BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Dave Darland captured the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series Larry Rice Classic at Bloomington Speedway Friday, outrunning Kevin Thomas Jr. over the second half of the event.
For Darland, it was his first USAC win of the season and it snapped Thomas’ three-race winning streak. Brady Short narrowly edged Chase Stockon for third, with Brady Bacon finishing fifth.
While it was Darland’s 41st national sprint series victory, moving him to fifth in all-time win totals, for his car owners, it was their first. “It’s great, this is about as big as it gets.” he allowed afterward. “The first USAC national win for Steve and Carla Phillips, it was a huge win tonight. We’ve been knocking on the door pretty much all year and this is our first win together. To win the Larry Rice Classic is a big accomplishment.”
From outside the front row, Thomas beat Bobby East into the third turn to grab the lead, with Chase Stockon, Darland and Bacon close behind. Within a handful of laps, Thomas had the No. 17rw Dutcher/Tri-Star/Rotondo-Weirich Blackjack Oil Maxim out front by three-quarters of a straightway. A caution on lap 10 erased the lead Thomas had built up, and Darland took second from Stockon two laps back into the green.
Wheeling the Phillips’ No. 71p Racer’s Advantage DRC, Darland quickly caught Thomas and they were side-by-side in the fourth turn when East caught an infield tire and flipped in the second turn. When they restarted, Darland fought Thomas for three laps before pulling ahead off the second turn.
“My car was able to go wherever I needed to go to make it happen. I went by Kevin Thomas twice because the first time I pulled up beside him off of two and we raced through three and four pretty much side-by-side and the red was out by the time we got off of four. So I had to go back behind him on the restart and after a couple of laps of deciding where he was going to race, I was able to get back by him on the outside,” Darland explained.
While Darland opened up a three-second advantage, Short came on strong in the closing laps, passing Robert Ballou and Bacon. He caught Stockon on the last lap and in a drag race, beat him by no more than a foot at the flagstand to finish third after starting 14th.
Back in his hauler, Thomas said that his car had been good all night, from qualifying through the race. “There at the beginning, the track had a little bit of moisture in the middle of three and four and the top wasn’t so sketchy, there was a real thin cushion up there. I almost went over one or two times there at the beginning of the race, so I moved down to the bottom. Dave got by us, but Dave’s known for being the best at running the cushion. I don’t think I was good enough to run thirty laps up there and not mess up. A good second place finish, I mean, we’re in the points battle and I think that we’ve moved up a few spots in the points because it’s such a close race.”