By Richie Murray
Kokomo, Indiana (August 23, 2022)………In essence, last year’s Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Sprint Car Smackdown feature at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway was summed up by a two-lap conquest for Justin Grant.
A frequent storyboard for the event throughout its first decade has demonstrated that a final restart and, consequently, how one responds to it, can ultimately decide a driver’s fate regardless of the success that led up to that point.
Grant himself faced, and conquered, a similar scenario just 24 hours earlier at the quarter-mile dirt oval. On Saturday night, $15,000 was on the line, and the green-white-checkered conclusion ultimately made the Ione, Calif. driver the third multi-time winner in the event’s history.
This Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, August 25-26-27, Grant aims to become the event’s third-three time winner (Dave Darland & Tyler Courtney) during Smackdown XI.
The two prelim events on Thursday and Friday conclude with full programs and 30-lap features which provide points to each driver toward their total, which will set the lineups for Saturday’s events, which concludes with a $15,000-to-win, $1,500-to-start feature for all the marbles, the bragging rights and the substantially sized check.
Grant captured the Smackdown finale victory in both 2018 and 2021 and enters the weekend having won the last two USAC National Sprint Car features at the track, including this July’s Indiana Sprint Week round, and four of the last five in total. The 2017-19-21 track champion also scored the King of the Hill title in 2018. One more win for his TOPP Motorsports team on the final night would result in them becoming the first four-time race winner, also notching one with Courtney in 2017.
ON THE MAIN STAGE
Three past Smackdown final night winners are in this year’s driver lineup: Grant, Dave Darland and Kevin Thomas Jr.
Darland is the undisputed king of Kokomo Speedway. Among the Lincoln, Indiana driver’s record nine career USAC National Sprint Car wins at the track, five have come during Smackdown. The USAC Triple Crown champ collected prelim night victories in 2013-14, and then won the final nights in 2013-14-15.
Thomas (Cullman, Ala.) added a prelim night triumph to his Smackdown resume in 2021. He took Smackdown top honors on the final night of the 2016 edition. The 2016 Kokomo track champion has collected a total of four USAC National Sprint Car wins at the track and slotted into 3rd during the Smackdown finale in 2021.
SATURDAY HASN’T BEEN ALRIGHT…JUST YET
Six drivers in this year’s Smackdown field have won a prelim feature but are still shooting for that coveted win on the final night.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) earned his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature triumph at Kokomo in 2016 during Indiana Sprint Week, then punched in two more in 2020 by becoming the first driver in Smackdown history to sweep both prelims. He finished as the runner-up in the Smackdown finale in both 2019 and 2020.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) won not only his first Kokomo feature, but also earned his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory to boot on the second prelim night of Smackdown in 2019. The 2018 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget champion took 5th on the final night of Smackdown in both 2019 and 2021, which stands as his best result in the event thus far.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) has won three USAC National Sprint Car races at Kokomo, and this weekend, will ride once more in the Epperson Racing No. 2E, which won a 2018 Smackdown prelim with driver Tyler Thomas. Meseraull reigned victorious during the 2019 Smackdown opener after winning the Indiana Sprint Week round there in the two prior years of 2017 and 2018. However, his best final night Smackdown result thus far is an 8th in 2020.
One-lap track record holder C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) is a past Kokomo track champion in 2015 and has three career USAC National Sprint wins at the track, including the first of his career back in 2016 during a Smackdown prelim and once again during a prelim in 2017 in addition to an Indiana Sprint Week round in 2020. The 2019 USAC National Sprint Car champ has finished 3rd at Smackdown’s final night in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) won the second night prelim of Smackdown in 2015. The 2020 Indiana Sprint Week champion was the runner-up on the final night of Smackdown that same weekend in 2015 and was 3rd in 2013. In 2021, he added an 8th place finish to his stat sheet on the last of the three nights.
Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) captured the 2015 Smackdown opener during his USAC National Sprint Car championship season. His best Smackdown final night finish came in 2014 when he crossed the line in the runner-up position and was also 3rd in 2017. He missed the final two nights of Smackdown in 2021 after an incident on the opening night and is eager to knock off a coveted first Smackdown prize.
A CATEGORY OF HIS OWN
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) has been all around the top-five in his Smackdown career, finishing inside the top-five five times on the final night in his career. He earned a best of 4th in 2014-20-21 and garnered a pair of 5ths in both 2012 and 2018.
However, the four-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ has never won a USAC National Sprint Car feature at Kokomo. He’s won three career USAC National Midget features at the venue and became the track’s sprint car champion in 2020. He hasn’t quite been empty-handed in the event as he is also the only three-time champion of Smackdown’s King of the Hill in 2014-15-20.
RETURN TO REDEMPTION
Joining in the fray are a slew of Smackdown veterans eying their first Kokomo USAC National Sprint Car wins, including Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.), the four-time track champ in 2004-05-07-11, who has won with the series this year at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway and possesses Smackdown final night finishes of 2nd in 2013 and 7th place results in both 2012 and 2014.
Scotty Weir (Marion, Ind.), like Cottle, is a USAC National Sprint Car feature winner down the road at Gas City, but is looking for that breakthrough at Kokomo, where he captured track titles in 2008 and 2012, finishing a best of 4th at the Smackdown capper in 2017 and 7th in 2013.
Fellow Smackdown returnees include USAC National Sprint Car feature winners Emerson Axsom, Jason McDougal, Jake Swanson and Matt Westfall.
Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) has won in USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship competition at Kokomo in his career and went 15th to 7th in his Smackdown debut during 2021. McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) was the top Smackdown Rookie in 2018, finishing 4th. The 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champ, Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.), was 12th in 2021. Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio) won the BOSS portion of 2019 Smackdown and won again on the local level at Kokomo in 2020. He corralled a 21st during his first Smackdown final night feature appearance in 2021.
Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.) and Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.) gathered top-ten results on the last night of 2021’s installment of Smackdown. Rogers banked a 9th and Clouser a 10th in what was both drivers’ second career start in the event.
Loomis, California’s Max Adams (14th in 2019) returns to the Smackdown field, this time in Michael Dutcher’s No. 17GP. Brandon Mattox (Terre Haute, Ind.) led laps and finished inside the top-five at Kokomo in 2020. That year, he also penned a 17th in the Smackdown finale. Russiaville, Indiana’s Corey Smith (17th in 2019), a nearly three-decade veteran of sprint car racing at Kokomo, will be on hand as will Kansas, Illinois’ Colten Cottle (20th in 2016), who will pilot the legendary No. 57 for car owner Paul Hazen.
THE NEW BLOOD
Vying for their first Smackdown championship night feature starts are an electric crew. Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) has won a pair of USAC National Sprint Car features in his Rookie season of 2022, and even won on Kokomo soil in a local Independence Day Weekend event on July 3.
Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.) is fresh off two consecutive USAC Rapid Tire East Coast Sprint Car wins last week in Pennsylvania. He did make feature starts on the two prelim nights at Smackdown in 2021 but came up short in his bid to crack the lineup for the final but plans to come back to change that fact this weekend.
Three-time POWRi WAR Sprint Car champion Riley Kreisel (Warsaw, Mo.) will make his Smackdown debut behind the wheel of the Yeley-Petty Racing No. 2. Jack Hoyer (Frankfort, Ind.) made his first Kokomo USAC Sprint Car start a month ago during Indiana Sprint Week, finishing 18th. Dalton Stevens (Scurry, Texas) returns to Kokomo for his first Smackdown run after experiencing Kokomo for the first time in July.
Third in USAC National Sprint Car Rookie points is Alex Banales (Lafayette, Ind.) who aims for his first Smackdown Saturday night start along with Kokomo regulars Sterling Cling (Tempe, Ariz.) and Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.) and many more.
Bodine captured the 2021 ProSource Passing Master honors, which, this year, will once again be up for grabs. ProSource has added a $500 bonus for the driver who advances the most total combined positions throughout the three features this weekend at Kokomo. Positions advanced by provisional feature starters will not count toward the overall total.
ProSource will also reward the slowest qualifying driver who transfers to the feature with a $100 bonus at the conclusion of each night of racing this weekend.
Seventy-two previous USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car events have been held at Kokomo Speedway since 1981. Thirty of the 72 events have been held during Sprint Car Smackdown, which debuted in 2012. Past final night winners of Sprint Car Smackdown include Bryan Clauson (2012), Dave Darland (2013-14-15), Kevin Thomas Jr. (2016), Tyler Courtney (2017-19-20) and Justin Grant (2018 & 2022).
On Thursday, the gates open at 3pm Eastern. On Friday, the gates open at 4pm. Both nights, the driver’s meeting takes place at 6pm and hot laps begin at 6:30pm, with qualifying and racing immediately following. Both nights will be full points-paying events for the series and will encompass qualifying, heat races, last chance races and a 30-lap feature event.
Thursday and Friday’s general admission tickets are $30 while kids 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members. Reserved seating is offered as a 3-Day Pass at $85. To purchase, call 779-230-1310.
On Saturday, the gates open at 4pm Eastern. The driver’s meeting takes place at 5:30pm and hot laps begin at 6pm, with racing immediately following.
No qualifying will be held on Saturday. The feature events during the first two nights will pay points toward determining Saturday’s lineups, The top-eight in total points from the first two nights will be locked into the feature. All others will take part in a series of qualifying races in order to transfer onto the big show followed by last chance races.
The top-eight in combined points from Thursday and Friday’s programs will also participate in a series of three-lap King of the Hill races featuring two cars going head-to-head. A bracket style tourney, with the winner advancing each time, will go on to determine the top-eight starting positions for Saturday’s feature event, with the winner of all three rounds securing the pole position for Saturday night’s 40-lap main event. Feature points only will be issued toward the USAC National Sprint Car championship standings.
Saturday’s general admission tickets are $35, kids 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members.
All three nights of Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo will be aired live on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3OivVbj.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-1709, 2-Brady Bacon-1598, 3-C.J. Leary-1546, 4-Robert Ballou-1542, 5-Emerson Axsom-1473, 6-Logan Seavey-1449, 7-Chase Stockon-1288, 8-Matt Westfall-1199, 9-Jadon Rogers-1127, 10-Jake Swanson-1020.
ALL-TIME SPRINT CAR SMACKDOWN WINNERS:
2012: Bryan Clauson (8/23), Chris Windom (8/24) & Bryan Clauson (8/25)
2013: Bryan Clauson (8/22), Dave Darland (8/23) & Dave Darland (8/24)
2014: Jon Stanbrough (8/22), Dave Darland (8/23) & Dave Darland (8/24)
2015: Robert Ballou (8/27), Chase Stockon (8/28) & Dave Darland (8/29)
2016: Kevin Thomas Jr. (8/25), C.J. Leary (8/26) & Kevin Thomas Jr. (8/27)
2017: C.J. Leary (8/24), Tyler Courtney (8/25) & Tyler Courtney (8/26)
2018: Tyler Courtney (8/23), Tyler Thomas (8/24) & Justin Grant (9/27)
2019: Thomas Meseraull (8/22), Logan Seavey (8/23) & Tyler Courtney (8/24)
2020: Kyle Cummins (8/27), Kyle Cummins (8/28) & Tyler Courtney (8/29)
2021: Justin Grant (8/27), Kevin Thomas Jr. (8/28) & Justin Grant (8/28)
SMACKDOWN KING OF THE HILL WINNERS:
2012: Tracy Hines defeated Thomas Meseraull
2013: Chase Stockon defeated Dave Darland
2014: Brady Bacon defeated Dave Darland
2015: Brady Bacon defeated Chase Stockon
2016: Tyler Courtney defeated Thomas Meseraull
2017: Kevin Thomas Jr. defeated Tyler Thomas
2018: Justin Grant defeated Dave Darland
2019: Tyler Courtney defeated C.J. Leary
2020: Brady Bacon defeated C.J. Leary
2021: Tanner Thorson defeats Kevin Thomas Jr.
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT KOKOMO SPEEDWAY:
1 Lap – 7/26/2022 – C.J. Leary – 12.284 – 73.266 mph
3 Laps – 8/29/2020 – C.J. Leary – 40.950 – 65.934 mph
6 Laps – 7/23/2003 – Mike Spencer – 1:32.52 – 58.366 mph
8 Laps – 7/13/2013 – Tyler Hewitt – 1:49.60 – 65.693 mph
10 Laps – 8/26/2017 – Chris Windom – 2:10.23 – 69.109 mph
12 Laps – 8/22/2014 – Dave Darland – 2:41.06 – 67.056 mph
15 Laps – 8/27/2016 – Tyler Thomas – 3:28.93 – 64.615 mph
30 Laps – 8/23/2019 – Logan Seavey – 6:48.92 – 66.028 mph
KOKOMO SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS:
4-Bryan Clauson & Kevin Thomas Jr.
3-C.J. Leary, Chris Windom, Jack Hewitt, Jon Stanbrough, Kyle Cummins & Thomas Meseraull
1-Brad Marvel, Bud Kaeding, Chad Boat, Chase Stockon, Cory Kruseman, Dean Shirley, Hunter Schuerenberg, J.J. Yeley, Jay Drake, Kelly Kinser, Kevin Thomas, Levi Jones, Logan Seavey, Rich Vogler, Robert Ballou, Russ Gamester, Tom Bigelow & Tyler Thomas
KOKOMO SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS:
1981: Tom Bigelow (7/22)
1982: Rich Vogler (7/21)
1983: Dean Shirley (7/20)
1984: Jack Hewitt (7/11)
1985: Jack Hewitt (8/4)
1989: Jack Hewitt (6/25)
1990: Russ Gamester (6/24)
1991: Kelly Kinser (6/23) & Tony Elliott (8/25)
1992: Tony Elliott (6/28)
1993: Dave Darland (6/27)
1995: Tony Elliott (7/5)
1996: Tony Elliott (6/30) & Brad Marvel (7/28)
1997: Kevin Thomas (6/15) & J.J. Yeley (7/20)
1998: Tony Elliott (7/19) & Tony Elliott (8/9)
1999: Cory Kruseman (7/25) & Tony Elliott (8/8)
2000: Jay Drake (7/23)
2001: Tony Elliott (7/29)
2003: Bud Kaeding (7/23)
2006: Jon Stanbrough (7/16)
2007: Jon Stanbrough (7/15)
2008: Dave Darland (7/13)
2009: Chad Boat (7/12)
2010: Bryan Clauson (4/18) & Levi Jones (7/11)
2011: Hunter Schuerenberg (7/9)
2012: Dave Darland (7/16), Bryan Clauson (8/23), Chris Windom (8/24) & Bryan Clauson (8/25)
2013: Kevin Thomas Jr. (7/13), Bryan Clauson (8/22), Dave Darland (8/23) & Dave Darland (8/24)
2014: Dave Darland (7/12), Jon Stanbrough (8/22), Dave Darland (8/23) & Dave Darland (8/24)
2015: Chris Windom (8/26), Robert Ballou (8/27), Chase Stockon (8/28) & Dave Darland (8/29)
2016: Kyle Cummins (7/9), Kevin Thomas Jr. (8/25), C.J. Leary (8/26) & Kevin Thomas Jr. (8/27)
2017: Thomas Meseraull (7/8), C.J. Leary (8/24), Tyler Courtney (8/25) & Tyler Courtney (8/26)
2018: Thomas Meseraull (7/24), Tyler Courtney (8/23), Tyler Thomas (8/24) & Justin Grant (9/27)
2019: Chris Windom (7/20), Thomas Meseraull (8/22), Logan Seavey (8/23) & Tyler Courtney (8/24)
2020: C.J. Leary (7/25), Kyle Cummins (8/27), Kyle Cummins (8/28), Tyler Courtney (8/29) & Tyler Courtney (9/26)
2021: Justin Grant (7/24), Justin Grant (8/27), Kevin Thomas Jr. (8/28) & Justin Grant (8/28)
2022: Justin Grant (7/26)
PAST SPRINT CAR SMACKDOWN FINAL NIGHT FEATURE RESULTS:
2012 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Tracy Hines, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Dave Darland, 5. Kyle Larson, 6. Levi Jones, 7. Shane Cottle, 8. Chris Windom, 9. Hunter Schuerenberg, 10. Thomas Meseraull, 11. Jonathan Hendrick, 12. Casey Shuman, 13. Scotty Weir, 14. Damion Gardner, 15. Billy Puterbaugh Jr., 16. Jerry Coons Jr., 17. Chase Briscoe, 18. Jon Stanbrough, 19. Robert Ballou, 20. Chad Boespflug, 21. Coleman Gulick, 22. Brent Beauchamp, 23. Blake Fitzpatrick, 24. Chase Stockon. NT
2013 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Brady Bacon, 6. Bryan Clauson, 7. Scotty Weir, 8. Jerry Coons Jr., 9. Tracy Hines, 10. Tyler Courtney, 11. Casey Shuman, 12. Robert Ballou, 13. Jon Stanbrough, 14. Gary Taylor, 15. Wes McIntyre, 16. Daron Clayton, 17. Kyle Robbins, 18. Chris Gurley, 19. Braylon Fitzpatrick, 20. Thomas Meseraull, 21. Logan Jarrett, 22. Chad Boespflug. NT
2014 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Bryan Clauson, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Jon Stanbrough, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Shane Cottle, 8. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Kyle Cummins, 11. Logan Jarrett, 12. Chad Boespflug, 13. Brady Short, 14. Tracy Hines, 15. Max McGhee, 16. Josh Spencer, 17. Brian Karraker, 18. C.J. Leary, 19. Casey Shuman, 20. Landon Simon, 21. Jerry Coons Jr., 22. Tyler Courtney, 23. Chris Windom. NT
2015 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Kyle Cummins, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. Jon Stanbrough, 7. Justin Grant, 8. Brady Short, 9. C.J. Leary, 10. Tracy Hines, 11. Shane Cottle, 12. Chad Boespflug, 13. Ryan Bernal, 14. Brady Bacon, 15. Robert Ballou, 16. Tyler Courtney, 17. Scotty Weir, 18. Jerry Coons Jr., 19. Max McGhee, 20. Thomas Meseraull, 21. Hunter Schuerenberg, 22. Kyle Robbins. NT
2016 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Chad Boespflug, 3. Chris Windom, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Kyle Cummins, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Tyler Courtney, 8. Brady Bacon, 9. C.J. Leary, 10. Tyler Thomas, 11. Shane Cottle, 12. Jon Stanbrough, 13. Logan Jarrett, 14. Robert Ballou, 15. Aaron Farney, 16. Chase Stockon, 17. Jarett Andretti, 18. Brent Beauchamp, 19. Kyle Robbins, 20. Colten Cottle, 21. Zach Daum, 22. Thomas Meseraull. NT
2017 FEATURE: (43 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Tyler Thomas, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Scotty Weir, 5. Dave Darland, 6. Justin Grant, 7. C.J. Leary, 8. Jarett Andretti, 9. Chad Boespflug, 10. Chase Stockon, 11. Hunter Schuerenberg, 12. Aaron Farney, 13. Kody Swanson, 14. Josh Hodges, 15. Tyler Hewitt, 16. Kyle Cummins, 17. Mario Clouser, 18. Chris Windom, 19. Kevin Thomas Jr., 20. Brady Bacon, 21. Isaac Chapple, 22. Shane Cottle. NT
2018 FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (1), 2. Tyler Courtney (5), 3. C.J. Leary (10), 4. Jason McDougal (4), 5. Brady Bacon (6), 6. Chris Windom (8), 7. Dave Darland (2), 8. Tyler Thomas (3), 9. Chase Stockon (12), 10. Kevin Thomas Jr. (7), 11. Jarett Andretti (14), 12. Dakota Jackson (15), 13. Logan Seavey (9), 14. Kyle Cummins (11), 15. Scotty Weir (13), 16. Carson Short (17), 17. Isaac Chapple (18), 18. Clinton Boyles (16), 19. Tyler Hewitt (20), 20. Corey Smith (23), 21. Brian VanMeveren (21), 22. Shane Cottle (22), 23. Landon Simon (19). NT
2019 FEATURE: (40 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (1), 2. Kyle Cummins (4), 3. C.J. Leary (2), 4. Justin Grant (5), 5. Logan Seavey (7), 6. Kevin Thomas Jr. (8), 7. Brady Bacon (9), 8. Chris Windom (18), 9. Jason McDougal (10), 10. Chase Stockon (6), 11. Hunter Schuerenberg (11), 12. Scotty Weir (13), 13. Josh Hodges (22), 14. Max Adams (23), 15. Isaac Chapple (20), 16. Dustin Smith (14), 17. Corey Smith (21), 18. Carson Short (12), 19. Timmy Buckwalter (16), 20. Dave Darland (15), 21. Thomas Meseraull (#41w RNS) (3), 22. Cole Ketcham (19), 23. Landon Simon (17). NT
2020 FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (6), 2. Kyle Cummins (5), 3. C.J. Leary (2), 4. Brady Bacon (1), 5. Buddy Kofoid (3), 6. Chris Windom (8), 7. Logan Seavey (10), 8. Thomas Meseraull (4), 9. Chase Stockon (7), 10. Shane Cottle (17), 11. Tyler Thomas (18), 12. Kevin Thomas Jr. (12), 13. Dave Darland (11), 14. Robert Ballou (9), 15. Dakota Jackson (21), 16. Charles Davis Jr. (14), 17. Brandon Mattox (20), 18. Jadon Rogers (23), 19. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (22), 20. Clinton Boyles (13), 21. Jake Swanson (16), 22. Justin Grant (15), 23. Carson Short (19). NT
2021 FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Justin Grant (3), 2. Tanner Thorson (1), 3. Kevin Thomas Jr. (2), 4. Brady Bacon (6), 5. Logan Seavey (4), 6. Chris Windom (7), 7. Emerson Axsom (15), 8. Chase Stockon (16), 9. Jadon Rogers (11), 10. Mario Clouser (18), 11. C.J. Leary (5), 12. Jake Swanson (10), 13. Kyle Cummins (8), 14. Jason McDougal (21), 15. Brent Beauchamp (13), 16. Stevie Sussex (19), 17. Shane Cottle (9), 18. Thomas Meseraull (12), 19. Chase Johnson (20), 20. Scotty Weir (17), 21. Matt Westfall (22), 22. Max Adams (14). NT