BECHTELSVILLE, Pa. — In each of the last two years, Brady Bacon had to pull some late-race heroics out of his pocket in the final laps of the Jesse Hockett Classic Eastern Storm opener at Grandview Speedway.
Tuesday night’s race was anything but a nail-biter as the Broken Arrow, Okla., driver led all 40 laps in dominant fashion to collect $10,000 and become the first driver in Eastern Storm history to win three races at a single track.
As opposed to his 2017-’18 Grandview triumphs, Bacon felt he had car to beat right from the get-go, though it very nearly ended as soon as it started with a huge bike in turn two during hot laps that he managed to save, carry on and then thrive, on a night and a third-mile track he seems to have a knack for.
“This is the first year I actually think we had the best car,” Bacon admitted. “The other couple of years, we managed to sneak to the front and find some stuff to get the wins. This time, I feel like we had a really good car all night. We had a game plan going in here, and even though it was rough at the beginning of the night, we wanted to stick to our guns and make sure we got tight enough for the feature.”
Bacon’s victory was also special in personal ways, both for the car owner he won his two USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car titles for and for the race’s namesake, who won at Grandview in 2009, and was one of Bacon’s closest fellow competitors on the USAC trail.
“This is the first win since the passing of (car owner) Richard Hoffman and with this being the Jesse Hockett race, I was close friends with him too. That’s pretty special,” Bacon beamed.
To set Bacon’s Grandview backstory, in 2017, Bacon started sixth and worked his way to lead laps 25-35 before being overtaken by C.J. Leary with five laps remaining. Bacon reeled Leary in and on lap 38 in lapped traffic, Bacon shot underneath as Leary got hung up on the outside.
In 2018, Bacon started from the pole, fell back, then charged to the front to lead laps 13-29 before Kevin Thomas Jr. snatched the lead away with 11 laps to go.
Again, when it all looked to be over for Bacon, he found his second wind and tracked down Thomas with three to go to pull off the victory.
None of that transpired Tuesday night. Bacon got the jump on the start, using the topside from his outside front row starting position to power around polesitter Justin Grant to grab the lead exiting turn two. By the fourth lap, Bacon was wheels up and just about ready for takeoff as he crossed the stripe with a one second lead.
As would be the case throughout the duration of the race, the battle was for second on back. Just before the end of the first quarter of the 40-lapper, Tyler Courtney went around the outside of Grant for position in turn four. Grant fought back to reclaim second going into turn three before Courtney got Grant at the line on lap six.
Grant got the runner-up position back from Courtney on lap seven and the pair tussled until the ninth lap when Courtney made contact with Grant’s rear bumper. Courtney swung wide in turn three, laying down the red carpet for series point leader C.J. Leary to duck underneath for third.
Moments later, disaster struck for local favorite and 12th running Timmy Buckwalter, who slid wide off turn four, clipped the right rear against the wall and rode out a wild flip down the front straightaway.
By the halfway mark, Bacon stepped away once again as second through seventh were all under a blanket, but the one surging through it all was ninth-place starter Chris Windom.
The two-time and defending Eastern Storm champ zipped by Kevin Thomas, Jr. for fourth on the bottom. Then, on lap 22, disposed of Leary for third in the same spot on the track.
On lap 24, Windom slid Grant into turn one. Grant countered back underneath off turn two. On lap 25, it was déjà vu with both swapping the lead on each end of the track before Windom prevailed a lap later with the position in turn three. Leary moved to third by Grant one lap later, likewise, on the bottom of three.
All the while, Bacon was grinning as he constructed an unchallenged 3.5-second lead with less than 10 laps left and to four seconds with just five to go. Although, the race for second was not on ice just quite yet. Leary stormed his way back by Windom with just two laps left to nab second at the end, though, still 4.352 seconds behind Bacon at the finish.
Leary finished second ahead of Windom, Courtney and Thomas.
To see full results, turn to the next page.