By RICHIE MURRAY
BRANDON, SD – When C.J. Leary gets on a roll, he’s routinely displayed his ability to ride that hot streak as long as he possibly can.
In fact, since 2016, no driver has won two-in-a-row more often in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature events than the Greenfield, Ind. native with five.
Sunday night, during the inaugural Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals, Leary became the first driver in the series’ 2021 season to win consecutive races on multiple occasions, also doing the same in July at Plymouth, Ind. and Putnamville, Ind.
Leary turned the Brandon, South Dakota 1/3-mile dirt oval into his personal ATM as he followed Saturday’s preliminary win with the biggest payday of his racing career during Sunday’s finale, collecting a payday of $20,000 by capturing the 40-lap victory.
Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) became the third different race leader on lap 19 after Logan Seavey and Chris Windom exchanged the lead five different times in the first half of the event. Leary tracked down the leaders just one lap prior to midway, and ultimately propelled past Windom for the top spot, then fended off challenges from both Chris Windom and Brady Bacon down the stretch to score a biggie in his Michael Motorsports/Kodiak Products – Gray Auto – Valvoline/DRC/Cressman.
“I hit the setup really good two nights in a row,” Leary revealed. “That’s kind of unheard of in sprint car racing. It’s usually just ‘get it close, and let the driver drive it.’ I gave all I had tonight, and during the last yellow, I looked at the jumbo screen and saw that there were only five laps to go, and I was like, ‘man, I’ve got to get up on the wheel If I really want to win this $20-grand because I knew Brady and Chris were hungry to win too.’”
Pole sitter Seavey hopped into driver’s seat of the 24-car field on the initial start, leading the opening circuit-and-a-quarter when Robert Ballou and Windom, running second and third, made contact, sending Ballou’s left front wheel ramping over Windom’s right rear in turn one. Ballou glanced off the outside wall, then stopped with a flat left front tire on his machine. Ballou would return to finish 11th.
Seavey struck the first blow by leading each of the first three laps before Windom stormed by around the outside to lead lap four. Seavey ducked back under Windom to etch his name and number on laps five and six until Windom came roaring back topside to the point on the seventh go-around. Seavey flexed his muscles one more time as he scooted back by on the bottom of turns one and two to reassume the number one position.
Bacon turned up the thermostat on Windom by edging ahead in turn two on lap nine, which caught Windom’s attention as he gritted his teeth to shoot by both Bacon and Seavey in quick succession to snare the lead around the bottom berm with nine laps now completed and it’s where he’d remain until the 19th lap.
Meanwhile, Leary’s run was beginning to take shape as he rocketed past Bacon for third on the lowline in turn two on lap 11, then maneuvered his way by Seavey for second in the same spot five laps later, this time in the thick of the forest of traffic.
Once clear, Leary scooped chunks out of Windom’s once commanding lead, from five car lengths behind to two car lengths in arrears and then nosing in front of Windom as the pair of past USAC National Sprint Car champion split above and below 18th running Isaac Chapple in an electrically hair-raising endeavor entering the third turn with Leary shooting out the other side of the tunnel as the race leader.
With five laps remaining, Leary and Windom approached the 13th running car of Mario Clouser to put him a lap down. Leary followed Clouser through the middle while Windom went two steps higher up to the cushion in turns three and four. Windom whirled past the pair and became the new race leader for a split-second when the yellow was displayed for early race leader Logan Seavey who slowed and endured an agonizing crawl down the back straightaway with mechanical issues sending him to the sidelines.
With the yellow, Windom was repositioned back into the position he possessed during the last scored lap – second. Now with lapped traffic absent from the equation, it was time for Leary to prepare for another war, this time with three-time series champ Bacon.
Bacon clawed his way past Windom for second, and then applied the heavy pressure to Leary, looking high and low to no avail as Leary withstood all of the above to win by a 0.582 margin over Bacon, Windom, Tanner Thorson and Kevin Thomas Jr., who finished as the driver who recorded the most points throughout the entirety of the three-night USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing event Huset’s.
Leary endured traffic, and he endured pressure from two of the best in the business in Bacon and Windom on the homestretch. In the end , he endured trials and tribulations, some of which he attributed to placing him directly in victory lane at the conclusion of the evening.
“That lapped traffic was tough,” Leary said. “Actually, it might’ve won me the race. I caught Clouser there, and he was ripping the top in three and four and I’d been kind of diamonding it. He was slowly driving away from me off of four. So, I was like, ‘man, maybe the top finally came in down there.’ On the restart, I moved up there and I felt like it was treacherous. I had to go elbows up and give her all she had. It won me the race over there, for sure. That was a helluva race and I had a lot of fun. I’ve never won $20 grand before.”
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.), who’d twice won $20,000-to-win USAC National Sprint Car races at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway in 2019-20, came up just short in his bid for another hefty padding of his wallet, finishing in the second position in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts – TelStar/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
“I wasn’t aggressive enough at the beginning, but with the way the track was, I didn’t really know what it was going to do,” Bacon explained. “It was actually slicker at the beginning than it was at the end. We had a really good car, and we were able to sneak by Windom on a restart. My only shot was to get under C.J. entering turns one and two before he cut down, but I just couldn’t quite get there with two to go. I just had to take what we could get there.”
Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) thought he had the deal sealed with five laps remaining. However, an untimely caution relegated him from first to second, then ultimately third at the finish line in his Hayward Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – Byrd – B & H Contractors – AMSOIL/DRC/Claxton Mopar. A similar caution while leading Friday’s midget race saw him shuffled the USAC career Triple Crown champion back to second in the end, a feat Windom wasn’t all that excited to repeat in Sunday night’s sprint car race.
“That’s $20,000 down to whatever we got for third,” Windom lamented. “I felt like we had it there. We got by (Leary) and I think that would’ve been the race. It’s another caution here this week that put me in a bad spot. That’s racing though. You never know when they’re going to come out. This weekend, they just haven’t been on my side.”
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 12, 2021 – Huset’s Speedway – Brandon, South Dakota – 1/3-Mile Dirt Track – Inaugural Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Ryan Bernal (#17w Wood), 2. Jason McDougal (#5m KO), 3. Robert Ballou (#12 Ballou), 4. Tanner Thorson (#19AZ Reinbold-Underwood), 5. Jake Swanson (#21AZ Team AZ), 6. Brady Bacon (#69 Dynamics), 7. Chad Frewaldt (#4F Frewaldt), 8. Jeff Pellersels (#X Pellersels), 9. Robert Bell (#71 Bell), 10. Donovan Peterson (#11xs Peterson). 2:09.61 (New Track Record)
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Chase Stockon (#5s KO), 2. Terry Richards (#18 Richards), 3. Isaac Chapple (#52 Chapple), 4. Mario Clouser (#6 EZR), 5. C.J. Leary (#77m Michael), 6. Chris Windom (#19 Hayward), 7. Thomas Meseraull (2 Yeley), 8. Cam Schafer (#97 Roach), 9. Clinton Bruns (#7 Bruns). 2:11.51
INDY METAL FINISHING / INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Charles Davis Jr. (#47 Davis), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (#9K KT), 3. Matt Westfall (#33m Marshall), 4. Justin Grant (#4 TOPP), 5. Alex Banales (#5x Baldwin-Fox), 6. Brandon Mattox (#28 Mattox), 7. Jeremy Kerzman (#3K Kerzman), 8. Glen Saville (#19L Layton), 9. Logan Seavey (#5 Baldwin-Fox). NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Alex Banales, 2. Cam Schafer, 3. Glen Saville, 4. Jeremy Kerzman, 5. Jeff Pellersels, 6. Clinton Bruns, 7. Donovan Peterson, 8. Robert Bell. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. C.J. Leary (9), 2. Brady Bacon (8), 3. Chris Windom (4), 4. Tanner Thorson (10), 5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (11), 6. Justin Grant (3), 7. Chase Stockon (6), 8. Jason McDougal (12), 9. Thomas Meseraull (7), 10. Ryan Bernal (14), 11. Robert Ballou (2), 12. Jake Swanson (13), 13. Mario Clouser (15), 14. Matt Westfall (18), 15. Brandon Mattox (17), 16. Charles Davis Jr. (5), 17. Logan Seavey (1), 18. Isaac Chapple (16), 19. Terry Richards (19), 20. Cam Schafer (22), 21. Chad Frewaldt (20), 22. Glen Saville (23), 23. Jeremy Kerzman (24), 24. Alex Banales (21). NT
**Glen Saville flipped during the third heat.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-3 Logan Seavey, Lap 4 Chris Windom, Laps 5-6 Logan Seavey, Lap 7 Chris Windom, Lap 8 Logan Seavey, Laps 9-18 Chris Windom, Laps 19-40 C.J. Leary.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-2271, 2-Kevin Thomas Jr.-2215, 3-Justin Grant-2176, 4-C.J. Leary-2023, 5-Tanner Thorson-2019, 6-Chris Windom-1912, 7-Jake Swanson-1841, 8-Robert Ballou-1749, 9-Chase Stockon-1460, 10-Kyle Cummins-1183.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-148, 2-Brady Bacon-143, 3-Tanner Thorson-134, 4-Justin Grant-131, 5-Thomas Meseraull-119, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-117, 7-Logan Seavey-115, 8-Robert Ballou-114, 9-Kyle Cummins-84, 10-Buddy Kofoid-79.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 17, 2021 – Circle City Raceway – Indianapolis, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
GSP Driving Performance of the Night: Jeremy Kerzman
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Ryan Bernal
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Chase Stockon
Indy Metal Finishing / Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner: Charles Davis Jr.
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Alex Banales
KSE Racing Products Hard Charger: C.J. Leary (9th to 1st)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Mario Clouser
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Jeff Pellersels