SWEDESBORO, N.J. — Jason McDougal held off Justin Grant to win Wednesday night’s Eastern Storm feature for the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series at Bridgeport Speedway.
It was his second USAC sprint car victory.
A late-race restart saw Grant trailing McDougal on the three-eighths-mile inner oval at the massive Bridgeport facility.
“I drove it into one as deep as I could,” McDougal exclaimed. “That was the hardest I ran it into one during that whole race. It was either going to bike or stick.”
Grant, a 14-time USAC Sprint Car feature winner himself, was eager to tally his initial Eastern Storm win as he lined up second on the final restart, ready to make his run at McDougal.
“I was going to slide him into one, but I didn’t have enough of a run,” Grant explained. “Then I thought, ‘Well, if I can hook the bottom off of two, I can at least stay tucked up alongside of him and slide him going into three. Then, I about half-spun in the middle of one and two, and that whole plan went away.”
McDougal checked out initially on the start from the outside of the front row, though polesitter Carson Short made a bid for the lead, running side by side and edging ahead momentarily on the bottom of turn three on the opening lap before McDougal used the top to drive around the outside of Short to lead the field back to the stripe.
As McDougal checked out to a 1.5-second advantage, the battled raged for second with Kevin Thomas Jr. smothering Short for second to no avail as Short slammed the door on Thomas on the 10th lap into one.
Short had enough momentum each time to guard the challenge from Thomas, but three laps later, at the same spot, Thomas kicked the door open, grooving to the bottom and edging ahead for the second position exiting turn two.
Nearing midway, the sense was that, with an open track, Thomas would be able to start reeling McDougal in. Initially, he did, cutting a half-second off the interval to knock McDougal’s lead down to nine-tenths of a second. As McDougal began to encounter the tail end of the field on lap 19, he built his lead back up to 1.3 seconds.
However, traffic was ahead with not one, not two, but three cars occupying three different grooves together as McDougal approached. Seemingly stuck, McDougal tried to split two of the lappers on separate occasions without much luck.
On lap 26, Grant and Thomas’ see-saw positioning saw Grant slide Thomas into turn three. Thomas countered and the two drag raced into turn one with Thomas poking ahead and briefly surging ahead by a car length over McDougal between turns one and two.
That is, until McDougal zipped back past on the outside to regain the lead, albeit with the lapped cars of Brian VanMeveren and Dominick Buffalino running in tandem just ahead.
“They were racing just close enough side-by-side to where I couldn’t split them getting into the corner,” McDougal recalled. “One of them entered low enough every time, that I probably could’ve drove around the outside of him, but we would’ve crashed about halfway through the corner. Basically, I just waited until the guy on the bottom messed up enough to where I could almost push the guy at the top off the track.”
McDougal was on high alert and was able to wedge the front bumper between the two off the second turn on lap 28, cutting through the middle of both cars on the back straightaway to clear both in one fell swoop between turns three and four.
As soon as McDougal appeared to be in the clear, the yellow flag waved for the stopped car of Dustin Christie in turn four, setting up one final two-lap showdown.
However, McDougal was flawless on the resumption, spurting away uncontested to earn the $6,000 victory.
Thomas outdueled Grant in a ferocious battle in the waning laps to take second. Grant finished third ahead of fast qualifier and new one-lap track record holder Chase Stockon, while Eastern Storm point leader C.J. Leary rounded out the top five.
To see full results, turn to the next page.