O’LEARY: Hoosier Pit Pass


STANFORD, Ind. — It was a Friday night in early June and from many outward appearances it would appear to be a normal race night at Bloomington Speedway.

But this night was special. On this night, the people who are Bloomington Speedway came together for an unforgettable moment in time.

It is truly unfortunate that the moment was a response to the tragic death of a young racer at the oval two weeks earlier, however the manner in which Josh Burton was remembered did much to overcome the tragedy. And although there was a poignant ceremony, it wasn’t that observance that had the greatest impact. But rather it was everything that went on around it, with drivers and crews, and everyone who put on the racing competition, going about their business with the 22-year old never far from their thoughts.

Racers are busy once they roll into the pits. It has never been a strictly social atmosphere. But in the course of doing business, the drivers and crewmen get to know each other. They are neighbors along pit lane and they conduct business on the race track. In both instances, they learn about each other.

Jon Stanbrough said that it didn’t seem like he and Burton were at the same track very often until this year. But they were getting to know each other and he recalled that he was bent over, working on the car, when he heard someone behind him say, “Hi Jon.”

It was Josh with a big smile, just coming by to wish him luck. They chatted for a minute, it had been a simple act, but one Stanbrough won’t forget.

There were many other remembrances. Driver Ethan Barrow helped organize the ceremonies. He said that Josh was a real wheelman. “He could drive a race car,” Barrow said. “He was fast and clean and that’s what you want to be.”

A race track is more than a piece of property. It is more than just a promoter. When it has a weekly racing program, it becomes a community. Bloomington Speedway is very much like this and has been for several decades. While the city hosts the state’s largest University, with focus on academics, fine arts and business, off campus Bloomington has much rural farmland, it has industry and it has many small businesses. This is where Josh Burton was raised. His father owned a masonry with strong ties to the local housing industry.

Jon Sciscoe and Danny Holtsclaw recall Burton as humble.

“Humble, but crazy,” they agreed. ciscoe grew up with Josh, even though he was several years older. He said that Josh always wanted to be a sprint car racer. There was a time when Burton started going down a path of typical youth troubles. His father promised that he would get Josh a race car if he changed. That settled it, he changed is way quickly, they noted.