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    A Typical Weekend

    by Pat & Bruce Eckel

     

     

    A Tale Of Two Nights At Allentown

     

    Friday, December 30 - Tonight would be the first of two nights of indoor racing at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania promoted by Len Sammons Motorsports Productions. On the racing card for the evening would be the TQ midgets with 51 competing in the six heats with only three to qualify in starting fields of 8 or 9. Also on hand were the slingshots which look like miniature Eastern modifieds running 3 heats on the night for their 27 car field. The TQ midgets are quite exotic with extreme left side offset and many look like the Sammy Swindell Chili Bowl midget with the flat rear compartment.

     

    The three slingshots kicked off the evening of racing at 7:29, one minute before the scheduled starting time and things were moved along quickly with the next heat waiting in the first turn entrance way to move out as the previous heat completed. The total of nine heats were spun off in just 48 minutes with Erick Rudolph of upstate New York (the Trenton winner from a few weeks ago), Jimmy Blewett of New Jersey, the asphalt modified star, Ryan Flores of North Carolina, a shop mechanic on one of the Sprint Cup series cars taking the first three heats. Matt Roselli of Pennsylvania, a TQ regular with the ATQMRA club, took heat four, with Andrew Nye another upstate New Yorker taking heat five after a technical DQ of apparent winner, Scott Kreutter with veteran Connecticut modified racer and all time leading LSMP TQ winner of eight indoor events, Ted Christopher nailing down heat six. Then it was right into the slingshot consie won by Dylan Hoch after walling Gary Heiber Jr. on the homestretch and then three TQ midget B mains with Ryan Tidman, Tim Buckwalter and Scott Kreutter recovering from his heat DQ winning those with all preliminary qualifying completed by 9:01. A short ten minute intermission followed before the first of two features was trackside.

     

    The 20 lap slingshot feature took the green at 9:13 and turned out to be a very competitive main event with only three cautions and was spun off in just ten minutes. Danny Buccafusca came out of the fourth hole and took the lead when long time leader, Cody Kline, tangled with two lap cars and was taken out of contention. Buccafusca held on to score the win over Daniel Morgiewicz Jr. and Kurt Bettler who worked his way to the front from sixteenth to garner third at the finish. Now it was time for the 40 lap TQ midget main event with the initial green waving at 9:47. It didn't last long as Matt Janisch caught a wheel and rolled over entering turn one on the first lap. Janisch was able to restart the event and went on to finish ninth. Fourth starting Ryan Flores took the lead on lap 3 from first starting Jimmy Blewett with Erick Rudolph following him through. These two battled with each other over the first half of the race until lap 20 when a lap car bounced off the inside wall on the homestretch and came across the track in front of the leaders. Flores swerved to avoid him and Rudolph with a head of steam jumped his right rear tire and took a wild backward ride into the turn one wall and with some quick work by his crew was able to rejoin the field at the rear. Rudolph sliced his way forward and ended up a creditable sixth at the finish. Flores was the class of the field on this evening and would go on to win his first ever indoor TQ midget event over 13th starting Zane Zeiner with 11th starting Justin Bonsignore taking down the show position at the end. Canadian Rob Neely came from eighth to finish fourth with Ryan Tidman putting on the drive of the night advancing from 20th to round out the top five. The final checker of the evening dropped at 10:15 on the best indoor TQ midget feature event we have ever witnessed on an overall very good night of

     

    Saturday, December 31 - The Saturday edition of the two day show would consist of TQ midgets (50) and champ karts (22) making their Allentown debut. The starting time would be earlier with a 4 PM start to get people back on the road or to attend any New Year's festivities that they might want to partake in. At 4:01 the first green flag of the day dropped on the first of three heats for the champ karts and were followed by six heats for the TQ midgets. Garnering heat wins in the TQ's were Ryan Flores, Erick Rudolph and Ted Christopher for the second straight night joined by midget, 600 mini sprint, SpeedSTR and 358 modified standout Tim Buckwalter of PA, Earl Paules also from PA and an asphalt modified standout and Connecticut SK modified driver, Nick Ladyga. There were many cautions in the heat racing and I leaned over to Grandview Speedway announcer, Jeff Ahlum, sitting next to me and said that the racing tonight was nowhere near as good as the previous evening that he had missed. How prolific that statement would turn out to be after witnessing the 40 lap TQ midget feature. A single B main was run for the champ karts with three B mains for the TQ's with Scott Kruetter, Zane Zeiner and a new name, 358 modified and modified driver, Ryan Krachun, joining the group of B main winners. All qualifying was wrapped up by 5:36 and less than 15 minutes later the 20 lap champ kart feature took the green flag. This one featured six cautions and close to 20 minutes to wrap up with Chris Daley winning his eighth indoor series win of the LSMP era.

     

    Now it was time for the 40 lap TQ midget feature with a loaded front row of rivals, Ryan Flores and Erick Rudolph leading the way to the green flag at 6:26. What unfolded before us was the polar opposite of the night before with caution after caution beating this race into submission. In total there were 18 cautions and the race took 50 minutes to complete. The small crowd on hand will not be lured back next year if this was the first time they witnessed an indoor race or maybe even if it was not their first time watching!! Flores and Rudolph had a real good battle up front through the many cautions and midway through the feature the two banged wheels with New York asphalt modified driver, Tommy Catalano, jumping at the break and diving low and passing both drivers into the lead. Catalano looked like he might hold off the fast duo but several laps later he spun by himself in turn two taking himself out of the lead. Zane Zeiner was a man on the move up to fourth from nineteenth but shortly thereafter his car conked out with engine woes. Over the remaining 13 laps it was more like a demo derby instead of a race. Drivers spun out of the front pack and only a few laps later were back in the hunt after others did the same. Through it all Ryan Flores held sway and went on to score the sweep of the two nights of TQ racing after never having won indoors before with five runner-up finish as his best. It was his time and it was a time long overdue. Tommy Catalano worked his way back to Flore's bumper but didn't have enough to catch him. The story of the night was Jimmy Blewett who had one of the B mains in hand when his front suspension broke and it looked like the end of the road for Blewett. But by being the high point man who had not cracked the starting field he was added as the 25th starter and quick work after the last B main saw the Blewett crew pulling the show car off the PPL Center mezzanine floor and hauling it to the downstairs pit area to prep it for feature competition. In the long feature Blewett worked his way to the front several times after taking several spins before finally bringing home the beautiful red, white and blue #76 into the show position. Andy Jankowiak who is always a contender in the indoor series with two wins to his credit came home fourth with Tim Buckwalter battling his way back to round out the top five. The final checker waved at 7:16 as we headed toward the exit after bidding farewell to our various racing buddies and joining several of them at the Hamilton Family Diner for a New Year's dinner before heading in our separate directions to start the New Year.

     

    After the early January sellout this year the crowd both nights for the end of the year programs was way down with about 1/3 full on Friday and even less on Saturday. Several reasons could have caused the smaller crowds such as the dates being at the end of the year with New Year's eve a tough sell, some people came out last year as it was the new thing in town and didn't return. The racing last year was not real good and many in attendance are use to outdoor racing with more room to race and may have not enjoyed all of the contact. It is a total different animal as the racers take to the indoors.

     

    That's it for 2016 as the clock struck twelve on December 31st so Happy New Year to one and all. The next few weeks will be quiet with action picking up again toward the end of January as we invade Florida for four weeks of hopefully fun in the sun. Until next time get out the 2017 schedules and start to put together some road trips for 2017. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    Racing At The Dome At America's Center

    Friday, December 16 - I know! I know! This is not about open wheel racing so if you want to skip it, go ahead but I wanted to tell you about a new venture which has great promise and hopefully could translate into some winter indoor dirt racing for the open wheel set.

     

    Pat and I headed southwest toward St. Louis at 9 AM on Friday morning. The destination was The Dome At America's Center or the Edward Jones Dome, former home of the St. Louis Rams of the NFL. On tap was three nights of racing indoors for the super late models and the UMP modifieds with 90 late models running in eight heats on Friday and the UMP modified field pared down to 100 by this evening. It started on Thursday night with double time trials for both the super late models and UMP modifieds which started after 3 in the afternoon. After time trials and several qualifier races the first evening ended at close to 3:30 AM!! Hopefully Friday would not be a repeat performance. We arrived slightly after 2 and purchased two $25 ($28 after Ticketmaster fees) in section 110 in the top row and settled in after chatting with AARN columnist, Guy Smith. We also had the chance to chat with former Hosehead writer, Gordy Killian, during the course of the long evening. I won't bore you with a blow by blow of the proceedings except to note that eight good super late model heats were run for the 90 car field followed by D mains in each of the two divisions on hand which were painful to say the least. Two sets of C main followed which were slightly better before two sets of B mains which were good were run. All preliminary qualifying took over six and a half hours to wrap up along with delays to allow the ventilation system to remove the dust and fumes and for the track crew to manicure the track periodically. Since in our section we had an overhang to protect us there was no dirt problem and fumes were not an issue the entire evening but with indoor racing the fire marshal rules!! The track was a 1/5 mile dirt oval with some banking and proved to be quite racy as the night progressed. The seating was comfortable but the food prices were outrageous with a jumbo hot dog coming in at $6.50 while a large soda set you back $6. Eat before you come but the fact that you are there all day and half the night makes it tough not to get hungry during the long evening.

     

    The first feature of the evening, the 25 lap super late model feature, started at 10:20 and was only slowed by two cautions. Scott Bloomquist started first and led the majority of the race and many felt he was the sure winner. Well, no one notified Darrell Lanigan and Shannon Babb of this fact and each of them pounced on Bloomquist entering turn three with three to go. Before it was over Bloomquist was shuffled back to third with Babb the new leader and Lanigan second. To add insult to injury Jason Feger passed Bloomquist for third before it was over!! Yes, folks this nine minute feature was worth the wait! And the UMP modifieds went 20 laps with three cautions in ten minutes to bring the curtain down on the second night at 10:53. It was a long night at nearly eight hours to see 19 minutes of feature action but the features were indeed worth the wait. The last night which consisted of D,C,B and A mains was completed by 10.

     

    The venture seemed to us to be successful and hopefully next year we can see an expanded schedule of maybe two straight weekends, one for the open wheel crowd and one for the late model crowd. A little extra support on the fencing would be in order if the sprints and midgets appeared on the 2017 docket. It wasn't perfect but with some tweaks to the format (less cars being allowed to enter) this could become a midwest staple for the dirt crowd to shorten the break between the outdoor racing season. Hope there is some sort of 2017 edition as the facility is beautiful and the space is more than adequate

     

    The Southern Illinois Center for USAC midgets was scrapped from our schedule on Saturday for two reasons, one being that we were leaving Sunday afternoon to travel back east and two the icy road conditions that were forecasted and became a reality on Saturday night. As we traveled home on Saturday morning we must have seen over two dozen cars, pickup trucks and tractor trailers scattered along the various interstates many having flipped over in the medians and off into fields on the sides of the interstates from Friday. I believe we made the right choice on this one.

     

    Next report will be forthcoming from Allentown, PA as we return east to visit during the holidays and take in some indoor racing at the PPL Center there. Until next time hope each and every one of our readers have a very Merry Christmas and remember Jesus is the reason for the season. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Take care, be safe and thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    76th Annual Turkey Night Grand Prix At Ventura

    Thursday, November 24 - After a six day trip to the Big Island of Hawaii we broke up the long return flight home by stopping off in California to take in the 76th running of the Turkey Night Raceway, the little 1/5 mile dirt bullring next to the ocean. We arranged to meet up with our friends from Sacramento, Max and Suzie Nieman, and Pennsylvania's Guy Smith at the Carrow's Restaurant for Thanksgiving lunch before working our way over to the track. We were shocked that the special holiday menu did not have turkey on it. We were about ready to leave when the waitress came along and informed us that indeed they had turkey so we stayed and ate. From there we went over to the hotel to check in and take it easy for about an hour before venturing over to the Ventura County Fairgrounds for tonight's action. Last year only 22 midgets showed for Turkey Night at Perris so Jim Naylor decided to be careful and added the USAC West Coast sprints to the program. He wouldn't have had to worry as 53 midgets showed for the action on the smaller track in addition to 43 sprints on the undercard.

     

    Midget time trials kicked off at 4:30 with 52 midgets taking time with Brady Bacon setting fast time of 12.277 seconds in the Fred Manafort #76M. The top twelve in time trials locked into the big 98 lap feature to be held later in the evening with the remainder heading to two midget qualifiers where a total of 35 went to the post. In between the time trials and qualifiers three sprint car B mains were run with the top four out of each joining the top eight finishers from last night's sprint main to form a twenty car starting field for the 30 lap sprint car feature. Troy Rutherford, RJ Johnson and Klint Simpson won the B's with Ryan Bernal turning back Michael Pickens, Jake Swanson and Courtney Crone in the first midget qualifier while Chad Boat, son of Billy who won Turkey Night three times in a row from 1995 through 1997, took qualifier two over Ronnie Gardner, the 2016 USAC Western States point champion, Ryan Robinson and Tucker Klaasmeyer. a POWRi regular out of Kansas. Robby Josett would take the last chance qualifier where six midgets transferred to the A main. Three provisionals were added to the final starting lineup making for a 29 car starting field. It was now 8:05 and with the sun down and a steady cold wind blowing off the ocean it was getting uncomfortable for the fans on hand. A 35 minute intermission followed and all though the racing was good the downtime was excessive. It was at 8:50, over four hours from the first wheels turning for time trials that the 30 lap USAC West Coast sprint car feature took the green flag. Geoff Ensign, a young driver who we were impressed with in September when he ran at Calistoga and Petaluma took the Ted Finkenbinder #3 to the point and would lead from start to finish but the race was better than that indication. Troy Rutherford who started ninth threaded his way to the front and was closing on Ensign and made several challenges. All hell brought loose as the leaders approached the start/finish line when second running Rutherford broke a drive shaft and stacked the field up behind him at the line. When the carnage cleared Michael Pickens, the six time New Zealand midget champion, stole second in one of the four identical Watt #81's in the starting field with Jake Swanson taking third after starting fourteenth, Carson Macedo fourth and Klint Simpson fifth after an impressive run from eleventh. This one was in the books by 9:18 and next up was the 76th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix run for the first time in 1934 at Gilmore Stadium (now the site of CBS Studios) won by Bob Swanson. This race before tonight had been run 75 times, 60 on dirt and 15 on asphalt. Ascot Park hosted the most Turkey Nights with 30 followed by Gilmore Stadium with 14 and Irwindale with 13. Other tracks hosting this event in number of appearances are Gardena Stadium, Bakersfield and Perris with 5 each and Speedway 605, Saugus and Ventura with one each. Fifty one different drivers have won the Turkey Night race with Ron Shuman winning the most with 8. Billy Boat is next with 3 victories and after tonight there would be 15 two time winners.

     

    Tonight's 98 lap main event would have caution laps counted up to lap 75 and would feature ten rookies in the starting field. The rookie of the race would be Carson Macedo who would bring his Keith Kunz #67K home third. Four female racers were also starting the race with Holly Shelton the highest finisher in 14th. The green flag would wave at 10:08 with Brady Bacon bolting to the early lead. Bacon would hold sway until the backstretch on lap 19 when Kyle Larson would use the high groove to snatch the top spot. The key turning point of the national point race occurred on lap 42 when second place man in points, Spencer Bayston, and Frankie Guerrini tangled fighting for position in turn four. Meanwhile Larson remained up front but Bacon was sticking with him. As the leaders weaved through lap traffic Bacon briefly was in front in turn two with seven to go. Larson used a lap car as a shield and put some space between himself and Bacon. With three to go Larson and Bacon swapped lanes with Larson down low and Bacon climbing to the top. Bacon made several strong runs but just couldn't get enough bite to catch Larson with Kyle flashing under the double checkers at 10:42 winning his second Turkey Night contest with Bacon second, Macedo third, Rico Abreu fourth and Damion Gardner rounding out the top five. Tanner Thorson came home sixth which was enough to clinch the 2016 USAC National Midget title by 18 points over ninth place finisher, Spencer Bayston.

     

    It was a good night of racing though over six hours for eight races and one set of time trials is too long to keep people sitting on a cold night in Southern California.

     

    Until the next time this column appears take warm and get out there and see some indoor racing in your area of the country if it is offered or outdoor racing in the southern regions. Any news or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

     

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

     

    End Of The Year Show At US 24 Speedway

     

     

    Saturday, October 29 - As the racing season in the Midwest is winding down we decided to head north to Logansport, IN to take in the last show of the year at the 1/8 mile dirt oval located outside of town right on US 24 hence the name, US 24 Speedway. We picked up some apple cider and vegetables at a farm market in town before traveling over to the track. A six division of mini sprints awaited us and the car counts are as follows: non wing (17), junior sprints (6), restricted winged (5), A class winged (9), senior non winged (9) and outlaws (8). The temperatures were unseasonably warm in the 80's during the day and only dropping into the 70's at night. Hard to believe watching an outdoor race in Indiana in late October in your short sleeves. Even though the weather was nice management promised to move the show along quickly after setting the starting time earlier at 6. And they were true to their word starting at 6:08 and completing the entire program by 8:49. Kudos to a finely run night of racing!

     

    The non winged were the only division that needed two heats as all the other ones ran just one. When a short track maintenance was performed we were amazed at the moisture that rose to the surface as the track was in fine condition the entire evening without a hint of dust unlike the last 1/8 mile track we ventured to. The first feature of the evening was for the non winged division and it took the green flag at 7:11. Young Zeb Wise would triumph in this one over Wes Sargent in an interesting event. The junior sprints would go 15 laps non stop with Jazmine Culp winning in just four minutes and these youngsters deserve a thumbs up as they ran both of their events smoothly unlike the last time we visited and they had problems following instructions and even getting started. The 20 lap restricted winged event turned into a farce as only four cars made the call and only one finished! Caleb Cevela from Darlington near our home of Crawfordsville picked up the win running the last two laps solo. The A class winged feature produced a good race with second generation driver, Megan Wood, holding off the men for the victory winning over Brayden Fox and Jason Slone in some good side by side racing. The senior non wing feature was all Nick Yoder from the first starting spot outrunning the remainder of the field in six minutes over the 25 lap distance. The final feature of the evening was for the winged outlaws and these guys and gals were fast. Zeb Wise donned a foil for this one and won a good battle for the lead in the 30 lapper which had much racing throughout the field. Remember the name Zeb Wise as the young man is someone that we believe you will be hearing of in the future in Indiana open wheel racing as he is very talented ,articulate and polite. The final checkered waved at 8:49 ending an enjoyable night of racing in just two hours and 41 minutes.

     

    Our outdoor racing season is not finished yet so check back after Thanksgiving for our next report. Until that time try to get out there and catch some late season specials in your area as winter is inching closer. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Jason Leffler Memorial At Wayne County Speedway

    Friday, October 21 - When the date for this race was changed to accommodate the Great Clips (major sponsor of this race) WOO driver, Darryn Pittman, to be able to attend on Thursday it was taken off our schedule as Pat was working on Thursday and Friday and could not get off. When the forecast was correct and substantial rain fell on Thursday the call was made to postpone the race until Friday so it was a go again on the Eckel race schedule. We made the 3 1/2 hour tow southwest into Illinois stopping first at our hotel for the evening in Effingham, the Lexington Inn and Suites which we highly recommend, we headed further south toward Wayne City and the site of the Wayne County Speedway. Upon arriving we found a $2 parking fee upon entering the grounds which later was learned to go toward the people helping to park the crowd in attendance. The money would go to fund field trips for the local high school which is a good cause so that wasn't really a problem. Walking across the parking lot there were still lots of areas where the ground was wet and muddy so you knew that had a lot of rain yesterday.

     

    Benny Trask of Ohio made the long trip and secured us seats on the homestretch about three rows from the top in the small aluminum grandstand that sat right up against the track with only a small walkway separating the two. This setup would prove problematic later in the program. Admission was a reasonable $15 and the refreshments were very reasonably priced so this aspect was met with approval. On tap was the 4th Jason Leffler Memorial race co-sanctioned by the USAC and POWRi midget groups bringing out a diverse field of 43 entrants to do battle on the evening. Things got underway late and it did not seem to be because of track prep as from the time we arrived at five up to the warmups starting at 6:30 there was no vehicles on the surface working on anything. Due to all the rain the track was soft and a big rut appeared in turn one and returned the entire evening as work on the surface without a grader was futile to alleviate the problem. Unfortunately the track never developed two workable grooves so passing was at a premium on the evening.

     

    The first of six heats went green at 7:46 with Tanner Thorson winning over Gage Walker and Andrew Felker. Tucker Klaasmeyer brought one home for the POWRi guys in heat two winning over Carson Macedo and an impressive Riley Kreisel. Heat three saw Ryan Robinson in one of the Kuntz stable cars roll in turn three only to be turned over and continue in the event. Chris Windom brought the Baldwin Brothers #5 painted black home first over Shane Cottle in the Love #71X and Grady Chandler. Heat four saw Brady Bacon park the Fred Manafort #76M in victory lane over Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in the Tim Clauson/Marshall #39 and Rico Abreu in the Kuntz #97K. Justin Peck claimed heat five over Damion Gardner in the Klatt #71G flying in from California to race and Colten Cottle. The sixth heat went to Jonathan Beason scoring the win over Spencer Bayston and Daniel Adler looking good also. It was a split with three USAC drivers and three POWRi regulars taking the heat racing. Tonight's format was based on passing points so after the six heats there would be an additional four qualifying races lined up by passing points with the top sixteen after the qualifiers moving into the starting lineup for the A main and the rest divided up into the B & C main events. Carson Macedo, Chad Boat, Dave Darland and Ryan Robinson prevailed in the qualifiers wrapping up at 9:33. The C main was next up with Justin Grant advancing to the B along with Andy Malpocker, Tyler Thomas and Isaac Chapple. Jake Neuman rolled several times between turns one and two in this one and would return as a provisional for the A main later. The B main was won by Justin Peck over Gage Walker, Grady Chandler, Jerry Coons Jr., Jason McDougal and Riley Kreisel. Pennsylvania's Ryan Greth did a light rollover in this one. It was 10:25 when all qualifying was completed. Six starters would be added to the field including Ricky Stenhouse Jr. who had car problems in both his qualifier and the B main. If you were wondering where POWRi point champion, Zach Daum, was he was there but had nothing but problems the entire evening and was unable to run in the feature.

     

    The 28 car field (too many cars on a 1/8 mile track) took the green flag at 11:07 with first starting Chris Windom taking the early lead. Windom would lead the first seven laps until Brady Bacon charged to the front, a position he would retain the remainder of the distance. The track was dusty, which was expected and was tolerable, but the dirt clogs that pelted you the entire distance would difficult to deal with as they were hard and as Pat stated it was like being shot by bee bee guns fired by hundreds of people. It made it virtually impossible to watch the race as you were constantly being pelted by dirt. Our suggestion would be for management to move the grandstands back about 20 feet to minimize this nuisance and make the racing more enjoyable for all to watch. Bacon was not to be denied on this evening as it has been a year since Bacon and Manafort combined forces and they were rewarded with their first USAC National Midget victory along with their first POWRi midget victory worth a cool $20,000. Bacon has been running real good lately in the midget and could have won one or two of the Gold Crown events at Tri City. The outside groove never materialized and passing was at a premium in this one with Alex Bright one of the few able to advance through passing (maybe his experience running the 1/8 mile at Clyde Martin in PA) coming from 16h to 6th at the finish. Tanner Thorson crossed the line second after starting third and expressed his frustration with the track in the post race interview. Carson Macedo finished third with Chris Windom slipping to fourth and Andrew Felker rounding out the top five. Bright led the second five across the line with Chett Gehrke seventh, Spencer Bayston eighth, Dave Darland ninth and Jerry Coons Jr. tenth. Going into the season finale at Ventura Raceway in California for the 76th Turkey Night Grand Prix Tanner Thorson leads Spencer Bayston by nine markers in the race for the USAC National midget point championship.

     

    Until next time get out there and catch some good end of the year racing in your area as winter is quickly approaching and the off season is close. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Fine Racing At Kokomo Klash & A Race For The Ages At Terre Haute

    Friday, October 14 - It was still sunny and in the 60's when we drove into the parking lot at Kokomo Speedway. It was a late arriving crowd for this rare Friday race and at 5:45 we were still able to find a good parking spot. Our good friend, Jack Erdmann was coming down from Wisconsin for his first trip to Kokomo since the track was reconfigured. I was looking forward to seeing him and to get the Renard's cheese he was bringing down for me. Roger Ferrell also joined us in the stands and you knew even if the racing was not good the banter would be. But then you never see a bad race at Kokomo, some are just better then the others.

     

    Tonight was the first night of the Kokomo Klash and the wingless sprints, midgets, 600 mini sprints and thunder cars were on the racing card. The car counts were 24, 29, 22 and 26 respectively. Warm-ups started shortly before 6:30 and it did not take long to have the first car casualty as Mitch Wissmiller flipped one of the Sarah Fisher/Hartman midgets in turn one. The three sprint heats were first and Thomas Meseraull picked up the win in heat one in his first ever ride in the Burton 04. Justin Grant picked up the second heat with Shane Cottle coming home the winner in heat three. It was also in heat three that Kevin Thomas Jr. would take a nasty flip in turn one while running second. The first midget heat was money's worth with Carson Macedo picking up the win with Spencer Bayston and Chris Windom picking up the wins in the second and third heats.

     

    Jack was amazed at how they came out between heats and scrapped the concourse in front of the stands so the fans did not have to walk in clay nuggets. They even have a Zamboni that cleans the concrete. There were three heats for the mini sprints and three for the thundercars before we headed into the B main events. All but the mini sprints ran B mains and they were run off promptly. Kevin Thomas Jr. managed to qualify second in the sprint B main after his earlier flip in the heat. They took a break to hand out the season's point championship trophies and at 9:29 the green dropped on the 25 lap sprint main event.

     

    This race had a little bit of everything. Two cautions for minor incidents, two reds for major incidents and lap 13 that saw Justin Grant move into the lead over Shane Cottle while Kevin Thomas was doing a 360 without stopping after moving up to 9th from 17th. The real scare came on lap 9 when T-Mez flipped hard in turns one and two leaving the Burton 04 in ruin. Luckily T-Mez emerged from the car unscathed. Later T-Mex would twitter his thoughts and though I really cannot repeat what he said the G rated version would be he said he screwed up and cost the Burtons a lot of money. Justin Grant held on for the win with Shane Cottle second, Jerry Coons third and Jarett Andretti and Dave Darland rounding out the top five. It was a good race but the midgets were better.

     

    The midgets were also running 25 laps and the outcome of this race would determine the Indiana USAC Midget Champion. A three car early caution on lap 2 sent top runner Tanner Thorson to the rear and he restarted in 18th. Five laps later the caution waved again and Thorson was up to 10th. But all eyes were not on Thorson as there were epic battles among the front runners. The midgets are awesome at Kokomo and they keep you sitting on the edge of your seat. Dave Darland was running third with Spencer Bayston in fourth when they came upon lapped cars running side by side on the homestretch and they did not all make it through turn one. Bayston flipped the Kuntz # 97 violently in turn one and luckily was uninjured. Not as much could be said for the car. The final six laps saw Chris Windom and Dave Darland battle side by side for the win. Windom on the high side held the edge and came home the winner. For Darland it was one little bobble that cost him the win, as I really thought he was going to pass him. Thorson recovered nicely to finish third in what I would call an excellent race.

     

    It was only 10:34 so remained for both the mini sprint and thundercar A mains before calling it a night. The final checkered fell at 11:11. We would not be returning for night two of the Klash as we were Terre Haute bound. I could not help but thinking as we walked back to the car how lucky we were to be able to come here every Sunday night they run and to never take this track for granted. As a friend said to us on the way out, "See you next April".

     

    Saturday, October 15 - It was a beautiful fall day with temperatures touching the 80's. We headed southwest down Rt. 41 to the city of Terre Haute, home of the Indiana State Sycamores. It is also the home of the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds where the legendary 1/2 mile clay of the Terre Haute Action Track is located. Tonight was the makeup date for the Jim Hurtubise Classic, honoring one of the greats of USAC sprint car history where the USAC National Sprint Car series would square off tonight to do battle in front of a nice sized crowd who turned out to witness what could best be described as an epic battle between two of the young guns of the current USAC crop of talented drivers.

     

    A somewhat disappointing 22 USAC sprint cars were ready to start time trials at 6:29 and 20 minutes later Chase Stockon had fast time with a lap of 20.424 seconds around the big half mile. The UMP modifieds were on the undercard of the show and ran three heats for their 22 car field on hand. Next up were three heats for the USAC sprints with Chris Windom claiming the first one over CJ Leary in the family machine with a great battle for positions three through five with Chad Boespflug third, Dave Darland fourth and Chase Stockon fifth. Heat two saw Tyler Courtney take the win over Brady Bacon, Aaron Farney in the Michael Dutcher #17GP, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Thomas Meseraull in the family #9X. The final heat went to the veteran Jon Stanbrough in a strong performance beating Corey Smith, Justin Grant, Jerry Coons Jr. and Carson Macedo making his USAC National debut in the Krockenberger #21K. There would be no B main so the next event up would be the 15 lap UMP modified feature which took the green flag at 7:56. A big five car pileup on the homestretch on the start brought this race to a grinding halt. On the restart Richie Lex went to the point and was never headed with Brock Burton putting pressure on Lex toward the end. Jesse Snyder placed in the show position with the checkered waving at 8:19.

     

    It was time for the Jim Hurtubise Classic with the green flag waving at 8:39 with Justin Grant sliding out front entering turn one ahead of Thomas Meseraull. Chad Boespflug made his presence known early nosing to the inside of Grant entering turn two on the opening lap but Grant retained the lead. Boespflug was able to grab the lead in turn two on lap three with Grant in tow. Lap four saw seventh starting Chris Windom in the Baldwin Brothers #5 shoot down the backstretch like he was fired out of a cannon taking the lead entering turn three. Boespflug was able to counter the move and retook the lead exiting turn four. Windom went back to the front with a backstretch pass on lap 4 and looked like he was going to check out. Windom was running the low side through turns three and four, in the middle down the homestretch and diving to the rail in turns one and two. Meanwhile Boespflug rode the cushion chasing the orange #5. Chad began to close as he mimicked the route of Windom diving low into turns one and two. Meanwhile Brady Bacon, the point leader, was cutting through the field advancing from 17th to 9th by lap 12. Boespflug reclaimed the lead with a frontstretch pass on lap 16 after a strong run off the cushion in turn four. Windom tried a turn three slider which was unsuccessful with Boespflug remaining at the point. Windom threw another slider at Boespflug entering turn three on lap 19 with Chad countering in turn four with the two racing side by side down the homestretch. The final pass for the lead would occur on lap 27 entering turn three as the two front runners maneuvered lap traffic with Windom able to wrestle the lead away from Boespflug with another slider with Boespflug countering but coming up short this time. Windom took the line down low in turn one to thwart Boespflug challenge and was able to finish the last two laps in front as he flashed across the line at 8:58 taking his second USAC sprint win of the year over Boespflug with Jerry Coons Jr. bringing the Edison #10E home third in what might be one of the last runs for this car as Monte Edison is getting out of the owner business. Chase Stockon would take fourth with Justin Grant rounding out the top five.

     

    This race was one for the ages with an epic battle between two of the brightest stars of the USAC circuit in a race that would have had Jim Hurtubise smiling at the classic race these two young combatants waged. It had the majority of the crowd on their feet (myself included) as they passed under the double checkered flags as everyone realized that they had witnessed a true classic battle. It was awesome! There were an amazing 26 lead changes in the feature but "officially" only four that were recorded at the start/finish line!

     

    Until next time get out there and enjoy the rapidly dwindling remaining races in your area before the winter months are upon us. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading this effort.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Rain & Fall Nationals At Lawrenceburg

    Friday, September 30 - There had been a lot of rain in the past few days with more showers occurring on Friday morning. It came as no surprise when the call was made that Gas City was cancelled for this evening. My backup plan had been POWRi midgets at Belle-Clair and driving up to Fayette County on Saturday on the way home to catch the $10,000 to win B mod feature there but when the promoter could not guarantee me that they would run the conclusion of the Friday qualifying and feature first that did not give us a viable backup. Therefore the 4 hour tow to Belle-Clair was scrapped and this was a good thing as they fell victim to rain after all qualifying had been completed but before any features had been run.

     

    Saturday, October 1 - I monitored the weather all week and by Saturday morning things looked good for Saturday night racing at the 3/8 mile high banked dirt oval at Lawrenceburg. So we took off before noon, took a leisurely drive to the southeast stopping along the way for lunch and an antique store visit where Pat found some clothing for her vintage Charmin' Chatty doll and purchased another in the transaction to boot.

     

    We arrived around 6, shelled out our $25 admission to enter and secured some seats about 12 rows up to the left of the starter's stand to view the night of racing featuring the USAC National sprint cars and the UMP modifieds. By 6:18 the first of 26 sprinters set the clock in motion for time trials and by 6:41 we had a first time fast qualifier in Tempe, Arizona's Stevie Sussex making his Indiana debut a memorable posting the fast time of 13.453 seconds around the 3/8 mile track in the Steve and Carla Phillips #71P. Opening ceremonies followed honoring the Hoffman Racing team for their support of the Purple Heart organization and a presentation to promoters, Dave and Kim Rudisell, for their efforts over the past several years. That caused the first USAC sprint car heat to push off at 7:20 but that was OK as the opening ceremonies were nice and the program was moved swiftly thereafter. Chad Boespflug would win heat one and cross the line in a stream of smoke forcing him to go to his backup stead and start the feature from the back of the field. Drew Abel, Josh Hodges, Kyle Cummins and Jon Stanbrough followed Boespflug across the line in the toughest heat of the evening as the field was stacked. Fast timer, Stevie Sussex, would have to run the B main and would not start any higher than seventh if he qualified. The second heat saw Kevin Thomas Jr. score the win over Tyler "Sunshine" Courtney, Joss Moffatt, Carson Short and AJ Hopkins. Short was a story as he could not keep the car in gear for his time trial run and recorded no time and started last in the nine car heat and raced into fourth to qualify for the main event. Heat four saw Brady Bacon walk away from the field winning over Dave Darland, Isaac Chapple, Bret Mellenberndt and Chris Windom. Three UMP modified heats followed and then it was time for the sprint car B main. Stevie Sussex would redeem himself by going wire to wire to win beating out Justin Grant again in the McGhee #17, CJ Leary, Chase Stockon, Jarett Andretti, Nick Bilbee and Aaron Farney. Landon Simon would have to use a provisional to join the 22 car field. The VARA (vintage club) feature was won by John Lawhorn driving a dirt champ car to victory over the seven car field.

     

    The $10,000 to win Fall Nationals sprint car feature took the green flag at 8:58 with second starter, Dave Darland in the Jeff Walker #11, taking the lead. A lively battle among Darland, Hodges and Windom took place in the middle portion of this race as lap traffic provided some interesting moments. Darland looked strong leading the first 17 laps until a lap car bobbled in front of Darland allowing Josh Hodges, the 21 year old driver from New Mexico, to storm past into the lead exiting turn four. Chris Windom also was able to pass Darland at this point to take over second. It looked like it was going to be a dog fight between Hodges and Windom at this point but Hodges found something extra on the top side and pulled away from Windom and the rest of the pack over the second half of the race. As the checkered flag waved at 9:05 over the field it was Josh Hodges becoming the seventh different new winner of an USAC National sprint car race this year in a non-stop tussle completing the 30 lap distance in a new track record of seven minutes and 21.09 seconds. Windom crossed the line second with Darland third after dropping a cylinder around the halfway point with Kyle Cummins placing fourth with Justin Grant rounding out the top five. Hodges also became the first driver from New Mexico to win an USAC National sprint car race since Richard Griffin won at Terre Haute in 2000. Hodges is a young man to watch in the future as he becomes more familiar with the Indiana tracks and the setups needed to run them. He definitely has the talent to run with the best of USAC and the future looks bright for him. We decided to stay for the 20 lap UMP modified feature with Matt Hamilton taking the lead off turn four coming for lap 11 and went onto victory with the final checker of the evening waving at 9:50. And believe it or not about 15 minutes later a light rain began to fall as the cars were loading up for the night.

     

    Until next week where a trip back East is slated take care and get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area or take it on the road and catch a show in another area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Lincoln Park & Decatur County On An Indiana Fall Weekend

     

    Friday, September 23 - The clock struck 5:00 and we were off to our Friday night destination. It is my favorite time of the year, not too hot and clear sunny skies with fall in the air. Ok, I lie the skies were clear and sunny but the daytime high was 90 degrees and it felt like mid August. It was an unusual destination for Friday and several times as we were driving down Route 231 I had to remind myself we were not going to Bloomington but to Lincoln Park Speedway. LPS was running a Friday night show as their final point race of the season and there were still a couple of divisions up for grabs. This was not the case with the sprints as Shane Cockrum had a far enough lead that second place Kevin Thomas Jr. would not be able to catch him. It was a late arriving and lighter than normal crowd which only makes sense since it was a work day. Not to mention you were now also competing against high school football games.

     

    The track started out a bit slick as Jacob Brown spun while they were putting heat n the motors. I eventually realized we could not determine the slickness of the track by Brown as he spun many times throughout the evening. Brown who normally runs in the 305 Race Saver division with a wing was learning the hard way that it is a whole new world running into the turns without one. However when the green did fall on the first set of hot laps the first sprint into turn one slide up and almost went over the rim of turn two. The second and third car into the turn followed suit. It was like synchronized slides and the judges gave them a 9.6. Turns out the first and second turns would give quite a few drivers problems for the remainder of the evening.

     

    There were 27 sprints in the pits and they ran three heats. Rookie Parker Frederickson brought out the red in heat one when he turned over the 34 in turn 2. Later he did return in the B main where he promptly turned over the 34 again in turn 2 ending his evening. The red also came out in heat 3 when JJ Hughes told a nasty high flying flip in turn 2. Yes, turn 2 was the bugaboo of the night. The three heats were won by Thomas Meseraull, Brandon Maddox and Brady Short. As mentioned there was a red in the B main for Frederickson but there were also 4 other cautions. Tyler Thomas ran away with the win. There were over 100 cars in the pits tonight, 80 in the other 3 divisions aside from the 27 sprints, plus approximately 40 bicycles. Yes, it was bicycle night racing tonight after being rained out several times during the season.

     

    There was a lot going on tonight and it was already 10:44 when the 25 lap sprint feature took the green. There were 8 laps of non-stop racing prior to the first caution on lap 8 for Matt McDonald who spun in turn 4. The track was starting to come around and even though they were bouncing a bit in one and two they were starting to use multiple grooves. Kevin Thomas Jr. moved from up from 13th to 8th while the B main winner Tyler Thomas moved from 16th to 11th. The charge of Thomas ended two laps after racing resumed when he snapped rolled the 04 in turn one. The fuel tank was ripped off and it looked scary. Fortunately it did not take Tyler long to emerge from his ride that landed on its side. Racing resumed and there was only one more minor caution before the checkered fell. Racing among the top 5 positions was very good but the cushion in turns one and two was a bit tricky. Several times the drivers had difficulty maneuvering through turns one and two but they all had to run the same track. In the end Brady Short scored his 3rd win of the year at Lincoln Park and his 8th overall win of the year. T-Mez was second with AJ Hopkins, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Josh Hodges rounding out the top five. The sprint feature took the checkered at 11:15.

     

    One thing I noticed about the fans in Indiana is they never seem to boo the drivers. Unlike back in Pennsylvania where it is obvious who they like and who they do not care for. But tonight I heard boos for Brady Short and was surprised because I never think of him as an over aggressive driver. We stayed for the modified race won by Randy Shuman and headed for the gate at 11:40.

     

    Sunday, September 25 - The UMRA/King Of The TQ's midget series was running in the late afternoon on this sunny and hot day at the Decatur County Fairgrounds near Greensburg, Indiana. So after church we grabbed lunch at Steak 'n Shake, went home to change clothes and headed southeast toward Greensburg on I-74. An hour and forty minutes later we were pulling onto the grounds of the Decatur County Fairgrounds for today's action. Since we had never been here before we didn't know what to expect and found a nice 1/4 mile dirt oval with three small aluminum bleachers sitting on the side of a hill overlooking the track. We paid our $7 and decided to use our lawn chairs as most of the 100 folks on hand did like wise and found a good vantage point in the shade to watch the racing action. Time trials were scheduled for 3:30 and the first car hit the dusty track at 3:37. By 4:00 Jason Setser had set fast time as some water was laid down to help keep the dust down. The helmet dash was next and was also won by Jason Setser. It is called the helmet dash for the fact that the driver who wins the most dashes will win a new helmet at the end of the season. By 4:33 the first of three TQ midget heats was trackside. Heat winners would be Matt Hedrick, Nick Speidel and Ron Combs. Next up were the support division, the hornet class, who brought 11 cars to the rodeo. All qualifying was completed by 5:09. During the intermission the announcer stated that Jason Setser had been donating all his winnings in 2016 to the cancer charity, The Cure Starts Now. That was a very nice thing to hear and a tip of the ball cap to Jason for his generous gesture.

     

    Earlier in the program it was announced that the hornet feature would run first and the Dick & Larry Dwenger Memorial Race for the TQ midgets would run last. I have a feeling that after the hornet heats several competitiors had mechanical problems and the group may have requested more time to work on their machines. Therefore the Dwenger Memorial went green at 5:49 with Matt Hedrick taking the lead at the start. He would remain at the point until lap 13 when Nick Speidel up from the fifth starting spot took the lead off turn four. There was some passing in the pack but it looked like Speidel had the field covered. Going down the backstretch on lap 19 it looked as if Speidel slowed somewhat (maybe fuel line problems) and as he entered turn three he was off the pace and Hedrick had a head of stream chasing him into the corner. The two made contact with Hedrick flipping his #33 with Speidel able to continue. After the cleanup the race went green again and Speidel seemed to be up to speed again. He flashed under the checker flag at 6:12 closely followed by Robbie Roland, Rick Robinson up from eighth, Ron Combs and Jason Goff advancing from seventh. Since it was still early we decided to stay and watch the hornet race which was good with only one caution in the 15 lapper with all racing wrapping up at 6:31. UMRA/KOTQ continue to impress us with the efficently of their shows with the exception of the one at Morgan County this year. A good supper at Cracker Barrel topped off a nice fall day in Indiana.

     

    Until next time take care and get out there and catch some good short track racing in your area before the racing is over and winter is upon us. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading!

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Action Packed Haubstadt Hustler At Tri State

    Friday, September 16 - All week the weather was nice but as the weekend approached the forecast deteriorated with thunderstorms rolling across Illinois and Indiana dampening the spirits and plans of many a racer and fan. USAC was running the Jim Hurtubise Classic for the sprint cars at Terre Haute on this Friday but succumbed to rain in the early afternoon. The Hurtubise Classic will be run on Saturday, October 15th for those interested. All eyes turned toward Bloomington for their season final but shortly after the Terre Haute call Bloomington threw in the towel also and Friday was a washout for sprint car fans in Indiana.

     

    Saturday, September 17 - After Friday's rainout our plans were to stay close to home on Saturday as we had home communion services to perform on Sunday morning. After checking Indiana Open Wheel (IOW) website on Saturday morning nothing seemed to be coming out of Lincoln Park Speedway as to their status for the night. This made us wonder if the rain on Friday had been too much for them and sure enough by 1 PM the call was made to postpone the night of racing at LPS. Lincoln Park will be running their last two events this weekend on Friday and Saturday nights. Make note of that if you are looking for some Friday night racing in Indiana. So instead of a leisurely 40 minute drive to Putnamville it was going to be a 3 hour haul to Haubstadt as the USAC and MSCS sprints were running a co-sanctioned race known as the Haubstadt Hustler paying a hefty $10,000 to win. We arrived early and secured a good parking spot and I ventured into the backstretch stands to secure our seats for the evening and ran into IOW contributor, Ron Miller, and we chatted as we waited to purchase our tickets for the evening. A fine field of 41 sprint cars and 25 UMP modifieds were on hand for tonight's festivities with the return of Daron Clayton for the first time in a year in the seat of a sprinter for tonight's racing action.

     

    Group qualifying would be in effect for tonight's racing with five groups taking to the tacky and unruly 1/4 mile of fine black gumbo clay to time against each other and then run against their group in heat racing. I rather enjoy the warmup/group qualifying routine as opposed to the single car time trial format as it makes for a quicker way to qualify the cars especially with 41 on hand. Tyler Hewitt would be the overall group fastest timer but with the inversion of the heat racing would not make it through either his heat or the B main and would tag the feature field as a provisional and start twenty third. Heat one saw Shane Cottle use the low side to perfection and guide the Paul Hazen #57 to victory over two local drivers, Kyle Cummins and Donnie Brackett. Dakota Jackson would take heat two holding off fifth starting Chris Windom and Thomas Meseraull back in the Wade/Amati Racing #66 (at least for this weekend). Heat three saw new Michael Dutcher pilot, Aaron Farney, bringing home the #17GP first trailed by Dave Darland and Justin Grant in the McGhee #17. CJ Leary back in the Leary Construction #30 came home first in heat four topping Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Ottinger sprinter sporting the #1 on the tail and front hood to garner owner points for Robert Ballou for the rest of the year. Chase Stockon nailed down third in this one. The fifth and final heat went to Tyler Courtney in the Topp #23C over Carson Short and Tyler Thomas. The UMP modifieds ran three competitive heats before the sprint cars hit the track again for the C main won by Critter Malone who if he didn't have bad luck might not have any luck. The B main was loaded with Brady Short taking the win over Daron Clayton in the second Jeff Walker #11 (the green one), Brian Karraker, Brady Bacon, Chad Boespflug and Jon Stanbrough. Like I said folks this one was loaded!!

     

    One young lad chose the 10 pill for the feature inversion which placed first heat winner, Shane Cottle tenth, and gave the front row to heat runnerups, Carson Short and Kevin Thomas Jr. Carson Short powered to the lead on the start and led the first seven laps until jumping the cushion in turn two, banging the wall and rolling over to bring out the red flag. Tyler Courtney inherited the lead at this point and led until lap eleven when front runner, Aaron Farney, jumped the turn four cushion and plowed into the wall and was done for the evening. Courtney would continue to lead until he caught the turn one cushion and bobbled with Kyle Cummins pouncing upon the mistake to grab the lead heading down the backstretch on lap nineteen. Two laps later Tyler Hewitt rolled in turn two to bring out the red again. At this point Cummins was in command and looked like only mechanical issues would wrestle the lead away from him. Meanwhile the Modern Day Cowboy, Daron Clayton, was living up to his name running the Haubstadt bullring everywhere advancing from 17th to 4th at this point. The year layoff did not seem to affect his driving prowess one bit. The race ran green until lap 30 when Brady Short pulled up lame and smoking off of turn two in bring out the yellow. With five to go Clayton claimed third and was now in the mix. With three to go Clayton got out of shape in turn two allowing Shane Cottle to slip by for third. With two to go Clayton's fine run came to an end as he again got sideways in turn two and this time came to a halt. It would be a green, white, checker showdown with Cummins jumping back out front on the restart. Courtney was running high while Cottle dove low and the two duked it out for second over the final two circuits. As the checkered waved at 10:23 it was Princeton's favorite son, Kyle Cummins, scoring his first USAC win at Haubstadt with Courtney and Cottle crossing the line side by side with Courtney edging Cottle for second. Kevin Thomas Jr. came home fourth with 14th starting Chase Stockon rounding out the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Chris Windom, Carson Short coming home seventh after rejoining the field after his rollover on lap seven with Justin Grant eighth, Brady Bacon from 20th to 9th and Jon Stanbrough claiming 10th after starting 22nd. Yes, grandma there was lots of dicing and passing in this one. A great finish to a great evening of racing and watching such a good race certainly made the three hour drive home a lot easier.

     

    Until next time where our second Wisconsin trip is planned for the coming weekend take care and get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your future or take it on the road and catch some action but the bottom line and get out there and enjoy yourself. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for taking the time to check out our writing efforts.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    California Dreaming At Calistoga & Petaluma

    Sunday, September 4 - After spending the past two days in the San Francisco area we made our way north with Allan and Nancy Brown along for the ride into wine country, the Napa Valley for USAC/CRA sprint car racing and USAC Western States midget action at the big half mile at Calistoga. On tap was the 9th Louie Vermeil Classic for the two divisions and a good sized crowd made their way into the large grandstands for the second night of racing here. Robert Ballou took a nasty ride the night before in turn two and ended up with a broken neck but the fracture will not need surgery and a neck brace will be in place for several months to help with the healing process. Our best wishes go out to the Madman in his full recovery.

     

    Back to the racing as time trials for the midgets commenced at 6:00 and the 22 midgets on hand completed their runs by 6:18 with Jake Swanson setting fast time of 19.926 seconds around the half mile. Sprint time trials kicked off three minutes later and wrapped up at 6:49 for the 32 car field with Tanner Thorson wheeling the Clyde Lamar #3C to the fast time with a lap of 19.508 seconds. Then it was right into heat racing action with the sprints first up for their four rounds of qualifying with Brady Bacon flying in from Illinois on a red eye to take the Ford #73 to victory over teammate, Danny Sheridan, with Carson Macedo placing third. The second heat was won by Ryan Bernal, the previous night's feature winner, over Jake Swanson and Mike Spencer. Heat three saw Damion Gardner prevail over Kevin Thomas Jr. and Chad Boespflug. The final heat had upstart Joe Stornetta Jr. beating Austin Williams and Geoff Ensign. Three midget heats were next with Spencer Bayston drawing first blood winning over Carson Macedo and Ryan Robinson in a Keith Kuntz sweep. Heat two saw Brady Bacon win in the Ford #73 outrunning Michael Faccinto and Tanner Thorson. Belleville winner, Chad Boat, cashed in on heat three beating Ronnie Gardner and Cory Elliott. Only the sprint cars needed a B main with quick qualifier, Tanner Thorson, walking off with this one. All qualifying was in the books by 8:52.

     

    The green would wave on the 21 car starting field of USAC Western States midgets paying $10,000 to win at 9:16. Ronnie Gardner powered to the early lead with Spencer Bayston going from sixth to second in one lap. A few laps later Bayston jumped the cushion between turns three and four and hit the outside wall hard to take himself out of further competition. Michael Faccinto blasted by Gardner down the backstretch on lap five to take the lead and looked strong in doing so. Tanner Thorson was gaining ground in huge chunks and by lap 12 entering turn four in lap traffic took the lead away from Faccinto. Thorson was in his own zip code in the second half of the race lapping up to sixth and holding a five second lead over second. The last of three cautions in the main event flashed on lap 27 when Kuntz teammate, Carson Macedo, slowed on the homestretch to bunch the field back up. On the restart the impossible happen as Faccinto dove to the inside entering turn one and took the high line away from Thorson entering turn two and blasted down the backstretch into the lead. Over the final three laps Thorson tried to regain the lead but Faccinto was up to every challenge and held sway. Brady Bacon found the inside to his liking also and moved past Thorson for second with one to go. As the checkered waved at 9:39 it was Faccinto pulling off the big upset and stopping the Kuntz win streak at Calistoga at eight straight. Ronnie Gardner placed fourth with Carson Macedo rounding out the top five. A jubilant Faccinto celebrated big time in victory lane.

     

    The 30 lap USAC/CRA sprint car feature went green at 9:59. Brody Roa was fast moving from fifth to second early but spun in turn one on lap seven to bring out the caution. On the restart Carson Macedo would take the Tarleton #21X to the front and looked like the man to beat. Numerous cautions and reds kept the field close through the middle stages. Thomas Meseraull pressured Macedo for several laps before finally taking the lead down the backstretch on lap 24 but the yellow appeared again negating the move. Lap 25 saw controversy rear its ugly head as entering turn one Meseraull and Macedo raced hard into the corner banging wheels with Macedo jumping the cushion and hitting the wall rolling over several times before stopping. Meseraull assumed the lead at this point and took off on the restart. With one to go the three, four and five running sprinters of Jac Haudenschild, Damion Gardner and Geoff Ensign tangled racing for the same real estate with Haudenschild being the big loser with the Silva #57 towed to the infield. On the restart Cody Williams dumped his sprinter and with the West Coast tracks having curfews the witching hour was 11 PM and the checkered was waved at this point with confusion reigning as some cars crossed the line higher than what they were scored. The problem arose as the race was scored from the previous lap completed placing someone like Kevin Thomas Jr. who crossed the line fifth back to eighth in the final rundown. It was confusing and left many people scratching their heads at the end. Thomas Meseraull took the win over Richard VanderWeerd, Geoff Ensign who started 23rd, Austin Williams and Chad Boespflug. A bizarre finish to a bizarre race which featured three reds and eight cautions. Truly not a classic in Louie Vermeil's name!

     

    Monday, Labor Day, September 5 - It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the 70’s and not a cloud in the sky. After visiting Point Reyes Lighthouse during the day we took in the third night of USAC/CRA California Sprint Week. We arrived at the Petaluma Speedway in Petaluma at 5:20. The last time Bruce and I were here was back in 1997 and as much as the track remained the same the surroundings were sure different. 2016 is the 50th year of racing here at Petaluma and I sure hope the approaching big box stores do not take it over. Today off the backstretch you will find Target, Dick’s Sporting and TJ Max stores, along with others. The track was just as I remembered, excellent surface, no dust and good racing. Originally we were not going to be attending races on this vacation but when I heard Thomas Meseraull, Kevin Thomas Jr., Brady Bacon and Chad Boespflug were all going to be out here running well we found a way to fit it in.

     

    The mini sprints and super stocks joined the wingless sprints. Time trials for the sprints were already underway and we were lucky to find descent seats pretty far up in the covered grandstands that were 90% filled. Chase Johnson set the fast time of 13.885. The three heats for the mini sprints and two for the super stocks followed and by 6:45 the first of 4 sprint heats took to the track. The first two heats were pretty nondescript with Austin Liggett and Boespflug picking up the wins. Heat 3 saw Austin Williams barrel roll through turns one and two and heat 4 saw Richard VanderWeerd flip violently out over the turn 2 wall. Luckily both drivers were able to walk away from these fierce looking crashes. The 20 lap mini sprint feature was run between the sprint heats and sprint B main which was won by Damion Gardner.

     

    The A main was a 30 lap event that took 50 minutes to run. I must say I was disappointed in this event. The track seemed perfect without a speck of dust but I guess it was not perfect for the sprints. It never developed a multi grove track like I hoped and there were 7 cautions and 2 reds during the event. On lap 2 fourth place starter and Bruce’s pick to win, Ryan Bernal, had a major crash in turns three and four. He made contact with no other car but the next thing you knew he was going out over the wall in a similar fashion to VanderWeerd in the earlier event. This race never really got a flow. At one point there were three consecutive cautions on lap 15 and then another on lap 16. The outside groove never came around and for the most part they ran single file. There was passing but not in the flare that I was expecting. Damion Gardner picked up the win from his fourth starting position. It was his 67th USAC/CRA career win. He was followed by Geoff Ensign, Chad Boespflug, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Chase Johnson. The entire show was complete by 10:02. As I said the track looked perfect. I guess it was just not a good night.

     

    Check back next week as we return to Indiana for another typical weekend. Until next time take care & get out there and see some good short track racing in your area or take it on the road.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Smackdown V At Kokomo

    Wednesday, August 24 – We headed over to Kokomo Speedway early and arrived at the track at 10:00 for the Bryan Clauson Celebration of Life. So much has already been written and said about this day. I laughed and even more I had the tears rolling down my cheeks as I listened to the family and friends of BC speak. It was a very emotional day and one I will never forget.

    Of course the weather did not cooperate and the 8 tornados that touched down in Kokomo made the day also very scary. The weather won out and the races for the night had to be canceled. Many homes were either destroyed or badly damaged from the tornados. Bruce and I were planning on staying in Kokomo the entire 4 days but decided to drive home when the hotel had no electric. We drove the 90 minutes home in mostly silence, running the events of the day through our heads and realizing you cannot take anything for granted.

    Thursday, August 25 – It was another sunny hot day and thunderstorms once again were in the forecast. I worked until 3:30 and then we left to go over to Kokomo Speedway for the first night of Smackdown V. We called and the hotel had electric so we would not be coming back until after the final on Saturday night. It was 5:10 when we got to the track and found ourselves parking way down Davis Street past the pits. The weather was iffy so I took in the umbrella in what I refer to as the Magic Orioles bag. An orange canvas bag I got at an Orioles baseball game in Baltimore. I keep certain things in it just in case, like bug spray. This is a must have with all the sweat bees this time of year. We made our way into the track and still had enough time to kibitz with our friends. There was the group from Pennsylvania that we were just with the other week during USAC Midget Week and friends from California. Time went fast and at 6:30 the 45 sprints in the pits were hot lapping in anticipation of night one of Smackdown. The always exciting Thomas Meseraull set fast time. Hornet warm-ups followed after time trials.

    The show was moving along well and at 8:03 the green dropped on heat one. Each heat was like a mini feature. With only the top 4 moving on to the A main the 10 lap heats were sure to be dandies and they were. CJ Leary, Jon Stanbrough, Tyler Thomas and Hunter Schuerenberg took the wins and the racing was excellent. USAC inverts the top 6 in the heats and this not only makes for some great racing but it makes for some top drivers heading to the B main. The hornets ran two heats and they were just the right fit for the break prior to the C main. It was 8:50 when the green dropped on the C main and there were 13 cars that were up for the challenge with Brian Karracker winning and advancing along with three more sprints to the end of the B main. The B main could have been a feature and the 18 sprints ran 12 laps. The was an awesome race with Brady Bacon, T-Mez, Kyle Cummins, Chris Windom, Logan Jarrett and Aaron Farney advancing to the A. Shane Cottle was in the mix but spun on lap 6 and could not make his way back up into the top 6. By this time the crowd already had their money’s worth. The hornets ran their 15 lap feature and now it was time for the main event.
    The A main was 30 laps and paid $5,000 to the winner. Kevin Thomas Jr aka KT started on the pole and for the most part was never really challenged. As for the rest of the top 10 it was, where do I look? The side-by-side-by-side racing, the slide jobs and the continual back and forth racing was Kokomo at its best. KT had one hell of a race behind him. Chris Windom was closing on KT but he ran out of laps. At 10:00 Kevin Thomas Jr. parked it in the Bryan Clauson victory lane. It was an emotional victory lane as KT hoisted the trophy with a beautiful BC emblem on the front. Windom finished second from 8th, with Dave Darland, Chase Stockon, and Justin Grant rounding out the top 5. It was one exciting race.

    Friday, August 26 - Friday dawned cloudy and rainy and prospects for racing did not look good. We headed up to the track later in the afternoon and sat in the car as it continued to rain lightly. The night was not looking promising as we waited in the car. Around 8 the rain started to slow thereafter the sprint cars were taking to the track for engine warming and track packing. By 9 time trials were underway for the 40 car field as it continued to drizzle off and on. By 9:37 Chad Boespflug had set fast time of 13.109 seconds and the heats were shortly called to the track. Entering the first turn on the first lap of heat one Brian Karraker slipped high and Jerry Coons Jr. caught his right rear and took a wild ride into the turn one fencing. He was OK. As the cleanup was underway the rain picked up again and after the track was cleared the remainder of the field was given hot laps to keep the track in shape. After around 10 to 12 laps they were waved off and the second heat cars came out and did the same. This brilliant move saved the track as the rain let up. The original heat one start was at 9:53 and the second start was now 10:25. Zach Daum would score the first heat win over CJ Leary and Chad Boespflug. Thomas Meseraull walked off with heat two beating Chase Stockon and Kyle Cummins. Heat three saw Dave Darland continue his strong Smackdown performances with a win in this one trailed by Robert Ballou and Jarett Andretti who gave Ballou plenty of trouble. Hunter Schuerenberg took heat four besting Brady Bacon and Justin Grant enjoying and taking advantage of his time in the McGhee #17. Two thunder car heats followed for the 12 car field and right after that the sprint C main was on the track. Colten Cottle prevailed over Tyler Thomas, Dustin Smith and Matt Goodnight with Arizona entrant, Mike Martin, just missing the advance to the B main. Logan Jarrett would dominate the B main winning over Chris Windom, Shane Cottle, Jon Stanbrough, Cole Ketchum and last night's winner, Kevin Thomas Jr. All prelims were in the books by 11:28.
     
    The 30 lap A main took the green flag at 11:50 with CJ Leary taking the Amati Racing #66 over their former driver, Thomas Meseraull, in the Michael Dutcher #17GP. Leary was riding easy at the point as the leaders entered lap traffic on lap 10. Tyler Courtney began to pressure Meseraull as both of them closed on Leary. The first caution waved on lap 17 when Chase Stockon slapped the turn two wall and slowed to a stop. The green reappeared for a short time as Brian Karraker bounced through the low side of turn one and slowed. At this time Brady Bacon who was running seventh discovered that he had a left rear tire going down and went pitside for a change. The next caution found Thomas Meseraull also with a deflating left rear but he elected to remain on the track in second. The green waved again with Leary in charge followed by Meseraull and Courtney. The last caution appeared on lap 24 when Hunter Schuerenberg stopped with smoke coming from the engine department of the 2E. Shane Cottle was the man on the move on the restart as he ran the bottom to perfection passing Boespflug to take fourth after starting back in twelfth. The checkered waved at 12:10 with CJ Leary winning his first USAC National sprint car win becoming the sixth new winner in the sprint ranks in 2016. Meseraull finished second with Courtney third, Cottle fourth and Boespflug rounding out the top five. The thundercars wrapped up the evening at 12:31 with Bryan Banta winning the 15 lapper. It was surely a good night of racing considering that we wouldn't have given a plug nickel for the chances of getting this one in the record books. Good job Kokomo track crew!!

    Saturday, August 27 – Finally a day with no chance of rain. The skies were blue and it was hot. After the last two nights of really, really good racing we knew the grounds would fill up fast. We had lunch with Billy and Ruth Deakin from Long Island at the Half Moon Cafe and drove on the grounds at 3:20. We just hung out and I took a nap as we let the car run with the air-conditioning on.

    The format for racing tonight was different. There were no time trials. Eight cars were already locked into the A main and the remaining cars would qualify through heat races and a B main. The car count was considerably lower with only 30 cars in the pits. Remove the 8 that were already qualified and you are down to 22 cars running three heats. Robert Ballou, Dave Darland and Brady Bacon took the heat wins and with only 7 cars in each there was not a lot of fierce competition.

    The eight qualified cars would run for the King of the Hill. This pits two cars against each other and the winner moves on and the first loser goes to the eighth starting position. Meseraull and Stockon ran the first three lap match race with Meseraull advancing. The third round pitted good friends Chris Windom and Tyler Courtney and it produced the best race of the seven rounds. They ran side-by-side for three laps full out. It was awesome with “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney advancing. At the end of seven rounds the first four rows were set. It was Sunshine on the pole with Thomas Meseraull next to him on row one. Kevin Thomas and Chad Boespflug in row two, Justin Grant and Chris Windom in row three and CJ Leary and Chris Windom in row four. I must say I really enjoy this format.

    Tyler Thomas took the sprint B main and the stage was set for the big event. Tonight the TQ’s ran on the agenda as the filler division and they brought 24 cars. They also ran three heats after the sprint heats and a B main before the sprint B. Their 20 lap A main ran prior to the 40 lap sprint feature giving the sprint B main qualifiers time to ready their cars. These TQ’s can really negotiate this track and the race was spun off in less than 8 minutes which included a caution. Matt Hedrick won the event.

    Finally they pushed all of the sprints to the homestretch and each driver when announced walked down in front of the stands shaking the hands of the fans as they went. The four wide salute left the top spot open in honor of Bryan Clauson and Lauren Stewart waved the green to start the 40 lap event paying $10,000. T-Mez had to be one of the favorites but his bid came to an end on lap 3 when he hit the wall in turn four. From here KT, Kevin Thomas, took over and was never really challenged the remainder of the race. The red came out on lap 9 for a Zach Daum flip in turn one and lap 15 for Kyle Robbins who turned over the #17 in turns one and two. On each restart KT pulled away from the field. The track was very dusty for Kokomo and the racing although good was not up to Kokomo standards. But then after all the racing and the weather conditions of the past couple of days it was understandable. Kevin Thomas Jr. won Kokomo Smackdown V. Chad Boespflug, Chris Windom, Dave Darland and Kyle Cummins round out the top five.

    It was certainly four eventful days. The Celebration of Life brought tears to our eyes and reminded us that there are no guarantees in this life. The scary moments when there were tornadoes touching down in Kokomo and families were left without homes. But there were good experiences when we made some new friends from Long Island NY, Billy and Ruth Deaken. It is amazing how much talking you can do while sitting in the inner closet of a hotel with glow sticks for flashlights and pillows in the event of debris. It was great getting to see Gary and Sally Dean from Missouri, a couple we met last year at Smackdown. It certainly was a character building 4 days that will not be forgotten. We are looking forward to Smackdown VI.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    The decision was made on Thursday morning that we would not start the trek back to Indiana after the races Thursday night as planned. The threat of rain in the mid-west all weekend had us deciding to hang out a few more days before starting west. The final decision was to attend Williams Grove on Friday night for the All Start Circuit of Champions and to go to Susquehanna Speedway on Saturday. It gave me a little more time to visit with my dad and also get to see our friend Stephanie Dobson run 305’s on Friday at the Grove and her husband Doug run the super sportsman at Susquehanna.

    Thursday, August 18 - The forecast for the evening was clear and that was a welcomed change from earlier in the week. The destination tonight was the Grandview Speedway, a 1/3 mile high banked dirt oval near Bechtelsville, PA which was hosting Tony Stewart's All Star Circuit of Champions Sprint Car Series. Our many PA friends were on hand along with our new friends from California, Max and Suzie, along with former Cheesehead, Dale O'Brien, who is now a resident of Florida. As many of our readers may know Grandview has a guy called Joe the Pizza Dude who runs around in the grandstands prior to the night's events starting and gives away three pizzas to three lucky people. Wouldn't you know it but Suzie was one of the recipients of a free pizza which she shared with us around her! Good deal!
     
    Activity cranked up at 7:27 with time trials for the 26 410 sprinters on hand. By 7:44 it was the all-time leading winner in the All Star series, Dale Blaney, setting fast time with a lap of 11.899 seconds around the 1/3 mile oval. The companion division was the TSRS 305 sprints which brought 21 cars to the party. They ran their three lackluster heats first with the All Stars running three heats also with heat one going to Lucas Wolfe in the Zemco #1 checking out and winning over Dale Blaney and Steve Kinser. Heat two went to Ryan Smith winning over Greg Hodnett and Freddie Rahmer Jr. Sheldon Haudenschild scored the win in heat three outrunning Kraig Kinser and Brent Marks. All heat racing was completed in 45 minutes and the dash and B main followed with Wolfe winning the dash and Tim Shaffer taking the B main. All prelims were finished by 9:02. Suddenly someone nearby stated that their I-phone had issued a severe storm warning and again the threat of rain was in the air and everyone was on edge. The green flag would wave on the 35 lap All Star feature at 9:26 with Lucas Wolfe the early leader. Blaney and Wolfe encountered lap traffic as they raced side by side over the course of five laps with Blaney taking the lead on lap 11. The first caution waved on lap 12 when Kenny Jacobs subbing in his son's car spun on the backstretch with help from Stevie Smith. Lap 17 saw a big pileup on the homestretch when Brent Marks lost control and crossed in front of Greg Hodnett with contact made causing Hodnett to spin with Danny Dietrich, Kraig Kinser and Cap Henry also piling in with Hodnett, Kinser and Dietrich all turning over. Blaney resumed the lead on the restart but now Stevie Smith was in second and began to reel in Blaney for the lead. The two veterans went side by side for several laps with Blaney able to fend off Smith. Smith's right rear began to wear allowing Sammy Swindell to move in on Smith and pass him for second with five laps to go. Swindell continued his march forward chasing down Blaney but falling short of laps to make a serious challenge for the lead. As the checkered flew at 10:02 it was Dale Blaney across the line first for his seventh All Star win of the year and career All Star win #134. Swindell ended up second with Smith third, Ryan Smith fourth and Sheldon Haudenschild advancing from tenth to take fifth at the line. We stayed for the TSRS 305 feature but when a big wreck occured in turn two early we decided to leave early as Pat's dad had to been at dialysis early the next morning. It was fun to see all our old friends and new ones but overall the races on the evening were nothing special.

    Friday, August19 – Even though we were not at home, I still worked every day from the hotel room. It was a crazy day at work and at 4:00 I shut off the computer and we headed west from Reading to our favorite Mexican restaurant Fiesta Mexico located in Harrisburg. After a delicious meal we went straight to William Grove and arrived at 6:20. When we lived here in Pennsylvania we never made it to the Grove before 7:30 and it seemed unusually empty at this time. We sat up with Bezz and Karen Lavigna as we did for years and it almost seemed like we never left.

    There was a good field of cars in the pits, 35 total between the PA Posse and the ASCOC. The skies were blue with low humidity and for once there was no chance of rain. Warmups were at 7:15 and the first car hit the track for time trials at 7:36. William Grove is a big ½ mile track and after watching racing on the bullrings of the mid-west all summer the track seemed even bigger. Tim Shaffer set fast time and after the 305 sprint warmups the first of 4 qualifying heats took to the track. Three heats had 8 cars and one had 9 cars. I think they should have ran only 3 heats with 11 in each heat. With only 8 cars the sprints got strung out and you basically watched cars drive around the track for 8 laps. With more cars in the races there could have been more racing action. The uneventful heats were won by Tim Wagamon, Stevie Smith Jr., Cory Haas and Danny Holtgraver. Following these qualifying event were 3 heats for the 305 sprints of which there were 27.

    The big move in the 6 lap dash was by Lance Dewease, who started 5th and finished 2nd to give him a front row starting position. All eyes would be on Dewease tonight as he won nearly everything he entered and he won every big money race this year in Central PA, including the World of Outlaw event. The B mains for both divisions were next and then it was feature time.

    It was 10:12 when the green dropped on the 30 lap ASCOC main event paying $5,000 to the winner. Pole sitter jumped out to the early lead but Dewease in the blue Kreitz 69 caught and passed him in turns one and two on lap 13 to take the top spot. At this point the cars spread out for the most part and circled the big half mile. The passing was minimal and the race was kind of boring. We needed that yellow to bunch up the field but he did not come. This race was going green from start to checker. I actually started to write down the finish with two laps to go when Bruce gave me a nudge and going down the backstretch was Montieth right behind Dewease. Was he shot out of a rocket? How did he get caught up so quickly? As they took the white flag Montieth was right on Dewease’s bumper and going into turn one Montieth took the high side and passed Dewease in turn two. The crowd went wild as 90% seemed to be cheering on Montieth. Dewease could not mount a return charge and it was Montieth picking up his 3rd win of the season at Williams Grove Speedway. Dewease had to settle for second. Tim Shaffer was third with Stevie Smith and Greg Hodnett rounding out the top 5. If you are being honest you would have to say it was 28 laps of not so good and 2 laps of awesome.

    The 305 20 lap sprint feature was last on the card and if not for a red flag on lap 4 for a minor flip in turn 4 their race also would have ran green the entire 20 laps. Daren Miller won with XXXX and Mike Kiser finishing second and third. All was complete by 11:04. It has been a long week in PA and after tomorrow night I think I will be ready to head back to the Hoosier State.

    Saturday, August 20 - Since the weather did not look good back home in Indiana we decided to stay East an additional day and take in the regular Saturday night program at the Susquehanna Speedway with the addition of the 358 sprints to the card. The top weekly division at Susky is the Super Sportsman which is a self-starting sprint car style racer weighing 1750 pounds with an carburetorated engine between 320-358 cubic inches producing 560 horsepower with a smaller wing on the top. They raced at 1/4 mile Silver Spring Speedway near Mechanicsburg between 1953 and 2005 when it closed due to the land being sold to Target. It was a great division drawing fields in the 50's and 60's each week sometimes with the winner from the previous week not even qualifying the next week. After the closing of Silver Spring the Super Sportsman were invited to continue to race at the Williams Grove Speedway but the large 1/2 mile was not their cup of tea and the field dwindled into the low 30's and high 20's. Last year Susquehanna Speedway was sold to Scott Gobrecht and the brain trusts at Williams Grove asked Gobrecht if he wanted to run the Super Sportsman there. So now they have returned to a small track more suited for their cars and we were happy to see a good field of 32 on hand Saturday along with a building base of fans. And the racing was very good with four competitive heats with lots of passing.
     
    Racing commenced at 6:50, ten minutes before the scheduled starting time of 7, which is a rarity at most race tracks. The super sportsman ran four heats first followed by three heats for the 25 358 sprints on hand with two other divisions, the extreme stocks (16) and classic cars (8) rounding out the card. All heat racing was completed in an hour and twenty minutes with only the super sportsman and 358 sprints needing B mains. All qualifiers were in the books by 8:30. The top two classes ran their features first (which should be the standard for all tracks) with the 25 lap super sportsman feature taking the green at 8:54. What unfolded was a very good feature with lots of passing from the start. Russ Mitten advanced from the tenth starting spot to take the lead coming off turn four to start lap 14 and went onto victory outdistancing eighth starting Scott Dellinger who passed Steve Fannasy for the spot on the last lap with Fannasy third while ninth starting Scott Geesey placed fourth with seventh starting Mike Enders taking fifth. Doug Dodson turned in a good performance moving from 20th to 7th before not being to refire after the caution with two to go and being pushed into the pit area. Kenny Edkin received the hard charger award marching from 22nd to finish in 6th, just outside the top five. This one was over by 9:14 and was Mitten's third win of the year and now two in a row. In his victory lane interview he stated "If you didn't enjoy this race then you don't like racing as there was plenty of passing unlike the single file racing I witnessed the night before at Williams Grove." Next up were the 358 sprints for their 25 lap feature and though it was a competitive race the five cautions and long lineup reshuffling began to wear on us. Steven Drevicki, former ARDC midget point champion, won his first 358 race at Susky holding off 11th starting Kevin Nouse for the popular win. Tenth starting Jeff Halligan finished third with ninth starting Matt Campbell fourth and Kyle Denmyer grabbing fifth on the last lap when Doug Hammaker's top wing began to peel away and he dropped to sixth after starting twelfth. The checkered on this one waved at 9:58 and after seeing the top two classes run it allowed us to start our two hour trip over to our hotel in Somerset at a reasonable hour. It was a good and enjoyable night of racing at one of our old regular stops when living in Pennsylvania.
     
    Next column will be from Smackdown at Kokomo Speedway where four nights of wingless sprint action is on the agenda along with the Wednesday afternoon Celebration of Life for Bryan Clauson. So get out there and see some good short track racing in your area and safe travels.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Rain, Rain, Clyde Martin & Rain

    We were looking forward to this week all summer. The USAC Midgets invading the Keystone State of Pennsylvania. Not only were two of these races in 2015 at the top of the list for best races of the year but this year they would invade the Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway for the first time ever. For us it was a double win to see the division we love and to visit with friends and family.

    Sunday, August 14 – Susquehanna Speedway was the first stop for the midgets and we were excited as last year this race was rained out. The track under new ownership has made numerous improvements in the past year and we were hoping the surface would be a little better than the dusty surface back in June when the sprint’s Eastern Storm made a stop here before heading back to Indiana. For the midgets this would be the first stop of the four day series and no better way to kick it off then with a great race. We ate at one of our favorite diners in the area and pulled onto the grounds at 4:15. The next two hours leading up to the warm-ups were made up of socializing with friends, some we had not seen since last year. But most of the time our eyes were turned to the sky as dark clouds surrounded the area and the threat of rain was very real. Fans lined up at the Brady Bacon souvenir table to purchase Bryan Clauson t-shirts as the pain of his death is still so fresh in our hearts and minds.

    Finally at 6:15 we all congregated in the stands and watched warm-ups. There were 25 midgets and the street stocks were the accompanying class. But at 6:45 the threatening skies began to let loose and the rain began to fall. Bruce, Paul Weisel, Dale O’Brien and I sat out in the rented Hyundai Santa Fe and watched as the rain came down. After the rain stopped we thought there might be a chance to get in the show but soon we saw cars start to pull out of the parking lot and when one of the vehicles was the Hoosier Tire Truck we knew it was over. At 7:30 the night came to an end with those two terrible words, Rained Out. This was our 9th rainout for 2016 and we were very disappointed as for the second year in a row we would not see the midgets at Susquehanna.

    Monday, August 15 – Path Valley was night two of the week and last year this was labeled our second best show of the year but once again the threat of thunderstorms was present. Since we were staying in the Harrisburg area we teamed up with racing buddy Ron Klose, who lives in the Harrisburg area, and the Santa Fe headed west on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at 4:00. We arrived at the track a little after 5:00 and once again dark, no black, clouds started to fill the skies. At Path Valley you pay your admission cost before entering the parking lot so we as well as several other cars decided to park down near the pit entrance to wait out the weather. It was much shorter tonight, as the rain began to fall and fall hard it did. Once again we would hear the dreaded words Rained Out. Rainout number 10 came way too soon for our liking.

    Tuesday, August 16 – Just like the two previous days the forecast was hot, sunny and a chance of evening thunderstorms. But this was the race we all wanted to see more than the others. It was the first time the USAC midgets would run the 1/8 mile bullring of Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway located in the middle of nowhere. If you are not from the area you definitely need a GPS to find this facility. The stands are limited and a large crowd was expected. The gates were opening at 4:00 for advance ticket holders and 5:00 for all others. We were also taking my dad along to see this event and this would be his first race of the year. At 80 years old he gets around as good as me but he is also a dialysis patient and this three day a week regimen has limited his night life. Once again the sun was shining as we meandered through the farmlands back to Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway also known as Lanco. We arrived on the grounds at 3:20 and secured an excellent parking spot. We ran into more friends and Rich Rauser came by & ask for our blankets and took them in at 4:00 as an advance ticket holder. My dad was convinced we knew everybody as Dale O’Brien our racing buddy formerly of Wisconsin, now from Florida jumped into the Santa Fe to chat. Unfortunately the merry making will all come to an end when a fierce thunderstorm ripped through the area. There was loud thunder, crashing lightning and pouring rain for an hour. We were sure this would be rainout number 3. How could they ever get the track in shape after this storm? But there were two factors on management’s side, first the storm was over by 5:30, earlier than the other two nights and second we were working on getting a 1/8 mile track in shape to run, not a 1/4 or 3/8 mile track.

    The track crew actually had large brooms and manually swept the water off the surface of the track and had leaf blowers and blew the puddles. It may sound crazy but it worked and at 7:25, only an hour late the first set of warm-ups was on the track. The surface now was as awesome as a surface can get, lightning fast, smooth and dust free. All you had to do was watch the midgets take warm-ups to know that it was going to be a night to be remembered. The midgets were accompanied by the 600 micros running wingless tonight and the car counts were 26 and 36 respectively.

    A new track record was established by Carson Macedo at 10.208 and at 9:05 the first of three midget heats, won by Chad Boat, Gage Walker and Brady Bacon, took the green. It is hard to describe how well they ran. Three and four wide, in and out and to the delight of all in the stands. The stands which would have been overflowing were approximately 75% full and for those who stayed home because they thought it would be rained out, shame on you. The micros ran 4 heats and right afterwards they called for the midget B main to be followed by the midget feature. Yes, rain was on the way again and they wanted to make sure the midgets got their portion of the show completed. Holly Shelton picked up the B main win and we went right into the main event.

    It was just shy of 10:30 when the 30 lap midget A main got underway. The race had 7 cautions and 1 red which keeps me from saying it was a great race but I can tell you when they were racing it was great. Think about it, Tanner Thorson spun on lap 3 while leading and came back up to win on the final lap. There were slide jobs, bumping and just flat out amazing runs during this race. Once Thorson spun Alex Bright took over and it looked like it might be his night until a lap 18 restart when the USAC boys attacked, as Bruce said like sharks on bloody meat, and he went from 1st to 4th in less than a straight and a straight is not very long on a 1/8 mile track. The battles were all around the track. Brady Bacon’s bid for the win ended when he came to a stop on lap 25. On a lap 27 restart Carson Macedo’s bid for the win ended when Spencer Bayston slide jobbed the 71K and the 71K stalled in turn 2 while running in first. With only a few laps remaining it looked like it was Spencer Bayston’s race to lose. The final laps were wild and crazy Thorson worked his way back up to second and past Bayston out of turn four for the win. It was a drag race out of the turn with Bayston doing a wheelie down to the finish. If you were there the sight will stick in your mind for years to come. You could say the finish was amazing! Following Thorson and Bayston was Tyler Thomas, who also put on a great show, Jim Radney and Ryan Robinson. As our friend and Grandview track announcer, Jeff Ahlum would say, “WOW! WOW! WOW!”

    The night did not end as there was still plenty to come. We watched the two B mains for the 600’s and their feature took the green at 11:34. After a couple of cautions a light rain started to sprinkle the area and my dad and I headed for the Santa Fe. Bruce stayed behind for the remainder of the event. Jason Swavely picked up the win and all was complete before midnight.

    The first two nights were disappointing, the racing at Clyde Martin fantastic and seeing all of our Pennsylvania racing buddies “Priceless”.

    Wednesday, August 18 – Tonight was the last night of the Eastern swing of the USAC midgets and the venue was the Lincoln Speedway near Abbottstown, PA nestled in the Pigeon Hills of central Pennsylvania. Along for the journey was Gordy Killian as we traveled over from the Reading area for tonight’s races. We sat in the Santa Fe as some dark clouds dropped some sprinkles but they passed by so we headed into the track. Again we were joined by Paul Weisel and Dale O’Brien along with “Indiana Bill” Burns and his sidekick, Bruce. Also on hand were our new friends from California, Max and Suzie, as we found them in another section of the grandstands and chatted before returning to our turn four seats. Management was moving the program along quickly as “weather” was reported headed toward us yet again. Time trials for the 20 midgets on hand were paced by Tanner Thorson with a time of 15.924 seconds. At 7:52 the first of three midget heats was waved off with ARDC regular, Trevor Kobylarz, running away from sixth starting Thorson and Brett Arndt. Heat two saw Belleville National winner, Chad Boat, prevail over Gage Walker and Brady Bacon. ARDC’s Alex Bright took heat three beating Tony DiMattia and brother, Brenden Bright. All heat racing was concluded by 8:08 as it was announced that as soon as possible the USAC midget feature would be called to the post and the vintage race cars would have their exhibition after the midget feature.

    By 8:30 the green fell on the 30 lap USAC midget feature with Spencer Bayston going quickly to the lead from his fourth starting position. Fast timer, Tanner Thorson, who started sixth was all over Bayston and surged into the lead in turn three on lap 2. The race continued to lap six when rain began to fall. The yellow waved and the race was halted at this point with the cars sent back to the pit area. The track crew went to work and the surface was about 15 to 20 minutes away from being race ready when the second wave of rain rolled in and washed the remainder of the program out. As USAC PR man, Richie Murray, wrote it was Mother Nature taking the USAC eastern swing point title winning three of the four races.

    Check back soon for our rest of the weekend report as plans changed daily as the weather again is the big story. Until next time get out there and see some good short track racing in your area and have some fun cheering on your favorites. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    One in Indiana & One in West Virginia Before Heading East For USAC Midgets

    Friday, August 12 - We decided to head southeast to Bloomington Speedway for our Friday night racing fix. On the way we stopped at the Hilltop Family Restaurant near Spencer for a delicious family style dinner before venturing over to the red hills of Bloomington. It was another very humid day with any slight movement producing beads of sweat and any walking blotches of wet on your shirt. Tonight would be a four division program of racing with wingless sprints (21), Racesaver 305 sprints (15), UMP modifieds (14) and UMP super stocks (22). Things started up just after 7:30 with three heat races for the wingless sprints. Young Max McGhee would take heat one from the second starting position over fourth starting Jeff Bland Jr. and fifth starting Brady Short as McGhee powered away. Heat two was loaded with Jarett Andretti also starting second winning over fourth starting Tyler Thomas and fifth starting Thomas Meseraull. Heat three saw Kevin Thomas Jr. hold sway from first over fourth starting Jordan Kinser and second starting Hunter O'Neal in the Waltz #56W. The modifieds and 305 sprints only needed two heats each while the super stocks spun off three heats all in an hour.

     

    The 25 lap sprint car feature would be first taking the green flag at 9:10. Tyler Thomas powered the Jerry Burton #04 to the top and the early lead over the field. Hunter O'Neal brought out the first caution stopping off of turn four on lap 5. Matt McDonald would bring out the second caution on lap 8 also finding himself on the wrong side of the banking of turn four. On the restart Braxton Cummings took a flip on the backstretch bringing out the red. Braxton was OK after his wild ride. Tyler Thomas continued to lead at this point with Max McGhee running second and Jeff Bland Jr. third. Meanwhile Kevin Thomas Jr. was working his way forward from the sixth starting spot and was up to third by lap 12. Entering turn three on lap 14 Thomas Jr. pulled the perfect slide job diving low and passing both McGhee and Thomas to grab the top spot as the slider held and no cross overs were attempted. O'Neal and McDonald both had rough nights each bringing out an additional caution as Brady Short did not seem up to snuff as he raced in the latter part of the top ten. Thomas Jr. held sway the rest of the distance and flashed under the checkered flags first for his third Bloomington win of the year and ninth overall in 2016 winning over Jeff Bland Jr. who passed Tyler Thomas in the last corner coming to the finish for second with McGhee fourth and Shane Cottle driving the Jamie Paul #24P to a fine fifth after starting 11th. A very emotional Kevin Thomas Jr. broke down in victory lane during his interview after "parking it" there. He had traveled west to Knoxville to be with the family and friends sharing their favorite Bryan Clauson stories during the week before returning to Bloomington to run.

     

    Saturday, August 13 - Today we would start our trek across Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania on our way over to watch the USAC midgets run four straight nights at Susquehanna, Path Valley, Clyde Martin and Lincoln with a Thursday trip to Grandview to take in the All Star Sprints. I was looking at tracks crossing the I-70 corridor to stop at for a Saturday night race but the weather looked bleak across that stretch so I scanned south of Columbus, Ohio and came up with the Ohio Valley Speedway near Parkersburg, West Virginia. The weather down there had dropped to a 15% chance of rain so it was off to West Virginia for some sprint car racing. The Ohio Valley Sprint Car Association (OVSCA), a 410 winged sprint car club, would be running there tonight along with six other divisions of racers. We arrived before 5 PM and found the parking lot behind the main grandstand pretty full. We parked toward the back of the lot and made out way into the new track for us. Ohio Valley Speedway is a 3/8 mile dirt oval with some banking which would build up a nice cushion during the course of the evening. The pits are located off of turns one and two and several sections of aluminum bleachers line the entire homestretch area. There is also a beautiful log cabin located outside of turns three and four and for the track's sake we hope it is the owners or at least someone who likes racing as it must get dirty over the course of the racing season. The start off the night of racing the mini wedges which look like a minature version of a late model driven by youngsters ran on an inner oval starting at 7 in a feature event.

     

    Next up was group qualifying for the remaining five divisions where they run four cars at a time in a combination warmup and time trial session. This lasted until around 8:20 when all qualifying was completed. Then it was right into the heat racing action with the sprint cars running two heats for their 15 car field. The super late models also had two heats for their 15 car field followed by three heats for the 17 car modified field, three heats for the steel block late models with the largest field of 19 cars and finally two heats for the 16 car four cylinder division. All heat racing was in the books by 9:43. A very short intermission which was promised by the announcer was taken and by 10:03 the 410 sprint cars were taking the green for their 25 lap feature event. It was a good entertaining race with Jamie Meyers setting the early pace. Meyers led until Wayne McPeek attempted a slide job that quite didn't clear the front end of Myers' machine with contact being made and sending Meyers out of control in turn four toward the infield where his brother, Chris, finished his front end off by running up and over it. McPeek would pace the field on the restart but all eyes were on Chris Meyers who started last and threw it up on the cushion moving forward in a hurry. Jason Dolick would dog McPeek the entire distance until Meyers appeared in second late in the race. A few laps later Meyers looped it in turn four and went to the back again. McPeek would go on to score his first sprint car win in 12 years of trying with Dolick second, Nathen Skaggs third, Dave Dickson fourth and Chris Meyers coming back to crack the top five at the end. We stayed for the 25 lap super late model feature which was competitive throughout with Tyler Carpenter holding off Jeff Burdette and Ronnie Mayle for the win. This one was over at 10:48 and with having a long day of driving and another one in the near future it was decided to call it an evening at this point having seen the top two divisions run their features though it was shaping up to be a good modified feature but we will never know. As you get older you need your rest more than you did when you were younger. Guess time is starting to catch up to us!!

     

    Check back shortly as we attend the eastern swing of the USAC midgets in Pennsylvania. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    A Swing Through Wisconsin Finished Off With Bob Darland Memorial At Kokomo

    Friday, August 5 - Since Pat has Friday summer hours at work we were able to leave early to make the five hour plus trip to Wisconsin to visit the Manitowoc County Expo Speedway. The reasoning for this was that it is the last year of racing at the 1/3 mile semi-banked clay oval located on the fairgrounds in the city of Manitowoc. It seems the city council members thought that it would be a better idea to sell the 29 acre facility to the Meijer store chain for $4 million rather than keep the grounds as a race track and county fair. The retired dairy farmer sitting behind us was not one of the people in favor or this plan and expressed his viewpoints to me. He felt that Manitowoc did not need a fifth box store joining Menards, Home Depot, Lowe's and Walmart in town and felt the selling price was way too low. The land had been gifted to the city and he felt that it was not right for them to turn around and sell it to boost the city coffers. Upon inspecting the facility for ourselves we were very surprised that the town was selling it also. The grounds were pristine and the entire acreage was in tip top shape. The race track itself was very nice looking with a metal guardrail around the entire outside of the surface, good looking clay, the pits located off the backstretch and a large covered grandstand with a concrete foundation with aluminum seats attached to the concrete. The car count was good also with 30 grand nationals, 16 sport modifieds, 18 street stocks, 11 modifieds and 18 sport fours. They also run 360 sprints here but this week was an off night for them. I won't go into detail but the racing was good and well run with the exception of them having to stop the cars every time there was a caution and manually realign them. They started on time near 7 and finished off a little after 11. The crowd was decent in numbers so you wonder what goes through the minds of our elected officials sometimes or in most cases much of the time. We were glad we took the time to visit for the first time and see this track before it closes in four more races. There is still time to visit Manitowoc before the bulldozers begin their work. It truly is a shame to lose yet another race track to commercial use.

     

    Saturday, August 6 - We had heard many good things about the Plymouth Dirt Track located on the grounds of the Sheboygan County Fair Park literally right in the middle of the town of Plymouth and at the end of the night we were not disappointed. Our Wisconsin racing buddy, Jack Erdmann, joined us in the huge covered grandstands with aluminum seats with backs on them for a night of open wheel racing featuring three divisions. The Interstate Racing Association (IRA) 410 winged sprints (30) would be joined by the PDTR winged 360 sprints (34) and the winged 600 cc mini sprints (12) for a fun night of open wheel racing. The 1/4 mile nicely banked clay oval was well groomed with the pits located outside turns three and four and the backstretch with a nice scoreboard located in turn one. The food is worth mentioning as I had a tasty brat while Pat feasted on a delicious grilled cheese sandwich with hamburger. Of course while in Wisconsin (which is famous for its beer drinking) you have to have a Leinenkugel Summer Shandy brewed in Chippewa Falls, WI.

     

    Activities cranked up at 6:34 with time trials for the IRA sprints with seven time IRA point champion, Bill Balog, a former resident of Alaska setting fast time of 12.222 seconds in the time trial session completed at 6:59. The green flag waved on the first of three IRA heats at 7:36 with defending IRA point champion, Bill Rose, winning heat one, Mike Reinke taking heat two and Phil Mock grabbing heat three. Two micro sprint heats were up next and then four 360 heats followed with all heat qualifying in the books by 8:35. The IRA sprints need one B main won by Ben Schmidt and the 360's ran two B mains with all qualifying wrapping up at 9:16.

     

    As should be the case at all dirt tracks in the US the top class ran their feature first as the IRA sprints went green at 9:31 for the 27 lap feature honoring the late Frank Filskov who's car number was 27. Bill Rose blasted to the lead from his first starting position when the green waved with Jeremy Schultz in hot pursuit. Meanwhile the action behind the two leaders was hot and heavy with fast timer Balog working his way to the front from the tenth spot after pulling the 10 pill before the feature. Blake Nimee was making some wild moves while battling with Mike Reinke for third. Schultz swept by Rose off of turn two racing on the second lap and started to pull away. Nimee and Reinke caught and passed Rose for second and third while Schultz increased his lead. Schultz picked his way through lap traffic beginning on lap 7 and the action continued until lap 15 when Matt Vandervere executed a 360 spin between turns one and two bringing out the caution. Meanwhile Bill Balog had worked his way to fifth and continued to move forward. Balog took fourth on lap 16 from Mock and went after Nimee who had slipped into third after battling with Reinke. Nimee spun in turn four while running third handing the spot over to Balog. A slider on Reinke on lap 21 secured second for Balog as he took up the hunt to track down leader Schultz with six to go. Balog was right behind Schultz as the pair took the white flag with Balog executing a fine slider in turn two to briefly take the lead but Schultz countered with a crossover exiting turn two to regain the lead as the duo raced down the backstretch and entered turn three and four where Schultz was able to hold off Balog for his first IRA win of the year. It was a good race and had the fans yelling and screaming over the final six laps. Schultz garnered the win on his father's 59th birthday and it surely was a nice present for his son to give to him. Balog ended up second with Reinke third, Mock fourth and Ken Jay Fiedler turning in an impressive performance to nail down fifth with the checkered waving at 9:46. The PDTR 360 sprints were next up for their 25 lapper with second generation driver, Donny Goeden, moving from his fourth starting position to dominate this event. The track was going away so passing was limited with sixth starter, Danny Schlafer, able to move to second with Kevin Karnitz starting and finishing third while Justin Miller took fourth with Rusty Egan rounding out the top five. This one was over by 10:17 and we decided to stay while Jack headed for the exits and the ride back to the Green Bay area. We started to question our decision to stay for the micro sprints as they had a rough time getting started before sorting things out. After one false start and two other cautions the 15 lap distance then went non-stop with Zach Boden taking the win over Tory Strauss and Chad Bogar. The entire show was in the books by 10:30, a well run program. We exited the fairgrounds and made our way south toward the Milwaukee area as Pat checked out Twitter to see what was happening in other racing circles. That's when she discovered the request from several people to keep Bryan Clauson in prayer as he crashed hard at Belleville while leading the Belleville National midget final. We hoped and prayed for the best as news slowly filtered in as we drove south.

    Sunday, August 7 - i awoke early and my first concern was the condition of Bryan Clauson. I was not able to find out much as we traveled south to Kokomo so we just kept praying for the best. We arrived at Kokomo Speedway at 5:25 to find a somber crowd on hand as everyone was worried and concerned. But the show must go on and tonight it was the Bob Darland Memorial and the weather was perfect; bright blue skies with big puffy white clouds and temps in the mid 80's. The track looked to be in great condition and at 6:20 warm-ups began. There were only 21 sprints in the pits but there was a lot of quality. There were three heats with all cars qualifying and after the first took the green at 6:53 only 13 minutes passed before Robert Ballou, Thomas Meseraull and Kevin Thomas Jr. had their names in the book as heat winners. The other two division on the agenda were the thundercars running two heats and the hornets only requiring one heat. By 7:20 all qualifying was complete and it looked to be another night when the lights would not need to be turned on here at Kokomo.

     

    There was a brief intermission and the green dropped on the 30 lap Bob Darland Memorial prior to 8 PM at 7:58. Meseraull jumped out to a big lead in a race that looked like it might go nonstop. As Meseraull caught the end of the pack second place Andretti started to close the gap. Every lap he was gaining and by lap 22 he showed Meseraull his front bumper. Just as it was really going to get good the caution came out for CJ Leary who slowed in turn 4. With 7 laps remaining it was a whole new race as third running Robert Ballou was also now in the mix. The caution came out once more on lap 29 when Shane Cottle spun in turn two after making his way up to 5th from his 15th starting position. On the restart the flagger waved the green and white and although Meseraull was not to be passed, Andretti gave it one heck of a try. At the finish it was Meseraull by a few feet over Andretti and Ballou. Max McGhee and Kevin Thomas Jr. rounded out the top 5. it was avery good race on a great track surface. The sprint feature was over at 8:11. We stayed to watch the thundercars then headed to the gates.

     

    All the way home our thoughts were with Bryan Clauson and the first thing I did Monday morning before getting out of bed was to check twitter on my phone only to learn the tragic news of his passing. After following racing all my life, I have unfortunately seen where many drivers have lost their lives while participating in the sport I love. But I can tell you none of them had affected me as this one did. My eyes burned by the end of the day from all the tears I shed everytime I read another tribute on Facebook or Twitter. Sometimes we do not understand why we just have to trust in God.

     

    Next column is one race on the weekend in Indiana before we start to make our way east to Pennsylvania to take in an Eastern swing of the USAC midgets for four straight nights. Hope the weather cooperates for the travelers and the PA fans who want to see the mighty midgets run. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Memories Of Bryan Clauson

    As I sit on the back porch at our house looking out over the newly mowed lawn and feeling a gentle breeze stirring the leaves on the trees and the plants it seems like any other normal sunny Monday morning except when I think of the news that Pat relayed to me upon waking the day does not seem as pleasant or sunny as before. That reasoning being that he is gone. Who you say? One of the most versatile drivers of our times who was both exciting and fun to watch wheel a sprint car either winged or wingless, a midget, a stock car or even an Indy car left us on Sunday after a fierce battle for his life just like he exhibited each and every time he climbed behind the wheel of his race car. Bryan Clauson, 27, left us much too early and left many of us with an emptiness and a deep sorrow that will take quite a while to heal. Our heartfelt condolences go out to his fiancée, Lauren, and the entire Clauson and Stewart families in their time of loss and sorrow.

     

    What I am going to try to share with you are some of our recent memories of Bryan and his racing over the last few months with a few random thoughts thrown into the mix. The last race we saw Bryan run was during Indiana Sprint Week at Lawrenceburg in July and wouldn't you know it he set fast time and went out and won the feature that evening! What we always loved about Bryan was his determination and if one thing didn't work he looked for another way or another line to make it work. Recently at Kokomo we dropped by the t-shirt trailer and not only did we get to see Lauren we were treated to Bryan fussing with Brady and Xia Xianna Bacon's young daughter, Levany. Pat's comment to Bryan on practicing for the future brought a nervous laugh and a big smile. And we can't go any further and not mention the Clauson "kids", Chevy and Stewart, who are a delight to visit with. Hey, Miss Chevy even has her own Twitter account with a following of 4000 which two of them are Pat and I. Always enjoyed seeing Chevy's Twitter of "Barked It" when daddy parked it in victory lane. Cherished memories that will last a lifetime.

     

    Or how about the streak that Bryan strung together when he won four straight sprint car features starting with the second half of the Indiana Double at Kokomo and following with sprint car victories in the first three nights of Indiana Midget Week with stops at Montpelier, Gas City and Lincoln Park. Couple that with three straight seconds in midget action with a third the fourth night! Then he started up another sprint car streak winning at Kokomo again before heading east for the Eastern Storm winning at Grandview and Lincoln and coming home third at New Egypt. Bryan then traveled to the famed Williams Grove Speedway for the first Silver Crown race in 35 years there where he finished second after making it very interesting in the last two laps tracking down Chris Windom who had a straightway lead and being able to attempt a slide job entering turn one on the white flag lap for the lead. He realized the attempt was going to fall short and aborted the try and had to settle for second. The next night at Port Royal Bryan showed his prowess taking a sprinter that was not the fastest and still being able to park it in victory lane after starting 11th. Another amazing day was the Indiana Double where we joined about 120 of our friends taking in both the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the Kokomo Klassic that night at Kokomo. Who will ever forget the roar from our section when Bryan was able to lead three laps of the 500 before barking it in victory lane that night at Kokomo. And after all that Bryan was gracious enough to come out to the bus area and sign autographs and take pictures with everyone who wanted to do so. The top off the day Bryan and Lauren boarded every bus and personally thank everyone for joining them on this special day and being a part of it. Priceless!!

     

    Was there anybody better at running the inside at Kokomo then Bryan? I don't think so in my humble opinion. Or how about a loving daddy holding his Chevy up by the air conditioning unit in the motorhome to cool her off. Or the one signing an autograph for a little fan and saying a few words or visiting sick kids to lift up their day. How about the night in April in Jacksonville during the MOWA sprint feature when he flipped wildly on the homestretch battling for the lead and then coming back in the nightcap POWRi midgets to run second to Rico Abreu. Bryan always seem to run Bloomington good and his slicing through the field from 11th to win in April was a clinic in driving the 1/4 mile red clay bowl to perfection beating his buddy, Brady Bacon to the wire. Who will forget the stalking Clauson at Brownstown waiting to pounce when Robert Ballou and Kyle Cummins tangled and he slipped by to win! Thinking back to February in Florida on consecutive nights when on the first night he charged from 17th to finish 4th and night two when he was leading on lap 22 and the abrasive surface took a toll on his right rear and blew forcing him to the rear with eight to go. He blasted from the rear to 7th in eight laps and if the race had been longer he would have been back up front. Who will forget his Chili Bowl midget win in 2014. This year was going to be a special year for Bryan as he was attempting the Insanity Tour where he was going to try to run 200 open wheel races and Belleville, night two, was race #116. Along the way he had amassed 27 victories and was the leading open wheel winner in the country. His last one came on August 3rd in a midget at Solomon Valley in Kansas. He also scored his first All Star Circuit of Champions win during Ohio Speedweek at Sharon Speedway. It was a big winged sprint car victory for him as he improved driving with the foil on top.

     

    That is just one year of memories of Bryan Clauson's racing career and I might sound selfish with this statement but I am glad that the NASCAR thing didn't pan out and we all got a chance to see one of the best wingless drivers in the country race week in and week out entertain us and give us memories that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives. They say writing can be good therapy and I feel somewhat better after putting these words to print but there will be a void for the foreseeable future. If this column stirred up some of your Bryan Clauson memories write us and share them with us. We could pass them on in a future column to let the racing world know how much of an impact Bryan Clauson made on a lot of people along the way. Drop us your memories at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

    Not only was Bryan Clauson a great racer (check the record books for his accomplishments) he was a fine person and a great ambassador for the sport of racing. And in an ironic final note just as Rich Vogler had in 1990 when he was fatally injured at Salem while leading so was the case for Bryan Clauson in 2016 while leading at Belleville. Rest in peace young man and know that you touched many people's lives in a positive way and you will be sorely missed. God Speed, Bryan.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    BOSS Rainout At Twin Cities & MSSA & UMRA At Morgan County

    Friday, July 29 - The Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series (BOSS) was running a Friday/Saturday doubleheader at Twin Cities in North Vernon and Lawrenceburg on Saturday. We decided to take in the Friday night portion of the doubleheader and headed to Twin Cities for the first time since July 23rd of 1998. Fifteen dollars got you in the front gate for the tripleheader of BOSS sprints, UMRA TQ's and pure stocks. We arrived at 5:30 under partly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid 80's. I secured us a seat in the top row in front of the official's tower on the homestretch and went back to the car to hang out a while and read an edition of AARN. A great field of 40 wingless sprinters were on hand as they had engine heating push offs around 7:30. Hot laps were about to begin when it started to sprinkle. The rain started to pick up more as we decided to head underneath the grandstands to wait out the rain. It rained very hard for about 10 minutes with the amazing part of it all being that the sun was out the entire time. We headed for the car as it would be some time before the track was in shape again to race and on our way out our buddy, Phil, tooted from his van and we joined him there. About fifteen minutes later the bad news came that the night was a washout as it was probably the correct call as to run in the track would have taken about an hour and a half and the show would have been way too late before it was over. Besides on the other side of town after leaving we ran into another shower which indeed would have put the final nail in the coffin. Some nights you are the windshield and some nights you are the bug. Tonight was a bug night!

     

    Saturday, July 30 - Tonight was a trip to Martinsville, IN to the Morgan County Fair, the site of a 1/5 mile flat clay oval which was hosting the MMSA mini sprints and the UMRA/King Of the TQ's. It was $3 to park and another $10 per person to enter the nice aluminum grandstands that stretched the entire length of the back stretch into turn three. Metal guardrail circled the track except in the turn four area which was open to allow car push offs and access for track equipment and emergency vehicles. We purchased pork barbeque sandwiches and meat nachos from the local 4-H group before settling in for the night of racing. We didn't settle in for long as time trials for both divisions were next on the agenda so we headed back into the fair area and purchased some homemade ice cream and strawberry waffles made by the fire company and a local business. Time trials started at 7:32 and wrapped up at 8:15. Next were two dash for cash events for each division with $200 to win them. Finally at 8:49 the first heat race of the evening began over an hour after the time trials began. It was truly a big disappointment as last Friday's program was completed in an hour and a half and tonight's program was already over an hour into the show and not one heat had been run. The MMSA mini sprints brought 23 to the dance as did the UMRA TQ's. After the heats were completed at 9:41 one B main was needed for each division to pare down the starting fields to 20 each.

     

    The UMRA TQ 20 lap feature took the green flag at 10:19 with Jason Goff jumping out front. Goff would lead the entire distance but was constantly dogged by Nick Speidel who ended up second with Howard McCormick winding up third. Callie Wolsiffer took fourth from Johnny Goff on the last lap with Goff settling for fifth. This feature was pretty good and was spun off in ten minutes. The 25 lap Don Dorsett Memorial race for the MMSA group was next. Dorsett was a local racer for many years supporting the mini sprints and his son and grandson would participate in this event. Dave Dorsett would take the lead from second on the start and pace the first 13 laps until being passed in traffic by his son, Drew. Three laps later the older Dorsett was involved in a crash on the homestretch with several other runners in the top five and had to go to the back of the field. Now the pressure was on the younger Dorsett to uphold the family name and uphold he did. Drew Dorsett was able to hold off his teammate, Rod Henning, for the emotional and popular win with fast timer, Brandon Smith, taking third with Kentucky's Lynn Ambrose fourth and Scott Bradley rounding out the top five. The final checker waved at 10:53, entirely too late for a two division show on a 1/5 mile oval. The two programs in two weekends were like night and day with the latter being a big disappointment taking almost 3 1/2 hours to run.

     

    Next week finds us taking a journey into the Badger state taking in two races at two new tracks before traveling back into Indiana to the badest bullring in the country. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing wherever you may be and stay cool. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast net

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

     

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

     

    County Fair Racing at Monroe Co. & Racing From Lincoln Park

     

    Friday, July 22 - The weather in Indiana continues to be miserable with temperatures in the 90's and the heat index in triple figures. Walking outside from the air conditioned house is like walking into an oven! Some tracks in Indiana and Michigan had already cancelled for Saturday due to the extreme heat. One track that was still running on this Friday evening was the Monroe County Fair in Bloomington, IN where a doubleheader of MMSA winged mini sprints and wingless UMRA/King Of TQ's would be running on the 1/6 mile dirt oval at the fairgrounds. We arrived around 6 for the scheduled 7 PM start giving us some time to wander the barns of the fairgrounds viewing the sheep and goats before the ticket booth opened. Tickets for the fair race were $10 and as we entered the race track grounds we were pleasantly surprised to see a nice looking 1/6 mile dirt oval with metal guardrail fencing and additional protective fencing. There were a nice series of aluminum grandstands stretching the entire length of the homestretch with two additional aluminum bleachers located in turns one and two. The pit area was located on the grounds outside of turns three and four which left an unobstructed view of the entire track. In a good move the clubs pushed the starting time back a half hour because of the heat with the first heat taking the green at 7:32.

     

    The mini sprints ran their heats first with Bob Griffitts, Brad Strunk and Rod Henning prevailing as the mini sprints struggled on the 1/6 mile which was a little tight for them. The track in contrast was a perfect size for the TQ midgets with Stephen Arnold Robbie Roland and Jason Goff winning their respective races. No B mains were needed and all qualifying was completed in 30 minutes. The 20 lap MMSA mini sprint feature would be first and they didn't make it further than turn one when a multi-car crash occurred. Two other quick cautions happened and the field was down to 15 cars with no laps completed. With the field pared down by five the rest of the race went non-stop and ended up being a pretty decent race. Brad Strunk took the win from the first starting spot with point leader, Scott Bradley, advancing from seventh to finish second with brother, Andy Bradley, third, Colin Parker came home fourth with Rod Henning rounding out the top five. The 20 lap UMRA/King of TQ's feature would take the green at 9:02 with Caleb Faulkner taking the early lead. Robbie Roland would quickly move into second and over the course of the race pressured Faulkner high and low and made some good runs at him but could not quite pull off a pass for the lead. The racing was hard and fast with the checker falling just 15 minutes later. Stephen Arnold would chase the top two to the line taking third with Aaron Percell finishing fourth and Nick Speidel filling out the top five.

     

    It was an enjoyable fast paced program completed in one hour and 45 minutes which both the fans and competitors appreciated. The features were very good and a return trip next year would be a good possibility. A nice touch by the MMSA group was at intermission they gave away a side panel from one of the competitors signed by numerous drivers, some autographed front wings and some t-shirts. Boy, that side panel would have looked good on one of the walls of our race room at the house.

     

    Saturday, July 23 – Like the sign I saw on Facebook read, "Satan called and he wants his weather back." Yes, it was as hot as hell with the heat index up around 106 but that did not stop them from running her in Indiana and it did not stop us from going to Lincoln Park. The starting time was pushed back by an hour to let the sun set a bit lower in the sky but then the sun does not set until after 9:00 here in the western part of Indiana. We arrived at 6:30 and the crowd was a little bit down. The car count was down but that was expected with several additional tracks running the wingless sprints tonight. I want to thank the Spikers for allowing coolers at Lincoln Park as we took our larger cooler packed with water. The track looked to be in awesome condition and at 7:15 warm-ups began with the first heat taking the green at 8:10.

     

    As mentioned above the car count was down a bit and the 18 sprints ran 2 10 lap heats with all cars qualifying. Modifieds followed and were the only division requiring a B main. They numbered 24. Super Stocks ran 3 heats for their total of 19 cars and the bombers well they are always plentiful with three heats for the 26 cars. The heats were run off quickly with little to do and the 11 events were in the books prior to 9:00. There was a slight break for some track prep before the modified B main and at the conclusion they were calling out the sprints for their 25 lap A main event.

     

    At 9:40 the green dropped and on lap 8 the red came out. Casey Shuman exited turn 4 into the grass and was on fire. It was a brief fire but fire is always scary. Casey was fine but his drive was over for the night. Racing resumed and would stay green until lap 15 when Jadon Rogers spun coming out of turn four. At this point Thomas Meseraull was leading with Brent Beauchamp on his rear bumper. As racing resumed Beauchamp slide past Meseraull in four with a perfect slide job only to have Meseraull return the favorite in turn two. Here we go!! But, the caution came when JJ Hughes spun the #76. On the restart it was a red when Jeff Bland and Mario Clouser connected send Clouser on his cage. Again we would see slide jobs on both end of the track between Meseraull and Beauchamp before Beauchamp checked out. While all of this was happening AJ Hopkins came on the scene and was pressuring Meseraull for second. However in my opinion Meseraull rode Hopkins high up on the cushion in turn four causing the #14 to temporarily show off and relegating Hopkins out of the top 5. In the end it was a very happy Beauchamp in victory lane with his second win in the past 2 weekends. The checkered fell at 10:05 and following Beauchamp and Meseraull were Kevin Thomas Jr., Shane Cockrum and Tyler Thomas. The track was dust free and aside from the extreme heat it was a good night of racing.

     

    We left at 11:00 after watching Derek Groomer pick up is third modified win in a row and Nathan Newgent pick up his first career win in the super stocks.

     

    Next weekend finds us visiting a track we have not been to in to in 18 years and another county fair provides a new racing venue for us. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area and stay cool if possible. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Rain, Lincoln Park, Bloomington & Fairbury

    Wednesday, July 13 - The plan was to go to Terre Haute for the fourth race of Indiana Sprint Week & meet Gordy Killian and Dan Cohen there. The weather was not looking good so our 4 PM departure was put on hold when a call from Gordy said to sit tight as they were already there and it did not look good for running the race tonight. So we sat in our comfy living room awaiting the call that came at 4:50 informing us that Terre Haute was rained out. Dan and Gordy would venture north to Crawfordsville and we would all go out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant, Little Mexico. So while waiting for our guests to arrive I posted the bad news on Indiana Open Wheel and snuggled a little more into my seat until it was time to leave to go to dinner.

     

    Thursday, July 14 - The heavy rain that washed out Terre Haute Wednesday dumped 5, yes 5 inches of rain on Lincoln Park Speedway. Lincoln Park was scheduled to run Thursday and even though the skies were sunny there was some doubt as to whether Joe Spiker would have the track ready in time for the nights’ activities. We had two house guests, good friend Gordy Killian and his neighbor Dan Cohen, both from Pennsylvania. This was Dan’s first time staying at 511 West Main Street but Gordy already has a bedroom he calls his. Bruce, Gordy and Dan left the house around 11:30 in the morning to travel down to Lincoln Park to set up our chairs and secure our seats. There was another reason, the Spiker’s have a bar-b-que in the afternoon and it is free to anyone that wants to partake. So in addition to securing the seats they filled their stomachs on a little bit of everything and as I understand it there was a lot of everything. Of course, I was at home working as I work remotely from home and this was not a vacation day. Bruce did sneak me back a hamburger. The only negative thing I heard was that the second turn was still under several inches of water when they left to come back up to Crawfordsville.

     

    The second time we left for Lincoln Park it was 4:30 and this time I was part of the traveling show. On the way down we talked about how they probably would not start on time and that the track might be a bit rough. It was 5:15 when we pulled into the already crowded parking lot and made our own parking space behind the souvenir trailers. When we entered the speedway the track did not look bad and to our surprise hot laps started promptly at 6:15 and the first car took time at 6:34, earlier then the three previous nights of ISW. The sun was shining brightly and "Sunshine" Tyler Courtney set fast time. The only other division on the card were the super stocks and their hot laps followed. There were only 17 super stocks in the pits and they would run two 8 lap heats and a 20 lap feature. It was a perfect division to accompany the sprints which were 49 strong.

     

    The sprint heats saw two flips, Tom Harris in heat 1 and Cole Ketchum in heat 3. The second heat was loaded with stars and Hunter Schuerenberg, Jon Stanbrough and Kyle Cummins found themselves going to the B Main. The second heat was won by Thomas Meseraull in his new ISW ride, the Landon Simon #24. Stanbrough took over the Amati #66 for the remainder of ISW. Not really sure exactly what happened but it did not appear to be amicable. Heats were won by the normal cast of characters; Courtney, Messeraull, Brady Short and Robert Ballou. This was the first time we saw Short, as he did not participate in the first three ISW events. However, Lincoln Park is Short’s regular Saturday stint.

     

    Heats for the sprints were over by 9:00 and in the next 50 minutes they ran off the super stock heats; the sprint C main where Josh Hodges put on a show coming from 17th to 4th; the super stock 20 lap main won by Josh Boler with Steve Peeden second and the sprint B main qualifying the final 6 of Tyler Thomas, Max McGhee, Hunter Schurenberg, Jerry Coons Jr., Shane Cottle and Jon Stanbrough.

    The green dropped at 10:30 on the main event with Dave Darland and Chase Stockon started in the front row. But it was the driver that started in 11th that all eyes were on in the beginning laps. Brady Short said this is my house and I will show you how it is done at Lincoln Park. He promptly picked them off one by one and on lap 12 passed Mr. Darland on the backstretch to take the lead and never looked back. It was like he was in a different time zone as he stretched his lead with every passing lap. If you only watch the leader this would have been a boring race. This is why a good race fan watches where the action is and the action was hot and heavy from 2nd to 8th. Several top 5 driver were relegated backward during the final circuits. Dave Darland who was running a solid top three all race did not finish in the top 5 and Brent Beauchamp another front runner found himself in the mud off turn two with only three laps remaining. In the end Brady Short picked up his 2nd career ISW win as he showed them all how to get around the high banked 5/16 mile. Chase Stockon was second, with Chad Boespflug, Robert Ballou and Thomas Meseraull running out the top 5.

     

    We thought it was going to be a late night with bad track conditions. The final checkered fell at 10:59 on a track that held up pretty darn good after being covered in 5 inches of rain the previous night. Hats off to Joe Spiker and his track crew for a job well done.

     

     

    Friday, July 15 - The gang headed southeast to the home of Indiana University, Bloomington, for night five of Indiana Sprint Week. We decided to try securing seating in lawn chairs on the hill overlooking turn four and were successful in our quest sitting high above the entire 1/4 mile track. We met one of Indiana Open Wheel's good contributors, Jen Morgan (a.k.a. Wildman92) and enjoyed our chat with her. Also we sat next to a nice couple from Alabama, Jay and Laura Jenkins , who we enjoyed chatting with the entire evening between racing. Forty eight USAC sprinters packed the backstretch pit area along with sixteen Racesaver 305 sprints acting as the filler division on this evening for the Sheldon Kinser Memorial race. Time trials kicked off at 6:58 and by 7:23 Chad Boespflug was $100 richer setting fast time with a new track record of 10.737 seconds around the 1/4 mile. Four heats would be run tonight with the first one taking the green at 7:46. Chris Windom ran away with heat one beating Brandon Mattox, Chad Boespflug and A.J. Hopkins who turned in a very good performance using the high side to his advantage. Heat two saw Chase Stockon take the win over Dave Darland, Robert Ballou and Brady Short slipping from second to fourth after dominating the feature the night before at Lincoln Park. Logan Jarrett would win heat three topping Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp and Josh Hodges in a good run. ISW point leader, Tyler Courtney, took a wild ride in heat four sailing off turn two and barrel rolling six to eight times before coming to rest. Courtney was OK but the Topps crew had to go to a backup car for the rest of the evening. Hunter Schuerenberg claimed heat four turning back Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons Jr. and C.J. Leary in this one. The 305 sprints only needed two heats with Luke Bland and Dakota Jackson who does double duty in the 305's and the wingless sprints on a regular basis. The sprint C main was next up and Jon Stanbrough brought the Amati Racing #66 home first over Cole Smith, Riley Kreisel from Missouri and Dylan Chambers who all advanced to the B main. Eighteen cars answered the bell for the B with Kevin Thomas Jr. taking home the win over Thomas Meseraull in his new ride in the Landon Simon #24, Tyler Thomas, Jarett Andretti, Dakota Jackson and Jordan Kinser.

     

    The 20 lap 305 sprint feature would go first with Ryan Tusing taking off from the front row and never being challenged winning the 10 minute feature over Dakota Jackson who advanced from tenth with Luke Bland third, Kendall Ruble fourth and Jared Fox rounding out the top five. The 30 lap USAC sprint car feature was given the green at 9:50 with Dave Darland moving from his first starting position into the early lead. Brent Beauchamp followed him through and the two ran side by side for the first eight laps exchanging the lead a dozen times though only three official lead changes were recorded at the start/finish line. It was Darland up top and Beauchamp was working the low side during this entertaining battle for the top spot. Beauchamp got a good run down low off turn four and took the lead entering turn one on lap 9 and would hold the lead until Chase Stockon slowed in turn two on lap 15 to bring out the first caution of the feature. On the restart Darland climbed back up top and wrestled the lead back from Beauchamp to complete lap 16. Beauchamp regained the lead on lap 17 but Darland prevailed on laps 18 & 19 before Beauchamp took it back again on lap 20. The top went totally away in turn two slowing Darland's momentum allowing Beauchamp to distance himself from the field over the last ten laps. Brady Bacon would slip by Darland on the last lap to notch second with Darland finishing third, Kevin Thomas Jr. claiming fourth with Thomas Meseraull bringing the Simon #24 home fifth for the second straight night. Beauchamp would become the third 1st time winner in ISW and USAC National sprint car competition joining Tyler Courtney and Kyle Cummins. This race also featured the most lead changes in USAC National sprint car action in 15 years! Also in another race note Tyler Courtney did not make the starting field thus surrending the point lead to Brady Bacon. It was truly an epic battle for the lead and sent the crowd home happy on this warm summer evening.

     

    Saturday, July 16 - This date was one of those that you had circled on the calendar from the time the various racing schedules came out during the offseason. No it was not Indiana Sprint Week at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt but instead the first ever appearance of the POWRi midgets at the historic Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois. Fairbury is deep in late model country in the midwest so the appearance of the midgets was a rarity here. We arrived early and scoped out the facility. Fairbury is a 1/3 mile semi-bank beautiful black clay oval with an old wooden grandstand with a roof on the homestretch with a newer aluminum one next to it replacing a former wooden grandstand with a roof. On the backstretch are two new aluminum grandstands flanked by two smaller ones. The pit area is located outside of turns three and four leaving an obstructed view of the entire track. The racing card featured three divisions: POWRi midgets (22), super late models (20) and UMP modifieds (20). Of course in Illinois it seems all or most of the divisions time trial so time trials were run for the modifieds and super late models running two cars at a time. That is good as it only took 30 minutes to time trial two classes. POWRi does not run time trials but heats with passing points instead with three competitive heats spun off. Tanner Thorson executed a not so great slide job entering turn four on the last lap to edge Garrett Aiken for the win in heat one with Aiken showing his displeasure after the checkered waved. Heat two was won by Zach Daum with heat three scored by Carson Macedo. Two heats were run for the modifieds and three heats for the super late models. No B mains or consies were necessary with all qualifying completed by 8:34. After some track maintenance it was feature time with the POWRi midgets going to the post first.

     

    Tanner Thorson took the lead at the drop of the green flag with Zach Daum in close pursuit. Daum took the top spot away on lap five and two laps later Ryan Robinson, one of the Keith Kuntz stable drivers, took a vicious flip after smacking the homestretch wall and barrel rolling several times near the starter's stand. Robinson was taken off on a back board and stretcher but was later announced as OK. Daum and Thorson went back to work with Aitken in tow until Thorson retook the lead on the backstretch on lap 15. On lap 20 Thorson shot to the right after entering turn one and slammed the turn one wall flipping over with fourth and fifth place runners, Carson Macedo and Justin Peck flipping also. Thorson and Peck were done for the evening but Macedo was able to return. Aitken pressured Daum on the restart but Daum was up to the challenge and fended off all the advances. Meanwhile Tucker Klaasmeyer had sliced his way from 22nd and last starting position up to third with two to go when he ran up the turn one wall hard but never flipped. On the restart Spencer Bayston picked off Aitken for second but Daum had him covered as the Pocahontas, IL driver flashed under the checkered at 9:47 for his 15th career POWRi midget win. Bayston came home second, Aitken was third with Carson Macedo working his way back to fourth with Jake Neuman rounding out the top five. It was a good race with some good performances by various drivers. The UMP modifieds was a good feature with Mike McKinney winning and the super late models put on a heck of a race up front with point leader, Kevin Weaver, prevailing over McKay Wenger who led many laps before bobbling on the backstretch with just a few laps to go with Frank Heckenast Jr. finishing third.

     

    It was a very good night of racing at Fairbury and even though we would have liked to have been at Haubstadt we think we made the right choice on this one. We would definelty return to Fairbury again especially if the POWRi midgets were on the card.

     

    Until next weekend get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area or take a road trip but enjoy yourself wherever you end up. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    The First Weekend Of Indiana Sprint Week

     

    Friday, July 8 - It is hot, humid and there is a chance of thunderstorms, must be Indiana Sprint Week! That time of the year when race fans from all areas of the country and the world to be exact converge on the Hoosier State to see some of the best wingless sprint car racing you will ever see. The 29th Annual Indiana Sprint Week started at Gas City on Friday July 8 before a packed house of fans and no one left disappointed. Well, if they did they should stop going to the races. As our friend Jeff Ahlum would say it was Wow, Wow Wow!!

     

    Luckily work ends early on Fridays in the summer and Bruce and I were on the road by 3:10 and pulling into an already full parking lot at 5:15. Good friend Roger Ferrell saved us seats and by 6:15 the first of 5 hot lap sessions was on the track for the 47, yes 47 sprints that graced the pit area. Brady Bacon set fast time and although his time of 12.175 did not come close to the record of 11.441 held by Thomas Meseraull, he never lifted his foot as a circled the ¼ mile. UMP Modified warmups followed and the first of four heats for the sprints took to the track at 7:40.

     

    Heats were only 10 laps and the car counts were 12, 12, 12 and 11 with only the top 4 making it to the A main. Each heat was like a mini feature as the inversion had quite a few of the top runners not making the A through their heats. Chad Boespflug made an impressive run during the fourth heat when he had to go to the rear after bringing out the caution on lap 1 and came back up through the pack to finish 4th.

     

    The modifieds ran four heats for the 34 cars and the sprint C main followed. The C main had 17 cars fighting for 4 spots to make it into the B. The competition was fierce and The People’s Champ, Dave Darland, had to settle for second in the C main. This transferred him to the B main but he would need to take a provisional to get into the main event. Two B mains for the modifieds were next and then a B main for the sprints that could match any top main event in the country. Making the move from the B to the A main were Kevin Thomas Jr., Chris Windom, Jarett Andretti from 15th to 3rd and Justin Grant. Immediately following was the modified A main won by Brian Post with Tony Anderson finishing second.

     

    It was 10:11 when the A main went green and the caution flew almost immediately as Tyler Courtney spun in turn 4 and would restart in the rear of the 24 car field. The track was good and the racing was better. There was excellent racing up front as the cars jockeyed for positions. Laps 9 and 10 produced the next two cautions and when green flag action resumed Bryan Clauson took the lead and later the same lap Brady Bacon moved into second and was coming fast. Unfortunately Bacon would jump the cushion in turn 4 a couple of laps later and be relegated back to 8th. Meseraull brought out the final caution on lap 23 when he spun in four and there would be a 7 lap dash to the end. Be wait who was that car in second. Must fans did not even realize he was not lapped because they were watching the wild riding of the other up front cars. I only realized he was not a lapped car because Bruce kept hitting me and pointing to him during the green stretch of racing. It was "Sunshine" Tyler Courtney in the 23. Yes, the same Tyler Courtney that spun on lap one and went to the rear. He was just riding huggy pole around the bottom on the track. He looked like he was barely moving but he was passing them all. For the readers in Pennsylvania, think Donnie Kreitz. It is like all of a sudden he is up front and you are, "where did he come from?" On the restart it only took Courtney a little over one lap before he passed Clauson for the lead. Clauson remained on the high side and battled for second. Those final laps were classic. It was what every race fan hopes to see. The checkered waved over a flurry of sprints with Sunshine leading the way. "Sunshine" Tyler Courtney won his first ever USAC A main event and he went from 16th to 24th to 1st. It will be hard to top that performance. Clauson nipped Chris Windom for second and Shane Cottle and Brady Bacon rounded out the top 5. It was an excellent night of racing and all was complete by 10:30. It was Wow, Wow, Wow!!

     

    Saturday, July 9 - Night two would be contested at the second O'Connor promoted track, Kokomo Speedway, with another fine field of 47 sprinters joining 22 TQ midgets in the turn one and two pit area for tonight's show. Time trials commenced at 6:44 and wrapped up at 7:13 with last night's winner, Tyler Courtney, setting fast time of 13.069 seconds to win the $100 fast timer award. Four hotly contested sprint heats would follow with 12 cars (11 in the fourth heat) vying for the top four positions to punch their tickets to the A main. Heat one saw Chase Stockon winning over Thomas Meseraull, CJ Leary and Jerry Coons Jr. Brady Bacon nailed down heat two over Jarett Andretti, Robert Ballou and Kyle Cummins. Tyler Thomas, the new driver of the Jerry Burton #04, hauled in heat three over a tough field of Chris Windom, Bryan Clauson and Cole Ketchum. The last heat saw Joe Bares take a wild ride in turn three flipping wildly before coming to rest. He was OK. Chad Boespflug garnered the win over Shane Cottle, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Logan Jarrett. The King of the TQ's/UMARA TQ's ran three good heats before the sprint C main was spun off with Jeff Bland Jr. taking the win in this one. Next up was the 20 lap TQ feature and this one was a good one with Jason Setser winning his second race of the year over Jason Goff with young lady racer, Callie Wolsiffer, taking home a well deserved third. This race was one of the best performances by the TQ's that we have seen since moving to Indiana. The sprint B main was the last qualifying event to be run with the veteran Jon Stanbrough taking the win with five others joining him in the A main field.

     

    The 30 lap main event would take the initial green flag at 10:20 with outside front row man, Chris Windom, pouncing into the early lead. Cole Ketchum rolled to a quick stop in turn one on lap 3 to slow the event. The second caution appeared on lap 9 when Josh Hodges stopped in turn three. A four car pileup in turn two on lap 13 saw Tyler Thomas, Thomas Meseraull, Max McGhee and Jon Stanbrough involved. The first guy to break out of the pack was tenth starting Brady Bacon who cracked the top five at the lap 13 mark. On the restart Bacon spun in turn three with several others involved with Hunter Schuerenberg taking a light roll over in the incident. On the next restart Kyle Cummins began to make his presence known as he picked off car after car. Cummins moved into third on lap 18 and second one lap later. Lap 21 saw Cummins catch and pass Windom in turn three for the lead and going through turn four got sideways and corrected with contact made between himself and Windom with Windom spinning also taking with him Chase Stockon and Bryan Clauson. Under yellow Windom showed his displeasure with the racing incident cutting across Cummins' front end under caution. Cummins stuck to the inside on the restart with Robert Ballou right behind and Kevin Thomas Jr. up high. These three went at it in a battle royale running just inches apart over the last nine laps. A lap 28 three car tangle on the inside of turn four involving McGhee, Dave Darland and Aaron Farney set up a two lap shootout and the battle was on. Ballou was down as low as you can get against the inside tire markers while Thomas put his right rear up against the cushion all the way around with Cummins hanging low. Exiting turn four for the finish Ballou threw it underneath Cummins and raced him to the finish line falling about a foot short of stealing the win. Thomas rode home third with Jerry Coons Jr. marching from 22nd to 4th with Bacon with elbows up raced back for fifth. Cummins became the second straight first time USAC National sprint winner with the last time in sprint week happening back in 2008 when Brad Sweet and Brady Bacon winning their firsts. It was nice to see Kyle Cummins win his first national victory after many runs that just fell short. Another very good race to start off the first weekend of sprint week action.

     

    Sunday, July 10 - Tonight's destination was the Lawrenceburg Speedway for night three of Indiana Sprint Week but the trip there would take on a different pathway. Joe and Jill Spiker, promoters at the Lincoln Park Speedway, had offered a deal on the Indiana Open Wheel website to transport fans to Lawrenceburg via private coaches. There were no stipulations such as having to attend their Saturday night show of July 9th or so forth just fill out a form and send it to the email of Lincoln Park. Pat and I decided since it was only a 45 minute drive to Putnamville and a 2 1/2 hour drive to Lawrenceburg that we would rather drive 1 1/2 hours than 5 hours. So I sent in the form on Wednesday and an hour later a return email confirmed we had two seats on bus 2 heading to Lawrenceburg. Upon arrival at Lincoln Park we saw scores of people dressed in lime green t-shirts. Upon inquiring about all the t-shirts someone informed us that they were giving them out free to all the people taking the road trip. The t-shirt read: 2016 Indiana Sprint Week at the top with two sprint cars in the middle with Lincoln Park Speedway above the cars. On the bottom it read Lincoln Park 2016 road trip. So after changing our shirts and boarding the bus we were ready to go when Joe Spiker stepped on the bus, turned on the microphone and blew us all away when he announced that Lincoln Park would be paying everyone's admission into Lawrenceburg ($25) for us!!! WOW!! That was totally unexpected. Not only were you having someone provide free transportation on a comfortable bus to the trip wearing a free t-shirt but your admission was covered also. WOW!! I spoke with Joe later in the evening and asked him how and why he had put together this road trip. He explained that he and Jill like to do something for their loyal fans every year and came up with the road trip as they do not often get to go to other tracks during the year with everything going on operating their own track. This gave them and their fans a chance to do something different and have some fun to boot. Thank you Joe and Jill for the tremendous gesture shown to your loyal fans.

     

    Now onto the racing end of the story. We arrived before the gates opened and proceeded inside once the gates opened and secured our seats behind the starter's stand to view tonight's doubleheader of USAC sprint cars and UMP modifieds. Forty two sprints filled the pit area while the modified contingent brought in 26 cars. Sprint car time trials kicked off at 6:38 and were completed by 7:16 with Bryan Clauson setting fast time of 14.166 seconds around the 3/8 mile high banked dirt oval. Forty minutes later the four sprint car heats were ready to push off with only four to qualify out of the packed heat lineups. Brady Bacon driving the Hoffman #69 who were honored by a veterans group who designated them with the Purple Heart designation for contributions to veteran causes. Hunter Schuerenberg finished second in heat one followed by Jarett Andretti and Bryan Clauson. Heat two saw Nick Bilbee hold off a strong running Kyle Wissmiller, Tyler Courtney and Josh Hodges, the young New Mexico driver. Chris Windom driving the Baldwin Brothers #5 scored heat three over Zach Daum, Landon Simon and Justin Grant in the Phillips #71P. Heat four was interrupted by a two car flip at the end of the backstretch with Aaron Farney taking a nasty ride with Jamie Williams flipping after sliding into the infield area. All told four cars were involved in the crash. Jon Stanbrough would bring his own #81 home first over Dave Darland, Joss Moffatt and Logan Jarrett. Three modified heats followed and then right into the C main won by Chad Boespflug. The modifieds and sprinters ran B mains also with CJ Leary prevailing in the sprint car portion. The green would wave on the 30 lap sprint car feature at 10:01 with Schuerenberg taking the Epperson #2E to the front of the field. Kyle Wissmiller brought out a quick caution with a spin into the infield in turn two on lap one. On the restart Schuerenberg went back out front but Bryan Clauson quickly moved from sixth to second by lap two. Clauson took the lead at the line to start lap six but it was negated when Jarett Andretti stopped on the homestretch. Clauson dove low into turn one on the restart and took the lead sliding in front of Schuerenberg on lap six. Josh Hodges began to dog Clauson making several attempts to find a way around the speedy Clauson. Clauson eventually began to open up the gap with Tyler Courtney executing a slide job on Schuerenberg for third with eight to go and the same move on Hodges for second with five to go. With just three laps to go the Epperson #2E gave up the ghost in a bellow of smoke dropping Schuerenberg out of the race while running third. When the green dropped again Clauson made sure there was no repeat of Friday's finish at Gas City pulling away from Courtney and racing to the double checkers at 10:27 winning over Courtney, Chris Windom, CJ Leary up from tenth and Hodges. Justin Grant led the second five chased by Bacon, Kyle Cummins nipping Robert Ballou at the wire for eighth after starting 21st while Ballou started 22nd with Kevin Thomas Jr. rounding out the top five. That was Clauson's seventh USAC sprint win of the year and his 41st career USAC sprint win passing Gary Bettenhausen for seventh on the all time sprint list. It was also his 111th career USAC sanctioned race win moving him into fifth on the all time list behind Rich Vogler (171), A.J. Foyt (162), Sleepy Tripp (161) and Mel Kenyon (131).

    After watching a good modified feature won by Joey Kramer over Scotty Kincaid and Tony Anderson which only took 10 minutes it was back to the bus and northwest to Lincoln Park to pick up the car and head home for some sleep.

    Check back soon for the conclusion of ISW with racing at Terre Haute, Lincoln Park, Bloomington and Haubstadt. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Quotes and comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Tony Elliott Tribute Race At Plymouth & WMRA Midgets From South Sound

    Tuesday, June 21 - Gordy Killian called to say he was going to Plymouth Speedway on Tuesday on his way to a few days of racing in Michigan so we decided to join him for the evening. On tap was the Tony Elliott Tribute Race for the wingless sprints along with the pro sprints (crate engine sprints) and the UMP modifieds. Plymouth continues to make many changes to the facility and the newest one is a high rise aluminum grandstand the entire length of the homestretch with individual seats. They are trying their best to upgrade the entire facility but their next order of business should be hauling in some black clay from Illinois for the surface as this continues to be the weak spot of the entire operation. Early on you could tell it was going to be dry and dusty and it was not a surprise when it turned so. The racing surface is the most important aspect of a good race track and Plymouth needs to address this issue if they want fans to travel to their race track. The best part of the evening was having the mother of Tony Elliott sitting right behind us and commenting on my Paul Hazen racing shirt. This got the conversation going as she told us that her husband was the first for Paul Hazen and they won track championships in the first three years that they raced together. Then her husband was killed in a motorcycle accident and now last year her son, Tony, was killed in a plane crash. What a way to lose two members of your family in such tragic ways! She is a strong lady and continues on and that is a testament to her and her family.

     

    Action started up at 7:18 with two heats for the disappointing 14 car wingless sprint car field as it is a shame that more teams did not come out for the event but many were getting ready for USAC's trip to Minnesota and beyond and it was a Tuesday night which is not the best night to run an event so far north in the state. Anyhow Tyler Courtney outpaced the field in heat one winning over Dave Darland and Logan Jarrett. Heat two saw CJ Leary in the Dutcher #17GP take the victory over Shane Cottle and Kevin Thomas Jr. The pro sprints brought 11 cars to the dance with Kevin Atkins and Joe Swanson winning the heats. The UMP modifieds had a large field with 34 cars entering the pit area with four heats needed for them. All heat qualifying was done in 47 minutes with just a B main needed for the modifieds. That was over by 8:37 and a track rework took place from 8:37 until 9:12 but it didn't help the surface much.

     

    The 30 lap Tony Elliott Tribute took the green at 9:20 with Shane Cottle jumping out front. The first of many slide jobs occurred in turn four on lap four when CJ Leary executed it passing Dave Darland for second. On a restart on lap seven Leary threw another not so pretty slide job on Cottle in turn two to wrestle the lead away. Leary was in control from this point forward and pulled away from Cottle. Lap 17 saw Max McGhee try a slide job on Jarett Andretti in turn two but ran out of room and crashed into Andretti bringing out the yellow. Darland slipped by Cottle for second but on a late restart Cottle threw a slide job of his own to regain second and would hold the spot to the finish. The checkered waved at 9:39 with CJ Leary taking the win over Cottle with Tyler Courtney coming home third with Darland fourth and Kevin Thomas Jr. rounding out the top five. It was a decent race considering the track was basically one grooved and dusty. The 20 lap pro sprint feature was won by Kevin Atkins while Todd Sherman inherited the UMP modified feature when the top two runners tangled on the white flag lap and tried to run piggy back for the final circuit but it did not happen. The entire program was completed by 11:02 which included a delay for a light problem and the above hooked two front runners which I feel is too late on a work night. Management needs to work on the length of the program along with the track surface to make this operation successful.

     

    Saturday, June 25 - On our way to a week cruise of the inward passage of Alaska we spent the weekend in the state of Washington. Saturday night found us at the 3/8 mile asphalt oval in Tenino south of Olympia, the capital of Washington. A stop in Olympia to tour the capital building and the governor's mansion and a nice five mile drive around Point Defiance Park was in order before venturing down to the track. The five division was scheduled to start at 6:30 and at 6:38 the first green waved on the first of two baby grand heats for their 10 car field. The hobby stocks ran one heat for their 9 car field and then the division we came to see, the Washington Midget Racing Association hit the track for their one heat for their 6 car field. It was a big disappointment that only six midgets were in attendance but later upon checking out their web site only seven midgets are currently listed in their point standings. Tony Seidelman won the heat easily. The legend cars provided the best racing of the evening. The late models rounded out the card with 11 of them running two heats. All heat racing was completed in 40 minutes and after a normal 25 minute intermission it was feature time.

     

    The features were run in the same order that the heats were run with the being the third ticket on the card. I wish I could tell you that even with only six midgets the feature was good but I cannot be so with a clear conscience. Tony Seidelman jumped out front at the start and the race was on for second. In fact Garrett Thomas ended up being the only other car to finish the 30 lapper which was about 10 laps too long. Shawn Breitzman was credited with third. Thank goodness the 40 lap legend car feature was a barnburner and made up for the lackluster midget feature. The future of midget racing in the great Northwest is in big trouble at this point and hopefully this club can figure out a way to turn it around. The legends had plenty of passing with the winner, Jake Woods, advancing from ninth with second place finisher, Duane Swanson moving up from 13th and bobbling late giving the lead to Woods. Randy Schaaf charged from 12th to 3rd with Marty Rosler probably passing the most cars after starting 8th, moving to the front and spinning and returning to the front from the rear of the field. Seventh starting Kevin Conway rounded out the top five in the best legend car race we have seen in some time. The 50 lap late model feature rounded out the evening of racing with Mike Carlson prevailing with the well run program wrapped up by 10:08. A good night of racing with the exception of the midgets and a good crowd on hand with many families and young ones taking in the evening of racing. That is a good sign.

     

    That's it for now as we move into one of our favorite weeks of racing, Indiana Sprint Week. Check back soon for the first weekend of racing with Gas City up Friday followed by Kokomo and Lawrenceburg. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area and have fun.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    HARF Discount Weekend At Paragon & Kokomo

    Saturday, June 18 - We bounced around the Saturday choice of Lincoln Park or Paragon for the 7th Amati 68 and decided to make the trip to Paragon. Last year we had seen two good races at Paragon and with the field expected to be good the call was made to invade the 3/8 mile paper clip dirt oval our stop. Ran into Ron Miller and some other friends as I entered the seating area to place our blanket on the top row of the lower aluminum seats attached to poles. Around the second sprint heat noted writer, Kevin Eckert, joined us for a while until wandering off to get the scoop on some other racing angle. It was Hoosier Auto Racing Fans (HARF) night at Paragon and the Blacks work hard with the various Indiana promoters to get discounts for their loyal members. Tonight was half price admission so for just $10 per person we were admitted to the Amati 68. With membership to HARF being only $15 per person per year you can't beat the deals you get throughout the year and at the same time you are supporting a good bunch of people who love auto racing as much as we do.

     

    Things cranked up at 7:35 with the first of four heat races for the wingless sprints. Thomas Meseraull in the Amati Racing #66 came from sixth in this one beating Jeff Bland Jr., Aric Gentry and Josh Cunningham. Heat two saw Shane Cottle in the Hazen #57 also start sixth and win over Andrew Prather, Brandon Mattox and Matt McDonald. Heat three saw Chris Windom take the Baldwin Brothers #5 to the front to win over Max McGhee, Bill Rose and Jon Stanbrough up from ninth in the Pace #44 edging Jadon Rodgers at the line for the last qualifying spot. Brady Short established himself as a strong favorite running away from the rest of the field in heat three. Brandon Morin, Jensen Scott and Travis Wilpot chased. Then four other divisions were called to the post to run their heat races with the two sprint B mains run ahead of the hornet heats. Brent Turner and David Applegate prevailed with all preliminary action completed by 9:52.

     

    At this point the track was shot with no outside to speak of and it reminded us of the Paragon of the early 90's when we visited to watch USAC sprints with the track being black, dusty and slick. Though the track was huggy pole with minimum passing on the outside the feature was not devoid of passing. Max McGhee went to the early lead and led until the start/finish line to complete lap 12 when Brady Short up from seventh edged him at the wire. They ran the entire next lap side by side with Short again out front at the line and finally able to pull fully ahead as they raced between turns one and two. Chris Windom from sixth and Jeff Bland Jr. from fifth made several challenges within the top five the remainder of the distance. Four time Paragon track champion, Josh Cunningham who also gave the invocation, made things interesting cracking the top five from his 13th starting position running as high as third at one point. The race was spun off in just one half hour with only three cautions so most of the feature was green flag laps and not cautions counted as laps. As the checkered waved at 10:33 it was Short in for the cool $3000 with Max McGhee second, Chris Windom third, Jeff Bland Jr. fourth and Josh Cunningham rounding out the top five. Not a good race but not the worst one we have been this year by a wide margin. We give management credit that if you are going to run five divisions (which we feel are too much) you run the premier division first so it gives fans the option to leave if they want or to stick around and watch more if they want to. That is the way it should be, don't hold fans hostage by running the premier class last on the worse possible surface available.

    Sunday,June 19 – It was a sunny hot day without a cloud in the sky to shade you from the 90 degree heat and humidity and the lights were not on at Kokomo Speedway. No, it was not because they decided it was too hot to run. It was because they ran a very efficient show and at this time of the year in Indiana it is after 9:15 when the sun goes down. All four divisions were complete at 9:15 with the sunset scheduled at 9:18. The car counts may not have been high but it was klassic Kokomo and it does not get any better than that.

     

    Bruce and I arrived under the blistering sun at 5:40. If you have never been to Kokomo the sun is high in the sky over turn two and in your face until it sets. You definitely need a hat or sunglasses to enjoy the races. On this day most tracks would have been a dust bowl from the relentless sun and constant hot breeze that was occurring at the track all day. But not Kokomo. The sprints were pelting the fans with clay balls most of the night. They seemed to start a bit early when the first of three heats took the green at 6:50. I should not be complaining about starting early but we had Pennsylvania friends Guy and Pam Smith coming to the track from a ballgame in Illinois and they were going to miss the heats. They ran three sprint heats for the 20 sprints in the pits and two heats each for the street stocks, thunder cars and hornets. Unfortunately by the time the Smith’s arrived almost all of the heats were completed.

     

    From the time the heats completed at 7:40 there was a 35 minute break before the drop of the green on the sprint feature. During this time they reworked the track, scrapped the clay off the walls and on the homestretch concourse the normal routine of scrapping the walk area free of clay pellets so they do not clog up your shoe soles. Guy noted how this is something he was not accustomed to seeing back in PA. When you have friends come to the track you love so much you hope they see a good show. Not that there is ever a bad show at Kokomo but they are not all great. Well Kokomo did not let us down.

     

    At 8:15 the green flag dropped on a non-stop feature that had even the locals buzzing with excitement. It was excellent. There was so much good racing that I am sure I missed half of it because I kept watching the race for the lead. Funny thing is before the race started Bruce leaned over to me and said I think Josh Hodges has a good shot at winning this. He started on the pole but quickly fell back a few positions. I thought to myself so much for your pick. But Hodges must have been thinking the same as Bruce because he fought back not only to catch the race leader Jerry Coons Jr. but to pass him then only to be passed back. It was an awesome battle but Hodges had difficulty with some lapped traffic and Coons opened up a margin. Hodges was not to be denied his first Kokomo win and did not give up. The final circuits were what I call Kokomo at its best. As Hodges closed back in and beat Coons to the checkered. The crowd went wild and there was one very happy young man from New Mexico in victory lane. It started and was over in a little over 6 minutes. It was the kind of race sprint fans live for. I was so focused on the front runners I missed most the battle for the remaining top positions, which was also great. Hodges, Coons, Dave Darland, Logan Jarrett and Kevin Thomas Jr. One for the memory to bring back in future conversations.

     

    The next two features for the street stocks and thunder cars were equally good and the hornets were what the hornets are. The final checkered of the night fell at 9:15 as the sun set off turn two on one heck of a night of racing and as far as that hot Indiana sun, there was not one speck of dust in the air. And all this for $6 admission as it was half price night at Kokomo for HARF members.

    Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area and have a great time. Any thoughts or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Eastern Storm Concludes At Port Royal & Susquehanna

    Saturday, June 11 - After spending three nights in Atlantic City at a convention I finally got to see the USAC sprints during the Eastern Storm. We were staying in the Harrisburg, PA for the weekend and after shopping for some things that I just cannot buy in Indiana we headed north to Port Royal Speedway. We arrived early at the track, 4 o’clock, and just kind of hung out. We walked the pit area and found some PA buddies to past the time with until the sprints came out for hot laps at 7:00. Our good friend Keith Barto said he was going to try the new grandstands coming out of turn four and we joined him on the top row. Wow, these seats are great as it gives you an entire new prospective of the track. You can really see them drive through the turns. I recommend trying this stands if ever at the Port.

     

    Hot laps started at 7:00 and at 7:16 time trials began. Chase Stockon set fast time and next up were the hot laps for the 305 winged sprints and the 355 econo late models. The USAC sprints were first and their three heats began at 8:17. Heat number 1 was exciting in more ways than one. There was really good racing throughout and it ended with controversy. Shane Cottle and Robert Ballou were racing hard for the top spot on the final lap and going into turn three they collided. Since moving to Indiana I can honestly say I never picked one driver that I call my favorite. I enjoy and appreciate all of them, unlike in PA where I am a diehard Greg Hodnett fan. I say this because I looked at this incident objectively and it was not Robert Ballou’s fault. It was hard racing and in the end one car continued and one found itself on the outside of the guardrail in turn three. Following three competitive USAC sprint heats were three 305 sprint heats and 2 econo late model heats. They were followed by the USAC sprint B main and the 305 sprint consolation race. It was 10:05 by the time all qualifying was complete, three hours to run hot laps and 10 qualifying events. I think that is too long.

     

    It would be over ½ hour before the green dropped on the 30 lap A main. The red came out quickly when Thomas Meseraull took a very nasty flip coming out of turn four directly in front of us. He caught the opening where the cars enter the track out of four and away he went. The car settled on its wheels but the cage was bent. Meseraull immediately stood up in the car but then decided he might want to gather his thoughts before exiting. It was a scary one and I was happy to see him walk to the ambulance. Ballou was lucky as he drove underneath the airborne #66 of Meseraull. Racing resumed until Chris Windom came to a stop on lap 16. The restart saw Ballou orchestrate a giant slide job on leader Brady Bacon and take over the top spot only to have the caution wave again for Chad Boespflug sitting in turn 4. The caution would wave one more time and with it came an exit of top runners. The caution was for Aaron Farney stopping in turn two but at the same time second place Chase Stockon stopped and leader Robert Ballou entered the pits. Just like that Bacon found himself back in the lead with Bryan Clauson on his tail. Clauson who started 11th now was in 2nd. The remaining laps saw Clauson pass Bacon for the win. For Clauson it was his 40th career USAC sprint feature win. Bacon was second with Max McGhee third, Dave Darland fourth and CJ Leary fifth. Ballou who exited on lap 23 had a power steering belt come off. He was able to continue and came back up to finish 8th. It was 11:24 when the checkered fell. It was a good race and I believe the majority of the fans left feeling good about what they saw.

     

    Bruce and I love sprint car racing and for the first 29 years of our marriage winged sprints were mostly what we saw. But after many years of coming to Indiana to see the wingless sprints we decided that was how we wanted to spend the remaining years here in USAC country. It is not that one is right and one is wrong it is just that they are different. I get upset when I see or read some of the Facebook and twitter entries that try to pit one against the other. They are not the same. Which then makes me wonder why the tracks in Pennsylvania do not realize they are not the same and the track should be prepared differently. What is perfect for one may not be perfect for the other. All I know is I never see the push trucks come out between races at Kokomo and run in the cushion. I do see them come out and scrape the mud off the walls so the drivers know how to judge the turns. Maybe management should come out to Indiana and see how they prep the tracks for the sprints that run here every week. Just saying maybe it would alleviate all the chatter about how the track is not right.

     

    Sunday, June 12 - This was the final day of five day Eastern Storm for the USAC National Sprint Cars and we were looking forward to visiting the refurbished Susquehanna Speedway since Scott Goebrecht bought the rundown facility from the Todd and Rhonda Fisher and went to work to fix the place back up. Pat saw on Twitter that they were watering the track at 3 AM when Bryan Clauson and family rolled in to camp for the evening. It was a hot day with a stiff wind blowing the entire day and we all know what wind can do to a dirt track. With that said the surface held up for the majority of the program and we will detail this later. The first thing that catches your attention upon entering the facility is the aluminum grandstand laid on top of the previous concrete structure below having removed the rotted and warped wooden boards left by the previous owners. You have your choice of individual chair seats or aluminum bleachers with backs on them. We went with the bleachers. A visit to the bathrooms showed an improvement there also with new troughs that didn't leak on the floor and though only one sink, one with soap, running water and paper towels. These two improvements are a big step in the right direction.

     

    Bryan Clauson would continue his hot Eastern Storm swing setting fast time around the 4/10 mile clay oval with a time of 16.753 seconds which was a new track record. Fiftteen ARDC midgets joined the party and after warmups they were down to 14 with one flipping in turn two. After their two heats they were down to 12 when two flipped in the same heat. The USAC sprints were up next with three heats for their 24 car field and we were joined for the second straight evening by trackchaser and former midget racer, Paul Weisel, for the evening. The first heat would see the tough as nails, Thomas Meseraull, coming off a nasty flip the night before who had to be sore and stiff win this one over Chris Windom, Bryan Clauson, Max McGhee and Isaac Chapple in a new eight lap track record of 2:27:93. Heat two would be captured by Brady Bacon over Mark Smith, Aaron Farney, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jerry Coons Jr. where Thomas bailed out of his car at the first turn inside opening with his engine compartment on fire and Thomas himself. After a dousing of the fire exstinger Thomas was OK but the Ottinger #4J would be done for the evening. This heat also produced a flip by Tony DiMattia on the backstretch after Mark Smith made contact with another driver causing that car to swerve in front of DiMattia who had no where to go but up and over. He was OK also. Heat three saw Robert Ballou triumph over CJ Leary, Chad Boespflug, Chase Stockon and Dave Darland.

     

    The 20 lap ARDC midget feature would be next up and took the green with PJ Gargiulo taking the early lead from Brett Wanner. Brett Arndt went to the front with a pass off turn four on lap 6. Gargiulo tried to counter the move in turn four on the next lap but caught the inside berm and spun out of contention. Brenden Bright was on the move from fifth and went side by side with Ardnt as they raced to the flagstand on lap nine with Bright taking the lead going through turns one and two. Bryan Clauson moved the Heffner #27 into second on lap ten and tried to reel in Bright for the top spot. Clauson's bid would end on lap 15 when a flat tire slowed him to a stop. Bright took off on the restart and left the battle to be for the second spot which Trevor Kobylarz took from Arndt in the late going. Ryan Greth would come across fourth with Alex Bright rounding out the top five. The two USAC invaders, Brady Bacon in the Radney #95 and Clauson in the Heffner #27 ended up sixth and seventh. This was Brenden Bright's fourth win of 2016 as he swept the weekend winning on Friday at Williams Grove also.

     

    At this point the track surface had held up remarkily good but I believe management made a big mistake at this point not taking an extra 15 minutes and applying some water to the surface to keep the dust down for the 30 lap sprint car feature. If nothing else a light sprinkle of the wet stuff might have done wonders for the cushion. But alias nothing was done and the USAC boys were called to the post and the green flag waved on the 22 car field. Chris Windom went to the front as the dust began to bellow. The dust storm made the feature event extremely difficult to watch. Chase Stockon and Chad Boespflug challenged early but Windom held sway. Clauson was coming from sixth up to a battle for third with Boespflug which he took care of on lap six. One lap later Clauson would slow on the homestretch with engine problems and his night was done ending in a 21st finish but setting fast time and placing third in his heat brought enough points to give him the Eastern Storm point title Lap ten saw third running Boespflug slapped the first turn wall and stop in the middle of the track to bring out the caution. From that point on it was all Windom as he opened a straightway lead. In the last few laps Brady Bacon and Chase Stockon closed but Windom would bring the Baldwin Brothers #5 into victory lane for the owner's first USAC win in four years with the last one also coming in Pennsylvania at Big Diamond with Windom also at the helm. Windom has looked real good in the Baldwin entry since he moved into the driver's seat just one month ago. Stockon finished second with Bacon third, Thomas Meseraull fourth after starting 12th but we did not see his advancement nor that of Robert Ballou from 11th to fifth. It was a disappointing end to a good week of racing and it was a shame that some water was not spread on the track before the feature as the crew did a yeoman's job preparing the surface during the entire day and then to let this happen. Hopefully management will learn from their mistake and next time take the extra time to make the surface better.

     

    Local Indiana sprint car action lies on the horizon for this weekend so we urge you to get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Also we want to send get well wishes and speedy recoveries to two of our IOW friends, Jim Goerge and Tom Fischer, who are in the work area battling the dreaded C word at IU Medical Center. Hope to see you both back at the tracks as soon as you feel up to it and know in the meantime many good people are praying for you both. Hang tough gentleman!!

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Eastern Storm Continues At New Egypt & Silver Crown Returns To Williams Grove

    Thursday, June 9 - Harrisburg area resident, Ron Klose, suggested that we team up to make the haul to the New Egypt Speedway for the third round of the Eastern Storm for the USAC National Sprint Car series. So Ron swung into the Inn At Reading at 2:40 and it was off to New Egypt, one of those tracks that you have to take around ten different highways to get there from here. We arrived around 4:30 found a parking space in the lot off turn four and sat down to eat dinner and talk with Ron Oswald, Dwight Bucks and Gary Grim. Then it was off to sign in and join the guys in the first turn grandstand for tonight's racing action. Paul Weisel, former midget driver and owner of a small racing museum (with lots of interesting cars, pictures, etc.) on his property in Orefield joined us for the night's activities. Our racing buddy, Zeke, ventured down from the homestretch during the North East Wingless Sprints (NEWS) heats and provided some lively banter along with the peanuts for the evening. The New Egypt track crew was working real hard to provide the wet, tacky surface that the wingless warriors like on this evening but it caused the program to start late but I will never complain when a track tries to provide the best racing surface possible. Thanks to the crew and management for a job well done.

    Time trials commenced at 8:18 and by 8:41 the hottest wingless driver this year, Bryan Clauson, set fast time at 16.362 seconds. A few minutes later the new class of race cars at New Egypt, the NEWS sprints, which are a sprint car with a 602 crate motor and self starters were called to the track to run their two heats for their 15 car field, the largest ever field for the newly formed division. Long time open cockpit standout, Lou Cicconi Jr., won heat one and modified standout, Ryan Godown, took heat two. This was the perfect filler division as they only took 10 minutes to run their two heats and gave some time for the USAC boys to make some changes on their mounts before the heat races. Mark Smith put Hank Bryrum's #3R out front in heat one winning over CJ Leary, Chase Stockon, Bryan Clauson and Max McGhee. Heat two saw Dave Darland take the Jeff Walker #11 to the head of the class winning over Shane Cottle in the backup Franckowiak #65 followed by Chad Boespflug, Robert Ballou and Landon Simon. The final heat saw Chris Windom take top honors in the Baldwin Brothers orange crate #5 fending off Thomas Meseraull, Kevin Thomas Jr., Kyle Moody and Jarett Andretti. Then it was right into the 20 lap feature for the NEWS sprinters with Ryan Godown in his first time in a sprint car winning over Lou Cicconi Jr. and Bobby Butler in an entertaining race. Brady Bacon was relegated to the B main which he won easily.

    The 30 lap USAC sprint feature was ready to go at 10:29 with starter, Warren Alston, waving the green flag on the front row of CJ Leary and Chad Boespflug. Leary went to the point on the start but the first of only two cautions waved on lap 2 when Jarett Andretti rolled to a stop on the backstretch. On the restart Leary went back out front until Boespflug passed him on the backstretch on lap 3. The second and last caution appeared on lap 7 when Isaac Chapple stopped on the homestretch. Boespflug retained the lead with Bryan Clauson taking fourth with a turn two pass on lap 10. Meanwhile the defending USAC sprint champion, Robert Ballou, was on the march taking second with a turn one pass of Brady Bacon on lap 12. Clauson caught Bacon in turn two and executed the pass for third on lap 15. The leaders started to enter lap traffic by lap 18 and this helped Ballou close the gap on Boespflug by lap 20. With seven to go Ballou attempted a slide job on Boespflug entering turn one but lap traffic tharwted the challenge and Boespflug retained the lead. Clauson was also making up serious ground on the top two as the pressure was on Boespflug in the last five laps. Boespflug was up to the challenge and withstood the advances of Ballou to take his third career USAC victory and his second of 2016 in the Chuck Eberhardt and Fred Zirzow entry. Ballou crossed the line second with Clauson third, Bacon fourth and Leary rounding out the top five. It was a good race not a great one but worth the effort that the track crew put into the night to produce a good racing surface for the USAC guys.

    Friday, June 10 - Tonight was a historic night of racing as the USAC Silver Crown series returned to the historic Williams Grove Speedway half mile in Mechanicsburg, PA for the first time in 35 years to run the Horn/Schindler Memorial 100. Two sons of drivers who ran in the last Silver Crown race were running tonight and they were Billy Puterbaugh Jr. and Casey Shuman in a neat bit of trivia. Time trials for the 22 car field kicked off at 7:50 with CJ Leary, the most recent half mile Silver Crown winner at Terre Haute in April, setting fast time and a new track record for the division of 20.379 seconds around the half mile oval. During time trials Neil Shepherd took his car out over the turn four rail flipping in the process. He was OK but was done for the evening. The ARDC midgets were on the undercard and they brought 16 cars to the dance. Two heats were run next with Trevor Kobylarz winning heat one over Steve Buckwalter and Bryan Clauson driving the Mike Heffner #27. Danny Stratton took heat two over eighth starting Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Ryan Wilson #29 and Brett Arndt. The 20 lap ARDC midget feature would be the first to the post and took the green flag at 9:14. Danny Stratton took the lead at the start until Trevor Kobylarz passed him in turn four on lap 3 to take command. Fourth starting Brenden Bright clipped away at Kobylarz's lead and finally passed him in turn four on lap 10. From there on it was race for the middle positions of the top five as Bright was in total command. At 9:25 Brenden Bright passed under the checkered flags first with Kobylarz second, Steve Buckwalter third, Alex Bright fourth and Ryan Greth rounding out the top five.

    Now it was time for the 100 lap Horn/Schindler Memorial and with Grand Marshal, Billy Pauch Sr. the last USAC sprint winner at Williams Grove with his son in the starting field, giving the command to fire up their cars and go racing it was show time. The green waved at 10:01 with CJ Leary going to the front of the field. The first twenty five laps of the race got off to a rocky start as three drivers brought out four cautions with spins in turn four. Leary would lead until lap 30 when heavy smoke bellowed from the headers of the Leary Construction #30 ending his night prematurely. Justin Grant inherited the lead and held it until being passed on the homestretch on lap 38 by Chris Windom in the Fred Gormly #98. Ten laps later Brady Bacon would take second from Grant in turn two. Meanwhile Bryan Clauson was on the march from 16th taking third from Grant on lap 65 and sliding by Bacon for second on lap 68. Meanwhile Windom had built up a straightway lead and Clauson had some work to do if he was going to catch the leader as the final 60 laps would all be in green flag conditions. With ten to go Windom's lead seemed secure but nobody notified Clauson of this fact. Clauson was driving on the edge and chopped into the big lead like George Washington did in the cherry tree. With just two to go Windom's big lead was gone and he jumped the good sized cushion built up in turn three and Clauson was right there on his tail tank as they exited turn four. As the two leaders came to the line to take the white flag they were three wide with the lap car of David Byrne in the middle. Clauson went low and Windom was high. As they entered turn one Clauson attempted a big slide job on Windom for the lead and everyone thought it was going to get ugly. The move failed but no contact was made and Windom opened the gap as Clauson struggled to regain control. Clauson made one last big run into turns three and four but came up short as Windom crossed the line first and scored his third career Silver Crown victory all on half miles (Belleville & Eldora the other two) with Clauson second, Kody Swanson coming home third, Brady Bacon fourth and Justin Grant capping the top five. In only his second Silver Crown start, Mark Smith brought the second Gormly entry home sixth (finished ninth at the Indy mile) with Casey Shuman seventh, Jerry Coon Jr. eighth, Royersford PA's Steve Buckwalter ninth and Shane Cottle finishing out the top ten. It was a good race after a rocky start and with the big cars and all the fuel they carry early they look like tanks early but when the fuel begins to burn off they become more twitchy and racy and then the fun begins.

    Until next time when we wrap up the final two nights of Eastern Storm week, get out there and enjoy some good short track racing wherever you maybe. Any notes, quotes or comments can still reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Eastern Storm Stops At Grandview & Lincoln

     

    Tuesday, June 7 - The old saying that you can't go home again is not true as we returned to the Northeast and hook up again with our Eastern racing buddies. It was good to see Dwight, Gary, Marshall, the two Ron's, Rouser, Bezz, John, Russ, Jeff, Mark and so many more that it would take forever to list them all. The occasion to return East was two fold. Pat had to attend a school board convention in Atlantic City Tuesday to Friday and second the 10th USAC Eastern Storm was taking place in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The first stop on the scheduled five race tour was the Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, PA nestled on top of a hill off Route 100 near Boyertown. On tap tonight was the Jesse Hockett Classic for the USAC National Sprint Car Series which would be capped by the longest USAC feature of the year, 40 laps in distance on the 1/3 mile high banked dirt oval. Joining the sprinters would be the top regular division weekly at Grandview, the 358 modifieds and they brought the same number of cars (30) as the sprinters did on this evening. Time trials for the sprints kicked off the program beginning at 7:30. Nineteen minutes later Bryan Clauson was declared the fastest turning the track at 13.654 seconds. The 358 modified heats were ready to go just seven minutes later as some questionable weather was in the distance. The four sprint car heats followed with four to qualify with Chad Boespflug back in his #98 taking heat one over Isaac Chapple, Shane Cottle in the Franckowiak #3 from the East and Thomas Messeraull. Heat two saw "The People's Champ", Dave Darland, score the win over Bret Mellenberndt from South Dakota, Jarett Andretti and Kevin Thomas Jr. Chris Windom brought the Baldwin Brothers #5 home victorious in heat three beating Landon Simon, Jerry Coons Jr. in the Hogue #39 and Max McGhee. Heat four saw the defending USAC National sprint champion, Robert Ballou, take the top honors topping Joey Biasi from PA, Tony DiMattia and Shane Golobic in another Eastern car, the Dave Ely #60. The sprint B main was loaded and looked like a feature lineup with Bryan Clauson winning over Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon. All qualifying was finished by 9:27. Track maintenance was performed as the wind started to pick up on top of the hill and many people cast a wary eye toward the skies.

    Jarett Andretti and Tony DiMattia brought the 22 car field to the green flag at 9:58 and it was DiMattia taking the lead in turn two. DiMattia would lead until lap 6 when Kevin Thomas Jr. swooped by in turn two. Bret Mellenberndt brought the first of his two cautions out on lap 7 when he spun low in turn two. On the restart Andretti slid by DiMattia for second in turn two and took off after Thomas. Andretti caught and streaked by Thomas on the backstretch on lap 12. For the next two laps Andretti and Thomas swapped sliders on each end of the speedway as the crowd was going wild. A caution flag waved on lap 16 bunching the field and on the restart Andretti and Thomas ran side by side the entire lap crisscrossing in turn three and crossing the start/finish line dead even. There were now five cars in the epic battle with Thomas and Andretti joined by Chris Windom, Bryan Clauson and Robert Ballou. Windom snuck by Andretti for second on lap 18 but one lap later Andretti was not yet done executing a beautiful middle groove pass of both Windom and Thomas. The next lap saw the top four exit the final turn four wide for the lead. Andretti held sway for the next several laps as suddenly it seemed Clauson found something down low and polished off Thomas and Windom in one move in turn two on lap 21 . The top started to go away and by lap 24 Clauson caught and passed down low the high running Andretti for the top spot. The last yellow appeared on lap 38 when the two Shanes got together but on the restart Clauson was on the gas and gone. Clauson crossed the finish line on lap 40 at 10:19 with Kevin Thomas Jr. second, Chris Windom third after starting 14th, Thomas Meseraull fourth after battling back after running up on the back of Ballou earlier and dropping back and Jarett Andretti who turned in his best performance in a sprint car to date. Clauson has now won 6 out of the last 7 wingless races he has raced in and collected his season high fourth USAC sprint car win of 2016. Clauson also moves into sole possession of eighth place on the all-time USAC win list with 38 breaking the tie with Sheldon Kinser for that spot. Clauson is on a tear and the young man is only just starting. The wind had continued to howl all during the feature but the racing action made me forget about it until everything was over and then I realized how cold I was.

    Wednesday, June 8 - Round two of Eastern Storm would take place at the 3/8 mile semi banked dirt oval of the Lincoln Speedway located in the Pigeon Hills of Pennsylvania. I teamed up with Indiana midget week visitor, Bill Burns, and his buddy, Bruce for the two hour ride to Lincoln. It had rained for several hours in Reading before we left but none of that wet stuff fell in Abbottstown. Twenty seven USAC sprints and thirty winged 358 sprints filled the backstretch pits for the racing action tonight. As good as Jarett Andretti's night was last night it was the polar extreme tonight as he spun on lap one of his time trial run and creamed the turn three wall underneath the scoreboard on lap two and was finished before it started. Chase Stockon was luckier as he set fast time of 15.730 seconds on the 3/8 mile.

    Four heats opened the program tonight and I knew we were in for trouble as anyone who tried the outside groove went nowhere and it was a race to the inner rail. Area super sportsman ace, Carmen Perigo, brought his new toy home first in heat one over Bryan Clauson, Landon Simon and Chase Stockon. Heat two saw Jerry Coons Jr. prevail over Dave Darland, Joey Biasi and CJ Leary. Another good bottom dweller, Shane Cottle, took heat three over Max McGhee, Thomas Messeraull and Dustin Smith. Bret Mellenberndt turned turtle in turn three in the fourth heat with Chris Windom winning over local Kyle Moody, Shane Golobic and Mark Smith in the Hank Byrum #3R who didn't make any new friends with his aggressive driving style. The 358 sprints ran three heats for their 30 car field with Matt Campbell, Doug Hammaker and Todd Rittenhouse Jr. winning. Chad Boespflug took the USAC B main while Wyatt Hinkle, last week's 358 winner, took the 358 consie.

    The 30 lap USAC sprint car feature took the green flag at 9:46 and went non-stop in ten minutes. That's the best thing I can say about this one. Joey Biasi took the early lead but by the end of lap one Shane Golobic was on top. Chase Stockon came out of the third row to take the lead from Golobic by lap six. Bryan Clauson was on the move taking second in turn two on lap 7 and chasing Chase. Eleventh starter, Thomas Messeraull, cracked the top five on lap 14 as Stockon continued to lead. It looked like Chase was going to win this one but Clauson began to chip away at the lead and caught and passed Stockon in turn two on lap 24. Chris Windom was able to slip by Stockon also in turn two on lap 26 and that would be the way they would finish. Thomas Meseraull claimed fourth relegating Shane Golobic to fifth. This was Clauson's 39th National Sprint Car win and his 77th National USAC win.

    The 20 lap 358 sprint car feature was next and this was the best feature of the evening as the track was perfect for winged cars, smooth and no cushion. Jeff Halligan inherited the lead after female driver, Bree Hershey, led the first nine laps before her mount quit on her. Halligan was able to hold off the persistant advances of Chandler Leiby for the win with Matt Campbell a close third, Jordan Givler fourth and Doug Hammaker.

    But wait we were not done yet as there was another 25 lap USAC non-points race with the field inverted from the first race of the cars finishing on the lead lap. Bryan Clauson would start 19th and I would love to tell you that he came from the back to win but that was not the case. Though the outside was more workable in race two the winner still came from the front row. Landon Simon who started second was able to hold off the late charge of Brady Bacon to score his first ever USAC sprint win with Aaron Farney slipping by Bacon on the homestretch after Brady gave it an all out try. CJ Leary would finish fourth with Kyle Moody rounding out the top five.

    It was not a good night of racing but it will he hard to beat the racing we saw at Grandview on Tuesday. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area and drive safe. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Indiana Midget Week Wraps Up With Bloomington, Rain & Kokomo

    Friday, June 3 - Round four of USAC midget week would find the racers traveling down to the red hills of Bloomington Speedway or should we say Bell Speedway. More on that later. It was a cloudy day when we arrived at 5 to stake our chairs down off of turn one on the tiered bank before leaving to have dinner in Bloomington. When we arrived back at 6:45 we found a slight drizzle falling but entered the track along with a few thousand of our friends. Warmups for the three divisions were over by 7:15 and three minutes later it was time trials for the 36 midgets in town. Wouldn't you know it but Christopher Bell was the last man out as he was on Tuesday in Montpelier with the same results setting fast time of 11.301 seconds around the 1/4 mile bowl. Four heats would be run for the midgets with Rico Abreu, Tanner Thorson, Austin Brown and Tucker Klaasmeyer winning their respective heats. Young Ryan Robinson took a violent flip out over turn two in the third heat as he was OK but the same couldn't be said for the car. Dakota Jackson and Ethan Barrow took the two 305 sprint heats for their 15 car field. Four sprint car heats were run for their 28 car field with Chad Boespflug, Jeff Bland Jr., Brady Short and Bryan Clauson winning. Bub Cummings won the B main for the sprints and Christopher Bell bested the 19 car B main field in the midgets. I would be remiss not to note that the surface tonight was by far the best of the season and kudos go out to the track crew who have struggled so far this season and have taken heat for it. Good job!

    The 30 lap USAC midget feature was on the grid and ready to go at 9:54 with Dave Darland going to the early lead from his first starting position. Bell was on the move early as he took fourth on lap 3. An amazing three wide move on lap 5 in turn two saw Bell advanced from fourth to second passing both Spencer Bayston and Shane Golobic in the process. Two laps later Bell went to the high side in turns three and four before taking the lead at the start/finish line from Darland. Holly Shelton brought out the red in turn two when she tipped her midget on its side without much damage. After a caution on lap 12 most of the leaders were using the low side but sixth starting Bryan Clauson went to the top and began picking cars off over the middle part of the race. Clauson passed third running Bayston with 13 to go and took up the chase of Darland. They engaged in a crowd pleasing duel with Clauson up high and Darland on the bottom for many laps. With four to go Dayne Kingshott blew a tire and stopped in turn four to bring out the yellow and give Darland and Clauson one more shot at Bell. It was not to be as Bell took off on the restart and pulled away as Darland and Clauson tussled for second. Shortly thereafter Bell raced across the line to win his third straight USAC midget race at Bloomington therefore prompting the renaming of Bloomington to Bell Speedway as it seems he owns this track. Darland came home second with Clauson third, Shane Golobic nipping Spencer Bayston for fourth.

    The 305 sprint feature was next with Ethan Fleetwood outrunning Ryan Tusing before the 410 sprint cars took to the track. This one turned out to be another non-stop affair with Kevin Thomas Jr. prevailing over a fast closing Jeff Bland Jr. from sixth with Brady Short third, Shane Cottle fourth and Dave Darland in the Mike Gass #11 taking fifth. The makeup 305 sprint feature from a few weeks ago was next and we decided to stay as the parking lot was emptying. Luke Bland won this one over first race winner, Ethan Fleetwood. All racing was completed by 11:13 in a nicely run program.

    Saturday, June 4 - An all day rain in Crawfordsville and most of Indiana found Lawrenceburg losing their midget week show and washing out the remainder of racing in the Indiana area.

    Sunday, June 5 - The final night of USAC midget week would be at the Kokomo Speedway with 32 midgets, 27 sprint cars and 13 hornets filling the pit area at the 1/4 mile speed plant in its 69th year of operation. Brandon Gray got the action started early as he flipped several times in warmups seriously damaging his mount but he was OK. Time trials for the midgets clicked off at 7 and twenty minutes later Rico Abreu had turned the 1/4 mile with a time of 13.332 seconds for top honors. Four heat races followed shortly thereafter with Bryan Clauson snagging the first one over Chase Johnson, Steve Buckwalter and Abreu. Heat two saw Carson Macedo outrun Tyler Nelson, Chad Boat and Christopher Bell. Heat three saw Easterner Ryan Greth turn in a strong performance passing Zach Daum and Brady Bacon on his way to the win with Tanner Thorson taking fourth. Davey Ray scored heat four over the Kuntz cars of Spencer Bayston and Ryan Robinson with Dave Darland placing fourth. Three sprint heats followed with Chad Boespflug bringing the Stensland #41 home first over Colton Cottle and Brady Bacon in the Paul #24P for the evening. Kevin Thomas Jr. bagged heat two over Bryan Clauson and Shane Cottle. The third heat saw the English visitor, Tom Harris driving the Bob East #5, grab the win over Tyler Hewitt and Jerry Coons Jr. Holly Shelton took the midget B main and Lawrenceburg regular and several time track champion there, Joss Moffatt, winning the sprint B main with all preliminary qualifying completed by 9:38.

    The midget main event took the green flag at 9:58 with Chad Boat bolting to the early lead. Steve Buckwalter's dismal week ended on lap one as the #25 pulled to the infield grass out of the event. Lap two saw a three car tangle in turn two involving Tyler Nelson, Gage Walker and Dave Darland before things got back underway. Rico Abreu was one of the few using the cushion as he worked his way from sixth to fourth by lap ten. Tyler Nelson brought out the red on lap 12 with a nasty barrel down the backstretch which he was able to walk away from. On the restart it was still Boat out front leading the Kuntz army of Bayston, Bell and Abreu. Lap 19 saw Holly Shelton getting hard into the homestretch wall just past the starter's stand and into the catch fence flipping over and damaging the fence with her tail tank ending up sitting in the turn one entrance to the pit area. Shelton was fine after her hard ride but not very happy about the incident. On the restart entering turns three and four Abreu made his move on Bell for third while second running Bayston turned sideways in turn four with Abreu colliding with Bayston and sliding past for second. Boat continued to lead but in turn two on lap 22 Abreu found the space up high to move by Boat into the lead for the first time. Bayston challenged Boat for second at the start/finish line banging wheels and taking the spot on lap 23. Abreu was gone and seven laps later flashed under the checkered flag bringing car owner, Keith Kunz, his fifth straight speed week win by five different drivers. That is called domination. Bayston finished second with Boat third, Brady Bacon fourth and Christopher Bell rounding out the top five. Bryan Clauson came across sixth and it was enough to bring Rusty Kunz/Dooling Racing the 2016 Indiana Midget Week point title.

    There was still the 25 lap sprint car feature to run with Colton Cottle and Bryan Clauson bringing the 20 car field to the green flag at 10:44. Cottle blasted into the lead at the start and looked very strong. Kevin Thomas Jr. came out of the fourth hole to take up the chase of Cottle. Entering turn four on lap 8 heavy contact was made between the two leaders, Cottle and Thomas, with Clauson slipping by both of them for the lead. Thomas would take chase as Cottle faded but Clauson was not to be denied as he won his fifth out of the last six sprint starts he has made outdistancing Thomas in another non-stop feature run in just six minutes. Tyler Courtney turned in a strong run coming from tenth to pass Brady Bacon on the last lap to nail down third with Bacon fourth and Tyler Hewitt rounding out the top five.

    This was a good way to end out a very solid five nights of USAC midget racing with no bad races in the bunch. Next report will bring you the first two nights of USAC National Sprint Car action from Pennsylvania and New Jersey as the big boys of USAC make their 10th Eastern Storm visit out East. Until next time get out there and see some good racing in your area, maybe even an Eastern Storm or two program. Any thoughts or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Indiana Midget Week Stops At Montpelier, Gas City & Lincoln Park

    Tuesday, May 31 - A new addition to the USAC midget speedweek would start the six race series off on Tuesday night. The Montpelier Speedway located east of I-69 in the town of Montpelier which is north of Gas City is a 1/4 mile D shaped clay oval with 10 degree banking in the corners. A fine field of 44 midgets would join 27 wingless sprint cars and 27 UMP modifieds (the normal top class here) for tonight's racing action. I understand Montpelier adding the modifieds as this was their first time to host an event of this maginude and with less seating capacity than some other tracks they wanted to make sure they would cover the purse and then some. My suggestion for next year during midget week is to invite the modifieds but as an invitation with maybe 25 to 30 cars invited with the top 20 in points going automatically to the main event. The remaining 5 to 10 cars could run a B main with 4 to qualify. That would allow the revenue at the back gate but lessen the pounding of the track surface that four heats and two B mains on this night did. There were some black clouds hovering nearby with temperatures in the 90's and humid as we joined Allan and Nancy Brown along with Pennsylvania friend, Bill Burns, in the wooden bleachers toward turn four. The seating is tight and management might look at adding some more spacious grandstands for next year.

    The midget time trials commenced at 7:00 and 30 minutes later Christopher Bell, the last man out, set fast time of 14.141 seconds around the 1/4 mile. The modifieds followed with four sets of warmups before the midgets took the green at 7:58 to start their first of four heat races. All four heats were very competitive with PA's Steve Buckwalter, California's Carson Macedo, Rico Abreu and Kyle Larson scoring heat victories. The three sprint heats went to Chad Boespflug after a great battle with Dave Darland in heat one, Brady Bacon in his own car taking heat two and Bryan Clauson scoring heat three. The midgets need a C main won by Iowa's Davey Ray while fast timer, Christopher Bell, was relegated to the B main where he handily won. Travis Hery won the sprint B main. All preliminary qualifying was completed by 10:30.

    Now it was time for the 30 lap USAC National Midget feature with Kyle Larson and Bryan Clauson bringing the field to the green flag at 10:50. Larson quickly jumped to the lead but Tanner Thorson went to the high side and took the lead as the pair crossed the line to complete lap two. Steve Buckwalter was involved in a tangle off turn four and rolled over lightly bring out the red. Larson dogged Thorson as the race reached the ten lap mark and began to throw a series of slide jobs on Thorson in turns two and three but washed the front end over the cushion and Thorson countered to retain the top spot. Lap 12 saw Larson try the slide job again almost taking both of them out and Clauson snuck into second at this point. Just after the halfway mark Clauson took his shot sliding in front of Thorson entering turn two but it was too tight with Thorson bumping Clauson and scooting past with Clauson jumping the berm and Larson taking back second. With nine to go Larson in hot pursuit of Thorson banged the fourth turn wall hard but continued on. Larson finally pulled off the slider entering turn one and wrestled the lead away from Thorson. Larson pulled away as Thorson started to slow with a deflating right rear tire. Clauson charged into second with Christopher Bell recovering from a lap two tangle moved into third. As the checked waved at 11:25 it was Larson in for the popular win over Clauson, Bell, Jerry Coons Jr. from 14th and Brady Bacon. Thorson never made it to the line as he was involved in a three car crash as the leaders surged to the finish line and ended up a disappointing 18th. This was a whale of a race and had the crowd buzzing. The sprint feature was next up and took the green at 11:38 and went the 25 laps non-stop in eight minutes with Bryan Clauson winning over Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland and Chad Boespflug who led early. Since it was 11:46 and we had a 2 1/4 hour haul home it was time to say goodbye to our friends, Allan, Nancy and Bill and head for the exit.

    Wednesday, June 1 - We kicked off the month of June with the second night of USAC Indiana Midget Week at the 1/4 mile Gas City Speedway. Bill Burns again joined us for the evening as we settled into our grandstand seats to take in a night of wingless midgets and sprints with no other classes running. Time trials for the fine 44 car midget field took the green at 6:38 and by the time it was over at 7:12 Rico Abreu had set a new track record of 12.048 seconds around the 1/4 mile bullring. By 7:50 the first of four midget heats was ready to shove off with 4 out of the 11 entrants in each heat moving forward to the A main. With these numbers it makes for some good preliminary racing. Pennsylvania driver and ARDC representative, Ryan Greth was able to hold sway over the trio of Rico Abreu, Kyle Larson and Gage Walker in heat one which was no easy task. Tanner Thorson claimed heat two over Shane Golobic, Zach Daum and Chris Windom in a Baldwin Brothers #5. Christopher Bell scored the second Keith Kuntz team heat win over Bryan Clauson, Tony DiMattia and Jerry Coons Jr. DiMattia is an interesting story as he is from Malvern, PA and attends IUPUI in Indianapolis and races his midget and sprint as he attends classes here and continues to run during the summer months. Heat four saw Brady Bacon take home the bacon over Spencer Bayston, Justin Grant and Dayne Kingshott, an Aussie making the midget week tour. The four competitive heats were in the record books by 8:21 and now it was time for the three sprint car heats for the 27 parked in the third and fourth turn pit area. Bryan Clauson nailed down heat one over Ted Hines and Colton Cottle. Heat two went to AJ Hopkins beating Jerry Coons Jr. and Chad Boespflug. The third heat was won by Scotty Weir wheeling a second Goodnight #39 holding off Brady Bacon in his own #99 and Dave Darland. Jake Neuman followed with a win in the midget C main with Jimmy Light scoring the win in the sprint B main over Shane Cottle and Logan Jarrett. The midget B main was taken by Oklahoma's Tyler Thomas winning over Ryan Robinson and Justin Peck. Next up were the two main events.

    The 30 lap USAC National Midget feature would be the first one called to the post after a reworking of the track with the green flag waving on the front row of Spencer Bayston and Zach Daum and 22 of their friends including 7 of the 8 Kuntz cars. Spencer Bayston took his Kuntz #97 to the early lead. Daum, Kyle Larson and Brady Bacon took chase. The red waved on lap 8 when Chase Johnson rolled his mount in turn four. On the restart Daum dove underneath Bayston and took the lead but Bayston recovered and regain the lead as they crossed the line to complete lap 9. Laps 11 & 12 saw an intense battle crop up among Daum, Larson and Clauson with the drivers going three wide until Larson claimed second at the line with Clauson wrestling away third. Near the halfway point Clauson moved by Larson for second as the leader began to encounter lap traffic. Bayston continued to lead but the caution appeared on lap 23 when Tanner Thorson stopped at the end of the backstretch. Bayston was up to the challenge as the 17 year old blasted to the front when the green reappeared. It was to be Bayston's night as he would flash under the checkers for his first career USAC National Midget victory. Bryan Clauson won the torrid battle for the second spot with Kyle Larson settling for third with Zach Daum fourth and Christopher Bell coming from 11th to finish fifth. The hard charger which was somewhat overlooked due to the racing up front went to California driver, Shane Golobic, charged from 19th to 8th at the end. Still to come was the 25 lap sprint car feature with the front row consisting of Brady Bacon and Scotty Weir in a rematch from almost two weeks ago when the USAC sprints visited but this time in different cars. Bacon went to the lead with Weir going to the low side to challenge. Bryan Clauson caught and passed Weir for second around lap 10. Clauson took up the chase of Bacon and at the halfway mark entering turn three the two collided with Bacon spinning to the infield but standing on the gas and returning to the track in the fifth position. Bacon was elbows up now as he picked the cars off in front of him returning as high as second. Weir passed him for second and they got together low in turn four costing Bacon two positions. The checkered waved at 10:29 on the non-stop eight minute feature with Clauson taking the win over Weir with Dave Darland taking third after starting ninth with Bacon finishing fourth and Ohio's Kyle Simon turning in an impressive performance passing Shane Cottle and Jerry Coons Jr. in the closing laps to take fifth after starting 13th. A good night of close racing with two premier divisions spun off in a very timely manner. Can't ask for much more than that.

    Thursday, June 2 - Tonight was night three of USAC midget week and the venue was the Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, IN, our favorite place to watch a race from. There is a wide concrete slab that covers the side of a hill with wooden benches attached to it which stretches the entire length of the homestretch. The aisle ways are so wide that you can place your lawn chairs in the aisle in front of the board behind you and sit back and relax and enjoy some food and beverage from your can holder on your chair. Forty two midgets would make the call tonight with time trials beginning at 6:48. By 7:23 Brady Bacon had toured the 5/16 mile dirt oval in a time of 13.308 seconds and placed the Manafort #76 on top of the speed charts. Four midget heats followed at 7:46 with Rico Abreu taking the opener over Dave Darland, Brady Bacon and Shane Golobic. Heat two saw the high flying Tyler Thomas corral the win over Steve Buckwalter, Bryan Clauson and Jerry Coons Jr. in a race where Austin Prock dumped his midget over in turn three. Heat three saw Tanner Thorson attacking the track which sent him to the hospital a year ago winning over Gage Walker, Jake Neuman and Zach Daum. The final heat went to Carson Macedo over Dayne Kingshott, 15 year old Ryan Robinson and Ryan Greth. Three sprint heats were run for the good 32 car field on hand with Shane Cockrum taking the Jamie Paul #24P to the top to win over JJ Hughes and Jadon Rogers. Bryan Clauson bagged heat two over Thomas Meseraull and Nate McMillen. Kevin Studley reigned supreme in heat three beating out Missouri's Clinton Boyles and Matt McDonald. Kevin Thomas Jr. continues to impress in the Ottinger #4J triumphing over Chad Boespflug in the Stensland #41 and Brandon Mattox in the Jerry Burton #04. The midget C main was next and won by Arizona's Chad Boat, son of Billy Boat who had some good years in midgets and indy cars. The track had started out looking real good but went away so before the super stock heats the track crew went to work to redo the surface. The result was an improvement and the program resumed with the two super stock heats, midget B main taken by Spencer Bayston, a race in which Tony DiMattia went end over end in turn four while running in the sixth and last qualifying position. The two sprint B mains went to Michael Koontz and Jimmy Light.

    It was time for the 30 lap USAC midget feature with Ryan Robinson taking the early lead from Bryan Clauson. Lap 5 saw the red appeared as Shane Golobic took a wide ride in turn four turning every which way. On the restart Tanner Thorson who started fifth blasted by Clauson entering turn three to take second and chase his teammate, Robinson. Thorson tried one slide job off turn four to attempt to take the lead on lap 12 but Robinson ducked back under and retook the top spot. The youngster boobled just slightly in turn two on lap 13 and Thorson pounced for the lead. The leaders entered lap traffic on lap 14 as things got interesting. Jimi Quin slid to a stop in turn two on lap 15 to slow down the action. Rico Abreu was now in third up from 12th and on lap 17 did a slide job on Robinson on a restart to take second away. Logan Jarrett rolled to a stop in turn two on lap 19 to bring out the yellow. Thorson jumped the cushion in turn two on lap 22 allowing Abreu to close to his rear nerf bar and Abreu looked to be positioned to strike for the lead entering turn three but before anything could happen the caution appeared for a turn four tangle between Holly Shelton and Dave Darland. Before the restart third running Brady Bacon pulled into the infield out of action. On the restart Abreu threw his best move at Thorson entering turn one but couldn't make it stick and Thorson moved away as Abreu lost some momentum and Clauson slipped by for second. Abreu pounded the cushion at both ends of the track but lost ground and slipped back to fourth. Entering turn one on the white flag lap Clauson made one last ditch slide job to try to unseat Thorson but fell short and Thorson scooted away. The checkered waved at 11;22 with Thorson winning over Clauson, Tyler Thomas in a fine run from tenth to third with Abreu fourth and Spencer Bayston rounding out the top five. Hadn't decided yet whether this one or Montpelier was the better midget feature.

    The sprint car feature went green at 11:53 and only one caution slowed the event. Bryan Clauson took the lead from Kevin Thomas Jr. and went on to win his fourth straight sprint car race over Thomas with Shane Cockrum third, Chad Boespflug fourth and Kyle Simon turning in another good performance garnering fifth after starting 16th. The night featured some excellent racing and was an enjoyable evening.

    Check back in the next day or two as we finish off the remainder of USAC midget week before diving straight into the USAC Sprint Eastern Storm series. So get out there and take in some good short track racing in your area and see you at Grandview tonight.

     

     

    Memorial Day Weekend Wrap Up From Lincoln Park, Indianapolis & Kokomo

    Saturday morning was hot and humid with a chance of showers. After working around the house, cleaning the back porch and the porch furniture we ventured south on Route 231 to our favorite place to watch a race. There is something about Lincoln Park Speedway that is relaxing. As you sit back in your canvas lawn chair with your cooler of drinks by your side it is like you do not have a care in the world. The racing is usually really good but the atmosphere here is always relaxing and comfortable. As we got closer to the track we could tell it had rained recently, but it wasn't until we got into beautiful downtown Putnamville that we saw huge puddles of water on the side of Route 40. We parked at 5:00 and around 5:35 it started to sprinkle again. This was only for a brief amount of time and at 6:30 we plunked down our $18 and entered the grandstands. Remember if you are a HARF member you receive a discount of $2 every time you go to LPS simply by showing your HARF membership ID card. It was not until we entered the grandstand that we realized just how much it must have rained. The grader was trying to maneuverer the wet track and was having difficulty doing so. Management did all they could do and it was not until 8:42pm that the green flag dropped on hot laps for the 4 division field.

    With close to 100 cars signed into the pits, we knew we were in for a long night. The sprints were 31 strong and ran their 4 qualifying heats first. The modifieds ran 3 heats, super stocks 2 heats and the bombers finished up with 3 heats. Even though management kept the show moving the night grew late and all I kept thinking of was that I had to get up at 4:00 the next morning. Officials had a heck of a time getting the lineup straight as four cars were penalized for arriving in the starting chute too late. It seemed like they rode around forever until officials were finally satisfied that the lineup was correct. The sprint feature finally started at 11:34 and turned out to be a decent one. Brandon Mattox flipped the Burton #04 in turn two on lap two and then the feature went 21 laps before the first yellow appeared for a spin in turn four. In between Thomas Meseraull took the Amati Racing #66 to the front and pulled away from the field. Kevin Thomas Jr. came home second with CJ Leary third. New Mexico summer visitor, Josh Hodges, advanced from seventh to fourth with Brent Beauchamp nipping Brady Short for fifth. It was now 11:55 and time to head home for three hours of sleep before leaving for Carmel for our bus tour to Indianapolis.

    We signed up for the Sunday double bus trip of Bryan Clauson which would take in racing at both Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Kokomo Speedway. After arriving home late from Lincoln Park the previous night it was rise and shine at 4:00 AM to travel to Carmel where we and four busloads of our friends would be meeting for breakfast and a ride over to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Since it was the 100th running of the 500 we decided this was the best way to attend the 500 and indeed it seemed like a great deal as we drove by the bumper to bumper traffic trying to enter the racetrack area. If you ever decide to do the 500 plus want to see some good short track racing to boot this ticket is for you. The $150 per person cost included a $95 ticket to Indianapolis and a $15 ticket to Kokomo plus a $25 tee shirt depicting the Bryan Clauson Sunday double. In addition was the bus ride to Indianapolis then onward to Kokomo and back to Carmel where your car was parked. There was even more with a light breakfast of muffins, donuts, fruit, juices and coffee plus a box lunch of a choice of three kinds of sandwiches with chips, fruit, frozen water and an orzo & pesto mix. Supper was catered at Kokomo with fried chicken, pulled pork, mash potatoes, cole slaw, green beans, mac and cheese, sawmill gravy, biscuits, cookies and lemonade or ice tea. You just couldn't beat this package. The mass of people at Indianapolis is totally amazing and the atmosphere should be experienced by every race fan at least once in their lifetime. The walk to our seats was very long and the seats were not the greatest but just being there was worth all the effort. The race was very competitive throughout and the final laps were thrilling with Josef Newgarden and Carlos Munoz swapping the lead back and forth lap after lap until the top four all pit late for fuel except Alexander Rossi who stayed out and beat fuel logic and stole the race to become the first rookie since 2001 to win this race.

    We arrived in Kokomo around 6:30 and proceeded into the track to secure a seat (when our buddy, Jason, supplying us with a blanket to tape down) before going back out the gate to enjoy the catered dinner prepared for all who took the Clauson bus tour. It was delicious from the fried chicken to the cookies with many other side dishes in between. I spotted Casey McManus, one of the captains of the crab boats from Deadliest Catch which airs on Discovery Channel. Upon further scanning his captain in training, Josh Harris, was at the table also so Pat and I went over and talked with them and told them how we enjoyed watching the show.

    The second half of the Sunday double was the Kokomo Klassic with 22 sprint cars, 36 UMP modifieds, 13 thunder cars and 19 hornets filling the pit area. The sprints hit the track for their first of three heat races at 7:50 with the hot man of the month, Kevin Thomas Jr. taking the first heat using the high side winning over Chad Boespflug and Jerry Coons Jr. Heat two saw the consistent Chris Windom winning over Bryan Clauson and Josh Hodges in for the summer from New Mexico. The final heat saw Jarett Andretti beat off Travis Hery and Carson Macado, the young California driver. This was one of the rare times it was dusty at Kokomo but with temperatures in the 90's and humid plus the wind blowing in your face it was a given. We knew that putting up with some dust in our beer would be worth it as the track would be reworked before the features and it would be racy once again. The 30 lap King of Kokomo sprint car feature took the green at 10:10 with Chad Boespflug taking the early lead. Lap 5 saw visitor, Carson Macedo, throw a shoe and pull to a stop. The green appeared for the final time with Boespflug back out front. Coming to the line to complete lap 10 Bryan Clauson surged into the lead. Kevin Thomas Jr. was starting to rumble moving from his sixth starting position up to third by lap 14 as Boespflug began to fade and Chris Windom was now the nearest pursuer of Clauson. Windom kept the pressure on Clauson as they ran the high side with reckless abandon. Clauson held sway and crossed the finish line at 10:21 completing a long day of racing for the veteran driver and as Chevy Clauson says "He barked it in victory lane". Windom crossed the line second with Thomas Jr. third, Josh Hodges in a good run from eighth to fourth and Jarett Andretti turning in an impressive run rounding out the top five. Even after a buy day Bryan came out to the bus area and signed autographs and took pictures with the fans before boarding each of the four buses with his fiancé, Lauren Stewart, and thanking everyone for joining them on the Sunday double tour.

    Next column will pick up the already underway USAC midget week with the first two visits to Montpelier and Gas City. So until next time get out and enjoy the good weather and attend some good short track racing in your area or take it on the road. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    Hoosier 100 & Josh Burton Memorial

    Thursday, May 26, is it going to rain or isn't it going to rain? That was the question a lot of race fans were asking. I sat at my desk in the family room working and as I looked out the window a nice steady rain started to fall. It rained until almost noon and then the sun began to shine. After our Gas City snafu last week there was no way we were not going to make the 1 hour drive over to the Indiana State Fairgrounds where the 62nd running of the Hoosier 100 was taking place. I shut down the work computer early and at 4:30 we hit the road. It s an easy ride over to the fairground and we were there by 5:25. Now, getting into the fairgrounds was another story. For some unknown reason Carmel High School was holding their high school graduation tonight in the Coliseum directly across the street from the race track grandstand. It took almost 15 minutes to enter he grounds and secure a parking spot off turns three and four near the covered bridge. Now as a race fan you expect your car to be covered with dust when you park off the turns but the people saw walking back to the coliseum dressed in suits and fancy dresses were in for a big surprise when they came back out to their clean pristine cars. The crowd walking was as diverse as the east is from the west.

    We found our seats in Section 3 and at 6:38 time trials for the Silver Crown cars began. Twenty-eight cars turned one lap each on the mile and fast time was set by Brady Bacon, with a time of 34.396. The vintage cars ran an exhibition and then it was time for the modified race. We had yet to see the modifieds run as that all took place prior to us entering the grandstands. I was writing down the starting line up and was shocked when the announcer said and rounding out the field as he was only at the 6th starter. Only 6 UMP modifieds showed up for a race paying$2,000 to win. Six cars on a mile track does not make for a good race. The 10 lap event ran non-stop and why wouldn't it have. It was as exciting as watching paint dry. Of course they said the weather had something to do with the lack of cars but maybe they just do not want to run on a mile track. It was the 7th running of the Indiana Classic and based on the car count it should be the last. Joey Kramer won and Kenny Schrader was second. Just saying, this race was a waste of time.

    The Hoosier 100 started at 8:40 and although not as good as last year for 100 laps on a mile track it was still a good race. Thirty-two cars started even though only twenty-eight timed. Jerry Coons Jr. jumped into the early lead only to be passed by pole sitter Brady Bacon a few laps into the event. The race ran green until a series of cautions slowed the field three times between laps 23 and 45. They were for minor incidents with the third of the three on lap 45 negating Shane Cottles's pass for the second position. Racing resumed and at the half-way mark it was Bacon leading the way, Coons was in second, Cottle was in third and Kody Swanson, the defending two time winner moved up to fourth. After halfway the deck would shuffle and the #63 of Swanson started to make his move. Lap 52 saw Cottle make his move into second and then a few laps later into the lead. The red came out when veteran driver, Russ Gamester, turned over several times on the backstretch and when racing resumed Swanson made his move to the lead past Cottle. A lead he would never come close to relinquishing. Several laps later Brady Bacon exited the race and the top five complexion started to change. The race would see one more red when Jeff Swindell turned over his Silver Crown car in turn three. I can tell you I did not see this happen and could not even see the car once the red came out. Two lap after the green waved again fifth place Justin Grant fell off the pace. In the final laps Cottle would appear to move in on Swanson only to then have him pull away. When the checkered waved at the historic mile at 10:15 Kody Swanson picked up his third win in a row in the Hoosier 100. Cottle was second, Coons Jr. third, Brian Clauson fourth and Chris Windom fifth.

    Seeing the name of Brian Clauson makes you think back to a time when the same drivers who drove in this race would then drive in the Indianapolis 500. That was a special time. One I really do not remember too well. When I looked around in the fairgrounds grandstand there were a lot of spectators that could remember those days. I wonder what they think of how things have changed in the 62nd running of the race. Makes you wonder what is in store for this race in the years to come.

    Friday night it was off to the 1/4 red clay banks of the Bloomington Speedway for the fourth running of the Josh Burton Memorial. Josh was a young sprint car driver who met his untimely death four years ago here at Bloomington. It was a special tribute race to a special young man and the prerace ceremonies were a testament to that fact. The entire safety crew lined the homestretch while the majority of the pit area lined the entire backstretch into turns two and three to pay honor to this fine young man. It was truly a moving time!

    Four divisions were on hand and again if you are going to have four divisions plus a makeup feature for the super stocks you must either start earlier or drop one division on a special evening such as this. You have many out of towners on hand and you only have one chance to make a good first impression. The prerace ceremony was a good start but it went downhill from there. Each division would pay an amount ending in 04 to honor Josh Burton and the wingless sprint cars running for $3004 to win would run four heats for their 27 car field. Nick Bilbee outran Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jarett Andretti in heat one while Jeff Bland Jr. protected the top in heat two winning over Chad Boespflug subbing for Shane Cottle in the Hazen #57 and Jon Stanbrough. Heat three saw Brady Short check out winning over Thomas Meseraull and Dave Darland. Jordan Kinser took heat four over Robert Ballou and Travis Berryhill. Next up was the 25 lap feature for the super stock division with Josh Boller taking the win over Jamey Wilson and Jack Frye. The UMP mods ran two heats for their 19 car field with the 305 sprints running two heats for their 16 car field. The super stocks rounded out the heat qualifying for their 21 car field. Next was the sprint B main with New Mexico summer visitor, Josh Hodges, scoring the win. What surprised a lot of folks in attendance next was the fact that the track crew did not rework the surface for 20 to 30 minutes but went right into the feature events. You knew right away it was going to be huggy pole as the surface was black and slick.

    Brady Short started third, went to the front in turn two on lap one and led the entire distance by a large margin winning over second starting Jordan Kinser with Jon Stanbrough the only other driver that seemed to make any passes coming from tenth early to third and riding behind Kinser the rest of the distance. Thomas Meseraull started sixth and finished fourth with Kevin Thomas Jr. starting and finishing fifth. This had to be the most lackluster sprint car feature of the year and many Eastern friends of yours and ourselves walked away very disappointed on the feature racing this evening. We stayed to watch the UMP modifieds where Jacoby Hines won from second with Jordan Wever moving from eighth to second and Derek Groomer from fourth to third. This one was over at 11:06 and we decided to cut our losses and head for home.

    Next column will wrap up the Memorial Day week with races from Lincoln Park on Saturday and Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Kokomo on the Bryan Clauson Sunday double tour. Thoughts or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing.

     

     

    On The Dirt At Fort Wayne & USAC Terre Haute Action Start Memorial Day Holiday Racing Week

     

    With the weather forecast having a chance of thunderstorms every day from Wednesday through Sunday in Indiana we decided to take advantage of the predicted nice weather on Tuesday and make the 2 1/2 hour drive up to Fort Wayne to take in the Tuesday night Thunder program of winged and wingless 600 mini sprints at Baer Field Motorsports Park. Gordy Killian from Pennsylvania spent Monday with us before following us on the back roads of Indiana weaving our way through the farm fields passing many big pieces of farm machinery making their way down the highway to their next field. We arrived before 7 PM and found Wisconsin trackchaser, Jack Erdman, already there standing next to his car and we were joined shortly thereafter by Indiana's top trackchaser, Roger Farrell, from nearby Huntington. That was the main reason Pat and I were there, for the fellowship of fellow trackchasers and good friends with the racing and new track being secondary. Six winged 600 cc mini sprints along with nine non-winged 600 mini sprints (four of the drivers doing double duty) and one junior sprint were in attendance. Racing was scheduled to start at 7:30 on the 1/7 mile dirt oval located on the hill above the asphalt track but instead started nearly an hour late at 8:25. This is on a Tuesday night with school still in session and the adults still having to work three more days before the weekend. This is not the way to attract fans to come out to watch your race on a week night.

    One heat was run for the winged mini sprints with two heats for the wingless mini sprints with the one junior sprint running his heat in between to give time for the four drivers to convert their cars from winged to non-winged. Then even though management had no sense of urgency moving the program along they did schedule the non-wing feature first so the four drivers did not have to convert their cars an extra time. The 20 lap non-wing feature went green at 9:20 with Austin Thomas grabbing the early lead. Zeb Wise pressured and bumped Thomas numerous times in their battle for the lead with Wise briefly hooking nerf bars with Thomas and coming to a stop in turn four. From that point on it was all Thomas as he motored away from Cody Williams and Jason Shields to take the checker flag at 9:25. With the long drive home we decided to skip the winged feature and bid our farewells to our racing buddies and headed down the road to Crawfordsville. At 10 PM Gordy called us in the car to report that Zeb Wise messed himself up again in the winged feature with Blane Culp taking the win in that one. I was glad though that we left early as we were already down to the Montpelier exit and a refreshment stop along the ride home found us pulling into the garage at 12:30. With five more days of racing looming ahead it was the right call.

    If it's Wednesday it must be the Terre Haute Action Track located on the grounds of the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds for the 46th Annual Tony Hulman Classic for the USAC National Sprint Cars. We pulled onto the grounds at 6:15 to find a good crowd of people on hand for the night's racing action and by 6:25 time trials were underway for the 30 sprinters in attendance. By 6:48 Hoffman Racing's hired gun, Brady Bacon, was on top of the speed chart for the third time this year turning a lap of 20.514 seconds around the big half mile located in Terre Haute. Some track maintenance followed and the first of four heats for the USAC sprints was green flagged at 7:25. Shane Cottle took off in heat one with Max McGhee and Brady Bacon closing on him late. Aaron Farney outran his mentor, Robert Ballou, in heat two with Jon Stanbrough trailing. Heat three saw Thomas Messeraull winning over Dave Darland and Jerry Coons Jr. Carson Short looked strong in heat four outdistancing Chris Windom and Kyle Cummins. Two heats were run for the 16 UMP modifieds before Chase Stockon wired the sprint car field in the B main. The 15 lap UMP modified feature was spun off next with only one caution with fourth starting Brian Shaw passing first starting Ken Schrader for the popular win. Schrader still knows how to play the crowd and his various funny comments brought laughter and cheers from the adoring fans.

    By 9:15 it was Thomas Meseraull and Jon Stanbrough bringing 20 of their friends to the green flag to start the 30 lap Hulman Classic. Messeraull powered into the early lead until the caution waved on lap four when Tony DiMattia slowed to a stop at the end of the backstretch. Robert Ballou had surged from fifth to the runnerup spot by lap two. Going into turn three on lap eight Ballou threw a massive slider on Messeraull taking the lead in turn four but it was all for naught as the caution appeared for Landon Simon who stopped on the top side between turns three and four. On the restart Messeraull leaped back to the lead with Jon Stanbrough easing by Ballou for second. That only lasted two laps as Ballou drove back by Stanbrough and took up the chase of the high flying Messeraull. The action up front really heated up between laps 16 and 18 when the two leaders swapped slide jobs three times with Messeraull finally retaining the top spot as the crowd went wild. Meseraull stood on the gas entering turn four on lap 18 banging the cushion, the wall and wheels with Ballou before remaining out front. Entering turn one on lap 20 Ballou executed a perfect slide job to wrestle the lead away from Meseraull and was to never be headed as he pulled away by a substantial margin. The racing in the pack was far from over at this point with Brady Bacon taking third only to have Jon Stanbrough battle tooth and nail with him for that spot with Stanbrough eventually prevailing. The scramble for fifth through tenth was some great racing also with Dave Darland up from 19th and Chris Windom up from 20th along with Stockon, Cottle, Coons and Grant swapping positions. When the checkered flag waved at 9:39 it was the Rocklin, California native taking his second consecutive Hulman Classic joining Steve Butler (1987-88) and Levi Jones (2008-09) as back to back winners of this race. In the process Ballou also passed two legends, A.J. Foyt and Roger McCluskey, on the all-time USAC sprint car list with his 24th career win. Meseraull would come home second with Stanbrough earning the last podium spot finishing third after a rough start to his season. Brady Bacon settled for fourth and lost two points off his point lead to Messeraull and Chris Windom continues to impress big time in the Baldwin Brothers #5 taking fifth on the last lap from Chase Stockon after starting 20th. Stockon led the second five with Shane Cottle seventh, Dave Darland eighth, Jerry Coons Jr. ninth and Justin Grant tenth.

    A very fine evening of racing at Terre Haute and some fine driving by some of America's best. Next stop is tonight at the Indiana State Fairgrounds where the Silver Crown series will compete on the mile in the Hoosier 100. Check back in a few days as we keep you updated on the week long happenings in the Hoosier state.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Ever Changing Midwest Weather & Thomas Dominate The Weekend

    Friday's original plan was to take the two hour drive over to Gas City to take in their 2016 opener which was a USAC sprint car special. Just before we were going to leave I checked the weather forecast one last time and found the Gas City weather had made a change for the worse. Between 7 and 9 PM it was a 70% chance of showers so the tough decision was made to head west to Danville, Illinois where the forecast was 0%. Almost to the Indiana/Illinois border Pat checked the forecast again and it had totally changed! Now it was 0% for Gas City and 55% for Danville. Oh, boy we were now stuck in Illinois with Vermillion County and Lincoln (another 1 /2 hours away) as our two choices. We chose VCS and as we exited I-74 it started to sprinkle. We decided to wait outside the entrance to the fairgrounds to see what happened with the weather with three race cars and another dozen passenger cars joining us for the wait. It rained lightly on and off for the next hour and a half while the checked the Indiana Open Wheel website and got updates from Gas City who were indeed running and have a great field of 40 cars to boot. At 7:30 PM Central Time the rain fell more steady and the call was made to call it an early evening. This was certainly not the way to start off the weekend and upon awakening the next day read about the epic battle for the lead between Brady Bacon and Scotty Weir for over half the feature and my blood pressure rose even more. Trying to outguess the weather had come back to haunt us in a big way. This one hurt!

    Saturday was a much better forecast so we headed southeast to the Brownstown Speedway where the USAC sprints would be making their fourth ever appearance here and the first in five years. After witnessing the late March No Way Out 40 here this was a no brainer as to where to head. We secured our seats two rows from the top in the covered grandstand and settled in for a full night of racing. On tap were four divisions with USAC sprints (24), mini sprints (35), Racesaver 305 sprints (18) and Indiana late models (31). This would make for a long evening but management moved things along nicely with sprint time trials beginning at 6:25 with the last man out, CJ Leary, setting fast time with a new track record of 12.899 seconds. The gentleman next to me was enjoying seeing the open wheel cars tonight and asked me many questions along with slapping my arm numerous times to make a point. The USAC sprints would run their heats first and each one was decided on or near the last lap off the final turn. Heat one saw Chad Boespflug in a torrid battle with Robert Ballou with Boespflug using the cushion off turn four to rocket past Ballou at the wire. Heat two saw Chase Stockon sneak by Kyle Cummins for the win off turn four where probably even the best race of the heat was for fifth between Dave Darland and Brady Short who went at it tooth and nail eventually ending up third and fourth. Heat three saw "Sunshine" Tyler Courtney in an impressive run take the win over Brandon Mattox and Thomas Meseraull while again the fifth place battle was a great one between Chris Windom and Jon Stanbrough.

    The feature order was the same as the heat order therefore the 30 lap USAC sprint car feature was first up and took the green at 9:55. Six non-stop minutes later it was over. Wow! In between there was some good racing that occurred and I will fill you in on it. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Thomas Meseraull brought the 22 car field to the green with Thomas jumping to the lead. He promptly took off and left the field in his wake. The racing in the middle of the pack was intense with Brady Bacon threading his way from eighth up to second passing some good cars along the way to take up the chase of Thomas. Dave Darland and Brady Short took up their battle from the heat action in the feature racing each other hard in the top five until a rare miscue from Short late in the race when he slid partially off turn one and dropped back to seventh. Meanwhile Bacon was cutting into the large lead of Thomas but without the aid of a caution the gap was too large to eliminate. Thomas flashed the Jeremy Ottinger #4J under the checkered flag at 10:01 still being chased by Bacon with Darland third, Meseraull fourth and CJ Leary rounding out the top five. It was a good race on a nicely prepared surface which came up nearly dustless and was in fine shape the entire evening. We decided to stay for the 20 lap mini sprint main event and this one was a good one also. Andy Bradley led virtually the entire distance but not the most important lap as his brother, Scott, caught and passed Andy off turn four in the run to the flag stand. Brad Strunk came home third with Danny Fitzgerald fourth and Lynn Ambrose rounding out the top five at 10:34. We decided to call it a night at this point and start the two hour trek back to Crawfordsville for a good night of sleep.

    Sunday, a day we will remember for years to come. Amazing, awesome, incredible, unbelievable, wonderful are all adjectives used to describe something. That something would be the sprint car main event at Kokomo Speedway on Sunday night. It was Klassic Kokomo at it's best. If i ever get homesick for Pennsylvania all I need to do is think of this night and remember this is my Sunday night home track. WOW!! I know you are saying was it really that good. Yes it was! I was just telling Bruce the other week that we became Indianaized. When we first moved here we would see really good races and we were so amazed and excited. We would look around and the Indiana locals would be like it was fine but no one was nearly as excited as we were. For them this was the norm. I told Bruce we were starting to take the good racing for granted and becoming a local. Well Sunday night had the locals high fiving and cheering at the race they witnessed.

    We should have known it was going to be a good night when there was no chance of rain in the forecast. We arrived at 5:45 shortly before the warm-ups began. It was a very reasonable admission price of $12 for the 4 division show. There were sprints, super stocks, thunder cars and hornets. Kokomo always runs the top division first and the first sprint heat started early at 6:53. They spun off 3 heats for the 23 sprints, 2 super stock heats, 1 thunder car heat, a hornet heat and the sprint B main in 1 hour. Kevin Thomas Jr and Chris Windom went side-by-side in heat one to a photo finish and that set the stage for what was to come. Last week we needed to wait for the sun to set before starting the sprint feature tonight it was 8:37 when the green dropped and we had another 25 minutes of sunshine to follow. During intermission they worked the track and it proved to be just the extra touch that was needed to take the track from good to fantastic.

    Kevin Thomas Jr. started on the front row and at the drop of the green he led the way. The next drivers were running for second and anyone of them was in that position during the same lap. That side-by-side-by-side charge came to an end on lap 14 when Jerry Coons Jr. got into Justin Grant sending him over lightly in turn 4. When racing resumed so did the charge. Shane Cottle, Jerry Coons Jr. and Dave Darland went three wide and Darland in the middle made moves into spaces that I was sure were not even there. Lap 19 saw the caution again for a flat tire on the 18 of Jarett Andretti and the restart saw a tangle with the infield marker tire and four cars including Chad Boespflug who had advanced from 17th to 8th. With 6 laps remaining you just knew it was not over yet. Thomas no longer had his lead and the three drivers charging three wide wanted to make it four. But fifth place runner Chris Windom was to make it five. On lap 21 Thomas hit the turn one wall after jumping the cushion and at that point I thought he blew it. Luckily he does not think the same as me. Thomas thought now I will show them how good i really am in the Ottinger 4J. Cottle took no time jumping out front but Thomas fought back. Like a rocket ship he rode the cushion, caught Cottle and passed him at the checkered. While this was happening Darland jumped the cushion coming out of two and Coons got by him with Windom also sneaking by Darland on the final circuit. It was a Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! race as our buddy, Jeff Ahlum, track announcer at the Grandview Speedway back in PA, would say. And a very joyous victory lane took place as the sun was beginning to set. Kevin Thomas Jr, Shane Cottle, Jerry Coons Jr., Chris Windom and Dave Darland thank you for one hell of a race and a night many fans will not soon forget. It was $12 well spent.

    Until next time where we have six straight days of racing penciled in over Memorial Day week starting Tuesday topped off with a Sunday double of Indianapolis and Kokomo take care and get out to some good short track racing in your area. Thoughts, comments or suggestions can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. Thanks for reading and making our efforts feel worthwhile.

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    A Weekend Of Home Cooking

    We were planning to make a trip to Louisiana and Mississippi to attend races in the 49th and 50th state of our racing careers. A combination of poor planning and work commitments for Pat brought that plan to a halt and had us go to Plan B which was three nights of local Indiana sprint car racing. That's not a bad backup plan and it was put into motion.

    Friday night found us venturing to the red hills of the Bloomington Speedway for a five division program of racing on a cold May evening. My first contention is if you are going to run five divisions you need to start earlier than normal and be spot on with your presentation as there will always be the unknown and with Friday being a dreaded Friday the 13th you can bet that the unusual is going to happen. The weather has been very wet in the last couple of weeks and the track became choppy after warmups. The track crew went to work and brought out the big machinery with the large roller tires and rolled it in as good as possible. Already management had dug itself a hole by not starting earlier with the first heat not hitting the track until almost 8 PM. The 24 car sprint car field ran three good heats with Brandon Mattox winning the first one impressively over Jarett Andretti and Shawn Westerfeld. Heat two saw the new driver of the Baldwin Brothers orange crate #5, Chris Windom, claim the win over Nick Bilbee, in a retro Tony Elliott #17 in a nice tribute, and Jeff Bland Jr. Heat three produced a real wing ding battle between Dakota Jackson and Brady Short racing side by side with Short prevailing at the end. Jackson came home second with Chris Gurley turning in a good performance scoring a third. The 23 car UMP modified field ran three heats next followed by four heats for the 28 hornets on hand for double features. The super stocks would run three heats for their 25 car field and during the third heat Willie Sallee took a wild ride over turn three flipping and turning over several times. This led to an unavoidable 30 minute delay while emergency personnel attended to the driver and wrecker crews cleaned up the wreck. What stunned me was the lack of communication between the accident scene and the track crew. I had no problems with the track crew coming out and grading the track as it made it safer and better racing for all involved but rather the timing of it all. Once a second ambulance was summoned the track crew should have attacked the surface right awa and not waited until 20 minutes into the 30 minute delay to first start working the surface. After the accident scene was cleaned up it was an additional 25 minutes before the track maintenance was completed and it was now 10:15 with one super stock heat to complete and two additional Racesaver 305 sprint heats to spin off. It was 10:42 before all the heat action was in the books with a sprint car B main and a hornet B main still to run before we were even to the first feature. It was 11 PM when the final B main was completed and now the additional threat of rain was in the picture.

    To management's credit they run their main division's features first so the 25 lap sprint car feature took the green flag at 11:15. Nick Bilbee got the jump on Jarett Andretti from the outside of the front row to take the early lead. The first caution did not appear until lap 9 when Bub Cummings and Cody Clarkson hooked together and spun to the inside fence on the homestretch. This took about five minutes to unlock the two machines before racing resumed (I told you it was that Friday the 13th jinx). There were several strong runs in the feature with Chris Windom and Dakota Jackson finishing second and third after chasing Bilbee the entire distance. Jeff Bland Jr. would notch fourth while Kevin Thomas Jr. made the most impressive run of the evening after winning the B main and coming from 16th to 5th. Brady Short was unable to crack the top five taking sixth after starting tenth. This one was in the books by 11:33. We decided to stay to watch the 25 lap modified feature with Bradley Sterrett coming home the victor after starting second. Josh Harris tried to track him down but was unable to and finished second with Zach Fair claiming the final podium finish with their checkered waving at 12:09. With the rain drawing closer and four features still to go it was decided to call it an evening and make the 1 1/2 hour trek back to Crawfordsville. As the first hornet feature took to the track and we loaded all the gear in the car it started to sprinkle. Driving north toward Bloomington the rain increased and continued to fall almost all the way back home. Upon checking the results the following day only the first hornet feature was able to get in before the heavier rain hit and halted the racing program at 12:30. Too long of a show and steps need to be taken in the future to cut down on the time of the presentation.

    Saturday was cold, not chilly, cold. Once again the heat was turned back on in the house. May 14 and with the wind chill it felt like 37 degrees when we went over to the outside Saturday morning farmer's market in Crawfordsville. The plan was to go down to Lincoln Park Speedway, the closest track to home and my favorite track to watch a race. But that was not going to happen as they cancelled early and we went to plan B. Plan B was going to the "Burg" to see Round 1 of The King of the Midwest Sprints. Come to think of it that was a pretty good plan B. It is a 2 and 1/2 hour versus a 40 minute drive but the action on the track is good at both tracks. We arrived at Lawrenceburg at 6:05 and it was overcast, cold and breezy. Bruce went in to tie down a blanket while I stayed in the car studying for continuing education credits for my insurance license. When he returned he was excited, there were over 30 sprints in the pits waiting to take to the 3/8 mile high banked oval.

    The car counts were unbelievable. There were 36 sprints, 33 UMP modifieds, 36 hornets and 13 pure stocks. Close to 120 cars were in the pits. In total they ran 20 qualifying events. The sprint heats were quite competitive with Shane Cottle, Kevin Thomas Jr., Kyle Cummins and Joss Moffatt, the defending Burg champion winning the heats. I must say I thought the modified heats were even better. After 3 hours all qualifying was complete and it was feature time. So after driving 2 and 1/2 hours and sitting through 3 hours of qualifying events we get to the main event we came to see. The green fell at 10:25 and 6 minutes later it was over. Round 1 of King of the Midwest Sprints paying $2,500 to win went non-stop. The winner came all the way from the pole but that was not indicative of the race. Polesitter Jon Stanbrough won his first race at Lawrenceburg since the new configuration but second place finisher Kyle Cummins was fast approaching at the finish. Cummins started 8th. Outside polesitter Shawn Westerfeld brought it home 3rd with Shane Cottle moving up one position to finish 4th. But if you were not watching Cummins you were watching CJ Leary move up from twelfth starting position to 5th. It was a good feature event.

    We stayed to see the modified main event and then headed for the car shortly after 11:00. Pete Holt picked up the win which was his third straight but his first ever at Lawrenceburg for the Kentucky resident. I had on two sweatshirts, a winter coat, winter hat, mittens and a blanket. Drove and sat through qualifying for a total of 5 and 1/2 hours for a 6 minute main event and I would do it all over again. I guess us race fans are a bit strange.

    Sunday dawned sunny but chilly and windy but the good part was there was no rain in the forecast. Today it was time to visit Kokomo Speedway for their opener as their first three shows were lost to the weather. To us going to Kokomo is like visiting an old friend that you haven't seen for a while and it brings a smile to your face to know that you will be crossing paths soon. The O'Connors and their entire staff are a friendly bunch and truly make you feel welcomed. We arrived around 4:45 and while I ventured inside to secure our blanket for the evening Pat remained in the car working on some insurance material in order to take some tests to renew her insurance licenses. Tonight was the second night of the King of the Midwest sprint series following the night before at Lawrenceburg. On the line was the top prize of $2500 to win for the wingless sprinters with a $1000 extra if the first night winner, Jon Stanbrough, was to double up on the weekend. The big surprise was the no show of Stanbrough as the night before he stated he had no intentions of going to Kokomo but his Lawrenceburg victory might change his mind. A manageable program of three divisions with a fine field of 32 sprint cars, 19 thunder cars and 12 hornets graced the pit area located off of turns one and two. Racing got underway at 7:06 with the first of three sprint car heats. Kevin Thomas Jr. went up top at the beginning with Chris Windom chasing. A good run by the new pilot of the Phillips #71P, Justin Grant netted him a third in heat one. Heat two saw a double flip between turns three and four involving Kyle Robbins and Logan Jarrett with Robbins getting the worst of it being finished for the evening while Jarrett would return in one of the B mains. Jarett Andretti was able to hold off CJ Leary and Jerry Coons Jr. in this one. Heat three saw the pride of Lincoln and the People's Champ, Dave Darland, take the Walker #11 to the cushion winning over Brent Beauchamp and Shane Cottle. The final heat saw the guy who runs the bottom at Kokomo better than anyone we seen, Bryan Clauson, beating out the hard running Tyler Courtney and AJ Hopkins in this one. Two B mains followed after the thunder car and hornet heats with Chad Boespflug wheeling the Stensland #41 to victory over Brian Karraker while Travis Hery prevailed in B main two outdistancing Landon Simon in this one. A short break to rework the track which always makes for a racy feature surface was performed.

    By 8:52 the green flag waved on the 30 lap King of Kokomo sprint car feature with Kevin Thomas Jr. taking off from his second starting position and pushing the cushion to an early lead. Entering turn one on lap 3 Dave Darland had someone check up in front of him as he ran up high causing closely following Justin Grant to nail Darland in the rear and sending the Walker #11 high into the turn one catch fence where the rear nerf bar tangled into the fencing and stood the car straight up and down with the bottom facing toward the grandstand. We have never heard a crowd more silent while the crews worked to untangle the sprinter from the fencing. They were able to loosen it and slowly lower it to the ground where Darland popped out through the rollcage to the delight of the crowd on hand. Darland and Grant were finished for the evening. The racing resumed with Thomas staying up high with Windom taking up the chase also using the top side. Meanwhile back in the field others were trying various different grooves to try to catch the high flying front tandem. It is amazing the side by side racing that you witness at Kokomo each and every week and sometimes you can take it for granted or as we like to term it being "Indianaized". For someone coming there for the first time they would be jumping up and down but for the regular this is assumed. I even mentioned to Pat on the ride home that it was a good feature but I've seen better there and she remarked that the racing tonight was probably better than 95% of the racing in the country!! She is correct and it is easy to become spoiled with the fine racing we see when we go to visit our old friend. Back to the racing as Thomas continued to lead but Windom was starting to close the gap. Bryan Clauson got the bottom working for him as he moved from seventh to wrestle third from Tyler Courtney after an intense battle between the two that lasted over five laps. As the checkered waved at 9:15 it was Thomas to be crowned the King of Kokomo winning over Windom, Clauson, Courtney and Shane Cottle working the Hazen #57 through the lower and middle grooves from 11th to take home 5th. Brent Beauchamp came across sixth with Robert Ballou seventh after starting fourteenth with Jarett Andretti eighth, CJ Leary ninth and Chad Boespflug tenth after starting seventeenth. An action packed main event with people on the road before 9:30 on a Sunday evening is a winning combination and is what brings the fans back to visit their old friend again next week.

    Until next week where it's another all Indiana sprint car weekend if the weather cooperates with USAC stops at Gas City and Brownstown and a regular show at Kokomo on Sunday take care and get out their and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Racing Action From Farmer City & Lincoln Park

    Since there was no sprint car racing in the entire state of Indiana on Friday night we opted to go over to the dark side and take in an ALMS/MARS late model race at Farmer City Speedway in Illinois. A five division program would take this one past midnight with time trials for both the UMP modifieds and the late models. A timer clock malfunction added to the length of the show causing a twenty minute delay as five or six guys worked feveriously to start a back up generator to power the timer clock. Forty two late models, 28 street stocks, 19 pro late models (crate), 22 UMP modifieds and 11 hornets filled the pit area to capacity. I wouldn't go into detail on all the qualifying action but will sum it up with that it was 10:20 before all qualifying was completed. The ALMS/MARS late models would run their feature fourth out of five divisions on the evening with the green waving at 11:29. It was a decent feature with Billy Moyer fighting off Brandon Sheppard, Kevin Weaver, Dennis Erb Jr. and UMP modified star, Devin Gilpin, rounding out the top five. The checkered waved at 11:49 and with the hour time difference we rolled into Crawfordsville at 2 AM. Too long of a show even without the time difference.

    Saturday was my brother's 68th birthday (Happy Birthday Bob) it was south on Route 231 toward beautiful downtown Putnamville for the first time this year for a visit to the Spiker's 5/16 mile clay oval known as the Lincoln Park Speedway. We love the entire setup at Lincoln Park with the large concrete grandstand with wooden slabs to sit on or place your canvas chairs in the wide aisles and settle in for a good night of racing. Two Evansville area residents, Ron Miller and Jim Goerge, made the long trek over to Lincoln Park and I enjoyed chatting with them before the first heat race started at 7:35. It was nice to meet another Indiana Open Wheel website contributer in Jim Goerge and thanks for the kind words on our column. The sprint cars were up first for three heats for their 22 car field (not bad considering that Eldora, Lawrenceburg and Fremont were all running wingless sprints also). JJ Hughes looked strong in heat one outracing Brian Karraker and Brady Short. Jon Stanbrough in the #77 took home top honors in heat two turning back Brent Beauchamp and Jeff Bland. Heat three saw Brandon Mattox bring the Burton #04 to the line first outdistancing Shane Cockrum in the Paul #24P and Tyler Hewitt. Three heats were contested for the 21 UMP modifieds on hand while two heats were needed for the 17 super stocks and four heats for the 28 bombers pitside. All heat racing was accomplished in one hour. Three or four times during the season Lincoln Park has bike cycle racing for the youngsters starting the various age groups at various spots around the oval with the oldest ones taking a full lap around the 5/16 mile oval. A young lady won the oldest age group class for the eighth straight time and it wasn't close. This only took a half hour and could be considered an intermission but the everchanging weather had us sky watching the entire time. Only the sprints and modifieds needed B mains with Lee Underwood besting the field in the sprint car one.

    By 9:36 it was feature time as the 20 sprint car starters rolled onto the track off the access road running behind turns three and four and lined up for their go. The green waved with JJ Hughes powering to the early lead but the first caution waved as eighth starting Jeff Bland spun in turn four. Racing restarted with Hughes going back out front as track started to dry out and the majority of the field went huggy pole. Hughes continued to lead the parade as seventh starting Brady Short tested out the high side with little success slipping back to the 11th spot. Brent Beauchamp marched from fifth to take up the chase of Hughes and finally found enough in the middle groove to wrestle the lead from Hughes coming to the line on lap 21. Brady Short was picking off cars coming back from eleventh to move into contention taking third with a few laps remaining. It looked like Beauchamp's night but he got sideways in turn two with just a few to go and collided with Hughes to straightened himself allowing Short to scoot around them both and into the lead. The checkered waved at 9:57 with Short taking the win over Shane Cockrum who made a late run to take second from Beauchamp with eleventh starting Kevin Thomas Jr. bring home fourth with Jon Stanbrough rounding out the top five. Hughes finished a disappointing sixth after a much finer run as his front end received damage in the encounter with Beauchamp. A fine run by Bland from last to seventh was missed by many as they watched the battle up front as the end looked like a pack of sharks attracted to blood.

    We stayed for the next two features as the UMP modifieds ran their 20 lapper next. Kenny Carmichael Sr. took the lead on the homestretch to start lap 13 and would hold off Travis Shoulders for his first win since May 31st of 2014 in a popular finish. We decided to move up under the overhang as it started to spit some rain. The 20 lap super stock feature cooperated by going non-stop in six minutes with Doug McCullough taking the win at 10:29. We decided to skip the two bomber features and was we made our way east on Route 40 it started to rain harder, enough to turn the windshield wipers on. We did find out the next day that the bombers were able to sneak their features in.

    Until next time where the plans are to add states 49 & 50 to the list that we have witnessed races in this weekend take care, keep dry and get out to some good short track racing in your area. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Vermillion County and Rain For The Weekend

    We decided to support the return of wingless sprint cars to the 1/4 mile Vermillion County Speedway outside of Danville, Illinois. The wingless sprint cars will be running at VCS once a month starting May through September and we will try to take in as many races there as possible as it is the closest track to our Crawfordsville, Indiana home (40 to 45 minutes). Since Illinois is in the Central time zone and Indiana is in the Eastern time zone it is an hour earlier when we cross the Illinois state line. The bad part is on the return trip it is an hour later than the cell phones show when leaving the Land of Lincoln. On the way over we had time to take in the early bird special at the famous Beef House near Covington where Pat consumed a wonderful grilled pork chop while I feasted on top round of roast beef with mushrooms. It was delicious!!

    We arrived at Vermillion County before six and placed our blanket down on the wooden and metal grandstands before retreating back to the car where Pat chatted with her father on the phone while I waited for warmups to begin. Warmups for all five divisions on hand were spun off and qualifying (time trials) for the four regular divisions commenced at 7:29. This track is UMP sanctioned with the modifieds, street stocks and factory stocks all under the UMP banner. All time trials were wrapped up by 8:00 and a twenty minute break followed. At 8:20 the first of three heats for the 20 car modified field were waved off and three very competitive races followed. The street stocks were next up for two heats for their 12 car field while the factory stocks also ran two heats for their 16 car field. The wingless sprints would be fourth in order running three heats for their decent 20 car field, about five more than I expected. Tyler Shoemaker would win heat one while Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Lincoln Park point championship car from last year garnered heat two. Ohio's Landon Simon would prevail in heat three with all the heats being decent runs. The last division on the card, the mod lites would only run one heat for their seven car field.

    Another over twenty minute break followed which was not needed on this cold spring evening before the first of five features with the running order the same as the heat order was trackside, that being the top class on the regular night racing, the modifieds. The 20 lap go was a very good, action packed race with Chad Evans passing Randy Shuman for the lead after starting sixth and fending off the strong challenge of Bobby Stremme who started fifth with Ernie Gingerich starting and finishing third with Jamie Lomax fourth after starting fifth. The street stocks and factory stocks spun off two decent features with only two cautions each and by 10:45 it was time for the 20 lap sprint car feature.

    Starting straight up from their heat race finishes gave Kevin Thomas Jr. the second starting position and almost everyone figured that if the car did not break it was his race to lose. It didn't and he won never seriously being challenged with Chris Gurley chasing him in second with Landon Simon third, Mitch Wissmiller making up the most ground after starting tenth in haul in fourth with Korey Weyant fifth after starting eighth. By the time the sprints hit the track for their feature the surface had taken some rubber and slicked up not making for a real good feature event. This one was over by 11:05 and it was time to exit the grandstand and crank up the heater in the car for the 40 minute ride back to Crawfordsville.

    It was an entertaining night of racing but the program needs to be tightened up a little to be more time efficient. Maybe starting the qualifying (time trials) earlier at 6:45 and starting actual racing at 7:30 would be a good start. If you want to draw people from Indiana to come see your track run on a Friday night you need to wrap up the show earlier and place the sprints second in the running order so the visiting class and their dedicated fans can hit the road earlier as that hour crossing back into Indiana makes it later than it should be. The announcer stated during the evening that Darrell Hellman, the promoter, would be increasing the purse for the sprints and that should draw some more cars to VCS. We hope the series is a success and that the sprints will become a part of the lineup for years to come.

    Saturday was a total washout within four hours of our house and Sunday's options of Kokomo and Terre Haute fell victim to the rain causing wet grounds at both facilities which would have made racing impossible. So it ended up being a short weekend with only one race but that is the way it happens sometimes. Until next week take care, stay dry and get out to some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    POWRi Weekend In Illinois

    It was a beautiful day in the mid-west and we decided to drive into Illinois for a bit of open wheel overload. The POWRi Midgets, POWRi Division Two (D2) Midgets and the POWRi 600 Micros plus MOWA sprints were running at the Jacksonville Speedway. Four open wheel divisions, it doesn’t get any better than this. The drive to Jacksonville Speedway is three hours but because of the time difference I was able to work until 3:45 before we headed west. We arrived at the Morgan County Fairgrounds at 5:45 and to our surprise Bryan Clauson was one of the many cars in the pits. By race time there was a nice crowd in the stands and the pits had 111 race cars. The car counts were midgets 31, D2 midgets 23, micros 27 and sprints 30. The only division to run time trials was the sprints and they ran two at a time. Jerrod Hull set fast time with a time of 10.718 around the ¼ mile high banked oval. It was 7:26 and it looks like racing was going to start right on time.

    Management started on time and ran things with little to no down time but somehow the night got away. Up first were 4 POWRi midget heats. Here the drivers run for passing points with the top 16 point getters making it directly to the main event. The micros were next and these winged warriors are crazy the way they run this track. The sprints also ran 4 qualifying heats with only the top three moving on to the main event. The D2 midgets rounded out the heats with only 3 events. In all 15 heats were run in 1 and ½ hours and that is not bad considering three of the four divisions needed to be push started. Four B mains followed and by 10:00 it was feature time.

    The 25 lap MOWA sprint A main was up first and it looked to be shaping up to be real good. Bryan Clauson moved into the lead past AJ Bruns on lap 8. By lap 14 Clauson was riding through lapped traffic with Jerrod Hull in hot pursuit. They were riding high through three and four when a sprint almost came to a stop in four up on the cushion. Clauson had nowhere to go and the next thing you knew he was flipping on the homestretch. Clauson was OK but the #17 was not. On the restart Ian Madsen made his move going from fourth to second and set out for Hull. Hull won the event with Madsen in second. Joe B. Miller finished third with Carson Macedo getting past AJ Bruns for fourth on the final lap. Even with the red the race was spun off in 12 minutes.

    The POWRi midgets ran 30 laps and this time Bryan Clauson did not make a mistake. He took the lead on lap 5 and was never really challenged. This race saw the caution wave twice for minor spins and one red for Daniel Robinson’s flip in turn 4. As most midgets were riding around the bottom, Rico Abreu was riding high and although it looked real impressive, he was not passing that many cars. At 11:12 Bryan Clauson stood on the homestretch again but this time he was not exiting a turned over sprint and taking a walk to the ambulance, he had a checkered flag in his hand and was standing on the roll cage of his midget. Tanner Thorson was second with Tyler Thomas, Rico Abreu and Zach Daum rounding out the top five.

    At this time management seemed to be rushing the show. I do not know if they have a 12:00 curfew but based on the fact that they are located directly in the town I am sure they have some kind of curfew. The micros started their main event at 11:18 and after three cautions and two reds in the first 10 laps the race was cut short. I am not sure how many laps they actually ran but it could not have been more than 14 or 15. Frank Galusha won the shortened event.

    It was 11:30 and we decided to pull the plug on the D2 midget feature. That time difference was starting to catch up and 12:30 is past my bedtime. The races tonight were good and we enjoyed the night. But the one thing that amazed us the most was that after warm-ups for four divisions, time trials, 19 qualifying events and the 3 main events we saw there was no dust. I mean there was not one speck of dust. I am amazed at the surfaces of the Illinois tracks. I bet it probably has something to do with that black rich soil you see in the farm fields as you drive to the tracks.

    The second half of the POWRi weekend found us at the 1/5 mile high banked black dirt oval located in Macon, Illinois. It would be a four division program like last night except the street stocks replaced the MOWA sprints on this cool evening. The car counts are as follows: POWRi midgets (37), POWRi 600's (32), POWRi D2 midgets (20) and street stocks (9). Racing action started at 6:55, five minutes ahead of the scheduled starting time and you don't see that happen very often. The order of the heats would be the order of the features with the street stocks kicking off the program after circling the track with the American flag and a large checkered flag during the National Anthem. The POWRi midgets would run five heats after the street stocks with some impressive racing with Dereck King, Zach Daum, Tanner Thorson, Spencer Bayston and Daniel Adler notching victories. Thorson and Bayston were in two of five Keith Kuntz entries with all five making the big show with Holly Shelton, the young California gal, taking a provisional to join the field. The 600's with the wings are amazing fast around the 1/5 mile and Pat commented that they look like they are racing in a veleodrome. Garrett Duff, Aryton Gennetten, a third generation racer, Ayrton Olsen and Nic Harris outran the other drivers to win their heat races. The D2 midgets ran three heats with Hunter Lane, Patrick Bruns and Johnny Heydenreich formally of Bloomsburg, PA take home wins in this division. Two midget semis and one 600 semi were needed before all qualifying was in the books.

    The 15 lap street stock feature took the green flag at 8:52 and the first six laps the front row went side by side around the entire track without touching before finally Nick Justice edged ahead and took control. He flashed under the checkered just four minutes later with his second straight win at Macon. The 30 lap POWRi midget feature was next and it was a very interesting one and bizarre in spots including before the green flag ever waved as after the four wide salute the midgets hit the gas and speed off but Tyler Thomas clipped an infield tire and flipped in turn four and was done before the race started. Tanner Thorson jumped to the early lead until the first caution waved on lap three for a six car pileup in turn four slowed the action. Things got back underway and it was a high speed chase with the front runners catching lap traffic on lap eight. One lap later Andrew Felker caught Thorson in traffic to take the lead but it was short lived as the caution appeared before the lap was completed and they reverted to the previous lap with Thorson back in front. The leaders weaved their way through the slower cars until lap sixteen when Felker executed a beautiful slide job to take the lead again. One lap later the complexion of the race changed entirely as a turn two jingle found three of the Kuntz cars involved while running second, third and fourth at the time (Bayston, Rico Abreu and Thorson) with Bayston the only one not able to continue as he executed a Tommy Tipover and was done for the evening. Felker retained the lead as the green reappeared as the Kuntz cars would have to claw their way from the back. The checker would wave thirteen laps later with Felker taking his sixth career POWRi victory winning over Tucker Klaasmeyer who recorded his best career finish with Austin Brown rounding out the podium finishers. Justin Peck would finish fourth after starting 12th and veteran Terry Babb made the long haul from 21st to take home fifth. Rico Abreu was the only Kuntz car to make it back into the top ten finishing seventh.

    The 20 lap 600 feature would be the last we would stay for and it was a good one also with Lincoln, Nebraska's Frank Galusha scoring his second straight POWRi win in two nights catching Nicholas Howard in lap traffic late in the run and winning over his brother, Matthew Howard, and Nicholas Howard.

    It was a very enjoyable weekend of midget racing in the midwest at two dust free awesome racing speed plants where plenty of action was witnessed during the two days. Until next week where we will stay local and take in three nights of wingless sprint car racing get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    USAC Sprints Invade Bloomington & Haubstadt

    No matter how many times I make that trip up the hill at Bloomington, I am still in awe when I come to the top and look down at the red clay of the 1/4 mile highbanked bullring. The plan was to leave the house at 4:00 to make the almost two hour trip, on a Friday night, to the Bloomington Speedway. But that part-time job i was supposed to have when we moved to Indiana is still full-time and when the clock stroke 4:00 I was involved in a situation I had to finish. Of course my boss says if there are 24 hours in a day and you work 12 that is half a day. He was kidding. I think. Anyway it was not until after 4:30 that we started for the track. It was Bloomington's season opener, it was USAC and it was the first warm Friday of the racing season. There should be a good crowd on hand and there was. It was 6:30 when we arrived and by the time we parked and made the trek up the hill it was time trial time.

    Tonight the card was totally open wheel. USAC was the headliner with the Race Saver 305 winged sprints and the MMSA non-wing mini sprints making up the other two divisions. Time trials started promptly at 7:00, actually 3 minutes prior to, and 32 cars took their turn at trying to break the track record of 10.854. It seemed to me that as the time trials moved along the times were getting a tick slower and no one had a shot at breaking the record. But then along came CJ Leary, 28th out of 32 and set a new track record with a time of 10.842. Warm-ups for the 305's and mini sprints followed and at 7:54 the 4 USAC sprint heats took the green. They were 10 laps with ony the top 4 making it to the A main. The competition was stiff with Brent Beauchamp, Chad Boespflug, Thomas Meseraull and Bryan Clauson picking up the wins, nothing unusual except maybe Beauchamp, there. But some of the guys going to the B main were Carson Short, Kevin Thomas Jr, Max McGhee and the reigning USAC Sprint Champion Robert Ballou. Before the B main we had to get through the heats for our two other open wheel divisions. The 305's only numbered 12 and they ran two 10 lap heats. The mini sprints were 29 strong and required three heats. We have seen this group last year at Chandler Speedway and they put on a good show but that was not going to be the case tonight. There was a flip in the first heat, a flip in the second heat and after the third flip in the third heat they waved the checkered after what could not have been more then 3 or 4 laps. The sprint B main followed and Mr. Ballou took top honors.

    The Race Saver 305 winged A main was next and it was 20 laps. Ethan Fleetwood picked up the win in a race that saw one caution and one red for a double flip. These guys run pretty well but they just seem to be driving through the corners not racing. Now we had the B main for the mini sprints and everyone was hoping it would be better than the heats. Their announcer kept telling the crowd how they usually do not put on this bad of a show and from what we saw last year he was right. But for whatever reason tonight was not their night. Their B main was also cut short after a caution and a flip.

    It was 10:30 and I was wishing I had brought in 2 sweatshirts but then I also thought by this time we would be headed toward the car for the ride home. I am not sure if there is a curfew at Bloomington but it seemed they were getting a bit worried as the night was longer than usual. The green dropped on the 30 lap A main event at 10:38 and it quickly came to an abrupt halt as CJ Leary, the track's new one lap record holder, flipped in turn 2. Racing resumed and once again it was stopped as Brent Beauchamp flipped in turn 2 at the exact same spot Leary did. It was not looking like a good night for the sprint division either as we already had 2 reds in 2 laps. When racing resumed Brady Bacon powered the 69 past leader and polesitter Chad Boespflug. It looked like it was all over as Bacon started to pull away. But back in the pack Bryan Clauson, yes the same Bryan Clauson who won the last 3 USAC sprint events at Bloomington, was starting to make some noise. There was a lot of real competitive racing and the drivers were utilzing the entire track surface. Of course some also used more than the track surface as the caution came out two more time when sprints slid up and over the the turns only to emerge back onto the track and stop. The last half of the race was clean and green and around lap 20 Clauson made his move past Bacon to go on and win his fourth straight USAC sprint event at Bloomington. Bacon who started fourth finished second and Thomas Meseruall nipped Chase Stockon at the line for third after starting tenth. Stockon was fourth and Ballou came from eighth to fifth. Dave Darland who ran the green Walker #11 in time trials ran the red Walker #11 in the heat and feature. He came from fourteenth to finish sixth.

    The race was over at 11:04 and we decided not to stay for the mini sprint feature. But as we were exiting we decided to stop and watch the start while going down the hill. The green was short lived as a car flipped coming out of turn 2 and two others ran into him. We waited to hear that all were ok and then continued on down the hill. The sprints ran good tonight and they put on a good show. There was a nice field of cars, a good crowd of fans in the stands and with the exception of the mini sprints, good racing. The weather was good and the track surface was racy. I guess what more could you ask for from your season opener.

     

    We decided to follow the USAC train over to the Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt which is in the Southwest corner of Indiana and in the Central Time Zone for the second night of sprint car action co-sanctioned with MSCS. The 1/4 mile high banked black clay oval is one of our favorites and the track maintenance is second to none. We counted five pieces of farm equipment plus a water truck to groom the racing surface and it is worth the 15 to 20 minute downtime to have the track crew rework the surface after time trials and before the main events. There were several decisions made tonight though that were questionable and will be discussed later in this report.

    Twenty five wingless sprinters and 31 UMP modifieds showed up for the first race of the year at Haubstadt and time trials got underway for the sprint cars at 6:44 and just 18 minutes later local racer, Kyle Cummins, had set fast time of 13.512 seconds in the Hank Byram #3R. At this point the track was reworked and by 7:44 the green dropped on the first of three heat races for the USAC/MSCS sprints. Max McGhee put on an impressive performance in heat one besting Brady Bacon, Thomas Meseraull, Kyle Cummins and Dave Darland so you can see he outran a talented bunch of racers. Heat two saw Kent Schmidt in an equally impressive run outdistancing Aaron Farney, Carson Short, Justin Grant, CJ Leary and Chad Boespflug. The final heat race saw Chase Stockon looking strong winning over Dakota Jackson, Landon Simon, Kody Swanson, Matt Goodnight and James Lyerla. Some very good action was witnessed in the heat racing and we were looking forward to what the feature would bring. The UMP modifieds spun off four heats and then it was right into the two B mains with Brady Short holding off Robert Ballou to win the sprint car portion. It was now 8:59 and only the two feature events remained and the track crew went to work once again.

    By 9:29 they were ready to go with the first feature and in a shocker the UMP modifieds rolled onto the track to contest their 25 lap feature. We looked at each other and many others around us howled as almost everyone expected the sprint cars to be first up in the feature lineup. I have always felt that track management should give their top division the best surface possible to race on and therefore the sprint cars should have been first up and the modifieds second. Also a big factor here is the fact that Haubstadt is in the Central Time Zone while at least 75% of the crowd, owners , drivers and crew people live in the Eastern Time Zone and that made the 9:29 start actually 10:29 to these people. Management needs to keep in mind that fact and run the race where the participants came the longest distance first. Also by running the top division feature first you give fans the option to stay for the remainder of the show or leave at that point and alleviates the traffic congestion as everyone is not leaving at the same time. Hopefully better decisions will be made in the future.

    Now back to the racing with the 25 lap UMP modified feature up first with this one almost going the distance non-stop until leading Matt Lane who have a large lead spun in between turns one and two all by himself on lap 18. This race was a very good one with some controversy thrown in as eventual winner, Levi Kissinger, took an ill advised line into turn one late in the going and ran into second place running Mark Lamonte in his left quarter panel taking Lamonte around in a spin. Kissinger tried to explain he didn't do it on purpose which I'm sure is true but he should have left it at that and not tried to pin the blame on Lamonte who he said was already on his way around before contact was made. Kissinger was met by a mixed chorus of boos and cheers as he exited the car in victory lane winning over Zach Fair and Clay Lane. By the way long time leader Matt Lane came from the rear in seven laps to finish fourth.

    The green would wave on the 30 lap USAC/MSCS sprint car feature at 9:59 with CJ Leary jumping to the early lead. Max McGhee would bring out a quick caution on lap one when heavy smoke poured out from under the hood of his racer in turn one. First starting Thomas Meseraull slip by Leary to take the lead on lap two and would hold the lead until lap 12 when Chase Stockon slipped under Meseraull exiting turn four. Kyle Cummins moved into second on lap 16 and took up the chase of Stockon. Chase was not to be denied this evening even when the third and last caution appeared on lap 25 when Isaac Chapple rolled to a stop on the backstretch. On the restart Stockon took off and hide and built up a half straightway lead by the time the checkered waved on lap 30 at 10:14. This would be Stockon's first USAC win at Haubstadt and his seventh career USAC win overall all occuring at different tracks. In addition Stockon moved into the points lead by 14 over Meseraull who faded to ninth. Cummins came home second while Carson Short recorded his best USAC finish in third with Chad Boespflug fourth and CJ Leary rounding out the top five. Brady Bacon rode home sixth with Robert Ballou seventh after starting sixteenth, Brady Short eighth, Thomas Meseraull ninth and Kent Schmidt taking home tenth.

    We were able to exit the track grounds quickly and found ourselves in Crawfordsville at 2:03 AM ready to hit the sack for the evening. Next week finds us heading west to take in two POWRi midget events in Illinois so stay tuned. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area or take your act on the road and check out some new tracks. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Winds Play Havoc on Weekend at Lawrenceburg & Terre Haute

    There are a few facts about the day that would have an effect on the outcome. It was chilly with temperatures in the 50’s, winds were at a steady 35+ miles per hour and it was my 62nd birthday. Well my birthday had no effect on the day other than I am old. Bruce and I arrived at Lawrenceburg Speedway around 3:45 and as we sat in the parking lot watching intermittent rain the car actually shook from the high velocity wind. We waited until hot laps at 5:55 before making our way into the stands. Based on the weather we knew it was going to be very cold and the track was going to be dry and dusty. But it was the opening night for the USAC sprints in Indiana and this is why we live here. I had two sweatshirts, a thick velour top, winter coat, mittens, hat and two blankets. I was prepared.

    There were 35 sprints in the pits and CJ Leary turned fast time. Four heats would be up next and surprisingly, based on track conditions, they were quite competitive. There was considerable passing and the infamous Lawrenceburg slide jobs. They were run in under a half hour. They were followed by four hornet heats for 35 cars and two heats for the 16 modifieds. The management ran the show with little to no breaks and at 9:00 when it was time for the sprint B main my phone read that it was 38 degrees, feels like 28 degrees, the winds were still 30 miles per hour and there was a 40% chance of snow. I was warm but felt like a little kid in a snow suit. I could not even bend my arms with all my layers of clothes. When the B main was run it showed a different line then the heats and the cars were starting to run the bottom of the track. I was thinking the feature is going to be a string of cars around the bottom of the track.

    At 9:35 the green dropped on the 30 lap main event. The first 20 laps were not bad considering the track was black, dusty and slick as ice. But then it happen as the track started to take its toll on the right rear tires of the competitors. In total there were 12 cautions and a red for fuel because they had been running for 50 minutes. You could see the cords showing through on the tires. As they ran under caution for one car to change his right rear, you knew who was going to bring out the next caution. It turned into a tire race and he who saves the best wins. Dave Darland drove the #11 as if he was driving on asphalt, a straight line in the corners. It was this strategy that got him the win and top prize. For Darland it was his 58th USAC sprint win and a USAC national win for 24 consecutive years, more years than many of his challengers are old. I am sure his wisdom had something to do with why he did not wear out a right rear tire. For his owner Jeff Walker, it would be his first USAC win since September 2013. CJ Leary would finish second, Scotty Weir third, Chase Stockon fourth and Max McGhee fifth. Chad Boespflug, Robert Ballou, Brady Bacon and Justin Grant were four of the competitors that had a flat and all were running in the top three when it happened to them. Ballou was leading at the time The feature was over at 10:30 and we did not stay to see the hornets or modifieds.

    Many who were there complained about the surface. We did not. Going into a track expecting to see a dust free tacky surface when there is a constant wind of 30 miles per hour is just unrealistic. Lawrenceburg did the best they could do with what Mother Nature handed them.

    Sunday dawned sunny and warmer than Saturday but the winds still persisted though not at the gale speeds of the day before. We made the 1 1/2 hour drive southwest to Terre Haute, the home of the Hulman empire, for the Sumar Classic on the big half mile. Upon arrival we noticed a good crowd on hand hungry for some racing after a long winter of inactivity. Winds still were in the 15 to 20 mph range so the surface needed to be watered several times during the course of the day. We secured our seats in the old covered wooden grandstand three rows from the top and settled in for a day of racing.
    The Silver Crown field was at the 20 car mark while the UMP modifieds topped out at 16. Silver Crown time trials started precisely at 4:40 with California's Justin Grant setting fast time with a lap of 21.691 seconds. At 5:11 the two UMP modified heats hit the track and were in the books just eight minutes later with two former NASCAR drivers, Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace, topping the two heat runs. Some track maintenance was performed next before the UMP modifieds were called trackside for their 15 lap main event. Five minutes before their scheduled starting time of 6 PM the field took the green flag with Kenny Wallace jumping to the lead. Though Wallace was not seriously challenged the entire distance it didn't mean that the race was not good. Strong runs were turned in by runner up AJ Fike who advanced from seventh to finish runnerup with Richie Lex using the high side to turn in an impressive performance charging from ninth to take the last podium position at the end. Kenny Schrader fell from first to fourth with Kentucky's Josh Harris turning in a solid run making his way from 12th to finish 2nd in a race with only two cautions.
    Another break was taken to work on the track and allow the crews to prepare the long wheel based champ cars for the 100 lap grind at was about to begin. The Silver Crown cars are so much fun to watch run as they are nowhere as nimble as the sprinters and midgets and need to be driven in an entirely different style of racing. The driver not only has to manhandle the big machine for 100 laps he also has to conserve the tires and adjust to the weight difference as the big cars burn off the fuel in their tail tanks and the characteristics of the handling change drastically. Justin Grant and CJ Leary brought the ten rows of entrants to the green flag with Grant springing into the lead. Grant set a blistering pace up front while Leary stayed within striking distance. The first caution did not appear until lap 23 when Austin Nemire rolled to a stop in turn two with a shredded right rear tire. The preferred groove was to the high side and continued to move closer and closer to the wall as the big cars flirted with disaster as they raced inches off the concrete barriers in the corners. By lap 68 Grant had lapped up to eighth putting several good runners one lap in arrears. Brady Bacon began to make his presence known as he closed on the front two runners making it a three car battle by the 75 lap mark. Kody Swanson, the defending Silver Crown champion, also was on the move taking fourth by lap 78 and moving forward. Bacon caught Leary and used a slide job to take second in turn two from Leary as the battle intensified. Leary returned the favor in the same turn on lap 85 to retake second. We have never seen as many slide jobs in Silver Crown action as we had today. Lap 89 brought out the second and final caution as Austin Nemire rolled to a stop in turn four again with a shredded right rear tire. Grant took off again on the restart to retain the lead until coming off turn four to complete lap 94 Leary dove to the inside and got a great run and blasted by Grant to take the lead. Leary was able to hold off the counter challenges by Grant and flashed under the checkered flag at 7:39 to score his first ever USAC National series win of any kind. The jubilant Leary exclaimed in victory lane that he never expected his first USAC win to come in the Silver Crown car and that he used the rubber on the inside of turn four to get the momentum to blast by Grant for the lead. Leary becomes the first son to join his father (Chuck) as a winner in the 46 year history of the Silver Crown division. Chuck's win came at the 1997 Hoosier 100 held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
    A disappointed Grant finished second after leading 93 laps with Kody Swanson third, Brady Bacon fourth and Chris Windom rounding out the top five. Shane Cottle came home sixth with defending Sumar Classic winner, Shane Cockrum, seventh with Bryan Clauson dropping three spots over the last five laps to notch eighth after not having driven these cars in over ten years and was the last man on the lead lap. Jerry Coons Jr came home ninth and Dave Darland rounded out the top ten in the well run race.
    It was a good day of racing even with the persistent wind and the Silver Crown division put on a very good run over the 100 lap distance. Next weekend is looking cold and damp but plans are to take in the two day program for the USAC midgets at the Kokomo Speedway. Alternate plans could be Bloomington and Lincoln Park if the rain and cold KO Kokomo. Until next time stay warm and dry and take in some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net




     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    No Way Out 40 Kicks Off Indiana Outdoor Season In Impressive Fashion

    It was a long, busy day as we started out this Saturday by driving over to Indianapolis to take in the Class A & AA boy's high school basketball state championships at Banker's Life Fieldhouse where 12,235 fans attended the morning session. Liberty Christian from Anderson made their first appearance in the state final a winning one taking out Bloomfield in a good contest up until the last six minutes when Bloomfield fell apart after trailing by one eventually losing by 19. In the AA final it was all Lapel winning their second state title trouncing Indianapolis Howe by 22 and it could have been worse if the Lapel coach did not call off the dogs. We were going to attend the night session also but the availability of seats was at a premium and the nose bleed variety did not appeal to us after having good seats for the girl's finals and the morning session of today's games. So the backup plan was put into effect and off we went toward Brownstown for the Indiana outdoor wingless sprint car opener known as the No Way Out 40 paying $7500 to win.

    We stopped along the way to eat at Cracker Barrel before arriving at the fairgrounds around 5. We found a good parking spot and went into the covered grandstands to secure our seats before wandering around looking at the T-shirt stands and having a good conversation with Lauren Stewart's mother manning the Bryan Clauson stand along with her husband. We found out the following day on Twitter than Bryan proposed to Lauren the next day and she accepted so some wedding bells are going to be ringing in the future.

     

    A fine field of 38 sprint cars turned out for the opener along with 30 UMP modifieds and 26 TQ midgets with group session time trials for the sprinters taking place at 6:50. By 7:17 the time trials were in the books and young Max McGhee had set a new track record with a time of 13.407 seconds around the 1/4 mile semi banked dirt oval with a wall only on the homestretch in front of the grandstands. Watering of the track was performed next with the first heat sprint cars helping to run in the surface before heat racing began at 8:01. In the first heat race Shane Cottle aboard the Paul Hazen #57 took top honors over Max McGhee, Kevin Thomas Jr. in a second Cam Potorff #11 as teammate to Brady Short and Chase Stockon. Heat two action saw the defending USAC National Sprint Car Champion, Robert Ballou, winning over Hunter Schuerenberg, Tyler Courtney in the #4J that won the Lincoln Park Speedway title the previous year with Scott Hampton aboard and Chad Boespflug coming home fourth. The third heat saw Bryan Clauson in the Dooling #63 won over Justin Grant in the Baldwin Brothers #5, Jon Stanbrough and Matt Goodnight in a strong run. Heat four saw Kyle Cummins triumphing over CJ Leary in the Dutcher #17GP, Jordan Kinser who looks better every time we see him and Aaron Farney. Three very good modified heats followed and had to be some of the best we have seen recently with much side by side racing involved and very entertaining. The TQ's ran three heats and all heat racing was concluded by 9:26. Two B mains were needed for the sprinters with one each for the UMP modifieds and TQ midgets. Brady Short led B main one until sliding over turn two and stopping on lap 6. What happened next was pure money's worth as Short started last and passed eight cars including the second place car at the wire to secure the final qualifying sport in the main event! WOW what a drive in such a short time. All preliminary qualifying was over by 10:13 and it was now time for the No Way Out 40 for the wingless sprinters.

    The green flag waved at 10:33 with Robert Ballou jumping into the lead off the outside of the front row with Kyle Cummins following into second and Shane Cottle third. Ballou has a healthy lead but Cummins is noticeably cutting into the margin. Going into turn two on lap five Cummins attempts a slider and gets sideways in front of Ballou with contact ensuing. Ballou maintains the lead with Cummins dropping back to fifth. The one and only caution waves on lap 11 when fast timer, Max McGhee possibly clips an infield tire and spins off turn four. On the restart Ballou sets sail once again but the battle is on for second among Cottle, Cummins and Clauson with Cummins slipping back into second on lap 15 and one lap later Clauson follows into third. At the crossed flags Ballou leads but Cummins is again reeling him in with Clauson hanging in third. On lap 25 Cummins throws another slider on Ballou in turn two with better results wrestling the lead away. Coming out of turn four on lap 29 Cummins slids off the high side and allows Ballou to take back the lead. It is not over yet as Ballou slids off turn two with Cummins and Clauson filling the hole down low. Clauson outdrags Cummins to turn three and takes the lead with Ballou chasing. In the closing laps Ballou picks off Cummins to regain second but Clauson is not going to be caught. As the checkered waves on lap 40 Clauson flashes across the line first with Ballou second, Cummins third, Dave Darland slicing his way from 18th to take fourth with Jon Stanbrough advancing from 11th to fifth. Rounding out the top ten were Shane Cottle, Justin Grant, Tyler Courtney, Jeff Bland Jr. from 20th in his own car with Brady Short tenth after starting 19th. It was 10:48 and we would have loved to have stayed for the rest of the program but the two hour drive home and the 9AM Easter breakfast at church had us hurrying for the car and the exit.

    What an awesome race to open the Indiana outdoor season and we can only hope that this is a sign of the start of a great season of wingless racing in the Hoosier state for 2016. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. As another racing season rises like Jesus Christ did many years ago, get out there and enjoy some great short track racing in your area!

     

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Back East For The Williams Grove Opener

    After returning from a week in Arizona for some Cactus League Spring Training Baseball games we were home for only one day, just enough time to do the laundry and head back out. Bruce and I had to head back into Pennsylvania to take my dad to a follow-up doctor’s appointment in Philadelphia. I work remotely and was planning on going into the office in Pennington, NJ for two days and since we were there why not stay an extra day and continue the tradition of attending the opening night of racing at the Williams Grove Speedway.

    For over a week in the northeast the weather has been beautiful but of course as the weekend drew near the temperatures started to turn. We arrived at Williams Grove at 6:30 and it was already in the 50’s with a chilly wind. Along with the 410 winged sprints were the super late models. The joke always was if the late models were running at the Grove it is going to rain. This two division show including the late models was probably rained out more times than it was run. There was no rain in the forecast tonight and I was not only looking forward to the racing but also looking forward to seeing some of our PA racing buddies.

    Williams Grove starting running winged sprints on a regular basis in 1967 making this the 50th opener. In the pits were 20 late models and 26 sprints. The schedule was to run the first late model heat, the three sprint heats and then return for the final late model heat. Racing started at 7:40 and all was clean and green until the third sprint heat. I am not sure if this is going to be the norm for the Grove this year but the sprint heats were only 8 laps where in the past they were 10 laps. The Grove is a big ½ mile and 8 laps are more than sufficient. All the qualifying heats were complete at 8:22 and they moved right into the sprint consolation. At 8:35 it was intermission time.

    The Grove always runs the sprint feature first. Tonight’s 25 lap feature was paying $3,800 to win and took the green at 8:55. Tonight the track was dustier than usual but the sun and wind all day could have played a part in that. Plus it was opening night. The drier than usual track did not hinder the racing. The first 19 laps went non-stop and the competition was fierce. Brian Montieth, who is always a show, started 11th and was up battling in 6th by lap 7. On lap 11 a slide job out of two put him in 5th, past Danny Dietrich. All during this time Rick Lafferty was leading with Freddie Rahmer 2nd and Lucas Wolfe 3rd. On lap 17 Greg Hodnett moved the Heffner 27 into 2nd and one lap later Dietrich moved into 3rd. This had the makings of a real barn burner. Then it happen, the first caution came out on lap 19 when Lucas Wolfe came to a halt in turn 2. This negated the Dietrich pass for 3rd. Racing resumed and no sooner did the green wave the yellow came out for Montieth with a flat right rear tire. Lafferty was still leading but not for long as Hodnett took over on the restart but wait two laps later Hodnett would pull into the pits turning the lead back over to Lafferty. There were so many moving parts it was hard to keep track. In the end Rick Lafferty picked up the win followed by Freddie Rahmer, Danny Dietrich, Aaron Ott and Steve Buckwalter. It was a very good race and if it was only the sprints that you wanted to see you were on your way home at 9:10.

    The late model feature was the final event and their distance was also 25 laps. Just as in the sprints there were only two cautions and the racing I believe was a bit more competitive than the sprints. Gregg Satterlee picked up the win followed by Rick Singleton and Gene Knaub. The entire show was complete at 9:41. We hung around a bit talking to friends before deciding to head to the diner to get a bite to eat with good friend Jeff Ahlum. It was an excellent night of racing. We moved to Indiana to see the bullrings and the wingless sprints but I must say that this big ½ mile oval in Mechanicsburg, PA consistently puts on some good, close, competitive racing. It is the one sprint track I truly miss.

    The plan was to attend Selinsgrove Speedway on Saturday afternoon for the ROC modified race and then head west back to Indiana. Unfortunately that race never came to fruition as only 12 modifieds rolled into the speedway and the fans in attendance were way down. The race was canceled at 12:55. Next week racing starts in Indiana so we are keeping our fingers crossed for good weather.

     

     

     

    It was time for our March visit to Arizona to attend Major League Spring Training games but also on the schhedule were two races on the first weekend. This trip was special as we had talked to Guy and Pam Smith three years ago about joining us for the week in the Valley of the Sun for this trip and now it was here. Boy, does time fly! Pat and I arrived a day earlier to get everything set up at the timeshare while Guy and Pam were flying in from Newark, NJ to Phoenix. We picked them up at the airport around 5 PM and it off to the races at Central Arizona Speedway in Casa Grande where they were running a normal Saturday night show headlined by the IMCA modifieds who came out strong with a field of 31 on the evening. Four other divisions joined them on the evening. It was a well run program starting on time at 7 and wrapping up the final feature, the IMCA modifieds, at 10:25. In between was some good racing highlighted by a photo finish in the modifieds won by Spencer Wilson of Minot, ND. The only problem we had with the night of racing was that they ran the modifieds last even though they qualified third in the order. Our feelings have always been that you should give your headline division the best surface possible to run on and they didn't by running them last.

    Sunday morning Guy, Pam and I took an hour walk around the timeshare neighborhood before preparing to leave for our baseball game at Salt River Fields at Walking Stick where the Chicago Cubs were taking on the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was a good game with the D'backs prevailing by a score of 8 to 3. Immediately we headed south then east toward Apache Junction where the Arizona Speedway is located. Tonight the WOO sprints were racing in the Phoenix area for the first time since 2009 and it had been reported the night before that all reserve seats were already sold. We arrived before 5 and already we found a good size crowd on hand which cumulated with a standing room only crowd at $35 a pop. We all found seats entering turn one as high as we could go (eight rows up) before the reserved seats started. We were greeted by mud balls in the warmups and I was thankful I had a hat on as several of them struck the front of the cap above the bill. On the card with the WOO sprints were limited non-wing sprints which brought 16 to the dance while the WOO had 26 in the pit area.

    Time trials commenced at 6:48 with Brian Brown setting a new track record with a time of 12.531 seconds when the time trials wrapped up at 7:11. The first of three WOO heats took the green at 7:38 and completed by 8:03. There was little passing in any of the heats with Brad Sweet remaining hot winning heat one while Joey Saldana took heat two and Danny Lasoski notched heat three. The non-wing sprints ran two heats with the sprint dash won by David Gravel in between and then Washington's Trey Starks copped the B main. Thing were kept moving right along with the 20 lap non-wing sprint car feature taking the green at 9:03. A decent race unfolded after a few early cautions with Josh Shipley holding off Matt Lundy for the win with Cody Cambensey third, Joe Scheopner fourth and Cody Batten rounding out the top five at 9:21.

    Now it was time for the NAPA Desert Shootout where the WOO sprints would go 30 laps for the gold. The track had held up well until this point as when the green dropped at 9:38 the dust hit us like a haboob. Joey Saldana took the Roth #83 to the point as they sped around the oval until Shane Stewart passed him in turn two on lap 8 for the lead. Stewart would pace the field for the rest of the event as it grew increasingly difficult to watch the action as the gritty surface hitting you was like getting sand blasted. Danny Lasoski and David Gravel had a spirited battle for second with Gravel prevailing in the late stages with Lasoski settling for third with Donnie Schatz fourth and current point leader, Brad Sweet, rounding out the top five with the final checker waving at 9:49.

    Now the real race was on with everyone trying to exit the track grounds on one road. Almost an hour after the attempt started we cleared the parking lot and were back on Route 60 headed back to Scottsdale. Included in the entertainment in the parking lot was a fistfight between two pickup truck drivers who had a discussion on parking lot etiquette. It was a rousing success for the promotional team and we are sure that they will be returning again in 2017 to the desert in Arizona.

    Until next time get out there to some early season openers in the northeast and if you want to reach us you can by emailing us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Final Two Days In Florida At Bubbas

    It was a clear day in the mid 60”s and I was excited. We were going to Bubba’s Raceway Park to see the USAC sprints. The races two weeks earlier, the All Stars, were okay but not as exciting as I thought the wingless sprints would be. We arrived at 5:45 and discovered 33 sprints in the pits. Robert Ballou was sporting the #1 on his car and this is the first time the USAC champion had a number 1 on his car since the late Tony Elliott did back in 1999. Time trials started at 7:20 and first out was the current record holder Bryan Clauson. His record would be broken tonight as later in the time trials Max McGhee would turn the track at 13.771 the new mark to strive to beat. As a filler class the modified lites were on the card and their warm-ups were next.

    Four 8 lap sprint heats followed and the top four advanced to the main event. These events were competitive and run off quickly. There were no cautions and the heat winners were Max McGhee, Shane Cottle, Bryan Clauson and Brady Short. The order of events after the heats were the four mod lite heats and then directly into the B main for the sprints. The B main turned into a destruction derby not only for the cars but also for the homestretch fence. There were multiple cautions before Brett Mellenberndt turned over the #97 in turn 2. When racing resumed Isaac Chapple flipped into the homestretch fence opening up a section right before the flag stand. This caused a delay as the track crew brought in new sections of fencing which were put in place with straps and other mechanisms.

    Two B mains followed for the mod lites and it was main event time. The mod lites were originally posted to be the first feature on the card but management made an excellent decision to run the sprints first as the hour was getting late due to the delay to replace the section of fence. I must applaud them for this as probably 95% of the fans in the stands were there to see the sprints.

    It was 10:50 when the green dropped on the 30 lap event. Ballou was starting on the pole and how do you bet against that for the win. You do not and he did. But he was not the show. Clauson who was first out in time trials did not have a good time and he started back in 17th. He was the show. The track was fast but unlike the winged warriors the wingless cars do not string out as much. This leads to more passing and Clauson was the man on the move. There was a caution on lap 11 for a Kyle Robbins spin and another caution on the restart for a Mitch Wissmiller spin. Clauson was up to 9th passing 8 cars under the green. Racing resumed and it would be clean and green until lap 21 when Jarrett Andretti turned over the #18 in turn 2. It appears Andretti’s bad luck from 2015 is following him into 2016. Clauson was in 5th with 9 laps to go. The remaining 9 laps were run under the green. Ballou was not challenged for the win and Brady Bacon and Kyle Cummins put on a decent challenge for second with Bacon winning the spot. Clauson was the show and he managed to pick up one more spot moving into fourth before the checkered fell. Dave Darland rounded out the top five. The track turned dusty but the racing was better than when we were here 2 weeks earlier. Clauson was definitely the show coming from 17th to 4th. It was just great seeing the wingless sprints after a week of wings and late models. It made me feel real good to know that when I go back home it will only be 5 weeks before I can see the wingless sprints every weekend. Sometimes when you do something that others in your life think is irrational you start to second guess your decision. I must admit when Bruce and I made the decision to pick up and move to Indiana I wondered if it was just an impulse that I would eventually regret. After living in the Hoosier State for over 1 ½ years I can confidently tell you I am excited and proud to call Indiana home.

    It was the final night of the Winter Dirt Games VII at Bubba Raceway Park for the USAC sprints and would turn out to be the warmest night (only one sweatshirt) spent watching nighttime racing in the Sunshine State. Activities were moved along well on the final night with time trials starting at 6 PM for the 32 car field. Just over a half hour later Thomas Meseraull was being interviewed in victory lane after setting fast time of 14.073 seconds around the 3/8 mile D-shaped dirt oval. The track was then reworked and the first of four sprint car heats hit the surface at 7:17. Heat one saw Kyle Cummins in the Hank Bryam #3R beat out Bryan Clauson, Thomas Meseraull and Jarrett Andretti in a hotly contested run with the front runners swapping positions numerous times. Heat two saw Justin Grant bring the Baldwin Brothers # 5 first over Chase Stockon, Western PA's Brandon Spithaler and Robert Ballou. Brady Bacon had a good run in heat three outdistancing Shane Cottle in the Epperson #2E, Chris Windom and Dave Darland in a red painted Jeff Walker #11. Chad Boespflug prevailed in heat four winning over Brady Short in the Michael Dutcher #17GP, Jon Stanbrough and Max McGhee. The second class on the evening were the mod lites which brought 33 to the big dance with representatives from 12 states in attendance and also ran four heats. The sprint B main was a competitive one won by Carson Short followed by two mod lite B mains. All preliminary qualifying was in the books by 8:27 and only the two main events were left to run. To most people's surprise the grader and other track equipment did not appear at this point and just 17 minutes later the 25 lap, $1200 to win, mod lite feature was taking the green flag. Unlike the previous night this race was a good one with some very competitive racing throughout the field. Josh May would win from the front row but Ross White came from 6th to 2nd with Sterling Miller third, Jeff Teeters advancing from 17th to 4th and Cory Sauerman marching from 15h to 5th.

    Now it was time for the 30 lap USAC sprint car main event with the green flag waving at 9:13. Max McGhee would take command at the start with Robert Ballou going to the point one lap later. Bryan Clauson worked his way to the runnerup spot and the race was on. Lap 5 found the top two bang wheels several times in their high speed chase with Clauson taking command. Clauson led the field to the halfway mark as the track was taking rubber quickly as the white smoke appeared off the right rear tires of many of the competitors. Meseraull was now in the runnerup position and promptly took the lead from Clauson on lap 17 but Clauson returned the favor two laps later. Clauson pulled away and looked like the sure winner until lap 22 over in turn two when he became the first driver to lose his right rear tire and headed to the infield for a change. Young Max McGhee was now at the point and the youngster was in prime position to score his first career USAC sprint victory with just 8 to go. With five to go Brady Bacon running seventh and Robert Ballou running fifth went to the infield to exchange right rear tires. With two to go it was McGhee, Grant and Messeraull running nose to tail and disaster struck McGhee in turn two as his right rear popped ending his hopes of scoring his first career USAC win. As they raced out of turn four for the checkered suddenly the orange #5 of Grant blew its right rear tire almost completely off the rim and Meseraull pounced on the opportunity and buzzed by the disheartened Grant and to the checkered flag first holding off 14th place starter, Chris Windom in the Rick Pollick #21X, with current USAC point leader, Kyle Cummins, taking third with Chase Stockon fourth and Grant limping across the line to grab fifth. Positions six through ten were filled by Dave Darland, Bryan Clauson, Jon Stanbrough, Carson Short and C.J. Leary. Other notables and their finishes were Ballou in for 11th with Bacon 12th and McGhee 17th. It was an interesting race but it was a shame that it was decided by tire wear and not flat out racing.

    Until next time start plotting some road trips and if you are in the Northeast you have a choice of sprints outdoors at Lincoln on Saturday or TQ midgets at Trenton on Friday and Saturday. Any comments, good or bad, can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    360's Take To East Bay Dirt

    It was night one of the three day Ronald Laney Memorial for the 360 sprints and 42 cars were on hand at East Bay along with 29 mini sprints. Pat and myself along with Dale O'Brien made the 1 1/2 hour drive over from the Kissimee area while Steve Perotto and his wife Kristen were traveling down from Charlestown, SC where Steve is stationed in the Air Force. We all met in the East Bay parking lot with Steve and Kristen arriving at 2:59 while Pat, Dale and I pulled in at 3:01. We probably couldn't do that again if we tried! We all went for some food before returning to the track to take in the night of racing. Of course we indulged in a strawberry shortcake before venturing up into the grandstand area. It was somewhat warm but the constant breeze made it feel cooler. After warmups it was time for the first of six heats for the 42 car field and first off we couldn't figure out why they were running six heats of basically seven sprinters when they could have run five heats of basically eight sprinters. The system is based on passing points so it makes the heats more interesting as the drivers race hard to rack up extra points. What a novel idea!!

    Taking the six rounds were female racer, Morgan Turpin, the defending USCS point champion, Mark Smith from PA, locals Matt Kurtz and Shawn Murray, Texan Aaron Reutzel and Ohio's Caleb Helms. The 600 mini sprints followed with one too many heats of four for their 29 car field. All heat racing for both divisions was completed by 8:58 and after a short break it was right into the two sprint car B mains followed by one B main for the mini sprints. By 9:57 all preliminary qualifying was in the books and it was feature time. We all anticipated two good features as the track had taken on some rubber and the latter sprint car heats had more passing and people trying different grooves to find the quick way around the speedway. With Aaron Reutzel, the 2015 National ASCS point champion, starting on the front row many people figured he was the man to beat. But folks that is why they run the 25 laps as you never know. Reutzel indeed took the early lead with a snarling pack on his tail tank. He led until lap 15 when he tangled with Mark Smith battling for the lead with Smith bending the front end in the incident. Two laps later Reutzel slowed entering turn three and headed pitside with a broken mount possibly from the contact with Smith. This gave the lead to Jason Sides who had started 10th and he battled with Top Gun Sprint series champion, Danny Martin Jr., until finally pulling away to a comfortable margin. The checkered waved eight laps later at 10:40 with Sides across the line first with Martin second, Chad Kenemah third from ninth, Tim Shaffer fourth from eleventh and Sean Bergman rounding out the top five. The action packed second five was led across the line by Terry McCarl advancing from 20th, Travis Rilat from 18th, Manitoba's brother team of Lou Kennedy Jr. & Thomas Kennedy and Ohio's Phil Gressman. It was a good feature race with much slicing and dicing with plenty of side by side racing.

    The night was not over yet as the 600 mini sprints would contest their 20 lap feature with the green waving at 10:54. The early going was quite rough with several cautions slowing things but once they settled down we were treated to a fine feature event. Early leader, Alex Bright, stopped in turn three and had to restart to the tail and watching him alone was quite entertaining as he passed multiple cars on every lap and looked like he was driving a 600 cc while the rest of the field was wheeling 270 cc's. The racing up front was fierce and PA's Tyler Walton came off turn four for the checkered and dove to the inside to pass a lap car when he collided with him and spun close to the flagger's stand as Florida's Robbie Smith flashed by on the track. Officials went to the video tape and the slow motion showed that Walton's tail tank crossed the finish line just before Smith crossed the line with third through fifth also a photo finish with Alex Bright garnering the show position. The final checker waved at 11:19 and we all agreed that we observed a fine night of racing.

    Tonight it is up the road to Ocala and Bubbas Raceway Park where the USAC sprints will be racing on night two of three of their winter series. Until the next report get the schedules out and start planning some weekend road trips to a track near or far to you. All comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net

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    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Sometimes The Track Is Too Fast

    After spending the day with Allan and Nancy Brown we went our separate ways. Allan and Nancy off to the Daytona area and Bruce and I over to Volusia Speedway Park. The World of Outlaw Sprints were running their final night at the ½ mile oval and this is usually our only World of Outlaw show for the year. We arrived at the track at 5:45 and met up with Dale O’Brian from Green Bay, WI, who was saving us seats. Volusia runs a tight show with very little down time and once the show starts it keeps moving along.

    There were only 30 sprints in the pits but then you only need 24 to start the main event. Time trials started at 6:35 and tonight the track was fast. Real fast. The fast time was set by Brad Sweet at 12.913 which is an average of over 126 mph. That is moving! Immediately following were the UMP modifieds for their group warm ups/time trials. There were four heats and each heat was broken into two groups. The 8 groups ran off their segments in 15 minutes and they moved right into the sprint heats.

    There were three 8 lap heats and they were lined up by time trials. However they would not start the main event by their time trials. The top two from each heat would run in the Dash to determine the starting position of the first three rows. The remainder of the line-up would be determined by how you finished in your heat race. If you were third in heat 1 you started 7th and if you were fourth in heat 1 you started 10th. This puts a lot more emphasis on where you finish in the heat race. Donnie Schatz finished 4th in heat three and found himself starting back in 12th when it was feature time. All three heats ran off without a caution and there was very little if any passing after the green dropped. The track was lighting fast and that sometimes does not produce good racing. Yes, the track can be too good which does not make for exciting racing but does make for fast racing. As someone comments on how fast they were I was thinking if I wanted only fast I would go to drag races. But on this fast track tonight even wingless sprints would have spread out.

    The first caution of the night was not until the second UMP heat and all of the qualifying heats plus the introduction of the Dash drivers were in the books by 8:39. The Dash ran next determining the front three rows. The outside row must have been the place to be in this race, as all in the outside row moved up one position making all in the inside row move back a position. Joey Saldana would be starting in his 93rd main event at Volusia from the pole position. The sprint car last chance race was next and the final 6 cars were added to the field and would fall in behind the heat qualifiers on the starting grid. They ran two B mains for the UMP modifieds and all was complete before 9:30.

    When the green dropped at 9:50 on the 30 lap main event paying $10,000 to the winner, it was getting pretty damp and chilly and I was hoping for an exciting run to keep my mind away from my now cold feet. The race had to be restarted two times before racing got underway. First, for third starting place Daryn Pittman who found himself sitting up against the inside wall on the homestretch at the drop of the green and second for Doug Esh who tumbled on his side coming out of turn four before making it to the green. Greg Wilson also sustained damage to his front wing in this melee but continued on. He would bring out the third and final caution on lap 9 when he came to a halt on the homestretch. The rest of the race was clean, green and fast. Brad Sweet immediately jumped out to the lead and would lead all 30 laps. Lucas Wolfe moved from fifth up to second and was closing a bit on the leader when the checkered fell. Pole sitter Saldana was relegated back to third. David Gravel started fourth and finished fourth. Greg Hodnett moved from eighth to come home in fifth. For the most part it was a very high speed chase that I cannot say was exciting. Of course that is my opinion and someone else may have thought it was fantastic.

    The 20 lap UMP feature was last on the card and Brian Ruhlman won over Jacob Hawkins and Austin Dillon. The entire show was over at 10:48. Volusia once again ran a fine tuned show and the only mistake I can give them is the track was just too good. We are looking forward to later in the week when we will return to see the Northeast Modifieds.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    The Clay By The Bay

    For all of you sprint car purists you may want to pass on this column but if you want to pass over to the dark side (late models) the action at East Bay Raceway Park is second to none. We usually attend the entire week at The Clay By The Bay for the Lucas Oil Late Model Series racing at the Winternationals. This year due to the death of my middle brother the plans were altered and we arrived back in Florida after the funeral on Friday morning before noon. We traveled over to the timeshare where we met Allan and Nancy Brown who were holding down the fort and went to late lunch at Olive Garden. From there it was across the state to the west coast for the 40th running of the Winternationals at the East Bay Raceway Park. We walked over to the press trailer where we encountered the sweetest lady in racing, Jean Lynch, whose birthday it is this race week and wished her Happy Birthday. Jean is a wonderful lady and a great representative of our sport and knows how to treat the visiting press.

    Things run like a well oiled machine at East Bay with no unnecessary delays. Group time trials started at 6:40 and the 35 car field recorded their times by 7. Jonathan Davenport recorded fast time of 14.819 seconds and if you are not familar with Davenport he dominated the late model scene last year or in other words he was the man. One thing we don't like about the Lucas Oil Late Models is their insistance to run their heat racing with straight up starts from time trials and straight up starts for the feature according to your finishing positions in the heats. So therefore Scott Bloomquist and Jonathan Davenport would share the front row with the second row consisting of the other two heat winners, Jared Landers and Don O'Neal. The start of the main event at 8:56 was not an artistic success with three cautions in the first four laps but after that rocky start things settled down. Bloomquist would lead the first 39 laps but Davenport made a bold outside groove move off of turn four and took the lead at the flagger's stand to complete lap 40. To see Scott Bloomquist passed for the lead once he has it for so many laps is a treat in itself as Davenport pulled away over the last ten laps. When the checker waved at 9:34 it was Davenport home the winner over Bloomquist with Darrell Lanigan third, Don O'Neal fourth and Tim McCreadie rounding out the top five. This night was not one of the best we have seen here but it was still good.

    Night two was the finale and the 60 lapper would pay a hefty $12,000 to win. Once again Jonathan Davenport set fast time with a time of 15.052 seconds and looked like he might be the man to beat. Also Scott Bloomquist, Tim McCreadie and a 23 year old youngster from Chalk Hill, PA, Mason Zeigler, were heat winners and most of the crowd didn't give Zeigler much of a shot at winning this one. But nobody informed Zeigler of this as we will see later. Unlike last night the first caution did not appear until lap 18 and was one of only three in the feature. Once again Bloomquist was the leader for the first 23 laps until Zeigler drove by him on the outside on lap 23. There was plenty of passing in this one unlike last night with Darrell Lanigan making his way toward the front from 13th, Bobby Pierce from 19th and Jimmy Owens from 21st. Meanwhile up front Zeigler pulled away and was looking like a lock but the hard running was taking a toll on the tires of Zeigler as the veteran Bloomquist who is a master of preserving his tires was cutting into the lead. With three to go Bloomquist was on the tail of Zeigler looking for a slip up so he could pounce. Coming off the fourth turn on the final lap Zeigler left the bottom open and Bloomquist attacked. They flashed across the finish line side by side with Zeigler holding on by about a half car length. It was a very excited Zeigler doing donuts in turn three before exiting his racer in victory lane climbing to the roof and jumping up and down to celebrate his upset win. Bloomquist would again settle for second with Dennis Erb Jr. passing Gregg Satterlee for third exiting turn four with Lanigan rounding out the top five. Jimmy Owens who had a miserable week salvaged a sixth and received the hard charger award after starting 21st. All racing was in the books by 9:09 capping off another fine Winternationals at The Clay By The Bay.

    Next column will bring sprint car action from Volusia County so until next time if you are in the north keep warm and drive safe in the winter conditions.

     

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Not In Charge

    Sometimes you think you have everything in order and you are in charge. We had the flights, the condo and a list of races for every day that would take us through 16 days in Florida. We were in control and we were in charge of our lives. If you have looked to this column to read our comments on these races you found there were no updates. We arrived in Florida on Friday afternoon, February 5, and were driving up Interstate 75 to Bubba’s Raceway Park to catch the All Star Sprints when Bruce’s brother Bob called. Unfortunately the call was not to update us on some Pennsylvania basketball scores but to give us the shocking new that Bruce’s other brother, Glenn, had unexpectedly passed away that afternoon of a massive heart attack. Right here we realized we are not in control and that the precious gift of life can be taken away from us at any time. Within the next 20 minutes we were able to book a flight back into Philadelphia, arriving at 2:00 pm the next day, a rental car and hotel rooms. We discussed it and the decision was made to go ahead onto the races since at this point there was nothing else we could do until we were back in the Northeast.

    We arrived at Bubba’s at 7:15 and I thought we missed time trials. But no such luck the time trials did not start yet and would not for another ½ hour. It was cold and breezy and somehow Bruce forgot his winter coat back in our Crawfordsville, Indiana garage. Layered in sweatshirts we sat with Roger Ferrell who kindly saved us seats two rows from the top. Danny Holtgraver set fast time and then we moved on to the modified time trials, which consisted of only one lap with two cars timing simultaneously. Even with this the first heat race did not take the green until 3 minutes before 9:00. There were 26 sprints competing in three 8 lap heats and 32 modifieds competing in four 8 lap heats. Heats were complete by 9:45 but the 10 minute break turned into 25 minutes and it was getting cold. There were B mains for both divisions and a 6 lap dash that lined up the front four rows for the sprint main event. We were not happy when announced that the modified feature was first and from some of the grumbling I hear from the fans around us we were not the only ones becoming restless with the length of the program.

    The 30 lap modified A main paying $1,500 to win started at 10:50 had 5 cautions and checkered at 11:12. Tate Davenport picked up the win followed by Kevin Adams and Josh Harris. Now out came the grader for track prep. You got to be kidding me! We were starting to think coming here was a bad idea as we had to drive back to Kissimmee and get up early to catch our morning flight. Thirty five minutes later the green dropped on the sprint feature.

    At 11:47 the green dropped on what turned out to be a very good sprint car feature. The track was still dusty, the delay did little to help, but the racing was good. You do not always need a perfect track to see competitive racing. There were two early cautions on laps 7 and 8 and then it was off to the races. There is nothing better than leaders in lap traffic and the leaders did not let us down. Kraig Kinser was leading, Greg Hodnett took second from Dale Blaney and was next to Kinser while they diced through traffic. Then it came to an end on lap 23 when TJ Michael stopped in turn 4. The final 7 laps saw Blaney get back past Hodnett for second but he did not have enough to take the lead from Kinser. The checkered dropped at 12:08 with Kraig Kinser picking up the $5,000 price followed by Dale Blaney, Greg Hodnett, Chad Kemenah and Caleb Armstrong from 14th. The feature was good but the show was way too long. It was a long ride back to the Orlando area.

    We have been back in New Jersey since last Saturday and tomorrow morning, Friday, February 12 we are flying back to Florida, knowing that we are not in charge and just like that it can all be taken away. Treat everyone as if it is the last time you ever see them because it could be. God Bless you Glenn.

     

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Indoor Racing Returns To Allentown For The First Time In 50 Years

    Happy New Year!! It is hard to believe that it is 2016. Bruce and I have seen at least one race in every month for the past 26 years. It used to be that the months of December and January were hard months to get to a race but not so much anymore. Actually during the month of December we saw an indoor race every weekend and that was a first for us. This year we stayed home in Indiana for Christmas and headed back to the Northeast the week after. We had a great Christmas day at home and would celebrate the New Year with back East family and friends. It was decided last year after I missed being in our Indiana home for Christmas and I did not realize then how well the plan would work out. Racing was returning to the city of Allentown, PA at the new PP&L Center and we would be there to see it. They announced that it was the first time there was racing in 50 years but I do recall a race on the gravel homestretch for micros over at the Allentown Fairgrounds back in the late 80’s.

    I was looking forward to this event. It would be a new track added to our total and it appeared from everything we read and heard it was going to be well attended. My dad decided to go along and we also picked up Anne Krause, widow of the late Randy Krause. The last time we saw Randy back in August he knew he would be in heaven come January and he asked that we take Anne to this indoor event. If you knew Randy and know Gordy Killian next time you see me ask about the story of the Christmas City Classic. This race was something we talked about back in the 90’s and now an indoor race in the Lehigh Valley was finally happening.

    The doors were to open at 6:00 and we arrived at 5:00, parked in the attached parking garage and decided to make our way inside as the second deck of the arena was the unreserved area and it appeared to be a lot of people already in line. This wait turned into a disaster. The arena has been open since September 2014 and most likely every event held here either had all reserved seats or less attendance. Tonight they were not prepared for all of the fans that were waiting to get in with the doors only opening 1 hour prior to the scheduled start time. Race fans are a different breed. We like to get there early so we have time to see friends, talk racing and generally socialize a bit before we get down to the business of watching the races. By the time the gates opened there were close to 5,000 fans waiting to get through the entrances. It was cold and they were not happy. To be truthful many were quite angry.

    Once inside we were able to find some seats in Section 209 along with some of our racing buddies. I had to scramble and got a couple of kids to move together in order to secure seats for friends Rick Schneider and Jeff Ahlum in the row behind us. It was Dave and Donna Keller, Dwight Bucks, Marshall Kern and a few others that I am sure I forgot to mention. The arena filled up fast and before you knew it we heard that they were selling standing room only seats and soon after no more tickets would be sold. Yes, it was a sold out event and between the fans and the pit area there had to be close to 8,000 people. Racing started promptly at 7:00 as scheduled and then the cautions began. They ran 3 heats for 37 slingshots and 6 heats in which 71 TQ midgets participated. The track looked to be a decent size but the cars sure were having a hard time maneuvering the circuit. During the 9 qualifying events they had 30 cautions and 2 reds. Next up were the last chance races. There were four in total. The slingshots ran one 8 lap last chance race with 20 cars and only 5 qualifying to the main event. I was shocked when there were only 6 cautions. The TQ’s had 23 cautions and 1 red in their three events. At 9:45 all qualifying was complete totaling 53 cautions and three reds.

    They moved right into 20 lap slingshot feature. There were only 3 cautions but the red did wave twice. Both times for cars on their side sliding down the straight. In the end Eddie Reeder picked up his first win ever and $2,000 for his efforts. He was followed by Joe Kata III and Cody Kline.

    The TQ A main was 40 laps and 24 cars took the green at 10:23. If you looked past the 11 cautions there was some good racing considering the size of the track. It definitely held my interest even though the pole sitter, Erick Rudolph, won the event. Second was Ryan Flores and third was Mike Lichty.

    The race from an attendance and pits standpoint was a huge success. However there is a lot of improvement that needs to be done before the doors open next year and with a sellout crowd you know they will. The total cautions for the night were 67 along with 5 reds, way too high. Perhaps a spin rule should be instituted. The fiasco getting in the doors should be addressed and they should open at least 2 hours prior to avoid a massive unhappy crowd. The concessions were way high in cost but there is no control over the cost. Lastly I would like to know why the slingshot winner received $2,000 to win a 20 laps race and the TQ winner also received $2,000 to win a 40 lap feature, twice the laps and the main division. Did not understand that one! In the end it was over at 10:55 and you cannot complain about that. It was year one so I will give them some leeway, but in year two there better be some changes. Will I be back next year? Why not? It is indoors, I am there, I get to see a lot of my northeast racing buddies and it is an easy January race.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Sunday Action At Rumble In Fort Wayne

    This would complete a great month for us as we attended one race in each weekend of the month of December. They were all indoor shows with two of them being new ventures for us. The last but not least of the December dates was the 18th annual Rumble in Fort Wayne where the midgets, non-winged dirt 600's and the winged outlaw 600's would do battle on the 1/6 concrete surface which is wide and allows passing when the outside groove comes in. We chose the Sunday afternoon portion of the two day show because of the early starting time and the promise to have both fans and drivers and owners on the road in a timely manner. We were surprised to find out via twitter and later a text from Roger Ferrell that the afternoon midget portion of the program would not be starting until at least 2 PM. So Pat and I took the time to dine at Chili's in Fort Wayne before venturing over an still arrived at 1:15 to find B mains being run for the plethora of karts and quarter midgets on hand. Luckily in addition to Roger the Ohio duo of Benny Trask and Bruce Carley were in attendance so a lot of bench racing was accomplished during the long afternoon of kart racing. The promoters will have to look into an earlier format for the kart portion of the show to keep the promise of a 1:30 start for the midget portion of the day. It was not until 3:51 that the first of three non-winged dirt 600 heats was trackside.

    Once underway kudos for the management keeping the show moving briskly along but the late start put somewhat of a damper on the program. The fields were down from the Saturday night totals with 20 non-wing dirt 600's today along with 29 midgets and only 16 winged outlaw 600's to do battle on the day. During the first midget heat Dameron Taylor got up over another car's wheel and flipped into the turn three fencing causing over a half hour delay while the fencing was repaired and it looked like a pit patron on the other side of the wall was attended to also. Lynsey Ligouri did a fine job winning heat one while Kyle O'Gara looked strong in heat two. Justin Peck was impressive winning heat three, Nick Landon held of the pack to take heat four and Cory Setser put on a spirited charge using the outside to capture heat five. Three heats were spun off in the winged outlaw 600's and then it was right into the consie for the non-winged dirt 600's and two consies for the midgets.

    Shortly thereafter the 25 lap non-winged dirt 600 feature rolled onto the track and proceeded to produce the best feature race of the day. Only two cautions slowed the event with sixth starter, Larry Joe Sroufe, besting Clay Sanders, Blake Culp, Ryan Ruhl and Chris Miller for the win in a race taking seven minutes to complete. The 40 lap midget feature was next up and some good action was witnessed in this one also. Indoor specialist, Billy Wease, would garner his first win in two years indoors winning over Bryan Nuckles, Derek Bischak from 11th, Kyle O'Gara from eighth and Justin Peck using the outside groove in attempts to move further up in the top five. This one took just ten minutes to finish with just three cautions. The 25 lap winged outlaw 600's would have the most cautions with five and take the most time to run with 15 minutes but when they were running it was good action. Cap Henry would come out of the fifth hole to win this one over Bill Dunham from fourth, A.J. Lesiecki all the way up from 12th to 3rd, Rod Henning fourth after starting 13th and Amanda Quinones-Long recovering after being bounced around a few times to nail down fifth. The final checker waved at 6:31 making this a well run 2 hour and 40 minute affair.

    That's it for 2015 but check back next week as we make our way back to Pennsylvania where the TQ midgets will be running indoors for the first time ever at the PPL Center in downtown Allentown where the clan will be gathering for the first race of 2016. Until next time stay warm and dry and get out in an indoor event if there is one in your area.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Junior Knepper 55 At The Southern Illinois Center

    It was the first time since 2007 that USAC had sanctioned an indoor midget race, that being at the Fort Wayne Expo Center won by Tony Stewart. Today's indoor event would take place at the Southern Illinois Center, a 1/6 mile dirt oval on the grounds of the DuQuoin state fairgrounds. This race would honor veteran car owner, Walter "Junior" Knepper, who fielded the familiar yellow #55 in USAC competition for numerous years in both midgets and sprints collecting a combined total of 58 series victories with such names as Mel Kenyon, George Snider, Bob Wente, Tom Bigelow, Rich Vogler, Dana Carter, Steve Knepper and today Hunter Schuerenberg as his drivers. Today would also mark the 166th time that USAC sanctioned an indoor race with the first on January 8th, 1956 won by Gene Hartley. USAC is stepping up their midget program in response to a serious challenge from POWRi and have assembled a strong team headed by former racer, Levi Jones. Another former racer, Tommy Estes, would be the competition director this day and the program was spun off like a fine tuned musical instrument.

    When we arrived at 5:09 we were surprised to find only a small line at the ticket booth but to our surprise upon entering the center saw that the facility was already packed with racing fans. It seems that the doors were opened two hours sooner than announced and people had staked out their territory quickly. We were fortunate to find two seats on the homestretch toward turn one about two thirds of the way up and settled in. Our racing buddy from Wisconsin, Dale O'Brien was located just one section over several rows higher on the end of the aisle. Warmups got underway around 6 with the track being greasy causing some midgets to have a difficult time pushing off. The first flip of the evening occurred in warmups when Iowa's Robert Bell rolled over in turn three and briefly returned for one of the C mains. After one warmup session this was not longer a problem and another three sessions followed before the first of eight heats took the green at exactly 7:01 and were spun off in a little over an hour. The best heat racing took place in heat four when Bryan Clauson took the win at the wire in a crowd pleasing performance. Another five flips and rollovers occurred during the heat races with the format being one of passing points being awarded. After the heats the 60 car field was whittled down to the top 40 in passing points which would move into the four qualifiers. Two C mains would house the remaining 20 cars with two advancing from the C's to the rear of the B's. The top 12 passing point contenders would move from the qualifiers directly to the 55 lap main event while the other 8 starters would come out of the two B mains. Are you still with me as this can be confusing stuff and I was confused myself at times during the evening. One more flip occurred in the C's and an additional three in the qualfiers. Three more would happen in the B's for a total of 13 which was a new Southern Illinois Center record. The cleanup of each of these was quick and did not cause any significant delays and the downtime was good to allow the CO2 levels to die down as it was evident that there was no fire marshal in attendance this evening as opposed to last week in Indianapolis!!

    It was a long night of racing with the final preliminary wrapping up at 10:38. It was all worth it when the 20 car field took the green flag at 11:10 PM. Tyler Thomas, the gasser from Oklahoma, started alongside Bryan Clauson in the front row and promptly turned it sideways in turn one bringing out the first caution and sending him and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. driving one of the Bryan Clauson midgets to the back of the field. Neither one remained there very long with Thomas the more spectacular slicing his way back to the front. Meanwhile the battle raged for the lead between Clauson and WOO driver, Joey Saldana, with many laps of side by side racing. By lap 44 Thomas had worked his way back up to second and when Saldana bobbled in turn four Thomas pounced and dove to the inside of turn one in an attempt to grab second. Thomas' right rear contacted Saldana's left front wheel sending both of them spinning wildly into turn one. A disappointed Saldana retired to the infield while Thomas again restarted in the rear. This gave second life to Ricky Stenhouse Jr. lurking in sixth at the time and moving forward. In the ensuing laps Stenhouse disposed of first Chase Briscoe and with a few laps to go his teammate, Spencer Bayston. Stenhouse was now second and began to stalk his car owner as the Dooling #63 began to show signs of smoke from the engine department. With three to go Stenhouse swept to the outside entering turn three and edged out front with Clauson diving low in between three and four to try to regain the lead but Stenhouse had the momentum and took the lead as the crowd roared. Stenhouse would lead the remaining three laps to gain the victory over Clauson and Bayston. Andrew Felker ran a steady race to finish fourth with Chase Briscoe rounding out the top five. The victory lane photos were being taken as we slowly made our way to the exits with Stenhouse's girlfriend, Danica Patrick, standing proudly in victory lane with her beau as the man from Olive Branch, Mississippi showed that he still knew how to wheel an open cockpit racer around a dirt oval and took our thoughts back to 2007 when Stenhouse had a great year in open wheel racing.

    The final checker waved at 11:37 PM, a tad late but indeed the feature race was well worth the wait and believe it or not not a single car turned over in the final. This was a good night of racing indoors and showed what a midget can do on a track that is large enough to race on. In fact this was a good race period! The 2016 USAC National Midget Series will kick off here with a points paying tussle co-promoted by Bryan Clauson and David Byrd on St. Patrick's Day on March 19th.

    Pat and I would like to wish our faithful readers a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all.

    Also some exciting USAC midget news has the inaugural Johnathan Byrd's Indy Challenge where the Byrd brothers had designated seven USAC midget races during the year starting with Lawrenceburg in June followed by Belleville in August, Lincoln Pa. in August, Calistoga and Eldora in September and wrapping up with Turkey Night at Ventura in November. If any driver can win 5 of the 7 races he or she will earn a seat in an Indy Light car for the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2017, 6 wins secures you a ride in all the oval races in 2017 on the Indy Light schedule and 7 wins guarantees you a full oval Indy Light's schedule plus a ride in the 2018 Indianapolis 500. We would love to see one of the deserving midget drivers pull this off in 2016.

     

     

    I thought I would wait a few days before commenting on the current hot topic of the Indy Invitational. I was looking forward to the event more for social reasons and I must say did not go into it with high expectations for a good race. How could it be a good race when you are running full size midgets on a 1/10 mile track that was made in less than a day? On the 50 minute ride home from the event, early Sunday morning, we tried to come up with some good things to say about the evening. There were four of us in the car, Dale O’Brien and Jack Erdmann came down from the Green Bay, Wisconsin area and were staying with Bruce and I for the night before heading back home on Sunday. We came up with a few positives; we had a great parking spot next to the Fieldhouse for only $15 (that is a great rate), there were free apples outside the main entrance, Banker’s Life Fieldhouse is a very nice facility, our seats in Section 108 had an awesome view and were very comfortable, and you did not need to carry in a coat because the temperature was in the 70’s. The doors opened on time, the National Anthem was at 6:03 and the first green dropped at 6:07. To this point everything was great but that ended with the drop of that first green.

    The promoters did an excellent job of promoting this event. I must admit I was checking Twitter every night to see who the next group of drivers were that received an invitation. Their promotion efforts were not in vain as an estimated 8,000 fans had to be inside the fieldhouse. The field of drivers was excellent and the Outlaw Kart drivers were from across the entire United States. The five heat winners were from Oregon, Texas, California, California and North Carolina. But as soon as the races started you knew it was going to be a long evening. There should have been a three spin rule but there was not and it seemed the same cars just kept spinning again and again. At 7:10 when the midgets came out it was already starting to get dusty. The midgets ran equally bad with spin after spin and after the fourth heat they decided to take a break to what a lot of fans thought was to work on the track. You could hear the announcer but his words were muffled and for the most part you could not understand a word he was saying. So for 40 minutes we watched them work on the track in areas where the cars were not running. In reality they were waiting for the fumes to dissipate. In the end it took them 2 hours and 50 minutes to run the 10 heat races. Now it is 9:00 and they are running dashes before the B mains. By this time the fans sitting in the upper levels were starting to get covered with a film of dust. You could see the banners that were covering up the first several rows of seats and they were very dirty.

    During the B mains of which there were 4 with 2 for each division, I decided to count the number of cautions. These events were painful to watch. They took an hour and 15 minutes and there were 26 cautions. Now at 10:35 they were going to take a break. At this point the fans started to get rowdy and many left the event. Throwing t-shirts into the stands helped a little but that got old quick. At 11:33 the 30 lap outlaw kart main event paying $5,000 to win got started. Now they put a time limit on the event of 30 minutes. They actually got the entire 30 laps run in 29 minutes. There were only 17 cautions. Mike Wheeler picked up the $5,000 to win followed by Brandon LaChance and Jett Hayes. At this point is was announced we were going straight into the midget feature.

    A half hour passed before the green dropped and there was a boo from the fans that remained when it was told the event we waited over 6 hours to see would be cut by 10 laps and would also have a 30 minute time limit. Not that I needed to see more cautions but it seemed like a real slap in the face and no respect for the remaining fans. Ten minutes into the race the red came out and still another break for fumes. This break was another 35 minutes and by now the crowd was down to probably less than a 1,000 fans remaining. The race restarted and there actually were about five laps of decent racing between Tanner Thornson and Spencer Bayston. Five decent laps out of 200. Kyle Schuett took the final checkered of the night at 1:41.

    I know some of the drivers were trying to be politically correct and say how this was a good event. For the fans who were covered with dirt, tired and could not get anything to eat or drink for the final few hours because the concession stands closed down at a normal hour it was not a good night. For the workers of Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, I am sure the magnitude of the clean-up that was needed in the fieldhouse prior to the Monday Pacer’s game was way under estimated. I would not be surprised if the banners hanging from the ceiling had to be dry cleaned because of the dirt. For the drivers the track was not very drivable and it could not have been fun. No matter what they say, no matter how good the intentions were it just did not work. The show was not good and I for one would never return.

    But I try to look for the good so in addition to the beginning of this column we got to see some good racing friends; Benny Trask, Guy Smith, Gordy Killian, Mike Knappenberger and Jack and Dale who sat with us and spent the night at our home. It was the socializing with our friends that kept us there until the end. It certainly was not the racing. I for one will be amazed if the Banker’s Life Fieldhouse ever hears the roar of midget engines again.

    Merry Christmas!!

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    A Season Review Of the 2015 Open Wheel Racing Season - Part Three

    The first of August was another trip to fan appreciation night at the Lincoln Park Speedway where free admission was on the board. Nothing like free admission to bring out a banner crowd as the place was packed well before race time and the fire marshall said no one else could enter as the place was at capacity. We hope the Spiker family was pleased with the crowd and that it generated some future race fans who enjoyed what they saw and will return. There was a lot of other sprint tracks running on this Saturday but still 22 strong showed up to do battle at the 5/16 mile dirt oval. Though the sprint car feature was unusually dusty the action was still good with Casey Shuman taking advantage of his front row starting position to win this one over Scott Hampton from sixth and Edmonton, Alberta's Lee Dakus advancing from 12th to 3rd with Brent Moore slicing his way from 21st to 4th at the finish. The previously rained out Bob Darland Memorial was rescheduled for August 2nd with a windy, sunny day in the 90's as the setting. Twenty one sprinters would be pitside for this one and a very good race unfolded in the 30 lap feature event with only one caution displayed. Logan Jarrett looked like a sure winner from the front row until rolling in turn four on lap 19 while leading. The ensuing battle among C.J. Leary, Chris Windom and Justin Grant was money's worth as the three worked through traffic like tight rope walkers. Grant would take the lead on lap 21 via a turn two slider on Leary and take the win, his third of the year at Kokomo and second Darland Memorial triumph. The MSCS sprints would appear at Lincoln Park the following Saturday with 29 strong for three grand to

    win. Brady Short worked his way by hard luck driver, Jeff Bland Jr., for the lead on lap 19 to post his 13th win of 2015 over the fast closing Shane Cottle and Bland. A first time trip to southwest Indiana on a Friday night culminated with a visit to the Chandler Speedway for a fine program of MMSA mini sprints. Colin Ambrose won a crowd pleasing non-stop 20 lap battle with Andy Bradley for the win with Scotty Bradley placing third. Another first time visit to a track the next day was planned at Route 45 Raceway in Flora, Illinois where the MSCS sprints were running with a disappointing field of 15 pitside for the Laura Stockon Memorial. It looked like Laura's son, Chase, would win this one after a stirring battle with Brady Short until tangling with Chet Williams in lap traffic. Stockon's car was too damaged to continue with Brady inheriting the lead and outrunning Carson Short and Jordan Kinser for the win. In a three race series penciled on the calendar at the start of the season we traveled back to Central Pennsylvania to take in the USAC/ARDC midget co-sanctioned shows at Path Valley, Lincoln and Susquehanna. What unfolded the first night at Path Valley was the best set of heat races witnessed the entire season with great racing in every event. The feature was a doozy also with Rico Abreu taking the lead from teammate, Kevin Thomas Jr., on lap 19 and winning over Christopher Bell and Thomas with the fans salivating for more which they got the next night at Lincoln. The Path Valley race was at the top of our list for one day as it was replaced by the same show at Lincoln. This was the first USAC show at Lincoln in 51 years and after this night it will not be 51 years before USAC returns! Jerry Coons Jr. in the local Mike Heffner #27 looked strong on the evening and held the lead for the first 13 laps until Bryan Clauson slipped by. Coons went out front on lap 20 and the tussle between the two had the fans screaming. Last race mechanical woes sidelined Coons' fine run and a lap 24 caution set up a spectacular duel between Clauson and Abreu. A breathtaking turn one move on the extreme high side inches from the fence had Abreu sneaking by Clauson as the crowd roared. Abreu would go onto victory over Clauson and Tracy Hines as the crowd showed their approval of the great race while the top three parked on the homestretch. The third race of the series at Susquehanna was rained out. The 27th Sheldon Kinser Memorial at the Bloomington Speedway was next on the agenda with 28 cars for the last of the Jackslash/MAV TV championship races. Two of the top contenders, Brady Short and Jon Stanbrough, had problems in the heats and would be forced to the B main. Brian Gerster would win his first dirt feature in the 305 sprint feature over Eric Smith and Tom Busch. The wingless sprint feature was a good contest on a slick track with an intense race up front. Tyler Courtney would take the lead on lap 20 with Nick Bilbee slipping by on the high side of turn two on lap 24 and going on to win over Shane Cottle and Max McGhee. Brady Short would come from 16th to 6th at the finish to clinch the Bloomington point title and Jon Stanbrough would win the Jackslash/ MAV TV point title. The next night it was off to Macon for POWRi midgets and 600's with a rogue heavy rain washing out the program but a call to Coles County was our plan B. Various divisions of micros and mini sprints were on the card with Larry Drake taking the multi 600 feature before we parted at 10:15. The three nights of Kokomo Smackdown plus the makeup show for the sprints from Indiana Speedweek would wrap up our month of August from Wednesday through Saturday. Wednesday night saw Chris Windom bring the Rick Pollick #21X home first for his first USAC win since September 21st of 2013. Forty three sprinters showed up for opening night of the Smackdown The sprint feature had three flips with Robert Ballou taking the lead with five to go after starting fifth and winning his 9th USAC race of the year over Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon. Night two would see Robert Ballou take a hard ride into the turn two wall which brought the backup car out of the trailer and starts in the back of every race. Another awesome feature followed with Chase Stockon coming from sixth to take his first career Kokomo victory. Dave Darland would finish second after starting seventh with Chris Windom trailing in third. In Saturday's final Dave Darland continued his mastery of the Smackdown taking his third straight final night victory in an impressive drive beating out Chase Stockon and Kyle Cummins in a fine race just beating the rain which started up late in the event and picked up as we made our way to the car.

    The month of September found us in paradise on the island of Maui and that first Saturday found us at the Paradise Speedway, a 1/5 mile dirt oval on that island. The program was good family entertainment with many people backing their vehicles up close to the fence and tailgating with their friends and it was unusual to find a track that did not sell concessions. Guess they know their clientele. There were numerous stocker classses and a rare appearance of 360 sprint cars with six making the boat ride from Oahu to join the two from Maui. They ran two 16 lap features for the sprinters with Kiko O'Brien winning one of them and Carlos Kelunoi taking the second one. It was an enjoyable chance of pace from stateside racing. Back in the states on the 19th found us traveling to Tri-State for the 8th annual Haubstadt Hustler paying $10,000 to win the USAC/MSCS co-sanctioned event. A good field of 30 turned out for the event and as is usual for this facility the surface was in excellent shape. The feature action was fast and furious and it looked like Kyle Cummins was going to bag the big bucks but when Aaron Farney spun directly in front of Cummins on the homestretch he ran into him and was out of the event. Brady Short who had been stalking Cummins took over the lead after starting 12th and led the final five laps to take the big win over Kevin Thomas Jr. from 10th and Dakotah Jackson in a great run to take the last podium spot. The following Friday found us taking in for the first time the D2 midgets at Thunder Valley Speedway in Salem where track prep problems at the beginning of the evening took the wind out of the sails as a late night ensued. Jake Hodge took the D2 midget win over Bob Griffith and Cory Medows. The final race of the year at Lincoln Park took place on the 26th. Jeff Bland Jr. lost another one late when Brent Beauchamp slipped by with one to go to win.

    A bonus night at Gas City on October 2nd due to an earlier rainout saw us tough out the night of racing on a very windy and cold night where only the diehard race fans turned out for a good night of racing. It was a HARF (Hoosier Auto Racing Fans) night and the $10 admission price was a nice touch and helped make the cold wind more bearable. A nice field of 32 sprinters turned out and with all the wind the surface turned slick but the racing was still quite good. Dave Darland in the Ohio based Jaime Paul #24P looked strong taking the lead on lap 8 after starting seventh running the high side in turns one and two and the bottom side in turns three and four. He was strongly pressured by Scotty Weir back in the Keen #18 and Tyler Courtney who earlier almost dumped it but kept it on all fours. Late in the contest Courtney ran the rim in turns one and two forcing Darland to work harder to keep the impressive youngsters behind. In the meantime Weir chose the bottom and stuck to it edging closer to the leaders on every circuit. After a restart with five to go the Darland/Courtney intensified with the two slipping around on the top side enough for Weir to slide by down low and streak to the popular victory with Darland second, Courtney third, Shane Cottle fourth and Robert Ballou rounding out the top five. A very impressive run was also turned in by Brandon Mattox who loves the slick tracks advancing from 17th to 6th at the finish. On the way home we heard the shocking news of the death of two time USAC sprint car champion, Tony Elliott, in a private plane crash on his way to South Carolina for a Notre Dame football game. Elliott will be sorely missed by all who remember his boyish smile and great personality. This was our worst experience of the entire 2015 racing season. Saturday night it was back to Macon, Illinois for the rescheduled POWRi midget and 600 program and wouldn't you know it rain played a factor again. A heavy mist fell almost the entire evening and at one point even caused a twenty minute delay to work the track back to running shape. It was worth the wait as the 38 car midget field and 22 car 600 field put on some intense racing in the process. Tyler Thomas looked like a sure winner for the second straight time in POWRi action until being taken out once again in an accident not of his doing while leading with six to go. Zach Daum after starting 10th took the point and held off Tanner Thorson who powered from 18th to take 2nd with 12th starting Kevin Thomas Jr. third. The 600 race was a total war with Nathan Benson triumphing for his 17th career win and in the process wrapping up his third straight POWRi point championship. Ayrton Gennetten (think he might be named after the great F1 champion Ayrton Senna) finished second with Matt Howard third. A first time visit to the Morgan County Fairgrounds home of the Jacksonville Speedway found a good triple header event with POWRi midgets, MOWA sprints and the first race for the D2 POWRi midgets. Fields of 31, 30 and 20 respectively were impressive and the racing turned out to be quite good especially with the midgets. Jacksonville is the perfect size track for midgets and they blasted around the oval with reckless abandon. Tanner Thorson continues to impress behind the wheel of a midget slicing from 13th to score his 3rd POWRi win of the year over Darren Hagen and Rico Abreu who started way back in 18th. The first POWRi D2 midget race went to Cory Weyant while Rico Abreu made shambles of the field from the front row in the MOWA sprint feature over Jimmy Hurley and Jim Moughan. The following evening it was off to the final race of the year at Tri-State, the Harvest Cup, another MSCS sanctioned event. Have you ever seen a bad race at Haubstadt and this one was no exception as Chase Stockon worked traffic expertly edging 7th starting Kyle Cummins and Kevin Thomas Jr. for the three thousand bucks on the line. Brady Short was only able to manage fourth on this high flying evening. A trip back east found us at Grandview for a Saturday night program and I have to mention the 358 modifieds that run there weekly. They are impressive with 10th starting Duane Howard taking his sixth win of the year over 7th starting Jeff Strunk and Ryan Watt. Kudos to 18th starting Craig VonDohren who went to a backup car and finished fourth. The TSRS 305 sprints went non-stop with fifth starting Mike Haggenbottom winning over Tim Tanner Jr. and 8th starting Kevin Nagy. A very well run night of racing.

    That concludes our lookback at the open wheel season of 2015, the first full season we spent as full time residents of Indiana and we look forward to another year of wingless sprints and midgets along with other divisions on the docket. But we are not done yet for 2015 as we have possibilites of four more weekends of indoor racing with midgets headlining three of those venues with the first race ever at the Banker's Life Fieldhouse, home of the Indiana Pacers, where 40 invited midget drivers will do battle on a dirt surface for $10,000 to win with the outlaw karts racing for $5000 to win. Check back over the course of December for updates on these potential races. Until next time keep warm and for those of you not taking in any indoor racing look to spring for another racing season just around the corner.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    A Season Review Of the 2015 Open Wheel Racing Season - Part Two

    We reached the half way mark of the racing season with a June visit back East for work purposes for Pat while I went off to play in the dirt. A Wednesday night stop at Action Track USA located on the Kutztown Fairgrounds in Pennsylvania found a fine field of 45 600cc mini sprints, 38 SpeedSTR's and 34 Tobias slingshots in the pit area. The field included several USAC racers towing in from their "rainout" at Lincoln including Dave Darland, Kevin Thomas Jr., Brady Bacon, Chad Boespflug, Landon Simon, Chris Windom & C.J. Leary with Darland running the best in the SpeedSTR feature before breaking. Modified driver, Mike Mahaney, would win the SpeedSTR feature over open wheel drivers, Kyle Lick and Ryan Smith. Jacob Severn would score his first Kutztown win in the 600's over Brandon Azzalina and 11th starting Tim Buckwalter and Dylan Swinehart would nail down the slingshot race. Then it was into New Jersey for the USAC sprint race at New Egypt the next evening with 28 sprinters to do battle. Robert Ballou would take the lead on lap 21 after starting ninth to score his fifth win of the USAC year over Jon Stanbrough and Tracy Hines. Friday found us at the historic Williams Grove Speedway for a 410 sprint/URC 360 doubleheader with the 360 boys outshining the 410's on this evening. A torrid race for the lead between Mark Smith and Steve Buckwalter took place with the two swapping slide jobs on both ends of the paper clipped shaped oval. Multi-time URC champion, Curt Michael, joined the fray and it was now a three car battle for the lead. Michael took the lead from Buckwalter in turn one on the white flag lap and went on to victory over Smith and Buckwalter. Don Kreitz Jr. controlled the top spot in the 410's until Buckwalter tracked him down and passed him on lap 19. A caution appeared a lap later and on the restart Kreitz mounted an attack and retook the lead on lap 21 and held sway over the final four laps with Buckwalter second and Lucas Wolfe taking third. A good night of racing. Saturday found us back on the USAC trail with a visit to Port Royal Speedway where the ARDC midgets would join the sprints on this evening. The racing in both divisions was good with Steve Buckwalter subbing in the Mike Heffner #27 midget coming from 11th to take the lead and go onto victory over Jim Radney and Ryan Greth. In the USAC sprints Landon Simon led the race until lap 19 when Robert Ballou passed him for the lead. Ballou would win his second straight over Chase Stockon and Simon in one of his best runs. Sunday was the last night of the Eastern Storm swing of USAC and the Susquehanna Speedway Park was the host. The track was quite dusty on this evening with a big pileup on the initial start on the homestretch. Once sorted out the race was a decent one with Shane Cottle in an Eastern based car leading until Robert Ballou (who else) surged to the lead on lap 14. While Ballou was gone the battle for second was a good one with Cottle and Stanbrough going at it. At the finish Ballou had an Eastern sweep over Stanbrough and Stockon. We picked up USAC midget week at Lincoln Park where a strong 41 car field was on hand with 25 wingless sprints joining the fray. Bryan Clauson would prevail in a wild midget feature with four cautions and two reds advancing from 11th for the win. Christopher Bell surged from 17th to take second with Tracy Hines rounding out the podium. Kevin Thomas Jr. would take the sprint feature over Brady Short and Chad Boespflug. Next were the red hills of Bloomington where Christopher Bell won the midgets for the second year in a row in a highspeed ballet through traffic winning over teammate Kevin Thomas Jr. and Bryan Clauson. Sondi Eden, the former Indy Speedrome wiz, captured her first win on dirt in the 305 sprints winning over Pup Huntley and Ryan Tusing. The lady from our hometown of Crawfordsville was really excited in victory lane and showed the emotion! Bryan Clauson would capture the sprint main over Mr. Second at Bloomington, Nick Bilbee, and Dave Darland. Next up was our first visit to Paragon in many a moon for a KISS program with 28 sprint cars in attendance. It was a classic battle between two of Indiana's best, Brady Short and Robert Ballou, with the pair swapping the top spot in a fine display of driving with Ballou finally prevailing over Short and Jon Stanbrough. It was back to Paragon late in the month for the 68 lap Amati Classic with another great race for the top spot ending with a double flip down the backstretch between Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle as neither would give an inch. Chad Boespflug would capitalize on their misfortune to go on to win the Amati Classic and give the Amati Racing team their first win in this event. Dave Darland and Chris Phillips in a good performance rounded out the top three. We ended out the busy month of June on my birthday on the 28th with another visit to Kokomo where the longtime Kokomo master, Dave Darland, wired the field to pick up the win over Justin Grant and C.J. Leary.

    July found us back in Pennsylvania for a medical emergency with Pat's dad (he is OK) so a trip to Linda's Speedway right alongside I-78 was in the cards. The ARDC midgets with their largest field of the year at 22 joined the 270's and 600's for a good night of racing. Bruce Buckwalter Jr. would win the competitive ARDC race over Trevor Kobylarz and Alex Bright after longtime leader and looking like a sure winner, Brett Arndt, snapped a belt on the oil pump while leading. We were back in Indiana by Monday in time to take in the UMRA/King Of The TQ's show at Jennings County. A nice field of 24 cars were in attendence and it was a well run program and a decent feature with Chris Mastin winning over Robbie Roland and Cory Eaglin. Friday was opening night of the 28th annual Indiana Sprintweek with Gas City first up on the docket. Forty five sprinters filled the turn three and four pit area for the opener. Chase Stockon would battle Jerry Coons Jr. before taking the lead on lap 14 and went on to win over Coons and Hunter Schuerenberg. A disappointing rainout the next night at Kokomo as the field was stout and the race was shaping up to be a good one. Sunday it was off to Belle-Clair for the first time ever and the 1/5 mile bullring did not disappoint. There were more slide jobs than Carter has liver pills and the 30 lap feature was a war. Christopher Bell came from the rear after a lap 11 tangle to grab the lead with two to go and go on to take the win over Darren Hagen and Andrew Felker. Aaron Andruskevitch was very impressive in his POWRi 600 cc win over Joe B Miller. Wednesday was a trip north to Warsaw to the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds for the first racing there in 25 years. Organizational problems made for a long evening but improvements have been promised with more racing scheduled in 2016. Thursday it was off to Lincoln Park for another night of sprintweek action. Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons Jr. and Kevin Thomas Jr. put on a good race for the lead with Bacon winning over Thomas and Coons. The "show" was Brady Short slicing and dicing his way from 22nd to 5th at the finish. It was another unsettled night with the weather on Friday as we towed to Bloomington. I thought we were going to sneak it in but after all the heats and the B mains the heavy rains came and wiped out this round of sprintweek. Tri State Speedway, the 1/4 mile finely manicured dirt oval in southwest Indiana, would host the final race of speedweek on a very humid night. This was an excellent race of high speed antics with first Chris Windom leading until lap 15 when Kevin Thomas Jr. went out front and then on lap 22 Brady Short went to the point passing Thomas and that woud be the way it would end. Robert Ballou came home the sprintweek point champion. Monday found us taking a ride to Ripley County for another show with the UMRA/King Of The TQ's at a nice facility. Robbie Roland took this one over Kirby Petry and Trent Henderson in another well run program. Saturday it was back to Lincoln Park for the 28th annual Putnamville Clash with 25 sprinters on hand. The multi-grooved surface produced some good racing with Kevin Thomas Jr. taking the lead late in the 30 lapper from Brent Beauchamp and winning over Dave Darland and Robert Ballou with Beauchamp slipping two spots in the last two laps to finish fourth. The Bob Darland Memorial fell to rain before all the heats were completed and would be made up later. July racing ended on the last day of the month as a visit to Gas City was in order. Robert Ballou held off the intense march of Jon Stanbrough to win this one with young Tyler Courtney impressive from 11th.

    The last segment covering August through November will appear shortly so check back in a few days and in the meantime get out there and catch some indoor racing in your area.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

     

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

     

    A Season Review Of the 2015 Open Wheel Racing Season - Part One

     

    We started out the 2015 racing season on January 1st at Sandusky Speedway in Ohio for the Hangover races. It was cold and windy but in the grandstands it was bearable and enjoyed watching the tradition of people throwing snowballs at the passing cars! We went indoors for the second race of the year at the Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek for the Midwest Indoor Racing Series featuring the 600 mini sprints won by young Chase Ridenour in a decent program. Races three through five occured in Florida at Bubba's Raceway Park in Ocala with the All Star Sprints performing on the odd shaped dirt track. Austrialian Kerry Madsen got out the broom dominating the first three nights of sprint action. Next was Volusia Speedway Park again for the All Stars with Daryn Pittman winning by .078 seconds over Donnie Schatz and Brad Sweet in a good high speed contest. Sunday found us back at Volusia for the WOO sprints who ran a non-stop 30 lapper with Brad Sweet taking the lead with seven to go beating Paul McMahan and Daryn Pittman. A visit to East Bay Racway found us taking in an ASCS sprint and mini sprint program on the coldest night in Florida with the show ending at 12:30 AM with about 100 fans still in the stands. A fine sprint field of 67 along with 33 mini sprints filled the pit area making for a long night of racing. Both features were very good with Aaron Reutzel coming from the 8th hole to win over 7th starting Terry McCarl, Mark Smith, 14th starting Brad Loyet and 12th starting Seth Bergman. Luke Thomas from PA won the 600 mini sprints over fellow PA driver, Alex Bright, and Robby Hoffman, a local Florida runner who looks very impressive. The Florida vacation was rounded out with two good nights of racing at Bubba's with the USAC sprint cars with a decent field of 31 on hand. Robert Ballou started his historic season with a win over Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon. Saturday's program saw Brady Bacon score the win in the Hoffman #69 over Chase Stockon and Chris Windom.

    March found us going back indoors for another Midwest Indoor Racing Series at the Perani Arena with Chase Ridenour taking another win before beginning his rookie year on the SOD circuit. A late March combo spring training baseball/racing trip found us at USA Raceway in Tuscon for a doubleheader of USAC/CRA wingless sprints and ASCS winged sprints. The racing action was very good with a big cushion developing especially in turn four with Damion Gardner winning the USAC/CRA portion over 20th starting Brady Bacon in an amazing performance and Mike Spencer. The ASCS go was equally good with Dusty Zomer triumphing over Logan Forlor and a cushion riding Aaron Reutzel. The following Saturday found us at the Canyon Raceway Park where the USAC Southwest sprints were running in a very well run show. R.J. Johnson made an amazing pass of Stevie Sussex in turn two on the white flag lap to take the win with Josh Pelkey coming home third. It was an excellent race! The beginning of April found us at the Lawrenceburg Speedway for an USAC sprint car showdown where Logan Jarrett scored his first career USAC sprint victory winning over 17th starting C.J. Leary who pounded the cushion throughout his drive to the front and Robert Ballou who whined in his podium interview on the rough track conditions. The next Saturday found us making our first of ten visits to the awesome Kokomo Speedway for an USAC midget/wingless sprint doubleheader. Darren Hagen drove a fine race to take the midget top honors over 7th starting Tracy Hines, Tanner Thorsen, Steve Buckwalter and Davey Ray. The sprint featue was a good one also with C.J. Leary scoring his second career Kokomo win over Kevin Thomas Jr. and the new master of Kokomo, Justin Grant.  The middle of April found us attending the season opener at the Bloomington Speedway that fine 1/4 mile red clay bullring.  Bryan Clauson would score his 67th USAC win holding off 9th starting Jon Stanbrough and 12th starting Chase Stockon in a good race to kick off the season.  The next night it was off to the closest track to our house, the Lincoln Park Speedway for some good sprint car racing in beautiful downtown Putnamville.  Chad Boespflug would bring the Baldwin Brothers #5 into victory lane beating Casey Shuman and Tyler Hewitt a good event.  The following week found us back in Pennsylvania after a medical emergency and before working our way back to Indiana we took in races at Williams Grove and Port Royal.  The All Star Circuit of Champions were making an eastern swing and at the Grove the Pennsylvania Posse member, Greg Hodnett, would take the win over Danny Dietrich and future All Star champion, Dale Blaney.  The next night at Port Royal former PA regular and now full time All Star runner, Cody Darrah, scored the big win over Brent Marks and 12th starting Dave Blaney who always runs well at the Juniata County half mile taking home a whooping $18,900 for his effort.   The long haul back to Indiana was accomplished on Sunday with the combo MSCS/KISS sprints at Terre Haute as the reward.  It wasn't one of the classics by any stretch as the 25 lapper took almost an hour to complete with a combination of eight cautions and reds slowing the action.  Ted Hines took a nasty tumble down the frontstretch and a sigh of relief was heard as he climbed from his destroyed machine.  Brady Short would prevail in this one outracing Jerry Coons Jr. and Carson Short for the $2500 paycheck. 

     

    The month of May started off with a visit to one of our favorite Indiana stops at the Gas City Speedway.  The O'Connor family took over the promotion for 2015 and this was the season opener.  A miscue on preparing the track surface led to a late start but once underway things were moved along nicely.  Jon Stanbrough would win his 22nd KISS feature and his first as a car owner fighting off an impressive run by Kyle Robbins and Thomas Meseraull.   The next day was a trip to Montpelier Speedway for the first appearance of the MSCS sprints there since 2001.  A disappointing 15 car field made the trip but the feature was actually pretty decent.  It looked like Jon Stanbrough was goin g to win this one until he half spun and stalled while leading on lap 21.  Shane "The Throttle" Cottle would take the win besting Brady Short and Robert Ballou.  The weekend trifecta featured the KISS sprints invading the Kokomo Speedway with an unusual race unfolding.  Justin Grant looked like a sure winner until he spun into the infield off turn four continuing but losing the lead to Brady Short.  It now looked like Short was in control until disaster struck when with two to go his motor went up in smoke as he raced down the homestretch.  Grant regained the lead and didn't make any further mistakes flashing under the checkered edging out Jon Stanbrough and Thomas Meseraull for the win.  We found out in the victory lane interview that Grant lost a right front shock in his offroad journey but still man handled the sprint car to victory lane.  Friday it was back to Bloomington where Brady Short would make it two in a row beating out the emerging Nick Bilbee and Casey Shuman up from ninth.  The 305 sprints would see Eric Smith also make it two straight beating out Ryan Tusing and Kendall Ruble.  This was a night that it was amazing that they were able to get the show in as rain was all around the area.  Back to Gas City at mid-month for USAC sprints and a very competitive race with Brady Bacon changing to the top side after the half way mark and sweeping to victory from sixth fending off a late charge from Thomas Meseraull which fell a few feet short.  Sunday was Kokomo day and Shane Cottle took advantage of a front row starting position and drove the legendary Paul Hazen #57 to victory fending off a late charge from Kevin Thomas Jr. and Logan Jarrett who rode the turn two wall with six to go and continued on to take the show position.  A rare Thursday night race found the Silver Crown Series invading the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the 62nd annual Hoosier 100 which turned out to be one of the best Silver Crown races we have seen in quite a while.  Even though Kody Swanson won once again he earned this one finally taking the lead on lap 69 from A.J. Fike.  There were several good runs in this one but the railbirds were buzzing abMattout the performance of Brian Tyler who drove the borrowed ride of Randy Bateman from 27th and last all the way up to second to challenge Swanson but wearing tires stopped his charge with Aaron Pierce sneaking by for second with Tyler passing Fike at the finish to regain third with Justin Grant rounding out the top five in an excellent race.  Ricky Hood, the 62 year old Arizona native, ran a fine race in the Foxco #56 to garner seventh.  The Josh Burton Memorial was next up at Bloomington and a fine tribute was done for the driver who we all lost much too early.  Brady Short made it three straight again beating out Nick Bilbee and Dave Darland.  The next day found us attending the 70th Night Before the 500 where the Silver Crown cars would race for 100 laps.  It was a dominating performance by Swanson but this time it was Kody's brother, Tanner, lapping everyone but his brother to take home $8000 winning three out of the last four at Lucas Oil Raceway.  Bobby Santos would take the last podium finish.  From IRP it was off to Lincoln Park for the wingless sprints.  In a spectacular performance Thomas Meseraull would win in a car he had never driven before and didn't know who owned it before showing up to drive the Amati #66 outrunning Robert Ballou in a fierce duel with Jon Stanbrough rounding out the top three.  After the checkered waved Meseraull caught the cushion in turn two and roll over his ride which was pushed to victory lane.  A wild and surprising evening in beautiful downtown Putnamville.  It was off to Kokomo on Sunday for the Kokomo Klassic where 30 sprinters showed up to do battle.  It was an intense battle between Kevin Thomas Jr. and Bryan Clauson who went side by side for many laps before Thomas prevailed over Clauson who ran the Indianapolis 500 earlier in the day.  Clauson has plans to run 200 races in 2016!  Another trip back East would find us in Lima, Ohio on Friday to take in the NRA sprints at the neat Ohio dirt oval.  A well run three division program was spun off in 2 1/2 hours with Max Stambaugh winning his second straight over Randy Hannigan and Jared Horstman.  Saturday found us in the Pigeon Hills of Pennsylvania at the Lincoln Speedway where we witnessed a very good 410 sprint car race.  Much battling throughout the field especially up front had Brian Montieth scoring his 48th career win nosing out Adam Wilt and Danny Dietrich.   Matt Campbell won the 358 sprint feature heading off Cody Fletcher and Brie Hershey for the win.  The last day of May was a race at the Bridgeport quarter mile oval where the 600 mini sprints were scheduled to do battle.  A solid field of 31 were pitside and a fine race with three wide racing for the lead was witnessed with Tim Buckwalter coming from ninth to win over seventh starting James Morris who executed a last lap pass for second with Jay Hartman finishing third after starting eleventh. 

     

    That's it for part one of our 2015 racing season and check back next week for part two of our racing adventures.      

     

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    POWRi & MOWA Take On Jacksonville & MSCS Closes Out Tri-State Season

    Friday night was a chance to visit another of the ¼ mile black clay bullrings located in the Land of Lincoln for the first time ever. Our destination was the Jacksonville Speedway located on the Morgan County fairgrounds in the town of Jacksonville which has 19,000 residents. We arrived early and secured our seats in the covered grandstand before returning to the car to gather up our cold weather gear before returning to the grandstands. As we reentered we ran into Wisconsin race fan, Dale O’Brien and invited him to sit with us which he accepted. It was game one of the NLDS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs. Since St. Louis is only 40 miles from Jacksonville management was nice enough to set up several flat screen TV’s on the homestretch so the crowd could follow the baseball game while at the same time watching some good racing. When we went to eat in the enclosed concession area we encountered Gary Dean who we had met two months earlier at Kokomo. It was nice to see Gary again as he stepped by on his way to Eldora the next day.

    On tap on this cool evening was a fine four division program with the POWRi midgets (31), POWRi Division II midgets (20) for the first time under POWRi sanction, MOWA sprints (30) and UMP modifieds (15). Racing took the initial green flag at 7:19 and spun off four entertaining heats with Justin Peck, Thomas Meseraull, Tyler Thomas and Bryan Clauson winning and establishing themselves as contenders for the upcoming 30 lap feature. The Division II midgets ran two heats along with the UMP modifieds and the MOWA sprints ran three heats with Jimmy Hurley, Rico Abreu and Parker Price-Miller prevailing. The midgets and sprints had semis with Austin Brown and Logan Faucon winning and Jimmy Hurley taking the sprint dash and positioning himself for a sweep. The first feature of the evening would be the POWRi midgets taking the green flag at 9:55. Lap four saw Ryan Robinson roll his Kuntz midget in turn three to bring out the red. He was OK. Bryan Clauson and Justin Peck swapped the lead for quite a few laps until Peck’s car hit the cushion on lap 11 and literally bounced several times before stopping leaving Tyler Thomas nowhere to go sliding into the stopped vehicle. This was the second week in a row that Thomas was a victim of circumstances while running in the top five. On the restart leader Clauson lost power on the homestretch with Thomas Messeraull clipping him as he went by causing him to hit the turn one wall and roll over taking two others running in the top five out of the event. This would be the last stoppage of the race with Tanner Thorson working his way past Darren Hagen to take the lead and go onto his third POWRi win of the year after starting 13th with Hagen second at the finish with Rico Abreu taking third after starting 18th with Spencer Bayston fourth and Zach Daum rounding out the top five. The 20 lap D2 feature was next and it was a good run with Cory Weyant winning over Jake Neuman and Mitchell Davis in a race with only one caution. The last feature we would witness would be the 25 lap MOWA sprint feature and by this time the track had slicked up and the sprinters would skate around the oval and it was not much of a race with Rico Abreu starting second and never being headed. Jimmy Hurley would fall one spot short of the sweep with Jim Moughan coming home third with Brad Loyet fourth and Parker Price-Miller placing fifth with only Loyet (6th) starting outside the top five. The checkered waved at 11:13 and we called it an evening as it was 12:13 Eastern time after a long day.

    We enjoyed the track at Jacksonville and can see a return trip to this ¼ mile bullring as it is a perfect size for the midgets which produced some good racing on this evening.

    The next day was beautiful, sunny and in the 70’s which made for a nice drive through southern Illinois on our way over to the Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana. It was the final race of the season for the MSCS sprints and they were running the Harvest Cup paying $3,000 to the winner. It was a leisurely ride with a stop in New Harmony, Indiana to visit an antique store we stopped at earlier in the summer. I passed up something I should have bought and since the ride to Haubstadt took us within 10 miles of the town I talked Bruce into taking a slight detour. We still arrived at the track early at 4:30 and Bruce went in and secured a blanket to save our seats as the next stop was down Route 41 to Stoll’s Restaurant where we always eat way too much. It was 5:45 when we entered the parking lot for the second time of the day and found that the crowd was smaller than usual. We listened to baseball on MLB radio for the next hour and headed into the stands when they pushed off the sprints for hot laps at 6:45. The championship had already been decided for the MSCS sprints with Brady Short taking the point title. Short won 10 of 19 event or 52% of the races.

    Tonight along with the sprints were the UMP modifieds and the MMSA mini sprints. The car counts were 25, 20 and 27. All divisions ran three heats with the sprints and mini sprints also running a B Main. All but the mini sprint B main ran smoothly without a hitch. The mini sprint B Main took over 20 minutes to run and at this point we decided we would not be staying to see their feature event which was last on the card. Up next was Intermission/track prep. They always have track prep during intermission and their surface at the completion of qualifying is still better than 90% of the tracks in this country before they start racing. I always ask myself why they do it and then the main event begins and I know why. Even better.

    The 30 lap Harvest Cup started at 9:38 and ran only 4 laps before racing was halted under the red flag when Donny Brackett and Critter Malone connected in turn four with Brackett flipping. I’ll admit I missed the entire incident because I was watching Chase Stockon going 4 wide through turn one and two while entering lapped traffic. Racing resumed and it was clean and green. Stockon was slicing through traffic but he was not the only one. By lap 15 Kyle Cummins was coming. Cummins appeared faster and just when you thought he was closing in on the #32 of Stockon he would get caught in lapped traffic and lose ground. All of a sudden Cummings was there. He closed in on Stockon and it was going to be a finish through lapped traffic to trump all finishes. There was only one problem as Brian Karraker came to a stop on the backstretch and the caution waved ending what would have been a phenomenal run to the checkered. It was a great journey to watch but a letdown in the end. The race restarted with the green and white flag being waved simultaneously. There was no change in position in the final circuit. Chase Stockon won with Kyle Cummins, Kevin Thomas Jr. and MSCS Champion, Brady Short following. These four cars were the only cars on the lead lap. Rounding out the top five one lap down was Carson Short. Stockon did a wheelie down the backstretch, then stopped by the backstretch gate and greeted the fans. It was a popular victory.

    The race was over just before 10:00. But a three hour ride and a time change was in front of us and we decided to head toward the gates. I do not think we have ever seen a bad race at this track. We made it here three time during the 2015 season and I am sure we will be there that many times if not more in 2016. Thank you Tri-State Speedway.

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Cold Night At Gas City, Where’s the Rain On The Radar At Macon & Redneck Enduro On The Roval At Salem

    A very busy week and doctor’s appointments caused this effort to reach you late this time. We started the weekend last Friday by heading northeast in Indiana to Gas City, home of the I-69 Gas City Speedway. On tap was the last race of their six race schedule and we showed our support by attending five of the six shows. We knew it was going to be cold tonight but what caught us by surprise was the wind we encountered at Gas City. When we left Crawfordsville it was calm and chilly but as we crossed the backroads of Indiana we could tell by the car being moved around that it was going to be windy. And as we pulled into the parking area the banners standing straight out to the south behind the grandstands confirm that the wind would be blowing in our faces. The O’Connors did the best they could with the track conditions but with the combination of sun and wind on a dirt track you can figure out the results yourself. It was another Hoosier Auto Racing Fan (HARF) night at Gas City which meant a five dollar discount for all HARF card holders and the $10 admission as the result is greatly appreciated by every member. If you attend races in Indiana you should be a HARF member as the savings alone are well worth the membership dues!

    Racing got underway at 7:36 for the five division program consisting of wingless sprints (32), UMP modifieds (20), super stocks (16), thunder cars (12) and hornets (8) on the cold windy evening in October. The four sprint heats were good ones with Robert Ballou winning the first one over Shane Cottle and Max McGhee with the top two redrawing for the feature event starting lineup. Heat two saw Scotty Weir back in the Keen #18 winning over a high flying Logan Jarrett in his first race back after a car accident and Justin Grant in the Baldwin Brothers #5. Heat three saw Dave Darland pick up the win in the Ohio based Jamie Paul #24P over Tyler Courtney and Kyle Robbins. Heat four saw A.J. Hopkins in a strong run win over C.J. Leary in the #4P and Matt Goodnight in a fine effort. The other divisions heats followed quickly and things were kept going at a good pace due to the cold and the rain factor rearing its ugly head making it’s way from the southeast with the fans checking their smartphones to keep an eye on the track of the storm. The sprint B main saw Brandon Mattox who is good on a dry slick track triumph in this one with Dakota Jackson qualifying the Stenlake #41 in his first ride in the car. The sprint car feature took the initial green at 9 PM and came to a quick halt as first starting Logan Jarrett caught the wheel of Tyler Courtney and twisted in all directions but never flipped over the family #29 but he was done for the evening. Scotty Weir went to the point and held the top spot until Dave Darland took the lead from him with a backstretch pass on lap 8. Darland paced the field running the outside in turns one and two while using the inside groove while racing through turns three and four. The race continued this way until lap 19 when Max McGhee spun on the inside of turn three bringing out only the second caution. On the restart Tyler Courtney started to make his presence felt as he pounded the upper groove trying to slide job Darland in turn two over the last six laps. Courtney’s pressure took Darland’s focus and Scotty Weir used it to his advantage as he worked the bottom groove around the entire ¼ mile taking the lead with four to go. Weir was able to hold off Darland and Courtney for his first win of the year with Shane Cottle taking fourth and Robert Ballou rounding out the top five. Brandon Mattox turned in the best driver advancing from 17th to 6th with Justin Grant seventh, C.J. Leary eighth, Critter Malone ninth from sixteenth and Casey Shuman, the new owner of the WAR series, claiming tenth after starting 19th. It was a very good feature considering what the sun and wind did to the surface with the checkered waving at 9:17. We decided to stay for the 20 lap UMP modified feature with Randy Lines prevailing over Andy Bishop with Dillon Nusbaum slipping by Ernie Gingerich off the fourth turn on the final lap for third with Kevin McCarty rounding out the top five. This checkered waved at 9:34 and we decided to not press our luck as the wind continued to howl and the rain approached. It was a wise decision as when we drove west toward home we encountered rain which continued the entire distance home. We found out the super stocks got almost their entire race in while the thunder cars and hornets fell victim to the wet stuff. It was a fine effort by the Gas City crew under adverse weather conditions and we were glad they stuck to their guns and ran the program. On the way home Pat logged onto Indiana Open Wheel and we found out the shocking news of the death of two time USAC National Sprint Car Champion, Tony Elliott, in a plane crash on the Georgia/South Carolina border where he and three others were on their way to attend the Notre Dame-Clemson game the next day. Our condolences go out to his wife, Cindy, and the entire Elliott family and his many legions of friends and fans who will sorely miss that great, bright smile and the wonderful personality of a fine man. Our condolences also go out to the families of the other three who lost their lives in the plane crash also.

    Once again the weather did not look promising in Indiana but the weather channel and the radar said no rain in Illinois. Well we have been down that road before and the further we ventured into the Land of Lincoln the more I was beginning to doubt the weather forecast. Yet it was dry when we pulled into the parking lot at Macon Speedway. We were returning for the rainout event earlier in the year when there was only a 15% chance of rain. Tonight it was zero percent but it was cloudy, windy and chilly in the 50’s. So much so that after Bruce went in and put down the blanket at 5:45 we remained in the car until after the late model time trials and did not make our way to our seats until after 6:30. Racing was to start at 7:00 and actually started early at 6:55. The show started with two quick B mod heats and then right into the 5, yes 5, heats for the POWRi Midgets. There were 38 midgets and it looked to be one heck of a show. As the midget heats began so did a heavy mist. The kind where at first you barely feel it and the next thing you know you are all wet. The mist continued through all 5 heats which were run off with only a minor delay for Tanner Thorson who turned over his Kuntz ride in turn 2. When I say it was minor it was because they up righted the car and he continued on to just miss qualify in the heat. The 600 POWRi micros were off next with their 4 heats and the track was starting to glaze along with the fans in the stands as well. They proceeded with the first heat but then the red came out in heat as the mist intensified. We never left our seats in the stands as the moisture could not soak through the multiple layers of clothes we had on to keep warm. I could not believe it. I checked the radar on my phone and there was no green even on it. Where does this Illinois moisture come from? The track crew was out with their vehicles and farm equipment and they worked the track as the moisture fell. It was almost like it was meant to happen when the mist/rain stopped the track was ready to go and looked better than ever. The delay was 30 minutes and the 600’s returned to run their remaining 4 heats. On this track these drivers are crazy fast and I think maybe just a little bit crazy altogether. They run at extremely fast speeds with those wings and they are everywhere. They are really enjoyable to watch. The late models ran two heats for the 13 cars in attendance and they moved right into the semi’s for the midgets and 600’s. The midgets ran two 12 lap events with the 600’s running one 10 lap semi. Despite the 30 minute rain delay they ran off 16 qualifying events by 9:05. Not Bad! Without delay they moved right into the B Mod 15 lap feature and it ran non-stop with Nathan Schmitt picking up the victory.

    There was less than 15 minutes between the drop of the checkered on the B mod feature and the drop of the green on the 30 lap POWRi midget main event. I was really excited for this race. The green dropped at 9:28 and I enjoyed the race from the drop of the green until the checkered flew. The tight racing on this track is unbelievable. Tyler Thomas jumped out to a big lead from his 5th starting position but that evaporated on lap 9 when the caution came out for a minor spin. By lap 18 Thomas and Zach Daum were in a fierce battle for the lead until Thomas got a little breathing room when Daum bounced it off the second turn wall. Unfortunately the breathing room only lasted two laps. On lap 24 Darren Hagen and Justin Peck collided in turn two and Thomas got caught up in the melee. This put Daum on the point followed by Kevin Thomas Jr., Ryan Robinson and Tanner Thornson for the final 6 circuits. You could say it was the Kuntz cars in pursuit. However, it was not Daum they were pursuing. It was each other. Thorson got into Robinson and the #71 went spinning in turn two. How many times this year have you seen these Kuntz cars take each other out during some hard racing? Must made for some interesting team meetings. In the end it was Zach Daum in victory lane from his 10th starting position. Tanner Thorson started 18th and finished second. He also said he did not mean to take out his team mate in turn two. That probably made Robinson feel must better. Kevin Thomas was third from 12th and Andrew Felker and Tim Siner rounded it out the top five. It was really a good race and it all happened in 17 minutes.

    The 20 lap 600 micro feature was next and as I mentioned before these guys are crazy. Six times the race was slowed; 3 for cautions and three for reds. They are faster than the midgets and if not they sure appear to be. A car will run inside, outside, middle and then back on the outside and that is through only one set of turns. Two of the reds were for minor turn overs but one was for a violent snapping flip down the backstretch into turn three. Everyone held their breath until Zack Taylor emerged from the damaged car. One of the 600’s that caught my eye was the #21 of Aaron Andrushevitch. He was wild and looked like he was going to crash at any second. Unfortunately the car broke down one lap from the finish while he was running second. Nathan Benson won the event with Ayrton Gennetten second and Matt Howard third. It was only 10:16 but that means 11:16 at home so we headed for the gates and did not stay to see the late models. It was a well-run show and a great show to watch. It took us over 20 years to return to Macon Speedway but now that it is only a little over 2 hours away I believe we could become frequent flyers.

    Sunday was a welcomed relief from the past two days with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70’s and touching 80 by the late afternoon. We were heading to south Indiana and the famed Salem Speedway but not for racing on the high banked oval or not at least the whole banked oval. Today Salem was hosting the 2nd Redneck Enduro 100 for the mini stock type cars on the Roval. The Roval is formed by starting at the start/finish line of the inner oval and driving into turns one and two before turning left onto the X of the figure 8 track and then turning right at the next chance and out onto the big oval near turn three. They then ran turns three and four of the big track before turning left on the start of the homestretch back into the infield to complete the circuit. A good field of 23 cars started this event with the green waving at 1:43. The race kept your interest throughout with some good battles within the race. One car did not take the green and came out of the pits on the backstretch and proceeded to advance from 23rd to 6th but was scored a lap down as he didn’t take the original green. He ended up dropping out before the half way mark so it did not matter that he was a lap down. The longtime leader, Derick Bradshaw in his #49 was being pressured by James Blanchard for the lead and drove straight off turn four and down the homestretch into the pit area on lap 77 handing the lead over to Blanchard. He would lead the remainder of the distance and took the checkered flag at 2:45 winning over Collin Worrall and David Daughtery who ended up as the only three drivers on the lead lap. It was an enjoyable afternoon of racing and taking in the rays on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. It was a fine way to wrap up a three day weekend of racing in October.

    Until next time get out there to a short track near you as the season is winding down and winter will be upon us before you know it. Any questions or comments are welcomed at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and enjoy the remaining racing in 2015. There will be an indoor dirt race in December in Indianapolis at the Banker’s Fieldhouse where the Pacers play with full sized midgets and outlaw karts competing for some big bucks.

     

     

    A Typical Weekend

    By Pat & Bruce Eckel

    Division II Midgets From Thunder Valley & Night Of Champions At Lincoln Park

    We decided to take in the regular season final at Thunder Valley Raceway, the ¼ mile dirt oval located in Salem, Indiana, on this Friday night and left late at 4:15 to make the two and a half hour tow to Salem. With the rush hour traffic on I-465 and I-65 plus the construction it took longer than it should have and we pulled into the fairgrounds parking lot right around the starting time of 7 PM. All six divisions were taking slow laps to run in the surface and we expected racing to start shortly. We were surprised to find that after we checked out the concession stand menu and placed our blanket down on the nice aluminum grandstands on the side of a hill a piece of farm equipment came out on the track and began to dig up turns three and four. Then the rest of the surface was reworked and the racing did not begin until almost an hour and a half after the scheduled starting time of 7. A call placed to promoter, Duane Hilderbrand, on Sunday produced the answer to the mystery on Monday. It turned out that Duane was breaking in a new person on preparing the track surface and he watered the two turns too heavy and too quick forcing Duane to rework the surface for the safety of the competitors especially the division II midgets and the hornets which are the two lightest ones to compete on the evening. It was a shame that this happened as the delay put a damper on the night and forced management to cut the feature distances from 20 to 15 laps in all divisions. But at least the announcer apologized for the delay and thanked everyone for their patience.

    There were six divisions racing tonight with the hornets having the highest car count at 10. Others are as follows: UMP modifieds (9), pure stocks (9), Midwest Division II midgets (7), outlaw 4’s (7) and mini stocks (7). The midget count was disappointing as the last time they raced here the field had 16 entrants but since it is later in the year many teams probably have parked their cars for the season and other reasons. After starting at 8:39 all heat racing was completed by 9:38 which was done in good time. A short 15 minute intermission followed and then it was feature time. The UMP modifieds were first up and it looked like Roy Bruce Jr. would walk away with this one but suddenly he pulled into the infield with mechanical woes and Jared Fleetwood inherited the lead. He would go on to score his first victory of the year over Brad Thompson and Andy Carver. The pure stocks ran a good race with Brad Kemp triumphing. The outlaw 4 feature was shortened to 12 laps as the weather was now a factor with Jason Walters winning and an urgent call for the midgets to take to the track. As the midgets were ready to take the green an ambulance charged into the pit area to aid an injured pure stock driver complaining of back pain. That delayed the start for 10 minutes and we were afraid that we would not get to see the division we had most wanted to see. The green appeared at 10:44 and the 15 lapper was spun off in just three minutes. Jake Hodge scored the win over Bob Griffith and Cory Medows. Since we had a 2 ½ hour ride back to Crawfordsville and with the weather threatening we called it an evening and head north where we encountered some light rain not far from the track. We had heard good reports from Thunder Valley from a few sources and take away the track preparation delay and it was a decent night of racing. We wish continued success to Duane Hilderbrand and his hard working volunteers and hope that they can build on their first season at the helm of Thunder Valley and give racers another option of a place to run in southern Indiana.

    We decided to stay local on Saturday, because we were leaving early the next morning to drive back to New Jersey for work obligations that I had. Of course local for us is Lincoln Park Speedway and that is not a bad local. This would be the final of race of the season for Lincoln Park and our 8th visit of the year. There was only one other track we saw races at more often in 2015 and that would be Kokomo where we witnessed racing 10 times. We knew the field would be light as Eldora was running the Four Crowns but we enjoy all the divisions here and you do not always need the big dogs present to see good racing. We arrived at 6:40 under cloudy skies with a light breeze. We even had a few sprinkles and you could feel fall was in the air. This was the first night I worn long jeans to the races since back in May and I was glad I did. Tonight was also champion’s night and during intermission the trophies would be presented to the top 10 drivers in each of the four divisions. There was a lot to be accomplished and they started promptly at 7:00.

    All divisions had lighter than usual car counts with the sprints at 21, modifieds at 20 and super stocks at 21. Each of these divisions ran three qualifying heats and no B main was necessary. The bomber count was low at 34. They were the only division that required a B main and had 4 qualifying events. It rained a little during the second sprint heat but there were no delays and all 13 qualifying heats were completed by 8:20. At this time we went into the championship ceremonies. One by one all 40 drivers were introduced and interviewed as they were presented their trophies. It took only one hour to complete the ceremonies and we were back to racing. The bombers ran off their B main with little to do and then it was feature time.

    Tonight the cars were starting the feature in a heads up start from the heats, meaning the three heats winners would start in positions 1 through 3 and so on. It was hard to bet against Jeff Bland Jr, starting on the outside of the front row but then we saw him make some mistakes in the past. The green dropped at 9:43 but did not stay out long as the first caution waved on lap 1. During the first half of the race the caution waved 4 times and racing was mostly single file. The track became dusty and this was understandable as the cool breezes blew most of the day and into the evening. It looked like Jeff Bland was going to pick up a win when Brent Beauchamp did a bad slide job in turn 4. The two made contact and Beauchamp took the lead as Bland corrected and remained in second. Luckily for Bland the caution came out, putting Bland back in the top spot with 6 laps remaining. The final circuits saw Beauchamp hound Bland and Bland bobbled a little coming out of turn 2 on the 23rd lap. On lap 24 in the same spot Bland drifted high allowing Beauchamp to get underneath the 04 and go on for the victory. It was a heart breaker for Bland who led almost the entire race. Beauchamp apologized in victory lane for the previous contact with Bland but that contact had no bearing on the outcome of the race. Bland finished second with pole sitter Ethan Barrow third. Scott Hampton, the Lincoln Park 2015 Point Champion was fourth and JJ Hughes rounded out the top 5. The sprint feature was over at 10:04 and even though by this time it was a bit chilly the vast majority of the fans remained.

    The modifieds ran a 20 lap feature and Tim Prince picked up the win in the P1. A car Bruce and I had not seen previously this year. Cullen Goodman and Jay Humphrey Jr. finished second and third. We stayed for one more event, the super stocks and the 2015 Point Champion Josh Boler came home first in his #05. It was 10:45 and we decided to forgo the bombers. The season started back on April 1 with a win for Chase Stockon and ended on September 26 with a win by Brent Beauchamp. We came through the gates 8 times and saw some real good racing. Thank you to Joe Spiker for Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville. See ya next year!

     

     

    From Maui To Haubstadt

    We wrapped up our two week vacation to paradise in Maui and left the island on Friday evening at 5:15 PM. Since Hawaii is six hours difference in time to Indiana we did not arrive back in Indianapolis until 10:45 AM on Saturday. Pat sleeps good on airplanes and I am just the opposite. She probably slept five hours of the 6 hour 45 minute first segment while I tried every position possible and maybe ended up sleeping five minutes. With an extra seat on the Dallas to Indianapolis flight I slept about an hour and a half. When we arrived in Indianapolis it had just rained so the races were in question at that point. We had decided we were going to go to Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt located in the southwest portion of the state. A quick check of the weather found that the rain had passed through Haubstadt in the morning and was clearing. A call to the track confirmed they were still running so it was west on I-70 to Terre Haute and then south on Route 41. By the time we arrived in the Haubstadt area the skies were blue with white puffy clouds and temperatures in the mid-70’s. Since Haubstadt is in Central time we gained an hour back and that was put to good use after securing our blanket in the backstretch grandstand it was time to take another nap before the racing began.

    On tap for the evening was the 8th annual Haubstadt Hustler, a combo USAC/MSCS sprint car race paying $10,000 to win. Also on the card were the UMP modifieds running a 25 lap feature along with heat racing. The wingless sprints would follow MSCS rules which call for no time trials with heat racing only awarding passing points with the top 16 drivers in points locking into the 40 lap main event out of the four heat races. A quality field of 30 sprinters joined the 20 UMP modifieds on hand for the night of racing. The evening got off to a rough start with several tangles slowing the action. The biggest incident of the first heat started when Justin Grant made a questionable three wide move coming off of turn four sending Nick Johnson sideways with Robert Ballou rolling over and Shane Cottle also suffering damage sending Ballou and Cottle to the B main. Dave Darland ending up winning this one over C.J. Leary. Heat two was money’s worth as the side by side racing made up for the stinker in heat one. Kyle Cummins would turn back Chris Windom in this keeper. Heat three found Brady Bacon scoring the win over the returning and defending Hustler champ, Daron Clayton, who received a very warm welcome from the good crowd on hand. Donnie Brackett used a monster slid job in turn two to take the early lead and went on to an impressive win over Dakota Jackson. The UMP modifieds spun off two heats before the sprint B main came trackside. The B started out like the first heat with Carson Short, second place man in MSCS points, turning turtle in turn four before one lap was completed with Jeff Bland Jr., continuing his forgettable season, rolling over in turn two. Brandon Mattox won this one taking the checkered at 8:45 and it was now intermission time. Jon Stanbrough and James Lyerla would have to use provisionals to join the rear of the field in the feature event. The track crew at Tri-State went to work grooming the surface for a half hour bringing it back to the condition at the start of the evening for the two feature events.

    The sprint field came to Mo Wills’ green flag at 9:27 for the 40 lap affair with Daron Clayton and Kyle Cummins leading the pack. Two early cautions before the first lap was completed slowed the action, the first being a double spin by James Lyerla and Chad Boespflug in turn one and the second when Justin Grant had the Baldwin Brothers #5 hopping around in turn three. Deron Clayton’s night was short lived when he pulled into the infield on lap 2. Cummins paced the field and started to reach the back of the field by lap 6. Robert Ballou who started 20th was already up to 9th by lap nine before Jon Stanbrough and Hunter Schuerenberg in the Walker #11 tangled in turn two. Brady Short who last time out at Haubstadt flipped out over turn two through the billboards started 12th in this one and was showing no ill effects from that crash rushing up to second by lap 20. A great battle between Cummins and Short ensued as the crowd enjoyed every minute of the battle up front. They ran one two until lap 35 when a jingle on the homestretch found Aaron Farney sitting sideways with many cars missing him but Cummins clipping the sitting duck and tearing up his right rear ending his night just five laps short of his biggest win of his career. Short inherited the lead at this point and held off 10th starting Kevin Thomas Jr. for the big win driving the Cam Potorff potent #11P. Dakota Jackson turned in a fine performance to nail down third with Brady Bacon bringing the Hoffman #69 home fourth with Chase Stockon rounding out the top five. The second five was led by Dave Darland with Robert Ballou finishing seventh, Chris Windom eighth, C.J. Leary ninth and Thomas Meseraull in his new ride, the Amati Racing #66, rounding out the top ten. This one was in the books by 9:55. The UMP modifieds would go 25 laps in their feature go and this was not a classic. Six cautions later Stephen Schnapf held off first Zach Fair then Lance Foreman for the win. The final checker waved at 10:34 and it was up the road to Washington to spend the night and not take a chance on driving the three hours after the long flight home.

    Until the next typical weekend get out there and enjoy some fall short track racing at a track near or far to you. Any questions or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. A big shout out to our buddy, Randy Krause. You are amazing and we love you!! And a happy belated 23 wedding anniversary to you and Ann.

     

     

     

    Racing In Maui

    Aloha!! Friday was a long ten hour flight from Indianapolis to Kahului on the Northern shore of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. Allan and Nancy Brown met us at the airport and off we went toward the southwest part of Maui where we all were staying in Lahaina at the Ka’anapali Shores resort. Maui is a beautiful island with many coastline spots to die for and wonderful views of the West Maui Mountains to the north of us and the island of Lanai directly to the south of our resort. The weather was hot and humid for the first few days but as of Monday the humidity has disappeared and the tropical breezes refresh your body and soul.

    And if you were wondering yes there is racing on the island of Maui. Paradise Speedway Maui is a 1/5 mile dirt oval with giant truck tires painted white serving as both the inside and outside walls of the track. The locals arrive early and line the fences from turn four all the way down to turn one with their trucks and such and set up camp many cooking hamburgers, hot dogs, chicken and steaks. In between the local setups are small sections of bleachers, aluminum about six rows high. We found a near empty one down toward turn one, parked the SUV in a parking spot and settled into the bleachers for the evening. Twelve dollars got you in the drive up gate outside of turn four while the pit area was located off of turn three and the backstretch. The tropical breeze was blowing at our backs so no dust would reach us on this evening. They had eight divisions on this evening with the 360 sprints making an appearance with eight in the pit area this evening with five coming over from the island of Oahu where the track there now being closed. Other car counts for the divisions are as follows: youths (2), 4 cylinder A bombers (3), 4 cylinder B bombers (4), V8 bombers (2), 4 cylinder modifieds/trucks (5), street stocks (2) and super stocks (3). Time trials were run for everyone starting at 6:45 and ending at 7:22. Each division ran one dash of eight laps in distance with the exception of the sprints which ran three dashes. Then each division followed with a heat race, 11 laps in distance, with the sprints running three heats with Kiko O’Brien, Doug Fitch and Carlos Kelunoi winning the sprint heats. All dashes and heat racing were in the books by 9:21 and a 35 minute intermission followed where everyone was invited to come down on the track and meet and greet all the drivers from all the divisions.

    By 10 the youth feature was run and only Talisha Nay made the call as Keoki Decoite-Peters who dominated the dash and heat and smoke from the car after the heat was terminal so Miss Nay went three laps to claim her victory. All other features would be 15 laps in distance with the bomber A & B cars running together producing seven cars and a better and more exciting race. Marjorie Hunkins won this one in her B bomber in four minutes non-stop. The two V8 bombers went 16 circuits with Earl Frye also winning in four minutes. Only one caution slowed the 4 cylinder modified/truck race with Bill Miles bringing home his truck first. The street stocks went non-stop with Gary Pescador winning in his General Lee #01 minus the Confederate flag (we must be politically correct). John Perry made his float over from Oahu worthwhile winning his non-stop event. Now it was time for the two 16 lap sprint features with four running in one feature and four in the second one. This was the only time dust appeared on the evening but it was blowing the other way so it was not a problem. Kiko O’Brien won easily over James Chinen in feature one with Carlos Kelunoi winning in a cake walk in feature two. The final checker waved at 11:01 putting to rest the night of racing at Paradise in paradise. All in all not a bad show but they could drop the time trials and cut the dash races to four laps and wrap up the program about a half hour sooner. It was a night of racing none the less and a chance of pace to what we normally see on the mainland and should make us appreciate what we have back home. Car counts were low but the good sized crowd seemed to enjoy themselves so that is all that counts and we’re sure they will be back next month to see the next round of racing on Maui. Until next time Aloha and get out there and enjoy some local short track racing in your area. Any comments or questions can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.

     

     

    Last Two Nights of Smackdown IV at Kokomo

    It was Friday night and a beautiful night for racing in Northeast Indiana. The second night of Sprint Car Smackdown IV was on tap tonight featuring the USAC National Sprint Car Series joined by the local street stock division who would prove to be a fine filler division for the top division on the card. Last night’s action pared down the field by three cars with a 40 sprint car field in the pit area tonight. The talk before the races began was the record set by Tom Bigelow in 1977 in the USAC sprint car division when he won 14 times that year. Many people were starting to wonder if Robert Ballou, currently at nine wins, would challenge or beat the all-time record in 2015. Time trials kicked off at 6:48 and during Ballou’s time trial run things took a turn for the worse as it looked like the rear axle on the swift #12 broke sending him into the turn two wall and up into the catch fence roll cage first causing great concern as the rescue crew swarmed all over the wrecked sprinter. After several minutes with reports that he was knocked out Ballou climbed from the wrecked machine to the relief of the large crowd on hand. Ballou would return for the heat races but the wreck placed him behind the eight ball as no time was recorded so he would start last in all the races he ran on this evening. By 7:30 time trials were concluded with The People’s Champ, Dave Darland, setting fast time with a time of 12.642 seconds around the 3/8 mile dirt oval. During this time we got to talking with the folks in front of us for the three days of Smackdown and found out that they were from Missouri. Gary and Sally Dean own two large farms in Missouri and Nebraska and both of them love wingless sprint car racing. Gary grew up in Ohio and he enjoyed visiting Pennsylvania during his youth visiting Williams Grove and other Eastern tracks and enjoyed watching Smokey Snellbaker wheel the Gary Wasson #5. A few years back his wife, Sally, bought the Wasson #5 for his birthday and boy was he surprised to see that sprinter in his barn one day!

    Back to the racing with the first of four sprint car heats taking the green at 7:55. All four qualifiers were very entertaining with Ryan Bernal making an appearance from California wheeling the Jeff Walker #11 to the heat one victory over Kyle Robbins. Heat two was a great one with Chase Stockon pulling off a last lap pass of C.J. Leary for the win with Brian Karraker driving the Jarrett #29 turning in a fine performance to notch third in this one. Kyle Cummins ran away with heat three in the Hank Byram #3R winning over Tracy Hines with Cole Ketchum going end over end in turn one in this one in one of two SST Motorsports #41’s. Shane Cottle would control heat four winning over Brady Bacon with Chris Windom and Justin Grant having a heat long fierce battle for positions three and four. All four heats were in the books in 28 minutes and it was now time for the one street stock heat for the 10 car field in attendance. The C main was quickly wheeled out with four to move onto the B main. When was the last time you saw the two biggest winners in wingless racing in Indiana, Brady Short and Ballou, running in the C main. These two would finish one and two to move onward. Many tracks would kill for the lineup for their A main that was lined up for the B main with fast timer, Dave Darland, winning over Jon Stanbrough with Brady Short advancing from 17th to finish third, Jarrett Andretti fourth with Robert Ballou marching from 18th to take fifth with Hunter Schuerenberg recovering from an early race tangle to come back up to take the last qualifying position.

    The 15 lap street stock feature was next up taking the green at 9:06 and running non-stop in four minutes in a very close tussle with David Short holding off Kory Glassbum and Travis Wolford in a different ride in a very entertaining contest. By 9:40 it was sprint car feature time with the green flag waving on the front row of Tracy Hines and Chris Windom. The early lead was Windom’s as he powered off from the pack. Lap three saw Justin Grant and Scotty Weir bang wheels on the backstretch while battling for fourth with Grant breaking his front end in the process and demonstrating his displeasure to Weir as he passed by from the top of the roll cage. I must give credit to Grant the following night after winning a heat he apologized to the crowd for his display this evening. He must have watched the replay like I did and it was just hard racing and if anything Grant’s machine jumped to the right into Weir’s machine. I try to give only the highlights of the race but it is difficult not to mention how these drivers run two, three and sometimes four wide throughout the race using every inch of the track to do battle on. Lap nine saw the next caution with Cummins and Bernal sitting nose to nose in turn four. Windom continued to lead as Stockon was now all over him from his sixth starting position. The front two exchanged slide jobs for several laps to the delight of the crowd until Windom opened up some distance between first and second. Darland was now third and Schuerenberg was putting on the show working his way from 13th running a line above the cushion right up at the wall and pressuring for third. With just three to go Windom caught the back end of one of the lap cars and spun halfway around before righting himself dropping from first to fourth but if he had done a 360 it would have been to the back of the field. Stockon inherited the lead but it was far from over as Darland was on the doorstep. Windom passed Schuerenberg for third and one lap later the fine run by Schuerenberg ended when he caught the left rear of Windom’s machine launching himself up and into the turn three wall. It was a two lap shootout with the youngster having the veteran Darland on his rear nerf bar. Stockon was up to the challenge and at 10:10 he flashed under the checkered flag for his first career Kokomo win over Darland with Windom third, Hines fourth and Jon Stanbrough nailing down fifth. Brady Short put on another passing clinic charging from 21st to sixth with Bacon seventh, Thomas Meseraull eighth, Robert Ballou ninth after starting 22nd and Kyle Cummins taking tenth. Another fine night of racing at one of the raciest tracks in the country.

    We woke up Saturday morning to cloudy skies and humid weather. During the day it rained and drizzled but we kept our spirits up and at 4:25 arrived at Kokomo for the final night of Smackdown. It was two hours before warm-ups with drizzle hitting the windshield and we were still parked way past the track. The prior three nights gave way to some mighty fine racing and the fans were back for the finale. The format tonight was different from the previous with the top 8 in points already locked into the 40 lap main event. There were no time trials and all others participated in qualifying heats. Each of the four heats came out for their warm-ups followed by the 8 top point men. Unfortunately during the top 8 warm-up session Chris Windom went for a wild ride in turn four flipping the 21x. The qualifying heats started at 7:15 and the top 2 finishers made it to the dance. All others went to the B main. All heats were competitive and each winner was interviewed after the event. The best comment came from Kevin Thomas Jr when he said, “I had minor surgery this morning, to get my head out of my ass.” So far KT was not having a good week.

    After the heats they ran the King of the Hill Challenge for the top 8 in points. Number 1 ran a three lap dash against number 8. The winner moved on and the loser would start in 8th, but since Windom was not able to participate he would get the eighth spot. The first race saw Chase Stockon take on Madman Robert Ballou. Stockon moved on. Kyle Cummins and Jon Stanbrough were up next and the finish could not have been closer. For all three laps they ran side-by-side. In the end Cummins beat Stanbrough by .005 seconds. Brady Bacon took on Thomas Meseraull and Bacon moved on. Dave Darland won his dash by default when Windom was unable to make the event. Now the winners ran against each other and in the end the last driver standing was Brady Bacon and he would start on the pole. There was some close racing and an enjoyable string of events.

    The TQ midgets were the second division on the card tonight and they ran two 6 lap heats prior to the start of the B main. They were both competitive events. At the end of the second heat it started to rain. The track got shiny. The umbrellas went up and to everyone’s surprise they called out the B main. There was no way they could run. But they did. The 20 car field ran under caution on the track helping to keep it run in. After about 10 minutes the rain ceased and the green dropped. Aaron Farney was running 6th in a qualified position when he took a flip in turn 4. Jarett Andretti and Brandon Mattox got together on the homestretch and this sent Andretti flipping almost into the starter stand. The competition was fierce to make it to the main. In the end Brady Short, Hunter Schuerenberg, Max McGhee, Scotty Weir, Kyle Cummins and Ryan Bernal moved on to the A. Next they ran the 15 lap TQ feature and Rick Robinson won the non-stop event.
    I must admit I was not so sure that the decision to line up all the sprints on the homestretch and introduce each driver was such a good idea. When looking at the radar on my phone, the rain was not far away and I feared that the end to what was a wonderful 4 days so far was going to end on a down note. But they lined them up and introduced them and had only 4 vehicles push off the starting field. The 40 lap main event, paying $10,000 to win, started at 9:42. $10,000 is a lot of money for a non-wing sprint race. One of the reasons wingless racing is losing some of their top drivers to the wings is because the big purses are not just there for the wingless cars like they are for the wings. But here tonight at Kokomo the money was being paid out. The Smackdown IV, Bryan Clauson was the winner in 2012 with Dave Darland taking the win in both 2013 and 2014. Even though it rained it was dusty and tonight for the first time all year we really got dusty but the racing on the track was well worth eating a little dust. When Darland took the lead from his fourth starting position it was like he turned on turbo boosters as he blew by all into turn one. That was a done deal. The race for first was over. However the race for all other positions was up for grabs. Racing at Kokomo is awesome as we have been here 10 times this year and have not seen a bad race. They are side-by-side and sometimes three wide. Most of the time you do not know where to watch for fear you miss something elsewhere. This was a classic race with only three cautions for minor incidents. As the end neared the sprinkles came back. Mother Nature is a wingless sprint car fan as she held off the rain until the checkered fell. Dave Darland won Smackdown IV to make it three in a row. Second was Chase Stockon, then Kyle Cummins, Chris Windom and Kevin Thomas Jr.
    As we walked to the car I had the umbrella up to keep off the rain. It was a great Smackdown. This was our first but definitely not our last. We were told the crowd was much bigger than last year. This could be the beginning of something really big in the future. A lot of great events start small and grow every year and before you know it they are a premier event. I believe this is what will happen with the Kokomo Smackdown. Someday there will be a Smackdown XX and they will be talking about when Dave Darland won three in a row back in the day and we were all there to help make it happen. This weekend will be a big part of tomorrows’ history.
    Correspondence can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and all comments are welcomed. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area as the season is moving into the fall season and before long winter will be upon us.

     

     

    First Two Nights Of Kokomo

    We packed up the camper and made our way over to Kokomo for the four nights of racing at the Kokomo Speedway.  Wednesday night would see the added night of racing to Sprint Car Smackdown IV which was the rained out Indiana Sprintweek race from July 11th.  Admission was free and if you kept your bracelets from that race you were allowed in early to secure the best seats possible and you could exchange your bracelet for a pit bracelet for this event. 

    The only items on the menu for tonight were the sprint car B main and the sprint car A main so added laps were added in each group for warmups before things got underway.  Seven cars would advance from the B main into the main event on this nice evening for racing with Kyle Robbins not being one of them as he flipped in turn two to end his evening prematurely.  By 8:47 things were set for the start of the 30 lap sprint car feature with the green flag unfurled with Chris Windom pouncing to the early lead from the outside of row one.  Lap three saw a two car spin low in turn four with Kyle Cummins in the Hank Byram #3R and C.J. Leary in the Chuck and Tammi Leary #30 involved.  On the restart Windom went back out front with Dave Darland in the Phillips #71P in pursuit.  The front pack reached lap traffic by lap 12 and things were going to get interesting at this point.  Darland split lap traffic in turn two on lap 16 to grab the lead from Windom but the dreaded yellow flag appeared negated the pass for the lead so Windom went back to the point as Kevin Thomas Jr. spun on the homestretch while running third and he climbed half way out the top of his sprinter to express his displeasure with Brady Bacon for this incident.  Could this have been payback for the East Bay tangle between the two with Bacon going around in that one??     Drivers normally have long memories!   Windom’s travels around the track were unique running on top of the cushion in turns one and two before heading down the backstretch and diving high into turn three scrapping the wall at times before diamonding to the inside of turn four.  The last caution appeared on lap 28 when Max McGhee slowed on the homestretch and bailed out of his sprinter as a fire was extinguished in the cockpit area.  Windom would get the jump on the restart and lead the final two laps in the Rick Pollick owned #21X to score his first USAC win since September 21st, 2013 and tenth of his career tying him with Tony Stewart for 44th place on the all time USAC sprint car win list.  Darland finished a frustrating second and his frustration showed in the post race interview as he explained that he was pissed off that in the past few weeks the caution has appeared as he has made a move for position in a race.  Brady Bacon came home third from sixth with Chase Stockon fourth advancing from 15th in an impressive run with Robert Ballou making a late charge to finish fifth after starting way back in 17th.  Positions six through ten were filled by Scotty Weir in the Jeff Walker #11 for the evening, Aaron Farney from 14th, Brady Short, Tracy Hines and Shane Cottle.  All was complete by 9:08 and even with the bottom not coming around until late in the race it was a good start to the four nights of racing at Kokomo.

     

    It was the first night of the three day Smackdown IV at Kokomo Speedway and it was the first one that Bruce and I would be attending.  We left the motorhome and headed over the speedway at 5:00 and arrived on the grounds at 5:20.  We were lucky to find a parking space right on a corner and in we went.  Now, all day it was cloudy with temperatures in the low 70’s but as the time to race approached the skies turned blue and the sun shone brightly right off turn two and into your eyes.  It was hot.  Warm-ups started at 6:35 for the 43 cars in the pits and by the time they ended the four sessions the stands were starting to fill up nicely.  Next up was time trials with Kyle Cummins turning the fastest circuit of 13.269.  The first casualty of the night happen during time trials as Chris Phillips took a nasty flip in turn one.  Warm-ups for the hornets were next and at 8:23 the first of 4 heats races took the green.  Heat 1 was loaded; Robert Ballou, Kevin Thomas Jr., Dave Darland, Hunter Schuerenberg and Jerry Coons Jr.  Darland came home the winner to the delight of the crowd.  There are an awful lot of “Peoples’ Champ” t-shirts in the area of the grandstands where we normally sit.      All four of the heats races were good.  As our friend Richard Rauser always says, tongue in cheek, “I hate it when they run side by side and back and forth like that, it makes it so hard to follow.’

    The hornets ran two heats and immediately following were the C and B mains for the sprints.  The 10 lap C main started 8 cars with the top 4 transferring to the back of the B Main.  The 12 lap B Main started 20 cars with the top 6 making it to the main event.  Aaron Farney was leading the C main after a strong top 10 finish the previous night.  Tonight his night would end early as he hit the turn one wall.  The B main was a tough one.  Chad Boespflug won the event with top runners Jon Stanbrough and Jerry Coons Jr. making it through the B.  However Shane Cottle and Brady Short did not make the top 6 and Short took a provisional to get into the A main.  This meant that any points he would score toward the Smackdown Championship would be forfeited.  The Hornet feature followed and Josh Gamblin won the event which saw only one caution.  The Hornets were a nice filler addition tonight.

    It was 10:09 when the green dropped on the 24 car field.  It was not green for long.  Red on lap 2 as Brian Karraker flipped his #23 on the homestretch.  Then red on lap 3 as fan favorite C.J. Leary flipped the #30 in turn one and two.  We were not done yet, lap 5, pole man “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney flipped his #23E in turn 2 landing on Kevin Thomas Jr.  Finally we got to racing and racing it was.  The track came around nicely and they were running Kokomo style.   Most eyes were watching Chris Windom.  He was running a very unusual line.  He was passing a lot of cars but it was the same ones all the time.  He would fly by them going into the turns and they would pass him back coming out.  He was not really getting anywhere but he was fun to watch.  Andretti brought out the caution when he slowed on lap 16 and later a red on lap 21 when he pulled into the infield and caught fire.  All this time the battle was between Chase Stockon and Robert Ballou for the lead.  On lap 25 Ballou would take away the top spot from Stockon and go on to victory lane.  Following Ballou and Stockon was Brady Bacon and Kyle Cummins.  Fifth spot was a story in itself.  Brady Short, who had to take a provisional, started last and came up through the pack to finish fifth.  He too was a show to watch.  All was complete by 10:48 and I do not believe the fans left disappointed.  I know by the time Bruce and I got to the car we were already looking forward to night 2.

     

     

     

    Bloomington Finale & Coles County By Way Of Macon

     

    As we made our way back from Pennsylvania we stayed Thursday evening in Columbus, Ohio after the early rainout at Susquehanna Speedway Park.  Friday morning we awoke and started our trek back to Indiana but not to home but instead to Bloomington.  After living in the East for so many years it will take a while to get use to the Midwest tracks ending their seasons so much earlier than back East.  Tonight was the final race of the year at the ¼ mile bullring with the red clay and also was the 27th Annual Sheldon Kinser Memorial held in honor of the fine sprint car driver who passed away much too early from cancer.  Cancer was probably the only thing that Kinser was unable to beat in his career.  In addition this race was the final race of the Jackslash/MAV TV sprint car series with Jon Stanbrough leading the points by just a few over Robert Ballou.  The only problem was that Ballou was not racing this evening saving his equipment for the big four day Smackdown shootout coming up this week at Kokomo.  That made Dave Darland now the closest competitor to try to wrestle the crown away from Stanbrough. 

    Racing took to the track at 7:47 with the first of four heats for the 28 wingless sprinters in attendance.  Dave Darland driving the Jeff Walker #11 (the owner’s point leader) took heat one in action which was a prelude to the upcoming feature event.  Jeff Bland Jr. nipped Max McGhee for second coming off turn four in this one.  Heat two saw Shane Cottle bring the Paul Hazen #57 home first over a strong running Chris Gurley.  Nick Bilbee scored the win in heat three over Dakota Jackson and “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney bagged heat four over Aaron Farney in a race where veteran Kent Christian took a nasty ride out over turn four flipping end over end.  Series point leader, Jon Stanbrough, had motor problems with the Foxco #53 in the heat racing and Bloomington point leader, Brady Short, also encountered problems with his machine with the Foxco sprinter done for the evening while Short was able to return to win the B main from the tail end.  Stanbrough would jump into the Brandon Mattox #28 but would start 20th on the field.  The UMP modifieds ran two heats for their 16 car field while the Racesaver 305 sprints also ran two heats for their 13 car field.  The heat qualifying was wrapped up by the super stocks with two for their 16 car field and the hornets two for their 15 car entries.  At intermission I got the opportunity to meet Bloomington’s general manager, Kris Kirchner, for the first time and it was a pleasure to finally meet him.  Kirchner is stepping down as GM as his wife was offered a good job opportunity in Florida and they will be moving to the Sunshine State soon.

    Since the sprint B main was run last the 20 lap 305 sprint car feature would run first taking the green flag at 9:36.  Thirteen year old Jadon Rogers dumped his sprinter over the second turn banking early and was OK after turning turtle.  Brian Gerster, a pavement sprint car specialist, was making just his third start on dirt and would go on to lead the entire 20 lap distance holding off Eric Smith, the 2015 point champion, and Tom Busch in the process.  Next up would be the 30 lap sprint car feature and even though the track had turned black and was slick it turned out to be a hell of a race!  There was oodles of side by side racing in this one especially up front where Chris Gurley held onto the lead for the first 20 laps before Tyler Courtney slipped by for the lead.  Nick Bilbee and Shane Cottle had banged wheels earlier in the feature go with Bilbee slipping back a few positions and with his dander up he worked his way back up front and into the lead in turn two on lap 24 taking the lead from Courtney.  Bilbee would hold on to score his first win of the year at Bloomington after finishing second about four times this year to Brady Short.  Cottle would cross the line second with Max McGhee slipping by Courtney for third and Dave Darland rounding out the top five.  Stanbrough’s 12th place finish was good enough to edge Darland for the title with Brady Short’s 6th place run from 16th gave him enough points to bag his sixth Bloomington point championship. 

    Devin Gilpin would bag his 30th UMP modified victory of the year in the 25 lap modified feature winning over John DeMoss and point champion, Derek Groomer.   And the super stock 20 lapper went to Tyler Cain besting Jason Hehman and Jack Frye.  It was now 11:14 and with an hour and a half ride back home it was time to call it an evening leaving the hornets for another time.   It was a good night of racing to close out the 2015 racing season at Bloomington.

    Saturday morning was a nice day and Bruce and I hurried to get finished with our household chores.  It was mostly the yard and garden that needed attention but there was a little vacuuming and dusting that took place inside also. By 3:00 we were getting ready to go racing.  We decided earlier in the week that we would head over to Macon Speedway in Illinois to see the POWRi midgets.  After the two great midget events we saw in Pennsylvania earlier in the week we had a bit of midget fever.  Macon is only 2 hours and 15 minutes from home plus you get an hour back once you cross the Indiana/Illinois border.  Therefore it was closer to home and we could leave later then if we went to Brownstown Speedway, IN our other possible destination on this particular Saturday night.  By 4:00 we were heading west and the first thing I noticed was the cloud cover in front of us.  I checked the weather on my phone and it indicated only a 15% chance of rain in Macon.  I checked the radar and there was no green to be seen.  But the closer we got the worse the weather looked.  By the time we arrived at Macon Speedway it was 5:20 and we saw that it had already rained here and they were running in the track.  No big deal the extra water would only help the track and the cloud cover would keep it nice and tacky.  We waited awhile, then decided to plunk down our money and in we went.  We were not inside no 15 minutes before it started to drip and we were so certain it would pass we left the blanket on our seats.  Well it did not past, at least not until after it down poured, leaving the grounds a mud swamp.  What a shame there were 37 midgets and 33 600’s in the pits and all we had to show for it were muddy sneakers and a soaking wet blanket.

    But we were not discouraged we quickly started to look at other possibilities.  Fairbury was too far plus they were starting early.  We decided on Coles County Speedway billed as the oldest still running micro/mini sprint track in the country.  We tried to come here earlier in the summer but found they were canceled when we arrived due to wet grounds.  We called at 6:50; they were running and they were less than an hour away.  We were thinking this might be a futile chase but what else did we have to do on a Saturday night in the middle of Illinois farm country.  It looked like rain all the way over to Mattoon, the town near the track, but at 7:45 when we arrived at the 1/8 mile track it had not rained and to our surprise they were still running warm-ups.   Turns out they were starting late due to a water truck breaking down and having to borrow one from the fairgrounds in order to repair the track.  No sooner did we sit down I felt sprinkles and was getting real anxious for at least one race.  This was our first visit to this track and we could add the track to our list of career tracks if we saw at least one completed race.  The sprinkles stopped and finally at 8:30 the first heat for a division of mini sprints they called multi took the green.  In all there were 4 divisions; multi (600cc mini sprints) with a count of 9, junior sprints with a count of 5, restrictors with a count of 7, non-wing with a count of 8 and mod lites with a count of 1.  They ran two sets of heats for each division and yes the mod lite ran a heat.  They also had go-karts but the track was too bumpy and they decided it was too dangerous for them to run. An intermission followed the heats and we had already decided to leave after the first feature for the multi class.  The non-stop 20 lap event started at 10:11 and was over in under 4 minutes.  All 9 cars started and the winner, Logan Wenneshiemer lapped all but the second place car, Larry Drake.  It was not a very good event but we were able to salvage a race for the night and add a new track to our totals as well.  

    As always any comments or suggestions can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net.  Until next time from Smackdown at Kokomo get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area.

     

     

     

    Eastern Swing For USAC Midgets

    When the Keystone state tour was announced on the National USAC midget schedule, I grabbed the calendar and penciled in the dates as that was something we wanted to see. And boy were we right as the USAC midgets in conjunction with the ARDC midgets put on a whale of a show the two nights that we witnessed. The only downer of the three race swing was the loss of the show at Susquehanna Speedway Park due to heavy rain. Following will be our account of the happenings of the three day tour back to Pennsylvania.

    As we traveled back from Indiana the weather was good until somewhere between Washington, PA and New Stanton, PA where we encountered a deluge of rain before we jumped on the Pennsylvania Turnpike at New Stanton. By the time we reached Somerset we had cleared the rain and it was smooth sailing into Spring Run, the home of the Path Valley Speedway Park. We pulled into the parking area around 5:30 and promptly ran into numerous friends of ours from the East who we hadn’t seen in a while. It was after 6:00 before we found the gang who was saving us seats and they said they were starting to wonder if we were coming. Hey, you can’t beat the friendships we’ve developed over the years attending races and we want to let these people know that we enjoy their opinions, conversation and friendship. Warmups soon followed and by 7:10 it was time for the first official USAC midget tire to touch a surface in Pennsylvania in 11 years and the first dirt surface in 26 years. Time trials were spun off smoothly for the 31 car field on hand with Nevada’s Tanner Thorson setting fast time of 11.422 seconds around the high banked ¼ mile bullring. Next up were the first two of three qualifying heats for the wingless super sportsman class, a unique division to the East which is a machine that is similar looking to a sprint car but are smaller in wheel base, smaller engines with self starters. They ran for years at the Silver Spring Speedway near Mechanicsburg on a Saturday night and the typical car count with in the 40’s to 50’s with many times the feature winner from the previous week not qualifying for the current week as these cars were ultra competitive and ran with wings and still do except for when they run at Path Valley. Twenty of these unique machines turned out and would make for a fine support division on the evening. Management was very smart running two of the three super sportsman heats with the four midget heats in between and then running the third super sportsman heat which allowed them to go right to the midget B main without delay. The program was also moved along briskly as it was a Tuesday night and Path Valley is literally out in the middle of nowhere so people had to travel a distance to get there so you want to get them back home as soon as possible on a work night. The four midget heats were fabulous with Nick Wean, Kevin Thomas Jr., Christopher Bell and Bryan Clauson taking victories with all four heats having four car battles for the win. I turned around to one of our friends, Keith Barto, and exclaimed that those four heats were the best four heats I have seen all year long. They were that good!! Another of our buddies, Bill Burns, expressed that if the racing is this good every week in Indiana then I am moving there! Well, that is why we did! The B main was run after the super sportsman third heat and all preliminary qualifying was completed by 8:37.

    To our surprise a few minutes later the 30 lap wingless super sportsman feature was trackside and took the green at 8:43. It wasn’t one of their best efforts we have witnessed but the last five laps made up for the seven cautions along the way. Steve Wilbur ran the low groove while Russ Mitten took his car to the top and they ran side by side over the final five laps with Mitten edging ahead with two to go. Mitten would score his first wingless win from the fifth starting position over Wilber from fourth with Stan Wanner third, Tracy Readinger advancing from seventh with Todd Leonard rounding out the top five. This one was in the books by 9:17. Now it was time for the 30 lap, $3500 to win, USAC midget feature and at 9:37 the green flag waved. Points leader, Tracy Hines, went to the point at the start with Rico Abreu and others in tow. Tanner Thorson made a mad charge to the lead from sixth by the end of lap one and the race was on. By lap eight Christopher Bell had sliced and diced his way from 15th starting position all the way up to 4th. The four Keith Kuntz stable had the top four positions as Bryan Clauson made his way forward from 16th until electrical woes ended his race on lap 13 with the caution appearing. Abreu went to the point on the restart with Kevin Thomas Jr. and Tanner Thorson battling for second. Thorson chopped Thomas entering turn three and Thomas retaliated with a deft tap on the rear nerf bar of Thorson exiting turn four which sent Thorson spinning and to the back of the field. Guess there are no team orders in the Keith Kuntz camp! On the restart Thomas challenged Abreu for the top spot and took the lead on lap 20 but the caution waved before the lap was completed so the field reverted to the previous lap with Abreu back out front. Christopher Bell passed Thomas for second a few laps after the restart and took up the chase of Abreu. They battled side by side for several laps with Bell taking the lead on lap 27 but again the caution waved before the lap was completed so again Abreu was back in front. This time he would not relinquish the lead and flashed under the checkered flag at 9:57 for his fourth USAC midget win of the year over Bell with Thomas third, Spencer Bayston fourth and Jerry Coons Jr. rounding out the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Tracy Hines, Billy Pauch Jr. (the highest finishing ARDC driver), Brenden Bright, Tanner Thorson and Steven Drevicki rounding out the top ten. I believe there were a lot of fans surprised to see a 4’4” driver climb onto the roll cage of his midget in victory lane and for what he lacks in height he sure makes up in talent and bravery.

    It was an outstanding display of midget racing and a very enjoyable evening of racing. Bill Burns wanted me to mention that for anyone reading this effort would did not venture out to Path Valley or Lincoln make sure you attend next year as this racing was second to none and he would like to see them return next year and for years going forward! To me you can’t beat a good midget race and they are better than both winged and wingless sprint car shows in the scheme of things. Don’t hesitate to come out and watch the smaller cousins of the sprinters in action at a track near you. You won’t regret it!

    All I can say is WOW, WOW, WOW!!! Yes, Path Valley was one hell of a show but Lincoln was equally as good. After a day of visiting friends (Randy, Anne & Zach Krause) and family back in Pennsylvania Bruce and I drove over to the Lincoln Speedway and arrived at 6:35. The weather forecast was iffy and dark clouds were above. Many fans were hanging in the parking lot waiting to see if the forecast of rain was going to come to fruition. Luckily for all in attendance it did not and the racing we saw was awesome. The crowd was lighter than a normal Saturday night crowd for the 410 sprints but after this show you can bet there will be more next year if USAC decides to return with the midgets to Central Pennsylvania.

    There were 30 midgets in the pits, made up of USAC and ARDC regulars. First thank you to the many ARDC midgets that showed up to run this combo event. After warm-ups you knew it was going to be good and you also knew the track record for the midgets, 18.65, set by Parnelli Jones back in 1964 was going to be broken. I believe every midget that took to the track broke that time and the new record in the books is now held by Bryan Clauson at 15.804. The support division for the midgets were the legend cars and they were 27 strong. They always put on a nice show here at Lincoln with only minor issues. It was a perfect small car addition. They ran their first two heats then the midgets came out for their qualifying events. Same format as Path Valley. The midget heats were really good. Although I must admit not quite as good as the four unbelievable heats we witnessed the previous night. Steve Buckwalter, Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Thomas and Christopher Bell won the events.

    It was obvious the crowd favorite was Rico Abreu. It seemed nearly half the crowd either had on a Rico t-shirt or was sporting a recently purchased Rico t-shirt in a bag. I commented we could probably pay off the mortgage with the amount of t-shirts Rico sold. Pennsylvanians sure love their t-shirts. I should know Bruce and I brought over 300 t-shirts along with us when we moved and that was after clearing out many we no longer wanted.

    The final legend car heat was run after the midget heats and we went right into the B mains. Both divisions needed one and the midgets were up first followed by the legends. By 9:30 both fields were set and it was feature time.

    The 30 lap midget feature started at 9:50 and for the next 17 minutes the midgets showed why I think they are the best division in USAC. Coons took the lead from his outside front row position but by the time the caution came out on lap 5, Abreu moved into second and Clauson into third from their row three starting slots. When racing resumed Clauson moved into second and set his sights on Coons. It was great, side-by-side lap after lap. Clauson would take the lead and Coons would get it back. By lap 18 they were getting into lapped traffic and we all know this is when it really gets good. Unfortunately the second caution on the event waved on lap 20 when Tanner Thorson stopped in turn two with a flat tire. Racing resumed and it was as good as previously. But on lap 24 the caution waved again. This time for Christopher Bell who simply spun the Kuntz #71 in turn 4. It was almost a duplicate of the previous night except this time he was not able to keep the car moving and the caution waved. It was a shame because he was in the top four mix and had a chance for the win. Coons held on to the lead for two more laps before Clauson took over and Abreu followed. It was obvious at this time something was faltering with the #27 and later we would learn it was a broken fuel nozzle. Now Clauson and Abreu went at it hard for the final circuits. The lap 29 pass in turns one and two, which we all saw many time on Twitter and Facebook was even more amazing if you saw it live. I thought for sure both cars would be going into the wall and tumbling. Just goes to show the quality of these two drivers. Rico won and the fans loved it, cheering him wildly in victory lane. Clauson finished second with Tracy Hines making a late race charge finishing third. Kevin Thomas Jr. came home fourth and ARDC regular Alex Bright rounded out the top 5. It was another awesome race, just like the night before.

    We stayed for the legends race which was won by my favorite legend driver, Harlan Leppo. I really enjoyed the last two nights of racing. We got to see a lot of our East Coast racing family and it was so great catching up with them. We were so happy that the USAC/ARDC show were so spectacular. We had friends tell us they felt so sorry for us that we had to see wingless races like this all the time. Of course they said it tongue in cheek. I think it was good to hear some of these comments so that you do not take for granted what we now have in our own backyard.

    Unfortunately, we will never know if the race at Susquehanna Speedway would have continued the string of fantastic racing as Thursday we awoke to cloudy skies and then torrential rain. The show was canceled and we headed back home a day early. It rained most of the way through Pennsylvania but as we got to the Western part of the state the skies were blue and the weather perfect. With no races to go to we decided to take in Frontier League baseball game, catching the Wild Things in Washington, PA. It was our second Frontier League game in the last five days also attending a game last Sunday at Bosse Field, the third oldest baseball stadium in the country (1915) behind Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, where we saw the Evansville Otters play. The weekend takes us to Bloomington on Friday and Macon for POWRi on Saturday.

     

     

    MMSA at Chandler & MSCS at Route 45

    The game plan was to head down into the southwestern portion of Indiana for the weekend. On tap were two new tracks and a new baseball park visit. On Friday we left Crawfordsville and made the three hour tow down to the Evansville area where the destination was the Chandler Motor Speedway, a 3/8 mile semi high banked dirt oval, located in the small town of Chandler. On the card were five divisions of race cars with the Midwest Mini Sprint Association (MMSA) running wingless this evening bringing 16 cars to the dance. The pure stocks would provide 13 cars, the UMP modifieds coming up with 8, the street stocks with 6 and the mini stocks only adding 4 to the count. What we liked about this show was that management did not try to stretch out the program and run more meaningless heats than necessary. Therefore the mini sprints, pure stocks and UMP modifieds ran two heats while the street stocks and mini stocks ran one each. The racing was hard with few cautions and the heat racing was completed in 36 minutes. A short 15 minute intermission was taken to provide the youngsters on hand with glow in the dark wristbands and candy. A nice gesture and a good way to have the younger fans return in the future and to establish the fan base of the future.

    The first feature of the evening would be the 20 lap MMSA mini sprint feature. It was a very competitive race with Scotty Bradley leading a good portion of the event before being passed by sixth starting Andy Bradley. Colin Ambrose came out of the seventh hole and first passed Scotty and then dueled with Andy with the two leaders swapping slide jobs and the lead three times over the final two laps. Ambrose would capture the non-stop race over Andy and Scotty Bradley in a six minute run to the checkered. The 12 lap street stock feature also went non-stop with Johnny Lane prevailing in just four minutes. Only one caution slowed the 15 lap modified run with Tyler Weiss winning over Blaze Melton and Lance Foreman in seven minutes. J Forston would capture the 15 lap pure stock feature with only one caution run off in seven minutes. The 10 lap mini stock feature would round out the card also going non-stop in four minutes with Ricky Rush the class of the field. All racing was in the books by 9:48 in a very enjoyable evening of racing and the most efficient run program we have seen all year. A real good way to start the weekend of activities.

    After a day of sightseeing in the Evansville area and a stop in New Harmony, Indiana to do some antiquing Bruce and I headed west to Flora, Illinois. Our destination was Route 45 Raceway where the Laura Stockon Memorial was being held with the wingless sprints the main division. Prior to arriving at the track we ventured into the town of Flora where we ate at Anthony’s Bar B Que and had the pleasure of meeting Ron Miller, a fellow wingless sprint car fan who participates on the Indiana Open Wheel Forum. Later we arrived at the track where Ron introduced us to even more participants of Indiana Open Wheel Forum. We all had a nice chat prior to entering the facility and I believe one of the things I like most about racing, aside from an awesome wingless show, is the many friendships you can make with people from across the country.

    It was a sunny, hot, cloudless day and I was afraid that would make for some dusty track conditions. This was our first ever visit to this facility that was known in previous years as Clay County. It has huge sweeping banked turns and reminded me a lot like Grandview Speedway back East. That would be if you removed everything from the infield at Grandview. Here at Route 45 the only thing in the infield was safety crews and photographers. The car count was low with only 16 sprints in the pits and one of those, Doug Wallace, took a real nasty flip in turn 3 during hot laps thus bringing the count down to 15. There were several tracks running wingless sprints across the area and there are only so many to go around. The sprints ran two heats won by Brady Short and Jordan Kinser. The only other divisions on the racing card were the Modifieds and the B Modifieds. Each of these divisions had 14 cars each and also ran 2 heats. They ran the show quickly and intermission started at 8:45.

    It was 9:32 when the sprints took the green for the 32 lap main event. The feature proved you do not need to have a large number of cars to see an exciting event you only need to have the right cars. We started out with a caution on lap 1 for a spin in turn two but then it was clean and green until lap 18. Chase Stockon and Brady Short left all others in their dust as the battled for the lead, at times side by side. It was a classic battle until lap 18 when they both were lapping a slower sprint driven by Chet Williams on the backstretch and Stockon clipped Williams on his way by. This sent Williams flipping and Stockon to the infield with unrepairable damage. This left Short all by himself and all but the top 6 cars were a lap down. When racing resumed Short was in a time zone by himself but the challenge for the runner-up position became very interesting. Unfortunately there was another car thrown into the mix, 13 year old Jadon Rogers. Rogers and Carson Short were putting on a slide job clinic at each end of the track. The problem was Rogers was a lapped car and it really interfered with the true battle for second between C. Short and Jordan Kinser. It was not until lap 23 that C. Short clearly got by the sprint of Rogers and by then Brady Short had over a half track lead. Now Jordon Kinser had to contend with Rogers before setting his sights on C. Short for second. On lap 26 they collided in turn two sending Rogers spinning as Kinser continued on. In the end the winner was Brady Short followed by Carson Short, Jordan Kinser, Brandon Mattox and Donnie Brackett.

    Even though the night was still young, 10:00, I chose not to remain in the stands for the B modified feature that was up next. I forgot my bug spray and they were trying to eat my legs and arms. I could not take it any more so I headed to the car. Bruce remained behind for the 15 lap B Mod feature but was not impressed when it took until lap 8 before the green flag laps outnumbered the cautions. Michael Boyer won the event.

    In the end we did not stay for the modified feature but overall were very impressed with the track. It is a bit larger than the normal bullrings of Indiana but the wide sweeping turns make for excellent sprint car racing. I would love to see USAC run a sprint show here in the future. I believe it would be awesome.

    Any comments or questions can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Racing At Farmer City & Lincoln Park

    Bloomington wasn’t running, Gas City wasn’t running, Lincoln Park was running but we were going there on Saturday and we decided to go somewhere different. We decided to go to the dark side, no, not to a winged sprint race, a late model race. Farmer City Raceway is only 1 hour and 30 minutes from home in Illinois. This means we do not have to leave as early since we are talking Central Time Zone. It is nice going over but not good coming back. Farmer City is a ¼ high banked dirt track. Dirt is the key word here. Coming from the northeast the dirt in Indiana looks so rich, but the dirt in Illinois looks like velvet potting soil and that is what the surface at Farmer City looks like. They do run wingless sprints here on occasion but tonight was a regular program of late models, crate late models, modifieds, street stocks and hornets.

    As awe struck as I was by the surface I still was not happy when I realized the late models, crates and modifieds all ran time trials and just as they were complete the lights went out in the turns. After about 20 minutes the electricians fixed the problems and the heats began. In total 9 heats were run and there was no necessity for a B Main in any of the divisions. The heats were run off in 50 minutes and they would determine the starting line-ups in the features. There was no inversion which means fast cars up front and minimal passing. The heats were all competitive but I noticed that they were going to run the main events in the order they ran their heats making the late model feature the fourth of five. The street stock 15 lap feature was up first and it went non-stop in 4 minutes. Matt Maier picked up the win. The crate late model feature was next and all I can say is, “Stick a needle in my eye”. This race was a disaster. The green dropped at 9:37 on the 20 lap event and at 9:55, 18 minutes later, they had yet to complete a lap. In total there were 8 cautions. Matt Taylor picked up the win. By now I was getting cranky and wondering why I ever suggested to Bruce to come to Farmer City. I kept checking Indiana Open Wheel and knew that Lincoln Park was over and then kept thinking how it is only a 40 minute ride home from Lincoln Park and I had two features to go and was getting tired. The modifieds were next and this race could have been decent if it were not for the same guys running in the back that kept bringing out the caution. Jay Ledford won the race which was competitive when they were racing. Finally, the main event, the 25 lap late model feature started at 10:40 or 11:40 my time. It was a good race but with the fast cars starting up front the passing was minimal. Still they ran hard and it was a good race. McKay Wenger took the win with Daren Friedman was second with Kevin Weaver third.

    We were in the car and on our way home minutes before 11:00 or midnight EST. What did I learn; I like it better when they do not run time trials for three of the five divisions for a normal show; when they do not start the A main heads up from the heats; and when they do not run the main division fourth out of five main events. In addition I realized that I need to sleep later on Friday when venturing into the Central Time Zone because I am not as young as I once was. Also that the velvet potting soil was mostly dust free and that I really need to see a sprint race here.

    It was a hot day with plenty of sunshine with temperatures in the 80’s and today was the second night of racing at the Lincoln Park Speedway. The MSCS sprints were the top bill on the marque with their 30 lap feature paying $3000 to win. This brought out a field of 29 sprinters even though USAC was off racing in cheese head country up in Wisconsin. Also on the card joining the sprints would be 32 UMP modifieds, 23 super stocks and 35 bombers necessitating four heats for each division with the exception of the super stocks which would only run three heats. Each class would run a consie or B main for the heat non-qualifiers for a total of 19 qualifying events. Whew! That is a lot of racing! The first heat would be a cake walk for the Paul Hazen #57 driven by Shane Cottle winning over Mitch Wissmiller with lady racer, Shelby VanGilder, rolling her sprinter over several times taking the checkered at the flagger’s stand. Shelby was OK and returned for the B main but did not qualify. Not a good way to prepare for her first year of teaching elementary school! The second heat saw former track champion, Brent Beauchamp, outrun Arizona’s Casey Shuman. Jeff Bland Jr. who is having a dismal year won heat three holding off the hottest driver in Indiana right now, Brady Short, who was in hot pursuit after winning the previous night. Heat four would see A.J. Hopkins in an impressive run holding off the Kiwi racer, Stephen Taylor, in the Jeff Walker #11W. The UMP modifieds ran off four impressive heat races followed by the super stocks and bombers with heat racing in the books by 8:43. Some track maintenance was performed in the four corners before the consies were called trackside and it was Nate McMillan, a Paragon regular, making a rare Lincoln Park appearance grabbing the top spot in the sprint B main. All consie qualifying was over by 10:04 and it would soon be feature time.

    As is norm the sprint cars ran their feature first and took the initial green flag at 10:15. Jeff Bland Jr. took the Burton family #04 to the point and for quite a while looked like he might knock the monkey off his back. The track blackened up but the cushion built up impressively with the sprinters bouncing their right rears off the cushion and catapulting down the straights. Bland led until he came to the flag stand for lap 19 when Brady Short slipped by. The caution appeared shortly thereafter but the pass was made and Short retained the top spot on the restart. Casey Shuman made the big move at this point advancing from seventh into fourth as the caution appeared on lap 20. His move would stand also as the field went green again. Shane Cottle came out of the sixth hole to take second on lap 22 with a slider in turn two and took up the chase of Short. Brady was up to the challenge and flashed under the checkered flag at 10:30 for his 13th win of the year in Indiana and his third straight victory in the Hoosier state. Cottle would finish second with Bland relegated to third with Brent Beauchamp making some late moves to finish fourth with A.J. Hopkins slipping by Shuman on the last lap to take fifth. The top three finishers were the same as the night before. It was a decent feature but the UMP modifieds would be the best of the evening. Joe Godsey, a frequent winner, took the lead on lap 6 at the flag stand and most everyone figured this one was over. Tyler Nicely had other plans as he worked his way from the eighth starting position and passed Godsey exiting turn four on lap 16 after running side by side with the leader for several laps. Nicely would go on to earn the win over Godsey with Jake Humphrey third, Kenny Carmichael Sr. fourth and Jay Humphrey Jr. rounding out the top five. The super stocks would go 20 laps with Kenny Carmichael Jr. scoring the win over Doug McCullough and Josh Boller in another competitive race. It was now 11:15 and we bagged the bomber's two main events, gathered up the lawn chairs and headed toward the car satisfied with another good night of racing in beautiful downtown Putnamville.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Jackslash Race At Gas City, Fan Appreciation Night At Lincoln Park & Bob Darland Memorial Makeup At Kokomo

    Friday was a hot sunny day in the high 80’s with the wind blowing in our faces. If you are a dirt race fan these are not ideal conditions to watch a race and indeed that is what happen at Gas City. These conditions add up to dust and with the stands right up against the ¼ mile bullring no matter how much water you put down it is still going to be dusty. Luckily the dust was fine in nature and brushed right off so it was not much of a hindrance on the evening. Tonight was the fourth night of action in the Jackslash.com Indiana sprint car series which will air on MAV TV with 25 sprint cars making the tow along with 21 UMP modifieds, 15 street stocks and 7 hornets. Sprint warmups were first and during the warmups group qualifying is done with each heat race taking their separate runs to determine the starting lineups for each heat. Warmups for the other divisions followed before the first of three heats for the sprinters was trackside with five to qualify with the top two in each heat going to the redraw to determine the top six starting positions in the feature. Heat one saw Travis Hery in a surprise dust off (no pun intended) the competition winning over Hunter Schuerenberg who was piloting one of the two Jeff Walker #11’s tonight. New Zealand visitor, Stephen Taylor was in the other which he qualified through the B main. The second heat was the best of the night with Robert Ballou winning over Thomas Meseraull making a guest appearance in the Hazen #57 while Shane Cottle was busy at Belleville driving a Silver Crown car. The third heat saw Chris Gurley hold off the top side advances by Logan Jarrett for the win in this one. Three modified heats, two street stock heats and one hornet heat followed and then it was right back into the sprints with the B main taking place. Tyler Hewitt made a strong run to take the B passing Casey Shuman for the win. A 35 minute intermission followed with the track crew digging up and watering the surface to make the track better for the features.

    The 30 lap sprint car feature would take the green flag at 9:35 with Robert Ballou sweeping into the lead from his fourth starting position by turn two of the opening lap. The only caution appeared on lap 8 when Travis Hery, running in the top five, spun off the high side of turn four to slow the action. Everyone in attendance at this point figured it was going to be a cake walk for Ballou from this point but no one informed Jon Stanbrough of this fact. Stanbrough who started seventh in the Foxco #53 started moving toward the front taking fourth on lap 12, third on lap 16 and second on lap 19 as the frontrunners were getting into lap traffic. Ballou and Stanbrough worked the lap traffic well weaving high and low as the ballet of these two frontrunners heated up. Stanbrough stuck his nose underneath Ballou several times but did not have enough to unseat the Madman. Ballou took the inside away in turns three and four coming to the checkered and as the black and white flag flew at 9:45 it was Ballou across the line first with Stanbrough right on his tail tank with Tyler Courtney also turning in an excellent run advancing from 11th to 3rd with Hunter Schuerenberg fourth and Logan Jarrett rounding out the top five. Another impressive performance on the evening was turned in by Rattlesnake Bend, Arizona’s Casey Shuman powering from 17th to 7th at the checkered. Tyler Hewitt also had a fine run advancing from 16th to place 9th at the finish. The 20 lap UMP modified race was a good one also with Randy Lines holding off fifth starting Aaron Orr for the win with Jaime Lomax third, Dillon Nusbaum fourth and Jim Mallery nailing down fifth. Not to be outdone the street stocks had a three wide run to the line out of turn four for the checkered. This occurred as long time leader, Travis Wolford, bobbled high off turn four with David Short and Andy Bishop both diving low to drop Wolford from first to third in the last corner. This capped off a good night of racing at Gas City and sent everyone home wanting for more. Nice show!!

    It was Fan Appreciation Night at Lincoln Park Speedway and how could we not go. It is only 40 minutes from home, they had fireworks and admission was free. Not to mention we love the place. We knew we had to be there early and it would be a later than usual night with all the scheduled festivities. We even took along our own sandwiches in anticipation of long lines at the concession stands. It was 3:15 when we headed down Route 231 pulled into the parking lot under the trees at 4:00. Bruce went in and set up our chairs as I pulled the second set of chairs out of the trunk to relax under the trees. They had just opened the gates and everyone got a ticket with a number. Bruce was number 212 or the 212th person to officially enter the gate. It was amazing from our parking spot along the roadway near the stands to watch the steady stream of cars entering the grounds and after two hours of Bruce reading the Area Auto Racing News and Iworking on documents for work we decided to enter. It was 6:00 and I was ticket number 2565meaning 2353 entered through the gates in the previous two hours. The place was packed. There had to be 4,000 fans between the homestretch and the backstretch stands, which had to be opened to accommodate the huge crowd. Prior to the first heat the announcement was made that no additional fans would be allowed to enter. The Fire Marshal said they were at capacity.

    The weather for the evening was perfect but maybe not perfect for a track surface. It was hot, very sunny and very dry, low humidity. The type of weather that dries out a surface and dry out it did. It was dusty and luckily the breeze was blowing the dust away from the homestretch grandstand. It was dusty before the warm-ups were complete. The sprint car field was a bit lacking but then it was the perfect night to give somebody new a chance to show what they could do. There are only so many cars and drivers to go around. Lawrenceburg was running Boss and had 29 sprints, Haubstadt was running MSCS and had 17 sprints, Waynesfield ran with 22 sprints and the Belleville Nationals took a hand full of drivers for the USAC Midget show. Based on this I guess 22 sprints was not a bad number.

    With only 22 sprints it was only necessary to run three heats with all qualifying. The modifieds had 27 cars running three heats and a B Main. The super stocks had 20 cars yielding three heats and the bombers were 35 strong running four heats and one large B Main. The thirteen qualifying heats were run off in under 1 hour and 20 minutes. There were no breaks in the action and the multitude of prizes that were given away was done so during the times the green was not out. During the ensuing break they gave away $300 and a free pass to the 2016 season to the person that brought the most first time fans. Second place received $150 and a pass for the remainder of 2015 and third received $50 and a pass for the remainder of 2015. This was judged down in front of the main stretch stands. During this 40 minute break the track crew worked on the dry surface in hopes of keeping down the dust for this large crowd, many of which were first time visitors. At the end of the break the B Mains for the modifieds and the bombers were run and at this point I thought the fireworks would be next on the agenda. I was surprised when the Sprint Car A Main was called to the track. They had made the announcement earlier that the fireworks would be sent up once it was dark enough and that would be around 9:30 to 9:45. Since the sun does not go down until 9:00 right now it is after 9:30 until it is totally dark. Maybe they thought if they shot off the fireworks before the sprints some of the first time fans would go home and miss the main division of cars.

    The sprints took the green at 9:55 and my original pick to win Max McGhee did not make it past lap 2. It was not all that many laps later when my second pick to win, Jeff Bland, jumped the cushion in two and hit the guardrail off the backstretch. He kept going put it was right into the pits. Casey Shuman, who started on the pole, had no real challengers the remainder of the race and came home in the top spot for the first time since May of 2014. There was good racing throughout the pack but when the track is slick the cars look slower but they need to slow more to navigate the turns. Scott Hampton finished second from 6th, Lee Dakus was third from 12th, Brent Moore was the hard charger coming from 21st to finish fourth and Matt McDonald rounded out the top five after starting in the same position. A lot of the names were different but the racing was still hard.

    Most stayed to see the fireworks which are always awesome here at Lincoln Park and then slowly the crowd started to dissipate as the remainder of the show was run off. The modified A Main I thought was the best of the night even though there were 7 cautions in the 20 lap race. Six of those cautions were in the first 10 laps and then the race was on. Three cars were vying for the top spot when with 3 laps to go the car in third spun. Bradley Sterrett won the event and afterwards more fans headed to the gates. It was 11:15 and for many it was a long night if you were not a true race fan. We stayed for the super stock A main won by Steve Peeden who picked up his 7th win of the year here at Lincoln Park. It was after 11:30 when we headed out prior to the two bomber main events. It was a long day but it was awesome to see all those people at the track. To have free admission and run all the regular divisions plus have fireworks was a wonderful gift to give to the regular fans and the surrounding community. It certainly was Fan Appreciation Night and I believe it was a huge success.

    Sunday it was off to Kokomo for the Bob Darland Memorial, take two as they say in Hollywood. The original race was rained out last Sunday and a complete new show would take place this day. Our buddy, Roger Farrell, introduced us to a new friend, Brent Goodnight, underneath the grandstands before we headed up to secure our seats for the evening’s events. The weather was sunny, windy and dry with temperatures in the 90’s. Some dust was stirred up but considering weather conditions it was the best surface of the weekend. The sprint car count was down this Sunday from 27 to 21 but the quality was still there. Names such as Grant, Leary, Darland, Cottle, Stanbrough, Windom, Weir and others graced the pit area so it was going to be a good one. The first of three heats took the green at 7:12 with the top two finishers in each heat to redraw for the top six spots in the feature lineup. C.J. Leary outran Max McGhee in heat one with Justin Grant charging from fourth to first in the opening lap and outdistancing Logan Jarrett. Heat three saw some controversy as Tyler Courtney was completely out of control exiting turn four in the early going and severely chopped off Kyle Robbins in the process. Robbins retaliated late in the heat catching Courtney and executing a slide job in turn two which had only one purpose sending Courtney into the wall and rolling several times after the contact. A simple civil discussion would had been a better way to resolve the difference with retaliation not the way to go. I hope officials had a stern discussion with Robbins afterward and set him straight. Shane Cottle back in the Hazen #57 held off a hard charging Chris Windom to win heat three. Three other divisions, the street stocks (16), thunder cars (15) and hornets (16), each ran a pair of heats before intermission. At this point bicycle races were held for the youngsters on the homestretch followed by the track crew completely reworking the track surface. Close to an hour later it was feature time with the 30 lap Bob Darland Memorial being first up taking the green at 8:57. Logan Jarrett jumped to the early lead from his second starting position and ran the high side with reckless abandon leading C.J. Leary. A few laps later Jarrett found the turn four wall with Leary taking command with Jarrett containing on but dropping back several positions. The front runners encountered lap traffic about half way in and the action heated up with Leary, Grant and Windom looking like tight rope walkers as they negotiated the slower runners. On lap 21 Grant executed a perfect turn two slider to take the lead from Leary and nine laps later he flashed under Brian Hoddy’s checkered flag to score his second Darland Memorial win and third overall this year at Kokomo for the California transplant winning over Leary, Windom, Robert Ballou and Dave Darland. Positions six through ten were filled by Shane Cottle, Scotty Weir, Jon Stanbrough, Kyle Robbins and Casey Shuman.

    The racing was not over yet as the street stocks had a 25 lap affair to run and run they did! Jerry Hehman took a nasty flip on the backstretch severely damaging his beautiful car but the important part was that he was OK. His son, Jason, would go on to capture the big win in a great battle with Steve Peeden with Ryan Huddleston closing on the top two in the closing laps. The thunder cars would go 15 laps with Chris Hunter looking very stout all night long parlayed that stout machine to score the win over Bob Bourff and Kaleb Nutter in another good run. It was 10 PM and with a 1 ½ drive back home we bagged the hornets and called it a night. Another very satisfying night at the great ¼ mile bullring located in Kokomo, Indiana.

     

     

     

    TQ’s At Ripley Co., Putnamville Clash & Bob Darland Memorial

    It was Monday, not a usual day for racing, but the Ripley County Fair in Osgood was having an UMRA/King Of The TQ’s race there so it was southeast with the Sonata to see some fair racing. We arrived to find a nice small fair where there was no admission charge to enter the fair and we proceeded toward the wooden covered grandstand where the racing action would be taking place on the 1/5 mile dirt oval in front of it. The reasonable cost to enter the grandstand to watch the racing was $7 and a decent sized crowd wandered in to see what was happening on the track. It has been four years since auto racing has been run here since the grandstand was built to hold people to watch the horse racing on the bigger oval surrounding the 1/5 mile. Horse racing was only witnessed once for whatever reason so the UMRA/King Of TQ’s group jumped at the opportunity to run a race here and hopefully will be invited back in the coming years if tonight was any indication. The time trials started at 7:17, off the scheduled starting time of 7 but things proceeded along well once activities were underway the same as at Jennings County. Also on the racing card were vehicles referred to as trucks by the announcer but only three of the eight looked anything like a truck. The others were a mixture of street stocks, limited late models and mini stocks. Anywhere they started off the racing portion of the program with two quick heats before the 21 TQ’s in attendance ran three decent heats with Jason Goff, Nick Speidel and AJ Felker winning. The track was big enough in circumference but the turns need to be widened to make for better racing in the turns and overall. The heats were completed by 8:26 with a dash race for the TQ’s following. Nick Speidel took this one and we were starting to wonder if he was going to make it a sweep on the evening. The 15 lap truck feature went first and was spun off non-stop in five minutes. This just left the 20 lap TQ midget feature to run with the green waving at 9. Only three cautions slowed the affair with Speidel leading the first half of the race until mechanical woes sidelined his bid for the sweep. This gave Robbie Roland the top spot at that point and he held off all comers to flash first under the checkered flag at 9:22 winning over Kirby Petry, Trent Henderson up from seventh, Johnny Goff from deep in the field and Caleb Faulner from twelfth. A nice feature and a program run in good time frame giving time for people to walk around the fair before heading back home. And it ended none too soon as five minutes outside of Osgood we hit rain and it continued the entire way home. The worse hitting us in Brownsburg where it was so bad we pulled off the road and sat in a Kroger’s parking lot until it slowed enough to allow us to see adequately again on the newly paved black asphalt of I-74. Two UMRA/King of the TQ’s shows and two pleasant nights of racing entertainment witnessed.

    It was the 28th running of the Putnamville Clash and we arrived at Lincoln Park Speedway at 5:45. It was hot, extremely humid and very still. There was no breeze whatsoever. The flag hung limp as an old dishcloth. Let’s just say it was uncomfortable yet it did not keep the fans away. By the time the sprints were pushed out for hot laps at 6:35 there was a real nice crowd on hand. We were settled into our big folding chairs equipped with a cooler full of water and a bag of peanuts set for a good night of racing. Tonight all of the regular divisions were competing: sprints, modifieds, super stocks and bombers. In all there were over 100 cars in the pits; 25, 27, 21 and 28. One of the late arrivals to the track was JJ Yeley driving the Barnhill #2 usually driven by Casey Shuman. It was nice to see Yeley back in a sprint.

    The sprint heats always start the program and tonight there were three of them. Past Lincoln Park Speedway champion Brent Beauchamp won the first. Jon Stanbrough won heat two with Chad Boespflug looking impressive as he came from 7th to finish 3rd in a heat loaded with talent. But, heat three caused the biggest stir. Cole Ketchem got into the #12 of Robert Ballou sending Ballou spinning in turn one. Everyone knew Ballou was not going to let that go. Once the 12 was pushed off he drove up next to the #41K of Ketchem and promptly ran into him. Now I could see rolling up next to him and making some hand gestures but hitting into him. Come on Ballou you are better than that!Ketchem did not spin you on purpose. Ballou went to the rear and came back up to qualify. It was one of the first times I heard the crowd booing Ballou.

    The modifieds ran their three heats next followed by three heats each for the super stocks and the bombers. Only the sprints and modifieds required a B Main and by 9:08 the 14 qualifying events were run. Everything ran off perfectly with only a couple of cautions and no one got upside-down. JackSlash was also in the house and this was Race #2 of their 5 Race Indiana Sprint Car Series to be televised on MAV TV. A half hour intermission ensued, unusual for Lincoln Park, and at 9:39 the green dropped on the 30 lap 28th Annual Putnamville Clash paying $4,000 to the winner.

    The races started out with two quick cautions one when the inside lane of the final four rows all tangled in turn one and the next on lap 2. This second caution was not really necessary and it seemed management realized that by the way they defended the yellow sighting safety reasons even though the car kept going. From this point on it went green until lap 28. During this time Brent Beauchamp and Kevin Thomas Jr. definitely put on a show racing for the top spot. Finally on lap 24 Thomas got by the 34 of Beauchamp and three laps later the third and final caution came out for JJ Yeley who came to a stop in turn two. This would change the entire complexion of the top 5. During the final two circuits both Dave Darland and Robert Ballou would both pass Beauchamp. Kevin Thomas won from 5th, Darland second from 6th, Ballou third from 12th, then Beauchamp fourth from the pole. Sunshine Tyler Courtney rounded out the top five from 3rd. Ballou put on a nice show for the crowd as he worked his way up through the pack. There were definitely two separate grooves for the sprints.

    The modifieds were up next and they started heads up from the heats. Joe Godsey started on the outside pole and had the lead before turn one. He led the entire race which was single file on the low side, totally different from the sprints. After the modifieds we stayed for the super stock feature before heading out to the car at 10:45. It was a very well run show. Even with a half hour intermission we were on our way home prior to 11:00 and if we had only stayed for the sprints it would have been before 10:00. It was a good night at the races. No wow’s or awesome but a good night.

    The weather in Indiana changes at the drop of a dime. We checked the weather for Kokomo after arriving back from church and the forecast was for 0% chance of rain. So by 4 PM we were on the road to Kokomo and during the trip over Pat checked the forecast again. It changed from 0% to 50 to 60% chance of showers but we trudged on. The skies did not look good upon arrival so we waited it out a while until sprint car hot laps were over. At that point we walked the gravel driveway behind the main grandstand and laid down our $20 admission, got our wristbands and headed into the grandstand area with two large umbrellas in tow. Tonight’s card was the Bob Darland Memorial in honor of Dave’s father and 27 sprints along with 10 street stocks, 15 thunder cars and 10 hornets were pitside. Action got underway right on time under ominous skies with three fast sprint car heats on the wet, tacky surface with the outside the lane of choice with very few venturing to the bottom or middle. Not to worry though as this happens when the track is real fast but by feature time the cars are everywhere using every inch of the surface to gain an advantage. Heat one saw Chris Windom back in the #21X winning over a pressuring Dave Darland with Cole Ketchum taking a hard ride into the turn one wall while running in qualifying position. In heat two with a front row of Chad Boespflug and C.J. Leary one would think the winner was located there but no one I guess notified Tyler “Sunshine” Courtney of this fact as he powered low in turn one to take the lead which he never relinquished. Scotty Weir, the latest pilot of the Baldwin Brothers #5, won over Justin Grant who was the only driver during the heat races to use the inside lane to his advantage. The street stocks only needed one heat with Travis Wolford scoring the win. Two thunder car heats were next and only two hornet races stood between an invalid raincheck should rains hit after their completion. During the first hornet heat rain began to fall at 7:30 and the intensity picked up enough to halt the running of the heat. The hornets were sent back to the pits and we waited out the rain with one of our umbrellas over our heads and the other loaned out to some friends. With the weather map not looking good at this point the decision was made to postpone the event until this Sunday with rainchecks valid for admission. It is always disappointing to lose a show to rain but every effort was made to present the program but tonight it was not meant to be. Rainout #17 for the year was recorded and what once started out to be a banner year has been drowned out during the wet summer here in Indiana and surrounding areas.

    Until next week, stay dry and get out to some short track racing in your area and support your local track. Any questions or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and look forward to reading your emails. Thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Racing Returns to Warsaw & Second Half of Indiana Sprint Weekend

    Racing was returning to the town of Warsaw, Indiana for the first time in 25 years and Pat and I had attended the last race at Warsaw Speedway on August 11th, 1990 and I decided it would be neat to attend the first one in 25 years. Pennsylvania visitors, Gordy Killian and Rich Rauser, were venturing west for the race in Warsaw at the Kosciusko County Fairgrounds and we all met up at the 99th addition of the fair. It turned out to be a real mistake as the organization was terrible and the racing stretched on for far too long,but back to the beginning to set up the story. We arrived at 7 PM and found a large crowd on hand attending the fair and a good crowd piled into the grandstand area for the racing. We were fortunate to park not far from the track and only had to walk up a small hill pay our $5 fair admission and then walk another 100 yards to purchase our $10 grandstand ticket to allow us to enter the track area. Upon entering the grounds we found a tiny (1/12 mile) dirt oval using the frontstretch of the old ¼ mile and completing the oval by extending it into the infield area. You could still see some traces of the old track along the banks of Winona Lake. The concrete wall was still in place on the homestretch and grandstands were in place but had been refurbished or replaced in different areas. We found Gordy and Rich in one of the upper aluminum grandstands and settled in as the warmups were wrapping up. There were three classes of micro sprints, the wingless 600’s at 30, the junior sprints at 9 and the winged 600’s at 20 with many of the wingless competitors doing double duty bolting on the wings for their racing.

    Things started off on a bad note from the start with the racing starting 45 minutes after the posted racing time of 7. It did not get any better from there. The wingless 600’s ran four heats for their 30 car field with a flip on the backstretch in heat two and a rollover in turn three in heat three further adding to the timeframe along with numerous spins and tangles on the small, tight oval. The junior sprints ran next completing their heat racing. A 15 minute break was taken to perform track maintenance which was needed and was not excessive but the additional 45 minute break taken between the B main and the first feature was uncalled for. The reason this track was closed 25 years ago was complaints from the neighbors across the lake about the noise and what do the promoters of this event do but drag out the program!! Not a good way to try to introduce racing back to the area with racing extending past 11 PM on a week night. And I have always felt that if you are running a fair race the idea is to introduce new fans to the excitement of racing in around a two hour format and then get them back out onto the midway enjoying the exhibits and spending money at the vendors not presenting a five hour marathon with many people leaving even before the heat racing was completed. Bet you the ones that left will not consider checking out another local track if they did not enjoy themselves on this evening. What a lost opportunity to garner some new fans to the sport of auto racing! Our group was not the only unhappy campers on the evening as several other people were yelling out “Let’s Go” and the older gentlemen across the aisle from me who was a veteran race fan was voicing his displeasure loudly and everyone within ear shot knew that he was not happy. And all the points he was making were valid and we can only hope that the promoters heard some of them in the process. The first feature of the evening took the green flag at 10:16 and 11 cautions and 35 minutes later the checkered waved on the 30 lap affair. The ineptness of the scorers and the track officials was terrible and it got to the point of being laughable. Speaking of laughs the track officials decided to use fair garbage cans to mark the inside border of the corners and during the feature one of the cars clipped one of the cans and sent it spinning dumping the contents of the can onto the inside of turn four! And the best part was that they picked up a couple of pieces and left the rest! We decided to cut our losses and headed out to make the 2 ½ hour tow back home. It was after 11 when we left and the second feature was not yet on the track so I can only speculate but it is difficult to believe that this show was over before midnight. Five hours for a three division show with 59 total cars on a 1/12 of a mile track was more than excessive it is totally unacceptable.

    Thursday and the same old forecast, 50% chance of rain, but nothing was going to ruin my day. I had visitors, Gordy and Rich, from back in Pennsylvania so I took the day off from work. We were going to Lincoln Park, the track closest to home.After feeding the crew a late lunch we all got in our car and headed south to the track. We arrive at 4:30 and found that the parking lot was already half full. After securing our seats with our folding chairs we cruised through the t-shirt stands behind the grandstand. Now it was time to locate Joe. Joe Courter is a reader of this column who lives in Florida but grew up in New Jersey. Joe, Bruce and I all grew up on the Northeast modifieds at Flemington, Nazareth and Reading. He emailed us that he was coming up to Sprint Week and would like to meet us. The text message was sent and soon Joe came bicycling over from the backstretch. It was fun going back through memory lane and talking about the old times. It was also nice to be able to add another person to our list of racing friends. We parted ways as Joe was taking in the races from the pit grandstand on his first visit here to Lincoln Park. Speaking about first visits to Lincoln Park, we already mentioned that fellow Hoseheads columnist Gordy Killian of Reading, PA was with us. Both Gordy and I grew up going to the races at the Reading Fairgrounds and lived about 10 miles away from each other in Berks County, PA but the first time we ever met was in Indiana at Lincoln Park 35 years ago. Yes, we are getting old. Gordy had on a Port Royal t-shirt and I went up to him and ask him if that was my Port Royal. That was the beginning of a friendship that is still going strong today. This was also Gordy’s first visit back to Lincoln Park since that meeting.

    Things got crazier when all of a sudden someone a row in front of us to the left made a comment about people from the northeast. As I looked over it was Jimmy Reeder another longtime friend that Bruce and I had not seen for over 20 years. Jimmy lived in New Jersey and moved to Newton, Iowa where we lost contact. I was quick to tell him we are not in the northeast anymore and lived just 45 minutes up the road. We made arrangements to meet and sit together at Bloomington.

    The Sprints came out on the track for heat in the motors at 6:10 and promptly at 7:00 the 47 cars started time trials. Hunter Schuerenberg set fast time with a lap of 12.953. The modifieds ran their warm-ups next and it was time for the qualifying heats. Four heats were run for the sprints and heat number one saw Cole Smith make a move in turn three that just did not work. He found himself first flipping and then getting a ride to the hospital where it was determined he had a concussion. The next heat saw Jarett Andretti up-side-down in turn four. Is it just me or does Andretti find himself in this position more than most. The final two heats were run off with Robert Ballou and Brady Bacon picking up the wins. Dave Darland and Chris Windom picked up the wins in the first two heats. The modifieds ran off their three heats in 11 minutes and it was C and B Main time for the sprints. Management kept the show moving right along and as soon as the sprint field was complete the modifieds ran their 20 lap feature. Six minutes was all it took and it was a good one. I really enjoy the modifieds here at Lincoln Park and they usually put on a good performance. Tonight Devin Gilpin and Joe Godsey ran side-by-side lap after lap for the lead in the race that went non-stop. Finally with four laps remaining Gilpin took the lead. Gilpin picked up his 22nd win of the year and Godsey in his Tony Stewart Racing #14 finished second.

    It was 10:10 and A Main time for what should have been race 5 of ISW. However, with a rainout at Kokomo the previous Saturday this would be race 4. The front row was made of Kevin Thomas Jr. and Brady Bacon and it was going to be hard to bet against either of themnot winning. Row two eliminated themselves from the possibility of a win when Carson Short spun and collected Chad Boespflug on lap 8. Boespflug left the track on the hook. The caution flew again on the restart and several laps later the red was out on lap 12 for Jake Swanson who flipped in turn three. Three laps later Shane Cottle did a hop and stop in turn 4. There were 15 laps in and we already had three cautions and a red. Not good. What was good was the showBrady Short was putting on for the fans. Short finished third in the C Main which qualified him for the B Main. Here he put on a show to finish fourth which earned him the right to start 22nd in the A Main. Now at the halfway mark he was in 7th. The remaining 15 laps were a different race. It went non-stop and there was some real good racing for the top spot between Bacon, Thomas and Jerry Coons, who briefly lead. In the end Bacon would come out on top with Thomas second and Coons third. Hunter Schuerenberg was fourth and Brady Short managed to crack the top five. Robert Ballou and Jon Stanbrough were sixth and seventh. It was a good race but the track never really became the multi-groove track I see on a regular Saturday night. It started out narrow with a low groove at first but during the second half of the race some ventured to the high side making it more interesting. Joe sent us a text message from the backstretch afterwards which read Awesome Racing. If you were a first time visitor you probably thought it was awesome racing. Oh, but it is so much better.

    Friday evening had a 50% chance of thunderstorms but the Indiana Sprint Week caravan was headed toward the red hills of Bloomington for their next night on racing on a hot (94 degrees) and humid day. Things got underway right on time at 7 PM with time trials for the 36 entrants on hand with one driver, Landon Simon, bicycling and flipping off of turn two. Simon was OK and time trials continued after picking Simon’s car up and taking it pitside. By 7:23 Brady Bacon had set a new track record for wingless sprinters on the ¼ mile high banks with a time of 10.854 seconds with a total of five drivers breaking the 11 second bracket on the evening so you know the track was in great condition. Four heat races for the USAC sprints followed with Thomas Meseraull in the Goodnight #39 taking heat one over Jerry Coons Jr. with Brady Bacon sliding over the banking in turn two and not qualifying. Heat two saw Bedford’s Brady Short outrunning Jon Stanbroughas the King of Bloomington was looking strong for the evening. Chad Boespflug brought the Amati Racing #66 home first in heat three over Brent Beauchamp with Shane Cottle racing the Paul Hazen #57 first to the line in heat four outdistancing Justin Grant in the Baldwin Brothers #5 with Lee Dakus rolling over in turn two after running up and over a right rear of another competitor and he was able to continue. The skies were darkening to the north and everyone was keeping one eye on the sky with the other on the racing. Eric Smith and Luke Bland topped the two heats for the 14 car field in the 305 sprint division as the skies looked ominous. The sprint B main was quickly called to the speedway and during the running of the event with several stoppages due to accidents with the worst being Nick Bilbee flipping outside of turn two the rains began to fall. The sprints were kept out as the rain increased and to many people’s surprise the race was restarted. Robert Ballou passed Brady Bacon for the win in this one. The feature was shaping up to be a real wing ding race as the track was in the best shape of the season and the field was strong and ready to rumble. But it was not meant to be as the rains continued and the race was over at this point. Bloomington and USAC officials gathered the next day and at 2 PM announced that the two features would not be made up and points and money would be distributed equally among the field. It is always a tough decision to make at that juncture in the racing program but from a fan’s viewpoint it leaves them with an empty feel in their gut and the thoughts of what could have been on what was shaping up to be a very interesting feature event for the USAC sprinters.

    Saturday was hot, 90’s, and humid but for once the chance of rain was low. We decided to leave early and take in some antique store shopping south of Terre Haute on our way to Tri-State Speedway, the final stop on the Indiana Sprint Week Tour. This track is awesome and I do not think we ever saw a bad race here. The only problem with this track is it is three hours from home and in the Central Time Zone. We are not as young as we once were, although younger than we will ever be, and driving back plus losing an hour is not that easy anymore when it is just the two of us. Because of this we decided to get a hotel in Vincennes about 45 minutes north of the track and back in the Eastern Time Zone. Jimmy Reeder and his Cousin Brian were at the track before us and put down blankets to save seats so we could all partake of Stoll’s Country Inn a family all you can eat restaurant about five miles down the road from the track. Many fans eat here and racing t-shirts is the usually attire every time we are here. After eating way too much, we headed back to the track in anticipation of the night’s racing. We sat on the backstretch to avoid the hot sun and we also think it is a great place to get a feel for the sprints coming off turn two.

    Justin Grant set fast time with a time of 13.421 around the quarter mile, followed by modified hot laps. The nice part is that during Speed Week there is only one support division that runs in conjunction with the sprints keeping the wear on the track down as well as the length of the program. The four sprint heats started at 8:08. The start of the first heat was called back as it was determined that Carson Short jumped the start. On the restart Dave Darland jumped way more than Short and it was let go. I guess it pays to be the People’s Champ. Darland went on to win the event. During the second heat Donnie Bracket flipped in turns three and four for the first tumble of the night. The next two heats went off without a hitch and all four heats were in the books in less than 30 minutes. Three modified heats and a B Main followed before management took to the track for some final manicuring. Just watching the methodical way the track crew works this track is amazing. Every piece of equipment knows exactly what to do and before you know it the entire track is re-groomed. The modifieds ran their 25 lap feature first so they would not be delayed by the crowning of the Indiana Speed Week Champion at the end of the sprint feature. They spun off the 25 laps with only one minor caution and it was an excellent race. The modifieds really get around this track. Unfortunately it is a heads up start from the heats and the three heat winners started in positions one, two and three and finished in positions one, two and three. Zach Fair won followed by Dave Beck and Tyler Weiss in second and third.However, the fourth place finisher was Brandon McDowell, who started 18th and he earned an extra $100 for being the hard charger.

    At 10:03 the green dropped on the final race of Sprint Week. Race 5 of the 7 scheduled events would determine the champion. All Robert Ballou had to do to capture the championship was finish ahead of Brady Bacon. From 10:03 to 10:11, yes only 8 minutes, you did not know where to watch. There was two and three wide racing around the ¼ mile, slide jobs in every turn, cutting through lapped traffic and not a one caution in the 30 laps. In 8 minutes you saw it all. Brady Short started on the pole, but do not say he won all the way from the pole. In the open laps he dropped back and had to recover to gain the top spot, which he did not take until lap 22 when he passed Kevin Thomas Jr. to take the lead. Thomas had just moved into the lead on lap 17 when he passed Chris Windom. The battle up front was awesome but you also had to watch further back to see Ballou would finish ahead of Bacon. Bacon started 8th with Ballou 10th. In the final laps Ballou picked up his game and came from nowhere to move into the top five. At the end of 8 minutes it was a very happy Brady Short standing in victory lane with Thomas, Windom, Ballou and Chase Stockon following him across the line. Even happier was the Champion of the 28th Annual Indiana Speed Week, Robert Ballou. Kevin Thomas gave a little bit of sour grapes when he made a comment during post-race interviews that Ballou was lucky that Kokomo was rained out. Guess some people just do not know when to keep their thoughts to themselves.

    My final thoughts on Speed Week; we had a great time at every race we attended; we did not see a bad race, the constant threat of rain or numerous downpours was a pain in the butt, we got to spend some quality time with friends from the east, further west and meet a new one from Florida, if you call yourself a sprint car fan you should plan on attending this week at least once in your life. Of course once you attend once you will want to come again; and I am already looking forward to the 29th Annual Indiana Sprint Week in 2016. I am so happy to be a Hoosier resident.

     

     

       Contact Pat & Bruce at bruce.eckel@comcast.net

     


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