Dave Darland claimed the KISS feature at Gas City I69 Speeway. (Dave Merritt photo)

The defending King of Indiana, Dave Darland scored a thrilling win in the King of Indiana Sprint Series feature at the Gas City I69 Speedway, Friday. Grabbing the lead from Scotty Weir on the 24th circuit, Darland outran Jerry Coons Jr., Bobby East, Tracy Hines and Coleman Gulick over the final laps for the victory.

When the promoters of several Indiana tracks formulated the King of Indiana Sprint Series, they may have had a vision of what the ideal KISS race would be like. It’s easy to believe that Friday’s event at the Gas City I69 Speedway was very close to that vision. The skies were clear, grandstand full, 33 teams were in the pits, and the track was racy. By the end of the 30-lap feature, the fans had been amply rewarded.

“It was a great night for me, driving Jeff Walker’s Maxim with the Claxton,” Darland said with a grin after the victory ceremonies. “The race track was great. You could run high or low, either one. You could do what you had to do to get by if you were faster. It was just a fun night.”

With Walker’s Jam It In Storage Claxton-powered Maxim starting fifth, Darland worked past Hunter Schuerenberg and Nic Faas to claim third as pole-starter Scotty Weir beat Bobby East off turn two on the first lap. Weir had opened a half straightaway lead when Darland took second from East on the sixth circuit.

The track was good no matter where drivers chose to run, but the bottom was still the shortest way around and most of the cars stayed on the inside line. Although Weir appeared to have everything under control early, when they caught the tail of the field Darland quickly closed the gap. For the next five laps they darted through the pack of backmarkers, Darland ready to pounce on the error that Weir never made. Then a caution on lap 18 bunched the field and gave the leaders a clear track again.

After hustling from tenth to fourth, Shane Cottle’s race came to an end three laps back into the green. East looked under Darland in turn two, and was jammed when Darland quickly closed the door. Cottle couldn’t avoid East and got turned around, suffering front end damage.

On the next restart, both Coons and Hunter Schuerenberg went to the top immediately while Weir and Darland opened several car lengths. Billy Puterbaugh passed Coons for fourth as Darland also tried the top a lap later, but another caution slowed the action on lap 24.

Liking what he had found, Darland quickly charged past Weir, using the cushion in turn one on the restart. “It got slicker and slicker off of two on the bottom and you couldn’t run down there anymore,” Weir said later. “Leading the race, I wasn’t going to just volunteer to the top first. I wish we could have stayed green after that because I just got my momentum built up on the top and was coming back to him.”

While Weir chased Darland, and Coons worked past East for third, another caution re-stacked the cars again on lap 27. This time Darland opened eight car lengths after the green, working the top at one end and the bottom at the other, while Coons charged around Weir on lap 28. Darland had a half straightaway lead at the checkers, as East and Weir fought for third on the last turn, with Weir scrambling through the infield to cross finish line, losing several more positions.

It was Darland’s first KISS victory since a 2010 win at the Gas City facility. He had been able to use the top and bottom of the oval to his advantage, and knowing when to go where was crucial.

“I followed him through one and two on the restart before I got him and he was just kind of protecting the bottom so much that he was getting kind of slow down through there,” he explained. “If you got just a little bit wide, you got out of the slick and you were kind of hanging for a long time and you had a good possibility of getting passed. So I kind of set him up and talked myself into going to the top in one and two on the next restart and try to get back to the bottom on three and four. Everything worked out great for me and I was just back and forth to keep him behind me.”

“You can see where it was getting blacker and slicker on the bottom. But leading the race the whole time, you don’t want to just take off to the top for no reason. I guess I should have,” the disappointed Weir offered. He had led much of the race, but only delivered seventh. Not what he had expected.

Coons was the first of the front runners to go to the top, and it had paid off. He said, “I didn’t have a lot of choice. We were just really tight. The track was better than I thought it was going to be. They ran the Thunder Cars out first and it did kind of bring the track back. So we were just a little bit tight for the race track I think and just couldn’t run the bottom very well. I pretty much had to run the top. It was a good race. On one yellow I tied the shocks down tight and tried to get the car freer, and that worked. And late in the race the top started to kind of slicken off, so I was able to back off a little bit and keep up with it. So, sixth to second, Darland was obviously very fast and there for awhile I figured we were about a fifth or sixth place car. I’m very happy with second.”

The battling was hard nosed, but that’s what the KISS promoters had envisioned. Almost unnoticed, Gulick ran a marvelous race from 17th to fifth. Although he had missed the Bloomington show, and didn’t get the “show up” points when it rained out, Darland closed within 24 points of Robert Ballou, who ran ninth after transferring through the B-Main.

The KISS series will continue with the next event at Lawrenceburg Speedway, Saturday, May 19, followed by Tri-State Speedway, in Haubstadt on May 27. This year’s King of Indiana will then be crowned after the finale, at Paragon Speedway on June 2.

King of Indiana Sprint Series, Round 2
Gas City I69 Speedway, Gas City, Indiana
Friday, May 11, 2012
(33 cars)

Heat 1 (8 laps): 1. Bobby East 2b (2), 2. Billy Puterbaugh Jr. 16 (4), 3. CJ Leary 30 (6), 4. Justin Grant 40 (8), 5. Adam Brykett 78 (5), 6. Chris Windom 5 (7), 7. Casey Shuman 22 (9), 8. Brandon Petty 42g (3), 9. Logan Jarrett 29j (1)

Heat 2 (8 laps): 1. Scotty Weir 10e (2), 2. Ryan Pace 44 (4), 3. Shane Cottle 2e (6), 4. Travis Welpott 18 (1), 5. Coleman Gulick 14 (7), 6. Jon Sciscoe 57 (5), 7. Todd Gnat 51g (3), 8. Jamie Fredrickson 58 (8)

Heat 3 (8 laps): 1. Dave Darland 11 (4), 2. Nic Faas 53 (2), 3. Jon Stanbrough 21x (3), 4. Wes McIntyre 83 (7), 5. Andrew Elson 27a (5), 6. Ted Hines 12 (8), 7. Matt Goodnight 39 (1), 8. Travis Hery 21 (6)

Heat 4 (8 laps): 1. Hunter Schuerenberg 35 (1), 2. Jerry Coons Jr. 71p (3), 3. Tracy Hines 24 (2), 4. Jonathan Hendrick 68 (6), 5. Thomas Meseraull 41 (7), 6. Robert Ballou 12 (4), 7. Joshua Clemons 71c (5), 8. Nick Drake 55 (8)

B-Main (12 laps): 1. Gulick (2), 2. Ballou (8), 3. Brykett (1), 4. Meseraull (4), 5. Windom (5), 6. Shuman (9), 7. Elson (3), 8. Clemons (12), 9. Ted Hines (7), 10. Goodnight (11), 11. Fredrickson (14), 12. Gnat (10), 13. Drake (16), 14. Hery (15), 15. Jarrett (17), 16. Petty (13), 17. Sciscoe (6)

A-Main (30 laps): 1. Dave Darland (5), 2. Jerry Coons Jr. (6), 3. Bobby East (2), 4. Tracy Hines (12), 5. Coleman Gulick (17), 6. Billy Puterbaugh Jr. (7), 7. Scotty Weir (1), 8. Ryan Pace (8), 9. Robert Ballou (18), 10. Hunter Schuerenberg (3), 11. Nic Faas (4), 12. Thomas Meseraull (20), 13. Justin Grant (13), 14. CJ Leary (9), 15. Jon Stanbrough (11), 16. Wes McIntyre (15), 17. Adam Brykett (19), 18. Travis Welpott (14), 19. Jonathan Hendrick (16), 20. Shane Cottle (10)

KISS Points: 1. Robert Ballou 374, 2. Dave Darland 350, 3. Coleman Gulick 344, 4. Jon Stanbrough 340, 5. Jerry Coons Jr. 331, 6. Hunter Schuerenberg 318, 7. Wes McIntyre 316, 8. Thomas Meseraull 297, 9. Justin Grant 285, 10. Jonathan Hendrick 282

April 22 – Terre Haute Action Track – Robert Ballou
April 29 – Kokomo Speedway – Rain
May 4 – Bloomington Speedway – Rain
May 11 – Gas City I-69 Speedway – Dave Darland 
May 19 – Lawrenceburg Speedway
May 27 – Tri-State Speedway
June 2 – Paragon Speedway