Thorson Takes Illinois Speedweek Opener

Tanner Thorson (center), team owner Keith Kunz (right) and crew chief Pete Willoughby will be united again next season as Kunz announced his driver lineup on Wednesday. (Randy Brown photo)
Tanner Thorson (center), team owner Keith Kunz (right) and crew chief Pete Willoughby Thursday night at Quincy Raceway. (Randy Brown photo)
Tanner Thorson (center), team owner Keith Kunz (right) and crew chief Pete Willoughby Thursday night at Quincy Raceway. (Randy Brown photo)

QUINCY, Ill. — Tanner Thorson claimed his third career POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget Series victory and his first of the 2015 season during opening night of Illinois Speedweek presented by Toyota at Quincy Raceways on Thursday.

Nathan Benson earned his first POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series victory of 2015 and the 11th of his career.

Tyler Thomas started on the pole in the Bryan Thomas-owned Esslinger-powered No. 91T Spike Chassis, sharing the front row with Alex Bright in the 5ive-6ix, Inc., Great Clips-sponsored Esslinger-powered Triple-X Chassis. When the green flag waved Bright would lurch in to the early lead with Thomas in tow. On the following lap, Andy Malpocker would end up flipping entering turn three after contact with another car and collect Andrew Felker. Malpocker would be alright, but damage to his machine would force him to retire for the remainder of the event.

With one lap in the books, Bright would lead the field to green followed closely by Tyler Thomas in second and Seth Motsinger in third. On lap four, the caution flag would fly as Motsinger’s BOSS Chassis entry caught a rut in turn three and spun. Bright would lead the field back to green flag racing as Thomas would attempt to mount his charge while Darren Hagen rode in third. As Bright raced at a harrowing pace towards lap traffic, Christopher Bell had moved up enough positions from 13th to find himself knocking on the door of the top five directly behind Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports teammate Thorson.

Bright’s pace would be slowed on lap 13 as Ryan Robinson slid off the banking of the track to the outside of turns three and four, bringing out the third caution. As the green flew for the restart, Thomas would throw as slide job for the lead entering turn one and come out ahead down the back stretch. As the field dove back into turn one, Brad Mosen would loop it.

This time with Thomas leading the field back to green, Thomas would peel away from Bright as Christopher Bell worked his way into the top three and eventually into second. Looking as though he might be able to threaten Thomas’ lead, in a twist of events, Bell found himself sliding off the banking of turns three and four bringing out the fifth caution of the event. Bell would find himself on the business end of the wrecker and not rejoin the field.

With 25 laps down, Thomas would inherit the lead due to Bell’s misfortune, but Thomas would hold the position for less than a lap as Tanner Thorson would charge to the lead in the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports Toyota-powered Bullet. On lap 28, Bryan Clauson would take over the second position, but the two laps left would not be enough time for him to mount a charge for the lead. Taking the final podium position was Tyler Thomas and coming in fourth was Spencer Bayston. Rounding out the top five was Hayden Williams.

“It’s pretty awesome,” said Thorson. “Keith gave me an awesome car all night. I can’t thank the whole crew enough. The track promoter definitely put a bad-to-the-bone race track underneath us and it really showed with great racing all throughout the race. I hope we can take some of this momentum into tomorrow night.”

“I don’t mind finishing second; obviously it’s not what we came here to do,” said Clauson. “But, I’m fairly happy with it there; we weren’t that good at all. To be that bad and run second is just a testament to how good this team is. I know Rusty and the boys will go to work on it for tomorrow night.”

“We had a really good car tonight,” said Thomas. “Under that last yellow the drag links came loose on me and I feel that cost us the win. We just got to keep everything tight for the feature and we’ll get a win soon.”

Driving the Nathan Benson Motorsports, FTZ-powered Pace Chassis, defending POWRi Speedway Motors 600cc Outlaw Micro Series Champion (2013,2014) Nathan Benson obliterated the field, starting on the pole and leading all 20 laps to claim his first feature win of 2015.

“It’s been stressful around my house because we’ve had so many rainouts,” said Benson. “We just wanted to get back out and get redemption. We’ve had some part failures with [FTZ] and we stuck with them and they stuck with us. We definitely have as much or more horsepower than anyone else out here, I guarantee you that. If we can get them to last all season, it’s going to be tough for everybody else.”

The finish:

Tanner Thorson, Bryan Clauson, Tyler Thomas, Spencer Bayston, Hayden Williams, Andrew Felker, Darren Hagen, Kyle Schuett, Dereck King, Seth Motsinger, Brock Maskovich, Ryan Robinson, Brett Thomas, Tucker Klaasmeyer, Alex Bright, Christopher Bell, Colten Cottle, Austin Brown, Brad Mosen, Jake Neuman, Jason McDougal, Andy Malpocker, Ryan Criswell.