PLACERVILLE, Calif. — Back in 2019 at Placerville Speedway‘s inaugural Hangtown 100, Chance Crum watched from the stands with a goal of one day having an opportunity to compete in the blossoming race.
Just three years later, not only did Crum get his shot, but he also nearly stole the show at one of the most lucrative events on the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget calendar.
On Saturday night at the El Dorado County oval, Crum, after winning the B-main, lined up 21st for the 100-lap finale aboard the Rudeen Racing No. 26. In the feature, he methodically worked his way forward until challenging Buddy Kofoid for the lead before ultimately holding on to finish second, equaling his series-best effort.
“For this event a few years ago here, I was just watching, just watching these USAC guys hoping to get to race it,” Crum reflected. “So, to have the opportunity to drive for Rudeen Racing and get to do it and then come home second is definitely something that‘s pretty cool.”
What made Crum‘s charge especially remarkable was the route he took. The Snohomish, Wash., native didn‘t rip the cushion and throw sliders. He didn‘t tip-toe the bottom all the way around. Instead, he found a unique line through the slick in the middle of turns three and four while everyone else was committed to the top or bottom.
As the race progressed, Crum patiently worked his way forward, driving by some of the sport‘s best drivers in the process. On lap 39, he cracked the top ten. With 38 circuits remaining, he entered the top five and just two laps later rolled into second as cars behind attempted to follow his footsteps.
With Crum‘s driving preference and knowledge of how the race unfolded in the past, he and the Rudeen crew planned on making the tricky line work.
“I was kind of anticipating it,” Crum explained. “From last year when we ran here and just watching races here, I know it gets super slick and super wide. Starting 21st, cars are everywhere we had to go where they‘re not. For a while, no one was in the middle, so that‘s where we got most of our spots, but also I really like that line. It‘s kind of my favorite, just kind of roll through the middle. We kind of set up for that. These guys did a great job, gave me a great car to be able to do it. We just kind of slowly worked our way forward one at a time.”
While Crum favors the middle groove and the car was set up accordingly, finding speed in that spot is still no easy task and required complete focus and nearly perfect throttle control.
“That‘s about as technical as it gets,” Crum commented. “For the most part, especially toward the end of the race, I was probably using an eighth of a throttle in the corner, just tiptoeing. These CSI shocks were dialed in great, gave us a lot of grip there through the slick.”
After a rough start to the event on Thursday, rebounding to finish runner-up filled the entire team with joy and provided Crum some personal pride factoring in his company just a step ahead on the podium, Buddy Kofoid.
Kofoid is amid a historic year, the Hangtown 100 win giving him 12 on the 2022 campaign. Finishing second to Kofoid this season is an accomplishment on its own.
“Going up against the best of the best there is as good as it gets,” Crum said. “It‘s a lot of fun, so that was pretty cool. To be close there with Buddy is definitely pretty cool. It‘s kind of an honor, too. He‘s one of the best to ever do it. To have a shot at it was something pretty special.”
The performance on such a big stage is the latest in Crum‘s development this season. Back in June at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway, the 25-year-old led the most laps in the feature before earning his first USAC National Midget podium by finishing second. Then in August Crum won the fourth ever Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series race in their debut season by topping the first night of a two-day show at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo.
The night at Placerville served as a welcome confidence boost as Crum looks to continue educating himself at this stage of his racing career. He maintains a sharp focus and hopes that, with more experience, he might be able to move up one more spot on nights like these in the future.
“The biggest thing is we‘re trying to learn,” Crum said. “Going up against these big midget teams, it‘s been tough. It‘s been a hard learning curve, but we‘ve been having a lot of fun doing it all year. We‘ve had some close seconds this year. I think this is probably our fifth or sixth second, so that‘s a little bit frustrating, but overall, big picture definitely very happy with it. It‘s a great finish for our team, especially after the first night. We were like in the 30s in points, so it was a good comeback.”