By Joe Buckles
TERRE HAUTE — Questions and random thoughts surround the much-anticipated return of Indiana Sprint Weeks to the Terre Haute Action Track.
• With temperatures hovering in the 90s and the air so thick you can literally cut it with a knife, is there is any question that ISW is upon us?
• In that vein, with three of the shows already victims to rain this season, aren’t Action Track officials due to have good weather for what could be their biggest event of the year?
• Once considered the showcase for the sprints is now USAC’s biggest attraction, which speaks well for the sprints, but what does that mean about the overall health and future of USAC and its other divisions?
• Wouldn’t it be nice to see the ISW with a television and sponsorship package worthy of the support it receives from fans and racers across the Hoosier state?
• ISW dates are the most lucrative most promoters have all summer. Are the purses for each event anywhere near where they need to be?
• An ISW feature win should be worth nothing short of a $10,000 payday for a winning driver and his car owner. With an additional $25,000 going to the series champ.
As grueling as the seven-race nine-day ISW schedule might be, does it even come close to matching what World of Outlaws winged sprint teams face — on the road 48 weeks out of the year — during a demanding slate?
• Are the Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway missing a golden opportunity to win back or gain new fans by guaranteeing the ISW champ a legitimate test drive in the annual 500 rookie orientation program each May?
• Do they not have the vision to see what the likes of a Dave Darland, Jon Stanbrough or Levi Jones might do to help spur much needed interest among grassroots dirt track fans?
• With Darland a legitimate contender to win this year’s version of ISW, he would become only the second four-time series champ. Can anyone tell me what driver’s record he would tie?
How about Kevin Thomas, who accomplished the feat winning back-to-back titles in 1992-93 and 1995-96.
• Can ISW really be considered a true Indiana Sprint Weeks championship with the track that is host to the state’s most successful weekly card not on its schedule?
The absence of Paragon Speedway on the ISW slate is the result of both sides failing to swallow their pride and coming to reason on what is best for Indiana sprint car racing .
• And how about Indiana’s paved ovals at Salem, Winchester, O’Rielly Raceway Park and Anderson Speedway? They are as much of a part of Indiana sprint car racing as any of the dirt tracks.
With the promotional changes at Lincoln Park Speedway in the offering, could the 5/16-mile oval be back on the ISW for 2010? Many fans are hoping so.
• Is it the sluggish economy, the hassles of USAC officialdom or the stark reality that they may not be competitive with USAC regulars or maybe the combinations of all three factors the reason why Wabash Valley racers are noticeably absent from this year’s ISW fields?
• West Terre Haute’s Blake Fitzpatrick has been the only local driver to run in the ISW thus far. His efforts have been nothing short of spectacular. With a fast qualifying effort at Kokomo, a pair of heat wins and a pair of top six feature finishes is it not a pleasant surprise to the see the talented newcomer ranking fourth in ISW points?
Once the dust settles and the checkered flag falls on the 2009 ISW will there be any question that fans will have been treated to some of the best open-wheel dirt-track racing this country has to offer?
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com.