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Nine years after first holding the coveted rifle as a first-time Tony Hulman Classic winner, Chris Windom joined the ranks of multi-time winners of the event following his wire-to-wire performance Wednesday night at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in the 50th running of the race.
The 2011 Hulman Classic winner from Canton, Ill. became the 12th different driver to score multiple feature wins in the event, joining the likes of Dave Darland, J.J. Yeley, Jack Hewitt, Jerry Coons, Jr, Jon Stanbrough, Pancho Carter, Rich Vogler, Robert Ballou and Steve Butler, and just one shy of three-time winners Cary Faas and Levi Jones.
“This is the coolest race to win at Terre Haute. It’s one I’ve been gunning for every year,” Windom said following his 26th career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory, tying him for 18th all-time alongside Tyler Courtney, Tony Elliott and Dave Steele. “It’s been a few years since we’ve won it. This car’s been so good all year, I feel like we should’ve had a few wins already but that’s racing. It’s so tough right now in this series, it’s so tough to get these.”
Windom rolled off from the pole position for the 30-lap main event in his Hayward Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – OILFIRE – B & H Contractors/DRC/Claxton Mopar, breaking away solo on the bottom at the drop of the green as the rest of the field jostled for position two-wide, high and low, behind him.
In the early stages, it was and would remain a two-horse race throughout the majority of the feature as Windom led a two-car breakaway from the rest of the pack with Brady Bacon, who started 6th. Earlier in the night, Bacon recorded his 35th career Fatheadz Fast Qualifying time, equaling him with Rich Vogler for 7th all-time. It was also Bacon’s 3rd career Tony Hulman Classic fast qualifying effort, joining Vogler atop the all-time list in that category for the event.
The pair, who got together in an early-race collision in the most recent series race last weekend at Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway that sent Bacon flipping, remained glued together as the two raced through lapped traffic just past the halfway mark of the race. Windom led the charge with Bacon lying in the weeds waiting for a chance to pounce on any hiccup suffered by Windom, who knew full well he couldn’t hold back and had to be the aggressor, or thus be the proverbial gazelle being chased down by the lion.
“At this place, you can lose so much time if you come off your line and have to mess with lapped cars for very long,” Windom explained. “I knew that if I had a shot, I had to take it. I probably crowded a few of them, but you’ve got to be aggressive here and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get through them. If you don’t, the guy in second’s got a better vantage point than you do because he can go the opposite way you go.”
First, in turn one on the 18th lap, Windom followed Dustin Smith high into turn one, forcing Windom to breathe the throttle and cut back underneath as Bacon ate up some time on the interval. Then, with 10 to go after regathering himself, Windom exited turn four with both Mitchell Davis and Brandon Morin running side-by-side at the tail end of the lead lap. Windom didn’t wait, instead splitting right between the 7/10 of Davis and Morin at the start/finish line to gain some much needed air away from Bacon for the time being.
“I felt like we got through lapped traffic pretty good,” Windom recalled. “I felt like the pace I was running up top was good enough that no one was at least going to drive by us on the bottom, especially the second half of the race. I was just trying to get good restarts with all those cautions at the end and avoid getting a slider into one.
Restarts came into play on multiple occasions down the stretch, first after Davis slowed to a stop on the 26th lap, bringing an end to Windom’s 1.379 second lead over Bacon. On the ensuing restart, the action didn’t resume for much longer when 4th running Tanner Thorson slowed dramatically with a flat right rear tire between turns three and four. As the field scattered to avoid contact, 11th running Nick Bilbee ramped over Thorson’s left side wheels and flipped once over in turn four. Bilbee was okay. Thorson restarted with new rubber and drove back to a 6th place finish in the final rundown.
Once racing resumed with one more lap of green under the belt, turmoil found C.J. Leary once again on this evening as he stopped at the top of turn four after charging from 22nd to 9th. Earlier in the night, the defending USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion and his team were forced to swap engines after suffering from mechanical problems in hot laps.
Moments later, under yellow, second running Bacon stopped in turn one when the engine inexplicably stopped running. There was still fuel in the tank with four laps remaining but no luck left for Bacon, the two-time series champ who was aiming for a first career Hulman Classic triumph.
That slotted Justin Grant, winner of three of the last four series races in 2020 and the winner of the most recent series race at the Terre Haute half-mile in September of 2019, into second behind Windom. The patented late-race turn one slider is a fixture at Terre Haute and Windom was prepared to expect that coming, but he also had a plan.
“I felt like if I restarted on the top, it would kind of throw them off a little bit,” Windom revealed. “This place is notorious to get a turn one slide job thrown on you, especially when you’re leading, so you’ve got to get a good restart here. Luckily, I was able to do that.”
Picking up the throttle midway through turns three and four on the topside, Windom instantly gapped Grant and, nearing the race’s end, had established a half-straightaway advantage over Grant that he never relented, collecting his first USAC AMOSIL National Sprint car feature victory of the season and first for Hayward Motorsports since joining the team during the latest offseason.
Windom’s victory was his sixth in USAC national competition at the Terre Haute Action Track (five sprint, one Silver Crown), which makes him the sixth winningest driver at the track behind Vogler (13), Jack Hewitt & Gary Bettenhausen (10), J.J. Yeley & Bubby Jones (7) and tied with Levi Jones & Sheldon Kinser (6).
Windom was followed to the checkered flag by series point leader Grant, 2.399 seconds behind at the finish, with 2019 Hulman Classic winner Chase Stockon in 3rd, 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion Jake Swanson in 4th and B & W Auto Mart/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Carson Short in 5th after starting 14th.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 1, 2020 – Terre Haute Action Track – Terre Haute, Indiana – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval – 50th Tony Hulman Classic
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-22.025; 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-22.094; 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-22.403; 4. Mitch Wissmiller, 29, RMB-22.516; 5. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-22.639; 6. Max Adams, 5m, Adams-22.744; 7. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-22.795; 8. Tanner Thorson, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-22.875; 9. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-23.022; 10. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-23.071; 11. Kendall Ruble, 17K, Ruble/Martin-23.134; 12. Nick Bilbee, 17, Bilbee-23.321; 13. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-23.377; 14. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Team AZ-23.414; 15. Anton Hernandez, 5, Baldwin-23.457; 16. Carson Short, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-23.545; 17. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-23.559; 18. Dustin Smith, 77, Smith-23.645; 19. Mitchell Davis, 56, Davis-23.719; 20. Brandon Morin, 98, Morin-23.994; 21. Chris Phillips, 6p, Phillips-24.012; 22. Nate McMillin, 24, McMillin-24.180; 23. Eric Perrott, 45, Perrott-24.713; 24. Steve Thomas, 27, Thomas-24.726; 25. Kurt Gross, 1x, Gross-25.126; 26. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-25.857; 27. Joe Stewart, 19x, Stewart-NT; 28. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Carson Short, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Mitch Wissmiller, 6. Nate McMillin, 7. Mitchell Davis, 8. Dave Darland, 9. Kurt Gross, 10. C.J. Leary. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Jake Swanson, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Brandon Mattox, 5. Kendall Ruble, 6. Brandon Morin, 7. Eric Perrott, 8. Robert Bell, 9. Mario Clouser. 2:46.78
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Anton Hernandez, 2. Nick Bilbee, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Dustin Smith, 5. Max Adams, 6. Matt Westfall, 7. Chris Phillips, 8. Steve Thomas, 9. Joe Stewart. 2:48.655
INDY RACE PARTS/INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (10 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Nate McMillin, 3. Mitchell Davis, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Chris Phillips, 6. Brandon Morin, 7. Steve Thomas, 8. Eric Perrott, 9. Robert Bell, 10. Kurt Gross, 11. Joe Stewart. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Chris Windom (1), 2. Justin Grant (5), 3. Chase Stockon (7), 4. Jake Swanson (8), 5. Carson Short (14), 6. Tanner Thorson (10), 7. Kevin Thomas Jr. (4), 8. Max Adams (2), 9. Brandon Morin (18), 10. Anton Hernandez (9), 11. Matt Westfall (11), 12. Brandon Mattox (15), 13. Chris Phillips (19), 14. Kendall Ruble (12), 15. Nate McMillin (20), 16. Steve Thomas (21), 17. Dustin Smith (16), 18. Brady Bacon (6), 19. C.J. Leary (22), 20. Nick Bilbee (13), 21. Mitchell Davis (17), 22. Mitch Wissmiller (3).
**Nick Bilbee flipped on lap 26 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Chris Windom.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-522, 2-Chris Windom-482, 3-Brady Bacon-440, 4-Chase Stockon-426, 5-C.J. Leary-425, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-416, 7-Carson Short-394, 8-Dave Darland-310, 9-Anton Hernandez-295, 10-Brandon Mattox-262.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-45, 2-Tanner Thorson-44, 3-Logan Seavey-43, 4-Justin Grant-38, 5-Cannon McIntosh-32, 6-Andrew Layser-31, 7-Tanner Carrick-27, 8-Daison Pursley-27, 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.-26, 10-Thomas Meseraull-24.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: July 3-4, 2020 – Lincoln Park Speedway – Putnamville, Indiana – 5/16-Mile Dirt Oval – Bill Gardner Sprintacular co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Brady Bacon
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Chase Stockon
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Jake Swanson
AutoMeter Third Heat Winner: Anton Hernandez
Indy Race Parts / Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: C.J. Leary
KSE Racing Products / B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger: Carson Short (14th to 5th)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Chris Phillips
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Eric Perrott