OAKWOOD — Tyler Courtney was in a perfect position to win his second race with his new car owner on Sunday night at the Vermilion County Speedway.
But with just two laps remaining in the 25-lap main event, Courtney saw his chances for a victory slip through his hands as his sprint car slid over the banking in turns No. 3 and 4, allowing Brandon Mattox to get past him.
Mattox held on over the final two laps to claim the second annual Kickapoo Klash with Nick Bilbee finishing second and Courtney settled for third.
“We definitely had a winning car tonight,’’ Courtney said. “But, I ran out of talent there in turns 3 and 4 with two laps to go and Brandon got by me.
“It’s my first weekend with a new car owner. We won on first night out (at Farmer City), we were fourth last night and third tonight. So, I guess it was pretty good opening weekend.’’
But winning two of your first three races would have been even better.
For Mattox, it was a complete reversal from the inaugural Kickapoo Klash.
“Last year, we won our heat race and then, we got put in the fence during the main event,’’ he said. “We actually brought the same car back this year. We ran second at Farmer City on Friday night, so we really feel like we got this thing rolling pretty good.
“That helped my confidence coming back to a track where we took a pretty nasty ride a year ago. When we got here, it was time to do business.’’
Mattox, of Cory, Ind., admitted that he felt bad for Courtney.
“Tyler Courtney is a good friend,’’ he said. “He had a little bobble and we were right there to take advantage of it.’’
Actually, it was the final caution of the main event that set up things for both Courtney and Mattox.
On the restart, Courtney blasted past both Mattox and Max McGhee, who led the first 16 laps, to take the lead.
“I had a really good restart there, and got myself into the lead,’’ said Courtney, who races out of Indianapolis. “I started to cruise. It was a real fine line on top, you had to be up there. But, if you slipped off, you were going to get passed.
“It was a very fine line and I crossed it.’’
During those caution laps, Mattox was able to see something that helped his car as well.
“We were really able to inspect the track and I found a grove down off the top,’’ Mattox said. “You could see that the cushion was starting to roll over. My car was sticking really well. I could make the track shorter and still have the bite that the guys up top were searching for.’’
Mattox said that Sunday’s victory is another step in the right direction for Mattox/Searles Racing.
“Don Searles and I formed Mattox/Searles Racing during the off-season,’’ he said. “He has helped us step up our program. The first couple races of the season were kind of disappointing because we struggled with car setup and so on and so forth.
“But over the past six to eight races, we have been consistently finishing up front. We knew this was coming, but it’s coming a little faster than even we expected.’’
He said the key to their success has been continuity and simplicity.
“Everyone on this crew gets along really well and we are keeping things simple,’’ Mattox said. “We all have a common goal and every one knows exactly what they need to do on any given night.
“Tonight, we ran the race that we wanted to run. We had a game plan and we hit our marks. Nothing is every perfect, but we ran 25 solid laps. We got the right breaks at the right times and we made the most of our opportunity.’’
For Courtney, three straight top-five finishes this weekend is a good confidence booster.
“We went to three different tracks in two different states this weekend and we were competitive every night,’’ he said. “That’s a good place to build from starting on Wednesday at Gas City (Ind.) and we’ll end the week at Kokomo (Ind.) next Sunday. Hopefully, we can keep getting better.’’
Rounding out the top five in the main event was Landon Simon, the fast timer on Sunday night, was fourth and Seth Parker was fifth.
In the modified division, Devin Gilpin made it two-for-two at the Vermilion County Speedway this season. The Columbus, Ind., driver followed up his victory in the Kim Henderson Memorial Race with another win this Sunday.
Gilpin, who had the fastest time and won the first heat race, finished ahead of Chad Evans, while Josh Ferguson was third, Randy Shuman was fourth and Don Kiger was fifth. Shuman, who won the second heat, was coming off a feature victory at the Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind., on Saturday night.
While Gilpin repeated his success from two weeks ago, David Hurst of Chalmers, Ind., came up a little short.
Vermilion County driver Scott Hufford tried something different in the street stock main event and it worked as he claimed his second feature victory of the season, and his first at the Vermilion County Speedway in a quite a while.
“I knew it was going to be tough with David Hurst right behind me,’’ Hufford said. “Everyone was fighting over the bottom, and I had to try to do something different. Fortunately, there was enough bite in the track and I was able to go forward. This track was really good tonight.’’
But, how difficult was it to make the move to the outside?
“It was real difficult,’’ Hufford said. “I was starting on the outside, and the first thing that goes through your mind, you have to get down to the inside. And I did, but it was congested down there, and there was no where to go.
“I felt that I was faster. I tried it on the outside and it worked.’’
Terry Reed finished behind Hufford with Brandon Roundtree taking third and Hurst, driving his station wagon, was fourth and Jesse Simmons rounded out the top five.
In the pure stock division, John Simmons and Gordon Parsons Jr. put on a good battle before Simmons took control, winning the main event. Parsons, who won the heat race, finished second, while Larry Feguson was third.