By RICHIE MURRAY
A USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car doubleheader weekend in the state of Indiana begins a stretch of five consecutive weekends of racing that could be the ascent for some and the downfall for others in the championship chase as we watch, with a keen eye, toward those drivers occupying the top-three of the standings.
Entering the weekend’s races Friday, Sept. 14 at the Terre Haute Action Track and Saturday, Sept. 15 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Kevin Thomas, Jr. leads the points by a single over Tyler Courtney while reigning champ Chris Windom is just 18 out of the lead.
Unsurprisingly, each of these three drivers combined have won the five most recent stops by the series at Terre Haute, which kicks off this weekend’s activities with the “Jim Hurtubise Classic” on the legendary half-mile in which the man for whom the race is named, “Herk,” was unstoppable on the half-mile from late 1960 through the 1962 season where he was an undefeated 5 and 0, incidentally, the same as these current three drivers have between them.
Windom, of Canton, Ill., a three-time winner and the possessor of the last two “Hurtubise Classic” trophies in 2016 and 2017. Cullman, Alabama’s Thomas won the combined “Tony Hulman/Don Smith Classic” in October of 2017. Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind., meanwhile, has dominated the Action Track this season, winning in both May and July. Thomas was 2nd and 5th in each of those two races while Windom scored a 4th and a 6th, respectively.
It was the “Hurtubise” weekend last year in which Windom began his surge, carrying a 93-point deficit into Terre Haute. Following his win, Windom was consistently spectacular, eventually surging to the point lead and the series title in succession.
Additionally, Windom and Thomas were the lone drivers to win at both Terre Haute and Haubstadt during the 2017 season. Thomas won again at Haubstadt this Spring while Windom led the first 23 laps before giving way to Darland during the summer visit to the southern Indiana quarter-mile. The tricky paperclip-shaped track hasn’t been as kind to Courtney, with 12th and 9th place results in the two visits this season.
Like Thomas and Windom, recent series champions Robert Ballou of Rocklin, California and Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma have mastered the task of winning at both the Wabash Valley half-mile fairgrounds oval and at the two dragstrips connected by a pair of turns in southwestern Indiana. So have USAC Triple Crown champ Dave Darland and Chase Stockon, who is seeking his first victory since the 2018 season opener in Ocala, Fla.
Past “Jim Hurtubise Classic” winners at Terre Haute include: 1990: Jack Hewitt, 1991: Jack Hewitt, 1992: Rusty McClure, 1993: Robbie Stanley, 1994: Tray House, 1995: Jack Hewitt, 1996: Kevin Thomas, 1997: J.J. Yeley, 1998: Tony Elliott, 1999: Tony Jones, 2010: Jon Stanbrough, 2011: Chris Windom, 2012: Chase Stockon, 2013: Jerry Coons, 2014: Brady Bacon, 2015: Robert Ballou, 2016: Chris Windom, 2017: Chris Windom.
Past victors of the $10,000-to-win “Haubstadt Hustler,” co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series, are 2008: Jeff Bland, Jr., 2009: Bryan Clauson, 2010: Jon Stanbrough, 2011: Casey Riggs, 2012: Daron Clayton, 2013: Kevin Thomas, Jr., 2014: Daron Clayton, 2015: Brady Short, 2016: Kyle Cummins, 2017: Kevin Thomas, Jr.
On Friday night at Terre Haute, pit gates open at 3pm, grandstands at 4pm, a FREE pit party will take place from 4 to 6pm, allowing fans to walk through the pits, meet drivers, get autographs, take pictures prior to the on-track action. The drivers meeting will begin at 6pm with cars set to hit the track at 6:30pm (eastern time). Adult grandstand admission tickets are $25, infield admission is $15 and children 11 and under are free.
Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway, pit gates open at 3pm, grandstands at 4pm and on-track activities set to begin at 6pm (central time). Adult tickets are $25, students (age 13-18) are $20, children 12 & under are free.
You can listen to both races LIVE on the USAC app. A day later after each event is run, you can watch complete flag-to-flag coverage on http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.
USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT CAR STANDINGS: 1-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1997, 2-Tyler Courtney-1996, 3-Chris Windom-1979, 4-Dave Darland-1738, 5-Brady Bacon-1735, 6-Chase Stockon-1704, 7-C.J. Leary-1651, 8-Justin Grant-1650, 9-Robert Ballou-1606, 10-Isaac Chapple-1087.