Rookie Corey Day dominated round 5 of USAC Indiana Midget Week at Circle City Raceway becoming the series youngest ever winner but was oh so close to throwing it all away.
Indianapolis has an obvious and proud tradition of auto racing and that has included not only the paved 2.5 Mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway but dirt short tracks too. Those dirt short tracks have come and gone over the years for various reasons, however the cities race fans have always appreciated the history and deep ties Midget car racing has had with ‘the Big Track’ in town. The newest short track in town is Circle City Raceway.
Ten more cars than the previous round bolstered the car-count up to 37 for this event held in memory and honour of John Andretti. A racer in his own write across many forms of auto sport and part of the famous Andretti racing family. Son of Aldo, Nephew of Mario. Jarrett Andretti, John’s Son, racing in the #18 RMS Midget entry to the delight of all concerned.
Brady Bacon set quick time in qualifying with round 4 winner Kyle Cummins just 0.06 seconds slower. Many time NZ visitor Jerry Coons Jnr. was 3rd. The 3 New Zealanders on hand were Hayden Williams 18th, Max Guilford 35th and Travis Buckley 29th.
Current USAC National Midget Series Champion and Midget Week points’ leader Chris Windom dominated heat one for the win with closest rival in both points chases Buddy Kofoid took out heat 2. Taylor Reimer winning heat 3 and Emerson Axsom claiming heat 4.
The Kiwi trio failing to make the top 4 in their heat races were in the 12-Lap last chance qualifier. Only the top 6 driver’s from this race transferring to the Feature. Williams the only one to make it through finishing 3rd behind Justin Grant and winner Brenham Crouch. NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jnr., Brain Carber and Sam Johnson all transferring. Andretti finishing 17th.
The 24-Car field lined up side by side with Alabama’s Kevin Thomas Jr. on pole with Day alongside after finishing 4th in his heat. Kaylee Bryson and Coons Jnr. in row 2 and Cummins and bacon filling out the 3rd row. Williams starting in 18th place.
Right from the opening lap Day clung to the high line. The slightly banked oval racing wide, pole to wall. Thomas Jr. had no choice but to follow as he used the low line as the race began.
Bryson, fresh off 2 regional stockcar wins put her car into 3rd and defend a close by Coons Jnr.. Meanwhile Keith Kunz team mates Crouch and Kofoid were racing in a phone booth. No quarter given by either until the frenetic pace saw Kofoid clip Windom’s tail and spin himself out and sent to the rear of field for the restart.
With only 3 laps in the books, at the restart Williams was already scored in 13th up 5 positions. Back at the front of the field Day was still living on the high line as Thomas Jr. worked the bottom. Day’s line causing him and other travellers cars to catch the occasional bad hop or bounce, throwing the car out of shape and scratching off speed. These gyrations allowing Thomas Jr. to draw alongside but Day’s determination and desire was evident as was his faith in his line as he stuck to it.
Crouch was 3rd and took to the high line with moments of pace and moment of terror as his car was also thrown around violently on the unpredictable cushion formed. His efforts paid dividends as he moved past Thomas.
With 18 laps remaining the caution flags flew for Grant Carber and Stenhouse who all found themselves parked on the track facing the wrong direction. All receiving restarts.
The restart saw Crouch bucking and leaping his way out of 2nd and back to 4th, passed by both Axsom and Thomas Jr.. While 4th and relentless on the rough topside, Crouch bucked again and into round 1 winner Thomas ‘T-Mez’ Meseraull, who stopped. I net loss for T-Mez and Crouch.
As the green flag reappeared Day found his 1st competition in Axsom who showed real pace and took the lead several times sliding the leader forcing Day to engage in close quarters combat, Midget style.
Second in Midget Week points Kofoid tipped over teammate Bryson sending him back to the rear of field after making it back inside the top ten.
With 10 to go Crouch had yo-yoed as low as 7th and as high as 4th, his luck fluxed on the cushion. However after the restart for Kofoid, luck, speed and Crouch’s developed sense of where the severe spots on the rim were propelled him back into a podium position.
Cannon McIntosh bought out the final caution period with 2 laps to go. Day covered the pole line at the start and took the white with several car lengths advantage over Thomas Jr..
As day left the back straight and through the final bend his car caught a horror hop and scrubbed speed with every increasing bounce. Thomas Jr. drawing closer it was hard to tell if the bouncing Day would level out and proceed before Thomas Jr. could close the gap.
Day eventually crossing the line 0.4 seconds ahead of Thomas Jr. with Bacon, Axsom and Crouch in the top five. Cummins, Night 3 winner Logan Seavey, Tanner Thorson, Daison Pursley and Coons Jnr. all finishing inside the top ten. Williams coming home in 11th place after fighting hard for spots won and lost throughout the 30 lap race.
Day punched the air in celebration on the cool down lap and hugged his Clauson Marshall Racing team in victory lane creating history becoming the youngest driver to ever win a USAC National Midget Feature.
“Tim [Clausen] is amazing with Midgets. I couldn’t want a better crew chief to be setting up my car. I’m absolutely speechless.” Said the youngster when asked about his win.
The Clauson Marshall team strong in numbers at victory lane, surely joined by the late great Bryan Clauson in spirit in the win.
Indiana Midget Week Points (After Round 5 of 8)
6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-275
The next round is at Linoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, 10th June. For live and on demand footage visit https://www.floracing.com/