Tim Buckwalter Makes Late Race Charge To Win 600 Speedweek Opener
By Barry Angstadt
Newmanstown, PA - Tanner Thorson proved once again that he is a master at negotiating the tight bullring known as Lanco's Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway. But it was flip by one of his rivals that may have provided the key to his victory in Tuesday night's USAC National Midget Championship event at the Newmanstown, Pa. oval.
In Round Three of PA Midget Week, Tyler Courtney and Justin Grant lined up on the front row for the start of the 40-lap A-Main. They went side by side through turns one and two, where Grant got so much bite that his right side grabbed the clay and the left side of his Clauson-Marshall No. 39 launched skyward. Grant twirled in mid air before coming back down on all four wheels and bringing out an immediate red flag.
That incident moved Thorson, the Minden, Nevada racer, up to the front row alongside Courtney. When the second attempt at a start went green, Thorson throttled his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, JBL Audio No. 67 into the lead with teammate Spencer Bayston charging past Courtney and into the runner-up spot.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma's Brady Bacon looked to have the fastest car in the first quarter of the race. Bacon sizzled by Courtney for third, then slipped past Bayston for second on lap five. Courtney, Bayston, and Shane Golobic swapped second, third, and fourth positions for the next several circuits as Bacon tried his best to cut into the sizeable lead built by Thorson. He was closing on the leader as they approached the back of the field, where traffic would have no doubt played into Bacon's favor, but a timely yellow with 17 tours complete worked to Thorson's advantage.
The caution cleared the track in front of the leaders, and Thorson took off once more as the green reappeared. While Bacon remained within striking distance, Thorson was definitely in control. On a restart with 19 to go, Courtney dashed past Bayston, the National Midget tour's point leader, to take over third position.
Thorson worked lapped traffic flawlessly over the final laps to produce a sequel to his 2016 victory at Clyde Martin. After a couple of near misses in the first two rounds of PA Midget Week, Thorson finally scored the "W", giving Keith Kunz and Toyota their 150th triumph together.
Bacon, Courtney, Bayston, and Golobic made up the rest of the top five as the checkered waved, with Path Valley winner Chad Boat finishing sixth. Tim Buckwalter was the best of the locals with a seventh place effort, while Tanner Carrick, Tony DiMattia, and Landon Simon completed the top ten
Golobic recorded the Pro Source quick time of the night at 10.554-seconds in USAC Midget time trials. With 23 Midgets entering the event, qualifying heat victories went to Grant, Buckwalter, and Alex Bright.
Tuesday also served as opening night for the Hyper Racing 600 Sprint Speedweek series presented by SmallCarWeekly.com. And Tim Buckwalter showed everyone that he will be a force in the four-race Speedweek tour.
Jarid Kunkle grabbed the early lead over pole sitter Heath Hehnly on a restart with one lap in the books. Kunkle set the pace through lap 19 with Hehnly nipping at his heels and Buckwalter challenging a strong running Ryan Groff for third.
On a restart with 11 to go, Hehnly forged back in front of Kunkle as Buckwalter secured third and Bradley Brown ducked under Groff for the fourth spot. Another caution period with nine revolutions remaining provided the opportunity for Buckwalter to muscle his way past Kunkle for second as the race went back to green.
Buckwalter began hounding Hehnly for the top spot, pulling even with the leader on several occasions. Hehnly fended off the attacks until they headed off turn four with the white flag waving, when Buckwalter fired off the bottom of the corner to move in front. The Douglassville, Pa. wheel-twister led the final trip around the ultra-tacky, progressively banked oval to record his second wingless 600 win of the season at Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway.
Kunkle held on for third over Brown, Groff, and Chad Sandt. Jacob Severn, Kyle Spence (who had to come from the back of the pack twice during the 30-lapper), Kyle Lick, and Mike Rutherford rounded out the top ten at the finish.
Hyper Racing 600 Speedweek presented by SmallCarWeekly.com continues on Wednesday night, August 16, at the JeffreyHogueRealtor.com Action Track USA on the Kutztown Fairgrounds, with the third race set for Thursday, August 17, at Linda's Speedway in Jonestown, Pa. The final race of the series will be contested on Friday the 18th at Spirit Auto Center Speedway in Bridgeport, NJ.
Thursday's race at Linda's finds the wingless 600's joining the USAC National Midget Championship once again as PA Midget Week wraps up its four race tour in the Keystone State.
USAC National Midget Championship A-Main, 40 Laps: 1.Tanner Thorson, 2.Brady Bacon, 3.Tyler Courtney, 4.Spencer Bayston, 5.Shane Golobic, 6.Chad Boat, 7.Tim Buckwalter, 8.Tanner Carrick, 9.Tony DiMattia, 10.Landon Simon, 11.Kenny Miller III, 12.Ryan Greth, 13.Andrew Layser, 14.Eric Heydenreich, 15.Holly Shelton, 16.Adam Pierson, 17.Brayton Lynch, 18.Alex Bright, 19.Tommy Kunsman, 20.Shawn Jackson, 21.Kenney Johnson, 22.Justin Grant. DNS: Jimmy Glenn.
Hyper Racing 600 Speedweek A-Main, 30 Laps: 1.Tim Buckwalter, 2.Heath Hehnly, 3.Jarid Kunkle, 4.Bradley Brown, 5.Ryan Groff, 6.Chad Sandt, 7.Jacob Severn, 8.Kyle Spence, 9.Kyle Lick, 10.Mike Rutherford, 11.Nate Brinker, 12.Eric Bodine, 13.Mike Linderman, 14.Matt Carr, 15.Danny Buccafusca, 16.Rodeny Stealy, 17.Shaun Brandel, 18.Tyler Ulrich, 19.Robbie Hocker, 20.Zeb Wise, 21.Austin Quick, 22.Nick Walton, 23.Nash Ely, 24.Joel Smith, 25.Tommy Kunsman, 26.Jim Radney.
DNQ: Jack Conover, Dylan Woodling, James Morris, Kassidy Michael, BJ Antonio, TJ Greve, Dawson Stealy, Kevin Hapner, Erick Heydenreich, Jeffrey Newell, Bennett Lushin, Johnny Smith, Jason Swavely, Brandon Pavel, Wayne Scott, Aaron Bollinger, Rebecca LaMothe, Lance Tomlinson, Paige Moss, Alex Bright, Chris Stockham.