By Richie Murray
Gas City, Indiana (September 23, 2019)………The last time the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars visited Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway in July, a sliver of a tip of a single strand of hair separated the top-two at the finish line.
This Thursday, September 26, USAC hits the quarter-mile dirt oval straight up I-69 for the second running of the James Dean Classic, which last year, was as memorable as any sock hop, soda pop, basketball and auto shop put together as Kevin Thomas, Jr. raced to victory in the waning laps with less than five to go to collect the win.
Thomas is fourth in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car standings with a single victory on his resume this year. However, the Cullman, Ala. native has won twice with USAC at Gas City in his career, first in 2013 and again in late 2018. Thomas has a good amount of success at Gas City, winning June’s sprint race during Indiana Midget Week. He was fifth during Indiana Sprint Week in July and has won his heat race in both the midget and sprint each time he’s hit the track with USAC at Gas City this season.
There hasn’t been a more consistent finisher throughout the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season as well as the series’ three most recent trips to Gas City than C.J. Leary of Greenfield, Ind. Leary, the USAC National Sprint point leader, has finished in the top ten in all but one of his 26 feature starts in 2019, leading all drivers in that category. In his last three USAC Sprint appearances at Gas City, he’s finished 1st, 2nd and 2nd. He won the ISW round in 2017 at Gas City and, just this past July, led 29.999 of the 30-lap ISW feature to finish 2nd by a whisker behind Shane Cottle.
For Tyler Courtney, Gas City is where his USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car career kicked into gear. The Indianapolis, Ind. native raced from dead last to win the 2016 ISW round after an opening lap spin. Each of the last three times Courtney’s hit the track at Gas City in USAC competition, he’s won his heat race, capturing the heat victory in last year’s James Dean Classic as well as during IMW and ISW during 2019. This year, he leads both the USAC Sprint and Midget divisions in terms of heat race victories with a combined 19 between the two series.
Two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ Brady Bacon is a Gas City USAC Sprint winner, leading the final 14 laps to score the victory in the Spring of 2015. The Broken Arrow, Okla. driver finished 4th in July during the ISW round at Gas City.
Justin Grant enters Gas City fresh off a first career USAC Sprint win at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track on September 13, a place where he had won before in a Silver Crown car. A similar situation awaits the Ione, Calif. native Thursday at Gas City where he led all 30 laps to score a win during Indiana Midget Week in June. He’s yet to win a USAC Sprint Car feature at Gas City. He took 8th in last year’s James Dean Classic and was 10th during ISW at Gas City in July.
Likewise, Chris Windom is seeking his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature triumph Thursday at Gas City. The Canton, Ill. driver was the fastest qualifier for the James Dean Classic in September of 2018 and went on to finish a solid 4th in that night’s feature. He followed it up with a 3rd place run during ISW this past July.
Chase Stockon recently took over as the ultimate ironman of the USAC National Sprint Car division where he now stands alone at 286 consecutive starts in the series dating to 2012. The Fort Branch, Ind. resident won the ISW round at Gas City in 2015 and was 5th in last year’s James Dean Classic.
Jason McDougal hasn’t yet reached victory lane at Gas City with USAC, but he’s been rock solid in each of his last three appearances there. In last year’s James Dean Classic, the native of Broken Arrow, Okla. was battling for 3rd coming to the white flag when he was involved in a tangle that sent him to an 18th place finish. He was 4th in a midget during IMW this past June and 6th during ISW in July where he won his heat race as well.
Carson Short (Marion, Ill.), 9th in the USAC standings, was fast time this past July during Indiana Sprint Week, one of his three this year and seventh of his USAC National Sprint Car career where he owns one victory, in 2016, at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
Willow Branch, Indiana’s Isaac Chapple nearly won his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature in the 2018 James Dean Classic, starting his night off with a heat race victory, then proceeded to lead the first 25 laps of the 30-lap event before finishing a career-best 3rd.
Two-time Gas City I-69 Speedway track champion Shane Cottle owns eight USAC National victories in his career. Five of the Kansas, Ill. driver’s eight wins have come right at Gas City where he started 18th and captured the victory on the final lap of July’s spectacular ISW round, nipping C.J. Leary at the line for his third USAC Sprint win there to go along with two USAC Midget victories.
Twice a USAC National Sprint Car winner at Gas City and 62-times a winner in USAC National Sprint Car competition, Dave Darland took 6th in last season’s initial James Dean Classic. The Lincoln, Ind. driver was the top dog at Gas City in USAC National Sprint Car features at Gas City in 2009 and 2011.
Marion, Indiana’s Scotty Weir, fourth in Gas City sprint car points, won his first and, thus far, only career USAC National Sprint Car feature in 2016 at Gas City. He won his heat race at Gas City in July during Indiana Sprint Week.
No driver has been more successful at Gas City this season than has Thomas Meseraull, a seven-time winner on the weekly level at the track in 2019 and is in position to secure the track title. He was a master on the opening night of Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in August to tally a win in the USAC Sprint Car column this year as well.
Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio), Shane Cockrum (Benton, Ill) and Tyler Hewitt (Marion, Ind.) have all won on the weekly sprint circuit at Gas City this year and will be tough to beat come Thursday.
On Thursday at Gas City, pits open at 3pm Eastern, front gates at 4:30pm and cars on track at 6:30pm. Adult general admission tickets are $25, kids 12 and under are free and pit passes are $30 apiece.
The James Dean Classic can be watched LIVE and on-demand on FloRacing, listened to via live audio on the USAC app as well as live timing and scoring on both the USAC app and the Race-Monitor app.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-1,835, 2-Tyler Courtney-1,720, 3-Brady Bacon-1,647, 4-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1,637, 5-Justin Grant-1,629, 6-Chris Windom-1,626, 7-Chase Stockon-1,585, 8-Jason McDougal-1,381, 9-Carson Short-1,361, 10-Isaac Chapple-1,058.
2018 JAMES DEAN CLASSIC FEATURE RESULTS:
(Starting position in parentheses)
1. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (4), 2. C.J. Leary (5), 3. Isaac Chapple (2), 4. Chris Windom (6), 5. Chase Stockon (3), 6. Dave Darland (12), 7. Kyle Cummins (18), 8. Justin Grant (7), 9. Tyler Thomas (8), 10. Clinton Boyles (20), 11. Shane Cottle (9), 12. Matt Westfall (13), 13. Brady Bacon (14), 14. Carson Short (16), 15. Tyler Hewitt (22), 16. Tony DiMattia (15), 17. Tyler Courtney (17), 18. Jason McDougal (1), 19. Josh Hodges (11), 20. Dallas Hewitt (21), 21. Dustin Ingle (19), 22. Thomas Meseraull (10). NT
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS AT GAS CITY I-69 SPEEDWAY:
1. (6) Jon Stanbrough
2. (3) Shane Cottle & Tracy Hines
4. (2) Cory Kruseman, Dave Darland, Hunter Schuerenberg, J.J. Yeley & Kevin Thomas, Jr.
9. (1) Brady Bacon, Bryan Clauson, C.J. Leary, Chase Stockon, Cole Whitt, Daron Clayton, Jay Drake, Levi Jones, Scotty Weir & Tyler Courtney
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS AT GAS CITY I-69 SPEEDWAY:
2002: Cory Kruseman (7/19)
2003: J.J. Yeley (5/30) & J.J. Yeley (7/18)
2004: Tracy Hines (4/30)
2005: Jay Drake (6/3) & Cory Kruseman (7/20)
2006: Shane Cottle & Jon Stanbrough (7/19)
2007: Jon Stanbrough (6/14), Daron Clayton (7/13) & Jon Stanbrough (7/14)
2008: Shane Cottle (4/18) & Cole Whitt (7/11)
2009: Dave Darland (4/17) & Levi Jones (7/11)
2010: Tracy Hines (4/16) & Jon Stanbrough (7/10)
2011: Hunter Schuerenberg (4/29) & Dave Darland (7/8)
2012: Hunter Schuerenberg (4/27) & Bryan Clauson (7/13)
2013: Kevin Thomas, Jr. (4/26) & Jon Stanbrough (7/12)
2014: Tracy Hines (4/25) & Jon Stanbrough (7/11)
2015: Brady Bacon (5/15) & Chase Stockon (7/10)
2016: Scotty Weir (5/20) & Tyler Courtney (7/8)
2017: C.J. Leary (7/10)
2018: Kevin Thomas, Jr. (9/28)
2019: Shane Cottle (7/18)