SHEHEEN: Indy’s Summer Spectacular

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Ralph Sheheen Mug
Ralph Sheheen

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The BC39 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is quickly becoming the summer version of the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals that’s run inside the Tulsa Expo Center each January.

With more than 90 cars entered, a stout lineup of drivers and some of the best racing we have seen all year, the BC39 has become a must-attend event not only for racers and race fans but for industry insiders.

Tim Clauson, father of Bryan Clauson for whom the event honors, says the BC39 is his favorite among all of the things that have been done to honor his son.

Tim Clauson said he and Clauson-Marshall Racing co-owner Richard Marshall are working on a program  for the 2020 Indianapolis 500. One of their biggest decisions is whether  they want to own more of the assets or if they want to partner with another team as they did ithis year with Pippa Mann driving.

Chevrolet was the team’s engine supplier for this year’s running of The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Chevy officials have told the team they were very happy with how things went this past May, so it appears the Clauson-Marshall team would have access to Bowtie powerplants if it enters the 104th running of the 500.

No driver has been signed. The team was very pleased with Mann’s performance. However, they also would be interested in giving an open-wheel racer a shot at Indy.

– Christopher Bell tells us he owns one of his Chili Bowl-winning midgets.

The race car along with a Golden Driller from each of his three Lucas Oil Chili Bowl National victories reside in what is supposed to be the dining room of his house. Bell, who is currently chasing the NASCAR Xfinity Series championship, hopes to be in Tulsa during January to challenge for a fourth consecutive Chili Bowl victory.

– A ride in a Keith Kunz-prepared midget is one of the most desired seats in racing these days. Kunz says he can easily get three to four years out of one of his highly successful midget chassis.

Kunz also believes there are no bad cars.

“The year Christopher Bell won 13 or so races with us he used seven different chassis,” Kunz said.

For those still hustling to get sponsorship dollars together for the 34th running of the Chili Bowl, don’t sweat it yet. Kunz said: “I can put you in a car for the Chili Bowl day of, if I have to.”

– Prior to the BC39, NHRA stars J.R. Todd and Doug Kalitta, along with NASCAR’s Erik Jones, got to make some laps in a midget at the fifth-mile Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Todd was still grinning about it when we saw him at the BC39. He said he accidentally got a little too close to the wall for the nerves of Christopher Bell, whose car Todd was driving.

“Christopher said to go slower down the straights, then hammer it in the corners,” Todd said. Once he figured it out, Todd enjoyed his time behind the wheel.

– A conversation about the demise of mile dirt tracks was one of the many bench-racing sessions we were a part of during two days at Indy.

That led to a discussion regarding the late Earl Baltes’ desire to build a one-mile track on the Eldora Speedway property.

Baltes started but never completed the project. Google Earth images show the basic shape of a mile oval still there on the land next to the half-mile Eldora Speedway, which is now owned by Tony Stewart.

What do you think “Smoke,” any interest in finishing that mile oval?

– During a recent conversation with NHRA Funny Car star Jack Beckman, he discussed his strategy for staging his Don Schumacher Racing machine.

“When you first trip the beam, you have 14 inches before you have rolled out of the lights,” Beckman explained. “Every driver has a different approach. Some like to deep stage and use up a lot of those inches, which allows them to shorten up the track and get a good reaction time. Others like to shallow stage and get a running start.

“I like rolling in shallow. Going in deep is an ego deal,” he continued. “Your reaction times look great, but I like the extra 13 inches or so that you get for a rolling start. The only time I change how I stage is against Force. He always wants to go in last and sometimes you have to give him the business back or he will get in your head, which is what he wants.”