By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Speedway, Indiana (July 19, 2021)………When it comes right down to it, nothing else compares.
For many, it’s habitual. It’s a summertime ritual. Year after year, and now in its 34th annual iteration, it still stands on it’s own as a dirt track, open wheel enthusiast’s holiday, a mecca of sorts, that draws in individuals from coast-to-coast, sea-to-shining-sea, and even from other hemispheres, for one purpose.
That reason is USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week.
The hotbed of traditional sprint car racing in the Hoosier State takes center stage for seven USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship events in a nine-day span July 23-31, with drivers chasing a $6,000 feature winner’s reward each night in their pursuit of the ultimate crown, an Indiana Sprint Week title worth $10,000.
The first stage of ISW travels to Gas City I-69 Speedway on Friday, July 23; followed by nearby Kokomo Speedway on Saturday, July 24, with the wicked fast Lawrenceburg Speedway rounding up the first weekend on Sunday, July 25.
After two days away from the racetrack, the action resumes at the half-mile Terre Haute Action Track on Wednesday, July 28, then it’s onto Putnamville’s Lincoln Park Speedway Thursday, July 29, onward to the red clay of Bloomington Speedway on Friday, July 30, and the finale at Haubstadt’s Tri-State Speedway on Saturday, July 31.
Six drivers in this year’s Indiana Sprint Week lineup will be chasing yet another Indiana Sprint Week crown, including defending ISW champion Chase Stockon of Fort Branch, Ind., who stepped into the KO Motorsports ride just before the start of the 2020 series and returned their investment with a consistent week of results that came without the aid of a victory, and paved the way for him to take the point lead in the final race and collect the series title.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) parlayed his consistency throughout Indiana Sprint Week 2019 to capture the ISW championship en route to the USAC National Sprint Car championship at season’s end, one of six drivers to win both in the same year: J.J. Yeley (2003), Levi Jones (2009), Bryan Clauson (2013), Robert Ballou (2015) and Brady Bacon (2016).
Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) is a two-time champ of the series, having won Indiana Sprint Week crowns in both 2011 and 2018. He’s one of nine drivers to become a multi-time ISW titlist, joining four-time champs Kevin Thomas and Levi Jones, as well as three-time ISW king Dave Darland, plus two-timers Chuck Amati, J.J. Yeley, Cory Kruseman, Jon Stanbrough and Bryan Clauson.
The last three, and five of the last six, Indiana Sprint Week champions cruised to the title by a slew of spectacular runs that were absent a victory throughout the week. Among those who’ve done likewise are champions Robert Ballou (2015) and Brady Bacon (2016), an occurrence which has been achieved on 12 occasions since Indiana Sprint Week debuted in 1988.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) is the most recent Indiana Sprint Week champion to also win an ISW feature during the week four years ago, winning the round at Bloomington that year, which is where he also earned his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature triumph, which came during during ISW, back in the 2012 season.
In fact, 20 different drivers have won the first ever USAC National Sprint Car feature during Indiana Sprint Week since USAC began sanctioning the event a quarter of a century ago in 1996, but none in the past four years.
That group includes Brad Marvel (1996 Kokomo), Brad Fox (1997 Bloomington), Bill Rose (1997 Paragon), Derek Davidson (1998 Paragon), Terry Pletch (1999 Terre Haute), Cory Kruseman (1999 Bloomington), Bud Kaeding (2000 Twin Cities), A.J. Anderson (2001 Bloomington), Brady Short (2006 Bloomington), Jeff Bland Jr. (2008 Lawrenceburg), Hunter Schuerenberg (2009 Tri-State), Blake Fitzpatrick (2010 Tri-State), Casey Riggs (2011 Brownstown), Justin Grant (2012 Lawrenceburg), Kevin Thomas Jr. (2012 Bloomington), Aaron Farney (2015 Terre Haute), Tyler Courtney (2016 Gas City), Kyle Cummins (2016 Kokomo), Brent Beauchamp (2016 Bloomington) and Carson Short (2016 Tri-State).
Indiana Sprint Week history can’t be recited without beginning with the name Dave Darland, the three-time ISW champ who owns a whopping 20 ISW feature wins in his career, most all-time. For the first time in Indiana Sprint Week’s 34-year history, Darland is not expected to participate as he continues his recovery from an April stroke. Darland owns the number one spot in practically every ISW statistical category, leading in wins, laps led, top-fives, top-tens, feature starts, heat race wins and fast qualifying times.
Among this year’s crop of Indiana Sprint Week talent, Kevin Thomas Jr. owns six career ISW feature victories with Kyle Cummins, C.J. Leary and Brady Short at five apiece; Robert Ballou at four; Brady Bacon and Justin Grant at three; Thomas Meseraull, Chase Stockon and Chris Windom at two; while Brent Beauchamp, Shane Cottle, Logan Seavey and Carson Short one.
Top series Rookies Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) and Paul Nienhiser (Chapin, Ill.) both reside within the top-10 in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car points, and both will also be making their Indiana Sprint Week debuts this coming week.
Thorson, already a two-time winner in USAC Sprint Car competition this season, as well as Nienhiser, are among several standouts vying for a first Indiana Sprint Week feature win, along with 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.), 2002 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio), 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver Brandon Mattox (Terre Haute, Ind.), 2020 USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.), 2017 USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Stevie Sussex (Mesa, Ariz.) and 2018 USAC Southwest Sprint Car champ Charles Davis Jr. (Buckeye, Ariz.) as well as the talented Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.), Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.) and Tye Mihocko (Phoenix, Ariz.).
For all but Thorson and Westfall in the group listed above, their first Indiana Sprint Week win would also be their first victory in the USAC National Sprint Car division.
The AMSOIL USAC CRA contingent is bringing two of its representatives in Eddie Tafoya Jr. (Chino Hills, Calif.) and Chris Gansen (Verdemont Heights, Calif.). Tafoya (13th in CRA points) is making his second consecutive visit to the Hoosier State for ISW while, for Gansen, it will be his first. Gansen currently ranks 4th in the CRA series points.
Tickets will be available at the gate at the racetrack each night throughout Indiana Sprint Week.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-1357, 2-Justin Grant-1303, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1284, 4-Robert Ballou-1178, 5-C.J. Leary-1168, 6-Tanner Thorson-1119, 7-Chris Windom-1110, 8-Jake Swanson-1084, 9-Chase Stockon-846, 10-Paul Nienhiser-805.
2021 USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK SCHEDULE:
Friday, July 23: Gas City I-69 Speedway | Gas City, IN
Saturday, July 24: Kokomo Speedway | Kokomo, IN
Sunday, July 25: Lawrenceburg Speedway | Lawrenceburg, IN
Wednesday, July 28: Terre Haute Action Track | Terre Haute, IN
Thursday, July 29: Lincoln Park Speedway | Putnamville, IN
Friday, July 30: Bloomington Speedway | Bloomington, IN
Saturday, July 31: Tri-State Speedway | Haubstadt, IN