SULLIVAN: Good Times & Bad Times

Patrick Sullivan

When the new school year starts, one can no longer deny that the end of racing season is in sight. That said, there was plenty of excitement in Indianapolis as we inched closer to September, and the second running of the BC39.

Last year, even with rain plaguing the second night of action, everyone agreed the event exceeded expectations. The opener was capped by a pursuit race, which honestly, few really understood all that well.

Regardless, all realized that Zeb Wise taking the checkered flag was a great story.

Tim and Bryan Clauson had noticed Wise when he raced a quarter-midget on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and endeavored to bring him into the fold. Now he was the first to win a competitive event at the IMS dirt track.

Night two saw Brady Bacon hold off the field, and Mother Nature, to underscore that he is always in the hunt in big-time races.

As we got closer to the event, the forecast could hardly have been better. That prospect alone made IMS President Doug Boles giddy. Doug is the greatest advance man in racing today. It isn’t even close. It helps that he loves short track racing.

While that is widely known, still, everyone’s jaw dropped when he walked into the booth in Rushville, Ind., on Labor Day evening for a TQ midget race. Without missing a beat, he said there was no way he would miss the inaugural Brad Gray Memorial.

This is why Doug is so universally beloved.

At the driver’s meeting for this year’s BC39, Doug dropped an important bombshell, when he announced the backstretch wall at the IMS dirt track was now permanent. It promised that the future of dirt track racing at IMS was secure. Then attention turned to the event.

It’s a bit of an ask to convince people to come to a midweek race after school has started, but there was a great crowd on hand for night one.

By now, you know what happened. This year’s pursuit, which was better understood, resulted in a three-car shootout between Michael Pickens, Justin Grant and Kyle Larson that was simply off the chain. I don’t have enough room in this column to describe it and, even though I was on the public address, it took me some time to realize that two cars were crumpled and somehow Larson was in turn one doing victory donuts.

It was so insane that people were literally screaming as they exited the stands. If you were there, it makes you laugh out loud at some of the picayune rules interpretations on the internet. Here’s a newsflash, we are in the entertainment business – and this race was entertaining to the 10th power.

Then, if that weren’t enough, Zeb Wise took the big race and big money in front of a packed house the next night in a Clauson-Marshall Racing sweep of the podium.

The hope was that there would be some carryover to the USAC Silver Crown race two nights later at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. A great stock car field would also be on hand, so in a small way it was a return to the glory days of the three nights of racing on the short oval which always preceded the Brickyard 400.

As you all know by now, the Xfinity race was moved from IRP to IMS, the trucks went away, and so did the fans.

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