KNOXVILLE – An outstanding night of racing greeted a great crowd at Knoxville Raceway in Friday’s Brandt Professional Agriculture Corn Belt Nationals opener. Brady Bacon notched his second career win here after six lead changes in the Amsoil USAC National Sprint Car/POWRi War feature.
He earned $5,000 aboard the Hoffman Racing #69 entry, and became the first repeat victor with USAC in their 11 trips here. Wayne Johnson passed Terry McCarl on the final lap to win a thrilling 360 main event as well.
In the non-stop 25-lap Corn Belt Nationals feature, Kevin Thomas Jr. led early over Chris Windom and Matt Westfall. Windom shot around Thomas to lead lap two, while Justin Grant took third from Westfall. It was clear that Bacon had speed early, when he jumped from sixth to fourth on lap four.
Up front, Thomas regained the lead from Windom on lap five, while Bacon took third. Bacon used a middle groove to take second from a cushion riding Windom on lap six, creating a three-way duel for the point. Windom would bounce back to lead lap seven.
Bacon reeled in the leader, and when Windom missed the bottom of turn one on lap 12, took his first lead of the event. A lap later, Bacon made the same mistake, and Windom was back up front. On lap 14, Windom bobbled over the cushion in turn three, and Bacon rode back by for good.
The leaders entered lapped traffic on lap 16. Tyler Courtney, who won here a year ago, battled with Thomas for third behind the leaders. Windom closed in the late stages, but Bacon was able to just maneuver enough in traffic to take his second win here.
Bacon’s win came over Windom, Thomas, Courtney and Grant. Ryan Bernal, Chase Stockon, hard-charger Jason McDougal, CJ Leary and Westfall rounded out the top ten. Leary and Grant set quick time in their respective groups.
Leary, Bacon, Wesley Smith, Courtney, Nick Bilbee and Stockon won heats.
Kory Schudy won the C main and Carson Short claimed the B. A seven-car melee starting the B main involving Glen Saville, Chris Parkinson, Doug Schenck, Craig Campton, Chris Morgan and Isaac Chapple saw everyone walk away.
“I really love this place,” said Bacon in Victory Lane. “It’s fun to be able to do in this car, what I’d like to be able to in our wing car when we run the Nationals when we see Donny (Schatz) and everyone who runs the bottom and middle so good. I think, just having a lot of laps here…more than the competition helped me a little bit here to know that middle would come in and things like that. I was having to run a little different line, but I was able to catch the marbles in the middle and get some speed to pass a couple guys. It is testing to slow down and run the bottom. Windom almost got back by me, but fortunately we had a car good enough to make up for my mistakes.”
“Lapped cars were in the way, but you’re going to have that at a place like this,” said Windom. “If you miss the top or the bottom, you’re hung out to dry. Those guys seemed to do that in front of me. We had a good side-by-side battle I felt almost the entire race. I think I could have got back by him there if circumstances were different, but he ran a good race and hit his marks. I didn’t think the bottom would stay that good for us. You just had to hit it perfectly to make it work. That’s what Brady did to get by us.”
“It was perfect (the battle for the lead),” said Thomas Jr. “That’s the way it should be. For me to run the bottom around this place…it’s real tricky.”
The 18-lap 360 feature started ugly. Austin McCarl and Rob Kubli took wild rides, but walked away. An eight-car pileup saw six cars eliminated.
Joining the pair who flipped were the point leader coming in, Ryan Giles, as well as Trey Starks, Thomas Kennedy and Matt Juhl.
Once underway, the race went non-stop. Carson McCarl took the early lead over Matt Moro and Terry McCarl. Clint Garner worked his way from row six into the top five by lap three. Terry McCarl used the low side to gain second from Moro on the same lap. Wayne Johnson used the same move to work into the show position on lap five, with Garner taking fourth two laps later.
Johnson’s car was working well on the bottom and he shot by Terry McCarl for second on lap nine. A three-wide battle for the lead commenced, with Terry getting by his son for point on lap 11. Johnson worked his way into second with six to go as the leaders approached traffic.
Johnson slowly reeled in Terry McCarl and when the leader slipped in turn one, he pounced using the low side. The win was Johnson’s 13th here in a 360, and came ahead of Terry McCarl, Garner, who gained third on the last lap, Carson McCarl and Gio Scelzi.
Jon Agan, Matt Moro, Ryan Roberts, Calvin Landis and Kelby Watt completed the top ten. Terry McCarl and Trey Starks set quick time in their respective groups, and Kennedy, Johnson, Austin McCarl and Jason Martin won heats. Jason Martin also won the B main.
“I’m a little bit rejuvenated here at Knoxville,” said Johnson in Victory Lane. “I’ve been away a little bit racing some 360 stuff. I have to thank Todd and Kelly Carlile for letting me go race and do what I want to do. I love this place and this is where I want to race. My guys have been busting their butt. That’s a brand new racecar. Anytime you can beat Terry McCarl here, you’ve done something. You know that. He just made a mistake in traffic, and my car was really good on the bottom.”
Corn Belt Nationals Night #1 Results
A main 25 Laps, 9:11.9: 1. Brady Bacon (6); 2. Chris Windom (1); 3. Kevin Thomas Jr. (3); 4. Tyler Courtney (10); 5. Justin Grant (7); 6. Ryan Bernal (9); 7. Chase Stockon (5); 8. Jason McDougal (20); 9. CJ Leary (8); 10. Matt Westfall (2); 11. Wyatt Burks (12); 12. Wesley Smith (11); 13. Don Droud Jr. (13); 14. Korey Weyant (21); 15. Nick Bilbee (16); 16. Tim Buckwalter (4); 17. Josh Hodges (22); 18. Mario Clouser (23); 19. Carson Short (19); 20. Dave Darland (15); 21. Anthony Nicholson (18); 22. Riley Kreisel (24); 23. Chad Boespflug (14); 24. Landon Simon (17). Lap Leaders: Thomas Jr. 1, Windom 2-4, Thomas Jr. 5-6, Windom 7-11, Bacon 12, Windom 13, Bacon 14-25. Hard-charger: McDougal.
A main, 18 Laps, 5:32.8: 1. Wayne Johnson (6); 2. Terry McCarl (4); 3. Clint Garner (11); 4. Carson McCarl (1); 5. Gio Scelzi (9); 6. Jon Agan (12); 7. Matt Moro (2); 8. Ryan Roberts (3); 9. Calvin Landis (19); 10. Kelby Watt (17); 11. Davey Heskin (20); 12. Jamie Ball (23); 13. Mason Daniel (18); 14. Josh Higday (7); 15. Joe Beaver (15); 16. Jason Martin (21); 17. Ryan Bowers (14); 18. Tom Lenz (24); 19. Trey Starks (5); 20. Austin McCarl (8); 21. Ryan Giles (10); 22. Thomas Kennedy (13); 23. Matt Juhl (16); 24. Rob Kubli (22). Lap Leaders: C. McCarl 1-10, T. McCarl 11-17, W. Johnson 18. Hard-charger: Ball.