Wise Nips Larson In USAC Midget Thriller; It’s A Bright Night In 600 Speedweek OpenerBarry Angstadt
Packed House Witnesses Exciting Debut Of USAC National Midgets & 600 Speedweek Opener
Kutztown, PA (July31) – Sometimes a highly anticipated, eagerly awaited, much-hyped event does not live up to expectations. But, on some occasions, the event actually exceeds those expectations. Ain’t it great when that happens?
It did happen on Wednesday, July 31, at Championship Energy Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds. The long awaited debut of the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Championship series not only lived up to its advanced hype, but the main event proved that everyone’s belief and prognostication was correct: the mighty Midgets would put on one heckuva show at the Berks County oval. The largest crowd to ever attend an event at Action Track USA did not go home disappointed as the program sponsored by Belfor Property Restoration & Storm Chassis offered non-stop excitement from start to finish.
Sixteen-year-old Zeb Wise of Angola, IN fended off the challenges of non-other than NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series star Kyle Larson to win his second USAC National Midget feature…and both have come in the state of Pennsylvania.
Third-quickest in time trials, Wise rolled off fourth when the 30-lap main event went green. Pole sitter Chad Boat lost the lead on lap one to defending National Midget Champ Logan Seavey with Wise battling Tanner Thorson and quick-timer Tyler Courtney for third. A trio of early caution periods slowed the pace, but laps four through 27 were clean and green and intensely competitive.
Boat wrestled the top spot away from Seavey on the eighth trip around the clay. Wise dashed into the runner-up spot a few tours later, then snatched the lead from Boat. As Wise set the pace and began lapping cars, all eyes were glued to the beautiful, Ken Brenn throwback paint scheme on the No. 24 of Larson. “Yung Money” was charging, grabbing third position and then sliding Boat for second at the halfway mark of the race. Larson reeled in the leader and a cat-and-mouse battle ensued between Wise and the 16-time National Midget series winner.
Larson tried high and low and, of course, attempted numerous slide jobs to try and rattle the driver of the Driven To Save Lives, Clauson-Marshall No. 39BC. Wise maintained his composure and the lead through lap 28, and then the real fireworks began.
Larson blasted to the bottom of turns three and four as they headed for the white flag, then slid up in front of Wise as they exited the corner. Wise was ready for him, though, and simply crossed over to the inside lane and zipped back past the No. 24. Everyone in the facility knew what was coming on the final revolution, and Larson didn’t let them down. Once again, he gassed his Keith Kunz, Curb/Agaganian, Ken Brenn Midget Masters No. 24 under Wise in turn three. He could not clear the No. 39BC, however, and drifted up to the inside of the leader. Wise bounced his right-rear tire off the wall and stood on the throttle, narrowly winning the drag race to the checkered flag and bringing the crowd to its feet.
“I told Kyle that I actually closed my eyes a few times there,” said an elated Wise afterward. “I knew what was coming; what he was gonna do. And I just kept my foot in it off that last turn; I was either gonna crash or win.”
Larson was an oh-so-close runner-up, with Tuesday’s winner at Grandview Speedway, Chris Windom, finishing third. Tanner Thorson recorded his second straight fourth-place finish and the current USAC National Midget point leader, Tyler Courtney, wound up fifth.
An amazing field of 78 entered the Hyper Racing 600 Speedweek portion of the program (presented by 600cc Performance). Six heats, three A-Qualifiers, and three B-Mains were necessary to pare down the large, star-studded field to the 24 drivers who started the A-Main sponsored by Rodota Trucking & Excavating. The entries included Kyle Larson, who drove a Ryan Greth, Driven Motorsports East Coast D-1 car in his first time back in a 600 Sprint in several years. Wednesday was also Larson’s 27th birthday, and he spent it his way, by pulling double-duty at a dirt track.
Eddie Strada darted from the pole to lead the early laps with Tim Buckwalter hounding him all around the race track. Alex Bright and Jason Swavely diced for the third position before Bright scooted past Swavely, then ducked under Buckwalter to grab the runner-up slot. On the 11th circuit, the Collegeville, PA throttle-jockey muscled under Strada, then forged ahead to grab the point.
Strada and Buckwalter dueled for second as Tommy Kunsman navigated his way into fourth. Swavely, Brian Carber, and Colin White scuffled for fifth spot before the third and final yellow waved with five tours remaining.
On the restart, Bright, in the Rodota Trucking & Excavating No. 20 roared off, leaving Strada to play defense against Buckwalter in their battle for runner-up money. At the finish, it was Alex Bright cashing in for the $1,000 victory over Strada, Buckwalter, Kunsman, and Brian Carber.
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series (30 Laps) — 1. Zeb Wise 2. Kyle Larson 3. Chris Windom 4. Tanner Thorson 5. Tyler Courtney 6. Logan Seavey 7. Andrew Layser 8. Jason McDougal 9. Kevin Thomas Jr. 10. Jerry Coons Jr 11. Tanner Carrick 12. Billy Pauch Jr. 13. Tucker Klaasmeyer 14. Chad Boat 15. Steven Drevicki 16. Karsyn Elledge 17. Alex Yankowski 18. Bobby Butler 19. Brett Conkling 20. Timmy Buckwalter 21. Alex Bright 22. Ethan Mitchell 23. Kameron Morral 24. Shawn Jackson.
Hyper Racing 600 Sprint Cars (25 Laps) — 1. Alex Bright 2. Eddie Strada 3. Tim Buckwalter 4. Tommy Kunsman 5. Brian Carber 6. Colin White 7. Billy Pauch Jr. 8. Jason Swavely 9. Damon Paul 10. Christian Bruno 11. Jim Radney 12. John Josko 13. Jay Hartman 14. Aaron Bollinger 15. Jesse Maurer 16. Kenny Miller 17. Ryan Groff 18. Emerson Axsom 19. Joey Amantea 20. Chad Sandt 21. Nash Ely 22. Joe Kay 23. Bradley Brown 24. Aidan Borden.
DNQ: James Morris, Mikey Meyers, Colton Hardy, Sam Martz Jr., Rico Flammer, Kameron Morral, Kyle Larson, DJ Shuman, Johnny Boland, Ryan Timms, Paige Moss, Jarret Hjorth, Riley Emig, Eric Ankiewicz, Cale Mutter, Scott Slater, Cale Ross, Jarid Kunkle, Doug Snyder, Kole Kirkman, Mike Thompson, Matt Smith, Luke Thomas, Holden Eckman, Luke Shostkewitz, Matt Car, Zack Gorski, Fred Heinly, Stephen Weinch, Raelyn Moss, Timmy Lotz, Junio Ankiewicz, Tommy Scott Jr., John Crowder, Mike Linderman, Jacob Severn, Kyle Spence, Buddy Schweibinz, Richie Hartman, Joe Nemeth, Steven Snyder, Lou Cicconi, Tom Fraschetta, Jacob Balliet, Ryan Kunkle, John Barnett, Don Hess, Adrianna Delliponti, Tyler Lindsay, Billy Koch, Aidan Svanda, Autumn Ankiewicz, Austin Quick, Cole Bryson.