By BRETT BOWMAN
---- — For the majority of the 2013 season, Mother Nature has frowned on race tracks across the Midwest. Apparently, like thousands of others, she is a huge fan of Indiana Sprint Week for the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series as near-perfect weather provided a pair of riveting events to open up the 2013 version of the popular mini-series. Saturday night at Kokomo Speedway, in the second leg of the seven races in nine days grind, Kevin Thomas Jr. scored his fourth feature win of the season, getting past Wes McIntyre and Chad Boespflug, then holding off McIntyre's repeated charges down the stretch to secure a popular win for the Alabama shoe. "This is really pretty special since this is my favorite track," said Thomas. "It means a lot because most of my family and friends were here [Saturday] and to just win here is something. I've been coming here for a couple of years, but to finally win one is great. I'm proud of my team. I kind of screwed up some both nights but the team worked hard and gave me a great race car."
As is the case most nights, the action was fast and furious from the front of the pack to the back. While Jerry Coons was piloting the Edison Motorsports/Crume-Evans Insurance/Allen's Body Shop/Chalk Chassis No. 10E to the early lead, McIntyre, Boespflug, Dave Darland and Thomas were waging wheel-to-wheel battles all over the ¼-mile bullring. On the fifth lap, McIntyre slipped past Coons on the high side and held the point, but Boespflug was ready to pounce aboard the famed Paul Hazen Motorsports/Physical Medical Consultants/Kercher Engines No. 57.
On the ninth lap Boespflug's persistence paid off as he took the lead from McIntyre and brought Thomas with him as the pair raced nose to tail until Thomas made what turned out to be the pass for the win on the 11th lap. The final 19 laps saw McIntyre try repeatedly on the high side, as the McCordsville driver even got alongside Thomas in the waning laps. Thomas then changed lines, moving his Mike Dutcher-owned Rotondo-Weirich/BlackJack Oil Company/Tri-Star No. 17RW to the high side, taking away McIntyre's preferred line. "We knew there was going to be some grip in the track down low for a while," said Thomas. "Then I saw someone show me their nose on the high side and I thought it was [Darland] when it was actually Wes. After that, I didn't see anybody."
McIntyre, who won a weekly show at the track just six days earlier, was happy with his career-best USAC finish of second. "[Thomas and Boespflug] were running well on the bottom so I decided to go to the top and I finally got it cleaned off up there," McIntyre stated. "Actually I could run the top a lot harder than I thought I could before the race. I kept trying, but I couldn't quite get him cleared. I love this track and racing for the lead is so much fun. I wish I would have won, but finishing second to him is all right too, he's a great friend of mine."
Darland, like McIntyre, primarily ran around the top to hold off hard-charging Chris Bell for third while Chris Windom rounded out the top five. "I knew it was gonna slick off all the way up to the fence," said Darland, second all-time in sprint car feature wins at the track. "I was just trying to pick off as many spots as I could there early and see what happened. Steve and Carla Phillips always give me a great car and it was that way throughout."
Boespflug ended up finishing sixth, followed in the top-10 by Bryan Clauson, who earned the Hard Charger Award after starting outside the 10th row. Hunter Schuerenberg was eighth with Scotty Weir taking ninth and Brady Short 10th. Kokomo's Shane Cottle was 16th and Coons ended up 19th. With 46 cars on hand and the frenetic pace of all the races, surprisingly there were but two red flags. West Coast driver Ryan Bernal got into the turn one fence early in the feature and Gary Taylor and Tyler Hewitt both flipped during the first heat race. Hewitt was transported to the hospital with broken ribs and a broken shoulder.
In the Street Stock portion of the night, Landon Miller scored two feature wins. In the first, the make-up from May 26, Miller held off Lee Hobbs to score his first win of the season. Brandon Roundtree was third, Dave Diggs fourth and Gary Mock fifth. In the regularly scheduled A-main, Miller never trailed in topping second-place Roundtree. Gamblin was third, Diggs fourth and Mock fifth. Gas City, Night One A quiet person by nature, Avon's Jon Stanbrough lets his heavy right foot do most of the talking and that was the case Friday night at the Gas City I-69 Speedway in the opening night of Indiana Sprint Week. As 54 cars were on hand, Stanbrough proved to be the best of the best on opening night, snagging the 30th USAC sprint car win of his career. Piloting the Shane Wade Enterprises No. 66, Stanbrough jumped to the top of the track just before the midway point of the A-main and plowed past second-place Cottle and then leader Boespflug en route to the hugely popular win among the Gas City near standing room only crowd. "I had never met Shane Wade before this deal all came together," said Stanbrough of his car owner. "Daryl Tate and I had kept in touch throughout this season. His hard work and Shane giving us this chance and having faith in me made this all come together. Now, maybe we can go out the rest of the week and get some more." Cottle was very impressive aboard the Epperson Painting/Leer Racing No. 2E to finish second while Hunter Schuerenberg charged from 14th to finish third. Bryan Clauson and Dave Darland completed the top five. The series was in action Sunday night at the Lawrenceburg Speedway, however results were not available at the Tribune's deadline.