AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: June 24, 2017 – Perris, California – Perris Auto Speedway
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. R.J. Johnson, 2. Richard Vander Weerd, 3. Ronnie Gardner, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Mike Spencer, 6. Cody Williams, 7. Brody Roa, 8. Max Adams, 9. Charles Davis Jr., 10. Logan Williams, 11. A.J. Bender, 12. Matt McCarthy, 13. Bruce St. James, 14. Kyle Edwards, 15. Verne Sweeney, 16. Jeremy Ellertson, 17. Tom Hendricks, 18. Jace Vander Weerd, 19. Damion Gardner, 20. Chris Gansen, 21. Jake Swanson, 22. Tommy Malcolm. NT
**Gansen flipped on lap 11 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Johnson
NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS:1-D.Gardner-443, 2-Roa-428, 3-Spencer-409, 4-Swanson-368, 5-A.Williams-346, 6-C.Williams-332, 7-L/Williams-298, 8-R.Vander Weerd-289, 9-Gansen-243, 10-Malcolm-214.
NEXT AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR RACE: July 1 – Santa Maria (CA) Raceway – “Doug Fort Memorial”
RAIN AGAIN HALTS "TONY HULMAN CLASSIC" AT TERRE HAUTE
Terre Haute, IN........Constant waves of rain in the Midwest have conspired to force cancellation of Friday night's 47th "Tony Hulman Classic" AMSOIL USAC National Sprint race at the Terre Haute Action Track.
The Sprint cars return to Terre Haute July 12 in the "Don Smith Classic," part of this year's "Indiana Sprint Week." The series now prepares for the June 30 race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind.
CHAMPION CAR OWNER, USAC OFFICIAL JOHNNY VANCE PASSES AWAY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Johnny Vance, a man who was highly-accomplished in multiple roles with the United States Auto Club as a competitor, promoter and official, passed away Thursday, June 22, 2017. He was 79 years old.
Vance, of Dayton, Ohio, was a second-generation car owner whose instantly-recognizable Aristocrat Products-sponsored cars were a force on both the USAC Silver Crown and National Sprint Car trails for decades. For a time, his cars - numbered 2 for much of its run - were at the forefront of the sport with some of the most legendary names in auto racing.
However, his 50+ years in USAC began with a two-decade tenure as a Chief Steward, Supervisor and Technical Chairman of the Sprint Car division from the early 1960s to the beginning of the 1980s. At that point, he shifted gears to become a participant where he left an indelible mark on the sport over the next 30+ years.
After car owner Don Siebert's unexpected passing just prior to the 1981 season opener, Vance purchased Siebert's operation that included a sprint car, a champ car and a driver named Rich Vogler. In 1981, with Vogler, Vance won both his first USAC Silver Crown and National Sprint events as a car owner at Knoxville (IA) Raceway in June and a month later at Rossburg, Ohio's Eldora Speedway, respectively. Vogler - with Steve Kinser - would provide Vance his lone Silver Crown owner title that first year.
Vance's equipment was top-of-the-line and the drivers who sat in the seats of his racecars were top-shelf. Along the way, Vance would win a total of eight Silver Crown events with Vogler, Kinser, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Dave Steele, Cole Whitt and his last USAC victory, with Tracy Hines, in 2010 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Indiana.
Vance was a two-time USAC National Sprint Car owner champion in 1990 and 1998, a year in which he teamed up with dirt sprint car owner Jeff Walker and driver Tony Elliott for a run at the title. Vance's 44 career USAC National Sprint Car wins rank tied for fourth, ironically, with Walker. Among drivers tallying feature victories in his yellow, black and sometimes red sprinters were: Vogler, Kinser, Jack Hewitt, Jac Haudenschild, Joe Saldana, Gene Lee Gibson, Steve Butler, Jim Mahoney, Irwin, Steele, Elliott and Ryan Newman, who notched Vance's final victory in the series at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway in 2000.
Perhaps greater than all the victories is the lasting legacy he left as the founder of one of USAC's marquee events that remains stronger than ever 36 years after its creation. The "4-Crown Nationals" at Eldora Speedway were conceived by Vance in 1981 to showcase all four of USAC's National divisions on one track on a single weekend: Silver Crown, National Sprint, National Midget and the now-defunct Stock Car series.
"I went up to (track owner) Earl (Baltes) and suggested it and he thought it was pretty good idea, so we decided to give it a shot and see how it would go," Vance recalled. "It went really well the first year, so we did it again the next year and each year thereafter, it just got bigger and better."
BALLOU GOES FOR HULMAN CLASSIC 3-PEAT FRIDAY AT TERRE HAUTE
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
(Terre Haute, IN) No driver has ever won three editions of the “Tony Hulman Classic” consecutively, but this Friday night, June 23 at western Indiana’s Terre Haute Action Track, Robert Ballou has the opportunity to reverse 47-years of history.
The Rocklin, California native won the 2015 and 2016 editions in equally dramatic fashion. Ballou caught Chris Windom with three laps remaining to capture the traditional rifle trophy in ’15. With less than 10 to go in last season’s “Hulman Classic,” Ballou battled back-and-forth with Thomas Meseraull before coming right back at him with nine laps to go, utilizing a monster slide job into turn one. Ballou opened it up in the final stages to capture his second consecutive victory in the race, which had previously only been achieved by Steve Butler (1987-88) and Levi Jones (2008-09).
Ballou, the 2015 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Champion, defied the odds with his comeback victory at Eldora Speedway in May, his second race back after an eight-month recovery following devastating injuries in a crash last September. Since then, he’s had an up-and-down stretch that got its bumpiest during last week’s Eastern Storm, a five-race, six-night series that tested patience and equipment.
Ballou backed up his Eldora victory with a solid fourth at I-80 Speedway and a runner-up finish at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway a day later. But, a rough patch through Pennsylvania’s Eastern Storm saw a sixth-place result on opening night at Grandview Speedway as his best. A night later, he was 13th at Lincoln Speedway, then followed up a night later with a turn-three crash at Williams Grove Speedway that put him 23rd in the final box score.
Ballou appeared to be back in his element on the half-mile Port Royal Speedway. He dominated the first 26 circuits of the 30-lap feature before a late-race caution bunched up the field. Windom got by him with a slider on the restart and drove away for the victory while Ballou, battling for second on the final lap with Justin Grant saw his night end two corners short of the checkered as he smacked backward into the outer guardrail before flipping over multiple times. He was uninjured, but would not be in attendance the following night in the Eastern Storm finale at Susquehanna Speedway.
The Terre Haute Action Track will be a welcome change of scenery to Ballou this Friday when the series returns to the Midwest half-mile, a track size that he has earned 12 of his 27 career USAC National Sprint Car feature wins on.
Speaking of Eastern Storm, Chris Windom of Canton, Illinois captured the title by four points over Cullman, Alabama’s Kevin Thomas, Jr. Windom owns four total Action Track USAC victories, including the last two appearances by USAC at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds oval - a National Sprint Car triumph in October of 2016 and the “Sumar Classic” Silver Crown season opener in April of this year.
The most recent driver to win three-straight USAC events at Terre Haute across all three USAC National divisions was J.J. Yeley in 2002-2003. Yeley scored a sprint win to end 2002, began the season with another sprint score to begin 2003 and completed the trifecta with a Silver Crown triumph later that spring.
Thomas, a Terre Haute USAC Sprint winner in 2013, won his first USAC feature of the season last Thursday at Williams Grove, while Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney was victorious for the second time in the Eastern Storm finale at Susquehanna.
Third in Eastern Storm points, Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, won last Tuesday at Grandview and was a USAC Sprint feature victory in September of 2014 at the Action Track, but the two-time USAC National Sprint Car champ has yet to add a “Hulman Classic” trophy to his collection.
Ballou is among four past winners expected to compete in Friday night’s race, including Dave Darland (1993 & 2014), Jon Stanbrough (2002 & 2007) and Windom (2011).
The “Hulman Classic” began with George Snider’s victory in 1971 and continues today as the longest, annually-contested event on the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car calendar. Except for a brief period between 1988 and 1991 when the event moved to the pavement at Indianapolis Raceway Park, the Hulman Classic has been held at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Former winners of the race include ten Indianapolis 500 veterans, 14 past USAC National Sprint Car championships and even an NHRA Top Fuel Drag Racing star, Doug Kalitta.
In addition to the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint cars, the Scott's Custom Colors UMP Modifieds will also be in action. Pit gates open this Friday for the “Tony Hulman Classic” at 3pm with the grandstands set to open at 4. Cars hit the track at 6:30.
USAC/CRA SPRINT CARS SATURDAY AT PERRIS AUTO SPEEDWAY
(Perris, CA, June 20, 2017) This Saturday night, June 24th, the Amsoil USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series headlines an all open wheel show 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.
Saturday’s race will be the fourth appearance of the USAC/CRA race on the famous Riverside County half-mile clay oval in 2017. Richard Vander Weerd, who was born in Upland, raised in Chino and who now resides in Visalia, won the season opener in early March. Concord’s Damion Gardner, whose 43-wins lead the all-time USAC/CRA winners list at The PAS, won the April race and March’s Salute to Indy on Memorial Day weekend.
Gardner’s Salute to Indy Win was his 73rd in USAC/CRA competition and is nearly double that of the second man on the list, Mike Spencer of Temecula. Gardner’s three wins in 2017 have all come for car owner Mark Alexander. Coming into the season, Alexander had 65 wins and that was one behind the then all-time leader, the late Ron Chaffin. Alexander has passed Chaffin and will be looking for win #69 on Saturday.
In addition to all his main event wins, Gardner also has five USAC/CRA Series championships. That is the same amount as arch rival Spencer. Gardner notched his first USAC/CRA title driving for Chaffin in the second year of the series in 2005. He then left to race in the USAC National Sprint Car Series in the Midwest and Spencer took over the ride in Chaffin’s famous red #50 car. Spencer reeled off five straight titles in the car from 2008-2012. Since Spencer’s last title in 2012, Gardner has won four straight championships for Alexander. In addition to his four titles with Gardner, Alexander also had a championship with Tony Jones in 2007.
Coming into Saturday’s race at The PAS, Gardner, who led 83 of 100 laps before finishing second in a USAC Silver Crown race in Pennsylvania last Friday, has a 42-point lead in the championship standings over Garden Grove’s Brody Roa. Three weeks ago, Roa headed to the Midwest to take on the USAC National Sprint Car Series in Nebraska and Iowa. He raised eyebrows around the country when he took home a hard fought fifth-place finish at Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway.
Spencer, recent college graduate Jake Swanson of Anaheim and Yorba Linda’s Austin “The Big Game Hunter” Williams of Yorba Linda round out the top five in the championship standings. Spencer has settled in nicely in his first full season for Gansen Racing. On the first weekend in May, he ended a near two-year victory drought with a popular win at the Ventura Raceway.
After Saturday’s 30-lap main event, all the USAC/CRA drivers in the race will immediately stop on the front straight and fans will be allowed onto the track to get autographs and take photos. In addition, one youngster will be presented with an official winner’s plaque signed by the winning driver and another will get a Hoosier Racing Tires flag signed by all the drivers.
In the Senior Sprint Car class, Canyon Country stunt man Richard McCormick thrilled the crowd at the Salute to Indy when he passed former Speedway Motorcycle racer John Aden of Apple Valley to win the main event. For drivers age 40 and over, it was Aden’s first appearance with the senior set and he seemed destined for victory until McCormick screamed into the lead with less than 10-feet to go. McCormick is the Senior Series point leader going into Saturday night’s race and he has a comfortable 32-point advantage over Ed Schwarz of Santa Fe Springs.
First time PAS Young Gun competitors Cody Smotherman of Porterville and Blaze Hildebrand of Yucca Valley showed the locals the fast way around when they placed first and second in The PAS Young Guns (drivers 14-25 with no prior sprint car experience) main event at the Salute to Indy. Despite flipping in his heat the last time, Joel Rayborne, a 14-year-old student at West Covina High School, leads Acton college student Hannah Mayhew by a mere four points in the fight for the Young Gun championship.
Amsoil USAC/CRA Point Standings
1. Damion Gardner – Concord, CA – 408
2. Brody Roa – Garden Grove, CA – 366
3. Mike Spencer – Temecula, CA – 342
4. Jake Swanson – Anaheim, CA – 335
5. Austin Williams – Yorba Linda, CA – 277
6. Cody Williams – Yorba Linda, CA – 272
7. Logan Williams – Yorba Linda, CA – 254
8. Richard Vander Weerd – Visalia, CA – 216
9. Chris Gansen - Verdemont Heights, CA - 212
10. Tommy Malcolm – Corona, CA – 183
PAS Senior Sprint Point Standings
1. Richard McCormick – Canyon Country, CA - 188
1. Ed Schwarz – Santa Fe Springs, CA - 156
3. Danny Parrish – Fairbanks, AK - 155
4. Rick Hendrix - Palmdale, CA - 125
5. Mike Trottochau - Acton, CA – 123
PAS Young Gun Sprint Car Point Standings
1. Joel Rayborne – West Covina, CA – 170
2. Hannah Mayhew – Acton, CA - 166
3. Daniel Anderson - Venice, CA – 114
4. Trinton Sparks – Bakersfield, CA - 99
5. Gary Marshall Jr. – Pomona, CA – 97
8 INITIAL 2017 USAC HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES ANNOUNCED;
DAVIDSON, DELROY, HARTLEY, LEWIS, LINNE, STANLEY, STAPP, THOMPSON
The initial eight 2017 inductees into the USAC Hall of Fame have been announced and four more, selected by popular vote from a list of 16 eligibles distributed through social mediums, will be announced tomorrow.
The sixth annual USAC Hall of Fame induction ceremonies will be held July 20 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. in conjunction with the "Rich Vogler Classic" USAC Silver Crown race.
The eight-member class of inductees announced today includes three drivers, three car owners and two officials. Alphabetically they are Donald Davidson, Frank DelRoy, Gene Hartley, Steve Lewis, Howard Linne, Robbie Stanley, Steve Stapp and Johnny Thomson.
Online voting for the final four additional 2017 inductees into the USAC Hall of Fame will be available on the USAC website Monday (June 21) at www.usacracing.com.
Davidson, of Salisbury, England and residing in Speedway, Ind. served as USAC's statistician and historian from 1965-1997 and during that time preserved the bulk of USAC's historical archives. His work in the sport has earned him a place in the Auto Racing Hall of Fame. During his USAC tenure he recorded driver and car owner records for all of USAC's participants, including statistical data and prize money earnings. His enormous ability to retain information has earned him legendary status in our sport and he is constantly sought out for historical correctness. His enormous knowledge of the World's Largest Single-Day Sporting Event began with memorizing the statistics which were displayed in the Indianapolis 500 Floyd Clymer Yearbooks, which he found each year in a downtown London bookstore. Few in our sport have ever exhibited the skill for memory and the passion which Donald has exhibited and he continues to this day as the Official Historian of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and he is constantly in demand for appearances as a speaker, regaling his memories of those persons involved in the sport since its very beginning.
DelRoy, of Philadelphia,PA, served USAC as its Technical Director from 1970 until his untimely death in the chartered USAC plane crash in April of 1978 returning from a Championship race in Trenton, N.J. He grew up in Paterson, N.J., location of the famed "Gasoline Alley," and at age 19 began racing. In the 1930s he served as a riding mechanic at the Indianapolis 500, his car earning the pole in 1937 with driver Bill Cummings. He was involved with 1941 Indy 500 winner Mauri Rose and also worked with legendary driver Ted Horn before Horn's demise at DuQuoin, Ill. in 1948. In 1951 DelRoy was the chief mechanic for Mike Nazaruk who earned a second place finish in the "500." His mechanical expertise was immense and he was highly regarded as one of the sport's top mechanics for many years. He also worked tirelessly for safety in the sport leading to many innovations regarding safety regulations.
Hartley, of Roanoke, Ind., will best be remembered as the driver who captured USAC's inaugural race, held January 8, 1956 at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind. The son of Ted Hartley, who himself competed as a Midget racer into his 70s, was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1985 and earned 31 USAC Midget victories, which still ranks among the top-10 on the all-time list and he was among the "top-three" in USAC National Midget points five straight years (1957-1961). In 1959 he was crowned the champion of the USAC National Midget Series. In addition to his Midget racing he also competed in AAA and USAC Championship Cars and among his 10 starts in the Indianapolis 500 was a 10th in 1957 and three 11ths. At the famed Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway in 1956 he finished second behind George Amick. After retiring as a driver, he joined forces with racer Leroy Warriner as co-promoter at the Indianapolis Speedrome. In 2016 the Indiana Racing Memorial Association erected a commemorative plaque in Roanoke to Hartley's honor. Gene passed in 1993.
Lewis, of Huntington Beach, Calif., was one of USAC's most proficient car owners. Nearly every major name driver competed for him during his tenure with USAC, racing up a record 133 National victories, more than anyone in history. His victories included basically every major race in America and during the 10-year stretch between 1993 and 2004 he was nearly unbeatable, winning 10 USAC National Car Owner titles with drivers Stevie Reeves, Tony Stewart, Kenny Irwin Jr., Jason Leffler, Kasey Kahne, Dave Darland, J.J. Yeley and Bobby East! The founder of the sport's highly acclaimed Performance Racing Industry trade show, Steve set new standards for excellence in the sport which may never be matched. As a race promoter, he organized lucrative race events in Indianapolis, Ind. and Orlando, Fla. which offered a $50,000 bonus for any driver who could claim double victories in either. In 2006 he was inducted into the Belleville High Banks Hall of Fame in Kansas and in 2004 he was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame. He also earned USAC's coveted Roger McCluskey Award of Excellence in 2009.
Linne, of Mendota, Ill, amassed 69 USAC National Midget feature wins during his long career which involved a multi-car stable which attracted many of the top drivers of his day. In 1961 he won the USAC National Midget Car Owner title with driver Jimmy Davies. In 1996 he was inducted into the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame and drivers of his cars included the likes of the great Tony Bettenhausen, Bob Tattersall, Parnelli Jones, Mike McGreevy, Lee Kunzman and Henry Pens. He operated a race car parts shop in Mendota and also owned a farm implement dealership. In 2005 he was inducted into the Mazon Speed Bowl and Grundy County Speedway Halls of Fame. He passed away in 2008. It was not uncommon for Linne cars to dominate the podium at USAC National Midget races.
Robbie Stanley, of Brownsburg, Indiana, ushered in a new era of USAC Sprint Car racing in the 1990s. In just three full-time seasons (1991-1993), Stanley became one of just three drivers to have won three consecutive USAC National Sprint Car titles. His initial series victory in the 1991 season opener at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway was considered a major upset at the time, but soon, many would discover that the driver who cut his sprint car racing teeth on the dirt and with a wing affixed up top, had a transcendent talent that would make him one of the sport's greatest young stars. The 1989 All Star Circuit of Champions titlist was one of two drivers between 1991 and early 1994 to win a USAC National Sprint Car feature on both dirt and pavement. In fact, of his nine career series wins, six came on the high banked paved oval in Winchester where, his brief, but bright shining light was dimmed during a feature event on May 26, 1994 when he lost his life in a fiery crash. For several years, a USAC event at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway bore his name and the phrase "No Regrets" became a rallying cry among the racing community. Stanley is a 2005 inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
Stapp, of Brownsburg, Ind., held the top spot among USAC winning Sprint Car owners for many years, his 51 victories eventually eclipsed by Dynamics, Inc. and Tony Stewart Racing. He continues to rank third all-time in USAC National Sprint feature wins and among his most memorable wins were those posted by Pancho Carter. USAC National Sprint Car Owner Championships came in 1974 and 1976. A 1999 inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, he is the son of famed racer Babe Stapp. He even tried a stint as a driver with much success. A total of 40 wins came with Carter as his driver between 1973 and 1980, including "Tony Hulman Classic" wins at Terre Haute, Ind. in 1975 and 1979. He also claimed the prestigious "Joe James/Pat O'Connor" Memorial at Salem, Ind. four straight years, 1974-77. An outstanding car builder, Steve's final USAC victory came at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway in 1996 with driver Mark Cassella.
Thomson, of Boyertown, Pa., was one of the sport's most beloved competitiors. In 1948 he won the UCOA New England Midget title after winning 32 races. He would repeat as UCOA champion in 1950. In 1952 he claimed the AAA Eastern Midget crown. Known as the "Flying Scot," he was the first driver to complete a 100-mile dirt-track race in less than an hour in winning at Langhorne (Pa.) Speedway in 1957. He was proficient in the AAA and USAC Championship Cars, finishing third in the final standings three times, and started the Indianapolis 500 each year from 1953-1960, recording a third in 1959 after starting from the pole. Among his Championship race victories were four during the 1958 season. In 1958 he won the USAC Eastern Sprint Car title, a title he had earlier won under AAA sanction in 1954. Inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Fame in 1997, he perished in a Sprint race at the Allentown (Pa.) Fairgrounds in 1960. As an aside, he was a competitor on the highly-acclaimed TV show, Bud Collyer's Beat the Clock!
COURTNEY CAPS EASTERN STORM WITH SUSKY SUCCESS; WINDOM WRAPS UP TITLE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
York Haven, PA.........A perfect driving performance from start-to-finish in dirt track racing is a nearly impossible task to achieve. There are so many variables at play - some that are controllable and some that are not.
Tyler Courtney appeared to have seen Sunday night's USAC Eastern Storm presented by DMI finale drift away on multiple occasions. But, when it came to crunch time, the 23-year-old from Indianapolis, Indiana was about as picture-perfect as you could imagine.
Courtney utilized a turn one slide job on Thomas Meseraull with just two laps remaining, which proved to be the winning moment on the way to claiming his third career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature victory and his second of the 2017 season.
Meanwhile, Chris Windom's ninth-place run was devoid of much in the way of style points, but it was just enough to eke out his first Eastern Storm title by four points over Kevin Thomas, Jr.
"It's pretty special," Windom exclaimed. "I ran second behind Bryan (Clauson) last year and ran second to Levi Jones in this deal too. There's been way too many seconds and I was ready to get the first one out of the way. This one is pretty high up on the list. We've won Indiana Sprint Week and now Eastern Storm. That's very special to me, but it's not just me, it's for the team. They've worked their butts off in the hotel parking lot all week. It's been a grueling week out here in the heat. If it wasn't for them, I wouldn't be here."
Windom entered the feature with a 16-point lead in the standings and would roll off sixth on the grid after earlier recording the ProSource Fast Qualifying time.
Chad Boespflug grabbed the lead at the start, sliding to the top and the lead on the initial corner from his pole starting position ahead of Courtney. On the fourth lap, Courtney slid Boespflug for first exiting the fourth corner before surging ahead to the lead at the line.
Trevor Kobylarz nosed into the turn four outer guardrail on lap 11, setting up a restart that Meseraull used to his advantage.
"I thought on this start, just throw a slider on him," Meseraull recalls. "There's nothing to lose but a spot or two. I hit the curb off two just right. Next thing you know, man, he's not there, he's not there, he's not there. I just started driving it harder and harder and harder. The next thing you know, the track started building a curb. You don't want to be out front in case you're gone and make a mistake and turn it over because when the curb is a foot tall, you can turn it over."
One lap later, Justin Grant slid Courtney for second entering turn three. Courtney decided to stop fooling around, settled down and ripped second back away from Grant entering turn one.
"Once Meseraull got by and Justin tried to pass me, I knew I had to get going," Courtney said. "I had to stop messing around and making mistakes. I had to get back by Justin and figure out what I wanted to do with my racecar. It's a lot easier chasing the rabbit than it is being the rabbit, at least in my shoes."
Meanwhile, Windom's chase for the Eastern Storm title was in peril after dropping from sixth to tenth after tangling with Boespflug, thus providing him with minimal wiggle room down the stretch to earn enough points to claim the title.
In the final laps, though, Courtney turned it up a notch in his pursuit of Meseraull, which almost bit him.
"I got up over the cushion and got way sideways off turn four and kept it going," Courtney details. "I thought I was going to have to settle for second there at that point. But I hit the top and kept digging my way back to Thomas. I think it's almost a blessing in disguise that I got to chase Thomas and see what he was doing and if he was getting tight. I'm not really known for running the cushion like that, though. It got real big there on the exit of two and four."
With five to go, Courtney was revitalized, banging off the cush and selling t-shirts, chopping into Meseraull's lead as the frontrunners encountered lapped traffic. Meseraull split between the two cars of Kyle Moody and Matt Westfall, which, at first, appeared to be a decisive move that put this one on ice. However, Courtney refused to settle, sprinting past Moody on the back straightaway and throwing it deep into turn three on the bottom to dispose of Westfall and tuck right in behind Meseraull with two to go.
"I didn't know how many laps were left, but I knew it was getting down to the wire," Courtney remembers. "Getting by Westfall was one of the biggest moves of the race. That's what got me to Thomas's bumper. I stopped making the mistakes I was at the beginning of the race and I reeled him in. Thomas was kind of hesitant around the lapped cars and I capitalized on that."
Courtney was hauling and lined up his bid for the lead on Meseraull heading into turn one on the 29th lap where he dove to the bottom and connected on his slider to take over the position with just a lap-and-a-half to go.
On the 30th and final circuit, Courtney took care of the lapped car of Alex Bright, banging the turn two cushion, to create an ample amount of separation between he and Meseraull en route to his fourth USAC National victory (2 sprint & 2 midget) in the past 17 days over Meseraull, Grant, Brady Bacon and Thomas.
Courtney became the latest in a line of new Eastern Storm winners this past week that marked the first time there have been five different winners in five Eastern Storm races.
"This is the right time of year to get your momentum going," Courtney believes. "It's a big points part of the season for our championship hopes. To have two good weeks like this is huge. Hopefully we can keep this success rolling throughout the rest of the summer."
San Jose, California's Thomas Meseraull led 17 of the 30 laps and came within two laps of becoming the only repeat winner of this year's Eastern Storm in his Heffner Racing Enterprises/Lelands.com - Fatheadz Eyewear/Maxim/Rider.
"When we got to Westfall, he was running the top and I had to do something," Meseraull said. "Tyler was able to reel me back in and get by me and, once he got by me, I didn't have anything for him. We picked up a shake in the middle, I banged the curb real hard and the car started shaking really bad. I couldn't find any dirt or anything, don't know what it was. It kind of got me a little bit leery. I'm rolling and I'm like, 'last night of the deal, run this thing until you turn it over.' Fortunately, we didn't do that, but that's the kind of attitude you got to have when it's such a tall cushion."
Meseraull put his week into perspective following a fourth-place finish and a win at Lincoln in this year's Eastern Storm with a new combination.
"You got Windom who's been driving for Baldwin for 50 shows. Tyler Courtney's been in his car for two seasons. Justin Grant's been in that car for a year. And here I come after running wing cars all year and show up in a car that's brand new with a team that's never ran without a wing. And we were competitive. We want to race. We're top-four in the Eastern Storm points, but I'm most proud of my qualifying. I qualified in the top-five every night. I didn't get a quick time, but I was there. That's what you have to do in this series. You have to be a good qualifier."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 18, 2017 - York Haven, Pennsylvania - Susquehanna Speedway - "Eastern Storm" Presented by DMI
QUALIFYING RESULTS: 1. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-17.434; 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 44, Pace-17.452; 3. Thomas Meseraull, 27, Heffner-17.584; 4. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-17.614; 5. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-17.707; 6. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-17.721; 7. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-17.764; 8. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-17.772; 9. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-17.812; 10. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-17.831; 11. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-17.888; 12. Shane Golobic, 3, Franckowiak-17.960; 13. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-18.090; 14. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-18.093; 15. Jerry Coons, Jr., 39, Hogue-18.132; 16. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-18.208; 17. Tony DiMattia, 50, DiMattia-18.264; 18. Alex Bright, 13K, Kaylor-18.284; 19. Gary Rooke, 42AU, Rooke-18.377; 20. Kyle Moody, 99, Moody-18.576; 21. Joey Biasi, B1, Biasi-18.577; 22. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-18.648; 23. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-19.094; 24. Michael Hamer, 47, Hamer-19.494.
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Kobylarz, 2. Andretti, 3. Grant, 4. Windom, 5. Stockon, 6. Robbins, 7. Westfall, 8. Rooke. 2:30.95
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. Darland, 3. Courtney, 4. Farney, 5. Thomas, 6. Moody, 7. Chapple, 8. DiMattia. 2:29.11
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Boespflug, 2. Bright, 3. Coons, 4. Meseraull, 5. Golobic, 6. Biasi, 7. Leary, 8. Hamer. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Rooke, 2. Leary, 3. Westfall, 4. Robbins, 5. Chapple, 6. Moody, 7. DiMattia, 8. Hamer. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 6. Chad Boespflug, 7. Aaron Farney, 8. Chase Stockon, 9. Chris Windom, 10. Shane Golobic, 11. Jarett Andretti, 12. C.J. Leary, 13. Dave Darland, 14. Alex Bright, 15. Kyle Moody, 16. Matt Westfall, 17. Jerry Coons, Jr., 18. Kyle Robbins, 19. Tony DiMattia, 20. Gary Rooke, 21. Isaac Chapple, 22. Trevor Kobylarz. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-3 Boespflug, Laps 4-11 Courtney, Laps 12-28 Meseraull, Laps 29-30 Courtney.
FINAL USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-1058, 2-Windom-993, 3-Stockon-894, 4-Boespflug-887, 5-Courtney-806, 6-Thomas-783, 7-Bacon-710, 8-Leary-686, 9-Darland-623, 10-Andretti-607.
FINAL EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Windom-345, 2-Thomas, Jr.-341, 3-Bacon-329, 4-Meseraull-326, 5-Grant-313, 6-Stockon-294, 7-Courtney-271, 8-Andretti-269, 9-Leary & Boespflug-240.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 23 - Terre Haute, Indiana - Terre Haute Action Track - "Tony Hulman Classic"
USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: June 17, 2017 – Hanford, California – Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Austin Liggett, 2. Danny Faria Jr., 3. Jake Swanson, 4. Cody Majors, 5. Richard Vander Weerd, 6. Max Adams, 7. Klint Simpson, 8. Michael Faccinto, 9. Jace Vander Weerd, 10. Tristan Guardino, 11. Landon Cling, 12. Shannon McQueen, 13. Kyle Smith, 14. Steve Hix, 15. Steven Garris, 16. Cory Elliott, 17. Ryan Timmons, 18. Brandon Wiley. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-11 Liggett, Laps 12-14 Faria, Laps 15-30 Liggett
NEXT USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR RACE: July 8 – Ventura (CA) Raceway – “ARP Battle of the Beach Race #2”
WINDOM CAPITALIZES ON 2ND CHANCE, POCKETS DRAMATIC PORT ROYAL VICTORY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Port Royal, PA.........All Chris Windom needed was another shot, just one more opportunity that he could capitalize on.
After an unsuccessful slider on race leader Robert Ballou during a restart just before halfway, divine intervention arrived in the form of a yellow flag after a lap 27 incident that bunch up the field.
On the ensuing restart with four to go, Windom slid Robert Ballou on the entry to turn one once again. This time, the move stuck as Windom carried on to victory in Saturday night's penultimate round of Eastern Storm presented by DMI at Port Royal Speedway.
Windom's 17th career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car win tied Brady Bacon, Jerry Coons, Jr., Parnelli Jones and Bud Kaeding for 26th all-time, but this one very well could have played out differently without a late-race yellow.
Ballou had dominated from the drop of the green and appeared to have no equal despite being presented a hearty challenge on a lap 13 restart just prior to the midway point.
After a yellow was brought about by a disengaged wheel cover from the car of Alex Bright, Windom lined up second behind Ballou on the restart. Windom dipped a toe in the water and threw a slide job on Ballou entering turn one, but Ballou easily absorbed the swing and powered back to the lead on the cushion as Windom slid to the top.
Windom's move nearly proved costly as Wednesday night Lincoln winner Thomas Meseraull took advantage of the situation by sliding Windom into turn three for second as Windom sought to reobtain his rhythm and speed. Windom would get all that back with a slide job a half-lap later in turn one on Meseraull to regain second with 16 laps remaining.
Though the initial trial balloon didn't pay off, it did provide Windom some info that he would stow away in his back pocket just in case another opportunity presented itself in the dwindling laps.
"I tried to see if I could make that slide job work on the restart," Windom recalled. "It kind of did, it kind of didn't. I lost all my momentum and it was a way for me to get down and see if the track was better on the bottom or the middle. But once Meseraull got around me, I knew I'd better get my (rear end) back on the top and keep digging. Robert was probably a little better than us up front in clean air. On a big track like this, it's definitely a lot easier being in the lead than chasing somebody."
Out front, Ballou was in his own element. The 2015 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion has earned 12 of his 27 career series victories on tracks a half-mile length, including one at the Port Royal "Eastern Storm" stop in 2015. On Saturday night, the Rocklin, California native appeared to have the checkered flag and the $6000 reward signed, sealed and delivered.
If this were a 25-lap race, the story would've ended there with a dominant Ballou victory, but the vast majority of USAC races are 30 laps and, as Saturday night proved, what you thought you knew can all be tossed into the wind with how quickly things can change in a sprint race.
With Ballou holding a safe-and-sound, commanding lead on lap 27 of 30, the car of Chad Boespflug began to slow. Isaac Chapple had nowhere to go and nosed into the inner guardrail on the back straightaway to bring out the caution. Chapple was uninjured while Boespflug returned for the restart.
That allowed Windom to be glued to the tail tank of the No. 12 on the restart with four to go.
"I knew that if I could get a good enough restart, that would be my chance," Windom said. "I didn't get as good of a restart on the first slider (on lap 13). The way it felt, I knew I'd be able to make it stick as long as I was close enough to him entering turn one. I knew Robert was really good in clean air out front around the top and I had a notion he'd probably go back to the top on the restart. We got a great run off turn four coming to the green and I knew I could make that slider stick then, but I knew once I did it, I had to stay in front of him. We didn't want to go into a slider fest with him."
With Windom now out front and in the clear, USAC National Sprint Car point leader Justin Grant battled Ballou for the second position. The two went at it tooth-and-nail in each corner for multiple laps with Grant ultimately taking the position from Ballou on the final laps as race leader Windom's claws were now firmly entrenched into the possession of the checkered flag.
The race for second would come to a head on the final lap between Grant and Ballou. The two battled close-quarters mere feet apart entering turn three. Both would not exit the corner unscathed, however, as Ballou found himself upside down after backing hard into the outside guardrail before rolling over a pair of times. Sixth-running Aaron Farney was also collected in the incident . Ballou quickly hopped out of the top of the car without injury.
Meanwhile, the incident was not what leader Chris Windom wanted to see.
"My heart dropped when I saw the red flag coming to the checkered," Windom admitted. "When you're going down the straightaway, it's the last thing you ever want to see in a racecar. The straightaways are so long and the turns are so wide here that if you get a decent run on a guy, you can slide him, so I knew the last lap with it being a green and white together, if I would've slid myself both corners, I should be all right. And that's what I did."
On the one-lap shootout for the win, Windom changed course and headed for the bottom using a defensive tactic instead of his regular line up top, a coin he had been on the other side of just a few laps prior.
"When the air pressure is down on the restarts, you can stick the bottom and middle a little better for a lap or two," Windom explained. "I was definitely protecting. If I would've went back to the top, Justin probably would've done exactly to me what I did to Ballou. I wasn't going to let that happen."
Grant was never able to make a run at Windom on the final lap, following Windom to the checkered as Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney and Dave Darland rounded out the top-five.
In the meantime, Windom surpassed Kevin Thomas, Jr. as the Eastern Storm point leader and now holds a 14-point advantage heading into Sunday's finale at Susquehanna Speedway in York Haven, PA, a venue in which Windom is the reigning king.
"I think we'll be good again at Susky," a confident Windom claimed. "It seems like it's been of our best tracks out here. KT's been strong all week and a lot of other guys are coming on strong. We definitely just have to stick to the game plan and finish the final night strong."
Ione, California's Justin Grant took second and maintained his USAC National Sprint Car point lead of 39 over Windom in the latest tally.
Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma remains one of seven drivers still mathematically eligible to claim the Eastern Storm crown, sitting just 28 points out of the lead in third after a third-place run.
AMSOIL USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR RACE RESULTS: June 17, 2017 - Port Royal, Pennsylvania - Port Royal Speedway - "Eastern Storm" Presented by DMI
QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-19.019; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 27, Heffner-19.078; 3. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-19.222; 4. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-19.355; 5. Jerry Coons, Jr., 39, Hogue-19.358; 6. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-19.396; 7. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-19.416; 8. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-19.429; 9. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-19.430; 10. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-19.487; 11. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-19.538; 12. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-19.553; 13. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 44, Pace-19.566; 14. Kyle Moody, 99, Moody-19.702; 15. Alex Bright, 13K, Kaylor-19.727; 16. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-19.750; 17. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-19.789; 18. Shane Golobic, 3, Franckowiak-19.901; 19. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-19.922; 20. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-19.976; 21. Tony DiMattia, 50, DiMattia-19.997; 22. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-20.008; 23. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-20.073; 24. Dustin Smith, 77, Gagliardi-20.152; 25. Chad Wilson, 14x, Wilson-20.171; 26. Joey Biasi, B1, Biasi-20.224; 27. Gary Rooke, 42AU, Rooke-20.384; 28. Stevie Sussex, 17GP, Dutcher-NT.
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Thomas, 3. Bacon, 4. Courtney, 5. Stockon, 6. Grant, 7. Chapple, 8. Wilson. 2:35.55 (NTR)
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Meseraull, 2. Leary, 3. Andretti, 4. Coons, 5. Robbins, 6. Moody, 7. Kobylarz, 8. Perigo, 9. Biasi. 2:39.04
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Windom, 3. Boespflug, 4. Bright, 5. Farney, 6. Darland, 7. DiMattia, 8. D.Smith, 9. Rooke. 2:38.56
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Darland, 2. Grant, 3. Chapple, 4. Perigo, 5. DiMattia, 6. Moody, 7. Kobylarz, 8. Biasi, 9. Westfall, 10. D.Smith, 11. Rooke, 12. Wilson, 13. Sussex. 4:06.66 (NTR)
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Tyler Courtney, 5. Dave Darland, 6. Thomas Meseraull, 7. Chase Stockon, 8. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9. Shane Golobic, 10. Jerry Coons Jr., 11. Jarett Andretti, 12. Kyle Moody, 13. Alex Bright, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. C.J. Leary, 16. Aaron Farney, 17. Chad Boespflug, 18. Robert Ballou. 19. Tony DiMattia, 20. Kyle Robbins, 21. Carmen Perigo, 22. Trevor Kobylarz. NT
**Ballou flipped on lap 30 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-26 Ballou, Laps 27-30 Windom.
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Grant-985, 2-Windom-936, 3-Stockon-841, 4-Boespflug-823, 5-Courtney-728, 6-Thomas-716, 7-Leary-644, 8-Bacon-641, 9-Darland-579, 10-Andretti-559.
NEW EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Windom-288, 2-Thomas-274, 3-Bacon-260, 4-Meseraull-250, 5-Stockon-241, 6-Grant-240, 7-Andretti-221, 8-Coons-199, 9-Leary-198, 10-Courtney-193.
NEXT AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT RACE: June 18 - York Haven, PA - Susquehanna Speedway - "Eastern Storm" Presented by DMI
SWANSON SOARS TO 2ND ON SILVER CROWN WIN LIST; WINS HORN-SCHINDLER AT THE GROVE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.........Kody Swanson has been the master of the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series presented by TRAXXAS throughout the last three-and-a-half seasons.
No driver owns more victories (14) or championships (2) than the Kingsburg, California driver in that span.
However, the master still attests that he remains a student of the sport. That has seeded him with the motivation to continually adjust and seek to find deficiencies in all areas of his racing craft that he feels he has to improve to make him a better driver.
In Friday night's "Horn-Schindler Memorial" at Williams Grove Speedway, the humble, soft-spoken Swanson transformed into a stone-cold assassin when it comes to Silver Crown racing by running down the dominant Damion Gardner with 17 laps remaining to record his 17th career series victory, moving him up to second on the all-time list alongside Brian Tyler with now just one past legend of the series standing in front of him, the one who made the white No. 63 wrenched by Bob Hampshire the car to beat in its era, just like it is today.
"I don't know if there's ever been a more storied racer than Jack Hewitt," Swanson said. "Also, I was a teammate to Brian Tyler for a little while at the beginning of my Silver Crown career. I feel pretty well connected to those two guys. It's a pretty special territory to be in. I don't know if I feel like we belong, but I'm thankful to be a part of it. Brian and Jack had so many huge Silver Crown wins. I guess we're racking up our own little list here."
In Friday's race, however, Damion Gardner held a commanding lead from his pole starting position. The five-time USAC/CRA AMSOIL Sprint Car champ was making just his fourth-career Silver Crown start in only his second visit to the Grove of any kind after a Non-Wing World Championship triumph in 2002.
For much of the 100-lapper, Concord, California's Gardner led by at least a half-straightaway and sometimes as much as a full-straightway. Yet, to many long-time observers, with Swanson still lurking in the field, the outcome had yet to be decided.
On lap 62, seventh-starting Swanson worked his way past Justin Grant for the second position. Though, just behind Gardner in the pecking order, Swanson remained a country-mile behind the leader until a yellow shortly thereafter bunched up the field for a restart with 31 laps to go.
As opposed to one year ago, Gardner was the chasee instead of the chaser such as it was in the 2016 "Horn-Schindler" when Bryan Clauson, in the 6, nearly ran down Chris Windom in the final laps for the win.
Gardner was initially able to gap Swanson on the lap 69 restart, but Swanson surely, and steadily, knocked off tenths of a second per lap as the two frontrunners occupied the middle groove on both ends of the racetrack.
Yet, with 17 to go, Swanson hit the topside of turns one and two, cut off the second corner and ducked underneath Gardner for the race lead, but wasn't quite able to out-drag race Gardner into turn three before he wisely tucked back into line. If at first you don't succeed, try again is the creed that Swanson would adhere to a lap later, following Gardner and repeating the same exact maneuver on the same piece of real estate. This time, Swanson had enough pull to push himself into the lead.
"I knew Damion was running a similar line as me," Swanson explains. "I knew from tracking Justin (Grant) down that, once they move to the same spot, it's so hard to get a run and get beside him without jeopardizing our race and wrecking us both. When tracking him down, I knew there was less than 20 to go and it was time to get creative. I tried the same line I used to get to the lead three times. Once, earlier, I botched it so badly, but I didn't lose much ground. I thought 'hey, if I actually do that right, that could be it.' The second time, I got close, but I really chocked it up hard because I didn't have enough room to do it without getting into him. But I didn't want to show him anything either, so I followed him in line and tried to do it right and had a really good head of steam on the next one."
From there on, Swanson would remain in control for the balance of the race, even surviving a restart with nine to go, to win his second Silver Crown event in a row and become the first driver since himself in early 2015 to win back-to-back series races on the dirt and the pavement over Gardner, Jerry Coons Jr., Chris Windom and Brady Bacon.
At first glance, it might appear to be another in a long line of patented late-race success stories for Swanson in which he bides his team before he inflicts his competitors with a venomous strike in the final quarter of the race on his way to victory. Instead, Swanson feels this was one of those classic 'get-up-on-the-wheel' type of deals for all 100 laps.
"On the miles, we know we've been strong late," Swanson pinpoints. "Tonight, I didn't qualify well. I told the guys I felt like I blew the second lap and that put us deep. I felt like I drove all 100 laps as hard as I could. There were certain times where I had to take care of it, but it wasn't a traditional 'take-care-of-your-equipment' type night for me. I was hustling really hard to try to get by guys. I had to get by Jerry (Coons, Jr.) and he doesn't make mistakes. And Justin doesn't either. You just have to find a way around. Maybe I got by him because I know he had some brake problems and I thought we could pressure him into it a little bit. I know we were forcing everyone to pick It up a little bit. Damion was so good, it was going to take everything I had to run him down."
"I'd like to say I was saving and it worked according to plan, but I was scrambling," Swanson admits. "I typically don't blister tires or wear out brakes, but I did both tonight. These guys I'm racing against, they're so good at the half-miles and also in a dirt sprint car, I feel like you have to go hard for 100 laps when you come to a place like this. It's something I've struggled to do. Maybe I was just doing my best impersonation of a real dirt guy tonight."
Of Swanson's 17 career victories, eight have come on one-mile dirt ovals. Though he hasn't been uncompetitive by any means on the half-mile dirt tracks, he hadn't recorded a victory on one since the Belleville (Kans.) High Banks in 2014, Swanson admits the halves have been a bit of a struggle for him at times.
"They're just different," Swanson feels. "I feel like I'm as in as good of shape as anybody in these longer races. But you kind of race them different. The miles have certain factors that aren't as critical on the half-miles, like tire management. There's a lot of things on the half-miles that other drivers have been better than me at. I've tried to identify those and I've been working on them to do what I can to up my game like those other guys have on the half-miles to do a good job for my team. They just race differently. The miles have such a uniqueness to them and, on the half-miles, many people say these cars look like bigger sprint cars and they kind of act like it. Guys that have been so dominant in USAC Sprint Cars have been really good in USAC Silver Crown cars on the half-miles lately. That was an area I struggled with and have gone to work trying to get better. I know I've still got more to go, but tonight we were good enough."
In addition to his move up the ranks of all-time Silver Crown winners, Swanson has now recorded victories on many of the country's most legendary dirt tracks: the Indiana State Fairgrounds, Illinois State Fairgrounds, Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, the defunct New York State Fairgrounds, the Terre Haute Action Track and now Williams Grove Speedway. It's something that, at one point, seemed impossible not only to fans of the sport, but also to himself. Not too bad for a guy once considered a pavement specialist.
"There was a time in my career, a lot of folks said I'd never be good enough on the dirt," Swanson recalls. "I still don't feel like I am. I'm still learning and working really hard. These guys (DePalma Motorsports) give me a really good car. They work really hard, so I'm going to work hard for them and try to get better. To be second all-time is incredible. For me being a guy who's not supposed to be winning at Williams Grove, it's pretty cool to be able to figure it out and beat some of the best dirt guys in the nation and to get it done at such a historic track."
Like last year, a similar, yet opposite fate on its Williams Grove run. Last year, the car was the "chaser" with driver Bryan Clauson at the wheel as the No. 6 came on strong toward the end to nearly pull off the victory. On Friday, the same car, driven by Damion Gardner, was the "chasee," leading the first 83 laps before being overtaken by Swanson. Nonetheless, it was a solid second-place run for the team in just Gardner's fourth-career Silver Crown start.
"I ran as hard as I could early," Gardner said. "I just wanted to get to the lappers and put them all down, then ride the middle. I knew Swanson would be coming at the end, the track would get slower and there'd be yellows. I had two choices: if I slowed down, I wouldn't be as good and he would catch me. Then, if I ran hard, it was going to hurt my tires. We went fast. Yeah, I hurt my tire, but there were other scenarios that played in there. On that track there, you should be able do 100 laps wide open. They told me to lay off for a while and I did, but maybe not enough."
Fifteen years after his first and only visit to Williams Grove, Gardner is still in awe of the place and holds a true appreciation of one of the capstone dirt tracks on the American racing scene.
"Bad dudes come from PA and the Grove and fast joints like this," Gardner praised. "This place is historical. It's legendary. Every time you come here, you want to win. You pay attention to places like this. The fans love us when we come out here; they show us a lot of respect and appreciation. I like to put on a show and these fans really appreciate it."
Tucson, Arizona's Jerry Coons, Jr. took a steady, solid third-place finish, but it didn't come without its trials and tribulations.
"I started to feel the steering wheel getting slippery with about 40 to go," Coons remembers. "It was pretty early on. It was mainly on my left hand. I kept wiping my hand on my suit down the straightaway. With about 15 to go, the car started to get stiff. Then, we had a yellow come out. Without being on the throttle, it was getting pretty hard to steer, so I knew it was getting pretty low on fluid. With about 10 to go, it was getting to where it didn't like to turn left very well."
"Here, you kind of roll into the corner and get the car sideways to where it's turning to the right," Coons continued. "I could get it into a set and hold it there. I got myself into a rhythm. A couple times down in turns three and four, if I bobbled at all, lost the front end and had to turn it to the left, it took me a lot to get it back down. Overall, the car was good. We had an ignition box not running right in the first hot lap session. Then, we went through the fuel system and changed the ignition box. After those problems, a third-place is looking pretty good!"
FEATURE: (100 laps) 1. Kody Swanson, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Jerry Coons Jr., 4. Chris Windom, 5. Brady Bacon, 6. Joe Liguori, 7. Patrick Bruns, 8. Austin Nemire, 9. Justin Grant, 10. Shane Cockrum, 11. Mark Smith, 12. C.J. Leary, 13. Steve Buckwalter, 14. Dave Daralnd, 15. Dakota Jackson, 16. David Byrne, 17. Hunter Schuerenberg, 18. Dave Berkheimer, 19. Johnny Petrozelle. NT
**Moffatt flipped over the guardrail in turn 1 during practice. Petrozelle flipped during qualifying.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-83 Gardner, Laps 84-100 Swanson.
NEW USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Swanson-280, 2-Windom-232, 3-Coons-226, 4-Byrne-188, 5-Gardner-161, 6-Bobby Santos-140, 7-Grant-137, 8-Aaron Pierce-133, 9-Liguori-123, 10-Bacon-113.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP RACE (presented by TRAXXAS): July 20 - Brownsburg, Indiana - Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis - "USAC Hall of Fame / Rich Vogler Classic"
USAC EASTERN REGIONAL MIDGETS PRESENTED BY ARDC RACE RESULTS: June 16, 2017 - Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania - Williams Grove Speedway - "USAC Triple Crown Showdown"
FEATURE: (20 laps) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Tanner Carrick, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Spencer Bayston, 5. Ryan Robinson, 6. Holly Shelton, 7. Ryan Greth, 8. P.J. Gargiulo, 9. Shawn Jackson, 10. Kenny Miller, 11. Andrew Layser, 12. Jason Rice, 13. Steve Craig, 14. Alex Bright, 15. Jay Hartman, 16. Josh Heckman, 17. John Heydenreich, 18. Adam Pierson, 19. Rohan Beasley, 20. Steve Buckwalter, 21. Thomas Meseraull. NT
**Meseraull flipped at the start of the finish.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Carrick, Laps 2-20 Bacon.
NEW USAC EASTERN REGIONAL MIDGET POINTS Presented by ARDC: 1-Greth-685, 2-A.Bright-671, 3-Jackson-559, 4-Miller-529, 5-Trevor Kobylarz-484, 6-B.Bright-462, 7-Pierson-461, 8-Tommu Kunsman Jr.-448, 9-Hartman-445, 10-Layser-433.
NEXT USAC EASTERN REGIONAL MIDGET RACE Presented by ARDC: June 30 - Jonestown, PA - Linda's Speedway
THOMAS' BELATED BIRTHDAY PRESENT DELIVERED AT WILLIAMS GROVE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Mechanicsburg, PA.........One day after his 26th birthday, the "older" and wiser Kevin Thomas, Jr. was rewarded with his biggest and highest-paying present of all in Thursday night's USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship's return to the legendary Williams Grove Speedway.
The Cullman, Alabama driver led the entire first-half of the Eastern Storm presented by DMI / "Triple Crown Showdown" 30-lapper, but on lap 16 when all seemed to be slipping away as Chris Windom took the lead, Thomas demonstrated a poise and maturity that he admits wouldn't have shown in year's past.
"I've been racing for a lot of years now," Thomas reflects. "I used to tear up a lot of stuff and make dumb decisions. Now we're able to put solid cars underneath me, make better decisions and put myself in the right position to win races and finish on the podium. That just comes with experience. I never thought I'd make smart decisions, to be honest."
The victory was the 13th USAC National Sprint Car win for Thomas, moving him into the top-40 on the all-time series win list alongside Don Branson and Steve Chassey. Though his winning ride is a mixture of resources from his own KT Motorsports, Pace Brothers Racing, Abreu Vineyards and his father, the triumph officially comes under the Pace Brothers Racing banner, which marks their first USAC win since July of 2007 at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway with driver Dave Darland. Regardless of the entrant name on the entry list, Thomas feels the tide beginning to turn for he and his crew.
"It's all kind of coming together now," Thomas feels. "I've got good people around me who support me. They give me the equipment to be up front and it's up to me and my guys to put a good racecar together, make it go fast and for me to make good decisions on the racetrack. It's a combination of a lot of good people. It's a full team effort. There's only one guy on the racetrack, but at the end of the day, there's a lot of stuff that happens behind the scenes."
The second and third-place finishers from the previous night's event at Lincoln occupied the front row for the main event: pole sitter Jarett Andretti and outside starter Kevin Thomas, Jr.
Thomas was able to break free on the high side on the opening lap as Grant followed to second and Andretti slid back to the third position.
On the fourth lap, 2015 Eastern Storm champ Robert Ballou pirouetted against the turn three guardrail to bring out the red flag. Miraculously, Ballou would restart from the tail, although he would bow out of competition just four laps with a 23rd place finish.
On the resumption, Thomas maintained his advantage, but soon Windom began to close the gap. For the next several circuits, Windom shadowed Thomas on the cushion between turns one and two, but found his own, unique line on the other end of the speedway. Windom entered the bottom of turn three with his front left wheel breezing the inner rail. He then drifted up toward the middle of the surface before diamonding off the fourth corner at exit.
On the first lap of the second-half of the contest, race leader Thomas and second-running Windom were deadlocked in a side-by-side power struggle with Windom able to clear Thomas using an outside run off of turn four to beat Thomas to the line by the skin of a tire. Windom aimed to finish the move, sliding up in front Thomas to in turn one. Thomas countered back underneath to reassume the top position.
Windom regrouped to make another charge at Thomas for the lead in the first turn on the 18th lap, but the two nearly made contact as Windom was unable to gain clearance on his slider, allowing Thomas to instantly extend his race lead to one-plus second.
"It's so wide down there in one and two," Thomas explained. "When you see a slider, you can anticipate where to turn across. There was just enough moisture to cross under Chris and get a good run going down the backstretch. Once I saw him get by me on the bottom. I went down there where there was a little rubber and I had a lot of grip. It was tough running up there in three and four. Once you moved down, you were able to make a lot of straightaway speed."
Sprint car racing does not utilize mirrors or even spotters, making it near impossible to realize what lines the drivers behind them have sought and figured out. It's a continuous chess match up front and a thinking man's game that keeps the leader on his toes.
"It's kind of difficult leading at places like this when it gets real slow at the top of (turns) three and four," Thomas believes. "You don't exactly know where to go, so you have to stick with what got you there. You almost have to idle up there because it was so thin, there was nothing but fence."
Thomas went to school on Windom and took away his perfected line on the bottom of three and four as he discovered the rubber. Thomas' grip on the position would not falter down the stretch as Windom began to fade and Chase Stockon turned up the wick to run down and overtake Windom for second on the bottom of turn one on the 30th and final lap.
Meanwhile, up front, Thomas crossed the finish line 2.3 seconds ahead of the Stockon/Windom duel to finish off his first USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory of the 2017 season. National Sprint point leader Justin Grant was fourth while Grandview Eastern Storm winner Brady Bacon rounded out the top-five.
With results of 4th, 3rd and 1st through the three of the five Eastern Storm series wins, Thomas, finds himself in an enviable position with an eight-point lead heading into the final two races Saturday at Port Royal Speedway and Sunday at Susquehanna Speedway.
"When you come to places like this, you tighten your belts a little more and you focus a little bit more," Thomas detailed. "Having the track record at Knoxville, then winning here at Williams Grove, it's two racetracks that are the most historic in the country. It's really humbling to be fast at these places, much less win. It goes back to what they do in the shop. I haven't really been that great on the big tracks in the past. We've really focused on that and they've helped me out a ton. We've got good engines, good shocks and good crewmembers. Everybody that works on this thing gives me confidence and helps me make good decisions on the track while they make good decisions in the pits. Hats off to them; they make it easy for me."
Chase Stockon's up-and-down season trended skyward once again Thursday night at Williams Grove as he broke Dave Darland's 21-year-old USAC and Damion Gardner's 15-year-old SCRA track records during ProSource Qualifying, then followed it up by running a season-best second-place.
"They were slowing up on the top," Stockon reflected. "I kept working the bottom, working the bottom the entire race. it almost seemed like the top was too far around. We just kept working it and was hoping the top would slow down and it gradually did. The bottom started to take rubber there and it kind of worked out to our advantage at the end. They were slowing up on the top. I may have shown him a nose too early. He did what every other driver would've done and tried to protect. But, he Just drove it in too hard because he'd been running the top the whole race. Luckily, we were able to get by him and bring home a second. We always want the 'w,' but with the runs we've been having here lately, we'll definitely take that."
Chris Windom of Canton, Illinois had a solid night, leading a single lap, before dropping to third at the finish.
"We were really good the first half of the race," Windom beams. "I think I burnt off my tire too much. It took rubber and really burned my tires off. We're just a little too good too early and KT and Chase were better late. I wish I could've cleared KT when I got to him and took his line away. He made a good move and got back down to the bottom and pulled away from us there at the end. We'll take these consistent podiums but I know (crew chief) Derek (Claxton) and I really want to win by the end of the week."
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Brady Bacon, 6. Shane Golobic, 7. Thomas Meseraull, 8. Jarett Andretti, 9. Jerry Coons Jr., 10. Carmen Perigo, 11. Aaron Farney, 12. Kyle Moody, 13. Danny Dietrich, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. Chad Boespflug, 16. Joey Biasi, 17. Tyler Courtney, 18. Mark Smith 19. Dave Darland, 20. C.J. Leary, 21. Stevie Sussex, 22. Trevor Kobylarz, 23. Robert Ballou, 24. Kyle Robbins. NT
**Courtney flipped during the semi. Ballou flipped on lap 4 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-15 Thomas, Lap 16 Windom, Laps 17-30 Thomas.
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Grant-909, 2-Windom-858, 3-Boespflug-788, 4-Stockon-782, 5-Courtney-662, 6-Thomas-660, 7-Leary-604, 8-Bacon-571, 9-Darland-513, 10-Andretti-512.
NEW EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Thomas-218, 2-Windom-210, 3-Bacon-190, 4-Meseraull & Stockon-182, 6-Andretti-174, 7-Grant-164, 8-Leary-158, 9-Coons-150, 10-Boespflug-141.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 17 - Port Royal, PA - Port Royal Speedway - "Eastern Storm" Presented by DMI
MESERAULL ROUTS LINCOLN FOR NIGHT TWO EASTERN STORM VICTORY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Abbottstown, PA.........Each night, every driver's plan is to reach victory lane. Tuesday night at Grandview Speedway's Eastern Storm opener, Thomas Meseraull did just that. But not exactly in the way that he had planned.
On the final lap of that race, Meseraull found himself speeding through victory lane as he tangled with another car on the front straightaway and careened through the area reserved for the race winner on his way to a 13th place finish. A few signs were trampled by the No. 27 as a swath of onlookers scattered from the scene of his oncoming car.
One night, later, Meseraull came to a stop in victory lane. This time as the race winner after dominating the final 25 laps of Wednesday night's 30-lap USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature in the second round of Eastern Storm presented by DMI at Lincoln Speedway.
In a car that was as a completely new piece put together this past offseason, many of the bugs had to be worked out before the team found its stride at Lincoln. In the Eastern Storm opener, throughout the night, the team had to thrash after losing their brakes and had to swap out the rear end, the brakes and various other bits and pieces in the back end of the car.
Then, on the final lap incident, the front of the car took the brunt of the damage with both front wheels, the front axle, front left shock and right side nerf barf all being bent up as he passed the checkered flag, requiring the team to utilize much of their supply of spares after only a single night.
A seat in the No. 27 was a situation that came out of necessity for the San Jose, California native this past offseason. With the potent ride available solely for the intention of running Eastern Storm, Meseraull would have to wait half a year to take his first ride in the.
In the meantime, "T-Mez" has piloted rides for team owners Rick Pollock, Stan Courtad and even his own car in USAC competition since February. As it turns out, the situation would be more than worth the wait. Something that Meseraull had an inkling about.
"At the beginning of the year, (crew chief Sean Michael) and I talked at the Chili Bowl and he said Gene Franckowiak was thinking of putting a car together for Eastern Storm," Meseraull recalls. "He said if you're down to drive this thing, I'll put a car together for Gene. He said he'd give me a motor and a frame, wheels, tires, everything. He calls me up and says 'are we going to do this? You got to commit to this thing. I don't want to build this thing and not have you come drive it.' It was seriously the best ride I had going this year and I just had to wait for it."
Meseraull started from the fifth position as pole sitter Jarett Andretti sprinted away to the lead at the start of the main event, surveying the bottom rail as his pursuers, Tyler Courtney, Chad Boespflug, Meseraull and Kevin Thomas, Jr. trailed in a two-by-two formation behind him.
On the fifth lap, Andretti got bogged down at the exit of turn four. Boespflug spurted forward as Andretti clung to the lead, staying put by a single car length at the line. Third-running Meseraull followed Boespflug on the cushion through turns one and two. Boespflug drifted just a tad high at the exit of two, allowing Meseraull to flash by for second. Meseraull slid up to the cushion in front of Boespflug entering turn three before rocketing off the fourth corner, going wheels up to the line as he surged into the lead past Andretti
"The bottom was really good for a couple laps, then I moved up and, boom, it was game on," Meseraull detailed.
The track was a little greasy at the top, so I really had to be mindful of that. You don't want to jump on the outside and stick it in the fence early in the race. I was just trying to be smart. I knew right from the start, this thing was on fire."
On the ninth lap, the top-two in USAC National Sprint points - Justin Grant and Chris Windom - found themselves in a rugby scrum for the fifth position. Contact was made between the two in the third and fourth turn, sending Grant around, thus ending an 11-race streak of top-five finishes to begin the season for the Ione, California driver. Grant's 20th place finish also marked the first time he's finished outside the top-eight of a USAC race since joining the Sam McGhee Motorsports team last August.
After the restart, the final 22 laps went caution-free as Meseraull built an insurmountable full-straightaway lead that went unchallenged the remainder of the way, building a more than four-and-a-half second lead by race's end to defeat Andretti, Thomas, Boespflug and Windom to the line for his first win of the season.
Mooresville, North Carolina's Jarett Andretti grabbed a career-best runner-up finish.
"Up near the fence where it's slick to the curb isn't necessarily our strong suit, but it was tonight," Andretti said. "This is actually the first feature I've run at Lincoln. I've been here three times, rained out twice and flipped in qualifying once, so it's nice to finally get a feature under our belt."
What was essentially meaningful to Andretti was that his father, John, was able to make the trip with his son for Eastern Storm in the midst of his own well-documented health battle, which brought about a level of comfort and normalcy.
"He hadn't come racing with us for a couple months, so it was like old times," Jarett said. "I really enjoy racing with my dad. We've been racing together since I started my career, so it's what I'm used to. It calms me down a little bit. It's cool to have him come east, though. He actually called me last Thursday saying he was bored. I said, 'why don't you come racing with us?' He flew in last Friday; we picked him up at the airport and went to Bloomington and Lawrenceburg. Then, he's going to fly out and have his surgery next Monday. Hopefully we can have a couple more good runs and make him feel good for his surgery."
The 2017 season has certainly been a standout year for the 24-year-old driver. One year ago, Eastern Storm seemed to be his breakout as he led six laps en route to an, at the time, career-best fifth-place finish. This year, he took another step up the ladder, one rung closer to reaching that first USAC victory.
"Every time I strap in, we're qualifying just a bit better and we're putting ourselves in a better position to win," Andretti said. "You have to qualify in the top-10 to put yourself in those positions and the results are starting to show. It's been a gradual improvement. Some people think it's an overnight thing, but I've been coming here for three years trying to get better. We've made motor changes and chassis changes and other things that have helped that as well. We've built this team from scratch, so we're not only working on the team, but on me as a driver. When those both come together exponentially, it moves you further up the grid."
Cullman, Alabama's Kevin Thomas, Jr. equaled a season-best third-place finish following a fourth-place run the night before at Grandview, Thomas finds himself at the top of the Eastern Storm standings with three races remaining.
"At the beginning, I lost quite a bit of track position," Thomas admits. "I started fourth and fell back to about seventh. I was hesitant to go up to the top at first. Somebody else did it before me, so we fell back a few positions, but once we got up there, we were able to make some headway, do some sliders and get up to third. Jarett ran a good race, though. I threw everything I had at him."
KTJ turned a year older on Wednesday, but the 12-time USAC National Sprint Car feature winner is pleased with the direction his season is headed.
"I feel like I'm getting old," Thomas joked. "Two days ago, I bought my first pair of Walmart shoes and, today, I turned 26. It's all going downhill for me, but our racing is going good, so I can't complain."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 14, 2017 - Abbottstown, Pennsylvania - Lincoln Speedway - "Eastern Storm" presented by DMI
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-15.874; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 27, Heffner-15.944; 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 44, Pace-16.064; 4. Jerry Coons, Jr., 39, Hogue-16.086; 5. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-16.134; 6. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-16.171; 7. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-16.190; 8. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-16.238; 9. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-16.291; 10. Shane Golobic, 3, Franckowiak-16.324; 11. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-16.416; 12. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-16.479; 13. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-16.510; 14. Dustin Smith, 77, Gagliardi-16.510; 15. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-16.532; 16. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-16.561; 17. Kyle Moody, 99, Moody-16.622; 18. Danny Dietrich, 13, Buch-16.625; 19. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-16.647; 20. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-16.690; 21. Chad Wilson, 14x, Wilson-16.923; 22. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-16.948; 23. Alex Bright, 13K, Kaylor-17.103; 24. Michael Hamer, 47, Hamer-17.737; 25. Gary Rooke, 42AU, Rooke-17.761; 26. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-NT; 27. Stevie Sussex, 17GP, Dutcher-NT; 28. Austin Burke, 54B, Burke-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Bacon, 3. Darland, 4. Grant, 5. Andretti, 6. Ballou, 7. Perigo, 8. Rooke. 2:14.15
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Meseraull, 3. Stockon, 4. Moody, 5. Courtney, 6. Chapple, 7. Bright, 8. Smith. 2:12.34
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Farney, 2. Dietrich, 3. Leary, 4. Thomas, 5. Boespflug, 6. Robbins, 7. Wilson, 8. Hamer. 2:17.81
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Chapple, 3. Coons, 4. Robbins, 5. Bright, 6. Perigo, 7. Smith, 8. Rooke, 9. Hamer, 10. Wilson, 11. Burke, 12. Sussex. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Jarett Andretti, 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 4. Chad Boespflug, 5. Chris Windom, 6. Tyler Courtney, 7. Shane Golobic, 8. C.J. Leary, 9. Kyle Robbins, 10. Jerry Coons, Jr., 11. Alex Bright, 12. Chase Stockon, 13. Robert Ballou, 14. Brady Bacon, 15. Kyle Moody, 16. Aaron Farney, 17. Isaac Chapple, 18. Carmen Perigo, 19. Dave Darland, 20. Justin Grant, 21. Dustin Smith, 22. Danny Dietrich. NT
**Sussex flipped during qualifying. Wilson flipped during the semi.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 Andretti, Laps 6-30 Meseraull.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-843, 2-Windom-786, 3-Boespflug-748, 4-Stockon-707, 5-Courtney-631, 6-Thomas-585, 7-Leary-574, 8-Bacon-500, 9-Darland-487, 10-Andretti-458.
NEW EASTERN STORM (PRESENTED BY DMI) POINTS: 1-Thomas-143, 2-Windom-138, 3-Leary-128, 4-Meseraull-122, 5-Andretti-120, 6-Bacon-119, 7-Courtney-115, 8-Stockon-107, 9-Boespflug-101, 10-Ballou-99.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: June 15 - Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania - Williams Grove Speedway - "Eastern Storm" presented by DMI
BACON BRINGS THE 63 BACK TO EASTERN STORM WIN COLUMN IN OPENER AT GRANDVIEW
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Bechtelsville, PA.........The sight of the black Dooling/Hayward Motorsports No. 63 winning an Eastern Storm feature has become oh, so familiar over the last couple of seasons.
Bryan Clauson raced to three wins in the five Pennsylvania starts with the car in 2016, including one at Grandview Speedway. When the calendar turned its page to 2017, there was no better tandem to build upon the groundwork that had been laid than the pairing of the defending Eastern Storm championship team and the reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car driver titlist, Brady Bacon.
On Tuesday night, Bacon prevailed in a spirited late-race battle with C.J. Leary in which he took over the point in lapped traffic with three laps remaining to score his first USAC National Sprint Car victory in nearly a year and the first for the Dooling/Hayward team since Clauson's 41st and final victory at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway last July.
"This one is really special," Bacon said. "Bryan and I both liked to come out here. The fans were always great. He was really good out here. Hopefully, we're making him proud that we're out here and got it back in victory lane. I wish he was still here and maybe I wasn't in this car, but that's just the way it is."
The race honoring the memory of 2009 Grandview USAC Sprint Car feature winner "The Rocket" Jesse Hockett was the launching pad for the 11th annual edition of Eastern Storm.
The 40-lap distance for the event was the first of four of the super-sized length this season as the packed Grandview grandstands witnessed the second largest ever car count (34) for an Eastern Storm event and the most since the Grandview opener in 2008.
On the start, pole sitter Leary was the first to reach the opening corner where he would immediately establish a five-car-length lead over series point leader Justin Grant in the early-going.
Following a lap 10 yellow for a Kyle Robbins turn four spin, Leary picked up right where he left off, quickly building his lead to a half-straightaway by the midway point when Chandler Leiby smacked the turn one concrete and flipped nose-to-tail several times against the outside wall. The Carlisle, PA driver was shaken up, but managed to exit the car under his own power.
During the lengthy, open red flag, fifth-running Bacon and crew decided not to make any radical changes to their piece. Instead, the focus was placed on taking off on the restart.
"I felt like we were getting better and better compared to everybody else," Bacon explains. "We didn't really change anything. We made some small adjustments and made sure everything was right. We discussed what we were going to do on the restart because they were very crucial."
Bacon set forth on the restart, moving to third on lap 21 and to second a lap later on the 22nd circuit when he zeroed in on Leary for the race lead. Bacon had the bottom working like clockwork as he rode the low line to the lead on lap 25 past Leary.
"We had to wait around at the beginning and let the track come to us," Bacon relays. "We were pretty tight. When the top started slowing down, I got rolling on the bottom. That's how we got past everybody. You get to take your time a little bit more and pick your moves more carefully."
Leary refused to stray too far behind Bacon throughout the second half as he stayed loyal to the cushion. Yet, Bacon began to migrate to the top in turns one and two for a brief period with ten to go.
"I saw him a couple times out of the corner of my eye getting into three," Bacon recalls. "I felt like I was slower in one and two, so I moved up and felt we were pretty good up there. I was just kind of trying to block the other lane."
Leary's lane wasn't completely shut down as he showed no quit and his ring around the top began to pay dividends when he visibly inched closer with less than a handful of laps remaining. On lap 35, Leary pushed the cushion with his right rear less than a foot from the outside wall off the exit. A lap later, Bacon clipped an infield tire between turns three and four that slowed his momentum as the high line propelled Leary right to Bacon as the pair posed for a high-speed photo-finish shot at the stripe. Leary cleared him at the end of the straightaway with his second career series victory just within reach.
"I really thought we were going to be able to cruise on the bottom," Bacon relayed. "He must've turned it up on the top and got rolling pretty good. He got back by us and I had to start searching around."
With three laps to go, Leary and Bacon encountered the lapped car of Tony DiMattia. Bacon tucked a nose to the inside of DiMattia off the fourth corner as Leary remained up top. As the three were staggered in three distinct lines on the front straight, Leary's momentum was stifled when DiMattia switched to the cushion entering the first turn, forcing Leary to get on the binders.
From there, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Bacon was able to stretch out his advantage, leading the final three laps to score his first Eastern Storm victory since 2014 in his Dooling-Hayward/B & H Contractors - Dooling Machine/Spike/Stanton Mopar ahead of Leary, Chris Windom, Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Justin Grant.
Though a season-best second-place run for C.J. Leary is nothing to shake a stick at, disappointment was an understatement for the Greenfield, Indiana driver who led a race-high 26 laps.
"Once Brady showed (DiMattia) a nose, he came right up into my lane," Leary believes. "Once I got around Brady, I don't think he could've passed us back in the short number of laps left."
"The first 20 laps, I felt like we had a really dominant car. It was just excellent. The car was on a rail," Leary continues. "Under the open red, we didn't change anything. We felt like we had a really good car and didn't need to make any adjustments. When it went back green, we were good, but yellow after yellow kept hurting us because our car was better on long green flag runs. Brady was really good on the bottom and once he got around me, I started ripping the top and never gave up on it."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 13, 2017 - Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania - Grandview Speedway - "Jesse Hockett Classic" - "Eastern Storm" presented by DMI
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-13.838; 2. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-13.854; 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 44, Pace-13.871; 4. Kyle Moody, 99, Moody-13.892; 5. Thomas Meseraull, 27, Heffner-13.893; 6. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-13.905; 7. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.978; 8. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-13.993; 9. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-14.056; 10. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-14.062; 11. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.088; 12. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-14.100; 13. Tony DiMattia, 50, DiMattia-14.106; 14. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-14.141; 15. Jerry Coons, Jr., 39, Hogue-14.148; 16. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-14.153; 17. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-14.182; 18. Alex Bright, 13K, Kaylor-14.196; 19. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-14.217; 20. Joey Biasi, B1, Biasi-14.228; 21. Chandler Leiby, 119, Leiby-14.238; 22. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-14.241; 23. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-14.287; 24. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-14.365; 25. Shane Golobic, 3, Franckowiak-14.531; 26. Danny Dietrich, 13, Buch-14.596; 27. Dustin Smith, 77, Gagliardi-14.653; 28. Austin Burke, 54B, Burke-15.095; 29. Chad Wilson, 14x, Wilson-15.135; 30. Kyle Lick, 8, Lick-15.219; 31. Steve Wilbur, 59, Gontz-15.248; 32. Trey Hivner, 7, Hivner-15.691; 33. Harris Kohen, 0, Kohen-NT; 34. Stevie Sussex, 17GP, Dutcher-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Chapple, 2. Leiby, 3. Boespflug, 4. DiMattia, 5. Golobic, 6. Stockon, 7. Wilson, 8. Meseraull. 1:52.46 (New Track Record)
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Courtney, 2. Bright, 3. Grant, 4. Andretti, 5. Bacon, 6. Robbins, 7. Dietrich, 8. Lick. 1:52.56
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Farney, 2. Westfall, 3. Leary, 4. Thomas, 5. Ballou, 6. Coons, 7. Smith, 8. Wilbur. 1:54.27
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Darland, 3. Biasi, 4. Kobylarz, 5. Perigo, 6. Moody, 7. Burke, 8. Hivner. 1:54.41
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Stockon, 2. Ballou, 3. Bacon, 4. Meseraull, 5. Robbins, 6. Coons, 7. Golobic, 8. Perigo, 9. Dietrich, 10. Smith, 11. Wilson, 12. Sussex, 13. Hivner, 14. Burke, 15. Wilbur, 16. Lick. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. C.J. Leary, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 5. Justin Grant, 6. Robert Ballou, 7. Chase Stockon, 8. Jerry Coons, Jr., 9. Tyler Courtney, 10. Jarett Andretti, 11. Matt Westfall, 12. Aaron Farney, 13. Thomas Meseraull, 14. Alex Bright, 15. Kyle Robbins, 16. Dave Darland, 17. Chad Boespflug, 18. Isaac Chapple, 19. Tony DiMattia, 20. Trevor Kobylarz, 21. Chandler Leiby, 22. Joey Biasi. NT
**Kohen flipped during practice. Lick flipped during the semi. Leiby flipped on lap 20 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-24 Leary, Laps 25-35 Bacon, Laps 36-37 Leary, Laps 38-40 Bacon.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-809, 2-Windom-720, 3-Boespflug-682, 4-Stockon-662, 5-Courtney-570, 6-Leary-519, 7-Thomas-512, 8-Bacon-458, 9-Darland-456, 10-Shane Cottle-392.
NEW EASTERN STORM (PRESENTED BY DMI) POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-77, 2-C.J. Leary-73, 3-Chris Windom-72, 4-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-70, 5-Justin Grant-64, 6-Chase Stockon-62, 7-Robert Ballou-58, 8-Tyler Courtney-54, 9-Jerry Coons, Jr.-50, 10-Jarett Andretti-49.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: June 14 - Abbottstown, Pennsylvania - Lincoln Speedway - "Eastern Storm" presented by DMI
USAC/ARDC MIDGETS GO BACK-TO-BACK IN WILLIAMS GROVE DOUBLEHEADER
The "USAC Triple Crown Showdown" at Williams Grove (PA) Speedway is next up for the USAC Eastern Midgets presented by ARDC. This weekend will include complete Midget programs Thursday and Friday nights on the half-mile dirt oval, in conjunction with Thursday's AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Cars and Friday's USAC Silver Crown Championship "Ted Horn-Bill Schindler Memorial."
Alex Bright will lead the series into the pair of Williams Grove races after finishing fourth and second in recent races at Pottsville and York Haven, Pa.
Bright has a 54-point lead over Ryan Greth in the USAC/ARDC standings. Greth won the most recent race, at Susquehanna Speedway May 20.
Bright and Greth will have to contend with some of the USAC National Midget division's best, including series point leader Brady Bacon, four-time USAC National Sprint winner Thomas Meseraull and five of the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports contingent of defending champ Tanner Thorson, Spencer Bayston, Holly Shelton, Ryan Robinson and Tanner Carrick.
Other 2017 USAC/ARDC feature winners have included Bright April 1 at Newmanstown, PA, Trevor Kobylarz won at Susquehanna April 29 and Brenden Bright won at Big Diamond Speedway May 19.
This weekend's races will be the first for USAC-sanctioned Midgets at the "Grove" in 28 years! John Heydenreich won the 1989 race. Other previous Williams Grove USAC Midget winners have been Rich Vogler (1988), Mel Kenyon (1986 and 87), Bruce Field (1985), Danny Caruthers (1971) and Jimmy Davies (1956).
BAYSTON THE VICTOR, GOLOBIC THE CHAMP IN INDIANA MIDGET WEEK FINALE AT KOKOMO
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Kokomo, Indiana.........Spencer Bayston exorcised the demons that had plagued his relationship with lady luck since his first Indiana Midget Week triumph one year ago to capture his second career USAC National Midget victory Sunday night at Kokomo Speedway.
Meanwhile, Shane Golobic - a steady, heady driver who always seems to play a leading role near the front of the field - made a late-race move with three laps remaining to net himself the 2017 Indiana Midget Week title.
Coming into the final night, nine drivers remained mathematically eligible to win the IMW title. The top-five, in fact, were separated by a mere 12 points. However, misfortune seemed to plague more than its fair share of the top contenders early on.
New Zealand's Michael Pickens led by one marker over Golobic entering the night, but in hot laps, Pickens' night took an unexpected turn as he climbed the turn two wall and flipped wildly. His Seamount Racing crew went to work and managed to get the car repaired in time to make a qualifying attempt and continue as scheduled.
Furthermore, both Justin Grant and Brady Bacon suffered from mechanical problems of their own, forcing them into backup machines for the remainder of the night. Nonetheless, all those who ran into issues would manage to qualify for the night's 30-lap feature event solidly.
One night following a resurgence to the front of the field after an uncharacteristic slow start to their season, a pair of Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports cars occupied both spots on the front row.
Thorson set off from the pole while Lebanon, Indiana's Bayston set up shop on the outside. Despite a consistent run of quality finishes for much of his three-year USAC Midget career, Bayston, the 2015 series Rookie of the Year, hadn't found the promised land of victory lane in over a year at Gas City during 2016 Indiana Midget Week.
One night ago at Lawrenceburg Speedway, Spencer suffered heartbreak when a late-race battle for the lead with teammate Holly Shelton resulted in a flat left rear tire and a relegation to the tail of the field. Four nights prior, Bayston was on the short-end of a last lap, last corner pass for the win by Pickens at Lincoln Park Speedway.
This time around, Bayston had plans to alter his fortunes from disappointment. Bayston immediately controlled the top side when racing began and wouldn't stray too far from his comfort zone on the cushion throughout the duration of the 30-lap event.
The curb did wreak havoc with Bayston on a couple of occasions, on lap 10, when he snagged it enough to briefly bog him down. Tyler Courtney, a two-time feature winner this week, was ready to pounce on the bottom in response and did so in a three-lap dash on laps 10, 11 and 12 that resulted in three consecutive photo finishes at the line. Grant was credited with leading laps 11 and 12 by the narrowest of margins as Bayston briefly moved to the bottom to stifle Courtney's invasion.
"I went down there one time to block and also to see just what was down there," Bayston remembers. "I thought I'd run right back to the top and carry my momentum up there. I felt better up there. That's where I'd been running all race, so that's what I stayed with."
Bayston quickly returned to the rim-riding style as Courtney settled in on the bottom and a hard-charging Bacon, in the FMR Racing backup, entered the top-three just before the halfway point.
Just after the crossed sticks were displayed, Ryan Robinson rode out a nasty flip in turn three while running in the tenth position. He would walk away uninjured.
Following the restart, Courtney would find a pulse once again as he surged on the bottom past Bayston for the point on laps 20 and 21.
Bayston never wavered from putting the right rear up near the concrete and his patience would pay off as he blew past Courtney on the back straight with nine to go to grab a lead he wouldn't relinquish as he began to navigate lapped traffic.
"In turns one and two, there's a lip in the center in the corner that I struggled to figure out once it got a bit ledgy and curby," Bayston pinpointed. "That's when 'Sunshine' showed me a nose and I was able to figure it out. Eventually, the bottom slicked off for him and I got faster."
Courtney was simultaneously caught up in two separate races in the closing laps. The race for the win, which was beginning to slip away, and the on-track contest for second and third-place which would determine the Indiana Midget Week championship. Courtney's prerogative was to finish one spot ahead of Golobic and the title was his. Yet, with just three laps to go, Golobic slipped underneath his CMR teammate in turn one for second and the position that would ultimately prove worthy.
Bayston would finish off his first USAC victory in a calendar year with relative ease in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Curb Records - TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
"It feels really good, but I was starting to panic," Bayston admits. "Coming into this week, I was really hoping to get a couple wins. Each night, we had a fast car, but it just came down to whether I'd do something or something would happen on the racetrack. We were really close at Lawrenceburg. I was really disappointed at being that close and not getting it done. To get it done tonight at my favorite track, it's a great feeling and my car was so phenomenal and so stable up front on the cushion."
Three-plus seconds behind Bayston, Golobic was able to fend off Courtney for second at the line to capture the IMW title by just six points!
Golobic was the mark of consistency throughout Indiana Midget Week with no finishes outside the top-eight, including a strong second half of IMW that included finishes of 3rd, 4th and 2nd in his Clauson-Marshall-Matt Wood Racing/Elk Grove Ford - Driven 2 Save Lives/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
It was just the fourth time in the 13-year history of Indiana Midget Week that the champion didn't win a single race. It's the second year in a row with this occurrence, duplicating Bryan Clauson's feat from 2016. Golobic was hired to run full-time for Bryan's father Tim's new team in 2017 and the dividends are quickly paying off the self-admitted "wing" driver.
"This whole week says a lot about this team," Golobic begins. "I consider myself a wing sprint car driver, for the most part. I don't get to do a whole lot of midget stuff, so when I come back here, I always feel like I'm a bit behind the eight-ball at the start racing against some of these guys who do it so often. This team provides such good cars. I felt like I was right there with them from the get-go and I just got better each night. I got more and more comfortable and my team kept giving me awesome cars. I guess I'm just the consistent guy. I don't want to say I'm a points racer, but I'm not going to make any big mistakes that would cause a major catastrophe with the points at any time during the week."
It was an Indiana Midget Week title that nearly didn't come to fruition for the Fremont, California native. An hour before hot laps on Friday at Bloomington, it was still uncertain whether he'd be racing that night due to illness. Defending USAC Silver Crown champion Chris Windom was on standby and ready to step into the No. 17w if Golobic was unable to make the call.
"My girlfriend (Sarah) and I both got sick," Golobic points out. "We came down with two different things, actually. She's struggling with pneumonia and I had a really bad stomach flu and spent the day in E.R. before Bloomington. I wasn't really sure if I was even going to run Bloomington. The team even had a backup driver ready just in case. Deb & Matt Wood and Sarah did a great job of keeping fluids in me and taking care of me then we went to Bloomington and ran one-two-three. From there, I just kept hydrating and getting as much sleep as I could."
Golobic entered Sunday's feature three-up on Courtney. He kept tabs on USAC's social media and website to stay in-tune with the updated Indiana Midget Week standings throughout the evening and knew precisely where he needed to be and who he had to beat.
"I'm a numbers guy, so coming into the feature, I knew exactly what I needed to do," Golobic explained. "My feature started off bad; I fell back to eighth or ninth. Pickens and Rico got by me and everybody we needed to beat was getting by us. I figured, 'man, we got to get going here' before finding something on the bottom. Once I got to third, I knew "Sunshine" was second in points. If I could beat him, I knew I'd be okay. Spencer was out front, but he was deep enough in points, I didn't have to worry about him. I got to third and I knew passing 'Sunshine' was going to be for the Midget Week title. I wouldn't say I would've wore him out to win it, but I was definitely going to race him hard. The way it worked out, we were running two different lines for a bit and I was able to sneak by him. He was awesome all week. If it weren't for engine troubles one night this week, he'd be doing this interview right now."
In sport and in life, when one experiences the thrill of victory by one, by nature, there is inherently someone experiencing the agony of defeat. Such is the case with Indianapolis, Indiana's Tyler Courtney who saw the Indiana Midget Week title slip through his fingers with just three laps to go in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives - Indiana Donor Network/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
"The goal every night is to go out and win," Courtney says point blank. "When it's a big deal like 'Midget Week,' you want to take it home. It's a tough deal. When you have one bad night, it throws a hiccup in the plan. You have to keep trucking and I've got one of the best teams behind me. I think it shows with us running one-two in points this week. These guys never give up. We broke a motor at Gas City. The crew stayed up all night putting a new one in, then went out and ran third. Tonight, Justin ran into some mechanical issues. They pulled the backup car down and Justin ran fourth. I can't say enough about these guys. They're freaking awesome."
"I hate that I couldn't get the midget week title, but at least one of us brought it home," Courtney said as he searched for a silver lining. "Second definitely sucks and it really hurts when it's a deal like this, but you just got to move on. Hopefully, this is just the start. Hopefully, the rest of the season will be as good, if not better, for us than what's going on right now. I'm with one of the best midget teams and I think we really put our name out there this week. People have really taken a note of us. The last couple of nights, Keith (Kunz) got his stuff going really good again. It's not going to be easy the rest of the year but we've got to keep doing what we're doing and not worry about what they're doing. We've got three really good racecars and three really good racecar drivers. As long as we keep doing what we're doing, I think we're going to be the guys to beat."
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Spencer Bayston, 2. Shane Golobic, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Brady Bacon, 6. Rico Abreu, 7. Michael Pickens, 8. Chad Boat, 9. Tanner Thorson, 10. Jerry Coons Jr., 11. Alex Bright, 12. Tanner Carrick, 13. Gage Walker. 14. Adam Pierson, 15. Dave Darland, 16. Ronnie Gardner, 17. Courtney Crone, 18. Tyler Thomas, 19. Jimi Quin, 20. Holly Shelton, 21. Davey Ray, 22. Ryan Robinson. NT
**Pickens flipped during practice. Robinson flipped on lap 16 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-10 Bayston, Laps 11-12 Courtney, Laps 13-19 Bayston, Laps 20-21 Courtney, Laps 22-30 Bayston.
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-588, 2-Bayston-559, 3-Golobic-551, 4-Grant-540, 5-Courtney-507, 6-Thorson-496, 7-Boat-428, 8-Coons-426, 9-Pickens-380, 10-Thomas-362.
FINAL USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Golobic-400, 2-Courtney-394, 3-Pickens-380, 4-Abreu-376, 5-Bayston-373, 6-Bacon-372, 7-Grant-372, 8-Thorson-321, 9-Boat-321, 10-A. Bright-267.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 1 - Macon (IL) Speedway
LAST LAP "RON OTTO MEMORIAL" VICTORY FOR BERNAL AT SANTA MARIA
Santa Maria, CA........USAC West Coast Sprint Car point leader Ryan Bernal scored a last-lap victory in Saturday night's 30-lap "Ron Otto Memorial" at Santa Maria Raceway. Jake Swanson led the first 29 laps but took second ahead of Max Adams, Jimmy Thompson and Cody Majors.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Ryan Bernal, 2. Jake Swanson, 3. Max Adams, 4. Jimmy Thompson, 5. Cody Majors, 6. Richard Vander Weerd, 7. Ryan Timmons, 8. Trent Carter, 9. Brandon Wiley, 10. Shannon McQueen, 11. Tom Hendricks, 12. Geoffrey Strole, 13. Sean Martin Jr., 14. James Herrera, 15. Jace Vander Weerd, 16. Tristan Guardino, 17. Danny Sheridan, 18. Jordan Linson, 19. Jevon Camp, 20. Ryan Stolz, 21. Steve Hix. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-29 Swanson, Lap 30 Bernal.
NEW USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Bernal-628, 2-R.Vander Weerd-583, 3-J.Vander Weerd-566, 4-Swanson-565, 5-Austin Liggett-497, 6-Guardino-452, 7-Majors-450, 8-Danny Faria Jr.-424, 9-Timmons-400, 10-Wiley-364.
NEXT USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR RACE: June 17 - Hanford, CA - Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds
DAVIS GRABS SAN TAN VALLEY 30-LAPPER
San Tan Valley, AZ........Charles Davis Jr. of Buckeye, Ariz. got by R.J. Johnson eight laps from the finish Saturday night and ended up winning the 30-lap USAC Southwest Sprint Car race at Arizona Speedway. Johnson took second ahead of Tye Mihocko, Stevie Sussex and Nick Aiuto. Davis trails Johnson by only 24 points in the new series standings.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Charles Davis Jr., 2. R.J. Johnson, 3. Tye Mihocko, 4. Stevie Sussex, 5. Nick Aiuto, 6. Chris Bonneau, 7. Bruce St. James, 8. Michael Curtis, 9. Jeff Lowery, 10. Matt Lundy, 11. Brent Yarnal, 12. Joe Schoepner, 13. Cody Sickles, 14. Rick Shuman, 15. Dennis Gile, 16. Colton Hardy. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 Mihocko, 2. Laps 17-19 Davis, Laps 20-22 Johnson, Laps 23-30 Davis.
NEW USAC SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Johnson-783, 2-Davis-759, 3-Shon Deskins-592, 4-Aiuto-515, 5-Mihocko-513, 6-Sussex-496, 7-Lundy-473, 8-Bonneau-460, 9-Mike Martin-440, 10-Curtis-436.
NEXT USAC SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR SPECIAL EVENT: August 16 - Sapulpa, OK - Creek County Speedway - "Freedom Tour"
RICO REIGNS SUPREME IN KUNZ/CURB-AGAJANIAN SWEEP AT THE BURG
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Lawrenceburg, Indiana.........When you drive for Keith Kunz, you're expected to win. No excuses.
Time and time again, the Columbus, Indiana-based team has provided the machinery that has led to 89 career feature victories and eight championships as a USAC Midget National Championship car entrant. However, throughout the series' first eight events, the venerable team had yet to find victory lane and seemed to be reeling after only one of its five drivers was able to scrape into the top-10 the night prior at Bloomington.
It had been eight years since a Keith Kunz-led team had gone winless this far into the season, but Saturday night at Lawrenceburg Speedway was the night Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports had finally arrived in 2017, and in a big way, as the trio of Rico Abreu, Tanner Thorson and Holly Shelton duplicated Clauson/Marshall Racing's feat from the night before by recording a 1-2-3 to sweep of the top-three spots.
After an unforgettable, dare-devilish race-long battle that saw slide-job after slide-job thrown at Shelton by two of her teammates - Abreu and Spencer Bayston - Abreu was finally able to prevail with three laps remaining to earn his 16th career USAC National Midget win and third straight at Lawrenceburg in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Walker Filtration - TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
"This week has had a lot of ups and downs, but this is when it all pays off," said a thrilled Abreu. "We were getting dicey up front and I didn't know how I was going to get past them since it was so easy to do a crossover. Once I got my momentum going, I made sure I kept my tires spinning every time I hit the cushion just to help not bog down the engine. These motors are the best in the business. It's a lot of fun to drive these cars when they're on point and tonight, we capitalized on that. We didn't qualify great, though, because I changed up my line in qualifying and that hurt us. I enjoy every moment racing with Keith Kunz and Pete Willoughby. They've been doing it for a long time. It makes it a lot of fun when we get up here and win."
All five of the Kunz/Curb-Agajanian cars occupied the first five rows of Saturday's feature starting lineup, including both spots on the front row with Ryan Robinson on the pole and Holly Shelton outside.
The transcendent story of the night from lap one was Shelton, who rode the cushion through turns one and two, then split between the cars of Justin Grant and Ryan Robinson off turn two to take the lead on the opening lap.
Action stalled at the conclusion of lap one as Indiana Midget Week point leader Michael Pickens got sideways at the top of turn one while battling Rico Abreu for the ninth position. As Pickens sat idle in the middle of the track, Alex Bright, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Adam Pierson plowed into the fracas, ending the night for all four drivers and throwing a monkey wrench into Pickens' quest for a first Indiana Midget Week title.
On lap nine, Bayston began his trail to the front as he slid Justin Grant for second entering the first turn. Grant hit the cush, sending him sideways into a half-spin through the second turn before regaining control. However, Bayston had secured the spot and began making strides toward the direction of race leader Shelton.
With Pickens out of the night's picture, USAC National Midget point leader Brady Bacon was poised to put his stamp on overtaking the Kiwi for the IMW lead. However, misfortune would befall Bacon on the 11th lap when he slowed to a halt to bring out a yellow. He would finish 16th.
Bayston took a run at the lead on the ensuing restart with a turn one slider across the nose of Shelton, but Shelton countered underneath, crossing over to maintain her race lead.
Meanwhile, the Kunz/Curb-Agajanian car that started furthest back in the pack, driven by Abreu, had subsequently advanced his way from tenth to fifth prior to the yellow. On the 13th lap, Abreu poked his nose to the outside on the front straight before tearing between the two Clauson/Marshall cars of Tyler Courtney and Grant at the entry of one to take third.
Shelton and Bayston remained the main players of the contest further ahead. Bayston was relentless, refusing to stay content and ride around on a rail behind Shelton. The second half of the 30-lapper began with Bayston throwing another jab at Shelton in one as he slid up to take away Shelton's line on the brim. Shelton appeared unfazed and unafraid to keep her foot on the gas as she escaped from Bayston around the outside by the width of a strand of hair off turn two to stay atop the pylon.
The duel at the front allowed Abreu to rapidly join in on the high-speed team meeting between Shelton and Bayston. Bayston tried with all his might, but time-after-time, the second verse was the same as the first on both ends of the racetrack as Bayston's repeated sliders came up empty handed and Shelton calmly steered back under to take the lead right back.
On the 22nd lap, Bayston finally found enough speed off the fourth corner to nip Shelton by mere inches at the line. Immediately, the two entered turn one side-by-side, yet both simultaneously met in the middle. Both Shelton and Bayston collided, sending each gliding backward toward the outside wall. Somehow, someway, both miraculously found a way to avoid the concrete and a major catastrophe as Rico got on the binders to avoid T-Boning Bayston atop the cushion. Shelton began to distance herself once again, but, unfortunately for Bayston, the smacking of wheels between he and Shelton resulted in a flat left rear tire for which he would have to replace and rejoin the field, albeit out of contention for the win.
"I got a pretty poor restart," Shelton recalls. "I saw Spencer slide me and we crossed each other over a few times. Heading into one, we were both going to run the slider line and, unfortunately, I think my right rear tagged him a little bit. I guess he hopped over the cushion. I felt bad about it. I hate hitting anybody, let alone my teammate."
With the absence of Bayston, Abreu aptly succeeded in the role of aggressor. On lap 25, Shelton tripped over the turn two cushion, allowing Abreu to get a fantastic run on the back straight into three, but Shelton once again was a stone cold assassin as she snared the lead back once again with five to go.
The tension was pulsating from underneath the covered gransdtand as the raucous crowd was on needles and pins with the realization that they could be a witness to racing history and the first ever female USAC National feature winner. Excitement was palpable as the throng of fans stood and pumped their fists, the roar reverberated off the metal roof and the showdown between the relative newcomer and the confident veteran came down to the quick.
Rico's daring attempt on Shelton with three to go was the golden ticket. It repeatedly appeared that the slider could not stick with Shelton so consistently strong, but Rico stuck to his guns and the move paid off once and for all. Shelton tried to counter, but was only able to muster enough speed off two to pull even alongside Rico on the back straight. Rico carried the torch to the lead into turn three as Thorson outgunned Shelton for second on the white flag lap with a counter-steer of his own off turn two.
For the final two circuits, Rico was scot-free - and Shelton-free, as he extended a tradition of his own as a Lawrenceburg USAC Midget winner for the third time in his last three tries over Thorson, Shelton, Shane Golobic and Tyler Courtney.
Over the years, Abreu has become a certified master of the slide job. The Lawrenceburg surface fits his fearless style like a glove, but knowing when and exactly how to go for the slider is an art form that requires impeccable timing and maintaining a balance of aggressiveness and finesse that keeps one on the edge without going over.
"The bottom was too slow to roll by," Abreu explained. "When you're running that close to other cars and the leader's there, it's easy to make mistakes on the cushion when you don't have anything to compare it to besides the speed of the car in front of you. I love doing slide jobs and running the high side like that. It's all timing. You don't want to be too short on them or shoot too far past the cushion. I just made sure my wheels were spinning every time I got to the cushion. I finally got clear enough of Holly to where I could slide myself in three and four and just break her momentum."
After humble beginnings to his night, defending USAC National Midget champion Tanner Thorson of Minden, Nevada, scored his best finish of Indiana Midget Week Saturday night at Lawrenceburg with a second-place run, sandwiched between his two teammates in the Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/JBL Audio - TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
"I was kind of sluggish on the start, but we got really good there at the end," Thorson said. "KKM is back. Any car owner that runs top three in one night is going to be pretty happy. The crew has been working really hard to get us better and better and tonight it showed.
Holly Shelton nearly pulled off one of the major milestones in USAC history that has yet to be checked off: a female USAC National feature winner. Shelton, of Sacramento, CA, took a career-best third in her Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Black & Decker - TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota, joining Sarah McCune and Stephanie Mockler as the third female driver to record multiple top-five finishes in a USAC National Midget event. Shelton finished 5th at Eldora in September of 2016.
Victory lane was a reunion of sorts for the top-three finishers in Saturday night's feature. Shelton, Thorson and Abreu grew up throwing sliders on each other in Outlaw Kart competition at Cycleland Speedway in Oroville, California.
Shelton shared that there wasn't any specific meeting to get the crew's and drivers' attention after a disappointing start to the season by Keith Kunz standards. The team responded by example, and the results indicate that fact with all six of the team's entries finishing within the top-11.
"We stepped up," Shelton said as matter of fact. "Every time we're out there, the crew gives us amazing cars. it's the drivers job to drive them. After last night, we knew we needed a good night."
Michael Pickens maintains a lead of the slimmest of margins heading into Sunday's finale at Kokomo Speedway. He leads Shane Golobic by one and Tyler Courtney by three as the top-five are separated by a mere 12 points. Nine drivers remain mathematically eligible to win Indiana Midget Week: Pickens, Golobic, Courtney, Brady Bacon, Rico Abreu, Justin Grant, Spencer Bayston, Tanner Thorson and Chad Boat.
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 10, 2017 - Lawrenceburg, Indiana - Lawrenceburg Speedway - 13th "Indiana Midget Week"
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Rico Abreu, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Holly Shelton, 4. Shane Golobic, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Ryan Robinson, 7. Justin Grant, 8. Spencer Bayston, 9. Ronnie Gardner, 10. Chad Boat, 11. Tanner Carrick, 12. Tyler Thomas, 13. Ryan Greth, 14. Trey Marcham, 15. Dave Darland, 16. Brady Bacon, 17. Steve Buckwalter, 18. Brayton Lynch, 19. Michael Pickens, 20. Jerry Coons Jr., 21. Alex Bright, 22. Adam Pierson. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-21 Shelton, Lap 22 Bayston, Laps 23-27 Shelton, Laps 28-30 Abreu.
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-529, 2-Bayston-479, 3-Golobic-472, 4-Grant-469, 5-Thorson-441, 6-Courtney-432, 7-Coons-376, 8-Boat-372, 9-Robinson-335, 10-Thomas-327.
NEW USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Pickens-322, 2-Golobic-321, 3-Courtney-319, 4-Bacon-313, 5-Abreu-310, 6-Grant-301, 7-Bayston-293, 8-Thorson-266, 9-Boat-265, 10-Shelton-224.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 11 - Kokomo (IN) Speedway - "13th Indiana Midget Week"
PICKENS DOUBLES DOWN AT PUTNAMVILLE FOR 2ND STRAIGHT INDIANA MIDGET WEEK VICTORY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Putnamville, Indiana.........A standing ovation is reserved for a performance that transcends the ordinary.
What is considered the common or run-of-the-mill may be admirable, but when an individual witnesses one of those handful of instances when the stars align to create a lasting image that will be ingrained in memory, the event is elevated to a status above the norm.
Michael Pickens performance in the final laps of Thursday's Indiana Midget Week round at Lincoln Park Speedway was certainly not ordinary and the audience responded in kind by rising to their feet and applauding the New Zealand driver who captivated them in a mesmerizing five-lap sequence.
One night after bringing a healthy contingent of supporters from his homeland to their feet with a victory at Gas City, Pickens directed an academy award winning performance. In true dramatic fashion, Pickens kept the large crowd in suspense as he saved his best performance for the final act, swapping the race lead back-and-forth between he and Spencer Bayston in a dramatic finish that's fate wasn't decided until the final corner.
Pickens' victory brought race fans to a fever pitch as the veteran driver finally begins to receive his due as one of the top drivers in the sport of midget racing and an international racing star with his electric stage act that has the U.S. midget racing scene abuzz.
Pickens' night began in a completely different light after pulling off in the first practice session without taking a single lap at speed. Apparently, two laps were all that were necessary as the 34-year-old from Auckland set ProSource Fast Qualifying time in his Brett & Leigh Morris/Seamount Racing - Tony Elliott Foundation/King/GRD Toyota.
Funny enough, after being docked two rows in Wednesday night's feature at Gas City for arriving late to pre-race staging, Pickens was the first car to hit the track Thursday at Lincoln Park, making sure that he wouldn't have to make his job any more difficult than it already was.
Pickens would start six, but for the third consecutive night, USAC/ARDC point leader Alex Bright began the feature event from the pole and, as he did in the IMW opener at Montpelier, would jump his way out to the lead on the opening lap.
Back a handful of positions behind Bright was fifth-running Pickens who, on the fifth lap would find himself nearly running into trouble as he got sideways and airborne after elevating all four wheels off the ground. He would gather it up and ride on, but not without losing a position to drop to six.
While much of the field remained on the bottom, Bayston was the top front runner to venture to the outside and pass at will in the first third of the 30-lap event. Sure enough, those dues he paid up top would pay off as he entered the top-three on the eighth lap around the outside of Chad Boat, then swooped to the bottom to swipe Boat's line away on the bottom entry into turn one.
Bayston's crew had replaced the powerplant of the No. 97 prior to the feature event after finishing second in the third heat race. The engine was a songbird as Bayston stuck to his guns to complete the same move on Brent Beauchamp for second into the first turn on lap 11 and, a lap later, the lead would be his own after utilizing another outside pass around A. Bright.
Immediately, Bayston opened up a substantial gap for the lead until a lap 15 yellow for a Tyler Thomas/Brayton Lynch turn two tangle brought out the yellow at the halfway point. Shortly after the ensuing restart, eighth-running Gage Walker received contact to the rear bumper that sent him sideways at the entrance of turn three, collecting Lynch, as another yellow flag hit the speedway.
Time and again, Bayston was a force on the restarts and, on the lap 17 resumption, the 2015 series Rookie of the Year would jump out to an eight car-length lead over Bright. With 12 to go, the push was on as Bright slid up the track in turn two, allowing Boat to squeeze underneath for second.
Meanwhile, Pickens began to pound the cushion entering turn one with the right rear, then instantly flicked the steering wheel to the left and used the momentum from diamonding down the hill to blast around Bright for third.
Following a caution for the stoppage of reigning Putnamville Indiana Midget Week winner Tanner Thorson and Ronnie Gardner, Pickens continued to hold down his own patented line, entering turn one higher than any man or woman had ventured as he kept tabs on Bayston.
An outside backstretch pass for second around Boat moved Pickens to second on the leaderboard with just eight laps remaining. With anticipation building and senses working overtime, the decreasing gap between the two was increasingly visible as voices from the crowd began to murmur in excitement about the potential finish with the tension so evident, you could feel it seeping into your pores.
Pickens had closed to the tail of Bayston with five to go when sixth-running Brent Beauchamp attempted to exit the track after losing power, but was not able to get far away enough off the racing surface to set up one final shootout for the win.
The final five laps will be remembered for those in attendance as one of the most exciting midget racing duels in Lincoln Park Speedway's history, immediately bringing to mind Kyle Larson and Bryan Clauson's savage duel in 2011. Yet again, though, Bayston was strong enough on the restart to gap Pickens who stayed true to the top and his diamonding pattern off turns one and three to find any extra ounce of speed he could get like a downhill skier.
On laps 26, 27 and 28, Pickens was able to get a big enough launch from the turn one berm, but the momentum would cease off the exit where Bayston was strong enough to keep Pickens an arm's distance away. Through turns three and four, Bayston took the high road as Pickens followed suit.
Coming to the white flag, Pickens attacked the cushion like a rabid animal, lifting the left side wheels off the ground as he flat-footed the turn three cushion and countered underneath off of four to beat Bayston to the stripe with one to go. Pickens, who had so spectacularly executed the entry into turn one time-after-time, wasn't so graceful on his final entry as he bounced his way through the corner, getting completely with a half-spin that caused a slight disruption in his rhythm before pointing his car in the right direction as Bayston pulled alongside underneath.
Amazingly, little ground was lost as Pickens regained control and stood on the pedal to pull even with Bayston halfway down the back straight. Both entered the high line in three with Bayston a couple car lengths ahead, but Pickens had his plan stapled to his mind as he countered below Bayston in a wheel-to-wheel drag race to the line that Pickens prevailed in by a single car length.
It was Pickens fourth-career USAC National Midget victory and his second in as many nights to become the first driver to win consecutive races in a single Indiana Midget Week since Bryan Clauson in 2009! By virtue of finishes of 2nd, 1st and 1st in the first three Indiana Midget Week feature, Pickens now holds a 31-point lead over Brady Bacon at the midway point of the six-race series.
Lebanon, Indiana's Spencer Bayston just narrowly missed his second career USAC win and his second straight year with an Indiana Midget Week victory, coming home second in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Curb Records - TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Tyler Courtney's crew had to swap out the engine overnight after mechanical trouble sidelined the Montpelier winner the previous night at Gas City. A rough start and a 20th place starting position would not hold back Courtney as he raced to a third-place finish to earn KSE Racing Products Hard Charger of the Race in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives - Indiana Donor Network/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 8, 2017 - Putnamville, Indiana - Lincoln Park Speedway - 13th "Indiana Midget Week"
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Michael Pickens, 1NZ, Seamount-13.036; 2. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-13.133; 3. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.150; 4. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.159; 5. Rico Abreu, 21, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.218; 6. Shane Golobic, 17w, Clauson-Marshall/Wood-13.227; 7. Steve Buckwalter, 25B, Buckwalter-13.262; 8. Chance Morton, 7MF, Morton-13.322; 9. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-13.349; 10. Brent Beauchamp, 11B, B & B-13.360; 11. Alex Bright, 77, Bright-13.369; 12. Jerry Coons Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-13.375; 13. Courtney Crone, 25c, Rodela-13.379; 14. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.387; 15. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-13.394; 16. Justin Grant, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.424; 17. Ronnie Gardner, 25x, Rodela-13.485; 18. Brenden Bright, 92, Bright-13.486; 19. Gage Walker, 7, Walker-13.508; 20. Dave Darland, 11, Gray-13.545; 21. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.546; 22. Ryan Greth, 4R, Lesher-13.566; 23. Michael Koontz, 17K, Koontz-13.574; 24. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-13.587; 25. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.588; 26. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-13.602; 27. Jake Neuman, 3N, Neuman-13.646; 28. Davey Ray, 33, Team RAYPRO-13.659; 29. Jimi Quin, 8GQ, Quin-13.702; 30. Holly Shelton, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.731; 31. Trey Marcham, 32, Marcham-13.946; 32. Kade Morton, 8m, Morton-14.286; 33. Cole Fehr, 15F, Live Loud-14.464; 34. Kyle Jones, 04, Hefler-14.773; 35. Paul Raynes, 7x, Seven-15.095; 36. Andrew Felker, 37, Felker-NT; 37. Tony DiMattia, 50, DiMattia-NT
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Gardner, 2. Abreu, 3. Thorson, 4. Pickens, 5. Courtney, 6. Boat, 7. Quin, 8. Fehr, 9. Crone. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION, INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Carrick, 2. Beauchamp, 3. Bacon, 4. Greth, 5. Golobic, 6. B. Bright, 7. Shelton, 8. Lynch, 9. Jones. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. A. Bright, 2. Bayston, 3. Walker, 4. Thomas, 5. Koontz, 6. Buckwalter, 7. Neuman, 8. Marcham, 9. Raynes. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Daum, 2. Grant, 3. Darland, 4. Coons, 5. Robinson, 6. C. Morton, 7. K. Morton, 8. Ray. 2:17.52
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Courtney, 3. Boat, 4. Shelton, 5. Robinson, 6. Lynch, 7. B. Bright, 8. Quin, 9. Neuman, 10. Jones, 11. Fehr, 12. Raynes, 13. Koontz, 14. Buckwalter, 15. Marcham, 16. K. Morton, 17. C. Morton. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Michael Pickens, 2. Spencer Bayston, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Rico Abreu, 5. Justin Grant, 6. Shane Golobic, 7. Chad Boat, 8. Brady Bacon, 9. Alex Bright, 10. Jerry Coons, Jr., 11. Ryan Robinson, 12. Zach Daum, 13. Dave Darland, 14. Holly Shelton, 15. Tyler Thomas, 16. Tanner Carrick, 17. Brayton Lynch, 18. Ronnie Gardner, 19. Brent Beauchamp, 20. Tanner Thorson, 21. Gage Walker, 22. Ryan Greth. NT
**Felker flipped during qualifying. Crone flipped during the first heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-12 A. Bright, Laps 13-28 Bayston, Laps 29-30 Pickens
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-421, 2-Bayston-380, 3-Golobic-331, 4-Grant-330, 5-Thorson-330, 6-Courtney-291, 7-Coons-276, 8-A. Bright-260, 9-Boat-254, 10-Thomas-237.
NEW USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Pickens-236, 2-Bacon-205, 3-Bayston-194, 4-Golobic-180, 5-Courtney-178, 6-Abreu-178, 7-A. Bright-167, 8-Grant-162, 9-Thorson-155, 10-Boat-147.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 9 - Bloomington, Indiana - Bloomington Speedway - 13th "Indiana Midget Week"
KIWI SLICES TO VICTORY AT INDIANA MIDGET WEEK; PICKENS TAKES ROUND 2 AT GAS CITY
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Gas City, Indiana.........When Michael Pickens rounded turn four and powered off the final corner to claim victory in Wednesday night's Indiana Midget Week round, USAC flagman Tom Hansing's checkers were not the only set of silks waving at Gas City I-69 Speedway.
A large swath of Pickens' fellow countrymen, fans, followers and supporters from his homeland of New Zealand were on hand, cheering and waving their country's flag high and proud as Pickens crossed the finish line first, delivering a gift to all those who helped support him monetarily on this successful endeavor to the U.S., many of which have their name printed on the side of his Brett & Leigh Morris/Seamount Racing - Tony Elliott Foundation/King/GRD Toyota.
"It's wicked, man," Pickens said with a grin. "There's 350-plus people who've contributed to this campaign that we're doing. Plus, our major sponsors. We couldn't do this without every single one of them. To get them a win is pretty special. We asked for a lot and they gave it to us. Lucky enough, we've been able to deliver. It's nice for us to say 'hey, here's a win for your support.' That's pretty special."
Pickens would start from the 11th position after missing the heat transfer, winning the B-Main then being assessed a two-row penalty for being late to grid for the start of the main event.
For the second-straight night, USAC/ARDC Midget point leader Alex Bright would lead the field to the green from his pole starting position. Bright would surge ahead for much of the first circuit before reigning USAC Midget National champion Tanner Thorson spurted ahead on the outside off of turn four to beat Bright to the line by an inch before scooting away for control in the early stages of the 30-lapper.
Shortly after clearing Bright for the second position using the inside line on the fourth lap, season-opener winner Justin Grant found trouble in turn one as he bopped and bounced his way trampoline-style multiple times before coming to a rest sideways in turn one. He would restart from the tail.
On the second attempted lap four restart, Rico Abreu began his power surge as he ducked underneath Bright for second on the bottom of turn three. Bright countered to no avail as Abreu hustled to turn one first, then set course on running down his Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian teammate and leader, Thorson.
On the seventh lap, Abreu was in striking position and used a run entering turn three on the bottom before sliding up off the fourth corner to clear Thorson for the spot and the race lead less than 10 laps in.
The top-two of Abreu and Thorson began to distance themselves from the rest of the pack just before midway as Bright was encircled in a maddening scramble for third that included Kyle Larson, Brady Bacon and Michael Pickens among others in a see-saw thunderdome-style battle in which a brief moment of sanity was near impossible to find. Larson was the first to emerge from the fray as he first zipped past Bacon for fourth on the 13th lap and by Bright two laps later for third.
Bright came right back at Larson's jugular to momentarily reclaim the lead, but as he slipped up between turns one and two at the midway point, Larson took ownership of third with Pickens tucked immediately behind as Bright got shuffled out of the deck and into the seventh position.
The unoccupied land between the top-two of Abreu, Thorson and the third and fourth-place cars of Larson and Pickens to melt away. Shortly after Chance Morton walked away from a turn one tumble on lap 19, the race for second became a three-way scrum involving new leader Thorson with a slight edge in the middle over Abreu nosing along on the bottom and Larson making moves up top.
With ten to go, Larson continued to inch nearer to the front, but on lap 21, his wizardry came to a halt after losing control on the cushion of turns three and four, sending him sideways into a stall from which he would not escape.
That created a window of opportunity for those lurking to make their presence known down the stretch, including new fourth-place occupant Michael Pickens who made a nifty, daring move by splitting the second and third-place cars of Abreu and Brady Bacon off turn two on the restart.
Shortly thereafter, previous night's Montpelier winner and fourth-place runner Tyler Courtney fell to the wayside on the 22nd lap to bring out the final yellow.
Thorson and Pickens stuck together on the final restart with eight to go. When Thorson's ride slipped high off the bottom at the exit of turn four on lap 24, Pickens made his initial bid for the lead. Thorson saw it coming and reacted with a defensive line of his own coming off of four that put Pickens in the role of a lawn edger as he came near and dear to trimming the outer edges of the infield grass blades along the front straightaway.
Pickens proceeded to fall in line behind Thorson for the moment as he regrouped to make another run. Bacon briefly nosed underneath to challenge Pickens in turn two moments later with no luck. One lap later with four to go, the lead was all Pickens after Thorson left just enough space for Pickens to squeeze by underneath off of two.
From there, Pickens put this one on ice as he ran away from the field in the final handful of laps to record his third career USAC National Midget victory and his second Indiana Midget Week triumph, a 1.6 second win over Bacon, Thorson, Abreu and Spencer Bayston.
After a rough go of it early on in the evening, the new Indiana Midget Week point leader was full of discontent. The 34-year-old harnessed that energy in a positive direction as he translated the force of his frustration to his right foot
"I was pretty angry after having to start 11th," Pickens admits. "We should've started at least third tonight, but we didn't transfer through our heat and had to run the B. We were going to start seventh, but then we were late getting out for the feature, so that meant we had to start two rows further back. I was elbows up from the get-go. Our car just got better and better. I think, on the last lap, our car was probably the best. Our car was absolutely spot-on."
When it comes to the types of racetracks and the competition involved with Indiana Midget Week, Pickens indicated there's no comparison.
"It's totally different," Pickens explains. "We have flat quarter-miles back home, so the size is similar, but the shapes are totally different. The way you race these guys as hard as you have to race them is different too. You can roll around back home and push to 80 to 90 percent and get a win. Here, you're 100% every single lap of the race. No one gives you a single inch. It takes everything you've got to get every little bit out of the car and we were able to do that tonight."
"To be honest, it's a privilege to be able to run against these guys, let alone beat them," Pickens praises. "When we come over here, I set the bar pretty high. I tell the boys if we can run top-five every night and get a couple of wins, that would be mega. So far, we're hitting those marks. To get the win tonight is an absolute dream come true."
Brady Bacon stole second from fellow two-time USAC National Champion Abreu at the line with an outside pass on the final lap.
Meanwhile, St. Helena, California's Rico Abreu led the most laps (13), but fell back to third at the finish.
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 7, 2017 - Gas City, Indiana - Gas City I-69 Speedway - 13th "Indiana Midget Week"
QUALIFYING: 1. Kyle Larson, 21, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.386; 2. Rico Abreu, 97K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.484; 3. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-12.532; 4. Michael Pickens, 1NZ, Seamount-12.535; 5. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-12.617; 6. Justin Grant, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-12.642; 7. Brent Beauchamp, 11B, B & B-12.654; 8. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.672; 9. Ryan Greth, 4R, Lesher-12.681; 10. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.694; 11. Alex Bright, 77, Bright-12.734; 12. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-12.752; 13. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.754; 14. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-12.783; 15. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.786; 16. Trey Marcham, 32, Marcham-12.797; 17. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-12.844; 18. Shane Golobic, 17w, Clauson/Marshall/Wood-12.867; 19. Courtney Crone, 25c, Rodela-12.888; 20. Ronnie Gardner, 25x, Rodela-12.933; 21. Brenden Bright, 92, Bright-12.938; 22. Tony DiMattia, 50, DiMattia-12.969; 23. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-12.973; 24. Holly Shelton, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.977; 25. Jerry Coons Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-12.980; 26. Michael Koontz, 17K, Koontz-13.000; 27. Justin Peck, 7K, Irwin-13.015; 28. Jake Neuman, 3N, Neuman-13.109; 29. Dave Darland, 11, Gray-13.128; 30. Ryan Secrest, 17o, Koontz-13.157; 31. Gage Walker, 7, Walker-13.196; 32. Steve Buckwalter, 25B, Buckwalter-13.261; 33. Brad Kraus, 6B, Kraus-13.306; 34. Kade Morton, 8m, Morton-13.401; 35. Noah Key, 14K, Key-13.435; 36. Andrew Felker, 37, Felker-13.789; 37. Tylar Rankin, 95, Rankin-15.597; 38. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-NT; 39. Chance Morton, 7MF, Morton-NT; 40. Chris Baue, 2, Baue (Time of 13.332 disallowed); 41. Kyle Jones, 04, Hefler (Time of 13.342 disallowed)
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Boat, 2. B. Bright, 3. Larson, 4. Carrick, 5. Thomas, 6. Darland, 7. Coons, 8. Jones, 9. Greth, 10. Kraus. 2:08.25
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Abreu, 3. Daum, 4. Grant, 5. Robinson, 6. DiMattia, 7. K. Morton, 8. Lynch, 9. Secrest, 10. Koontz. 2:08.26
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. A. Bright, 2. Bayston, 3. Crone, 4. Bacon, 5. Windom, 6. Beauchamp, 7. Peck, 8. Walker, 9. Key, 10. C. Morton. 2:10.85
FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Shelton, 2. Gardner, 3. Courtney, 4. Thorson, 5. Pickens, 6. Buckwalter, 7. Neuman, 8. Marcham, 9. Baue, 10. Felker. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps) 1. C. Morton, 2. Buckwalter, 3. Walker, 4. Baue, 5. B. Jones, 6. K. Morton, 7. Lynch, 8. Key, 9. Kraus, 10. Felker, 11. Rankin. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Pickens, 2. Thomas, 3. Beauchamp, 4. Coons, 5. C. Morton, 6. Robinson, 7. Buckwalter, 8. Peck, 9. Marcham, 10. Walker, 11. Neuman, 12. DiMattia, 13. Darland, 14. Baue, 15. Greth, 16. Secrest. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Michael Pickens, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Rico Abreu, 5. Spencer Bayston, 6. Tyler Thomas, 7. Brent Beauchamp, 8. Shane Golobic, 9. Ronnie Gardner, 10. Tanner Carrick, 11. Alex Bright, 12. Chad Boat, 13. Holly Shelton, 14. Brenden Bright, 15. Justin Grant, 16. Gage Walker, 17. Jerry Coons, Jr., 18. Kyle Larson, 19. Ryan Robinson, 20. Zach Daum, 21. Courtney Crone, 22. Jake Neuman, 23. Tyler Courtney, 24. Chance Morton. NT
**Felker flipped during qualifying. Kraus flipped during the C-Main. Greth flipped during the semi. C. Morton flipped on lap 19 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-6 Thorson, Laps 7-19 Abreu, Laps 20-25 Thorson, Laps 26-30 Pickens
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-361, 2-Bayston-302, 3-Thorson-301, 4-Golobic-271, 5-Grant-265, 6-Coons-228, 7-Courtney-224, 8-A. Bright-206, 9-Boat-200, 10-Thomas-199.
NEW USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Pickens-155, 2-Bacon-145, 3-Thorson-126, 4-Golobic-120, 5-Larson & Bayston-116, 7-A. Bright-113, 8-Courtney-111, 9-Abreu-110, 10-Grant-97.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 8 - Putnamville, Indiana - Lincoln Park Speedway - 13th "Indiana Midget Week"
COURTNEY CONNECTS ON FIRST USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WIN IN MONTPELIER INDIANA MIDGET WEEK OPENER
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Montpelier, Indiana.........Just four nights ago, Tyler Courtney had yet to break into the win column in USAC competition for 2017.
A mere four nights later, the Indianapolis, Indiana native is two victories richer following last Friday night's USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car score at I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska, before the latest triumph - his very first USAC National Midget points-paying victory - in Tuesday's opener for the 13th installment of Indiana Midget Week at Montpelier Motor Speedway.
The 23-year-old driver used the bottom to slip past Alex Bright for the lead on the fifth lap, then immediately fended off a slider thrown by hard-charging Brady Bacon. Courtney then mastered a late-race restart to drive away for a commanding win to become the first driver ever to earn both his first USAC National Midget and National Sprint Car wins in Indiana Midget Week and Indiana Sprint Week.
The 2016 Gas City "Sprint Week" winner began Tuesday night's race from the fifth spot, but quickly became a challenger after moving to third on the opening lap. Meanwhile, up front, pole sitter Alex Bright held the point as Zach Daum pursued. On lap four, Daum scampered to the high side to complete the pass of race leader Bright exiting turn two, but the yellow flag fell for a spinning Tanner Carrick before the lap could be scored, thus negating Daum's good fortune.
On the restart, the battle at the front became a three-car dance as the trio stacked up wheel-to-wheel-to-wheel with Bacon, Courtney and Bright even-Steven exiting the second turn. One lap later, Courtney skimmed the bottom lane to take ownership of the lead between turns one and two.
"With how many good guys we had up front like Michael (Pickens) and (Kyle) Larson, I knew we had to go to the bottom at the beginning," Courtney recalls. "I knew those guys were able to stay with me up top, so once I got past them, I knew I was going to have to get back to the top. I did that and, luckily, it started cleaning off and getting dark, so I knew I needed to stay up there because it was going to take rubber pretty soon. I feel like I had my own line in (turns) three and four by going in high and coming across the bottom. That worked for me in the heat race and I stuck with it in the feature."
Following the same trail as Courtney was Bacon, who slid across the bottom of turn three to the top of four in front of Bright for second. He then immediately pointed his arrow squarely in the direction of race leader Courtney. Brady took a run at Courtney, serving up a slider exiting turn two on the sixth lap. Bacon came up short, and lost a tad of momentum, allowing Courtney to break away.
"In conditions like that, you just have to stay in it and hope he knows well enough not to just keep going and take both he and you out, especially when both of us are racing for a championship. Brady's a smart racer, obviously. There was a little bit of worry, but you just have to make sure you pull your belts tight and keep going after it. The race is just 30 laps and you have to get going when you have guys like that behind you and you know they're coming after you. You must play defense with these guys because they'll be playing offense when you're in the lead."
With 20 laps remaining, Courtney's burst saw him expand his lead to a full-straightaway as he attacked lapped traffic with authority until a yellow with three to go slowed his pace for the stopped car of Tyler Thomas. By rule, the lapped cars between first and second moved to the tail of the field at that point, erasing the substantial gap that Courtney had constructed.
When the green dropped, a mad scramble ensued for the runner-up spot as Michael Pickens, Bacon, Bright and defending Montpelier winner Kyle Larson all wagered for the runner-up spot. All that did was allow Courtney to pull away unchallenged and unscathed on the final circuits to land his first USAC Midget points win.
"I knew it was going to be tough when they took those lapped cars out. That's the rule and, I know when I'm running second, I'm excited when they take the lapped cars out because it gives you a fresh chance at the leader. Luckily, we were good enough tonight to where we didn't have to battle anybody there at the end. It made my job a little bit easier."
The win snapped Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports' seemingly unrelenting grasp on the Indiana Midget Week series in which his drivers had won seven feature events in a row dating to 2015 coming into Tuesday night's event. The name Clauson has its fingerprints on the bookends surrounding KKM's IMW winning streak. Bryan Clauson raced to victory in the last event prior to the KKM's lengthy succession of wins, while Tuesday's was captured by a car fielded by Bryan's father, Tim Clauson.
The Clauson-Marshall Racing team has already proven themselves to be a formidable foe to challenge Kunz/Curb-Agajanian's reign of supremacy in its first full-year of existence, with Justin Grant also nabbing a win in the season opener at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin.
"I think we're definitely on our way," Courtney believes. "With that said, Keith has one heck of a lineup. They've definitely proven what they've got. Our goal this year was to come in and make them get up on their heels. I feel like we've got them a little bit against the ropes right now, but I know they're going to dig deep and they're going to come back at us just like we're going at them right now. It's going to be fun. It's not easy to win these races and you have to take advantage of them every chance you get. You can never take them for granted. That's what we love about racing and competition. I have a ton of respect for Pete and Keith and all those guys over there. They've got a hell of a group over there racing against us. It's going to be tough, but this is why we race. This is why we do what we do."
Auckland, New Zealand's Michael Pickens returned to the Indiana Midget Week tour for the first time since 2014, taking second-place honors.
Kyle Larson used a rare day off between Monster Energy NASCAR Cup duties to play in the dirt where he made a late-race charge to run third.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Michael Pickens, 3. Kyle Larson, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Alex Bright, 6. Shane Golobic, 7. Justin Grant, 8. Tanner Thorson, 9. Ryan Robinson, 10. Spencer Bayston, 11. Chad Boat, 12. Tanner Carrick, 13. Davey Ray, 14. Rico Abreu, 15. Chris Windom, 16. Justin Peck, 17. Zach Daum, 18. Dave Darland, 19. Holly Shelton, 20. Ronnie Gardner, 21. Jerry Coons Jr., 22. Jake Neuman, 23. Tyler Thomas. NT
**Quin flipped during the semi.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-4 Bright, Laps 5-30 Courtney.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Shane Golobic (14th-6th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH-PLACE FINISHER: Davey Ray
PROSOURCE HARD WORK AWARD: Jerry Coons Jr.
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-285, 2-Bayston-237, 3-Thorson-232, 4-Grant-226, 5-Golobic-214, 6-Coons-198, 7-Courtney-195, 8-Robinson-162, 9-Bright-157, 10-Boat-153.
NEW USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Courtney-82, 2-Pickens-78, 3-Larson-77, 4-Bacon-69, 5-Bright-64, 6-Golobic-63, 7-Grant-58, 8-Thorson-57, 9-Bayston-51, 10-Robinson-49.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 7 - Gas City (IN) I-69 Speedway - 13th "Indiana Midget Week"
PICKENS PACKS KIWI PRIDE & SUPPORT FOR INDIANA MIDGET WEEK
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Some teams travel up and down the highway, going from race-to-race with massive haulers akin to a race shop on wheels. Some opt for a more modest approach with enough room to fit their car, a few spares and tires to get by for the night. Then, there are a handful of teams who go barebones with a dually and an open trailer.
None of the above are viable options when your race team is based in the Southern Hemisphere and your plan is to bring much of your equipment to the United States!
Such is the case with Auckland, New Zealand's seven-time NZ Midget champion Michael Pickens and the Seamount Racing crew who, after a weekend of racing in Australia, made a mad rush at the last-minute to organize their necessities to go racing in the States.
After stretch-wrapping their car and tool chests, the team's operation was loaded onto a cargo plane where it made the long-distance journey to the USA for a daunting stretch that includes 11 races in 12 nights.
It takes a village to pull off a major undertaking such as this, and the 34-year-old Pickens has an entire throng of supporters who played a large role in making it happen. Much of the entire right side of the car is adorned with the names of hundreds of individuals who donated their money to the team to make this trip possible.
This business trip isn't all about himself, however. It's quite clear that Pickens brings with him a deep pride of his homeland. Underneath the names, in big, bold lettering is "New Zealand." In addition, the New Zealand script is emblazoned over the gold leaf No. 1 on the nose and the tail tank. The miniature New Zealand flag fastened to the back of the roll cage adds a finishing touch to the true Kiwi machine.
Pickens is one of the few foreign-born drivers in American dirt track racing, period. Even more, he's one of the few to truly make a name for himself in the USA over the years. Despite spending much of his career competing a quarter of the world away from the USA, he's become a fixture on the Indiana dirt tracks and in USAC for well over a decade.
In fact, it was Indiana Midget Week where Pickens cemented his status as more than just a novelty in the States. He became a proven winner by beating the best the USA had to offer. Among those immediately following him to the finish line that night in 2011 at Kokomo were USAC National champions Tracy Hines, Brad Kuhn, Bryan Clauson and Chris Windom. Not to mention, he passed current NASCAR star Kyle Larson with two to go to win the deal.
Despite his status in the USA, he hasn't crossed the sea to compete on Indiana dirt since 2014 when he secured a full-time deal to run the USAC Midget National Championship tour for car owner Don Fike.
Straight off the plane in 2017, Pickens wasted no time getting down to business. He won POWRi's Illinois Speed Week title by virtue of a pair of wins at The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet and at Macon Speedway. After a one-day break, the team is ready to tackle six consecutive nights of Indiana Midget Week, beginning with tonight's opener at Montpelier Motor Speedway.
The Indiana Midget Week schedule consists of tracks ranging from a quarter-mile to three-eighths in length, with varying degrees of banking from mid to steep. Pickens has become accustomed to the Hoosier bullrings over the years, but admits there's still a learning curve to face each time he's here.
"We don't have anything like the American tracks back in New Zealand," Pickens explains. "All our tracks are flat quarter-miles, so you're never pounding the fence back home, which is something that always takes a bit of getting used to."
The racing season has now ended and the coldest months have descended on New Zealand, leaving Pickens with just one option to continue his midget racing season - load his gear up, buy an airline ticket and head for the warmer climate of the USA where racing is plentiful during the summer months. That's one of the great, unique things about Midget/Speedcar racing in that it is a worldwide sport. The changing of the seasons allows a handful of the top stars in the discipline from the USA, New Zealand and Australia to travel to the other's home turf during their respective off-seasons. The respect and comradery amongst the drivers from different cultures is very telling. A viewpoint that Pickens shares.
"Most of the guys up here (in the USA) are professional and that reflects in the way they race," Pickens praises. "Back home, you don't have the same competition because they only race 15-20 shows a year."
Pickens will nearly match that in his short time here in the USA as he begins a six-race, six-night stretch at Indiana Midget Week. Following Tuesday's Montpelier round, Pickens and the USAC Midget National Championship head to Gas City I-69 Speedway on Wednesday, June 7, Putnamville's Lincoln Park Speedway on Thursday, June 8, Bloomington Speedway on Friday, June 9, Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday, June 10 and Kokomo Speedway on Sunday, June 11.
USAC WESTERN STATES CHAMP RONNIE GARDNER TEAMS WITH RODELA FOR INDIANA MIDGET WEEK RUN
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Four-time USAC Western States Midget champion Ronnie Gardner has partnered with team owner Jerome Rodela to compete in this year's Indiana Midget Week beginning Tuesday, June 6 at Montpelier Motor Speedway.
Gardner called central Indiana home for several years of his childhood, but the Corona, California resident has quickly become one of the premier drivers on the west coast where he's claimed four-straight USAC Western States Midget titles and collected 21 career victories, placing him fourth all-time on the series win list.
Gardner has accomplished all those particular feats aboard the Six8 Motorsports No. 68. But when he arrives Tuesday at his Montpelier, Indiana destination following a cross-country road trip from Cali, Gardner will strap into a car he's normally competing against - the Jerome Rodela-owned #25x.
But when Rodela, the 2005 and 2006 USAC Western States Midget champion driver, called Gardner to drive his car, it was an offer that came by surprise. Yet, it was an offer that Gardner couldn't refuse.
"Jerome was looking for a driver," Gardner recalls. "I race with him out west, so he gets to see me run quite a bit. I'm not sure why I got the call, but I'm honored he chose me. He's got really nice equipment and I hope we can jell quickly and have some good runs this week."
Gardner will teammate with Rodela's season-long pilot, 2016 Western States Midget Rookie of the Year, Courtney Crone, who will sport the No. 25.
For Crone, it will be her first USAC racing experience in Indiana. For Gardner, though, this will be his third Indiana Midget Week trip. He's made five career IMW feature events in 2014 and 2015 for Six8 and A.J. Felker, but has only managed to record a best finish of 12th at Lawrenceburg in 2015.
Now that he's gotten a little more seat time on the Indiana soil, the 29-year-old Gardner feels ready to meet the challenge of six-straight nights of racing on six different tracks.
"I'm so excited to be back in Indiana with a little bit of experience at these tracks," Gardner said. "It's my third time out here and I believe I'm more prepared than I've ever been."
After Tuesday night's show concludes, Indiana Midget Week picks up Wednesday, June 7, at Gas City, Thursday, June 8, at Putnamville's Lincoln Park Speedway, Friday, June 9, on the red clay of Bloomington Speedway. The penultimate round heads to the high banks of Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night, June 10. The series' finale hits one of USAC's most regularly-visited tracks in Kokomo Speedway on Sunday night, June 11.
All six nights of Indiana Midget Week will feature sprint car racing as an addition to each night's festivities.
KYLE LARSON & RICO ABREU RETURN TO THEIR ROOTS FOR USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK
Fan-favorites Kyle Larson and Rico Abreu will join the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team for this year's edition of USAC "Indiana Midget Week."
Both drivers will be aboard the Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports-prepared machines for the six-race series that begins Tuesday night, June 6, at Montpelier Motor Speedway.
Larson of Elk Grove, California will compete in the first two IMW events at Montpelier and the following night, Wednesday, June 7, at Gas City I-69 Speedway. The NASCAR star, who currently stands second in Cup points, has won at both venues during his USAC National Midget racing career, including a Gas City triumph in 2013.
Just last year, Larson raced to victory in the series' first appearance at Montpelier where he outdueled teammate Tanner Thorson in the final laps to score the win. The 24-year-old wheelman has collected 14 career USAC National Midget victories, including his most recent appearance at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway's "Turkey Night Grand Prix" in November of 2016.
St. Helena, California's Abreu is one of the most decorated and popular USAC Midget drivers of this era. Race fans will be able to witness him in action on all six nights of Indiana Midget Week. Abreu, the 2014 USAC National Midget champ, has won IMW events in each of the past three years.
Last June at Kokomo Speedway, the 25-year-old stormed to the front, passing Chad Boat with nine laps remaining to capture one of his 15 career USAC National Midget victories on his way to third in the final standings. Abreu was the Indiana Midget week champion in both 2014 and 2015. He has made a single USAC National Midget appearance in 2017 at April's "Kokomo Grand Prix," charging from 22nd to a 4th place feature finish after flipping on his qualifying run.
Larson and Abreu will join teammates Tanner Thorson (2016 USAC National Midget champion), Spencer Bayston, Holly Shelton, Ryan Robinson and Tanner Carrick on the seven-car Kunz/Curb-Agajanian stable for the opener at Montpelier. The team has yet to win in the series this season, but this is the same team that has won the past seven IMW races, including a five-race sweep in 2016 with five different drivers (Larson, Bayston, Thorson, Christopher Bell and Abreu).
Following Tuesday's Montpelier round, Indiana Midget Week picks up Wednesday, June 7, at Gas City. Thursday, June 8, takes you to Putnamville's Lincoln Park Speedway while Friday, June 9, brings the red clay of Bloomington Speedway. The penultimate round heads to the high banks of Lawrenceburg Speedway on Saturday night, June 10. The series' finale hits one of USAC's most regularly-visited tracks in Kokomo Speedway on Sunday night, June 11.
All six nights of Indiana Midget Week will feature sprint car racing as an addition to each night's festivities.
INDIANA MIDGET WEEK HAS ARRIVED; SIX NIGHTS, SIX TRACKS, SIX RACES SET FOR JUNE 6-11
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
A glance at the calendar indicates that the month of June has arrived. The temps have begun to rise and the intensity has multiplied as the thick of the USAC racing schedule is upon us.
As the first of 16 scheduled USAC National events this month were completed last weekend, it's crystal clear the urgency has increased. For this upcoming stretch of races can set the tone on a quest for a season championship. It can also break you when you're least suspecting it.
Indiana Midget Week is one of those tests. It's a test of endurance and a trial by fire. It's what racers hunger for - the opportunity to overcome the most daunting of tasks by proving to others, and themselves, that they can achieve anything no matter how challenging the scenario.
USAC's biggest week of midget racing arrives in the Hoosier state beginning this Tuesday night, June 6th with the first of six consecutive nights of the 13th annual edition of Indiana Midget Week.
Elk Grove, California's Kyle Larson sure hasn't forgotten his short track roots. The current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series' standings second-place driver and two-time Cup winner won last year's Indiana Midget Week opener at Montpelier. He plans to compete in the first two rounds of this year's Indiana Midget Week - Tuesday at Montpelier and Wednesday at Gas City.
Rico Abreu of St. Helena, California, always brings the excitement when he gets behind the wheel of any type of racecar, but when he's at the control of a USAC Midget, he becomes Superman. The two-time Midget Week champ in 2014 and 2015 won the finale a year ago at Kokomo and is back to compete in all six races of this year's series.
Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports took all five rounds of Midget Week in 2016 with Spencer Bayston at Gas City, Tanner Thorson at Putnamville and Christopher Bell at Bloomington rounding out the remainder of KKM's sweep. All but Bell will return for this year's IMW.
But the team has been shut out of victory lane thus far in 2017 by Ione, California's Justin Grant (5th in points), who seeks his first career Midget Week win, and point leader Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, who won his first career USAC feature as a 16-year-old in 2006 during Indiana Midget Week at Kokomo. Tucson, Arizona's Jerry Coons, Jr. was a Midget Week champ in 2007, but the USAC Triple Crown champ, who stands fourth in series points, aims to earn his first win of any kind with the series since 2010!
Following Tuesday's Montpelier round, Indiana Midget Week picks up Wednesday, June 7 at Gas City (one of two remaining original Midget Week tracks from the series inception in 2005). Thursday, June 8 takes you to Putnamville's Lincoln Park Speedway while Friday, June 9 brings the red clay of Bloomington Speedway. The penultimate round heads to the second of the originals, Lawrenceburg Speedway, on Saturday night, June 10. Sunday's finale on June 11 hits one of USAC's most regularly-visited tracks in Kokomo Speedway.
As if a week straight of USAC midget racing isn't enough of a mouthwatering enticement, all six nights will feature sprint car racing as an addition to each night's festivities.
2017 INDIANA MIDGET WEEK SCHEDULE
Tue., June 6: Montpelier Motor Speedway - Montpelier, IN
Wed., June 7: Gas City I-69 Speedway - Gas City, IN
Thu., June 8: Lincoln Park Speedway - Putnamville, IN
Fri., June 9: Bloomington Speedway - Bloomington, IN
Sat., June 10: Lawrenceburg Speedway - Lawrenceburg, IN
Sun., June 11: Kokomo Speedway - Kokomo, IN
USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: June 3, 2017 – Ventura, California – Ventura Raceway – “Battle of the Beach Race #1” – Co-sanctioned with VRA
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Ryan Bernal, 2. Kyle Smith, 3. Max Adams, 4. Jace Vander Weerd, 5. Cody Majors, 6. Kenny Perkins, 7. Austin Liggett, 8. Tristan Guardino, 9. Kalib Henry, 10. Ryan Timmons, 11. Richard Vander Weerd, 12. Steve Hix, 13. Tom Hendricks, 14. Jake Swanson, 15. Hobie Conway, 16. Charlie Butcher, 17. Brandon Wiley, 18. Ryan Stolz, 19. Michael Faccinto, 20. Mike Spencer, 21. Kyle Edwards. NT
**Meredith flipped during the first heat. Faccinto flipped on lap 21 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-21 Smith, Laps 22-30 Bernal.
NEXT USAC WEST COAST SPRINT CAR RACE: June 10 – Santa Maria (CA) Raceway – “Ron Otto Memorial”
GRANT GOES WIRE-TO-WIRE IN USAC SPRINTS' RETURN TO KNOXVILLE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Knoxville, Iowa.........In one of the most highly-anticipated events on the 2017 USAC calendar, Justin Grant made it a night to remember as he led wire-to-wire to win the AMSOIL National Sprint Cars' return to the famed Knoxville Raceway Saturday night after a six-year hiatus.
Grant, of Ione, California, finished 25th in his lone Knoxville start back in 2011, but there'd be no parallels drawn from that result to his performance on the half-mile Saturday night as he was in a class of his own throughout the 30-lap main event.
However, early on in the night, Grant couldn't have anticipated the end result would go as smoothly as it did following a rocky beginning. The team fine-tuned their way throughout the evening, swapping out parts and pieces until they hit the sweet spot in time for the main event.
"In hot laps, I wasn't very comfortable," Grant stated. "I was a little timid on the cushion and I didn't really feel all that confident that I wasn't going to crash up there. So, we just kept working on it all night. We kept making ground on it. We came in from the heat race and felt like we were pretty close and told Sam about a couple of the issues I had with it. He went to work on it and got it dialed-in. It couldn't have been any better for the feature."
Grant's race began from the pole position alongside Robert Ballou, a recent returnee to the scene following an eight-month layoff due to neck injuries. Yet, Grant would get the best of Ballou right from the start as he slid up to the cushion ahead of Ballou in turn one for the top spot.
Grant built a gap between he and Ballou on the opening lap as Ballou battled with Friday night's I-80 Speedway winner Tyler Courtney. At the exit of the fourth corner, Courtney and Ballou made slight contact, sending Ballou sideways and Courtney near the outside guardrail. Both continued after the brief skirmish as Ballou maintained control of second while Courtney fell back to fourth as he wrestled back control of his machine.
Shortly thereafter as the field hit the back straight, a melee ensued as the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th place cars were all involved in an accident that saw both Jon Stanbrough and Nick Bilbee flip multiple times while Brady Bacon and Hunter Schuerenberg were also caught up. All drivers would walk away unscathed and Bacon and Schuerenberg would restart.
On the lap two restart, Courtney nearly saw his race end as he biked his ride on the entry to turn one before landing on all fours, ricocheting his right rear tire off the guardrail before gathering it up and carrying on after dropping three spots to seventh.
Meanwhile, up front, Grant had constructed a half-straightaway interval on lap six between he and second-running Ballou, who owned a half-straightaway advantage of his own over third-running Courtney who had settled into a groove and worked his way back into the top-three with a first turn slide job of Chad Boespflug.
Just before midway, Grant had already begun his ascent into lap traffic, attempting to maintain his sturdy two-plus second lead as Courtney began to close on Ballou for second. Courtney had already averted disaster just laps before, but on lap 15, he couldn't channel his inner Houdini for a second time as he hooked the turn two cushion while closing in on the lapped car of Aaron Farney.
Courtney proceeded to snag the berm with his right rear, the proceeded with a violent sequence of barrel-rolls and nose-to-tail end-overs that saw him sail higher than the top portion of the expansive ARMCO barrier in front of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame suites. After roughly six-and-a-half bone-jarring flips, Courtney finally came to a rest as flame briefly appeared from the bottom of the battered machinery. A sigh of relief swept over the crowd as the Indianapolis, Indiana driver quickly emerged from the wreckage uninjured.
A strong suit for Grant each time was his prowess on restarts. Right from the drop of the green time-and-time again, the 26-year-old instantly distanced himself from Ballou, but that didn't inherently put Grant's mind at ease with the 2015 series champ hot on his trail.
"Restarts are always scary, especially at a big racetrack where you're running on the fence and you're prone to receiving sliders on a restart," Grant admits. "I just tried to get a really big bite off turn four and stay in the moisture as long as I could. I tried not to mess up and just wanted to get down into turn one as fast as I could. I was confident in the car, but you're still a little bit nervous especially when you have a hard charger like Ballou behind you. If he has a window, he's going to throw something in it."
The final yellow of the night arrived when Dave Darland, who was inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame just hours before, hopped to a stop atop the turn two cushion without making contact on the 18th lap.
Grant's final restart on lap 19 was just as solid as the rest and, over the next handful of laps, Grant increased the interval each time at the stripe as he firmly established his position at the head of the pack. All that was left for Grant was to navigate through the tail end of the field in the closing laps.
The sailing was smooth for Grant the remainder of the way as he cruised to a 1.2 second victory over Ballou, Boespflug, Chase Stockon and C.J. Leary for his season-leading fourth series victory of the year while extending his point lead to 97 over Windom heading into Eastern Storm.
After 137 starts between 2010 and September of 2016, Grant's USAC National Sprint Car win total stood at three. In the last eight months with Sam McGhee Motorsports, Grant has already picked up five victories in a mere 17 starts. Additionally, in ten 2017 starts, Grant has yet to finish outside the top-four.
With success seeming to come so naturally, so quickly, to Grant and McGhee, it's easy to rest on your laurels, but Grant feels that there's always room to make improvements.
"You try to pick out the spots where you could've been better or where you think you could've made up a little more ground or where you could've made less mistakes," Grant explains. "It may have looked perfect, but there's a handful of mistakes I made throughout it. If somebody had as good of a car as we had, they could've capitalized on it. As a driver, you catalogue those and make sure not to do certain things the next time. Fortunately, tonight, we had a car that was good enough that nobody could even get near it. But in the future, somebody might. I try to work on minimizing mistakes and I go back and watch the video to see what I did right and what I did wrong. We always strive try to keep plugging away and get better every night. Yet, at the same time, you want to stay the course and not start chasing something that gets you off track."
By all accounts, USAC's return to Knoxville was a rousing success with the track's largest crowd of the year on hand. It's an atmosphere that Grant craves and eagerly anticipates experiencing regularly for years to come.
"It's so cool to race at this venue with all its history and the huge crowd of people in the stands," Grant praises. "Everybody comes down to the front stretch after the race. It's just a really neat atmosphere. I couldn't believe the number of people who came down and told me they'd never seen a non-wing race. They said they just loved it and how they're going to come back for more and how much they want us to come back next year. We want to come back! It's the sprint car capital of the world and we want to be racing here."
Ballou earned his third-straight top-four finish since his comeback in mid-May, picking up a solid runner-up finish in his Ballou Motorsports/Rossie's Feed & Grain - Deaton's Waterfront Services/Eagle/Ott. However, the Rocklin, California native is not exactly satisfied with his run as he expects to be at the forefront night-in, night-out.
"We got beat fair and square tonight," Ballou said. "Justin ran 30 perfect laps and we pretty much (struggled) all night compared to where I feel we should be. I'm rusty and I'm trying to get this team back going. We need some sort of a jump start or something. Justin and the McGhees are on top of their game and we're just trying to figure our car out. I'm picky, though. If it's not comfortable, we might as well sit at home and watch from the couch. It wasn't very good all tonight, but we kept trying and trying and we thought we stumbled on something for the feature. It was terrible from the drop of the green. I'm just glad that we're second because it felt like I had about a 10th place car. It's been a tough road, but just to race again is a blessing. I just have to go do my homework."
After a recent struggle that saw three-straight finishes of 11th or worse, Hanford, California's Chad Boespflug got back on track with a third-place run.
"We've been struggling the last few weeks," Boespflug recalls. "To get back on the podium tonight after the way we've run the last few nights is pretty amazing. We made some strides tonight and I think we found some things. Hopefully, we can carry this momentum into Eastern Storm. We have to get a lot better to catch up with Justin. It was my first time here at Knoxville. Maybe next year we can do a two-day show. I'd definitely be down for that."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 3, 2017 - Knoxville, Iowa - Knoxville Raceway - "Iowa Corn District 5 and 9 Night"
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Chad Boespflug, 4. Chase Stockon, 5. C.J. Leary, 6. Chris Windom, 7. Kevin Thomas Jr., 8. Josh Hodges, 9. Shane Cottle, 10. Brady Bacon, 11. Isaac Chapple, 12. Dave Darland, 13. Stevie Sussex, 14. Carson Short, 15. Aaron Farney, 16. Hunter Schuerenberg, 17. Dustin Smith, 18. Tyler Courtney, 19. R.J. Johnson, 20. Brody Roa, 21. Nick Bilbee, 22. Jon Stanbrough. NT
**Bares flipped at the start of the semi. Stanbrough and Bilbee flipped on lap 2 of the feature. Ourtney flipped on lap 16 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Grant.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-745, 2-Windom-648, 3-Boespflug-647, 4-Stockon-600, 5-Courtney-516, 6-Leary-446, 7-Thomas-442, 8-Darland-418, 9-Cottle-392, 10-Hodges-387.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: June 13 - Bechtelsville, PA - Grandview Speedway - "Jesse Hockett Classic" - "Eastern Storm"
COURTNEY CASHES IN AT MALVERN BANK I-80 DIRT CLASSIC
By: Richie Murray - USAC Mediaa
Greenwood, Nebraska.........Tyler Courtney withstood a relentless Chris Windom assault during the final two laps of Friday night's Malvern Bank "I-80 Dirt Classic" to earn his second career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory in the series' inaugural appearance at I-80 Speedway.
Windom was on point for the first two-thirds of the 30-lapper, but Courtney used a lap 20 turn one slider to rip by the defending Silver Crown champ for the race lead, then took Windom's repetitious haymakers in stride down the stretch, answering each successive punch with a knockout blow of his own.
Running along the razor's edge requires a certain finesse to reach maximum success. On this night, Courtney had to juggle patience and urgency. The Indianapolis, Indiana native had to start seventh, but Courtney anticipated the track taking rubber and felt he had to get up on the wheel and bring it to the front as soon as the green dropped. Yet, the dilemma in a 30-lap sprint is that running too hard can create significant tire wear, making a hard-charging effort all for naught.
"We knew the track had a pretty good chance of taking rubber," Courtney admits. "I knew once I got to about third or fourth, I had to really start going. But I didn't want to use up my tires just in case it was going to take rubber. We were searching for a happy medium, but we played our cards right and came out on top. I'll take it any way I can get it."
Windom, though, was the master of the 4/10-mile dirt oval when racing commenced, sliding in front of polesitter Chad Boespflug in the first turn to take the lead on the opening lap. Soon thereafter, ProSource Fast Qualifier Stevie Sussex made a charge to the front and a bid for the lead on lap six that came up short, but soon fell into line behind Windom in a four-car breakaway freight train that also included Grant and Courtney in third and fourth, respectively.
The surface was wide and slick, allowing slide jobs to be thrown at will from anywhere and everywhere. After fifth-running Chase Stockon slowed with a bent draglink on the tenth lap to bring out the caution, Courtney took the message to heart, immediately blasting by Grant for third into turn one on the restart. A lap later, Courtney went to the well one more time in the same spot, sliding past Sussex for the runner-up spot.
As the top became rubber down, it became a single-file procession up top, but it opened the door for sliders for days coming in from all corners as it became the most preferred way to advance.
On the 20th revolution around the oval, Courtney took Windom's spot away up front with another perfect turn one slider. On the following circuit, Courtney slid the lapped car of Nebraska's Terry Richards in one to separate himself from Windom and gain an unobstructed view of the track ahead with just a handful of laps remaining.
"I screwed up down there in (turns) one and two and I didn't expect it to work out, but I got over the cushion and turned down the hill," Courtney recalled. "I slid a couple guys and got to Windom right before the caution. We got all bunched up; I ran behind Grant and Sussex for a little bit and while they were sliding each other, I was able to get by them. We got to lapped traffic, then I used one of them as a pick and slid Chris. I could tell the track was starting to take rubber, so I had to get by him quickly. Luckily, I was at the right place at the right time."
In the moments leading up to Corey Smith's spin on lap 25 that brought about the night's final yellow, Windom began to find his way back toward Courtney. On the ensuing restart, everyone anticipated Windom to be the aggressor and reclaim his spot up front. Instead, Grant was able to slide by Windom on the restart to momentarily take over second, though Windom countered immediately to move back to second.
Windom pounced on his second opportunity and was right on Courtney's tail for the final two-lap shootout. On the 29th lap, Windom took the first swing at Courtney, pulling ahead between turns one and two. Courtney kept his foot on the throttle and escaped around the outside of Windom with mere inches to spare to retain the lead.
Windom came back twice more on the final lap with a turn one slider to no avail and one last final run at him going into turn three, but each time, Courtney successfully countered with a left hook of his own, turning down the hill off turn four to cut underneath Windom and hang on for the victory by 0.184 of a second. Windom took second ahead of Grant, Robert Ballou and CRA/West Coast Sprint regular Brody Roa rounding out the top-five.
Patience and urgency reared its head again in the final laps for Courtney as he went face-to-face with the split-second decision on when to lay off the throttle, at what point to turn down in the corner and when to get back on the gas without being slow enough to lose the position or being too fast that he'd blister the tires.
"You lift a little bit, but you can't get too far out of it because you can unload your car and slip out of the rubber," Courtney explains. "It's back to the happy medium thing. You have to run it hard, but not too hard. Everything fell into place tonight. We had a rough start, but we've really got it clicking here the last few races."
"I knew he was going to be throwing (sliders)," Courtney adds. "It's tough when it's one lane like that, when you're sliding through the dirty stuff and it's kind of hard to get it stopped in the rubber. I'm sure Chris was having to throw them from pretty far back. It's just hard to get slowed down. If I was expecting it, I could whoa it down and make sure I didn't miss the rubber and make sure I got it coming off the corner. He tried those last two laps and, on the last lap, he tried it over in (turns) three and four. I would've done the same thing. Luckily, he blew through it every time and we were able to stay in it and get to the checker first."
Chris Windom of Canton, Illinois led the first 19 laps of Friday night's feature, ultimately taking his second-straight runner-up finish.
"When you're leading a race like that and the rubber keeps moving down, you're a sitting duck unless you happen to find it first," Windom explains. "Tyler just found it a little quicker than me and got by us. You replay the race a thousand times in your head and what you could've done differently. I felt like I was running a pretty consistent race, but he got to the rubber a little quicker than I did. I think we were better than him at the end, but I threw a few haymakers at him and he had enough to cross us back over."
"You're still under control until you're about to hit the rubber again, then you don't know if you're going to slide through it," Windom continued. "It's such a hard place to throw a slide job. If you're throwing it back to the rubber, you've got to slow way down to stick the rubber. I tried as hard as I could to slow down enough, but we slid through it just enough for Tyler squeeze back under us and cross us over. We threw all we could at him."
Ione, California's Justin Grant extended his run of top-four finishes to nine in USAC National Sprint Car competition in 2017, taking third.
"The patience involved is in waiting for a guy to hit the cushion and get tight against it coming off or missing it a little bit," Grant said. "You have to follow a guy until he bobbles, then when he bobbles, you take your shot then. You just kind of bide your time and wait for a guy to mess up. Everybody gets so fast later on the curb; you've got to wait for a mistake to capitalize."
"I got on the jersey barrier down the back stretch," Grant starts. "I don't know what my deal was. I got up on that jersey barrier and I couldn't get the thing turned off it until too late. When it did turn, the right rear was up on the wall and it slammed down into the cushion and then it bicycled and kind of rode on the right front before setting down and flat-wheeling the fence. I'm pretty fortunate. I thought I was going to turn over."
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 2, 2017 - Greenwood, Nebraska - I-80 Speedway - Malvern Bank "I-80 Dirt Classic"
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. Brody Roa, 6. Brady Bacon, 7. Stevie Sussex, 8. Dave Darland, 9. C.J. Leary, 10. Shane Cottle, 11. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 12. Chad Boespflug, 13. Isaac Chapple, 14. Josh Hodges, 15. Wyatt Burks, 16. Terry Richards, 17. Bruce St. James, 18. Kyle Robbins, 19. Corey Smith, 20. Warren Johnson, 21. Chase Stockon, 22. Ryan Kitchen. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-19 Windom, Laps 20-30 Courtney.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-667, 2-Windom-585, 3-Boespflug-574, 4-Stockon-528, 5-Courtney-477, 6-Leary-384, 7-Thomas-378, 8-Darland-373, 9-Cottle-339, 10-Jarett Andretti-338.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 3 - Knoxville, Iowa - Knoxville Raceway - "Iowa Corn District 5 & Iowa Corn District 9 Night"
VENTURA HOSTS USAC VS. VRA'S "BATTLE OF THE BEACH" SATURDAY
By: Lance Jennings
This Saturday, June 3rd, the USAC West Coast Sprint Cars will invade the Ventura County Fairgrounds for their first of four appearances at Ventura Raceway. Promoted by Jim Naylor, the "ARP Battle of the Beach Race #1" is co-sanctioned with the VRA Sprint Cars. The action packed card will also feature IMCA Modifieds, California Lightning Sprints, and USAC NOW 600 Micro Sprints. The Pit Gates will open at Noon, the Front Gates will open at 3:00pm, with Racing scheduled for 5:30pm at "The Best Little Dirt Track in America."
To date, the Ventura County Fairgrounds has held four West Coast Sprint Car races. Johnathon Henry won the "Grand Slam" event on April 4, 2009 and "The Human Highlight Reel" Geoff Ensign set the track record of 12.226 on November 23, 2016. Last season, Tristan Guardino and Ensign claimed the checkered flags at the "Turkey Night Grand Prix." A complete series win list at Ventura is at the bottom of this release.
Entering the ninth point race, Ryan Bernal sits atop the point standings. Bernal won Tulare's "Chris and Brian Faria Memorial" on May 20th. At press time, the two-time USAC Western Classic Champion has posted four feature wins, one Fast Time Award, three heat race victories, six top-10 finishes, and 59 feature laps led to his credit. Ryan leads all drivers with 31 career series wins and is always a threat to win.
Richard Vander Weerd is second in the USAC West Coast point chase. Richard scoured fourth in the "Faria Memorial." To date, the 2011 champion has one Fast Time Award, and six top-10 finishes on the year. Vander Weerd has 19 career USAC West Coast victories and will be looking to earn the $1,500 payday.
Jace Vander Weerd ranks third in the championship point standings. Jace placed ninth in the Tulare feature. As this writing goes to press, the 2010 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year has two heat race victories, six top-10 finishes, and 2 feature laps led on the season. Vander Weerd is tied with Peter Murphy for sixth on the series win list and will have his sights on his ninth victory.
Jake Swanson is tied for fourth in the USAC West Coast point standings. Swanson charged from tenth to score sixth at Tulare. At press time, the 2012 USAC/CRA Rookie of the Year has one feature win, two Fast Time Awards, one heat race victory, one Hard Charger Award, six top-10 finishes, and 17 feature laps led. Jake has two career series wins and will be looking to add the "Battle of the Beach" to his resume.
Austin Liggett is tied with Swanson for fourth in the chase for the championship. Liggett raced from sixth to third in the "Faria Memorial." To date, the 2012 Rookie of the Year has one feature win, two Fast Time Awards, two heat race victories, six top-10 finishes, and 7 feature laps led on the season. Austin is tied for twelfth on the series win list and will be looking to earn his fourth victory this Saturday night.
Currently tenth in points, Brandon Wiley leads the chase for Rookie of the Year honors. Steven Garris and Steve Hix are also in contention.
Among the other drivers expected to be in action are Danny Faria Jr., Tristan Guardino, Cody Majors, Ryan Timmons, Jeff Sibley, Joe Stornetta Jr., Shannon McQueen, Ryan Stolz, Max Adams, Geoffrey Strole, and more.
Kyle Smith leads the VRA point chase. Kenny Perkins, Kyle Edwards, Rick Hendrix, Brent Owens, Charlie Butcher, Jeremy Ellertson, Trenton Sparks, Ed Schwarz, and Troy Rutherford round out the top-10 in points.
I-80 AND KNOXVILLE UP NEXT AS USAC NATIONAL SPRINTS AIM FOR THE HEARTLAND
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Through the mazes of farmland in America's heartland, racetracks spring up out of the soil as if they were auto racing's version of the field of dreams.
If you build it, the racers will come. From far and wide and everywhere in-between.
That they will this weekend when the racing heroes of today embark on a journey to Mid-America to showcase what USAC's brand of racing is all about. No wings. Just ruts, guts and the glory that lies 30 laps ahead.
Two venues emerge at the forefront of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing this weekend with the racy I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Nebraska hitting leadoff for the series this Friday night, June 2nd.
USAC Sprint Car history in Nebraska is surprisingly short with the first of its five visits to the Cornhusker state coming just five years ago. This will be the first trip for the series to the 4/10-mile dirt oval located a half-hour southwest of Omaha.
Dave Darland is twice a winner at I-80 with the Sprint Bandits Tour 'N Topless series in 2007 and 2008. The Lincoln, Indiana driver is also the only multi-time USAC Sprint winner in Nebraska, picking up both at Eagle, and is hoping to ride the wave of momentum after earning an unsanctioned sprint win at Kokomo on Memorial Day.
Chad Boespflug won in Nebraska a year ago, also at Eagle, after taking the lead on lap two and soaring to one of his six USAC victories in 2016. But, the Hanford, California native aims to regain his form this weekend after a rough two-night trip to Eldora in May where point leader Justin Grant picked up his season-leading third win while Robert Ballou, an I-80 Sprint Bandits winner in 2006, returned from injury in fantastic form on night two.
On deck a night later on Saturday night, June 3rd is one of the select venues on racing's Mount Rushmore: Iowa's Knoxville Raceway. Of course, the half-mile at the Marion County Fairgrounds is synonymous with the legendary Knoxville Nationals and wing sprint car racing, but this Saturday night, the wings have been grounded as USAC races into town for the ninth time ever, and for the first time since 2011.
Knoxville held its first USAC Sprint race back in 1968 when eventual two-time series champ Gary Bettenhausen took top honors while drivers Dick Tobias (1971), Sam Sessions (1972), Tom Bigelow (1973), Sheldon Kinser (1982), Sammy Swindell (1988) and Bud Kaeding (2010) followed up with victories of their own.
Brady Bacon took a Sprint Bandits feature victory at I-80 in 2009, and the two-time USAC National Sprint Car champ from Oklahoma was the most recent to bag a Knoxville victory in USAC's last foray to Knoxville and has been clawing at the door of his first series win all season in the Dooling/Hayward Motorsports No. 63.
Also hitting the highway for Knoxville is four-time and defending USAC Southwest Sprint Car champion R.J. Johnson from Arizona, who ventures to south central Iowa to make his Knoxville debut in a car fielded by Tampa, Florida's R.J. Johnson. No, that's not a typo.
After three straight rainouts for the series leading into this upcoming weekend's two events, everyone's eager to get back on their respective horses. That time has finally arrived!
Pit gates open for Friday's "I-80 Dirt Classic" at I-80 Speedway at 4pm. Grandstands open at 5:30. Adult General Admission tickets are $23. Children Age 6-12 are $5. Pit Passes are $40.
1. Justin Grant 1058
2. Chris Windom 993
3. Chase Stockon 894
4. Chad Boespflug 887
5. Tyler Courtney 806
6. Kevin Thomas Jr. 783
7. Brady Bacon 710
8. C.J. Leary 686
9. Dave Darland 623
10. Jaertt Andretti 607
1. Brady Bacon 588
2. Spencer Bayston 559
3. Shane Golobic 551
4. Justin Grant 540
5. Tyler Courtney 507
6. Tanner Thorson 496
7. Chad Boat 428
8. Jerry Coons Jr. 426
9. Michael Pickens 380
10. Tyler Thomas 362
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