Story By: RICHIE MURRAY / USAC – SAN TAN VALLEY, AZ – Entering the final weekend of the year trailing by 44 points in the USAC AMSOIL National standings, Tyler Courtney’s goal was simple. Win a championship.
Simple enough. But to do that, you’ve got to persevere under pressure and tense situations that may arise around you. You’ve also got to avoid catastrophe whether it’s by your own doing or avoiding the calamities around you in order to maximize your points.
Courtney checked all those boxes on Friday night in the opener for the 52nd annual Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford at Arizona Speedway to win his eighth series feature of 2019 and the 25th of his career, tying him with Steve Butler, Jay Drake and Chris Windom for 20th all-time.
“We came here this weekend to do one thing, and that’s win a championship,” Courtney reiterated. “You’ve got to do that by winning races. We may have fallen into one a little bit here, but you’ve got to be lucky just as much as you’ve got to be good.”
Courtney, the defending Western World champion, started the feature from 5th, where he had a front row seat for a 30-lap war of attrition that plagued many of the front runners for a variety of reasons.
Chris Windom mostly dominated from the pole position for much of the first half of the event following a lap one stoppage for fast qualifier and heat race one winner Logan Seavey who slowed with a mechanical issue on the opening circuit and was sidelined for the remainder of the evening.
In reverse of the midget race that proceeded the sprint feature, the groove was up on the fence where Windom led the charge around the 1/3-mile dirt oval while National championship contenders Courtney and point leader C.J. Leary ran 6th and 11th, respectively, with Courtney throwing a shower of sparks from brakes in the turns for the time being.
Just before midway, second-running Justin Grant had caught Windom, taking a peek underneath Windom on both ends of the track just as the ring of rubber began to take hold on the top side.
Grant successfully made the pass of Windom stick in turn one on the 17th lap with the two making contact, Grant’s rear to Windom’s front bumper. Windom fell back behind Grant, but it didn’t take long for him to fire his next shot in turn one two laps later to reclaim the lead.
On the 21st lap, Grant brought the heat once again with a turn one slider across the nose of Windom to secure the top spot with less than 10 to go. Grant became the locomotive pulling the train with Windom and midget feature winner Kevin Thomas, Jr. now closing in rapidly in third.
On the very next lap, the unthinkable happened. As the top-three entered the middle of turns one and two, they approached the lapped car of Kyle Shipley, whose right rear tire was pouring smoke off the corners. As Shipley rounded turn two, he drifted high off the rubber, half-spinning right into the path of not only Grant, but also second-running Windom, third-place Thomas and fourth place Schuerenberg, who all plowed into Shipley’s stopped car.
Just behind, resting near the outside turn two wall was 10th running Chase Stockon and point leader Leary. With only nine laps remaining, Leary’s pursuit of a championship seemed to be in peril. However, he restarted and managed to wheel back to 6th at the checkered following a slew of attrition and tire wear that developed down the stretch.
Windom and Schuerenberg were out, and Thomas dropped out a few laps later, while Grant, Leary, Stockon rejoined the fray. USAC/CRA Sprint standout Austin Williams inherited the lead with Brady Bacon and Courtney now residing in his shadow.
However, Williams bid for a first career USAC National feature win came to a bitter end with just five laps to go as his right rear tire gave way in turn 4 while a melee involving the cars of Jake Swanson, Thomas Meseraull, Max Adams, Brody Roa and a helicoptering R.J. Johnson ensued behind him.
The restart put Bacon up front ahead of Courtney. Bacon assumed control, setting the pace until three laps to go when 19th running Chris Gansen slowed to a stop in turn four with a flat right rear of his own. When racing resumed, 4th running Damion Gardner and 12th place Kevin Thomas, Jr. were the next to fall to the wayside with flat tires. Under caution, the cords on Bacon’s right rear became readily apparent, thus placing him in the unenviable role of sitting duck on the lap 29 restart.
Courtney smelled blood in the water and went on the offensive, sliding underneath Bacon in turn one to grab the lead. Just mere moments later, Bacon slowed to a crawl with the plodding sound of flat right rear rubber entering his ear.
Courtney was now in his Shangri-La for the final restart and where he’d stay for good, encountering no trouble at the end en route to victory over a hard-charging Justin Grant, who returned from the earlier incident to finish 2nd. Jason McDougal was 3rd ahead of KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Charles Davis, Jr. in 4th (from 16th) and Stevie Sussex rounding out the top-five.
With the victory, Courtney has now closed the gap to 26 entering Saturday’s finale in the race for the 2019 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship.
“Our team hasn’t given up all year,” Courtney praised the crew of his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Competition Suspension, Inc./Spike/Rider Chevy. “We’ve been behind the eight ball ever since the first race in Florida when we ran 18th, but these guys never give up and they gave me a great racecar again. One more night to try and seal this deal up and we’re just excited about the momentum we’ve got.”
Since his car first rolled off the trailer for practice one night earlier, Kevin Thomas, Jr. has had the propensity to be quick in a midget around Arizona Speedway.
That tendency carried into Friday night’s Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford where Thomas led all 30 laps and fought off a hard-charging Zeb Wise who nearly ripped away the victory in the final laps of first ever visit for the USAC NOS Energy Drink National and Western States Midgets to the 1/3-mile dirt oval.
Thomas (Cullman, Ala.) found the groove to become the fastest driver in practice on Thursday, then admits his lackluster (by his standards) qualifying run put him in position to capitalize for his second series victory of the year and the sixth of his career in his Petry Motorsports/FK Rod Ends – McDonald’s – Dr. Pepper/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“We’ve been working so hard with our team all year. Everything kind of aligned tonight,” Thomas explained. “We’ve been fast right out of the box, but I screwed up there in qualifying. I screwed up just good enough to get us on the front row.”
Thomas was 10th quickest in qualifying, and by virtue of four different drivers missing the transfer through their heat races, that moved Thomas up to the pole position for the 30-lap A-Main, a fortuitous circumstance that Thomas took full advantage of.
From the get-go, Thomas utilized the bottom to lead early while Wise, celebrating his 17th birthday on this day, drove under outside front row starter Gio Scelzi on the bottom of turn two to take second. All the while, Thomas had constructed a one-plus second lead, which he had to rebuild no less than four times in the first half of the race following a bevy of yellows.
Thomas commanded the race for the bottom with much of the top-five aligned in formation behind him while a couple of takers at the back end of the top-ten took the high road to no avail.
The lead for Thomas had grown to 1.438 seconds with 10 laps remaining when traffic loomed on the bottom, creating a possible scenario which could’ve forced the leaders off the bottom and into the unknown during the latter stages of the race.
The possible consternation subsided as 21st running Thomas Meseraull slowed to bring about a caution, erasing Thomas’ advantage, but put him in position with the lead, a clear track and the lapped car of C.J. Sarna between he and second-running Zeb Wise for the lap 21 restart.
Wise disposed of Sarna and quickly went to work on Thomas, this time sticking with and roping in the leader with the laps waning. Wise was just a half car length back and to the left of Thomas as the two raced side-by-side across the stripe on lap 28. Thomas zipped back to the bottom line to slam the door on Wise entering turn one.
September’s BC39 winner, Wise, stayed right within touch of Thomas, quite literally, with Wise’s front bumper making slight contact with the left side of Thomas’ rear bumper at the exit of two.
On the final lap, Wise entered the first turn right on the rear chrome of Thomas. However, at the exit of the second turn, Thomas found the grip to propel away from Wise by roughly four car lengths getting into turn three. Thomas rounded the corner and headed for home with a 0.656 second victory in hand over Wise while Tanner Carrick, Logan Seavey and Carson Macedo occupied the remainder of the top-five.
In victory lane, Thomas was greeted by a steer, and eagerly accepted a ride from the animal in victory lane to the delight of the sizable crowd on hand.
“I know Zeb wanted to win on his birthday,” Thomas admitted. “But he raced me clean and he had a chance right there to probably stuff it in on me getting into one, I think. It was just good hard racing by everybody.”
For Wise, it was a valiant effort that saw him come just shy of picking up his fourth series win of the year.
“We’d been about the same speed the whole race,” Wise said. “There at the end, I tried some stuff with my shocks. We were good enough; I just think I showed him the line in three and four and he moved down. I had a chance there, but Kevin and I always race each other clean, so I wasn’t going to try anything there.”
USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL, CRA & SANDS CHEVROLET SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR RACE RESULTS: November 15, 2019 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – 52nd Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford – 1/3-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY/BEAVER STRIPES QUALIFYING: 1. Logan Seavey, 19L, Reinbold/Underwood-14.763; 2. Hunter Schuerenberg, 19s, Reinbold/Underwood-14.881; 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 19, Hayward/Thomas-14.960; 4. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-14.967; 5. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-15.008; 6. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-15.057; 7. Austin Williams, 92, Sertich-15.064; 8. Chris Windom, 5G, Parallax/Goacher-15.072; 9. Jason McDougal, 34, Grau-15.105; 10. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Grau/Burkhart-15.113; 11. C.J. Leary, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.157; 12. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-15.182; 13. Eddie Tafoya, Jr., 51T, Tafoya-15.191; 14. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-15.205; 15. Damion Gardner, 4x, Alexander-15.217; 16. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-15.252; 17. Stevie Sussex, 12, Allen-15.259; 18. Charles Davis, Jr., 47, Davis-15.266; 19. Dustin Clark, 75, Clark-15.266; 20. Thomas Meseraull, 13m, Gile-15.281; 21. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-15.286; 22. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-15.332; 23. Max Adams, 42, Cheney-15.339; 24. Tanner Carrick, 83T, Carrick-15.446; 25. Chris Bonneau, 15, Bonneau-15.447; 26. Dennis Gile, 13G, Gile-15.540; 27. Sterling Cling, 34c, Cling-15.541; 28. Tommy Malcolm, 5x, Napier-15.628; 29. Matt Rossi, 02, Rossi-15.696; 30. Kyle Shipley, 0G, Shipley-15.698; 31. Tye Mihocko, 5, Mihocko-15.816; 32. Michael Curtis, 11c, Turner/Wheeler-15.867; 33. Frank Rodgers III, 6R, Rodgers-16.957; 34. Noah Gass, 20G, Gass-NT; 35. Zack Madrid, 15m, Madrid-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS/EXTREME MUFFLERS/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Jason McDougal, 3. Chris Gansen, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Stevie Sussex, 6. Chris Bonneau, 7. Frank Rodgers III, 8. Eddie Tafoya, Jr. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/CIRCLE TRACK PERFORMANCE/ULTRA SHIELD RACE PRODUCTS SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Charles Davis, Jr., 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Jake Swanson, 4. Brody Roa, 5. Hunter Schuerenberg, 6. Josh Hodges, 7. Kyle Shipley, 8. Dennis Gile, 9. Noah Gass. 2:06.413
AUTOMETER/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS/BUTLERBUILT SEATS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Max Adams, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 6. Dustin Clark, 7. Sterling Cling, 8. Tye Mihocko. 2:04.285 (New Track Record)
INDY RACE PARTS/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS/SWAY-A-WAY RACING FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Chris Windom, 5. R.J. Johnson, 6. Tommy Malcolm, 7. Tanner Carrick, 8. Michael Curtis. 2:05.195
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/PYROTECT RACING CELLS FIRST SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 2. Josh Hodges, 3. Hunter Schuerenberg, 4. R.J. Johnson, 5. Dustin Clark, 6. Kyle Shipley, 7. Chris Bonneau, 8. Stevie Sussex, 9. Dennis Gile, 10. Tanner Carrick, 11. Michael Curtis, 12. Tye Mihocko, 13. Noah Gass, 14. Frank Rodgers III, 15. Tommy Malcolm, 16. Sterling Cling, 17. Eddie Tafoya, Jr. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (5), 2. Justin Grant (4), 3. Jason McDougal (9), 4. Charles Davis, Jr. (16), 5. Stevie Sussex (24), 6. C.J. Leary (11), 7. Josh Hodges (13), 8. Chase Stockon (3), 9. Austin Williams (2), 10. Tommy Malcolm (23), 11. Jake Swanson (10), 12. Thomas Meseraull (18), 13. Damion Gardner (14), 14. R.J. Johnson (15), 15. Max Adams (21), 16. Chris Gansen (19), 17. Brady Bacon (12), 18. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (8), 19. Brody Roa (20), 20. Chris Windom (1), 21. Hunter Schuerenberg (7), 22. Kyle Shipley (22), 23. Dustin Clark (17), 24. Logan Seavey (6). NT
**Justin Grant flipped during the first heat. Sterling Cling flipped during the semi.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-16 Chris Windom, Laps 17-18 Justin Grant, Laps 19-20 Chris Windom, Lap 21 Justin Grant, Laps 22-25 Austin Williams, Laps 26-28 Brady Bacon, Laps 29-30 Tyler Courtney.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/SPECIALTY FASTENERS/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Charles Davis, Jr. (16th to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Damion Gardner
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Chris Bonneau
ROGER & BARB TAPY 13TH FASTEST QUALIFIER: Eddie Tafoya, Jr.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-2,255, 2-Tyler Courtney-2,229, 3-Justin Grant-2,086, 4-Brady Bacon-2,064, 5-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-2,062, 6-Chris Windom-2,048, 7-Chase Stockon-1,992, 8-Jason McDougal-1,564, 9-Carson Short-1,361, 10-Isaac Chapple-1,193.
NEW AMSOIL USAC/CRA SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Damion Gardner-1,426. 2-Austin Williams-1,374, 3-Brody Roa-1,257, 4-Jake Swanson-1,180, 5-Chris Gansen-883, 6-Tommy Malcolm-872, 7-Charles Davis, Jr.-814, 8-R.J. Johnson-706, 9-Richard Vander Weerd-683, 10-Eddie Tafoya, Jr.-682.
NEW SANDS CHEVROLET USAC SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Brody Roa-1,038, 2-R.J. Johnson-1,018, 3-Stevie Sussex-977, 4-Charles Davis, Jr.-953, 5-Jake Swanson-746, 6-Mike Martin-655, 7-Austin Williams-615, 8-Damion Gardner-553, 9-Matt Lundy-500, 10-Chris Bonneau-487.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK NATIONAL & WESTERN STATES MIDGET RACE RESULTS: November 15, 2019 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – 52nd Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford – 1/3-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY QUALIFYING: 1. Logan Seavey, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.426 (New Track Record); 2. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-15.456; 3. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.472; 4. Rico Abreu, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.543; 5. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.549; 6. Carson Macedo, 21, Tarlton-15.556; 7. Zeb Wise, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-15.578; 8. Gio Scelzi, 84, Tucker/Boat-15.605; 9. Robert Dalby, 4D, Dalby-15.628; 10. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 5, Petry-15.643; 11. Brady Bacon, 76E, FMR-15.656; 12. Chris Windom, 17BC, Clauson/Marshall-15.680; 13. Andrew Layser, 47BC, Clauson/Marshall-15.692; 14. Karsyn Elledge, 1, Tucker/Boat-15.692; 15. Jerry Coons, Jr., 25, Petry-15.706; 16. Buddy Kofoid, 97K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.707; 17. Jason McDougal, 76m, FMR-15.772; 18. Shannon McQueen, 7, McQueen-15.837; 19. Conor Daly, 15, Petry-15.879; 20. Daison Pursley, 9, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.898; 21. Thomas Meseraull, 13, Gile-15.944; 22. Jesse Colwell, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-16.005; 23. Noah Gass, 20G, Gass-16.058; 24. Holley Hollan, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-16.112; 25. C.J. Sarna, 20, Sarna-16.286; 26. Kyle Cummins, 2G, Styres/Yeley-16.334; 27. Cory Elliott, 11E, Elliott-16.454; 28. Ron Hazelton, 15H, Hazelton-16.748; 29. Marvin Mitchell, 78, Mitchell-21.095; 30. Brett Becker, 2B, Becker-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS/EXTREME MUFFLERS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Andrew Layser, 2. Jason McDougal, 3. Tanner Carrick, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Robert Dalby, 7. C.J. Sarna, 8. Marvin Mitchell. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jesse Colwell, 2. Tyler Courtney, 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 4. Karsyn Elledge, 5. Carson Macedo, 6. Kyle Cummins, 7. Shannon McQueen, 8. Brett Becker. 2:07.777 (New Track Record)
AUTOMETER/COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/ULTRA SHIELD RACE PRODUCTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Jerry Coons, Jr., 3. Conor Daly, 4. Zeb Wise, 5. Noah Gass, 6. Cory Elliott, 7. Tucker Klaasmeyer. NT
INDY RACE PARTS/PYROTECT RACING CELLS FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Gio Scelzi, 4. Holley Hollan, 5. Buddy Kofoid, 6. Rico Abreu, 7. Ron Hazelton. NT
BUTLERBUILT SEATS SEMI: (10 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Macedo, 2. Rico Abreu, 3. Cory Elliott, 4. Robert Dalby, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Kyle Cummins, 7. Shannon McQueen, 8. C.J. Sarna, 9. Marvin Mitchell, 10. Ron Hazelton. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (1), 2. Zeb Wise (3), 3. Tanner Carrick (4), 4. Logan Seavey (6), 5. Carson Macedo (8), 6. Rico Abreu (7), 7. Chris Windom (11), 8. Tyler Courtney (5), 9. Jerry Coons, Jr. (14), 10. Brady Bacon (10), 11. Jason McDougal (15), 12. Gio Scelzi (2), 13. Tucker Klaasmeyer (23), 14. Kyle Cummins (21), 15. Jesse Colwell (19), 16. Cory Elliott (22), 17. Andrew Layser (12), 18. Holley Hollan (20), 19. Robert Dalby (9), 20. Daison Pursley (17), 21. Conor Daly (16), 22. C.J. Sarna (24), 23. Thomas Meseraull (18), 24. Karsyn Elledge (13), 25. Marvin Mitchell (23). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Kevin Thomas, Jr.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Kyle Cummins (21st to 14th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Tucker Klaasmeyer
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Shannon McQueen
NEW USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-1,779, 2-Chris Windom-1,623, 3-Logan Seavey-1,606, 4-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1,554, 5-Zeb Wise-1,507, 6-Tanner Carrick-1,359, 7-Jerry Coons, Jr.-1,327, 8-Jason McDougal-1,277, 9-Chad Boat-1,255, 10-Tucker Klaasmeyer-1,234.
NEW USAC WESTERN STATES MIDGET POINTS: 1-Robert Dalby-637, 2-Cory Elliott-608, 3-Shannon McQueen-487, 4-David Prickett-466, 5-Austin Liggett-458, 6-Ben Worth-450, 7-C.J. Sarna-423, 8-Kyle Beilman-372, 9-Marvin Mitchell-370, 10-Jake Swanson-348