By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (August 26, 2019)………There’s no questioning the difficulty of winning a feature event on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship trail.
One must be at the top of your game, up in the seat, and prepared for anything thrown in your direction, situationally or slider-wise.
There’s no slouching on this year’s 87-car, and growing, entry list for the Sept. 4-5 Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink at The Dirt Track at IMS. Nearly one-third of the field possesses a feature victory in the series, totaling 194 wins amongst 27 drivers.
Thirty of those 194 wins are held by 26th place BC39 finisher Dave Darland, which ranks the Lincoln, Ind. driver 11th all-time with the likes of Mick McGreevy and 12-time Indianapolis 500 starter Johnny Parsons.
Fifth place BC39 finisher in 2018, Christopher Bell owns 23 wins in the series and has been a constant of sustained success for much of the decade despite limited appearances over the past half-decade, winning nine of 26 starts since becoming a part-time USAC Midget competitor in 2015 following a championship run in 2013.
Jerry Coons, Jr. has routinely knocked out top-tens and top-fives with the series for more than two decades. The two-time series champion from Tucson, Ariz. finished 9th in the BC39 last year and possesses 19 series victories, most among all full-time series competitors.
Like Bell, Kyle Larson has been a semi-regular competitor on the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget tour for much of the decade, but their talent supersedes the limited amount of seat time in a midget they have each year. The Elk Grove, Calif. native has been in position to win in three of his six series starts this season, winning once at The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in June for the 16th of his career, and was challenging for the victory on the final lap at both Putnamville, Ind. and Kutztown, Pa.
Tanner Thorson made a miraculous comeback from injuries suffered in a road accident in March of this year. With the scars remaining visible and the determination burning inside of him, the 2016 series champ from Minden, Nevada, charged from 15th to 1st in Putnamville’s round of Indiana Midget Week in June, the furthest back any driver has started and won from this year, his 13th in the series.
Russ Gamester’s long and distinguished and career has seen wins in all three of USAC’s National divisions, including 12 in the Midget series where he collected the 1984 series Rookie of the Year and the 1989 driver championship. Gamester (Peru, Ind.), along with Coons, completed IndyCar tests with Panther Racing in 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway, but never quite got their shot on the 2.5-mile oval.
Tyler Courtney has more than doubled his USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget win tally in just half a season in 2019, jumping from five to 11 victories in search of a first series title, leading the points as it stands now, just one year removed from claiming the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship.
Phoenix, Arizona’s Chad Boat, son of 1998 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter and 1998 Texas Indy Racing League winner Billy Boat, could be the next to reach the double-digit win club with the series after finishing second in the inaugural BC39, which would break a tie he holds with his father where they both stand at nine wins.
Defending BC39 winner Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) earned his seventh and most recent series victory at IMS last summer. Reigning series champ Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), 13th in 2018, has six while 2017 champ Spencer Bayston (Lebanon, Ind.) has five alongside two-time NASCAR Monster Energy Cup winner Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (Olive Branch, Miss.), 11th in 2018, and Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.), who led the first 30 laps of last year’s BC39 before finishing 3rd.
The group of four-time winners is an eclectic bunch with 7th place BC39 finisher Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.), 1990 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals victor John Heydenreich (Bloomsburg, Pa.) and Auckland, New Zealand’s racing hero, Michael Pickens, the winningest driver from outside of the USA in USAC National Midget history.
Two-time Indiana Midget Week champion Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.), 15th in 2018, is a part of the three-win club with 2013 Hut 100 winner Zach Daum (Pocahontas, Ill.), 2006 Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Billy Wease and last year’s Stoops Pursuit winner at the BC39, Zeb Wise (Angola, Ind.), 14th in 2018.
Pittsboro’s Critter Malone, whose father Shim was a long-time chief starter for USAC, has two National Midget victories to his credit, as does Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.), 12th in 2018, who earned his first pair of wins this year after making more than 100-plus starts over the past decade before finally breaking through.
Those with just a single piece of USAC National Midget hardware in their trophy case are versatile Sprint Car, Midget and Silver Crown standout Steve Buckwalter (Royersford, Pa.), 2018 Jason Leffler Memorial winner Tyler Thomas (Collinsville, Okla.), 22nd in 2018, and three drivers who’ve each tallied victory number one this calendar year, Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.), Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.), 16th in 2018, and Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.).
With all that said, it takes just one win to put your name into the record book. And if that one just so happens to be the upcoming Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink, that’s one that will not soon be forgotten by the driver, the team, the fans and, yes, the record book.
Teams can file their entry for the event at www.TheBC39.com, where they may also purchase pit and parking passes for the two-night USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship event.
There are three options for viewing the racing action and also having pit pass access. You can purchase a competitor pit pass only where no seat is included with limited viewing of the track. Secondly, you can purchase a competitor pit pass with reserved seating included, which are available in the lower level of the main grandstands. Both options are available on https://www.thebc39.com/.
Competitor/crew seating has been added as a special general admission-only section in the main grandstand for the upcoming Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink at The Dirt Track at IMS on September 4-5. Pits are located outside turns three and four this year, giving competitors and crews direct access to the grandstands.
Parking will also be available on both ends of the track for those with infield parking passes. Each entry filed will come with two VIP parking passes for inside parking at IMS. All others must either purchase inside parking or park outside of turns three and four of the 2.5-mile paved oval track.
Spectator tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at https://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/events/usac/buy-tickets.
The BC39 officially gets underway on Tuesday, Sept. 3 with team parking at noon. From 4-6pm, catch five USAC icons at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum’s USAC Stars: From the Dirt Track to the Brickyard series. The event will feature legends Don and Mel Kenyon, and current drivers Michael Pickens, Chris Windom and Chad Boat. Pat Sullivan, longtime USAC public address announcer, historian, and author, will emcee this evening of entertaining banter and thrilling stories.
Tickets are available to Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum members for $15 and non-members for $20. Limited seating. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For more information or to buy tickets, contact Kelly Hartman at email@example.com.
Following the event, make your way to USAC headquarters, just across the street from the IMS Administration office at 4910 W. 16th Street, for the BC39 Draft Party from 5:30pm to 8:30pm Eastern where drivers will draw for their heat race positions. All cars entered will be randomized into a draft order for the heat race draft. Teams will be able to pick their heat race spot, either in person with a representative, or remotely through USAC officials. Any unrepresented team will be given the first available spot. The heat race position draft is open to the public with team members getting priority into the new USAC worldwide headquarters. Food and beverages will be available.
On track action begins Wednesday, Sept. 4, beginning with the drivers meeting in the IMS Media Room at 2pm. Public gates open at 3pm with cars hitting the track for practice at 5pm, followed by opening ceremonies at 6:30pm. Heat races and the Stoops Pursuit race will conclude the night’s racing action.
The finale, on Thursday, Sept. 5, will have the public gates opening at 3pm and cars on track for practice at 4:30pm, with qualifying races to follow at 5:30pm. Opening ceremonies are slated for 7pm and immediately followed by the main feature events, starting with multiple D-Mains, C-Main, the semi-feature and the 39-lap main event.
BY THE NUMBERS:
(194 total USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Wins represented in the Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink Lineup)
1. [30 wins] Dave Darland
2. [23 wins] Christopher Bell
3. [19 wins] Jerry Coons Jr.
4. [16 wins] Kyle Larson
5. [13 wins] Tanner Thorson
6. [12 wins] Russ Gamester
7. [11 wins] Tyler Courtney
8. [9 wins] Chad Boat
9. [7 wins] Brady Bacon
10. [6 wins] Logan Seavey
11. [5 wins] Spencer Bayston, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. & Kevin Thomas, Jr.
14. [4 wins] Justin Grant, John Heydenreich, Michael Pickens
17. [3 wins] Shane Cottle, Zach Daum, Billy Wease & Zeb Wise
21. [2 wins] Critter Malone & Chris Windom
23. [1 win] Steve Buckwalter, Tanner Carrick, Jason McDougal, Cannon McIntosh & Tyler Thomas
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET DRIVER CHAMPIONS IN THE BC39:
1989: Russ Gamester
2001: Dave Darland
2002: Dave Darland
2006: Jerry Coons, Jr.
2007: Jerry Coons, Jr.
2013: Christopher Bell
2016: Tanner Thorson
2017: Spencer Bayston
2018: Logan Seavey
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET ROOKIES OF THE YEAR IN THE BC39:
1984: Russ Gamester
2007: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.
2008: Chad Boat
2009: Zach Daum
2011: Kyle Larson
2013: Christopher Bell
2014: Kevin Thomas, Jr.
2015: Spencer Bayston
2017: Tanner Carrick
2018: Logan Seavey