Saddlemen

Speedway Bikes Return to Indy: Border Wars Turn into Midwest Shootout

| 2 September 2017 12:10 pm

Bike Night
Mid-America Speedway at the Marion County Fairgrounds

Story and Photos by Kurt Bauer/Dirtbauer.com
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, AUG. 26, 2017

Mid-America Speedway hosted a “Border Wars Shootout,” hoping to attract some speedway riders from Canada and possibly the East Coast. That didn’t exactly happen, as none of the Canucks showed, but Indy had 12 Speedway bikes entered, each rider vying to win the $500 that would go to the overall winner.

Welcome to Mid-America Speedway, which hosted its inaugural Bike Night.

Welcome to Mid-America Speedway, which hosted its inaugural Bike Night.

Jon Ard started Speedway Bikes in Indy back around 2002, racing on the west side of Indy, not far from the mecca of racetracks, the Indianapolis 500. Speedway riders raced there for years, with three divisions of racers coming from all over the Midwest and occasionally as far as New York and Canada. In 2008, thanks to Eddie Kelley and Jim Terchila, they raced at the Marion County Fairgrounds on the east side, with a larger track; the speedway-bike numbers dwindled, but they did attract some big events, coinciding with the Moto GP and the AMA Pro Flat Track Indy Mile. [For more on Eddie Kelley, please see sidebar after the results, “Greg Comstock”… Editor]

B.J. Fesselmeyer in action in Indianapolis.

B.J. Fesselmeyer in action in Indianapolis.

Mid-America has since held a gonzo-cross “EnduroCross” race and recently added a street-legal-bike race to the line-up. This track is really good for the larger flat-track bikes, and many former and current Pro riders have competed here, from Jay Springsteen, Steve Moorehead, Dave Aldana and Jared Mees to Sammy Halbert, Rich King, Chris Carr and Brad Baker, as well as many others, including an up-and-coming racer who has competed at Mid-America for years and who is now racing in the American Flat Track Series: Indianapolis’ own Kevin Stollings Jr. Local racers such as Mick Rice, Jeremiah Duffy and Shane O’Banion also compete here regularly.

With the Bike Night on Meridian Downtown, there was a great turnout on a cool summer night on the east side of Indy. The Speedway Bikes would have 12 heat races, each with four riders going at it for four laps, using the traditional tapes for the starting line.

Sixty-two-year-old David Pieper samples the Hoosier soil and a hay bale, but sustained no significant injuries. (This reporter actually saw him loading up his bikes by himself after the races.)

Sixty-two-year-old David Pieper samples the Hoosier soil and a hay bale, but sustained no significant injuries. (This reporter actually saw him loading up his bikes by himself after the races.)

The line-up of riders had all the ages covered, as a few 60-year-olds were entered. Colorado rider David Pieper, who resurrected speedway bike racing in his home state, and Hoosier Dan Weicht from northern Indiana were in the house. Pieper brought along a 23-year-old from Colorado who was only in his first year of racing speedway bikes, though he had competed in motocross. They were on their way to the East Coast for the U.S. Open Speedway Championship in New York.

David Pieper (3) leads Barry Benkert Jr. (44X).

David Pieper (3) leads Barry Benkert Jr. (44X).

In the Speedway Bike practice session, it didn’t take long to see that the “Kid from Colorado” – a.k.a. Redmond Bohannon – was fast, as was hometown favorite B.J. Fesselmeyer.

Meanwhile, veteran riders Anthony Barlow, Chris Hathaway and Eddie Kelley – former racers who raced at the Indianapolis National Speedway on the west side – were starting to get used to this track, especially Kelley, who had won the week prior at Mid-America.

Kelley and Redmond Bohannon went at it the first heat, with Bohannon taking the win. He would also win the remainder of his heats.

Redmond Bohannon out front in turn two. He won all of his heat races on the night.

Redmond Bohannon out front in turn two. He won all of his heat races on the night.

Fesselmeyer would also win all of his heat races, but it looked like his final heat race would go up in smoke – literally, as his bike had a fuel leak and caught fire on the starting line. The Mid-America crew was able to extinguish the methanol fire before too much damage was done to the machine.

B.J. Fesselmeyer’s bike went up in smoke at the start of his final heat race.

B.J. Fesselmeyer’s bike went up in smoke at the start of his final heat race.

“Gentleman Jim” Terchila offered up his bike after Fesselmeyer’s bike had a meltdown at the start of his final heat.

“Gentleman Jim” Terchila offered up his bike after Fesselmeyer’s bike had a meltdown at the start of his final heat.

Jim Terchila provided Fesselmeyer with a bike in time for the restart. Fesselmeyer would start from the penalty line, but that didn’t stop him, as he railed around Pieper on the outside and took the lead and then held on to maintain his perfect night of heat-race wins.

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Bohannon would not face Fesselmeyer in any of the heats, and he won all four of his heat races with a perfect score of 12, also advancing to the main event, which would consist of the top five riders.

“What a fun night of racing!” exclaimed Bohannon. “Never rode such a big track! I won all my heats and [tallied] a second in the main. I just wan to thank Team Pieper Racing; without them, I would not be here! I appreciate everything you guys have done for me! I love you guys, both David Pieper and Kenneth Pieper. We are off to New York now!”

Redmond Bohannon would end up as runner-up in the Speedway main.

Redmond Bohannon would end up as runner-up in the Speedway main.

Due to winning a heat, Dan Weicht would advance to the main, despite throwing a chain in one of his heat races, causing him to tally a DNF and no points for that round.

Eddie Kelley (38, left) and Anthony Barlow (right) watch the tapes in heat 12.

Eddie Kelley (38, left) and Anthony Barlow (right) watch the tapes in heat 12.

Kelley rode strong, accumulating enough points to make the final, as did Heath Heston, making it five-wide for the start of the Speedway main.

Heath Heston made the main event at Mid-America.

Heath Heston made the main event at Mid-America.

The Colorado Kid – or, as the announcer was calling him, “Back-In” Bohannon – took the first gate, with home-track favorite Fesselmeyer in gate two, with his bike repaired after replacing a few melted parts from his Up in Smoke start to his final heat race.

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When the tapes went up for the main event, it was Fesselmeyer rocketing out of the gate first, with Bohannon close behind. The roar of the five Speedway bikes filled the air as they gained momentum for the long back stretch.

Bohannon would stay close, but Fesselmeyer has turned more laps than anyone else here and has been really fast, and he stayed on the gas, setting up turn three with a smooth exit out of four. Harley-Davidson of Bloomington sponsored the evening’s races, and also sponsors Fesselmeyer, who took the win, ahead of Bohannon. Kelley, in his comeback to Speedway racing, finished in third, ahead of Weicht and Heston.

B.J. Fesselmeyer takes the checkers out for a spin after scoring the win in the Speedway main.

B.J. Fesselmeyer takes the checkers out for a spin after scoring the win in the Speedway main.

Joseph Ratz took the win in both the Open and 450cc classes, ahead of some really fast guys.

Joseph Ratz (242) was the winner of both the Open and 450cc classes. (The photographer thanks Rusty Bauer for the help with the back flash!)

Joseph Ratz (242) was the winner of both the Open and 450cc classes. (The photographer thanks Rusty Bauer for the help with the back flash!)

These main events were filled with some great racing, including some unbelievable handlebar-to-handlebar first-turn starts with the big, wide turns at Mid-America.

In the big-money payout Open race, Trent Lowe finished second and Kasey Sciscoe got a podium finish. Stollings was on a loaner bike and he struggled to a sixth-place finish in the Open class.

Trent Lowe (48), Kevin Stollings Jr. (99), Shane O’Banion (133) and the rest of the pack skirmish in Open action.

Trent Lowe (48), Kevin Stollings Jr. (99), Shane O’Banion (133) and the rest of the pack skirmish in Open action.

However, Stollings got on the podium for the 450cc main, finishing in third, behind Brandan Bergen.

Mid-America Speedway at the Marion County Fairgrounds
Indianapolis, Indiana
Results: August 26, 2017

SPEEDWAY BIKES: 1. Brandon Fesselmeyer; 2. Redmond Bohannon; 3. Eddie Kelley; 4. Daniel Weicht; 5. Heath Heston.

OPEN BIKE 249+: 1. Joseph Ratz; 2. Trent Lowe; 3. Kasey Sciscoe; 4. Jeremiah Duffy; 5. John Poorman; 6. Kevin Stollings Jr.; 7. Chaz Meiman; 8. Branden Bergen; 9. Trevor Brunner; 10. Blake Singleton; 11. Shane O’Banion.

450: 1. Joseph Ratz; 2. Brandan Bergen; 3. Kevin Stollings Jr.; 4. Nathan Wilson; 5. Shane O’Banion; 6. Jeremiah Duffy; 7. John Poorman; 8. Kasey Sciscoe; 9. Chaz Meiman; 10. Trent Lowe; 11. Trevor Brunner; 12. David Kurek.

Greg Comstock
Eddie Kelley was wearing the number-75 bib in memory of Greg Comstock from Manitowoc, Wisconsin. The first time that Eddie rode a speedway bike was under Greg’s guidance. Greg later became a regular at the former Indianapolis International Speedway on the west side of Indianapolis, and tutored other riders, including B.J. Fesselmeyer, Chris Hathaway, Dan Weicht and Jim Terchila – all the while winning main events at the age of 60, often defeating riders half his age.

Eddie Kelley (75), wearing the Comstock Memorial Vest, duels with Jim Terchila and Redmond Bohannon in turn one.

Eddie Kelley (75), wearing the Comstock Memorial Vest, duels with Jim Terchila and Redmond Bohannon in turn one.

In addition to Speedway, Comstock was highly accomplished in many forms of racing, including Formula Open Wheel car racing, road racing, flat track, and drag racing. He won many national and international titles throughout a career that spanned more than four decades throughout America and Europe.

One of Comstock’s greatest accomplishments was winning the Crystal Helmet in Zarnovica, Slovakia, in 2003. He later commented that the Crystal Helmet was literally the heaviest trophy that he had ever received. It was also the only time that it was won by an American in the more than 50-year history of the event.

Greg passed away on May 21, 2015. He is survived by his wife, Cindy; his daughter Lori and son-in-law Brad; his grandson Aldon; and a legion of fans.

This event was a testament to the influence that Greg Comstock had on the speedway community in Indianapolis. Had the founders of Mid-America Speedway never met Greg, this event would never have happened.

Thanks for the memories, Greg.

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