By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Lawrenceburg, Indiana………This weekend one year ago was the turning point for Spencer Bayston on what would become a championship season.
A rough go through the first four events of the 2018 season mired him to the back half of the top-10 of the USAC P1 Insurance National Midget standings entering Saturday night’s “Indiana Midget Week” round at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Perhaps the night served as the starting line for another title run for Bayston after leading the final nine laps and standing his ground against a late-race barrage courtesy of a hard-charging Tanner Thorson, from 23rd, to earn his first series victory of the season in his Keith Kunz Motorsports-Curb-Agajanian/Craftsman – Curb Records/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Bayston is certainly familiar with Thorson. After all, the two were teammates for the past two years on the KKM team and each have had the honor of wearing the series’ crown over the past two years – Thorson in 2016 and Bayston in 2017. Perhaps you’d believe that nobody would be better equipped to master the challenge of a relentless late-race charge by Thorson, ready to counter any shot fired his way.
Yet, Bayston only knew he had a challenger to his throne in the final laps, not any specific driver. Without the aid of a spotter or rearview mirror in other forms of racing, the Lebanon, Indiana driver saw but a white flash out of the corner of his left eye. In the past, Bayston admits this situation might’ve been troublesome for him, but the 19-year-old’s maturity and growth was on full display, never flinching, as he clutched his first victory of the young season.
“I knew there was somebody there,” Bayston admitted. “I’ve fallen apart in the past and gave wins away because I was too worried about who was behind me and what they were doing. When I see someone, I get excited and feel like I need to change something instead of focusing on what I was doing.”
“The only thing I thought was that if somebody was going to slide me, I wanted to be on the top, so I could crossover and get back by them,” Bayston continued. “I just kept doing what I was doing, running the top, carrying the momentum, and if somebody threw something I was ready to crossover.”
Initially, Tyler Courtney embraced the leading role up front as he led the field into turn one from the pole position. On lap two, the first stoppage arrived when Thorson appeared to have his hopes of victory and a possible Indiana Midget Week title dashed as he bounced like bucking bronco on a pogo stick through turns one and two before slowing to a stop on the back straight. After a quick foray to the pit area under the yellow, Thorson returned to the field, albeit from the 23rd and final spot.
Throughout the middle stages of the 30-lapper, the top-four were so close, you could’ve thrown them under an electric blanket and still had plenty of room to spare as Courtney, Grant, Boat and Bayston diced it up for position. On lap 18, Grant made his bid for the lead, sliding Clauson Marshall Racing teammate Courtney for the lead entering turn three. Courtney quickly countered and was able to reclaim the lead exiting turn four.
Courtney continued his search of the surface, riding the cushion between turns one and two, then laying low on the turn three and four side, choosing a lower groove on both ends while Bayston, back in fourth, finally began to make some headway to third on lap 19 and second on lap 20. Two laps later, Bayston was in the driver’s seat of the field, ripping around the outside of Courtney to snag the top spot.
“Sunshine was running the top early, leading and in control,” Bayston recalled. “I saw him go to the bottom and there were a few other cars down there. I figured that if I stayed up top and kept it clean, the bottom was eventually going to go away with all those cars down there. I tried to keep the momentum going, kept the wheelspin up, knowing eventually the bottom was going to slow down. I was only worried that I was going to get next to Sunshine and he was going to jump back in front of me and I was going to have to slide him.”
On the 23rd circuit, third-running Grant met an unfortunate end to his run, flipping in turn one. He emerged from the wreckage unscathed.
When racing resumed with seven laps remaining, Bayston said “see ya, bye” as he left the field in his vapor trails and jumped out to a commanding lead. Thorson, meanwhile, had already climbed to fifth and wasn’t anywhere near closing up shop yet, advancing to fourth past Tanner Carrick, then was challenging Boat for third when series Rookies Zane Hendricks and Matt Moore tangled on the back straight, sending Hendricks into a tumble from which he would walk away from.
The five-lap sprint saw Thorson get on the giddy-up quickly, splitting between Boat and Courtney at the entrance of turn three to blast from fourth to second on the scoring sheet and had his focus geared on running down his former teammate Bayston for the top spot.
With the white flag in sight, Thorson took his chances at Bayston with a slider entering turn three. Thorson was able to pull wheel-to-wheel with Bayston, but it wasn’t enough to break Bayston’s stride, forcing Thorson to tuckin behind Bayston for the final lap.
However, entering turn one, Thorson got tight on the cushion, pushing the front end up the racetrack and slowing his momentum, denying him a shot at a possible last-ditch slider for the win. Bayston had no qualms, however, and was undeterred as he pulled away to win his fifth career USAC feature by 0.664 of a second over Thorson, Boat, Courtney and Carrick.
Courtney retains a 16-point advantage in the IMW points heading into Sunday’s finale at Kokomo Speedway. Thorson holds down the second spot ahead of Bayston, Boat and Logan Seavey. Boat, meanwhile, takes over the USAC National Midget point lead.
Contingency award winners included Rico Abreu (Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products Hard Charger), Ryan Robinson (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner), Tyler Thomas (Chalk Stix/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner) and Ryan Robinson (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 2, 2018 – Lawrenceburg Speedway – Lawrenceburg, Indiana – 14th Annual “Indiana Midget Week”
QUALIFYING: 1. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.511; 2. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-14.533; 3. Justin Grant, 17BC, Clauson-Marshall/Wood-14.561; 4. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.596; 5. Logan Seavey, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.598; 6. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.658; 7. Tanner Thorson, 3c, Tri-C-14.667; 8. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 63, Dooling-14.706; 9. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-14.711; 10. Zeb Wise, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-14.748; 11. Jason McDougal, 15, Petry/Goff-14.771; 12. Zane Hendricks, 27z, Tucker/Boat-14.775; 13. Holly Shelton, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.805; 14. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.836; 15. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-14.889; 16. Rico Abreu, 21, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.903; 17. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27 Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.904; 18. Matt Moore, 35, Petry/Goff-14.920; 19. Jerry Coons, Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-14.979; 20. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-14.998; 21. Alex Bright, 77, Bright-15.087; 22. Sam Johnson, 72, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-15.122; 23. Andrew Layser, 77x, Bright-15.177; 24. Ethan Mitchell, 19M, Mitchell-15.299.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Abreu, 2. Wise, 3. Thorson, 4. Carrick, 5. Bayston, 6. Shelton, 7. Coons, 8. Johnson. 2:00.19
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. Robinson, 2. Klaasmeyer, 3. K. Thomas, 4. Boat, 5. Seavey, 6. McDougal, 7. Layser, 8. Lynch. 2:01.70
CHALK STIX/INDY RACE PARTS THIRD HEAT: (8 laps, all transfer) 1. T. Thomas, 2. Courtney, 3. Bacon, 4. Moore, 5. Grant, 6. Hendricks, 7. Bright, 8. Mitchell. 2:02.70
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Spencer Bayston (6), 2. Tanner Thorson (7), 3. Chad Boat (5), 4. Tyler Courtney (1), 5. Tanner Carrick (3), 6. Brady Bacon (9), 7. Rico Abreu (16), 8. Tyler Thomas (13), 9. Logan Seavey (2), 10. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (8), 11. Zeb Wise (10), 12. Jason McDougal (11), 13. Ryan Robinson (14), 14. Tucker Klaasmeyer (15), 15. Andrew Layser (21), 16. Ethan Mitchell (23), 17. Sam Johnson (22), 18. Matt Moore (18), 19. Zane Hendricks (12), 20. Justin Grant (4), 21. Alex Bright (19), 22. Brayton Lynch (20), 23. Jerry Coons, Jr. (17), 24. Holly Shelton (24). NT
**Grant flipped on lap 23 of the feature. Hendricks flipped on lap 26 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-21 Courtney, Laps 22-30 Bayston.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Rico Abreu (16th to 7th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Ryan Robinson
NEW USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Boat-329, 2-Seavey-321, 3-Courtney-319, 4-Wise-308, 5-Bayston-308, 6-Grant-279, 7-Bacon-272, 8-Robinson-269, 9-K. Thomas-256, 10-Carrick-223.
NEW “INDIANA MIDGET WEEK” POINTS: 1-Courtney-228, 2-Thorson-212, 3-Bayston-208, 4-Boat-204, 5-Seavey-190, 6-Wise-182, 7-Abreu-182, 8-K. Thomas-172, 9-Bacon-166, 10-Robinson-152.
NEXT USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: June 3 – Kokomo Speedway – Kokomo, Indiana – “Indiana Midget Week”
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media