By Joe Buckles
TERRE HAUTE — With the 2008 racing season rapidly drawing to a close, newly-crowned track champions are starting to reap the rewards of a long summer of intense competition.
No matter what the level or form of racing it might be, the demands of chasing points can at times almost seem overwhelming for a driver and his crew.
Tight point races tend to bring out the best and worst of times in weekly short track racing.
Just ask a trio of area racers who carried off championship trophies this past weekend.
Chase Stockon of Sullivan, along with Terre Haute residents C.J. Bryan and Kenny Carmichael Jr., won track titles in their respective divisions Saturday night.
Stockon took the sprint crown at Paragon Speedway, with Bryan taking the Bomber championship at Lincoln Park Speedway and Carmichael Jr. the Super Stock title at LPS. Unlike Bryan and Carmichael who entered the final night of racing with safe point cushions, the same could not be said for Stockon.
He was in a tight chase with Chase Briscoe.
His title hopes took a serious hit in the early laps when he got caught up in muti-car tangle.
“I didn’t know what to think,” Stockon said of the early incident. “When I got into the guy it pushed the right side nerf bar into my right rear tire.”
“I spent 25 laps waiting for it to explode. My guys said the tire was smoking the whole race,” recalled Stockon. “I was going to pull in, but when I saw Chase running second I knew I had to stay out.”
Displaying the consistency that he had shown all year resulted in a ninth-place finish. Good enough for a 23-point margin over Briscoe, who ended up winning the main event.
The title was not the first for Stockon. He won the steel block Midwest Sprint Car Series championship in 2004.
His latest crown is special for the third-generation racer for the manner in which it was won: An impressive string of top-five finishes and a host of heat wins.
“To me it was as a major accomplishment. To be that consistent all year showed that as a driver and as a team we could keep the car together. We finished out of the top five only once all year.”
As is often the case, Bryan didn’t start the year with the goal of running for a track championship. It gradually unfolded as the season progressed.
Following a season-long battle with fellow Vigo County racer Lloyd Walls, Bryan emerged with the Bombers point title.
“Lloyd and I have been friends for years. With his reputation as being the guy to beat over there [LPS] winning this was extra special,” voiced the proud Bryan.
A four-time feature winner in 2008, Bryan says the title didn’t come without it moments.
“We had our share of nights when things didn’t go well. It just seemed like when we had a bad night, the guys I was chasing in points had one too,” Bryan revealed.
The Terre Haute businessman says chasing points is not for everyone. “You just sort of get caught up in it. It can turn into a job. It can take the fun out of going to the race track each week.”
“I can say it’s been a fun year. I’ve had good group of guys to work with and race against.”
While Bryan would be the first to concede that a Bomber championship doesn’t carry the prestige of other forms of racing he says it can be just as hard to come by.
“Racing is racing. I don’t care what you run. If you don’t put the time and effort into it you’re not going to be successful. I can say we didn’t work any less with the bomber than we ran the modifieds,” he said.
When you’re the defending champion and your car has won the last five championships, one is expected to take home the title.
That’s the position which Carmichael found himself.
It wasn’t until the latter stages of the season that Carmichael took a serious look at the points.
“To be honest, I didn’t know I was leading the points until something was said at a drivers meeting. I never have been much into points,” Carmichael said.
“To be honest I’d rather travel to different tracks but with the economy the way it is we decided to stay close to home. I didn’t win a lot but we always seemed to finish in the top five,” said the two-time feature winner.
“I wanted to win the points but I tried to block it out. It seems like every time I get wrapped up the points, I tend to tear up my cars.”
“There’s five or six guys that can win any night so to win the points is nice for my car owner Larry Rowley and the guys who helped work on the car each night.”
Joe Buckles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org