OCALA, Fla. – Chris Windom had resigned himself to a runner-up finish on Saturday night at Bubba Raceway Park, but victory fell into his lap with the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series.
Windom inherited the lead at Bubba Raceway Park when the engine aboard Tanner Thorson’s Hayward Motorsports No. 19 expired, then pulled away from polesitter Tyler Courtney over the final six circuits in the 30-lapper en route to his third-career USAC national midget win and first of the season.
The Canton, Ill., driver admitted afterward that his wasn’t the fastest car, but he had enough underneath him to put himself in position to pounce when Thorson encountered his misfortune.
“Winning is what we come to do every night, especially when I know Chad (Boat) and company have got top notch race cars,” Windom noted in victory lane. “We’re showing that right now. That was a bummer for the (No.) 19 and Tanner, though. They were good again tonight. It was probably going to be tough to beat him without a caution there. But that’s how it goes sometimes.
“It’s pretty cool to get this NOS Energy Drink/Tucker-Boat car to the top spot on the second night, here,” Windom added. “This is a great night for us.”
Windom’s victory marked the first win for Tucker/Boat Motorsports as an organization since the Hangtown 100 preliminary-night feature in November at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway, won by Gio Scelzi.
A relatively issue-free race saw only two caution flags on Saturday night, with Cannon McIntosh ripping around Courtney to lead the first three laps of the main before Friday winner Thorson came calling.
Thorson used a textbook slider in turn one on the fourth round to assume command in his OilFire-backed Spike, powering out to a near-two second lead in just three laps after his pass and looking like a clear favorite to go back to back to open the season.
A caution working lap 11 for the stopped car of Tanner Carrick did nothing to slow Thorson’s roll, and the Minden, Nev., native jetted out to another solid lead on the ensuing restart.
Windom jumped to second just before the halfway point, but Thorson maintained a stable second and a half out in front as the laps wound down, appearing to be well on his way to a second-straight win.
Then a puff of smoke in turn four with six to go, and Thorson’s car came to a heartbreaking stop.
His quest for another trophy was over, and the die was then cast in Windom’s favor for the final laps.
Windom left no doubt over the sprint to the finish, with the NOS Energy Drink No. 89 easily cruising to victory by 1.134 seconds over Courtney, whose pair of poles produced no wins this year in Florida.
“It’s unfortunate (to drop back) when you start on the pole; you want to win because that’s the best place to start,” noted Courtney. “But that wasn’t in the cards this weekend. We came down here and won both races last year, and just weren’t able to get it done this year. We’re still kind of learning a little bit on our cars and stuff like that, but hats off to Chris and the whole Tucker/Boat team.
“They did a great job all weekend and definitely earned that one. Hopefully the next one can go our way.”
Windom’s Tucker/Boat teammate Andrew Layser completed the podium, his best USAC national midget finish in his second season of action. Kevin Thomas Jr. and Cannon McIntosh followed close behind.
Buddy Kofoid crossed sixth, with Zeb Wise, Daison Pursley, Jesse Colwell and Tanner Carrick completing the top 10.
Leaving Florida, Windom carries a six-point margin over Courtney, with Thomas third and Thorson dropping to fifth after his engine issue, 20 points adrift of the top spot.
The NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series resumes March 7 with the Shamrock Classic inside the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, Ill.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.