News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 31, 2012

TRACKSIDE: What could have been: Indy’s folklore got richer this week

Joe Buckles
The Tribune-Star

---- — It’s a question that will linger for years and only add to the folklore of the Indianapolis 500.

It was disappointing to see Bryan Clauson suffer through a long afternoon. Despite his lowly 30th-place finish, the frequent Terre Haute Action Track competitor handled himself well on and off the track during the month of May.

Early risers Sunday morning were given the opportunity to see a rare sight in Formula One racing — a Grand Prix that generated its sixth different winner in as many races this season.

On a circuit that rarely produces more than four or five different victors during the year, Mark Webber become winner No. 6 at Monaco.

On the subject of competition, didn’t NASCAR serve up yet another yawner at Charlotte Sunday evening? Maybe fans have become too fickle in their expectations of close finishes and drama in NASCAR these days.

Closer to home, the 42nd running of the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic served up an excellent evening of racing in front of one the biggest fan turnouts in a number of years at the local half-mile clay oval.

Bud Kaeding displayed why he is an eight-time winner at Terre Haute. Of course, it took the misfortunes of early-race leader Jon Stanbrough to open the door for Kaeding’s well-deserved win.

Few remember how close Kaeding came to losing his life in a frightening accident here a few seasons back. He was quick to recall that fateful evening and how the Hulman-George family came to his aid in what was a long and difficult recovery period.

In taking the checkered flag, Kaeding became the 25th different winner of the sprint-car classic.

The night didn’t go quite as well for the local contingent of Blake Fitzpatrick, Chase Stockon and Brandon Mattox. All three had their share of problems.

What started on a promising note for Fitzpatrick after setting the fast time in qualifying went array in the main event when overheating problems curtailed his efforts.

“We spent most of the night trying to figure it out. It [engine temperatures] got up to 260 [degrees]. We were holding our own, but we didn’t want to take a chance on hurting the motor,” related Fitzpatrick.

Stockon won his heat but ran afoul with tire issues.

“The name of the game out there tonight was new tires. If you didn’t have them, it made for a long night,” voiced the disappointed Stockon.

His disappointing 19th-place finish dropped him out of the top 10 in USAC points costing him a spot on the lucrative USAC incentive program that offers the top points leaders travel pay.

With the Eastern Swing next on the USAC sprint schedule, the $600-per-race show-up money would have been a big plus for Stockon’s low-budgeted operation.

It was a big weekend of racing at Crossroads Dragway, with Eric Bowling taking the top prize in the Bernie Mann Memorial and Paul Emmons, Alan Grayless III, Clayton Patrick and Adam Price winning their respective classes.

Action continues this weekend with the third annual Matt Agresta Sportsman Challenge on Saturday. Fun Night and Pink Ladies racing are slated for Friday evening.



Joe Buckles can be reached by e-mail at jbuckles4@frontier.com.