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Wednesday, August 6 - During our recent trip down south with Allan and Nancy Brown, editors and publishers of the National Speedway Directory, he suggested then when we write about a track outside of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic States we equate it back to a track in our area to give our readers, mostly from this area, a feel for how the actual track might look. We thought it was a good idea. Well, last night we attended the opening night of USAC Midget week in Indiana at Gas City Speedway in Gas City, Indiana and all I can say is, “you won’t find this track back in the Northeast.” This is only the second time we have been here and all I could remember from the last time, over 10 years ago, was we went for a regular Friday night show and it was really good. This time it was more then really good it was awesome and it was one of those events you will continue to talk about as long as you have a voice. You know the kind, when a bunch of us all get together to bullshit about racing and we go back to I remember the time….. Well this will be one of those events.
Gas City is a 1/4 mile slightly banked oval that sprays you with clay nuggets from the beginning to the end. During hot laps the clay nuggets are so bad you think it is raining tiny pieces of clay. Now, I am not saying this never happens in the Northeast but a lot of the tracks I know are already raining dust during warm-ups. This surface is dark almost black clay and it remained tacky all night. It is very racey. We arrived at 6:15 and found the parking lot already packed. Luckily we were meeting a friend, Keith Barto, from back home and he already secured seats around five rowns from the top of the stands. We made the usual stop at the souvenir stands and Bruce picked up a hat and t-shirt while I got a sweatshirt. The wingless sprints took hot laps first and next on the track for hot laps were the USAC midgets. There were 47 in the pits and they ran 6 sets of hot laps. The cars all had transponders and they calculated their times during hot laps to avoid the individual time trials. This I liked since I am not a fan of time trials. At 7:30 they were complete and Brady Bacon had a fast time of 12.899. Three midgets from ARDC showed with Steve Buckwalter having 9th fastest time.
Now, we have been to events run by USAC that make you think it was the first time they ever ran a show but tonight they were on top of their game. They spun off the 6 midget heats in 33 minutes and all was very entertaining. It is amazing how hard they run when only 3 of 8 make the A main. This was followed by three wingless sprint heats and then up were the two B mains for the midgets. Each was a 12 lap event with only the top 2 going to the dance. It was 9:25 when they took intermission and worked on the track, although I did not think there was a thing wrong with the surface. I will call this farming the track since the equipment on the track most definitely is used to cultivate soil when farming. First they watered it and the they ran this machinery with little spinning things that dug down into the top of the surface bringing it back to perfection for the wingless beasts. The sprint ran their B main at 10:05 and it was 10:20 when the green dropped on the 30 lap midget main event. Two cautions on lap 1 had me worried that this great night of racing might not be ending as it started off but then the next 19 laps were run off with nothing more then excellent side-by-side racing. To me there is nothing more awesome then watching wingless midgets and sprints throwing it into the turns. They always appear to be on the edge of disaster. The final caution was on lap 29 and the race would be concluded with a green, white and checkered scenerio. No one was disappointed in this race and Angell Park hot shoe, Brad Kuhn took the win over young Cole Whitt. Davy Ray finished third with Jerry Coons moving up from 16th to capture fourth and Levi Jones rounded out the top five.
The sprints were still left to run their 25 lap main event. Even though I think 1/4 mile is a bit small for the mighty sprints, they were not to be out done by their smaller counter parts. The sprint feature saw a lot of good racing but it will be the final five laps that will be remembered. Jeff Bland was running high and leading the entire race from his outside pole starting position. While high flying Scott Weir moved up steadily from his 11th starting position. Dave Darland started 5th and appeared to be on the way for a third place finish. The three got into lapped traffic and all cut through like a hot knife in butter. It was fierce racing but I thought this would be the finish. All of a sudden with three laps to go Weir bobbled and Darland moved by for second and must have smelled blood the way he pursued Bland. White flag lap and Bland only had to maneuver past a lap car, something he did expertly all night, to gain the win. For some reason he ran high all night but decided to go low to pass the lap car. Darland shot like a rocket to the high side and coming out of four for the checkered he was almost even with Bland. At the finsh it was Darland by a wheel over Bland with Weir on their tails. It was an awesome finish which had the crowd on their feet cheering.
All was complete prior to 11:15 and no one left feeling they did not get their money’s worth. I am sure glad we made the drive to Indiana and I can tell you we will not wait 10 plus years to return to this gem of a speedway in Gas City, Indiana.
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