Special to the Tribune-Star
TERRE HAUTE —
Its arrival may have been delayed by several months — for a host of reasons — but the 2011 Terre Haute Action Track season is finally out of the blocks.
The Hulman Classic provided a strong fan turnout with a competitive night of racing and a stellar individual effort on the part of first-time Wabash Valley Fairgrounds winner Chris Windom.
The night was not with out a reoccurring bout with the dust. After all it is dirt track racing in July. For the most part the evening played out without any major incidents.
Local racers Brandon Mattox and Eric Krockenberger however, might take exception to that statement after their bone jarring rides in preliminary events.
With the dust now settled and a new winner in the record book the question presently is where does the current season go from here. U.S. Auto Club officials are still scurrying to find a makeup date for the SUMAR Classic leaving the only firm date remaining on the Action Track schedule-a USAC sprint car show in September.
What many considered as an abbreviated schedule to begin with now see the possibility an even shorter slate by year’s end.
USAC officials seemed pleased with the way the evening went, the nightmares of the SUMAR dust debacle still fresh in the memories of those involved.
Jason McCord of USAC heaped praise on the Reece O’Connor-Bob Sargent effort in prepping the half mile- surface for the Hulman Classic.
“All-in-all we had a great crowd. I thought it was a successful evening,” voiced McCord, the former racer turned official-promoter.
He conceded that dust remained a problem for the Classic but nowhere near the magnitude of that which halted the SUMAR.
“You can’t wave a wand and make dust go away. There’s no magic potion to keeping it down,” conceded McCord. “I don’t care who’s preparing it. It’s still a big half mile. When the wind shifts it can be problematic,” he added.
McCord hopes he can convince O’Connor and Sargent to return to help with the track for future events.
The pair was called in at the last moment to help prepare the track after the problems USAC had in the SUMAR.
“I hope we can get them back,” said McCord. “Bob and Reece did it as a favor to me. Perception is reality. We really didn’t do anything different this week than last weekend with the exception of their knowledge. It spun a positive on the whole event,” added the appreciative McCord.
Sargent’s and O’Connor’s efforts spent preparing the track surface meant swallowing a measure of pride and coming to the aid of a friend.
The pair had their bid to gain promotional rights to the track rejected by fair board officials over the winter. This after they had bailed out the track at the end of last season when there was an abrupt change in promotional leadership.
Sargent vowed earlier this year he would not have any future involvement with the Fairgrounds, but at Reece’s urging, agreed to return.
Despite limited access to the track due to fair activity, O’Connor felt they were able to offer suitable track conditions for the racers and fans.
“It was smooth, there was traction most of the night. There were some pockets that held the dirt which is where the dust came from,” said O’Connor, who operates Kokomo Speedway.
Asked if he would return to prep the track in future, O’Connor hesitated only slightly.
“I got a feeling you’ll see us be here. It was a verbal thing with us and USAC. They [USAC] wanted Bob and I down here when they were looking for a promoter. They didn’t want [the track] to fall into the wrong hands. We have a strong working relationship with USAC,” said O’Connor.
• ISW recap — The 2011 Indiana Sprint Week series ended on a high note Saturday night at Haubstadt with Chris Windom winning the coveted crown.
The series produced six different winners in seven races with Hunter Schuerenberg the only repeat winner.
Surprising enough several of USAC’s top name drivers failed to visit victory lane over the grueling campaign. Levi Jones, Jon Stanbrough, Jerry Coons and Bryan Clauson, frequent winners in the past, all came up empty handed.
It was nice to see a number of local competitors in Sprint Week, especially in the Hulman Classic. Unfortunately none of the six drivers had much to show for their efforts at the end of a 10-day span.
Competing against the best non-wing sprint car racing has to offer can be an expensive and at times a humbling experience.
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com.