By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Rossburg, Ohio – On a night when temperatures were more akin to the sweltering summer than a cool, crisp fall September evening, perhaps it came as no surprise that the hottest driver, in terms of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car wins since the month of July, would feel right his comfort zone.
Yet, he would have to get the job done in circumstances that were all too familiar this season – with Brady Bacon’s black No. 63 draped all over his tail tank during the final laps.
But, for the fourth time this season, Leary stood his ground to capture the victory Saturday night in the 36th “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora Speedway, a track that had been cruel to him on occasion over the past few years, including being denied on the final lap for the win in May of 2015.
The driver who passed him that very night was Justin Grant, who, on this night, wasted no time getting to the front on the opening lap as he raced from his outside second row position to split between both Robert Ballou and Chase Stockon on the start to snag the lead. One lap later, fellow second row starter Leary made his surge, sliding by Grant for the lead in turn two.
After getting by Stockon for third, Bacon worked on Grant where they swapped the second spot back and forth until Bacon secured the position with a turn two slider on the 11th lap.
At that point, Leary had begun to gap the field, but as soon as Bacon moved into second, that gap routinely shrunk. With ten to go, Bacon searched high and low in turns three and four while Leary stuck to his guns on the top. However, Leary’s lead soon shrunk to a mere car-length in the ensuing laps with a pod of lappers on the not-so-distant horizon.
With two laps remaining, it was gut-check time and thoughts of previous Leary v. Bacon battles from Grandview, Lawrenceburg and Kokomo came rushing back to the mind as both encountered the lapped car of Tyler Thomas in the first turn. Both slid Thomas without hesitation, yet Leary was unrattled in his maneuver and maintained his distance from Bacon as they cleared Thomas, thus preventing the best shot Bacon had at tacking on a second-career “4-Crown” win.
Leary finished strong in the caution-free affair to defeat Bacon by half a second while Ballou, Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Grant rounded out the top-five.
“This place has been escaping me for three years now,” Leary exclaimed. “I’ve run second here it seems like every year. It feels good to finally park this thing down here in victory lane. I can’t thank (crew chief) Donnie Gentry, my dad and everybody whose helped us put this operation together.”
“These races are tough, especially when you don’t really know where the second-place guy is,” Leary continued. “I was on cruise control there and, luckily, I had a little bit left in the tank. I had a really good racecar. This is a new DRC. We just built the car this week and, man, is it fast!”
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Eldora Speedway included Brady Bacon (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Brady Bacon (Simpson Race Products Heat 1 Winner), Tyler Courtney (Competition Suspension, Inc. Heat 2 Winner), Thomas Meseraull (Chalk Stix Heat 3 Winner), Chris Windom (Indy Race Parts Heat 4 Winner), Matt Westfall (KSE Racing Products/Larry Rice High Performance Hard Charger) and Nick Bilbee (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 23, 2017 – Rossburg, Ohio – Eldora Speedway – 36th “4-Crown Nationals” – Presented by NKT.TV
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-16.893; 2. Dave Darland, 40, Hery-16.932; 3. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-17.097; 4. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-17.221; 5. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-17.269; 6. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-17.349; 7. Kyle Cummins, 3c, Cummins-17.440; 8. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-17.554; 9. Scotty Weir, 22s, Simon-17.558; 10. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9k, KT-17.636; 11. Shane Cottle, 57, Hazen-17.663; 12. Tyler Thomas, 17GP, Dutcher-17,667; 13. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-17.733; 14. Nick Bilbee, 17N, Bilbee-17.754; 15. Dallas Hewitt, 18, Keen-17.767; 16. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-17.779; 17. Aric Gentry, 10, Gentry-17.820; 18. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-17.831; 19. Thomas Meseraull, 9x, SC-17.854; 20. Kody Swanson, 20, Nolen-17.939; 21. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-17.946; 22. Gage Etgen, 99, Etgen-18.002; 23. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-18.033; 24. Bill Rose, 320, Kissel-18.118; 25. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-18.250; 26. Cooper Clouse, 14, Clouse-18.361; 27. Chad Wilson, 14x, Wilson-18.535; 28. Jake Scott, 4, Scott-18.569; 29. Kirk Jeffries, 59J, Jeffries-18.601; 30. Austin Nemire, 16, Nemire/Yager-18.618; 31. Riley VanHise, 96, VanHise-18.663; 32. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-18.687; 33. Dustin Smith, 77, Gagliardi-18.699; 34. Michael Fischesser, 44s, Fischesser/Owen-18.742; 35. Ty Tilton, 42, Tilton-18.812; 36. Brandon Moore, 1m, Moore-19.109.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. Chapple, 3. Gentry, 4. Stockon, 5. Weir, 6. Hodges, 7. Fischesser, 8. Jeffries, 9. Goodnight. 2:27.46
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Courtney, 2. K. Thomas, 3. Ballou, 4. Darland, 5. Bilbee, 6. Nemire, 7. Clouse, 8. Etgen, 9. Tilton. 2:29.78
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Meseraull, 2. Cottle, 3. Hewitt, 4. Grant, 5. Wilson, 6. Westfall, 7. Cummins, 8. VanHise, 9. Moore. 2:32.78
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Leary, 3. Boespflug, 4. Rose, 5. T. Thomas, 6. Bell, 7. Swanson, 8. Scott. 2:37.20
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Weir, 2. Swanson, 3. Bilbee, 4. Westfall, 5. Cummins, 6. T. Thomas, 7. Hodges, 8. Fischesser, 9. Clouse, 10. VanHise, 11. Jeffries, 12. Tilton, 13. Etgen, 14. Moore, 15. Goodnight, 16. Scott, 17. Nemire, 18. Bell.
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 5. Justin Grant, 6. Scotty Weir, 7. Chris Windom, 8. Thomas Meseraull, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Matt Westfall, 11. Shane Cottle, 12. Tyler Courtney, 13. Nick Bilbee, 14. Josh Hodges, 15. Tyler Thomas, 16. Kyle Cummins, 17. Chad Boespflug, 18. Isaac Chapple, 19. Bill Rose, 20. Kody Swanson, 21. Aric Gentry, 22. Dave Darland, 23. Dallas Hewitt. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Grant, Laps 2-30 Leary.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/LARRY RICE HIGH PERFORMANCE HARD CHARGER AWARD: Matt Westfall (21st to 10th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Nick Bilbee
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-1842, 2-Windom-1765, 3-Courtney-1669, 4-Thomas Jr.-1655; 5-Boespflug-1628, 6-Stockon-1568, 7-Leary-1465, 8-Bacon-1410, 9-Ballou-1337, 10-Darland-1191.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 29 – Montpelier (IN) Motor Speedway