Rossburg, OH — For Chris Windom, this is supposed to be his big May. The reigning USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ has a jam-packed schedule of short track races across the Midwest to compete in and is on the verge of his first start at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
If Saturday night’s #LetsRaceTwo at Eldora Speedway was any indication of how this May will play out for the Canton, Ill. native, this month will truly be one to remember.
Windom took the lead from Kevin Thomas, Jr. on the fourth lap of the 30-lap feature at the western Ohio half-mile dirt oval and went on to hammer home USAC victory number one for 2018 and his first Sprint Car win at the track since 2013.
Rain was on the forecast and urgency was at the forefront as the show was pushed along to defeat Mother Nature. Yet it was Thomas who initially looked like the one to take the bull by the horns at the start, splitting between Chase Stockon and Windom just past the flag stand, then sliding up in front of pole sitter Joe Stornetta to grab the lead by turn one.
Windom immediately charged forth and tried to redeem a two-for-one discount coupon, sliding by Stornetta and Thomas in quick succession entering turn three to briefly snare the top spot before Thomas ducked back underneath to regain control exiting the fourth turn.
The first big incident of the night occurred in turn two on the third lap when 11th-running Justin Grant and another car made contact, sending the Ione, Calif. native on a wild ride that he would walk away from unscathed.
On the ensuing restart, more trouble ensued when third-running Stornetta climbed the outside wall between turns three and four and cartwheeled several times before coming to rest near the bottom of turn four. The series Rookie making just his second start at Eldora escaped injury.
“We’ve had a lot of good runs. I think we’ve had four or five podium finishes so far, but you get sick of those after a while and you just want to win a race. It’s awesome to start it here!” – Chris Windom
On the restart, Windom got up on the wheel once again and went on the attack, running down Thomas with a successful turn one slider. Thomas fought back on both ends of the racetrack with a two-pack of sliders, to no avail.
“I don’t know if there was urgency, but clean air here, even in a non-wing car, is crucial,” Windom pointed out. “With the dust, and watching guys mess up on the cushion, it’s just a lot easier being in the lead. I knew that the slider line (Thomas) was running would work on restarts, but I thought if I could get up and start getting my momentum going up top, it’d be better, and it was. When I saw the opportunity, I just took it. I wanted to get out to the lead and get away from everybody as quick as possible. Obviously, it helps with the great racecar (crew chief) Derek Claxton gave me.”
Though it appeared Windom and the Baldwin Brothers Racing team had the “it” factor going on from the get-go, it wasn’t initially clear to Windom how well his car was going to react as the race wore on at a feisty joint like “The Big E.”
“The first couple of laps, I didn’t know how great my car was with the way we were sliding ourselves,” Windom admitted. “Once we started rolling the top, I knew the car was really good. As long as I didn’t mess up on my end, it was going to be tough for anyone to get to us. This place is just so mentally and physically demanding. Running the cushion like that is tough to do for 30 laps.”
By halfway, Windom’s lead was a full-straightaway – a country mile, if you will – as a pack that included Stockon, Tyler Courtney, Robert Ballou and Friday night winner Brady Bacon sorted out the runner-up spot lap-after-lap with Courtney finally able to emerge with the second position on the 19th lap. But, by then, Windom’s lead was a nearly insurmountable 4.843 seconds. It was a lead so large that Windom was unaware of how large it actually was.
“I didn’t know I had that big of a lead,” Windom exclaimed. “I knew we were pretty good, but when you start getting into lapped traffic, every little lapped car can slow you down just enough. It’s such a momentum racetrack for a guy to catch you. You have to be slow and methodical through lapped traffic, but you can’t let up too much. I tried to pick them off as quickly as I could and tried to get some guys between me and second.”
By race’s end, Windom had lapped up to eighth place. Courtney was able to make up some ground as Windom got hung up while threading the needle through traffic. But the hang-up was a brief one and not nearly enough to stall Windom as he finished hammering the proverbial nail, winning by a margin of 2.3 seconds over Courtney, Stockon, Bacon and Ballou.
“We’ve had a lot of good runs,” Windom recalled. “I think we’ve had four or five podium finishes so far, but you get sick of those after a while and you just want to win a race. It’s awesome to start it here!”
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Eldora Speedway included Chase Stockon (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Chris Windom (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Chalk Stix/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner), Paul Dues (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Chad Boespflug (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher) and Isaac Chapple (Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier).
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: Ryan Sellers
USAC Feature Results
FEATURE: (30 laps – starting position in parentheses) 1. Chris Windom (2), 2. Tyler Courtney (5), 3. Chase Stockon (3), 4. Brady Bacon (10), 5. Robert Ballou (8), 6. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (4), 7. C.J. Leary (6), 8. Matt Westfall (12), 9. Kyle Cummins (15), 10. Dallas Hewitt (14), 11. Dave Darland (11), 12. Paul Dues (20), 13. Chad Boespflug (9), 14. Carmen Perigo (18), 15. Chad Wilson (17), 16. Isaac Chapple (13), 17. Riley VanHise (21), 18. Bill Rose (16), 19. Matt Goodnight (19), 20. Joe Stornetta (1), 21. Justin Grant (7). NT