Tanner Thorson Jumps ‘The Ditch’

Tanner Thorson won Friday night's USAC midget feature at Riverside Int'l Speedway. (Rich Forman photo)
Tanner Thorson won Friday night's USAC midget feature at Riverside Int'l Speedway. (Rich Forman photo)
Tanner Thorson won Friday night’s USAC midget feature at Riverside Int’l Speedway. (Rich Forman photo)

WEST MEMPHIS, Ark. — Tanner Thorson became the first repeat winner of the USAC Midget National Championship season, using a sensational turn-three slide job on lap 11 to scoot past Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports teammate Carson Macedo and claim victory as the series made its first visit to Riverside Int’l Speedway.

At the start of the 30-lap main event, outside front row starter Chad Boat took the first step forward, sliding across the nose of polesitter Carson Macedo to the lead at the entry of turn one.

Macedo fought back, inciting a barrage of sliders with Boat throughout the first couple of circuits that each culminated with Macedo leading at the stripe.

On the third lap, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., running fourth, got an enormous run off the turn-two banking. As he attempted to split the gap between the cars of Boat and Macedo, the gap quickly closed. Stenhouse ramped over the left rear tire of Boat, sending himself into a mid-air 180-degree spin, launching him off the gumbo surface like an over-inflated basketball before smacking the back of the rollcage against the track, bouncing completely over once, and then slapping the sidewalls of his right side tires off the ground which propped him up on all fours as he stayed on the gas and drove away.

The amazing, spectacular, highlight-reel save by Stenhouse resulted in a red flag. Despite Stenhouse’s ability to initially drive the car away from the scene, Stenhouse’s Bryan Clauson Racing mount received a myriad of mechanical issues that came about due to the incident including a broken shock, radius rod, and a bent axle. Stenhouse was unable to continue, ending his return to his home track located just 30 miles northwest across the Mississippi River from his native Olive Branch, Mississippi.

Fifth-running Bryan Clauson’s trying night came to an abrupt end, pulling into the infield on the eighth lap and having to settle for a disappointing 15th place result. This came after Clauson’s RKR/Dooling team thrashed to replace the rear end of the No. 63 just prior to the feature.

By the 11th lap, ProSource Fast Qualifier and fifth-place starter Thorson had reeled in race leader Macedo. With Macedo set up high at the entrance to turn three, Thorson throttled to the bottom in a daring move that allowed him to slide up in front of his teammate as Macedo got squirrelly and lost substantial ground to the flying Thorson.

Thorson was on a rail, on a one-way track and never looking back as he posted the fastest lap of the race one circuit later on the 12th lap. With less than ten to go, Thorson had extended his advantage to a full straightaway over second-place Macedo.

At the checkered flag , Thorson had delivered a proverbial spanking to the rest of the field, winning by nearly five seconds and lapping all but the top-eight finishers: Macedo, Boat, Bayston, Brady Bacon, Ryan Greth, KSE Hard Charger Shane Golobic and Ryan Robinson.