AMSOIL Sprints
Thursday, 22 June 2017


Two-time "Tony Hulman Classic" winner Dave Darland at the Terre Haute Action Track in 1993.. Two-time "Tony Hulman Classic" winner Dave Darland at the Terre Haute Action Track in 1993.. Ron McQueeny Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Four past winners are set to embark on a mission to obtain another Tony Hulman Classic trophy to add to their collections when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship makes its Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track season debut this Friday, June 23.

Each of the four – Dave Darland, Jon Stanbrough, Robert Ballou and Chris Windom – had inconspicuous beginnings in their first “Hulman” starts.  Yet, since then, the fab four have more than made up for lost ground with their performances on the half-mile and, in their careers, in the ensuing years, demonstrating that champions do indeed rise to the forefront at the Action Track.

In fact, all but two USAC National Sprint Car champions have won a USAC-sanctioned event on the western Indiana dirt oval – a list that is absent only Parnelli Jones and Greg Leffler.

Ironically, each of the four past winners are celebrating a nice-round number anniversary this Friday night in relation to their first Hulman Classic start.

USAC Triple Crown champ Dave Darland made his first Hulman Classic feature start 30 years ago, all the way back in 1987!  That afternoon, he finished 17th.  After a few seasons away due to other racing commitments, he missed the show in 1991 before reeling off six-straight top-fives between 1992 and 1997.  His consistency over the years has netted him an astonishing 20 top-tens in the race!

The Lincoln, Indiana native is the only driver to start more than half of all the Hulman Classic races run since 1971.  This Friday, he eyes his 26th start in an event he has won twice, including his very first USAC win in 1993.  His gap of 21 years before recording a second “Hulman” win in 2014 is a record as well.

At the start of this season, Jon Stanbrough announced his intentions to step away from the cockpit full-time following the conclusion of the 2017 season.  Regardless of whether this will be the final of his 23rd “Hulman” starts or not, let us celebrate the brilliance of a driver who’s finished in the top-five more than any driver in the event.  The first of those 11 top-fives came in 2000, eight years after his first start 25 years ago in 1992, a 13th place run.

The Avon, Indiana native is one of USAC’s finest, a driver tied with Rich Vogler for tenth on the all-time National Sprint Car win list with 35 victories – a win list that also includes two Hulman Classic wins in 2002 and 2007.  Though it’s been since 2014 that Stanbrough has reached USAC victory lane, he is the lone driver to finish in the top-five of the three most recent runnings of the race.

Robert Ballou and Chris Windom are, undoubtedly, two of the biggest stars on the current USAC landscape.  Each have won a USAC National title over the past two seasons: Ballou, the 2015 Sprint champ and Windom, the 2016 Silver Crown champ.  A decade ago, the two arrived on the scene simultaneously as teenage upstarts.  A decade later, they are near the pinnacle of the sport, still duking it out in the final laps against each other for wins as seen just last Saturday at Port Royal (PA) Speedway during Eastern Storm.

Ballou finished 23rd after starting from the pole as a “Hulman Classic” rookie in 2007 while Windom didn’t fare all that much better in 17th.  In the coming seasons, fortunes would soon change, but it wasn’t quick, as the pair rose to become two of the most consistent frontrunners in the event.

Ballou’s performance chart indicates finishes of 23rd, 21st, a DNQ and a 15th in his first four appearances.  However, that was followed with a 4th, 6th, 6th, 7th and back-to-back wins in 2015 and 2016.

Windom reached the top-five during his second start in 2009, but that was surrounded by a 17th, a DNQ and a 25th between 2007-2010.  His 2011 victory turned the tide, so to speak, although it was followed by a 13th the following year.  But, from 2013 onward, Windom has not placed outside the top-eight, including a 2nd and a 5th in the last two editions.

Both will be chasing history on Friday night as Ballou is set up with the opportunity to become the first to win the prestigious event three years in a row.  Windom has the chance to equal a Terre Haute USAC record with his third victory in a row, something only six other drivers have accomplished.

Pit gates open this Friday for the “Tony Hulman Classic” at 3pm with the grandstands set to open at 4.  Cars hit the track at 6:30.

Tickets for the “Hulman Classic” begin at just $15 for infield admission.  Grandstand tickets are $25.  Children 11 & under are FREE!  Pit pass prices are $30 for USAC & UMP members and $35 for non-members.

Friday’s “Tony Hulman Classic,” as well as every USAC event, can be viewed one-day after the race, on-demand at http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.