By RICHIE MURRAY
OCALA, FL – Thomas Meseraull has made a habit of winning USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget races of late.
A 21-year journey to his first series victory late last year has now led the San Jose, Calif. native to winning three of his last eight starts, including round two of the series’ season at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park, a race that was postponed to a rare Monday night start after being rained out on Saturday.
Meseraull led from start to finish in his RMS Racing/EnviroFab – Response Management Services – Engler Machine/Spike/Speedway Toyota, wiring all 30 laps at the 3/8-mile D-shaped dirt track, but required having to fight off repeated challenges from reigning champ Chris Windom and Saturday’s winner, Buddy Kofoid, down the stretch.
In doing so, Meseraull became just the third driver to win both a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget and USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature at Bubba Raceway Park (Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom). Meseraull previously won the sprint finale at the track in 2016.
In on the ground floor of the formation of RMS Racing in its initial season of competition in 2018, Meseraull quickly hit his stride, the best of which he’s enjoyed since his 1999 USAC debut. It’s a stride that has seen both the team and driver prosper and grow together into one of the elite powers on the trail.
“I feel like I’ve always been able to win, but I wasn’t in equipment that was capable of winning,” Meseraull said. “Tonight, we ended up on the front row and that was really the key to the night because the track was so fast. There are always six to eight guys who can win these races, and if you start in front of those guys, you have as good, if not a better, opportunity to win. I’m just excited to be a part of high-profile team like RMS Racing.”
Spectators see the on-track performance that results in wins, but ultimately, Meseraull feels that it all starts in the shop. From top-to-bottom, it’s every individual who helps makes this team go, which in turn, helps them prepare for track and atmospheric conditions such as the one presented Monday night.
“As always, all the work is done in the shop,” Meseraull said. “We’ve really put forth the effort at the shop. We bring top notch equipment, and we have a guy for everything. We have a tire guy; we have a car chief; we have a crew chief; we have an engine guy. Dave (Estep), who owns the cars, is the engine guy and he was spot on tonight. The track was in pretty optimal condition. This air is so different (in Florida); you really have to stay on top of the fuel settings because these cars are not electrical injection, so they don’t tune themselves. You have to keep up with the air as you go.”
RMS and Meseraull certainly kept up with that aspect all night, and there were formidable foes in Windom and Kofoid who kept pace with Meseraull all throughout but were unable to mount enough of a charge to get by. Meseraull felt that if he routinely hit his marks for all 30 laps, regardless of what move his opponents made, he’d be in good shape if he didn’t commit an error.
“It’s tough when you’re leading,” Meseraull admitted. “You don’t know who’s behind you or how close they are, or if they’re gaining, but this is the best this RMS Racing No. 7x has felt all week. I was pretty confident I had the car to beat.”
Throughout the duration, Windom remained a couple car lengths behind Meseraull, and routinely presented a challenge to Meseraull by poking the nose of his car underneath at the exit of turn four, with Meseraull able to withstand any and all threats. However, with eight laps remaining, a new hurdle lie ahead with the tail end of the lead lap cars in sight.
“Lappers are always tough because, anymore, everybody’s so fast,” Meseraull explained. “We barely caught the lappers, and when we caught them, we were only a tenth or two faster than them. It’s kind of hard to know where to go. At this place, turns three and four are so tricky, and you really have to get off (turn) four correctly or you lose two to five tenths in a lap if you just mess up that corner. That was crucial.”
As first heat race winner Taylor Reimer was perched high up in turn four, Meseraull responded by diving low into turn one. As Meseraull slid up, Windom ducked under when exiting turn two, pulling completely alongside Meseraull with Kofoid just a single car length behind as the top-three diced through traffic.
“I actually was getting ready to drive around the outside of (Reimer) and saw her toss the nose and come across the track,” detailed Meseraull. “I ended up having to turn and go underneath her. It worked out, but at the same time, I about crashed the car doing it. But that’s how you win races; you’ve got to hang it out every single lap of every single race.”
Meseraull kept Windom at bay to score a 0.515 second margin over Chris Windom, Buddy Kofoid, Justin Grant and Daison Pursley.
Tanner Thorson, who was running 5th on the final lap, had an engine issue on the final corner of the final lap that resulted in a brief ball of fire, and forced him to coast across the finish line in the 8th position in the final rundown. His 11 total positions advanced throughout the weekend, however, did net him Winter Dirt Games XII ProSource Midget Passing Master honors.
Windom (Canton, Ill.) began his title defense with a pair of podium finishes in Ocala, a 3rd on Saturday and a runner-up finish to round out the weekend in the CB Industries/NOS Energy Drink – PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota. A second is nice, but the champ wanted more.
“It’s disappointing because you want to win these races,” Windom said. “It was wide open the whole time, and the only shot I had to get him was in lapped traffic. We just didn’t make the right moves there. I felt like we were better than him, but we just couldn’t get by him and he ran a smart race and didn’t make any mistakes. When the track is that fast, that’s about all you can do there.”
Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) followed up Saturday’s triumph with a 3rd place result on Monday aboard his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD – IWX/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“Two wins would’ve felt even better, but two podiums is nothing to hang your head about,” Kofoid said. “All of us were really fast, and we were stacking the same times on top of each other. I think my car got better in the end, but I made one mistake and got really tight in turns one and two but was able to pull right back up to their bumpers and drag race Chris to the line.”
Chase Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series champion, in his first weekend of USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition, finished a career best 14th in Monday’s feature event, but earlier in the night, raced to victory in the Indy Metal Finishing Third Heat Race.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: February 8, 2021 – Bubba Raceway Park – Ocala, Florida – Winter Dirt Games XII – 3/8-Mile Dirt Track
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING RESULTS: 1. Tanner Thorson, 88, Dave Mac-14.325; 2. Jason McDougal, 4, Dalby-14.432; 3. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-14.532; 4. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-14.540; 5. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.545; 6. Daison Pursley, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.551; 7. Chris Windom, 89, CB-14.577; 8. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-14.578; 9. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5, Petry-14.666; 10. Tanner Carrick, 98K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.758; 11. Logan Seavey, 25, Malloy-14.800; 12. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac-14.916; 13. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Dave Mac-14.977; 14. Max McLaughlin, z8, Bundy Built-15.003; 15. Chase Elliott, 84, CB-15.008; 16. Trey Gropp, 21KS, Ripper-15.044; 17. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.107; 18. Chase Randall, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-15.139; 19. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.252; 20. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.299; 21. Daniel Robinson, 57A, RAB-15.354; 22. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-15.382; 23. Emilio Hoover, 21K, Ripper-15.527; 24. Kade Morton, 8m, Morton-15.556; 25. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.788; 26. Oliver Akard, 41, OMR-16.236.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Taylor Reimer, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Tanner Carrick, 5. Trey Gropp, 6. Emerson Axsom, 7. Kaylee Bryson, 8. Ethan Mitchell, 9. Hayden Reinbold. 2:00.957
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Jason McDougal, 3. Bryant Wiedeman, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Buddy Kofoid, 6. Brenham Crouch, 7. Emilio Hoover, 8. Oliver Akard. 1:57.122
INDY METAL FINISHING THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Elliott, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Chase Randall, 4. Cannon McIntosh, 5. Justin Grant, 6. Daison Pursley, 7. Kade Morton, 8. Daniel Robinson. 1:55.858
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (10 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Daison Pursley, 3. Brenham Crouch, 4. Kaylee Bryson, 5. Daniel Robinson, 6. Ethan Mitchell, 7. Kade Morton, 8. Emilio Hoover, 9. Hayden Reinbold, 10. Oliver Akard. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Thomas Meseraull (1), 2. Chris Windom (2), 3. Buddy Kofoid (3), 4. Justin Grant (4), 5. Daison Pursley (10), 6. Jason McDougal (5), 7. Emerson Axsom (9), 8. Tanner Thorson (6), 9. Tanner Carrick (12), 10. Kevin Thomas Jr. (11), 11. Cannon McIntosh (14), 12. Bryant Wiedeman (16), 13. Logan Seavey (13), 14. Chase Elliott (8), 15. Chase Randall (17), 16. Brenham Crouch (19), 17. Kaylee Bryson (18), 18. Taylor Reimer (7), 19. Trey Gropp (15), 20. Daniel Robinson (20), 21. Kade Morton (22), 22. Ethan Mitchell (21). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Thomas Meseraull.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-161, 2-Chris Windom-161, 3-Tanner Thorson-155, 4-Thomas Meseraull-150, 5-Daison Pursley-141, 6-Justin Grant-137, 7-Emerson Axsom-133, 8-Tanner Carrick-111, 9-Bryant Wiedeman-99, 10-Cannon McIntosh-97.
OVERALL PROSOURCE MIDGET PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Carrick-9, 2-Bryant Wiedeman-9, 3-Cannon McIntosh-9, 4-Emerson Axsom-7, 5-Jake Neuman-6, 6-Daison Pursley-5, 7-Steve Buckwalter-5, 8-Tanner Thorson-4, 9-Brenham Crouch-3, 10-Chris Windom-2.
FINAL WINTER DIRT GAMES PROSOURCE MIDGET PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Thorson-11, 2-Tanner Carrick-11, 3-Cannon McIntosh-9, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-9, 5-Daison Pursley-8, 6-Emerson Axsom-8, 7-Trey Gropp-8, 8-Chris Windom-7, 9-Jake Neuman-6, 10-Steve Buckwalter-5.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: April 9-10, 2021 – Port City Raceway – Tulsa, Oklahoma – T-Town Midget Showdown – 1/8-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Winter Dirt Games ProSource Midget Passing Master: Tanner Thorson
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Tanner Thorson
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Taylor Reimer
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Thomas Meseraull
Indy Metal Finishing Third Heat Winner: Chase Elliott
Indy Race Parts Semi Winner: Emerson Axsom
KSE Racing Products / Irvin King Hard Charger: Daison Pursley (10th to 5th)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Logan Seavey
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Emilio Hoover
ProSource Hard Work Award: Kade Morton