They have become as much a part of the motorsports scene as the traditional green and checkered flags.
Considered a scourge by some or virtual necessity by others, the battle for points titles by design tends to reach a fever peak at this time of year.
With the 2011 campaign rapidly drawing to a close, it seems fitting that a host of tight points battles at almost every level of competiton are going down to the wire.
None are closer than in USAC racing, where all three major divisions appear headed for nail-bitting finishes.
Included is the always competive sprint-car division that will carry its tight points chase to the Terre Haute Action Track on Saturday night.
Levi Jones and Chris Windom will take their battle for the sprint title to the local half-mile clay oval, separated by a scant 19 points with only four races remaining on the 2011 slate after Saturday.
This shapes up as a classic battle between Jones, the winner of four title chases, and Windom, the virtual newcomer hoping to grab that coveted first-time driving crown.
Jones will be returning to the track where he has won features on seven occassions, while Windom will be hoping to follow up on his stunning upset win here back in the July Indiana Sprint Weeks show.
If experience has any say in the final outcome of the points battle, Jones ranks as the prohibitive favorite. He has won the sprint title three times and has finished in the top four in points seven of the past 10 seasons.
Meanwhile, the 20-year-old Windom is a virtual rookie in such pressure-cooker settings. The scenario also features the classic chase of Jones’ high-profile Tony Stewart team vs. that of Windom’s independent operation.
Two drivers who could play a key role in the points chase and who wins Saturday’s Jim Hurtubise Classic offered their views on the points battle while competing over the weekend at the King of Non Wing Sprints show at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Veteran drivers Dave Darland and Jon Stanbrough, no strangers to points chases and the challenges that surround them, voiced the pros and cons of title runs.
On the plus the side is a potential rich payday and the recognition that goes with being a national driving champion. On the downside is the price one pays to chase points.
Stanbrough currently ranks third in points, just 38 behind Jones. An uncharacteristic “off season” has the Avon driver speaking less than optimistic about his chances of overhauling the pair for the top spot.
He doesn’t hide his dislike for the approach a driver must take when running for points.
“I don’t want to get wrapped up in the points. That’s not my type of racing. We go to the race track to win races. The points will take care of themselves. I’m just not a points racer,” said the highly successful racer.
A win Saturday night would tie him with the legendary Rich Vogler as the winningest driver in Action Track history. After posting back-to-back 20-win campaigns, 2011 hasn’t been as kind to Stanbrough.
“I think we have two wins and 15 to 20 second-places. I’m not complaining. When you do this as long as we have, you’re going to have years like this. I still love what I’m doing,” said the defending Hurtubise Classic victor.
Darland appears a long shot at making a final run at points because he is sixth in the rankings.
A four-time Action Track winner, Darland says running for points can change a driver’s approach when he goes to the race track.
“Running for the points definitely alters your perspective on how you race,” Darland admitted. “You learn to protect any spot you might have on any given night.
“When you points-race, you can’t afford to have an off night. It’s easy to go from first to third if you’re not on your game. Running for the points isn’t something you always set out to do at the beginning of a year. It’s something that at times you just fall into.”
They have become as much a part of the motorsports scene as the traditional green and checkered flags.
- Auto Racing
Trackside: Valley race fans should be happy
Whether your preference is non-wing sprint cars or late-model stock cars, this is the week that Wabash Valley race fans look forward to all summer.
The best of the best is the only way to describe what will unfold this week at Valley ovals. First comes the continuation of the popular UMP Summer National “Hell Week” tour for late models and its annual stop at Terre Haute Action Track tonight. USAC’s Indiana Sprint Week opens later this weekend with stops at Gas City on Friday night, Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday evening.
Metro sports: Pounds among winners at Crossroads Dragway
Ron Pound was one of the winners in Crossroads Dragway racing on Saturday.
Trackside: Rising costs make Valley racing more difficult than ever
The life and times of your weekly short-track racer has long lived up to the colorful and exciting ways coveted by those in the stands who gather each weekend to watch their favorite team or driver compete.
While the weekly trek to the race track has always presented its challenges, the task in recent times has made those trips to the many dirt ovals across the country a little more difficult to make.
Metro roundup: Lady Rex take Ohio softball tournament
The Lady Rex 18u softball team had a 5-1 record over the weekend to win the Ohio Premier tournament.
Trackside: Likable Dave Darland still chalking up victories at 48
One of short-track racing’s all-time open-wheel greats continues to add to his growing legacy.
When veteran racer Dave Darland rolled into victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway last week, he notched his 94th USAC career win. Add the countless number of open-competition wins over the years and it’s easy to surmise the popular driver is approaching the lofty 200-win plateau.
His latest checkered flag came in the USAC Indiana Midget Week show at the same 5⁄16-mile dirt oval where he cut his teeth in an open-cockpit car more than 30 years ago.
Groomer among Lincoln Park winners; Bell, Abreu take Indiana Midget Week races
Ralph Groomer was a feature winner in racing on Saturday at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Trackside: Thumbs up given for upcoming Indiana Midget Week
In his many years of serving in the public relation department for the U.S. Auto Club, Dick Jordan has developed a keen sense for rating the overall health and future of dirt-track open-wheel racing.
So when the veteran publicist voices a note of guarded optimism for the running of an upcoming series, one knows something special looms on the horizon.
Metro sports: Cassell wins Lawrence County title
Chris Cassell put together two rounds of 4-under-par 68 for a two-shot victory for his first Albright Motors Lawrence County Open championship on Sunday.
Metro: White wins mile, Sebastian 5K at TH Memorial Day events
Nolan White won the mile run and Matthew Sebastian won the 5-kilometer walk during Terre Haute Parks Memorial Day events Monday at Deming Park.
Six former winners chasing Indy 500 championship
Angst, frustration and heartbreak are all part of the lore of the Indianapolis 500, but when a driver finally takes the checkered flag, all of those words are quickly relegated to the back of their mind and replaced with pure joy. That emotion keeps bringing them back, and for the 98th running of the Indy 500, six former winners will chase that passion again.
Darland wins Hulman Classic for 50th trip to USAC victory lane
For once, the Terre Haute Action Track and the U.S. Auto Club got a weather break Wednesday night, a window amidst threatening conditions to allow the 44th Tony Hulman Classic to go off without a serious hitch.
Some might say Dave Darland got a break too, but most would agree instead that the veteran sprint car driver has learned to make his own breaks by this time. He won the Classic for the second time in his career — the first coming in 1993 — and is a three-time USAC winner this season while no one else has won more than once.
Trackside: Tony Hulman Classic set for tonight at T.H. Action Track
Looking for a potential dark horse winner in tonight’s scheduled running of the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned running of the Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track?
The task is indeed a challenging one. The USAC sprint circuit offers some of the most competitive forms of racing anywhere in the country and picking a potential winner out of a field that has at least eight to 10 drivers capable of making it to victory lane is very much a guessing game.
Unlikely duo on Indy GP pole
Verizon IndyCar drivers in the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis showcased rooster tails Friday as the rains came down for the Firestone Fast Six qualifying. Red flag conditions briefly halted the final session as officials stopped action for safety reasons.
Owner-driver Ed Carpenter getting ready for Indy run
Before too many pages get torn off the May calendar, IndyCar team owner and driver Ed Carpenter is trying to enjoy his free time away from race tracks.
Wednesday afternoon was an example of that.
The Wabash Valley native — born in Paris, Ill., and lived in Marshall, Ill., until he was 8 — signed autographs and granted media interviews while the car he drove in the 2008 Indianapolis 500 sat in the parking lot of the 500 Automotive Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Vermillion County.
Drivers give thumbs up to Indy’s new road course
IndyCar drivers were unified Wednesday: The new road course at Indianapolis is a whole lot better than the old one.
Trackside: Track promoters realize rainy weather is part of territory
The life and times of a race-track operator or promoter is sure to test the patience and character of any individual adventurous enough to journey into such a risky profession.
Especially if your name is Bob Sargent or Reece O’Connor and your race dates are at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Metro roundup: ISU’s Wampler makes national watch list
Indiana State’s Tyler Wampler has been named to the watch list for the 2014 Brooks Wallace Shortstop of the Year award.
2014 KISS Series opener today at Terre Haute Action Track
When the 2014 King of Indiana Sprint Series gets underway today, it will be at one of the most challenging ovals on the schedule. The Terre Haute Action Track earned its name years ago.
The Action Track is a big half mile, with sweeping turns and high-speed straightaways that demand the best from drivers, cars and crew. This may be illustrated by mentioning previous KISS winners at the Terre Haute oval — Jon Stanbrough (three times), Levi Jones, Tony Elliott, Shane Cottle and most recently Robert Ballou.
VIDEO: Windom seeking strong start to USAC Silver Crown Series at Action Track
Chris Windom has big plans.
Sure, the 23-year-old would like to make the ascent from success in the U.S. Auto Club to the fame and fortune of the larger racing series of NASCAR.
The Canton, Ohio, native who makes his home in West Lafayette has his sights on a big USAC season in 2014. Windom was second in Silver Crown points in 2013 and ninth in the sprint series.
Trackside: If weather cooperates, racers are set to start their engines
With any assistance from the weather, the Wabash Valley motorsports season is expected to shift into high gear this weekend on several fronts.
Nabors to sing ‘Indiana’ one last time at IMS
INDIANAPOLIS — Beloved actor-entertainer and legendary Indianapolis 500 icon Jim Nabors will sing “(Back Home Again in) Indiana” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the final time prior to the start of the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25. Watch YouTube Video
Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies
Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.
Kurt Busch to try Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600 on same day
It’s been 10 years since a driver last attempted running both the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 on the same day, a feat so grueling that only Tony Stewart has successfully completed all 1,100 miles.
Now Kurt Busch wants to give “the double” a try and he will have cars capable of winning both races.
Kurt Busch 70 percent sure he’ll run in Indy 500
Kurt Busch put his chances at “70 percent” at running the Indianapolis 500 this year because of recent developments that have pushed a potential program along.
Doctors tell Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti he can no longer race
Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti said Thursday that doctors have told him he can no longer race because of injuries sustained in an IndyCar crash last month.
Trackside: Burns, Fitzpatrick provide fun moments at Putnamville
In a season that has generated more than its share of down moments for Wabash Valley fans and racers, last Saturday’s “King of non-wing Sprints” program at Lincoln Park Speedway served notice that there are still a few positive storylines to be found in the wild and unpredictable sport of sprint-car racing.
One such storyline unfolded this past weekend on the rough and challenging 5⁄16-mile Putnamville dirt oval. That’s where the runs of Eric Burns and Blake Fitzpatrick sent fans home feeling that if the season has to come to a close, it couldn’t end on a happier or brighter note.
Coons Jr. wins USAC Tony Hulman/Jim Hurtubise Classic at Action Track
For all but one race during its 2013 racing season, the Terre Haute Action Track has taken a beating from Mother Nature.
Trackside: Stewart proves versatility is one of his strongpoints
At a time each summer when stock-car racing takes center stage in the heart of open-wheel racing territory, it was Tony Stewart who emerged the big winner last weekend.
No, not Tony Stewart the race driver but Tony Stewart the owner. He’s the undisputed leader on two racing fronts — the car owner in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series with Ryan Newman as his driver and the owner-operator of Eldora Speedway. The popular Indiana native posted impressive showings in both ventures.
Precipitation has been unkind to Action Track in 2013
Bob Sargent has seen it all and done it all in 30 years of motorsports track promotion. The Terre Haute Action Track promoter isn’t going to be fazed by much, but even he had to admit there is one thing that has sent a shiver down his spine in 2013.
The weather forecasts. He was asked if watching the weather has given him anxiety in a wet year.
“Sometimes,” Sargent chuckled. “But doing it this long, it becomes normal. I don’t if it’s nervousness so much as it’s frustrating. Rain is a big letdown.”
Trackside: Sprint Week is fun week for USAC fans
With three rounds down and four to go, the 2013 version of Indiana Sprint Week is ready to take center stage at the Terre Haute Action Track tonight — weather permitting, of course.
It’s hard not to mention the elements when talking racing at the Action Track this season.
Race organizers Reece O’Connor and Bob Sargent have felt the sting of Mother Nature worse than most Midwest promoters this spring and summer with all five of their scheduled shows washed out.
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