GRANITE CITY, Ill. — For the second consecutive year, the Gold Crown Midget Nationals became the “Tanner Thorson Show” at Tri-City Speedway.
The 20-year-old Nevada native held off hard-charging teammate Carson Macedo after a late-race restart to win his fifth “Gold Crown” feature in a row dating back to the 2015 event.
Thorson’s unforgettable weekend also vaulted him to within arm’s reach of the USAC Midget National Championship point lead behind teammate Spencer Bayston with two races remaining as he now stands in the shadows of Bayston just nine back by virtue of three consecutive victories in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – JBL Audio/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I could see those guys on the restarts throwing sliders at each other, so I knew I just needed to hit my marks perfectly on the last one,” Thorson said. “I knew it’d happen to me eventually, but thankfully, we had enough of a buffer over Carson when we got to turn one that we were able to hold on. I love this place, though; it’s so much fun to race on. The “Gold Crown” is a marquee event and to sweep it two years in a row is awesome. Big Al (Scroggins) gave me an awesome setup tonight and that makes my job easy.”
As high-point man for the night, Thorson began Saturday night’s 40-lap finale from the pole and, from the outset, he immediately established himself as the driver to beat, constructing a lead of more than a second-and-a-half over his fellow championship contenders Bayston, Chad Boat and Brady Bacon who ran first through fourth in the early going.
But on lap nine, two of those contenders would see their nights take an unexpected turn for the worse.
Entering turn one side-by-side, Boat’s right rear tire ramped over Bacon’s left front, sending Bacon into a series of violent snap rolls into the catch fencing before coming to a rest on the track surface.
With the fence heavily damaged, extensive repairs had to be made before racing could continue. Uunder the lengthy red flag, Brady Bacon’s FMR Racing crew thrashed feverishly to make repairs to their Beast/Toyota in time for the restart as did Boat who joined Bacon at the tail of the field when the race resumed.
With Bacon and Boat both out of the contention at the front for the meantime, it became a two-car race between Thorson and Bayston at the head of the pack.
Thorson found a comfort zone at the top of turns one and two and the bottom of turns three and four with Bayston in tow, hugging the low line all the way around the three-eighths-mile dirt oval.
However, Bayston was only able to hang with Thorson for a couple of laps following the restart before Thorson began separating himself from the field once again as the race crossed the halfway point.
On the lap 24 restart following Kyle Jones’ slide into the infield with a collapsed front end, the fiercest battle for position became the race for second as Macedo hit the bottom of turn one before sliding up in front of Bayston. Macedo took the position, albeit briefly, when Bayston countered and dove underneath to reclaim the spot exiting turn two.
One lap later, Macedo gave the all-out assault on Bayston one more try, but saw the same result once again as Bayston answered each successive challenge that was thrown at him.
With less than ten laps remaining, Brad Loyet was a man on a mission just laps after entering the top five from the back half of the field in Ken Malpocker’s No. 22. A furious battle between the two waged on and, on the 33rd circuit, Loyet raced high into turn one alongside Bright for fourth. Loyet ran out of racetrack and out of luck as he rode his right side wheels up the concrete perimeter, somersaulting nose-to-tail a couple of times before coming to a rest on his wheels.
The ensuing restart presented another opportunity for Macedo to set up a slide job on Bayston for second. This time was a success as Macedo blasted by his teammate in turn one. Bayston once again crossed over, cutting beneath Macedo exiting turn two, then partaking in a side-by-side drag race into turn three that was won by Macedo.
Macedo could now set his laser-focus on running down Thorson, who hadn’t yet faced much of a battle at the end of the feature during the first two nights of the Gold Crown. But Macedo was only able to trim a miniscule amount of time between he and Thorson as the laps ticked away and the odds became slimmer.
With just two laps to go, Thorson had victory just within his grasp, but the hard-charging Zach Daum, who was running fourth, tagged the outside wall with quite a force between turns one and two before coming to a stop, necessitating a yellow flag.
With Macedo right on Thorson’s tail for the green-white-checkered finish, Macedo shot to the bottom entering turn one on the restart, overtaking the top spot from Thorson momentarily, but Thorson anticipated the move and crossed over, using the downhill momentum off the turn two banking to drive back by Macedo for the lead.
That proved to be Macedo’s last shot as Thorson was able to thwart the attack and pull away on the final lap and a half to defeat Macedo by 0.724 seconds, followed by Bayston and a remarkable comeback by Brady Bacon who raced from the tail to grab fourth after nearly clearing the turn one fence earlier in the feature. Ryan Robinson rounded out the top five.
Carson Macedo’s second-place run in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Mobil 1/Bullet/Speedway Toyota equaled his best career result.
“We were really fast,” Macedo said. “I thought I had a shot. I was pretty thankful when that yellow came out with three (laps) to go. I threw everything I had at him and we just came up short. Overall, though, I’m happy with the weekend. We were consistent and that’s big. I really like this race track and had a blast; I just wish we were up there in victory lane tonight.”
Spencer Bayston continues to hold onto the USAC Midget National Championship lead after his third place finish Saturday night in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Mobil 1/Bullet/Speedway Toyota, though the gap has now shrunk to a mere nine points over the rapidly-approaching Thorson.
“Early on, I was following Tanner and trying to learn,” Bayston explained. “We didn’t lose too much ground on him there and then, once we went up top, I felt stronger. Under the red, we started to have a right rear issue and it blistered when we went back to green. I was sort of in defense mode at the end, which allowed Carson to get by. I’m happy for Tanner, though. To sweep this race two years in a row and for us to sweep the podium tonight tells you how good this team is and how hard everybody works.”