By: USAC Racing
QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. – The unstoppable force that has been Chris Windom over the past three and a half months was unleashed in the southwest Friday night as the Canton, Ill., driver swept both the USAC AMSOIL National/CRA and Southwest Sprint Car features on night number one of the 49th annual “Western World Championships” at Arizona Speedway.
After taking the checkered flag in the USAC Southwest feature earlier in the night, Windom lined up fourth in the 30-lap USAC National/CRA Sprint Car feature. Quickly, though, Windom worked his way to the front past early race leader and three-time USAC Western States Midget champ Ronnie Gardner on lap five after outpacing him with a run off turn two to grab the top spot as the pair hit turn three.
One lap later, Thomas Meseraull followed suit as he slipped by Ronnie Gardner for second with a similar move off turn four.
Torrential rains that washed out Thursday night’s practice provided a heavy and lightning-fast racetrack for competitors Friday night, but nobody was as fast as Windom as he extended his lead just before halfway.
Windom had his advantage wiped away due to separate yellows for the turned-around car of Jeremy Ellertson and the slowing car of Dave Darland, who was running fifth. Yet, the slowdown for Windom was only temporary as, on each restart, Windom got the jump and immediately distanced himself from second-running Meseraull.
With five to go, Damion Gardner began to make a charge at Meseraull for the second position. Damion was close enough to poke his nose under Meseraull on multiple occasions getting into turns one and three, but to no avail.
By that point, though, the race for the win slowly dissipated into the desert horizon as Windom now held a three-quarter straightaway lead that he wouldn’t relinquish, as he drove to a three-second victory.
On the final corner of the last lap, Gardner blasted around the outside of Meseraull to grab the runner-up spot. Meseraull took third ahead of Brady Bacon and Jerry Coons, Jr.
Windom extended his streak of top-six finishes in USAC National “points-paying” events that began on July 17 while also becoming the first driver since Bud Kaeding (Terre Haute, Ind., in 2001) to win multiple USAC-sanctioned Sprint Car features in a single night in his Baldwin Brothers Racing/Fox Paving – AMSOIL/Maxim/Claxton Mopar.
“That was in true Bryan Clauson fashion right there,” Windom exclaimed. “This is pretty cool to come out here and win both of these races. I can’t say enough about (Crew Chief) Derek Claxton, with all the work he and Billy put into these cars that allow us to come out here and do this. Both of our cars were bad-fast all night. The track was heavy and hammered down tonight with all the rain they had yesterday. I’m sure we’ll have different track conditions tomorrow. Hopefully we can come out here and sweep the whole weekend.”
While Windom has been the hottest National Sprint Car driver of late, the hottest driver in USAC/CRA over the past couple months has been Concord, California’s Damion Gardner, who lengthened his series point lead by taking second in his Mark Alexander/Scott Sales Company – Weld Racing/Spike/J & D.
“The car was really good,” Gardner said. “I got to thank Steve and Mark (Alexander) and all the guys on the crew who work really hard. We put some good pieces together for these end-of-the-year races. I’m not going to say we couldn’t pass because we were passing cars all night. We had the right amount of power; we just ran out of laps. We were coming through the field and just had a really, really good car. I couldn’t be more proud of these guys on the crew.”
San Jose, California’s Thomas Meseraull is one five drivers this season to win features in both the USAC National Sprint Car division as well as the CRA. On Friday night, he rounded out the podium with a third-place finish in his SC Racing/Flag City Machine – C.A. Kustoms/Hawk/Fisher.
“I got lucky,” Meseraull admitted. “I started up front. Usually, you don’t start that close to the front after qualifying 11th quickest. It was one groove early on, but the track was super-fast for the feature. I was running second the whole feature and if Damion was going to squeeze around me on the outside, so be it. Sure enough, he did. I had fans that handed me $100 bills tonight. I towed this car out here myself. Stan Courtad owns the car and Don Whitney loaned me a truck and bought me some shocks. It was just kind of a collaboration of all my friends, so I’m really pumped to be up here.”
Contingency award winners Friday night at Arizona Speedway included Chad Boespflug (ProSource/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifier and Brown & Miler Racing Solutions Semi Winner), Carson Macedo (Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers First Heat Winner), Ryan Bernal [Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI)/DJ Safety Second Heat Winner and KSE Racing Products/BR Motorsports/King Racing Products Hard Charger], Jon Stanbrough (Benic Enterprises/Circle Track Performance/Keizer Aluminum Wheels Third Heat Winner and Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher) and Stevie Sussex (Indy Race Parts/Stand 21 Racer Goes Safer Foundation Fourth Heat Winner).