BACON A BEAST IN “JASON LEFFLER MEMORIAL” SCORE AT WAYNE CITY
Wayne City, Illinois………Wayne County Speedway in southern Illinois is a place that’s become near and dear to Brady Bacon and the FMR Racing team.
Nearly exactly one year to the day of Bacon and FMR’s initial series start, the duo reached its greatest height yet Friday night – their very first USAC National Midget feature victory in the midget racing season’s largest winner’s payout share in North America.
Bacon, the 2014 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion, sped past Chris Windom on the eighth lap and immediately pulled away, leading the final 33 laps of the 40-lap “Jason Leffler Memorial” co-sanctioned by POWRi to, ultimately, take the commanding half-straightaway victory worth $20,000.
It was the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma driver’s third career USAC National Midget feature win and his first in the series since winning the “Hut 100” at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway in 2012.
“I think it’s amazing how far we’ve come from this race last year to now,” Bacon said. “We were good at this race last year, but at the beginning of this year, we had some struggles and had to fine-tune some stuff and get things rolling to catch Keith (Kunz Motorsports) and some of the faster guys. I’m impressed how fast we’ve been able to do it.”
The team’s Wayne City performance follows up a frustrating three-day weekend at the “Gold Crown Midget Nationals” in Granite City, Illinois two weeks prior in which the team ran into misfortune night-after-night despite having one of, if not the, fastest cars on the racetrack.
“I feel like we’ve had a car to win the last four or five races; we just haven’t been able to do it,” Bacon assured. “This is a good race to get rid of some of that bad luck. There was nothing we could do to prevent the things that were happening. It was frustrating, but I just didn’t feel like it was anything to waste my time over. I knew we were fast and I knew it was going to happen. Fortunately, this was the one it happened at.”
For east coast-based car owner Frank Manafort, the victory is a culmination of what came together just one year ago when Bacon was hired to drive the FMR Racing/Beast/Toyota even though the two had, at that point, never even met.
“To get this win means a lot,” a prideful Manafort said. “It’s just so great for the whole team and for Janice (East) and (crew chief) Bob East. I’m so happy for him with it being the Jason Leffler race. And for me too! I met Brady for the first time at this race a year ago, so it’s wonderful.”
East was the crew chief for Leffler when he drove the famed Steve Lewis-owned “Nine Cars” – a period of time when Leffler won his second and third USAC National Midget driving titles in 1998 and 1999. Friday night at Wayne City, East was on the wrenches again, making the calls that worked in Brady’s favor to earn the victory in the event honoring Leffler whom East won 12 races with between 1998 and 2000
“I was at Bob (East’s) shop,” Bacon recalled. “He told me that when he and Jason went to 16th Street Speedway, they crashed every time or something broke every time they went there. But, when it paid $20,000 to win the “Summer Sizzle” at 16th Street (in 1999), they won. That’s cool that it kind of happened the same way tonight at the ‘Jason Leffler Memorial.’”
At the start, recent USAC Indiana Midget Kokomo Speedway feature winner Chris Windom got the jump from the pole position as Bacon settled into second from the outside of the front row.
Bacon didn’t spend too much time doddling in second as he challenged and, eventually, overtook Windom with an outside pass at the exit of turn four on the fifth lap to propel him into the lead.
However, with the stoppage of Rico Abreu’s machine in between turns three and four, the pass was negated and the running order would revert to the previous lap.
On the ensuing restart, Bacon continued to do his work a lane higher than Windom who stayed glued to the bottom and, on lap 8, beat Windom on the outside into turn one to grab the lead.
With a clear track in front of him, Bacon shot away to a half-straightaway advantage over Windom on the following laps.
With the tight confines of the one-eighth-mile circuit and 28 feature starters, space was a limited quantity, which, in most cases, would mean that Bacon would have to contend with lapped traffic throughout the event.
However, as opposed to their terrible luck at Granite City, every break seemed to work in Bacon’s advantage at Wayne City. Each time Bacon reached the tail end of the field with the possibility of getting hung up traffic looming over him, the caution came out for an incident somewhere else on the track, which bunched up the field and provided Bacon a clear racetrack when action resumed and the ensuing laps following each restart.
It may not have mattered, though, as Bacon was clearly the class of the field Friday night with only Tanner Thorson offering a brief challenge on a restart at the halfway point. Thorson was able to stay nose-to-tail with Bacon midway through the back straightaway on lap 21 before Bacon once again broke away, separating himself from Thorson by a half-straight within a handful of laps.
After a bevy of late-race cautions put a clamp on the action before it could even resume, Bacon answered the bell each and every time racing got back underway, holding off all challengers on each restart and never turning a wheel wrong during the entirety of his 40-lap run to take the checkered flag in the 4th annual race honoring the life of Leffler, the four-time USAC National champion.
Thorson finished in the runner-up spot followed by Carson Macedo, Windom and Andrew Felker.
Although Thorson’s three-race winning streak was snapped, his second-place finish in his Keith Kunz - Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD - JBL Audio/Bullet/Speedway Toyota provided him enough points to overtake eighth place finisher Spencer Bayston for the lead in the USAC National Midget standings where he now stands nine points in front heading into the season’s final race – the 76th running of the “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway on Thanksgiving night, November 24.
“I haven’t been paying attention to the points as much as everyone probably thinks I am,” Minden, Nevada’s Thorson admitted. “I’ve been going out and trying to win and run the best I can to give this team a great finish. We have really good people behind us and they deserve this championship and these wins more than I do. I’ve just been trying to give everyone on this team a good run every time I go out and it’s been working for us.”
Leading series rookie contender Carson Macedo of Lemoore, Calif. brought home a third-place result in his first visit to Wayne City Friday night in his Keith Kunz - Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Tarlton & Son/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“Thank you to the Keith Kunz Motorsports team, Big Al (Scroggins), Keith and everybody who works hard at the shop,” a thankful Macedo said. “The car ran really well tonight and having a great crew really makes my job easy.”
Contingency award winners Friday night at Wayne County Speedway included Carson Macedo (Simpson Race Products First Qualifier Winner), Chad Boat (Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Qualifier Winner), Dave Darland (Benic Enterprises Third Qualifier Winner), Ryan Robinson (Indy Race Parts Fourth Qualifier Winner), Alex Bright (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Grady Chandler (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher).
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: October 21, 2016 - Wayne City, Illinois - Wayne County Speedway - 4th "Jason Leffler Memorial" - Presented by Great Clips - Co-sanctioned by POWRi
FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Tanner Thorson (#67 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 2. Gage Walker (#7 Walker), 3. Andrew Felker (#11A Felker), 4. Dave Darland (#11AG Gray), 5. Alex Bright (#77 Hemler), 6. J.B. Gilbert (#83 Beasley), 7. Jason McDougal (#73 Factor 1), 8. Cole Fehr (#15 Live Loud). 1:53.92
SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Tucker Klaasmeyer (#27 Klaasmeyer), 2. Carson Macedo (#71k Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 3. Riley Kreisel (#93k DKR), 4. Brayton Lynch (#1k RKR), 5. Chad Boat (#84 Tucker/Boat), 6. Andy Malpocker (#22 Malpocker), 7. Austin Brown (#7B Brown). NT
THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Chris Windom (#5 Baldwin), 2. Shane Cottle (#71x Love), 3. Grady Chandler (#72 Fenton), 4. Ryan Robinson (#71 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 5. Matt Ponder (#5H Hoppe), 6. Tyler Thomas (#91T Thomas), 7. Zach Daum (#5D Daum). NT
FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Brady Bacon (#76m FMR), 2. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (#39 Clauson/Marshall), 3. Rico Abreu (#97k Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 4. Chase Briscoe (#38 Gardner), 5. Isaac Chapple (#52c Chapple), 6. Ariel Biggs (#5B Daum), 7. Jake Neuman (#3N Neuman). NT
FIFTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Justin Peck (#8k Hard Eight), 2. Damion Gardner (#71G Klatt), 3. Colten Cottle (#5c Cottle), 4. Chett Gehrke (#37 Felker), 5. Ryan Greth (#4 Lesher), 6. Brad Loyet (#05 Loyet), 7. Daniel Robinson (#57D McCreery). NT
SIXTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Jonathan Beason (#8J Hard Eight), 2. Spencer Bayston (#97 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 3. Daniel Adler (#50 Adler), 4. Jerry Coons Jr. (#25 Petry/Goff), 5. Justin Grant (#35 Gardner), 6. Holly Shelton (#67k (Kunz/Curb-Agajanian), 7. Ace McCarthy (#28 Kantor). 1:55.47
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST QUALIFIER: (12 laps) 1. Macedo, 2. Felker, 3. Klaasmeyer, 4. Adler, 5. Coons, 6. Chandler, 7. S.Cottle, 8. Greth, 9. Malpocker, 10. Loyet, 11. McCarthy. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND QUALIFIER: (12 laps) 1. Boat, 2. Abreu, 3. Thorson, 4. Bright, 5. Peck, 6. Bayston, 7. Gilbert, 8. Stenhouse, 9. Neuman, 10. Biggs, 11. Daum. NT
BENIC ENTERPRISES THIRD QUALIFIER: (12 laps) 1. Darland, 2. C.Cottle, 3. Windom, 4. Beason, 5. Walker, 6. Briscoe, 7. Shelton, 8. Grant, 9. Chapple, 10. Fehr, 11. D.Robinson. 2:19.95
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH QUALIFIER: (12 laps) 1. R.Robinson, 2. Gehrke, 3. Bacon, 4. Lynch, 5. Gardner, 6. McDougal, 7. Thomas, 8. Kreisel, 9. Ponder, 10. Brown. 2:19.19
C-MAIN: (12 laps) 1. Grant, 2. Malpocker, 3. T.Thomas, 4. Chapple, 5. Biggs, 6. Fehr, 7. Neuman. NT
SEMI: (15 laps) 1. Peck, 2. Walker, 3. Chandler, 4. Coons, 5. McDougal, 6. Kreisel, 7. Shelton, 8. Gardner, 9. Grant, 10. Briscoe, 11. Malpocker, 12. Gilbert, 13. T.Thomas, 14. Stenhouse, 15. Lynch, 16. Greth, 17. Adler, 18. Chapple. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Carson Macedo, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Andrew Felker, 6. Alex Bright, 7. Chett Gehrke, 8. Spencer Bayston, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Jerry Coons Jr., 11. Shane Cottle, 12. Justin Peck, 13. Grady Chandler, 14. Jonathan Beason, 15. Chad Boat, 16. Riley Kreisel, 17. Ryan Robinson, 18. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 19. Andy Malpocker, 20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 21. Jake Neuman, 22. Brayton Lynch, 23. Damion Gardner, 24. Colten Cottle, 25. Holly Shelton, 26. Jason McDougal, 27. Rico Abreu, 28. Gage Walker. NT
**Robinson flipped during the third heat. Neuman flipped during the C-Main. Greth flipped during the Semi.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-7 Windom, Laps 8-40 Bacon.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Alex Bright (16th to 6th)
NEW USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Thorson-1,194, 2-Bayston-1,185, 3-Boat & Bacon-1,129, 5-Macedo-1,058, 6-Robinson-872, 7-Shelton-810, 8-Bryan Clauson-720, 9-T.Thomas-714, 10-Greth-572.
NEXT USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: November 24 – Ventura, California - Ventura Raceway – 76th "Turkey Night Grand Prix"
**RICHIE MURRAY – USAC MEDIA