KOKOMO, Ind. — It was a wire-to-wire masterpiece, the kind of performance on which legends are made.
For the second night in a row, Dave Darland was uncatchable, and he scored his biggest win of the season, Kokomo Speedway’s Smackdown II. The win was Darland’s fourth in USAC’s AMSOIL national sprint car series this year.
“Winning the first race for the Phillips Motorsports team was definitely huge down there in Bloomington,” he said after the victory lane celebration. “That was a great night for us. Winning out in Pennsylvania, that was a great night for us. Winning last night, that was a great night for us. But winning tonight, this is definitely the hugest and greatest of the season.”
Finishing second in the King of the Hill qualifying races, Darland started the No. 71p Phillips/Racers Advantage Store DRC outside on the front row and took the lead in turn two. By the end of the second lap, he had a half-straightaway lead as Chad Boespflug took second from Chase Stockon. Few work the cushion around Kokomo as well as Darland and he extended his lead until he began catching the back of the field.
After starting tenth, Shane Cottle was running fifth just six laps into the 40-lap feature. He raced the No. 2 Epperson Painting Spike past both Brady Bacon and Stockon to move to third on a restart, and on lap 11 took second from Boespflug. At that point, Darland was nearly a third of a lap ahead and negotiating slower cars. Over the next 10 circuits, Cottle was able to cut his deficit to half the length of the straightaway.
A spin by Gary Taylor brought out the caution with 15 laps remaining, giving Cottle his best chance to pass Darland. Although he pulled even on the bottom of turn one at the green, Darland outran him off two and quickly opened several car lengths. Over the final laps, Darland was the fastest car on the track and was soon ahead by a full straightaway. This was the margin at the checkered flag, as Cottle took second over Stockon. Chris Windom edged Bacon for fourth as they crossed under the flagstand wheel-to-wheel.
After passing 50 cars over three nights, Cottle earned the hard charger award. He didn’t get the pass he really wanted though. Afterward he explained, “We could catch him, but I burned my stuff up getting to him because he had such a big lead. I made a few adjustment on the yellow flag there at the end, and I didn’t go far enough. It still wasn’t as good. It was a lot of fun though.”
Darland said that he saw Cottle looking to the inside on the restart, “I saw him there and I just started concentrating on some smooth laps. With the lapped cars ahead of me, it caused a little bit of a dusty situation where you just can’t see the cushion prefect and when you can’t see it perfect, you can’t run it perfect. So when that yellow came out it gave me whole new track to work with. I could see perfectly the rest of the race and when I could see it, I could run it good. But when I couldn’t see it just right, I was having a little bit of trouble.”
It was a masterful performance. With the two consecutive feature victories, Darland became the winningest driver in Kokomo Speedway’s history, and increased his USAC sprint car total to 44 victories. He also extended his AMSOIL national sprint car point lead to 31 over Clauson.