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C.J. Leary won Friday's USAC sprint car feature at Volusia Speedway Park. (Al Steinberg photo)

Leary Breaks Through At Ocala

OCALA, Fla. — C.J. Leary parleyed a handful of cautions and a line that nobody else discovered to claim the finale of the Winter Dirt Games Friday night at Bubba Raceway Park. 

Leary’s win in the 30-lap USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series event came at the expense of Logan Seavey, who appeared to have the $6,000 winner’s check firmly in hand until Leary caught fire with five to go and shot from fourth to the lead in three laps.

“I started doing a big diamond down in one and two but I needed all those cautions because I was getting one car on every restart,” explained the elated winner.  “I’m happy to finally get one here but I didn’t expect it. I felt like I got hung up on the original start and fell way back from fourth. I thought that was my demise but I changed lanes and the car came to life.

“I found what the others didn’t and when I got to Logan, I held the brake into the turn until he slid up a little and I got in under him to get the lead.”

GALLERY: USAC Winter Dirt Games Finale Photos

With Brady Bacon outside the front row, many thought he’d blow off polesitter Chase Stockon on the original start and be gone, but Stockon prevailed only to lose the lead to fast-timer Kevin Thomas Jr., up from sixth, on lap three.

Behind them, the third starting Seavey was following Thomas and the duo swapped the lead briefly before Seavey took command on their fifth tour of the three-eighths-mile oval. At halfway it was Seavey with a substantial lead over Thomas Jr., Bacon, Stockon and Leary but things were about to change.

Seavey caught a gaggle of lapped cars on lap 20, allowing Thomas Jr to close on him with Bacon in tow. The latter then moved to second and on lap 23 drew in on the leader, who was trapped in traffic. But then a turn four scramble two laps later brought the first yellow and kicked off the series of restarts that Leary would use to advance.

Seavey got a good jump on the green with Leary moving to third, but the yellow flew again two laps later when triple Dirt Games winner Justin Grant pulled up with a flat right rear. This let Leary shoot down Bacon on the ensuing restart and draw in on the leader.

Daison Pursley then stalled on the frontstretch to draw the final yellow with 27 laps in the book.  Leary shot high on the restart, then dove for the bottom off turn two and got alongside Seavey as they hit turn three. He hit the frontstretch with the lead and an improbable victory was in hand.

“I heard an engine and I thought he was on the outside of me,” tipped Seavey. “I moved up half a lane and he got his nose in there. I was up on the right front and he was by before I recovered. I wasn’t very good in turns one and two, so I wasn’t surprised he got there.”

Stockon, who was sixth with five to go, fought his way back to third at the checkers. “Attrition at the end helped. We went from first to third two nights in a row but we’ve got a fast car and we’re making the most we can out of it. These other guys are tough!”

Thomas Jr. trailed Stockon with Jadon Rogers a strong fifth. Mitchel Moles led a second five that included a fading Bacon, Pennsylvanians Alex Bright and Briggs Danner and Carson Garrett.

Thomas Jr., the first car out, notched fast time on the night and was the only one to break the 14 second barrier with a lap of 13.914 seconds.

Saturday’s scheduled finale was rained out by USAC officials ahead of a massive rainstorm predicted to envelope the entire state over the weekend.

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C.J. Leary takes the checkered flag at Volusia Speedway Park. (Dick Ayers photo)

USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Ocala Speedway, Ocala, Fla., Feb. 16, 2024

HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3R, Rock Steady-13.914; 2. Daison Pursley, 21AZ, Team AZ-14.085; 3. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-14.158; 4. Logan Seavey, 57, Abacus-14.187; 5. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-14.205; 6. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-14.267; 7. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-14.307; 8. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-14.316; 9. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-14.401; 10. Briggs Danner, 39, Hogue-14.444; 11. Jadon Rogers, 17GP, Dutcher-14.462; 12. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-14.476; 13. Tye Mihocko, 5T, Wilson-14.565; 14. Alex Bright, 27, Heffner-14.582; 15. Jake Swanson, 2B, 2B Racing-14.619; 16. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-14.626; 17. Tom Harris, 84, Harris-14.643; 18. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-14.719; 19. Kyle Cummins, 3p, Petty-14.744; 20. Joey Amantea, 88J, JPA-14.810; 21. Hunter Maddox, 24m, Maddox-14.886; 22. Shane Butler, 18, Butler-15.210; 23. Timmy Buckwalter, 20, Hummer-15.598; 24. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-15.601; 25. Chase Howard, 13, Howard-15.615; 26. Kobe Simpson, 21K, Simpson-15.705; 27. Jake Bland, 24x, Maddox-NT.

SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Robert Ballou, 3. Briggs Danner, 4. Kyle Cummins, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Matt Westfall, 8. Shane Butler, 9. Chase Howard. 2:04.00

ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Jadon Rogers, 2. Mitchel Moles, 3. Daison Pursley, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Joey Amantea, 6. Alex Bright, 7. Tom Harris, 8. Kobe Simpson. 2:02.78

T.J. FORGED/CAR IQ THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Carson Garrett, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Chase Stockon, 6. Brandon Mattox, 7. Hunter Maddox, 8. Robert Bell. 2:04.89

FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. C.J. Leary (4), 2. Logan Seavey (3), 3. Chase Stockon (1), 4. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 5. Jadon Rogers (7), 6. Mitchel Moles (10), 7. Brady Bacon (2), 8. Alex Bright (14), 9. Briggs Danner (12), 10. Carson Garrett (11), 11. Joey Amantea (20), 12. Robert Ballou (16), 13. Jake Swanson (15), 14. Tye Mihocko (13), 15. Kyle Cummins (19), 16. Matt Westfall (9), 17. Tom Harris (17), 18. Brandon Mattox (18), 19. Kobe Simpson (25), 20. Justin Grant (8), 21. Hunter Maddox (21), 22. Daison Pursley (5), 23. Chase Howard (24), 24. Robert Bell (23), 25. Shane Butler (22).