BRANDON, S.D. – In a race where multiple leaders fell by the wayside, Chris Windom found himself in a seemingly envious position with 15 laps to go in Sunday night’s $20,000-to-win, 100-lap USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship feature during the inaugural Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals.
However, Windom had already been entrenched in this scenario multiple times throughout the weekend with varying degrees of success.
With just less than five laps left in the preceding, accompanying USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature, for just a brief, fleeting moment, Windom thought he had the $20,000 prize just within his grasp.
When the yellow flag waved, it negated Windom’s pass for the lead, with the end result putting him third in the final order, necessitating the Canton, Ill., native to hit the reset button for the ensuing long-distance midget feature up next.
Taking the lead with just 15 laps remaining in the midget feature after leader Chase Randall’s flat right rear tire drama, subsequent turn one wall contact and flip, Windom experienced no interruptions and no technical difficulties en route to finally grabbing the $20,000 victory Sunday night.
“This definitely makes up for not winning the sprint car race,” Windom said with a grin. “That was a fun race. This thing was so good. I didn’t feel really good the first 50 laps, but I felt like we were maintaining. The next 50, when the track kind of moved to the top, I could run that diamond line down there. It was just so good.”
Windom had experienced a rollercoaster of emotions in USAC Midget competition throughout the weekend at Huset’s. On Friday, he was leading late, but was passed as he changed lines during the green-white-checkered finish, knocking him back to second in the final results. On Saturday, Windom reversed his fortunes by leading the final nine laps to reign victorious.
The reigning series champ started seventh in Sunday night’s finale, which was dominated early by top series Rookie and pole sitter Randall for the first 13 laps and Kevin Thomas Jr. between laps 14 through 19.
Eighth starting Cannon McIntosh’s first name was aptly fitting as he stormed around the outside of Thomas to the lead between turns three and four on lap 20 when Thomas became stifled in traffic behind the car of Casey Hicks, which aided McIntosh in his rush to the front.
McIntosh’s raid of the field was just as breathtaking as the lightning quick pace of the race in the first half as the first 42 laps clicked off in the blink of an eye without a stoppage. But that’s where the heartache and heartbreaks began.
With everything seemingly going to perfection and possessing a four second lead, McIntosh began to slow dramatically on the back straightaway with a completely flat right rear tire. That initiated the first yellow flag period, which ultimately led into the previously scheduled eight-minute red flag break for the field to add fuel and make adjustments.
Jason McDougal assumed his role as the new race leader when action resumed on lap 50, which proved to be short-lived. Fourth running Thomas Meseraull spun on his own between turns one and two, setting off a chain reaction of events behind him which resulted in ninth-place Mitchel Moles flipping upside down in an incident from which he walked away.
Also caught up in the melee were Daison Pursley who continued onward after slight contact with the rear bumper of the already-in-the-process-of-spinning Meseraull. Shane Golobic, meanwhile, contacted the spinning Meseraull square in the side of his nerf bar. After repairs, Golobic returned to the fray to finish seventh.
The first race leader of the night became the first race leader of the second half of the 100-lapper with Randall blitzing his way around the outside of McDougal on the lap 50 restart (part two). Thomas Jr. occupied the bottom as he waged war for second with McDougal up top while Windom slotted into fourth.
Another turn one incident halted activity on lap 56 as a tangle in turn one saw Chance Crum, Justin Grant, Austin Barnhill and a backwards facing Meseraull all parked on the banking. Barnhill became the only driver to restart with the remaining three cars suffering terminal damage or mechanical issues.
A steadily surging Windom took the third position from Thomas Jr. on lap 68, then four laps later, snagged second from McDougal with a turn three slider on lap 72.
Windom then chased down Randall for the lead, taking multiple shots, sliding even and sliding past the young Texan, but Randall had an answer each and every time. Randall was prepared once again in turns three and four when Windom dove low into turn three, blazing past Randall, who succinctly turned his car downhill and raced back underneath and ahead of Windom off turn four.
Mere moments later, disaster struck Randall whose right rear tire went flat prior to his entry on the cushion in turn one, forcing him into the outside wall and sending him flipping down the banking. The stunning result ended Randall’s bid to become the first driver to win his first career USAC National Midget feature in a 100-lap race since Zach Daum at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway in the 2011 Hut 100.
With clear sailing ahead, new race leader Windom was not going to be denied over the final 15-lap stretch, instantaneously posting a half-straight lead as a furious battle between Buddy Kofoid, Thomas and Pursley swarmed in the distance despite a lap 91 tangle between Austin Barnhill and Lance Bennett in turn two, which created one more final restart opportunity with five to go.
Windom put all challengers to rest once more, opening a six car length advantage and closing with a final margin of victory of .751 seconds at the checkered flag with Buddy Kofoid, Daison Pursley, KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Tanner Thorson (from 18th) and Kevin Thomas Jr. rounding out the top-five.
Windom has been a master tradesman at the 30-lappers with all 10 of his previous USAC National Midget victories prior to Sunday night coming at that distance. The USAC Triple Crown champ admitted he needed all the allotted time, and then some, as he didn’t begin to make much headway until the 50-lap mark on his way to his fifth series win of the season and 11th of his career.
“I didn’t really get there until the second half of the race,” Windom explained. “Chase was running a really good race. He shouldn’t hang his head and there’s nothing he could’ve done. I just kept putting pressure on him and, unfortunately, he couldn’t do anything about his tire blowing. I felt, hopefully, we would’ve been able to get by him.
“I felt like we had the best car,” Windom continued. “I felt like the line I was running through one and two was good; and I felt like I was making really good speed through three and four over the last 30-40 laps. I felt like, if I didn’t screw up, it was going to be tough to get around us. That’s how it was, and we get to take that $20,000 home.”
Like Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway, which Windom has won at on four occasions in his USAC career, Windom feels now like Huset’s Speedway is a home-away-from-home in South Dakota.
“You could run the bottom for the first 50 laps, but it seems like the line gravitated up to the top every night for every race,” Windom noted. “This place is so fun running the top. It’s like a mini-Eldora and I love Eldora. This is pretty sweet and I’m proud of all my guys.”
With a cast on his hand, Kofoid got progressively better each night throughout his weekend at Huset’s finishing fourth on Friday, third on Saturday and second on Sunday.
Pursley finished the Huset’s Speedway USAC Nationals as the driver who accumulated the most total points in USAC National Midget competition throughout the three nights of racing, finishing third on Sunday night.
1. Chris Windom (7), 2. Buddy Kofoid (11), 3. Daison Pursley (12), 4. Tanner Thorson (18), 5. Kevin Thomas Jr. (3), 6. Logan Seavey (6), 7. Shane Golobic (10), 8. Jason McDougal (4), 9. Brenham Crouch (15), 10. Emerson Axsom (2), 11. Ryan Timms (16), 12. Chad Frewaldt (20), 13. Brant O’Banion (24), 14. Austin Barnhill (19), 15. Aaron Werner (21), 16. Casey Hicks (22), 17. Chase Randall (1), 18. Lance Bennett (23), 19. Chance Crum (13), 20. Justin Grant (14), 21. Thomas Meseraull (9), 22. Mitchel Moles (5), 23. Cannon McIntosh (8), 24. Hayden Reinbold (17).