Courtney Counters for I-80 Glory
The Wheatley Chronicles – Volume V, No. 22
Lonnie Wheatley, GREENWOOD, Neb. (June 2, 2017) – Chris Windom threw everything but the proverbial “kitchen sink” at Tyler Courtney in the closing rounds of Friday night’s USAC Sprint Car debut at the 4/10-mile I-80 Speedway clay oval.
“Sunshine” was having none of it though, countering each of “Big Daddy’s” sliders to capture his first USAC Sprint Car triumph of the season aboard the Topp Motorsports No. 23
Courtney officially led the final 11 rounds after Windom paced the field for 19 circuits, though the duo swapped the point three times over the final two laps.
And if past history is any indicator, it could bode well for Courtney’s title hopes. At least at some point if not this year.
While it was USAC’s debut at I-80, the best of the non-wingers had tackled the Nebraska oval in past years with the now past-tense Sprint Bandits Tour ‘N Topless series that ultimately pulled the plug after the 2010 campaign.
Four of five TNT winners at I-80 captured USAC Sprint Car titles, either before or after Nebraska glory.
Levi Jones, now officiating with USAC, scored the first TNT win at I-80 in 2005. He went on to capture the first of a handful of USAC crowns that season.
Robert Ballou burst onto the “traditional” scene in the 2006 edition, even if his parents weren’t aware of it at the time. It turned the young Cali native down the wingless path, a decision that has paid off for him with the 2015 USAC title and has paid off for the fans as well as the “Madman” ranks among a select few that is typically worth the price of admission on his own.
“The People’s Champ”, Dave Darland, owned I-80 in 2007 and 2008. The Triple Crown winner that sits atop the all-time USAC Sprint Car win charts earned his Sprint Car title in 1999.
Brady Bacon bested TNT troops at I-80 in 2009 before eventually going on to USAC titles in 2014 and 2016 with 2010 I-80 winner and current WAR head Casey Shuman the only I-80 victor lacking a USAC crown.
Friday’s USAC debut attracted a healthy 27-car field on the way to Knoxville including the regular cast of contenders along with leading USAC/CRA contender Brody Roa and USAC Southwest challenger Bruce St. James among the unexpected.
With Arizona’s Stevie Sussex establishing the night’s quick time aboard the Dutcher mount and then Courtney, Windom and Ballou setting the stage for the feature with heat race wins, Chad Boespflug and Windom led the way to the green flag in the 30-lap feature event.
While Windom jumped out front at the outset, Courtney worked his way from seventh to fourth in short order behind Windom, Sussex and Justin Grant.
And just as a Sussex bobble opened the door for Grant and Courtney to blast by on the tenth lap, the race’s first caution negated the move and put Sussex back on Windom’s tailtank.
Courtney got up in the seat on the restart and raced past both Grant and Sussex over the next two laps to take over second. He set his sights on Windom, staying within a handful of car-lengths until pouncing on the lead on the 20th round.
Windom wasn’t done though. He closed back in as one more caution flew with six laps to go.
Shadowing Courtney as the closing laps clicked off, Windom erased the minimal gap and threw a big slider on Courtney entering turn one on the white-flag lap aboard the Baldwin Brothers No. 5.
Courtney crossed back under to deny the move with the entire scenario repeated the next time around on the way to the checkered flag.
Windom made one last-gasp effort in the final pair of corners, throwing the orange No. 5 across the track. He couldn’t make it stick though, as Courtney once again crossed back under to flash underneath the checkered flag first.
Windom settled for second with Grant rounding out the podium while Ballou earned Hard Charger honors by rallying from 12th to capture fourth. Cali shoe Roa rounded out the top five as a narrow and treacherous cushion in three and four pulled Sussex back to seventh behind Bacon.
Series: USAC Sprint Cars
Track: I-80 Speedway (Greenwood, NE)
Car Count: 27
Quick Time: Stevie Sussex 16.808
Heat Winners (starting position in parentheses): Tyler Courtney (4), Chris Windom (5), Robert Ballou (3).
Heat Moments: Courtney pounced early to win the first heat, Windom slid past Darland in the closing laps to take heat two while Ballou controlled heat three.
“B” Main Winner (starting position in parentheses): Shane Cottle (2).
“B” Main Moments: It was all “The Throttle” in a B Main only interrupted by last-lap spin in turn two by Rob Sharits that set up a green and white together finish.
“A” Main Cautions: Two
9 Laps – A caution flies for Chase Stockon, who was fighting for a top-five position.
24 Laps – A turn two spin by Corey Smith sets up a six-lap dash to the stripe.
“A” Main Hard Charger: Ballou rallies from 12th to earn a fourth-place finish.
The Box Score…
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 2, 2017 – Greenwood, Nebraska – I-80 Speedway – Malvern Bank “I-80 Dirt Classic”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Stevie Sussex, 17GP, Dutcher-16.808; 2. Justin Grant, 11, McGhee-16.838; 3. Brady Bacon, 63, Dooling/Hayward-16.966; 4. Chase Stockon, 32, 32 TBI-17.003; 5. Chris Windom, 5, Baldwin-17.023; 6. Chad Boespflug, 69, Dynamics-17.085; 7. Tyler Courtney, 23c, TOPP-17.120; 8. Brody Roa, 91R, BR-17.190; 9. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 44, Pace-17.198; 10. Kyle Robbins, 17R, Robbins-17.215; 11. Dave Darland, 71p, Phillips/Curb-Agajanian-17.292; 12. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-17.335; 13. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-17.533; 14. Shane Cottle, 57, Hazen-17.695; 15. Corey Smith, 66s, CS-17.807; 16. Isaac Chapple, 52, LNR/Chapple-17.926; 17. Josh Hodges, 74x, Hodges-17.931; 18. Wyatt Burks, 11w, Rumsey-18.028; 19. Bruce St. James, 7K, St. James-18.203; 20. Ryan Kitchen, 21, Kitchen-18.520; 21. Rob Caho, Jr., 78, Caho-18.753; 22. Eric Schulz, 4x, Schulz-19.006; 23. Warren Johnson, 42, Johnson-19.046; 24. Rob Sharits, 14s, Davis-20.045; 25. Alex Schriever, 0, Davis-20.442; 26. Terry Richards, 18, Richards-NT; 27. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-NT (Time of 19.675 disallowed).
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Courtney, 2. Leary, 3. Chapple, 4. Stockon, 5. Sussex, 6. Robbins, 7. St. James, 8. Schulz, 9. Schriever. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Windom, 2. Darland, 3. Hodges, 4. Roa, 5. Grant, 6. Cottle, 7. Kitchen, 8. Richards, 9. Johnson. 2:24.07
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Ballou, 2. Bacon, 3. Boespflug, 4. Thomas, 5. Smith, 6. Burks, 7. Sharits, 8. Bell. 2:30.16
INDY RACE PARTS SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Cottle, 2. Robbins, 3. St. James, 4. Richards, 5. Burks, 6. Kitchen, 7. Johnson, 8. Schulz, 9. Bell, 10. Schriever, 11. Sharits. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney (7), 2. Chris Windom (2), 3. Justin Grant (5), 4. Robert Ballou (12), 5. Brody Roa (8), 6. Brady Bacon (4), 7. Stevie Sussex (6), 8. Dave Darland (11), 9. C.J. Leary (13), 10. Shane Cottle (14), 11. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (9), 12. Chad Boespflug (1), 13. Isaac Chapple (16), 14. Josh Hodges (17), 15. Wyatt Burks (18), 16. Terry Richards (22), 17. Bruce St. James (19), 18. Kyle Robbins (10), 19. Corey Smith (15), 20. Warren Johnson (21), 21. Chase Stockon (3), 22. Ryan Kitchen (20). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-19 Windom, Laps 20-30 Courtney.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Robert Ballou (12th to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FEATURE FINISHER: Isaac Chapple
NEW USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Grant-667, 2-Windom-585, 3-Boespflug-574, 4-Stockon-528, 5-Courtney-477, 6-Leary-384, 7-Thomas-378, 8-Darland-373, 9-Cottle-339, 10-Jarett Andretti-338.
The Wheatley Chronicles brings insight and highlights from all variety of racing series throughout the nation in 2017 and beyond along with the Open Wheel Power Rankings on a regular basis. Please send any comments, questions or advertising inquiries regarding The Wheatley Chronicles at www.sprintcarmania.com to Lonnie Wheatley at firstname.lastname@example.org.