Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

November 6, 2013

DE LA BASTIDE: Saving sprint car pavement racing

UAW is lending needed support to effort.

Back in the 1970s, when I first moved to the Hoosier State, pavement sprint car racing was sanctioned through USAC with plenty of racing on tracks in central Indiana. Since then, times have changed.

Racing fans still can remember the Thursday Night Thunder programs on ESPN that showcased pavement sprint car racing to a national television audience.

Two years ago, USAC dropped paved ovals from the schedule for the sprint car division, opting instead to run all the races on dirt tracks.

The staple for pavement sprint car racing has been and remains the annual Pay Less Little 500 at Anderson Speedway, the richest pavement in the world.

The newly formed United States Speed Association stepped forward and sanctioned several races in 2012 at Anderson Speedway and continued again this year with sponsorship from the United Auto Workers union.

During its annual banquet last Saturday, the tentative 2014 schedule was released with four sprint car races on the schedule including the Glen Niebel Classic on April 13, the Pay Less Little 500 on May 24 at Anderson, another big race on Oct. 4 at Anderson and a visit to Angola Speedway on July 26.

Champion Aaron Pierce put things in perspective when he accepted the hardware for the championship.

Pierce, who has never lost a USSA race at Anderson Speedway except for the Little 500, commented that he’s fortunate his favorite track is close to home.

“This whole series is really good,” he said of the efforts of Mel and Don Kenyon, Eric Bunn and Norm Shields and Rick Dawson, owner of Anderson Speedway, to keep pavement sprint car racing alive.

“Keep it going,” Pierce implored. “If we don’t have a place to race, there won’t be any pavement racing left.”

The USSA sprint cars need to return to such Indiana tracks as Winchester and Salem speedways and Lucas Oil Raceway. The tracks in Toledo, Ohio, and Berlin, Mich., also would be good locations for sprint cars on pavement.

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