Swedesboro, New Jersey — Hemmings, Cannon, Vogler, Butler, Stanley, Faas, Irwin, Michner, Darland, Tyler, Hines, Stanbrough, Coons, Clayton, Larson, Hagen, Bacon, Boespflug.
There’s a whole host of names who’ve been a part of the ride that’s taken the Hoffman Auto Racing/Dynamics, Inc. team to the brink of 100 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car points-paying victories.
Only one driver can say he was in the driver’s seat of the ride that pushed the venerable team over the century mark: Kevin Thomas, Jr., who drove to victory for the fourth time in USAC Sprint Car competition this season in round 5 of “Eastern Storm” on Monday night in the series’ debut at Bridgeport Speedway.
“It’s an honor to be the driver to get them that milestone,” Thomas exclaimed. “It’s something special and something you’ll remember until the day you die or tell your grandkids. I’m glad they’ve given me this opportunity to run for them this year. It’s very special to me and this team. There’s a lot of people who’d like to be on a team like this. I’m just glad the guys behind me are with me.”
The Cullman, Alabama native set the tone early, as he has done time and time again this season, by setting quick time in qualifying for the fourth-straight night and for a remarkable tenth time overall through the first 16 events of the 2018 season.
“It’s nice to start off the day with a smile on your face,” Thomas said with a grin. “There are times when you hot lap and qualify 10, 12th quick and you’re a miserable bastard at the end of the day and it screws your whole night. I’m very temperamental and I wear my feelings on my shoulder. Setting quick time helps me a lot mentally. It gives me a little bit of extra confidence that I can conquer whatever racetrack we’re at. Whether I do or don’t, it gives me the feeling that helps with momentum and even communicating with the crew and things like that. You just feel focused. We’ve been rolling off fast times and it’s actually been making my crew mad since we have to start sixth every night. It’s hard to pass these guys who are that fast unless they make a mistake.”
Those individuals he eluded to were, yet again, the ones he’d have to contend with on this night, namely Chris Windom and Tyler Courtney. Chad Boespflug led the opening lap before giving way to third-starting Windom who raced to the lead underneath Boespflug entering turn three on the second go-around.
Meanwhile, Courtney, who had been shuffled back to third on the opening lap after starting from the outside of the front row, had worked his way back into contention and was draped all over the orange No. 5 of Windom. Courtney initially ducked low off turn four on lap eight to challenge the reigning Eastern Storm champ, then a lap later, changed course by riding the lip around the outside of Windom exiting turn four to take the point.
The lead was short-lived as Windom slid Courtney back on the very next lap between turns three and four to reclaim the prime real estate out front.
With those two engaged in their own tug-of-war, Thomas was chiseling ever closer to the front, lying just a car length behind Courtney for second when the yellow flag fell for a spin by both Jarett Andretti and Robert Bell between turns three and four.
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: Rich Forman