Tanner Thorson took advantage of a late yellow flag with two laps remaining, passing two cars on the restart on the way to winning night one of the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series’ 53rd Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway.
The victory marked the 35th national midget feature win for a Toyota-powered driver in 2020, with Thorson taking home top honors in three of those. Overall, Toyota drivers have now won seven consecutive USAC events.
Starting from the outside of the front, fellow Toyota driver Buddy Kofoid would take the lead from teammate Brenham Crouch on the opening lap, with Thorson running third and Logan Seavey in fourth.
Thorson quickly moved past Crouch to take over second on lap two and, shortly afterward, would then begin a two-car battle with Kofoid that would continue throughout the 30-lap feature.
Running the high side, Thorson would edge Kofoid by a nose to take the lead on lap five, but Kofoid would come back to regain the top spot on lap six with Seavey moving into third, one position ahead of Daison Pursley.
By lap eight, the top three were trading sliders for the lead, but Kofoid was able to hold the top spot through lap nine before Seavey would go high through one and slide Kofoid for the lead coming out of turn two.
Kofoid and Thorson would trade sliders for the next 15 laps, constantly passing one another lap after lap. As the two Toyota drivers battled for second, it gave Seavey the opportunity to pull away from the field, stretching out a 1.7-second lead by the midway point.
Kofoid eventually secured second in the last five and started to close on the leader, but it appeared that Seavey would cruise to a comfortable victory before the yellow flag waved on lap 29 as Crouch came to a stop. That would set up a two-lap dash to the finish between Seavey, Kofoid and Thorson for the win.
On the restart, Kofoid got the jump and went underneath Seavey into turn one for a slight lead as they ran side-by-side going into two. As they battled for the lead up top, Thorson would dive beneath both of them coming out of turn two and take the lead. Seavey would recover to take back second as they came to the white flag. He would make a late run at Thorson through turns three and four, but it wasn’t enough with Thorson taking the checkered flag. Seavey would finish second, with Tyler Courtney in third. Kofoid and Pursley would finish fourth and fifth to give Toyota three of the top-five finishers on the night.
“We had a fast car, but we just got caught up with all the sliders and fell too far back (before the yellow),” said Thorson after the win. “This car has been fast every time I’ve been in it. Five races and we’ve finished in the top five every time. We’re getting there. I just can’t say enough about everyone with this Tom Malloy/Trench Shoring team.”
Toyota drivers captured positions six through ten, with Justin Grant placing sixth, followed by Tanner Carrick, Chris Windom, Clinton Boyles and Cannon McIntosh. The seven Toyotas finishing in the top-10 were made up of drivers from five different teams.
USAC returns to the Arizona Speedway for night two of the Western World Championship on Saturday night.