TERRE HAUTE —
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.”
That’s putting it mildly.
Indiana weather might be unpredictable, but Mother Nature has let down the Terre Haute Action Track on every occasion it’s had a race date in 2013. The Action Track is batting 0-for-5 in terms of getting its events in this season.
The Don Smith Classic, sponsored by First Financial Bank and part of USAC’s annual Indiana Sprint Week card, is scheduled for tonight at the famed half-mile dirt oval. For once, the weather forecast is promising. But for promoters, racers and fans alike, 2013 has taught everyone not to assume anything until the cars are on the track.
Sargent promotes tracks in five states and his tracks have all taken a hit from Mother Nature’s whims in 2013. Sargent said many of his tracks have lost upwards of 70 percent of their dates. The Action Track is unluckiest of all, having lost 100 percent of its races.
“This is the worst year [for weather] I’ve seen by far,” Sargent said. “At the end of the day, this is a business for us. Compare it to a restaurant being closed 70 percent of the time, or in Terre Haute, 100 percent of the time.”
A couple of the Action Track’s races were postponed in advance due to anticipated rain and muddy track conditions, but a few were called off the day of the race. When that happens, it means all of the manpower costs involved with running a race are incurred without the benefit of the ticket sales a race brings in.
“The labor costs, the fuel costs, the advertising expenses, the list goes on. It’s devastating to the bottom line. We’re in for the long haul [at the Action Track], so we’re committed to making it work,” said Sargent, who said he plans to have at least two of the postponed races rescheduled for October. Details haven’t been ironed out yet.
Sargent said the track surface itself has held up fine, despite the heavy rains. He noted that the surface moisture disappears quickly.
Because of the postponements, tonight’s Don Smith Classic serves as the unintended season opener at the track. With the popularity of Indiana Sprint Week, a large crowd would have been expected as a matter of course, but given that local sprint fans have been champing at the bit to see racing on the oval, anticipation might be even higher than it normally is.
“We think so. We haven’t been able to get in this facility this year. I think race fans are eager. USAC sprints are an exciting show. We’re also proud to honor Don Smith and to have Financial Bank support us,” Sargent said.
The Action Track date falls fourth in a line of a seven-race Sprint Week schedule this season. After the Action Track visit, the series moves on to Lincoln Park, Bloomington and concludes at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt.
Dave Darland leads the Sprint Week points chase with a 28-point advantage over Kevin Thomas Jr. Darland also is the USAC national points leader with a 64-point cushion over Bryan Clauson.
Sullivan’s Chase Stockon is sixth in the national sprint points, but is not in the Sprint Week top 10 after an accident at Lawrenceburg on Sunday.
Thomas has won the last two Sprint Week races — at Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday. Jon Stanbrough won the first race of the series at Gas City.
Daron Clayton won the 2012 Don Smith Classic. Stanbrough was runner-up.
Don Smith Classic
Where: Terre Haute Action Track.
Time: Gates open at 4:30 p.m., racing begins at 7:30.
What: Round 4 of USAC Indiana Sprint Week.
Indiana Sprint Week points
1. Dave Darland 194
2. Kevin Thomas Jr. 166
3. Bryan Clauson 165
4. Shane Cottle 157
5. Christopher Bell 149
6. Jon Stanbrough 142
7. Wes McIntyre 141
8. Brady Bacon 137
9. Hunter Schuerenberg 132
10. Chris Windom 112