By Dick Jordan
The 41st running of the famed “Tony Hulman Classic” USAC AMSOIL National Sprint race unfolds at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track on Thursday, May 26.
Honoring the man who resurrected the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after World War II and preserved the tradition of the Indianapolis 500 through his death in 1977, the “Tony Hulman Classic” has produced memorable racing and an impressive list of race winners.
Former race winners expected to return for the 2011 running include: defending champion Jerry Coons Jr., three-time champion (2005, 2008 and 2009) Levi Jones, two-time champion (2002 and 2007) Jon Stanbrough, 2006 champion Daron Clayton, 2001 champion Tracy Hines and 1993 champion Dave Darland.
History has seen drivers like Cory Kruseman, J.J. Yeley, Jack Hewitt, Rich Vogler, Steve Butler, Pancho Carter, Gary Bettenhausen and inaugural winner George Snider make their way to Terre Haute’s victory lane.
No driver has ever won four “Tony Hulman Classic” features. Levi Jones will try to reach that lofty plateau this year, piloting an entry from the stable of USAC Triple Crown Champion and two-time NASCAR titlist Tony Stewart.
Some historical facts to ponder: Terry Pletch at age 52 became the oldest winner in 1999 and from the farthest back after qualifying 33rd and starting 21st.; Yeley was the youngest winner at 21 in 1997; Stewart’s cars have won four of these races (2003-2004-2008-2009), 10 winners have come from the front row and 10 from row two.
Last year’s “Tony Hulman Classic” produced a record six lead changes, with Coons and Jones battling for the victory. Coons holds the record for the most “active” consecutive starts at 12.
Jones, who has three wins and a second in his last six starts, is also seeking a record fifth USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car title in seven years! He’s currently tied at four with Steve Butler for the record.
The Terre Haute Action Track continues its 2011 USAC racing calendar with the July 3 “Sumar Classic 100” TRAXXAS Silver Crown race, the July 13 “Indiana Sprint Week” event and the September 10 “Jim Hurtubise Classic” Sprint race, honoring the driver who won five straight USAC Sprint races at THAT in the 1960s.