By RICHIE MURRAY
KUTZTOWN, PA – Tyler Courtney and Clauson-Marshall Racing turned around a little bit of misfortune from earlier in the night into good fortune in Wednesday night’s Eastern Midget Week opener at Kutztown, Pa.’s Action Track USA.
Following Courtney’s first qualifying lap, a coil went south, preventing him from recording a second lap. However, that first lap and Courtney’s subsequent third-place finish in his heat, provided him a view from the outside of the front row for the 30-lap feature where the Indianapolis, Ind. native led wire-to-wire for his third USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget victory in his last four starts.
The victory was the second consecutive triumph in as many starts for CMR at Action Track USA quarter-mile following Zeb Wise’s triumph in the 2019 debut.
We had a rough couple of months there on the midget side of things,” Courtney admitted. “But here in the last couple of weeks, we’ve kind of turned things back on and found some things that I think we can keep building onto and, hopefully, keep getting these wins and knocking them off.”
“I just reset mentally, I think we all did as a team,” Courtney continued. “We just hit the reset button and put the first couple of months of the midget season behind us and focused on the second half of the season. We’ve got a really good racecar now and we just got to ride this high as long as we can.”
Not that there was anything he needed to be ashamed of prior to his recent streak of success, but following 21st and 22nd place finishes at Kokomo, Ind. and Fairbury, Neb. in late June/mid-July, the defending series champ stood fourth in the standings, 124 points behind point leader Chris Windom. Now with three wins and a runner-up finish in his last four races, Courtney’s chopped 50 points off his deficit and is now second in the standings.
After seeing his one-year-old Action Track USA one-lap record fall by the wayside to Tanner Thorson in Fatheadz Eyewear qualifying earlier in the night, Courtney found salvage by instantly racing to the lead on the opening lap past pole sitter Robert Dalby. Courtney constructed his advantage to over a second as a scramble for the second position behind him consumed the likes of Dalby, Buddy Kofoid, Justin Grant, Tanner Thorson and others.
Kevin Woody Jr., who has served in a role as an armed government bodyguard, spun in turn one just in front of the head of the pack to bring out the race’s first caution on the ninth lap. Courtney drifted high to avoid the spinning Woody and avoided contact between he and the outside wall.
With the caution resetting track position just prior to encroaching lapped traffic, Courtney resumed his prowess at the front, jumping away from the field at the drop of the green. Second-running Robert Dalby clipped the turn four wall nearly a lap following the lap nine restart, allowing a succession of Kofoid, Grant and Thorson to freight-train under Dalby for the second position, relegating Dalby, the reigning USAC Western States Midget champion, to 5th.
A lap 14 stoppage for a turn two tangle between series point leader Chris Windom (13th), Dillon Welch (15th) and Kevin Thomas Jr. (17th), brought out the following caution just as Courtney was within shouting distance of the tail end of the field, thus keeping him out of the throes of traffic for a just a little while longer.
Windom restarted after repairs in the work area under caution while Welch restarted as well and Kevin Thomas Jr., in his debut for Heffner Racing Enterprises, endured the ending to a trying night with heavy right front damage putting an end to his race. In the final tally, Windom finished 13th, Welch 17th and Thomas 21st.
Courtney was once again gonzo on the restart of lap 14, leaving the most ferocious battle to those in his distant past as Thorson went 4th to 3rd shortly thereafter, then waged in a back and forth battle of sliders with Kofoid before securing the second position on the 19th circuit.
Christopher Bell, the 2013 USAC National Midget champion, momentarily pulled off a double slider of both Thorson and Kofoid in turn one on the 20th lap before slotting into third behind Thorson. Two laps later, Kofoid was out of the picture of contention when contact between he and Grant for the fourth position sent Kofoid through an agricultural racing experience through the infield, staying on the gas and rejoining the action midway down the front straightaway, now slotted in 7th.
Though Courtney finally did find himself amidst traffic throughout the final five laps, he expertly navigated through with relative ease to pick up a commanding 3.385 second victory over Thorson, Bell, Grant and Cannon McIntosh. For Courtney, the win marked the 17th of his career, tying himself with Jay Drake, Tanner Thorson and J.J. Yeley on USAC’s all-time National Midget win list aboard his Clauson-Marshall Racing/NOS Turbo – ZMax/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
Thorson (Minden, Nev.) recorded a solid runner-up finish in his Hayward Motorsports/Oilfire – Factory Kahne – Walker Filtration/Spike/Stanton SR-11x. Although he didn’t quite have enough at the end to make a run on Courtney on this particular night, he acknowledged what a solid run it was despite having a minor setback.
“Once I got into second, I tried to run (Courtney) back down but I had nothing,” Thorson recalled. “I hate excuses, but I had no front shock cables there. The steering wheel hit the clips out of them so I couldn’t really turn them. My guys did an awesome job getting this car ready for me.”
Christopher Bell made his one-stop of the Eastern Midget Week tour a good one, finishing 3rd in his first USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget start of 2020 in a four-car team effort for Tucker-Boat Motorsports alongside Windom, Welch and Andrew Layser, his being the Pristine Auction – Toyota – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“It was a lot of fun to be able to come back and run one race. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do some more throughout the year,” Bell said. “(Car owner Chad Boat) made a lot of changes to all the cars after hot laps. These guys busted their tails for sure. It was a long hard night for them and hopefully for the next couple nights with three cars, it’ll be a little easier.”
An off-night in qualifying sure didn’t deter Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.) to performing exquisitely in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian/TRD – Mobil1 – JBL Audio/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota, earning KSE Racing Products/Irvin King Hard Charger honors for his advancement from 18th to 5th in Wednesday’s feature event.
“I had a really good car tonight,” McIntosh relayed. “It really killed us in the qualifying run. I got a little loose off (turn) four and it cost us both our laps. That really buried us, but we made a good run through the heat race. We started 18th in the feature and we’re just able to get through the field really good, making moves just when we needed to. Glad I could salvage the night with a 5th place finish.”
A pair of new USAC National Midget track records were set during the evening at Action Track USA with Thorson lowering the one-lap mark to 11.146 during Fatheadz Eyewear qualifying. Meanwhile, Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) put his name in the record books as the winner of the fastest 10-lap race in series history at the track with a completed event in 1:58.10.
Adam Pierson (East Corinth, Vt.), making his first USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget appearance since the beginning of the 2019 season in Ocala, Fla., flipped into the turn four catchfence during the third heat race following contact between he and Tyler Courtney. Pierson escaped without injury.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 5, 2020 – Action Track USA – Kutztown, Pennsylvania – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Eastern Midget Week
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Tanner Thorson, 19, Hayward-11.146 (New Track Record); 2. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-11.259; 3. Chase Johnson, 25, Malloy-11.261; 4. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.274; 5. Justin Grant, 5, Petry-11.310; 6. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-11.320; 7. Robert Dalby, 4, Dalby-11.370; 8. Andrew Layser, 82, Tucker/Boat-11.396; 9. Christopher Bell, 84x, Tucker/Boat-11.404; 10. Chris Windom, 89, Tucker/Boat-11.404; 11. Daison Pursley, 9, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.414; 12. Tanner Carrick, 35, Petry-11.455; 13. Alex Bright, 29, Seymour-11.466; 14. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-11.477; 15. Adam Pierson, 74m, Mancini-11.484; 16. Dillon Welch, 81x, Tucker/Boat-11.546; 17. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-11.561; 18. Alex Yankowski, 19G, Hayward-11.585; 19. Steven Drevicki, 12, Heckman-11.659; 20. Cannon McIntosh, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.682; 21. Kevin Thomas Jr., 72, Heffner-11.799; 22. Jeff Champagne, 46x, O’Rourke-11.841; 23. Eric Heydenreich, 11, Heydenreich-12.051; 24. Kevin Woody Jr., 0, Buckwalter-12.121; 25. Glenn Waterland, 11c, Waterland-12.389.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Alex Bright, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Buddy Kofoid, 5. Robert Dalby, 6. Jeff Champagne, 7. Glenn Waterland, 8. Steven Drevicki, 9. Dillon Welch. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Cannon McIntosh, 4. Andrew Layser, 5. Ethan Mitchell, 6. Daison Pursley, 7. Cole Bodine, 8. Eric Heydenreich. NT
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Tanner Carrick, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Alex Yankowski, 5. Chase Johnson, 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Kevin Woody Jr., 8. Adam Pierson. NT
INDY RACE PARTS/INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (10 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Dillon Welch, 4. Cole Bodine, 5. Jeff Champagne, 6. Kevin Woody Jr., 7. Eric Heydenreich, 8. Glenn Waterland. 1:58.010 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (2), 2. Tanner Thorson (6), 3. Christopher Bell (7), 4. Justin Grant (3), 5. Cannon McIntosh (18), 6. Chase Johnson (5), 7. Buddy Kofoid (4), 8. Tanner Carrick (14), 9. Robert Dalby (1), 10. Daison Pursley (13), 11. Alex Bright (8), 12. Cole Bodine (10), 13. Chris Windom (12), 14. Alex Yankowski (17), 15. Andrew Layser (11), 16. Emerson Axsom (9), 17. Dillon Welch (15), 18. Eric Heydenreich (21), 19. Jeff Champagne (20), 20. Kevin Woody Jr. (22), 21. Kevin Thomas Jr. (19), 22. Ethan Mitchell (16). NT
**Adam Pierson flipped during the third heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Tyler Courtney.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-1,079, 2-Tyler Courtney-1,005, 3-Tanner Thorson-985, 4-Buddy Kofoid-979, 5-Cannon McIntosh-873, 6-Tanner Carrick-769, 7-Daison Pursley-724, 8-Cole Bodine-674, 9-Andrew Layser-636, 10-Justin Grant-559.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-79, 2-Tanner Thorson-62, 3-Logan Seavey-57, 4-Justin Grant-52, 5-Robert Ballou-45, 6-Cannon McIntosh-45, 7-Daison Pursley-45, 8-Andrew Layser-44, 9-Chase Stockon-39, 10-Thomas Meseraull-38.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: August 6, 2020 – Bridgeport Speedway – Bridgeport, New Jersey – 4/10-Mile Dirt Oval – Eastern Midget Week
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Tanner Thorson
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Alex Bright
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Emerson Axsom
AutoMeter Third Heat Winner: Christopher Bell (18th to 5th)
Indy Race Parts / Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: Daison Pursley
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Glenn Waterland
KSE Racing Products Hard Charger: Cannon McIntosh
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Chris Windom