Putnamville, Indiana – It all started with a late-night phone call on Thursday night to Shane Cottle from Hodges Motorsports asking if his plans were open for Friday night.
Just about 24 hours later, Cottle was celebrating in victory lane following Friday’s opening night of the sixth annual Bill Gardner Sprintacular at Lincoln Park Speedway featuring the USAC AMSOIL National and Midwest Sprint Car Series.
The last-minute deal came together as the team’s original plan was to sit out the weekend and focus on preparations for next week’s Brandt Corn Belt Nationals at Knoxville Raceway. But that one phone call, as it turned out, changed the course of the weekend in a hurry.
“He called me last night probably around 10:30pm. He asked me if I wanted to go racing. It wasn’t on our schedule; he’s got a schedule that we go by. I said, ‘Well, I have to talk to my wife.’ So, I talked to her. She really wasn’t wanting me to, but I said I’m going anyway. Luckily, it all came together,” Cottle said with a laugh.
Cottle rolled off sixth for the start of the 30-lap feature, and right from the get-go, he felt the bottom of the racetrack play right into his hands as he got to fourth on the opening lap.
“I knew on the start that it was going to be pretty good,” Cottle remembered. “I just knew I was a little faster than they were and, luckily, they kept slipping up off the bottom and I snuck underneath them. When you go past those guys, it makes it a little fun.”
“Those guys” up front included the likes of past USAC champions C.J. Leary and Dave Darland while Cottle zeroed in on perennial Lincoln Park winner A.J. Hopkins for third on lap three, then set forth toward Justin Grant and Carson Short, who had snared the top spot from first lap leader Grant on the second circuit with a turn three maneuver that slid him past for the position.
Following a fifth lap yellow flag for a turn three spin by Brandon Mattox, Grant went back to work on tracking down Short and made his move on the seventh go-around drifting up the turn three banking of the 5/16-mile dirt oval past Short for the spot. Short checked up and got shuffled back to third as Cottle maintained his momentum around the infield tires to race to second behind Grant.
One lap later, Grant endured a slight bobble atop the cushion between turns three and four, opening the chamber for Cottle to throttle past underneath for the race lead on the eighth lap.
Cottle, in his Hodges Motorsports/Hodges Automotive – Mesilla Valley Transportation – Jackson Compaction – Ortega Appliance/DRC/Gibson Chevy, was undeniably hooked up as he steadfastly stretched his lead throughout the midway point to around a one-second interval entering the final 10 lap stanza.
The Kansas, Ill. native was undeniable throughout the entire distance, and was rarely challenged down the stretch while a hotly-contested tussle between Grant and Leary engaged for second, which allowed Windom to slip past Leary and into the third spot on the 21st lap while Grant secured his position in second.
Cottle closed out his fifth career USAC National Sprint Car feature win by 1.488 second margin at the checkered, ahead of Grant, Windom, Leary and Chase Stockon, who made his debut in the KO Motorsports No. 5s, with who he recently announced he would compete with for the remainder of the 2020 USAC season.
Cottle estimates that he’s driven the Hodges Motorsports No. 74x a total of six occasions this year, and he’s already won twice, the first of which came in a late May POWRI WAR feature at Missouri’s Valley Speedway.
Josh Hodges, the one-time USAC National Sprint car winner at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway in 2016 who had piloted the team’s car for the past several years, stepped out of the driver’s compartment this past season and into a mechanical role for the team. The decision for him was based on a myriad of reasons, namely taking on a new promotion at work, getting married and moving, plus slight dizziness that he attributed to a possible wreck he had in the past.
Into the ride stepped Cottle, who’s found instant success in the car, and admitted that they might’ve found the elusive balance that they had been searching for, something that could lead to quite a bit of continued success, much like the success they enjoyed Friday night at Lincoln Park.
“This is the best racecar I’ve ever sat in,” Cottle revealed. “Every nut and bolt is just perfect. They’ve made it a nice car to drive. They won’t do all that work if I don’t go out and do my job. So, we’re pretty happy with it.”
Like a walk-off homer, Cottle isn’t planning on backing up his triumphant performance Saturday for night two of the Bill Gardner Sprintacular at Lincoln Park. While Friday’s quick decision on a whim led to victory, don’t expect any surprise returns to the racetrack on Saturday.
“We’re not (racing). I’ve got a graduation party for my stepson tomorrow, so we’re going to go do that. If I miss that, I would be in trouble with my wife,” Cottle guffawed.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: July 3, 2020 – Lincoln Park Speedway – Putnamville, Indiana – 5/16-Mile Dirt Oval – Bill Gardner Sprintacular – Co-Sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. Jadon Rogers, 14, Rogers-13.523; 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-13.525; 3. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-13.595; 4. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-13.637; 5. Brady Short, 11p, Short/Pottorff-13.744; 6. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-13.777; 7. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Team AZ-13.882; 8. A.J. Hopkins, 04, Burton-13.912; 9. Brayden Fox, 53, Fox-14.083; 10. Anton Hernandez, 5, Baldwin-14.111; 11. Stephen Schnapf, 61m, Edwards-14.135; 12. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-14.168; 13. Kendall Ruble, 17, Ruble/Martin-14.172; 14. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-14.239; 15. Jordan Kinser, 70, Hurst-14.268; 16. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-14.293; 17. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-14.340; 18. Kent Schmidt, 5K, KO-14.373; 19. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-14.384; 20. Blake Vermillion, 73, Vermillion-14.393; 21. Tanner Thorson, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-14.434; 22. Kurt Gross, 1x, Gross-14.453; 23. Donny Brackett, 4B, Brackett-14.453; 24. Aric Gentry, 10, GBR-14.563; 25. Jake Bland, 20B, Bland-14.595; 26. Garrett Aitken, 32, Aitken-14.618; 27. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-14.666; 28. Dakota Jackson, 17G, On The Gass-14.703; 29. Jonathan Vennard, 54, KO-14.739; 30. Ben Knight, 16K, Knight-14.744; 31. Ryan Bond, 7R, Bond-14.863; 32. Jesse Vermillion, 5v, Vermillion-14.863; 33. Max Adams, 37, Felker-14.908; 34. Brent Beauchamp, 34, Olson-14.927; 35. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-14.952; 36. Dustin Smith, 77, Smith-15.006; 37. Harley Burns, 16, Burns-15.006; 38. Carson Short, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-15.065; 39. Mario Clouser, 6, Clouser-15.184; 40. Tye Mihocko, 5T, Mihocko-15.208; 41. Tony Helton, 87, Miller-15.282; 42. Tim Creech, 2c, Creech-15.403; 43. Dickie Gaines, 44, Soudrette-15.546; 44. Stan Beadles, 84, Beadles-15.763; 45. Nate McMillin, 24, McMillin-15.999; 46. Eric Perrott, 45, Perrott-16.050; 47. Evan Mosley, 27, Mosley-16.173; 48. Robert Carrington, 34c, Carrington-16.446; 49. Chayse Hayhurst, 20, Hayhurst-16.450; 50. Carl Rhuebottom, 83, Rhuebottom-16.719; 51. Michael Clark, 8, Clark-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Chris Windom, 3. Mario Clouser, 4. Garrett Aitken, 5. Dickie Gaines, 6. Tim Creech, 7. Carl Rhuebottom, 8. Jordan Kinser, 9. Robert Carrington. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Carson Short, 2. Brent Beauchamp, 3. Dustin Smith, 4. Tanner Thorson, 5. Harley Burns, 6. Nate McMillin, 7. Chayse Hayhurst, 8. Max Adams, 9. Michael Clark. NT
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Kevin Thomas Jr., 3. Dakota Jackson, 4. Jonathan Vennard, 5. Jesse Vermillion, 6. Stan Beadles, 7. Tye Mihocko. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. A.J. Hopkins, 2. Jake Bland, 3. Brayden Fox, 4. Ben Knight, 5. Robert Bell, 6. Tony Helton, 7. Eric Perrott, 8. Kurt Gross. NT
FIFTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Kyle Cummins, 4. Jake Swanson, 5. Kent Schmidt, 6. Donny Brackett, 7. Blake Vermillion, 8. Ryan Bond. NT
SIXTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-3 transfer to the feature) 1. Shane Cottle, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Brandon Mattox, 4. Anton Hernandez, 5. Stephen Schnapf, 6. Kendall Ruble, 7. Jadon Rogers, 8. Brady Short. NT
C-MAIN: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the semi) 1. Tim Creech, 2. Aric Gentry, 3. Max Adams, 4. Tye Mihocko, 5. Blake Vermillion, 6. Chayse Hayhurst, 7. Ryan Bond, 8. Eric Perrott, 9. Robert Carrington, 10. Nate McMillin, 11. Jadon Rogers, 12. Tony Helton, 13. Kendall Ruble, 14. Stan Beadles, 15. Donny Brackett, 16. Carl Rhuebottom, 17. Michael Clark. NT
INDY METAL FINSIHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Garrett Aitken, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Anton Hernandez, 4. Dickie Gaines, 5. Max Adams, 6. Jonathan Vennard, 7. Jesse Vermillion, 8. Ben Knight, 9. Tim Creech, 10. Kent Schmidt, 11. Jake Swanson, 12. Stephen Schnapf, 13. Aric Gentry, 14. Harley Burns, 15. Tye Mihocko, 16. Robert Bell. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Shane Cottle (6), 2. Justin Grant (2), 3. Chris Windom (7), 4. C.J. Leary (5), 5. Chase Stockon (11), 6. A.J. Hopkins (1), 7. Brent Beauchamp (8), 8. Kevin Thomas Jr. (9), 9. Dakota Jackson (15), 10. Kyle Cummins (17), 11. Tanner Thorson (18), 12. Dave Darland (4), 13. Garrett Aitken (19), 14. Mario Clouser (13), 15. Jadon Rogers (23), 16. Carson Short (3), 17. Brayden Fox (14), 18. Dustin Smith (12), 19. Brandon Mattox (16), 20. Jake Bland (10), 21. Aric Gentry (22), 22. Anton Hernandez (21), 23. Dickie Gaines (20), 24. Brady Bacon (24). NT
**Brady Short flipped during the sixth heat. Michael Clark flipped during the C-Main.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Justin Grant, Laps 2-6 Carson Short, Lap 7 Justin Grant, Laps 8-30 Shane Cottle.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-572, 2-Chris Windom-532, 3-Brady Bacon-490, 4-Chase Stockon-476, 5-C.J. Leary-475, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-466, 7-Carson Short-444, 8-Dave Darland-360, 9-Anton Hernandez-345, 10-Brandon Mattox-312.
PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Tanner Thorson-51, 2-Chris Windom-49, 3-Logan Seavey-43, 4-Justin Grant-38, 5-Cannon McIntosh-32, 6-Andrew Layser-31, 7-Kevin Thomas Jr.-27, 8-Tanner Carrick-27, 9-Daison Pursley-27, 10-Thomas Meseraull-24.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 4, 2020 – Lincoln Park Speedway – Putnamville, Indiana – 5/16-Mile Dirt Oval – Bill Gardner Sprintacular – Co-Sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: Jadon Rogers
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Dave Darland
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Carson Short
AutoMeter Third Heat Winner: Justin Grant
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: A.J. Hopkins
Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: Garrett Aitken
KSE Racing Products / B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger: Kyle Cummins (17th to 10th)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Garrett Aitken
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Max Adams
-USAC Racing Press Release
-Photo credit: Rich Forman