Column By: RUSTY RHOADES / RPW – PUTNAMVILLE, IN – When you think of Indiana sprint car racing, the tracks that may cross your mind first are namesakes of notable towns like Terre Haute, Bloomington or Lawrenceburg. Well I’ve been to all of those, and I’m here to tell you that little Lincoln Park Speedway in little Putnamville may just be the best of them all.
A real deal cushion on a big car track (micro tracks excluded) is hard to find anywhere in the Northeast dirt racing region, from Central Pennsylvania up through New York and everywhere around and between. The main reasons for that can be debated until the cows come home.
To be brief on this loaded topic, I feel that track location and the quality/content of the clay used for the racing surface that’s available in that area has a lot more to do with it than most folks think. Other than that, I feel it’s really up to each track’s prep crew, i.e. what they prefer versus the specific weather conditions they’ve been dealt, possible feedback from regular drivers and teams on what’s harder on tires and equipment, and most importantly…WATER!!!
Earlier this week I paid a return visit to the 5/16-mile bullring of Lincoln Park Speedway for Indiana Sprint Week (ISW), USAC’s annual tour de force through Hoosierville with their signature 410 series. I had been there once prior, that being last year on the Saturday that Kokomo’s ISW show was monsooned out. Lincoln Park was literally plan D for my friends and I, and they really stuck it out against Mother Nature to get a “regular show” in. The surface was already heavy from the rain’s moisture, but that night I saw every type of car, from midget to super stock late model, survive and thrive on a monster cushion up top.
But Thursday night I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just a fluke helped by a rainy afternoon, and with a big traveling series like USAC on the card to boot. It most certainly was not a fluke.
By the time each of the 40 cars on hand made their individual qualifying runs around 7:30pm, a sizable boundary had already formed around the high line of the facility the likes of which I haven’t seen at any other track all year…at the end of the night!
And boy did it lead to some make or break moments during the heat races. In heat 1, Brady Bacon was on the outside of a transfer spot looking in when the caution came out with three to go. He leaned on that beefy cushion to launch around 3rd and 4th coming out of turn two on the restart and even picked off another spot around the top of four to take the checkers in the runner-up spot, which catapulted him to the same finish later on in the A Main.
Brandon Mattox was on the other end of the cushion’s favor come heat 3. He led the entire race until very late when constant pressure from CJ Leary finding a solid low trek to the front caused Mattox to “push the cush” way too hard trying to keep up with the passing 19AZ and end up sitting on top of the track entrance drop in ledge above turns three and four. Mattox would rebound to finish in the top 10 at night’s end.
The C Main leader Dakota Jackson also washed out up over the cushion ledge late in that race, flipping to a DNF. He was uninjured.
Although the A-Main was uncommonly run on the bottom by most of the front group, Kevin Thomas, Jr. rode the cushion to success often during his top five effort and it conversely claimed a victim in Isaac Chapple as he laid upside down in turn 4 after being bitten.
After the feature, my seven year old son and I walked the track and literally sat up on the cushion in turn two with no problem, as if we were just sitting in a row of bleachers like normal! He was highly impressed by this “cushion” I kept telling him about at home being so visible and tangible right there in front of him finally! I was impressed too.
Again, I don’t write this in an attempt to bash or put Northeast and Mid-Atlantic dirt tracks. I am a true believer in personal choice and personal responsibility. If you don’t like something a track continually does to the point that you’re not enjoying yourself, yet there you are back at said track week after week, that’s on you my friend.
What I AM saying is if you really like what you see in another region or facility in the dirt racing community, don’t just wish it to be that way at your specific track and then immediately and repeatedly criticize when it’s not. Step off the porch every once in awhile. Hell, take a road trip with your kid to Indiana next July for a few days to actually experience what you hear about. You won’t regret it!