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    A Typical Weekend

    by Pat & Bruce Eckel

     

    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 1½ 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, ¼ 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.

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    76th Annual Turkey Night Grand Prix At Ventura

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

     

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

     

    End Of The Year Show At US 24 Speedway

     

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Jason Leffler Memorial At Wayne County Speedway

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Rain & Fall Nationals At Lawrenceburg

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Lincoln Park & Decatur County On An Indiana Fall Weekend

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Action Packed Haubstadt Hustler At Tri State

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    California Dreaming At Calistoga & Petaluma

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Smackdown V At Kokomo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Rain, Rain, Clyde Martin & Rain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

    A TYPICAL WEEKEND

    By Pat and Bruce Eckel

    Memories Of Bryan Clauson

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

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

     

     

     

     

     

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

     


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