By Ken De La Bastide
— During the year I witnessed plenty of exciting racing around Indiana and the U.S., with super late model competition at the top of my list.
The best race of the year was the Winchester 400 for the ARCA/CRA Super Series in October with Kyle Benjamin bumping Ross Kenseth entering the final corner to take the lead with less than 100 feet to the checkered flag.
It was a classic short track move by Benjamin who had closed on Kenseth over the final 10 laps before making the decisive move. Unfortunately for Benjamin, his car failed to pass technical inspection and Kenseth was awarded the victory.
The second best race I witnessed was the 45th running of the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Florida. Erik Jones battled NASCAR star Kyle Busch side-by-side for the lead following a late caution and went on to record the victory.
What made the race so impressive was the fact that Jones was running the outside line to maintain a slim lead over Busch. Busch’s tire went away toward the end and he fell back to third.
Third on my list was the Indianapolis 500, the first with the newly designed IndyCar. The race had a record 30 lead changes as the new design created plenty of side-by-side racing on the restarts.
Takuma Sato challenged eventual winner Dario Franchitti on the final lap, attempting to make a pass on the inside entering Turn 1. Sato ended up against the outside wall and Franchitti recorded his third Indy 500 victory.
Fourth on the list is the ARCA/CRA Stoops Freightliner Red Bud 300 at Anderson Speedway. Kenseth took the lead on Lap 249 from Bubba Pollard and then pulled away from 2011 winner Steve Dorer following a restart with a handful of laps remaining.
The Pay Less Little 500 is fifth on the list with Brian Tyler recording his second win and the second victory for car owner Larry Contos.
Tyler took the lead from Aaron Pierce on Lap 349, following a round of pit stops. Pierce’s attempt at a victory ended on Lap 372 when he was forced to make another stop to change a leaking rear tire. Rookie Bill Wease finished second, followed by Brian Gerster.
Sixth on my list was not one race, but three — during USAC’s Kokomo Smackdown for non-winged sprint cars on the dirt at Kokomo Speedway.
Plenty of cars and lots of action highlighted the three nights of racing that attracted fans from around the country.
Seventh on the list is the ARCA/CRA Super Series event at Lucas Oil Raceway where it appeared John Hunter Nemechek was going to get his first win until a late caution bunched up the leaders.
Brian Campbell took the lead and in Turn 4, Nemechek and Johnny VanDoorn got togther, ending Nemechek’s day.
On the final restart, Campbell was able to hold off a closing Chuck Barnes Jr. with VanDoorn coming home in third.
The Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway made my list for the dominating performance turned in by Jimmie Johnson and his Lowe’s team. Johnson led 99 of the 160 laps and pulled away from Busch at the finish to win by 4.7 seconds.
- In other racing news: The 2013 season starts on Jan. 1 with the annual New Year’s Day Bash at Anderson Speedway. Racing starts at 1 p.m. with Street Stocks, Thunder Cars, and Front Wheel Drive action on the oval and Figure-8 course.