San Tan Valley, Arizona — Tyler Courtney picked up where he left off in both 2018 and 2019 to become the first driver to win the final night of the Western World Championships in a 410 c.i. sprint car in three consecutive years, pulling off the trifecta Saturday night in the AMSOIL USAC CRA / Southwest Sprint Car portion of the 53rd annual event presented by San Tan Ford.
Jeremy Sherman and Cory Kruseman had previously been the only other drivers to win a Western World finale in three-straight years. Sherman took 410 c.i. top honors in 2001, followed by back-to-back 360 Sprint wins in 2002 and 2003. Kruseman won 360 c.i. Sprint Car final night features in 2005-06-07, all of which came at the now-defunct Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz.
“Western World is long historied event and to win three in a row is pretty amazing,” Courtney said. “Thanks to my guys for busting their tails. I know they’re bummed about the midget deal, but this does make it a little sweeter. It’s a tough night, but a good night at the same time.”
The Indianapolis, Ind. native was referring to the mechanical issues that befell he and the team during the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature earlier in the night that dropped him out of the points lead.
Courtney responded to the adversity with a much-needed pick-me-up by bouncing back in dominating fashion, leading all 30 laps around the 1/3-mile dirt oval, which happened to be a milestone 50th win for Courtney as a driver with Clauson-Marshall Racing’s sprint car and midget team since the 2016 season.
“It’s how racing goes,” Courtney gathered. “Unfortunately, you’re going to have your ups and downs. Obviously, you don’t want your downs to come at this time of the year, but that’s just how it goes.”
Courtney set forth on his journey to triumph from his outside front row position to take the early lead in his Clauson-Marshall-Newman Racing/NOS Turbo – CSI – ZMax – Schoenfeld/Spike/Rider Chevy.
Courtney’s main challenger for the USAC Midget crown this year, Chris Windom, was his most prominent adversary in the early stages of the sprint feature with Windom taking a mighty swing on the fifth lap, sliding past Courtney in turn one while Courtney responded with a crossover back underneath Windom off turn two to resume his position at the front of the field.
In the second half of the 30-lap main, Courtney served as the locomotive, leading the tightly knit crew of Courtney, Windom and Friday night winner Justin Grant, who could’ve all been covered by a blanket as they trekked the high side.
Traffic became the question mark with six laps remaining but did not stand to be as much of an obstacle with the lapped cars lining the bottom of the track while the top-three remained in formation at the top. Only a mistake in traffic or on the cushion could’ve derailed Courtney at this point.
Instead, Courtney only strengthened his stranglehold up front to lengthen his lead during the final stretch, ultimately prevailing by a 0.791 second margin over Windom, Grant, Damion Gardner and Austin Williams.
“This place has treated me pretty well the last few years,” Courtney mentioned. “Last night was the first night I hadn’t won in three races or something like that, and to still run second, was pretty amazing. This place fits my kind of style.”
Meanwhile, R.J. Johnson’s move from his 22nd starting position to an 8th place feature finish netted him a whopping $1,860.95 courtesy of the Steve LaFond / Wagtimes “Jar of Change” going to the USAC CRA series regular who made the biggest advancement through the field.
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (2), 2. Chris Windom (3), 3. Justin Grant (6), 4. Damion Gardner (5), 5. Austin Williams (11), 6. Matt Mitchell (10), 7. Ryan Bernal (9), 8. R.J. Johnson (22), 9. Max Adams (16), 10. Cody Williams (7), 11. Brody Roa (14), 12. Charles Davis Jr. (1), 13. Tommy Malcolm (4), 14. Tye Mihocko (19), 15. Stevie Sussex (13), 16. Sterling Cling (20), 17. Chris Gansen (18), 18. Kyle Edwards (21), 19. Chris Bonneau (17), 20. Jake Swanson (15), 21. Thomas Meseraull (12), 22. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (8). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Tyler Courtney.
-USAC Racing Press Release
-Photo credit: Rich Forman