Prior to the 2013 season, Lincoln open-wheel standout Dave Darland noted in a conversation that he had two primary goals entering the season.
The first was to score the first USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Series win for Steve and Carla Phillips in the No. 71P. He got that one out of the way on May 11 at the Bloomington Speedway. His second goal was to surpass Tony Elliott for the most sprint car feature wins in the history of the Kokomo Speedway.
Well, Darland can now consider it mission accomplished.
Over the course of three days during the Sprint Car Smackdown II at the local track, the likable veteran was virtually untouchable, garnering two of the three feature wins while finishing second in the other. And for good measure, he broke Daron Clayton’s three-year old USAC track record on Friday night by laying down a lap of :12.618 as the final car out that had fans on their feet and USAC officials laughing in amazement.
With the two wins on Friday and Saturday, Darland now has a total of 49 and the scary thing is that he is showing no signs of slowing down. With the wins over the weekend, it makes four feature wins in national competition. In addition he has a pair of wins at the Gas City I-69 Speedway this season as well.
“It feels really special to pass Elliott for wins [at Kokomo],” said a jubilant Darland from Victory Lane. “Over the years there have been so many people who have helped me out to get this. For 45 years I’ve been racing after my parents [Bob and Joan] got me involved. They stood behind me and got me to this point.”
Darland also noted how much his current team has done for him as well.
“Steve and Carla and all the crew busted their butts and gave me an awesome race car all weekend,” he stated. “And there were so many folks who came on board for this weekend. This one is dedicated to Morty [Randy Mortland]. He is a friend of the family from St. Louis who has followed us over the years and he lost his battle with cancer this morning.”
It had been 13 months since Darland last stood in Victory Lane at Kokomo, with his last win coming the week prior to last year’s Smackdown when he piloted Jeff Walker’s No. 11. A year ago he looked poised to at least tie, if not break the all-time feature mark at the local oval before Bryan Clauson went on a tear, winning two of the three nights.
“This is really something special that the O’Connor family and USAC has put together,” Darland said with his $10,000-to-win check sitting alongside him. “Sprint car fans are the best out there and the O’Connors and Rowdy [Phil Doud] gave us all a great track to race on all three nights.”
Brett Bowman covers the Kokomo Speedway. He may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.