By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Lawrenceburg, Indiana (September 29, 2022)………Kevin Thomas Jr. knew what was coming on the final lap of last year’s running of the Fall Nationals at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.
On the fly, he had to conjure up a plan on whether to fight the inevitable slide job on the final lap or just let it happen and prepare himself with a counter measure in response After missing his mark in turn one on the 30th and last lap of the $10,000-to-win main event, those exact thoughts raced through his mind.
Although he hadn’t felt any pressure up to that point, from there, he knew his best option was to let him go, then hit the ridge in the middle of three and four and cross him over. And that’s just what KTJ did as he raced under the checkered flag to become the first three-time winner of the Fall Nationals.
This Saturday night, October 1, at “The Burg,” he’ll try to cash in the $10,000 check by putting number four on the board after previously winning the race in 2017-19-21.
The Cullman, Ala. racer owns five career USAC National Sprint Car feature wins at Lawrenceburg dating back to 2013, which ranks tied for second all-time with Jon Stanbrough. Dave Darland has won the most often with seven.
However, in that 2021 race, for the longest time, it appeared outside front row starter Emerson Axsom had the upper hand as he led the first 26 laps of the feature until exiting the fourth turn on lap 26. That’s when Axsom’s right rear tire suddenly gave away, forcing him to a complete stop in a heartbreaking moment that denied him, at the time, his first career series victory. The series leading Rookie in points looks to return to USAC victory lane for the first time since February in Ocala, Fla.
Championship point leader Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) was triumphant in the 2018 Fall Nationals where he led the first lap and the final 18 after being mired in a spirited duel with Bacon. Four of Grant’s USAC National Sprint wins have come at Lawrenceburg, including the first of his career back in 2012. He has six career top-five finishes at the Fall Nationals, including a 5th in 2013, a 4th in 2014, a 5th in 2016, a 3rd in 2017, a 1st in 2018 and a 3rd in 2019.
Dueling with Grant for the series title entering the weekend is 2020 Fall Nationals victor Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) who finds himself 80 points behind in second. The four-time champ owns three USAC scores at Lawrenceburg, with additional victory lane visits coming in the summer of 2015 and the spring of 2021. At the Fall Nationals, Bacon has been the fastest qualifier in 2011 and has finished in the top-four five times over the years, including 2nd in 2014 and 2017 as well as 4th in 2015 and 2021.
Two-time Fall Nationals winner Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) won the first two editions of the event under Midwest Sprint Car Series sanction in 2007 and 2008, the first one coming on the former 1/4-mile and the latter coming on the 3/8-mile version. Ballou has been a Lawrenceburg USAC Sprint winner once before in his career, scoring the “W” during 2011 Indiana Sprint Week. At the Fall Nationals, the 2015 series champion has also finished 4th in 2017 and 5th in 2020.
The very first of Chase Stockon’s 13 career USAC National Sprint Car victories came at the Fall Nationals in 2012. He’s started all 12 Fall Nationals under USAC sanction since 2009. The Fort Branch, Ind. native also finished as the runner-up in the Fall Nationals during the 2013 race. He took 9th in 2021 and 10th at the event in 2019.
Fall Nationals winner Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) made his first start in the event with a solid 6th place result back in 2012. His next came in 2015 when he took over the lead on lap two and dominated the rest of the distance in what was his second career USAC National Sprint Car victory at the time.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) has raced to a pair of Lawrenceburg USAC Sprint Car victories during the Indiana Sprint Week round in both 2017 and 2019. The 2019 USAC National Sprint Car champion also won the 2013 Lawrenceburg Speedway track championship and has finished in the top-three twice at the Fall Nationals in his career. He was 3rd in 2015 and 2nd in 2017. He was 4th in each of the last two years in 2019 and 2020. In both 2015 and 2018, he was the fastest qualifier at the Fall Nationals.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) has been the winner of a USAC National Sprint Car feature at Lawrenceburg, scoring a decisive victory during the 2021 Indiana Sprint Week round. Back in June of 2021, Seavey swept both ends of the night, taking wins in both the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget portion and the ensuing Lawrenceburg Sprint car feature. The 2018 USAC National Midget champ experienced his best Fall Nationals performance yet in 2021, finishing 7th.
Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) was the fastest qualifier and a 9th place finisher in his Fall Nationals debut in 2020. In 2021, the USAC National Most Improved Driver upped his game once more by traveling from 10th to finish 5th.
Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.) took 7th in the Fall Nationals of 2012. His ride for the Fall Nationals, the Hodges Motorsports No. 74x, won the event with Josh Hodges as the driver during the 2016 season. In fact, the Hodges car has finished in the top-10 at the Fall Nationals on three occasions: 1st in 2016, 8th in 2017 and 10th in 2018. The 2016 run still stands as the fastest 30-lap USAC Sprint Car race in the history of Lawrenceburg Speedway at 7:21.09.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) owns three career top-six results in his Fall Nationals career, led by a 4th in 2016, followed by a 5th in 2009 and a 6th most recently in 2020. He’s finished eight of his last nine USAC National Sprint Car feature starts inside the top-five.
Max Adams (Loomis, Calif.) made the most recent Fall Nationals run his best with an 8th in 2021. Among the Fall Nationals veterans joining him in the field include 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver, Terre Haute, Indiana’s Brandon Mattox (12th in 2021), Cincinnati, Ohio’s Saban Bibent (14th in 2021), recent first-time USAC winner Worthington, Indiana’s Jadon Rogers (15th in 2021), plus one-time USAC winner, Pleasant Hill, Ohio’s Matt Westfall (15th in 2018) and two-time USAC National Sprint Car winner, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Jason McDougal (17th in 2018).
Impressive USAC Rookie Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) set Fatheadz Fast Qualifying time during Lawrenceburg’s abbreviated, rained out Indiana Sprint Week round in July, but will plan to make his first series feature start at the track this Saturday. In June, he ran 8th at the Burg during USAC Indiana Midget Week.
Moles will be joined by Anton Hernandez (Arlington, Texas) as far as Fall Nationals Rookies, and will be driving for 2B Racing, which won a local show at Lawrenceburg in April with driver Chad Boespflug. Hernandez captured his first career 410 Sprint Car victory at Lawrenceburg in 2020.
Furthermore, it’s race number nine of ten for the Bubby Jones Master of Going Faster Series presented by Spire Sports + Entertainment. Brady Bacon leads the 10-race miniseries’ point standings by 26 points of Justin Grant (-26) with C.J. Leary (-52) in third. The champion of which will receive a $10,000 bonus. One race remains after Lawrenceburg, on November 5, in the Oval Nationals at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.
Pits open for Saturday’s Fall Nationals at 3pm Eastern with front gates opening at 5pm, the drivers meeting at 5:15pm and hot laps at 6pm with qualifying and racing immediately following.
The event features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship along with the KOI Auto Parts UMP Modifieds. Adult general admission tickets are $30, kids 7-12 are $7 and children 6 and under are free. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members.
Saturday’s Fall Nationals from Lawrenceburg can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3OivVbj.