By CAREY FOX
Times Sports Editor
PUTNAMVILLE — The list of accomplishments on the race track for Lincoln, Ind. native Dave Darland is as voluminous as it is impressive. He heads the bulk of every AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing historical category already and he added another notch during Thursday’s “Indiana Sprint Week” stop at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Darland wired the field in the 30-lap A-main to win round five of the NOS Energy Drink “Indiana Sprint Week” over Chris Windom and AJ Hopkins.
Darland is the only driver to have recorded over 60 feature wins and to start at least 700 feature events. And he is the only driver to have won a USAC-sanctioned feature in 26 consecutive seasons. His victory aboard the Goodnight Racing-Curb-Agajanian/Curb Records – The Pallet Builder/Maxim/Claxton Chevy was his 19th overall ISW victory, but his first since 2004. Darland has a special connection to the Putnamville oval that his father Bob Darland dominated years ago. In fact, Dave won his first ISW feature on the 5/16th mile oval back in 1990. With Thursday’s win he became the winningest USAC Sprint Car driver at LPS, breaking a tie with Sheldon Kinser, with his sixth feature win.
After a four-year ISW drought, Darland was understandably pumped at his return to victory lane on the brightest stage of non-wing sprint car racing.
“It was just as satisfying as my first 60,” Darland exclaimed. “We’ve been struggling a bit; we’ve been good for a fifth or a fourth or a tenth recently. We’ve been running okay, we just couldn’t get over the hump. A good starting spot was key, which gave us an open track. The yellows came out at just the right time and kept me from getting in lapped traffic. Everything just went well for me tonight.”
Darland jumped to the lead from the outside of the front row to start the A-main and left the battle for second-place to Chad Boespflug and Kevin Thomas Jr. The duo traded sliders with each other before Thomas got free and assumed the chase to catch Darland, who had built a sizable lead. A spin by Brandon Mattox erased what had been up to a 10-car length advantage for Darland.
The restart went well for Darland, who again built up a strong lead by lap 12 before a tip over by series rookie Timmy Buckwalter brought out a red flag on the 13th circuit.
The next restart was a bit dicey for Darland as Thomas got a big run and pulled even with Darland for a lap thanks to a slight miscue in turn one.
“I really don’t know why, but the right rear just snagged too hard in the middle of one and two down there and I lost the front end,” Darland recalled. “After it pushed up in turn two, I was way slow in that corner and he gained a lot on me. I saw him slide under me down in three. It just takes a little time to get it back and it varies on the track conditions as to how long that takes, and we did.”
A caution once again paused the action as Darland remained out front for the next restart and would make the next one count. He began hitting his marks on a technical track that was slick through the middle with a hungry cushion up top that threatened to bounce even the most seasoned of veterans out of position.
Darland was checking out on the field for several laps as Thomas was caught by AJ Hopkins, who already owns five feature wins at LPS. Thomas and Hopkins battled for the runner-up spot before contact between the two shuffled Thomas back several spots.
Cautions came out on lap 16 and 21 for spins by Brady Bacon and Brent Beauchamp, which pushed the re-set button on Darland’s sizable lead. However, he managed to keep the train rolling up front once the green flag action resumed. The battle for second was intense however as Chris Windom threw an unsuccessful slider on Hopkins after the lap 21 restart and hard contact pushed Hopkins over the cushion and back to fifth-place for several laps before a late charge. The resulting tussle allowed Darland to pull away to a victory that played well to a massive LPS crowd on hand for the week night special. Darland crossed the finish line two seconds ahead of Windom as Hopkins clawed back to third-place ahea of Thomas and Justin Grant. Windom took over the ISW points lead by 25 with two races remaining on the slate.
The UMP Modified A-main went to Derek Groomer, who was able to snap runner-up James Walters’ three-race win streak at LPS this season. Full results were unavailable at press time.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 26, 2018 – Lincoln Park Speedway – Putnamville, Indiana – 31st NOS Energy Drink “Indiana Sprint Week”
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Boespflug, 2. Hodges, 3. K. Thomas, 4. Stockon, 5. Bacon, 6. Coons, 7. Barksdale, 8. J. Swanson, 9. Boyles, 10. Bell, 11. Clayton, 12. McDougal. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION, INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Grant, 2. Short, 3. Darland, 4. Jackson, 5. Ballou, 6. Hopkins, 7. DiMattia, 8. T. Thomas, 9. Mattox, 10. VanGilder, 11. Ottinger, 12. Thompson. 2:12.84
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Courtney, 2. Leary, 3. Beauchamp, 4. Cummins, 5. Creech, 6. Cockrum, 7. S. Cottle, 8. Weir, 9. K. Swanson, 10. McMillin, 11. McDonald. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kinser, 2. Roa, 3. Windom, 4. Chapple, 5. Buckwalter, 6. Johnson, 7. C. Cottle, 8. Rogers, 9. Studley, 10. Meseraull, 11. Westfall. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Westfall, 2. Ballou, 3. DiMattia, 4. Boyles, 5. Barksdale, 6. Rogers, 7. McDonald, 8. Studley, 9. Johnson, 10. Thompson, 11. VanGilder, 12. Bell, 13. Burns, 14. Ottinger. NT
SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. T. Thomas, 2. Bacon, 3. Hopkins, 4. Buckwalter, 5. Cockrum, 6. Mattox, 7. Ballou, 8. Meseraull, 9. C. Cottle, 10. Weir, 11. Westfall, 12. S. Cottle, 13. K. Swanson, 14. J. Swanson, 15. Creech, 16. Boyles, 17. Coons, 18. DiMattia. 2:57.07
FEATURE: (30 laps – starting positions in parentheses) 1. Dave Darland (2), 2. Chris Windom (6), 3. A.J. Hopkins (10), 4. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (4), 5. Justin Grant (12), 6. Carson Short (3), 7. C.J. Leary (17), 8. Chad Boespflug (1), 9. Chase Stockon (5), 10. Brody Roa (18), 11. Kyle Cummins (22), 12. Jordan Kinser (14), 13. Isaac Chapple (20), 14. Robert Ballou (23), 15. Shane Cockrum (9), 16. Brady Bacon (7), 17. Brandon Mattox (19), 18. Timmy Buckwalter (11), 19. Brent Beauchamp (13), 20. Josh Hodges (15), 21. Tyler Courtney (21), 22. Dakota Jackson (16), 23. Tyler Thomas (8).