News From Terre Haute, Indiana

July 4, 2011

Safety rules at track

Sumar Classic 100 has on again, off again day at Action track; will be rescheduled

Andy Amey
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — A race delayed for more than two hours by overnight rain was eventually forced to be postponed by extreme heat and deteriorating track conditions as the vagaries of Mother Nature found another way to plague the Terre Haute Action Track on Sunday.

The Sumar Classic 100 will be rescheduled in the next few days, and U.S. Auto Club officials stressed several times on Sunday that all tickets sold will be honored when the race is finally run.

Fans who arrived when the gates opened at 10:30 a.m. Sunday were greeted by standing water on the main straightaway and watched several hours of grading and scraping as layers of mud were removed from the track and deposited behind the inside wall. A spongy infield also forced cancellation of the original plan to have the pits there for more driver-spectator interaction.

Still, when Brian Tyler became the first car to venture onto the racing surface at 2 p.m. — practice had been scheduled to begin at 11:30 a.m. — it appeared racing would eventually happen and a crowd of respectable size was ready for it.

Car count was just 25, and two were eliminated: Randy Bateman after contacting the wall during hot laps and Shane Cockrum after being unable to complete a qualifying attempt.

The remaining 23 cars took the green flag at about 5:05 p.m., and fast qualifier Levi Jones bolted into the lead — which made him one of the rare drivers who could see through the dust, apparently. Before a lap had been completed, Thomas Meseraull was upside-down on the back straightaway, and the race was stopped immediately.

Unhappy drivers congregated in groups in front of the grandstand, and all cars were soon removed from the track to allow for more preparation. After about 40 minutes, it was announced that the race was postponed.

“That monsoon [Saturday night] put us behind the 8-ball,” USAC promoter Jason McCord said. “We had to go to some extreme measures to get the track ready … and in the end it bit us.

“In hindsight, we should have canceled early this morning.”

Some fans were vocal and demonstrative in their displeasure as the afternoon wore on, and McCord said he could sympathize with them — to a point.

“Driver safety,” he said when asked about the final decision to postpone the race. “We can’t take a chance getting somebody hurt when [injury is] avoidable. I realize there are fans who are unhappy, but a human life is more important than an upset fan — although we’ll do everything we can to make it right for [those fans].”

“We obviously are sorry that Saturday night’s heavy rains in the Terre Haute area presented some difficult challenges for us all and we are dedicated to giving our fans the most competitive event possible,” said Jason Smith, USAC executive vice president in a news release. “Unfortunately, we were prepared for a great event before the heavy rains created circumstances which led to this postponement. This decision was made in the best interest of safety for our participants and fans.”

The new date for the race could be announced in the next few days. Information should be available at usacracing.com.



Qualifying times

Levi Jones 22.205, Bryan Clauson 22.263, Kyle Larson 22,851, Shane Hollingsworth 22.863, A.J. Fike 23.042, Tracy Hines 23.130, Chris Windom 23.424, Jeff Swindell 23.566, Derek Hagar 23.634, Bud Kaeding 23.713, Jerry Coons Jr. 23.868, Thomas Meseraull 23.942, Jon Stanbrough 24.087, Mike Hess 24.098, Dave Darland 24.156, Brad Kuhn 24.218, Todd Kane 24.287, Brian Tyler 24.633, Zach Daum 24.742, Russ Gamester 24.916, Craig Dori 25.121, Tanner Swanson 25.123, Randy Bateman NT, Shane Cockum NT, Kellen Conover NT.