Thorson Rallies from the Tail for Gold Crown Win
GRANITE CITY, Ill. (September 5, 2015) – Tanner Thorson was the overwhelming favorite to take Saturday’s $10,000-to-win “Gold Crown Midget Nationals” 40-lap finale after winning the night’s dash to earn the pole, but he didn’t take the easy route to win it. After bouncing over the cushion on lap 23 and flattening his right-rear tire, Thorson pitted and restarted 19th before marching back through the field and using a lap-39 slidejob on Zach Daum to win a crazy race that saw four red flags and three more stoppages.
Thorson jumped from the pole to lead early over Thomas Meseraull, who fired a lap-two slidejob for the lead that Thorson crossed over. A stack-up on lap four deep in the pack led to Kevin Thomas, Jr. stalling and bringing out the first caution. He restarted at the tail as Meseraull pitted with a flat left-rear tire and rejoined at the tail of the field.
Thorson and Daum appeared strong out front, as Tyler Thomas solidified himself in the third spot early in the race. Daum reeled Thorson in, and he tried a slider into turn-one on lap nine. Thorson was up to the challenge, but Daum crossed just .013 seconds behind at the line as they ran side-by-side. On lap 14, Tracy Hines slowed suddenly while running ninth, but his car came back to life as the yellow flew. He lost five spots in the process.
Thomas, Jr. was on the move from the back as the leaders strung out a bit. Thomas, Jr., who lost the Honda National Midget point lead on Friday night, entered the top-ten on lap 15 after restarting 21st on lap-four. He took seventh at halfway and was closing in on Chris Windom for sixth when he hopped the turn-four cushion and caught the wall, turning over in the process. He was unhurt, but his race was over.
Daum used the restart to throw another slider at Thorson for the lead and, although Thorson held him off, Daum crossed just .066-seconds behind him at the line and came back at him into turn-one. Thorson hit the turn-two cushion and bounced over it, catching the wall and handing the lead to Daum as Tyler Thomas flashed by with the second spot. In turns three and four, Thorson was again up over the cushion and into the wall, this time stopping with a flat right-rear tire. His team changed it in the work area and he restarted 19th.
Daum continued to lead as they hit ten laps to go with T. Thomas now keeping pace in second. Darren Hagen entered the fray up front, as he slid past Steve Buckwalter for third on lap 32. Daum was entering traffic, and he got caught behind a lapped car on lap 34, letting T. Thomas close. Just as it appeared T. Thomas may make a bid for the lead, he also caught the turn-one cushion and hopped over to bring out a red flag. He was able to walk away.
Hagen inherited second and followed Daum into turn-one on the high side with seven laps to go, but he also caught the cushion and softly turned over, being hit by another car as he did. Hagen was able to walk away from the car under his own power but was held for observation.
That put Thorson into the top-five for a restart with seven laps to go, and he wasted no time attacking those in front of him. He passed teammates Dave Darland and Windom on the restart to move to third, and a lap later disposed of Buckwalter for the second spot, but Buckwalter came right back at him. Buckwalter then fell into the clutches of Windom and Darland, as Thorson tried to track down the leader. On lap 39, the final stoppage was for Tracy Hines, who this time had turned over in turn-one. He stayed in the car and was able to make repairs in the work area to rejoin the field.
With just two laps to go, everyone geared up for the restart as Daum tried to hold off Thorson. Daum dove across the track through turns one and two to catch the cushion, but Thorson ran the top and had a full head of steam down the backstretch and slid up into the lead as they came to the white flag. At the checkered, it was a .620-second victory for the Minden, Nevada racer in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Toyota TRD #67 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I was really mad at myself for making that mistake early in the race. I think it may have been going down already, but my crew got the tire changed and got me back out there to give us a chance. We’ve got a pretty amazing team and race cars to be able to do something like that. I figured Daum would slide across the bottom on the restart, so I knew I had to get my momentum there and try him on the other end. It’s been such a crazy year – I got my first USAC win and then got hurt, missed some races, but now we’ve gotten hot again and started chomping on the point lead to get back in it. It’s been a roller-coaster, but now we’ve won a big race and I’m ready for more,” Thorson said.
Daum felt the heartbreak of losing in the final laps close to his Pocahontas, Illinois home, finishing second in the Daum Crop Insurance – Weld Wheels #5D Eagle/Stanton Toyota.
“This one hurts. This is basically a hometown race for me, and I come here all the time when we’re not racing ourselves. I’ve had so many near misses here, but I’ve never won one. Obviously, they were really good, but those late-race reds just cost us so much. I felt no pressure through the race, really, and then we couldn’t get a stretch without a yellow or red. That’s racing, though, and sometimes you’re the guy who’s the sitting duck out front. I slid myself on the restart, but he obviously got the momentum to get me on the other end,” Daum said.
Windom threw a last-lap slider on Daum in a last-ditch effort to take the second spot, but he rounded out the podium in the Dooling Machine – B&H Contractors #63x Spike/Stanton Mopar.
“I just had a little stumble on restarts that wouldn’t let me get the run I needed to get in a good position on those. I was too snug on entry to run the cushion, so I kept working the bottom and hoping those guys would make mistakes, which is what they were doing. Obviously, Tanner was on a rail and was better than all of us, but I gave a big slider on Daum for second that he crossed over. I’m glad Rusty Kunz and Joe Dooling let me drive their car this weekend, and hopefully we can do it again,” Windom said.
Darland came home fourth in the Dooling Machine – B&H Contractors #63 Spike/Stanton Mopar, and Meseraull rallied back to fifth in the Great Clips – Shane’s S.P.A.R.K. #56 Triple X/Esslinger.
Hines wound up 15th to increase his point lead to 23 points over Thomas, Jr., with Thorson now just one point farther back in third.
(Photo courtesy of TeeJay Crawford)
USAC HONDA MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 5, 2015 – Granite City, Illinois – Tri-City Speedway –“Gold Crown Midget Nationals”
FIRST QUALIFIER: (8 laps – no points) 1. Tracy Hines (#24 Parker), 2. Jerry Coons, Jr. (#27 Heffner), 3. Spencer Bayston (#39 Clauson), 4. Andrew Felker (#11A Felker), 5. Isaac Chapple (#52 Chapple), 6. Payton Pierce (#39c Clauson), 7. Davey Ray (#23 Light), 8. Ryan Greth (#4 Lesher), 9. Robert Bell (#71 Bell). 10. Joey Rinne (#0D Zero), 11. Tyler Robbins (#35T Robbins). NT
SECOND QUALIFIER: (8 laps – no points) 1. Chris Windom (#63x RKR/Dooling), 2. Dave Darland (#63 RKR/Dooling), 3. Brad Loyet (#05 Loyet), 4. Jacob Patton (#79J Patton), 5. Andy Malpocker (#22 Malpocker), 6. Korey Weyant (#0B Zero), 7. Johnny Murdock (#0 Zero), 8. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (#67K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 9. Justin Peck (#5x Peck). NT
DASH: (6 laps – no points) 1. Tanner Thorson (#67 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Thomas Meseraull (#56 5IVE-6IX), 3. Zach Daum (#5D Daum), 4. Tyler Thomas (#91T Thomas), 5. Steve Buckwalter (#25 Buckwalter), 6. Darren Hagen (#17 Brown). NT
SEMI: (12 laps – no points) 1. K. Thomas, 2. Ray, 3. Greth, 4. Jim Radney (#95 Radney), 5. Bell, 6. Murdock, 7. Rinne. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Steve Buckwalter, 7. Payton Pierce, 8. Jerry Coons, Jr., 9. Brad Loyet, 10. Spencer Bayston, 11. Ryan Greth, 12. Jim Radney, 13. Korey Weyant, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. Tracy Hines, 16. Tyler Thomas, 17. Darren Hagen, 18. Andrew Felker, 19. Andy Malpocker, 20. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 21. Davey Ray, 22. Jacob Patton. NT
**Radney flipped during practice. K. Thomas flipped on lap 22 of the feature. T. Thomas flipped on lap 34 of the feature. Hagen flipped on lap 34 of the feature and was transported to Gateway Regional Medical Center in Granite City, Ill. for precautionary measures. Hines flipped on lap 39 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-22 Thorson, Laps 23-38 Daum, Laps 39-40 Thorson.
NEW HONDA USAC NATIONAL MIDGET POINTS: 1-Hines-679; 2-K.Thomas-656; 3-Thorson-655; 4-Coons-607; 5-Rico Abreu-588; 6-Bayston-583; 7-T.Thomas-575; 8-Christopher Bell-415; 9-Hagen-385; 10-Buckwalter-325.
NEXT HONDA NATIONAL MIDGET RACE: September 26 – Rossburg, Ohio – Eldora Speedway – “4-Crown Nationals”