By Richie Murray
Ocala, Florida (February 13, 2019)………It’s already been a dream beginning to 2019 for Tyler Courtney as he’s continued the roll of success following his 2018 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car crown and into the start of the new season.
Last weekend, his fast start included back-to-back victories in the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget openers at Bubba Raceway Park. Now the Indianapolis, Ind. driver embarks on a mission in his Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing No. 7BC to duplicate the feat that only some of the very best in this sport can lay claim to as a repeat series champion beginning with February 14-15-16th’s “Winter Dirt Games X.”
Parnelli Jones was the first to do the deed in 1961-62, followed by Sheldon Kinser (1981-82), Rick Hood (1984-85), Steve Butler (1986-88), Robbie Stanley (1991-93), Brian Tyler (1996-97), Levi Jones (2009-10-11) and Bryan Clauson (2012-13).
Last year, Courtney had one of the top seasons in the history of the series with 11 victories, only the tenth driver to reach double-figures in USAC Sprint Car wins during a single year. If anything has been proven, it’s not to discount anything Courtney can accomplish with the streak of success he’s enjoying at the moment. It’s difficult to win one championship, let alone back-to-backers and put up the same numbers as the year before. However, it’s been duplicated before and will be again.
While most of the consecutive championship-winning drivers saw their numbers go up on the backend of the back-to-back, Parnelli dropped from nine wins to four between 1961-62, yet still had enough mustard to relish the championship honors once again at season’s end. Twenty years later, meanwhile, Sheldon Kinser had a slight dip between his two in 1981-82, from seven to five.
From thereon, the numbers, in most instances, picked up the following year with Rick Hood increasing from six to nine wins from 1984-85. Steve Butler was the first three-peat titlist in 1986-87-88, bouncing up from two to three to three victories again, respectively, in those years. Robbie Stanley became the next three-peater, staying relatively stagnant from two to one wins between 1991-92, but 1993 would prove to be his career-best year, winning five times en route to a series title.
Brian Tyler had nowhere to go but up following a rare winless championship campaign in 1996, but in 1997, the talented driver would find victory lane on four occasions on his way to another championship.
Levi Jones saw all ends of the championship-winning spectrum during his three-straight run from 2009-11, beginning with four in 2009, doubling it to eight in 2010, then back down to three in 2011. Even-keeled Bryan Clauson notched his second-straight in 2013 with seven scores, following a seven win season the prior year in 2012.
But the main lesson here with those numbers is that championships are created in a myriad of manners. Winning is only one part of the recipe, along with qualifying up front, transferring through the heat, taking care of the equipment and finishing in the top-five, top-ten every chance you get. After all, the title race could come down to one single point somewhere along the line. Call it a case in example when Courtney and Kevin Thomas, Jr. racked up the same number of points throughout 40 races a season ago, only being decided on a tiebreaker in terms of number of feature wins.
The USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car portion of “Winter Dirt Games X” begins this week. Pits open at 3pm Eastern each day at Ocala. Grandstands open at 5pm on Thursday/Friday and 4pm on Saturday. Cars hit the track for engine heat at 6:30pm Eastern on Thursday/Friday and at 5:30pm on Saturday. An open practice session will take place a day before the action starts from 7-10pm.
All nights of racing from Ocala will be live on https://www.FloRacing.com/.