2021 Ascoc I 96 Tyler Courtney Vl Celebration Jim Denhamer Photo
Tyler Courtney celebrates in victory lane Friday at I-96 Speedway. (Jim Denhamer photo)

Sunshine Snags First All Star Victory

LAKE ODESSA, Mich. – Friday night’s FloRacing All Star Circuit of Champions feature at I-96 Speedway featured a clash between Tyler Courtney’s aggression and Ian Madsen’s consistency.

In the end, Courtney won out, dominating the second half of the 30-lap Mace Thomas Classic for his maiden All Star victory in the Clauson Marshall Racing-owned, NOS Energy Drink TURBO-sponsored No. 7bc. The victory was worth $8,500 to the 27-year-old native of Indianapolis, Ind.

Courtney used a daring pass around the outside of turns one and two at the four-tenths-mile, semi-banked dirt oval to wrest the lead from Madsen on lap 14. He then held it over a sequence of late-race restarts.

Despite three yellow flags that gave Madsen additional chances to capitalize and closed him back up on the rear nerf bar of Courtney’s car, the former USAC midget and sprint car champion never faltered.

Courtney pulled away over a six-lap run to the checkered flag to win by 2.487 seconds in his 36th career All Star feature.

“I’m not quite good at [running] the bottom yet in these winged [sprint] cars … I’m having to learn to slow down, but drive hard at the same time, but this makes it all worth it, man,” Courtney said in victory lane. “It’s a big, big risk, going from the top [in USAC] and dropping back to the bottom [in winged sprint cars] and just putting yourself out there. I’ve put myself out there as a driver and we’ve put ourselves out there as a team, but we’ve got great partners that have stuck behind us and made this possible.

2021 Ascoc I 96 Tyler Courtney Action Jim Denhamer Photo
Tyler Courtney en route to victory Friday at I-96 Speedway. (Jim Denhamer photo)

“Everyone at the shop hasn’t stopped and kept pushing to get to this point,” added Courtney, whose previous career-best run of second with the All Stars came on May 2 at Tri-City Raceway Park. “We’ve had a lot of bad luck, but we kept pushing through and we’ve been so close. Tonight we finally got it.”

While Courtney’s run to the win started from sixth, Madsen fired off from the pole and quickly pulled away from fellow front-row starter Cory Eliason, who held the runner-up spot for the first 12 laps before slowing with a shredded right-rear tire.

That erased a sizable gap for Madsen and put Courtney, who had worked his way up to third before Eliason’s troubles, right on the cusp of the top spot for the ensuing restart.

Madsen briefly held serve when the green flag waved again, but Courtney shifted from the bottom to the top after a lap and roared around Madsen’s outside off the exit of turn two to take the lead on lap 14.

From there, Courtney quickly built a 1.2-second lead before Eliason slowed again with additional troubles coming to 11 to go, ending his night and again giving Madsen another shot at Courtney.

Unfazed, Courtney pulled away by a second on the lap-20 restart, gapping the field by nearly two seconds before 14th-running Greg Wilson stopped over the cushion in turn four to bring out the third caution of the night with seven circuits remaining.

At that point, Courtney and Madsen were holding Scotty Thiel – who had climbed to third in the frantic feature – at bay.

Trouble befell Thiel on the lap-24 restart, however, as he spun in turn one and nearly collected Paul McMahan in the process. Somehow, McMahan jumped Thiel’s tire and kept going, able to keep fourth place as a result of not stopping.

None of that was any consequence to Courtney, though. He stayed smooth up front over the final six laps and Madsen admitted after the race that there was little he could have done to deny the driver known as “Sunshine” on this particular night.

“We just didn’t quite get aggressive enough with the car,” tipped Madsen, whose fifth podium finish of the season leads the series. “And even still, I was up front there and didn’t really know where to be after they reworked [the track surface]. I knew it was going to move up to the top at some point, but Tyler went by and showed us it was up there. It’s still a great run for the Sam McGee team; I feel bad I couldn’t get them the win, but we’ll keep plugging away.”

Justin Peck, a two-time All Star winner this season, completed the podium in the Buch Motorsports No. 13. McMahan crossed the line fourth and Rico Abreu, a perennial fan favorite, finished fifth.

Sixth through 10th were Zeb Wise, hard-charger Cap Henry, Hunter Schuerenberg, Ryan Ruhl and Kyle Reinhardt.

Henry’s run to seventh came from 17th on the grid.

The All Star Circuit of Champions season continues May 15 at The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in Joliet, Ill.

The finish:

1. 7bc-Tyler Courtney [6], 2. 11-Ian Madsen [1], 3. 13-Justin Peck [8], 4. 5-Paul McMahan [5], 5. 24-Rico Abreu [14], 6. 10-Zeb Wise [15], 7. 4-Cap Henry [17], 8. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg [11], 9. 71h-Ryan Ruhl [16], 10. 91-Kyle Reinhardt [12], 11. 67-Buddy Kofoid [3], 12. 97-Cale Thomas [21], 13. 65-Jordan Goldesberry [22], 14. 2-Ricky Peterson [19], 15. 85-Dustin Daggett [13], 16. 21bp-Brinton Marvel [10], 17. 73-Scotty Thiel [7], 18. 8m-T.J. Michael [18], 19. W20-Greg Wilson [9], 20. 26-Cory Eliason [2], 21. 17b-Bill Balog [4], 22. 23-Russel Borland [20], 23. 41-Thomas Schinderle [23], 24. 22m-Dan McCarron [24].

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