Haubstadt, Indiana -- In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and Kyle Cummins winning at Tri-State Speedway in 2019.
Cummins, of Princeton, Ind., continued his immaculate season at the quarter-mile dirt oval in Haubstadt, Ind., winning his seventh race in seven tries this year at Tri-State, and picking up his second career Haubstadt Hustler victory after collecting Saturday night's $10,000-to-win 40-lap feature co-sanctioned by the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and the Brandeis Midwest Sprint Car Series.
Despite the blistering run of success, which now includes three USAC victories in 2019, Cummins was cautious to call his shot ala Babe Ruth entering the night.
"I felt like after winning this many in a row here, I was bound to lose because everything's been going right and we really haven't had a real bad night," Cummins admitted. "Throughout a whole season, the more good nights you have, the bad ones are right around the corner."
That was certainly not the case in the final results, though the beginning of the main event saw him jump quickly to the lead on the second lap past USAC Sprint Rookie of the Year point leader Dustin Christie, then fall back to second as USAC Sprint point leader C.J. Leary bolted to the front around the outside of Cummins between turns one and two on the third circuit, where he'd hold down the fort for the remainder of the first quarter the feature.
Traffic was thick entering the 10th lap for Leary as he swung high and dove low to split his way to the nearest escape route away from Cummins, but to no avail, as his lead diminished and Cummins was prime to strike on the 12th lap when Leary got himself sideways in the middle of turns three and four. Cummins slipped by underneath off turn four to assume control up front.
The evening's lone red flag arrived on the 16th lap when previous night's Terre Haute winner, Saturday's Fatheadz Eyewear fast qualifier and fourth-running Justin Grant, ramped over the infield tire off turn four and spiraled through the air before landing upside down along the main straightaway where he'd climb from the wreckage unharmed.
The lapped car of three-time Haubstadt Hustler winner Kevin Thomas, Jr. separated Cummins and Leary on the lap 17 restart. Leary ably disposed of Thomas quickly around the top in turn one, but Cummins had scooted away to a one second advantage by that point, forcing Leary into catchup mode right off the bat.
Just after halfway, Cummins was rapidly approaching the throes of lapped traffic, allowing Courtney to rip by Leary for second, then carve deeply into Cummins' advantage, whittling the interval down to a quarter of a second. On the 27th lap, Cummins met the side-by-side duo of Christie and Brian Karraker, both on the cusp of being put a lap down while battling for position. Cummins was briefly stifled behind the pair before opting for the top at the entry of turn three with Courtney now less than a car length off Cummins' rear bumper.
Traffic will certainly be a part of the equation with 25 cars going 40 laps on a quarter-mile bullring. Although Cummins has attained more success and completed more laps at Tri-State than anybody on track this night, there's nothing that can completely prepare an individual for the decisiveness it takes to maneuver through it without a hindrance. But that's just the type of challenge Cummins was ready to embrace.
"One time I thought (a car in front of me) had spun out," Cummins remembered. "I'm not sure who it was, but I was crossed up as much as I could be, and I thought they had spun out. I really had to backpedal, and when I came off the corner there, I thought, 'man, I'm really scrubbing off some speed.' I didn't know where they were running, so I decided to get away from the bottom and run a couple laps around the top. Then, we got to the next group and they were running the top. It seemed like if you pressured them a little bit, they would slide up. I didn't feel like (Courtney) was going to pass around the top if they were there too."
Courtney tried with all his might, riding high into turn one and diamonding off two to get a run on Cummins. Yet, Cummins wasn't about to give Courtney an open door to the front as the defending USAC Sprint champ harassed Cummins, doing everything but passing the new all-time winningest MSCS driver with the laps dwindling.
With three laps to go, heartbreak befell fourth-running Jason McDougal who slowed to a stop in turn two after charging from his 21st starting position. For Cummins, though, it was a godsend to get to step out of the line of traffic for good for the final dash to the finish.
Cummins and the crew on his Rock Steady Racing/Debra Corn Foster Care - Lucas Oil Center Oil-Lube-Wash/Mach 1/Foxco Chevy went with a slightly different plan of attack. With track conditions changing, it threw the team for a bit of a loop.
"We kind of did a couple things differently from what we normally do," Cummins explained. "Once I moved up there (to the top), I didn't know I was as good as I was. Once I got up there on the restart again, it felt good. I couldn't pass the lapped cars for a while. They were running two-by-two and I was just trying to pick my way through and get in the right spot. Thankfully, we got that last caution to get them out of the way, and we were able to run my own line those last couple of laps."
For the sprint to the checkered, Cummins' plan was to throw it into the corners knowing his competition was going to have to pull off something special to get by.
"When I went through (turns) one and two, I couldn't believe how good it stuck," Cummins exclaimed. "I'm like, 'this is where I'm going to be,' and if they're going to pass me, they're going to have to slide me or something. I was a little nervous. I got a little loose coming out of turn two on the last lap, and it's happened multiple times where a guy throws a big haymaker slider. I got into three and actually got a little tight. I'm just glad they weren't right on me. It felt good to make some money tonight."
From there, Cummins buttoned up his sixth career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature victory, four of which have come at Tri-State Speedway, by a margin of 0.879 sec. over Tyler Courtney, C.J. Leary, Kendall Ruble and Chris Windom.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway were Justin Grant (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), C.J. Leary (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Dustin Christie (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Kyle Cummins (AutoMeter Third Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner), Brady Bacon (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Chris Windom (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier), Carson Short (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher) & Stephen Schnapf (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer).
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Kyle Cummins (3), 2. Tyler Courtney (4), 3. C.J. Leary (1), 4. Kendall Ruble (5), 5. Chris Windom (10), 6. Critter Malone (11), 7. Chase Stockon (9), 8. Brady Bacon (19), 9. Brady Short (18), 10. Josh Hodges (6), 11. Stephen Schnapf (23), 12. Max Adams (14), 13. Carson Short (22), 14. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (17), 15. Donny Brackett (16), 16. Kent Schmidt (15), 17. Dustin Christie (2), 18. Jason McDougal (21), 19. Brian Karraker (8), 20. Chayse Hayhurst (12), 21. Dakota Jackson (20), 22. Justin Grant (13), 23. Isaac Chapple (24), 24. Collin Ambrose (25), 25. Shane Cottle (7). NT
**Justin Grant flipped on lap 16 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Lap 1 Dustin Christie, Lap 2 Kyle Cummins, Laps 3-11 C.J. Leary, Laps 12-40 Kyle Cummins.
-USAC Racing Press Release
-Photo credit: David Nearpass