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  • Spencer Frady

KTJ Claims 40th USAC Sprint Win at Lawrenceburg Speedway


Kevin Thomas Jr. celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Justin Owen Memorial at Lawrenceburg Speedway. It was his 40th USAC National Sprint Car victory. Photo courtesy: USAC Media - Photographer: Indy Racing Images Photo

Series News Release - USAC Media


Lawrenceburg, Indiana (April 13, 2024) - It took Kevin Thomas Jr. just seven races into his new gig at Rock Steady Racing to return to winning form with the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship.


The Cullman, Ala. native, who was last a USAC victor nearly 19 months ago, put that long wait to rest during Saturday night’s inaugural Justin Owen Memorial at Indiana’s Lawrenceburg Speedway.


Thomas and his Inferno Armor – Eddie Gilstrap Motors – Creative Finishing/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy became the fourth and final different leader in the 30-lap main event at the 3/8-mile dirt oval, making the winning move on the bottom of turns one and two to get by Logan Seavey on a restart with 14 laps remaining.


“Man, we finally got one in the 3R; it’s about time,” Thomas exclaimed.  “I’m picky and it takes a lot for me to get comfortable, but they did it. I’m super proud of these guys and everybody that works hard and has to deal with me during the week asking them to change stuff. It means a lot. If you know me, you know I’m a lot to deal with. There’s a lot to be said about my wife and my team to put up with that just for the joy of winning. We’re finally winners here in 2024 and I couldn’t be happier.”


The win was a monumental one for Thomas as he notched his 40th career USAC National Sprint Car feature victory, equaling 1969 and 1971 series champion Gary Bettenhausen for 10th on the all-time list.


Furthermore, Thomas’ score was the sixth of his career in USAC National Sprint Car competition at Lawrenceburg, tied for second all-time behind only Dave Darland’s seven. Thomas also became the first driver to capture the annual springtime Burg USAC show twice, also doing so in 2013. Until Saturday night, there had been 10 different winners in 10 spring Lawrenceburg USAC events dating back to 2006, and right from the moment race day began, a good omen was at hand.


Rock Steady Racing crewman Brian Karraker woke up Saturday morning in Nostradamus mode. Karraker texted Thomas prior to leaving for the track that he had a dream in which they won the race after starting from the seventh starting spot. As it shook out, Thomas started seventh on the grid and immediately began to forge a path toward the front.


Nonetheless, outside front row starting C.J. Leary owned the early upper hand as he broke away to the lead.  However, the 2013 Lawrenceburg track champion’s run up front was short lived as he biked in turn four on the sixth lap. As he was making a miraculously recovery to gather control and avoid wall contact, he free-fell all the way back to fifth as pole sitter Kyle Cummins slipped underneath to grab the top spot.


At that moment, Seavey had his ride wound up on the topside, allowing him to track down Cummins on the 11th trip. There, in turn three, Seavey blitzed to the bottom and slid up across the nose of Cummins to put himself at the top of the pylon before opening a half-second lead as the race crossed the halfway point. Simultaneously, Thomas was digging on the bottom and swiftly edged ahead of Cummins at the exit of turn two on lap 16.


Moments later, the first red flag of the night was displayed when Robert Ballou and Daison Pursley touched wheels in the battle for eighth in turn four on the 17th lap. Ballou got the worst end of the deal as he elevated airborne, then dug in with the front bumper and rode out two turnovers before coming to a rest. Ballou was able to return to the race after repairs were made in the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area, but last week’s Lawrenceburg opening night winner was mired back in 19th at the finish line.


On the ensuing restart, Seavey led the field high and wide into turn one, four wheels over the cushion. Thomas proposed a different plan and steadily drove by Seavey on the bottom to take over the top spot by the time the pair reached turn two on the heavy and tricky surface that Thomas and crew figured out a way to master both high and low.


“You had to be in the right spots at the right time,” Thomas explained. “It was challenging to pass people, but we got lucky that we were really good around the bottom and could also run the top.”


One driver who found catastrophe was Justin Grant. Vying to become the first to win three consecutive USAC National Sprint Car features at Lawrenceburg, Grant biked on the entry to turn three on lap 19 while running sixth. As Grant hopped, Jake Swanson was unable to avoid contact and ramped over Grant’s left front wheel with his right rear, subsequently knocking out the front end on Grant’s ride. With his wheels pointing two different directions at once, Grant fought to wrangle control of his car until it suddenly veered right on him, sending him flipping three times. Grant was able to walk away from the wreckage.


Seavey sought to return the favor on the ensuing restart as he made his bid for the lead with 11 to go. Seavey dove underneath Thomas on the entry to turn three but skittered into the cushion as Thomas dipped back under off turn four to retain control. A half lap later, Bacon followed Thomas’ path on the bottom and wrestled his way past Seavey into second.


As the leaders navigated lapped traffic, Bacon was able to shave his way to within three car lengths of Thomas with two laps to go. However, that was as close as Bacon got as Thomas locked up the shop with his first checkered flag of the season by a 0.969 second margin. Bacon took second with Seavey third, Leary fourth and Swanson fifth.


The event featured one of the largest crowds for a USAC event at Lawrenceburg Speedway in recent memory and included a large throng of Justin Owen’s family and friends. The event was held in memory of Owen, the 2022 Lawrenceburg sprint car track champion who passed away from injuries sustained in a racing accident at the track on April 8, 2023. The occasion was certainly among the most meaningful victories of Thomas’ career.


“It means a lot,” Thomas stated. “Justin was a big staple down here at Lawrenceburg. He ran here a lot, and he was really fast. You hate to lose somebody that young, but he was doing what he loved to do. At the end of the day, if we could all go out doing the things that we love to do, it would probably be a little bit better of a place to live.”


After a tumultuous six-race Florida trip in February, Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) was more than ready to hit the reset button on his season. On Saturday, Bacon finally found good fortune, finishing as the runner-up in his Dynamics, Inc./Bazell Race Fuels – Davis Brothers Trucking – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy.


Contrary to Bacon, Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) was nearly immaculate in Florida, finishing inside the top-three in all six of his starts. The current series point leader kept the streak rolling and set a new record on Saturday by becoming the first driver to open a USAC National Sprint Car season with seven consecutive podium finishes, breaking the record held by Tracy Hines since 2002.


Several special bonuses were up for grabs throughout the night. Grant (Ione, Calif.) pocketed $800 for recording the second fastest time in both hot laps and qualifying. Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) took home $400 for his hard charging effort from 18th to 9th in the feature. Meanwhile, 10th place runner Nick Bilbee (Indianapolis, Ind.) earned a hefty sum of $4,004 as the top-finishing Lawrenceburg Speedway regular in the feature.



FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr. (7), 2. Brady Bacon (9), 3. Logan Seavey (4), 4. C.J. Leary (2), 5. Jake Swanson (3), 6. Daison Pursley (6), 7. Kyle Cummins (1), 8. Chase Stockon (8), 9. Mitchel Moles (18), 10. Nick Bilbee (11), 11. Jadon Rogers (14), 12. Carson Garrett (17), 13. Matt Westfall (13), 14. Joey Amantea (19), 15. Shawn Westerfeld (15), 16. Saban Bibent (10), 17. Ryan Barr (22), 18. Kayla Roell (21), 19. Robert Ballou (12), 20. Hunter Maddox (20), 21. Garrett Abrams (16), 22. Justin Grant (5). NT


FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-5 C.J. Leary, Laps 6-10 Kyle Cummins, Laps 11-17 Logan Seavey, Laps 18-30 Kevin Thomas Jr.


**Robert Ballou flipped on lap 17 of the feature. Justin Grant flipped on lap 19 of the feature.


USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-537, 2-C.J. Leary-491, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-478, 4-Justin Grant-422, 5-Daison Pursley-398, 6-Chase Stockon-379, 7-Brady Bacon-364, 8-Kyle Cummins-361, 9-Mitchel Moles-346, 10-Robert Ballou-337.


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