Winter Dirt Games Stars Brady Bacon

Brady Bacon leads the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series standings early in the season. (Chris Seelman photo)
Brady Bacon drove the Hoffman No. 69 to victory in Thursday night's USAC sprint car opener at East Bay Raceway Park. (Chris Seelman photo)
Brady Bacon drove the Hoffman No. 69 to victory in Thursday night’s USAC sprint car opener at East Bay Raceway Park. (Chris Seelman photo)

OCALA, Fla. — Brady Bacon began his bid for the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series championship by winning the opening event of Winter Dirt Games V at Bubba Raceway Park.

The 24-year-old Oklahoma native, who finished third in points last year, already equaled his win total from 2013 aboard the all-time winningest entry in the series. With the win, the famed Hoffman Auto Racing group claimed its 83rd series victory.

Veterans Dave Darland and Tracy Hines led the field to green and diced hard in the opening laps, both seeking victories to advance their hunt of Tom Bigelow for the all-time series win record. After leading the opening lap, Hines saw Darland blast by before retaking the point in turn-one on lap three.

From there, Hines led at the front as defending series champion Bryan Clauson moved past Darland for second. Just behind him, Bacon was on the move from his sixth-starting spot, earned by virtue of his ProSource “Fast Qualifier Award,” which was worth $200.

After a flip on lap nine, Clauson went to work on Hines for the lead as Bacon trailed. The top three pulled away until Clauson suffered misfortune on lap 15, flattening a right-rear tire while all over Hines for the top spot. He restarted at the tail and would advance all the way to seventh at the checkered.

From there, it was a two-horse race as Bacon cut low off turn-four to steal the lead on lap 18 and race away from Hines. Without a caution, Bacon negotiated traffic to come home with a 2.593-second victory aboard the Mean Green – Lykins Oil No. 69 Triple X/Stanton Mopar.

“This probably wouldn’t have been a track we would have won on last year, so it’s a relief to get one right away. We’ve changed a lot of things to be good on a slicker track like this. We ran a ton of laps in practice last night, and it paid off. I didn’t think the top would last in turn-four, and I was just trying to hit that one little wet spot every time down lower. I think Clauson was gonna be a threat, but unfortunately for him, he got a flat. This bunch worked really hard in the winter, and I’m proud of them,” said Bacon.

Hines held on for a strong second after leading 16 laps in The Carolina Nut Company – Hansen’s Welding No. 4 DRC/Stanton Chevy.

“I struggled out of four all night. I just never got it figured out. Nothing I tried could fix it. Once Brady got me, I tried to attack it harder and it just wasn’t there. We’re better when it’s slick than we have been, but it’s just not enough yet. It was a good run, though, and a good first night for our Carolina Nut Company team,” Hines said.

Darland finished third in the Racer’s Advantage Store No. 71p DRC/Foxco.

“It was a really tricky track tonight, with a real slick end and then some holes on entry into one before you slide up and hit the cushion. We made a few adjustments under the red and just tried to figure out where the car was happy. It came around some at the end, and we had a chance at Tracy in traffic, but I could only gain on him off of four,” Darland said.

Shane Cottle and Chase Stockon completed the top five.