BELLEVILLE, Kan. (Aug. 4, 2001) - Although hundreds have tried, only 20 drivers have shown the skill and fearlessness required to win the Belleville Midget Nationals. In 23 years, only three have been able to do it twice, and just one -- the ...
BELLEVILLE, Kan. (Aug. 4, 2001) - Although hundreds have tried, only 20 drivers have shown the skill and fearlessness required to win the Belleville Midget Nationals. In 23 years, only three have been able to do it twice, and just one -- the legendary Stan Fox -- did it in back-to-back years.
Until Saturday, that is.
Kasey Kahne has suited up for The Nationals just twice, but he has yet to know the heartache of failure at Belleville. Saturday night, Kahne joined Fox as the only other driver to conquer "The World's Fastest Half Mile Dirt Track" in consecutive years, winning the 24th Annual Championship Race with a dominating performance.
At age 21, Kahne was just three months old when Fox completed the feat in 1980, but the defending USAC National Midget Series Champion from Enumclaw, Wash., looked more like a 21-year veteran as he rode the dangerous high line to a $10,000 payday.
The unforgiving Belleville back stretch wasted little time Saturday night in claiming its first victims in the Championship Race, including polesitter J.J. Yeley. Yeley, Tracy Hines and Jeff Flesher all flipped on the first lap of the feature, which resulted in Flesher being transported to Republic County hospital for a precautionary check. Casey Slocum and Aaron Fike also retired from action, trimming the 24-car starting field to 19 for the re-start.
When the green flag unfurled again, Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz., grabbed the top spot and began building a big lead on his chasers. Steve Paden, who had moved into the top-three by lap 10, tagged the back stretch wall on lap 11, ending his night and erasing Coons' huge advantage.
On the re-start, Kahne dove to the inside of Coons to steal away the top spot. Coons fought back, but couldn't return the favor. Kahne settled into his high line near the guardrail and drove away, leading the final 29 circuits uncontested.
1999 Nationals Champion Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., moved into second shortly after the re-start and remained there to the finish, giving Steve Lewis' Pink-powered Beast stable a 1-2 finish and his third straight title as a car owner.
Joining the podium celebration was Robby Flock, who brought the familiar Fontana no. 76 home third after starting 14th. It was Flock's eighth top-five finish in the annual classic and his first since winning the event in 1996.
Strong runs netted Josh Wise and Ryan Scott career-best fourth- and fifth-place finishes, respectively.
Davey Ray, Michael Lewis, Jay Drake and Scott Hatton finished sixth through ninth, while Kenny Lewis took 10th after gaining the final transfer spot in the semi-main and starting last in the 40-lap main event.
Tickets will go on sale soon for next year's 25th Annual "Silver Anniversary" Belleville Midget Nationals. The Belleville High Banks will wrap up the 2001 season with the third appearance of the NCRA Late Model and Modified Series on Sunday, Sept. 2. Hot laps start at 6:30 p.m. and racing at 7:30.
The Belleville High Banks, located in Belleville, Kan., is managed by a volunteer racing committee that host 10-12 racing events annually. "The World's Fastest Half-Mile Dirt Track" allows drivers the rare opportunity to run "wide open" the entire track, and the sweeping oval is one of the most demanding test of endurance and skill for drivers. The track's mainstay is the annual Belleville Midget Nationals, held every year during the first weekend in August. As the nation's most prestigious midget car race of the year, the best equipment, owners and drivers flock to the small rural community of 3,500, which is transformed into a racing Mecca of more than 30,000 people each August.
For more information on the Belleville High Banks, write to: Belleville High Banks, P.O. Box 349, Belleville, KS 66935, or call (785) 527-6050. Sponsorship inquiries may call or fax (402) 761-3676 or via e-mail at email@example.com. Information is also available on the World Wide Web by logging on to http://www.highbanks.org or http://www.whowon.com.