KOKOMO, Ind. – official release — Travis Branch photo — In a rare day show due to rains delaying the Thursday portion of the Stoops Freightliner – Quality Trailer Sprint Car Smackdown III at Kokomo Speedway, Dave Darland etched his name into the history books along with Tom Bigelow atop the all-time AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car win list.
The Lincoln, Ind., veteran came out on top of a great duel between he and Justin Grant to win the 30-lap event, his fifth win of the season.
Grant got the jump from the pole, but he pushed the front end as he moved to the cushion in turn one, getting sideways and collecting C.J. Leary, who spun. Bryan Clauson had nowhere to go and stopped, as well. Grant continued on as the other two restarted from the tail.
On the second start, Grant beat Jerry Coons Jr. to turn one and stuck to the cushion as he opened up an early lead. Coons, Shane Cottle and Robert Ballou raced hard for the second spot, as Darland had no progress early from his third-row starting spot after again posting fast time.
After consecutive cautions on laps seven, eight, and nine, Grant continued to lead as Darland sliced past Cottle and Coons to take second. He whittled away at Grant’s lead, catching him with ten to go. Darland looked low in one and two once, and then tried the middle through three and four on lap 24 just as Grant bobbled on the cushion. Darland ripped through the middle and barely navigated past Grant as the two made slight contact exiting turn-four.
Just a lap later Kyle Cummins run on the high side came to an end against the turn-one concrete, bringing out the final caution. Darland led on the restart as Grant tried a new approach, going high above the cushion in turn-three and diamonding down through the middle in turn-four. He closed to the back bumper of Darland as they completed the 28th lap, and the next lap Grant had the run he wanted as they took the white flag. He dove to the bottom and slid up the track, leaving a narrow lane to the outside where Darland darted past with the lead and the win.
The 52nd win of Dave Darland’s career came at his home track aboard the Phillips Motorsports – Racer’s Advantage Store No. 71P DRC/Foxco.
“It’s an amazing moment to put myself at the top with Tom Bigelow. I’m so glad I could do it here, and in another great race with Justin Grant,” said Darland. “He is as good as they get around the top here. I was just in the right place at the right time to be able to get him. He threw one at me at the end, but he left me room and I had a decision to make, so I went for the gap and luckily squeezed through. I was trying not to make mistakes at the end after the restart, but I was messing up every lap. You can’t ever rest here – you have to always be running hard and aggressive.
“For me to get to where Tom is, it’s just hard to believe even. Definitely the biggest accomplishment of my career. I’m relieved to be there, and I’m glad I can enjoy it with all my fans and friends around here. I’ve won for quite a few different sprint car teams over the years, and I can’t thank all those people enough for the opportunities they gave me. That being said, this Phillips Motorsports team is as great as they come, and we’ll be ready to go for the finale,” Darland said.
Grant held on for another close second to Darland, thrilling the Kokomo crowd in the Mark Hery Motorsports – Frolic Bar & Grill No. 40 DRC/Claxton.
“That last-lap slider was my opportunity, but I screwed it up. It was stickier across the middle than I thought it would be, and I didn’t make it to the cushion quick enough to block him,” Grant said. “One bobble cost me the lead and one missed opportunity there at the end. I’m tired of running second to him. I’m looking forward to a longer race – it seems like we just get better and better on longer runs. I couldn’t go to my line in three and four until I lost the lead, but it was working. We’re really good up top around here, but it just so happens that the guy who is the best at it is beating us.”
Robert Ballou closed on the top-two at the end to round out the podium and become the high point earner going into the Saturday night program with the Ballou Motorsports – Deaton’s Waterfront Services No. 12x Maxim/Ott.
“I probably stuck to the bottom a lap too long and Dave get by me on the top and those guys got away. I felt better than them at the end, but I think we’re having some issues with this engine, too. It’s great to have another podium and be locked in for the finale, though,” Ballou said.
Chris Windom advanced from 12th to finish fourth and win the PPM Titanium Products Hard Charger Award in the Jeff’s Jam-It-In Storage – Hoosier Tire No. 11 Maxim/Claxton. Jon Stanbrough backed up his win from last night in the Griffin’s Propane – Indiana Underground Construction No. 37RW Maxim/Fisher.
RESULTS: AMSOIL USAC Sprint Car National Championship; August 22, 2014; Kokomo, Indiana; Kokomo Speedway; “Sprint Car Smackdown III”
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Jon Stanbrough, 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Brady Bacon, 8. Shane Cottle, 9. Brady Short, 10. Chase Stockon, 11. Jerry Coons Jr., 12. Bryan Clauson, 13. C.J. Leary, 14. Tracy Hines, 15. Max McGhee, 16. Chad Boespflug, 17. Chris Gurley, 18. Logan Jarrett, 19. Brandon Mattox, 20. Josh Spencer, 21. Kyle Cummins, 22. Brian Karraker, 23. Casey Shuman. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: 1-23 Grant, Laps 24-30 Darland.