To be a consistent front runner on a race-by-race basis is a task that drivers and teams are constantly faced with in pursuit of feature wins and season championships.
To be consistent year-after-year-after is taking it to another level. When faced with different challenges and facing off with stout competition from one season to the next, it can become a chore to get the job done for three, five, 10 or even 20-plus straight years. The best of the best are those who can thrive repeatedly and deliver results.
No single driver has had as much consistent success throughout the history of Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo Speedway than has Dave Darland. Of course, he’s the winningest driver in the history of the track and the owner of four sprint car titles at the quarter-mile dirt oval, but his “Smackdown” success has been something to behold entering this week’s eighth annual edition of the event, Aug. 22-23-24.
No driver has earned more total Smackdown wins than Darland, of Lincoln, Ind., with five. Likewise, no other driver has won more Smackdown finales than Darland, which he achieved consecutively in 2013-2014-2015.
A deeper dig into the numbers shows that, in the seven previous editions of Smackdown, only four drivers have started each and every feature on the final night: Chris Windom, Chase Stockon, Shane Cottle and Darland. Darland’s average feature finish over that seven-race span is an eye-popping 3.3, ahead of Windom (9.4), Stockon (10.4) and Cottle (11.7).
In fact, Darland’s “worst” finish in his seven Smackdown starts came last year with a seventh-place result, a solid run for many driver’s measuring stick. Just one driver has as good of a record in terms of average finish at Smackdown than does Darland with a 3.3 average – Bryan Clauson, winner of the inaugural edition of the event who achieved the same average in just three starts.
It’s pretty incredible that Darland has been able sustain the success he’s had over the years with seven top-seven finishes in seven starts. There’s only one driver who’s started at least four of the seven main events and finished in the top-ten in all – defending Smackdown winner Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.), who’s started each of the last five finales with finishes of 6th (2014-16-17), 7th (2015), and 1st (2018).
Darland’s finishes throughout his Smackdown run have been superb with three victories (2013-14-15), and finishes of 4th (2012-16), 5th(2017) and 7th (2018). A similar run this week would be a boon for Darland, who’s had three top-ten finishes in 16 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car starts this season. It’s a place the USAC Triple Crown champion has been around and won at more than any other driver; where the home track and the home crowd are always a welcoming sight to the National Sprint Car Hall of Famer.
The racing festivities at Kokomo first get underway on Wednesday, August 21, with #GYATK Night, a USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car non-points Special Event in honor of the late, great Bryan Clauson, winner of the first Smackdown in 2012. Admission is FREE for all racefans. Driver pit passes are also all FREE courtesy of AllStar Performance. All gates open at 3pm Eastern, draw closes at USAC trailer at 6:10pm, drivers meeting in front grandstands at 6:15pm and cars on track at 6:30pm.
For the first two nights of Smackdown on Thursday, August 22 and Friday, August 23, all gates open at 3pm Eastern with cars on track at 6:45pm. Adult general admission tickets are $25 and children age 12 and under free. Pit passes are $35 apiece. 3-day advance reserved: $80.00, call 815-468-8690 for tickets. Advanced tickets sales will end on 8/19, after 8/19 3-day tickets can be purchased at the ticket window on race night for $85.00.
On the final night of Smackdown on Saturday, August 24, all gates open at 3pm Easter with cars on track at 6pm. Adult general admission tickets are $35 and children age 12 and under free. Pit passes are $45 apiece. The Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series will also be on the event card.
All three nights of Smackdown, in addition to #GYATK Night, will be shown live and on-demand on FloRacing. You can listen to live audio of each night on the USAC app and follow along with live timing and scoring on the Race-Monitor app as well as the USAC app.
AVERAGE SMACKDOWN FINAL NIGHT FINISH (3 or More Starts)
1. (3.3) Bryan Clauson & Dave Darland
3. (5.2) Justin Grant
4. (6.7) Tyler Thomas
5. (7.7) Kevin Thomas Jr.
6. (8.8) Tracy Hines
7. (9.2) C.J. Leary
8. (9.3) Brady Bacon
9. (9.4) Chris Windom
10. (9.6) Kyle Cummins
11. (9.7) Tyler Courtney
12. (10.4) Chase Stockon
13. (10.8) Robert Ballou & Jon Stanbrough
15. (11.2) Scotty Weir
16. (11.7) Shane Cottle
17. (12.0) Jarett Andretti
18. (12.8) Chad Boespflug
19. (13.7) Hunter Schuerenberg
20. (14.0) Casey Shuman
21. (15.0) Logan Jarrett
22. (15.8) Jerry Coons, Jr.
23. (18.0) Thomas Meseraull
24. (19.3) Kyle Robbins