ROSSBURG, Ohio – All the emotions after Tyler Courtney‘s victory Saturday afternoon in the 38th Kings Royal sanctioned by the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series at Eldora Speedway were unleashed once he climbed to the top of his No. 7BC machine in victory lane.
He threw both fists in the air and unleashed a euphoric scream, like some superhero conquering a city, and chucked the checkered flag across the frontstretch to scream some more.
Courtney bagged the richest prize sprint car racing offers, $175,000, in his first full year in a winged sprint car. To do that, he drove like no Kings Royal rookie, dueling with the best, Brad Sweet, during the first half of the 40-lap race and then fending off David Gravel by .582 seconds at the line. Gravel was eventually disqualified for being light at the scales.
The driver who‘s won practically everything in the non-winged ranks controlled the final 21 laps to put himself alongside the greatest winged racers in history.
“This is by far the coolest win of my career,” Courtney said. “This is something you dream about as a kid. I can‘t believe it.”
Courtney‘s plot to victory started Thursday night when he qualified fifth amongst a 61-car field. Persistent rain showers forced the event to be made up Saturday afternoon, which paved the way for slick, technical conditions.
As his wins with the USAC Silver Crown Series and USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series from earlier this year at Eldora show, Courtney often conforms to the fastest way around the high-banked mile.
Springing from fourth to the lead on the initial start in his heat immediately made him a favorite. Since he won the fifth heat race, that landed him on the outside pole.
Two-time reigning series champion Sweet made the middle of the track work early to lead laps two through 19. But through Sweet‘s smooth driving in lapped traffic, Courtney stuck with him.
Then a caution for Lachlan McHugh‘s shredded right-rear tire changed everything on lap 19. During the yellow, Sweet relinquished the lead because of a punctured right rear tire. While Sweet rolled to the work area, Courtney inherited the lead, and from there, all he needed to do was run 21 smooth laps.
Remarkably, the race ended caution-free. In the back of his mind, Courtney knew one caution in the late stages could start a domino of problems.
“That‘s when tires start popping,” Courtney said. “They cool back down and get low. Luckily it went green-to-checkered [the rest of the way].”
“Definitely nerve-wracking for sure,” Courtney added.
Courtney built a 1.3-second lead with 15 to go, but over those next 10 laps, Gravel closed to within two car lengths. By that point, the track rubbered up, and everyone chased Courtney around the middle-bottom of the racing surface.
For Courtney, he chased a place in history.
“I saw [Gravel] one time on the outside of me in turns three and four,” he said. “At that point I wasn‘t looking at the screen [in turn two]. I wasn‘t looking at anything but the rubber to make sure I hit it. At that point you run your own race.”
“You play these situations in your head, like a kid playing basketball,” Courtney added. “You know how many times you take the game-winning shot or give seven of the NBA Finals? In your head, as a race car driver, you run your head through all these situations. … As I said earlier, there‘s very [few moments] when those situations happen. It‘s up to you to make it happen. We did today.”
Danny Dietrich finished second after Gravel’s disqualification, with Daryn Pittman rounding out the podium in the Swindell SpeedLab No. 39.
Bill Balog and Sheldon Haudenschild (from 23rd) completed the top five. Carson Macedo, Donny Schatz, Rico Abreu, and Sweet finished the top 10.
Pole-sitter Justin Peck faded to 13th.
Kyle Larson failed to qualify for the main event after getting caught in an incident racing in the B-Main.
For complete results, advance to the next page.