For the second year in a row, Tyler Courtney did something that is not normally not seen at the highest levels of motorsports: win two races in one night.
“Sunshine” picked up wins in the USAC Midget and Sprint Car features at Eldora Speedway during the annual 4-Crown Nationals on Saturday night, repeating his results from the 2018 version of the event. He left Ohio with seven career wins at “The Big E,” including a record fourth-straight win in USAC National Sprint Car competition.
It was a tale of two races for the Indianapolis native. While he was nearly untouchable throughout the night in the Sprint Car, the Midget feature was an all-out war throughout the 25-lap main event between himself and Keith Kunz Motorsports teammates Tanner Karrick and Logan Seavey. The three drivers traded the lead multiple times, with Courtney making the race-winning move on Karrick with two to go. As the laps winded down, he only had one thing on his mind.
“Just don’t mess up,” Courtney told Speed51.com’s The Morning Bullring. “Tanner (Karrick) had been really good that whole race and I was finally able to get clear of him and use a lapped car as a pick to pin Tanner behind him so he couldn’t slide me back into the corner. I just wanted to get out of two nice and good there and if could make it to three and four I was going to be the first one to the checkered flag. Your goal going into that weekend is to win all three races you’re in and you got to start off by winning the first one, it’s cool to start off the night like that.”
The defending USAC National Sprint Car champion now has 14 wins between the three USAC National Series’ in 2019, including a win in the final Hoosier Hundred held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Saturday night’s wins have brought his 4-Crown win total to five, also having won the Silver Crown race in 2017 in what would be his first-career win in that series. With just about every kind of open-wheel dirt car in action during the weekend, 4-Crown is a favorite for both fans and drivers alike.
“There’s an incredible amount of talent and competitiveness we have across the board in USAC, so when you combine all three series in one night and you throw in the All-Stars in there too you get four of the best open-wheel divisions in all of the country, you’re watching some of the best guys across the board do what they do best at one of the biggest and baddest racetracks in the country,” he said. “As a fan, you’re going to get the most bang for your buck at the place. As a driver, you’re getting to race three of the coolest race cars at one of the coolest race tracks all in one night, and there’s only one time a year you get to do that. I think 2019 4-Crown is one of the coolest events we do all year.”
There have been two drivers who have swept 4-Crown features on the same night. Jack Hewitt did it in 1998, winning all four races in one night, while Kyle Larson won all three USAC features in 2011. Courtney talked about the unique challenge of the event and why he considers it one of his favorite events, as well as another race held at Eldora he would like to try his hand at.
“We take the Midget in the beginning of the night where you’re running almost as hard as you can the whole race, to the Sprint Car where you slow down just a little bit, then you get to the Silver Crown car which is much slower. That’s another cool part of 4-Crown, you got to adapt each time you get out of a race car and into the next one. I keep waiting for one of those Truck teams to give me a call so I can try to do that deal too.”
Courtney is one of a handful of drivers who have attempted all four races in one night, having done so in 2016. He says luck plays a huge part in how a driver’s night goes when chasing after multiple checkered flags, a thing he has not had in the Silver Crown portion of 4-Crown in the last two years with crashes taking him out early in both races.
“I’ve gone for four once during my second or third year of racing full-time, you always think you’re ready for it but I don’t think it’s something you’re truly prepared for it unless you are a guy like Jack Hewitt that knows Eldora like the back of his hand and hope everything works out in one night,” he said. “It’s hard to get everything to work in one night, the last two years I’ve won two out of the three classes I’ve been in and in that third one something just happens. Last year I turned over myself and this year I got caught up in somebody else spinning out in front of me. You’ve got to be good around that place and you’ve got to bring good race cars, but then you need to have some luck on your side too.”
“The year (Kyle) Larson won, he won the Midget, had a couple things go his way in the Sprint Car race, then he started on the pole in the Silver Crown race in a really good car and led all fifty laps,” he continued. “You’ve got to have everything go your way too, but at the same time being good in your race cars. I would love to do all four, it’s just a matter of finding the car owners to let me do it.”
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN/MI) – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Dallas Breeze