ROSSBURG, Ohio — Tyler Courtney and Clauson/Marshall Racing’s winged sprint car team have been worked hard to learn the tricks of the trade this season, and the fruits of their labor are starting to show.
Courtney, a past USAC National Sprint Car Series and USAC National Midget Series champion, has spent much of his time racing winged sprint cars through the summer months, building a notebook and gaining a foothold against some of the top drivers in the discipline.
Courtney, 26, raced winged sprint cars as a teenager before transitioning to USAC machines.
The last three weeks reflected that effort for the Indianapolis native, as Courtney raced to a seventh-place finish during the finale to the Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway on Sept. 12 before making the feature on both nights of the Governors Reign at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway.
All of the above races were sanctioned by the Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions.
While Courtney’s Eldora efforts were impressive enough, considering he raced his way into both Eldora features through the B main after receiving a fan-vote invite to compete in the event that was capped at 48 entries, he nearly took hard-charger honors on Wednesday with a run from 24th to 14th in the 35-lap finale.
Afterward, Courtney noted the foundation for his Eldora speed was built a month earlier, at the half-mile Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway during The One and Only weekend with the World of Outlaws.
“It’s been a good stretch for us,” Courtney said. “We kind of hit on some things at Knoxville during The One and Only, and it has really parlayed into some success here lately on the winged side of things. We were with the All Stars a few weeks ago and had a chance to win a race before I got taken out, and then we ran sixth (at Indiana’s Plymouth Speedway) the next night … and then had a few non-winged races in there before going to Port.
“I’m just excited with how our winged program is going and was really excited to be able to run this week at one of my favorite race tracks, Eldora, where we’d had so much success before in USAC,” he added. “It wasn’t the easiest two nights, but everything culminated together for us to make the show both nights and I felt like we had some decent success in the big show against a really talented field.”
Courtney picked up his first winged sprint car victory of the year at Missouri’s St. Francois County Raceway in April, and has trended upward ever since while plying his trade against the All Stars and the World of Outlaws.
The 26-year-old feels his team has performed above the level he expected so far, especially when taking into account that there has been less racing this year than in previous seasons.
“We’ve definitely exceeded expectations this year. Our goals going in were just to get our feet wet and figure out a direction that we wanted to go in for 2021 and we weren’t really planning on running a whole lot of All Star and Outlaw events,” Courtney noted. “But the way the coronavirus changed a lot of the schedules, the races that really started to make sense were the All Star shows and Outlaw shows. We showed up to those, started to have some success and that made it easier to keep running those … especially knowing that we were going to have to race those guys sooner or later.
“We figured if we could do it now and be somewhat competitive, to where we’re not getting in the dumps when we do have bad nights, that it would tell us we’re heading in the right direction and make our decision easier heading into 2021.”
While Courtney continues to learn in the winged sprint car ranks, he’s also worked toward a second consecutive USAC National Midget Series championship and also made select non-winged sprint car starts this year as well.
It’s a mold similar to the one that was proven successful by one of Courtney’s most well-known peers — Kyle Larson.
“The way I look at it is, racing in general … the more laps you can get in any type of race car, it helps you. For me at least, it helps me by being in a car and racing and learning all the different forms of racing,” Courtney noted. “Each car you get in, the racing style is different and the pace of the race is different. You just kind of take what you learn in all of them and put it together and it tends to help you.
“I think if you look at Larson, he’s gotten to run twice or three times as many dirt races this year as he has in the past few seasons, and look how much better he is for it,” Courtney added. “He’s been in all different forms of dirt racing, too. It’s kind of hard to compare him to everybody, but he is a good example.
“To me, being able to run anything and everything has helped my learning curve on the winged car and helped my racing when it comes to everything else.”