By RICHIE MURRAY
The number three has already played a prominent role in the pre-race discussion of this year’s “Tony Hulman Classic.” While Robert Ballou makes preparations to capture an unprecedented third “Tony Hulman Classic” in a row, a past winner of the event has aspirations of his own three-in-a-row mark this Friday night, June 23, when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship returns to Indiana’s Terre Haute Action Track.
Chris Windom of Canton, Illinois has the opportunity to become the fifth driver to win a third-straight USAC National event at the Terre Haute half-mile. The 26-year-old claimed victory in the 2016 USAC National Sprint Midwest season closer at THAT, then opened 2017 with a USAC Silver Crown score in the “Sumar Classic,” which leads to this Friday’s event where the reigning Silver Crown champ has a chance to join elite company.
Tucson, Arizona’s Roger McCluskey went undefeated in all three USAC Sprint Car events held at Terre Haute in 1966. Driving for Mutt Anderson, the USAC Hall of Famer won twin 30-lappers on the same afternoon in June, then concluded the season with a 50-lap score in September.
Bubby Jones, for all intents and purposes, owned the Terre Haute Action Track in the late 1970s. Between the years of 1977 and 1979, Jones captured half of the USAC Sprint Car features run for Bobby Hillin’s Longhorn Racing Team and Don Siebert as well as a single USAC Midget score in 1977 for Math Schneider.
In 1979 alone, Jones of Danville, Illinois, won 4 of 5 USAC events at the Action Track, with all four coming in the sprinter. His only aberration: a runner-up finish to Johnny Parsons in the “Hut 100” midget classic.
No driver won more USAC events (13) at Terre Haute than did Rich Vogler. In 1980, he took over the reins of the Siebert Oldsmobile car from Jones and took it to its customary spot in THAT victory lane. He then concluded the season with two-straight Action Track wins: the “Hut 100” in the midget and, one week later, another sprint win, this time for a different Oldsmobile dealer, Ben Bowen. A few years later, Vogler set an all-time streak of success at Terre Haute by winning six consecutive USAC National Midget features between 1983 and 1986.
The first two times Phoenix, Arizona’s J.J. Yeley ever raced at the western Indiana joint in 1997, he won both times behind the wheel of a USAC Sprint Car. Yet, it was during the 2002 and 2003 seasons where Yeley truly hit his stride, picking off five wins in a seven-race span at THAT.
Terre Haute victory lane and Yeley were like peas and carrots in that era in which he concluded the 2002 season in winning form in the seat of the GT Racing sprinter before beginning 2003 with another USAC Sprint victory for Tony Stewart, followed up by a “Sumar Classic” Silver Crown win a month later for Bob East and Stewart. The only two reasons keeping him from reeling off an incredible seven-straight were Tracy Hines and Dave Darland, whom Yeley both finished second to during “Indiana Sprint Week” and the “Hut 100,” respectively.
Windom can join this group on Friday night when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship returns for the 47th Annual “Tony Hulman Classic,” a race in which he previously added to his ever-growing resume back in 2011. Windom owns four Terre Haute USAC victories (3 Sprint, 1 Silver Crown) and is currently coming off a win at a similar venue with many of the same characteristics: the half-mile Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania which he used to vault himself to the Eastern Storm title.
Windom now resides second in USAC National Sprint points and is surrounded by a number of drivers seeking their first “Hulman Classic” rifle: past Terre Haute USAC Sprint winners Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, IN), Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, AL) and Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, OK) as well as 2016 “Sumar Classic” Silver Crown victor C.J. Leary, National Sprint Car point leader Justin Grant (Ione, CA), Chad Boespflug (Hanford, CA) and Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, IN).
Pit gates open this Friday for the “Tony Hulman Classic” at 3pm with the grandstands set to open at 4. Cars hit the track at 6:30.
Tickets for the “Hulman Classic” begin at just $15 for infield admission. Grandstand tickets are $25. Children 11 & under are FREE! Pit pass prices are $30 for USAC & UMP members and $35 for non-members.
Friday’s “Tony Hulman Classic,” as well as every USAC event, can be viewed one-day after the race, on-demand at http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.