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For the majority of his career, Jacob Wilson has been deemed a “pavement guy.”
While that’s certainly a testament to his skills on the asphalt where he’s earned victories in the Joe James/Pat O’Connor Memorial once and the Little 500 twice, most notably, it was a label that Wilson was anxious to shed.
Nevermind that he’s been consistent on the dirt in recent years and even won the pole in his most recent appearance at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in 2018.
The Crawfordsville, Ind. driver erased the label Sunday night with a dominant victory in the Ted Horn 100 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, his first career triumph in the USAC Silver Crown Champ Car Series in his 53rd career series start, leading the final 59 laps to notch the win 11 years following his lone career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory on the Salem, Ind. high banks.
“I’m still a pavement guy, right,” Wilson said with a grin. “We still joke about that. It became more apparent the last couple years that, if we did get our first win, it was going to be on the dirt, which is kind of weird. The pavement’s still what I love but we just don’t have as good of runs anymore.”
“Man, this one is special,” Wilson continued. “There’s so many people that put effort into this thing. To get my brother his first win as a crew chief, to get (Matt) Hummel a win on this thing, my entire family and all the guys, it’s special, that’s for sure.”
Wilson started from the seventh position to begin the 100-miler, which at first, became the race that just couldn’t get going. Austin Nemire’s car refused to turn on the first turn of the opening lap, sending the Sylvania, Ohio native helplessly into the outside wall. On the lap six restart, Levittown, Pennsylvania’s Mike Haggenbottom tagged the turn two wall, sending him into a series of flips. Both drivers walked away from their incidents.
The third try was the charm as the race got into full swing with pole winner Tyler Courtney leading the way and Brady Bacon giving chase, both of whom have won with the series on dirt this year and were both in contention to win last year's Ted Horn 100.
Bacon applied constant pressure to Courtney until sailing around the outside of May Hoosier Hundred winner Tyler Courtney on the outside of turn two on the 19th lap for the race lead as Wilson pulled along to mount a challenge to Courtney for the runner-up spot before falling back into line in third.
Wilson stuck with Courtney for second, and on lap 26, threw his machine past the reigning USAC Sprint champ in turn one for the spot. Bacon’s advantage held at five car lengths ahead of Wilson with a quarter of the race in the history books.
Nearing midway, Bacon and Wilson led a two-car breakaway to separate themselves from the pack. On lap 42, Wilson made his move, riding to the outside of Bacon off the fourth turn as the two went wheel to wheel under the flag stand. It became a case of who was going to be the last one to lift, with Wilson gaining the upper hand up top to drive around Bacon and open up a more than two second lead at the crossed flags as he invaded lap traffic.
“This thing was stuck so good, I knew we were going to be able to drive in deeper than Brady,” Wilson explained. “It was just one of those deals where if he’d try to drive it in as well, it was a battle of who could get to the cushion and then who could get through the first corner first.”
In the second half, Silver Crown races become a questioning of whether enough was saved on your end and whether others have saved fuel and tire-wise to make a run at you down the stretch. Wilson grappled with that as the field endured a long green flag run. In the midst of it, Courtney came alive on the 65th lap, ripping around Bacon in turns one and two for the second spot and cutting the gap to Wilson nearly in half, down to 2.4 seconds.
Despite that, Wilson was cruising with ease, on rails, with his Wilson Brothers Racing/D.D. Eyes – FK Indy/Maxim/Claxton Chevy whoa’d down to 80 percent of its full capability yet was still pulling away from the field. There’s good and there’s “too good.” It’s something which actually caused a bit of stress on the mind of Wilson.
“When you have a car this good, you never win with it,” Wilson said. “Something always happens. You run out of fuel, you blow a tire, you lose an engine. There’s always something that happens.”
However, the team felt they had an ace up their sleeve, which worked in their favor.
“(Crew chief and brother) Clint (Wilson) made the call to go with the hard compound, which not a lot people did, I don’t think,” Wilson explained. “It allowed me to kick it down once we needed to later in the race if I gapped back up. I could kick it down and not have to worry about the tires blowing off of it, just conserve fuel.”
But there were several steps along the way to get to that point, namely traffic, where Wilson saw his advantage shrink from nearly three seconds to a second-and-a-half in a two-lap span at the start of the final quarter of the race as he navigated his way by the lapped cars of Chris Urish, Kody Swanson and Austin Mundie.
Wilson was patient, never forcing anything despite the closing deficit and was ultimately able to clear them all as Courtney walked the tightrope on the high line around the traffic, while Wilson gradually reconstructed his lead to three-plus seconds and Courtney became bound up in the throes of gridlock.
Eighth-running Brian Tyler, a 2008 Ted Horn 100 winner, went up in smoke with 14 laps remaining to bring out the yellow, erasing Wilson’s gap in a sense, although four lapped cars remained between he and Courtney. With a clear track, Wilson tipped his cap and drove away once again, showing no ill effects from the breaking of his half-race-long stride.
“Once I took back off and (my spotter) had me at 20 car lengths at the end of the first lap, it kind of started to sink in there,” Wilson remembered. “Then you start hearing every little noise in it, every little vibration, what’s going to let go.”
Behind Wilson, Courtney and Bacon swapped second back-and-forth on laps 92 and 93 before regained the upper hand on lap 94. However, Justin Grant was the man on the move on the final restart, willing himself from eighth to fifth between laps 91 and 95, and an amazing fifth to second run in one fell swoop exiting turn two on lap 96.
Up front, Wilson sealed the deal, running seemingly half-throttle in preservation mode during the final laps, just in case. Yet, the gap widened as all his potential challengers were knee-deep in a scintillating battle for second.
Wilson closed it out to win by 6.330 seconds over Grant, Courtney, 1990 Du Quoin winner Jeff Swindell and Bacon. Wilson became the third first-time winner of the 2019 USAC Silver Crown season following Kyle Hamilton and Bacon.
Meanwhile, the point race tightened up following point leader Kody Swanson’s mechanical gremlins throughout the night. His Nolen Racing team lost power to two different engines during practice. Patrick Lawson gave up his ride to Swanson for the main event where the four-time series champ charged from 29th to 14th to earn KSE Racing Products Hard Charger honors.
Tanner Thorson, in his first USAC Silver Crown appearance since 2015, walked away from a vicious accident on the back straightway during practice in which his steering broke, sending him into the inside guardrail and practically splitting the car in half from the dash forward. He walked away uninjured.
Contingency award winners Sunday night at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds included Tyler Courtney (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), Kody Swanson (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Kyle Steffens (WIlwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES RACE RESULTS: September 1, 2019 – Du Quoin State Fairgrounds – Du Quoin, Illinois – Ted Horn 100
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Tyler Courtney, 97, Lein-30.627; 2. Brady Bacon, 6, Klatt-30.797; 3. Shane Cockrum, 71, Hardy-30.845; 4. Jerry Coons, Jr., 55, Bateman-31.100; 5. Chad Kemenah, 15, Hampshire/Kemenah-31.123; 6. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 56, Foxco-31.182; 7. Jacob Wilson, 07, WBR-31.454; 8. Chris Urish, 77, Urish-31.496; 9. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-31.617; 10. Chris Windom, 17, Goodnight/Byrd-31.677; 11. David Byrne, 40, Byrne-31.715; 12. Jimmy Light, 123, Two-Three-31.857; 13. Austin Nemire, 16, Nemire/Lesko-31.886; 14. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-31.923; 15. Jeff Swindell, 21, Swanson-31.932; 16. Mike Haggenbottom, 24, Haggenbottom-32.058; 17. Casey Buckman, 74, C-Buck-32.074; 18. Eric Gordon, 78, Armstrong/Slinkard-32.333; 19. Austin Mundie, 47, Butler-32.365; 20. Travis Welpott, 18, Welpott/Gorman-32.409; 21. Brian Tyler, 12, Galas-32.410; 22. Dallas Hewitt, 57, Hewitt-32.467; 23. Bill Rose, 66, Rose-32.628; 24. A.J. Fike, 14, McQuinn-32.772; 25. Kyle Steffens, 08, Steffens-32.773; 26. Patrick Lawson, 2, Lawson-32.911; 27. Kyle Robbins, 7, KR-32.937; 28. Ronnie Wuerdeman, 33, Wuerdeman-33.125; 29. Terry Babb, 34, Morford-33.442; 30. John Heydenreich, 43, Felker-33.624; 31. Danny Long, 44, Long-34.571; 32. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-35.283; 33. Steve Buckwalter, 53, Five Three-NT; 34. C.J. Leary, 10, DMW-NT; 35. Kody Swanson, 20, Nolen-NT; 36. Korey Weyant, 99, Weyant-NT; 37. Shane Cottle, 81, Williams-NT; 38. Tanner Thorson, 9, Dyson-NT.
FEATURE: (100 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Jacob Wilson (6), 2. Justin Grant (8), 3. Tyler Courtney (1), 4. Jeff Swindell (13), 5. Brady Bacon (2), 6. Chris Windom (9), 7. David Byrne (10), 8. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (5), 9. Chad Kemenah (4), 10. Matt Goodnight (12), 11. Casey Buckman (15), 12. Jimmy Light (11), 13. Kyle Steffens (22), 14. Kody Swanson (#2 Lawson) (29), 15. Austin Mundie (17), 16. Chris Urish (7), 17. John Heydenreich (25), 18. A.J. Fike (21), 19. Travis Welpott (18), 20. Kyle Robbins (23), 21. Brian Tyler (19), 22. Bill Rose (28), 23. Jerry Coons, Jr. (3), 24. Dallas Hewitt (20), 25. Eric Gordon (16), 26. Ronnie Wuerdeman (31), 27. Mike Haggenbottom (14), 28. Terry Babb (24), 29. Dave Berkheimer (26), 30. C.J. Leary (30), 31. Austin Nemire (27). NT
**Tanner Thorson flipped during practice. Mike Haggenbottom flipped on lap 6 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-18 Tyler Courtney, Laps 19-41 Brady Bacon, Laps 42-100 Jacob Wilson.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Kody Swanson (29th to 14th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Kyle Steffens
NEW USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES POINTS: 1-Kody Swanson-504, 2-Justin Grant-465, 3-David Byrne-401, 4-Eric Gordon-344, 5-Bobby Santos-326, 6-Kyle Hamilton-317, 7-Mike Haggenbottom-299, 8-Chris Windom-296, 9-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-293, 10-Austin Nemire-280.
NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN CHAMP CAR SERIES RACE: September 7, 2019 – Lucas Oil Raceway – Brownsburg, Indiana – Rich Vogler Classic