By RICHIE MURRAY
USAC and WoO, let’s race two. No matter how you say it, cut it or slice it, it’ll stand your arm hairs up on end. Not only does a single ticket serve up the best of traditional and wing racing on consecutive nights that’s sure to whet a race fan’s racing palate and tantalize the senses this Friday and Saturday night, May 12-13.
It’s Eldora Speedway.
The place simply needs no introduction at all – from the time these gates first opened to the public in 1954 and the first-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars laid eyes on the half-mile joint carved out of pure western Ohio soil in 1962.
The place can be daunting. There’s high speeds and high stakes. But winning at The Big E is an ultimate racer’s reward. A driver who wins here is not forgotten. For he has tamed the ultimate stadium of sprint car racing.
This weekend, there’s two chances – two opportunities – for each driver to make a lasting mark and leave a legacy for which future racing heroes will aspire to when they tango with the beast they call Eldora.
#LetsRaceTwo conjures up memories of Ernie Banks’ “Let’s Play Two,” which brings to mind the smell of fresh cut grass of a baseball diamond and the crack of a wooden bat. Nuh uh. There’ll be none of that at the venue the USAC Sprint Cars play this weekend where the smell of methanol and the sound of a 900-horsepower, 410 cubic-inch engines is enough to bring a tear of joy to a grown man’s eye.
But there’s been no tears as of late for the combo of driver Justin Grant and crew chief/team owner Sam McGhee. Eldora is the place where this duo truly jelled to become perennial USAC winners last September in the 35th running of the “4-Crown Nationals.” It was a wheelbarrow full of momentum that the team brought with them into the 2017 season where they’ve already picked off two victories at Ocala, Florida and Plymouth, Indiana on their way to the series point lead.
We would be remiss if we forget to mention Grant’s win at the first ever #LetsRaceTwo in 2015 when he caught C.J. Leary on the 30th and final lap to pick up the first of his two Eldora victories.
Standing just a mere, single point behind Grant in the standings is Chad Boespflug. The new Hoffman/Dynamics, Inc. driver for 2017 truly came into his own at this event one year ago. Coming into May’s #LetsRaceTwo Saturday night finale, it had been nearly three years since the Hanford Hornet had raced to a USAC National Sprint Car win. After Eldora, he was a one-hit wonder no more, bursting onto the scene as a heavy-hitter everywhere the series trail has led him over the past year. Since then, the California native has collected an additional six wins, including his first for the Hoffmans just three weeks ago in Bloomington, Indiana.
Boespflug took over the reins of the Hoffman number 69 from 2014 and 2016 USAC National Sprint champ Brady Bacon out of Oklahoma. Bacon collected an Eldora victory in the Rossburg, Ohio daylight back in 2014 and will be among those pulling double-duty with USAC and the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars on both Friday and Saturday night. He will do his wingless work in the Dooling-Hayward Motorsports number 63 that raced to a series-high seven wins a year ago with Bryan Clauson at the wheel. The team, with Clauson, notched a big win at Eldora on Friday night of last year’s #LetsRaceTwo where he used a monstrous slider on C.J. Leary with four laps remaining before pulling away for his first ever sprint car victory at the half-mile.
Only one driver has more USAC victories at Eldora than does the master from Troy, Ohio – Jack Hewitt. That’s Lincoln, Indiana’s Dave Darland. The People’s Champ has 14 career wins on the high banks, including five in the seat of a USAC Sprint Car. But, he hasn’t won at Eldora since the spring race of 2014. Darland and Phillips have teamed up to score 17 triumphs in the series together, but none since he last ran full-time in the 71p two seasons ago. Despite a tumultuous start that finds them 11th in points, you have to expect they will bounce back in this crucial May stretch.
Chris Windom, third in series points, is the most recent USAC winner at Eldora. Among his three-career USAC feature events are a single night in which he took two at the 4-Crown in 2013 by winning both the Sprint Car and Silver Crown features in a single night. Windom was the ProSource fastest qualifier on Saturday night of the 2016 edition of #LetsRaceTwo, but saw his race come to an abrupt and frightening end on the fifth lap of the feature. Windom would recover in grand fashion to close out his 2016 season, however, capturing the Silver Crown title as he decimated the field for the 50-lap win.
This weekend’s action gets underway on both Friday and Saturday night, May 12th and 13th with #LetsRaceTwo featuring USAC and the World of Outlaws in their only pairing of the season. The gates swing open at 2pm with cars set to hit the track at 6pm. Adult general admission tickets are $28, $32 for reserved seats. For children ages 12 and under, general admission tickets are FREE, $10 for reserved.
Can’t make it out to Eldora on one night or the other? http://www.Loudpedal.TV/ has you covered with flag-to-flag, on-demand coverage of both nights of USAC racing action!