BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Tyler Courtney’s sensational start to the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series season continued Friday night with a stirring Indiana Midget Week victory at Bloomington Speedway.
Courtney, the runaway series point leader, took command of the 30-lap feature when polesitter and race-long leader Justin Grant lost a right-rear tire on the 20th revolution of the high-banked, quarter-mile oval.
From there, the driver nicknamed ‘Sunshine’ was lights out, leading the final 11 laps en route to the 10th USAC national midget victory of his career and his fifth win in 10 races so far this season.
Courtney’s win came less than 48 hours after an engine issue at Gas City I-69 Speedway relegated him to a backup car for the night. The engine he used Friday was at the rebuild shop that morning for repairs.
The hot start not only has Courtney grinning from ear to ear, it also has him within range of a double-digit win total already this year, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the late Rich Vogler won 16 times during his magical 1988 championship season.
“It’s crazy,” Courtney said. “I wouldn’t want to do this with anybody else, though. These guys are never going to stop. The least I can do is do my job and give them 110 percent because I know they’re going to give me 110 percent. It’s been nuts, but if this was easy, everybody would do it. It’s part of it.
“This place gets really technical. It gets slick up to a big curb. If you hit it too hard, you’re throwing the nose. You take the chance of bouncing over it and you throw your whole race away. So, you have to kind of ease your way into it. … I just knew if I could stay smooth on it, we would be alright. I felt we had good enough speed to maintain up there, and we proved it in those final laps tonight.”
While Courtney didn’t come on strong until late, the feature was all Grant’s early on, much like it was when he won Wednesday night at Gas City I-69 Speedway. The Ione, Calif., driver took the RAMS Racing No. 4a right to the front from the pole, ripping the top side of the track as his foes rolled the bottom.
His earliest challenger was Chad Boat, who shot up to second by lap five and made several attempts to wrest control away from Grant by catfishing against the inside berm.
Boat nearly edged ahead on the ninth revolution, getting all the way alongside Grant in a virtual dead heat, but Grant held serve after the brief challenge as Courtney lurked behind the top two in third.
Courtney began making his charge after halfway, taking second from Boat on lap 17 and closing down on Grant’s back bumper as the duo looked to write another chapter in their recent rivalry on the track.
Unfortunately, the hopes of such a back-and-forth battle to the finish never materialized, as Grant “ran over something” in turn four coming to 10 to go that reared its ugly head in the next corner. His right-rear tire rapidly gave out and he slowed in turns one and two, banging the cushion as his night fell apart.
That set Courtney up out front with Boat and Seavey on his tail tank, and it was Seavey that took advantage of the late-race restart, ripping second away from Boat as he found a strip of rubber on the high side and began railing the top in an effort to close down on Courtney.
That strategy worked until six to go, when Courtney heard Seavey coming and moved his line up the race track in an attempt to block the incoming challenge – a move that ultimately proved successful.
“I didn’t know it was Logan at the time, but when I heard the noise coming from behind me, I knew that I needed to get up there and take the line away so that whoever it was had a tougher time getting past me,” Courtney noted. “It’s part of this game. Sometimes if they’re a little faster, you can dictate their race by playing a little defense along with your offense. It’s just how it goes, but we needed this one.”
With no way to get by, Seavey was forced to settle for second by .537 seconds at the checkered flag. Boat completed the podium, followed by Chris Windom and fast qualifier Ethan Mitchell, who had a breakthrough night en route to the first top-five finish of his USAC national midget career.
Brady Bacon was sixth, replacing C.J. Leary at the wheel of the No. 76m for FMR Racing, with Michael Pickens, Thomas Meseraull, Andrew Layser and Shane Golobic completing the top 10.
Tanner Thorson, who led the Indiana Midget Week points coming into Bloomington, flipped on lap six of the feature in turn two and finished last in the 24-car field.
As a result, Seavey now leads Courtney by six markers in the updated IMW standings, with Thorson dropping to third, 29 points behind.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.