By Danny Burton
Danny Burton’s Hoosier Race Report appears courtesy of OpenWheelRacers.com
Whether or not we realize or care, we all have lines in our lives. These lines are seen or unseen. They can be real or imagined. They can be lines we draw ourselves or have our society or culture draw them instead. Sometimes we foolishly cross those lines and pay a serious price. But no matter what these lines are or what they mean, we’d be best advised to be aware of them. For Jon Stanbrough on Friday night at the Gas City/I-69 Speedway, lines were important. Though it may not have been totally visible, Jon’s line was real. It happened to be the one he used to run off with the sprint feature after starting 11th. And in the process he made yet another fan in my grandson. But that’s another story.
Call it what you wish, cool, chilly, breezy; all of the above would fit. After all, global warming or not, we were reminded that September in Indiana, especially at night, can be a bit nippy. So the plan was for Landon and me to head southwest from his house to Gas City while the others went to a birthday party in Ft. Wayne. Quite a plan it turned out to be.
We pulled into the parking and signed in just in time for sprint car hot laps. Naturally Landon eyed the Jiggs Thomason Playground behind the bleachers and immediately began asking when we could visit that. So the poor guy had a long wait because there were five sprint heats tonight, what with 37 sprint cars in the pits.
Actually his wait could have been even longer. Throughout the sprint heats there were few yellow flags and no reds, making for an even faster moving program. Sammy Imel beat out track champ Billy Puterbaugh Jr. and Mr. Stanbrough for the first heat win. Chris Windom and Hunter Schuerenberg started on the front row of the second heat and ran one-two. Jerry Coons Jr. came from sixth to take third. Marc Arnold won the third heat over A.J. Anderson and Damion Gardner. Ted Hines won the fourth heat as Brett Burdette came from last to take second over Mike Weber, the racing lawyer. And Josh Spencer hustled to win the final heat with Casey Shuman and Daron Clayton trailing. It was playground time!
It was also time to get updates from dear friends who were at O’Reilly Raceway Park for the Professional Racing Association race down there. So I kept an eye on the rambunctious four year old and chatted a good bit while the support classes ran. The highlight of the playground interlude was watching the little guy push five girls, aged around eight, around and around on the merry-go-round. I was impressed; five girlfriends in one shot.
Two B Mains would have to be run with the top three from each tagging the field. Travis Welpott led Steve Ott and newly engaged Jason Holt to the line. The best race up to then would be the second B as ‘Nuclear” Nick Corea won. Had Nick been able to look back he’d have seen a good battle among Critter Malone, Rex Norris III, Kyle Robbins, Mark Clark, and Jamie Fredrickson. The Critter and Rex held off the others to move on. Back to the playground we went.
More updates, plus a sharing of some popcorn with Grandpa. Bobby East was running away with the race and it was cold in Indy as well. Cold comfort as at least the playground was behind the stands, which blocked some of the breeze. Back to our seats as Landon greeted a few of my racin’ pals, many of whom knew of him and were only too happy to finally meet the “Sword Man”.
Landon is starting to get this number deal down fairly good. He still struggles with numbers larger than 19, but I’m thinking that maybe next year he will know those numbers too. So he could pick out numbers like 17 or 12, but still struggled with 53. I told him to watch for that number 53 and showed him the car. And after laying his head down in my lap for some of the preliminary races, he was alert for the 25 lap feature.
Puterbaugh and Windom led Burdette, Hines, Arnold, Imel, Spencer, Schuerenberg, Anderson, and Shuman to the green, with Stanbrough and Coons in the sixth row. Before the green had stopped waving cars stacked up in turn four, resembling a rugby scrum. Gardner, Malone, Corea, and Clayton were all involved. All would re-start. On the second try, Billy P. took the early lead with Windom in hot pursuit. But we were watching the 53. By the time of a lap four yellow Stanbrough was up to seventh. A few laps later Coons spun (or was spun?) and Norris went nose to nose, not being able to stop in time. As cars slowed, Steve Ott flipped, making the yellow a red flag. Steve was okay, but done for the night. For this re-start, the order was Puterbaugh, Windom, Burdette, and Stanbrough. The crossed flags had not even appeared when Stanbrough made the move(s) of the night. With the top three all taking the low groove, the quiet gentleman from Jamestown, IN took the high line and swept around them all to take a lead he’d not give up. Halfway done and it was Stanbrough, Windom, Puterbaugh, Burdette, Arnold, Gardner (remember, he’d re-started in the back), Anderson, Hines, Welpott, and Shuman. Not a lot changed after this except that Gardner wasn’t done. The Demon kept coming on until he finished fourth and was pressuring Puterbaugh for third. So Stanbrough was followed by Windom, Puterbaugh (the 2007 Gas City sprint car points champ), Gardner, and Burdette. The second five was Welpott (from 16th), Arnold, Anderson, Shuman, and Holt.
Terry Hull won the modified feature, Lee Hobbs won the street stock feature, and Mike Fredrick won the thunder car feature. Jiggs and company do it again this coming Friday night.
It was only a bit after 10 p.m., but Landon was tired (gee, wonder why?) and was ready to go home, especially after he found out that he couldn’t sit in the 53 car. Rather than wait until he was allowed to go to the pits, he was ready to go home, thus ending his chance of sitting in any of the cars. (I was ready to see if either Jamie Fredrickson or Josh Spencer were brave enough to let the little guy sit in their seat for a bit. A couple years ago, when he sat in Kevin Besecker’s car, he cried when we lifted him out.)
So off we went, north on I-69 where Landon fell asleep by the time we reached the Marion exit. With Lyle Lovett on the CD and a dead cell phone, we sped through the cool Indiana night, slowing for the small towns, much like the one where Landon lives and I occasionally stay. Once in a while, I’d glance back to see if he was still asleep. This was the same child who had spilled his root beer and five minutes later had dropped his grandpa’s race goggles from our seats to the ground an hour earlier. A dear friend had been correct; he’s only four and those things happen. (I hate it sometimes when my dear friends are right.)
An hour later we were there and I discovered that this kid is getting a bit heavier. Luckily his mom was still up and helped get him to bed. I remembered how it wasn’t that long ago I’d carried her around as she slept.
The time passes and the clichés are all true. Kids don’t stay four years old; it’s the nature of things that they hopefully grow older. Seemingly, in the time it takes Jon Stanbrough to make the winning pass, they learn to walk, talk, think-you name it. All we as parents and/or grandparents can do is try as best we can to enjoy it. It’s not meant to last, but we’re blessed with memories that sustain us. So from my time out on the “Hill”, the long gone Columbus Motor Speedway, or my time running around in the infield at the Salem Speedway to my time of taking my grandson to the races, I’m in the position to look back and forward, too. Most days the view isn’t that bad.
Elsewhere: As mentioned, Bobby East won at ORP on Saturday night in PRA action. Bryan Clauson won what may be his last open wheel race at Anderson as he beat a strong USAC Midget field at Anderson. My wife and I were there for this one, along with several other hardy souls. She talked John Hoover into getting his blanket to help her stay warm. California visitor Robert Ballou won at Bloomington. Jeff Bland Jr. won at Lincoln Park. Friday night at Lawrenceburg saw Chad Blonde win on the first night of the Hoosier Fall Classic. On Saturday night Kraig Kinser won after starting sixth as the All Star Circuit of Champions came to da ‘burg. Yet another former open wheeler, Justin Allgaier, won as ARCA paid a visit to Salem. Devin Gilpin, in his modified, was among the winners at Twin Cities. Ted Nobbe was the late model winner at Union County. Kenny Byrge won at Greensburg as the UMRA invaded my neighboring county.
Nervously eyeing Bill Belichick’s video camera, I’m…
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