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Night One of Plymouth Speedway Double-Header Finds Plenty of Action
Stan Kalwasinski Photos

Kevin Thomas Jr. won the 30-lap Honda USAC National Midget feature race on the dirt at Indiana's Plymouth Speedway Friday night.
(Stan Kalwasinski Photo)


By: Anita Soltis and USAC National Midget Championship Series Media

(Plymouth, IN) It was a two-feature event at Plymouth Speedway Friday night where the 410 Sprints, presented by Team VW Audi, and the Honda USAC National Midget Championship Series took to the track.

Chris Gurley took the early lead around pole-sitter Stuart Hanft and Gurley got a good distance from the field. John Flud started working on Hanft for the second position on the track which he made stick. In the meantime, Dave Darland was using a high groove on the track to get around his competitors and was in the third position by lap three after starting sixth. Soon Darland was in the second position by lap nine. He captured the lead by lap 18.

Shane Cottle and the then-leader Chris Gurley tangled in the middle of turns one and two in the closing laps. Gurley flipped, but was okay. Cottle was running third at the time of the accident.

When the race resumed, Garland kept the lead while Jerry Coons, Jr. made a move on the outside of the CJ Leary for the second position. It was Darland with the win, Coons, Jr. with the second podium spot and CJ Leary with the third place finishing position.

''I tried to keep it smooth,'' said Darland in his post-race interview. ''We had a good race and it was fun. This is my first race on a 30-race stretch so it's good to start with a win.''

Kevin Thomas, Jr. only needed until the second race of the 2015 Honda National Midget Championship season in his teaming with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports to notch his first-career win with the series in Friday's 30-lapper at Plymouth Speedway. The Cullman, Alabama driver held on through three restarts over the second half of the race to post a .448-second victory in the Toyota TRD #67K Bullet/Speedway Toyota.

''This is a relief, for sure. I struggled when I got into this car at first, and now we've got some momentum building, both in this car and our USAC sprint car. It's a great opportunity, and I can't thank everyone enough who is helping me get in situations like this. I'm just glad to be here. It was tough to get the speed up around the top, especially after restarts, so it was a challenge to do it and not make mistakes. I made one big one, and a yellow was my best friend tonight to save us those spots after I plowed the cushion and smoked the fence early. I'm excited and ready to go racing a bunch in the next couple weeks,' Thomas said.

Tyler Courtney got the jump from outside the front-row and held back Tanner Thorson to take the early lead. Thomas, Jr. went straight to the high side, nearly getting to fourth before banging the cushion in turn-two on lap-five, which looked to cost him about five spots. Instead, a caution waved for a stopped car, and Thomas restarted fourth.

After that, Thomas got his momentum on the high side while Courtney held off Thorson on the bottom. Thomas finally had himself wound up and took the lead on lap twelve, and just a lap later the second caution appeared.

From there, Thomas ran the bottom through turns one and two and against the thick cushion through turns three and four while his teammate Thorson ran the bottom on both ends, with the night's ProSource 'Fast Qualifier'' Tracy Hines roaming everywhere as he battled with Thorson.

Steve Buckwalter, who had been racing nearly to the top-five, stopped with ten laps to go, and Thorson looked stout on the restart. He and Thomas crossed nearly dead-even on lap 21 before Hines flashed to the outside and took over the second spot, coming within a couple feet of Thomas' lead at the stripe on lap 23.

A final caution with two to go looked to give Hines a chance, but a slow restart bottled up the challengers and Thorson moved under Hines for the runner-up spot. The Minden, Nevada driver matched his best career finish aboard the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports - Toyota TRD #67 Bullet/Speedway Toyota.

''We were really close tonight. We had an awesome car, and the yellows didn't necessarily play in our favor a whole lot towards the end. They worked at it and gave us a really good race track tonight, and we were able to move around a lot. He brought us down really slow on that last restart, and that kinda killed our chance to win it,'' Thorson said.

Hines came home in the third spot aboard the Parker Machinery - Turbines, Inc. #24 Spike/Stanton Toyota.

''We just weren't quite as good as I expected we'd be after the heat race. It just didn't really respond, so I had to drive the wheels off of it just to try to keep with those guys. It would be good for stretches, and then not as good as we built air pressure. I'm obviously happy with third, but I thought we shoulda been in the mix a little more as good as we were earlier tonight,'' Hines said.

Dave Darland finished up fifth in the Curb Records - Dooling Machine #63 Spike/Stanton Mopar, and Darren Hagen rallied from starting 15th to finish fifth in the Kenny Brown Racing - Boss Chassis #17 Boss/Esslinger.

The Honda USAC National Midget Championship Series will return for another night of action Saturday along with the Swan Lake Resort UMP Modifieds, Dickies Restaurant 600 Open Sprints, WTCA Super Streets, Walmart Thunder Stocks and the Bane-Welker Cyber Stocks. Gates open at 4 p.m., hot laps are at 6 p.m. and racing begins at 7 p.m. ET.
410 Sprint Feature winner Dave Darland. Photo by RPM Graphix
USAC National Midget Championship Series winner Kevin Thomas, Jr. (center) Tanner Thorson (second, right) and Tracy Hines. Photo by RPM Graphix

Kevin Thomas Jr. on his way to winning his first Honda USAC National Midget feature race of his career.

California's Darren Hagen started the night on top of the USAC National Midget point standings.

Dave and Brenda Darland pose for a victory photo after the veteran Indiana open-wheel driving ace won
the 30-lap feature race for non-winged 410 sprint cars.

Dave Darland won heat race number one for the sprint cars.

Darland was one of several drivers that did "double duty" - competing both in the midgets and sprint cars.
Darland finished fifth in the 30-lap USAC Midget headliner.

Chris Gurley flipped his No. 12 during the 30-lap Sprint Car feature.

Jerry Coons Jr. won the second Sprint Car heat race of the evening.

Matt Goodnight gets both front wheels off the ground during Sprint Car hot laps.

Josh Spencer came home sixth in the Sprint Car 30 lapper.

Tracy Hines set fast time during Honda USAC National Midget time trials.

 May 29, 2015 - Plymouth, IN - Plymouth Speedway - "Midget Maynia"

QUALIFICATIONS: 1. Tracy Hines, 24, Parker-13.676; 2. Dave Darland, 63, RKR/Curb-Agajanian-13.776; 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.875; 4. Jerry Coons, Jr., 27, Heffner-13.915; 5. Tyler Courtney, 7K, K & R-14.026; 6. Tanner Thorson, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-14.026; 7. Spencer Bayston, 39, Clauson-14.072; 8. Tyler Thomas, 91T, Thomas-14.077; 9. Isaac Chapple, 52, Chapple-14.092; 10. Brett Thomas, 69, Thomas-14.100; 11. Robby Parish, 7R, K & R-14.195; 12. Steve Buckwalter, 25, Buckwalter-14.222; 13. Ross Rankine, 39R, Rankine-14.337; 14. Garrett Aitken, 32, Aitken-14.355; 15. Darren Hagen, 17, Brown-14.468; 16. Nathan Smee, 7AU, Cooper-14.514; 17. Daniel Robinson, 57D, McCreery-14.565; 18. Gage Walker, 7, Walker-14.626; 19. Tony DiMattia, 50, Brandywine-14.743; 20. Gary Gipson, 5, Byers-14.931; 21. Austin Nemire, 91, Nemire/Yager-15.022; 22. Cole Fehr, 15, Live Loud-15.068.

FIRST HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Smee, 2. Hines, 3. Coons, 4. Rankine, 5. Bayston, 6. Fehr, 7. DiMattia, 8. B.Thomas. 1:57.89

SECOND HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Aitken, 2. T.Thomas, 3. Darland, 4. Courtney, 5. Robinson, 6. Gipson, 7. Parish. 1:59.81

THIRD HEAT: (8 laps) 1. Hagen, 2. Thorson, 3. K.Thomas, 4. Buckwalter, 5. Walker, 6. Nemire, 7. Chapple. 1:59.45

FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Tracy Hines, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Darren Hagen, 6. Spencer Bayston, 7. Tyler Thomas, 8. Jerry Coons, Jr., 9. Nathan Smee, 10. Tyler Courtney, 11. Gage Walker, 12. Daniel Robinson, 13. Brett Thomas, 14. Tony DiMattia, 15. Gary Gipson, 16. Garrett Aitken, 17. Ross Rankine, 18. Austin Nemire, 19. Steve Buckwalter, 20. Isaac Chapple, 21. Cole Fehr, 22. Robby Parish. NT
**B.Thomas flipped during the first heat.

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-11 Courtney, Laps 12-30 K. Thomas.

NEW HONDA NATIONAL MIDGET POINTS: 1-Hines-131, 2-Hagen-128, 3-Thorson-125, 4-Darland-109, 5-K.Thomas-97, 6-T.Thomas-93, 7-Coons-90, 8-Bayston-80, 9-Buckwalter-79, 10-Walker-66.