By: USAC Racing
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Over the last three-months, Chris Windom has been on a tear.
However, the Canton, Ill., veteran driver may have saved his best performance of the year for Saturday night’s “Jim Hurtubise Classic” USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature at the famed Terre Haute Action Track.
Windom battled back and forth, lap after lap, in a “hold-your-breath” 30-lap boxing match with Chad Boespflug that saw an astonishing 26 unofficial lead changes – four officially at the start/finish line.
The last lead change occurred with just three laps remaining when Windom made a turn-three slider stick, then held Boespflug at bay off the fourth corner to claim the spot for good before going on to victory lane after one of the most memorable races witnessed in the long, storied history of the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds’ half-mile.
Since mid-July, Windom has been victorious in the “Ted Horn 100” at Du Quoin and the “4-Crown Nationals” at Eldora on his way to the USAC Silver Crown title and, one night after his midget victory in the “Kokomo Klash,” Windom picked up his second career “Jim Hurtubise Classic” trophy, joining Jack Hewitt as the only multiple-time winner of the race that debuted in 1990.
Plus, Windom’s impressive streak of top-six finishes in USAC National races continues, a stretch that dates back to the July 17 “Indiana Sprint Week” feature at Terre Haute.
It was the second USAC National Sprint Car victory of the year for the team after the return of Windom to the Baldwin Brothers Racing/Fox Paving – AMSOIL/Maxim/Claxton Mopar, the same core group that captured the “Hurtubise Classic” back in 2011.
“You can race Chad (Boespflug) clean like that and you don’t have to worry about anything,” Windom said. “We had a hell of a race going on there. He found the top and got around me in the middle part of the race. Once I moved up and got in his line, we were a little better than him. We just kept slicing and dicing in (turns) three and four and, finally, I got a slide job to stick and got back in front of him. I thought once we got there, we’d be good.”
“I knew at the start it was really good on the bottom and, as we were going, it felt a little slower and slower,” Windom added. “You’re kind of a sitting duck when you’re leading the race and you just don’t know. I kept watching and watching and saw him rip by me. He ran a really good turn four, so we had to get in line behind him and chase him back down.”
Unseasonably comfortable weather brought a sizable crowd for the USAC National Sprint Car Midwest season finale and, right from the get-go, the drivers up front put on a show that none of the fans in attendance will forget over the long Indiana winter.
On the start, pole-sitter Justin Grant slid up in front of outside-front-row-starter Thomas Meseraull to take the lead into turn one.
Meanwhile, Boespflug ducked down to the low side, briefly sticking his nose in front of Grant in turn two. The two continued their side-by-side battle throughout the first lap, with Grant able to inch ahead at the stripe by two car lengths.
The two were stuck together as if they were racing side-by-side on a slot car track throughout the second circuit with Grant able to hold on to the top spot by the skin of his teeth at the line. Boespflug immediately pulled the bow and shot like an arrow down to the bottom of turn one, sliding up in front of Grant to grab the lead by the time the pair reached turn two.
One lap later, as Boespflug and Grant ran one-two, seventh-starting Windom seemingly came out of nowhere, rocketing from third to first in one fell swoop using a monster run off of turn two.
Windom’s initial bid for the lead was short-lived as Boespflug was able to recapture the point on lap three, but the signs were there that Windom would play a lead role on tonight’s stage.
On the ensuing lap, Windom once again used the bottom of turn two to power past Boespflug, instantaneously manufacturing a seven-car-length advantage as he appeared to be on the verge of a runaway.
Not so fast, my friend.
Little-by-little, lap-after-lap, Boespflug began to reel in Windom near the midway point as he altered his plan of attack by hitting the bottom of turns one and two and then forming his own groove up near the outside wall between turns three and four, running a line that would’ve made five-time Action Track winner Jim Hurtubise proud.
With 13 laps to go, the high line paid off as Boespflug raced out of turn four with a full head of steam to slip by Windom for the lead on the outside, then cut down to take away Windom’s line as the two entered turn one. Windom responded with an unsuccessful turn-three slider, falling in line behind Boespflug as he reloaded the chamber for his next shot at the lead.
Windom took his next run at Boespflug into turn three with 11 laps to go, blasting across the front of Boespflug’s nose as they both drifted up to the red, white and blue-striped concrete. Boespflug countered, turning underneath Windom and nearly making contact when sliding across Windom’s front bumper as the two raced mere inches apart off turn four.
The two drag raced side-by-side down the front stretch, never giving an inch to each other through the first and second turns. With Windom whispering into the inside guardrail with his left front wheel and Boespflug just to his outside, the pair aimed for the same spot on the bottom of turn two where something had to give. Windom ran out of room, cracking the throttle just enough to allow Boespflug to assume the point for the time being.
On laps 23 and 24, Windom went to the well once again, using a run off of turn two to pull even with Boespflug as they entered the third turn, but to no avail, as the two now encountered lapped traffic.
On laps 25 and 26, Windom fell into line behind Boespflug, shadowing his rear bumper off turn two each time as he contemplated his next move.
With three laps left, leader Boespflug and Windom had lapped cars high and low across the racetrack to contend with. Boespflug followed Corey Smith while Windom stalked Isaac Chapple, with the leaders separated by a half-car-length.
Boespflug moved up a couple lanes to split between Chapple and Smith, while Windom briefly got hung up behind Chapple.
But, as was the case all night, turn two was Windom’s personal ATM as he disposed of Chapple and once again rocketed off the second turn and down the back straightaway to beat Boespflug into turn three, sliding up to the outside wall as Boespflug crossed over, trying with all his might to fight his way back to Windom off of turn four. Windom had just enough bite to sprint off of turn four to beat Boespflug to the line by a single car length before he ripped Boespflug’s line away going into turn one.
That action proved to be the winning move for Windom as he finished off the final two laps in style to take his second USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature victory of the year, followed by Boespflug, Jerry Coons, Jr., Chase Stockon and Grant.
Hanford, California’s Boespflug officially led at the start/finish line on two different occasions, running at the front for a total of 13 laps before settling for second-place in his NineEight Motorsports-EZR/PAC Racing Springs – Schroeder Torsion Bars/Maxim/Claxton.
“That was fun,” Boespflug exclaimed. “That was a great battle between Chris and I. I was trying to think of how I was going to hold him off. He was so much better off of 2. I gained a lot of ground in 3 and 4. This car was awesome tonight. It was so stable. I had so much forward drive. Man, that was a lot of fun. It took the breath out of me!”
Third-place finisher Jerry Coons, Jr. of Tucson, Ariz., the 2013 “Jim Hurtubise Classic” winner, came home with his best USAC Sprint Car finish of the season in his Monte Edison/Crume-Evans Insurance – Lincoln Condos/Spike/Chevy in what may have been longtime team owner Edison’s farewell race.
“I just want to thank Monte and all these guys,” Coons praised. “It’s been a lot of fun driving for these guys. They work very hard and they put a nice race car together week in week out. It’s been a blast. I’m looking forward to seeing what next year brings.”
“You see them up there dicing it up and think, ‘Hey, maybe we will win this thing,” Coons said regarding Windom and Boespflug’s battle for the lead. “These guys are great racers and, obviously, they respect each other. It looks like it was pretty exciting up there. We had a good race car. I wish I could’ve been up there to spice it up a little bit.”
Contingency award winners Saturday night at the Terre Haute Action Track included Chase Stockon (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Chris Windom (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney [Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI) Second Heat Winner], Jon Stanbrough (Benic Enterprises/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner), Brady Bacon (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Dave Darland (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher).