News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 19, 2010

TRACKSIDE: Growth continues at Lincoln Park Speedway

David Hughes
The Tribune-Star

PUTNAMVILLE — The 2010 season at Lincoln Park Speedway drew to a close over the weekend, and the recently completed campaign will go down as one of the most successfull at the popular short-track oval.

While Shane Hollingsworth (sprints) Paul Bugardner (UMP modifieds), Kenny Carmichael (Super Stocks) and Dustin Shoulders (Bombers) walked away as champions in their respective divisions, the big winner on the night was track operator Joe Spiker who successfully concluded his first full season of promoting races at Lincoln Park.

The season generated results that continued a postitive trend of revitalization for a track that built its reputation on a quality racing program and strong fan support.

There were times when the fans and racers not only flocked to the 5⁄16-mile oval on a consistent basis, but looked foward to making it a Saturday night out at the races.

Those times and the fun were back at LPS in 2010.

While Spiker can rightfully take pride with the way the season unfolded he’ll be the first to warn that a promoter is only as good as his last race. That the highly competitive battle to capture the entertainment dollar is never ending.

Even before the lights went out on the 2010 season Spiker was already looking ahead for more improvements for his fans and racers in 2011.

New clay for the racing surface is expected to be laid out soon in order to settle properly over the winter, and Spiker speaks of potential suites over the existing scoring and concession stands.

“Its coming around. The car counts are up The fans are in the stands and the concessionaire people are happy because we’re selling so much food. Saturdays have returned as a lot of fun for so many people,” Spiker said with pride.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is not only a big plus, but a must when it comes to operating a weekly short track show. Spiker is quick to credit the recent turnaround in the track’s fortunes to a strong group of loyal employees and volunteers.

In his continued role as Race Director at LPS, Bob Franklin has witnessed the good and not so good times at the track he cut his teeth on as a driver and now serves as an official.

While he is hesitant to point fingers in placing blame for the track’s decline prior to Spiker taking control at mid season a year ago, Franklin says the struggles went much deeper than personalities and philosophy conflicts. He feels the sagging economy played a key role in the downtrend in fan and racer support.

“Things have changed over the years. I can remember in the early and mid 90s race promoters didn’t have to compete with cable TV, video games or high speed internet like they do today.”

“Today he [promoter] has to compete at a time when the fans are driving cars they can’t afford and living in homes they can’t afford. The dollars that went on entertainment is going out with the bills in the mail. The turnaround in getting the fans back here in these times is breaking the odds,” expressed Franklin.

“The whole place has got a rinse and wash. It’s back where the fans and racers feel they are welcomed and needed.”

After staging three USAC shows in 2010, talk of a possible Indiana Sprint Week date at LPS next season has been the subject of considerable speculation throughout the summer.

Spiker acknowledged he is campaigning for one of the lucrative dates and feels his track is deserving of being on the ISW schedule — if not in 2011, then in the near future.

At the same time, Spiker’s not sure he’s willing to give up two of his regular Saturday night sprint cards in order to be in line for the coveted USAC dates.

His reasoning is more about loyalty to his regular Saturday night racers and their fans than a potentially big day payoff.

“Sprint Weeks is about one night, one week in the year. Its not about the money. We don’t want to leave our regulars out to dry. We’re here trying to build something,” offered Spiker.

“Lincoln Park Speedway is bigger than me. It’s bigger than Sprint Weeks. There’s heritage here and going to be here once I’m long gone,” said Spiker.

Race drivers are often among a race promoters biggest critics. Winning their approval doesn’t come easy but Spiker appears to have won over several this season.

One being veteran Kenny Carmichael who fields cars in several divisions at LPS.

“From the standpoint of the fans, there’s no comparison. Things are that much better, “praised Carmichael. “I think you saw the biggest crowds since the 90s. He made major improvements for the fans and  track conditions for the drivers in the latter part of the year.”

The payoffs went up. The crowd and car count was up. I don’t think  anyone will argue that he [Spiker] went in the right direction,” said the newly-crowned Super Stock division champ.

• Pit Notes — Carmichael was the only area driver to win a title at LPS this season but several played key roles in final point chases. Terre Haute’s CJ Bryan ran a close second to to Shoulders in the bomber class with Brazil’s Ron Wallen and Terre Haute Lloyd Walls in the top five.

Kenny Carmichael Jr., Carmichael and Shawn Krockenberger were in the top 10 in points in the sprints while Slick Griffin of Carbon finished ruunerup to Carmichael in Super Stocks.

• Title Showdown — The battle for the Midwest Sprint Car Series tilte will go down to the wire this weekend at Lawrenceburg.

It will be a two driver shootout with West Terre Haute’s Blake Fitzpatrick and Sullivan’s  Chase Stockon separated by only 15 points headed into the finale. Brandon Mattox enters the weekend ranked sixth in MSCS points.

Action Track Finale-With all area tracks now shuttered for the year area fans have the consolation of knowing one of the biggest events of the year is still on the schedule.

The USAC Silver Crown cars and drivers are slated to take to the Action Track Oct. 9 for the SUMAR CLASSIC

Joe Buckles can be reached at