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I’ll never forget my first trip to the U.S. Nationals in Clermont. I was a junior in high school, and I and three of my friends were parked alongside U.S. 136 waiting for the gates to open.
Unfortunately, the Hendricks County Sheriff’s Department was somewhat suspicious concerning our activities. Fortunately, they saw no need to arrest us or contact our parents. However, they did find it necessary to liberate our adult beverages.
Fortunately, our contact with authorities was the low point of our weekend. The rest of the weekend was full of beautiful cars and the aroma of exotic racing fuels. Like just about all motorsports today, many things have changed in the intervening five decades.
One local drag racer has been involved in drag racing for most of that period. Ernie Neal has again entered the U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway Park. In preparation for the event, he has competed in the necessary qualifying races and is again eligible to compete. He will be driving a GT/C 2005 Chevrolet Cavalier that has been converted to rear-wheel drive. This type of conversion is not an easy proposition; and, in recognition of his efforts, he has received an award for the best engineered car.
Neal, who’s from Columbus, built his own motorcoach, which doubles as a tow vehicle and lodging at the track. This arrangement not only cuts down on expenses but also saves the time that would be used in getting to and from the track.
Neal’s son, David Neal, has entered this year for the second time. Last year he won his class and was awarded a Wally (National Hot Rod Association trophy) for his efforts. His car is a GT/C 2005 Pontiac Sunfire powered by 327 Chevrolet engine. His car also has been converted to rear-wheel drive.
Other area entries in the Nationals are Clay Arnett driving an AA/SA 2012 Camaro powered by a 327 Chevrolet engine, Timothy Millwood driving an MSC 1983 Dodge Challenger powered by a 427 Dodge engine, Jerry Mellis driving an SC 2006 M&M rear-engine dragster powered by 468 Chevrolet engine, Eric Wilkerson driving an SC 1999 dragster powered by 502 GM engine, Larry Turner driving an SC 1923 Spitzer Model T powered by a 496 Chevrolet engine, and David Tincher driving an SS/JA1998 Camaro powered by a 350 Chevrolet engine.
California dreamin’ comes true
Chad Boespflug of North Vernon is the grandson of Columbus natives Bob and Phyllis Gatten. He started racing micro sprints in 1998 at the age of 9, earning Rookie of the Year honors the same year. With his grandfather as his crew chief, he became more and more successful. When he graduated from high school, he and his grandparents moved back to Indiana.
They found that sprint car racing in Indiana was quite a bit tougher than it had been in California. In spite of this, they continued to run better, and they started to win some races. Gatten decided that he was ready to retire and moved to Florida.
Boespflug continued to race on his own. However, he has since signed on to drive the legendary No. 57 for Paul Hazen of Columbia City. Hazen is one of the most successful independent car owners in the state and Boespflug is delighted to drive for him.
Hazen is happy with the arrangement. Not only do they run up front most of the time, but Boespflug doesn’t crash too often. This helps to make the proposition workable for the car owner.
Following the Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo Speedway, Boespflug said, “A great weekend. It’s just really unfortunate we blew a tire and hurt the motor while running fourth. Can’t thank Paul enough for the hard work he does. He sure is an awesome guy to race for. Up next is Gas City Friday then off to California Saturday morning for the Louie Vermil Classic Saturday and Sunday. Chico Thursday. Then back to Gas City on Friday.”
Ted Collins Memorial rocks
The racing on Aug. 24 featured a couple of great duels between area racers. Jeremy Hines of Seymour and Zak Blackwood of Columbus battled through the late model feature through lapped and between yellow flags. Hines finally prevailed; and Blackwood was forced to settle for second place.
Tim Clark and Aaron Fields battled wheel to wheel throughout the super stock feature until Clark came down on Fields’ right front corner one time too many and cut Fields’ right front tire. Fields’ early exit cost him points in the tight UMP Super Stock points race.
Today there will be live music, autograph sessions, activity booths, bounce houses and games for the kids.
On Sunday, the annual Ted Collins Memorial late model race will be run. Collins was a former promoter of racing at Twin Cities. You can be certain that Collins’ widow, Sue, and sons, Trent and Tory, will be on hand for the event. Tory will almost certainly be driving a late model wrenched by Trent; and it is likely that he’ll be a fan favorite.
USAC National Sprint Cars
Sprint Car Smackdown Preliminary Feature: 1. Bryan Clauson 2. Dave Darland 3. Jon Stanbrough 4. Brady Bacon 5. Jerry Coons Jr. 6. Tyler Courtney 7. Kevin Thomas Jr. 8. Robert Ballou 9. Christopher Bell 10. Chad Boespflug
Mini Sprint Feature: 1. Bryan Clauson 2. Tyler Courtney 3. Aaron Davis 4. Wes Bigger 5. Tyler Herschberger 6. Rob Johnson 7. Chris Miller 8. Matt Johnson 9. Dave Cochran 10. Ricky Droke
USAC National Sprint Cars
Sprint Car Smackdown Preliminary Feature: 1. Dave Darland 2. Chase Stockon 3. Brady Bacon 4. Bryan Clauson 5. Shane Cottle 6. Tracy Hines 7. Chris Windom 8. Casey Shuman 9. Scotty Weir 10. Robert Ballou
Super Stock Feature: 1. Scott Hufford 2. David Hurst 3. Brandon Roundtree 4. Landon Miller 5. Ervin Turner 6. Christian Kline 7. Jason Trimmer 8. James Walters 9. David Huff 10. Bobby Burton
USAC National Sprint Cars
Sprint Car Smackdown Championship Feature: 1. Dave Darland 2. Shane Cottle 3. Chase Stockon of Elizabethtown 4. Chris Windom 5. Brady Bacon 6. Bryan Clauson 7. Scotty Weir 8. Jerry Coons, Jr. 9. Tracy Hines 10. Tyler Courtney
Thunder Car Feature: 1. Jeremy VanNess 2. Kory Glassburn 3. Eric Brown 4. Paul Minter 5. D.J. Anton 6. Dennis Freeland 7. Nick Glassburn 8. Zachary Paul 9. Jason Shrout 10. Jacob Meyers
Sprint Car Feature: 1. Brady Short 2. Danny Holtsclaw 3. Seth Parker 4. Levi Shields 5. Chris Babcock 6. Joe Ligouri 7. Travis Welpott 8. Bub Cummings 9. Kent Christian 10. Max McGhee
Modified Feature: 1. Jesse Cramer 2. Richie Lex 3. John DeMoss 4. Greg Amick 5. Kenny Carmichael, Sr. 6. Chad Combs 7. Mike Bechelli of Elizabethtown 8. Bryson Clark 9. Jerry Davis 10. Jeff Deckard
Super Stock Feature: 1. Aaron Fields of Taylorsville 2. Steve Peeden 3. Steve Hollars 4. Troy Clark 5. Roy Bruce, Jr. 6. Jack Frye 7. Steve Hawkins 8. Tyler Loughmiller 9. Chip Slagle 10. Aubrey Eagan
Hornet Feature: 1. Greg Garrison 2. Ryan Hehman 3. Luke Bland 4. Matt Hamilton 5. Dan Morgan 6. Frank Robertson 7. Whitney Baldwin 8. Lisa Raines 9. Chris Deckard 10. Bryson Clark
Lucas Oil Late Model Stock Car Feature: 1. Steve Francis 2. Brad Neat 3. Jimmy Owens 4. Jared Landers 5. John Blankenship 6. Greg Johnson 7. Earl Pearson Jr. 8. Scott James 9. Dustin Linville 10. Isenberg
Lincoln Park Speedway
Sprint Car Feature: 1. Brady Short 2. A.J. Hopkins 3. Seth Parker 4. Brian Hayden 5. Ryan Pace 6. Billy Puterbaugh 7. Brent Beauchamp 8. Max McGhee 9. Garrett Abrams 10. Brian Karraker
Modified Feature: 1. Brad Barrow 2. Paul Bumgardner 3. Chad Combs 4. Brian Hayden 5. Randy Shuman 6. Greg Amick 7. Kenny Carmichael, Sr. 8. Eric Varner 9. Wes McClara 10. Carlos Bumgardner Sr.
Super Stock Feature: 1. Steve Peeden 2. Kenny Carmichael, Sr. 3. Ralph Groomer 4. Doug McCullough 5. Mike Staggs 6. Tyler Loughmiller 7. Kenny Carmichael, Jr. 8. Scott Carrington 9. Travis Heramb 10. David Daniels
Bomber Feature: 1. Doug McCullough 2. Tim Wright 3. Harry Shepherd 4. Damon Harrell 5. David Wallen 6. Chris Schepper 7. Justin Minardo 8. Mark Dickerson 9. Ron Smith 10. Fred Grayless
USAC 600 Sprint Feature: 1. Randy Shilling 2. Rodney Stealy 3. Billy Cribbs 4. Craig Ronk 5. Ryan Kline
USAC 600 Sprints (Restricted) Feature: 1. Garrett Saunders 2. Bud McCune 3. Nick Katrakis 4. Nicholas Schaefer 5. Garrett Pearson
Modified Feature: 1. Tommy Beezley II 2. Frank Marshall 3. Terry Hull 4. Jeremy Ferguson 5. Adam Williams 6. Zeke McKenzie 7. Kyle Yocum 8. Steven Pena 9. Matthew Mitchell 10. Chad Clay
Super Stock Feature: 1. Bobby Hinkle 2. Roger Duszynski 3. Brandon Roundtree 4. Michael Clark 5. Nate Payton 6. David Short 7. Bob McLean 8. Nathan Jordan 9. J.C. Moldovan 10. Mike Hoagland
Twin Cities Raceway Park
Late Model Feature: 1. Jeremy Hines of Seymour 2. Zak Blackwood of Columbus 3. Joe Janowski 4. Steve Barnett of Franklin 5. Cody Mahoney 6. Marty O’Neal 7. Edgar Godsey 8. Mark Barber of North Vernon 9. Jim Beeman 10. John Gill
Modified Feature: 1. Joe Godsey 2. Trent Green 3. Clayton Perry 4. Rob Manley 5. Robert Gullion 6. Jacoby Hines 7. Nathan Mensendiek 8. Ryan Ross 9. Kris Johnson 10. Matt Boknecht of Cortland
Super Stock Feature: 1. Tim Clark of North Vernon 2. Tyler Cain 3. Duane Brown 4. William Burton of North Vernon 5. Josh Turner 6. Paul Ortman 7. Josh Phelps 8. Greg Owens 9. Bryson Clark 10. Mitchell Maxie
Pure Stock Feature: 1. Jared Burton of North Vernon 2. Troy Clark of North Vernon 3. Donnie Wilson 4. Greg Sims 5. Ross Smith 6. Willie Sallee of Columbus 7. Kaleb Bunch 8. Bodi Henry 9. Mark Bruce 10. Josh Walters
Hornet Feature: 1. Ryan Hehman 2. Lucas Jackson 3. Cody Perry 4. Austin Burton 5. Todd Cain 6. Carrie Gilley 7. Felisha DeWeese of Columbus 8. Cordell Moore 9. Billey Moore 10. Julie Chatham
Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.
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