EASTERN STORM USAC SPRINT TOUR BEGINS 2ND DECADE JUNE 13-18 IN PENNSYLVANIAadmin
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Throughout its first decade, Eastern Storm has continually grown by leaps and bounds each year in terms of prestige.
It’s become a marquee event that drivers and fans alike circle on their calendar each year when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship schedule is released.
In 2017, Eastern Storm presented by DMI enters its 11th year stronger than ever, but with a slightly new look to one of the most popular and hottest tickets in all of sprint car racing as the wingless heroes of United States Auto Club invade the state of Pennsylvania for a highly-anticipated week of open-wheel dirt-track racing across the Keystone State.
Grandview Speedway is the only track to have been a part of every Eastern Storm since its debut in 2007. The Bechtelsville, PA 1/3-mile track opens the five-race series on Tuesday, June 13 while Abbottstown’s Lincoln Speedway, an Eastern Storm staple since 2010, brings the series into night two on Wednesday, June 14.
The most notable change on the schedule is the addition of Williams Grove Speedway on Thursday, June 15. The USAC Sprint Cars haven’t hit the Grove since Billy Pauch’s lone series victory in 1996! However, the Mechanicsburg, PA half-mile was slated to host a pair of Eastern Storm events in 2008 and 2009, but we’re both halted by Mother Nature.
In addition to the Sprint Cars, Williams Grove will host the USAC Eastern Regional Midgets presented by ARDC on Thursday. The following night, Friday, June 16, Eastern Storm takes a one-day break, but the action continues at the Grove with the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car series returning for the “Horn-Schindler Memorial” as well as the second of two-straight nights for the USAC/ARDC Midgets.
Port Royal Speedway is the second straight half-mile pegged for this year’s Eastern Storm, with the blazingly-fast track set for duty on Saturday night, June 17. The venerable Susquehanna Speedway has taken a new look over the past couple of years with upgrades continually being made to the facility, but for the fifth consecutive year, remains in its familiar spot as the host of the series-ender on Sunday night, June 18.
Thirty-four Eastern Storm events have been contested since the series’ inception in 2007. Levi Jones and Bryan Clauson are tied atop the leaderboard as winningest drivers in the series with six wins apiece. Clauson was the champion in 2016 after three stirring performances at Grandview, Lincoln and Port Royal in which he took the lead late in the going in each.
Chris Windom and Robert Ballou are the active drivers with the most Eastern Storm wins at three each. Windom, of Canton, Illinois won his first all the way back in 2010 at Big Diamond Speedway in Minersville, PA and his most recent in the last season’s finale at Susquehanna. Ballou, of Rocklin, California, earned all three of his Eastern Storm victories in one magical weekend back in 2015, when he ran away with the series title.
Of the top-12 in the current USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car standings, just over half have won at least a single Eastern Storm feature. Windom (2nd in points) won last year’s final at Susquehanna. Hanford, California’s Chad Boespflug (3rd) was a victor at New Egypt (NJ) Speedway last season. Fort Branch, Indiana’s Chase Stockon (4th) scored a triumph in the 2014 opener at Grandview. USAC Triple Crown champ Dave Darland (8th) of Lincoln, Indiana has found Eastern Storm victory lane just once, at Port Royal back in 2013. Kokomo, Indiana’s Shane Cottle (9th) notched a victory in Susquehanna’s USAC debut in 2013. Brady Bacon (11th) of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma bagged the victory at Port Royal in 2014.
Absent from that list of drivers who’ve had a past Eastern Storm winning experience include series point leader Justin Grant of Ione, California. Mooresville, North Carolina’s Jarett Andretti (12th in points) fought a memorable battle with Clauson in last year’s Grandview stop. Another player in that same battle was Cullman, Alabama’s Kevin Thomas, Jr. (7th) who led 12 laps and, coincidentally, owns 12 career USAC National Sprint Car wins. Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Indiana (5th) and Greenfield, Indiana’s C.J. Leary (6th) snagged their first career USAC National Sprint Car victories last season, but are hoping to break through for a taste of Eastern Storm glory this coming June.
These drivers are among a large crop who will compete against a contingent of Pennsylvania natives who will step foot into relatively unfamiliar territory – in the seat of sprint car without a wing. Danny Dietrich, winner of the 2016 National Open at Williams Grove, plans to make his initial foray into USAC for Eastern Storm in Tom Buch’s No. 13. Defending ARDC Midget champion and 2016 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals preliminary feature winner Alex Bright is a regular in USAC’s midget division, but will try his hand for the first time in a USAC Sprint Car with Rick Kaylor’s No. 13K.
Eastern Storm has been a harbinger of good fortune when it comes to its champions’ future success. In seven of its ten years of existence, the champion of Eastern Storm has gone on to win the USAC National Sprint Car title in the same season: Levi Jones (2007, 2010 & 2011), Bryan Clauson (2012 & 2013), Brady Bacon (2014) and Robert Ballou (2015).
Additional Eastern Storm champs include Cole Whitt (2008 & 2009) and Clauson (2016), who became the second three-time titlist alongside Jones just one year ago.