Shifting through a dust-covered notebook loaded with an accumulation of notes, quotes and general observations from visits to Indiana Sprint Week stops at the Terre Haute Action Track and Lincoln Park Speedway:
From all indications, the latest chapter in non-wing sprint-car racing’s biggest attraction was a solid success, both from a competition and box-office viewpoint.
The demanding eight-race 10-day series is without question the best venue USAC has going.
Notorious for its weather-related issues in the past, this year’s 10-day run went rain-free with cooler temps than in previous years.
Hats off to newly crowned series champ C.J. Leary, a picture of consistency with an average 4.1-place finish. Though winless (not the first time it's happened in ISW), he never finished out of top 10 each night and registered six top-five finishes.
The series produced six different winners, with Kyle Cummins and Tyler Courtney as the only repeat victors.
As Dave Darland predicted prior to ISW start, it was the USAC regulars who pretty much dominated the series over the eight-race stretch, with Brady Bacon ranking second 12 points back in the final ISW standings.
Justin Grant ran third, Kevin Thomas Jr. fourth and Chase Stockon eighth in the final rundown.
If there is a question mark surrounding ISW, it's still puzzling to see why participating car owners and drivers seem content running for the purses dished out in ISW.
With tracks enjoying their biggest crowds of the year, it seems payoffs would be more rewarding than a regular-season show.
Glancing at the final race winnings, series champ Leary netted a paltry $11,325, with Cummins the biggest winner at $14,575, including his pair of $5,000 first-place paydays.
The standard $5,000-to-win is status quo during ISW. That's compared to the $8,000 standard World of Outlaws winners payout for sprints. Donny Schaltz had a $20,000 payday over the weekend at Williams Grove, Pa.
From a local standpoint, how about the effort of Terre Haute’s Brandon Mattox? He was one of only 19 drivers who qualified for all eight USAC races, posting his career-best USAC finishes with a top-five showing at the Bloomington stop and a seventh-place run at LPS.
Moments following his solid run at the Action Track, the likable driver offered thanks for the fan support and financial aid sponsors who made his series run possible.
“Those $500 checks might not seem like a lot to most guys, but what it did for me was make all this happen," Mattox said. "I was fortunate to pick up sponsorship help from S&K Automotive out of Indy and Jockish Flowers in Plainfield.
“It's been a struggle the early part of the year. Strangely enough, it seems like we’ve turned things around here in Sprint Week. You look at the points and we were at the top of the tank for all of the teams of our size."
Although it wasn’t an ISW moment, it was the finish at the LPS super stock feature that provided the most exciting and rewarding finishes of the night. That’s when Wes McClara notched a thrilling half-car-length win in the main event.
The dramatic finish drew the largest round of applause of the night and rightfully so. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy who has ties to the Terre Haute area. Nice job, No. 45.
Joe Buckles can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.