USAC: Leary’s Long Wait Is Over; Collects First National Sprint Car Win At Kokomo

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C.J. Leary celebrated his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory on Friday night, taking the win on the second night of Sprint Car Smackdown V at Kokomo Speedway. (Ryan Sellers photo)

C.J. Leary celebrated his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory on Friday night, taking the win on the second night of Sprint Car Smackdown V at Kokomo Speedway.
(Ryan Sellers photo)

KOKOMO, Ind. — Patience is a virtue and, over the last five seasons, no one has exhibited that more than C.J. Leary.

After watching five other drivers notch their first series victories this season, it was Leary’s turn Friday night as he held off multiple mid-race challenges, then cruised his way to victory lane for his first career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory on night two of Sprint Car Smackdown V at Kokomo Speedway.

In what was his 140th career series start, Leary led all 30 laps from the pole at Kokomo, but it was not nearly as easy as the box score would indicate.  Leary had to hold off Thomas Meseraull and Tyler Courtney on a heavy, lightning-quick racetrack assisted by persistent rain throughout the evening.

Alongside his initial Silver Crown victory back in April at Terre Haute, Leary became the first driver since Kyle Larson in 2011 to win both his first career USAC Silver Crown and National Sprint Car victories in the same season.

“I can’t even put this into words right now,” Leary said.  “I’ve been so close; I can finally say ‘I parked it.’  Bryan (Clauson) took a lot of wins away from me, but I can say it definitely made me better.  Donnie and Cody (Gentry) had this thing on a rail.  I got to thank Shane (Wade) for putting me in this car.  This is unreal.

“When I caught lapped traffic, it got real hard seeing the cushion getting into (turn) one,” Leary added.  “There was a real fine line hitting the cushion just right.  When I was by myself, the car was awesome. The racetrack was legendary tonight; it hasn’t been like this in a while!  Hats off to the track crew for working their butts off to let us race tonight and to you fans for sticking it out.”

Michael Dutcher Motorsports pilot Meseraull began the 30-lap feature from the pole position with Amati Racing’s Leary alongside.  Just one month ago, the two drivers were in the others current ride before swapping teams just after the conclusion of Indiana Sprint Week.

Meseraull beat Leary into turn one from the inside at the start, but Leary was able to use the high line to rocket off the turn two cushion to grab the lead, quickly distancing himself from Meseraull in the opening stages.

On the ninth lap, Courtney entered the fray, applying pressure to Meseraull for the second spot as the two followed Leary into the treacherous land of lapped traffic.

While negotiating backmarkers on the 13th lap, Meseraull stumbled on the turn two cushion, pulling the wheels off the ground briefly and opening the door for Courtney — who darted alongside Meseraull, nearly making contact with each other as the two raced down the back straightaway.  However, Meseraull was able to withstand the bullet to retain the second spot for the meantime.

Leary bounced off the thick turn two cushion on lap 15, forcing Meseraull, following just behind, to get on the binders, thus allowing Courtney to capitalize and grab second from Meseraull exiting turn two.

Meseraull dove to the bottom in turn one just after passing underneath flagman Tom Hansing’s crossed flags indicating the halfway mark of the 30-lap feature as Leary went topside and Courtney played the role as the meat in a three-car sandwich in the middle.  Leary would prevail off of turn two as the leader while Meseraull slotted back into second and Courtney slid to third on the back straight.

Leary again ricocheted off the turn two cushion one lap later.  Meseraull cut underneath Leary exiting turn two, making contact with his right front tire and Leary’s left rear which sent Meseraull’s car on four-wheel drift sideways down the back straightaway.  Courtney stood on the throttle, wheel-standing his way past Meseraull for second entering turn three, then beat him in a race back to the flagstand by a single car-length to take the position.

Continued on the next page…

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