INDIANAPOLIS — One night after assuming the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point lead for the first time in seven seasons, Kyle Cummins cemented his status at the top with a victory in Thursday night’s Circle City Salute at Circle City Raceway.
The Princeton, Ind., native demonstrated the type of roll he’s been on of late, taking the lead just five laps into the 40-lap contest before going on to capture his second $10,000 victory of the series season in his Rock Steady Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Tim Mason ReMax/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
It was his eighth top-five finish in his ninth USAC starts this season, and his third consecutive top-two finish.
While the season long championship race isn’t exactly top of mind in the month of May, it does bring a curious scenario for Cummins to now face all thanks to his early season success that has put him at the top of the heap.
“We don’t even know if we’re running the whole series yet,” Cummins admitted. “We just came out to run some races, and so far, it’s been going pretty good,” Cummins explained. “It’s a long season, and with my job, it makes it super stressful and super hard to be able to come out here and race. But to knock off two seconds and a first this week, it kind of makes me itch a little bit.”
Cummins started his race from the outside of the front row, but for the second night in a row at Circle City’s quarter-mile dirt oval, it was Ballou spurting out to the early race lead form the pole position as he squeezed his way past Cummins to escape with the spot.
However, the first stoppage of the evening came on lap two when the red flag was displayed for 21st running Sterling Cling who flipped in turn one.
Cummins went right back to work, sliding Ballou for the position in turn three on lap four, then negating a crossover move by Ballou at the turn four exit to win the drag race to the line at the conclusion of lap four, a position he’d never relent despite numerous challenges from the reigning champ.
Grant, the defending USAC National Sprint Car titlist, punched his ticket for second when he slid his way past Ballou with a turn one maneuver on the ninth lap. A few ticks later, Wednesday night winner Jake Swanson jumped to third utilizing a slide job on Ballou on the 13th lap.
Just prior to midway, the caution lights came on for a lap 14 incident involving 11th running Kevin Thomas Jr., which also stopped Chase Stockon.
On the restart, Cummins was under the attack levied by Grant. First, Grant slid past Cummins in turn one immediately after the green flag was displayed. Cummins countered back under to stave off the challenge from Grant.
Grant reloaded with another slide job in turn one on lap 16 only to see Cummins charge back by. Grant’s third try in the last two laps was not the charm over in turn three as he was unable to clear while Cummins continued on his merry way as the undisputed race leader.
Laps 18 and 20, the song remained the same as Cummins had an answer for everything Grant threw at him in turn one, crossing over and zipping back past Grant to retain the lead. However, any chance Grant had at dethroning Cummins came to an ugly end on lap 25 when Grant tagged the outside wall with his right rear and flipped.
Cummins romped to a 1.734-second victory and pad his wallet with a $10,000 top prize. Jake Swanson finished second with Brady Bacon third, Emerson Axsom fourth and Matt Westfall fifth.
Cummins led the final 37 laps en route to victory, a victory in which he earned by taming both the track and any challenge posed to him from the field of 22 throughout the 40-lap feature.
“That was a very technical race,” Cummins admitted. “When Justin was throwing me sliders there, it was kind of like the heat race. It was pretty exciting until he got turned over there. To come out on top at a track like this is huge; it can just eat your lunch at any moment. But now we’re 10 grand richer.”
In his last four USAC National Sprint Car starts, Swanson hasn’t strayed from the podium, finishing second, third, first and second. As a result, he elevated himself from fifth to fourth in series points.
“We were close,” Swanson lamented. “I think Kyle was really good last night too and I think at different parts of the racetrack and at different times of the race, we might’ve been better, and at other times, he was better. But tonight, he pretty well had us covered. Either way, we’re on the podium again and I can’t say enough about my race team for giving me a car that’s capable of being up front every single week.”
Bacon started eighth and finished third.
“We just had our car really tight, and I just couldn’t run the top very well,” Bacon documented. “I saw them poking their nose down there, so I thought I better go down there and protect, but I found that the middle worked best for me. This is just one of those survival nights, just got to get through it – a workingman’s night I guess you could say.”
USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Circle City Raceway, Indianapolis, Indiana, May 25, 2023
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-12.255; 2. Thomas Meseraull, 2E, Epperson-12.284; 3. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-12.287; 4. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-12.329; 5. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-12.404; 6. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-12.447; 7. Kevin Thomas Jr., 17GP, Dutcher-12.541; 8. Brent Beauchamp, 11, Beauchamp-12.613; 9. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall-12.645; 10. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-12.648; 11. Tyler Hewitt, 118, Evans-12.666; 12. Tye Mihocko, 2H, Hayden-12.669; 13. Rylan Gray, 81G, Gray-12.699; 14. Matt McDonald, 5m, McDonald-12.714; 15. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-12.724; 16. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-12.754; 17. Koby Barksdale, 16K, Knight-12.762; 18. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-12.884; 19. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-12.934; 20. Jake Scott, 33, Miller-12.967; 21. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-12.996; 22. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-12.997; 23. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-13.004; 24. Dave Darland, 36D, Darland/Curb-Agajanian-13.037; 25. Kayla Roell, 5K, KO-13.058; 26. Jadon Rogers, 5, Baldwin/Fox-13.074; 27. Ricky Lewis, 41, Brown-13.105; 28. Scotty Weir, 24, Simon-13.107; 29. Sterling Cling, 34, SCR-13.110; 30. Gabriel Gilbert, 10G, GGR-13.264; 31. Ivan Glotzbach, i1, Glotzbach-14.343; 32. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Kyle Cummins, 4. C.J. Leary, 5. Rylan Gray, 6. Koby Barksdale, 7. Kayla Roell, 8. Sterling Cling. NT
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Mitchel Moles, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. Chase Stockon, 6. Matt McDonald, 7. Jadon Rogers, 8. Gabriel Gilbert. NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Charles Davis Jr., 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Carson Garrett, 5. Logan Seavey, 6. Ricky Lewis, 7. Ivan Glotzbach, 8. Tyler Hewitt. NT
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Matt Westfall, 2. Jake Swanson, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Jake Scott, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Scotty Weir, 7. Brent Beauchamp, 8. Brandon Mattox. NT
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Logan Seavey, 3. Tye Mihocko, 4. Rylan Gray, 5. Jadon Rogers, 6. Sterling Cling, 7. Koby Barksdale, 8. Ricky Lewis, 9. Tyler Hewitt, 10. Gabriel Gilbert, 11. Brent Beauchamp, 12. Ivan Glotzbach, 13. Scotty Weir, 14. Matt McDonald, 15. Kayla Roell. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Cummins (2), 2. Jake Swanson (3), 3. Brady Bacon (8), 4. Emerson Axsom (7), 5. Matt Westfall (9), 6. Daison Pursley (14), 7. Chase Stockon (18), 8. Thomas Meseraull (5), 9. C.J. Leary (17), 10. Mitchel Moles (15), 11. Logan Seavey (19), 12. Tye Mihocko (12), 13. Justin Grant (6), 14. Robert Ballou (1), 15. Rylan Gray (13), 16. Kevin Thomas Jr. (11), 17. Jadon Rogers (21), 18. Dave Darland (20), 19. Carson Garrett (4), 20. Charles Davis Jr. (10), 21. Jake Scott (16), 22. Sterling Cling (22).