Bakersfield, CA — For 29 and three-quarters of a lap, Logan Seavey was staring straight at the tail tank of his teammate Rico Abreu’s car as he followed him lap-after-lap around the Bakersfield Speedway 1/3-mile dirt oval.
But all it took was one quarter, and one big run off the high side of turn four, for Seavey to race around the 2014 series champ for the lead and score his third victory of the year by a .292-second margin.
Though the Sutter, Calif. driver was steadfast in his approach down the stretch, Seavey admitted he nearly gave up on the high line. But he stuck with it and stuck his Keith Kunz Motorsports-Curb-Agajanian/Mobil 1 – JBL Audio/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota in victory lane at Saturday’s “November Classic” USAC P1 Insurance National and Light Up The World Western States Midget event.
“I was just kind of riding behind him,” Seavey recalled. “On that last run, got away from me, so I kept working the top. I almost gave up on it, but on the last lap, I fully committed, and I got a bunch of drive off exit. I definitely wasn’t expecting that. It looked like he maybe bobbled a little bit, but sometimes, that’s what it takes.”
Seavey ran second for and played the role of the chaser, which afforded him the opportunity to dust off a few trails of his own as he sought a way around Abreu.
“Racing with Rico so long, you learn how his driving style works,” Seavey explained. “He was committed to the bottom and he’s really good on top. Obviously, Rico’s known for that. Luckily, I was the one running second and I was able to search. He had to commit to his line and do what was working for him. That’s the bad part about leading these races because we’ve all lost them that way. Tonight, we got one that way.”
With the victory and the subsequent addition of maximum feature points to his credit, Seavey has essentially clinched the USAC P1 Insurance National Midget championship, carrying a 137-point advantage into Thursday’s season finale, the 78th “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway.
It’s been an amazing journey for the quick study who started his first USAC Midget race just a calendar year ago. On this night, the series Rookie became the first driver to reach victory lane for the third time in 2018 in what has been an incredibly-balanced season. With a National title now in his back pocket, he has reached a stratosphere that few have ever achieved as a USAC National Midget champion in his Rookie season, following in the tracks of Danny Caruthers in 1971 and Christopher Bell in 2013.
“It’s pretty dang cool,” Seavey exclaimed. “Not too long ago, I didn’t even have a midget ride. I was just hoping one day to be able to race midgets. Now here we are with the best team in the world and we’re USAC national champions!”
Although Seavey began the feature event from the pole position, it was outside front row starter Abreu who looked every bit the dominator on this night as he locked in on winning his first series race in over 16 months. Abreu rocketed around the outside of Seavey on the first and second tries at the green, which were called back due to multiple stoppages, the first of which saw Western States Midget point leader Michael Faccinto get upside down. He finished 24th and now trails Alex Schutte by four points in the standings entering the finale.
The third time was a charm as Seavey slid up further to prevent Abreu’s charge off turn two, but Abreu quickly countered and dove back under Seavey off turn two to snag the lead once again, then immediately headed to the bottom entering turn three. Abreu would play the balancing act of entering high in turn one and rolling the bottom of turn three for the duration.
Through the mid-portion of the race, Seavey was engaged with Zeb Wise for the runner-up spot with fellow series Rookie Wise momentarily possessing the position on lap 13 with ta turn one slider, but Seavey was able to punch his way back by on the back straight with Wise, Chad Boat and Shane Golobic hanging in the not-so-distant rear.
With ten to go, Seavey ramped up the pressure as he shadowed Abreu on both ends of the racetrack, high in one and low in three. Following a Ryan Robinson spin in turn three with nine laps remaining, the top-three of Abreu, Seavey and Wise were in freight-train mode as they battled for the lead. Seavey broke from the tracks and went topside in turn three on lap 23, diamonding off midway between three and four which resulted in a him gaining a big run that allowed him to close right on the rear bumper of Abreu exiting off the bottom of four. Seavey kept the train a rolling all the way into turn one, sliding up in front of Abreu, but again, Abreu put on his bulletproof vest and put a stop to Seavey’s Bullet (By Spike), countering back by and driving past Seavey to retake the point.
After Wise slowed to a stop on lap 24 to bring out the final yellow, the score would be settled between Abreu and Seavey. Abreu utilized a quality start off the blocks at the drop of the green to gain a half-second advantage right off the bat, but that’s where Seavey went to work, searching high, low and everywhere in between.
On the last lap, Seavey stalked Abreu through turns one and two, but as Abreu headed for the bottom of three, Seavey had no doubts in his mind about heading to the top. He nailed it as perfect as perfection can be, ripping past Abreu off the final turn to score the victory by two car lengths over Abreu, with S. Golobic a close-by third, Spencer Bayston fourth and Chad Boat fifth.
For Rico, it was a tough one to take as he appeared to be in control as others made runs at him throughout the event. But, as you’ll hear drivers say, being in the lead can become a disadvantage at times on a dirt track, not knowing where your nearest competition is and not being able to see where the fastest line is at the moment.
“I just tried to be as patient as I could throughout the race,” Abreu remembers. “When you get all these cautions, it changes the momentum of everything. I felt like we were good enough for a l0ittle five-lap dash there at the end. I should’ve moved around a lot more, but we never caught lapped traffic, so I couldn’t judge my pace off anybody. I just set my own pace and waited for someone to drive around me, so I could race with them. Logan got by at the perfect time.”
“I just made the wrong mistakes at the wrong times,” Abreu continued. “If the roles were reversed, I would’ve been doing the same thing by moving around a lot more. You get trapped when you’re leading, though. My car felt really good on the bottom of three and four. I had that diamond line in one and two where I could get such a big run down the back stretch and then slam on the brakes and slow it down. Another Kunz car won and, if you’re going to run second, you might as well run second to one of your guys.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway were Michael Faccinto (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Alex Schutte (Chalk Stix Third Heat Winner), Cody Swanson (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner & Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher), Jason McDougal (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Holly Shelton (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer).
RESULTS: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Logan Seavey (1), 2. Rico Abreu (2), 3. Shane Golobic (6), 4. Spencer Bayston (11), 5. Chad Boat (7), 6. Tanner Carrick (13), 7. Brady Bacon (4), 8. Holly Shelton (25), 9. Jason McDougal (21), 10. Tucker Klaasmeyer (9), 11. Jerry Coons, Jr. (22), 12. Cole Bodine (23), 13. Cody Swanson (17), 14. Sam Johnson (8), 15. Dustin Golobic (3), 16. Robert Dalby (24), 17. Alex Schutte (16), 18. Holley Hollan (18), 19. C.J. Sarna (26), 20. Zeb Wise (5), 21. Ryan Robinson (10), 22. Tyler Courtney (15), 23. Sterling Cling (19), 24. Michael Faccinto (14), 25. Justin Grant (12), 26. Michael Pickens (20). NT
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: David Mayo