Monday, July 27, 2015

A step back to racing tradition!

In the 'good old days' of racing history, Indianpolis '500' drivers also drove sprint cars and midget cars in events held at racing venues all across our country. The local appearances by the national cars and stars at the local tracks helped to "build the brand" of Indianapolis car racing. 

Last Saturday night, that tradition returned as IndyCar Series rookie Gabby Chavez shocked the midget racing world by finishing fifth in his first-ever midget car race start in the 'Tony Stewart Classic' held July 25 2015 at the historic 1/5-mile Lincoln Tech Indianapolis Speedrome oval located on Indianapolis’ east side.

In addition to the induction of the 2015 USAC United States Auto Club Hall of Fame class that included midget car champions Jimmy Caruthers, Don Kenyon, Larry Rice, Clark ‘Shorty’ Templeman, and Ron ‘Sleepy’ Tripp, the 100-lap 'Tony Stewart Classic' also featured the unique Shepherd Insurance ‘Tail Gunner Challenge.’ 

The leader at the mandatory 75-lap intermission was offered the opportunity to take the ‘Tail Gunner Challenge’ - restart at the tail of the field, and if after 25 laps he was able to win the race, he would capture the ‘Tail Gunner’ $10,000 bonus in addition to the $5,000 winner’s purse. If the leader declined, the offer would be extended to the second place driver, and if he also declined, the third place driver could take up the ‘Tail Gunner Challenge.’   

No one in the insurance business understands the racing business better than the Shepherd Insurance motorsports team, which is led by race team owner Tom Johnson and his son Jeff. Together, the Johnson’s have over 50 years of experience insuring motorsports teams and are charter members of the Indiana Motorsports Association. Shepherd Insurance knows exactly what racers need, because Tom and Jeff eat, drink and breathe racing. Contact Shepherd Insurance through their website at

Gabriel ‘Gabby’ Chavez, the 22-year old Colombian IndyCar Series rookie and 2014 Indy Lights champion had never driven a midget race car prior to his first Friday afternoon practice session. Chavez drove the #9C Honda HPD sponsored midget owned by USAC, which is powered by the Honda HPD K24 146-cubic inch double overhead camshaft (DOHC) 4-cylinder USAC HPD midget series ‘spec engine.’ Chavez’ entry likely produced 150 horsepower less than the USAC Honda National Midget Series race cars he competed against in the Tony Stewart Classic.

Chavez completed time trials with his HPD #9C machine eleventh fastest overall of the 23 qualifiers, just two-tenths of a second behind 'Bowes Seal Fast' fastest qualifier Grant Galloway.  Chavez then finished second in his heat race behind Joey Burrow to advance into the 25-car feature starting field. After starting the feature in eleventh position, by the 75-lap intermission, Chavez had moved into third place.

Leader Kyle Hamilton of Danville Indiana declined to accept the Shepherd Insurance “Tail Gunner Challenge,’ as did second place driver Galloway. Chavez, in third place, accepted the challenge to the delight of the spectators, and over the final 25 green flag laps raced from the tail of the field back up to fifth place at the drop of the checkered flag behind Hamilton, Galloway, Kevin Studley, and Ross Rankine. 
Although he fell short of winning the race and the $10,000 Shepherd Insurance bonus, the young Columbian racer gained the respect and admiration of many long-time midget racing fans with his exciting first-time midget racing performance.    

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