The Junior Knepper 55 has become one of the bigger indoor Midget shows of the year. Seventy cars signed up to compete in the fourth annual event, which has seen stars like NASCAR drivers Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Christopher Bell and 2018 USAC National Sprint Car champion Tyler Courtney take wins in the first three editions of the race.
With it being a non-points paying event, USAC brought a unique format to the show. Drivers were able to not only pick what heat in which they would compete, but they also chose where they started in said heat.
Despite the new format being used, it looked like a familiar face was going to run away with the show. Christopher Bell had won his Heat and Qualifier and was on his way to the Junior Knepper 55 win before a mechanical failure ended his chances at the halfway point.
Bell’s misfortune came as a blessing to both Thomas Meseraull and the fans in attendance. ‘T-Mez’ and C.J. Leary put on a show over the next fifteen laps, trading slidejobs and the lead on numerous occasions.
Meseraull came out on top of the battle after Leary spun on a failed slidejob attempt. After Leary’s spin, Meseraull cruised to victory in the Fourth Annual Junior Knepper 55.
“I thought I was as good as Bell but just a couple lappers, I just couldn’t get to them,” Meseraull told Speed51.com. “I couldn’t pace them; I couldn’t get to them. And then his deal broke and whatever. That’s just kind of Midgets. Midgets are ticking time bombs.
“Then Leary comes into play and that stuff’s all the good stuff,” Meseraull said of his battle with Leary. “Just what a race. Me and him just going at it clean. I felt like it was really clean. I don’t know what happened when he got turned around, but that’s just part of racing.”
Lucas Oil POWRi Midget competitor Jake Neuman had the best seat in the house during the slidejob war between Meseraull and Leary. After Leary’s spin, Neuman would take over the second spot and come home with a runner-up finish.
“I think we started sixth and we dropped back to twelfth because we just couldn’t get to the bottom early enough,” Neuman said. “Then the track came on we eventually got to the bottom. Then it was just patience. Fifty-five laps is a long ways to go.”
The biggest story of the night was Christopher Bell’s dominance. After teaming up with Tucker-Boat Motorsports for this race, he continued the dominant ways that have led him to Chili Bowl and Turkey Night wins in the last two seasons. However, it was not meant to be as a mechanical failure ended a dominant run in the A-Main for the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver.
“I just had a mechanical failure,” Bell said. “It sucks because my heart breaks for Chad (Boat). He works hard on these things and mechanical failures aren’t his motto. I’m pretty sure he didn’t have a DNF once this year, so very unfortunate yet very thankful I got to drive for him.”
The first race of 2019 for the Midgets is the biggest race of them all. The 33rdAnnual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals will take place from January 14th-19 in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
-By Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (Michigan and Indiana) – Twitter: @KGeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com