TOP-10 MOMENTS: 2016 USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT CAR SEASON
From February’s “Winter Dirt Games” in Ocala, Florida to November’s “Oval Nationals” in Perris, California and everywhere in between, we were a witness to the nation’s best sprint car drivers going to war on battlegrounds of dirt from coast-to-coast in 2016.
Now, let’s relive those memories as we take a look back at the top-10 moments of the 2016 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season!
#10 “THE DEMON” WINS HIS THIRD “OVAL NATIONALS”
At number 10, we start at the tail-end – the season-finale “Oval Nationals” at Perris Auto Speedway where Damion Gardner pocketed the $25,000 check and kept the Eagle at home, becoming the first USAC/CRA regular since Mike Spencer in 2012 to win the “Ovals” and, in the process, joined Dave Darland and Bud Kaeding as the event’s third 3-time winner.
#9 BEAUCHAMP GETS THE BEST OF “THE PEOPLE’S CHAMP” IN BATTLE OF BLOOMINGTON
It was the story of the wise veteran and the young lion at the “Indiana Sprint Week” round at Bloomington, Indiana as the series’ winningest driver Dave Darland and Brent Beauchamp battled side-by-side, lap-after lap throughout the 30-lap affair before Beauchamp broke away to get the best of the legend on this night to claim his first career series win.
#8 CLAUSON TAKES THE EAST BY STORM
It was an “Eastern Storm” performance nobody will forget as Bryan Clauson took victories in three events: all in spectacular fashion! Clauson fought through Kevin Thomas, Jr., Chris Windom and Jarett Andretti to take the opener at Grandview, then followed it up one night later by running down Chase Stockon in lapped traffic before pulling away for the victory at Lincoln. But the show he put on at Port Royal was classic BC. After being shuffled back to 15th on the opening lap, and running 10th with 15 laps to go, Clauson charged his way to the front, making his winning move on Brady Bacon with 7 laps remaining to put the finishing touches on a third Eastern Storm title and tying USAC Hall of Famer Gary Bettenhausen for seventh on the all-time series win list – a record he would surpass one month later at Lawrenceburg.
#7 KTJ WINS THREE IN NINE DAY SPAN AT KOKOMO
Just weeks after Bryan Clauson’s passing, the races went on, albeit with heavy hearts. An emotional Kevin Thomas, Jr. gets the biggest win of his career – “Sprint Car Smackdown” at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway just two days after winning a prelim night there. KTJ made an encore performance just one week later at Kokomo where he was victorious in the Bryan Clauson “Celebration of Life” race, tallying three wins at the track within a span of nine days.
#6 BIG MONEY BOESPFLUG CASHES IN AT BADLANDS
A new team and a fresh start were on Chad Boespflug’s agenda for 2016, but the journeyman driver found a steady home quite often this year: in victory lane, becoming USAC’s big money man in August when he won not one, but both nights of Badlands Motor Speedway’s “Rock and Roll Gold Cup” in South Dakota where he racked up a total of $60,000 in a 24-hour span!
#5 T-MEZ THE LAST MAN STANDING IN OCALA
A race of attrition marks the halfway point of the top-10. The third and final show of the season-opening “Winter Dirt Games” in Ocala, Florida saw two leaders fall by the wayside in the final two laps. First, Max McGhee and, with the checkered flag in sight, Justin Grant’s right rear gave way, allowing Meseraull to sneak underneath to take his first win of the 2016 season.
#4 WINDOM GOES STREAKING
A sixth-place finish at Terre Haute on July 17th began a four-month streak of epic proportions for Chris Windom. From that point forward, the Canton, Illinois driver closed the season with 19 straight top-6 finishes in points-paying USAC Silver Crown, National Sprint and National Midget races. During the stretch, Windom won four times – twice in the Sprint and twice in the Silver Crown car where he finished in the top-5 in every race on his way to the season championship.
#3 WINDOM BESTS BOESPFLUG IN BREATHTAKING “HURTUBISE CLASSIC”
Chad Boespflug and Chris Windom battled back-and-forth, lap-after-lap, in a “hold your breath” 30-lap boxing match in the Midwest season finale at the Terre Haute Action Track in October. The last of an astonishing 26 unofficial lead changes in the 30-lap feature occurred with just three laps remaining when Windom made a turn three slider stick, then held Boespflug at bay off the fourth corner to claim the spot and his second career “Jim Hurtubise Classic” trophy in one of the most memorable races witnessed in the long, storied history of the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds’ half-mile.
#2 BACON BAGS USAC TITLE #2
For the second time in the last three seasons, Brady Bacon was crowned as USAC’s 2016 AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion. Following a runner-up finish at Indiana’s Gas City I-69 Speedway in May, the 26-year-old Broken Arrow, Oklahoma driver took a point lead he would never relinquish, eventually building his advantage in the standings to 314 by season’s end – the most lopsided margin of victory since J.J. Yeley in 2003 – to give the Hoffman Auto Racing team its 11th series owner title.
#1 A BOATLOAD OF NEW WINNERS BURST ONTO THE USAC SPRINT CAR SCENE
Topping the list is a season that saw 19 different drivers score a feature win, 7 of whom were new faces in victory lane – the most since 2008. Scotty Weir used late-race heroics to take Gas City’s “May Meltdown.” Then, there was the magical stretch in July during Indiana Sprint in which four different drivers emerged with their initial USAC Sprint Car victories: Tyler Courtney’s run from the tail at Gas City was followed up one night later by Kyle Cummins’ breakthrough at Kokomo. To many fan’s surprise, Brent Beauchamp’s first win at Bloomington was topped by young Carson Short’s triumph at Tri-State Speedway. C.J. Leary continued the run of new winners in August on a preliminary night of “Smackdown” at Kokomo before New Mexico’s Josh Hodges finished the season off like a champ, earning the title of “Fall Nationals” victor in October at Lawrenceburg.