California driver leading Indiana Sprint Week

The first half of Indiana Sprint Week 2005 did not lack the drama and excitement promised to non-wing sprint car racing fans. Weather was a factor each night. California-based drivers rose to the challenge. Top drivers had to fight to make the...

The first half of Indiana Sprint Week 2005 did not lack the drama and excitement promised to non-wing sprint car racing fans. Weather was a factor each night. California-based drivers rose to the challenge. Top drivers had to fight to make the feature events. Yet with four races remaining, the chase for the title of ISW Champion is far from over.

Despite rainy weather, fans from across the country made their way to North Vernon's Twin Cities Raceway Thursday to watch the opening event of Indiana Sprint Week at the 3/8 mile high-banked oval. Starting with a clean slate and high morale, the field of 53 cars were in for fierce competition.

Following a rain delay after hot laps, two-time Indiana Sprint Week champion Dave Darland, drove his #11 Jam It In Storage sprinter to a new track record with his qualifying lap time of 13.817 seconds. More drizzles caused another rain delay before the heat races could begin. Richard Hoffman, owner of the #69 Kroger car driven by Tracy Hines thought the wet track "could be an advantage to the guys from California whose home tracks tend to retain moisture more than Indiana tracks."

Two Indiana drivers with high expectations this week, Justin Marvel, driving the #47 MPHG Promotions car and 2004 Sprint Week runner-up Dickie Gaines in the #21x Popeye's Chicken sprinter, found themselves in a non- qualifiers race fighting for a chance to continue their night. Marvel would have success. Gaines was not so fortunate.

Following four tough heat race battles the B Main featured stand-out talent including Hines, Bud Kaeding in the #29 Team ASE car, Josh Wise in the #20 Mopar sprinter and defending ISW champion Levi Jones in the #2B Lucas Oil car. With only the top six finishers going on, Wise would have to use a provisional to get into the A Main feature.

Starting around midnight due to all the delays, Kaeding took an early lead in the feature event for ten laps. Californian Cory Kruseman, a former sprint week champion driving the #67 Vital Express bullet, passed for the lead on lap eleven and ran away from the field during the all green race. Hines took second followed by Darland, Jones and Kaeding.

Rain clouds continued to loom on day two at the quarter-mile oval Bloomington Speedway. Drivers have come to expect the hot, humid Indiana weather traditional to sprint week. Large fans were blowing in several trailers trying to help with the stagnant heat. Some of the larger haulers had the AC running.

Sixty cars made the trip to compete on Bloomington's red clay high banks. In the #3M Pak-a-Sack sprinter John Wolfe completed the fastest qualifying lap time in 11.451 seconds. Again with only the top 32 qualified cars guaranteed a spot in the heats, big names found themselves in the last chance race including #29 Kaeding and #21x Gaines. Gaines would go on to win his non-qualifiers race to proceed to the heats. Kaeding was forced to use a provisional to be placed in the feature event.

Low qualifier Wolfe had tough competition in his heat and joined John Stanbrough, driving the #10 Truckers 24-Hour car and Californians #67 Kruseman and Damion Gardner, driving the #50 Temecula Valley Pipe & Supply sprinter, in the B Main semi-final. All but Gardner would race their way into the feature.

Hines, a regular on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, dominated Bloomington's feature race leading all thirty laps followed by #11 Darland, #21 Jay Drake, #2B Jones and #67 Kruseman. After the victory Hines beamed saying racing is the best way to spend your vacation. Drake, driver of the #21 Vital Express sprinter was happy with his third place finish contending "Any time you can get a top finish during Indiana Sprint Week it's a big deal."

Saturday night at Lincoln Park Speedway once again dark clouds covered the sky. Nearly the entire field of 54 cars had a chance to qualify, until showers caused the racing to stop. This time the rain came down hard.

The Speedway attempted for several hours to keep the track clear amidst the showers. But at 10:30pm, with lightning flashing in the distance and rain continuing to fall, the race was called. The event was rescheduled for Tuesday, July 19th.

Night four, 46 teams made the haul down to Haubstadt in the southwest corner of Indiana to race on the well groomed quarter-mile Tri-State Speedway. It was the smallest field so far this week yet the competition was still first-class. Hines, who was not originally planning on racing Haubstadt, decided after his early week success to continue competing.

Although a few clouds loomed over the track early in the evening, no precipitation fell on the track Sunday night allowing for continuous racing. Marvel hammered his #47 to win the fast qualifier award with a lap of 12.903 seconds.

Gaines has struggled in the #21x these first few days of sprint week. After flipping his sprinter during hot laps, his crew was able to make repairs and Gaines earned his way into the heats through a top finish in his non-qualifiers race.

Tough heat races once again sent some big names to the semi-final including Gaines, Bryan Clauson in the #7c Armstrong Farms car, #29 Kaeding, #20 Wise and #21 Drake. All but Gaines made it into the feature event.

In the zone, Clauson sped off to a strong lead in the A-Main. But a yellow flag on lap 19 gave #67 Kruseman a chance to catch-up and he was able to pass Clauson on lap twenty. Kruseman went on the take the checkered flag followed by #50 Gardner, #7c Clauson, #2BJones and #69 Hines. The victor, who has won at Haubstadt four of the last six years during sprint week said "I wish they'd move this track to California."

Kruseman leads the sprint week championship points race by a slim margin of two over Hines, followed by Darland, Jones and Drake. He knows better than to get too confident at this point in the week. Sprint week championships "have been lost in the last race" Kruseman recalled. "But we're having fun."

Teams have just one day to prepare for the second half of sprint week due to the rescheduling of Lincoln Park Speedway's race for Tuesday. Four races remain, plenty of time for any of the teams to make their mark on the Indiana sprint scene.

Indiana Sprint Week 2005
Remaining Race Schedule
7/19 - Lincoln Park Speedway, Putnamville (rescheduled due to rain)
7/20 - I-69 Speedway, Gas City
7/21 - Lawrenceburg Speedway, Lawrenceburg
7/22 - Terre Haute Action Track, Terre Haute

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About this article
Series USAC
Drivers Dave Darland , Tracy Hines , Bud Kaeding , Cory Kruseman , Jay Drake , Levi Jones , Josh Wise , Bryan Clauson , Damion Gardner