Bacon Keeps Sizzling During Oval Nationals

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Brady Bacon (69) passes Bill Rose during Friday's Oval Nationals feature at Perris Auto Speedway. (Doug Allen Photo)
Brady Bacon (69) passes Bill Rose during Friday's Oval Nationals feature at Perris Auto Speedway. (Doug Allen Photo)

PERRIS, Calif. – It took Brady Bacon 27 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series starts at Perris Auto Speedway to earn his first victory at the California track on Thursday night.

It only took him one more start to get his second.

“Last night was more my style of track than the one tonight, which was something I don’t necessarily excel at,” Bacon admitted.  “It was really rewarding, so I believe we’re prepared for whatever tomorrow night throws at us.  I’m proud of my guys for working hard.  We weren’t very good the last time we came here last year.  We put our heads together and remembered as much as we could and put it with what we learned this year and it’s obviously a pretty good package.”

Bacon was originally slated to start third on the grid during night two of the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction, but a wild opening lap sequence would ultimately play into his favor.  After the initial start was called back, the ensuing complete restart saw outside front row starter Tyler Courtney rip to the lead while pole sitter Damion Gardner slotted into second.

Exiting turn two, seven-time USAC/CRA champ Gardner ramped the K-Rail, up to the billboards, landed on his left side wheels, then bounced backward to a stop on the back straightaway.  Steve Hix clipped Gardner’s front end with his right rear wheel, signaling an end to the night for Hix and forced Gardner to the work area where repairs were made before sending him back into the fray, albeit four laps down when he returned.

The outside front row spot vacated by Gardner moved Bacon to the outside of the front row.  Bacon got the upper hand of Courtney on the first try before a three-car melee between turns three and four involved fast qualifier Chris Windom, National point leader C.J. Leary and Jace Vander Weerd.  Vander Weerd restarted while Leary took on new left rear rubber on his damaged mount in the work area.  Windom, however, was not able to resume.

The third complete restart was the charm with Grant diving to the bottom and going three-wide alongside Courtney and Bacon down the front straight with Grant poking ahead into one briefly before Bacon blasted off the top to secure the lead exiting the second turn.

Grant was Bacon’s closest pursuant throughout the 30-lapper where he maintained a presence about two to three car lengths back of Bacon on the topside.  Bacon ably pushed forward to a near one-second advantage at the halfway point with lapped traffic drawing nearer and nearer.

On the 18th lap, an opportunity presented itself for Grant as Bacon installed his navigational tactics on the lapped car of Bill Rose.  Bacon was briefly caught up, and while Grant was able to reel in and catch Bacon, he wasn’t in the position to perform the pick and roll past both.

The track was quickening down the stretch with both Bacon and Grant reeling off their fastest laps of the race on the white flag lap.  Bacon corralled the lapped car of Hunter Schuerenberg in the waning laps but could only stay stride-for-stride with him as Schuerenberg logged his fastest laps as well.

The narrow strip of rubber right through the middle proved succulent and any mistake that pushed a driver out of the groove could prove costly track position wise. In the end, Bacon raced to a .649-second victory over Grant.

“I tried to start feeling around, but the rubber was getting so heavy,” Bacon explained.  “I figured if I couldn’t pass a lapped car, they probably couldn’t pass me, and I just tried not to slip up out of the rubber or anything.  I tried entering above it and turning down to try and get a run, but it was just so narrow, you had to stay in the rubber the whole time.  We took care of our tires and our car was hooked up, so I wasn’t spinning (the tires).  We had plenty left, which is a testament to how hard they’ve been working and hopefully we can continue this the rest of the year.”

Grant finished second after starting fourth. Tyler Courtney was third, followed by Chase Stockon and Austin Williams.

Heats were won by Richard Vander Weerd, Bill Rose, Austin Liggett, Courtney and Bud Kaeding. Chris Windom won the B-Main.

With his second-straight victory, Bacon easily locked himself into Saturday’s Oval Nationals finale as the top point earner during the first two days of the event. Also locking themselves into the feature by being among the top-six in points are Courtney, Grant, Vander Weerd, C.J. Leary and Stockon.

For complete results, advance to the next page.