Flawless is the only word to describe Spencer Bayston’s performance Wednesday night in the second round of the 12th annual “Indiana Midget Week” at Gas City I-69 Speedway. The Lebanon, Indiana driver quickly shot to the lead from the pole position at the drop of the green flag and ran 30 straight laps without turning a wheel wrong to earn his first career USAC National Midget victory.
Bayston, the 2015 USAC National Midget “Rookie of the Year,” began the race alongside fellow front row starter Zach Daum. It was Bayston who got the better of the two as the field headed for the bottom of the racetrack in the opening laps.
By the eight circuit, Bayston moved up a lane to run the middle as Daum, Kyle Larson and Bryan Clauson gave chase. However, on lap nine, Chase Johnson barrel-rolled his machine in turn four to bring about the first stoppage of the feature.
On the ensuing restart, Daum got to the inside of Bayston for the lead, but Bayston was able to withstand the challenge, nipping Daum at the stripe at the end of lap nine.
Larson and Clauson soon swarmed Daum for the second spot, crossing the line three-wide on both lap 11 and lap 12 as Larson emerged with second in front of Clauson while Daum dropped to third.
Just before halfway, Clauson fought back to reclaim the runner-up spot from Larson as Bayston continued to lead the way with a one-and-a-half second advantage over his nearest challenger. Bayston never missed a beat as he conquered the backmarkers with ease. But with just seven laps to go, the stopped car of Tanner Thorson brought out the yellow, erasing the lengthy gap that Bayston had established.
Bayston had a combined 68 career USAC National Midget wins bearing down on him in the four spots in the immediate vicinity of his tail tank on the lap 24 restart.
When the opportunity arose, Bayston was mentally and physically prepared to meet the task at hand. Clauson, Larson, Daum and Christopher Bell could not phase Bayston on the restart as the 17-year-old kept his poise and focus on what was in front, not behind him, standing on the throttle as he exploded on the restart to lay all doubts to rest.
From that point forward, the attention turned to the battle for second between Clauson and Larson. Larson stayed on Clauson’s heels, but with five to go, Larson clipped a turn four infield tire, slowing his progress as Clauson sped away into the distance, allowing him to seize an additional position that provided important points toward the 2016 “Indiana Midget Week” championship.
In the end, Bayston had the field covered, defeating Clauson by .097 seconds with Larson, Daum and Bell rounding out the top-five at the checkered flag.
For the second consecutive year, the USAC National Midget schedule opened up its season with two first-time series winners in the first three races. Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Tanner Thorson won races two and three in 2015 while Shane Golobic won the 2016 season opener at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin and now Spencer Bayston put his name in the winners’ column in the third race of this season in his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Mobil 1/Bullet/Speedway Toyota.
“I’m speechless right now,” Bayston exclaimed. “Big Al (Scroggins) had the car absolutely perfect. I could hold it to the ground and it would dig the whole way around. I was waiting for Bryan (Clauson) and Kyle (Larson) to show up, but these guys gave me a good enough race car that I could stay out front. I was getting some signals under the red from my guys about where those two were running, so I just tried to focus on my line and tried to keep making good laps. To race against these guys is special and to beat them is even more special because both of them are guys that I’ve looked up to my whole career.”
By virtue of two straight runner-up finishes at Montpelier and Gas City, Bryan Clauson of Noblesville, Indiana takes over the “Indiana Midget Week” point lead as the series resumes Thursday at Putnamville, Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway, a race he was victorious in one year ago.
“Our car was alright tonight; we were just a little off,” Clauson admitted. “We could hang; we just didn’t have enough to mount anything. I pulled out everything I had to hold Kyle off. Those three points could play a big factor at the end of the week, but it’s a great start to ‘Indiana Midget Week’ for us.”
Elk Grove, California’s Kyle Larson couldn’t quite replicate the magic of his Montpelier performance one night ago, but would have to settle for the third spot in his final appearance in 2016 “Indiana Midget Week.”
“It’s always fun racing Bryan (Clauson),” Larson said. “I needed the caution, but I needed to restart in front of Bryan and, after that, I didn’t really have a shot at Spencer (Bayston). He wasn’t on the bottom in (turns) three and four and I could get through there pretty well. Bryan was running on the bottom in (turns) three and four too and it was enough to slow me down a little, but I had a lot of fun. It was a pretty solid weekend of racing for me, so a big thanks to Keith (Kunz) and Pete (Willoughby).”
Contingency award winners at Gas City included Rico Abreu (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Ryan Greth (Simpson Race Products First Heat Race Winner), Tanner Thorson (Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Race Winner), Christopher Bell (Benic Enterprises Third Heat Race Winner), Brady Bacon (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Race Winner), Shane Golobic (KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger) and Justin Grant (Wilwood Brakes 13th place finish).
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Spencer Bayston, 2. Bryan Clauson, 3. Kyle Larson, 4. Zach Daum, 5. Christopher Bell, 6. Rico Abreu, 7. Brady Bacon, 8. Shane Golobic, 9. Justin Peck, 10. Jerry Coons, Jr., 11. Ryan Robinson, 12. Chad Boat, 13. Justin Grant, 14. Ryan Greth, 15. Tyler Thomas, 16. Chris Windom, 17. Gage Walker, 18. Tony DiMattia, 19. Tanner Thorson, 20. Dayne Kingshott, 21. Jimi Quin, 22. Holly Shelton, 23. Chase Johnson, 24. Dave Darland. NT
-USAC Press Release. Photo credit: Travis Branch