By RICHIE MURRAY
KOKOMO, IN – The month of April has quickly become the “sweeps” period for USAC’s national series as Brady Bacon became the second driver in as many weeks to complete an undefeated weekend by capturing both nights of the “Kokomo Grand Prix” at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway.
One week after Chris Windom claimed victories in consecutive nights at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway and the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car and Silver Crown action, respectively, it was Bacon’s turn to do a little spring cleaning of his own as he cleared out space in his cabinet to bring home a pair of brand-new trophies earned this weekend in USAC National Midget competition.
The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native took the lead from Tanner Thorson just shy of the midway point of the 30-lap affair after starting from the outside of the fifth row, then promptly dominated the second-half to grab his fifth-career USAC National Midget feature win, and third at Kokomo.
Sunday night was nearly identical to Saturday night for Bacon. For the second straight evening, he entered the Midget feature just after posting a runner-up finish in the Kokomo Sprint Car main event. Yet, it would take Bacon just a little bit longer to reach the point as opposed to the night prior, but not by that much.
Polesitter Chad Boat would control the pace early on as he slid up to the top to grab the lead in turn one on the opening lap. Outside second-row starter Tanner Thorson would instantly pose a threat as he took a peek to the inside of Boat off turn two on laps three and four.
On the sixth circuit, Thorson made his charge on the bottom, but Boat was able to hold onto his advantage by the skin of his teeth, more accurately the circumference of a single front wheel. One lap later, Thorson duplicated the same move, but this time was able to get enough of a run off turn four to propel him to the lead by a single wheel over Boat.
Boat wouldn’t accept this fate without a fight and, instead, worked his way back around the topside to retake the lead from Thorson on the eighth lap. However, the move was negated due to a yellow for the turned-around car of ProSource Fast Qualifier Justin Grant, which reverted the running order back to the last completed lap.
Meanwhile, lurking in the shadows was third-running Bacon who had already overtaken seven positions in the first seven laps. After the green flag dropped for the restart, Thorson led the way on the bottom as Boat stayed true to the top. Bacon followed Thorson’s lead and used the low line to motor past Boat for second.
The chase was on as Thorson led a train on the bottom with Bacon in tow as he aimed to escape the rapid pursuit of the previous night’s winner. On the 13th lap, with little room for error and Bacon ready to pounce, Thorson left the door cracked open at the exit of turn four, which was just enough daylight for Bacon to squeeze through to snare the race lead away.
Just as it was the night before, Bacon put his Bob East-wrenched, FMR Racing/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions – Black Watch Farms/Beast/Toyota anywhere he pleased, running the bottom between turns one and two and using a diamond pattern on the other end of the racetrack in which he’d enter on the cushion in turn three and exit turn four on the bottom.
The interval between he and Thorson continued to expand in the final laps, growing to a substantial 4.5 second margin as Bacon took the checkered ahead of Thorson, Tyler Courtney, Rico Abreu (who charged from 22nd to 4th after flipping earlier in the night during time trials) while Kevin Thomas, Jr. rounded out the top-five.
Bacon’s victory puts him in an exclusive club of drivers who’ve tallied at least three USAC National Midget wins at Kokomo, joining Rich Vogler (7), Mel Kenyon (6), Jimmy Davies (3) and Bob Wente (3). Bacon’s monumental weekend has given him a healthy early-season point cushion where he stands with a 30-point lead in the standings as the series takes an extended break before returning May 19 at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.
“We had to work a little harder tonight,” Bacon remarked. “We were able to get to the front really quickly and then the track changed quite a bit. It got pretty treacherous with some holes on the bottom. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time every time and made some good decisions. I’m just glad to have a car I can be confident moving around in, especially here. You’ve got a lot of options and there’s a big difference between the top and bottom. The car worked great wherever it went. We’ve worked so hard and, last year, we got our package together and we’re finally getting the results to show for all that hard work.”
Minden, Nevada’s Tanner Thorson followed up a third-place run the night before with a second-place finish Sunday night in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/JBL Audio – TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota, getting back into the groove after a tough opening to the season in Du Quoin, Ill. back in March.
“We just took what it gave us tonight,” Thorson stated. “We’ve had a pretty good car here the last two days. We definitely wanted to win that one, but Brady just beat us. He was better through the holes tonight, but we’ll back and we’ll come to the next race even stronger.”
Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney took a wild tumble while running third in Saturday night’s feature at Kokomo. Sunday night, the team rolled out the backup car for Courtney and took a well-earned third-place finish in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives – Indiana Donor Network/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
“After the start I’ve had this year in the midget and sprint car, to get a podium here is a pretty good confidence booster,” a rejuvenated Courtney exclaimed. “Hopefully, moving forward from here will be just a little smoother sailing than the start of the year. I can’t thank everybody who came to the shop last night and busted their butts. We found out just last night that our car was junk and they finished putting this backup car together, came back to the track and kept faith in me. I’ve got all the faith in the world in them and their racecars and what they do in the shop. I think it showed tonight.”
Contingency award winners Sunday night at Kokomo Speedway include Justin Grant (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Alex Bright (Simpson Race Products First Heat Race Winner & Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher), Jake Neuman (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Race Winner) Tanner Carrick (Chalk Stix Third Heat Race Winner), Tyler Thomas (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Race Winner) and Rico Abreu (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger).
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: April 9, 2017 – Kokomo, Indiana – Kokomo Speedway – “Kokomo Grand Prix”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.081; 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 7B, Brown-13.199; 3. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.246; 4. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.247; 5. Dave Darland, 11, Gray-13.347; 6. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.350; 7. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.385; 8. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-13.402; 9. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27, Klaasmeyer-13.452; 10. Davey Ray, 33, Team RAYPRO-13.530; 11. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-13.554; 12. Shane Golobic, 17w, Clauson-Marshall/Wood-13.574; 13. Jerry Coons Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-13.577; 14. Holly Shelton, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.625; 15. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.626; 16. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-13.658; 17. Alex Bright, 77, Bright-13.690; 18. Jake Neuman, 3N, Neuman-13.804; 19. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-13.828; 20. Tyler Nelson, 88T, Nelson-13.869; 21. Ryan Greth, 4R, Lesher-13.981; 22. Chase Jones, 22, Petry/Goff-13.992; 23. Kyle Schuett, 9K, Schuett-14.114; 24. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-14.118; 25. Anton Julian, 44, Pace-14.167; 26. Bear Wood, 8JR, LW Racing-14.516; 27. Justin Dickerson, 21D, Dickerson-14.603; 28. Ray Seach, 2, Seach-14.664; 29. Rico Abreu, 21, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-NT; 30. Gage Walker, 7, Walker-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Bright, 2. Abreu, 3. Grant, 4. Greth, 5. Coons, 6. Klaasmeyer, 7. Darland, 8. Julian. 2:19.35
COMPETITION SUSPENSION, INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Neuman, 2. Ray, 3. Robinson, 4. Shelton, 5. K. Thomas, 6. Jones, 7. Wood, 8. Walker. 2:18.80
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Carrick, 2. Bayston, 3. Bacon, 4. Courtney, 5. Windom, 6. Shane Cottle (#9K), 7. Dickerson. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. T. Thomas, 2. Thorson, 3. Boat, 4. Golobic, 5. Nelson, 6. Lynch, 7. Seach. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. K. Thomas, 2. Darland, 3. Windom, 4. Coons, 5. Jones, 6. Nelson, 7. Cottle, 8. Lynch, 9. Dickerson, 10. Wood, 11. Klaasmeyer, 12. Julian, 13. Seach. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Rico Abreu, 5. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 6. Spencer Bayston, 7. Dave Darland, 8. Shane Golobic, 9. Ryan Robinson, 10. Holly Shelton, 11. Davey Ray, 12. Jerry Coons, Jr., 13. Alex Bright, 14. Tyler Thomas, 15. Tyler Nelson, 16. Jake Neuman, 17. Brayton Lynch, 18. Ryan Greth, 19. Chad Boat, 20. Justin Grant, 21. Chris Windom, 22. Chase Jones, 23. Tanner Carrick. NT
**Abreu flipped during qualifying. Klaasmeyer flipped during the semi. Julian flipped during the semi.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-6 Boat, Laps 7-12 Thorson, Laps 13-30 Bacon.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Rico Abreu (22nd to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Alex Bright
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bacon-216, 2-Bayston-186, 3-Thorson-175, 4-Coons-169, 5-Grant-168, 6-Golobic-151, 7-Neuman-125, 8-Darland-120, 9-Courtney-113, 10-Robinson-113.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: May 19 – Granite City, Illinois – Tri-City Speedway