North Vernon sprint-car racer Drew Abel wrapped up his first career track championship a few weeks ago at Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon.
Abel, a 2003 graduate of Jennings County High School, joins his father Pete as an area track champion. Pete won the sprint-car title at Lawrenceburg Speedway in 1999.
“We really hadn’t planned on running for the track championship at Twin Cities this year,” Drew Abel said. “They had nine races scheduled, and a few of those were rained out. I only live two miles from the track. We just happened to be leading the points when the last race was rained out.
“It’s been the best year we have had since I have been racing sprints,” he said. “We had four second-place finishes, three thirds and won six straight heat races during the season. That’s not bad, considering we didn’t race every weekend.”
Drew got his start in racing at age 5, when his father, who owned a motorcycle shop, got him on a bike. He raced it for five years. In 1990 and 1991, he was the Peewee 50cc stock champion in the state.
“I took a few years off after racing motorcycles,” he said. “My dad then got me a go-kart. We did really well with it. I became the house driver for Pinnacle Chassis for one year. I raced go-karts from the ages of 13 to 22.”
Drew then raced go-karts on road courses for three years, winning the championship at the New Castle Motorsports Park. He then received a call from veteran sprint-car owner Dan Hurst from the famous Hurst Brothers Racing Team out of Salem. That was in 2011.
Drew raced primarily at Lawrenceburg, taking Rookie-of-the-Year honors in 2011. A year later, Drew and his father joined forces and ran their own team. The team raced at Lawrenceburg, Bloomington and Kokomo Speedways to gain some more experience. The result was a second-place finish in the Lawrenceburg points standings just behind Columbus’ Logan Hupp.
“I have to thank Eric Zellner for a big part of my success this year,” he said. “He has helped me tremendously with setups, shock placements and so on. We are a low-budget team. I would love to race every weekend, but with my job and family obligations, it just makes it difficult. In the future, I would really like to run the BOSS series. It seems like it is going to be a really good thing for us weekly racers.”
The Abel family racing history got underway when Pete started his racing career at age 15. The elder Abel started in motorcycles/motocross racing before graduating from Columbus North High School in 1978. Pete raced motorcycles for 10 years until he was 25.
Pete then ran the UMRA TQ Midget circuit for two years, winning seven times. During that period, he also racked up five wins in Illinois with different organizations. He then made the transition to 410 sprint cars with the help of long-time Columbus driver Allen Barr.
A Columbus native, Pete, now 55, moved to North Vernon in 1990. He, along with Barr, Russell Waltz and Gary Hill began running sprints at local area tracks in 1987. Pete then hooked up with North Vernon businessman Rodney Reynolds, and those two raced together until Abel ended his driving career in 1999, the same year he captured his one and only track championship at Lawrenceburg.
Pete Abel ended his career with 12 wins in the sprint cars. He also raced the first Chili Bowl event back in 1987, when it was just a two-day event, finishing seventh in a preliminary night driving for veteran car owner Bob Lowe.
Drew Abel’s sponsors on his Maxim Chassis/Williams Precision Engines #04 are PCA Motorsports, Flora Brothers Lawn and Landscape, Century 21/Jamin Spall-agent, Pedigo Construction, Indy Race Parts and Butlerbuilt. His crew consists of Eric Zellner, Joe Flora and Pete Abel.
Flashback 40 years ago (1975)
Paul Crockett won the next-to-last late-model feature of the year at Brownstown Speedway. Steve Trabue finished second, followed by Gerald Dixon. Ed Covey won the hobby stock feature over Columbus drivers Herman Burton and Chuck Gilpin.
Local racing results
Brownstown Speedway (Oct. 9)
Non-wing Sprint feature: 1. Chase Briscoe; 2. Kyle Cummins; 3. Chris Gurley; 4. Brandon Mattox; 5. Brady Short.
Super Late Model feature: 1. Marty O’Neal; 2. Chad Stapleton; 3. Shelby Miles; 4. Skyller Lewis; 5. Hudson O’Neal.
Indiana Pro Late Model feature: 1. Hudson O’Neal; 2. Steve Barnett; 3. Matt Bex; 4. Marty O’Neal; 5. Bryan Bernhardt.
Modified feature: 1. Jeremy Owens; 2. Earl Plessinger; 3. Matt Boknecht; 3. Greg Amick; 4. Chad Combs.
Super Stock feature: 1. Tyler Cain 2. Jamey Wilson 3. Dave Shelton; 4. Earl Plessinger; 5. Mike Fields.
Pure Stock feature: 1. Houston Roark; 2. Will McRoberts; 3. Bodi Henry; 4. Rick Gumm; 5. Dalton Fleenor.
Bomber feature: 1. Randy Petro; 2. Tyler Neal; 3. Allen Waltermire; 4. Troy Clark; 5. Mike Swango.
Hornet feature: 1. Austin Burton; 2. Ricky Puckett; 3. Bill Grant; 4. Cody Clarkson; 5. John Mayer Jr.
Mini-Stock feature: 1. Roger Snell; 2. Shon Snell; 3. Adam Sasser; 4. Rodney Bugher; 5. Kyle Albertson.
UMRA TQ Midget feature: 1. Nick Speidel; 2. Logan Arnold; 3. Corey Eaglin; 4. Caleb Faulkner; 5. Rick Robinson.
Super Stock Power Puff winner: Tammi Loveless.
Pure Stock Powder Puff winner: Dawn Quiggins.
Hornet Powder Puff winner: Aspen Will.
Hornet Enduro: 1. Austin Burton; 2. Bill Grant; 3. Owen Cosman; 4. Daniel Hobbs; 5. Dale Puckett.
Pure Stock Enduro: 1. Michael Cranmer; 2. Chris Workman; 3. Donnie Wilson; 4. Mike Bailey; 5. Josh Hayes.
Eldora Speedway (Oct. 10)
All-Star Circuit of Champion Sprint Car feature: 1. Chad Kemenah; 2. Dale Blaney; 3. Steve Kinser; 4. Tim Shaffer; 5. Rico Abreu.
NRA Sprint Invaders feature: 1. Ryan Ruhl; 2. Jarod Horstman; 3. Devon Dobie; 4. Randy Hannagan; 5. Tanner Thorson.
BOSS Sprint Car feature: 1. Robert Ballou; 2. Bryan Clauson; 3. Chad Boespflug; 4. Hunter Schuerenberg; 5. Scotty Weir.
Tri-State Speedway (Oct. 10)
MSCS Sprint Car feature: 1. Chase Stockon; 2. Kyle Cummins; 3. Kevin Thomas Jr.; 4. Brady Short; 5. Carson Short.
Upcoming racing schedule
Lawrenceburg Speedway (812-539-4700)
Tonight: USAC National Sprints Cars, plus Modifieds.
Kokomo Speedway (765-459-3877)
Tonight: Kokomo Klash for Super Late Models Modifieds, Sportsman and Hornets.