Tuesday, June 5 - Tonight’s racing action at Grandview would feature the USAC National Sprint Car Series making their Eastern Storm tour through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Along with the 23 wingless sprint cars in attendence the ARDC midgets were on the undercard and they brought a strong field of 32 cars. Murphy’s Law would prevail tonight and if you are not familar with Murphy’s Law it states that “whatever could go wrong will go wrong". The night started out with rain falling during the warmups with it increasing causing the warmups to be red flagged. The track was run back in and another set of warmups were spun off. Time trials began at 8:20 and concluded at 8:39 with second generation driver, Kevin Thomas Jr. setting quick time with a new track record of 13.360 seconds. In fact nine cars brought the previous track record.
Ten minutes later the ARDC midgets were being pushed off for the first of their three heats and took just 19 minutes to spin off their heat races with Alex Bright, Trevor Kobylarz and Mark Gilmore winning. Up next were three USAC sprint car heats also spun off quickly in 25 minutes with New Jersey driver, Mark Bitner, winning heat one, Indiana’s Tracy Hines scoring heat two and Pennsylvania’s Mark Smith bagging heat three. Things were looking up with the track in good condition and only the ARDC consie to run before feature time. Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Arizona driving the Burke #54 ARDC midget won this race and ot was only 9:48. What happened next?
The 40 lap Jesse Hockett Classic for the wingless USAC sprint cars was waved off at 10:18. In the early going Binghamton, New York’s Coleman Gulick lost control on the backstretch and tangled with Mark Bitner before careening into the outside wall and flipping out of the ballpark at the end of the backstretch taking out a billboard during the flipping. Behind the backstretch are trees and Gulick who was uninjured wedged his sprinter on end against one of the trees. It took the wrecker crews 25 minutes to remove the flipped sprinter and to make matters worse one of the tow trucks broke down during the removal!! Things got back underway with Jerry Coons Jr. jumping into the early lead. There was not much passing in the first half of the race and the next caution did not appear until lap 16. Two laps later Bryan Clauson powered to the outside with Kevin Thomas Jr. in tow and went to the front taking the lead on lap 17. Clauson would never be headed after that flashing under the checker at 11:07 followed by Levi Jones would passed Thomas late in the race with Thomas third, Chris Windom fourth and Jerry Coons Jr. dropping to fifth at the end. The second half of the race was much more competitive but I was disappointed in the overall feature. Probably because I have seen these sprinters race on much better dirt surfaces in Indiana and other spots in the midwest and when they come east the tracks are not prepared properly for their style of racing.
It was not getting late with the 20 lap ARDC midgets taking the green flag at 11:23. Everyone thought this would be enough time to complete the 20 laps but remember Murphy’s Law was in effect and after a light double roll on the homestretch on the start with Dave Shirk and Steve Craig turning turtle. On the restart a 10 car pileup occured again on the backstretch with new father, Andrew Hannula, taking a nasty series of flips and rolls on the track and the fence. He and the other drivers were OK which was greeted with a sigh of relief. Once underway the action was fast and furious and all eyes were on Steve Buckwalter who advanced from 15th to 10th in five laps. Alex Bright started third and battled with Steve Drevicki finally take the lead on lap 7. Bright set the pace up front while in the meantime both Steve Buckwalter and Jerry Coons Jr. restarted in the back after the another caution and started to pick their way back to the front. In the closing laps the race up front was action packed with Buckwalter moving into third on lap 16 just as a scrum occured in turn four with Carey Becker taking a hard flip in turn four. At this point the clock struck 12 and announcer, Jeff Alhum quickly announced that the race was going to be checkered as curfew time had arrived. This was like watching a baseball game on TV with the bases loaded and two outs with the team’s slugger stepping to the plate and the cable goes out!! The last four laps would have been a war but we will never know. I think the way the end of the night’s racing was handled was poor and the fans who stayed for over 5 hours deserved better. And the manner the announcement was made could have been handled so much better. If you are familar with Grandview you realize that they cannot start a race after midnight but this should have been explained to the crowd on hand ahead of time so it wasn’t such a sudden shock when the premature ending happened. It left many people with a black eye and a sour taste in their mouths as they anticipated the battle for the remaining four laps. That was a shame and the fans deserved better. Alex Bright was awarded the win over modified driver, Ryan Watt, driving the backup Dave Shirk machine after starting 12th finished second with Nick Wean bringing it home third with Bruce Buckwalter Jr. taking fourth after starting 16th with Steve Buckwalter battling back to round out the top five. Jerry Coons Jr. brought the Burke Trucking #54 to the line to finish sixth after starting 19th.
So the Murphy’s Law night ended at midnight and from reading above you can see that whatever could have gone wrong went wrong.