Perhaps the most anticipated part of the summer for fans of dirt track racing begins this evening as the 27th edition of "Indiana Sprint Week" gets underway at Gas City I-69 Speedway. The stop is the first of seven nights of high octane sprint car racing around the state for the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars. The series continues at Kokomo on Saturday and Lawrenceburg on Sunday before a quick break to start the week. The series continues in Terre Haute on Wednesday followed by Lincoln Park Speedway on Thursday, Friday at Bloomington Speedway before wrapping up at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt.
Fans and drivers from around the nation plan their summers around the series as packed grandstands and pits are the norm during the popular series. As I walked the pits and the infield at the Action Track in Terre Haute for Wednesday's "Summer Nationals" stop for the UMP Late Models and Modifieds, "Indiana Sprint Week" was a popular topic with most agreeing that this could be one of the best in recent memory. The competition continues to grow as the playing field has become much more level as more talented drivers enter the fray each year.
Tony Stewart Racing entry Bryan Clauson is the defending ISW champion and is currently in fourth-place in the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car points. He is coming off a fourth-place run in Friday's July 4 event at Lincoln Park Speedway that was won by Tucson, Ariz. driver Jerry Coons Jr. Fan favorite Dave Darland is certainly hoping that he can achieve the all-time record for USAC National Sprint Car wins during the ISW swing. The large stage would be a perfect setting for Darland to get the final two feature wins to tie Tom Bigelow's 52.
Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Okla. has a 29-point lead over Darland in the latest series standings with Jon Stanbrough and Clauson rounding out the top-four.
Local product Chase Stockon sits in fifth-place and is looking to put his name amongst the who's who of sprint car racing with a strong run during Indiana Sprint Week. His No. 32 TBI Racing entry is 109 points out of the top spot in the national standings. There are also a number of rookie drivers to the series that have made inroads already this season as North Carolina's Jarett Andretti (11th), Shane Cockrum (14th), Dalten Gabbard (18th) and Carson Short (21st) have all made regular starts around the state during weekly shows.
The USAC regulars will get plenty of competition from Indiana regulars with a number of red hot drivers setting their sights on big time wins.
Bedford, Ind. driver Brady Short has already accumulated seven feature wins this season and has 21 top-five finishes out of the 26 starts he has made this year. He'll be especially tough on his home track on the red clay at Bloomington where he has dominated. Chad Boespflug comes in with five feature wins to his credit and 14 top-five finishes and Jeff Bland Jr. has hit his stride recently and has won at three different tracks on the ISW docket.
Action gets underway at Gas City I-69 Speedway with grandstands opening at 3:30 p.m. and hot laps slated for 6:30 p.m.