In his relatively brief but successful racing career, young Bobby East has at times unfairly been labeled as a driver who could master the pavement ovals but one who was still a work in progress on the dirt.
All that may have changed Saturday night at the Terre Haute Action Track as the Brownsburg driver blew away a slim but potent field in winning the SUMAR Classic 100.
Starting from the outside front row East jumped out to an early lead and literally coasted home to a 12-second winning margin over runner-up Jerry Coons Jr. With the win East captured the 2012 USAC TRAXXAS Silver Crown driving title.
The second-generation racer entered the season finale with a slim six-point lead but displayed almost from the flying start that he would not take a conservative approach in his bid for the championship.
Placing his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Chevrolet almost anywhere he wanted on the half-mile dirt oval, East was virtually untouchable over the 100-lap distance.
Points challenger Bryan Clauson offered a challenge in the early going but struggled with a smoking car throughout the night and ended up finishing sixth in the 22-car field.
East’s runaway night was interrupted only briefly by three minor yellow-flag incidents.
The race was run under ominous skies with the potential of rain, a factor that did not go unnoticed by three title contenders. A rainout would have given East the driving crown without turning a wheel.
The winner in sprints and midgets was prepared to take what ever approach that was needed to take the points title.
“I’m so glad it didn’t rain but it wouldn’t have mattered. I just wanted to win this deal for my crew. At this point there was only one option: winning, whether it was with the rain or on the track,” said the two-time winner in the big cars this season.
“The car was really, really good almost from the get-go. I won’t say it was easy because the track was tricky in places, but when your guys give you a car like that you make it look easy,” East added.
As far as putting to rest his ability to win on the pavement and not the dirt, East could only offer a puzzled look when reminded that this was his first on the dirt in one of the champ cars.
“The dirt never came as naturally to me as the pavement. It’s just two different forms of racing. I like them both. I just love racing. Love winning. Hate losing. I just had to put it my mind that I could do them both,” confided the soft-spoken driver.
While the 100-lap main event went without serious incident, a pair of nasty flips drew the attention of a relatively slim but appreciative fan turnout. A pair of spectacular rides in the practice session sent one driver to the hospital and a second over the wall between the first and second turns.
Steve Adams was transferred to Terre Haute Regional Hospital suffering from a mild concussion and possible fractured collarbone, while Kody Swanson sailed over the concrete retaining wall but was able to walk away uninjured.
While East pretty much stole the show, the night was not without some impressive runs at the back of the field. At the wheel of the locally sponsored First Financial Bank entry, veteran driver Russ Gamester charged from a 15th-place starting spot to notch a well deserved third-place finish in the final rundown.
The best racing of the night came in the 15-lap UMP modified race that was won by Bloomington’s Bradley Sterrett, who staged a spirited battle with runner-up Will Krup throughout the main event.
Terre Haute’s Kenny Carmichael Jr. was running in the top five in the early going but was caught up in a multi-car accident and had to battle back from the rear of the field to finish a respectable sixth.
SUMAR Classic 100 — 1. Bobby East 2. Jerry Coons Jr. 3. Russ Gamester 4. Bud Keading 5.Tracy Hines 6. Bryan Clauson 7. Brian Tyler 8. Robert Ballou 9. Kody Swanson 10.Tanner Swanson 11. Rich Tobias Jr. 12. Dave Darland 13. Shane Hollingsworth 14. Shane Cottle.
In other racing:
• Too wet — Rain and wet grounds wiped out Sunday's U.S. Auto Club sprint car racing at I-69 Speedway in Michigan.
Next scheduled sprint racing is Oct. 26-27 in Arizona.
• Pound posts win — Ron Pound was one of the winners in weekend racing at Crossroads Dragway.
Pound defeated Dustin Brenton to win super pro class on Saturday. Other winners were Mike Tewell and Adam Price. Stephanie Brenton bested Toni Price in a Pink Ladies race on Friday and took series honors.
Regular points racing for all classes is set for this Saturday with time runs at 12:30 p.m.
Track information and schedules may be foundon Facebook, at crossroadsdragway.com or at (812)229-2167.
Pink Ladies — Stephanie Brenton of Rosedale, 2012 Equinox, def. Toni Price of Terre Haute, 2012 Avenger; semis: Dorothy Youngblood, Lora Halfner.
Super pro — Ron Pound of Terre Haute, 1969 Camaro, def. Dustin Brenton of Rosedale, 1969 Nova; semis: Joel Leihsur.
Pro — Mike Tewell of West Terre Haute, 1987 Monte Carlo, def. T.J. Hall of Indianapolis, 1966 Chevelle; semis: Cory Brenton.
Sportsman — Adam Price of Terre Haute, 1974 Duster, def. Dave Dudley of Marshall, Ill., 1973 Nova; semis: P.J. Davenport.