By RICHIE MURRAY
BLOOMINGTON, IN – C.J. Leary displayed complete domination Friday night at Bloomington Speedway in the penultimate round of NOS Energy Drink “Indiana Sprint Week,” leading all 30 laps in his traditional No. 30 sprinter to win his very first USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature event of the year in his Leary Racing/Leary Construction – Highsmith Guns – Gray Auto/DRC/1-Way Chevy.
ISW has been akin to a personal ATM for the Greenfield, Indiana driver who scored a pair of victories during the 2017 series. Admittedly, Bloomington hasn’t been as welcoming to Leary as your local neighborhood Walmart greeter. The quarter-mile of red clay has been a challenge throughout his career and, coming into the night, did not foretell that a winning performance was one of the tarot cards he would pull.
“Rolling into Bloomington tonight, I didn’t really expect to win,” Leary admitted. “It’s been one of the tougher tracks throughout my career. I grew up racing here and have a lot of experience here, but it just isn’t one my better racetracks. The racetrack was hammer down, had a big cushion and we just ripped it for 30 laps and didn’t make any mistakes. I’ve only won one other feature here and the track was very similar. This is right up my alley, big cushion and just get up there and rip it. Just let it all hang on the line.”
By the fifth lap, Leary appeared as if he was one of the competitors on the 200cc level of Mario Kart, breaking away to a straightaway lead and was already working his way through lapped traffic by the eighth lap.
On lap 10, the first stoppage of the main event occurred as Robert Ballou and Tyler Courtney engaged for the ninth position. The two made contact off turn four with Courtney ramping over the left front wheel of Ballou. Courtney became airborne before landing on all fours and continuing. Ballou slid sideways in the path of Justin Grant, who just barely clipped Ballou’s right rear tire and dumped it over. A small fire broke out following Grant’s exodus, but was extinguished shortly thereafter by the safety crew.
The lap 11 restart saw Leary resume right where his memory card had saved prior to the stoppage, instantly blitzkrieging back out to a straightaway lead over Kevin Thomas, Jr. by the midway point. The only thing that kept Leary from putting this one on ice were the red flags, the second of which arrived on the 18th lap when Carson Short walked away uninjured after banging the cushion and flipping wildly over the turn two banking.
For better or worse, the stoppages may have come at just the right time for Leary, who avoided toiling in lapped traffic for too long and had an open road and the horizon laid out in front of him.
“I really expected lapped traffic to be tougher than it was tonight,” Leary thought. “The yellows and the reds kept us out of heavy traffic, though. But there at the end, I saw KT on the restart and became a little worried that the bottom might be a little faster. I kept running the top, got my momentum up and going and tried to not make any mistakes.”
Thomas was indeed ready to mount a challenge on the restart with 12 laps remaining, pulling side-by-side with Leary for the lead for a half lap, but the interlude was brief, and Leary maintained the advantage. Leary became the tank engine rather than Thomas down the stretch as he put his car on the rail up top and opened the lead to a straightaway once again.
Leary was unaccompanied for the position for the time being, but like Bob Seger searching for love in the 1970s, someday lapped traffic was going to accomp’ny him. However, Leary had a plan.
“Once the flagman showed me five to go, I could tell I was reeling in the tail end of the field again,” Leary recalled. “I backed it down a little bit just to try to stay in clean air so they couldn’t come up and disturb my line. I wanted to rip that white flag lap one more time just to make sure there was no possible way of getting a slide job or getting anyone rolling the bottom there at the end.”
Leary closed out the near-flawless performance with a 1.046 second advantage over Thomas at the finish line, followed by Windom, Thomas Meseraull and Courtney.
Windom brings an 18-point lead in the ISW standings over Thomas into Saturday’s finale at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt. Courtney (-52) sits third ahead of Leary (-53) and Bacon (-61).
Contingency award winners Friday night at Bloomington Speedway were Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Bell Helmets Fast Time Award & KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger), Isaac Chapple (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), C.J. Leary (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Carson Short (Chalk Stix Third Heat Winner), Scotty Weir (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner), Shane Cockrum (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Tyler Thomas (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier) and Chad Boespflug (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 27, 2018 – Bloomington Speedway – Bloomington, Indiana – 31st NOS Energy Drink “Indiana Sprint Week” – “Sheldon Kinser Memorial”
BELL HELMETS QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 69, Dynamics-11.244; 2. Brady Bacon, 99, Bacon-11.245; 3. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-11.313; 4. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-11.397; 5. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-11.453; 6. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-11.519; 7. Jeff Bland, Jr., 18w, Waltz-11.531; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-11.539; 9. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-11.544; 10. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-11.587; 11. Kyle Cummins, 3c, EZR/Cummins-11.606; 12. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-11.631; 13. Tyler Thomas, 2E, Epperson-11.657; 14. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-11.658; 15. Shane Cockrum, 45, Lawrence-11.732; 16. Dave Darland, 36D, Goodnight/Curb-Agajanian-11.733; 17. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-11.740; 18. Dakota Jackson, 3, Jackson-11.741; 19. R.J. Johnson, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-11.770; 20. Scotty Weir, 17G, On The Gass-11.776; 21. Koby Barksdale, 22, Barksdale-11.823; 22. Tony DiMattia, 50, TDM-11.834; 23. Carson Short, 21, RCM-11.842; 24. Chad Boespflug, 11p, Pottorff/Short-11.857; 25. Timmy Buckwalter, 7, LNB-11.874; 26. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-11.885; 27. Shane Cottle, 5G, Goacher-11.901; 28. Jordan Kinser, 70, Hurst-11.905; 29. Jake Swanson, 92, Sertich-11.960; 30. Brandon Morin, 98, Morin-11.968; 31. Kody Swanson, 3R, Rock Steady-12.023; 32. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-12.129; 33. Brandon Mattox, 2v, Fitzpatrick-12.159; 34. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-12.170; 35. Josh Cunningham, 63, Cunningham-12.210; 36. Travis Thompson, 28, Mattox/Nigg-12.268; 37. Alec Sipes, 99s, Sipes-12.425; 38. Lee Underwood, 24L, Underwood-12.510; 39. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-12.808; 40. Daylan Chambers, 4c, Chambers-22.591.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chapple, 2. Windom, 3. Stockon, 4. K. Thomas, 5. T. Thomas, 6. Barksdale, 7. Buckwalter, 8. Mattox, 9. J. Swanson, 10. Sipes. 1:59.52
COMPETITION SUSPENSION, INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Leary, 2. Jackson, 3. Meseraull, 4. Andretti, 5. DiMattia, 6. Bacon, 7. Westfall, 8. Morin, 9. Hodges, 10. Underwood. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Short, 2. Johnson, 3. Cockrum, 4. Bland, 5. Beauchamp, 6. Cummins, 7. Cottle, 8. K. Swanson, 9. Cunningham, 10. Bell. 1:59.31
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Weir, 2. Grant, 3. Darland, 4. Kinser, 5. Ballou, 6. Courtney, 7. Boespflug, 8. Thompson, 9. Chambers. 1:59.31
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Roa, 2. Mattox, 3. K. Swanson, 4. Westfall, 5. Cunningham, 6. Chambers, 7. Sipes, 8. Underwood, 9. Bell. 2:03.93
SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Bacon, 2. Cummins, 3. Courtney, 4. T. Thomas, 5. Beauchamp, 6. Ballou, 7. Boespflug, 8. Buckwalter, 9. Roa, 10. DiMattia, 11. J. Swanson, 12. Morin, 13. Cottle, 14. Mattox, 15. K. Swanson, 16. Hodges, 17. Westfall, 18. Barksdale. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps – starting positions in parentheses) 1. C.J. Leary (1), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (6), 3. Chris Windom (2), 4. Thomas Meseraull (4), 5. Tyler Courtney (9), 6. Brady Bacon (7), 7. Chase Stockon (5), 8. Robert Ballou (10), 9. Jeff Bland, Jr. (3), 10. Brent Beauchamp (8), 11. Kyle Cummins (11), 12. Tyler Thomas (13), 13. Shane Cockrum (15), 14. Timmy Buckwalter (23), 15. Dave Darland (16), 16. Isaac Chapple (17), 17. Jarett Andretti (14), 18. Carson Short (21), 19. Scotty Weir (20), 20. Justin Grant (12), 21. Jordan Kinser (22), 22. Dakota Jackson (18), 23. R.J. Johnson (19), 24. Tony DiMattia (24). NT
**Grant flipped on lap 10 of the feature. Short flipped on lap 18 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Leary.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER: Kevin Thomas, Jr. (6th to 2nd)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Shane Cockrum
BELL HELMETS FAST TIME AWARD: Kevin Thomas, Jr.
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Chad Boespflug
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Tyler Thomas
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Windom-1666, 2-K. Thomas-1661, 3-Courtney-1633, 4-Bacon-1444, 5-Stockon-1429, 6-Darland-1405, 7-Ballou-1384, 8-Leary-1366, 9-Grant-1322, 10-Boespflug-1027.
NEW NOS ENERGY DRINK “INDIANA SPRINT WEEK” POINTS: 1-Windom-425, 2-K. Thomas-407, 3-Courtney-373, 4-Leary-372, 5-Bacon-364, 6-Darland-363, 7-Stockon-343, 8-Grant-314, 9-Meseraull-261, 10-Ballou-257.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 28 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 31st Annual NOS Energy Drink “Indiana Sprint Week”