Friday, August 8 - We woke up to another perfect day. Blue skies, 70’s and low humidity. We started out around 9:30 to make the drive from Northern Indiana to 45 miles south of Indianapolis where we would visit yet another Indiana bullring, Bloomington Speedway. But before we left for the day Bruce logged on to the internet to see who the winners were Thursday night at Knoxville and who won the USAC midget race at Union County. He was surprised to see the USAC midget race at Union County was canceled due to unsafe track conditions. Not much more was mentioned and we knew we would hear all about it from our friend, Keith who was there.
It was 5:30 when we pulled into Bloomington. Of course on the way we had to check into the motel and hit a few antique stores. There were already cars in the parking lot but not as many as I expected. We found Keith and found out it was not the track surface that was declared unsafe but more the area surrounding the track. He said the stands were packed with fans before the decision by USAC was made to cancel the sanction around 8:30. I guess there was no catch fence and cars were parked right up against the walls in the turns. Also off one of the turns were tree stumps, equipment and rebar that USAC felt was a dangerous threat to the drivers if they were to flip into that area. The track promoter got on the PA system and blasted USAC and their drivers for not running. He then told the fans they were still running and those cars that were willing to stay would be coming out in warm-ups. After the warm-ups the fans could decide if they wanted to stay and watch the show put on by those who remained or they could leave and get a full refund of their ticket price. Fourteen of the 15 sprints remained but only 15 of the 48 midgets stayed. I heard USAC was telling the drivers not to stay and race. The promoter was willing and did pay out the originally posted purse and those not closely associated with USAC remained. Steve Buckwalter won that event representing the ARDC midgets. Kent Christian won the wingless sprint car feature from last.
Well on to tonight’s races. It was the same format. USAC midgets along with wingless sprints. The midgets came out in sessions of 8 and were timed during their warm-up period. Chad Boat set fast time by touring the high banked quarter mile in 11.81 seconds. Tonight the cushion was high and during the time trials two cars caught that cushion sending them into a series of wild flips. Brad Sweet was one of those cars. He spun several times in mid-air before coming back down to the track. During the 6 midget heats two more cars would catch the cushion and take the same type of tumble. It was like we saw the same event four times but each time a different car was in it. Sweet’s crew was able to make repairs and he won one of the two B mains. Of the six midget heats it was Pennsylvania’s Steve Buckwalter that had the fans on their feet. With three laps to go he was in fourth when the light clicked on that only three qualify. He threw it on the high side and passed them all nipping Thomas Messerall by a mere inches at the line. It was too close for the fans to decide so we had to wait for the officials to decide the winner. All of the midget heats were very competitive and that is not to say that the sprints were not entertaining, because they were.
The show was run with perfection and at 9:42 the sprint feature took the green. Our only worry here was the track was already starting to turn black with rubber and after the sprints how much good surface would be left for the midgets. The sprints had a hard time getting the race started but once underway we saw some darn good racing. There was a great battle for the lead with a very emotional Jon Stanbrough taking the victory. Dave Darland and Dickie Gaines were next over the line. If only the midgets would have had the surface to run on they had earlier in the night. But then with dirt tracks that is hard to accomplish. Still they put on one heck of a show. The track was slick and black but there were two grooves. Davy Ray shoot to the front from his third starting spot and held off the challenges of Cole Whitt and Brad Sweet the entire event. Ray won followed by Sweet, who if you remember flipped in warm-ups, and young Cole Whitt. All was complete by 10:33.
It was early and it is not easy to get out of the parking lot here, all spectators and pit vehicles leave through the same gate. We decided to stroll through the pits. Our first stop was to congratulate Steve Buckwalter on his heat win. They were pretty excited about their run even though they only finished 13th in the feature. As Steve mentioned he pushed it too hard going into turns one and two and went down over causing the first caution on lap 12 but he managed to come back up and get 13th. You see there are no walls at this track and many a car drives up and over the banking bringing out the caution. They still were excited and are looking forward to tonight at Lawrenceburg. It still was only 11:00 when we pulled out of the parking lot and made the drive back up into the Indianapolis area. Again another great day in Indiana.