By Richie Murray
Granite City, Illinois………Throughout history, certain tandems have become synonymous with each other: Lewis and Clark, Lennon and McCartney, Calvin and Hobbes, Milk and Cookies, etc.
After his USAC Midget National Championship feature victory Friday night, a new duo to add to the list may very well be Tanner Thorson and Tri-City Speedway.
The Minden, Nevada driver dominated every lap of the caution-free affair in which he established a new 35-lap track record at the 3/8-mile dirt oval on the way to his fourth straight “Gold Crown Midget Nationals” win dating back to 2015.
In the process, Thorson was able dig a little closer to the point-lead, as he is now just 15 points behind teammate Spencer Bayston in the latest series standings with three events remaining including Saturday night’s “Gold Crown” finale.
Thorson began the feature from outside of the front row alongside Brady Bacon and immediately established the point as the field hit turn one on the opening lap.
Bacon, another driver in the thick of the series point race, encountered trouble one night prior after suffering a cut tire while leading with six laps to go. On this night, the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native settled into second in the early going, running the high side as Thorson worked the bottom.
Suddenly, on lap six, heartbreak met Bacon for the second consecutive night as his mount began to slow dramatically entering turn three, resulting in an early exit, a 20th place finish and the loss of substantial ground in the title race – a race that he now finds himself 74 points out of the lead after entering Thursday down just 22.
With Bacon now out of sight, no one was able to put up much of a fight on Thorson for the remaining 30 laps and, though, Thorson quickly distanced himself to a three-second lead by the 15th lap, he was unable to completely break away from his fellow competitors involved in the point race.
With his pass on Thursday night runner-up Zach Daum, Chad Boat positioned himself in third, a straightaway behind leader Thorson and Bayston with 20 to go.
The only obstacle separating Thorson from certain victory in the second half of the contest was lapped traffic. But, with a full straightway lead, Thorson was in a zone and a backmarker or two wasn’t going to trip him up on this night.
Thorson had to negotiate the eighth, ninth and tenth place cars with less than five laps to go as the battle for position between Holly Shelton, Jerry Coons, Jr. and Kyle Jones waged on in front of the leader.
Thorson had little trouble as he stuck to the bottom while the lappers pursued the high side, providing Thorson a clear path to an eventual, commanding 4.85 second victory over Bayston, Boat, Ryan Robinson and Carson Macedo.
Thorson completed the 35-lap feature at a track record time of nine minutes, 24.36 seconds in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – JBL Audio/Bullet/Speedway Toyota, his series-leading fifth USAC National Midget victory of the 2016 season and the ninth of his career.
“I don’t know if it’s me or this car that keeps getting to victory lane, but these Keith Kunz guys are awesome,” Thorson exclaimed. “They deserve to be here. The track was in our favor tonight, for sure. You can’t enter the bottom too early here; that makes it tough, but having that track position at the start was really big. Our confidence level is really high heading into tomorrow and I’m looking forward to trying to make it two ‘Gold Crowns’ in a row.”
Lebanon, Indiana’s Spencer Bayston held serve at the head of the points race, finishing one spot behind Thorson in Friday night’s feature to take second in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Mobil 1/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I was more confident tonight than I was last night,” Bayston thought. “I made a couple mistakes earlier in the night and the guys made sure to point them out to me so we could correct them for the feature; I feel like we made some progress in that sense. Tanner was really good through the lapped cars. I felt like I was catching him a little bit, but he was so strong on the bottom that it was hard to make up any ground. We probably needed a yellow, but we’ll take a second for points, though, and go try to get a win tomorrow.”
Chad Boat, of Phoenix, Arizona, now stands 22 markers out of the lead and seven behind Thorson in the updated series standings after earning third in his Tucker-Boat Motorsports/PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“Track position hurt us a little bit,” Boat admitted. “We were rolling there for ten laps or so and I thought we could get Spencer. I felt like we were better than Tanner, but then our tire went away and I just had to hold on. Overall, though, it was a decent night. We learned some things last night and got better tonight, so we’ll hopefully be two spots better tomorrow.”
Contingency award winners Friday night at Tri-City Speedway included Brady Bacon (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Tanner Thorson (Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Winner), Dave Darland (Benic Enterprises/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner), Alex Bright (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Jake Neuman (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher).
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: October 7, 2016 – Granite City, Illinois – Tri-City Speedway – “Gold Crown Midget Nationals”
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Brady Bacon (#76m FMR), 2. Chad Boat (#84 Tucker/Boat), 3. Spencer Bayston (#97 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 4. Ryan Greth (#4 Lesher), 5. Jerry Coons, Jr. (#25 Petry/Goff), 6. Gage Walker (#7 Walker), 7. Kyle Jones (#5B Daum), 8. Davey Ray (#23 Two-Three). 2:02.44
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Tanner Thorson (#67 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Carson Macedo (#71K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 3. Zach Daum (#5D Daum), 4. Jake Neuman (#3N Neuman), 5. Tyler Thomas (Thomas #91T), 6. Johnny Murdock (#0 Zero). 2:03.28
BENIC ENTERPRISES/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Dave Darland (#11AG Gray), 2. Ryan Robinson (#71 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 3. Brad Loyet (#22 Malpocker), 4. Holly Shelton (#67K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 5. Justin Peck (#5x Peck), 6. Brayton Lynch (#1K RKR), 7. Tyler Roth (#13 Zero). 2:05.01
FIRST QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps) 1. Bacon, 2. Bayston, 3. Thorson, 4. Neuman, 5. Shelton, 6. Bright, 7. Lynch, 8. Murdock. 2:40.66
SECOND QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps) 1. Thomas, 2. Loyet, 3. Boat, 4. Robinson, 5. Walker, 6. Coons, 7. Roth. NT
THIRD QUALIFYING RACE: (10 laps) 1. Jones, 2. Daum, 3. Macedo, 4. Darland, 5. Greth, 6. Peck, 7. Ray. 2:45.99
FEATURE: (35 laps) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Spencer Bayston, 3. Chad Boat, 4. Ryan Robinson, 5. Carson Macedo, 6. Zach Daum, 7. Brad Loyet, 8. Holly Shelton, 9. Jerry Coons, Jr., 10. Kyle Jones, 11. Dave Darland, 12. Alex Bright, 13. Jake Neuman, 14. Tyler Thomas, 15. Justin Peck, 16. Gage Walker, 17. Brayton Lynch, 18. Davey Ray, 19. Tyler Roth, 20. Brady Bacon, 21. Johnny Murdock, 22. Ryan Greth. 9:24.36
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-35 Thorson.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Alex Bright (22nd to 12th)
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Bayston-1072, 2-Thorson-1057, 3-Boat-1050, 4-Bacon-998, 5-Macedo-927, 6-Robinson-785, 7-Shelton-732, 8-Bryan Clauson-720, 9-Thomas-661, 10-Greth-539.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: October 8 – Granite City, IL – Tri-City Speedway – “Gold Crown Midget Nationals”