TERRE HAUTE —
The Terre Haute Action Track finally lived up to its name Wednesday night,
providing action for racing-starved fans for the first time since 2012.
And there was plenty of it, despite temperatures that remained in the low
90s at 9 p.m. and dropped only to the low 80s by 10:15 when the Don Smith
Classic for Amsoil U.S. Auto Club National Sprint Car drivers got under way.
Kevin Thomas Jr. of Cullman, Ala., provided most of the action, leading all
30 laps of the feature to win the Don Smith Classic – and the $5,000 check
that comes with it – as part of the 26th annual Indiana Sprint Week. Thomas
leads the ISW point standings by 14 points over second-place Dave Darland
with three races remaining in the series.
Starting from the fifth position, the 22-year-old Thomas drove a black and
red No. 17RW Black Jack Oil/Maxin/Fisher to his third straight national
victory and sixth triumph of the year.
"This one, I definitely had to work for," Thomas said after most of his
post-race photos had been taken. "We got the lead pretty early [during the
first lap]. But throughout the race, I really got into some heavy lapped
traffic. It was tough to get around. They were fast enough on the bottom,
where I couldn¹t sneak under them, and they were just as good on the top."
After Thomas slid under pole-sitter Brady Bacon for the lead on Lap 1, he
kept Bacon on the chase non-stop for the first 26 laps. A yellow light on
the 27th lap, caused by Tyler Courtney¹s car stopping in Turn 2, triggered a
restart that resulted in the veteran Darland pursuing young Thomas for the
next two laps.
But Darland spun out while battling Thomas for the lead in Turn 1 and backed
into the wall, forcing another temporary stoppage of action. On the next
restart, Thomas pulled away from eventual runner-up Jon Stanbrough to earn
his way into Victory Lane.
"I saw Dave was in the wall," Thomas reflected. "I didn¹t get to breathe any
because I knew somebody else was coming for me just as well."
Bacon, Robert Ballou and Chase Stockon rounded out the top five. Darland
"We had a real strong car today," Thomas summarized. "It just paid off. My
guys just gave me a wonderful racecar to drive."
Thomas also was aware that the Action Track was batting .000 (0 for 5) in
its previous attempts to finish racing cards in 2013, so he was glad he
could help give fans what they wanted.
"[Track officials] gave us an unbelievable track, especially for as hot as
it was," he mentioned. "It was real racey. For all the fans to be able to
come out, I¹m glad they did because they got to see one heck of a race."
Action Track promoter Bob Sargent estimated that more than 3,000 spectators, including Don Smith himself, were in attendance.
"I think it¹s a full crowd," he said before the feature started. "We¹re
happy to see good weather today and the sun shining. It¹s a little hot, but
we¹ll take it. We like this big crowd for our first race of the year."
Up next for Indiana Sprint Week is a card tonight at Lincoln Park Speedway
in Putnamville. Up next for the Action Track is the Jim Hurtubise Classic
for USAC sprint cars (along with UMP Modifieds) on Aug. 31.
Feature (30 laps) – Kevin Thomas Jr., Jon Stanbrough, Brady Bacon, Robert
Ballou, Chase Stockon, Hunter Schuerenberg, Brady Short, Wes McIntyre, Chris Windom, Shane Cottle, Christopher Bell, Bryan Clauson, Ryan Bernal, C.J. Leary, Bill Rose, Tyler Courtney, Dave Darland, Gary Taylor, Jerry Coons Jr., Casey Shuman, Jake Simmons, Tracy Hines, Justin Grant, NT.
Feature laps led – Thomas 1-30.
Fastest qualifier – Stanbrough 19.947.
First heat (eight laps) – Taylor, Ballou, Stanbrough, Short, Windom, Bell,
Caleb Armstrong, Bernal, NT.
Second heat (eight laps) – Cottle, Schuerenberg, McIntyre, Leary, Coons,
Brian Hayden, Smith, Nathan Moore, 2:49.16.
Third heat (eight laps) – Thomas, Clauson, Stockon, Courtney, Shuman,
Brandon Mattox, Dalten Gabbard, Grant*, NT.
Fourth heat (eight laps) – Darland, Hines, Bacon, Simmons, Kurt Gross, Logan Jarrett, Nick Drake, Daylan Chambers, 2:48.82
Semi-feature (12 laps) – Coons, Bell, Windom, Shuman, Bernal, Rose, Hayden, Armstrong, Jarrett, Drake, Gabbard, Chambers, Smith, Gross, Mattox, NT.
*Grant flipped during the third heat.
Amsoil National Sprint point standings – Darland 1,028, Thomas 992, Clauson 970, Bacon 935, Schuerenberg 912, Stockon 899, Hines 820, Ballou 817, Cottle 663, Windom 604.
Indiana Sprint Week point standings – Thomas 238, Darland 224, Stanbrough 211, Cottle 198, Bacon 197, McIntyre 186, Schuerenberg 184, Bell 183, Clauson 181, Stockon 155.