Cummins Tops Tri-State, Stockon Is ISW Champion

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Kyle Cummins captured Sunday's Indiana Sprint Week finale at Tri-State Speedway. (Neil Cavanah Photo)
Kyle Cummins captured Sunday's Indiana Sprint Week finale at Tri-State Speedway. (Neil Cavanah Photo)

HAUBSTADT, Ind. – Sunday’s NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week finale at Tri-State Speedway turned out to be a homecoming of sorts for a pair of drivers who reside within a stone’s throw of the Haubstadt, Ind., track.

Kyle Cummins, who lives about 15 minutes down the road in Princeton, Ind., continued his mastery of the quarter-mile dirt oval by winning Sunday’s 30-lap feature all while putting his name atop the leaderboard in terms of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature victories at Tri-State with five, alongside Daron Clayton and Kevin Thomas Jr.

Meanwhile, the series’ ironman in consecutive feature starts at 310, Chase Stockon, hails from Fort Branch, Ind., a literal seven-minute drive northbound on U.S. 41 from the track.

Of those 310 consecutive USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car starts, perhaps few have generated the same type of personal satisfaction as Sunday’s, which saw Stockon capture his first Indiana Sprint Week title after a decade of trying.

Entering Sunday’s feature, six drivers remained mathematically eligible to secure the Indiana Sprint Week title. Stockon trailed Justin Grant by five points, and those two, along with Brady Bacon, C.J. Leary, Chris Windom and Logan Seavey, were separated by 35 points.

Cummins, who had been eliminated from Indiana Sprint Week title contention following the heat races earlier in the evening, now simply had visions of a feature win dancing on his mind and was slotted to start the feature event from the pole position.  Stockon, meanwhile, started seventh and Grant 11th.

The initial two attempts to start the race resulted in a pair of stackups, the first of which saw a four-car turn one pile-up involving between Kent Schmidt, Jadon Rogers, Stevie Sussex and Critter Malone. The ensuing try saw Bacon, Malone and Aric Gentry stop on the front straightaway prior to hitting the start/finish line. Bacon pulled off to the work area under yellow and briefly returned, only to drop to the infield prior to the race’s resumption to finish 23rd.

The third start was the charm, but this time Chris Windom ripped around Cummins from his outside front row starting position to lead the opening lap. Cummins didn’t allow Windom to distance himself too far and roared to the lead past Windom on the second lap with a turn three slider.  Fourth starting Shane Cottle mimicked the turn three maneuver past Windom a lap later for second while Garrett Aitken slotted himself into third.

Kyle Cummins (3r) battles Chris Windom during Sunday's Indiana Sprint Week finale at Tri-State Speedway. (Neil Cavanah Photo)
Kyle Cummins (3r) battles Chris Windom during Sunday’s Indiana Sprint Week finale at Tri-State Speedway. (Neil Cavanah Photo)

By lap seven, Cummins had established a full-straightaway lead over Cottle, and by lap nine, was amidst a flurry of traffic at the tail end of the lead lap.  However, a yellow for Tony DiMattia, who rode the top of the turn four wall before coming to a rest on all fours back on the racing surface, halted the action on the 10th lap.

Aitken, making the best run of his USAC Sprint Car career in his sixth series start, threw his hat into contention with a turn one slide job for second by Cottle on the 11th lap.  A lap later, Aitken tagged the wall in turn two causing him to lose a couple spots while, behind him, four drivers on the fringes of the top-ten – Carson Short, Thomas, Leary and Brandon Mattox – were stacked deep and stopped in turn one.

The timely yellow for Aitken put the Paris, Ill., driver back in second behind Cummins where he proceeded to slide by Cummins for the race lead in turn one. Cummins cut back under Aitken at the exit of turn two to retain the lead, then slid himself through turn three to disavow any countermeasure from Aitken for the time being.

Following a plethora of precipitation that fell in recent days, Cummins hypothesized that the track had a much different feel than on this night than he is accustomed to.  In response, Cummins found comfort up top that gained him a straightaway lead just prior to the yellow. Then came Aitken.

“I was being patient, not doing anything crazy, and all of a sudden here he comes, and I was like ‘oh,’ it’s time to step it up a little bit,” Cummins recalled.  I just turned down and got him back.  I could tell I was really going to have to step it up, and after that, I kind of moved my line around on the track a little bit.  I moved a little bit more down to the bottom, then I got super tight, so I was grabbing shocks.  Every yellow, I kept loosening it up, loosening it up. Even at the end I was still super tight.”

For virtually the entire second half of the race, Cummins’ progress was unimpeded at the front, and a watchful eye was turned toward the Indiana Sprint Week title race. Point leader Grant, who had yet to finish outside the top-10 in his first 15 series starts to the season, was mired back in 13th. Simultaneously, Stockon was surging down the stretch, to fourth by Windom with three laps remaining and to third two laps from the finish by Aitken, who began to run out fuel just prior to losing the second position to Cottle.

Cummins finished off his masterpiece with a 1.423 margin of victory in picking up his seventh USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car win. Cottle, Stockon, Aitken and Windom rounded out the top-five at the finish.

“We didn’t get that last USAC win here because of some motor problems,” Cummins remembered.  “We won the time after, although I didn’t feel great, and even the beginning of the night tonight, I didn’t feel like I normally feel here.  We changed a couple things.  Like in the beginning of the week, we’d kind of been trialing a little bit. Since COVID, we didn’t really get any testing, really.”

For Stockon, his race day morning began at 6:30 a.m. watching his son, Parker, compete on a dirt bike in the 50 JR class of the Southern Indiana Grand Prix Series at Red Fox T-N-T in Tennyson, Ind. Around 13 hours later that same day, Stockon was back in his starring role behind the wheel, capturing his long-coveted Indiana Sprint Week title.

“This is pretty sweet,” Stockon admitted. “It probably won’t sink in until tomorrow or Wednesday or something this week, but we’re going to bask in the glory of it right now.”

Stockon was the only driver to finish within the top-five in every Indiana Sprint Week feature. He’s the third-straight driver to win the week-long title without scoring a win during the week and the 12th overall.

“It’s been a trying week for us,” Stockon said. “This is a lot of redemption for us. We were really good here tonight, just trying to be careful and trying to win a race at the same time.  It’s all big picture for us.  I got to thank my guys and everybody on the side of this car that made it all possible. I think it just shows how strong we are as a team. Nobody got down and everybody kept their chin up. We just powered forward.”

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