By Lonnie Wheatley (Fairbury, NE) -- Emerson Axsom picked a fine time to find his way back into USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series victory lane.
After all, a $10,000 winner’s share awaited the winner of Saturday night’s Fourth Annual Riverside Chevrolet Midwest Midget Championship presented by Westin Packaged Meats and Schmidt’s Sanitation feature event winner atop the 1/5-mile Jefferson County Speedway clay oval that put the wraps on “Mid-America Midget Week”.
PHOTO CREDIT: Lonnie Wheatley
It wasn’t without a fair share of controversy that whipped the crowd into a frenzy however, as the 16-year-old from Franklin, IN, came into contact with race leader Logan Seavey in the closing rounds of the 40-lap main event to take command before securing his second series win of the year aboard the Petry Motorsports Toyota-powered FK Rod Ends No. 15 IronBorn Studio Bullet by Spike machine.
“I felt like the lapped car checked up and Logan (Seavey) cut down, I didn’t want to get into him at all,” Axsom explained afterward. “I just can’t thank everyone on this car enough that makes it go so fast, you have to go as hard as you can because nobody gives an inch in Midget racing.”
While disappointed with the ultimate outcome, Sutter, California’s Seavey stated a similar account of the incident after leading 32 laps of the event aboard Tom Malloy’s Ed Pink Toyota-powered Trench Shoring No. 25.
“That lapped car checked up more than I expected,” Seavey lamented afterward. “He (Axsom) got into me then, but I don’t think he tried to wreck me. It’s just frustrating, especially when there’s $10,000 on the line.”
After Axsom gunned into the lead from the third starting position on the opening round, Seavey battled back to the front the next time around and fought off a hornet’s nest of contenders that included Axsom along with Kevin Thomas, Jr., Chris Windom and Justin Grant among others.
The race-defining moment came as the leaders were battling through traffic in the closing ten laps with Axsom and Seavey coming together on the 33rd lap in turn two. A quick 360-degree spin brought out the automatic caution flag and sent Seavey to the tail of the field with Axsom back in command.
In the process, current series points leader Buddy Kofoid had rallied from 15th and sat third on the restart behind Axsom and Thomas, Jr. After making his way into second in short order, Kofoid made one last charge for the point after a final caution with a pair of laps to go but was forced to settle for runner-up honors aboard the Keith Kunz Motorsports Mobil 1 No. 67 behind a determined Axsom.
“I just needed laps to keep clicking off, on the long run my car was really good,” Kofoid explained after advancing 13 positions. “I think we were the better car, even after a mistake I could reel him back in within a lap. There’s a reason this is one of my favorite places to come to, it’s not often you can come from that far back.”
Chris Windom rounded out the podium for the second night in a row aboard the CB Industries NOS Energy Drink No. 89, commenting that, “The last eight or nine laps I got a little sputter in the middle of the corner that kinda hurt me and made it hard to run those guys down. We’ll take a top three.”
Justin Grant finished out the week with a fourth-place run while Daison Pursley raced from 14th to round out the top five. The balance of the top ten included Cannon McIntosh, Thomas, Jr., 20th-starter erry *****, Jr., Brenham Crouch and Thomas Meseraull.
After a lap six caution for Hayden Williams in turn one and then one another half-dozen laps later for McIntosh and Meseraull in turn two, Jake Bubak went for a tumble on the backstretch on the 12th lap restart.
Meseraull, McIntosh, Zac Taylor and Bubak claimed heat race wins before Trey Gropp bested the “B” Main.