From Richie Murray
HAUBSTADT, IN (June 14, 2020) — Stephen Schnapf knew he had the speed at Tri-State Speedway. He just had to finish that final third.
After last year’s oh-so-close second-place finish in midsummer to Kyle Cummins in which Schnapf led all but the final four laps, the Evansville, Ind. native felt a victory on the big stage was just within reach, but just needed to close it out Mariano Rivera style.
“I knew last year we were fast,” Schnapf remembered. “I knew we were able to get out and roll early, but Cummins got us every time last year. That last third of the race, he’d always be quicker and was able to get around us and we just couldn’t quite hang on.”
Sunday night, Schnapf finally found that final third to finish off his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory in the Midwest Sprint Car Series co-sanctioned “Showdown” at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway, a monumental victory for the 31-year-old just one day shy of his 32nd birthday.
“This is like 22 or 23 years I’ve been racing now,” Schnapf recalled. “We’ve won local championships, state championships, and have run well. I’ve been close to a feature win on the national level and this is honestly, truly, my first ever national feature win in any type of race car. It’s taken so many years to finally get it, and I’ve had so many great people behind me over those years, and things just weren’t quite able to work out. Finally, tonight, the stars just lined up for me. Tonight, it was kind of destiny, and it was going to be hard to be beaten.”
Right from the get go, Schnapf was on point. Despite Schnapf starting from the pole, Cummins, who swept all nine Sprint Car feature victories in USAC and MSCS competition at the ¼-mile dirt oval track in 2019, was the odds-on favorite from the third starting spot and was already challenging Schnapf for the lead at the conclusion of lap one.
Schnapf withstood Cummins’ challenge and burst off the top of turn four to beat Cummins to the line and, from there, extended his lead lap-after-lap, eventually carving out a half-straightaway lead in the first half of the 30-lapper.
As Schnapf fenagled his way through the back half of the field, Cummins began to reel him in, shaving a second off Schnapf’s 1.6 second lead. On the 20th lap, Schnapf encountered Max Adams, attempting to put him a lap down, but Schnapf was caught up just enough to nearly allow Cummins to take full advantage of the door he left open underneath.
However, Schnapf secured his grasp, denying what ultimately became Cummins’ last shot. Leading USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Rookie Anton Hernandez slowed moments later to bring out the caution, thus putting the intensity of traffic and the immediate pressure of Cummins’ presence off Schnapf for the time being.
With that said, Schnapf was in a rhythm, and some drivers loathe the thought of restarts. Not so much for Schnapf, who considered it a blessing in a way with how well he could launch each time he saw the green.
Cummins was able to stay within a couple car lengths of Schnapf in the ensuing laps following the last restart, which started the final, crucial third of the race, but Cummins wasn’t quite able to get a run. With six to go, however, any thought of Cummins making a run at a 10th consecutive Tri-State victory vanished.
Cummins was disposed of by Donny Brackett for second off turn four on the 24th lap, then a half-lap later, was overtaken for third by Robert Ballou. Suddenly, it was apparent something was amiss as Cummins slowed dramatically and pulled into the infield with an engine issue, ending his astounding winning streak with a 22nd place finish.
Schnapf stretched his lead out over Brackett and Ballou and appeared headed for surefire victory when 16th running Kendall Ruble spun to a stop in turn two, presenting a green-white-checkered finish, and another instance of Schnapf having to display his prowess this night on another restart.
“I knew I could restart,” Schnapf confidently stated. “The motor was firing really good and I knew that just getting a restart, we got an opportunity to put three or four car lengths between us. I was happy to see that one, but with two go, I really wasn’t as excited to see the caution. But I knew that, even there, just get a good start and don’t miss the bottom, and it was ours.”
And it was. Schnapf zipped away from the pack, leaving the battle to be fought for the runner-up position. Insanity ensued on the final corner of the final lap behind Schnapf when second-running Brackett, headed for his best career USAC finish, spun sideways in turn four, recovering only by driving through the infield and soldiering on to an 11th place result while Ballou, Kevin Thomas Jr., Carson Short and Justin Grant freight-trained by to take the remainder of the top-five spots at the checkered.
Following a relatively tough start to the night, Schnapf credits his ongoing building of experience to help him forge forward in diagnosing changes to take his ride from a good car to a winning car.
“Tonight, we actually came in way too tight; I couldn’t keep the front end down on the ground,” Schnapf admitted. “But, now with a few years of experience, we were able to keep traction and make a few tweaks just to make it driveable. That’s where it was. It was hard to see Kyle drive away last year. All year, we searched to find that extra speed and we were never able to find it. Even though we didn’t find it last year, we finally found that little bit of extra speed we needed here.”
With the victory, Schnapf became the initial first-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature winner of 2020, and the first since Logan Seavey at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in August of 2019. Schnapf was also the first first-time USAC Sprint winner at Tri-State since Carson Short in 2016.
Dave Darland’s 61st career fast qualifying time during Fatheadz Eyewear time trials moved him past Tracy Hines for second all-time in series history. Darland, the all-time winningest driver in series history now ranks just four behind Tom Bigelow’s record of 65 fast qualifying times.
USAC National Sprint Car Championship
Sunday June 14, 2020
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/ADDICTION SOLUTIONS VINCENNES QUALIFYING FLIGHT ONE: 1. Donny Brackett, 4B, Brackett-13.749; 2. Carson Short, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-13.770; 3. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.816; 4. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-13.843; 5. Kendall Ruble, 17, Ruble/Martin-13.939; 6. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-13.948; 7. Jadon Rogers, 14, Rogers-13.963; 8. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-13.989; 9. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-14.128; 10. Brayden Fox, 53, Fox-14.158; 11. Jonathan Vennard, 54, KO-14.193; 12. Dustin Clark, 75, Clark-14.224; 13. Stan Beadles, 84, Beadles-14.392; 14. Anton Hernandez, 5, Baldwin-14.490; 15. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-14.543; 16. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-14.662; 17. Logan Seavey, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-14.732; 18. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-14.926; 19. Harley Burns, 16, Burns-14.938; 20. Mitchell Davis, 56, Davis-15.406; 21. Sam Scott, 7, Scott- 15.648; 22. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-16.490; 23. Eric Perrott, 45, Perrott-16.984.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/ADDICTION SOLUTIONS VINCENNES QUALIFYING FLIGHT TWO: 1. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-13.647; 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-13.717; 3. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-13.787; 4. Stephen Schnapf, 61m, Edwards-13.904; 5. Dakota Jackson, 17G, On The Gass-14.003; 6. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-14.078; 7. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-14.159; 8. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-14.184; 9. Chayse Hayhurst, 20, Hayhurst-14.243; 10. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-14.276; 11. Max Adams, 5m, Adams-14.314; 12. Critter Malone, 5s, KO-14.363; 13. Aric Gentry, 10, GBR-14.407; 14. Brady Short, 11p, Short/Pottorff-14.484; 15. Chris Phillips, 6p, Phillips-14.492; 16. Brandon Morin, 98, Morin-14.610; 17. Dustin Smith, 77, LG-14.623; 18. Kent Schmidt, 5K, KO-14.638; 19. Kurt Gross, 1x, Gross-15.050; 20. Ryan Bond, 7R, Bond-15.282; 21. Anthony D’Alessio, 01, D’Alessio/Parallax-15.655; 22. Steve Thomas, 27, Thomas-16.495.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Donny Brackett, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Jadon Rogers, 4. Jonathan Vennard, 5. Shane Cottle, 6. Jarett Andretti, 7. Logan Seavey, 8. Harley Burns, 9. Sam Scott, 10. Eric Perrott, 11. Kendall Ruble, 12. Stan Beadles. 2:21.816
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Dustin Clark, 4. Carson Short, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. Anton Hernandez, 7. Brayden Fox, 8. Mario Clouser, 9. Mitchell Davis, 10. Matt Westfall, 11. Robert Bell. 2:23.946
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Aric Gentry, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Dakota Jackson, 5. Dave Darland, 6. Max Adams, 7. Chris Phillips, 8. Dustin Smith, 9. Kurt Gross, 10. Chayse Hayhurst, 11. Anthony D’Alessio. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Stephen Schnapf, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Brandon Mattox, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Kent Schmidt, 6. Charles Davis Jr., 7. Brandon Morin, 8. Brady Short, 9. Ryan Bond, 10. Steve Thomas, 11. Critter Malone. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Mario Clouser, 2. Kent Schmidt, 3. Brandon Morin, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Mitchell Davis, 6. Dustin Smith, 7. Kurt Gross, 8. Matt Westfall, 9. Anthony D’Alessio, 10. Sam Scott, 11. Steve Thomas, 12. Eric Perrott, 13. Ryan Bond, 14. Robert Bell. 2:26.686
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Kendall Ruble, 3. Charles Davis Jr., 4. Max Adams, 5. Brady Short, 6. Anton Hernandez, 7. Dave Darland, 8. Brandon Morin, 9. Mario Clouser, 10. Shane Cottle, 11. Kent Schmidt, 12. Critter Malone, 13. Stan Beadles, 14. Brayden Fox, 15. Chayse Hayhurst, 16. Chris Phillips, 17. Logan Seavey, 18. Jarett Andretti. 2:56.830
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Stephen Schnapf (1), 2. Robert Ballou (2), 3. Kevin Thomas Jr. (15), 4. Carson Short (4), 5. Justin Grant (5), 6. Chris Windom (9), 7. Chase Stockon (11), 8. Brady Bacon (10), 9. Jadon Rogers (12), 10. Brady Short (21), 11. Donny Brackett (6), 12. C.J. Leary (7), 13. Brandon Mattox (16), 14. Charles Davis Jr. (14), 15. Kendall Ruble (13), 16. Max Adams (17), 17. Aric Gentry (20), 18. Kent Schmidt (24), 19. Dustin Clark (19), 20. Logan Seavey (23), 21. Dakota Jackson (8), 22. Kyle Cummins (3), 23. Anton Hernandez (22), 24. Jonathan Vennard (18), 25. Dave Darland (25), 26. Chayse Hayhurst (26). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Stephen Schnapf.
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-368, 2-Chris Windom-353, 3-Brady Bacon-344, 4-C.J. Leary-320, 5-Kevin Thomas Jr.-291, 6-Chase Stockon-283, 7-Carson Short-270, 8-Logan Seavey-253, 9-Dave Darland-234, 10-Robert Ballou-207.
NEW OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Andrew Layser-31, 2-Logan Seavey-29, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-25, 4-Tanner Thorson-23, 5-Chris Windom-23, 6-Brady Bacon-20, 7-Mario Clouser-19, 8-Daison Pursley-18, 9-Tyler Courtney-16, 10-Tyler Thomas-16.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 26, 2020 – Plymouth Speedway – Plymouth, Indiana – 3/8-Mile Dirt Oval