JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — It takes guts to challenge some of the best Midget racers in the country. It takes even more guts to try and drive around the national points leader on the top for the win in the final laps, but Karter Sarff never thought twice about going for it.
From over a second behind with 10 laps remaining, Sarff reeled-in leader Cannon McIntosh in five laps, ripping the top side around the quarter-mile Jacksonville Speedway. With the momentum wound-up through turns one-two, Sarff zipped past McIntosh and led the final five circuits to bag his second feature win of the year with the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota.
“I’ve always wanted to win a national Midget race at Jacksonville, it’s basically my home track,” Sarff said. “To finally be able to get it done, to win an Xtreme race with everyone here and passing Cannon for the win is a huge deal for us.”
The 20-year-old from Mason City, Ill., won for the first time with the Series in August, driving around defending series champion Zach Daum for the win at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55. While he admits that one was sweet, Sarff said winning at Jacksonville is something different.
“Jacksonville – it’s everything,” he said. “You’ve gotta be hammer-down, balls-to-the-wall. It’s just so cool to win here.”
From sixth on the starting grid, Sarff gradually made his way up through the field in the first half of the race, advancing to fourth by the halfway point, putting himself in position to make a late-race dash for the lead. A multi-time feature starter at Jacksonville, Sarff figured out the best line right away and used it to his advantage.
“Everyone was running the bottom, so I wasn’t gonna follow them down there,” Sarff said. “I just kept working it and working it until I finally figured out how to rip around there with a bunch of momentum and not make mistakes.”
Out front, McIntosh had taken the lead after finding a magic lane on the bottom, zooming by both Jade Avedisian and Hayden Reinbold to take control of the race on lap 11. But after several caution periods, McIntosh said the track began to dry-out, and the struggle for grip became a factor for the Dave Mac-Dalby Motorsports No. 08.
“I tried to hit my marks better and better, but I just started to slow down a little bit,” McIntosh said. “[Sarff] was just living and dying by the top. He just made it work.”
Following the final restart with 16 laps to go, McIntosh soon dipped back into lapped traffic. He reached the back of a slower car on lap 24, who was running right in front of him. Though McIntosh held his line and drove by down the backstretch, so had Sarff.
“As the bottom got worse and worse and I got in traffic, he just ripped by us,” McIntosh said. “I think by then he had enough momentum, it didn’t matter what I did. He was just going to get away.”
McIntosh gave it everything he had on the bottom to try and fend Sarff off but was unable to escape the No. 21K’s wrath the next time by in turns one and two. Sarff used the momentum from the top side and completed the pass out of turn two.
Though he settled for runner-up, McIntosh did consider what moving up a lane earlier in the race might have done for him in the end.
“I knew in the back of my head that the top is always good here, and I should’ve known that more in the Feature,” McIntosh said. “I didn’t really know if it would come in or not – it seemed so built-up and hard against the wall.”
Crossing the stripe with the final podium spot was 16-year-old Pennsylvanian Gavin Miller, who came all the way from ninth on the grid to finish third. Avedisian held on for fourth while Daum completed the top five after having to restart from the tail, following contact with Avedisian early in the event.
Feature Finish (30 Laps)
1. 21K-Karter Sarff; 2. 08-Cannon McIntosh; 3. 97-Gavin Miller; 4. 71-Jade Avedisian; 5. 7U-Zach Daum; 6. 56-Mitchell Davis; 7. 25K-Taylor Reimer; 8. 16-Kyle Jones; 9. 1K-Brayton Lynch; 10. 97K-Cooper Williams; 11. 50-Daniel Adler; 12. 40-Chase McDermand; 13. 19AZ-Hayden Reinbold; 14. 7X-Korey Weyant; 15. 31B-Kyle Beilman; 16. 81-Dakota Gay; 17. 17B-Austin Barnhill; 18. 16C-David Camfield Jr; 19. 55-Trevor Cline; 20. 53-Miles Doherty; 21. 17C-Devin Camfield; 22. 43-Gunnar Setser; 23. 51R-Patrick Ryan