July 28, 2020

The Hoosier Race Report

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…

Danny Burton