Brady Bacon Bolts To Victory At Ocala

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Entering Friday night’s USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season opener, the most recent time Brady Bacon left Bubba Raceway Park with a top-five finish was three years ago.

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Furthermore, the Broken Arrow, Okla. native’s most recent victory at the 3/8-mile tri-oval came five years prior, leaving him more than eager to quash the early season dry spell that lingered over him entering the 2020 season.

On a weekend that’s been anything but a dry spell with heavy rain washing out Thursday’s intended opener and threatening Friday’s second go with persistent afternoon showers, Bacon rid himself of the early-season cloud of recent years by taking the lead with just four laps remaining to score his third career Winter Dirt Games feature victory.

The win for Bacon in his Dynamics, Inc./Longworth Equipment – Fatheadz Eyewear – DriveWFX.com/Triple X/Rider Chevy notched another milestone for the two-time series champion.  With the triumph, Bacon became just the 13th driver to reach the 30-win mark in his USAC National Sprint Car career.

“This win is pretty important to me because we’ve struggled here the past three years,” Bacon admitted.  “Getting off to a bad start is not easy.  Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going and not start off at a handicap for the rest of the season.”

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Bacon had quite a long row to hoe in just 30 laps, starting 9th on the grid on a tricky surface before steadily moving his way through the 22-car field.  Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, Kevin Thomas Jr. lunged to the point on the opening lap from his pole position while outside front row starter Kyle Cummins dug in and charged around Thomas to snare the lead off turn four on the opening circuit.

Cummins quickly gapped Thomas by just a tick under a full second during the early stages before encountering lapped traffic on the tenth lap.  Cummins met a five-member single-file train of cars at the tail end of the lead lap where he decisively ripped around the outside of traffic as Thomas gave chase, closing up the canyon between the two ever so slightly.

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Just one lap later, young Connor Leoffler, making his first career series start and who had just been put a lap down by Cummins, biked hard in turn one before landing on all fours and smacking the right rear against the outer concrete, ending his night.

On the lap 12 resumption, Thomas peeked his nose underneath the ride of Cummins at the exit of turn four, but Cummins slashed away once again and regenerated his advantage at the front, clicking off the fastest lap of the race one lap after the halfway mark.

Just prior to the last 10-lap stanza, Cummins was greeted by a chorus of traffic, allowing Thomas to subtract the interval between he and the lead car of Cummins.  On the 20th lap, while exiting turn four, Cummins experienced “a moment” if you will when he and the car of Katlynn Leer collided near the flagstand, sending both into immediate disarray and near disaster.  Although, both carried on without issue.

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Thomas pounced on the Cummins/Leer mishap and raced to the lead past Cummins a half lap later on the bottom between turns three and four.  However, two laps later, Thomas’ bid for victory fell into shambles as his right rear tire went flat on the back straightaway on the 24th lap, granting Cummins the lead as Thomas slowed to a crawl to the work area where his crew swapped out for new rubber, ultimately returning for a 16th place finish.

The ensuing restart with seven laps remaining put Bacon on Cummins’ tail where he immediately let it be known he was going to be a contender.  At the conclusion of lap 24 at the exit of turn four, Bacon clawed off turn four under Cummins, racing to a near dead heat at the line with Cummins clinging to a slight advantage as he disallowed Bacon from taking hold of the low line entering turn one.

Bacon continued hounding Cummins on both ends of the racetrack, and on lap 27, Bacon was finally able to squeeze through the crack in the door underneath Cummins entering turn one, to pocket the lead once and for all.

“I knew he had been running the bottom in three and four and it was super, super tricky,” Bacon recalled.  “So, I figured if I could pressure him, he’d slide up enough to where I could slip underneath in three and four.  I didn’t know if I was going to get him, but I just got enough of a run to slide up and we had a really good car in the middle of one and two.  I could turn back down and go the other way without him crossing me over.  I felt pretty confident, that if nothing major happened, I could hold on.”

Hear from the top night #1 finishers:

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Binge Watch: Indiana Sprint Week 2010

All-Star Circuit of Champions Taking 'Week-to-Week' Approach to 2020

Eric Walls, the director of the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions, is as anxious to go racing as his 410 Sprint Car tour’s drivers, team members and fans. He understands, however, that he’s unlikely to hear the roar of race car engines as soon as he, and everyone else, would like due to the coronavirus pandemic that has overtaken the country.While the 410 Sprint Car series owned by former NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart hasn’t yet announced any event cancelations or postponements due to the crisis, Walls admitted this week that decisions will soon have to be made on upcoming races starting with the April 10-11 Spring Nationals doubleheader at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park. He certainly wants to remain as positive about racing as he can be, but he knows the opposite will likely be the case with the series, which in 2020 has all of its events slated for live broadcast to FloRacing subscribers.“Yeah, we’d love to race,” Walls said. “But when reality sets in, let’s be honest, we’re not gonna race till May probably.”Walls is monitoring the ever-developing landscape on a “week-to-week basis,” keeping open a sliver of hope for competition to happen if the spread of the coronavirus were to slow enough for government and health officials to relax existing stay-at-home and mass-gathering orders that are keeping racetracks shuttered. But reports of positive coronavirus cases have been escalating in recent days — including in the states of Ohio, Virginia and Pennsylvania that are slated to host the All Star events scheduled for April — so a quick return to normalcy seems unlikely.“We love to race, and if we get the ‘all clear’ (from government officials), we’ll go racing,” Walls said. “But just for the safety of the fans and the drivers and everybody involved (in the running of a race), we’re gonna take this one week at a time and make sure everybody’s safe and ready to go back to action here.”Walls has been in contact with the promoters of the tour’s April events that begin with Attica and go on to Virginia Motor Speedway in Jamaica (scheduled for April 16), Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. (April 17), Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway (April 18), Bedford (Pa.) Speedway (April 19) and Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio (April 25). All the track operators have their facilities ready for what would be an attractive and lucrative stretch of racing for the ASCoC, but the crisis supersedes all the best-laid plans.According to Walls, the response he’s giving to All Star drivers who call looking for information on upcoming races basically tells the story of the circuit’s current status.“I’ve had a few drivers reach out to me, just for their travel plans,” Walls said. “A couple of our drivers fly to different places so they wanted to book their travel.“Not that I knew what was gonna go on as far as what the government is gonna do, but it was just my opinion to them that I certainly hope that April 10 we’re racing, but I’m a realist. I can’t see the government from state-to-state lifting this ban until later on in the season.“It’s just giving them my opinion on it and they can book their travel if they want to, but at the end of the day we’ve got to use some common sense when we’re looking at this too.”Walls is already scouring the 2020 calendar to consider makeup dates for races that might fall to the coronavirus situation. That includes the April 16 stop at Virginia Motor Speedway, a $12,000-to-win special that VMS and All Star officials worked together to schedule during the NASCAR weekend at nearby Richmond International Raceway — a weekend that NASCAR has already postponed to an undermined date.“It’s just going through the schedule to where we’re thinking racing is potentially not going to happen and trying to look down through our schedule and reschedule races,” Walls said.With the kickoff of the 2020 ASCoC season in February at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Fla., and East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla. (both tracks ran two races), Walls started his second year as the tour’s director on an uplifting note. He never could have imagined having to deal with the unprecedented crisis that has presented itself, but he remarked that some trying stretches during his rookie campaign at the helm helped prepare him for curveballs thrown at him.“If you could look into the future, I guess (Ohio Sprint) Speedweek last year really groomed me into this position this year,” said Walls, a native of Chambersburg, Pa., who now lives in Brownsburg, Ind., near the Tony Stewart Racing shop that houses the ASCoC office. “With Speedweek, it was just rain every day. We got to the point where we knew we needed to race and Speedweek was a unique opportunity (with teams in one general area), so we started reaching out to racetracks and saying, ‘Hey, it’s not gonna rain there … do you want to race?’ We just took the schedule and moved it all around and got as many races in as we could.”Calling what has come up this year “a challenging time for sure,” Walls anticipates that he will have to do some creative scheduling once again this season. Adding races at tracks that are already bringing the series back later in the season? Extending the season past the planned finale on Sept. 26 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio? Everything might have to be on the table.“It will certainly be a unique year,” Walls said. “I think from not only our series but other series as well, including USAC and the (World of) Outlaws, you’re gonna see something different that no one’s ever seen before.“Our schedule’s a little bit unique. We go to a lot of the same racetracks at different times of the year, and we can certainly throw in an extra date here or there. But just looking down through our schedule late in the season, there’s not very many open weekends. And the open weekends we have built in, they’re for bigger races so our guys can go travel to race with different series. That’s something we built in there this year for our guys to go race for some bigger money in between during the season.“To lose some big money races this early on, it’s gonna make the season rough,” he added. “But I think we’re gonna motor through it and hopefully we can get to racing by the end of April or the first of June and everything goes smooth from there on. It certainly will not just be a flip of the switch (to return to normalcy for the country), that’s for sure. If I had to guess, it’ll be a slow process of going back to full time, but we’ll be ready when it happens.”

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