This Saturday, April 2, the USAC AMSOIL Sprintcar National Championship resumes the 2022 season at Lawrenceburg (Indiana) Speedway. (Josh James Photo)
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Lawrenceburg, Indiana (March 31, 2022)………While three rounds of racing in February at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway have long served as the official grand opening to the USAC AMSOIL Sprintcar National Championship season, it’s the late March/early April opener that has distinguished itself as the start of the big picture.
Lawrenceburg (Indiana) Speedway has long held that role, hosting an annual spring date in April since the 2006 season, and that continues this Saturday, April 2, with the series’ Midwest opener at the 3/8-mile dirt oval.
In past years, the traditional early season dates have regularly taken the series to Pennsylvania’s Reading Fairgrounds ranging from USAC’s inaugural campaign in 1956 until the venue’s closure in the late 1970s. Ohio’s Eldora Speedway was the familiar backdrop for many an early April event starting right from the get-go in 1962, while, on occasions, being snowed out.
In several instances, the high banked dirt oval was backed up by a run on Winchester Speedway’s high banked paved oval on the other side of the border in Indiana, either a week apart or on the very next day. In some cases, Eldora was held on one night with Winchester hot laps looming bright and early the very next morning. That schedule posed quite a polarizing, eye-opening first weekend for series rookies who were just trying to get their feet underneath them.
USAC’s tradition at Lawrenceburg has few comparisons and has annually hosted National Sprint Car events at the track for 30 consecutive seasons, since 1992, the second longest active streak behind the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track, which has held a series event each year since 1990.
In the time Lawrenceburg has greeted USAC with an April date, the result has seen 10 races and 10 different winning drivers emerge: Jon Stanbrough (2006), Levi Jones (2007), Josh Wise (2009), Jerry Coons Jr. (2010), Kevin Thomas Jr. (2013), Justin Grant (2014), Logan Jarrett (2015), Dave Darland (2016), Chris Windom (2017) & Brady Bacon (2021).
Bacon (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma) enters Saturday’s race as the defending April winner and would prefer to become not only the first driver to duplicate his 2021 victory, but also go back-to-back. After all, he’s the most recent driver to capture consecutive USAC Sprintcar wins at the track, taking the 2020 closer and the 2021 lid-lifter.
Same goes for Justin Grant (Ione, California), a February winner in Ocala who is tied for fourth-place in all-time USAC Sprint Car wins at Lawrenceburg with four. Grant’s first ever series win came at Lawrenceburg in 2012. His second came in April of 2014 when he took advantage of a late-race restart, then used the extreme upper reaches of the surface to shoot to the lead.
Stanbrough captured the first April round at Lawrenceburg in 2006, scoring a thrilling last-lap triumph when he passed Bud Kaeding on the 30th and final lap after starting all the way back in the 14th starting spot. The next year saw virtually the same type of finish when Levi Jones grabbed one of the closest photo finishes in series history as he came from behind to beat Bacon by less than ten-thousands of a second.
Josh Wise got the best of Jones in the follow-up edition in April of 2009, passing him with eight laps to go in what was the 2006 series champion’s last series victory. Jerry Coons Jr. displayed his dominance in the April 2010 event, leading all 30 laps in the Dynamics, Inc. No. 69, which is the only entrant to win twice in the fourth month on the calendar at Lawrenceburg.
The late-race heroics returned in a renewal of April activities at Lawrenceburg in 2013 when Kevin Thomas Jr. waited until the last lap to steal victory after starting 10th, coming on late to make a spirited charge on the high side to pull past Chase Stockon off turn two on the final circuit and narrowly held him off to pick up the win.
It’s a rare feat to pull both an absolute upset and absolutely domination in one swoop, but Logan Jarrett did just that at Lawrenceburg in April 2015 when he jumped to the lead at the green and laid a beatdown on the field to win his first and only USAC National Sprint Car feature.
In what became a contest of survival of the fittest under a barrage of flurries by the time the chequered flew, Dave Darland was the last man standing, making his equipment endure to the finish line in April of 2016 to extend his all-time USAC National Sprintcar record at Lawrenceburg to seven wins while his win also notched his record 24th consecutive season with a USAC National series feature win
In April, 2017, Chris Windom shed the label of perennial Lawrenceburg runner-up by leading all 30 laps on his way to his first USAC victory at the track, and first USAC National Sprint Car driving championship, after finishing second on five prior occasions at The Burg.
Two-time Lawrenceburg USAC Sprint winner CJ Leary (Greenfield, Indiana), as well as one-time winners Robert Ballou (Rocklin, California), Logan Seavey (Sutter, California) and Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Indiana), are among the active talent vying for a first career series win in April at the track. Leary has finished as the Spring runner-up on three occasions in 2015, 2016 and 2021, as has Stockon once in 2013. Ballou finished a best of third in April of his 2015 championship season.
Seavey has never before started the April feature at Lawrenceburg, and the same goes for series point leader Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Indiana), who’s won two of the first three races of the 2022 USAC season and leads the standings entering Saturday’s race after nearly winning last October’s Fall Nationals at the track, where he led the first 26 laps of the 30-lap feature before his right rear tire went flat.
The next installment of springtime USAC racing on Saturday, April 2, at Lawrenceburg Speedway will be the 68th points race, and the 69th overall in series history at the southeastern Indiana venue. Take note that the event will feature a new time schedule that pushes all on-track activities to an earlier start than the usual. Pit gates will now open at 1pm Eastern with the grandstands opening at 3pm, the drivers meeting at 3:15pm and cars on track at 4pm with qualifying and racing to immediately follow.
The decision by USAC and Lawrenceburg Speedway officials to move the event schedule up two hours earlier was made to prioritise the comfort of fans and teams due to the forecasted chilly temperatures, who will now experience the show in the sunlight of the day.
Saturday’s docket includes the USAC AMSOIL Sprintcar National Championship, KOI Auto Parts UMP Modifieds and Bessler’s U Pull & Save Hornets.
Saturday’s event can also be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINTCAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-220, 2-Justin Grant-207, 3-Buddy Kofoid-200, 4-Chase Stockon-189, 5-Kyle Cummins-169, 6-Tanner Thorson-164, 7-Jason McDougal-162, 8-Carson Short-153, 9-Logan Seavey-152, 10-Brady Bacon-142.
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINTCARS AT LAWRENCEBURG:
1 Lap – 7/9/2008 – Levi Jones – 12.926 – 104.441 mph
8 Laps – 9/28/2013 – Tracy Hines – 1:51.91 – 96.506 mph
10 Laps – 7/10/2008 – Cole Whitt – 2:18.19 – 97.692 mph
12 Laps – 10/1/2016 – Stevie Sussex – 2:51.39 – 94.521 mph
30 Laps – 10/1/2016 – Josh Hodges – 7:21.09 – 91.818 mph
USAC NATIONAL SPRINTCAR WINS AT LAWRENCEBURG SPEEDWAY:
5-Jon Stanbrough & Kevin Thomas Jr.
4-Justin Grant & Jack Hewitt
3-Brady Bacon, Kevin Briscoe, Bryan Clauson & Rick Hood
2-Tony Elliott, Levi Jones, C.J. Leary, Danny Milburn & Brian Tyler
1-Robert Ballou, Jeff Bland Jr., Mark Cassella, Jerry Coons Jr., Tyler Courtney, Kevin Doty, Jay Drake, Dickie Gaines, Damion Gardner, Josh Hodges, Logan Jarrett, Thomas Meseraull, Rodney Ritter Jr., Logan Seavey, Brady Short, Chase Stockon, Kevin Thomas, Chris Windom, Josh Wise & J.J. Yeley