Doug Heck wins a sprint feature at Paragon Speedway on Saturday Night. Doug is Paragon's 2005 Track Champion and he is starting the 2009 season strong. (Photos courtesy of P&G Photos
You'd be hard pressed to find a better weekend anywhere in the United States or for that matter, the world, than racing fans will had at their finger tips.
No matter what type of racing your into, there's a pretty high likelihood that it will be going on somewhere.
Thursday night got everything started with a very impressive Tony Hulman Classic with a fairly racy track and the first repeat champion for the event in track history. That's pretty impressive considering Thursday was the 38th running of the event.
Levi Jones didn't leave much doubt that he was going to be in the running for the checkers. He qualified late, but still fired out to a seventh-place effort in 21.263. Hunter Schuerenberg came out somewhat early and put away the field with a nice effort for the top qualifying mark in 20.842. Jeff Bland continues to impress in his third year of sprint car racing and took second in qualifying.
Jesse Hockett took the wing off that he's been running off and on this season and piloted the VKCC car to fourth ahead of Bryan Clauson.
It's good to see Clauson back in a sprinter after taking to the stock car for awhile. There's not much doubt that he basically got the shaft in a short stint in the sport, being shuttled in and out of a ride. But he's never been shy about dropping the hammer in a sprint car so seeing him back on dirt was great.
Overall, 40 sprint cars unloaded and there weren't too many that didn't belong with the nation's top competitors who were competing for the coveted Winchester rifle and a nice payday.
I was lucky enough to have Dave Darland pitted right next to where I was shooting photos, which is just awesome as the cars were in the infield. Having the opportunity to watch a legend in the sport prepare for the night's events was pretty cool admittedly and Schuerenberg and Hockett were right beside him. Pretty interesting combination of great folks all in a close space.
While Jones had a great night, his Tony Stewart Racing teammate, Tracy Hines, had a wicked barrel roll during his qualifying effort. While he was uninjured in the crash that demolished his car, the really impressive thing was that his backup was rolled out and he finished his second qualifying lap less than 20 minutes after the crash.
That brought out more than a few 'wow's' and added even more respect from the fans.
Alas, Hines' night came up a bit short of his lofty expectations after he finished eighth in his heat and then finished one spot out of a transfer spot in the B-Main.
The first heat race went to young Chris Windom, who held off a determined run from Jonathan Hendrick, Josh Wise and Clauson.
Jon Stanbrough pulled away from the field in heat race number two to best the Hoffman sprinter piloted by Jerry Coons. Ryan Kaplan and Darland followed ahead of Cole Whitt, winner of last fall's Hut Hundred midget race.
Bill Rose cruised out to a solid lead in the third heat, but Jones slowly reeled him in and made a last lap pass that earned him a standing ovation from a nice crowd at The Action Track for a week night.
Rose came home second ahead of Bud Kaeding, Brady Short and Blake Fitzpatrick.
The fourth and final heat race went to Darren Hagen followed by Hockett, Brad Sweet and the "Demon" Damian Gardner.
The 'B' main had some top drivers with some unfortunate rides in their heat races as Bland came home first in the race after struggling to a seventh-place finish in his heat. Whitt rolled home second ahead of Chad Boat, Schuerenberg, Thomas Meseraull and Shane Hmiel all earning a ticket to the main event.
The 30-lap A-Main didn't start so well for Stanbrough, who became the second flip victim of the night.
From there, it was all Jones, pulling away from Clauson and Hockett. Coons brought home the familiar Tide-sponsored No. 69 home in fourth ahead of Windom, Darland, Bland, Schuerenberg, Boat and Sweet.
In other hot spots around the Hoosier State, the King of Indiana Sprint Series (KISS) took to the fresh clay of Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night with 28 cars in attendance.
Nic Faas came away with a big victory in a pretty stout field that saw names like Thomas Meseraull, Robert Ballou, Jon Stanbrough and Hunter Schuerenberg have to go through the B-Main.
Faas had a great run to hold off Jonathan Hendrick and Casey Shuman with Dave Darland and Jeff Bland Jr. in the top-five.
Darland leads the KISS points with 261, just ahead of Casey Shuman's 254 with Faas in third heading into Friday's Bloomington Speedway show that should bring plenty of talent to the red clay.
The evening before, the USAC Silver Crown Cars took to the Indiana State Fairgrounds' one-mile track for the Hoosier Hundred.
Shane Hollingsworth claimed a dominating win by leading qualifications by nearly a third of a second and then leading all 100 laps of the main event to beat Bill Rose and Jerry Coons Jr.
Series points leader, Bud Kaeding, placed fourth and remains the leader ahead of Tracy Hines, who placed ninth in the 28-car field.
Over at Anderson, the USAC Sprint Cars were in full effect for the Little 500 and 47 cars qualified for the race with 33 making the field.
Dave Steele was the event winner, beating Eric Gordon and Donnie Abrams Jr. to the finish line.
The action just kept coming last weekend as the "Night Before the 500" midget race took place on May 23 as a USAC sanctioned event.
Forty-four cars qualified for the 26-car field with Chuck Gurney coming out on top ahead of Bryan Clauson and Bobby East.
East gains the series points lead by one (317 over 316) over Darren Hagen, who placed 18th in the feature.
Special notes can be mentioned from some local tracks over the weekend as Todd Kimmel claimed the first sprint car feature of his career with a victory at Lincoln Park Speedway on Saturday night. Over at Paragon Speedway, Brazil's own Doug Heck claimed a victory in the second feature of the night after Sullivan's Chase Stockon won the first feature.