MERCED, Calif. – Thomas Meseraull celebrated his second USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series victory of the year in the series’ first event at California’s Merced Speedway on Friday night.
Meseraull led the final 21 laps of the 30-lap feature and endured a green-white-checkered finish to put the finishing touches on a winning performance in his RMS Racing/EnviroFab – Guess Performance Parts/Spike/Speedway Toyota.
His inauspicious beginnings to the west coast swing over the past week had resulted in finishes of 16th, 12th and 23rd in his three most recent outings entering Merced, but it was certainly not due to a lack of effort.
“I’m super stoked, especially with all the time and energy and money that gets spent to come out here to the west coast,” Meseraull said. “We haven’t even broken the top-10 in the last three nights, and we’ve been really fast. Racing circumstances just haven’t really played out.”
In his first night out in the team’s new coil car, which was inspired in part by Tanner Thorson’s recent success with the set up, Meseraull’s night began with a middling qualifying run of 18th against a 54-car field, which was the largest of the season. Meseraull responded with a heat race victory, which by virtue of a new rule implemented during the offseason, as a heat winner, he earned a feature starting position directly behind the six-car invert.
Slated to start seventh, Meseraull was elevated another position up the grid due to fourth-starting Carson Macedo and team being late to staging, one of four teams that were docked two rows due to the penalty. Now starting sixth, Meseraull was entrenched in the top-three battle along with Tanner Carrick and Daison Pursley by the conclusion of the first lap.
Pursley and Carrick went toe-to-toe throughout the early stages, racing side-by-side and exchanging sliders right on cue, Carrick leading the way to the line on eight of the first nine circuits with Pursley edging ahead on the fifth lap.
On the ninth lap, Meseraull upped the urgency as he split his way between Carrick and Pursley to slot into second in turn three, then glided underneath Carrick between turns one and two to take the lead.
By the halfway point, Meseraull had launched to a 1.3 second advantage over Pursley, who had cleared Carrick a few moments later on the 18th lap for the runner-up position. Now clear, Pursley began to peddle back into contention as Meseraull now negotiated a maze of cars at the tail end of the lead lap.
The interval shrank to a half second between Meseraull and Pursley with three laps remaining. In that moment in time, Meseraull encountered Kaylee Bryson as he sought the proper path, low to middle to high, to overtake her and close it out while Pursley stayed the course up top.
With the white flag in sight coming out of turn four, Pursley lay just a few car lengths behind Meseraull. However, just as quickly as it seemed Pursley might be able to set up a possible bid for victory, it all came to a crashing halt when Pursley banged his right rear tire off the turn four cushion, then slapped the right rear against the outside front straightaway guardrail, causing him to barrel roll twice over before landing on all four wheels.
Pursley was uninjured, but his attempt at his first USAC National Midget victory ended in an unsavory, crumpled heap along the main straightaway.
With a green-white-checkered finish in play to conclude the race, slide jobs are a foregone conclusion at this juncture in this sect of auto racing. However, Meseraull devised a plan win which he could still run his own race, but also prevent the inevitable slider from being issued by second-running Carrick on the final two-lap sprint.
“On the restart, I moved down and just ran two clean laps through the middle,” Meseraull explained. “I didn’t think anybody had anything to drive around the outside of us. This California air was really nice because that Toyota was ripping.”
Carrick looked topside, and he looked low once the green waved, but there was no avenue to pursue a path past him as Meseraull owned the middle line and flexed his muscle as he crossed under the checkered flag .452 seconds ahead of Carrick, with Cannon McIntosh, Carson Macedo and hard charger, Tanner Thorson rounding out the top-five.
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