Hollister, Calif. driver Ryan Bernal will pilot the Michael Dutcher Motorsports entry for Indiana Sprint Week
There are few words that stir more excitement amongst dirt track racing fans than, ‘Indiana Sprint Week.’
The United States Auto Club (USAC) has long been a proving ground for some of the top drivers in the country over the years. A long list of accomplished competitors have started their careers under the USAC banner before continuing on to race in the NASCAR or Indy Car ranks. One of the most challenging stretches of competition begins Friday (July 7) as USAC Sprint Week opens at Gas City I-69 Speedway. The tour includes seven stops and concludes on Saturday, July 15 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. Along the way, the sprint car hotshoes will sling clay on some of the most well known bullrings around the state in pursuit of the prestigious points title. Their mettle will also be tested with a trip to historic Terre Haute Action Track on Wednesday, July 12. The Action Track presents a different kind of challenge at a half mile speed haven that will have drivers elbows up on an adrenaline drenched journey. Following tonight’s race at Gas City, Kokomo Speedway looms Saturday evening following by a journey south to Lawrenceburg on Sunday. Action resumes at Terre Haute on Wednesday followed by Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, a visit to the historic red clay at Bloomington before crowning an overall champion at Tri-State Speedway.
From beginning to end, Sprint Week not only tests the fortitude, mettle and talent of the individual drivers, but also the equipment of its competing teams. Massive crowds pack the stands and this 30th year of Sprint Week will be no different. Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World this season, has been a launch pad for some of the top drivers in the country.
Last year proved to be historic in that Tyler Courtney, Carson Short, Kyle Cummins and Brent Beauchamp each claimed their first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victories during Sprint Week. Courtney’s win was particularly stunning as he claimed the Gas City win from the tail after a first lap spin. Using the bottom line, Courtney battled his way through the A-main field to pass Bryan Clauson with eight laps remaining to secure the victory. However, he would not be as fortunate through the full slate of events. Courtney was in position to record the Sprint Week title before a crash at Bloomington dashed those dreams with two races remaining.
Brady Bacon would become just the ninth drivers in ISW history to win the overall title without a victory. Bacon returns this year in defense of his championship, piloting the No. 63 Dooling/Hayward Motorsports machine that Clauson won his 41st and final USAC feature in during the Lawrenceburg date of Sprint Week.
Three-time ISW champ Dave Darland won his first series title back in 1990 and will have designs on another. His last ISW feature win came in 2014, his 18th overall.
Darland won’t be the only driver looking to halt a long winless streak in the series as current USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series points leader Justin Grant is seeking a return to victory lane. Grant has already won four USAC Sprint car races in different states this season, but last won an ISW event in 2012. Alabama’s Kevin Thomas Jr. found victory lane Saturday at Lincoln Park Speedway in a Midwest Sprint Car Series event. He’ll be a factor in 2017 after last winning an ISW race in 2013. Canton, Ill. driver Chris Windom on six years at the Action Track in the “Don Smith Classic.” The “Madman” Robert Ballou’s career has been on a high flying trajectory in the last three years as he’s won 22 USAC National features and claimed a National title.
There will be several drivers invading Indiana while taking a break from their regular West Coast duties.
Twenty-three-year-old Ryan Bernal stepped into a ride in the Michael Dutcher No. 17gp and roared from 18th to 2nd at Lincoln Park Speedway, finishing only behind Thomas Jr. on Saturday. The Hollister, Calif. native has been busy this season, racing 22 times and picking up six wins and 10 top-five finishes. Bernal scored his first winged sprint car victory of the season this week by topping the field at Petaluma Speedway in California on Monday. A night earlier at Stockton Dirt Track in California, Bernal was third in a winged sprinter.
Bernal won’t be alone in his trip from the west as West Coast Sprint car champ Brody Roa will also be in competition for Sprint Week. Tom Harris will be making the longest trip of any driver as he makes the haul from England to compete in the 30th running of Indiana Sprint Week.
2017 Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World schedule
Fri., July 7: Gas City I-69 Speedway (Gas City, Indiana)
Sat., July 8: Kokomo Speedway (Kokomo, Indiana)
Sun., July 9: Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)
Wed., July 12: Terre Haute Action Track (Terre Haute, Indiana)
Thu., July 13: Lincoln Park Speedway (Putnamville, Indiana)
Fri., July 14: Bloomington Speedway (Bloomington, Indiana)
Sat., July 15: Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, Indiana)