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California Teen Dominates Stoops Pursuit at BC39

Dominic Gorden couldn’t have debuted any better Wednesday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, delivering a flag-to-flag victory in the preliminary event of the Driven2SaveLives BC39 Presented by WeatherTech at The Dirt Track at IMS.

The 16-year-old driver from Clovis, California, executed a deft last-lap pass on NASCAR Cup Series race winner Chase Briscoe to capture a heat race, then won the night’s featured event, the 25-lap Stoops Pursuit, from the No. 1 starting position.

Gorden was never seriously challenged in the nightcap, planting his No. 71K Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports machine in the bottom groove as a host of others tried to run him down. The win in USAC’s National Midget Series was arguably the biggest of the young driver’s career, and it doesn’t figure to be his last.

Not bad for someone who, prior to Wednesday, had never been to IMS and doesn’t have his official driver’s license.

“I was pretty nervous going into (the Stoops Pursuit), but after we got past the first and second yellow, I got a little more comfortable,” Gorden said.

The youngster’s next challenge comes Thursday night when the fourth BC39 is held with an 86-driver field that includes Kyle Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion who claimed victory in both nights of last year’s event in honor of the late Bryan Clauson, a Noblesville, Indiana, native who helped inspire the construction of this quarter-mile dirt track inside Turn 3 of the iconic oval.

The Stoops Pursuit capped an exciting first night of grassroots racing at the Racing Capital of the World. The evening began with hot lap sessions, followed by heat races, which help set the field for Thursday’s qualifying.

The process of setting the Stoops Pursuit starting lineup was straightforward, with the winners of each of the 10 heat races and the drivers passing the most cars in each heat advancing to the night’s main event. Four additional drivers were added to round out the 24-car field.

Jade Avedisian won the second heat, noteworthy because she is six weeks shy of her 16th birthday. Other heat winners included Chris Windom, Buddy Kofoid, Chance Crum, Michael Faccinto, Mitchel Moles, Tyler Courtney, Ethan Mitchell, Gorden and Zach Daum.

Included in the night’s featured race were NASCAR Cup Series stars Larson, Briscoe,Ryan Newman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and J.J. Yeley, plus 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz.

The process of determining the night’s winner was unique. At the end of each five-lap segment, drivers who had been passed were eliminated, leaving eight to battle for the checkered flag.

While Gorden was largely alone in front, the action behind him was hectic, with Daumcharging to second place with Trey Gropp third and Cannon McIntosh fourth.

A mid-evening rain delay forced a postponement of Tony Kanaan’s exhibition laps in a midget. The winner of the 2013 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge agreed to return Thursday night for his laps. He climbed in a midget for the first time just last month, turning 21 solo laps.

The NTT INDYCAR SERIES driver vowed to return to The Dirt Track next year to compete in the fifth BC39 event.

“I put a lot of pressure on (Clauson Marshall Racing to provide a car),” Kanaan said. “I want to do this next year.”

The Driven2SaveLives BC39 Presented by WeatherTech continues Thursday with another jam-packed day of racing at The Dirt Track at IMS. Public gates open at 4 p.m., with hot laps starting at 5 p.m.

Qualifying races begin at 6 p.m., and Main races at 7:45 p.m. will whittle the massive field down to 26 starters for the 39-lap feature event honoring Clauson at 9:30 p.m.

Tickets are still available at IMS.com and at the gates. All Shaw Grandstand seats are reserved, and tickets start at $45.

SCHEDULE (All times local):

4-10 p.m.: Public gates open

5 p.m.: Hot lap sessions (eight groups)

6 p.m.: Qualifying races (eight races)

7:30 p.m.: Opening ceremonies

7:45 p.m.: Main races (five races)

9:30 p.m.: Feature race (39 laps)

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