One of the great careers in recent American short-track racing is nearing its end … but it isn’t there yet. That’s the word from Indiana sprint car legend and Royal Purple driver Jon Stanbrough, who this winter announced that 2017 would be his last season in full-time competition.
Mind you, that’s a long way from using the “R” word. In a statement posted on his personal website, Stanbrough joked that most drivers “never really retire.” But come 2018, fans will be seeing less of one of the Midwest’s most entertaining racers. That will take some getting used to, because for years he’s competed two, three, and sometimes four nights per week in the cradle of traditional non-winged sprint car racing, frequently ending his seasons with double-digit win totals.
Stanbrough’s accomplishments are the stuff of legend. He’s a six-time champion of the King of Indiana Sprint Series, and has twice won the overall title in the United States Auto Club’s Indiana Sprint Week. Two more championships came Stanbrough’s way courtesy of the Midwest Sprint Car Series. His list of special-event victories covers most of Indiana’s premier dirt races, including a pair in USAC’s Tony Hulman Classic at the Terre Haute Action Track, three in the Robbie Stanley Memorial at Lawrenceburg Speedway, and three in the Bob Darland Memorial at Kokomo Speedway, where he’s a two-time track champ.
Four times, the respected Hoosier Auto Racing Fans organization has named Jon its Driver of the Year, and in 2011 he was inducted into the HARF Hall of Fame.
Stanbrough’s final season looks to be an interesting one. His #81 will sport a throwback color scheme invoking his very first sprint car, and Jon and his wife, Melinda, have hinted at some special merchandise and apparel.
In addition to campaigning his own car, Stanbrough has made arrangements to fill some empty holes in his schedule by hopping into other rides when possible.
Retirement? Not quite. A year worth celebrating? You bet.