EAST EYES "NIGHT BEFORE THE 500" REPEAT VICTORY Kasey Kahne was the last driver to post back-to-back victories in the "Night Before the 500" USAC Mopar Midget classic at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind. Bobby East of Brownsburg,...
EAST EYES "NIGHT BEFORE THE 500" REPEAT VICTORY
Kasey Kahne was the last driver to post back-to-back victories in the "Night Before the 500" USAC Mopar Midget classic at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Ind.
Bobby East of Brownsburg, Ind. would like to be the next one and will have that opportunity May 23 when the 64th running of one of America's oldest motorsports traditions unfolds at the .686-mile paved oval.
Only five drivers have been able to put together back-to-back wins in the event. Jimmy Davies won three straight from 1960-1962, while Eddie Haddad actually won four features in 1948 and 1949 when there were three features each year. Gene Force won back-to-back in 1958 and 1959 and Jeff Gordon won the 1989 and 1990 classics.
East won this year's pavement opener at Kyle, Texas, but National point leader Darren Hagen was the winner at Columbus (Ohio) Motor Speedway April 4. East will pilot the Klatt Enterprises Club sport/Ford Racing Beast/Esslinger Ford, while Hagen is expected to drive the RFMS Liberty Village/McGladrey & Pullen Beast/Esslinger Ford at ORP.
East owns victories in three of the last four USAC races at the Indianapolis oval, which includes a pair of Silver Crown 100-lappers. Last year's "Night Before the 500" victory, however, was his first in a Midget at the track.
"I want to win every race," says East when asked about this event. "To win at ORP is nice. It's always good to win in your own backyard. I was there for both of Kasey's wins and it's always nice to be a part of this great week in Indy. I've obviously run numerous races at ORP but for some reason I wasn't able to win in the Midgets until last year. We finally hit on the right package and the car's been good ever since. The Midget division is a tough one but I think my chances this year are pretty good!"
The race dates back to 1946 when drivers Leroy Warriner and Benny Emerick won feature events at the now-defunct 16th Street Speedway, which was located just across 16th Street from the second turn of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Succeeding years produced a who's-who list of race winners, including current NASCAR stars Ryan Newman, Jason Leffler, Mike Bliss, Ken Schrader, Gordon and Kahne, NHRA standout Doug Kalitta, and all-time USAC standouts Rich Vogler, Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter and Mel Kenyon, as well as Indianapolis 500 winners Sam Hanks and Johnnie Parsons.
The race has been held at various venues, including 16th Street, Kokomo Speedway, the Indianapolis Speedrome and the Indiana State Fairgrounds, but has found a home since 1980 at ORP.