MORRIS – In recent years, when a 50-lap midget race is run at Grundy County Speedway and Kyle Hamilton is in the field, he is the man to beat. Hamilton, an aspiring elementary school teacher from Danville, Indiana, was able to follow his lesson plan into victory lane after chalking up his second D’Arcy GMC STARS National Midget feature win of the season in Saturday night’s “Border Battle” that was co-sanctioned by USAC. All five of Hamilton’s wins in a midget at Grundy County Speedway have come in 50-lap features. Furthermore, it was Hamilton’s second straight “Border Battle” win and the third consecutive season that Hamilton won a USAC race at the 1⁄3 mile paved oval.
Hamilton was absent from last week’s STARS race after losing an engine during the running of the Bob Tattersall Challenge two weeks ago. On Saturday, Hamilton had to rely on the Esslinger engine that was under the hood of the car that Hamilton previously had piloted in the STARS season opening race in May. From the car rolled off of the trailer, the team didn’t miss a beat. After setting the top speed in both hot lap sessions, Hamilton followed it by setting fast time during qualifications with a lap of 14.176 seconds. Hamilton had to line up in the fourth spot at the start of the feature because of the inversion. That put Kyle O’Gara on the pole alongside STARS National Midget point leader, Austin Prock, on the front row.
As the green flag dropped, it was clear the drivers were not going to waste any time getting to the front despite the 50-lap distance. As the frontrunners crossed the line at the completion of lap one, the challenge for the top spot became a three-wide border battle between Indiana natives Prock and O’Gara on the outside and Illinoisan Mario Clouser on the inside. Clouser and Prock swarmed O’Gara on both sides going into turn one and continued their side-by-side battle for the lead going into turn two when Clouser spun down the back straightaway, bringing out the night’s first caution. O’Gara’s night came to an end while Clouser restarted from the tail of the field.
On the restart, Prock built a sizable advantage over Hamilton. Over the next 45 laps, Prock was able to navigate lapped traffic with ease and looked to be well on his way to his fourth STARS victory of the year and first career USAC National Midget triumph. With five laps to go, Prock held a six-car length lead over Hamilton as he headed into turn three.
After a couple of separate late race spins brought out by Nick Hamilton and Nick Baran, Kyle Hamilton was able to take his second STARS victory of the season by holding off Billy Hulbert and Patrick Wilda, who was making his first STARS National Midget start of the season.
A season best finish in the feature had Channahon’s Billy Hulbert grinning from ear to ear.
“It was a decent race tonight,” Hulbert said. “The car got better as the night went on and, fortunately, we ended up second. This has been our most successful night this season. It will definitely help us out in the (STARS) standings.”
In other action, Tom Schnabel earned a sweep of the night after passing Darren Ihrke with five laps remaining to take his fourth STARS Classic Modified win of the year. Jordan Caskey also earned the sweep after he passed Nathan Bertino four laps from the end to earn his second Legacy Midwest Series victory at Grundy County in 2014. Drew Higginson held off a race-long challenge from Cullen Camasta to win his first feature at Grundy County this season. Dallas Frueh also got the sweep when he passed Jaime Domski with just six laps left to take the checkered flag in the CSR Super Cup feature. Frueh still is batting 1.000 on the year and is now 6 for 6 in the series at Grundy County this year.