One of short-track racing’s all-time open-wheel greats continues to add to his growing legacy.
When veteran racer Dave Darland rolled into victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway last week, he notched his 94th USAC career win. Add the countless number of open-competition wins over the years and it’s easy to surmise the popular driver is approaching the lofty 200-win plateau.
His latest checkered flag came in the USAC Indiana Midget Week show at the same 5⁄16-mile dirt oval where he cut his teeth in an open-cockpit car more than 30 years ago.
Moments following his flag-to-flag triumph, the seemingly ageless Darland reflected on a career that he himself never expected to reach the magnitude it has today.
“When I started racing, all I wanted was to be competitive when I got in the race car. I wanted to race like my dad,” reflected the 48-year-old Darland, who hails from Lincoln.
“I never thought it would lead to where it is 30 years later. I have to say I’ve always been fortunate to have had the good rides I’ve had over the years. The sport has never been so competitive. There’s 10 to 12 guys capable of winning every night you go to the race track.
“The sport has been good to me and my family. At the same time, it can be a grind. You’re constantly having to show you can get the job done. It can be very competitive.”
He’s learned over time that the sport can be as much a mind game as a physical contest. Controlling your emotions can be as important as outmuscling a competitor.
“My dad taught me when I first started racing that what went around came around. I guess I’ve got the God-given talent of being patient — to be able to take things in stride. I’ve been told dad could have a temper. My wife [Brenda] is a lot like that,” jested the likable Darland.
“You learn to race to compete,” added the four-time USAC national driving champion. “You don’t get too high [or] too low. I try not to take things too serious, to let trouble roll off your back. You’re going to bang wheels with a guy once in a while. That’s part of it.”
Asked how much longer he’ll strap himself behind the wheel, the five-time Terre Haute Action Track feature winner offered what his large following of supporters wants to hear.
“As long as I keep getting the good rides, I’ll race every chance I get,” he said. “It’s always been a big part of my life and I still look forward to going to the race track.”
Pit notes — Belated congratulations are in order to local drivers Brandon Mattox and Seth Parker for their recent wins on the Wabash Valley sprint-car scene. Parker’s win came at Putnamville and Mattox’s at Danville, Ill.
Mattox, who hails from Cory, has his eyes on a run for the Midwest Sprint Car Series (MSCS) drivers’ title. He currently ranks seventh in points. With a number of drivers ahead of him in the standings not expected to run the entire MSCS schedule, he’s optimistic that he can make a solid run at current points leader Kyle Cummins.
Brazil’s Daylon Chambers currently ranks third and Terre Haute’s Shelby Van Gilder eighth in MSCS Rookie of the Year rankings.
• Crossroads Dragway will be a beehive of activity this weekend with a big two-day card. Action gets underway with the regular Friday Fun Night and Fast Max Gamblers race.
The following evening, the strip will play host to its regular ET Bracket show along with the Matt Agresta Memorial special event.
Joe Buckles can be reached by email at email@example.com.