In its long existence, the Kokomo Speedway has played host to many great races but few were as popular as the one Monday night when the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series visited the local oval for round three of the 25th running of the Indiana Sprint Week.
In the much anticipated, rain-delayed event, Lincoln’s Dave Darland used a late-race pass on a restart to score the popular win before a huge crowd, most of whom were on their feet, pumping fists in the air as Darland took the checkered flag.
“I know I say it every week but it’s true,” said Darland. “[Car owner] Jeff [Walker] gives me a great race car and it is just so much fun to drive. It was a blast [Monday], the track was right up to the wall, pretty much at both ends and I love to run when the cushion gets up that high.”
When Jon Stanbrough got by Logan Jarrett on the second lap, the thought of anyone but the Avon standout winning was rather far fetched. He was clearly the class of the field the first 21 laps, opening a half-track advantage over second place Bryan Clauson. However a caution on the 22nd lap slowed the field and Stanbrough had to limp his Roberts/Tate/Leer Racing No. 21X to the pits with a flat right rear tire, handing the top spot over to Clauson.
The 2012 Indianapolis 500 competitor then held the top spot until Darland executed a slide job in turn two on the 26th lap, then pulled away down the stretch of the 30-lap event.
“I was joking last week that we were going to be breaking out our good [stuff] for Sprint Week, but this is the same car we’ve been running all year,” said Darland, pointing to his Blue No. 11D. “This is really a pretty special deal. I’ve always loved to run here at Kokomo, and to come out here and win and during Sprint Week is a lot of fun.”
Clauson chased Darland to the checkered flag to finish second with Levi Jones coming in third. Last year’s winner of the event, Hunter Schuerenberg, was fourth while Darren Hagen rounded out the top five.
“He’s hard to beat here at Kokomo,” said Clauson, motioning towards Darland. “And when the cushion gets right up on the wall like it did tonight, that makes it even tougher. My guys did a great job getting the car ready to go, but we couldn’t keep up with Dave when he got to running like he did up top.”
For Jones, the third-place showing, coupled with Stanbrough’s 17th-place run vaulted him to the top of both the Sprint Week points as well as the overall points battle in the chase for the season title.
“It kinda stinks not to win but to finish third was pretty good for us,” said Jones. “I mean, how many races has Dave won here running around the top? He’s pretty tough to beat anytime, especially here at Kokomo.”
Casey Shuman, aboard the Edison Motorsports No. 10E, was sixth, followed in the top-10 by Chase Stockton, Jerry Coons, Jr., Kevin Thomas, Jr., and Bobby East. Jarrett finished 20th in his first USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series A-main event.
In the 15-lap Street Stock feature, Brandon Roundtree chased down two-time defending track champion Lee Hobbs from the drop of the green. In the closing laps, with Hobbs’ engine about to blow up, Roundtree made it interesting before slipping by on the final lap exiting the fourth corner to earn his first career feature win at the track.
Hobbs salvaged a second-place finish despite blowing the motor on his car with Craig Walker taking third. Travis Wolford and Bryan Martin rounded out the top five.
In the Thunder Car 15-lap A-main, points leader Jason Shrout got past Kory Glassburn on the seventh lap then checked out in posting yet another feature win. Glassburn was second, Jason Fritz third, Dennis Freeland fourth and Jeremy VanNess fifth.
The track will be idle this Sunday night, but returns to action July 29 with the annual running of the Bob Darland Memorial.
• Brett Bowman is the Tribune’s lead auto racing columnist. He may be reached by email at email@example.com or through the sports department.