Bacon Tops Oval Nationals Opener

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Brady Bacon in victory lane Thursday at Perris Auto Speedway. (David Sink photo)
Brady Bacon in victory lane Thursday at Perris Auto Speedway. (David Sink photo)

PERRIS, Calif. — Brady Bacon earned his first victory in 27 starts at Perris Auto Speedway, leading all 30 laps on the opening night of the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction.

“I think we’ve run second on prelim nights probably five or six times and been in the top five a couple times on the final night, so this is awesome to get this monkey off our back,” a relieved Bacon said. “Now, we can just go ahead and win a couple more this weekend.”

The long-awaited victory couldn’t have come a moment too soon for the 2014 and 2016 series champ from Broken Arrow, Okla., who hadn’t won with the series since a two-night sweep at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway in July aboard the Dynamics, Inc./Mean Green – Fatheadz Eyewear – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy.

“This late in the year, this win definitely helps going into the winter,” Bacon admitted. “We had a dry spell, a little bit of bad luck, led at Lawrenceburg and stuff like that. Hopefully, we can kind of get that momentum we had earlier this summer and carry it on for the rest of the year.”

Bacon started up front and was rarely challenged throughout the duration of the 30-lapper.

The first stoppage came early when the two USAC National Sprint Car title contenders C.J. Leary and Tyler Courtney collided in turn two on the fourth lap while battling for fifth.

The contact between Leary’s right rear and the left side of Courtney’s ride flattened Courtney’s left rear-tire.  As Courtney scrambled to regain control of his car, Leary’s teammate, Logan Seavey, came upon the scene and struck Courtney, heavily damaging the front end of Seavey’s car.

Both Courtney and Seavey returned to action following time in the work area.  Seavey struggled to a 21st place result while Courtney charged back through the pack to finish eighth. It was a night Courtney would rather forget after enduring a wild flip in turn three on the second lap of his qualifying run.

When action resumed, Bacon jumped back out to a one-plus second lead while seven-time USAC/CRA champ Damion Gardner began to close on Windom for the runner-up position.

Nearing the midway point, and in the throes of lapped traffic, Gardner made the move to second with an inside pass of Windom in turns one and two, but was stifled after encountering the lapped car of Chris Gansen on the low line of three, forcing Gardner to throttle back and allowing Windom to surge ahead on the top side for the position.

Once Windom cleared Gardner, he began to rapidly reel in Bacon.

However, just as Windom sensed the smell of blood in the water, a spin by Dennis Gile in turn three removed traffic from the equation for the time being and supplied Bacon with a clear track.

Windom resumed his chase of Bacon who held the advantage once again, but just as lapped traffic loomed, the yellow for the stopped car of three-time Oval Nationals winner and 10th-running Bud Kaeding, who rested backward with eight laps to go.

On lap 24, Windom came as close as he’d get all night to Bacon, pulling within a half-car length of Bacon on the bottom between turns one and two. But Bacon was flawless the rest of the way, beating Windom by .974 seconds for his fifth victory of the season and 28th of his career.

“I thought we had a pretty good balance there,” Bacon said. “We were good at the beginning, and still pretty good at the end. I felt like we were fading a little bit with those yellows at the end, but we’ll make some adjustments and be ready (for Friday and Saturday).”

Windom earned his sixth consecutive top-five finish aboard the Parallax Group-Goacher Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Parallax Power Supply/Twister/Claxton Mopar.

“Overall, it was a really solid night,” Windom stated. “Brady (Bacon) was better than us early on.  I think, once we moved up there, we were just as good as him, but he was probably just a little better than us overall tonight. I was hoping we would stay in lapped traffic there and we could race with those guys, but he got the restarts right when he needed them.  (My crew) has been working hard all night to get us in this position and I think we’ve got a good car for the rest of the weekend.”

Richard Vander Weerd finished third in his Ron Vander Weerd/Vander Weerd Construction – Maxwell Industries/DRC/Shark Chevy.

“These guys run 60 races a year or more, but I’ve run probably about 15 to 20 this year so far,” Vander Weerd explained. “But I run this track a lot more. Them racing a lot more is an advantage, but me running here more is an advantage too. (The car) was good at the end; we were a little too snug down in (turns) one and two, but it made up for it over in three and four where it was dry slick. Bacon and Windom are tough guys, so I can’t complain about finishing third behind them.”

Gardner and Leary rounded out the top five.

To see full results, turn to the next page.

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