INDIANAPOLIS – Two of the nation’s most prestigious dirt-track races offer a USAC doubleheader to kick off the Indianapolis 500 weekend when the Tony Hulman Classic for sprint cars and the Hoosier 100 for Silver Crown cars compete on back-to-back nights.
The two-day swing starts with the 44th running of the Tony Hulman Classic on Wednesday at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. One of America’s most revered short track races, Tony Hulman Classic is an AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car spectacular that continues a tradition begun in 1971 at the half-mile oval. One night later, the legendary Hoosier Hundred continues the action in Indianapolis. One of America’s most prestigious dirt-track motorsports events, the 100-lap Hoosier Hundred for USAC Silver Crown cars will race for the 61st time while bringing wheel-to-wheel action to pull the crowd to its feet at the Indiana State Fairground’s one-mile dirt track.
In addition to the USAC racing, UMP modifieds will race in Terre Haute and Indianapolis. NASCAR stars Ken Schrader and Kenny Wallace will compete in the modified division in Terre Haute.
George Snider won the Hulman Classic debut more than four decades ago, and Jerry Coons Jr. is the defending champion. In between, there have been memories to last a lifetime. In addition to Coons, former race winners expected to compete Wednesday will be 2011 winner Chris Windom, Jon Stanbrough (2002, 2007), Daron Clayton (2006), Tracy Hines (2001) and Dave Darland (1993).
Coons is one of nine drivers with more than one victory in the race and, like Stanbrough, hopes to join Levi Jones (2005-08-09) and Cary Faas (1992-94-98) as the only three-time winners. Coons could also become only the third driver to win the race back-to-back. Steve Butler won in 1987 and 1988 and Jones did it in 2008-09. Brady Bacon, seeking his initial Tony Hulman Classic win, leads the 2014 standings by seven points over Bryan Clauson, also seeking his first Hulman trophy. Darland stands third in the points, 21 behind Clauson.
Darland, who is chasing Tom Bigelow’s all-time record USAC Sprint Car feature record of 52, has the most Hulman starts with 20. He has 49 career series wins, while Hines, also chasing the all-time win record, has 46. Darland is also the only driver to win more than one race so far in 2014. Seven different drivers have won in the first eight races of this year.
Then comes the Hoosier 100 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds one-mile track. Race promoter Bob Sargent, who also organizes Silver Crown races at Terre Haute, Ind., plus Springfield, Ill., and DuQuoin, Ill., made the switch to the Thursday event last season from the traditional Friday race because of a change in schedule at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Thursday running of the Hoosier Hundred allows the race to become the grand opening of the nation’s best auto racing weekend by reducing conflicts with events surrounding the Indianapolis 500.
By running the Hoosier Hundred on Thursday, fans now may enjoy the dirt track race before heading to Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the following day. Also, this will allow Track Enterprises to work closely with the local race tracks in the area by not running on the same night.
The Hoosier Hundred dates back to 1953 and began as a September event. It moved to May and had been a Friday fixture for many years. This year, it’s part of the 11-race USAC Silver Crown Championship Series, which began in April and ends in October.
Last season, Levi Jones won the Hoosier Hundred to end the three-peat hopes of Jerry Coons Jr. of Tucson, Ariz. Coons aimed to become the third driver to win three in a row. Al Unser won four straight from 1970-1973 and Jimmy Bryan won from 1954-1956.
Over the years, the Hoosier Hundred has served as the perfect complement to the Indy 500, and the race still reminds long-time Indy 500 fans of the country’s racing roots on dirt tracks. Seven winners of the Hoosier Hundred have also won the Indy 500, led by A.J. Foyt, who won the Hoosier Hundred six times and the Indy 500 four times. Thus, the historic one-mile dirt oval at the fairgrounds complex is known as the Track of Champions.
The Hoosier Lottery Grandstand opens at 3 p.m. on May 22 for the Hoosier Hundred with practice at 5 p.m., qualifying at 6 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m. UMP modifieds will also race. To purchase tickets, please call 217.764.3200. For more information, go to www.trackenterprises.com.