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Around the Bend – More Than Just The Brickyard 400

Gabby Chaves is strapped in and ready for his first USAC Midget race at the Indianapolis Speedrome. [Photo by Steve Zautke]

Gabby Chaves is strapped in and ready for his first USAC Midget race at the Indianapolis Speedrome.  [Photo by Steve Zautke]

 

Big Bend, WI (July 27th, 2015) – The Brickyard 400 weekend in Indianapolis is much more than a Sprint Cup race on Sunday afternoon. There is racing throughout the weekend which started on Thursday evening with the Rich Vogler Classic USAC Silver Crown race at Lucas Oil Raceway. Race favorite Kody Swanson led the first 62 of the first 65 laps before being passed by his brother Tanner who led till the checkers. The 100-lap race was run caution-free and included NASCAR star, Ryan Newman who came home in third place.

Tony Stewart and promoter, Larry Curry poses with the starting field of the first annual Tony Stewart Classic Saturday evening.   [Photo by Steve Zautke]

Tony Stewart and promoter, Larry Curry poses with the starting field of the first annual Tony Stewart Classic Saturday evening. [Photo by Steve Zautke]

Friday evening featured the Sioux Chief PowerPEX 200 presented by Federated Car Care ARCA Racing Series at Lucas Oil Raceway and featured the eighth first time winner for the ARCA Series this year. Travis Braden of Wheeling, WV led the last 21 laps for the surprise win. Young upstart, Kyle Weatherman won the pole and led the first 50-laps but faded to sixth place at the end. In a race which many may had considered drivers like, Weatherman, Ken Schrader, Grant Enfinger or perhaps Austin Wayne Self as favorites, it featured newcomers, Braden, William Byron and J.J. Hayley finishing in the top-5.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway featured a full slate of practice for the XFinity and Sprint Cup Series on Friday but unfortunately was witnessed by a miniscule amount of fans. Saturday saw qualifying for both Series as well as the Xfinity race in which Ryan Blaney seemed on his way to victory only to bobble on the last lap and veteran Kyle Busch take advantage and pass the youngster for the win.

Family of Jim Hurtubise accepts USAC HoF plaque.  [John Mahoney Photo]

Family of Jim Hurtubise accepts USAC HoF plaque. [John Mahoney Photo]

Saturday evening saw a decent crowd attend the USAC Hall of Fame ceremonies and the Tony Stewart Classic at the 1/5-mile Lincoln Tech Indianapolis Speedrome oval located on Indianapolis’ southeast. The stands appeared to be about 60% full…would have promoter Larry Curry wanted the facility 100% full? You bet. However after several very meager crowds at Lucas Oil Raceway, I thought the crowd was better at the ‘drome and add drivers like IndyCar driver Gabby Chaves to the event, I feel you have a good base to build on.

Speaking of Gabby, it was pretty neat seeing crusty old USAC fans with Jack Hewitt and Steve Kinser t-shirts cheering for the likable 22 year-old Columbian IndyCar driver. It was the first time in a midget race car for the 2014 Indy Lights champion who drove the USAC-owned, No. 9 Honda HPD sponsored midget. Powered by the “sealed” DOHC Honda HPD K24 4-cylinder engine, Chaves was giving up about 150HP to the other midgets. Chaves was a quick learner by qualifying 11th out of 25 cars and by the time the feature started looked comfortable, was aggressive when needed and really slid the car around like a pro.

Inductees, families and friends gather for group photo after USAC HoF ceremonies.  [John Mahoney Photo]

Inductees, families and friends gather for group photo after USAC HoF ceremonies. [John Mahoney Photo]

Eventual winner, Kyle Hamilton of Danville Indiana dominated the event which saw the usual bumping and grinding which has brought fans to the ‘drome for years. However Hamilton and second place Grant Galloway declined to accept the Shepherd Insurance Challenge to go to the rear for a chance at the $10.000 bonus after 75-laps. Nonetheless the third place running Chaves showed a bit of showmanship by asking the crowd what to do and the crowd voiced their opinion, go for the challenge. Unfortunately, Chaves’ comeback fell short in the final 25-lap challenge portion of the race and he came home fifth. However, the young Columbian IndyCar driver gained many fans as they enjoyed his skill and panache. Kyle led the final 87-laps after passing leader Billy Wease on lap 14.

In between the heat races and the feature was the USAC Hall of Fame Inductions which saw twelve new inductees receive their commemorative plaques. Two inductees were on hand, Roger Penske and Don Kenyon, while family members or designated representatives accepted on behalf of the others, which included Clint Brawner (by former IndyCar driver Billy Roe), Jimmy Caruthers (by son Jim, Jr.), Butch Hartman, Lindsey Hopkins, Jim Hurtubise, Sheldon Kinser, Fred Lorenzen, Larry Rice, Shorty Templeman and Sleepy Tripp, who spoke via phone with emcee Jack Arute. Apparently Tripp was advised not to make the cross country flight by his doctors. Penske was very eloquent in accepting his award reminiscing about the first “500” he attended with his father in 1951 in which Lee Wallard won.

 

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Steve Zautke, a Milwaukee, WI native, was raised in the sport of auto racing. His father, Bill, was a movie photographer that shot racing footage at tracks such as the Milwaukee Mile and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1960’s and 1970’s Steve’s first professional job in racing was as an Emergency Medical Technician at tracks such as Angell Park and Hales Corners Speedway (1988-1991). Steve has also worked for the Milwaukee Mile as videographer, in media relations and historian (1993-2011). Steve also has worked as a reporter for Racing Information Systems (RIS) and has written features for ‘Vintage Oval Racing’ and ‘Victory Lane’ magazines. Most recently, Steve has written a book on Road America for Arcadia Publishing. ( http://www.amazon.com/Road-America-Nascar-Library-Collection/dp/1467111457 ) Steve co-hosts “Sparky’s Final Inspection” a motorsports-based radio show with hosts, Steve “Sparky” Fifer and “NASCAR Girl” Summer Santana on Sports Radio 1250AM in Milwaukee and is also available on the internet at www.Sportradio1250.com. A member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame Induction Committee, Steve follows all types of racing from the dirt tracks to Formula One.