"A TYPICAL WEEKEND" - TQ Midget Racing At Bartholomew County & Indiana Sprint Week Opener At Gas City - Races # 66 & 67
Tuesday, July 8 – Our trip out to our new home in Indiana came with some challenges as the Frontier Airlines flight out of Trenton/Mercer Airport in New Jersey was delayed on Tuesday. We were scheduled to leave Tuesday afternoon at 3 from Trenton and arrive in Indianapolis by 4:50, just enough time to drive the 2 hours northeast to the Jay County Fairgrounds in Portland, Indiana, to see two divisions of figure 8 cars race. Well, that was scratched when we did not leave Trenton until 9:15 PM after a strong, long line of thunderstorms passed and allowed us and flights out of New York City and Philadelphia to depart. By the time we secured our rental car in the Indianapolis Airport and left the area it was after 11 PM. We decided to stop at a Steak n’ Shake for a late, late dinner before proceeding to the house. It was around 1 AM when we finally arrived at the house after a long day of traveling in which Pat ripped her pants and one of her sides on her glasses came off in her hand. Yes, Tuesday turned out to be quite the adventure!
Wednesday, July 9 – On Wednesday morning I checked out two of the three TQ midget clubs sites at run in the state of Indiana. The Midwest TQ Racing League (MTQRL) is in its sixth year of existence with an affiliation with Tony Stewart who sponsors the Rookie of the Year contest and supplies Tony Stewart Racing giveaways to fans who answer trivia questions. The other club is the United Midget Racing Association (UMRA) which has been around since 1961. MTQRL had a race scheduled for the Bartholomew County Fair on Wednesday while UMRA was racing at the Decatur County Fairgrounds on Thursday. We decided to take in the show at Bartholomew County and headed south on I-65 toward the fairgrounds in Columbus, IN. Exiting I-65 at one of the Columbus exits it took us over 30 minutes to go two miles to the fair as the backup was that large. Thank goodness the racing did not start on time at 7 PM but at 7:30 as we and others would have missed the start of the racing program. It was $3 to park and an additional $10 to enter the grandstand area to view the TQ racing. The grandstand was aluminum and ran the entire distance of the ¼ mile homestretch with a guard rail on the homestretch while large hay bales lined the corners and a wooden fence ran the entire length of the backstretch where the pit area was located. The ¼ mile dirt oval seemed in decent shape but unfortunately never developed a good second groove on the outside which made passing difficult.
Time trials were run earlier so the program began at 7:33 with the duel for fuel where the winner received a ten gallon plastic container of racing fuel if they won the dash type race. Logan Arnold took home the extra fuel for winning. It was 7:48 when the first of three heat races for the 20 car field where everyone would advance to the feature with the top ten in time trials drawing for their starting positions in the feature. Heat racing was decent with some passing as the track started to come around and develop a groove and a half for racing. No consie was needed but a much too long hour intermission followed before the feature event participants were brought onto the homestretch to be introduced to the crowd. I thought the idea for a fair race was to provide entertainment for an hour or two and then get the crowd back out into the fair to enjoy the rest of the things to be seen and eaten. Also at this point I would like to state that the female announcer for the MTQRL club is very knowledgeable and enthusiastic and adds a lot to the program.
The drivers were introduced and then strapped into their cars with the green flag waving at 9:15. Brett Hankins took the early lead from his first starting position and held sway until Ronnie Combs who started third was able to work his way around Hankins for the lead. The best racing was between eighth and ninth starting Matt Hedrick and Nick Speidel as they disposed of Hankins and battled for second over the second half of the race. The good battle ended in turn three on the last lap when the two tangled and gave second back to Hankins but then Logan Arnold nipped Hankins at the line for second with Hankins third, Rick Robinson fourth from 12th and Anton Hernandez rounding out the top five with the final checker waving at 9:32. This still gave us time to grab something to eat (steak tenderloin sandwiches with fries) and visit some of the barns to check out the sheep, goats, pigs and cows of the 4-H fair that were the real reason most everyone was there packing the fairgrounds. The night was enjoyable but the exit looked like it was going to be as long as the entrance until Pat suggested retracing our steps upon entering and turning left at the exit instead of right and going down two blocks and turning left again. This got us back to the main road much faster than the other way would have and we were on I-65 in around five minutes to make the 1 ½ hour trip back home.
Friday, July 11 – The original plan was to take in the POWRi midgets at the Lincoln Speedway in Illinois but the weather forecast was dismal most of the week leading up to Friday. The forecast changed drastically with a much lesser chance of rain but we had decided to go to Plan B which was the opener of 27th annual Indiana Sprint Week at Gas City. Pennsylvania friends, Rich Rouser and Bezz, were out for the weekend and a text to Bezz had us seats saved about half way up in the wooden grandstands that run the entire length of the homestretch of the ¼ mile black dirt oval in Gas City. We arrived around 6 and already found a good crowd on hand for this event and soon Roger Ferrell, our Indiana buddy, found us along with Benny Trask and his wife. Roger would sit with us the entire evening and his company is always welcomed. The sky was overcast with temperatures in the 80’s and we figured the track would hold up better than it did. Time trials would lead off the evening of racing beginning at 6:42 for the fine 53 car field on hand. By 7:30 it was the People’s Champ, Dave Darland, who had set fast time and next up would be the sprint car heats after some track maintenance. It was 8 PM when the first of four heats races went green with some decent racing in each of them. As the old adage goes if the heats are good usually the features are not and that would prove to be the case this evening. The UMP modifieds had three heats for their 21 car field and the HPD midgets had one for their paltry six car field. All heat qualifying was completed by 9:13 with C and B mains to be run for the sprinters. Jeff Bland Jr. took the Burton #04 for a nasty ride off of turn two rolling and flipping numerous times during the B main and everyone was relieved to see him climb from his machine with no serious injuries especially after what happened last year with young Josh Burton.
The first feature of the evening would be the 20 lap UMP modified feature and this one was really bad. Eight cautions slowed this race taking almost a half hour to complete. Randy Lines would survive in this one to take the win over Chad Combs and Zeke McKenzie. The HPD midgets were next up and would go 20 laps also. Considering there were only six midgets the racing for the lead was very good. Patrick Bruns would win the non-stop five minute feature over Austin Nemire and Adam Thomason. Veteran racer, John Heydenreich formally from Bloomsburg, PA, also runs in this class and finished fourth behind the youngsters. The last feature of the evening was the 30 lap USAC National Sprint Car feature which took the green flag at 11:08. I would like to tell you that this one was good but I don’t lie, it was awful. The only good thing about it was it only had one caution and was spun off in 11 minutes. There was nothing else good to report on this stinker. Jon Stanbrough started first and glued himself on the low groove as everyone went huggy pole almost the entire distance. Dave Darland tried the outside early with some success but the outside went entirely away and so did Darland. Stanbrough went on to his 34th career USAC sprint victory over Justin Grant who started and finished second and Chris Windom who started fifth. Tracy Hines started and finished fourth with the only guy moving up being fifth place finisher, Chase Stockon, who started back in 13th. You know there is not much passing when Bryan Clauson starts 14th and finishes 10th. It was that bad!!
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