T.J.’s Notebook: Weekend Recap and Scheduling Thoughts

Parade lap. (Mark Funderburk photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(November 15, 2017) — With another National championship decided and the Turkey Night Grand Prix looming brings the closing of another racing season while schedule and race event notifications for 2018 are starting to trickle in. While it is considered the “off season”, there are still plenty of news items to discuss.


  • The Oval Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway lived up to the hype over the weekend with the USAC National Sprint Car Championship coming down to the waning moments of the feature between Justin Grant and eventual champion Chris Windom. Throw in Kevin Thomas Jr. picking up the victory and it capped off one of the more competitive USAC sprint car seasons in recent memory.

    One does have to wonder what would have happened if Thomas had not missed the first two races of the year driving the Buffalo Wild Wings car? As USAC official Kirk Spridgeon pointed out on Twitter yesterday Thomas won the overall title of Indiana Sprint Week, the Haubstadt Hustler, Lawrenceburg Fall Nationals, Hulman Classic, and the Oval Nationals. Add Thomas’ win at Williams Grove and 21 top five finishes in 35 races to cap off what ended up being a career best season.

    Even with Thomas career best performance, Windom earned his championship having to race right down to the final laps of the feature to secure the title over Justin Grant. Windom with Derek Claxton and the rest of the Baldwin Brothers team obviously have hit on the mechanical and chemistry it takes to run up front, but you could say that for a lot of the teams up front with the USAC National Series this season.

  • While most of the attention of the weekend was on the Oval Nationals and the ASCS National Tour finales the United Sprint Car Series featured a deep field of cars for their two day program over at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Florida. Friday night winner Trey Starks, Saturday’s winner Mark Smith, Terry McCarl, Danny Smith, and Greg Wilson all made the tow to Ocala to compete with the USCS faithful.

    Florida reporter for Hosheads.com Richard Golardi reported drivers were informed by BRP owner Bubba Clem that USCS will be competing for two nights at Ocala in 2018 February 9th and 10th to kick off the series’ 2018 season. That would put USCS on the same program as the POWRi National midget tour, which will make for quite the double header for Florida open wheel fans.

  • The 2018 scheduled for the Jackson Motorplex was released on Monday. Jackson fans will have a healthy dose of three division sprint car programs featuring the Midwest Sprint Touring Series, IMCA RaceSaver 305 Sprint Cars, and the rebranded NSL Non-Wing Sprint Cars formerly known as the Heartland Racing Association. Throw in a handful of 410 programs, a massive three day World of Outlaws show during the Jackson Nationals, and a three night stint for the ASCS National Tour and sprint car fans in the Jackson, Minnesota have a nice season to look forward to
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  • One day later the schedule came out for Knoxville Raceway for 2018. The biggest change on Knoxville’s calendar is the USAC National Sprint Car Championship event being moved from Hall of Fame induction weekend to the following week. The USAC event falls on the same weekend as the Jackson Nationals, giving the Knoxville 410 teams the opportunity to travel to Jackson for that event.

    Knoxville Raceway patrons should also remember that 2,000 seats have been removed due to seat widening for the 2018 season. With that change fans should look to get their Knoxville nationals tickets in advance with four day ticket packages going on sale December 4th.

  • Over the weekend I took in some of the PPV action from the ASCS Lucas Oil National Tour at Cocopah Speedway. With Lucas Oil Productions full television crew on hand handling their tape delay and live streaming duties one noticeable difference between their product and others was the incredible sound production that was one of the best I’ve heard, television or otherwise. Kudos to them for making sprint cars sound like they were driving through my living room with incredible clarity.
  • Several World of Outlaws dates were announced yesterday with the most attention grabbing the series first appearance at the Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Fairbury, Illinois. Several friends of mine in Michigan have been trying to persuade me for years to get to Fairbury, even for a late model show, because of how good the racing is there. Hopefully the Wednesday May 30th date works out for us to travel there.
  • While the weekend ahead is mostly filled with International action a few races stand out stateside.

    USAC National and Western midget car series combine Saturday night at Bakersfield Speedway for one more event before the Turkey Night Grand Prix next Thursday at Ventura Raceway.

    Pavement sprint car racing takes place on both coasts this weekend with the Must See Racing sprint cars at the Hickory Motor Speedway for a two day program and the King of the Wings sprint cars featured at Irwindale Speedway.

    The United Sprint Car Series will compete at the Talledega Short Track on Saturday night rescheduled from earlier in the season due to weather issues. Look for more guest stars to drop in with USCS this weekend.

  • In addition to this weekend indoor racing season is right around the corner. Entry blanks are available for the upcoming Rumble in Fort Wayne December 29-30. The first 25 midget car entries get a parking pass for the weekend, which is handier than one might think at the Fort Wayne event. More information is available at http://www.rumbleinfortwayne.com/.