From Richie Murray
GRANITE CITY, Ill. (October 6, 2016) — While it may not become as famous as Danny Sullivan’s “Spin and Win” at the 1985 Indianapolis 500, Minden, Nevada’s Tanner Thorson’s “Half Spin and Win” performance on Thursday’s opening night of the 2016 “Gold Crown Midget Nationals” at Tri-City Speedway will surely go down as one he won’t soon forget.
While running fourth on the sixth lap of the 30-lap feature, Thorson drifted into the infield after getting sideways between turns three and four. Thorson regained control of the car, kept the RPMs up and was able to continue on, albeit after kicking up a cloud of southern Illinois soil as he gassed his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – JBL Audio/Bullet/Speedway Toyota through the infield to rejoin the action on the front straightaway.
The mishap immediately dropped Thorson back to seventh as teammates Carson Macedo and Spencer Bayston sped past as did 2008 “Gold Crown” winner Jerry Coons, Jr.
Not only was Thorson’s bid for a third straight Granite City victory in jeopardy, an opportunity to cash in on valuable points toward a tight USAC National Midget championship were in danger of being squandered.
Thorson didn’t panic and, one lap later, he was able to get back around Coons for sixth just before the yellow flag flew for a Brayton Lynch spin on the back straight.
On the ensuing restart, Thorson worked his way back to the fourth spot as, up front, Brady Bacon threw a successful slider on Chad Boat for the lead entering turn one.
After disposing of Zach Daum for third, Thorson engaged in a see-saw battle with Boat for second that changed hands three times.
On the tenth lap, Thorson used a big run on the bottom of turn four to grab the spot from Boat. But, on lap 11, Boat cruised the cushion to glide around the outside of Thorson in turn four to retake the position. Thorson stuck within close range and was able to take ahold of second for good with another run on the bottom of turn four past Boat on the 12th lap.
The spectacular back-and-forth game of chess between Boat and Thorson played into Bacon’s favor as it allowed Bacon to stretch his lead out front to more than a second as he sought his first USAC National Midget win since 2012’s “Hut 100” at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
Thorson also began to put distance between himself and third-running Boat, but with ten laps to go, race leader Bacon began to encounter lapped traffic. With cars running high and low, Bacon had the daunting task of carefully wading his way through the backmarkers with a flying Thorson set to pounce at a moment’s notice.
Bacon had difficulty working his way around the lapped car of Gage Walker, eventually executing a lap 22 slide job on Walker, but that allowed Thorson to knock a half-second off of the interval and slice Bacon’s lead down to a mere three car lengths.
With Thorson hot on the trail of Bacon with six laps remaining, Bacon bounced over the turn four cushion, contacting the outside wall before continuing on as Thorson shot by for the lead.
There would be no victory lane celebration for Bacon on this particular night as, by the time he hit turn two, it became apparent that the right rear tire on his machine was flat, necessitating a yellow that brought the action to a halt.
The late-race restart set up a rematch of last year’s Saturday night “Gold Crown” showdown between Thorson and Daum. This time around would be the same as the last as Thorson would once again hold the upper hand, pulling away on the restart to tame the three-eighths-mile dirt oval in Granite City for the third time in as many tries dating back to last year’s sweep of the “Gold Crown.”
Thorson’s eighth career victory in the series came one and a half second in front of Daum, Macedo, Boat and Bayston. Thorson became just the second driver to win three straight at the “Gold Crown,” joining Darren Hagen, who won three in a row during a single weekend in 2010.
Meanwhile, a minor bit of redemption was in store for Bacon in the end as he raced to a sixth place finish during the final six laps after changing his right rear tire and restarting from the tail.
With Thorson’s win and Bacon’s misfortune, the tide has once again turned in the race for the 2016 USAC National Midget title. The points battled that entered Thursday night with just a 30-point separation between first and fourth remained at 30, but with a few positions rearranged.
Thorson leapfrogged both Bacon and Boat to vault from fourth to second in the standings with four races remaining while Bayston’s lead shrunk from 22 to 18. With Thorson’s recent dominance at Granite City, he has the chance to make up a good chunk of ground during the next two nights of the “Gold Crown.”
“This is one of my favorite tracks,” Thorson exclaimed. “Saving the tires is going to be a big factor in these races this weekend because the track is so fast and the races are longer. I feel like I saved them pretty well tonight, but it’s a 40-lapper on Saturday. The last couple of restarts were tricky because I knew the bottom was good. It went away on entry, though, toward the end of the race so I knew I needed to get to the top. I just went with my gut and it worked out for us. My guys gave me a great car and we’re excited for tomorrow and Saturday.”
Zach Daum had to settle for his second straight runner-up performance at Granite City behind Thorson in his Dan Daum/TRD – Daum Crop Insurance/Eagle/Stanton Toyota, but the Pocahontas, Illinois native was pleased to bring home his best USAC finish of the season.
“We were back there in the thick of it, even though we were towards the front.” Daum explained. “The big sliders are probably more nerve-wracking to watch than when you’re in the car and I know that nine out of ten guys out here aren’t going to stick you in the fence if they can’t clear you. We’ll take a second tonight; it’s the same as last year with Tanner out front, but hopefully by the end of the weekend, we can change that.”
Leading series rookie Carson Macedo of Lemoore, California turned in another solid performance Thursday night, grabbing third in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Tarlton & Son/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“The car was good tonight, but the track was tricky,” Macedo said. “You had to find where you were good at right away and Tanner did that. I’m happy with our night, though; it was fun to race with all of these guys the way we did, really hard, but very clean. This place is wild! You have to respect it because you’re moving. There’s not a lot of room on the top of turn four, but you have to commit to the top if you’re going to run it. It’s tricky, but I’m really excited for the next two nights.”
Davey Ray and Ryan Greth walked away uninjured after both flipped in turn one on the second lap of the feature.
Contingency award winners Thursday night at Tri-City Speedway included Tyler Thomas (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner and Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher), Chad Boat (Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Winner), Brad Loyet (Benic Enterprises/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner) and Gage Walker (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger).
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: October 6, 2016 – Granite City, Illinois – Tri-City Speedway – “Gold Crown Midget Nationals”
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Tyler Thomas (Thomas #91T), 2. Justin Peck (#5x Peck), 3. Zach Daum (#5D Daum), 4. Dave Darland (#11AG Gray), 5. Ryan Robinson (#71 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 6. Kyle Jones (#5B Daum), 7. Alex Bright (#77 Hemler), 8. Steve Buckwalter (#25 Buckwalter), 9. Gage Walker (#7 Walker). NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Chad Boat (#84 Tucker/Boat), 2. Davey Ray (#33 RAYPRO), 3. Ryan Greth (#4 Lesher), 4. Spencer Bayston (#97 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 5. Tanner Thorson (#67 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 6. Holly Shelton (#67K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 7. Jake Neuman (#3N Neuman), 8. Andrew Felker (#11A Felker). 2:01.55
BENIC ENTERPRISES/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Brad Loyet (#05 Loyet), 2. Brady Bacon (#76m FMR), 3. Carson Macedo (#71K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian, 4. Jerry Coons, Jr. (#25x Petry/Goff) 5. Brayton Lynch (#1K RKR), 6. Andy Malpocker (#22 Malpocker), 7. Tyler Roth (#13 Zero), 8. Johnny Murdock (#0 Zero). 2:03.44
FIRST QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps) 1. Boat, 2. Ray, 3. Jones, 4. Coons, 5. Lynch, 6. Murdock, 7. Loyet, 8. Bright. 2:37.67
SECOND QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps) 1. Macedo, 2. Bacon, 3. Daum, 4. Darland, 5. Neuman, 6. Malpocker, 7. Robinson. NT
THIRD QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps) 1. Thorson, 2. Greth, 3. Shelton, 4. Bayston, 5. Peck, 6. Thomas, 7. Roth. 2:36.61
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Carson Macedo, 4. Chad Boat, 5. Spencer Bayston, 6. Brady Bacon, 7. Kyle Jones, 8 Jerry Coons, Jr., 9. Dave Darland, 10. Holly Shelton, 11. Jake Neuman, 12. Justin Peck, 13. Tyler Thomas, 14. Gage Walker, 15. Andy Malpocker, 16. Ryan Robinson, 17. Steve Buckwalter, 18. Johnny Murdock, 19. Brayton Lynch, 20. Tyler Roth, 21. Alex Bright, 22. Davey Ray, 23. Ryan Greth. NT
**Ray and Greth flipped on lap 2 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Boat, Laps 8-24 Bacon, Laps 25-30 Thorson.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Gage Walker (22nd to 14th)
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bayston-1005, 2-Thorson-987, 3-Boat-986, 4-Bacon-975, 5-Macedo-869, 6-Robinson-724, 7-Bryan Clauson-720, 8-Shellton-683, 9-Thomas-626, 10-Greth-516.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: October 7-8 – Granite City, IL – Tri-City Speedway – “Gold Crown Midget Nationals”