It seems like the Kokomo Speedway/USAC monster we call SmackDown always offers up some drama without seeming to try. On opening night it was Kyle Cummins who was the last man standing after holding off Brady Bacon through two different green/white/checkered attempts. This was Cummins; eighth feature win in USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car competition. It was his second USAC win at Kokomo and his first SmackDown victory.
My fellow traveler had done his chores and whatever schoolwork he had. His mom gave the thumbs up for him and Grandpa to head north to Kokomo. Our expectations were high and Kokomo didn’t disappoint.
There were the usual familiar faces and teams among the assembled throng along with a few visitors and new combinations in the never ending search for speed and victory. Damion Gardner would be the latest to turn some laps in the Baldwin Brothers’ Orange Crush. Other visitors included Noah Gass, Eddie Tofoya, Charles Davis Jr., Wisconsin’s Bill Balog, Cody Gardner, California’s Austin Williams, Jake Swanson and Cole Bodine.
Without benefit of the lineup sheet, my grandson identified the majority of the 49 cars and drivers. He struggled with the newer ones. Then again, so do I at times. I’ve seen Austin Williams’ dad, Rip, race way out west. Bill Balog has taken the wing off a few times and ventured south. Tofoya, Davis and Swanson must like Indiana as they paid our state a return visit.
With 49 cars, time trials would take a while, but it was a treat. Only Kyle Cummins and Brady Bacon dipped below the 13 second standard with Cummins’ 12.957 the quickest.
The first heat was the proverbial harbinger of things to come. Davis held off a snarling mob consisting of Chase Stockon, Tyler Courtney and Kyle Cummins, all of whom could have been covered by the proverbial blanket.
Things settled down somewhat in the second heat as Robert Ballou led Matt Westfall, Bill Balog and Brady Bacon to the line and the feature.
The first lap of the third heat was worth, if not the price of admission, at least the price of a pork chop sandwich as Thomas Meseraull led a four wide procession at the line. TMez hung on to win with Clinton Boyles, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Buddy Kofoid all moving on.
Jake Swanson continued to impress as he won the third heat, leading Shane Cottle, Tyler Thomas (from seventh) and Logan Seavey to the checkered with Seavey edging C.J. Leary at the line.
The C main had a strong enough lineup to pass for an A main at any of the area tracks. I heard that the winner was racing for a case of beer. I’m not sure if winner Max Adams is 21 yet. Hmmm…. Austin Williams, Dave Darland (in a backup car) and Tye Mihocko would tag the B main.
Predictably, the B lineup was also crazy with talent. C.J. Leary held off Chris Windom and Brandon Mattox to win. Also moving on to the show were Stevie Sussex, Damion Gardner and Justin Grant, who switched to a backup after a poor performance in his heat and passed a bunch of cars. Carson Short and Dave Darland were close behind and used provisionals to tag the feature.
Two California boys driving Arizona cars led the field to Brian Hodde’s green. On the first lap, a mob gathered together in turn two, ignoring social distancing rules. Shane Cottle ended up facing the wrong way. Sussex and Short were also involved and were sidelined while Cottle re-started. The gang tried again and Courtney stormed from his fourth starting position to take the lead from the California/Arizona duo.
Almost immediately Cummins was on the charge from his sixth place starting spot. His car was working both high and low. By the third lap he was in third place and was second a lap later. By the fifth lap Kyle was hounding Courtney something awful, my grandmothers would have said. It was only a matter of time before Sunshine would get the same treatment as the others. On the 13th lap Cummins got a great jump off the low side of turn four and take the lead.
Try as he might, Cummins could not shake Courtney, who likewise could not put any distance between himself and third place Bacon. Lapped traffic came into play as Brian gave the group the crossed flags. Cummins was an absolute boss handling the lappers but still Courtney and Bacon wouldn’t go away as the laps wound down.
There’s no set pattern, but it seems like several of these feature races I watch stay green for much of the race before a yellow flag is displayed. Invariably another will wave and the leader would be well-advised to count to 20 or more. The yellow came out on lap 27 when a wheel banging turned into some bumping and bouncing. Courtney was in the middle of this and had a flat tire. His miserable luck at Kokomo would continue. Bacon did some serious bouncing, getting airborne briefly before moving on. T. Thomas had much worse luck; he ended up facing the wrong way in turn two.
Cummins led Bacon, K. Thomas, Ballou and Kofoid. The green came out and the boys got a lap in with no change until K. Thomas slowed on the frontstretch before stopping. Somehow everyone missed him and the yellow re-appeared. Seavey replaced KT in the top five.
On the re-start, Bacon was hungry. He forced his way under Cummins and pulled a little closer at each end of the track. Coming to the checkered, it was a photo finish. I had no clue who led, but it didn’t matter. Balog had spun in turn one, bringing out the yellow and negating a very close finish. It would be another green/white/checkered finish (which I’m not a fan of). Would Cummins suffer the same fate that bedeviled Chase Stockon at Terre Haute? Uh….no.
Bacon would try again on this final re-start, but this time Cummins had a much better start and was able to hold off Brady, winning by a margin of barely a quarter of a second. Ballou took home the bronze medal after starting eighth. Kofoid was fourth and Meseraull was fifth.
The second five had pole sitter Seavey sixth and Stockon coming from 12th to finish seventh. Windom claimed the KSE Racing Products/Circus City Speedway/Irvin King Hard Charger award after starting 21st and ending eighth. Swanson and Leary ran ninth and tenth.
My buddy and high powered HARF officer Jeff VanWinkle are again collecting money for the hard luck driver for each night of SmackDown. The “winner” of the hard luck money was Robert Bell, who flipped hard in his heat race. As game as ever and the hero of low buck racers, Robert intended to return for both nights if he could pick up a part or two. A racer all the way.
As the rain falls here and reminding myself that they are not racing here, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Importance of Momentum
Despite the best efforts by at least two of the best, Kyle Cummins again prevailed on the second night of the Kokomo Speedway’s SmackDown. First Thomas Meseraull, then Chris Windom gave Mr. Cummins a few anxious moments before the pride of Princeton, Indiana crossed the start/finish line. It was Cummins’ ninth USAC Amsoil Sprint Car feature win. This was his second Kokomo victory. But there was doubt if it would happen.
Driving north I could see a few clouds to the north and remembered that a little bit of rain wasn’t going to stop anyone associated with USAC or the track from doing their best to prepare the surface for racin’. Periodically checking the radar I could see it was wet up here but I still wasn’t turning around. Uh-uh.
Sure enough I arrived at the track after spending more time in the motel room than I planned. And sure enough, mud was everywhere, in the parking lot, the pits and of course the track. But the skies had cleared and everyone involved did their best to get Indiana’s baddest bullring race ready.
The program had been pushed back an hour or two. No problem. The pits and the infield were a quagmire. Still no problem. One had to park at one’s own risk. No problem. I parked halfway to Logansport but didn’t mind. The slight slope would serve me well come midnight.
Tonight there were 50 cars in the pits. Dakota Jackson and Texan Brandon Long were the new kids. Missing was David Hair.
In time trials, just when it seemed like the track was slowing, along came Thomas Meseraull to set fast time with a 13.086 lap. He was only the 36th to give it a try.
In the first heat, pole sitter Chris Windom won by a straightaway over Matt Westfall, Brady Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr.
Chase Stockon won the second heat from the pole, with Damion Gardner, Carson Short and Justin Grant also heading to the feature.
The third heat saw Tyler Courtney pass early leader Bill Balog and win with the Badger State veteran second. TMez and Tyler Thomas were third and fourth.
Dave Darland’s night would be better than Thursday’s as he won the fourth heat over Cummins, Shane Cottle and Stevie Sussex.
Californian Eddie Tofoya Jr. triumphed in the C main with Minnesotan Brian VanMeveren, Jadon Rogers and Clinton Boyles, who made a last lap pass, all tagging the semi-feature.
Like the C, the B main was caution plagued. C.J. Leary won with teammates Buddy Kofoid and Logan Seavey trailing. Jake Swanson, Anthony D’Alessio and Robert Ballou made the show. Brandon Mattox and Dustin Smith took a provisional to get in. VanMeveren flipped down the frontstretch. He crawled out unassisted.
Short and Cummins led the field of 24 to Mark Orr’s green flag. Right away there was trouble when Cottle biked and nearly flipped. Instead, he stayed on all fours but collected Leary, Darland and Grant, who re-started. Darland went to the work area and returned. Cottle’s car was on the hook but returned later. Cummins led with one lap in. Ironically, all four who were gathered together are Kokomo Speedway champs.
The first mishap was in turn three and a second occurred a lap later in turn two. Mattox, Ballou, Westfall and Gardner were the participants. Mattox and Gardner re-started. Ballou visited the work area and returned. Westfall was done for the night. Cummins led Short, K. Thomas, Meseraull and Windom.
Cummins controlled the re-start and had started to build a nice lead when the red flag waved on lap seven. Coming out of turn four, Ballou, selected by Jeff and I as the hard luck driver for the night, and Grant collided with Grant flipping while Ballou’s car was beat up. They had what appeared to be a cordial chat and went their separate ways. While the yellow lights still blinked, K. Thomas stopped at the start/finish line with what was an apparent loose belt. But when he was pushed off, the car wouldn’t start and KT was done. Cummins still led but now Meseraull was second with Short, Windom and Courtney next in line.
Again, there was a short green flag segment interrupted by a slowdown. D’Alessio stopped just before the pit entrance with 13 laps complete. Short had been shuffled back and T. Thomas appeared in the top five. One had to wonder—if there would be a lengthier green flag period, would anyone else up front have anything for Cummins?
Meseraull stepped up his game on the re-start when he slid under Cummins in turn two, only give it back when they reached the other end of the track. A few laps later Windom passed for second place and set sail for Cummins.
While this went on, a large group was fighting each other for third on back. For a few laps, it was hard not to notice Meseraull, Courtney, T. Thomas, Stockon, Kofoid and Bacon fighting for position. And during all this, Windom closed the gap on the leader. With five laps to go, it was anyone’s race. Windom’s diamonding maneuvers in turns three and four were working. But near the end, Cummins used a lapped car to hold up the challenger. That was it. Windom’s charge fell short.
Courtney occupied the last podium position. Kofoid was fourth and Bacon came from 13th to finish fifth and earn the KSE Racing Products/Circus City Speedway/Irvin King Hard Charger. Thomas faded a bit at the end but was sixth after starting 14th. Leary started 12th and came back from his early misfortune to finish seventh. Stockon was eighth and Meseraull fell to ninth. Darland also recovered nicely from his early mishap and grabbed tenth.
A final word courtesy of Richie Murray: Kyle Cummins is the first racer to sweep the two initial nights of SmackDown. Tonight, he will try and be another first.
How would the boys top this? We’d have to wait a few more hours to find out.
Peering out from my cocoon before ducking back inside, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Redemption
Tyler Courtney has endured some less than stellar results this year at the Kokomo Speedway. But that was pushed off to the corner as Courtney led Kyle Cummins to win the final night of the sprint car SmackDown IX 40 lap feature. This was Courtney’s third SmackDown title in four years. His greeting to fellow three time SmackDown winner Dave Darland might be, “Move over, Dave. You’ve got company.”
Matt Westfall won the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series 25-lap feature that preceded the USAC curtain closer.
Calm before the storm?… I’ve gotten into the habit of spending afternoons in a Kokomo city park and the final day of SmackDown was no exception. After lunch with a dear friend and classmate, I made a beeline for the park so I could walk and/or read. At one end of the park was the skateboard area and it was hard to miss the young males doing their thing. There was the rare accident but each kid got up and tried again. They were taking one chance after another.
This made me think that much progress has occurred because people took a chance that something might work better. Or someone tried something different, like a TV or a horseless carriage.
Too much chance taking is either wrong-headed or simply frivolous (Think of the Corvair.). But either way, if one learns from their mistakes, the mistake becomes a lesson. That thought brought me back to the truck and it was time to head for the Kokomo Speedway for the last hurrah of SmackDown. Hopefully there would be a few of us who would learn from those mistakes.
As an extra treat, like adding tasty options to your pizza, the BOSS would be a welcome addition to SmackDown. A total of 39 cars signed in at the BOSS headquarters, supervised by BOSS Boss Aaron Fry’s granddaughter Nora Gardner.
The SD format on the final night is different. The top eight in points are locked into the feature. Positions one through eight are determined by the King of the Hill competition, tournament style. The balance of the field would be determined by the three heat race finishes. The top three in each heat would transfer to the 40 lap feature. The B main would advance the top five. There would be no USAC qualifications.
The BOSS format was closer to “normal.” Group qualifying would decide the four heat race lineups with the top four advancing to the feature. Two B mains would take the top three to the 25 lapper.
The first USAC heat saw Robert Ballou, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Justin Grant secure spots in the finale.
The second heat: Logan Seavey, Clinton Boyles and Jake Swanson.
The third heat: Dave Darland, Charles Davis Jr. and Shane Cottle.
It was time for the Buckeye based series’ four heats.
The first BOSS heat’s top four were Matt Goodnight, Cody White, Max Guilford and Luke Hall.
The second heat: Cole Bodine, JJ Hughes, Matt Westfall and Sterling Cling.
The third heat: Dallas Hewitt, Brandon Long, Kyle Simon and Noah Gass.
The fourth heat: Dustin Ingle, Tyler Gunn, Lee Underwood and Matt Cooley.
The USAC semi was taken by Tyler Thomas, with Carson Short, Brandon Mattox, Dakota Jackson and Eddie Tofoya Jr. all moving on.
The King of the Hill began with CJ Leary eliminating Kyle Cummins, Thomas Meseraull beating Tyler Courtney, Buddy Kofoid outrunning Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon defeating Chris Windom.
Leary then beat TMez to advance to the final three lap session. Bacon terminated Kofoid’s effort. Leary claimed the crown after he quashed Bacon’s hopes of winning.
Dustin Clark won the first of the two BOSS B’s, leading Steve Irwin and Corey Smith to the feature. Isaac Chapple took the second with Korbyn Hazlett and Cody Gardner (Nora’s dad) tagging the tail for the show.
Ingle and Underwood led the way to the green for the BOSS feature. Westfall started sixth and was on the charge right away. He passed Ingle on the fifth lap and never looked back. The only chance anyone would have was for the Ohio veteran to break or a monster re-start.
Caution lights blinked for an early Tyler Gunn spin. Two yellows later, Irwin and C. Smith tangled and Smith was not thrilled with the outcome. The caution flag that affected the race more than the others came on lap 15 when second place Noah Gass spun in turn one, tried to correct the spin, but collected Brandon Long, who started tenth and had advanced to the top five, instead.
The green waved and Westfall again pulled away until a late yellow for Cling and Chapple slowed things one last time. Westfall took off as Mark Orr waved the green flag and “easily” won. But he missed a good race behind him as Bodine held onto second ahead of 13th starting Simon. Hewitt was fourth and Underwood fifth. Hall moved from 14th to sixth. Hazlett advanced from 20th to seventh to win the Aaron Fry hard charger award (“ ’atta boy, Korbyn’ ”). Ingle was eighth and Clark came from 17th to finish ninth. White was tenth.
All things considered, many of the BOSS regulars had either very few or no laps at all on the baddest bullring. They acquitted themselves well and were a welcome “support class.”
It was time for the Show. Driver introductions were made and kids had their chance to give high fives to the drivers who strolled in front of the frontstretch bleachers before strapping in.
Mark turned the mob loose and Bacon was the man in a hurry. Leary trailed as the groove right at the wall was the groove of choice. Passing would be possible, if somewhat difficult. Bacon was leading with Leary hounded by Cummins for second when the red flag came out for Short, who went flipping down the frontstretch with eight laps completed. Carson walked away from the Phillipsmobile. Bacon led Leary, Cummins, Kofoid and Courtney. As the cars were pushed off, Grant’s car wouldn’t fire. He went to the pits and probably pondered what a difficult weekend it had been.
Off they went again and Cummins was on the move. How could one not consider that this guy might well make it a clean sweep? He passed Leary and was knocking on Bacon’s door. The battle was halted on lap 19 when Boyles flipped hard in turn four and Swanson was collected. Boyles exited the car on his own and owner Paul Hazen had work to do. It was still Bacon out front, ahead of Cummins, Kofoid, Windom and Courtney.
On the re-start Cummins made his move, diving under Bacon in turns one and two, but Bacon took the lead right away. In addition, both had a new problem, namely Courtney, who had bolted from fifth to become a player. Just past halfway, Sunshine passed Cummins for second in turns three and four and was interested in taking the lead. Bacon was being stalked and had sparks coming out of the right rear. Courtney at this point seemed inevitable.
The deed was done on lap 28 as Courtney took the lead when Bacon had a minor bobble in turn two. From there it was a matter of time as Sunshine rode off to the sunset, eventually winning by a healthy 3.699 second margin, even after he bounced hard off the cushion on lap 38. Behind him was some as Bacon faded somewhat and Cummins annexed second place. Leary had a late race resurgence, taking third ahead of Bacon. Kofoid was the rookie of SmackDown IX as he had another strong finish, this time fifth. Windom, Seavey, Meseraull, Stockon and Cottle were the second five. Cottle was the KSE Racing Products/Circus City Speedway/Irvin King Hard Charger, coming from officially 17th to tenth. This was even more impressive because he had to make a quick pitside visit as the cars lined up, dropping him to last.
The word of the night was, for Courtney at least, redemption. Twice this year, he has either flipped or spun out of the lead at Kokomo, during Midget Week and Sprint week. Thursday, he suffered a flat tire after contact while running second. He had to feel like he was due.
It was over, at least for a few moments, hours, or days. After the celebrations, the commiserating, the trophies, the big check, not to mention the mud on everyone’s shoes, Mr. Courtney will be able to kick back, and remember how he was able to get a measure of redemption.
Looking forward to my new job of placing myself between Jerry Falwell Jr. and any camera, I’m…