Ron Gregory got his first USAC National Midget victory last night, winning the 59th running of the Night Before the 500 race held at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Gregory was fastest qualifier. The six-car inversion put him in the third row, behind...
Ron Gregory got his first USAC National Midget victory last night, winning the 59th running of the Night Before the 500 race held at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Gregory was fastest qualifier. The six-car inversion put him in the third row, behind Dave Darland and Dane Carter in the outside line.
Once the 50-lap feature was underway, Gregory quickly moved to second place, but by the tenth lap the front had settled into third place behind the Steve Lewis "Nine" cars of Dave Darland at the front and Bobby East second. The three were rarely more than a car length apart.
On the 31st lap Gregory dove under East in Turn 1 to take second place, then set his sights on the lead. Four laps later he tried the same move on Darland. This time he didn't get clear, and the two wound up side by side. They battled wheel-to-wheel through 1 and 2, down the length of the back stretch, then through Turns 3 and 4. Gregory finally pulled ahead as they came out of four onto the front stretch. He held the lead for the remaining 16 laps, building a final margin of over four seconds, while Darland held off East for second.
Gregory's win was all the sweeter for beating the best.
"Everybody knows the Nine cars," he said. "They always run good, and run up front, and they always hire the best drivers. It feels good to beat them.
"I followed them for the first thirty laps or so, just really trying to figure out where my car was working better than theirs. It just so happened I'd get into 2 and 3 just a little bit better and come off the corner a little bit harder."
Ron felt the key to his win was preparation. "We were really prepared for tonight," he said after the race. "We came out here and tested once, and that went really well. Luckily the conditions were a lot alike and the car was fast out of the box."
Second place Dave Darland was impressed by Gregory's run out of Turn 2 during the passing lap. "It ain't often you see that," he said. "When you come off the bottom of 2 over there, the car gets loose or tight, one or the other. But he did a great job, and like he said they prepared a great car and he drove the wheels off of it. He did a great job."
Darland said that his car was just a little bit loose at times, and toward the end he was hanging on.
Third place Bobby East was on Darland's tail for the final laps of the race, but as a teammate his concern was "Pretty much you just make sure you don't run into him. Me and Dave didn't have that great a cars. Just wanted to finish. We weren't going to win. We got beat by a better car. No sense in taking us out just for second."
Gregory's race was helped when two fast cars were set back by rules violations during a red flag period after Richey Jacobs flipped on the eighth lap. Dane Carter, who had been running second, was sent to the rear when his crew brought a jack over the wall. Aaron Fike, last year's winner, was penalized when his crew changed a tire during the red. Carter battled back to sixth place, while Fike was credited with 20th.
Richey Jacobs, whose flip in Turn 1 brought out the red flag, was awake and alert after the incident and was transported to Methodist Hospital for observation.
Darland and Gregory were the only two to lead the race, Darland for the first 34 laps and Gregory for the final 16. East's third place finish kept him in the lead for the championship, with 268 points to Josh Wise's 206.
The next USAC National Midget race will be June 12, at the Anderson (IN) Speedway.