Press ReleaseUSAC

USAC’s First Lady! Bryson Bests Silver Crown Field on Historic Night at Belleville

By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Belleville, Kansas (May 18, 2024)………The sign at the turn four gate of the Belleville High Banks states boldly and proudly that this place is “where legends are made.”

The legend of Kaylee Bryson is still growing, but on Saturday night at the 1/2-mile dirt oval in north central Kansas, she cemented herself in the record books by becoming the first woman to win a USAC nationally sanctioned event in the 69-year history of the organization.

On a night that will go down as one of the most historic in USAC racing lore, Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) first set the tone for the evening by capturing the pole position during Honest Abe Roofing Qualifying – the first woman to achieve that distinction in USAC Silver Crown history.

At the conclusion of the 50-lap main event, she managed to one-up herself and up-end the collective racing world, taking over the lead with 16 laps remaining, then fending off a furious charge levied by C.J. Leary during the final laps to capture a dream victory for Bryson and her Sam Pierce/Sam Pierce Chevrolet – AP Driver Development – RE Technologies/Maxim/Chevy.

“This has been a long time coming,” said Bryson, the 2023 USAC Silver Crown Rookie of the Year. “My team has worked so hard, and they’ve believed in me for so long. I’m so happy to pull off a win for them. This car was on rails tonight. There are so many people that go into this and I’m so thankful for them because, without them, this wouldn’t be possible.”

Throughout the first 34 laps, however, the story was defending Belleville Silver Crown winner Brady Bacon who was slicing and dicing the competition into smithereens. Despite starting fourth on the grid, Bacon had raced his way into the lead by the end of lap one after streaming past fellow second row starter Matt Westfall and then the front row duo of Mario Clouser and Kaylee Bryson.

Within a handful of laps, Bacon’s lead had ballooned to six seconds, and by the time he reached the tail end lead lap cars a few laps later, his torrid pace had provided him with a full 10 second lead just before the halfway point as he put ninth place Jerry Coons Jr. a lap down.

With just 17 laps to go, Bacon was still pouring it on as he blew around the outside of both Westfall and Chase Stockon to put the seventh and sixth place drivers, respectively, a lap down. With the remainder of the top-five just within reach and holding a whopping 15.8 second lead, thoughts turned toward whether Bacon could conceivably become the first driver since Jeff Bloom in 1987 at Indianapolis Raceway Park to lap the entire field during a USAC Silver Crown event.

Just when that thought seemed like a distinct possibility, or even a foregone conclusion, the entire complexion of the race changed in a plume of smoke. On the 34th lap, Bacon’s machine spit out a big puffy white cloud in turn four. Slowing dramatically, he steered it to the inside of the track and putted around until pulling into the pit entrance on the back straightaway. So large was Bacon’s lead that, by the time he stopped in the infield 3/4 of a lap after disaster struck, he still held the race lead!

A lap and a half later, the only yellow flag of the night was displayed for debris in turn three with a wheel cover sitting helplessly in the middle of the groove. Under the caution period, USAC Silver Crown champions Logan Seavey (flat right rear tire) and Kody Swanson (mud packed right rear wheel) pulled into the Indy Metal Finishing Work Area. In the end, both drivers experienced highly uncharacteristic turmoil with Swanson finishing 14th and Seavey 16th.

But the news that truly caught the crowd’s ear was that of race-long second place runner Bryson who was now the race leader following Bacon’s misfortune with a mere 16 laps to go. Further back, C.J. Leary was running sixth after starting 20th on the grid. Leary was unable to make a qualifying attempt earlier in the night after burning a hole in the piston during practice, forcing the team to make an emergency engine swap.

On the lap 35 restart, Bryson held steady, keeping challengers Clouser, Grant and Kevin Thomas Jr. at bay. All the while, Leary had a full head of steam, picking Thomas, Grant and Clouser off one-by-one on the outside until he was right on Bryson’s tail tank for the lead with six laps to go.

Each and every revolution around the circular shaped fairgrounds dirt track requires intense focus, and even the slightest of hiccups can result in disaster, or a change in position, at the rate of the blink of an eye. Although Leary managed to hover all around Bryson, she never flinched. The message from her spotter, Chris Santucci, over the last several laps were straight to the point.

“Just drive the track,” Bryson relayed of what she was advised. “Don’t worry about anybody else. Just go out there and make fast laps, and that’s what we did, and we won.”

The enormously loud roar of celebratory cheers from the substantial crowd on hand drowned out the noise of the engines as Bryson crossed the finish line 0.607 seconds ahead of Leary at the checkered flag with Mario Clouser equaling his best career series finish of third.

Justin Grant scored a fourth while Daison Pursley tallied an impressive fifth in his series debut after restarting at the tail due to needing the assistance of a push track to fire off for the initial start.

Bryson also delivered the Pierce No. 26 its first USAC Silver Crown victory since a stop at South Carolina’s Darlington Raceway 17 summers ago in 2007, won by Aaron Pierce.

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USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: May 18, 2024 – Belleville High Banks – Belleville, Kansas – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval – Huncovsky Classic

HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kaylee Bryson, 26, Pierce-17.264; 2. Mario Clouser, 92, Kazmark-17.347; 3. Matt Westfall, 54, Westfall-17.429; 4. Brady Bacon, 9, Dyson-17.430; 5. Briggs Danner, 10, DMW-17.442; 6. Taylor Ferns, 555, Ferns-17.451; 7. Chase Stockon, 69, Pink 69-17.497; 8. Kody Swanson, 77, Doran/Binks-17.519; 9. Kevin Thomas Jr., 12, TwoC-17.561; 10. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-17.609; 11. Mitchel Moles, 119, Reinbold/Underwood-17.648; 12. Daison Pursley, 21, Team AZ-17.652; 13. Jerry Coons Jr., 55, Bateman-17.665; 14. Shane Cottle, 53, Five Three-17.768; 15. Trey Burke, 60, Legacy/Wilson-17.789; 16. Trey Osborne, 81, BCR-17.877; 17. Robert Ballou, 97, Lein-17.877; 18. Nathan Moore, 48, Thomas/Moore-17.894; 19. Gregg Cory, 32, Williams/Cory-18.949; 20. Danny Long, 44, Long-20.191; 21. Dave Peperak, 777, Peperak-NT; 22. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-NT; 23. Bryan Gossel, 06, Gossel-NT; 24. C.J. Leary, 6, Klatt-NT; 25. Logan Seavey, 22, Rice/Abacus-NT.

FEATURE: (50 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kaylee Bryson (1), 2. C.J. Leary (20), 3. Mario Clouser (2), 4. Justin Grant (10), 5. Daison Pursley (12), 6. Jerry Coons Jr. (13), 7. Chase Stockon (7), 8. Kevin Thomas Jr. (9), 9. Robert Ballou (17), 10. Matt Westfall (3), 11. Briggs Danner (5), 12. Shane Cottle (14), 13. Taylor Ferns (6), 14. Kody Swanson (8), 15. Nathan Moore (18), 16. Logan Seavey (21), 17. Gregg Cory (19), 18. Brady Bacon (4), 19. Trey Burke (15), 20. Trey Osborne (16), 21. Mitchel Moles (11), 22. Danny Long (23), 23. Dave Berkheimer (22), 24. Bryan Gossel (24), 25. Dave Peperak (25). 21:37.67 (New Track Record)

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-34 Brady Bacon, Laps 35-50 Kaylee Bryson.

USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-C.J. Leary-198, 2-Kody Swanson-187, 3-Justin Grant-183, 4-Kaylee Bryson-153, 5-Mario Clouser-148, 6-Taylor Ferns-144, 7-Logan Seavey-138, 8-Bobby Santos-125, 9-Gregg Cory-103, 10-Jerry Coons Jr.-101.

OVERALL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Robert Ballou-64, 2-C.J. Leary-58, 3-Logan Seavey-48, 4-Daison Pursley-44, 5-Joey Amantea-41, 6-Kevin Thomas Jr.-37, 7-Brady Bacon-36, 8-Matt Westfall-36, 9-Kyle Cummins-32, 10-Tye Mihocko-32.

NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: May 24, 2024 – Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park – Brownsburg, Indiana – .686-Mile Paved Oval – 67th Hoosier Hundred / Carb Night Classic