KOKOMO, Ind. — Tyler Courtney led all 40 laps of Saturday night’s Smackdown VIII to become the second multi-time winner of the prestigious event.
The win was Courtney’s series-leading sixth USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature win of the season. Yet, it came with its share of peaks and valleys throughout the weekend after Courtney and the Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing crew endured a nasty qualifying flip in Friday’s program that damaged the frame.
The team weathered the storm with a fourth-place finish that evening but were hopeful for so much more in Saturday’s $11,000-to-win finale.
“The crew was welding on it this morning,” Courtney recalled. “These guys haven’t stopped since they brought the car back in from qualifying (on Friday). We had a moment in hot laps today and were scrambling for a bit. We kind of thought that maybe we were doing something wrong. We got it going pretty good there in the King of the Hill and put ourselves in the cat bird seat to where we could run our own race in the feature.”
Courtney emerged as the leader on the opening lap, after sliding to the top as a four-wide scramble for the lead involving he, Justin Grant, C.J. Leary and Kyle Cummins ensued in turn two. Courtney maintained his advantage at the head of the field to lead lap one while Cummins flexed his muscle, splitting between Leary and Grant to slide from fourth to second and begin his race-long pursuit of Courtney.
Cummins, who won his first career USAC feature at Kokomo during the Indiana Sprint Week round of 2016, hounded Courtney relentlessly for the duration of the 40-lapper, the second race of such distance so far this year.
By lap 15, the leaders were working lapped traffic with a three-wide conundrum awaiting just ahead. With Cummins within earshot, Courtney broke through the pack as Isaac Chapple, Thomas Meseraull and Dustin Smith battled for position, briefly pausing Cummins’ pursuit before he too broke through between turns one and two a lap leader all while Courtney constructed a one second advantage up front after the two cut through the thick of the traffic.
Following a turn two spin by 10th running Carson Short on the 24th lap, the yellow took away Courtney’s advantage and bunched Cummins up right behind the reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ for the restart.
Courtney wasn’t frazzled by any means, for he knew the longer race and having the open road lying ahead of him played into his hands just as long as he didn’t let Cummins’ pressure press him into troubled waters.
“I feel like I’m pretty good at managing a race the longer they are,” Courtney said. “I can get out and do my own thing that I was wanting to do. Kyle showed me a nose a couple of times. I just tried to not let it push me too hard to where I made a mistake.”
Cummins remained on the chase, scraping the front straightway and turn two walls as he squeezed every ounce he could out of his Rock Steady Racing No. 3r.
Yet, Courtney just wasn’t going to be deterred en route to victory on this night aboard his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Competition Suspension, Inc./Spike/Rider Chevy as he closed out a wire-to-wire victory over Cummins, Leary, Grant and Friday night’s winner Logan Seavey.
To see full results, turn to the next page.