Jadon Rogers becomes USAC’s newest winner with Haubstadt Hustler victory
Haubstadt, IN — For more than 67 seasons, countless people have clung to the dream of winning a first career race in the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship.
Some are able to achieve this dream but, for the most part, it remains only a fleeting notion that is never fully grasped.
Now imagine that, in the quest for that first victory, you are put in a position to kill several giants to fulfill the dream.
Only, it was no longer a dream for Jadon Rogers, it was reality.
Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway’s 15th Annual Haubstadt Hustler, the Worthington, Ind. became the first USAC winner, leading all but one of his Engler/Engler Machine & Tool – AMSOIL – Sherrill’s Pest Control /RDC/SPEC Chevy family 40 laps.
But, in the process of his $12,000 score, 20-year-old Rogers had to withstand a barrage from the two all-time winningest USAC Sprint Car drivers on the quarter-mile dirt oval. mile from Southwest Indiana – Kevin Thomas Jr. and Kyle Cummins.
2022 USAC Haubstadt Hustler at Tri-State Speedway
Close calls have been a way of life over the past three USAC competitive seasons for Rogers with three second-place finishes, including two at Tri-State. One in particular came in the spring of 2021 when Cummins denied him his first win by passing him with four laps remaining.
Now, that night, Rogers could breathe a sigh of relief. He is a USAC winner. To finish.
“We’ve been too close so many times,” an exasperated Rogers recounted. “It took forever, but now it’s so rewarding. I’ve been racing for a long time, since I was five years old, and my dream was to race where I could make a living. Engler Machine and Tool gave me this chance. My dad (Kyle Rogers) is always late at Engler and it’s just endless with this team. There aren’t many of us.”
The event was co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series and, as a small detour from the norm, their format was used that evening. Rogers worked his way into the new draw with a win in his qualifying race. There he drew a “1” pill, signifying his starting position on the pole for the night’s feature.
Meanwhile, Thomas lined up fourth for the feature while Cummins started from seventh place. Between the two drivers, they had won each of the last three USAC National Sprint Car features and owned wins in nearly half of the never-run Haubstadt Hustler. Score: Thomas four, Cummins two.
Rogers took the lead early on with front row outside starter CJ Leary and Thomas in tow. However, Thomas didn’t have to wait much longer as he slipped under Leary to take the second corner four just five laps into the race.
By lap 14, Thomas had reached Rogers’ rear bumper and chased him as Rogers slid between the two and flipped over, under, sideways, throughout the contest, but still wasn’t in able to prevent Thomas from shooting even in the second corner.
After a double warning from Carson on lap 20 when Carson Garrett (13th) and Carson Short (16th) stopped at opposite ends of the racetrack, Jason McDougal jumped into the fray at the front as he headed uphill and was driving by Thomas on the exit of turn four.
McDougal’s time in the adjacent catbird seat came and went in a near-disaster on lap three on lap 27 as he nearly side-swept the dramatically slowed car of first-place USAC starter Adyn Schmidt. Although McDougal avoided contact, his slide off the bottom opened up a path for Thomas to maneuver to reclaim second place.
Thomas showed a nose under Rogers in the first corner on the 28th lap restart. Rogers turned him down and quickly pulled away until turn three when he nearly tripped and twisted out of turn three, turning completely sideways, while still managing to keep Thomas at bay. But only a moment longer.
The next streak is one that won’t be soon forgotten. On lap 36, Thomas launched his race into the first corner under Rogers to take the race lead. Now three wide coming out of turn two, Rogers found himself meat in an unhealthy sandwich with Stan Beadles’ lapped car just to his right, forcing Rogers to his feet, which allowed Thomas to skate to take the head.
“I felt like I couldn’t take a break,” Rogers lamented. “I came in front and felt like I was really good, but then I saw KTJ and as we got into traffic he really put the pressure on me and passed me.”
But it was the best of times and the worst of times for Thomas as, moments later, Rogers pulled alongside him at the exit of turn four. No contact was made as Thomas swerved and nailed the outside concrete wall with his right-back but continued to cross the line in the lead with a flat tire, forcing him to stop at the second corner . His only led lap was his last lap of the race as he exited and did not return, retiring with an 18th place finish.
It was time to signal the group as Cummins started third but ducked under McDougal for second on lap two on the 36th lap restart. However, a succession of stops due to a Brady Short stall on lap 38 and a three-car tangle between Carson Garrett, Kendall Ruble and Matt Westfall on lap one forced Rogers to secure a flawless restart after restart.
This latest restart came after Rogers stumbled at turn four coming onto the green, which momentarily hooked him up with Cummins, then slid the gate for Cummins to take advantage. But less than a half-turn later, another reboot took place, and on the last one, Rogers passed the exam.
“I just knew I had to stay calm,” Rogers explained. “I was nervous before the start of the race, pacing around the infield. I had a good restart and then some cars in the back jammed and we had to start all over again. But my last reboot was pretty good.
He did because, for the first time that night, Rogers was relieved that there were no bites on his heels from the constant pursuit of the Hound of the Baskervilles. Rogers took it from there and cemented the win by a 0.978 second margin over Cummins, McDougal, fast qualifier Chase Stockon and Brady Bacon.
It does not matter. It may seem inconsequential. But Rogers isn’t sure how that might have played out in a scenario where he didn’t get a chance to draw ‘1’ on the re-draw. However, he put himself in an envious position by winning his heat race and the rewards he reaped because of it became anything but inconsequential.
“I don’t know if we would have beaten them if we had started behind them,” admitted Rogers. “They’re good wherever they go, but we won our heat race, we got the draw and sometimes it’s better to be lucky than to be the best.”
You could almost hear the Jaws theme sound on the final spins. However, Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) came in just short of his third Haubstadt Hustler victory. Nonetheless, his second result became his sixth top two finish in his last seven USAC National Speed Car starts in his Rock Steady Racing/Ultimate Predator Boats – Mid-America Safety Solutions/Mach-1/Stanton Chevy.
“We were super tight, and the further the race went, the more the fuel went down, but the track was making it tighter and tighter,” Cummins commented. “On the second-to-last restart, I was fully committed to getting him down in there, but he was still there and I couldn’t slide him. I knew this was our chance to win. I think that probably makes up for a few years ago. I think we passed him with a few laps to go, but he made it this time.
Rogers, in turn, became the fourth winner of the 2021 USAC National Sprint Car season, joining Emerson Axsom (Bubba Raceway Park), Ryan Bernal (Huset’s Speedway) and Mitchel Moles (Huset’s Speedway).
Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) returned to the USAC National Sprint Car competition podium for the first time since the season opener in Ocala while driving his KO Motorsports/Hutson John Deere – S&C Machine – Chrome Dome/Flea RC/J&D Chevy. His result tied his career-best Haubstadt Hustler showing of third on his first start in 2018.
Problems plagued Chase Stockon’s KO Motorsports race early in the night, with the car being pushed around the track several times without any sign of power. Just in time, the crew got the wiring fixed and got Stockon back on track where he simultaneously won Dirt Draft Hot Laps Fast Time as well as Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifying honors. It was Stockon’s 30th career fastest time with the USAC National Sprint Cars, placing him 12th all-time alongside Pancho Carter and Justin Grant. Stockon went on to finish a solid fourth in the feature.