News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 9, 2010

Trackside: Random 500, Hulman Classic thoughts

By Joe Buckles
Tribune-Star Correspondent

TERRE HAUTE — Some random thoughts, notes and quotes surrounding the recent running of the Tony Hulman Classic and Indianapolis 500:

Despite the troubling times in IndyCar racing, the 500 still carries a strong measure of mystique even to the most casual race fan.

The inherited dangers of that 33-car flying start and climatic last-lap drama at Indianapolis still holds a special place in heart of race fans.

The smaller than expected televison ratings for the 500 could’nt have come as good news for those at the Indy Racing League.With a television package that leaves most Indy car buffs in the dark most of the season one would think its premier event of the year would draw stronger TV numbers. That much-ballyhooed promotional coy by Charlotte Motor Speedway’s Burton Smith for a potential $20-million payday for any driver who could win at Indy and Charlotte on the same day may have taken a hit what with Mike Conway’s frightening last-lap aerial act in the 500.

One would think the list of potential NASCAR regulars that might have entertained thoughts of running both shows shrunk considerably with the nasty appearing incident.

Realistically, the potential short list of any driver-team combination that could pull off the feat is very limited.

 Having the right equipment to win both races is probably a bigger obstacle than driving talent. Only two car owners have the potential of providing winning rides at both tracks.

 Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi with drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Sam Hornish.

Still, the proposed challenge would draw plenty of excitment if Tony Stewart, John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Kasey Kahne or Ryan Newman would give it a go.

If Jeff Gordon says he wouldn’t give it a try even if it paid $100 milion to win pretty well expresses the mentality the stock car set has for running with those open cockpits. Can one really blame them?

Winner Jerry Coons Jr. and runner-up Levi Jones may have grabbed the spotlight in the Hulman Classic but the drive by Dave Darland who charged from deep in the pack to finish third drew the biggest applause at the end of the night.

Just another classic drive by a guy who mysteriously struggles to keep a ride. Dave started the USAC season in one of those coveted Kieth Kunz cars.The tenure was all to brief after one bad weekend.

 Jon Stanbrough’s bid for a third Hulman Classic title was short lived. The hottest driver on the Indiana short-track scene had an early exit after an opening lap multi-car pileup.

Without naming names Stanbrough vented his frustrations with the actions of several of his fellow drivers. “Some of these guys think they can win this thing on the first lap. They don’t have alot of respect for those around then,” voiced the angry Stanbrough.

The night was not a total loss for Stanbrough, who finally carried off one of those coveted rifles for winning the Hulman Classic.

Although he had won the Classic twice, Stanbrough had never received one of the rifles. Local officials made sure the ommision was corrected.

Continuing on the USAC sprint scene, how about the effort by Levi Jones last week. The Olney, Ill., hotshoe won three of four races on the USAC “EasternTour,” with Chris Windom halting the three-race win streak in the tour finale at Minnersville, Pa.

A big tip of the hat to Wabash Valley driver Chase Stockon, who traveled out east for all four shows. The Sullivan racer led the first 22 laps at New Egypt, N.J., finishing fifth in the final rundown. He had a top 10 at Bechtelsville, Pa., and ran 11th at Minersville, Pa.

The sprinters return home to run at O’Reilly Raceway Park tonight.



Joe Buckles can be reached at jbuckles4@verizon.net.