By BRETT BOWMAN Kokomo Tribune
---- — Sunday night’s sprint car feature at the Kokomo Speedway was one of those races that folks will be talking about years from now.
The track’s winningest sprint car driver in history, Dave Darland, rode the rim to perfection all 25 laps of the main event. However, perfection almost wasn’t enough as the veteran had to hold off numerous challenges throughout.
The most notable being Justin Grant’s last-corner, last-lap pass attempt that was too close to call by the naked eye. Track officials had to double-check the scoring transponders before declaring Darland the winner, the 50th of his career at the track.
Starting alongside two-time defending USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series champion Bryan Clauson, Darland shot to the top on the drop of the green aboard Dave Stensland’s Physical Medicine Consultants No. 41. While he was riding strong around the top of the track, Brownsburg’s Jon Stanbrough, who sits third all-time in feature wins at the local oval with 40, was inching closer lap after lap.
On the 11th lap Stanbrough actually nosed his Indiana Underground No. 37RW into the top spot at the flagstand only to see Darland reclaim the top spot the next time around. From that point on, the duo swapped the lead back and forth around the track with Stanbrough nosing ahead at the north end of the bullring and Darland inching away at the south end. With just six laps remaining, Stanbrough again held the lead at the flagstand, but Darland fought back to reclaim the top spot the next time around.
On the 22nd lap, Justin Grant got in on the fun, skirting by Stanbrough into second, making the top three all within a few feet of one another until the white flag waved. With Darland committed to the high side and Stanbrough to the bottom, Grant used the middle of the track flawlessly with all three cars charging to the finish line side by side.
“That was a great race. To start alongside and fight with Clauson early on and then Stanbrough and Grant late, it had to be fun for the fans,” said Darland. “Jon showed me his nose just about every lap after the 10th lap, but I make my living up top and that’s where I was going to run.
“To win a race at Kokomo is big any time,” he continued. “But on a night like [Sunday], it makes it all the more special.”
Grant was pleased with his strong run as he talked with observers in the pits.
“Just about had that one,” he said. “It was so close I wasn’t really sure who did win. That was a fun race, I just came up a little short.”
Clauson finished fourth and Kevin Thomas Jr. fifth. Chad Boespflug, Shane Cottle, C.J. Leary, Logan Jarrett and Chris Gurley completed the top-10.
A pair of Kokomo drivers had bad luck in the main event as Josh Spencer, fighting power steering problems, was involved in an accident while running in the top-10 piloting his HalfMoon Restaurant and Brewery/Colescott’s Mobil 1 No. 66J. Parker Price-Miller ended 20th after a nasty flip just before the midway point aboard his No. 9P. Track officials noted that Miller was not transported to the hospital but was checked out immediately following the crash.
After coming up short in his bid to win the season-opener, Scott Hufford scored the Street Stock feature win in a wild finish that saw last week’s winner, Glen Gamblin, make a move from fifth to second coming to the checkered flag. Jarrod Krick was third, Lee Hobbs fourth and Ervin Turner fifth. Josh Gamblin was seventh.
In the Thunder Car feature veteran Dennis Freeland picked up an emotional Mothers Day win after early leader Eric Brown encountered an overheating problem at the midway point in the feature.
After taking the top spot, Freeland had to hold off a hard charge by Kaleb Nutter down the stretch to clinch the win.
“This one is pretty special since it’s on Mothers Day,” said Freeland. “Last year I lost my wife to cancer so I really wanted to get back to Victory Lane here for her. It feels good to finally win another one here.”
Tony Bowman took third, Jim Darland fourth while Brown finished fifth.
The track will host its weekly program Sunday night. There will be an autograph session during intermission for the fans to meet and greet their favorite drivers.