Drivers who love fast cars hate to be restricted.
But just like those in other sports around the nation, Brownstown Speedway was shut down for weeks due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The speedway finally opened its 2020 racing season Saturday night. After waiting since March, the Jackson County track drew 155 race cars across five divisions of competition; however, with the current health restrictions in place, there were no fans allowed in the grandstand seats.
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"Everybody has been cooped up," said driver Shelby Miles of Bloomington. "Everybody was ready to get out and have some fun."
Miles had as much fun as anyone. The defending pro late model track champion at Brownstown took the lead from Paragon’s Steve Peeden on Lap 12 after Peeden got crossed up in Turn 2.
Miles had hounded Peeden for the first 11 laps of the 25-lap feature race. Miles then cruised to the victory. Tyler Neal of Paragon finished in second, followed by Peeden, Raymond Humphrey of Bloomington and Keegan Cox of Franklin.
"It’s nice to win the first one," Miles said.
Completing the top 10 were Brad Barrow, Brad Cummings, Zack Burton, Logan Moody and Isaac Rainey.
The heat race winners among the 31 entrants were Peeden, Miles, Marty O’Neal and Neal. Rainey won the B-main.
Miles said while the weather was great, the empty grandstands certainly represented a change in the usual atmosphere.
"It was a little big different," Miles said of the absence of cheering fans. But it was a mild evening. "It was beautiful."
In a night highlighting fresh winners, Derek Clegg of Nabb won his heat race and then went on to take his first feature win in the super stock division. Clegg outran two-time track champion Jamey Wilson of Seymour. J.T. Huffman of Salem took third with Tyler Neal and Bryce Shidler of Crawfordsville following.
Then came Josh Litton, Austin Phelps, Brent Lee, Tommy East and Sam Lee.
Heat race winners for the 22 Super Stock entrants were Clegg, Zach Sasser and Wilson.
In the open wheel modified division, the first race of 2020 came down to a battle between Tyler Nicely and Adam Stricker. The two made contact with Stricker taking the lead from Nicely, and he recorded his first feature win at Brownstown. Stricker of Batavia, Ohio, remains undefeated this year with four wins in the four races he has run.
Derek Groomer of Bloomington finished second to Stricker with Levi Kessinger of Mount Vernon, Jacoby Hines of Trafalgar and Brandon McDowell completing the top five.
The rest of the top 10 in the modified feature consisted of Cole Falloway, Bill Lewis, Nathan Voorhies, Michael Fish and Dustin Bruce.
The modifieds drew 25 entries. Nicely, Stricker and Groomer won heat races. Falloway won the B-main.
In the hornet division, there was yet another first-time feature winner in Bryce Burton, narrowly defeating a hard-charging Shannon Walp of Hayden at the finish line. Walp, who had to win one of the two B-mains in the 43-car hornet division field, stormed through the field to finish second to Burton. Blake Gibson of Crittenden, Kentucky, finished in third, followed by Hunter Perry of Columbus and Lucas Jackson of North Vernon.
Burton, from a family of racers, was excited by the triumph and having the opportunity to race after the delayed start to the season.
"I grew up watching," Burton said. "The best part was being around the family."
He had to work to capture his win. A top four in his heat moved him along.
"So I made the show," Burton said.
When Burton crossed the finish line a winner, he climbed out of his car and celebrated.
"I was pumped," he said.
The rest of the top 10 were Alex Wilson, Hunter Holton, Davey Waggoner, Gary Hume and Doug Watson.
Hornet division heat race winners were Hume, Warren Hopkins, Alex Wilson and Cordell Moore. Walp and Jeremy Wilson took the B-mains.
David Palmer of Clarksville became the fourth new winner of the night as he captured the pure stock feature race.Mark Hines of North Vernon finished second with Tory Routier of Edinburgh placing third.
Routier was leading the race when a lapped car tangled with him, which forced a caution flag.He then charged from behind to take third at the pay window.Dalton Fleenor of Salem was fourth in the feature with Donnie Wilson of North Vernon taking fifth.
Completing the top 10 were Tommy Fleenor, Mickey Hines, Will McRoberts, Glynn Neal and Tanner Huffman.
Heat race winners in the pure stock class were Christopher Combs, Routier and Dusten Carr. Michael Nail won the B-main.