TERRE HAUTE —
With a break in the weather, U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned racing will kick into high gear on the area motorsports scene this weekend with events scheduled at three Indiana ovals.
Action gets underway with the sprints at Gas City Friday night and the following evening at nearby Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville. The big cars of the USAC Silver Crown division will close out the busy three-day stretch with the annual SUMAR Classic at the Action track on Sunday afternoon.
With the new season comes the normal amount of car-driver changes. No where more active than the moves that transpired in the offseason in the sprint division.
With four shows already under USAC’s belt, the early-season sprint lineup looks like the following.
Among the most notable changes involves five-time champion Levi Jones who has elected to limit his USAC schedule in 2013. Jones will team with Justin Grant in the always competitive Jeff Walker Racing stable. Jones in the No. 39 entry and Grant in the No.11 car.
Keith Kunz is back on the scene with his familiar black No. 71 sprinter with young Christopher Bell handling the always front- running ride. The team was a big winner in the non-USAC show at Brownstown earlier this month.
Brady Bacon is the new driver for the No. 69 Dynamics/Hoffman Racing entry that has its share championship runs over the years. Kevin Thomas Jr. closed out last season in the ride.
Thomas’ ride this campaign will be the No. 17RW entry fielded by Mike Dutcher/RW/Tri-State Motorsports. He currents ranks seventh in the sprint standings having won the feature at Lawrenceburg two weeks ago.
With Jones out of the Tony Stewart ride, the No. 20 seat has been filled by 500 veteran and defending USAC sprint champ Bryan Clauson. All signs point to another solid title run for the Chevrolet powered team.
Dave Darland spent another off-season ride hunting and came up with a seat in the No. 71P Phillips Motorsports team — a ride driven by veteran Jerry Coons Jr. a year ago. Coons Jr. is now in the 10E ride.
Former Action Track winners Chris Windom and Robert Ballou have found new rides in 2013. Windom in the 21X Rick Pollock car and Ballou now handling the No. 5 Baldwin Racing machine.
Those who maintained their same rides from a year ago are Chase Stockon in the No. 32 entry, Tracy Hines in the No. 4 Hines Family Racing car, and Hunter Schuerenberg in the 35 Rock Steady Racing stable.
Stockon, a Sullivan native and a two-time winner from a year ago, will carry an eight-point lead into the Gas City event and appears headed for his second strong campaign on the USAC sprint circuit.
Other drivers of local interest listed as potential entrants for the Putnamville card include West Terre Haute’s Seth Parker running the No. 38P family entry, Casey Shuman in the 21 Shawn Krockenberger sprinter, and former Clay County resident Chris Gurley in the No. 12G ride.
The SUMAR is the season opener for the big cars. Pre-race favorites include Jones and defending race-winner Bobby East in team Chevys, Russ Gamster in the No. 51 First Finanical Mopar GPR, Darland behind the wheel of the No. 14 Chevy Eagle, Brian Tyler in the No. 21 6R Racing entry, and Hines in the No. 16 Chevy Beast.
The Terre Haute timetable calls for the ticket office to open at 3 p.m., practice at 5 p.m. and qualification at 6 p.m. A 15-lap UMP modified feature will be part of the card. USAC will offer adult fans holding front gate tickets the opportunity to access the pit area prior to the cars taking to the track.
n Passing of a local legend — The sport lost one of its most colorful and dedicated officials Tuesday morning with the passing of veteran flagman Johnny Shipman.
One of the most recognizable and vocal officials ever to make an appearance at any race track, Shipman was officially listed as a chief starter for the U.S. Auto Club and assistant starter at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But for those who followed his career over the years know of his skill and dedication to the sport at any level. Known and respected as one who wasn’t above waving his flags at any tiny bull ring across the country or even at a bicycle race on a college campus.
Yes, he could be a little loud and boisterous at times and ruffled a few feathers along the way, but the sport never had a better friend. He will be sorely missed.
Services are scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday at the Debaun Funeral Home (Spring Hill Chapel) with viewing from 3p.m.-to-8 p.m. Thursday. He was 96.
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com.