Gibsonton, Florida…….Kevin Thomas, Jr. had not visited USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory lane since September of 2013, but he broke that winless streak on Thursday night with the 30-lap “Winter Dirt Games VI” feature win at East Bay Raceway Park. The Cullman, Alabama made it his ninth-career win leading all but the opening half-lap and a brief moment before a yellow flag on lap 17. He will go into Friday looking to give himself a chance at the “Triple Crown Challenge” posted by track supporters as a bonus to any driver who can win all three features.
Brady Bacon got the jump from the pole, but he bobbled off turn-two, allowing Thomas to dart past on the bottom. Dave Darland got a great start from row-three up into third, and C.J. Leary was up into the top-five running the high line before the first caution flew for Jarett Andretti spinning in turn-two.
On a longer green flag run, the lead trio of Thomas, Bacon, and Darland encountered traffic. Bacon got hung outside Trevor Kobylarz in turn-two, allowing Darland to get a run off the bottom and steal the second spot as they entered on the cushion in turn-three. On lap 17, Darland pulled a carbon-copy move on Thomas for the lead, but it wasn’t to be as a caution flew before the entire lap could be completed.
From there, Thomas was flawless at the front, negotiating some slower cars in the race’s final stages and winning by 1.026-seconds in the Bakken Concrete – Griffin’s Propane #17RW Maxim/Fisher.
“It feels great to be back in this car and to be back to winning. I can’t even explain how excited I am for this season. We’ve been running well, and tonight we put it all together. It was tough to pass, but it was also really difficult to get around this place tonight. I gave Dave one opening and he caught me, but I was just lucky enough to get a second chance. Hopefully, we can qualify decent and give ourselves a chance again tomorrow,” Thomas said.
Darland stalked Thomas in the closing stages but was unable to make a move through traffic, settling for second in the Phillips/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports – Trench Shoring #71P DRC/Foxco.
“My Phillips team gave me a really good car again tonight, but it was tough to pass up through there. It got pretty one lane on both ends, just one on the bottom and one on the top. We were in the right place at the right time to get both Brady and KT in traffic, but the caution just came at the wrong time to cost us the lead. You hate to lose one like that, but we were right in the hunt again, so we’ll try to put it up there again the rest of the weekend,” Darland said.
Defending series champion Bacon held on for the third spot in the Hoffman Auto Racing – Mean Green #69 Triple X/Williams Mopar.
Leary came home fourth in the Leary Construction Company – Green Tech Lubricants #30 DRC/Claxton Mopar, and Tracy Hines came from 15th to finish fifth in The Carolina Nut Company – Hansen’s Welding #4 DRC/Stanton Chevy.
AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point leader Chase Stockon finished ninth after setting a new track record of 14.762 seconds in ProSource Qualifying.
AMSOIL USAC SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: February 26, 2015 – Gibsonton, Florida – East Bay Raceway Park – “Winter Dirt Games VI”
QUALIFYING: 1. Chase Stockon, 32, 32/TBI-14.762 (New Track Record); 2. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-14.931; 3. Dave Darland, 71P, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-15.238; 4. Scotty Weir, 12x, Wolters-15.289; 5. Justin Grant, 40, Hery-15.291; 6. Carson Short, 21, Short-15.315; 7. Brady Short, 11P, Pottorff-15.367; 8. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 17RW, Dutcher-15.368; 9. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-15.416; 10. Jon Stanbrough, 81, JSR-15.454; 11. Trevor Kobylarz, 14, RT-15.468; 12. Shane Cockrum, 66, Wade-15.470; 13. Kyle Cummins, 21x, Pollock-15.481; 14. Kody Swanson, 63, DePalma-15.502; 15. Chris Windom, 2, Lein-15.536; 16. Tracy Hines, 4, THR-15.543; 17. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-15.564; 18. Logan Jarrett, 29, Jarrett-15.613; 19. Bryan Clauson, 41, SST-15.624; 20. Jarett Andretti, 18, Andretti-15.669; 21. Chad Boespflug, 5, Baldwin-15.673; 22. Casey Shuman, 2x, Barnhill/Dodd-15.717; 23. Aaron Farney, 15F, Farney-15.739; 24. Bret Mellenberndt, 97, Mellenberndt-15.792; 25. Chris Gurley, 11, Walker-15.817; 26. Isaac Chapple, 7G, Goacher-15.868; 27. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-15.871; 28. Travis Hery, 21H, Hery-15.906; 29. Landon Simon, 24, LSR-15.914; 30. Justin Hoffman, M16, Hoffman-16.468; 31. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-17.381.
FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Stockon, 3. Bacon, 4. Cummins, 5. Boespflug, 6. Grant, 7. Simon, 8. Gurley. 2:06.81
SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Stanbrough, 2. C. Short, 3. Jarrett, 4. Shuman, 5. Leary, 6. Swanson, 7. Hoffman, 8. Chapple. NT
THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Clauson, 2. Darland, 3. B. Short, 4. Kobylarz, 5. Windom, 6. Robbins, 7. Farney, 8. Bell. 2:13.34
FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Hines, 2. Andretti, 3. Thomas, 4. Mellenberndt, 5. Cockrum, 6. Hery, 7. Weir. 2:15.14
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Leary, 2. Boespflug, 3. Cockrum, 4. Grant, 5. Windom, 6. Swanson, 7. Farney, 8. Gurley, 9. Simon, 10. Chapple, 11. Robbins, 12. Hery, 13. Bell, 14. Weir. 3:24.94
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 2. Dave Darland, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. C.J. Leary, 5. Tracy Hines, 6. Robert Ballou, 7. Chad Boespflug, 8. Kyle Cummins, 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Chris Windom, 11. Jon Stanbrough, 12. Brady Short, 13. Bryan Clauson, 14. Jarett Andretti, 15. Casey Shuman, 16. Carson Short, 17. Aaron Farney, 18. Logan Jarrett, 19. Bret Mellenberndt, 20. Trevor Kobylarz, 21. Shane Cockrum, 22. Justin Grant, 23. Kody Swanson, 24. Kyle Robbins. NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Thomas.
NEW AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT POINTS: 1-Stockon-236; 2-Thomas-222; 3-Bacon-220; 4-Ballou-211; 5-Darland-204; 6-Windom-196; 7-Stanbrough-189; 8-Leary-176; 9-Boespflug-164; 10-Grant-162.
NEXT AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT RACE: February 27 – Gibsonton, Florida – East Bay Raceway Park – “Winter Dirt Games VI”