By Richie Murray
Placerville, California (November 17, 2022)………No individual or team has been more synonymous with winning USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature events in this era than Keith Kunz Motorsports.
When Tanner Carrick crossed the finish line at the conclusion of Thursday night’s Hangtown 100 Presented By Matt Wood Racing opener at California’s Placerville Speedway, he delivered an all-time record victory for the Columbus, Indiana based team.
Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.) led the final 29 laps of the 30-lap feature to give Kunz his 134th career series triumph, making him the winningest USAC National Midget entrant of all-time.
The new mark broke the standard of 133 series wins, which had long been held by Steve Lewis and the venerable “Nine Cars” which dominated the circuit throughout the 1990s and into the mid-2000s.
Three decades since his first taste of USAC success as a National Midget entrant with Page Jones at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in 1992, Kunz’s name is at the top of the list by itself. However, Kunz is quick to give credit to the many great drivers for him over the years who are the epitome of success.
“Steve Lewis was one of the greatest car owners ever and I never even dreamed of being anywhere close to this,” Kunz said. “Thirty years ago, was my first win so it’s been a long time. I’ve had such good guys drive for me over the years.”
On a historic night, it was one of KKM’s longest-tenured drivers who delivered the goods. Carrick has been with the team either full-time or in a partial role since 2017 but had only picked off one victory in that span in 2019 at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex. Thursday night produced a proud moment not only for Carrick himself, but also under the watchful eye of Kunz.
“I’m just really happy for Tanner coming in and doing this at his home track,” Kunz acknowledged. “He’s driven for me a lot, and when we got here tonight, he was feeling pretty good about this place. We knew right from the beginning of the night that he was going to be a factor in this.”
Carrick lives less than an hour from Placerville’s quarter-mile dirt oval and is a frequent competitor in winged sprint car competition at his self-described “home track.” In fact, his most recent start at the track came during early September’s Nor*Cal Posse Shootout – a race in which he won.
The success translated to the midgets on this night where he set the tone early as the fastest qualifier in the 49-car field, then followed it up by posting his first USAC National Midget victory in more than three seasons, collecting the $5,000 top prize at the wheel of his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Toyota – Mobil 1/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
For Carrick and Kunz, the bond runs deeper than just simply a driver and his boss. Carrick often goes hunting with Kunz and two spend time together away from the racetrack. They don’t just race, they do things together as a family, a true illustration of “the family that races together stays together.”
“Keith and (CEO) Pete (Willoughby) have always been there for me,” Carrick stated. “When I wanted to come back and run for them, they had a car for me. Ever since then, whenever I ask if I can come run, they’ve got a ride for me. That means a lot and, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here and be able to do this.
Carrick rolled form the outside of the front row, and right from the get-go, was embroiled in a racelong tussle up front with pole sitter Michael Pickens out of Auckland, New Zealand. Pickens struck first as he slid past Carrick and into the lead in turns three and four on lap one to ultimately lead by a half car length at the stripe.
As it turned out, it was the only lap Pickens led. Carrick blazed a trail around the outside in turn four a lap later to retake the lead on lap two. Pickens returned the favor on lap four, sliding from the bottom of turn three to the top of the fourth turn, then got a bit of the chrome horn on his rear bumper from the front bumper of Carrick. Pickens turned sideways but stayed on the gas to remain second.
The red flag was displayed on the sixth lap when 19th running Justin Grant got upside down in turn two. After making substantial front end repairs in the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area under the stoppage, the RMS Racing crew sent him on his way back into competition where he ended up 14th.
Carrick once again spurted away on the ensuing restart, building up a 0.8 second lead over Pickens as the race hit the halfway point. By lap 20, Carrick had reached the tail end of lapped traffic. Dropping from the high line, Carrick dipped low under teammate Kaylee Bryson to put her a lap down while also extending his lead to 1.1 second in the process.
However, a yellow flag on lap 22 was waved for an incident that began when 15th running Jake Andreotti’s car went up in smoke and slowed dramatically on the front straightaway. Tanner Thorson (17th), debuting his new Tanner Thorson Racing team, had no room to escape and ramped over Andreotti’s left rear, sending him into a 180-degree spin before sliding to a stop.
The resumption of action didn’t fare too long afterward as a major melee in turn one on lap 24 resulted in a double flip for Jade Avedisian (12th) and Daniel Whitley (21st), which also marked the ninth and tenth flips of the evening. Carson Macedo (11th) also came to a stop with his front end knocked out. Emerson Axsom (14th) and Daison Pursley (17th) also came to a halt.
Back at the front, Pickens found a second wind with five to go as he used a run on the bottom to edge ahead of Carrick on the back straightaway. Carrick kept his foot in it and used the cushion to ride back around Pickens in turn four. After Pickens showed Carrick how successful the bottom of turns one and two could be, Carrick clamped down and didn’t allow Pickens to get in a word edgewise.
After shaking off the challenge, Carrick finished ‘er off to win by a 1.047 second margin over Pickens with Buddy Kofoid third, Kevin Thomas Jr. fourth and Spencer Bayston fifth.
Carrick notched the 12th victory of the year for the KKM bunch while also becoming the third driver to reach victory lane for the team in 2022, joining Kofoid (10) and Ryan Timms (1).
“(Crew chief) Jarrett (Martin) had this thing on rails,” Carrick praised. “I struggled there the last couple of laps; I kept messing up in three and four on the curb and I wasn’t hitting the bottom as well in one and two and I started slowing down for it. Other than that, we were pretty good.”
Michael Pickens nearly pulled off his first USAC National Midget win since 2017. On this night, he finished as the runner-up for the second time in two starts on the California swing in his Dave Mac Dalby Motorsports/CRC – TRD – Mobil 1/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
It was another championship-level drive for Buddy Kofoid on Thursday evening at Placerville as he charged from his ninth starting position to finish third. It’s his second straight third place result this week after also finishing third on Tuesday at Bakersfield. He’s also finished on the podium in nine of his past 11 starts in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
With Thursday night’s events paying 50 appearance points across the board to all USAC Nationally licensed Midget drivers and entrants, Kofoid remains the point leader by a 209-point margin over Justin Grant.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: November 17, 2022 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Hangtown 100 Presented By Matt Wood Racing
FLIGHT ONE FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Spencer Bayston, 9AU, Dyson-11.819; 2. Jacob Denney, 25m, Malloy-11.930; 3. Carson Macedo, 99AU, Dyson-12.087; 4. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.100; 5. Justin Grant, 2J, RMS-12.124; 6. Brenham Crouch, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.143; 7. Danny Stratton, 31K, Beilman-12.803; 8. Randi Pankratz, 8, Pankratz-13.033; 9. Nathan Byrd, 11K, Kruseman-15.100.
FLIGHT TWO FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Tanner Carrick, 71m, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.686; 2. Mitchel Moles, 89, CBI-11.806; 3. Dominic Gorden, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.909; 4. Tyler Courtney, 25, Malloy-11.941; 5. Tanner Thorson, 88, Thorson-12.012; 6. Daison Pursley, 71p, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.075; 7. Alex Bright, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-12.198; 8. Mariah Ede, 71E, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.525.
FLIGHT THREE FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Shane Golobic, 17w, Wood-11.746; 2. Jade Avedisian, 84, CBI-11.797; 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5T, Alexander-11.819; 4. Ryan Timms, 97K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.919; 5. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-11.949; 6. Bryant Wiedeman, 01, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.978; 7. Kaylee Bryson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.098; 8. Austin Barnhill, 17B, Dave Mac-12.798.
FLIGHT FOUR FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Buddy Kofoid, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.752; 2. Emerson Axsom, 25x, Malloy-12.020; 3. Colby Copeland, 87, CBI-12.027; 4. Michael Faccinto, 14J, Graunstadt-12.283; 5. Dylan Bloomfield, 14T, Streeter-12.362; 6. Zach Telford, 22G, Risner-12.451; 7. Travis Buckley, 7NZ, BSL-12.681; 8. Gavin Miller, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-NT.
FLIGHT FIVE FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Michael Pickens, 4x, Dave Mac Dalby-11.801; 2. Jake Andreotti, 00, Davis-12.012; 3. Ryan Bernal, 27w, Wood-12.080; 4. Chris Windom, 89x, CBI-12.202; 5. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.350; 6. Blake Bower, 9, Boscacci-12.353; 7. Tony Gomes, 73, Ford-12.705; 8. Ben Worth, 5K, Alexander-NT.
FLIGHT SIX FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac Dalby-11.777; 2. Daniel Whitley, 57, Abacus-11.958; 3. Logan Seavey, 58, Abacus-11.976; 4. Corey Day, 4, Kahne-12.035; 5. Jason McDougal, 68, Six8-12.080; 6. Chase Johnson, 73x, Ford-12.251; 7. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.349; 8. Caden Sarale, 32, Sarale-12.574.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Macedo (T), 2. Justin Grant (T), 3. Spencer Bayston (T), 4. Danny Stratton, 5. Thomas Meseraull, 6. Brenham Crouch, 7. Jacob Denney, 8. Nathan Byrd, 9. Randi Pankratz. 2:01.99
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Alex Bright (T), 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Dominic Gorden (T), 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Tanner Carrick (T), 7. Mitchel Moles, 8. Mariah Ede. 2:01.38
PIT STOP USA THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Bryant Wiedeman (T), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (T), 3. Shane Golobic (T), 4. Ryan Timms, 5. Chance Crum, 6. Jade Avedisian, 7. Austin Barnhill, 8. Kaylee Bryson. NT
ROD END SUPPLY FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom (T), 2. Colby Copeland (T), 3. Buddy Kofoid (T), 4. Travis Buckley, 5. Dylan Bloomfield, 6. Gavin Miller, 7. Zach Telford, 8. Michael Faccinto. NT
FIFTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom (T), 2. Tony Gomes, 3. Blake Bower, 4. Taylor Reimer, 5. Jake Andreotti (T), 6. Michael Pickens (T), 7. Ryan Bernal. 2:02.02
SIXTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. Jason McDougal (T), 2. Cannon McIntosh (T), 3. Hayden Reinbold, 4. Chase Johnson, 5. Logan Seavey (T), 6. Caden Sarale, 7. Daniel Whitley, 8. Corey Day. 1:59.81
FIRST ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. Daniel Whitley, 4. Chase Johnson, 5. Blake Bower, 6. Jacob Denney, 7. Gavin Miller, 8. Chance Crum, 9. Dylan Bloomfield, 10. Danny Stratton, 11. Randi Pankratz, 12. Austin Barnhill, 13. Ryan Timms, 14. Brenham Crouch. NT
SECOND ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Jade Avedisian, 2. Mitchel Moles, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Taylor Reimer, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Corey Day, 7. Hayden Reinbold, 8. Tony Gomes, 9. Ryan Bernal, 10. Mariah Ede, 11. Travis Buckley, 12. Michael Faccinto, 13. Caden Sarale, 14. Kaylee Bryson, 15. Nathan Byrd. 2:23.79
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tanner Carrick (2), 2. Michael Pickens (1), 3. Buddy Kofoid (9), 4. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 5. Spencer Bayston (8), 6. Cannon McIntosh (12), 7. Shane Golobic (10), 8. Chris Windom (4), 9. Colby Copeland (5), 10. Jason McDougal (3), 11. Bryant Wiedeman (14), 12. Mitchel Moles (22), 13. Thomas Meseraull (21), 14. Justin Grant (16), 15. Dominic Gorden (13), 16. Tanner Thorson (19), 17. Alex Bright (18), 18. Daison Pursley (24), 19. Emerson Axsom (11), 20. Taylor Reimer (26-P), 21. Kaylee Bryson (25-P), 22. Carson Macedo (7), 23. Jade Avedisian (20), 24. Daniel Whitley (23), 25. Jake Andreotti (15), 26. Logan Seavey (17).
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Michael Pickens, Laps 2-30 Tanner Carrick.
**Ben Worth flipped during practice. Danny Stratton flipped during qualifying. Gavin Miller flipped during qualifying. Kaylee Bryson flipped during the third heat. Zach Telford flipped during the fourth heat. Brenham Crouch flipped during the first semi. Ryan Timms flipped during the first semi. Justin Grant flipped on lap 6 of the feature. Jade Avedisian & Daniel Whitley flipped on lap 24 of the feature.
(P) represents a USAC provisional starter
(T) represents a heat race transfer
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-1844, 2-Justin Grant-1635, 3-Thomas Meseraull-1485, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-1439, 5-Cannon McIntosh-1424, 6-Mitchel Moles-1410, 7-Kaylee Bryson-1353, 8-Jacob Denney-1118, 9-Brenham Crouch-1104, 10-Taylor Reimer-1104.
HANGTOWN 100 POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-162, 2-Cannon McIntosh-159, 3-Spencer Bayston-158, 4-Tanner Carrick-157, 5-Kevin Thomas Jr.-157, 6-Michael Pickens-155, 7-Shane Golobic-154, 8-Chris Windom-149, 9-Colby Copeland-147, 10-Jason McDougal-142.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-182, 2-Brady Bacon-144, 3-Thomas Meseraull-141, 4-Logan Seavey-139, 5-Robert Ballou-119, 6-Buddy Kofoid-109, 7-Kaylee Bryson-106, 8-Kyle Cummins-104, 9-C.J. Leary-98, 10-Matt Westfall-95.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACES: November 18-19, 2022 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – Hangtown 100 Presented By Matt Wood Racing
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Cannon McIntosh (11.755)
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Tanner Carrick (11.686)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Carson Macedo
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Alex Bright
Pit Stop USA Third Heat Winner: Bryant Wiedeman
Rod End Supply Fourth Heat Winner: Emerson Axsom
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts First Semi Winner: Tanner Thorson
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Second Semi Winner: Jade Avedisian
Feature Hard Charger: Mitchel Moles (22nd to 12th)