Indiana Sprint Week Highlights The Best In Grassroots Racing Is it possible to pack all the drama and excitement of a full season of racing into nine days? Fans from across the country are heading to the racing capital of the world to find out,...
Indiana Sprint Week Highlights The Best In Grassroots Racing
Is it possible to pack all the drama and excitement of a full season of racing into nine days? Fans from across the country are heading to the racing capital of the world to find out, as are the best sprint car drivers.
Indiana Sprint Week is a tradition that has grown from a long weekend of races at local Indiana tracks to a USAC sanctioned event consisting of seven races at seven different tracks in nine days from July 14-22. The fans will come in droves. The purses will be high. USAC Valvoline National Sprint Championship points are on the line. Respect is waiting to be earned.
Many fans plan their summer vacation around this racing fest. They will travel from Pennsylvania, Texas, even California to endure Indiana's hot and humid summer weather. Joe Bochenek will make the 1800 mile drive from Mesa, Arizona to watch the non-wing sprint action. "This is my fifth trip," Bochenek shared. "Not only do I get to see great racing, but I get to visit with friends I've made through previous visits."
Andrew Retz from Winchester, IN is also looking forward to catching up with old friends. "The acquaintances that my family and I have gained over the years have made going to the races a better part of our (sprint) weeks." Yet all social graces aside, fans will journey to Indiana to watch the best grassroots racing of the year. These are the cars where Tony Stewart, Parnelli Jones, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti, Jeff Gordon and many famed drivers established their talent.
Drivers will also travel to Indiana for a shot at the money and exposure this week can bring. California stand-outs Damion Gardner, Cory Kruseman and Rickie Gaunt are expected to make the trip. Top USAC drivers Jay Drake, Dave Darland, Bud Kaeding and Josh Wise will be there. According to Roger Tapey, owner of the #10 Truckers 24-Hours car driven by Jon Stanbrough, "Guys will take the wings off their car (this week) just to get experience running with the big guns." Self-funded drivers looking for full-time rides will be racing their hearts out to get noticed.
In 2001, then 19 year old Levi Jones drove his own car, tuned by himself and his father, to the feature race at all seven events. He was one of only three drivers to accomplish the feat that year. Team owner Jeff Walker took notice and offered Jones a full-time ride for 2002 in a Walker Racing sprinter. Jones, now driving the Lucas Oil #2B for Scott Benic, won the 2004 Sprint Week Championship and is in the heat of the battle for the 2005 USAC National Sprint Championship.
With USAC points being given out at each race, pressure will be on the series' competitors to qualify at all seven tracks. Naturally, local track regulars will be ready to show the big dogs how their track ought to be driven. With fields of 50 plus cars each night the competition can be fierce.
Mat Neely, driver of the #6 K&N Motorsports sprinter currently 6th in USAC points, enjoys the mix of locals and USAC regulars unique to sprint week. "They're tough everywhere you go," Neely said. "They're really competitive and make you work a lot harder each night."
The week opens Thursday at Twin Cities Raceway Park in North Vernon, a 3/8 mile high-banked clay oval known for close finishes. Friday's race at Bloomington Speedway's high-banked quarter mile is on the fast red clay. Further west, Putnamville's Lincoln Park Speedway, a 5/16 mile high-banked dirt track, will play host to Saturday's event. Traveling south on Sunday, the feature will play out at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, a quarter mile high-banked oval.
The teams will then have two days to regroup and rebuild before meeting again on Wednesday in Gas City at the quarter mile semi-banked clay I-69 Speedway. Thursday's race approaches the eastern border at Lawrenceburg Speedway, another quarter mile high-banked oval. Then over to the western border for the finale on Friday night at Terre Haute Action Track, a half mile flat dirt track frequently named as a driver favorite.
Sprint week's 216 hours of racing mania can be an extreme test on team chemistry. Bud Kaeding, the #29 Team ASE Leffler Racing driver shared "The week or so after Sprint Week you can see who's going to be strong." Kaeding continued, "It's a long time to spend together. That can take its toll on a team."
Alan Thomas, a 35-year racing veteran who drives his own #72 sprinter at Terre Haute said "The last couple nights everyone's tongues will be hangin' out." Yet teams will be coaxed into a fast recovery by a $5000 to win race at Kokomo Speedway the Sunday after the finale. Surely adrenaline-inspired memories needing to be shared with those back home will keep fans awake for their drive, as will the plans being made in their heads for Sprint Week 2006.
Indiana Sprint Week 2005
$20 general admission, kids 12 and under free
7/14 -- Twin Cities Raceway Park, North Vernon
7/15 -- Bloomington Speedway, Bloomington
7/16 -- Lincoln Park Speedway, Putnamville
7/17 -- Tri-State Speedway, Haubstadt
7/20 -- I-69 Speedway, Gas City
7/21 -- Lawrenceburg Speedway, Lawrenceburg
7/22 -- Terre Haute Action Track, Terre Haute