TERRE HAUTE —
Based on his history of success at the Terre Haute Action Track, count U.S. Auto Club veteran Dave Darland among the most disappointed tonight’s SUMAR Classic will not go on as planned.
Darland is the defending champion of the race for Silver Crown cars after his win in 2008 — the race was not scheduled in 2009 — and Darland’s first USAC win came at the Action Track when he took home the checkered flag and a 30/30 Winchester rifle at the 1993 Tony Hulman Classic. That midget car win, combined with several USAC sprint car victories in Terre Haute, makes Darland one of the most successful drivers of the last 20 years on the 1/2-mile dirt oval. And he’s done it in three different setups.
“I’ve had a pretty successful career in all of them. They’re all just different challenges,” Darland said. “The driving style is completely different. The Silver Crown’s are heavier and less horsepower than sprints. The midgets are so down on horsepower and light on weight, each one has a different style. They’re all fun to drive on a certain night and they’re all a [challenge] on other nights.”
Darland will still hope to attempt a second straight SUMAR Classic title later in the year.
USAC officials and Action Track promoters said persistent wet conditions throughout the fairgrounds caused the postponement.
“Wet grounds and inclement weather forecast, the grounds are not suitable to conducting the event in the manner it needs to be conducted,” USAC director of communications Dick Jordan said. “We don’t want to have a mess for race fans.”
“USAC and track organizers are seeking a replacement date later in the year.”
Instead, it’s on to Indianapolis for Darland, who has never won at O’Reilly Raceway Park. The lifelong Lincoln, Ind., resident will continue to look forward to a big weekend of racing.
“I’m still looking for my first win there. I’ve had a few good finishes, close opportunities,” Darland said.
The J.D. Byrider Racing Classic is Thursday night, and Darland, along with NASCAR star and native Hoosier Ryan Newman, will race a USAC doubleheader. The midgets and Silver Crown series will put on a show the night before the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race and two nights before the NASCAR Nationwide Series comes to ORP.
Ryan Newman will be driving a midget for Tony Stewart Racing and he’ll be running a Silver Crown car as a teammate to Eric Gordon in the J.D. Byrider 100.
NASCAR’s Jason Leffler will also race a midget for DMS Motorsports.
Darland, a two-time Silver Crown Series runner-up and one-time champion, will hope to be among contention Thursday. Bud Kaeding and Jerry Coons are 1-2 in the Silver Crown points standings through the first three races. Darland was fifth in the Hoosier 100, his only race of the season.
Darland still looks forward to a return to Terre Haute in 2010. He was thrilled to hold off Coons Jr. after some drama on turn 4 in 2008, he’ll be looking forward to returning to Terre Haute later this year.
“Terre Haute’s pretty challenging with the Silver Crown cars,” Darland said. “They weren’t really intended to run short, rough tracks like Terre Haute is. The cars are hard to handle on a track like Terre Haute. They were intended to run miles. They’re a lot smoother on the miles.”
Jordan hopes a healthy relationship between USAC and the Terre Haute Action Track continues with the Action Track under new leadership. Bob Sargent and the O’Connor family from Kokomo have teamed up to tackle promoting the Action Track. Sargent indicated earlier this week that he hopes to have at least four USAC events on the 2011 Action Track schedule.
“We’ve done a lot of business with Bob Sargent,” Jordan said. “The O’Connor family has been very good to us in Kokomo. We’ve got a friendly situation in terms of the race organizers.”