By Joe Buckles
TERRE HAUTE — A soggy three-day stretch may have dampened the spirits of fans and racers over the weekend, but not even the inclement conditions could sidetrack one of the top individual performances of the 2008 Wabash Valley racing campaign.
While the remnants of Hurricane Ike generated headaches on the Wabash Valley racing scene, it was not a total washout for one local racer, who won a much-coveted title at Indianapolis.
A big tip of the hat goes to local drag racer Lance Stillwell, who won the top prize in Super Pro for the NHRA Summit Series North Central Division 3 Race of Champions at O’Reilly Raceway Park.
The owner and operator of Motorsports Unlimited on Terre Haute’s northside, Stillwell outclassed a large field of 260 Super Pro competitors representing 23 tracks in the Division 3 region.
By virtue of his sterling effort, Stillwell now advances to the national finals at Pomona, Calif., slated for the second weekend in November.
Stillwell and his fellow racers didn’t totally escape the soggy weather that hit central Indiana over the weekend.
The show had to be shortened in order to get all the racing contested.
His ninth and winning pass actually came early Monday morning after he had to return for what turned out to be two runs.
Asked if the delays placed added pressure, Stillwell noted the delays might have played to his advantage by the time the curtain had fallen on the annual event.
“It really might have worked to may favor,” Stillwell said of the interruptions. “I got to come Sunday night and get a good night’s sleep. I really had the advantage on the guy I ran for the win. He [Bob Locke] had to come all the way from Xenia, Ohio. I’ve run ORP many times. So its like a home track.”
Even Stillwell was surprised how well the weekend played out for him and his Action City Dragway teammates. The local entry finished a respectable eighth out of the 23 competing teams.
“With the racing as close as it is, you go over there [ORP] with the hopes of just making a couple of rounds. Once you get past that stage you start looking at it different,” offered Stillwell.
“When you advance to later stages, you tighten your belt and take things more seriously.”
“You say to yourself ‘hey I got a shot at winning this thing. Keep your head on straight. Lets go out and get the job done.’”
“It’s really unreal …a once in a lifetime opportunity for a bracket racer to pull something like this off. It really hasn’t sunk in yet,” he added.
“The money is nice, but the recognition you receive from your peers makes it even that much more special.”
For his efforts Stillwell brought home one of the coveted “Wally” trophies, a nice paycheck, a champioship jacket and a rewarding gold card that gains him free pit access to events in 2009.
Stillwell is quick to share the success he now enjoys with those he says made it all possible.
“A great deal of the credit for this goes to Billy and Connie Langman down at Action City Dragway,” he said. “They made it possible for us all to go over there. It was an honor representing Action City there at Indy.”
Joining Stillwell in the winners’ circle at Indy was Charleston, Ill., driver Chad Isley who won in the Pro Bike Class. Isley represented Coles County Dragway, which finished 16th in the team standings.
Joe Buckles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.