News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Auto Racing

May 3, 2013

TRACKSIDE: Tough to rise from sprint-car racing, especially in challenging financial times

TERRE HAUTE — Open-wheel sprint-car racing, whether it be at the national or local level, has earned a reputation over the years of generating its share of thrills and excitement for its fans and a valuable training ground for drivers seeking to hone their skills that someday might elevate them to the “major leagues” of their sport.

Time spent this past weekend at Lincoln Park Speedway with two of the most recognizable names on the Wabash Valley sprint car scene served up a stark reminder that the glory days when success in one of the most competitive and dangerous forms of racing was often a ticket to bigger and better times has slowly became a thing of the past.

It’s disheartening to discover that the days when a guy could make a decent living winning in a sprint car — while earning a legitimate shot at running Indy — are not only long forgotten but have many of today’s and tomorrow’s stars facing times when it’s just a struggle to make it to the race track.

Witnessing that no team or driver has been totally able to escape a troubled economy, has made it increasingly tougher to gain or hold on to much-needed sponsorship support.

One would think if any driver could escape the troubling times it would be a driver with the credentials of a Dave Darland or the talents of a Chase Stockon or Blake Fitzpatrick.

Listen closely and you learn quickly that not even this trio and their teams are exempt from the rising costs of going racing.

On the surface, it would appear that Darland and Stockon’s days in the sprints are pretty secure, that their 2013 campaigns offer high expectations. Closer scrutiny, however, reveals a measure of financial uncertainty even for these two fan favorites.

That Darland, the perennial frontrunner and title contender, is facing a challenge just to keep his new team is a position where they will be able to run the USAC circuit full time. Stockon hoping to avoid any financially pitfalls that might derail his goals of remaining in a championship hunt throughout the year and Fitzpatrick simply just hoping for a return to racing by mid-summer.

Darland went looking for a new ride in the off-season and landed a spot with the team fielded by Steve and Carla Phillips. While not newcomers to the division, the team has never campaigned full-time in USAC.

“They’ve have had good drivers and cars over the years, but they just haven’t been able to win. They’ve been knocking on the door. The Phillips are working-class people and they will do their best to do the complete schedule,” said Darland.

“I appreciate the opportunity they have given me to drive their race car. With the economy the way it is, finding good rides can be tough. It would be nice to be the one to give them that first win,” voiced the 1999 USAC sprint champ who has 40 USAC sprint feature wins to his credit.

Stockon is hopeful he will be able to follow up on his banner season of a year ago. To do so, he knows his small team has to avoid any potential financial setbacks.

“Our main goal is to finish in the top three in points and have a shot at the championship. I think it’s obtainable ,” said the former Sullivan native. “We started off good with the early races in Florida and should have won at Lawrenceburg, so things have gone well. Financially, it’s always a question mark. No matter who you are,” voiced the two-time winner of year ago.

“It’s always easier to get to the race track when you have good paying nights like we did a year ago. We’re fortunate to have a guy like Tom Burkey at Superior Tanks and Trailers out of Beach City, Ohio, to keep us going. It makes a big difference when you know you have the resources to get to the race track and be competitive each night,” added last year’s Most Improved Driver of Year award winner in the sprints.

Notably absent from the race track thus far in 2013 has been Fitzpatrick Racing out of West Terre Haute. Drivers Blake and Braylon Fitzpatrick hope to be back on track by “mid summer.”

Like Stockon, the pair lost their local long-time sponsor during the off season and are still in search of a backer that will enable them to get back into racing, at least at area ovals.

Like many before them, the local team learned early in the game that it’s hard to compete at national USAC level if you don’t have the proper finances or equipment.

“We learned several years ago even when we were having solid runs, running as well as we were that it was nearly impossible night in and night out to compete with teams like Tony Stewart. You reach a point when there is no payoff at the end of night,” voiced Fitzpatrick.

“When you see a guy like Dave Darland with all the success he had over the years just making it from race to race it tells you how tight the money is. We hope to make some MSCS [Midwest Sprint Car Series] shows and those at the Action Track later this summer,” added the 21 year-old ISU student who has spent time away from the race track working on his goals to attend law school.

 

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

 

 

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Auto Racing
  • bb8991b19af8b067e44478c_.jpg 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.

    April 5, 2014 1 Photo 1 Video

  • 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.

    April 2, 2014

  • Jim Nabors at Indy 500.jpg 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

    March 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • gary bettenhausen.jpg Action Track great Gary Bettenhausen dies

    Gary Bettenhausen, a legend of the Terre Haute Action Track, has died at age 72.

    March 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 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.

    March 4, 2014

  • 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.

    January 27, 2014

  • 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.

    November 14, 2013

  • 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.

    September 25, 2013

  • SPT 083113 MODIFIED.jpg 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.

    August 31, 2013 7 Photos

  • 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.

    August 1, 2013

  • MET071513 track.jpg 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.”
     

    July 17, 2013 2 Photos

  • 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.

    July 17, 2013

  • Track opener is facing another iffy forecast

    Two of the biggest challenges facing race organizers are the constant bouts with the always unpredictable ways of the weather and trying to please the insatiable appetites of a fickle fan base.

    July 10, 2013

  • TRACKSIDE: Crossroads Dragway hoping to build off big event

    It was a day of firsts at Crossroads Dragway this past weekend.
    No, not because the sun actually made its first all-day appearance of the season at the drag-racing facility, but for the unveiling of a new racing format that just might alter the looks of 1/8-mile member track NHRA bracket racing.

    June 26, 2013

  • SPT062013racing clauson.jpg Metro roundup: For 2nd time, Hulman Classic postponed

    Qualifying laps had concluded for the 43rd running of the Tony Hulman Classic on Friday when the weather struck for the third time this season — second time for the Classic — at the Terre Haute Action Track.

    June 22, 2013 1 Photo

  • stockon in action.jpg Hulman Classic on Friday at Action Track

    With rainouts having postponed his only two Terre Haute Action Track cards so far in 2013, promoter Bob Sargent remains optimistic about the rescheduled Tony Hulman Classic for U.S. Auto Club sprint cars taking place Friday night.

    June 20, 2013 1 Photo

  • Finding best talent the key to all sports, including auto racing

    The success of any sporting franchise often rests with the ability of owners to find and mold talent into a winning combination.

    June 20, 2013

  • SPT 052613 KANAAN KISS.jpg Kanaan can: Tony Kanaan finally wins Indy 500, ends heartbreak

    Tony Kanaan had been so close so many times in the Indianapolis 500 until Sunday. Now he’s a winner.

    May 27, 2013 2 Photos

  • SPT 052613 KANAAN KNEES.jpg Crowd, competitors erupt in celebration for Brazilian driver

    Tony Kanaan has always been philosophical about his not winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    May 27, 2013 2 Photos

  • Rookies fare well in 97th running of the Indy 500

    Rookies did real well in the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    May 27, 2013

  • IndyCar Indy 500 Auto_Tayl.jpg Top guns, again

    For the sixth time in his Indy career Friday, three-time Indy 500 champion Helio Castroneves won the Pit Stop Challenge on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    May 25, 2013 4 Photos

  • Looking for Indy breakthrough, Kanaan enjoying role as team mentor

    Ask any IZOD IndyCar series champion and he’d say he would gladly give up that championship to win one Indianapolis 500.

    May 24, 2013

  • TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic

    In its rich 43-year history, the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic has long carried on a strong local racing tradition.
    From its early beginnings starting in 1971, the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned event has been the annual centerpiece of the racing calendar at the Terre Haute Action Track as well as a key stop on the USAC sprint schedule and one of the most sought after wins in big league sprint-car racing.

    May 22, 2013

  • Carpenter arrives as Indy 500 threat

    And the crowd went wild.
    Not only did Ed Carpenter win the pole for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500, he is the hometown son. Carpenter, the stepson of Tony George, completed his rookie orientation in 2004 and has spent the last several years, proving he deserved to be the IZOD IndyCar Series. There is no questioning his credentials now.

    May 19, 2013

  • Carpenter wins Indy 500 pole

     Ed Carpenter is on the pole for the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500.
    The native of Marshall, Ill., earned the No. 1 spot for the May 26 race with a strong run in the Fast Nine competition at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday. He is the first American driver on the pole since 2006.

    May 19, 2013

  • TRACKSIDE: Rain still a pain for Wabash Valley racing organizers

    Soggy weather conditions, which have rightfully drawn the ire of Wabash Valley race fans and crews in recent days, continue to plague promoters where it hurts the most — their pocketbooks.

    May 8, 2013

  • TRACKSIDE: Tough to rise from sprint-car racing, especially in challenging financial times

    Open-wheel sprint-car racing, whether it be at the national or local level, has earned a reputation over the years of generating its share of thrills and excitement for its fans and a valuable training ground for drivers seeking to hone their skills that someday might elevate them to the “major leagues” of their sport.

    May 3, 2013

  • METRO ROUNDUP: Rose baseball wins another thriller

    Rose-Hulman earned its third victory in its last at-bat in the last five days with a 6-5 win over Franklin in Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference baseball Tuesday night at Art Nehf Field.

    May 1, 2013

  • East gets jump at SUMAR Classic

    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.

    October 15, 2012

  • Hurtubise, Sumar races on Action Track slate this weekend

    Championship racing is scheduled this weekend at the Terre Haute Action Track with U.S. Auto Club features set for today and Saturday.
    One USAC championship will be decided and the spread in the other division could widen or tighten up as a result of the races.
    The Jim Hurtubise Classic for sprint cars is today. Only 26 points separate three drivers in the point totals.

    October 12, 2012

Latest News
TribStar.com Poll
AP Video
Raw: Ferry Sinks Off South Korean Coast Raw: Fatal Ferry Boat Accident Are School Dress Codes Too Strict? Raw: Kan. Shooting Suspect Faces Judge Today in History for April 16th Ukraine: Military Recaptures Eastern Airport Raw: Storm Topples RVs Near Miss. Gulf Coast At Boston Marathon, a Chance to Finally Finish Tributes Mark Boston Bombing Anniversary Freeze Leaves Florida Panhandle With Dead Trees Town, Victims Remember Texas Blast Raw: Horse Jumping Inspires 'Bunny Hop' India's Transgenders Celebrate Historic Ruling Suspicious Bags Found Near Marathon Finish Line NASA Showcases Lunar Eclipse Pistorius Cries During Final Cross-Examination Hundreds Missing After South Korean Ferry Sinks Boston Bomb Scare Defendant Appears in Court Pistorius Trial: Adjourned Until May 5 Combat Vehicles in East Ukraine Fly Russian Flag
NDN Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
  • -

     

    March 12, 2010

activity