July 29, 2020
July 28, 2020
As I've walked through the pits the past few nights, I needn't be an expert to notice that most of the 48 have a slightly better chance of winning the feature than I do. So why do they bother to even show up? Maybe their expectations are different from others. In addition, unlike me, they can say that they competed. I haven't and it's unlikely that I will. My guess is that many reading this can say they haven't either.
With all that, I'll say that I root for every one of them. I know a few USAC racers (and a few former racers) and I like all of them. While I don't root for any of them to win, I do hope that they can all load the car on the trailer after the race. At the end of the day, maybe that’s all which matters.
New players included Chase Jones, Dallas Hewitt, Steve Thomas and Ty Mihocko, along with Lawrenceburg regulars JJ Hughes, Shawn Westerfeld and Saban Bibent.
Justin Grant went out early to set his quick time of 14.070, though several others tried mightily to top it.
Justin Grant made a late pass work as he won the first heat. Thomas Meseraull, Tyler Courtney and pole sitter Jerry Coons Jr. also made the show.
The second heat saw Jarett Andretti lead Chase Stockon, CJ Leary and Robert Ballou home.
Shane Cottle won the third heat over Chase Johnson, Chris Windom and Eddie Tofoya Jr., who made his very first ISW feature.
Carson Short was the fourth heat winner, pacing Max Adams, Brady Bacon and Gas City winner Logan Seavey.
Unlike the night before, the C main was tame. Dakota Jackson led Shawn Westerfeld, Anthony D’Alessio and Max Guilford to the semi-main.
The caution plagued B main was won by JJ Hughes with Kevin Thomas Jr. and Kyle Cummins trailing. Behind them, mayhem combined with the thrill of victory, etc., prevailed.
Matt Westfall tapped Chase Jones, who spun, tipped over and collected Dustin Smith. Both Smith and Jones (has a ring to it) saw feature starting spots go poof! Those who had been seventh on back were racing their hearts out and a few of them benefitted. But Sterling Cling had a left front tire going down and on the restart was passed by Dave Darland and Jadon Rogers. So... the final three were Westfall, Darland and Rogers.
Gas City winner Logan Seavey and Kokomo winner CJ Leary landed in the front row and Leary got the drop on Seavey and everyone else. Right away, things slowed down as K. Thomas and Courtney found themselves parked next to the wall, about 100 feet apart. Sunshine especially may have felt like banging his head against that wall after his disappointment the night before and now this. While the field circled under the yellow, Andretti ducked into the pits with a flat tire. KT and Jarett rejoined the crowd.
The green waved and two more laps were completed when Jadon Rogers flipped for the second night in a row. Westfall and Coons were also involved; they returned to the fun. Leary led Seavey, Bacon, Grant and Windom.
Again, Tom Hansing brought out the green flag and again Leary tried dearly to check out. But on the seventh lap Max Adams stopped on the track and again Tom reached for his yellow flag. There was no change up front within the top five.
On this re-start, Grant passed Bacon for third. A lap later Windom passed Bacon for fourth. But he had to give it back as a stray tire rolled down the straightaway. It was Grant’s and he was parked in turn four as the yellow waved one more time. Leary still led, but things were a little different behind him. Seavey was second, ahead of Bacon, Windom and now Stockon. Johnson, the inexperienced kid, had moved from 12th to sixth, by the way.
Again, the green came out and again Windom passed Bacon, now for second place. Leary had stretched out his lead somewhat during the middle stages of the thirty lapper. But Windom began inching his way to the front, closer and closer. Finally, on lap 23 he threw a slider at the leader, falling short and dropping back. From there, Leary was never threatened in any way. Those of us who kept expecting the unexpected are still waiting, thankfully.
Behind Leary and Windom was Bacon. Stockon was fourth and Short completed the race in fifth place as Seavey faded some to finish sixth. Cummins came from 15th to capture seventh. Grant did a fine job of hustling back to take eighth after his misfortune. After running as high as sixth, Johnson settled for ninth. Ballou was tenth after starting 22nd and earning the KSE Racing Products / Irvin King Hard Charger award.
Leary’s margin of victory was 1.057 seconds. After the race he spoke of how being on the family team seems to be a good fit. Windom lamented the lapped traffic. Bacon thanked his sponsors. Ballou said he needed to qualify better and expressed concern over the rocks he found on the track.
In national championship points Grant retains a healthy lead over Bacon. However, Bacon leads Grant by five points in Sprint Week points. Despite Leary’s winning two of the three events so far, his 13th place finish at Gas City has hurt.
Next stop, the Terre Haute Action on Wednesday.
Trying to drink while wearing a mask, I’m…
One Man’s Ceiling…
Columbus, IN - ….is another man’s floor. So goes an old Paul Simon song, long before either C.J. Leary or Tyler Courtney took life’s green flag. With that in mind, once again the old lyric came through as Leary won the USAC/Indiana Sprint Week thirty lap feature at the Kokomo Speedway on another warm Hoosier night. The result was another conclusion that no one would have predicted, seeing that leader Tyler Courtney made contact with an infield tire with three circuits to go and spun. This wasn't any more surprising than the end of the previous night's finish when Logan Seavey and Kevin Thomas Jr. tangled. Leary, who lost by a hair to Shane Cottle in last year’s ISW event at Gas City, picked up his fourth Sprint Week victory.
With this being Saturday, my favorite Kokomo city park was a little more crowded than usual. While I preferred to have the park to myself, there was relative quiet and calm, punctuated by the typical sights and sounds of a mid-sized city and by people meandering through the park, phones in hand, looking for something (a Pokémon exercise, I assumed). I figured that the contrast between the quiet and the loud sounds that were in my near future was good for me. I saw myself enjoying the time in the park, reading, writing and walking--in other words, the same things I did at the track.
The new kids on the block featured Tyler Courtney, running a partial USAC schedule. Critter Malone, Colton Cottle and Travis Berryhill were also making their first ISW appearance.
Brady Bacon was the quick timer with a 13.031 lap. The surface stayed consistent throughout time trials, even more of a trick given the potential obstacles.
C. J. Leary won the first heat as Jadon Rogers flipped in turn one. He was able to walk away and would re=appear later in a backup car. Kyle Cummins, Critter Malone and Max Adams all made the show.
In the second heat it was Tyler Courtney moving from sixth to win. Clinton Boyles, Brandon Mattox and Colton Cottle trailed.
The slam bang third heat was won by Brady Bacon, also from sixth. Chris Windom was second with Thomas Meseraull and Kevin Thomas Jr. transferring. After the checkered KT and Logan Seavey exchanged greetings and salutations, especially the latter.
Robert Ballou took the fourth heat with little trouble, leading Shane Cottle, Justin Grant and Carson Short to the line.
It's true that sometimes a preliminary race is more entertaining than the feature. That wasn't necessarily the case tonight, but the C and B mains weren't too shabby. The law firm of Coons, Hopkins, Johnson and Weir advanced from the C to the B. The caution plagued semi feature saw Stockon lead Seavey and Darland to the line. The last trio to transfer were, yep, Hopkins, Coons and Johnson. As Kyle Robbins did the night before, these three moved from the C to the show. In the C, Logan Hupp and Sterling Cling flipped. Travis Berryhill flipped in the B. All three walked away, none too pleased.
In some ways the night’s feature resembled Gas City’s in some ways, as shall be seen. Short and Leary were the front row and Short drifted wide in turn two on the first lap, enabling fourth starting Grant to take the lead. But Courtney, from his inside second row start, grabbed the lead on the second lap and the chase was on.
Early on, it seemed like Courtney and Grant would leave the others behind but Cummins, who started fifth, and Leary had other ideas. Kyle was strong early but slowly faded as the race went on. After spotting Courtney a decent lead, Leary began cutting the distance and reeling in the leader. He took the lead on the 13th lap with a strong outside pass. But Courtney refused to go away as the two battled side by side, much as K. Thomas and Seavey had battled the night before. Midway through the race, lapped traffic came into play as Leary led at the line for eight straight laps. Leary generally stuck with the high side while Sunshine used the low groove, getting as close to the infield tires as he could. But often both used whatever groove was available or seemed to be the best. Ah, that rare ability to make split second choices—a pity that more of us don’t have it.
Then began a segment of the two trading the lead back and forth, officially and unofficially. Courtney led the 27th lap and his chances were looking good. But then, incredibly, Courtney nicked the infield tire enough to spin in turn two, bringing out the race’s only caution. Leary now assumed the lead and Grant was second. Questions abounded. Could Leary hang on? Could Grant find a sweet spot down low in turn one and make the pass? What about third place Brady Bacon? He was certainly capable of stealing this race.
But the drama had already played out when Sunshine spun. Leary hung on to beat Bacon, who passed Grant after the green waved. Ballou was fourth, edging Stockon, who had started tenth. Cummins was sixth and Short finished seventh. Cottle came from 14th to grab eighth. Windom and Seavey were ninth and tenth.
Not only did Chase Johnson endure a push truck running over his left rear, he came from the C main to start 19th and finish 11th in the feature, winning the KSE Racing Products / Everything Dirt Racing / The Frolic & Bar Grill Hard Charger award.
The trip home took a little longer than my journey from Gas City to Kokomo. Off to my right the friendly quarter moon served as a navigator—had I needed one. One man’s navigator is another man’s friendly and comforting presence.
Cancelling the cancel culture, I’m…
Columbus, IN - Night One of the 2020 edition of Indiana Sprint Week gave the fans all they wanted--namely another wild and woolly finish which the Gas City I-69 Speedway has become known for providing. This one was no exception as Logan Seavey fended off the challenges of several contenders before emerging from the drama with a well-earned victory.
The initial ISW pit stroll had the usual suspects plus a few new or different combinations. Wyatt Burks, from Kansas, had headed east to try his luck with the USAC boys. Jadon Rogers was in the seat normally occupied by Stephen Schnapf. Thomas Meseraull had landed in the Tony Epperson car. Tyler Thomas and Mike Dutcher teamed up, hoping for some more good runs. And Shane Cockrum was in the Wingo brothers’ wagon most recently wheeled by Critter Malone.
In the Long-Time-No-See Department tonight it was Dr. Tom, who has finally joined me in retirement, bless his heart. Between his face shield and my checkered flag design mask, we must have looked like a pair of over-the-hill bank robbers. Brent Goodnight was among the celebrities in Jerry Gappens’ playground, but many others were missing, if not hiding from me.
Justin Grant led all qualifiers, the only contestant to turn a sub-12 second lap—11.859.
Kyle Cummins made a late charge to win the first heat. Pole sitter Brandon Mattox, A. J. Hopkins and Kevin Thomas Jr. all moved on. Grant spun while fighting for a transfer spot and headed to the B.
Brady Bacon was the second heat winner with Logan Seavey, Dave Darland and Thomas Meseraull all transferring.
For the time being, the bottom of turns one and two looked to be the quickest while the top of three and four were popular.
In the third heat, Robert Ballou held off Chris Windom to take the win. C. J. Leary was third ahead of Shane Cottle, who came from eighth to land in the feature.
For the final heat, Chase Stockon had the up and down experience as he came from sixth to take the lead early only to slip in turn four. Jarett Andretti was there to capitalize and grab the win. Stockon led Tyler Thomas and Dustin Smith to the checkered.
Kyle Robbins led Jadon Rogers, Shane Cockrum and Max Guilford to the checkered in the C main. All would come from the tail in the B.
It was no shock that Justin Grant won the B. Carson Short, Matt Westfall, Wyatt Burks, KRob and Clinton Boyles followed with Robbins advancing from the C to the big show on his birthday, no less.
Seavey and Windom led the gang to the line with the Californian taking the lead. When Windom slipped a bit over the turn four banking, K. Thomas was quick to pounce and give Seavey fits working the bottom as Windom fell back. It would get worse from there for him.
The yellow waved on lap 12 for a turn four caucus involving Leary, Bacon and T. Thomas. Bacon re-started and the other two returned to the fray after a work area visit. The re-start was a brief one as Windom, Ballou and Hopkins had their own conference with A.J. sustaining too much damage to continue. The other two went to the work area and rejoined the pack, though Robert went back to the pits not long after re-entering the track.
Seavey led K. Thomas, Grant, Stockon and Cummins as the yellow waved again, this time for a stopped Dave Darland. In the brief interval, Cummins didn’t waste time. He used the high side to pass Grant and Stockon. The fourth yellow flag in six laps waved on lap 17 when both the infield cone and the NOS Energy can were hit and landed on the track.
What followed was the race’s longest and best segment. K. Thomas went low and traded the lead with Seavey, who stuck with the top side, lap after lap. On laps 19 and 21, KT was credited with the lead. Then came the moment that changed the race’s outcome.
With the top two running side by side for several laps, they approached lapped traffic as the laps wound down. The soon to be lapped car of Jadon Rogers was holding his line at the bottom. The white flag waved, and the two leaders made it three wide going into turn three. Contact was made—I don’t know who initiated it and it doesn’t really matter—and KT’s car got some air but didn’t quite flip. Seavey kept going as the red flag came out.
Seavey got his top spot back, but he wasn’t out of the woods yet. Before the red, Stockon had been on the move. He had passed Grant and now would re-start second for a green/white/checkered finish. It was possibly shaping up for a second straight close finish at Gas City like last year’s which saw Shane Cottle edge C.J. Leary for the win. Would it happen again?
As it turned out, no, it wouldn’t happen again, even though Stockon tried his best, coming up about a half second short. At the end it was Seavey, Stockon, Grant, Cummins and Meseraull, who had come from 13th to finish fifth. Short started 12th and ended up sixth while Cottle rumbled from 21st to take seventh and earn the KSE Racing Products / The Frolic Bar & Grill Hard Charger dinero. Andretti was ninth and Westfall. Last week’s Gas City winner came from 16th to take tenth.
This added up to three of the last five Gas City/ISW features that were top notch with Tyler Courtney’s last to first drive of 2016 still the gold standard.
There wasn’t much to do now except organize my notes and watch the traffic leave the pits. About a half hour after Logan Seavey had been interviewed, I ambled out to the little white truck. It was time to head east to Kokomo, following Justin Grant’s TOPP team. I listened to a Malcolm Gladwell podcast as I followed the TOPP crew and admired the half-moon that adorned the western sky. Again, I was reminded how flat the land is up here. I could do without the hills of southern Indiana for another night—especially since it would be spent at the Kokomo Speedway for Round Two.
Passing my own cognitive test by reciting correctly Gas City, Kokomo, Lawrenceburg, Terre Haute, Lincoln Park, Bloomington and Haubstadt, I'm..