Posted: July 16, 2019
Fairbury, Nebraska (July 13, 2019)………Only one driver has reached the six-win mark in a single USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget season faster than Tyler Courtney has this season.  That was none other than Rich Vogler who reached six in his 13th race in 1978 and in his 14th race in 1988.
If there’s a driver to run second to in the annals of USAC history, Vogler isn’t a bad one to be looking up to.

Thus far, through 15 races of the season, Courtney hasn’t had to look up to much of anybody.  Nor did he in Saturday night’s Riverside Chevrolet Midwest Midget Championship presented by Westin Packaged Meats and Schmidt’s Sanitation at Jefferson County Speedway where he fended off a pesky Kevin Thomas, Jr. on a late-race restart to win the 40-lapper.

To put the season into perspective, Courtney came into this season with just five USAC National Midget feature wins to his credit.  It took him less than half a season to outdo that mark on the 1/5-mile bullring in Fairbury, Neb.  By doing so, he maintained his 90-point lead in the standings and inched closer to becoming the first driver to reach double-digit wins in the series since Vogler in 1988.

Though it appeared mostly stress-free for Courtney through much of the middle portion of the feature as he cut through traffic, that wasn’t the case in the end, as the Indianapolis, Ind. native had to endure a late-race restart versus Thomas after the yellow flag flew with four laps remaining.

“I didn’t want to see that,” Courtney admitted.  “I hadn’t been on the bottom since the beginning of the race. I knew on restarts, it might be alright, but I was committed to running the top.  I saw (Kevin Thomas, Jr.) race me on the last restart, and I knew I just needed to hit my marks there on the top.  I messed up a couple times, and luckily, I think he may have messed up too.  It worked out tonight and we’re standing here in victory lane.”

Courtney driving the Clauson-Marshall, NOS Energy, Spike/SR-11x, started from the pole, but it was outside front row starter Thomas who got the jump initially, riding the top to the lead as Courtney got shuffled back to 4th on the opening lap while Tanner Thorson and Jerry Coons, Jr. snuck by for 2nd and 3rd, respectively.

Courtney instantly worked his way back to the front, and quickly got returned to 3rd on the second lap and to the runner-up spot during a mad scramble behind race leader Thomas.

Following ninth-running Chad Boat’s stoppage in between turns 3 and 4 on the fourth lap, Courtney took control on the ensuing restart as Thomas pulled the wheels up exiting the turn two cushion.  Courtney drove by off the bottom to the lead.

Thomas ably reeled in Courtney by the halfway mark in traffic as the lappers went two and, at times, three-wide, forcing Courtney to split the cars of Lance Bennett and Shannon McQueen in turn one to find separation.  He was successful and broke away, while Coons, Thomas and Seavey raced three-wide for fourth.

Although Brady Bacon’s stop with 14 to go on the other side of the turn two banking tightened up the gap, the three lapped cars of Curtis Spicer, McQueen and Sam Johnson lie between Courtney and Thomas for the restart.  On the tight bullring, Thomas got hung up behind the traffic and Courtney once again shot away to a one second advantage.

With four to go and a near-certain victory in sight for Courtney, Ethan Mitchell found himself spun backwards in turn three, setting up a last ditch, trophy dash for the win.  With under five to go, lapped cars are sent to the tail by rule, putting Thomas and Tuesday night’s Red Dirt winner Seavey right on Courtney’s tail tank for the restart.

“Racing with these guys is tough,” Courtney said.  “Especially when you’ve got (Kevin Thomas, Jr.) and Logan behind you.  Really, everybody in the field is tough right now.  We’re on our game now and we’ve got to capitalize on nights like this when we start up front like that.  You can’t give up positions.  You don’t have any to give up.”

Thomas put the challenge right on Courtney as he utilized the bottom to pull even with high-riding Courtney exiting turn two.  With two laps remaining, Thomas got a surge off turn two to edge ahead of Courtney midway down the back straightaway.  Courtney showed no wavering, riding the top back around Thomas to secure the spot off turn four.  Thomas stayed within striking distance throughout the final lap, but Courtney was flawless, finishing out the victory by 0.365 sec. over K. Thomas, Seavey, Coons and ProSource/KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Tyler Thomas, from 11th.

For Kevin Thomas, Jr., despite the win eluding him on Saturday night, a second is a welcome gift after front-running efforts during the first two “Mid-America Midget Week” events were all for naught after getting caught up in a pair of wrecks that were not of his doing.

“We had a good racecar,” K. Thomas said.  “If only I just didn’t screw up there at the beginning of the race; track position’s everything.  We had pretty equal cars there and he got through lapped traffic a little bit better.  It was a little greasy down and was hard to maneuver around down there, but it was a really good racetrack.  I tried to get cute there by running the bottom and trying to sneak by.  It worked until I hit the grease down there.  I think if I wouldn’t have pushed, I could’ve won that race, but I did push, and we didn’t win the race.”

Contingency award winners Saturday night at Jefferson County Speedway were Logan Seavey (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier & Simpson Race Products First Heat Winner), Tyler Thomas (Competition Suspension, Inc. Second Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products/ProSource Hard Charger), Zeb Wise (AutoMeter/Indy Race Parts Third Heat Winner) and Shannon McQueen (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).