PLYMOUTH, Ind. — Tyler Courtney bounced back from a 23rd-place finish on Thursday to collect his second USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship victory in three nights Friday at Plymouth Speedway.
It was the fourth victory of the season for Courtney and his Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing team.
The team’s high success rate, now with Courtney and CMNR scoring 15 wins in 55 USAC Sprint Car races together since the beginning of their championship campaign in 2018, a winning rate of over 27 Percent clip, hasn’t provided them much of an opportunity to be in a “bounce back” situation, all to their credit.
“That’s what makes our team so good,” Courtney explained. “We don’t dwell on the night before. We just go back the next night and try to do our job. That’s win races. We haven’t won as much as we did at this point last year, but we’re not going to give up. We have one heck of a team right now. (Crew chief Tyler Ransbottom) is really working his tail off to make this thing perfect and make my job easy. I’m just getting back in the swing of running a sprint car again. I think I’ve been more of a midget guy here lately. If we’re going to get into the swing, this is the week to do it.”
Courtney started the 30-lap feature sixth after garnering quick time earlier in the evening during Fatheadz Eyewear Qualifying. Up front, however, front row occupiers Chris Windom and Chase Stockon raced side by side for the duration of the first lap with Stockon taking the advantage by a half car length at the stripe.
Windom immediately slid Stockon into turn one on the second lap to grab the position where he would stake claim for the first third of the race while Brady Bacon rolled the bottom in second behind the high-riding Windom.
Bacon continued to eat up ground, bottom-feeding to within a car length of Windom at the start/finish line at the conclusion of lap 12. Bacon tickled the infield tires and used a run off turn two to pull ahead of Windom just in time to greet lapped traffic in the third turn.
A red flag just one lap later brought the race to a halt when 18th running Brandon Mattox hopped in turn one, landed on the left side wheels and barrel-rolled. Mattox was uninjured.
On the restart, Bacon spurted away on the bottom while Windom and Courtney engaged in a side-by-side battle for the runner up spot. Courtney worked the top to race around Windom for second as the crossed flags were displayed for the halfway mark.
Courtney was charging, eating up the gap and appeared to have a run on Bacon around the outside for the lead at the exit of turn two on lap 18. Bacon drifted wide on exit, stifling Courtney’s momentum, stealing his line momentarily, and forcing him to check up.
“I knew he was good on the bottom,” Courtney recalled. “I could run down there, but I wasn’t as good as him, so I needed to go do something else. That’s the advantage of running second or third midway through the race. I got by Chris around the top, so I knew there was something there. I showed (Bacon) a little bit, but he did what he needed to do to maintain.”
Courtney gathered himself and went back to work on Bacon. Moments later, 17th running series rookie Zane Hendricks tagged the front straightaway wall with his right-rear tire, then proceeded to go into turn one with a full head of steam, tagging the turn one wall and flipping wildly along the topside of the three-eighths-mile dirt oval.
During the red flag period, second-running Courtney and team made a couple of shock adjustments, but agreed they had a pretty good race car and shouldn’t have to do too much.
On the lap 19 restart, Courtney wasted no time putting himself back into contention, switching the game plan up when Bacon slid from the bottom of turn three to the top of turn four. Courtney anticipated the move and had his NOS Energy Drink – Competition Suspension, Inc./Spike/Rider Chevy locked and loaded to diamond off the top of three toward the bottom of turn four to win the race to the line by a car length
“When we got that red there, I got a good restart,” Courtney remembered. “He slid a little high in four, I got underneath him and cleared him at the line right before the yellow. That played in our favor. If I could just stick the bottom in one and two, I could get out and run my own race. These races are tough to win, especially when everybody’s as close as they are right now.”
Moments later, Thomas Meseraull, who was running 13th, spun around in turn four, forcing out the yellow flag.
Courtney secured the lead with 12 to go, and there wasn’t much that was going to alter that as a gaggle of cars led by Justin Grant, Windom, Bacon, Leary, Jason McDougal and a whole host of others battled for second as Courtney disappeared into the nighttime horizon, expanding his lead to more than a second in the dwindling laps.
Leary, who finished a heartbroken second the night prior at Gas City, was a rocket during the final laps, utilizing the topside to drive around the outside of Grant for the second spot at the finish line.
But, crossing that same line three-quarters of a second earlier was Courtney, who knocked out the 21st USAC National Sprint Car win of his career, equaling 1967 champ Greg Weld for 28th all time.
Behind Courtney, Leary and Grant at the checkered were fourth-place finisher Bacon and Jason McDougal who rounded out the top five.
To see full results, turn to the next page.