Saturday, July 7 - It was another scorcher today as the temperatures were again 100 + degrees. Our accomodations on Friday night were in South Bend, the home of the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame, and in fact we were across the street from the campus in the Ivory Court Suites, a very nice set of buildings set up like a condo complex. In fact from our third floor window we could see Touchdown Jesus on the building wall looking toward the football stadium. Alan and Nancy Brown arrived around 11 and we all piled into the latest version of the Chariot to first take a driving tour of the Notre Dame campus before visiting the Studebaker Museum in the town where these cars were built. It was an enjoyable couple of hours spent looking and reading about the many models produced in the factory in South Bend and some of the history behind it. The Studebaker family started out in Gettysburg, PA before moving to Ashland, Ohio and finally ending up in South Bend, Indiana. The Studebaker family started building Conestoga wagons for the early settlers before switching to farm wagons and then into the car business. There were many fine examples of their work and then there was the Avanti. Boy was that car ugly!! The Hawk model from the 1950’s was gorgeous and I could see myself driving down the back roads of Indiana in one of the Flamingo colored beauties. After touring the museum we stop to get a bite to eat before heading down to Plymouth to check into our hotel for the evening. While plotting some future potential vacations with our friends from Michigan we received a phone call from the Breadman, Gordy Killian, of the Reading, PA area. He was on the tail end of his week racing tour through the midwest and told us he was in Indianapolis and was on his way north.
Around 4 PM as we were all sitting together in the Brown’s hotel room Alan received an e-mail on his phone informing us that the USAC midget portion of the races tonight at Plymouth were cancelled due to the excessive heat. We immediately phoned the speedway to find if everything was cancelled and were informed that they were still running with 600 cc mini sprints and hornets on the card and that the admission price was dropped to $7. We decided since we were already here with a hotel booked why not venture over and take in the remaining action on the new dirt track built inside the asphalt oval. Upon approaching the ticket booth we were met by a track employee informing us that the USAC midgets were off the program and the admission price was reduced to $7. That was a good move!! Upon entering the gates we were presented with a cold bottle of spring water. Another good move!! Soon thereafter promoter, Eric “Irish” Saunders, approached Alan and started conversing with us all. He informed us that USAC had contacted him this afternoon and had cancelled because several of the top car owners had called and complained that the temperatures would hurt their racing engines. Well, that did not pass inspection with us as yesterday was hotter than today and we did not see any engine problems the evening before. Could it have been the fact that the dirt oval was a small 1/5 mile and the big boys didn’t want to run on it? We think that was more the reason and not the heat issue. Gee, they’ve run midgets in Arizona when the temperatures have been in triple digits, why not here? When Irish informed USAC he was still running they said how will that make us look. Did they really want an answer to that question? Saunders told them that he had 30 600 cc mini sprints commit to run tonight and he was honoring his commitment. Too bad USAC didn’t honor their commitment!!
We placed our lounge chairs at the top of the grandstand behind the top row and settled in for a night of racing minus USAC. They overwatered the track, not a good move, and the racing started almost a half hour late. The 600 cc mini sprints ran three heats with the first two being decided by mere inches. The hornet field was a meager 4 and they ran one heat. It was decided to run a second set of heats for the mini sprints before going to intermission at 9:15. Again the water truck overwatered the track and the intermission lasted 45 minutes before they were able to run the wetness in. We believe the lack of dirt track preperation played a major role in the double overwaterings. Hopefully time and experience will win out here. Two B mains were contested for the mini sprints and it was 10:28 when the 10 lap hornet feature took the green flag. Five minutes later after using some muscle moves Sal Bustamante stood in victory lane for the second night in a row. The twenty car starting field for the 30 lap mini sprint feature would race for $500 to win with the initial green waving at 10:47. The red flew on lap 2 for a flip before the drivers settled down and raced cleanly for 19 straight laps. Nate Lauderbuagh was strong all evening and came out of the third hole to take the lead. Rodney Stealy who started ninth really put the pressure on Lauderbaugh but could not slip by. Fifth starter, Cole Bodine, finished third with Austin Thomas taking fourth and Cole Ketcham rounding out the top five after starting 11th. The final checker waved at 11:09 making this too long of a racing program with management having to work on tightening things up. It may not have been the greatest race but the company was priceless.