At age 19, Kyle Larson signed with Pete Willoughby and Keith Kunz to drive their midget in USAC competition. He was seen as a great prospect.
After all, only drivers with a great deal of promise are considered for a ride with them. However, when they signed him on, they certainly didn’t know just how good that he would prove to be.
Larson’s performance in USAC along with his NASCAR K&N East Series championship landed him a yearlong contract as a development driver with Chip Ganassi. His first two Nationwide series outings saw him involved in crashes and finishing 13th. Going to a track where crashes are the rule rather than exception (Bristol, Tenn.), Larson was able to dodge the bullets that had found him the previous two weeks. He worked his way up to Kyle Busch and missed passing him for the win by inches.
KISS schedule released
Each season promoters do their best to craft a schedule that appeals to their current fans and hopefully attracts a few new fans.
Almost certainly the favored form of motorsports in Indiana is non-winged sprint-car racing. Seven tracks feature weekly non-winged sprint car races along with various support classes.
For most of these tracks, the biggest race of their season is their United States Auto Club Indiana Sprint Week show. They will also schedule a race or two with larger purses, typically being run in honor of one of their fallen heroes.
Early in 2001, a group of promoters led by Gerry Olson, promoter of the Terre Haute Action Track at the time, met to agree to the framework of a new non-winged sprint-car series. They decided to call it the King of Indiana Sprint Series (KISS).
It would feature one race at each track, and there would be no rain dates that would change the end date of the series. Each participating track was responsible for a portion of the points fund and other series expenses even if the race to be run at their track was canceled.
Each series race pays $2,500 to win and $250 to start. In addition, any car that fails to qualify for the feature is paid $100 tow money. The trophy for the series champion is truly unique. It is a custom, hand-painted helmet.
To date, the series champions have been Dickie Gaines (2001), Tony Elliott (2002), Jon Stanbrough (2003, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012), Michael Burthay (2004), Justin Marvel (2005), Brady Short (2009) and Dave Darland (2011).
The series opener is scheduled for May 3 at Bloomington Speedway, followed by Kokomo Speedway on May 5, Gas City I-69 Speedway on May 10, Lawrenceburg Speedway on May 18, Tri-State Speedway at Haubstadt on May 26 and Paragon Speedway on June 1. The date for the series race at the Terre Haute Action Track is yet to be scheduled.
Open practice at Salem
A preseason practice is scheduled at Salem Speedway today. Both the infield short track and the original high-banked half-mile will be open for practice. The practice is open to all Salem Speedway divisions as well all touring series competitors who are scheduled to compete at Salem Speedway this season. Pit gates will open at 10 a.m., and the three-hour practice session will begin at noon.
It also was announced that First Harrison Bank would sponsor autograph sessions for the ARCA drivers as a part of pre-race activities before the April 28 and Sept. 14 ARCA races.
Salem Speedway general manager Richard Deaton said, “We’re happy to have First Harrison Bank involved with the ARCA pre-race festivities. The autograph sessions are a huge part of the tradition of these great events.”
Kent Robinson and Shelby Miles, both from Bloomington, started side by side on the front row of Brownstown Speedway’s late model feature. Joe Janowski eventually worked his way to the front and into the lead and led Robinson to the checkered flags. Tim Rivers came home third, trailed by Jason Jameson, Miles, Chad Stapleton, Joe Godsey, Tim Prince, Devin Glipin of Columbus and Marty O’Neal.
Gilpin drove to his first modified feature win of the season at Brownstown. Ryan Thomas came home second, trailed by Chad Combs, Nick Allen, Broc Burton of Columbus, Derek Groomer, Matt Boknecht of Seymour, Steeve Peeden, Clayton Perry and Elliott Despain.
The other features were won by Rick Gumm (Super Stock), Darren Crawhorn (Bomber) and Skylar Antonelli (Hornets).
Tim McKinney is an auto racing columnist for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.