By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
PORT ROYAL, PA – It takes a complete effort from top-to-bottom to win an Eastern Storm title. You must run up front each and every night with no aberrations. You must be prepared to go to battle night-after-night and shield yourself from the mental, physical and mechanical exhaustion.
Chris Windom and the Baldwin Brothers Racing team did just that one year ago. In fact, they also did it one night earlier at Williams Grove Speedway. One year later – and one night later – the pairing has begun to write additional verses to their ever-growing book of feats, nearly similar to the first one he penned, repeating his 2017 Port Royal Speedway victory by winning again Saturday night in the third race of “Eastern Storm.”
Points, and history, are on the Canton, Illinois driver’s side as he and the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car head into the second half stretch of the six-race tour with races at BAPS, Bridgeport and Weedsport looming.
For example, every driver who’s won back-to-back races in the 12-year history of “Eastern Storm” has gone on to win that year’s title: Cole Whitt (2009), Levi Jones (2010), Bryan Clauson (2012 & 2016) and Robert Ballou (2015).
Over the past four years, every driver who’s won at Port Royal has gone on to win the Eastern Storm title.
Eight of the 11 Eastern Storm champs have gone on to win that year’s USAC National Sprint Car title.
It’s an omen, or a correlation, that has Windom and the Baldwin Brothers Racing team grinning and appreciative of the roll they are on. For it was this month last year that turned the tide for the team on its way to the USAC title.
“This boosts our confidence a bunch,” Windom exclaimed. “When you get rolling like this, everything seems to go a lot easier. You cherish these moments because, when you get on rolls like this, they don’t always stay. When you’re on top, you want to keep the momentum rolling as long as you can. We want to win this Eastern storm title again and, obviously, we want to win the USAC championship again. We’re racing for the big picture, but we’re also racing to win races. Right now, we’re doing that, and things are really clicking.”
Each of the two winners from the first two nights of “Eastern Storm” were staged side-by-side on the front row for the start of the 30-lap feature. Windom began the race from the pole position, yet it was Brady Bacon who used the ledge to power around Windom to nab the early lead.
The first stoppage arrived early as Pennsylvanian Trevor Kobylarz rode out a wild series of flips along the outside, front straightaway wall exiting turn four. He would walk away unscathed, but the same couldn’t be said of his racecar.
On the ensuing restart, Windom took a shot at Bacon, nudging ahead for a moment until Bacon’s momentum up top catapulted him back by and allowed him to gain a little leg room between he and Windom down the back straightaway.
Bacon opened as much as a three-quarter of a second advantage on the field, then on the 11th lap, bumbled over the turn two cushion ever so slightly, allowing Windom to chop the gap substantially and close on the tail of the No. 99. On both laps 12 and 13, Windom was able to slide past Bacon for the lead, but each time, Bacon answered with a killer crossover off turn two to burst back into the lead.
On lap 14, Bacon took a defensive line, sliding himself through the middle on his entry into turn one, denying Windom a third consecutive shot at the top spot.
“You can throw a slide job from pretty far back here into turn one,” Windom explained. “I remembered that from last year. So, if anything, I’d say I used what I learned last year to help me tonight. I wanted to see how far I could clear Brady there and if it was going to stick. He crossed me over a few times, so I knew if I threw another one, I needed to clear him by a bunch or he was just going to keep crossing me over.”
Windom wouldn’t have to stress about the situation at hand for too long, however, as Bacon began to slow between turns one and two with a broken left rear shock and torsion arm. He would restart from the tail of the field, but would only manage to reach 12th at race’s end, a serious blow to the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma driver’s bid for a second “Eastern Storm” title.
An oft-used tactic at Port Royal is the second-place driver utilizing a massive slider on the leader in turn one. Windom was fully aware of this as he used one of his own on Ballou in the final laps of last year’s race to snare the win. With Thomas behind him, Windom needed to be fully on his game. In turn three, Thomas took his chance, sliding wheel-to-wheel with Windom through the corner, yet Windom prevailed with the lead off turn four on the high side.
“I think once the top really came in, I felt like I got better even at the end of the race,” Windom recalls. “I saw the 69 car sliding across the middle there, trying to clear slide jobs on me and I knew that wasn’t going to work. If he cleared me, he cleared me, but if he didn’t, I knew it wasn’t going to last for long, so I just tried to keep ripping the same line up top. These big tracks are huge momentum places. Even if you’re not the fastest car, if you can keep your momentum rolling up top, you’re going to be in good shape.”
With five to go, Windom had laid down a one-plus second lead as he rocketed away to certain victory. One big fear of a late-race caution at Port Royal is setting up the second-place driver for a one last ditch effort slider into turn one. However, Windom’s fear at this moment in time was catching lapped traffic too early, which he did down to the final gun, getting hung up enough to have Thomas pose a threat on the final lap after Windom had to split between the cars of Carmen Perigo and Kyle Moody to find some clearance.
Thomas was unable to reel Windom in as Windom released the stranglehold of the gridlocked traffic on the last lap, breaking through for his third series victory of the year over Thomas, Tyler Courtney, Robert Ballou and Dave Darland.
“I was hoping I wasn’t going to catch those lapped cars before the checkered,” Windom admitted. “I knew I was going to when we came to the white (flag). They didn’t necessarily do me any favors, but they were racing their own race too. I’ll be honest, I got nervous. I thought (Thomas) was going to try and throw a big one on me in the last corner. He didn’t and I’m lucky for that.”
With the victory, Windom equaled two of his fellow USAC stars – Thomas and Bacon – within the top-25 of the all-time USAC National Sprint Car list with his 21st career victory.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Port Royal Speedway included Zach Daum (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner & Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier), Tony DiMattia (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (Chalk Stix/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner), Timmy Buckwalter (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Isaac Chapple (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 16, 2018 – Port Royal Speedway – Port Royal, Pennsylvania – 12th Annual “Eastern Storm”
SPRINTCARUNLIMITED.COM QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 69, Dynamics-18.583 (New Track Record); 2. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-18.797; 3. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-18.
825; 4. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-18.835; 5. Thomas Meseraull, 20, Dyson-18.892; 6. Brady Bacon, 99, Bacon-18.940; 7. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-18.992; 8. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-19.074; 9. Chad Boespflug, 98, NineEight-19.087; 10. Dave Darland, 36D, Goodnight/Curb-Agajanian-19. 125; 11. Jerry Coons, Jr., 39, Hogue-19.168; 12. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-19.202; 13. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-19.221; 14. Tony DiMattia, 50, TDM-19.315; 15. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-19.324; 16. Timmy Buckwalter, 7, LNB-19.357; 17. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-19.360; 18. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-19.420; 19. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-19.460; 20. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-19.491; 21. Joey Biasi, B1, Shaup-19.909; 22. Kyle Moody, 13K, Kaylor-19.989; 23. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-20.762.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Daum, 2. Windom, 3. Thomas, 4. T. Buckwalter, 5. Darland, 6. Stockon, 7. Kobylarz, 8. Moody. 2:38.16
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. DiMattia, 2. Ballou, 3. Leary, 4. Andretti, 5. Meseraull, 6. Coons, 7. Perigo, 8. Bell. 2:37.93
CHALK STIX/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Courtney, 2. Westfall, 3. Chapple, 4. Bacon, 5. Boespflug, 6. Grant, 7. Biasi. 2:35.19 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps – starting positions in parentheses) 1. Chris Windom (1), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (6), 3. Tyler Courtney (4), 4. Robert Ballou (5), 5. Dave Darland (10), 6. Chase Stockon (7), 7. Justin Grant (12), 8. Chad Boespflug (9), 9. Timmy Buckwalter (16), 10. C.J. Leary (17), 11. Jerry Coons, Jr. (11), 12. Brady Bacon (2), 13. Isaac Chapple (18), 14. Matt Westfall (15), 15. Jarett Andretti (8), 16. Tony DiMattia (14), 17. Joey Biasi (21), 18. Carmen Perigo (20), 19. Kyle Moody (22), 20. Thomas Meseraull (3), 21. Robert Bell (23), 22. Zach Daum (13), 23. Trevor Kobylarz (19). NT
**Kobylarz flipped on lap 3 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-17 Bacon, Laps 18-30 Windom.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/IN MEMORY OF MIKE GRASSMYER HARD CHARGER: Timmy Buckwalter (16th to 9th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Isaac Chapple
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Zach Daum
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Thomas-1011, 2-Courtney-960, 3-Windom-959, 4-Stockon-864, 5-Ballou-854, 6-Bacon-842, 7-Leary-822, 8-Darland-797, 9-Grant-770, 10-Boespflug-687.
NEW EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Windom-232, 2-Thomas-227, 3-Ballou-201, 4-Courtney-192, 5-Bacon-189, 6-Stockon-176, 7-Darland-169, 8-Grant-151, 9-Buckwalter-150, 10-Boespflug-148.
CAPITOL CUSTOM TRAILERS & COACHES EASTERN STORM PASS MASTER POINTS: 1-Chapple-19, 2-Darland-15, 3-Westfall-11, 4-Courtney-10, 5-Thomas-7, 6-Buckwalter-7, 7-Leary-7, 8-Boespflug-6, 9-Grant-6, 10-Windom-5.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 17 – BAPS Motor Speedway – York Haven, Pennsylvania – 12th Annual “Eastern Storm”