News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Sports Columns

July 25, 2012

TRACKSIDE: Indiana Sprint Week rises above heat, rain, poor economy

PUTNAMVILLE — The 25th annual version of Indiana Sprint Week is now officially in the record books and the latest chapter will go down as one of the most successful in recent years.

Solid spectator turnouts at all seven venues, strong car counts and the usual, tight, competitive racing made for a special run in the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned series.

Storylines abounded on numerous fronts, from Levi Jones’ championship run, a pair of couple first-time winners and seven nights of racing that generated six different winners.

The Wabash Valley was well represented with the strong and consistent runs of Sullivan County native Chase Stockon and the startling but well deserved Terre Haute Action Track win by Ray Morgan Racing – all together, a great 10-day run that survived near-record heat, a pair of rain postponements and a troubling economy that is starting to make its presence felt at short tracks across the Hoosier state.

The big winner of ISW had to be Jones, who once again displayed the canny knack of knowing the ins and outs of championship runs. While going winless in the seven-race stretch, the Olney, Ill., driver was always knocking at the door.

“I think we had a second, two thirds, a fourth and two fifths,” voiced the newly crowned champ.

“We got a lot of things figured out with our motors. Car-wise we just went a little too far on some adjustments at times. At other times, maybe not enough. That’s just part of racing.”

Now a four-time ISW champion, one would think Jones would pretty much take his latest title in stride. Not so for the ultra-competitive Jones, who developed the unrentless trait to win during his high school basketball playing days.

“It never gets old winning championships,” Jones said moments after a memorable victory lane ceremony shared with his young son. “That’s what everybody here tonight started the week trying to do. That last corner it was four wide going for fourth or fifth place.”

It was more than family and friends quick to offer congrats to the newly crowned champ. His car owner Tony Stewart took time from a busy schedule to make it to Putnamville Sunday.

“[Stewart] drove all night after driving a sprint car at Williams Grove [Pa.] to be here, so that made it even more special,” Jones said. “He gives the team what it takes to be here so it’s always nice to have him around.”

For feature winner Dave Darland, it was another well-deserved visit to victory lane at a track he has pretty much ruled over the years.

Like Jones, Darland was taking time to relish the moment. He’s been part of ISW since its creation and although he is now a 17-time ISW feature winner, his latest checkered flag was as special as the first to veteran racer.

“It doesn’t get old,” Darland said. “It’s always fun winning sprint car races. I’ve been fortunate to have won probably 250 sprint-midget or Silver Crown races over the years. If you can win the sprint car races, especially during Indiana Sprint Week, it can be a blast.”

Long considered one of the finest drivers ever to pilot an open-wheel race car, the veteran driver is once again teamed with car owner Jeff Walker.

“I’m very fortunate to be driving a great race car,” voiced the elated Darland in victory lane. “Things are going good for Dave Darland. Too bad we couldn’t have got hooked up with Jeff 25 years ago.”

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