News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 4, 2013

TRACKSIDE: Promoters conclude Action Track season, look forward to planning bigger 2014

Joe Buckles
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — An abbreviated Terre Haute Action Track season has drawn to a close all too soon for fans on the Wabash Valley racing scene.

In a season plagued with weather-related issues, even the season finale could not totally escape the wrath of mother nature.

Although the show was run in its entirety there were more than a few anxious moments as threatening weather conditions hovered over the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds and the surrounding area most of last Saturday night.

The sweltering heat earlier in the day and threatening conditions near race time probably played a key role with the attendance. Noticeably down from the big turnout of the Indiana Sprint Week show run back in July.

Still, a nice turnout of fans who had the luxury of being able to leave the track just past the 9:30 mark having taken in both the USAC sprint and UMP modified features.

With co-promoter Bob Sargent away preparing for his annual two-day show of USAC Silver Crown and ARCA stock cars at Du Quoin on Sunday and Monday, Reece O’Connor and his family handled the track prep and race day organizational duties at the Fairgrounds.

And what now has become the norm rather than the unexpected, the fans and racers found track conditions more than adequate.  Pretty impressive considering a day-long bout with the heat and wind which had officials “chasing” the track conditions throughout the afternoon.

It’s been a tough season for race promoters in the Hoosier state with weather-related cancellations and postponements and it was obvious that O’Connor was breathing a huge sigh of relief that he was able to get his show in.

When asked to reflect on the 2013 campaign, the likable O’Connor couldn’t conceal his disappointment and frustration with the way the season played out locally.

“Frustrating-miserable. Maybe a few words you couldn’t print,” jested O’Conner when describing the way the year unfolded at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds. “If you would have told me at the start of the year we would lose our first five shows but would get one show in — with that being Sprint Week show — in, I probably would have gone along with it. That was probably the lone positive thing all year.”

With the 2013 season now behind them, O’Connor says work will begin soon on placing together a slate for next year.

“We’ll sit down this fall and come up with a similar schedule to what we had this year. Maybe a little different but the same number of events,” offered O’Connor.

One change will be the welcomed addition of the World of Outlaws in 2014. The timing is the only question mark.

“We’re pretty sure they will be here. Tommy [Helfrich, promoter at Haubstadt] does his [WoO] show in the spring and we do ours at Kokomo early in the summer so we’re probably looking at a date later in the year for here [THAT]. We don’t want to step on top of one another,” voiced O’Connor.

• Pit notes — It was a long night for the area contingent in the sprint car portion of Saturday’s twin bill. Four of the final five spots in the 30-lap feature listed drivers from the Terre Haute area with Brandon Mattox suffering the cruelest fate, crashing out on the opening lap.

This following a frantic 24-hour stretch in which he labored to piece together a badly broken race car from an accident at Danville’s Vermillion County Speedway only several days earlier.

It what has been a tough year in racing circles in term of loses both on and away from the track another surfaced Saturday when word was received that long-time Fairgrounds security officer Bob Bartlett had lost his brief battle with cancer earlier in the day.

A familiar face on the scene at a variety of events over the years at the Fairgrounds Bob was a big and knowledgeable fan of racing.

 When Bob and fellow Vigo County Deputy Sheriff Brent Hall drew the safety and security assignments on race day one knew those duties would be handled with the highest degree of efficiency and professionalism.

For those who were fortunate to know Bob over the years one quickly learned he was  more than just a fine law enforcement officer but a truly nice and caring individual. His lost will be felt by those throughout the community.

Not every track was able to avoid the weather this past weekend with Lincoln Park and Tri-State Speedways both losing their shows to rain. The Putnamville card has now been reset for Sept 21.

Top attractions on the local scene this weekend will bethe 4th Annual Matt Agresta Memorial with the $1,500-to-win sportsman race and the Rollie’s Pizza bracket racing at Crossroads Dragway Saturday night. LPS will play host to 10th Annual Patriot 100 for UMP modifieds also on the same evening.


Joe Buckles can be reached at