Bakersfield, California………With one of the busiest racing schedules of any driver in the United States, Brady Bacon annually competes in excess of 100 events a year on tracks from coast-to-coast.
In Saturday night’s “November Classic,” it might’ve appeared the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native had been an experienced master of Bakersfield Speedway. But, wouldn’t you know it? Saturday night was the first time Bacon had even laid eyes on the track.
Bacon, originally lining up seventh on the grid, worked the outside line to climb to the lead on lap seven. It was a lead he would never relinquish as he picked up his third USAC National Midget victory of the year in his FMR Racing/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions – Black Watch Farms/Beast/Toyota in the National series’ first stop at Bakersfield in 17 years.
“At the start, I was on the inside and I saw the outside got a pretty good run,” Bacon observed. “The bottom was kind of glazed over from the moisture in the air or something. I knew it would eventually move back down there, but I figured I’d try to make the moves while I could. I went to the top and it worked out. We were the first ones in the front to do it and had a clear lane to the front.”
The beginning was tumultuous as Light Up the World Beverages USAC Western States Midget regular Michael Faccinto stepped out to the lead from the outside of the front row on the initial start. Meanwhile, pole sitter Michael Pickens slotted into second. While riding the high side in turn three, contact was made between he and Holly Shelton. As Pickens sat sideways in the middle of the track, he was slammed into by Shannon McQueen, who had nowhere to go. Frankie Guerrini and Dustin Golobic also became involved, but would restart along with Pickens. McQueen headed back to the hauler earlier than she had planned with a hurt racecar.
The ensuing restart would only get back on track for a pair of laps before fifth-running Shelton got the back end loose in turn three. As she slid sideways, Zeb Wise, making his USAC debut, careened in while Ryan Robinson took evasive action to avoid the melee and climbed the outside wall before coming to a stop. Shelton’s night was finished, but Wise and Robinson would restart.
Once the race got back on the rails, Faccinto led the way on the bottom with series point leader Spencer Bayston just behind. Glancing behind Bayston, one could see Bacon running a slightly higher line than those he trailed, which took him to second around the outside of Bayston off turn two on the fourth lap. Bayston scrapped back, but Bacon had enough of a head of steam off turns two and four to clamp down on the top spot.
As Bacon and Bayston tussled for the runner-up position, both simultaneously chipped away at Faccinto’s lead. Quickly, it became a three-car race for the lead with the top-three appearing in Blue Angels formation exiting turn two. On lap seven, Bacon surged ahead of Faccinto midway down the back straightaway to secure the lead and instantly constructed a one-second gap over Faccinto and Bayston. With an open highway comfort cruise lying in front of him, Bacon was free to run his race as he pleased.
In his first ever visit to Bakersfield (Calif.) Speedway Saturday night, Brady Bacon picked up his 3rd USAC National Midget win of 2017 and 6th career.
(Rich Forman Photo)
“I ran the middle in (turns) one and two a lot,” Bacon explained. “I diamonded three and four and came off as straight as I could. It was really heavy, so it was easy to get pointed in the wrong direction. I just thought it was going to be too far around the top and my car was pretty good on the bottom and in the middle, so I stuck with it. I started feeling a little less grip in one and two, but I moved around and pedaled it a little more.”
With Bacon pulling away, Bayston fought Faccinto for second throughout the next four laps until clearing him on lap 12. Bayston would receive a reprieve two laps later when new five-time USAC Western States Midget champion Ronnie Gardner slid sideways to a stop on the front straightaway to bring out the caution. With the substantial lead erased, Bacon would have to get back on the saddle once again. On the first try, Bacon stumbled and Bayston was able to hang in contention. Yet, when Cory Elliott slowed to bring out the yellow moments later, Bacon would get a reprieve and another shot at that restart.
When that chance arrived on lap 14 restart version two, Bacon left Bayston on his own and instantly spurted away to a ten car-length lead that wouldn’t get any closer despite Bacon having to fight through traffic in the final five laps. Bacon would race away to his sixth career series victory over two seconds ahead of Bayston, Tanner Thorson, Tyler Courtney and Justin Grant.
In an odd circumstance, following the checkered flag, Courtney found himself on his side in Tommy Tipover fashion in turn two. He was uninjured.
Despite finishing one spot behind Bacon at the finish line at Bakersfield, Bayston extended his USAC National Midget point lead by one to 67 in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/IWX – Curb Records – TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota. All the Lebanon, Indiana driver has left to do to clinch his first title is to simply sign-in at this Thursday’s season-finale at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway’s “Turkey Night Grand Prix.”
Bayston’s teammate, Thorson, of Minden, Nevada set the tone by recording the ProSource/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifying time before going on to finish third in his Keith Kunz-Curb-Agajanian Motorsports/JBL Audio – TRD/Bullet by Spike/Speedway Toyota.
Two USAC National Midget track records were broken at Bakersfield. Jimmy Christian’s 8-lap mark set in 2000 was surpassed by Shane Golobic in heat race two. The late Kevin Doty’s 12-lap record from 1998 was passed by Brady Bacon during the semi-feature.
Contingency award winners Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway include Tanner Thorson (ProSource/Woodland Auto Display Fast Qualifier), Chad Boat (Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers 1st Heat Winner), Shane Golobic (Competition Suspension, Inc./Brown & Miller Racing Solutions 2nd Heat Winner & KSE Racing Products/Esslinger Engineering Hard Charger), Zeb Wise (Chalk Stix/Keizer Aluminum Wheels/Saldana Racing Products 3rd Heat Winner), David Prickett (Indy Race Parts/Pyrotect Racing Cells 4th Heat Winner), Brady Bacon (Competition Suspension, Inc. Semi Winner) and Courtney Crone (Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher).
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