Racing at Gas City I-69 continued to heat up during the track’s first full, regular Friday-night card of the summer.
Shane Cockrum, a.k.a the Flying Fireman, started from the front row, took the lead on the first lap and led all 25 laps in the night’s main event, the non-wing sprint car feature. Cockrum, a Benton, Illinois native, collected the $2,020 purse during the Jerry Gappens Sr. Memorial, an event created by Gas City promoter Jerry Gappens Jr. to honor his late father.
A total of 93 cars showed up to the quarter-mile dirt track to compete across five classes of cars. Other winners on Friday included Zeke McKenzie of Claypool, Indiana (20-lap modified feature), Andy Bishop, Gas City, (15-lap street stock), James Headley, Marion, (hornets) and Darin Naida, Adrian, Michigan (outlaw micro winged sprints).
Austin Nigh (Greenfield, Indiana) started on the pole of the sprint car feature and made a spectacular save in turn two on the first lap. Cockrum, 38, who started second took advantage of Nigh’s predicament to get the lead and hold off the field to take the checkers.
Scotty Weir (Marion) chased Cockrum throughout but ended up settling for a fourth-place finish after being passed by Jarett Andretti (Indianapolis) and Clinton Boyles (Brownsburg), who crossed the finish line second and third, respectively, late in the race. Chase Jones (Indianapolis), a student at the Kelly School of Business at IUPUI, started 13th and finished fifth, in the 20-car race.
McKenzie started on the pole in the modified feature and led from the drop of the green flag. Despite four caution flags that kept things interesting, McKenzie held off Bub Roberts (Warren, Indiana), Ryan Sutter (Coldwater, Ohio), Cole Sink (Fort Wayne) and Dylan Woodling (Warsaw) as the top-5 finishers in the 20-car field.
Bishop, Gas City’s defending street stock champion, started second and passed polesitter Mike Fischer to the outside in turn-3 working lap two, and led the rest of the way. Fischer made a bid for the lead after a restart on lap 10, but after a side-by-side dual through the turns 1 and 2, Bishop fought him off then extended his lead over the final five circuits. Fischer held on for second and was followed by Justin Long (Lima, Ohio), Jeffery Jessup (Union City, Indiana) and D.J. Holt (Marion).
The hornet feature proved to be the most entertaining main event of the evening. Young James Headley Jr. (Wabash) started second but got the jump on the polesitter, also his father, Headley Sr., at the startand led the first five laps. Headley Sr. led lap six before junior re-assumed the lead on lap seven. The elder Headley made the winning move on the backstretch working lap eight and led the rest of the way for a Headley family one-two. Bill Lewis (Fountain City, Indiana), substituting for Gabe “Scrappy” Wilkins (Gas City) in the COVID-19 car, started third and threw everything he had left at the Headleys but settled for third. Brandon Lines (Marion) was fourth and Brad Evans (LaFontaine) finished fifth.
Reece Saldana (Brownsburg) started on the pole of the outlaw micros feature and led the first two laps before Naida charged under him in turn 3. Naida led the final 13 laps. Saldana ran second ahead of Jon Treadeu (Grass Lake, Michigan), Levi Winget (Wabash) and Brandon Sweat (Van Buren).
Though Gas City’s roar will remain silent during the coming weekend, the track will be busy over the next three weekends.
Friday, July 10, is the “Mid-Season Championship,” which will award double points for the non-wing sprint cars, modifieds, USAC Midwest Thunder SpeeD2 midgets, street stocks and hornets.
Friday, July 17 will be the popular “Beach Night Bash” featuring modifieds, Tony Stewart’s All Star Circuit of Champions TQ midgets, hornets, and the Dirt Track Truck Series.
Gas City will then host the opening round of “USAC Sprint Week” on Friday, July 24 with the USAC AMSOIL national sprint cars to round out the month. Non-wing 600cc micro-sprints will support that program.