namars: Indianapolis Speedrome 500 race report

NAMARS 500 July 5, 2001 (originally scheduled for May 24th - rained out and postponed) Teenager Travis Miniea Collects $10,000 Check and First Midget Win After Spectacular "NAMARS 500" Victory "NAMARS 500" FAST FACTS Date: Thursday, July 5,...

NAMARS 500
July 5, 2001
(originally scheduled for May 24th - rained out and postponed)

Teenager Travis Miniea Collects $10,000 Check and First Midget Win After Spectacular "NAMARS 500" Victory

"NAMARS 500" FAST FACTS

Date: Thursday, July 5, 2001 (originally scheduled for May 24 but rained out);

Location: Indianapolis (IN) Speedrome, 1/5-mile paved oval;

Competitors: 33 Starters - 11 rows of 3 drivers;

Laps: 500 laps (yellow flag laps count - race has to end under green);

Competition mandatory Red Flag pit stop on lap 250 - 10 minutes, crew can work on anything on the car and change anything without penalty;

Radio communication between crew and driver is allowed in NAMARS;

Top-24 qualifiers transferred to NAMARS 500 feature automatically - the remainder of the field competed in a semi feature and the top-eight finishers from that race also made the Feature. NAMARS started Travis Welpott as a provisional starter based on year 2000 points (he was 2000 NAMARS champion) - qualifying was conducted for four hours and drivers could "bump" their way into the field at any point in time during that four-hour period;

Purse: $32,000.00;

Winner Received: $10,000.00.

(Indianapolis, IN - July 5, 2001) - On a long-awaited night when anything was possible, high school junior Travis Miniea, a Sharon, PA resident who just turned 18 years old a few weeks ago, emerged as the inaugural winner of the "NAMARS 500" spectacular held at the Indianapolis (IN) Speedrome's tight fifth-mile bullring. This endurance race, an amazing 500 laps in length, was Travis' first-ever win in a full Midget car, netting him a $10,000 check at the end of the night along with a larger cushion in his points lead in the NAMARS Championship Midget Car Series.

After this event was rain-delayed from its original May 24th Carburetion Day night date, the large crowd of fans who assembled at Indy's other famous oval were treated to an extraordinarily exciting event, kicked off by a full burner F-14 flyover. The 11 rows of three drivers each were ready for this grueling match that promised to reward not only physical, but mental strength.

A last-minute change in both race and pit setup due to insurance regulations forced the NAMARS staff to eliminate a "hot" pit area in the infield, and place a mandatory competition Red Flag stoppage of action at the lap 250 mark. Originally, when the race was to be run in May, teams would have pitted in the infield and were required to make at least one pit stop, taking on at least 10 gallons of fuel (driver would have to get completely out of the car for this procedure), which would have added a whole new dimension to a typical Midget car race. However, the race had to be reconfigured at the last minute, and teams were advised of the new half-way break in the action, which was to last 10 minutes. This provided for a whole new strategy for the race, as three-man teams, who had to carry all of their equipment into and out of the infield for the pit stop, were allowed to change anything under this mandatory Red Flag without penalty - switch tires, add fuel, adjust setups and even change drivers. Three teams elected to replace their first-half driver with a new pilot - Cole Carter sat in for front-running Teddy Beach, Kenyon Car standout Shane Hollingsworth took over for Courtney Kirts and Travis Young slipped into the seat formerly occupied by another Kenyon Car star, Kris Deckard.

But before all of the lap-250 pit action took place, the field of 33 drivers had to make it to lap one. That proved to be more difficult than originally planned when a rather spectacular accident happened just short of the first green flag, causing the three-wide start to be aborted. Speedrome champ Daryl Campbell, starting on the inside of row three, clipped the turn four tire barrier and ran into eighth-starting Bobby Smith, who subsequently sandwiched 2000 NAMARS Rookie Of The Year and early-season point leader Aaron Pierce between him and the wall, forcing Pierce to the pits for the night with a severely damaged car before he even completed a lap. This was a difficult end to a difficult day for Pierce, as he and his team had arrived at the track about 15 minutes before the green flag after spending all day fixing an unexpected mechanical problem. Two cars were ultimately not able to make the call for the green flag, which opened up the door for two alternates, Johnny Heydenreich and Jeff Leonard, to start the race. Earlier, Kyle Burch could not start his car, allowing first alternate Dusty Reed to also make the race. Other adjustments in the lineup from the original placement was the result of several drivers not having cars available after the postponement, or cars being changed completely.

When the race finally began for good, a three-car battle for the lead proved to be a premonition of most of the race to come, as pole sitter Ricky Treadway, Travis Miniea and Teddy Beach waged a ferocious battle, with Treadway getting the advantage early, but not by much. Surviving a few early race yellows, this three-way competition lasted throughout most of the first half, although Treadway's domination slipped a bit near the lap-250 mark after a loose condition plagued him.

When the magical lap 250 arrived, teams had a mere 10 minutes to assess the condition of their car and driver, and make any necessary adjustments. Radios are legal in NAMARS competition, and teams who utilized them surely had a big advantage during this event, as they would know well in advance of the pit stop what adjustments should be made. Amazingly for a race of this length, 25 of the 33 cars were still in tact and running at this point. And another story line was beginning to develop in the top-three running order.

Miniea was still strong in first place, Teddy Beach held onto second, but there was a new third-place occupant - former NAMARS Champion Matt Westfall. All were eager to make the appropriate adjustments under the break, get out and stretch, get a cool drink after some hot racing action, catch a breath of fresh air and resume their battles. Just in case some drivers did not feel up to it, there was an eager contingent of relief drivers awaiting a possible turn at the wheel of an overly-fatigued driver. Some suited-up drivers seen in the pits included AJ Felker, who fell out of the race early on, Chris Manifold, Sondi Eden and Ricky Vaughn, and they were all looking for a shot at the last 250 laps. Only Cole Carter, Travis Young and Shane Hollingsworth got a shot, with Hollingsworth making his mark immediately by getting a lap back in the #81 machine formerly run by young female driver Courtney Kirts.

The next hundred laps provided some wonderfully exciting and competitive action for the many fans who braved the cool night air on Indy's southeast side. Lingering near the front of the pack for the first part of the race, superstar Tony Elliott, in Mac MacClellan's potent #3 machine, finally made his move into the lead. It was shortlived, however, as a blown engine completed his evening of racing soon thereafter.

Lap 400 was also a key number for most of the teams, as the 20 or so drivers still on the track knew that the last 100 laps was when the race would be won or lost based on the strategy leading up to that final stretch. Showing why he captured the ultra-competitive NAMARS championship a few years ago, Matt Westfall inched his way into the lead by lap 400 with yet another consistent and patient performance. This lasted for about 25 laps until Miniea, who was never far out of contention all night, once again resumed the top spot. All of this was very entertaining for the fans who were anxiously awaiting the shootout to come for the big $10,000 prize. But, in this race of surprises, no one expected how the ending would be affected.

The last 20 laps of any endurance race are usually where the real racing begins. And the fans were ready for it. However, instead of a clean fight to the finish, the Red Flag was displayed by starter Harley Marshall on lap 480, bringing the field to a halt. An announcement came shortly thereafter that the reason for the Red Flag was for a scoring audit - no one wanted this complicated race to end with improperly scored cars, so the decision was made by NAMARS officials to stop the race to make sure the results were accurate for the last 20 laps of action. As it turned out, five-time Speedrome champion Michael Lang was declared the race leader at that stoppage, much to the delight of the crowd on hand, who had sat through more than three hours of dizzying action to witness the inaugural winning performance in this event.

Lang's reign didn't last long, though. Miniea's careful and consistent performance proved to be too much of a challenge for the former champ, as the youngster took the checkers first in front of Lang and Westfall, and a very appreciative crowd. Teddy Beach, with Cole Carter in the seat, picked up fourth-place points in front of fan favorite Johnny Heydenreich, who barely started the race after tagging the field as an alternate.

At this traditional historic facility, Travis Miniea proved that adding his name to a list of former 500-lap Midget car winners that includes legendary names such as Tom Bigelow, Rich Vogler, Lonnie Caruthers, Kevin Olson, Russ Gamester and current car owner Mac MacClellan, is NOT a fluke. He earned every bit of respect he got for outlasting and outpowering 32 other competitors during this inaugural running of the "NAMARS 500," and will be a force in many forms of racing for years to come.

In other racing action, Todd Beach, 14-year-old brother of fourth-place finisher Teddy Beach, won the NAMARS 50-lap Kenyon Car feature that preceded the Main Event. The #5 machine did double duty that night, with Todd in the cockpit for the Kenyon Car feature and older brother Teddy taking over the reigns for the 500-lap event.

Upcoming NAMARS Championship Midget Car Event Highlights

Pavement Triple Crown
July 19 (Thurs.) - Indianapolis (IN) Speedrome
July 20 (Fri.) - Shadybowl Speedway, Degraff, OH
July 21 (Sat.) - Columbus (OH) Motor Speedway

NAMARS/Badger Triple Crown
Aug. 10 (Fri) - Hales Corners (WI) Speedway
Aug. 11 (Sat.) - Powercom Park, Beaver Dam, WI
Aug. 12 (Sun.) - Angell Park Speedway, Sun Prairie, WI

Indiana Five-Crown Nationals
Aug. 14 (Tues.) - Twin Cities Raceway Park, N. Vernon, IN
Aug. 15 (Wed.) - Lawrenceburg (IN) Speedway
Aug. 16 (Thurs.) - Gas City (IN) /I-69 Speedway
Aug. 17 (Fri.) - Bloomington (IN) Speedway
Aug. 18 (Sat.) - Lincoln Park Speedway, Putnamville, IN

For more information about any of the NAMARS divisions, please visit their website at www.NAMARS com, or call (317) 248-1240 for more information.

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Series Midget
Drivers Travis Miniea , Tony Elliott , Teddy Beach , Matt Westfall , Aaron Pierce , Cole Carter , Todd Beach , Shane Hollingsworth