fifth.
Matt McDonald ran the best heat race of his racing career as he kept Robert Ballou behind him in winning the second heat by a whole car length. Kevin Thomas Jr. was third and Brady Short finished fourth. Dakota Jackson took fifth while he had Chris Babcock nipping at his heels.
It was Jordan Kinser making it unanimous with heat race winners winning from the front row as he won the third heat. Jeff Bland was second. Thomas Meseraull gave the 77 a good ride in taking third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Jaden Rogers started second, slipped up early and hung on to take fifth with Brandon Mattox coming up just a bit short.
Dakota Jackson won the first Racesaver heat over Ryan Tusing. Mike Terry Jr. was the victor in the second heat with Luke Bland taking second.
Chris Babcock controlled the B Main all the way with Brandon Mattox a close second. Third and fourth belonged to the Cummings family with Braxton leading dad Bub to the line. Cody Clarkson would start 20th in the feature.
For maybe the first time in his racing career, Daylan Chambers would lead the 19 others to the green. Sprinkled through the field were some pretty strong cars. Next to Chambers was Bland, who grabbed the lead. Chambers held second for the first few laps until Ballou got around him and set sail for Bland, who had built a straightaway length lead and maintained his lead even after slipping over the banking.
By the halfway mark lapped traffic was a factor as Ballou slowly but surely chipped away at Bland’s lead. Behind them Jordan Kinser settled into third—until K. Thomas and Meseraull came up to pay their respects. Jordan hung onto third as Thomas and TMez traded position more than once as they, too, fought with the lappers.
In the closing laps Ballou clearly gained ground on the leader. But he ran out of laps and Bland had made it tough for anyone to get close to him. And the lack of a yellow flag in this race would produce more hypothetical situations such as how would the leaders have handled a re-start.
In the end none of that stuff mattered and Jeff Bland stood at the start/finish line being interviewed by Kimb Stewart and accepting a trophy from a seven year old who recently had scraped mud off the winning car at Lincoln Park.
Behind Bland and Ballou was Kinser, who settled for the bronze medal. K. Thomas made the late pass to finish fourth with Meseraull taking fifth. Brady Short advanced more than anyone else, coming from 11th to finish sixth. Chambers, from the big city of Bowling Green, Indiana, hung on for seventh. Cribbs was an impressive eighth, leading Andretti to the line. And Jadon Rogers came from 15th to finish tenth.
An extra goody for the winner was a $500 parts voucher from Unique Breedz through Extreme Performance from Ellettsville, IN.
Ethan Barrow won the Racesaver feature, leading Ryan Tusing to the checkered by only a few car lengths. Jared Fox was third and pole sitter Andy Bradley was fourth. Ethan Fleetwood came on late to take fifth.
A little on the cranky side since I lost my coloring book, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Josh and Joss Show
The Hoosier Race Report: Beauchamp Beats the Heat
Extreme weather, like anything else that’s extreme, brings out the best and the other in people. Fortunately for him, it apparently brings out the best in Brent Beauchamp, who won the 25 lap feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway on a toasty Saturday night in beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana.
For the first time in nearly a month, the not so diminutive traveler reclaimed his seat on the passenger side of the little white Chevy truck. It was just as if he’d never left. Not long after a quick cheeseburger for him, we strolled the pits and he found A.J. Hopkins’ cars covered in mud after wheel packing and hot laps. Soon enough he was busy scraping mud off a sprint car, getting dirty without bring reprimanded, actually helping out. No doubt the homemade slushy was plenty compensation for his labors. And A.J. Hopkins was probably added to the list of drivers he knows and likes.
Car counts were down at LPS, which was no huge surprise. The heat, the usual Saturday night dilution of the pool of sprinters in this area and maybe the post Sprint Week blues kept some fans and racers home. But of the 18 gathered in the Joe Spiker Recreational Park (really the pits), at least a half dozen was quite capable of winning with a few more capable of a top five.
A.J. Hopkins, with the help of his junior mud scraper, took off from the front row and won the first heat. Thomas Meseraull, in Stan Courtad’s car tonight with help from assorted benefactors, rocketed from eighth to finish second. Enjoying his new title of Bloomington/USAC/Indiana Sprint Week winner, Brent Beauchamp started and finished third. Mario Clouser started and finished fourth. Tim Creech II took fifth.
Like Mr. Hopkins, Shane Cockrum started on the outside front row and won the second heat. The first four finishers weren't that far apart as Jeff Bland was second. Right behind him, in Bland's former ride, was Tyler Thomas. Kevin Thomas Jr. moved from eighth to finish fourth. Half a straightaway back was Hunter O'Neal.
The draw for the feature found Bland and Meseraull on the front row with Cockrum and Hopkins in row two. Beuachamp, T. Thomas, Clouser and K. Thomas Jr. would make it a crowd.
TMez took the early lead over Bland, Hopkins, Beauchamp and T. Thomas. Three laps in and Beauchamp took over third. Two laps after that, he passed Bland for second. Meseraull had hustled to a healthy lead when the red flag waved on the seventh lap and his nice lead went poof when Casey Shuman stopped in turn four with flames threatening to consume his engine. Smart guy that he is, the headman of the Wingless Auto Racing series based in Missouri stopped immediately and had to call it a night.
The re-start was Meseraull, a lapped car, Beauchamp, Bland, Hopkins, Cockrum, T. Thomas, K. Thomas, Clouser, J.J. Hughes and Nate McMillin. Getting around the lapped car quickly, Beauchamp joined Meseraull and they began to separate themselves from the others. Behind them, Hopkins passed Bland for third. Then Jadon Rogers spun into the infield, but was close enough to the track to bring out a yellow flag. Jadon re-started on the tail.
On the re-start, Beauchamp made his move and took the lead, but Meseraull took it back. A lap later, TMez’s pass was negated as another yellow waved, this one for Hughes, who spun into the infield off turn four. J.J. was running eighth at the time and re-started on the tail.
This re-start saw Beauchamp leading Meseraull, Hopkins, Cockrum, Bland, K. Thomas, T. Thomas, McMillin, Billy Cribbs and Creech. But another red, the second, appeared when Mario Clouser got upside down in turn two with Jeff Bland’s car sitting in the infield. Both were done for the night. Clouser was out of the car quickly. There were eight laps to go.
When the yellow came out and the field re-started, Creech found himself with a flat right rear tire, but he opted to stay out. The green flag flew and Meseraull got a great jump on the leader. Side by side they went down the backstretch, with TMez hanging on to lead a lap. That would be his last hurrah as Beauchamp reassumed control a lap later and began to build a small lead. Meseraull would have issues with Hopkins, who made a strong run and took second briefly before accidentally shutting off the car in turn four, slowing and exiting the race.
At the end Beauchamp’s lead was a half straightaway over Meseraull with K. Thomas coming on strong at the end for third. Cockrum was fourth and T. Thomas finished fifth. Hughes came back from his mid-race spin to grab a well-earned sixth. McMillin was eighth and Rogers came back from his spin to take ninth. Through it all, Hunter O’Neal started and finished tenth.
Surely it was one of the hottest, in terms of weather, races I’ve been to in some time. Enduring the heat was no problem while the green flag was out and the boys fought it out to the end. But I was sympathetic to those who couldn’t make it due to the weather, especially for health reasons.
What perturbed me was and is the ranting of internet keyboard jockeys who seem to delight in sharing their wisdom in all matters. In extreme weather, summer or winter, they pontificate how today’s people, especially young people, are soft—or “namby-pamby to quote one. These internet pundits fail to see the irony of telling people how weak they are while the pundit quite possibly types away in the comfort of his own—air conditioned—home. And I’d imagine some of those experts would have to look up the word “irony.” I can be further perturbed upon knowing that quite possibly these esteemed thinkers work inside to make their living. Nothing wrong, of course, with working inside, but don’t put down people who either choose or are forced to stay inside.
Enough of that. It was 91 degrees in Greencastle when we arrived. It did cool off. Some. My grandson and I had a great time and saw some good racin’ all evening. That’s what matters.
Helping Melania Trump write her next speech, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: A Fitting End
Perseverance, desire, ability—all of these things and more are needed to excel in the topsy turvy world of Indiana/Midwest/USAC sprint car racing. All of these have been on display since Friday, July 8, when Tyler Courtney shocked a lot of people by coming from last to first and winning his first USAC feature at Gas City. Since that special night three more, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Carson Short have joined Courtney as first time winners. Bryan Clauson and Brady Short combined to ring up victories, adding to their totals. And as the caravan made its last stop at the Terre Haute Action Track, one could always imagine that another shocker would step forward to join the Fab Four. It wasn’t going to happen. Chase Stockon saw to that as he smiled for all the cameras holding the trophy for winning the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week finale at the Terre Haute Action Track, holding off a determined Robert Ballou to close out a memorable ten days.
Brady Bacon may have been happier, though such things are hard to measure. His string of consistent finishes brought him and the Hoffman team the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week championship, along with some money, prestige, bragging rights and one cool rocking chair, ideal for rocking babies to sleep.
32 teams chose to attack the Action Track after having been rained out last Wednesday. It was no surprise that several were missing; this has been a pattern over the years. A few hot dogs were missing, such as Justin Grant and the Steve and Carla Phillips team, Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins, Shane Cottle (actually Shane was there but not the car), Bloomington winner Brent Beauchamp and Josh Hodges, who probably had plans to head back to New Mexico. This was a bit of a disappointment as the young man has to be considered as someone who could be the next USAC first time winner.
There were still plenty of quality cars in the pits. One of them was Bryan Clauson, who set fast time with a 21.051 lap. The track did slow down for later qualifiers, but the 90 degree temps and a hot July sun will do that to race tracks. BC went out 16th to qualify, which made his time even more impressive.
Clauson gave people reason to think that he might be the one holding the trophy later as he came from sixth to win the first heat. C. J. Leary was second and early leader Dave Darland was third. Tri-State/Haubstadt winner Carson Short was fourth, moving to the show.
Brady Bacon then made his case to the jury by winning the second heat, also from sixth, passing Robert Ballou in the process. Ballou was second, followed by Tyler Thomas, his first time at Terre Haute in a sprint car and perhaps any kind of race car. Chad Boespflug was fourth.
Tyler Courtney has impressed throughout ISW and won the third heat. In an upset of sorts, South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt was second. Jon Stanbrough, presumably in his last ride for Amati Racing Team, was third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Aaron Farney had a close encounter with the turn four wall before stopping and bringing out a yellow. On the re-start Chris Windom slowed and went to the pits. Both he and Farney would return for the B.
Thomas Meseraull swept to the lead from fourth place on the first lap and led all the way to win the fourth heat. Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Logan Jarrett came from sixth to third. Chase Stockon was fourth, giving no indication what lay ahead.
After a brief massaging of the track, the semi feature was won by Chris Windom, who led all the way, but was pressured by Aaron Farney. Tom Harris was third and made his first ISW feature—I think. Kevin Thomas Jr. cruised to a fourth place finish. Missouri’s Riley Kreisel made his first Sprint Week feature just like Harris and finished fifth. Max McGhee was sixth.
With the preliminary events done, all Brady Bacon had to do was finish fifth or better and he would win the ISW title. As it turned out, he started fifth.
After a few minutes for a scheduled intermission, Stockon and Courtney led the gang of 22 to Mo Wills’ green flag. No sooner than a lap (led by Stockon like all the others) had been completed than Harris flipped in turn four, bringing out the red. He was out of the car quickly.
Stockon took off as the green waved for the re-start and began to stretch his lead out over second place Tyler Courtney. As of lap six the lead was the better part of Terre Haute’s wide, sweeping curves. Meanwhile, Clauson, running sixth, began pressuring Bacon. Lapped traffic began to be a factor around the 11th lap. This helped Ballou somewhat as he passed Courtney for second on the 23rd lap. A lap later Clauson, who had just passed Courtney, hit the turn four wall and pitted with a flat tire. Mo’s yellow hankie was waved.
The six lap dash had Stockon leading Ballou, Courtney, Bacon, Farney, Jarrett, Windom, Leary, Coons and Boespflug. Up front, there wasn’t much in the way of changing positions, but one can say that Ballou made it interesting on each lap, or better yet, at both ends of the track. Time and again Robert dove low in either turn one or three, letting the leader know he was there. But still young (from my perspective) man now living in Fort Branch, Indiana withstood every attempt to make the pass. In the last three laps or so, Stockon inched away and won by a few car lengths, becoming the seventh winner in seven nights of Indiana Sprint Week.
Behind Stockon and Ballou was Courtney and Bacon, who won the war, becoming the 2016 Indiana Sprint Week champ. 2015 Action Track/Sprint Week winner Aaron Farney came from 11th to finish fifth. Chris Windom got around Logan Jarrett late to grab sixth. Behind Jarrett was hard charging Jerry Coons Jr., starting 18th and finishing eighth. Remember Bryan Clauson? Of course you do. After his meeting with the wall on the 24th lap, BC hustled back to take ninth. C.J. Leary was tenth.
It was a strange and unpredictable series of races. Who could have predicted that Tyler Courtney, Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Carson Short would win features and Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Chad Boespflug and Thomas Meseraull (who jumped from one ride to another) would not?
Racers who aren’t with us anymore were remembered. Tony Elliott was honored at Kokomo. Sheldon Kinser was remembered at Bloomington after the Sheldon Kinser Memorial was no more. Don Smith, Terre Haute businessman/community leader, had this race named after him.
Carson Short’s win was the 10,000th USAC race going back to my pre-school years. (Or…USAC has been around for quite awhile).
Tyler Courtney’s last to first run at Gas City will rank as one of the most amazing races I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t like he was racing against Rodney Reynolds and yours truly. There were a few future Hall of Famers in that crowd.
I’d better quit while I’m behind.
Speeding up the recording I made of the truck race at Eldora, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Ho Hum
At this rate we’ll have to search a thesaurus for more adjectives to describe this year’s Indiana Sprint Week feature results. I’ve started with…wacky, unprecedented, mind boggling, crazy, unusual (massive understatement) and improbable. Yet again, another first time winner took the cheers, the trophy and the money last night at the Tri-State Speedway in beautiful suburban Haubstadt, Indiana. That would be Carson Short, from just down the road in Marion, Illinois holding off Kyle Cummins to take the checkered flag first after 30 laps.
There was one fairly obscure fact that jumped out at me as I toured the pits. Let the record show that only seven racers had raced their way into each of the five previous races. They were points leader Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Chris Windom, Kevin Thomas Jr., Jarett Andretti, Chase Stockon and Hunter Schuerenberg. With Hunter a no show, that number dropped to six for the finale at Terre Haute.
I arrived early enough to watch a race track come to life. It was late afternoon but as I sat, walked, talked and watched, bit by bit, the pace and intensity picked up. Teams arrived, some early, others a little later, and people began unloading race cars and equipment out of their haulers. The three teams with open trailers got the job done a bit quicker. Concession stand workers fried hamburgers or hauled ice. Various tents went up, either to add a little shade or to sell something. Fans tailgated, playing corn hole, sitting around talking and/or drinking a few cold beverages. The old girl that is called The Class Track for good reason was picking up steam and intensity. It was time to get serious.
The car count was a very decent 39. It was the most I’d seen at a Tri-State/Indiana Sprint Week program in years. How many years? I wondered for a moment and asked USAC’s resident stats maestro Richie Murray. Surprisingly, Richie didn’t have it memorized, but in about two minutes he had the answer. In 2007, the count here for ISW was a seams bursting 50, counting a few cars that didn’t take time trials.
Josh Hodges was quite serious about becoming the next first time winner. He was also one of the earliest qualifiers and tore off a 13.319 lap. Just when one might wonder if the track was going away, Chad Boespflug, who was the 38th of 39 to qualify, hustled to lay down a 13.367.
Robert Ballou continued his pattern of a mid-pack qualifying effort, a heat race win (this was the night's first heat) and passing lots of cars in the feature. Tyler Courtney was closing in on Ballou, but not nearly fast enough. Brady Short was third and had his hands full holding off Hodges. Brady Bacon added the B main to his plans.
Thomas Meseraull, enjoying his new ride, ran away with the second heat win. Critter Malone was second. Jon Stanbrough held off Chad Boespflug to make the dance with the Amati Racing Team's hoss. C. J. Leary and Dave Darland would think about what they would do in the semi feature.
The third heat was the Jarrett and Jarett show. Logan Jarrett won from the pole with Mr. Andretti taking second. Local favorite Kyle Cummins passed Dakota Jackson on the last lap to steal third. Chris Windom led a group to the last chance race.
The record will show that Jeff Bland sat on the pole and led every lap to win the fourth heat. Numbers shouldn't be expected to tell the whole story. The top four of this race were so close together they could have almost fit in my two car garage. Bland was trailed by Carson Short, Tyler Thomas and Chase Stockon. Max McGhee and Donnie Brackett would try their luck in the B.
Brandon Morin did a half spin in turn two of the first lap of the C main. All of a sudden we had a thinned out crowd. Of the original scheduled nine starters, five were left. Brian Karraker, Brandon Mattox, Brandon Morin and Daylon Chambers would tag the B. Robert Bell tried.
The semi feature had some unwanted drama. Isaac Chapple had been sent to the tail of his heat after passing the pace truck. He vehemently disagreed. So in the B, he came from the third starting position to take the lead, blowing by Brady Bacon. Chapple must have been motivated and led until lap seven when the yellow waved for a spin. On the restart Kevin Thomas Jr. took the lead and Chapple got a bit loose, then collected Donnie Brackett, who had also passed Bacon. Donnie flipped once and landed hard, but exited the torn up new car somewhat displeased. The lineup on this restart was K. Thomas, Bacon, Windom, McGhee, Darland and Farney; this was the order when the checkered waved. Dave and Aaron were unwittingly benefited by the misfortunes of Chapple and Brackett. C. J. Leary and I. Chapple took provisionals.
Nothing at all against them, but it was a bit of a surprise front row with Carson Short and Jarett Andretti leading 22 of their partners in “crime” to the line. Short took the lead and almost immediately Andretti was under attack by Kyle Cummins, who passed Aldo’s grandson and began to cut into Short’s lead. No matter, the yellow waved on the seventh lap when T. Thomas and Jeff Bland had an unscheduled meeting. Short led Cummins, Andretti, Stockon, Bacon, Hodges, Ballou, Boespflug, Malone and K. Thomas.
On the re-start, Cummins would not let Short get away. He could stay close but couldn’t close the deal. A bit past the tenth lap Stockon passed Andretti for third. Lapped traffic came into play on the 17th lap as the pace was frenzied, in other words, typical Haubstadt. Some good cars were getting lapped. And Robert Ballou was on the move, to no one’s great surprise.
Beginning the race way back in 16th, Ballou was already seventh by the first caution. On the re-start, he passed Brady Bacon and Josh Hodges to enter the top five. Up next was Jarett Andretti and Ballou was fourth with six laps to go. He had Stockon ahead of him and was gaining ground.
Back up front the pace was frantic and dicey as the leader and challenger wove their way through lapped traffic as the laps wound down. Cummins nearly had a shot at the lead when Short bobbled briefly, but it wasn’t happening. At the end it was C. Short, Cummins and Stockon on the podium, a real treat for local fans to see three of their own having the privilege of chatting with USAC’s announcer Dillon Welch after the race.
Robert Ballou also had a speaking role afterwards as he was the hard charger, coming from 16th to finish fourth. And how about that Jarett Andretti? He may have faded a bit from second to fifth, but he remained one of the very few who had made every feature without having to use a provisional. Then there was occasional campaigner Critter Malone, who came from 14th to finish sixth while Brady Bacon was seventh. The law firm of Boespflug, K. Thomas and McGhee rounded out the top ten.
At this point only one more round of ISW remained with Bacon only ten points ahead of Ballou in Sprint Week points. Next stop, the Terre Haute Action Track.
Trying to convince the pig to wear the lipstick, not eat it, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Definitely Not Getting Old
Looking around the pits at each race I attend, I’ve been scouting out possible first time USAC feature winners. There are still some out there, but this edition of ISW has thinned the herd of racers yet to win a national USAC series feature. And at Bloomington Speedway on a beautiful Friday night, the herd got a bit smaller as Brent Beauchamp joined the club, leading most of the 30 lap feature and winning convincingly.
48 sprinters and 17 Racesavers jammed the pits. Making their ISW debuts were Matt McDonald, Jordan Kinser, Aric Gentry, Chris Babcock and Dakota Jackson. Back after a brief absence was Jeff Bland.
The boys were flirting with a new track record in hot laps, but that doesn’t count. It did count when Chad Boespflug went out to qualify and set a NTR with a blistering 10.737, the fastest a non-wing sprinter has ever toured the red clay oval.
With USAC sticking to B Main-sized heat races, stocking the actual C and B, this called for a different kind of racing, more intense if possible. Chris Windom won the first heat from his front row starting spot. He was so far ahead; he could have chased Pokémon. Windom’s front row mate, Brandon Mattox, was second, open trailer and all. Chad Boespflug had some speed left and grabbed third. A.J Hopkins may have missed the inversion, but he still came on to finish fourth after starting seventh.
Chase Stockon passed Robert Ballou early and won the second heat from the second row. And his second row partner, Dave Darland, was second. Pole sitter Ballou took third and his front row mate Brady Short was fourth.
Logan Jarrett won the third heat with Kokomo winner Kyle Cummins second. Brent Beauchamp was tough in his heat, took third. Josh Hodges, perhaps a future first time winner of a USAC feature, was fourth. Two racers from Bartholomew County in this heat struggled. Jamie Williams signed up for the C Main. Dakota Jackson spun on lap seven and was hit by Nick Bilbee and Shane Cottle. Dakota tipped over, bringing out a red flag.
Hunter Schuerenberg won the fourth heat in which Tyler Courtney basically ended his chances of being the 2016 ISW Champ. Barreling into turn one right after the green waved, he got over the cushion, began to bounce and flipped hard over the banking. He was out of the car surveying the damage quickly. Courtney and company would bring out the backup which was set up for winged racing. Brady Bacon was second and Jerry Coons Jr. took third. C.J. Leary grabbed the last cookie from Aaron Farney at the line, maintaining his fourth place start in the feature.
It was very strange to see Jon Stanbrough in the C Main, but there he was. From fourth starting spot he won. Cole Smith started and finished second. Missourian Riley Kreisel was third after taking the initial green flag third. And Terre Haute’s Daylen Chambers would tag the consolation.
Pole sitter Kevin Thomas Jr. won the semi feature over Thomas Meseraull, liking his new gig driving for Landon Simon. Tyler Thomas was third in Jerry Burton’s car and Jarett Andretti made his fifth straight Sprint Week feature by finishing fourth. Dakota Jackson came back from his heat race misfortune and finished fifth. Bloomington regular Jordan Kinser took the last transfer spot, forcing Jon Stanbrough and Isaac Chapple to burn a provisional.
It was Darland and Bacon on the front row with Beauchamp starting third and for all 30 laps, Darland and Beauchamp were the Show. Officially there were seven lead changes between these two, but on the track there were multiple lead changes on most of the 30 laps. Dave owned the top as he’s done many times while Brent, who has struggled at this often difficult oval, kept to the bottom.
The first yellow came out on the tenth lap when Jackson and Stockon collided with Chase coasting to a stop. Beauchamp and Darland were trailed by Bacon, Hodges, Leary, K. Thomas, Andretti, Meseraull, Coons and Boespflug. Noting Brady Short’s success the night before at Lincoln Park, I noticed that he was already 12th after starting 17th.
Poor Stockon had another moment on lap 14 when he and Jordan Kinser had a meeting in turn four. On this re-start Short had entered the top ten. But in the next green flag segment, which was basically the last half of the race, wasn’t too kind to the Lincoln Park winner. By the time lapped traffic came into play on the 25th lap, Beauchamp had stretched out his lead to a whole three or four car lengths, leading the last 11 laps of the 30 lapper as the high side started to fade away somewhat, hindering Darland’s progress. To the very end the still young veteran (who I recall seeing run the long gone Thursday night Midget shows at the Indianapolis Speedrome) clung to the bottom and maintained a decent sized lead over Bacon at the end.
Yes, Brady Bacon, who passed Darland at the end to take second with DD third. K. Thomas was fourth and Meseraull took fifth, his second fifth place finish in a row. The second five was Leary, Hodges, Coons, Andretti and Ballou, who was the KSE/B&W Auto Mart Hard Charger, coming from 17th to tenth.
Beauchamp was the third first time winner of ISW so far, with Brady Short the only multiple USAC winner for the 2016 edition of Sprint Week.
Courtney’s misfortune was Bacon’s windfall as he took over the ISW point lead and added to his season point lead.
The night was an all-sprint affair as the RaceSaver 305s were the support class. Luke Bland won the first heat while Dakota Jackson, the only driver doing double duty, won the second.
Ryan Tusing led all 20 laps to win the feature. Jackson came from his tenth place starting spot to nip Bland at the line for second.
Finding Pokémon parked between Chase Stockon and Nick Bilbee, I’m…
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Copyright © 2017 by "Hosehead's Sprint Car Photos & News." Do not reproduce anything from these pages without the permission of the photographers, writers or webmaster.
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