David 1, Goliath 0
Columbus, IN - All week long lots of good racers have watched the Tucker/Boat team dominate USAC's Indiana Midget Week, winning all five features up until Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway. But total domination wasn't to be for the multi-car team. That's because a one car team, with Tanner Thorson behind the wheel, pulled it off as Thorson edged former teammate Kyle Larson and his teammate Chris Windom at the checkered flag. With a borrowed engine no less.
I left home and drove through steady rain all the way through Marion County. It became periodic sprinkles through Hamilton County and quit entirely as I motored through Tipton County. Kokomo had cloudy skies but my faith had been rewarded. The weather forecast was close enough and I had as close to total faith in the O'Connor family's desire to have a race (and sell a few pork chop sandwiches).
Among the 37 USAC midgets and 38 Kokomo sprints was the usual ride switching. Spencer Bayston had stepped in to replace Logan Seavey, who’s feeling a little better but not ready to get back into the seat. Kevin Thomas Jr., citing the need to pay more attention to his sprint car team, exited the Petry team car and Jerry Coons Jr. was on hand to fill in. Jason McDougal's tryout with the Kunz team was Lawrenceburg only and he was back in his regular ride tonight. After a brief absence, Rico Abreu and Tyler Nelson were back. On the sprint side, Isaac Chapple was taking his turn in the Pedersen Open Trailer Special. Thomas Meseraull, Brady Bacon, Justin Grant and Chris Windom were the double dippers.
For a brief period I thought to myself, uh-oh. Bits of moisture began falling from the sky at 7:15. By 7:30 it was almost a drizzle as the first heat participants circled the track. But it let up quickly and the green flag waved.
Tanner Thorson won with Kyle Larson, Jerry Coons Jr. and Ethan Mitchell all moving on.
Another Tanner, this one Carrick, took the second heat and Kaylee Bryson was second, trailed by sprint aces Clinton Boyles and Kyle Cummins.
Chris Windom came from fifth to win the third heat. Tyler Courtney, Justin Grant and Jason McDougal made ready for the feature.
Thomas Meseraull was the man to beat in the fourth heat. As it would turn out, this would be his highlight of the evening. Rico Abreu was second. Cannon McIntosh and Buddy Kofoid made it a KKM sweep... not counting the winner.
Cole Bodine won the last chance race. Pole sitter Daison Pursley was second. Shane Golobic, Andrew Layser, Spencer Bayston and Jake Neuman (who started 11th) would race again.
The usual five heats/top three advance/two Bs/ top three advance format was in place and C.L. Leary won the first heat. Shane Cottle and Thomas Meseraull moved to the feature.
Brady Bacon was the second heat winner, taking Matt Westfall and Max Adams with him to the finale. For the third heat it was Justin Grant, Dave Darland and Travis Hery doing the honors. Chris Windom, Anton Hernandez and Mitchell Davis did Illinois and Texas proud in the fourth heat.
Charles Davis Jr., Kevin Thomas Jr. and Jarett Andretti made the feature with Dustin Smith narrowly missing.
For the first last chance race (had to do it), Critter Malone led Matt Goodnight and Aaron Farney into the 25 lap feature.
Brian VanMeveren, Isaac Chapple and Dustin Smith met their goal of running one more race.
An interesting duo, Abreu and Windom, were the front row occupants and one would reasonably expect that one of them would lead the first lap, but Tyler Courtney, starting fourth, had another plan. Windom held onto second as Meseraull and Larson fought for third. Courtney was lengthening his lead and it was tempting to picture him as the winner.
Thorson had started seventh and had dropped back in the early going. At the halfway mark he was still seventh.
Festivities were interrupted on lap 18, when McDougal stopped in turn four with a flat tire, his second in two nights. McIntosh stopped on the frontstretch. Courtney was looking strong, leading Windom, Meseraull, Larson and Boyles. Thorson was sixth and things were about change big time.
On the re-start, Courtney caromed through turn one and flipped, bringing out the red—the race’s defining moment. Meseraull spun to a stop to miss Courtney and he’d re-start on the tail. Windom would be the new leader, with Larson, Boyles and Thorson in fourth.
The green waved and Windom maintained a lead over Larson, his teammate. One had to wonder if Larson was letting up, being a team player. I wondered it and refused to believe it. Thorson dispatched Boyles at the start and edged his way closer to the front, now with a car that could do what he wanted. Sure enough, Thorson caught Larson and made the pass. Two laps later the yellow came out for a wandering infield tire that Ethan Mitchell contacted. Windom’s lead over Thorson was gone; this was a break for the Nevadan.
On the re-start, Thorson dove under Windom, making the pass in turn two. But wait; this thing wasn’t over. Larson used the high line to get around his teammate and set sail for the new leader. There wasn’t much time, but if anyone could do it, Larson could. Windom wanted to play some more and the three nearly went three wide on the last lap with Thorson in the middle. Thorson took the low line in the final turn as Larson rode the fence. Thorson’s margin of victory was a half car length, or .065 seconds.
Fourth behind Thorson, Larson and Windom was Boyles, which concluded a productive week for the RMS team. Cummins came from 15th to finish fifth. Abreu led the second five with Golobic ending up seventh. Coons wound up as the KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger as he moved from 20th to eighth at the end. Meseraull charged back to ninth after his misfortune. Kofoid showed how important qualifying is as he started 22nd and finished tenth.
By .065 seconds, Thorson kept the Tucker-Boat team from sweeping Indiana Midget Week.
After the feature Kofoid and TMez appeared to be having a discussion about the best place to have a late night snack in Kokomo.
Chris Windom eased the pain of just missing the victory in the midget feature by getting around Brady Bacon on a late race restart and holding on to close out the night-and the week-of racing with a sprint car feature win. Bacon was a close second. Shane Cottle edged C. J. Leary to take third. Kevin Thomas Jr. came from tenth to finish fifth.
Dave Darland led the second five with Charles Davis Jr. winding up seventh. Jarett Andretti hustled from 15th to grab eighth. Matt Westfall and Max Adams completed the top ten.
If one was inclined to think so, I suppose that every race is like a Christian Bible story. Tonight it was the story of David and Goliath, where a young man with a slingshot brought down a much stronger man. Thorson played the role of David on Sunday and played it very well while the multi-car teams played Goliath(s). The slingshot role was played by number 19, which had given David headaches the past few nights, especially the engines.
Thorson is ideal for the role, preferring to call his own shots rather than be a part of a large team. Let’s allow him to have the final word. “I think there’s a lot to say about being able to do your own car. “Nothing against Keith Kunz and his whole team, but there’s something about that, for my satisfaction, to be able to do my car.”
I’d think that even Mr. Kunz would be proud, standing off to the side, a somewhat painful smile on his face because one of his former racers had learned his lessons well.
Meanwhile, wondering if Wendell Scott is sadly looking down, I’m…