By Richie Murray
Haubstadt, Indiana (June 4, 2023)………To win at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway, one must execute nearly perfectly.
Every lap, every turn, every movement of the steering wheel. Every little bit makes a difference.
Add into the mix a two-time and defending USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Champion on your rear bumper for the final restart and you have a true brew of one of the most challenging feats to overcome.
Turns out, Jacob Denney was game for all of it.
The Galloway, Ohio native, who just graduated from high school a week ago, stood tall when posed with the final exam. Denney answered not one, but two slide jobs levied by Buddy Kofoid during the final six laps en route to capturing the opening round of the 19th annual USAC Indiana Midget Week series on Sunday night at the 1/4-mile dirt oval.
It was Denney’s second consecutive USAC National Midget feature victory after clicking off a win in the most recent series outing on May 21 at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex in his Tom Malloy/Trench Shoring – Rodela Specialty Fabrication/King/Ed Pink Toyota.
Overall, it was Denney’s third career USAC National Midget feature triumph, the first of which occurred this week one year ago when he turned himself into a known commodity on the national scene during the USAC Indiana Midget Week event at Lincoln Park Speedway.
Now, during this same week one year later, he’s both the USAC National Midget and USAC Indiana Midget Week point leader following his Tri-State win which, believe or not, came after a pair of finishes outside the top-20 in his first two series appearances at the track in 2022.
Earlier in the evening, Denney captured his first career Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifying award with the series, then transferred safely through his heat race to place him in the sixth starting position for the 30-lap feature event following the six-car inversion.
Initially, Justin Grant was the one to beat as the most recent USAC National Midget feature winner at Tri-State last Fall sprinted to the lead at the start past pole sitter Ryan Timms. Timms slid Grant multiple times for the lead on laps two and three in turns one and two but couldn’t make the move stick as Grant roared back each time to reclaim the lead.
Meanwhile, Denney was practically picking off a car per lap as he streamed into the second spot on lap five past Timms and immediately began to slash the gap between himself and Grant for the race lead, a move which stirred the confidence in Denney that he could track down Grant in no time flat if he stuck to his guns.
“I was just trying to find where I fit in line,” Denney recalled. “I slid Ryan (Timms) one time, and it was from way back. So, I knew if I got a good run on Justin, I could slide him from just about anywhere.”
On lap nine, Denney made his first bid to take over, diving under Grant on the bottom of the third turn. Two laps later, on the 11th circuit, Kofoid, making his first USAC start of the season, followed suit past Grant with a move reminiscent of Denney’s to assume the second position.
A few moments later, the program’s lone red flag was displayed when contact between Thomas Meseraull and Taylor Reimer sent both cars flipping in turn four on the 12th lap while the two were clashing for the 12th spot. Both drivers were able to walk away. Reimer continued on, finishing 17th, while Meseraull was sidelined the remainder of the way with a 22nd place result.
Denney held a commanding 1.452 second advantage before the stoppage but was now required to rebuild his lead from scratch starting with the lap 13 restart, which wasn’t a problem on this night as strong as he and his team were. Denney quickly constructed a 1.5 second lead as the race pressed past the halfway point.
As Denney maintained total control while gliding through lapped traffic, trouble hit the third and fourth place cars of Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr., respectively. Grant performed a half-spin in turn two on lap 25 and was tagged by the nearby car of Thomas, sending both to a stop. Both restarted but managed finishes of only 14th (Thomas) and 16th (Grant).
Needless to say, the caution was untimely and unwanted in the eyes of the race leader, Jacob Denney.
“When we got that caution, I was dreading every minute of it and trying not to overthink my life there,” Denney explained. “I know Buddy’s one of the best, and he’s won the national title two years in a row. Even though he’s been out of the car for a while, he’s still no joke.”
Right from the drop of the green, predictably, Denney was under full attack from Kofoid. Kofoid pulled the pin on his first slider in turn one on the lap 25 restart, but the cool, calm and collected Denney never flinched, powering back underneath Kofoid to retake possession of his lead on both laps 25 and 26.
It proved to be the winning move for Denney who escaped the clutches of one of the all-time series greats by staking his own claim to become the sport’s newest frontline star.
Denney won the thing by a 0.79 second margin with Kofoid coming home second ahead of Kyle Cummins in third. Chase McDermand earned a career best USAC finish of fourth while 2019 Indiana Midget Week champion Logan Seavey rounded out the top-five.
It was quite a ride for Denney who admitted that his ride around Tri-State’s oval was elbows up and gnarly, to say the least. He also made it a priority to run his own race and not worry about the surrounding details no matter how strong throughout his 30-lap quest.
“I started making a lot of mistakes in lapped traffic,” Denney acknowledged. “I was also like, ‘don’t look at the lap board, don’t look at the lap board.’ But finally, I looked up and I’m like, ‘okay, only 29 more and we’ll be okay.”
It was second again for Buddy Kofoid in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Toyota – TRD – Mobil 1/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota. The Penngrove, Calif. native threw his share of haymakers in the final laps to no avail. However, in the end, he brought home his third consecutive runner-up result in as many starts at Tri-State dating back to June of 2022.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) is one of the all-time greats of sprint car racing at Tri-State Speedway with 28 career victories, second all-time to Kevin Briscoe at press time. Cummins also possesses the same knack in USAC National Midget competition at The Class Track. In seven career USAC National Midget feature starts at Tri-State, he’s now grabbed seven consecutive top-tens following a solid third place finish on Sunday night in his Glenn Styres Racing/Ohsweken Speedway – ENRIAM – Elite – QuickCar/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year contender Gavin Miller (Allentown, Pa.) earned Irving King Hard Charger honors in what was his first career visit to Tri-State, starting 21st and finishing 10th.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 4, 2023 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 19th Annual Indiana Midget Week – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Jacob Denney, 25, Malloy-13.612; 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 23, Mounce/Stout-13.668; 3. Logan Seavey, 57, Abacus-13.770; 4. Buddy Kofoid, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.815; 5. Justin Grant, 2, RMS-13.816; 6. Jade Avedisian, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.858; 7. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac Dalby-13.874; 8. Ryan Timms, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.896; 9. Chase McDermand, 40, Mounce/Stout-13.930; 10. Bryant Wiedeman, 81, CBI-13.952; 11. Taylor Reimer, 25K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.972; 12. Jake Andreotti, 25m, Malloy-13.987; 13. Daison Pursley, 19, Reinbold/Underwood-14.003; 14. Jesse Love, 84, CBI-14.029; 15. Hayden Reinbold, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-14.053; 16. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-14.071; 17. Zach Daum, 7u, Trifecta-14.081; 18. Kyle Cummins, 3G, Styres-14.122; 19. Chance Crum, 26, Rudeen-14.160; 20. Emerson Axsom, 19A, Petry/Hayward-14.237; 21. Chelby Hinton, 4, Klatt-14.278; 22. Gavin Miller, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.504; 23. Ethan Mitchell, 19m, Bundy Built-14.673; 24. Critter Malone, 21, Reynolds/Ripper-14.880; 25. Bryan Stanfill, 75AU, Griffiths-14.930; 26. Jeff Schindler, 8x, Schindler-15.015; 27. Rylan Gray, 06, Gray-15.357; 28. Robert Carson, 99K, LOK/Carson/Segur-16.076.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Buddy Kofoid, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Bryant Wiedeman, 5. Jacob Denney, 6. Cannon McIntosh, 7. Gavin Miller, 8. Chance Crum, 9. Robert Carson, 10. Bryan Stanfill. 2:19.92
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND: HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Zach Daum, 3. Jesse Love, 4. Kevin Thomas Jr., 5. Ryan Timms, 6. Taylor Reimer, 7. Emerson Axsom, 8. Jeff Schindler, 9. Ethan Mitchell. NT
T.J. FORGED/CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Kyle Cummins, 2. Chase McDermand, 3. Jake Andreotti, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Hayden Reinbold, 6. Jade Avedisian, 7. Critter Malone, 8. Rylan Gray, 9. Chelby Hinton. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI-FEATURE: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Jade Avedisian, 2. Gavin Miller, 3. Chance Crum, 4. Emerson Axsom, 5. Taylor Reimer, 6. Bryan Stanfill, 7. Chelby Hinton, 8. Robert Carson, 9. Rylan Gray, 10. Jeff Schindler, 11. Critter Malone, 12. Cannon McIntosh. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Jacob Denney (6), 2. Buddy Kofoid (3), 3. Kyle Cummins (8), 4. Chase McDermand (10), 5. Logan Seavey (4), 6. Jake Andreotti (13), 7. Cannon McIntosh (23-P), 8. Jade Avedisian (9), 9. Zach Daum (17), 10. Gavin Miller (21), 11. Daison Pursley (7), 12. Ryan Timms (1), 13. Hayden Reinbold (15), 14. Kevin Thomas Jr. (5), 15. Emerson Axsom (19), 16. Justin Grant (2), 17. Taylor Reimer (12), 18. Chance Crum (18), 19. Jesse Love (14), 20. Bryant Wiedeman (11), 21. Bryan Stanfill (22), 22. Thomas Meseraull (16), 23. Chelby Hinton (20). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter
**Thomas Meseraull & Taylor Reimer flipped on lap 12 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-8 Justin Grant, Laps 9-30 Jacob Denney.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Jacob Denney-281, 2-Daison Pursley-243, 3-Jade Avedisian-236, 4-Logan Seavey-218, 5-Jake Andreotti-202, 6-Chase McDermand-202, 7-Justin Grant-201, 8-Ryan Timms-197, 9-Bryant Wiedeman-196, 10-Thomas Meseraull-196.
USAC INDIANA MIDGET WEEK POINTS: 1-Jacob Denney-80, 2-Buddy Kofoid-77, 3-Kyle Cummins-72, 4-Chase McDermand-68, 5-Logan Seavey-67, 6-Jake Andreotti-61, 7-Jade Avedisian-54, 8-Zach Daum-53, 9-Daison Pursley-49, 10-Gavin Miller-46.
USAC INDIANA MIDGET PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Gavin Miller-17, 2-Chase McDermand-8, 3-Zach Daum-8, 4-Jake Andreotti-7, 5-Jacob Denney-6, 6-Kyle Cummins-5, 7-Emerson Axsom-5, 8-Robert Carson-5, 9-Buddy Kofoid-4, 10-Justin Grant-4.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-50, 2-Chase Stockon-43, 3-Justin Grant-37, 4-Logan Seavey-37, 5-Matt Westfall-35, 6-Carson Garrett-31, 7-Brady Bacon-29, 8-C.J. Leary-27, 9-Thomas Meseraull-26, 10-Jake Swanson-23.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 5, 2023 – Circle City Raceway – Indianapolis, Indiana – 19th Annual Indiana Midget Week – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Kevin Thomas Jr. (13.814)
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Jacob Denney (13.612)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Daison Pursley
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Justin Grant
T.J. Forged / Car IQ Third Heat Winner: Kyle Cummins
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Jade Avedisian
Irvin King Hard Charger: Gavin Miller (21st to 10th)