By Richie Murray
West Burlington, Iowa (June 3, 2020)………Throughout the six-plus decades of USAC’s AMSOIL National Sprint Car division, it’s almost hard to imagine that no driver has ever won three consecutive features to begin a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car season.
None. Nada. Zero. Zilch.
It’s difficult to break new ground and enter uncharted waters with 60 years of history laying the groundwork. Yet, Brady Bacon has an opportunity to claim a feat all to his own if he can capture victory this Saturday night, June 6, at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa.
The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma native has already doubled-up with two-straight wins in the first two events of 2020 in Ocala, Fla., albeit coming four months ago. Both of those required yeoman’s work from the two-time series champ (2014 & 16) after starting 9th each night.
Only eight times has a driver even won two consecutive to start a USAC National Sprint Car season, and none in a decade prior to Bacon this season.
All those who’ve done it are either already National Sprint Car Hall of Famers, likely future Hall of Famers or in the midst of a Hall of Fame career.
Jud Larson was the first to win two in a row to start a USAC Sprint season in 1965, winning the first two at the Reading (Pa.) Fairgrounds and at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway aboard the A.J. Watson wrenched machine. Larson was solid in the third of those starts, again at Reading, finishing a distant third behind Greg Weld and Bobby Unser.
Larry Dickson’s only aberration during the first five races of the 1970 USAC Sprint season was a 7th at Eldora in the third race of the year, with his rival Gary Bettenhausen taking the victory that afternoon. He won the other four decisively, including the first two at Miami-Hollywood Speedway in Florida in consecutive weeks behind the wheel of Kenny Lay’s No. 2, then races four and five at Dayton (Ohio) Speedway and Reading en route to his second championship in three years.
One of the greatest comeback stories of all-time came via the right foot of Pancho Carter, who suffered devastating leg injuries in an Indy Car testing crash at Phoenix International Raceway in November of 1977. His first race back was a USAC Sprint Car event at Indianapolis Raceway Park six months later, in April of 1978, which he promptly won. His next race out came the very next day at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway where another victory was in the cards for Pancho and owner Steve Stapp. The incredible run ended in the third race, however, an 18th at Reading.
Rich Vogler corralled the first two of the 1987 USAC Sprint season in the first and only series visit to the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, then again on the more familiar “turf” of Eldora with car owner Johnny Vance. The streak ended in race number three, again at Eldora, but this time in the first USAC Sprint race ever held with wings! Vogler took 16th that night, but he’d eventually win in USAC with a wing in 1989 at Moberly, Mo.
Robbie Stanley came off two consecutive USAC National Sprint Car titles in 1991 and 1992 with a new ride, the famed Hoffman Auto Racing No. 69, with which he snared two victories on each side of the Indiana/Ohio border to open the season, first on the dirt at Eldora, then a week later on the paved high banks of Winchester. He finished 13th in the third race, an afternoon affair at Terre Haute. In the end, it turned out to be Stanley’s most successful season, earning five total wins and his third consecutive USAC crown.
Another Hoffman driver in Tracy Hines joined the team for the 2002 season, and was fast right out of the box with two triumphs on a pair of pavement tracks that couldn’t be anymore dissimilar in the tight, high banked ¼-mile bullring Anderson (Ind.) Speedway and the one-mile, oddly-shaped Nazareth (Pa.) Speedway two weeks later, which propelled him to a first USAC National Sprint Car title for the eventual Triple Crown champ. Hines came the closest to pulling off the three-peat in the first three events, leading with four laps to go until he was passed by Dave Steele for the win, and finishing second.
Another case of a driver joining a team and winning a championship that same year came in 2004, this time by Jay Drake. The Val Verde, Californian won on the pavement at Anderson, then on the dirt at Beaver Dam, Wisc. for Tony Stewart Racing. A solid fourth place finish was the result in race number three of the season.
Damion Gardner found a multitude of early season success in the early 2010s, first starting during the first edition of Winter Dirt Games in 2010 where “The Demon” reeled off two consecutive at East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., then nearly carried the torch all the way to the Southwest at USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz. in 2010, ultimately finishing fourth.
It’s a doubleheader USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car weekend this coming Saturday, June 6, at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa and Sunday, June 7, at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55!
Grandstand ticket sales are now live for the June 6 race at 34 Raceway at https://market.myracepass.com/store/tickets/?i=1208706&store=12037. Grandstand seating is limited to 50 percent capacity, so make sure to act fast so you don’t miss out! Pits open at 3pm Central, drivers meeting at 5:45pm and cars on track at 6pm.
Spectator tickets are also now on sale for the June 7 race at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55, exclusively at http://usactickets.com. Seating capacity is limited to 1,200 for this event. The grandstands for the I-55 event will be limited to 1,200 spectators. Adult general admission tickets are $30 and $10 for children age 12 and under. Pit passes are $30 for USAC/UMP members and $35 for non-members. UMP A-Mods will run as the support class. At I-55, pits open at 1pm Central and grandstands at 3pm with hot laps scheduled to begin at 5pm.
All USAC National events will be streamed live, and available on-demand, on FloRacing.