by Don Martin
Thomas Meseraull won the Junior Knepper 55 Saturday night at the Southern Illinois Center located in DuQuoin, Illinois. This USAC sanctioned non-point event continues to grow and be one of the biggest midget races of the year. The San Jose, California driver Meseraull took advantage when leader and defending event winner Christopher Bell dropped out with mechanical failure. Meseraull would hold off several challenges of Indiana’s C.J. Leary driving NASCAR’s Alex Bowman Valvoline #55 midget to get the win.
The winning car was a teammate car to Dave Darland. It was a Black and Red #7 Spike Chassis with a SR-11 built by Rusty Kunz. The car was very fast and we all know T-MEZ is one of the most exciting drivers in the country. I have a feeling this team will be in Tulsa next month with this awesome machine.
Christopher Bell would lead the race at the halfway mark before retiring from the event. Meseraull and Leary would exchange the lead a half dozen times before settle contact between the two would result in a spin by Leary. It was just a racing deal the two raced each other hard and clean and just touched for a moment. T-MEZ would lead the last dozen laps to take the checkers on the 1/5 mile oval.
Jake Neumann would come home second in his Neuman Farms Boss #3N, Arkansas Derek Hagar took the final podium position with Trey Marcham and Kevin Thomas Jr. rounding out the top five. Tyler Courtney, Joe B. Miller, Ronnie Gardner, Ryan Smith, and Justin Grant rounded out the top ten. It was a great night for the Neuman team all three cars of started the feature in the first 5 rows. Jake of course ran second in the feature and Joe B. Miller finished seventh. The story of the night could have been late model standout Brian Shirley. Shirley started off the night by almost beating Christopher Bell in the 5th Heat race where he finished 2nd. Shirley won the qualifier later on in the evening and was running in the top five in the feature when a lapped car spun leaving the Chatham, Illinois driver nowhere to go. All in all it was a great night for the Neuman drivers and the team definitely has some momentum heading into the Chili Bowl next month.
There were several big names that were forced to watch the event that did not make the race including Zeb Wise, Tanner Thorson, and Dave Darland to name a few.
70 cars were on hand for the event with over 20 states represented. The event featured a unique pill draw, the drivers would determine by the pill draw where they would start the heat races. It was fun to watch the strategy of the teams and drivers. It was a great idea and every driver I spoke with loved the idea and wish next month at the Chili Bowl they would adopt this format. Each driver had 30 seconds to pick their spot, it went fast and again the fans on hand really seemed to enjoy it.
Promoter’s Nick Knepper and Derek Lemaster did a great job, they offered free entry fee to the competitors and of course anytime Levi Jones and USAC is involved you can expect an organized and efficient event.
In closing, this is an awesome show !! The racing was awesome , 8 heats, 4 qualifiers, 4 consolation events, and a 55 lap feature event with one of the coolest trophies you will ever see a fabricator’s dream.
The only thing this event needs is a sponsor and it could be massive. So any open wheel folks out there want to put your business on a marquee event this is your chance and it won’t take much.
Enjoy the races and keep supporting your local race tracks,