SWEDESBORO, N.J. — Kevin Thomas Jr. was in the seat as the Hoffman Auto Racing team earned its 100th USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series triumph Monday night at Bridgeport Speedway.
Thomas grabbed his fourth series victory of the season in round five of Eastern Storm, while giving one of USAC’s most famous operations a milestone performance.
“It’s an honor to be the driver to get them that milestone,” Thomas exclaimed. “It’s something special and something you’ll remember until the day you die or tell your grandkids. I’m glad they’ve given me this opportunity to run for them this year. It’s very special to me and this team. There’s a lot of people who’d like to be on a team like this. I’m just glad the guys behind me are with me.”
Thomas set quick time for the 10th time in 16 races.
“It’s nice to start off the day with a smile on your face,” Thomas said. “There are times when you hot lap and qualify 10, 12th quick and you’re a miserable bastard at the end of the day and it screws your whole night. I’m very temperamental and I wear my feelings on my shoulder. Setting quick time helps me a lot mentally. It gives me a little bit of extra confidence that I can conquer whatever race track we’re at. Whether I do or don’t, it gives me the feeling that helps with momentum and even communicating with the crew and things like that. You just feel focused. We’ve been rolling off fast times and it’s actually been making my crew mad since we have to start sixth every night. It’s hard to pass these guys who are that fast unless they make a mistake.”
Chad Boespflug led the opening lap before giving way to third-starting Windom who raced to the lead underneath Chad Boespflug entering turn three on the second go-around.
Meanwhile, Tyler Courtney, who had been shuffled back to third on the opening lap after starting from the outside of the front row, had worked his way back into contention and was draped all over the orange No. 5 of Windom.
Courtney initially ducked low off turn four on lap eight to challenge the reigning Eastern Storm champ, then a lap later, changed course by riding the lip around the outside of Windom exiting turn four to take the point.
The lead was short-lived as Windom slid Courtney back on the very next lap between turns three and four to reclaim the prime real estate out front.
With those two engaged in their own tug-of-war, Thomas was chiseling ever closer to the front, lying just a car length behind Courtney for second when the yellow flag fell for a spin by both Jarett Andretti and Robert Bell between turns three and four.
On the ensuing restart, Courtney took the dirt highway a lane higher than Windom, working, working intensely for the next two circuits on how to navigate his way to the brink. On the 14th lap, Courtney attempted a slider on his apparel trailer mate Windom entering turn three. Courtney’s right rear and Windom’s left front connected, bouncing Windom out of the lead and fighting to regain his marbles until slotting back into third behind Courtney and Thomas.
Courtney’s joyride as the leader only lasted another half lap, ending when Thomas outlasted Courtney down the middle of the back straight into turn three. Windom was able to skirt past Courtney a lap later to return to the runner-up position.
“I was driving my ass off,” Thomas admits. “They’re racing for the same things I’m racing for. They’re driving their asses off and I’m driving mine off too. When you get three drivers like that who’ve been running together all week, all year, it’s great competition. It’s fun that it’s gotten to the point where it’s this competitive each and every week no matter if we’re at Putnamville or in the middle of the east coast, I-80 or Knoxville.”
Windom leads the Eastern Storm standings by a single point over Thomas entering the final stop Tuesday at New York’s Weedsport Speedway.
To see full results, turn to the next page.