BRICKYARD AT NIGHT: KASEY KAHNE OUTLASTS RED FLAGS AND DARKNESS TO WIN BRICKYARD 400

Kasey Kahne and his team Kiss the Bricks after winning the Brickyard 400 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (SJ photo/William Gibson)

INDIANAPOLIS – In a race that kept fans on their feet during the tense, wild final laps, Kasey Kahne had to sit down after earning the biggest win of his career.

Kahne passed Brad Keselowski on the final restart in overtime to win the 24th annual Brantley Gilbert Big Machine Brickyard 400 on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The epic race started at 2:44 p.m. and finished at 8:58 p.m., just eight minutes before sundown. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race was halted three times for red flags for a total of two hours, 31 minutes, including a rain delay of one hour, 47 minutes after the first 12 laps were completed.

“The history here, winning at this track is unreal,” Kahne said. “This Farmers’ Insurance Chevrolet was great out front. I just had to get there. Man, I’m exhausted. To win at Indy is unbelievable.”

After being interviewed by NBC after the race, Kahne sat on the ground next to his No. 5 Farmers Insurance Chevrolet, dehydrated and cramping from a long, taxing day in the cockpit. The effort to win was so demanding that he needed intravenous fluids after the race.

Keselowski ended up second in the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Indiana native Ryan Newman finished third in the No. 31 Velveeta Shells & Cheese Chevrolet.

Joey Logano finished fourth in the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five in the No. 20 Tide Pods Toyota.

Kahne’s decisive pass came on Lap 166, on the second attempt at overtime in the race scheduled for 160 laps. Leader Keselowski chose the outside lane on the restart on Lap 166, with Kahne in second on the inside.

Former USAC open-wheel star Kahne held his line under Keselowski in Turn 1 on the restart and started to pull away. Then an accident less than a mile later, involving Denny Hamlin, Ty Dillon and Paul Menard on the backstretch, triggered the last of a record 14 caution periods and ended the race, with Kahne out front. Kahne cruised under the yellow and checkered flags on Lap 167 as darkness encroached on the 2.5-mile oval, earning the biggest win of his career in his 14th Brickyard start.

“Kasey, he did a heck of a job today and drove a hell of a race,” Keselowski said. “I was happy for him. But of course with the Miller Lite Ford, I thought we were in the right spot. You could see all day, I think, where you could get somebody on your outside and in the corner you got real loose. But he drove in there and just stuck.

“I don’t know, I probably got the wrong lane there or made the wrong call. I’m not so sure.”

Kahne’s victory was an intense climax to a wild final 16 laps, which featured six yellow flags and a red flag.

The first major flashpoint during that stretch run came on a restart on Lap 159. Kahne and Keselowski were side by side in Turn 1, with Keselowski nosing ahead in Turn 2. Kahne got loose in Turn 2, which allowed four-time Brickyard 400 winner Jimmie Johnson to pull alongside Kahne.

The three NASCAR superstars then went three-wide down the backstraight, with Johnson inside, Kahne in the middle and Keselowski on the outside. They entered Turn 3 in that formation, and Johnson wiggled, made light contact with Kahne, who made light contact with Keselowski.

Johnson spun into the SAFER Barrier in Turn 3, ending his chance for a record-tying fifth Brickyard victory. Keselowski and Kahne held on to continue, under caution.

“I don’t know if I spun in my own oil or if it was an aero situation, but I was so close to having a fifth win here at the Brickyard,” Johnson said.

Overtime ensued. Leader Kahne chose the outside lane on the restart on Lap 163, with second-place Keselowski on the inside. But a six-car tangle was triggered on the frontstraight on the restart when Michael McDowell tapped Trevor Bayne from behind, sending Bayne into a spin that collected numerous cars. A red-flag period started on Lap 164 for clean-up.

Keselowski had slipped under Kahne just before the melee with the inside lane and was judged by NASCAR officials as the leader, setting up the final restart on Lap 166, during which Kahne prevailed.

“Everything went wrong,” Kahne said of the penultimate restart. “The final one, everything went right. Once I got to Turn 1, I had good power. It’s pretty crazy.”

Crazy was a perfect description of the final 56 laps of the race.

Pole sitter Kyle Busch and Martin Truex Jr. dominated the first 110 laps of the race. Busch won the first two stages in the No. 18 Skittles Toyota and led 87 of the first 110 laps. Truex chased Busch in second for many of those laps and led eight circuits in his No. 78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota.

But Truex got loose on a restart in Turn 1 on Lap 111, sliding up into Busch. Both cars made heavy contact with the SAFER Barrier, ending their races and Busch’s bid to become the first driver to win this event for three consecutive years.

“I was on his outside and got hit and got blindsided and ended up in the fence,” Busch said.

Said Truex: “I just got loose and wrecked him, I guess. I didn’t really realize he was going to drive it that deep. I’ve got to take the blame for that one. Obviously, it was my fault. I hate it for Kyle. He had a great car.”

The Busch-Truex melee wasn’t the only disappointing early departure of the race. Fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was eliminated from his final Brickyard 400 start in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet after 76 laps due to an accident. Earnhardt, who is retiring after this season, placed 36th.

“I certainly want to come back here and enjoy this racetrack and maybe see the Indy 500 one day,” Earnhardt said. “Definitely not too upset with Indy. I wish I could have run a little better here several times. 

“You don’t like how you finished, and you don’t like the result. But life’s bigger than this, goes on past what happened today. I definitely want the fans to know throughout the rest of the season how much we appreciate them. We’ll be giving lots of hats away and signing lots of autographs, I’ll promise you.” 

Courtesy of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

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TROY WHITE NAMED NEW HEAD BASKETBALL COACH OF THE KOKOMO LADY WILDKATS

Troy White

KOKOMO, Ind. – When asked what his reaction was when he received the call notifying him that he had been selected as the new Kokomo High School girls basketball coach, Troy White answered, “Excited … Humbled … Honored!”

“To be named the coach of one of the most respected girls’ basketball programs in the state of Indiana is very humbling,” White explained.

And being a Kokomo native – Sycamore Elementary, Bon Air Middle School, Haworth High School, Kokomo High School – truly made it an honor.

“Yes, I did graduate from Indiana University Bloomington at one time, but I am an alumni of Kokomo High School … class of 1985 … and proud to be a Wildkat. And even prouder to coach the Lady Wildkats,” White said.

At its regular monthly meeting on July 17, the Kokomo School Corporation Board of School Trustees approved White as the new Kokomo High School girls’ basketball coach.

KHS Athletic Director Jason Snyder, who worked with White for 11 years in the girls basketball program when Snyder served as head coach and White served as a varsity assistant, is excited to have White lead the girls’ basketball program.

“Troy is prepared to step right in as head coach and keep the program moving in the right direction,” Snyder explained. “Troy knows the current members of our team very well and he has a strong knowledge of the teams we play since he was very involved previously in scouting for the program.”

During the school day, White serves as the day reporting supervisor and virtual school supervisor for the corporation.

One of the reasons White feels he is ready to be Kokomo’s head coach is because of everything he has learned from each head coach he has worked with during his 18 years in the Kokomo coaching ranks.

“I learned a great deal from each of the head coaches I worked with, but each one of them was especially talented in certain areas,” White explained. “Mr. (Basil) Mawbey was a defensive genius and skilled in organization, Mr. (Mike) Wade was the offensive genius, Mr. (Rick) Baumgartner found ways to get the athletes to play hard and he was a great shooting coach, Mr. (Chad) Ballenger stressed player development, and Mr. Snyder created a basketball family much like Mr. (Charlie) Hall before him. And I cannot forget my first head coach (football), Willard Rice, who brought such energy and passion to coaching. I hope to bring a blend of the best pieces I learned from all my head coaches.”

Wade, who is now director of human resources (classified) and operations, is excited for White.

“Troy is a passionate individual who always puts his players first,” Wade said. “The pride Troy has in Kokomo athletics, and Kokomo itself, were overwhelming during the interview process.”

During his interviews for the position, White said he expressed three “building blocks” he believes can become a foundation for the girls’ basketball program.

“First – Stability …. The girls have had two coaches in three years,” White explained. “I have been teaching in Kokomo for 24 years and I plan to retire from the Kokomo School Corporation. This is my home!  Second – Trust … I believe I can help the girls trust that I will be fair and consistent. Third – Togetherness … That starts with a basketball family, but it must extend beyond the players to our parents, our fans, and our community. I want our players to understand how proud they should be to wear Kokomo on their jerseys … just like the All-Stars wear Indiana and the Olympians wear USA.”

First on the agenda is creating a process that builds a feeder system through the middle school ranks.

“I pride myself on player development and things like basketball IQ, shooting technique, and universal terminology throughout the system, especially at the middle schools,” White said. “I want all of our coaches at all levels using the same language for the same skill sets.”

Snyder believes this is a strength for White since Troy started coaching for the corporation at the middle school level.

“Coach White has a great deal of experience at working with, and developing, the middle school program into a true feeder system,” Snyder explained.  “With the talent we have seen at the middle school level now, Coach White is hoping for continued success for our girls’ basketball program in the years to come.”

White’s coaching career began at home when he decided to help his little sister Arinn improve her basketball skills.  As a sophomore, Arinn was the point guard for the 1994 Lady Wildkats team that earned state runners-up honors and as a senior, Arinn again played point guard for the 1996 Lady Wildkats team that earned Final Four recognition. 

Carver Community Center was where White learned many coaching techniques as he coached his cousins Tia Davis and Ashley Johnson. While at Carver, White formed an AAU squad that qualified for Nationals, where White had the privilege of coaching against such legends as LeBron James and former Indiana Pacer Roger Brown.

Courtesy of the Kokomo School Corporation

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GEMS DALTON SCHUMER WINS PROSPECT LEAGUE HR DERBY, KPD’S ZACH RODMAN WINS CELEBRITY DERBY

BY DEAN HOCKNEY

KOKOMO, Ind. – On July 17, the Prospect League brought its annual Home Run Derby to Kokomo Municipal Stadium for a second consecutive year. And once again the ball was flying out the of the stadium that is known to be stingy when it comes to long balls. But while the players were enjoying swinging for the fences, new this year was a Celebrity Home Run Derby – an event that was a huge hit with the fans.

Divided into two teams captained by Jessica Green and Ben Rutz – the morning duo on radio station Z95.5 – 14 locals hit a combined 106 home runs (plus two bonus points) on the temporary 250-foot fence in the Celebrity HR Derby. In the opening round, Kokomo Jackrabbits Business Manager John Perszyk belted 11 home runs in two minutes to take the lead and qualify for the final round of three hitters. KPD Detective Zach Rodman advanced with 10 homers and Kokomo High School softball coach Mike Susong launched nine to capture the final slot.

In the finals, after Susong hit 11, Rodman and Perszyk each hit 12 to send the event into a two-man overtime. Both hit four more on five pitches in overtime before Rodman swatted three to Perszyk’s two in the second overtime to claim the title.

As for the team winners – Team Jess won in a runaway, winning round one 42-20 and the overall title 88-20

Celebrity Home Run Derby results: 1. Rodman (29 overall home runs, including seven over the KMS permanent wall); 2. Perszyk (29); 3. Susong (20); 4. KFD District Fire Chief Ryan Smalley (5), retired MLB pitcher and IU Kokomo assistant baseball coach Joe Thatcher (5), Kokomo Tribune’s George Myers (5); 7. Shannon Anthony of Break Sk8 (4), Jesse Nice of Break Sk8 (4); 9. Sports Journal Photo Editor William Gibson (3), 1070 the Fan Programming Director Greg Rakestraw (3), WLFI Sports Anchor Caleb Noe (3); 12. Green (0), Rutz (0), Terry “Tater” Roach (0).

When the big boys stepped to the plate, Quincy Gem and current Prospect League home run leader (11) Dalton Schumer launched seven home runs in three minutes and 13 in six minutes to take the number one seed into the Final Four. Dougie Parks of the Lafayette Aviators was the second seed after hitting 11 dingers, Danville Dan Mike Rothmund was the third seed with nine and Kokomo Jackrabbit Romero Harris launched eight in six minutes for the fourth seed. The Jackrabbits second entry, Storm Joop, just missed advancing with seven.

In Final Four head-to-head competition, Rothmund eliminated Parks 7-4 in a two-minute round while crowd-favorite Harris lost to Schumer 7-6. The two-minute championship round was just as entertaining as Rothmund hit three home runs to lead off the final round. Schumer then stepped up and hit one homer in the first minute before calling a time out. He tied the game with 20 second to go, and then with just five ticks remaining, Schumer hit a bomb to left field for a HR Derby walk-off winner to the thrill of the large Municipal Stadium crowd.

In all, Schumer hit 24 home runs in four rounds to lead the 10-man field that walloped 95 total home runs. The Gems have now won two consecutive HR Derby titles after Trey Mathis won last season.

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