Lawrenceburg, Indiana -- All throughout "Indiana Midget Week," Chris Windom was confident that he had a car to win. Yet, when it came time to start the first four feature events this week, the Canton, Ill. driver found himself seemingly light years away from his destination.
Through the first four nights, no driver had passed more cars than Windom (42), an astonishing 24 more than his nearest competition. But that's what happens when you start 11th, 23rd, 14th and 22nd. He got up on the wheel on each of those nights and drove to finishes of 10th, 9th, 5th and 4th.
Just imagine the shot in the arm he felt in Saturday's penultimate round of IMW at Lawrenceburg Speedway when he qualified 2nd and secured the 5th starting spot for the 30-lap feature. The same refrain lingered in his mind all week. "If only..."
"I knew we've had fast cars all week," Windom said. "We've just been behind the eight ball early in the night all week and have had to come from 20th, 21st and 16th. Like I've been saying all week, if we start up front, I think we can pull one off."
Few drivers had ever had to wait as long as Windom to reach victory lane in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition, 102 starts to be exact. Finally, that night arrived for the 2016 USAC Silver Crown and 2017 AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion on Saturday.
Even before the green flag dropped, track position was key. Scheduled outside front row starter Jerry Coons, Jr. had a left rear tire go flat, sending him to the work area for new rubber and a new starting spot from the tail. That moved previous night's Bloomington winner and National point leader Tyler Courtney up to the outside of the front row, where he took full advantage.
Initially, Shane Golobic took his brief turn at the point, sliding past Courtney on the start in between turns one and two. Courtney, using the "mo" from the topside, drove downhill off turn two to zip past the 2017 IMW champ. Golobic took another shot in turn three, but Courtney was ready, countered off turn four and shot away to a 2.5 second lead.
Sixth-running Andrew Layser clipped the infield berm in turn three on the sixth lap, spinning sideways up to the middle of the racetrack where all incomers were able to scatter and dodge contact with the car of the series Rookie of the Year contender.
On the restart, Windom made quick work to get by Golobic and set forth toward CMR teammate Courtney and the race lead. Entering turn one on lap seven, Windom dove to the bottom, sliding up the hill past Courtney who turned down and drove back past Windom midway down the back straight. Windom shot to the bottom of turn three and stuck it, riding the low line by Courtney to secure the top spot at the stripe.
The following lap, Courtney arched turns one and two like a three-point line around the top to get a massive run that took him underneath Windom as the two hit turn three. Windom, though, slammed the lid on Courtney's fingers, keeping him in check behind him.
"When I got to Courtney, it was about being in the right place at the right time," Windom explained. "He messed up on the cushion and I hit the bottom just right that lap and got a big run to throw a slider on him into one. That worked out just out of luck, but I knew we had a car that could win."
At the halfway mark, similarly to how he executed the night prior at Bloomington, Seavey began to surge, sliding by Courtney for second in turn one on lap 16 before turning up the pressure on Windom. Seavey put his right rear up on the cushion all the way around the 3/8-mile dirt oval, while Windom switched it up with a rim-riding line in one and two and the catfish line in three and four.
On the 22nd lap, heartbreak befell Courtney who ran third as he slowed with a flat right rear tire, sending him to the tail where he eventually finished 15th, putting a damper on his hopes for a first "Indiana Midget Week" title following runner-up finishes in each of the last two years.
For the first two laps following the ensuing restart, March "Shamrock Classic" winner Cannon McIntosh poked his nose under Seavey for second. The two ran side-by-side for a back-to-back laps before Seavey cleared him around the outside of four for second and aimed to make a run at Windom.
With three laps remaining, Seavey had not only caught Windom, but slid by him into one to take the lead. Windom countered and matched him wheel-to-wheel to the bottom of three. Windom stuck the bottom again and throttled off the corner to edge Seavey by the width of dzus button. As the pair headed into turn one with two laps remaining, the caution fell for fifth-running Michael Pickens of New Zealand, whose hard luck week continued as he slowed off turn four. That set up one final restart, and one final opportunity to receive last-minute final instruction as it turned out.
"On the last restart, Rizzy (Crew Chief Tyler Ransbottom) told me to get up on the wheel," Windom recalled. "So, I knew that Seavey was probably ripping the top. I had to slide myself to kill his momentum because you could throw big sliders into one. I hadn't been to the top in three and four the whole race and went up there with a prayer, and it worked."
Sliding himself into turn one prevented a patented Burg slide-job from Seavey and, getting into turn three a half-lap later, Windom threw a proverbial Tom Candiotti knuckleball by going topside. Seavey jumped the cushion between three and four, allowing Windom to break away while Chad Boat and Tanner Thorson went into Blue Angels formation, surrounding Seavey.
Boat streamed through the middle between one and two on the final lap as Seavey got above the cushion again, this time at the exit of two, allowing Boat to slip away into the night with second.
At last, Windom's pressure was normalized as he arrived off turn four with the checkered flag in clear view without too much of a challenge to capture his long-awaited first series win by 0.607 sec. over Boat, Seavey, Thorson and McIntosh.
With 23 career USAC Sprint and 8 Silver Crown triumphs, it's almost hard to believe it took Windom this long to enter his name onto the list of USAC National Midget winners. He's won twice in USAC Regional Midget action, in 2008 at Anderson (Ind.) Speedway and in 2016 at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway, but it was Saturday's win at Lawrenceburg that stands above the rest.
"I was at a loss for words in victory lane," Windom said. "I haven't run a lot of midgets in the past few years, but I've been trying for a long time. We've been working our butts off over here trying to get me in victory lane. I know this is just as sweet for everybody on this team as it is for me."
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Lawrenceburg Speedway were Justin Grant (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier), Logan Seavey (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Chad Boat (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner & ProSource Passing Master/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Karsyn Elledge (AutoMeter Third Heat Winner), Tanner Thorson (Indy Race Parts Semi Winner), Zeb Wise (ProSource Hard Work Award), Jesse Colwell (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher) and Sterling Cling (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer).
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Chris Windom (5), 2. Chad Boat (15), 3. Logan Seavey (12), 4. Tanner Thorson (17), 5. Cannon McIntosh (8), 6. Zach Daum (13), 7. Shane Golobic (1), 8. Brady Bacon (9), 9. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 10. Jerry Coons, Jr. (2), 11. Zeb Wise (22), 12. Tucker Klaasmeyer (11), 13. Jesse Colwell (21), 14. Andrew Layser (7), 15. Tyler Courtney (4), 16. Tanner Carrick (19), 17. Holley Hollan (20), 18. Cole Bodine (24), 19. Karsyn Elledge (16), 20. Michael Pickens (10), 21. Thomas Meseraull (14), 22. Jason McDougal (23), 23. Justin Grant (6), 24. Dave Darland (18). NT
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: Dallas Breeze