Circle K For Kyle: Cummins Repeats Circle City Success at ISW Round 4

”I love this place.”
 
Kyle Cummins isn’t shy in sharing his fondness for Circle City Raceway, and it was quite evident to see why during Monday night’s fourth round of USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week Presented By Honest Abe Roofing.
 
In the sixth ever visit by the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship to the 1/4-mile dirt oval on the southeast side of Indianapolis, Indiana, not only did the Princeton, Ind. native become the first two-time feature winner at the track, he also became the first driver to win back-to-back series events at the venue after previously scoring a victory in May of this year.
 
Starting his 30-lap pursuit from the fifth position, Cummins raced his way into the lead with a turn one slider on leader Xavier Doney with 11 laps remaining to earn his fourth USAC National Sprint Car main event triumph of the season and the 18th of his career, surpassing Jerry Coons Jr., Jim Hurtubise and Bud Kaeding for sole possession of 34th all-time.
 
Cummins’ first USAC win in more than five weeks also was the seventh of his Indiana Sprint Week career, moving him up to sixth place on the all-time list, tying himself with Bryan Clauson and C.J. Leary. His seven ISW wins have come at five different racetracks since his initial score in 2016, but this particular one was of utmost importance as much as it was needed after opening the first three nights of Indiana Sprint Week with results of 6th, 19th and 18th.
 
“I love this place,” Cummins exclaimed. “You’ve got to run hard, then you’ve got to be easy. You just need the cushion a little bit and be really nice with the throttle. This is a big win for our team. We’ve struggled for the past two months.”
 
Additionally, Cummins and his Avanti Windows & Doors – Tim Mason ReMax/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy delivered the 25th USAC National Sprint Car entrant win for car owner Hank Byram and Rock Steady Racing, boosting the Dupont, Ind. based team to 20th all-time alongside National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee Bob Hampshire.
 
The front row of the feature showcased two young talents, both of whom were vying for their first career USAC National Sprint Car feature victories. Doney delivered the first punch, driving to the lead from his pole starting position while outside front row starter Carson Garrett slotted into second.
 
Soon after, Garrett went on the attack and posed the first challenge to Doney for the lead. On the fourth lap, Garrett took off to the outside, pulling even with Doney as the pair crossed the start/finish line with both touching wheels. The resulting contact required Garrett to recalibrate, and he began to re-pursue Doney on the low line.
 
On lap six, Garrett was able to slide past Doney for the position in lap three.  However, seemingly expecting the maneuver, Doney tapped the brakes and pointed his car’s nose toward the bottom of turn four to drive past Garrett and retain the lead for the time being. That is, until lap eight when Garrett tried again and succeeded with a turn two slide job that put him at the forefront of the 22-car field.
 
Garrett’s lead was relatively short-lived, however, after performing a half-spin in turn two on lap 10, which allowed Doney to race back by into the lead while Garrett free-fell all the way to fifth as Doney, Cummins, Logan Seavey and Brady Bacon all blitzed by to capitalize on the Garrett stumble.
 
The feature’s lone red flag was displayed on lap 15 when eighth running Mitchel Moles flipped atop the outside wall between turns one and two. Moles was able to walk away, albeit gingerly, as the Circle City USAC one-lap track record holder saw his race conclude prematurely.
 
When action resumed, Doney established a solid restart which provided him with a healthy cushion in the lead as the race passed the midway point. All along, from lap one, Cummins was right there with the leaders. On lap 20, he was ready to pounce, sliding Doney in turns one and two.  Doney returned fire by sliding Cummins a half-lap later in turn three. Cummins was ready and countered back underneath in turn four to repossess the number one spot from Doney with a mere 10 laps to go. 
 
“He was hitting his marks perfectly,” Cummins said of Doney. “One time, he got a little sideways, and I thought it might be my only chance, but I didn’t think I was going to fully slide him. I went to the middle, and I didn’t hear him, so I was like, ‘well, maybe he tried to turn down.’ So, I got to the cushion. If he would’ve ran around, he would’ve just taken back the lead.”
 
Lurking in the shadows was Indiana Sprint Week point leader Bacon who rode the bottom past Doney for second on the 21st circuit, and it appeared as if the final 10-lap tussle was going to become a heavyweight, high/low match between he and Cummins.
 
However, on lap 23, in one of the more unexpected turn of events you’ll ever witness, Bacon proceeded to clip an infield tire with his left front in turns three and four, which slid him into a stall and stop. The incident proved costly as it dropped Bacon from a possible victory down to 16th in the running order. It also cost him his lead in both the overall USAC Sprint Car National Championship as well as the Indiana Sprint Week title race, a lead in which he now shares with Justin Grant, who finished 11th at Circle City.
 
Cummins wasn’t going to allow himself to be detained by his competitors as he raced away from the field on the restart. Instead, the battles ensued behind him with Seavey swiping third from Doney with an outside back straightaway pass on lap 24. Meanwhile, Shane Cottle was putting on a patented Shane Cottle-like performance, surging on the low line to fourth after starting back in 12th.
 
Seavey’s conquest continued with a slider on Doney for second as the field came to the white flag on lap 29 before nipping him at the stripe for the spot with one lap remaining.
 
Up further ahead, Cummins wasn’t going to be denied on his journey to victory lane, winning by a 2.453 second margin over Seavey. Cottle grabbed third at the finish line with new USAC National Sprint Car point leader Emerson Axsom fourth and Doney finishing a career best fifth after leading a race-high 17 laps.
 
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) earned his best finish of the USAC National Sprint Car season with a second-place performance in his 2B Racing/Honest Abe Roofing – Benic Enterprises – Goodnight Racing/DRC/Claxton Chevy. It was his first finish on the podium with the series since scoring a third in April of this year at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway.
 
Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) once again earned J & J Trucking Hard Charger honors, doing so for the third time in four Indiana Sprint Week starts in this year’s edition. On this night, he officially traveled 12th to third for his best finish of the USAC National Sprint Car season.  He was running ninth with as few as 10 laps to go and was still sixth with six to go before making his surge to the podium in his Epperson Racing/Epperson Painting – PPG Paints/DRC/Claxton Chevy.
 
C.J. Leary drew a “74” during the pre-race pill draw, which made him the last driver to make an Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying attempt of the night. Despite that, Leary posted the fastest time of all for the second night in a row with a time of 11.990 seconds. In his first 21 appearances of the 2023 USAC National Sprint Car season, the Greenfield, Ind. driver had zero fast times. In his last two appearances, he has two. It’s the 43rd fast qualifying time of his career, putting him just two behind Brady Bacon for fourth all-time.
 
Four drivers got upside down throughout the event with Tayte Williamson flipping down the back straight in hot laps. Matt McDonald left the ballpark by clearing the outside wall in turns one and two on his qualifying run. Dalton Stevens tipped his ride after he clipped an infield tire during the fourth heat race.  Moles was the last one to get on his lid with lap 15 incident during the feature. All drivers were able to walk away.
 
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