J.C. Morton has been one of the winningest Out-Pace USRA B-Mod drivers in recent years, and in 2016 he finally cemented his first USRA National Championship by taking on the toughest fields the division has to offer.
A 26-year-old from Springfield, Mo., Morton was a regular at the Lucas Oil Speedway where he garnered the track championship in 2016, and ran another 30 races off and on at a dozen other dirt ovals in and around the Show-Me State.
Racing against consistently large car counts and challenging competition forced him to up his game, and maximize the national points up for grabs. But his biggest move came in the USRA Nationals at the Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City with just two weeks before the USRA Weekly Racing Series points window closed.
Unlike other USRA-sanctioned weekly racing events where drivers are awarded up to 24 bonus points for car count on a given night, the USRA Nationals awarded a “true car count” bonus that reflected the number of cars in the field with no ceiling on the number.
Morton has had everything go wrong before at the half-mile oval, but everything went right for him on Thursday night in Out-Pace USRA B-Mod action. After winning his “B” Main, Morton quickly moved toward the front in the 15-lap main event, eventually settling for second at the finish line.
However, apparent winner Jim Moody was disqualified during post-race technical inspections, handing the victory to Morton. Passing a dozen drivers (12 points) and adding to it 63 bonus points for the true car count bonus, the win was a big step for Morton in keeping pace in the USRA national points with season-long points leader Ryan Gillmore and Kris Jackson. Gillmore, however, claimed the runner-up finish with Jackson taking the fourth spot.
But the difference was the cushion he needed to claim the title. In fact, Morton wound up with the least amount of wins among the top four finishers in Out-Pace USRA B-Mod nationals points with 10 victories.
“Our win count was down, but our consistency was there.” Morton said. “There were several nights where we started 10th or worse and we wound up running up near the front. You make more points like that than if you start on the pole and win.”
Gillmore wound up second in the standings with 29 feature wins, Chad Clancy was third with 13 triumphs and Jackson took fourth with 25 wins on his season total. Defending national champ Andy Bryant rounded out the top five.
Overall, Morton recorded an astounding 39 top-five and 41 top-ten finishes in his 44 starts. In 2013 he was third nationally and finished second behind Clancy in 2014. Again, he was ninth in national points last year.
Which is why a decision to run for the track championship at Lucas Oil Speedway was a key piece of the puzzle in 2016. Out-Pace USRA B-Mod fields at the Wheatland, Mo., facility typically were at least 40 cars and averaged 38.4. That proved important in the points formula.
“We had been so close two or three times before,” Morton said of the national crown. “This is a huge accomplishment for me and my dad (Gene) and my wife (Destiny) and our little girl, Zoey. It's pretty phenomenal.”
In addition to $500 for his track championship at the Lucas Oil Speedway, Morton will pocket an additional $2,000 for his national title when the United States Racing Association celebrates the 2016 season during the USRA Awards Banquet on Jan. 28 at the Ameristar Casino Hotel in Kansas City.
A total of 988 different drivers competed in the Out-Pace USRA B-Mod class in 2016.
To learn more about the USRA, visit www.usraracing.com or call 515-832-6000. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usraracing, follow us at www.twitter.com/usraracing on Twitter and check out our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usratv.