Darland Wins, Jones Is Champion
PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. — The 25th Indiana Sprint Week finale at Lincoln Park Speedway Sunday was a race for the record book.
Levi Jones captured his fourth Sprint Week championship, tying Kevin Thomas for the most in the 25-year history of the series. And in his 500th USAC feature start, Dave Darland, with more wins than anyone else in Indiana Sprint Week competition, notched another, increasing his total to 17.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (surprisingly not related to the previous Sprint Week champion) charged from 13th to second. Bryan Clauson finished third, ahead of Shane Cottle, Levi Jones and Jon Stanbrough.
“It’s big. It’s a great feeling and a good win,” Darland allowed. Wheeling Jeff Walker’s Jam-It-In Storage/ProSource No. 11 Maxim, he was the only driver to earn more than a single win during the seven-race AMSOIL USAC national sprint car series. “There’s a ton of great race car drivers here tonight and a lot of them put up a good battle. This one tonight is special.”
Jones was just as proud of his title effort. He explained that it had special meaning, “You know, Kevin Thomas was one of the first guys that helped me when my dad and I started racing. I talked to him last week and I told him that if I could get it, I wanted my picture out there with him. The records are made to be broken and someday, a long time from now, I hope that somebody breaks mine. It means a lot to race Bryan Clauson and Jon Stanbrough and come out as a champion. When you do things, it’s about being a champion.”
The Sprint Week point battle came to head when the main event lined up with the top four in points starting in the second and third rows. Stanbrough and Darland shared the second row, and behind them, Bryan Clauson lined up inside of Jones.
But it was pole-starter Shane Cottle who appeared firmly in control of the race. Jumping to a quick lead that extended to a full car length in the Epperson Painting No. 2e Spike, Cottle led Darland, with Clauson in third. Behind them, Stanbrough led Coleman Gulick and Jones in the battle for fourth.
Battling aggressively as he worked steadily through the field, Thomas favored the bottom grove as he charged to fourth, and then grabbed third from Clauson. It was a restart following a lap-24 caution changed the dynamic, as Thomas charged under Darland in turn one. Darland quickly retook second, but Thomas stayed with him and when Darland attacked Cottle, Thomas was on his heels.
Darland charged under Cottle to the lead in turn three on the 26th circuit, but Cottle rocketed back ahead as the raced off the next turn. The next lap, Darland charged under Cottle in three again, and when Cottle turned to drive back under, Thomas was already there and they blasted through four three-wide. With the momentum of the top lane, Darland seized the lead and didn’t look back. On the final lap of the 25th anniversary Indiana Sprint Week, Darland took the checkers by four car lengths, as Clauson grabbed third from Cottle. Behind them, Jones outran Stanbrough off the fourth turn to score fifth in the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing/Chevrolet Performance No. 20 Maxim.
With six top-five finishes in seven races, Jones claimed the Sprint Week title by just seven points over Clauson with Stanbrough 13 points behind.
In the national standings, Jones closed within six points of Stanbrough.
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