Hines, Martz Earn Top Honors

Story By Michael Harker
Photos by David Sink

On a track historically difficult for any sprint car driver to pass on the outside, Tracy Hines tuned up in style Wednesday for the 57th Pay Less / Remy International Little 500 at the Anderson Speedway.

Hines, of New Castle, Ind., made the high line work all night, passing both Bobby East and holding off Aaron Pierce and Marc Jessup to win the Central Indiana Chevy Dealer 50, USAC Valvoline National Sprint Car Series event on the quarter-mile track. He led the final 23 laps of the 50-lapper in the Dynamics Inc. Kroger/Pringles/Tide/Bounty F-5/Mopar Gaerte.

“It was a good car, but we had a little luck on our side,” said Hines, who is preparing to qualify for his first Little 500 tomorrow at Anderson. “We raced good with Bobby and really everybody, and that’s a good thing, especially at this track.”

East, who won the event last year, had more than his hands full after sitting on the pole. After two aborted starts, both following spins, East drove to the front while Hines stumbled in Turn 2. Hines quickly closed on the Brownsburg, Ind. native, and Dave Steele made it a three-way battle by closing on Lap 5.

Hines made what appeared to be a pass for the lead as the cars completed lap 10, but the pass was disallowed when Danny Holtsclaw’s car stopped.

The restart was the start of some of the hardest fought battles for the lead in a USAC sprint car points-paying race at Anderson in more than three years. Hines again popped out to the top groove, and challenged lap after lap only to have the door shut multiple times. Aaron Pierce of nearby Muncie, Ind. caught Steele for third, and made the pass on Lap 26.

Finally, after being denied the point, Hines went high in Turn 1 on Lap 28 and drifted past East. Pierce saw the opportunity to get by as well, and overtook East for second nearing the end of the lap.

Pierce, who won the series opener in 2003, tried desperately on the high side, which was where he made his move to the front. But Hines inched forward away from the No. 26p car, and after 37 laps, held a decisive straightaway lead.

Soon after, Pierce began fading rapidly. The reason became apparent on lap 40, when he lost his right front tire. Bud Kaeding spun in Turn 4, bringing out the event’s second yellow flag.

Jessup, who also used the high groove to climb to the Top five, sat second when the yellow flew, but was unable to mount a charge on Hines, as Lee Boss’s car separated them when the green flag flew again.

Jessup quickly passed Boss on the backstretch, but Hines’ lead had already blossomed to over a second. The final margin grew to about a second and a half at the twin checkered flags, as Hines crossed the line first for his 55th career USAC National victory and 30th on the sprint car scale. Jessup followed in second, while East, Steele and fast qualifier Levi Jones rounded out the Top 5.

Patiently awaiting the chance to take second place early on in Wednesday’s 30-lap Midwest Ford Focus Midget Car Series feature, defending series champion Tate Martz settled in, looking for bleak possibilities to take over the top spot.

What he got when he finally made the pass for second was the opportunity to take the lead too. He didn’t wait another second for that attempt to pass.

Martz, who battled problems during qualifications only to start sixth, jumped from third to first on lap seven and led the final 24 laps of the event, the second stop on the Midwest series circuit. He piloted the No. 1 Greg Steele owned Duffy-Warble Beast/Ford Focus to his first victory of the season ahead of a crop of Midwest veterans.

Polesitter Stephanie Mockler and Jordan Noblitt fought early. After an aborted start – in part because the two made contact – Noblitt went from the outside of Row 1 and slammed the door on Mockler to lead the opening lap.

While Mockler was busy pestering Noblitt for the top spot, Martz skipped from sixth to third. He tried at first to make the pass on Mockler on the inside, but had to get out of the throttle on Lap 5 to keep his car from making contact with Mockler’s.

Though he lost a lot of ground after slowing, Martz made that ground up. Just two laps later, he went to the outside and in Turn 1, drove around the Westfield, Ind. native.

The opportunity was too good for Martz to sit back in second. With Noblitt just a car length in front of him, Martz zipped into the lead, diving to the point in Turn 3. He sailed away quickly, and without a caution period over the first half of the race, built a straightaway lead over Noblitt and Mockler.

Jasiel Randolph brought out the final yellow when he spun on the white flag lap. When the green and white came together, Martz parted ways, and led Mockler by less than two car lengths at the twin checkered flags. Clemons came across the line in third, followed by Oklahoma Focus points leader Dustin Morgan and Midwest veteran Kyle Robbins.

The win was especially important for Martz, who said he just hopes to vie for the 2005 title due to running on a tight budget.

“This win was very important to our season,” said Martz, who took only one lap in qualifying. “I just hope we can continue the entire year. I hope tonight’s showing will help.”

Action resumes at Anderson Speedway for the 57th Pay Less / Remy International Little 500 with round one pole qualifications on Thursday, beginning at 1:30 p.m.

On Friday, the 33-car field will be set with the second round of qualifications. Later that night, the Families Forever / Primerica Free Night will take place. The MAX/WLBC Friday Night Summer Series will feature Insight ThunderCars in Oval and Figure 8 racing, Chappy’s Rent to Own Front Wheel Drives Oval and Figure 8 action and an awesome Fireworks show.

Admission is free for all events on Thursday and Friday.

On Saturday, May 28, the 57th Pay Less / Remy International Little 500 green flag waves at 8 p.m. Thirty-three Sprint Cars in 11 rows of 3 will be featured in the richest Sprint Car asphalt event.

Tickets are available for the legendary 57th Pay Less / Remy International Little 500 at $25 for reserved seating. For more information, contact the Anderson Speedway Ticket Office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For additional information contact Anderson Speedway at (765) 642-0206.