HAUBSTADT, Ind. – As friends and former roommates, Jason McDougal and Kevin Thomas Jr. have a bond that extends further than the race track, but even friends have their battles now and then.
Nowhere was that more evident than Saturday night’s Harvest Cup at Tri-State Speedway, where the AMSOIL USAC National Midget Series made its return following a seven-year absence.
The stage allowed McDougal and Thomas to slug it out for a majority of the 30-lap main event, exchanging the lead seemingly every single lap on both ends, delivering slider after slider until the final bell tolled.
The baton for the lead was passed between Logan Seavey, Thomas, McDougal and Thomas Meseraull six times at the start/finish line, and 26 times unofficially, before McDougal emerged with the lead for good 10 laps from the finish for his second career series win.
“Midget racing is a blast here. I don’t know why we don’t come here more,” McDougal exclaimed. “Racing with KTJ like that, you’ve got to be able to trust someone you know you can go back and forth with.”
The feast of sliders began right from the initial green, when reigning series champion Seavey bolted to the lead from the pole position into turn one.
Fourth-starting Thomas made his initial bid for the lead in turn three on the opening lap before Seavey cut back under off the fourth turn to lead the first round.
Meanwhile, back in the pack, Tucker Klaasmeyer endured a Tommy Tipover in turn four that brought out the night’s only red flag. Klaasmeyer restarted after changing a flat left-rear tire and made an impressive charge from 22nd to a seventh-place finish at the checkered.
Following the restart, Seavey commanded the lead up front while Thomas and the emerging McDougal, who started fifth, began swapping the runner-up spot by lap five when McDougal moved into the spot.
Two laps later, McDougal steered it deep into turn three, sliding past Seavey on the bottom and riding up over the cushion. That allowed Seavey to drive back by under McDougal, while Thomas got past McDougal then took over the spot from Seavey on the eighth lap.
McDougal raced back to second on lap nine, then turned up the wick on Thomas with a run off turn four under Thomas that moved him back to the lead by a half-car length on the 10th lap, but only momentarily, as Thomas powered back to the lead with a pair of crossovers of McDougal in turns one and three to sustain his grasp of the top spot.
Back and forth, the two attacked the quarter-mile dirt oval throughout the middle portion of the feature with McDougal repetitively diving to the bottom in turn three to nab the lead, but each time, Thomas answered by driving underneath McDougal exiting four and leading into turn one.
McDougal brought the hammer into the first turn each time, arching his car above the cushion before driving straight as an arrow down off the turn two banking with a run to the inside of Thomas in turn four.
A lap 17 caution for Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier and eighth-running Gio Scelzi, who slowed to a stop in turn one, put a brief pause to the chaos at the head of the pack.
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