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KNOXVILLE, IOWA (July 6, 2019) - Coming out on top of a wild opening half that saw countless lead changes, Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Okla. outlasted Chris Windom and Kevin Thomas Jr. to score the win in Friday's BRANDT Corn Belt Nationals preliminary feature at Knoxville Raceway.
After two flights of qualifying, six cutthroat heat races, and two semi-features, a field of 51 non-wing sprint cars was cut down to 24 worthy feature starters. With points at all-time premium, every position counted all night long on Friday night as the Corn Belt Nationals made their grand entrance into the world of racing.
Leading the field to the green flag in the 25-lap preliminary feature, Chris Windom of Canton, Ill. shot to the early lead, but Kevin Thomas Jr. of Cullman, Ala. was quick on the trigger and rolled the bottom side from third-to-first by the time he hit the backstretch. While Thomas Jr. led the opening circuit, Windom roared back around the outside and put his NOS Energy Drink. No. 5G back to the point.
Starting an all out WAR for the top spot, Windom and Thomas Jr. went toe-to-toe over the course of the next five laps, remaining glued side-by-side lap-after-lap and corner-after-corner as they duked it out in the early running. Focused on each other, Brady Bacon, who started sixth, caught them by surprised on the sixth go-round as he slid Windom for second and made it a three-way fight.
Windom recovered and led laps 7-11 before a bobble on the entry to turn one created a slip up and allowed Bacon to sneak underneath him and assume command on lap 12. At the halfway mark, Windom recovered and drove back around to the lead, only for Bacon to AGAIN strike back and reclaim the top spot on lap 14, this time for good.
Bacon ensued to sneak away from Windom in the latter half, but a swarm of lap traffic brought Windom right back to Bacon's rear bumper in the closing circuits. As Bacon was boxed in on the bottom and Windom came storming around the outside, the white flag waved and the energy in the air became electric.
Surviving the final half-mile, Brady Bacon fended off Windom's resurgence and held on to win the opening night of the BRANDT Corn Belt Nationals at Knoxville Raceway. The victory for the Hoffman Racing, Mean Green, Triple-X No. 69 marked Bacon's second-career non-wing win at Knoxville and puts him in the catbird seat heading into tomorrow with $20,000 on the line.
"I really love this place," said Bacon in Victory Lane. "It's fun to be able to do in this car, what I'd like to be able to in our wing car when we run the Nationals when we see Donny (Schatz) and everyone who runs the bottom and middle so good. I think, just having a lot of laps here...more than the competition helped me a little bit here to know that middle would come in and things like that. I was having to run a little different line, but I was able to catch the marbles in the middle and get some speed to pass a couple guys. It is testing to slow down and run the bottom. Windom almost got back by me, but fortunately we had a car good enough to make up for my mistakes."
Chris Windom rallied late and offered the fans a thrilling final few laps but fell just short with a second-place bid for his No. 5G machine. Kevin Thomas Jr. closed out the podium with a solid third-place effort his Hayward-Thomas Motorsports, Grainger No. 19T. Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind. brought his Clauson-Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink No. 7BC home in fourth, while Justin Grant of Ione, Calif. ran fifth in the TOPP Motorsports, NOS Energy Drink No. 4.
Rounding out the top ten on night one of the BRANDT Corn Belt Nationals at Knoxville Raceway was Ryan Bernal in sixth, Chase Stockon in seventh, Jason McDougal in eighth, CJ Leary in ninth and Matt Westfall in tenth.
CJ Leary of Greenfield, Ind. set quicktime in Flight A of qualifying with a time of 19.297 seconds aboard his Reinbold/Underwood AME Electrical No. 19AZ, while Justin Grant matched his time of 19.927 seconds to top Flight B of qualifying. Leary, Bacon, Wesley Smith, Courtney, Nick Bilbee and Stockon claimed heat race wins. Kory Schudy won the C-Main, while Carson Short topped the B-Main.
The action resumes tomorrow night with two flights of time trials, four qualifiers, a C-Main, a B-Main and a 30-lap, $20,000/Win, $1,000/Start BRANDT Corn Belt Nationals championship main event. If you can't make it in person to Knoxville Raceway, tune into www.dirtvision.comfor a live broadcast.
For more information on the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint League, you can visit www.powri.comonline, like @WARSprints on Twitter and Instagram, or like POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprints on Facebook.
Time Trials, Flight A (2 Laps):
Time Trials, Flight B (2 Laps):
Heat One (8 Laps / 3 Transfer):
Heat Two (8 Laps / 3 Transfer):
Heat Three (8 Laps / 3 Transfer):
Heat Four (8 Laps / 3 Transfer):
Heat Five (8 Laps / 3 Transfer):
Heat Six (8 Laps / 3 Transfer):
C-Main (10 Laps / 6 Transfer):
B-Main (12 Laps / 6 Transfer):
BRANDT Corn Belt Nationals Preliminary Feature (25 Laps):