The term “difference between night and day” was apparent in a couple of different ways Friday and Saturday night at the Kokomo Speedway when the NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series made its annual early-spring trek to the local oval for the running of the Kokomo Midget Grand Prix.
With warm temperatures and a steady southerly breeze on Saturday, defending series champion Chris Windom led all but two laps in securing the 30-lap feature win. Starting from the pole, Windom led the first two circuits before Daison Pursley wrestled the top spot away from the crafty veteran from Illinois.
Not to be denied, Windom reclaimed the top spot on the fifth lap and never trailed the rest of the way despite Buddy Kofoid’s hard charge down the stretch to garner second and Kevin Thomas Jr. completed the podium with his third-place showing.
On a very technical track that saw the curb seemingly reach out and upset the balance of numerous cars, Windom elected to try and conquer the high side. However, when the field started to narrow the gap running the bottom, Windom elected to change his line in what turned out to be a race-winning decision.
“I really wanted to make the top work,” said Windom following the race. “But when I saw some of those other guys running the bottom I knew I needed to jump down there so I’d take away their line. [Saturday] this was just such a technical race track. It’s so much slower running the bottom but it is the shortest way around. With the curb built up [in turns one and two], you had to hit it perfect which isn’t ideal in a midget.”
Tanner Thorson, who won the Kokomo portion of Indiana Midget Week in 2020 and had recently won two of three national sprint car events in Pennsylvania, was fourth while series rookie Emerson Axsom, a graduate of mini-sprints and a former regular at Circus City Speedway and U.S. 24 Speedway, completed the top five.
Thomas was awarded the KSE Racing Hard Charger Award with his jaunt to the podium from his seventh-row starting position.
For as nice as the conditions were Saturday, Friday night’s opening night was just the opposite with howling winds from the north keeping the temperatures in the 50s and fans bundled up.
Apparently youth doesn’t mind the cooler temperatures as Axsom led from green to checkered to score his first career USAC National Midget win. The Saturday prior Axsom picked up a POWRI Series win and the youngster looks to be a force to be reckoned with as he gets more seat time against the best of the best.
Cannon McIntosh was second while Windom rounded out the podium. Justin Grant was fourth and Kofoid fifth. Thorson was the KSE Hard Charger Award winner as he advance to seventh after starting 17th.
“I felt good [starting third] that if I could get out front and just run my race I’d be alright,” said Axsom. “When I passed Chris [Windom] I was expecting him to try to slide my so I waited on it and just crossed it over and got back out front. He has run a lot of laps here and he knows how to get around this place as good as anyone.”
With his first and third-place showings over the weekend coupled with Kofoid’s second and fifth-place runs, Windom managed to cut into Kofoid’s championship points lead ever so slightly, now trailing by just 20 points (436-416). In arguably one of the most competitive season’s thus far, the top five are just separated by 44 points. Grant is third with 410, Thorson fourth with 409 and Thomas Meseraull fifth with 392.
The series gets back into action May 14-15 at the Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex in Missouri for the two-day John Hinck Championship.
Also on hand both nights was the Kokomo Speedway Sprint Car Series and on Saturday it was once again Kyle Cummins who ruled the feature despite a late-race charge by Grant who threw caution to the wind despite the sketchy curb in turns one and two. Cole Bodine showed why he’s an early candidate for most improved driver as he claimed third. Brady Bacon and Windom were fourth and fifth. Multi-time track champion and former Kokomo resident Shane Cottle was seventh.
Bacon, who scored his first USAC win at the local track years ago, was impressive in picking up the feature win Friday. Windom was a close second while Cottle was third. Clinton Boyles, once again wheeling Paul Hazen’s No. 57, was fourth and Chase Johnson charged to a solid fifth-place run.
The track returns to action May 23 when the Flo-Racing All-Star Circuit of Champions invade the local oval for a $26,000-to-win event. The following Sunday the track will host the BC’s Indiana Double in honor of the late Bryan Clauson who twice competed in the Indy 500 then made the trek north to compete in his sprint car.