By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
HAUBSTADT, IN – In his two-plus decades of racing with USAC, one piece of the puzzle had been surprisingly absent from Thomas Meseraull’s resume – a NOS Energy Drink National Midget points-paying feature victory.
After many a close call throughout his career, Meseraull finally sealed the deal Saturday night during Harvest Cup at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway, but once again for him, it didn’t come easy.
With an overheating engine and smoke pouring from the headers during the final laps, Meseraull became bottled up in traffic, then withstood a last lap, last corner surge from Tanner Thorson to win by a single car length at the line, with a margin of 0.119 sec. to spare, in his Response Management Services/EnviroFab – Guess Performance Parts/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
While the San Jose, Calif. driver had previously won at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway in 2004 and at the Southern Illinois Center in 2018, both victories were non-championship, special events for USAC Midgets, making this a long-awaited night for Meseraull to mark his initial tally in the series’ win column after making 89 feature starts since his 1999 debut. Furthermore, he provided RMS Racing with its first ever USAC National Midget feature win in one fell swoop.
“To officially get my first USAC National Midget win here is crazy,” Meseraull admitted. “The RMS Racing No. 7x has been really good all year. We just haven’t had the finishes to show for it. I feel like in the last four USAC shows, we’ve had the fastest car on the track but just got caught up in wrecks.”
In each of his past two series starts at Gas City and Kokomo, Meseraull was running inside the top-five when trouble ensued, collecting him in a pair of incidents not of his own doing. Last year’s Harvest Cup saw Meseraull lead three laps late, and while battling for the lead, he and Jason McDougal tangled, sending Meseraull backwards into the outside turn four wall.
But that was last year, and Meseraull was determined to change course and find redemption on this night. Starting 7th, Meseraull was on the move early despite a flurry of stoppages that halted competition early and often during the 30-lapper. Cannon McIntosh was first to find chaos, banging the outside boiler plate on the opening lap that sent him flipping between turns one and two. He emerged from the wreckage uninjured.
Cole Bodine led the opening three laps from his outside front row starting position and was operating in the top spot on lap four when he spun on his own accord in turn two. Fourth-running Chris Windom was unable to avoid the mishap and T-boned the stopped Bodine.
While Bodine restarted from the tail and finished 11th, Windom’s car suffered front end damage that required a little more TLC in the work area before rejoining the field a lap down, ultimately finishing 16th and falling behind by 15 points to Tyler Courtney in the series’ championship race.
McDougal, the 2019 Harvest Cup Midget winner, inherited the race lead for the lap five restart. Meseraull, riding third behind Justin Grant at the drop of the green, used the opportunity to slide by Grant for the 2nd spot in turn one. Grant then reclaimed the runner-up position with a slider of his own in turn three before Meseraull clamped down to repeat his tactic from a lap earlier in turn one to stick the position on the fifth circuit.
When Chase Randall stopped atop turn three on lap eight, that created another restart opportunity for Meseraull who made the most of the chance by immediately sliding underneath McDougal entering the first turn. Another restart on the 11th lap didn’t faze Meseraull as he opened his lead up to two seconds in the ensuing laps while McDougal and the surging Kyle Cummins, who had won the night’s MSCS Sprint Car event just prior to the Midget feature.
“I feel like I was just better on starts,” Meseraull explained. “My car takes off better, and once I got rolling, it was pretty beautiful the way the car was working. It was actually carrying the right front down the straightaways and I could run right on the curb wide open, no lift. It was beautiful.”
McDougal and Cummins proceeded to entertain the onlookers with copious amounts of slide jobs back-and-forth for three straight laps before Cummins prevailed with the position on the 14th lap, then moments later, 7th running Daison Pursley found the wall in turn four, flipping him over. Pursley was uninjured.
Throughout the second half of the race, Meseraull continued to stretch his lead out to more than a second over Cummins, then Friday night’s Wayne City, Ill. winner Tanner Thorson, who took over 2nd from Cummins with just three laps remaining.
Meanwhile, Meseraull was as fluid as water up front. However, like water, he began to get bottled up in traffic with two and three-wide battles clogging up the main artery he’d been utilizing topside around the 1/4-mile dirt oval. Meseraull hunted and searched but chose to remain loyal to the top on the final set of corners for the last lap.
“We got to lapped traffic with just a few to go, and really, I wasn’t that good on the bottom,” Meseraull said. “I was only good on the top and traffic held me up.”
On top of it all, Meseraull was a bit worried about the engine. However, at that point, despite all the smoke signals being sent skyward, for Meseraull, there was only one possible avenue to take.
“It was 230 (degrees) by lap 10,” Meseraull revealed. “This was the last race on this motor before it got rebuilt, and when you’re leading a national midget race, you just go racing.”
Thorson dove it low into turn three on the 30th and final lap to surge ahead of Meseraull by two car lengths with just a half-straightaway remaining. With a plume of smoke surrounding his machine, Meseraull used the momentum from the top to squeeze his way through the one lane gap between Thorson’s right side wheels and the outside wall to defeat Thorson by a mere one solitary car length.
“I saw (Thorson) and knew if he would’ve moved up, we would’ve both crashed going down the front stretch because I wasn’t going to lift. I’m not going to lift if I can see the checkered flags. Period.”
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: October 10, 2020 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Harvest Cup
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Chris Windom, 89, Tucker/Boat-13.705; 2. Justin Grant, 4A, RAMS-13.756; 3. Tanner Thorson, 25m, Malloy-13.783; 4. Jason McDougal, 4B, Klatt-13.835; 5. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-13.851; 6. Cole Bodine, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.924; 7. Stephen Schnapf, 11m, Martin-14.006; 8. Andrew Layser, 82, Tucker/Boat-14.010; 9. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.026; 10. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-14.070; 11. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5, Petry-14.142; 12. Daison Pursley, 9, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.148; 13. Kyle Cummins, 3G, Styres-14.169; 14. Chase Randall, 25, Petry-14.206; 15. Sam Johnson, 72, Johnson-14.235; 16. Chase Johnson, 25c, Malloy-14.245; 17. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.309; 18. Logan Seavey, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-14.376; 19. Clinton Boyles, 98, RMS-14.391; 20. Carson Garrett, 15x, Garrett-14.424; 21. Chase McDermand, 40, RMS-14.449; 22. Tyler Nelson, 88, Nelson-14.504; 23. Brady Bacon, 19, Hayward-14.542; 24. Cannon McIntosh, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.575; 25. Bryant Wiedeman, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.610; 26. Noah Gass, 20G, Gass-14.657; 27. Robert Dalby, 4, Dalby-14.681; 28. Jerry Coons Jr., 85, Central-14.696; 29. Chad Frewaldt, 4F, Frewaldt-14.718; 30. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.774; 31. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.813; 32. Aiden Purdue, 57D, McCreery-14.832; 33. Gage Rucker, 19G, Hayward-14.833; 34. Cody Brewer, 96, Central-14.927; 35. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.111; 36. Oliver Akard, 41, Akard-15.604; 37. Glenn Waterland, 11c, Waterland-15.664; 38. Tres Mehler, 17, Stellhorn-15.718; 39. Casey Hicks, 9H, Hicks-15.747; 40. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Tyler Courtney, 3. Kyle Cummins, 4. Buddy Kofoid, 5. Emerson Axsom, 6. Bryant Weideman, 7. Chase McDermand, 8. Gage Rucker, 9. Glenn Waterland, 10. Chad Frewaldt. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Logan Seavey, 4. Cole Bodine, 5. Chase Randall, 6. Noah Gass, 7. Brenham Crouch, 8. Tyler Nelson, 9. Tres Mehler, 10. Cody Brewer. 2:20.892
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Clinton Boyles, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Sam Johnson, 6. Stephen Schnapf, 7. Kaylee Bryson, 8. Robert Dalby, 9. Hayden Reinbold, 10. Casey Hicks. 2:23.056
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jason McDougal, 2. Andrew Layser, 3. Cannon McIntosh, 4. Chase Johnson, 5. Daison Pursley, 6. 15x Carson Garrett, 7. Jerry Coons Jr., 8. Aiden Purdue, 9. Oliver Akard. NT
C-MAIN (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi-feature) 1. Aiden Purdue, 2. Kaylee Bryson, 3. Gage Rucker, 4. Hayden Reinbold, 5. Oliver Akard, 6. Glenn Waterland, 7. Tres Mehler, 8. Casey Hicks, 9. Cody Brewer. NT
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Stephen Schnapf, 3. Chase Randall, 4. Sam Johnson, 5. Jerry Coons Jr., 6. Kaylee Bryson, 7. Bryant Wiedeman, 8. Noah Gass, 9. Carson Garrett, 10. Brenham Crouch, 11. Aiden Purdue, 12. Chase McDermand, 13. Gage Rucker, 14. Chad Frewaldt, 15. Robert Dalby, 16. Emerson Axsom, 17. Tyler Nelson, 18. Hayden Reinbold. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Thomas Meseraull (7), 2. Tanner Thorson (4), 3. Kyle Cummins (12), 4. Tyler Courtney (9), 5. Emerson Axsom (23*), 6. Kevin Thomas Jr. (10), 7. Clinton Boyles (18), 8. Justin Grant (5), 9. Kaylee Bryson (22), 10. Chase Johnson (15), 11. Cole Bodine (2), 12. Buddy Kofoid (16), 13. Chase Randall (13), 14. Logan Seavey (17), 15. Jerry Coons Jr. (21), 16. Chris Windom (6), 17. Jason McDougal (3), 18. Sam Johnson (14), 19. Daison Pursley (11), 20. Brady Bacon (19), 21. Andrew Layser (1), 22. Stephen Schnapf (8), 23. Cannon McIntosh (20). NT
* represents a provisional starter
**Tyler Nelson flipped over the third turn wall during the semi. Cannon McIntosh flipped on lap 1 of the feature. Daison Pursley flipped on lap 15 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-3 Cole Bodine, Laps 4-7 Jason McDougal, Laps 8-30 Thomas Meseraull.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-1,508, 2-Chris Windom-1,493, 3-Tanner Thorson-1,430, 4-Buddy Kofoid-1,386, 5-Cannon McIntosh-1,290, 6-Daison Pursley-1,084, 7-Tanner Carrick-1,041, 8-Cole Bodine-945, 9-Andrew Layser-924, 10-Justin Grant-904.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-185, 2-Kyle Cummins-108, 3-Tanner Thorson-106, 4-Robert Ballou-100, 5-Shane Cottle-95, 6-Logan Seavey-92, 7-Justin Grant-85, 8-Cannon McIntosh-84, 9-Brady Bacon-78, 10-Chase Stockon-71.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: November 13-14, 2020 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – Western World Championships