TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — Chase Stockon became the seventh different winner on the seventh night of the 29th annual Indiana Sprint Week Sunday night at the Terre Haute Action Track.
Yet, it was fourth-place finisher Brady Bacon who, despite going winless in the seven races, used a string of consistent finishes to accumulate enough points to claim his first ISW crown.
Bacon’s finishes of fifth, fifth, seventh, 11th, second and seventh during the first six ISW races put him in the catbird seat coming into Sunday night’s Don Smith Classic feature. Bacon led defending Sprint Week champion Robert Ballou by 15 points entering the finale.
Due to their solid qualifying efforts earlier in the evening, both Bacon and Ballou were in an enviable position at the start of the 30-lap main event. Ballou rolled off third with Bacon directly behind him on the inside of row three.
Ballou was more than a formidable challenge to Bacon evidenced by his prowess on the half-mile dirt oval, picking up victories in the two most recent USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car visits to the Action Track.
But Bacon’s mission was clear. Finish in the top five and the ISW title was all his.
At the start, polesitter Chase Stockon gallantly streamed to the lead into turn one, sliding up to the high side as outside front row starter Tyler Courtney skated sideways in the middle of the corner, yet was able to maintain the position as the field shot down the back straightway.
On lap two, the red flag flew for the night’s only incident involving Englishman Tom Harris, who took a nasty-looking tumble between turns three and four. He was uninjured.
On the restart, Courtney took a run at Stockon for the lead on the bottom of turn one, but was denied, forcing him to fall back into line in second at the exit of turn two.
One lap later, third-running Ballou attempted a similar move on Courtney, shooting to the inside guardrail in turn three for second, but wasn’t able to make it stick as Courtney motored away to hold steady in the runner-up spot.
Meanwhile, Stockon was gone, checking out on the field for a half-straightaway lead.
Courtney and Ballou closed on Stockon as the leader worked lapped traffic on the 14th circuit of the half-mile oval.
With 11 laps to go, Ballou tried a colossal slider on Courtney for second in turn one. Ballou drifted his way toward the topside in a classic, patented Terre Haute slide job, appearing to pinch Courtney just a tad enough to slow him up. But Courtney never lifted, instead, throttling his way off the exit of turn two to remain in second.
However, three laps later, Ballou gave it another shot. This time, he made the move stick, slipping past the Gas City ISW winner for second.
One lap later, with six to go, fast-qualifier Bryan Clauson smoked Courtney for second, but his stay in the top-three would be short-lived after his right rear tire blew out on lap 25, bringing out the night’s final caution flag and setting up a final six-lap dash for glory.
Stockon, Ballou and Courtney marched single-file at speed up against the cushion, right up next to the wall on the restart with ISW point leader Brady Bacon a distant fourth.
With three to go, Ballou was closer to Stockon than he’d been all race, prompting Ballou to toss a short-slider at Stockon in turn one that came up short, but Ballou refused to be fazed, staying right with Stockon two to three links back in second.
Though Stockon was just within Ballou’s grasp during the final laps, Ballou was never quite close enough to mount a serious challenge to make the winning move. As Stockon gassed his machine sideways off of the final corner with the checkered flag in clean sight, the Fort Branch, Indiana driver had the victory in the bag, his second win at the track in USAC competition and first since 2012, followed to the line by Ballou and Courtney.
Stockon was the seventh driver to win a feature during the unprecedented, historic seven night ISW of 2016, a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since 2001.