By RICHIE MURRAY
PLYMOUTH, IN – April showers may have brought us May flowers. But, Mayflowers bring us to the land named in honor of the pilgrims this Saturday night, May 5, for a Cinco de Mayo appearance by the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship at Indiana’s Plymouth Speedway.
This stop will be just the second ever by the series following Justin Grant’s wire-to-wire victory last April. Though Grant has yet to find victory lane in a sprint car early in the 2018 season, he arrives at Plymouth riding a tide of momentum following his big victory in last Sunday’s “Sumar Classic” USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series 100-lapper at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track.
For 2018, Grant joined the Rochester, Indiana-based TOPP Motorsports team, whose shop is located a stone’s throw away from the 3/8-mile Plymouth dirt oval. The team resides seventh in points with best results of 4th at the season opener in Ocala, Fla. and a 5th in Haubstadt, Ind. last Saturday.
The combination of TOPP and Ione, California’s Grant may very well be the team to beat at Plymouth. TOPP was flawless in last year’s Plymouth feature, with former team driver Tyler Courtney driving from 18th to 2nd in just 30 laps without the aid of a single yellow flag.
Although, Courtney may have a little say in that after being the winningest driver in USAC National competition throughout the first three months. Currently standing in 4th in the series standings, Courtney is the lone driver to have won in at least two USAC National series after having already won twice in the Clauson Marshall Newman Racing sprint car in Ocala and once in the Midget at Kokomo, Ind. Last Sunday, the Indianapolis, Ind. native won the pole position for the “Sumar Classic.” Back in 2015, he even led the first 11 laps of the USAC National Midget feature at Plymouth.
The winner of that USAC National Midget stop back in 2015 was Kevin Thomas, Jr. Last Saturday, the Cullman, Alabama driver broke into victory lane for the first time in the Dynamics, Inc./Hoffman Auto Racing colors at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. Thomas was the series’ winningest driver a year ago, but only garnered a 10th in last year’s Plymouth stop. Thomas’ recent victory, though, moved him to within five points of series leader Chris Windom.
Reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion Windom of Canton, Ill. finished 8th last year at Plymouth. He’s been shut out of victory lane thus far in 2018, but has been the most consistent driver to date with finishes of 3rd, 4th, 2nd, 2nd and 6th in his five starts.
Last Friday night, Dave Darland picked up a very popular victory at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway. The win came in his 700th career series start and made him the first to reach 60in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car win column. A 16th place run was the Lincoln, Ind. driver’s result last season, but a 4th place finish on the Plymouth dirt in a USAC Midget back in 2015 serves as his best.
Sixth in points is Chase Stockon, a winner on the opening night of the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season back in February at Ocala, was last year’s fast qualifier at Plymouth. The Fort Branch, Indiana driver went on to win his heat that night before finishing 6th in the night’s feature event.
Hanford, California’s Boespflug was third a year ago at Plymouth and currently resides in the tenth position in points. C.J. Leary has had a fine season so far in 2018, standing third in points, and is knocking on the door for his initial victory this year after a breakout, five-win campaign in 2017. The Greenfield, Indiana driver took an 18th place finish at Plymouth in last Spring. Robert Ballou, the 2015 series champ from Rocklin, California, will make his USAC debut at Plymouth this Saturday after missing last year’s race due to injury.
The drivers meeting for Saturday’s race begins at 5:30pm while cars hit the track at 6pm. Adult tickets are $25 at the gate and just $20 pre-sale through the track. Children age 6-12 get in for just $8 while kids age 5 and under are FREE! Pit passes are $35 apiece.