By Richie Murray
Pottsville, Pennsylvania (June 15, 2023)………One of Emerson Axsom’s stated goals when he signed on as a driver for Clauson Marshall Racing was to keep the legacy of Bryan Clauson going.
On Thursday night at Pottsville, Pennsylvania’s Big Diamond Speedway, Axsom lived up to his word, not only following in BC’s footsteps by becoming an Eastern Storm winner, but also by winning on what would’ve been BC’s 34th birthday.
Bryan, who perished in a 2016 racing accident, remains the only three-time Eastern Storm titlist in 2012-13-16. Now, in 2023, Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) has ascended to the top of the Eastern Storm point standings by virtue of his win in the Clauson Marshall Racing/Driven2SaveLives – ZMax Race Lubricants/Spike/Kistler Chevy.
It’s a win that’s not only rewarding for himself personally, but also for the Clauson family, from Bryan’s father, to his mother and his sister.
“It’s a pretty cool win,” Axsom exclaimed. “I’m really happy to get it for this team and for Tim, Diana and Taylor. I’m sure it means a lot to them, and I’m really happy I could do that for them.”
Axsom’s triumph was his first of the USAC season following three runner-up finishes in a little over a one-week span between the NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship and the AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship.
It was also Axsom’s fourth career USAC National Sprint Car feature score, tying him for 103rd all-time alongside Rob Chaney, Cary Faas, Jesse Hockett, Van Johnson, Steve Kinser, Michael Lewis, Ralph Liguori, Don Nordhorn, Lee Osborne, Red Riegel, Ken Schrader, Al Smith and Danny Smith.
The 30-lap feature around the 3/8-mile, the first USAC Eastern Storm at Big Diamond in 11 seasons, followed suit after all three heat races and the semi-feature were caution-free affairs, by also going non-stop from green to checker in 8 minutes, 44.44 seconds, just eight seconds shy of the track record distance set by Chris Windom in 2012.
Max Adams, amid his first ever visit to the state of Pennsylvania this week, shot out to the early lead after starting from the pole position. However, outside second row starter Thomas Meseraull was initially the prime mover, powering into the second spot on lap two while utilizing the bottom of turns three and four, bringing Briggs Danner along with him to third as Axsom slipped back to fourth.
Meseraull nearly lost everything he’d gained in turn two on the third circuit, performing a half-spin in turn two, forcing Danner to check up to avoid contact, which in turn, allowed Axsom to freely sprint underneath to third. It was happenstance that sent Axsom to the bottom as an avoidance maneuver, and in turn, altered the course of his race as he followed Meseraull to the front with Meseraull taking over the lead by scooting under Adams in turns three and four on the sixth lap with Axsom just behind, moving into the runner-up slot.
“The first couple of laps, I was ripping the top,” Axsom explained. “I got in pretty high (in turn three), but I still felt like it was low. But with the way it banks off, if you get a little bit too high, you’ll end up in the fence. I felt it take rubber on the bottom of turn four, so there wasn’t really an option to move around down there. Thomas was running the top, so I was just going to go where he wasn’t.”
This mindset came into fruition in the forthcoming laps with Axsom patrolling the bottom while Meseraull maintained a different approach, rolling along on the low line in turns three and four while remaining top side in turns one and two as he continuously fought to stave off the ever-increasing pressure from Axsom.
Finally, on lap 21, Axsom pounced with his winning move, jetting into the lead on the back straightaway to the inside of Meseraull, a plan put into formation simply by using a bit of reverse psychology and by simply doing the opposite of the hand that Meseraull showed.
“It was rubbering up off turn four, which made turns one and two the only place to really make a pass,” Axsom revealed. “Wherever the guy in front of me went, I tried to do the opposite, then tried to get down in three and four and just pick them off that way.”
The top-two of Axsom and Meseraull promptly broke away from the rest of the pack with third-running Justin Grant more than three seconds back. Axsom began to work traffic with five laps to go but wasn’t deterred one iota as he swept through with ease, positioning a multitude of lapped cars between himself and Meseraull as the laps wound down.
At the finish line, Axsom was 2.107 seconds better than his nearest competition as the 2022 USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year scored a resounding victory over Thomas Meseraull, Justin Grant, Briggs Danner and Shane Cottle.
Meseraull, who in two previous Big Diamond appearances in 2008 and 2021 finished no better than 13th, earned by far his best result at the track, leading a race-high 15 laps and finishing as the runner-up in his Chris Dyson Racing/Concord American Flagpole – Racer Magazine/Maxim/Ott Chevy. For the San Jose, Calif. native, it was his best series finish since a second place run at South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway in September of 2021.
No drama. That’s all Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) wanted on Thursday night at Big Diamond, and he got exactly what he ordered. The reigning USAC National Sprint Car champion finished third in his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – Bow Foundation – TOPP Industries/Maxim/Kistler Chevy. Grant had finished 13th or worse in five of his last six series starts, and his podium finish represents his best showing since winning at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway on May 5, nearly six weeks ago.
Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) set two brand new USAC National Sprint Car track records in what was his first visit to Big Diamond Speedway. Initially, he earned Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifying time honors for the first time in his USAC Sprint Car career with a lap of 14.785 seconds, breaking the two-year-old mark set by Timmy Buckwalter in 2021 at 14.924. Pursley, the current leading Rookie of the Year contender with the series, then went on to earn an Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi-Feature victory, finishing the 12-lap distance in record time at 3:19.45.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 15, 2023 – Big Diamond Speedway – Pottsville, Pennsylvania – 3/8-Mile Dirt Track – 16th Eastern Storm
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-14.785 (New Track Record); 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-14.980; 3. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-15.017; 4. Thomas Meseraull, 20, Dyson-15.086; 5. Briggs Danner, 39, Hogue-15.104; 6. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall-15.139; 7. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-15.177; 8. Max Adams, 17GP, Dutcher-15.274; 9. Timmy Buckwalter, 20T, Lotier/Hummer-15.275; 10. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-15.341; 11. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-15.369; 12. Steven Drevicki, 19, DeGre-15.381; 13. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-15.410; 14. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-15.422; 15. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-15.427; 16. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-15.491; 17. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.550; 18. Anton Hernandez, 5, Baldwin/Fox-15.555; 19. Alex Bright, 27, Heffner-15.622; 20. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-15.647; 21. Kyle Moody, 5x, Baldwin/Fox-15.755; 22. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-15.775; 23. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-15.840; 24. Joey Amantea, 88J, Amantea-15.896; 25. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-15.950; 26. Matt Mitchell, 37, Mitchell-16.022; 27. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-16.072; 28. Tom Harris, 84, Harris-16.341; 29. Jason Cherry, 67c, Cherry-17.908.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Matt Westfall, 2. Chase Stockon, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Thomas Meseraull, 5. Alex Bright, 6. Daison Pursley, 7. Kyle Cummins, 8. Carmen Perigo, 9. Tom Harris, 10. Charles Davis Jr. 2:05.55
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Shane Cottle, 2. Mitchel Moles, 3. Max Adams, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Briggs Danner, 6. Robert Ballou, 7. Brady Bacon, 8. Mario Clouser, 9. Matt Mitchell, 10. Jason Cherry. 2:08.05
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Anton Hernandez, 2. Carson Garrett, 3. Emerson Axsom, 4. Timmy Buckwalter, 5. Jake Swanson, 6. Steven Drevicki, 7. Joey Amantea, 8. Kyle Moody, 9. Logan Seavey. 2:10.95
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Kyle Cummins, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. Steven Drevicki, 6. Kyle Moody, 7. Carmen Perigo, 8. Tom Harris, 9. Charles Davis Jr., 10. Joey Amantea, 11. Logan Seavey, 12. Mario Clouser, 13. Jason Cherry, 14. Matt Mitchell. 3:19.45 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Emerson Axsom (2), 2. Thomas Meseraull (4), 3. Justin Grant (6), 4. Briggs Danner (3), 5. Shane Cottle (7), 6. Daison Pursley (10), 7. Robert Ballou (14), 8. Jake Swanson (5), 9. Matt Westfall (8), 10. Anton Hernandez (9), 11. Kyle Cummins (11), 12. Timmy Buckwalter (12), 13. Chase Stockon (13), 14. Mitchel Moles (18), 15. C.J. Leary (16), 16. Max Adams (1), 17. Brady Bacon (20), 18. Steven Drevicki (15), 19. Kyle Moody (21), 20. Carson Garrett (17), 21. Alex Bright (19), 22. Carmen Perigo (22). 8:44.44
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 Max Adams, Laps 6-20 Thomas Meseraull, Laps 21-30 Emerson Axsom.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Jake Swanson-794, 2-Emerson Axsom-786, 3-Kyle Cummins-780, 4-Brady Bacon-745, 5-C.J. Leary-734, 6-Justin Grant-728, 7-Mitchel Moles-658, 8-Chase Stockon-633, 9-Robert Ballou-600, 10-Daison Pursley-597.
USAC EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-152, 2-Thomas Meseraull-135, 3-Jake Swanson-134, 4-Robert Ballou-125, 5-Daison Pursley-125, 6-Shane Cottle-122, 7-Justin Grant-116, 8-Kyle Cummins-115, 9-Timmy Buckwalter-111, 10-Briggs Danner-99.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-78, 2-Logan Seavey-53, 3-Justin Grant-47, 4-Chase Stockon-43, 5-Carson Garrett-37, 6-Thomas Meseraull-36, 7-Bryant Wiedeman-35, 8-Matt Westfall-35, 9-Brady Bacon-34, 10-Gavin Miller-33.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 16, 2023 – Williams Grove Speedway – Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania – 1/2-Mile Dirt Track – 16th Eastern Storm
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Daison Pursley (14.727)
Honest Abe Roofing / Clever Girl Winery Fast Qualifier: Daison Pursley (14.785)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Matt Westfall
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Shane Cottle
T.J. Forged / Car IQ Third Heat Winner: Anton Hernandez
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Daison Pursley
Hard Charger: Robert Ballou (14th to 7th)