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Photos: Budweiser Oval Nationals Revisited

Kevin Thomas Jr. gets a hug from his wife Whitney in Victory Lane. (schnarzy.com pic)

Kevin Thomas Jr. gets a hug from his wife Whitney in Victory Lane. (schnarzy.com pic)

Every year California’s Perris Auto Speedway (The PAS) winds up their racing season with their largest USAC/CRA sprint car show of the season. This is the race where the local boys measure themselves against the National USAC racers, the majority of which whom call Indiana home. Because the Indiana boys race four/five times as much as the west coasters, they tend to adapt to the racing surfaces much quicker, and have invested a lot into their equipment.

The Oval Nationals story is usually an Indiana story.

This year the Indiana Budweiser Oval Nationals story had an extra chapter in it. The 2017 book started with the usual tale as Chase Stockon, an Elizabethtown, Indiana native took the opening night win over fellow hoosier C.J. Leary, with rising California star Brody Roa in third.

Roa raised eyebrows by finishing on the podium with a talent packed, and heavily-sponsored field.

Brody Roa

Brody Roa

Roa’s finish should have alerted educated spectators that something special was happening. The 26-year-old racer has been coming on strong at major events the second half of this season. His limited-funding, family racing team has been one of the really bright spots in the USAC/CRA division this past season. It could have been predicted that Roa would be the fly in the Indiana buttermilk.

The second night of the Oval Nationals found two of the favorite local drivers on the front row with Roa and Damion Gardner charging to the first corner on the green flag. Roa took command by the second set of turns and pulled away, putting a couple of lap cars between him and the second place place car of Boespflug before the first yellow. On the restart Roa was off again with the rest of the field following.

After the fourth or fifth restart, it was obvious that the night belonged to the up-and-coming star, and he took the checkered flag with a comfortable lead.

On Championship night the field set by the qualifying nights and the previous mains earlier in the evening. Chase Stockon took an early lead and looked as if he might cruise to a victory. Kevin Thomas Jr., another Indiana racer, found the groove and slid by Stockon for the lead. Justin Grant chased down Thomas and took the lead for a couple of laps until Thomas found his line and finished the race in front. As for Roa, he finished in a strong sixth place, making his weekend third, first, and sixth-place finishes the best of the local racers.

The future is bright for Roa and his small race team, and it is very probable that he will end up back in the Midwest running full-time at some point.

We can always say that we knew him when…


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