By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Fairbury, Nebraska (July 15, 2023)………The first 27 victories of Tanner Thorson’s USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship career had a common thread about them – they all came with him as a driver for another team.
Number 28, however, came in a different shape and form than the rest during Saturday night’s Riverside Chevrolet Midwest Midget Championship Presented by Westin Packaged Meats & Schmidt’s Sanitation at Fairbury, Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway.
During the Fall of 2022, the Minden, Nev. native took on the challenge of team ownership, launching his own outfit to compete semi-regularly on the USAC trail and elsewhere. He made six USAC starts at the end of 2022, finishing a best of third at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway, and in six more USAC starts thus far in 2023, he’s yet to finish outside the top-ten.
The monetary reward for Saturday night’s victory is satisfying in itself with the 40-lap main event paying $10,000-to-win, but perhaps the most gratifying aspect of all is being able to rise to the occasion with something you created of your own volition. Thorson was prideful of that fact along with those who lent a hand in him reaching this point.
“About freaking time this 88 got to victory lane,” Thorson exclaimed. “It’s a hell of a time to go race by yourself, but luckily, I have my amazing and supportive wife with me. The Abacus guys have kind of been helping me all week, same with Reinbold-Underwood and Mark Chisholm. There are a lot of people out there who’ve been helping me to make this possible. There have been a lot of sleepless nights and my wife doesn’t like me being in the shop late but at least I’m at her dad’s (Stevie Smith) shop. It’s trying, but this is what makes it all worth it. We can lose 10 nights, 15, 20, 30 but when you win, it just pays up for all of them.”
Thorson’s first USAC National Midget feature victory since September of 2021 at Wisconsin’s Angell Park ascended him to sole possession of 14th on the series’ all-time win list. He’s standing in high cotton as his 28th career win surpassed the series win totals of USAC Hall of Famers Gary Bettenhausen and Tony Stewart.
The book on Thorson at Jefferson County is second to none as he became the first three-time USAC National Midget winner at the 1/5-mile dirt oval, and his third career series triumph in Nebraska tied him with Tracy Hines as the winningest wheelman in the Cornhusker State.
Beginning his quest from the outside of the front row, Thorson and his Tanner Thorson Racing/James Hodge Auto Group – Smith Titanium/Spike/Stanton SR-11x were frontrunners from start to finish. Scooting out to the lead at the drop of the green, Thorson got the initial jump on pole sitter Axsom and led the opening frame.
Nonetheless, the driver who caught many a Saturday spectator’s attention early on was Friday night Jefferson County winner Logan Seavey. Starting sixth, Seavey made quick work by flying around the outside of Axsom for the second spot in turn four on lap five. However, Thorson remained in total control, leading by nearly a full second.
On the 13th lap, trouble befell 12th running Daison Pursley who stopped with a flat left rear tire. At that exact moment, Seavey had closed in right to the back bumper of Thorson for the lead just prior to the yellow flag being displayed.
When racing resumed, Jade Avedisian moved to third as she slipped by Axsom for the spot on lap 15. Meseraull followed suit around the outside of Axsom for fourth on lap 18. In the ensuing scramble for position, madness multiplied when Axsom freefell from the top-five all the way to 10th. As a result, Ryan Timms returned to the top-five with a pass on Axsom on lap 21 after Timms had dipped all the way down to as low as ninth in the running order.
With the extra-long 40-lap distance in play, the 30th lap turned out to be where the wick was turned up rather than the flames being fanned. And that’s where Seavey began his surge, roughly at the same point he did the night before. Seavey used the low line to pull even with Thorson for the lead off turn four as they split around the lapped car of Don Droud Jr. with nine laps to go. Thorson ultimately clung to the position and bested Seavey back to the line by a single car length.
Just as it seemed lapped traffic was going to have to be dealt with face-to-face by the leaders, yet another abrupt interruption disrupted a fierce battle at the front between Thorson and Seavey when Zach Daum (18th) found himself sideways and stopped in turn two. Under the yellow, third-running Avedisian pulled off the track with a cut right rear tire, but soon returned to finish a distant 17th.
On the 34th lap, Seavey finally got the run he needed, lining Thorson up before sliding past in turns three and four to finally shake him for the top spot. However, just before the duo reached the start/finish line, the caution lights flashed for an incident involving Chance Crum (20th) and Droud (23rd) who both sat idle in the middle of turn one. Thus, the result was that scoring placed Thorson back in front of Seavey for the restart with seven laps to go.
Seavey regrouped and was right on the tail of Thorson once more with just four laps to go when yet another stoppage halted the proceedings as the distant sound of Coldplay singing, “It was all yellow” began to come to mind. This time, on lap 36, it was provisional starter Taylor Reimer who spun in turns three and four after impressively advancing from 23rd to 12th. She’d return to finish 19th.
Thorson’s cockpit companion behind the wheel were his cockpit adjustments, which both he and Seavey utilized in a constant cat-mouse war that saw one driver adjust on the fly, while the other party counteracted those changes with in-car adjustments of their own.
“Any time you give him time to work on his car under caution, he’s going to get a lot better,” Seavey said in praise of Thorson. “Every run, I’d get faster than him, then we’d have a yellow, then he’d drive back away from me. I could see him in there turning knobs and I was trying to dial my car in too.”
Thorson was untouchable during the final four lap stretch following last restart which saw Seavey not quite close enough to mount a challenge while Timms rimmed the inside of the oval to put himself into contention. In the end, though, it was all Thorson who won by a 1.141 second margin over Seavey with Timms third, hard charger Cannon McIntosh finishing fourth after starting 10th while Thomas Meseraull rounded out the top-five.
The race lead seemed to be just within Logan Sevey’s grasp on numerous occasions, most notably just before a yellow flag in multiple scenarios. In the end, cautions may have stifled Seavey’s groove to win, yet he still managed to finish a strong second. While subtly extending his championship point lead, the Sutter, Calif. native also recorded his seventh straight top-three result with the series aboard his Abacus Racing/Indy Custom Stone – CG CPAs – Dozer’z Nut’z & Bolt’z/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
“It’s tricky when you’re racing somebody that good, especially when they get that many shots at it too,” Seavey said of Thorson. “I was a little better early, then in the middle of the race, he was a little better. I was probably a little too patient in the beginning when I had a few runs, then maybe a little too aggressive a few times toward the end. Sometimes that’s how it goes when you have that many yellows.”
A frequent frontrunner in Fairbury. That accurately describes Ryan Timms’ record at Jefferson County Speedway as he once again found his way onto the podium. On Saturday night, he fell to near the bottom of the top-ten before digging his way back to a third-place finish in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/JBL Audio – TRD – Mobil 1/Lynk/Speedway Toyota. It’s the Oklahoma City, Okla. driver’s third top-three finish in his last four USAC National Midget starts.
“Coming off four, there were a bunch of marbles being thrown up from the bottom into the middle,” Timms explained. “I figured they were just gone, so I had nothing to lose trying it down there. After that restart, they really weren’t up to speed, and it kind of worked for about a lap then it just went away. We had a pretty bad start. We fell back to ninth or so, then had to fight to get back up through there. We still had some shots to win it, but just couldn’t get it done.”
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 15, 2023 – Jefferson County Speedway – Fairbury, Nebraska – Riverside Chevrolet Midwest Midget Championship Presented by Westin Packaged Meats & Schmidt’s Sanitation – 1/5-Mile Dirt Track
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jerry Coons Jr. (#85 Central), 2. Jacob Denney (#25 Malloy), 3. Anton Hernandez (#00 Chandler), 4. Logan Seavey (#57 Abacus), 5. Justin Grant (#2 RMS), 6. Brian Schwabauer (#9 Murphy), 7. Chad Frewaldt (#4F Frewaldt), 8. Ava Gropp (#5A Mounce-Stout). 1:59.88
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Ryan Timms (#67 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Thomas Meseraull (#7x RMS), 3. Hayden Reinbold (#19AZ Reinbold-Underwood), 4. Don Droud Jr. (#22T Burch), 5. Kyle Jones (#7m RAMCO), 6. Taylor Reimer (#25K Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 7. Curtis Spicer (#4s Spicer), 8. Cody Jessop (#4c Frewaldt). NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Bryant Wiedeman (#81 CBI), 2. Tanner Thorson (#88 Thorson), 3. Daison Pursley (#19 Reinbold-Underwood), 4. Chance Crum (#26 Rudeen), 5. Chase McDermand (#40 Mounce-Stout), 6. Cannon McIntosh (#08 Dave Mac Dalby), 7. Mark Chisholm (#56x Fifty6x), 8. Corey Joyner (#52J Joyner). NT
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Zach Daum (#7p RAMCO), 2. Emerson Axsom (#19A Petry-Hayward), 3. Gavin Miller (#97 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 4. Jade Avedisian (#71 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 5. Jake Andreotti (#25m Malloy), 6. Mariah Ede (#71E Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 7. Lance Bennett (#91 Mason), 8. Cade Cowles (#70 Gariss). NT
ALSO AT THE TRACK: Todd McVay (#89 McVay)
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Cannon McIntosh, 2. Chase McDermand, 3. Jake Andreotti, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Mariah Ede, 6. Kyle Jones, 7. Taylor Reimer, 8. Brian Schwabauer, 9. Lance Bennett, 10. Cody Jessop, 11. Corey Joyner, 12. Curtis Spicer, 13. Chad Frewaldt, 14. Mark Chisholm, 15. Cade Cowles, 16. Ava Gropp. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tanner Thorson (2), 2. Logan Seavey (6), 3. Ryan Timms (5), 4. Cannon McIntosh (10), 5. Thomas Meseraull (3), 6. Jacob Denney (12), 7. Justin Grant (11), 8. Bryant Wiedeman (8), 9. Gavin Miller (14), 10. Jerry Coons Jr. (7), 11. Hayden Reinbold (16), 12. Daison Pursley (13), 13. Jake Andreotti (18), 14. Emerson Axsom (1), 15. Kyle Jones (19), 16. Chase McDermand (17), 17. Jade Avedisian (4), 18. Anton Hernandez (15), 19. Taylor Reimer (23-P), 20. Mariah Ede (22), 21. Chance Crum (21), 22. Zach Daum (9), 23. Don Droud Jr. (20). NT
(P) represents a provisional starter
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-40 Tanner Thorson.
**Lance Bennett flipped during the fourth heat. Cade Cowles flipped during the semi.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-780, 2-Jacob Denney-704, 3-Justin Grant-692, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-676, 5-Jade Avedisian-647, 6-Daison Pursley-647, 7-Ryan Timms-638, 8-Cannon McIntosh-622, 9-Taylor Reimer-529, 10-Chase McDermand-527.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-116, 2-Logan Seavey-68, 3-Matt Westfall-65, 4-Justin Grant-61, 5-Chase Stockon-60, 6-Robert Ballou-51, 7-Brady Bacon-48, 8-Emerson Axsom-43, 9-Carson Garrett-43, 10-Bryant Wiedeman-39.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: August 18, 2023 – Wayne County Speedway – Wayne City, Illinois – Jason Leffler Memorial – 1/8-Mile Dirt Track
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fastest Driver: Cannon McIntosh (10.966)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Jerry Coons Jr.
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Ryan Timms
T.J. Forged Third Heat Winner: Bryant Wiedeman
Car IQ Fourth Heat Winner: Zach Daum
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Cannon McIntosh
Hard Charger: Cannon McIntosh (10th to 4th)