TWELVE MILE – Plank Park was a place of divergent paths Thursday. Sure, the race track that is home to the infamous Twelve Mile 500 Lawnmower Race was its usual well-worn dirt strip that wound through the trees, down the third base line of a little league diamond, rounded home plate, reached past pit lane before curving around a fertilizer spreader overlooking the action.
And another path familiar to racers at all levels followed its usual course, as well. The path of emotions.
The race was held for the 51st time in the small Cass County burg, and when the third of the three races concluded, as usual, there were smiles, grimaces, and even a tang of disgust.
“I'd just like to give a big thank you to my pit crew, my dad, and then the person that helped me build my motor, Brad Wilson,” Cole Calloway beamed.
The 19-year-old Logansport resident had just won the opening race (Briggs class) of the day, which was his first career win, and gave a post-race interview that would've made any NASCAR sponsor proud.
Calloway led much of the aforementioned race and had virtually no difficulty on the day. Virtually, no difficulty, that is.
“I only got one black flag,” Calloway said of being penalized.
The races have 15 miles per hour speed limit and through the years, technology has made it easier to get caught. But that didn't make it any easier for a competitor like Calloway to accept.
“I really kept control of my speed,” Calloway said. “I didn't think (I was speeding). I was mad at first.”
While Calloway was engulfed by his family, friends and girlfriend, just a few feet away, 25-year-old USMC LCpl Zach Troyer remained a tad frustrated after not winning the race, but still clung to a slice of hope due to his having also entered a mower in the later Modified race.
LCpL Troyer received a week of leave from his USMC base in North Carolina and returned home to race at Twelve Mile for the 12th time after missing last year's event.
He misjudged the timing on some pit stops in the Briggs race, and after leading part of the race, fell back to finish fourth.
“It was alright, but it could've been better,” LCpL Troyer said. “I came into the pits when I got behind traffic and then came out right behind them again.”
Unfortunately for LCpL Troyer, it didn't get better.
In the Modified race, his father, Randy, challenged for the top spot – even leading at times – but was penalized on his final lap and wasn't allowed to finish the race.
“It's not about winning, but it's at least about getting to finish the race,” Randy grumbled.
LCpL Troyer knew the feeling.
He was holding a steady spot inside the top 10 through much of the race, but 10 laps shy of the finish, his left front tire went flat and he was done. But he didn't let the bad luck ruin his day.
“This was worth coming home for,” LCpL Troyer said.
Not sharing in the Troyer's sorrows was a spry 16-year-old from Peru, who demonstrated that not having the legal paperwork stating that you can drive, has no bearing on one's actual ability to do so.
Darren Ulerick held off veteran John Troyer (and a red flag re-start, which aided the rest of the trailing field) to win his first race after taking second two summers ago.
“I was worried,” Ulerick said. “Last year (a red flag re-start) happened and I got lapped and lost my position.”
In the Super Stock race, John Troyer held the pole entering the race and took the checkered flag at the end of it.