KOKOMO, Ind. — Spencer Bayston exorcised the demons that had plagued him since last year’s Indiana Midget Week to capture his second career USAC National Midget victory on Sunday night at Kokomo Speedway.
Meanwhile, Shane Golobic used consistency and a daring, late-race move with three laps left to pass Tyler Courtney and secure himself the 2017 Indiana Midget Week title.
Coming into the final night, nine drivers remained mathematically eligible to win the crown, with the top-five separated by just 12 points.
However, misfortune seemed to plague more than its fair share of the top contenders early on.
New Zealand’s Michael Pickens led by one marker over Golobic entering the night, but in hot laps, Pickens’ night took an unexpected turn as he climbed the turn two wall and flipped wildly. His Seamount Racing crew went to work and managed to get the car repaired in time to make a qualifying attempt and continue as scheduled.
In addition, both Justin Grant and Brady Bacon suffered from mechanical problems of their own, forcing them into backup machines for the remainder of the night. Nonetheless, all those who ran into issues would manage to qualify solidly for the night’s 30-lap feature.
One night after their first win of the season, a pair of Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports cars again occupied both spots on the front row.
Tanner Thorson set off from the pole while Bayston set up shop on the outside. Despite a consistent run of quality finishes for much of his three-year USAC Midget career, Bayston hadn’t found victory lane since Gas City, during last year’s Indiana Midget Week.
But after two near-misses in this year’s Midget Week, Bayston had plans to alter his fortunes. He immediately controlled the top side when racing began, and wouldn’t stray too far from his comfort zone on the cushion throughout the duration of the 30-lap event.
The curb did wreak havoc with Bayston on a couple of occasions, however. On lap 10, he snagged it enough to briefly bog him down, and two-time IMW winner Courtney was ready to pounce on the bottom in response.
Courtney was credited with leading laps 11 and 12 at the line by the narrowest of margins, as Bayston briefly moved to the bottom to stifle Courtney’s invasion.
“I went down there one time to block and also to see just what was down there,” Bayston said. “I thought I’d run right back to the top and carry my momentum up there. I felt better up there. That’s where I’d been running all race, so that’s what I stayed with.”
Bayston quickly returned to rim-riding as Courtney settled in on the bottom and a hard-charging Bacon, in the FMR Racing backup, entered the top-three just before the halfway point.
Just after the crossed sticks were displayed, Ryan Robinson rode out a nasty flip in turn three while running 10th, but walked away uninjured.
Following the restart, Courtney would find a pulse once again, as he surged on the bottom past Bayston for the point on laps 20 and 21.
Bayston never wavered, though, and his patience paid off as he blew past Courtney on the back straight with nine to go to grab a lead he wouldn’t relinquish as he began to navigate lapped traffic.
“In turns one and two, there’s a lip in the center in the corner that I struggled to figure out once it got a bit ledgy and curby,” Bayston explained. “That’s when ‘Sunshine’ showed me a nose and I was able to figure it out. Eventually, the bottom slicked off for him and I got faster.”
Courtney was then caught in another race in the closing laps — the race for the Indiana Midget Week title.
His goal was to finish one spot ahead of Golobic and the title was his. But with just three laps to go, Golobic slipped underneath his Clauson-Marshall Racing teammate in turn one for second, ultimately sealing the deal as Bayston went on to the win.
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