Sunoco Super Series Season in Review

By R.J. Scott
Photos by Brandon Wright

The Sunoco Super Series heads into the coming weeks with one of the toughest portions of its schedule, with four races in three weeks, including the 38th Anderson 400 presented by Corteco and Great Deals on Saturday July 17 at Anderson Speedway. After seven scheduled races with two races rescheduled due to rain, the series has averaged over 31 cars per event with a season high of 38 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. In the five races that have been run, there have been five different winners and 16 teams have recorded a top-five finish.

The 2004 season opened at Anderson Speedway, the birthplace of the series in 1997. Thirty-two cars were present when Rookie of the year contender Chris Gabehart took fast time honors, followed by Eddie Van Meter, 2003 Rookie of the Year Chuck Barnes Jr., 2003 Champion Bobby Parsley, and perennial home track favorite Jeff Lane.

Through the inversion, Lane started on the pole and would never look back. The Knightstown, Ind., driver had been ill leading up to the race, and didn’t even practice with the rest of the teams the day before. Lane was all smiles and feeling much better after taking his fourth career series victory and first at his home track. He was followed to the line by Barnes, Parsley, Van Meter and another top 2004 Rookie of the Year candidate, Wisconsin’s Frank Kreyer.

The Sunoco Super Series then moved to Indianapolis Raceway Park for a 100-lap event on May 16. In qualifying, Chuck Barnes Jr. secured fast time honors with a new track record of 21.628 seconds. Rounding out the top five in qualifying were 2000 Series Champion Scott Hantz, Ray Skillman, and Canadians Junior Hanley and Shawn McWhirter.

In the race Parsley would take the early lead, only to be overtaken by former regular Series competitor Evan Jackson on lap 13. Throughout the race, Jackson would have to hold off furious attempts by Hantz in route to his second career victory with the series. In the final rundown, Jackson would be followed by Hantz, an impressive run by Aaron Hulings, Eddie Van Meter and Junior Hanley. Kentucky’s Chuck Barnes Jr. left the event as the point leader for the series.

Shady Bowl Speedway was next on the schedule for the teams on May 22. Qualifying would see J.R. Roahrig set fast time followed by Jim Crabtree Jr., rookie Steve Moenck, Scott Hantz, and another rookie, Bud Adams. When the green flag fell, Hantz jumped to the lead and made it look like everyone else was racing for second. Back in the pack, furious door-banging action had the fans on their feet numerous times. Only a few laps from the end and under caution, Hantz bolted to the pits to change a flat tire. Rookie Moenck was ready to take over and would hold off Chuck Barnes Jr. for his first career victory. Rounding out the top five were Jeff Lane, Junior Hanley and Kenny Tweedy.

Mother Nature was the winner of the next two events at Mansfield Speedway and Toledo Speedway. Mansfield has been rescheduled to June 24 and Toledo to August 1.

After the two-week break, the Sunoco Super Series teams headed off to Berlin Raceway for its second visit to the Michigan short track. In qualifying, the point leader set another track record, as Chuck Barnes Jr. would qualify with a time of 16.306 seconds. He was followed in qualifying by Junior Hanley, hometown favorite and 10-time track champion Fred Campbell, Bobby Parsley, and Campbell’s son Brian.

Defending series champion Parsley took the early lead, only to be headed by his mentor, Junior Hanley, towards the middle of the event. Hanley would later relinquish his lead to Fred Campbell. The younger Campbell would eventually work his way to runner-up honors, giving the Campbell family a one-two finish at their home track.

They were followed to the line by another local, Tom Thomas, Scott Hantz, (who came back from a spin earlier in the race), and Junior Hanley. For Fred Campbell, the victory was his fifth in series competition. Jeff Lane would leave the event as the series point leader.

The most recent event on the Sunoco Super Series schedule was run at Illiana Motor Speedway on Saturday, June 27. Thirty-seven teams took to the track trying to make the starting line-up of the Elmer Musgrave Memorial 100 honoring the father of Craftsman Truck driver Ted Musgrave. Former Series event winner Eddie Hoffman was the favorite going into the race, as the Northern Indiana facility is considered one of his home tracks.

Hoffman didn’t disappoint as he set fast time in qualifying with a new track record. He was followed by Scott Hantz, Chuck Barnes Jr., Midwest “hot-shoe” Erik Darnell, and Fred Campbell. When the green flag dropped Barnes looked eager to get his first series win and regain the series point lead, by dominating the early portion of the race.

After a spirited battle for second place with Hantz, Hoffman then set his sights on the leader and overcame Barnes for the top spot in the closing stages of the event. He would hold of all comers for the crowd pleasing victory. In the end, Hoffman was followed by Barnes, local John Nutley, Jeff Lane and Fred Campbell. Barnes retook the series points lead and Campbell would run his string of consecutive top-five finishes to and incredible 13.

The next event on the schedule is July 16-17 at Anderson Speedway, and is considered the Crown Jewel for the Sunoco Super Series. The 38th Annual Anderson 400 presented by Corteco and Great Deals continues the tradition of great Late Model racing action pitting some of the top names in short track racing against some of the best east central Indiana has to offer.

Former winners of the event include Mark Martin, Alan Kulwicki, Bob Senneker and Dick Trickle. One of the headlines for this year’s event is the return of ASA legend and former champion Mike Eddy. Eddy is the career leader at the 400 in pole positions and top 10 finishes. He also won the 1992 edition of the event.

Another driver to watch will be Bobby Parsley. He won this historic event last year, as well as the season opener at Anderson. Both victories at Anderson were critical to Parsley’s winning of the 2003 championship.

Parsley will be part of the Sunoco Super Series’ contingent of top touring drivers including Junior Hanley and Scott Hantz. Some of the toughest competition, however, will probably come from the great list of local drivers expected to compete.

Jeff Lane will be going for two wins in a row at Anderson, while former 400 winners Kenny Tweedy and Bull Baker will be gunning for the top prize again. Tweedy hails from Greenfield, Ind., and Baker is from Daleville. Local entries are also expected from Muncie’s Jim Crabtree Jr., Mount Summit’s Alan Troxell, Noblesville’s Joe Beaver, Yorktown’s Rick Turner, and Anderson’s Brian Rievley.