Courtney Wins 3rd Straight at Western World

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Tyler Courtney picked up where he left off in both 2018 and 2019 to become the first driver to win the final night of the Western World Championships in a 410 c.i. sprint car in three consecutive years, pulling off the trifecta Saturday night in the AMSOIL USAC CRA / Southwest Sprint Car portion of the 53rd annual event presented by San Tan Ford.

Jeremy Sherman and Cory Kruseman had previously been the only other drivers to win a Western World finale in three-straight years.  Sherman took 410 c.i. top honors in 2001, followed by back-to-back 360 Sprint wins in 2002 and 2003.  Kruseman won 360 c.i. Sprint Car final night features in 2005-06-07, all of which came at the now-defunct Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz.

“Western World is long historied event and to win three in a row is pretty amazing,” Courtney said.  “Thanks to my guys for busting their tails.  I know they’re bummed about the midget deal, but this does make it a little sweeter.  It’s a tough night, but a good night at the same time.”

The Indianapolis, Ind. native was referring to the mechanical issues that befell he and the team during the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature earlier in the night that dropped him out of the points lead.

Courtney responded to the adversity with a much-needed pick-me-up by bouncing back in dominating fashion, leading all 30 laps around the 1/3-mile dirt oval, which happened to be a milestone 50th win for Courtney  as a driver with Clauson-Marshall Racing’s sprint car and midget team since the 2016 season.

“It’s how racing goes,” Courtney gathered.  “Unfortunately, you’re going to have your ups and downs.  Obviously, you don’t want your downs to come at this time of the year, but that’s just how it goes.”

Courtney set forth on his journey to triumph from his outside front row position to take the early lead in his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Turbo - CSI - ZMax - Schoenfeld/Spike/Rider Chevy.

Courtney’s main challenger for the USAC Midget crown this year, Chris Windom, was his most prominent adversary in the early stages of the sprint feature with Windom taking a mighty swing on the fifth lap, sliding past Courtney in turn one while Courtney responded with a crossover back underneath Windom off turn two to resume his position at the front of the field.

In the second half of the 30-lap main, Courtney served as the locomotive, leading the tightly knit crew of Courtney, Windom and Friday night winner Justin Grant, who could’ve all been covered by a blanket as they trekked the high side.

Traffic became the question mark with six laps remaining but did not stand to be as much of an obstacle with the lapped cars lining the bottom of the track while the top-three remained in formation at the top.  Only a mistake in traffic or on the cushion could’ve derailed Courtney at this point.

Instead, Courtney only strengthened his stranglehold up front to lengthen his lead during the final stretch, ultimately prevailing by a 0.791 second margin over Windom, Grant, Damion Gardner and Austin Williams.

“This place has treated me pretty well the last few years,” Courtney mentioned.  “Last night was the first night I hadn’t won in three races or something like that, and to still run second, was pretty amazing.  This place fits my kind of style.”

Meanwhile, R.J. Johnson’s move from his 22nd starting position to an 8th place feature finish netted him a whopping $1,860.95 courtesy of the Steve LaFond / Wagtimes “Jar of Change” going to the USAC CRA series regular who made the biggest advancement through the field.


AMSOIL USAC CRA & SOUTHWEST SPRINT CAR SPECIAL EVENT RACE RESULTS: November 14, 2020 – Arizona Speedway – San Tan Valley, Arizona – 53rd Western World Championships Presented by San Tan Ford

WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 19s, Reinbold/Underwood-15.234; 2. Damion Gardner, 1, Alexander-15.276; 3. Ryan Bernal, 13, Gile-15.288; 4. Tommy Malcolm, 5x, Napier-15.388; 5. Chris Windom, 77m, Michael-15.471; 6. Matt Mitchell, 37, Mitchell-15.499; 7. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall/Newman-15.550; 8. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-15.580; 9. Austin Williams, 92, Sertich-15.719; 10. Thomas Meseraull, 2, Yeley-15.720; 11. Stevie Sussex, 12, Allen-15.790; 12. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-15.815; 13. Cody Williams, 44, Williams-15.817; 14. Jake Swanson, 34, Grau-15.878; 15. Max Adams, 73T, Ford-15.904; 16. Matt McCarthy, 28m, McCarthy-16.006; 17. Trent Williams, 52v, Williams-16.013; 18. Chris Bonneau, 15, Bonneau-16.062; 19. Chris Gansen, 4G, Gansen-16.088; 20. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-16.098; 21. Tye Mihocko, 5, Ream-16.109; 22. Sterling Cling, 34c, Cling-16.197; 23. Kyle Edwards, 39E, Edwards-16.254; 24. Ikaika O’Brien, 11o, O’Brien-16.376; 25. Josh Castro, 4T, Terzich/Gile-16.395; 26. Jeremy Ellertson, 22, Ellertson-16.516; 27. A.J. Bender, 21, Bender-16.610; 28. R.J. Johnson, 51, Martin-16.675; 29. Eugene Thomas, 10, Thomas-16.681; 30. Chris Muraoka, 25, Muraoka-17.070; 31. Ryan Oerter, 43, Oerter-17.404.

FLOWDYNAMICS/SWAY-A-WAY TORSION BARS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Cody Williams, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Trent Williams, 7. Josh Castro, 8. Eugene Thomas. 2:10.915

ALL COAST CONSTRUCTION/COMPETITION SUSPENSION INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Damion Gardner, 2. Sterling Cling, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Matt Mitchell, 6. Chris Bonneau, 7. Jeremy Ellertson, 8. Chris Muraoka. 2:10.134

COMPONENT REPAIR COMPANY/ULTRA SHIELD RACE PRODUCTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Stevie Sussex, 3. Chris Gansen, 4. Kyle Edwards, 5. Ryan Oerter, 6. Max Adams, 7. Ryan Bernal, 8. A.J. Bender. NT

ORANGE COUNTY TANK TESTING/ROD END SUPPLY FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 2. Charles Davis Jr., 3. R.J. Johnson, 4. Tommy Malcolm, 5. Matt McCarthy, 6. Brody Roa, 7. Ikaika O’Brien. 2:12.654

MULTIQUIP INDUSTRIES/ROD END SUPPLY SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Ryan Bernal, 2. Matt Mitchell, 3. Brody Roa, 4. Max Adams, 5. Chris Bonneau, 6. Tye Mihocko, 7. Trent Williams, 8. Matt McCarthy, 9. A.J. Bender, 10. Josh Castro, 11. Ikaika O’Brien, 12. Jeremy Ellertson, 13. Chris Muraoka, 14. Ryan Oerter, 15. Eugene Thomas. NT

FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (2), 2. Chris Windom (3), 3. Justin Grant (6), 4. Damion Gardner (5), 5. Austin Williams (11), 6. Matt Mitchell (10), 7. Ryan Bernal (9), 8. R.J. Johnson (22), 9. Max Adams (16), 10. Cody Williams (7), 11. Brody Roa (14), 12. Charles Davis Jr. (1), 13. Tommy Malcolm (4), 14. Tye Mihocko (19), 15. Stevie Sussex (13), 16. Sterling Cling (20), 17. Chris Gansen (18), 18. Kyle Edwards (21), 19. Chris Bonneau (17), 20. Jake Swanson (15), 21. Thomas Meseraull (12), 22. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (8). NT

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Tyler Courtney.



Woodland Auto Display / Beaver Stripes Fast Qualifier: Justin Grant

Flowdynamics/Sway-A-Way Torsion Bars First Heat Winner: Cody Williams

All Coast Construction/Competition Suspension Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Winner: Damion Gardner

Component Repair Company/Ultra Shield Race Products Third Heat Winner: Tyler Courtney

Orange County Tank Testing/Rod End Supply Fourth Heat Winner: Eddie Tafoya Jr.

Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: Ryan Bernal

Sway-A-Way Torsion Bars/Rod End Supply Hard Charger: R.J. Johnson (22nd to 8th)

Multiquip Industries First Non-Transfer: Trent Williams

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QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (Jan. 13) — Brian Shirley saw the situation one way. Ricky Thornton Jr. viewed it another.In the first controversial moment of the 15th annual Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, there was simply no middle ground reached between the two drivers who saw their hopes for victory in Wednesday night’s 30-lap Super Late Model feature dashed by an early-race tangle.The pair of top contenders — Thornton logged finishes of first and second in the miniseries’s opening-weekend events while Shirley was just a bit behind with runs of third and fourth — were battling for third place on lap seven of the A-main when their evenings went awry. Shirley dived low entering turn one and slid up the track in front of Thornton, but Thornton clipped the left side of Shirley’s car and both drivers’ machines collected fifth-place Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M.After Thornton retired for a 22nd-place finish and Shirley soldiered on to place 17th in a race captured by Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., they stood in the pit area — separated by just a few stalls, in fact — looking back on the incident with differing opinions.“He saw his opportunity and took it,” Thornton said of Shirley, “and it pretty much didn’t work out.”“He could’ve hit the brakes, you know?” countered Shirley, pointedly questioning Thornton. “I don’t know what he’s thinking. I’m not saying it was all his fault because I did get in there hot, but it was because I wasn’t gonna hit him.”Shirley, 39, of Chatham, Ill., felt that he had cut his rival for position a break on the frontstretch and should have received the same treatment in return between turns one and two. The two drivers were charging hard in pursuit of second-place Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., with Shirley running high through turns three and four and Chandler, Ariz.’s Thornton sucked low until Thornton drifted toward the outside guardrail approaching the starter’s stand, prompting Shirley to abruptly cross over Thornton under the flagman and attempt a slider into the first and second corners.“Just coming off of four there, he was on the bottom and went straight to the wall, and I braked for him,” Shirley detailed. “Then I come down, cleared him like a mile, and he just come in there and doored us. They can watch the video. I never touched him.“I can hit the brakes, he can hit the brakes. I’m more disappointed because I braked for him and he couldn’t brake for me. It’s a two-way street.”From Shirley’s standpoint, his aggressive bid on Thornton was merely him reacting to the opening he was presented.“I made a move because when we were coming out of four, he pushed up,” Shirley said. “I was running the high side and he was running the bottom. He would’ve hit me if I wouldn’t have hit the brakes, so I moved down because I had the momentum to slide him. Instead of him turning back down to try and cross me back over he just ran into the left side of the door.“I don’t know what to say,” he continued. “I don’t know what I would’ve done any different. We wouldn’t have even been in the situation if he wouldn’t have pushed up out of four where I was already there. If he would’ve stayed on the bottom I would’ve went right by him without an issue, but he pushed out so then I had to figure out an exit plan.”Thornton, 30, certainly didn’t agree with the tactics Shirley decided to employ.“So I ran the bottom in three and four,” Thornton began. “I didn’t have all my speed down the front straightaway, and I kind of figured someone was gonna slide me. But then we entered and I thought we were good, and then he slid me, like, kind of late in the corner almost.“Watching the in-car (camera footage from his car), it looked like (Shirley) spun out, but, I think because he carried so much speed in the corner, he knew he was gonna destroy the wall so he tried to turn it sideways. When he did, he pretty much parked it (on the cushion), so then I had nowhere to go. At that point I was already back on the throttle. At that point there was no turning down or anything.”When Thornton contacted Shirley’s car, the right-rear deck and quarter-panel of Thornton’s SSI Motorsports Longhorn mount was pulled astray, leading him to limp into the infield with the sheet metal flopping along the track. Shirley’s Bob Cullen-owned XR1 Rocket was shoved into the outside wall before Scott slid into the back of both cars, eliminating him as well. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., also slapped Shirley’s car as he passed by but was able to continue racing to a fifth-place finish.Thornton felt fortunate that his 3-race-old car escaped the crash with mostly cosmetic damage, but he was well aware that he lost an opportunity to move a step closer to the Keyser Manufacturing bonus dollars posted for winning three or more races.“It just ripped the whole right side off,” said Thornton, who, with three races remaining in the miniseries, remains alive for the bonuses of $10,000 (three wins) and $25,000 (four victories). “It got the body, left-rear shock, couple left-rear parts just from Stormy getting in the left rear.“It kind of sucks for that to happen, especially on lap six of the race or whatever it was,” he added. “I had a really good car. I took off and I was running hard, but not so hard that I was gonna kill my stuff.”While there was no love lost between the two drivers after the incident — a Thornton team member even expressed his displeasure by tossing a signal stick at Shirley’s passing car in the infield (the stick bounced off Shirley’s car and nearly struck a photographer standing nearby) — they were ready to move on to the concluding weekend of WWS action.“It is what it is,” Thornton said, “and we’ll get it fixed up and try again on Friday.”“Luckily it just looks like a lot of bodywork, but it still ruins your night,” Shirley commented. “We started 11th and was passing him for third so it wasn’t like we sucked. We’ve been trying different things, little bitty things every race we’re in. In the heat race I felt like we were horrible, and then, I hate to say, we just put the thing back to where it was when I won them races last year (three WWS features) and that’s how I went.“We’ll put it back together and hopefully next time circumstances might come out a little different.”

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