Friday, July 6 - It was another trip to Indiana and this one was going to be a hot one!! We left Indianapolis around 1 PM and headed north on Rt.31 toward our destination of Plymouth, Indiana. Plymouth Speedway has a unique setup this year adding a 1/5 mile dirt oval completely inside the existing 3/8 mile semi-banked asphalt oval. Tonight was the first night of a two day USAC midget show at Plymouth racing on the asphalt surface tonight. Temperatures along the road read 105 degrees and by the time we arrived at the track’s parking lot the temperature read 112. That’s hot!!
Plymouth is a small town in northern Indiana about 30 miles south of South Bend, the home to the University of Notre Dame. Plymouth Speedway is south of town and the 3/8 mile asphalt oval is a nice looking facility with plenty of parking and you enter the grandstands walking up a slight hill. The grandstands are based on a slab of concrete with metal piping imbedded into the concrete with wooden planks bolted on top of the piping. The infield is clear with the exception of some Jersey barriers protecting the flagger’s stand in the infield for the dirt track. The walls are Jersey barriers also and the pits are located outside of turns one and two. Concession stands are located behind the grandstand and in turn four is a wooden pavilion used for performing bands and such.
Time trials for the 19 USAC National midgets on hand began at 7:02 and were over in 25 minutes with Kyle Hamilton setting a new track record with a time of 12.582 seconds. Times trials were also run for the street stocks (13) and the hornets (4) on hand followed by heat races for the Midwest Ignite midgets (formally known as the Ford Focus midgets) with two for the 13 car field. The USAC midgets ran three heats and all qualifying was completed by 8:30. It was right into the features with the street stocks up first to go a distance of 20 laps taking the green at 8:34. This was a real good race up front with the top three cars swapping positions throughout. Bobby Stremme, the brother of David, took the lead for good on a lap 16 restart in turn three and raced to victory in his mom’s car. It was has first win at Plymouth since 2006 and he explained in victory lane that mom and dad thought it was too hot to go race but he said what the hell I’m going. He borrowed his mom’s new tires also and commented that he would have to replace those for her. Scott Frost won the race for second with Derek Wunder taking the show position. The 10 lap hornet feature went non-stop and only took three minutes to spin off. Young Sal Bustamante took down the win in this one.
Now it was time for the 25 lap Midwest Ignite midget feature and this one was competitive also. Nick Hamilton, the younger brother of Kyle, ran in third until the front two tangled on lap 20 and spun. Nick took advantage of the huge break and held off Cooper Clouse and Neshanic Station, New Jersey youngester, Ryan Krachun. Krachun was disqualified in post race tech inspection and Ross Rankine moved up to third in the final rundown. The 50 lap USAC midget feature was ready to go by 9:42 and even though you can’t call this a great race because of the eight caution flags it was a real war up front among Darren Hagen, Kyle Hamilton and Tracy Hines with these three dicing it up for the top spot. Hagen, the current USAC National midget point’s leader, took the lead from the start but it was anything but easy. Hamilton pressured him throughout the 50 lap distance and even made a diamond move entering turn one diving to the inside of Hagen with the two making contact and skating up the track but both were able to regain control and not lose any positions. Hines looked high and low but couldn’t figure a way by the front two and waited for a mistake in front of him. Coming off turn four for the checkered Hamilton made a run to the outside and the top two crossed the line side by side with the transponders flashing the Hamilton #33 first but a review of the official photo at the wire had Hagen holding on by just mere inches!! This the only the second midget race we have seen on asphalt this year and both had come down to the wire in very exciting finishes. Darren Hagen scored his 4th win of 2012 and his 19th career USAC midget win over Hamilton with Tracy Hines third, Caleb Armstrong fourth and Dalton Armstrong fifth. The final checkered waved at 10:16 in a finely run program which sent the fans home buzzing after the close, close finish.