By RICHIE MURRAY
SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ – One year ago, Tyler Courtney had a view from the other side of the spectrum at the season finale. There, his nearest combatant in the title chase collected a feature win while he celebrated a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship.
Saturday’s 2019 season finale at Arizona Speedway found the Indianapolis, Ind. in the polar opposite position where he was the one standing in victory lane with a tinge of bittersweetness surrounding him. He earned a second-straight Western World Championships Sprint Car crown, and second victory in as many nights, but in the end, came up 18 points shy of a second-straight series crown behind C.J. Leary.
While Courtney was elated in one sense by picking up his series-leading ninth victory of the 2019 season and the 26th of his USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car career, tying him with Tony Elliott and Dave Steele for 18th all-time, he couldn’t help but have the end result of the championship weigh on his mind before a celebration of victory came to mind.
“What’s going through my mind is that we lost the championship,” Courtney said. “These guys worked their tails off all year to put us in contention for it. For the year, we just didn’t get it there. We know what it’s like to be the champions and especially for the first time, it’s truly something special and I hope they get to enjoy it.”
Entering the 30-lap feature, that landscape had been laid out. If Leary finished 11th or better, the championship would be his regardless of where Courtney finished. With that on his mind, Courtney took care of the aspect he was fully in control of.
“I told (the crew) before the feature pushed off that I was going to bring back either the trophy or the steering wheel,” Courtney explained. “We brought home the trophy. To sweep the weekend in a sprint car is really cool. To win Western World in back-to-back years is pretty cool too. But second in the championship sucks. We did all we could do. We came out here and we won the race tonight. That’s nothing to hang our head on. For the season, nine wins on the year is pretty special. Winning any USAC race is tough with the competition we have year-in and year-out. It’s incredible.”
Courtney started fifth and worked his way into third by the opening lap and into the runner-up spot by lap five while pole sitter Josh Hodges, then the evening’s midget feature winner Brady Bacon, exchanged control at the front of the field.
On the 13th lap, Bacon ripped into traffic, threading needles as he scooted around the outside of Chris Gansen off turn four to escape a rapidly closing Courtney who, just moments before, had trailed by 1.5 sec., but had whittled it down to breadcrumbs by the halfway mark.
Courtney ran down Bacon in traffic, sliding underneath the two-time series champ between turns three and four to nab the position. Bacon immediately went back to work on the bottom of turn one under Courtney and emerged as the new leader at the exit of turn two.
Courtney had momentum in his back pocket, catching up to race side-by-side with Bacon into turn three on lap 17 where the two touched wheels – Bacon’s right rear and Courtney’s left rear – popping Courtney airborne before landing on all fours and continuing on, albeit while watching Bacon drive back by to the lead.
Courtney immediately jumped back on the bull and made a beeline from the top of turn four to the middle of turn one where the two nearly made contact again as Bacon slid above the cushion. However, Bacon made a quick recovery and turned down off two to dart back under Courtney and into the lead by turn three. The following lap was a rinse and repeat situation as Courtney slid Bacon in one while Bacon ducked back under and reassumed the top spot off two.
On the 20th lap, Bacon raced into one with Courtney a half car length behind. This time, the last car on the lead lap, Charles Davis, Jr., was to the outside of Bacon between turns one and two. As Bacon drifted to the inside of Davis, he wasn’t able to slide all the way to the curb in order to propel him down the back straightaway. As Bacon slid through the middle, Courtney stuck the line under Bacon and opened up an eight-car-length advantage with ten laps remaining.
By lap 25, however, Bacon had reeled in Courtney to within a couple car lengths distance when Justin Grant and Jason McDougal found trouble in turn two. Grant landed upside down and walked to the ambulance under his own power for further observation.
During the red flag period, steam began to pour from Courtney’s resting car, which was revealed to be a result of a hole in the radiator. Earlier in the night, Courtney and the team qualified fourth, but were forced to swap out the engine before their heat race in the Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Competition Suspension, Inc./Spike/Rider Chevy.
Friday night’s Western World midget winner Kevin Thomas, Jr. was the man on the move on the lap 25 restart, sliding past Bacon in turn one for the second position as Bacon faded into a distant third. Meanwhile, Courtney had gapped Thomas and Bacon to the tune of two seconds until a last lap yellow for a flat left rear tire on Chase Stockon necessitated a yellow flag.
A green-white-checkered finish wasn’t enough to knock Courtney off his game as he utilized a solid restart to distance himself from the pack once and for all, taking the checkered by a 1.299 sec. margin over Thomas, Bacon, Chris Windom and C.J. Leary, whose fifth place finish secured himself a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car driver championship.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Arizona Speedway were:
Brady Bacon (Indy Race Parts/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions/Sway-a-Way Racing Fourth Heat Winner)
Dustin Clark (Competition Suspension, Inc./Circle Track Performance/Ultra Shield Second Heat Winner)
Dennis Gile (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer)
R.J. Johnson (AutoMeter/Saldana Racing Products/Butlerbuilt Seats Third Heat Winner)
C.J. Leary (Fatheadz Eyewear/Woodland Auto Display/Beaver Stripes Fast Qualifier & Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions First Heat Winner)
Jason McDougal (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier)
Brody Roa (KSE Racing Products/Specialty Fasteners/Saldana Racing Products Hard Charger)
Jake Swanson (Competition Suspension, Inc./Pyrotect Racing Cells Semi Winner)
Austin Williams (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher)
USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL, CRA & SANDS CHEVROLET SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR RACE RESULTS: November 16, 2019 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – 52nd Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford – 1/3-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY/BEAVER STRIPES QUALIFYING: 1. C.J. Leary, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.007; 2. Tommy Malcolm, 5x, Napier-15.007; 3. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-15.010; 4. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-15.020; 5. Damion Gardner, 4x, Alexander-15.073; 6. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Grau/Burkhart-15.079; 7. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 19, Hayward/Thomas-15.089; 8. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-15.093; 9. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-15.100; 10. Logan Seavey, 19L, Reinbold/Underwood-15.105; 11. Chris Windom, 5G, Parallax/Goacher-15.153; 12. Eric Wilkins, 34w, Grau/Burkhart-15.182; 13. Jason McDougal, 34, Grau-15.233; 14. Hunter Schuerenberg, 19s, Reinbold/Underwood-15.271; 15. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-15.290; 16. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-15.329; 17. Eddie Tafoya, Jr., 51T, Tafoya-15.366; 18. Dustin Clark, 75, Clark-15.378; 19. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-15.420; 20. Chris Bonneau, 15, Bonneau-15.422; 21. Austin Williams, 92, Sertich-15.440; 22. Thomas Meseraull, 13m, Gile-15.502; 23. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-15.502; 24. Kyle Shipley, 0G, Shipley-15.543; 25. Charles Davis, Jr., 47, Davis-15.596; 26. Zack Madrid, 51m, Johnson-15.607; 27. Stevie Sussex, 12, Allen-15.610; 28. Dennis Gile, 13G, Gile-15.721; 29. Michael Curtis, 11c, Turner/Wheeler-15.744; 30. Tanner Carrick, 83T, Carrick-15.795; 31. Noah Gass, 20G, Gass-16.014; 32. Frank Rodgers III, 6R, Rodgers-16.472.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS/EXTREME MUFFLERS/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Austin Williams, 3. Damion Gardner, 4. Josh Hodges, 5. Charles Davis, Jr., 6. Jason McDougal, 7. Eddie Tafoya, Jr., 8. Michael Curtis. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/CIRCLE TRACK PERFORMANCE/ULTRA SHIELD RACE PRODUCTS SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Dustin Clark, 2. Logan Seavey, 3. Hunter Schuerenberg, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Jake Swanson, 6. Tommy Malcolm, 7. Zack Madrid. 8. Tanner Carrick. 2:07.366
AUTOMETER/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS/BUTLERBUILT SEATS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. R.J. Johnson, 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 3. Chris Windom, 4. Chase Stockon, 5. Justin Grant, 6. Brody Roa, 7. Stevie Sussex, 8. Noah Gass. 2:07.655
INDY RACE PARTS/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS/SWAY-A-WAY RACING FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Tyler Courtney, 3. Eric Wilkins, 4. Chris Bonneau, 5. Chris Gansen, 6. Kyle Shipley, 7. Dennis Gile, 8. Frank Rodgers III. 2:08.698
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/PYROTECT RACING CELLS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Jake Swanson, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Brody Roa, 4. Eddie Tafoya, Jr., 5. Jason McDougal, 6. Chris Gansen, 7. Dennis Gile, 8. Charles Davis, Jr., 9. Zack Madrid, 10. Tanner Carrick, 11. Tommy Malcolm, 12. Kyle Shipley, 13. Noah Gass, 14. Michael Curtis, 15. Frank Rodgers III, 16. Stevie Sussex. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (5), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 3. Brady Bacon (2), 4. Chris Windom (10), 5. C.J. Leary (6), 6. Damion Gardner (4), 7. Josh Hodges (1), 8. Jake Swanson (8), 9. Logan Seavey (9), 10. Brody Roa (22), 11. Stevie Sussex (23), 12. R.J. Johnson (18), 13. Austin Williams (20), 14. Chase Stockon (13), 15. Thomas Meseraull (21), 16. Eric Wilkins (11), 17. Dustin Clark (17), 18. Chris Gansen (14), 19. Chris Bonneau (19), 20. Eddie Tafoya, Jr. (15), 21. Justin Grant (7), 22. Jason McDougal (16), 23. Charles Davis, Jr. (24), 24. Hunter Schuerenberg (12). NT
**Justin Grant flipped on lap 25 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Josh Hodges, Laps 2-15 Brady Bacon, Lap 16 Tyler Courtney, Laps 17-19 Brady Bacon, Laps 20-30 Tyler Courtney.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/SPECIALTY FASTENERS/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Brody Roa (22nd to 10th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Austin Williams
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Dennis Gile
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Jason McDougal
FINAL USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-2,327, 2-Tyler Courtney-2,309, 3-Brady Bacon-2,136, 4-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-2,136, 5-Justin Grant-2,116, 6-Chris Windom-2,115, 7-Chase Stockon-2,032, 8-Jason McDougal-1,588, 9-Carson Short-1,361, 10-Isaac Chapple-1,193.
FINAL AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Damion Gardner-1,489, 2-Austin Williams-1,418, 3-Brody Roa-1,302, 4-Jake Swanson-1,234, 5-Chris Gansen-911, 6-Tommy Malcolm-887, 7-Charles Davis, Jr.-837, 8-R.J. Johnson-753, 9-Eddie Tafoya, Jr.-706, 10-Richard Vander Weerd-683.
FINAL SANDS CHEVROLET USAC SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Brody Roa-1,083, 2-R.J. Johnson-1,065, 3-Stevie Sussex-1018, 4-Charles Davis, Jr.-976, 5-Jake Swanson-800, 6-Austin Williams-659, 7-Mike Martin-655, 8-Damion Gardner-616, 9-Chris Bonneau-517, 10-Matt Lundy-500.