TERRE HAUTE —
With three rounds down and four to go, the 2013 version of Indiana Sprint Week is ready to take center stage at the Terre Haute Action Track tonight — weather permitting, of course.
It’s hard not to mention the elements when talking racing at the Action Track this season.
Race organizers Reece O’Connor and Bob Sargent have felt the sting of Mother Nature worse than most Midwest promoters this spring and summer with all five of their scheduled shows washed out.
The forecast looks much brighter this time around and the change in weather couldn’t come at a better time, especially for the USAC sprint-car contingent, which now faces four races in four consecutive nights.
The schedule starts with tonight’s card at the Action Track, continues Thursday at nearby Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Friday at Bloomington Speedway, then concludes with the series finale Saturday night at Haubstadt.
Dave Darland will carry a substantial 28-point lead into the fourth stop of Indiana Sprint Week on the strength of his second-, third- and fifth-place feature finishes in the three races run to date.
This is a sizable cushion over Kevin Thomas Jr., who has posted an impressive run of two wins and a ninth-place showing the opening night at Gas City.
The first three rounds of ISW have produced strong car counts with an average of a little more than 50 cars an event, with the series opener at Gas City attracting a high of 53 entries.
It’s been a tough go for the scant Wabash Valley representation in ISW. The only Valley entry in all three shows has been fielded by Krockenberger Racing of Terre Haute with veteran Casey Shuman behind the wheel of the familiar No. 21K machine.
Sullivan County native Chase Stockon has struggled with eighth-, 15th- and 24th-place feature finishes. He’s qualifying much better with a third-quickest run at Gas City, third at Kokomo and fifth at Lawrenceburg.
Young Daylon Chambers of Brazil took on the USAC challenge with his independent effort and came away with respectable ninth- and 11th-place finishes in qualifying races at Gas City and Kokomo.
Although qualifying and finishing have been a major challenge for their efforts in Sprint Week, car owners Shaun and Leslie Krockenberger remains optimistic that their team will reverse its fortunes when they unload at would be termed their home track this evening.
“All too often with this type of racing, it’s about the qualifying. How you draw to qualify is half the battle. Qualify poorly and it’s an uphill struggle all night. Maybe with the right draw at the [Wabash Valley] Fairgrounds, we’ll have a decent shot for a good run,” Shaun said with guarded optimism.
Certainly no stranger to the sprint-car scene, the local team has never taken on the challenge of the full ISW tour until the current running of the annual mid-summer series. To say it’s been an eye opener might be an understatement.
The costs and demands of his time with running ISW are something Shaun hadn’t encountered in his 16 years of racing. Purses that pay $5,000 to win and $500 to start seldom meet the costs of running the entire ISW circuit.
He estimates it can cost teams $10,000 to run all seven shows.
“Your tire bill alone can be $3,500 to $4,000,” noted the former driver, now car owner. Still the pair welcome the opportunity to be part of the annual sprint-car showcase.
“Every place we’ve gone, the stands have been full. I’ve never seen so many different racing T-shirts. The fans are really into it,” Leslie mentioned. “It rained for a short time at Lawrenceburg and they still didn’t leave their seats. It can be quite an experience just being a part of it all.”
• Valley drivers shine — Sprint-car racing wasn’t limited to USAC over the weekend as Paragon Speedway hosted the non-wing sprinters and Wabash Valley open-wheel racers dominated the action that drew a field of 44 cars.
Doug Heck of Brazil won the sprint feature, with Jasonville’s Brandon Morin running second. Chris Babcock of Bloomfield won his heat and ran third in the main event.
Joe Buckles can be reached by email at email@example.com.