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Saturday, May 26 – We found ourselves in the Hoosier state of Indiana over Memorial Day Weekend and no we were not in town to see the Indianapolis 500. We actually were here looking at houses. With mortgage rates lower than ever and retirement in the not too distant future it is not too soon to start looking. The object is to buy a house now while prices are low and hopefully in the next couple of years the market turns around some and the value of our home here in Pennsylvania will go up. Why Indiana you might ask. We can answer that in two words, wingless sprints. Not to mention USAC Midgets and some of the best dirt tracks in the country and I also hear they run a big race here in May.
We left home Friday at noon and drove straight through until we arrived at our hotel in Crawfordsville, IN at 11:30 at night. Then on Saturday, a day with temperatures in the mid-90s, after looking at 10 homes, we ventured on over to IRP or should I say Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Na, it will always be IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park) to me. On tap at IRP was the 67th Annual Night Before the 500 featuring the USAC Midgets and the Star Mazda Series and the USF2000.
We arrived at the track at 6:10 for the 6:00 start and by the time we were in our seats we missed the first two midget heat races. Two more followed with 7 cars in each. This was followed by a midget semi-feature and just before 7:00 all qualifying was complete. They handed out information along with a schedule of events and I must say they were pretty much on the money all night.
The first main event was for the USF2000 race. It was 75 laps or 30 minutes whichever came first. The drivers were from around the world and for many it was their first try at maneuvering an oval. The race took the green at 7:42 and on lap 2 the inexperience of driving ovals reared its head. On lap two there was an eight car crash in turn two that took 17 cautions lap to clear and cut the field down to 13 cars. By the time the race restarted there were only 10 minutes left of the 30 minute allotment. Point leader Spencer Pigot and Matthew Brabham, second in points, raced side by side for 8 laps before minor contact on the backstretch put Pigot in the lead for good. The checkered waved at 8:12, exactly 30 minutes and short of the 75 laps. Pigot won followed by Brabham, Roman Lagudi, Scott Anderson and Trent Hindman.
The Star Mazda race was 100 laps or 45 minutes and this one would go the distance. There were three minor cautions and overall the competition was better in this race. Connor DePhillippi picked up the win followed by Sage Karam from nearby Nazareth, PA, Zach Veach, Martin Scuncio and Petri Suvanto.
Finally, what we came to see, the USAC midgets came to the track for their 50 lap event, no time limit. The days’ festivities started with time trials at 2:00 in the afternoon. After all was complete they were only 15 minutes off on the schedule when the midget feature started at 9:45. The caution waved three times in the first half of the race, a crash on lap 1, a blown engine on lap 17 that collected 5 cars in the oil and a spin on lap 21. The second half was all green and just when you thought it might get boring Tracy Hines decided he wanted to win the event. First he had to track down second place runner, Darren Hagen. Hagen led for the first 17 laps until Kyle Larson took over the top spot. As Hines pressed Hagen for second they both closed in on Larson. The large crowd was starting to feel the excitement in the closing laps. By the time the starter showed 2 to go the crowd was on their feet. Tracy Hines took the two to go sign in third position. When the white flag waved Hines moved into second in pursuit of Larson. It looked like there was no way he would catch him, let alone pass him. Coming out of four for the checkered flag, all Larson saw in front of him was the flagman waving the black and white checks. That was right up until he saw Hines come up alongside of him and beat him to the finish by a mere few feet. The crowd went wild as they applauded the efforts of Hines. In victory lane it was Hines with the win, Larson second, Hagen third with Caleb Armstrong and Kody Swanson rounding out the top five. All was complete by 10:25 and we headed back to the hotel. Sunday was going to be another day of seeing houses and then an evening at our favorite Indiana track.
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