USAC coming back to local tracks

Photo by Rich Kepner The NAPA Auto Parts Thunder on the Hill Racing Series will kick off the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in June at local tracks.

Grandview Speedway and the NAPA Auto Parts Thunder on the Hill Racing Series will kick off the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in June. The Tuesday night, June 3 USAC Non-Wing sprints will open the eighth edition of the “Eastern Storm”. USAC will present five nights or racing at five different tracks from June 3 to June 8.

Grandview Speedway and Thunder on the Hill will open the USAC Eastern Storm Series on Tuesday night, June 3rd with the “Jesse Hockett Classic”, a 40 lap feature event that will pay $6,000 to the winner. Hockett lost his life in a garage accident in 2010, just prior to heading east for the Eastern Storm. The previous year at Grandview, Hockett wpm two USAC features on the same night. The ARDC Midgets will be part of the Grandview Speedway Eastern Storm that will get underway at 7:30 p.m.

The USAC Eastern Storm Series will then shift to the Lincoln Speedway in Abbottstown on Wednesday night, June 4. The MACH 1 Chassis sponsored event will showcase the URC 360/358 Super Series event with a 25 lap feature. Race fans visiting the track in the “pigeon hills” will get to see non-wing and winged sprint cars on the same night. New Egypt Speedway in New Egypt, NJ will open their doors to the USAC Eastern Storm joined by the ARDC Midgets on Thursday night, June 5.

USAC will take Friday night off, although there is an outside possibility of another option still being discussed. On Saturday night, June 7, the Eastern Storm will head to the Port Royal Speedway with ARDC being part of the show that gets underway at the always fast and furious half-mile. The Eastern Storm Finale is set for Sunday night, June 8th at the Susquehanna Speedway in Newberrytown. In the 2013 Eastern Storm at Susky, Shane Cottle won a thriller that had the crowd on their feet for the final laps.

In the 2013 Eastern Storm event at Grandview Speedway, “The Modern Day Cowboy”, Daron Clayton thrilled the crowd while bouncing off the walls lap after lap to pick up his first “Eastern Storm” feature win. The 2012 Grandview winner, Bryan Clauson, was again crowned the “Eastern Storm” champion in 2013, backing up his mini-series championship from the year before en route to a second-straight National title. Other previous winners at Grandview include Bobby East (2011), Jesse Hockett (2010), and two-time winner Levi Jones.

Lincoln Speedway returns to the fold after two years off, and it is sure to see a new winner as Levi Jones had claimed both features at the famous central Pennsylvania track. New Egypt had a one-year hiatus, but the favored USAC destination is back by popular demand in 2014. Clauson won the most recent visit in 2012 after Jones and Hunter Schuerenberg had won previous races on the sweeping 4/10-mile oval, known for fantastic USAC racing.

After being rained out in 2011, Port Royal Speedway will look for its third-consecutive race during the “Eastern Storm” after Damion Gardner and Dave Darland took victory the first two years. Susquehanna was a newcomer to the series in 2013 and saw a barnburner won by Shane Cottle in Pennsylvania car owner Gene Franckowiak’s #65.

All championship contenders are expected to return to action in USAC for 2013, including Clauson, who will defend his title along with the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #20 team. He will again be challenged by Darland, who looks to close in on the all-time National Sprint Car win record, as he trails Tom Bigelow by just five with 47 triumphs of his own. “The People’s Champ” from Lincoln, Indiana has finished second to Clauson each of the last two years in the National Championship.

“Most Improved” driver Kevin Thomas, Jr. joined Clauson & Darland as each had seven wins on the tour in 2013. The Cullman, Alabama youngster will look to build on that as he takes on a teammate in veteran Jon Stanbrough. Stanbrough sits 11th in all-time sprint car wins as he strengthens the Michael Dutcher/RW/Tri-Star Motorsports team.

Another veteran returning in 2014 is Tracy Hines, who is trying to chase down Darland and Bigelow. Hines, with 45, is tied for fourth on the list and is one behind Jack Hewitt. Famed car entrants Hoffman Auto Racing will campaign their familiar #69 into the “Eastern Storm” as they bring back Broken Arrow, Oklahoma driver Brady Bacon for year-two with the team.

Along with them, 2012 “Wild Card” winner Chase Stockon attempts to improve on his fourth-place standing from last year, and crowd favorite Robert Ballou of Rocklin, California, is again expected to make the trip.

The trip east has become one of the favorites on our schedule, for the fans, our competitors, and even us working with the series,” said Jason McCord. “We’ve had spectacular racing, especially in recent years, and the fans are really into the show these guys put on. We feel like we’ve assembled the best schedule yet for this trip, and we’re excited to see it play out and try to give the racers a great stage for them to perform.”