By Richie Murray
Sweet Springs, Missouri (September 1, 2020)………Most times, it seems the only thing predictable in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing is unpredictability. And sometimes when you think you know what’s about to transpire, that’s when everything turns on its head. At times, literally.
After the last two years of wild finishes at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex, the series returns this Friday and Saturday night, September 4-5, for a doubleheader weekend at the 1/6-mile dirt oval featuring a 30-lap feature on Friday and a 40-lap finale on Saturday.
Lincoln, California’s Tanner Carrick found out all about that turn of unpredictability in last year’s trip to Sweet Springs where he became one of five first-time USAC National Midget winners during the 2019 season, the most in more than a decade.
Carrick actually ran in the 5th position with just three laps remaining as race leader Tyler Courtney snagged the turn three cushion, flipping him over. On Courtney’s rebound, second-running Logan Seavey clipped his own right front wheel against Courtney’s tail tank before stopping, eliminating both from victory.
That slotted Carrick into third on the final restart with three to go. While Chris Windom and Jason McDougal were duking it out for the lead, Carrick rolled the bottom to pull ahead to the lead by the time they hit turn three. Carrick slid up in front of Windom to the top, while Windom charged to the bottom as Carrick nipped Windom at the stripe by three-quarters of a car length before going on to his first career victory in his 54th series start.
Interestingly, Carrick is the only driver expected for this weekend’s Sweet Springs who has finished inside the top-ten in both of his previous starts with the series at the 1/6-mile dirt oval. The 2019 USAC National Most Improved Driver also finished 8th in 2018.
It brings to mind of who could be the next, like Carrick, to earn his first career USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget victory. The series has not seen a first-time winner thus far this year, but there are a few individuals who very well could be contenders in changing that.
Leading series Rookie Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) has done everything but win in his initial campaign in 2020. He’s finished as the runner-up four times in 17 starts and resides 3rd in the series standings coming in. Just last week at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway, Kofoid earned three top-five finishes in his first three career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car appearances.
Seventh in the standings and also seeking a first USAC victory is Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.), the 2017 USAC Micro Sprint champion. Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.), 5th in the standings, is a one-time winner with the series in 2019, although that victory came indoors; his first outdoor victory awaits.
Kofoid, Pursley, McIntosh and 3rd place Caney Valley finisher Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) are all on the Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian team, which has gone two-for-two in USAC Midget competition at Sweet Springs with Seavey winning for the team in 2018 and Carrick in 2019.
Andrew Layser (Collegeville, Pa.) is 9th in the standings. He led his first two career laps with the series at the start of the 2019 Sweet Springs feature before finishing 10th. Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.) had a career-best finish of 2nd at Sweet Springs in 2018, leading his first career laps, a race-high 28 in fact, before finishing 2nd. Bodine also took a heat win and an 11th in 2019.
USAC Midwest Regional Midget point leader Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) has been impressive in limited appearances too, finishing a career-best 2nd in July at Jefferson County Speedway in Fairbury, Neb. while also finishing 5th at Caney (Kans.) Valley Speedway the following night.
Trey Gropp (Lincoln, Neb.) went 22nd to 6th at that same Caney Valley race in July and enters Sweet Springs for the first time with USAC this weekend.
Series point leader Chris Windom is on the cusp of finishing out the third leg of the USAC Triple Crown, leading the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget points entering Sweet Springs. He finished 3rd in 2019 and also holds the one-lap series’ track record of 11.951 at the track.
The rapidly closing Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) trails Windom in the standings by just 31 points. Courtney earned the series championship one year ago and has won four of the last five races with the series in Nebraska, Kansas and Pennsylvania twice. He was 5th at Sweet Springs in 2018 and 12th in 2019 after leading a race-high 35 of 40 laps before flipping on the turn three cushion with just three laps to go.
Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) is fourth in the standings after earning four wins this season with the series. The 2016 USAC National Midget champion started 6th in the 2019 feature at Sweet Springs but was involved in an opening lap stack-up in turn three that sent Thorson flipping, knocking him out of the race with a 23rd place finish.
USAC Silver Crown point leader Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) finished 9th in his lone Sweet Springs appearance in 2018. He won once earlier this year in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition with a May 23 victory at Port City Raceway in Tulsa, Okla. on a similarly sized bullring with a race that was 40 laps in length, just as this Saturday’s race at Sweet Springs will be.
The RMS Racing team will bring both Clinton Boyles (Greenwood, Mo.) and Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) to Sweet Springs this weekend. Boyles finished 19th in his lone appearance there in 2019 while Meseraull makes his debut at the track. Both have finished inside the top-five with the series in 2020 with Boyles 4th at Kokomo and Meseraull 3rd at Lawrenceburg, both during Indiana Midget Week.
Sam Johnson (St. Peters, Mo.) has started both Sweet Springs features, finishing 12th in 2018 and 21st in 2019. Ethan Mitchell (Mooresville, N.C.) took 20th in 2019.
This weekend marks the 40th and 41st events held by the USAC National Midgets in the state of Missouri. Mike McGreevy, Henry Pens and Bob Wente own the most victories of all with three apiece. Of this weekend’s expected Sweet Springs entries, only Carrick has previously earned a USAC National Midget victory in the Show Me state.
Pits open each night at 3pm ET with grandstands opening at 4pm, the drivers meeting set for 6pm and hot laps at 6:30pm. Tickets are $20 for adults with pit passes $35 apiece. Two-night tickets are now on sale at www.usactickets.com. Order early and you’ll receive a free USAC Midget T-shirt. Outlaw Micros are also on the event card both nights.
You can watch both nights of USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing from Sweet Springs, Mo. live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-1,119, 2-Tyler Courtney-1,088, 3-Buddy Kofoid-1,056, 4-Tanner Thorson-1,047, 5-Cannon McIntosh-944, 6-Tanner Carrick-838, 7-Daison Pursley-783, 8-Cole Bodine-725, 9-Andrew Layser-663, 10-Justin Grant-619.
MISSOURI USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINNERS:
3-Mike McGreevy, Henry Pens & Bob Wente
2-Danny Frye, Arnie Knepper, Steve Knepper, Bob Tattersall & Rich Vogler
1-Steve Cannon, Tanner Carrick, Bill Chennault, Jerry Coons Jr., Tommy Copp, Jimmy Davies, Jay Drake, Rex Easton, A.J. Foyt, Steve Gennetten, Jason Leffler, Jerry McClung, Andy Michner, J.R. Miller, Richard Powell, Stevie Reeves, Logan Seavey, Dave Strickland, Joe Walter & Terry Wente
PAST SWEET SPRINGS USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINNERS:
2018: Logan Seavey (7/15)
2019: Tanner Carrick (7/14)
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET TRACK RECORDS AT SWEET SPRINGS:
1 Lap: 7/14/2019 – Chris Windom – 11.951 – 50.205 mph
12 Laps: 7/15/2018 – Brady Bacon – 2:05.78 – 47.702 mph