By RICHIE MURRAY
SWEDESBORO, NJ – To earn his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory last September in Pevely, Mo., Jason McDougal played the role of the chaser on a late-race restart.
To gain his second career series win Wednesday night in round two of the 13th annual “Eastern Storm” at Bridgeport Speedway, the roles were reversed as the Broken Arrow, Okla. native had to hold off the competition on a green-white-checker restart.
Initially, McDougal was heralded as a quick study after making an impressive series debut less than a calendar year ago. Now, after acing both of those particular exams in his young career, he’s rapidly becoming one of the elite, earning his first career Eastern Storm triumph on the 3/8-mile dirt oval.
Although, as hard as McDougal drove into turn one on the final restart, he might’ve made it stick on the 5/8-mile track that surrounds it.
“I drove it into one as deep as I could,” McDougal exclaimed, emphasizing the word ‘deep.’ “That was the hardest I ran it into one during that whole race. It was either going to bike or stick.”
Justin Grant, a 14-time USAC Sprint Car feature winner himself, was eager to tally his initial Eastern Storm win as he lined up second on the final restart, ready to make his run at McDougal.
“I was going to slide him into one, but I didn’t have enough of a run,” Grant explained. “Then I thought, ‘well, if I can hook the bottom off of two, I can at least stay tucked up alongside of him and slide him going into three. Then, I about half-spun in the middle of one and two, and that whole plan went away.”
McDougal checked out initially on the start from the outside of the front row, though pole sitter Carson Short made a bid for the lead, running side-by-side and edging ahead momentarily on the bottom of turn three on the opening lap before McDougal used the top to drive around the outside of Short to lead the field back to the stripe.
As McDougal checked out to a 1.5 second advantage, the battled raged for second with Kevin Thomas, Jr. smothering Short for second to no avail as Short slammed the door on Thomas on the tenth lap into one. Short had enough momentum each time to guard the challenge from Thomas, but three laps later, at the same spot, Thomas kicked the door open, grooving to the bottom and edging ahead for the second position exiting turn two.
Nearing midway, the sense was that, with an open track, Thomas would be able to start reeling McDougal in. Initially, he did, cutting a half-second off the interval to knock McDougal’s lead down to nine-tenths of a second. As McDougal began to encounter the tail end of the field on lap 19, he built his lead back up to 1.3 seconds.
However, gridlock, road construction-type traffic lay ahead with not one, not two, but three cars occupying three different grooves together as McDougal approached. Seemingly stuck, McDougal tried to split two of the lappers on separate occasions without much luck. That allowed both Grant and Thomas to come back into play with five laps remaining.
On lap 26, Grant and Thomas’ see-saw positioning saw Grant slide Thomas into turn three. Thomas countered and the two drag raced into turn one with Thomas poking ahead and briefly surging ahead by a car length over McDougal between turns one and two. That is, until McDougal zipped back past on the outside to regain the lead, albeit with the lapped cars of Brian VanMeveren and Dominick Buffalino running in tandem just ahead.
“They were racing just close enough side-by-side to where I couldn’t split them getting into the corner,” McDougal recalled. “One of them entered low enough every time, that I probably could’ve drove around the outside of him, but we would’ve crashed about halfway through the corner. Basically, I just waited until the guy on the bottom messed up enough to where I could almost push the guy at the top off the track.”
McDougal was on high alert and was able to wedge the front bumper between the two off the second turn on lap 28, cutting through the middle of both cars on the back straightaway to clear both in one fell swoop between turns three and four.
As soon as McDougal appeared to be in the clear, the yellow flag dropped for the stopped car of Dustin Christie in turn four, setting up one final two-lap showdown. However, McDougal was flawless on the resumption, spurting away uncontested throughout the last 1-3/4 of a lap earn the $6,000 victory, the money with which McDougal said he might spend on a new Gucci belt to boost his appearance for the fans.
McDougal’s victory in the Daigh-Phillips Motorsports/Frank & Jill Daigh – Roger & Barb Tapy – Griffin’s Propane/DRC/Foxco Chevy provided the Phillips team their first Eastern Storm feature victory since Dave Darland’s win at Port Royal in 2013.
Thomas outdueled Grant in a ferocious battle in the waning laps to take second. Grant finished third ahead of fast qualifier and new one-lap track record holder Chase Stockon, while new “Eastern Storm” point leader C.J. Leary rounded out the top-five.
Contingency award winners Wednesday night at Bridgeport Speedway were Chase Stockon (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), Tyler Courtney (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Robert Ballou (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Dave Darland (AutoMeter/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner), Joey Biasi (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier), Chad Boespflug (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher) and Brady Bacon (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 12, 2019 – Bridgeport Speedway – Swedesboro, New Jersey – 13th “Eastern Storm” – 3/8-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-15.767 (New Track Record); 2. C.J. Leary, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-16.010; 3. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-16.019; 4. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 19, Hayward/Thomas-16.056; 5. Jason McDougal, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-16.089; 6. Carson Short, 20, Dyson-16.150; 7. Chris Windom, 5G, Goacher-16.163; 8. Chad Boespflug, 98e, EZR-16.186; 9. Bill Balog, 2, Lein-16.215; 10. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-16.278; 11. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-16.309; 12. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-16.340; 13. Joey Biasi, B1, Biasi-16.408; 14. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-16.469; 15. Dave Darland, 39, Hogue-16.520; 16. Steven Drevicki, 19s, Drevicki-16.520; 17. Brian VanMeveren, 24, VanMeveren-16.560; 18. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-16.690; 19. Dustin Christie, 75, Christie-16.836; 20. Dominick Buffalino, 3x, Wasitowski-17.181; 21. Ryan Godown, 4F, Freyer-17.284; 22. Craig Pellegrini, Jr., 11A, Pellegrini-17.476.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Courtney, 2. Biasi, 3. Stockon, 4. Thomas, 5. Windom, 6. Drevicki, 7. Christie, 8. Pellegrini. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Ballou, 2. McDougal, 3. Leary, 4. VanMeveren, 5. Boespflug, 6. Chapple, 7. Buffalino. NT
AUTOMETER/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Darland, 2. Bacon, 3. Andretti, 4. Grant, 5. Short, 6. Balog, 7. Godown. 2:15.75 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Jason McDougal (2), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 3. Justin Grant (4), 4. Chase Stockon (6), 5. C.J. Leary (5), 6. Tyler Courtney (10), 7. Brady Bacon (12), 8. Chris Windom (7), 9. Carson Short (1), 10. Robert Ballou (14), 11. Bill Balog (9), 12. Steven Drevicki (16), 13. Chad Boespflug (8), 14. Isaac Chapple (11), 15. Joey Biasi (13), 16. Dave Darland (15), 17. Jarett Andretti (18), 18. Ryan Godown (21), 19. Dominick Buffalino (20), 20. Brian VanMeveren (17), 21. Dustin Christie (19), 22. Craig Pellegrini, Jr. (22). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 McDougal.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Brady Bacon (12th to 7th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Chad Boespflug
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Joey Biasi
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Leary-684, 2-K. Thomas-651, 3-Courtney-626, 4-Windom-624, 5-Stockon-624, 6-Bacon-600, 7-Grant-562, 8-Ballou-538, 9-Short-525, 10-McDougal-518.
NEW EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Leary-145, 2-Thomas-144, 3-Bacon-136, 4-Stockon-135, 5-Courtney-133, 6-McDougal-129, 7-Grant-127, 8-Windom-123, 9-Ballou-113, 10-Short-98.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 13, 2019 – BAPS Motor Speedway – York Haven, Pennsylvania – 13th “Eastern Storm” – 4/10-Mile Dirt Oval