PORT ROYAL, Pa. – For Tyler Courtney, June 15 and Port Royal Speedway mean far more than just another stop on the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series schedule.
Port Royal was the half-mile dirt oval where his late mentor, Bryan Clauson, recorded his record sixth and final Eastern Storm win in 2016.
Saturday night also marked what would’ve been Clauson’s 30th birthday.
Courtney, the defending series champion, was bound and determined to make his own personal mark to honor BC on this night during round three of the 13th annual Eastern Storm, and make a mark he did by leading all 30 laps in dominant fashion.
Afterward, Courtney said he felt there was a spirit helping him along the way.
“We’ve kind of struggled all week,” Courtney admitted. “But I think we had somebody looking down on us tonight. This one’s for him. He’s done a lot for my career. He’s done a lot for everybody on this team. Even without him being here, he helped us more than he knows.”
The emotional victory for Courtney aboard his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Energy Drink Spike-Rider Chevy appeared as smooth as silk for 30 laps with barely any threats posed en route to his second series victory of the year.
His half-mile record with the series in 2019 now includes wins at Eldora and Port Royal to go along with a podium finish at Terre Haute.
Courtney started from the outside of the front row and was seemingly gone, ripping the top, as Chris Windom attempted to keep pace in second.
His lead stretched out to three-quarters of a straightaway over Windom in the first-third of the race, until 2015 Port Royal winner Robert Ballou made contact in turn three, heavily damaging the torsion bar and the left rear wheel to sideline for the rest of the night.
Courtney had been solid as a rock at Port Royal in his previous two campaigns, but Windom, who lined up second on the next restart, was victorious in both of those races.
Windom’s best opportunity to get past was to dive low in one to the inside guardrail to throw the slider on the restart. He did just that when racing resumed on lap 12, but there wasn’t enough mustard on the fastball to surge ahead.
Yellows and restarts were the only things tugging on Courtney’s cape this night, as each time Courtney stood on the throttle, his competition was left in the distant past.
The separation from Courtney to Windom was instantly a half-straightaway while Windom found himself with a 10-car length lead over the fierce battle for third between Kevin Thomas Jr., Chase Stockon and new track record holder C.J. Leary.
At the midway point, Thomas slid by Stockon on the bottom of turn three. Stockon countered to regain third exiting four. Stockon’s grasp on the spot was hanging in the balance and Thomas was able to pick Stockon off in turn two on the 16th lap.
By turn four of the same lap, Leary had slid by Stockon to take ownership of fourth to begin the second half of the 30-lapper.
Meanwhile, Courtney was cruising with nothing but Warren Alston’s double checkers on his mind and in front of him with six laps remaining.
That was until third-running Thomas, who was on the topside of turn three and in the midst of a joust with Leary for third, suffered a blown right rear tire which sent him hard into the outside guardrail with a mighty wallop.
The incident ended Thomas’ night with a disappointing 18th-place finish and placed a huge dent in his Eastern Storm title chances, where he dropped from second to eighth.
Four lapped cars separated race leader Courtney and second-running Windom on the lap-25 restart, negating any reasonable chance for Windom to toss a slider for the lead heading into turn one.
Instead, all Windom could do was stay pat on the topside while the lappers cooperated on the bottom.
Once again, any notion of anyone else having a shot at taking down Courtney was all for naught, as Courtney opened it up to a lead of three seconds, while Leary tried to step up a spot by challenging Windom, to no avail.
Courtney finished off a sterling performance by setting his fastest lap of the race on the 30th and final lap, ultimately taking his second Eastern Storm victory by 3.15 seconds over Windom, Leary, Stockon and Justin Grant.
“I think we just came to the conclusion that we weren’t really having fun,” said Courtney of struggles earlier in the week. “So, we went back to the basics, ‘have some fun.’
“(Port Royal) is a place that suits our style, high speed, and when you get to run it nice and straight up against the wall like that, it’s a lot of fun.”
Courtney’s win was the 19th of his AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Seroes career, moving him to within two of 1967 champion Greg Weld’s 21 victories for 28th on the all-time list.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.