After positioning himself as King of the Hill earlier in the evening to earn a starting spot on the pole position for the feature, Tyler Courtney emerged as king of the mountaintop with his Smackdown VIII victory Saturday night, leading all 40 laps to join three-time winner Dave Darland in becoming the second multi-time victor of the event at Kokomo Speedway.
The win was Courtney’s series-leading sixth USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature win of the season. Yet, it came with its share of peaks and valleys throughout the weekend after Courtney and the Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing crew endured a nasty qualifying flip in Friday’s program that damaged the frame. The team weathered the storm with a fourth place finish that evening but were hopeful for so much more in Saturday’s $11,000-to-win finale.
“The crew was welding on it this morning,” Courtney recalled. “These guys haven’t stopped since they brought the car back in from qualifying (on Friday). We had a moment in hot laps today and were scrambling for a bit. We kind of thought that maybe we were doing something wrong. We got it going pretty good there in the King of the Hill and put ourselves in the cat bird seat to where we could run our own race in the feature.”
It was the Indianapolis, Indiana native’s 23rd career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car triumph, tying him for 23rd all-time alongside A.J. Foyt and Roger McCluskey to go along with his fourth career win during “Smackdown” and second overall during the main event on the final night. While the previous triumph in 2017 was certainly sweet in so many ways for it being his first, to Courtney, Saturday’s night’s score had a little extra kick to its sweetness after how the team persevered following trying circumstances.
“I think this one’s even more special just because of what we’ve had to overcome,” Courtney explained. “But we don’t let it get us down. It seems like when we get down, we come out and win. To get a win like this is huge. These guys have been working their tails off all weekend, really all year, and we got it done.”
Courtney emerged as the leader on the opening lap, after sliding to the top as a four-wide scramble for the lead involving he, Justin Grant, C.J. Leary and Kyle Cummins ensued in turn two. Courtney maintained his advantage at the head of the field to lead lap one while Cummins flexed his muscle, splitting between Leary and Grant to slide from fourth to second and begin his race-long pursuit of Courtney.
Cummins, who won his first career USAC feature at Kokomo during the Indiana Sprint Week round of 2016, hounded Courtney relentlessly for the duration of the 40-lapper, the second race of such distance so far this year.
By lap 15, the leaders were working lapped traffic with a three-wide conundrum awaiting just ahead. With Cummins within earshot, Courtney broke through the pack as Isaac Chapple, Thomas Meseraull and Dustin Smith battled for position, briefly pausing Cummins’ pursuit before he too broke through between turns one and two a lap leader all while Courtney constructed a one second advantage up front after the two cut through the thick of the traffic.
Following a turn two spin by 10th running Carson Short on the 24th lap, the yellow took away Courtney’s advantage and bunched Cummins up right behind the reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ for the restart. Courtney wasn’t frazzled by any means, for he knew the longer race and having the open road lying ahead of him played into his hands just as long as he didn’t let Cummins’ pressure press him into troubled waters.
“I feel like I’m pretty good at managing a race the longer they are,” Courtney said. “I can get out and do my own thing that I was wanting to do. Kyle showed me a nose a couple of times. I just tried to not let it push me too hard to where I made a mistake.”
That was put into fruition immediately as Cummins appeared to underneath, side-by-side with Cummins in turns one and two on the ensuing restart. Yet, Courtney never made a false move and kept on trekking his course ahead as Cummins remained in his shadow two to three car lengths behind.
The song remained the same following a caution for debris between turns one and two with eight laps remaining. However, this time, Courtney got a much better restart, initially jumping out to a five car length lead ahead of Cummins. Although starts and restarts are part of the game, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s something a driver looks forward to, especially when sitting in the precarious position of the lead and not knowing what’s going down behind you.
“I don’t like restarts,” Courtney admitted. “I’m not very good at them. I’d like things to go green to checkered if possible. But you’ve got to be ready for them and you’ve got to be good at all of it. That’s one of my weaker points that I’m working on. I didn’t know how many laps we had to go either, so I was just running as hard as I could because that’s what you’ve got to do in these races. Everyone’s so close and you can’t slouch any lap. You have to be full speed ahead for 40 laps in tonight’s case.”
Cummins remained on the chase, scraping the front straightway and turn two walls as he squeezed every ounce he could out of his Rock Steady Racing No. 3R. Yet, Courtney just wasn’t going to be deterred en route to victory on this night aboard his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Competition Suspension, Inc./Spike/Rider Chevy as he closed out a wire-to-wire victory by 0.758 of a second over Cummins, Leary, Grant and Friday night’s winner Logan Seavey.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Kokomo Speedway were Brady Bacon (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Jason McDougal (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Hunter Schuerenberg (AutoMeter Third Heat Winner), Chris Windom (Indy Race Parts Semi Winner), Chris Windom (Crume Evans Insurance/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Tyler Courtney (B & W Auto Mart King of the Hill Winner), Tyler Courtney (Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts/Tony Elliott Foundation Winning Bonus), Landon Simon (ProSource Hard Work Award), Josh Hodges (American Racing Ministries Final Semi Transfer), Josh Hodges (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Matt Goodnight (Saldana Racing Products/Hoosier Racing Tire First Non-Transfer), Thomas Meseraull (Weld Cool Move of the Race), Kyle Cummins (Weld Cool Move of the Race) and Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports (Weld Cool Move of the Race) and Dustin Smith (Smackdown Rookie of the Year).
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 24, 2019 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – Sprint Car Smackdown VIII
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon (#69 Dynamics), 2. Carson Short (#21 RCM), 3. Dave Darland (#36D Darland/Curb-Agajanian), 4. Cole Ketcham (#41 Ketcham), 5. Max Adams (#5m Adams), 6. Tye Mihocko (#5 Mihocko), 7. Brian VanMeveren (#24 VanMeveren). 2:14.56
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Jason McDougal (#71p Daigh/Phillips), 2. Scotty Weir (#4p Pedersen), 3. Timmy Buckwalter (#7 LNB), 4. Isaac Chapple (#52 LNR/Chapple), 5. Josh Hodges (#74x Hodges), 6. Anthony D’Alessio (#01 D’Alessio), 7. Dustin Christie (#75 Christie), 8. Steve Thomas (#20 Thomas). 2:16.08
AUTOMETER THIRD QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Hunter Schuerenberg (#19BS Reinbold/Underwood), 2. Dustin Smith (#77 Smith), 3. Landon Simon (#23s Simon), 4. Corey Smith (#66s CS), 5. Matt Goodnight (#39 Goodnight), 6. Chris Windom (#5G Parallax/Goacher), 7. Shane Cottle (#2E Epperson), 8. Clinton Boyles (#57 Hazen). NT
B & W AUTO MART KING OF THE HILL: (First Round) #8 Kyle Cummins (#3R Rock Steady) defeats #1 Justin Grant (#4 TOPP) 41.99. #4 C.J. Leary (#19AZ Reinbold/Underwood) defeats #5 Chase Stockon (#32 32 TBI) 42.02. #3 Thomas Meseraull (#47 Eades) defeats #6 Logan Seavey (#19s Reinbold/Underwood) 41.58. #2 Tyler Courtney (#7BC Clauson/Marshall/Newman) defeats #7 Kevin Thomas, Jr. (#19 Hayward/Thomas) 42.67.
B & W AUTO MART KING OF THE HILL: (Semifinals) #4 Leary defeats #8 Cummins 40.98 (New Track Record). #2 Courtney defeats #3 Meseraull 41.11.
B & W AUTO MART KING OF THE HILL: (Finals) #2 Courtney defeats #4 Leary 41.56.
SEMI: (12 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Cole Ketcham, 3. Isaac Chapple, 4. Corey Smith, 5. Josh Hodges, 6. Matt Goodnight, 7. Max Adams, 8. Anthony D'Alessio, 9. Brian VanMeveren, 10. Steve Thomas, 11. Tye Mihocko, 12. Dustin Christie. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (1), 2. Kyle Cummins (4), 3. C.J. Leary (2), 4. Justin Grant (5), 5. Logan Seavey (7), 6. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (8), 7. Brady Bacon (9), 8. Chris Windom (18), 9. Jason McDougal (10), 10. Chase Stockon (6), 11. Hunter Schuerenberg (11), 12. Scotty Weir (13), 13. Josh Hodges (22), 14. Max Adams (23), 15. Isaac Chapple (20), 16. Dustin Smith (14), 17. Corey Smith (21), 18. Carson Short (12), 19. Timmy Buckwalter (16), 20. Dave Darland (15), 21. Thomas Meseraull (3), 22. Cole Ketcham (19), 23. Landon Simon (17). NT
**Clinton Boyles and Shane Cottle flipped during the third heat. Thomas Meseraull flipped during King of the Hill.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Tyler Courtney.
CRUME EVANS INSURANCE/KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Chris Windom (18th to 8th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Josh Hodges
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFER: Matt Goodnight
PROSOURCE HARD WORK AWARD: Landon Simon
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-1,702, 2-Tyler Courtney-1,581, 3-Brady Bacon-1,564, 4-Justin Grant-1,525, 5-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1,524, 6-Chris Windom-1,495, 7-Chase Stockon-1,472, 8-Jason McDougal-1,294, 9-Carson Short-1,273, 10-Isaac Chapple-991.
FINAL PROSOURCE SMACKDOWN VIII PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-23, 2-Brady Bacon-14, 3-Josh Hodges-9, 4-Jason McDougal-8, 5-Carson Short-8, 6-Tyler Courtney-7, 7-Scotty Weir-5, 8-Isaac Chapple-5, 9-Hunter Schuerenberg-4, 10-Corey Smith-4.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: August 30, 2019 – Tri-City Speedway – Granite City, Illinois – BRANDT River Town Showdown