By Richie Murray
Spring Run, Pennsylvania (August 1, 2020)………Chad Boat may have been Arizonian-born and bred, but his prowess of Eastern Midget Week of late has made the Keystone State sort of another adopted state when the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship arrives in the late summer as they will once again on Friday night, August 7, during the five race, five track, five day stretch for the series at Path Valley Speedway Park in Spring Run, Pennsylvania.
Boat, who now actually resides in Mooresville, North Carolina, endured a lap-after-lap attack from Zeb Wise for much of the middle of the 2019 30-lapper at Path Valley to win his first of the year. In fact, it was his first victory with the series since the Eastern Midget Week finale almost exactly one year earlier.
The victory was Boat’s second-straight at the quarter-mile dirt oval of Path Valley dating back to his last visit in 2017. His four career Eastern Midget Week triumphs elevated him past Mel Kenyon in 2019 to make him the winningest USAC National Midget driver of all-time in the state of Pennsylvania.
The victory was extra special due to the fact that Chad equaled his father on the all-time USAC NOS Energy Drink feature win list with nine. Dad, Billy Boat, is a three-time “Turkey Night Grand Prix” Midget winner in 1995-96-97 and won the pole for the Indianapolis 500 in 1998.
Shortly following that win, Chad stepped aside from the driver’s role and into the role of crew chief and team owner for Tucker-Boat Motorsports, which has quickly developed into a force on the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget scene in 2020.
Two of his drivers reside inside the top-10 of the series standings. Chris Windom leads and Andrew Layser is 9th, while Dillon Welch will occupy a third car for the team throughout all five races of Eastern Midget Week, August 4-8. Each time TBM has competed at Path Valley in 2017 and 2019, the team has won, giving them an inside edge at the racy bullring.
Current series point leader Windom (Canton, Ill.) finished 2nd behind Boat during his Path Valley debut in 2019. Collegeville, Pa.’s Andrew Layser, the 2019 USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year, made his first series start at Path Valley in 2017 back when he was a regular with ARDC. There, he finished 17th, but his most recent result of 10th in 2019 serves as his best thus far. Welch (Carmel, Ind.), the 2009 USAC Kenyon Midget champion, holds USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget one-lap track records at both Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway and California’s Placerville Speedway.
Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports captured its first Path Valley USAC Midget victory in 2015 with driver Rico Abreu. This year, KKM, 10-time USAC National Midget championship team with the second-most victories in series history (110), has brought a highly talented Rookie crop who are all making their Eastern Midget Week debuts, but are also seeking to earn the team its first USAC victory of 2020.
Top Rookie, Penngrove, California’s Buddy Kofoid (3rd in the standings), who recently swept to a pair of wing sprint car victories last weekend in Ohio at Attica and Fremont, is joined by 2019 Shamrock Classic victor, Cannon McIntosh of Bixby, Okla. (5th) and Rookie Daison Pursley of Locust Grove, Okla. (7th), all of whom are seeking to repeat Abreu and Kunz’s Path Valley mastery back in 2015.
Tanner Thorson, leader among all series regulars in feature wins with the division in 2020, was the fastest qualifier at Path Valley in 2015. That same year, he led the first 13 laps of the feature before being passed by Abreu on a mid-race restart. While battling for 2nd, Thorson and Kevin Thomas Jr. made contact, sending Thorson spinning to a stop, and ultimately finishing 9th.
In 2017, Thorson was in position to win again at Path Valley, pacing the field for 18 laps and was leading when contact between he and Tyler Courtney in turn four coming to the checkered flag sent Thorson spinning out of the lead. An ultimately better result came about for Thorson in 2019 with a 4th place finish.
Defending series champion Tyler Courtney, meanwhile, has made two previous appearances at Path Valley. In 2017, the 2019 USAC Super License titlist won his heat race and finished 2nd in 2017. Two years later, in 2019, he once again finished on the “podium,” taking a 3rd place result. Courtney’s Clauson-Marshall Racing teammate Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.) will make his Path Valley debut. His car, the CMR #39BC, owns the series’ one-lap track record at Path Valley, a 11.057 set by Zeb Wise in 2019.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) has made two USAC Midget starts at Path Valley, winning his heat race and finishing 3rd in 2015, then took 14th in the latest round there in 2019. Thomas, meanwhile, recently vacated the Petry Motorsports No. 5, which he had driven on the USAC Midget trail since late 2017. Making his USAC debut in the ride for Eastern Midget Week is Justin Grant, the current USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader and May’s T-Town Midget Showdown winner at Port City Raceway in Tulsa, Okla.
Grant (Ione, Calif.) has made one previous Path Valley appearance, winning his heat, then finishing 15th in the 2017 feature. The result was not indicative of his performance, however, as he was running 4th on the final lap when he flipped while getting caught up in the aforementioned late-race skirmish between Thorson and Courtney.
Along with Grant on the three-car Petry fleet for Eastern Midget Week is 2019 USAC National Most Improved Driver Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.), twice a top-ten finisher with the series at Path Valley. The 2017 USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year finished a personal best 7th in 2017, then won his heat and finished 8th in 2019. Carrick is joined by impressive Rookie Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), who has made five career series starts, but has finished inside the top-8 in each of the last four.
The mini-series in the east always provides a local flair with the Eastern contingent. Two-time USAC Rapid Tire East Coast Sprint Car champ (2018-19) and ARDC Midget titlist (2014-15) Steven Drevicki (Reading, Pa.) will compete for the entirety of Eastern Midget week with the Randy Heckman-owned team. Drevicki won the semi-feature and finished 10th in the A-Main at Path Valley in 2015. In 2019, he was 16th.
Steve Buckwalter (Royersford, Pa.) remains the most recent Pennsylvanian to win a USAC National Midget feature, which he did in 2010 at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway. He was 20th in 2015. Buckwalter’s teammate, Kevin Woody Jr. (Victor, N.Y.) took 17th in 2019. Adam Pierson (East Corinth, Vt.), a three-time USAC DMA Midget champion where he’s won 33 career races, is entered for his first Eastern Midget Week run in a couple of years.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-1,035, 2-Tyler Courtney-928, 3-Buddy Kofoid-919, 4-Tanner Thorson-906, 5-Cannon McIntosh-809, 6-Tanner Carrick-713, 7-Daison Pursley-677, 8-Cole Bodine-629, 9-Andrew Layser-598, 10-Justin Grant-489.
PAST USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK NATIONAL MIDGET WINNERS AT PATH VALLEY SPEEDWAY PARK: 2015: Rico Abreu, 2017: Chad Boat, 2019: Chad Boat
2020 EASTERN MIDGET WEEK SCHEDULE:
Tuesday, August 4: Grandview Speedway (Bechtelsville, PA)
Wednesday, August 5: Action Track USA (Kutztown, PA)
Thursday, August 6: Bridgeport Speedway (Bridgeport, NJ)
Friday, August 7: Path Valley Speedway Park (Spring Run, PA)
Saturday, August 8: Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway (Newmanstown, PA)
Sunday, August 9: Selinsgrove Speedway (Selinsgrove, PA) **SILVER CROWN**