KUTZTOWN, Pa. – This season could be described as a typical one for Cannon McIntosh, a 17-year-old driver with his homerun capabilities scattered over a decent body of work.
He started his tenure with Keith Kunz Motorsports in style, winning his Chili Bowl preliminary night and immediately launching himself to the forefront of the midget landscape. But since then the finishes have been too sporadic for McIntosh, especially the build of those results.
On Wednesday in night one of USAC Eastern Midget Week at Action Track USA, McIntosh took some early lumps but eventually powered from 18th to fifth in the 30-lap main event, tabbing the impressive charge as “one of the best races I’ve ever ran.”
It was much needed for McIntosh, who’s only finished in the top-five twice in the past seven races heading into Wednesday.
“It’s definitely been an up-and-down season for me,” McIntosh said. “Started off with this team with a huge win and just ever since then we’ve had wins here, wins there, but we’ve had lots of bad nights, too. We just have to find consistency all around. I think we needed a night like tonight, for me at least.”
The result keeps McIntosh firmly planted in fifth in the series standings, 206 points off leader Chris Windom, but 106 points behind Buddy Kofoid in fourth and 104 points ahead of Tanner Carrick in sixth. McIntosh does have four midget wins this year, but none have come with the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series.
McIntosh’s breakthrough win at the Chili Bowl in January is a double-edged sword in a way. Sure, it solidifies those homerun capabilities, but that lofty bar was bound to come down to Earth.
At this stage in the season, McIntosh is still learning to harness his capabilities and manage races in elite equipment, and Wednesday was a necessary step in that direction for the Bixby, Okla., native. McIntosh buried himself early, qualifying 20th of 25 cars and lining him up seventh in his heat race.
After an early incident in his 10-lap heat, McIntosh raced to third, lining him up to start 18th for the 30-lap main event. By lap 13 on the race’s second and final stoppage, McIntosh had moved to ninth and during the final 17 laps he picked off four more positions for his eighth top-five in 28 midget races.
“I didn’t qualify good at all and it definitely hurt our night a little bit,” McIntosh said. “We got the car really dialed in and I was able to make smart, consistent laps. I just felt like, overall, through that race, it was one of the best races I’ve ever ran in terms of getting through the field and being able to shuffle a lot of good cars.”
On the night, McIntosh went plus-17 in 40 laps when you combine the heat and feature, a shot in the arm for a driver who’s been searching for ways to better manage race nights. It’s the natural development for a 17-year-old racer trying to make a name: finding the right balance of when to attack and when to sacrifice a corner to size up a move.
“There’s definitely a balance there,” McIntosh said. “But when you start that far back you have to be in attack-mode from the get-go. You also have to know when to be patient that little bit. If they hold you up for two corners, you have to go. Sometimes, though, waiting one extra corner will help you in the long run. I think I was patient when I needed to be and on attack mode when I needed to be.”
“It was a good night, I think, after a bad qualifying effort,” McIntosh added. “It was a good rebound, I’d say. I’m happy with it.”