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Kyle O'Gara won Thursday's USAC midget race at IRP. (David Sink photo)

O’Gara Breaks Through In IRP Midget Go

CLERMONT, Ind. — On so many occasions throughout the past decade, Kyle O’Gara found himself so close yet so far away from the elusive top step of the podium at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.

What seemed just out of reach finally came into the Beech Grove, Indiana racer’s grasp during Thursday Night Thunder Homecoming’s 35-lap USAC Midget Special Event feature at IRP.

On this evening, the luck of the Irish finally smiled upon the veteran driver who started on the outside of the front row but was treading water early as he dropped back to fifth by the third lap before methodically picking his way back into contention by virtue of changing his line around the .686-mile paved oval midstream.

On the 20th lap, O’Gara raced his way to the point past Kody Swanson, then carried onward to a long-awaited first IRP triumph in his SFHR Development/Chick-fil-A – Speedway Indoor Karting – Business Art Designs/Beast/Stanton SR-11x.

After finishing third in the preceding sprint car feature held earlier in the night, O’Gara lamented the fact that he found himself once more inside the top-three, but just out of arm’s reach of that coveted breakthrough triumphant performance.

The “what ifs” finally, once and for all, subsided in the midget main as O’Gara pounced at the opportunity to officially place his name on IRP’s storied win list.

“I was just saying after the sprint car race how we’ve podiumed here so many times and this place has always eluded us,” O’Gara recalled. “(Crew chief) Brad (Larsen) worked his tail off on this thing. I could do no wrong in it, honestly. It was so good; he nailed the setup tonight.”

At the start, pole sitter Jake Trainor and third-starting Kody Swanson contested each other side-by-side throughout the entirety of the first lap with Trainor getting the best of Swanson by a wheel at the start/finish line. Swanson cut to the bottom of turn one at the initiation of lap two and powered by Trainor to overtake the top spot on the leaderboard.

Meanwhile, past IRP midget winners Chuck Gurney Jr. and Bobby Santos slotted into second and third as each worked their way past Trainor on laps three and four, respectively. Back a bit further was O’Gara who regathered himself and began his forward trajectory, dicing past Trainor for fourth on the fifth lap and then tracked down Santos for third on lap 11.

The top-three running order of Swanson, Gurney and O’Gara began to bunch up like the squeeze of an accordion. However, O’Gara wasn’t content to stand still as he rifled his way to second under Gurney using the middle-low groove in turn three on lap 16.

O’Gara continued to mount his charge toward Swanson, wriggling the lead away in between turns three and four on the 20th lap to edge ahead by a wheel at the line. Swanson wasn’t planning to go away that easily and got back around O’Gara by zooming the outside at the entry to turn one.

Swanson noticeably gained ground at the entry to the corners while O’Gara found a proverbial starting block midway through the corners on both ends, which launched him clear past Swanson as the pair jousted wheel-to-wheel through the fourth corner on lap 20.

“I had to change up my line a little bit early to try and make the thing work,” O’Gara recalled. “We were just too tight to run up top. If I could keep my left front close to the bottom seam, we could really rotate the car. I was just praying that I wouldn’t hurt the right front or the right rear down there because we were sliding it a little bit.”

Both Gurney and Santos slipped by Swanson for second and third in the subsequent moments, dropping Swanson to fourth and, ultimately, as far back as sixth when his teammate, ninth-running Todd Bertrand, slowed to a stop at the entry to pit lane in turn three on lap 31. Swanson pitted with a flat left rear tire during the caution period, but did not return for the restart, placing him 15th in the final rundown.

The yellow flag bunched up the field for the restart with five laps remaining, leaving O’Gara’s 1.206-second advantage null and void as an effect. Gurney made his move and showed a nose to O’Gara on the restart between turns one and two. O’Gara fended off the attack and bounced out to a breathable eighth car length lead.

O’Gara was smooth and steady down the stretch and stuck the landing in victory lane for the first time in his career at IRP over runner-up Chuck Gurney Jr. and Buddy Kofoid, who stole third from Bobby Santos on the final corner of the race. Santos came home fourth with Jake Trainor collecting fifth.

The finish:

Feature (35 laps): 1. Kyle O’Gara (2), 2. Chuck Gurney Jr. (5), 3. Buddy Kofoid (10), 4. Bobby Santos (6), 5. Jake Trainor (1), 6. Cole Carter (4), 7. Nick Hamilton (18), 8. Tanner Swanson (8), 9. Blake Brannon (12), 10. Dakoda Armstrong (11), 11. Cody Gerhardt (13), 12. Nathan Byrd (14), 13. Maria Cofer (15), 14. Kevin Studley (16), 15. Kody Swanson (3), 16. Todd Bertrand (9), 17. Davey Hamilton Jr. (7), 18. Brandon Maurer (17), 19. Ryan Shilkuski (19). 

 

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