By RICHIE MURRAY
ROSSBURG, OH – Eldora Speedway is the proud home of many unprecedented events on the racing calendar each year. This weekend marks one of those as the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Cars and the NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprints cars compete on the same night at the same venue for the only such occurrence during the season.
#LetsRaceTwo has quickly established its status as a can’t miss event, and this Friday, May 10 and Saturday, May 11 brings that notion to reality for the fifth consecutive Spring.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) won the most recent #LetsRaceTwo events a year ago at Eldora. For each, it was their second career victory at the half-mile, high-banked dirt oval. Bacon was victorious back in 2014 while Windom picked up a win in 2013. For both Bacon and Windom last year, the Eldora scores marked their first victories of the season. Thus far in 2019, both have already enjoyed the spoils of victory with Windom notching the opener at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. while Bacon triumphed in the series’ most recent event, in April, at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway.
Bacon and Windom are among five past #LetsRaceTwo USAC winners expected for this weekend’s lineup. Californians Justin Grant (Ione) and Robert Ballou (Rocklin) are the winningest drivers in the race’s history with two apiece. If you’re into statistical oddities, in odd numbered years of the event in 2015 and 2017, Grant and Ballou have swept the event. Grant has won on three occasions at Eldora, in 2015-16-17, while Ballou has won five times, equaling Darland for the most among active drivers. Ballou won his first three career USAC features at Eldora, twice in 2007 and again in 2010, before reeling off a pair in 2015 and 2017. Grant captured his latest victory in the second race of the season in Ocala. Ballou finished a season-best 5th in the Ocala opener.
Chad Boespflug (Hanford, Calif.) was dominant in his #LetsRaceTwo win during a breakout 2016 season. The 2016 USAC Most Improved Driver has had a resurgence in the early season, finishing 4th with USAC in Ocala and also winning the Kokomo Sprint Car portion of the “Kokomo Grand Prix” in April.
Of all the expected entrants for this weekend, no driver has more Eldora USAC victories than Lincoln, Indiana’s Dave Darland. The 1999 series champ has won in USAC Sprint Car competition at the “Big E” in 1998, 1999, 2000, 2012 and 2014, not to mention his five USAC Midget wins and four USAC Silver Crown victories.
Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind. is the most recent USAC Sprint Car winner at Eldora, taking last Fall’s “4-Crown Nationals.” He’s won in all three USAC National divisions over the last couple of seasons at Eldora, winning in a Silver Crown car there in 2017 and again in a Midget in 2018. The defending series champ has yet to reach victory lane with the USAC Sprint Cars thus far in 2019, but has finished 3rd, 3rd and 4th in his last three outings.
C.J. Leary came oh-so-close to winning the first ever #LetsRaceTwo event in 2015, leading until the final lap when Grant got by to snare the win. The Greenfield, Ind. driver has more than redeemed himself over the years at Eldora, winning his first there in a USAC Sprint Car in the Fall of 2017, then drove to a spectacular victory in the Silver Crown division last September. He’s already won once this season, picking up the finale in Ocala back in February.
Pleasant Hill, Ohio’s Matt Westfall was the Eldora hero in 2006 when he won his first and, so far, only career USAC National Sprint Car feature. The versatile driver has made three starts with the series in 2019.
There’s a handful of drivers near the top of the standings who’ve yet to drive to Eldora Speedway victory lane in a USAC Sprint Car, namely series point leader Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.). Impressively, he hasn’t finished outside the top-five in four starts this year, including three runner-up finishes. Third in points is Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) who has two fourths and two eighths in four outings this season. Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) has only one career USAC Sprint start at Eldora, which came last Fall. Although, of note, he’s shown he can get around this joint with his Silver Crown debut that same night resulting in a 4th place finish.
Among a few of the other top guns expected to compete include Ocala fast timers Carson Short (Marion, Ill.) and Timmy Buckwalter (Douglassville, Pa.) as well as Isaac Chapple (Willow Branch, Ind.), who grabbed a career-best 3rd place finish last Fall at Eldora and Dallas Hewitt (Troy, Ohio) who nearly pulled off his first career USAC Sprint win during #LetsRaceTwo in 2017, finishing 2nd behind Grant.
In addition to #LetsRaceTwo festivities, Friday’s portion of the event marks the 35th running of the Don Branson/Jud Larson Classic. Dave Peperak won the first in 1981, but in recent years has been captured by the likes of Ballou (2007 & 2010), Darland (2014), Grant (2015 & 2017), Bryan Clauson (2016) and Bacon (2018).
Tickets sales begin at the main gate and turn four for this Friday and Saturday’s #LetsRaceTwo at 1:30pm Eastern both days. The turn 3 pit gate opens at 2pm, spectator gates open at 2pm, drivers meeting begins at 5pm with cars set to hit the track at 6pm.
Adult general admission tickets are $29 and $34 for reserved. For children ages 12 and under, general admission tickets are FREE and $9 for reserved. Pit passes are $34 apiece.
Eldora Speedway is located at 13929 OH-118, New Weston, OH 45348. You can reach the track via phone at (937) 338-3815. The track’s website can be found at http://www.eldoraspeedway.com/.