News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Auto Racing

July 8, 2014

Trackside: Valley race fans should be happy

TERRE HAUTE — 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.

The seven-race series then takes two days off before resuming at the Action Track on July 16, then the following night at Lincoln Park Speedway.

The sprints served up an ISW preview this past holiday weekend with their Fourth of July visit to Lincoln Park Speedway, where Jerry Coons Jr. drove to an exciting and well-deserved win.

Many of the drivers expected to compete for the ISW title took the opportunity for a final tuneup and were gracious enough on a busy night to offer their predictions of what fans can expect to see over the next two weeks of action.

Dave Darland, Chase Stockon, Tracy Hines, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Bryan Clauson were adventurous enough to offer their views and expectations for the 27th annual running of ISW.

Not surprisingly, their predictions and insights on what it will take to win the much-sought-after title were strikingly similar.

Consistency and a measure of good luck were described as the two most important factors needed to survive and succeed in the seven-race grind.

With three ISW crowns already to his credit, Darland rates a strong favorite. A five-time winner already this season, he appeared more concerned about potential bouts with poor track conditions than his fellow racers.

“Track conditions have probably been harder to deal with than in past years. They have been more physically demanding to deal with this summer than I can remember in a long time,” mentioned the concerned Darland.

“There’s probably about 10 guys capable of winning the whole thing. You have [Brady] Bacon in the Hoffman car, [Bryan] Clauson, [Tracy] Hines and I like to think myself are capable of winning every night. It’s that close.”

Clauson, no stranger to point chases, knows what it takes over the long haul to take home the championship trophy.

“It can be a tough week. You’ve got to be near perfect each night out. The grind of the heat and humidity can be tough. You got to make the best of each night. Some nights, that might be a 10th-place finish,” offered the defending ISW champion.

“Qualifying can be a big part of it. You know that in one of the seven nights, you’re going to have to dig yourself out of a hole. Who’s going to win? I hope your looking at him.”

There would be no more popular winner locally than if Chase Stockon could pull off a title run. He likes his chances but knows he faces a monumental task if he hopes to capture the crown.

“The key as always is to be consistent. Keep out of trouble. To stay in the top 10 every night,” explained the Sullivan County native, who still sports the scars from his violent crash at Sun Prairie, Wis., a few weeks ago.

“I think we’ll in pretty good shape. We have a couple decent race cars.

“As for the conditions you get yourself in the mindset. Try to stay up front every night. Qualifying is always important, but even more so in Sprint Week what with the large fields we will have.”

Hines could be the sleeper in the chase.

“You want to make sure you keep your equipment fresh throughout the week. Everybody is so good. There’s no room for error,” cautioned Hines.

As for the high temps and humidity that is part of ISW, Hines says it’s something you have to take in stride.

“It’s something we’ve done for 15 years, so it won’t be something new. You learn to adjust. At the same time, I’d say we’re all happy when it’s over,” he said.

Thomas, the relative newcomer of the group, looks forward to the challenges of seven races over the 10-day span.

“You’ve got to stay away from the DNFs [did not finishes]. Stay on top of the track conditions every night out. Be consistent. If you had to pick a winner, I’d have to go with Bacon right now,” said the Alabama native.

Thomas downplays the notorious weather conditions that follow ISW.

“It’s probably more tough mentally than physically. Basically it’s two three-race weekends with two days off. It’s what most of us do all the time.” he said.

 

 Joe Buckles can be reached by email at jbuckles4@frontier.com.

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