Times Sports Editor
PUTNAMVILLE -- Brad Sweet might be from California, but he seems to have Indiana dirt tracks down pretty good.
Sweet led the final 12 laps after getting past Darren Hagen just past the halfway mark and held off a late challenge by Shane Cottle to the checkered flag. Hagen placed third ahead of Brad Kuhn and Steve Buckwalter.
The Grass Valley native hit the dirt at Lincoln Park Speedway on Thursday night for round two of "Indiana Midget Week" and Sweet took the Putnamville oval by storm in the Kasey Kahne Racing/Mike Curb Ollie's Bargain Outlet/Auto Value Spike/Speedway Mopar midget.
"An awesome win tonight, the track was awesome, you can't ask for anything better than that," Sweet said following the win that propelled him atop the Midget Week point standings. "Two grooves, dead slick across the middle and a big old curb. I think (Dave) Darland had something there for us early on, but he got up there in the cushion and got a flat right rear tire."
Sweet started off the night by hammering the rest of the 40-car field in qualifying with a 12.641 to lead Bryan Clauson's 12.877. He did struggle a bit in his heat race, finishing fourth behind Thomas Meseraull, Bobby East and Darren Hagen, but that only set him up for a start on the outside of row three for the A-Main.
Clauson claimed the second heat race though his Keith Kunz/BCI midget was having some electrical problems, which forced the team to spend the middle part of the evening swapping out nearly the entire car to get ready for the 30-lap feature.
In the B-main, crowd favorite, Dave Darland, came through with a big win to make the main event followed by Tracy Hines, who flipped during his qualifying run. Davey Ray, Brad Loyet, Henry Clarke and Sean Dodenhoff each made it through the "B' to make the feature.
From the drop of the green in the feature, Hagen looked like he was going to be difficult to beat. A lap one caution for the stopped car of Daum in turn one reset the field early, but Hagen began to separate himself from the field over the opening laps.
Buckwalter was giving chase with Darland and Cottle battling side-by-side behind them with Sweet closing the gap followed by Clauson.
Darland worked his way up to second, but Buckwalter wasn't going to give him any room as the two swapped the spot during a wheel-to-wheel battle. Hagen maintained his spot up front, but Darland had his sights set on the top spot as the two hit lapped traffic. Hagen was able to rocket under a lapped car down the back stretch and open up a small gap on Darland, but one lap later, Darland's night came to a close as a flat tire relegated him to 21st.
On the re-start, Sweet saw an opening and put the Kasey Kahne-owned No. 49 on the top and grabbed the lead off turn one. Cottle gave chase and made his move into second just one lap later as Hagen bicycled and brushed the wall off turn four.
With clear air in front of him, Sweet wasn't going to be caught despite the best efforts of Cottle to catch him. Hagen held onto third as Kuhn came forward to take fourth ahead of Buckwalter. Brownsburg's Bobby East took sixth ahead of Hines, who made a nice recovery after his qualifying tumble. Caleb Armstrong took eighth ahead of Matt Smith and Jerry Coons Jr.
Afterwards, an excited Sweet, discussed his late race strategy to get to the front.
"I knew watching the track all night and I've been here a few times in the past, I knew the top is the fast way around here," Sweet said. "I don't know what I was doing, I got down there messing around on the bottom and Dave (Darland) drove by us all. That's what he'll do, he'll get up there on the cushion like that. He's pretty hard to beat. Luckily enough, the guys gave me a great car and once I got out of traffic and out in the open the car was just awesome.
"But it was going to be a good race, all in all, I've got to thank my guys," Sweet continued. "I've been really wanting to win one since I lost my good friend Jesse Hockett and this one's for him," Sweet said referring to Hockett, who recently lost his life in an accident at his Missouri shop. "I've been missing him and hopefully he's looking down and smiling at us right now."
Sweet heads into last night's Bloomington leg of Midget Week with a 13-point lead over Buckwalter with Kuhn in third. Clauson maintains his national points lead with 559 to lead East's 534 with Sweet in third with 517.
Despite his unfortunate luck in the midget feature, Darland came right back to show the rest of the 34-car sprint field that he's pretty good in the big cars too.
Darland got past Dickie Gaines in the second half of the sprint feature and then held off a late re-start challenge by Joshua Clemons to take a very popular victory as Justin Grant ran a strong third to edge Gaines and Scott Weir in the top-five.
Gaines was looking to add to his two-win feature win streak at LPS, leading from the wave of the green with Clemons in tow followed by Meseraull and Darland.
Gaines built himself a bit of a lead as he handled the cushion perfectly. Behind him, Clemons and Darland were putting on a show for the large crowd, hammering the throttle with some side-by-side action. Grant held the fourth spot ahead of Keith Bloom and Meseraull.
Darland made his move and pulled even on the bottom of the track just before a caution for a tangle between Billy Puterbaugh and Bloom in turn three.
On the re-start, Gaines held onto the lead briefly before Darland successfully slid under him to grab the point. Clemons also got a small opening and took over second-place. Gaines locked onto the third spot with Grant and Weir jockeying for position behind him.
Up front, Darland was pulling away before a caution came out with three laps left to bring him back to the field.
On the re-start, Clemons got one last shot at the USAC veteran, but couldn't maintain his momentum on a fourth turn run and Darland held onto the lead. Over the final two laps it was Darland pulling away for the victory almost five years since the last time he visited the speedway and also took the checkered flag. Shane Hmiel claimed sixth ahead of Shane Hollingsworth, Meseraull, Shawn Krockenberger and Andrew Elson.
In the UMP Modified feature, Clint DeMoss continued an amazing run in 2010, claiming his eighth feature of the year after getting past Travis Shoulders late in the A-main and then holding off a challenge from Brian Hayden.
Shoulders led for much of the feature as Greg Amick and Hayden battled behind him door to door. Craig Conyer and DeMoss had their own scrum going on as the two went wheel-to-wheel early on.
Shoulders maintained his lead past the halfway mark before Hayden made his move on a slide job into turn four and was able to make it stick. Problems would soon arise for Shoulders as an apparent broken ball joint cost him a top finish.
Hayden quickly had his hands full with DeMoss challenging for the lead and finally making a late race pass in the Diamond Racecar sponsored by CiS Rubber Tracks, A+ Performance, Hoosier Drywall, B&W Auto Mart machine.
DeMoss was able to hold onto the lead over the final couple laps to score the win and give his national and state UMP points a boost. Devin Gilpin, the national UMP points leader with 1,756 points, placed fourth in the feature. DeMoss is currently fifth in the nation with 1,329.
Amick was third ahead of Gilpin, Conyer and David Baldwin in sixth. Roger Cary was seventh followed by Bradley Sterrett, Wes McClara and Paul Bumgardner.
Tonight will be the Super Stock 30 with $500-to-win for the race with sprints, modifieds and bombers also on tap.
Indiana Midget Week
(30 laps) 1. Brad Sweet, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Darren Hagen, 4. Brad Kuhn, 5. Steve Buckwalter, 6. Bobby East, 7. Tracy Hines, 8. Caleb Armstrong, 9. Matt Smith, 10. Jerry Coons Jr., 11. Thomas Meseraull, 12. Brad Loyet, 13. Shane Hmiel, 14. Henry Clarke, 15. Davey Ray, 16. Chad Boat, 17. Levi Jones, 18. Sean Dodenhoff, 19. Bryan Clauson, 20. Zach Daum, 21. Dave Darland, 22. Billy Pauch Jr., 23. Alex Bowman. NT
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Brad Sweet, 49, Kahne/Curb-12.641; 2. Bryan Clauson, 39, Tucker/Kunz/BCI-12.887; 3. Zach Daum, 5, Daum-13.046; 4. Steve Buckwalter, 25, Buckwalter-13.047; 5. Darren Hagen, 3, RFMS-13.088; 6. Shane Cottle, 1st, Saucier-13.104; 7. Shane Hmiel, 56, 56 Inc.-13.148; 8. Dave Darland, 71, Kunz-13.154; 9. Bobby East, 4, Klatt-13.184; 10. Matt Smith, 1au, Smith-13.213; 11. Brad Kuhn, 17B, RW-13.215; 12. Caleb Armstrong, 7A, C & A-13.254; 13. Henry Clarke, 67, Kunz-11.267; 14. Tracy Hines, 24, Parker-13.283; 15. Chad Boat, 30, Boat-13.293; 16. Jerry Coons Jr., 11, Wilke-Pak-13.321; 17. Sean Dodenhoff, 9D, Dodenhoff-13.351; 18. Kody Swanson, 19k, Team 6R/TK-13.371; 19. Davey Ray, 14, Fatt-Fro-13.416; 20. Levi Jones, 21, Stewart-13.472; 21. Thomas Meseraull, 2, Bush-13.480; 22. Mario Clouser, 06, MCM-13.495; 23. Brent Beauchamp, 75B, Beauchamp-13.514; 24. Robbie Ray, 3R, Ray-13.565; 25. Alex Bowman, 55, Cline-13.588; 26. Billy Pauch Jr., 54P, Burke-13.626; 27. Kyle Hamilton, 33, Hamilton-13.657; 28. Brad Loyet, 05, Loyet-13.662; 29. Chase Barber, 90, Barber-13.667; 30. Don Droud Jr., 44, Smith-13.680; 31. Billy Wease, 92, Burrow-13.712; 32. Ryan Smith, 34, Steward-13.780; 33. Matt Westfall, 14w, Bordner-13.837; 34. Brad Cox, 94au, Cox-13.878; 35. Kent Schmidt, 5k, Schmidt/Meents-13.897; 36. Glenn Styres, 0, Styres-13.937; 37. Levi Roberts, 2D, Roberts-13.947; 38. Murray Erickson, 8, Guardian-14.049; 39. Brian Postle, 22, Postle-14.381; 40. Buddy Lowther, 31, Lowther-14.814.
Sprint car feature
1. Dave Darland, 2. Joshua Clemons, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Dickie Gaines, 5. Scotty Weir, 6. Shane Hmiel, 7. Shane Hollingsworth, 8. Thomas Meseraull, 9. Shawn Krockenberger, 10. Andrew Elson, 11. Henry Clarke, 12. Chris Windom, 13. Gary Rooke, 14. Billy Puterbaugh Jr., 15. Keith Bloom Jr., 16. Chris Babcock, 17. Kyle Robbins, 18. Matt Westfall, 19. Aaron Mosley, 20. Joss Moffatt
B-main winners: Matt Westfall and Joss Moffatt
UMP Modified feature
1. Clint DeMoss, 2. Brian Hayden, 3. Greg Amick, 4. Devin Gilpin, 5. Craig Conyer, 6. David Baldwin, 7. Roger Cary, 8. Bradley Sterrett, 9. Wes McClara, 10. Paul Bumgardner, 11. Donald Kiger, 12. Josh Boler, 13. Carlos Bumgardner, 14. Chris Brewer, 15. Larry Lambert, 16. Jimmy Hayden, 17. Brad Robinson, 18. Travis Shoulders, 19. Richie Lex, 20. Chad Combs
B-main winner: Paul Bumgardner