51st Annual Joe James/Pat O'Connor Memorial at Salem Speedway

-A A +A

Auto Racing

By The Staff



     SALEM, Ind. - Four former winners; Tracy Hines, Bryan Clauson, Jacob Wilson and Eric Gordon; are expected to lead a distinguished group of drivers onto the famed Salem Speedway high banks on Saturday for the 51st annual Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial sprint classic.


     For the first time in the history of the prestigious race a second sprint car series, the Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Car Series, will join the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Series for the evening of racing action.


     “We are certainly thrilled that the United States Auto Club and Must See Racing have agreed to share the high banks for this historic night of racing,” said Salem Speedway general manager Richard Deaton.  “This is a giant step in the right direction for open wheel racing and a win-win situation for pavement sprint car fans.”


     Hines, who is looking for his first USAC sprint car pavement win of the season, is set to defend his 2009 James/O’Connor victory.  The New Castle, Ind., driver, who also won the 2001 sprint classic, will attempt to become only the second three-time winner of the event and first back-to-back winner since Greg Leffler captured the 1979 and 1980 races.  Pancho Carter is the only driver to have won more than two James/O’Connor races, having put together a string of four straight victories from 1974 to 1977.


     Besides the former race winners, Hines can expect plenty of competition from the likes of Tony Stewart Racing driver Levi Jones of Olney, Ill., the current AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Series, points leader, and Shane Hmiel of Pleasant Garden, N.C.


     Hmiel, who led the first 43 laps of the 2009 James/O’Connor Memorial, has already won twice this year on pavement, sweeping both races at O’Reilly Raceway Park.


     Clauson of Noblesville, Ind., won on the pavement at Iowa Speedway in late May and Henry Clarke of Villa Park, Cal., pulled off a big win at Tolodo Speedway in early July.


     Other top drivers expected for the USAC portion of Saturday’s race include California’s Damion Gardner, Arizona’s Jerry Coons Jr., Illinois A.J. Fike and Chris Windom and Indiana’s Aaron Pierce and Brian Gerster.


     Topping the list of expected Must See Racing Xtreme Sprint Car Series entries is Jason Blonde of Litchfield, Mich.  Blonde established a new one lap track record at Salem in May with a blistering lap of 14.244-seconds during time trials.


     Blonde and Troy DeCaire of Tampa, Fla., were staging a heated battle for the win in the 30-lap main event on May 8th, but neither driver was able to make it through the third turn on the final lap and Aaron Pierce went on to record the win.


     Besides Blonde and DeCaire other top MSR Xtreme Sprint Car Series drivers expected include Jeff Bloom of Bangor, Mich., Mike Ling of Mt. Brydges, Ont., Jimmy McCune of Toledo, Ohio, Tim Cox of Park City, Ill., Hank Lower of Angola, Ind., Ryan Litt of London, Ont., and Blaze Martin of Martinsville, Ind., among others.


     A total of 29 winged sprint cars graced the pits for the May 8th MSR Xtreme Sprint Car Series race at Salem.


     Saturday’s racing program, which also features a vintage race car display by the Midwest Oldtimers Vintage Race Car Club, will be topped off with a 30-lap feature for the MSR Xtreme Sprint Car Series and the 50-lap Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial for the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Series.


     Spectator gates open on Saturday at 3 p.m. with practice slated to start at 3:30, qualifications at 5:30 and the first race at 7 p.m. (EDT).


     Salem Speedway management reports that the track infield will be open for spectators on Saturday evening.


     For ticket information call 812-883-6504 or toll free 1-888-246-7223.