By RICHIE MURRAY
BELOIT, KS – Rarely do we have the opportunity to accurately measure the accomplishments of racers in the midst of their careers to those who came before them. After all, that’s what record books are for. But, when you join a name such as A.J. Foyt in any record book, it’s certainly something worth mentioning.
Bell did just that Wednesday night in the 8th Annual “Chad McDaniel Memorial” at Solomon Valley Raceway where he recorded his 20th career USAC National Midget feature victory, equaling the number of wins the four-time Indianapolis 500 champ procured with the series in his legendary career.
Yet, after seeing his one-lap track record fall earlier in the night, Bell more than made up from having his name erased from that segment of the record book by leading the final ten laps to join Bryan Clauson as the only two-time winner of the “Chad McDaniel Memorial.”
However, the 2013 event winner from Norman, Oklahoma would quickly point out that he was not the one to beat on this night, inheriting the lead after Tyler Thomas’ front end collapsed while leading exiting the second turn on lap 21 of the 30-lap event.
“The best driver didn’t win tonight, that’s for sure,” Bell said. “Tyler was doing a great job up there on the top. I could see he was struggling just like we were. I just wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to hang on for 30 laps. As it turned out, it was his car that couldn’t hang on for 30 laps. That was such a tough break for him.”
With that said, to inherit, you must first put yourself in position to grab opportunities when they arrive. Bell led in two separate stints, initially taking the lead between laps 7-14 before Thomas reclaimed the lead with a turn one slider on the 15th lap.
As Thomas began to extend his lead entering the final ten-lap stretch, his night would unexpectedly and heartbreakingly end when he began to slow dramatically with the front wheels as cockeyed as Marty Feldman’s eyes. It was a cruel twist of fate for the Oklahoman who, one night earlier, lost his lead late after leading the majority of the laps at Fairbury, Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway.
The shakeup moved Bell to the front and Justin Grant to second after he scurried back to the front following a drop to fifth in the opening stages.
On the restart, though, Bell erased any notion Grant had of victory on this night, quickly distancing himself from the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader in the final laps to score his third series win of the season in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/DeWalt – TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
The feature wasn’t all smooth sailing for the 2013 USAC National Midget champion who was routinely seen bouncing through the turns as he manhandled his ride atop the quarter-mile dirt oval.
“It was a tough, technical track tonight and that made it hard to run consistent laps,” Bell explained. “My biggest thing was that I had to lift down the straightaway to make sure the car wasn’t squatted. I had to have the car up so that it could glide across the holes and then find the smoothest part of the racetrack to get through.”
On paper, it appears Justin Grant had a fairly smooth run to second from third, but after dropping back early on before making a late surge, his race was anything but in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives – Priority Aviation/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
“I just tried to not get in a panic and, instead, let the racetrack come to us,” Grant said. “Our car was really good at the end and we started clicking back by guys and working the bottom lane while other guys were bouncing around the top. We really felt like we had something for Bell until that last caution.”
On off weekends, third-place finisher Holly Shelton travels back home to her native California and competes in an Outlaw Kart at Cycleland Speedway in Oroville. Last weekend, she won her second race there in four attempts before starting this four-race if five-night midget swing in the Heartland. While the differences between each of the cars are stark, Shelton admits that despite the differences, driving (and winning) in a variety of racecars simply makes you tougher to beat each time you get behind the wheel.
“An Outlaw Kart has no power steering and no shocks; they’re really low to the ground and your feet are hanging over the front tires,” Shelton detailed. “The first couple times I went from that to a midget, I struggled a bit. Whatever car you’re in, you should be able to adapt. Running the different cars just makes you a better driver.”
With the series at such a high-level right now and the competition so even amongst at least half the field each night, every little bit of an advantage a team can find does help. Shelton was the first to bring down the existing one-lap track record Wednesdaynight, ultimately timing in third, which guaranteed her a prime starting spot in the top few rows for the feature in her Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Black & Decker – TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“Qualifying is key in this series,” Shelton acknowledged. “The competition’s so stout, if you have to start mid-pack, it makes it really difficult on you. I learned that last night (at Fairbury, Neb.). I started 11th and really couldn’t get past them. Tonight, it was really major and we were able to take full advantage of a good qualifying run.”
Contingency award winners Wednesday night at Solomon Valley Raceway include Brady Bacon (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Cody Brewer (Simpson Race Products 1st Heat Winner), Shane Golobic (Competition Suspension, Inc. 2nd Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (Chalk Stix 3rd Heat Winner), Jerry Coons, Jr. (Indy Race Parts 4th Heat Winner), Joe B. Miller (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Tucker Klaasmeyer (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 2, 2017 – Beloit, Kansas – Solomon Valley Raceway – 8th Annual “Chad McDaniel Memorial”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-12.319 (New Track Record), 2. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.334, 3. Holly Shelton, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.451, 4. Justin Grant, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-12.588, 5. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-12.599, 6. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-12.602, 7. Christopher Bell, 21, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.616, 8. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.641, 9. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.671, 10. Tyler Nelson, 47, Mason-12.689, 11. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-12.696, 12. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-12.780, 13. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.784; 14. Shane Golobic, 17w, Clauson-Marshall/Wood-12.789; 15. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27, Klaasmeyer-12.814; 16. Jerry Coons, Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-12.897; 17. Cody Brewer, 96, Central-13.074; 18. Matt Johnson, 85, Central-13.150; 19. Chett Gehrke, 11c, Matteson-13.159; 20. Paul Babich, 69, Hamilton/Halarr-13.173; 21. Joe B. Miller, 7u, Trifecta-13.207; 22. Terry Goodwin, 2G, Goodwin-13.331; 23. Jeff Stasa, 91s, SBR-13.368; 24. Troy Simpson, 7, Hamilton-13.371; 25. Shaun Shapel, 84s, Shapel-13.479; 26. Collin Rinehart, 20, Rinehart-13.611; 27. Glenn Waterland, 11cw, Waterland-13.658; 28. Ryan Oerter, 43, RKO-13.752; 29. Randy Oerter, 48, RKO-14.318; 30. Ashley Oerter, 16, RKO-15.681.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Brewer, 2. Miller, 3. Bacon, 4. Robinson, 5. Bayston, 6. Lynch, 7. Shapel, 8. Ra. Oerter. 2:13.75
COMPETITION SUSPENSION, INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Thomas, 3. Thorson, 4. Nelson, 5. Goodwin, 6. Johnson, 7. Rinehart, 8. A. Oerter. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Courtney, 2. Klaasmeyer, 3. Bell, 4. Shelton, 5. Stasa, 6. Gehrke, 7. Waterland. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Coons, 2. Grant, 3. Boat, 4. Carrick, 5. Simpson, 6. Babich, 7. Ry. Oerter. 2:12.14
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Bayston, 2. Lynch, 3. Johnson, 4. Gehrke, 5. Babich, 6. Simpson, 7. Rinehart, 8. Ry. Oerter, 9. Stasa, 10. Shapel, 11. Waterland, 12. Goodwin, 13. Ra. Oerter, 14. A. Oerter. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Holly Shelton, 4. Tanner Thorson, 5. Brady Bacon, 6. Spencer Bayston, 7. Brayton Lynch, 8. Tanner Carrick, 9. Shane Golobic, 10. Jerry Coons, Jr., 11. Chad Boat, 12. Tyler Nelson, 13. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 14. Joe B. Miller, 15. Troy Simpson, 16. Tyler Thomas, 17. Tyler Courtney, 18. Chett Gehrke, 19. Ryan Robinson, 20. Matt Johnson, 21. Cody Brewer, 22. Paul Babich. NT
**Courtney flipped on lap 14 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-6 Thomas, Laps 7-14 Bell, Laps 15-20 Thomas, Laps 21-30 Bell.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Joe B. Miller (21st to 14th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Tucker Klaasmeyer
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bayston-892, 2-Bacon-889, 3-Golobic-873, 4-Grant-827, 5-Courtney-812, 6-Thorson-792, 7-Coons-697, 8-Boat-608, 9-Shelton-594, 10-Thomas-587.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: August 4-5 – Belleville, Kansas – Belleville High Banks – 40th Annual “Belleville Midget Nationals”