By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Bechtelsville, PA – Brady Bacon seems to have a flair for the dramatics every time he arrives at Grandview Speedway.
For the second-straight year, the two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ ran down the race leader on lap 38 of 40. Last year, C.J. Leary was the victim. This time, the target was Kevin Thomas, Jr., one of the hottest sprint car drivers in America at the moment. No small task to tackle by any means.
Akin to a buzzer beater at the end of a stick and ball sport, Bacon saved his most memorable shot for the end, staying loyal to his guns on the bottom of the one-third mile dirt oval to win Thursday night’s “Eastern Storm” opener for the second consecutive year.
Late-race heroics are always a joy to witness from the grandstand. And it’s certainly a joy to the one witnessing it through his own helmet visor as the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native did – and he wouldn’t prefer it any other way.
“It actually makes it little more special,” Bacon said regarding the late-race pass for the lead. “It doesn’t sound that great if you start on the pole, lead every lap and win the race without any challenges. That’s an easy payday, but it gets your adrenaline pumping a little bit with the ups and downs. When you think you’re going to run second, but then you find something, get excited and make that finishing move that gets you to the lead and the win at the end. That gets your adrenaline pumping and makes it a little sweeter, especially when you beat someone as good as they are right now.”
As exciting as it was, perhaps it was more meaningful in the race that it came in. One year ago, Bacon’s Grandview victory was the first for the Dooling/Hayward Motorsports No. 63 team since the passing of Bryan Clauson. Yet, the race also carries the name of 2009 Grandview winner, Jesse Hockett. Someone who Bacon felt a kinship with as they raced sprint cars together from coast-to-coast.
“I was really close with Jesse,” Bacon remembers. “We had similar career paths. We ran a lot of non-wing, wing and 360 races together and became really good friends there when he had his accident. It’s definitely special to win anything with his name attached to it.”
Bacon started on the pole for the first of four 40-lap features on the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car calendar this season. Despite a track rework prior to the feature, the 2014 Eastern Storm champ wasn’t deterred from his plans set-up-wise on the Brady Bacon Racing/Imperial Wagyu Beef – Fatheadz Eyewear – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
“We set it up pretty much the way we had it before the track prep because we knew it was going to go away,” Bacon recalls. “It actually lasted a lot longer than we thought. It definitely made for some good racing as it stayed faster and not quite so slow and slick at the end. Once it started cleaning off, we got to where we could move around the track a bit. Fortunately, I had a car good enough regardless of what it threw at us.”
However, the early-going was all Chad Boespflug as he pounced to the lead on the opening lap from the outside of the front row. Boespflug cut a rug in the middle lane to lead the first 12 circuits with Bacon staged a lane lower on the bottom rail a car length back.
By the 13th lap, the leaders were working to put a lap on the tail end of the field. As Boespflug drifted high to get around the lapped car of Carmen Perigo, Bacon stayed glued to the bottom, which paid off handsomely as he followed Perigo off turn four, then shot to the right-side pocket in front of Boespflug to grab a solid lead at the stripe.
Following a Justin Grant flip on the 16th lap, Thomas repeatedly wreaked havoc with Bacon’s lead up front, painting the outside wall with a pallet of brown dirt as he buzzed the outside of turn two on the 23rd lap, a move that very nearly paid off.
Thomas would apply layers of pressure on Bacon until lap 30 when he saw the door to the outside of Bacon swing wide open off turn two. Thomas took the welcome mat and slammed the door on Bacon, cutting down to the inside rail to steal Bacon’s line heading into the third turn.
The race appeared to be over. The race was in the refrigerator, the door was closed, the lights were out, the butter was getting hard, the eggs were cooling, and the Jell-O was jigglin’, to steal a line from Chick Hearn.
But, no! Thomas re-opened the door for Bacon with three laps remaining, drifting off the bottom to the middle of the track, allowing Bacon to scoot by on the bottom for the lead off turn four. Bacon dead-bolted the door and boarded it up with 2x4s on the final two circuits to secure his $6000 winner’s share ahead of Thomas, Chris Windom, KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Tyler Courtney and fast qualifier Jarett Andretti.
With the victory, Bacon moves into the top-25 on the all-time USAC National Sprint Car win list to equal Greg Weld and, ironically, Kevin Thomas, Jr.
“He was in a better position than me when he was behind me because he could move around and try some stuff,” Bacon explained. “I was stuck to the bottom unless someone proved me otherwise. (Thomas) got by me and he was actually pulling away a little bit. I moved around and found some stuff. We had our car set up pretty tight for the end of the race and once the track cleaned up and we got our tires hot, I moved up a little bit in three and four. When you’re running second, there’s nothing left to lose.”
Contingency award winners Thursday night at Grandview Speedway included Robert Ballou (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), C.J. Leary (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner & Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Tyler Courtney (Chalk Stix Third Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Chase Stockon (Indy Race Parts Semi Winner), Zach Daum (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier) and Eric Jennings (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 14, 2018 – Grandview Speedway – Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania – “Jesse Hockett Classic” / “Eastern Storm”
QUALIFYING: 1. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-13.978; 2. Tony DiMattia, 50, TDM-14.008; 3. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-14.048; 4. Kevin Thomas Jr., 69, Dynamics-14.184; 5. Chad Boespflug, 98, NineEight-14.377; 6. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-14.378; 7. Brady Bacon, 99, Bacon-14.388; 8. Thomas Meseraull, 20, Dyson-14.497; 9. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-14.497; 10. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-14.505; 11. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.509; 12. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-14.
541; 13. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-14.582; 14. Timmy Buckwalter, 7, LNB-14.637; 15. Jerry Coons, Jr., 39, Hogue-14.730; 16. Dave Darland, 36D, Goodnight/Curb-Agajanian-14. 761; 17. Joey Biasi, B1, Shaup-14.780; 18. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-14.818; 19. Kyle Moody, 13K, Kaylor-14.830; 20. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-15.099; 21. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-15.101; 22. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-15.145; 23. J.R. Berry, 74JR, Berry-15.156; 24. Ryan Godown, 3x, Wasitowski-15.157; 25. Kyle Lick, 8, Lick-15.284; 26. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-15.916; 27. Eric Jennings, 14E, Pinkurous-16.017.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Ballou, 2. Thomas, 3. Darland, 4. Andretti, 5. Bacon, 6. Chapple, 7. Moody, 8. Daum. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Leary, 2. Meseraull, 3. T. Buckwalter, 4. Boespflug, 5. DiMattia, 6. Biasi, 7. Perigo, 8. Bell, 9. Berry. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Courtney, 2. Westfall, 3. Windom, 4. Coons, 5. Grant, 6. Stockon, 7. Godown, 8. Kobylarz, 9. Jennings. 2:09.42
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer) 1. Stockon, 2. Chapple, 3. Perigo, 4. Daum, 5. Kobylarz, 6. Lick, 7. Biasi, 8. Jennings, 9. Moody, 10. Bell, 11. Godown. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps – starting positions in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (1), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 3. Chris Windom (4), 4. Tyler Courtney (12), 5. Jarett Andretti (6), 6. Chad Boespflug (2), 7. Chase Stockon (7), 8. Robert Ballou (10), 9. Thomas Meseraull (8), 10. Justin Grant (9), 11. Dave Darland (16), 12. Matt Westfall (18), 13. C.J. Leary (11), 14. Isaac Chapple (21), 15. Tony DiMattia (5), 16. Zach Daum (13), 17. Timmy Buckwalter (14), 18. Jerry Coons, Jr. (15), 19. Joey Biasi (17), 20. Kyle Lick (22), 21. Trevor Kobylarz (20), 22. Carmen Perigo (19). NT
**Daum flipped during the first heat. Grant flipped on lap 16 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-12 Boespflug, Laps 13-29 Bacon, Laps 30-37 Thomas, Laps 38-40 Bacon.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Tyler Courtney (12th to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: C.J. Leary
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Zach Daum
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Eric Jennings
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Thomas-861, 2-Courtney-829, 3-Windom-801, 4-Stockon-745, 5-Leary-723, 6-Bacon-722, 7-Ballou-710, 8-Darland-675, 9-Grant-663, 10-Boespflug-597.
NEW EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Thomas-77, 2-Bacon-74, 3-Windom-74, 4-Courtney-69, 5-Andretti-69, 6-Boespflug-62, 7-Stockon-57, 8-Ballou-57, 9-Meseraull-53, 10-Grant-47.
CAPITOL CUSTOM TRAILERS & COACHES EASTERN STORM PASS MASTER POINTS: 1-Courtney-8, 2-Chapple-7, 3-Westfall-6, 4-Darland-5, 5-Ballou-2, 6-Lick-2, 7-Thomas-1, 8-Windom-1, 9-Andretti-1.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 15 – Williams Grove Speedway – Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania – “Eastern Storm”