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Daytime racing set to return to the Action Track...finally

Posted Tuesday, June 21, 2011, at 2:10 PM

It's been awhile, but daytime racing will finally return to the famed Terre Haute Action Track on Sunday, July 3.

That's when the Traxxas Silver Crown Series returns to the half-mile oval that has kept open-wheel racing fans on the edge of their seats for years.

It will be the first of two races at the legendary dirt half-mile in a two-week span. Just 10 days later the Amsoil Sprint Car Series makes an appearance as a part of Indiana Sprint Week.

Before I get into more detail on the SUMAR Classic, a little history of the first place I ever saw racers such as A.J. Foyt and Bruce Walkup climb behind the wheel.

In 1956 the track hosted it's first USAC event, a 100-lap feature for midget cars. The race that day was won by Earl Motter.

Prior to that day it had been used primarily as a venue for AAA stocks and sprints. The first race, according to ultimateracinghistory.com, took place on Aug. 24, 1952 when Frank Luptow won a stock car race.

It continued to host AAA Midwest Sprint Car and midget races through Oct. of 1955 when USAC became the predominant sanctioning body of the course.

Since then countless numbers of USAC, World of Outlaws, Midwest Sprint Car Series and other modified and open-wheel competitors have taken to the dirt.

Leading the winners in USAC racing, which has taken over management of the track this year is the late Rich Vogler who claimed 13 USAC victories. He's followed on the total USAC wins list by Jack Hewitt with 11, Gary Bettenhausen with 10, J.J. Yeley with eight, Bubby Jones and Roger McCluskey with seven, Levi Jones and Sheldon Kinser with six, Jim Hurtubise, Pancho Carter and Don Branson with five wins each.

My first forray to the track came on June 14, 1964 when Foyt recorded his only victory at the famed oval.

My mother, father and I were a part of the 10,000 fans that filled the wooden viewing stands as Foyt topped the qualifying charts with a 22.95 seconds trip around the track.

It was the Texan's 11th visit to the track as a competitor. His previous best finish had been second a year earlier.

He led all 30 laps of the feature that day and held off Johnny Rutherford, Bobby Marshman, Jud Larsen and some little Italian guy named Mario Andretti who started alongside him on the front row.

The average speed of that race was a whopping 72.943 mph and other entries in the race, which had only five cars running at the end included Lloyd Ruby, Gordon Johncock, Branson and Jim McElreath.

A sad note and probably the most vivid memory I have of that day is when Johnny White was paralyzed in a turn one accident during time trials.

And as I recall, that race was run during the day as well.

This year's SUMAR Classic field is likely to include defending champion Levi Jones, who currently sits in a tie for second in the Silver Crown points chase behind Jerry Coons, Jr. and with Tanner Swanson and Bud Keading.

Jones and A.J. Fike both drive entries owned by NASCAR and Indiana fan favorite Tony Stewart, who has also competed at the Action Track.

Other drivers who will likely make the trek include Tracy Hines, Dave Darland, Jon Stanbrough, Jimmy Kite (yest the one that raced at Indianapolis and won at Terre Haute before), Donnie Beechler, Russ Gamester, Dave Steele, John Heydenreich, Jeff Swindell and many others.

Before you say I don't know if it's within my budget, let me tell you this. Ticket prices haven't changed there in a couple of years and this year's race is no different.

Ducats start at $15 for adults and kids under 12 get in free. So, when you break it down it's only 15 cents a lap for the 100-lap feature.

Gates will open at 10:30 a.m. with hot laps kicking off at 11:30 a.m. followed by racing at 1 p.m. So you can't use the excuse that you will get home too late or have to work the next day.

When I talked to the current promoter at the track, USAC's Jason McCord, who also drove there, he told me they are still trying to find a make-up date for the Tony Hulman Classic which was rained out in May.

So I'll have an update on that when it comes available.

Meanwhile gearheads, pack your earplugs and get ready to be there on July 3.

For more information you can call USAC directly at (317) 247-5151 or visit usacracing.com.

See ya at the track.

Rick is a sports writer with the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached by telephone at (812) 847-4487. He can be reached by email at rcurl@gcdailyworld.com.

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