KOKOMO, Ind. — Kevin Thomas Jr. closed his weekend Saturday evening the same way it all began back on Thursday night – with his car parked in Bryan Clauson’s victory lane at Kokomo Speedway.
Thomas put in a masterful performance Saturday night, crafting 40 flawless laps around the quarter-mile dirt oval on his way to his 12th career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory – his second at the track in the last three nights – in Sprint Car Smackdown V.
Thomas ripped around Kokomo lap-after-lap with pristine perfection, taking the lead in the early-going from Tyler Courtney, then leading the final 35 laps to earn his first Smackdown trophy in his 4J Motorsports/Franklin Equipment – CEP Concrete/DRC/Chevy.
“It’s remarkable that I was perfect for 40 laps,” said Thomas. “It’s a struggle for me to get through a heat race some days. Yesterday, we were really struggling and wondered what we were going to do. We were hoping we were going to make the top-eight and, luckily, we did. We got a good starting spot and got a clean track in front of us. I was just able to hit my marks. I actually need to thank Robert Ballou for showing me the way around the lapped cars. I think the bottom in turns three and four were going away and he started ripping the top up there.”
Thomas began the 40-lap affair from the fourth position in front of a packed house who looked on as Lauren Stewart – Bryan Clauson’s fiancée – waved the green flag.
Courtney, who started on the pole by virtue of defeating Thomas Meseraull in the two-car, three-lap B&W Auto Mart King of the Hill championship earlier in the night, would take the early advantage after sliding up in front of outside front row starter Mesearull entering turn one at the start.
After leading the first lap by a minuscule margin, Courtney dove into turn one on the second lap, hiking the left rear in the process, which allowed Meseraull to pull ahead briefly on the bottom. Courtney was able to gather his wits and blasted around the outside of Meseraull out of turn two to regain the lead.
After another near dead heat at the line at the conclusion of lap two, all signs pointed toward this being yet another classic Kokomo barnburner between Courtney and Meseraull.
However, that notion would be short-lived as Meseraull shadowed Courtney at the exit of turn four on lap three. Without warning, Meseraull’s car suddenly veered right, plowing into the outside wall and putting a severe hurt on the front end of the Michael Dutcher Motorsports no. 17GP. Meseraull was uninjured, but would be finished for the remainder of the night.
On the lap three restart, Courtney shot out to the lead once again as Chad Boespflug, who, just last week, bagged $60,000 in winnings at Badlands Motor Speedway in South Dakota, began to peek his nose underneath Thomas for the second spot. Together, the two began to close the gap between themselves and leader Courtney and, on lap six, Thomas was able to sneak by Courtney to take the point with an outside pass on the back straightaway. One lap later, Boespflug also slipped by Courtney to grab second.
On the ninth lap, Zach Daum walked away from an end-over-end turn one flip that brought out the night’s first red.
Working on the cushion in turns one and two and the bottom in turns three and four, Thomas put a little bit of distance between himself and the rest of the field as second-running Boespflug followed in suit nearly four car-lengths back when racing resumed.
Kyle Robbins barrel-rolled his machine into turn one to bring out the night’s second red flag on the 15th lap. He was uninjured, but the stoppage erased the more than one second lead Thomas had constructed in the early stages.
Thomas snaked the field around the turn four infield tires for the lap 15 restart. Yet, it was on the opposite portion of the racetrack where fourth-running Chris Windom began to make his charge. Windom put all four of his wheels above the cushion in turns one and two and on the entry to turn three before diamonding off to charge down the turn four banking.