By Brett Bowman
Two drivers who are no strangers to Victory Lane returned there Sunday night at the Kokomo Speedway. Meanwhile, a third driver scored just the second feature win of his career at the local oval to highlight the racing action.
Chris Hunter, the winningest Thunder Car driver in the history of the local oval, ground out a gritty win over defending track champion Jason Shrout to highlight the chilly night.
Hunter paced the field the first 11 laps aboard Kaleb Nutter’s Ochoa Roofing No. 3N. Shrout stayed in hot pursuit of Hunter from the drop of the green and claimed the lead on the 12th lap when Hunter got bottled up behind a lapped car.
Not to be denied, Hunter fought back, pounding the cushion while Shrout took the middle groove. Hunter’s perseverance paid off exiting the fourth corner with the checkered flag in the air, nipping Shrout by mere inches.
“I can’t thank Kaleb enough for letting me drive,” Hunter said from Victory Lane. “He’s driving the car I used to drive now [the Armfield Racing No. 215], so he said the car was there for me to drive if I wanted to. It’s his car but my motor in it. They had this car ready for me [Sunday]. I didn’t have to do anything at all to it all night except check the air pressure.”
Sharpsville native Bob Bourff followed the pair across the finish line to claim third aboard his No. 67. Dennis Freeland fought from the back of the pack to take fourth with Jason Atkinson notching fifth. Last week’s winner, Jerald Owens, was sixth followed in the top-10 by D.J. Anton, Jeremy VanNess, Aaron Day and Steve Shuck.
While the Thunder Cars staged a photo finish, the sprint car feature was the exact opposite as Chris Windom reunited with car owner Jeff Walker and proceeded to throw down the gauntlet for everyone else for the rest of the season.
The Windom/Walker combination combined for a dozen wins at the local oval when they paired together during Windom’s track championship season in 2010 and ‘11. The Jeff’s Jam-it-In Storage/Murray’s Body Shop/Maxim No. 11W ride became open last week when Justin Grant and Walker opted to go separate ways.
On Sunday it didn’t take Windom long to get back to his championship form, taking the lead from Wes McIntire on the fifth lap and then simply checking out the remaining 20 circuits. While the other cars on the track were running the cushion primarily, Windom used his own, distinct line, getting all four wheels above the cushion and an excellent drive off the corners.
“You have to be dead on in hitting your marks to [run above the cushion],” said Windom. “If you miss your mark any at all, you are going to end up in the wall. You pretty much have to man up and go for it.”
With a performance so dominant that saw him lap up into the top-10, Windom noted how good it felt to be back with Walker, the owner he’s enjoyed a bulk of his career success with.
“It feels great to be back with Jeff and the team,” said the Canton, Ill. Standout. “[Walker] always has good cars that put you in a position to win with. [Sunday] was no exception. The car was great and that’s due to the work that he and Kyle [Dautrich] have done to get it ready.”
Defending track champion Scotty Weir was solid all night and got past McIntire on the final lap to claim second with McIntire taking third. Gary Taylor was fourth and Jerry Coons Jr. fifth aboard the Edison Racing/Crume-Evans Insurance/Allen’s Body Shop No. 10E.
Matt Westfall was sixth, Logan Jarrett seventh after a fifth-place run Friday at Gas City, Chris Gurley eighth after starting 16th, Josh Clemons ninth and Brian Karraker 10th. Former track champion Dustin Smith was 11th, Josh Spencer 16th and Parker Price-Miller 20th. Miller got upside down on the second lap of the feature after getting caught up in an accident that also collected Grant, Kurt Gross and Chad Boespflug. Robert Ballou had the most serious looking accident of the night after setting quick time in qualifications, his right rear wheel sheered in half at full speed entering the fourth corner. He flipped hard, majorly damaging his Baldwin Brothers No. 5 and ending his night following the season-opening win by the team.
Brandon Roundtree led from green to checkered in posting the Street Stock feature win.
Although Landon Miller got close to his rear bumper on multiple occasions, Roundtree seemingly had the field covered in posting just his second career win at the track. He earned his first win during the 2012 USAC Amsoil Sprint Car Series Indiana Sprint Week, claiming the checkers in a rain-delayed Monday night event.
“I’ve been coming out here and trying real hard for quite a while,” said Roundtree. “I only had one win here coming into this season and now I’ve matched that. Maybe this could be my year to pick up some wins.”
David Short followed Roundtree and Miller to the finish line while last week’s winner, Glen Gamblin, was fourth. Dave Fritz rounded out the top five. Eric Manning was sixth, Jason Trimmer seventh, Rick Zimmerman eighth, Kevin Kemp ninth and veteran Gary Mock 10th.
The track returns to action Sunday night with a weekly program of sprints, Street Stock and Thunder Cars. In addition it will be Hoosier Auto Race Fans Night at the track, with any member getting general admission seating at half price. It will also be autograph night which will allow fans to meet the drivers and get autographs.
Pit gates open at 3 p.m. with the main grandstand opening at 4 o’clock. Hot laps should begin around 5:45 with racing to follow.