Two good friends square off Thursday night at the Indianapolis Speedrome for the 1998 USAC Midget Championship which one has owned for the past four years. Michael Lang, who has won 46 feature events on the Speedrome's 1/5-mile...
Two good friends square off Thursday night at the Indianapolis Speedrome for the 1998 USAC Midget Championship which one has owned for the past four years.
Michael Lang, who has won 46 feature events on the Speedrome's 1/5-mile paved oval, and John Sluss, last year's Speedrome "Rookie of the Year," are gearing up for what could be the track's most spectacular season finale ever. A feature victory by either driver would mean the championship, a record fifth in a row for Lang but a first ever for Sluss.
"He's become one of my best friends," says Lang about Sluss, whose engine he built. "When I crashed last week he was about as upset about it as I was," he says referring to what he says what the hardest crash of his career. It happened on the first lap of last Thursday night's feature, won by Sluss. Lang's car, after riding over the wheel of Norm Young's car, flipped over the concrete wall in turn three. "I'm really lucky to be here," admits Lang. "The car is destroyed and a post hit me in the shoulder but otherwise I've got just some bumps and bruises. I'm still weighing options about which car I'm going to drive Thursday but it won't be mine, that's for sure!"
Lang has never been in a title chase like this one. "I spotted him a race at the start of the season," he says about missing the series opener, "and now it's making a difference. I still feel confident I can win Thursday because I never race for second. John and I always have a good time out there. It should be a great race."
Sluss is a story in himself, having never driven a race car before his Speedrome debut last year! "I hope he can find a good car for Thursday," he remarked about Lang's car search. "I'd rather win the title on the track. It would mean a lot more to me." John feels the pressure is squarely on Lang. "I don't think anybody figured on me being in contention now, but the pressure is nothing new to me. In 1989 I helped the Indianapolis Mustangs win the National semi-pro football championship in Canton, Ohio and I've been gearing up for this scenario all season. I'm ready!"
In addition, Thursday night's program features a tremendous three-way battle for the 1998 Speedrome Midget "Rookie of the Year" honors between Dean Franklin, Brad Kuhn and Gregg Cory, who finished second to Sluss last week.
Practice at the Speedrome starts at 5 p.m. and racing gets under way at 7. A 50-lap feature follows preliminary events.