By Richie Murray – USAC Media
MESQUITE, TX-For Brady Bacon, Devil’s Bowl Speedway was sort of like a Kokomo of the south. Both are tracks he’d competed at extensively but had long come up empty handed in the win column after an extensive number of runner-up finishes.
The Broken Arrow, Okla. driver led all 30 laps on Thursday night at the 4/10-mile in Mesquite, Texas, prevailing following a late-race duel with Robert Ballou to earn a milestone victory in the first USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature held in the Lone Star State since 1985 – 38 years ago.
The triumph was the 52nd of Bacon’s USAC National Sprint Car career, tying him for second all-time with 1978 series champion Tom Bigelow. Now only Dave Darland stands ahead of Bacon with 62 career victories.
With Bacon sharing the spot with Bigelow, it’s also interesting to note that both currently reside in the same city even though both originally hail from other states – Wisconsin for Bigelow and Oklahoma for Bacon.
“It means a lot; Tom’s a friend of mine and lives in Winchester (Indiana) as well,” Bacon noted after piloting his Dynamics, Inc./Smiley’s Racing Products – Hobson Family – Tel-Star Technologies/Triple X/Rider Chevy to a sixth USAC National Sprint Car win of the season.
A win at Devil’s Bowl’s famed fast dirt oval is especially special to Bacon as well. More than a decade ago, Bacon competed regularly with the American Sprint Car Series (ASCS) and the Sprint Bandits Tour ‘N Topless series, finishing second place on numerous occasions before his breakthrough all those years later.
“Winning at Devil’s Bowl is pretty big for me,” Bacon exclaimed. “This place was a little bit like Kokomo for me earlier in my career. I ran second a bunch to a lot of really good guys like Jason Johnson, Gary Wright, Shane Stewart and Brian Brown. We could never quite get the job done with the wing here, so I’m glad to finally get it done with the non-wing car. I actually ran second in a non-wing car here about 13 years ago too and I haven’t been back since. I’m glad to get it done.”
Bacon established the point early from his pole starting position, leading the opening lap before 18th starting Dalton Stevens slipped over the turn one banking and coasted to a stop on lap two to bring out the first yellow.
Once again establishing the lead on the restart using the bottom side of the racetrack, the race was halted again on lap four when eighth running Charles Davis Jr. flipped violently down the back straightaway in a wicked tumble after clipping a turn two infield tire. The veteran Arizonian was able to climb out and walk away.
Under yellow, sixth running C.J. Leary’s car refused to refire for the lap four restart, making laps around the track connected to the front bumper of a push vehicle, but wasn’t able to power on its own, signaling an unexpected and disappointing conclusion to the race for the 2019 series champ.
On the restart, the major mover was Robert Ballou as he slid past Jake Swanson in turn one for the second position on lap five as Justin Grant also followed en route to third. Meanwhile, Bacon had opened up a 1.359 second gap over Ballou as the race leader before heat race winner and 12th running Justin Zimmerman experienced a flat left rear tire in the middle of the pack on lap 13 as the field scrambled high and low to successfully avoid contact.
The first driver to really make headway somewhere other than the bottom of the racetrack was USAC CRA Sprint Car point leader who took to the high side on the lap 13 restart and proceeded to drive all the way up to third. As Roa made a bid for second on the outside of Ballou between turns three and four on lap 17, Ballou caught wind of Roa’s notion and decided to move to the top as well.
The high side suited Ballou well over the next several laps as he seemingly slashed a tenth of a second from the bottom-rolling Bacon’s lead with each ensuing lap. Closing in on the stripe with two laps to go, Ballou pulled even on the outside of Bacon in turns three and four. Out of the corner of his eye, Bacon saw Ballou’s nose, and in a split-second, said sayonara to the bottom and slid to the top of the front straightaway to steal Ballou’s line away.
Moments later, entering turn one nose-to-tail, Ballou spun off the edge of turn one, ending his run his run at a first USAC National Sprint Car victory of the season. Ballou restarted at the tail thereafter and drove from 18th to 14th in the final two laps.
Bacon had an inkling somebody behind him was going to make a run toward him up top, and just as soon he spotted it, he was prepared to make his move.
“I knew the bottom was going to be tough to beat in turns one and two,” Bacon explained. “It was getting pretty slow, but we were getting close to the end of the race, so I thought, ‘well, somebody’s going to have to beat me on the top.’ He poked his nose out there and I saw it and I knew it was time to move up. I got a good enough run to get in front of him and he kind of gave me a little tap getting down the front straightaway. I don’t know if he wasn’t expecting me to go to the top in front of him – probably not. I was ready for that move if I needed to do it.”
The final two laps were a bit less hectic for Bacon as he cruised to a 1.151 second victory. Meanwhile, a hardscrabble scramble for second on back was sorting itself out with Jake Swanson and Kyle Cummins making valiant late race runs to position themselves second and third at the line, respectively. Jadon Rogers equaled his best finish of the USAC season with a fourth while Justin Grant rounded out the top-five with a solid fifth, but also saw his three-race winning streak with the series come to an end.
On paper, Jake Swanson started second and finished second in his Team AZ Racing/Apache Transport – Stratis Construction – USW Cat Construction/DRC/1-Way Chevy. But it wasn’t anywhere near that easy. No sir. The Anaheim, Calif. native fell back to seventh as late as with only seven laps to go but managed to charge back up through the pack to score a second-place result.
For much of the feature, Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) ran either just outside the top-10 or just inside the top-10. The last 10 laps were a different story, however, as he picked the field off one-by-one to break into the top-five late, then on the lap 28 restart, he went fifth to third to grab a podium finish in his Rock Steady Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Tim Mason ReMax/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
Mired back in the 21st starting spot, the only way to go was forward for Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), and he did that aplenty by advancing 13 spots to finish eighth and earn hard charger honors for the evening.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) was the best of the bunch in a tumultuous Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying session. His lap of 16.237 seconds broke the one-lap USAC track record at Devil’s Bowl of 16.626 held by Richard Summers since May of 1985. Qualifying, however, was marred by four separate ugly and violent incidents which sent drivers Anthony Nicholson, Kobe Simpson, Josh Hanna and J.J. Yeley flipping several times on their time trial runs. All four drivers’ nights were ended due to the crashes, but all four were able to walk away.
Thursday’s race at Devil’s Bowl was just the fifth USAC National Sprint Car event held in the state of Texas. A.J. Foyt (1959), Don Branson (1960) and Parnelli Jones (1960) all scored USAC Midwest Sprint Car victories at Meyer Speedway in Houston. Rick Hood (1985) captured a win at Devil’s Bowl. All four drivers are both USAC National Sprint Car champions and members of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, a club that Bacon is certainly on his way to belonging to as well.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 7, 2023 – Devil’s Bowl Speedway – Mesquite, Texas – 4/10-Mile Dirt Track – Co-Sanctioned by the ASCS Elite Non-Wing Sprint Car Series
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-16.237; 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-16.289; 3. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-16.305; 4. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-16.309; 5. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-16.314; 6. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-16.319; 7. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-16.372; 8. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-16.385; 9. J.J. Yeley, 2, Yeley-16.414; 10. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-16.420; 11. Brody Roa, 17R, Dunkel-16.468; 12. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-16.527; 13. Anthony Nicholson, 16, Nicholson-16.536; 14. Justin Zimmerman, #1, D-Up-16.549; 15. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2J, Yeley-16.565; 16. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-16.588; 17. Jadon Rogers, 17GP, Dutcher-16.632; 18. Dalton Stevens, 99x, Stevens-16.659; 19. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-16.686; 20. Kyle Jones, 11, Melton-16.752; 21. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-16.853; 22. A.J. Bender, 21, Bender-16.866; 23. Paul White, 1, Wade-16.920; 24. Jack Hoyer, 5, Baldwin/Fox-16.922; 25. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-16.931; 26. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-16.957; 27. Jason Howell, 44, Sturgeon-17.324; 28. Josh Hanna, 82, Hanna-17.686; 29. Bryan Debrick, 10, Debrick-17.717; 30. Kobe Simpson, 21K, Simpson-NT; 31. Chase Parson, 57, Parson-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Charles Davis Jr., 2. Kyle Cummins, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. Paul White, 7. Jason Howell.
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Jones, 2. Brody Roa, 3. Jack Hoyer, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Mitchel Moles, 6. Daison Pursley, 7. Bryan Debrick. NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jadon Rogers, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Emerson Axsom, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Matt Westfall, 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Chase Parson.
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Zimmerman, 2. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. A.J. Bender, 6. Dalton Stevens. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Mitchel Moles, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Matt Westfall, 4. Daison Pursley, 5. Dalton Stevens, 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Jason Howell, 8. A.J. Bender, 9. Paul White, 10. Bryan Debrick, 11. Chase Parson. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (1), 2. Jake Swanson (2), 3. Kyle Cummins (13), 4. Jadon Rogers (8), 5. Justin Grant (5), 6. Brody Roa (14), 7. Kevin Thomas Jr. (16), 8. Emerson Axsom (21), 9. Mitchel Moles (11), 10. Kyle Jones (10), 11. Logan Seavey (4), 12. Chase Stockon (12), 13. Matt Westfall (15), 14. Robert Ballou (3), 15. Daison Pursley (17), 16. Jack Hoyer (20), 17. Brandon Mattox (19), 18. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (22), 19. Dalton Stevens (18), 20. Justin Zimmerman (7), 21. C.J. Leary (6), 22. Charles Davis Jr. (9). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Brady Bacon.
**Anthony Nicholson flipped during qualifying. Kobe Simpson flipped during qualifying. Josh Hanna flipped during qualifying. J.J. Yeley flipped during qualifying. Charles Davis Jr. flipped on lap 4 of the feature.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-1928, 2-Justin Grant-1910, 3-Emerson Axsom-1798, 4-Kyle Cummins-1795, 5-Jake Swanson-1771, 6-C.J. Leary-1673, 7-Robert Ballou-1595, 8-Chase Stockon-1479, 9-Mitchel Moles-1425, 10-Daison Pursley-1411.
OVERALL USAC NATIONAL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-169, 2-Logan Seavey-105, 3-Shane Cottle-102, 4-Emerson Axsom-95, 5-Justin Grant-92, 6-Matt Westfall-88, 7-Robert Ballou-87, 8-Brady Bacon-85, 9-Chase Stockon-69, 10-Kevin Thomas Jr.-63.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: September 8-9, 2023 – Texarkana 67 Speedway – Texarkana, Arkansas – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Wingless Short Track Nationals
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Fastest Hot Laps Driver: Robert Ballou (16.285)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: C.J. Leary (16.237)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Charles Davis Jr.
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Kyle Jones
T.J. Forged Third Heat Winner: Jadon Rogers
Car IQ Fourth Heat Winner: Justin Zimmerman
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Mitchel Moles
ProSource Hard Work Award: Eddie Tafoya Jr.
Green APU Green Flag Challenge First Lap Leader: Brady Bacon
Hard Charger: Emerson Axsom (21st to 8th)