TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Of the scores of races Brady Bacon has won, a victory in the Tony Hulman Classic had eluded him.
Bacon had made 13 starts in the prestigious event for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship without winning. That changed on Tuesday night.
When Bacon crossed the finish line first and held the signature rifle in his hands in victory lane following the 53rd annual edition of the event at the Terre Haute Action Track, Bacon knew this one was special.
“We’ve won here a couple times but none of those races are as big as this one,” Bacon stated. “The Hulman Classic has such a long history with USAC and sprint car racing in general, and it’s always tough to get wins on these historical tracks.”
In his 30-lap, wire-to-wire leading performance that rewarded him with a $10,000 top prize, Bacon also moved up another notch on the all-time USAC National Sprint Car feature win list. The 48th of his career elevated him past 2002 series champion Tracy Hines for sole possession of third on the all-time series win list. He now stands just four behind Tom Bigelow (52) for second place and 14 behind leader Dave Darland (62).
Furthermore, of his 48 career USAC National Sprint Car victories, 40 have come in the Hoffman Auto Racing / Dynamics, Inc. No. 69. The 40th score for Bacon and the team on Tuesday at Terre Haute are tied for the most victories between a driver/entrant combo in series history. The pairing now shares top billing with driver Pancho Carter and team owner Steve Stapp, who also achieved 40 victories with the series between 1973-80.
Ironically enough, Bacon’s monumental victory came on a night when Stapp, an inductee of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, was remembered for his performance in breaking the USAC Sprint Car track record at Terre Haute just a few weeks shy of 60 years ago. In his name, the Stapp family posted a $250 bonus for the night’s fastest qualifier, which went to Mitchel Moles.
With the six-car inversion for the main event, Moles rolled off in the sixth starting position while Bacon, the sixth fastest qualifier, began his quest from the pole, which also served as the second of 10 rounds for the Bubby Jones Master of Goin’ Faster Series.
The pursuit for Tuesday night’s Hulman Classic $10,000 reward began with Bacon taking his Dynamics, Inc./Longworth Properties – Mays Shedd Sales & Service/Triple X/Rider Chevy out to the early lead while inside second row starter Justin Grant moved along the inside rail to challenge Bacon at the front of pack.
The first yellow flag fell just three laps into the race when a pair of Hulman Classic winners found themselves involved in a sudden kerfuffle. Seventh running Kevin Thomas Jr., the 2017 race winner, slowed dramatically on the front straight with a radius rod issue. Robert Ballou was running eighth at the time when he became entangled in the incident, and began leaking fuel from the tail tank, knocking him out of the race.
Bacon resumed up front, and by lap 11, was already working lapped traffic. Soon after, Bacon was challenged by Grant, also seeking his first Hulman Classic triumph. Grant tossed a slider in turn one, clearing Bacon, but not the lapped car of Hunter Maddox. Grant ricocheted off the left side of Maddox while Bacon slipped back underneath to retake the lead off turn two.
Bacon felt he had the opportunity to shake Grant, but circumstances didn’t exactly allow that. Instead, he took matters into his own hands, twice shooting the gap to narrowly split between a pair of lapped cars occupying the lower and higher lines getting into turns one and three.
“We hit it right tonight and got to start up front,” Bacon explained. “I could set my own pace and kind of conserve my stuff a little bit. I just caught that one guy wrong a couple times, then I didn’t get a good run to slide him; I just put myself in a bad spot. I probably just wasn’t aggressive enough, and maybe should’ve done it and pushed the issue a bit more, but it was still early in the race, and I was still feeling out the pace I needed to be. Thankfully, we were able to stay ahead of them without a collision tonight and hold them off.”
The chase Grant levied toward Bacon came to an abrupt halt on lap 21 when the injection broke on Grant’s second place running machine, which made the throttle stick on the floor pan. Grant managed to shut the engine off but his race was over.
Bacon became a bit fearful of the race pace and its effect on his equipment, and therefore, his chances of victory.
“It made me nervous that I was maybe going too hard on my stuff,” Bacon admitted. “Then I started feeling some stuff here and there, which was probably not there and just making me feel a little paranoid.”
While Bacon embraced the clear road ahead of him, the tussle behind him became anxious in the waning laps. Moles became a major player when he and Kyle Cummins jockeyed for third on the lap-21 restart. The two made slight contact on Moles’ slider attempt in turn one, sending Moles into the third spot. Cummins responded posthaste by grabbing the spot right back a half lap later in turn three.
The duo of Cummins and Moles made a beeline to second and third, respectively, moments later when Cummins slid Jake Swanson in turn one followed by Moles drag racing past Swanson on the back straight for third. On lap 25, Moles nearly collected the turn two outside wall as he attacked Cummins, losing the third position to Swanson who eked by underneath on the back straightaway.
However, it was all to the advantage of Bacon who opened his interval to more than five seconds while the fires of the battle raged on in the distance behind him. Ultimately, Bacon closed out a victorious evening with a 5.971-second victory over Cummins, Swanson, Moles and C.J. Leary.
USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Terre Haute Action Track, Terre Haute, Ind., May 23, 2023
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-19.738; 2. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-19.916; 3. Max Adams, 5x, Adams-19.964; 4. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-20.004; 5. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-20.156; 6. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-20.175; 7. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-20.333; 8. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-20.393; 9. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-20.482; 10. Kevin Thomas Jr., 17GP, Dutcher-20.532; 11. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-20.629; 12. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-20.697; 13. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-20.723; 14. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-20.800; 15. Sterling Cling, 34, SCR-20.907; 16. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-20.927; 17. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-20.978; 18. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall-21.055; 19. Tim Creech, 31c, Creech-21.061; 20. Jadon Rogers, 5, Baldwin/Fox-21.167; 21. Hunter Maddox, 24m, Maddox-21.748; 22. Travis Thompson, 7, Thompson-21.785; 23. Kevin Newton, 16TH, Newton-21.843; 24. Ivan Glotzbach, i1, Glotzbach-22.073.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr. 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Mitchel Moles, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Carson Garrett, 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Travis Thompson. NT
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Charles Davis Jr., 2. C.J. Leary, 3. Kyle Cummins, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Matt Westfall, 6. Daison Pursley, 7. Jadon Rogers, 8. Kevin Newton. NT
T.J. FORGED/CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-5 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Chase Stockon, 4. Logan Seavey, 5. Max Adams, 6. Hunter Maddox, 7. Ivan Glotzbach, 8. Sterling Cling. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (8 laps, top-7 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Jadon Rogers, 3. Brandon Mattox, 4. Ivan Glotzbach, 5. Travis Thompson, 6. Tim Creech, 7. Hunter Maddox, 8. Kevin Newton. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (1), 2. Kyle Cummins (2), 3. Jake Swanson (5), 4. Mitchel Moles (6), 5. C.J. Leary (13), 6. Max Adams (4), 7. Emerson Axsom (9), 8. Logan Seavey (12), 9. Daison Pursley (11), 10. Chase Stockon (14), 11. Matt Westfall (17), 12. Kevin Thomas Jr. (7), 13. Charles Davis Jr. (8), 14. Carson Garrett (16), 15. Travis Thompson (21), 16. Ivan Glotzbach (22), 17. Hunter Maddox (20), 18. Justin Grant (3), 19. Brandon Mattox (15), 20. Jadon Rogers (19), 21. Tim Creech (18), 22. Robert Ballou (10). NT