By RICHIE MURRAY
TERRE HAUTE, IN – For a racer, there’s not much better hardware you can add to your trophy collection than a “Tony Hulman Classic” rifle.
Wednesday night at the Terre Haute Action Track, the Tyler Courtney became a first-time gun owner following a flawless late-race restart in which he slid past leader Chase Stockon to lead the final nine laps and collect his third win of the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season in his Clauson Marshall Newman Racing/Priority Aviation – Competition Suspension, Inc./Spike/Rider Chevy.
For Indianapolis, Indiana’s Courtney, it was a dream that became a reality. After setting fast time and finishing third in a Silver Crown car back in April, Courtney seems to have found the knack for being quick on the big half-mile at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds.
“To win here at Terre Haute is unreal,” Courtney exclaimed. “It’s something I dreamed about as a kid. (Former Terre Haute Action Track promoter) Don Smith had a big impact on getting my career going, so this one ranks right up there. I’ve watched Dave (Darland) and Jerry (Coons, Jr.) and all the greats that have raced before us here and they seemed to dominate. At this race, you want to be the one taking the rifle home and we get to do it this time.”
The unique, traditional trophy awarded to the winner of the “Hulman Classic” dates to the early days of the Terre Haute Action Track. Courtney, not a hunter by trade, now gets to carry one of these pieces home with him with pride.
“The funny thing is I’m not a gun guy at all,” Courtney admitted. “Somebody was asking me if I had ever gone hunting before, but I had to tell them that I’ve actually never held a gun. It’s kind of ironic that I get to hold one tonight on the front straight at Terre Haute.”
Courtney started the 30-lapper from the outside of the front row and was able to get the jump on pole sitter Shane Cottle to grab the lead on the opening lap. His run at the front would be short-lived, however, as inside second row starter Stockon burst to the front with a turn one slider on lap two and would hold down the spot for the first two-thirds of the event.
The top-two of Stockon and Courtney separated themselves from the rest of the field, a half-straightaway ahead of their nearest competition and only three car-lengths separating themselves. At times, the pair had to thread the needle through lap traffic, with Stockon tight-roping between Brandon Mattox and Nate McMillin on the back straight to escape briefly at the halfway mark, but Courtney kept the walls from closing in on him, slipping between the 7/10 split of cars into turn three to stay within a puncher’s chance of Stockon as he searched to find his zone of comfort entering the second half of the race.
“We were just a little tight,” Courtney remembered. “I knew there were spots on the track where he was better than me. I was just trying to make myself a little better at the spots he was running, but I couldn’t run exactly where he was running, so I just tried to find the best spot for mine.”
On lap 22, series Rookie Jadon Rogers tagged the outside wall between turns three and four and flipped wildly right in front of the leaders. Stockon avoided contact, but Courtney could not escape completely unscathed, bouncing his right rear tire off Rogers’ damaged racecar before continuing with just a bent wheel cover.
That set up a nine-lap shootout for the race win between Stockon and Courtney. At Terre Haute, the leader is often left as a sitting duck on restarts and the follower has the upper hand to make a patented turn one slider. Courtney took advantage of that fact, diving to the bottom and clearing Stockon by the time both got to turn two.
“I knew it was going to be my only shot,” Courtney thought. “The track was tricky up top and it was tough to slide someone. I tried it once early in the race and couldn’t clear him and spent the rest of the time trying to catch back up to him. I didn’t think it was going to stick as well as it did when I tried it again.”
“I protected myself in (turns) three and four thinking he was going to slide me,” Courtney continued. “After that, once I couldn’t really hear him, I ran my own race, counted the laps down, clicked them off and tried to make nine perfect laps.”
Courtney executed to perfection down the stretch, extending his lead to more than two seconds by race’s end to capture his first career victory at the Terre Haute Action Track over Kevin Thomas, Jr., Shane Cottle, Chris Windom and Stockon.
Contingency award winners Wednesday night at Eldora Speedway included Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Chad Boespflug (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Justin Grant (Chalk Stix/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner), Chris Windom (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Dave Darland (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher) and Brandon Mattox (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 23, 2018 – Terre Haute, Indiana – Terre Haute Action Track – 48th “Tony Hulman Classic”
QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 69, Dynamics-20.574; 2. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-20.901; 3. Brady Bacon, 99, Bacon-20.904; 4. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-21.060; 5. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-21.454; 6. Shane Cottle, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-21.567; 7. Kyle Cummins, 3c, EZR/Cummins-21.596; 8. Chad Boespflug, 98, NineEight-21.602; 9. Dave Darland, 36D, Goodnight/Curb-Agajanian-21.603; 10. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-21.606; 11. Timmy Buckwalter, 7, LNB Motorsports-21.739; 12. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-21.835; 13. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox/Nigg-21.883; 14. Jerry Coons, Jr., 21K, Krockenberger-21.887; 15. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-22.280; 16. Nick Bilbee, 17, Bilbee-22.495; 17. Bill Rose, 6, Rose-22.501; 18. Jadon Rogers, 14J, Rogers-22.525; 19. Aric Gentry, 10, Gentry-22.681; 20. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-22.924; 21. Nate McMillin, 24m, McMillin-23.004; 22. Brandon Morin, 98m, Morin-23.240; 23. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-23.457;
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Thomas, 2. Bilbee, 3. Cummins, 4. Windom, 5. Stockon, 6. Mattox, 7. Gentry, 8. Morin. 2:52.28
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Boespflug, 2. Leary, 3. Courtney, 4. Rose, 5. Coons, 6. Buckwalter, 7. Chapple, 8. Bell. 2:54.55
CHALK STIX/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Grant, 2. Ballou, 3. Darland, 4. Bacon, 5. Cottle, 6. Rogers, 7. McMillin. 2:59.99
FEATURE: (30 laps – starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (2), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 3. Shane Cottle (1), 4. Chris Windom (10), 5. Chase Stockon (3), 6. C.J. Leary (5), 7. Robert Ballou (11), 8. Justin Grant (14), 9. Brady Bacon (4), 10. Chad Boespflug (8), 11. Jerry Coons Jr. (13), 12. Nick Bilbee (16), 13. Dave Darland (9), 14. Kyle Cummins (7), 15. Isaac Chapple (19), 16. Bill Rose (17), 17. Aric Gentry (23), 18. Brandon Morin (21), 19. Nate McMillin (20), 20. Robert Bell (22), 21. Timmy Buckwalter (15), 22. Jadon Rogers (18), 23. Brandon Mattox (12). NT
**Rogers flipped on lap 22 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Courtney, Laps 2-21 Stockon, Laps 22-30 Courtney.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Chris Windom (10th to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Dave Darland
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Brandon Mattox
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Thomas-653, 2-Windom-622, 3-Courtney-601, 4-Leary-561, 5-Stockon-551, 6-Ballou-535, 7-Darland-512, 8-Bacon-507, 9-Grant-483, 10-Boespflug-435.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 8 – Greenwood, Nebraska – I-80 Speedway – “Dirt Classic”