By RICHIE MURRAY
SPEEDWAY, IN – Three past Eastern Storm champions are headed eastbound June 11-16 for one of the most-highly anticipated events on the USAC calendar with five USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship races in a six-day span at five different tracks in three states – Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
The series begins Tuesday, June 11, at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville and honors the memory of the 2009 Grandview Eastern Storm winner who lost his life tragically in the Spring of 2010 with the “Jesse Hockett Classic.” The 40-lap event pays a sweet $10,000-to-win prize.
From there, the series travels to the 3/8-mile Bridgeport Speedway in New Jersey for the second time ever on Wednesday, June 12. Then, it’s back to the Keystone State and BAPS Motor Speedway in York Haven, Pa. on Thursday, June 13. The following night is an idle night for the Sprint Cars, but the USAC Silver Crown Cars are in action on the half-mile Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. on Friday, June 14.
It’s the Sprint Cars turn on the half-mile the following night on Saturday, June 15, at Port Royal Speedway in Pa. The series closes out on Sunday, June 16, in New York at the 3/8-mile Weedsport Speedway.
In each of the last two years, Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) has been the dominant force, capturing three wins and both titles. The 2017 USAC National Sprint champ is the lone driver to have won Eastern Storm feature events in each of the past three seasons and owns six career wins in the series, including last year’s round at Williams Grove and the two most recent trips to Port Royal. His six Eastern Storm victories are tied with Levi Jones and Bryan Clauson for the most all-time. His first career USAC win came in 2010 at Big Diamond.
Robert Ballou’s stellar 2015 Eastern Storm performance was one for the ages as the Rocklin, Calif. driver swept all three nights and walked away with a title. The Eastern part of the country has been kind to Ballou, who also claimed the 2015 National title. Last year’s trip to BAPS is the most recent of his 29 career USAC National Sprint Car victories, which rank 13th on the all-time list.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) captured the Eastern Storm crown in 2014 and has won thrice in the series along the way. The two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion in 2014 and 2016 has been spectacular the past two seasons when the series has arrived at Grandview, using late race passes to claim each of the wins.
A handful of additional drivers are aiming to add onto their Eastern Storm feature win title. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) has been victorious the last two seasons, first in 2017 at Williams Grove and in last year’s debut at Bridgeport. He’s been excellent this year with six top-6 finishes in seven series starts and, at press dates, has won four local sprint features in four nights at four different tracks in the state of Indiana.
The Eastern Storm one-win club includes a talented bunch who are hungry to reach the pinnacle once again during the series. Defending USAC National Sprint Car titlist Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) took the BAPS closer by storm in 2017. Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.), your most recent USAC Sprint winner in May’s “Tony Hulman Classic” at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track, nailed down the win in the 2014 Grandview opener. Dave Darland (Lincoln, Ind.), a 2013 Port Royal winner, was recently tabbed as the driver of New Jersey car owner Tim Hogue’s ride for Eastern Storm. Chad Boespflug (Hanford, Calif.) was dominant in his lone Eastern Storm triumph at New Egypt in New Jersey back in 2016.
Drivers who’ve tasted USAC victory lane but are seeking a first Eastern Storm include current USAC National Sprint Car point leader C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), a winner in Ocala, Fla. in February. Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) has won in both USAC National Sprint Cars and Midgets in 2019, including a last-lap midget win at BAPS in 2017. His TOPP Motorsports team was previously victorious in Eastern Storm with Courtney at BAPS in 2017.
Speaking of victorious teams with drivers aiming for Eastern Storm victory number one, you can include Carson Short (Marion, Ill.) who has joined Chris Dyson Racing for the tour. Dyson’s ride took the 2018 finale at Weedsport with driver Thomas Meseraull. Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) is an Eastern Storm Rookie, arriving on the scene with Daigh/Phillips Motorsports who won with Darland at Port Royal in 2013.
Isaac Chapple (Willow Branch, Ind.) made his USAC Sprint Car debut at Eastern Storm in 2015. The North Pole Nightmare Bill Balog (Brookfield, Wisc.) is set to make his debut as well along with Brian VanMeveren (Woodbury, Minn.) and Dustin Christie (Washington, Ind.).
A strong representation from the USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series contingent will be on display with three of the series’ winners making plans to do the tour, including 2018 East Coast champ and current point leader Steven Drevicki (Reading, Pa.), who will pilot his own car with technical assistance from 2018 USAC National Sprint Car owner champ Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing and 2013 Eastern Storm feature winning car owner Gene Franckowiak. Timmy Buckwalter (Douglassville, Pa.) is a force on the National scene, capturing co-Rookie of the Year honors in 2018. Joey Biasi (Mary D, Pa.) and Carmen Perigo (Stoystown, Pa.) have been regular competitors on the National scene and are top-flight forces to reckon with when USAC travels to their home turf.
Jarett Andretti (Mooresville, N.C.) has had some impressive Eastern Storm performances, earning his best career USAC National Sprint Car feature finish of 2nd at Lincoln Speedway in 2017. Landon Simon (Tipp City, Ohio) won a USAC Sprint Car Special Event feature at Lincoln in 2016. Versatile racing veteran Ryan Godown (Ringoes, N.J.) was a regular on the Eastern Storm tour a year ago while the ever-popular “Colfax Comet” Robert Bell (Colfax, Iowa) is making the trip east for the full deal.
Tuesday at Grandview, pits open at 2pm (Eastern), front gates open at 5pm and racing at 7:30pm. NASCAR 358 Modifieds will join the USAC Sprint Cars. Adult general admission tickets are $30, kids 6-11 are $10. Children 6 and under are free. Advance tickets may be ordered by calling (443) 513-4456.
Wednesday at Bridgeport, racing starts at 7:30pm (Eastern). Adult general admission tickets are $30, students 10-15 are $10, children 9 and under are free.
Thursday at BAPS, Adult general admission tickets are $25, seniors are $15, students 13-17 are $15, kids 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $35 apiece.
Friday at Williams Grove for the Silver Crown race, pits open at 5pm (Eastern), hot laps begin at 7pm with qualifying and racing immediately following. The 410 wing sprints are also on the event card. Adult general admission tickets are $28, age 13-20 are $10, kids 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $35 apiece.
Saturday at Port Royal, it’s a sprint car doubleheader with 410 wing sprints also on hand. Adult general admission tickets are $25, students are $10 and pit passes are $35 apiece.
Sunday at Weedsport, pits open at 4pm (Eastern), front gates open at 5pm and hot laps begin at 7pm with qualifying and racing immediately following. Champion Oil Modifieds and NY6A Micro Sprints are also on the docket. Reserved seating is $32, adult general admission tickets are $28, age 11-17 are $12 and age 10 and under are free. Pit passes are $32 apiece for members and $36 for non-members. Reserve camping is $30 and general camping is $24.