By Richie Murray
Terre Haute, Indiana (April 8, 2019)………The 19th running of the Fatheadz Eyewear “Sumar Classic” brings about a myriad of traditions. None of which are better than the sight and sound of the big cars on the dirt, where they’ll play for the first time in 2019 this Sunday, April 14, at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track for the USAC Silver Crown dirt track season opener.
Justin Grant won the “Sumar” a year ago, giving Hemelgarn Racing its first USAC National win on Indiana soil since the team captured the 1996 Indianapolis 500 with driver Buddy Lazier and crew chief Dennis LaCava, who wrenched Grant’s ride to the win on the legendary half-mile.
In 2016, Grant of Ione, Calif., won the pole for the “Sumar” and was dominant for the first 93 laps of the 100-lap event. But, it was just a slight mishap with seven laps remaining that cost him a shot at victory. Fast forward to 2018 and a couple more years of experience under the belt, Grant was determined to not let the past repeat itself, rising to the top of the heap on lap 84 and charging to the victory.
Grant made a valiant surge in the Silver Crown opener in March at Memphis, racing from 20th to 3rd at the checkered, two spots behind the series’ winningest driver who picked up his record-extending 25th that afternoon, Kody Swanson. The Kingsburg, Calif. driver also finished 2nd to Grant at the “Sumar” a year ago. He was in position to win with 16 laps to go when he and Shane Cottle tangled in turn three. Swanson’s crew changed the left rear, then proceeded to carve through the pack, ultimately getting to 2nd by race end.
Swanson’s offseason move to Nolen Racing has already shown its potential, winning right out of the box at Memphis. Swanson won the “Sumar” in 2014, while Nolen cars have captured a pair, in 1998 and 2002, both with driver Tony Elliott.
Among the group of contenders in the “Sumar” field are past winners Dave Darland (2008), Swanson (2014), Shane Cockrum (2015), C.J. Leary (2016), Chris Windom (2017) and Grant (2018) in addition to past series winners Aaron Pierce, David Byrne, Shane Cottle and 2018 pole winner Tyler Courtney.
The Sumar Classic traces its heritage to the AAA/USAC National Championship cars owned by Don Smith and Chapman Root over half a century ago. While USAC Silver Crown racing debuted at Terre Haute with Gary Bettenhausen’s score in 1980, the first race under the “Sumar” moniker came in 1995, a race won by Donnie Beechler. Over the past quarter century, “Sumar” winners have included the likes of Kevin Thomas, Jack Hewitt, J.J. Yeley, Brian Tyler, Josh Wise, Bud Kaeding, Levi Jones and Bobby East.
Swanson leads the USAC Silver Crown standings coming into the “Sumar Classic” with a nine-point margin over Bobby Santos, followed by Grant, Kyle Hamilton and leading Rookie contender Joey Schmidt.
Pits open at 1pm Eastern on Sunday with grandstands opening at 2pm, an open pit party from 2-3:15pm, drivers meeting at 3:30pm, practice at 4:30pm, Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying at 5:30pm and racing at 6:30pm.
Adult general admission tickets are $25, infield tickets $15 and kids 11 and under FREE. Pit passes are $30 for USAC/UMP members and $35 for non-members.
The “Sumar Classic” can be watched LIVE on http://www.FloRacing.com/.