Chuck Gurney won last night's 50 lap Night Before the 500 National Midget race at O'Reilly Raceway Park, leading 42 laps after early leader Cole Whitt fell out with a broken axle. It wasn't an easy race, with Bobby East dogging him during the...
Chuck Gurney won last night's 50 lap Night Before the 500 National Midget race at O'Reilly Raceway Park, leading 42 laps after early leader Cole Whitt fell out with a broken axle. It wasn't an easy race, with Bobby East dogging him during the first half and Bryan Clauson the second. Clauson and East went on to finish second and third, respectively. Gurney was well aware of the threat on his tail.
"I knew those guys were behind me," he said. "I just didn't know if they were going to dive bomb me or not. I just kept my head cool and raced to the front. Gave Cole Whit a good race, and unfortunately he broke."
The rhythm was broken by five yellows and one red. The final caution, a red on Lap 28 when Chad Boat's engine exploded in flames in Turn 1, was the crux of everyone's strategy for the remaining 22 laps of green flag running. East, running third at the time, took on new tires and re-started from the rear. Gurney and Clauson adjusted their cars and retained their track position. Gurney and Clauson made the right decision.
"I think the red flag was good," Gurney said. "We had a right front tire going down. It only had seven pounds of air, so we pumped it up, put some fuel in and made sure we were good to go to the finish.
"We know we always had a good car here. We just have to put the races together. The last two races we finished we won, so it's been pretty nice. We tried to beat the big dogs today and I think we did.
"It's nice to be in Victory Lane on the Night Before the 500."
Bryan Clauson set fast time, but with a six car inversion started from the third row, a deficit he was not able to completely overcome.
"It was definitely a disadvantage to start sixth," Clauson said. "It was really exciting to be quick time. Didn't get out there fast enough, but it was a lot of fun and everyone on this thing did a great job. I was glad to see Chucky win it and to stay ahead of the guys who changed tires. I knew it was going to be close, and those guys were going to be coming, but I'm glad that a couple of us stuck it out in front of them.
"We were going at it early, and it's kind of hard to stay patient. It felt like at the end we could get within three or four car lengths of Chuck, but they just didn't make any mistakes and by the time I got to him I'd used everything up."
Bobby East took on fresh rubber during the Lap 28 red flag. That relegated him to the back of the field for the restart. He charged his way up the field, and eventual wound up back in third place, never challenging for the front.
"I've got to thank my crew and everybody else that helped," East said. "We just missed it a little bit tonight. Chuck Gurney and Brian brought the heat - they were fast tonight. The car was pretty good after that, but we just didn't have enough to win it."
Fourth was taken by Alex Bowman, who ran a solid race from his fifth place start. Josh Wise put on a show coming to a fifth place finish after spinning to the rear of the field on the first lap. He made up most of his deficit by the fifteenth lap. Kody Swanson rounded out the top six, with a great run from a 15th place start.
The next USAC National Midget race will be the Knoxville Midget Nationals at Knoxville Raceway, Knoxville IA, May 29-30