By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (October 16, 2019)………Everybody has to start somewhere. The same rings true for everybody who’s ever won a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature. They’ve all earned that first win somewhere, some place.
Entering this weekend’s double-dip over a three-night span, this season has already produced four first-time winners with the series, the most in any single year since 2008: Cannon McIntosh (Southern Illinois Center), Chris Windom (Lawrenceburg), Jason McDougal (Jefferson County) and Tanner Carrick (Sweet Springs).
This Thursday, the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets enter the 1/8-mile bullring of Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill. for the 6th running of the Jason Leffler Memorial, a race which was won by a first-time winner in Tyler Thomas (Collinsville, Okla.) in 2018.
The namesake of the event, Leffler, was the winner of the second-ever race held at the “new” 16th Street Speedway, which was constructed inside the former Bush Stadium, home of AAA Baseball’s Indianapolis Indians. That night in May of 1997 served as Leffler’s first career series win, which was also the first for car owner Pete Willoughby, a team which has thrived since that night more than two decades ago, a team now known as Keith Kunz Motorsports.
Leffler’s black No. 71 from his 1997 championship season remains relatively cosmetically unchanged from the cars campaigned by the team to this day for series Rookie Jesse Colwell (Red Bluff, Calif.), who is on the lookout for his first series win. The team’s No. 71, with a K, was victorious this year with another first-time USAC winner, Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.) at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.
Windom (Canton, Ill.) joined an interesting and exclusive club of drivers who’ve won a USAC National Sprint Championship prior to winning their first career USAC National Midget feature race, along with Greg Leffler and Levi Jones.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, the series heads across the border over to Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway for 10th ever appearance by the mighty midgets of USAC. Three of the first nine of those events have produced first-time USAC National Midget feature winners: New Zealand’s Barry Butterworth (1979), Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (2007) and Zach Daum (2011).
Many contenders lie in wait for their turn to live out their aspirations of joining the list of USAC National Midget winners. Among them are USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), Tucker Klaasmeyer (Paola, Kans.), Andrew Layser (Collegeville, Pa.), Jesse Colwell (Red Bluff, Calif.), Karsyn Elledge (Mooresville, N.C.), Holley Hollan (Broken Arrow, Okla.), Ethan Mitchell (Mooresville, N.C.) and yes, 2013 World of Outlaws champ Daryn Pittman (Owasso, Okla.), who’ll make his annual appearance at Thursday’s Leffler Memorial.
On Thursday at Wayne City, pits open at 4pm Central, grandstands at 5pm, drivers meeting at 6pm and hot laps at 6:30pm. Adult general admission tickets are $20, age 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $35 apiece. Along with the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship are Non-Wing 600 Outlaws, Non-Wing Restrictors & Non-Wing Jr. Sprints.
Saturday’s Harvest Cup at Tri-State will also feature the Brandeis Midwest Sprint Car Series and MMSA Mini Sprints. Pits open at 2:30pm central, grandstands at 3:30pm, drivers meeting at 4:30pm and hot laps at 5pm. Adult general admission tickets are $25, students are $20 and age 12 and under are free. Pit passes are $30 apiece.
You can watch LIVE flag-to-flag coverage of both races on FloRacing. Live audio of the events can be heard on the USAC app. Follow along with live updates on www.facebook.com/usacracing & www.twitter.com/USACNation and live timing and scoring on the Race-Monitor and USAC apps.
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET FIRST TIME WINNERS
1956: Shorty Templeman, Jack Turner, Eddie Sachs, Gays Biro, Gene Force, Johnnie Tolan, Andy Linden, Chuck Rodee, Gene Hartley, George Amick, Jimmy Davies, Jimmy Knight, Leroy Warriner, Rex Easton, Tony Bettenhausen, Al Alpern, Al Herman, Bud Clemons, Chuck Weyant, Earl Motter, Edgar Elder, Forrest Parker, Jimmy Reece, Johnnie Parsons, Mel McGaughy & Rodger Ward
1957: Billy Garrett, Johnny Boyd, Len Sutton, A.J. Foyt, Danny Oakes, Frank Burany, Bill Chennault, Bob Tattersall, Don Branson, Hank Nykaza, Lloyd Ruby & Norm Hall
1958: Bill Homeier, Bob Wente, Eddie Johnson, Joe Garson, Jim Packard, Johnny Moorhouse, Johnny Roberts, Mauri Wilson, Russ Congdon & Tony Bonadies
1959: Cliff Spalding, Davey Moses, Tommy Copp, Bob McLean, Bob Veith, Dale Swaim, Don Boorse, Jiggs Peters, Johnny Baldwin, Larry McCloskey & Van Johnson
1960: Billy Cantrell, Billy Wood, Bobby Grim, Bud Bogard, Buddy Rackley, Dick Northam, Johnny White & Potsy Goacher
1961: Allen Crowe, Parnelli Jones, Porky Rachwitz, Arnie Knepper, Bobby Marshman, Danny Frye, Joe Walter & Verne Harriman
1962: Roger McCluskey, Mel Kenyon, Ronnie Duman, Dwight Brown, Harry Beck, Jim McElreath, Johnny Riva & Russ Moynagh
1963: Bobby Unser, Don Horvath, Allen Heath, Bob Harkey, Chuck Hulse, Dean Holden, Elmer George & Mike McGreevy
1964: Ray Elliott, Don Meacham, Bob Hogle, George Snider & Lowell Sachs
1965: Les Scott, Dick Atkins, George Benson, Henry Pens, Ned Spath & Sonny Ates
1966: Chuck Arnold, Billy Vukovich, Billy Mehner, Cotton Farmer, Larry Dickson, Dave Strickland, Frank Secrist, Mario Andretti & Tom Sellberg
1967: Gary Bettenhausen, Bob Hare, Bob Hauck, Bob Richards, Dutch Schaefer, Gene Roehl & Jimmy Caruthers
1968: Sam Sessions, Tom Bigelow, Burt Foland, Gene Pastor, Jigger Sirois, Lee Kunzman, Merle Bettenhausen, Paul Bates, Roger West & Steve Troxell
1969: Don Vogler, Billy Engelhart, Bill Kollman, Bruce Walkup, Hank Butcher, Larry Cannon & Larry Rice
1970: Jerry McClung, Mel Cornett & Johnny Parsons
1971: Danny Caruthers, Gary Ponzini, John Batts, Eddie Jackson, Jim McClean, Jimmy Kirk & Steve Cannon
1972: Pancho Carter, Rich Vogler, Rick Goudy, Danny O’Neill, J.P. Standley, Joe Saldana, Sam Sauer & Tony Simon
1973: Bobby Olivero, Billy Shuman, Tommy Astone, Chuck Gurney, Jim Beckley, Leo Tucker & Mike Gregg
1974: Danny McKnight, Gary Byers, Richard Powell & Sleepy Tripp
1975: Dana Carter, Ken Nichols & Larry Patton
1976: Jan Opperman, Bruce Robey, Bubby Jones, Buddy Taylor, Steve Lotshaw & Tom Steiner
1977: Buddy Irwin, Gary Patterson, Jerry Nuckles, Jerry Stone, Ron Shuman & Roy Cook, Jr.
1978: Jeff Heywood, Jerry Weeks & Billy Cassella
1979: Lonnie Caruthers, Barry Butterworth, Jeff Nuckles & Stan Fox
1980: Ken Schrader, Dave Ray, Mack McClellan & Terry Wente
1981: Warren Mockler, Dave Strickland, Jr. & Gene Gennetten
1982: Alan Brown, Dick Pole, Doug Wolfgang & Greg Leffler
1983: Kevin Olson, Jim Hines, Mike Fedorcak, Nick Fornoro, Jr., Todd Forbes & Tommy White
1984: Bob Cicconi & Rick Hood
1985: Bruce Field, Barry Reed, Brent Kaeding, Drew Fornoro, John Andretti & Russ Gamester
1986: Blake Hollingsworth, John Heydenreich, Kevin Doty, Kevin Koch & Sam Isenhower
1987: Steve Knepper, Dan Boorse, Jack Hewitt, Lee Smith, Mike Appio & Stevie Reeves
1988: Jack Calabrase, Jim Keeker, Danny Pens, Dean Billings, J.R. Miller, Mike Streicher & P.J. Jones
1989: Robby Flock, Don Schilling, Jeff Gordon, Richard Myhre, Steve Gennetten & Terry Farrar
1990: Graham Standring, Jim Hettinger, John Meyers & Keith Rauch
1991: Page Jones, Donnie Beechler, Johnny Cofer, Michael Lang, Tony Elliott & Wally Pankratz
1992: Doug Kalitta, Kenneth Nichols, Dan Drinan, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Eric Wilkins & Joe Gaerte
1993: Andy Michner, Critter Malone, Jimmy Sills, Mike Bliss, Randy Tolsma, Tony Stewart & Tyce Carlson
1994: Brian Gerster, Jordan Hermansader, Page Jones & Ted Hines
1995: Billy Boat & Jack Runyon
1996: Tracy Hines, Jay Drake, Jerry Coons, Jr. & Randy Koch
1997: Jason Leffler, Ryan Newman, Dave Darland & Jimmy McCune
1998: Ricky Shelton & Dave Steele
1999: Ed Carpenter, J.J. Yeley & Ron Smoker
2000: Kasey Kahne, Aaron Pollock, Dane Carter & Michael Lewis
2001: Bobby East & A.J. Fike
2002: Aaron Fike, Mike Hess, Ryan Scott & Teddy Beach
2003: Josh Wise
2004: Davey Ray, Billy Wease, David Gough, Ron Gregory & Travis Miniea
2005: Brad Kuhn, Bryan Clauson, Danny Stratton, Johnny Rodriguez & Scott Hatton
2006: Bobby Santos, Brady Bacon, Bud Kaeding, Darren Hagen, Kevin Swindell, Ryan Durst & Shane Cottle
2007: Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., Cory Kruseman, Levi Jones & Michael Pickens
2008: Brad Sweet, Cole Whitt, Bradley Galedrige, Brian Olson, Chuck Gurney, Jr. & Kody Swanson
2009: Caleb Armstrong
2010: Shane Hmiel, Steve Buckwalter & Tanner Swanson
2011: Kyle Larson & Zach Daum
2012: Kyle Hamilton
2013: Christopher Bell & Rico Abreu
2015: Tanner Thorson & Kevin Thomas, Jr.
2016: Chad Boat, Shane Golobic & Spencer Bayston
2017: Tyler Courtney & Justin Grant
2018: Logan Seavey, Tyler Thomas & Zeb Wise
2019: Cannon McIntosh, Chris Windom, Jason McDougal & Tanner Carrick