LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — It may have taken C.J. Leary 140 races to get his first AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series win, but it only took him 28 more to get his second, after the 21-year-old topped the second night of Indiana Sprint Week on Sunday night at Lawrenceburg Speedway.
Good fortune had eluded Leary up to this point of the season. Mired back in eighth in the standings and without a victory through the first half of the season, the team thrashed to find the right combination that would pay dividends for them in the immediate future.
“It’s been a real trying season,” Leary admitted. “All year, if it wasn’t for bad luck, we’d have no luck at all. We kept trying different stuff and nothing seemed to be working.”
Prior to Sprint Week, the Leary’s made several changes to the puzzle pieces that make up their team. There were adjustments made to the shock package and the installation of a new engine, but the biggest change was a switch on the one turning the wrenches.
Donnie Gentry became Leary’s new crew chief, pairing Leary with the same man who called the shots when he drove Shane Wade’s No. 66 to his first USAC Sprint win at Kokomo Speedway’s Sprint Car Smackdown last August.
“Donnie and I had some chemistry last year when we won at the Smackdown together,” Leary said. “What he does with the race car works really well with my style. This is one of my best racetracks and Donnie’s got a really good setup for it. The biggest key of the night, though, was qualifying up front and getting track position against the best race cars and the best drivers in the country.”
Leary timed in third-fastest and ultimately started fourth for the 30-lap main event, while Brady Bacon jumped out front on the initial start after hauling around polesitter Hunter Schuerenberg on the top of turns one and two.
By lap three, Leary — the 2013 Lawrenceburg track champion — was eager to pounce and slid Bacon for the point at the entrance to turn one. Bacon quickly counterpunched, ducking low to retake the lead as the two hustled down the back straightaway.
But Leary entered the ring once again, ripping the outside between turns three and four to blast around Bacon for the lead exiting the fourth corner.
From there, Leary built a full-straightaway lead on the high-banked half-mile dirt oval, only to see it evaporate when the night’s only caution fell on lap 13 for a loose infield tire.
“The yellow actually helped bail me out of heavy lapped traffic,” Leary said. “It put me back in the clear air and allowed me to pull away a little bit on the restart. I got a little bit of a lead and was able to ride in traffic, so I didn’t have to push it too hard. I think if we would have had another yellow somewhere along the way, it would’ve been the same result.”
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