Vernon track to honor seven divisions of racing

Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon will honor its seven divisions of racing with its annual awards banquet tonight at the Jennings County Community Building in North Vernon.

Steve Barnett of Franklin won his second Super Late Model title in three years at Twin Cities. Tory Collins of North Vernon was second in points, followed by Mike Bechelli of Elizabethtown, Jeremy Hines of Seymour and John Whitney of Clarksville, Ohio. Barnett drives for Tony Stewart Racing.

Mike Bechelli won the Crate Late Model track championship for the first time. Trent Low of North Vernon was second, followed by Cody Clarkson of North Vernon, Remington Gill of Mitchell and Chad Fields of Greensburg.

Drew Abel of North Vernon won his first career Sprint Car championship, tallying more points than Logan Hupp of Columbus, J.T. Stapp of Greensburg, Joss Moffatt of Columbus and Matt Brannin of Plainfield. Abel’s sprinter is sponsored by PCA Motorsports, Flora Brothers Lawn and Landscape, Century 21 Jamin Spall agent, Pedigo Construction, Butlerbuilt and Indy Race Parts.

Bryson Clark of North Vernon won his first career track title by claiming the Open Wheel Modified title. The teenager, who is a senior at Jennings County High School, took the championship over Mike Bechelli, Jeremy Owens of North Vernon, Sam Wray of Bloomington and Greg Owens of North Vernon.

Troy Clark of North Vernon won the Super Stock title at Twin Cities for second time in his career. Jeremy Helton of Paris Crossing was second in points, followed by Jerry Adams of Elizabethtown, Colton Sullivan of Columbus and Branden Carr of Scottsburg.

Bryson and Troy Clark’s cars are sponsored by NAPA of Madison, BAM Racing Engines, Phat Guys Sports Bar, Miller’s Pest Control, Drain Master, The Needles Inn Tattoos and Piercings, BGR Racing and CY Chassis.

Mark Bruce of Commiskey captured the Pure Stock track championship. Troy Clark finished runner-up, followed by Jeff Patterson of North Vernon, Willie Sallee of Columbus and Ross Smith of Columbus.

Todd Cain of Lexington took top honors in the Hornet division. Cody Perry of North Vernon finished in second, followed by Cordell Moore of Versailles, Daniel Moore of North Vernon and Brian Moore of Clarksville.

Tom Wetherald and track promoter Rick Robinson thank their hardworking staff for the 2015 racing season: Renee Manning, Justin Robertson, Lisa, Danny, and Tony Ogle, Brandy Perry, Greg McDonald and Gina, Todd, Troy and Carson Gilpin.

Thorson takes Turkey Night win for Kunz

The Columbus-based Keith Kunz Motorsports team had a successful West Coast trip last week. One of Kunz’s drivers, Tanner Thorson of Minden, Nevada, won the 75th Annual Turkey Night Grand Prix on November 26 at Perris Auto Speedway in Perris, California.

Thorson took the win in the Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports-Toyota TRD #67 Bullet/Speedway Toyota over NASCAR driver Kyle Larson, Damion Gardner, Bryan Clauson and Kevin Thomas Jr.

Final 2015 Honda USAC National Midget points standings: 1. Tracy Hines 823; 2. Tanner Thorson 805; 3. Kevin Thomas Jr. 799; 4. Rico Abreu 759; 5. Spencer Bayston 642.

Gilpin completes another successful season

Devin Gilpin of Columbus fell short of his goal of a fourth straight UMP National Open Wheel Modified Championship this year. Gilpin wound up second to Highland, Illinois, driver Mike Harrison in the final points released by UMP.

Overall, Gilpin was one of the winningest dirt track drivers in the nation, tallying an impressive 44 victories this season. He won 35 feature events in a modified, eight in a super late model, and one in a crate late model. Joe Godsey of Edinburgh wound up sixth in the UMP championship points standings.

Final 2015 UMP National Modified Points Standings: 1. Mike Harrison 2,324; 2. Devin Gilpin 2,290; 3. David Mielke 2,265; 4. Michael Long 2,241; 5. Todd Sherman 2,238; 6. Joe Godsey 2,198.

Eldora Speedway announces 2016 schedule

The 63rd season of Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio, will have a few notable additions, while maintaining the long-standing race traditions that have made the half-mile clay oval so historic since opening in 1954. There are 28 days of racing, plus the season opening “Test and Tune,” which opens the track on April 9.

As previously announced, the big three events are the 22nd $100,000-to-win Dirt Late Model Dream (June 9-10-11), 33rd $50,000-to-win Kings Royal Weekend (July 14-15-16) and the 46th running of the World 100 (September 8-9-10). The Kings Royal has expanded for the first-time to include Thursday night and will feature the $10,000-to-win “Jokers Wild” for the World of Outlaws.

The fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, the only national NASCAR series event on dirt, returns July 20 and joining the Trucks are the Super DIRTcar Series Big-Block Modifieds with a point-paying race on July 19 and an invitational show one day later.

The 35th annual Four-Crown Nationals will host four divisions on Saturday for the first-time since 2007 when the All Star Circuit of Champions join the USAC Silver Crown, National Sprint Car and Midget Championships on Sept. 24 to re-establish the true “Four Crown.” Sept. 23 will kick off the weekend with the World of Outlaws along with the Eldora Stock cars.

For the first-time since a July 1999 USAC race, which was part of ESPN’s “Thursday Night Thunder,” Eldora will host a Thursday standalone race featuring the All Star Circuit of Champions. They will hit the track on June 23 as part of Ohio Sprint Speedweek.

The very popular World of Outlaws/USAC Sprint Car “#LetsRaceTwo” doubleheader returns May 6-7, as do the two Family FIREWORKS Nights (May 21 and Aug. 13). Memorial Day Weekend will be celebrated with the Johnny Appleseed Classic (May 29) and Labor Day weekend will be highlighted with the ninth Baltes Classic on Sept. 4.

James Essex is the motorsports columnist for The Republic. He can be reached at