Sunday, July 23, 2023

1978 - Sweet Wins Rain-Shortened Salem Classic

Randy Sweet

Salem, Ind. (July 23, 1978) – Randy Sweet followed his strategy perfectly and got his wish when rain halted the Raider 150 while he was running first after 86 laps, giving the Indiana pilot his second American Speed Association victory of the season, Sunday afternoon at Salem Super Speedway.

“Strategy was simple in this race,” Sweet said after collecting $2,100 for the victory. “It was just stand on the gas and hope it rained.”

A crowd of 4,212 contributed to the event’s $15,000 purse.

Don Gregory, Rick Knotts, Dave Roahrig and Mark Martin, each of whom completed 86 laps before the contest was red flagged, finished second through fifth respectively.

Threatening skies prevailed throughout the afternoon as Sweet carded the fastest qualifying time for the contest and started the feature from the eighth spot in the 24-car field.

After 30 laps of combat with early leader Roahrig and challenger Mike Eddy, Sweet finally emerged in the number one position. Once ahead, Sweet was able to keep Roahrig at bay while Eddy was forced out of the chase with water pump problems on lap 59.

The event’s early laps saw Roahrig in front, but Sweet and Eddy never more than inches behind as they swapped the number two spot. The frontrunning trio was closely pursued by Martin, Knotts and Ray Young.

Young was eliminated from contention early, when differential problems forced him to make a lengthy pit stop. Although he returned, Young managed to complete 50 laps before the rain stopped the contest, and he was credited with 22nd.

Larry Schuler also challenged the leaders in the early going, advancing to fourth place before a wheel broke on his Camaro on lap 9. Schuler miraculously kept his car off the wall, but the incident forced him to make a lengthy pit stop which removed him from contention.

With rain clouds building at the event’s 50-lap mark, Gregory started his charge on the .54-mile steeply-banked track, overhauling Knotts and Roahrig to claim second. However, the Jeg’s Camaro Chauffeur was still five seconds behind the pacesetting Sweet.

As Sweet completed the 84th lap, raindrops appeared on the backstretch and officials brought out the yellow flag. One lap later the red flag appeared.

Officials attempted to restart the contest some 20 minutes later, but after two laps under yellow a deluge ended any possibility of further action.

At the initial halt it was discovered that Sweet’ car had an oil leak developing on the front cover of the engine, casting serious doubt as to whether he could have completed the schedule distance.

“You can bet I was doing a rain dance,” Sweet said after the event was finally called.

Results –

1. Randy Sweet, Bremen
2. Don Gregory, Columbus, Ohio
3. Rick Knotts, Mattawan, Mich.
4. Dave Roahrig, Plymouth
5. Mark Martin, Batesville, Ark.
6. Lonnie Breedlove, Indianapolis
7. Ellis Herbert, Spiceland
8. Ken Harrison, Indianapolis
9. Steve Agnew, Brownsburg
10.Don Johnson, Hillard, Ohio
11.Terry Shirley, Seymour
12.Robin Schildknecht, Louisville, Ky.
13.Paul Stuerenberg, Cincinnati, Ohio
14.Bill Bartholomew, Sharonville, Ohio
15.Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill.
16.Neil Sceva, Urbana, Ohio
17.Troy Hensley, Richmond, Ky.
18.Roger Gillespie, Urbana, Ohio
19.Larry Brooks, Indianapolis
20.Larry Gorman, Indianapolis

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