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T-Mez Opens Indiana Sprint Week With a Victory at Kokomo

Winning car owner Chase Briscoe (left) and winning driver Thomas Meseraull (right) celebrate their victory Saturday night at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway.
(David Nearpass Photo)

From Richie Murray

KOKOMO, Ind. (July 8, 2017) — It doesn’t seem to matter to Thomas Meseraull one iota which car he’s in this season. More than likely, he’s going to put it in a position to win.

Thus far in 2017, the San Jose, California driver had already taken the Rick Pollock #21x, SC Racing #9x, SC Racing #00 and the Heffner Racing #27 to top-five finishes with the series. It took two USAC starts for Meseraull to reach victory lane for Heffner at Lincoln Speedway’s Eastern Storm stop in June. It took even less time for him to win his first USAC feature aboard Chase Briscoe Racing’s No. 5B, which he did Saturday night in the opening round of the 30th Annual Indiana Sprint Week presented by Camping World.

For the high-majority of drivers, the transition to a new team takes some time to jell. There is a familiarity phase to endure in which both driver and crew chief have to discover each other’s likes, dislikes and tendencies. There is no waiting room or grace period for Meseraull when he lands a new ride. He immediately puts the car up front, something he’s now done for the sixth time in his USAC career.

“I’m fortunate enough that the new cars I’ve been hopping into lately are top-of-the-line,” Meseraull praises. “(The Heffner No. 27) was a brand-new car, had brand-new parts and a fresh motor. Now I get to Chase Briscoe Racing and they built a new car, brand-new motor, rear end, wheels, tires, front end and shocks. I’m actually using the shocks from the 27-car because they felt so good. That makes jumping from one car to the other so much easier. You have to trust the shocks you’re running. I got to run those in Pennsylvania. It was a no-brainer. I called (Heffner crew chief) Sean Michael and was like, ‘Hey, I need to get those shocks. That car’s just sitting there.’ When you build brand new stuff, if it’s not fast it’s you. Obviously, you have to get adapted to it. I mounted my seat the same in both cars. The holes from the 27-car line right up in this 5-car. It almost felt like the same ride.”

Minus a turn two, lap one tangle involving Aaron Farney, Josh Hodges and Hunter Schuerenberg, the 30-lap feature went non-stop, green-to-checkered with 2016 Tri-State Indiana Sprint Week winner Carson Short leading the charge on the opening lap after sliding up to the cushion in front of fellow front row starter Ryan Bernal to take the position which he’d hold for the opening nine laps.

Meanwhile, seventh-starting Meseraull was on a tear, picking up three positions on the opening lap and two more on the second circuit to pull to the runner-up spot early in the going.

On the eighth lap, Short found himself slideways at the exit of turn four as Meseraull drew near to the inside. Meseraull dove low, narrowly missing the lead by inches at the line, but set himself up for a big slider on Short for the lead entering turn one.

“He got a little bit hung off four,” Meseraull recalls. “You have to capitalize when guys make little mistakes. You have to go for it, but you got to be close enough to go for it and we were.”

“If I’m catching you down the straightaway and I’m within a couple car lengths, I’m going to throw a slider, especially when the track’s around the top,” Meseraull continued. “I saw an opening and just kind of went for it and hoped, at the end of the night, that he wasn’t going to be mad at me about it.”

“There was a cushion all the way down the straightaway,” Short points out. “As soon as I tapped that, it shot me off. (Meseraull) surprised me when he took it in there, but I know T-Mez. He wasn’t going to stop. He’s coming in there for the win.”

Meseraull set a torrid pace as he tried to maneuver his way through gridlock at the tail end of the field, but there was no such luck initially, providing Short a glimmer of hope as he kept Meseraull within earshot.

“I was watching his line,” Short explains. “Coming into (turn) three, he would almost slow down more in order to go faster coming off (turn) four. Once I started doing that, I felt like I was able to reel him in. I got hung up behind (a lapped car). We kept, I would say, a five-car length distance between each other. I would love to say that I could’ve caught him, but I don’t really think I could’ve. I had nothing for that 5-car. It was definitely moving.”

In time, Meseraull was able to make some headway as he split between multiple cars, including right through the middle of Kody Swanson and Schuerenberg, with eight laps remaining to achieve a bit of separation from Short as the laps wound down. Mostly, though, Meseraull ripped the top up above the cushion where few souls brave.

“I was running that line in the B-Main,” Meseraull recalls. “(Crew Chief) Kevin (Briscoe) said, ‘You think we could pull the right rear in and you could still run above the cushion?’ I was a little worried about it, but you know, if you’re the fastest car in the beginning, not usually are you the fastest car in the end. We took a gamble and pulled the right rear wheel in and just went for it. We were starting a little bit deep and you have to be good if you want to go forward. The car was really on kill tonight.”

The Briscoe No. 5 has a long, illustrious history with sprint car racing in Indiana over the past several decades, including five Indiana Sprint Week victories with Chase’s grandfather Richard as the team owner between 1990 and 2004. The baton for the No. 5 has been passed down to Chase, a recent USAC Sprint Car driver himself, the reigning ARCA champion and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series frontrunner, who entered his own name onto USAC’s win list as a car owner when Meseraull closed the deal down the stretch for a commanding 2.5 second win over Carson Short, Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney and Kyle Cummins.

Chase’s father, Kevin Briscoe, earned all five of those Indiana Sprint Week wins as a driver in the storied No. 5. Now, Kevin is the one masterfully turning the wrenches on the Chase Briscoe Racing/Cunningham – Tex-A-Con Cut Stone/Maxim/Fisher, a talent that Meseraull wholeheartedly admires.

“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Meseraull begins. “I watched Kevin when I first moved to Indiana in 2006. I was on the sidelines just watching Kevin beat people up on the racetrack. He was Mr. Smooth, so good in the slick. He really knew how to get the car tight when it needed to be. He’s so good at reading the car. Last weekend, we go down to Haubstadt and he says the car looked tight. I’m like, ‘No I think the car’s free.’ He says, ‘Why are you shaking it loose getting it in?’ We start going back and forth. He really sees stuff that other guys don’t necessariIy see. I feel like that’s a big part of tuning the thing in. He really can see what he feels like the car is doing. I can tell him what I think the car is doing. A lot of times, you just don’t know on a grand scheme of what the track is or what the car’s doing because you’re just feeling what’s in the moment. He can see if other guys are gaining here or if you’re pulling them there. You make the best of both worlds and get the car to where it’s a little better on entry in the B because that’s where I was losing ground. So, we got the car better on entry and I just did my thing off the corners.”

Carson Short’s appearances at Kokomo Speedway have been few and far-between, but the Marion, Illinois native looked a like a longtime veteran at the quarter-mile Saturday night, leading eight laps and finishing in the runner-up position in his RCM Motorsports/RASS Restoration/DRC/SPEC.

“It’s been three years since we’ve been here and this is only the third race I’ve ever run here,” Short admitted. “It’s good to have a run like this, especially on the first night of Indiana Sprint Week. Everyone one here is good and there’s so many with a chance to win. Thomas showed me the line when he passed me. I was trying to run him back down, but he’s so good on that rough cushion.”

“Hopefully we have enough money to hit the next one,” Short stated. “We’re a little short on help. I took off work. Hopefully I have a job next week. My crewmembers all have to go back to work. We’re a little shorthanded, but we’re still going to try to keep going, though.”

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon quietly made up quite a bit of ground in a hurry, using the bottom for much of the event to race to a third-place finish from 11th in his Dooling-Hayward/B & H Contractors – Dooling Machine/Spike/Stanton Mopar.

“I was down there in the B and it felt pretty good,” Bacon recalls. “I knew it was going to get pretty hard to run. It took probably 10 laps to get everyone spread out to where we could really get to work. Once we passed a guy, we could catch the next guy, but for the first part of the race, it took us a long time to pass each car. The car was really good, but we just couldn’t get all the way there from 11th without a caution. It’s just one of them deals. We should’ve made it out of the heat race to get into the invert.”

Bacon is running a truly outlaw sprint car schedule this season, competing in several USAC Sprint Car events, a smattering of wing sprint shows and everything in-between without chasing points in any of them. The reigning Indiana Sprint Week champ intends to run just the first half of Indiana Sprint Week, which brings about a different mentality for the two-time USAC National Sprint titlist.

“I can afford to take more risks than I’d usually take,” Bacon admits. “When you’re not racing for points, you might squeeze a guy here or dive to the top a little earlier if you’re running sixth because it doesn’t really matter if you’re sixth or tenth. But you could make a move that could win you the race whereas you might not make not that type of move if you’re running for points. It’s less stressful, but we just want to come out here and win every night.”

Contingency award winners Saturday at Kokomo Speedway include Kevin Thomas, Jr. (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Jarett Andretti (Simpson Race Products 1st Heat Winner), Kyle Cummins (Competition Suspension, Inc. 2nd Heat Winner), C.J. Leary (Chalk Stix 3rd Heat Winner), Chris Windom (Indy Race Parts 4th Heat Winner), Robert Ballou (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Chase Stockon (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).

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USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 8, 2017 – Kokomo, Indiana – Kokomo Speedway – “Indiana Sprint Week” – Presented by Camping World

PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-13.050; 2. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-13.064; 3. Thomas Meseraull, 5B, Briscoe-13.138; 4. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-13.173; 5. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-13.249; 6. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-13.281; 7. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-13.313; 8. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-13.325; 9. A.J. Hopkins, 4J, 4J Motorsports-13.333; 10. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-13.346; 11. Ryan Bernal, 17GP, Dutcher-13.351; 12. Carson Short, 21, RCM-13.355; 13. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-13.391; 14. Logan Jarrett, 29, Jarrett-13.399; 15. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-13.441; 16. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-13.444; 17. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-13.458; 18. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-13.480; 19. Shane Cottle, 57 Hazen-13.495; 20. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-13.496; 21. Kody Swanson, 2E, Epperson-13.504; 22. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-13.516; 23. Ted Hines, 12x, Hines-13.526; 24. Shawn Westerfeld, 89, Westerfeld-13.539; 25. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-13.540; 26. Brady Short, 11p, Pottorff-13.560; 27. Garrett Aitken, 32A, Aitken-13.561; 28. Aaron Farney, 15F, DCT-13.623; 29. Hunter Schuerenberg, 44, Pace-13.635; 30. Tyler Thomas, 04, Burton-13.641; 31. Colten Cottle, 1RL, RL-13.695; 32. Cole Ketcham, 41, Ketcham-13.728; 33. Jon Stanbrough, 81, Stanbrough-13.757; 34. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-13.757; 35. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.770; 36. Landon Simon, 24, Simon-13.814; 37. Corey Smith, 66s, CS-13.817; 38. Koby Barksdale, 22, Barksdale-13.838; 39. Tom Harris, 5E, Harris-13.886; 40. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-13.892; 41. Matt Goodnight, 39, Goodnight-13.915; 42. Dickie Gaines, 44x, Soudrette-13.966; 43. Tyler Hewitt, 97x, One More Time-13.995; 44. Tyler Clem, 14. Clem/TSR-14.032; 45. Josh Spencer, 66J, Spencer-14.095.

SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Andretti, 2. K. Thomas, 3. Chapple, 4. Swanson, 5. Robbins, 6. Stanbrough, 7. Smith, 8. Spencer, 9. Stockon, 10. Hopkins, 11. Goodnight. NT

COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Cummins, 2. Hodges, 3. Beauchamp, 4. B. Short, 5. Bacon, 6. Grant, 7. Clouser, 8. T. Thomas, 9. Gaines, 10. Barksdale, 11. Jarrett. 2:12.40

CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Leary, 2. Bernal, 3. Ballou, 4. Roa, 5. Hines, 6. Hewitt, 7. Harris, 8. Aitken, 9. Meseraull, 10. S. Cottle, 11. C. Cottle. NT

INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Windom, 2. C. Short, 3. Boespflug, 4. Courtney, 5. Darland, 6. Farney, 7. Simon, 8. Mattox, 9. Ketcham, 10. Clem, 11. Westerfeld. 2:14.00

C MAIN: (10 laps) 1. Barksdale, 2. Mattox, 3. Ketcham, 4. Hewitt, 5. Harris, 6. Clouser, 7. Smith, 8. Clem, 9. Gaines, 10. Simon., 11. Spencer. NT

SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Meseraull, 2. Bacon, 3. Darland, 4. Hopkins, 5. Farney, 6. Stockon, 7. Harris, 8. Jarrett, 9. Schuerenberg, 10. Aitken, 11. Hewitt, 12. T.Thomas, 13. Robbins, 14. Mattox, 15. Hines, 16. Barksdale, 17. Grant, 18. C. Cottle. 19. Ketcham. NT

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Carson Short, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Tyler Courtney, 5. Kyle Cummins, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 8. C.J. Leary, 9. Chris Windom, 10. Robert Ballou, 11. Ryan Bernal. 12. A.J. Hopkins, 13. Chase Stockon, 14. Brady Short, 15. Chad Boespflug, 16. Aaron Farney, 17. Josh Hodges, 18. Jarett Andretti, 19. Kody Swanson, 20. Hunter Schuerenberg, 21. Justin Grant, 22. Brody Roa, 23. Isaac Chapple, 24. Brent Beauchamp. NT
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FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-8 C. Short, Laps 9-30 Meseraull.

KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Robert Ballou (22nd to 10th)

WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Chase Stockon

NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Grant-1,086, 2-Windom-1,047, 3-Stockon-934, 4-Boespflug-926, 5-Courtney-872, 6-K. Thomas-848, 7-Bacon-777, 8-Leary-743, 9-Darland-683, 10-Meseraull-652.

NEW INDIANA SPRINT WEEK Presented by Camping World POINTS: 1-Meseraull-78, 2-C. Short-74, 3-Bacon & Cummins-67, 5-Courtney-66, 6-K. Thomas Jr.-65, 7-Darland-60, 8-Leary-57, 9-Windom-54, 10-Ballou-49.

NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 9 – Lawrenceburg (IN) Speedway – “Indiana Sprint Week” – Presented by Camping World