Abel in search of another crown

Morgan Abel of North Vernon describes herself as a thrill seeker who enjoys snow skiing, knee boarding, exploring and singing on stage as a vocalist.

She also enjoys racing — and on April 16, she plans to make her dirt-track debut behind the wheel of a modified racecar at Twin Cities Raceway Park in Vernon.

Growing up at the racetrack, Abel, 25, a 2008 graduate of Jennings County High School, has watched her dad, Pete, and brother Drew race during her lifetime, but getting the chance to race herself has her extremely excited to follow in her family’s footsteps.

Pete Abel was a successful motorcycle, midget and sprint-car driver. He retired from driving following the 1999 season after winning the Lawrenceburg Speedway Sprint Car Championship. Drew races 410 non-wing sprint cars and was the 2015 Sprint Car Track Champion at Twin Cities.

Morgan Abel, though, is probably more well-known than her father and brother even before she drives a racecar for the first time. After all, she is the current Miss Indiana USA 2016 and also is a Monster Energy Girl at Supercross events across the country.

Morgan won the crown of Miss Indiana USA in November. She is a graduate of IUPUC in Columbus and a registered nurse in the Mental Health Unit at Columbus Regional Hospital.

She will have the opportunity to compete at the 2016 Miss USA pageant, where she hopes to be crowned by the reigning Miss USA Olivia Jordan from Oklahoma. The young woman crowned Miss USA 2016 will go on to represent the United States in the Miss Universe Pageant.

Veteran racer Mike Bechelli of Elizabethtown is helping Morgan get started in racing.

“Our plan right now is to tentatively start off April 16 at Twin Cities,” Bechelli said. “We hope to run between 15 and 20 races this year with Morgan and see how it goes. We are going to have her practice a few times before she races. The thing is, between her work at the hospital and her obligations with Miss Indiana USA, it’s tough to find an open night for her to practice.”

Drew Abel also is excited to see what his sister can do on the racetrack.

“I plan on going to the first few races she runs to help her out,” he said. “My dad and I know a lot about sprint cars, the modified is different, it has skinnier tires, plus she has a crate motor in it, so she has some less horsepower than some of the other drivers will have. That should actually help her get familiar with the car faster.

“Even though she has never raced, she knows what she is getting into,” Drew said. “… She messaged me the other day and said if she does really good that I had better look out next year, because she might be in the sprint car.”

Another bit of advice comes from Columbus’ Devin Gilpin, the winningest modified driver in the nation the past five years and winner of 35 features a year ago in a modified.

“Any driver just starting out needs to be patient,” Gilpin said. “Set smaller goals for yourself and your race team each week. As you progress and get better together as a driver and team, it will be rewarding. You just have to keep digging. This is a humbling sport. Don’t let the highs get too high or the lows get too low.”

The sponsors on Morgan Abel’s car include Mike Bechelli Racing; Simpson Race Products; Bert Transmissions; Landrum Springs; Garlitch Ford, Dodge, Chrysler and Jeep; Bryan Bowman Motorsports; Real Wheels; GM Performance Parts; O’Reilly Auto Parts and McDonald’s.

Indiana Icebreaker rescheduled

The Indiana Icebreaker, scheduled for March 19 at Brownstown Speedway, was postponed because of unfavorable weather conditions. The event, featuring the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, Indiana Pro Late Models, and UMP Modifieds, has been rescheduled for April 9.

Racing Results

Daugherty Speedway

March 19

Crate Late Model feature: 1. Geraid Gault; 2. Jim Bailey; 3. Trent Low.

Upcoming local races

Brownstown Speedway

Tonight

No Way Out 40 for non-wing Sprints ($7,500 to win), UMP Modifieds and UMRA King of the TQs

April 2

Indiana Pro Late Models, UMP Modifieds, Super Stocks, Pure Stocks and Hornets

Florence Speedway

Tonight

Late Model Special ($5,000 to win), UMP Modifieds, and UMP Hornets

Twin Cities Raceway Park

April 1

Open practice session for all divisions, 5-8 p.m.

Lawrenceburg Speedway

April 2

AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series, UMP Modifieds and Hornets