By BRETT BOWMAN Kokomo Tribune
---- — With $10,000 to win on the line and $4,000 more available in lap money, it was possible for the winner of Saturday night’s USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series’ Sprint Car Smackdown II to go home with $14,000 if they led all 40 laps.
Veteran standout Dave Darland did just that, leading every lap after starting outside the front row and riding the cushion flawlessly all 40 laps to hold off a determined charge by Kokomo’s Shane Cottle.
Cottle, who captured the “Hard-Charger” Award for passing the most cars over the three-day show (52), started the feature in the fifth row and after a four-lap tussle back and forth with Chad Boespflug, Brady Bacon and Chase Stockon, finally took over second place and set his sights on the top spot.
By the time that Cottle had taken the runner-up position, Darland had already set sail and held more than a full straightaway advantage over Darland. However with 25 laps in, Cottle had closed to within a car length of Darland and looked poised to take the top spot, however the caution flag flew, thwarting Cottle’s charge.
On the restart Darland again stretched the lead out to a sizeable advantage, but as the laps wound down, Cottle again mounted a final charge but the combination of time running out and his car getting looser by the lap forced him to settle for a hard-earned second.
“I used my car up trying to get up to Dave,” said Cottle. “I had to race everyone so hard just to get to second but it took its toll on the car. I hated to see that caution come out late in the race. I was reeling him in on the long run, but under caution I think the right rear sealed over.
“Dave is so tough to beat here, especially when he is on the cushion,” Cottle continued. “When I got behind him, I realized just how great that guy is. He was perfect running the top. I was just sitting back there watching him and that guy is awesome.”
Darland, by winning on both Friday and Saturday night, pushed his career total to 49 non-wing sprint car feature wins at the track, eclipsing Tony Elliott’s old mark of 48.
“I never would have thought when I started out that one day I would have the most wins,” Darland said. “But a lot of credit goes to Steve and Carla Phillips and the crew for giving me a fast race car all three nights. To have two wins and a second says a lot about the work this team put in.”
Darland went on to thank all those who came on board over the weekend to help the team out in the biggest weekend of the year. He also dedicated the race to a long-time fan who succumbed to cancer earlier in the day.
“This one goes to “Morty” [Randy Mortland]. He is from St. Louis and has been a friend of the family for years and he passed away earlier [Saturday]. This one is for him.”
Stockon continued his solid weekend by claiming third with Chris Windom taking fourth and Bacon fifth. Defending track champion Scotty Weir was seventh and Jerry Coons eighth aboard the Edison Motorsports No. 10E, after blowing up a motor on Friday night. Coons’ run earned him the “Hard Charger” Award for the feature. Kokomo’s Logan Jarrett made the star-studded feature, finishing 21st. Also on hand was Kokomo’s Josh Spencer, however the Taylor High School teacher came up short of transferring through the B-Main.
In the Thunder Car feature, Jeremy VanNess patiently stalked race-long leader Kory Glassburn, falling back to third late in the 15-lap event when Eric Brown took second away from him.
For the final three laps, Brown worked the bottom, nibbling away at Glassburn’s lead. On the final lap, Glassburn and Brown were door to door exiting the fourth corner when VanNess snuck by down low to score his first win of the season in thrilling fashion.
Glassburn ended up second while Brown took third.
The track will close its regular season Sunday night with the annual running of the Vince Osman Memorial. Pit gates open at 3 p.m. while the grandstand opens an hour later.