By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
GAS CITY, IN – C.J. Leary saved up a little bit of late-race magic en route to Friday night’s James Dean Classic USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory at Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway, night one of the Indiana Donor Network Driven2SaveLives Double Double.
Taking full advantage of a second wind provided by a caution with four laps remaining, Leary swept around the outside of Justin Grant exiting turn four on lap 28 of the 30-lap feature to secure and lock down the lead for good, piloting the Leary Racing/Valvoline – Gray Auto – Leary Construction/DRC/1-Way Chevy to his third series win of the year and the 12th of his career, tying him with Eric Gordon for 46th all-time.
One year removed from his championship campaign, Leary’s season has taken a number of turns, bringing him into Friday night’s event without a crew chief and with a recently repaired car that had taken a hard tumble on the opening lap at Terre Haute exactly one week earlier.
Affixed with a new front clip on his family-owned ride, the conclusion looked just like old times – hoisting the trophy and celebrating the thrill of victory for the second time with USAC at Gas City following an Indiana Sprint Week win at the quarter-mile dirt oval in 2017.
“This No. 30 car was on rails tonight,” Leary exclaimed. “We’re crew-chiefless tonight. My dad’s not here; it’s just me and some good friends. To come out and win and to beat Justin is great; he was really good there. Somehow, I was making the middle work. I found that in lapped traffic while trying to slide myself and hitting some moisture on exit.”
Although Leary started from the pole position, he wound up chasing for much of the race while outside front row starter Dave Darland jumped out the advantage to lead the first seven laps.
An early caution put an end to July’s Gas City USAC Sprint winner, Logan Seavey, who suffered a flat left rear and required a ride on a hook back to the pits after contact with Brady Bacon while battling for the fifth position on the sixth lap.
Meanwhile, Justin Grant, slated to start fourth, but penalized two rows for being late to the track prior to the race, spurted from his new eighth starting spot following the restart into the lead on the eighth go-around underneath Darland on the back straightaway.
Leary charged back by Darland on the 10th lap for the second spot while Bacon moved to third in the running order on the 15th circuit for third. At that point, Grant held a near two second lead, but as the leaders began making headway in traffic, the interval Grant held began to be whittled down slowly, but surely.
Grant’s lead over Leary and Bacon was sliced in half to a second with under 10 laps remaining, with tenths ticking off each lap thereafter. Nonetheless, time was running short, and hope for another shot for either Leary or Bacon at Grant was withering away and may not have been in the cards without Grant’s ultimate nemesis on this night – the yellow flag.
The caution flew for seventh running Kyle Cummins who was stopped atop turn two with four laps to go, setting up a dash for the win amongst the leaders without the attendance of other foes in front of them – something that Leary, in second at the time, was mightily thankful for although he didn’t exactly know how many trips around the circumference of the track were left.
“My RACEceiver batteries died, so I had no idea how many laps there were to go, but I felt like the race was almost over,” Leary revealed. It definitely bunched us up and we got a good run off two. Justin kind of threw a curveball at me. I thought he was going to slide himself like what I did (in turn three), but he tried to run the bottom and we just got a good run through the middle (of turns three and four). Typically, we’re not very good right in the slick, but this was really good all night. I lost the lead at the start and I felt like it just wasn’t our night. To drop back and come back, it’s a great feeling.”
Immediately after taking the spot front Grant on the outside, Leary locked up the bottom, shutting the door at the entry to turn one. From there, the race belonged to Leary who closed out 0.539 sec. margin of victory over Grant, Bacon, Chase Stockon and KSE Racing Products Hard Charger, Chris Windom, who started 22nd and rounded out the top-five. Interestingly, the top-five feature finishers also occupy the top-five positions in the series point standings.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) is proud of where his car is at this point with his best finish in the series in nearly two months, but the disappointment was hard to hide after leading a race-high 20 of the 30 laps in his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – TOPP Industries – The Bow Foundation/Maxim/Claxton Chevy.
“The car is back where it needs to be,” Grant said. “It was fast all night and we’ve got our motors running and have everything operating how it should be. We’re back fighting for wins, but I just let that one get away at the end. I just made bad decisions there on the restart. I’m still a bit salty at myself over it.”
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) emerged as the point leader by a mere five points over Chris Windom following Friday night’s event as he chases a third career USAC National Sprint Car title after previous reaches of the pinnacle in both 2014 and 2016. Despite a podium run, Bacon felt it was performance that could’ve been smoother in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – DriveWFX.com/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
“I’m actually a little disappointed with third tonight,” Bacon expressed. “We had the third best car, but figured we’d be a little better than that tonight. We’ll definitely take it. We had a solid night all night.”
Earlier Friday, Bacon recorded the 37th fast qualifying time of his USAC National Sprint Car career, passing Bryan Clauson to move into fifth all-time alongside 1968-70-75 series champion, Larry Dickson.
Three drivers made their first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature starts Friday night at Gas City: 17th place finisher Brandon Long (Wichita Falls, Texas), 19th place finisher Ricky Lewis (Ventura, Calif.) and Evan Mosley (Lapel, Ind.) who ran 20th.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 25, 2020 – Gas City I-69 Speedway – Gas City, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – James Dean Classic / Indiana Donor Network Driven2SaveLives Double Double
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT ONE: 1. Jadon Rogers, 61m, Edwards-12.346; 2. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-12.359; 3. Brandon Long, 02, Long-12.387; 4. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-12.411; 5. Anton Hernandez, 36, Darland-12.428; 6. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.428; 7. Chase Johnson, 22, Goodnight-12.458; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.542; 9. Clinton Boyles, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-12.609; 10. Kendall Ruble, 17, Ruble/Martin-12.676; 11. Korbyn Hayslett, 1H, Hayslett-12.714; 12. Matt McCarthy, 28m, McCarthy-12.728; 13. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-12.731; 14. Zack Pretorius, 9z, Pretorius-12.734; 15. Slater Helt, 22s, Simon/Helt-12.747; 16. Matt McDonald, 5m, McDonald-12.778; 17. Ryan Barr, 21B, Barr-12.919; 18. Jack James, 99, James-13.026; 19. Braydon Cromwell, 4x, Cromwell-13.040; 20. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-13.055; 21. Tayte Williamson, 20R, Williamson-13.428; 22. Thomas Meseraull, 47, Eades-14.702.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT TWO: 1. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.195; 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-12.253; 3. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-12.306; 4. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-12.378; 5. Logan Seavey, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.436; 6. Ricky Lewis, 11, Lewis-12.465; 7. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-12.519; 8. Carson Short, 17GP, Dutcher-12.520; 9. Scotty Weir, 4p, Pedersen-12.521; 10. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-12.523; 11. Evan Mosley, 27, Mosley-12.525; 12. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-12.526; 13. Tim Creech, 2c, Creech-12.659; 14. Max Adams, 57, Hazen-12.708; 15. Cole Ketcham, 41, Ketcham-12.728; 16. Dustin Ingle, 2DI, Ingle-12.736; 17. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-12.778; 18. Brad Greenup, 4G, Greenup-12.960; 19. Brayden Clark, 42G, Clark/Jackson-12.993; 20. Kyle Shipley, 0G, Shipley-13.061; 21. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-13.738.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Clinton Boyles, 2. Jadon Rogers, 3. Anton Hernandez, 4. Chase Johnson, 5. Korbyn Hayslett, 6. Brandon Long, 7. Slater Helt, 8. Braydon Cromwell, 9. Ryan Barr, 10. Tayte Williamson, 11. Mario Clouser.
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Kendall Ruble, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Matt McCarthy, 7. Matt Goodnight, 8. Matt McDonald, 9. Jack James, 10. Zack Pretorius, 11. Kevin Thomas Jr.
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Scotty Weir, 5. Evan Mosley, 6. Tim Creech, 7. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 8. Cole Ketcham, 9. Brayden Clark, 10. Shane Cottle, 11. Robert Bell.
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brandon Mattox, 2. C.J. Leary, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Carson Short, 6. Ricky Lewis, 7. Max Adams, 8. Brad Greenup, 9. Dustin Ingle, 10. Kyle Shipley.
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Dustin Ingle, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. Matt McDonald, 4. Ryan Barr, 5. Matt Goodnight, 6. Jack James, 7. Braydon Cromwell, 8. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 9. Robert Bell, 10. Brayden Clark, 11. Tayte Williamson.
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Carson Short, 4. Ricky Lewis, 5. Brandon Long, 6. Evan Mosley, 7. Korbyn Hayslett, 8. Tim Creech, 9. Mario Clouser, 10. Matt McCarthy, 11. Max Adams, 12. Cole Ketcham, 13. Matt McDonald, 14. Ryan Barr, 15. Zack Pretorius, 16. Slater Helt, 17. Dustin Ingle, 18. Thomas Meseraull.
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. C.J. Leary (1), 2. Justin Grant (8), 3. Brady Bacon (5), 4. Chase Stockon (3), 5. Chris Windom (22), 6. Shane Cottle (15), 7. Dave Darland (2), 8. Jadon Rogers (4), 9. Robert Ballou (18), 10. Mario Clouser (23*), 11. Carson Short (17), 12. Brandon Mattox (10), 13. Kevin Thomas Jr. (12), 14. Chase Johnson (16), 15. Scotty Weir (19), 16. Kyle Cummins (7), 17. Brandon Long (11), 18. Clinton Boyles (9), 19. Ricky Lewis (14), 20. Evan Mosley (21), 21. Kendall Ruble (20), 22. Logan Seavey (6), 23. Anton Hernandez (13). NT
* represents a provisional starter
**Kyle Shipley flipped during the fourth heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Dave Darland, Laps 8-27 Justin Grant, Laps 28-30 C.J. Leary.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-1,580, 2-Chris Windom-1,575, 3-Chase Stockon-1,544, 4-Justin Grant-1,507, 5-C.J. Leary-1,503, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1,269, 7-Carson Short-1,179, 8-Dave Darland-1,154, 9-Kyle Cummins-1,051, 10-Robert Ballou-1,004.
INDIANA DONOR NETWORK DRIVEN2SAVELIVES DOUBLE DOUBLE PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-23, 2-Brady Bacon-13, 3-Tanner Thorson-13, 4-Buddy Kofoid-11, 5-Shane Cottle-9, 6-Robert Ballou-9, 7-Justin Grant-8, 8-Kyle Cummins-8, 9-Carson Short-6, 10-Clinton Boyles-5.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-162, 2-Tanner Thorson-96, 3-Shane Cottle-95, 4-Kyle Cummins-86, 5-Justin Grant-84, 6-Robert Ballou-82, 7-Logan Seavey-77, 8-Brady Bacon-74, 9-Cannon McIntosh-72, 10-Andrew Layser-65.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 26, 2020 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Indiana Donor Network / Driven2SaveLives Double Double
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Brady Bacon
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Clinton Boyles
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Kyle Cummins
AutoMeter Third Heat Winner: Logan Seavey
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: Brandon Mattox
Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: Kevin Thomas Jr.
KSE Racing Products Hard Charger: Chris Windom (22nd to 5th)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Kevin Thomas Jr.
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer / Wilwood Tough Brake Award: Korbyn Hayslett
Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier: Ricky Lewis
ProSource Hard Work Award: Chris Windom
BC Saved 5 Lives 5th place Midget Feature Finisher: Chris Windom
Schoenfeld Ahead of the Game Award: Ricky Lewis