Bloomington, IN — In the history of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing, no driver has earned more victories or started more feature events than has Dave Darland.
On Friday night at Bloomington Speedway, perhaps no driver has ever had a more popular win in the history of the series than has Dave Darland.
On a night when “The People’s Champ” became the first to reach 700 starts in the series, he also became the first to hit 60 career wins after leading the final 18 laps of the 30-lap feature to score his first victory in USAC National competition since November of 2016 to end a 40-race winless streak.
“It’s just taken me forever,” Darland said with a laugh. “Seven-hundred starts and 60 wins. I don’t know what happened the other 640 times, but it’s been a great career for me. I still love driving racecars and, on nights like this, it’s such a great feeling.”
The monumental victory is actually the second for Darland in a Goodnight-owned car – the first coming in July of 2010 during “Indiana Sprint Week” at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway. After the two entities paired up last year, the combination has been electric with Darland picking up three fast qualifying times in as many appearances to finish out last year’s USAC season. Just last week, Darland and Goodnight reeled off their first victory of the season together in local competition at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. Yes, they’re reunited and it feels so good.
“Things went well for a long time, but the last couple years, we’ve been struggling to run well and get victories,” Darland said. “We’ve run decent most of the time, but victory lane was a little hard to find. When I began driving (for the Goodnight team) last year, we started out great and it’s been great ever since. I’ve run this car about ten times now and we’ve had a chance to win all ten of them. It’s great to be back with a team that I jell with. This car drives great and I’m glad where I’m at.”
Darland began the race from the outside of the front row and, right from the get-go, he and pole starter Chase Stockon were locked in a near dead-heat continuously throughout much of the first half of the event, interrupted only by a Dakota Jackson turn three flip on the third lap of the feature.
On the restart, Darland instantaneously returned to his comfort zone, rim-riding on the ledge while Stockon tethered himself to the bottom. Just as Darland appeared to have the upper hand, the top line seemingly vamoosed for a moment as a re-energized Stockon surged ahead on the bottom to snare the lead by the length of a shoe at the line on lap seven.
As Stockon opened a canyon-wide margin on Darland, the Lincoln, Indiana driver was undeterred, staying true to himself and refusing to wilt and pedal to the bottom. Darland paved his own trail and was going to risk fate, letting his race ride or die on the outstretched arms of the red clay.
“I just decided to stay on top,” Darland said firmly. “Everybody’s been asking me ‘Did you ever consider going to the bottom after getting passed?’ I said no, not really. Hell no! But, really, I kind of did. I just knew that the top had potential, but I just had to figure out how to run it better.”
“When Chase (Stockon) got around me, I just learned how to run the top harder and that’s what I did. I just started running it harder,” Darland said. “I figured out where I could hit it and where I had to get away from it, especially down in (turns) one and two where the lip was really tall. You had to be careful not to snag it and throw the front end over the bank. But, down here in (turns) three and four, it was kind of up-on-the-edge where you couldn’t go in too hard and go over the edge. Both ends were a little bit different, but both ends had potential up there. So, I just had to figure out what it had and hit it in the right spots at the right time.”
By the 13th circuit, Darland’s high-wire act had led him right back into the corner of Stockon’s right eye as he plucked the lead away by the length of an eyelash at the stripe on the outside. Each lap thereafter, Darland constructed an advantage that was impenetrable – to a half-second, then to a full-second, and, finally, to a crescendo of over a second-and-a-half as he entered lapped traffic with less than five laps to go.
Darland had to be perfect shaving the highline with his Hoosier rubber lap-after-lap, but instead of searching high-low-middle to find the fastest way around, the USAC Triple Crown champ applied Occam’s razor to find the solution – stick with your gut go to the front.
Darland’s lead ballooned to 1.76 seconds at the checkered flag to defeat Chris Windom, KSE Hard Charger Logan Seavey (from 15th), Chad Boespflug and C.J. Leary.
Contingency award winners Friday night at Bloomington included Robert Ballou (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Kyle Cummins (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winners), Dave Darland (Chalk Stix Third Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner), Logan Seavey (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Kody Swanson (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer), Jordan Kinser (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher) and Brady Bacon (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier).
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: Ryan Sellers