TERRE HAUTE — Dirt tracks have been notorious over the years for bringing out the best and worst in the highly competitive world of sprint-car racing.
Depending on one’s perspective, the 37th annual version of the Tony Hulman Classic delivered on both counts Saturday night at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Sadly, the downside of the equation far outweighed the positive once the dust settled early Sunday morning.
The once-proud image of the Hulman Classic, which at one time was the crown jewel of USAC sprint-car racing, took another blow on a night mired in lengthy delays.
Former Hulman Classic winner Levi Jones probably summed up the debacle best when he let his feelings known moments after the show was red-flagged six laps short of its scheduled distance.
“This place used to be the hallowed ground of sprint-car racing,” the Olney, Ill., racer said. “It used to be the gates to Indy. With the way things are now, you’d be lucky to get an Indy-car owner to make the drive over to the place.
“We probably just ran off the last hundred fans that would support us. You watch old videos of the Tony Hulman Classic and the infield was packed. You couldn’t find a seat in the grandstand. The winner shooting a shotgun in victory lane. It was something special.
“Now you can’t even see the cars on the track for all the dust. It’s dangerous. I guess you could say it’s sorta lost its mystique.
“I’ve won this race, so it’s extra special to me. I feel bad for the fans that had to go through what they did tonight. Racing sprint cars is still the best thing in the world to do. Even in the worst conditions, it’s better than any day at work. It’s a shame the way the night went.”
I I I
n Pit notes — Jones wasn’t the only competitor to express disappointment with the way the night played out. Long before the cars took to the track, there were grumblings in the pits regarding impending troublesome track conditions.
One car owner even packed up his rig and headed home before the cars took to the track. USAC officials did their best to quell what some thought would be an all-out boycott of the event.
The only team leaving early Sunday with any measure of satisfaction was that belonging to the winning Foxco Team. First-place winnings have a tendency to smooth discontent.
Feature winner Jon Stanbrough was one of the first to sympathize with the fans for what they had to endure during the marathon affair.
His win was the sixth straight in recent weeks and seventh overall at the Action Track. To say the journeyman racer is on a roll is an understatement.
The evening was not as kind to Terre Haute businessman Bill Biddle, who watched his new Four coil sprinter damaged after his driver Brian Tyler was pinched into the backstretch wall and took a series of tumbles.
BWB chief mechanic Doug Porter was doing his best Monday morning trying to assess the extent of damages while trying to put the finishing touches on the team’s champ dirt car.
Veteran Tony Elliott is scheduled to drive the car in Friday’s Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
The Wabash Valley racing community and the Action Track, in particular, suffered a major loss over the weekend with the passing of longtime wrecker and push-truck operator John Berg.
Like many others, John’s efforts over the years went unnoticed to many. Those close to the scene, however, will be quick to tell you that without his presence there were several occasions a year ago when there wouldn’t have been racing.
Notably absent Saturday night was track physician Daniel Bedecki, who many of you know is battling cancer. His longtime mentor in racing, Dr. Robert Burkle, notes that the popular physician is doing well at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis. Following several rounds of chemotherapy, he is scheduled for a marrow transplant Thursday.
Joe Buckles can be reached at email@example.com.
TERRE HAUTE — Dirt tracks have been notorious over the years for bringing out the best and worst in the highly competitive world of sprint-car racing.
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TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic
In its rich 43-year history, the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic has long carried on a strong local racing tradition.
From its early beginnings starting in 1971, the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned event has been the annual centerpiece of the racing calendar at the Terre Haute Action Track as well as a key stop on the USAC sprint schedule and one of the most sought after wins in big league sprint-car racing.
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Terre Haute runner sets up race to help Boston
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“My goal was just to finish and enjoy Boston,” she reflected this week. “I had an injury [runner’s knee] beforehand, so I wasn’t too worried about beating my time from 2003 [4 hours, 10.20 seconds].
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Amey Takes Aim: NHL playoffs to put TVs to good use
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Olivia Rightly let me know that I “should talk to my teacher at St. Pats School, Ms. Mascari, because she’s taken a turkey.”
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