Changes on horizon at Bloomington

The Bloomington Speedway has released its racing schedule for the 2016 season. Opening night will be April 8, with 410 non-wing sprint cars, Racesaver sprints, super stocks, modifieds and hornets on the race card that evening.

A couple of USAC special events will be conducted during the season. The USAC Midget Week program will be June 3, and on July 15 the traditional USAC Indiana Sprint Week race will be conducted at Bloomington.

Last season, Brady Short of Bedford won his fifth consecutive sprint car track championship, the sixth time in seven years Short was the top driver in the division. Nick Bilbee of Indianapolis finished second in the sprint car points, followed by Jeff Bland Jr. of Springville, Chris Babcock of Bloomfield, and Brandon Morin of Jasonville.

Eric Smith of Bloomington was crowned the 2015 champion in the Racesaver sprint cars. Ryan Tusing of Santa Claus finished second behind Smith in the final points tally. Luke Bland of Bloomington, Kendall Ruble of Vincennes and Ethan Fleetwood of Bloomington rounded out the top five.

Tyler Cain of Seymour took the Super Stock points championship last season at Bloomington to go along with his track championship at Brownstown Speedway. Jason Hehman of Brownstown was runner-up, followed by Steve Hollars of Bloomington, Jim Pfeiffer of Vallonia and Jack Frye of Bloomington.

Derek Groomer beat four other Bloomington natives — Chad Combs, Roy Bruce Jr., Sam Wray and Jay Humphrey Jr. — to win the modified track championship.

Matt Hamilton of Smithville, who is taking over as one of the track’s general managers, went out in style as a driver by winning the hornet division crown. Jeremy Smith of Bloomington finished second in points, followed by Austin Burton of Edinburgh and Bloomington drivers Chad Taylor and Warren Hopkins.

Hamilton and his wife, Jennifer, will be managing the quarter-mile red clay track this season. A long history of living in Monroe County and attending or participating in events at Bloomington Speedway figures to benefit the duo.

“I received the knowledge of promoting events from my dad,” Matt Hamilton said. “He was the pit steward at the Sweet Owen Speedway in Spencer years ago and then took to promoting local events and writing the rules for several area demolition derbies.

“There will be a few minor tweaks to the race night that the fans will see to continue to build on the great job Kris Kirchner has started.”

Matt raced many forms of racing in the past 21 years including street stock, modified and hornet divisions.

Jennifer, attendee of Bloomington Speedway for 22 years, will showcase her experience in marketing, sales and customer service.

“Jen’s experience will be a vital asset to the nightly shows by attracting advertising and promotional items that the fans will hopefully enjoy,” Matt Hamilton said. “She has been a household engineer for many years raising our children. Also, in the past three years, she worked in customer service and relations, so she know what it takes to connect to the fans as well.”

Now a construction manager for Poynter Sheet Metal, Matt expects to use that experience in order to benefit the racetrack’s facility needs while Jennifer utilizes her background for the staff and fans.

Bloomington Speedway is nestled in the rustic Indiana countryside. In operation since 1923, it has provided a fantastic venue for rabid Hoosier racing fans and developed champions in many racing disciplines.

Besides a flock of Kinsers, Kasey Kahne, Tony Stewart, Dick Gaines, Kenny Irwin, Jr. and Jeff Gordon — the 1988 track champion — cut their racing teeth on Bloomington’s formidable clay.

USAC sets schedule

The AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series will kick off its 2016 season next week at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida, with three straight nights of racing Feb. 18 to 20. The next event after that will be April 2 at Lawrenceburg Speedway.One of the most popular events annually on the USAC Sprint Car schedule is the Indiana Sprint Week. This year, the series will kick off on July 8 at the Gas City I-69 Speedway in Gas City and conclude on July 16 at the Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt.

The USAC National Midget Series first event of the new season will be March 19 at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, Illinois. Keith Kunz Motorsports of Columbus is the reigning series champion car owner.

The USAC Silver Crown cars will have their first scheduled event April 3 at the Terre Haute Action Track in Terre Haute.

James Essex is the motorsports columnist for The Republic, a sister paper of The Tribune. Send comments to