The winningest driver in Series history is back in Victory Lane. Jade Avedisian captured her third career Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series presented by Toyota Feature win Saturday night in only her second career start in the Southern Illinois Center.
It didn’t take long for the young Californian to find success with her new team at Keith Kunz Motorsports, scoring the $5,000 check in her second race piloting KKM’s signature Mobil 1, Spike/Toyota #71. But en route to finding that near-instant success, Avedisian was tasked with going head-to-head with one of the most accomplished indoor racers – Thomas Meseraull.
Meseraull, the 42-year-old open wheel veteran and two-time winner in the Center, was the first to challenge 16-year-old Avedisian after she got out to the early lead from the pole. Meseraull gradually ascended from his fifth-place starting spot into third by Lap 10 and was immediately met with a chance to overtake both cars in front of him.
With a head full of steam as he crossed the stripe on Lap 11, Meseraull swept by Kyle Jones through Turns 1-2 on the top side and made a bee-line for Avedisian in 3-4. Using the same maneuver – right-rear tire against the cushion and throttle to the floor – Meseraull powered around Avedisian for the lead and began to set his own pace.
“Early on, I could see that the track was going to start moving up,” Meseraull said. “It was time to go. I was faster than the guys in front of me.”
“The first 10 laps, I was around the bottom, and I kinda felt like it was gonna go away; just wasn’t sure when,” Avedisian said about leading the opening laps. “I felt it [go away], and then [Meseraull] got by me. It was good to run his pace for a few laps.”
Though the opening laps were hectic, the race’s torrid pace was soon cooled by the first caution flag on Lap 14; Friday night winner Cannon McIntosh had rolled it over in Turn 3, retiring him to the pits with external damage from the wreck.
Meseraull handled his first two restarts well, keeping Avedisian at bay behind him. He soon opened up a large gap to the rest of the field, stretching the lead out to over a second-and-a-half at one point before the yellow was displayed again with 11-to-go. It was then that Avedisian executed her plan to retake the lead.
Avedisian got a great restart and stayed right with Meseraull as the laps dipped under 10-to-go. With six laps left, Meseraull bounced hard off the cushion in Turn 4, upsetting the car enough for Avedisian to close-in on his rear bumper.
“Once we got out there, me and T-Mez, I feel like we were about the same speed,” Avedisian said. “I had a really good restart, I think it was the third restart, I was able to chase him down a little bit and decided when to slide him.”
With a lapped car in the bottom lane directly in front of him, Meseraull swung it to the top side into Turn 1 and got over the lip of the cushion, sending him into the marbles and leaving the track beneath him open to Avedisian. She took full advantage of the room, bounced off the lip at the apex of the turn and got a great run out of Turn 2.
In an effort to power out of the cushion and get back in the groove, Meseraull stayed in the throttle, picking-up the front-end of the car into a wheelie out of Turn 2. When he came back down, Avedisian’s nose was there and the two made contact, sending Meseraull around on the backstretch.
“He got over the curb and I was already half-sliding him, trying to get by,” Avedisian said. “He came down, obviously to get out of the curb, and we just hit. It was just a racing deal on that one.”
“That was unfortunate,” Meseraull said. “Lapped traffic is tough here, and I was struggling to get by [Avedisian]. I picked up a little bit of a miss in the 7x, and so my entry speed was a little bit on-and-off, and I kinda got it in above the curb.
“The thing flew the nose [up] and Jade just shoved it in there, because that’s what you do in Midgets, apparently, and it damn near got me upside down. But hey, that’s part of racing.”
Meseraull was sent to the tail of the field under caution while Avedisian assumed the lead with three laps remaining. One solid restart and 12 corners later, Avedisian drove under the checkered flags to seal the victory.
“Just be patient, you only have three laps, and try to hit your marks,” Avedisian said of her mentality coming back to the green. “I definitely didn’t have the best restart. We think the tire got cold or something, and it didn’t fire-off as well. But it was good enough to keep us out front.”
Chase McDermand crossed the stripe in second, coming from 12th in the Mounce/Stout Motorsports #40 – a remarkable turnaround for the team that failed to qualify for the Feature Friday night. Kyle Jones came home third, staying in the top-five the entire distance and matched his best career finish with the Series.
The Midgets now take three weeks off from Series competition before returning to action at Farmer City Raceway as part of the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models’ annual Illini 100 event, March 30-April 1.
Feature (40 Laps): 1. 71-Jade Avedisian; 2. 40-Chase McDermand; 3. 7U-Kyle Jones; 4. 2X-Landon Brooks; 5. 26-Chance Crum; 6. 68-Mitchel Moles; 7. 19M-Ethan Mitchell; 8. 97-Gavin Miller; 9. 25K-Taylor Reimer; 10. 26R-Corbin Rueschenberg; 11. 21K-Karter Sarff; 12. 86-Shane Cottle; 13. 41M-Howard Moore; 14. 19AZ-Hayden Reinbold; 15. 71E-Mariah Ede; 16. 7X-Thomas Meseraull; 17. 57A-Ronnie Gardner; 18. 08-Cannon McIntosh; 19. 5D-Zach Daum; 20. 55-Nick Drake