It was one year ago during Lincoln Park Speedway’s round of “Indiana Midget Week” that Tanner Thorson found himself leaving the racetrack in the back of an ambulance after a nasty crash during the feature event. One year later, at the same track and event, Thorson found redemption, holding off a hard-charging Bryan Clauson in the final laps and driving his Keith Kunz – Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – JBL Audio/Bullet/Speedway Toyota into victory lane at the Putnamville, Indiana 5/16-mile dirt oval.
Young Ryan Robinson started on the pole at the beginning of the 30-lap feature with seven-time USAC National champion Clauson outside. Robinson, making only his fifth career series start, exhibited no ounce of intimidation as he quickly shot out to the lead with a half-straightaway advantage in the opening laps.
On the sixth lap, season-opener winner Shane Golobic rotated and pole-vaulted through the air between turns three and four before landing hard on the track’s surface, bringing out the red flag. Golobic would walk away without injury.
On the ensuing restart, Thorson shot out of a cannon down the back straightaway into turns three and four, blasting off the cushion around Clauson to grab second on lap six. With his sight now set on leader Robinson, Thorson rapidly erased the gap, hounding Robinson as the race neared the halfway point.
On lap 13, Thorson made his first bid for the top spot, sliding in front of Robinson as the two hit turn four, but Robinson hit the brakes, and turned down inside of Thorson as they exited four to maintain the lead.
With the pressure now squarely on the 15-year-old shoulders of Robinson on lap 14 and Thorson ready to strike, Robinson bobbled at the top of turn two, handing off the lead to Thorson.
Meanwhile, Robinson and Thorson’s Kunz/Curb-Agajanian teammate Rico Abreu, the 2014 USAC National Midget champion, sliced and diced his way to third by the 18th lap. After a Jimi Quin spin that briefly disrupted the action, Rico spurted to second with a slide-job on Robinson entering turn one on the restart.
ProSource Fast Qualifier Brady Bacon dove underneath Robinson for the third spot in turn two with 11 laps to go as he hunted down his prey while the laps ticked away. After a brief yellow, the restart saw Abreu follow Thorson’s tracks, as they both ripped the high side of turns one and two. Now, the chase was on.
With just eight laps remaining, Thorson stumbled atop the second turn cushion, allowing Abreu to close. As the two ran nose-to-tail down the back straight, Abreu set up Thorson for the winning pass. However, just as Abreu was in the process of clearing Thorson in turn three, the yellow lights around the track flashed due to a tangle between turn four tangle between Darland and Shelton, thus making Abreu’s move all for naught and slotting him in the second position for the next restart.
Under caution, Brady Bacon’s car began to slow, relegating him to the infield for the rest of the feature after being one of the contenders for the victory as the laps wound down.
On the lap 23 restart, Abreu threw all he had at Thorson for the lead into turn one, but couldn’t make it stick. As Abreu lost momentum while drifting up the cushion, Clauson was able to get by to reclaim second.
Abreu’s determined drive to get back to the front knew no bounds, where he tested the outer limits by jumping the cushion between turns three and four multiple times and losing valuable ground in the closing laps, falling to as far back as fifth.
On the final lap, Clauson made one last ditch effort for the lead, attempting a slider on Thorson heading into one, but it was to no avail as Thorson withstood the challenge and was able to hang on for a 0.762 second victory over Clauson, with Tyler Thomas, Rico Abreu and Spencer Bayston rounding out the top-five.
It was quite a turn of events from one year to the next for Minden, Nevada’s Thorson, who captured his fifth career USAC National Midget feature victory after taking the lead on lap 14 and holding off all challenges throughout the remaining 17 laps to take the Kunz-Curb/Agajanian Motorsports team to victory lane for the third time in the first three nights of “Indiana Midget Week.”
“I left here last year in an ambulance, so to come back to this track and win is pretty awesome,” Thorson said. “These guys work their butts off starting at 2:30 in the morning when we get back to the shop and it feels great to reward them with another win. Rico had me nervous just because you know a big move is coming. I knew the laps were winding down, but I knew that I just needed to keep hitting my marks. The top was so treacherous that you had to nail it perfectly every lap. I kept getting tight on the cushion and just tried to keep my composure towards the end because the last ten laps were really tricky with the track the way it was and knowing I had fast guys behind me.”
Noblesville, Indiana’s Bryan Clauson had to settle for his third consecutive runner-up feature finish in “Indiana Midget Week,” behind the wheel of his RKR-Dooling Racing/Cancer Treatment Centers of America – B & H Contractors/Spike/Stanton SR-11. Though he remains winless in his three IMW starts this week, Clauson has taken over the USAC National Midget point lead and, with a 24-point lead, Clauson has placed himself in prime position to collect a third “Indiana Midget Week” title with three events to go.
“We just needed more time,” Clauson said. “I was a little snug early and each yellow just wasn’t what we needed. We got rolling towards the end and Tanner was getting tight on the curb, but we were good enough off of it to make some decent speed; we just ran out of laps. I saw the white and made my move in turns one and two because it seemed like it was easier to counter a slide job at the other end. I felt like if I slid him in (turns) three and four, it’d be too easy to cross me over, so I took a shot in (turns) one and two and just came up a little short.”
Tyler Thomas of Collinsville, Oklahoma made a spirited drive to finish third after dropping back from his 10th starting position in the opening laps in his Tyler Thomas Motorsports/BT Machine – AirGroup/Spike/Esslinger.
“I moved to the bottom in the early laps of the race and it stuck, so I knew I needed to be down there if I wanted to pick some off,” Thomas explained. “The top was so fast early on and the only way to pass was to slide somebody, but you had to have so much momentum to pull it off that it was just really difficult to make happen. Fortunately, our car was really working well on the bottom and I could slide myself in turns three and four and catch the cushion on exit. We qualified better tonight too, so if we can keep that up these next three nights, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Contingency award winners at Lincoln Park Speedway included Brady Bacon (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Rico Abreu (Simpson Race Products First Heat Race Winner), Tyler Thomas (Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Race Winner), Tanner Thorson (Benic Enterprises Third Heat Race Winner), Carson Macedo (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Race Winner), Jerry Coons, Jr. (KSE Racing Products/B & W Auto Mart Hard Charger) and Gage Walker (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tanner Thorson, 2. Bryan Clauson, 3. Tyler Thomas, 4. Rico Abreu, 5. Spencer Bayston, 6. Carson Macedo, 7. Steve Buckwalter, 8. Ryan Robinson, 9. Jerry Coons Jr., 10. Chad Boat, 11. Jake Neuman, 12. Ryan Greth, 13. Gage Walker, 14. Chase Johnson, 15. Holly Shelton, 16. Jimi Quin, 17. Zach Daum, 18. Tyler Nelson, 19. Brady Bacon, 20. Dave Darland, 21. Logan Jarrett, 22. David Budres, 23. Dayne Kingshott, 24. Shane Golobic. NT
-USAC Press Release. Photo credit: David Nearpass