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Workhorse family home again at Twin Cities

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THE Collins family has been involved in the operation of Twin Cities Raceway Park off and on almost to the day it opened.

They last promoted racing at the track from 2002-06 on a lease arrangement with demolition derby operator Terry Eaglin from Versailles. Eaglin had owned the track for years and had sold the track on contract several times, but he always seemed to get it back. Happily for Eaglin, the temporary owner had generally spent some money upgrading the facility.

Finally, Dave Allison purchased the track and wrote the check to pay for it. At the same time, he purchased Lincoln Park Speedway at Putnamville and signed on to promote racing at the Terre Haute Action Track.

It didn’t take Allison long to figure out that promoting racing wasn’t nearly as much fun as he thought it would be.

Most recently, Tom Wetherald of Columbus purchased the track and hired Troy Tabata to do the onsite management. Just prior to the end of the 2013 season, Tabata apparently decided he had had enough of dealing with racers and track maintenance and abruptly resigned.

While Wetherald knows the hospitality business backward and forward, operating a racetrack proved to be a little bit of a stretch for him.

Sue Collins had been operating his concessions, and Wetherald had been impressed by her work ethic.

When the Collins’ left Twin Cities, they went to Lawrenceburg Speedway, where sons Trent and Tory worked in the racing operations while Sue and one of her daughters-in-law manned the pit gates. After five years, the Collins family decided they needed a break.

They joined the Lawrenceburg Speedway staff as a unit, and they left the same way.

While the boys took a break, Sue returned to Twin Cities and their concession operation. After a couple of years off, the boys welcomed the opportunity to promote racing at Twin Cities.

It is likely Trent will take over the operation on top of the hill, and Tory will manage the pits. Sue will continue to manage the concession operation.

Decisions have not yet been made concerning the classes that will compete and the schedule. Whatever else happens, it is likely both fans and competitors will all be happy with the new operation.

The Twin Cities awards banquet for the 2013 season will be Jan. 25.

Larson wins VIROC VI

While only 2013 NASCAR Nationwide series Rookie of the Year Kyle Larson was scheduled to compete in Tuesday night’s Chili Bowl preliminary for Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby, they had a little more than that on their plate.

Both Larson and 2013 USAC National Dirt Midget champion Christopher Bell were entered in the VIROC VI race.

The VIROC is a race for past Chili Bowl championship drivers and car owners, as well as other selected midget champions. Both Larson and Bell earned their VIROC berths due to Kunz and Willoughby having three Chili Bowl championships to their credit.

Larson started the VIROC in sixth place, while Bell started in fourth position. Larson raced to the VIROC win, breaking a streak of three consecutive wins for the Swindells. Sammy Swindell won the event in 2009, 2011 and 2012, while Kevin Swindell won the 2013 edition of the big race. The only other winner was Brad Loyet, who the event

in 2010.

Damion “The Demon” Gardner came home second, while Bell finished third. Loyet, Tracy Hines, Jerry Coons Jr., Cory Kruseman, Kasey Kahne and Sammy Swindell rounded out the Top 10.

After ruling the VIROC race for so much of its history, the Swindells had to be disappointed with their performance.

Seventy of the 285 cars entered in the Chili Bowl were scheduled to compete in the Tuesday night preliminaries, and 69 of them pushed off. Two Chili Bowl rookies — Jeb Sessums and Australian Matthew Smith — each clawed their way to a berth in the preliminary feature.

Drivers earned passing points in addition to their finishing position in the heat races. The top 40 in the points advanced to the qualifying races. Larson won the first heat race from the pole.

Don Droud Jr., Zach Daum, Dalton Armstrong, Bobby East, Tyler Courtney, Sessums, Alex Bright and Mike Goodman won the other heat races.

The top 16 drivers in passing points from the qualifying races advanced to the preliminary feature. Larson started fourth and finished fourth in the first qualifier because of some minor engine issues. Shane Cottle, Tim Crawley and Jonathan Beason won the qualifying races.

Courtney won the dash, and Paul White and Brady Bacon won the “B” hooligans.

Two years ago, Jonathan Beason dedicated his first preliminary feature win to his friend and former teammate, Donnie Ray Crawford, who was killed in a shooting at his home during the Chili Bowl.

By winning the points in heat and qualifying races, Beason earned the right to start on the pole in the preliminary feature, followed by Alex Bright, Zach Daum and Tyler Courtney.

From the drop of the green, Beason took the lead and was able to hold off challenges from Daum and Bright. The leaders caught the back of the pack on Lap 11. Beason’s handling of lapped traffic and a track that had slicked allowed him to hold off challenges for the lead.

From Victory Lane, Beason commented, “I was really worried. I race 10 times a year now. ... I guess that this would be my first one this year. I really haven’t dealt with lapped traffic like these guys have. I was worried, but thankfully, I saw their noses a couple of times, but I figured lapped cars were going to be in their way, too.”

About his attempts to take the lead, second-place finisher Daum commented, “I wasn’t going to throw nothing stupid at him. I could have thrown a slide job, but as slick as the track was, it was going to crash both of us. There was no reason to do that. We just wanted to lock ourselves in the show, and that’s what we did.”

Larson’s earlier engine issues left him in a deep hole for the start of the preliminary feature. From his 16th-place starting position, he battled a slick track and a lot of lapped traffic to finish fourth, just outside of a “locked in” starting position in the Saturday night championship race.

He will wind up starting in the back of the feature or at the front of one of the “B” hooligans, depending on how the points shake out.

Columbus native Stephen Arnold had trouble in his heat race and finished eighth. This landed him in the second “C” hooligan, where he started 12th and finished eighth. Where he will start in the sea of hooligans is anybody’s guess.

Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for         The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.

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