Automorbit, Sport – Sunday’s 65th annual Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds could have been marketed as the Second Final Annual Hoosier Hundred.
The Indiana State Fairgrounds announced in April 2019 that the dirt surface of the one-mile dirt track would be converted to an all-weather limestone surface for harness training, meaning that May 24, 2019 was going to be the last time that USAC Silver Crown cars would thunder around the same track that Al Unser, A.J. Foyt and Mario Andretti tore around back in the 1960s and 1970s.
Last year, Tyler Courtney went around the outside of Kevin Thomas Jr. with under 10 laps to go and won what was the final Hoosier Hundred.
Or so we thought.
The onset of the global pandemic and the ensuing chaos has thrown many plans into disarray, including converting the dirt track’s surface, at least for this year.
The early August announcement that the Hoosier Hundred would be coming back on the night of the Indianapolis 500 was very welcome news to the dirt racing community, especially to Kyle Larson. Larson bested C.J. Leary and Logan Seavey to join the historic list of winners Sunday night.
“It was sad watching it last year, but I was really happy that a good friend of mine won,” said Larson. “Although it would be cool to be the last winner of the Hoosier Hundred, I don’t want to be. I want this race to continue on. It’s good for the sport of USAC racing and it’s good for Indiana, too. I don’t know what the issue was for it to close up but hopefully this opportunity to let us race tonight, hopefully we can continue it.”
Leary was happy that the race continued on, even though he finished second and came up one position short of matching his father Chuck’s triumph in the 1997 Hoosier Hundred.
“With COVID and everything, I guess whoever was going to change the surface of the race track, they backed out or got cold feet, whatever it was,” said Leary. “It was probably the best thing that COVID ever did, but (I’m) just happy to get in the truck today and drive 20 minutes to the race track and get unloaded at the Fairgrounds. This place is awesome. The history and just coming here making laps, this is badass.”
Leary battled all race long with Courtney and Larson before Courtney dropped out near the end of the race with an engine failure, stopping him from joining the ranks of Al Unser Sr., Kody Swanson, Jimmy Bryan and others that have won the Hoosier Hundred back to back. Courtney recognizes the importance of the race and is looking to see it continue, if possible.
“It’s cool to be the last guy to (win) it, your name goes down in the history books,” said Courtney. “But at the same time, keeping a historic race alive, I think that’s more important for the sport than anything. I’m a big believer in doing whatever we need to do to keep our sport growing. This is a place that needs to be here every year, a race that needs to be here every year and at least we’re going back a little bit on the right track having it again this year and there’s been 65 years of it, hopefully we can go another 65.”
Seavey’s third-place finish in his first Hoosier Hundred was a great result for the Silver Crown rookie and wants to keep coming back to improve upon that result.
“I feel like everybody that’s a fan of Silver Crown racing or a driver or a fan of auto racing in general, especially in Indiana wants to see this race stay alive and stay here at the Fairgrounds,” said Seavey. “It wouldn’t be the same if they tried to run the Hoosier Hundred somewhere else but yeah, that’d be ideal if they can keep it here and we can keep coming back and racing here at this historical place.”
The ongoing uncertainty of construction work at the track might allow the race to continue into 2021 and beyond if work is further delayed, meaning that a staple of Indiana motorsports dating back to 1953 could remain for the time being. If the Indiana State Fairgrounds decides to go against their decision to change the track surface, it could be back permanently.