In 26 previous USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car starts at Perris Auto Speedway, Brady Bacon was in contention in the majority of them, garnering 17 top-tens and nine top-fives between 2006 and 2018.
However, in start 27 on Thursday, Bacon finally tasted the sweet nectar of victory at the southern California ½-mile, leading all 30 laps from the pole position to capture opening night of the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction.
Nov. 7-9 | 9am ET
“I think we’ve run second on prelim nights probably five or six times and been in the top-five a couple times on the final night, so this is awesome to get this monkey off our back,” a relieved Bacon said. “Now, we can just go ahead and win a couple more this weekend.”
The long-awaited victory couldn’t have come a moment too soon for the 2014 and 2016 series champ from Broken Arrow, Okla., who hadn’t scored a triumph with the series since a two-night sweep of Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway in July, four months ago in his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Fatheadz Eyewear – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
“This late in the year, this win definitely helps going into the winter,” Bacon admitted. “We had a dry spell, a little bit of bad luck, led at Lawrenceburg and stuff like that. Hopefully, we can kind of get that momentum we had earlier this summer and carry it on for the rest of the year.”
Bacon started up front and was rarely challenged throughout the duration of the 30-lapper, save for a few instances in traffic later in the battle. However, at the start, Bacon slipped under outside front row starter Chris Windom and led the charge by a car-length by the time the pair hit the back straightaway.
The first stoppage came early when the two USAC National Sprint Car title contenders, C.J. Leary and Tyler Courtney, collided in turn two on the fourth lap while battling for the fifth spot. The contact between Leary’s right rear and the left side of Courtney’s ride flattened Courtney’s left rear-tire. As Courtney scrambled to regain control of his car, Leary’s teammate, Logan Seavey, came upon the scene and struck Courtney, heavily damaging the front end of Seavey.
Both Courtney and Seavey returned to action following time in the work area. Seavey struggled to a 21st place result while Courtney charged back through the pack to take 8th, a night Courtney would soon rather forget after enduring a wild flip in turn three on the second lap of his qualifying run. Courtney’s Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing team made extensive repairs to the car and returned with the very same car to win their heat a short time later.
When action resumed, Bacon jumped back out to a one-plus second lead while seven-time USAC/CRA champ Damion Gardner began to close on Windom for the runner-up position.
Nov. 7-9 | 9am ET
Nearing the midway point, and in the throes of lapped traffic, Gardner made the move to second with an inside pass of Windom in turns one and two, but was stifled after encountering the lapped car of Chris Gansen on the low line of three, forcing Gardner to throttle back and allowing Windom to surge ahead on the top side for the position.
Once Windom cleared Gardner, he began to rapidly reel in Bacon as the leader surfed inside the green room of a barrel wave, trying to keep unfazed with a heavy task on his horizon.
However, just as Windom sensed the smell of blood in the water, a spin by Dennis Gile in turn three removed traffic from the equation for the time being and supplied Bacon with room to maneuver, a clear mind and a clear track ahead with the lapped car of Eddie Tafoya, Jr. separating the top-two of Bacon and Windom on the restart.
Under yellow, Windom signaled for Tafoya to stay low on the track surface so the top shelf would be wide open for himself on the high line while in pursuit of Bacon. Windom resumed his chase of Bacon who held the advantage once again, but just as lapped traffic loomed, the yellow for the stopped car of three-time Oval Nationals winner and 10th running Bud Kaeding who rested backwards on the bottom berm of turn two with eight laps to go.
On lap 24, Windom came as close as he’d get all night to Bacon, pulling within a half-car length of Bacon on the bottom between turns one and two. Bacon held onto a firm Kung Fu grip of the lead exiting the second turn and began to inchworm away from Windom down the stretch.
Windom relentlessly tried to gain any ground he could to pounce on a possible Bacon misstep. But none were to be had by Bacon as Windom got above the cushion between turns three and four with four laps to go, disallowing another shot at Bacon.
Bacon finished off the deal with a 0.974 second victory, the fifth of his 2019 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season and the 28th of his career with the series, moving him into a tie for 14th all-time with Levi Jones and J.J. Yeley.
Nov. 7-9 | 9am ET
“I thought we had a pretty good balance there,” Bacon said. “We were good at the beginning, and still pretty good at the end. I felt like we were fading a little bit with those yellows at the end, but we’ll make some adjustments and be ready (for Friday and Saturday).”
Windom (Canton, Ill.) had a solid 2nd place run in his Parallax Group-Goacher Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Parallax Power Supply/Twister/Claxton Mopar, earning his sixth consecutive top-five finish, which is the longest current active streak in the series.
“Overall, it was a really solid night,” Windom stated. “Brady (Bacon) was better than us early on. I think, once we moved up there, we were just as good as him, but he was probably just a little better than us overall tonight. I was hoping we would stay in lapped traffic there and we could race with those guys, but he got the restarts right when he needed them. (My crew) has been working hard all night to get us in this position and I think we’ve got a good car for the rest of the weekend.”
Third-place finisher Richard Vander Weerd (Visalia, Calif.) may run a limited schedule, but he showed no inkling of any rust as he recorded his best USAC National Sprint Car feature finish since a 3rd place run on the final night of the Oval Nationals in 2016 in his Ron Vander Weerd/Vander Weerd Construction – Maxwell Industries/DRC/Shark Chevy.
Nov. 7-9 | 9am ET
“These guys run 60 races a year or more, but I’ve run probably about 15 to 20 this year so far,” Vander Weerd explained. “But I run this track a lot more. Them racing a lot more is an advantage, but me running here more is an advantage too. (The car) was good at the end; we were a little too snug down in (turns) one and two, but it made up for it over in three and four where it was dry slick. Bacon and Windom are tough guys, so I can’t complain about finishing 3rd behind them.”
Gardner finished fourth while Leary rounded out the top-five and, in the process, upped his lead in the National standings from 47 to 55 over Courtney with four races remaining. Gardner, likewise, extended his CRA lead as did Brody Roa in the Southwest tally.