TEXARKANA, Ark. — Seventeen years, two months and 23 days.
That was the wait Matt Westfall endured between his first and second career USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature victories.
The dash in the years between his 2006 triumph at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway and Saturday night’s score at Arkansas’ Texarkana 67 Speedway was filled with countless hours of traveling the country chasing everything from sprint cars to midgets to Silver Crown cars to late models to modifieds to SpeedSTRs and nearly everything else in between.
However, the feeling of joy he experienced to finally put a cap on the gap between USAC win No. 1 and two was both satisfying and gratifying for the 46-year-old Pleasant Hill, Ohio, native who led all 30 laps in his Ray Marshall Motorsports/Buckeye Machine – Hempy Water/DRC/Gressman Chevy.
“It’s unbelievable,” Westfall exclaimed. “When I won my first one back in ‘06, I told my dad I could retire. We’ve been going up and down the road the last couple years with USAC and we got going really good at the end of last year. Then they came out with a new tire this year and I’ve struggled ever since. We went back to the main gameplan, and it worked out tonight.”
Not only did Westfall pocket a $10,000 Wingless Short Track Nationals payday, but it also came in the series debut at the quarter-mile dirt oval as well as the first USAC race in The Natural State in a decade. Westfall also provided fellow Ohioan Ray Marshall, who has fielded cars in the series since 2010, his first USAC victory as a car owner.
Westfall also set a new USAC record for years between national feature victories. Westfall broke the USAC National Sprint record of 12 years, 11 months and 4 days between wins by Doug Wolfgang from 1978-1991.
The previous longest interval between USAC National victories of any kind was a record owned by Arnie Knepper in the midgets, as he picked up wins 13 years, 2 months and 8 days apart from one another in a span lasting from 1970-1983.
Starting third, Westfall wasted no time leapfrogging the front row of Robert Ballou and Brody Roa on the initial lap. Both Ballou and Roa went topside while Westfall stuck his wheels as far on the bottom of the racing surface as humanly possible.
Westfall nailed it, driving by Roa immediately before surpassing pole sitter Ballou at the exit of turn four to beat him to the line by a car-length-and-a-half ahead at the end of lap one. By lap five, Westfall was a full two seconds ahead of the field with an equation of car, driver and track working in unison with perfect three-part harmony.
C.J. Leary slotted into second after driving underneath Ballou for the runner-up spot on lap three after starting fifth on the grid. A handful of laps later, Ballou had to contend with Brady Bacon for third, the same pair which went toe-to-toe for the win in the latter stages of the feature two nights earlier at Devil’s Bowl Speedway in Texas.
Bacon slid Ballou on the ninth go-around for third before Ballou returned to the spot a half-lap later in turn three with a similar maneuver of his own. On lap 10, Bacon stuck the landing when he went topside around Ballou on the back straight before hitting the bottom to take away Ballou’s line in turn three. As Bacon headed back to the outside off the turn four exit, so too did Ballou, clipping his right rear tire against Bacon’s left front. Two laps later, Bacon kept the topside momentum up and surpassed Ballou on the back stretch to take over the position on lap 13.
By then, Westfall’s lead was beginning to become more and more insurmountable with each arriving moment. Westfall’s four second advantage put him a full straightaway ahead of Leary in the second position nearing the halfway point and up to five seconds with just eight laps remaining with no one in the proximity of his area code or even his zip code for that matter.
Suddenly, the dynamics changed on lap 23 when third running Bacon caught the cushion between turns one and two, popping his car up into the air before making a 90-degree right hand turn which nosed him into the outside wall before completing a 360 twirl and coming to a stop.
The erasure of Westfall’s big lead was only temporary, as once the race restarted, he picked up right where he left off, in trouncing mode, spurting away from Leary et al as he perused the bottom directly into victory lane by a 1.576-second margin over Leary, Chase Stockon, Justin Grant and Mitchel Moles.
USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Texarkana 67 Speedway, Texarkana, Arkansas, Sept. 9, 2023
HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Jake Swanson, 21AZ, Team AZ-14.311 (New Track Record); 2. C.J. Leary, 15x, BGE Dougherty-14.397; 3. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-14.493; 4. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-14.708; 5. Jack Hoyer, 5, Baldwin/Fox-14.741; 6. Brody Roa, 17R, Dunkel/BR-14.744; 7. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-14.757; 8. Logan Seavey, 2B, 2B Racing-14.758; 9. Daison Pursley, 5p, KO-14.793; 10. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-14.809; 11. Cody Gardner, G6, Gaines-14.924; 12. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-15.016; 13. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2J, Yeley-15.060; 14. Charles Davis Jr., 47, Davis-15.076; 15. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-15.089; 16. Paul White, 1, Wade-15.124; 17. Jason Howell, 44, Sturgeon-15.165; 18. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-15.196; 19. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-15.213; 20. Jadon Rogers, 17GP, Dutcher-15.262; 21. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-15.306; 22. Kyle Jones, 11, Melton-15.323; 23. A.J. Bender, 21, Bender-15.334; 24. Chase Parson, 57, Parson-15.476; 25. Bryan Debrick, 10, Debrick-15.494; 26. Justin Zimmerman, #1, D-Up-15.495; 27. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-15.515; 28. Dalton Stevens, 99x, Stevens-15.529; 29. Christian Moore, 6, Moore-15.707; 30. Chase Howard, 13, Howard-15.771; 31. Gary Floyd, 72, Sturgeon-15.814.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Jake Swanson, 4. Daison Pursley, 5. Jason Howell, 6. Jack Hoyer, 7. Bryan Debrick, 8. Christian Moore. NT
ROD END SUPPLY SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. C.J. Leary, 3. Brody Roa, 4. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 5. Justin Zimmerman, 6. Kyle Jones, 7. Chase Howard, 8. Charles Davis Jr. NT
T.J. FORGED THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Emerson Axsom, 2. Kyle Cummins, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Cody Gardner, 6. A.J. Bender, 7. Brandon Mattox, 8. Gary Floyd. 2:35.06 (New Track Record)
CAR IQ FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Mitchel Moles, 2. Matt Westfall, 3. Jadon Rogers, 4. Paul White, 5. Logan Seavey, 6. Chase Parson, 7. Dalton Stevens. 2:40.09
ELLIOTT’S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Logan Seavey, 2. Jack Hoyer, 3. Cody Gardner, 4. Justin Zimmerman, 5. Jason Howell, 6. Kyle Jones, 7. A.J. Bender, 8. Brandon Mattox, 9. Chase Parson, 10. Christian Moore, 11. Gary Floyd, 12. Chase Howard, 13. Bryan Debrick, 14. Dalton Stevens. 3:08.44 (New Track Record)
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Matt Westfall (3), 2. C.J. Leary (5), 3. Chase Stockon (10), 4. Justin Grant (7), 5. Mitchel Moles (8), 6. Emerson Axsom (9), 7. Jake Swanson (6), 8. Robert Ballou (1), 9. Cody Gardner (14), 10. Kyle Cummins (16), 11. Paul White (17), 12. Daison Pursley (13), 13. Kyle Jones (21), 14. Brody Roa (2), 15. Brady Bacon (4), 16. Logan Seavey (12), 17. Jason Howell (18), 18. Jack Hoyer (11), 19. Jadon Rogers (20), 20. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (19), 21. Kevin Thomas Jr. (15), 22. Justin Zimmerman (22).