By Richie Murray
Winchester, Indiana (July 21, 2021)………Growing up in Winchester, Indiana, the draw of the nearby 37 degree banked, half-mile paved oval was a magnet to Matt Goodnight.
Everywhere the Winchester, Indiana born and raised racer traveled, and seemingly every time he looked up, there it was – Winchester Speedway – right within his sightline.
Young Goodnight was able to witness first-hand in the grandstands the awe-inspiring speed and competition of sprint car and midget racing at the venerable century-plus old venue.
And whenever he traveled to any place out of town in the surrounding area, Goodnight’s route took him past the track multiple times a week and sent him yearning for a day when he could race on those banks.
That day has now become a reality, and this Thursday night, July 22, Goodnight gets the opportunity to live out his ultimate dream – competing in a USAC race at Winchester Speedway – during the USAC Silver Crown National Championship’s Rich Vogler Classic presented by The Pallet Builder.
It’s a long-awaited event in multiple senses. USAC Silver Crown is currently in its 51st year of competition and is making its first visit, and the event arrives after being rained out on its originally scheduled date of May 9.
The wait is more than worth it for the 35-year-old Goodnight, especially when you’ve dreamed about this day for the entirety of your life.
“It’s awesome; it’s really a dream come true,” Goodnight exclaimed. “I grew up watching midgets and sprints at Winchester and I’ve always looked at it and dreamed about getting to run a racecar there.”
Goodnight did finish 5th with the King of the Wing Sprint Car Series at Winchester in 2016 and has competed in a stock car there on numerous occasions. But competing at the track in a series in which he has been a regular competitor with over the past several seasons is an experience on another level, in a myriad of ways, and he got his first sensation of wheeling a Silver Crown car around the speedway in May of this year during an open test.
“It’s not like anything else,” Goodnight explained. “The G-Forces pulling you down instead of the right is something that you don’t get to experience very often. Winchester is smooth, so you get to carry a lot of speed. It looks like a pretty big racetrack, but when you’re going that fast around there, it doesn’t look quite as big.”
Away from the racetrack, Goodnight is a plant manager for The Pallet Builder’s Hartford City, Ind. complex, which is owned and operated by the Goodnight family, and specializes in the repair and recycling of pallets. Goodnight works alongside his father and sister at the business, which has three locations in Indiana, and one each in California, Wisconsin and Oklahoma, and is the presenting sponsor of Thursday’s race.
One year ago, Goodnight finished a career-best 4th in the final USAC Silver Crown standings. This year hasn’t been as kind thus far, standing 18th in points with three races completed. However, there’s nothing sweeter than home sweet home to recharge the batteries, and that’s Winchester Speedway for Goodnight.
“I want to continuously get better on the pavement,” Goodnight said. “I used to be a pavement stock car guy and I’ve got a special place in my heart for the pavement stuff, but it’s taken us a lot longer than I’ve wanted it to get comfortable. In May, we made a lot of gains in that department just getting comfortable with the car, the steering and understanding all of that stuff. I feel like we’re good on the dirt. On the pavement, there are the four big guys we’re always chasing, and I’d like to be in their realm at some point in time. That’s our goal to improve on the pavement side of things and make really big gains on.”
On race day, the pits open at Noon ET with the drivers meeting set for 3pm on the front stretch, practice at 4pm, Fatheadz Qualifying at 6pm, a driver’s autograph session at 6:30pm in the midway, driver introductions at 7:45pm, opening ceremonies at 8pm and the 100-lap main event at 8:15pm.
Reserved seats are $30 apiece, while general admission tickets are $20, and just $10 for children aged 6 to 12. Tickets are available in advance at www.winchesterspeedway.com/tickets.
The race will be shown LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.