From Richie Murray – USAC Media
Putnamville, Indiana (July 28, 2022)………Just minutes before the clock struck midnight, Mitchel Moles put the finishing touches on a magical evening during Thursday night’s round five of USAC NOS Energy Drink Indiana Sprint Week at Putnamville’s Lincoln Park Speedway.
However, this was no Cinderella story as the Raisin City, Calif. native moved to the front of the pack on lap two and led the final 29 laps to score his first career Indiana Sprint Week victory, and his second win thus far during an impressive USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship Rookie season.
Following a lengthy rain delay that plagued the early portion of the night, Moles slipped by Jadon Rogers on the bottom, then switched his method of operation from the low line to the high groove and back to the bottom in search of a path to victory.
Despite briefly losing the lead to a surging Brady Bacon two laps from the finish, a yellow flag reprieve positioned Moles back up front where he went unheeded for the final two trips around the 5/16-mile dirt oval following a green-white-checkered scenario.
Known for a wide-open, pound the cushion style, Moles utilized nuance and balance on this night, doing so in somewhat unfamiliar territory throughout the 30-lap distance. In the end, though, he wound up in what has become a familiar destination in the month of July – victory lane – as he’s collected his first three USAC national series triumphs in the past 20 nights (2 sprint and 1 midget).
“That’s probably the first race I’ve ever won on the bottom to be honest with you,” Moles admitted. “I’ve never been a bottom feeder guy. Jadon was bumping me on the rear bumper telling me to get going. I’m glad I could at least pick up the pace a little. He didn’t hit me on the last restart, so maybe I was doing it wrong the whole time.”
For the second-straight season, it was the same team celebrating victory following the Indiana Sprint Week round at Lincoln Park. Last year, it was Tanner Thorson scoring his first Indiana Sprint Week win and, this year, it came to be Moles driving the Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports/AME Electrical – Mesilla Valley Transportation/Spike/Stanton Chevy to glory.
Moles possessed a prime view from outside the front row for the start, and it didn’t take long for him to move to the top of the leaderboard. Pole sitter Rogers patrolled the bottom for the opening lap, but at the start of lap two, Rogers left an opening of daylight underneath. Moles stuck his nose in and remained side-by-side with Rogers for the entire length of the back straightaway. Entering turn three, Moles was able to scoot along the bottom and into the lead as Rogers swung out wide and dropped to second.
Just after midway, Moles altered his course and began to venture to the high line. Three-straight laps of Rogers pulling even-steven with Moles, but not quite make the pass stick, was enough to convince Moles to get himself back to the bottom.
“About halfway through, I was like, ‘you know what, I’m going to try the top,’” Moles recalled. “So, I tried the top, but he was a little better on the bottom, so I went back down. I think what won me the race was getting back down to the bottom. I didn’t want to leave the door open for somebody to try and stick it in there.”
Moles continued to be hounded by Rogers throughout the majority of the distance, clutching a single car length lead all the way into the late stages when a blanket could be thrown over the entire top-six of Moles, Rogers, Shane Cottle, Brady Bacon, C.J. Leary and Justin Grant.
While Moles and Rogers maintained an unrelenting presence on the low line, Bacon took the show to the topside. Running fourth with three to go, Bacon disposed of Cottle for third in turn two on lap 28, then hustled forward and was on the verge of pouncing on the two front runners. Coming to two to go, Moles was tapped on the rear bumper by Rogers at the exit of turn four while Bacon carried a head of steam to make it nearly three-wide at the start/finish line, all three within a single car length.
Moments later, Bacon charged around the outside of both Rogers and Moles to go third to first successfully in succession between turns one and two to take ownership of the lead. Bacon clamped down and swept to the bottom of turn three in front of Moles to seemingly lock up the top spot.
However, just as soon as Bacon put himself atop the leaderboard, the yellow flag was displayed for Kevin Thomas Jr. (8th) and Robert Ballou (10th) who tangled and stopped in turn two. The caution negated Bacon’s maneuvers and relegated him back to third. The running order reverted to the last completed lap while Moles landed a pardon and was positioned back into the lead for the green-white-checkered resumption on lap 29.
Obtaining a second breath of fresh air, Moles put the lock on this one as he spurted away from Rogers on the restart, controlling the final two circuits with a five car length advantage. Moles crossed under the checkered with no imminent pressure being applied, reigning triumphant with a 0.706 second margin of victory over Rogers, Bacon, Cottle and Grant, who advanced from the 14th starting position and maintained his healthy Indiana Sprint Week championship point lead.
Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.) turned in his most impressive performance of the USAC National Sprint Car season. After leading a single lap, his second place finish tied the best result of his career with the series in his Engler Family/Engler Machine & Tool – AMSOIL – Sherrill’s Pest Control/DRC/SPEC Chevy. He also previously finished as the runner-up at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway in both 2020 and 2021.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) nearly had it. In fact, he did have it momentarily. He raced from third to first coming to the white flag, but the pass was negated due to a yellow. Nonetheless, Bacon equaled his best finish of 2022 Indiana Sprint Week with a third-place result in his Dynamics, Inc./Fatheadz Eyewear – Cressman Sanitation – DriveWFX – Tel-Star/Triple X/Rider Chevy.
FEATURE (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses):
1. Mitchel Moles (2), 2. Jadon Rogers (1), 3. Brady Bacon (6), 4. Shane Cottle (3), 5. Justin Grant (14), 6. C.J. Leary (5), 7. Briggs Danner (12), 8. Brent Beauchamp (15), 9. Ryan Timms (13), 10. Dave Darland (7), 11. Chase Stockon (21), 12. Emerson Axsom (16), 13. Tye Mihocko (10), 14. Matt Westfall (11), 15. Mario Clouser (20), 16. Brayden Fox (8), 17. Kyle Shipley (22), 18. Logan Seavey (18), 19. Robert Ballou (17), 20. Kevin Thomas Jr. (4), 21. Jason McDougal (19), 22. A.J. Hopkins (9). NT
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