From Richie Murray | USAC Media
FIRST TO TWO: THORSON BECOMES FIRST MULTI-TIME LEFFLER MEMORIAL WINNER AT WAYNE CITY
Wayne City, Illinois (August 18, 2023) - In the decade-long history of the Jason Leffler Memorial, no driver had ever achieved what Tanner Thorson accomplished on Friday night at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill.
The Minden, Nev. driver became the first repeat victor of the event which honors the memory of the late four-time USAC National champion during the decade of the 1990s.
Three years after capturing his first Leffler Memorial triumph in 2020, Thorson once again etched his name into the race’s history book, assuming the lead just before the halfway mark of the 40-lap main event presented by Peoples National Bank.
After enduring a steady challenge from the only other past Leffler Memorial winner in Friday night’s field, Zach Daum, Thorson found a new line and newfound freedom at the front of the field as he collected his second consecutive USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship feature after scoring the most recent round of the series at Nebraska’s Jefferson County Speedway in mid-July.
Thorson led 24 of the final 25 laps to earn the $5,000 payday in what was his 199th career series start aboard his Tanner Thorson Racing/James Hodge Auto Group – Smith Titanium/Spike/Stanton SR-11x.
It was also the 2016 USAC National Midget driving champion’s 29th career USAC National Midget feature win, moving him to within one of 11th place all-time alongside 30-time series winners Dave Darland, Mike McGreevy and Johnny Parsons.
In terms of feature victories with the series, Thorson finds himself in the upper echelon and he stands just two victories outside of the top-10 all-time in that category. Along the way, he’s certainly earned his fair share of satisfying wins – the Jason Leffler Memorial chiefly being among them, a fellow USAC National champion like himself.
“Jason Leffler was definitely one of the best in the business to ever do it,” Thorson said. “I never got the pleasure of meeting him, but I definitely got to watch him a lot. One of my good buddies, Rico Abreu, got to hang out with him a lot and said he was great. To be able to add my name as a winner of this race twice is really special.”
Starting second in the feature, Thorson initially found himself stifled, dropping all the way to sixth in the early going before steadily moving his way forward. Understanding it was a 40-lapper and knowing that the 1/8-mile of Wayne City has always been a place that’s suited his driving style adequately, Thorson wasn’t a bit rattled.
Furthermore, in the entire 68-year history of USAC National Midget racing, no driver has won more often on dirt tracks shorter than a quarter mile in size than Tanner Thorson, picking up his ninth on Friday night.
Pole sitter and top series Rookie Gavin Miller led the opening eight laps, withstanding attack after attack from Ryan Timms throughout the duration. Miller was able to thwart off the relentless Timms who pulled in front of Miller on five different occasions during the first seven laps but was unable to make the move stick.
That was the case until lap nine when Timms dove under Miller in turn three to swipe the spot from his Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports teammate. The two were vying to become KKM’s first Wayne City USAC winner, one of only two tracks on this year’s National Midget schedule that the series’ all-time winningest team has not conquered along with Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
Meanwhile, Thorson began to close in on the top-two as all three bounced their right rear tires off the outside ARMCO barrier in turns three and four. In the meantime, Thorson chased down Miller to grab second in turn three on lap four and brought along Daum in tow to third.
Immediately after, Thorson took three successive shots at Timms for the top spot but was unable to clamp down the position on the first two tries. However, the third attempt was the charm as the two drifted up to the outside turn two wall with Timms banging his tail tank smack dab against the guardrail with a force.
While it was relatively no harm, no foul for Timms, the red flag was displayed on the 20th lap for Chase McDermand who flipped on the back straightaway. He was running 16th at the time and had been involved in a tussle for position with Daison Pursley. Following the incident, under the red flag, McDermand walked across the infield to speak with Pursley, taking umbrage with the circumstances that had just transpired.
When racing resumed, Daum utilized the bottom on the lap 21 restart to cruise by Timms for second. Leader Thorson sensed the presence of the nose of Daum’s car and made a beeline to the bottom to take away Daum’s line. Daum stuck his left side wheels as low as they could go in turns three and four, which led him into the lead on lap 24.
The next time around, in a somewhat unexpected tactic, Thorson became the first to discover a unique line getting into turn three. Thorson threw his car to the bottom of turn three and let it glide from the bottom to the top of turn four. The move paid off and Thorson immediately found himself back in front of Daum on the 25th go-around. Thorson repeated the “sweep” lap after lap, which guided him in expanding his lead from a single car length to more than two seconds in the span of a few laps.
Lapped traffic remained high and low in Thorson’s path, but he ably slipped through the thick of it, splitting the two Tom Malloy teammate cars of Jacob Denney and Jake Andreotti in turn one to put them a lap down while also burying Daum in a deeper hole more than three seconds behind. Ultimately, series point leader Logan Seavey caught and surpassed Daum for the runner-up spot on lap 34.
In the end, Thorson was a full 2.931 seconds better than the field at the finish line to become a multi-time winner of the event which was celebrating its 10th running this year. Seavey corralled second with Zach Daum third, Ryan Timms fourth and Gavin Miller rounding out the top-five.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) collected his eighth straight top-three finish in USAC National Midget competition behind the wheel of his Abacus Racing/Honest Abe Roofing – Indy Custom Stone – Laura Kopetsky Tri-Ax/Spike/Stanton SR-11x. Seavey also was the biggest mover in the feature, advancing 10th to 2nd to earn his best career Jason Leffler Memorial result.
Zach Daum (Pocahontas, Ill.) led a lap en route to a third-place finish in his Trifecta Motorsports/Southern Transport – Flurry Racing Stables/Spike/Stanton SR-11x. In doing so, he became the first driver in Leffler Memorial history to finish on the podium four times: 1st (2013), 2nd (2022) and 3rd (2015 & 2023).
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: August 18, 2023 – Wayne County Speedway – Wayne City, Illinois – 10th Jason Leffler Memorial Presented By Peoples National Bank – 1/8-Mile Dirt Track
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tanner Thorson (2), 2. Logan Seavey (10), 3. Zach Daum (5), 4. Ryan Timms (4), 5. Gavin Miller (1), 6. Emerson Axsom (8), 7. Kevin Thomas Jr. (3), 8. Karter Sarff (11), 9. Bryant Wiedeman (16), 10. Cannon McIntosh (15), 11. Daison Pursley (7), 12. Justin Grant (12), 13. Jade Avedisian (6), 14. Daniel Robinson (21), 15. Taylor Reimer (14), 16. Jake Andreotti (19), 17. Jacob Denney (9), 18. Thomas Meseraull (18), 19. Bradley Fezard (22), 20. Daniel Whitley (13), 21. Chase McDermand (20), 22. Ethan Mitchell (17). NT
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-8 Gavin Miller, Laps 9-15 Ryan Timms, Laps 16-23 Tanner Thorson, Lap 24 Zach Daum, Laps 25-40 Tanner Thorson.
**Taylor Reimer flipped during hot laps. Thomas Meseraull tipped over during the first heat. Chase McDermand flipped on lap 20 of the feature.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-852, 2-Jacob Denney-738, 3-Justin Grant-736, 4-Bryant Wiedeman-729, 5-Ryan Timms-707, 6-Jade Avedisian-696, 7-Daison Pursley-696, 8-Cannon McIntosh-669, 9-Gavin Miller-589, 10-Taylor Reimer-567.
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Photo's: USAC Racing | Rich Forman