TERRE HAUTE —
The 2012 Wabash Valley racing season avoided the potential pitfalls of a sluggish economy and inclement weather to provide fans one of their best and most promising campaigns in recent years.
Rainouts that had plagued activities at the Terre Haute Action Track in recent years were for the most part a non factor, making for a successful year for veteran promoter Bob Sargent and the O’Connor family of Kokomo, who teamed up in their first full season of organizing events at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
The group drew high praise from fans and racers alike for their excellent track preparation, which made for one the most competitive seasons in a number of years — one that generated five first-time feature winners over the course of six shows.
Among the victors were NASCAR standouts Kenny Schrader, Kenny Wallace and Justin Allgaier. Sprint-car action provided possibly the most popular victory when Sullivan County native Chase Stockon won the Jim Hurtubise Classic for USAC sprints.
The year, while providing its share of thrills and excitement on the local half-mile clay oval, also proved to be one of the safest in recent memory.
Attendance, while spotty at times, appeared strong enough to make the year profitable for the promoters, securing the future for continued racing at the nationally recognized racing facility.
Racing at Crossroads Dragway USA remained a viable operation, providing Valley drag racers a favorite location to display their talents and meet their needs to go racing at one of the Midwest’s finest drag-racing facilities.
Over the course of the summer, racing at the oval and drag-racing tracks generated its share of stellar individual and team efforts.
None was bigger than Stockon’s back in October. That victory was one of two for Stockon in USAC competition in 2012 when he tied for seventh in national sprint-car points. It was a season that earned him the sanctioning body’s Most Improved Driver of the Year award.
A second USAC-sanctioned event, the Tony Hulman Classic, also proved a fan favorite as former Valley driver and now car owner Ray Morgan won the prestigious event, with driver Daron Clayton taking the checkered flag in Indiana Sprints Weeks event.
Action wasn’t limited to Fairgrounds as Valley oval tracks and drag strips were a beehive of activity and popular on any given weekend.
Young Braylon Fitzpatrick of West Terre Haute put his name in the Action Track record book when he established a one-lap track record run in qualifications for the Hurtubise Classic
Whether it was taking checkered flags or winning track championships, local racers played a prominent role in the sport on the Wabash Valley and national scene.
At Lincoln Park Speedway, Terre Haute drivers walked off with two of the track’s four point championships. Kenny Carmichael won the Super Stock title in a season that saw the North Terre Haute driver take five feature wins and a second-place finish in the track’s modified division.
No one was a match for C.J. Bryan in the Bomber Class as the Vigo County racer posted an impressive 11-win campaign, notching him the LPS Bomber championship.
At Bakersfield Raceway Park near Linton, Creed Fritz of West Terre Haute won the Restrictor Class and Colten Dooley of Rockville took the Wingless Division, while Drake Turner of Sullivan won in Jr. Sprints and Larry Drake of Terre Haute won the 600 Sidewinder Class.
On the drag-racing scene at Crossroads Dragway USA, Mike Tewell won in Pro Class, Dustin Brenton in Super Pro, Chad Eaton in Sportsman, Tony Virgilio in the Fast 33 Series, Amara Tewell in the High School Division, Chris Miller in Junior Dragster, Adam Price in the Schield Diesel and Stephanie Brenton in Pink Lady.
At Lyons Raceway Park, Super Pro honors went to McColley Young, Greg Dillman in Pro, Bill McCarty in Sportsman, Nathan Jones in Jr. Dragster, Bill McCary in motorcycles, Ron Hayman in Fast 8, Jabin McCarty in High School and Kelly Jo Lanhan in Powder Puff.
Coles County Dragway enjoyed a successful year with Bob Paul taking the Super Pro and Box Track titles and Tom Harlin winning in Pro, Jesse Brant in Sportsman, Eric Cooper in Bike, John Tilford in Quick Series and Eric Willenberg in Jr. Dragster.
Overall, the 2012 season will go down as one of the finest and most competitive in recent years, setting the stage for a promising 2013 at the race track.
Joe Buckles can be reached by e-mail at