BROWNSBURG, IN – Josh Wise had a one-track mind Saturday night during the final laps of the inaugural Hoosier Classic Browns Oil Champion Midget feature at Brownsburg, Indiana’s Lucas Oil Raceway.
When the opportunity presented itself four laps from the finish of the 50-lap feature, Wise went on the attack and swiped the victory with a daring pass of Bobby Santos between turns one and two to score his first career victory at the track in dramatic fashion.
The $10,000 win was the first for the Riverside, Calif. native in Midget competition under USAC’s banner since a score at Wisconsin’s Angell Park Speedway all the way back in 2009. Saturday night’s event was a non-points special event for USAC.
To Wise, winning is something that’ll never go out of style. Similar things can be said about the tried and true setup on his Alex Bowman Racing/Valvoline – Brown & Miller Racing Solutions – Smith Titanium/Beast/Stanton SR-11x.
“What’s funny is I ran the same setup on this thing in 2009 the last time I ran here,” Wise revealed. “It’s about getting the details right and hard work. Alex gets this thing ready in the shop himself and It’s just a beautiful racecar. I’m super lucky to be here.”
While the 2005 USAC National Midget titlist and 2006 USAC National Sprint Car champion has won many a race in his career, he left little doubt that this one was special.
“I can’t even catch my breath right now, I’m so pumped,” Wise exclaimed. “I’ve got to thank Alex for letting me run this thing. I’ve had so much fun this year.”
Wise, a veteran of 158 NASCAR Cup starts, qualified second in time trials, which required a two-lap average to determine each driver’s time. With a 10-car invert, Wise started his journey from the ninth position, which saw him quickly knife his way into second in only eight laps.
Pole sitter Mario Clouser, piloting a tribute painted similarly to the famed Steve Lewis-owned “Nine” cars from yesteryear, controlled the field for the first four laps until June LOR Midget winner Bobby Santos stormed by for the first position with a dive bomb to the bottom of turn one, then cleared Clouser with ease.
The first altercation of the midget feature came on the 11th lap as Cole Carter dueled side-by-side with Kyle O’Gara for the fifth spot. Suddenly, Carter lost control at the exit of turn two, sending his car spinning and nosing head first into the inside back straightaway wall, promptly putting an unwelcome ending to his evening.
Throughout the majority of the event, it was a three-car procession up front with Santos leading a freight train that included Wise and Kody Swanson in lockstep formation. Wise took his shots at Santos on multiple occasions, pulling even midway through the turns before having to fall back into line.
Wise constantly was forced to navigate the precarious position of trying to surpass Santos with one hand while simultaneously attempting to fend off K. Swanson with the other.
Shortly thereafter, Thomas Meseraull, who had worked his way from 21st to 6th and was under Nick Hamilton in a tussle for fifth at the time, spun sideways and performed a long broad slide and skid to a stop at the exit of turn four on the 27th lap. Meseraull ultimately finished 13th.
Tenth running Nathan Byrd found major trouble on the 33rd lap when his car darted left, then right, as he entered turn one before slamming hard into the outside wall. He climbed away from the wreckage, out of the race, and with a 12th place result.
As Santos continued to hold serve up front, entering the final five laps of the event, the ninth running car of Justin Grant crawled to a stop in turn two to force out a yellow, which erased Santos’ .681 second lead, bunched up the field and created one final restart, one that Wise most certainly needed for the sequence that played out next.
On the lap 47 restart, Wise showed a nose to the inside of Santos on the front straightaway before shooting below the apron in turn one. That gave Wise the space to get a run and pull even with Santos between turns one and two. The two were dead even into two when Wise surged ahead, and Santos dropped into line behind Wise getting off the corner.
“Bobby was running a really good line,” Wise explained. “It was really hard to set up a pass on him and he was holding me really tight. He was going to win it if that late caution hadn’t come out. I just made up my mind that if I was on his bumper, I was going to sail it in there and hope that I didn’t make contact with him, and it worked out. I could tell he was tight, so if I could get him up off his line, I knew he’d get tight and that was just enough.”
Santos took a run right back at Wise in turn three to no avail, then nearly got Wise back in turn one on the following try on lap 48 utilizing the same maneuver in the same spot that Wise had gotten him the lap before. However, Wise kept his foot on the throttle and motored away.
However, on lap 48, the 10th running car of Jake Trainor stopped on the front straightaway, setting up yet another redux between Wise, Santos and K. Swanson. A superb restart by Wise denied any motion or notion that Santos or K. Swanson might’ve had as the lap counter ticked down to zero.
Wise’s return to victory lane was capped by a 0.553 margin over Santos, K. Swanson, Chuck Gurney Jr. and Tanner Swanson.
For Gurney, a two-time USAC National Midget feature winner at LOR in 2008-09, it was his first time behind the wheel since 2011, a fine showing for the man who regularly serves as the assistant crew chief for the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship team.
K. Swanson pocketed a $500 bonus for setting quick time with the midgets on Saturday night courtesy of PJ1. For Kody, it was his fifth consecutive midget fast qualifying time at LOR dating back to August of 2020.
BROWNS OIL CHAMPION USAC MIDGET SPECIAL EVENT RACE RESULTS: August 14, 2021 – Lucas Oil Raceway – Brownsburg, Indiana – .686-Mile Paved Track – Hoosier Classic
PJ1 QUALIFYING: (Two-Lap Average) 1. Kody Swanson, 25, Rodela-21.199; 2. Josh Wise, 55, Bowman-21.337; 3. Tanner Swanson, 7K, Petry/Irwin-21.380; 4. Kyle O’Gara, 1BR, SFHR-21.392; 5. Bobby Santos, 29, Seymour/West-21.459; 6. Nick Hamilton, 7KR, Petry/Irwin-21.470; 7. Cole Carter, 7, Bertrand-21.579; 8. Todd Bertrand, 47, Bertrand-21.685; 9. Justin Grant, 3, Bohanon-21.701; 10. Mario Clouser, 99, Guess-21.704; 11. Jake Trainor, 8, Trainor-21.829; 12. Dalton Armstrong, 7A, C & A-21.832; 13. Chuck Gurney Jr., 51, West-21.899; 14. Nathan Byrd, 47D, Bertrand-21.954; 15. Cody Gerhardt, 60, Western Speed-22.138; 16. Johnny Zych, 9, Zych-22.232; 17. Saban Bibent, 77, Doran-22.614; 18. Blake Brannon, 40, Western Speed-22.880; 19. Ryan Shilkuski, 75, Shilkuski-24.334; 20. Taylor Ferns, 55F, Ferns-NT; 21. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-NT; 22. Bret Sanderson, 66, Sanderson-NT; 23. Annie Breidinger, 80, Breidinger-NT; 24. Tyler Nelson, 33, Hamilton-NT; 25. Brian Karraker, 3BK, Bohanon-NT; 26. Logan Seavey, 25m, Malloy-NT.
FEATURE: (50 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Josh Wise (9), 2. Bobby Santos (6), 3. Kody Swanson (10), 4. Chuck Gurney Jr. (13), 5. Tanner Swanson (8), 6. Mario Clouser (1), 7. Cody Gerhardt (15), 8. Johnny Zych (16), 9. Nick Hamilton (5), 10. Jake Trainor (11), 11. Justin Grant (2), 12. Nathan Byrd (14), 13. Thomas Meseraull (21), 14. Taylor Ferns (20), 15. Kyle O’Gara (7), 16. Saban Bibent (17), 17. Dalton Armstrong (12), 18. Todd Bertrand (3), 19. Cole Carter (4), 20. Ryan Shilkuski (19), 21. Annie Breidinger (23), 22. Tyler Nelson (24), 23. Brian Karraker (25), 24. Bret Sanderson (22), 25. Blake Brannon (18), 26. Logan Seavey (26). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-4 Mario Clouser, Laps 5-46 Bobby Santos, Laps 47-50 Josh Wise.