Salem, Ind. – The 30th running of the Smoker Friendly Discount Tobacco Halloween 200 Sunday at Salem Speedway had everything a race fan could ask for, and then some. A beautiful fall afternoon, a full field of 41 colorful cars lined up three-abreast for the start, non-stop drama, thrills and spills, cheers and jeers, strategy and a spectacular finish. Yes…it was all there packed into a festive family fun day at the grand ole track. Just like racing used to be…say 30 years ago when the first Halloween 200 rolled off on the storied, high-banked oval in southern Indiana.
It also worked out pretty good for Borden, Indiana’s David Bayens, who tracked down the leader with five to go, made a clean pass and sped away to the biggest win of his career. He had won 26 feature events in the street stocks at Salem, but never a win in the Halloween 200. And make no mistake; the Halloween 200 at Salem is the Daytona 500 for the Lucas Oil Great American Stocks. In addition to the $5,000 top prize, this year’s winner, for the first time, got to leave with the coolest trophy in racing, an iconic Crosley jukebox, the very same model that NASCAR Xfinity and Truck Series winners receive at Kentucky Speedway.
“I don’t think we left the track till 11,” said Bayens. “We figured out how to get the Crosley jukebox hooked up to Bluetooth, and let it play all night. That’s going right in our living room at home.”
The “at home” part is truly the feeling you get when you watch the local street stock racers work their craft at Salem. And it feels like home when you see these families cheer their guts out for their drivers. Heck, with 10 to go, the whole place was standing to witness the drama unfolding in the closing laps. Kind of like one big family, uniting for the final ride to the checkers.
The ending could not have been more dramatic. With all-time Halloween 200 winner (7 times) Chuck Barnes, Sr. out front, and his son Chuck Jr. in tow, it seemed little could be done to track down, not one, but two Salem trackmasters. That was until Bayens pitted with 30 laps to go and bolted on fresh, right-side Hoosier Comanche tires. The pit stop shuffled Bayens back to the tail-end of the lead-lap line; but with new skin in the game, he quickly wheeled his way forward. By the time he got to Barnes, Jr.’s bumper, it was less than 10 to go.
“I kinda learned that from watching ARCA races all those years up in the grandstands. I’ve seen that scenario play out on the ARCA side…take tires late and come up through the field. We went 170 laps on the same set of tires…that says a lot for the Hoosiers, 8-inch tires that go that long without wearing out. I thought we were a little faster than the leaders, but we weren’t going to have enough right rear to make a run on them. Coming down for right-sides was a gamechanger.”
Best of all, Bayens didn’t shove the father and son Barnes duo out of the way; he passed them the old-fashioned way. He drove around them cleanly without leaving a mark.
“Honestly, I knew I didn’t have to. I didn’t want to wreck anyone to win that race. With social media, you’d never hear the end of it. It’s not worth it. And it’s not the way I wanted to win the Halloween 200. That’s exactly how Chuck and Chuckie would have raced me. It’s all about respect.
“For 18 years I’ve dreamed about winning that race, and to pass Chuck Sr. and Jr. to get there makes it all the more special. I remember thinking to myself, ‘how was I going to pass Chuck Barnes Sr. and Jr.?’ It was just something we had to do, and we got it done.”
Of course, it wasn’t just passing the best in the business to get there; it was about avoiding several wrecks throughout the 200-lap bump and grind. There were plenty to go around, including two major multi-car pile-ups, one off turn two and the other off turn four. Bayens managed to steer clear of both.
“People know that going into the Halloween 200…that this can happen…it usually does.”
Fortunately, there were no injuries. Despite the typical Salem torn sheet metal and busted frames, Bayens says he’d put the Salem street stock racers up against any in the nation.
“We call ‘em (the Lucas Oil Great American Stocks) small scale ARCA races. A lot of the guys go to Bristol and race…it’s the Salem guys up front. I’d put our cars and guys up against any street stock class in the country. It’s a really tight group of racers. It’s a mutual respect for each other and a huge respect for Salem Speedway. We love that place. We’re very passionate about it. I bet I had 50 people there just supporting us. We come and camp out the entire weekend. We probably had seven to eight families camping out.”
And leaving on such a strong note just left Bayens and his family yearning for more.
“It’s like waiting for Christmas. We’re all looking forward to next year. We’re building at least one new one and rebuilding an old one. A special thanks to my car owner Tim Sebastian for all he does for our team.”
Bayens’ team is a mob of volunteers who commit their time and hard work for the love of the sport.
“No one on our team gets a dime. They even all pay their way in. To see them coming up to the car in victory lane while I was still strapped in…seeing the smiles on their faces meant more than the win itself. And to see my wife and daughter come up screaming in victory lane, standing next to that Crosley jukebox…it was the best feeling in the world. We didn’t buy that Crosley jukebox…we won it.”
The thrill of victory meant even more for the union electrician, who is still in the honeymoon mode.
“Just got married October 6th in Florida. Then we win the Halloween 200. It just doesn’t get any better.”
Bayens is married to his wife Trisha. They have a three-year-old daughter, Autumn, who joined her mom and dad in victory lane Sunday at Salem.
“Our daughter loves it. She sits in the race car while I work on it. She’s all in.”
And so is the 30th running of the Halloween 200, all in the books with a new winner, a dream come true for a small-town family and all-volunteer crew living that dream at Salem Speedway.
-Salem Speedway Press Release & Photo