Stellar Midget Field Expected for 6th Annual Louie Vermeil Classic at Historic Calistoga Speedway

usac United States Auto Club 2012 logo

usac United States Auto Club 2012 logo


By Robert Haugh


Having become one of the most popular West Coast racing events, the Louie Vermeil Classic is a weekend full of racing excitement, seeing both non-Wing Sprints Cars and Honda USAC-Western States Midgets competing on the historic half-mile Calistoga Speedway in the gorgeous Napa Wine Country.


Featuring some of best racers from the West and beyond, over two dozen Midget entries are expected, including open-wheel ace and rising NASCAR star Kyle Larson, who is presumed be announced as the 2014 driver of the Earnhardt Ganassi Racing #42 Chevy being vacated by Juan Pablo Montoya prior to the Labor Day weekend spectacle. With $10,000-to-win in the USAC-Western States Midget features on Saturday, August 31 and Sunday, September 1, the 6th Annual Louie Vermeil Classic is one of the richest Midget events in the Nation, attracting an array of previous winners, champions and young guns to the fabled race facility.


Larson, the 21-year-old California native, currently sitting eighth in his rookie season in the NASCAR Nationwide series, will be among those vying for Sunday’s Midget win aboard one of Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Racing Bullet/Toyota entries. Joining Larson in the always-formidable Kunz stable will be local star Rico Abreu of Rutherford, winner of the Sunday Midget feature last year, as well as Nevada’s Tanner Thorson. Honda National Dirt Midget point leader Christopher Bell, of Oklahoma was originally scheduled to compete, but is making his TRAXXAS Silver Crown debut Sunday at DuQuoin, Ill.


Adding to the local contingent will be Angwin’s Britton Bock, chauffeuring his Britton Bock Racing #67 McNamara Electric/Mike Bock/West Evans Motorsports/Ore Cart Wines-Napa Valley/Pope Valley Repair & Towing/Snap-On Cliff Marden/Marcus Hardina Motorsports Spike/Esslinger. “With the new design of the racetrack by Tommy Hunt and his crew, hopefully we will provide even greater racing action for the fans than ever and bring back the glory days of racing at this famous race facility,” states the 21-year-old, who also thanks Abreu Vineyards and Stadelhofer Construction for donating their time and efforts into helping Hunt improve the fabled race facility.


Britton’s grandfather Doug Bock, also of Angwin, a former Midget car owner champion and multiple-time race-winner will be fielding two cars – his #26 Spike/Esslinger driven by Fremont’s Shane Golobic, who has compiled a plethora of Sprint Car and Midget wins, including several in Bock’s mount, including a June 1 triumph at Placerville Speedway. Golobic is looking at improving on his second place finish in last year’s Sunday feature. Taylor Simas, who scored his first career Midget win last week in his hometown of Orland will be manning Bock’s #62 Spike/Esslinger, the same car he won in. Simas has compiled an impressive resume in limited Midget action this year.


Another local, former USAC-Western States Midget champion Alex Schutte of Rohnert Park will be looking to score his first Vermeil triumph after settling for the bridesmaid position, second, an amazing five times, also compiling eight Top 10s and seven Top 5s at the Vermeil. He also has two fast time awards. Schutte will be piloting the Morris Motorsports #44 Spike/Mopar.


Always strong at the half-mile track, Alamo’s Scott Pierovich will be contending for his second Vermeil trophy in his own #35 Mid-Coast Transportation/Good Guys Rod & Custom Shows Spike/Bob Wirth Fontana. Pierovich, a multiple-time Midget victor claimed the Vermeil Midget crown on Saturday in 2011 and has amassed four podiums, six Top 5s and nine Top 10s in Vermeil Midget competition.


USAC-Western States Midget points leader Ronnie Gardner will be vying for his eighth win on the season (five USAC, two VRA at Ventura) in the Six-8 Motorsports/Baldozier #68 Stewart/Esslinger. Gardner scored a third-place podium finish in his lone Calistoga Midget appearance in 2011. Second-place points man Jake Swanson of Anaheim in the Swanson/Van Dyne #05 Edmunds AutoResearch/Van Dyne is hoping to score his first Calistoga podium finish, having compiled three top 10s and a high of a fifth place finish in 2010. Jake claimed a Midget win earlier this year in Santa Maria. Jake’s brother Cody, the 2012 VRA (Ventura) Midget champion and USAC-WS race winner at Bakersfield earlier this year, will be vying to top his previous Calistoga best of third place in 2010 in the Swanson Motorsports #71 Edmunds AutoResearch K&N Filters/Van Dyne.  Cody has four Top 10s at Calistoga and three Tops 5s.


Current third-place Western States Midget points runner, former USAC-WS car owner champion and BCRA Midget champion David Prickett of Fresno will be hoping to improve upon his fourth-place finish last year aboard the Neverlift Motorsports #15 Spike/AMD Chevy. Prickett has two Midget wins this year, and also claimed the win in the Gold Cup Race of Champions Midget event at Silver Dollar Speedway in 2011.


The Josh Ford Motorsports team brings an impressive stable, with Hollister’s Ryan Bernal in the #73 King Racing Products Spike/Bob Wirth Chevy, while California native and 2012 Indy 500 starter Bryan Clauson, a two-time USAC National Midget champion and reigning USAC National Sprint Car champion, will be competing in a sister car to Bernal’s on Sunday for the JFM team.


Additional entries include former BCRA champion and multi-time Midget and Sprint car victor Matt Streeter in his #14JR T&T Trucking-Delta Demolition Spike/S&S Chevy, Nic Faas, who claimed a fourth-place run in 2008 and two fast time honors will be piloting Jerome Rodela’s #25 Spike/Ed Pink Toyota, three-time 2013 USAC-WS Madera pavement winner “Nitro” Nick Chivello in his #27 Spike/Esslinger, Oregon’s Lance Hallmark in his #8 Stinger/Pontiac, Atascadero’s Randi Pankratz in her own #8 Edmunds AutoResearch/Fontana, USAC-Western States rookie points leader Terry Nichols in the Neverlift Motorsports #45 Spike/Van Dyne, recent Midget victor Pete Davis of Pleasanton aboard his #00 HotHead Engine Heaters Stealth/Esslinger, Mike Gehringer in his #27 Challenger/Arias, Kyle Edwards in the Edwards Racing #39 Ellis/Van Dyne, former BCRA Midget Lite champion and current Midget Lite points leader Scott Kinney in one of Cliff Blackwell’s #27 Stealth/Gaerte entries and past Midget winner Gridley’s Quintin Crye aboard a second Cliff Blackwell #27 Stealth/Gaerte entry.


Adding to the remarkable Labor Day weekend event is an array of non-racing events, including beer and wine tasting events, a silent auction, driver autograph sessions and the sold out, second annual Calistoga Speedway Hall of Fame Dinner. Former Sprint Car driver and media icon Brad Doty is the Grand Marshall for the event held in honor of Northern California racing legend Louie Vermeil, who contributed countless years and hours to the fabled raceway for five decades, including, but not limited to duties as an official, car owner and promoter.


Calistoga Speedway is one of the oldest operating dirt tracks in the nation, and oldest continually operated dirt track in the West Coast, with 2013 being it’s 76th year of operation. The Vermeil Classic represents the only opportunity to see non-wing Sprints and Midgets on a half-mile in Northern California each year and is the only scheduled event to take place on the half-mile in 2013. The Napa County fairgrounds have been hosting races since 1937. For more information, visit


The AMSOIL USAC/CRA and Western Classic Sprint Cars will join the Midgets on both days. A full field of approximately 30 Sprint Cars is expected, with Larson, Clauson, Bernal, Gardner and many more expected.


Limited tickets for the Louie Vermeil Classic remain. Tickets can be purchased by calling 916-773-7223.