Opening night at one of the midwest’s premier short track operations can be like no other time of the year.
A chance for the fans and racers to shake off the long off season doldrums while ushering in a new campaign filled with high expectations amid an air of uncertainty that goes with weekly short-track racing.
Such was the scene at Lincoln Park Speedway over the weekend where the Putnamville facility hosted a near-capacity fan turnout and a pit area filled with over 100 racers and their machines.
For promoter Joe Spiker the evening couldn’t have gone much better. His biggest challenge on the night: finding enough parking spots for the overflow crowd.
The pits were lined with a stellar field of sprints-modifieds-sportsman and bombers. According to Spiker 108 in all. Not bad for what some say is troubled times in the sport.
On the sprint car side — an open date for most sanctioning groups — meant a stellar field for Spiker and his fans. The field resembled as much a USAC show as that of a regular Saturday night LPS show.
One that contained the likes of Jon Stanbrough, Dave Darland, Robert Ballou and Bryan Clauson. To no one’s surprise the “outsiders” pretty much stole the show.
Stanbrough coming on strong near the end of the 25-lap main event to notch what is expected to be one of many feature wins in his new ride in 2012.
The most impressive drive of the night however came from Clauson who stormed from deep in the field to challenge for the win in closing laps. If the feature had gone a 30-lap distance there many who felt the outcome would have been a different.
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n Pit notes — The pits were lined with an abundance of sharp appearing race equipment. From the sprints to the bombers the bright color schemes and detailed fabrication of the creations were indeed eye catching.
Unfortunately that will take on a different look all to quickly in the rough and tumble ways of grass-roots racing.
Touring the crowded pits revealed the racy appearing Franklin chassis super stock creation of veteran racer Slick Griffin. The Brazil racer now with five decades of being behind the wheel is shooting for a track title in 2012.
Close by was the multi-car operation of Carmichael Racing with the familiar No. 92 modified and super stock machines of the father-son team of Kenny Carmichael and Kenny Jr. Notably missing were the sprint cars that fell the way of the team’s downsizing in the off season. Spirits were high on the night for the North Terre Haute based operation on the heels of their one-two finish at Farmers City, Ill., the previous night.
Among the strong sprint car contingent was a pair of teams from West Terre Haute. Sporting a youthful appearance but plenty of potential and enthusiasm was Seth Parker in the No. 38 R&R Trucking Sprinter and Braylon Fitzpatrick in the No. 3 Fitzpatrick Racing that fields cars for the talented dual of Braylon and Blake Fitzpatrick.
Already with a couple of USAC shows under their belts this season the number 32 sprint car machines of Chase Stockon looked as immaculate prepared as ever. The Sullivan County native plans campaigning a full USAC schedule this season.
Along the stock car pit lane were the colorful and detailed mods of Wes McClara and CJ Bryan. McClara a former Wabash Valley native notched a solid second place finish in the modified feature.
He spends most of time these days molding the bodies for the Rocket Racecar mods. He has nearly a dozen customers who field his creations.
Bryan sporting a modified and bomber in his pits. Both dressed in striking livery which is to be expected from a professional sign man.
n It was nice to see a familiar No. 71 Newlin Racing race car in the pits. The sharp appearing modified of not “Wil The Thrill” but brother Wayne who is in his second season of running the mods.
Wayne noted that big brother is itching to get back in race car so it wouldn’t be a big surprise to see one of the most popular and hard charging drivers to run the area short tracks back in action soon.
All-in all a great start to a new season. With standing-room-only turnouts at Brownstown and Flora, Ill., already this season all signs point to a banner campaign.
One can only hope that positive momentum will continue to the Action Track season opener April 22. The Action Track phone number was omitted in last week’s scheduling column. That new number is (812) 232-4040.
Joe Buckles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.