By Richie Murray
July 25, 1998 – where were you? Saving Private Ryan was the number one movie at the box office and Shania Twain’s “You’re Still the One” was still dominating the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Not to mention, at that time, many of today’s racing stars were still in quarter midgets, diapers, or still years down the road.
That date also marked the most recent occasion the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars competed at Indiana’s Paragon Speedway, the 3/8-mile dirt oval just southwest of Indianapolis, a near 23-year absence which ends this Sunday, April 18, with the return of the series.
Paragon has hosted 19 previous appearances by the series dating back to 1981. Steve Butler has the most USAC Sprint wins at the track with three while Derek Davidson won the most recent, in 1998, which was his first career series victory.
Funny enough, the first two USAC Sprint races held at Paragon resulted in two first-time series winners in Rick Hood (1981) and Chuck Amati (1982) while the last three did so as well, with Kevin Briscoe (1997), Bill Rose (1997) and Davidson (1998) all notching their firsts. Seven of the 19 races have produced first-time USAC winners with those five, plus Brad Doty (1988) and Joe Gaerte (1988) also doing the same.
This Sunday’s race will undoubtedly produce a first-time Paragon winner under USAC sanction. However, numerous of the expected entrants for the event have experienced their fair share of success over the years at the track which first hosted racing in 1954.
A.J. Hopkins (Brownsburg, Ind.) is a prime candidate to join the list of drivers to win their first USAC Sprint features at Paragon. Hopkins captured the 2020 track championship there with five victories and he won twice more back in 2019.
Dave Darland (Lincoln, Ind.) has made seven USAC Sprint Car starts at Paragon, dating back to his first appearance in 1987. He’s won at Paragon before, locally, back in 1991. With USAC, he’s been a consistent frontrunner at the tricky paperclip shaped track with a 3rd in 1994 as his best performance to go along with 4th place finishes in 1996 and 1998, plus a pair of 7th place results in 1995 and 1997, and an 8th, also in 1997. He set quick time during qualifying back in 1996.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) has posted 12 victories at Paragon between 2003 and 2019. Winning sprint car races at Paragon is a family tradition with his father, Mark Cummins, winning in a winged sprint car there in 1990-91.
Early in his career, Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) earned the sprint car track championship at Paragon in 2008. Stockon grabbed a handful of victories at Paragon between 2005-11 before heading onto the USAC National Sprint Car trail full-time starting in 2012.
Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) captured the 68-lap Chuck Amati Classic races in 2010 and 2013, and one of his very first sprint car victories came as a 14-year-old at Paragon back in 2005. More recently, Windom scored a semi-feature win and a 4th place finish with the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets in June of 2020.
Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) has earned a pair of victories at Paragon himself in both the 2015 King of Indiana Sprint Car Series (KISS) race as well as the 2018 Chuck Amati Classic.
Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.) has been a frequent winner at Paragon over the last couple of years, winning twice in 2020 and four times in 2019.
Brady Short (Bedford, Ind.) has found his way to victory lane too at Parago, with a pair of Chuck Amati Classic scores in 2011 and 2016 in addition to another victory at Paragon in 2011.
Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) has won twice at Paragon, including the 2017 Chuck Amati Classic and the 2011 KISS event. Brandon Mattox (Terre Haute, Ind.) captured a Paragon win in 2013. Jordan Kinser (Bedford, Ind.) has triumphed seven times between 2013 and 2019. Brandon Morin (Jasonville, Ind.) has two victories at Paragon in 2012 and 2017 while Ricky Lewis (Ventura, Calif.) in 2020 and Travis Berryhill (American Canyon, Calif.) in 2019 have each won once.
Several more of this weekend’s expected Sprint Car entries competed in the 2020 Indiana Midget Week round at Paragon, including 2nd place finisher Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) who led a race high 16 laps. Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) won his heat and finished 5th. Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) raced from the C to the B to the A where he started 22nd and finished 8th. Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) won his heat and finished 10th while Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.) took 17th and Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) finished 18th. Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.), the 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champ, also competed, but flipped during his heat race.
Harley Burns’ (Brazil, Ind.) father, Eric Burns, won at Paragon on four occasions between 1996-2001. Brayden Fox’s (Avon, Ind.) father, Brad Fox, competed numerous times at Paragon and the car, the famed white No. 53, was a perennial winner throughout the mid to late 2000s everywhere, including Paragon.
They join a slew of talented individuals who’ve made their mark in the sport, including USAC National Sprint champion C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), USAC and World of Outlaws winner Carson Short (Marion, Ill.), MOWA champ Paul Nienhiser (Chapin, Ill.), USAC National Midget winner Davey Ray (Davenport, Iowa), past USAC CRA Rookies of the Year Max Adams (Loomis, Calif.) and Eddie Tafoya Jr. (Chino Hills, Calif.), plus multi-time Sprint Car feature winners Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.), Tye Mihocko (Phoenix, Ariz.), USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year contender Carson Garrett (Littleton, Colo.) and more!
On Sunday at Paragon, pits open at 2:30pm ET, grandstands at 3:30pm, drivers meeting at 4:30pm and hot laps at 5pm. Advance tickets are on sale at www.TracPass.com. Tickets & pit passes will also be available at the gates. General admission tickets are $25 while children age 10 and under are free. USAC Member pit passes are $25 apiece & $30 for non-members, with kids age 10 and under $15.
Flag-to-flag coverage of the event from Paragon Speedway will be streamed LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3dgONXz.
PARAGON SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS:
2-Jack Hewitt & Jon Stanbrough
1-Chuck Amati, Kevin Briscoe, Derek Davidson, Brad Doty, Joe Gaerte, Rick Hood, Kelly Kinser, Sheldon Kinser, Bill Rose, Ken Schrader, Kevin Thomas & Rich Vogler
PARAGON SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS:
1981: Rick Hood (9/9)
1982: Chuck Amati (5/15) & Rich Vogler (7/28)
1983: Ken Schrader (4/17), Jack Hewitt (7/27) & Kelly Kinser (9/15)
1984: Steve Butler (7/19) & Steve Butler (8/15)
1985: Sheldon Kinser (7/3)
1987: Steve Butler (8/29)
1988: Brad Doty (5/7) & Joe Gaerte (9/9)
1994: Kevin Thomas (6/4)
1995: Jack Hewitt (7/8)
1996: Jon Stanbrough (7/6) & Jon Stanbrough (7/27)
1997: Kevin Briscoe (7/5) & Bill Rose (7/26)
1998: Derek Davidson (7/25)
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY
1 Lap – 7/27/1996 – Mark Cassella – 14.886 – 90.689 mph
6 Laps – 8/15/1984 – Leon Thickstun – 1:36.130 – 84.261 mph
8 Laps – 7/19/1984 – Sheldon Kinser – 2:06.560 – 85.335 mph
10 Laps – 7/27/1983 – Bill Tyler – 2:44.670 – 81.982 mph
12 Laps – 7/6/1996 – Kevin Thomas – 3:30.760 – 76.865 mph
30 Laps – 7/28/1982 – Rich Vogler – 12:01.780 – 56.111 mph