Entering the second-to-last race of the United States Auto Club’s Indiana Sprint Week at Bloomington Speedway on Friday, Clauson Marshall Racing’s Emerson Axsom trailed by 83 points to the Sprint Week leader Justin Grant.
Axsom’s poor performance Thursday in the sixth race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana, likely ended the 18-year old’s hopes of winning the Sprint Week championship. Axsom didn’t qualify for Thursday’s final race — though still drove under a provisional start — waiving his ability to earn points in the Sprint Week standings.
With the Sprint Week championship out of reach, the Franklin, Indiana native opened Friday evening’s qualifying stage in Bloomington with a solid effort. Axsom qualified in the seventh position out of 31 drivers around the quarter-mile high banked red-clay track with a time of 11.378 seconds.
With 31 sprint cars entered for action, four heat races were created for Friday evening. Three of the four had eight drivers and the fourth had seven. Axsom was placed in the third 10-lap heat, where his third-place finish allowed him to transfer directly to the feature race.
Brandon Mattox, Charles Davis Jr, Carson Garrett and Justin Grant were each victorious in their respective heat races, qualifying directly into the feature alongside the other top-four finishers in each heat — all of whom skipped over the qualifying semi-feature race.
Following Jake Swanson’s dominating win at Lincoln Park Speedway on Thursday night, the driver, however, was unable to automatically qualify to the final race Swanson started in the pole position for the semi-feature, where then the top six advanced to the final.
Swanson dominated the 12-lap semifinal en route to qualify for the final race and was joined by Robert Ballou, Dalton Stevens, Jordan Kinser, Joey Amantea and Shane Cottle. Briggs Danner and Chase Stockon started in the front row, whereas Axsom started the 30-lap final in the third position, looking for his first-career Sprint Week victory.
Once the green flag flew, Axsom overtook Stockon coming out of the fourth turn while completing the first lap. Danner had commanded the opening half of the race and held a 1.5-second lead until he approached lapped traffic.
Lapped cars posed great difficulty for Danner, who was unable to pass them swiftly, allowing Axsom to close the distance and eventually pass Danner at the 15th lap halfway-point.
From there, Axsom controlled the second half of the race to win his first-career Sprint Week feature. Danner, Stockon, Brady Bacon and Kyle Cummins rounded out the top five finishers at the historic speedway.
Despite Axsom’s successful Friday night, he no longer had a shot to win the Sprint Week Championship entering Saturday night’s last race, which was later canceled due to inclement weather. Still, Axsom only stands 19 points behind the overall USAC National Sprint Car leader Brady Bacon.