By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Terre Haute, Indiana (May 19, 2022)………Mirror, mirror on the wall, which race’s history is the grandest of them all?
There’s only one that fits that mold as the longest-annually held USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship event on the calendar – the Tony Hulman Classic.
“The Hulman,” which held the first edition of the tradition in 1971, has arrived yet again for the 52nd consecutive year, and will take place at the famed Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track on Saturday night, May 21, with the winner taking home a $10,000 reward.
The Don Smith Classic featuring the USAC National Sprint Cars will precede the Tony Hulman Classic Presented by Jake Dodds the night before at Terre Haute on Friday, May 20.
Two drivers in this Saturday night’s Hulman Classic field have experienced triumph in the event in recent years, with Robert Ballou scoring twice and Chase Stockon once.
Both of Ballou’s USAC victories at Terre Haute have come during the Hulman Classic. The 2015 series champ from Rocklin, Calif. captured back-to-back rounds in 2015 and 2016, and this Saturday night, has plans to ascend to the top line of all-time Hulman Classic winners with his third, a feat shared by Cary Faas (1992-94-98), Levi Jones (2005-08-09) and Chris Windom (2011-20-21). Ballou’s stellar “Hulman” record also includes a 4th back in 2011 and again in 2019.
Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) bagged the “Hulman Classic” during the 2019 season, his third USAC feature victory at the track which is located just within earshot of where he grew up in Sullivan, Ind. Among his five top-fives in the Hulman Classic are a 3rd in 2017 and 2020 as well as a 5th in both 2014 and 2018.
Action Track winners reside all over the map, and a handful of those are shooting to join the illustrious list of Hulman Classic winners for the first time come this Saturday.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) has won at Terre Haute, but a win in the Hulman Classic still eludes him. Grant won the Jim Hurtubise Classic (2019) and Don Smith Classic (2020) USAC Sprint Car features at Terre Haute in recent seasons and he’s also twice been a USAC Silver Crown winner at Terre Haute, capturing the headlines for the Sumar Classic in both 2018 and as recently as three weeks ago on May 1. He earned his best career Hulman Classic finish with a 2nd in 2020. He was also 5th in 2019 and in 2021.
Four-time series champ Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) recorded the fastest time ever by a USAC Sprint Car driver at Terre Haute during the 2014 Hulman Classic, a 19.225 second lap around the half-mile. He also might’ve recorded the fastest ever exit of the famed track when he flipped over the turns one and two wall during his heat race at the 2021 Hulman Classic. Astonishingly, he jumped into a backup car, then promptly finished 3rd in the semi-feature and 3rd again in the main event. As fate has it, every time Bacon sets quick time at the Hulman Classic, he goes on to win the USAC National Sprint Car title that same season (2016-20-21). The two-time Terre Haute USAC Sprint winner (2014 & 2018), however, is seeking his first Hulman Classic triumph after five career top-four runs: 2nd (2013), 3rd (2014 & 2021) and 4th (2016-2017).
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) is seeking his first Hulman Classic score as well. He was the fastest qualifier at the Hulman Classic in 2019 but has yet to record a top-five feature finish in his Hulman Classic career. The 2019 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion knows how to get around the place as evidenced by his 2016 Silver Crown win at the Terre Haute Action Track. He equaled his best career Hulman Classic result with a 6th place finish in 2021, just as he did in 2018.
Last summer, Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) became a first-time USAC National Sprint Car feature winner at Terre Haute, tearing around the Vigo County Fairgrounds with all his might in the Baldwin-Fox Racing machine, the team which also nailed down a Hulman Classic victory with Windom behind the wheel in 2011. Seavey’s lone Hulman Classic result returned a 10th a year ago in 2021.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) recorded a Terre Haute victory in Midwest Sprint Car Series competition in 2021. Later that same month, he collected his best Hulman Classic result, laying down a solid 2nd place finish, besting his previous result of 9th in the 2017 event.
With eight finishes inside the top-seven during his Hulman Classic career, Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) is hungry to tally one in the win column this weekend. A 3rd in 2018 has been his best thus far along with a 4th in 2006 and 2012 and a 5th in 2011.
Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) snagged his lone USAC National Sprint Car victory of his career on a half-mile dirt oval at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway in 2021. He relishes the opportunity to add the Terre Haute half to his hit list on Saturday following a pair of solid performances in the past two Hulman Classics, a 4th in 2020 and an 8th in 2021.
Two-time USAC National Sprint Car feature winner Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) returns to the Hulman Classic for the first time since finishing 7th in 2019. Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio) has a Hulman Classic resume that dates back to 2003 where he finished 11th. He equaled that mark with another 11th in 2020.
Hulman Classic vets returning to the lineup this weekend include Loomis, California’s Max Adams (8th in 2020), Jasonville, Indiana’s Brandon Morin (9th in 2020), Terre Haute’s own Brandon Mattox (12th in 2020), Indianapolis, Indiana’s Nick Bilbee (12th in 2018), Auburn, Illinois’ Mario Clouser (17th in 2021), Saybrook, Illinois’ Mitch Wissmiller (20th in 2016) and Worthington, Indiana’s Jadon Rogers (22nd in 2018), the 2020 USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year. Rogers took 3rd with MSCS at Terre Haute in May of 2021.
Aiming for a first career Tony Hulman Classic start on Saturday are series point leader Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) who recently finished 5th in his Terre Haute debut on May 1 in a Silver Crown, after restarting 26th. Series Rookie Alex Banales (Lafayette, Ind.) seeks his first start in the event as does Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.), who was recently tabbed by Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports to make his debut with the team this weekend at Terre Haute, replacing the departing Tanner Thorson.
The event is named after successful Terre Haute businessman Tony Hulman, who purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway following World War II and rescued it from complete ruin. He also was the founder of the United States Auto Club and, for decades, gave the command for drivers to start their engines at the Indianapolis 500, bellowing the often imitated refrain of “Gentlemen, start your engines!”
This weekend presents the 12th running of the $5,000-to-win Don Smith Classic on Friday night, May 20, and closes with the 52nd annual $10,000-to-win Tony Hulman Classic on Saturday night, May 21.
On the docket for Friday’s Don Smith Classic, the pits open at 3pm Eastern, front gates at 4pm, drivers meeting at 6pm and hot laps at 6:30pm with qualifying and racing immediately following. UMP Modifieds will also be in action. A concert by country music recording artist Jake Dodds will follow Friday’s racing festivities.
For Saturday’s Tony Hulman Classic at Terre Haute, the pits open at 1pm Eastern, front gates at 3pm, drivers meeting at 6pm and hot laps at 6:30pm with qualifying and racing immediately following. RaceSaver 305 Sprint Cars will also be on the event card.
Each night, general admission grandstand tickets are $30. Kids age 10 and under are free. Infield tickets are $20. Kids age 10 and under are free. Pit passes are $35.
A rain date (if needed) has been established for Sunday night, May 22.
Both nights of racing at Terre Haute can be watched live and on-demand on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3u7ID2N.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-417, 2-Justin Grant-396, 3-Brady Bacon-392, 4-Chase Stockon-364, 5-Robert Ballou-361, 6-Logan Seavey-359, 7-Jason McDougal-333, 8-C.J. Leary-326, 9-Matt Westfall-275, 10-Kyle Cummins-238.