The People’s Champ Strikes At Kokomo

Dave Darland is now the all-time AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series race winner with 53 victories. (Gary Gasper Photo)
Dave Darland celebrates after his victory in Saturday's AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series event at Kokomo Speedway. (Gary Gasper Photo)
Dave Darland celebrates after his victory in Saturday’s AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series event at Kokomo Speedway. (Gary Gasper Photo)

KOKOMO, Ind. – The legend of Dave Darland grew even larger on Saturday night at Kokomo Speedway.

The Lincoln, Ind., veteran set a track record at his hometown speedway and he backed it up by holding off Justin Grant in a spectacular finish to the night’s 30-lap feature to record his 51st career AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series win, just one behind all-time leader Tom Bigelow.

Kevin Thomas Jr. got the jump on polesitter Hunter Schuerenberg, but the two raced side-by-side through the opening laps as Darland sliced his way from row three. Grant was coming with him, making his moves from row four on the top side. Darland wasted no time, disposing of Schuerenberg before coming after Thomas for the lead on lap five.

Thomas and Schuerenberg raced for second as Grant tried to circle both of them, eventually getting it done just before the race’s lone caution on lap 10 for a slowing Shane Cottle.

After the restart, Darland set sail while Grant had to deal with an opening corner slider from Thomas. He countered the move and the top two opened up a wide margin on the rest of the field as Thomas, Schuerenberg, Chris Windom, and Bryan Clauson waged their own battle for third on back.

The intensity picked up as the two leaders hit traffic, with Darland having real trouble clearing cars and allowing Grant to slice into the lead and stalk Darland for the top spot. Grant tried to work a diamond in turn-four a couple times and eventually pulled a slide-job on Darland, but the veteran was easily able to counter.

As the laps wound down, both made significant bobbles on an increasingly-difficult cushion. Grant again slid up in front of Darland, but he again crossed over and beat him to the turn-three cushion and the two made slight contact as they approached the white. Grant made one last-ditch effort on Darland, throwing himself into the turn-three cushion to attempt a turn across the track. He nearly spun the car, but Darland bobble on the turn-four cushion at the same time, leaving Grant a window to have a chance, but Darland edged him at the line for the popular win.

Darland won it by .219 of a second in the Phillips Motorsports/Racer’s Advantage Store No. 71P DRC/Foxco. It was his fourth win of the season.