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    The Hoosier Race Report

    by Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: The Reader
    The skills and talent of both Brady Bacon and the Hoffman Auto Racing team were on display at the Montpelier Speedway on Saturday night. Bacon took the lead on lap 12 and led the rest of the way to hold off Kyle Cummins to win the USAC Sprint series debut at the Montpelier Motor Speedway. As it turned out, a big factor in Bacon’s win was in reading the changing track conditions.
    The ability to read is one of our most treasured gifts, one many of us take for granted. I must point out that reading is a lot more than words in a book, on a screen or on a road sign. Racers try to read track conditions at every race. Not only do they try to see what the track looks like at that moment, they try to project what it will look like the next time they race on it.
    Merely reading a book or a race track won’t guarantee success and/or an education. When reading, ideally one should determine what the words really mean. For example, racers can look at a track and see the formation of a cushion. Perhaps the cushion can be put to good use later, when the money is on the line. The final step in reading asks the question, “What am I going to do with this information? I see what the weather is right now. I’m pretty sure of what the track is going to do. And I know how the car is set up and what it should do.” Part of the beauty of this racing we all love and enjoy is watching how people read, comprehend and act. It happens in one way, shape or form most every race. It’s both fun and fascinating to see.
    Much of the previous paragraph was inspired by spending time with Grandpa Joe, the Railroad Man and KO/Kevin Oldham, race writer extraordinaire and occasional radio commentator. Those two, among many others, made my first visit to Montpelier a positive reading experience, which I live for.
    All race tracks have their own little quirks. Montpelier has at least two. It’s not often you see houses within shouting distance of a race track, but it’s been that way for years. The 11 P.M. curfew is a great motivator for moving the show along and Montpelier does that. Also, it’s not too often you see a railroad track on the opposite border of a race track. Sure enough, the Norfolk Southern Railroad was busy on Saturday, with two trains barreling by at a good clip.
    The track stayed remarkably consistent in time trials. Shane Cottle was out first and qualified fifth fastest. Kyle Cummins came out much later, 20th of the 25 who qualified and his time was sixth quick. And Brady Bacon set fast time with a 14.199 lap, making his run 16th in line.
    A.J. Hopkins won the first heat from the first row. Aaron Farney, Dave Darland, Brady Bacon and Carson Short all transferred. Jon Stanbrough did his best to see if the high groove was productive. It wasn’t and he would try again in the B; his many attempts to get around Short failed.
    Robert Ballou started outside front row and brought home the second heat win. Justin Grant was second and, despite a balky engine, Thomas Meseraull took third. Pole sitter Isaac Chapple was fourth after TMez got around him late. Shane Cottle started and finished fifth.
    The final heat saw the third consecutive outside front row starter win, namely C.J. Leary. Behind him were two clinics in racing wheel to wheel without any NASCAR-like shenanigans. In the end Chase Stockon edged Chad Boespflug for second. Kyle Cummins outdueled Max McGhee for fourth.
    Jerry Coons Jr. won the B from, naturally, the outside front row spot. J. Stanbrough, Colton Cottle, Matt Goodnight, Cole Ketchum, Landon Simon and South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt all found themselves in a USAC feature.
    Between sprint races I meandered, occasionally chatting with whomever was around (especially Tom Brenner) and tried to count the cars on the train that roared by the track. I moseyed back to the little Chevy truck to get a jacket. There was to be some massaging of the track, but it was delayed somewhat briefly. The fellow who handled that was called away, I was told, to help deliver a calf. But the delivery must have been drama-free as he returned and did his best to dig up the top side. Little things like this are what should keep us all from saying things like, “Now I’ve seen everything.” I loved it; this will make a good story to tell around the campfire someday.
    Just before the clock struck nine, the green flag waved with Darland and Cummins leading 20 of their friends to speed, competition and maybe a bit of glory.
    Dave was strong around the top early, leading the charge with most up there with him as well. But, mired very briefly back in sixth place where he started, Brady Bacon began picking off those ahead of him, one at a time, a lap at a time, stubbornly sticking it down on the bottom while the others rode the cushion. Meseraull was his first victim. Fifth place wasn’t going to get it so Bacon then dispatched Stockon one spot back. Now came the trio of Darland, Cummins and S. Cottle. The Throttle was caught and passed on the tenth lap. Next was Cummins and he was soon third a lap later. This left Darland, who led the 11th lap and then saw something fast to his left. It was Bacon, taking the lead and at this point, it was the classic case of monkey see, etc. Suddenly, there was a race to the bottom, but it was too late to do anything with the leader.
    Or was it? Cummins got around Darland to make it close for Bacon. But all that slowed or stopped him was an A.J. Hopkins spin on lap 19, followed by a brief red flag. Apparently a fan was smacked with a rock, not something that enhances one’s racing experience. Having been an unwilling recipient of a rock to the face, I’ll testify as to how much fun that is.
    The re-start saw Bacon maintain control, slowed by a Bret Mellenberndt spin on lap 24. But the Oklahoma native held the lead, despite Cummins keeping it from being a laugher. Darland was third ahead of S. Cottle. Stockon was fifth and kept his point lead over Cummins, two southwestern Indiana boys atop USAC’s sprint car standings. Leary was the Hard Charger, coming from 15th to sixth. Coons came from 12th to finish seventh. Short was eighth, Stanbrough ninth and Grant tenth.
    The quote of the night belonged to the winner, who said, “We’re working hard because we haven’t had the start to the season we wanted, so we made some changes to the car and the first race out we won. Hopefully we can keep this momentum going into the summer.” This could be bad news for the others. As always, time will tell.
    For one night at least, he had read the book, decided what he needed to do with the knowledge gained, and proceeded apply that knowledge.
    Hiding from Presidential candidates until after our primary on May 3, I’m…
    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Bloomington Revisited

    I would be remiss, if not forgetful, if I didn’t give some attention to the RaceSaver Series of winged sprints with 305 engines on Friday night at Bloomington. It turned out to be the Ethan Barrow show as the young veteran won both his heat race and the 20 lap feature.

    12 cars answered the call on Friday. In the first heat, Luke Bland took the early lead but Barrow was having none of that. He passed Bland early and pulled away for the win. Bland was second with Ryan Tussing third and Ethan Fleetwood fourth.

    Tony Anderson took the early lead in the second RaceSaver heat, but Vincennes, Indiana native Kendall Ruble had other ideas. He grabbed the lead on the third lap and checked out, only to lose see a yellow flag brought out by Sondi Eden. But Ruble held off Anderson with Jared Fox third and veteran Brian Gerster fourth.

    The feature lined up according to points, which put Bland on the pole with Anderson outside. Luke took the early lead with Eden second. Midway through the race, Sondi was passed by Ruble for second. She fell further back when both Jared Fox and Ethan Barrow passed her for position. In a couple more laps Barrow would pass Fox and bear down on Ruble.

    Misfortune struck Bland as he coasted to a stop in the infield, giving Ruble the lead. He, Barrow and Fox had a lively battle for position before Barrow made the pass for the lead. That was it as far as he was concerned. Barrow won easily with Ruble second. Fox was third and Ethan Fleetwood came from eighth to finish fourth. Sondi Eden took the checkered in fifth place.

    It was Barrow’s first RaceSaver feature win.

    Posting videos of my wife’s cat writing this article, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: The Ungrateful Host

    It’s common courtesy and common sense to treat your visitors in a way that makes them feel welcome. You may visit their house someday and it’s only right and proper that you could expect the same treatment. This works in our Western society at large. We should strive to be the most hospitable people we can be. After all, Hoosier Hospitality is not a myth.

    But none of this applies to racers. If you come to their home track, you may be greeted a number of people who are glad to see you, even some of their regulars. But that’s about as far as it will go. And if you plan to visit the Bloomington Speedway to race, beware of Brady Short. If asked, he might well stand by the pit gate and greet all who enter. But later, on the track racing, he will become The Ungracious Host. And that was how it went on a cool Friday evening at the red clay oval. Short had no serious challengers until the end as he scored his first feature win at Bloomington this year, beating out a closing Jeff Bland.

    Once in awhile, a race chaser leaves home while it’s raining, having faith that the radar and forecast are accurate. It’s a risky game that sometimes pays off. Friday evening, April 22, was one of those evenings. Heading 44 miles west, I had enough faith to get me to Bloomington. Sure enough, at the Indiana State Road 46/I-65 intersection, the rain stopped. The sun tried to shine. And by the time I reached the Brown County line, the road was dry. Later, at the track, the clouds disappeared.

    Minus my usual traveling partner, I ambled through the pits, pleased to see 20 sprinters with faith enough to show up despite the threat of rain (which missed the track). A few USAC regulars and semi-regulars stopped by, perhaps hoping to do some cherry picking or just to race.

    The first of three heats had enough drama to last much of the evening. Braxton Cummings was towed off the track as the field lined up. Then Robert Ballou collided with Brandon Mattox, who spun to a stop in turn one right after the green waved. Mattox was out of the race and was not impressed with the 2015 USAC Sprint car champion, who had a flat left rear tire changed in the work area and returned to the race. Pole sitter Jarett Andretti took the early lead, but was passed by Kevin Thomas Jr. Ballou came on strong late to take the lead and the win with Andretti, Thomas Meseraull, Nick Bilbee and Thomas trailing.

    The second heat was much tamer by comparison with Jeff Bland Jr. passing C.J. Leary late to win. Max McGhee was third behind Leary with Shelby Van Gilder fourth and Jaden Rogers coming home fifth.

    Moe Howard would have been impressed with the third heat. His frequent command to “spread out” was followed for a change as Short won with Shane Cottle second. Ethan Barrow was third with Hunter O’Neal fourth. Cody Clarkson was about a lap down in fifth.

    There would be no B Main tonight and the sprints began lining up around 9:00 P.M. Short and Andretti were the front row. The start was less than ideal. With a scrum in turns one and two, Meseraull was bumped from behind and smacked the car ahead of him (Bland, I believe), then slowed in front of most of the field. In the potential melee, Van Gilder spun as TMez exited the track. This necessitated a complete re-start.

    Short and Andretti ran one/two early, but soon the third generation racer had pressure from Leary. C.J. passed the North Carolinian, then along came Ballou to do the same. Jeff Bland shuffled Andretti back another spot as nothing changed up front. But if anyone was on the move, it was Bland, running his own deal this year. The high side seemed to be the most popular groove but Bland used the huggy pole line to move forward. Showing his prowess at this most difficult track to master, Bland passed USAC regulars Ballou and Leary to take second. He was closing on the leader but the 25 lap feature wasn’t long enough.

    Short, who commented that this was his house and he couldn’t let the visitors walk away with the money and the trophy, led Bland by several car lengths. Leary was third and Ballou was fourth. Shane Cottle, last week’s winner at Lincoln Park, finished a quiet, for him, fifth. McGhee was sixth and Andretti faded to seventh. Thomas started 13th and finished eighth. Nick Bilbee, in his first Bloomington outing, was ninth. And Braxton Cummings came from 16th to complete the top ten.

    The visitors would have to wait for another race to hope for a gracious host.

    Scratching my head while thinking about the sanctioning body that welcomes back one of its most notable drivers, then fines him $35 big ones, I’m…

    Danny Burton  



    The Hoosier Race Report: Like a Rolling Stone
    With apologies to Bob Dylan, it seems like Shane Cottle and his car owner, Paul Hazen, are two good examples of a rolling stone, steadily advancing to its destination. In the case of the Hazen-Cottle team, that destination was the start/finish line at the Lincoln Park Speedway on another beautiful Hoosier spring night.
    Over 100 race cars jammed Joe Spiker’s personal playground. This was another way of remembering the late Bill Gardner, who spent many an evening at Lincoln Park. It would be the Bill Gardner’s/Indiana Open Wheel Racin’ Fest and Fireworks Extravaganza, to put it properly. The winner would haul off $4,000 and $300 was the lowest amount a racer could take home.
    27 teams decided to hang out at LPS for the night, three of whom could be considered favorites to win, namely Kevin Thomas Jr., Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle. But the other guys would want a say in the proceedings and they did their best.
    Cottle won the first heat from the second row, passing pole sitter Jordan Kinser early. Outside front row starter J.J. Hughes was third. Shane Cockrum, tonight in the Jamie Paul car, was fourth ahead of Kyle Robbins, who had a slipup early but roared back to take the last transfer spot from Ethan Barrow on the last lap.
    Jeff Bland won the second heat from the outside front row. Brandon Mattox, in the Jerry Burton car that Bland drove last year, was a distant second. Cole Ketchum was third, which was where he started. Colton Cottle and Tony DiMattia also moved on, sending Mitch Wissmiller and Logan Jarrett to the B.
    The third heat saw a three car breakaway. Kevin Studley won with Kevin Thomas Jr. passing Jon Stanbrough at the end to take second. Tyler Hewitt was fourth and Tim Creech II took fifth and would start 15th in the feature.
    Ethan Barrow would not be denied, taking the B Main from the pole. Wissmiller started and finished second. Chris Babcock was third and Jarrett fourth. Nate McMillan used the high groove while most stayed low to take the last musical chair.
    Cottle and Bland were the front row. That was how they ran for the first several laps before Bland did a perfect 360 and kept going. This moved Thomas to second and KT would never allow Cottle to get away too far.
    A Tim Creech spin on lap 17 erased the large margin that Cottle and Thomas had built up. They had company in the form of Jon Stanbrough, who had struggled in his heat and started ninth. Kinser was fourth and Bland had worked his way back to fifth. Studley had run very well early but was sixth by now. Cockrum, Robbins, C. Cottle and Mattox were the rest of the top ten.
    On the re-start, Stanbrough had three lapped cars between him and the leaders. By lap 20 he had cleared them and seemed to be gaining slightly on Cottle and Thomas, who were engaged in their own private war. But it wasn’t going to happen. Stanbrough couldn’t catch the two up front and Thomas stayed close to Cottle, finishing only two car lengths behind as Brian Hodde waved the checkered flag.
    Mattox flipped hard in turn three at the checkered. No doubt he may have felt it on Sunday morning, but Brandon was able to walk to the ambulance.
    Behind Stanbrough was Jordan Kinser, who started and finished fourth. Shane Cockrum moved from tenth to fifth. Bland recovered from his spin to nip Robbins at the line for sixth. No one advanced more than Logan Jarrett, who started 19th and ended up eighth. Studley ran well early before fading to ninth. Cole Ketchum was tenth.
    This race was a classic example of a box score not telling the whole story. People who don’t attend a given race often see where a race winner starts on the pole and leads every lap, as Cottle did on Saturday night. Seeing this, they assume that the race was a stinker. But a box score can’t show the pressure on Cottle through most all of the race courtesy of Thomas. Neither can it describe the fights for various positions all throughout the field. And we can peruse all the box scores of any game or sport we choose and none of them will describe what it’s like being there. Even when attending a race, words struggle to describe the sheer joy of race winners or the disappointment of those whose results were not what they hoped for.
    Promoter Joe Spiker stopped by to say hey as the modified feature began. His smile was about as wide as the Wabash River. And why not? Over 100 cars in the pits, a near Sprint Week sized crowd to see racing and fireworks, and near perfect weather makes for a happy promoter.
    And rolling on down the road, savoring their latest victory, were Shane Cottle and Paul Hazen, smiling the whole time.
    Disappointed that David Hobbs is not eligible to run for President, I’m…
    Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: Take For Granted
    It is a very human nature to take most things for granted. We easily fall into the trap of assuming. Whether it’s flipping a switch and expecting a light to come on immediately or turning a key to start a car or open a door, we react, often badly, when the expected doesn’t happen. But most always the lights, cars and doors work as they should and we move on to the next assumption.
    It’s like this in racing as well. As cream rises to the top, literally and figuratively, we’ve come to take for granted this will be true in racing in general and in Hoosier sprint car racing in particular. On a beautiful Friday night in Bloomington, the usual frontrunners were, well, running up front, led by Bryan Clauson, one of the best, if not the best, all-round open wheel racer around these days. All he did on his Friday night at the Bloomington Speedway opener was come from 11th to take the lead in less than 20 laps and motor on to his fourth consecutive USAC feature win at Bloomington. Sounds like something folks might be tempted to take for granted.
    35 cars and stars signed in with few surprises. Chase Stockon’s time was looking like the quickest until C.J. Leary went out as the fifth from the last qualifier and set a new non-wing track record with a 10.842.
    Brent Beauchamp came from fourth to win the first heat with Hunter Schuerenberg, united with Seth Motsinger Motorsports for much of the year, coming home second. Leary was third and Brady Short came back from a near slide off in turn four to claim fourth.
    Chad Boespflug also came from fourth to win the second ten lap event with Jeff Bland, in his own car this year, second. Stockon was third after starting sixth and Kyle Cummins took fourth, which meant that Robert Ballou and Kevin Thomas Jr., in the familiar Epperson entry on a part time basis, went to the B.
    The third heat was plagued with yellow fever and the pretty hanky waved three times. It was a close one with Thomas Meseraull edging Jon Stanbrough at the line to grab the win. Pole sitter Aaron Farney was third and Brandon Mattox, driving for Jerry Burton this year, came on strong at the end to send Matt Goodnight to the B. Max McGhee and Isaac Chapple tangled in turn two while trying to race their way into the feature; neither finished the race.
    Mr. Clauson was the third of three heat race winners starting the race fourth. Brady Bacon was second and would find himself in the same spot later. Early leader Shane Cottle was third and Dave Darland was fourth.
    Carson Short led a strong field to the green for the 12 lap B Main. He led much of the race until Ballou made the pass for the win late in the race, which was slowed by four yellows. Jarett Andretti was an impressive second after starting sixth. Short was third and Landon Simon fourth after starting 13th. Thomas was fifth with Max McGhee grabbing sixth after having to start the race last/17th. The Bloomington cushion, property of those such as Kevin Briscoe in the past, was alive and well.
    Boespflug and Beauchamp led 22 others to the green and the red promptly came out for a C.J. Leary flip in turn one. He was okay but finished for the night. On the re-start, Brent Beauchamp had a good view of Brady Bacon’s right rear going into turn one. He was forced over the cushion and also flipped big for red flag number two. Boespflug had been leading during this time but on this re-start, Bacon assumed control. He was leading when Thomas stopped on lap nine, bringing out a yellow.
    Bacon led Boespflug, Schuerenberg, Stockon and Ballou for the top five. Meseraull, Darland, Clauson, C. Short and B. Short were the rest of the top ten. Ballou bobbled in turn four and dropped back to eighth. Another yellow waved on lap 13 for Jeff Bland as Bacon still led. Clauson was up to fifth. He passed Boespflug and benefitted when Schuerenberg slid off turn four. BC was third and breathing down Stockon’s neck. With the resident of Haubstadt, Indiana behind him, Clauson took after Bacon and it was only a matter of time.
    He made the pass on lap 19 and that was that. Clauson never pulled away that much from Bacon; the margin of victory was maybe a half straightaway. Behind them, Meseraull passed Stockon for third on the last lap. Last year’s champ, Ballou, was fifth. Dave Darland came from 14th to sixth; next to the winner he was the Hard Charger. Schuerenberg edged Jarett Andretti for seventh. Brady Short was ninth and Max McGhee ended an eventful night with a tenth place finish.
    It was Clauson’s sixth USAC win of this still young season. And it’s tempting to take for granted that Bryan will win each time he shows up, especially at a USAC event.
    The most interesting quote of the night belonged to Brady Bacon, who spoke a truth—at least sometimes. “When you’re the leader, it’s hard to know where to go.” Speaking as both a parent and a grandparent, I can relate to that, even at this advanced age.
    Taking nothing for granted since I lost my celebrity wannabe score card, I’m…
    Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: First Time Winner
    The title is one of my favorites, a title I’ve used in the past. And C.J. Leary, a second generation racer, has shown steady improvement over the last few years in both sprints and Silver Crown beasts. He’s won races at the regional level and now can say he’s a USAC Silver Crown winner after taking the lead on lap 94 from race long leader Justin Grant to win the Terre Haute Action Track’s Sumar Classic.
    After freezing from head to toe at Lawrenceburg the night before, I was ready for more of the same on Sunday afternoon, taking the heaviest coat I could find, among other potential layers. Conditions were breezy and plenty chilly, but it was nothing like the deep freeze at the ‘burg.
    The track was, predictably, dry and slick with the quickest way around for both time trials and much of the race was at the top, up by the wall. Grant and Leary were the only two of the 20 qualifiers to time in under 22 seconds, with the California native the quickest.
    Mindful of the weather, the show went on efficiently with Kenny Wallace, a gentleman who always seems to be having the time of his life (maybe he is), winning the UMP Modified feature before the Silver Crown cars lined up on the front stretch for driver introductions for what I felt was a decent crowd, given the weather.
    Grant and Leary were the front row and both attempted to check out early. And Justin’s big lead was sent packing when the race’s first yellow came out for young Austin Nemire, who suffered a flat right rear tire and stopped in turn two on lap 22. Behind Grant and Leary were Kody Swanson, Brady Bacon, Chris Windom, Shane Cockrum, Shane Cottle, Dave Darland, Steve Buckwalter, and Bryan Clauson.
    Again the top two checked out on the re-start. As the sun dipped low in the west, visibility barreling into turn three was no doubt a major concern. But these guys were pros; there was nary an incident at either end of the track all day. By lap 40 the cushion at both ends of the track was nearly gone. Soon people would begin giving the bottom lane a try, hoping for some grip.
    There was little change at the front of the field as the halfway mark came and went. 11 cars remained on the lead lap as Grant maintained control, but with Leary never too far back. Buckwalter dropped out on lap 58, having bounced off the wall on at least one occasion. Bacon passed Swanson to take third. Jerry Coons Jr. and Dave Darland both went a lap down.
    Lap 70 came and went and now the bottom groove ruled. Leary had a brief tussle with Bacon, who wanted second. With 22 laps to go, Leary was third. At this point, who would have thought he’d win this race? But on the 84th lap he passed Bacon and caught a break that would be huge later on.
    For the second time Nemire had a right rear go flat on him, bringing out the race’s second yellow flag on lap 89. With only the lapped car of Robert Ballou to deal with, Leary was coming on strong. Grant was struggling and the Greenfield, Indiana native got the advantage coming out of turn four, passing the leader on the bottom with six laps to go and taking a lead he’d not give up, winning by nearly a half second.
    Swanson came on strong to nip Bacon at the end to take the final podium space. Windom was fifth. The Shanes ran sixth and seventh, with Cottle leading Cockrum. Clauson came from 14th to finish eighth. Coons was ninth and Darland tenth, both Hall of Famers a lap down.
    USAC’s somewhat peculiar point system had Grant leading the points after the first Silver Crown race of the year. With Justin setting fast time and leading the most laps, the six points earned gave him the lead with 73 and Leary 70. But C.J. wasn’t about to quibble. With a second at Lawrenceburg and this win, he had a weekend to remember.
    The quote of the day belonged to the winner, who said, “It kind of feels surreal.” Not too often is the word “surreal” used in a post-race interview.
    The USAC Silver Crown Series heads to Toledo Speedway for the Rollie Beale Classic on April 30.
    The Terre Haute Action Track’s next race is May 1, when the Midwest Sprint Car Series invades the half mile oval along with UMP Modifieds.
    Hoping to make the Honor Roll at the University of North Carolina majoring in Punditry, I’m…
    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Tire Management 101
    It is forever interesting how different people respond to the same situation or, shall we say, the same challenge. In racing, all competitors face the same conditions, no matter what they are. The only difference is starting position. To paraphrase an otherwise undistinguished politician, we go race with the weapons/assets/knowledge that we have. This means that Dave Darland may not have shown the others the fast way around the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a bone chilling cold night, but he certainly showed all the smart and winning ways around the wind swept three eighth mile, high banked oval.
    Let’s note right away that it was cold, one of the coldest races I’ve attended going back to those days when straight talking Harry Truman occupied the White House. It was windy too, which, like cold weather, can occur in Indiana, even in April. The wind, especially, would affect not only coffee and hot chocolate sales, but track conditions as well.
    36, close to a “perfect” car count, race teams braved the elements, along with a few downright crazy people, two of which were my eldest grandson (a teenager now—where does time go?) and myself. The usual runners were in the pits, minus Tracy Hines, now keeping busy elsewhere. Kevin Thomas Jr. landed in the T. Epperson machine. C.J. Leary was in Mike Dutcher’s pride and joy. Kody Swanson, Kent Wolters, and Steve and Carla Phillips showed up with two cars, both numbered 71. And Dave Darland was reunited with Jeff Walker for what seemed like the 57th time.
    The track was, predictably dry and slick, thanks to the relentless wind. Leary went out second of 36 and set fast time with an impressive 13.861 lap. The first three qualifiers were the three quickest. With Leary was Justin Grant and 2015 USAC Sprint champ Robert Ballou. But Max McGhee was fourth fastest and went out 31st. How impressive was that?
    Chase Stockon held off C.J. Leary to win by inches the first of four heats. The second heat had its own story. Chad Boespflug passed Jon Stanbrough on the last lap to win it. Jarett Andretti had it comparably easy in winning the third heat. Thomas Meseraull used the slide job judiciously in coming from fifth to win the fourth heat.
    The boys had played nice all night until the start of the B Main, with 20 cars scratching and clawing for six spots. Outside front row occupant Kody Swanson got just a little sideways in turn four coming to the green. Behind him, things stacked up quickly and ugliness prevailed. At least six cars collided with Kent Wolters and last year’s winner Logan Jarrett tipping over, blocking the track. By the time things were tidied up, four cars were eliminated. Pole sitter Max McGhee won with Kevin Thomas Jr. second
    TMez and local favorite Shawn Westerfeld led 22 others to the green. Westerfeld led early before Ballou came calling from his outside second row starting spot to grab the lead on lap four. He would lead for the next 21 laps.
    The high groove had worked for some in the preliminary races. But right away people noticed that it wasn’t working anymore and it quickly became a case of monkey see, etc. There were 24 bottom feeders on the track with Ballou as the head catfish. This was the case for the first half of the race, which had been an all green flag affair. That didn’t last.
    Kyle Cummins spun on lap 13, bringing out Tom Hansing’s yellow hankie. A few laps later Cole Ketchum did the same. But on the 19th lap the fun began. That fun was a festival of shredded tires, starting with Justin Grant, who was running third behind Ballou and Meseraull. Dave Darland, meanwhile, had advanced smartly from tenth to fourth at the start of the race and had been biding his time, perhaps noting Grant’s woes and maybe even smiling to himself.
    And so it continued, one yellow after another. The sixth yellow flag waved when Shane Cottle and Jerry Coons Jr. had an unscheduled meeting in turn two. The next victims would be Carson Short and Chad Boespflug, both with flats. T. Meseraull’s right rear tire had some of the cord showing; it was that far gone. It would be a matter of time and sure enough, TMez brought out the yellow and acquired a new tire. And now the leader was exhibiting the same symptom. Ballou’s right rear didn’t have long to go and that it did as the 25th lap began. This was the race’s tenth caution flag.
    Now it was Dave Darland, he of the relatively pristine right rear shoe, assuming the lead. His patience in watching the California trio of Grant, Meseraull and Ballou burn up their right rear tires had paid off. But behind him, tires were still caving in under the wear and tear of sliding on the dry, slick and rubbered down surface. After Ballou, it was Brady Bacon’s turn. Then came young Aaron Farney stopping on the track. The 13th (by my count) yellow waved for a Landon Simon spin.
    USAC officials called for a red flag for that rarest of reasons, a fuel stop. Some fans had left but my thinking was that the Sword Man and I had toughed it out this long and we could hang in there for a bit longer. If his namesake wasn’t going to win, Landon was rooting for Darland, one of the guys who was driving when he was a toddler playing on the playground at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway.
    The final three laps were anti-climactic, except that Chase Stockon had a right rear that looked shaky. But all three laps went green with Darland adding to his all-time leading USAC sprint car feature win record. C.J. Leary had been patient as well, bringing it home second. Scotty Weir had noticed early on what the track would do and he was rewarded with third. Stockon had started 16th after a subpar qualifying effort. He finished fourth. Max McGhee took fifth.
    Dallas Hewitt advanced more spots than anyone, coming from 21st to sixth. Meseraull came back to take seventh with his fellow California natives Ballou and Grant trailing. Farney was tenth after changing a tire.
    2016 marks the 24th straight year that Dave Darland has won a USAC feature, a remarkable feat that many of us will never see equaled.
    Darland summed it up by saying, “I knew from the beginning that it was going to be tough to save tires, but I knew everybody else was in the same boat, so we just had to make the best of it. We were fast, but had to save our stuff and I’m glad we could hold on and get it done.”
    There were the usual complaints about the track and tire wear. But with cold temperatures, a clear blue sky and a nasty wind out of the west, track prep was going to be even more of a challenge. Had the race been cancelled, complaints would have been made as well. Not every race can be like what we see on TV each Sunday with manufactured close finishes. And after having spent the month of March in the Carolinas and seeing races down there all month, believe me when I can say how good we have it up here in many ways.
    Buying my tires off Fred Flintstone, I’m…
    Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: 2015 Retrospective
    It would seem to me that the things that we love, enjoy or cherish reveal that we are, among other things, lacking in logical decision making. Taking the emotions and feelings away makes the concept of love very difficult to justify. The same is true of our faith, whether it’s in a Higher Power or the belief that every time you fire up your computer, great things will happen. More and more, as the years fly by, I find the same is true of racing, most especially sprint car racing and even more especially in the state of Indiana. The year concluded was, thankfully, more of the same. For fans and maybe some racers too, undue worrying about things either were diminished or disappeared as we pulled into a parking lot and anticipated a good time. With all its issues, at least the ones that are legitimate concerns, a night at the races may have had little to do with logic, but somehow it was time well spent for many reasons.
    Since retiring this open wheel racing loving Hoosier has spent some time in the Carolinas, where our fendered brethren reign. 2015 was no exception as I bundled up, left the mountaintop and headed first to Gastonia, North Carolina, a beautiful red clay oval, nearly as nice as one of my home tracks about 44 miles west of here. The next night I saw some modified racing of the NASCAR variety at the Hickory Motor Speedway. A week later, I made a fairly long drive to the Anderson Motor Speedway, not the Anderson which hosts the Little 500. This one was in South Carolina. Watching stock cars was okay, but it was time to head north and see what was happening up here.
    I missed Logan Jarrett’s first USAC feature win at Lawrenceburg and still kick myself for that. My first Hoosier race in April was the Kokomo Grand Prix, with Darren Hagen winning the midget feature and C.J. Leary taking the sprint feature. The following weekend the six year old race fan came along with me to our red clay oval to see a USAC/MSCS show won by Bryan Clauson. A minor footnote at the time was a Robert Ballou coming from 15th to eighth. Chad Boespflug won at Lincoln Park on Saturday in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crush. Brady Short dominated the Bloomington show the following weekend while Lawrenceburg rained out, the first of many. April closed out with the first King of Sprint Series race, co-sanctioned by MSCS, at Terre Haute with Brady Short winning.
    The first weekend in May was my first three race weekend with no rain. On a cool Friday night, the Gas City/I-69 Speedway was the scene of the second KISS event with Jon Stanbrough winning. The following night found my traveling partner and me at the Lawrenceburg Speedway where C. J. Leary took the win. Round three of the KISS tour was Sunday evening and Justin Grant overcame a spin to win. The next weekend began at Bloomington with Brady Short surviving a slide off midrace and recovering to win. Saturday night’s destination was to be the Lincoln Park Speedway, but rain took care of that. The mid-month weekend was a pair of Hoosier bullrings in action on Friday and Sunday with Saturday rained out. USAC came calling at Gas City with Justin Grant winning. Rain won at Lawrenceburg on Saturday and Shane Cottle excelled at Kokomo on Sunday night. Four races in four nights lay ahead with Kody Swanson winning the Hoosier 100 as Aaron Pierce came from 18th to second and Brian Tyler came from 27th to third. The ageless Ricky Hood checked in with a top ten finish. B. Short did it again at Bloomington, winning the Josh Burton/KISS/MSCS show and some extra cash. Thomas Meseraull won at Lincoln Park and Short edged Kyle Cummins on Sunday night at Tri-State Speedway. Closing out May, Short won again at Bloomington.
    Meseraull kept winning, this time at a BOSS sanctioned Lawrenceburg party as June arrived on time. All of a sudden, it was time for Indiana Midget Week. Tanner Thorson’s first USAC win came at Gas City as Bryan Clauson won the sprint feature. BC won the midget A at LPS the following night and Kevin Thomas Jr. won the sprint finale. Christopher Bell took a break from stock car racing to win the USAC midget feature at Bloomington as Clauson was the sprint winner. KISS duties took me to Paragon on Saturday as Robert Ballou had a tremendous battle with Brady Short before winning. Brady was the 2015 KISS champ. Rico Abreu ended up as IMW champ. Rain prevented a Kokomo/IMW curtain closer. More rain hit Bloomington five days later and Chad Boespflug took the Shane Wade beauty to an LPS win. Rain wiped out Kokomo and Bloomington again. Boespflug won again, this time at Paragon’s Chuck Amati Memorial after Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle collided. Dave Darland closed out June with a win at his home track, Kokomo.
    Midseason arrived with Shane Cockrum winning the USAC/Silver Crown affair at Terre Haute. Lincoln Park remembered the one and only Bill Gardner with an MSCS/USAC double header. Robert Ballou won on opening night over a fast closing KT Jr. Jerry Coons Jr. won the USAC show on Saturday night. At Kokomo on Sunday, Justin Grant won an Indiana Sprint Car Series event. Indiana Sprint Week began at Gas City with Chase Stockon winning after I left home in southern Indiana during a rain shower. Unfortunately, Kokomo was rained out 24 hours later, rescheduling in a few weeks leading off Smackdown. Brady Bacon was the Lawrenceburg winner. Taking Monday and Tuesday off, the caravan began the next leg of ISW with Aaron Farney leading all the way to win his first USAC feature. Bacon returned to Victory Lane at Lincoln Park on Thursday. Rain returned, this time to Bloomington. Brady Short took the ISW last roundup at Tri-State with Robert Ballou taking the Sprint Week title—and the cool rocking chair. Kevin Thomas Jr. stopped by LPS on the 24th and won the feature, the Putnamville Clash and another ISCS production. Sean Buckley’s impressive promotional effort, the ISCS, was on hand at Gas City, where Ballou edged Jon Stanbrough. Just like that, July was over.
    Shawn Westerfeld enjoyed the first of August as he won the BOSS at the ‘burg show. Justin Grant did it again at Kokomo on Sunday night as folks remembered Bob Darland. Lincoln Park ran two nights in a row, the first a rare Friday affair with Brady Short winning. If that wasn’t enough, Brady did it again under MSCS sanction. The young man from Bedford, Indiana was on a roll, winning the following Friday at Bloomington, another MSCS event after Ballou spun and collected Stanbrough. Prior commitments kept me near home on Saturday but I was back at Bloomington the next Friday to see Nick Bilbee win the Sheldon Kinser Memorial and Jon Stanbrough emerge as the champ of the ISCS, winning one cool trophy courtesy of Mr. Buckley. Brent Beauchamp won at Lincoln Park and the Smackdown was in my immediate future. Chris Windom won the makeup Sprint Week feature on Wednesday. Robert Ballou won the official opening night of SD, with the popular production going to four nights in 2016. Chase Stockon and Dave Darland won the final two features. August was done.
    Labor Day weekend is a treat for Midwestern open wheel fans. But my grandson and I were rained out at Gas City. We motored east to Lawrenceburg on Saturday to see Kyle Cummins take the checkered first. And I made the long journey west to Du Quoin to see Shane Cockrum win the Ted Horn Memorial and lead the guys for a dip in the lake. C.J. Leary won at LPS and R. Ballou won the USAC feature at Terre Haute. Brady Short won the Haubstadt Hustler 24 hours later, a USAC/MSCS deal and two weeks after Short had sailed over the fence into the pits at Haubstadt. Brent Beauchamp ended September at LPS with a win, though he was not pleased with himself after a slide job removed Jeff Bland from contention.
    October opened with a chilly trip to Gas City. My wingman spent part of the time at the playground with his buddy Kellen. But both boys joined Grandpa (me) and Dad (Open Wheel KT himself) to see Scotty Weir win the feature. It was a good thing we went because the ‘burg was rained out the following night. Back to Tri-State one more time to see Chase Stockon win. Shane Cottle won on a chilly Kokomo night as all open wheel cars ran the first night of the Kokomo Klash. Spencer Bayston took the midget A. Thomas Meseraull closed out my outdoor racing season with an impressive win at Lawrenceburg before the USAC road show headed west.
    At year’s end I could be found in soggy Ft. Wayne, Indiana, watching Russ Gamester win the midget feature as the Rumble Series invaded the War Memorial Coliseum. Sunday evening was the curtain closer as another Rumble veteran, Billy Wease, won his fifth Rumble Series feature.
    Sometimes we look back at things we’ve done in the past and wonder how we did them. Remembering that it wasn’t that long ago I worked 40 plus hours a week at a mentally and physically demanding job, went to over 60 races per year and wrote tens of thousands of words about what I had seen. It’s not part of my plan to dwell on the how. I could pay good money to a trained professional to explain. More important to me is why. Somewhere inside many of us lies the reasons that we embrace this completely irrational passion of ours. Our level of devotion may vary, but inside each of us is this love of fast race cars, close competition and the thrill, for many, of seeing a personal favorite win.
    On the surface, at its base, nothing about this love, or most any love, makes sense. We watch people race in circles, round and round. We drive thousands of miles each year, spend untold amounts on gas, food and sometimes motel rooms. By my rough estimate, I went to nearly 70 races in 2015, drove approximately 11,000 miles, ate dozens of cheeseburgers and wrote over 70,000 words for Mr. Holland alone, not counting my other writing stories and projects. And for what?
    It’s understandable that my non-racing friends would wonder the same. Why drive all over the state for something that seems to be so absurd, so trivial? There are no easy answers, at least from this seat. All I know is that I’m better off chasing races and writing about them and aim to do so as long as I’m able. This “hobby” has given me every emotion under the sun, from one extreme to another. Maybe even more importantly, it has given me the opportunity to hang around some extraordinary people at every level, from ticket takers to the movers and shakers of this American sub-culture that we call sprint car racing. No complaints, just an untold number of blessings.
    Getting my Shi’ites and Sunnis mixed up, I’m…
    Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: Mr. Five Time
    Had things worked out a bit differently Billy Wease might have had a decent career in either NASCAR or even USAC by now. But for whatever reason that didn’t work out. Wease doesn’t race all that much these days, but he’s a regular in the Rumble Series at the War Memorial Coliseum in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Not only that, he’s always a threat to win the midget feature. Sure enough, he did just that on a chilly Sunday evening, taking the lead on lap 16 and hanging on for his fifth Rumble win after a less than stellar Saturday in which he didn’t make the feature.
    It was a long afternoon after a late breakfast at the Liberty Diner. I spent a goodly amount of time watching what seemed like an endless series of go-kart races. Part of the time was spent standing as near to the track as I cared to be, appreciating the outrageously quick cornering speeds of these little bullets. Naturally, part of the time was spent ambling through the pits in the catacombs of the Coliseum, mostly people watching. It was family time for most all the teams with people tackling a variety of tasks, working on the karts, eating, playing video games, reading, talking or even resting.
    It reminded me of a friend’s (Matt Hamilton?) observation that much of racing is waiting for six hours to race for five minutes…or something like that.
    Thankfully, when possible, the show moved right along, showing that promoters are also organizers. As one group left the track after their race, the next was already entering.
    Since qualifying had taken place on Saturday, midget heats for the three midget classes began right after the last go-kart feature.
    Things got ugly right away in the midget’s first heat. J.T. Crabtree nearly lost control going down the backstretch but righted himself. However, Dameron Taylor came along and clipped Crabtree’s right rear, flipping into the fence, tearing up a section and moving the wall. Worst of all, two medical workers standing near the wall were hit and injured. They were taken to a hospital and were not believed to be seriously injured. Taylor was not injured, but was done for the night.
    After a 40 minute delay, the fence was repaired and pole sitter Lynsey Ligouri won the first heat with Geoff Kaiser holding off Derek Bischak to make it to the main.
    Kyle O’Gara won the second heat with Matt Westfall a distant second. Joe Ligouri and Chris Neuenschwander would have to try their luck in the B.
    The most underappreciated win was that of Justin Peck in the third heat. He came from fourth to win, using a low line coming out of turn two and diving under people to pass below the accumulated rubber. One of those passed was Billy Wease, who was second. Wease’s teammates Dave Darland and second generation racer Tyler Roahrig readied themselves for the B.
    Michigan’s Nick Landon won the fourth heat with Russ Gamester winning a side by side duel with Jim Anderson to take second.
    The fifth heat saw some craziness. After a lot of bumping, beating and banging, last starter Cory Setser won with Bryan Nuckles second. My notes said Grant Galloway bumped Nuckles, who returned the favor. Then Justin Grant tangled with Nuckles with Grant done for the night. Rich Corson was bumped, costing him a transfer spot. After the race there was a lot of shouting and fingers being pointed. Galloway was dismissed from the proceedings and Corson left as well on his own accord. It was a sad way for Rich to end his Rumble career.
    Derek Bischak won the first of two B’s with Tyler Roahrig bringing it home second, making two of the three Randy Burrows cars in the feature.
    A pair of eights, those of Chris Neuenschwander and Joe Ligouri, made their way to the big show after the second B. Two Rumble winners were done, Jim Anderson and Dave Darland, who was in the third Burrow car.
    After Larry Jo Sroufe won the Non-Wing 600 Outlaw midget feature, the headliners came out to romp. Westfall and Wease made it all nines and all W’s for the front row. Westfall’s #9 took the lead at the start and withstood a good bit of pressure from Wease for the first ten laps before Setser slowed, collecting Kaiser who ended up facing the wrong way. The yellow came out and the order was Westfall, Wease, Nuckles, Peck and Gamester.
    Peck was attracting a large portion of oohs and ahhs as he negotiated the second groove with limited success. Meanwhile, Wease made his move in turn one, diving under Westfall for the lead. From there it was adios, baby, as Wease pulled away for the win, and hopes of maybe tying Tony Stewart’s record of nine Rumble feature wins.
    Behind the leader, Westfall had his hands full with a host of vultures lined up to pounce. Nuckles took second and Bischak was on his game, coming from 11th to finish third, right behind the Ohio native’s nerf bar. O’Gara was equally impressive after an unhappy Saturday, coming from eighth to fourth. Peck, for all his trouble, grabbed fifth after running the upper lane for much of the race.
    Cap Henry closed out the proceedings with a feature win with his 600cc Winged Outlaw Midget.
    I walked away appreciating all I’d seen the past two days. This eased my way to thoughts about the state of full sized Midget racing in these parts. When pondering the health of this branch of the sport, perhaps we should first, as Woody Allen would say, define our terms. If we decide to look only at special events, especially indoor events, Midget racing is doing quite well. There was nothing wrong with 39 cars on opening night of the Rumble. The 800 pound gorilla known as the Chili Bowl routinely tops the 300 mark.
    Special shows that are conducted under God’s own skies aren’t struggling, if their name is Indiana Midget Week. For many, this exceeds Indiana Sprint Week as a favorite. But a closer look reveals a bit more.
    IMW is supplemented by a regular sprint car program. Fans get a double helping of open wheel action and love it. Could Midgets alone carry this load? It’s understandable if one doubts it. Plus, other sanctioning bodies provide a decent amount of cars to this USAC sanctioned series of races. Take away the POWRi and ARDC cars and how many cars would there be? One has to ask.
    The Montpelier Speedway, up in northeastern Indiana, has made a real effort in recent years to race Midgets on a semi-regular basis. At times they have struggled for cars, but it seems to be progressing at a slow but steady rate.
    Part of the problem is that pavement Midget (and sprint car) racing is barely hanging on—outside as opposed to inside races. In addition, expense and safety have reduced both car counts and the number of venues at half mile tracks. The few remaining tracks larger than a quarter mile struggle to get cars and, in some cases, fans.
    You won’t find any solutions, or even suggestions, here. Yours are quite possibly the same as mine, if there are any answers to the real questions that confront this type of racing that we do love in varying degrees. For sure, all involved must, and I hope, will figure out how to build on what we have in these times. It can be done.
    Maybe what matters was that I’d seen some very good indoor racing and a young man who may not have become a well known name among many fans, but who once again showed what he could do—namely race.
    Mistakenly naming Miss Kentucky as the winner of the Miss Universe beauty pageant, I’m…
    Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: Oldest Driver Plus Oldest Car=Winning
    One of the most appealing characteristics of indoor racing is the fact that a kid has a good chance of beating his veteran competitors as the veteran has the same chance to do the same to the kids. But when a veteran takes a car that is nearly as old as he is and wins, well, how special is that? It’s very rare, unless you are Russ Gamester and you show up at the 19th running of the Rumble Series at the Ft. Wayne, Indiana Coliseum. On a rainy Saturday night in December, the last Friday of 2015, Gamester took a Grant King built midget and motored to victory on the first of two nights of the Rumble. Russ himself is at the 50 mark while the car dates back to 1976, a mere 39 years ago. Where else in racing can a 39 year old car be both competitive and a true threat to win?
    Over the past half century or so, indoor racing has had a mixed record of success. Ft. Wayne’s history of indoor racing is long and varied. One could argue that it gets better each year, should one choose. Either way, it’s race cars on a race track and one should not complain.
    The Rumble Series has evolved into a two or three day party where a race or two will break out. Dozens and dozens of go-karts, with a multitude of classes within that division, quarter midgets, non-wing dirt outlaw 600 midgets, Winged Outlaw Modified Midgets and the headline class, full sized midgets where the rules are relaxed somewhat, making for a heady brew of racing with racers ranging from age four to 64 trying their luck.
    Midgets qualified Eldora style with the first lap counting for the Saturday portion of the show and the second lap used for the Sunday wrap up. One of eight past Rumble winners on hand, Derek Bischak, set quick time on both laps, one of only three to click the timer on both nights under eight seconds.
    Pavement wizard Bobby Santos’ Rumble got off to a bad start when he spun with or without help on the first lap of the first heat. A bit later, part of Brandon Knupp’s car ended up on top of Billy Wease’s. After a delay both re-started. The top two of the five heats would advance. The first heat had four past winners. Two of them, Gamester and Bischak, moved on. The others would have to scramble through one of the three B’s.
    Amazingly the second heat was all green. Jim Anderson won with Brad Greenup second. Geoff Kaiser, Aaron Pierce and Dave Darland were among those who would try again.
    Justin Peck, the youngest ever Rumble winner, won the third heat and took Joe Ligouri with him to the show.
    Bryan Nuckles won the fourth heat, which was marked by a mean t-bone applied by Alex Watson to Nick Richards in turn four. Nick was not pleased. Local boy Cory Setser was second, holding off Tyler Roahrig, recovered from a nasty crash in a late model at the Anderson Speedway.
    The fifth heat was simply weird, interrupted by five yellow flags. Young Austin Nemire grabbed the lead from third when front row starters Justin Grant and Grant Galloway got together at the start. Matt Westfall stayed out of trouble and took the other transfer.
    The first of the three B Mains was no less bizarre, with five more yellows waving. The top two would be the only runners to move on. Galloway won with Kaiser second, having his hands full keeping Nick Landon at bay.
    Chris Neuenschwander started on the pole of the second hooligan and won with the ageless Rich Corson second. Justin Grant, not as comfortable on indoor pavement as on dirt, missed the show.
    More craziness marked the third B. After a false start J.T. Crabtree didn’t get stopped in time and hit Bobby Santos, knocking the talented New Englander out of the race. Santos ended up getting more laps run in time trials than in his actual races. A little later leader Kyle O’Gara spun while leading. Crabtree ended up winning with Aaron Pierce making a rare outside pass to finish second after he had spun—twice—earlier.
    Brad Greenup and Russ Gamester were the front row of the 40 lap feature. Greenup took the early lead until the first yellow waved for a J. Ligouri spin, with assistance from Bryan Nuckles. Ligouri got his spot back and Nuckles went to the tail. On lap 14 it was Galloway’s turn to spin. Up front the order hadn’t changed with Greenup leading Gamester, Setser, Westfall and Bischak.
    Ligouri spun again on the 17th lap. There was no change up front until lap 26, when Greenup spun going into turn three all by himself. Gamester was now the leader and Setser second. Cory had not been able to get close to the Peru, Indiana veteran throughout the race and that wouldn’t change.
    Three more yellows and three more restarts didn’t help Setser’s cause either. Gamester took Tom Hansing’s checkered flag first as Setser led a freight train consisting of Westfall, Bischak and Peck. Ten cars were running out of the 16 that started.
    Another veteran racer, John Ivy, took the lead at halfway and won the Winged 600 feature over his teammate Cap Henry. It was Ivy’s fourth Rumble win.
    Blane Culp closed things out with a win in the non-wing outlaw midget feature, a rock ‘em sock ‘em affair that Gamester ran with less satisfying results after he was squeezed into the front stretch wall and flipped. He was about as perturbed with Jason Ormsby, the squeezer, as Culp was happy after the race.
    Just past 11:00 P.M. and a light rain still fell. Not seeing any animals ambling two by two, I was relieved. If the city didn’t flood, there would be racing on Sunday afternoon.
    Wondering if the yellow flag was getting time and a half pay, I’m…
    Danny Burton


    The Hoosier Race Report: Closing the Book on 2015

    The silence you hear or imagine is the void left by sprint cars as another Hoosier sprint car racing season has concluded for all intents and purposes. Though many fields still contain corn and other crops, many more have been harvested. The air has a distinct chill to it, even in the daytime. School is well underway and high school and college football take center stage as both Indiana and Purdue University’s football teams wallow in mediocrity—at best. And Halloween is not far away. But melancholy is often a waste of time. Especially if you are Thomas Meseraull, a/k/a TMez. Landing himself in the Shane Wade/Amati Racing Team’s ride has also landed him in Victory Lane twice in a row in USAC Amsoil sprint car action. After winning the feature at Eldora’s Four Crown a few weeks ago, Meseraull and Company won a cool $10,000 at the Lawrenceburg Speedway on a chilly Saturday night. Besides it being his second USAC win in a row, it was TMez’s tenth feature win overall this year.

    For the second straight night my fellow Hoosier sprint freaks would brave chilly conditions. As it turned out, it wasn’t quite as cold on Saturday. But folks were still bundled up like Eskimos and my four layers were sufficient.

    34 teams ignored the weather and the casino across the street, preferring instead to go racin’. Pennsylvania resident and IU student Tony DiMattia was camped in the pits with his recent acquisition from the Gentrys. USAC’s Silver Crown champ Kody Swanson stopped by, as did Illinois’ Terry Babb. For one last time we’d see the guy so many fans have “adopted,” namely Robert Bell, who has had the time of his life this year, open trailer and all. Dustin Ingle came down from northwest Ohio to race. Chad Boespflug was in Gene Nolen’s creation for the night. Mini-sprint standout Beau Stewart pulled up a seat at the table. And World of Outlaws’ Shane Stewart took off the wing and made some adjustments, wishing to try his luck and maybe pick up some extra walking around money.

    C.J. Leary was 12th to take his two spins around the three eighths mile high banked monster. His 13.898 stood up against the rest, though Kyle Robbins tore off a 13.963 after Leary’s run. Surprisingly, DiMattia was second quick. Shane Stewart met disaster coming to the green flag. Barreling into turn three he lost the handle and flipped hard. Shane was okay but his outing minus the wing was done for the night and maybe for a long, long time. Some message board experts were correct in applauding Mr. Stewart for at least trying to tackle the ‘burg without his usual configuration.

    Chris Windom led all but the first lap of the first heat, winning with Kevin Thomas Jr. second. Pole sitter Max McGhee was third and fast qualifier Leary was fourth. Kyle Cummins, Casey Shuman and Kody Swanson went to the B.

    Brady Bacon let Aaron Farney lead the first lap of the second heat before assuming the lead and the win by a large margin. Farney was second by a good distance over Jerry Coons Jr. Pole sitter Dustin Ingle held on for fourth, sending Chad Boespflug and second quick Tony DiMattia B Main bound.

    Logan Jarrett led all the way to win the third heat. Scotty Weir, in Todd Keen’s pride and joy, was second. Thomas Meseraull was a fairly tame third. Jarett Andretti was fourth and this meant third fastest qualifier KRob went to the B.

    Robert Ballou had not helped his points situation with his less than ideal time trial. But it put him on the pole of the fourth heat and he won easily. Dave Darland, third in points, came from sixth to second. Justin Grant was third. Chase Stockon, second in points, started and finished fourth. Hall of Famers Jon Stanbrough and Tracy Hines went to the B.

    Robbins started the consolation race on the front row and jumped out to the lead. By now the cushion in turns three and four was right against the wall, where many racers like it. Robbins was one of those guys until the sixth lap when he spun into the wall, a good night ruined. Kyle Cummins took over the lead but Kody Swanson wanted the lead, too. After a pair of yellows, the expectant daddy took the lead and held on for the win. Joining him in the Show would be Cummins, Stanbrough, Boespflug, Hines and Garret Abrams, who edged Casey Shuman, the new headman of the WAR sprint series.

    Brady Bacon led the first lap of the feature from his outside pole beginning point, but Meseraull was having none of that. Before that all happened, Dave Darland had a second consecutive night of rotten luck as his car appeared to jump out of gear on the backstretch right after Tom Hansing’s green flag. Just like that, the People’s Champ went from his fifth spot to 22nd. It didn’t do him any favors in the points race with Ballou and Stockon.

    On the re-start, Meseraull grabbed the lead from Bacon and kept his distance. Thomas passed Bacon as well but could not close on the leader. By the 12th lap, TMez began dealing with lapped traffic. Kyle Cummins, who had been flirting with the top five, slowed just before halfway and left the race. Stockon, who started tenth, was up to fifth just past the lap 15 mark. Ballou, who started 21st of 22, and Darland were both languishing in the back of the pack, but Robert did pick up some spots eventually. That would be crucial at race’s end.

    Incredibly, Meseraull lapped Darland with nine laps to go. The top five of TMez, Thomas, Bacon, Stockon and Weir stayed the same for several laps. But Chase was soon under attack from Chris Windom, who had advanced steadily from the eighth row. When Stockon bounced off the wall on the white flag lap, he lost more spots.

    But no one had anything for Meseraull. Thomas was a worthy second with C.J. Leary moving up in the race’s latter stages to take third. Bacon was fourth ahead of Windom, who had started 15th. Kody Swanson was a steady sixth. Stockon salvaged seventh and Weir was eighth. Stanbrough came from 14th to ninth. Ballou was the night’s hardest charger as he rallied late to grab tenth after starting halfway to the Ohio River.

    Ballou lost six points off his point lead over Stockon, who now trails by 19 as the boys head West. Darland is now 24 behind Stockon.

    The winner was his usual loquacious self, quite happy and not afraid to say it. He’s considered controversial by many because his words are not only frequent but also stinging at times to some. I don’t pay that much mind; all I know is the kid (they are all kids to me, the retiree) can wheel a race car and right now he and the Shane Wade gang have it together and are in a great position to play spoiler out West.

    The modifieds took over as I hung around, still tired from the night before but not wanting to leave this place. At that moment April seemed a long way off before my hoped for return to the finest dirt tracks in the nation overall. Time marches on; in my opinion it’s a circle, not a line. So all we can do is aim for the next starting point in the circle next spring, assuming and hoping that it’s meant to be. But the idea is to live one’s life as if doing the things you should do and should enjoy will be the last time you get to do them. Things like enjoyment, appreciation and even legacies matter. Let’s take that with us going down the road.

    Giving my old buddy Benjamin Netanyahu a history lesson, I’m…

    Danny Burton  



    The Hoosier Race Report: Maybe Thomas Wolfe Was Wrong?

    Mr. Wolfe, one of our better American authors (my opinion only), was the guy who wrote the book, “You Can’t Go Home Again.” It received critical acclaim, except for where his real life home was, namely Asheville, North Carolina. It seemed like the locals weren’t fond of ol’ Thomas and his unflattering description of the city.

    But in racing,  one goes go home all the time. Take that rascal Shane Cottle. Over the years, Shane has traveled many miles from his Kokomo home (even though he’s an Illinois native, I believe). He’s one of several Kokomo racers over the years who have excelled. And he did it again on a downright cold October evening at the Kokomo Speedway as he won the sprint car portion of the ninth annual Kokomo Klash, leading all 25 laps. It was ironic (and unfortunate for him), but another Kokomo standout, Dave Darland, dropped out of the feature before it even started with a stalled race car. So Kokomo boys bookended the field on the curtain closer for the thrill a minute quarter mile oval.

    For what it’s worth, this didn’t apply to midget winner Spencer Bayston, who won the midget feature. He is based in nearby Lebanon, Indiana.

    Sprints Preliminaries

    Somewhere in the mob scene that was the Kokomo Speedway pit area was a grand total of 29 sprints in the more than 160 race cars just off the north side of the track. Within this group were an assortment of players, some new ones and other familiar faces, cars and teams. Of note was Brandon Mattox, taking over the Jerry Burton owned 04 and Casey Shuman in the championship car driven by Scott Hampton at Lincoln Park Speedway this year.

    Heat races would be based on time trials and would start straight up. The top five would move on from the three heats and the feature would line up with the same method. Group qualifying as usual and Justin Grant was quickest of the three groups to qualify, ripping off a 13.021 lap.

    Dave Darland moved from the outside front row to the lead and win in the first heat. Pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. was second. Mattox was third ahead of Michigan’s Joe Bares and Indy’s Travis Berryhill. Kyle Robbins spun on the first lap and found his way to the B. His night would get better.

    Max McGhee took the lead on the second lap of the second heat and won. Front row starter Logan Jarrett, a part of the Kokomo gang, was second. Pole sitter Brady Short took third, with Jarret Andretti fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr. edged Casey Shuman for the last slot available.

    Shane Cottle beat his front row mate Justin Grant to win the last eight lapper. Chris Gurley finished third ahead of Shane’s nephew Colton. Tony DiMattia started and finished fifth in a car the IU student recently bought from the Gentry family.

    The sprint B was a yellow flag festival. When Brian Hodde’s checkered waved, it was the Shu winning, and taking with him KRob. Another homeboy, Josh Spencer, beat Canadian Lee Dakus by a right front tire width for third. And Chris Miller grabbed the last transfer over Mike Gass by a Kokomo Speedway pork chop sandwich. .

    Midget Preliminaries

    32 midgets were scattered through the pits with Tracy Hines making a rare non-USAC appearance, preparing to maintain his point lead in the USAC Midget series. Casey Shuman, C.J. Leary, Justin Grant, both Cottles and Michael Koontz were the double dippers, though Leary’s sprinter fell victim to engine gremlins.

    Justin Peck has shown for some time now that he can wheel one of these tiny beasts with anyone and he won the first midget heat by a zip code. Kellen Conover, Nick Speidel and Dalton Camfield finished second, third and fourth.

    Mr. Bayston started as well as he finished, winning the second midget heat. Justin Grant made a late pass to take second from Austin Prock. Dave Camfield was fourth and would move on.

    Shane Cottle had fun in the third heat, winning from the second row. C.J. Leary came from the back to finish second. Wisconsin veteran Scott Hatton grabbed third after starting last and Kevin Studley settled for fourth.

    Tracy Hines came from fifth to win the third heat. Casey Shuman started eighth and concluded the race second. Shane Hollingsworth, whose racing is limited these days, was third. Ryan Greth hung on for fourth.

    Seymour, Indiana’s Logan Arnold won the B Main, which saw Ken Drangmeister take a mean ride down the backstretch. He was shaken, but okay. Michael Koontz was second, leading Justin Dickerson and Kurt Mayhew to the line.

    Sprint Feature

    Dave Darland was scheduled to start the feature on the pole, but while lining up, his Jeff Walker bullet just stopped on the track, unable to refire. This put Cottle on the pole with Max McGhee next to him as the boys took the green flag from Tony Elliott’s son Brandon, one last tribute to a guy who dominated at Kokomo over the years.

    Cottle assumed the lead at the start as McGhee dropped back. The first yellow waved for Joe Bares on lap three as Jerry Coons Jr. had taken second from Logan Jarrett. A lap later Brandon Mattox spun. On this re-start, Brady Short had moved into third and was threatening Coons for second. But Jerry was up to that challenge and Justin Grant came on to pass Short midway through the 25 lapper.

    Lapped traffic came into play at this time and the third yellow waved for a Grant/Mattox tangle when Justin tried an inside pass. It was Cottle, Coons, Short, Thomas (from 14th), Jarrett, McGhee, Casey Shuman (from 16th) Kyle Robbins (from 17th) and Travis Berryhill. Three laps later, on lap 14, it was McGhee’s turn to spin in turn two.

    Cottle kept control but it was time for Kevin Thomas Jr. to shine. After the McGhee yellow, KT was fourth. After a couple of green flag laps, he passed Short and began pressuring Coons for second. There was time to catch Cottle, but, though he did close in somewhat, Thomas had to settle for second behind the local boy.

    Coons hung on for third, ahead of Short. Jarrett was fifth. Shu did some serious moving coming in seventh. So did KRob, who finished eighth. Scotty Weir was ninth and Colton Cottle came on at the end to take tenth.

    It had been cold and was getting colder but I hung around for both the Thunder Car feature, then the midget finale.

    Peck and Bayston led 18 others to Brian Hodde’s green and Tracy Hines promptly spun out in turn three, a very rare event. Justin Peck took the early lead before Shane Cottle, hoping to double up, took the lead as Hines carved his way through the field.

    But Cottle’s fine run ended on lap 10 as he coasted into the infield. Peck took the lead and tried mightily to check out, weaving through lapped traffic. Behind him were Shuman, Hines, Bayston and Hollingsworth. Shuman slowed and exited on lap 18 and Bayston passed Hines. But Peck bobbled in turn four and stopped in turn two with a broken torsion stop, bringing out the yellow after Hines had passed Bayston for second, then the lead.

    With five laps to go it looked like Hines might complete an impressive recovery, coming from his early spin to lead. On the restart he took the bottom groove and Bayston was alone up top. The kid from Lebanon, home of another outstanding midget racer, kept at it and passed the veteran with three laps to go and sailed home for the pink and white checkered flag (a nod at the fight against breast cancer).

    Hines held onto second with Hollingsworth third after starting 12th. Behind Shane was Shelbyville’s Nick Speidel. C.J. Leary was fifth.

    It was just past 12:30 a.m., a very rare late night at Kokomo. My phone told me it was 34 degrees in Kokomo. This was the coldest I’d been at a race since March, when I was parked in North Carolina and settling for stock car racin’. It seemed like I had come full circle, but not quite.

    I had one more track to say goodbye to before the curtain came down. The ‘burg awaited me and many others. Like folks say, Kokomo never disappoints. They also say “Get your ass to Kokomo” and if you want to see Hoosier sprint car racing at a high level, Kokomo, among others, needs to be on your list.

    And unlike my buddy Thomas Wolfe, I was going home again.

    This one was for Lloyd and Gail.

    Designing new fourth down plays for the Colts, I’m…

    Danny Burton




    The Hoosier Race Report: Cut to the Chase
    On a beautiful, if a little chilly, southwestern Indiana October night, sprint feature winner Chase Stockon must have felt a bit like Butch and Sundance, the movie version of course, while they were being chased by the law all the way to South America. Except the feature winner is not exactly an outlaw being chased by the guys wearing badges. No, Stockon was closely followed for much of the 30 lap feature by Kyle Cummins, like Chase a local favorite. Together, with a few of their friends, they closed out the 2015 season at the Tri-State Speedway. It was also the curtain closer for the Midwest Sprint Car Series’ 2015 season.

    Despite the nice weather, it was the kind of night that would make promoters look for the sturdiest tree they could find and strike it vigorously with their head. Why? Well, the weather was near perfect, 75 cars jammed the pits, including 25 sprinters, plus there was at least a half dozen potential winners in the feature lineup. The track was ready to yield high speeds, close competition and passes for positions. But one had to remember that a larger form of competition exists outside the confines of TSS.

    Multiple fall festivals dotted the landscape throughout the state this past weekend. No doubt some fans and race teams were in Illinois either racing or watching. And surely many people stayed at home watching the St. Louis Cardinals lose to the Chicago Cubs. Most of those fans in southwestern Indiana might have wished that they had gone to the races instead. That part of the state is predominantly Cardinals country (observed the Cincinnati Reds fan).

    It would be the usual passing points format with the top 16 in points moving to the feature. The top four in the B Main would transfer too. The top six of the 16 would redraw for starting positions in the show.

    But crowd or not, there was a race to run. Kevin Thomas Jr. started on the front row of the first heat and simply checked out, winning by a straightaway. Donnie Brackett came from seventh to take second. Brandon Mattox improved to finish third. Carson Short came from eighth to grab fourth. James Lyerla, Chet Williams, 2015 MSCS Rookie of the Year Brandon Morin and Nick Johnson trailed.

    The second heat was loaded with hot dogs, with all the accessories. Chase Stockon passed Brady Short on the seventh lap to see Mo Wills' checkered first. Behind Mr. Short was the ageless Critter Malone. Kyle Cummins struggled to get fourth. Kent Schmidt was next, ahead of Brian Karraker, Kendall Ruble and Dylan Shaw.

    Jeff Bland started the third heat seventh and was leading by the third lap. From there he ran away to take the win. Aric Gentry was second. Pat Giddens held off Jadon Rogers for third. Jim Shelton, Patrick Budde and Dave Gross finished up.

    Chet Williams took the lead on the second lap and motored away to win the B Main. Dakota Jackson, after a heat race mishap and a family thrashing in the pits to get ready for the B, came from last to second. Patrick Budde was third. Brandon Morin overcame a broken shock, yet still made a late pass of young Kendall Ruble to take the last feature spot available.

    Despite MSCS public relations ace Eldon Butcher’s assertion that the lineup he gave me was unofficial, I wasn’t surprised to find out it was correct all the same. Chase Stockon and Jeff Bland led 18 of their playmates to Mo Wills’ green one more time. These two took off and ran one/two, reaching lapped traffic by lap six. But an unwanted Donnie Brackett/Critter Malone meeting in turn four brought out a red flag.

    The yellow waved soon enough and the gang lined up behind Mr. Stockon, who led Bland, Mattox, Thomas, Cummins, C. Short, B. Short (who had been honored before the feature for his 2015 MSCS championship), Karraker, Williams (already up from B Main land) and Gentry. Two laps after Mo waved his green flag on the restart, Mattox and Bland banged wheels coming out of turn two, with Brandon immediately sensing something bent or broken. He exited to the relative calm of the infield.

    Cummins wasted little time in getting to second and began his chase of Chase. Both pulled away from third place Kevin Thomas. Bland and Brady Short were next as the crossed flags made their appearance.

    Easily the highlight of the race was the mastery shown by Stockon in simply attacking lapped traffic. And Cummins was equal to the task, dogging his new neighbor’s tracks (Cummins is from nearby Princeton, while Stockon has moved to near Haubstadt). In, out and through traffic they raced with the leader not able to pull away any farther than six or seven car lengths. Behind them it was much the same for the guys still on the lead lap and even some of the lappers as well.

    Stockon had lapped everyone up to sixth place when Brian Karraker slowed on the backstretch. What timing BK had; there was one lap to go. The green and white flags would be waved simultaneously, an honest one lap duel. This was pressure, at least it was potential pressure. But Stockon took care of that. He hit his marks expertly and there was nothing Cummins could do after Mo expertly waved both flags.

    It was Stockon’s third MSCS win of 2015.

    Behind Cummins was Thomas, who was less than pleased with his effort and finish. The Shorts, no relation, were fourth and fifth, Brady, then Carson. Critter Malone moved from 14th to finish sixth. Bland was seventh with Schmidt coming from 15th to finish eighth. Even more impressive was Williams, starting 17th after winning the B and bringing it home ninth. James Lyerla occupied tenth.

    Another final visit to one of my homes away from home and reluctantly I ambled out to my wife’s car. The crowd wasn’t what it could have been; promoters can’t do business if only the hard core fans show up. There’s lots of competing events out there for casual fans, most of which have little to do with racing. But may the Lord have mercy. They missed a great night, from the on track racing to the cheeseburgers to the racing souvenirs.

    Sipping a beer every time the TV announcers mention The Chase and getting tipsy quickly, I’m…

    Danny Burton




    The Hoosier Race Report: Race Track Reading 101

    Over the years I’ve read most of the novels written by Louis L’Amour. Several of his characters had the ability to “read sign.” That meant they were able to find and keep a trail, often when looking for someone who was missing or an outlaw. In their own way, racers can read sign as well. Many times we’ve seen racers standing at the edge of a track while it’s being reworked, trying to figure out the quick way around. Whether it was Scotty Weir or his car owner Todd Keen plotting their race, the result couldn’t have been better. Seeing that the nonstop wind had finally done a number on the surface of the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, Weir went straight for the bottom groove and stayed there pretty much the whole race. His late race pass of Dave Darland gave the pride of Marion, Indiana the victory, his first of the year.

    As my growing but still small fellow traveler and I motored northeast to Gas City, it was hard not to have the weather on our minds, well, at least my mind as I struggled to keep the little white Chevy truck on the road. The wind refused to take a break; it certainly wasn’t giving me one either. On we went, not knowing what we’d find for sure, but confident there would be loud and fast sprint cars in our near future.

    Sure enough, there they were—at least most of them. 32 sprinters braved the elements to race on this last race of the year for Gas City. There were a few guys in unfamiliar cars, which is not all that uncommon for a local show. Justin Grant was still in the Baldwin Brothers machine. Dave Darland was in the Ohio based Jamie Paul car. Dakota Jackson was in the Stensland 41. Casey Shuman, new owner of the Wingless Auto Series/WAR, was in the 4J normally piloted by Lincoln Park champ Scott Hampton. C.J. Leary was in the S. Pederson owned 4P. A.J. Hopkins was in the Rick Davidson 42.

    Four groups of eight did the group qualifying dance. Quickest in their respective pack were Max McGhee, Justin Grant, Kyle Robbins and Critter Malone, making a rare but welcome appearance. The four quickest in each group were inverted for their heats.

    Robert Ballou started on the pole and held off Shane Cottle to win the first heat. Max McGhee was third with Canadian Lee Dakus, perhaps wondering if he was back up north in the cooler weather, bringing it to fourth.

    Scotty Weir took the second heat, which featured two close battles behind him for position. Logan Jarrett shot to second from his sixth starting position. He kept it, edging Justin Grant to keep the runner-up spot. Chris Gurley beat Brandon Mattox by a wheel to grab the last transfer spot.

    The third heat was taken by Dave Darland. Pole sitter Tyler Courtney was second. Kyle Robbins locked himself into the feature with his third place. And Nick Bilbee was fourth, meaning that he’d start 15th later.

    A.J. Hopkins passed pole sitter C.J. Leary early to win the fourth heat. Behind Leary was Matt Goodnight. Critter Malone started and finished fourth.

    The program was moving right along. All involved were committed, partly because it was so chilly and partly because rain was off to the southeast and heading for Grant County.

    Brandon Mattox owned the B Main, holding off fellow front row started Colton Cottle. Casey Shuman was third and had his hands full with a snarling pack immediately behind him. Dakota Jackson made the feature by the length of one of my grandson’s miniature sprint cars. Michigan’s Dustin Ingle had to load up too early.

    The redraw put Jarret and Hopkins on the front row, Weir and Courtney on the second. Weir made his move as Brian Hodde’s green flag waved. Scotty went straight to the bottom in turn one while most others went for the middle or top. The track had changed radically from a hammer down surface to one that was feeling the effects of the constant wind and the near 100 cars all over it.

    Hopkins took the early lead. Jarrett had a bad start and ran over a right rear tire (Courtney’s?) and nearly flipped in turn four on lap two. Logan didn’t flip, to everyone’s relief seeing that he’s been off for several weeks with the aftermath of head injuries. But he landed hard on the rear tires and Brian waved the red, stopping the action. Jarrett was not hurt, but was done for the night.

    Hopkins led as the green hankie waved again with Weir second. Scotty was the man, having figured out this tricky track. But Dave Darland was on the move. After starting seventh, he was fourth on the restart and quickly caught the leader.

    Behind the front runners there was a serious dogfight that lasted for several laps with Hopkins, Grant, Robbins, McGhee, Ballou, Leary, Malone and Mattox, who was coming on strong from B Main-land.

    Midway through the race Darland made his move, taking the lead, where else, on the high side. Dave spent part of his time taking away Scotty’s low groove but couldn’t stay away from the top, like many others. In other words, it wasn’t a huggy pole parade, far from it.

    Max McGhee had been trying slide jobs for all he was worth, but brought out a yellow on the 19th lap. The prime suspects were Darland, Weir, Courtney, Cottle, Ballou, Grant, Mattox (from the B), Leary, Malone and Hopkins. Darland, one would think, had a great chance to wrap this one up, but Weir had other ideas and the execution of those ideas was at the bottom of the track. After a brief tussle with Courtney, Scotty stayed with his plan and it worked. With two laps to go, he got around the leader and rode it home to the checkered.

    So what if the elements made for a tricky track? Racers raced, as they are known to do. Behind Weir was Darland, Courtney, Cottle and Ballou. Mattox came from 17th to take sixth from Grant at the end. Leary was eighth. Critter Malone came from 16th to take ninth. And Casey Shuman rambled from 19th to round out the top ten.

    The time was 9:25 and an old man with his grandson were frozen with a two hour drive ahead. Saying our goodbyes to yet two other KTs, Mr. Tennant and son (that’s Kevin and Kellen), we headed south.

    It was sad to say goodbye to another track for 2015, but it was inevitable. With Bloomington, Terre Haute and Lincoln Park, Gas City joins the list that we won’t be able to haunt again this year. But except for one time, there’s always next year, we can hope.

    Saying goodbye to one of my treasured bullrings has been expected, but saying the same to a Hoosier sprint car legend certainly was not as Tony Elliott, with three others, perished in an airplane crash not too far from where I spend my month of March, in the upstate of South Carolina. Quite possibly inclement weather was a cause.

    Many tributes to this extraordinary racer and man have already been put in place. It’s difficult to add any more. But one thing occurred to me after I’d had the chance to digest the sad news. As my uncle said about my dad as he spoke at Dad’s funeral, “He never knew a stranger.” It was my uncle the minister’s finest eulogy. Those words surely applied to Tony as well. We can never forget that ever present smile of a guy who was not just a great racer, but a sprint car fan too. RIP, sir.

    Soon it’s off to Haubstadt one more time as the leaves begin to turn and the crops are coming in as we speak (thank you, Buddy Baker).

    Rounding up the usual suspects, I’m…

    Danny Burton




    The Hoosier Race Report: Winning Ugly

    By the time he reached Brad Dickison’s ever present microphone on Saturday night, Brent Beauchamp probably knew what he was going to say. He was happy that he’d won the 25 lap sprint feature at the Lincoln Park Speedway, the last of the year at the entertaining oval just east of Terre Haute, but he wasn’t all that pleased with how he had done it. Beauchamp had taken the lead with a less than perfect slide job on race long leader Jeff Bland with three to go. As he said to Brad at the start/finish line after the race, it wasn’t the way he wanted to win it. But, needless to say, he took the win, the trophy and the money, as racers do.

    My last trip to beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana was uneventful—unless one counted the several drops of rain that periodically caused me to activate my windshield wipers, which kept saying, “make up your mind” to me all the way to Mooresville.

    Sprint cars accounted for 21 of the 99 cars in the Joe Spiker pit garden. Several were at either Eldora for the Four Crown or the Tri-State Speedway for the MSCS sprints and the POWRi midgets. One shouldn’t worry about who is or is not at a given race; one should appreciate those who are there. Tonight some guys who don’t get to run up front all the time would do so.

    The first heat had its drama. Ethan Barrow, in his first outing in a long time, shared his right rear tire with J. J. Hughes coming to the green. He led until a slight bobble put Hughes into the lead coming to the white flag. But J. J. got the left front up in the air coming out of turn two and broke the right front. Barrow regained the lead and won with Mitch Wissmiller, who had been gaining on the leaders, taking second from a limping Hughes at the line. Lee Underwood was fourth with Jaden Rogers, Eric Burns and Jamie Fredrickson trailing.

    The second heat was tamer. Jeff Bland started on the pole and led all the way. Hunter O'Neal was second and Travis Berryhill came from last to take third. Jake Henderson, who spent most of his Saturdays this year at Paragon, edged Connor Donelson for fourth. Ben Phillips was sixth, ahead of David Hair.

    The third and final heat was vintage Lincoln Park. Most every lap saw at least one position change. Brent Beauchamp shot from fifth to second on the first lap, then passed the ageless Troy Link for the lead a couple of laps later for the win. Shelby van Gilder was third, holding off 2015 Lincoln Park Speedway champ Scott Hampton. Kevin Studley, Chris Babcock and Dylan Shaw trailed.

    After my last bar-b-que sandwich (thank you again, Bill Gardner), the support class heats, and the year-end awards presentations, it was time for the last feature at LPS this year.

    The Killer B’s, Barrow, Bland and Beauchamp, occupied the first three spots in the A, along with Mitch Wissmiller. But Mitch brought out the first yellow as he barreled into turn three a bit too hot. He didn’t come close to tagging one of the billboards, but he did spin to a stop. On the complete restart, Troy Link got into the front stretch wall and dropped out. Bland led early and the next yellow waved on lap three.

    Most all were sticking to the high side and three laps later the third yellow flag appeared. This one was full moon material as Ben Phillips and Steve Hair tangled. Shelby van Gilder stopped on track and Jamie Fredrickson spun at the other end of the original yellow.

    The prime suspects were Bland, Beauchamp, Barrow, Hunter O’Neal, and Travis Berryhill—with Hampton, Hughes, Underwood, Donelson and the ageless Eric Burns making up the second five. This green flag segment lasted four laps until the yellow came out when Dylan Shaw spun in front of the leaders. Nothing had changed in front but Hampton had moved to fifth.

    Slide jobs seemed to be the best way to pass. So far there had been no contact. The fifth caution flag waved on lap 15 after contact between Wissmiller and Donelson. It was still the B’s up front with Hampton fourth. Hughes was next with O’Neal, Berryhill, Wissmiller, Kevin Studley and L. Underwood the top ten.

    Beauchamp had been right on Bland much of the time and made the pass on lap 19 with a less than pretty slider. But yellow number six waved when Shaw spun. No word if Beauchamp flipped the bird to the young man, but Brent did appear to signal to Bland that he knew the slider wasn’t too great.

    On the last restart, Bland took off and pulled away briefly. But Beauchamp was coming on and tried another slider going into turn one. Again, it wasn’t an artistic success and Bland found himself over the turn two cushion—and in second place. And that was it as Beauchamp went on to win.

    In the post-race interview, Brent was not overly happy with himself, saying that it wasn’t the way he wanted to win. But like most racers, he’d take it.

    Behind Bland was Barrow and track champ Hampton. Hughes was fifth. O’Neal, Berryhill, Wissmiller (who came from the tail after his early spin), Studley (from 15th) and Jadon Rogers were the top half.

    Don’t be fooled. Unless you are a die-hard partisan fan of Jeff Bland or whoever, the race winning move wasn’t a dirty one. And Brent Beauchamp isn’t a dirty driver. He knew it wasn’t his best move on the race track and that was that.

    Having said that, I’m no fan of slide jobs because…all too often they end up with someone either making contact or else impeding the progress of the passed car, which was what happened on Saturday night. Granted they are certainly legal and when executed perfectly, they can be worth watching and appreciating.

    Having said that, I’m a Brent Beauchamp fan—just as I’m a Jeff Bland fan. They are two young men who represent our passion well and their efforts are appreciated by many, including me.

    Good-bye Lincoln Park—till we meet again.

    Messing with Sasquatch one time too many, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: From Over the Fence to Victory Lane

    In the blink of an eye, fortunes can easily become misfortunes. Sometimes in a different context changes aren't that quick. Nevertheless they are no less appreciated. Just ask Brady Short, who two weeks ago found himself sailing over the turn two fence at the Tri-State-Speedway. Fortunately his only discomfort was only a few extra aches and pains, the kind that one notices after a few years pass. But on a cool Saturday night at the fabled bullring in southwestern Indiana, Short returned to the scene of his scary ride and won the Haubstadt Hustler. With that win, Brady walked away with $10,000 after taking the lead when race long leader Kyle Cummins collided with a stationary car.

    The rain and humidity had passed through the southern part of Indiana, replaced by cooler temperatures and a breeze out of the north. It was a long and leisurely drive on interstates 65 and 64.

    I arrived at the track to find 30 sprinters waiting on me. The Hustler was a co-sanctioned affair between USAC and the MSCS. The feature would be 40 laps, almost an enduro for sprints in these parts. The passing point system would be used; heat races lineups were determined by the draw. The top 16 in passing points were locked into the feature.

    The first heat began with a barrel full of ugly. A scramble at the start left Mike Terry Jr. with a flat tire. On the second try Nick Johnson got sideways and eventually Robert Ballou, Shane Cottle, C. J. Leary and Justin Grant were all collected. Ballou and Cottle were done for the race as Robert tipped it over. Dave Darland ended up winning with Leary second. Remember Mike Terry Jr.? He came back to finish third. Grant recovered to take fourth. Johnson, Robert Bell, Ballou and Cottle trailed.

    The second heat was relatively tame. Kyle Cummins won with Chris Windom second. Chase Stockon moved up to third. Thomas Meseraull came from last to fourth. Jon Stanbrough, Aaron Farney, Jeff Bland and James Lyerla finished the rundown.

    The third heat began on a sour note as Kevin Thomas Jr. slid into Chet Williams, bringing out a yellow. Williams was not overjoyed and let KT know it. Brady Bacon won from the pole with Daron Clayton, back to try and repeat last year's remarkable win, second. Short, Thomas, Brandon Mattox, Williams and Chad Boespflug followed.

    Donnie Brackett impressed as he won the last of the heats. So did Dakota Jackson who finished second. Tracy Hines took third. Kent Schmidt banged wheels with Carson Short and was fourth. Short, Lee Dakus and Hunter Schuerenberg trailed.

    The B main had its ugly moments. C. Short tipped over in turn four before a lap was completed. His long shot at the MSCS title got a lot longer. There was a turn four scramble on the restart, but the real fun was in turn two. Jeff Bland flipped with Jon Stanbrough trying and failing to miss the mess. He would burn a provisional later. Things settled down and Brandon Mattox won, some redemption after missing the show 24 hours earlier. Farney was second. Schuerenberg came from ninth to third. Ballou started 11th and finished fourth while Shane Cottle motored from 12th to fifth. Finally Chad Boespflug came from 13th to grab the last spot for the feature. Stanbrough and Lyerla used provisionals.

    Passing points put two local favorites, Clayton and Cummins, in the front row. Yet again, a race got off to a rough start. Windom and Lyerla spun in turn one of the first lap. Trying again, this time Grant bounced to a stop in turn three. By now it was evident that Clayton had an ill handling beast on his hands. Soon he would exit the race.

    This left Cummins in the lead and he tried to check out. By the time the next yellow waved on the ninth lap, Kyle was lapping people. Mo Wills waved the hankie when Hunter Schuerenberg got sideways and collected Stanbrough. There was still 31 laps to go and Cummins led Jackson, Leary, B. Short, Brackett, Bacon, Thomas, Darland, Meseraull and Stockon. One should have noted that Short had started 12th.

    On the restart, Cummins motored away again, but Short was making his way to the front. Three laps after the restart he passed Leary for third. Then the Bedford Blaster (well, that’s what announcers call him) passed Jackson for second and he could see the white 3R car, which soon entered lapped traffic almost at the halfway mark. As Kyle negotiated the lappers, the Pottorff-mobile was gaining. Could it be? Would this be another wild finish?

    Not exactly. As lap 35 approached it seemed that the margin between Cummins and Short had stabilized. Maybe the local (Princeton) kid would walk away with a nice pile of cash. But on lap 35 that pile wasn’t cash, if you get my drift. A tangle right at the start/finish line left Aaron Farney sitting in the groove. Cummins tried to miss him but instead his right rear caught Farney’s car. With a snap of the fingers, his race and outstanding effort was over. And guess who was now leading? Yep.

    But wait. While most all were watching the Cummins-Short battle Kevin Thomas Jr. had made his way up to second. My knowledgeable USAC source said that KT had not won a USAC race since way back in February way down in Florida. This told me that the kid might be both hungry and anxious. But it wasn’t to be.

    On the restart Short gradually pulled away and was the first to spot Mo’s checkered flag. Thomas settled for second. Jackson had a simply outstanding effort, the best I’ve seen him race in some time. The young man from Elizabethtown, Indiana was third and Brady Bacon was fourth. Stockon passed Darland late for fifth. Ballou had to make do with the Hard Charger award and money, coming from 20th to seventh. Windom came back from his early spin to take eighth. Leary was ninth and Meseraull tenth.

    The quote of the night came from Dakota Jackson, who said, “…I was just running the race of my life and having so much fun running up there with those guys.”

    For Brady Short, it was redemption of sorts. His flight over the fence two weeks earlier faded a bit more into the mists of memory, though it won’t be forgotten anytime soon. He started the night by accepting from yours truly the way too cool helmet for winning the King of Indiana Sprint Series championship again this year. After congratulating him on behalf of the 2015 KISS promoters and staff (Terre Haute, Gas City, Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, Bloomington, Tri-State and Paragon), he was asked if he’d put this one on the shelf to admire or would he use it? Guess it’s going on the shelf and will be a reminder of what’s been a special year for Short and the Pottorff team.

    It was time for the long trip home via Vincennes to visit more family and then head east.

    Loaning Donald Trump my selfie stick, I’m…

    Danny Burton




    The Hoosier Race Report: Seizing the moment

    Most all of us have encountered situations that were urgent and needed a decision made quickly, as in a matter of days, hours or even minutes. And there may be times, especially while driving down the highway, that we need to make a very quick decision and hope it's the best. Robert Ballou found himself in a spot like that on a warm and humid Hoosier night at the Terre Haute Action Track. When leader Chris Windom bounced off the turn two wall on lap 27, Ballou had a quick decision to make. It put him in the lead and he went on to grab his first feature win at Terre Haute and his 10th USAC win of the year.

    This would be the first of a two night treat, USAC sprints at Terre Haute, followed by the Haubstadt Hustler on Saturday a few miles south on U.S. 41. This one was named for two distinguished people in racing, Tony Hulman and Jim Hurtubise. Each in their own way gave much to this sport we all love.

    There was a threat of rain; in fact Terre Haute had a fairly heavy shower on Friday morning. It headed east and I encountered scattered sprinkles on my way to Bloomington for lunch with a good friend who has taken the name of Mike O’Leary. From there it was go (north) west young man. Visiting with family in Terre Haute and then time to head to the track.

    27 hungry racers stopped by for a few cheeseburgers and hot laps. Thomas Meseraull was in the Chuck Amati Racing Team’s hot rod, replacing Chad Boespflug who was in the Krockenberger family tradition.

    In qualifying, the track stayed fast. Maybe the cloud cover helped. At any rate, Jerry Coons Jr. went out 26th and ripped off a 20.490.

    Robert Ballou stated his case very well in the first heat, coming from third to first on the first lap in winning the first heat. Incredibly, Jon Stanbrough spun in turn four. Chase Stockon tried to miss him, but didn’t. Stanbrough restarted while Stockon headed for the pits and the B. Meseraull was second in his Amati debut. Coons was third with Indiana Sprint Week/Terre Haute winner Aaron Farney fourth. Stanbrough came back to finish fifth.

    Brady Short led all the way to win the second heat. Shane Cottle gave him enough discomfort to last awhile, but settled for second. Chris Windom was third and Hunter Schuerenberg brought the Jeff Walker speed wagon in fourth. Kyle Robbins hung on for fifth.

    C.J. Leary did a fine job of holding off Dave Darland to win the third heat. Behind DD was newlywed Kevin Thomas Jr. Justin Grant started and finished fourth. Tracy Hines brought out his backup car and had to start last. But he finished fifth and transferred into the show, even though he’d start last again.

    Chase Stockon led 11 and one quarter laps of the B Main. But Brady Bacon made the pass in turn two of the last lap and won by a car length. Tyler Courtney was third. Jarett Andretti was fourth ahead of J.J. Hughes, who had a race long battle with sprint car rookie Mario Clouser. Chad Boespflug started and finished seventh.

    Windom and Stanbrough were the first to see Mo Wills waving the green at them. Up next would be Thomas, Schuerenberg, Darland, Coons, Bacon, Stockon, Grant and Ballou. A mad scramble commenced immediately in turn one. While those ahead of him seemed to dither (actually fight for position), Darland sneaked low and grabbed the lead coming out of turn two. Ol’ Dave promptly began to check out and leave all others behind. As lightning made an appearance to the north, Darland was as fast as greased lightning, as it were. By lap eight he was a straightaway ahead of Thomas and Windom, plus Darland had already reached lapped traffic.

    Ballou was busy too. From tenth he was sixth by lap four. Three laps later he was fifth. Another lap and he’d climbed to fourth and wasn’t done. And then came the first game changer.

    Mario Clouser’s good night went bad in an instant as he flipped in turn two. Darland probably groaned as did his fans (I know this because I was sitting with one of them.). His huge six plus second lead was gone. Not only that, there was only one lapped car between him and his nearest pursuers.

    Darland wasn’t the only one groaning (or offering various choice words). During the red Brady Bacon was pushed into the pits with a flat right rear tire, giving up fifth place.

    The restart order was Darland, Windom, Ballou, Thomas, Stanbrough, Schuerneberg, Coons, Stockon, Cottle and Grant. A few things needed to be noted after the green waved. With Jarett Andretti opting to go to the rear, there was only one lapped car between Darland and Windom. Stanbrough and Thomas had a terrific fight for fourth place with Jon eventually making the pass of the Alabama native. And even more noticeable, Darland wasn’t able to stretch out his lead as he had done at the race’s beginning.

    We had, for a few laps, a three car battle for the lead. Soon enough, lapped traffic came into play for the leaders, who were nearly a half straightaway ahead of fourth place Stanbrough. First Windom struck, passing for the lead in turn two on lap 23. Ballou was next, getting around the People’s Champ for second. Robert now had the leader in sight and seven more laps to make some noise. Then it happened, another turning point of the race. Windom had a decent lead when he smacked the wall in turn two (it was a wonder how many others kept from doing that). As Chris fought to regain control of his car, Ballou made his move, took the lead and led the last three laps of the race.

    Ballou had seized the moment and made the most of it.

    For the first time since J.J. Yeley’s 13 win season in 2003, a USAC racer had double digit feature wins.

    Darland held on for third with Stanbrough fourth. Coons was fifth, trailed by Thomas, Stockon, Leary (from  18th), Bacon (nice recovery from the early flat tire) and Tyler Courtney, who walked away with the Hard Charger award (and some spending money) for coming from 21st to tenth.

    Post-race, as the crowd filed out, I watched the top five finishers and their cars parked on the front straight. Four of them smiled painful smiles as they signed autographs and had maybe hundreds of pictures taken. They might vigorously disagree, but in some eyes and ways, they, too, were winners. Quite a few kids and a few adults walked away from their brief meetings with the top five runners quite happy—as it should be.

    The best post-race comment came from the winner: “Sometimes, you have to have some luck, and it's especially true coming from tenth to win here." This statement is partly true. One must take advantage of that elusive luck and run with it. Ballou certainly did that.

    As this is written, the Haubstadt Hustler is a few hours away. I’m thankful for the hour that I’ll gain driving there. A king is scheduled to be crowned and I have the crown.

    As is the case most weekends, many Hoosier sprint car fans may wish they could be cloned. Both Lawrenceburg and Lincoln Park are running tonight. Any crackpot inventors in the house?

    Trying not to make a fool of myself on social media and everywhere else—and failing—I’m…

    Danny Burton




    The Hoosier Race Report: Restarts Matter

    C.J. Leary found out the hard way that restarts matter. On a chilly Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Leary was surprised by Brent Beauchamp, who briefly took the lead during the sprints’ 25 lap feature. But later in the race, Leary showed that he’d learned his lesson. Oftentimes a restart can change a racer’s race into a direction that one wishes to avoid. And another lesson learned was that a good racer never stops learning. It’s a never-ending process, this learning deal. Not unlike life itself.

    Summer took Saturday off and this meant folks bundled up a bit before venturing outside. Shorts were replaced by long pants. T-shirts were covered by coats and jackets. I figured that if I was going to be cold, I may as well go see a race.

    32 sprints helped jam the pits as 120 cars occupied much of the town of Putnamville. All cars had their hot laps and then…rain fell. A brief shower delayed things an hour or so. Blue skies were visible and the radar on my phone showed a tiny green dot—right over the track apparently.

    The green flag waved at 8:15 for the first heat and the program ran like a clock the rest of the night. Brent Beauchamp took the lead on the second lap and won. C.J. Leary came from sixth to second. Kyle Robbins came from seventh to finish third. Jadon Rogers took fourth.

    Front row starters of the second heat Troy Link and Bub Cummings ran side by side for a lap before colliding at the start/finish line. In the temporary craziness, Mike Gass sneaked through the crowd and took the lead. He checked out and led the rest of the way—after starting sixth. Cummings was second with Austin Prock third. LPS point leader Scott Hampton was fourth.

    Jeff Bland won the third heat as two of the eight cars scheduled scratched. A.J. Hopkins was second. Shane Cockrum, in town to drive the Jamie Paul car, was third. J.J. Hughes, engine smoking and firing, passed Brandon Mattox late to take the last transfer.

    Max McGhee came from third to lead all the way in the fourth heat. Chad Boespflug, second to Hampton in points, was in the Krockenberger machine for the night. He was second. Lee Underwood hung tough to take third. Jordan Kinser would start 16th in the feature, a tidbit worth remembering.

    Troy Link may have led the first half of the B, but Brandon Mattox came on to grab the lead and win. Brandon Morin was second. Braxton Cummings and Mr. Link would start in the last row of the feature. Hot on Troy’s heels were Chris Babcock, Chris Gurely and Pat Giddens.

    Bub Cummings and Leary were the front row for the feature and Leary took the early lead. Mattox brought out the first yellow on lap five, slowing Leary’s march. McGhee and Beauchamp trailed.

    Beauchamp got around McGhee on the restart as Leary began to check out. But Hopkins lost a driveline on the front stretch and another yellow waved, courtesy of Brian Hodde.

    It was Leary, Beauchamp, McGhee, Bland, Bub Cummings, Boespflug, Cockrum, Hampton, Prock and Kinser, from 16th to tenth in 11 laps. Beauchamp grabbed the lead on this restart, but Hughes stopped in turn three before a lap was completed. Brent had to give it back. C.J. took notice.

    It didn’t happen on this restart. Leary controlled this session, which lasted until lap 18 when McGhee slid into Bland, who stopped in turn four. The top ten was shuffled a bit. Leary, Beauchamp, McGhee, Boespflug, Cockrum, Bub Cummings, Kinser, Hampton, Mattox and Kyle Robbins.

    Up front nothing changed in the final seven laps. It was Leary all the way. Second through fifth stayed the same. Kinser moved to sixth after starting 16th. Robbins made a late charge to take seventh. Bub faded a bit to eighth. Hampton was ninth and ended up in turn one facing the wrong way after the checkered. He was not thrilled with Mattox, who had started 17th, dropped to last and made his way to tenth.

    The close point race drew more of my attention than normal. Hampton finished as the 2015 Lincoln Park champ, leading Boespflug by one point at the end.

    We’ll never know if Mr. Leary would have passed Mr. Beauchamp because another yellow flag waved before he had the chance. The restart was quite important as it turned out.

    I’m reminded of the shower that could have washed out the festivities but didn’t. In a sense, the resumption of the program was a restart. And it was good. Sometimes life is like that.

    Trying to sell my work ethic on eBay, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    Dodging Raindrops and Yellow Flags

    On a night when most people would have looked at the sky and the radar and said, “No way am I going to any races at Lawrenceburg tonight,” a few hundred hardy souls felt otherwise. Ignoring all the warning signs that rain was in the area, these souls gathered together for another night of racin’ at the ‘burg. When it was over, Kyle Cummins rumbled through the field, not unlike the thunder that reverberated through the area much of the evening, and won the 25 lap feature without benefit of any yellow flag periods.

    This odyssey began on Friday night as my grandson and I headed north to Gas City, knowing there was a chance of rain. Sure enough, as far south as Shelbyville clouds could be spotted. The further north we went, the more ominous the clouds looked. Knowing that the O’Connor family would do all they could to have a race, we kept going, one of us awake and driving and the other sound asleep.

    But the weather changed our plans. We ended up at a Gas City fast food place, discouraged but not despondent. The highlight ended up being the little guy playing the air trumpet and later the air piano to a jazz ensemble on NPR—before he had drifted off to sleep.

    Saturday it was the opposite in that rain dogged us most of the way to Lawrenceburg. Dark clouds surrounded us and rain began falling in Decatur County. By the time we reached Greensburg, the main street (also State Road 46) was flooded all the way through town. Somewhere east of the little town of Napoleon the rain finally ceased, though there was a brief shower in Manchester. By the time we arrived at the track, thunder and lightning were on the scene. As we walked to our seats, fashionably late (missing sprint car hot laps), the crowd was urged to vacate the grandstand due to the lightning.

    A few minutes later, all was well and the unpleasantness had moved east. In fact, the sun tried to come out while the Anthem was played.

    Racing didn’t start all that late with 31 cars dismissing the chances of a cancellation. Of these 31, Garrett Abrams won the first heat over Tony Main, who had started right behind Abrams and followed him all eight laps. Cody Gardner was third and Cooper Clouse, one of several BOSS regulars who had stayed over after Moler Speedway’s Friday night rainout, was fourth.

    The most impressive heat race effort was that of Jarett Andretti, who came from seventh to win. C.J. Leary came from fifth to second and Toledo, Ohio’s Chad Wilson was third. BOSS regular Brandon Spithaler was fourth.

    Kyle Cummins drew the pole for the third heat and won by a large margin. Travis Hery held off Joss Moffatt and Landon Simon to take second.

    Drew Abel won the fourth heat with Cincinnati’s Michael Fischessor second. Lawrenceburg Speedway champ and now BOSS regular Shawn Westerfeld was third. Justin Grant, in the Baldwin Brothers’ beauty, was fourth.

    By chance I sneaked a peak at the radar and was not thrilled to see lots of green on the radar just north of the track. Some sprinkles began to fall, but not enough to stop the B Main. Dickie Gaines won with Kyle Wissmiller second. Joe Ligouri was third and Wampum, Pennsylvania’s Bob McMillan grabbed the last spot over Brit Tom Harris, who came from 11th to finish fifth.

    The moisture was persistent as first modifieds and then hornets circled the track, trying to keep it somewhat dry. To their credit, they succeeded and the sprinkles stopped. It was time for the A.

    Main and Hery led the 18 others to Tim Montgomery’s green flag and Hery jumped out to the early lead. Main hung tough, reluctantly giving up second to Abrams and third a few laps later to Leary. With the dogfight behind him, Hery continued to lead but couldn’t build up much of a margin.

    A big reason for this was named Kyle Cummins. From eighth, he was sixth after two laps. Six laps later he was third after getting around Main, Abrams and Drew Abel. Both Cummins and Andretti were on the move. Leary, who had run as high as second, was shuffled back to fourth by the duo. Next up for Cummins was the leader, the formerly lonely Travis Hery.

    The Princeton, Indiana native made his winning move on the 12th lap and began his ride into the sunset. But there was still business to be conducted behind him. A lap later Andretti passed Hery for second. And despite losing a few positions, Tony Main refused to go away even after Joss Moffatt pushed him back to fifth.

    Moffatt was on the move after starting 11th. Lap 15 saw him fifth and a lap later he passed Hery for fourth. Next on his to-do list was passing Leary and that happened on lap 16. Now it would be Andretti’s turn. This took a little longer as the third generation racer was on his game tonight. But the deed was done late in the race and now this ‘burg champ could see the leader.

    But laps had wound down and Cummins was plenty strong enough to maintain his lead and take his very first Lawrenceburg Speedway feature win. Moffatt was a strong second and Jarett Andretti was an impressive third. Leary, who had to be a pre-race favorite, was fourth and Justin Grant was the one who advanced the most, coming from 16th to fifth.

    Tony Main may have slipped from the pole to sixth, but this was the best I’ve seen him run—ever. He was nipping at Grant’s heels for much of the race’s final half. The same was true of Hery, who was seventh after leading the first 11 laps. Garrett Abrams was eighth and Chad Wilson ninth. Landon Simon came from 15th to cross the line tenth.

    The rain, wind, thunder and lightning had moved elsewhere and racers and a promoter got a deserved break. For that matter, so had the yellow flag, not to mention the red.

    Nervously opening an email from Hilary Clinton, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: DD Smacks ‘Em Down

    By the time they reach their mid-40s, most racers are either slowing down or thinking about slowing down. They hear how it’s a young man’s game and these kids today can’t be beat. But there are a few ornery ones. They defy the sands in the hourglass. They roar through their 40s by winning races. Some may make it even further and win races in their 50s. These guys, the more famous ones, have names like Steve, Sammy, or Jac. The guys we see here in Indiana have names like Shane, Jon, Tracy, Jerry and…Dave. That would be Dave Darland, still showing the younger ones how to get around one of the bullrings/jewels that dot the Hoosier landscape. For on a Saturday night with rain all around, ol’ Dave took away $10,000 and his third straight Smackdown feature at his home track, the Kokomo Speedway.

    No small factor of Smackdown’s appeal was the format, not your normal USAC format. First off, the top eight in Smackdown points from the first two nights were locked into the feature. The popular King of the Hill answered the question of how the first eight spots would be determined. The top driver in points raced the number eight guy, a three lap dash. The other six would do the same. Winners advanced tourney style. The crowd loved it and the winner didn’t mind the $400 he’d get even before the green for the feature waved.

    That took care of eight of the 22 starting spots. The top two from the four heats also made the show. That made 16. The last six were added after the B, with the top six moving on, just as USAC’s normal format allows.

    Drama began even before racing started when Wednesday feature winner Chris Windom flipped in hot laps. After my grandson finished removing much of the mud from Shane Cottle’s car we went over to the Windom pit, like other ghouls, and watched the inevitable thrashing. Rick Pollock had a backup car to bring out. Several others pitched in, including some of Windom’s competitors.

    The first ten lap qualifying heat was won by Jerry Coons Jr. C.J. Leary passed Scotty Weir midway through the heat to wrap up a feature spot.

    Tyler Courtney ran off in the second heat, leaving Chad Boespflug to fend off both Hunter Schuerenberg and Brady Short, the passing King.

    Justin Grant held off a pesky Tracy Hines to win the third heat. Max McGhee led the rest to the B Main.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. won the fourth heat and missed a great race behind him. Shane Cottle had all he could handle as he fought most of the race with Jarett Andretti and Aaron Farney to secure his seat at the table.

    The King of the Hill started and the Windom crew wasn’t quite ready, meaning he would start eighth in the feature.

    First up was Chase Stockon, Friday’s winner versus Robert Ballou, Thursday’s winner. Stockon easily prevailed as Ballou exited the track right after taking the white flag.

    The second battle was the best, or most competitive, or closest, of the night. Back and forth went Kyle Cummins and Jon Stanbrough. It was two of the best at their best. Both spent much of the three lap race side by side. Cummins won by .005 seconds, literally inches.

    Brady Bacon easily bested Thomas Meseraull in the third match. Dave Darland, thanks to Windom’s no show for the KH, had a bye for the first round.

    Round two began with Stockon outrunning Cummins in a battle of southwestern Indiana natives. The Bacon/Darland matchup was tense. But Bacon won, earning a place in the finale.

    Bacon kept winning and picked up the $400 after beating Stockon in the final.

    It was truly a special event within an event. My buddy KT and I agreed one reason this was so special is that it rarely happens. Kind of like Christmas for kids.

    Several of us had been watching the radar all evening, hoping for the best. Sure enough, a few sprinkles fell and the B Main was delayed maybe ten minutes. The wet stuff left and a fast track became even faster.

    The B was fast, furious and violent. Three reds stopped action. Hunter Schuerenberg took the early lead. Aaron Farney brought out the first red on lap seven in turn four. Two laps later Jarett Andretti and Brandon Mattox tangled on the front straight just shy of the flagstand. Mattox was not pleased and stated his case in a calm, cool and collected manner. Well, maybe not. On the white flag lap Travis Hery climbed the turn two wall and tipped over. All involved were uninjured.

    Just before Hery’s misfortune, Brady Short passed for the lead. On the one lap restart, two of the top six positions changed hands. Max McGhee passed Schuerenberg for second at the end. Scotty Weir was fourth. Kyle Robbins was fifth and West Coaster Ryan Bernal ruined a great run by Ted Hines by taking the last spot on the last lap. KRob came from 12th. Hines came from 18th to finish seventh. Josh Spencer moved from 15th to eighth to no avail.

    Bacon’s King of the Hill triumph put him on the pole for the 40 lap marquee event. But outside front row mate Stockon took the lead at the outset. Early on Bacon suffered a flat tire against the wall in heavy traffic, slowed, and brought out a yellow.

    Bacon’s descent through the field put Darland in third behind Stockon and Cummins. Both Darland and Cummins attacked on the restart with Cummins taking the (short lived) lead on lap six. Despite Stockon’s best efforts, Darland took control on the next lap with the Elizabethtown, IN resident in the proverbial hot pursuit.

    But the only thing slowing down Kokomo’s favorite son was a yellow piece of cloth, which waved for a Tyler Courtney involuntary work stoppage on lap 22 amidst a huge crowd. Darland’s lead went poof! Just like that. While the field circled the track Thomas Meseraull joined the crowd in the infield, out of the race after running as high as fourth.

    The prime time players were Darland, Stockon, Cummins, Cottle (from 16th), Windom, Stanbrough, Thomas, Grant, Short and Ballou. Nothing changed up front when a lap 27 yellow came out for Claude Debris, who was spotted lying prone in turn two. Claude’s misfortune didn’t affect the one man freight train known as Dave Darland, who resumed his thrashing of the field when the green reappeared.

    It was all over but the fighting for positions behind the leader/winner. Stockon and Cummins stayed put in second and third after trading positions about as often as my grandson gets hungry at a race. As Cottle faded later in the race, Windom came on to take fourth after a truly rotten beginning to his night. Thomas came from 12th to finish fifth. Stanbrough ran as high as fourth but took sixth. Grant advanced a bit near the end and grabbed seventh place money. Yet again, Brady Short, put on a passing clinic, coming from 17th to eighth. Leary was ninth and Tracy Hines started 15th and finished tenth.

    On lap 38, things were coming to a close and the wind picked up. I could feel sprinkles. By the time Darland took the checkered, the sprinkles were more persistent and the temperature had dropped considerably. Given the hour, Karston and I took the long walk to the county line where my truck was parked. Before we left Kokomo the sprinkles had turned to rain.

    I told that story to make an old point. Promoters are crazy, but in a good way. They will assume that they are racing and proceed until the rain hits—if it does. All the fretting we did earlier in the evening about the “unnecessary” parts of the program, the TQs, the driver introductions (which are kind of neat anyway as drivers walk in front of the bleachers and toss a t-shirt into the crowd), awards, charities and fireworks, was for naught. It worked out just fine.

    I’d like to think that other promoters were watching this and wondering if they could pull this kind of event off. I’d like to think they could. Gamblers that many of them are, I’d not be surprised to see more of this type of deal: a two or three day extravaganza paying big money and gathering together racers and fans for a multi-day party/reunion/race.

    Just watch out for those guys who are at that certain age. Turns out there’s plenty of room in the tank yet.

    Chuckling as Indy Car tells NASCAR that “we don’t need no stinkin’ Chase,” I’m…

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Wild and Crazy

    Night Two of Smackdown IV was another wild one, showing that the Kokomo Speedway is very tough to beat when it comes to the racing it yields. Friday night saw a bit of redemption for the feature winner. After getting passed for the lead and win on Thursday, Chase Stockon held off Dave Darland and survived two late race restarts to win.

    A time of self-indulgence was what I had on Thursday. Slept in a bit; later I made the short trip to the Half Moon restaurant for lunch, now the dining experience of choice for discriminating sprint car fans from all over. I found a city park with lots of shade trees for reading, writing and walking. And I saw a good bit of Wildcat Creek and its resident geese.

    But it was time to exchange some peace and quiet for some upheaval and loud sounds. The little track at the northwest edge of town beckoned.

    Only minor changes were part of the car count. After taking attendance, 41 cars answered “Present.” Missing were Landon Simon, Colton Cottle and Casey Shuman. Brian Karraker was in the Jarrett family car after hurting his Thursday night.

    Chase Stockon was third man out to try and qualify. He did good and his time held up for quite awhile—until Dave Darland came up with a 12.642 lap. Brady Short had to roll out a backup when his primary horse failed him. Robert Ballou just rolled—sailed actually. His rear axle broke, sending him into the turn two fence. Very unofficial reports said that he was knocked out for three minutes. At any rate, he emerged from the car and eventually brought out his backup. With Short, Ballou would be a good part of the show.

    Californian Ryan Bernal and his front row mate Kyle Robbins ran one/two in the first heat, much better results than either had the night before. Scotty Weir came in third and Max McGhee came from seventh to take the last card for the show. Fighting for that transfer, Jarett Andretti briefly bobbled and nearly collected Darland. Ballou pounced and took fifth, but he could not get around McGhee. He was headed for C Main land, Darland for the B.

    The second heat was a classic. Just the usual turn four last lap pass for the win. It was Stockon who pulled this one off. C.J. Leary was the victim who settled for second. Karraker was third and Jerry Coons Jr. came from seventh to fourth. Jon Stanbrough would run the B.

    Kyle Cummins owned the third heat and Tracy Hines was second. Tyler Courtney took third and Chad Boespflug was fourth. Kevin Thomas Jr.’s struggles would begin with his exile to the B Main. Cole Ketchum’s struggles were even more trying as he flipped in turn one. He was okay, if a bit shaken.

    One of several Kokomo boys in the field, Shane Cottle, won the fourth heat. Brady Bacon, one of two Oklahomans in the field (Frank Flud was the other), was second. The third row tandem of Chris Windom and Justin Grant were third and fourth with Windom closing fast on Bacon at the end. Hunter Schuerenberg went to the B and prepared to pass a lot of people.

    Halfway through the C Main, Short and Ballou were running one/two and it ended that way. Josh Spencer and Dallas Hewitt also moved on to the B.

    Dave Darland owned the B. Fellow Hall of Famer Jon Stanbrough was second. Brady Short came from 17th to finish third. Jarett Andretti was fourth. Robert Ballou came from 18th to take fifth. Hunter Schuerenberg was involved in an early race fracas and had to restart on the tail. In nine laps he came back to grab the last spot for the field of 22. Thomas and Karraker had to burn provisionals.

    Hines and Windon led the boys to Tom Hansing’s pretty, if not totally clean, green flag. The Illinois native grabbed the lead on the first lap and did his best to check out. But a lap three yellow postponed that when Grant and Boespflug tangled in the backstretch, putting the Mark Hery 40 on the hook. Grant had tangled with Weir and incurred a broken front end, collecting Boespflug. Windom led Stockon, Hines, Weir and Darland, who had started seventh.

    These front five maintained position as Andretti passed Stanbrough to take sixth. Darland passed Weir and a lap nine yellow for Cummins and Bernal meant that Stockon would again be on Windom’s nerf bar and Darland on Hines’. At this point Coons had come from 20th to 11th. Alas, it would be Jerry’s high point.

    After the Cummins/Bernal prayer meeting, Stockon did give Windom some fits as they traded slide jobs for a few laps. Windom may have been fretting but fans loved the action of two pros who knew how to race. But he eventually pulled away. Darland worked his way around Hines, but his new nemesis was Schuerenberg.

    Hunter had started 13th and was eighth at the lap nine caution. He alone, for the most part, had used the no man’s land groove, above the cushion and right against the wall. This paid off big time and with about ten laps to go he was knocking on Darland’s door. These two fought it out for several laps with Dave taking away Schuerenberg’s line to keep the Missouri native at bay. As Windom went on his merry way, these two were actually gaining on Stockon.

    Tom reached for the white flag when the very rare occurrence occurred. Scrapping with lapped traffic, Windom admittedly became a bit impatient which resulted in a half spin. The yellow waved but Chris didn’t spin a full 360 degrees; as a result he was docked three spots. Stockon led Darland, Schuerenberg, Windom and Hines.

    The boys made a lap when Schuerenberg’s high flying act came crashing to earth, or more specifically, the turn three wall. The red waved and Hunter was okay, a spectacular run ended with Molly Hatchett’s “Flirtin’ With Disaster” coming to mind. Windom passed Hines in the one lap session. Stockon had to be sweating, knowing that the King of Kokomo was behind him and very hungry.

    Sure enough Darland went low on the restart and had the lead for a second before Stockon regained the advantage. But Boespflug, who had come back from his early misfortune to reach the top ten, spun in turn one. Stockon would have to endure another restart.

    But the Sullivan, Indiana native was up to the challenge to the green/white/checkered. It was his first ever Kokomo win and his second win of the year. Darland, Windom and Hines trailed with Stanbrough taking fifth. Again, Brady Short started in the back and passed a bunch of people. His journey began in the C and ended with him finishing sixth in the feature after starting 21st. Brady Bacon was seventh and Thomas Meseraull had his second straight decent finish, eighth. Robert Ballou was “only” ninth, but considering his earlier trial in qualifying, it wasn’t a bad night. Like Short, he came from the B to start the feature 22nd and finish ninth. And Kyle Cummins had something to cheer about as he came back from his early race shunt to take tenth and nearly pass Ballou at the line.

    It was another vintage Kokomo night. And, as this is written, in a few hours they aim to do it again.

    It’s Indiana’s “dirty little secret,” this brand of racing. With major corporate influence not on the level of “big time” racing, with drivers who don’t need “handlers” to schedule their appearances, this is grass roots racing at its best.

    Reminding this Paul Newberry person that auto racing, especially Indy Car racing, doesn’t need a keyboard jockey claiming that it needs to be banned, I’m…

    Danny Burton





    The Hoosier Race Report: Wild and Woolly

    On yet another cool, but beautiful Hoosier night, Smackdown IV began with its share of wildness and speed. When it was over Robert Ballou stood in Victory Lane with a trophy and some extra walking around money after passing Chase Stockon and leading the last six laps at the Kokomo Speedway.

    44 cars, drivers, mechanics, and family members waltzed through the pit gate. Of note were Parker Price-Miller, who had practiced at the track the night before, Californian Ryan Bernal, Pennsylvania's Tony DiMattia and British Tom Harris, who had visited at Sprint Week last month (with unfortunate results). Silver Crown ace Kody Swanson was in a Ray Marshall machine and Thomas Meseraull was in a car owned by an Australian gentleman named Dawkins.

    Kyle Cummins was 13th to qualify and set fast time with a 13.269 lap. One had to admit that the track held up as Chad Boespflug went out next to last and was second quickest.
    Chris Phillips flipped hard in turn one on his first lap. He was able to walk away.

    Dave Darland's qualifying lap wasn't up to his usual effort. But he started the first heat on the pole and race away with the win. Ballou came from fifth to take second. Max McGhee started seventh and waded through traffic to finish third. Casey Shuman was fourth ahead of Jerry Coons Jr. by at least two feet.

    Scotty Weir was in the Baldwin brothers' orange five tonight and won the second heat. Justin Grant, running a bit above the cushion, was second. Brady Bacon took third ahead of pole sitter Brian Karraker. Boespflug, Shane Cottle and Jon Stanbrough all prepared for the B.

    Wednesday night winner Chris Windom won the third heat. Kevin Thomas Jr. came from sixth to second. Tyler Courtney was third and C. J. Leary made it to the show.

    The fourth heat started out a bit wild with four wide racing into turn two before settling down. Jarrett Andretti won with Brandon Mattox second. Chase Stockon took third ahead of new father Thomas Meseraull.

    44 cars made a C main necessary. Dustin Smith, who had a lot of laps on the old Kokomo configuration, won with veteran Ted Hines second. Josh Spencer came from the back to finish third. Michigan's Joe Bares would tag the tail of the B. Aaron Farney smacked the wall while leading.

    The B main was riddled with strong cars throughout the field. Chad Boespflug won with Kyle Cummins second. Tracy Hines, Jerry Coons Jr., Jon Stanbrough and Hunter Schuerenberg all moved on. Such luminaries as Cottle, Bernal and Swanson were done for the night.

    Farney and Short took provisionals for the feature. Courtney and Stockon were the front row. Hines exited the track as the field lined up. Stockon took the early lead before the series of red flags began to dominate. Brian Karraker was first. Coming out of turn four he took a mean ride. Three laps later it was Leary's turn. This one was took place in the first turn. And three laps later Courtney climbed the turn two wall and tipped over. Along came Kevin Thomas Jr. and he was surely in the wrong place. Courtney's car collected the Mike Dutcher beauty. KT would restart.

    Through all this Stockon maintained his lead. Finally the red flag and lights had a rest and the green took over. The Sullivan, Indiana native led and was looking like the one to beat. But Kyle Cummins looked as if he might have something for the leader. After starting seventh, Cummins had cut and slashed his way to second. Meanwhile Ballou had been biding his time, hanging around the top five. On the restart after the Courtney red flag, Ballou was third.

    The cushion, especially in turn one, was tall enough for a shorter person to sit on, though there were no takers. Above the cushion wasn't a great place to sit either. Chris Windom was using that space to ride by the wall and dive bomb off the turn. It was working pretty well. From 17th he was up ninth on lap eight.

    Jarrett Andretti's flat tire/stop brought out a yellow flag at the halfway mark. Stockon still controlled things up front and Cummins was second. Ballou was still third, sizing things up. Coons and Bacon trailed. Boespflug was sixth, but had been dealing with tremendous pressure from Windom. TMez was eighth with Brady Short now ninth after starting from the back. Jon Stanbrough was tenth.

    Four laps after the restart Ballou labored mightily to pass Cummins. And when the Andretti machine caught fire (literally), the fourth red flag of the race waved. Ballou was now right behind Stockon with nine laps to go. Chase was able to fend off repeated challenges from the USAC point leader but Ballou made the pass on lap 25 and motored to the win.

    Behind Stockon was Bacon, who passed a slowly fading Cummins to grab a podium finish. Not quite under the radar was Brady Short, who started last, 24th, and brought it home fifth. Having taken a provisional, he was ineligible for the Hard Charger money. The second five was Coons, Windom (from 17th), Meseraull (14th), Thomas (who recovered from his early misfortune and came back from the tail), and Scotty Weir, who started 16th.

    Lots of cars incurred a good bit of damage but one has to think that they would be back a night later for round two.

    The quote of the night came from the winner: “You gotta bide your time in some races, and tonight we just had to get closer to the end.”

    Going into Friday night’s race, Ballou’s point lead over Stockon was 93 and with Dave Darland mired in 14th place, now he was behind Ballou by 119.

    Loaning my hush puppies to Jimmy Buffett, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    Running Bear

    Only a few of the readers here might recall the pop music hit with the same title back in the early 60s. But many of all ages may know that Chris Windom’s nickname is The Bear. As the 2015 edition of the Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown opened a day early, the Bear was running as he won the makeup feature from the Sprint Week rainout over an unhappy Dave Darland.

    Much of the pre-event talk among fans was about Indiana road conditions, specifically road construction that seems to have rendered most rural and urban byways less than ideal for making the time that we wannabe Jon Stanbroughs are used to enjoying. I was fine on I-65, even with the single lanes northbound. On the way home was another story as I joined in the stop/go/stop/inch forward brigade. Northbound the headaches were caused by good old U.S. 31 at Westfield inching along, trying to enjoy the view of the football field, strip malls and the multitude of billboards. But I’d left home early so it was all good.

    At the Sprint Week rainout it was decided to resume action at the point of the stoppage and to do this on the night before the Smackdown officially began. Two laps of the B main had been completed so the program would consist of the rest of the hooligan and the 30 lap feature. As an extra treat, general admission was free. Those lucky fans who held onto their admission wristbands not only would get in free, but would in effect have themselves a pit pass for the night.

    Seven spots were available, not the usual six. This was because Josh Hodges, who had made the feature back in July, was back home in New Mexicao. The lineup was Thomas Meseraull, Tyler Courtney, Max McGhee, Landon Simon, Shane Cottle, Kyle Robbins, Cole Ketchum, Kyle Cummins, Jarett Andretti and Josh Spencer.

    Courtney took the early lead over Meseraull and Simon before the night’s only red flag waved on lap four when Robbins flipped in turn two. Kyle was okay but had some work to do.

    On the re-start Andretti was on the bubble, seventh. But attrition would ease the minds of the survivors. TMez had a sure feature spot locked up when his right rear tire went flat. And when Josh Spencer exited the track with mechanical woes, the feature lineup was set. Courtney won with Simon, McGhee, who edged Andretti for position, Cottle, Cummins and Ketchum all joining the big show.

    With Darland on the pole, surely the hometown crowd was expecting another W in the Peoples’ Champ’s column. Darland nearly led the first lap but, like all the others, Windom led. A lap three yellow waved when Cummins and C. J. Leary tangled in turn three with C. J. done for the night.

    On the re-start, Darland dove low going into turn one as Windom rode around the top, the normal Darland line. But Windom couldn’t pull away, try as he might. Controversy was on the horizon.

    DD made the pass for the lead on lap 16 as both fought through lapped traffic. But yellow lights blinked as Brady Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr. tangled coming out of four. KT was not thrilled and let Bacon know it more than once just making sure Brady wouldn’t forget. USAC ruled that a complete lap hadn’t occurred before the yellow. Darland disagreed, but kept racing.

    The race was just past halfway and the batting order was Windom, Darland, Bacon, Weir, Courtney, McGhee, Stockon, Chad Boespflug, Cottle and Robert Ballou. Again, on the re-start Windom went high and Darland low. Again, the results were the same.

    A lap 22 re-start after a Casey Shuman yellow found Stockon in the top five after starting 15th. As nothing changed up front, Stockon got around fourth place Scotty Weir and began reeling in Bacon. Ballou was also advancing. A lap 28 yellow for Max McGhee found the USAC point leader on Weir’s nerf bar.

    But the short segment of green flag racing yielded no more position changes up front. Windom was trailed by Darland and Bacon. Stockon was unable to get around the native Oklahoman and settled for fourth, moving up 11 spots. Ballou advanced even more, coming from 17th to fifth. Weir was sixth, with Aaron Farney coming from 14th to seventh. Brady Short started 13th and ended up eighth. Tracy Hines was ninth and Shane Cottle finished tenth.

    The time was a little after 9:00 P.M. Folks who had to work the next day couldn’t complain about that. The rest of us didn’t mind either. There were three more nights of this, a bold move by the O’Connor family to grow this niche sport into something a bit bigger and better. As I told my buddy Gene Ingram, “smack me if you hear me complaining.” Gene, among others, probably would.

    Providing lions some big guns so they can go dentist hunting, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    You Pass Me; I Pass You Back


    It’s not unusual to wait through a racing program that may be, well, ordinary before the green flag waves for the feature. Quite often the feature is well worth the wait. This was certainly the case on a mildly humid Hoosier Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway. One came away not worrying about car counts, who is or is not present, and not minding the preliminaries (many support class heats and the always entertaining kids’ bike races). And one left the Lincoln Park Speedway appreciating the efforts of several young men—and a few of the others too. Topping that list was Brent Beauchamp, he who runs the 5/16 mile oval about as well as anyone around and who does it with fewer resources than many. After being passed by A.J. Hopkins on a late race re-start, Beauchamp came back and returned the favor, denying Hopkins the win, but thrilling some of the crowd and causing others to nod their heads in appreciation. It was that kind of night.

    My riding companion and I arrived in time for wheel packing and hot laps. Refreshed from a decent nap, he was put to work again on the Babcock family’s mud splattered mount. Rather than earn another baloney sandwich, he was more than happy to ride shotgun in Bill’s golf cart as they pushed Chris and the car to the staging area. From there they headed for the pit bleachers. I know this because I eventually caught up with them.

    Here is where a bow is due Joe Spiker and team. Allowing kids into the pits with an adult at any time during the program is a winner. Even more than building fans, a stroll through the pits is an educational experience in more ways than one. Our pit walk has no cameras, no celebrity sightings and no interviews of people who normally aren’t near a race track. But there is where a little kid can learn colors, numbers and eventually names. Should the kid show up often enough, he will place names with faces and many of those who populate the pits will come to know the kid as well.  And if the kid is really lucky, he will be “mugged” by Chad Boespflug later in the evening.

    21 sprints opted for Lincoln Park over other choices such as stay home and watch the NASCAR race. So what if the “big names” were elsewhere? One should not worry about who is or isn’t at a given track. One should appreciate who is in the house. What we had was a group of good racers with several capable of winning the feature. Maybe Brent Beauchamp was a favorite but others present could have taken the checkered first.

    Max McGhee did a great imitation of a scared rabbit as he ran off with the first heat win. Jarett Andretti impressively held off Brent Beauchamp to win the second heat. And Mitch Wissmiller came from fifth to lead every lap of the third heat.

    The re-draw left McGhee and Andretti on the front row. The green waved and Andretti led going into turn one, where he missed a great chance to flip in front of the field as his left rear tire got some serious air. But the yellow waved for Matt Brannin and Travis Welpott after they tangled in turn three. Andretti led at this point and would lead the first half of the race.

    But, not unlike the night before at Bloomington, madness reigned as Wissmiller, Beauchamp, McGhee, A.J. Hopkins and Scotty Weir (a one off for Paul Hazen as Shane Cottle was off Silver Crown racing in Illinois) all fought for position on a track that encouraged passing. Beauchamp took the lead but it was called back for the race’s first yellow. That ended the madness for the time being.

    The re-start read Andretti, Beauchamp, McGhee, Hopkins, Wissmiller, Weir, Nate McNillan, Justin Owen (his first ever visit to LPS as he’s a Lawrenceburg regular), Tyler Hewitt and J.J. Hughes. The yellow would wave again on lap 15 but not before Beauchamp passed Andretti for the lead.

    The next green flag segment lasted until lap 22 before Weir bounced to a stop in turn two. Now A.J. Hopkins would be a serious player. Almost alone on the high groove, Hopkins had struggled to keep up with the lead pack. But before Weir’s misfortune, A.J. found some grip and speed. He passed Andretti and on the race’s last re-start was ready to win himself a sprint car race.

    Sure enough, Hopkins got around Beauchamp to take the top spot, but the wily, still young, veteran wasn’t about to fold up his tent. After Hopkins led a lap Beauchamp took the lead back on the white flag lap. Hopkins had to settle for second. Andretti was third with Wissmiller fourth. Pole sitter McGhee was fifth. McMillin took sixth and Hughes seventh. Fifth row occupants Owens and Hewitt were eighth and ninth. Lee Dakus, with Chad Boespflug helping out in the pits earlier, was the hard charger of the race as he came from 21st to tenth.

    For the second straight night I saw two above average features. Each night featured multiple passes for the lead as well as a good deal of competition among the frontrunners. Each night featured a racing surface that allowed people to race each other and they surely did.

     Can’t ask for much more than that.

    Lending Jared Fogle my copy of Dante’s Inferno, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    Surprise Winner?

    The 2015 edition of the Sheldon Kinser Memorial is history and it will be remembered as one of the hardest fought races in a long time. Had he been able to see this one from wherever his seat was, I’d like to think that Mr. Kinser would have appreciated the efforts of the top six or seven finishers, led by one very pleased Nick Bilbee, who was in the thick of the fight for position virtually the entire race.

    This would also serve as the curtain closer for Bloomington’s 2015 season. 29 sprints stormed the gates to populate the pits which had nearly 100 cars on another lovely Hoosier evening.

    It was also the final event for the Indiana Sprint Car Series. The championship was either going to go to Dave Darland or point leader Jon Stanbrough. And those with MAV-TV will be able to watch the series on a tape delayed basis.

    As great as that is, and it is truly great, being there was even better.

    My riding mechanic fell asleep by the time we reached the Brown County line. This would mean that he’d be ready to rumble by the time the red clay oval came into sight. We meandered through the pits long enough for him to get a free baloney sandwich, courtesy of Chris Babcock’s dad Bill. This gave him the strength to spend a goodly amount of time on the playground at the top of the hill—when sprint cars weren’t on the track.

    Dave Darland began the festivities with the first heat win. Jeff Bland slipped by Max McGhee coming off turn four to take second at the line. Bland had started sixth. Jordan Kinser was fourth.

    Shane Cottle won the second heat and nearly lost it on the last lap when a lapped car slowed right in front of him in turn two. Chris Gurley was a close second after that. Chase Briscoe was driving Jamie Paul’s 24 tonight and took third. New Zealander Stephen Taylor was fourth. Jon Stanbrough was chasing Cottle early in the race when the engine emitted some smoke.

    Brady Short was making his way to the front in the third heat when he, too, slowed and exited the track with power steering issues. Pole sitter Nick Bilbee won with Dakota Jackson second. There was a terrific fight for third and fourth. Chris Babcock edged Brandon Mattox for third while Mattox edged Jarett Andretti for fourth.

    Kent Christian was leading in the fourth heat when he took a nasty, high flying ride in turn four early in the race. Kent was a bit wobbly but was able to ride back to the pits in a golf cart. Tyler Courtney took the lead on the re-start and simply lost track of the others. Aaron Farney spun out early in the heat, but came in second after making a nifty move from fourth on the last lap. Michael Koontz was third and Brandon Morin was fourth.

    Brady Short came from deep in the pack to win the B. Jarett Andretti, Braxton Cummings and pole sitter Eric Edwards would all make the final show of the year.

    Words were exchanged and deals were made in the pits before the A Main. Jon Stanbrough, needing to finish 11th or better should Dave Darland win the feature, found himself in Brandon Mattox’s car and would start last.

    Chris Gurley and Jeff Bland led the SK Memorial’s version of the Wild Bunch to the green for the 30 lapper. Gurley took the early lead with Tyler Courtney annexing second right away. Courtney took the lead before Gurley immediately decided that wouldn’t do. Here came Nick Bilbee to grab second from Courtney. Both Jeff Bland and Shane Cottle wanted to play up front as well. Perhaps the others were a bit faster than Gurley, but not enough to get around the gentle giant for the first part of the race. At one point Courtney dropped as far back as fifth, but stubbornly held to the bottom groove. It would pay off later. And if five wasn’t enough, Dave Darland edged closer to make it six.

    Near the halfway mark Brady Short had moved to ninth from 16th. Just sayin’…

    At about the same time Bland was caught on the high side of a four wide deal and slid over the bank, but continued. Gurley was passed by Bilbee, who was passed by Courtney—still at the bottom end. But Bilbee wasn’t done, not by a long shot. He regained second on lap 22 and got around Courtney three laps later.

    As far as the lead was concerned, that was that. But there was plenty of action behind the leader. Shane Cottle had hung around the top five all race and came on at the end to take second. Then there was Max McGhee, who started ninth and charged hard at the end to take third from Courtney. Darland was fifth and Short advanced ten spots to take sixth ahead of Jordan Kinser.

    Darland may have “lost” the battle but he did well enough for car owner Jeff Walker, who won the owner’s championship of the ISCS. Jon Stanbrough, in Brandon Mattox’s car, did well enough to secure the driver’s title and that cool trophy that Sean Buckley is presenting.

    Thus ended another year at Bloomington, too soon many will say. But it was good and certainly ended on a high note.

    People can say it was a surprise winner. Okay, but let’s not call it a fluke. Nick earned it and I’d guess he will remember this one for a very long time.

    Is it April yet?

    Wondering why this Ashley Madison lady keeps emailing me, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Christmas in August
    Certainly it doesn’t happen very often but sometimes the best place to be in a race is third place. On rare occasions the first two will crash each other out, leaving a happily surprised new leader. Rarer is when the race’s leader spins and collects the number two runner. That’s how Brady Short inherited the lead and the win on a muggy Indiana night at the Bloomington Speedway as the Midwest Sprint Car Series 30 lap feature saw a familiar face parked at the start/finish line, accepting the trophy and conducting another interview where he had to thank all who helped him get where he was.
    Robert Ballou didn’t exactly help Short win. But when he spun in turn four on lap 20 while leading, and collected Jon Stanbrough, Short had clear sailing to the win. For similar yet different reasons, Ballou and Stanbrough will be muttering to themselves for some time about this one.
    29 sprinters stopped watching Celebrity Wife Swap long enough to meander into the pits just off Fairfax Road. Quite a few of the usual suspects had stopped by, including Dave Darland doing a one off in Tony Epperson’s favorite pet. Justin Grant was in the Baldwin Brothers’ best; Shane Cottle was at home in Paul Hazen’s baby. MSCS’s second place points guy, Carson Short, was in from Illinois. Bloomington regular Nick Bilbee made the trip down from Indy. Max McGhee and Jeff Bland dropped in. Jerry Coons Jr. showed up in the G. Nolen freight train. And C. J. Leary was in Scott Pederson’s pet project, open trailer and no four wheel ATV to push the car to the staging area.
    Passing points mattered tonight. Cottle did all he could do in the first heat, starting on the pole and winning. Passing was difficult on the lightning fast surface. By feature time that would change. Matt McDonald, Bilbee, Leary, Grant, C. Short and Shane Cockrum scrambled for leftovers.
    Stanbrough and Short were the big dogs of the second heat. Donnie Brackett picked up some points coming from fifth to third. Up next were Brandon Morin, Eric Edwards, Hunter O’Neal and Dylan Shaw.
    Coons won the third heat and Jeff Bland did some serious passing to take second after starting seventh. McGhee, Bub Cummings, James Lyerla, Chris Babcock and Braxton Cummings jockeyed for all other spots.
    Ballou lost the crowd in the fourth heat, and saved on tearoffs big time. Kiwi Stephen Taylor started and finished second. In lockstep (thanks to Marty Reid) were Aaron Farney, Jordan Kinser, Chase Briscoe (one of three number fives tonight), Brandon Mattox and…Dave Darland. It may have been my first time ever to see Dave start and finish last.
    In the B Main, Briscoe was running away with the race until his engine became a ball of fire—literally. Chase was okay, but done. Carson Short, Justin Grant and Bub Cummings would have been podium occupants if the B had a podium. But maybe the most impressive effort was that of Dave Darland, who started ninth and took the last dance card for the feature. James Lyerla used a provisional for the feature.
    The 305 Raceiver sprints ran their feature between the sprints last two races and Kevin Huntley won, then promptly retired during his post-race interview. The Pup won his first sprint feature at Bloomington in 1986 and thought ending a storied career at the same track 29 years later would end it with an exclamation point. Luke Bland flipped hard off turn two and took a trip to the hospital. Via Facebook, we learned that Luke came away with stitches and soreness.
    The tag team of Cottle and Coons led the gang to the green. Donnie Brackett promptly spun (with help?) and the yellow waved. The second try saw Coons take the lead with the front runners all going high. Ballou got around Cottle early and a few laps later Stanbrough did the same. Just before halfway, Ballou took the lead and Stanbrough relegated Coons to third.
    Brady Short had started ninth and was working the middle. Just past halfway he passed Coons for third. How could either of them know this would be the most critical pass of the race? Ballou got sideways coming out of four on lap 20, spun and collected Stanbrough. And just like that Short was your new leader, Coons was second and Cottle third.
    For the top three, the rest of the race was relatively calm. Behind them, many positions changed. By race’s end, Jordan Kinser had moved from 16th to fourth. Max McGhee came from tenth to fifth. Justin Grant motored from 18th to sixth. But none of these guys won the Hard Charger Award by Kaiser Aluminum Wheels. That was taken by Dave Darland, who only came from 20th to take seventh. Nick Bilbee “only” came from 14th to ninth. And Carson Short joined the festival of passing by starting 17th and finishing tenth.
    Bloomington has only one more event this year, but what an event. It’s the Sheldon Kinser Memorial, rescheduled after a June rainout. 40 laps with more of the same will be a good way to close out 2015 for the red clay oval this Friday. In addition, this will be a part of the Indiana Sprint Car Series, with extra goodies to be had plus some TV time later on MAV-TV.
    The MSCS has five races left, one on Saturday at Brownstown and the other four at Tri-State.
    There’s lots of racing left in Indiana this year, correct?
    Misplacing my weight jacker, I’m…
    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Same Track, Same Result, Different Day

    If it’s your time, you have to get it and enjoy it however long it lasts. Because, sooner or later, it won’t be your time anymore. Things happen and change. But until they do, revel in it. Appreciate it. And keep going out to the track either expecting to win or thinking you have a good chance to win. If you are Brady Short, these are the good old days, the ones that few people get to experience. Having fun at the track is great, no arguments there. But having fun and winning at the track? So rare, so fleeting, but so good. So it went for Mr. Short on a humid Saturday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway as he took the lead from his friend Jeff Bland midway through the 30 lap feature and cruised to yet another win. The Midwest Sprint Car Series sanctioned this one and Short proved that he can win, no matter who sanctions the race and maybe no matter where the race is held.

    This was a more leisurely trip to beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana. The usual traveling brigade was increased by one as Dave Foist joined us for the 75 mile jaunt to the northwest. Dave has been battling health issues the past few seasons and was dealing with racing withdrawal. Hopefully, that was cured, at least for awhile.

    29 sprint car teams drove past the local correctional facility (if they came from the west) and turned into the race track property, Joe Spiker’s pride and joy. With USAC running up near the North Pole, many of the remaining runners showed up. A stroll through the pits found Brent Beauchamp, MSCS point leader Carson Short, Illini Mitch Wissmiller and A.J. Hopkins among those who weren’t around the previous evening.

    Shane Cottle, who compensated my small but growing partner for scraping the mud off Mr. Hazen’s car, had his way in the first heat. Mitch Wissmiller was second and Nick Bilbee third. C. Short came from seventh to fourth. Tyler Hewitt, also the beneficiary of the grandson’s cleaning expertise, started and finished fifth, which wasn’t quite enough to make the A under the MSCS passing points system. Shelby VanGilder was sixth, but crossed the finish line flipping hard. She would return.

    Brent Beauchamp started on the pole and ran away with the second heat win. Casey Shuman was second by a large margin. Matt McDonald was third and Scott Hampton came from seventh to fourth. Kent Schmidt edged Chris Babcock for fifth. Joe Ligouri, struggling with an ill handling car, trailed.

    Mario Clouser, better known for his midget racing success, was the early leader in the third heat, but Jeff Bland led the second half and won. Brady Short was second and Brandon Mattox third. Clouser took fourth, ahead of James Lyerla, Brandon Morin and Charlie Belden Jr.

    A.J. Hopkins came from fourth to take the lead on the third lap and win the fpurth heat. New Zealander Stephen Taylor brought the Jeff Walker mount to second after starting seventh. Aric Gentry was third and Donnie Brackett fourth. Nate McMillin started and finished fifth.

    McMillin won the B Main with Schmidt second. Hewitt took third and Babock made a late pass on Lyerla to earn the 20th starting spot in the main show. With a thrashing completed in time for the B, Shelby VanGilder had repairs made after her heat race miseries and was at least able to start the B.

    The track had received some TLC before the B. Bland and Wissmiller led 18 of their mates to Mo Wills’ green flag.

    The high groove was the most popular at the beginning as Bland took the lead. But B. Short was on the move. From his third starting spot he passed Wissmiller for second on the eighth lap. Shane Cottle was busy too. From sixth he moved forward and passed Mitch on the 13th lap for third as lapped traffic came into play. The stage was set. The principal players were in place.

    Short reeled in the leader as the halfway mark came and went. The pass for the lead was made and a lap later the race’s first yellow waved for Taylor. The leading characters were B. Short, Bland, Cottle, Beauchamp, Hopkins, Shuman, C. Short, Bilbee and Hampton.

    Only one lap was run before Carson Short spun in turn four. Beauchamp slid over the banking after the first re-start and lost two spots. The second reshuffling saw B. Short keep his lead and Cottle get around Bland on lap 23. But for the second consecutive night, he couldn’t catch the Bedford, Indiana native.

    It was B. Short, Cottle and Bland making up the podium again, as they had done about 23 hours before. Beauchamp fought his way back to fourth at the end. Hopkins had dropped back early, but came on strong in the race’s second half to finish fifth, where he started. Shuman was sixth, a lot better than his Friday night headaches. Bilbee was seventh after starting 13th; his two good finishes were overshadowed by the podium boys. Nick had run fourth on Friday. Mattox, Brackett and Hampton were the bottom of the top ten. Tyler Hewitt at least ended the night on a high note. He came from 19th to take 11th at the end.

    This was Short’s second straight feature win at Lincoln Park. It was also his second straight MSCS triumph. And Brady has won six of 13 MSCS events this year. Yep, it must be his time.

    Thankful that sprint car races aren’t decided by fuel mileage, I’m…

    Danny Burton






    The Hoosier Race Report: The Odds….

    I’m not a huge (or even small) fan of horse racing, betting and setting the odds, but on a near perfect Friday night at the Lincoln Park Speedway, Brady Short had to be the heavy favorite—even more so after he drew the pole for the feature starting lineup. Boring, you say? Not exactly. Shane Cottle made sure of that. He motored from ninth to second on a very fast track and might have had something for the winner had things worked out a bit differently.

    This was a very rare Friday night program at LPS. Bloomington and Gas City weren’t racing and it seemed like Joe Spiker looked at this, thought about it briefly, and said, why not? Indeed, why not, I thought as my fellow traveler and I fought Friday evening’s after work traffic, most especially in Mooresville. Quickly I figured out which day it was.

    21 sprinters, fresh from watching and discussing the Presidential candidates’ debate, decided to visit beautiful downtown Putnamville, Indiana and its major tourist attraction. Speaking of odds, what would the odds have been for two different cars numbered 21k would show up? One was Casey Shuman, last week’s LPS winner, in the Kroc-mobile and Kody Swanson drove the other 21k, owned, I assumed, by Buckeye Kent Wolters.

    Short’s win in his heat added to his perfect night. His pole position didn’t hurt. Kiwi Stephen Taylor, again in the Jeff Walker sprinter, was second, followed by Scott Hampton, Brandon Mattox, Chad Davenport, Jared Chastain, and Mike Gass, who was eliminated in a coming-to-the-green-flag shunt that saw him the innocent victim.

    Nick Bilbee, who got a kick out of seeing my grandson’s penmanship in action, won the second heat. Kent Schmidt held off J.J. Hughes to take second. Nate McMillin, Eric Burns (yes, that Eric Burns), Levi Underwood and Dylan Shaw trailed.

    Jeff Bland won the third heat as much of the passing came on the last lap. Kody Swanson was second as Shane Cottle passed Shelby VanGilder to grab third. Max McGhee, Chris Babcock and Casey Shuman were the rest.

    There was no semi-main, but the track was reworked. The seldom used top received attention in an effort to widen the track and give the bottom groove some competition for attention. I’d rather be chained to a chair after having milk of magnesia forced down my throat plus having to listen to disco music for an hour than be in charge of track prep.

    The front row for the feature would be Short and Bilbee. as there was no redraw. This format meant that last week’s winner, Mr. Shuman, would start last.

    Brady predictably took off as the green waved as Nick had a bad start. Levi Underwood brought out the first yellow on lap three. The young New Zealander, Taylor, had charged to second at the start. A couple of laps after the re-start, Bland passed Taylor for second. Cottle was working his way forward on a lightning fast track that was uncharacteristically hard to pass on. As the green waved the second time, though, Cottle was up to sixth from ninth.

    After about six laps of green flag racing, Short encountered lapped traffic. If anything, this increased his lead. By now second place Jeff Bland had Cottle behind him, an unhappy prospect at best.

    The second yellow came out for Kody Swanson, who was parked in turn one facing the infield tire, as if he had been trying to move it. This was on lap 13 and the lineup of suspects was Short, Bland, Cottle, Bilbee, Taylor, Hughes, Mattox, Schmidt, VanGilder and McGhee. Two laps later, Casey Shuman’s bad night ended with him stopped on the backstretch. Penthouse, meet outhouse.

    The race’s final re-start was uneventful as Cottle worked over Bland pretty good before taking second with seven laps to go. But Short was too far in front and was working the racing groove to perfection. Shane may have closed the gap a little, but the margin of victory was a half straightaway.

    Jeff Bland held onto third place behind Short and Cottle at the end. Nick Bilbee hung around the top five all through the race and ended up fourth. Stephen Taylor had his best Hoosier outing so far, finishing fifth. J.J. Hughes was sixth and Brandon Mattox took seventh. Max McGhee rambled from 15th to finish eighth. Kent Schmidt and Shelby VanGilder were the rest of the top ten.

    So the odds were that Brady Short would win. The long shot would have to wait for another day.

    As this is written, LPS does it again tonight, with the MSCS in town. A larger car count is expected, for what that is worth. More money is available for the feature winner and that will bring out some hungry and/or greedy people.

    Losing count of how many NFL players are in jail, I’m…

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Throwback

    The debate of the health of sprint car racing is nothing new; it will go on long after I’ve taken my personal checkered flag. As our society changes and a new culture of speed and competition evolves, who can know what sprint car racing will look like in the mid-21st Century? But a few things will hopefully endure, such as young men (and women) who have a true competitor’s fire to both go fast and win. A great example of this is Justin Grant, a California native who moved here a few years ago to seek fame and maybe a bit of fortune too. Mr. Grant won the Bob Darland Memorial at the Kokomo Speedway on a lovely Sunday night; it was his third 2015 win at the jewel of a race track in north central Indiana. After the race, Bob’s son Dave, spoke well of Grant, seeming to think that his dad would have appreciated the young man’s efforts in this business.

    Let us not give up on this racin’ deal just yet.

    After last Sunday’s rainout of the Darland Memorial, folks were more than ready to give this thing another try. 23 teams turned off Davis Road and set up shop in the pits. Soon joining them was my intrepid grandson, who lent a hand to the Josh Spencer crew scraping off some mud. This is a roundabout way of saying that Reece O’Connor and the gang dumped a lot of water on the track. Dividends would be paid later.

    C.J. Leary was in the family car tonight and waltzed off to the win in the first heat. Max McGhee, Robert Ballou, Dave Darland and Scotty Weir trailed.

    Justin Grant took the second eight lap heat and Logan Jarrett was second as some of the guys ventured down to the lower groove to see what was there. The high side was still the fast side, but, again, dividends would be paid later. Jon Stanbrough was third with Josh Spencer and Casey Shuman taking fourth and fifth.

    Action and drama marked the third heat. Kyle Robbins tried to slide Tyler Courtney in turn two and they collided instead with Courtney flipping. Shane Cottle won with Chris Windom second. Chris Gurely was third and Lukas Smith fourth.

    There was no B Main but there was still action on the track and action of another kind in the pits. Bicycle races were on the program and kids age five to ten took over the front straight. Meanwhile back in the pits, there was a controlled mob scene as various people helped out the Everhart team in repairing Courtney’s ride. Along with Tyler, those such as Shane Cottle, some of Jon Stanbrough’s crew and Tony Jarrett all pitched in and got the car ready to race in the 30 lap feature. There was nary a computer in sight (unless one chose to count the cell phones) to aid in the repair, just old fashioned muscle and brain power at work.

    Along with the feature results, this, too, gave a bit of hope to either the future of Hoosier sprint car racing or else the state of it today. More than once I’ve seen competitors pitch in and fix a damaged car of a guy they would need to race later, no questions asked. It happened again on this night and for me it was probably the main story of the night. While less than ideal words and actions are not uncommon in racing, selfless acts aren’t exactly rare either.

    To repeat: Let’s not give up on this racin’ deal just yet.

    Leary and Jarrett led 19 of their closest friends to Brian Hoddy’s green flag. But Brian had to hastily get out the yellow as Kyle Robbins and Lukas Smith tangled in turn two. Smith was done and KRob re-started.

    After Jarrett led the first few laps, it was Leary’s turn when Logan bounced off the turn four wall and dropped to third behind Leary and Grant. The leaders hit lapped traffic around lap ten and Grant began cutting into the leader’s margin.

    Jarrett was running fifth when he flipped on lap 19 in turn four, apparently with some assistance. Logan strolled into the infield for a meeting with Stephen Taylor. Information and other things were exchanged and that was that. At any rate, it was a good race ruined for the local boy.

    For the re-start Leary still led Grant. Chris Windom had been strong for the whole race and was third. Up next were Ballou, Darland, Stanbrough, Cottle, Weir, McGhee and Shuman. For Justin Grant, it was about to be his prime time.

    A couple of laps after the re-start, Grant made his move and that was that. Flirting with the wall at both ends of the track, Grant led the last nine laps and was pulling away from everyone else. For sure the $3000 was nice, but winning at Kokomo against one’s peers might have been better. And to win a race named after a local resident whose accomplishments in racing were extraordinary to say the least—well, there was your icing right there.

    Leary held on for second with Windom, Ballou and Bob Darland’s son Dave making up the top five. Shane Cottle was sixth and Scotty Weir passed Jon Stanbrough late to take seventh. Kyle Robbins, who had a miserable night up to the first lap of the feature, recovered to finish ninth and take home some Hard Charger cash after starting 18th. Casey Shuman was tenth.

    Robert Ballou leads the Indiana Sprint Car Series point standings.

    Grant has opened the last two months with wins at Kokomo.

    Who knows? Maybe video games, drones and remote control racing will be the norm by the time my grandsons are grandfathers. In my lifetime I’ve seen life changing “advances” in every aspect of my existence. Many are good while others could be debated. Certainly this applies to the racing we love. But as the vehicles used for racing evolve, some things remain the same, namely the fierce competitive spirit that drives the Justin Grants of this world.

    For that we should be thankful.

    Delighted to read that I pay more taxes than one D. Trump, I’m…

    Danny Burton 




    The Hoosier Race Report: Westerfeld at the ‘burg

    It’s understandable if some Hoosier sprint fans don’t know of Shawn Westerfeld or if they haven’t seen him race. He races at the Lawrenceburg Speedway and also follows the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series, which is based, logically enough, in Ohio. It’s a pity that many Hoosiers haven’t been to the ‘burg to see Westerfeld and others race at the three eighths mile, high banked oval in southeastern Indiana. But a decent crowd saw him race on a beautiful Saturday night and win the 25 lap feature sanctioned by BOSS.
    It was a rare race day in the Hoosier State. The clouds were few and far between. There was no forecast of rain. Maybe as good was that there was no road construction on my way east to the little town tucked away in the tri-state area.
    29 teams from near and far were in town to test the high banks. C.J. Leary had made the long haul from Kansas to race the Pederson Brothers’ creation. Kody Swanson had done the same and was seen sitting in a team car to Buckeye racer Kent Wolters. Dickie Gaines has spent most of the year in the Jason Soudrette family’s orange 44. Seeing that this was billed as the Jason Soudrette Memorial, Dickie had a little extra incentive to do well.
    BOSS big man Aaron Fry seems to attract sponsors like honey attracts flies. The Soudrette family offered up $100 to whoever turned the quickest lap during hot laps. That turned out to be Leary, whose lap was in the low 14s.
    Westerfeld made an opening statement in the heats by coming from last to first. He earned an extra $50 with that feat. Gaines was second and Cooper Clouse was third, despite meeting up with the front straight wall on lap six of the eight lap heat. Cody Gardner was fourth.
    Leary came from fifth to win the second heat. Nick Bilbee was second and Jarett Andetti came from sixth to third. Jake Simmons made a late pass stick and took fourth. Michael Fischesser spun while running third and would have to tackle the B Main.
    Brandon Spithaler, with major help from Rusty McClure these days, impressively won the third heat. Joss Moffatt was the early leader until passed by Spithaler. Joss ended up second with pole sitter Chad Wilson third. Thomas Meseraull started and finished fourth.
    Both a Lawrenceburg and BOSS champ, Mike Miller, won the fourth heat. Kody Swanson was second. Kent Wolters was passed by Swanson coming to the checkered and took third. Aaron Middaugh made a late pass to wrap up fourth.
    The boys had behaved very well in the heats, but that ended as the B Main rolled off. A three car tangle in turn four just before the first lap was run, necessitated a re-start. On the next waving of the green, a five car tangle left two of them tipped over after Dustin Smith was tapped going into turn one. The original 13 starting field was reduced to eight and the top six would transfer.
    Things settled down after that and Garrett Abrams won after passing Justin Owen early for the lead. Owen trailed and Bob McMillin was third. Michael Fischesser took fourth and Kirk Jeffries fifth. Evan Gindling would start last in the A Main.
    For the feature things got ugly for Kody Swanson before the green. He pulled off on the backstretch with a malady of some sort. As Dickie Gaines paced the field before the start, the crowd stood and held up four fingers of each hand in memory of a young racer who was taken too soon by a dread disease.
    Bilbee and Westerfeld led 20 of their closest friends to Tim Montgomery’s prized green flag. The green turned to yellow for a faulty start but the yellow turned red when Kirk Jeffries didn’t slow down in time, ran over another car’s wheel and flipped in turn four. He was out of the car quickly. Nick Bilbee traded places with Joss Moffatt, who assumed the pole.
    On the second try, Chad Wilson spun in turn three, bringing out a yellow.
    Would the third time be a charm? Well, Mike Miller spun in turn three, with the yellow waving. Brandon Spithaler was the victim this time, flipping high in the air before landing. Another red came out but at least Brandon was okay.
    The fourth time was good and these guys showed how good they are. Moffatt took the early lead, but Westerfeld took the lead three laps in and began to try and check out. C.J. Leary was on the move when a yellow flew for Cooper Clouse on lap nine.
    A few folks were on the move in the first eight laps. The prime suspects were Westerfeld, Moffatt, Leary, Gaines, Meseraull (from 15th!), Andretti, Bilbee, Abrams (from 17th), Cody Gardner and Wolters.
    Moffatt faltered a bit on the re-start and was passed by Leary, Gaines and TMez. But Westerfeld motored on, all alone for now.
    The 17th lap saw another yellow as Nick Bilbee tried an ill-advised slider on Jarett Andretti, who ended up parked by the turn two wall and who was not thrilled. He was restrained by the cleanup crew from entering the track on foot to confront Bilbee. A certain incident in New York was on many people’s minds at this point, but cooler heads prevailed and Nick was sent to the rear.
    Now the lineup was Westerfeld, Leary, Gaines, Meseraull, Moffatt, Abrams, Gardner, Owen, Fischesser and Wolters. On the green light Meseraull passed Gaines and threatened Leary. But it wasn’t to be. No one threatened Westerfeld and Leary held on for second at the end as Meseraull was balked by lapped traffic. Gaines was fourth, a good run for the Soudrette family. Moffatt was fifth. Fischesser came on strong at the end to take sixth after starting 20th and taking home a little extra cash for being the Hard Charger. Abrams was seventh and Owen eighth, coming from 18th. Gardner was ninth and Miller came back from his early spin to take tenth.
    Westerfeld, who is running the BOSS schedule this year, padded his point lead. Should things work out, perhaps more sprint fans, in or out of Indiana, may come to know of this young man, who excels on one of the toughest bullrings to tame in or out of Indiana.
    As nervous as a lion in Zimbabwe, I’m…
    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: A Matter of Inches
    Most of our lives are or have been affected by inches. Think about that the next time you go in for surgery, barely miss a deer while driving or stub your toe. Naturally inches are a part of racing, too. A minor adjustment can result in anything from a major crash to standing next to your car and a pretty girl while getting your picture taken as you explain how the changes made to your car helped immeasurably. At the Gas City/I-69 Speedway on a nearly perfect Hoosier night under a full moon, Robert Ballou held off a charging Jon Stanbrough to win the 30 lap feature, the most recent in the Indiana Sprint Car Series. As Brian Hodde waved the checkered flag Ballou’s rear nerf bar was inches ahead of Stanbrough’s front bar.
    A brief shower visited Gas City on Friday afternoon, prompting fears of yet another rainout. But the skies cleared swiftly and a few hours later a very decent crowd was rewarded with a full moon. 25 sprint car teams showed up, looking for rewards of another sort. Scotty Weir was still in the Baldwin Brothers’ orange crush. Hunter Schuerenberg was in a Jeff Walker creation. New Zealander Stephen Taylor was a teammate for the night. After a three month absence since his nasty Terre Haute flip in late April, Ted Hines was back. Thomas Meseraull was in Paul Hazen’s pride and joy while regular Shane Cottle was out west along with others who would normally be on the scene.
    Group qualifying concluded with Schuerenberg the quickest of the first group. Meseraull and Todd Gnat led their respective peers. Each would start fourth in their heats.
    Travis Hery jumped out to the lead in the first heat from the pole. For most of the race he was trailed by Scotty Weir. But an unhealthy helping of smoke came from the engine on the last lap and Weir and company were done for the night. Hunter Schuerenberg was second and benefitted from Weir’s exit, getting to redraw for the feature. Jon Stanbrough, still racing the Fox Brothers/Mark Batcheldor car, was third. Ted Hines was fourth and Tony Main also was helped by Weir’s misfortune, finishing fifth.
    Positions seemed to change on every lap of the eight lap second heat. Robert Ballou grabbed the lead on the second lap and motored on to win. Thomas Meseraull was second. Canadian Lee Dakus was third while Tyler Courtney overcame a subpar qualifying effort to take fourth. Max McGhee was fifth and that meant Casey Shuman was headed for the B.
    Chris Gurley started on the pole of the third heat and wanted nothing to do with the battling behind him. Logan Jarrett was second and Todd Gnat was third. Josh Spencer spent a good part of the race trading fourth place with Adam Byrkett and finally secured it, with Byrkett wrapping up fifth in the heat and starting 15th in the feature.
    Tyler Hewitt passed Casey Shuman late in the 12 lap B to win. Jamie Fredrickson, Levi Underwood and the Kiwi, Stephen Taylor, all transferred into the 30 lap A.
    Gurley and Schuerenberg shared the front row for the main event, but neither would lead the first lap as Ballou came from fourth to take it as Hunter got sideways coming out of four. He would stretch his lead until a yellow slowed things on lap eight. Travis Heryran a strong eight laps so far, trading second with Schuerenberg. But that ended when something may have broken and the driver was suddenly a passenger, smacking the guard rail in turn four.
    The re-start would be Ballou, Schuerenberg, Jarrett, Gurley, Meseraull, Stanbrough, Hines, Spencer, Courtney and Shuman—already in the running to get the Hard Charger cash if nothing else. For several laps after the re-start it was more of the same as Ballou left the others to fight it out. But Jon Stanbrough was on the move.
    Just before the halfway mark, Stanbrough took fifth from Meseraull. Gurley and Jarrett were next in line as lapped traffic began to appear for the leaders. With about ten laps to go, Stanbrough passed Hunter for second and the chase was on. Ballou would soon find out that he had company. The quiet veteran from Avon, Indiana reeled in the leader as the laps wound down. As they took the white flag Stanbrough was on Ballou’s rear nerf bar. But a pass didn’t happen as Ballou went low in turns three and four. Had Stanbrough tried up top he might have had a shot, but we’ll never know.
    Ballou picked up yet another sprint car win and $2000.
    Behind Ballou and Stanbrough was Courtney, who impressed with a move from 11th to third. Schuerenberg edged Jarrett for third with some post-race “discussion” between the two. Meseraull hung on for sixth and Shuman came from 17th to take seventh and some extra cash. Gurley was eighth and Tyler Hewitt sneaked under the radar as he moved from 16th to ninth. Max McGhee was tenth.
    Inches can determine the difference between life and death, love and hate, as well as winning and second place or any other place, for that matter. But don’t dwell on such matters too much; that would be nothing but folly.
    Reminding all my lady friends not to accept any kind of drink, medicine, etc. from Bill Cosby, I’m…
    Danny Burton


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    I wonder if they could change places, would they?

    Photoshopping and photobombing, I’m…

    Danny Burton



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


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


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




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



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


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


    The Next Dave Darland?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton



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



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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Night one of four races in four nights was over.

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

    Danny Burton



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


    The Red Sea Parts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton



    The Hoosier Race Report: Chemistry 101

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Danny Burton



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



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



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



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


    Boss of BOSS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hopes are high, which is as it should be.

    Fighting my personal aero push, I’m…

    Danny Burton

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