By Richie Murray
Bloomington, Indiana (July 28, 2023)………Dejected and disappointed, yet not defeated, Emerson Axsom still had a ton to race for when he arrived at Bloomington Speedway for Friday night’s penultimate round of USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week Presented By Honest Abe Roofing.
For all intents and purposes, the Franklin, Ind. racer saw his shot at an Indiana Sprint Week championship crumble a night earlier at Lincoln Park Speedway when he missed out on transferring to the feature, and thus, had to use a provisional, which did not allow him to earn feature points toward the eight-race series title race.
Driving with desire, and a fire in the belly, at Bloomington’s Sheldon Kinser Memorial, Axsom recorded his first career Indiana Sprint Week triumph, while extending his lead in another concurrent miniseries for USAC National Sprint Car racing, the 10-race Bubby Jones Master of Going Faster series Presented By Spire Sports + Entertainment.
Axsom grabbed the reins of his Clauson Marshall Newman Racing/Driven2SaveLives – ZMax Race Lubricants/Spike/Kistler Chevy, then chased down racelong leader Briggs Danner on lap 15 before patrolling the final 16 laps to earn his third feature victory of the USAC season.
“Honestly, I’m still upset about last night,” Axsom admitted. “Not that it was anybody’s fault, we just didn’t run very well. I told my guys last night that if I have anything to do with it, we’re going to win tonight. I just wanted to win really badly and I’ve been wanting to win a Sprint Week race all week. We’ve been fast; we just haven’t been able to qualify to put us up front. It’s hard to pass these guys because they’re so good.”
The arch of Axsom mimics Jake Swanson, who simultaneously captured both his first Indiana Sprint Week win and his sixth career USAC National Sprint Car victory on Thursday at Lincoln Park. Axsom achieved exactly the same on Friday at Bloomington with his sixth career series score moving him to 76th on the all-time series win list alongside Chad Boespflug, Kevin Briscoe, Shane Cottle, Jac Haudenschild, Jason McCord, Jan Opperman, Tom Sneva, George Snider, Jake Swanson and Dick Tobias.
Axsom’s performance is now the next chapter in a long line of previous successes for the Clauson family at Bloomington. Bryan Clauson owns the record for most USAC National Sprint Car victories with five on the 1/4-mile red clay between 2009-16, plus a USAC National Midget dub in 2013. Clauson Marshall Racing also nabbed back-to-back USAC Midget victories between 2018-19 with Tyler Courtney at the wheel.
But on Friday night, it was Axsom’s turn to kick a shine. Starting from the third position, Axsom was already challenging for the lead by lap two. Axsom first scooted underneath Chase Stockon off turn four to slot into second at the conclusion of the opening lap, then came within a car length of Danner for the race lead on the second go-around.
However, just as Axsom was in position to, perhaps, race into the lead, he hit the muck at the very bottom of turn one and was unable to get the car to turn. Sliding up the track, Axsom left the bottom open for Stockon to reemerge in second.
On lap five, fourth running Mitchel Moles’ tumultuous Indiana Sprint Week continued when his car fell dramatically off the pace, forcing him to the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area as the yellow flag was displayed. Moles ultimately returned to the tail and advanced his way to a 14th place finish.
When racing resumed, it was go time for Axsom who made a successful bid for second under Stockon, taking the spot on the back straight on the lap five restart. However, at that moment, Danner had stepped away to a half-straightaway advantage as the leader.
Meanwhile, Justin Grant and Brady Bacon entered the fray with a four-point separation in their quests for the Indiana Sprint Week championship. Bacon gained a crucial spot on the 10th lap when Grant skated up the racetrack in turns one and two, allowing Bacon to jet away on the outside for the fifth position.
Back up front, traffic loomed for Danner, and as soon as he caught in, he was mired. His 1.5 second interval vanished in a heartbeat just before the midway point, and on lap 15, Axsom flashed by on the inside to take over the lead. Moments later in turn four, Danner snagged the cushion, knocking him sideways, which cost him more than a second, and practically ended his window of opportunity to win his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature.
For Axsom, though, he had a pretty good feeling that he was in good shape moving forward.
“It was a real fine line between the greasy, the slick and the monster curb off two and four,” Axsom explained. “I knew that if I could just stay even with the lapped cars, nobody would get by me. I didn’t really know if anybody was catching me, but I knew if I stayed even with the car below me, it was enough that nobody was going to be able to do anything. I knew that as long as I didn’t mess up big on the top, I’d be all right.”
On lap 22, Bacon gained further ground to move into fourth as 2022 Bloomington Indiana Sprint Week winner got caught up on the turn four cushion as Bacon raced by underneath to further pad his Indiana Sprint Week point lead to eight markers.
Axsom was untouchable at the front of the field, however, and finished off the evening by crossing the finish line 3.753 seconds ahead of the competition. Danner collected a runner-up finish by a narrow half car length margin of Stockon while Bacon grabbed fourth and Cummins rounded out the top-five.
Sitting fifth in the Indiana Sprint Week standing, 75 points out of the lead, Axsom knows his shot at title with the series is over. However, he’s thinking big picture which has him in good shape in multiple ongoing series. He’s second in the overall USAC National Sprint Car standings, just 19 behind Bacon, and currently leads the Bubby Jones points by a 28-point margin.
“Our Sprint Week isn’t over,” Axsom related, “but obviously, last night really hurt us. The national title is still there and that’s our main goal anyway. Hopefully this gets us back to where we need to be.”
Briggs Danner (Allentown, Pa.) equaled his best career USAC National Sprint Car finish with a second-place result in his Hogue Racing Enterprises/Boulevard Truck Repair – E. Schneider & Sons/DRC/Rider Chevy. Danner scored a second at Grandview Speedway in 2022. His second place run at Bloomington was the best finish ever by a native Pennsylvanian in an Indiana Sprint Week event. Frankie Kerr previously was the best with a fourth at Bloomington in 1991 while Steve Surniak finished fifth at Paragon Speedway in 1998.
Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) tied his best result of the 2023 USAC National Sprint Car season with a third-place finish in his KO Motorsports/Banded Ag – Superior Tank & Trailer – Dewig Meats – AMSOIL/Triple X/Fisher Chevy. The podium run at Bloomington comes on the heels of a fifth place finish the previous night at Lincoln Park. It’s the 2020 Indiana Sprint Week champion’s first back-to-back top-five finishes with the series since September of 2022.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) pocketed $400 for his Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifying performance at Bloomington. It was his second consecutive quick time with the series, the sixth time he’s timed in as the fastest in back-to-back fashion during his USAC Sprint Car career. Overall, it was the 47th fast time of his career with the series, fourth all-time, and his third Indiana Sprint Week fast time at Bloomington, doing so in perfectly spaced four-year increments in 2015, 2019 and 2023.
Shane Cottle has been a hard-charging machine throughout Indiana Sprint Week. For the fifth time in seven races throughout the week, the Kansas, Ill. driver has earned J & J Trucking Hard Charger honors. At Bloomington, he advanced from 21st to 13th, and has now passed a total of 82 cars thus far during ISW. To put it all into perspective, his closest competition has passed 49 cars during Indiana Sprint Week.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 28, 2023 – Bloomington Speedway – Bloomington, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – 36th Annual USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week Presented by Honest Abe Roofing – Sheldon Kinser Memorial
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-11.244; 2. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-11.247; 3. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-11.304; 4. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-11.356; 5. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-11.372; 6. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-11.373; 7. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-11.378; 8. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-11.428; 9. Brent Beauchamp, 11, Beauchamp-11.432; 10. Briggs Danner, 39, Hogue-11.446; 11. Kevin Thomas Jr., 42, Cheney-11.457; 12. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-11.459; 13. Dalton Stevens, 99x, Stevens-11.475; 14. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-11.484; 15. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-11.506; 16. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-11.511; 17. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-11.544; 18. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-11.546; 19. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-11.560; 20. Tayte Williamson, 20, Williamson-11.583; 21. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-11.587; 22. Geoff Ensign, 17, On The Gass-11.619; 23. Jordan Kinser, 04, Burton-11.661; 24. Travis Millar, 93AU, Millar-11.679; 25. Joey Amantea, 88J, Amantea-11.694; 26. Alec Sipes, 19, Hayward-11.698; 27. Shane Cottle, 2E, Epperson-11.746; 28. Hunter Maddox, 24m, Maddox-11.788; 29. Brady Short, 61m, Edwards-11.880; 30. Justin Zimmerman, 1, D-Up-11.948; 31. Troy Carey, 45N, Carey-11.998.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brandon Mattox, 2. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 3. Mitchel Moles, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Brent Beauchamp, 6. Joey Amantea. 2:00.92
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Charles Davis Jr., 2. Briggs Danner, 3. Geoff Ensign, 4. Daison Pursley, 5. Robert Ballou, 6. Jake Swanson, 7. Alec Sipes, 8. Justin Zimmerman. 2:00.86
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Garrett, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Emerson Axsom, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Shane Cottle, 6. C.J. Leary, 7. Troy Carey, 8. Jordan Kinser. 1:57.08
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Logan Seavey, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Kyle Cummins, 5. Travis Millar, 6. Tayte Williamson, 7. Hunter Maddox. 2:00.30
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Jake Swanson, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Shane Cottle, 5. Brent Beauchamp, 6. Justin Zimmerman, 7. Travis Millar, 8. Troy Carey, 9. Joey Amantea, 10. Alec Sipes, 11. Tayte Williamson, 12. Dalton Stevens. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Emerson Axsom (3), 2. Briggs Danner (1), 3. Chase Stockon (2), 4. Brady Bacon (6), 5. Kyle Cummins (5), 6. C.J. Leary (12), 7. Justin Grant (7), 8. Robert Ballou (13), 9. Jake Swanson (11), 10. Charles Davis Jr. (8), 11. Carson Garrett (9), 12. Daison Pursley (16), 13. Shane Cottle (21), 14. Mitchel Moles (4), 15. Kevin Thomas Jr. (15), 16. Matt Westfall (17), 17. Geoff Ensign (20), 18. Brandon Mattox (10), 19. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (19), 20. Brent Beauchamp (14), 21. Logan Seavey (18), 22. Justin Zimmerman (22). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-14 Briggs Danner, Laps 15-30 Emerson Axsom.
**Dalton Stevens flipped during qualifying. Hunter Maddox flipped during the heat.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-1638, 2-Emerson Axsom-1619, 3-Justin Grant-1615, 4-Jake Swanson-1559, 5-Kyle Cummins-1539, 6-C.J. Leary-1469, 7-Robert Ballou-1372, 8-Mitchel Moles-1364, 9-Chase Stockon-1325, 10-Daison Pursley-1275.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK PRESENTED BY HONEST ABE ROOFING POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-474, 2-Justin Grant-466, 3-Robert Ballou-418, 4-Kyle Cummins-403, 5-Emerson Axsom-399, 6-C.J. Leary-371, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-366, 8-Shane Cottle-346, 9-Jake Swanson-342, 10-Carson Garrett-340.
BUBBY JONES MASTER OF GOIN’ FASTER PRESENTED BY SPIRE SPORTS + ENTERTAINMENT POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-476, 2-Brady Bacon-448, 3-C.J. Leary-447, 4-Jake Swanson-434, 5-Mitchel Moles-414, 6-Kyle Cummins-387, 7-Chase Stockon-374, 8-Justin Grant-372, 9-Daison Pursley-371, 10-Robert Ballou-320.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-145, 2-Logan Seavey-84, 3-Robert Ballou-81, 4-Shane Cottle-81, 5-Matt Westfall-79, 6-Brady Bacon-77, 7-Justin Grant-70, 8-Emerson Axsom-64, 9-Chase Stockon-63, 10-C.J. Leary-51.
USAC INDIANA SPRINT WEEK PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Shane Cottle-82, 2-Brady Bacon-49, 3-Joey Amantea-46, 4-Robert Ballou-45, 5-Daison Pursley-37, 6-Logan Seavey-33, 7-Emerson Axsom-31, 8-Kevin Thomas Jr.-30, 9-Braxton Cummings-29, 10-Mitchel Moles-28.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 29, 2023 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Track – 36th Annual USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week Presented by Honest Abe Roofing
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Dirt Draft Fastest Hot Laps Driver: Shane Cottle
Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Brady Bacon (11.244)
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Brandon Mattox
Rod End Supply Second Heat Winner: Carson Garrett
T.J. Forged Third Heat Winner: Charles Davis Jr.
Car IQ Fourth Heat Winner: Justin Grant
Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts Semi Winner: Jake Swanson
Hard Work Award: Justin Zimmerman
Green APU First Lap Leader: Briggs Danner
J & J Trucking Hard Charger: Shane Cottle (22nd to 13th)