By Danny Burton
Danny Burton’s Hoosier Race Report appears courtesy of OpenWheelRacers.com
Finally, for Hoosier short track fans, the 2007 season arrived with a bang. Races all over this great state and fans left quite pleased, for the most part. There were plenty of new faces, new teams, and new team combinations, all with high hopes. There were plenty of kids, many of whom cannot vote and who need not shave just yet. They have much promise, but at least three tracks saw veterans come away with the trophy and the dollars. The young drivers will have their day; time will dictate that, if nothing else. But this one belonged to the guys who have already paid some dues.
The Bloomington Speedway opened its 2007 season last night with a bang as the fourth edition of the Elliottbrand.com Clash was even bigger, and even better, than last year’s. Talented young kids made up a substantial portion of the field, but at the end, it was three time-tested veterans leading the way to the checkered. Dave Darland held off Tracy Hines and a fast closing Jon Stanbrough to take home the biggest share of the money.
Unlike several days in recent weeks, Friday, April 20 was a beautiful sunshiny day. The day became even more lovely as I turned into the parking lot off Fairfax Road, home of a track that continues to give race fans their money’s worth. 55 sprint cars jammed the pits with quite a few new combinations. Kent Christian in the Pottorff 11, Brady Short in the Benic 2B, Chad Boespflug in the family owned 90, Geoff Dodge, Ricky Stenhouse in one of the Jeff Walker cars, Dustin Morgan in the other, Dickie Gaines in Don Short’s 36, Chad Boat in his daddy Billy’s 30, Brady Bacon in a new Kasey Kahne entry with Kevin Swindell as his teammate, Bobby Stine now in the Hurst brothers’ car, Robert Ballou in the MPHG 81, and Jesse Hockett (who took a wild tumble down the front straight during qualifications) in the VKCC 75 were some of the names we’d have to memorize for the time being.
Walking through the pits, taking in all the sights, smells, and sounds, suddenly seemed to make the long wait since last fall worth the wait. Familiar faces, new faces, it didn’t matter; it was, again, home away from home.
New track records were the order of the night as a new one was set four times, with K. Swindell ending up with the new record. And the track itself stayed tacky all night and lightning fast. Once again, Mike Miles gave a strong effort to prepare the track and it showed.
Five heats would help sort things out for the feature lineup. The top three from each heat would transfer with the top five from the B Main transferring.
Things got off to a rough start in the first heat as young Trent Niflis took a wild ride over the turn four banking. He was shaken up but would be okay eventually. After a 25 minute delay Danny Holtsclaw, Jon Sciscoe, and Jon Stanbrough all moved on to the feature. Shane Cottle took the second heat with Hunter Schuerenberg and Ty Deckard trailing. Shane Hollingsworth won the third heat and Tracy Hines was second. Dickie Gaines was third. Dave Darland came from sixth to take the fourth heat over Dustin Morgan and Levi Jones. Brady Bacon (yeah, we’ll have fun with that name) won the fifth heat, leading Ted Hines and Kenny Biro across the line.
55 cars mandated a C Main and the top five from that would get their qualifying times back and go to the B Main. Ricky Stenhouse won, with Darren Hagen, Robert Ballou, Mat Neely, and Chad Boespfhlug also moving to B land. Swindell, Stenhouse, Ballou, Boat, and Chris Windom all made it to the feature with poor Josh Wise flipping at the start. Both Keith Kunz cars, Wise and Hagen, were loaded up and headed home.
The all-kiddie front row of Boat and Windom led Darland, Hines, Stenhouse, Swindell, Jones, Bacon, Stanbrough, and Schuerenberg to the green with Shane Cottle flipping in turn one, with some help as everyone tried to claim the huggly pole. Windom led early, but by lap 10 Stenhouse had taken over and tried to check out. Finally the top groove had made its appearance and a few hardy souls were trying it, including Stenhouse. But the Mississippi kid got a bit anxious and ran into a lapped car and flipped, ending his great run. This put Darland in the lead and that was that. Oh, sure, Hines made it fairly close, but Darland had things under control. Stanbrough made a late charge to third and pressured Hines, but couldn’t close the deal. Windom was an impressive fourth and Jones was fifth. Morgan, Boat, Ballou, Bacon, and Sciscoe ran six-ten.
Matt Boknecht led all the way in taking the modified feature win. Joe Lucas won the curfew shortened super stock feature.
It’s a special show for sprinters again at Bloomington this coming week. $1700 to win on WHCC bonus night, postponed from Friday the 13th.
Levi By A Hair
The long awaited first trip to the world famous Lawrenceburg Speedway came the very next night. USAC came a-calling and with the improvements to the venerable bullring, it promised to be an eventful evening.
On the usual pit stroll, it occurred to me that having all these kids around was not necessarily a bad thing. In five or ten years, perhaps most of these guys and gals will drop out, but you never know. A couple may become another Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart, but no way will they all reach such heights. Maybe a few more will become Dave Darland or Jay Drake, or Kevin Briscoe. I’ll maintain that a young racer could do a lot worse to emulate those people as well.
The track has been changed, with the inside being moved out about 15 feet, but it was the same old ‘burg that I’ve known and loved for some time. All the shooters, including my buddy Slim Jim Morrison, were lined up in turns one and two.
Unfortunately, they straightway got themselves a spectacular series of shots as Brent Beauchamp executed a series of rolls and flips, getting some big air right after hot laps began. Brent was shook up and his car was in worse shape; hopefully they will be able to return soon.
A very tacky track made things tricky for anyone who ventured even a bit out of the groove on the bottom. Brad Stevens was one of those who did that, but later the word was that something broke on the 97. In any event, Brad took a mean tumble in turn four and bounced off the wall off four. He was okay with the usual bruises, etc. that are a part of it. Later Derek Franks, in his first ride with the Law Brothers’ 77, did his best helicopter imitation, but did not get upside down. Still, he, too, was done for the night.
It was two nights in a row that Kevin Swindell set a new track record, a habit that Sammy’s kid could get used to.
A few more changes from Friday night included Dickie Gaines in Lynn Reid’s 2B, and Shane Cottle replacing Ricky Stenhouse in the Walkermobile.
The first three of the four heats were a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day.” Run a lap, flip, run a lap, etc. First up was birthday boy Jerry Coons Jr. and Swindell doing synchronized tipovers, followed a lap later by Bill Rose doing a serious flip. Transferees were Cottle, Dustin Morgan, Mat Neely, and Damion Gardner. Kevin Briscoe took a rare series of flips in the second heat. Like the others, Kevin would be okay, but with a trashed car. (He was spotted later munching on a hamburger and unsuccessfully trying to nip yours truly with a four-wheeler.) Not long after that Kyle Robbins had his own mid-air experience in turn two. Tracy Hines, in the Tony Stewart 21, was the winner, or was it survivor, of heat two. Jon Stanbrough trailed, with new papa Matt Westfall and Brett Burdette also transferring to A Main heaven. Heat three saw Neil Shepherd take a mean ride into turn one. He then took a ride to the hospital and checked out. This was after he had ridden up onto Dickie Gaines’ left side and stayed therein a separate incident. Jimmy Light won the third heat over Jesse Hockett, Gaines, and Brady Bacon trailing. The fourth heat was clean and green with Chris Windom leading Chad Boesphflug, Darren Hagen, and Dave Darland across the line.
Again, the B looked like an A as Swindell, Jones, Ballou, Daron Clayton, Josh Wise, and Shane Hollingsworth would be able to stick around for another race.
The pride of Sunman, Indiana, Brett Burdette, started on the pole for the 30 lapper. Dustin Morgan would be beside him. Behind those guys were Jones, Bacon, Hines, Swindell, Wise, Ballou, Stanbrough, and Brady Short. The birthday boy, Coondog, got the provisional as a birthday present of sorts.
Bacon jumped from fourth to lead early. The Oklahoma cowboy set a mean pace, lapping cars early. It wasn’t quite halfway when Short was pinched down in turn four and spun. Bacon still led with Jones, Burdette, Swindell, Ballou, Wise, Hockett, Darland, Stanbrough, and Hollingsworth trailing. It seemed as if Bacon had things in hand until Jones held his breath long enough to take the high side and pass the kid at the line as the checkered flag waved. A few minutes went by as track officials checked and re-checked before announcing Jones as the winner by less than a fender, if these guys had fenders. As it was, the transponders paid off.
For the second night in a row, both the stands and the pits were full. The hard work of both promoters hopefully paid off. For rookie promoter Dave Rudisell, his first night had the usual glitches, but all in all, at least from here, things went well and people left happy. And much of that is what it’s all about.
Jeff Harris led the caution-free modified feature all the way to win. Derek Davis was the pure stock winner.
It will be www.indianaopenwheel.com night at Lawrenceburg this coming Saturday. Show up wearing IOW.com apparel and you’re in for half price.
First Time Winner!
You always like to see racers win their first one, or at least you should. And when it’s a nice young fellow like Mark Jessup, who has made untold sacrifices to get just a chance to show his talent, you have to like it that much more. At the world famous Winchester Speedway, USAC sprints made an appearance as the Rich Vogler Classic was run. Rich probably would have liked the winner and the way he won.
A meandering two hour drive north to Winchester on a sunny Sunday morning is not a bad way to spend one’s time. Throw in a lovely April day and little traffic and one can enjoy the drive almost as much as the race itself. Almost.
A mind boggling 28 sprint cars were on hand, an unheard of number for the ancient, but stately, high banks. Sprinkled liberally through the field were maybe 10 rookies. This would be fun, but tense.
From way out west (Idaho), Mike Murgoitio would be in a Jeff Walker car. Mark Jessup had worked his way into a Keith Kunz bullet. Donnie Adams Jr. was back with supposed help from Mr. K. Cody Veenstra, another western visitor (Idaho again), was in what appeared to be a team car to Canadian Ryan Litt. And Californian Nick Green, son of a renowned racer, was here too. With the CRA late models also running, Ron Gregory would be doing double duty, racing a Bill Biddle sprinter and a late model, too.
Fireworks began right off as Jessup was caught up in a situation not created by him and got upside down going into turn one. This sparked some serious thrashing as the Kunz crew hustled as racing continued. Dave Steele checked out to win the first of four heats over Gregory, Brian Gerster, and Levi Jones.
The second heat was one of the more interesting I’ve witnessed over the years. As the lineup pushed off, it occurred to me that this would be the “Dave and Six Kids’ Show.” Dave Darland was far and away the most experienced and oldest driver in the second heat. Some of those kids have had very little seat time on pavement and even less on Winchester’s half mile high banks. So I figured that this would be about a two and a half minute class. The professor would teach and it would be up to the students to learn. And from his fifth starting spot, Professor Darland taught his class in Winchester 101, patiently moving up, watching and waiting for only the slightest bobble and pouncing when the time was right. Darren Hagen was first in class, but second to the teacher. Brady Bacon was third with Chris Windom fourth.
Brian Tyler, in the Contos car, won the third heat over Tracy Hines, west coast dirt hot shot, Damion Gardner, and Nick Green. Cameron Dodson won the fourth heat, with Tom Hessert III, Eric Gordon, and Mike Murgoitio all moving straight to the main.
After an exhausting session of bench racing, enjoying a Winchester hamburger, and teasing a certain Buckeye friend who had locked himself out of his apartment, it was B Main time. Jessup’s car was repaired by now and the kid from Camby (Indiana) ran away with the 12 lap semi. Swindell was second with Short, Adams, Morgan, and Jason Blonde all racing one more time today.
For the feature, it was the “Dave and Dave Show” with Darland and Steele making up the front row. Behind them were Murgoitio, Tyler, Hagen, Jessup, Hines, Gordon, Jones, and Windom. Darland got the early jump and took off with Steele and the others chasing. Jessup was quickly moving up though and took the lead on lap seven, never looking back despite a numerous cautions for minor spins. Meanwhile Darland slowly faded as Steele fought off repeated challenges by Hagen. The last re-start on lap 27 was everyone’s best chance to move up or not. Jessup was trailed by Steele, Hagen, Hines, Gordon, Swindell, Darland, Jones, Hessert, and Ron Gregory. This order stayed the same, but not without last lap fireworks. Eric Gordon appeared to get loose and Tom Hessert, checking up, spun into the wall on the front stretch. They stacked up behind these guys with Nick Green getting on his lid and doing the long slide down to turn one. All involved were okay and Jessup was one happy, and deserving, winner. Post-race, he allowed that maybe he was the first driver at Winchester to win after getting upside down. Me, I got a kick out of watching him talk, remembering my short chat with him at Richmond a few years back when he, his girlfriend, his dad, and his granddad brought the family sprint car to RIR. It had been a long and tough road for the young man since that humid June day. No doubt there had been times he’s wondered if it was worth it. But on this sunny April afternoon, he seemed to have no doubts.
After the sprints were done, the CRA late models took over with Tommy St. John holding off Jeff Lane to take the 100 lapper. Joe Beaver won the CRA Super Stock feature.
ARCA invades the high banks of Winchester on May 6.
Elsewhere around the state, Billy Puterbaugh Jr. won at Gas City. Steve Cronenwett won as the ARCA Trucks were at Anderson. Steve Kinser won as the Outlaws invaded Haubstadt. Don O’Neal won at Brownstown. Bobby Stine took the Hurst Brothers to a Lincoln Park win. Brian Keselowski won at Salem with ARCA coming to the high banks down south. Kerry Kinser and Kyle Cummins were the feature winners at Paragon. Brent Londeree was the modified winner at Twin Cities.
Refusing to take any phone calls from Alec Baldwin, I’m…
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