By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
KOKOMO, IN – Without a caution on the aborted initial start of Thursday night’s feature at Kokomo Speedway, Kyle Cummins said he felt like he would’ve had the lead coming out of turn four on that opening lap. That came, albeit while starting sixth on the grid in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Smackdown IX opener at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway.
The Princeton, Ind. native was confident that the symbiosis between his car and his abilities were such to make that a reality. With an opening lap caution forcing him to try it again, Cummins only took a mere four laps to attain 2nd, and just 13 laps to assume the lead from Tyler Courtney.
Cummins then stifled a late-race challenge courtesy of Brady Bacon on a green-white-checkered finish to score the victory, his second straight with the series and the eighth of his career, equaling Mike Bliss, Chet Fillip, Johnny Rutherford and Joe Saldana for 55th all-time.
While Cummins’ well-established dominance of Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. is known far and wide, where he won earlier this August during the Indiana Sprint Week finale, Thursday’s victory marked the second of his USAC career at Kokomo, the very same venue he won his first career USAC Sprint feature at in 2016.
Cummins credits the “little bitty” things that got him to this point, a first career triumph during Sprint Car Smackdown. The changes aren’t anything he considers “out of control,” nothing the naked eye can see per se, but a few turns of the wrench here and there that have led to another celebration for him in victory lane.
“We’ve actually been experimenting and trying different stuff all year,” Cummins revealed. “Last year, we had a great year, but there were things we struggled at that I wanted to get better at. We just decided everywhere we’ve been going, we’ve been trying something a little different here and there. We kept our same stuff at Tri-State Speedway, but everywhere else, we’ve kind of ventured out to some different stuff. We’re slowly getting a handle on it, which is making me a lot more comfortable to drive it as hard as I can at the beginning and at the end instead of just the end.”
At the beginning, Cummins was simply hooked up. The night’s Fatheadz Fast Qualifier was on the move when a stackup in turn two near the tail of the field saw Shane Cottle get turned around in turn two, stopping to bring out the yellow. Meanwhile, provisional starter Carson Short also stopped with trouble after being involved in the incident, ending his evening along with Stevie Sussex’s as well
A complete restart forced Cummins back to his original starting position outside row three for the restart, which saw him utilize his rapid fire, methodical approach on the first four laps of the feature, moving up one spot per lap to the 2nd position by lap four to post a challenge to 2017 & 2019 Smackdown champion, Tyler Courtney, throughout much of the first half of the 30-lap event.
From lap five onward, Cummins was all over Courtney like white on rice as he stalked the two-time USAC National champion around the quarter-mile and the two swapping lines high/low as Courtney fought to stay in control and Cummins sought an avenue past.
On the 11th and 12th lap, Cummins found a bit of a groove that witnessed him getting a run on the bottom underneath Courtney for the position exiting turn four, ultimately coming up short in his bid by a single car length at the line each time. On the 13th circuit, however, Cummins got the run he needed after putting together a high-quality set of turns in one and two, pulling even alongside Courtney on the back straightaway before surpassing him on the bottom of three and four to make the pass stick and overtake the top position.
As Cummins performed his high-wire act on the topside of the racetrack in traffic throughout the second half of the race, Courtney remained just three car lengths behind in second with only three laps remaining.
As Courtney diamonded off turn one on lap 28, he encountered the lapped cars of Damion Gardner and Tyler Thomas in turn two. With the gap between Gardner and Thomas closing rapidly, Courtney and Thomas made contact with Courtney’s left rear tire ramping over Thomas’ right front. The result sent Courtney sideways and plowed into by the incoming Shane Cottle while second-running Bacon became airborne and bouncing off the track surface twice. Thomas, meanwhile, stopped backward with a collapsed front end.
Bacon, along with Cottle, continued onward. However, Courtney’s left rear tire was now flat, forcing him to the work area where his crew changed the tire before ultimately returning to finish 15th. It was yet another Kokomo heartbreak for Courtney who has now encountered trouble three separate times while leading or running second at the track in USAC competition this year. During Indiana Midget Week, he flipped while leading two-thirds of the way through. And during Indiana Sprint Week, he clipped a turn two infield tire while leading and spun just three laps from the finish.
The first attempt at the resumption of racing saw fourth-running Kevin Thomas Jr. suffer heartbreak of his own on the 28th lap when he slowed on the front straightaway before stopping in turn two, ending a solid run for the 2016 Smackdown winner and Kokomo track champion, thus setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
When racing resumed, Bacon showed his involvement in the incident did not hamper the drive of his car or himself personally as he dug in on the bottom, surging off the final set of corners to nearly pull even with Cummins. As the two raced to the line side-by-side, with Cummins ahead by a wheel at the stripe, the two were greeted by the yellow flag instead of the checkered flag due to Bill Balog performing a 360-degree spin in turn two, which by rule, instantly brought out the yellow flag each time. Balog ultimately came to a complete stop.
Cummins’ sight of Bacon underneath him in turn four just before the yellow was a bit of a surprise to him, as it turned out.
“I felt like on the restarts, I was pretty good,” Cummins admitted. “I was loose in traffic, but I was holding them off, so I didn’t want to do much different. I thought if I could just keep my momentum up, they couldn’t pass me because it was super slick getting in both corners. Coming off four, it was slick on the bottom, and I didn’t want to get hung up in there. I just thought I could run more through the middle. I got in there, got it turned and here he came on the bottom. Then, I figured the bottom must be pretty good!”
“It was a little nerve wracking,” Cummins continued. “When I was coming through three and four, I thought I was fine. All of a sudden, here he comes up and I’m pretty sure I had him at the line if it would’ve went checkered then, but it feels better when you win and they’re not right to the side of you.”
Under the caution, Cummins made a few final adjustments both on the car and with his approach.
“I took a half turn out of both front shocks just to say I did something and give myself just a little bit extra,” Cummins said. “Then, I slowed my entry down just a little bit in both corners and was going to make him pass me on the top. I wanted to stay a little bit more in the moisture down the back stretch and just not open it up for him to drive by me.”
All went according to Cummins’ blueprint when racing resumed, remaining closer to the bottom and denying Bacon any sensation of daylight to take advantage of underneath Cummins at the exits of turn two and four.
Cummins staved off the competition to capture the victory by 0.259 sec. over Bacon and Robert Ballou, who rounded out the podium. Outside front row starter Buddy Kofoid, making his USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car debut, finished 4th, while 2019 Smackdown opening night winner, Thomas Meseraull, rounded out the top-five.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 27, 2020 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Sprint Car Smackdown IX
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT ONE: 1. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.957; 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.998; 3. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-13.093; 4. Cole Ketcham, 41, Ketcham-13.159; 5. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-13.214; 6. Bill Balog, 17B, Lein-13.216; 7. Damion Gardner, 5, Baldwin-13.300; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.316; 9. Charles Davis Jr., 47c, Davis-13.439; 10. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-13.478; 11. Colten Cottle, 5c, Cottle-13.545; 12. Noah Gass, 20G, Gass-13.547; 13. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-13.577; 14. Cody Gardner, 9G, Appco-13.649; 15. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-13.663; 16. Max Adams, 5m, Adams-13.680; 17. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-13.689; 18. Sterling Cling, 34, Cling-13.689; 19. Max Guilford, 79BT, Goodnight-13.701; 20. Kyle Shipley, 0G, Shipley-13.708; 21. Anthony D’Alessio, 01, D’Alessio-13.716; 22. Chase Jones, 11AG, Gray-13.736; 23. Dustin Clark, 75, Clark-13.868; 24. Brian VanMeveren, 24, VanMeveren-14.176; 25. Robert Brown Jr., 13, Brown-NT.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING FLIGHT TWO: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-13.024; 2. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-13.070; 3. Buddy Kofoid, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-13.086; 4. Logan Seavey, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-13.167; 5. Thomas Meseraull, 47, Eades-13.246; 6. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-13.260; 7. Stevie Sussex, 77w, Wingo-13.416; 8. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-13.439; 9. Clinton Boyles, 57, Hazen-13.475; 10. Carson Short, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-13.524; 11. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-13.524; 12. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Team AZ-13.526; 13. Jadon Rogers, 61m, Edwards-13.539; 14. Tyler Thomas, 17GP, Dutcher-13.551; 15. Cole Bodine, 57x, Bodine/Crow-13.592; 16. Tye Mihocko, 5T, Mihocko-13.609; 17. Austin Williams, 92, Sertich-13.614; 18. Dustin Smith, 77, LG-13.648; 19. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-13.700; 20. Chris Phillips, 6p, Phillips-13.741; 21. Brayden Fox, 53, Fox-13.792; 22. Jack James, 99, James-14.343; 23. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-14.780; 24. David Hair, 44, Hair-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Charles Davis Jr., 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Kyle Cummins, 5. Chris Windom, 6. Damion Gardner, 7. Colten Cottle, 8. Anthony D’Alessio, 9. Dustin Clark, 10. Matt Goodnight, 11. Eddie Tafoya Jr. 2:18.708
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Matt Westfall, 3. Bill Balog, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Max Adams, 6. Noah Gass, 7. Chase Jones, 8. Sterling Cling, 9. Cole Ketcham, 10. Kyle Shipley, 11. Cody Gardner, 12. Brian VanMeveren. NT
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Clinton Boyles, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Buddy Kofoid, 5. Jadon Rogers, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Stevie Sussex, 8. Austin Williams, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Brayden Fox, 11. Cole Bodine, 12. Robert Bell. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jake Swanson, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Tyler Thomas, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. C.J. Leary, 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Carson Short, 8. Tye Mihocko, 9. Dustin Smith, 10. Chris Phillips, 11. Jack James. NT
THE FROLIC BAR & GRILL C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Max Adams, 2. Austin Williams, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Tye Mihocko, 5. Sterling Cling, 6. Kyle Shipley, 7. Brayden Fox, 8. Anthony D’Alessio, 9. Chase Jones, 10. Dustin Smith, 11. Dustin Clark, 12. David Hair, 13. Jack James, 14. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 15. Chris Phillips. 2:19.816
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Brandon Mattox, 4. Stevie Sussex, 5. Damion Gardner, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Carson Short, 8. Dave Darland, 9. Jadon Rogers, 10. Colten Cottle, 11. Tye Mihocko, 12. Max Adams, 13. Matt Goodnight, 14. Noah Gass, 15. Austin Williams, 16. Cole Ketcham, 17. Cody Gardner, 18. Cole Bodine. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Cummins (6), 2. Brady Bacon (4), 3. Robert Ballou (8), 4. Buddy Kofoid (2), 5. Thomas Meseraull (7), 6. Logan Seavey (1), 7. Chase Stockon (12), 8. Chris Windom (21), 9. Jake Swanson (10), 10. C.J. Leary (11), 11. Justin Grant (20), 12. Clinton Boyles (18), 13. Kevin Thomas Jr. (5), 14. Charles Davis Jr. (9), 15. Tyler Courtney (3), 16. Damion Gardner (15), 17. Shane Cottle (17), 18. Dave Darland (24), 19. Brandon Mattox (14), 20. Bill Balog (13), 21. Tyler Thomas (22), 22. Matt Westfall (19), 23. Stevie Sussex (16), 24. Carson Short (23). NT
**David Hair flipped during qualifying. Robert Bell flipped during the third heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-12 Tyler Courtney, Laps 13-30 Kyle Cummins.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-1,121, 2-Chase Stockon-1,061, 3-Brady Bacon-1,057, 4-Chris Windom-1,048, 5-C.J. Leary-1,015, 6-Carson Short-894, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-864, 8-Dave Darland-744, 9-Logan Seavey-715, 10-Brandon Mattox-669.
SMACKDOWN PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-13, 2-Justin Grant-9, 3-Clinton Boyles-6, 4-Kyle Cummins-5, 5-Robert Ballou-5, 6-Chase Stockon-5, 7-Brady Bacon-2, 8-Thomas Meseraull-2, 9-Jake Swanson-1, 10-C.J. Leary-1.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-112, 2-Tanner Thorson-76, 3-Justin Grant-73, 4-Kyle Cummins-70, 5-Kyle Larson-62, 6-Shane Cottle-61, 7-Logan Seavey-57, 8-Cannon McIntosh-57, 9-Robert Ballou-50, 10-Daison Pursley-48.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: August 28-29, 2020 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Sprint Car Smackdown IX