GREENWOOD, Neb. — Tyler Courtney withstood a relentless Chris Windom assault during the final two laps of Friday night’s Malvern Bank I-80 Dirt Classic, earning his second USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car victory in the series’ inaugural appearance at I-80 Speedway.
Windom was on point for the first two-thirds of the 30-lapper, but Courtney used a lap-20 slide job to rip by the defending Silver Crown champ for the race lead, then took Windom’s repetitious haymakers in stride down the stretch, answering each successive punch with a knockout blow of his own.
Running along the razor’s edge requires a certain finesse to reach maximum success. On this night, Courtney had to juggle patience and urgency.
The Indianapolis native had to start seventh, but Courtney anticipated the track taking rubber and felt he had to get up on the wheel of his TOPP Motorsports/TOPP Performance Race Parts – Custom Pump & Controls/Maxim/Claxton and bring it to the front as soon as the green dropped.
Yet, the dilemma in a 30-lap sprint is that running too hard can create significant tire wear, making a hard-charging effort all for naught.
“We knew the track had a pretty good chance of taking rubber,” Courtney said. “I knew once I got to about third or fourth, I had to really start going. But I didn’t want to use up my tires just in case it was going to take rubber. We were searching for a happy medium, but we played our cards right and came out on top. I’ll take it any way I can get it.”
Windom, though, was the master of the four-tenths-mile dirt oval when racing commenced, sliding in front of polesitter Chad Boespflug in the first turn to take the lead on the opening lap.
Soon thereafter, ProSource Fast Qualifier Stevie Sussex made a charge to the front and a bid for the lead on lap six that came up short, falling into line behind Windom in a four-car breakaway freight train that also included Grant and Courtney in third and fourth, respectively.
The surface was wide and slick, allowing slide jobs to be thrown at will from anywhere and everywhere. After fifth-running Chase Stockon slowed with a bent draglink on the 10th lap to bring out the caution, Courtney took the message to heart, immediately blasting by Grant for third into turn one on the restart. A lap later, Courtney went to the well one more time in the same spot, sliding past Sussex for the runner-up spot.
As the top became rubber down, it became a single-file procession up top, but it opened the door for sliders coming in from all corners, as it became the most preferred way to advance.
On the 20th revolution around the oval, Courtney took Windom’s spot away up front with another perfect turn one slider. On the following circuit, Courtney slid the lapped car of Terry Richards in one to separate himself from Windom and gain an unobstructed view of the track ahead with just a handful of laps remaining.
“I screwed up down there in (turns) one and two and I didn’t expect it to work out, but I got over the cushion and turned down the hill,” Courtney recalled. “I slid a couple guys and got to Windom right before the caution. We got all bunched up; I ran behind Grant and Sussex for a little bit and while they were sliding each other, I was able to get by them.”
“We got to lapped traffic, then I used one of them as a pick and slid Chris. I could tell the track was starting to take rubber, so I had to get by him quickly. Luckily, I was at the right place at the right time.”
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