Dirt Track Racing News

KEVIN THOMAS, JR.'S QUALIFYING PROWESS HAS TURNED HEADS IN 2018

2018-11-08 12:23

Perris, California.........When it comes down to the end of a nitty gritty USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car points race, you look for any omens you can spot.

You may look for a titlist in terms of overall victories - 2nd in points Tyler Courtney has 11. Perhaps it's in terms of consistency - 3rd in points Chris Windom has a series-leading 35 top-ten finishes in 37 starts.

One that kind of gets overlooked is fast qualifying times. Series point leader Kevin Thomas, Jr. has a season-leading 14 in 2018, which is 10 more than his nearest competitor. But, when you think about it, each fast qualifying time pays points - 6 points in fact. This year, Courtney has a pair while Windom has just one. All those points add up at the end of the season, not to mention that laying down a good lap sets the tone for the night and will place that driver in the top-portion of the field come feature time.

Against a field as tough as this one is, being in a position where you don't have to pass as many cars is essential. A bad qualifying lap puts you behind the proverbial eight-ball, forcing a driver to play the game of catchup all throughout the year. Plus, starting near the back puts you in more jeopardy of being caught up in an incident that takes you out of contention for feature wins and, thus, max pointage.

One of the more telling facts is that the only three occasions in which a driver has reached double-digits in fast qualifying times during a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season, it has resulted in that driver winning the series title: Tom Bigelow in 1978, Rich Vogler in 1989 and Bryan Clauson in 2012.

Kevin Thomas, Jr.'s historical 2018 season has already equaled him with Tom Bigelow's record of 14 fast times in 1978. A look inside the numbers reveals that Bigelow scored quick times at eight different tracks: Winchester and Salem four times apiece, and one each at IRP, I-70, Toledo, Sharon, Sandusky and Queen City.

Thomas, meanwhile, has done this at a record 13 different venues, repeating the feat at Bubba Raceway Park in race one and three of the 2018 season, then reeling off a stretch of quick times at Plymouth, Eldora, Terre Haute, I-80, Williams Grove, Port Royal, BAPS, Bridgeport, Bloomington, Tri-State, Kokomo and Tri-City.

Both ripped off streaks of four consecutive fast times at one point in the season. Bigelow doing four-in-row at Sharon, Sandusky and back-to-back afternoons at Salem in June of 1978. Thomas did four-straight in four nights this year during Eastern Storm at Williams Grove, Port Roya, BAPS and Bridgeport.

Interestingly, Bigelow's big qualifying year of 1978 came one year following becoming the winningest driver in the series, but coming up just shy of the title. Thomas was the winningest driver of 2017 and translated that to more "consistent" runs to put him in contention for the season title.

By no means does any of this mean it's a foregone conclusion that KT has the title locked up, but qualifying up front regularly certainly pays its dividends and will prove so once again in this week's 23rd annual Budweiser "Oval Nationals" presented by All Coast Construction at California's Perris Auto Speedway. Either way, as is the case in most race you go to, you can see something that's never occurred before in the history of the series. Kevin Thomas, Jr. can be a part of that history this week.

On Thursday and Friday, the pits open at noon, front gates open at 4pm, drivers meeting at 4:30pm and cars on track at 5:30pm. On Saturday, the pits open at noon, front gates open at 3pm, autograph session from 3-4pm, drivers meeting at 4:30pm and cars on track at 5:15pm.

All three nights will be live on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/ with live audio also available on the USAC app.

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MOST FAST QUALIFYING TIMES (SINGLE SEASON)
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS

BY RANK:
1978: 14-Tom Bigelow
2018: 14-Kevin Thomas, Jr.
1989: 10-Rich Vogler
2012: 10-Bryan Clauson
1977: 9-Pancho Carter
1995: 9-Kenny Irwin, Jr.
2002: 9-J.J. Yeley
2003: 9-J.J. Yeley
1976: 8-Pancho Carter
1979: 8-Steve Chassey
2013: 8-Dave Darland
2014: 8-Brady Bacon
2015: 8-Chase Stockon
2000: 7-Jay Drake & Tracy Hines
2017: 7 Justin Grant
1961: 6-Roger McCluskey
1966: 6-Don Branson & Roger McCluskey
1968: 6-Sonny Ates & Larry Dickson
1970: 6-Larry Dickson & Bill Puterbaugh
1971: 6-Larry Dickson
1984: 6-Rick Hood
1990: 6-Steve Butler
1991: 6-Steve Butler
1996: 6-Dave Darland
1997: 6-Richard Griffin
1999: 6-Tracy Hines
2001: 6-Tracy Hines
2016: 6-Bryan Clauson & Chase Stockon
1962: 5-Parnelii Jones
1965: 5-Johnny Rutherford
1973: 5-Sam Sessions & Tom Sneva
1974: 5-Tom Bigelow
1980: 5-Tom Bigelow
1981: 5-Eddie Leavitt
1982: 5-Sheldon Kinser
1983: 5-Rich Vogler
1994: 5-Mike Bliss & Doug Kalitta
1998: 5-Tony Elliott & Brian Tyler
2004: 5-Levi Jones
2005: 5-Levi Jones
2006: 5-Levi Jones & Josh Wise
2008: 5-Tracy Hines
2010: 5-Bryan Clauson
2011: 5-Levi Jones
1964: 4-A.J. Foyt & Jud Larson
1967: 4-Greg Weld
1969: 4-Larry Dickson, Cy Fairchild & Greg Weld
1972: 4-Tom Bigelow
1975: 4-Marvin Carman, Pancho Carter & Larry Dickson
1985: 4-Steve Butler
2009: 4-Bryan Clauson, Tracy Hines & Jon Stanbrough
1963: 3-Don Branson, A.J. Foyt, Chuck Hulse & Parnelli Jones
1987: 3-Rich Vogler
1988: 3-Tray House & Rich Vogler
1992: 3-Jim Keeker & Robbie Stanley
1993: 3-Doug Kalitta
2007: 3-Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons, Jr. & Levi Jones
1986: 2-Sheldon Kinser

MOST FAST QUALIFYING TIMES (SINGLE SEASON)
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS

BY YEAR:
1961: 6-Roger McCluskey
1962: 5-Parnelii Jones
1963: 3-Don Branson, A.J. Foyt, Chuck Hulse & Parnelli Jones
1964: 4-A.J. Foyt & Jud Larson
1965: 5-Johnny Rutherford
1966: 6-Don Branson & Roger McCluskey
1967: 4-Greg Weld
1968: 6-Sonny Ates & Larry Dickson
1969: 4-Larry Dickson, Cy Fairchild & Greg Weld
1970: 6-Larry Dickson & Bill Puterbaugh
1971: 6-Larry Dickson
1972: 4-Tom Bigelow
1973: 5-Sam Sessions & Tom Sneva
1974: 5-Tom Bigelow
1975: 4-Marvin Carman, Pancho Carter & Larry Dickson
1976: 8-Pancho Carter
1977: 9-Pancho Carter
1978: 14-Tom Bigelow
1979: 8-Steve Chassey
1980: 5-Tom Bigelow
1981: 5-Eddie Leavitt
1982: 5-Sheldon Kinser
1983: 5-Rich Vogler
1984: 6-Rick Hood
1985: 4-Steve Butler
1986: 2-Sheldon Kinser
1987: 3-Rich Vogler
1988: 3-Tray House & Rich Vogler
1989: 10-Rich Vogler
1990: 6-Steve Butler
1991: 6-Steve Butler
1992: 3-Jim Keeker & Robbie Stanley
1993: 3-Doug Kalitta
1994: 5-Mike Bliss & Doug Kalitta
1995: 9-Kenny Irwin, Jr.
1996: 6-Dave Darland
1997: 6-Richard Griffin
1998: 5-Tony Elliott & Brian Tyler
1999: 6-Tracy Hines
2000: 7-Jay Drake & Tracy Hines
2001: 6-Tracy Hines
2002: 9-J.J. Yeley
2003: 9-J.J. Yeley
2004: 5-Levi Jones
2005: 5-Levi Jones
2006: 5-Levi Jones & Josh Wise
2007: 3-Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons, Jr. & Levi Jones
2008: 5-Tracy Hines
2009: 4-Bryan Clauson, Tracy Hines & Jon Stanbrough
2010: 5-Bryan Clauson
2011: 5-Levi Jones
2012: 10-Bryan Clauson
2013: 8-Dave Darland
2014: 8-Brady Bacon
2015: 8-Chase Stockon
2016: 6-Bryan Clauson & Chase Stockon
2017: 7 Justin Grant
2018: 14-Kevin Thomas, Jr.

USAC LINKS

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