(Dick Ayers photo
HAUBSTADT, Ind. — Dave Darland drove to his second NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week victory of the 31st edition of the annual event, while Chris Windom was crowned series champion.
Windom started outside the front row and led the first 23 laps of the quarter-mile oval while knowing he had to finish fifth or better to take the Sprint Week title.
Chase Stockon dogged Windom as the two pounced toward lapped traffic by lap 10, Stockon did his dirty work through the middle while Windom scraped the lower groove in his Baldwin Brothers Racing/Fox Paving – AMSOIL/DRC/Claxton Mopar. Stockon was taking a peek around the outside of Windom when the first yellow flag fell for the stopped car of Daron Clayton in turn four.
A restart near midway saw Windom and Stockon separated by the lapped car of Mario Clouser, one who had the speed to run the quickest lap of the race at the time and was able to race wheel-to-wheel with Windom until clearing the scene and gaining his lap back.
A handful of laps later, Kokomo ISW winner Thomas Meseraull flipped off turn four into the catch fencing while running ninth.
On the lap-19 restart, Darland surged from third to second past Stockon with a turn one slider. The race was on and here came pride up the backstretch in the form of the Goodnight Racing-Curb-Agajanian/Curb Records – The Pallet Builder/Maxim/Claxton Chevy.
Darland sheared into Windom’s lead each trip around the quarter-mile dirt oval and, on lap 24, sharpened his blades and made the attack on Windom with a slider in turn one to snag the lead.
“I hadn’t thought much about Chris running for the championship, but I knew he was” Darland admitted. “I didn’t want to screw him, obviously. I gave him a clean slider. There’s good sliders and there’s bad. If you give the guy the option of either lifting or cutting down or fill the gap, that’s the only thing you can do.”
The move caught Windom off guard.
“I honestly wasn’t expecting that big of a slider,” Windom recalled. “The track started moving around a bit. I started running the bottom in the first half and I felt like it was slowing down quite a bit. It’s tough leading here because you don’t really know where to go. I tried to get to the top, but Dave got by us and his car was really hooked up tonight. It was going to be tough to run him down and I don’t think I really had anything for him unless I really wanted to start pressuring him. I was looking at the big picture there and thought I was in a really good spot in second behind him. I just rode it out after I didn’t think I had anything for him.
One lap later, on lap 25, Clouser’s car was found spun backwards close to the outside wall between turns one and two, just in front of the leaders. Windom had to take evasive action, but escaped without any harm.
Meanwhile, Darland locked up his second victory in a three-day span for his record-extending 62nd career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature win.
Windom finished second ahead of Stockon, K. Thomas and C.J. Leary.
“I just won at Haubstadt,” Darland exclaimed. “It’s unbelievable! I never thought I’d say that. It’s a great feeling to win here, let alone anywhere. Haubstadt is an exceptionally good feeling for me because we usually suck here. I had a great race car and had to take advantage of it. You don’t get a chance to win here very often. I just wanted to win, man, like Jason Johnson’s famous line from Knoxville a couple years ago.”
Windom followed up June’s”Eastern Storm title with a NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week championship in a little in over a span of a month to become just the third driver to accomplish both tasks in a single season (Bryan Clauson in 2013 and Robert Ballou in 2015). Windom was rewarded with a $5,000 first-place prize check for winning ISW.
“It’s so special to do this again with (team owners) Kenny and Margo Baldwin” Windom beamed. “We really wanted to come out and win this race tonight, but looking at the big picture, we wanted another Sprint Week title. It took a huge effort from everybody this week to have the finishes we did. (Crew Chief) Derek Claxton had this thing great all week. It never had any failures. That’s what it takes to come out here and win these titles. Everybody else on the team, and all our sponsors, we couldn’t do it without all them. We’re just really consistent right now. That’s what it takes.”