Column By: NICHOLAS FILLMAN / RPW – SPEEDWAY, IN – Last week the amazing people at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the United States Auto Club held a midget race inside the famed oval, in front of a sold out crowd and a jam packed pit area.
But the race was more than just a race to everyone in the field and everyone in the stands. It was the realization of a dream for many, and a celebration to honor one of the greatest drivers to ever strap into a race car, Bryan Clauson.
As the vision started with a simple retirement ceremony for Tony Stewart, to the hard work and dedication to short track, grass roots racing, that has been time and again been demonstrated by Doug Boles along with a host of others that made this event what it was. The hard work doesn’t stop with Doug Boles. Or with Kevin Miller and Levi Jones from USAC, and the rest of the USAC crew, or the extreme support from Scott Petry, from the hours of track time that Kokomo Speedway operator Reece O’Connor put in to working the track and providing a surface that any track in the U.S. would love to have.
For many drivers who have career aspirations in open wheel racing, and fans who loved to watch the sport, many had their eyes set on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as the Mecca of motorsports and their ultimate dream or accomplishment.
The BC 39 was the realization for many of those drivers, teams, and especially fans who once dreamed about racing, or spectating at IMS.
That vibe was clear from the moment the event was announced as an astonishing 120 cars pre entered the event, with 114 showing up on the grounds to try their hand at qualifying.
The accomplishment of racing in any capacity at IMS was realized by fans when a couple of drivers who had misfortune in their racing events were able to hop out of their cars and not be upset. Case in point would be California driver and regular with the USAC Western Midgets, David Prickett who would suffer a flip in his heat only to hop out of his car and say that he was happy for the opportunity to race at IMS.
The racing was nothing short of spectacular on both nights as drivers from 21 states, and Australia battled it out for a shot at earring a spot for a chance at fifteen thousand dollars, the highest paying midget race of the outdoor season. The diversity in the field was another key sign of how much the event meant to the racing community as NASCAR regulars Ricky Stenhouse Jr, Christopher Bell, JJ Yeley and Landon Cassill were on hand to try and make the feature event, along with IndyCar veteran Conor Daly who was making his first ever start behind the wheel of a midget.
But the support and dedication was much deeper as I’ve already mentioned once Thursday rolled around for the main event program. A dismal forecast was predicted and would have forced some tracks to have pulled the plug early based off of a bleak outcome. But the team stuck with it and the show was to be run even after a monsoon hit the speedway only an hour before cars were scheduled to hit the track. Immediately the crew was at work blowing water off the track, and making every possible effort, before a second hour of light rain would again move in forcing the track crew and fans alike off the grounds. The track team worked endlessly trying to provide a surface that would allow them to have the race, utilizing graders and skid steers to scrape and pull the top layers of mud off of the track before hot laps and the rest of the evening would be run.
The dedication was felt by the fans too, as once cars made their way to the track after the eight o’clock hour, and racing finishing shortly after twelve in the morning on Friday, hardly any fans left the speedway and the stands were jam packed with race fans.
In the end, the fans in the stands, the promotional teams, track workers, media personnel and everyone else involved were rewarded with a spectacular display of open wheel racing, filled with side by side, three wide racing all through the 39 lap event, culminating with a very fitting winner and one of Bryan Clauson’s close friends Brady Bacon taking home the win.
The Inaugural BC 39 was one for the record books, and an event that I will never forget for a multitude of reasons, none more so than the dedication as a whole, that every individual who was involved showed, especially from the race staff.
Hopefully, this event will continue on year after year at IMS and become a date to be circled every year on the calendar, and a staple that every driver and fan hopes to cross off their bucket list and become a part of over a centuries worth of history.