ROSSBURG, Ohio – A rare pair of mistakes by Kevin Thomas Jr. cost him not one, but two race victories during the 38th annual 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway on Saturday night.
Thomas, who was competing in all three USAC divisions at the Tony Stewart-owned half-mile, led the first 18 laps of the 30-lap AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series feature uncontested before tagging the outside wall on the frontstretch after a shaky exit to the fourth corner.
That miscue gave second-running Tyler Courtney a chance to swoop in and pounce, which he did going down the backstretch on the 19th revolution before taking charge with a slide job in turn three.
From there, though Thomas did his best to wrestle with an ill-handling race car, he just couldn’t keep pace and faded back to an eventual fourth-place finish with the No. 19 McDonald’s/Dr. Pepper sprinter.
That ending was a harbinger of things to come later in the night for the Cullman, Ala., native.
Driving the Chris Dyson Racing No. 9 in the USAC Silver Crown Series nightcap, Thomas jetted away from the pole position and put on a clinic for the first 40 laps of the 50-lap main for the “big cars.”
However, it was the 41st rotation that finally bit Thomas, in almost the exact same spot on track.
As he went through turns three and four up high, Thomas got into the marbles and slid over the cushion, breaking his momentum for the second time in two races. This time, it was Brady Bacon who was there to steal Thomas’ thunder, driving by and going on to win in the Klatt Enterprises No. 6.
That pass denied Thomas of his maiden Silver Crown victory, something that the USAC veteran has been seeking for more than a year now.
After the race, Thomas was quick to shoulder the blame, as a tricky Eldora surface caught several veterans out over the course of Saturday night’s four-division program.
“Man, you hate to miss them like that,” Thomas said. “We had a good chance of winning the sprint car race too, and just plugged it in the fence and broke the front end. Luckily, we finished fourth there. Then we did it again with the (Silver) Crown car. I don’t ever run the fence, so I’m actually glad that I was at least up there to (be able to) plug it in the fence. It was a long day, but it was a fun day.”
The good news for Thomas? He was the only driver to finish in the top five in all three USAC features.
“I think we got a fifth, a fourth and a second,” noted Thomas of his overall 4-Crown Nationals performance. “For somebody who’s not very good here, I’ll take it.”