By: USAC Racing
QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. – After two straight nights of domination in the Valley of the Sun, Chris Windom may very well be hotter than the surface of the sun at this moment.
One night after claiming victories in both the 410 and 360 sprint car features in his Baldwin Brothers Racing/Fox Paving – AMSOIL/Maxim/Claxton Mopar, the Canton, Ill., native finished his incredible weekend by winning Saturday night’s USAC AMSOIL National/CRA Sprint Car “Western World Championships” finale for his third feature victory in the last two nights at Arizona Speedway.
With his October victory at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track, Windom became the first driver to win three USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car features in a row this season and the first to pull off the hat trick since Robert Ballou during Eastern Storm in June 2015.
“This has been an awesome weekend,” Windom exclaimed. “(Crew Chief) Derek (Claxton) and Billy (Grace) have been busting their butts to keep two cars going. To not finish outside the top-three all weekend is a pretty big feat. It would’ve been cool to win all four, but I’m not going to complain with three firsts and a third. We’re all gelling well together. My crew chiefs and I just work really well together. We just have a lot of confidence right now. When you come to the track knowing you have a really good shot at winning, it just seems to get easier every night.”
At the drop of the green flag for the 30-lap feature, outside front-row starter Damion Gardner swung wide to gain traction on the cushion, but pole-sitter Windom was still able to beat Gardner to turn one, sliding up in front of the four-time USAC/CRA champ to take the point.
Just after completion of lap one, the roles became reversed as Gardner dove to the bottom in turn one to successfully slide-job Windom to retake the top spot exiting turn two. However, Windom reset and came right back at Gardner entering turn three, briefly overtaking Gardner for the lead as he drifted up to the outside guardrail. Gardner countered, sprinting downhill off the banking to reclaim the number-one spot again at the stripe.
In contrast to the previous night’s heavy, hammer-down racing surface, the cushion on Saturday night’s racetrack was pushed a car width higher, thus presenting the opportunity for a slider-fest in the early going and, after settling in for the next couple of circuits, Windom threw his machinery sideways at the bottom of the first turn, beating Gardner to the cushion between turns one and two. As Gardner checked up, Windom bolted away out front. Gardner thought about making the same response one lap later, but wasn’t quite close enough to pull the trigger and, instead, fell into line behind Windom.
Windom instantly established a continuously increasing lead over Gardner and the rest of the 24-car field by the 13th lap as he found himself maneuvering around lapped traffic. Simultaneously, the car of Matt Rossi began to slow in turn two. Max Adams piled in, resulting in him flipping over on the topside of the racetrack. Adams was uninjured as was his race car, which allowed him to restart the race from the tail of the field with 17 laps remaining.
Continuing the trend from one night earlier, Windom flexed his muscles on the ensuing restart where he advanced his lead to nearly three-quarters of a second just one lap following the restart and, one lap later, stopped the watch at an interval of 1.15 seconds between himself and Gardner.
The battle for second suddenly became the race to witness as Brady Bacon hawked Gardner for the runner-up spot, but when Bacon stumbled atop the turn-two cushion on the 20th lap, Gardner made his getaway and began setting sail for Windom.
The closing gap between the two appeared to be a classic desert mirage as it looked as though each time Gardner got one step (and one car length) closer to the leader, Windom would respond by ripping past a lapped car of his own to maintain the buffer zone between himself and Gardner.
With just four laps remaining, Windom closed the door on any remote possibility that Gardner would be able to run him down. Windom got a two-for-one deal by simultaneously sliding past lappers C.J. Leary and R.J. Johnson entering turn one, which opened an insurmountable advantage that Gardner would not overcome.
In a repeat podium sight from one night earlier, Windom was followed to the line by Damion Gardner, who was the only driver to lead race laps (4) other than Windom. Bacon, Dave Darland and Chase Stockon filled out the remainder of the top five.
Concord, California’s Gardner earned a second-straight runner-up finish in his Mark Alexander/Scott Sales Company – Weld Racing/Spike/J & D that provided him with a seemingly untouchable 158-point lead in the USAC/CRA standings entering the series’ final three series races of the season in conjunction with USAC’s National Sprint Cars on Nov. 10-11-12 at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway’s 21st Budweiser “Oval Nationals.”
“When the national guys come to town, we want to run good,” Gardner explained. “I think the 4-car can go anywhere pretty much. I think we can go anywhere and run up front with anyone. Not to say we would dominate, but when you run up front, you’re going to win some. Windom was really fast all weekend and I’m trying figure out how they get around the cushion so good. His car was working really nice on the top, just like it normally does. I got a little work to do to figure out how to get around this joint. We were fast all weekend; that’s about all you can ask. It was a good weekend; we just needed a little bit more to keep up with them.”
USAC National Sprint Car point leader Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Okla., virtually put a lock on his second career series title Saturday night with a third-place run in his Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Lykins Oil/Triple X/Williams Mopar.
“We were running on seven cylinders from the time we pushed off at the start of the feature,” Bacon admitted. “It puts you in a weird spot knowing your motor’s not running 100 percent; it’s really hard to throw a bomb on a guy and not know if it’s going to be there when you step on it and could wind up taking you both out. You race a little different because it’s always in the back of your mind and it kind of puts you a half step back. I might have had a car capable of winning if we could’ve raced a little different, but it just puts you in a bad spot when you have something like that weighing on your mind.”
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Arizona Speedway included Chad Boespflug (ProSource/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifier), Jon Stanbrough (Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers First Heat Winner and Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Feature Finisher), Chris Windom [Competition Suspension, Inc. (CSI)/DJ Safety Second Heat Winner], C.J. Leary (Benic Enterprises/Circle Track Performance/Keizer Aluminum Wheels Third Heat Winner), Ryan Bernal (Indy Race Parts/Stand 21 Racer Goes Safer Foundation Fourth Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products/BR Motorsports/King Racing Products Hard Charger) and Carson Macedo (Brown & Miler Racing Solutions Semi Winner).