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Californian with Hoosier roots ready to run hard

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As racers reach this time of year, they are either preparing to leave for Florida where they will treat their spouse to a midwinter break from the Indiana weather or they will be thrashing to get the car ready for the opening night.

A trip to Florida would be in partial compensation for the spouse’s support (or at least tolerance of) the team during the season.

It seems that most racers go into the offseason with big plans for updating their cars, competing in the preseason and, perhaps, getting some spare parts fabricated ahead of need.

Every team will need to replace bumpers, nerf bars, front axle assemblies and myriad other parts that fail during the season. They often will go home and try to get a new part built and installed before the next night of racing. Everyone knows that it’s more efficient to build these parts in an organized fashion before the season, but they are seldom able to pull it off.

Hanford, Calif., native Chad Boespflug started racing microsprints as an elementary school student. I received a letter from him describing his racing career and his plans, along with a photo of him with his car. His grandparents, Bob and Phyllis Gatten, were Columbus natives who had relocated in Hanford. They actively supported his career development.

I was particularly interested in watching his progress. To my surprise Boespflug advanced even more quickly than he had predicted.

By the time he had reached the age necessary to get a driver’s license, he was racing an 800 HP, fire-breathing sprint car. Before he left California he had won the SCRA championship. Following his graduation from high school, he and his grandparents moved to North Vernon, where they purchased a house and built a race shop.

They began racing and quickly learned that there was a big difference between sprint car racing in California and sprint car racing in Indiana. To begin with, in Indiana there are several tracks running sprint cars every week, races sanctioned by the United States Auto Club and dozens of other classes that compete regularly.

Boespflug raced in his grandfather’s sprint car, primarily at Lawrenceburg Speedway and Twin Cities Raceway Park. As Boespflug became more experienced with tracks and the competition, they won more and more often. Boespflug eventually won the Lawrenceburg Speedway sprint car championship, and they began to run up front in USAC and MSCS races.

Bob Gatten apparently decided that he had had all of the fun that he could stand and relocated to Florida and a well-deserved retirement. Boespflug is apparently an exceptional welder and was self-supporting. And, along with a friend, he has been running his own team with increasingly good results.

Last fall, after the season was over in Indiana, he went back to California, where the season is much longer. Many of the car owners in California remembered him from his success there. He picked up some pretty good rides and was able to add some more successes.

Boespflug advises that he will drive the famed Paul Hazen-owned No. 57 this season in Indiana. This car’s seat has been occupied by some of the best sprint car drivers in the business, including drivers such as Jon Stanbrough, Dave Darland, Billy Puterbaugh Jr., etc. Boespflug is excited by the prospect of driving for Hazen.

He said, “We’re going to run for the track championships at Gas City I-69 Speedway, Lincoln Park Speedway at Putnamville and Kokomo Speedway. If we have trouble with the No. 57, I’ll take out the No. 98. Those are our plans. We’ll just get started and see how it goes.”

Boespflug’s one regret going into the season is that he will miss the season-opener at Twin Cities to attend his brother’s wedding in California.

Tim McKinney is an auto racing columnist for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.

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