June 28, 2020

The Hoosier Report

David 1, Goliath 0

Columbus, IN - All week long lots of good racers have watched the Tucker/Boat team dominate USAC's Indiana Midget Week, winning all five features up until Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway. But total domination wasn't to be for the multi-car team. That's because a one car team, with Tanner Thorson behind the wheel, pulled it off as Thorson edged former teammate Kyle Larson and his teammate Chris Windom at the checkered flag. With a borrowed engine no less.

I left home and drove through steady rain all the way through Marion County. It became periodic sprinkles through Hamilton County and quit entirely as I motored through Tipton County. Kokomo had cloudy skies but my faith had been rewarded. The weather forecast was close enough and I had as close to total faith in the O'Connor family's desire to have a race (and sell a few pork chop sandwiches).

Among the 37 USAC midgets and 38 Kokomo sprints was the usual ride switching. Spencer Bayston had stepped in to replace Logan Seavey, who’s feeling a little better but not ready to get back into the seat. Kevin Thomas Jr., citing the need to pay more attention to his sprint car team, exited the Petry team car and Jerry Coons Jr. was on hand to fill in. Jason McDougal's tryout with the Kunz team was Lawrenceburg only and he was back in his regular ride tonight. After a brief absence, Rico Abreu and Tyler Nelson were back. On the sprint side, Isaac Chapple was taking his turn in the Pedersen Open Trailer Special. Thomas Meseraull, Brady Bacon, Justin Grant and Chris Windom were the double dippers.

For a brief period I thought to myself, uh-oh. Bits of moisture began falling from the sky at 7:15. By 7:30 it was almost a drizzle as the first heat participants circled the track. But it let up quickly and the green flag waved.

Tanner Thorson won with Kyle Larson, Jerry Coons Jr. and Ethan Mitchell all moving on.

Another Tanner, this one Carrick, took the second heat and Kaylee Bryson was second, trailed by sprint aces Clinton Boyles and Kyle Cummins.

Chris Windom came from fifth to win the third heat. Tyler Courtney, Justin Grant and Jason McDougal made ready for the feature.

Thomas Meseraull was the man to beat in the fourth heat. As it would turn out, this would be his highlight of the evening. Rico Abreu was second. Cannon McIntosh and Buddy Kofoid made it a KKM sweep... not counting the winner.

Cole Bodine won the last chance race. Pole sitter Daison Pursley was second. Shane Golobic, Andrew Layser, Spencer Bayston and Jake Neuman (who started 11th) would race again.

Kokomo Sprints

The usual five heats/top three advance/two Bs/ top three advance format was in place and C.L. Leary won the first heat. Shane Cottle and Thomas Meseraull moved to the feature.

Brady Bacon was the second heat winner, taking Matt Westfall and Max Adams with him to the finale. For the third heat it was Justin Grant, Dave Darland and Travis Hery doing the honors. Chris Windom, Anton Hernandez and Mitchell Davis did Illinois and Texas proud in the fourth heat.

Charles Davis Jr., Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jarett Andretti made the feature with Dustin Smith narrowly missing.

For the first last chance race (had to do it), Critter Malone led Matt Goodnight and Aaron Farney into the 25 lap feature.

Brian VanMeveren, Isaac Chapple and Dustin Smith met their goal of running one more race.

Two Features 

An interesting duo, Abreu and Windom, were the front row occupants and one would reasonably expect that one of them would lead the first lap, but Tyler Courtney, starting fourth, had another plan. Windom held onto second as Meseraull and Larson fought for third. Courtney was lengthening his lead and it was tempting to picture him as the winner.

Thorson had started seventh and had dropped back in the early going. At the halfway mark he was still seventh.

Festivities were interrupted on lap 18, when McDougal stopped in turn four with a flat tire, his second in two nights. McIntosh stopped on the frontstretch. Courtney was looking strong, leading Windom, Meseraull, Larson and Boyles. Thorson was sixth and things were about change big time.

On the re-start, Courtney caromed through turn one and flipped, bringing out the red—the race’s defining moment. Meseraull spun to a stop to miss Courtney and he’d re-start on the tail. Windom would be the new leader, with Larson, Boyles and Thorson in fourth.

The green waved and Windom maintained a lead over Larson, his teammate. One had to wonder if Larson was letting up, being a team player. I wondered it and refused to believe it. Thorson dispatched Boyles at the start and edged his way closer to the front, now with a car that could do what he wanted. Sure enough, Thorson caught Larson and made the pass. Two laps later the yellow came out for a wandering infield tire that Ethan Mitchell contacted. Windom’s lead over Thorson was gone; this was a break for the Nevadan.

On the re-start, Thorson dove under Windom, making the pass in turn two. But wait; this thing wasn’t over. Larson used the high line to get around his teammate and set sail for the new leader. There wasn’t much time, but if anyone could do it, Larson could. Windom wanted to play some more and the three nearly went three wide on the last lap with Thorson in the middle. Thorson took the low line in the final turn as Larson rode the fence. Thorson’s margin of victory was a half car length, or .065 seconds.

Fourth behind Thorson, Larson and Windom was Boyles, which concluded a productive week for the RMS team. Cummins came from 15th to finish fifth. Abreu led the second five with Golobic ending up seventh. Coons wound up as the KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger as he moved from 20th to eighth at the end. Meseraull charged back to ninth after his misfortune. Kofoid showed how important qualifying is as he started 22nd and finished tenth.

By .065 seconds, Thorson kept the Tucker-Boat team from sweeping Indiana Midget Week.

After the feature Kofoid and TMez appeared to be having a discussion about the best place to have a late night snack in Kokomo.

Chris Windom eased the pain of just missing the victory in the midget feature by getting around Brady Bacon on a late race restart and holding on to close out the night-and the week-of racing with a sprint car feature win. Bacon was a close second. Shane Cottle edged C. J. Leary to take third. Kevin Thomas Jr. came from tenth to finish fifth.

Dave Darland led the second five with Charles Davis Jr. winding up seventh. Jarett Andretti hustled from 15th to grab eighth. Matt Westfall and Max Adams completed the top ten.

If one was inclined to think so, I suppose that every race is like a Christian Bible story. Tonight it was the story of David and Goliath, where a young man with a slingshot brought down a much stronger man. Thorson played the role of David on Sunday and played it very well while the multi-car teams played Goliath(s). The slingshot role was played by number 19, which had given David headaches the past few nights, especially the engines.

Thorson is ideal for the role, preferring to call his own shots rather than be a part of a large team. Let’s allow him to have the final word. “I think there’s a lot to say about being able to do your own car. “Nothing against Keith Kunz and his whole team, but there’s something about that, for my satisfaction, to be able to do my car.”

I’d think that even Mr. Kunz would be proud, standing off to the side, a somewhat painful smile on his face because one of his former racers had learned his lessons well.

Meanwhile, wondering if Wendell Scott is sadly looking down, I’m…

Danny Burton

June 27, 2020

Lee County Speedway/MARS DirtCar Series

Photos Courtesy of Mike Ruefer 

June 26, 2020

Bobby Pierce Jr. was declared the winner of  the MARS DirtCar Series feature at Donnellson on Friday night when Brian Shirley was 40lbs light at the scales. 

Frank Heckenast Jr. 

Spencer Diercks

Chris Simpson

Bobby Pierce Jr. 

Bobby Pierce Jr. #32 and Chris Simpson #32

Spencer Diercks #29 and Chad Holladay #32C

Jay Johnson #93 and Ricky Frankel #33F

Rich Bell #21B and Daryn Klein #6

Ryan Unzicker

Brian Shirley was first across the finish but light at the scales. 

June 26, 2020

Davenport Speedway/MARS DirtCar Series

Photos Courtesy of Mike Ruefer 

June 25, 2020

MARS DirtCar Series winner Frank Heckenast Jr. (center) is joined by runner-up Allen Weisser (right) and third-place finisher Brian Shirley (left).

Frank Heckenast Jr. #99JR and Spencer Diercks #29

Rich Bell #21B and Daryn Klein #6

Allen Weisser #25W and Brian Shirley #3S

Myles Moos #84 and Jason Feger #25F

Bob Gardner #4G and Ryan Unzicker #24

Frank Heckenast Jr. #99JR and Chris Simpson #32

Allen Weisser #25W and Brian Birkhofer #15B

Jason Feger #25F and Justin Kay #15K

Jonathan Brauns #22B, Rich Bell #21B and Ryan Unzicker #24

June 17, 2020

The Hoosier Race Report

First Time Winner 

Columbus, IN - Once again, the USAC/MSCS sprinters showed us that a racer can start on the pole, lead all 30 laps, and still give the fans a thrilling show. Throw in the fact that Stephen Schnapf was the pole sitter and a first time winner to add more drama. Finally, consider that Schnapf was one of the local favorites and the partisan crowd went home smiling all the way.

The first thing I noticed was long lines, haulers backed up to the county road E1025 South. My usual parking area had plenty of room and I was set to see what had changed and what hadn't. Given these times, a degree of social distancing was the norm—our new reality for now.

Pit walk time. As usual Donnie Brackett's team had claimed their pit spot which featured one of the friendliest dogs you'll ever want to pet. Florida transplant Anthony D'Alessio had secured the services of Mike Dutcher. It's common knowledge that C. J. Leary is back in the family car. Critter Malone was driving a Kent Schmidt car. Also, common knowledge is the return of Jonathan Vennard, one of several Tri-State racers in the house. Shane Cottle hooked up with the Josh Hodges team this spring. And Kurt Gross, who has been AWOL from driving one of these beasts for several years, was back with his familiar 1X.

The track didn't go away as the 45 cars worked it over. Donny Brackett led the first flight of contestants and his sub-14 second lap was looking like the overall quick time until Dave Darland, 32nd in line, topped them all with an impressive 13.647.

Donny Brackett took the first heat by a half straightaway over Robert Ballou, Jaden Rogers and Jonathan Vennard. Shane Cottle led some colleagues to the B.

C. J. Leary took the lead halfway through the second heat and won, leading Brady Bacon, Dustin Clark (who led the first five laps) and Carson Short to the line. Kevin Thomas Jr. prepared for the B.

Kyle Cummins blasted his way to the lead on the first lap and never looked back in the third heat. Aric Gentry and Chase Stockon made it a regional sweep with Dakota Jackson, who lives near me, taking fourth and sending Dave Darland to the B.

On their fourth try, the boys finally got going after three tries with another area racer, Stephen Schnapf, winning the fourth heat by a goodly margin. Chris Windom, Brandon Mattox and Justin Grant locked in feature starting spots.

The C Main lineup contained some strong entries and one of them, Mario Clouser, took Kent Schmidt, Brandon Morin and Logan Seavey with him to tag the B.

The B Main's lineup resembled a typical feature field with Kevin Thomas Jr. prevailing over Kendall Ruble, Charles Davis Jr., Max Adams and Anton Hernandez, who hustled from 12th to grab the last chair from pole sitter Dave Darland. The People's Champ used a provisional.

Schnapf and Ballou led 24 of their best friends to the green. Maybe we shouldn't have been surprised when the local kid beat the seasoned veteran to the corner; at any rate, that's what he did. Third starting Kyle Cummins crashed the party immediately, taking second from Ballou and pressuring the leader for all he was worth.

As the front running duo battled, Donny Brackett quickly caught and passed Ballou for third. Brackett made the pass and it was understandable if the crowd was delirious. The top three can call the track their home and this was both rare and impressive.

Lapped traffic had been an issue since lap 5 but the more experienced Cummins couldn't get much closer than a few car lengths to Schnapf. However, as the halfway mark approached, Cummins closed the gap and labored mightily to get underneath the 61 car in the turns, but it wasn’t happening. Meanwhile, Brackett, Ballou and Brady Bacon were engaged in a dogfight of their own for third through fifth.

The yellow flag waved on lap 20 as Anton Hernandez slowed on the front stretch. The top ten were Schnapf, Cummins, Brackett, Ballou, Bacon, C. Short, Windom, Leary, Rogers and Grant. The green waved and one had to give both Schnapf and Cummins credit. Schnapf deserved kudos for holding off a guy who is very difficult to beat at Tri-State and the guy himself, Cummins, for his persistence.

But that ended for Kyle as his engine became an issue. Brackett passed him for second on lap 24. A lap later Ballou did the same, then Cummins, always a crowd favorite here, coasted to a stop in the infield. It might have been tempting to say that Schnapf was home free. Heh, heh.

On the white flag lap, Kendall Ruble spun in turn two, bringing out the yellow and presenting Schnapf with a green/white/checkered situation, not a leader’s favorite scenario. But the local boy was more than up to the task, motoring to the checkered flag and his first USAC feature victory. Behind him, Brackett was having trouble with what seemed to be a loose condition. His half spin in turn four of the last lap gave Ballou the silver medal. Third place Kevin Thomas Jr. was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, coming from 15th. Carson Short started and finished fourth in the Daigh/Phillips machine (though I call them Carla, Steve and Frank). Justin Grant was fifth and maintained his point lead over sixth place Chris Windom. Chase Stockon was a quiet seventh with Brady Bacon eighth. Much improved Jadon Rogers was ninth and Brady Short came from the B to start 21st and finish tenth. Brackett’s last lap boo-boo put him in 11th after an otherwise fine effort.

The trip home was, well, different. From U.S. 50 to I-69 to Indiana S.R. 46 to home, we might have encountered two dozen vehicles. In addition, we lost the hour we’d gained in going to Haubstadt. That added up to a 3 AM arrival home. If that wasn’t enough, we have this virus hanging over our heads, especially us geezers. It’s all a part of life. Even in not dealing with it, you can be assured that it won’t go away.

I’d not have it any other way because sometimes the surprises, like first time winners, are good ones.

Remembering not to wear my mask over my eyes, I’m…

Danny Burton

West Liberty Raceway/MLRA LAte Models

Photos Courtesy of Mike Reufer

June 14, 2020

Iowa native Billy Moyer made a triumphant return to the Hawkeye State by winning the 30-lap MLRA Late Model feature at West Liberty

Tony Toste

Chris Simpson

Billy Moyer 

Matt Furman

Tyler Bruening

Spencer Diercks

Tony Jackson Jr.

Chad Simpson

Nick Marolf

The four-wide salute to the fans. 

June 14, 2020

Maquoketa Speedway/MLRA Late Models

Photos Courtesy of Mike Ruefer 

June 13, 2020

Chris Simpson of Oxford, IA, won a thrilling 40-lap MLRA Late Model feature at Maquoketa on Saturday night. 

Brian Birkhofer #5B, Jeremiah Hurst #58 and Billy Moyer #21

Mitch McGrath 

Justin Duty #5 and Justin Kay #15K

Ryan Unzicker 

Shannon Babb #18 and Dennis Erb Jr. #28

Justin Kay #15K and Will Vaught #1V

Dennis Erb Jr. #28 and Chad Simpson #25

Chris Simpson #32 and Bobby Pierce Jr. #32

Ryan Unzicker #24 and Chad Simpson #25

June 13, 2020

Randolph County Raceway/MLRA Late Models

Photos Courtesy of Mike Ruefer 

June 12, 2020

Shannon Babb of Moweaqua, IL, won the MLRA Late Model 30-lapper in Moberly on Friday night. 

Shannon Babb #18 and Tony Jackson Jr. #56

Chris Simpson #32 and Aaron Marrant #1X

Billy Moyer #21 and Chris Simpson #32

Will Vaught

Payton Looney 

Dennis Erb Jr. #28 and Tony Toste #91T

Tony Jackson Jr. 

Jeremiah Hurst #58 and Jason Papich #91P

Dennis Erb Jr. #28 and Billy Moyer #21

Will Vaught #1Z and Chad Simpson #25

Gordy Gundaker 

Tony Jackson Jr. #56 and Chad Simpson #25