Indiana Sprint Week: Leary Goes Topside to Win at Circle City Raceway
Updated: Aug 9
Series News Release - USAC Media
C.J. Leary spent the majority of Monday night’s USAC NOS Energy Indiana Sprint Week debut at Circle City Raceway tooling around the bottom in pursuit of Brady Bacon.
With five laps remaining, the Greenfield, Ind. native stood at a crossroads, whether to be a follower or whether to step out of line and forge a new path forward.
Leary chose the latter once he heard the engine of surging Justin Grant just within earshot to his outside. It took a good three laps for Leary to wind it up on the top before finally surging past the bottom-rolling Bacon with three laps to go to bring home his sixth career Indiana Sprint Week feature victory, tied with Jay Drake, Danny Smith and Kevin Thomas Jr. for sixth all-time.
“That’s the way to win a race right there,” Leary exclaimed. “I followed Brady on the bottom, and I felt like I was a bit better than him down there. I heard Justin ripping the top there late, and I went up to the top and banged the boards.”
The third win of Leary’s USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season in his Michael Motorsports/Kodiak Products – Gray Auto – Highsmith Guns – DMI/DRC/Chevy was the 19th overall of his career, moving him to within two of 1967 series champion Greg Weld for 32nd all-time.
Victory couldn’t have come at a more opportune time for the 2019 USAC Indiana Sprint Week champion. After Friday night’s much ballyhooed kerfuffle – a commotion that began with Leary getting upside down on his way to the white flag at Gas City – Leary and the Michael Motorsports team spent several manhours piecing together their wrecked racecar, which was still sans a number on the right side of the tail tank on Monday night.
It was a bit of a difference in approach for Leary and Michael, which ultimately resulted in just what Leary was striving for all along, to win and to put himself back into contention for another Indiana Sprint Week title.
“After Friday night, I felt like all we could do is to come out here and try to win races,” Leary stated. “I felt like our Sprint Week title chances might have been over, but if we just keep knocking off some wins, maybe we’ll crawl back into this thing.”
Leary started his run from eighth but had already found his way to fifth by the end of lap one as he utilized the middle groove of the 1/4-mile dirt oval located on the southeast side of Indianapolis. Meanwhile, it was USAC East Coast Sprint Car star Briggs Danner who was the force up front as he led the opening seven circuits.
After initially stealing the lead away from Danner just before the yellow, Bacon had to give it back on lap seven when Scotty Weir snagged the cushion with his right rear tire and stopped at the top of turn four, forcing out a yellow which reverted the running order to the previous scored lap. Nonetheless, Bacon picked up the baton and ran with it, carving out a lane on the bottom to slide past Danner in between turns three and four at the completion of lap eight.
Leary continued to chomp away on the bottom and slipped underneath Danner for the second position on lap 12, then nearly beat Bacon to the line for the lead, missing out by a foot on both lap 12 and 13. Thereafter, Leary fell into line behind Bacon who led a methodical procession around the infield tires.
The feature’s only red flag was waved when seventh running Kyle Cummins encountered a flat left front tire as he dipped into the turn three cushion and toppled over on lap 24. Brent Beauchamp (12th), Mitchel Moles (14th) and Brody Roa (16th) also piled into the altercation and stopped. Suffering heavy damage to his ride, Cummins was finished for the evening.
Grant, who started his race all the way back in 12th, slid into the conversation as he did just that to pass Danner for third in between turns one and two on lap 24. Showcasing that the top lane was now wide-open for business, Grant chomped down the gap between he and the front two of Bacon and Leary in a hurry while Danner banged the cushion and collected contact from another car late, which sent him careening all the way back to 14th in the final running order.
But with five laps to go, Leary sensed Grant to his right and moved up accordingly to occupy the line for himself while leader Bacon stayed firm, eyes forward and eyes on the prize. Bacon’s lead visibly and rapidly dwindled in the ensuing laps until Leary whisked past Bacon with a difference of mere inches separating the two at the line, just after the sound of Grant’s powerplant became sort of a bat signal that indicated that it was time to move up, something that Bacon did not experience while being a little bit further up the road by his lonesome.
”When you’re leading, you’re kind of a sitting duck,” Leary explained. “I’ve been in Brady’s shoes plenty of times. I’ve won races that way and lost races that way. It’s what makes it super competitive. It’s Indiana Sprint Week.”
Afterword, Leary then was able to stretch away from Bacon over the next two laps, ultimately to the tune of 0.538 sec. while Grant shot around Bacon off the final corner for a buzzer beater moment to score second with Bacon third, Chase Stockon fourth and Stockon’s KO Motorsports’ teammate Jason McDougal rounding out the top-five.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) became the new Indiana Sprint Week point leader after ripping his way through the field from his outside sixth row starting spot, then made a spirited charge at the end to earn a valuable runner-up result in his TOPP Motorsports/NOS Energy Drink – MPV Express – TOPP Industries/Maxim/Kistler Chevy.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) led a race-high 20 laps and commanded the race with as late as three laps to go before settling for a third place result in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – Cressman Sanitation – DriveWFX – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy. It was a solid points night, however, for the four-time USAC National Sprint champ as he moved from 15th to 8th in the latest Indiana Sprint Week points.
For the first time since Richard Griffin in 1997, a driver has recorded three consecutive fast times to start Indiana Sprint Week. Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) set Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifying time with a new Circle City Raceway USAC National Sprint Car track record of 12.005. It was the third fast qualifying time of his Indiana Sprint Week career and the third fast qualifying time of his USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car career.
FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. C.J. Leary (8), 2. Justin Grant (12), 3. Brady Bacon (4), 4. Chase Stockon (7), 5. Jason McDougal (3), 6. Matt Westfall (16), 7. Shane Cottle (22), 8. Jake Swanson (5), 9. Robert Ballou (10), 10. Ryan Timms (6), 11. Dave Darland (18), 12. Matt McDonald (20), 13. Brandon Mattox (P-23), 14. Briggs Danner (2), 15. Kevin Thomas Jr. (1), 16. Emerson Axsom (9), 17. Brent Beauchamp (14), 18. Logan Seavey (19), 19. Brody Roa (21), 20. Dalton Stevens (17), 21. Mitchel Moles (11), 22. Kyle Cummins (13), 23. Scotty Weir (15). NT
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-1428, 2-Brady Bacon-1331, 3-Robert Ballou-1331, 4-C.J. Leary-1278, 5-Logan Seavey-1274, 6-Emerson Axsom-1268, 7-Chase Stockon-1061, 8-Matt Westfall-1040, 9-Jake Swanson-1010, 10-Jadon Rogers-904.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK INDIANA SPRINT WEEK POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-183, 2-Chase Stockon-166, 3-Robert Ballou-152, 4-Mitchel Moles-146, 5-Shane Cottle-143, 6-Jake Swanson-140, 7-C.J. Leary-139, 8-Brady Bacon-132, 9-Jason McDougal-127, 10-Emerson Axsom-123.