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.”
In other racing news — Saturday’s Hurtubise Classic at the Action Track is part of a hectic schedule for Wabash Valley sprint-car fans. In addition to the local show, Lincoln Park Speedway will offer a full card of sprint, modified and stock-car racing Friday and Saturday nights.
The rare back-to-back cards is part of the big Patroit 100 modified special Saturday night.
• An offical announcement regarding the fate of the postponed Sumar Classic is expected to come later this week. USAC official Dick Jordan says the call could come as early as Thursday or Friday.
Joe Buckles can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.