OUT OF TOWN INVADERS COMING TO SATURDAY’S USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE AT PERRIS
(Perris, CA, July 18, 2017) Much to the delight of fans and to the chagrin of USAC/CRA Series drivers, a strong contingent of cars will be coming from Arizona and a top driver from Indiana will be flying in to take on the locals this Saturday night, July 22nd, at the “Southern California Home of Major League Sprint Car Racing,” Perris Auto Speedway. In addition to the stars and cars from the West Coast’s number one sprint car series, The PAS Senior & Young Gun Sprint Cars will also be on the program. Spectator gates will open at 5:00 PM and the first race will begin at 7:00.
With the heat on full blast in Arizona, most tracks in the “Copper State” closed in early June and will not reopen until the start of September. That leaves drivers looking for a place to race. Four weeks ago, on June 23rd, five Arizona teams made their way to Perris Auto Speedway for the USAC/CRA race and they left a big impression. Multi-time USAC Southwest Sprint Car Series champion R.J. Johnson of Laveen, Arizona, beat back the locals to win his second ever main event on the famous Riverside County half-mile clay oval. If that was not enough, Ronnie Gardner of Norco, drove the Robbie and Gaye Allen owned car out of Cottonwood, Arizona to third in the main event just behind Visalia’s Richard Vander Weerd.
“Arizona has always been a great state for sprint car racing,” promoter Don Kazarian said. “You go back 40-50 years and some of the top drivers and race cars in the country came out of Arizona. Back in the day, the battles between the California and Arizona drivers over here at Ascot and in Arizona at Manzanita Speedway were epic and still talked about today. Over the past decade, 410 sprint car racing in Arizona has pretty much died (been replaced by 360 sprint cars). But, the guys came over last month and kicked some rear end on a lot of our regulars. I am anxious to see them again on Saturday.”
Johnson will be back to try and make it two in a row on Saturday and Gardner, who won his first ever wing spring car race at Petaluma last Saturday night, will be back as well. Joining them will be hard charging Stevie Sussex and KTAR radio personality/sprint car driver Bruce St. James. Both of them call Phoenix home.
If the Arizona contingent is not enough, one of the top sprint car drivers in the nation, Chad Boespflug, will be flying out from his Plainfield, Indiana home to drive the Dwight Cheney owned sprint car on Saturday. Three weeks ago, Cheney’s #42 won the last USAC/CRA Series race at the Santa Maria Raceway with 2016 “Rookie of the Year” Max Adams of Loomis, California behind the wheel. Boespflug, a native of Hanford, California, who moved to the Midwest after graduating from high school a decade ago, is currently ranked third in USAC National points. He is no stranger to success at The PAS. Last November, the then 28-year-old won the opening night main event at the 21st Annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction.
In addition to the out of town drivers and cars, San Bernardino’s Don Gansen will be ending a 3 ½-year retirement to race in the USAC/CRA Series. The former Chaffey College student and 2006 California Lightning Sprint Car Series Champion will join his brother Chris and five-time USAC/CRA Champ Mike Spencer on the Gansen Engineering team.
Acton, California college student Hannah Mayhew won the last Young Gun (drivers 14-25 with no prior sprint car experience) main event in June and took the point lead from 14-year Covina High School student Joel Rayborne. Despite mechanical ills that kept him off the track at the last race, Canyon Country, California veteran Richard McCormick still leads Ed Schwarz by 23-points in the Senior Sprint Car (drivers 40 and older) standings.
BALLOU BAGS PUTNAMVILLE FINALE; THOMAS TAKES INDIANA SPRINT WEEK TITLE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Putnamville, Indiana.........Separated by just 23 points entering Sunday night's Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World feature at Lincoln Park Speedway, Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Robert Ballou each knew what was on the line.
Win the race and the points will take care of themselves is the motto you'll often hear, but as the race wore on, the two ISW title contenders would find themselves on two separate paths: Ballou with a stranglehold up front and Thomas attempting to overcome a tumultuous beginning that, at one point, had him teetering on the edge of squandering the title.
Ballou maintained his presence at the front for all but the first lap to score his second USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship victory of the season while Thomas, having to finish eighth or better, thrived in the final eight-lap stretch to finish a hard-fought fifth to win the ISW points title, a feat he came so close to accomplishing in 2013 when he led the standings entering the final race of the series before seeing it slip away, something he wasn't going to let happen this time around despite a turbulent road to get there.
"Right before the feature, I knew it was 23 points going in," Thomas said. "It does put a little pressure on you, but I normally like pressure. You don't want to think about points, but at the end of the day, no matter who you are, it's in the back of your head when it's Indiana Sprint Week. This is such a historical week. Everybody wants to win it."
Thomas did what he needed to do early in the night, gaining a coveted six-point bonus for recording ProSource/B & W Auto Mart Fast Qualifying time, which put him on the outside of row three for the 30-lap feature with the six-car invert. On the other hand, that set up his nearest combatant, Robert Ballou, on the pole position, though he wouldn't escape to the point without a fight. On the opening lap, Ballou stuck to the bottom while Chad Boesplfug ripped around the top off turn two to grab the lead momentarily. Ballou fought back on the bottom, hopping his way off the fourth turn and pulling the wheels off the ground, just missing the lead by a small margin as the two crossed the stripe. Ballou stayed true to the bottom on lap two, but this time, much, much smoother as he gunned it off four to blast by Boespflug for the lead.
"We set up to run the curb," Ballou said. "But when I stuck the bottom at the start, it seemed pretty good down there. Chad got around me right away and for some reason, I was able to stick the entry really well which is something I couldn't do all week. I think if we had this setup at Gas City, we would've been a hell of a lot better."
A little further back, things weren't going as pristine for Thomas. On lap nine, Thomas stumbled on the turn two curb, dropping him from sixth to eighth, the furthest back he could run with Ballou leading in order to maintain his slim point lead, which stood at two with a third of the race completed. Thomas was fully aware of the situation as the pressure mounted and the laps clicked away.
"It does put a little pressure on you," Thomas admits. "I normally like pressure, but right there at the start, I got a good jump and I kind of got shuffled around. From there, I just made some bad driving mistakes. I jumped the cushion a few times, then I got flustered. I got a run on Kyle Cummins, jumped his right rear going down the backstretch and almost turned it over. I made a lot of dumb mistakes, to be honest. I knocked my floor pan off and the gas pedal wouldn't even go all the way down. It was touching the brake; I couldn't even use the brakes!"
By the halfway point, last year's Lincoln Park ISW feature winner Brady Short put on a patented charge to the front as he moved into second from his tenth starting spot and began applying pressure to Ballou for the race lead just prior to a yellow for Josh Hodges with ten to go. Thomas remained mired in seventh with a five-point buffer as the caution briefly silenced the beehive of competitors that surrounded him.
On the lap 21 restart, Ballou darted away from Short while Thomas picked up a much-needed spot as he raced into sixth past C.J. Leary. Two laps later, Leary's successful ISW that included a pair of wins, ended with a tumble in the rough in turn three to end his night. The Greenfield, Indiana driver walked away from the incident. Bernal was also involved, but would restart from the tail, practically eliminating multiple contenders who were in the midst of a battle in the trenches with Thomas for positions sixth, seventh and eighth.
But a late red flag period can, at times, make a profound impact on the race whether it knocks a driver off his rhythm or, conversely, allows them to exhale and regroup. Perhaps, it allows teams to make adjustments on the car that can go one of two ways. This time around, it brought about different initial reactions between Ballou and Thomas.
"I was worried to be honest with you," Ballou admits. "We had issues where my tires would get too low. They build up a bunch of heat and, when they cool off, they lose a pound or two. When the bleeder bleeds off to a certain poundage, they cool off and lose more air and its harder for them to build back up when they get too low. I was trying to spin them as much as I could, but nothing helps really. It's tough."
On the other hand, the red flag was a welcome sight through the eyes of Thomas.
"Normally I don't like stoppages like that. This time I did," Thomas explains. "I made a few shock adjustments because I was pretty tight out there for where I was having to run. I just really wasn't running a great enough race to be able to run the cushion the way I'd normally want to. I had to make a few adjustments to be able to rotate on the bottom and to not get myself tight. I knew I had to go get going and I knew I had to do something. I just had to keep myself calm and get back to doing what I wanted to do and pass some race cars. Sometimes you like to see the red, sometimes you don't. This time, I did. I had time to gather my thoughts and had to make a few decisions."
As the green fell for the restart with eight laps to go, Ballou was unsure of what to expect in regards to how his car would react.
"I was biting my tongue when I headed into turn one on the restart," Ballou details. "You aren't sure if you're going to tip over, if it's going to toss the nose or what's going to happen. It's a guessing game and I hoped I entered the corner just right. It was tricky, but that's what makes racing racing."
It worked out for Ballou as he was able to distance himself from Short who wound up losing his spot on the restart to Tyler Courtney, who slalomed through turn two to the runner-up spot on the bottom. Yet, he remained a second behind Ballou as the laps waned until a yellow with three to go for the turned around car of Tyler Thomas put a halt to the action. Kevin Thomas, Jr., meanwhile, had found a happy place and resided comfortably in fifth as he settled into a groove after a hectic beginning.
Ballou had yet another solid restart on lap 28, keeping Courtney and Boespflug at bay as those two tussled for the runner-up spot a second behind as he finished off the final three laps handily in his Robert Ballou Motorsports/Deaton's Waterfront Services - Lucas Oil/Twister-X/Ott ahead of Courtney, Boespflug, Short and Kevin Thomas, Jr., who stamped his name in the record books as the champ of the 30th edition of Indiana Sprint Week.
Thomas earned a custom-cut Bridgeport Rocker courtesy of John Youngs and a $5000 dollar award amongst his prizes for the title run that concluded with what he calls "the ugliest fifth-place of (his) racing career." Yet, they don't award points for style in this form of racing. Just results. That result was good enough for an 11-point victory in the most rigorous stretch of the USAC National Sprint Car season.
"It's just a relief to be able to win this thing," Thomas exhaled. It's a lot of hard work not only from myself and my family, but the guys back at the shop. Both of them have day jobs and they are as hard-working and passionate about the team as hard as anybody I've ever seen. Like Saturday night at Haubstadt, we ran second and I think they were as mad, if not madder, than I was. That's what I like to see. It's an intense week and you have to be intense about it."
Over a seven-race stretch, one position here and one position there can make all the difference in a title run. With qualifying, heat races and even the semi-feature offering points toward the final tally, each and every time a driver hits the track, it means something. It's something Thomas took advantage of this time around.
"You can't let one little point or one position get away from you because it can be a matter of one, two or three spots in the end," Thomas points out. "Robert and I have raced together for a long time. He's a past Indiana Sprint Week champion and, to be able to do what we did and beat those guys, it's truly remarkable."
It was the Indiana Sprint Week round at Lincoln Park in 2014 where Ballou turned the corner to his string of modern-day success that we have become accustomed to. Yet, the Rocklin, California native and 2015 USAC National Sprint Car champion admits he still struggles here despite the success that also includes a July victory in 2016.
"I struggle here," Ballou acknowledges. "I like my racecar to be tight and you can't have a tight racecar here. I came from winged sprint cars originally. I still like to be straight and fast. That's why I go so well on the big joints. This is one of the first tracks I was able to figure out and was able to run well at consistently. You have to be careful on the curb and you have to tiptoe around the bottom."
Ballou's Indiana Sprint Week certainly had its bright spots with a runner-up result at Gas City and concluded with his first USAC win in over two months in the ISW finale. But, Ballou admits it's still a struggle at times as he and the team attempt to return to the consistency that had become so commonplace over the last three years.
"We changed everything," Ballou said. "We were changing a gear when they blew the eight-minute horn. We never give up. We tried to throw the kitchen sink at it. We're just trying to get our program back together. We've just been a tick off every single night. We're close, but we just got to keep putting one foot in font of the other and we'll get there."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 16, 2017 - Putnamville, Indiana - Lincoln Park Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
PROSOURCE/B & W AUTO MART QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9K, KT-12.594; 2. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-12.628; 3. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-12.638; 4. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-12.643; 5. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-12.662; 6. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-12.675; 7. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.774; 8. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-12.790; 9. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.814; 10. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-12.849; 11. Ryan Bernal, 17GP, Dutcher-12.886; 12. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-12.909; 13. Jerry Coons Jr., 21K, Krockenberger-12.928; 14. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-12.966; 15. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-12.995; 16. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-13.013; 17. Dave Darland, 17x, Dutcher-13.065; 18. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-13.081; 19. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-13.106; 20. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-13.163; 21. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-13.181; 22. Jon Stanbrough, 77, Wingo-13.220; 23. Nate McMillin, 24m, McMillin-13.372; 24. Joe B. Miller, 51B, Miller-13.545; 25. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Windom, 2. B. Short, 3. Coons, 4. Boespflug, 5. K. Thomas, Jr., 6. T. Thomas, 7. Cummins, 8. Stanbrough. 2:10.33
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Hodges, 2. Darland (#17x), 3. Bernal, 4. Courtney, 5. Andretti, 6. Stockon, 7. Grant, 8. McMillin. 2:11.08
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Leary, 3. Meseraull, 4. Beauchamp, 5. Farney, 6. Swanson, 7. Robbins, 8. Miller. NT
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Stockon, 2. Cummins, 3. Swanson, 4. Grant, 5. T. Thomas, 6. Stanbrough, 7. McMillin, 8. Robbins, 9. Miller. 2:45.90
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Tyler Courtney, 3. Chad Boespflug, 4. Brady Short, 5. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 6. Justin Grant, 7. Josh Hodges, 8. Aaron Farney, 9. Chris Windom, 10. Dave Darland, 11. Thomas Meseraull, 12. Chase Stockon, 13. Ryan Bernal, 14. Jerry Coons, Jr., 15. Jarett Andretti, 16. Tyler Thomas, 17. Kody Swanson, 18. Nate McMillin, 19. Kyle Cummins, 20. C.J. Leary, 21. Jon Stanbrough, 22. Brent Beauchamp. NT
**Leary flipped on lap 23 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Boespflug, Laps 2-30 Ballou.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-1,360, 2-Windom-1,337, 3-Boespflug-1,233, 4-K. Thomas Jr.-1,199, 5-Courtney-1,168, 6-Stockon-1,159, 7-Leary-1,018, 8-Darland-938, 9-Meseraull-932, 10-Brady Bacon-913.
FINAL INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-K. Thomas Jr.-416, 2-Ballou-405, 3-Courtney-362, 4-Meseraull-358, 5-Windom-344, 6-Leary-332, 7-Boespflug-331, 8-Darland-315, 9-B. Short-293, 10-Grant-289.
CUMMINS' LAST LAP, LAST CORNER MOVE NETS SPECTACULAR HAUBSTADT ISW VICTORY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Haubstadt, Indiana.........As soon as the yellow light switched on for the final caution period of the evening, Kyle Cummins devised a plan.
It was a plan born out of necessity that Cummins felt served as his best bet to compete for a victory in the closing laps of Saturday night's penultimate Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World round at Tri-State Speedway.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. seemingly had the event stowed away for safe-keeping after leading the first 27 circuits of the 30-lap event, but a double-dose of yellow flags in the final laps would turn the tide for Cummins of nearby Princeton, Indiana.
Following a yellow for a Donny Brackett spin between turns three and four with three to go, Cummins hatched his plan after deciphering that he had no way of passing Thomas had he maintained his line on the bottom. This time around, Cummins had full intentions of executing his plan of attack, but decided at the last instant to abort the mission.
"I knew on that one yellow (on lap 28), I was going to the top," Cummins remembered. "I looked up there and thought the bottom looked so much better. As soon as we took the green, I went in there on the bottom and I felt like it was already too late."
Cummins would soon receive a reprieve when tenth-running Dave Darland's car went up in smoke as Thomas rounded turns three and four and was seemingly headed home to take the checkered. The plan was renewed and Cummins wasn't going to let this second chance slip away.
"As soon as it went yellow, I knew 100 percent what I was going to do," Cummins exclaimed. "It was so much better up top. The bottom was good, but once everyone was running it, it started getting slick and you really had to chock it up getting in. We got the car to where, once I loosened it up a little bit to be able to get in a little harder on the top, that thing came around there and man, was it good!"
After serving as Thomas' shadow throughout the entire duration of the event prior to the final caution, Cummins decided the lower portion of the track was not among the options if a win was in the cards. On the green-white-checkered restart, Cummins went topside while Thomas remained tried-and-true to the bottom.
Cummins' first shot was fired when he diamonded off of turn two and used a huge run to dive to the bottom of turn three on the white flag lap. Thomas anticipated Cummins' presence and snubbed him from the lead, diving to the bottom simultaneously with Cummins to protect his spot for the time being.
On the final lap, Cummins came off turn two like a Concorde on takeoff, staying to the outside of Thomas rather than diving to the inside this time around. Thomas slid up the track from the entrance of turn three to the exit of four, allowing Cummins to counterpunch underneath. Lines changed, wheels banged, a smoke signal lifting into the sky off Cummins' right rear rubber in a drag race off four to the finish line where Cummins swiftly prevailed for a spectacular single car-length victory in his Rock Steady Racing/ProGlide Bearings/Mach-1/Cummins for his third career USAC National Sprint Car victory and his second ISW win in as many seasons.
"As soon as it went yellow, I'm like, 'okay this is perfect,'" Cummins explained. "I was too tight to run the top, but I decided I was going to run the top and forget about the bottom, so I adjusted my shocks to only run the top. On lap 29, I found out it was way faster to run the top. However, he was up in the way, so I tried to dive him and I had to let off going into three or we would've collided. That set me up for the next lap. I went up to the top and he didn't come out as far, allowing me to get around him on the outside. Going into (turn) three, I had my mind set to run all the way around the top. When I saw him, I figured we were going to run into each other coming out of four, so I tried to diamond her down. He got on her and got a little tight. It let me get down, get the power to the ground and get to the checkered flag first."
Cullman, Alabama's Thomas led the first 29 and three-quarters of a lap before surrendering the position to Cummins, but wasn't able to finish off the one that paid the most.
"On the last restart, I saw Kyle peek underneath me," Thomas recalls. "He's always good here and he's going to find a way that's faster. That's exactly what he did. He waited until the last lap, got a good run off (turns) one and two to pull alongside me going down the backstretch. I probably dove into turn three a little too hard. I didn't necessarily miss my marks, but I maybe could've slowed down a bit more to make my corner a little shorter and not load the right rear so much to where it lifted the front wheels off the ground. That's just the way it goes sometimes. When you give a driver like Kyle that many opportunities, he's going to find the sweet spot and he did."
Although the spectacular highlight-reel, last corner, last lap pass for the win is certainly the moment of the night everyone will remember, the most crucial pass of the night may very well have occurred in the second heat when sixth-quickest qualifier Cummins snagged the fourth and final transfer spot from Critter Malone in the second heat race. Without that pass, Cummins would've been relegated to a feature starting spot outside of the fourth row instead of the outside front row position he would begin from due to the inversion of the fastest six qualifiers to transfer through each of the heat races.
"Track position is crucial, especially when it goes green for a long stretch like that," Cummins said. "We would've been starting a few rows back. We might've gotten there, but without having a yellow, most likely, we wouldn't have been able to catch him. There might've been lapped cars between us too at some point, so that was really important to get that spot."
Despite becoming the most synonymous name in sprint car racing at Tri-State Speedway over the past several years due to his mounting success, surprisingly, he and the team found the early-going to be a struggle to even be able to contend for a transfer spot.
"This thing was like driving a modified," Cummins remembers. "I couldn't get her turned. It was pushing and I was doing all I could do to get into fourth there. On the white flag, I really didn't think I was going to get him. I went in there and it looked like he got tight, just like I did. It's Sprint Week, so I had to drift up. The difference between starting on the front row and starting seventh is a big deal. That was probably the biggest move to put us in position to win.
Following a top-five run at Kokomo on the opening night of Indiana Sprint Week last Saturday, Cummins has had a tumultuous time obtaining the results they expected with finishes of 21st at Lawrenceburg, 18th at Gas City and a DNQ the previous night at Bloomington serving as the lead-in to his epic Haubstadt performance Saturday night, where he feels right at home.
"It seems like even when we're not all that good, we've still got a chance here," Cummins said. "I've raced here enough to where I can manipulate the car or, at least, get it to be competitive. This is my motor. It doesn't run nearly as hot. I knew I could run the whole race and be on the gas hard and not have to worry about it overheating. At Kokomo, we were good, but we had a little problem right before the feature and made a little mistake. At Lawrenceburg, we just had a rough go of it and got into the wall. We didn't know at the time that it bent the rear end. At Gas City, we weren't that good. In Terre haute hot laps, I was terrible. At Bloomington, we were awful. After last night, we all looked at each other and threw everything we had at it. It just wasn't working. We pulled the rear-end out today and it was bent pretty good. We put a new rear-end on and it brought the car back to life. I wish we would've found out about it earlier and it might've turned out to have been a lot better week for us overall."
The sight of Kyle Cummins and Hank Byram's Rock Steady No. 3R hasn't been as prevalent this year as much as it had been during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, only making a smattering of series start in 2017 due to mechanical issues. Cummins was set on running his own No. 3c when time allowed, but an 11th hour agreement between Cummins and Byram pit the dynamic duo back together for ISW and their victory at Haubstadt.
"(Car owner) Hank (Byram) only has his one motor," Cummins explained. "It got hot here in the spring race. The heads were so old, they were giving up. He had to take a break and he actually still hasn't gotten his motor back. I was jumping back and forth between Rick Pollock's car and my own car. I knew I was going to get my motor, so I figured if I was going to get my own motor, I was going to run my own car. We ran down here and won the first night. I was going to run Sprint Week, but I didn't have the equipment, didn't have the time and didn't have any spares. I just had the car I had. Hank offered me a deal where I'd put my motor in his car and we'd make it a bit easier on both of us. I felt comfortable in the car and I knew we'd be pretty good, so we decided to get back together."
"I don't know how much more we'll run," Cummins added. "It depends when he gets his motor back. We haven't raced much, once a month it seems, which makes it tough coming off a year like we had last year. I felt at the beginning of the year that we were battling issues here and there. Now we're throwing different motors in and changing stuff around. This car had to be clipped and redone. We finally got this car running pretty good and ready to finish out the season."
Meanwhile, with his second-place run, Thomas extended his Indiana Sprint Week point lead to 21 heading into the final series event Sunday, July 16 at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. Though Thomas gained a little bit of breathing room with the uptick in the point differential between he and Robert Ballou, it's certainly not enough for him to breathe easily and
"You just have to be aggressive," Thomas mandates. "You can't points race in this deal because, at the end of the day, you'll get beat. It's just like what happened tonight. I raced defensively instead of offensively and I got beat. That's just something you can't do in racing. Some people are capable of point racing, but I'm not. Sunday at Putnamville, we're going to be aggressive and be the fastest in everything we're in tomorrow. Hopefully it works out. If it does, it does. If it doesn't, it doesn't."
Meanwhile, just behind the leaders, a battle for the third-spot was nearly as furious with Indianapolis, Indiana's Tyler Courtney nabbing the spot from new USAC National Sprint Car point leader Justin Grant on the final lap.
"We were really good at about the halfway point," Courtney said. "We got to fourth and that put us in position to run down Justin at the end. I just wasn't able to clear him in traffic. Luckily, we got a yellow toward the end and I was able to run it as hard as I could on the top those last couple of laps, then get him there coming to the checkered. We ran second down here at the end of last year, but we kind of struggled in the spring. To run third at a track we're notoriously bad at is like a win for us."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 15, 2017 - Haubstadt, Indiana - Tri-State Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" Presented by Camping World
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-13.362; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-13.474; 3. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-13.562; 4. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9K, KT-13.712; 5. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-13.771; 6. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-13.788; 7. Ryan Bernal, 17GP, Dutcher-13.791; 8. Aric Gentry, 10, Gentry-13.838; 9. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-13.859; 10. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-13.860; 11. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.891; 12. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-13.898; 13. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-13.918; 14. Critter Malone, 7, Seven-13.945; 15. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-14.008; 16. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.021; 17. Kent Schmidt, 5K, Schmidt-14.036; 18. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-14.049; 19. Garrett Aitken, 32A, Aitken-14.051; 20. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-14.075; 21. Carson Short, 21, RCM-14.084; 22. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-14.102; 23. Brian Karraker, 23, Karraker-14.128; 24. Dakota Jackson, 3, Jackson-14.138; 25. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-14.138; 26. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-14.351; 27. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-14.369; 28. Koby Barksdale, 22, Barksdale-14.409; 29. Stephen Schnapf, 61m, Edwards-14.417; 30. Donny Brackett, 4B, Brackett-14.421; 31. Brian Wallace, 27, Wallace-14.491; 32. Tyler Clem, 14c, Clem/TSR-14.518; 33. Katlynn Leer, 77K, Leer-15.030; 34. Alec Sipes, 99, Sipes-16.000; 35. Ted Hines, 12x, Hines-16.143.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Grant, 2. C. Short, 3. Roa, 4. Courtney, 5. Darland, 6. T. Thomas, 7. Schnapf, 8. Schmidt, 9. Leer. 2:16.90
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Hodges, 2. B. Short, 3. Meseraull, 4. Cummins, 5. Malone, 6. Stanbrough, 7. Mattox, 8. Brackett, 9. Sipes. 2:16.72
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Andretti, 2. Ballou, 3. Boespflug, 4. Bernal, 5. Karraker, 6. Farney, 7. Aitken, 8. Wallace, 9. Hines. 2:17.29
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. K. Thomas, 2. Stockon, 3. Windom, 4. Jackson, 5. Leary, 6. Gentry, 7. Barksdale, 8. Clem. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Darland, 2. Stanbrough, 3. Brackett, 4. Leary, 5. Karraker, 6. Schnapf, 7. T. Thomas, 8. Wallace, 9. Farney, 10. Clem, 11. Aitken, 12. Schmidt, 13. Gentry, 14. Mattox, 15. Malone, 16. Hines, 17. Barksdale, 18. Sipes. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Robert Ballou, 7. Jarett Andretti, 8. Chad Boespflug, 9. Ryan Bernal, 10. Carson Short, 11. Chris Windom, 12. C.J. Leary, 13. Brady Short, 14. Brody Roa, 15. Chase Stockon, 16. Jon Stanbrough, 17. Brian Karraker, 18. Josh Hodges, 19. Aaron Farney, 20. Donny Brackett, 21. Dave Darland, 22. Dakota Jackson, 23. Stephen Schnapf. NT
**Clem flipped during heat 4.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-29 K. Thomas, Lap 30 Cummins.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-1304, 2-Windom-1283, 3-Boespflug-1161, 4-K. Thomas-1131, 5-Stockon-1111, 6-Courtney-1094, 7-Leary-984, 8-Brady Bacon-913, 9-Darland-888, 10-Meseraull-885.
NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-K. Thomas-348, 2-Ballou-327, 3-Meseraull-311, 4-Leary-298, 5-Windom-290, 6-Courtney-288, 7-Darland-265, 8-Boespflug-259, 9-Grant-233, 10-B. Short-225.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 16 - Putnamville, IN - Lincoln Park Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
THOMAS LEAVES NO DOUBT IN BLOOMINGTON "SHELDON KINSER MEMORIAL" SCORE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Bloomington, Indiana.........Indiana Sprint Week at Bloomington Speedway is pretty much where it began for Kevin Thomas, Jr. five years ago.
Fourteen USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car wins and five Indiana Sprint Week victories later, the Cullman, Alabama native finally made a return visit to Bloomington victory lane, leading the final 28 laps of Friday night's 29th Annual "Sheldon Kinser Memorial" to score his second series victory of the year and vaulting him into the ISW presented by Camping World point lead with two events remaining.
With a full decade under his belt as a mainstay on the USAC Sprint Car scene as well as Bloomington Speedway, the 25-year-old, who made his first Bloomington USAC appearance as a teenager back in 2007, has a fair share of experience on the red, Southern Indiana clay.
"I've run a lot of laps here," Thomas admits. "It's pretty special to come back here and do this again. We run here as much as we can, local shows and with other organizations and, over 10 years here now, it's been a pretty good bit. It's just the number of laps. I'm just really comfortable here."
"Tonight was nice and slick to a big ol' curb," Thomas continued. "We made good decisions. We've been trying some things at local shows to help us out whenever it gets like that here. My crew made all the right calls in the pits and gave me a great racecar. It was pretty nice to drive tonight, especially up there against that treacherous curb. It's hard to keep your concentration for that many laps in a row, but having a car like I had makes it easier. Once you're out front, you have to keep your nose clean and run a smart race, pick off lapped cars whenever you can and try not to make any mistakes, which is hard to do up there. Everything with our package we have right now runs well. It's just a joy to drive."
Thomas would begin the 30-lap event from outside of the second row, and took quick action to get to the front. Coming off the second turn on the opening lap, pole sitter Chad Boespflug spurted away to the lead while Robert Ballou (bottom), Thomas (middle) and Thomas Meseraull (top) battled three-wide for second. Bloomington's tight confines made it a tough proposition for all three to successfully make it to turn three unscathed, and that would prove to be the case.
Midway down the back straight, Thomas and Meseraull made contact. Meseraull's left front wheel served as a launching pad for Thomas who hopped his right rear tire over Meseraull's wheel, collapsing Meseraull's front end and concluding a night that proved crushing to the San Jose, California's Indiana Sprint Week title hopes, dropping him from second in the standings (13 back) to fifth and 28 out of the lead with just two events remaining.
It was an incident in which Kevin Thomas, Jr. put the full blame squarely on his own shoulders.
"I got a decent start," Thomas recalls. "I rolled the middle and got up beside Thomas. Honestly, it's just a lack of concentration on my part. I caught myself looking at the bottom at Boespflug and I let my right rear slide out a little bit too far and I ran Thomas out of room. That was 100% my fault. He didn't do anything wrong and it's just unfortunate what happened to him. They've been good all week. It's not the way we want to race because he doesn't race like that and I try not to race like that. It's just an unfortunate circumstance for him. He's been good all week and he was good tonight. I just lost concentration on my end."
With the incident occurring on the opening lap, there were still 30 laps to try to retain that focus that is so sorely needed to compete at a winning level. With that situation weighing on his mind, Thomas had to regain his composure and get back to the task at hand.
"When you make contact, then yellow comes out immediately and you see his front end knocked out like that, it's a disheartening because he and I have raced for a long, long time. We don't usually make contact. He's got a wife and kids. He's here to make a living too. To take his night away from him like that is not cool on my part."
When action resumed, many believed the race would be won on the bottom including leader Boespflug, but Kevin Thomas, Jr. had his car set up to run the top and he didn't intend to stray from that notion.
Thomas was able to inch a bit closer on the first three circuits as the two ran side-by-side, Boespflug around the infield tires and Thomas riding the ledge.
Boespflug clung to the lead by a car length at the line at the conclusion of lap three, but Thomas made some headway on the following lap and, coming off four, surged ahead of Boespflug as he hung his right-side tires off the front straightaway curb at the start/finish line to secure the point. Boespflug took one more run at Thomas on lap four, attempting a half-slider in turn three to no avail, allowing Thomas to step through the door and slam it shut as he left the rest of the field behind.
By the tenth lap, Thomas had built up a full-straightaway lead with Troy, Ohio's Lee Underwood holding down the second spot in one of the most remarkable drives all week, one lap after he blew by Boespflug on the bottom for the runner-up position. By halfway, lappers were everywhere, suffocating the high and low-lines on each end of the quarter-mile, but Thomas had no intentions of leaving his comfort zone up top.
"I just don't run the bottom," Thomas said without hesitation. "It's just one of those things. If I could run in the top-five on the top and not have to run the bottom, it's probably what I'm going to try to do. I just don't have enough patience to run the bottom. I'm not very good at it. We set up to run the top as much as we can. It's just a comfort level up there for me. I thought about going to the bottom a few times in lapped traffic. I think I tried it one time and I completely missed the bottom. I knew I couldn't do this any longer, so I just stuck it out, tried to get a little bit closer to the lappers, then I just slid them."
Just after halfway, Boespflug found his second wind, discovering his groove on the high-side to sweep past Underwood for second on lap 18 with eyes affixed on catching Thomas in the gridlock of lapped traffic that lie ahead. Still trailing by nearly three seconds, Boespflug would need a caution or something drastic to occur in front of Thomas in the closing laps, and it nearly did.
With six to go, the cars of Max McGhee and C.J. Leary became hooked together rear bumper to front bumper, respectively, right in front of Thomas, which briefly caused a bit of consternation for the race leader. The two eventually were able untangle at the exit of turn four before continuing, but luckily for Thomas, he was able to take evasive action to avoid catastrophe.
"I did see that," Thomas recalls. "It's just one of those deals. You have to look far enough ahead, but you still have to concentrate as much as you can on the cushion you're running. It can bite you just as much as those two beating and banging on each other. Something can happen and you might get into them. It's a little bit of both. You have to concentrate really hard on what the cars are doing in front of you. You have to get your momentum up before you get there, then whenever they make a mistake, just squirt by and get yourself out of the problem. That's really all you can do in that situation."
With no caution coming out for the incident, it became a split-second decision that could've ultimately decided the race. As Boespflug charged at Thomas with a full-head of steam, it was the line Thomas had already established that he believes helped him navigate through the potential hazards as they occurred.
"If you try to wait and go to the bottom, say somebody knocks their front end out, then turns down the track and you get taken out of the lead, that's just one thing you don't want to happen. I feel like the top is the easiest way out of trouble. There's normally so much banking on these tracks that when something happens, it usually ends up going to the bottom. I think you have a little bit more space if something does happen, so I just stick to the top. If something happens, you can drive off the top of the track, especially here since there's no walls. If you can get slowed down and turn underneath it, you've got to stick to the top. You can't open yourself up too much for the guy behind you. It's just a fine line right there, but it's a gamble you have to take."
No such trouble stood in Thomas' path on the final five revolutions around the oval, though he did have to contend with a three-way battle for 16th between Justin Grant, Carson Short and Shane Cottle that formed a Red Rover Wall of sorts with two to go that prevented him from breaking free. The pack would thin out and Thomas would win out, finishing off a dominating performance in his over Boespflug, a series-best performance for the unrelated Tyler Thomas, followed by the surprise of ISW - Lee Underwood - who came home a career-best fourth while Robert Ballou rounded out the top-five.
With the victory, Thomas now holds down a five-point advantage in the ISW standings. With two shows remaining, Thomas plans to block out any thoughts on so-called "points racing."
"In the first part of the week, I was actually paying attention to the points," Thomas recalls. "I'd been running (terrible). Tonight, it was another gameplan, a different mindset. We're just here to win now. If you win the race, the points will take care of themselves. As far as that old points racing crap, I'm kind of over it. That's not what I do. Whenever I do, I don't make good decisions and I'm not aggressive. It's just not the way I like to run races. We're just going to go out there to win every race. If we do, we do. If we don't, we don't. If something happens and we get taken out like Meseraull did tonight, that is what it is. It's just the way this week can go. It's a tough week. You want to be in position to capitalize on the opportunities you do have and hope that nothing bad happens to you."
After a tumultuous past month that hadn't seen a top-five finish in the last 30 days, Hanford, California's Chad Boespflug has seemingly gotten back on a track, following up a fourth-place run Monday night at Gas City with a runner-up finish Friday night at Bloomington. It's been a turnaround a long-time coming after their confidence was shaken following a string of results that had not lived up to their expectations.
"When things don't go the way you want them to go and the late nights at the shop and the early mornings come and go, things can seem like they're falling apart," Boespflug explains. "(Crewmen) Davey (Jones), Richard (Hoffman) and myself have had to pep talk each other at times to try and get things going. We all believe in each other and that's the key. I think saying what we did to each other lit a fire under our butts and got us going again."
Like many, Boespflug stayed on the bottom early before gravitating to the top where he seemed to pick up speed about halfway through and worked his way back to second.
"I just hung out on the bottom too long," Boespflug laments. "Early on, I thought that was going to be the place. The top cleaned off pretty good for Kevin, so I jumped up there and ran one lap in one corner at the top, then went to the bottom and vice-versa. I kind of jumped around a bunch, but that didn't seem to work, so I just stuck to the top. I was kind of tip-toeing, getting my speed up. Lee (Underwood) got underneath me and I really had to hustle to get back around him. I was getting closer to KT about halfway through, then the rubber came and we were all running the same speed around the top."
Collinsville, Oklahoma's Tyler Thomas' last few weeks revolved around rebuilding a car that had been heavily-damaged in the non-sanctioned "No Way Out 40" at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway a few weeks back. That comes in addition to minor setbacks and missing a few shows that proved a setback to the 21-year-old who first stepped into a USAC Sprint Car at this point one year ago. On Friday night, all the pieces came together for T. Thomas to record a best-career USAC National Sprint Car finish of third.
"It's really special to me, especially to do it in the Jerry Burton car," Thomas beamed. "We've been battling so many small problems that's kept us from qualifying well and getting through our heat race. Plus, we missed a couple nights and, prior to all of this, we had to rebuild the car a couple weeks ago after a crash. We got it together tonight. We qualified really well and got through the heat race and ran up front in the feature tonight. I just tried to be real patient there. I rolled around the bottom - felt like for maybe too long - but once we got up to the top and got around Ballou and Underwood, this car was on a roll.
"We've been battling a lot of different issues all year," Thomas explains. "There's nothing we could've done. It's just been bad luck, really. We were finally able to get everything dialed in tonight. This is by far the best night we've had all year. I never would've dreamed we would've run top-three at Sprint Week this week, but it feels pretty damn cool."
Brownsburg, Indiana driver A.J. Hopkins was released from the hospital early Saturday morning after a frightening semi-feature incident in which he ramped over the right rear wheel of another car, sending him flipping through a fence located between turns one and two where he eventually came to a rest in a parking area, making contact with a couple of pickup trucks along the way.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 14, 2017 - Bloomington, Indiana - Bloomington Speedway - 29th "Sheldon Kinser Memorial" - "Indiana Sprint
Week" Presented by Camping World
PROSOURCE/B & W AUTO MART QUALIFYING: 1. Carson Short, 21, RCM-10.842; 2. Ryan Bernal, 17G, On The Gass-11.032; 3. Max McGhee, 17, McGhee-11.037; 4. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-11.069; 5. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9K, KT-11.078; 6. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-11,095; 7. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-11.127; 8. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-11.151; 9. Lee Underwood, 24L,
Underwood-11.155; 10. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-11.162; 11. Hunter Schuerenberg, 44, Pace-11.170; 12. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-11.181; 13. Jeff Bland, Jr., 66w, Waltz-11.194; 14. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-11.210; 15. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-11.262; 16. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-11.290; 17. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-11.318; 18. Garrett Aitken, 32A, Aitken-11.326; 19. Dakota Jackson, 3, Jackson-11.326; 20. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-11.357; 21. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-11.367; 22. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-11.372; 23. Brody Roa, 91T, BR-11.386; 24. Shane Cottle, 57, Hazen-11.482; 25. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-11.483; 26. Matt McDonald, 5m, McDonald-11.500; 27. A.J. Hopkins, 4J, 4J Motorsports-11.530; 28. Jon Stanbrough, 77, Wingo-11.551; 29. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-11.553; 30. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-11.597; 31. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-11.612; 32. Jerry Coons, Jr., 21K, Krockenberger-11.652; 33. Aaron
Farney, 15F, DCT-11.711; 34. Shelby VanGilder, 22v, VanGilder-11.813; 35. Katlynn Leer, 77K, Leer-11.820; 36. Jamie Williams, 31, Williams-11.842; 37. Koby Barksdale, 22, Barksdale-11.916; 38.
Alec Sipes, 99, Sipes-12.415; 39. Brady Ottinger, 4B, 4J Motorsports-12.630; 40. Tyler Clem, 14c, Clem/TSR-(Time of 11.864 disallowed).
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Leary, 2. K. Thomas, 3. Bland, 4. B. Short, 5. C. Short, 6. Grant, 7. Andretti, 8. Farney, 9. Barksdale, 10. Underwood. NT
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Swanson, 3. Bernal, 4. Hodges, 5. McDonald, 6. Sipes, 7. VanGilder, 8. Aitken, 9. Mattox, 10. Windom. NT
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Roa, 2. Jackson, 3. Courtney, 4. Meseraull, 5. Beauchamp, 6. Hopkins, 7. McGhee, 8. Leer, 9. Ottinger, 10. Schuerenberg. NT
FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Boespflug, 2. Darland, 3. Cottle, 4. T. Thomas, 5. Stanbrough, 6. Coons, 7. Williams, 8. Clem, 9. Cummins, 10. Stockon. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps) 1. Coons, 2. Beauchamp, 3. Farney, 4. Williams, 5. Barksdale, 6. Clem, 7. VanGilder, 8. Ottinger, 9. Sipes, 10. Leer. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. McGhee, 2. Schuerenberg, 3. Grant, 4. Underwood, 5. Stockon, 6. Windom, 7. C. Short, 8. Coons, 9. Aitken, 10. Stanbrough, 11. Beauchamp, 12. Mattox, 13. Andretti, 14. Williams,
15. Barksdale, 16. Cummins, 17. Farney, 18. Hopkins. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr. 2. Chad Boespflug, 3. Tyler Thomas, 4. Lee Underwood, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Jeff Bland, Jr., 7. Chris Windom, 8. Tyler Courtney, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Brady
Short, 11. Dave Darland, 12. Hunter Schuerenberg, 13. Josh Hodges, 14. Ryan Bernal, 15. Kody Swanson, 16. Justin Grant, 17. Carson Short, 18. Shane Cottle, 19. Dakota Jackson, 20. C.J. Leary, 21. Jarett Andretti, 22. Brody Roa, 23. Max McGhee, 24. Thomas Meseraull. NT
**Hopkins flipped through the fence outside turn two during the semi. He was transported to a local hospital for observation.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-2 Boespflug, Laps 3-30 K. Thomas.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Brady Short (22nd-10th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Josh Hodges
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Windom-1,236, 2-Grant-1,229, 3-Boespflug-1,102, 4-Stockon-1,071, 5-K. Thomas-1,053, 6-Courtney-1,025, 7-
Leary-944, 8-Brady Bacon-913, 9-Darland-859, 10-Meseraull-816.
NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-K. Thomas-270, 2-Ballou-265, 3-Leary-258, 4-Windom-243, 5-Meseraull-242, 6-Darland-236, 7-Courtney-219, 8-Brady Bacon-203, 9-Boespflug-200, 10-Hodges-187.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 15 - Haubstadt, IN - Tri-State Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
AMSOIL USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR RACE RESULTS: July 14, 2017 - Bloomington, Indiana - Bloomington Speedway - 29th "Sheldon Kinser Memorial" - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
PROSOURCE/B & W AUTO MART QUALIFYING: 1. Carson Short, 21, RCM-10.842; 2. Ryan Bernal, 17G, On The Gass-11.032; 3. Max McGhee, 17, McGhee-11.037; 4. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-11.069; 5. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9k, KT-11.078; 6. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-11,095; 7. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-11.127; 8. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-11.151; 9. Lee Underwood, 24L, Underwood-11.155; 10. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-11.162; 11. Hunter Schuerenberg, 44, Pace-11.170; 12. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-11.181; 13. Jeff Bland Jr., 66w, Waltz-11.194; 14. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-11.210; 15. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-11.262; 16. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-11.290; 17. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-11.318; 18. Garrett Aitken, 32A, Aitken-11.326; 19. Dakota Jackson, 3, Jackson-11.326; 20. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-11.357; 21. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-11.367; 22. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-11.372; 23. Brody Roa, 91T, BR-11.386; 24. Shane Cottle, 57, Hazen-11.482; 25. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-11.483; 26. Matt McDonald, 5m, McDonald-11.500; 27. A.J. Hopkins, 4J, 4J Motorsports-11.530; 28. Jon Stanbrough, 77, Wingo-11.551; 29. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-11.553; 30. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-11.597; 31. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-11.612; 32. Jerry Coons Jr., 21k, Krockenberger-11.652; 33. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-11.711; 34. Shelby VanGilder, 22v, VanGilder-11.813; 35. Katlynn Leer, 77k, Leer-11.820; 36. Jamie Williams, 31, Williams-11.842; 37. Koby Barksdale, 22, Barksdale-11.916; 38. Alec Sipes, 99, Sipes-12.415; 39. Brady Ottinger, 4B, 4J Motorsports-12.630; 40. Tyler Clem, 14c, Clem/TSR-(Time of 11.864 disallowed).
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Leary, 2. K.Thomas Jr., 3. Bland, 4. B.Short, 5. C.Short, 6. Grant, 7. Andretti, 8. Farney, 9. Barksdale, 10. Underwood. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Swanson, 3. Bernal, 4. Hodges, 5. McDonald, 6. Sipes, 7. VanGilder, 8. Aitken, 9. Mattox, 10. Windom. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Roa, 2. Jackson, 3. Courtney, 4. Meseraull, 5. Beauchamp, 6. Hopkins, 7. McGhee, 8. Leer, 9. Ottinger, 10. Schuerenberg. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Boespflug, 2. Darland, 3. Cottle, 4. T.Thomas, 5. Stanbrough, 6. Coons, 7. Williams, 8. Clem, 9. Cummins, 10. Stockon. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps) 1. Coons, 2. Beauchamp, 3. Farney, 4. Williams, 5. Barksdale, 6. Clem, 7. VanGilder, 8. Ottinger, 9. Sipes, 10. Leer. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. McGhee, 2. Schuerenberg, 3. Grant, 4. Underwood, 5. Stockon, 6. Windom, 7. C.Short, 8. Coons, 9. Aitken, 10. Stanbrough, 11. Beauchamp, 12. Mattox, 13. Andretti, 14. Williams, 15. Barksdale, 16. Cummins, 17. Farney, 18. Hopkins. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr. 2. Chad Boespflug, 3. Tyler Thomas, 4. Lee Underwood, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Jeff Bland, Jr., 7. Chris Windom, 8. Tyler Courtney, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Brady Short, 11. Dave Darland, 12. Hunter Schuerenberg, 13. Josh Hodges, 14. Ryan Bernal, 15. Kody Swanson, 16. Justin Grant, 17. Carson Short, 18. Shane Cottle, 19. Dakota Jackson, 20. C.J. Leary, 21. Jarett Andretti, 22. Brody Roa, 23. Max McGhee, 24. Thomas Meseraull. NT
**Hopkins flipped through the fence outside turn two during the semi. He was transported to a local hospital for observation.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Brady Short (22nd-10th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Josh Hodges
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Windom-1,236, 2-Grant-1,229, 3-Boespflug-1,102, 4-Stockon-1,071, 5-K.Thomas Jr.-1,053, 6-Courtney-1,025, 7-Leary-944, 8-Brady Bacon-913, 9-Darland-859, 10-Meseraull-816.
NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-K.Thomas Jr.-270, 2-Ballou-265, 3-Leary-258, 4-Windom-243, 5-Meseraull-242, 6-Darland-236, 7-Courtney-219, 8-Brady Bacon-203, 9-Boespflug-200, 10-Hodges-187.
NEXT AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT RACE: July 15 - Haubstadt, IN - Tri-State Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
RAIN INTERRUPTS TERRE HAUTE, NEW DATES RELEASED
Terre Haute, IN........Heavy rain and strong winds interrupted Wednesday night's "Don Smith Classic" AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Race at the Terre Haute Action Track, forcing cancellation of the event after practice had begun. "Indiana Sprint Week" presented by Camping World will now resume Thursday night at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind.
USAC and THAT officials have announced that due to the loss of the May "Tony Hulman Classic": and tonight's "Don Smith Classic" that the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Cars will return to the Terre Haute Action Track September 15 and October 14.
Fans and participants are asked to retain their ticket stubs and pit pass armbands for use at a future Terre Haute event. Isaac Chapple flipped, ending practice just as the rains and wind hit to force the cancellation.
LEARY LEAPS TO INDIANA SPRINT WEEK POINT LEAD HEADING INTO TERRE HAUTE
(Terre Haute, IN) Two consecutive victories at Lawrenceburg Speedway and Gas City I-69 Speedway, respectively, has vaulted C.J. Leary into the point lead for the 30th Annual Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World heading into a one-day break Tuesday before the series resumes with four races in four nights beginning Wednesday at the Terre Haute Action Track to determine the champ. The "Don Smith Classic", in Terre Haute on Wednesday, will mark the halfway point during the seven race series.
Greenfield, Indiana’s Leary has surged to a 13-point lead over Kokomo ISW winner Thomas Meseraull in the standings. Brady Bacon is third in the points following three-straight top-five performances (3rd at Kokomo, 2nd at Lawrenceburg and 5th at Gas City).
Rocklin, California’s Robert Ballou led for a portion of Monday night’s feature at Gas City and came within a few laps of pulling off his first Sprint Week win since 2014. He resides fourth in points ahead of Kevin Thomas, Jr. from Cullman, Alabama, who rounds out the current top-five.
Pit gates open at 3pm for Wednesday’s Terre Haute event. Grandstands open at 4pm. Cars are scheduled to hit the track at 6:30pm (Times are subject to change). Grandstand admission will be $25, infield admission $15, and children 11 and under are free. The Scott's Custom Colors UMP Modifieds will also be in action.
Following Terre Haute, the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship schedule carries on Thursday, July 13 at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Friday, July 14 at Bloomington Speedway and the ISW finale Saturday, July 15 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt.
LEARY REIGNS FOR 2ND STRAIGHT NIGHT AT GAS CITY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Gas City, Indiana.........'Once you win one, the floodgates will open and you'll begin to win a bunch of them."
That's the sentiment C.J. Leary had heard time and time again over the past few seasons, much to his chagrin, as he came within a whisker of breaking through on several occasions.
"I've heard it my whole career," Leary admits. 'Once you get the monkey off your back, the wins will come easier.' I didn't believe them. It took me 140 starts to get my first USAC National Sprint Car victory and it took me 28 to get the second one."
But, it only took one more start to go from win number two to USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory number three on the third Monday night event in Indiana Sprint Week history, blitzing around the outside of Robert Ballou with five laps remaining to win round three of Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World at Gas City I-69 Speedway.
Leary, Sunday's Lawrenceburg winner, became the first driver to win consecutive Indiana Sprint Week features since Bryan Clauson in 2013. Leary's seen fire and he's seen rain, but one or the other would have to win over the other on this night.
Lately, the fire has been Leary who has been en fuego since the beginning of ISW while the rain has been, well, it's usual self lately. Monday night's makeup was originally intended as the opener prior to being washed away by the elements last Friday. Yet, on this night, each driver was competing in a pair of races: the 30-lap main event and a race versus Mother Nature that saw the program proceed at a rapid pace with a checkered flag that dropped before nightfall, 8:50pm local time to be precise.
Leary began the race from the outside of the front row, yet, early on, an encore performance from the night before did not appear to be in the cards as he dropped from the front row to fifth on the opening lap. But the 21-year-old second generation driver dug into the high side and went to work as Shane Cottle zipped away on the bottom to lead the opening pair of laps.
On the third circuit, Kokomo winner Thomas Meseraull ripped the top around the outside of Cottle to claim the lead exiting turn four. Robert Ballou followed suit, making the same maneuver to get to the runner-up spot off the second turn. Like he did two nights earlier, Meseraull hurried to the front and appeared to be in total control as he built a more than one-second lead ten laps in.
By halfway, the frontrunners had entered traffic where Meseraull leaned on the cush and Ballou tip-toed around the infield tires. The track's equilibrium was in perfect balance with the top and bottom proving perfectly equal as Meseraull's and Ballou's machines rode in unison as if they were bolted down to a carnival carousel on laps 19, 20 and 21. Neither had budged an inch in either direction as the two shadowed one another with Meseraull leading each time at the stripe by a slim margin.
The action would come to a halt with 10 laps remaining as Ryan Bernal's mount nosed into the outside turn four guardrail with 10 laps remaining, necessitating a yellow and a lap 21 restart with Meseraull at the head of the class and a surging Robert Ballou right on his rear bumper.
However, under caution, third-running Leary made a key adjustment that would ultimately pay large dividends.
"This thing was digging hard on the top," Leary explains. We were just kind of riding along. I didn't think we were going to have anything for them at the end really, but when the yellow came out, we adjusted on the shocks after starting off kind of tight. The car finally came to us. We adjusted from there and became a lot better."
Still mired in third, Leary would still have to find a way around superstar veterans Meseraull and Ballou on the restart, a tall task to ask from anybody. Leary's first domino fell when Meseraull drifted high at the exit of turn two, falling off the shelf and over the cushion, dropping him out of the lead as Ballou slipped by on the bottom for the lead and Leary was there to strike as well, taking advantage of the fortuitous occurrence to grab second.
Ballou firmly planted his talons on the bottom while Leary took ownership of the top lane, the only place he felt he needed to be down the stretch.
"It was treacherous around the top," Leary detailed. "I had to hit my marks, but I really had to run it hard to keep the rest of the field behind us. I think I might've stumbled a little bit on the top a time or two, but it was so easy to make a mistake and not get the run down the straightaway that we needed. On the bottom, you could tiptoe around the tires and you could get a pretty good spurt off. But, the longer the race went on, the slicker the bottom got. The top pretty much stayed the same."
Leary took the long way around, but little-by-little, it began to pay off as he shrunk Ballou's lead down to a sliver and eventually grabbed the top spot with five to go. Meanwhile, Chris Windom had entered the fray and was able to limbo past Ballou between turns one and two with just four to go. It was a rubber match as the two made contact on exit with Windom's right rear and Ballou's left front meeting face-to-face. Ballou's front wheels took a hop as he lost momentum and fell to a distant third momentarily. Windom then used a big drive on the bottom to surge underneath Leary off of four to take the lead at the line.
However, before the completion of the lap, Hunter Schuerenberg and Tyler Thomas made contact back in the pack, sending Thomas into a 360 spin. Though he managed to keep it rolling, by rule, the spin required a yellow, which meant the lineup would revert to the most-recently scored lap, relegating Windom all the way back to third for the restart behind Leary and Ballou.
Ballou wasn't keen on letting Leary slip away down the final stretch, keeping tabs on the black 30 and getting a drive off the bottom to come within inches of leading the 27th lap despite clipping one of the infield tires exiting four that briefly lifted his front wheels.
Ballou kept at it, though, and was able to take a two car-length advantage over Leary into turn three on lap 28. However, once again, the infield tires proved a nemesis for "The Madman" as Ballou clipped the same tire with the left front, forcing him sideways and his wheels pointing toward the sky. When he came back to the earth on all fours, he clipped a second tire at the exit of four, slowing him down just enough to allow the unfettered Leary to break free by five car-lengths, an advantage he would not surrender in the final two laps to win for the second night in a row aboard the family-owned Leary Racing/Leary Construction - Highsmith Guns/DRC/1-Way Chevy over Ballou, Windom, Chad Boespflug and Brady Bacon.
When It rains, it pours, figuratively speaking, of course. As the race against the rain was defeated, Leary's confidence is at an all-time high right now after changes in personnel as well as bits and pieces on the car prior to Indiana Sprint Week where he now holds a 13-point lead in the series with four races remaining, picking back up at the Terre Haute Action Track Wednesday following a day off Tuesday.
"(The changes) are really paying off," Leary said. "My confidence is up and I think it kind of showed tonight. We got her qualified up-front at a track that's not really one of my better tracks. Last night, people could've said it was my best racetrack and blah, blah, blah, but not tonight. To go back-to-back in Indiana Sprint Week is unreal. I don't think it's sunk in yet. I really wish we were racing tomorrow. We got the roll going and I don't want to stop now."
"We're going to take it night-by-night and we're not going to start counting the points until the end," Leary added. "We can pat ourselves on the back for a little bit Tuesday on our day off, then get prepared for the final four nights and we'll see where we end up."
Rocklin, California's Robert Ballou led five laps on his way to a runner-up result in his Robert Ballou Motorsports/Deaton's Waterfront Services - Lucas Oil/Don Ott-powered Twister-X chassis, a car that Ballou estimates is around 15 years old, but still gets the job done.
"Unfortunately, if you can't find your comfort level, you've got to try something else," Ballou explains. "I put these Twister-X cars together from Jimmy Crawford who sent them out here from California. We're just trying to get things back in line with some old cars. I've ran this car before. They're good cars and I'm comfortable in them. We pulled a car out the first night at Kokomo on Saturday and you just can't pull a car out and expect to pick back up where you left off. It's been years since we've run it. But I knew if we could put it together in time, it would be good and it's been pretty good so far."
On a wild lap scramble for position at the front with four laps to go, Ballou dropped from first to third in one sequence. But a yellow flag fell in his favor moments later, serving as his saving grace and placed him back in position with an opportunity to win on the final restart.
"I got lucky. I got lucky," Ballou reiterated. "A lot of times things fall in your favor and a lot of times they don't fall in your favor. Tonight was one that fell in my favor. When the track is slick and you have to drive it off the right front, rotate around the tires and get off the corner, that's not Robert Ballou. We were a tick off all night. I couldn't get the thing stuck on the right rear the way I wanted to and to where I feel comfortable. I couldn't hit my marks as good as I wanted. It got so narrow and tedious that I'd lose the right rear, then I'd have to wait on it. I was holding everybody up, let's be honest. But it's racing and C.J. found a way around me."
"Hats off to the O'Connors," Ballou praised the family operating the track. "Everything was against them weather-wise, so I have to commend them for taking on the task and doing what they did. But we missed the setup a little bit. We're inching closer and closer every night. I still feel a little rusty and I feel I haven't quite caught my stride yet. We're getting closer and we're getting the racecar more comfortable. If I'm not comfortable, it's kind of like what Donny Schatz says along the lines of 'if the driver isn't comfortable, it's over with.' I just haven't found that perfect comfort level yet that makes me fast every night. We're almost there at certain tracks and I believe the rest of this week should show that."
Chris Windom had an ignition box fall by the wayside prior to his heat race, forcing him to go through the semi to earn a spot in the feature lineup. Windom recovered with a solid third-place run, though it came with a bit of heartache after being caught out by a yellow after taking the lead with four laps remaining. There are no days off for Windom to lick his wounds as he has a test scheduled Tuesday to prepare for his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut July 19 at Eldora Speedway before returning to redemption in the Baldwin Brothers Racing/Fox Paving - AMSOIL/DRC/Claxton Mopar sprinter Wednesday at Terre Haute, a place in which he's won the two most recent times he's visited.
"It was pretty frustrating knowing we were the best car and had a caution come out soon as we take the lead," Windom laments. "It was hard to pass and I knew we were dead in the water after that. I've got the easy job of driving the car, so I'm always ready to get back in the seat, but my guys definitely need a day off to regroup for the second half of the week."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 10, 2017 - Gas City, Indiana - Gas City I-69 Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-11.837; 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-11.925; 3. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-11.930; 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-12.014; 5. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-12.032; 6. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-12.057; 7. Shane Cottle, 57, Hazen-12.138; 8. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-12.144; 9. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.158; 10. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-12.183; 11. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-12.198; 12. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-12.203; 13. Hunter Schuerenberg, 44, Pace-12.208; 14. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-12.244; 15. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-12.292; 16. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-12.317; 17. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-12.359; 18. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-12.429; 19. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-12.435; 20. A.J. Hopkins, 4J, 4J Motorsports-12.458; 21. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-12.462; 22. Tyler Hewitt, 97x, One More Time-12.498; 23. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-12.505; 24. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-12.596; 25. Ryan Bernal, 17GP, Dutcher-12.596; 26. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-12.625; 27. Logan Jarrett, 29, Jarrett-12.643; 28. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-12.766; 29. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-12.772; 30. Tyler Clem, 14, Clem/TSR-12.798; 31. Kyle Robbins, 17R, KR-12.907; 32. Ted Hines, 12x, Hines-12.918.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Hodges, 2. Schuerenberg, 3. Leary, 4. Stockon, 5. Westfall, 6. Bernal, 7. Cummins, 8. Goodnight. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Farney, 2. Grant, 3. K. Thomas, 4. Boespflug, 5. Darland, 6. Hewitt, 7. Clem, 8. Chapple. 2:08.22
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Andretti, 3. Cottle, 4. Roa, 5. Bacon, 6. Courtney, 7. Jarrett, 8. Robbins. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Swanson, 2. Meseraull, 3. Hopkins, 4. T. Thomas, 5. Stanbrough, 6. Short, 7. Hines, 8. Windom. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. Darland, 3. Windom, 4. Courtney, 5. Short, 6. Cummins, 7. Bernal, 8. Stanbrough, 9. Hewitt, 10. Chapple, 11. Westfall, 12. Jarrett, 13. Hines, 14. Robbins, 15. Clem. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Chad Boespflug, 5. Brady Bacon, 6. Shane Cottle, 7. Thomas Meseraull, 8. Justin Grant, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Josh Hodges, 11. Tyler Courtney, 12. Dave Darland, 13. Jarett Andretti, 14. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 15. Kody Swanson, 16. Brady Short, 17. Hunter Schuerenberg, 18. Kyle Cummins, 19. Aaron Farney, 20. Tyler Thomas, 21. Brody Roa, 22. Ryan Bernal, 23. A.J. Hopkins. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-2 Cottle, Laps 3-20 Meseraull, Laps 21-25 Ballou, Laps 26-30 Leary.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Tyler Courtney (18th to 11th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Jarett Andretti
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Grant-1186, 2-Windom-1173, 3-Boespflug-1017, 4-Stockon-1014, 5-K. Thomas-964, 6-Courtney-960, 7-Bacon-913, 8-Leary-903, 9-Darland-801, 10-Meseraull-778.
NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-Leary-217, 2-Meseraull-204, 3-Bacon-203, 4-Ballou-188, 5-K. Thomas-181, 6-Windom-180, 7-Darland-178, 8-Courtney-154, 9-Hodges-135, 10-Andretti-128.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 12 - Terre Haute, Indiana - Terre Haute Action Track - "Don Smith Classic" - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
LEARY LOWERS THE BOOM FOR FIRST ISW WIN AT THE BURG
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Lawrenceburg, Indiana.........C.J. Leary will be the first to tell you how difficult it is to win a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature. It requires a number of things to line up accordingly leading up to the event and, throughout the night, it takes a combination of skill and even good fortune to have a good run, let alone a winning performance at night's end.
It took 140 long nights to get the elusive first USAC Sprint win last August, but only 28 to earn his second Sunday night in round two of Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
However, the drought seemed more prolonged in Leary's eyes as good fortune seemed to elude him regularly this season. Mired back in eighth in the standings and sans a victory throughout the first half of the season, the team thrashed to find the right combination that would pay dividends for them in the immediate future.
"It's been a real trying season," Leary admits. "All year, if it wasn't for bad luck, we'd have no luck at all. We kept trying different stuff and nothing seemed to be working."
Prior to Sprint Week, however, the Leary's made a few changes to the puzzle pieces that make up the core of the team. There were adjustments made to the shock package and the installation of a new engine, but the biggest change was a switch on the one turning the wrenches. Enter Donnie Gentry as the new crew chief, the very same individual C.J. had in his corner when he drove Shane Wade's No. 66 to his career USAC Sprint win at Kokomo Speedway's "Sprint Car Smackdown" 11 months ago.
"Donnie and I had some chemistry last year when we won at the Smackdown together," Leary recalls. "What he does with the racecar works really well with my style. This is one of my best racetracks and Donnie's got a really good setup for it. The biggest key of the night, though, was qualifying up front and getting track position against the best racecars and the best drivers in the country."
Leary's third-place qualifying time was his best run since Eldora in early May, setting him up for a spot on the outside of row two for the start of the 30-lapper. Initially, though, it was Brady Bacon who held down the position on the opening laps as he rode the rim around the outside of pole-sitter Hunter Schuerenberg in turns one and two.
By lap three, Leary, the 2013 Lawrenceburg track champion, was eager to pounce as he slid Bacon for the point at the entrance to turn one. Bacon quickly counterpunched, ducking low to retake the lead as the two hustled down the back straightaway. But that would only prove to be a momentary maneuver as Leary entered the ring once again, ripping the outside between turns three and four to blast around Bacon for the lead exiting the fourth corner to turn the tables - no microphone needed - from the occurrences at the recent "Eastern Storm" stop at Pennsylvania's Grandview Speedway.
Leary's 2017 misfortunes reached a high-water mark in that June event in which a lapped car disrupted his line entering turn one three laps from the end, thus concluding his bid for victory that night after a stirring late-race drive on the high side to rip the lead away from Bacon.
"I've won eight races here at Lawrenceburg in the past," Leary points out. "We kind of got the set up down and we kind of know what the racetrack's going to do. After the heat race, we just knew it was going back to being classic Lawrenceburg, right against the fence with big sliders. That's right up my alley. Passing Bacon early was key before the track went completely slick and we were all running about the same speed at the end."
The Greenfield, Indiana driver was hellbent on avoiding that situation this time around as he absolutely hammered the field for the next several laps. He continued to wreak havoc on the competition even as he began to encounter lapped traffic, constructing a full-straightaway lead on the high-banked half-mile dirt oval when the night's only caution fell on lap 13 for a loose infield tire that successfully rolled its away from the exit of turn four to the entrance of turn one after being clipped and dislodged by a car.
Leary seemed to be synched in rhythm while the remainder of the field sang the blues, but the 21-year-old who paints water towers for a living with the family business, wasn't too bent out of shape when he saw yellow.
"The yellow actually helped bail me out of heavy lapped traffic," Leary said. "It put me back in the clear air and allowed me to pull away a little bit on the restart. I got a little bit of a lead and was able to ride in traffic, so I didn't have to push it too hard. I think if we would have had another yellow somewhere along the way, it would've been the same result."
Leary's large lead was gone, but so was lapped traffic and so was Leary as he instantly reestablished his full-straightaway, 3.5 second lead with just 10 laps remaining. But, just as things seemed well in hand, lady bad luck was leering in the second turn as Leary worked his way through the back of the field. Previous night's Kokomo fifth-place finisher Kyle Cummins was next on Leary's radar when he bounced hard off the turn two concrete and gathered to remain control just as Leary was clamping down on him to put him a lap down.
"It happened right in front of me," Leary remembers. "I was really worried he was going to chock it down or just come right down in front of me. I was hoping to get by him when he did that, but I had to take an extra lap to get back around him."
Luckily, for both Leary and Cummins, it was a case of "no harm, no foul" and both continued without issue. Thirty laps seem so short on paper, but anything and everything can happen in such a small window of time. Leary was wary of that and he wasn't going to allow that to faze him on this occasion.
"I've led a lot a lot of races, but I've given plenty away," Leary acknowledges. "Three or four or five of them, I can't even remember now. It's been so many. I caught lapped traffic and it was tough because everyone's so fast. I had been leading and hadn't heard anybody or seen anybody. Right there at the end with five to go, I was on Carson Short's tail and I couldn't get around him. Lapped traffic was thick on the top and bottom and I finally just drove it in there, but I wasn't completely sure how hard I had to push the racecar at the end."
Everything seemed well in hand coming off the final corner on the final lap, but there was one last scare for good measure that Leary chalks up to a simple racing deal. Carson Short and Jon Stanbrough were racing for the 16th position heading to the stripe just as Leary came off turn four to take the checkered flag. Short occupied the bottom and Stanbrough the middle right at the line as Leary barely squeezed by on the outside of both between Stanbrough's right side wheels and the wall. Leary and Stanbrough banged wheels, but fortunately for both, crisis was averted and Leary was able to celebrate his second career USAC National Sprint Car victory and his first in Indiana Sprint Week.
"He actually came up higher than I expected him to," Leary said. "I thought he might be able to see me up there because I had been next to him a couple laps in a row. They both went to bottom on the last lap and I figured he knew I was going to be up there. But it's just a racing deal. He didn't mean it by any means. I'm just lucky enough I had a good lead and I was just glad I didn't tear up the racecar because it's really fast this week!"
To Leary, his first series win a year ago was one of the most memorable nights of his career. Yet, winning in the family-owned number 30 is at another level of special significance after he and his dad, Chuck, have sacrificed and endured long days and nights of frustration to finally get to victory lane.
"Winning in Shane Wade's car was awesome, especially because it was my first and it was at the Smackdown, another really competitive event," Leary acknowledges. "Dad and I work our butts off all week, every week just so we can get to the racetrack. My mom and dad, we all come to the track together as a family. Picking up a win here tonight is so special for Dad and I both. Mom couldn't make it here tonight. She stayed at home since she wasn't feeling so hot. But all the time and hard work that goes into these racecars makes it all worthwhile and so rewarding. To pick up an Indiana Sprint Week win means the world to me. We've dreamed of winning these races, and to do it as a family at Lawrenceburg, there's isn't anything more fitting than that."
After a third-place run the night before, Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma snared a strong runner-up finish after leading the first two laps at Lawrenceburg in his Dooling-Hayward/B & H Contractors - Dooling Machine/Spike/Stanton Mopar.
"I finally caught the invert right tonight," a relieved Bacon said. "C.J. was just better than us. No one was going to stop him tonight. I was hoping that, maybe, the top would go away and we'd be able to catch him that way, but it didn't and, sometimes, that's the way it goes. He was just really, really fast tonight."
"Last night, I kind of got caught behind the eight ball as a driver," Thomas recalls. "I didn't keep up with the track. I think we did a much better job of that tonight. We made the right changes on the racecar. I didn't really prefer to start that far back in the feature, so we had to pass some good cars. It's a long, tough week. To knock off a podium finish this early is good for morale. Things can go so well one night and bad the next. We didn't have the finish we wanted last night, but tonight shows that if everybody works hard and makes a good, fast racecar, you can bounce back and have a night like we did tonight."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 9, 2017 - Lawrenceburg, Indiana - Lawrenceburg Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-13.854; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-13.927; 3. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.009; 4. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-14.016; 5. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-14.093; 6. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-14.093; 7. Shawn Westerfeld, 89, Westerfeld-14.157; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-14.185; 9. Hunter Schuerenberg, 44, Pace-14.191; 10. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-14.223; 11. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-14.246; 12. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-14.271; 13. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-14.284; 14. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-14.303; 15. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-14.308; 16. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-14.310; 17. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-14.317; 18. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-14.336; 19. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-14.348; 20. Ryan Bernal, 17GP, Dutcher-14.359; 21. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-14.413; 22. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-14.544; 23. Garrett Abrams, 32G, Abrams-14.587; 24. Carson Short, 21, RCM-14.653; 25. Dickie Gaines, 44x, Soudrette-14.654; 26. Nick Bilbee, 17N, Bilbee-14.680; 27. Michael Fischesser, 44s, Fischesser-14.736; 28. Kyle Robbins, 17R, KR-14.744; 29. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-14.798; 30. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-14.841; 31. Landon Simon, 24, LSR-14.917; 32. Logan Jarrett, 29, Jarrett-14.967; 33. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-15.108; 34. Ted Hines, 12x, Hines-15.187; 35. J.J. Hughes, 76, Hughes-15.204; 36. Tyler Clem, 14, Clem/TSR-15.291; 37. Joss Moffatt, 5J, Moffatt-15.324; 38. Tom Harris, 5E, Harris-15.388; 39. Ty Tilton, 42T, Tilton-15.538; 40. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-15.621; 41. Chris Olding, 21M, Olding-18.065.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Darland, 2. Courtney, 3. Schuerenberg, 4. Bacon, 5. Boespflug, 6. Chapple, 7. Gaines, 8. Mattox, 9. Moffatt, 10. Farney. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Swanson, 2. Meseraull, 3. K. Thomas, 4. B. Short, 5. Cummins, 6. Roa, 7. Bilbee, 8. Stockon, 9. Hines, 10. Harris. 2:26.30
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Leary, 2. Stanbrough, 3. Andretti, 4. Clouser, 5. Westerfeld, 6. Simon, 7. Hughes, 8. Abrams, 9. Fischesser, 10. Tilton. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. C. Short, 2. Hodges, 3. Grant, 4. Windom, 5. Ballou, 6. Bernal, 7. Robbins, 8. Clem, 9. Jarrett, 10. Goodnight. 2:31.10
C-MAIN: (8 laps) 1. Mattox, 2. Simon, 3. Hughes, 4. Harris, 5. Jarrett, 6. Goodnight, 7. Clem, 8. Hines, 9. Moffatt, 10. Olding. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Bernal, 2. Cummins, 3. Ballou, 4. Roa, 5. Farney, 6. Chapple, 7. Bilbee, 8. Boespflug, 9. Westerfeld, 10. Abrams, 11. Harris, 12. Mattox, 13. Fischesser, 14. Hughes, 15. Robbins, 16. Simon, 17. Gaines, 18. Stockon. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 4. Dave Darland, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Chris Windom, 7. Thomas Meseraull, 8. Brody Roa, 9. Brady Short, 10. Jarett Andretti, 11. Josh Hodges, 12. Tyler Courtney, 13. Ryan Bernal, 14. Justin Grant, 15. Hunter Schuerenberg, 16. Jon Stanbrough, 17. Carson Short, 18. Kody Swanson, 19. Chad Boespflug, 20. Aaron Farney, 21. Kyle Cummins, 22. Chase Stockon, 23. Isaac Chapple, 24. Mario Clouser. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-2 Bacon, Laps 3-30 Leary.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Kevin Thomas Jr. (9th to 3rd)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Ryan Bernal
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Grant-1,130, 2-Windom-1,107, 3-Stockon-957, 4-Boespflug-951, 5-Courtney-918, 6-Thomas-918, 7-Bacon-851, 8-Leary-825, 9-Darland-758, 10-Meseraull-716.
NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-Meseraull-142, 2-Bacon-141, 3-Leary-139, 4-Darland & K. Thomas-135, 6-Windom-114, 7-Courtney-112, 8-C. Short-111, 9-Ballou-109, 10-Cummins-93.
NEXT AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT RACE: July 10 - Gas City, Indiana - Gas City I-69 Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
SWANSON PREVAILS IN "BATTLE OF THE BEACH 2" AT VENTURA
Ventura, CA........Jake Swanson of Anaheim, Calif. won Saturday night's "Battle of the Beach 2" USAC West Coast sprtin race at Ventura Raceway. He took the lead on the white-flag lap and led the final two circuits to win the 30-lapper over Austin Liggett, Max Adams, Tristan Guardino and Cory Elliott. Landon Cling, Elliott and Troy Rutherford also led the race.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Jake Swanson, 2. Austin Liggett, 3. Max Adams, 4. Tristan Guardino, 5. Cory Elliott, 6. Tom Hendricks, 7. Charlie Butcher, 8. Rick Hendrix, 9. Steve Hix, 10. Luis Espinoza, 11. Bruce Douglass, 12. Kyle Smith, 13. Troy Rutherford, 14. Danny Sheridan, 15. Guy Woodward, 16. Landon Cling, 17. Geoffrey Strole, 18. Sterling Cling, 19. Brandon Wiley, 20. Cody Majors, 21. Josh Lakatos, 22. Patrick Clark. NT
**Liggett flipped during the third heat. Lakatos flipped on lap 1 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-3 Cling, Laps 4-21 Guardino, Laps 22-28 Rutherford, Laps 29-30 Swanson.
NEW USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Swanson-719, 2-Liggett-649, 3-Richard Vander Weerd-648, 4-Ryan Bernal-628, 5-Jace Vander weerd-618, 6-Guardino-567, 7-Majors-547, 8-Danny Faria Jr.-499, 9-Timmons-451, 10-Adams-424.
NEXT USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR RACE: July 28 - Watsonville, CA - Ocean Speedway
HAVE CAR, TMEZ WILL TRAVEL TO THE FRONT; WINS ISW OPENER AT KOKOMO
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Kokomo, Indiana.........It doesn't seem to matter to Thomas Meseraull one iota which car he's in this season. More than likely, he's going to put it in a position to win.
Thus far in 2017, the San Jose, California driver had already taken the Rick Pollock #21x, SC Racing #9x, SC Racing #00 and the Heffner Racing #27 to top-five finishes with the series. It took two USAC starts for Meseraull to reach victory lane for Heffner at Lincoln Speedway's Eastern Storm stop in June. It took even less time for him to win his first USAC feature aboard Chase Briscoe Racing's No. 5B, which he did Saturday night in the opening round of the 30th Annual Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World.
For the high-majority of drivers, the transition to a new team takes some time to jell. There is a familiarity phase to endure in which both driver and crew chief have to discover each other's likes, dislikes and tendencies. There is no waiting room or grace period for Meseraull when he lands a new ride. He immediately puts the car up front, something he's now done for the sixth time in his USAC career.
"I'm fortunate enough that the new cars I've been hopping into lately are top-of-the-line," Meseraull praises. "(The Heffner No. 27) was a brand-new car, had brand-new parts and a fresh motor. Now I get to Chase Briscoe Racing and they built a new car, brand-new motor, rear end, wheels, tires, front end and shocks. I'm actually using the shocks from the 27-car because they felt so good. That makes jumping from one car to the other so much easier. You have to trust the shocks you're running. I got to run those in Pennsylvania. It was a no-brainer. I called (Heffner crew chief) Sean Michael and was like, 'Hey, I need to get those shocks. That car's just sitting there.' When you build brand new stuff, if it's not fast it's you. Obviously, you have to get adapted to it. I mounted my seat the same in both cars. The holes from the 27-car line right up in this 5-car. It almost felt like the same ride."
Minus a turn two, lap one tangle involving Aaron Farney, Josh Hodges and Hunter Schuerenberg, the 30-lap feature went non-stop, green-to-checkered with 2016 Tri-State Indiana Sprint Week winner Carson Short leading the charge on the opening lap after sliding up to the cushion in front of fellow front row starter Ryan Bernal to take the position which he'd hold for the opening nine laps.
Meanwhile, seventh-starting Meseraull was on a tear, picking up three positions on the opening lap and two more on the second circuit to pull to the runner-up spot early in the going.
On the eighth lap, Short found himself slideways at the exit of turn four as Meseraull drew near to the inside. Meseraull dove low, narrowly missing the lead by inches at the line, but set himself up for a big slider on Short for the lead entering turn one.
"He got a little bit hung off four," Meseraull recalls. "You have to capitalize when guys make little mistakes. You have to go for it, but you got to be close enough to go for it and we were."
"If I'm catching you down the straightaway and I'm within a couple car lengths, I'm going to throw a slider, especially when the track's around the top," Meseraull continued. "I saw an opening and just kind of went for it and hoped, at the end of the night, that he wasn't going to be mad at me about it."
"There was a cushion all the way down the straightaway," Short points out. "As soon as I tapped that, it shot me off. (Meseraull) surprised me when he took it in there, but I know T-Mez. He wasn't going to stop. He's coming in there for the win."
Meseraull set a torrid pace as he tried to maneuver his way through gridlock at the tail end of the field, but there was no such luck initially, providing Short a glimmer of hope as he kept Meseraull within earshot.
"I was watching his line," Short explains. "Coming into (turn) three, he would almost slow down more in order to go faster coming off (turn) four. Once I started doing that, I felt like I was able to reel him in. I got hung up behind (a lapped car). We kept, I would say, a five-car length distance between each other. I would love to say that I could've caught him, but I don't really think I could've. I had nothing for that 5-car. It was definitely moving."
In time, Meseraull was able to make some headway as he split between multiple cars, including right through the middle of Kody Swanson and Schuerenberg, with eight laps remaining to achieve a bit of separation from Short as the laps wound down. Mostly, though, Meseraull ripped the top up above the cushion where few souls brave.
"I was running that line in the B-Main," Meseraull recalls. "(Crew Chief) Kevin (Briscoe) said, 'You think we could pull the right rear in and you could still run above the cushion?' I was a little worried about it, but you know, if you're the fastest car in the beginning, not usually are you the fastest car in the end. We took a gamble and pulled the right rear wheel in and just went for it. We were starting a little bit deep and you have to be good if you want to go forward. The car was really on kill tonight."
The Briscoe No. 5 has a long, illustrious history with sprint car racing in Indiana over the past several decades, including five Indiana Sprint Week victories with Chase's grandfather Richard as the team owner between 1990 and 2004. The baton for the No. 5 has been passed down to Chase, a recent USAC Sprint Car driver himself, the reigning ARCA champion and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series frontrunner, who entered his own name onto USAC's win list as a car owner when Meseraull closed the deal down the stretch for a commanding 2.5 second win over Carson Short, Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney and Kyle Cummins.
Chase's father, Kevin Briscoe, earned all five of those Indiana Sprint Week wins as a driver in the storied No. 5. Now, Kevin is the one masterfully turning the wrenches a talent that Meseraull wholeheartedly admires.
"We've been friends for a long time," Meseraull begins. "I watched Kevin when I first moved to Indiana in 2006. I was on the sidelines just watching Kevin beat people up on the racetrack. He was Mr. Smooth, so good in the slick. He really knew how to get the car tight when it needed to be. He's so good at reading the car. Last weekend, we go down to Haubstadt and he says the car looked tight. I'm like, 'No I think the car's free.' He says, 'Why are you shaking it loose getting it in?' We start going back and forth. He really sees stuff that other guys don't necessariIy see. I feel like that's a big part of tuning the thing in. He really can see what he feels like the car is doing. I can tell him what I think the car is doing. A lot of times, you just don't know on a grand scheme of what the track is or what the car's doing because you're just feeling what's in the moment. He can see if other guys are gaining here or if you're pulling them there. You make the best of both worlds and get the car to where it's a little better on entry in the B because that's where I was losing ground. So, we got the car better on entry and I just did my thing off the corners."
Carson Short's appearances at Kokomo Speedway have been few and far-between, but the Marion, Illinois native looked a like a longtime veteran at the quarter-mile Saturday night, leading eight laps and finishing in the runner-up position in his RCM Motorsports/RASS Restoration/DRC/SPEC.
"It's been three years since we've been here and this is only the third race I've ever run here," Short admitted. "It's good to have a run like this, especially on the first night of Indiana Sprint Week. Everyone one here is good and there's so many with a chance to win. Thomas showed me the line when he passed me. I was trying to run him back down, but he's so good on that rough cushion."
"Hopefully we have enough money to hit the next one," Short stated. "We're a little short on help. I took off work. Hopefully I have a job next week. My crewmembers all have to go back to work. We're a little shorthanded, but we're still going to try to keep going, though."
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Brady Bacon quietly made up quite a bit of ground in a hurry, using the bottom for much of the event to race to a third-place finish from 11th in his Dooling-Hayward/B & H Contractors - Dooling Machine/Spike/Stanton Mopar.
"I was down there in the B and it felt pretty good," Bacon recalls. "I knew it was going to get pretty hard to run. It took probably 10 laps to get everyone spread out to where we could really get to work. Once we passed a guy, we could catch the next guy, but for the first part of the race, it took us a long time to pass each car. The car was really good, but we just couldn't get all the way there from 11th without a caution. It's just one of them deals. We should've made it out of the heat race to get into the invert."
Bacon is running a truly outlaw sprint car schedule this season, competing in several USAC Sprint Car events, a smattering of wing sprint shows and everything in-between without chasing points in any of them. The reigning Indiana Sprint Week champ intends to run just the first half of Indiana Sprint Week, which brings about a different mentality for the two-time USAC National Sprint titlist.
"I can afford to take more risks than I'd usually take," Bacon admits. "When you're not racing for points, you might squeeze a guy here or dive to the top a little earlier if you're running sixth because it doesn't really matter if you're sixth or tenth. But you could make a move that could win you the race whereas you might not make not that type of move if you're running for points. It's less stressful, but we just want to come out here and win every night."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 8, 2017 - Kokomo, Indiana - Kokomo Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Carson Short, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Tyler Courtney, 5. Kyle Cummins, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 8. C.J. Leary, 9. Chris Windom, 10. Robert Ballou, 11. Ryan Bernal. 12. A.J. Hopkins, 13. Chase Stockon, 14. Brady Short, 15. Chad Boespflug, 16. Aaron Farney, 17. Josh Hodges, 18. Jarett Andretti, 19. Kody Swanson, 20. Hunter Schuerenberg, 21. Justin Grant, 22. Brody Roa, 23. Isaac Chapple, 24. Brent Beauchamp. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-8 C. Short, Laps 9-30 Meseraull.
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Grant-1,086, 2-Windom-1,047, 3-Stockon-934, 4-Boespflug-926, 5-Courtney-872, 6-K. Thomas-848, 7-Bacon-777, 8-Leary-743, 9-Darland-683, 10-Meseraull-652.
NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-Meseraull-78, 2-C. Short-74, 3-Bacon & Cummins-67, 5-Courtney-66, 6-K. Thomas Jr.-65, 7-Darland-60, 8-Leary-57, 9-Windom-54, 10-Ballou-49.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 9 - Lawrenceburg (IN) Speedway - "Indiana Sprint Week" - Presented by Camping World
GAS CITY INDIANA SPRINT WEEK ROUND 1 POSTPONED TO MONDAY, JULY 10
Friday night's round one of the 30th Annual Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World at Gas City I-69 Speedway has been postponed to Monday, July 10.
Gates will open at 3pm and cars are set for on-track activities at 6:30pm.
Tickets purchased Friday at Gas City will be good for admission at either Kokomo Speedway on Saturday, July 8 or Gas City on Monday, July 10.
CHAD BOAT: THE NEXT USAC STAR WITH AN EYE ON INDY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Back in the late 1990s/early 2000s, Billy Boat had established himself as a mainstay in the IndyCar Series as he traveled the circuit from Fontana, California to Nazareth, Pennsylvania and seemingly everywhere in between.
Right there alongside Billy, tagging along for many of those trips was his son, Chad. For Chad, it was easy to catch the racing bug. At the time, his dad was a racing hotshoe, a winner of numerous USAC Midget races on the west coast, including the famed Turkey Night Grand Prix for three consecutive years before heading off to Indy where he won the pole for the great A.J. Foyt at the 1998 Indianapolis 500.
It was an environment that Chad latched onto and one which provided him opportunities to hang around some of the most legendary figures in the sport, even if he didn't even know it at the time.
"I went to every race I could with my dad when I was first allowed to go," Chad recalls. "I still remember going to all the races and getting to hang with A.J. Foyt. At the time, I didn't quite realize how cool that really was. I probably have more A.J. Foyt autographs than anybody out there. It was definitely cool growing up in that environment."
Nearly two decades later, Chad Boat, now 25-years-old and an established racer himself, aims to join not only his dad and A.J. in becoming the next driver to transition from the dirt track bullrings of USAC to the Indianapolis 500.
The first step in that process began when Chad inked a deal to run a pair of Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires oval races beginning this Sunday afternoon when he makes his debut aboard the Belardi Auto Racing No. 84, sporting the same black scheme and number as his Tucker-Boat Motorsports midget on the USAC trail.
Chad first became familiarized with the car during an extensive test at Iowa Speedway two weeks ago. Chad had to adapt to a few elements that he hadn't experienced in quite some or, in some cases, ever. But, now that he's gone through the initial stages of acclimation with a rear engine car and wings, he feels confident he can have a good showing come this weekend.
"A couple weeks ago, I was able to do the open test at Iowa," Chad relayed. "I ran around 200 laps over two days. It was good to get acclimated with the car. It's been a little while since I was on asphalt. It was the most downforce I'd ever had on-track. Testing allows me to process everything over the weeks leading up to the race and gives me a chance to look at the data and get a good idea of what I have to do as a driver going into race weekend. I'm able to look at my teammate's data traces and see if they're a little bit better than me. If I can use all the tools that have been given to me, there's no reason we can't go to Iowa and be successful."
Many people may be unfamiliar with the fact that Billy Boat made the move to formula cars a decade before he ever made an appearance at Indy. In 1986 and 1987, Billy made 11 starts in the American Racing Series, a forerunner of the Indy Lights series of today. Billy competed on both the roads, the streets and the ovals as a 20-year-old, scoring a career-best third-place finish with the series at Phoenix International Raceway in 1986, in a field that also featured, interestingly enough, USAC National Series winners Stan Fox, Sammy Swindell and Nick Fornoro, Jr. The race was won by 1987 Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year Fabrizio Barbazza.
With similar experience in his back pocket, Billy has been able to lend some advice to Chad, who will have him in his ear as a spotter this Sunday.
"Dad is definitely not a bad person to have in your corner helping you out," Chad reassured. "He has experience in all sorts of cars and, obviously, has a lot of experience in IndyCar. I believe the IndyCar and the Lights car translate fairly close. Obviously, you're going a lot faster in an IndyCar compared to the lights car, but Dad will be there all weekend and is going to spot for me. Having him up on the roof gives me confidence with what I'm doing and he'll give me some pointers on what we can do to pick up that elusive last two-tenths or however much we need to find."
Indy Lights is a training ground for young drivers seeking the IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500 as their ultimate goal. Chad certainly acknowledges that fact and is ready to accept the challenge. However, he recognizes that there are certain hurdles from all aspects in order to be successful in this faction sport: namely overcoming the learning curve, funding and being in the right position at the right time.
"A lot of it is just learning the car," Chad explains. "The nice thing about Indy is you have a full week of practice. It gets you accustomed to the speed. Ultimately, you have to find the right fit for you as a driver and the right fit with the right team and the right manufacturer. There are a lot of factors other than funding. To be successful, you must have all the right pieces. It's not all about money and it's not all about having a great engine or one great engineer. To go to the (Indianapolis Motor) Speedway, and have a top-10 run or even a top-15, you need to have all those pieces put together and then you have to execute on race day. Right now, the Speedway is on the backburner. We're focused on Iowa. But, definitely, the Speedway is the goal down the road."
Chad sees this Sunday's race at Iowa as an audition. After all, ultimately, this sport is performance-driven. A solid performance up front Sunday could open some eyes and present more opportunities down the road.
"The better we run, the more opportunities and doors that will open up," Chad said straight-forwardly. "I think a lot of it goes back to winning the Belleville (Midget Nationals) last year. We won a few features and had a good shot at the championship going into the last couple of races. I think that helped bring us toward the Lights deal this year. I think if we can continue to be successful on the dirt and have two solid runs with the Lights car, anything is possible."
"Obviously, funding is a big part of going to the Speedway," Chad continues. "That's no secret to anyone in the racing industry. We definitely have to bring on the right partners. We have the relationships built now that we hope can grow to the point where we can put something together for the Speedway at some point."
This isn't the first time Chad has attempted to make the transition to another form of racing. In 2008, Chad was the third driver, and most recent, to be honored as both the USAC National Sprint and National Midget Rookie of the Year in the same season. Additionally, that same year, he became the youngest ever feature winner in the USAC National Sprint Car series with a victory at Maryland's Hagerstown Speedway at the age of 16 years, 4 months and 8 days, a title he still retains to this day.
That led him to a few part-time deals in ARCA as well as NASCAR's K & N Pro Series, Camping World Truck Series and the Xfinity Series between 2010 and 2015, but was never able to solidify a permanent foothold in the stock car ranks.
"We went down the stock car path and I still live in Charlotte today, so I'm still kind of down there in the heart of it every day," Chad said. "The goal has always been for me to make a living driving a racecar. Whether that's IndyCar or NASCAR, I don't necessarily care too much either way. I just want to go out there and be competitive every weekend and have the right opportunities. I was fortunate to get to run the Xfinity and Truck stuff, but I never got to do it on a full-time basis. Not being at the track every week is hard. Regardless if it's a sprint car, a mini sprint, an IndyCar or a stock car, when you get to do it every week, you're just fine-tuning your craft. That kind of hurt us on that end."
In recent years, USAC champion Bryan Clauson was a mainstay at Indianapolis and Ed Carpenter has become firmly entrenched in the May Classic as a perennial front-runner, two-time pole winner and a team owner. Outside of those two, the presence of drivers with a dirt track background from the USAC ranks has been minimal to nil. However, that doesn't hinder Chad's ambitions one day to carry the torch, so to speak, of becoming the next in a long line to try his hand at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
"If you ask anyone in the pit area, their ultimate goal is to make it to Indy or Daytona," Chad said. "I don't think anyone would turn down either of those opportunities. I think there's been an extra amount of buzz because of the ties my dad had to the Speedway. Obviously, with my dad running seven Indianapolis 500s and basically growing up around the speedway, I have a love for that place. Ultimately, the goal is definitely to run the speedway."
"There's a lot of midget and sprint car drivers right now who have the talent to get to Indy and probably deserve a chance to get there," Chad believes. "It all goes back to the elusive funding part of it. To get the opportunity to run the Lights car, I'm very grateful. I realize there's a million people who would like to be in my position right now. All I can do is make the most of it and, hopefully, the short track community will support it. I want to go out there and make them proud."
Chad will be competing at Iowa Speedway with the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires this Sunday afternoon, July 9. The race begins at 2pm Central time.
30TH INDIANA SPRINT WEEK BEGINS FRIDAY; KICKS OFF 7 USAC SPRINT RACES IN 9 NIGHTS
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Indiana Sprint Week. Those words alone invoke powerful emotions of passion that reaches from each of USAC's Sprint Car superheroes all the way to the common race fan.
It makes no difference who you are. When Sprint Week looms, it consumes every waking hour. For the race fan, the work place is just a distraction keeping them away as sprint cars rim-ride around a quarter-mile of neurons inside the mind.
When the bell rings at the conclusion of a long, arduous work day, July instantly becomes Christmas morning. Although, in Sprint Week, snowflakes transform into a blizzard of moistrous clay while the ultimate present is unwrapped to find a sprint car being pushed off of the first heat race.
A constant succession of stacked grandstands greet stacked fields for seven races in nine nights: Fri., July 7 at Gas City I-69 Speedway, Sat., July 8 at Kokomo Speedway, Sun. July 9 at Lawrenceburg Speedway, Wed., July 12 at the Terre Haute Action Track, Thurs., July 13 at Lincoln Park Speedway (Putnamville), Fri., July 14 at Bloomington Speedway and Sat., July 15 at Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt).
It's a journey that can turn hair gray, yet create legends out of mere mortals. It can divert a season's path to one of joyous jubilation or to a fate of frustration. Yet, ultimately, it can make the person who's seen everything, feel like a kid again. It makes no difference who you are. The moment has drawn near. For the 30th year, Indiana Sprint Week has arrived.
Entering its third decade, Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World has become a timeless tradition. One that's seen countless breakthrough performances such as last year when Kyle Cummins, Brent Beauchamp, Carson Short and Tyler Courtney all raced to their first USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victories.
Courtney's particularly stands out due to his stick-to-it-iveness following a lap one spin in the 2016 Sprint Week opener at Gas City. After restarting from the tail, few could've foreseen the comeback for the ages that Sunshine demonstrated throughout the next 30 laps, passing at least one car per lap before ultimately driving by Bryan Clauson on the bottom for the victory with eight laps to go.
Courtney was in position to win the title with two races remaining until a massive Bloomington crack-up dashed his hopes and dreams of the ultimate Sprint Week glory. Meanwhile, Brady Bacon was racking up a string of consistent finishes on a nightly basis that netted him his first Indiana Sprint Week title, the ninth to do so without a single win in the history of the mini-series. This year, however, he's at the wheel of the Dooling/Hayward Motorsports No. 63, which Clauson raced to his 41st and final victory at Lawrenceburg's Sprint Week round a year ago.
Bacon's championship ride from last year is occupied by Hanford, California's Chad Boespflug. Despite a run of big-time wins last season, an Indiana Sprint Week triumph was not among them, although his first career USAC win back in 2013 came at a Sprint Week staple - Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana. The Hoffman No. 69 has seen its share of success in Indiana Sprint Week with 12 wins and two titles between Dave Darland in 1998 and Bacon in 2016.
A pair of ISW champions are eager to end their respective droughts. Astonishingly, Chris Windom of Canton, Illinois hasn't won an ISW race since Terre Haute's "Don Smith Classic" that same summer six years back. Rocklin, California's Robert Ballou was the 2015 titlist, but did so absent a victory. But, it was a single week in 2014 after multiple wins at Putnamville and Haubstadt that turned Ballou's career around. He arrived at Putnamville for Sprint Week three years ago with five wins in an eight-year span. In the two-and-a-half years since, he's tallied 22 USAC National wins and a National title.
Point leader Justin Grant is the only driver to win USAC Sprint races in four different states this season, but his last Indiana Sprint Week win came in 2012 at Lawrenceburg. Alabama's Kevin Thomas, Jr., a recent Knoxville winner, is one of just three drivers to win three Sprint Week features in a row and is the last to do so back in 2013.
The two winningest ISW drivers of all-time - three-time champ Dave Darland and twice a champion Jon Stanbrough - have been neck-to-neck in terms of total series victories for quite some time. The two have been mainstays atop the results for many a year with Darland's first win "Sprint Week" win coming in 1990 and Stanbrough's in 1996! The connection between the two holds true to today with each of their most recent Sprint Week wins coming one night apart from each other in 2014. Stanbrough took his 16th on opening night at Gas City while Darland snagged Kokomo the following night for the 18th time.
Hoosier Hotshots Brady Short and Chase Stockon aim to once again protect their home turf as they did last year at Putnamville and Terre Haute, respectively.
USAC Champions Brody Roa and Ryan Bernal intend to carry the flame for the west coast, continuing a tradition of Californians who've made the 30-plus hour Midwest migration for a couple weeks during the summer to take on the best of USAC's National contingent. Cory Kruseman, Cary Faas and Damion Gardner are among the few who've conquered the west, then thrived in Indiana Sprint Week as race winners. Reigning West Coast Sprint champ Roa made his initial foray to "Sprint Week" back in 2014 while Bernal, the 2013 and 14 Western Classic Sprint champion, makes his first trip back since 2013.
For some, Indiana Sprint Week can be a pocket full of sunshine and a racer's delight. For others, it can prove to be a walk on hot coals scattered atop a bed of nails. Racers go to challenge themselves against the best of the best, night after night to prove themselves on this racing carousel. Where each lands at the end of the week is up to preparation and, perhaps, a bit of good fortune. The stakes are immense and the action intense. Sleep is secondary from the moment the engines fire at Gas City 'til the final flag drops at Haubstadt. And, you know what? We wouldn't have it any other way. This is Indiana Sprint Week!
2017 INDIANA SPRINT WEEK presented by Camping World SCHEDULE
Fri., July 7: Gas City I-69 Speedway (Gas City, Indiana)
Sat., July 8: Kokomo Speedway (Kokomo, Indiana)
Sun., July 9: Lawrenceburg Speedway (Lawrenceburg, Indiana)
Wed., July 12: Terre Haute Action Track (Terre Haute, Indiana)
Thu., July 13: Lincoln Park Speedway (Putnamville, Indiana)
Fri., July 14: Bloomington Speedway (Bloomington, Indiana)
Sat., July 15: Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, Indiana)
COURTNEY CONQUERS INAUGURAL ILLINOIS MIDGET NATIONALS
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Springfield, Illinois......Throughout the 2017 USAC Midget National Championship season, Tyler Courtney has proven himself as the streak-stopper.
After leading each of the previous three races at Kokomo, Ind., Macon, Ill. and Lincoln, Ill. for a total of 32 laps, Courtney had put together a string of three-straight third-place finishes. Though some would accept that as a solid night, the driver known as "Sunshine" felt that was a letdown and immediately sought to end that run of events with a performance he wouldn't regret.
On Monday night's Independence Day Eve meet at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Arena, Courtney did just that as, for the third time this season, he put an end to another driver's two-race winning streak. This time, it was the previous two nights' Macon and Lincoln winner Christopher Bell, who was cast in the role of Courtney's pursuer instead of the alternative as Courtney captured victory number three on the season in the inaugural Adam Lopez "Illinois Midget Nationals."
Earlier, Courtney had shut down similar three-peat attempts in Montpelier, Ind. as Brady Bacon aimed for three-in-a-row and at Bloomington, Ind. where Michael Pickens attempted to go for a third in as many nights.
From the get-go, it was a pair of Clauson-Marshall Racing cars conducting the orchestra as Shane Golobic and Courtney ran 1-2 from their front row starting positions. Courtney routinely poked the nose of his car to the outside of his teammate Golobic as he worked the outside groove - a place that was uninhabitable earlier in the evening prior to a track rework.
However, a smorgasbord of early cautions created a secession of starts and stops the prevented any driver from getting into a consistent rhythm. The tight corners and close-quarters racing made each pass challenging, but Courtney was game following a lap five restart.
Golobic worked the low line while Courtney occupied the middle-to-high road and, following multiple advances on the outside at the exit of turns two and four, Courtney surged ahead between turns three and four a lap later to become the maestro. Three laps later, Bell followed suit around the top past Golobic for second.
"I knew it was going to be a chess match between Shane and I to see who could get to the front and get space between them and the guy behind them," Courtney anticipated. "I was able to find the top first and, luckily enough, on a restart, I got a lapped car in between us. That helped me out quite a bit for the next green flag run."
Twenty-two cars on a one-fifth-mile doesn't leave much room for error and, when Courtney entered the tail-end of the field by lap 10, he discovered cars high, low, here, there and everywhere as he sought to find that perfect balance between patience and aggression, an object of desire that has long baffled man since the beginning of time.
"On tracks like this, there's a very fine line," Courtney acknowledges. "On a bigger track, you can afford to be patient and wait for these guys to make you get up on the wheel. Tonight, on this track, you had to get up on the wheel for all 40. You have to get by lapped cars in case there's a caution so you can pad your lead. You just have to be on it from the drop of the green."
Some drivers draw that fine line with a finely-sharpened pencil. Some draw that line with a crayon. Courtney sharpened the pencil and brought out the lead as he picked through the traffic with a fine-tooth comb and, at one point, squeezed between the lapped cars of Tanner Carrick and Justin Allgaier at the stripe with no room to spare as Bell began to bear down on him on the 15th lap.
Track position is important in this instance because each lapped car a driver can place between them and their closest lead-lap competitor can provide just the slightest edge necessary in the quest toward holding the check at the end of the night.
Yet, the scale of difficulty is 10/10 when trying to keep a driver like 2013 USAC National Midget champion Christopher Bell mired behind lappers for too long as he maneuvered back to Courtney's bumper for the lap 20 restart. Bell made an attempt in turn one, but lost a bit of momentum as he slid through the middle and Courtney shot off the turn two lip.
A lap later, a melee ensued in turn three as Justin Grant, Nick Hamilton, Tyler Nelson and Ryan Robinson all became entangled. Robinson took the worst of it, tipping over after tripping over the berm at the edge of the infield and the racing surface. No harm, no foul and he would restart at the tail with the other three involved in the incident.
On the ensuing restart, Bell and Golobic began a side-by-side battle that would occupy them for much of the remainder of the race. The two would swap second and third back-and-forth with each unable to surge ahead by much more than a car-length at any point over the next several laps.
With 16 to go, Golobic and Bell would erase Courtney's interval and would soon go three-wide exiting the second turn with Golobic low, Bell in the middle and Courtney running high, wide and handsome up against the concrete blocks. Courtney would maintain his lead after sustaining the challenge to the throne with Bell and Golobic occupying second and third in that order.
Bell and Golobic remained occupied with the fierce duel for second as eight laps remained. Bell worked the middle to high lane and Golobic stayed on the shorter way around on the bottom. On lap 33, Bell snagged some soil with the right rear in a turn two jolt that cost him a scant amount as Golobic gobbled him up and was able to clear him with certainty exiting turn four for the runner-up position.
Though no less than six lapped cars stood in his path in the final laps, Courtney successfully avoided a sting from the hornet's nest of midgets that lie ahead and was able to taste the sweet nectar of victory for the third time in the series in less than a month over Golobic, Bell, KSE Hard Charger Dave Darland and point leader Spencer Bayston.
Additionally, the win by Courtney and CMR ended the stranglehold of KKM/Curb-Agajanian over the past four events as the back-and-forth, tug-of-war for team supremacy wages on into the second-half of its calendar.
A brand-new racetrack presents a ball of new experiences for all. Where to find the high line and how hard to push are issues that are resolved after some seat time on the track. A second line began to come into play during the qualifying races and remained throughout the rest of the night, creating multiple lines that Courtney used to his advantage in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives - Indiana Donor Network/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
"The car just kept coming to me and the track kind of moved down from where the guys were blowing stuff up into the middle. I could run through the middle, so I didn't have to run against the wall. Lapped cars went to the right places at the right time and it all worked out. These races are tough, though. You need to put all 30, or 40 laps in this case, together and, tonight, we were able to do that. With the amount of traffic out there, you're looking 100 feet ahead of you all the time. The track may only be 200 feet, but I'm looking 100 feet ahead of me to make sure a guy's not spinning out, getting tight or chalking down. You got to be looking forward, but you still have to be playing defense. It's just a matter of paying attention to the motor noises behind you, watching guys in front of you and making the right moves at the right time."
It's natural to compare a new venue to that of an existing venue. One that came to mind for many was another fellow Illinois bullring located adjacent to their famed one-mile dirt oval - the indoor Southern Illinois Center facility in Du Quoin. Like Springfield's Multi-Purpose Arena, the track is flat as a pancake, which seems to suit the CMR team - winners of the last four races in Du Quoin - just fine.
"The success we've had makes me like the flat tracks like this," Courtney said. "I think it's more a testament to CMR (Clauson Marshall Racing). (Team owner) Tim (Clauson) was winning at these tracks before we even had this team together. I get good cars night-in, night-out. I wasn't able to deliver the first two nights, but luckily, I was able to put 40 laps together and park it there in victory lane."
Fremont, California's Shane Golobic led five laps and slipped back to third in the early going, but fought back to score yet another strong finish, moving up to second in the standings in the process.
"I got out to the early lead, running the bottom," Golobic recalls. "I knew they had reworked the track prior to the feature and the top was going to come in at some point. I guess I was just a corner too late getting there. Sunshine (Courtney) went around me then I went up to the top and I guess Christopher had a run and slid me. I ended up behind both of them and had to work my way back where we were able to get back by him toward the very end. I raced Christopher pretty much the whole race. It's always a good time racing with him. He's a clean racer and we pushed each other as hard as we could and never made any contact. On such a small racetrack, it's pretty hard to do something like that."
During a long, strenuous season, smart racers always seem to be in the hunt for race wins and, ultimately, the championship. Golobic hasn't won yet in 2017, but night-after-night, you will find his name, and his car, near the front. Consistent results such as his don't just happen by chance.
"You just need to pick your spots and decide when you're going to make your move and when you probably shouldn't," Golobic explains. "You just want to try and keep yourself out of trouble, which is easy to get into on a track this size. There's a balance. All three of the guys that ran in the top-three tonight have a lot of patience, but a lot of aggression at the same time. I believe that's why we ended up front."
Norman, Oklahoma's Christopher Bell had a highly-successful weekend in his return to the USAC Midget wars this weekend in the Land of Lincoln, following up two winning performances with a third-place run Monday night in Springfield.
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 3, 2017 - Springfield, Illinois - Illinois State Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Arena - Adam Lopez "Illinois Midget Nationals"
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Shane Golobic, 3. Christopher Bell, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Spencer Bayston, 6. Jerry Coons, Jr., 7. Gage Walker, 8. Brady Bacon, 9. Jake Neuman, 10. Tanner Thorson, 11. Justin Grant, 12. Kyle Schuett, 13. Justin Allgaier, 14. Holly Shelton, 15. Tyler Thomas, 16. Daniel Robinson, 17. Ryan Robinson, 18. Mark Chisholm, 19. Tyler Nelson, 20. Tanner Carrick, 21. Nick Hamilton, 22. Mike Hess. NT
**Robinson flipped on lap 21 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 Golobic, Laps 6-40 Courtney.
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bayston-771, 2-Golobic-750, 3-Bacon-741, 4-Courtney-718, 5-Grant-716, 6-Thorson-639, 7-Coons-589, 8-Chad Boat-508, 9-R. Robinson-484, 10-Shelton-476.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: August 1 - Fairbury, Nebraska - Jefferson County Speedway - "Tuesday Night Thunder"
BELL GOES 2 FOR 2 ON ILLINOIS MIDGET SWING WITH LINCOLN MIDGET SCORE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Lincoln, Illinois.........It had been three years since a driver had won consecutive USAC Midget National Championship features at two different Illinois tracks.
That driver was Christopher Bell, who captured a pair of victories at Tri-City Speedway (Granite City) and Belle-Clair Speedway (Belleville) during the 2013 and 2014 seasons.
It was a rare case of déjà vu Sunday night in the series' return to the Logan County Fairgrounds' Lincoln Speedway for the first time since 1959. Norman, Oklahoma's Bell staked his claim of Illinois by writing the deed that turned the Land of Lincoln into the Land of Bell for the time being, racing to the front on the same, exact lap (25) as he did the night before in his victory at Macon Speedway to lead the same two drivers, Spencer Bayston and Tyler Courtney, across the line for the second time in as many nights.
In front of an electric, standing room only crowd, Bell began the race from the third position, but it wasn't an immediate charge to the front, as he stayed put for much of the first half of the 30-lapper, wavering back-and-forth between third and fourth as Tyler Thomas, then Tyler Courtney, took turns heading the field early in the going.
On lap six, the scariest incident of the season occurred when Brayton Lynch and Chad Boat made contact entering turn one. Lynch's car launched into the fence, snapping one of the fence posts in half and taking down a large section of catch-fencing and the safety light with him. Meanwhile, Boat's car launched over the wall and fencing at Mach-10 speed, flipping nose-to-tail roughly 15 times before, eventually, landing near a parking lot a football field-distance away from where the incident began. Fortunately, both drivers were able to walk away from the scene.
On the ensuing restart, the top-three of Courtney, Bayston and Thomas tussled for position before Courtney found a foothold and pulled out to a ten-car-length margin advantage.
Back in third and fourth, Bell was starting to find his rhythm as he muscled the curb on the bottom of turn two to maneuver into the top-three. As he began to close on Bayston for second on the 10th lap, the fourth stoppage in the first third of the event came out when Kyle Schuett came to a rest in turn three.
The back-and-forth grapple between speeding to the front under green flag conditions and idling under yellow can bring about agitation. The starts and stops had become persistent early on as, every time Bell began to make a charge, his momentum would be required to cease for the moment and he would have to recover his equilibrium when action resumed.
"At the beginning of the race, we weren't able to find a rhythm due to the yellows," Bell recalls. "There was no flow. We get a lap here, a lap there, then a yellow would fly. My car was really good, though. I knew early I was good. I just needed laps to get going. It's tough when there's a bunch of yellows. The longer the green flag runs are, the better I typically am."
However, that would allow a number of anxious drivers to regroup and find their groove. Yet, when the green flag flew on the lap 10 restart, every driver's groove was initially on the bottom. Bayston was able to work his way under Courtney on the back straight to grab the lead as the two darted toward turn three.
"I was able to work the bottom of turns one and two pretty well and was all the way down on the berm," Bayston explains. "I got a good drive off, and got to the lead and run. But my line started to go away midrace, so I had to figure something else out."
Near mid-race, Bell had caught up to Courtney in a tug-of-war for second. The two swapped the position multiple times, exchanging sliders and altering back-and-forth between the high-and-low lines on laps 14 and 15. As Courtney and Bell crossed the line and crossed sticks were presented for the halfway mark, the two banged wheels, impeding Bell's progress as he fell to fourth and Shane Golobic took advantage on the bottom to rope in the third spot.
Bell saw the proverbial writing on the wall at that point and knew if he was going to win the thing, the top was going to be the place to do it.
"I knew the top was my only option if I wanted to win the race," Bell admits. "I really couldn't get anything going anywhere else. I was able to get the top going and I think I was the first guy up there. The biggest thing was just getting the top cleaned off, keeping it clean and maintaining my momentum."
On lap 19, Bell disposed of Golobic for third and, two laps later, he was back in the thick of the hunt for second as he worked the high line with Courtney occupying the middle groove. Bell put his right rear rubber right up against the wall in turn two with nine to go, possibly brushing it as he closed the ever-shrinking gap. In turn four, however, Courtney slid up in front of Bell momentarily. Bell crossed over underneath Courtney and rocketed to second at the line.
Bell had the high-line working to perfection and, in almost no time, Bayston's one-second lead had ceased to exist. Bell took his first swing in turn three on lap 24, diving to the bottom and springing to the top to briefly hold the position. Bayston never wavered from the middle, kept the wheels straight and retook the position by a car length at the stripe.
Bell immediately aimed low once again to repeat the move, but Bayston anticipated the move and snatched the bottom line first entering turn one as Bell shot back up to the razor-thin cushion and surfed it exquisitely around Bayston to retake the point.
"Christopher showed me his nose and I tried to nail my line in one and two to get in front of him up top," Bayston details. "He was able to squeak by. It seemed like he was up there the whole race and had it figured out. It took me too long to get going before I was able to get back to him."
Bell started to pull away and appeared destined for Lincoln glory, but a caution a lap later for a D.J. Raw spin on lap 26 bunched up the field and provided Bayston another opportunity, something that Bell was not too fond of.
"I felt like the last yellow hurt me pretty badly because I was getting going on the fence when it came out," Bell said. "You really have to pay attention to hit your marks and, thankfully, I was able to pick my marks back up."
Bell's marks were superb, no doubt, but Bayston was hoping to throw a bit of dissonance into the situation as he fired a slider into the first turn on the final restart. Bell, whose midget racing roots were planted at this venue earlier in the decade, was forced to come off the comfort of the cushion and duck his nose toward the middle. Bell made slight contact with Bayston's tail tank with his right front wheel as he entered the middle of a three-car sandwich off turn two that witnessed the reemergence of Courtney. Courtney held the advantage by a half-car length before Bell's momentum pushed him past to a race lead he would ultimately tie up, stamp and deliver.
Courtney and Bayston exchanged the second and third spots multiple times in the final laps with Bayston having to slide job Courtney in turn three on both the 27th and 28th circuits before securing the position for good.
After a race-long sparring match with Courtney, then Bayston, Bell would cruise to a relatively comfortable 2.173-second margin of victory over Bayston and Courtney, who all finished in the same order for the second consecutive night. Golobic and Jerry Coons, Jr. rounded out the top-five.
It was Bell's 19th career USAC National Midget victory, tying him with Coons, Stan Fox and Jason Leffler for 32nd on the all-time list.
Lebanon, Indiana's Spencer Bayston led 15 laps and was in position to win for the second time in three races, but had to settle for his second 2nd place finish in as many nights. In the process, Bayston emerged with the series point lead by 21 markers over Brady Bacon.
"Last year, I raced all season thinking about points. This year, I'm trying not to do that," Bayston explains. "Obviously, coming home second tonight, (crewman) Big Al (Scroggins) has given me good cars these last couple nights. I thought we kind of had it there early on. I was able to get to the lead, but I was a sitting duck when the line I was running started to go away in turns one and two. Christopher went to work up top, but once I got up there, it took a couple laps for me to get it figured out and that's when he walked away from me. The crew's been working really hard and the results are really starting to show, but I admit I'm starting to get tired of finishing second."
Bayston refused to disappear when he lost the lead to his teammate with five to go, utilizing one final slider on the last restart for a shot at victory.
"Looking back, I think it might've been a smarter decision to stay in line and figure it out before I pursued him," Bayston believes. "I was worried he'd get away from me and that was going to be my one and only shot. I felt like I had a good enough restart, but he had the momentum and was able to get right back around me. It's another second-place run, but we're happy. We'll move on to the next one and learn from this."
Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Indiana raced to a sixth-consecutive top-five finish, finishing third.
"It's not exactly the night we wanted," Courtney lamented. "Obviously, you always want to win, but we were just a little off tonight. We got third again, which doesn't feel all the great right now, but for big picture purposes, we're doing what we need to do. We just got to keep running up front and knocking down podium finishes."
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Spencer Bayston, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Shane Golobic, 5. Jerry Coons, Jr., 6. Justin Grant, 7. Tanner Thorson, 8. Ryan Robinson, 9. Brady Bacon, 10. Tyler Thomas, 11. Zach Daum, 12. Holly Shelton, 13. Tanner Carrick, 14. Dave Darland, 15. Daniel Robinson, 16. Kyle Schuett, 17. Jake Neuman, 18. Tyler Nelson, 19. D.J. Raw, 20. Shelby Bosie, 21. Ray Seach, 22. Brayton Lynch, 23. Chad Boat. NT
**Bacon flipped during the third heat. Boat and Lynch flipped on lap 6 of the feature; Boat exited the track over the turn one wall.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-4 Thomas, Laps 5-9 Courtney, Laps 10-24 Bayston, Laps 25-30 Bell.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Ryan Robinson (20th to 8th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Tanner Carrick
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bayston-713, 2-Bacon-692, 3-Golobic-683, 4-Grant-675, 5-Courtney-648, 6-Thorson-596, 7-Coons-534, 8-Boat-508, 9-R. Robinson-455, 10-Thomas-442.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 3 - Springfield, Illinois - Illinois State Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Arena - Adam Lopez "Illinois Midget Nationals"
ADAMS GETS 1ST CRA WIN IN "DOUG FORT MEMORIAL"
Santa Maria, CA........Max Adams of Loomis, Cali. Earned his initial AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprint Car victory in Saturday night's 30-lap 9th Annual "Doug Fort Memorial" at Santa Maria Speedway. He caught Brody Roa on lap 29 and led the final two laps to beat Roa, Damion Gardner, Jake Swanson and Danny Faria Jr.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Max Adams, 2. Brody Roa, 3. Damion Gardner, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Danny Faria Jr., 6. Austin Williams, 7. Chase Johnson, 8. Mike Spencer, 9. Cody Williams, 10. Jimmy Thompson, 11. Logan Williams, 12. Chris Gansen, 13. Landon Cling, 14. Jeremy Ellertson, 15. Matt McCarthy, 16. James Herrera, 17. Danny Sheridan, 18. Steve DeMott, 19. Patrick Clark, 20. Tommy Malcolm, 21. Steven Garris. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-28 Roa, Laps 29-30 Adams
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS / ROD END SUPPLY HARD CHARGER: Chase Johnson (12th to 7th)
NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS:1-D.Gardner-510, 2-Roa-502, 3-Spencer-467, 4-Swanson-437, 5-A.Williams-407, 6-C.Williams-386, 7-L.Williams-343, 8-Gansen-291, 9-Richard Vander Weerd-289, 10-McCarthy-246.
NEXT AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: July 22 - Perris (CA) Auto Speedway
BELL CHIMES IN WITH VICTORY IN USAC MIDGETS' MACON RETURN
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Macon, Illinois.........The formula for winning at Macon Speedway seems simple enough on paper. Minimize mistakes, take advantage of the opportunities you've been given and throw the occasional slider to get to the front.
However, when seemingly all 23 competitors have the same plan, something has to give on the tight, but captivatingly racey 1/5-mile dirt oval.
Norman, Oklahoma's Christopher Bell seized his opportunity following a lap 20 restart, ultimately making the winning move with six laps remaining past Tyler Courtney to score the win in the USAC Midget National Championship's return to Macon for the first time in a decade.
Yet things didn't start out as rosy for Bell in the opening portion of the 30-lap feature. Well, for the most part.
"At the beginning of the race, I started on the inside of row three and felt like I could get a really good jump using the bottom of (turns) one and two," Bell recalls. "I got to third pretty quickly, and then I just stayed down there too long. I stayed down there and guys started driving by me up top. Next thing I know, I'm back to sixth. I was sixth for a while and couldn't really get anything going."
Bell would remain mired on the outside of the top-five looking in, while, up front, Courtney was dicing it up for the lead position with Spencer Bayston. On lap eight, a wild sequence was kicked into gear when Courtney and Bayston briefly became entangled exiting the second turn, allowing series point leader Brady Bacon to sneak by both briefly to lead the lap.
Courtney gathered his bearings and got Bacon back for the lead between turns one and two. Entering turn three, Bayston made a bid for second. However, both he and Bacon had made separate reservations for one at the same table. Bayston and Bacon pinged nerf bars together. Bacon became the pong, getting the worst end of the deal as he lost momentum and freefell three spots to fifth.
A caution two laps before halfway for the stopped car of Nick Knepper altered the course of Bell's race as opportunity knocked on his helmet visor.
"On the restart, everybody piled in on the bottom and I was able to rip around them and get to third," Bell explains. "From that point, I knew I was pretty good. I just had to bide my time and wait for the guys in front of me to make mistakes."
And "mistakes" would be plentiful. But it's not easy wheeling a quick, twitchy midget around a bullring such as Macon. It's a full contact, elbows up session that's going to get physical in one way or another. It's the nature of the beast on the tight, but speedy confines.
Meanwhile, Courtney was doing what needed to be done to accomplish his mission twofold. At once, he opened up as substantial of a margin as one can attain at Macon - a full-straightaway lead - that put him in control, but, secondly, kept him distanced from the madness ensuing behind him from second on back.
A single lap goes by quickly at this place. The 26-year-old one-lap track record held by P.J. Jones was lowered to 10.3 seconds by Zach Daum in ProSource Qualifying. Later in the night, the pace was consistently around the 12 second mark through the middle to late-stages of the feature. That's still cooking and, without the lap 20 caution for a Jake Neuman spin, Courtney likely would've been gone scot-free and, ultimately, been makin' Illinois cash and hoisting the winner's check in victory lane.
But, then again, opportunity. Someone else's misfortune can become another's positive turning point in any sport. It's not exactly a case of schadenfreude, although its close. With 11 to go, the raced turned on a dime, all falling into Bell's favor.
Unlike the majority of previous restarts, Courtney now had his hands full as Bell hung right with him, running nose-to-tail for multiple laps eying his next move. Bell, the 2013 USAC National Midget champ, went right at Courtney's jaw as the two swapped slide jobs back-and-forth, back-and-forth, trading uppercuts on both ends of the racetrack. Neither were on their heels, though. Both were on the attack in a true, heavyweight bout that showed no indication of either backing down.
"I knew we were about the same speed," Bell remembered. "I just waited to get to traffic. Once you got into traffic, you'd be able to dice it up a little bit. We never got there, though, with the yellows coming out. That one yellow got him out of his rhythm there. Although he did get a really good restart and got a way a little bit. But then, he tripped on the cushion one time and I was able to close the gap. From then on, it was just about sliding him."
With seven to go, Bell attacked and Courtney countered. A lap later, Courtney attacked and Bell countered with enough sliders to make a full meal out of. Courtney made one last-ditch effort with three laps remaining using a turn one slider on Bell. Once again, Bell answered the call and ducked back under Courtney to yank the lead back into his possession, gapping Courtney who now saw the second spot escape his grasp and fall into Bayston's lap.
"Sunshine (Courtney) was really fast out front by himself," Bell credits. "We got the yellow and that got him out of his rhythm. He started making mistakes and I was able to get to him. Then, it became a chess game of who could slide each other the best and break each other's momentum. I felt like he broke my momentum and I broke his momentum."
Yet the final three laps for Bell on his own wouldn't go without a little excitement. With the white flag in hand and Bayston closing, Bell stumbled atop the cushion between turns three and four. As fate would have it, Bayston was a little too close for comfort and had to react to Bell's slight misadventure, forcing Bayston to whoa his ride down just enough to prevent himself a chance to capitalize.
"I got behind Christopher with about three laps to go," Bayston remembers. "I tried to get away from everyone behind us and was waiting, waiting, waiting. Christopher kind of stumbled in (turns) three and four coming to the white flag. In turn, it caused all of us behind him to screw up and he was able to get away. That kind of scrapped the whole plan I had set for those final two laps."
Bell recovered, running a sweet and sound 30th lap for a relatively comfortable margin of seven-tenths of a second to take the win over Bayston, Courtney, Justin Grant and Shane Golobic, who came all the way from the 21st starting position.
To Bell, his 18th career USAC National Midget victory wasn't merely about being the best for all 30 laps or even just being the best at the end. To him, the race for the win purely came down to limiting mistakes in traffic and on the tricky cushion in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/DeWalt - TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
"I've been coming to Macon for a long time now and I've run a lot of races here," Bell begins. "Typically, the curb will ledge up really big like that. It's just figuring out where your marks are, when to be in the cushion and when to come off the cushion. I felt like I got going pretty good there just past halfway. I just had to figure out how to use the cushion without getting tripped up in it. There at the end, once Sunshine and I started racing, it came down to who could screw up the least and make the cleanest laps. It was super technical and super hard. That's how it should be!"
After a seven-race drought to begin the season, the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian team has now won its third in a row with three different drivers. The most recent victor during this streak prior to Saturday night was Kokomo "Indiana Midget Week" winner Spencer Bayston of Lebanon, Indiana, who grabbed second.
"It was very physical out there," Bayston said. "It seems to be that way every single time we come here. That's just how the place is. Some people like it and some people don't. Early on, I felt pretty good. Sunshine had a good lead and I didn't know if I was going to be able to get to him. With all those cautions, I was able to adjust and get a little bit better. Toward the end, Christopher and I worked our way around them and we were able to get out front."
When Bayston saw Bell and Courtney throwing haymakers at each other, he admits that he was on his toes and ready to pounce if a tangle between the two were to ensue.
"They were really going at it, so I was kind of waiting for something to develop to allow me to get in there," Bayston acknowledged. "When they start battling like that, they kind of back up to you. I was able to get in and we were both able to work by Sunshine in the final laps."
Tyler Courtney led a race-high 23 laps and continued his run of success as well with a fifth consecutive top-five finish.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Spencer Bayston, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Shane Golobic, 6. Zach Daum, 7. Brady Bacon, 8. Chad Boat, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Daniel Robinson, 11. Holly Shelton, 12. Ryan Robinson, 13. Jerry Coons, Jr., 14. Gage Walker, 15. Jake Neuman, 16. Brayton Lynch, 17. Tyler Nelson, 18. Kyle Schuett, 19. Colten Cottle, 20. Tyler Thomas, 21. Nick Knepper, 22. David Budres, 23. Tanner Thorson. NT
**Carrick flipped during heat 2. Shelton flipped during heat 2.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Courtney, Lap 8 Bacon, Laps 9-24 Courtney, Laps 25-30 Bell.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Shane Golobic (21st to 5th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Jerry Coons, Jr.
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-642, 2-Bayston-634, 3-Golobic-617, 4-Grant-607, 5-Courtney-576, 6-Thorson-530, 7-Boat-480, 8-Coons-469, 9-R. Robinson-399, 10-Shelton-397.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 2 - Lincoln, Illinois - Lincoln Speedway
CALIFORNIA'S BAKERSFIELD SPEEDWAY ADDED TO 2017 USAC NATIONAL MIDGET SCHEDULE
Bakersfield, California.........A new addition to the 2017 USAC National Midget schedule's end-of-the-year west coast swing has been announced as the penultimate round of this year's championship.
The November 18th USAC Western States Midget event at California's Bakersfield Speedway will now carry USAC National Midget points in addition to Western States points. The event will slot in as the final race on the calendar prior to the 77th running of the "Turkey Night Grand Prix" at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway.
USAC National Midget racing has an extensive history at the 1/3-mile dirt oval in Bakersfield, dating to 1959 and the first of three career USAC victories by driver Davey Moses. Since then, the track has hosted 18 USAC National Midget events, including Sleppy Tripp's first career win in 1974, but none since Jay Drake's victory in 2000 which, incidentally, took place 17 years ago to the day of this year's scheduled race.
Three USAC Western States Midget events are on the Bakersfield schedule for 2017, with Ronnie Gardner taking the first of the season back in March. Bakersfield's been a staple of the United States Auto Club since 1987 when the venue held its first Western States race won by P.J. Jones.
The timetable and ticket prices for the event at Bakersfield will be announced at a later date.
1. Justin Grant 1360
2. Chris Windom 1337
3. Chad Boespflug 1233
4. Kevin Thomas Jr. 1199
5. Tyler Courtney 1168
6. Chase Stockon 1159
7. C.J. Leary 1018
8. Dave Darland 938
9. T. Meseraull 932
10. Brady Bacon 913
1. Spencer Bayston 771
2. Shane Golobic 750
3. Brady Bacon 741
4. Tyler Courtney 718
5. Justin Grant 716
6. Tanner Thorson 639
7. Jerry Coons Jr. 589
8. Chad Boat 508
9. Ryan Robinson 484
10. Holly Shelton 476
1. Kody Swanson 280
2. Chris Windom 232
3. Jerry Coons Jr. 226
4. David Byrne 188
5. Damion Gardner 161
6. Bobby Santos 140
7. Justin Grant 137
8. Aaron Pierce 133
9. Joe Liguori 123
10. Brady Bacon 113
1. Damion Gardner 443
2. Brody Roa 428
3. Mike Spencer 409
4. Jake Swanson 3682
5. Austin Williams 346
6. Cody Williams 332
7. Logan Williams 298
8. R. Vander Weerd 289
9. Chris Gansen 243
10. Tommy Malcolm 214