By: USAC Racing
GAS CITY, (Ind.) – In an epic side-by-side duel for the ages that lasted the entire second half of the feature, Scotty Weir was the ultimate gunslinger, outgunning Brady Bacon in the final pair of laps to claim his long-awaited first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory Friday night at Gas City I-69 Speedway’s “May Meltdown.”
Weir started the 30-lap feature from the pole position, but it was outside front row starter Bacon who jumped out to the lead on the top side at the drop of the green flag.
As Bacon distanced himself from Weir, Chase Stockon began to make a charge toward the front, getting by Weir for the second spot with a first turn pass on lap 10.
At the midway point, Stockon was able to close within striking distance of leader Bacon as the two approached the tail end of the field. Yet, Stockon was unable to take advantage after making an uncharacteristic, unforced error, doing a half-spin exiting turn one and stalling his ride to bring out the night’s first yellow.
As the sprinkles continued to fall from the sky, the ensuing restart was short-lived with Jon Stanbrough, Gas City’s winningest USAC Sprint Car driver with six wins, bouncing between turns three and four before getting upside-down to bring out the red flag on lap 16.
On the restart, it was nearly an exact replica of last year’s “May Meltdown” clash between the Hoffman Racing no. 69 running first and the Todd Keen-owned no. 18x in second. One year ago, the same two cars battled it out in the final laps with Brady Bacon in the Hoffman car denying Thomas Meseraull in the Keen machine in what would’ve been his first career series win at the time. This time, it was down to Bacon and Weir, who has long come close to scoring his initial victory.
Weir went to the bottom of the racetrack while Bacon remained at the top. Bacon led lap 16, but the hard-charging Weir used the slow and steady line around the infield tires to pull even with Bacon one lap later, eventually able to nip Bacon at the line to take the lead on the 17th lap.
The side-by-side battle between the two continued lap-after-lap without either able to make any headway. Tyler Courtney followed Weir on the bottom to briefly make it a three-way battle with just 10 laps to go as Bacon retook the lead, edging Weir at the stripe on lap 21.
Bacon used every single inch of the high line on the quarter-mile surface he possibly could to stave off Weir, teetering off the edge of the backstretch on multiple occasions while maintaining and extending his lead as he encountered lapped traffic with three laps remaining.
Brady Bacon came upon the car of Dallas Hewitt, who was also running the high line just in front of Bacon. Bacon quickly moved to the middle, attempting to overtake Hewitt, which slowed him down just enough to allow Weir to rapidly close while utilizing the inside line he never wavered from, making the winning pass on Bacon with two laps to go and pulling away to gain his first career series victory over Bacon, Kevin Thomas, Jr., Max McGhee, Courtney, Colten Cottle, Kyle Cummins, C.J. Leary, Chris Windom and Dave Darland.
Until tonight, Weir had been unable to crack the top-two in each of his 115 USAC National Sprint Car feature starts dating back to his first series appearance in 2003. In fact, three of his now six podium finishes have come on the Gas City dirt. It was a long time coming, but the Marion, Ind., driver was finally able to break through to become the AMSOIL National Sprint Car division’s initial first-time winner of the 2016 season after taking the win in his Todd Keen/AAA – Carts & Parts/DRC/Claxton.
“I think I might cry,” Weir admitted. “I’ve been trying to do this for forever, it seems like. I wasn’t going to catch Brady (Bacon). We were about equal it seemed like, but we started catching him and I just told myself, ‘Okay, just slow down.’ I figured as long as I didn’t hit the last infield tire, we’d be okay. I told (car owner) Todd (Keen) before the race that the top was going to slow down eventually and the bottom would be where we wanted to be and, thankfully, it worked out in our favor.”
Brady Bacon, of Broken Arrow, Okla., was attempting to repeat as the winner of the “May Meltdown,” but came up just a bit short at the checkered after leading 24 of the 30 laps in his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Lykins Oil/Triple X/Williams Mopar. He did, however, surpass Thomas Meseraull in the series point standings and will carry a 14-point lead into Saturday night’s race at Brownstown (Ind.) Speedway.
“We got to that lapped car that was running the cushion and that just killed me.” Bacon said. “I think I moved up to the top right about the time I needed to because we were fading pretty fast on the bottom and got the top cleaned off just enough to really get going. But, the lapped car just really hurt us. Scotty was there to capitalize, though, so congrats to those guys to get a big win like this. On our end, the last four or five nights, we’ve been really, really good and that’s all you can ask for. Sometimes you sneak one in and sometimes one sneaks past you, so we’ll just regroup and try to get one tomorrow.”
Cullman, Alabama’s Kevin Thomas, Jr. certainly was one who snuck through the field during the feature, emerging with a third-place finish after starting 14th, earning himself and his team the KSE Racing Products “Hard Charger” Award in his 4J Motorsports/Franklin Equipment – CEP Concrete/DRC/Chevy.
“The cautions and reds really helped us,” Thomas agreed. “I got to tune on the shocks a little bit and the top just got to be too far around. I’m not really known for just creeping around the tires, but these guys gave me a great car that allowed me to be patient and just click laps off at the end. It wasn’t spectacular by any means, but we got a podium finish from 14th, so it was a good run for all of us. We’ve kind of gotten on a roll here, so hopefully, we can keep it going.”
Contingency award winners for the night included Thomas Meseraull (ProSource Fast Qualifier), C.J. Leary (Simpson Race Products First Heat winner), Jon Stanbrough (Competition Suspension Second Heat winner), Justin Grant (Benic Enterprises Third Heat winner), Shane Cottle (Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat winner), Kevin Thomas, Jr. (KSE Hard Charger) and Chad Boespflug (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).