By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
HAUBSTADT, IN – As friends and former roommates, Jason McDougal and Kevin Thomas, Jr. have a bond that extends further than the racetrack. On the racetrack, though, each are routinely tough customers regularly waging battle against one another, giving no quarter in pursuit of triumph.
Yet even friends have their battles every now and again. Especially when you’re among that special breed of individual who climbs behind the wheel of a racecar and is driven to succeed at the highest level.
Nowhere was that more evident than Saturday night’s Harvest Cup at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. where the series made its return following a seven-year absence. The stage allowed the two to slug it out for a majority of the 30-lap main event, exchanging the lead seemingly every single lap on both ends of the track, delivering slider after slider until the final bell tolled.
The baton for the lead was passed between Logan Seavey, Thomas, McDougal and Thomas Meseraull officially speaking, six times at the line (26 times unofficially) until McDougal emerged with the lead for good 10 laps from the finish to score his second career series win and the second of the 2019 season.
“Midget racing is a blast here. I don’t know why we don’t come here more,” McDougal exclaimed. “Racing with KTJ like that, you’ve got to be able to trust someone you know you can go back and forth with.”
The feast of sliders began right from the initial green when reigning series champ Logan Seavey bolted to the lead from the pole position into turn one. Fourth-starting Thomas made his initial bid for the lead in turn three on the opening lap before Seavey cut back under off the fourth turn to lead the opening lap.
Meanwhile, back in the pack, Tucker Klaasmeyer endured a Tommy Tipover in turn four that brought out the night’s only red flag. Klaasmeyer restarted after changing a flat left rear tire and made an impressive charge from 22nd to a 7th place finish at the checkered.
Following the restart, Seavey commanded the lead up front while Thomas and the emerging McDougal, who started 5th, began swapping the runner-up spot by lap five when McDougal moved into the spot. Two laps later, McDougal steered it deep into turn three, sliding past Seavey on the bottom and riding up over the cushion. That allowed Seavey to drive back by under McDougal while Thomas got past McDougal then took over the spot from Seavey on the eighth lap.
McDougal raced back to 2nd on lap nine, then turned up the wick on Thomas with a run off turn 4 under Thomas that moved him back to the lead by a half-car length on the 10th lap, but only momentarily, as Thomas powered back to the lead with a pair of crossovers of McDougal in turns one and three to sustain his grasp of the top spot.
Back and forth, the two attacked the quarter-mile dirt oval throughout the middle portion of the feature with McDougal repetitively diving to the bottom in turn three to nab the lead, but each time, Thomas answered by driving underneath McDougal exiting four and leading into turn one.
McDougal brought the hammer into the first turn each time, arching his car above the cushion before driving straight as an arrow down off the turn two banking with a run to the inside of Thomas in turn four. A lap 17 caution for Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier and 8th running Gio Scelzi, who slowed to a stop in turn one, put a brief hiatus to the chaos ensuing at the head of the pack.
On the restart with 13 to go, a new contender emerged in 12th starting Thomas Meseraull, himself a 3rd place finisher in the 2011 Hut 100 at Tri-State. Meseraull was in position to capitalize when Thomas slid by McDougal in turn two. McDougal and Thomas made slight bumper to bumper contact, both chocked it up, and Meseraull drove underneath both down the back straightaway and into the lead.
Meseraull withstood McDougal’s relentless pursuit over the next few laps, countering each turn three slider delivered to him on laps 18-19-20 to retain the lead at the stripe. On the 21st lap, McDougal went into action with a slider under Meseraull in turn one. This time, Meseraull launched off turn two and entered turn three side-by-side under McDougal. The two aimed to occupy the same piece of ground at the same moment at the top of turn four with Meseraull’s right front tire and McDougal’s left rear meeting face-to-face, sending Meseraull backwards into the outside wall, thus ending his bid for victory, although he did return to finish 8th after restarting from the tail.
“T-Mez was a little upset with me for how I drove around him in three and four, but I didn’t see anything wrong with it. He hit my left rear,” McDougal said.
On the lap 21 restart, McDougal was gone, opening up a full-straightaway lead over Thomas and, for all intents and purposes, putting this one on ice as he ran his preferred line in the middle. With a clear track in his sight, McDougal set the fastest lap of the race on the 24th circuit and all was right in his world.
“Entering one is a little tricky, had a little hole getting into it, but once I got to racing with KTJ, every time he slid me, he pulled away and never got to the cushion. So, I pulled down the last few restarts and was actually better right through the middle.”
However, a caution on lap 25 involving Karsyn Elledge and Jerry Coons, Jr. erased McDougal’s advantage and put him in the position of having to deliver the same restart performance once again and avoid a potential race-changing slider from Thomas and now 3rd running Kyle Cummins who, earlier in the night, wrapped up his undefeated Tri-State season with his 8th sprint car win in as many appearances at the track in 2019.
The next try saw McDougal escape with an eight car length lead on the restart, but only briefly as Elledge spun to a stop on the bottom of turn four on the 26th lap, forcing yet another restart and putting him in a slightly precarious position, but he knew his FMR Racing/Panther Graphics South – TRD – Mobil 1 – FK Rod Ends/Beast/Speedway Toyota was working solidly, giving him the utmost confidence to finish the job.
“(Crew chief) Bob (East) always gives me a good car,” McDougal complimented. “It’s usually a little tight at the beginning, but we’re always pretty hot the last 10-15 laps. I got a little nervous with the yellows we had going there. You always get nervous when you get three yellows like that. You don’t want to restart the same like that, but obviously it was working. I switched up the entry on the restart a little bit, but other than that, I felt like I was pretty good.”
The final, final restart was just as peachy for McDougal as he pulled away once, twice and third and for all, pulling out to a half-straight advantage on initial lap following the restart and securing the victory by a 2.752 second margin over Thomas, Cummins, point leader Tyler Courtney and Justin Grant.
Of note, Tanner Thorson’s time of 2:59.89 set during the night’s semi-feature, established a new 12-lap USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget track record at Tri-State, eclipsing the mark set by Jerry Weeks 40 years earlier, in 1979, by nearly 17 seconds.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway were Gio Scelzi (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), Jerry Coons, Jr. (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner & Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Chris Windom (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Thomas Meseraull (AutoMeter Third Heat Winner), Tanner Thorson (Indy Race Parts Semi Winner), Sam Johnson (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer) & Justin Grant (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger).
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: October 19, 2019 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – Harvest Cup – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Gio Scelzi, 84, Tucker/Boat-13.951; 2. Jason McDougal, 76m, FMR-13.967; 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 5, Petry-13.985; 4. Robert Dalby, 85, Tucker/Boat-14.020; 5. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.148; 6. Logan Seavey, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.177; 7. Kyle Cummins, 71x, RMS-14.207; 8. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-14.226; 9. Karsyn Elledge, 1, Tucker/Boat-14.242; 10. Andrew Layser, 47BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.250; 11. Chris Windom, 17BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.287; 12. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-14.291; 13. Jerry Coons, Jr., 25, Petry-14.302; 14. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.307; 15. Critter Malone, 7, Seven-14.342; 16. Justin Grant, 4A, RAMS-14.367; 17. Tanner Thorson, 19, Hayward-14.377; 18. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.460; 19. Zeb Wise, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.524; 20. Kendall Ruble, 11m, Martin-14.636; 21. Tyler Nelson, 88, Nelson-14.658; 22. Sam Johnson, 72, Johnson-14.770; 23. Dakota Jackson, 43, Arnold-14.864; 24. C.J. Leary, 21KS, Reynolds-14.891; 25. Jake Swanson, 15s, Garrett-15.043; 26. Carson Garrett, 15x, Garrett-15.108; 27. Cody Beard, 7, Beard-16.091.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Jerry Coons, Jr., 2. Justin Grant, 3. Gio Scelzi, 4. Kyle Cummins, 5. Robert Dalby, 6. Zeb Wise, 7. Jake Swanson, 8. Andrew Layser, 9. Sam Johnson. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Jason McDougal, 3. Tyler Thomas, 4. Tanner Carrick, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Tanner Thorson, 7. Kendall Ruble, 8. Dakota Jackson, 9. Carson Garrett. 2:22.30
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 4. Critter Malone, 5. Logan Seavey, 6. C.J. Leary, 7. Karsyn Elledge, 8. Tyler Nelson, 9. Cody Beard. 2:24.26
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Karsyn Elledge, 3. Jake Swanson, 4. C.J. Leary, 5. Zeb Wise, 6. Kendall Ruble, 7. Andrew Layser, 8. Sam Johnson, 9. Tyler Nelson, 10. Carson Garrett, 11. Dakota Jackson. 2:59.89 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Jason McDougal (5), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (4), 3. Kyle Cummins (7), 4. Tyler Courtney (2), 5. Justin Grant (16), 6. Logan Seavey (1), 7. Tucker Klaasmeyer (18), 8. Thomas Meseraull (12), 9. Tanner Thorson (17), 10. Zeb Wise (19), 11. Chris Windom (11), 12. Tyler Thomas (8), 13. Jerry Coons, Jr. (13), 14. Robert Dalby (3), 15. Andrew Layser (10), 16. C.J. Leary (21), 17. Tanner Carrick (14), 18. Karsyn Elledge (9), 19. Critter Malone (15), 20. Jake Swanson (22), 21. Gio Scelzi (6), 22. Kendall Ruble (20). NT
**Tucker Klaasmeyer flipped on lap 1 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Logan Seavey, Laps 8-9 Kevin Thomas, Jr., Lap 10 Jason McDougal, Laps 11-16 Kevin Thomas, Jr., Lap 17 Jason McDougal, Laps 18-20 Thomas Meseraull, Lap 21-30 Jason McDougal.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Justin Grant (16th to 5th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Jerry Coons, Jr.
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Sam Johnson
NEW USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-1,718, 2-Chris Windom-1,564, 3-Logan Seavey-1,534, 4-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1,478, 5-Zeb Wise-1,435, 6-Tanner Carrick-1,287, 7-Jerry Coons, Jr.-1,274, 8-Chad Boat-1,255, 9-Jason McDougal-1,229, 10-Tucker Klaasmeyer-1,193.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: November 15-16, 2019 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – 52nd Western World Championships – 1/3-Mile Dirt Oval