By RICHIE MURRAY
FISHERS, IN – There are many barometers for success when it comes to capturing a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car title.
Some barometers prove fruitful and some prove to be faulty over time. Yet, when one barometer results in a certain thing happening nearly every year, perhaps we should take note.
That’s the case with the correlation between a driver winning Eastern Storm and going on to be crowned the USAC National Sprint Car champ later that same season.
In fact, in eight of the Eastern Storm’s 11 years, the Eastern Storm champ has carried the momentum throughout the rest of the season and earned the USAC title: Levi Jones (2007, 2010 & 2011), Bryan Clauson (2012 & 2013), Brady Bacon (2014), Robert Ballou (2015) and Chris Windom (2017).
On the flip side, in only four of those 11 years did the driver leading the USAC points entering Eastern Storm end up winning the USAC title at year’s end: Jones (2011), Bacon (2014 & 2016), Ballou (2015).
Something says that’s a trend. There’s many theories that abound, but the main thing that is commonplace amongst all the teams competing in Eastern Storm is that this is a long stretch of races on consecutive nights on the road, which can be taxing both mentally and physically for even the most skilled and prepared teams.
The teams that make it to the other end of the tunnel with a good showing each night and were fairly easy on their equipment supply, will use it a positive to build upon and a morale booster for the summer stretch.
On the other hand, teams that crash a car, blow an engine, have a bad showing or simply just get road weary, those things can snowball and that snowball can turn into an avalanche that can grow until your tangled in a web that’s hard to break out of.
Chris Windom was the most recent to pick up both titles in the same year in 2017, becoming the latest in a long line of drivers who’ve used the June stretch as a harbinger of things to come later in the year.
In 2007, 26 points separated point leader Darren Hagen and Levi Jones entering the inaugural Eastern Storm. Jones won two of the three races, took the Eastern Storm crown and went on to bag his second career USAC title.
In 2010, Jones was third in the USAC standings, 27 markers out of the lead, but three wins in four nights vaulted him into a 42-point lead over Damion Gardner that he would not relinquish on his way to the fourth of his five USAC Sprint championships.
Twice again the tide turned in June, both to the benefit of Bryan Clauson. In 2012, Clauson wasn’t even residing in the top-ten of the USAC points by the time Eastern Storm arrived. He was busy tending to duties for his Rookie campaign at the Indianapolis 500. Two victories at Grandview and New Egypt and an Eastern Storm crown catapulted BC into sixth in the USAC standings by the end of the four-race swing. From there, he would drive on to his first USAC Sprint title.
One year, later, in 2013, Clauson was sixth entering Eastern Storm. Although garnering no victories, Clauson’s consistency paid off with runs of 2nd, 3rd and 4th to earn a second consecutive Eastern Storm trophy. Clauson chomped down the USAC point lead from 49 to 34 in that stretch and would wind up with another USAC championship under his belt.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. holds the USAC National Sprint Car point lead entering the 12th Eastern Storm which begins this Thursday at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa. He’s already picked up three wins on the season, including last Friday at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. and has been consistently consistent. However, Tyler Courtney has been the hottest of late, picking up two of the last three wins at Terre Haute and Knoxville and finished 2nd to KTJ at I-80 and is 2nd in points.
Plus, you have the defending champ of both Eastern Storm and USAC lurking in the shadows of the third position. All three were feature winners on Pennsylvania soil last June, possibly another harbinger of things to expect out of these three this week.
Thursday, June 14 at Grandview, gates open at 5pm and racing begins at 7:30pm. General admission tickets for adults are $30, children (6-11) are $10 and kids under the age of 6 are free.
Friday, June 15 at Williams Grove, racing gets underway at 7:30pm. Adult general admission tickets are $25. Age 13-20 general admission is $10.
Saturday, June 16 at Port Royal, the drivers meeting takes place at 6pm and cars hit the track at 6:30pm. Adult general admission tickets are $25. Age 12-18 general admission is $10. Pit passes are $35.
Sunday, June 17 at BAPS, racing gets going at 7pm. Adult tickets are $25, seniors $15, students $15 and pit passes are $35.
Monday, June 18 at Bridgeport, racing begins at 7:30pm. Adult general admission tickets (15 and up) are $30. Kids (10-15) are $10. Kids 9 and under are free. Reserved tickets are $35 for adults, $15 for kids 3-15. Pit passes are $35.
Tuesday, June 19 at Weedsport, pits open at 4pm, grandstands at 5pm and racing at 7pm. General admission (18+) tickets are $25, (11-17) are $10 and (10 and Under) are free. Pit passes for member are $30 and $35 for non-members. Reserved seats are $29.
Races at Grandview, Williams Grove, Port Royal, Bridgeport and Weedsport will be live on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/. All races will be available on-demand at http://www.Loudpedal.TV/ and live audio will be available on the free USAC app.