Cummins Victorious at Kokomo
Series News Release - USAC Media
”Here at Kokomo, it doesn’t feel easy, but it seems like the car is just on kill.”
The same could be said for both man and machine of late on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship tour, but especially at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway for Kyle Cummins and his Rock Steady Racing/Ultimate Predator Boats - Mid-America Safety Solutions/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
In Friday night’s Let’s Just Race Presented By Schroeder Products, the Princeton, Ind. driver displayed his prowess of Kokomo’s 1/4-mile dirt oval, racing into the lead at the halfway point despite initially feeling he didn’t quite have enough mustard to defeat Jake Swanson.
“I kept telling (the crew) I was too tight, too tight,” Cummins revealed. “Plus, the track was way slicker than I thought. On the first couple laps, I was just holding on. I probably just didn’t drive hard enough to really get the car running.”
However, a lap 10 red flag changed Cummins’ portrait to landscape even though, at first, he wasn’t as confident as he would’ve liked, but that outlook turned on a dime as soon as the green flag came back out.
“I thought, on that red, that Jake’s got this,” Cummins admitted. “It was going to be hard to pass him. (His crew) came down and told him to watch the top. So, I knew if he went to the top, we were not going to have anything for him. It was good to take a moment just to think about what was going on, where I was going to have to pass him and how my car was going to be. I just made a couple shock adjustments, and I didn’t touch it from there on out.”
When all was said and done after he cleared Swanson for good, Cummins was a feature winner for the third time during the 2022 USAC National Sprint Car season and for the 13th time in his career, moving him past Eric Gordon and into a tie for 46th on the all-time win list alongside Steve Chassey.
Earlier this month, Cummins wrapped up the Kokomo Speedway track championship and has been on a tear on the USAC trail. He’s finished inside the top-five in nine of his last 10 USAC National Sprint Car feature starts, including 13 of 18 in overall totality throughout 2022.
Furthermore, Cummins became the first driver to record five top-five USAC National Sprint Car feature finishes in a single season at Kokomo Speedway following a 1st, 2nd, 2nd and 4th at the track already this year.
Rewarded with the pole starting position for the 30-lap feature, it seemed as if it was Cummins’ race to lose at that point. However, outside front row starter Stockon showed some fierce moxie to grab the initial lead. By lap three, Cummins found himself relegated back to the third spot as Swanson worked his way around in turns three and four to slot in behind leader Stockon.
Following three laps of near dead heats at the stripe, Swanson finally slashed his way underneath Stockon and into the race lead on lap six.
Trouble befell National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Dave Darland on the 10th lap when he became a victim of circumstance after Harley Burns (20th) slipped sideways at the exit of turn four, collecting the 21st running Darland who was sent forth on a spectacular end-over-end flip down the front straightway, which he promptly walked away from under his own power.
Like a little wind-up toy, Cummins got keyed up on the ensuing restart, initially fending off Emerson Axsom – celebrating his 18th birthday on this night – to his inside all while ripping the top to stay directly in touch with the leaders. On the 13th lap, Cummins’ second wind began to breathe new life into him as he slide jobbed Stockon in turn three for the second position.
Cummins tracked down Swanson instantaneously and, by lap 15, had surpassed him with a slider in turns one and two. However, Swanson kept his foot in it and escaped around the outside. One lap later, Cummins reloaded and refired once more, ultimately clearing Swanson. Nonetheless, Swanson crossed over, then attempted to return the favor to Cummins in turn three, but swung wide at the exit of turn four, allowing Cummins to race back by and wave goodbye, for the most part.
With seemingly all in hand and victory within his grasp, Cummins’ 1.1 second lead and road to victory came to an abrupt halt on the final lap when the yellow flag was displayed for a turn four tangle involving C.J. Leary and Anton Hernandez who were tussling for the ninth spot. However, the two locked wheels, and Hernandez received the short end of the stick as he spun backwards down the front straightaway. Hernandez restarted but managed just a 15th place result.
Riding the rim on the green-white-checkered restart, Cummins went scot-free into the horizon over the final two laps, pushing forth to a 0.633 second advantage at the checkered flag over Swanson, Stockon, Axsom and Fatheadz Fast Qualifier Mitchel Moles.
Cummins’ performance couldn’t be matched on this evening at Kokomo, and neither was his machinery, which has no comparisons on the track and in the pit area, and is a different animal in contrast to all the equipment that he went toe-to-toe with.
“This is a Mach-1 Chassis,” Cummins explained. “No one else has a Mach-1 Chassis. I’m glad they’re not buying them. It isn’t good on sales for constructor Mark (Smith), but this thing is just killer. I’ve never been in a racecar that’s like this one. It’s just unbelievable.”
Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) led nine laps and tied his best career Kokomo Speedway USAC National Sprint Car finish of second in his Team AZ Racing/Stratis Construction - Lucas Oil - RSS Industries/DRC/Claxton Chevy. His runner-up result was nearly uncanny to his Kokomo performance on August 26 where he also scored a second after leading 10 laps. In the end, he came up just one spot short again of garnering a first Kokomo USAC victory.
“Once you’re in the lead, you’re kind of a sitting duck,” Swanson pointed out. “I feel like I lost the race here at Smackdown that way. The bottom wore out and, maybe if I had more laps, I would’ve known to move up. I tried to make sure I knew when to move up by watching both lines and seeing when the top was coming in. I felt the bottom starting to fade a little bit and the top was getting cleaned off. I jumped up there, but it was no match for the 3R car. He’s really good here. To run second to him is cool and, obviously, we want to beat him and we’re not going to stop until we do.”
September in Kokomo is a time to remember for Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.). He finished third in the main event aboard his KO Motorsports/Banded Ag - Dewig Meats - AMSOIL - Superior Tank & Trailer/Flea RC/Fisher Chevy, which marked his best USAC National Sprint Car result at Kokomo since the most recent previous series race held at the track during the month of September. That came about in 2020 where he also ran third.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve put together some good runs with USAC,” Stockon exhaled. “It seems like every time we do, we have something go wrong. The car was pretty maneuverable, but we just had a few things we should’ve changed to make the car a little bit better. With that said, we were able to search around a little bit there and try to hunt those two down. Kyle and Jake had really fast racecars tonight and we’re very fortunate to run third to them.”
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) flipped during his heat race, which, consequently, had its ill effects on the remainder of his night at the track. The incident resulted in a stuck lifter in his car’s engine, which forced the team to watch from the sidelines. Thomas had won with USAC at Kokomo as recently as this past August.
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Cummins (1), 2. Jake Swanson (4), 3. Chase Stockon (2), 4. Emerson Axsom (3), 5. Mitchel Moles (6), 6. Brady Bacon (12), 7. Jadon Rogers (8), 8. Justin Grant (15), 9. Logan Seavey (9), 10. Robert Ballou (16), 11. Thomas Meseraull (7), 12. C.J. Leary (5), 13. Geoff Ensign (21), 14. Max Adams (10), 15. Anton Hernandez (13), 16. Zack Pretorius (18), 17. Jack Hoyer (17), 18. Brandon Mattox (20), 19. Harley Burns (19), 20. Jason McDougal (11), 21. Matt Westfall (14), 22. Dave Darland (22). NT
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-2160, 2-Brady Bacon-2089, 3-C.J. Leary-2054, 4-Robert Ballou-1982, 5-Emerson Axsom-1921, 6-Logan Seavey-1824, 7-Chase Stockon-1654, 8-Matt Westfall-1530, 9-Jadon Rogers-1507, 10-Jake Swanson-1406.