SWEET SPRINGS, Mo. — Seventeen-year-old Tanner Carrick accomplished a mission three years in the making when he won Sunday night’s NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series race at Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.
Carrick, a California young gun now predominantly racing in the Midwest, took the lead on a late-race restart by passing Jason McDougal and Chris Windom and hung on for his maiden USAC victory.
The triumph came in Carrick’s 54th USAC national midget start. He was the series’ rookie of the year in 2017 and has been chasing his moment in the spotlight ever since.
That moment finally came at Sweet Springs, where Carrick raced among the top seven all night.
“I just made sure I stayed in contention the entire race, you know?” Carrick told SPEED SPORT regarding the 40-lap feature. “There at the end, I started coming on pretty strong and the car was running really well. I ran down Windom and McDougal in lapped traffic just before the last red (flag) came out for the leader (Tyler Courtney) and Logan (Seavey) getting together and flipping inside of five to go.
“Knowing that first and second were gone and I was going to line up third was a pretty big deal,” he continued. “I figured that Windom would try and throw a slider on McDougal on the restart, which he did, so I just threw it to the bottom and made it work … and came out with the lead. From there, it was all about sliding myself and protecting to make sure that they couldn’t get back to me.”
With three years’ worth of heartache and close calls in his memory bank, Carrick knew he had to make some magic happen.
“It’s anyone’s race when a late caution comes out like that, and after coming as close as I had over the last few months, I knew I had to take advantage of the chance that was ahead of me,” noted Carrick. “You have to try as hard as you can to be in those kinds of positions and when you are in them, it’s important to perform because it’s so hard to win in this USAC field right now. The competition is so close.
“Every lap counts; every lap has to be 100 percent to be successful. Sunday night, we finally were.”
With two top-five and three top-10 finishes in his last five USAC starts, Carrick has begun to build some of the same consistency that the top stars in the series have had this year.
It’s a run that has lifted him to eighth in points, though Carrick wants his No. 71k to be even higher still, considering he had a rocky start to the 2019 campaign.
“I definitely feel like I’m starting to hit my stride as a driver,” explained Carrick. “I’m not too far off of fifth in points — that’s my main goal with USAC this year — and I think if we can win a few more races during the second half of this season, that top-five mark is something that’s definitely achievable.”
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