HAUBSTADT, Ind. — Jadon Rogers earned his first USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship victory in Saturday night‘s 15th annual Haubstadt Hustler at Tri-State Speedway.
Rogers led all but one of the 40 laps in his Engler Family/Engler Machine & Tool — AMSOIL — Sherrill‘s Pest Control/DRC/SPEC Chevy.
In the process of his $12,000 score, the 20-year-old Rogers had to withstand a barrage from the two winningest USAC Sprint Car drivers of all-time at the southwestern Indiana quarter-mile dirt oval — Kevin Thomas Jr. and Kyle Cummins.
Close calls have been a way of life over the past three seasons of USAC competition for Rogers with three runner-up finishes, two of which have come at Tri-State. One in particular came in the spring of 2021 when Cummins denied him his first win by passing him with four laps remaining.
“We‘ve been too close so many times,” an exasperated Rogers recounted. “It took forever, but now it feels so rewarding. I‘ve been racing for a long time, since I was five, and my dream has been to race to where I could make a living off it. Engler Machine and Tool gave me that chance. My dad (Kyle Rogers) is always at Engler‘s late and it‘s just never-ending with this crew. There‘s not many of us.”
The event was co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series and, as a bit of a twist from the norm, their format was utilized on this evening. Rogers earned his way into the redraw by capturing a victory in his heat race. There, he drew a “1” pill, signifying his starting position on the pole for the night‘s feature.
Thomas lined up fourth for the feature while Cummins started from slot seven. Between the two drivers, they had won each of the past three USAC National Sprint Car features and possessed wins in nearly half of the Haubstadt Hustler that had ever been run. Score: Thomas four, Cummins two.
Rogers spurted out to the early lead with outside front row starter C.J. Leary and Thomas in tow. However, Thomas didn‘t have to wait much longer as he slipped under Leary to take over second off turn four just five laps into the run.
By lap 14, Thomas had reached Rogers‘ rear bumper and gave chase as Rogers swiped in-between and swung over, under, sideways, down through the competition, yet still wasn‘t able to keep Thomas from pulling even in turn two.
Following a double Carson caution on lap 20 when both Carson Garrett (13th) and Carson Short (16th) stopped on opposite ends of the racetrack, Jason McDougal jumped into the fray at the front as he went to the top and drove by Thomas at the exit of turn four.
McDougal‘s time in the adjacent catbird seat came and went in a near calamity in turn three on lap 27 as he nearly sideswiped the dramatically slowing lapped car of first-time USAC starter Adyn Schmidt. Although McDougal avoided contact, his slip off the bottom opened a lane for Thomas to maneuver past in order to retake second.
Thomas showed a nose under Rogers in turn one on the lap 28 restart. Rogers denied him and swiftly powered away until turn three when he nearly tripped up and became misshapen in turn three, turning himself full lock sideways, yet still managed to keep Thomas at bay.
The next sequence is one that won‘t soon be forgotten. On lap 36, Thomas slung his ride into turn one under Rogers for the race lead. Now three-wide coming out of turn two, Rogers found himself the meat in an unhealthy sandwich with the lapped car of Stan Beadles just to his right, forcing Rogers to lift, which allowed Thomas to skate on by for the lead.
“I felt like I couldn‘t catch a break,” Rogers lamented. “I got out front and I felt like I was really good, but then I saw KTJ and, as we got into lapped traffic, he really put the pressure on me and got by me.”
But it was the best of times and the worst of times for Thomas as, moments later, Rogers pulled alongside him at the exit of turn four. No contact was made as Thomas swung wide and nailed the outside concrete wall with his right rear but continued across the line in the lead with a flattened tire, forcing him to a halt in turn two. His only lap led was his last lap of the race as he exited and did not return, dropping out with an 18th-place result.
It was time to cue the band as Cummins restarted third but ducked under McDougal for the second spot in turn two on the lap 36 restart. However, a succession of stoppages due to a Brady Short stall on lap 38 and a three-car tangle between Carson Garrett, Kendall Ruble and Matt Westfall in turn one put the onus on Rogers to deliver restart-after-restart flawlessly.
The latter restart came after Rogers stumbled in turn four coming to the green, which hooked he and Cummins together momentarily, then slid the door open for Cummins to capitalize. But less than a half-lap later, another restart came about and, on the final one, Rogers aced the exam.
“I just knew I had to stay calm,” Rogers explained. “I was nervous before the race started, pacing back and forth in the infield. I got a good restart and then some cars in the back bottled up and we had to do it all over again. But my last restart was pretty good.”
That it did as, for the first time all night, Rogers became relieved by the absence of the nipping at his heels from the constant chase of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Rogers took it from there and cemented victory by .978 seconds over Cummins, McDougal, fast qualifier Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon.
“I don‘t know if we would‘ve beaten them had we started behind them,” Rogers acknowledged. “They‘re good everywhere they go but we got our heat race win, we got the draw and sometimes it‘s better to be lucky than it is to be the best one out there.”
USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, Tri-State Speedway, Haubstadt, Indiana, Sept. 17, 2022
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR FIRST QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Jason McDougal, 5m, KO-13.008; 2. Carson Garrett, 15, BGE Dougherty-13.208; 3. Collin Ambrose, 36, Ambrose-13.510; 4. Kendall Ruble, 17, Ruble-13.780; 5. Critter Malone, 7, Seven-13.799; 6. Stan Beadles, 84, Beadles-14.033; 7. Sam Scott, 7s, Scott/Kolehouse-14.163; 8. John Ivers, 55, Thomas-14.183.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR SECOND QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. C.J. Leary, 77m, Michael-13.118; 2. Brady Short, 61m, Edwards-13.141; 3. Emerson Axsom, 47BC, Clauson Marshall Newman-13.359; 4. Brady Bacon, 69, Dynamics-13.394; 5. Aric Gentry, 10, Gentry-13.572; 6. Dustin Beck, 75, Henson-13.590; 7. Adyn Schmidt, 38, Williams-14.080; 8. Brandon Smith, 23s, Scott/Kolehouse-14.778.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR THIRD QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 15K, BGE Dougherty-12.983; 2. Justin Grant, 4, TOPP-13.265; 3. Kyle Cummins, 3R, Rock Steady-13.340; 4. Robert Ballou, 12, Ballou-13.559; 5. Daison Pursley, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-13.587; 6. Logan Seavey, 42, Cheney-13.829; 7. Donny Brackett, 4B, Brackett-13.956; 8. Andy Bradley, 39, Hoosier Speed-14.554.
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR FOURTH QUALIFYING GROUP: 1. Chase Stockon, 5s, KO-12.929; 2. Jadon Rogers, 14, Engler-13.253; 3. Mitchel Moles, 19AZ, Reinbold/Underwood-13.324; 4. Carson Short, 13, Brown-13.639; 5. Matt Westfall, 33m, Marshall-13.890; 6. Brandon Mattox, 28, Mattox-13.911; 7. Nathan Seale, 1s, Seale-14.990.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jason McDougal, 2. Kendall Ruble, 3. Collin Ambrose, 4. Carson Garrett, 5. Stan Beadles, 6. John Ivers, 7. Critter Malone, 8. Sam Scott. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. C.J. Leary, 2. Emerson Axsom, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Brady Short, 5. 10 Aric Gentry, 6. 75 Dustin Beck, 7. 38 Adyn Schmidt, 8. 23s Brandon Smith. NT
PIT STOP USA THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Kevin Thomas Jr., 2. Kyle Cummins, 3. Robert Ballou, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Daison Pursley, 6. Logan Seavey, 7. Andy Bradley, 8. Donny Brackett. NT
ROD END SUPPLY FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, top-4 transfer to the feature) 1. Jadon Rogers, 2. Chase Stockon, 3. Mitchel Moles, 4. Matt Westfall, 5. Brandon Mattox, 6. Carson Short, 7. Nathan Seale. NT
ELLIOTT‘S CUSTOM TRAILERS & CARTS SEMI: (12 laps, top-6 transfer to the feature) 1. Daison Pursley, 2. Aric Gentry, 3. Stan Beadles, 4. Dustin Beck, 5. Carson Short, 6. Adyn Schmidt, 7. Brandon Mattox, 8. Logan Seavey, 9. Brandon Smith, 10. Sam Scott, 11. Andy Bradley, 12. Nathan Seale, 13. John Ivers, 14. Donny Brackett. NT
FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Jadon Rogers (1), 2. Kyle Cummins (7), 3. Jason McDougal (3), 4. Chase Stockon (8), 5. Brady Bacon (10), 6. C.J. Leary (2), 7. Justin Grant (15), 8. Emerson Axsom (6), 9. Mitchel Moles (12), 10. Robert Ballou (11), 11. Carson Garrett (13), 12. Daison Pursley (17), 13. Matt Westfall (16), 14. Kendall Ruble (5), 15. Collin Ambrose (9), 16. Dustin Beck (20), 17. Brady Short (14), 18. Kevin Thomas Jr. (4), 19. Stan Beadles (19), 20. Carson Short (21), 21. Adyn Schmidt (22), 22. Brandon Mattox (23-P), 23. Aric Gentry (18), 24. Brandon Smith (24-P)