“HOOSIER HUNDRED” SET FOR FRIDAY BEFORE THE 500
It’s been three years but the memories still linger for both Josh Wise and Levi Jones as they prepare for the May 22 “Hoosier Hundred” at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.
Rain has interrupted plans to conduct the race the past two years, so Josh and Levi will be chomping at the bit when the 1-mile oval opens that night. Neither will ever forget the duel they enjoyed in 2006, which ended with Josh in victory lane and Levi disappointed with his runner-up finish.
Josh had won the pole but Levi darted to the lead from his outside front-row starting spot and led for 99 laps. Nobody had ever won a “Hoosier Hundred” on the final lap in the previous 53 runnings, but Wise executed a pass in turn two and drove off into the history books.
“Second place will look pretty good 20 years from now,” says Levi, “but it still burns right now. My car has been ready for a week and I can’t wait to get another shot at winning it and getting Tony (Stewart, his car owner) his record 23rd series win as a car owner. I was the fastest qualifier until the rain in 2007 and think I have a great chance at getting my first series win May 22.”
Levi admits he wasn’t totally surprised by the 2006 loss. “I’d used my car up by the end and we had a green-white-checkered finish. After all those laps following me, Josh had a pretty good idea of how to get past and when I tried to block the inside of turn three I left too much track open up high and he got past and that was it. It would be nice to win that race, with all the history. It’s a fun week for all of us with all the racing going on.”
In 1992 Steve Butler had lost the lead to Jimmy Sills on lap 99, and three times drivers had lost leads on lap 98, A.J. Foyt to Mario Andretti in 1966, Bill Engelhart to Bobby Olivero in 1979 and Chuck Gurney to Dave Darland in 1996. Andy Hillenburg led 96 laps in 1990 but Gary Hieber wound up winning.
“It was the coolest victory I’ve ever experienced, for sure” says Wise. “Nothing beats winning a race on the last lap, which I had never done before. Actually my two biggest wins that year came on last laps. I won a Belleville, Kans. Midget Nationals prelim the same way!” In 2006 Wise actually got past Jones on lap 10 before a yellow sent him back behind Jones on the restart. “I kind of gave my hand away,” he admits. “I let him get away in the middle of the race but was able to catch him in the late laps. It looked like his tires wore out at the end and when I went into turn three on that last lap I made up my mind I wasn’t lifting until he did. Fortunately my car stuck on the cushion and I was able to get by.” Jones’ entry is one of two Chevrolet/Bass Pro Shops Maxim/Chevies entered by Tony Stewart Racing. Tracy Hines pilots the other Stewart entry.
The previous year (2005) Wise had suffered the anguish of losing the lead in the Hoosier Hundred after leading 83 laps when his car lost a cylinder, allowing Teddy Beach to pick up the coveted trophy. On May 22 he will pilot an RE Tech/Ford entered by Carl Edwards/Curb-Agajanian/RE Racing, with sponsorship from Red Line Oil and Curb Records.
Few motorsports events in America have captivated race fans like the “Hoosier Hundred.” Its list of past winners would populate a Hall of Fame anywhere, including Indianapolis 500 winners Bob Sweikert, Jimmy Bryan, Rodger Ward, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones, Mario Andretti and Al Unser.
A total of 57 drivers have led the storied race, led by six-time winner A.J. Foyt with 592 laps and four-time winner Al Unser with 338.
Bud Kaeding, who won the series opener in February in Phoenix, Ariz. and leads the standings after one race, has been in four “Hoosier Hundreds” and never finished worse than third. His third-place finish came behind Wise and Jones three years ago!