Last-Lap Slider Lifts Chris Windom

Kevin Thomas Jr. (19) battles Chris Windom Thursday night at Bubba Raceway Park. (Al Steinberg photo)

OCALA, Fla. — Chris Windom spent most of Thursday night’s AMSOIL USAC Sprint Car Series opener at Bubba Raceway Park throwing sliders at leader Kevin Thomas Jr. While spectacular and crowd pleasing, none of them worked. Until the last one!

Coming to the white flag, Thomas got a bad run off turn four that allowed Windom to get almost even at the flag stand, then slide his Goacher Racing No. 5g in front of Thomas Jr. for the lead as the crowd roared.

“This track was really tricky to slide guys on,” said Windom with a big grin. “I was really fortunate that it stuck that last time.  When he missed the top and spun his wheels, I knew that was my opportunity. I almost got the wall on some of the other ones but that slider worked.”

Thomas, Justin Grant, Chase Stockon and Robert Ballou chased Windom to the checkered flag.

Tyler Courtney crashes at Bubba Raceway Park. (Al Steinberg photo)

Polesitter Thomas had gotten the drop on front row companion Kyle Cummins on both the first and second tries at getting the 30-lapper started, while second row starters Brady Bacon and Windom battled behind them. By the first caution on lap five, when Tyler Courtney got into the turn four wall, Windom had advanced to second and the return to green brought his first slider as they hit turn one.

Thomas crossed Windom back but another yellow flag waved the next time around when fast timer Carson Short, who lowered the track record to 13.447 seconds, spun in turn two. The ensuing restart saw Windom again slide up in front of the leader but once again, Thomas got back under him down the backstretch.

With the track getting slicker, the field was in freight train formation around the top by lap 10, but a three-car melee in turn four two laps later brought another restart and the inevitable slide job for the lead. Again, it didn’t work and at halfway it was Thomas, Windom, hard charging Justin Grant, up from the sixth row, Bacon and Chase Stockon in the top five.

Lap 19 saw the leaders finally hit lapped traffic, with Windom getting big runs on the leader into turn one on laps 21 and 22, neither of which worked, before Grant began pressuring him on lap 23.

The battle for the lead seemed to be settled at that point but Windom got one last chance with the white flag flying and that time, the slider worked.

“The track was pretty one lane and I knew something was coming,” tipped the disappointed Thomas.  “That last lap I got a terrible run off four. It’s tight down there in that corner but he got off ok and got a run on me.”

“The track was as fast as it’s ever been tonight and throwing sliders on anybody was pretty shaky,” said Grant. “The banking goes away and the track flattens out at about half the width of the turn and you can get in big trouble. We had a shot at the checkers and I thought I at least had Kevin a couple of times but we ended up third.”

Matt Goodnight, Ballou, C.J. Leary and Grant shared heat wins with Timmy Buckwalter leading the semi-feature flag to flag.

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