Best Laid Plans

Best Laid Plans

September 22, 2011 Indianapolis, Indiana: It looked good on paper. Bloomington Speedway and Tri-State Speedway had each provided prime wingless sprint car racing only recently. There was a nice chill in the air, good for engines and good for clay. Friday paid $5000 to win and Saturday offered a cool Ten Grand. There were no competing USAC races and in fact, USAC made their national guys “show up” for Saturday’s MSCS event. Pit areas were thick with talent yet the racing fell flat. Bloomington looked like a funeral procession and Haubstadt hurled as much dust as I have ever (not) seen. Go figure.

As goes the oft-used phrase, “That’s racing!” Just as a classic joust can erupt on any given Sunday, all the right ingredients do not always bake a great cake. No surface can disappear faster than at Bloomington but Haubstadt suffered the same fate. The difference is that Mike Miles does nothing more than pack his cushion. Tom Helfrich however, had two 30-minute breaks to redo Tri-State. If it helps the racing, I’ll be happy to tailgate a little longer or linger in the pits. Saturday’s trucks and tractors did not preclude a 50-lapper worth its hype.

Friday at Bloomington became the first Indiana victory of 2011 for Jon Stanbrough, a two-time USAC winner this season at Lernerville, PA and Grain Valley, MO. Jon got the drop on pole sitter Nick Bilbee, locked the Foxco DRC against the grass and dared Levi Jones to try the outside. Turns one and two had long gone black. More moisture remained in three and four, all on the bottom. On the last lap, Levi glided to the center to create a close finish. Bloomington being a non-transponder track (lineups are still relayed via gravity) again raised the question as to the precise location of its finish line.

Some thought Levi won. He did not endear himself by telling announcer Brad Dickison that he was at “about one-third throttle. There wasn’t any track left. We won’t be around the bottom tomorrow.”

In his last trip to Tri-State, Jones stole an MSCS win high off the final corner with the Jack Rogers 57. This time, Levi and his Tony Stewart soldiers were unable to net $10,000. That plum was picked by Casey Riggs in his second USAC victory and second career Haubstadt score. To celebrate, the kid did doughnuts in turns two and four. He earned ‘em by blowing by Daron Clayton and leader Bryan Clauson in one excellent lap 17. The first 30 were all green in an all-brown haze.

Clayton and Blake Fitzpatrick fought for second until both melted engines. Friday’s POWRi midget winner at Jacksonville, Clauson and Curb-Agajanian Seven retrieved runner-up. Sixth at Bloomington, Damion Gardner came from Haubstadt’s eighth row to engage Jones in a long struggle for third that would have been easier to watch with goggles. Dynamics, Inc. lengthened its list of 2011 pilots from Coons, Clayton, Larson, East and Shuman to Brady Bacon, who brought them fifth from the tenth row after a nice dice with Coons Jr. Hoffman has Larson for Eldora and Jac Haudenschild for a Lawrenceburg run at 10k.

Andrew Elson took third at Bloomington in front of Chris Windom and Brady Short, who provided a second Saturday entry for Shane Cottle, second at Gas City for Jeff Walker. Jeff’s Jam-It-In Storage supplied a chair for Clayton, a hero at Haubstadt where Elson flipped on the start of the B-main. Windom dislikes Tri-State and acted as such, missing a transfer and taking a provisional. Windom went to Winchester on Sunday for third-place.

Winner of four features in four weeks, Coleman Gulick’s high side heroics hit Bloomington’s third turn cushion and flipped from the B. Gulick was as uncomfortable a DNQ as Windom at Haubstadt, where such rim riders can be routinely chopped.

Friday’s fifth and final heat was Bloomington’s only one with true excitement thanks to Robert Ballou’s stubborn refusal to abandon the rim. Ballou bagged seventh before bringing Dallas Mulvaney’s car to Tri-State on open trailer.

USAC National travelers were not particularly pleased to receive the same 60 points for an event staged by draw and passing points, both of are despised by the time trial sect.

USAC point standings see Bobby East third in pavement sprint cars, fifth in midgets, eighth in champ cars, and tenth in national sprint points despite skipping Tri-State. East earned ninth at Bloomington and second at Winchester on Sunday afternoon.

Eighth in the Haubstadt dust, Tracy Hines won the Rich Vogler Classic at Winchester after out-qualifying the remarkable Swanson brothers by almost half a second. “That guy can lay down a lap,” ex-TSR wrench Rob Hart offered of Hines. “Wherever we would test, he could post a lap that we couldn’t touch all day.” Hart was my Haubstadt chauffeur during his discussions with Sheldon Haudenschild and Roger Crockett.

Saturday sprint cars on the Skagit River in Washington watched Travis Jacobson enjoy first with 360 cubic inches and second with 410.

Skagit hero Marc Huson at Shark Engines produced 360s that won Oregon ASCS A-mains on Friday at Willamette with Logan Forler and Saturday at Cottage Grove with Henry Van Dam.

Kyle Hirst, sixth (Civil War) and fourth (USAC) at Gold Cup for Smitty Boys, won Saturday’s Mel Hall Memorial at Marysville, California. Familiar face to Chili Bowl, the proprietor of Mel’s Transmission in Grass Valley operated Ernie Purssell Memorial Speedway before moving to Marysville.

Madera, California’s Harvest Classic on Saturday saw Chad Nichols first in a BCRA midget and fourth in a Mike Phulps sprint car as USAC Western teammate to Tony Hunt.

Mussell Beach in Santa Maria reported a rip roarin’ USAC 360 show on Saturday when Danny Sheridan (Kittle 18) passed Bud Kaeding (Buster & Ziggy 29) on lap 26 of 30 to win the Bud Stansfield Memorial.

CamLand’s Bill Camarillo had midgets at Ventura on Saturday for sons Brent (third) and Brian and another for Markus Niemela, the Finland flash who led 20 of 30 before finishing second to Johnathon Henry. VRA 360 sprints were second (Brent) and eleventh (Brian) on Saturday.

Saturday at Ventura was the first official USAC Ford Focus midget start by Austin Blair, son of Las Vegas Motor Speedway general manager and former Trackside scribe, Chris Blair. Austin was aboard a Cory Kruseman midget.

Farmington, New Mexico’s Josh Grady won the wingless NMMRA 360 season finale Saturday in Aztec, where brother Jason settled for seventh.

Renegade winged 305 features filed the first win by Aaron Quijano on Friday at El Paso, Texas before Quijano took tenth on Saturday at Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Ray Allen Kulhanek of Montgomery, Texas took the ASCS Gulf South $3000 from the former Houston Raceway Park on Saturday with the David Miller J&J powered by a Don Ott 360.

Pauls Valley, Oklahoma’s Gary Owens accepted a rain-shortened checkered to his first OCRS win on Saturday in Ada with a two-barrel 360 sponsored by Jim’s Hickory Smoked Meats and Field’s Pecan Pies. Who’s hungry?

Cajun crawdad Jason Johnson reached the century mark in American Sprint Car Series victories on Friday at I-80 in Greenwood, Nebraska. Johnson’s 100 wins are split 53 national/47 regional while 127 of Gary Wright’s leading total of 148 were national affairs.

I-80 chewed up some people, including Michigan transplant Jeremy Campbell (Gary Swenson 24a), Lee Grosz (concussion) and Taylor Velasquez, the 20-year old from Turpin, Oklahoma who crashed to bring an early end to Friday’s feature.

Ninth in Nebraska’s 360 B-main on Friday at I-80, Knoxville, Iowa’s Alan Ambers was the 305 feature winner at the Northwest Missouri Fair in Bethany over Labor Day weekend. Thanks to fellow factoid hunter Jim Harris for that obscure find.

Craig and Julie Dollansky brought their World of Outlaws to Spencer, Iowa for a fifth September after Craig had much highway to beat himself up. “I felt like I gave one away at Antioch on Monday and it was a long ride back from California thinking about it,” Craig said after gathering a ninth checkered on the black seven. Big Game Treestands shot a 1-2 sweep when Sammy Swindell stole second. It was not lost on Dollansky that his brother Troy, son Luke and crew chief D.J Lindsey had built a winning car somewhere in the four days and 1800 miles. Saturday in Spring Valley, Dollanskys were fourth at Deer Creek, Minnesota.

Minneapolis suburbanite Brooke Tatnell and South Dakota’s Dusty Zomer notched ninth and tenth with Friday’s World of Outlaws at the Clay County Fair.

IMCA sprint cars came to Clay County Fairs for 27 straight summers when winners on Spencer’s storied half-mile were Emory Collins (1950), Bert Hellmueller (’50, 52), Frankie Luptow (’51), Deb Snyder (’52), Bob Slater (’53), Marvin Pifer (’54-55), Bobby Grim (’57-58), Jim Hurtubise (’59), Pete Folse (‘60-61), Jerry Richert (’62, 65, 67), Buzz Barton (’63), Scratch Daniels (’64), Don Brown (’66), Earl Wagner (’68), Don Mack (’69), Ray Lee Goodwin (’70-71), Gene Gennetten (’72), Thad Dosher (’73), Dick Forbrook (’74), Ralph Parkinson (‘75-76) and Bill Mellenberndt (’77) during the final season of the first image of an IMCA that now sanctions South Dakota 360s.

Fort Calhoun, Nebraska’s John Klabunde topped Saturday’s Jackson Sprint Tour 360 show on the Nobles County Fairgrounds in Worthington, Minnesota.

Prior Lake, Minnesota’s Scott Broty won the UMSS 360 show Saturday at St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, where stock car star Chad Cummings finished fifth in his first sprint car start.

South Dakota drivers Doug Martens and Alex Schriever brought their wingless Heartland 360 sprint cars 400 miles to Friday’s Weld Memorial in Missouri’s Grain Valley, where J.D Black and John Helm finished first and fourth before Helm headed 400 miles for Haubstadt.

St. Louis suburbanite Brad Loyet gave noble efforts Friday and Saturday but could not pry POWRi midget victories away from Bryan Clauson at Jacksonville or Kyle Larson at Spoon River. After observing Illinois Sprint Week on Canton’s severe banks, Larson was eager to unleash the Kunz Toyota and led all 30 laps to make the Tom Knowles Memorial the 15th win of an astonishing season. Sunday at Winchester gave Larson a fifth-place dose of high speed asphalt experience.

Davenport, Iowa’s Dave Ray won the first Knowles Memorial for MARA midgets in 1985 followed by Bobby Schneider (’86), Steve Knepper (‘88, 91), Donnie Beechler (‘89, 94), Kevin Doty (90, 92, 95, 96 & 04), Ray again (’93), Dan Boorse (’97), Jeff Flesher (’98), Donnie Lehmann (’99), Aaron Fiscus (2000), Brad Kuhn (’01), Jay Drake (’02), Bobby East (’03), Danny Stratton (’05), Chad DeSelle (’06), Thomas Meseraull (’07), Daniel Robinson (’08) and Bryan Clauson in 2009. Brad Loyet led in 2010 until rain stopped it short.

Spoon River winner for Don Fike in 2007, Thomas Meseraull returned to finish fifth for Roger Miller after opening their POWRi weekend fifth at Jacksonville.

Donnie Beechler, bagging the Knowles in midgets of Bill Darnell and Gary Zarounian (wrenched by Keith Kunz), drove a Bud Doty midget to tenth at Spoon on Saturday in Donnie’s first outdoor midget start on dirt since the ’99 Knowles.

Scott Bonar, winning Knowles crew chief on Jerrod Hull’s winged MOWA 410 sprint car on Saturday, had to smile seeing Beechler drive a replica of the nifty 50 that Bonar and Kevin Doty used to dominate around 1994. Saturday at Spoon was the fourth Knowles win by Hull. “Canton is one of my favorite places to race,” he told Bill Wright. “It’s high banked and I love it.”

Friday at Jacksonville found Robbie Standridge of Springfield second with a winged 410 sprint and seventh against POWRi midgets. Tangled in an opening lap mess at Spoon River, Robbie retrieved fifth-place. Also from Springfield and also in the Canton collision was J.C Bland, who drove back to sixth after winning at Jacksonville.

Chris Urish of Elkhart, Illinois drove a winged 410 to eighth at Jacksonville and third at Spoon River. This year, Urish put his USAC champ car on the dirt miles of Indianapolis, Springfield and DuQuoin.

Fredericktown, Missouri sent Jason Keith and Kory Bales to the B-main in Canton after Kory competed at Jacksonville, Illinois.

Zion, Illinois sprint racer Brian Kristan, who was in Hartford, Michigan when Frank Filskov died, won the 15th annual Filskov Memorial on Saturday in Plymouth, Wisconsin. “He was driving a blue and white Weiland Racing Enterprises sponsored car,” Brian remembered of the ’96 U.S Dirt Nationals. “So it's really cool that I can bring a blue and white Weiland Racing Enterprises car to victory lane tonight." Kristan's father Joe was an IRA regular alongside Filskov for many seasons. Sheboygen’s feature went 27 laps in honor of the Filskov 27f. As an aside, the “v” in Filskov’s name was silent, causing it to often be misspelled as Filsko.

Saturday in Sheboygen County saw Scotty Neitzel sixth with an IRA 410 and first with MSA 360. The two winged classes combine to close the IRA season at Wilmot and Dodge County on the next two Saturdays.

Aaron Pierce set an Anderson Speedway speed standard of 10.21 with his winged 410 on Saturday when Pierce became HOSS champion. He stripped off the wings Sunday for eighth in the Vogler Classic.

Justin Grant finished first Friday at Gas City and second Saturday at Lawrenceburg. Matt Goodnight got seventh at Gas City and fourth at Waynesville. Casey Shuman was eleventh Friday at Bloomington as Dave Darland’s MSCS teammate and first for the sixth time during this Lincoln Park campaign in the STIDA house car of Robbie Rice.

Addison, Michigan’s Mark Aldrich, who brought a sprint car straight out of high school in 1979, raced one for 31 years yet Saturday at Butler Motor Speedway marked the first track championship of his career.

Ohsweken Speedway spearhead Glenn Styres helped his seventh annual Canadian Sprint Nationals by having a hand in six cars driven by Wayne Johnson, Dain Naida, Kyle Sauder, Jamie Collard, Keith Dempster and Dave Dykstra. Wayne started 24th and finished second on Saturday. Sauder was second Thursday and third Friday in his first Ohsweken starts ever.

Oklahoma tornado Shane Stewart sought a third straight Canadian Nationals with Joe Gaerte and Tim Norman. They opened with Ohsweken wins on Thursday and Friday but settled for fifth in the final run to 11k won by Sam Hafertepe Jr. Joe calls his chassis JG 3.0 and it is naturally powered by Gaerte Engines. Tim supplies many components through his XYZ Machining, makers of arms, stops, ladders, brackets and birdcages.

Jim Wohlfiel, replacing Ryan Grubaugh with Ryan Ruhl midway through 2011, missed Thursday’s cut at Ohsweken with Ruhl and made Saturday’s final with Brett Mann of Rocket Headers at the helm.

Ottoville, Ohio’s Jared Horstman was in Ontario along with NRA champ Randy Hannagan (fifth Thursday and seventh Saturday), Ron Hammons (seventh Friday with Ben Rutan) and Ron Blair, who crashed Friday.

Jessica Zemken’s Canadian Nationals started with seventh on Thursday, was penalized off Friday’s front row, flattened Wayne Johnson’s left rear but finished second, then needed a provisional into Saturday’s final. Horstman, Zemken and Robbie Stillwaggon all used provisionals. Stillwaggon was the sole URC car in Canada, leading four laps of his Friday feature until sailing off the top of turn two.

While his regular driver Kyle Sauder was in Canada for a 360 weekend, Dave Jessup hired Cole Duncan for the Fremont 410 action in which they netted ninth in Saturday’s Jim Ford Classic.

Fremont’s own Bryan Sebetto, pushed his two-week gross over 25k by banging wheels with Tim Shaffer to edge to an All Star victory. “I hope he’s not mad because that was for Ten Grand,” said Sebetto. Shaffer found Friday’s order reversed and confessed, “If anyone had to beat me, I’m glad it was him. He’s a good friend.”

Rob Chaney was third Friday at Fremont and Saturday’s quickest qualifier for Tim Hawkins Logging and Bryan Grove. Pete Grove finished fourth Friday and tenth Saturday with Jac Haudenschild.

Castalia, Ohio’s Caleb Griffith won $2500 on Friday at Fremont from America’s deepest 305 feature purse. Griffith was a 410 winner during my only Lakeville visit in 2008.

Ohio’s Skyline Speedway waved a Friday checkered over West Virginia’s Andre Layfield, who put a Charlie Fisher 410 in a George Fisher chassis. The merger of Barry Jackson’s JEI chassis company with George at ti22 has created the GF-1.

Columbus, Ohio is home to Fisher Racing Engines and Columbus Motor Speedway, where the sons of John Andretti (Jarett) and Ernie Irvan (Jared) finished third and seventh in USAC Ford Focus midgets. Saturday marked the Focus debut for 12-year old Irvan.

Steve Lewis, landing eleven USAC midget championships with Stevie Reeves (’92-93), Tony Stewart (’95), Kenny Irwin (’96), Jason Leffler (’98-99), Kasey Kahne (2000), Dave Darland (’01-02), J.J Yeley (’03) and Bobby East in 2004, had white Number Nines at Columbus that finished first in Saturday’s Ford Focus race with Ross Rankine and fifth in full regional midgets with Dillon Welch at the wheel.

Sandusky, Ohio’s rare wingless super modified event on Saturday was won by 55-year old Joe Gosek, who towed 400 miles from Oswego, New York. “The car was really slipping and sliding and then I spun it out because it was so free and loose,” explained Double-O Joe. “I was hoping something would change with the stagger because the tires shrink and cool. After the red, it was a whole new car. It would run the outside, which I like to do here. I just stuck the car up there in turns one and two on the restart and by the time we got to three, I was clear.”

Pittsburgh Motor Speedway’s big half-mile hosted winged 410 sprint cars on Saturday when victor Ed Lynch Jr. saved his fastest lap for last (120mph) to defeat Port Royal regulars Mike Wagner (second) and Joey Hershey in fourth.

Daryn Pittman won Friday at Williams Grove and Saturday’s first portion of the Jim Nace Memorial at Selinsgrove. Starting sixth, his Friday win was his 13th at The Grove but first under point handicapping. “It’s good to finally win one,” Daryn told announcer/track publicist Bruce Ellis, “to shut guys like you up.”

It probably only bothers a racing historian that Selinsgrove calls its big 410 event a National Open some 65 miles north of the original National Open at Williams Grove. Nace Memorial is a much better title. Saturday drew 43 cars and a large crowd to honor the track’s only five-time sprint car champion, who succumbed to cancer in 2009.

Saturday at Selinsgrove featured a unique format of twin 22-lap features (equaling 44, which was Nace’s number) each paying $6000 to win with a six-car invert for the second one, leader of which was to be named the winner even if he did not have the best overall evening, though Pat Cannon did both. Pat earned $8000 for first and second but was one spot short of another 14k. Pittman was first and sixth but grossed $7900 after a $500 dash and $300 for quick time from Fast Tees, shirt business started by Nace.

Pittman produced Selinsgrove’s first lap of less than 16 seconds by averaging 120.5mph. Back in 1982, Las Cruces, New Mexico’s George Bischoff set the Selinsgrove standard of 19.74 followed by Doug Wolfgang (18.44 in ’85), Bobby Allen (18.17 in ’87), Joey Gravino (17.80 in ’88), Frankie Kerr (17.74 in ’89), Allen again (17.46 in ’89), Mark Kinser (17.43 in ’91), Cris Eash (17.29 in ’92), Lance Dewease (17.18 in ’94), Greg Hodnett (16.91 in ’98), Keith Kauffman (16.83 in ’99), Fred Rahmer (16.82 in 2000), Sean Michael (16.78 in ’01), Hodnett (16.76 in ’02), Michael again (16.64 in ’02) and Dewease, who went 16.20 during qualifications for the 2003 National Open.

New Jersey made a big contribution to the Pennsylvania Posse when the big Selinsgrove win by Garden State native Pat Cannon followed second at Williams Grove by Ryan Bohlke. “Jersey Jet” J.J Grasso however, left Selinsgrove in an ambulance.

York, Pennsylvania’s Don Heistand used to bring his sons to Williams Grove as children. After the races, to teach some lesson in hard work equaling reward, Don had Drew and Dusty fill sacks with empty cans from Beer Hill. Friday’s ARDC midget visit to The Grove ended with Drew first and Dusty third.

Haubstadt has a shit ton of cops but none of them keep the aisles clear so that transporters or even spectators in trucks can exit in a timely manner.

As we age, it seems like I am forever dedicating columns to fallen friends. And so I salute “Car Wash Mike” Avilla, founding father of Hoserville in NorCal. He lost his battle with cancer and in retrospect, seemed to live just long enough for one more Gold Cup.

I am and I am at (317) 607.7841

Article Credit: Kevin Eckert
Maxwell Industries 125
Dirt Track Racing School 125
Griffin Propane
Oshweken Speedway

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