MEEKER, Okla. — If not for a couple of late-race cautions, Tanner Thorson’s romp to victory with the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series Tuesday night would have looked like an absolute blowout.
As it was, Thorson still dominated for his fourth USAC national midget win of the year, leading all but one of the 30 laps at Red Dirt Raceway in a flawless performance for Hayward Motorsports.
Thorson started from the pole and took off at the start, only challenged briefly following an early restart at the quarter-mile clay oval.
Once he shook off the advances of Cannon McIntosh, who led lap four with a nifty third-to-first slice, there was no stopping Thorson over the remaining distance.
The Minden, Nev., native opened up more than five seconds over the field at one point in the middle stages of the race, able to effortlessly glide through traffic while Buddy Kofoid, Chris Windom, Tyler Courtney and others squabbled for second well behind his OilFire Whiskey-sponsored No. 19.
In fact, after Windom misjudged a slide job in turn four and hooked Kofoid’s front bumper coming to 10 to go in the race for second, Thorson’s road to victory lane was all but guaranteed.
However, a spin by sixth-running Tanner Carrick coming to two to go brought the caution lights back on, erasing a 4.756-second lead for Thorson and setting up a sprint to the checkered flag with Thorson in front of Courtney, Jerry Coons Jr. and 15-year-old Emerson Axsom.
Thorson nailed the ensuing restart, but a slowing Trey Gropp brought the yellow back out almost immediately. That was followed by Sam Johnson getting over the banking in turn two from 11th with two to go, leaving Thorson with a green-white-checkered in front of him and hungry hounds behind.
In the end, it didn’t matter. Thorson darted away as Coons challenged Courtney for second briefly, eventually taking the checkered flag in front by .598 seconds for his fourth victory of the season.
It marked the 17th USAC national midget win of Thorson’s career, tying him with Jay Drake and USAC Triple Crown champion J.J. Yeley on the division’s all-time win list.
But Tuesday was also a rebound for Thorson, who spun out of contention in his last two USAC starts prior to his victory at Red Dirt.
“A lot of work went into this,” Thorson said in victory lane. “You get down on yourself, especially after you run well and spin out like I did, two nights (in a row). My team never quit working, I never quit working … everyone on this team is bad ass.
“We’ve got a really fast motor here, and tonight it just took me not second-guessing myself on the car and just going for it to get the job done,” Thorson added. “I knew we had this pace, and I keep saying this … but we’re trying a different package with this four-coil car instead of the traditional two-coil cars with the two bars in the back. I tried it for the heat tonight, and I knew why I went to four coils.
“Brodie (Hayward, car owner) gives me what I need to win, and that’s exactly what we did tonight.”
Courtney came home second and moved into second in the USAC standings as a result, with three top-two finishes in his last three starts, including back-to-back wins. Coons filled out the podium.
Kofoid rallied back to finish fourth after passing two cars on the final lap, just ahead of Windom.
Axsom crossed sixth, with McIntosh, Jonathan Beason, Tyler Thomas and Andrew Layser filling out the top 10.
Prior to the three late yellows, the only incident in the 30-lap feature came with two laps complete, when Kaylee Bryson got over the banking in turn one and ended up upside down. She was uninjured.
The USAC National Midget Series season continues Aug. 4 at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa., with the opening round of Pennsylvania Midget Week.
To view complete results, advance to the next page.