HomeSprint Car & Midget NewsHappy Madison! Armstrong Arrives with First USAC Silver Crown Win

Happy Madison! Armstrong Arrives with First USAC Silver Crown Win

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By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Oregon, Wisconsin (June 21, 2024)………Dakoda Armstrong’s journey to a first career USAC national victory included its share of twists, turns and excursions that took him down a variety of paths throughout the past two decades of his career behind the wheel.

His road to an initial USAC Silver Crown victory during Friday night’s Bytec Dairyland 100 at Wisconsin’s Madison International Speedway was just about as adventurous from start to finish in his C & A Motorsports/Meristem Crop Performance – Armstrong Farms/Beast/Stanton Chevy.

During the final 12 laps of the event, he went from being on the verge of his first career top-five finish with the series to leading his first laps to becoming the 2024 season’s third first-time USAC Silver Crown race winner following Kaylee Bryson (Belleville) and Daison Pursley (Port Royal), the most first-time winners with the series since 2019.

Two decades ago, in 2004, Armstrong (New Castle, Ind.) became USAC’s youngest champion. At 13 years, one month and two days, he clinched that year’s USAC Kenyon Midget title. He then raced frequently in USAC’s National Sprint Car and Midget divisions, and even made his USAC Silver Crown debut in 2009.

After earning Rookie of the Year honors with the ARCA Stock Car series in 2010, Armstrong went on to make 133 starts with NASCAR’s Xfinity Series and 44 more in NASCAR Truck Series competition during the decade of the 2010s. By 2023, 14 years after his most recent series start, Armstrong was back in the seat of a Silver Crown car, incidentally, at Madison. One year later, he was standing in victory lane at the very same venue.

“When I was younger, I ran USAC a lot,” Armstrong recalled. “So, it’s amazing to get into one of these Silver Crown cars and win and beat the best. I thought we’ve been good enough that we could’ve gotten a few of these, so it’s good to finally get out there and get one done.”

With all that said, for the first 88 laps, the race seemed to be held firmly in the grasp of outside front row starter C.J. Leary. Leary looked to be every bit as dominant as he was in his convincing 2022 triumph at the 1/2-mile paved oval as he pulled out to a full straightway advantage as the race went caution free until lap 61.

In fact, once Leary led the opening lap of Friday night’s race, he ended pole sitter Kody Swanson’s streak of 300-straight laps led on the pavement in USAC Silver Crown competition this season. Speaking of Swanson, the aforementioned lap 61 caution was displayed for Swanson who had fallen to fourth in the running order before slowing to a stop in turn three, the victim of a fuel line issue that prevented them from contending for his fourth Madison win. Ultimately, Swanson returned to the tail of the field, but managed only 11th in the final rundown.

Meanwhile, the fourth place starting Armstrong was moving. On lap 43, he zipped around the outside of Taylor Ferns in turn two to grab fourth back. Next, Armstrong went topside in turns three and four around Swanson for third on lap 50. Next in the pecking order was Santos who Armstrong made his move on for second on lap 58.

Simultaneously, Ferns was advancing up the leaderboard as she ducked underneath Santos in turn three to slot into the third spot on lap 67. However, by lap 75, she was out of the race as she skidded to a stop in between turns three and four. The culprit was a broken U-joint, ending her fine run with a disheartening 12th place result.

Upon the resumption, Armstrong hung within three car lengths of the top spot, reaching for the lead with his right hand while using his left to fend off the challenges of third-running Santos. Following a 60-lap clean and green run, it became a whole new ballgame for Armstrong and his car on the restarts.

“This car was really, really good on long runs,” Armstrong noted. “I was actually worried when I saw the second to last caution because I knew the longer we ran, the better of a shot I’d have at him.”

Armstrong didn’t have to wait too long after the second caution. He maintained about three car lengths of separation from the rear bumper of Leary until disaster struck on lap 89 with a mere 12 laps remaining. As Leary entered turn three, a shower of sparks began emanating from his left rear wheel. At that moment, Armstrong pounced to the outside of Leary and the two grazed tires as Armstrong raced into the lead while Leary fought to maintain control despite a flat left rear tire. A heartbroken Leary pitted for fresh rubber before returning to the race to finish ninth.

That set up one last restart with Armstrong leading a hungry Santos who was vying for his first series win since May 2023 at IRP. Armstrong fully knew he had to shoot off the blocks in superb fashion in order to keep Santos at bay.

“On that last restart, I was like, ‘this thing isn’t firing off super great,’ Armstrong recalled. “I made a few adjustments there and it took off pretty well in the lead. I hate it for C.J.; they were really fast. I thought we were pretty equal, but it was so hard to pass.”

In the end, no one passed Armstrong who was 2.003 seconds ahead of the field as he crossed under the checkered flag. Bobby Santos (Franklin, Mass.) posted a second-place result with Justin Grant third, Trey Osborne fourth and defending series champion Logan Seavey rounding out the top-five.

Armstrong was at his peak during the final four laps, all of which were his four fastest laps of the race. The latest in the event any other driver turned their fastest time was on lap 21. Armstrong laid down the fastest lap of the entire race on the 97th circuit, putting the dagger in when it counted the most.

“One thing with these cars, you carry such a big fuel load to start,” Armstrong explained of the process. “This track is smaller than normal but you’re still fighting for grip so much. I don’t know if anyone could tell, but we were dragging so bad early, the brakes were glowing trying to stop these fuel loads. Once that load came off, the car had grip and I just kept getting a little faster. It’s kind of the tendency with these Silver Crown cars. They’re not normal. They don’t really fall off; they get faster and faster, so you have to keep up on the adjustments and keep pushing the car. Luckily, we were able to do it and get it done tonight.”

Bobby Santos (Franklin, Mass.) collected his fourth runner-up USAC Silver Crown finish at Madison in five tries aboard his DJ Racing/Brown & Miller Racing Solutions – Simpson Race Products/Beast/Speedway Chevy. As clear as day, it was easy to see that Santos wasn’t all that thrilled with yet another runner-up finish.

“We just weren’t good enough,” Santos point blanked. “Second place seems to be what we run here. It’s frustrating, but we’ll go back to work.”

Grant (Ione, Calif.) drove himself right back into championship contention with a third-place finish in his Hemelgarn Racing/NOS Energy Drink – Super Fitness – Hemelgarn Enterprises/Beast/Speedway Ford. The 2020 USAC Silver Crown driving champion now trails point leader Swanson by a mere 10 markers heading into the summer months.

“We probably weren’t the fastest car here by any measure, but we kept digging all day,” Grant admitted. “(Crew chief) Dennis (LaCava) got the car better for me and just kept working on it. I just tried to go out and make sure I took care of my stuff for 100 laps and was hoping we could be there at the end. We got some good fortune with some guys we’re racing with in the points with who had misfortune. It ended up being a good day for us and we brought it home on the podium.”

Trey Osborne (Columbus, Ohio) collected his best career USAC Silver Crown finish of fourth in his BCR Group/Flint Trucking & Truck Service – Duncan Oil – QS Components/Beast/Kercher Chevy. The 6’8″ tall driver topped his previous career best result of fourth and also moved up from 13th to eighth in the series standings. For his performance, he earned the Inferno Armor Fire Move of the Night.

Jackson Macenko (Cincinnati, Ohio) made the right moves to advance from his 13th starting position to finish eighth in his debut run at Madison behind the wheel of his Brad Hayes-Nick Bohanon Racing/JTM Food Group – BHR Performance/Beast/NYES Toyota. Not only was it his best USAC Silver Crown result thus far, but he also earned hard charger honors.

===============

USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE RESULTS: June 21, 2024 – Madison International Speedway – Oregon, Wisconsin – 1/2-Mile Paved Oval – Bytec Dairyland 100

HONEST ABE ROOFING QUALIFYING: 1. Kody Swanson, 77, Doran/Binks-17.062; 2. C.J. Leary, 6, Klatt-17.074; 3. Bobby Santos, 98, DJ-17.075; 4. Dakoda Armstrong, 5, C & A-17.119; 5. Taylor Ferns, 555, Ferns-17.306; 6. Trey Osborne, 81, BCR-17.392; 7. Justin Grant, 91, Hemelgarn-17.423; 8. Logan Seavey, 22, Rice/Abacus-17.520; 9. Kyle Steffens, 08, Steffens-17.536; 10. Russ Gamester, 51, Gamester-17.779; 11. Trey Burke, 60, Legacy/Wilson-17.976; 12. Gregg Cory, 32, Williams/Cory-18.001; 13. Jackson Macenko, 124, Hayes/Bohanon-18.044; 14. Nathan Moore, 48, Thomas/Moore-19.545; 15. Dave Berkheimer, 31, Berkheimer-NT.

FEATURE: (100 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Dakoda Armstrong (4), 2. Bobby Santos (3), 3. Justin Grant (7), 4. Trey Osborne (6), 5. Logan Seavey (8), 6. Russ Gamester (10), 7. Trey Burke (11), 8. Jackson Macenko (13), 9. C.J. Leary (2), 10. Gregg Cory (12), 11. Kody Swanson (1), 12. Taylor Ferns (5), 13. Kyle Steffens (9), 14. Nathan Moore (14), 15. Dave Berkheimer (15). 39:23.422

FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-88 C.J. Leary, Laps 89-100 Dakoda Armstrong.

USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Kody Swanson-365, 2-Justin Grant-355, 3-C.J. Leary-331, 4-Logan Seavey-306, 5-Bobby Santos-250, 6-Taylor Ferns-235, 7-Kaylee Bryson-205, 8-Trey Osborne-197, 9-Trey Burke-197, 10-Kyle Steffens-193.

USAC NATIONAL PROSOURCE PASSING MASTER POINTS: 1-Daison Pursley-109, 2-Robert Ballou-103, 3-Logan Seavey-97, 4-Joey Amantea-86, 5-C.J. Leary-85, 6-Justin Grant-82, 7-Kyle Cummins-68, 8-Brady Bacon-60, 9-Matt Westfall-53, 10-Carson Garrett-52.

NEXT USAC SILVER CROWN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACE: July 4, 2024 – Terre Haute Action Track – Terre Haute, Indiana – 1/2-Mile Dirt Oval – Sumar Classic

CONTINGENCY AWARD WINNERS:

Dirt Draft Practice Fastest Driver: Bobby Santos (16.913)

Honest Abe Roofing Fast Qualifier: Kody Swanson (17.062)

Hard Charger: Jackson Macenko (13th to 8th)

Inferno Armor Fire Move of the Race: Trey Osborne

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