By T.J. Buffenbarger
OCALA, FL (February 7, 2020) — Tanner Thorson from Mindsen Nevada was victorious during the opening event of the 2020 season for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget Car Series Friday at Bubba Raceway Park. Moving up from fifth starting spot Thorson drove the Hayward Motorsports car around early leader Buddy Kofoid on lap 15 and pulled away for the victory.
In victory lane Thorson was thankful for a familiar face on the team and some extra support this season from a sponsor that came on board during the Chili Bowl Nationals in January.
“It feels good. We’ve had a lot of speed with this #19 car. I have Lee Lindgren out here from California as my dude. He’s my best friend and I enjoy racing with him, said Thorson. “Oilfire Whiskey coming on board for Chili Bowl and this season has been pretty special. It allows us to get what we need for this thing and make it fast.”
Veteran USAC Triple-Crown Champion Jerry Coons Jr. led the start of the 30-lap main event with defending USAC National Midget champion Tyler Courtney in tow while Kevin Thomas Jr. swept around the top of the racetrack into third position.
Coons held the lead in what turned into a four-car race for the lead with Courtney, Thomas, and Kofoid. Kofoid was able to move up quickly to second position on lap seven and immediately challenged Coons for the lead. Further back Thorson was picking his way through the field around Thomas for fourth and by lap eight took third away from Courtney.
After working on Coons for several laps Kofoid got a run down the front stretch and passed Coons for the lead in turns one and two on lap 11. Two laps later Thorson moved Coons back to third and tried to keep pace with Kofoid for the lead.
The complexion of the race changed after a caution for Jesse Cowell’s spin in turn two with 14 laps complete. Thorson took the lead from Kofoid during the restart. Kofoid and Thorson would exchange the lead with slide jobs until Thorson pulled way on lap 15.
Windom made his presence felt after the restart taking second away from Kofoid on lap 18 and then trying to catch Thorson. Up to the challenge, Thorson drove away to victory over Windom, Kofoid, Courtney, and Cannon McIntosh.
Afterwards Windom explained he felt as fast as Thorson at times but couldn’t make up distance when they encountered slower traffic.
“We’ve been good all week so far. Tanner was just a little better than us there,” said Windom. “ I could get to (Thorson). It was like we were the same speed after that restart. I just couldn’t quite do anything to gain to make a move on him. When we got to lapped cars it would hurt him one car and it would get hurt the next car, so we just stayed in the same spot.”
Kofoid, who led the middle portion of the feature, was close to getting a USAC Midget Car victory in only his seventh start with Keith Kunz Motorsports.
“Third is a good start. We’ve come a long way from practice yesterday. We qualified pretty good; it was okay in the heat race. We made some changes and it was really fast in the main. We were fast early and could hang with those guys. I think I kind of messed myself up on that restart and it fell apart at the end.”
With one victory under his belt Thorson is ready to attempt to sweep the weekend on what he felt was a good track surface at the unusual shaped Bubba Raceway Park.
“This track is pretty difficult to race on, it’s really technical in a good way. I can’t thank Bubba and his track crew to, this track was bad ass. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night to see what we can do.”
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Car Series
Bubba Raceway Park
Saturday February 7, 2020
Simpson Race Products Heat Race #1 (8 laps, all transfer):
1. Kevin Thomas Jr.
2. Tanner Carrick
3. Cannon McIntosh
4. Buddy Kofoid
5. Andrew Layser
6. Chase Jones
7. Oliver Akard
CSI Heat Race #2: (8 laps, all transfer):
1. Chris Windom
2. Tanner Thorson
3. Jerry Coons Jr.
4. Logan Seavey
5. Robert Dalby
6. Steve Buckwalter
7. Mark Cole
Time: 1:54.193 (New Track Record)
Auto Meter/Indy Race Parts Heat Race #3 (8 laps, all transfer):
1. Tyler Courtney
2. Daison Pursley
3. Zeb Wise
4. Jesse Colwell
5. Cole Bodine
6. Michael Magic
7. Dennis Misuraca
Feature (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses):
1. Tanner Thorson (5)
2. Chris Windom (7)
3. Buddy Kofoid (3)
4. Tyler Courtney (1)
5. Cannon McIntosh (10)
6. Zeb Wise (12)
7. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6)
8. Jerry Coons Jr. (2)
9. Daison Pursley (15)
10. Andrew Layser (13)
11. Tanner Carrick (8)
12. Logan Seavey (11)
13. Steve Buckwalter (17)
14. Dennis Misuraca (20)
15. Oliver Akard (18)
16. Mark Cole (19)
17. Michael Magic (21)
18. Chase Jones (16)
19. Robert Dalby (14)
20. Jesse Colwell (9)
21. Cole Bodine (4)
22. Ethan Mitchell (22)
Feature Lap Leaders: Laps 1-10 Jerry Coons Jr, Laps 11-14 Buddy Kofoid, Laps 15-30 Tanner Thorson
KSE Racing Products / Prosource Hard Charger: Zeb Wise (12th to 6th)
Willwood Brakes 13th place finisher: Steve Buckwalter
USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship Points:
5-Kevin Thomas Jr.-66
8-Jerry Coons Jr.-57