By CAREY FOXTimes Sports Editor
PUTNAMVILLE — The weather couldn’t have been much better for the opening night of the Bill Gardner Indiana Openwheel.com Racin’ Fest.
A packed grandstand was on hand along with a talented crop of hot shoes looking for a spot in Victory Lane.
The headline event was a crop of sprint car drivers chomping at the bit for the nearly $1,500 worth of lap money as well as the $2,000 on hand for the pilot that crossed the finish line first.
As the weather finally turned warm in their home state, plenty of drivers took their experience from Florida’s Speed Weeks back to the Midwest and brought it to LPS.
Jeff Bland Jr. captured the first heat in the B&B Autobrokers, ServPro, Iron Pit Restorations ride as Brian Hayden returned home in a sprinter to claim a well-earned victory in heat number two ahead of Kent Christian. Casey Shuman caught heat number three ahead of Seth Parker.
The A-main lined up with Bland and Hayden up front with Shuman and Kyle Simon in row number two. Christian and Parker towed the third line.
Bland took the green and had the hammer down from the beginning, leading the feature over Hayden, who had designs on the lead early on.
Brady Short made a quick run to the front and challenged the leaders before lap 10. Hayden was in line behind Bland as Shuman and Chase Briscoe were closely in tow. Short and Hayden dueled with each other for several laps before contact between the two checked Hayden.
The duo put on a great show lap-after-lap before Short slid up high and made contact with Hayden to end his evening.
On the re-start past the midway point of the 40-lap main, Bland continued to hold the point as Shuman closed the gap. Short was right on the tail tank of the leaders, stalking his chance at the lead.
With seven laps remaining, Shuman got upside down in turn two and Chris Gurley checked up and got upside down as well. The ensuing red flag re-set the field for a battle to the wire.
On the re-start, Bland and Short duked it out ahead of Chase Briscoe, who was fast throughout. Bland held down the top spot as the white flag came out.
As the pair entered turn two, smoke began to pour out of Bland’s machine, but Short wasn’t able to catch him through the final corners. Bland finished the feature on top of the field, but his motor let go several hundred feet after the finish to make the victory somewhat bittersweet.
Bland took the victory ahead of Short and Briscoe in the Competition Suspension, Hinchman Racewear, Auto Credit No. 38. Briscoe took third ahead of Josh Burton, who came forward from 13th. Kyle Simon was fifth with Jon Stanbrough coming forward from the tail of the field to place sixth with Kent Christian, Seth Parker, Ethan Barrow and Rod Henning wrapping the top-10.
Though he ended up with a disappointing finish in the sprint feature, Brian Hayden returned to capture the UMP Modified A-main after getting past Paul Bumgardner and Craig Conyer during the early stages of the main event.
Hayden went to the bottom to get past Bumgardner in turns 1-2 as Bradley Sterrett and Kenny Carmichael Sr. were in a door-to-door battle for third.
As the race played out, Hayden maintained the top spot ahead of a side-by-side challenge between Kenny Carmichael Jr. and Bumgardner. Randy Shuman and Kenny Carmichael Sr. were closely behind the frontrunners.
Carmichael Jr. closed on Hayden in traffic over the late stages of the A-main, but couldn’t overtake the Greencastle native. Carmichael Jr. held off a spirited challenge from Bumgardner off the fourth turn for the runner-up position in a feature marred by several stoppages.
Hayden’s win came in the Cyclone Custom Products, York Chevrolet, IndianaOpenwheel.com, Lucas Oil sponsored 2H.
Kenny Carmichael Sr. moved up from a 13th-place starting position to take fourth ahead of Craig Conyer. David Bumgardner debuted his modified and placed sixth with Carlos Bumgardner, Randy Shuman, Scott Ricketts and Garry Ricketts in the top-10.
In the UMP Super Stock main event, Steve Peeden took advantage of mechanical problems by Chris Hillman, who had led from the opening green flag.
Hillman came to a stop with just four laps remaining in the A-main as Peeden took over the point on the re-start. He was able to hold off the field as Kenny Carmichael Jr. repeated his runner-up spot from the modified feature. Mike Staggs came up from 13th to take third with Doug McCullough leading Dan McCullough across the finish line. Tyler Loughmiller was seventh followed by Scott Carrington, Christian York and Josh McDaniel.
In the final feature of the evening, Doug McCullough provided a dominant effort to claim the bomber feature, pulling away from the field following a re-start with just three circuits left on the docket.
McCullough held the top position ahead of a battle between Josh Foxworthy (2nd) and Brandon Roundtree as Tyler Neal claimed fourth ahead of Kevin Kemp and David Wallen. Bob Farris was seventh with Kyle Krupa, David Shepherd and Jeff Shepherd in the top-10.
Next week will be a regular card of sprints, modifieds, super stocks and bombers.
Lincoln Park Speedway
“Bill Gardner Racing Fest”
Sprint car feature
1. Jeff Bland Jr., 2. Brady Short, 3. Chase Briscoe, 4. Josh Burton, 5. Kyle Simon, 6. Jon Stanbrough, 7. Kent Christian, 8. Seth Parker, 9. Ethan Barrow, 10. Rod Henning, 11. Jordan Kinser, 12. Garrett Abrams, 13. Chris Babcock, 14. Brian Karraker, 15. Casey Shuman, 16. Chris Gurley, 17. Brian Hayden, 18. Jarrett Andretti, 19. Chad Boesplug, 20. Eric Smith
B-main winner: Karraker
UMP Modified feature
1. Brian Hayden, 2. Kenny Carmichael Jr., 3. Paul Bumgardner, 4. Kenny Carmichael Sr., 5. Craig Conyer, 6. David Bumgardner, 7. Carlos Bumgardner, 8. Randy Shuman, 9. Scott Ricketts, 10. Garry Ricketts, 11. Elijah Heminger, 12. Jason Clark, 13. Matt Freeman, 14. Casey Davis, 15. Wayne Newlin, 16. Dan Lewellen, 17. Bradley Sterrett, 18. Jimmy Hayden, 19. Mike Fish, 20. Brent Hudson
UMP Super Stock feature
1. Steve Peeden, 2. Kenny Carmichael Jr., 3. Mike Staggs, 4. Kenny Carmichael Sr., 5. Doug McCullough, 6. Dan McCullough, 7. Tyler Loughmiller, 8. Scott Carrington, 9. Christian York, 10. Josh McDaniel, 11. Chris Hillman, 12. Kenny Fields, 13. Josh Fagg, 14. Roy Bruce Jr., 15. Lee Hobbs, 16. Harold Grayless, 17. Larry Babbs, 17. JR Watkins, 19. Jake Leitzman
1. Doug McCullough, 2. Josh Foxworthy, 3. Brandon Roundtree, 4. Tyler Neal, 5. Kevin Kemp, 6. David Wallen, 7. Bob Farris, 8. Kyle Krupa, 9. David Shepherd, 10. Jeff Shepherd, 11. Danny Wampler, 12. Fred Grayless, 13. AJ Smith, 14. Cody Wright, 15. Josh Settles, 16. Leonard Krupa III, 17. Jack Campbell, 18. Ron Smith, 19. Jeff Cast, 20. Mike Spencer, 21. Jerry Hutto
B-main winner: Cody Wright