When Eddie Tafoya Jr. announced he was heading to Indiana to race with the USAC National Sprint Cars during “Indiana Sprint Week,” it marked a giant step in his racing career. Competing against the best in the nation on their home tracks in the grueling series would be a tough experience for the young driver, correct? Absolutely not! The newly turned 23-year-old proved to be anything but intimidated and gave a very favorable account of himself before heading back home to Southern California.
Seven races at seven different tracks crammed into just nine nights is a whole different ballgame than the 2019 USAC/CRA and USAC Southwest Series Rookie of the Year is used to. Afterall, drivers are lucky if they get to race three times a month on the west coast. The Midwest series would prove to be as demanding on cars, drivers, and crews as it is a delight for the fans. While it was challenging, it was also extremely rewarding for the Chino Hills, California based driver, and his team.
“The tracks were pretty fun,” Tafoya said of his first racing experience in the Hoosier state. “Every single one had their own special qualities in how they changed and progressed. I definitely like Lawrenceburg and Terre Haute the best, the two biggest tracks. Tri-State is a super nice facility.”
The series started out at Gas City I69 Speedway. Tafoya garnered attention late in the C Main when his outside run saw him charge from the middle of the pack to less than a car length out of the fourth-place final transfer spot. The following night at “Indiana’s Baddest Bull Ring,” the Kokomo Speedway, he again ended up in the C Main and for the second night in a row, he finished one spot out of the transfer to the B.
A trip to Southern Indiana’s high-banked Lawrenceburg Speedway brought the first portion of Sprint Week to a close for the teams on July 26th. That was the night Tafoya raised everyone’s eyebrows. He improved his qualifying effort of the prior two nights by stopping the clocks at 14.722. That was good enough for the ninth fastest in his group. The impressive performance continued when he beat two of USAC’s top stars to the line to finish fourth in his heat and transfer straight into the main event where he started and finished 19th.
“Lawrenceburg was definitely the highlight of the trip,” Tafoya said. “We went straight into the A-Main from the heat race. I definitely like that fast track, and the roughness. Just had to be up on the wheel and ready to go. I was hoping to make the main events straight through the heats, but I didn’t know if I could get it done (being the first time at the tracks).”
After a couple nights off, the #51T team trekked to the biggest venue in the series, the Terre Haute Action Track. Tafoya, who was the 2018 Perris Auto Speedway Young Guns champion, refused to be daunted by the big half-mile clay oval. He turned in his best qualifying effort of the series when he toured the track at 20.582. That was good enough for sixth fastest in his group. He finished sixth in his heat race and that allowed him to skip the C Main and go straight into the B where he placed.
“I like the big tracks,” Tafoya answered when asked about the Terre Haute qualifying effort. “I feel like I have a lot more time to feel the car, feel the track and make decisions even at higher speeds. I feel comfortable doing that.”
The night after Terre Haute, the series switched to Lincoln Park Speedway. The winner there was a rival that none of the drivers could beat. Rain! Not only did heavy rain knock out that race, but it also forced the cancelation of the next night’s race at the Bloomington Speedway.
The rained-out Lincoln Park race was switched to Saturday, July 31st. This time Tafoya found himself back in the C Main where he finished a disappointing 10th before rain intervened again and postponed the remainder of the show.
Tafoya wound up his sojourn to the Midwest at “The Class Track,” the Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Indiana. After qualifying 15th, he was in a stacked heat race that featured five of the top 10 drivers in USAC National points. An impressive showing saw him finish fifth to again get a ticket into the B main event. In the B, the talented young driver came charging and did slip into the final transfer spot. His first night on the track, he see-sawed back in fourth with the more experienced drivers, including the all-time leader in USAC Sprint victories in the waning laps. He got as far up as the sixth and final transfer spot before settling for eighth.
After the promising trip and the fact that there is no racing happening on the west coast due to the COVID Crisis, Tafoya and his team have decided to head back to Indiana for the annual Smackdown race at the Kokomo Speedway August 27th, 28th, and 29th.
“At Kokomo, we started out a little bit tight, but by the end of the night our car was really good,” Tafoya said when asked what the team will change when they get back there. “We were behind the eight-ball starting with qualifying. We will look at our notes and go back to what we ended the night with when we were there last month.”
The team will leave for the Midwest on Sunday, August 23rd. Once there, fans can meet Tafoya at the Indiana races to get autographs and purchase one of his 2020 team shirts.
Fans who cannot get away to watch Tafoya live at Kokomo can see the Smackdown races on the Flo Racing website. For details, please click on the following link. https://www.floracing.com/
For more information on Kokomo Speedway, please refer to the following. Kokomo Speedway, 2455 N. Davis Road, Kokomo, IN 46901 – (765) 459-3877 - http://www.kokomospeedway.net/.
Tafoya and his team would like to thank the following sponsors for being a part of the 2020 racing effort. Specialty Fasteners, Circle Track Performance, Sprint Car Driving Experience, DRC Chassis, Ryder Racing Engines, and Benic Enterprises.
Eddie Tafoya Jr. Racing PR