Following a sluggish start to the season in Ocala, Fla. in the first three races of the year, Brady Bacon made doubly sure he saw the checkered flag in Friday night’s “Larry Rice Classic” USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature at Bloomington Speedway.
After results of 7th, 15th and 11th back in February amidst his return to the famed Hoffman Auto Racing/Dynamics, Inc. No. 69, the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native was anxious to get off the schneid, so to speak, corralling the 24th win of his career with the series, surpassing A.J. Foyt and Roger McCluskey to move into sole position of 21st on the all-time list.
Bacon led all 30 laps from the pole and, in the process, broke an 18-year-old 30-lap track record on the quarter-mile of red clay, previously held by A.J. Anderson, showing that the two-time series champ remains at the top of his game.
“We put our heads together after Florida and tried not to get in panic mode yet because Ocala is just a different place,” Bacon explained.“We just made sure we had our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed when we came here.”
There was no stopping Bacon on this evening, even if the reflection of the lights were trying to trick his mind.
“I actually thought I saw the white flag with the way the lights were reflecting off the move over flag,” Bacon said.“The flag man was waving it pretty vigorously and I thought it was the white.Luckily, I kept going another lap and I saw it again, so I knew I wasn’t right.I just kept going until I knew I saw the double checkers.”
From the get-go, Bacon was the class of the field, instantly building his advantage to a half-straightaway over outside front row starter Kevin Thomas, Jr. by lap four.Bacon continued to increase the interval until meeting the tail end of a highway jam on lap nine with a seven-car gaggle jostling for position at the back, pairing down Bacon’s lead to a half-second on a closing Thomas.
The winningest driver for the Hoffman family in USAC National Sprint Car competition, Bacon ringed the top in turns three and four and the bottom of one and two as he navigated the narrow crevices between the lappers. With 11 laps to go, Bacon sought daylight between the cars of Stephen Schnapf and Isaac Chapple in turn three.Bacon grabbed the rays, splitting the two to find the welcome view of an unoccupied road out of his visor with two-thirds of the race in the books.
“I was fortunate enough to sneak through a couple times,” Bacon recalled.“Your mental clock gets ticking and I kind of had to force the issue a couple times to get by a couple guys.It’s part of racing here.It gets a little narrow, but usually there’s two grooves here.The bottom was not as prevalent as it typically is here.Usually, you can sneak by lapped cars on the bottom.I was having a tough time doing that, so I had to slide up out of the way.”
From that point forward, Bacon was by his lonesome as he lapped up to 13th place on his way to his first career feature victory of any kind at Bloomington aboard his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Fatheadz Eyewear – Tel-Star/Triple X/Hershey Chevy.
Second went to a distant Thomas 2.158 seconds behind Bacon at the finish.Rounding out the top-five were Jason McDougal, KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger Tyler Courtney (from 9th) and Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier and new one-lap track record holder C.J. Leary.
It’s a sense of sweet redemption for Bacon at Bloomington, picking up his first win at the southern Indiana staple after being on the brink of victory earlier in his career.
“I’ve run second here a couple times,” Bacon remembered.“In 2007 or 2008, I led almost the whole race in the spring like this and slid off the track.I’ve been coming here for so long, you kind of take it for granted.But it’s cool to win at a historic place like this.The green grass in the spring here is always the sign that it’s time to go racing.This is a tough racetrack to win at and I’m happy we could do it and to be back with the Hoffman team.I’m glad to shake off our rough start and get back to our usual results.”
Contingency award winners Friday night at Bloomington Speedway were C.J. Leary (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), Robert Ballou (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner & Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier), Brady Bacon (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (AutoMeter Third Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger), Chase Stockon (Indy Race Parts Semi Winner) and Dakota Jackson (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: April 12, 2019 – Bloomington Speedway – Bloomington, Indiana – “Larry Rice Classic”
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. C.J. Leary, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-10.685 (New Track Record); 2. Chad Boespflug, 98e, EZR-10.713; 3. Jason McDougal, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-10.860; 4. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-10.880; 5. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-10.908; 6. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-10.920; 7. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 19, Hayward/Thomas-10.943; 8. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-10.961; 9. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, CMNR-10.977; 10. Stephen Schnapf, 61m, Edwards-11.050; 11. Jordan Kinser, 70, Hurst-11.087; 12. Chris Windom, 5G, Goacher-11.119; 13. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-11.150; 14. Lee Underwood, 24L, Underwood-11.175; 15. Dakota Jackson, 3, Jackson-11.212; 16. Carson Short, 21, RCM-11.214; 17. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-11.291; 18. Brian VanMeveren, 24, VanMeveren-11.305; 19. T.J. Artz, 57, Artz-11.392; 20. Dustin Christie, 75, Christie-11.410; 21. Joe Stornetta, 04, Burton-11.427; 22. Michael Koontz, 17K, Koontz-11.508; 23. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-11.614; 24. Dave Darland, 2E, Epperson-11.648; 25. Kyle Hathaway, 7H, Hathaway-11.854; 26. Eric Perrott, 45, Perrott-12.891.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Ballou, 2. Short, 3. K. Thomas, 4. Schnapf, 5. Leary, 6. Stockon, 7. Koontz, 8. Artz, 9. Hathaway. 1:57.27
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Bacon, 2. Kinser, 3. Chapple, 4. Boespflug, 5. Christie, 6. Daum, 7. Underwood, 8. Hodges, 9. Perrott. NT
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer) 1. Courtney, 2. McDougal, 3. Grant, 4. Stornetta, 5. Jackson, 6. Darland, 7. Windom. NT
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer) 1. Stockon, 2. Windom, 3. Underwood, 4. Darland, 5. Artz, 6. Daum, 7. Hodges, 8. Koontz, 9. Hathaway, 10. Perrott. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (1), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (2), 3. Jason McDougal (4), 4. Tyler Courtney (9), 5. C.J. Leary (6), 6. Justin Grant (3), 7. Chad Boespflug (5), 8. Chase Stockon (7), 9. Chris Windom (12), 10. Robert Ballou (13), 11. Jordan Kinser (11), 12. Josh Hodges (8), 13. Dakota Jackson (15), 14. Carson Short (16), 15. Dave Darland (20), 16. Isaac Chapple (17), 17. Stephen Schnapf (10), 18. Joe Stornetta (19), 19. Lee Underwood (14), 20. T.J. Artz (21), 21. Dustin Christie (18), 22. Zach Daum (22). 6:47.18 (New Track Record)
**VanMeveren flipped during qualifying.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Bacon.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/B & W AUTO MART HARD CHARGER: Tyler Courtney (9th to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Dakota Jackson
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Thomas-287, 2-Leary-284, 3-Stockon-250, 4-Grant-245, 5-Courtney-243, 6-Windom-230, 7-Bacon-229, 8-Ballou-222, 9-Boespflug-215, 10-McDougal-208.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: April 13, 2019 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – “Spring Showdown” (Co-Sanctioned by MSCS)