From Richie Murray – USAC Media
BAKERSFIELD, Ca. (November 14, 2017) — After a 17-year hiatus, USAC National Midgets are back at Bakersfield Speedway this Saturday night, November 18.
That last visit in 2000, 17 years to the day of this year’s event, was won by Jay Drake that night driving for car owner Keith Kunz. All these years later, Kunz’s team remains at the top of its game as the Columbus, Indiana-based team arrives at the final two-race West Coast set occupying the top spot in the National standings with driver Spencer Bayston.
The Lebanon, Indiana native is firmly in the driver’s seat of a first national driving title with a 66-point advantage in the standings coming into Bakersfield. With a maximum 160 points available over the next two races, four drivers remain mathematically in contention for the title. Second-place Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma) is the closest challenger, 66 points back, with Shane Golobic (Fremont, California) 77 points behind in third and defending series champ Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nevada) in fourth, 107 back.
Clauson/Marshall Racing has been Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports’ largest thorn this season with the second-most victories in the series (5) between drivers Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Indiana (3) and Justin Grant of Ione, California (2). All five of those victories have come at tracks one-third-of-a-mile in length or smaller, which Bakersfield and Nov. 23rd’s Ventura (Calif.) Raceway are. Golobic (3rdin points) has been a contender all year with an Indiana Midget Week title under his belt, but is still seeking his first series win of 2017. Zeb Wise (Angola, Indiana) makes his long-awaited debut in a fourth car for CMR.
While it’s been nearly two decades since the national boys and girls last took on the one-third-mile dirt oval at Bakersfield, the venue has been home to USAC National Midget racing since 1959 when Davey Moses captured the victory. Saturday’s race will be the 20th such event held at Bakersfield. Drake (1997, 1998 & 2000) and Billy Vukovich (1966 & twice in 1967) own the most National victories there with three apiece.
While USAC National Midget appearances have been scarce, it has been a traditional stop on the USAC Light Up the World Western States Midget calendar, 106 times in fact, in all but one season since 1987.
Riverside, California’s Ronnie Gardner has won six times at Bakersfield and the last three dating to last November’s event. Gardner has swept both events at Bakersfield this season including March’s season opener and the most recent visit in late September, leading 55 of the 60 total laps run in the process. However, he has yet to capture his first career USAC National feature victory.
Gardner leads the Western States contingent with a 128-point lead and has his sights set on clinching his fifth consecutive series title this Saturday, but he hasn’t locked it up yet with Frankie Guerrini (San Rafael, California) and David Prickett (Fresno, California) the only the remaining drivers with a sliver of hope to dethrone Gardner.
The Bakersfield race is the penultimate round of the 2017 USAC National Midget season. Interestingly enough, the National Midget schedule hasn’t concluded with two-straight races in the Golden State since 2010. Of note, when the schedule has concluded with California events in the next-to-last and final race of the year, only three times has one driver won both: George Amick in 1957 (Clovis & Gardena), Parnelli Jones in 1964 (San Jose & Ascot) and Billy Boat in 1995 (Bakersfield & Perris).
Saturday at Bakersfield, pits open at 2pm, gates open at 4pm with racing scheduled to begin at 6pm. Adult general admission tickets are $16, senior and military tickets are $14, kids 6-12 are $8 and kids age 5 and under are FREE!
You can catch all the night’s action live on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/. If you’d like to re-watch the flag-to-flag coverage for all of Saturday night’s action at Bakersfield, catch it again a day later, on-demand, at http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.