By Richie Murray
Ocala, Florida (February 6, 2019)………As the world turns, so does the pit area of the USAC NOS Energy Midget National Championship.
Following a “silly season” that saw a number of top competitors changing scenery, switching rides or, for some, standing pat, let’s review some of the new digs and combinations for the 2019 season, beginning this weekend with the series’ debut on Feb. 8-9 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. for “Winter Dirt Games X.”
Despite the seismic shift that occurred with many drivers and teams over the offseason, seven of the top-ten in last year’s final point standings are returning to the same mounts they were in last year, including the top-four. Sutter, California’s Logan Seavey, the 2018 champ, is back in the seat of the Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian No. 67 as he tries to become the first back-to-back USAC National Midget champ since Bryan Clauson in 2010-11.
Tanner Carrick is back with KKM in the No. 71K as is Tucker Klaasmeyer in No. 27 along with newcomers, Rookie of the Year hopefuls Jesse Colwell in the No. 71 and Holley Hollan in the No. 67K, who replace Ryan Robinson and Holly Shelton in those seats, respectively. Meanwhile, Spencer Bayston, the 2017 series champ for KKM, vacates his ride to pursue sprint car opportunities. Sam Johnson, a Rookie with KKM last year, transfers over to the Reynolds/Jetson Motorsports No. 19J on a part-time basis with USAC.
Runner-up Chad Boat of Phoenix, Ariz. returns to the Tucker/Boat Motorsports No. 84 as the longest-tenured driver in terms of consecutive races for the same team and same car number, a streak that dates to the beginning of the 2016 season. Joining him is series Rookie Karsyn Elledge of Mooresville, N.C. in No. 1. Zane Hendricks made seven starts for Tucker/Boat last season, but now will run his own operation in car No. 27z, bidding for Rookie of the Year honors in 2019.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon has been with FMR Racing since 2016, but the two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car titlist has taken a step away from the No. 76m on a full-time basis for 2019 and will compete in a team car to new full-time pilot C.J. Leary of Greenfield, Ind. for a handful of starts this year.
Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney is back for his third-straight campaign in the Clauson Marshall Racing No. 7BC following a fourth-place finish in the points a year ago. Likewise, CMR teammate Zeb Wise of Angola, Ind. is back in the No. 39BC for a second full-season run after becoming the series’ youngest-ever winner in 2018.
Collegeville, Pennsylvania’s Andrew Layser has made eight starts over the past two seasons for Alex Bright Racing, but now joins CMR in the No. 47BC. Chris Windom, the 2016 Silver Crown and 2017 National Sprint champ out of Canton, Ill. has been tabbed as the driver of the No. 17BC for CMR, a seat occupied in 2018 by Cole Bodine and Justin Grant. Grant, of Ione, Calif., has changed addresses to the RAMS Racing team for 2019 on a part-time basis with the series.
Bodine, a Rossville, Ind. native, who made seven starts for the CMR in 2018, has moved to the Petry Motorsports No. 15, replacing Jason McDougal. USAC Triple Crown champ Jerry Coons, Jr. will race the Petry No. 25 for a fourth consecutive year. Sterling Cling of Tempe, Ariz. joins the team for a full-season in the No. 35. Kevin Thomas, Jr. of Cullman, Ala. returns to the team in No. 5 after beginning last season with Petry, where the pair earned a pair of non-USAC-sanctioned wins in Ocala, before shifting to Joe Dooling’s No. 63. The Dooling team ceased operations during the tail end of 2018 and the Thomas/Petry combo reunited forces for the 2019 year.
Tanner Thorson made his initial mark with KKM in the mid-2010s, winning the series title in 2016. After he and the team parted ways at the conclusion of the 2017 season, the Minden, Nevada drive returned for a handful of appearances in 2018 in the Tri-C Motorsports No. 3c, including a runner-up finish at Lawrenceburg Speedway during “Indiana Midget Week.” He’s back in that car for a full season campaign in 2019 while Collinsville, Oklahoma’s Tyler Thomas will go for the title aboard his familiar Brian Thomas No. 91T.
Pits open at 3pm Eastern each day at Ocala. Grandstands open at 5pm on Friday and 4pm on Saturday. Cars hit the track for engine heat at 6:30pm Eastern on Friday and at 5:30pm on Saturday.
The following week, USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing returns to Ocala once again for the ninth consecutive year to kick off its season at “Winter Dirt Games.” The mini-series will take place at Bubba Raceway Park with an open practice night on Wednesday, February 13, then three complete full programs on Thursday, February 14, Friday, February 15 and Saturday, February 16.
All nights of racing from Ocala will be live on http://www/FloRacing.com/.
“WINTER DIRT GAMES X” USAC MIDGET TENTATIVE ENTRY LIST:
0 Steve Buckwalter / Royersford, PA (Brian Buckwalter)
1 Karsyn Elledge / Mooresville, NC (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)
3c Tanner Thorson / Minden, NV (Tri-C Motorsports)
5 Kevin Thomas, Jr. / Cullman, AL (Petry Motorsports)
7BC Tyler Courtney / Indianapolis, IN (Clauson/Marshall Racing)
15 Cole Bodine / Rossville, IN (Petry Motorsports)
17BC Chris Windom / Canton, IL (Clauson/Marshall Racing)
19J Sam Johnson / St. Peters, MO (Reynolds/Jetson Motorsports)
19M Ethan Mitchell / Mooresville, NC (Bundy Built Motorsports)
20 Noah Gass / Mounds, OK (Noah Gass)
21 Karter Sarff / Mason City, IL (Steve Reynolds)
25 Jerry Coons, Jr. / Tempe, AZ (Petry Motorsports)
27 Tucker Klaasmeyer / Paola, KS (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)
27z Zane Hendricks / Stillwater, OK (Zane Hendricks)
35 Sterling Cling / Tempe, AZ (Petry Motorsports)
39BC Zeb Wise / Angola, IN (Clauson/Marshall Racing)
41 Oliver Akard / Ft. Myers, FL (Dan Akard)
47BC Andrew Layser / Collegeville, PA (Clauson/Marshall Racing)
57 Chase Jones / Greenwood, IN (Bill Ecker)
67 Logan Seavey / Sutter, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)
67K Holley Hollan / Tulsa, OK (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)
71 Jesse Colwell / Red Bluff, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)
71K Tanner Carrick / Lincoln, CA (Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian)
74M Adam Pierson / East Corinth, VT (Mancini/Manafort Racing)
76M C.J. Leary / Greenfield, IN (FMR Racing)
84 Chad Boat / Phoenix, AZ (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)
91T Tyler Thomas / Collinsville, OK (Brian Thomas)