USAC took over Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Wednesday and Thursday, September 5 and 6, to christen the Brickyard’s first dirt-track race. For the first official competition on The Dirt Track inside IMS’ third turn, it was a two-night affair with action from start to finish.
Although the second evening of festivities had to begin much later than expected when the first rain storm – one that would affect the NASCAR events scheduled for the weekend by forcing them to run on Monday – impacted the Driven2SaveLives BC39 presented by NOS Energy Drink, it didn’t prevent the race from happening before an enthusiastic, large crowd.
On Wednesday night, a series of 12 heat races was capped by a 20-lap Stoops Pursuit race, won by 15-year-old Zeb Wise, who outlasted everyone attempting to catch and pass him for the win. As the youngster from Angola, Ind. came to the white flag, he went on offense to slide by then-leader Alex Bright in the fourth turn, earning himself a $1,500 payday for the win. Wise’s victory came in the No. 39BC race car, a fitting tribute to the late, great racer, Bryan Clauson, for whom the feature race is named.
Thursday’s feature races had to be pushed back by several hours as afternoon rains inundated the quarter-mile dirt oval. A series of eight 10-lap qualifier contests set the 26-car field for the 39-lap USAC P1 Insurance Midget National Championship competition, and once the weather moved out, it was time for the A-Main, which pushed off just past midnight.
With pole man Kevin Thomas Jr. dictating the pace on the bottom of the track for the first 13 laps of the race, he was hounded by cushion rider Tyler Courtney, who pressured Thomas lap after lap before the pole sitter created some separation. On the 14th lap, a six-car pile-up between the third and fourth turns changed the complexion of the race.
Once the battle resumed, Brady Bacon assumed P2 and put pressure on the leader as the pair gapped the field. On Lap 20, Bacon tried to muscle his way through, did for a bit but was pushed back to second place by Thomas, who still held the bottom line. As the pair hit lapped traffic, Thomas widened his line off the bottom of the track to keep Bacon at bay.
Traffic would be the undoing of Thomas, who slid out in the fourth turn on the 31st lap, allowing Bacon to assume a lead he’d not relinquish. The duo put on a “Tokyo drift” display with Chad Boat also joining the action. “He wasn’t leaving the door open for me until it got a little slicker,” Bacon explained. “He kept opening it wider and wider and I was getting a better run. I just had to time it right. He had a really good racecar too and traffic could have gone in any number of ways.”
Traffic definitely decided the race with Bacon remaining on the high side, pinning Thomas and Boat to the bottom behind lapped racers in the first two turns. Bacon, a two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion was unflappable, keeping both Boat and Thomas at bay in the final laps to earn the $15,000 payday by a half-second over the Boat-Thomas duo, Tyler Courtney and hard-charger Christopher Bell, who took fifth place after starting 17th.
“I thought we had a really good car from the start,” Bacon said. “I knew it was going to be a little tight at the beginning – we had some wheelies going on – but I knew it was going to come to me.” As he saw the blackness of a groove coming to the dirt, Bacon could throw his No. 76 FMR Racing midget wherever he wanted it to be.
This Driven2SaveLives BC39 presented by NOS Energy Drink victory was Bacon’s first USAC midget win in 2018. During Victory Lane celebrations he said, “This is definitely up at the top. It’s a first-year event, but it’s [also] the first win on the dirt track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and no one can ever take that away.” Thanking his team of Bob East, Brad Noffsinger and Frank Manafort, Bacon acknowledged, “This one’s probably going to take a while to sink in.”