- Tyler Courtney won Sunday night’s USAC Feature at Susquehanna Speedway (Michael Fry photo).
YORK HAVEN, Pa. — A perfect driving performance from start-to-finish in dirt track racing is a nearly impossible task to achieve.
There are so many variables at play – some that are controllable and some that are not.
Tyler Courtney appeared to have seen Sunday night’s USAC Eastern Storm presented by DMI finale drift away on multiple occasions. But, when it came to crunch time, the 23-year-old from Indianapolis, Indiana was about as picture-perfect as you could imagine.
Courtney utilized a turn one slide job on Thomas Meseraull with just two laps remaining, which proved to be the winning moment on the way to claiming his third career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature victory and his second of the 2017 season.
Meanwhile, Chris Windom’s ninth-place run was devoid of much in the way of style points, but it was just enough to eke out his first Eastern Storm title by four points over Kevin Thomas, Jr.
“It’s pretty special,” Windom exclaimed. “I ran second behind Bryan (Clauson) last year and ran second to Levi Jones in this deal too. There’s been way too many seconds and I was ready to get the first one out of the way. This one is pretty high up on the list. We’ve won Indiana Sprint Week and now Eastern Storm. That’s very special to me, but it’s not just me, it’s for the team. They’ve worked their butts off in the hotel parking lot all week.”
“It’s been a grueling week out here in the heat. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.”
Windom entered the feature with a 16-point lead in the standings and would roll off sixth on the grid after earlier recording the ProSource Fast Qualifying time.
Chad Boespflug grabbed the lead at the start, sliding to the top and the lead on the initial corner from his pole starting position ahead of Courtney. On the fourth lap, Courtney slid Boespflug for first exiting the fourth corner before surging ahead to the lead at the line.
Trevor Kobylarz nosed into the turn four outer guardrail on lap 11, setting up a restart that Meseraull used to his advantage.
“I thought on this start, just throw a slider on him,” Meseraull recalls. “There’s nothing to lose but a spot or two. I hit the curb off two just right. Next thing you know, man, he’s not there, he’s not there, he’s not there. I just started driving it harder and harder and harder. The next thing you know, the track started building a curb. You don’t want to be out front in case you’re gone and make a mistake and turn it over because when the curb is a foot tall, you can turn it over.”
One lap later, Justin Grant slid Courtney for second entering turn three. Courtney decided to stop fooling around, settled down and ripped second back away from Grant entering turn one.
“Once Meseraull got by and Justin tried to pass me, I knew I had to get going,” Courtney said. “I had to stop messing around and making mistakes. I had to get back by Justin and figure out what I wanted to do with my racecar. It’s a lot easier chasing the rabbit than it is being the rabbit, at least in my shoes.”
Meanwhile, Windom’s chase for the Eastern Storm title was in peril after dropping from sixth to tenth after tangling with Boespflug, thus providing him with minimal wiggle room down the stretch to earn enough points to claim the title.
In the final laps, though, Courtney turned it up a notch in his pursuit of Meseraull, which almost bit him.
“I got up over the cushion and got way sideways off turn four and kept it going,” Courtney details. “I thought I was going to have to settle for second there at that point. But I hit the top and kept digging my way back to Thomas. I think it’s almost a blessing in disguise that I got to chase Thomas and see what he was doing and if he was getting tight. I’m not really known for running the cushion like that, though. It got real big there on the exit of two and four.”
With five to go, Courtney was revitalized, banging off the cush and selling t-shirts, chopping into Meseraull’s lead as the frontrunners encountered lapped traffic. Meseraull split between the two cars of Kyle Moody and Matt Westfall, which, at first, appeared to be a decisive move that put this one on ice. However, Courtney refused to settle, sprinting past Moody on the back straightaway and throwing it deep into turn three on the bottom to dispose of Westfall and tuck right in behind Meseraull with two to go.
“I didn’t know how many laps were left, but I knew it was getting down to the wire,” Courtney remembers. “Getting by Westfall was one of the biggest moves of the race. That’s what got me to Thomas’s bumper. I stopped making the mistakes I was at the beginning of the race and I reeled him in. Thomas was kind of hesitant around the lapped cars and I capitalized on that.”
Courtney was hauling and lined up his bid for the lead on Meseraull heading into turn one on the 29th lap where he dove to the bottom and connected on his slider to take over the position with just a lap-and-a-half to go.