Tyler Courtney entered Indiana Midget Week with a pocket full of sunshine. After two victories in the first four rounds of the six-race series, the driver known as “Sunshine” left Bloomington Speedway Friday night with a pocket full of cash.
Three nights following his first career USAC Midget National Championship points win in the Indiana Midget Week opener at Montpelier Motor Speedway, Indianapolis, Indiana’s Courtney found his way to victory lane once again to lead a Clauson/Marshall Racing sweep of the podium in the fastest 30-lap USAC Midget race ever held Bloomington.
After overcoming a less-than-stellar qualifying time at Putnamville’s Lincoln Park Speedway one night prior with a hard-charging 20th to 3rd feature run, Courtney took care of business in ProSource Qualifying Friday night. After timing in sixth, he was on the outside looking in during his heat, missing a transfer spot and squandering an opportunity to start on the pole for the main event.
The sun still shined through the clouds, though, and Courtney found solace by using the B-Main as a learning opportunity.
“We qualified a lot better tonight, but I put myself in a bad spot in the heat,” Courtney acknowledges. But it worked out. I ran the B and learned a lot. Some nights, it does pay off to run the B. Obviously, your goal is to never run the B, but on a night like tonight, it was very beneficial. I was able to move around in the B to figure out where I could go in the feature since I knew I wasn’t on the front row like I should’ve been. It worked to our advantage since I was able to get to the lead and run a line that no one else was using.”
Starting seventh, that particular line on the track was a godsend for Courtney as, early on, Jerry Coons, Jr. was the locomotive leading a freight train of cars around the infield tires while Rico Abreu made some headway on the high side to third from his 10th starting position in the first five laps.
Further back in the field, Courtney was wavering between the seventh to tenth positions during the first several laps. On lap eight, however, Courtney decided it was time to make a change and the line that had worked so well for him in the B was back in play.
“I saw Rico making some ground up there, and I knew the line that I had run once in the B worked,” Courtney remembers. I knew if I didn’t go as high as him up in the loose stuff, I could go to the lane above the guys on the bottom. I could just carry speed to get by him off the corner. It’s nice when you have a really good car and you can go where nobody else is. Tim (Clauson) is one hell of a guy behind the wrenches.”
Running seventh, Courtney was on the move, picking off the sixth position on lap 10, the fifth spot on lap 12 and to third on lap 13 running all by his lonesome in the middle groove.
USAC Triple Crown champ and 2006-07 National Midget champ Coons remained the leader as he sought his first series win since 2010 with fast qualifier Chad Boat right on his tail on the low line. Meanwhile, Courtney was eating away at the deficit and, by lap 18, was in position to make his move.
Rather than hitting for a couple singles, Courtney smacked a double by passing both Boat for second and Coons for the lead through the middle of turns three and four, beating Coons to the stripe by a half-car length to obtain a lead that he would not relinquish.
In the final 12 laps, Courtney had to wade his way through a sea of backmarkers, which he was able to steer through without any hiccups as his two CMR teammates Justin Grant and Shane Golobic emerged toward the forefront in the final laps.
Courtney led the final baker’s dozen to earn his second career USAC National Midget victory in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives – Indiana Donor Network/Spike/Stanton SR-11 over teammates Grant and Golobic for the first podium sweep by a single team in the series since Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports’ one-two-three finish on the final night of the “Gold Crown Midget Nationals” at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Illinois last October.
Admittedly, Courtney wasn’t exactly beaming with confidence when he awoke Friday morning. Last July, he rode out a massive heat race flip that may very well have cost him a shot at winning the Indiana Sprint Week title. This past April, he managed just a 16th place finish in a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car event at the quarter-mile, red clay oval.
Yet, Courtney’s team owner, Tim Clauson, is a frequent visitor himself to victory lane at Bloomington, scoring numerous wins with his son Bryan as the driver throughout the years. Tim’s leadership played a heavy role as a guiding force that provided Courtney the confidence, and the car, to clear the mental hurdle that had stood in his way for so long.
“Honestly, I wasn’t very excited coming into today,” admitted Courtney. “I’ve never been comfortable around here, especially since I’ve torn up two racecars on the same part of the racetrack. It makes it tough to get yourself past that hurdle in (turns) one and two. But, tonight, was just our night. Tim obviously has a really good car around here and I was able to build my confidence throughout the night. Everybody had the same racetrack and we were at a little bit more an advantage as everybody else tonight.”
“Sweeping the top-three shows our team is going to be a force to reckon with,” Courtney continued. “Keith (Kunz) is at the top right now, but we’re working on taking them down. It’s not going to be easy because Keith has been around a long time. He’s got a very talented group of drivers over there. They’re going to come back; they’re going to figure something out, I know it. We just have to stay on our game; we can’t let them catch up and leave us behind. We just need to keep this momentum rolling throughout the week and throughout the rest of the year.”
Ione, California’s Justin Grant took second in his Clauson-Marshall Racing/Driven 2 Save Lives – Priority Aviation/Spike/Stanton SR-11 and is the lone driver to finish in the top-five of both April’s Bloomington USAC Sprint Car and Friday’s USAC National Midget features.
“Sunshine seemed to pick through the field a little quicker than I did,” Grant explains. “He was running a little higher up and where those guys weren’t. All three of these CMR cars are so good, once he got a little separation, it was hard for me to gain any ground back. I knew he wasn’t going to make any mistakes and his racecar is just as fast as mine.”
Shane Golobic of Fremont, California raced under trying circumstances. Earlier Friday, he was in the emergency room receiving fluids to remain hydrated due after suffering from flu-like symptoms. The team even had Chris Windom on standby just in case Golobic couldn’t go. Golobic drove a determined race to finish third in his Clauson-Marshall-Matt Wood Racing/Elk Grove Ford – Driven 2 Save Lives/Spike/Stanton SR-11.
Contingency award winners Friday night at Bloomington Speedway include Chad Boat (ProSource Fast Qualifier), Spencer Bayston (Simpson Race Products 1st Heat Winner), Jerry Coons, Jr. (Competition Suspension, Inc. 2nd Heat Winner), Tanner Carrick (Chalk Stix 3rd Heat Winner & ProSource Hard Work Award Winner), Shane Golobic (Indy Race Parts 4th Heat Winner), Tyler Courtney (KSE Racing Products Hard Charger) and Ronnie Gardner (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
USAC MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 9, 2017 – Bloomington, Indiana – Bloomington Speedway – 13th “Indiana Midget Week”
PROSOURCE QUALIFYING: 1. Chad Boat, 84, Tucker/Boat-11.764; 2. Brady Bacon, 76m, FMR-11.767; 3. Justin Grant, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-11.865; 4. Shane Golobic, 17w, Clauson-Marshall/Wood-11.897; 5. Michael Pickens, 1NZ, Seamount-11.920; 6. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-11.936; 7. Zach Daum, 5D, Daum-11.965; 8. Tyler Nelson, 88, Nelson-12.017; 9. Rico Abreu, 21, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.019; 10. Jerry Coons Jr., 25, Petry/Goff-12.041; 11. Ronnie Gardner, 25x, Rodela-12.066; 12. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-12.110; 13. Gage Walker, 7, Walker-12.196; 14. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.223; 15. Holly Shelton, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.224; 16. Ryan Robinson, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.255; 17. Spencer Bayston, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.284; 18. Alex Bright, 77, Bright-12.333; 19. Dave Darland, 11, Gray-12.338; 20. Davey Ray, 33, Team RAYPRO-12.372; 21. Trey Marcham, 32, Marcham-12.391; 22. Cole Fehr, 15F, Live Loud-12.442; 23. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.482; 24. Kade Morton, 8m, Morton-12.508; 25. Chance Morton, 7MF, Morton-12.510; 26. Ryan Greth, 4R, Lesher-12.543; 27. Brayton Lynch, 1K, RKR-12.559; 28. Kyle Jones, 04, Hefler-12.590; 29. Adam Pierson, 76E, Mancini-12.720; 30. Michael Koontz, 17K, Koontz-12.731; 31. Justin Dickerson, 21D, Dickerson-12.894; 32. Dan Biner, 7x, Seven-13.041; 33. Brent Beauchamp, 11B, B & B-NT; 34. Brenden Bright, 92, Bright-NT; 35. Ryan Secrest, 8, Morton-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Bayston, 2. Boat, 3. Pickens, 4. Walker, 5. Marcham, 6. Pierson, 7. C. Morton, 8. Beauchamp. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION, INC. (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Coons, 2. Bacon, 3. A. Bright, 4. Thorson, 5. Courtney, 6. Fehr, 7. Greth, 8. Koontz. NT
CHALK STIX THIRD HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Carrick, 2. Shelton, 3. Grant, 4. Darland, 5. Daum, 6. Lynch, 7. Gardner, 8. Dickerson. 2:09.59
INDY RACE PARTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps) 1. Golobic, 2. Thomas, 3. Robinson, 4. Ray, 5. Jones, 6. K. Morton, 7. Nelson, 8. Biner. NT
SEMI: (12 laps) 1. Courtney, 2. Abreu, 3. Daum, 4. Gardner, 5. Nelson, 6. Marcham, 7. C. Morton, 8. Lynch, 9. Beauchamp, 10. Greth, 11. K. Morton, 12. Dickerson, 13. Jones, 14. Biner, 15. Fehr, 16. Pierson. NT
FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Justin Grant, 3. Shane Golobic, 4. Jerry Coons, Jr., 5. Chad Boat, 6. Brady Bacon, 7. Gage Walker, 8. Rico Abreu, 9. Michael Pickens, 10. Zach Daum, 11. Holly Shelton, 12. Tyler Thomas, 13. Ronnie Gardner, 14. Ryan Robinson, 15. Tanner Thorson, 16. Spencer Bayston, 17. Dave Darland, 18. Trey Marcham, 19. Tanner Carrick, 20. Alex Bright, 21. Tyler Nelson, 22. Davey Ray.