By Richie Murray
Sweet Springs, Missouri (May 21, 2023)………Graduation is a time for a new beginning, a time for rebirth, a time to celebrate the all-around growth attained through the process of receiving an education.
In a way, Jacob Denney’s impending high school graduation parallels the transition from his freshman year of midget racing in 2022 to his sophomore season in 2023. It sparked a period of learning interspersed with milestone achievements along the road that have led him from being an upstart Rookie a year ago to a potential championship contender this year.
As he was in the process of winning Sunday night’s USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship feature at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex, the Galloway, Ohio driver stood just five days away from graduation day at Shekinah Christian School in Plain City, Ohio.
His racing progression has displayed a constant upward trajectory from his days as a USAC .25 Midget champion to two-time USAC Midwest Thunder SpeeD2 Midget titlist and to becoming a first-time winner on the USAC National Midget trail.
Denney’s victory in the John Hinck Championship is the latest such revelation from Denney, which elevated him to the top of the series points race, albeit just three events into the season, making him the first Ohio driver since Mike Streicher in 1991 to lead the USAC National Midget standings. For Streicher, the 1991 season concluded with a series title – a reality that Denney would also like to “graduate” toward by season’s end.
To be in that sort of position and in the discussion amongst the elite, a driver must win, and when not winning, must be consistent. Through the first weekend of the season, Denney has put together runs of 8th, 4th and 1st, culminating in a 40-lap victory at the 1/6-mile dirt oval aboard his Tom Malloy/Trench Shoring – Rodela Specialty Fabrication/King/Ed Pink Toyota.
Denney’s second career USAC driving victory on Sunday was the first series triumph for the Malloy team since capturing the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway with driver Logan Seavey in November of 2021. It was a proud moment for both parties who competed on occasion in 2022 before embarking on a full tour in 2023.
“I just didn’t drive like myself on Friday night,” Denney stated. “(Crew chief) Jerome (Rodela) told me that it makes the car ride home much better if you win. I was giving her all she had and about turned it over a couple times, but that probably looked way cooler for the people sitting in the stands with those close calls there. Lapped traffic got really tough, but I just tried to hold my line and not do anything dumb, and it ended up working out. We got a couple cautions at great times when I was stuck in traffic. Everything just seemed to go our way tonight.”
The start of the $6,000-to-win, 40-lap feature saw Denney blast from his outside front row starting position and into the lead on the opening lap with pole sitter Mitchel Moles in tow. Chase McDermand, who experienced misfortune that ended his race the night before at the Belleville (Kan.) Short Track while running second, slotted into the runner-up spot once again on lap eight as he dipped under Moles in turn four.
Denney, meanwhile, was ripping up front. But he now was going to be faced with the prospect of traffic. While doing so, Denney actually flexed his muscle a bit more to remain ahead by a full straightaway on lap 16.
Just before halfway, on lap 18, Pursley stepped up another position to second as he went toe-to-toe with McDermand broad sideways into turn four. McDermand then slid over the ledge and became slightly bogged down atop the turn four cushion. Pursley took full advantage of the situation and carried onward to second.
Following the stoppage of first time USAC National Midget feature starter Ava Gropp (22nd), Denney clicked away on the ensuing restart and immediately pulled out to a hefty half-straight advantage. Congestion inevitably loomed ahead for Denney in the coming laps on the tight confines. However, the lack of space didn’t prevent Denney from pressing his right foot down and driving around the outside of all of his upcoming adversaries.
When early race frontrunner and pole sitter Moles slid to a stop in turns one and two with five laps remaining following a brief tussle with Brady Bacon for the 12th position, it erased Denney’s full straightaway advantage over Pursley. As it turned out, it was only a brief interruption in the regularly scheduled program, and he even received some reassurance from his crew chief.
“I kept looking at Jerome under caution and he said you’re good; keep doing what you’re doing,” Denney said. “I’m not usually known for running the top, but I guess I’ve kind of grown up over the last couple of months. That’s all I’ve been running the last couple of races.”
Denney remained steadfast in his approach and thwarted any notion one had of stealing the lead away from him. It was not to be for the competition. But it was to be, however, for Denney who wrapped up a victory in the John Hinck Championship by a 1.303 second margin. Daison Pursley took second at the stripe with Thomas Meseraull third, Taylor Reimer fourth and Bryant Wiedeman fifth.
Similar to Denney, this May is a month of graduation from high school for Daison Pursley. Instead of engaging in the so-called typical teenager activities surrounding the final month of high school, Pursley could be found at the racetrack, forgoing his schools’ prom and graduation ceremonies that took place this very weekend back at home. In Pursley’s return to racing last year, he finished as the runner-up at Sweet Springs. On this night, he turned in his best USAC National Midget performance since that night in September of 2022 with a solid second place result after starting 8th in his Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports/AME Electrical – Mesilla Valley Transportation/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) has been a man on the move this weekend. On Saturday night at Belleville, he charged from 19th to 3rd. On Sunday at Sweet Springs, he didn’t have to travel quite as far, but it was yet another impressive run to put into his back after advancing from 10th to 3rd in his RMS Racing/EnviroFab – Response Management Services – Engler Machine/Spike/Engler Toyota.
After enduring an uncharacteristically rough weekend stretch, Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) began Sunday’s Sweet Springs feature buried in the 18th starting position. He immediately went to work, passing 11 cars to finish a solid 7th in the A-Main, which earned him hard charger honors.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 21, 2023 – Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex – Sweet Springs, Missouri – John Hinck Championship – 1/6-Mile Dirt Track
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Logan Seavey, 57, Abacus-11.433; 2. Jade Avedisian, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.510; 3. Mariah Ede, 71E, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.527; 4. Jake Andreotti, 25m, Malloy-11.529; 5. Bryant Wiedeman, 81, CBI-11.566; 6. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.568; 7. Chase McDermand, 40, Mounce/Stout-11.572; 8. Jacob Denney, 25, Malloy-11.580; 9. Mitchel Moles, 68, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.586; 10. Kameron Key, 21J, THK-11.606; 11. Jerry Coons Jr., 85, Central-11.609; 12. Ryan Timms, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.613; 13. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-11.650; 14. Justin Grant, 2, RMS-11.670; 15. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-11.671; 16. Jace Park, 19T, Mounce/Stout-11.671; 17. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac Dalby-11.672; 18. Daison Pursley, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-11.677; 19. Brady Bacon, 21H, THK-11.688; 20. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-11.695; 21. Gavin Miller, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-11.747; 22. Ava Gropp, 5A, Mounce/Stout-11.772; 23. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-11.806; 24. Andrew Felker, 11A, Felker-12.015; 25. Talin Turner, 00, Chandler-12.128; 26. Branigan Roark, 44, Roark-12.171; 27. Scout Spraggins, 07, Gariss-12.379; 28. Tyler Devenport, 33, Roark-12.531; 29. Cade Cowles, 70, Gariss-12.727; 30. Kevin Cook, 9p, Cook-12.892; 31. Curtis Spicer, 4s, Spicer-12.962; 32. Devin Simmons, F5, Simmons-13.054.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Cannon McIntosh, 2. Chance Crum, 3. Mitchel Moles, 4. Bryant Wiedeman, 5. Logan Seavey, 6. Gavin Miller, 7. Cade Cowles, 8. Talin Turner. 1:58.47
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Ava Gropp, 4. Taylor Reimer, 5. Jade Avedisian, 6. Kameron Key, 7. Branigan Roark, 8. Kevin Cook. NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Jerry Coons Jr., 3. Ethan Mitchell, 4. Chase McDermand, 5. Hayden Reinbold, 6. Mariah Ede, 7. Scout Spraggins, 8. Curtis Spicer. 1:59.09
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Jacob Denney, 3. Jake Andreotti, 4. Andrew Felker, 5. Ryan Timms, 6. Devin Simmons, 7. Tyler Devenport, 8. Jace Park. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI-FEATURE: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Jade Avedisian, 2. Kameron Key, 3. Logan Seavey, 4. Mariah Ede, 5. Gavin Miller, 6. Ryan Timms, 7. Hayden Reinbold, 8. Talin Turner, 9. Branigan Roark, 10. Tyler Devenport, 11. Cade Cowles, 12. Devin Simmons, 13. Curtis Spicer, 14. Scout Spraggins, 15. Kevin Cook. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Jacob Denney (2), 2. Daison Pursley (8), 3. Thomas Meseraull (10), 4. Taylor Reimer (4), 5. Bryant Wiedeman (5), 6. Chase McDermand (3), 7. Justin Grant (18), 8. Kameron Key (14), 9. Jade Avedisian (12), 10. Gavin Miller (20), 11. Jerry Coons Jr. (15), 12. Logan Seavey (11), 13. Brady Bacon (9), 14. Cannon McIntosh (7), 15. Ryan Timms (16), 16. Jake Andreotti (6), 17. Mitchel Moles (1), 18. Mariah Ede (13), 19. Chance Crum (17), 20. Ava Gropp (21), 21. Hayden Reinbold (23-P), 22. Andrew Felker (22), 23. Ethan Mitchell (19). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Jacob Denney.
**Jace Park flipped during the fourth heat. Kevin Cook flipped during the semi.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Jacob Denney-201, 2-Daison Pursley-194, 3-Jade Avedisian-182, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-168, 5-Thomas Meseraull-167, 6-Justin Grant-160, 7-Ryan Timms-154, 8-Logan Seavey-151, 9-Jake Andreotti-141, 10-Chase McDermand-134.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-35, 2-Daison Pursley-32, 3-Carson Garrett-29, 4-Chase Stockon-26, 5-Thomas Meseraull-23, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-20, 7-Brady Bacon-19, 8-Matt Westfall-17, 9-Gavin Miller-17, 10-Jake Swanson-12.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 4, 2023 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 19th Annual Indiana Midget Week – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Logan Seavey (11.542)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Logan Seavey (11.433)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Cannon McIntosh
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Daison Pursley
T.J. Forged Third Heat Winner: Brady Bacon
Car IQ Fourth Heat Winner: Thomas Meseraull
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Jade Avedisian
Hard Charger: Justin Grant (18th to 7th)