From Richie Murray – USAC Media
SAN TAN VALLEY, Az. (November 2, 2017) — Jan Opperman, Steve Kinser, Brady Bacon, Donny Schatz and Bryan Clauson. Those five names would make up a dream team of drivers when it comes to sprint car racing over the past four-plus decades.
They also have one thing in common when it comes to the Torco Race Fuels “Western World Championships.” Each have won an A-Main on the final night of the event in consecutive years. This weekend, November 3-4 at Arizona Speedway, Chris Windom has an opportunity to join this murderer’s row of sprint car sages and repeat his mastery from 2016.
Windom was simply magnificent in last year’s “Western World” no matter how many cubic inches were under the hood of his Baldwin Brothers Racing No. 5. The Canton, Illinois native took three of the four victories: both 410 National/CRA features as well as the Friday night Southwest main event. In the three features that Windom was victorious, he led 80 of the 90 laps run. He did not lead a lap in Saturday’s 360 feature, but remained strong, finishing third.
Windom was on a tear at this point last season, but wasn’t in the mix for the National points title. That changes this year as Windom has cut into season-long leader Justin Grant’s lead to close within 29 points with two shows this weekend in Arizona and the Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway on Nov. 9-10-11.
A Saturday night victory in the National/CRA Sprint portion of the “Western World” this weekend would pay major dividends toward the race for the title, but it also would have historical connotations. It would put him in exclusive company of drivers who’ve repeated their “Western World” accomplishments in successive years.
Jan Opperman was the first to go back-to-back in 1971-1972 without a wing. A decade later in 1982-83, Steve Kinser won two-straight years with a wing. It would be nearly three decades later before the feat would be seen again when Brady Bacon captured non-wing 360 sprint car features in 2009-10. After winning last year’s Southwest 360 Sprint Car feature, this Saturday night, Bacon would become the first driver to repeat on two separate occasions if he can defeat the 360 field once again.
Overlapping Bacon’s successes at the beginning of the decade was Donny Schatz who won successive winged 360 sprint main events in 2010 and 2011. Like Windom, Bryan Clauson actually triumphed three times in a two-year span with an ASCS 360 non-wing sprint win in 2012 followed up by a sweep of both ends on Saturday night in 2013 in the USAC National Midgets and USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Cars.
The “Western World” has run the gamut of the types of open-wheel cars that have competed in the event. From wingless and winged sprint cars of the 410 and 360 variety to midgets, the event has alternated sanctioning bodies over the years between USAC, World of Outlaws and ASCS, just to name a few. One mainstay for much of the event’s history was Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, which served as host for four decades following the event’s 1968 debut. Since then, “Western World” has found homes in Tucson and Peoria, Arizona before settling in San Tan Valley last November.
An open practice begins the 50th annual “Western World” festivities on Thursday, Nov. 2. On Friday racing begins. Pits open at 3pm, with the drivers meeting taking place at 4:30pm and cars on track at 5:25pm. On Saturday, pits open at 3pm, with an autograph session set for 4pm, a drivers meeting taking place at 5pm and cars on track at 5:25pm.
Friday and Saturday night’s racing at the “Western World” will be streamed LIVE on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/.