By T.J. Buffenbarger
CHARLOTTE, MI (September 29, 1998) — Two weeks ago, the entire Bob, Rod, Todd crew was taking in a great sprint/midget double header at Bloomington Speedway. During the sprint car feature all of us took notice of something we hadn’t seen in a very long time.
Jack Hewitt poking around the lead in a sprint car race.
Bloomington probably isn’t one of Hewitt’s better tracks; I made the bold prediction that Hewitt was going to be tough 4-crown weekend. Little did I know that not only he would be tough, that the man Terry Baltes used to introduce as, “He’s rides ’em high, because he’s not afraid to die! Can he Dewitt? JAAAAAACK HEWITT”.
Sweeping the 4-Crown was a feat that many said could not be done. A showcase of four different classes of cars at Eldora Speedway, four different main events featuring the best drivers in each class, and an increased payoff for each event. Jack Hewitt’s drive to all four feature wins was nothing short of amazing. Hewitt was not handed any of the wins. Drives from 12th starting spot in the midgets, 10th in the sprint cars, fourth in the modifieds, and the annihilation of the Silver Crown field from outside the front row where Hewitt lapped through fourth place! Hewitt lapped Jimmy Sills, who can hustle a non-wing sprint car and Silver Crown with anyone at the Ohio high banks.
The best part of the entire night was after each event Hewitt would get out of the car with a roar from the crown. Jack then waved to the adoring fans while jogging to his next ride. The process repeated itself throughout the evening, with the fans cheering louder after each victory. The post-race celebration was the longest I’ve ever witnessed at Eldora. Hundreds of well-wishers made their way to the front stretch to great Jack, wife Jody, son Cody, and to see the four chariots that took him to victory, each adorning a trophy and a check from Eldora Enterprises.
In a time where many of the races I go to seem to blend, this year’s 4-Crown Nationals will certainly stand out as one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Hewitt wasn’t the only driver that had amazing runs at Eldora during 4-Crown weekend. Dave Darland ran second twice, and third once to Hewitt. Darland looked to be the driver to beat in the three USAC divisions during Friday night’s preliminary events. In each feature Darland drove the wheels off the cars, but Hewitt just knew how to run Eldora that much better. Afterwards Darland was smiling and laughing with family and friends in the pit area. Darland is truly a class act.
Derek Davidson is another driver that impressed everyone during the weekend. Davidson is one of the more personable drivers away from the cockpit, but once “Double D” straps in he’s one of the most tenacious drivers on the USAC tour. Derek had a top five midget run going before the engine gave up in the CED #17, led the sprint car feature before a tire started to go down to hang on for a top five finish, and topped off the night with a sixth in the Silver Crown event. Look out for Derek in this event for the next few years because he’s becoming more comfortable running at Eldora.
Something else that was noteworthy during 4-Crown weekend was the racing. From heats, semis, to features, all were some of the best racing I’ve witnessed at Eldora in a very long time. The midgets and sprint cars put on fabulous events every time they touched the racetrack. One thing that helped this was midget reliability. Many times, the midget event at Eldora looked more like a heat race by the end, but most of the field finished the 1998 edition of the event.
Look for the Slideways page to increase coverage of the 1999 edition of the 4-Crown.