Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) races under the checkered flag to win Friday night's USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature at Jefferson County Speedway in Fairbury, Nebraska. Lonnie Wheatley Photo
THORSON THROTTLES TO 2ND STRAIGHT USAC MIDGET SCORE; WINS JEFFERSON COUNTY NIGHT #1
By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Fairbury, Nebraska (July 16, 2021)………With his engine steaming in victory lane, Tanner Thorson estimated he had barely cracked the throttle throughout the 30-lap duration of Friday night’s Riverside Chevrolet Midwest Midget Championship presented by Westin Packaged Meats and Schmidt’s Sanitation at Fairbury, Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway.
The same could be said for Thorson himself, who has used the mid-summer Mid-America Midget Week to bring the heat to the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship tour in winning his second career series feature at the 1/5-mile dirt oval after earlier winning back in 2017.
Meanwhile, Thorson became the first driver to win back-to-back races during the 2021 season, doing so on consecutive nights after capturing the victory in Thursday’s Chad McDaniel Memorial at bordering Kansas’ Solomon Valley Raceway just 24 hours earlier.
The two performance weren’t exactly mirror reflections of each other with Friday’s wire-to-wire triumph seeming like a relative cakewalk in comparison to the previous night’s hard-charging win aboard his Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports/AME Electrical – The Healing Tree/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
At Jefferson County, the Minden, Nevada native earned a front row starting spot and possessed a stranglehold from the outset of the green, all this despite having to overcome the high-stakes burden of traffic that allowed Kevin Thomas Jr. to move right on in and clamp down mid-race.
The $4,000 victory for Thorson was the first time he’s won back-to-back USAC National Midget features since his championship season of 2016. Interestingly enough, Friday also marked the first time in the series that any driver has won features on consecutive nights in quite nearly, exactly one year ago, on the 2020 Mid-America Midget Week tour.
Tyler Courtney was victorious on July 18-19 of 2020 at Jefferson County and at Caney Valley Speedway in Kansas, respectively.
Thorson’s 24th career USAC National Midget feature score moved him into a tie for 19thall-time with Billy Engelhart while also elevating him above the likes of Christopher Bell, Tom Bigelow, Pancho Carter, Tommy Copp, Kyle Larson, Kevin Olson and Billy Vukovich on the all-time series’ win list.
Beginning his pursuit from the pole, Thorson slid up in front of outside front row starter Kevin Thomas Jr. and quickly obtained control in the early stages with a single car length lead at the stripe.
Moment later, however, the feature’s first stoppage saw 10th running Jerry Coons Jr. barrel rolling in turn three in an incident which also involved Jason McDougal, Ryan Timms and Kaylee Bryson. All drivers were okay, but Coons’ damage was enough to signal an end to his race.
On the ensuing restart, while turning the corner and headed toward the green flag, a chain reaction at the head of the pack had its effects ricochet throughout the entire field, practically. In the resulting melee, five cars were knocked askew and came to a rest on track, including Buddy Kofoid (7th), Kyle Jones (8th), Daison Pursley (9th), Kaylee Bryson (17th) and Thomas Meseraull (18th). All drivers involved were able to resume, albeit from the back of the field.
When the action finally found its footing and the laps began to tick away, Thorson led a three-car breakaway with K. Thomas and Windom tagging along just less than a mere couple car lengths back, while a full straightaway separated the trio and fourth-running Ethan Mitchell with one-third of the race in the books.
By midway, traffic was first and foremost on the mind of the leaders as Thorson sought space to escape his entanglement within the web with the lap counter winding down to less than 10 circuits remaining. There, at that moment, Thorson was momentarily caught up trying to press his way past the final lead lap running car of Tyler Thomas.
With Thorson catching the rear bumper of T. Thomas, but finding difficulty in putting him a lap down, K. Thomas mounted a charge and managed to pull even to the inside of Thorson between turns one and two with eight laps remaining. Using T. Thomas as a pick of sorts, Thorson swept past and had K. Thomas and Windom now pinned behind T. Thomas, which provided a shred of light for Thorson to check out for the remaining balance of the event.
At the finish, Thorson’s final margin of victory was 1.131 seconds over Kevin Thomas Jr. with Chris Windom, Emerson Axsom and Justin Grant rounding out the top-five.
Despite the pressure, Thorson was as cool as the other side of the pillow in equaling point leader Buddy Kofoid as the winningest series driver of the season with four wins apiece.
“I figured he would be there,” Thorson said of K. Thomas. “He’s really good at running the bottom and I figured he was there. I was just trying to hit my marks as best I could and get by the lapped cars. They were kind of holding me up for a minute there and I was getting nervous. I saw KTJ poke his nose in a couple times, and I just had to hold my composure, look forward and go for it.”
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) turned in yet another fine run in his Petry Motorsports/Gray Auto – FK Rod Ends/Bullet By Spike/Speedway Toyota, finishing inside the top-ten for the seventh time in his eight previous starts, equaling his best finish of the season, a 2nd, which he also earned in June at Circle City Raceway in Indianapolis, Ind.
Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) collected a fourth consecutive top-six feature finish with the series, overcoming three-straight results outside the top-ten prior to this successful string of good fortune in the driver’s seat of his CB Industries/NOS Energy Drink – PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Fifth place feature finisher Justin Grant blazed the fastest 10-lap trail for USAC National Midgets at Jefferson County Speedway, finishing the fourth heat race with a time of 1:50.360, which lowered the track record for the distance by nearly six seconds, which was previously held by Tanner Carrick since 2019.
Daison Pursley endured a rough and tumble evening which began with a massive nose-to-tail turn one flip during hot laps. Pursley recovered after his Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team successfully repaired the car and Pursley subsequently recorded the second fastest qualifying time to earn the night’s GSP Quality Driving Performance award before going on to win the semi-feature and finishing 12th in the feature after being involved in the lap two restart kerfuffle.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) kept his undefeated qualifying record alive by recording his fourth career Jefferson County Speedway Fatheadz Fast Qualifying time on Friday night. More amazingly, those four fast times have come in just four appearances at the track, in 2018, twice in 2019 and again in his return on Friday night.