TULSA, Okla. — Reigning NOS Energy Drink USAC Midget National Champion Tyler Courtney was back in victory lane as the series returned to action Friday for the first time in 76 nights.
Courtney turned the trick on the opening night of the inaugural Werco Manufacturing T-Town Midget Showdown presented by B & H Contractors.
Winless in the first three races of the season, Courtney and the Clauson-Marshall Racing team dug deep during the break because of the COVID-19 pandemic and found that little bit of “extra” to propel them back to victory lane.
“We made a few changes during quarantine and I think we found some stuff,” Courtney admitted. “I was a little rusty on the cushion there at the end of the race, and I need to get a little better at that. I saw those guys coming on the bottom, but I was kind of committed to the top by that point.”
Courtney was referring to his late-race execution, but first, he had to charge from the sixth starting position after establishing a track record during qualifying, turning a 9.444-second lap of the fifth-mile track.
It was Courtney’s CMR teammate Cole Bodine who established the early lead from the pole after an early side-by-side scuttle with outside front starter Chris Windom. Windom remained up top and eventually drove by on lap five for the race lead.
Courtney moved into the top five on lap 10, passing Thomas Meseraull for the position. Moments later, Meseraull’s bid for a frontrunning result came to an abrupt halt when he contacted Courtney’s rear bumper and slid to a stop. Meseraull restarted and finished 13th.
Nearing midway, Courtney had closed in on a three-car tussle for second, which also involved Tanner Thorson and Buddy Kofoid. On the 21st lap, Courtney emerged from the herd with the runner-up spot, although Windom still held a hefty lead of nearly two seconds ahead of him.
That advantage was erased on the following lap when 15th running Daison Pursley stopped at the top of turn four, bringing out the yellow flag.
Courtney gripped low while Windom ran the top, but on the 25th lap, Windom’s slight stumble on the turn one curb gave Courtney the crack in the door he needed to get through as he jolted to the lead.
Windom remained in touch with his former CMR teammate Courtney just prior to a yellow for first-time USAC starter Emerson Axsom who spun between turns three and four.
Following a restart with 10 to go, Windom ultimately recharged the figurative batteries and made his bid to overtake Courtney, successfully sliding past in turn two with eight laps remaining.
Courtney instantly ducked to the inside of Windom exiting turn two, and to Courtney’s left, both Logan Seavey and Thorson created two more lanes of space on the bottom to briefly make it four-wide for the lead.
Courtney escaped the jam and entered turn three on the bottom with the lead with Windom going topside back to second and Thorson and Seavey getting momentarily shuffled out. Windom took one more run at Courtney in turn three to no avail just as the red flag flew on lap 34 when Hank Davis and Clinton Boyles made contact in turn one, sending Boyles flipping near the outside wall.
On the ensuing restart, Courtney utilized a quality start on the opening lap to carve out some distance between he and Windom. A hard-charging Seavey, who started all the way back in 19th, picked his way to second past Windom on the bottom with four to go and tried to hunt down Courtney.
The checkered flag was Courtney’s for the 14th time in his USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget career, tying him with Chuck Arnold, Jack Turner and Leroy Warriner for 49th all-time.
“It feels really good, especially being the first time back,” Courtney said. “It’s cool to come to these races when your friends Xia Xianna and Brady (Bacon) are promoting it, and stepping up, especially in a hard time like this. Thanks to them and Mike and Megan Eubanks who’ve done a hell of a job with this place.”
Seavey made his debut in the Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports midget a memorable one, driving from 19th to second to earn Hard Charger honors courtesy of KSE Racing Products and Jerry Medlin in his AME Electrical Contracting – ZMax/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
“We just had a heck of a racecar there,” Seavey exclaimed. “I feel like we’ve struggled the past couple of days, but finally got the car gripped up to where I could drive through the slick and keep the car straight. That’s really what you need on a track like this.”
Windom led a race-high 20 laps in his Tucker-Boat Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – Pristine Auction – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
“We got the lead and I started hitting the curb a little bit and getting tight on entry and Tyler got by us,” Windom recalled. “We had a hell of a race back to the lead, but (Courtney) was just a little better at the end than I was. Obviously, we’ve got a really fast racecar and these guys are at the top of their game.”
To see full results, turn to the next page.