When the checkered flag waved over last fall’s Winchester 400 at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway, it concluded the CRA Super Series championship, and a new series champion was crowned.
Eddie Van Meter claimed the title after a long and grueling season of 11 points-paying events in six states.
To many, Van Meter’s championship was somewhat of a surprise given the fact most of his previous success came behind the wheel of late model Figure-8 cars. Van Meter even surprised himself as he had not intended to chase the series title when the season began.
“When the season started, it was more about letting my son Billy (Van Meter) run for rookie of the year,” explained Van Meter. “It ended up that we were both battling for the championship. Everything kind of just fell into place.
“We won the first race of the year at Anderson,” Van Meter noted. “Then I thought, ‘OK, we’ll go on to the next one.’ Five races in and we’re still leading the points and Billy was second. At that point, I thought if Billy runs one more race, he has to run all year or he loses his rookie status.
“I said, ‘Ok, we’re committed. Let’s run it out and see what happens.’ That’s how all that come about.”
When the dust settled, Eddie Van Meter had earned the championship and Billy Van Meter was second in the CRA Super Series standings.
One would think this accomplishment would feel euphoric, but the elder Van Meter was disappointed it wasn’t Billy holding the championship hardware.
“I would have much rather seen him (Billy) win it,” said Van Meter. “That was my thing all year, I would have liked him to win it and me run second. But it just didn’t work out for him.”
The 52-year-old Indianapolis resident got his start running street stocks on the dirt at Paragon Speedway in 1987. It wasn’t his first choice of tracks, but he wasn’t old enough to compete at his preferred destination, the Indianapolis Speedrome.
Van Meter eventually transitioned to the late model Figure-8 class and developed into one of the division’s most successful drivers. He has won nearly every crown jewel the class has to offer, including the National Crown, Southern Figure-8 World Finals and Jake’s 150, among others. He’s also won with Figure-8 touring series.
However, the biggest race the sport of Figure-8 racing contests annually eluded Van Meter for several years. Despite all his success, he hadn’t claimed a World Figure 8 Championship 3-Hour Endurance victory.
It was the final piece to a brilliant career when he banked the $20,000 prize in 2019.
Even though Van Meter hasn’t enjoyed as much success racing super late models, he’s still found victory lane on numerous occasions. Van Meter enters this season with three CRA Super Series victories.
With his recent CRA Super Series championship, many, including Van Meter, wonder what’s left to accomplish. Could he be winding down an illustrious career to focus on his son’s racing? Van Meter has not made it a secret he wants to see Billy continue to develop as a driver and he enjoys tutoring him.
“That’s kind of where I’m at right now,” Van Meter said. “I kind of feel like I don’t have anything left to prove. I guess when you are on top is the time to get out.”
It was announced in October that Van Meter, along with his wife Donna and business partner Shannon Mastin, have taken ownership of Circle City Raceway in Indianapolis. With the quarter-mile dirt track scheduled to feature a weekly stock car program this season, Van Meter’s driving career could be finished.
It’s a point that Van Meter does not dispute.
“At first, I thought we might be able to run two or three CRA Super Series races but now I don’t think so,” Van Meter said. “Maybe a couple Figure-8 races, but now that it’s getting closer and heating up a bit, I don’t see any of that working out.
“I could be officially retired, I don’t know,” he continued. “If I am, it’s been bittersweet. I’ve done it all. It’s been 35 years or so. Part of me says I’ve done it long enough and it’s time to get out of it. It doesn’t bother me if Billy’s still racing and I get to go and watch him. I’m good with that.
“I don’t know how I’d be if I didn’t have any involvement. We’ll just have to see how it works out for me as the year goes on.”
Birthday: Aug. 6, 1970
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
Series: CRA Super Series
Sponsors: Mastin and Cain Warehousing, EDCO Welding, VanDoorn Racing Development,
PGG, Kinney Mowing, Norton Transport, McGunegill Engines, Circle City Raceway.
This story appeared in the March 8, 2023 edition of the SPEED SPORT Insider.