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    A Typical Weekend

    by Pat & Bruce Eckel

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Bloomington, Paragon & Rain

    Friday, June 16 - It was a hot sunny day in the 90's as we headed south to Bloomington Speedway. We knew the field of sprints would be minus a few cars as USAC was back in Pennsylvania for the Eastern Storm. However whenever the likes of Brady Short, Tyler Thomas and Max McGhee are in the house you know you should see some good racing. I thought the crowd was down a bit but then maybe fans were recovering from Midget week and saving up for the special events around the 4th of July. We lucked out and when we arrived at 5:15 there was still room on the top row to place our chairs going into turn one.

    The show started promptly at 7:30 on the dot and three of the four division, Race Saver 305 sprints, 410 wingless sprints and modifieds, all ran three heats each. The fourth division the Indiana Late Model Series ran only two heats for their 16 cars in the pits. Brady Short was running the 305 sprint normally run by Dakota Jackson, who was back East running the Silver Crown car at Williams Grove Speedway. Unfortunately Brady's ride in the winged car found him crashing in the third heat and being towed off the track. He later would return for the feature with little success. The qualifying events in all divisions were run off with little to do and before 9:00 all 11 events were in the books.

    The show was moved along nicely and in less than 20 minutes the green was dropping on the first feature event of the evening. The 305 sprints ran their feature with only 2 cautions. The sprints with wings are real fast but there is not much side by side racing. Alex Nalon picked up the win and he is the great grandson of the legendary Duke Nalon. Brinton Marvel, a third generation driver, was second with Ethan Barrow third. It is also worthy to mention that Nalon is 16 years old and Marvel is the ripe old age of 15.

    The wingless sprints were up next and tonight they just did not have it. I guess you cannot have a great race every time and this was one of those times. When they were racing there was some good action but the caution came out 8 times. They spun, they spun and they spun some more. In the end Brady Short and Jeff Bland went at it for the lead. I would say it was a carbon copy of last week. However, neither Bland or Short was driving the same car they drove the previous week. The outcome was different also. This time it was Jeff Bland coming home the victor with the Waltz #66W getting their first career win with Brady Short in second. Lee Underwood was third with Tim Creech putting in a fine run for fourth. Josh Hodges rounded out the top 5.

    There were two features left to run, modifieds and late models. We chose to stay for both events. In the modifieds Josh Harris and Jacoby Hines ran side by side nearly the entire race. In the end it was Harris in victory lane with Hines in second. The late models were last and we were surprised at how many fans remained for all four feature events. The late model feature had three cautions with Tyler Cain picking up the win followed by Justin Shaw. It was 11:11 when all was complete and we headed down the hill. Not the best racing but then we are so spolied here that we think every race has to be wow wow wow and they just can't be.

    Saturday, June 17 - We started the day by driving down to Medora, a small town outside of Brownstown to take in an afternoon UTV race promoted by IXCR which presents cross country racing of various classes including motorcycles, ATV's and UTV's. We met up with Guy Smith, a friend from Pennsylvania who drove over from Ohio where his wife was teaching a class at Ohio University. The course was long and went through the woods in various parts of the farmland and each lap took about 9 minutes to run. The race was an hour in length and when it was all said and done on this very hot day we were happy to jump in the car with the air conditioning blaring as we headed up the road toward Paragon Speedway. Kyle Chaney of Ohio won by four minutes over John Barnes of Tennessee and Seth Mitchell of Ohio. Dave Phillips of Illinois won the lite division.

    We rolled into Paragon Speedway at 7:40 as the first sprint car heat was running. On tap tonight was our annual visit to Paragon to take in and honor the memory of Chuck Amati, know in racing circles as the One Armed Bandit. The Amati 68 is an unique race being 68 laps in distance with caution laps counting but not all of them. It is run without a fuel stop on the 1/4 mile oval located on the outskirts of the town of Paragon. The admission to this race was a real bargain as it is normally $20 but with a HARF membership card the price was $10. You can't beat that! We walked the hill up to the wooden bleachers that sit on the side of a hill and found a good seat and settled in to watch the action. Four heats would be needed for the 32 car field on hand and the first one went to Jeff Bland Jr. over Ethan Fleetwood and Kent Christian. Heat two saw Brady Short top the field winning over Shane Cottle and Max McGhee. Ethan Barrow controled heat three turning back Brandon Mattox and Jake Scott. Veteran Jon Stanbrough in his last year of racing triumphed in heat four winning over Bill Rose and Travis Welpott. There were several other local divisions on the card also and they ran their heats before two B mains for the sprints were contested. Charlie Belden Jr. and Ben Knight punched their tickets into the big dance.

    It was 9:59 when Jon Stanbrough and Shane Cottle brought 18 others to the green flag to start the Amati 68 with Cottle taking the lead from the outside. The track was in good shape tonight with the drivers able to run all over the racing surface as the event unfolded. An early caution on lap 8 was followed by a four car pileup in turns three and four on lap 16 and after that the race went non-stop over the remaining 52 laps. Cottle was challenged by Brady Short but was able to fend him off and pulled away from Short as the race went on. Short ran second until lap 56 when Jeff Bland Jr. drove by. Short countered on lap 60 but two laps later Bland breezed by and pulled away from Short over the remaining six laps. Cottle flew under the checkered flag at 10:28 winning by a large margin over Bland with Short third, Max McGhee fourth and Jon Stanbrough rounding out the top five. It wasn't a great race but at least it was quick. Shane Cottle dominated with the Paul Hazen #57 tonight and there was little doubt that he was going to win this evening.

    Sunday, June 18 - Heavy rain overnight in the Kokomo area had the O'Connors throwing in the towel early as the grounds were saturated and there was no way that the facility would be able to recover in a short time period to run the next day. So it was an early end to the weekend of racing for us as we opted not to attend the UMP Hell Tour late model event at Daugherty Speedway where we found out the next day that rough and dusty track conditions forced UMP officials to cut the distance of the late model feature from 40 to 30 laps and only issue show up points for everyone on hand. Glad we didn't go to that one.

    Until next week where we plan to head for the rescheduled Hulman Classic at Terre Haute on Friday and the rescheduled No Way Out 40 at Brownstown on Saturday take care and get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading our efforts.


     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    All Star Sprints at Macon & Indiana Midget Week Finale at Kokomo

    Saturday, June 10 - We decided to take the 2 hour tow to Macon for the All Star Sprints instead of the 2 1/2 hour journey to Lawrenceburg for the USAC midgets. The main reason was we have seen almost everything else at Macon Speedway but never 410 winged sprints on the tiny 1/5 mile and we wanted to see how they ran. We left early and took our time driving over including stopping at an antique shop in Decatur to pick up an antique that Pat won in an auction bid last week. We still arrived in plenty of time just after the gates opened and taped our seats down on the top row of one of the sections on the homestretch. Driving a few blocks from the track we found a fine place to eat on Wall St. called Whit's End. The food was good quality, reasonably priced and a friendly atmosphere to boot. Not much not to like here, highly recommend it if you are in the Macon area.


     

    The All Star Sprints were making their first appearance since 2004 at Macon and 31 sprinters filled the pit area along with 11 street stocks, 12 modifieds and 7 pro late models. Time trials for the All Stars began at 6:25 and when it was all said and done nine drivers had broken into the nine second bracket around the 1/5 mile oval with Chad Kemenah fastest of the bunch with a time of 9.540 seconds. Two street stock heats were next up and then it was three heats for the All Stars with six to qualify out of each. The first heat was won by Parker Price Miller over TJ Michael and Caleb Armstrong. The second heat took forever and must have had close to 10 cautions. It was painful!! Justin Peck from Monrovia, Indiana was involved in one of the early jingles, went to the work area for repairs and returned minus the front wing. He was able to pass Tony Stewart late in the event for the heat win with Hunter Schuerenberg grabbing third. The third heat saw Max Stambaugh win over Carson Macedo and Chris Urish. The All Stars are in a transition period right now with many of their previous top runners such as Dale Blaney, Sheldon Haudenschild, Tim Shaffer and Kraig Kinser racing elsewhere. In their place are a new group of upstarts such as Stambaugh, Caleb Armstrong, TJ Michael, Ryan Smith, Caleb Helms and others trying to step up and make their own names shine. It is a weaker version of the All Stars but they will survive and with experience the young guns will replace the other guns.


     

    The sprint dash race was won by Paul Neinhiser, a MOWA regular who finished second the previous night at Lincoln, Illinois. Jimmy Hurley would top the B main and the field was now set for the 40 lap A main. In between the B and the A the street stocks ran their 15 lapper and it was a good contest with Dennis Wemle prevailing. Now it was time for the 40 lap, $5000 to win All Star feature to be called to the post. The green would wave at 9:47 with second starter, Chad Kemenah, storming into the early lead. Kemenah's lead was short lived as Justin Peck out of the fourth hole went to the wall in turn two and passed him for the lead on lap 3. The 18 year old recent high school graduate would lead the remaining 37 laps through eight cautions, two of which turned into red flags. It was not easy though as constant lap traffic was an issue but the youngster was able to work his way through the traffic and maintain the lead pressured first by Kemanah and then Paul Neinhiser who passed Kemanah for second low in turns three and four on lap 24 and showed his nose to Peck several times but was never able to make a serious challenge for the lead. When the checkered waved at 10:29 it was Peck home first for his first career All Star win and $5000 richer to boot followed by Neinhiser, Kemanah, Carson Macedo in the Joe Gaerte #3G and Tony Stewart who ran a steady race to capture fifth at the end. It was a decent feature and we finally got to witness sprint cars on the 1/5 mile so all was not lost.


     

    Sunday, June 11 - It was back to Indiana midget week for the grand finale at the 1/4 mile dirt oval at the Kokomo Speedway. The points title was up for grabs with the top five within 12 points of each other going into the final and nine total drivers with a mathematical chance at winning the point title. Twenty eight midgets and 23 sprints answered the final call in the two division card on this evening at the O'Connor family facility. New aluminum high rise grandstands are almost completed on the backstretch and word is next week they will be finished and open to the public. It should make for a new perspective of the famous bullring as the grandstand had its back to the setting sun and could be the new prime time seat at Kokomo.


     

    In hot laps one of the title contenders, Michael Pickens from New Zealand, diminished his title hopes as he went for a wild tumble in turn two after hitting the wall and bouncing sideways into a series of rolls and flips. Unbelievably Pickens was able to return for his time trial run and heat racing. Two other title contenders also had troubles as Justin Grant and Brady Bacon had to go to backup cars after their time trial runs and start in the rear of their respective heat races. Grant qualified through his heat while Bacon was not so fortunate and had to qualify through the B main. Shane Golobic set fast time with a lap of 13.373 seconds and with the points awarded for time trials now had the point lead. Four heats were next up for the 28 midgets on hand and heat one went to Spencer Bayston who started fifth and breezed to victory over Holly Shelton, Shane Golobic and Tanner Carrick. Tanner Thorson also came out of the fifth hole to win heat two over Jerry Coons Jr., Davey Ray and Justin Grant. Heat three saw Tyler Thomas score the win over Rico Abreu, Michael Pickens and Alex Bright. The fourth and final heat went to "Sunshine" Tyler Courtney charging from sixth to win over Chad Boat, Jimi Quin and Dave Darland. The midget B main would be claimed by Gage Walker turning back Ronnie Gardner, Ryan Robinson, Brady Bacon, Vermont's Adam Pierson and Courtney Crone who was able to stave off Steve Buckwalter who missed qualifying for his third main event by one position tonight driving the Parker Price Miller #9P. The sprints were next on the dance card with three heats with Tyler Courtney running away with heat one in a test run for the backup Topps #23C for the Eastern Storm swing and then scratching from the feature. Travis Hery and Corey Smith followed in this one. Brady Short still motoring the Reinbold #19AZ claimed heat two over Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Gass #17 and Tyler Thomas. Heat three (or the almost all Kokomo resident heat - 5 drivers from Kokomo in this one) saw Colten Cottle beat his uncle, Shane, for the win with Dave Darland bringing the Hery #40 home third.


     

    For the only time in Indiana midget week the sprint cars would run their 25 lap feature first with Shane Cottle taking the Paul Hazen #57 to the point at the drop of Tom Hansing's green flag. The action came to an abrupt halt on lap three when Logan Jarrett and Isaac Chapple executed a double roll on the backstretch with Chapple's tail tank coming loose from the sprinter. Cottle retained the lead on the restart with Kevin Thomas Jr. moving to third with an inside move off turn two on lap 4 and three laps later taking second from Short. Lap 8 saw Thomas get into the backstretch wall hard and drop back to fourth and many thought he might be done for contending for the win but he was back on the peddle. Cottle was looking very good out front and looked like he might be on his way to his second win of the weekend but Thomas had other plans. Thomas caught and passed Cottle for the lead between turns three and four on lap 22 and went on to score his second straight Kokomo win and his third overall win of the week and also the second career win for the Gass family in the same week. Brady Short managed to sneak by Cottle for second with Shane third, Colten Cottle fourth and Dave Darland finishing fifth after starting ninth.


     

    The Kunz front row of Tanner Thorson and Spencer Bayston brought the 22 car field to the green flag of Texas IndyCar flagger, Tom Hansing, with Bayston going to the cushion to take the lead. Spencer would stay true to the berm for the remainder of the event and seem to be the only one that had any real success in running it. It was all peaches and cream up top as on lap ten Bayston caught the curb wrong and this gave Tyler Courtney a chance to make a challenge for the lead and they ran side by side with photo finishes at the line for three laps before Bayston was able to totally retain control after Courtney was credited with leading two of the laps. Brady Bacon made his presence felt as he cracked the top three just before the halfway mark. Lap 16 saw tenth running Ryan Robinson flip in turn three and brought the race to a quick halt. Robinson was OK after the flip. On the restart Courtney seemed to find a second wind making a surge on the bottom side through turns one and two to again lead on laps 20 & 21. Bayston never flinched and stayed on the cushion and blasted by Courtney heading down the backstretch on lap 22 and never looked back. There was still a battle to be settled on the track with Courtney one spot ahead of his teammate, Shane Golobic, and the higher finisher would take the point title crown. Golobic slipped by Courtney through turns one and two with just three laps to go and held off Courtney to claim the title. At the finish at 10:23 it was Spencer Bayston in for his second career USAC National midget win and his first since last year at Gas City in an Indiana midget week victory beating Golobic with Courtney third, Justin Grant taking fourth with Brady Bacon ending up fifth. It was a trying last few days for Golobic as he suffered some a stomach flu on Friday and spent the day in the ER in Bloomington and wasn't sure if he would be able to race on Friday night with Chris Windom standing by in relief. He did race and scored a podium finish and went on to become the series champion with no finishes outside the top eight and the last three being 3rd, 4th and 2nd. Golobic also became only the fourth driver in the 13 year history of Indiana midget week to win the title without scoring a victory, the last being Bryan Clauson in 2016.


     

    It was a fine two weeks of midget racing between Illinois and Indiana where we witnessed 11 midget races in a 12 day period. We are off for the next several days until Friday where plans are still up in the air on where we are headed for the weekend. Weather could play a hand once again. Until next time be safe and get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area and the East Coast fans can prepare for the USAC Eastern Storm beginning Tuesday night at Grandview Speedway. We can be reached at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading our efforts and hope you enjoyed our reports of the whirlwind midget tour.


     

     

     

    New Team in Town at Bloomington

    There’s a new kid in town and that kid is the Clauson Marshall Racing Midget Team. Last night at Bloomington Speedway they swept the podium as they finished 1, 2, 3. It was night 4 of 13th running of Indiana Midget Speed Week and once again the weather was picture perfect. There was not a cloud in the sky, the humidity was low and the temps were in the 80”s. Unfortunately the track surface was not as perfect as the weather. A tweet by sprint driver Kevin Thomas Jr. said it all. “Got our testing in for the 2018 Little 500 tonight.” Yes the surface turned black and hard but all in all the races were not that bad.

    We arrived early at 5:00 and the stands were already covered with blanket and the grassy area with folding chairs. Luckily for us former Pennsylvania resident, Zeke, now living in Florida arrived at 1:00 in the afternoon and secured our seats in the new stands toward turn four. During the night this would be the area where all the action would take place. We had flips, spins, passes, car sliding up and over the edge and even a Haboob. It was a totally open wheel event with the 410 wingless sprints and the 305 Race Saver sprints joining the USAC midgets on the card. The night started out with sprint group qualifying, midget practice and then midget time trials. Chad Boat ran the oval in 11.764 and that was enough for fast time. The first of four midget heat took the green at 7:47 and despite the track conditions they were not bad. Spencer Bayston ran away with the win in the first event and Jerry Coons Jr. took the second. The third heat had Tanner Carrick pick up the win but the race for third between Dave Darland and Justin Grant was monies’ worth. As a matter of fact our good friend Bill Burns, in from Pennsylvania for Midget Week, turned and looked at us and said, “That my dear friends is why you moved to Indiana,” Heat four was won by Shane Golobic, The three heats for the 19 305’s was next followed by three heats for the sprints. The first sprint heat featured what was probably the first Haboob ever recorded in Indiana. A Haboob is an intense dust storm and they happen out in the dessert and they are usually in the news when they hit the Phoenix area. This Haboob hit the fans sitting in the stands near turn four. AJ Hopkins slid up and over the cushion and down the outside banking coming out of turn four. Once over the cushion he gunned it to try and save it but it did not work. He spun his tires and pulled up a cloud of red dust that totally engulfed the fans. We got it with the outer edge of the cloud and were brushing red dust but the fans hit directly with the Haboob were totally covered. You could have wrote your name in the dust left on the stands. Max McGhee, Brady Short and Isaac Chapple won the sprint heats. The midget B main followed the sprint heats with Tyler Courtney, Rico Abreu and Zack Daum finishing in the top three spots. The finish sounds more like a feature finish then a B Main. It was 9:23 and we moved right into the features. I believed most fans in the stands were surprised that time was not taken for a little track rework.

    The 30 lap midget feature started at 9:42 and in 6.57.95 minutes the checkered fell. It all happen so fast I was totally surprised when the white flag was thrown. The USAC score board in the infield was absolutely useless as it never went past lap 8 and had the incorrect running order. I did not expect a lot of passing in the event but I guess they forgot to tell Tyler Courtney this as he was once again the show. New Zealand’s Michael Pickens was not a factor tonight and dropped backward from his 2nd starting spot to finish 9th. Tyler Courtney however started 7th on a track that was not easy to pass on and won. Just past halfway Courtney found himself in the top spot and was never challenged, 4th starting Justin Grant finished 2nd and Shane Golobic both started and finished 3rd. Jerry Coons Jr. was 4th and Chad Boat was 5th.It was not on the caliber with Gas City and Lincoln Park but it was not a bad race.

    The 305 sprints were up next with their 25 lap feature and it looked like they too were going to pull off a non-stop event. But on lap 17 the leader was spun, coming out of turn four, by a lap car. The leader continued on but several other cars were collected in the incident with one turning over. Racing resumed and several laps later the same car that previously spun the leader found himself flipping in turn four. The final laps saw Andy Bradley and Ryan Tusing battling for the lead with Tusing picking up the win. Over all the race was pretty decent.

    The final event was the 25 lap feature for the wingless sprints and I must admit I was not expecting too much. This race had a lot of what we call huggy pole racing. The best part of the race is it was quick as it went non-stop. Brady Short picked up his 100th sprint car win from the 3rd starting position. Jeff Bland Jr., Jordan Kinser, Ethan Fleetwood a 305 driver who moved up from last year and Max McGhee rounded out the top 5.

    The evening was complete before 11:00. We were a bit disappointed at the surface this evening as the previous races this year had great surfaces. Still we had an enjoyable night. Tomorrow we will not be going to Lawrenceburg for night 5. We usually skip Midget Week at Lawrenceburg. This does not mean we are taking a break. We will be heading into Illinois to see the All Stars race at Macon Speedway then back to Kokomo Speedway for the Speed Week finale.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Oh What A Night At Lincoln Park

    Thursday, June 8 - Lincoln Park Speedway is our favorite track to watch racing at. It may not always be the best racing but the layout of the track and the grandstands makes for a comfortable, homey type of atmosphere where you either sit in the large concrete grandstands or on the hillside next to the grandstands but the hot setup is indeed the use of a lawn chair to view the racing action from. It makes for a relaxing atmosphere, the kind where you want to sit, talk and maybe sip a beer or two and just chill out. Sometimes we think the Indiana fans are too laid back and complacent as they see so much good racing week in and week out that sometimes they take it for granted and don't jump up and down and scream and yell. We thought we would never become like this but earlier this year we noticed that during an extremely exciting race we were watching intently but not going wild and it hit us that the two transplanted Pennsylvanians had become just like the Indiana faithful and I guess that is not a bad thing in the scheme of things! But last night that all changed for everyone as the last three laps of the USAC National midget feature had almost everyone on their feet and screaming and yelling in unison as the scene unfolded in front of us. It was a special night of racing that will have the legions of fans talking about this one for years to come.

    The evening started out with midget time trials beginning at 6:51 for the 37 midgets signed in at the pit shack. Andrew Felker is having a terrible speed week as for the second evening in a row he flipped his midget in qualifying tumbling up and over turn two and bringing his evening to a very early end. Felker was OK after the wild ride but is probably a little sore this morning. When qualifying was completed at 7:23 it was New Zealand ace, Michael Pickens, turning fast time with a lap of 13.036 seconds around the 5/16 mile dirt oval located in beautiful downtown Putnamville. The four heat races for the now 36 car field pushed off at 7:41 with high flying action occuring again as 16 year old Courtney Crone caught the outside wall exiting turn four in heat one and rolled down the homestretch landing just past the flagger's stand. Fortunately Crone was fine after her bad tumble. Crone's California teammate, Ronnie Gardner, would go on to win heat one over Rico Abreu jumping from the Kuntz #97K into the Kuntz #21 vacated by Kyle Larson who had to return to work. Tanner Thorson and Michael Pickens were the other two qualifiers from this heat. Heat two saw Tanner Carrick who has been looking pretty good this week outrunning Brent Beauchamp who has turned many laps at Putnamville. Brady Bacon and PA's Ryan Greth rounded out the top four. Heat three went to another Keystone state resident, Alex Bright from Collegeville, turning back Spencer Bayston, Gage Walker and Tyler Thomas. The fourth and final heat was taken by Illinois' Zach Daum fending off Justin Grant, Dave Darland (newest member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame) and Jerry Coons Jr. The sprint cars brought 24 quality cars to the dance with Brady Short driving the Andy Reinbold #19AZ out of Arizona taking heat one over Kevin Thomas Jr. again in the Gass #17 and Carson Macedo from California. Heat two saw a good three car battle up front finally won by Chris Windom in the Baldwin #5 over Chad Boespflug in the Hoffman #69 and Shane Cockrum in the Paul #24P. Heat three saw double dipper, Tyler Thomas in the Jerry Burton #04, win over Tim Creech and veteran Kent Christian making his first appearance of the season. The MMSA mini sprints were the third open wheel division on the card with 17 in the pit area. Rod Henning scored heat one with Rico Abreu in the Dorsett #17 winning heat two. The midget B main followed with Shane Golobic taking the win over Tyler Courtney, Chad Boat, Holly Shelton, Ryan Robinson and Brayton Lynch in the Rusty Kuntz #1K qualifying for his first Indiana midget week event. CJ Leary brought the #4P home first in the sprint car B main with all qualifying completed by 9:14. Next up would be the three main events with the mighty midgets taking center stage first.

    At the drop of Tom Hansing's green flag it was Alex Bright to the point as he was the night before at Gas City. Most of the field went to the low side to run and everyone fell into place and not much passing was going on until Spencer Bayston with a new power plant under the hood installed after his heat race ventured to the top side and began picking off cars. He passed Chad Boat for third on lap 8 and he dove low in turn one on lap 11 to disperse of Brent Beauchamp for second. Bayston continued his surge passing Bright for the lead on the outside on lap 12 and pulled away. Two quick cautions around the halfway mark brought the field back together but Bayston motored away from Bright and the rest of the field. Boat managed to slip by Bright for second on lap 18 and suddenly Michael Pickens found a line 2/3'rds of the way up the track and began to gain ground on the leaders. Pickens entered turn one, banged the cushion and diamonded turn two passing Bright for second one lap later. With eight laps to go Pickens caught and passed Boat for second going down the backstretch and the race was on. Pickens reeled in Bayston and pulled to his rear bumper with five to go when the yellow appeared as a fine run ended for sixth running Brent Beauchamp as he slowed to a stop bringing out the caution. The tension and excitement was fever pitched as the cars came to the green flag for the remaining five laps. Bayston went back out front with Pickens in hot pursuit. Bayston was able to hold off the repeated challenges of the Kiwi and looked like he would hang on for the win but Pickens had not given up. Pickens hung it all out attacking the cushion with reckless abandon pounding it in turn three and diamonding off turn four to the inside to roar by Bayston for the lead as they raced to the white flag. Entering turn one Pickens hit the cushion wrong and it threw him into a half spin but he yanked it hard to the right, maintained control and punched the gas once again with Bayston underneath him trying to take the lead back. They raced side by side down the backstretch and entered turn three with the slight advantage to Bayston as both went high with Pickens diamonding the two turns and diving low out of four with a drag race to the finish. At the line it was Pickens the winner for the second night in a row and his fourth career USAC National win as the crowd was in a frenzy and gave the New Zealander a standing ovation as this one will be talked about for years and years to come when classic finishes are the topic. Lost in this epic battle for the win was the performance of one Tyler Courtney aka Sunshine who blasted from 20th on the grid to bring the Clauson/Marshall #7BC home third with Rico Abreu claiming fourth and Justin Grant in another Clauson/Marshall entry racing from 13th to 5th. As our announcing buddy, Jeff Alhum, would say "WOW, WOW, WOW!!!!" It don't get much better than that. Pat commented to one of the New Zealand fans on hand as to where the Michael Pickens shirts were and she replied that it was all late in coming together to race here and they did not have any made up to which Pat replied they would probably make more money on t-shirts than he got to win tonight.

    After the fans calmed down somewhat we still had two features left to run and the 20 lap mini sprint main event was next up. Rico Abreu ran in fourth behind front runners, Andy Bradley, Rod Henning and Scott Bradley until Andy broke and then Rico made his move. He dispatched Scott for second and passed Henning for first two laps later and went onto victory over two of the best in the MMSA mini sprint ranks.

    The 25 lap sprint car feature would round out the night of speed with the green waving at 10:36. Brady Short would take the Reinbold #19AZ to the lead which he held until Chris Windom breezed by on the backstretch on lap 2. In the middle of the race on a restart Chad Boespflug and Kevin Thomas Jr. banged wheels on the backstretch causing a jam up behind them with Shane Cockrum spinning and run into by Lee Underwood ending Cockrum's night early. Tyler Thomas passed Short for second on the homestretch on lap 19 and looked like a contender. One lap later Thomas rolled to a stop in turn four and was done for the evening. Lap 22 saw leader Windom catch the cushion wrong in turn three and bobble with Boespflug with a head of steam charging after the leader rammed into the rear of Windom and broke the front end. After Boespflug climbed from his wrecked racer in disgust and almost a lap later Tim Creech arrived upon the scene and slid into the disabled #69. What was he looking at?? Windom was still in first on the final restart with three to go but Thomas was now lurking in second and many people were visualizing the night before at Gas City when Thomas stole one from Brady Bacon. Well, he tried here also pulling alongside Windom coming to the line for the checker but fell about 3/4 of a car length short with Windom getting the win. CJ Leary came from 16th to take third with Shane Cottle from 13th to fourth and Brady Short fading to fifth. The final checkered waved at 11:01 capping a fine night of racing in beautiful downtown Putnamville.

    Next stop is Bloomington for the next round of Indiana midget week so check back soon for updates and get out and see some good short track racing of your own.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Cowboy Up Night At Gas City

    Wednesday, June 7 - Night two of the 13th Indiana Midget Week would be contested at the 1/4 mile black dirt oval of Gas City Speedway. A nice crowd turned out on a beautiful, sunny and very windy day in the high 60's. We left our hotel at checkout at 11 and ventured across the street to the Super 8 where our buddy, Zeke, was staying and Pat used the Internet to work while Zeke and I headed over to the nearby track to place our blankets in the ticket line. We were about tenth in line so that would assure a good seat in the tight wooden grandstand tonight. From there we drove into Gas City and found a Mexican restaurant to have lunch at. The food was excellent and we took a takeout meal back for Pat to eat. We left Zeke's room around 2:45, found two good parking spots along the road leading into the track and proceeded to take our place in line and buy our tickets. With the wind blowing fiercely we were glad to have our duct tape to secure the blankets pausing to chat with two fellows from Michigan for a while before going back outside to kick back and talk with fellow fans. Activity track-side started to pick up after 6 PM and we all settled into our seats to enjoy the night of racing that would unfold.

    Time trials for the USAC National Midget series kicked off at 7:10 on a rough cowboy up track that had two cushions, one on the normal top and the other in the middle of turns three and four which made for two distinct racing grooves. When the 41 car field had attempted their time trial runs it was Kyle Larson kicking up some dirt to have some fun from his high pressure NASCAR job setting fast time with a time of 12.386 seconds around the 1/4 mile. The four midget heats were next up with 2016 Belleville winner, Chad Boat, claiming heat one over Brenden Bright, Kyle Larson and Tanner Carrick. Heat two went to the steady Shane Golobic over Rico Abreu, Zach Daum and Justin Grant. Heat three saw the older of the Bright brothers, Alex, scoring the win over Spencer Bayston, Courtney Crone from California in an impressive run and Brady Bacon. Heat four saw another young California lass, Holly Shelton, who has really picked up her game in one of the Keith Kuntz cars beating fellow California driver, Ronnie Gardner, Tyler Courtney and Tanner Thorson. Four heats were needed for the fine 31 car field sprint car field on hand. Brandon Mattox from Terre Haute would go on to win heat one over Logan Jarrett and Robert Ballou. Shane Cottle brought the Paul Hazen #57 home first in heat two over Justin Grant and Tyler Hewitt with Brady Short driving a #19AZ catching the cushion in turn four while leading with his right front wheel digging in launching him into several flips before landing hard on the track. Short was OK after the wild ride. Brady Bacon wrestled the Keen #18 to victory in heat three over Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Gass family #17 and Chris Windom. Heat four saw Ohio's Kyle Simon drive to the victory turning back Isaac Chapple and Colten Cottle where Tony Main took a tumble in turn three during the event.


     

    The midgets would need a C & B main to whittle down the field with Chance Morton fending off PA's Steve Buckwalter with both moving to the back of the B for their efforts. Brad Kraus turned skyward in the C but was OK after his hard landing. New Zealander Michael Pickens just missed qualifying in his heat but redeemed himself by winning the B main with Tyler Thomas, Brent Beauchamp, Jerry Coons Jr., Chance Morton (fine run in B after qualifying from C) and Ryan Robinson staving off a hard charging Steve Buckwalter to claim the last spot in the big dance. Ryan Greth spun and was hit causing him to flip end over end in the B main was no injuries just hurt pride. The track was reworked after the B main and by 10:16 it was time for the 30 lap USAC National Midget series feature.


     

    Alex Bright went out front at the green but Tanner Thorson passed him for the lead off turn four to lead lap one by inches. Lap four found Justin Grant passing Bright for second in turn one but bounced like a pogo stick several times stopping in the turn bringing out the yellow and going to the back of the field. Rico Abreu caught Bright for second on the restart and took off after Thorson. Lap seven saw Abreu execute a smooth slide job on Thorson entering turn three and by turn four had the lead. The two leaders pulled away from the snarling pack as the tandem of Larson, Bacon and Pickens descended upon Bright in third like locusts upon farm crops. By the halfway mark Larson had worked his way past Bright for third, fended off a run by Bright who bobbled and allowed Pickens to sneak by for fourth. Lap 19 saw the action come to a grinding halt as Chance Morton went for a ride in turn one bringing out the red and ending a good run for Morton. Lap 21 saw Larson on the tail of the top two now hustle too hard into turns three and four banging the cushion and stalling ending his chances of pulling off the victory. On the restart fourth running Pickens split the middle on second place running Abreu and third place running Brady Bacon to assume the second position. Lap 22 saw Tyler Courtney who was up to fourth lose power down the backstretch and roll to a halt. He tried to return off the turn four chute but steam from the hood area officially ended the Montpelier winner's evening. On this final restart Pickens applied the pressure to Thorson and with six to go Thorson slipped in the middle of turn four opening the bottom and Pickens dove inside. Thorson countered with a block that had Pickens' car almost doubling as a lawn mower. Pickens recovered and fell in behind Thorson to plot his next move. Brady Bacon was not done yet either as he made a run at Pickens for second but fell short. With four to go the opportunity presented itself as Pickens dove low in turn two and moved by Thorson to take the lead. Pickens pulled several car lengths in front and flashed under USAC starter, Tom Hansing, checkers at 10:40 scoring his third overall and second Indiana midget week victory over Brady Bacon who moved by Thorson on the last lap to take second in the Fred Manafort #76M with Thorson third, Abreu fourth and Spencer Bayston coming from 14th to claim 5th. Tyler Thomas made a late run to grab sixth with Beauchamp home seventh. Golobic eighth, Ronnie Gardner taking the hard charger award advancing from 22nd to 9th and Tanner Carrick rounding out the top five. Pickens admitted in victory lane that he was upset about being penalized back two rows for the start (7th to 11th) due to being late to the lineup grid and had his elbows up the entire distance. It was a good feature go and had the fans buzzing after the finish.


     

    The racing action was not over yet as the wingless sprints had a 25 lap feature to run yet. Brady Bacon went out front at the green and led until lap 7 when Shane Cottle passed him in turn two low for the lead. Cottle looked strong through the middle portion of the race until Bacon reloaded and made a successful run for the lead after the halfway mark. Brady was in command and looked like a sure winner until a late caution appeared and bunched the field back up. Coming off turn four on the last lap there was a wild scramble for the lead with Kevin Thomas Jr. somehow motoring around the top past a sliding Bacon to steal the win at the wire which had the remaining crowd in an uproar. What a finish!! It was especially sweet for the Gass family who are the owners of the mount Thomas drove to the win as it was their first ever sprint car win. Thomas has now won five races this year in four different mounts!! That is impressive! Bacon would finish as the bridesmaid for the second time on the evening with Cottle fending off Justin Grant for third with Robert Ballou passing Jarett Andretti with one to go to claim fifth. The final checker waved at 11:05 and for anyone with a long drive the night of racing surely gave them plenty to talk about and keep them awake as the rough and tumble surface was pleasing to the fans but a nightmare to the car owners who have to repair the damaged cars.


     

    Onto Lincoln Park for round three of Indiana midget week and check back tomorrow for an update. Get out there and enjoy some midweek short track racing in your area if available. Any quotes or comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and thanks for reading our efforts.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    13th USAC Indiana Midget Speedweek Kicks Off At Montpelier

    Tuesday, June 6 - For us it is a long trip over to Montpelier Speedway as it is usually 2 hours and 15 minutes. Tack on another 15 minutes for road construction and rush hour traffic and you have a long, hectic trip. Thank goodness we have good friends from Pennsylvania and Florida with Zeke providing top row seats for us on the homestretch upon our arrival. Warmups were underway when we arrived and a half hour later time trials were underway. In another half hour Kyle Larson had set a new track record of 13.965 seconds around the 1/4 mile track to top the 41 car field. About halfway through time trials the track was dry and dusty and was a prelude of what was in store.

    USAC midget heats were first up with four on tap with four to qualify from each. Shane Golobic brought the Clauson/Marshall #17W home first in heat one turning back 6th starter, Kyle Larson, Alex Bright who moved from fifth to third on the last lap and Justin Peck as Tyler Thomas flubbed up and lost his chance at starting on the pole for the feature event. Heat two saw Tanner Thorson advancing from fourth to win over Tyler Courtney in a second Clauson/Marshall entry with Ronnie Gardner, the four time USAC Western States midget champion, crossing the line third with Chris Windom grabbing the last qualifying position. Heat three saw young Tanner Carrick bring the second Keith Kuntz entry to victory lane over New Zealand driver, Michael Pickens making his first speedweek appearance since 2014, came home second with Justin Grant third and Chad Boat powering into the top four late. Heat four saw the third Keith Kuntz entry driven by Lebanon's Spencer Bayston winning over Zach Daum, Jerry Coons Jr. and Brady Bacon making a fantastic move on the last lap to collar the final qualifying position. The midget heat racing was good considering the track conditions but the 19 car sprint car field who ran three heats next went huggy pole for their heats with passing at a premium. Chris Windom triumphed in heat one driving the Baldwin Brothers #5 over Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Pace machine and Kyle Simon. Heat two went to Jarett Andretti over Matt Goodnight and Colton Cottle. The third and final heat was won by Shane Cottle over Brady Bacon and Gary Rooke. After these heats the track was reworked and the delay was long extending between 45 minutes and an hour. The C main for the midgets was run after the track maintenance and was good with Chance Morton winning over Jake Neuman. The UMP modified heats ran next and by the time the midget B main took the green the dust had returned. Tyler Thomas won this one beating Ryan Robinson and Rico Abreu with Jimi Quin flipping over in turn four during the running of the B, the only flip of the evening.

    The schedule was rearranged with the 30 lap midget feature next up before the modified B main was run. It was 10:31 when the first green flag waved with Alex Bright going into the early lead. Zach Daum took up the chase and caught Bright off turn two for the lead on lap 4 but the caution waved negating the move for the lead. On the restart Bright, Courtney and Bacon went three wide for the lead and the battle was one. Courtney went low in turns one and two one lap later and grabbed the lead away. Bacon did a slide job on Bright in turns three and four to take second and took off after Courtney. Bacon attempted a slide job on Courtney but fell short and dropped back. By lap 10 Courtney had a straightway lead as he entered lap traffic. Courtney was looking good and held a healthy lead when Tyler Thomas stopped in turn four with three laps to go. On the ensuing restart a mad scamble occured behind Courtney among Bacon, Pickens, Bright and Larson who made a late surge to finish behind Pickens for third. Bacon slipped to fourth and Bright was the big loser dropping all the way back to fifth. The hard charger award went to Shane Golobic who charged from 14th to 6th. Courtney won his first ever USAC midget race and became the only driver in USAC history to win their first sprint and midget races during the respective speedweek competition. More importantly Courtney's win in the Clauson/Marshall livery snapped a seven race victory stranglehold on victory lane at Indiana midget week held by Keith Kuntz Motorsports dating back to 2015.

    The 25 lap wingless sprint car feature took the green flag at 11:09 after the modified B main with Brady Bacon jumping from first into the lead. Chris Windom came out of fourth to make several challenges on Bacon but he ws able to fend them off and pull away. In a ten minute feature with only one caution Bacon brought the Todd Keen #18 home first over Windom with Kevin Thomas Jr. third, Shane Cottle fourth and Isaac Chapple being the only sprinter finishing in the top five that started outside of the top five coming from tenth to grab fifth at the finish at 11:19.

    The 20 lap UMP modified feature went to Zeke McKenzie holding off Jamie Lomax and Tony Anderson for the win with the final checker waving at 11:36. To us the night was disappointing though there was some good racing in the heats and part of the midget feature but the track conditions really took away from it being an enjoyable night and the lateness was not good for a midweek show.

    Check back tomorrow for night two from Gas City running for the first time this year. So get out there and enjoy some good midweek short track racing in your area. Take care, be safe and as always thanks for reading.

     

     

    POWRI Speedweek Continues At Jacksonville, Macon & Lincoln

    Friday, June 2 - Another beautiful and sunny day greeted us on Friday as temperatures rose almost to 90 on this great day. Night three of Illinois midget speedweek awaited us at Jacksonville Speedway, a neat 1/4 mile dirt oval located on the fairgrounds with a large covered wooden grandstand running the entire distance of the homestretch and the large crowd seemed to fill most of the seats underneath. It was an all open wheel night with four divisions of POWRi competitors. The WAR East sprints brought 20 to the dance while the midgets packed the pit area with 37 entrants, the 600 micros had a grand field of 39 cars and the D2 midgets added 18 to the impressive overall total.

    Action kicked off at 7:22 with three heats for the sprints with Logan Faucon, Landon Simon who was headed to run with USAC at I-80 in Nebraska until trailer issues forced a day long repair and a visit to Jacksonville and Mario Clouser winning. Five heats were needed for the midgets with Zach Daum prevailing in heat one over Michael Pickens and Tyler Thomas in a real good race. Heat two saw Rico Abreu score the win going away over teammate, Tanner Thorson and Trey Marcham. Logan Seavey having a good series won heat three beating Zeb Wise and Brayton Lynch who will be gradulating from high school on Saturday. Ryan Robinson scored another win for the Keith Kuntz stables taking heat four over Andy Malpocker and Andrew Felker. Heat five went to Tucker Klaasmeyer besting Brad Loyet and Spencer Bayston. Five heats were run for the 600's with Craig Ronk, Nick Howard, Andy Bishop, Jackson Frisbie and Kole Kirkman from Kokomo, Indiana winning. Two heats were run for the D2 midgets with Brent Burrows and Chase McDermand winning. Jake Neuman and Tanner Carrick came back to win the two midget B mains.

    The 25 lap WAR East sprint car feature would be the first feature of the evening with Landon Simon going to the point on the green flag at 9:45. Lap 5 saw the first caution as Mario Clouser rolled to a stop in the infield with motor problems while running in the top five. Lap traffic played a role just passed the halfway mark as Andy Baugh closed in. The best battle was a dogfight for third among Terry Babb, Logan Faucon, Slater Helt and Joe B. Miller. Faucon and Babb made contact on lap 19 and another car also hit Faucon sending him spinning down pit road bringing out the second caution. Simon went out front on the restart with Babb slipping by Baugh for second on lap 21. The checkered waved four laps later on Simon with Babb trailing with Baugh third, Helt finishing fourth after starting tenth and Joe B. Miller rounding out the top five. The young Helt is a guy to watch as this is his first year in sprints after moving up from the micros the previous year. The 30 lap midget feature took the green flag at 10:18 with Tucker Klaasmeyer taking the early lead but the caution appeared quickly as Trey Marcham back his car hard into the turn three wall. Klaasmeyer went back out front and held sway until Michael Pickens passed him at the line to start lap four. Brayton Lynch brought out the red dumping the Rusty Kuntz #1K in turn two on lap 6 and walked away from the crash. Tyler Thomas brought out the second and last caution of the race on lap 14 when he stopped on the homestretch with mechanical woes. Tanner Thorson began to apply pressure to leader Pickens soon after and took the lead on lap 17 from the front runner. The amount of slide jobs going on throughout the field during the entire race was just amazing. Spencer Bayston also slipped by Pickens for second and chased after Thorson and what unfolded was a series of slide jobs between the two with Thorson able to fend off Bayston. On the white flag lap Bayston made one last try to try to unseat Thorson executing a slide job in turn one but Thorson countered with a crossover in turn two and held off the youngster for the remaining two turns to score his second straight POWRi win and 15th career POWRi victory. Pickens held on for third with Rico Abreu fourth and Zach Daum rounding out the top five.

    The 20 lap 600 feature was next up and this one was a dandy also. It went non-stop and Joe B. Miller caught and passed Craig Ronk in heavy lap traffic to take the lead late and go onto his 29th career POWRi 600 win with Nick Howard placing third in a fine run. It looked like the D2 midget feature was also going to go non-stop but one caution ruined that attempt. Andy Malpocker dominated this one winning over Gedd Ross and Broc Hunnell driving a numbered #F5 midget with a tornado painted on the side. Yes, you know you are in the midwest with a number like that!! The final checker flew at 11:10 on a fine night of racing, the best that we have witnessed so far with two nights still to go with all of the features being very competitive and exciting.

    Saturday, June 3 - Tonight's venture for Illinois midget speedweek would be the high banked 1/5 mile black dirt oval called the Macon Speedway. Macon is the essence of the term bullring as its smallness, high banks and seating in close proxsimity to the track itself makes it quite unique. There is seating almost all the way around the oval and there is not a bad seat in the house. There were five divisions on the card tonight with three POWRi ones and two local classes. A fine open wheel field of 36 national midgets, 37 600 micros and 20 D2 midgets filled the backstretch and turns one and two pit area for the racing action for the evening. The midgets would kick off the night with five heats with the first one taking the green flag at 7 PM. Shane Golobic who just flew in from California jumped into a second Clauson/Marshall entry and promptly went out and won the first heat over Brad Loyet and Chance Morton. Heat two saw Michael Pickens run on top of the cushion thorough turns one and two on his way to victory after starting sixth winning over Travis Young and Jake Blackhurst. Austin Brown brought his beautiful #7 home first over Zach Daum and Zeb Wise in heat three. Tucker Klaasmeyer who is looking stronger every time out commanded heat four over Logan Seavey and 13 year old Aidan Roosevans. The last heat was won by Andrew Felker beating Terry Babb and Tyler Thomas. Five heats were spun off for the 600's with winners as follows: Aaron Andruskevitch, Joe B. Miller, Eric Wright from Tennessee, Joey Wirth and Jake Hagopian from California. Three heat races were contested for the D2 midgets with AJ Hill, Andy Malpocker and Gedd Ross taking victories. National midget B mains were scored by Chance Morton and Jimi Quin.

    The 30 lap POWRi midget feature was the first one to the post taking the green flag at 10 with Michael Pickens taking command. The caution waved early as Logan Seavey slowed to a stop by the pit entrance in turn two on lap one. On the green Pickens went back to the point with most everyone else following in the high groove right up to the wall. Zach Daum moved from seventh starting spot into second on lap 2 and pursued and pressured the New Zealander the entire distance. The track rubbered over during the event and might have led to the numerous cautions in the race. Lap 10 saw Terry Babb slow on the backstretch while running in the top five and ending his evening early. Jake Neuman rolled over several times on the homestretch on lap 13 to bring out the red flag. Tyler Thomas' bad luck continued as he couldn't get his midget to fire after the red flag and was pushed into the infield. Chance Morton brought out the last caution on lap 22 when he got into the backstretch wall and stopped. Pickens would take his second checkered of the week over Daum with Zeb Wise third after starting eighth with Brad Loyet fourth and Shane Golobic rounding out the top five. Nick Howard became the 64th different driver to win a race in the 600 class since 2005 taking the lead from Luke Verardi in turn two on the white flag lap after starting 11th on the grid. Verardi finished a disappointing second with Garrett Duff third, Craig Ronk fourth and Joey Wirth finishing fifth. In the D2 midget division Andy Malpocker made it two straight winning over AJ Hill and Broc Hunnell, Andy Baugh from 19th and Shane Morgan. We had the opportunity to meet the 11th place finisher in this division, Mandy Chick from Kansas, at Cracker Barrel early and were impressed by her friendliness and good attitude. It was a decent night of racing but not up to classic Macon standards as the daytime temperatures took a toll on the racing surface.

    Sunday, June 4 - The temperatures soared into the low 90's on this partly cloudy day as the final round of Illinois midget speedweek would be contested at the 1/4 mile dirt oval located on the Logan County Fairgrounds in Lincoln. The five division card consisted of POWRi national midgets (27), POWRi 600's (22), POWRi D2 midgets (22), UMP modifieds (12) and pro late models (8) which were the only division that ran time trials beginning at 5:50. The national midgets were first up with their three heat races and the high flying action started right away as Trey Marcham took a wide ride flipping in turn one of heat one. Zach Daum had his front end clipped as he exited turn four and rolled over but was able to restart also in heat one. Michael Pickens came out of the eighth hole to win heat one over Austin Brown and Shane Golobic. Heat two saw Tucker Klaasmeyer advance from fourth to win over Tyler Thomas and ninth starting Andy Malpocker in a heat which saw Robert Dalby from California and Noah Key from Texas take hard tumbles in turns two and one respectively. They proceeded through heat three without any flips with Zeb Wise from second winning over Jake Neuman and Brad Loyet. The 600's ran three heat with Joe B. Miller, Eric Wright and Craig Ronk winning. The D2 midget heat winners were Gedd Ross, Austin Archdale and Andy Malpocker. Chris Baue out of Indiana took a wild several time end over end flip out of turn four ending up on the bigger track that circles the 1/4 mile and is used as access to the pit area. He was OK after the nasty series of flips.

    The high flying act continued into the POWRi midget feature as Devin Camfield went end over end in turn one on lap one. Michael Pickens who had the most passing points started first and fire off into the lead on the restart. He was on cruise control until lap 11 when Wisconsin's Cody Weisensel tested the catch fence in turn one bouncing off the top and back onto the racing surface. He was OK after this one also. While Pickens continued to race uncontested up front it was not the same for positions four through ten as the snarling pack of cars went at it tooth and nail. Zeb Wise was making up positions diamonding off turn two high and diving low down the backstretch moving into second around the half way mark. Wise would remain in second until Brad Loyet who had several encounters with others in the feature collided with the youngster and when Wise recovered he was back to second. In the meantime the sixth row starters, Logan Seavey and Shane Golobic were gaining ground and Seavey passed Loyet for second and took off after Pickens. Seavey was making up big chunks of real estate as he closed on the Kiwi. He pulled within feet of the rear nerf bar of Pickens until loosing some ground picking the wrong groove to pass a lap car. On the last lap entering turn three Seavey made a monster run and attempted a slide job on Pickens which only brought him side by side with the leader and slammed into the side of Pickens sending him into the fence and causing him to roll over. Luckily Pickens was able to right his machine and restart in the back of the field. It was not an intentional move but on the other hand it was not a smart one either. Even later in victory lane Seavey admitted it was not a good move on his part and he was sorry but Pickens who visited victory lane several minutes later was not accepting any apologies as he had words and wagged his finger at Seavey before returning to the pits. Lost in the wildness after the restart was Brad Loyet breaking on the backstretch while running third and ruining a good finish for the all time leader in POWRi midget competition with 34. The finish turned out to be Seavey home first in his first ever midget victory over Shane Golobic, Zach Daum, Tyler Thomas who finally got the monkey off his back and Tucker Klaasmeyer. Pickens finished 16th which left him in a tie for the speedweek title with Zach Daum but the tiebreaker was number of wins during the week so Pickens with two to Daum's zero gave Pickens the point championship.

    The 20 lap 600 micro feature turned out to be a real thriller with Nick Howard stealing the victory at the line in a photo finish when long time leader, Nathan Benson, refused to leave the bottom to pass a lap car and it cost him the victory by inches. It also gave Howard his 2nd career win in two nights. Jake Hagopian came from tenth to finish third with Travis Senter from ninth to fourth and Joey Wirth rounding out the top five. Gedd Ross would end Andy Malpocker's two straight win streak in the D2 final in which there was a double flip to boot. Malpocker would have to settle for second with Chase McDermand taking third. We stayed to watch the 15 lap UMP modified feature which was won by Allen Wissner in a strong run. It was close to 10 PM (11 ET) and with a 2 hour 15 minute drive home it was time to bid Dale and Gordy goodbye and hit the pavement.

    We really enjoyed the five days of Illinois speedweek racing and appreciate the hospitality shown to us by POWRi owner, Kenny Brown, and his entire staff. The racing was real good and hats off to the quick wrecker services provided by the POWRi gang and the locals also pitching in with their push trucks and tow trucks.

    It is a short one day break and right into six straight nights of USAC Indiana Midget week and check back for reports from the action from this always enjoyable and competitive week of midget racing with the sprint cars as the second division on the card. Until next time remember comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading our efforts.

     

     

     

    First Two Stops (Joliet & Fairbury) On The POWRi Midget Illinois Speedweek

    Wednesday, May 31 - We choose the leisurely backroad route up to Joliet, Illinois avoiding all the hustle bustle of the interstates and bypassing Chicago and arrived after a hassle free 2 hour forty minute cruise. Wisconsin native, Jack Erdman, and former Wisconsin resident, Dale O'Brien waved to us from the massive aluminum grandstands and we joined them for the evening's races. The POWRI national midgets, WAR East wingless sprints, POWRi D2 midgets and UMP modifieds would be racing tonight on the 3/8 mile dirt oval known as the Dirt Oval @Route 66, part of the large Chicagoland Speedway complex which consists of the big asphalt track, the dirt oval and a large drag strip on tons of acreage. The UMP modifieds would be the only division running time trials on the night and they were group qualifying with three cars on the track at the same time. More organizations should adopt this time trial process as it only took 10 minutes to qualify 25 modifieds. Kenny Wallace in his first ever appearance here set fast time with a time of 18.777 seconds around the big 3/8 mile. The POWRi midgets ran three heats for their 24 car field with New Zealand multi-time national midget champion, Michael Pickens, drawing first blood with a heat one victory over Ryan Robinson and Rico Abreu. Heat two saw young California driver, Logan Seavey, in the Brown #4A defeating Tucker Klaasmeyer and Jodie Robinson, a young female racer out of California also. The third heat saw Tyler Thomas take top honors over Spencer Bayston and Tanner Carrick. The UMP modifieds ran two heats with former NASCAR drivers, Kenny Wallace and David Stremme winning. The WAR East sprints ran two heats for their disappointing 12 car field with "Super" Mario Clouser and Ohio's Landon Simon winning. The final division of the evening was the D2 midgets with two heats for their 15 car field with Aaron Schuck and Brad Grimm triumphing. All heat qualifying was completed by 8:40 and no B mains were needed so after some extensive track maintenance we were ready for the main events

    The midgets would get the honor of running first since it is their speedweek and the green flag waved at 9:24. Michael Pickens moved to the point from his first starting position and everyone else took chase. Though Pickens was challenged several times by several opponents he never gave up the top spot. The biggest challenge came from Spencer Bayston on lap 20 when he dove low in turn two but caught the inside berm, turned right and took a series of side over side mixed with end over end flips finally coming to rest against the outside wall standing on his tail tank. Bayston was OK after his nasty flip before the same could not be said for the Keith Kuntz #97. Pickens would race the last five laps unchallenged and flash under the waving checkered flag winning his ninth career POWRi national midget victory over Rico Abreu who started tenth, Ryan Robinson, Logan Seavey and Tanner Thorson who advanced from 11th. Next up was the 25 lap UMP modified feature with $3000 to win. Allen Weisser ran a strong race to beat David Stremme and Jacob Poel to the line. The WAR East sprint cars were next to the post and this turned out to be the best feature of the evening even though only 11 cars started with Thomas Meseraull never making the track after hot laps. At the green rookie, Slater Helt from Harrisonville, MO took the early lead over Landon Simon. Helt continued to lead even extending it over Simon and Mario Clouser. By lap 9 the leaders encountered slower traffic and Simon took advantage passing Helt for the lead. On lap 11 Simon had trouble with some lap traffic and Helt made an aggressive move to retake the lead in a surprise. The first caution appeared on lap 13 when Mitch Wissmiller stopped in turns three and four. Clouser moved by Simon on the restart to take second and pounced on Helt on lap 15 to take the lead and Simon passed Helt for second one lap later. Clouser looked like he was on his way to his first career WAR victory until a bolt on the frame worked loose and caused the left side to drop. He slowed enough for Simon to make a big run off turn four and nip Clouser at the line for the win. Terry Babb charged by Helt with a power move into turn one on the last restart and finished third with Helt fourth and Korey Weyant rounding out the top five. It was now 10:53 and with an hour and a half ride to our hotel in Normal we bid farewell to Jack and Dale and headed for the exits satisfied with our first night of action on the Illinois midget speedweek.

    Thursday, June 1 - We awoke to a beautiful day in Normal, Illinois for the second day of Illinois midget speedweek. Later in the day we made the short half hour drive over to the small town of Fairbury where the racing action would take place at the fairgrounds where the Fairbury American Legion Speedway is located. Joining us this evening in addition to Dale would be trackchasers Allan and Nancy Brown along with Gordy Killian so some spirited bench racing would take place also. We also spotted our buddy, Phil , from the New Castle, Indiana area and invited us to join the gang for the night of fun. Thirty three midgets made the tow to Fairbury and kicked off the evening with four heat races. Fourteen year old Zeb Wise would collar heat one over Tanner Thorson and Austin Brown. Michael Pickens claimed heat two beating Rico Abreu and Tyler Thomas. Logan Seavey notched heat three over Jake Neuman and Andrew Felker. Austrialian Jimi Quin looked good in heat four winning over Tanner Carrick and Jake Blackhurst in which Jodie Robinson was the victim of a bad slide job and pushed into the turn four wall where she flipped over. Her older brother, Ryan, also took a tumble in turn three trying a slide job when he caught the wall and went over in another of the Keith Kuntz stable who has had their share of repair work in the first two nights of speedweek action. Mitch Wissmiller won heat one of the WAR East sprint cars over surprise entrant, Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Pace #44, and Terry Babb. Heat two saw Dustin Smith of Russiaville, Indiana score the win over Logan Faucon and Joe B. Miller. The consistent Kory Weyant won heat three beating out Mario Clouser and Bret Tripplett in an improved count of 19 entrants. Shane Morgan and Mitchell Davis were the heat winners in D2 action over the rest of the 16 car field. Twenty two UMP modifieds rounded out the four division card with Kenny Wallace, Ray Bollinger and Mike McKinney winning. Only the national midgets needed a B Main and all time leading POWRi victor, Brad Loyet (34), copped this race.

    By 9:26 it was time for the 30 lap POWRi midget feature with Michael Pickens jumping into the early lead. The red appeared on lap three when Austin Brown took a mean flip down the backstretch and the good news was that he was OK after the scary tumble. After the restart a dandy battle up front developed with Tanner Thorson taking command from Pickens but only briefly as Zeb Wise went low and grabbed the top spot. One lap later Rico Abreu drove to the cushion and assumed command. Abreu pulled away and led the next 13 laps until Zeb Wise caught the second turn wall and flipped end over end to bring out the second red on lap 24. On the restart Abreu went back out front and looked like a sure winner but Thorson had other plans. He issued a monster slide job diving down low in turns three and four and sliding right in front of Abreu for the lead. Rico tried to counter yanking his car to the left but Pickens was there and the two collided with Abreu looking like a pinball sliding to the right allowing his other teammate, Spencer Bayston, to slip by also. Thorson raced to the checker with Pickens and Bayston in tow with Abreu recovering for fourth with Andrew Felker rounding out the top five. It was a wild finish.

    The action was far from over as the WAR East sprints hit the track for their 25 lap feature at 10:06. Kevin Thomas Jr. came out of the sixth hole to take the lead as the field came to the line to start lap two and powered away. Mitch Wissmiller took up the chase running in second. Thomas encountered lap traffic on lap ten with Wissmiller and third runner, Mario Clouser, closing in on the leader. The yellow would wave on lap 17 when debris appeared in turn one and Mitch Wissmiller was caught up in an accident which collapsed his front end and caused his evening to end in disappointment while running second. Clouser moved into the runnerup position and applied heavy pressure on Thomas trying several slide jobs without success. Lap 21 saw another tangle with Terry Babb running in the top five get the worst of it and he was done for the evening. Clouser continued to dog Thomas over the remaining four laps and went for one last slide job entering turn three on the last lap. The attempt wasn't even close as Clouser drove hard into the side of Thomas taking them both into the fence and buckling Thomas' front end as Corey Weyant dove underneath the melee and drove to victory in a shocker over Slater Helt who started 10th, Joe B. Miller, Bret Tripplett and Andy Baugh who recovered from an earlier spin for fifth. Needless to say Thomas was not too happy about the late turn of events and had a heated discussion with Clouser.

    All was not finished yet as we had two other features to contest with the 20 lap D2 midget feature next up. This one was a very good one as it went green to checker without any interruptions. Mitchell Davis came home first in this hotly contested race with tenth starter, Aaron Schuck, claiming second with Brent Burrows taking the show positon. The 25 lap UMP modified feature was last on the card with Ray Bollinger and Allen Weisser putting on a fine display of clean driving dueling with each other for the top spot over a good portion of the event never touching each other while running side by side. Weisser took the lead from Bollinger but Ray never gave up and inched forward and ended up driving back by Weisser to claim the final checker which waved at 11:22. Good racing with good friends, it doesn't get much better than that!!

    Check back soon as another installment documenting the remaining three events on the Illinois midget speedweek docket will be coming your way. Until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing wherever you end up. Remember any comments or quotes can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading our efforts as we enjoy bringing them to you.

     

     

    Josh Burton Memorial at Bloomington, MSCS Sprints at Lincoln Park & Clauson Indiana Double at Kokomo

    Friday, May 26 - Since our office is observing summer hours on Friday Bruce and I left for Bloomington Speedway at 3 PM to attend the 4th Josh Burton Memorial at the speedway. We originally arrived at 4:40 to place our lawn chairs on the turn one hill and then would venture out for dinner to return at 6:05 to our parking spot up front where the gentleman parked next to us saved it for us with an extra lawn chair. It was warm and cloudy with thunderstorms forecasted for 11 PM so we hoped for an efficient program tonight. After setting up camp on the hill we gazed at the track below us and the surface looked awesome once again and we were pumped for a full night of racing with a fine field of 34 sprints, 25 UMP modifieds, 19 super stocks and 21 hornets on hand to honor the young man who left us all too soon. Just before the first sprint heat hit the track I received a phone call from my friend, Suzie Niemann, who asked if we were safe in the basement. I said no we are sitting at Bloomington at the races waiting for them to start. He said she saw on the news that our hometown of Crawfordsville was being hit by straight line winds up to 70 mph. I checked my phone and saw yellow and red over our area and began to worry. Shortly thereafter another friend, Dan Malek, called to let us know he went over to the house to check on things and everything was fine at our house but sections on Main Street had no fared as well as numerous tree limbs and such were all over the place including one across the street from us which fell on an SUV parked under it smashing its hood and windshield. I thanked Dan for calling and relayed the information to Bruce and breathed much easier knowing things were OK at our house and I could now enjoy the races without worrying.

    The four sprint heats were won by CJ Leary, Shane Cockrum, Kyle Cummins and Brandon Mattox without much passing as the track was fast but had no widen enough yet to produce real good racing but we knew by feature time that would not be the case. The two B mains went to Dave Darland in a one off ride in the Baldwin Brothers #5 subbing for Little 500 runner, Chris Windom, and AJ Hopkins. All qualifying was completed by 9:28 and we were ready for the main events. Some minor manicuring of the surface was done before the green flag would wave on the sprint car feature at 9:52. A good battle up front early was going on with leader, Kyle Cummins, duking it out with Cockrum and Jordan Kinser until Cummins hit the turn two cushion and spun on lap 11. Shortly after the restart Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Pace #44 got into the back of Cole Smith exiting turn two and turned him sideways. Four other cars were involved with three of them getting upside down. In addition to all this a fire developed in the rear of the Thomas machine which was quickly extinguished and he was able to push off and restart. The green didn't stay out long as Brandon Mattox bobbled with AJ Hopkins getting into him and Robert Ballou being collected and spinning on lap 17. By lap 20 Thomas had moved from fourth to grab the lead disposing of the top three runners in one sweeping move. Thomas would lead the rest of the event after starting 12th winning over 17th starting AJ Hopkins who used the high side to perfection in his advancement to the runnerup position. Tyler Thomas in the Jerry Burton #04 had an eventful race almost completely sliding off turn two early dropping him from third to tenth and rebounding to finish third with Jordan Kinser earning a fine fourth and Shane Cockrum clinging to fifth at the finish. Another good sprint car feature tonight on the red clay hills at Bloomington. Keep up the good work track crew!

    Saturday, May 27 - The Midwest Sprint Car Series (MSCS) was invading the Lincoln Park Speedway in beautiful downtown Putnamville tonight and we were looking forward to a return to the 5/16 mile dirt oval. Some over watering problems with turns three and four caused the program to start 45 minutes late after the entire field of 30 wingless sprint cars came out to run in the track. That is something you would not see in too many other areas of the country. The sprint car heats kicked off at 8:13 with Jarett Andretti winning from first over AJ Hopkins, Kevin Thomas Jr. in the backup Brady Short ride followed by Brady and fifth to Robert Ballou. Heat two went to the Paul #24P driven by fire chief, Shane Cockrum of Illinois, Arizona's Stevie Sussex, Brandon Mattox, Nate McMillin and Jadon Rogers. The last two qualifiers were benefactors from a tangle in front of them when Donnie Brackett and Brandon Morin hooked rub rails and stopped on the backstretch. The last heat went to another one off ride for third starter, Chad Boespflug, in the Paul Hazen #57 over Jon Stanbrough in the Wingo #77, Carson Short, Kent Schmidt and Joe Ligouri. The UMP modifieds ran four heats for their 33 car field next, the super stocks two heats for their 17 car field and the bombers four heats for their 31 car field making for a crowded pit area of 111 race cars. This makes for a long evening of racing as all but the super stocks needed B mains also. Dickie Gaines prevailed in the sprint B main over Kyle Cummins in the Bates #21X, Dylan Shaw, Cody Barksdale and Max McGhee grabbing fifth after starting tenth. It was 10:22 when all preliminary qualifying was completed.

    Shortly thereafter at 10:31 the green flag waved on the 25 lap MSCS sprint car feature with Jarett Andretti moving to the early lead pursued by Shane Cockrum and Chad Boespflug. Lap two saw Boespflug slow to a stop on the backstretch with a broken front end. Two laps later Stevie Sussex's car hopped off the inside of turn one into the side of Kevin Thomas Jr. sending Thomas into a series of end over end flips. Thomas was not too happy about the encounter but seemed civil as he discussed the event with Sussex sitting on the backstretch before retreating to the pit area. On the double file restart which is the new norm for MSCS up to the last five laps Sussex again careened into Jarett Andretti this time almost sending Andretti over but he saved it only to encounter one of the infield tires to end his evening early. Sussex was not making any friends on this night for sure! While all of this was going on Robert Ballou had advanced from 13th to 6th in the first six laps. On the restart high side rider, AJ Hopkins, grabbed the lead from Sussex and we went green for six more laps until Sussex hooked the cushion in turn two and spun while running second bringing out the fifth caution. Everyone finally settled down and over the next ten laps the racing for the lead was great with Hopkins swapping the lead back and forth with Brady Short. Brandon Morin ended his bad night catching an infield tire in turn two on lap 22 and spinning ending his evening on the hook for the second time on the night. The last three laps were spun off in good order with Hopkins not seriously challenged. Brady Short bounced off the cushion and found himself dropping from second to fourth over the last three laps. Carson Short motored from ninth to finish second and retain the MSCS point lead with Ballou from 13th to 3rd, Short from tenth to fourth and Shane Cockrum rounding out the top five as the checkered waved at 11:17. We stayed to watch the 20 lap modified feature and were treated to see a first time winner, Cole Parker, triumph over Derek Groomer and Kenny Carmichael Jr. It was now 11:53 and we decided to bag the lawn chairs and head for the exits for the evening.

    Sunday, May 28 - The decision for today was whether to head south toward Haubstadt and catch night #2 of the MSCS sprint weekend or go northeast to the Bryan Clauson Indiana Double at Kokomo. We opted for Kokomo and with these two choices you couldn't go wrong either way unless rain raised its ugly head. We sat in the Kokomo parking lot never venturing into the grandstands to see if the last storm would bypass or dump on the 1/4 mile bullring. Unfortunately it was the latter as it poured for about 10 minutes and the evening was washed out but yes Haubstadt got their racing in. Plan C was a visit to the Olive Garden in Kokomo for a delicious dinner as I guess not all was lost.

    Monday, May 29 - The weather was much better on Memorial Day and we set our Nissan Rogue toward the baddest bullring in the country. On tap today were the wingless sprints and the midgets. The sprints brought a quality field of 26 but the midget field was anemic at 9. Probably due to the two upcoming midget weeks, POWRi in Illinois followed by USAC in Indiana the field was slim but we expected much more support from the D2 midgets that normally run at Montpelier and were rained out on Saturday. We secured our seats in the grandstand and upon exiting the track we ran into many friends and had numerous chats before finally returning back to the SUV to secure sweatshirts and our writing pad. Our California friends, Max and Suzie Niemann, would be joining us tonight and we were looking forward to seeing them also.

    Group time trials for the sprint cars were first up to determine starting positions for each heat group with the top four in each group inverted with Justin Grant setting overall fast time. In heat action, heat one saw Chad Boespflug in the Hoffman #69 prevail over Jarett Andretti, Max McGhee who passed Jon Stanbrough for third on the last lap and Tony DiMattia grabbing fifth. Stevie Sussex in the Dutcher #17GP was challenging Stanbrough for third on the last lap when he drifted too high in turn four and rolled several times down the homestretch before stopping near the flagger's stand. Sussex would surprisingly return for the B main after his tumble. Heat two saw Dave Darland come from the inside of row two to top this one in the Ohio based Hery #40 which was a rocket ship tonight. Chris Windom was all over him but a flat tire late relegated him to the B main. Justin Grant, Shane Cottle, Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Gass #17 tonight and Isaac Chapple followed. The last heat saw CJ Leary looking strong from fourth to first quickly and winning over Tyler "Sunshine" Courtney, Robert Ballou, Travis Hery and Tyler Hewitt. Two midget heats cranked up next with Justin Peck winning heat one in the Irwin family #7K and Davey Ray claiming heat two. The sprint B main was run before intermission with Stevie Sussex not only returning to run the B but moving from 10th to 1st in just two laps. Chris Windom used the high side and actually passed Sussex late to claim the B main with Colton Cottle third, Josh Spencer fourth and Tim Creech securing the last qualifying position. The much needed track rework was accomplished while the top two finishers in each heat had a redraw with the volunteer kids picking soda cans with numbers on the bottom to determine the front three rows. Dave Darland and Tyler Courtney were the happiest with their youngsters selecting the one and two cans.

    Tom Hansing's green flag would wave on the field at 8:09 with Darland shooting to the lead. The outside groove was the preferred route on the re-groomed to perfection surface with Grant being one of the few early to venture down low where he advanced several positions after starting sixth. The pace was fast and furious with Darland retaining the lead until lap seventeen when Tyler Courtney stormed by the veteran for the lead. Using one of Bob Kinser's patented moves (noted by Darland in his victory lane interview) entering turn one two laps later by diving low and sliding high in turn two took the lead back from Courtney and would never look back. Grant slipped by Andretti for third two laps later and closed on the leaders. Things came to a halt for the only time during the main event when CJ Leary spun and rolled over in turn two on lap 28. The partisan crowd was on edge for the restart as the local legend would have to hold sway the two hot running young men in his wake. Darland was up to the challenge and flashed under Hansing's white and black flag to claim another victory at Kokomo over Courtney and Grant with Jarett Andretti fourth and Robert Ballou just barely holding off a charging Chris Windom to claim fifth. Windom sliced and diced his way from 16th to 6th in the hard charger of the event. The surface was prime time Kokomo standards for the feature and the drivers attacked it with reckless abandon. The well spoken Darland parked it in victory lane and spoke of Bryan Clauson with respect on this Indiana Double night at Kokomo and how honored he was to win this race.

    We still had the 20 lap midget feature to spin off and Justin Peck made quick work of this one in 13 minutes with three cautions fending off Davey Ray, 14 year old Zeb Wise, Aussie Jimi Quin and Logan Arnold in the final rundown with the final checker waving at 8:51 capping off an almost perfect Memorial Day weekend.

    Until next time when columns will filter in from POWRi Illinois midget week keep dry and attend some good short track racing in your area. Comments and thoughts can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading our efforts and hope you enjoyed the commentary.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Rain, More Rain & Grand Opening Of New Dirt Track At Baer Field Motorsports Park

    Friday, May 19 - It was another dreary day in the midwest and the outlook for racing was bleak at best. I started to check the track websites, twitter and other online sources for cancellations of Friday's racing. The original plan was to go to Tri-City on Friday for a USAC sprint/midget doubleheader and then onward to Fayette County Speedway in Brownstown, Ilinois for Saturday's POWRi midget show. The forecast was the worst of the entire areas checked and the trip was scrapped even before Tri-City pulled the plug early on Friday morning. Belle-Clair, Farmer City, Kankakee and Lincoln followed suit in Illinois. Chandler in southwest Indiana also threw in the towel. So it was now down to two. Kokomo was running All Star Sprints while Bloomington was running a regular program with wingless sprints on fan appreciation night with $5 admission. Kokomo succumbed in mid-afternoon with Bloomington holding on until heavy rain struck shortly after Kokomo's cancellation and all was lost for Friday.

    Saturday, May 20 - The weather was slightly better today but many tracks again bowed to the wetness. Lawrenceburg was one of the only remaining tracks still running by late afternoon and the forecast looked good until around 10 PM. We decided to make the 2 1/2 hour tow and it was a Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series (BOSS) so we knew this Ohio based wingless group would bring a good field of cars into Lawrenceburg. When we arrived at 6:00 it was warm and humid and the BOSS group did not disappoint us with a stout field of 40 sprinters including some USAC regulars such as Justin Grant, Max McGhee, CJ Leary, Landon Simon and Isaac Chapple. Five heat races for the sprinters kicked off at 7:10 and were quite entertaining with Landon Simon winning heat one over Brady Short who made a charge from the rear and Kody Swanson. Heat two saw CJ Leary triumph over Dustin Smith and Brandon Morin who has been running strong lately. Dickie Gaines won heat three over Kirk Jeffries and JJ Hughes. Shawn Westerfeld ran away with heat four beating Jarett Andretti and Justin Grant. The fifth and final heat was won by Max McGhee in a strong run over Brandon Mattox and Jordan Kinser. The UMP modifieds followed with three strong heats before the hornets hit the track for the first of four heats for their division. Around this time the weather was moving from the southwest into the Lawrenceburg area and glancing off turn four you could see the lightning in the distance. After the first hornet heat we looked at each other and decided to retreat to the Rogue to sit it out and hope the weather missed us. Shortly thereafter the announcer asked the crowd to exit from the aluminum grandstands and seek shelter. Looking all around us we realized it was all but over. In a few minutes before it actually began to rain the remainder of the program was canceled and it was announced that rain checks were still valid as all the qualifying had not been completed. The rainchecks were good for the rest of the year with the exception of the Memorial Day WOO show and could be traded in at the ticket booth the next time you came plus cash if the program you choose was more than the $17 for this event. Oh, well they tried their best and the weather arrived sooner than anticipated so that is the way it goes sometimes. We appreciate Lawrenceburg management for giving it a good try and pushing the show along without delays to try to beat the approaching bad weather.

    Sunday, May 21 - Sunday dawned with some morning showers but the forecast was for it to clear up and be cloudy the rest of the day. The new 1/4 mile dirt track located inside the 3/8 mile asphalt oval at Baer Field Motorsport Park was having their grand opening today after yesterday's activities were rained out. Joining us today at the races would be nearby resident, Roger Ferrell, and Allan and Nancy Brown coming down from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Upon arrival at the track we were surprised to see a very light crowd on hand to witness today's racing action. The track crew was hard at work preparing the racing surface after the last few days of rain and reports were that the fourth turn of the dirt oval was underwater this morning. You have to give credit to the promoter, Dave Muzzillo, as he could have easily thrown in the towel declaring the surface unraceable but he stuck with it and given the size of the crowd, around 300, I personally couldn't have blamed him for calling it an early day. With the combination of whipping the surface into shape along with first day problems the program started behind the eight ball from the beginning with heat racing delayed by two hours from the original starting time.

    This is where I place the burden on the visiting sprint car organization, the Sprints On Dirt (SOD) group. Instead of having a Plan B in place for unforseen instances such as this they still insisted on running time trials for their 25 teams on hand wasting another 35 minutes for a process that only determines the starting positions in the heat races for the competitors. Why not have a pill draw to determine the starting spots for the heat races and do away with the time consuming time trials or even group time trials with three or four cars at a time if the organization insists on time trials? Believe me I am not solely picking on SOD but also questioning all the other major players in the sprint car business on their rigid policies for qualifying and race procedures! Some may say that the drivers and teams would not support such an idea but if it is in place ahead of time and explained to each and every one that it would only be used in case of bad weather or other unforseen problems to save time and complete a show I think it would be accepted. Enough on that and back to the racing at hand.

    There were three other support classes on hand: front wheel drive (4), bombers (3) and super streets (13) along with the SOD sprints (25). The first heat began at 8:05 and all qualifying including the sprint B main were finished by 9:33. The three SOD sprint heats were decent though their was a rough area between turns three and four that jostled a few cars out of control. Greg Wheeler, a 69 year old veteran driver, racing a crate engine in his sprinter only lasted until the backstretch of the first heat when an aborted start saw him climb the rear tire of another competitor and roll over. The SOD group is interesting as they have very few rules and no engine limit in effect. This allows anyone from a crate engine or a 305 engine upward to race with the spec tires on the rear wheels being the equalizer. On some of the surfaces and smaller ovals there is no real advantage to having a big block monster of an engine to compete. Heat winners were Landon Simon racing for the first time ever with a wing on top along with Brett Mann and Dain Naida.

    The first feature of the evening took the green flag at 9:42 with the front wheel drive going 15 laps in distance. It only took seven minutes to run and might have been the reason that the three bombers ran their 15 lapper to give the sprints more time to get ready for their 30 lap main event but with the hour being late we would have perferred the sprints first. Anyhow at 10:14 it was time for the 889th SOD feature with Joe Swanson taking the early lead but third starting Shawn Valenti from Fostoria, Ohio gained the top spot before crossing the line to complete lap one. Valenti would lead the entire distance but actually this was a good race as Swanson and Simon were always in his shadow applying pressure to the top runner. There was a good amount of passing and only one caution and one red that slowed the action as the track came around and proved to be pretty racy. At the checker flag at 10:48 it was Valenti winning his first SOD feature over Swanson with Simon third, overall fast timer, Thomas Schinderle, placing fourth after starting seventh with Steve Irwin rounding out the top five.

    For the first effort at Baer Field for their new 1/4 mile it was trying but they stuck with it and apolized numerous times for the late start and late finish and in a good will gesture by Dave Muzzillo for the fans supporting him in his new venture with their rain checks fans could return to a future show on dirt in 2017 for half price ($10) by presenting their rain check at the ticket booth. We wish the best to Muzzillo and his entire staff at Baer Field and hope that better weather will allow them to get back on track.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    MOWA Sprints Invade Bloomington & POWRi Midgets Storm Macon

    Friday, May 12 - USAC was at Eldora in a doubleheader with WOO so the wingless sprints had the night off on the red hills of Bloomington. The winged 410 sprints of the Midwest Open Wheel Association ( MOWA) replaced them on this evening joining the UMP modifieds and the Super Stocks. The crowd was a little down from a normal wingless night and since we arrived a little later than usual we were fornunate to secure a top row space for our lawn chairs. The racing action kicked off at 7:17 with time trials for the 25 winged warriors that were pitside. At 7:31 Kody Kinser had set fast time with a lap of 9.474 seconds around the high banks of the 1/4 mile bullring. Next up were the three heat races for the MOWA sprints with Paul May of Terre Haute running away with heat one winning over Ryan Bunton and Kody Kinser. Heat two saw Logan Faucon pull away from Danny Smith and Brad Loyet. Local Ethan Barrow outpaced Parker Price Miller and Jacob Wilson in heat three with all the winners coming off the front row. The super stocks spun off three heats for their 16 car field and the UMP modifieds contested three heats for their 20 car field. Only the sprint cars would need a B main with Andrew Mcelhannon aceing this one. All preliminary qualifying was in the books by 9:22 with only the three features left to contest.

    The green waved on the 25 lap super stock feature at 9:28 and turned out to be a good race. Jamie Wilson held off 11th starting Steve Peeden to pick up the win in this one spun off in 14 minutes. Next up was the 25 lap MOWA sprint car feature with Paul May blasting off the outside of the front row to take the lead away from Brad Loyet. Brandon Hanks caught the rut in turn two wrong and bounced twice before turning turtle. He was fine after the light tipover. Dakota Jackson who usually runs wingless brought out the second caution when he went over the bank in turn three on lap 9 and was pushed off soon afterward. The last caution appeared on the restart when Cory Bruns slid off turn two. May looked awful strong tonight and looked like he was going to win this one but California youngster, Carson Macedo in the Gaerte #3G, had other ideas and executed the winning move low in turn three on lap 14. May's wing had some problems which caused him to slow over the remainder of the distance with Parker Price Miller also moving by May for second. He took up the chase of Macedo but Macedo was not to be denied as he flew under the checkered flag at 10:27 beating Price Miller, May, Loyet and Michael Terry. The 25 lap UMP modified feature closed the evening and it was a good one with Richie Lex sneaking back by Jacoby Hines late to grab the win with the final checker flying at 11:06. It was a good night of racing on a finely groomed track and we left happy and satisfied on witnessing a good night of high speed racing.

    Saturday, May 13 - There is one nice thing about driving into Illinois to the races. It gives me more time to get things done at home before leaving for the track. When we cross the Indiana/Illinois stateline we gain an hour in the Central time zone. But then even when we see a well-run show we lose that hour when we come back and it makes for a short night of sleep. However, there are some tracks across that state line that are worth losing sleep over and my favorite is Macon Speedway. I will never forget the first time I came to Macon. The late models were running and I could not believe that late models could run on the 1/5 mile high banked oval. I was wrong and on that night Macon became one of my favorite tracks. Tonight the POWRi Midgets were running the 1/5 mile oval along with the POWRi 600 cc Outlaw Micro Sprints. The midgets are without wings and the 600’s with wings. Macon was built back in 1946 by Wayne Webb for the main purpose of racing midgets and boy did he get it right.

    We arrived at 6:40 under sunny , cloudless skies. The temperature was in the 80’s and there was a steady breeze blowing across the flat farmland surrounding Macon, Illinois. Along with the midgets and 600’s were three of the normal Saturday night divisions;

    street stocks, pro late models and the staple of the Midwest, the hornets. The program started with time trials for the late models and racing started promptly at the 7:00 starting time. When the track is only 1/5 mile it does not take long to click off the laps.

    In one hour and ten minutes 14 qualifying heats were run off. Of those 14 heats there were four each for the midgets and 600’s. They were fast furious and awesome. They followed this with some minor track prep. Although I do not know why. I thought the

    track was awesome. This followed with B mains for the midgets and 600’s and the 15 lap street stock feature won by fan favorite , Jeremy Nichols. Now it was feature time for the midgets.

    The 30 lap main event started at 9:11 and it seemed within seconds the red was out. Daniel Adler pirouetted and rolled over in turn 4. Bottom line was the first 15 laps had three cautions and two minor reds. The second 15 laps were mean and green and had

    some damn good racing. I am beginning to wonder does someone ask Tanner Thorson to spin while running up front so he can put on a show for the fans. Thorson was running third on lap 7 when he spun in turn two, which relegated him to the rear. He

    was running in 6th eight laps later when the final caution of the race came out. Two laps later under green he was third. I thought here he comes but Zach Daum and Tyler Thomas said no. Thomas who is on a hot streak made an unbelievable slide job in turn 4

    on lap 20 to take the lead from Daum, who then had to hold off a challenging Thorson. Daum and Thorson raced through lapped traffic and I really do not know how they did it. It was awesome. When the checkered flew it was Tyler Thomas once again standing in

    victory lane followed by Daum and Thorson. Jake Neuman and Logan Seavey rounded out the top five.

    Now it was time for the 600’s to run their 20 lap main event. The 600’s have wings and you would swear they are flying around this track. They are scary fast and they are everywhere. There is not an inch of the surface they do not utilize. The race was

    slowed 3 times for minor caution but there was a brief delay when after the second caution the ambulance had to leave the grounds. Within 5 minutes racing resumed. Joe. B. Miller came home the winner followed by Craig Ronk and Slater Helt.

    It was 10:02 when we headed to the car. That would be 11:02 Eastern time. It was a very well run show and the surface was perfect. After a sunny, hot breezy day there was not a speck of dust. Coming here just confirmed why this is my favorite Illinois track. We will be back for POWRi Midget week later this season. Not to mention for the Lucas Oil Late Models in July.

    Thank you Mr. Webb for thinking of building a race track in the small community of Macon back in 1946.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Kokomo Saves Another Wet Weekend In Indiana

    Friday, May 5 - The plan was to go to Bloomington Speedway but the rainy week curtailed that as Bloomington threw in the towel around 5 PM on Thursday. Many drivers headed west to run with the POWRi midgets and WAR sprints running in Missouri at Valley Speedway and Lucas Oil Speedway. It was especially a smart move for Oklahoma's Tyler Thomas who drives the Jerry Burton #04 sprinter normally at Bloomington and Lincoln Park as he knocked off the POWRi midget feature win on Friday.

    Saturday, May 6 - The rain rolled out on Saturday afternoon but the damage was done as all the Indiana dirt tracks postponed for the evening with only the asphalt tracks running in the Hoosier state. It was still cold and windy on this day so we decided to not venture west into Illinois or east to the Indy Speedrome as the steady wind dampered our entusiasm to go racing.

    Sunday, May 7 - Sunday dawned sunny but a bit chilly and again the persistant wind was blowing stoutly. The Kokomo website was checked and confirmed that they were running so after attending a luncheon at church we returned home and changed clothes before heading for the Baddest Bullring in Indiana. We stopped at an antique store in Burlington before pulling into the parking lot at Kokomo around 5 and were surprised to find only a small crowd on hand and a parking spot in the front row behind the main grandstands. Guess only the diehards would turn out for the King of Kokomo program on tap this evening with non-wing sprints, midgets and hornets on the card. The fields were impressive with 35 sprints, 30 midgets which were a mixture of regular midgets and D2 midgets and 16 hornets to push the overall count count to 81. With the sun and steady wind the O'Connor family decided to work more water into the surface and bypassed the starting time of 5:45 and pushed it back to 7:25. Normally we don't like to see a track start racing late but it was the proper decision to present the best surface possible and keep the dust to a mininum unlike the last outing when the dust was the worst we have seen it at Kokomo. With the wind blowing north to south straight across the homestretch grandstands it was welcomed that the surface was prepared properly.

    The four sprint car heats kicked off the night of racing with three 9 car heats and one 8 car heat with only 4 to qualify so you had to run hard to crack the starting field. Thomas Meseraull vaulted fro sixth to win heat one over Isaac Chapple, Kyle Robbins and Billy Cribbs. Heat two action saw Tyler Thomas making the 7 1/2 hour two back from Missouri to guide the Burton #04 to victory over a great battle for second won on the last lap by Kevin Thomas Jr. taking a shakedown run for the Hodges' family in the #74 nipping Jarett Andretti and Chris Windom. Tyler Courtney, the Saturday night POWRi midget winner at Lucas Oil Speedway, brought the Topp #23C home first over Max McGhee, Stevie Sussex the Dutcher #17GP and CJ Leary. Shane Cottle brought the Paul Hazen #57 out of the second row and barely held off Justin Grant, Saturday night's WAR sprint car winner at Lucas Oil Speedway, Brent Beauchamp and Brady Short. Four midget heats were next up with Iowa native, Davey Ray, winning in a race where Keith Williamson flipped his midget several times on the homestretch while running third and gingerly climbed from his battered machine. Colten Cottle scored the win in heat two with Chris Windom bringing the Baldwin Brothers #5 midget home first in heat three with Jerry Coons Jr. mastering heat four. All heat action was finished in 55 minutes. Two B mains were needed for each division with Colten Cottle winning sprint B main #1 over Corey Smith while Tony DiMattia won B main #2 over Aaron Farney to round out the 20 car starting field. Two D2 midget drivers, Aaron Leffel and Cole Fehr, notched the two midget B mains. After a manicure of the racing surface it was feature time for the non-winged sprinters.

    The front row of Tyler Thomas and Thomas Meseraull brought the field to the green flag of starter, Tom Hansing, with Thomas jumping into the early lead. Thomas opened up some breathing room on the field with Meseraull, Courtney, Cottle, McGhee and Grant duking it out for positions in the top five. Tyler Courtney was pushing the cushion and charged into second and took up the chase of Thomas. He closed and pressured Thomas through the middle portion of the race and looked to be ready to pounce on Thomas and into the lead. Meseraull spun in turn four on lap 17 while running fifth for the only caution of the event. When Hansing's green waved again Thomas went to the point with Courtney breathing down his back with Justin Grant all over Courtney waiting for him to make a mistake. That came on lap 22 in turn three when Courtney jumped the cushion allowing Grant to power by and into second. The hottest non-winged driver in the country smelled another one in the McGhee #11 and hounded Thomas for the top spot. Meanwhile another Thomas, this one being Kevin, in the Hodges' car was making up some serious real estate and got by Courtney for third and began to reel in the front two. Thomas kept his cool and held off all the advances of Grant and flashed under the checkered flag first at 9:57 to score his first ever Kokomo win. Thomas was almost speechless in victory lane as the Collinsville, Oklahoma driver let the moment sink in. Grant came home second with Courtney third, Kevin Thomas Jr. fourth and CJ Leary marching from 15th to finish 5th and receiving the hard charger award of $250 on the evening. It was a good, exciting feature race which you come to expect when you visit the Baddest Bullring in Indiana.

    The racing was far from over as the midgets had twenty circuits around the 1/4 mile to decide their winner on the evening with 6 D2 midgets making the 20 car starting field. Chris Windom took the early lead from his first starting positon beating second starter, Davey Ray, to turn one. Jerry Coons Jr. edged by Ray on lap two to take second and pursued Windom for the number one position. Windom slid sideways in turn four on lap 5 and stopped with Coons making contact and suddenly Ray was the new leader. Ray was not going to look this gift horse in the mouth and took off on the restart. The next stoppage occured on lap 14 when Nick Hamilton flipped exiting turn four. He was OK after the crash. Ray again went to the point on the restart but the race was on with four drivers close behind taking turns challenging Ray but each time he was able to maintain control. The aggresors were Colten Cottle, Gage Walker, Dave Darland and 14 year old Zeb Wise behind the wheel of one of the Clauson/Marshall midgets. Wise who a year ago was wheeling a 600cc mini sprint around the small ovals of Indiana such as US 24, Fort Wayne and Miami County was now in one of the premier midget rides in the country. He is someone who keep an eye on as he is very talented. Davey Ray raced to victory at 10:28 winning over Cottle with Wise advancing from 12th to 3rd at the end with Gage Walker claiming fourth and Dave Darland rounding out the top five in an interesting and entertaining event. Another good night at our favorite track in the good old USA.

    Until next time where POWRi midgets at the 1/5 mile bullring of Macon are on the radar for Saturday with Friday still up in the air due to weather once again get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Any thoughts or other comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading our efforts.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Dismal Weather Weekend in Midwest But Speedrome Comes Through

    Friday, April 28 - The expected bad weather rolled into Illinois and Indiana during the day on Friday. The only track able to sneak in their show was Plymouth Speedway with the WOO sprint cars but the distance to travel in the iffy weather and the cost of admission ($37) kept us at home for the evening. Watching a U-Tube highlight film it looked like a good feature with David Gravel grabbing the lead coming to the white flag from Jason Sides and holding on for his fifth win of 2017.

    Saturday, April 29 - Today turned out to be another rain filled day and we had an appointment on the Southeast side of Indianapolis to take a look at some 2016 Nissan Rogues' on sale at Enterprise Car Sales. The afternoon ended with us purchasing one with only 18,250 miles on the odometer and trading in the 2011 Hydunai Sonata with close to 138,000 miles. It was a fair deal and after finishing up the deal in late afternoon we went to celebrate at Texas Roadhouse where Pat mentioned maybe we should check in with the Indianapolis Speedrome, a 1/5 mile flat asphalt oval with a figure 8 track through the infield to see if they possibly were running this evening. To our surprise the answer was yes so it was a short 10 minute drive over to the track under cloudy skies with a steady wind blowing out of the east which was relentless. Jonathan Byrd of cafeteria fame and sponsor of the late Bryan Clauson's Indianapolis 500 ride has taken over the track president's reins and is trying to breathe life back into the 76 year old facility which was built in 1941 on swamp land. Well, we must say that things are looking up at the grand old lady as 1000+ fans paid their way into the track to watch six division program including the USSA Kenyon Midget series which brought 11 contestants to the dance for the evening. Time trials were run for the Kenyon midgets and Kyle Hamilton set fast time with a time of 12.238 seconds.

    Trying their hardest to beat the next wave of rain heading from the west they started the racing 10 minutes early at 6:50 and continued straight through without a break in the show. First up were three heats for the largest field in attendence, the Front Wheel Drive division with 24 in the pit area. The USSA Kenyon midgets were next up for their two heats with Ryan Huggler and Dameron Taylor coming out victorious in their respective runs. Two faskart (karts with bodies) heats were next for their 13 car field and then one heat for the 6 car thundercar field. All qualifying was over in less than an hour and then it was right into the 25 lap late model feature with 12 cars taking the green flag at 7:42. These late models have plexiglass side panels and also double as a figure 8 division that runs as the last feature of the evening. Chad Sizemore won the entertaining non-stop contest on his birthday in just 6 minutes and was very excited in victory lane. He topped John Conner Jr. and Casey White in a very competitive race.

    The 50 lap USSA Kenyon midget feature was next to the post with the green flag waving at 7:56. It is difficult to pass on the flat surface on the outside groove but indeed there was some passing through the course of the feature. Kyle Hamilton who started fifth stalked Kyle O'Gara for 12 laps and finally was able to take the lead on a lap 13 restart with an inside move entering turn one. Dameron Taylor also filled the hole and took second from O'Gara at this point and Trey Osborne from ninth claimed third with O'Gara shuffling all the way back to fourth. Taylor dogged Hamilton the remainder of the distance through another four restarts but was able to find a way around Hamilton who backed up his win from the previous Saturday at Fort Wayne with his second win in a row. Taylor finished second with O'Gara picking off Osborne to reclaim third, Osborne fourth and Logan Huggler rounding out the top five with the checker waving at 8:16. It was an interesting race with some passing and turned out to be much better than we initially thought it was going to be. We decided to watch the 25 lap faskart feature which might have been a mistake as they banged and crashed to the tune of four cautions and one red before this one was over 25 minutes later. In a first for both of us one disgruntled driver after crashing in turn four walked over to the car he felt was responsible and had a talk with the other driver. Suddenly the offended driver took the car in front of him and turned it over onto its side and walked away! Never saw that before in our 50+ years of attending races!! It was quite surprising and drew a laugh from the good sized crowd on hand. Kyle Dowling won over Dave Drinkard and Ryan Cherry with this checker flying at 8:48. We wanted to stay and watch the remaining three features but the wind had taken its toll on us and being underdressed for the cold weather decide to call it an evening. We stopped for a quick dinner at Taco Bell before heading back west toward Crawfordsville. On the way back we encountered heavy, heavy rain in the Jamestown area and pulled into a rest area to wait it out for a while until it passed before resuming our trip home. Well, we were able to sneak a race in on a day we never expected to see one and that is always nice. If you wondered the Speedrome did get the entire program in the books on this evening and hats off to them for taking a gamble and running on an evening when it could have been a financial bath if the hearty fans had not supported the well run show.

    Hoping for a three race weekend coming up with three sprint races in Indiana but the weather could drive us elsewhere so check back next week to see where we ended up and/or if we were able to see some racing. So until next time get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area and stay warm if the cold weather heads toward you. Questions and 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

    Cold Weekend In Midwest But Still Able To Notch Two Good Races

    Saturday, April 23 - It was Saturday, April 23rd and the temperature sure changed from the prior week. It was like April. But then it is April and the unseasonably warm weather we had been enjoying really spoiled us. We were headed toward my very favorite track to watch a race. I can sit back in my canvas folding chair with our cooler sitting in between us. It is so relaxing just to watch a race here. Not to mention the racing is usually very good. We arrived at Lincoln Park Speedway at 6:00 to a very light crowd but I was sure the weather had something to do with it. On Thursday and Friday there was a lot of rain storms in the area but today there was no rain and when a lot of the other tracks cancelled LPS said they were running. LPS always does whatever it takes to get the show in. The fans know this and by race time the crowd was close to that of a normal Saturday night. The track surface was not what I would call normal for LSP but that was okay because they were running. There were 19 sprints, 27 UMP modifieds, 12 super stocks and 27 bombers. Racing started at 7:13 with the first of three sprint heats which were run off with little to do. As a matter of fact all the qualifying heats of which there were 12 were spun off in a little over an hour. Management did not take an intermission on this eve as the fans sat bundled in blankets in the stands. We went right into the two needed B main and straight to the sprint feature. By the time we got to the feature, the track slicked over black, the turns were a little rough and it was dusty but that did not stop the action on the track. The first caution came out on lap 1 and five more waved prior to the checkered falling but when the green was out the drivers at LPS proved that you do not need to have a perfect surface to put on one hell of a show. My pick to win was Brady Short in the 11p, who was starting in 5th and Bruce agreed. Well Short did move to the front on a restart after the second caution and lead the event until another #11 showed up, that of Justin Grant. It then became the battle of the 11’s as they ran side by side for several laps. Then out of nowhere the 44 of Kevin Thomas Jr. comes on to the scene. KT started in 12th and had been moving up through the field. We had ourselves a dog fight for the lead which came to a halt when the caution waved on lap 22. On the restart it was Grant, KT and Short. KT took the lead and Short moved into second. The caution came out again on lap 24 and in the final laps Grant moved back up into 2nd. When the checkered fell it was KT in the Pace #44, from 12th place, in victory lane. This was the first time the Pace car was in victory lane since 2009. Grant, who started 9th came home second, Short third after starting 5th and the front row of Brett Beauchamp and Shane Cockrum rounded out the top 5. It was a very good race and since KT is my favorite driver in Indiana I loved the outcome.

    We stayed for one more feature, that of the modifieds which was won by Jeff Deckard. At this point we opted to load up and go home. I say load up because aside from the 2 chairs and the cooler we had a total of 5 blankets. No I was not cold a one bit. As we walked out to the car I looked back and said a silent thank you in my mind to LPS management for not canceling tonight’s show. It was one satisfying event.

    Sunday, April 24 - Today turned out to be the warmest day of the weekend with temperatures moving into the low 70's during the day but still dropping into the high 50's once the sun went down. The Kickapoo Motor Speedway, a 1/4 mile dirt oval located on the grounds of the Vermillion County Fairgrounds in Danville, Illinois was our destination for a late afternoon start with the non-wing 410 sprints headlining the five division program. The ever present wind (at least this weekend) again blew the whole day long and of course when we arrived at the track it was blowing straight into our face. Pat secured our blanket with tape a few rows from the top of the upper grandstand and we sat in the car for a while as we had arrived early. Sprint car group qualifying was suppose to commense at 4:30 with racing beginning at 5 but that time frame passed as the track crew worked on watering the dry looking surface. We knew in advance that this track which does not run weekly (mostly biweekly alternating between Friday and Sunday) was not going to be as well groomed as the normal Indiana sprint car track but even I was surprised at the dust clouds that rose from the track surface when the sprint cars took hot laps. The promotors are the Daugherty family which run the Daugherty Speedway in Boswell, IN on Saturday nights and prepare a different type surface usually for late model and UMP modified racing.

    Group qualifying for the sprint cars began at 5:15 and ended at 5:40 for the good sized sprint car field checking in at 29 with a mixture of Illinois and Indiana cars. The seven pro late models on hand ran their heat next and then it was right into the four sprint car qualifying events. Jarett Andretti walked off with the first heat over Ohio's Landon Simon and Travis Berryhill of Oklahoma who works in the Brownsburg, IN race shop of Don Schumacher Racing, a top NHRA race team. Stevie Sussex in from Tempe, Arizona was in the seat of the Michael Dutcher #17GP and tested the outside groove with three to go and made it work as he passed Thomas Meseraull in his own entry numbered 00 with Max McGhee in the Ottinger #4J coming home third. Heat three saw Kevin Thomas Jr., last night's winner at Lincoln Park, wheeling the Pace #44 to victory over Justin Grant and Nick Bilbee coming in from Indianapolis. Shane Cottle took the Paul Hazen #57 to the front in heat four and won over Terry Babb and Brandon Morin. Fourteen UMP modifieds competed in two heats and then one heat each for the pure streets (5) and sport compacts (5) were run. Right into the sprint B main where Brazil, Indiana's Nate McMillin prevailed over a pair of Illinois racers in Korey Weyant and Bret Tripplett with Matt McDonald fending off Brandon Mattox for the last qualifying spot. All qualifying was in the books by 7:33 with the track crew going to work once again watering down the surface.

    By 8:04 the first of five features took the green with the pro late models going 20 non-stop laps in five minutes. The good part about this feature was it was fast but it reallly looked like a glorified warmup with almost no passing. AJ May prevailed over Kenny Carmichael Jr. and Josh McDaniel. The 25 lap non-wing sprint car feature was the second division up and went green at 8:21. Landon Simon went to the early lead as the dust flew into the night air. Justin Grant brought the McGhee #11 to the lead at the start/finish line to start lap two but this was far from over. Stevie Sussex stormed by Grant at the line on lap seven and assumed the lead. The most intense racing was occuring in positions four through seven with the likes of Cottle, Thomas, Meseraull, Andretti and McGhee duking it out tooth and nail. Lap sixteen saw Grant wrestle the lead back again at the line and continued on top until lap 19 when Korey Weyant spun in turn two to bring out the first caution. Two laps later Nate McMillin lost the handle in turn three with Max McGhee clawing his way into second on the restart. The battle was on now with McGhee looking like the fastest car at this point. Grant went to the top and was able to fend off McGhee who started 10th to score the popular win in the hometown of his father-in-law, Bubby Jones, with Thomas Meseraull taking the show position after starting eighth. Jarett Andretti continues to turn in steady runs starting seventh and finishing fourth with Shane Cottle rounding out the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Stevie Sussex who faded to this spot after his left rear tire developed a slow leak (a shame as he would have been in the hunt at the end) with Landon Simon seventh, Kevin Thomas Jr. eighth, Isaac Chapple ninth and Bret Triplett finishing tenth after starting 19th. This one was in the record books by 8:37 and yes even though it was very dusty this feature was very good and very interesting and we look forward to returning later in the year for another round of sprint car racing. We decided to stay for the third feature of the evening with the UMP modifieds going 20 laps and this one was also a good race with fifth starting Ray Bollinger scoring the victory over sixth starting Logan Moody and Kenny Carmichael Sr. with this checker waving at 8:58. Even with the hour time change difference we were still home in Crawfordsville before 11 PM.

    Until next time when we are looking to attend a three race weekend if the weather cooperates which doesn't look promising on this Wednesday afternoon, keep safe and dry and get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area of the country. Thoughts and comments can still reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading!

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    A Weekend On The Road In Indiana

    Friday, April 14- It was a perfect day in April, partly sunny, a light breeze and temperatures were in the high 80’s. Yes, that is correct the high 80’s. It was also Good Friday and I along with probably over half of Indiana did not have to work today. After some early morning yardwork we ate dinner and headed to Bloomington Speedway. It was their opening event for 2017 and it was an all open wheel card; the USAC sprints, 305 Race Saver sprints and the MMSA mini sprints. Traffic was heavier than usual on this Friday afternoon and the ride that is usually a 1 hour ride turned into a 2 hour ride. It was 5:30 when we pulled into the parking lot to find that a lot of fans were already there and there was a long line waiting to buy their tickets on this perfect Friday afternoon.

     

     

    If you have never been to Bloomington, you walk up a paved path after entering through the gate and you really do not see the track surface until you are almost at the top of the hill. It is a sight I never tire of and on opening night it is even more awesome. There is this bright red clay, high banked, wall-less, mile bowl sitting amongst this bright green grass. It is picturesque and you immediately cannot wait until the first sprint car takes to the track. Tonight we sat in the newer seats toward turn four. We normally seat in our folding chairs going into one but there were no spaces available by our 5:30 arrival. The crowd tonight could only be rivaled by a USAC Sprint Week crowd. The pits well they were pretty well filled also; 34 sprints, 20 305 sprints and 28 mini sprints.

     

    CJ Leary set fast time with a time of 10.771 and warm-ups for the next two open wheel classes followed. Slightly before 8:00 the first green flag dropped on the first race of 2017. The track surface was awesome. Did you ever hear a track can be too good? It was smooth, dust free and lightning fast. So fast that no one passed. There was very little excitement in these 4 events. They strung out and circled around. Kevin Thomas Jr. set a new 10 lap record in heat 3 but that did not excite me. The 305 sprints and the mini sprints did not help widen the track groove and I found myself saying we need the modifieds or super stocks to widen out this groove. It looked like what was a perfect night was going to be a letdown in racing. Oh, me of little faith. I am the person that would say you either have not so good heats and an awesome feature or fantastic heats and a so so feature. Well as soon as the B main started for the sprints the track changed. It was still fast, smooth and dust free but it was now two grooves. Now we were cooking with gas. The 12 laps went non-stop and it was a new 12 lap record but there was action. Chase Stockon won the B main followed by CJ Leary and Justin Grant. Sounds more like a feature finish but also goes to show the lack of passing in the heats.

     

    At 9:40 the 30 lap feature started and it you were there and did not almost jump out of your seat, check your pulse because you might be one of the walking dead. From the drop of the green Chris Windom was the car to watch. He moved into second on lap 8 and by lap 12 the top 5 were in lap traffic. Chad Boespflug jumped into the early lead but he did not run away from the field. The second caution came out on lap 19 and one lap later the caution waved again. This time when racing resumed Windom passed Boespflug for the lead and it looked like that was it. The fourth and final caution came out when front runner Dave Darland shredded a tire on the homestretch. The remainder of the race was run under the green. I watched Boespflug in turns one and two and I thought he is either going to win this race or wreck trying. For the final 5 laps Windom and Boespflug ran side by side, never touched and when they took the white I do not know who was in the lead. Coming out of four for the checkered Boespflug pulled ahead and it was he atop the podium in victory lane. It was awesome! Not only was the battle for the lead happening on the track there was action throughout the field. Kevin Thomas Jr. started 20th and finished 5th, moving up 3 positions in the final green laps. Chase Stockon was third and Justin Grant fourth.

     

    What a way to start the season, perfect weather, awesome track conditions all night long, side by side action and all in front of a packed crowd. Yes, life is good!!

     

     

    Saturday, April 15 - After taking in the show at Bloomington we decided to spend the night in Vincennes to position ourselves better for our two activities on Saturday. We spent the evening in a Comfort Suites and we would highly recommend this hotel as it was very clean and had a very comfortable bed which felt good after a long day of gardening on Friday. The daytime destination was the Red Skelton Museum of Comedy located on the campus of Vincennes University and attached to the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center. Admission is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors and students are $5. The museum is an interactive exhibit of my favorite comedian of all time. Here is a man who did comedy by the use of facial expression, exaggerated movement, slapstick and pratfalls and didn't resort to using the f bomb every fourth word like many "comedians" of today. There is memorabilia, letters and photos along with TV screens set up around the museum where you push a button and watch Red turn into Freddie The Freeloader, Clem Kadidlehopper, Sheriff Dead Eye, Gertrude and Heathcliff, San Fernando Red and Cauliflower McPugg. Besides being a wonderful comedian he was a mason, a shriner and helped raise money for World War II causes and was a humanitarian who positively influenced many people's lives. If you were a Red Skelton fan this place is a must so if in the area check it out sometime soon. We were also given a brief tour of the performing arts center and it is a beautiful facility with comfortable seating for over 700 people and also visited the green room where the entertainers stay before going out on stage. Many different musical and comedy acts have graced the stage and all seemed to appreciate being able to perform there.

     

    The evening portion of our Saturday venture was a co-sanctioned (USAC/MSCS) sprint car event at the 1/4 dirt bullring named the Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt. We arrived early at 4 PM and Pat walked into the backstretch grandstand to tape down our blanket for the evening's action. We hung out in the car listening to the Cubs game, snoozing and just taking it easy. The roar of 410 engines brought us back to our senses as warmups were underway at 6. Right after that it was into sprint car time trials beginning at 6:28 for the 30 car field in the pit area. When it was all said and done at 6:47 the vastly improved Jarett Andretti, who was first out, had set fast time of 13.383 seconds. Then it was time for the UMP modifieds to take their session of warmups and afterwards the tracks was reworked for 20 minutes until the starting time of 7:30 was upon us. The first sprint car heat saw Chase Stockon taking the lead with a slide job and beating Carson Short, Jarett Andretti and Chet Williams in a strong run with Brady Short going backwards in this one and relegating himself to the B main. Chad Boespflug looked strong again tonight winning heat two over Aric Gentry, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Donny Brackett. The third heat of the evening was the best of the bunch with CJ Leary triumphing over Justin Grant, Hunter Schuerenberg and Tempe, Arizona's Stevie Sussex making a guest appearance in the Michael Dutcher #17GP. The Baldwin Brother's orange crate took home heat four with Chris Windom at the keyboard turning back Landon Simon, Max McGhee and Tyler Courtney. The modifieds ran three heats for their 24 car field and then it was right into the sprint B main with local favorite Kyle Cummins nailing down the win over New Mexico's Josh Hodges, Brady Short, Aaron Farney, Dave Darland and Missouri's Clinton Boyles who has also looked impressive this weekend making both A mains. The modified B main was next and a quick track rework was accomplished before the 30 lap sprint car feature was called to the post.

     

    The green flag from USAC starter, Tom Hansing, waved at 9:28 with second starting Chad Boespflug taking the Hoffman #69 to the front. Lap 4 saw fourth starting Chris Windom using a slide job entering turn one with slight contact with Boespflug exiting turn two to take the lead away from last night's winner. You could just tell that Windom did not want to lose to Boespflug two night's in a row and was determined to reverse the previous night's finish. The first caution appeared on lap 5 when Josh Hodges slowed in turn three with mechanical woes. The worst accident of the evening saw Donny Brackett ride over the wheel of an competitor and launch into a series of barrel rolls before landing on his wheels which were all pointed in different directions. A few anxious moments before Brackett was able to climb from the trashed #4B and walk over to the ambulance. On every restart Boespflug showed his nose to Windom on the low side but Windom was able to hold sway. Lap traffic became an issue with 12 to go as Boespflug closed the gap and started to stalk Windom looking for a way by the leader. Chris was able to pick his way through the tail end of the field and maintain his lead until lap 27 when third running Kyle Cummins went up in smoke entering turn three collecting Schuerenberg and Isaac Chapple in the incident. Windom was probably having flashbacks to last night at this point and when the green flag reappeared he took off. Taking the white flag Windom looked like he was home free but a turn three tangle between Brandon Morin and Landon Simon brought the yellow out for the fourth time. So it would now be a green, white, checker setup and Windom was up to the challenge. At 10:05 Windom flashed under Hansing's black and white flag to become the first repeat winner in the USAC sprint ranks in 2017 and his first win at Tri-State after 13 previous appearances with an average finish of 12th to his credit. Boespflug came home second with point leader by just two markers, Justin Grant, recording third with Brady Short putting on a passing clinic charging from 20th to take fourth with Carson Short (no relation) turning in another steady performance to round out the top five. Positions six through ten were filled by Jarett Andretti, Aaron Farney, Max McGhee, Kevin Thomas Jr. and CJ Leary. Another action packed race at the bullring in Southern Indiana where you need more than two eyes to catch all the action taking place over the course of 30 laps. A good ending to a fun weekend of racing and reliving moments from our childhood when things were simpler and less complicated.

     

    Until next weekend when every changing plans keeping one eye on the weather has us looking at various venues to travel to but all things are currently pointing to a wet Saturday evening but maybe we will be able to salvage the two ends of the weekend. So get out there and enjoy some short track racing in your area or put together a road trip somewhere. Comments and information can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast net and as always thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Two Nights Of Kokomo Midget Grand Prix Action

    Saturday, April 8 - As the week began the forecast for Friday was dismal with strong wind and low temperatures. If you are familiar with Indiana weather it can change from one day to the next or one hour to the next. In this case by Wednesday the forecast was no better with temperatures with a high of 47 and a low of 30 with winds between 20 and 30 miles per hour with gusts to 40. The O'Connor family made the wise decision and shifted the two day show from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday. They were greeted with a nice spring day with temperatures in the low 60's and winds of 7 mph. The fans responded and filled the homestretch grandstand for night one of the Kokomo Midget Grand Prix and they would not be disappointed with what they saw. The program would consist of two divisions, USAC sprints and Kokomo wingless sprints, with the numbers being 35 in the midget column and 17 in the sprint column. Time trials for the USAC midgets kicked off at 6:38 and were in the books by 7 with Spencer Bayston setting fast time with a 13.318 second lap.

     

    Two sprint car heats were next up with Ohio's Matt Westfall holding off Chris Windom and CJ Leary to take heat one with Dave Darland shoeing the Hery #40 winning heat two over Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Pace #44. The midgets would run four action packed heats with Spencer Bayston winning the first one over Dave Darland, Kevin Thomas Jr. in the Brown #7 and Ryan Robinson taking the last qualifying spot off turn four on the final lap from Alex Bright. Heat two saw Tyler Thomas win over Shane Golobic in one of the Clauson/Marshall cars with Tanner Thorson third and Chad Boat benefiting from a lap eight spin of Tanner Carrick while battling for second. Justin Grant brought another Clauson/Marshall entry home first in heat three over a hard running Tucker Klaasmeyer, Chris Windom and Brady Bacon. The final heat race saw Tyler Courtney bring a third Clauson/Marshall mount home first over Jerry Coons Jr., Jake Neuman and Davey Ray. The USAC B main followed and Holly Shelton scored the win over Alex Bright and Gage Walker. All that was left now were the two feature events.

     

    The sprint cars were called to the post and took the green cloth for the start of their 25 lap feature at 8:42. Dave Darland jumped out front from second and built a good sized lead. There was much spirited racing behind Darland among Matt Westfall, CJ Leary, Kevin Thomas Jr., Justin Grant, Chris Windom and Brady Bacon. Finally Grant and Bacon broke loose from the intense pack and took up the chase of Darland. It still looked like Darland, the all time winning driver at Kokomo, was going to prevail but Grant started to close the gap. With five to go he passed Darland for the lead but Darland countered with a crossover to regain the top spot. Grant mounted another charge and slipped by for good entering the first two turns. It seemed at that point that the Hery #40 started to falter as Bacon roared by with Windom in tow. As the checkered waved at 8:55 it was Grant home first for his second straight win at Kokomo dating back to the last race of 2016 there with Bacon all over the McGhee #11 but unable to snatch the top spot with Windom finishing in the show position. Darland faded to fourth and after the checkered rolled to a stop in turn one with terminal internal engine problems which ended the weekend for the Hery #40. Kevin Thomas Jr. rounded out the top five in a good, action packed feature event.

     

    We still had the main attraction on the night, the USAC National midget feature still to contest and by 9:18 the green was waving on this one. Brady Bacon powered to the lead off turn two on the opening lap from his fourth starting position with Chad Boat in pursuit. The growling pack between the two leaders were third wide exiting turn four to complete lap one. The first caution appeared on lap 9 when Tyler Nelson from Kansas spun off turn four partially into the infield. On the restart Tyler Courtney, who was running third at the time, bicycled in turn one and executed a series of end over end flips landing on the hood of his teammate, Justin Grant. Courtney was uninjured but the same could not be said for his racecar. Grant was able to pit and returned to the tail of the field. The second restart was saw Boat dive underneath Bacon for the lead but by the exit of turn two Bacon was back out front. Spencer Bayston was pounding the cushion in all four corners and closed on Bacon taking the lead on lap 12 with a turn three slider but Bacon countered at the line to retake the top spot. Bayston went back to the cushion in turn one to grab the lead from Bacon and began to pull away looking like he might have this one in hand. Bacon closed back on Bayston with ten to go and the race was on again. With seven to go the front pair swapped the lead back and forth Bacon using the low side and Bayston up top. Bacon took the top spot for good exiting turn four with six to go. Bacon ran high in turns one and two and in the middle groove in turns three and four over the remaining laps and had a comfortable lead as he flashed under the checkered flag at 9:42 to grab his fourth career USAC National Midget victory and his second at Kokomo being the only one in the starting field that had ever won a USAC midget contest at Kokomo. Spencer Bayston came home second with defending USAC National Midget champion, Tanner Thorson, claiming the show position. Kevin Thomas Jr. turned in a good effort bringing home the Brown #7 fourth with steady Jerry Coons Jr. claiming the fifth position. Justin Grant turned in a masterful performance coming from dead last to sixth after pitting on lap 10 with Chris Windom posting seventh after starting 15th with Tyler Thomas marching from 16th to take eighth, Dave Darland placing ninth and Ryan Robinson rounding out the top ten. This also was a very good race and a good ending to a fine night of racing at Kokomo with an early finish time to boot.

     

    Sunday, April 9 - It was the second night of the Kokomo Grand Prix and we arrived at 5:15. The day was sunny, hazy and very windy. Temperatures were in the high 70's and the wind was suppose to stop by sunset but unfortunately it never did. The combination of sun and wind did a number on the track surface and the result was one of the dustiest surfaces we have seen at Kokomo. The track crew continued to work on it during the show but you could only do so much. The night would turn out to be a night of six flips with the first one occurring in the third sprint group qualifying when Travis Hery took a nasty ride in turns three and four. It was not a good weekend for the Hery team to say the least. USAC midget time trials commenced at 6:45 for the 30 car field tonight. During hot laps Spencer Bayston and Tanner Thorson were under the track record of 13.009 seconds but no one would end up breaking the track record as Justin Grant ended up fastest at 13.081. Rico Abreu who flew in from Arizona after beating the WOO boys the night before came out near the end of time trials and entering turn one for his first time trial lap bicycled and bounced onto his side and right back up again. He was OK but the car needed some work but he was able to return to run the heat races. The sprint car heats were next up with 22 sprinters (up from 17 last night) taken part. CJ Leary would take heat one over Thomas Meseraull driving the Michael Dutcher #17GP once again. Entering turn one after the checker had waved Kyle Robbins was side by side with Matt Goodnight when something on the car apparently broke sending Robbins into Goodnight causing damage to both machines which was repairable. Heat two saw Brady Bacon in the Dooling #63 triumph over Justin Grant. Aaron Farney nailed down heat three beating back Chris Windom for the win. Four midget heats would follow and the first one may have been the best heat of the night. Collegeville, Pennsylvania's Alex Bright won but the show was Rico Abreu charging from eighth and nipping Grant at the line for second as Abreu almost won the whole thing! Heat two saw USAC rookie, Jake Neuman, win over Davey Ray. Keith Kuntz's newest addition, Tanner Carrick from Sacremento, California, scored heat three over teammate Spencer Bayston while heat four saw Tyler Thomas turn in a strong performance to win over Tanner Thorson. Only the midgets would need a B main which was won by Kevin Thomas Jr. with Tucker Klaasmeyer dumping it heavily over in turn two and then New Zealander Anton Julian getting over a tire and rolling gently to become the sixth flip victim of the evening. All qualifying was completed by 9:00.

     

    The sprint car feature would once again be the first feature on the dance card and took the green flag at 9:13. Two cars tangled in turn two to bring out the first caution but the race would go caution free from this point until lap 22. Thomas Meseraull looked strong as he went to the point and many figured that he would repeat his dominant performance from the previous night at Lincoln Park where he scored the MSCS sprint car victory. But no one informed Justin Grant who is establishing himself as the top honco at Kokomo about not passing T-Mez. Grant surged to the lead with a pass of Meseraull on lap 14 and would not look back. Brady Bacon wrestled away second on lap 21. With six to go the action heated up as Bacon and Grant swapped slide jobs and cross overs as they battled for the top spot. Lap 22 saw the second and final caution appeared when the Dutcher #17GP slowed on the homestretch while Meseraull was running third. The remaining eight laps were all Grant and he flashed the Sam McGhee wrenched #11 under the checkered flag at 9:25 sweeping the sprint car portion of the Grand Prix weekend and extending his current win streak at Kokomo in the sprints to three. Bacon crossed the line second with Shane Cottle (one of the best using the inside groove at Kokomo) bringing the Paul Hazen #57 home third after starting eighth with Kevin Thomas Jr. fourth after starting ninth and Aaron Farney placing fifth after starting second but still a strong run for the youngster.

     

    It was now time for the 30 lap USAC midget main event and the green waved at 9:42. Chad Boat would control the lead in the early goings with Tanner Thorson in hot pursuit. Thorson was able to work his way around Boat on lap 7 but Boat returned the favor one lap later but the move was negated when Justin Grant spun off turn four. Brady Bacon who started tenth had at this time worked his way up to third and on the restart followed Thorson low and took second away from Boat. Lap 13 would see Thorson leave an opening exiting turn four allowing Bacon the chance to snatch the lead from him. Bacon would pull away in the second half of the race using the low side of turns one and two while entering turn three high and exiting turn four low in a diamond pattern of running. Bacon would cruise under the checkered flag at 10:07 scoring the sweep of the weekend's midget action in the Fred Manafort #76M earning his fifth career USAC midget win with three of them coming at Kokomo. Only two other drivers, Rich Vogler with seven and Mel Kenyon with six have won more and Bacon is tied for third with Jimmy Davies and Bob Wente with three each. Thorson would come home second with Tyler Courtney placing third after trashing his primary mount the night before. Rico Abreu again came from the back nailing down fourth after starting 22nd with Kevin Thomas Jr. recording his second straight top five in the Brown #7B. Let me tell you that Rico is really exciting to watch and again put on the show. All in all it was a good night of racing with both features being competitive but the dust did take away from really being able to enjoy the action but 25 mph winds will do that to any dirt track.

     

    Until the next installment where plans are for a USAC sprint car doubleheader at Bloomington and Haubstadt on tap, get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your part of the country. May everyone have a Blessed Easter on Sunday. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    USAC Indiana Openers For Sprints At Lawrenceburg & Silver Crown At Terre Haute

    Saturday, April 1 - The USAC sprint car Indiana opener would take place tonight at the 3/8 mile high banked dirt oval at the Lawrenceburg Speedway in the southeast corner of the state. We were excited to see what would unfold tonight in this always unpredictable opening night of racing. The temperatures were in the 60's during the day but once the sun disappeared below the horizon it turned cold quickly as you could see your breath in the darkness. Time trials kicked off at 6:30 for the fine 35 car field which was pared down to 33 by the time the heat races were ready to go. Justin Grant set fast time at 13.251 seconds as he was the first one out for time trials and the time held up over the next 38 minutes. USAC rookie, Cooper Clouse, took a wild ride between turns one and two executing his second flip of 2017 and was done for the evening. After hot laps for UMP modifieds and hornets the sprints hit the track at 8:03. Nick Bilbee would win the first heat over Jarett Andretti, Chad Boespflug and Shawn Westerfeld who used the outside to pass fast timer Grant at the finish. Chase Stockon marched from sixth to win heat two over Max McGhee in the Ottinger #4J, Hunter Schuerenberg and Kody Swanson at the keyboard of the Epperson #2E. Heat three saw Jeff Bland Jr. bring the Michael Dutcher #17GP to the front holding off Jon Stanbrough in his last season at the wheel, Josh Hodges from New Mexico and Dallas Hewitt edging Landon Simon who got up on two wheels in turn four and almost dumped it. Shane Cottle looked strong in the final heat which was loaded with talent winning over Carson Short who continues to look good in early runs with Chris Windom third and Dave Darland shuffling Tyler Courtney out of the top four after running as high as second. The fine 34 car UMP modified field spun off four heats next with the 26 hornets in attendance contesting three heats in their division. The sprint B main was next with Tyler Courtney nipping Justin Grant on the last lap for the win with Kevin Thomas Jr. bringing the Pace family #44 home third and into the starting lineup after almost going over after getting up on two wheels.

     

    The number of cars in both support divisions needing to run B mains also pushed the start of the USAC sprint feature to 10:36 on this cold night. Boespflug in the Hoffman #69 and Windom in the Baldwin #5 brought the field to the green but the red appeared quickly as the third row starters, Dave Darland and Chase Stockon collided entering turn one and twisted and turned over and over with Darland losing his tail tank. Thankfully both drivers were OK but it was a wild start to a wild feature on the "Cowboy Up Track" that Windom alluded to later. On the restart Windom jumped to the lead and held sway until lap nine as Hunter Schuerenberg in the Motsinger #2 up to second from twelfth dug his right front into the track and flipped wildly to end his evening as it looked like he might have something for Windom up to that point. From this point forward it was Windom in command as the orange #5 was hooked up. Lap traffic on lap 20 held up the frontrunner for a while with Boespflug and Grant gaining some ground. Once by the slower cars in front of him Windom set sail once again and would cruise to his first ever USAC sprint win at Lawrenceburg after finishing second five times previously. Jon Stanbrough ran a strong and steady race to take home fourth place money with Landon Simon rounding out the top five. The second five was topped by Josh Hodges with Shawn Westerfeld scoring an impressive seventh with Kevin Thomas Jr. notching eighth with Jarett Andretti ninth and Shane Cottle tenth after recovering from a lap 25 spin. Cottle had ran a strong race from 21st before the spin racing in the top ten. The checkered waved at 11:18 and with two features still to go and a 2 1/2 hour drive home we opted to call it a night satisfied with the wild and wooly night at the Burg.

     

    Sunday, April 2 - It was April 3, 2016, the place was the Terre Haute Action Track and there were 20 cars in the pit area for the Sumar Classic. Fast forward one year. Sunday, April 2, 2017, the place Terre Haute Action Track and there were 31 cars in the pit area for the Sumar Classic. It was sunny, in the 60’s and there was a large crowd on hand. It was exciting and I was celebrating my 50th birthday for the 14th time. Ok I turned 63! The UMP modifieds were on hand also and they totaled 20. Now I already mentioned it was sunny and warm but I forgot to mention windy. If anyone there was expecting to see a dust free surface they were either delirious or they were never to Terre Haute before. It was dusty from the time the first tire hit the dirt surface but that did not take away from my excitement. The Silver Crown cars always make me feel like I was transported back in time. These bulky oversized sprint cars draw a crowd where even I feel young and sometimes it is just neat looking at some of the jackets being worn by the old-timers sitting in the stands. Yet there is nothing old on the track with young drivers like CJ Leary, Justin Grant and Dakota Jackson.

     

    Warm-ups started promptly at 3:30 with time trials at 5:00. It took only 37 minutes to run the 31 cars through their 2 timed laps and in the end it was Kody Swanson with fast time. The two UMP modifieds heats were up next and afterwards the program went right into the Silver Crown last chance race. It has been a while since a last chance race was needed and 14 cars ran 15 laps for the final 8 starting positions. To give all the competitors time to prepare for the 100 lap event, the 20 lap UMP modified 20 lap feature was run. In less than 15 minutes Will Krup was standing in victory lane.

     

    Now it was time and one by one they pushed them on to the homestretch to line up. There was something about watching them start the cars with the pit crew member standing behind the car. One by one as the engines started they raised their hand and again it was like I stepped back in time and it was awesome. The green dropped at 7:50 and for the next 50 minutes I watched what I thought to be a very enjoyable race. There were only 3 cautions in the 100 laps. Shane Cockrum took the early lead and on lap 19 CJ Leary relieved him of the position. Leary’s lead was short lived as on lap 27 Kody Swanson took over the top spot. Meanwhile Justin Grant, Brady Bacon and Shane Cockrum were putting on a show for positions 3 through 5. The second caution came out on lap 29 and when the green came back out on lap 34 Chris Windom was working his way into the picture. On lap 38 he moved into second and on lap 48 Bacon moved into third. At the halfway point it was still Swanson in first but one lap later Windom took over the point. The race remained green and by lap 70 only 9 cars remained on the lead lap and by lap 80 that number dwindled to 7. The final caution was on lap 81 when Bill Rose came to a stop. The final 17 laps were run under green and Leary not only worked his way back up to second he was closing in on Windom. By lap 92 he was only a couple car lengths behind Windom’s bumper but Windom’s must have sensed his closing and pulled way in the final circuits.

    Windom started the 2017 Silver Crown season the way he ended the 2016 Silver Crown season, in victory lane. CJ Leary was second, Kody Swanson was third and teammates Hunter Schuerenberg and Jerry Coons Jr. rounded out the top five. Brady Bacon dropped back to sixth. Justin Grant who was going for the opening triple after winning both the opener in the USAC Midgets and USAC Sprints failed to finish the race after being in the early top mix. Early leader Shane Cockrum also fell short of the 100 laps. All in all it was a good race and we were driving up Route 41 through Terre Haute before 9:00. Yes, it was a happy birthday.

     

    We lost another great driver, David Steele, on Saturday, March 25th at Desoto Speedway competing in a sprint car race that evening. Steele was probably the most dominant asphalt driver during the 1990's and 2000's in USAC Silver Crown, sprint car and midget racing action. Even though Steele ran only the pavement portions of the USAC schedule between 1996 and 2007 he was able to score 60 national victories during that time. His 16 Silver Crown wins rank him third best on the all-time win list while his 26 sprint car victories rank 15th and his 18 midget win placed him 35th on that list. He also won the Silver Crown title in back to back years in 2004 and 2005. Steele was a two time winner of the Turkey Night Grand Prix midget race when it was run at Irwindale, California in 2001 and 2003 while driving for the Steve Lewis team. David Steele was be sorely missed and our condolences are extended to the entire Steele family on their tragic loss. God Speed and RIP to "The Man Of Steele".

    Until next time where we hope to catch two nights of USAC National midget racing at Kokomo Speedway on Saturday and Sunday get out there and enjoy some good short track racing in your area. Comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading.


     

     

    ASCS Southwest Action From Central Arizona

     

    Saturday, March 25 - It was our fifth year to take in baseball spring training in Arizona and while here we found a Saturday night to catch some racing action in the Grand Canyon State. After taking in an afternoon spring training game at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick between the Chicago Cubs and the Arizona Diamondbacks with the D-Backs winning during this afternoon contest. Then it was off to Casa Grande where the Pinal County Fair was taking place off turn three while the cars were preparing to race on the 3/8 mile of the Central Arizona Raceway.

     

    Racing was suppose to get underway at 6:30 but it seemed but was never stated that overwatering of the track caused the starting time to be pushed back to 7:45. Once underway though the program was spun off in a timely manner. Seventeen ASCS sprinters were joined on the card by 21 sport modifieds, 19 IMCA modifieds, 21 dwarf cars and 10 IMCA stock cars. Each division ran three heats with the exception of the IMCA modifieds and the IMCA stock cars. The best racing of the night came from the IMCA modifieds while the ASCS sprint heats were pretty much like watching warmups.

     

    The 25 lap ASCS Southwest series feature went to the post at 10:10 with Colton Hardy jumping out front. Two yellows and one red appeared before a lap was completed and several cars turning turtle but no one was injured. When the green appeared again Hardy sprinted out front again and would not be headed the entire distance. New Mexico's Rick Ziehl, the defending ASCS Southwest champion, took up the chase but was never able to seriously challenge young Hardy for the top spot. Stevie Sussex, called upon to drive the LaHaie Wild Wings #82 for the evening came home in the show spot in this one. Billy Chester III and Josh Shipley rounded out the top five with the checker waving at 10:33. This was Hardy's third career ASCS Southwest victory and his first at Central Arizona.

     

    Next column will feature the opening weekend of USAC racing in Indiana with the sprint cars invading Lawrenceburg on Saturday and the Silver Crown cars traveling to the Terre Haute Action Track on Sunday. Hope the weather is good to race and the action is hot. Until next time get out there and enjoy some early season racing at a local track near you. Any comments or thoughts can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. And as always thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    ASCS From East Bay & USAC From Bubba

    Thursday, February 23 - The decision was made easier during the day as Bubba Speedway Park canceled night one of their USAC sprint car three day program when rain from Wednesday into Thursday created too much water to be able to work the surface into shape. So it was off to East Bay Raceway Park for night one of their three day ASCS sanctioned King of the 360's program. Rich Rauser and Gordy Killian flew in for the weekend and joined us at the timeshare and the 1 hour, 20 minute journey over to East Bay. New Floridians, Dale O'Brien and Steve and Krysten Perrotto were waiting for us when we arrived and we all settled in for a long night of racing. The rain had also created havoc at East Bay and the start was delayed because of it. It was 8:34 when the first and only micro sprint heat hit the track for their 9 car field. They were followed by four heats (one too many) for the 25 mini sprints on hand before the ASCS 360 sprints took to the track to run their seven heats for their fine 60 car field. Terry McCarl, Robbie Stillwagon, Harli White, the young lady from Oklahoma, Phil Gressman, Carson McCarl, Mark Smith and Lucas Wolfe prevailed in the heats which wrapped up at 10:03. The 15 lap micro sprint feature was first up with Dustin Cate leading wire to wire in seven minutes with only one caution. The 20 lap mini sprint feature took the green at 10:26 and suddenly there was a sense of urgency as officials realized the night was getting closer to curfew. They even threatened to cut the mini sprint feature short if there were any more cautions but they went the distance with Delaware's Luke Thomas winning over Pennsylvania's Tyler Walton and Florida's Robbie Hoffmann. Three ASCS mains followed with two New Yorkers, Shawn Donath and Coleman Gulick, winning along with the Canadian, Thomas Kennedy. The hour was growing later as it was now 11:37 and we still had 25 lap ASCS feature to go. The race went green at 11:55 and lap 2 saw Thomas Kennedy take a light roll in turn two to bring out the red flag. Travis Rilat remained the leader until entering lap traffic on lap eight when Mark Smith from his sixth starting position caught and passed him. Smith retained the lead but Rilat and Terry McCarl from eighth were remaining in the hunt and things were getting very interesting until a late caution took the air out of the balloon and took the remaining excitement out of the lap traffic ballet. Smith took the checkered at 12:12 AM with Terry McCarl sneaking by Rilat in the end to snag second with Rilat third, Jason Sides fourth and Phil Gressman rounding out the top five. The feature was actually quite decent but it took a long time to get to it.

    Friday, February 24 - With only two days left in our Florida adventure it was back up to Bubba’s where the USAC sprints were running. A three day show was scheduled but night one was rained out leaving only two races on the card. We arrived early as we wanted to take a trip through the pit area before heading into the stands. The weather was perfect with the high temperatures in the 80’s. We were excited for this day and we would not be disappointed. Before making it to the pits we ran into our friends from Long Island, New York, Billy and Ruthie. We met Billy and Ruthie last year in Kokomo, while we were all huddled in the inner closet of the hotel while the tornadoes were in the area. Next we ran into Bob Miller, who many recognize as the promoter of the Thunder on the Hill series at Grandview Speedway in Pennsylvania and the USAC Eastern Storm. I have known Bob since back in the 70’s when we attended the Reading Fairgrounds Speedway. We all enjoyed our initial chat so much that Bob joined us in the stands later in the event.

     

    We finally make it to the pit area where I was busy taking pictures of my favorite cars and Bruce was chatting with some of the drivers. There were 27 cars in the pits and I was fine with that number. It is a far way to travel for a three day event, which actually turned into a two days because of weather. So the 27 cars that were there were for the most part were the cream of the crop.

     

    Warm-ups were at 7:00 with time trials at 7:20. The track surface was in great shape and Justin Grant set a new track record with a time of 13.683. Then came the mod lites and they just kept coming. There were 63 mod lites and this would be the only negative to the entire night. Not that the mod lites were on the agenda but that there were so many of them. They had to run 6 heats and two 20 plus car B mains and it really dragged down the show. But what do you do? I am sure they did not realize that over 60 would show for the event, 33 would perfect, 63 too many.

     

    The first of three sprint heats took to the track at 8:25 and in less than 20 minutes they were complete and all I could say was wow, wow, wow and just like that it reminded me why Bruce and I moved to Indiana. They raced three and four wide in the turns with slide jobs all over the place. After 6 mod lite heats, the B main for the sprints saw Max McGhee in the 4J pick up the win and then came the two dreaded B main for the mod lites. One had 24 cars and the other 21 cars. All I can say was they were time consuming. I am trying to be nice.

     

    The 25 lap sprint A main took the green at 11:08. It was good. No, it was very good. There were only two cautions, one for a spin by Isaac Chapple on lap 15 and another when the engine let loose on the 71p of Dave Darland and it went up in flames. The remainder of the time you did not know where to watch. There were slide jobs, side-by-side racing and passing everywhere. I know you think I am prejudice because my first love is wingless sprints but the finish speaks for itself. Your winner Justin Grant, someone to be reckoned with in 2017 in the McGhee 11X, won from sixth. Second was Chad Boespflug in the Hoffman #69, his new ride for 2017. Third place finisher was Carson Short up from 10th. He was one of the cars to watch as he charged through the pack. Unfortunately he forgot to go to the scales after on track interviews and was relegated to the last place finishing position. Fourth across the line was Chase Stockon from 9th and Brady Bacon made the biggest move from his 16th starting position to finish 5th. The track was racy, the cars were racy and in the end if you were there you saw one hell of a race that left us looking forward to the next night. As we were waiting to leave the parking lot I looked at Bruce and said for the first time in this four week Florida adventure I can say I am ready to go home in anticipation of the track in Indiana opening in March.

     

    Saturday, February 25 - After last night I didn't think it could get better but it did. Night two of Winter Dirt Games VIII was awesome. It started out with time trials at 6:37 for the reduced 26 car field as Cooper Clouse headed back north after his Friday night backstretch flip. By 6:58 Carson Short had set fast time with a lap of 13.955 seconds, the only driver in the 13 second bracket as he seemed to be on a mission after his last night DQ for not passing over the scale after the podium finishers were interviewed on the track. The next action were the three heats for the USAC sprints with Max McGhee in the Ottinger #4J winning out over the McGhee #11 of Justin Grant and Carson Short. Heat two saw Landon Simon prevail over Hunter Schuerenberg and Jarett Andretti with Rob Hart turning the wrenches on the #18. Chase Stockon got a great run off turn two and used a power slide off turn four to steal this one over Tyler Courtney and Chad Boespflug in the Hoffman #69. Six heats were next for the 61 mod lites back in town and they were spun off in quicker fashion tonight. Dave Darland would bring the Phillips #71P home first in the B main and all qualifying was in the books.

     

    Next up was the 30 lap USAC sprint feature with the green appearing at 9:13. Thomas Meseraull powered the Pollock #21X to the early lead and on lap two coming off turn four Kyle Cummins did a wheel stand and spun onto the edge of the infield to bring out the caution. On the restart Chris Windom in the Baldwin Borthers #5 did a slide job on Meseraull in turn one to take the lead. Windom increased his lead while Meseraull and Justin Grant battled for second. The middle stages of the race calmed down until the halfway mark when Carson Short and Hunter Schuerenberg made contact while battling for fourth with Short sliding into an infield tire while Schuerenberg executed a 360 degree spin and kept going! Windom resumed the lead on the restart but had company with Grant low and Schuerenberg up high. Schuerenberg went to the top entering turn two on lap 23 to take the lead and moments later Windom's night ended on the backstretch went his right rear tire gave away. On the restart Schuerenberg went to the point and was not to be denied as he pulled away by two seconds over the remaining seven laps to score the first USAC sprint car victory for Roof Bolt Racing in their beautiful #2 for his first USAC victory in nearly three years. The 7th starting Schuerenberg looked strong all weekend and won over another hot racer, Justin Grant, who took the early USAC sprint car point lead. Thomas Meseraull came home third, 11th starting Chad Boespflug motoring in for fourth and 13th starting Brady Bacon in the Dooling/Hayward #63 taking the hard charger award for his efforts. The last two races of our 22 race schedule in Florida ended up being the two best and we are stoked for the wingless season to open up in the midwest.

     

    Until next time get out there and plot some memorable road trips that you will talk about for the next 20 years or so. As always comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Catching Up on Florida Racing

    Normally we write the weekend of racing visits in order starting with Friday. This column is going to be different as we will start from Sunday and work our way backward. There is a lot to cover so we want to give you the latest first.

     

    Sunday, February 19 (Afternoon) - We leisurely made our way back south down I-95 from Georgia and drove inland to St. Augustine to have lunch. Then we took the scenic Route A1A coastal road along the Atlantic Ocean before cutting back inland at Flagler Beach. After dropping Allan and Nancy off at their hotel we decided to drive over to Volusia Speedway Park to see if we could catch any of the afternoon program that was being run on Sunday after Saturday's rainout. After signing in we entered the front gates as the green flag waved on the WOO sprinters right before the halfway mark. For a day surface it was not that bad and the dust was minimal as the WOO sprinters raced around the track. By this point Donny Schatz was in command being chased by Jason Johnson and Chad Kemenah. Joey Saldana and David Gravel were having the most spirited battle on the track dueling for fourth and fifth. Saldana was able to keep the Stenhouse/Wood #17 in front of the Chad Clemons #5 the rest of the distance. It has been a rough Florida for the Clemons #5 working with their fifth, yes fifth, motor of the tour. The 20 lap UMP modified feature followed with Nick Hoffman taking his third Gator of the week over Taylor Cook and Larry Burkins. The entire show was over before 4 and everyone left the grandstand in good order so the gates could be reopened for the evening session at 4:40.

     

    Sunday, February 19 (Evening) - Things kicked off for the evening event at 6:42 with time trials for the WOO sprint cars. Twenty one minutes later Brian Brown had turned fast time at 13.006 around the half mile. UMP modified qualifying followed with four cars timing at the same time. The four WOO heats were waved off at 7:36 for the 35 car field with Brian Brown taking heat one, Lucas Wolfe prevailing in heat two, Jason Sides brought home his newly painted blue and white #7S first in heat three and Kerry Madsen nailed down heat four. Four UMP heats followed and then it was right into the dash for the sprints to determine eight starters for the 30 lap sprint car feature. Brian Brown was never headed in this one winning over Lucas Wolfe, David Gravel, Daryn Pittman, Jason Sides, Rico Abreu and Jason Johnson. The B main was contested next with Brad Sweet the victor over Justin Henderson, Kraig Kinser and Paul McMahan. A short break (20 minutes) followed and then it was time for the 30 lap WOO sprint car feature. The green waved at 9:17 with Lucas Wolfe powering out front. Lap two saw a scary incident take place exiting turn two onto the start of the backstretch when Dale Blaney in the Zemco #1 tangled with Rico Abreu and Jason Sides with Blaney catapulting the fence near the pit grandstand with three people struck in the melee that ensued. The three that were hit were all taken to Halifax Hospital in Daytona Beach, one by helicopter and the other two by ambulance. As of this writing one gentleman from England has been released from the hospital while the other two remain in the hospital one in critical condition and the other in stable condition. It could have been much, much worse. It is not a knee jerk reaction to call for the fencing in between turns one and two and down the start of the backstretch to be raised another ten feet as that fencing is that much lower in that section of the speedway and that was the second sprinter in three days to clear the chain link fence in that general area. After an hour and a half delay the feature was restarted with Wolfe back in front but shortly thereafter David Gravel went to the point and pulled away from the field running the high groove. Lap 13 saw Jason Johnson who was running fifth at the time caught the fence in turn three and flipped several times in the process. Johnson was OK but the #41 was not quite so fortunate. Gravel went back out front but all eyes were on Donny Schatz who started way back in 17th and was coming quickly. Schatz moved to second and began to close on Gravel as they caught lap traffic. Gravel was able to gain an advantage as he picked his way through the slower cars but two cars running side by side broke his momentum and as he tried to dive between them in the middle of the track he lost traction and that was enough for Schatz to power by into the lead on the white flag lap. As the double checkers waved at 11 PM it was Schatz in for his 17th career win at Volusia and he became the first WOO driver since Sammy Swindell to win two WOO features in the same day. Swindell pulled off the feat at Bloomington in 1999 and his brother, Jeff, did the same at Rolling Wheels in 1994. Will Krup took the 20 lap UMP modified feature in a very competitive race holding off Jacob Hawkins and Kenny Wallace who started ninth for the victory. The biggest advancement was done by former Flemington, NJ runner, Todd Neiheiser, who marched from 26th to finish 7th. A fine run on a tough track.

     

    Saturday, February 18 (Afternoon) - Pat and I along with Allan and Nancy Brown headed north on I-95 early in the morning to venture into the Peach state of Georgia to take in a doubleheader at the same facility on the grounds of the Screven Motorsports Complex. Scheduled for the afternoon was racing at the 1/6 mile totally circular track located behind the backstretch of the bigger track. The Gamecock Speedway was hosting the Southern States Midget Series featuring the D2 (division 2) midgets. Twenty five D2 midgets made the long haul to run for the fine $5000 to win top prize. The green on the main event flew at 3:46 and the first 17 laps went nonstop with a good battle for the lead. The first caution waved at that point and it went downhill from there. Another 10 cautions slowed the action and the number of laps run under the yellow flag were prohibitive. Kyle Kraker got into leader, Ty Tilton, and Tilton was none too happy as he climbed through the top of the rollcage waving and gesturing at Kraker has he drove by several times. There were numerous cautions the remainder of the distance including a multi car tangle with three cars flipping around lap 31. When the checker waved over an hour after the initial start it was Pennsylvania's Rohan Beasley crossing first to pocket the cool $5000 with Johnny Murdock and Chette Gehrke following. Frank Beck and Eric Heydenreich rounded out the top five. A promising race ended in a cloud of confusion.

     

    Saturday, February 18 (Evening) - It was over the hill to the Screven Speedway for the WOO late model series and several support divisions including the renegade division which was running a 100 lap event paying an amazing $12,000 to win. Ninety two cars (Yes, 92) from 26 states turned out and luckily we only had to watch two B mains, one with 33 cars and one with 34 cars. The WOO late model series brought 45 cars to the dog fight and time trials kicked off at 7:10. Four heats followed the two renegade B mains with two WOO late model B mains shortly thereafter. In less than a half hour the 50 lap WOO late model feature took the green flag with Tyler Erb out of Texas taking command. Five cautions slowed the event and on each restart Chris Madden knocked off another car moving his way from eighth into second late in the event. Erb looked like he had this one in the bag but no one informed Madden of this as it looked like he hit the nitro button and blasted by Erb with five to go. Madden clearly pulled away over the remaining five laps and took the big win with Erb second, Billy Moyer Jr. third, Brandon Sheppard fourth and Brandon Overton rounding out the top five after starting 12th. This one was over by 10:02 and we decided to call it an evening and head back south to our hotel for the evening.

     

    Monday, February 13 through Friday, February 17 - I know this is a sprint and midget site but if you are a race fan you need to venture to East Bay Raceway Park in February to witness the late model racing at this track. It is incredible! It is some of the closest, competitive racing you are going to see anywhere. The Lucas Oil Late Model Series (LOLMS) sanctions the week of racing here and do a great job of running an efficient show starting on time and ending between 9 & 10 PM. You can't beat this combination of good racing and efficient racing. Night one saw 43 cars entered with Brandon Sheppard winning over Earl Pearson Jr. and Devin Moran. Josh Richards advanced from 16h to 7th on this night. Night two saw 44 cars entered with Josh Richards winning over Tim Dohm and Austin Hubbard. There is racing here with late models three and four wide racing through the sweeping turns. Wednesday night racing was rained out. Night three on Thursday saw 45 cars entered with Tim McCreadie grabbing his first LOLMS win marching from 18th to turn the trick. Don O'Neal and Josh Richards chased him to the finish at 9:32. A low of 39 cars entered Friday's event and the 50 lap main event was checkered at 9:17. Scott Bloomquist held off eighth starting Josh Richards and ninth starting Jonathan Davenport for the win. Tim McCreadie only came from 17th to 4th on this night with Don O'Neal rounding out the top five. Late model fan or not you owe it to yourself to take in some of the action at the Clay By The Bay as it is intense and very entertaining.

     

    Next column will cover our last week in the Sunshine State with action at Volusia, East Bay and Bubba. Until next time hope the warm weather remains in the Northeast so Lincoln can go racing. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. And as always thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    All Star Sprints From Bubba Raceway Park

    Thursday, February 9 - With temperatures in the high 70's during the day many people were not prepared for the dampness that set in once the sun went down on Thursday night at Bubba Raceway Park. Warmups got underway 50 minutes late due to extensive track work due to torrential rains the day before but no adjustments or sense of urgency was displayed once things kicked off with time trials at 8:08. It was nearly 9 PM when time trials were over with Pennsylvania's Danny Dietrich in the Tom Buch #13 setting fast time of 12.368 seconds on the 3/8 mile dirt oval. Four heats were next up for the good, talent laden 37 car field on hand with Tim Shaffer looking good in heat one triumphing over Caleb Armstrong and Cole Duncan. Heat two saw Greg Hodnett prevail over David Gravel and Mark Smith. Heat three saw Kerry Madsen win in his new ride, the Muddy #2, holding off Donny Schatz and Paul McMahan for the win. Joey Saldana debuted in his new ride, the Stenhouse/Wood #17, on a winning note taking the last heat over Ian Madsen and Carson Short. The mini sprint heats followed with Tyler Walton from PA and David Hall from Florida winning. All heats were completed by 9:57 and at this point the show went downhill. Owner Bubba Clem decided he was going to rework the entire surface and before the two dashes and B main he took an hour track prep break while the fans sat in the cold. Unfortunately, by feature time the track was the same as it was before the break. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that with the weather presented to you the fans will be more understanding of the track surface if you just run the show through. When a fourth of your crowd leaves before seeing any feature events that is not a good sign. Enough said!

     

    Kraig Kinser took the first dash where the finishing order determined the five inside row starters for the feature event trailed by Kerry Madsen, Ian Madsen, Donny Schatz and David Gravel. The second dash went to Greg Hodnett over Tim Shaffer, Danny Dietrich, Joey Saldana and Caleb Armstrong. The B main was won by five time and defending All Star Point Champion, Chad Kemenah. The evening was getting cooler and damper by the minute as the green flag flew at 11:45. Greg Hodnett jumped to the early lead with Tim Shaffer and Kerry Madsen in pursuit. Hodnett held sway as the leaders hit lap traffic on lap 7. Madsen snuck by Shaffer on lap 10 and two laps later caught and passed Hodnett for the lead and Shaffer slipped by for second. Madsen set a blistering pace as Donny Schatz worked his way to third as the crowd took notice. And speaking of blistering, Madsen pace began to slow as his right rear tire was going away. Shaffer passed Madsen for the lead at the line at the same time Madsen's right rear tire exploded. Madsen pulled to the outside and rode around the oval pulling into the turn one pit area on the white flag lap. Shaffer hit lap traffic between turns three and four coming to the checkered and lost his momentum on the slick track and Schatz caught him off turn four and moved by to steal the win after starting seventh. The race went nonstop in 11 minutes and ended four minutes before midnight. As the announcer spoke with Schatz in victory lane he mentioned that his run must have really been fun and Schatz responded, "not really." That statement right there is why many race fans do not cheer for Donny Schatz! His arrogance and air of privilege is a big turn off to the average Joe. Don't get me wrong, he is the best in the business and maybe the best ever but he is by far not the most popular. Lighten up Donny and realize that every race you run in you are not going to start in the top four and might have to pass some people to win!! People do not come to see sprint car racing to watch the winner lead the entire distance and start from the front row. Anyhow I will get off my soapbox and give you the finish of the race. Schatz won the event over Shaffer with Kraig Kinser rebounding to third with Ian Madsen fourth and Caleb Armstrong fifth after starting tenth. Positions six through ten were filled by Cole Duncan, Greg Hodnett, Danny Dietrich, David Gravel and Chad Kemenah who started 20th.

     

    Saturday, February 11 - After taking a night off from Bubba’s Raceway, we decided to return for the final night of the ASCOC, All Star Circuit of Champions. We arrived at 5:45 and decided after securing our seats to take a stroll through the pit area. We stopped to see Jacob Wilson who is from our now hometown of Crawfordsville, Indiana and who also replaced the starter in our car. We joked a bit about our car and then went on to see Steve Buckwalter. We became friends with Steve a few years back during Indiana Midget Week and always enjoy visiting him in the pits. He always takes time to talk to you and has something interesting to say. It seems the big scuttle butt in the pits was the track conditions and why Tony Stewart decided to load up and close his trailer. We heard several versions of why Tony Stewart loaded up. None which I will repeat since I do not know which is accurate. Only Tony knows the reason. As for the track conditions we knew it was dusty and slick as ice on Thursday and were told it was wet and heavy on Friday. Tonight it seemed the concern again was that it would be too wet and with limited cars to pack the track the show would be delayed. But it all worked out as cars were called out for heat in the motors before we actually left the pits.

     

    Heat in the motors is a sight to see in the pits. I would like to say it is like a well-orchestrated ballet but it is more like mass mayhem that just works out, Sprints waiting to get pushed onto the track; sprints come off the track driving back to their haulers; sprint push vehicles waiting for their sprint to drive off the track so they can hopefully fall in behind it and then of course you have crew members and people like myself, that have no real business to be in there, just milling around and not paying attention to all of the action around them. Oh, I forgot to mention the ASCOC official standing at the track entrance yelling heads up and blowing an air horn. How no one gets hit or crashes into each other I do not know but it just all seems to work out. I would think from an insurance standpoint it is a nightmare.

     

    As we ventured back to the grandstands we found a huge line of patrons waiting to buy tickets and grandstands that were filling up quickly. By the time the races started it would be a packed house. The track came around and by the time warm-ups came out at 6:40 it was in great condition from a fan’s point of view. Time trials started at 7:09, only 9 minutes off the scheduled time. Normally I am not a fan of time trials but tonight they were enjoyable as the track appeared to be getting faster and a lot of the top guns were in the third and fourth groups. Kerry Madsen went out near the end on the fourth group and set fast time with a time of 12.179. All eyes were on the third turn scoreboard as once again the announcing system was not working. It was amazing how the fans could follow along and cheer by just watching that scoreboard.

     

    The Florida Mini Sprints ran their warm-ups next and they went right into the sprint heat races. They ran 4 heats for the 36 sprints and I believe the top 3 in times for their group were inverted. Remember there was no announcing system for 80% of the time. There was little to no passing and they were run off quickly with only 2 cautions. I had to smile to myself when the young boy of about 12, who was obviously at his first sprint car race, ask his father was that a race or another warm-up? The mini sprints were up next with 2 heats and this was the first time ever at Bubba’s that they were running without the wings. They ran really well and in less than 45 minutes all 6 heats were run. At this point the tractor pulled onto the track for track maintenance but the announcers in one of the rare instances you could hear them were quick to tell us this was just minor work and they were correct as 10 minutes later the first of the two 4 lap dashes took the green. The first dash finish is the line-up for the inside of the first 5 rows and the second dash is the outside of the first 5 rows. After the dashes it was known that it would be Donny Schatz and David Gravel heading the field when they told the green for the 30 lap A main. The B main came out immediately and was won by Steve Buckwalter. The Florida mini sprints were next and ran an excellent race for their first time without the wings. There were 4 cautions in the event and the winner was Robbie Hoffmann.

     

    To my surprise the minute the Robbie Hoffmann interview was complete the sprints started to push out on the track for their 30 lap A main. At exactly 10:00 the green flag dropped on the 25 sprint field. By lap 2 the caution was waving for Rico Abreu who slowed in turns three and four after hitting the wall. He never really came to a stop and rode down the straight and drove off the track through the turn one exit. By the time the yellow was thrown he was off the track. When racing resumed it was all green for the remaining 28 laps. You had to keep your eyes on the cars as to catch what was happening as the entire race including the caution was run in 10 minutes. Schatz took the lead from his pole position. Unlike Thursday night he did not have to pass any cars to be in the lead and that lead was starting to build up. However once Kerry Madsen moved past David Gravel for second he was in the hunt to catch Schatz and lap by lap he cut a few more car lengths into Schatz’s lead. Now catching him would be one thing and passing would be another. To my surprise when he did catch him he maneuvered by him in lap traffic with 6 laps remaining and it was over. Schatz tried to come back but his attempt was in vain. Madsen prevented Schatz from sweeping Bubba’s. Madsen looks to be a big factor this year as he most likely would have won Thursday if not for a flat tire while leading with less than 2 laps to go. Looking at the cars that started in the top five and then finished in the top 5 there was only one change. Madsen picked up the win from 3rd, Schatz dropped to 2nd from 1st, Tim Shaffer came from 4th to finish 3rd, David Gravel dropped from 2nd to 4th and Greg Hodnett cracked the top 5 after starting 10th. Way to go Hodnett! Yes, I am biased. Hodnett is my favorite PA runner and has been for many years. I am a fan as well as a columnist you know.

     

    This was a very well run show and the track was in good condition from a fan’s prospective. All was complete by 10:10. I understand that the drivers all want to start in the front row and lead the entire event but promoters should realize that the fans like racing because of the passing and close action. I would think battling for the win and coming home victorious is more satisfying then starting on the pole and leading every lap but then I do not drive a race car. But I always thought working hard to achieve something was more gratifying then having it given to you. I know seeing car battle to the front and side by side racing is what has kept me coming back for over 60 years.

     

    Until next time from sunny Florida keep warm and count the days down until your favorite track's opener. Any comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net. And as always thanks for reading.

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Florida Top Gun Sprint Car Action From East Bay

     

    Friday, February 3 - This race tonight marked the completion of the 27th constitutive year we have seen at one race in every month of the year. Our streak started from a February date 27 years ago and continues today.

     

    Tonight's racing action would see the Florida based 360 sprint car club, The Top Gun Sprints, join the crate late models on night two of the 41st East Bay Winternationals. Twenty two sprints would join 38 crate late models for this night of racing with time trials (two at a time) for the crate late models kicking off the evening. They were followed by three heats for the sprints with A.J. Maddox, Matt Kurtz and Mark Ruel dominating each of their respective events. The Top Gun sprints remind me of the ESS sprints when they first started out as there is a big discrepancy in the cars and experience of the drivers as some come in with previous open wheel experience and top notch machinery while others seem to lack experience and quality in their race cars. Hopefully as time moves forward the gap will close in these two categories and the competition will be more even and closer racing will ensue. The 25 lap sprint car feature would take the green flag at 10:34 with eighth starter, A.J. Maddox, cutting through the field like the proverbial hot knife through butter taking the lead on lap two. From that point forward the outcome was never in doubt unless you consider a few close calls with some of the jam cars in the field. Maddox would lap the field up to third place in the race with just three cautions and show his superiority on this night of racing. Matt Kurtz and Mark Ruel Jr. would chase the fleet Maddox the entire distance and be the only other two cars on the lead lap. Andy Kelley would come home fourth with Johnny Gilbertson rounding out the top five at 10:58. The 35 lap crate late model feature would follow and indeed be the better of the two features. Floridian Phillip Cobb would prevail over fast timer, Clay Knight, with Max Blair third, Doug Horton fourth after starting ninth and Mike Pegher Jr. winding up fifth. The charge of the night was turned in by Hudson O'Neal (The New Deal), son of late model driver Don O'Neal (The Real Deal), who advanced from 20th to 6th at the finish at 11:32.

     

    Saturday, February 4 - Night three of the Winternationals at East Bay would consist of a 50 lap championship race for the crate late models while the Top Gun sprints would run another 25 lap race. Action got underway at 7:27 with four heats for the crate late models (28) with an additional six locked into the main event based on points over the past two days for a grand total of 34 cars on hand. The Top Gun sprints would again run three heats for their 22 car field with Anthony D'Allesio, Brandon Grubaugh and Matt Kurtz scoring wins in their respective heat races. The program was moving along well until management took almost an hour break between the crate late model B mains and the sprint car feature. The sprint car feature would take the green flag at 10 PM with Matt Kurtz going to the top from his third starting position early. It was not an artistic success as six cautions and one red slowed the racing action. Kurtz's only challenge came during the middle portion of the race when last night's winner, A.J. Maddox, moved into second and closed on the leader. But after a series of cautions Kurtz again established command and breezed to victory over Maddox with the steady Johnny Gilberson claiming the show position. Keith Butler would get the hard charger award after a long night of racing for him. Butler was leading his heat handily when two slower cars spun in front of him and he couldn't avoid hitting into them and rolling over several times with the majority of the damage done to his top foil. He was forced to start 18th in the feature and had worked his way into the top five when he was involved in another tussle. He restarted in the rear and managed to work his way back to fourth at the end with Dennis Misuraca rounding out the top five.

     

    The 50 lap crate late model feature took the green at 10:48 with Mike Pegher Jr. going to the lead. Mark Whitener was one of the few that was able to use the high groove to move forward coming from 14th to challenge for and eventually take the lead on lap 14. Pegher regained the lead again on lap 17 as the top went away and Whitener dropped back into the pack. The race went huggy pole with everyone battling to the bottom to protect position. Pegher would go unchallenged the remainder of the distance and flashed under the checkered flag at 11:25 winning over the veteran Florida driver, Keith Nosbisch, with Max Blair third, Mark Whitener rebounding for fourth and Hudson O'Neal completing the top five.

     

    Next column will find All Star sprint car racing from Bubba Raceway Park and who knows what else. As the folks in the northeast count down the days until the opener at Lincoln Speedway stay safe and keep warm. Notes and comments can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net and as always thanks for reading.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Our First Weekend Of Racing For 2017

    Friday, January 27 - We decided to do something this year that we haven't done for several years and that is driving to Florida for racing and not flying. Thursday night found us in Clarksville, Tennessee and arising on Friday morning to continue the remainder of the drive into Florida. Our Friday night destination was the North Florida Speedway, a 3/8 mile dirt oval in the Lake City area. On tap tonight was the Nationals for the Locals consisting of six divisions with limited late models and micro sprints the two headliners. It was a cool day never getting out of the 50's and after the sun dropped below the horizon it would be getting even colder with temperatures dropping into the mid 40's. The water truck broke down during the day and was not fixed until late afternoon causing the start time to be delayed one hour from 7 PM to 8 PM to allow the track to be run in properly. Hobby and thunder stock heats kicked off the program with these two divisions only running heats with their features scheduled for Saturday. The Florida micro sprint club was next up only needing to run one heat for their disappointing seven car field with John Craddock walking away in this one. The limited late models brought 18 cars to the dance producing three heats to qualify this group. The E mods and box stocks wrapped up the qualifying with two heats each with all qualifying completing by 9:36. A 20 minute intermission followed with the first of four features taking the green flag at 9:59. Two of the micro sprints did not make the call for their feature, one suffering engine woes while the other had front end damage. If you can imagine a five car feature being good this one was. Jim Young from Pennsylvania took the lead with the others chasing. John Craddock who started fifth worked his way to second and onto the bumper of the leader. They ran nose to tail racing around the oval with Craddock trying some different lines but Young holding him off. With just four laps to go Craddock drove to the high groove exiting turn two and got a good run on Young and drove by him down the backstretch. Craddock would not be challenged over the remaining four laps and took the checkered flag just five minutes after the start of the non-stop 20 lap event. Young would finish up second with Robbie Hoffmann taking the show position. We decided to stay for the 20 lap limited late model feature and this one got off to a rocky start with a seven car pileup at the end of the homestretch. With only one wrecker in attendance the 15 minute delay did not help to keep us any warmer. A total of six cautions slowed this event with Garrett Lloyd finally prevailing over Kevin Davis and Lonnie Roberts. It was now 10:54 and having now sat for 4 1/2 hours in the cold, damp air that was enough for us for our first race of 2017. I understand the water truck breakdown was unavoidable but management here needs to learn how to tighten the program up after you have lost an hour at the beginning of the show. Little things like having the next heat rolling onto the track after the previous one is exiting and not running an extra lap to give them the one lap to go sign over the course of the evening could save you ten to fifteen minutes. Also drivers racing in multiple divisions should be placed in heat races that are not back to back causing more delay to allow them to switch cars. Various little things like this would save you a good half hour or more in the presenting of your program. And on a cold night ending a half hour or so sooner will be greatly appreciated by your paying customer.

     

    Saturday, January 28 - Today would peak out in the middle 50's but the temperature would only drop a few degrees in the evening. It was time to head over to the Gulf Coast side of Florida to take in the 2017 opener for the Southern Sprint Car Shootout Series. The SSCSS is a winged 360 sprint car group that has replaced the TBARA sprinters in Florida. The forecast was clear until around 9:30 when rain was suppose to blow in off the Gulf Coast waters. An efficient program was needed this evening and Desoto Speedway management delivered the goods. Desoto is a fast 3/8 mile asphalt oval with 12 degree banking and the Southern Sprint Cars haul the mail here. Eighteen sprinters made the haul and they were the only division to run heats on the evening. The other two divisions, mini stocks (9) & sportsman (limited late models - 9) ran features only. Also on the card were bombers and TQ midgets but none showed so management added a special 10 lap mini stock figure 8 race at the end of the evening using only the infield X and inner oval as the turns.

     

    Mickey Kempgens looked strong in heat one pulling away from the field. He won the previous week here as a wingless show was presented. Pat remarked that he looked like he had a 410 engine compared to the rest in 360's! Troy DeCaire won heat two in good fashion and Johnny Gilberson triumphed in heat three. By the way they started five minutes early as they were determined to beat the rain coming in. The 25 lap mini stock feature took the green at 7:16 and was over 11 minutes later with Laura Mammina destroying the rest of the field in a dominating drive. The special 50 lap main event for the sportsman followed promptly at 7:35 with Aaron Williamson going to the point around lap 12 and it was pretty much over after that. Finishing second was 2016 sportsman track champion, Brooke Storer, with Cody Allen claiming third.

     

    Just past 8:30 the green flag waved on the 30 lap sprint car feature and Sport Allen jumped to the early lead. Allen was looking strong but eighth starting Mickey Kempgens was moving forward in a hurry. The first of only two cautions appeared on lap 10 when Carli Yent's car stalled on the track. On the restart Allen sped away with Kempgens applying pressure to second running John Inman. The top three ran that way until lap 18 when Kempgens suddenly pulled to the infield with mechanical woes. Allen looked to be in control at this point but sometimes fate can deal an ugly hand. Entering turn two on lap 28 fourth running Dude Teate lost a radiator hose and spun to the inside with Gary Wiggens and leader Allen spinning in the water trail left by Teate. According to club rules if you need a second pushoff after the initial one you go to the rear of the field. All of a sudden John Inman in his beautiful #59 had the lead! Inman was able to fend off Jason Kimball to take his first career sprint car win. Johnny Gilberson took third with Troy DeCaire finishing fourth after he had also gone to the rear after spinning in hot laps before the feature start. Allen would cross the line fifth but for some reason or infraction was placed 17th in the rundown. Clayton Donaldson, the 2016 rookie of the year, was credited with fifth. The checkered waved at 8:50 and waved again from the top of the wing of John Inman celebrating his first career victory. The four car, 10 lap mini stock figure 8 rounded out the evening at 9:09 with Matt Owen winning. As we motored north on I-75 around 9:40 we encountered rain which we drove in almost all the way back to the condo. Nice job by Desoto management in running an efficient show and getting everything in.

     

    Until next week when we visit the Clay by the Bay, the East Bay Raceway, where the Top Gun sprints and crate late models are scheduled to run Thursday through Saturday be safe and keep warm. Comments or questions can reach us at bruce.eckel@comcast.net . Thanks for reading and get the calendars and schedules out and plot some road trips for the 2017 season.

     

     

     

    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.

     

     

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

     


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