TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Dave Darland has been winning USAC races for 21 years and he has won them many different ways.
The popular veteran collected his 50th USAC victory in the 44th Annual Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track, Wednesday night, and the circumstances were memorable. Darland capitalized when Kevin Thomas Jr. made a misstep navigating slower cars, and led the final nine laps to the checkered flag.
“It means the world,” Darland said afterward, as well wishers surrounded the black No. 71p Phillips Motorsports Racers Advantage DRC. “To get the 50th USAC win here tonight at Terre Haute, we got our first one here at Terre Haute back in ’93 at the Hulman Classic, and now here we are 21 years later getting the 50th USAC sprint car win. It’s a great feeling and I’m proud of my team and everybody that helped me get here. I’ve had a lot of people help me throughout the years and it’s been a great ride.”
Thomas jumped into the lead of the AMSOIL National sprint car event from the pole, with Darland, Jon Stanbrough and Brady Bacon in pursuit. Wheeling Jeff Walker’s No. 11 Jam-It-In Storage Maxim, Thomas was able to build a half-straightaway lead before beginning to catch and lap slower machines. Darland was able to stay with him, but not mount a challenge, as they maneuvered past the backmarkers.
On the 21st circuit, Thomas approached two slower cars running side-by-side in turn three. With Darland on his tail, he cleared the lower car and caught up to the machine in the top groove as they raced down the straightaway. When USAC’s started waved the “move over” flag, the slower car went to the bottom groove as they went into turn one. It was just at that moment that Thomas dove to the inside to make the pass. He had to get on the brakes and nearly turned sideways to avoid the other car as Darland cruised past in the top lane.