INDIANAPOLIS — No driver has won more USAC races this season than Tanner Thorson.
The Nevada driver added another one to his most prolific USAC campaign yet on this particular Friday evening, leading all 30 laps and threading the needle to avoid catastrophe along the way en route to the win in the series’ debut at Circle City Raceway.
It was the first USAC National Sprint Car event held at a dirt track in Indianapolis since 1984.
Thorson collected his series-leading 12th USAC national victory of the year, five of which have come on a Friday night. His fifth USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature victory of the season came amid a close call early in the going after leading the first 10 laps of the event in relatively comfortable fashion.
On lap 11, as Thorson was just beginning to work his way into traffic, turn two became calamity corner. With Thorson following just feet behind, the 20th and 21st place cars of Travis Berryhill and Jadon Rogers made bumper-to-bumper contact at the top of the second turn, sending Berryhill into a spin.
The quick acting Thorson mashed the gas, shot the narrow gap, and split the difference between Rogers and Berryhill to escape without harm and without foul in his Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports/AME Electrical – CSI – Mesilla Valley Transportation/Spike/Stanton Chevy.
“I know I had to show my nose,” Thorson explained. “I kind of poked my nose in there and was kind of hoping they’d jump out of the throttle. As soon as I got next to them, the guy outside of me jumped in the throttle and got into the back of him. I just jumped out of the throttle and rolled right between them.”
As Thorson escaped the escapade, the same couldn’t be said for a few others. Berryhill’s landing spot for his spin just happened to be right into the path of second-running Brady Bacon who locked up his brakes and broadsided the sitting car of Berryhill at the bottom of turn two before coming to a stop.
Moments later, 17th running Ricky Lewis clipped the turn three infield tire and flipped wildly several times, eventually coming to a rest upside down in turn four.
When action resumed, it was second-running Kevin Thomas Jr. taking repeated runs at Thorson at the top of the pedestal. Thomas worked the bottom with Thorson never straying from the top. Thomas came within a half-car length of Thorson at the stripe on both laps 13 and 14, then gradually slipped back to a full length on lap 15, two lengths on lap 16 and more beyond the 17th circuit.
During Thomas’ surge, similar circumstances were occurring for Emerson Axsom, who ran ninth during the lap-11 restart and had worked his way up to third by the time eighth running Thomas Meseraull spun to a stop onto the edge of the infield grass in turn two on lap 21.
On the lap-22 restart, Axsom pulled no punches and wasted little time in continuing his spurt to the front of the field. In turn three, Axsom shot to the bottom to slide past Thomas. However, midway through the turn, as Axsom skated up to the cushion, his car became just a tad too sideways.
The trailing Thomas tried but couldn’t avoid the contact, his front bumper nudging the left side nerf bar of Axsom, which straightened Axsom out. Both kept going, after nearly halting. As they gathered their horses up, Chris Windom and Jake Swanson raced under the pair while C.J. Leary went around the outside of both, completely knocking both out of the top five.
Thorson led the rest of the way for the $5,000 triumph with Windom, Swanson, 20th-starting Brady Bacon and Leary rounding out the top five.
Windom finished as the runner-up, 3.092 seconds behind Thorson.
“I was just holding him off there at the end,” Windom recalled of keeping J. Swanson at bay. “We probably weren’t the winning car there, but we got a little better on the last restart. I adjusted on my shocks a little bit but didn’t quite get tight enough to be good off the bottom all while Tanner was hitting his marks on the top. It was kind of hard to reel him in at that point.
Swanson raced from 10th to finish third.
“The fact that we can dig ourselves out of these holes, that’s big. That means a lot,” Swanson said. “You have to be able to do that; that’s what wins races and wins championships. I don’t think we wanted to practice changing front ends, but we did. We can fine tune. It was good to drive by guys and roll up through there, but we just need to start up front to feel like we’ll be in position. We can’t have bad luck like that in those heat races and have problems like that because it just buries you too deep.”
To see full results, turn to the next page.