TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Chris Windom became the first four-time winner of the Jim Hurtubise Classic Friday night at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Windom took the lead on the opening lap of the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car event at the historic half-mile track and surpassed Jack Hewitt’s record of winning three Hurtubise Classics.
“With how good he was here, that’s pretty special.” Windom reflected. “I honestly didn’t know that could be broken tonight, so that was really cool to find that out after the race. This place has been so good to me throughout my whole career. I love coming here and racing. We’ve always had a fast car here all those years.”
Windom had previously won the Hurtubise Classic in 2011-16-17, the latter of which came during his USAC National Sprint Car championship season. Windom is mired in a similar dogfight this year as well, and his performance at Terre Haute elevated him into the series point lead by just two markers over Brady Bacon with four events remaining.
After qualifying fourth to pick up three points, in his heat race, Windom charged from his sixth starting spot to first in quick succession to earn another eight for that victory. In the feature, again, he wasted no time getting to the front and stayed there for the entire duration to gain 70 points, thus turning a nine-point deficit to Brady Bacon into a two-point lead.
“Right now, with how tight the points battle is, every point matters.” Windom explained. “I needed to win that heat and I needed to win the feature. If we just keep doing that every night, we should put ourselves in good shape. We just got to keep showing up and preparing cars to win the race every night and the points will work itself out. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to change every night. Hopefully, it doesn’t change again for me, but It’s so tight, one heat race position or one qualifying spot can change it.”
The opening lap of the 30-lap feature saw sixth-starting C.J. Leary, who earlier had moved into a tie with Kevin Thomas Jr. for 11th all-time with his 29th career Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifying time, saw his bid for a repeat championship take a major hit when he flipped in turn two, ending his night with a 22nd place result. He came into the evening fourth in the standings with a 40-point deficit, but now trails by 77 points.
On the complete restart, Windom punched the throttle and slid from his third starting spot past pole sitter Dave Darland for the initial lead. Darland countered back underneath Windom exiting turn two with nary a credit card’s width separating the two to retake the position, albeit briefly. Windom reloaded and returned fired as he dove to the inside guardrail in turn three to snag the lead for good.
Windom opened up a near straightaway advantage by lap eight when the action slowed for Kevin Thomas Jr. who stopped at the entrance to turn three with a flat right rear tire while running 11th at the time. Thomas restarted and worked his way back to a seventh-place finish.
On the ensuing restart, recent California to Indiana transplant Jake Swanson and Carson Short, in his debut for Michael Dutcher Motorsports, locked horns in turn two while tussling for the 8th position, with Short’s front bumper and Swanson’s rear bumper becoming connected as they grinded to a stop midway down the back straightaway. Both restarted with Short finishing 11th and Swanson 15th.
By halfway, Windom was cruising, notching a 10-car length advantage of 1.5 seconds as traffic from the tail end of the lead lap cars loomed. With the preferred top groove mostly occupied, Windom had to split, dip and dive to escape from the snarling clutches of the ever-closing pack in which Darland was the closest. With 10 to go, the gap between Windom and Darland had been cut in half until Windom flew underneath Tye Mihocko in turn three, then split between Max Adams and Jonathan Vennard to regain what he had nearly lost, negotiating the fine high-wire balancing act between patience and urgency throughout.
“Toward the end of the race, it got really technical to pass lapped cars because it was so slick to the cushion,” Windom relayed. “When you went to slide somebody, you had nothing to stop you but that little cushion or the wall. You really had to pick and choose your battles there. You had to get to the lapped car to slide them. A couple times, I had the wrong timing and the wrong spacing on them, and I had to tuck in behind them rather than throw a slider that wasn’t going to clear them. That was making me nervous because I figured everyone was coming at that point. Once I cleared those guys, I figured the next guys behind me would have to do the same thing I just did, so I just tried to stay calm and hit my marks as much as possible.”
With Windom now in the clear, he gained his largest lead of the race at 2.252 seconds until the advantage was eradicated by a turn two Swanson spin on the 24th lap, which brought out the final caution of the night.
Windom put his foot down and ended all thoughts of being beaten on this occasion as he took off to claim his second Terre Haute USAC Sprint Car feature win of 2020 by a 0.752 seconds over Darland, Grant, Ballou and Bacon.
To see full results, turn to the next page.