Winner, Winner Briggs Danner! Pennsylvanian Gets First USAC Sprint Win at Grandview

For Briggs Danner, a first career victory on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship tour seemed closer than ever before.

On a part-time basis in eight series starts this year, he’d finished inside the top-10 in seven of them, and less than a month ago, he was standing in victory lane with the USAC East Coast Sprint Car Series at Bechtelsville, Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway, host of Tuesday night’s USAC Eastern Storm opener and the venue in which he had earned his best USAC national performance to date with a runner-up finish in 2022.

How fitting it was that the native Keystone State racer achieved his breakthrough on his home dirt in front of his home crowd at what you might consider one of his home tracks, located roughly a half-hour or so from his Allentown, Pa. home.

For Danner to be able to get it done during the premiere of the most preeminent event for USAC racing on the east coast – the 17th edition of Eastern Storm – was icing on the cake for he and his Hogue Racing Enterprises/E. Schneider & Sons – Boulevard Truck Repair/DRC/Rider Chevy during the 13th running of the Jesse Hockett Classic.

“This is freaking awesome,” Danner, the 2022-23 USAC East Coast regional sprint car titlist exclaimed. “To do it in front of this crowd at this track is incredible. This might not set in until the end of the week.”

In doing so, Danner posted several firsts. He became the first Pennsylvanian to win a USAC National Sprint Car feature period since Selinsgrove’s Frankie Kerr in 1999 at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track. Furthermore, Danner became the first Pennsylvanian to win a USAC National Sprint Car race in his home state since Paul Pitzer at Reading in 1979.

In terms of Eastern Storm, he’s the first driver to earn his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature during the event in 14 years – since Chris Windom’s score at Big Diamond Speedway in 2010. In fact, in the 64-race history of Eastern Storm, only five drivers have won their first career USAC National Sprint Car main event. Along with Danner and Windom in that club are Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2007 Big Diamond), Cole Whitt (2008 Big Diamond) and Chad Boat (2008 Hagerstown).

Danner’s victory also arrives on the heels of Daison Pursley’s first career USAC National Sprint Car points-paying triumph at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway 10 days earlier. It’s the first such instance of consecutive first-time series winners in the series since July of 2022 at South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway where Ryan Bernal and Mitchel Moles won on back-to-back nights.

Starting fourth on this night, Danner certainly had his work cut out for it with two drivers in the same realm occupying the front row. Both pole sitter Carson Garrett and outside front row starter Alex Bright were similarly vying for their first career USAC National Sprint Car victories. Garrett controlled the pace to lead the opening lap, but Bright made his bid in turn one on the second lap as he slid his way past Garrett.

However, by the time Bright reached turn two, his front wheels pulled skyward, and he subsequently kicked sideways. Garrett escaped trouble but ramped his right rear tire over Bright’s left front, sending Bright to a complete halt. Garrett continued onward while Bright attempted to return but spun backwards to a stop in turn four under the yellow flag with more dire damage done than was first apparent, ending his night. Seventh running Kyle Cummins also spun to avoid the initial carnage. As the field slowed for the incident, Cummins slid into the left rear tire of Brady Bacon, knocking Cummins sideways and sending him spinning to a stop. Cummins returned to finish 11th.

Upon the resumption of the 40-lap main event, Garrett extended his lead to over a second by lap 11 until reaching the tail end of the field. In what soon came to be known as a slider fest, Danner made the first successful move on lap 15 when he dove under Garrett in turn three as the two frontrunners attempted to navigate past the lapped car of Tom Harris. Over the course of the next three laps, Danner and Garrett exchanged the lead three different times before Danner ultimately escaped the throes of the challenge on the 17th lap around the 1/3-mile dirt oval when he completed the pass of Garrett on the back straight.

“We ran the (USAC) East Coast race here earlier this year and it was nothing like this,” Danner remarked. “Carson was really, really good, and I felt like my only opportunity was lapped traffic unless he made a mistake. I knew I just needed to capitalize.”

Danner’s lead ballooned to a full-straightaway with 10 to go as he sliced through lapped traffic to put Chase Stockon and Steven Drevicki a lap down in the process of building a 3.149 second lead. However, on lap 30, Ricky Lewis (13th) slowed with an issue on his right rear tire to necessitate a yellow flag. On the lap 31 restart, the fifth-place car of Mitchel Moles suddenly slowed in turn one, creating havoc behind him as several drivers scattered to miss the melee. The most unfortunate soul was Kevin Thomas Jr. (8th) who became the only other driver outside of Moles to stop.

Nonetheless, the restart didn’t hamper Danner’s groove much in any form or fashion as he stretched his advantage to 1.7 seconds over Garrett. However, once again, the yellow flag was displayed, this time for fifth running Justin Grant whose car came to a grinding halt against the outside wall in turns three and four, abruptly ending his race on the final lap and relegating him back to a disheartening 20th place result. Thus, for Danner, the stoppage resulted in having to survive and advance through yet another restart, this time of the green-white-checker variety.

“I hate restarts as it is,” Danner admitted. “I had to hit my marks, and luckily, I was able to keep it out front. I saw that Brady Bacon was coming up through, so I was happy to see him stay third. If he had to battle Garrett a little bit, that just made my job easier. But I don’t know how it was behind me. I just drove the hell out of it and here we are.”

Danner went scot-free en route to his monumental first series victory by a 1.114 second margin of victory at the stripe. Meanwhile, just behind Danner, second running Garrett was slid by Bacon for the runner-up spot on the lap 39 restart. Moments later, Leary shot underneath his teammate, Garrett, off the fourth turn on the final lap to grab third. Garrett took fourth at the line while point leader Logan Seavey rounded out the top-five.

“Needless to say, this is a fantastic start to the week,” Danner said. “We had a great piece we had tonight. (Car owners) Tim and Fran (Hogue) really do make my job easier. I feel like I have a really good piece, maybe one of the best, but our time trial helped tonight, and our starting position helped. Restarts were key and I’m so thankful to be able to pull it off. I think it’s safe to say that’s the most fun I’ve ever had here.”

Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) opened his night by erasing Kevin Thomas Jr.’s 12-year-old one lap USAC National Sprint Car track record at Grandview. Bacon’s lap of 13.341 seconds in Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying bested the former record of 13.360 set in 2012, giving him his 51st career fast time award, surpassing C.J. Leary for sole possession of fourth all-time.

Overall, Bacon, the five-time Grandview winner, earned his seventh top-two finish at Grandview in just 11 career USAC Sprint starts, adding another one on Tuesday night in his Dynamics, Inc./J. Davidson Scrap Metal – Next Level Metal – Davis Bros. Trucking/Triple X/Rider Chevy. And he did with a daring pass on the final restart with just two laps remaining.

“It was so hard to pass on the top, that was my only option,” Bacon explained. “They were messing up a little bit on the top and I figured that, maybe for a lap, I could run a good enough lap on the bottom to get by. I thought I was actually going to lose third, but then (Garrett) messed up and I got by and was able to stay in front of them both. So, it was close. It was a gamble, but I had to go for it running third. It pays twice as much to run second, so it’s worth the risk. We actually had an issue there the last 15 laps with fuel; something wasn’t quite right. I don’t think it really hurt me, but when you have something wrong, it kind of gets in the back of your head a little bit and you can’t drive as aggressively as you normally would.”

C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) returned to the podium as a top-three finisher for the first time in a month aboard his BGE Dougherty Motorsports/Altoz – Valvoline – Hornbeck Concrete/DRC/1-Way Chevy. He moved to second place in the series standings for his efforts while also slotting into the top-three with one last-ditch effort off the final corner.

“I figured Brady was going to go to the bottom and I got a pretty good run on the last restart on him on the outside there,” Leary detailed. “Honestly, I thought I was going to snooker Brady, but he was able to slide Carson. We were able to diamond it and get by Carson. Carson ran a heck of a race but our 15x was good tonight. We normally struggle in PA so to come out with a third, we’re pretty happy. Obviously, I want to park it in victory lane. I’ve been pretty good here in the past, but I’ve just never been able to get it done here.”

Joey Amantea (Mount Pocono, Pa.) was happy to be back on his home ground at Grandview as he advanced 20th to 9th in the feature to pick up a $100 hard charger reward from Irvin King. For Amantea, it was his first top-10 USAC National Sprint Car result since February at Florida’s Ocala Speedway.

Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) avoided catastrophe in a major stack-up in turn two with 10 laps to go. He saved it, missed the carnage and managed to carry onward to a seventh-place result. For that, he was acknowledged as the recipient of the Inferno Armor Fire Move of the Night.