Indiana: Notes from the Golden Hoosier 100

Notes from Last Weekend's Golden Hoosier 100 *Due to the 86th Indianapolis 500 and the controversy surrounding the finish, these notes are delayed A tip of the hat, congratulations and thanks have to go out to the new promotion group for the...

Notes from Last Weekend's Golden Hoosier 100

*Due to the 86th Indianapolis 500 and the controversy surrounding the finish, these notes are delayed

A tip of the hat, congratulations and thanks have to go out to the new promotion group for the Hoosier 100, 6R racing of Indianapolis. This hard working and dedicated group of racers saved this once great race from extinction after the Foyt Group lost interest in the promotion of Silver Crown races at the Fairgrounds. Not only were ticket prices lowered, another $5 off could be had with a discount coupon from area Kroger stores, plus kids under 12 got in free! A great bargain for families.

Further, the group had a huge party tent on the infield, complete with barbecue and several former Hoosier 100 winners including Parnelli Jones and Al Unser. And, despite the rain in the area, 6R never gave up and got the show in, and ponied up extra money on the purse so all competitors could start. They were rewarded with a very good crowd, one of the best in the last several years, and the race track was phenomenal, leading to a great cushion ride by several drivers.

About the race track, it was one of the best in twenty years, despite all of the rain. A down pour in early afternoon made racing questionable, but thanks to the USAC drivers, the track was ironed in an hot laps began about 45 to an hour late. A great cushion developed, one of the few seen at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in twenty years, and it provided some great race action.

Perhaps after Friday's successful event, it's time for the state of Indiana to pay some badly needed attention to the race track itself. A new concrete wall was placed along the backchute, but it really needs to be raised around the entire oval as the addition of dirt over the years has raised the surface considerably. In addition, the catch fencing needs replaced as well, the lighting system is no longer state of the art, and the scoreboard, placed in an odd location, had missing lights as well. While the one-mile and it's amenities are quite adequate to host the Silver Crown cars, the Indiana State Fairgorunds, once perhaps the most up to date dirt mile in the nation, now lags behind Springfield and DuQuoin in it's infrastructure. Hopefully, the state will do some improvements the way they have worked on the rest of the fairgrounds.

All of the sand worked into the surface in recent years, usually a problem became something of a help Friday as it helped drain away the water and allow the race to be held.

While 6R had a good night at the gate, the same could not be said for their two Silver Crown teams. Jack Hewitt in the number 21, at age 51 the winningest driver in the dirt cars, blew a piston in practice. Later, Michael Lewis in the team 85 spun in turn one and hit the fence, tearing up the front end. Hewitt was done for the evening, and while Lewis ran the main, the car wasn't very good after it's shunt with the fence.

Forty cars were entered, with Eric Gordon's Parker Machinery 24 a very late show. There were some notable absences among the drivers, including Donnie Beechler, A. J. Foyt IV(his 18th birthday was the next day, precluding him from running this evening under USAC's new age rule), Cary Faas, Bud Kaeding (still on the mend from injuries), Donnie Lehmann, Robby Flock and Kasey Kahne (who has forsaken the dirt at the request of Robert Yates).

Notable machinery that was absent was the Mataka 31, Bob Galas' 12, Foyt's 14, Gary Stanton's 24, Gene Kazmark's 32, the car of Gene Beach, the Zarounian 67, the Barrick 33, Dodie Miller's 36, the Laliberte 70, Wayne Chinn's 71 and Jerry Nemire's 76. Craig Dori of Indianapolis is thought to have sold his number 38 Beast.

There was a little ride hopping going on Friday, Cory Kruseman, who quit the Mataczak 99 earlier in the year, replaced Bud Kaeding in the Johnny Vance 2. Former Hoosier 100 winner Kenny Jacobs took over the Mataczak 99, while J.J. Yeley ran the East-Stewart 9 instead of the Zarounian 67, which are team cars. Cary Faas was slated for the Galas 12, but neither car nor driver showed on the grounds. Eric Gordon was in Bob Parker's 24, the team formerly employed Jack Hewitt. Ed Carpenter moved from his Sinden 44 into the Hoffman 69, while Kevin Huntley returned to the SC 97.

There must be something about a cushion at the ISF that brings out the best in Rich Tobias and Johnny Parsons. Parsons, at age 58 is an ageless veteran who ran the cushio from 21st to 1st last September, and rode from 19th to 8th this year before the car gave out. Tobias, who also came from the back of the pack in September, had another fine ride to second Friday night, his best finish ever in the Silver Crown series.

The heavy race track and cushio gave way to several different lines, some like Tracy Hines used the cushion all the way around, some wee along the pole. Jason Leffler used the cushion going into the corner, then would diamond down off the corner, while others were driving the track "DuQuoin style", low into the corner, sliding up to the cushion, then diamond down low off the corner.

Other good rides turned in were from John Starks (8th), Randy Bateman ( 32nd to 9th), Brad Fox and "Hot Rod" John Heydenreich who had the former Bob East Beast up to second before falling back.

Leffler added his name to a rare list, those driver that have won 100-mile champ dirt car races on the mile dirt tracks. That list includes drivers such as Shaw, Rose, Mays, Horn, Bryan, Bettenhausen, Ward, Foyt, Jones, Andretti, Unser Carter Rice, Gurney and Hewitt. Surprisingly, it does not include Tony Stewart, or Ken Schrader.

What had been good luck for Tracy Hines turned into heartbreak-the lap 60 red flag for the flip of Terry Pletch allowed Hines, leading at the time, to change a flat left rear. However, it seems the crew didn't add fuel, something he was using at an alarming rate riding the top side. A lack of fuel was the only thing that stopped Hines, he ran out on lap 91, giving the lead to Leffler.

Leffler's pole time of 32.345 was about a full second off the track record, amazingly, Hines set second quick time in the 22nd slot, showing that the track never really got slower in time trials.

This year's red flag marked the 14th time since 1975 that the Hoosier Hundred has been red flagged for an accident.

The next event for the Weld Silver Crown cars is another Hoosier classic, the Sumar 100 at Terre Haute Saturday June 1. Over 30 cars are already entered.

-jay hardin-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series USAC
Drivers Tony Stewart , Jason Leffler , Ken Schrader , Donnie Beechler , Parnelli Jones , Kasey Kahne , Michael Lewis , J.J. Yeley , Tracy Hines , Jack Hewitt , Bud Kaeding , Cory Kruseman , John Heydenreich , Kenny Jacobs , Jerry Nemire , Johnny Parsons , Eric Gordon , John Starks , Robert Yates , Robby Flock , Donnie Lehmann , Randy Bateman , Ed Carpenter , Al Unser