From Richie Murray
KOKOMO, Ind. (August 27, 2022) — For the past 10 years, the term “Smackdown” served as a noun that was utilized to refer to the annual three-race weekend held in the month of August at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway.
On Saturday night, Kyle Cummins fully demonstrated “Smackdown” as a verb, crushing the field in a 40-lap romp that rewarded him with a total prize of $35,000 for a night’s worth of work in winning the Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Smackdown XI main event.
Starting from the outside of the front row, the Princeton, Ind. native punched out to a substantial lead that continuously grew throughout the duration, ultimately cruising underneath flagman Tom Hansing’s checkered more than four seconds ahead of the competition on the quarter-mile dirt oval in his Rock Steady Racing/Ultimate Predator Boats – Mid-America Safety Solutions/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
After multiple runner-up finishes on the final night of Smackdown in 2019-20 and a pair of preliminary night victories in his career, at long last, Cummins had finally grabbed the brass ring and the victory belt as a first-time Smackdown champion.
“This is by far the biggest win of my career,” Cummins exclaimed. “We finally got one of these. I didn’t know if I ever would. Now I can strike that off the list and I won’t have to endure that pressure again.”
Cummins led the race from start to finish after earlier being defeated his front row nemesis, C.J. Leary, in the final round of King of the Hill – a series of two-car, three-lap, head-to-head dashes to determine the pole. That was very nearly the least of his worries when, during his first round matchup, Cummins nearly bit it as he biked at the entry to turn three but saved it and continued on to survive and advance in the tournament.
“I about dumped it during King of the Hill and all I was thinking was, “Hank’s going to kill me,” Cummins explained, referring to his car owner, Hank Byram. “I was really uncomfortable in hot laps and (in King of the Hill). We just put some fresh bars on it, just thinking maybe one was dead, and it was a completely different racecar again.”
Cummins more than made up for his prior transgressions in a main event that saw the final 39 laps go uninterrupted without a yellow or red. The base $15,000 winner’s share was supplemented by a bevy of sponsors for each of the 40 laps at $500 bucks a clip, adding an extra $20,000 to the festivities.
Pulling no punches and leaving nothing to chance, Cummins bagged all of the bonus money while becoming the fourth driver to lead all 40 laps of the Smackdown A-Main along with Dave Darland (2013), Justin Grant (2018) and Tyler Courtney (2019).
There was no question that Cummins had his mind on the money and the money on his mind from the word “go.” That provided him with double the objective to get to the front of the field early and remain there as often as possible.
“Literally, on the first lap, I was like, ‘500,’ Cummins admitted. “I was thinking, how many more can I lead? On that red (flag), I was thinking I might get in my head here and fall back.”
A flip by 23rd running Brandon Mattox after he dug in and barrel rolled in turn one on lap two proved to be the only stoppage of the feature. Mattox walked away under his own power, but the car was towed away on the hook.
Just prior to the halfway mark, Cummins had elevated his lead to a full-straightaway, and by the time there were but 10 laps remaining, his lead had ballooned to over four seconds with the top-three of Cummins, Leary and Jake Swanson separated by a half-lap all with Cummins maneuvering high, middle and low to work his way through traffic.
“A couple times, just the way that the car was coming out of the corner, it just forced me down there,” Cummins recalled. “Instead of blowing the corner, I just went for it. There were a couple laps where I didn’t hit the top good enough and a lapped car pulled away from me. I saw someone to the inside of me and I thought that was second place, so I thought, ‘okay, the bottom’s got to be where it’s at.’ I moved around back and forth, and it seemed like anywhere I went, the car was great.”
Meanwhile, Brady Bacon had draped himself all over the tail tank of Swanson for the third position before swinging low past the high-riding Swanson in wheels-up fashion down the front straightaway to secure the position at the stripe with four laps to go.
With Thursday’s 22nd to 2nd theatrics and Friday’s unsatisfying and unfulfilled result, Cummins displayed straight, pure, 100% dominance on Saturday as he finished off a masterpiece performance with a substantial 4.088 second margin of victory over Leary, Bacon and Jake Swanson with Robert Ballou rounding out the top-five.
“I thought we had a great thing Thursday, then Friday, with the way the track was, we had a third or fourth place car and I couldn’t get anything done,” Cummins recapped. “I was kind of bummed out going into tonight, and then I just put my faith in these guys to make some changes and get thing comfortable again. The first night and a half, it was on kill. Tonight, the car was unbelievable.”
Cummins’ second series triumph of the season was the 12th of his USAC National Sprint Car career, equaling him with Eric Gordon for 12th on the all-time feature win list.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) capped the evening with his best career Smackdown final night feature result, finishing as the runner-up in his Michael Motorsports/Kodiak Products – Gray Auto – Highsmith Guns – DMI/DRC/Chevy. Leary’s second place performance was his fourth podium finish in nine career Smackdown championship night starts.
“I was hoping for a late caution because I felt like our car was getting better,” Leary pined. “At the start of the race, the thing was so tight; it was wheels up and the left rear was up. After King of the Hill, we made some small adjustments, but we put a full load of fuel in it, and we weren’t in drag race mode anymore. We just have to keep putting those notes in the notebook and just get better for next time. We really want to win this thing.”
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) made a fantastic surge from eighth to third to round out the podium in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – Cressman Sanitation – DriveWFX – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy. Wildly, it marked his best career finish on the final night of Smackdown and he now possesses six top-five finishes in 10 Smackdown finale starts.
“I’m pretty pleased with how good our car was,” Bacon praised. “We passed a lot of good cars to get to third, but there was just too much real estate to make up without a caution there at the end. We usually kind of struggle on the last night here, but this year the role was kind of reversed. I wish we could’ve had a caution to see what we had but Kyle was going to be pretty tough to beat regardless.”
Max Adams (Loomis, Calif.) traveled from 20th to 13th in the feature to collect Irvin King Hard Charger honors. The 13th place finish is Adams’ best Smackdown final night result in three career starts.
From across the shore and into his first USAC National Sprint Car feature start in three seasons, Banbury, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom’s Tom Harris raced from eighth to fourth in the semi-feature to earn the GSP North America Quality Driving Performance of the Night and his first berth into a Smackdown final night feature lineup.
With 26 positions advanced over the course of the mains throughout the three nights of Smackdown, reigning USAC East Coast Sprint Car champion Alex Bright (Collegeville, Pa.) was rewarded with the ProSource Passing Master award for the weekend.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 27, 2022 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Sprint Car Smackdown XI Presented by Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST QUALIFIER: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon (#5s KO), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (#15K BGE Dougherty), 3. Anton Hernandez (#2B 2B Racing), 4. Mario Clouser (#6 EZR), 5. Scotty Weir (#4p Pedersen), 6. Jack Hoyer (#11 Hoyer), 7. Sterling Cling (#34 Cling), 8. Dustin Clark (#75 DCR), 9. Jack James (#99 James), 10. Corey Smith (#66s CS). 2:11.16
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND QUALIFIER: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Matt Westfall (#33m Marshall), 2. Jadon Rogers (#14 Engler), 3. Logan Seavey (#5 Baldwin-Fox), 4. Cole Bodine (#57B DCT-Crow-Bodine), 5. Max Adams (#17GP Dutcher), 6. Tom Harris (#84 Harris), 7. Alex Bright (#20 Hummer), 8. Larry Kingseed Jr. (#59 Powell), 9. Cooper Welch (#2w Welch). 2:12.48
PIT STOP USA / ROD END SUPPLY THIRD QUALIFIER: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Mitchel Moles (#19AZ Reinbold-Underwood), 2. Thomas Meseraull (#2E Epperson), 3. Dave Darland (#36D Darland/Curb-Agajanian), 4. Korbyn Hayslett (#1H Hayslett), 5. Brandon Mattox (#28 Mattox), 6. Tim Creech (#2c Creech), 7. Tyler Hewitt (#57 Hazen), 8. Carson Garrett (#15 BGE Dougherty), 9. Paul White (#1 White), 10. Parker Frederickson (#34F Frederickson). 2:14.23
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL FIRST QUARTERFINAL: (3 laps) #1 Kyle Cummins (#3R Rock Steady) defeats #8 Brady Bacon (#69 Dynamics). 40.137
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL SECOND QUARTERFINAL: (3 laps) #4 Emerson Axsom (#47BC Clauson Marshall Newman) defeats #5 Justin Grant (#4 TOPP). 41.283
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL THIRD QUARTERFINAL: (3 laps) #3 Jason McDougal (#5s KO) defeats #6 Jake Swanson (#21AZ Team AZ). 39.848
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL FOURTH QUARTERFINAL: (3 laps) #2 C.J. Leary (#77m Michael) defeats #7 Robert Ballou (#12 Ballou). 40.134
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL FIRST SEMIFINAL: (3 laps) #1 Kyle Cummins defeats #4 Emerson Axsom. 39.835
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL SECOND SEMIFINAL: (3 laps) #2 C.J. Leary defeats #3 Jason McDougal. 39.543 (New Track Record)
BILL & SANDY WEVER KING OF THE HILL FINAL: (3 laps) #2 C.J. Leary defeats #1 Kyle Cummins. 39.586
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Mario Clouser, 2. Cole Bodine, 3. Max Adams, 4. Tom Harris, 5. Scotty Weir, 6. Alex Bright, 7. Brandon Mattox, 8. Jack Hoyer, 9. Tim Creech, 10. Tyler Hewitt, 11. Larry Kingseed Jr., 12. Carson Garrett, 13. Sterling Cling, 14. Dustin Clark, 15. Paul White, 16. Cooper Welch, 17. Jack James, 18. Korbyn Hayslett. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Cummins (2), 2. C.J. Leary (1), 3. Brady Bacon (8), 4. Jake Swanson (6), 5. Robert Ballou (7), 6. Kevin Thomas Jr. (12), 7. Justin Grant (5), 8. Emerson Axsom (4), 9. Jason McDougal (3), 10. Thomas Meseraull (14), 11. Logan Seavey (16), 12. Mitchel Moles (11), 13. Max Adams (20), 14. Jadon Rogers (13), 15. Matt Westfall (10), 16. Chase Stockon (9), 17. Tom Harris (21), 18. Cole Bodine (19), 19. Dave Darland (17), 20. Anton Hernandez (15), 21. Mario Clouser (18), 22. Alex Bright (24-P), 23. Brandon Mattox (23-P), 24. Scotty Weir (22). NT
**(P) represents a provisional starter.
**Parker Frederickson flipped during the third qualifier. Korbyn Hayslett flipped during the semi. Brandon Mattox flipped on lap 2 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Kyle Cummins.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-1886, 2-Brady Bacon-1774, 3-C.J. Leary-1745, 4-Robert Ballou-1725, 5-Emerson Axsom-1653, 6-Logan Seavey-1557, 7-Chase Stockon-1397, 8-Matt Westfall-1307, 9-Jadon Rogers-1271, 10-Jake Swanson-1201.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-123, 2-Thomas Meseraull-112, 3-Brady Bacon-104, 4-Buddy Kofoid-85, 5-Robert Ballou-81, 6-Logan Seavey-80, 7-Kaylee Bryson-71, 8-C.J. Leary-70, 9-Emerson Axsom-70, 10-Shane Cottle-67.
FINAL SMACKDOWN PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Alex Bright-26, 2-Max Adams-20, 3-Carson Garrett-14, 4-Thomas Meseraull-12, 5-Tom Harris-11, 6-Scotty Weir-10, 7-Cole Bodine-9, 8-Justin Grant-8, 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.-8, 10-Parker Frederickson-8.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 16, 2022
– Circle City Raceway – Indianapolis, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Clinton Boyles/Carbon Safety Technologies Most Wheel Pack Laps: Mario Clouser (26)
TI22 Fastest Qualifying Race Hot Laps Driver: Thomas Meseraull
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: C.J. Leary (12.781)
Simpson Race Products First Qualifier Winner: Chase Stockon
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Qualifier Winner: Matt Westfall
Pit Stop/Rod End Supply USA Third Qualifier Winner: Mitchel Moles
Bill & Sandy Wever & The Grandkids King of the Hill Champion: C.J. Leary
GSP Quality Driving Performance: Tom Harris
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Mario Clouser
Country Josh Conder Last Semi Transfer: Scotty Weir
Hoosier Tire Semi-Feature First Non-Transfers: Alex Bright & Brandon Mattox
ProSource Hard Work Award: Tom Harris
Feature Hard Charger: Max Adams (20th to 13th)