By RICHIE MURRAY
HAUBSTADT, IN – One night after victory slipped through his fingers and into the hands of Chad Boespflug during a spectacular late-race duel at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway, Chris Windom wouldn’t let opportunity escape his grasp once again in Saturday night’s “Spring Showdown” at Tri-State Speedway, co-sanctioned by USAC and MSCS.
However, an average finish of 12th over 13 career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car starts at Tri-State didn’t bode well for Windom’s odds coming into the event at the quarter-mile paperclip in southern Indiana.
But stats are just that. Stats. They are simply numbers that tell of what has occurred in the past, but are not the be-all, end-all figurative crystal ball that foretells what the future holds.
Windom reversed his fortunes in more ways than one Saturday night, taking the present into his own hands on a breakout night at a venue that has stuck in his craw and served as a thorn in his pride for much of the past decade.
By the fourth lap, he had swiped the lead from Boespflug, then fended off each proceeding challenge for the remaining 26 laps to take his 16th career USAC National Sprint Car feature victory, equaling Damion Gardner and moving him into the top-30 on the series’ all-time win list.
Neither lapped traffic nor repetitious restarts nor even a one-lap shootout could stay this driver from the swift completion of his appointed goal of taming Tri-State Speedway, which he had long yearned to tame. This was a piece of redemption that would elude him no more. Drastic changes were not a necessity. A measured approach, and confidence to boot, can go a long way in knocking down barriers.
“We’ve tried to stick to our guns all year,” Windom said. “We’ve kept everything the same. We haven’t had the best results here in the past, but we didn’t come down here and try to change everything. We just kept everything like we had been and we’ve been running well. If you would’ve told me in the last three years that I’d win a race here, I would have said you were crazy. I can’t thank Derek (Claxton) enough for what he’s been doing for me, and Billy (Grace) also. They’ve had this car so good. It’s a winning car every single night. It’s just really up to me to go out and get the job done.”
And get the job done he did. Though, he would start the 30-lap main event from the outside of the second row, directly behind Boespflug. Right from the get-go, and as a continuation from the previous night’s proceedings, Boespflug and Windom were practically attached at the hip as the duo immediately took ownership of the top-two positions exiting turn two on the opening lap.
On the fourth lap, Windom saw an opportunity as he put a slider on Boespflug for the lead entering the first turn. Windom made slight contact as he slid up in front of Boespflug as the pair hit the back straightaway nose-to-tail at the exit of turn two, but the early-race lead was his, a feat his experience told him was of utmost importance at Tri-State.
“I knew it was tough to pass and, when I saw an opening, I went for it,” Windom admits. “Chad (Boespflug) went to the top and I threw a slider on him. I got into him a little bit, so I told him I was sorry after the race. I felt a little bad about that. But, this is one place you want to get to the lead as quickly as possible. I just wanted to be in command of the race and that’s what we did.”
In a reversal of roles from the night before, Windom took the middle to high route while Boespflug zipped along the bottom. Boespflug unloaded the chamber as he fought to reclaim ownership of the top spot, pulling even to the inside of Windom multiple times on both ends of the racetrack until a yellow for Josh Hodges reshuffled the deck, putting Boespflug in line behind race leader Windom on the ensuing restart.
Boespflug momentarily willed his way to the lead with a turn one slider when action resumed, but Windom as well as Justin Grant held the momentum and were able to blast by to take first and second, respectively. Although, Grant’s newfound position would be short-lived as Boespflug got back around for second by the time they hit the third turn.
On lap nine, the most harrowing incident of the night came when Donny Brackett rode over a wheel of another car and barrel-rolled several times down the front straight before coming to a rest on all fours. The toll on Brackett’s ride was substantial, but he was fortunate to walk away from the wreckage.
On each restart through the middle stages of the race, Boespflug consistently poked his nose ahead of Windom on multiple occasions on the bottom line. Yet, every single time, Windom’s drive off the second and fourth corners was adequate to hold Boespflug at bay.
With 12 to go, Windom met up with a logjam of lapped cars at the tail end of the field. Windom was forced to alter his line to the bottom which, in turn, allowed Boespflug to peel away several layers of Windom’s one-plus second lead over the next eight laps, to less than a half-second. That’s when third-running Kyle Cummins’ car went up in smoke on lap 27, coasting to a stop in turn four before collecting past “Spring Showdown” winner Hunter Schuerenberg and Isaac Chapple.
Under yellow with four laps remaining and a crucial restart looming, Windom discovered himself in an uncanny position to the one he was in at Bloomington. A mixture of factors raced through his mind as he tried to avoid a moment of personal déjà vu.
“I was pretty nervous,” an unabashed Windom admitted. “Normally, I’m not, but I’m not used to restarting a race out front here. I honestly wasn’t sure where the best spot to restart was. It just seemed like every time I’d get rolling, a caution would come out. I didn’t feel that great the first or second lap after a restart, so it was starting to make me feel a little nervous at the end. I knew if I could just hold my line around the bottom, it would be tough to go around the outside of us.”
Windom was up to the challenge, mastering the course when he bolted away from Boespflug and was on his way to a surefire victory. After taking the white flag and hitting his marks in turns one and two for what he anticipated would be the last time, Landon Simon and Brandon Morin tangled in turn three. That, in turn, set up yet another stress test for Windom to endure – a one-lap free-for all between he and Boespflug for sprint car racing glory.
Once again, though, Windom answered the bell when he stood on the loudpedal and passed under Tom Hansing’s green and white flag on the lap 30 restart. Distancing himself to a half-second advantage, Windom passed the exam with flying colors to become the first repeat winner on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship tour in 2017 over Boespflug, Grant, B & W Auto Mart/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Brady Short (from 20th) and Carson Short.
Windom led a top-three across the line that consisted of the first three drivers in series points. Though Windom suffered a couple of setbacks in the season-openers at Ocala, Florida in February that stifled his point accumulation, he has since gone on a tear with 1st, 2nd and 1st place finishes in his last three runs, a fact that has his him excited of what lies ahead.
“It’s exciting when we can all go the track and have this much confidence,” Windom explains. “It’s a long season. Chad (Boespflug) and Justin (Grant) seem to run second and third every night I win, so that makes it hard to catch up. As long as we keep sticking with what we’re doing, we’ll be just fine.”
Chad Boespflug has been a model of consistency to begin his campaign for the Hoffman Auto Racing team. The Hanford, California native has racked up finishes of 2nd, 4th, 2nd, 1st and 2nd to start the season and just narrowly missed becoming the third-straight driver in as many weeks to sweep the full slate of USAC National events during a single weekend. He led the opening three laps of the event before, ultimately, earning a solid second-place run in his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – PAC Springs/Maxim/Claxton.
“We’re just continuing to put good nights together,” Boespflug said. “Chris (Windom) and I dueled it out last night and I thought we were going to get him again there in lapped traffic tonight. It was a great night overall to come back with a second and be back on the podium, especially here. The three of us up here on the podium have never run worth a darn here. We were talking before the feature how we’re never any good here. For us three to be standing up here is pretty cool.”
Likewise, Justin Grant of Ione, California has his Sam McGhee Motorsports/Mike McGhee & Associates – Brown & Miller Racing Solutions/Maxim/Foxco rolling where he continues to lead the points by three markers over Boespflug after finishes of 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 3rd to begin the season.
“This place has historically not been very good to me,” Grant concedes. “I’m usually pretty slow here, but Sam’s car actually gets around here really well. I’m just happy to come out of here with a podium and move on to the next one.”
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway include Jarett Andretti (B & W Auto Mart/ProSource Fast Qualifier), Chase Stockon (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Chad Boespflug (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), C.J. Leary (Chalk Stix Third Heat Winner), Chris Windom (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner), Brady Short (KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger) and Tyler Courtney (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: April 15, 2017 – Haubstadt, Indiana – Tri-State Speedway – “Spring Showdown” co-sanctioned by MSCS
PROSOURCE/B & W AUTO MART QUALIFYING: 1. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-13.383; 2. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-13.400; 3. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-13.425; 4. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-13.447; 5. Carson Short, 21, RCM-13.458; 6. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-13.511; 7. Hunter Schuerenberg, 2, Motsinger-13.582; 8. Max McGhee, 4J, 4J Motorsports-13.610; 9. Dave Darland, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-13.661; 10. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 44, Pace-13.746; 11. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-13.763; 12. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-13.784; 13. Chet Williams, 38, Williams-13.788; 14. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-13.797; 15. Stevie Sussex, 17GP, Dutcher-13.803; 16. Clinton Boyles, 98, Boyles-13.864; 17. Chase Stockon, 32, 32/TBI-13.884; 18. Aric Gentry, 10, Gentry-13.884; 19. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-13.893; 20. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-13.939; 21. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-14.043; 22. Brandon Morin, 98x, Morin-14.066; 23. Dakota Jackson, 3, Jackson-14.221; 24. Landon Simon, 24, LSR-14.274; 25. Kent Schmidt, 5K, Schmidt-14.520; 26. Tyler Rust, 10T, Rust-14.595; 27. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-14.774; 28. Brian Wallace, 27, Wallace-14.976; 29. Jim Shelton, 41, Shelton-15.766; 30. Donny Brackett, 4B, Brackett-(Time of 14.031 disallowed); 31. James Lyerla, 11L, JL-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Stockon, 2. C. Short, 3. Andretti, 4. Williams, 5. B. Short, 6. Schmidt, 7. Darland. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Boespflug, 2. Gentry, 3. K. Thomas, 4. Brackett, 5. Farney, 6. Cummins, 7. Morin, 8. Rust. 2:16.58
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Leary, 2. Grant, 3. Schuerenberg, 4. Sussex, 5. Jackson, 6. Mattox, 7. Hodges, 8. Lyerla. 2:19.01
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Simon, 3. McGhee, 4. Courtney, 5. Boyles, 6. Chapple, 7. Wallace. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Cummins, 2. Hodges, 3. B. Short, 4. Farney, 5. Darland, 6. Boyles, 7. Chapple, 8. Mattox, 9. Jackson, 10. Morin, 11. Lyerla, 12. Rust, 13. Schmidt, 14. Wallace. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Chad Boespflug, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Brady Short, 5. Carson Short, 6. Jarett Andretti, 7. Aaron Farney, 8. Max McGhee, 9. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 10. C.J. Leary, 11. Chase Stockon, 12. Stevie Sussex, 13. Tyler Courtney, 14. Chet Williams, 15. Isaac Chapple, 16. Dave Darland, 17. Landon Simon, 18. Brandon Morin, 19. Kyle Cummins, 20. Hunter Schuerenberg, 21. Clinton Boyles, 22. Aric Gentry, 23. Dakota Jackson, 24. Donny Brackett, 25. Josh Hodges. NT
**Rust flipped during the semi. Brackett flipped on lap 9 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-3 Boespflug, Laps 4-30 Windom.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER: Brady Short (20th to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Tyler Courtney
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-369, 2-Boespflug-367, 3-Windom-330, 4-Stockon-295, 5-Andretti-259, 6-Schuerenberg-230, 7-Hodges-212, 8-Courtney-208, 9-Leary-206, 10-Cummins-191.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: April 21 – Plymouth, IN – Plymouth Speedway