BELLEVILLE, KA – By definition, there’s pretty much nothing on planet Earth more “macho” than winning a race at the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks.
It seemed fitting then that in the USAC Silver Crown National Championship’s return to the fabled north central Kansas dirt track for the first time in eight years, it was the driver nicknamed The Macho Man who ultimately prevailed.
In a frenzied highwire showcase of skill, speed, machismo and bravery, Brady Bacon outlasted the competition on Saturday night at the half-mile dirt oval, earning his first career Belleville High Banks win at a track he first competed at as an upstart 16-year-old in 2006.
To accomplish the feat, he went toe-to-toe and locked horns with longtime rival Justin Grant as the two engaged in a most classic duel that shocked and awed the throng of fans that filled the century-plus old facility, which at once, saw Grant flipping into the front straightaway and Bacon getting airborne before landing on all fours en route to a monumental score.
Bacon led the final eight laps of the 50-lapper to score his third career USAC Silver Crown victory, all of which have come at some of the sport’s most famed and illustrious half-mile dirt ovals: Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway and now Kansas’ Belleville High Banks.
But this one at Belleville is different; it was special; and it was like anything he’d ever experienced behind the wheel of a champ car in his storied career.
“That was the hardest I’ve ever driven a Silver Crown car,” Bacon exclaimed. “This place is really intense.”
Bacon started from the fifth position in the main event. He was the fastest overall in Friday’s practice, but six laps in, lost the primary engine as it went up in smoke. Fast forward to Saturday where the team installed a new ASCS 360 powerplant under the hood of their Chris Dyson Racing/Concord American Flagpole – Macri Concrete – Racer Magazine/Maxim/Ott Chevy.
Bacon had a slight inkling that the start of the evening would be a bit on the sluggish side, but once race time came, all would be right with the world, and they’d be right in the hunt.
“I knew we were probably going to struggle in qualifying, which we did,” Bacon noted. “I think we had a car capable of winning the pole, but we didn’t come here to sit on the pole; we came here to win the race and here we are. We got it done thanks to a team for having an engine, working hard to change it and giving me the tools that I needed to win.”
Two rows ahead of Bacon at the start of the main was pole sitter Kody Swanson, the seven-time series champion who walloped the field in Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying with a blistering new one-lap track record of 16.823 seconds, eclipsing the mark of 16.856 seconds set by past series champion Tracy Hines during the series’ debut at Belleville in 2013.
Swanson jetted out to the initial lead, riding the rim up against the rail for the first 27 laps as a flurry of activity saw several combatants jockeying for position to move up the order and track down Swanson. Bacon turned up the wick on lap 13 as he dove to the bottom under Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. to move from fifth to third in a hurry.
Meanwhile, Wayne Johnson was flying and Mario Clouser’s right rear tire began to shred. Johnson, making his USAC Silver Crown debut, had blitzed his way into fourth by lap 20 after starting in the 11th position. Clouser, likewise performing impressively in his dirt Silver Crown debut, began to experience his tire going down. By turn three of lap 21, Clouser’s right rear had torn apart, and as soon as he felt it from his vantage point, his car slid up the track into the direct path of Johnson, who ramped over Clouser’s wheel, but managed to land on his own four wheels and away from the fence. Despite the miraculous save, the night was over for both, ending a pair of awesome performances just as they seemed to be getting started.
Soon thereafter, Grant went to work, tracking down Swanson for the lead by sliding past in turn four on the 28th circuit to take over the top spot. Bacon tagged along moments later, stalking and overtaking Swanson from the runner-up spot in turn two on lap 32 but encountered a 1.2 second disadvantage he needed to dismantle with the laps dwindling down to the nitty gritty, setting off a wild chain of chaos between the two USAC National champions.
On lap 43, Bacon took Grant with a monster slider in turn one. On lap 44, Bacon went low into turn one, but Grant somehow got even lower and slid up the banking in synchronicity with Grant now occupying the lead ever so briefly until turn three when Bacon skimmed the low line and darted back in front of the high-flying Grant.
Bacon put some distance between he and Grant when Grant dinked his right rear tire off the turn two guardrail on lap 45. However, Bacon soon met double-wide lapped traffic featuring Chase Stockon and Travis Welpott in turns three and four. Bacon split the two as he drifted high. Grant stayed glued to the inner rail, first passing Stockon, then drifting past Welpott off turn four. Once clear of Welpott, the duo of Grant and Bacon found themselves side-by-side coming to the start finish line when the two touched wheels – Grant’s right rear and Bacon’s left rear. The resulting rubber pancake sent Bacon’s rear wheels airborne and the nose of Grant’s car straight into the outside wall where he began a series of flips that led him upside down into the turn one catchfence. Grant climbed out and walked away unscathed while Bacon continued onward.
“He thought he was going to be able to get by me and I thought I was going to be able to squeeze by him and we banged wheels down the front stretch,” Bacon stated. “It was tight. We both kind of got caught in a weird situation in lapped traffic. I think he might’ve slid under both of them, and I slide between one and it broke my momentum a little bit. He went kind of Hail Mary on the bottom, but we had enough speed, we got the cushion, and it could’ve been bad for both of us. Unfortunately, it was bad for him. We hopped up in the air pretty good, but we had a good racecar and it stayed together.”
Though the stoppage allowed competitors, fans and bystanders alike a few moments to catch their collective breath, on the restart, the intensity of the moment remained when, with three laps to go in a battle for third, Mitchel Moles and C.J. Leary touched in turn two when they ran out of real estate. Moles’ right rear tire ramped over Leary’s left front, damaging both respective pieces and knocking both out of the event with the finish line just within reach.
On the one last final restart, Bacon was unheeded as he took hold and never relented, racing to the checkered flag 3.25 seconds ahead of Kody Swanson, Chase Stockon, Shane Cottle and Logan Seavey.
“We just had a really good racecar at the end, and it just kept getting better and better,” Bacon praised. “Even without traffic, we were reeling in Justin there. We could slide across really good in three and four. It was our first race together and we got the win, so you can’t really beat that.”
Overall, Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) had a fine night all around, setting a new track record in qualifying, leading a race high 27 laps and scoring a runner-up finish in his Doran-Binks Racing/Mission Foods – Glenn Farms/Maxim/Lanci Ford. It’s just one race into the season, but he already becomes the series point leader by virtue of his bonus qualifying and laps led points.
After going a lap down, Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) bounced back to put in a career best USAC Silver Crown performance not only for himself, but also for his Pink 69 Racing/Lucas Oil Center – Fuel Juels – NFP – Jack Rodgers Realtors/Maxim/SPEC Chevy team. Together, with the assistance of former USAC CRA Sprint Car stalwart owners Tom and Laurie Sertich of Moose Racing, they walk away from Belleville with their heads held high after a solid effort to round out the podium.
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 20, 2023 – Belleville High Banks – Belleville, Kansas – 1/2-Mile Dirt Track
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kody Swanson, 77, Doran/Binks-16.823 (New Track Record); 2. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-17.051; 3. C.J. Leary, 6, Klatt-17.248; 4. Kevin Thomas Jr., 53, FTM-17.285; 5. Brady Bacon, 9, Dyson-17.296; 6. Mario Clouser, 92, Kazmark-17.362; 7. Logan Seavey, 22, Rice/Abacus-17.410; 8. Mitchel Moles, 97, Lein-17.425; 9. Kaylee Bryson, 26, Pierce-17.628; 10. Shane Cottle, 74, Hodges-17.662; 11. Wayne Johnson, 12, Two C-17.723; 12. Shane Cockrum, 71, BLS-17.749; 13. Chase Stockon, 69, Pink 69-17.802; 14. Matt Westfall, 81, BCR-17.988; 15. Bryan Gossel, 06, Gossel-18.093; 16. Tyler Roahrig, 19, Legacy-18.153; 17. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott-18.209; 18. Trey Burke, 11, Hamilton-18.355; 19. Taylor Ferns, 555, Ferns-18.370; 20. Chris Fetter, 15, Fetter-18.559; 21. Patrick Bruns, 95, Full Throttle-18.582; 22. Gregg Cory, 32, Williams-18.866; 23. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-19.227; 24. Danny Long, 44, Long-19.345.
FEATURE: (50 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (5), 2. Kody Swanson (1), 3. Chase Stockon (13), 4. Shane Cottle (10), 5. Logan Seavey (7), 6. Shane Cockrum (12), 7. Matt Westfall (14), 8. Kaylee Bryson (9), 9. Trey Burke (18), 10. Taylor Ferns (19), 11. C.J. Leary (3), 12. Mitchel Moles (8), 13. Travis Welpott (17), 14. Gregg Cory (22), 15. Bryan Gossel (15), 16. Patrick Bruns (21), 17. Justin Grant (2), 18. Tyler Roahrig (16), 19. Dave Berkheimer (23), 20. Wayne Johnson (11), 21. Mario Clouser (6), 22. Kevin Thomas Jr. (4), 23. Danny Long (24), 24. Chris Fetter (20). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-27 Kody Swanson, Laps 28-42 Justin Grant, Laps 43-50 Brady Bacon.
**Justin Grant flipped on lap 47 of the feature.
USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Kody Swanson-73, 2-Brady Bacon-70, 3-Chase Stockon-64, 4-Shane Cottle-61, 5-Logan Seavey-58, 6-Shane Cockrum-55, 7-Matt Westfall-52, 8-Kaylee Bryson-49, 9-Trey Burke-46, 10-Taylor Ferns-43.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Carson Garrett-29, 2-Chase Stockon-26, 3-Daison Pursley-26, 4-Justin Grant-24, 5-Kevin Thomas Jr.-20, 6-Brady Bacon-19, 7-Matt Westfall-17, 8-Thomas Meseraull-16, 9-Jake Swanson-12, 10-Logan Seavey-12.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: May 26, 2023 – Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park – Brownsburg, Indiana – .686-Mile Paved Oval – 66th Hoosier Hundred / Carb Night Classic Presented By Protective Insurance
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Practice Fastest Driver: Brady Bacon (17.503)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Kody Swanson (16.823)
Hard Charger: Chase Stockon (13th to 3rd)