32nd Annual Winchester 400 September 14-16 preview

32nd Annual Winchester 400 Set For September 14-16 Past Champions Honored, New Qualifying Format, Richest Purse in History PENDLETON, Ind. (August 30, 2001) - Long revered as one of the most prestigious stock car races in America, the Winchester...

32nd Annual Winchester 400 Set For September 14-16
Past Champions Honored, New Qualifying Format, Richest Purse in History

PENDLETON, Ind. (August 30, 2001) - Long revered as one of the most prestigious stock car races in America, the Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway is taking shape and will certainly be one for the ages. The ASA Racing community and thousands of f ans gather in east central Indiana for the 32nd running of the Fall Classic on the weekend of September 14, 15 and 16.

The American Speed Association, the sanctioning body that made the event such a tradition beginning in 1970, returns for the second straight year with the best short track talent in the country. The 2001 Winchester 400 also brings dramatic changes in forma t, as a new qualifying procedure has been adopted, and preparations are in place for three days of exciting activities surrounding the event. Several past champions and other competitors who have raced in the event over the years will be recognized in cere monies throughout the weekend.

Presently, nine of 18 past champions are planning to attend this year's race, including five who are entered to participate in the event. Two-time Winchester 400 winner Dave Sorg, who won the very first Winchester 400 in 1970, is the only former champion n ow deceased.

Widely considered the "Super Bowl" of short track stock car racing, the 32nd Annual Winchester 400 features a new qualifying format.

The field for the 32nd Annual Winchester 400 is slated to consist of 34 cars. In a qualifying format similar to that of the Daytona 500, only the top two qualifiers are locked into their starting positions. The next 24 cars making the field are determined by running two 125-lap qualifier races, one setting the inside lane and one setting the outside lane. Eight more cars are then added: the top four cars in 2001 ASA ACDelco Series Owner's Points not yet qualified, followed by the four fastest qualified cars not yet in the event.

The purse for the Winchester 400 is the richest in the event's history and the richest ASA ACDelco Series event on the 20-race 2001 schedule. It pays out $248,390, including $12,000 to the winner. The Twin 125-Lap Qualifier races each carry a $25,750 purse , with the respective winners receiving $4,000.

ASA sanctioned the Winchester 400 each year from its inception in 1970 through the 1991 season, when Cincinnati's Glenn Allen Jr. captured the trophy. NASCAR's All-Pro Series sanctioned the race in 1992 through 1998 and the Kendall Late Model Series hosted the event in 1999. In 2000, ASA returned and brought live television coverage, a first in the event's history. Several legendary names returned, including eventual race winner Gary St. Amant, who also locked up his second ASA National Championship.

In 31 previous Winchester 400s, Bob Senneker has found his way to the checkers first on seven occasions, topping the list of 19 different winners. Among his seven victories are five consecutive wins from 1974 through 1978. Mike Cope won three Fall Classics when the event was sanctioned by the All-Pro Series. Cope's three victories were also consecutive, coming in 1993-1995.

Other ASA multi-time winners include Mike Eddy, Mark Martin, Butch Miller and Sorg, each posting two victories. Single-event winners with ASA include Denny Miles, Vern Schrock, Don Gregory, Terry Senneker, Rusty Wallace, Ted Musgrave, Allen Jr. and St. Ama nt. Tim Steele, Scot Walters, Hank Parker Jr. and Derrick Gilchrist were single-event winners during the All-Pro years, while Brian Ross won the Kendall Late Model Series race in 1999.

Martin holds the top spot in qualifying, having set fast time for the event four times. Larry Foyt turned the fastest lap in ASA history at Winchester in last year's qualifying with a lap of 15.656 seconds at 114.972 mph.

Through the years, Winchester Speedway has developed quite a reputation. Some of the best have won and some of the best have lost. It is a scary track that puts fear in some of the most hardcore drivers. But the ability to handle that fear makes drivers su ccessful.

"Nobody, outside of NASCAR or ARCA, ran a 400-lap race in those days, particularly at a place like Winchester, which already had a reputation for making strong men weak and fast race drivers slower," wrote Steve Stubbs in his reminiscent article, "For 15 S easons, A Legendary Race."

"Winchester Speedway is one of those racetracks you either love or hate. There is no middle ground. Personally, I love it," says current ASA driver Tim Taylor.

"This place flat scares me and I'll be glad to get it over with," said Rusty Wallace to a reporter the day before the 1982 running of the race.

"The greatest of the great have run there. A lot of good drivers got killed there and it wasn't because of the racetrack, it was the times. Look at everything we have now. It's an awesome track and a race and I think that's where the mystique comes from. I t's still death defying," said former ASA winner Jim Sauter.

Winchester Speedway history starts in 1916 with Frank Funk, who built the speedway on advice from a good friend. The track was the first half-mile oval in the United States and had a clay surface. It is the oldest short track in operation, and ranks with t he famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway and The Legendary Milwaukee Mile as the oldest speedways still hosting races.

Years passed and the track became sort of a legend in the Midwest for not only stock cars, but open-wheel sprints and midgets, as well. In the 1970s, owner Roger Holdeman controlled the speedway and was involved in getting the first 400-lap, late-model sto ck car race running. This event eventually evolved into one of the most commemorated races in the country.

Activities for the 2001 Winchester 400 begin on Friday, September 14, with the first of three practice sessions beginning and spectator gates opening at 11 a.m. (local). The final practice session on Friday concludes at 2:35 p.m., with ASA two-lap qualifyi ng at 4:00. On Saturday, spectator gates open and the first of two practice sessions begins at 11 a.m. The first of two Twin 125-lap Qualifying Races begins at 2:30. Race day begins with spectator gates opening at 9 a.m., followed by the on-track autograph session at 11 a.m. The start of the 32nd Annual Winchester 400 is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Tickets are available, with Friday tickets at $5 and Saturday selling for $15. All tickets on Friday, September 14, and Saturday, September 15, are general admission, and children age 12 and younger are admitted free with a paying adult on those two days. Tickets on Sunday, are $25 for reserved seats (bottom four rows) and $30 for all other reserved seats. General admission tickets on race day are for the infield at $15. For information, call the ASA ticket line at 1-888-ASA-1020. VISA and MasterCard are ac cepted for ticket orders through the ASA office.

-ASA-

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Series Stock car
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Hank Parker Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Larry Foyt , Tim Steele , Jim Sauter , Brian Ross , Mark Martin