B2 SATURDAY, APRIL 26,1997 SPORTS KOKOMO TRIBUNE New racing era begins at 16th • George helps bring midgets back to Indy. By JIM JACKSON Tribune sportswriter Tony George and company hope to kickoff a hew era in midget racing tonight when the 16th Street Speedway picks up where it left off nearly 40 years ago and a few blocks to the west. While the original speedway was dwarfed by the titanic Indianapolis Motor Speedway located just across 16th Street, the new venue is itself a coliseum — Bush Stadium to be exact — where racing groove gladiators will do battle in the round. However, IMS will no doubt play a large part in the draw at the track as grassroots open wheel drivers once again aspire to Indy. Among those who are expected to compete regularly at 16th Street are Kokomo-area drivers Dave Darland and Tony Elliott, as well as Kokomo Speedway sprint car stylist and HARF "Driver of the Year" Kevin Thomas. » Darland will wheel Ralph Potter's • Stealth-Potter V6 tonight, while Elliott is expected to drive the No. 17 CED Motorsports entry with Esslinger power. Thomas is slated to be the regular driver of D.O. Laycock's new Stealth- Esslinger. However, Darland will pilot D.O.'s entry when Thomas is unavailable. While Darland has yet to turn a lap at 16th Street, he says he's looking forward to it. "It looks like it will be a pretty interesting little track," Darland said. "It will be tight racing with a lot of wheel banging. It looks real small. I imagine when you get in JIM JACKSON AUTO RACING COLUMNIST the groove you're going to be in a big circle most of the time. "It'll be tough to pass," Darland continued, "but midgets are fun to drive on little tight tracks, so it ought to be a neat experience." Tonight's opener is a USAC National Midget Series event, so expect points leader Tracy Hines and stalwarts Andy Michner and Doug Kalitta to be on hand. Cameo appearances by Tony Stewart are also likely this season. Gates open at 5 p.m., while hot laps get under way at 6:30 and qualifying is at 6:30. The green flag is expected to drop on the first heat at 8 p.m. Bunker Hill Speedway reopens tonight The crew at the Bunker Hill Speedway has come a long way in the last month and it looks like the %-mile dirt oval is ready to reopen tonight with a full racing card of street stocks, mini-stocks and mod- ifieds, as well as the somewhat obscure Bunker Hill supermodi- fieds. While touring the track Friday afternoon, the staff was putting the final touches on the improved lighting system and preparing the racing surface for a good wetting down. The track looks good and the facility is improving every day. If you want more local racing, turn out to support the promoters West Coast hot shoe Jason Letter, checking his tire during a practice session, is among those midget drivers expected to compete at the new 16th Street Speedway tonight. (AP photo) tonight in the track's debut. Gates open at 3 p.m., hot laps are at 6 and racing will begin at 7. Bettenhausen bumped ... before May? Gary Bettenhausen has already been bumped from the Indianapolis 500 — at least from the entry list anyhow—and it isn't even May yet. After getting a call to drive Terhune-Barnet Racing's Kelley Automotive Group-sponsored Dallara- Aurora last week, Gary B. was primed to make his 22nd attempt at fulfilling the family dream of winning the 500. Bettenhausen was listed as the team's driver on the official entry list, released April 21, but word is Mark Dismore will now be behind the wheel. ; The ride went to Dismore when Tom Kelley made the sponsorship deal contingent upon having the Greenfield shoe in the car. "It's kind of unusual to get fired by a couple of rookie car owners before I sit in'the car," a frustrated Bettenhausen told the "Indianapolis Star" Friday. Also departing from the team is chief mechanic Larry Nash after he declined ah offer to head up the Dismore effort. Veteran crew chief Paul Diatlovich, co-owner of PDM Racing, has agreed to direct the Terhune-Barnet entry if a quality crew can be assembled. PDM already has a stable of cars that will be driven by Hoosiers John Paul, Jr. and Tyce Carlson. In other. Indy news, Scott Harrington will drive the G Force- Aurora' of retired Indy car driver Stephan Johansson. Harrington finished 15th at the Speedway a year ago. Ryno breaks out of slump with (linger • Reds continue to struggle with ninth loss in last'10 games. By The Associated Press ' Ryne Sandberg would have settled for a bloop single. Instead, he hit a record-tying home run. Sandberg's first homer this season — his 266th as a second baseman to tie Joe Morgan for the most at that position — helped lead the Chicago Cubs to an 11-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Friday. ' „ "I was waiting to get a hit — that came first," said Sandberg, who was in a 2-for-16 slump before he connected in the eighth inning. "I'm just concentrating more on getting comfortable at the plate and doing the job up there." The home run, off reliever Jeff Granger, was actually the 271st of Sandberg's career, all but five coming as a second baseman. "I'm just trying to work on my stroke and get things going," Sandberg said. "Home runs just happen for me when I do things right." Sammy Sosa seemed to do things right. He hit a two-run double in the sixth and a three-run homer in the eighth, driving in five runs for the Cubs who snapped a seven- game home losing streak. • Sosa's five RBIs matched his career best. He has had five RBIs nine times in his career, the last coming on July 23 at San Francisco. Shawon Dunston and Mark Grace each had three hits for the Cubs. "Everybody came through, everybody was swinging the bats," Sosa said. "Those guys are the core of our ballclub," Cubs manager Jim Riggleman said of Sosa, Sandberg, Grace and Dunston. Phillies 10, Reds 7 Mickey Morandini, Rico Brogna and Rob Butler each had three hits, leading the Philadelphia Phillies to a 10-7 victory that extended the Cincinnati Reds' worst start in 11 years. Mark Leiter (3-1) held the Reds' struggling offense to eight hits and two runs over seven innings. Leiter has allowed only foUr earned runs in his three road starts this season. Expos 4, Mets 1 Carlos Perez pitched a six-hitter and F.P. Santangelo hit a three-run homer as the Montreal Expos won their fifth straight game, 4-1 over the New York Mets. Perez (3-1) improved to 11-3 in 18 appearances at Olympic Stadium. The left-hander struck out five, walked one and benefited from three double plays. Marlins 4, Dodgers 2 Moises Alou drove in all four Florida runs as the Marlins halted a five-game losing streak with a 4-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Alou had a two-run triple in the first, a solo homer in the sixth, and a sacrifice fly in the eighth. Braves 5, Padres 4 Kenny Lofton continued his torrid hitting, driving in the go-ahead run with an RBI single in the seventh inning as Atlanta rallied to beat slumping San Diego 5-4. Lofton's two-out single extended his hitting streak to seven games and boosted his batting average to .429. The hit off Joey Long, who was making his major-league debut, scored Jeff Blauser from second and sent the Padres to their third straight loss and fifth in six games. Astros S, Giants 4 Brad Ausnius' RBI single with one out in the ninth inning gave Houston a 5-4 win over San Francisco, the Astros' fifth straight victory. It was the Giants' first road loss of the season after five victories. Rockies 5, Cardinals 4 Kevin Ritz allowed two runs in seven innings and Larry Walker hit his league-leading 10th homer as Colorado won its fourth straight game, 5-4 over St. Louis. Orioles 2, Red Sox 0 Scott Erickson pitched eight innings of three-hit ball, outduelkig Chicago's Ryne Sandburg jumps over Pittsburgh's Joe Randa but was unable to turn the double play. (AP photo) Tom Gordon, and the Baltimore Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 20. Erickson (3-1) learned late Thursday that he would replace scheduled starter Jimmy Key, who had a stiff neck. The right-hander walked one, struck out two and allowed only two runners past second base. Randy Myers closed the combined four-hitter by getting the final three outs for his AL-leading ninth save in nine tries. The shutout was the Orioles' third this season, they had one all of last year. Indians 11, Brewers 4 Matt Williams hit three homers, David Justice homered twice and EHIKb CHEVHOLET-UEO • EHIKS CHEVROLET-CEO • E HI K S CHEVROLET-OLD Cleveland hit a club record eight in all, including three in one inning as the Indians beat the Milwaukee Brewers 11-4, Rangers 6, Twins 3 Will Clark's two-run homer capped a five-run third inning that sent the Texas Rangers to a 6-3 win over the Minnesota Twins. White Sox 9, Yankees 3 Frank Thomas and Albert Belle homered for the first time as teammates and the Chicago White Sox beat the New York Yankees 9-3 for their first two-game winning streak of the season. cedorcre/t LANES SUMMER SCHEDULE 'The Kid' sets April HR record TORONTO (AP) - Ken Griffey Jr. hit three home runs Friday night to break the major league record for homers in April with 13, powering the Seattle Mariners to a 13-8 win over the Toronto Blue Jays. Griffey's second homer, a solo shot in the seventh off Roger Clemens, gave him 12 homers in April, breaking the record of 11 that he had tied earlier in the night and shared with six others. Then in the eighth, Griffey connected for his 13th homer, this one off reliever Mike Timlin to give the Mariners a 13-7 lead. The major-league record for homers in one month is 18, set by Detroit's Rudy York in August 1937. It was Griffey's third Career .three-homer game and his first since May 24,1996. Russ Davis hit a two-run, pinch- hit homer and Alex Rodriguez also homered for the Mariners. Griffey's night overshadowed a two-homer game by Shawn Green and a grand slam by Carlos Delgado, the first of his career. Davis' fourth home run of the season in the eighth off Dan Plesac (0:2) put the Mariners ahead 8-7. Griffey Can Colts stay healthy? INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Bill Tobin's biggest, hope for the Indianapolis Colts this year is that they stay healthy. As the team's three-day mini- camp began Friday, the director of football operations said, "I want to see our football team healthy, and see how good we can be." The team seemed healthy as more than 80 players worked out Friday, including running backs Marshall Faulk and Zack Crockett, who were among the many Colts sidelined by injuries last year. "We were never healthy last year, including injuries going into the season and in our second game we had six or seven starters hurt/' Tobin said. "We were pretty good injured, starting 5-1. "Then we hit a sinking spell. Possibly, those injuries caught up to us. But we were able to bail ourselves out and win enough games to make the playoffs." The first injury of the new season came when defensive back Carlton Gray limped off the field after twisting his left ankle. Gray, signed as a free agent after four years with Seattle, tested the ankle briefly but was unable to resume practicing. - " The most noticeable absentee from the practice was linebacker Trev Alberts, who reportedly is considering retirement and trying to reach a contract settlement with the Colts. "Right now I'd rather talk about the players who are here," said coach Lindy Infante. "Let's talk about the guys who are here, working hard to make this team in 1997." The Colts finished 9-7, making a second straight trip to the playoffs for the first time since 1977. The team had 26 players miss more than 80 games combined. Only four regulars didn't miss a start due to injuries. In addition, fullback Roosevelt Potts was suspended for the entire season for violating the league's substance abuse policy. "We never really played with a full deck, and it happened at almost all positions," Tobin said. "My excitement and anticipation with the '97 season is how good can we be when we're healthy." Free agency and Tobin's guidance have produced major changes on the roster since he was hired in January 1994. Only nine players who were on the roster then are still with the team, including veteran defensive back Eugene Daniel, who is a free agent and unsigned for the coming season. Others in the group include defensive back Jason Belser, linebacker Quentin Coryatt, wide receiver Sean Dawkins, linebacker Stephen Grant, defensive back Derwin Gray, linebacker Jeff Herrod and defensive tackle Tony McCoy. "This is an exciting time of year for everybody in football," Tobin said before watching the start of the minicamp. The Colts went into last week's draft seeking to fortify three positions — offensive line, defensive line and secondary. . One of the early questions will be competition for the starting job at left tackle between first-round draft pick Tarik Glenn and second- rounder Adam Meadows. 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