By RICHIE MURRAY
SPEEDWAY, IN – Before he had even laid eyes on The Dirt Track at IMS, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had already occupied a special place within the heart of Zeb Wise.
He’d been triumphant in a quarter midget at the Battle at the Brickyard and also became the first ever winner on The Dirt Track at IMS in 2018, snagging the Stoops Pursuit.
After Thursday night’s victory in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink, the track became the showcase for a defining moment in the 16-year-old racer’s burgeoning career where he led the final seven laps to score the biggest victory, and the richest payday ($15,000), of his young career.
One of the main influences on The Dirt Track at IMS becoming a reality was Bryan Clauson, the namesake of the BC39. Angola, Indiana’s Wise has carried BC’s spirit onward, driving for Bryan’s father’s Clauson/Marshall Racing team and piloting the No. 39BC on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship trail which he put into victory lane in front of a large throng of spectators on this memorable late summer night.
Wise’s IMS story began earlier this decade when competing at The Battle at the Brickyard. It was there where Tim and Bryan Clauson, already a racing star in his own right, noticed Wise. When the time came, he was hand-picked by the Clausons to become a part of the team, leading him on the path to the biggest win of his career thus far.
“A lot of people don’t know this, but Bryan and Tim, the first time they noticed me was at the quarter midget track that they run called Little Brickyard,” Wise recalled. “That was the first time they ever got in contact with me. To carry over from the first time they saw me here, and now we’re out there winning big races, it’s very special not only to me, but probably even more special to the team.”
Wise was in a hurry to get things done from his fifth starting spot at the drop of the green for the 39-lap main event. He whittled his way to second past Kevin Thomas, Jr. after the two clipped bumper to bumper off turn four when Thomas snagged the curb. Wise set up shop, went to the bottom and slid up in front of Thomas to pocket the runner-up spot.
Pole sitter Thomas Meseraull remained in control up front, keeping Wise in check a handful of car lengths back until the 18th lap. That’s when a four-car quagmire ensued with Tucker Klaasmeyer first getting upside down, followed by Jerry Coons, Jr. plowing into Klaasmeyer and getting on his lid as well while Gio Scelzi and Cannon McIntosh also became entangled in the fray.
That’s where it nearly came to a premature end for Meseraull, who made a hard left to avoid clipping the stopped car of McIntosh. Wise, just behind Meseraull, took evasive action as well, narrowly missing misfortune.
On the ensuing restart, Wise gained a full head of steam coming downhill off the top of turn two to zip by Meseraull for the race lead as Jason McDougal and Kyle Larson came in tandem to go to second and third as Meseraull slipped to fourth. A three-car chase at the front saw Larson go topside around McDougal for second and pounce when Wise bobbled atop the fourth turn cushion.
Larson instantaneously pointed his nose to the bottom and used a major run to slide across the nose of Wise into turn one, securing the lead off turn two. Moments later, however, Michael Pickens’ car came to a stop in turn four, sending Larson back to second and returned Wise to the head of the field for the restart.
As he had done all throughout the night, Wise was a force on restarts, and was able to stretch it out to a half-straight lead by the back stretch on the lap 21 resumption. Nonetheless, Larson leashed Wise back in in no time and was clamped down on the shadow of Wise with less than 15 laps remaining.
On lap 28, Wise biked in turn three atop the cushion, which was basically be an extension of the outside concrete wall at that point. It was seemingly no harm, no foul, as Larson got on the binders to avoid contact with Wise. Both kept their foot in it and put their wills on the razor’s edge in turn one as Larson attempted to slide Wise in turn one. With just enough room to fit the width of a midget and the thickness of two dimes between them, Wise never wavered from the top, kept his right foot on the hammer and escaped through the other side of the needle to hang onto the spot just before early race leader Meseraull flipped in turns three and four, concluding a promising run for the high-point man who led a race-high 18 laps.
On the following restart, all broke loose again, with Larson taking his run at Wise with a slider into turn three. By the time the two arrived at the exit of turn four, nowhere was there room to spare. Larson and Wise made contact, sending Wise ramping up the wall and landing on all fours while defending BC39 winner Brady Bacon snuck by on the bottom from fourth to first past McDougal, Larson and Wise to rip the lead away on lap 29.
Larson then slowed with a flat left rear tire to force a yellow flag, putting Wednesday’s Stoops Pursuit winner/survivor out of contention for the win, although he did race back to a ninth-place finish. Meanwhile, Wise’s mind was racing with concern over whether his race was in jeopardy, admitting he thought his race was over after the contact.
Following a lap 31 red flag for a McIntosh flip between turns three and four, Wise’s curiosity grew stronger as he pondered what could be wrong at the moment with his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven2SaveLives – Sundollar Restoration/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
“I knew something was wrong,” Wise admitted. “Heck, I couldn’t even hold it straight down the straightaways. I knew something was going on. We had a red flag there and the push truck driver came to me and I said, ‘Dude, what is wrong with the front end?’ He looked it over and said, ‘Looks like you have a bent steering arm.’ At that point, I knew it wasn’t something serious, and that I didn’t need to pull off the track because it was going to be a hazard or anything.”
Experiencing a handful with his steering wheel in addition to the flurry of action surrounding him, Wise overcame and persevered, utilizing a lap 33 slide job to overtake Bacon for the lead and bring CMR teammate Chris Windom along with him on the bottom, who cranked down the shocks and lay in wait to capitalize on any mistake by Wise down the stretch.
In a race that changed its complexion frequently and without hesitation, FMR Racing teammates Bacon and McDougal had drifted back to fifth and sixth where they tangled on the front straightaway on lap 35, ending the team’s bid for a repeat BC39 victory.
Racing resumed with Wise and Windom continuing their side-by-side joust as Christopher Bell entered the ring and was challenging both for the lead as he followed Wise on the high side of three where he bounced and buoyed his way atop turn three with three laps to go, bouncing the left side of his roll cage off the track surface before springing back up and landing on all fours, putting a premature end to his bid for a win with front end damage.
Wise used another strong restart to gain separation on the lap 37 restart ahead of CMR teammates Windom and Courtney (who started 20th). Windom on the low line and Courtney up top dug in during their proverbial fist fight for the runner-up spot. Windom began a slow fade as the bottom began to slicken and Courtney found the traction up top to pull ahead coming to the white flag.
Wise put an end to the dramatics, stamping his name in Indianapolis Motor Speedway lore on the final lap as he nailed the entry and exit to each end of the racetrack on the 39th circuit to win by 0.372 sec. over Courtney, Windom, Chad Boat and Logan Seavey.
After a beginning to the season that saw mixed results, Wise has won three of the last five in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition, but none bigger than the one he earned Thursday night at IMS.
“We’ve been on such a hot streak lately,” Wise said. “It doesn’t matter where we go, you know we’re a factor. When we came off that hot streak in Pennsylvania, I knew this was going to be the one that would really show what we’ve got, and we got it done.”
Contingency award winners Thursday night at The Dirt Track at IMS were Tyler Thomas (Simpson Race Products First Qualifier Winner), Zeb Wise (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Qualifier Winner), Christopher Bell (AutoMeter Third Heat Qualifier Winner), Dillon Welch (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Qualifier Winner), Tyler Courtney (B & W Auto Mart/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Michael Pickens (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Cannon McIntosh (Duane & Sonja Alexander Last Transfer), Sam Johnson (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer) and Jesse Colwell (Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Rookie of The Race & ProSource Passing Master).
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 5, 2019 – The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – Speedway, Indiana – Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink
FIRST QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Tyler Thomas (#91T Thomas), 2. Thomas Meseraull (#7x RMS), 3. Kyle Larson (#97 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 4. Jerry Coons, Jr. (#25 Petry), 5. Jake Neuman (#3N Neuman), 6. Holley Hollan (#67K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 7. Ethan Mitchell (#19m Bundy Built), 8. Jonathan Beason (#21FS Reynolds), 9. Tyler Nelson (#88 Nelson), 10. Mark Chisholm (#56x Chisholm), 11. Jeff Wimmenauer (#15J Wimmenauer), 12. Conor Daly (#35 Petry), 13. Luke Howard (#00 Mounce), 14. Carson Garrett (#15x Garrett), 15. Ryan Hall (#2 Bush). NT
SECOND QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Zeb Wise (#39BC Clauson/Marshall), 2. Tucker Klaasmeyer (#27 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 3. C.J. Leary (#21KS Reynolds), 4. Brady Bacon (#76E FMR), 5. Tanner Carrick (#71K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 6. Cody Swanson (#71s Campbell), 7. Robert Dalby (#4D Dalby), 8. Brent Beauchamp (#43 Arnold), 9. Andrew Layser (#47BC Clauson/Marshall), 10. Alex Bright (#1ST Saucier), 11. Chris Baue (#9 Baue), 12. Ray Seach (#54m Manic), 13. Rich Drangmeister (#3 Drangmeister), 14. Lance Bennett (#10 Bennett). NT
THIRD QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Christopher Bell (#21 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Justin Grant (#4A RAMS), 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (#5 Petry), 4. Logan Seavey (#67 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 5. Cannon McIntosh (#08 Dave Mac), 6. Ace McCarthy (#28 Neuman), 7. Nick Drake (#55 Cline), 8. David Prickett (#15DJ Neverlift), 9. Colten Cottle (#56AP Young), 10. Chris Jagger, Jr. (#32J Jagger), 11. Kendall Ruble (#11m Martin), 12. Cody Weisensel (#20 Weisensel), 13. Trey Osborne (#61 Kenyon), 14. Jesse Colwell (#71 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian). NT
FOURTH QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Dillon Welch (#81 Tucker/Boat), 2. Spencer Bayston (#19 Hayward), 3. Tyler Courtney (#7BC Clauson/Marshall), 4. Chad Boat (#84 Tucker/Boat), 5. Chase Briscoe (#5B Briscoe), 6. David Budres (#23m Manic), 7. Daniel Robinson (#57D McCreery), 8. Brayton Lynch (#1K RKR), 9. Karsyn Elledge (#1 Tucker/Boat), 10. Kyle O’Gara (#67F SFHR), 11. Oliver Akard (#41 Akard), 12. Michael Klein (#10A Wallace), 13. Ken Drangmeister (#76 Drangmeister). NT
FIFTH QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Gio Scelzi (#85 Tucker/Boat), 2. Jason McDougal (#76m FMR), 3. Chris Windom (#17BC Clauson/Marshall), 4. J.J. Yeley (#2J Taylor), 5. Tony DiMattia (#50 TDM), 6. Kyle Jones (#7u Trifecta), 7. Steve Buckwalter (#25B Buckwalter), 8. Russ Gamester (#46 Gamester), 9. Dave Darland (#15 Petry), 10. Aaron Leffel (#11L Taylor), 11. Matt Linder (#2x Bush), 12. Kevin Studley (#57K Studley), 13. Randi Pankratz (#8 Pankratz), 14. Blaze Bennett (#77 Bennett). NT
SIXTH QUALIFIER: (10 laps) 1. Michael Pickens (#1NZ RMS), 2. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (#17 Clauson/Marshall), 3. Chase Jones (#1BR SFHR), 4. Matt Westfall (#54 Bordner), 5. Sam Johnson (#72 Johnson), 6. Critter Malone (#7 Seven), 7. Austin O’Dell (#97A O’Dell), 8. Clinton Boyles (#9B Mounce), 9. Shannon McQueen (#15s Garrett), 10. Tommy Kouns (#11T Taylor), 11. Justin Dickerson (#21D Dickerson), 12. Zach Daum (#5D Daum), 13. Robert Bell (#71B Bell), 14. Billy Wease (#12w Wease). NT
FIRST D-MAIN: (12 laps, top-3 transfer to the C-Main) 1. Jonathan Beason, 2. Jesse Colwell, 3. Andrew Layser, 4. Karsyn Elledge, 5. Colten Cottle, 6. Randi Pankratz, 7. Kyle O’Gara, 8. Chris Baue, 9. Justin Dickerson, 10. Kevin Studley, 11. Kendall Ruble, 12. Ryan Hall, 13. Chris Jagger, Jr., 14. Rich Drangmeister, 15. Clinton Boyles, 16. Blaze Bennett, 17. Ray Seach, 18. Oliver Akard, 19. Brayton Lynch. NT
SECOND D-MAIN: (12 laps, top-3 transfer to the C-Main) 1. Brent Beauchamp, 2. Dave Darland, 3. Alex Bright, 4. Tyler Nelson, 5. David Prickett, 6. Mark Chisholm, 7. Luke Howard, 8. Carson Garrett, 9. Aaron Leffel, 10. Shannon McQueen, 11. Cody Weisensel, 12. Lance Bennett, 13. John Heydenreich (#22 Givens), 14. Conor Daly, 15. Matt Linder, 16. Tommy Kouns, 17. Robert Bell, 18. Michael Klein, 19. Jeff Wimmenauer, 20. Ken Drangmeister. NT
C-MAIN: (15 laps, top-6 transfer to the semi) 1. Sam Johnson, 2. Robert Dalby, 3. Kyle Jones, 4. Jesse Colwell, 5. Ace McCarthy, 6. Zach Daum, 7. Holley Hollan, 8. Nick Drake, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Daniel Robinson, 11. Brent Beauchamp, 12. Jonathan Beason, 13. Cody Swanson, 14. Alex Bright, 15. David Budres, 16. Critter Malone, 17. Russ Gamester, 18. Austin O’Dell, 19. Andrew Layser, 20. Ethan Mitchell. NT
SEMI: (20 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 3. Jerry Coons, Jr., 4. Tyler Courtney, 5. Chase Briscoe, 6. Cannon McIntosh, 7. Sam Johnson, 8. Jesse Colwell, 9. C.J. Leary, 10. Tony DiMattia, 11. Tanner Carrick, 12. Jake Neuman, 13. Ace McCarthy, 14. Zach Daum, 15. Kyle Jones, 16. Steve Buckwalter, 17. Robert Dalby, 18. Matt Westfall, 19. Chase Jones, 20. J.J. Yeley. NT
FEATURE: (39 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Zeb Wise (5), 2. Tyler Courtney (20), 3. Chris Windom (6), 4. Chad Boat (16), 5. Logan Seavey (14), 6. Jesse Colwell (24), 7. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (15), 8. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 9. Kyle Larson (12), 10. Justin Grant (11), 11. Dillon Welch (8), 12. Tanner Carrick (23), 13. Michael Pickens (4), 14. Gio Scelzi (9), 15. Christopher Bell (17), 16. Brady Bacon (10), 17. Jason McDougal (7), 18. Cannon McIntosh (22), 19. Thomas Meseraull (1), 20. Spencer Bayston (2), 21. Tyler Thomas (13), 22. Tucker Klaasmeyer (18), 23. Jerry Coons, Jr. (19), 24. Chase Briscoe (21), 25. Jake Neuman (26), 26. C.J. Leary (25). NT
**Alex Bright flipped during the second qualifying race. Jesse Colwell flipped during the third qualifying race. Robert Dalby flipped during the semi. Tucker Klaasmeyer and Jerry Coons, Jr. flipped on lap 19 of the feature. Thomas Meseraull flipped on lap 28 of the feature. Cannon McIntosh flipped on lap 31 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-18 Thomas Meseraull, Laps 19-28 Zeb Wise, Laps 29-32 Brady Bacon, Laps 33-39 Zeb Wise.
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS ROOKIE OF THE RACE: Jesse Colwell
B & W AUTO MART/KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Tyler Courtney (20th to 2nd)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Michael Pickens
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Sam Johnson
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-1,517, 2-Chris Windom-1,403, 3-Logan Seavey-1,350, 4-Zeb Wise-1,286, 5-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1,284, 6-Chad Boat-1,208, 7-Jerry Coons, Jr.-1,147, 8-Tanner Carrick-1,129, 9-Jason McDougal-1,069, 10-Tucker Klaasmeyer-1,034.
FINAL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Jesse Colwell-34, 2-Tyler Courtney-23, 3-Zach Daum-18, 4-Chad Boat-16, 5-Dave Darland-16, 6-Logan Seavey-15, 7-Cannon McIntosh-13, 8-Sam Johnson-13, 9-Chris Windom-12, 10-Thomas Meseraull-12.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 28, 2019 – Eldora Speedway – Rossburg, Ohio – 4-Crown Nationals