(Ryan Sellers Photo)
WINDOM BECOMES FIRST 4-TIMEHURTUBISE CLASSIC VICTOR AT TERRE HAUTE
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Terre Haute, Indiana (September 18, 2020)………In the long, storied history of the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track, few drivers have had the amount of success that Chris Windom has accrued in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition at the half-mile dirt oval.
Friday night at Terre Haute, Windom pounced early, shooting to the lead on the opening lap from his starting spot inside the second row, then carved his way through a gridlock of traffic to become the first four-time winner of the Jim Hurtubise Classic, surpassing the three accumulated by Jack Hewitt in 1990-91-95.
“With how good he was here, that’s pretty special.” Windom reflected. “I honestly didn’t know that could be broken tonight, so that was really cool to find that out after the race. This place has been so good to me throughout my whole career. I love coming here and racing. We’ve always had a fast car here all those years.”
Windom (Canton, Ill.) also became just the sixth driver to win at least six USAC Sprint Car features at Terre Haute. Gary Bettenhausen and Hewitt each won eight while his half-a-dozen ranks right alongside Bubby Jones, Sheldon Kinser and J.J. Yeley for third all-time at the track.
Furthermore, the triumph marked Windom’s 28th overall career USAC National Sprint Car victory, surpassing Kevin Thomas Jr. to move him to 15th all-time with Tyler Courtney, Levi Jones and J.J. Yeley.
Windom had previously won the Hurtubise Classic in 2011-16-17, the latter of which came during his USAC National Sprint Car championship season. Windom is mired in a similar dogfight this year as well, and his performance at Terre Haute elevated him into the series point lead by just two markers over Brady Bacon with four events remaining over the next three weekends.
It was evident from the word “go” that Windom had turned on the proverbial switch on this night. After qualifying fourth to pick up three points, in his heat race, he charged from his sixth starting spot to first in quick succession to earn another eight for that victory. In the feature, again, he wasted no time getting to the front and stayed there for the entire duration to gain 70 points, thus turning a nine-point deficit to Brady Bacon into a two-point lead.
Windom knows this game, as he’s been here before as recently as three years ago. The phrase “points racing” has a sour connotation, but for him, points racing refers to being on the attack to gain every point possible rather than sitting back, riding it out cautiously and playing it safe.
“Right now, with how tight the points battle is, every point matters.” Windom explained. “I needed to win that heat and I needed to win the feature. If we just keep doing that every night, we should put ourselves in good shape. “We just got to keep showing up and preparing cars to win the race every night and the points will work itself out. It’s going to be fun. It’s going to change every night. Hopefully, it doesn’t change again for me, but It’s so tight, one heat race position or one qualifying spot can change it.”
The opening lap of the 30-lap feature saw sixth-starting C.J. Leary, who earlier had moved into a tie with Kevin Thomas Jr. for 11th all-time with his 29th career Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifying time, saw his bid for a repeat championship take a major hit when he flipped in turn two, ending his night with a 22nd place result. He came into the evening fourth in the standings with a 40-point deficit, but now trails by 77 points.
On the complete restart, Windom punched the throttle and slid from his third starting spot past pole sitter Dave Darland for the initial lead. Darland countered back underneath Windom exiting turn two with nary a credit card’s width separating the two to retake the position, albeit briefly. Windom reloaded and returned fired as he dove to the inside guardrail in turn three to snag the lead for good.
Windom opened up a near straightaway advantage by lap eight when the action slowed for Kevin Thomas Jr. who stopped at the entrance to turn three with a flat right rear tire while running 11th at the time. Thomas restarted and worked his way back to a 7th place finish.
On the ensuing restart, recent California to Indiana transplant Jake Swanson and Carson Short, in his debut for Michael Dutcher Motorsports, locked horns in turn two while tussling for the 8th position, with Short’s front bumper and Swanson’s rear bumper becoming connected as they grinded to a stop midway down the back straightaway. Both restarted with Short finishing 11th and Swanson 15th.
By halfway, Windom was cruising, notching a 10-car length advantage of 1.5 sec. as traffic from the tail end of the lead lap cars loomed. With the preferred top groove mostly occupied, Windom had to split, dip and dive to escape from the snarling clutches of the ever-closing pack in which Darland was the closest. With 10 to go, the gap between Windom and Darland had been cut in half until Windom flew underneath Tye Mihocko in turn three, then split between Max Adams and Jonathan Vennard to regain what he had nearly lost, negotiating the fine high-wire balancing act between patience and urgency throughout.
“Toward the end of the race, it got really technical to pass lapped cars because it was so slick to the cushion,” Windom relayed. “When you went to slide somebody, you had nothing to stop you but that little cushion or the wall. You really had to pick and choose your battles there. You had to get to the lapped car to slide them. A couple times, I had the wrong timing and the wrong spacing on them, and I had to tuck in behind them rather than throw a slider that wasn’t going to clear them. That was making me nervous because I figured everyone was coming at that point. Once I cleared those guys, I figured the next guys behind me would have to do the same thing I just did, so I just tried to stay calm and hit my marks as much as possible.”
With Windom now in the clear, he gained his largest lead of the race at 2.252 sec. until the advantage was eradicated by a turn two Swanson spin on the 24th lap, which brought out the final caution of the night. While Windom was already seeing a clear path ahead, the yellow gave new life to the rest of the top-five contenders in Darland, along with past Hurtubise Classic winners Justin Grant, Robert Ballou and Brady Bacon, who were plucked out of their fight with traffic and provided a new shot at the leader.
However, none of that deterred Windom who forcefully put his foot down and ended all thoughts of being beaten on this occasion as he took off to claim his second Terre Haute USAC Sprint Car feature win of 2020 by a 0.752 sec. margin over Darland, Grant, Ballou and Bacon. Tuna, Windom’s new dog, joined the victory lane celebration in the first race the pup has ever attended.
Logan Seavey, whose Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports car had suffered a mechanical issue during hot laps, was forced into a backup car for the team. After a qualifying run in the backup which bellowed popping and sputtering noises throughout both laps, the car did not meet the minimum weight requirements in post qualifying tech inspection.
After that misfortune, the team’s night turned around with Seavey transferring through his heat race to earn the $200 ProSource Hard Work Award, then advanced from his 22nd starting spot to finish 9th in the feature to score KSE Racing Products / The Frolic Bar & Grill Hard Charger honors.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: September 18, 2020 – Terre Haute Action Track – Terre Haute, Indiana – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval – Jim Hurtubise Classic
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR QUALIFYING: 1. C.J. Leary, 30, Leary-20.061; 2. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-20.246; 3. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-20.421; 4. Chris Windom, 19, Hayward-20.453; 5. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-20.455; 6. Dave Darland, 36d, EZR/Curb-Agajanian-20.469; 7. Anton Hernandez, 36, Darland-20.489; 8. Shane Cottle, 74x, Hodges-20.516; 9. Carson Short, 17GP, Dutcher-20.549; 10. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-20.588; 11. Jake Swanson, 34AZ, Team AZ-20.606; 12. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9K, KT-20.608; 13. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-20.652; 14. J.J. Hughes, 76, Hughes-20.672; 15. Jonathan Vennard, 54, KO-20.685; 16. Tye Mihocko, 5, Mihocko-20.715; 17. Nate McMillin, 24, McMillin-20.818; 18. Jadon Rogers, 14, Rogers-20.821; 19. Austin Williams, 92, Sertich-20.833; 20. Clinton Boyles, 71p, Daigh/Phillips-21.032; 21. Sterling Cling, 34, Cling-21.073; 22. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 51T, Tafoya-21.108; 23. Max Adams, 5m, Adams-21.109; 24. Chris Phillips, 6p, Phillips-21.171; 25. Matt McCarthy, 28m, McCarthy-21.315; 26. Kyle Robbins, 17R, KR-21.489; 27. Mitch Wissmiller, 29, RMB-21.584; 28. Evan Mosley, 27, Mosley-21.707; 29. Aric Gentry, 10, GBR-22.044; 30. Robert Bell, 71, Bell-24.386; 31. Will Barnett, 88, Barnett-NT; 32. Logan Seavey, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-(Time of 21.616 disallowed – light at the scales).
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Justin Grant, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Carson Short, 5. Sterling Cling, 6. Nate McMillin, 7. Matt McCarthy. 2:48.253
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Dave Darland, 2. Brady Bacon, 3. Eddie Tafoya Jr., 4. Brandon Mattox, 5. Jadon Rogers, 6. J.J. Hughes, 7. Kyle Robbins, 8. Will Barnett. 2:48.235
AUTOMETER THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Robert Ballou, 2. Jake Swanson, 3. Logan Seavey, 4. Max Adams, 5. Anton Hernandez, 6. Jonathan Vennard, 7. Evan Mosley, 8. Austin Williams. NT
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (8 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Clinton Boyles, 3. Kevin Thomas Jr., 4. Shane Cottle, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Aric Gentry, 7. Chris Phillips. 2:49.914
INDY METAL FINISHING SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Anton Hernandez, 2. Jonathan Vennard, 3. J.J. Hughes, 4. Austin Williams, 5. Tye Mihocko, 6. Jadon Rogers, 7. Sterling Cling, 8. Matt McCarthy, 9. Kyle Robbins, 10. Evan Mosley, 11. Chris Phillips, 12. Robert Bell, 13. Nate McMillin, 14. Will Barnett. 4:28.048
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Chris Windom (3), 2. Dave Darland (1), 3. Justin Grant (2), 4. Robert Ballou (4), 5. Brady Bacon (5), 6. Shane Cottle (9), 7. Kevin Thomas Jr. (13), 8. Chase Stockon (7), 9. Logan Seavey (22), 10. Anton Hernandez (8), 11. Carson Short (10), 12. Clinton Boyles (19), 13. Austin Williams (18), 14. J.J. Hughes (14), 15. Jake Swanson (12), 16. Jadon Rogers (17), 17. Tye Mihocko (16), 18. Max Adams (21), 19. Eddie Tafoya Jr. (20), 20. Brandon Mattox (11), 21. Jonathan Vennard (15), 22. C.J. Leary (6). NT
**C.J. Leary flipped on lap 1 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Chris Windom.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-1,456, 2-Brady Bacon-1,454, 3-Chase Stockon-1,408, 4-C.J. Leary-1,379, 5-Justin Grant-1,378, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1,197, 7-Carson Short-1,107, 8-Dave Darland-1,055, 9-Kyle Cummins-969, 10-Logan Seavey-961.
OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-137, 2-Shane Cottle-86, 3-Tanner Thorson-83, 4-Kyle Cummins-78, 5-Justin Grant-76, 6-Logan Seavey-76, 7-Cannon McIntosh-69, 8-Andrew Layser-65, 9-Chase Stockon-63, 10-Kyle Larson-62.
NEXT USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: September 19, 2020 – Tri-State Speedway – Haubstadt, Indiana – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval – Haubstadt Hustler – Co-Sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series
CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:
Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier: C.J. Leary
Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner: Chase Stockon
Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner: Dave Darland
AutoMeter Third Heat Winner: Robert Ballou
Indy Race Parts Fourth Heat Winner: Chris Windom
Indy Metal Finishing Semi Winner: Anton Hernandez
KSE Racing Products / The Frolic Bar & Grill Hard Charger: Logan Seavey (22nd to 9th)
Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher: Austin Williams
Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer: Sterling Cling
Roger & Barb Tapy 13th Fastest Qualifier: Chase Stockon
ProSource Hard Work Award: Logan Seavey
HARF 6th Place Finisher in Honor of Bob Laycock Sr.: Shane Cottle