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  • Spencer Frady

ISW: Leary Picks Up the Spare; Wins at Kokomo Speedway

CJ Leary celebrates his USAC Indiana Sprint Week win at Kokomo Speedway. Photo courtesy USAC Media - Photographer: Indy Racing Images Photo

Series News Release - USAC Media

Kokomo, Indiana (July 22, 2023) - After enduring a vicious flip during the previous night's feature that wiped out their primary ride, C.J. Leary and BGE Dougherty Motorsports turned to a car that had been sitting on jackstands for the past three years and had never seen a racetrack, let alone even touched the ground.

With body panels adorned in the look Leary sported during the 2020 season when he drove the family-owned No. 30, the Greenfield, Ind. native and his Altoz – Hornbeck Concrete - Highsmith Guns - Elliott’s Custom Trailers & Carts/DRC/1-Way Chevy hit the ground running during Saturday night’s Darland Classic at Kokomo Speedway.

Starting fifth on the grid, Leary became the third and final driver to race into first place when race leader Brady Bacon stumbled upon the turn two cushion with six laps remaining, opening the door for Leary to drive past and earn his seventh career USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week Presented By Honest Abe Roofing victory, moving him into a tie for fifth all-time alongside Bryan Clauson and Justin Grant.

Leary, who captured the Indiana Sprint Week title in 2019, also moved inside the top-30 in all-time USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature victories. His 22nd career triumph moved him ahead of 1967 series champion Greg Weld and into a four-way tie for 29th all-time alongside Rick Hood, Bubby Jones and Sammy Sessions.

Clawing his way back from the depths of despair following a massive feature crash on Friday night at Gas City I-69 Speedway to the joy of achieving his third USAC win of the season, and first since early May, Leary was overjoyed with the result of his hard work coming to fruition.

“Man, this is huge,” Leary exclaimed. “I’m sick, I’m worn out, and the last night really put a hurt on me. Last night was unfortunate and I feel like we had a good car; it just happened so fast. We stayed up all night last night building this thing. This car has never been raced, and tonight’s the first night on it. We built this thing new in 2020 and it’s just been sitting.”

It didn’t sit idle for long during feature time, however, although Leary initially fell back two spots to seventh in the early going before settling into a groove. Meanwhile, up front, outside front row starter Jake Swanson rang around the topside to lead the opening two laps before third-starting Bacon took over the lead on lap three when Jake Swanson nearly turned over on the turn three cushion. Kyle Cummins also scooted past, slotting into second as Swanson dropped to third.

Cummins soon tracked down and caught up with Bacon on lap seven, and just as he was making his bid for the lead off the exit of turn four, it turned out to be all for naught as 19th running Braxton Cummings spun around to a stop in turn two.

When action got back underway, soon, a battle for fourth had developed between Swanson and Mitchel Moles, both of whom resided in the top-two of the Bubby Jones Master of Goin’ Faster Presented By Spire Sports + Entertainment standings entering Kokomo, which served as round six of ten for the season long miniseries.

However, the battle for position between the two soon became among the most spectacular incidents of the entire USAC season. As Swanson worked a lower line, Moles occupied the high road as he attempted to work his was around Swanson. Exiting turn four on lap eight, real estate was at a premium as the two came together on the front straight. Moles’ car then ramped up the wall and tore down layers of catch fencing.

Severe damage was immediately evident on Moles' machine with much of the front half of the car shredded into pieces along the 1/4-mile dirt oval’s surface. Moles climbed away from the wreckage while Swanson was beset by a flat right rear tire. Swanson returned with fresh rubber, but only managed to work his way back to a 16th place finish.

Sitting sixth at the time of the incident, under the red flag, C.J.’s father, past USAC Midget and Silver Crown Rookie of the Year driver Chuck Leary, was there on the scene to assist C.J. But, as it turned out, all C.J. needed was a different plan of attack.

“Under the red, my dad came up to the fence and asked me what I needed,” C.J. recalled. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know.’ I just didn’t think we were that good. I really hadn’t cowboy’d up or went four in the fluff that hard. Honestly, I felt like the 3R was probably the best car.”

Soon after the lap eight restart, trouble became evident with the right front shock tower on the 3R of Cummins as his front wheels constantly dangled, creating quite a tumultuous ride for the winner of the last two USAC Sprint Car features at Kokomo dating back to August of 2022. Ultimately, the night’s Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier became a non-factor as he was plagued with his car’s ongoing mechanical issues, ultimately finishing 19th.

On that same lap eight restart, the suddenly surgent Carson Garrett was showcasing his presence, driving under Cummins on the restart for second, then slid past Bacon for the lead in turn two on lap 10. Bacon was initially able to fend off Garrett by driving back under in turn two to retain the spot, but Garrett came right back on the bottom on lap 11 to take over up front.

Bacon found the diamond line over in turns three and four and charged back into the lead past Garrett on lap 17. Leary followed suit and mimicked the same such pattern to race past his teammate for second on the 18th trip.

Leary carved into Bacon’s lead during the ensuing laps, and with six to go, was in a prime spot when Bacon’s right rear tire ricocheted off the turn two cushion, which kicked him sideways and scrubbed his momentum. Leary, with a full head of steam, freight-trained his way under Bacon and into the lead.

From that point forward, total control belonged to Leary who opened up the gap to 1.413 seconds by race’s end as he captured his second career Indiana Sprint Week feature win at Kokomo, also doing so in 2020. Brady Bacon grabbed second with Carson Garrett third, Emerson Axsom fourth and Logan Seavey fifth.

Sooner or later, one of these days, Brady Bacon is going to win one of these darned things. On this night, the Broken Arrow, Okla. native collected his eighth career runner-up finish in USAC National Sprint Car competition at Kokomo Speedway, just missing out on his first triumph after leading a race-high 16 laps in his Dynamics, Inc./Hartley Brothers Farms – Tel-Star Technologies/Triple X/Rider Chevy. The 2016 Indiana Sprint Week champion did, however, rise to the top spot in the ISW standings by virtue of his performance.

Carson Garrett (Littleton, Colo.) led his first career Indiana Sprint Week laps midway through the Kokomo feature en route to his best career ISW finish of third in his BGE Dougherty Motorsports/Altoz – Hornbeck Concrete – Leary Shock Technology/DRC/1-Way Chevy. His previous best Indiana Sprint Week finish was 20th.

In qualifying, Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) recorded his 14th career fast qualifying time with the USAC National Sprint Cars. That moved him into 34th all-time alongside Billy Cassella, Tyler Courtney and Damion Gardner.

FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. C.J. Leary (5), 2. Brady Bacon (3), 3. Carson Garrett (1), 4. Emerson Axsom (8), 5. Logan Seavey (7), 6. Robert Ballou (12), 7. Justin Grant (11), 8. Shane Cottle (20), 9. Kevin Thomas Jr. (13), 10. Daison Pursley (17), 11. Stevie Sussex (10), 12. Brent Beauchamp (18), 13. Chase Stockon (9), 14. Braxton Cummings (22), 15. Brandon Mattox (15), 16. Jake Swanson (2), 17. Matt Westfall (16), 18. Geoff Ensign (21), 19. Kyle Cummins (6), 20. Trey Osborne (14), 21. Zack Pretorius (19), 22. Mitchel Moles (4). NT

USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-1324, 2-Brady Bacon-1312, 3-Justin Grant-1283, 4-Jake Swanson-1264, 5-Kyle Cummins-1233, 6-C.J. Leary-1210, 7-Mitchel Moles-1134, 8-Robert Ballou-1090, 9-Chase Stockon-1066, 10-Daison Pursley-1043.

USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK PRESENTED BY HONEST ABE ROOFING POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-148, 2-Robert Ballou-136, 3-Justin Grant-134, 4-Emerson Axsom-131, 5-Logan Seavey-119, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-118, 7-C.J. Leary-112, 8-Carson Garrett-101, 9-Mitchel Moles-97, 10-Kyle Cummins-97.


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