USAC’s idea of substituting two nights of racing at the Gas City I-69 Speedway and the Kokomo Speedway for Eldora Speedway’s Four Crown got to a fine start on a chilly Friday night at Gas City as Cannon McIntosh and CJ Leary outran the best of their peers. McIntosh won the USAC Nos Energy National Midget main event while Leary triumphed in the curtain closing USAC Amsoil National Sprint car feature.
This would be a rare teaming up with both grandsons and their dad. After strolling through the pits to see who was who, we played the classic Gas City I-69 Speedway game of catch the tiny dirt pellets as hot laps began. Alas, by the time qualifications commenced, the miniature missiles were no more.
Thomas Meseraull, Clinton Boyles, Brady Bacon, Chris Windom, Justin Grant, Logan Seavey, Chase Johnson and Kyle Cummins made up the crew that would be extra busy for the night. Each had rides in both a sprinter and a midget.
The track seemed to gain speed as time trials progressed. Jadon Rogers led the first flight of sprints with a 12.346 lap. Brady Bacon’s 12.195 led overall. Thomas Meseraull’s 11.441 will stand at least into 2021.
Midget time trials were next. Try as he might, Tyler Courtney came close to the four-year-old track record belonging to Rico Abreu. Sunshine’s 12.149 lap was only .101 seconds slower.
First heat: Clinton Boyles, Jadon Rogers, Anton Hernandez and Chase Johnson
Second heat: Kyle Cummins, Kendall Ruble, Chase Stockon and Robert Ballou Notice that southwestern Hoosiers ran 1-2-3.
Third heat: Logan Seavey, Brady Bacon, Dave Darland and Scotty Weir
Fourth heat: Brandon Mattox, CJ Leary, Chris Windom and Justin Grant This heat was marred by two yellows and a red flag for Kyle Shipley, who flipped hard coming out of turn two. Kyle was out of the car quite rapidly all things considered.
First heat: Thomas Meseraull, Chase Johnson, Kaylee Bryson and Tyler Courtney
Second heat: Justin Grant, Buddy Kofoid, Daison Pursley and Robert Dalby
Third heat: Andrew Layser, Chris Windom, Cannon McIntosh and Emerson Axsom
Fourth heat: Cole Bodine, Clinton Boyles, Ethan Mitchell and Chase Randall
Sprint C main: Dustin Ingle, Thomas Meseraull (from last), Matt McDonald and Ryan Barr
Sprint B: Kevin Thomas Jr., Shane Cottle, Carson Short, Ricky Lewis, Brandon Long and Evan Mosley
Midget B: Logan Seavey, Kyle Cummins, Tanner Thorson, Brady Bacon, Tanner Carrick and Tyler Nelson
The Midget feature was the next to last race and its first half was plagued by four caution periods in the first ten laps. Pole sitter Pursley got the jump and led the first two laps. But McIntosh was not to be denied. He took the lead on lap three just before the yellow waved.
On the re-start, McIntosh was a rocket as he jumped to a straightaway lead by the fifth lap. Bacon brought out a yellow on the ninth lap, erasing that big lead. The green waved but only for a moment as yellow lights blinked when Hayden Reinbold stopped in turn two. McIntosh led Pursley, Courtney, Meseraull and Layser.
The gang only made it two laps before Pursley did a half spin and collected Meseraull, sending TMez to the rear and we were up to four yellows in ten laps. Hey, it happens.
The race was an all-green affair for the rest of the way as McIntosh was never seriously threated. But behind him, there was quite the scrap. Courtney had blitzed his way to third after starting sixth. It took him 14 laps before he could get around Pursley for second. But could he catch the leader?
McIntosh still had a healthy lead when he entered lapped traffic on lap 22. This would be Courtney’s best chance to make this race closer if not take the lead. But McIntosh was unfazed as he handled the lapped cars like a pro, finishing 1.791 seconds ahead of Courtney. Cummins continued to show people that he’s not only a winning sprinter, but also a maestro of the midgets as he came from 11th to take third. Thorson claimed the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger after he stormed from 17th to finish fourth. Young Emerson Axsom started and finished fifth. Grant led the second five while Kofoid came from 18th to take seventh. Pursley was eighth. Windom started 15th and finished ninth. Carrick was tenth.
This was the 113th feature by a Keith Kunz/Pete Willoughby team.
Windom continues as the USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINT leader, but Courtney cut the margin to a mere nine points.
Given the fact that the program started about 45 minutes late, the sprint finale’s lining up right around 11 p.m. wasn’t too bad. Anton Hernandez’s race ended before it started as he cancelled his engagement to participate, bedeviled by an ailing engine. Justin Grant was docked two rows for tardiness; instead of starting fourth, he would start eighth. The green waved and Leary and Darland were the front row with the People’s Champ taking the early lead.
The first yellow waved on the third lap as Thomas and Lewis met in the fourth turn. Darland led Leary, Rogers, Grant (already on the move) and Seavey.
Two laps later another mandated slowdown occurred when Seavey spun. Darland still led but now it was Grant in second, trailed by Leary, Rogers and Bacon. Grant was on the prowl as he charged into turn three under Darland, taking the lead on lap eight. As the race approached the halfway mark, Darland was finally passed by a rejuvenated Leary. At the official halfway point, Grant and the other leaders encountered lapped traffic.
Things were looking good for Grant, who has had his struggles on occasion this year. But I noticed that Leary wasn’t exactly dropping back. In fact, it seemed as if he was gaining slightly on the leader.
A caution flag on lap 27 for a Kyle Cummins spin made the leader’s advantage a moot point. The order up front was Grant, Leary, Bacon, Darland and Stockon. The green waved and it seemed to me that Grant took a very conservative approach to turn one. I thought, “Justin, you might need to get after it.” Leary was looking good on the re-start, taking a higher line than the low-riding Grant, the same space that was good to Courtney a few minutes later. Plenty of time left for a challenge.
Sure enough, Leary came out of turn four and made the pass for the lead on the high side as he passed under the flagstand on lap 28. From there, the Greenfield, IN native was gone, taking the win with a margin of 0.539 seconds. Bacon was third behind Grant. Stockon was fourth and Windom earned the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger after beginning the race 22nd and ending it fifth. Cottle was sixth after starting 15th. Darland was shuffled back to seventh at the end. Rogers was eighth and Ballou came from 18th to come home ninth. And Mario Clouser took a provisional, starting 23rd and finishing tenth.
Bacon leads the USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS by only five points over Windom.
This was Leary’s third USAC sprint 2020 win. It was his 12th career win.
In a few hours, we aim to gather together for another night of…speed, thrills, craziness and…another pork chop sandwich. Chances are good that we’ll see two different paths to victory with a winning result.
Interviewing for the opening in the Kremlin for V. Putin’s PR rep, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: Ups and Downs
The weather may have been chilly at the Kokomo Speedway, but the action on the track certainly wasn’t. On the second night of USAC’s double dose of some of the best racing on the planet, both Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom overcame both the setbacks and the pressure to produce. Courtney won the USAC Amsoil National Sprint Series feature. Windom came from deep in the pack to triumph in the night’s final race.
It was a night that reminded me how quickly fortunes can change—in our own lives as well as USAC racing. In 24 hours or less, guys went from hero to zero…and back again. As it is in our lives, no one was immune from misfortune.
The car count was down a bit on the midgets’ side, dropping from 35 at Gas City to 31 at Kokomo. The sprints held steady at 42. New kids on the block included Ray Seach, hauling his midget from Wisconsin. Among the sprints, Chase Jones, Davey Ray, Critter Malone, Tye Mihocko and Jake Swanson joined the party.
In qualifications, Dave Darland showed the kids how to get around the oval, ripping off a 13.068 lap, leading all sprinters. Tanner Thorson led all midget contestants with an impressive 13.175.
First heat–Thomas Meseraull, Jadon Rogers, Tyler Courtney and Chase Johnson (transferees)—Gas City winner CJ Leary went to the B.
Second heat—Robert Ballou, Logan Seavey, Critter Malone and Shane Cottle—Tri-State winner Kendall Ruble and Justin Grant to the B.
Third heat—Scotty Weir, Chris Windom, Chase Stockon and Dave Darland—fine race
Fourth heat—Kyle Cummins, Mario Clouser, Brady Bacon and Brandon Mattox—Ricky Lewis climbed the wall in turn two, tipping over.
First heat—Buddy Kofoid, Logan Seavey, Chase Johnson and Tanner Thorson—Ethan Mitchell was running third when his engine started smoking and he was done.
Second heat: Thomas Meseraull, Chris Windom, Tyler Courtney and Cannon McIntosh—Meseraull won his second heat of the night.
Third heat: Kaylee Bryson, Bryant Wiedeman, Andrew Layser and Brady Bacon—A side-by-side finish
Fourth heat: Daison Pursley, Justin Grant, Karter Sarff and Emerson Axsom—Clinton Boyles was leading when his engine expired.
Sprint C and B:
C: Matt McCarthy, Cole Bodine, Eddie Tafoya Jr. and Zach Pretorius
B: CJ Leary, Kevin Thomas Jr., Carson Short, Kendall Ruble, Clinton Boyles and Max Adams—Tim Creech II flipped in turn four. He was “transported for further observation” according to USAC. Keep Tim and his family in your prayers.
Midget B: Brenham Crouch, Kyle Cummins, Tanner Carrick, Cole Bodine, Chase Randall and Hayden Reinbold
The sprint feature would precede the midgets tonight and seconds after Mark Orr waved the green, things got unsightly right away. A major jamup in turn one left last week’s winner at Haubstadt Kendall Ruble and Kevin Thomas Jr. sitting sideways.
The re-start was a case of déjà vu if you were Kendall Ruble. He spun again and contacted an infield tire. If the young man from Knox County was muttering to himself at this point, it would have been understandable.
The third time was the charm as Mattox fired off from his outside pole starting point to take the early lead. Bacon had started behind Mattox and continued to shadow the Terre Haute resident. The pass for the lead was in turn one as Bacon dove low. The Oklahoma native would have his way for much of the race, beginning on the seventh lap. Bacon began putting a bit of Kokomo real estate between him and Mattpx by lap nine. Mattox had other issues, namely Stockon and Courtney, especially Courtney. Sunshine passed Stockon for third and began giving Mattox fits, and sweeping
by Brandon on the 11th lap in the third turn.
A lap later, Bacon found lapped traffic. This was a temporary situation as the yellow waved on lap 18 for a Chase Johnson spin. It was a mixed blessing for Bacon. The lapped traffic was gone, but his lead over Courtney was also gone. Behind the two frontrunners were Grant, Mattox, and Cummins.
The green waved and the hammer and tongs came out. Bacon went high, Courtney went low, then high, etc. Back and forth they went, even after Courtney took the lead with a well-executed slider in turn three on lap 24. Sure enough, here came Bacon, not knowing anything about yielding. Courtney officially led two laps before Bacon came back to lead lap 27. But Sunshine turned the lights out on the next lap, leading the rest of the way.
Stockon was third and Mattox had a USAC career best fourth place. Cottle started on the pole, drifted back to the wrong end of the top ten, and recovered to take fifth. Ballou was sixth and Cummins seventh. Darland claimed eighth as Windom motored from 18th to finish ninth and earn the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger. Grant salvaged a tenth after taking a provisional and starting 21st.
This was Courtney’s sixth USAC sprint car triumph at Kokomo
Bacon’s point lead is 30 over Windom with one race to go. Stockon is third, only ten points behind Windom.
A late note from USAC regarding Tim Creech II: As of 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, he was “awake, alert and responding to all questions appropriately.” I’ll take it.
Grant and Bacon hustled to their midget rides so they could start this 30-lapper on the front row of the grand finale of the Indiana Donor Network Driven2SaveLives Double Double.
Brenham Crouch brought out the first yellow flag when he spun seconds after the green waved. They tried again and Grant took the lead as Bacon kept busy holding Layser back in third place until the Pennsylvania native grabbed second. Layser’s great start was undone as he bounced to a stop in turn one and collected Pursley, running fifth, and Meseraull. Five laps were in and the top five was shuffled with Grant now leading Courtney, who had passed Bacon just before the yellow. Axsom was fourth and Kofoid fifth.
The green came out and Grant found himself under attack by Courtney. The fast groove was at the bottom and Grant was barely able to hang on. But he couldn’t keep the car at the very bottom and Courtney exploited the opening, taking the lead on the tenth lap. Bacon had not been far behind the duo up front and he got around Grant a couple of laps before Axsom stopped on the backstretch while running fourth.
The re-start order was Courtney, Bacon, and Grant. Two new names had joined the top five after beginning the race back in the pack. Windom was fourth and McIntosh was fifth. Mark waved the green and Windom went to work on Grant, making the pass at the halfway mark of the race. Up next was Bacon; Windom passed him with 12 laps to go and he was far from done. The battle for the lead was on and Windom owned the bottom as Courtney gave him just enough room to make the pass on lap 23.
Windom had put some distance between him and Courtney when Axsom stopped again on the 27th lap. Thorson, who had been quietly hanging around the top five for most of the race, now was third behind Windom and Courtney. This would be the last, best chance for Sunshine to reassume the lead, maybe on the re-start. Thorson might have offered his own opinion on the matter at hand.
The final segment of the race proved to be anti-climatic as Windom withstood a mild charge from Courtney, who kept Thorson behind him. No positions were changed. McIntosh, the Gas City winner, came from 16th to finish fourth. Kofoid took fifth and Bacon faded somewhat to sixth. Seavey was seventh and Cummins, getting used to this kind of racing, was eighth. Chase Johnson finished ninth and pole sitter Grant slipped to tenth at the end.
The icing for Windom was the KSE Racing Products Hard Charger. He came from 14th to the BC Victory Lane. It was also his first USAC Nos Energy National Midget Series win at Kokomo. Windom leads Courtney by eight points in the championship quest.
So it ended. Once again, one could be struck by how quickly fortunes could change. Someone who would run well or even dominate on one night might be out to lunch the following night. It made things that much more interesting.
Wondering if I could get away with paying $750 in income tax, I’m…
The Hoosier Race Report: The Battle and the War
Tonight’s last race of the season at the Lawrenceburg Speedway brought out the great differences in defeat and victory. Tyler Courtney appeared to have won the battle, trading the lead with Brady Bacon a few times before taking the checkered flag first in the USAC Amsoil Sprint Car Fall Nationals. Bacon, for his part, won the war and, after Courtney was disqualified for being 15 pounds underweight at the scales after the race, won the war, too. It was the second time in two weeks that an apparent winner was DQ’d as Kendall Ruble endured the same fate at Tri-State Speedway on September 19.
The number of races left in Indiana are dwindling to just a few. This would be the last Lawrenceburg trip for my bodyguard and me. We’ve piled up the miles since the late start to 2020 and it’s been a treat to watch him grow and learn.
In addition to the 20 modifieds in the pits, 37 USAC sprinters were in town. Of note was Illini midget racer Andy Baugh trying his luck with a sprint car.
Jake Swanson’s 13.658 lap led all qualifiers while CJ Leary was one of the last to go out yet still ripped off a 13.914, leading the second flight of contestants.
JJ Hughes, after a disappointing night at Gas City on Friday, won the first heat over Shane Cottle, Jake Swanson and Brady Bacon.
In the second heat, Scotty Weir inherited the lead after early leader Robert Ballou tapped the wall. Scotty hung on for the win with Tyler Courtney, Dave Darland and Chris Windom giving chase.
Cole Bodine ran away with the third heat win, leaving the likes of Carson Short, Mario Clouser and CJ Leary, who needed a last lap pass of Jadon Rogers to avoid the dreaded B main.
Kevin Thomas Jr., whose luck this year has been gnarly at best, won the fourth heat over Justin Grant, Kyle Cummins and early leader Joss Moffatt.
Lots of good cars found themselves in the B as Logan Seavey led all the way to win. Joining him in progressing to the feature were Robert Ballou, pole sitter Max Adams, Chase Stockon, Tye Mihocko and 2020 Lawrenceburg track champ Nick Bilbee. Steve Thomas flipped end over end on the first lap. The veteran was awake and alert as he exited the car. No doubt he would have a sore Sunday.
An unexpected threat of rain had materialized and a few stray raindrops fell as the feature was lining up, but it stayed dry at the track and a disappointment was avoided.
The two main title contenders, Windom and Bacon, sat on the front row. If I heard correctly, all Bacon had to do to win his third USAC sprint car championship was finish 13th. Maybe it was tempting for him to cruise for 30 laps and claim the title. No way. Besides he proved that he wanted to win races last weekend when he could have eased up a little.
Instead, Bacon jumped out to the early lead, leaving Windom to deal with Courtney, who started strong from fourth. Bacon steadily built a lead while Windom’s brakes were glowing as he tried to hold off Courtney. It was lap 12 before lapped traffic became an issue. This showed how evenly matched the field of 22 was. No, really. Usually the lappers appear earlier in a given feature.
The yellow waved with 12 laps completed when Seavey stopped on the track. Bacon led Windom. Courtney, Leary and Grant. The green waved and the boys got another lap in before Clouser stopped in turn three. Courtney was busy during that lap, passing Windom and now running second to Bacon. Leary was still fourth and Thomas had passed Grant for fifth.
On this re-start, Courtney made another move, passing Bacon for the lead on lap 14. But Bacon wouldn’t go away. He may have been winning the war, but he was hungry and wanting to win the battle too.
By lap 20, Courtney’s engine was smoking. It seemed like his night was about to be over as Bacon took back the lead on the 22nd lap with a pass on the low side of turn one. Three laps later Courtney returned the favor and it seemed as if the smoke was gone. Sunshine hung on the rest of the race, taking the checkered flag first with Bacon finishing a supposed second place.
But wait. This wasn’t over. We were near Greensburg by my calculations when Courtney was disqualified for being underweight. What a surprise it was when I arrived home and discovered that Bacon, not Courtney, had won. It seems that a rock penetrated Sunshine’s radiator, which caused the smoke coming from his car. When the liquid reached a certain level, the smoking ceased and Courtney motored on, passing for the lead and pulling away. The rock issue will need to be addressed as TC wasn’t the only racer to fall victim.
Back to the race for a moment. K. Thomas finished second with Windom finishing the race third and second in points, 39 behind Bacon. Leary was fourth and Ballou came from 19th to finish fifth and take yet another KSE Racing Products Hard Charger award. Cummins was sixth and Grant seventh. Almost unnoticed, Dave Darland rambled from 18th to end up eighth. Swanson was ninth and Bodine tenth.
This is Brady Bacon’s third USAC championship. If the sanctioning body wanted to have a positive and accomplished public face, I’m thinking that few, if any, could be better at it than Bacon. It’s a championship both well-earned and well-deserved.
A few words about rules, disqualifications and conspiracy theories. As can be expected in these times, social media, or at least USAC’s corner of it, was quick to weigh in. It seems apparent that the disqualification wasn’t because of anything malicious on the Courtney team. But the rule book only states that the penalty occurs if the rule is broken. It doesn’t matter how it happened. It doesn’t matter if the Clauson/Marshall/Newman team cheated or not (I’m pretty sure they didn’t.). The rule book is about as objective as it can be. Fans aren’t so objective. That’s okay. It might be boring if all fans were objective.
There have been a few comments about a conspiracy of some sort. Good luck with that. Conspiracy is defined by secrecy and how long do secrets remain, well, secrets? Let’s put away the tinfoil hats already.
Though USAC sprints are done for the year, the USAC Nos Energy National Midget Division will be going west soon. But first, they will be at the Tri-State Speedway this coming Saturday. Why yes, I do plan on going.
Teaching a class on how to cover up your incompetence, I’m…