By Richie Murray
Kutztown, Pennsylvania (June 18, 2023)………Upon first observation on early Sunday afternoon, Kyle Cummins crewman Brian Karraker remarked that Kutztown, Pennsylvania’s Action Track USA looked like a “Mini Haubstadt.”
That was a welcome comparison for the Rock Steady Racing crew and Cummins, who shares a piece of the record for most USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature victories (6) at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway, and possesses upwards of 30 career main event scores.
On the contrary, Cummins had never competed in a sprint car at Action Track USA, nor had the majority of the field on hand for Sunday’s USAC Eastern Storm finale. Nonetheless, Cummins was keen on making the place his own home away from home following a tumultuous Eastern Storm, which featured just one finish inside the top-five during the first four rounds of competition.
The Princeton, Ind. racer, however, finished strong in his return to Eastern Storm for the first time since 2015. Notching Honest Abe Fast Qualifying honors to begin the night, Cummins followed up by tracking down 2023 Eastern Storm champion Emerson Axsom 16 laps from the finish line to make history in becoming the first ever USAC National Sprint Car feature winner at Action Track USA.
The 40-lap series debut at the 1/5-mile dirt oval went green-to-checker with nary a single caution and served as the site for Cummins’ first career Eastern Storm score and the 17th of his USAC National Sprint Car career, tying him with Jerry Coons Jr., Jim Hurtubise and Bud Kaeding for 34th place on the all-time list.
Cummins and his Rock Steady Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Tim Mason ReMax/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy became the third three-time winning combination on the USAC National Sprint Car tour this season, joining Jake Swanson and Justin Grant.
Starting sixth on the tight confines, Cummins had to stand up in the seat and go to work immediately at the drop of the green flag with laps regularly being clicked off at just a tick over 10 seconds a clip.
Up front, Axsom, remarkably making a front row start for the fourth consecutive night, was the early race leader as he sped away while playing with house money, so to speak. Sunday’s event paid 50 appearance points to all competitors toward both the overall USAC National Sprint Car standings as well as the Eastern Storm tally, regardless of their finishing position. As a result, when Axsom pushed off for hot laps at Action Track USA, he clinched the Eastern Storm title.
With that said, Axsom remained focused on finishing the grueling week with gusto by posting yet another feature victory to put an exclamation mark on his phenomenal week. Axsom set sail ahead, leading comfortably for the first 20 laps, which unfolded in rapid-fire succession.
Cummins, meanwhile, was hustling and bustling as he surged under Justin Grant for the fourth spot in turns one and two on lap nine. On the 13th go-around, Cummins found a quality drive off the bottom of three and four to swipe the third position from C.J. Leary. One lap later, Cummins powered his way into second under Alex Bright, the top contender in the field utilizing a 360 c.i. engine against the majority 410 field.
Cummins had found the right formula, and with a slight adjustment on his shocks amid the flurry of activity surrounding him, he had positioned himself in a prime position with half the race complete and half the race left to go.
“I didn’t feel like I was as good middle to top,” Cummins explained. “These boys put the super-tune on it and had me just tight enough to where I could run the middle. I didn’t feel great because I was just a little too tight, but everyone’s car was going away just a little bit. I grabbed a handful of shock halfway through the race, and that thing was digging unbelievably in both corners. I could get it whoa’d up and turned without spinning out, but it was kind of close a couple times.”
On the 24th lap, race leader Axsom had caught up with the tail-end lead lap cars of Billy Pauch Jr. and Carmen Perigo who ran two-wide in their own personal battle for position. As Axsom tried to navigate, Cummins pounced, backing his No. 3R into turns one and three to get a run on Axsom off the corners which brought him within a whisker of leading at the line. By turn two of lap 25, Cummins was completely clear of Axsom, and rode the bottom line straight to a lead he wouldn’t and didn’t relent.
From that point forward, the race was on for second as Leary made a valiant effort to return to contention. On lap 36, the low-line-riding Leary and Axsom banged wheels, knocking both askew briefly at the exit of turn four. However, Leary quickly recovered and drove right back by Axsom for the position one lap later on the 37th circuit to secure the runner-up spot.
Back to the front, Cummins was closing out a mightily impressive performance, winning by a 3.03 second margin over Leary, Axsom, Robert Ballou and Grant.
Cummins was beyond thrilled to close out the week of Eastern Storm on a winning note after starting out with a promising fifth place run on Tuesday at Grandview. An 11th at Big Diamond, a 16th at Williams Grove and a 7th at Port Royal followed during the ensuing nights before returning to the promised land to finish an up-and-down return to the east for Cummins and crew.
“It was tough for us all to come out and leave work, and we’re super behind,” Cummins explained of his dilemma of balancing racing and his self-owned business back home. “We started off decent the first night but struggled through the week. We had some failures throughout the week, and we had something we found that kept binding us up. But tonight, everything was clean and clear, and we can go home $6,0000 richer.”
For many, the experience of racing a sprint car at Action Track USA was a blast after a sense of trepidation was in the air entering the event from fans and competitors alike. In a 40-lap feature that went straight through without a single incident in a mere 7:16.25, the event was a rousing success, most notably for Cummins and his personal, firsthand experience.
“This is a sweet racetrack,” Cummins exclaimed. “When you go to the big tracks, and your car is all over the place, it’s pretty sketchy. We’re not the best on the big tracks, but we can kind of hold our own. I like these little bullrings where you hit the cushion, bounce around and your car is all over the place. That’s kind of our setup.”
Like Cummins, C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) endured a week of frustration with a string of uncharacteristic finishes of 15th, 15th, 8th and 17th leading into the Action Track USA finale. However, Leary was able to leave Eastern Storm with his head held high following a second-place result at Action Track USA in his BGE Dougherty Motorsports/Altoz – Hornbeck Concrete – Highsmith Guns – Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts/DRC/1-Way Chevy.
Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) completed Eastern Storm nearly flawlessly with a championship in hand following five consecutive podium finishes boosted by a pair of wins at Big Diamond and Williams Grove, two more runner-up results at Grandview and Port Royal, and culminating in a third place run at Action Track USA in his Clauson Marshall Newman Racing/Driven2SaveLives – ZMax Race Lubricants/Spike/Kistler Chevy.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 18, 2023 – Action Track USA – Kutztown, Pennsylvania – 1/5-Mile Dirt Track – 16th Eastern Storm
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-10.406 (New Track Record); 2. Briggs Danner, 39, Hogue-10.554; 3. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-10.634; 4. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-10.637; 5. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-10.672; 6. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-10.683; 7. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-10.685; 8. Tom Harris, 84, Harris-10.700; 9. Alex Bright, 27, Heffner/Hummer-10.709; 10. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-10.710; 11. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-10.714; 12. Carmen Perigo, 21, Stehman-10.748; 13. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-10.748; 14. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-10.772; 15. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-10.787; 16. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-10.790; 17. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-10.938; 18. Timmy Buckwalter, 7, LNB-10.941; 19. Joey Amantea, 88J, Amantea-11.010; 20. Preston Lattomus, 23B, Lattomus-11.226; 21. Billy Pauch Jr., 27H, Heffner-11.304.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Kyle Cummins, 5. Emerson Axsom, 6. Daison Pursley, 7. Joey Amantea. NT
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Matt Westfall, 3. Charles Davis Jr., 4. Preston Lattomus, 5. Tom Harris, 6. Mitchel Moles, 7. Briggs Danner. NT
T.J. FORGED / CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Jake Swanson, 2. Carmen Perigo, 3. Alex Bright, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Logan Seavey, 6. Billy Pauch Jr., 7. Timmy Buckwalter. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Cummins (6), 2. C.J. Leary (3), 3. Emerson Axsom (1), 4. Robert Ballou (7), 5. Justin Grant (4), 6. Alex Bright (2), 7. Logan Seavey (5), 8. Chase Stockon (9), 9. Brady Bacon (16), 10. Jake Swanson (8), 11. Daison Pursley (11), 12. Mitchel Moles (12), 13. Joey Amantea (19), 14. Charles Davis Jr. (14), 15. Carmen Perigo (15), 16. Billy Pauch Jr. (21), 17. Briggs Danner (10), 18. Tom Harris (13), 19. Matt Westfall (17), 20. Preston Lattomus (20), 21. Timmy Buckwalter (18). 7:16.25 (New Track Record)
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-24 Emerson Axsom, Laps 25-40 Kyle Cummins.
**Tom Harris flipped during the second heat.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-983, 2-Jake Swanson-952, 3-Kyle Cummins-927, 4-Justin Grant-926, 5-Brady Bacon-907, 6-C.J. Leary-878, 7-Mitchel Moles-827, 8-Chase Stockon-793, 9-Daison Pursley-790, 10-Robert Ballou-727.
FINAL USAC EASTERN STORM POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-349, 2-Daison Pursley-318, 3-Justin Grant-314, 4-Jake Swanson-292, 5-Kyle Cummins-262, 6-Briggs Danner-261, 7-Chase Stockon-259, 8-Robert Ballou-252, 9-Mitchel Moles-248, 10-Timmy Buckwalter-232.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-97, 2-Logan Seavey-57, 3-Chase Stockon-53, 4-Justin Grant-51, 5-Matt Westfall-47, 6-Brady Bacon-44, 7-Carson Garrett-38, 8-Thomas Meseraull-37, 9-Bryant Wiedeman-35, 10-Robert Ballou-34.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 24, 2023 – Wilmot Raceway – Wilmot, Wisconsin – 3/8-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Kyle Cummins (10.406)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Chase Stockon
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Robert Ballou
T.J. Forged / Car IQ Third Heat Winner: Jake Swanson
Irvin King Hard Charger: Brady Bacon (16th to 9th)
Top 360 c.i. Feature Finisher: Alex Bright (6th)