(Richard Golardi Photo)
Ocala, FL | February 16, 2018 – Proving ready for a test around every corner last night, Fort Branch, Indiana’s Chase Stockon fended off a trio of mighty challenges from the likes of Dave Darland, Justin Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. throughout the 30-lap “Winter Dirt Games” opener to the USAC National Sprint Car Series season at Bubba Raceway Park. Starting from the outside pole in his TBI Racing, Superior Tank & Trailer, DRC Chassis No. 32, Stockon roared to the lead and quickly took command of the main event. Welcoming an early challenge from “The People’s Champ,” Stockon held off several close calls before dishing away “JG’s” bid for the lead at halfway, and eventually stopping “KTJ’s” attempt for the win in the closing laps. After a 15-month hiatus between wins #8 and #9, the 29-year old Stockon has now reeled off three USAC National victories in his last five attempts, bumping his career total to 11 victories with the series.
Beginning his campaign with the Hoffman Auto Racing, Mean Green No. 69 last night, Cullman, Alabama’s Kevin Thomas Jr. started the year off right as he set quicktime honors with a blistering fast time of 13.750. A stout list of top five qualifiers that included Chris Windom (13.915), Justin Grant (13.981), Carson Short (14.007) and Chase Stockon (14.077) followed KTJ. The foursome of “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney, Chad Boespflug, CJ Leary and Carson Short split heat race victories as Nick Bilbee claimed the B-Main win.
Rolling off on the pole for the 30-lap main event, Dave Darland would be pursuing his first series victory since 2016 in the Matt Goodnight Racing No. 36D. However, a hungry Chase Stockon fired off on the outside pole and immediately guided his Fisher Chevy powerplant into the top spot. Darland provided a furious challenge in the early running and was mighty close to sneaking by Stockon on several occasions, but a mechanical issue on lap 13 forced him to a stop as he brought out the caution and relinquished his runner-up position.
Assuming the role of challenger, Ione, California’s Justin Grant took control of the second position and put pressure on Stockon at the halfway point. Making his own strong debut in a new ride, Grant was looking to begin his time with the TOPP Motorsports No. 4 crew with a victory, but was unable to sneak around Stockon and soon dropped back. On the 23rd circuit, another new face in a new ride arose to throw his hat into the mix, as Kevin Thomas Jr. guided the Hoffman Racing No. 69 into second behind Stockon.
With the unique track conditions switching from smily/greasy in the early running to rubber in the latter half, Stockon especially was in for a difficult task as he was the sitting duck in front of the field. However, he made just the right calls in just the right amount of time to prevent KTJ’s worthy bid for the lead.
Stockon would hang on to lead all 30 laps as the the 29-year old Indiana native claimed his 11th career USAC National Sprint Car Series victory behind the wheel of the No. 32 entry. Picking up where he left off at the end of 2016, Stockon has now clicked off victories in three of the last five USAC Sprint Car events and is looking to be a strong contender for this year’s title.
Rounding out the top five behind Stockon was Kevin Thomas Jr. (2nd) in the Hoffman No. 69, Chris Windom (3rd) in the Baldwin Brothers No. 5, Justin Grant (4th) in the TOPP Motorsports No. 4 and Robert Ballou (5th) in the BOSS Chassis No. 12. Closing out the top ten was Kyle Cummins in 6th, Isaac Chapple in 7th, Chad Boespflug in 8th-from-18th, Logan Seavey in 9th, and Nick Bilbee in 10th.
Two more nights of USAC National Sprint Car racing remains at the Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida, as the ninth edition of “Winter Dirt Games” serves as the kickoff to an enticing 45-race schedule in 2018. You can follow along all weekend with a live pay-per-view on http://www.speedshifttv.com.
A-Main Results (30 Laps): 1. Chase Stockon (2), 2. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 3. Chris Windom (5), 4. Justin Grant (4), 5. Robert Ballou (10), 6. Kyle Cummins (11), 7. Isaac Chapple (12), 8. Chad Boespflug (18), 9. Logan Seavey (13), 10. Nick Bilbee (7), 11. Tyler Courtney (17), 12. Kody Swanson (15), 13. Brady Bacon (8), 14. Carson Short (3), 15. CJ Leary (20), 16. Tyler Clem (14), 17. Jarett Andretti (21), 18. Landon Simon (19), 19. Garrett Aitken (9), 20. Dave Darland (1), 21. Kent Schmidt (16), 22. Tim Buckwalter (22).
Lap Leader(s): Stockon 1-30.
Hard Charger(s): Boespflug +10.