Kokomo Smackdown is the most stressful part of the season. With 4 nights of USAC Sprint Cars at one of the most difficult tracks in the state, the competition is always stiff. The first night was a tune up for the 3 remaining races since no points were accumulated that night. With 44 cars on the first night, it was going to be a strong field of cars; we drew a 23 which placed us into the 2nd heat. It was a normal Kokomo format, so in our group qualifying we ended up 2nd overall which would line us up 3rd in the heat. Due to some issues on the initial start between the front row, we got to start on the pole. We jumped out to an early lead and after fending off a couple sliders from Meseraull, we held onto the heat race win. Due to the re-draw, we would line up 3rd for the feature. On the initial start, we were able to slot into the 2nd place but we were just too tight. We expected the track to get slick, but the dew set in and it began to till up. We were probably going to end up 4th, but lap traffic really hurt us; being so tight, we struggled to maneuver around them and that dropped us to 7th. We learned from our mistake and it was a good tune up before the next 3 nights.
Night 2 would kick off the first of 3 USAC points paying nights; in addition, they paid Smackdown points, the top 8 cars would be locked in on the final night, and the remaining heat races would be lined up based on points. Points would be paid based on qualifying, heat race, and feature finish, so it was important to make sure you finished every event, as well as qualify well. Unfortunately, the first night we didn’t have the best qualifying effort and ended up 18th overall. It would line us up starting 2nd in the 2nd heat; we were able to get a jump going into turn 1 and were able to hold on and win the heat. For the feature, we started 18th, but were able to make some early moves and by the end of it we were 11th. It was a solid run, but just a little too snug again to pass more cars.
Night 3 would be the second points paying race of the weekend and after the first night, we were sitting 13th in Smackdown points. Fortunately, we got a good draw and were able to time in 4th quick which would line us up starting 6th in the 4th heat. After a brief track re-work, it was heat race time and we expected the track to go a bit slicker by the 4th heat, so we tightened the car up. Unfortunately, the track was brought back, but despite being too tight we were able to grab the final transfer spot at the line to get us into the feature. Snagging the final transfer also put us in the invert for the feature so we would line up 5th. In the feature, we were able to get to 4th on the initial start; unfortunately, I made some bad adjustments in the car and we fell back to 11th by the end of the race. I learned from my mistake and made sure not to make it the last night!
After the previous 2 nights, we were tied for 9th in Smackdown points, just one spot away from being locked into the show and King of the Hill. Fortunately, they lined up the heats based on points so we were slated to start on the pole of heat #2. We got the early jump and won the heat, which slotted us into the 10th starting spot for the feature. At the start, we fell back to 11th and were running there when the 9th and 10th place car got together and collected us. After restarting from the tail, we got back to 8th by the checkered flag. It was unfortunate because we were good enough to finish in the top 5, but the late race cautions just hurt us and we were able to grab as many spots as we would have if it would have stayed green. Overall, it was a solid Smackdown and we learned some things to take into the remainder of the season.