GRANITE CITY, Ill. — Tanner Thorson was the overwhelming favorite to win Saturday’s $10,000-to-win Gold Crown Midget Nationals 40-lap finale after winning the dash to earn the pole, but he didn’t take the easy route to win it.
After bouncing over the cushion on lap 23 and flattening his right-rear tire, Thorson pitted and restarted 19th before marching back through the field and using a lap-39 slide job on Zach Daum to win a crazy race that saw four red flags and three more stoppages.
Thorson jumped from the pole to lead early over Thomas Meseraull, who fired a lap-two slide job for the lead that Thorson crossed over. A stack-up on lap four deep in the pack led to Kevin Thomas, Jr. stalling and bringing out the first caution. He restarted at the tail as Meseraull pitted with a flat left-rear tire and rejoined at the tail of the field.
Thorson and Daum appeared strong out front, as Tyler Thomas solidified himself in the third spot early in the race. Daum reeled Thorson in, and he tried a slider into turn-one on lap nine. Thorson was up to the challenge, but Daum crossed just .013 seconds behind at the line as they ran side-by-side. On lap 14, Tracy Hines slowed suddenly while running ninth, but his car came back to life as the yellow flew. He lost five spots.
Thomas was on the move from the back as the leaders strung out a bit. Thomas, who lost the Honda National Midget point lead on Friday night, entered the top-ten on lap 15 after restarting 21st on lap-four. He took seventh at halfway and was closing in on Chris Windom for sixth when he hopped the turn-four cushion and caught the wall, turning over in the process.
Daum used the restart to throw another slider at Thorson for the lead and, although Thorson held him off, Daum crossed just .066-seconds behind him at the line and came back at him into turn-one.
Thorson hit the turn-two cushion and bounced over it, catching the wall and handing the lead to Daum as Tyler Thomas flashed by with the second spot. In turns three and four, Thorson was again up over the cushion and into the wall, this time stopping with a flat right-rear tire. His team changed it in the work area and he restarted 19th.
Daum continued to lead as they hit ten laps to go with T. Thomas now keeping pace in second. Darren Hagen entered the fray up front, as he slid past Steve Buckwalter for third on lap 32. Daum was entering traffic, and he got caught behind a lapped car on lap 34, letting T. Thomas close. Just as it appeared T. Thomas may make a bid for the lead, he also caught the turn-one cushion and hopped over to bring out a red flag.
Hagen inherited second and followed Daum into turn one on the high side with seven laps to go, but he also caught the cushion and softly turned over, being hit by another car as he did.
That put Thorson into the top five for a restart with seven laps to go, and he wasted no time attacking those in front of him. He passed teammates Dave Darland and Windom on the restart to move to third, and a lap later disposed of Buckwalter for the second spot, but Buckwalter came right back at him. Buckwalter then fell into the clutches of Windom and Darland, as Thorson tried to track down the leader. On lap 39, the final stoppage was for Tracy Hines, who this time had turned over in turn one.