By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
HAUBSTADT, IN – Tri-State Speedway has been very, very good to Brady Bacon in 2023.
In April, the Broken Arrow, Okla. native earned his first World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car win at the track, and on Saturday night, he raced to a first career Haubstadt Hustler victory in the richest event ever held at the Haubstadt, Indiana dirt oval worth $20,000.
The 16th running of the event, co-sanctioned by the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and the Midwest Sprint Car Series, came down to a duel between Bacon and four-time Haubstadt Hustler victor Kevin Thomas Jr. en route to Bacon’s 40-lap triumph at a track he’s admittedly struggled at in the past and hadn’t won a USAC race at since the spring of 2015.
Wheeling his Dynamics, Inc./4-Wide Salute Podcast – Tel-Star Technologies – DriveWFX.com/Triple X/Rider Chevy, Bacon’s victory was a major milestone, providing him with his 53rd career USAC National Sprint Car feature win and giving him sole possession of second place on the all-time list ahead of 1978 series champion Tom Bigelow. Now, Bacon trails only Dave Darland’s record of 62 series wins, which sits number one all-time.
Utilizing the MSCS format of group qualifying, a four-car heat race invert and a redraw for position to set the feature lineup, the USAC National Sprint Car points race was on hiatus for the evening with every licensed driver and entrant with the series receiving 50 appearance points across the board regardless of finishing position. For four-time USAC champion Bacon, it was a nice change of pace amidst the pressurized title race of which he trails Justin Grant by nine with only five events left to go.
“It was kind of nice,” Bacon admitted. “It’s been pretty stressful I’m sure for him and I both to get through each night, but tonight, I finally got to try something different, and obviously, it paid off. It’s the biggest race here and at a place where we have admittedly struggled in the past. It was good to me earlier this year with my first World of Outlaws win and this is a pretty special one tonight. It’s been a lot of years since I’ve last won here in a non-wing sprint car.”
Bacon started from the pole position and immediately engaged in a tumultuous opening lap scuffle with outside front row starter Robert Ballou. As Bacon worked the middle line and Ballou the outside, the two came together at the exit of turn four, smacking wheels together as they crossed the stripe to complete lap one. To begin lap two, chrome-to-chrome contact was on the docket between Ballou’s front bumper and Bacon’s rear bumper which sent Bacon sideways in turn one. However, Bacon mashed the gas and was able to escape unscathed after the early race attack from Ballou.
By lap 10, Bacon had entered lapped traffic with a full second lead over Ballou. However, on lap 13, Ballou’s car suddenly lost power, knocking him out of the race and relegating him to watching the rest of the race from the infield with an unsavory 22nd place result.
Dustin Beck was the beneficiary of Ballou’s misfortune with the former modified standout and Tri-State Speedway regular moving up to second in only his fourth career USAC feature start. He split through traffic and kept pace with Bacon for the lead, albeit about five car lengths back as the race neared the midway point.
Trouble hit fourth running Justin Grant on the 20th lap when he suddenly slowed with a broken tie-rod. He was able to make it back to the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area for repairs and returned to the tail of the field for the restart before going on to race his way back to an eighth-place result.
On the race’s resumption, ninth starting Kevin Thomas Jr. darted into the second position when Beck slid high in turn two on the 22nd lap. Now down a half-straightaway to Bacon for the lead, it was “game on” for the stalwarts of the sport who own a whopping 92 USAC National Sprint Car features between the two.
The gap was closed even further at the front of the field on lap 24 when the caution flag was displayed after Carson Short and Jadon Rogers found calamity in the corner amid a tussle for the seventh spot. The two drivers connected wheels in turn two with Short nearly getting upside before landing on all fours and stopping with extensive damage to his car, ending his fantastic charge from the 17th starting position. Three laps later, Rogers slowed to bring out the caution, prematurely ending the defending Haubstadt Hustler champion’s reign.
Down the stretch, the unflappable Bacon kept Thomas Jr. at arm’s length. For the most part. With five laps remaining, Bacon had his rhythm disrupted when he went low off turn four to overtake the lapped car of Andy Bradley. In doing so, Bacon’s car slipped completely sideways. Second running Thomas Jr. closed in and made slight contact with the rear of Bacon’s machine, but both managed to continue without harm or foul.
With three laps to go, third-running Beck was in the camera frame, running just a few car lengths from the tail tank of Thomas Jr. However, he soon skated up the track in turn two and caught the outside wall, resulting in the loss of a full-straightaway of ground.
Moments later, 16th running Kayla Roell walked away from a wild flip in turn one, ending her first Haubstadt Hustler run on lap 38. For the feature, she was behind the wheel of KO Motorsports teammate Daison Pursley’s backup car after earlier trouble in her primary ride.
At the front of the field, Bacon had a bit of anxiousness, but at this point in his career, he’d seen it all and was prepared for the final stretch run at a major payday.
“I was a little concerned because I was actually tight,” Bacon remembered. “Sitting under the red, I was worried that my tire was going to go down a little bit. I just drove it as hard as I could, and I knew if I could get a couple laps in, the bottom gets slower, and you can get your momentum going on the top.”
On Bacon’s rear bumper for the late-race restart was Kevin Thomas Jr., one of the best in the business and a driver who’s tied for the all-time lead in USAC National Sprint Car victories (6) at the venue known as The Class Track.
“On the green-white-checker, he’s one of the best here, and I just tried to not make any mistakes,” Bacon explained. “I was getting kind of sloppy there catching a lapped car and about spun out. Once we could get rolling on the top, I felt really good. I’ve never been that good on the top here like that. I was struggling a little bit in lapped traffic, which is usually where I’m good at on the bottom. I just had a lot of speed on the top.”
That’s where Bacon stayed for the remaining two laps, never straying from the high line. Thomas Jr. was able to pull even with Bacon for a fleeting moment in turn four on the final lap, but Bacon’s momentum propelled him ahead to the win by a 0.289 second margin.
Thomas Jr. ran second ahead of Dustin Beck in third with Mitchel Moles fourth and Kyle Cummins fifth, who earned hard charger honors after officially starting 15th, but dropped to as far back as 22nd after an opening lap skirmish into the infield sent him nearly all the way back to the tail.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) made his first USAC run in Kevin Newton’s No. 16 a successful one as he turned in his best finish of the USAC season to finish second, his sixth career top-two Haubstadt Hustler finish aboard the Honest Abe Roofing – Benic Enterprises/DRC/Claxton Chevy.
“I felt like we were pretty equal there,” Thomas Jr. said of he and Bacon’s late-race battle. “On the long runs, I could search around. He was leading, so it’s hard to move around. He was running the top there and it was a little lippy on the edge of wanting to push. The way you run this track is very inconsistent as a driver. But he’s one of the best at being consistent. I gave it everything I’ve got, but I think I maybe needed a little bit of lapped traffic and some more laps. I mean, they gave us 40, so how much more can you ask for?”
Dustin Beck (Petersburg, Ind.) recorded his best career USAC National Sprint Car result in a fine drive in the seat of his Hensen-Rupp/Royal Express Car Wash – Clark’s Commercial Services/Maxim/SPEC Chevy. The finish came on the heels of his best performance in a sprint car just two weeks earlier with a similar third place run in MSCS competition at Tri-State.
“I actually podiumed for the first time here two weeks ago and that really hasn’t sunk in yet either,” Beck revealed. “This is definitely a confidence builder. I think we can run with these guys, and we’ve hit on something lately that’s working, so I’m confident now running here.”
In Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying, Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) posted his 10th career fast time in USAC National Sprint Car competition. That moved him to 50th place all-time alongside Sonny Ates, Jim Hurtubise, Thomas Meseraull and Jake Swanson.
Tenth place finishing driver C.J. Leary reached a milestone with his 400th career USAC National Sprint Car feature start, becoming just the ninth driver to reach the mark. Dave Darland holds the all-time record of 797 starts ahead of Tracy Hines (484), Brady Bacon (473), Robert Ballou (470), Chris Windom (470), Jon Stanbrough (448), Tom Bigelow (447) and Chase Stockon (440).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 16, 2023 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – 16th Haubstadt Hustler – Co-Sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-13.123; 2. Adyn Schmidt, 12s, Schmidt-13.201; 3. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-13.209; 4. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-13.250; 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 16, Newton-13.288; 6. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-13.309; 7. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-13.320; 8. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.345; 9. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-13.353; 10. Dustin Beck, 75, Hensen/Rupp-13.360; 11. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-13.381; 12. Stephen Schnapf, 39, Hoosier Speed/Fortune-13.414; 13. Kendall Ruble, 17, Ruble-13.445; 14. J.J. Hughes, 76, Hughes-13.463; 15. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-13.478; 16. Andy Bradley, 86, Hoosier Speed/Fortune-13.539; 17. Kayla Roell, 5K, KO-13.581; 18. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-13.658; 19. Brady Short, 61m, Edwards-13.688; 20. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-13.754; 21. Sam Scott, 7s, Scott-13.755; 22. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-13.772; 23. Donny Brackett, 4B, Brackett-13.886; 24. Carson Short, 84, Beadles-13.900; 25. Jadon Rogers, 17GP, Dutcher-13.971; 26. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-13.985; 27. Michael Daugherty, 3.14, Daugherty-14.050; 28. Aric Gentry, 10, Gentry-14.077; 29. Jeff Pritchett, 2J, Nine-One-One-14.170; 30. Johnny Ivers, 55, Ivers/Thomas-14.198; 31. Allen Howard Jr., 4u, AJR-14.230; 32. Kevin Newton, 16TH, Newton-14.552; 33. Raymond Holden, 2R, Holden-14.934.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kendall Ruble, 2. Mitchel Moles, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Emerson Axsom, 5. Jadon Rogers, 6. Sam Scott, 7. Kayla Roell, 8. Jeff Pritchett, 9. Raymond Holden. NT
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Dustin Beck, 2. J.J. Hughes, 3. Carson Garrett, 4. Adyn Schmidt, 5. Chase Stockon, 6. Logan Seavey, 7. Matt Westfall, 8. Johnny Ivers. NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Justin Grant, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Kyle Cummins, 5. Brady Short, 6. Michael Daugherty, 7. Allen Howard Jr., 8. Donny Brackett. NT
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Stephen Schnapf, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Andy Bradley, 5. Carson Short, 6. Aric Gentry, 7. Jake Swanson, 8. Kevin Newton. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Short, 2. Jadon Rogers, 3. Brady Short, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Chase Stockon, 6. Matt Westfall, 7. Jake Swanson, 8. Sam Scott, 9. Jeff Pritchett, 10. Allen Howard Jr., 11. Johnny Ivers, 12. Aric Gentry, 13. Raymond Holden, 14. Michael Daugherty. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (1), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (9), 3. Dustin Beck (3), 4. Mitchel Moles (5), 5. Kyle Cummins (15), 6. J.J. Hughes (6), 7. Kendall Ruble (4), 8. Justin Grant (7), 9. Carson Garrett (10), 10. C.J. Leary (11), 11. Logan Seavey (20), 12. Chase Stockon (21), 13. Daison Pursley (12), 14. Emerson Axsom (13), 15. Brady Short (19), 16. Adyn Schmidt (14), 17. Kayla Roell (23-P), 18. Andy Bradley (16), 19. Jadon Rogers (18), 20. Carson Short (17), 21. Matt Westfall (22), 22. Robert Ballou (2), 23. Stephen Schnapf (8). NT