One word to describe the racing action Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway is, Wow.
In the sprint car feature event, Oklahoma open-wheel standout Brady Bacon drove Scott Ronk’s Fatheadz Eyewear No. 99 to a narrow victory over a hard-charging Jon Stanbrough while a bit later in the Street Stock feature, Lee Hobbs pulled off a last-lap pass to win by the slimmest of margins over Glen Gamblin.
Bacon, who won his first career USAC National event at the local oval aboard a midget a few seasons back, had never found Victory Lane at the track aboard a sprint car. He checked that off his bucket list when he took advantage of Dave Darland and Thomas Meseraull’s tussle for the top spot around the midway point of the 25-lap finale.
Meseraull, who succeeds or fails riding the cushion, held off Darland’s repeated charges down low lap after lap until Darland succeeded with a perfect slide job coming off turn two. However, when last week’s winner slipped up the track aboard Jeff Walker’s Jam-it-In Storage/Murray’s Body Shop/Maxim No. 11 in front of Meseraull, stalling both drivers momentum, Bacon was quick to pounce down low.
As the laps wound down, Stanbrough, reunited with long-time car owners Brad and Steve Fox aboard the famed No. 53, began to reel in the top two of Bacon and Darland. With four laps to go, Stanbrough had cleared Darland and had Bacon in his sights.
After taking the white flag, Stanbrough was working flawlessly through the slick part of the race track while Bacon was doing so likewise on the bottom. Stanbrough made one last bid for the win exiting turn four on the high side of Bacon, but came up just a bit short at the flagstand.
“Man, I’m glad this wasn’t a 26-lap race,” Bacon said with a chuckle upon exiting his race car. “I think we blew the motor getting into turn three on the last lap. I am just glad to finally win one here in a sprint car. I’ve won in a midget before but always seemed to have bad luck in the sprint car.
“Kokomo is one of the toughest race tracks in the country and it is by far the toughest weekly show in the country, so to come here and win for my car owner [Ronk], who lives here, is pretty special. I just hate it that I hurt the motor.”
For Ronk, still beaming an hour after the checkered flag fell, the fallen motor was just a bit of collateral damage to a special win.
“That motor has won a race at Knoxville [Iowa],” said Ronk. “[Bacon] was feeling bad about it blowing, but we won at Kokomo. I’ll take a broken motor to win one here at this race track. This win is even bigger than the win at Knoxville.”
Following the front two across the finish line was Darland and Meseraull. Tracy Hines worked his way into the top five after starting outside the seventh row in a feature that saw three cars get upside down. Jon Siscoe, Coleman Gullick and Joshua Clemons all flipped but the drivers walked away from the incidents under their own power.
Kyle Larson was sixth, Chris Windom seventh, Jeff Bland Jr. eighth, Scotty Weir ninth and Andrew Elson 10th. Kokomo drivers Dustin Smith (13th) and Josh Spencer (20th) made the star-studded A-main.
For Hobbs in the Street Stock feature, he was trying to be patient while running third behind Gamblin and Craig Walker. On the final lap, it looked like Gamblin was going to repeat his performance of a week ago, but Walker was right on his quarter panel down low while Hobbs was on the high side. Exiting the fourth corner it appeared that there was contact between Gamblin and Walker as Gamblin got sideways, allowing Hobbs to scoot by to win by inches.
“I was hoping they would [race each other hard],” said Hobbs. “Then maybe they would forget about me. It was a tough one [Sunday]. They changed things up a bit so Glen and I had to start towards the back and I saw Glen shoot to the front real fast.”
Hobbs, who has picked up nearly 30 feature wins while earning back-to-back track titles, noted that he wasn’t concerned about championships.
“I just don’t get caught up in that,” he stated. “My plan is to go out every race and try to win. If that works out and I am in a position to get a championship that is fine. I love coming to Kokomo and running with these guys. Glen and Walker race you clean but hard. When you win here you know you’ve earned it.”
Gamblin settled for second and Walker third. Ervin Turner and Brandon Roundtree completed the top five. Josh Gamblin was sixth, Kaleb Nutter ninth, Kevin Mullin 11th and Bobby Burton 12th among area drivers.
After banging up his primary motor Saturday night, Jason Shrout and his crew had to scrap just to get a second motor put into his Thunder Car before heading to the track. After picking up the feature win, the extra work was well worth it.
In the early going it looked like it was going to be a battle between Shrout, who won last week’s feature, and defending track champion Chris Hunter aboard the Armfield Racing No. 215. While working the high side of Shrout, Hunter hammered the cushion, nearly spinning which resulted in Dennis Freeland taking over the second spot.
Shrout’s biggest obstacle down the stretch was a spinning car in front of him as he exited the final turn. Hunter was second and Kris Joseph third. Luke Walker and Aaron Day rounded out the top five.
Also on hand were the AMSA Mini-Sprints and Lynsey Tilton led from green to checkered to post the win.
The track returns to action Sunday night for the annual running of the Kokomo Klassic. The gates will open an hour later than normal (pits 4 p.m. and main grandstand 5 o’clock) to allow fans attending the Indianapolis 500 time to make it back. The first race is slated to push off at 7:15.