By Richie Murray
Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania (August 3, 2021)………This scene looked all too familiar for Chris Windom.
Two years ago, in the most recent edition of USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway, Windom experienced a roller coaster final lap in which he saw his race lead slip away in the first turn only to race back past Tyler Courtney for the narrow win.
Fast forward to Tuesday night’s Ken Brenn Midget Masters at Grandview, the landscape Windom found himself in was eerily similar, but this time, the situation involved Emerson Axsom along with a rich tapestry of lapped traffic.
Nose-to-tail as Windom and Axsom crossed under the white flag, Windom became boxed in behind the lapped cars of Bundy Built Motorsports teammates Ethan Mitchell and Zach Daum, who were racing side-by-side down the front straightaway.
With Windom choosing the high line path entering turn one, the door inherently opened for Axsom to slide past both Windom and Mitchell. Windom rotated his car, cut to the bottom of turn two and raced back past Axsom midway down the back straightaway, dove under Daum a tick of the Timex later in turn three and finished off a hectic final lap with a 0.788 second winning margin over Axsom.
“I didn’t really want it to be that exciting,” Windom said with a smile. “I got to the Bundy cars, and they were running side by side. I know they didn’t know I was there, and they were running their own race. I literally had nowhere to go. I just had to wait for one of them t make a mistake to get by them. Emerson was able to put a move on me there, but luckily we were able to get back by him.”
Windom started the 30-lap feature event from the pole position in his CB Industries/NOS Energy Drink – PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota. However, it was outside front row starter, series Rookie Chase Randall, who controlled the race right from the green and throughout the early stages.
At the conclusion of lap seven, Windom had “the diamond” working as he went topside in turn three, then cut to the bottom off turn four carrying an enormous amount of momentum. Windom roared past Randall on the bottom of turn one before sliding to the top in turn two. Randall cut back under Windom and the pair silhouetted each other for the entirety of the back straightaway.
However, Randall carried just a tad bit too much speed into turn three, causing him to drift up over the cushion exiting turn four, which allowed Axsom to scoot by Randall and into the runner spot with a slide job in turn one mere moments later.
The high majority of the second half of the race saw Windom in an unrelenting tug-of-war with the tail end of the field as he sought to break free from Axsom. When Windom caught Rookie Jonathan Shafer at the back end of the field, Axsom capitalized on the hand that was dealt and managed to close right on the rear bumper of Windom. As soon as Windom found his way past Shafer in turn three on lap 19, the comforting feeling didn’t last long as Axsom mimicked Windom a half lap later past Shafer and was right back on Windom’s trail.
With five to go, Windom carved a path past the now lapped car of New Zealand’s Hayden Williams on the bottom of turn three to gain roughly 10 lengths on Axsom and, shortly thereafter, encountered Mitchell and Daum running side-by-side competing in their own tussle for the 14th position.
Once Axsom slid Williams in turn one, the gap that existed between he and Windom rapidly dissipated to less than a single car length entering the turns. With the white flag in full view coming off turn four, Windom veered down to the bottom off turn four, making it three-wide with Mitchell and Daum to his outside.
Windom made the split-second decision to dart right to the top of turn one on the final lap, which got him caught behind Mitchell. Using Mitchell as a sort of pick, when Axsom drifted by both to momentarily take away the race lead, Windom’s instincts drove him to the bottom of two, straight past Axsom, straight past Daum too going into three.
Finally, Windom had room to breathe as he rocketed off turn four to win his third USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature of the 2021 season and the seventh of his career ahead of Axsom, Randall and Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier Kevin Thomas Jr. with Tanner Thorson rounding out the top-five.
Although coming close to his third career series victory in his Petry Motorsports/FK Rod Ends – Iron Born Studio/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota, Axsom feels he and the team are starting to put together a full night race-after-race, which has seen the Franklin, Indiana driver earn, far and away, the most points since that span nine races ago with him earning 631 points, Kevin Thomas Jr. with 569, series point leader Buddy Kofoid at 538, Chris Windom at 532 and Daison Pursley at 528.
“Chris doesn’t make mistakes,” Axsom said after observing this firsthand. “It’s hard to run him down and it’s even harder to pass him. Lapped traffic hurt us there at the end, but that’s how we ran him down. It’s part of racing. I thought we had him there for a second, but I knew he’d be able to diamond it off turn two because, in lapped traffic, he was really good doing that and sometimes pulled away from me doing that. I knew it was going to be tough to slide him, but when I saw the white, I saw an opening and I went for it. We came up short, but we had a really good car.”
In a week where he’s poised to make a big run toward the head of the Rookie class in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition, Chase Randall (Waco, Texas) earned his best career result with a third-place finish in his Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports/Bush’s Chicken – AME Electrical – CSI/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
“It’s been a long time coming,” Randall said. “We’ve made a huge improvement throughout the year, and we can only go up from here. I’m just glad to finally get a podium with these guys and to do it with this team.”
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) salvaged what could’ve very well been a demoralizing end to the night for the driver of the RMS Racing/EnviroFab – Response Management Services – Engler Machine/Spike/Speedway Toyota. After a misfortunate interaction with a truck while being pushed off for the feature, Meseraull’s ride suffered a bent shock and a flattened tire. After a brief period of time in the work area, Meseraull was provided his spot back in the 15th position where he proceeded to drive up to an 8th place finish to earn KSE Racing Products / Irvin King Hard Charger honors for the evening.
“We can’t actually start without a push truck, so we appreciate all the push trucks for coming out,” Meseraull stated. “Luckily, my guys had stuff prepared and we were able to get a new right rear shock on it. We didn’t quite have it set up the way I had hoped with a single adjustment right rear shock, but we were really good. The RMS Racing number 7x hasn’t had much luck in the last, let’s say 10 races, so we’re looking to turn that around, take this hard charger and move on to tomorrow.”
Interestingly, every time USAC National Midgets were on track on Tuesday night, somebody was setting a new track record. Kevin Thomas Jr. broke Kyle Larson’s one-lap record for the series at the 1/3-mile dirt oval. All three heat races lowered the former eight-lap mark at the track by multiple seconds with Alex Bright’s run being the fastest of them all. Jonathan Shafer laid down a new 10-lap record while the green-to-checker feature finish established a brand-new 30-lap all-time record for Chris Windom.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 3, 2021 – Grandview Speedway – Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania – 1/3-Mile Dirt Oval – Ken Brenn Midget Masters / Eastern Midget Week
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR / CLEVER GIRL WINERY QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5, Petry-13.970 (New Track Record); 2. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.105; 3. Emerson Axsom, 15, Petry-14.126; 4. Tanner Thorson, 19T, Reinbold/Underwood-14.133; 5. Chase Randall, 19A, Reinbold/Underwood-14.143; 6. Chris Windom, 89, CBI-14.165; 7. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac-14.186; 8. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-14.213; 9. Jonathan Shafer, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.239; 10. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.242; 11. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-14.253; 12. Zach Daum, 9m, Bundy Built-14.263; 13. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-14.264; 14. Logan Seavey, 25, Malloy-14.270; 15. Daison Pursley, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.295; 16. Alex Bright, 25m, Malloy-14.309; 17. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-14.325; 18. Tommy Kunsman, 21, Kunsman-14.669; 19. Hayden Williams, 1NZ, BSL-14.745; 20. Shawn Jackson, 7, Jackson-14.752; 21. Steve Buckwalter, 25B, Buckwalter-14.822; 22. Kevin Woody Jr., 0, Buckwalter-14.939; 23. Michael Markey, 7m, Markey-15.024; 24. Travis Buckley, 7NZ, BLS-15.158; 25. Dan Bennett, 5J, Bennett-16.031; 26. Oliver Akard, 41, OMR-NT; 27. John Heydenreich, 22, Givens-NT (Time of 15.092 disallowed due to missing the scales).
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Alex Bright, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. Tanner Thorson, 4. Cannon McIntosh, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. Taylor Reimer, 7. Hayden Williams, 8. Kevin Woody Jr., 9. Dan Bennett. 1:53.83 (New Track Record)
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Logan Seavey, 3. Ethan Mitchell, 4. Buddy Kofoid, 5. Chase Randall, 6. Hayden Reinbold, 7. Michael Markey, 8. John Heydenreich, 9. Shawn Jackson. 1:54.62
INDY METAL FINISHING / INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Tommy Kunsman, 5. Emerson Axsom, 6. Jonathan Shafer, 7. Steve Buckwalter, 8. Travis Buckley, 9. Oliver Akard. 1:56.92
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (10 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Jonathan Shafer, 2. Taylor Reimer, 3. Hayden Reinbold, 4. Steve Buckwalter, 5. Hayden Williams, 6. Travis Buckley, 7. Kevin Woody Jr., 8. Michael Markey, 9. Dan Bennett, 10. Oliver Akard, 11. Shawn Jackson. 2:35.22 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Chris Windom (1), 2. Emerson Axsom (4), 3. Chase Randall (2), 4. Kevin Thomas Jr. (5), 5. Tanner Thorson (3), 6. Daison Pursley (6), 7. Justin Grant (8), 8. Thomas Meseraull (15), 9. Cannon McIntosh (10), 10. Buddy Kofoid (9), 11. Logan Seavey (17), 12. Alex Bright (7), 13. Taylor Reimer (12), 14. Zach Daum (14), 15. Ethan Mitchell (11), 16. Hayden Williams (19), 17. Steve Buckwalter (20), 18. Jonathan Shafer (16), 19. Hayden Reinbold (13), 20. Tommy Kunsman (18), 21. Kevin Woody Jr. (21), 22. Travis Buckley (22). 7:45.45 (New Track Record)
**Oliver Akard flipped during the semi.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-6 Chase Randall, Laps 7-30 Chris Windom.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-1244, 2-Chris Windom-1231, 3-Emerson Axsom-1198, 4-Justin Grant-1158, 5-Tanner Thorson-1120, 6-Daison Pursley-1086, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1054, 8-Logan Seavey-1047, 9-Thomas Meseraull-1039, 10-Cannon McIntosh-939.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-112, 2-Tanner Thorson-110, 3-Brady Bacon-110, 4-Thomas Meseraull-102, 5-Robert Ballou-97, 6-Chris Windom-96, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-86, 8-Logan Seavey-82, 9-Kyle Cummins-68, 10-Buddy Kofoid-63.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: August 4, 2021 – Action Track USA – Kutztown, Pennsylvania – 1/5-Mile Dirt Oval – Eastern Midget Week
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
GSP Driving Performance of the Night: Emerson Axsom
Fatheadz Eyewear / Clever Girl Winery Fast Qualifier: Kevin Thomas Jr.
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Alex Bright
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Justin Grant
Indy Metal Finishing / Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner: Daison Pursley
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Jonathan Shafer
KSE Racing Products / Irvin King Hard Charger: Thomas Meseraull (15th to 8th)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Taylor Reimer
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Michael Markey