TERRE HAUTE —
Veteran sprint car driver Jon Stanbrough has never been one to hide his distaste for chasing point championships. It simply doesn’t bode well with his style of racing.
It’s a rather ironic statement considering that he is currently locked into two of the closest point chases in the history of the U.S. Auto Club and Midwest Sprint Car Series circuits
The highly successful Indiana short track racer faces two major challenges this weekend as he makes a USAC stop at the Action Track Saturday night and at Haubstadt for a big MSCS show Sunday evening.
All in the quest of winning what could be three major sprint car titles in the same season. He’s already captured the King of Indiana Sprint Car Series earlier this summer and currently leads the MSCS sprint standings and ranks second in the USAC sprint point totals.
Like it or not Stanbrough is determined to fulfill a preseason goal of getting championship trophies for his new Daryl Tate Racing operation.
While Stanbrough and Tate have pretty much been on track to win the titles, the team’s title bid took on a bizarre turn over the weekend at the three-day USAC “Sprint Car Smackdown” at Kokomo Speedway.
With five laps remaining in the feature of the series final, there was contact between Stanbrough and Levi Jones. Stanbrough brushed the outside wall near the pit entrance, sending him into a violent flip and into the path of uncoming traffic.
The melee collected three cars including that of Robert Ballou, who was transferred to a Kokomo hospital but was later released.
Stanbrough was badly shaken up but was able to walk away from the incident for what was described as a heated discussion with his long-time rival Jones.
At the end of the three nights of racing, Stanbrough had little to show for his title hopes. Entering the week he had a 16 point lead over Jones but after finishes of 12th, 14th and 18th it appeared he found himself 26 markers down heading to Tri-City Speedway at Pontoon Beach, Il. on Friday then the following night at Terre Haute.
All that reportedly changed Monday when USAC issued a 25 point penalty along with a season long probation period to Jones. That ruling was rescinded less than 24 hours later due to a possible appeal hearing.
The Tony Stewart Racing team for whom Jones drivers filed the appeal Tuesday afternoon, and according to USAC, the process hearing will take place sometime late in September.
Three days following the incident, Stanbrough says he still has a sore neck but is ready to go about the business of winning races — and hopefully the USAC sprint title.
“I’m not sure what really happened in the accident. I remember he [Jones] was either beside me or maybe a little in front of me. He made contact with me and the next thing I know things went bad,” recalled Stanbrough in a phone conversation Tuesday.
While the incident has generated its share of talk among the fans and racers Stanbrough is ready to put the ordeal behind him.
“They [USAC] sat us both down in the trailer afterwards and we worked things out. It wasn’t until Monday when I got the call from USAC that I knew what actions they were going to take. I’m satisfied and ready to go back racing,” Stanbrough said.
“I’m not a vindictive type of person or racer. Bad things can happen when you go to the race track with a bad attitude. I have too much respect for my sport, my fellow racers and car owners. I’ve been crashed before. You put it behind you and go racing,” he said
While points chasing is not his favorite subject Stanbrough does not shy away from the commitments of the modern-day racer even it means running for or talking points.
“I’ve always said I don’t care for points racing. I don’t feel it makes me as good of a racer. Still when I retire from racing and sit back and look at what I’ve done over the years or what we have done as a team this season it would be nice to have those championships,” reflected the soft spoken Stanbrough.
“I kinda made a sacrifice, if you want to call it that, to myself that I was going to give up going for the wins to win that [USAC] championship. I’ve got to stand by what I said. I’ve had the wins (8) but the ultimate goal is the championship,” voiced Stanbrough.
“I set my goal at the start of each year to have double-digits wins. I’ve been lucky to have eight thus far so I shouldn’t get too greedy,” he added.
With the ever changing point totals and penalties now in the picture, Stanbrough knows the battle with Jones will take on new meaning both on and off the track.
“Obviously he has the experience, what with all his championships. He has one of the better financed supported teams but that doesn’t bother me, and I wouldn’t want to use that if we don’t win.”
“I feel we’re just as competitive as they are. All we can do is dig in and fight and see how it plays out,” said Stanbrough, who with a win here Saturday night would tie the late Rich Vogler as the winningest driver in Action Track history.
His car owner Daryl Tate is doing his best to downplay the hoopla surrounding the points race between himself and Tony Stewart. Not wanting it to be a distraction to the job at hand.
“We’ll go the races and see what happens. You don’t want to start worrying about the points because it will beat you every time. You try not to make any mistakes and take what your dealt and go from there. Its going to be tough. Jon is very determined and focused on what has to be done,” voiced the veteran car owner.
Joe Buckles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.