By RICHIE MURRAY
KOKOMO, IN – Kokomo Speedway has been the stage and Kevin Thomas, Jr. has been the show during late August USAC appearances over the past two seasons.
After winning three of four features during last year’s “Sprint Car Smackdown” week, Thomas continued the roll Wednesday night to capture yet another victory at USAC’s AMSOIL National Sprint Car “GYATK Night.”
Cullman, Alabama’s Thomas began the race from the outside of row two and quickly worked his way to the front past Jarett Andretti inside turn three for the second position on a lap four restart, then began his pursuit of Chris Windom for the race lead.
Thomas showed a nose underneath Windom on both ends of the racetrack on the sixth lap. In response, Windom protected the bottom, thus opening up the topside for Thomas who blasted around the outside of Windom on the back straightaway on the following lap. Windom fought back to inch ahead on the bottom, but Thomas had the momentum up top to squeeze his way past Windom by a car length at the start/finish line.
“Once we got to Windom, I think he was searching a little bit,” Thomas recalls. “Whenever you’re leading like that, you’re not real sure where to go. I know he gets around this place well, but tonight, there wasn’t necessarily a defined line. I snookered him just a little bit when I showed him a nose on the bottom, but I knew my stuff was pretty good around the top too. Once I got him to go back down to the bottom, I was able to get my momentum and go around him on the top.”
Meanwhile, Dave Darland launched his way past Windom for second on lap 10 and began to reel in Thomas, initiating a duel between one of Kokomo’s all-time kings versus one of the quarter-mile’s new generation of masters.
Darland’s run in second would be fairly brief, however, as Windom found traction to propel himself back past Darland with a turn one slider on lap 19, yet Darland was able to counter underneath to pull side-by-side with Windom down the back straight entering turn three, but it wasn’t quite enough to put him completely back in front of Windom who motored around the outside to secure second off turn four.
Despite Thomas being in the throes of lapped traffic, the second-place schism between Windom and Darland set Thomas off on an open course for victory as he opened the interval to more than three-plus seconds by race’s end to capture his second-straight Kokomo USAC Special Event victory in as many years over Windom, Robert Ballou, Darland and Tyler Courtney.
“This is a good start to the weekend,” a confident Thomas remarked. “When tomorrow starts, we’re going to try our same things. It’ll be a bit different format tomorrow, so we’ll have to find a bit more speed sooner. We had a really good racecar in the feature, but I didn’t really drive it to its potential early in the night. I’m going to have to do a little better at that, but all-in-all, it was a good night for us. (My crew) gave me a nice, solid racecar. I can’t really say enough about that. It was nice and stable and it would go anywhere I wanted it to go in lapped traffic. I could run the top to keep my speed up and it was good, nice and tight around the bottom and would still rotate. These guys do a great job. They’ll be here all week. They bust their butts and make my job easy. We’re going to celebrate a little bit, but it’s another day tomorrow and we’ll be ready.”
Since the event carried no points toward the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship standings, Thomas and his crew used the opportunity to work outside the box to an extent, which paid off in large dividends as the series heads into three-straight nights at Kokomo on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, August 24-25-26.
“There’s always little things you can change to make these things just a tick better,” Thomas admits. “Honestly, nights like this are fun for me because I get to try something and it doesn’t really have any consequences. We tried something just a little bit different tonight. We got the car a little more to my liking and it worked. Tomorrow, the track may not be as juiced up. There may be a more treacherous curb or it may be a little slicker. You just never know, so you have to have a lot of tricks in your bag to throw at it when the time comes. Tonight’s set up worked, but it might not tomorrow.”
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR “Special Event” RACE RESULTS: August 23, 2017 – Kokomo, Indiana – Kokomo Speedway – “#GYATK Night”
QUALIFYING: 1. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-12.727; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-12.838; 3. Dave Darland, 40, Hery-12.864; 4. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.922; 5. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.951; 6. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-12.962; 7. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-12.983; 8. Hunter Schuerenberg, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-12.991; 9. Tyler Thomas, 17GP, Dutcher-13.067; 10. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-13.081; 11. Shane Cottle, 57, Hazen-13.164; 12. Clinton Boyles, 98, Boyles-13.194; 13. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 9K, KT-13.247; 14. Brady Short, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-13.275; 15. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-13.294; 16. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-13.305; 17. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-13.332; 18. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-13.347; 19. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-13.405; 20. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-13.490; 21. Tyler Hewitt, 97x, One More Time-13.512; 22. Brian Karraker, 23, Karraker-13.763; 23. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-13.770; 24. Logan Jarrett, 29, Jarrett-13.841; 25. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-13.861; 26. Josh Cunningham, 3, Cunningham-13.988; 27. Travis Welpott, 18w, Welpott-14.033; 28. Jake Scott, 4s, Scott-14.056; 29. Jamie Frederickson, 58, Frederickson-14.122; 30. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-14.132; 31. Colten Cottle, 1RL, Lambertson-14.200; 32. Josh Spencer, 66J, Spencer-14.281; 33. Paul Dues, 87, Dues-14.475; 34. Chet Williams, 38, Williams-14.632; 35. Colin Parker, 4H, Scott-14.643; 36. Mario Clouser, 6, MCM-14.760; 37. Scotty Weir, 17G, On The Gass-14.786; 38. David Hair, 44, Hair-14.868; 39. Corey Smith, 66s, CS-14.959; 40. Ben Phillips, 4, Phillips-14.967; 41. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-15.315; 42. Parker Frederickson, 34, Frederickson-15.613; 43. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-17.270; 44. Steve Hair, 51, Hair-22.874.
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Weir, 2. Clouser, 3. Courtney, 4. Swanson, 5. P. Frederickson, 6. Bell, 7. S. Hair. 1:48.44
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Andretti, 2. Meseraull, 3. Schuerenberg, 4. Bacon, 5. Stockon, 6. Jarrett, 7. Parker, 8. Grant. NT
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Darland, 2. Ballou, 3. Mattox, 4. Robbins, 5. Hewitt, 6. Spencer, 7. Short. 1:47.75
FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Leary, 3. Cummins, 4. Boespflug, 5. Chapple, 6. S. Cottle, 7. Boyles. NT
FIFTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. K. Thomas, 2. T. Thomas, 3. Cunningham, 4. Goodnight, 5. J. Frederickson, 6. D. Hair, 7. Phillips. 1:46.56
SIXTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Welpott, 2. Farney, 3. Karraker, 4. C. Cottle, 5. Scott, 6. Williams, 7. Dues. 1:51.59
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Boespflug, 2. Bacon, 3. Cottle, 4. Stockon, 5. Swanson, 6. Robbins, 7. Chapple, 8. Hewitt, 9. Williams, 10. Goodnight, 11. Jarrett, 12. Spencer, 13. Short, 14. P. Frederickson, 15. J. Frederickson, 16. Parker, 17. Phillips, 18. Hair, 19. Dues, 20. Scott, 21. S. Hair, 22. Bell. 2:46.19
FEATURE: (27 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 2. Chris Windom, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. C.J. Leary, 7. Jarett Andretti, 8. Kyle Cummins, 9. Aaron Farney, 10. Thomas Meseraull, 11. Tyler Thomas, 12. Colten Cottle, 13. Hunter Schuerenberg, 14. Chase Stockon, 15. Brian Karraker, 16. Brandon Mattox, 17. Mario Clouser, 18. Scotty Weir, 19. Josh Cunningham, 20. Travis Welpott, 21. Chad Boespflug, 22. Brady Bacon. NT
**Boyles flipped during the fourth heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-6 Windom, Laps 7-27 K. Thomas.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: August 24-25-26 – Kokomo, Indiana – Kokomo Speedway – “Sprint Car Smackdown VI”