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August 25, 2012

By Ken Wagner

It’s not often you get three straight days of pleasant weather in Indiana in the summer, over 40 cars hammering a well prepared track with traction galore and some great racing from start to finish. Naturally the first day gave us nearly a new track record and a lot of very quick times as the Modern Day Cowboy Daron Clayton was only .008 from a new one on a wild ride. There were 12 cars in the 12 second bracket out of the 43 that qualified and only 2 over 14 seconds as the top 30 were closely bunched together. When Bryan Clauson won the first night so effortlessly from his 12th starting position, I wondered if he could sweep. It didn’t happen as he was only third the second night before rebounding to dominate the big $10,000 to win night. He led 37 of the 100 laps and was the big overall winner in this historical Smackdown event.

For my pics of Kokomo Smackdown click here to view. For Doug Allen's great pic's Click here to view those.

On the first night BC looked like he was toiling around out there not in the top 10 yet, until he suddenly went low and to the front and walked away with it. Double D Dave Darland had led the first half of the race from his top groove flying position as he roared around and dared the others to come get him. Only Bryan did as DD finished second ahead of a young Chase Stockton who was pretty racy himself.

Along the way we had the pleasure of watching Daron Clayton run “his” groove that was all over the place, imagine that! He was moving up fast in the feature and using every groove available multiple times. Several times before the “big oops”, he was a little out of control, but would reel it back in and go on forward again. On lap 20 he somehow went into a wild toad ride coming into turn three and that was it for him this weekend.

This track has sun in your face until late into the evening, but you can still see all the action with just a little bit of shading your eyes. The first turn creates a lot of air under the left front tires of these monsters and qualifying was amazing to watch when they roared by the start/finish line and then backed er’ into turn one. Where was J J Yeley, he would have loved it!

Kyle Larson was one of several who had a tough night as he was one short of the transfer to the Thursday night main. He wasn’t alone as Jerry Coons Jr began a nightmare three nights with a 18th after hitting the tire in turn one while running third and spinning out. He was 23rd and 16th the next two nights with other incidents that took the fire out of his eyes. Chris Gurley flipped the first two nights and it made his last night a quiet token appearance in a heat and done.

”Rough Rider” Ryan Bernal came to town looking for some more winning power after getting his first ever CRA win the week before. When he hit the track in the normally fast orange Baldwin car it was obvious the motor was not right before he gassed it around one corner. The first lap was his best and only 38th quick! He ran 4th in the last chance race, 2nd in the C main and 19th in the semi for a forgettable night. He qualified 30th the next night and was in a transfer spot in his heat when the driveline went south, he banged the wall and the car wasn’t repaired for the main. On the big Smackdown night he was 5th in his qualifier looking good and then had a stop in the Semi next to a car parked sideways on the track, before restarting and closing to within 2 spots of a transfer to the main. He is better than that!

The second night was not as fast with but 2 cars in the 12 second zone and Clauson’s 12.799 the fastest. In the feature Tracy Hines took the lead from the start and held off several before Chris Windom saved the day (I hate to see one car lead the whole race) with a clean pass two laps from the end and grabbed the $5000 win for his team. Behind Hines was Bryan Clauson who took too long getting up to third and was too late to challenge for his second win in a row.

The last night had a lot riding on it, $10,000, and would debut a playoff type event featuring the top 8 qualified cars. They would race one on one for two laps with the final starting spots at risk. Any mistake, slow start or bobble sealed their fate quickley. Round 1: Thomas Meseraull defeated Bryan Clauson as he took off first. Then Damion Gardner defeated Hunter Schuerenberg on a slide job. Next Dave Darland defeated Shane Cottle being quicker to start. Tracy Hines defeated Chris Windom the same way. Round 2: Meseraull defeated Gardner when the latter did a giant one wheel scary move and Tracy Hines defeated Darland. Final Round: Tracy Hines just took off and defeated Meseraull easily. It was not very exciting to me as only one race was decided late in the event. They needed another lap by my thinking at least, but these match races are tough and rarely give you super close finishes. The crowd enjoyed it, but for my money let their points decide who starts where and still add an invert.

The final night had 4 qualifiers with the first two transferring and the remainder running a Semi where 6 moved into the last spots. It was good racing, but you had to be on kill to get a spot and keep it. When the main startedTracy Hines took off into the lead and held off everyone but BC and was runner-up again for the second night in a row. Bryan came from the second row quite easily and led the last 23 laps mostly on the bottom until late when the followers were trying up top to get to him and BC also moved up, but he was gone. Kevin Thomas (reportedly not related to the local KT) came from the sixth row to get on the podium in third.

There was a lot of slide jobs going on as the last night gave the track a slicker look with some black down and these Midwest guys do the slick track thing very well. There was action all thru the field, if you weren’t watching the winner, and was hard to keep up with who was doing the best out there.

Jon Stanbrough for sure wasn’t knocking them dead like normal as he had been nursing a small USAC point lead ahead of Levi Jones up until now and neither he or Levi did very well the first two nights. Levi finished two spots ahead of Jon on both of the first two nights, but Jon still held a 2 point lead going into the final night. The race between them was heating up when suddenly I saw Jon slam into the track exit opening and then get creamed by Robert Ballou who had no place to go. It was eerie hearing the two big bangs and watching Jon stopped and hanging on the barrier while Ballou slammed into him and continued flipping on into turn one and stopping on his top with the motor racing and the wheels spinning. Jon immediately began moving around and climbing out, probably due to the tire barrier placed where he hit to cushion him. Ballou took longer as he was unconscious, and after the two backboards were brought to his car after it was turned over, he climbed out and walked to the ambulance. Didn’t see it, but both fan groups had opposite ideas on how it happened. Don’t know, but Jon was mad enough that he ran back down the track to Levi’s car and gave him his opinions. How on a non points night, that was what was reported, did Levi manage to take a 26 point lead when it was all over???? Search me as strange things happen in the USAC world. Note this was on the USAC web page Monday: Officials of The United States Auto Club announced today penalties imposed after a racing incident involving the cars of Levi Jones and Jon Stanbrough during a weekend racing event at Kokomo Speedway. Jones will be placed under probation for the balance of the National Sprint Car season, with the understanding that further infractions could lead to more severe punishment. Also, Jones and his team will be docked 25 championship points.

That Levi/Jon hit really took a lot out of me and I was a little reserve until both drivers got out OK and I could relax again. It was one of the worst crashes I have seen, but not the worst, and had a lot of nervous energy left around the raceway that had to expire. The after race discussions became a little heated, depending on which side you were on, and the fans fought for their favorite driver. There is nothing better than two top competitors battling side by side, but this will be remembered for the penalty Jones received and not the great racing we saw between them. Smackdown took on a whole new meaning when it happened, but the race was the main thing for history. It is hard to police these type of incidents, and I think there will be some repercussions in the future. Hopefully, not on the track, as that is deadly serious stuff out there and no one should ever consider crashing someone on purpose. I remember two incidents like that happened in CRA lore as two drivers warned two others that they would take them out, and did the next race as promised. One will never speak to me because I wrote about the truth about it and the other was penalized money which he won when it was added to the purse for the car leading on a certain lap and he did. Neither crashed driver was hurt.

I had a great three race trip from my Las Vegas homestead and will do it again next year! I lost my sunglasses in the search thru my bag at the start of the trip, had my bag unpacked and searched seriously (losing my sunscreen to some Indiana beach person) on the return part and then shockingly picked up my sunglasses in the lost and found place back in LV when I arrived home. Now if I can just get my $400 Seiko Mickey mouse watch lost on my trip from LV to Chili Bowl in January, all would be well. The watch isn’t made any more and was an anniversary present from my bride 12 years ago. They had no clue when I asked about it to Lost and Found? Tell me how they got my sunglasses without me seeing that?

Mike Clark was my caretaker for the three days as we ate well and enjoyed the Kokomo Smackdown experience. It all started out in the country after a 40 minute drive to Bonges restaurant on Wednesday night. This is a place where you tailgate outside on tables where you bring your own flowers and various snacks and booze, or you can order inside, until they have room for you. It was so busy in the parking lot when we left with all the tailgater’s and their dressed up tables, it was neat! And they had a desert to die for, some kind of a sweet cake pie with rich cream and blueberries, oh my, even Mike who doesn’t like desert, liked it. A fine dining experience in a place that was opened in 1934 as a bar and food added 20 or so years ago. And a place where the chef is amazing. The menu is a blackboard behind the bar with about 10 items on it, all very special including Duck! Next was the Kokomo Half Moon Saloon for Barbeque and pork tenderloin on Thursday. Then on Friday we went to nearby Whiskey Creek for steak, and fish for one of us to be named later, and finally the Dinners Dive place recommended Jersey’s for Italian monster sandwiches on Saturday about 25 miles south towards Indy. Aggressive eating and race watching this weekend was on the menu.

I got to see lots of old friends, made some new ones, and was recognized by a bunch of Indiana friends I have met over the years. I enjoyed the visit with some of the media people including K O, Danny Burton, Spridge and the famous Jack Slash. He is known to me as the driver of the highest finishing 360 in a Wagsdash up to then, AKA Sean Buckley. I met Brent Goodnight who was ready to get me a riding cart for the event, but after I said no, he said I was probably too proud to accept the help? I am getting pretty teetering on those long walks on these legs and always am thankful for my mule at Perris and wherever I can get it towed off to. Next time I’ll take it!

I met local fan Andrew who was doing a money collection under the IOW fan club to give money to the racers. He collected $1000.37 and it was paid out after the race on Saturday night to a number of drivers. It is kind of a Wagsbucks type of thing and he told me he didn’t want to do it very often, if at all again. There are so many causes out there that you have to really have a following to get it done these days, tell me about it. Good luck in the future Andrew; it’s not a cake walk, but well worth doing when you can and the racers love free money.

Next up for me the annual Calistoga trip but I am not going to the non points Chico race later in the week. I’ll be traveling with the Kittle Krew as that is an experience in itself. Can’t wait to get there as our event secretary Julie Shiosaki has some food experiences for us planned. I love this racing! See you along the way and remember my goal to collect a few bucks for the last race Wagtimes/Lafond Hard Charger Award. We have almost $2000 and are looking for more.

Remember: When it’s racetime…………………it’s Wagtime!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Results: August 25, 2012 – Kokomo, Indiana – Kokomo Speedway – “Sprint Car Smackdown”

“KING OF THE HILL” 2-CAR SHOOTOUTS: (2 laps each) Round 1: Thomas Meseraull (#69 Dynamics) defeated Bryan Clauson (#7 CTR/BCI/Curb-Agajanian), Damion Gardner (#71 DG) defeated Hunter Schuerenberg (#35 Byram), Dave Darland (#11 Walker) defeated Shane Cottle (#2 Epperson), Tracy Hines (#4 Hines) defeated Chris Windom (#21 Pollock), Round 2:Meseraull defeated Gardner, Tracy Hines defeated Darland, Final Round: Tracy Hines defeated Meseraull.

B MAIN: (15 laps) 1. Beauchamp, 2. Weir, 3. Shuman, 4. Fitzpatrick, 5. Boespflug, 6. Briscoe, 7. Spencer, 8. Bernal, 9. Courtney, 10. Leary, 11. McIntyre, 12. Jones, 13. Ramsay, 14. Jackson, 15. Drake, 16. Gross, 17. Ted Hines, 18. Grant, 19. Ballou, 20. Jarrett. NT

FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Tracy Hines, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Dave Darland, 5. Kyle Larson, 6. Levi Jones, 7. Shane Cottle, 8. Chris Windom, 9. Hunter Schuerenberg, 10. Thomas Meseraull, 11. Jonathan Hendrick, 12. Casey Shuman, 13. Scotty Weir, 14. Damion Gardner, 15. Billy Puterbaugh Jr., 16. Jerry Coons Jr., 17. Chase Briscoe, 18. Jon Stanbrough, 19. Robert Ballou, 20. Chad Boespflug, 21. Coleman Gulick, 22. Brett Beauchamp, 23. Blake Fitzpatrick, 24. Chase Stockon. NT

**Short flipped during the first qualifying race. Stanbrough and Ballou flipped on lap 35 of the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-8 Meseraull, Laps 9-15 Tracy Hines, Laps 16-40 Clauson.

NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Jones-1,615*, 2-Stanbrough-1,589, 3-Darland-1,577, 4-Clauson-1,487, 5-Tracy Hines-1,370, 6-Gardner-1,350, 7-Schuerenberg-1,242, 8-Stockon-1,235, 9-Ballou-1,230, 10-Thomas-1,216. *Jones lost 25 points due to USAC ruling.

August 24, 2012 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Tracy Hines, 3. Bryan Clauson, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Dave Darland, 6. Hunter Schuerenberg, 7. Damion Gardner, 8. Coleman Gulick, 9. Kyle Larson, 10. Jonathan Hendrick, 11. Robert Ballou, 12. Levi Jones, 13. Shane Cottle, 14. Jon Stanbrough, 15. Billy Puterbaugh Jr., 16. Scotty Weir, 17. Brett Beauchamp, 18. Chase Stockon, 19. Chad Boespflug, 20. Tyler Clourtney, 21. Justin Grant, 22. C.J. Leary, 23. Jerry Coons Jr.

**Gurley flipped during the third heat. Leary flipped on lap 5 of the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-28 Tracy Hines, Laps 29-30 Windom.

August 23, 2012

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Dave Darland, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Damion Gardner, 5. Tracy Hines, 6. Hunter Schuerenberg, 7. Casey Shuman, 8. Shane Cottle, 9. Coleman Gulick, 10. Levi Jones, 11. Scotty Weir, 12. Jon Stanbrough, 13. Brett Beauchamp, 14. Jonathan Hendrick, 15. Chris Windom, 16. Thomas Meseraull, 17. Chad Boespflug, 18. Jerry Coons Jr., 19. Robert Ballou, 20. C.J. Leary, 21. Kevin Thomas, 22. Daron Clayton, 23. Brady Short. NT

- **Gurley & Fitzpatrick flipped during practice. Hupp flipped during the fourth heat. Clayton flipped on lap 20 of the feature.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 Darland, Laps 17-30 Clauson.

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