Carrick Wins; Kunz Gets USAC Midget Win Record
Series News Release - USAC Media
No individual or team has been more synonymous with winning USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature events in this era than Keith Kunz Motorsports.
When Tanner Carrick crossed the finish line at the conclusion of Thursday night’s Hangtown 100 Presented By Matt Wood Racing opener at California’s Placerville Speedway, he delivered an all-time record victory for the Columbus, Indiana based team.
Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.) led the final 29 laps of the 30-lap feature to give Kunz his 134th career series triumph, making him the winningest USAC National Midget entrant of all-time.
The new mark broke the standard of 133 series wins, which had long been held by Steve Lewis and the venerable “Nine Cars” which dominated the circuit throughout the 1990s and into the mid-2000s.
Three decades since his first taste of USAC success as a National Midget entrant with Page Jones at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in 1992, Kunz’s name is at the top of the list by itself. However, Kunz is quick to give credit to the many great drivers for him over the years who are the epitome of success.
“Steve Lewis was one of the greatest car owners ever and I never even dreamed of being anywhere close to this,” Kunz said. “Thirty years ago, was my first win so it’s been a long time. I’ve had such good guys drive for me over the years.”
On a historic night, it was one of KKM’s longest-tenured drivers who delivered the goods. Carrick has been with the team either full-time or in a partial role since 2017 but had only picked off one victory in that span in 2019 at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex. Thursday night produced a proud moment not only for Carrick himself, but also under the watchful eye of Kunz.
“I’m just really happy for Tanner coming in and doing this at his home track,” Kunz acknowledged. “He’s driven for me a lot, and when we got here tonight, he was feeling pretty good about this place. We knew right from the beginning of the night that he was going to be a factor in this.”
Carrick lives less than an hour from Placerville’s quarter-mile dirt oval and is a frequent competitor in winged sprint car competition at his self-described “home track.” In fact, his most recent start at the track came during early September’s Nor*Cal Posse Shootout – a race in which he won.
The success translated to the midgets on this night where he set the tone early as the fastest qualifier in the 49-car field, then followed it up by posting his first USAC National Midget victory in more than three seasons, collecting the $5,000 top prize at the wheel of his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/TRD – Toyota – Mobil 1/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
For Carrick and Kunz, the bond runs deeper than just simply a driver and his boss. Carrick often goes hunting with Kunz and two spend time together away from the racetrack. They don’t just race, they do things together as a family, a true illustration of “the family that races together stays together.”
“Keith and (CEO) Pete (Willoughby) have always been there for me,” Carrick stated. “When I wanted to come back and run for them, they had a car for me. Ever since then, whenever I ask if I can come run, they’ve got a ride for me. That means a lot and, if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here and be able to do this.
Carrick rolled form the outside of the front row, and right from the get-go, was embroiled in a racelong tussle up front with pole sitter Michael Pickens out of Auckland, New Zealand. Pickens struck first as he slid past Carrick and into the lead in turns three and four on lap one to ultimately lead by a half car length at the stripe.
As it turned out, it was the only lap Pickens led. Carrick blazed a trail around the outside in turn four a lap later to retake the lead on lap two. Pickens returned the favor on lap four, sliding from the bottom of turn three to the top of the fourth turn, then got a bit of the chrome horn on his rear bumper from the front bumper of Carrick. Pickens turned sideways but stayed on the gas to remain second.
The red flag was displayed on the sixth lap when 19th running Justin Grant got upside down in turn two. After making substantial front end repairs in the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area under the stoppage, the RMS Racing crew sent him on his way back into competition where he ended up 14th.
Carrick once again spurted away on the ensuing restart, building up a 0.8 second lead over Pickens as the race hit the halfway point. By lap 20, Carrick had reached the tail end of lapped traffic. Dropping from the high line, Carrick dipped low under teammate Kaylee Bryson to put her a lap down while also extending his lead to 1.1 second in the process.
However, a yellow flag on lap 22 was waved for an incident that began when 15th running Jake Andreotti’s car went up in smoke and slowed dramatically on the front straightaway. Tanner Thorson (17th), debuting his new Tanner Thorson Racing team, had no room to escape and ramped over Andreotti's left rear, sending him into a 180-degree spin before sliding to a stop.
The resumption of action didn’t fare too long afterward as a major melee in turn one on lap 24 resulted in a double flip for Jade Avedisian (12th) and Daniel Whitley (21st), which also marked the ninth and tenth flips of the evening. Carson Macedo (11th) also came to a stop with his front end knocked out. Emerson Axsom (14th) and Daison Pursley (17th) also came to a halt.
Back at the front, Pickens found a second wind with five to go as he used a run on the bottom to edge ahead of Carrick on the back straightaway. Carrick kept his foot in it and used the cushion to ride back around Pickens in turn four. After Pickens showed Carrick how successful the bottom of turns one and two could be, Carrick clamped down and didn’t allow Pickens to get in a word edgewise.
After shaking off the challenge, Carrick finished ‘er off to win by a 1.047 second margin over Pickens with Buddy Kofoid third, Kevin Thomas Jr. fourth and Spencer Bayston fifth.
Carrick notched the 12th victory of the year for the KKM bunch while also becoming the third driver to reach victory lane for the team in 2022, joining Kofoid (10) and Ryan Timms (1).
“(Crew chief) Jarrett (Martin) had this thing on rails,” Carrick praised. “I struggled there the last couple of laps; I kept messing up in three and four on the curb and I wasn’t hitting the bottom as well in one and two and I started slowing down for it. Other than that, we were pretty good.”
Michael Pickens nearly pulled off his first USAC National Midget win since 2017. On this night, he finished as the runner-up for the second time in two starts on the California swing in his Dave Mac Dalby Motorsports/CRC – TRD – Mobil 1/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
It was another championship-level drive for Buddy Kofoid on Thursday evening at Placerville as he charged from his ninth starting position to finish third. It's his second straight third place result this week after also finishing third on Tuesday at Bakersfield. He’s also finished on the podium in nine of his past 11 starts in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/Mobil 1 – Toyota – TRD/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota.
With Thursday night’s events paying 50 appearance points across the board to all USAC Nationally licensed Midget drivers and entrants, Kofoid remains the point leader by a 209-point margin over Justin Grant.
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tanner Carrick (2), 2. Michael Pickens (1), 3. Buddy Kofoid (9), 4. Kevin Thomas Jr. (6), 5. Spencer Bayston (8), 6. Cannon McIntosh (12), 7. Shane Golobic (10), 8. Chris Windom (4), 9. Colby Copeland (5), 10. Jason McDougal (3), 11. Bryant Wiedeman (14), 12. Mitchel Moles (22), 13. Thomas Meseraull (21), 14. Justin Grant (16), 15. Dominic Gorden (13), 16. Tanner Thorson (19), 17. Alex Bright (18), 18. Daison Pursley (24), 19. Emerson Axsom (11), 20. Taylor Reimer (26-P), 21. Kaylee Bryson (25-P), 22. Carson Macedo (7), 23. Jade Avedisian (20), 24. Daniel Whitley (23), 25. Jake Andreotti (15), 26. Logan Seavey (17).
(P) represents a USAC provisional starter
(T) represents a heat race transfer
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-1844, 2-Justin Grant-1635, 3-Thomas Meseraull-1485, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-1439, 5-Cannon McIntosh-1424, 6-Mitchel Moles-1410, 7-Kaylee Bryson-1353, 8-Jacob Denney-1118, 9-Brenham Crouch-1104, 10-Taylor Reimer-1104.