By Richie Murray
Lawrenceburg, Indiana (September 30, 2020)………There’s no more satisfying moment at the conclusion of a racing season than climbing from the car for the final time to celebrate a championship with your family, your crew and the fans.
Akin to a walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth, perhaps the only thing finer is climbing from that racecar as both a feature winner and a champion. It’s racing’s way of allowing one to have their cake and eat it too.
That opportunity awaits three individuals this coming Saturday night, October 3, at Indiana’s Lawrenceburg Speedway for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season finale – the $10,000-to-win Fall Nationals.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) leads the championship by 30 points over Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) and by 40 over Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.). The moment very well could happen as all three drivers have won races at the 3/8-mile dirt oval once before in their careers. Two of the three have also previously won USAC National Sprint Car championships: Bacon in 2014 & 2016 and Windom in 2017.
Winning a USAC Sprint championship and the final feature race of the season isn’t all that commonplace. As a matter of fact, it’s only happened nine times over the past 64 seasons. Eddie Sachs clinched the Midwest series title in the final round at Salem (Ind.) Speedway in 1958. Tommy Hinnershitz did so on the dirt at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway in 1959. In 1960, Parnelli Jones snagged the Midwest title in conjunction with an A-Main triumph in the not-so-Midwestern locale of Meyer Speedway in Houston, Texas.
Pancho Carter notched his first USAC Sprint Car crown with a win in the season finale at Salem in 1974. Sheldon Kinser is the only driver to win and take the championship on the same day on two different occasions, first in 1977 at Ascot Park in Gardena, Calif. and again in 1982 at 311 Speedway in Madison, N.C.
Steve Butler captured his third consecutive USAC National Sprint Car championship in style with a win on the final day at Rossburg, Ohio’s Eldora Speedway in 1988. Josh Wise won his first title with a victory to boot at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz. in 2006. Levi Jones, the series’ only five-time champ, won his unprecedented fifth championship with a final race victory at Kings Speedway in Hanford, Calif. in 2011.
In comparison, it’s happened 16 times in that same time span in IndyCar/CART/Championship Car competition by 10 different drivers: Jimmy Bryan (1957), A.J. Foyt (1960 & 1975), Mario Andretti (1966 & 1969), Johnny Rutherford (1980 – aborted USAC season), Michael Andretti (1991), Sam Hornish Jr. (2001 & 2002), Sebastien Bourdais (2004, 2006 & 2007 Champ Car), Dario Franchitti (2007 IndyCar & 2009), Scott Dixon (2015) and Simon Pagenaud (2016).
In NASCAR’s Cup Series, 13 times has the champion won the final race, which has been accomplished by 12 different drivers. In recent years, with its winner-take-all format at the final race, it’s a foregone conclusion that it will now be an annual occurrence. Tim Flock (1955), Buck Baker (1956 & 1957), Ned Jarrett (1965), Richard Petty (1971), Jeff Gordon (1998), Tony Stewart (2011), Kevin Harvick (2014), Kyle Busch (2015), Jimmie Johnson (2016), Martin Truex Jr. (2017), Joey Logano (2018) and Kyle Busch (2019) are among those who’ve collected both in a single day’s work.
This Saturday’s 64th points race by the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship at Indiana’s Lawrenceburg Speedway brings to us the 11th running of the Fall Nationals under USAC sanction on Saturday night, October 3.
Pits open for Saturday’s Fall Nationals at 3pm Eastern, front gates open at 5pm, drivers meeting at 5:30pm, hot laps begin at 6pm and opening ceremonies at 7pm. The event features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and KOI Auto Parts UMP Modifieds. Adult general admission tickets are $25, kids 7-12 are $7, children 6 and under are free. Pit passes are $35 apiece.
Saturday’s Fall Nationals from Lawrenceburg can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
USAC SPRINT CAR CHAMPS WHO WON THE FINAL RACE OF THE SEASON:
1958 (Midwest) Eddie Sachs – Salem Speedway / Salem, IN
1959: (Eastern) Tommy Hinnershitz – Williams Grove Speedway / Mechanicsburg, PA
1960: (Midwest) Parnelli Jones – Meyer Speedway / Houston, TX
1974: Pancho Carter – Salem Speedway / Salem, IN
1977: Sheldon Kinser – Ascot Park / Gardena, CA
1982: Sheldon Kinser – 311 Speedway / Madison, NC
1988: Steve Butler – Eldora Speedway / Rossburg, OH
2006: Josh Wise – Manzanita Speedway / Phoenix, AZ
2011: Levi Jones – Kings Speedway / Hanford, CA