Du Quoin, Illinois…….Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. conjured memories of his breakout 2007 USAC season, as the Olive Branch, Mississippi driver returned to midget racing on Saturday night and passed Bryan Clauson with three laps to go for the win in the inaugural “Junior Knepper 55” USAC Midget special event at the Southern Illinois Center. Stenhouse was caught up in a lap-one logjam but recovered after restarting the event in the 20th and last position before making his way forward to the $3,000 payday.
After heat races and qualifying races accumulated finish and passing points to set feature lineups, Bryan Clauson earned the pole, but fellow front-row starter Tyler Thomas looped his mount in turn-one to set off the six-car stack-up. All six cars were able to restart.
Clauson led early and encountered the tail of the field on lap six, but that was no deterrent. Behind him, Joey Saldana worked to the inside of Chase Briscoe on lap nine to take the second spot. The pace was fast at the front, with the first half of the race clicking off with just one caution.
On lap 34, third-running Spencer Bayston looped in turn-one but was able to keep going, drawing a caution flag but assuming his position in the field as it was deemed an inadvertent yellow. Thomas, who was putting on a show with his drive back through the field without the aid of cautions, benefitted from that to take the third spot.
Saldana shadowed Clauson after flashing just behind on lap 27. He finally tried a slider for the lead on lap 44, but Clauson was able to hold him back. As Saldana slid up in turn-four, Thomas took his shot at second and had a head of steam into turn-one, riding up and over Saldana as both cars went spinning to bring a caution with eleven laps to go.
On the restart, Stenhouse went after his teammate Bayston for the second spot as Clauson pulled away. He started to smoke at the head of the field with less than ten laps to go, though, and Stenhouse started to close. One final caution with four laps to go gave Stenhouse his chance at Clauson for the win.
On the restart, Stenhouse ran high through turns one and two, hitting turn-three with a head of steam as he slid up in front with the lead in turn-four. Clauson didn’t give in, though, and he countered with a slider of his own that Stenhouse was able to hold off. Over the final two laps, Stenhouse covered the bottom by sliding across each set of corners, winning by .657-seconds in the Bryan Clauson Racing – Priority Aviation #17 Spike/Esslinger.
“I ran it in as hard as I could on that restart and knew that if I could get a good run off of two, I could slide him. I thought I would clear him, but he just hung right there with me. I had to go back in my head and think what I would do back in 2007 running USAC. It was eventful, and it was such a blast. I passed some cars top and bottom, but I was shocked when I saw Thomas and Saldana crash, and knew then we had a shot. Winning for Tim (Clauson) as a car owner is special after all he has done to help me race midgets still and for Richard & Jennifer Marshall at Priority Aviation. It was so much fun racing with Bryan, and being able to beat him makes you feel really good about racing a midget again,” Stenhouse said.
Clauson held on for the second spot in the Rusty Kunz/Joe Dooling Racing – B&H Contractors #63 Spike/Stanton Mopar.
“We were just trying to get it home – we weren’t quite good enough and the engine started to give a little at the end, but we still probably had enough if I didn’t make a couple wrong decisions late. I left the door open, and he took it. I saw the 17 coming on the board and knew he’d go big, and this is a huge win for him. It’s great for our team, as well, and it shows what great people we have even with our leader down a little and needing bed rest,” Clauson said.
Bayston held off Andrew Felker by .045-seconds to finish third in the Bryan Clauson Racing – Priority Aviation Services #39 Spike/Esslinger.
“Those guys were putting on a show up there, and I really wanted to get up there and duke it out with Ricky and Bryan for the win. You can’t pick two better guys out here. I probably dialed myself out just a bit. I’m really proud of what our team could accomplish without our leader Tim Clauson. It’s difficult not having him here, but he still led us and we had great help, and Tyler Ransbottom does a great job on these cars. It was a great night for us,” Bayston said.
Felker finished fourth in the 66 Truck & Salvage – MelMark #11A Boss/Stanton Mopar, and Briscoe rounded out the top-five in the Jeff & Jill Davis – Quick Racing Products #33D Triple X/Honda.
USAC HONDA MIDGET SPECIAL EVENT RACE RESULTS: December 19, 2015 – Du Quoin, Illinois – Southern Illinois Center -“Junior Knepper 55”
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Joey Saldana (#17x Saldana), 2. Shane Cottle (#71x Love), 3. Parker Price-Miller (#9p Ronk), 4. Jody Rosenboom (#14R Rosenboom), 5. Anton Hernandez (#37 Felker), 6. Joe B. Miller (#3B Neuman), 7. Payton Pierce (#39c Clauson), 8. Devin Camfield (#6c Camfield). NT
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Dave Darland (#11AG Gray), 2. Justin Peck (#5x Peck), 3. Shane Morgan (#15m Zero), 4. Hunter Lane (#0H Zero), 5. Travis Young (#11 Young), 6. John Campbell (#19 Campbell), 7. David Camfield (#16c Camfield). NT
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Chase Briscoe (#33D Davis), 2. Katlynn Leer (#77K Leer), 3. Brad Loyet (#05 Loyet), 4. Daniel Adler (#50 Adler), 5. Chase Hill (#11H Felker), 6. Tyler Nelson (#88 Nelson), 7. Jake Griffin (#6R Rosenboom), NT
FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson (#63 RKR/Dooling), 2. Andrew Felker (#11A Felker), 3. Dillon Welch (#99p Ronk), 4. Ricky Stenhouse Jr (#17 Clauson), 5. Chad Wheeler (#88w Wheeler), 6. Hunter Schuerenberg (#55 Knepper), 7. Dereck King (#91 Harris), 8. Alex Hill (#19p Ronk). NT
FIFTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Tony Bruce Jr. (#18 Team OneEight), 2. Tim Siner (#15 Siner/Cyliax), 3. Logan Jarrett (#29J Jarrett), 4. Brian Shirley (#3s Neuman), 5. Alex Watson (#41 3W Racing), 6. Chris Dyson (#16K Kruseman), 7. Colten Cottle (#5c Cottle), 8. Chris Urish (#14 Casson). NT
SIXTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Justin Allgaier (#7JA Motorsports Marketing), 2. Gage Walker (#7x Walker), 3. Dalton Camfield (#86c Camfield), 4. Cory Kruseman (#21K Kruseman), 5. Matt Westfall (#14w Bordner), 6. Jake Neuman (#3N Neuman), 7. Ryan Jamison (#51JR Jamison), 8. Colin Parker (#0c Zero). NT
SEVENTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Tyler Thomas (#91T Thomas), 2. Shane Cockrum (#66 Amati), 3. Matt Ponder (#5H Hoppe), 4. Rusty Dukes (#88D Sawyer), 5. David Hair (#29 Hair), 6. Gavin Harlien (#11K Kruseman). NT
EIGHTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Spencer Bayston (#39 Clauson), 2. Zach Hampton (#35x Three-Five), 3. Tyler Robbins (#35 Robbins), 4. Ryan Greth (#4G Lesher), 5. Daniel Robinson (#57D McCreery), 6. Tyler Courtney (#7K Irwin), 7. Bobby Jackson (#0A Zero), NT
LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER #1: (10 laps) 1. Nelson, 2. Neuman, 3. Griffin, 4. Harlien, 5. Westfall, 6. Pierce, 7. C.Cottle, 8. Hunter. NT
LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER #2: (10 laps) 1. Miller, 2. Dyson, 3. Jamison, 4. King, 5. Urish, 6. Courtney, 7. Jackson, 8. Campbell, 9. Bell, 10. Roney. NT
FIRST QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Adler, 2. Thomas, 3. Bayston, 4. Young, 5. Morgan, 6. Lane, 7. Greth, 8. Robbins, 9. Dalton Camfield, 10. Bruce. NT
SECOND QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Stenhouse, 2. Saldana, 3. Briscoe, 4. Leer, 5. Peck, 6. Siner, 7. Jarrett, 8. Welch, 9. Schuerenberg, 10. Hair. NT
THIRD QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Felker, 2. Kruseman, 3. Hernandez, 4. Walker, 5. Robinson, 6. Darland, 7. Loyet, 8. Shirley, 9. C.Hill, 10. Hampton. NT
FOURTH QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Price-Miller, 2. Clauson, 3. Dukes, 4. Allgaier, 5. Rosenboom, 6. Wheeler, 7. Ponder, 8. Watson, 9. S.Cottle. NT
ALSO AT THE TRACK: Skylar Hunter (#0D Zero).
B-MAIN #1: (15 laps) 1. Stenhouse, 2. Walker, 3. Morgan, 4. Robinson, 5. Loyet, 6. Wheeler, 7. Shirley, 8. Young, 9. Nelson, 10. Neuman, 11. Welch, 12. Robbins, 13. Bruce. NT
B-MAIN #2: (15 laps) 1. Darland, 2. Siner, 3. Dukes, 4. Leer, 5. Miller, 6. C.Hill, 7. S.Cottle, 8. Ponder, 9. Dyson, 10. Rosenboom, 11. Lane, 12. Watson, 13. Hampton. NT
FEATURE: (55 laps) 1. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 2. Bryan Clauson, 3. Spencer Bayston, 4. Andrew Felker, 5. Chase Briscoe, 6. Tim Siner, 7. Daniel Robinson, 8. Anton Hernandez, 9. Justin Peck, 10. Dave Darland, 11. Gage Walker, 12. Justin Allgaier, 13. Katlynn Leer, 14. Daniel Adler, 15. Tyler Thomas, 16. Joey Saldana, 17. Parker Price-Miller, 18. Cory Kruseman, 19. Shane Morgan, 20. Rusty Dukes. NT
**Bell flipped during practice. Devin Camfield flipped during the first heat. David Camfield flipped during the second heat. A.Hill flipped during the fourth heat. Dyson and C.Cottle flipped during the fifth heat. Roney flipped during the first last chance qualifier. Bruce flipped during the first qualifier. Shirley flipped during the third qualifier. S.Cottle flipped during the fourth qualifier. Welch flipped during the first B-Main. Hampton and Watson flipped during the second B-Main.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-51 Clauson, Laps 52-55 Stenhouse.
Saturday night’s “Junior Knepper 55” was only the 7th indoor dirt midget race in USAC’s history and the first since 1990. Previous winners on the dirt include Gary Bettenhausen (3/8/69) & (3/11/72), Lee Kunzman (3/9/69) and A.J. Foyt (3/14/70) who each won at the Houston (TX) Astrodome. Sleepy Tripp won a pair of features at the Reno (Nev.) Livestock Events Center on 3/12/88 and 2/10/90.
After Saturday night’s race in DuQuoin, the winners of the last two USAC Midget indoor races are Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (Southern Illinois Center) and Tony Stewart (Fort Wayne Memorial Coliseum Expo Center). Ironically, Stenhouse’s last USAC win prior to Saturday night was in a Tony Stewart-owned midget in the “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora Speedway in 2007.
Bryan Clauson swept the podium of the “Junior Knepper 55” by being associated with the top-three finishers in Saturday night’s feature. He is the owner of the first and third place cars driven by Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. and Spencer Bayston, respectively. Clauson, himself, drove to a 2nd place finish in his RKR/Dooling Racing entry.
Stenhouse’s victory marked the first time the Bryan Clauson Racing team won a USAC feature without Bryan Clauson behind the wheel. It’s also the first win for the Clauson team since November 16, 2013 in a USAC Midget feature at Canyon Speedway Park in Peoria, Arizona.
Stenhouse’s win also marked the first indoor USAC Midget victory by a driver in the state of Illinois since Michael Lang won at the Rosemont Horizon in Chicago on January 5, 1991.
Joey Saldana made his first USAC feature start since a USAC Sprint Car appearance at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway on July 27, 1991.
The 62 cars entered in the “Junior Knepper 55” provided the largest car count for a USAC Midget race since 64 cars appeared in the 2008 “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Irwindale Speedway.
Saturday night’s race was the first USAC Midget event held in DuQuoin, Illinois since Sleepy Tripp won a 50-lap race on the dirt mile at the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in 1979.
This was the third USAC-sanctioned event to take place at the Southern Illinois Center. The two previous USAC events were Ford Focus Midget Series races held in 2005 won by Robbie Ray and Brad Loyet.
Saturday’s field marked the largest car count of the season for a USAC Midget event, surpassing the 53 cars that appeared at the October 23 race at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Illinois.
Bryan Clauson led the first 51 laps of the race before Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. passed him for the lead with just 4 laps to go. The 51 laps led to begin a feature by a driver who did not go on to win the race were the most by a driver in a USAC Midget race since Tracy Hines led the first 62 laps before being passed by eventual winner Zach Daum in the 2011 “Hut 100” at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind.
The “Junior Knepper 55” was the first-ever 55-lap feature in the history of any of USAC’s three national championship series (Silver Crown, National Sprint & National Midget).
The 13 flips at DuQuoin were the most ever in a USAC event, breaking the record of 12 flips in the “Oval Nationals” USAC National Sprint Car event at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway on November 2, 2006.
PREVIOUS USAC “INDOOR” MIDGET
FEATURE WINNERS IN ILLINOIS
12/17/60 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Bob Tattersall
1/14/61 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Bob Wente
2/4/61 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Bob McLean
3/25/61 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Bob Wente
1/13/62 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Jimmy Davies
3/24/62 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Chuck Weyant
1/12/63 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Ronnie Duman
3/23/63 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Bobby Grim
3/21/64 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Bob McLean
3/21/64 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Ray Elliott
3/5/83 Springfield, IL Prairie Capital Conv. Center Jerry Nuckles
3/10/84 Springfield, IL Prairie Capital Conv. Center Alan Brown
3/29/86 Springfield, IL Prairie Capital Conv. Center Blake Hollingsworth
12/13/86 Chicago, IL Rosemont Horizon Ken Schrader
1/10/87 Rockford, IL Metro Centre Kevin Olson
12/5/87 Peoria, IL Peoria Civic Center Steve Lotshaw
3/19/88 Chicago, IL Rosemont Horizon Danny Pens
12/3/88 Peoria, IL Peoria Civic Center Mel Kenyon
12/10/88 Chicago, IL Rosemont Horizon Kevin Olson
1/6/90 Chicago, IL Chicago Amphitheater Russ Gamester
1/5/91 Chicago, IL Rosemont Horizon Michael Lang
12/19/15 DuQuoin, IL Southern Illinois Center Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.