One night after assuming the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship point lead for the first time in seven seasons, Kyle Cummins made sure to cement his status as the series’ top dawg at the moment on Thursday night at Indianapolis, Indiana’s Circle City Raceway.
The Princeton, Ind. native once again demonstrated the type of roll he’s been on of late, taking over the race lead just five laps into the 40-lap contest before going on to capture his second $10,000 main event victory of the series season in his Rock Steady Racing/Avanti Windows & Doors – Tim Mason ReMax/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
To give you an indication of the success Cummins has accrued of late, consider this screenshot. It was his eighth top-five finish in nine USAC starts this season, and his third consecutive top-two finish in as many nights this week. In his last 22 USAC starts dating back to last year, Cummins owns 21 top-tens and 18 top-fives.
It’s a highly envious start for anybody chasing the series’ title, but for Cummins, it’s a quest he remains unsure of pursuing due to his day-to-day duties as the owner of NewTech Precision Group, a machine shop in his hometown of Princeton, Ind. While the season long championship race isn’t exactly top of mind in the Month of May, it does bring a curious scenario for Cummins to now face all thanks to his early season success that has put him at the top of the heap.
“We don’t even know if we’re running the whole series yet,” Cummins admitted. “We just came out to run some races, and so far, it’s been going pretty good,” Cummins understatedly explained. “It’s a long season, and with my job, it makes it super stressful and super hard to be able to come out here and race. But to knock off two seconds and a first this week, it kind of makes me itch a little bit thinking about (running for the championship).”
In extending his series point lead to 22 markers, Cummins also moved up another notch on USAC’s National Sprint Car career feature win list. He 16th series victory moved him to 37th all-time alongside Damion Gardner and Jud Larson. In winning, he surpassed the victory totals of Bobby East, Cory Kruseman and Brian Tyler.
Cummins started his race from the outside of the front row, but for the second night in a row at Circle City’s quarter-mile dirt oval, it was Ballou spurting out to the early race lead form the pole position as he squeezed his way past Cummins to escape with the top spot.
However, the first stoppage of the evening came on lap two when the red flag was displayed for 21st running Sterling Cling who flipped over in turn one, heavily damaging the front end of the frame and knocking him out of the contest just as things we’re getting underway. Fortunately, the Arizonian managed to climb out and walk away unscathed.
Upon the resumption, Cummins went right back to work, sliding Ballou for the position in turn three on lap four, then negating a crossover move by Ballou at the turn four exit to win a drag race to the line at the conclusion of lap four, a position he’d never officially relent despite numerous challenges from the reigning champ.
Grant, the defending USAC National Sprint Car titlist, punched his ticket for second when he slid his way past Ballou with a turn one maneuver on the ninth lap. A few ticks later, Wednesday night’s Circle City winner Jake Swanson jumped to third, utilizing a slide job on Ballou on the 13th lap.
Just prior to midway, the caution were switched on for a lap 14 incident involving 11th running Kevin Thomas Jr., which also stopped the 15th place car driven by Chase Stockon. Thomas soldiered on to finish 16th. Meanwhile, 18th starting Stockon was relegated to the tail, and he promptly drove his way back through the field to take seventh, earning hard charger honors for his plus-11 performance.
On the ensuing restart, Cummins was under the attack levied by Grant. First things first, Grant slid past Cummins in turn one immediately after the green flag was displayed. Cummins countered back under to stave off the challenge from Grant who then reloaded with another slide job attempt in turn one on lap 16 only to see Cummins charge back by. Grant’s third try in a two-lap span wasn’t the charm over in turn three as he was unable to clear while Cummins continued on his merry way as the undisputed race leader.
On laps 18 and 20, the song remained the same as Cummins had an answer for every kitchen sink Grant threw at him in turn one, consistently and routinely crossing over and zipping back past Grant to retain the lead. However, any chance Grant had of dethroning Cummins came to an ugly and abrupt end on lap 25 when Grant tagged the outside wall with his right rear and flipped over several times in turn two. Grant was able to return to action, but only managed a 13th place result.
Cummins was locked into the lead and unwavered from there on out without any ounce of a threat from his nearest challenger. Cummins carried on to score a 1.734 second margin of victory and pad his wallet with a $10,000 top prize. Jake Swanson finished second with Brady Bacon third, Emerson Axsom fourth and Matt Westfall fifth.
Cummins’ most notorious challenger came via Grant who bowed out early due to an accident. As the class of the field, Cummins led the final 37 laps en route to victory, a triumph which he earned by taming both the confines and any challenge posed to him from the field of 22 throughout the 40-lap distance.
“That was a very technical race,” Cummins admitted. “When Justin was throwing me sliders there, it was kind of like the heat race. It was pretty exciting until he got turned over there. To come out on top at a track like this is huge; it can just eat your lunch at any moment. But now we’re 10 grand richer.”
It’s been “Consistent City” for Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) at Circle City. One night after winning the feature, he came home second in his Team AZ Racing/Apache Transport – Stratis Construction – USW Cat Construction/DRC/1-Way Chevy. In his last four USAC National Sprint Car starts, Swanson hasn't strayed from the podium, finishing 2nd, 3rd, 1st and 2nd. As a result, he elevated himself from fifth to fourth in series points.
“We were close,” Swanson lamented. “I think Kyle was really good last night too and I think at different parts of the racetrack and at different times of the race, we might’ve been better, and at other times, he was better. But tonight, he pretty well had us covered. Either way, we’re on the podium again and I can’t say enough about my race team for giving me a car that’s capable of being up front every single week.”
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) has been a top-five machine throughout his career, and Thursday night was no exception in his Dynamics, Inc./A & B Sports Bar Café – Tel-Star Technologies – DriveWFX.com/Triple X/Rider Chevy. He has yet to do wrong in USAC National Sprint Car competition at Circle City. In five career series starts, Bacon has finished 2nd, 3rd, 3rd, 3rd and 4th. On this particular night, he drove to a third place result after starting eighth.
“We just had our car really tight, and I just couldn’t run the top very well,” Bacon documented. “I saw them poking their nose down there, so I thought I better go down there and protect, but I found that the middle worked best for me. This is just one of those survival nights; you’ve just got to get through it – a workingman’s night I guess you could say.”
In Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying, Justin Grant recorded his 33rd career fast time in USAC National Sprint Car competition. In doing so, he surpassed Chase Stockon for 11th all-time. Next on the list for Grant is Rich Vogler, who currently stands 10th all-time with 35.