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The final chapter of NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week 2019 is far from being completed, but the story that’s been written thus far is one of triumph and one in which certain drivers can say “finally” in terms of their own ISW success.
Three drivers: Shane Cottle, Chris Windom and Justin Grant, each had their own hurdles to overcome in one way or another, but each used these first four races to clear them and reach Indiana Sprint Week victory lane for the first time in a while, or in one case, for the first time ever.
Shane Cottle came into last Wednesday’s opener at Gas City with an impressive Indiana Sprint Week resume: 19 top-fives, 38 top-tens, 48 laps led and 23 heat race wins in 72 starts. The one piece of the puzzle that had eluded him all these years was a feature victory.
The wait finally ended, and the weight was lifted off the Kansas, Illinois driver’s shoulder with his last-lap heroics at Gas City, with a lap 30 surge on the bottom to nip C.J. Leary at the line in one of the closest finishes in USAC history. Cottle started 18th in the feature, the second-furthest back a winning Indiana Sprint Week driver has started, only behind Terry Pletch’s charge from 21st to 1st at the Terre Haute Action Track in 1999.
With the statistic of Cottle being the most-tenured driver without an ISW win put to rest, one of the other most-talked about streaks was that of Chris Windom, who had gone 49 races and over eight seasons since his most recent, and only, ISW win to that point, at the Terre Haute Action Track during his first ISW title run in 2011.
In between 2011 and 2019, Windom became a two-time USAC National champion, added another Indiana Sprint Week championship in 2018 as well as multiple Eastern Storm championships all while developing into one of the top stars of his era. So, the general consensus was that it was just a matter of time before Windom found his way back to victory lane.
That moment arrived for the Canton, Ill. driver last Saturday with his win at Kokomo, coming out on top following a back-and-fort slider session with Scotty Weir 11 laps from the end, then a last-lap tussle with Brady Bacon to claim the victory.
Sunday at Lawrenceburg proved to be more of the same story, but this time it was Justin Grant’s turn. Seven years ago, in 2012, Grant drove to his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory after Bryan Clauson suffered a flat tire late in the going. Grant, of Ione, Calif., was in position to capitalize to earn what was, before Sunday, his one and only ISW triumph. Incredibly, those last two laps he led in 2012 were the only ones he had ever led in ISW prior to Sunday night.
Grant started the feature from the outside of the front row, made a beeline for the bottom and raced to the front of the line on the opening lap. Windom gave repeatedly challenged Grant on the bottom, but Grant was solid on the high side throughout the duration, wiring all 30 laps to win his 15th career USAC Sprint Car feature, four of which have come at Lawrenceburg.
Back to Plymouth on Friday, Tyler Courtney kept the ball rolling as he won his second in three nights following a $10,000 prelude to ISW victory at Eldora Speedway. The Plymouth win was the 15th in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition for Courtney since joining Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing at the beginning of 2018 in just 55 starts, or 27 percent.
Courtney, of Indianapolis, Ind., is the only driver from the group of 2018 ISW winners thus far to have won an ISW race in 2019. His fourth ISW score has already moved him into the top-13 all-time in terms of feature wins, and in the latest, following a lap 19 restart, Courtney switched up the game plan from top to bottom as Bacon slid from the bottom of turn three to the top of turn four. Courtney anticipated the move and countered underneath Bacon to take hold of the number one spot lead the remaining 11 laps for the win.
There are many stories to finish out the second four-race set of ISW this week. A few of the major storylines have already had an extra sentence or paragraph added to them through the first four. But the book isn’t closed just yet. There’s a lot more to play out when the period is placed, and the book is closed on ISW2019.
The second half of ISW kicks off Wednesday, July 24, at the Terre Haute Action Track. Pits open at 3pm, front gates at 4pm and hot laps at 6:30pm. Adult general admission grandstand tickets are $25, adult infield tickets are $15 in the infield, children 11 and under are free when accompanied by a parent. DIRTcar Modifieds will be racing as well on the half-mile.
Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville is next up on Thursday, July 25 where the front gate and pit gate opens at 4:30pm Eastern, drivers meeting begins at 6pm and hot laps are scheduled for 6:30pm. Indiana Super Stocks will also be in attendance. Adult general admission tickets are $25 and pit passes are $30 apiece.
The “Sheldon Kinser Memorial” on Friday, July 26 at Bloomington Speedway will have the pits open at 3pm Eastern, front gates at 5pm, drivers meeting at 6pm and hot laps at 6:40pm. Adult tickets are $25, students (with valid I.D.) are $10, children 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $30 apiece. RaceSaver Sprint Cars are also on the event card.
For the finale at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt on Saturday, July 27, qualifying is slated to begin at 6:30pm and racing at 7:30pm Central. Adult tickets are $25, students 13-18 are $20 and children 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $30. Modifieds will also be racing.
Watch NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week live and on-demand at FloRacing.