(Bloomington, Ind. - July 15, 2001) Major sporting events are a lot like fine wine. It takes a while for them to mature. Indiana Sprint Week is set for its 14th running; and Bloomington Speedway has been an integral part of the series each year.
(Bloomington, Ind. - July 15, 2001) Major sporting events are a lot like fine wine. It takes a while for them to mature. Indiana Sprint Week is set for its 14th running; and Bloomington Speedway has been an integral part of the series each year. Bloomington Speedway's leg of Indiana Sprint Week will be run on July 27. Because of the usual careful track preparation at Bloomington, it is a favored stop for most of the series competitors. They know that, if they have done their job, they can win at Bloomington Speedway. A good heavy track will allow a well prepared car to come from the back of the pack to victory.
There is one thing that sprint week always means - full pits. Last year, a total of 53 sprinters qualified; and they were the best non-winged sprint cars in nation. In addition their will, no doubt, be plenty of O'Neal Wood Products Open Wheel Modifieds on hand as we are paying the winner an extra $100 for this special show.
In the 2000 edition of Indiana Sprint Week, Jay Drake showed the way to victory lane in four of the seven races in the series including the one at Bloomington Speedway. Last year a red flag brought out by a crashing Derek Scheffel, 1998 and 1999 Bloomington Speedway sprint car champion, gave car owner Keith Kunz an opportunity to tweak the Stealth Gaerte. When the race resumed it was apparent that in the absence of some extraordinary piece of bad luck Drake was going to drive the Kunz owned machine to an easy victory. Derek Davidson, Tony Elliott, Jon Stanbrough, Kevin Briscoe, Chris LaFollette, J.J. Yeley, Bud Kaeding, A.J. Anderson, and Bill Rose all drove good races too; but they were in a different zip code from Drake in the Kunz machine. This year Drake's season has not been so stellar; but this will probably make for a better race.
Indiana Sprint Week is a championship in a championship. Winning Indiana Sprint Week is certainly a prize worth the effort; however, the prize sought by the top USAC sprint car shoes is the USAC championship. Along with the big check goes an IRL test; and that is an experience that any open wheel racer would like to have on their resume. The last four Indiana Sprint Week champions are currently the top four drivers in the USAC points race - Dave Darland, Jay Drake, J.J. Yeley, and Tony Elliott. And, they are separated by less than 100 points.
Dave Darland is leading the USAC sprint car points chase; and he has a bigger goal in mind. He would like to be the second driver to win the three major USAC championships in the same year. Although he leads Jay Drake by 10 points at last report; but he has not yet won a feature this season. You can bet that this is a situation that he'll be trying to correct during sprint week.
However, the USAC regulars may have their hands full at Bloomington Speedway. They will be up against the strongest group of local competitors they'll find anywhere. Last week 1998 & 1999 Bloomington Speedway champion Derek Scheffel had quick at 11.438 seconds. The current USAC track record for Bloomington Speedway was set by Richard "The Gasman" Griffin during the 1997 edition of Indiana Sprint Week at 11.503 seconds. Scheffel, Kevin Briscoe, Kevin Thomas, and a number of other Bloomington Speedway regulars no the famous red clay oval like the back of their hand. Any of them is capable of handing the USAC regulars their helmet without undue ceremony.
Just to put a little different twist on things, this year Indiana Sprint Week competitors will not be lined up based on qualifications. Instead, a "passing points" system similar to the one used for the Chili Bowl Nationals will be used to line up the features. The heat races will be lined up based on a pill draw. This could lead to some strange heat race lineups and some mixed emotions on the part of the competitors. This change is, of course, designed to get the shows run without undue delay. This should be a big plus to the fans, especially for midweek shows when most people have to get up and go to work the next day.
The O'Neal Wood Products Open Wheel Modifieds will be running for an extra $450; and that alone should pull in a lot of extra cars. However, the modified racers are race fans too; and they won't want to miss this great show or the opportunity to race in front of hordes of fans who can be expected to show up for this great event.
Bloomington Speedway's night will be the ninth annual Larry Rice Classic. It is certainly fitting that a race in honor of such a sportsman should be one of the quality of this event. Rice is remembered by the more mature fans for his performance in the USAC open wheel ranks and for his 1978 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year title. The younger fans remember his work as a racing broadcaster or maybe for being Robbie Rice's father. However we remember him, this is a great time to do it.
Grandstand admission for this special race is only $20 and pit admission is $25. As always at Bloomington Speedway, children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Coolers are permitted; but glass containers are strictly prohibited. Parking and overnight camping are both free. There are no advanced ticket sales or reserved seating. Pits gates will open at 4:30; and the grandstands will open at 5:30. Hot laps will begin at 6:30.