By Richie Murray
Merced, California (November 18, 2020)………Merced Speedway will be the home of both firsts and lasts this weekend, Friday and Saturday, November 20-21.
First things first, for the first time ever, the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship will make the trek to the ¼-mile dirt oval. Lastly, the two events will mark the final two races of the 2020 season for the series.
The event will pay 50 appearance points across the board each night to all USAC National Midget licensed drivers and teams competing in the events.
Three expected entrants for the Merced event, Kyle Larson, Logan Seavey and Tanner Thorson, have all previously won USAC National Midget races in the Golden State of California. Larson (Elk Grove, Calif.) has won at Ventura twice, plus, Perris, Placerville and Bakersfield for a total of five wins, most among all active drivers. Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) was victorious at Bakersfield in 2018 and Thorson (Minden, Nev.) at Perris in 2015.
While USAC National Midgets have not previously competed at Merced, USAC Western States Midgets have raced there on two occasions, both in 2019. Austin Liggett (Tracy, Calif.), the 2018 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion, won there in April while Robert Dalby (Anaheim, Calif.), the 2019 USAC Western States Midget titlist, captured victory in July.
Maria Cofer (Macdoel, Calif.), meanwhile, scored a BCRA Midget triumph at Merced in 2018 and led both USAC Western States Midget features in 2019 for a total of 24 laps.
This weekend’s expectants entrant list includes several others with midget experience at Merced. Frankie Guerrini (San Rafael, Calif.) was the runner-up with BCRA in April of 2017 while 2018 USAC Western States Midget champ Michael Faccinto (Hanford, Calif.) took 5th in the same show. Jesse Love (Menlo Park, Calif.) finished 6th at Merced in April of 2018.
In 2019 USAC Western States Midget action, 2017 Indiana Midget Week champ Shane Golobic earned a 2nd place result in April. In that event, Mitchel Moles (Raisin, Calif.) was 3rd and Ben Worth (Coalinga, Calif.) 5th. In July of last year, David Prickett (Fresno, Calif.), the 2012 USAC Western States Midget Dirt champion, finished 4th.
Also in the star-flooded field are the past four USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget driving champions: 2016-Thorson, 2017-Spencer Bayston (Lebanon, Ind.), 2018-Seavey and 2019-Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.), plus series point leader Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.), who has National championship experience with Silver Crown in 2016 and AMSOIL National Sprint Cars in 2017 and leads the Midget standings by a single marker over Courtney.
While Windom hasn’t officially clinched the title, with the two remaining nights of racing offering appearance points only, regardless of performance in the events, it all but ensures Windom’s series crown.
Larson, Thorson, Seavey and Golobic are among the 11 USAC National Midget feature winners in the lineup alongside 2020 series winners Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) who won Tuesday’s race at Bakersfield, Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.), Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) and Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.), plus two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Olive Branch, Miss.), 2019 USAC National Most Improved Driver Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.) and Zeb Wise (Angola, Ind.).
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car Rookie of the Year from 2019, Carson Macedo (Lemoore, Calif.), will compete at Merced with the aim of winning his first USAC National feature of his career. Macedo reigned supreme in a Western States Midget feature at Hanford, Calif. in October. Cofer and Guerrini each won Western States mains at Petaluma, Calif. in October. The weekend’s two Merced events are also non-points, special event races for the Western States series.
Along with Macedo, Merced will also be greeted by first-time USAC National Midget win seekers and have been mainstays on the national tour in 2020, Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.), Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.), Andrew Layser (Collegeville, Pa.), Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.), Ethan Mitchell (Mooresville, N.C.), Chase Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.), Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) and Clinton Boyles (Greenwood, Mo.).
Mix in 2014 Chili Bowl prelim winner Jonathan Beason (Broken Arrow, Okla.), multi-time USAC Western Classic Sprint champ Ryan Bernal (Hollister, Calif.), 2019 NARC King of the West titlist D.J. Netto (Hanford, Calif.), Dillon Welch (Carmel, Ind.), Ryan Robinson (Foresthill, Calif.) and Rookies Bryant Weideman (Colby, Kans.) and Brenham Crouch (Lubbock, Texas) as well as USAC veterans Kevin Woody Jr. (Victor, N.Y.), Randi Pankratz (Atascadero, Calif.), Lance Bennett (Parker, Colo.), Colby Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.), Colby Copeland (Roseville, Calif.) and first-time entrants, Chance Crum (Snohomish, Wash.), Ashlyn Rodriguez (Wilton, Calif.), 2016 USAC Western Restricted HPD Midget champion Blake Brannon (San Jose, Calif.) and Brody Fuson (Bakersfield, Calif.).
319 previous USAC National Midget event have been held in California. Billy Cantrell, Parnelli Jones and Billy Vukovich lead all drivers with 15 series wins in the state.
The grandstands are closed to all spectators for the events on each night at Merced. On Friday, the USAC NOS Energy Drink National & USAC Western States Midgets will also have the Hoosier Tire Winged 360 Sprint Cars presented by www.onefasttee.com.
Saturday at Merced, BCRA Midget Lites & Hobby Stocks will join the USAC Midgets. Both nights at Merced, pits open at 1pm with the drivers meeting at 4:30pm and cars on track at 5pm.
Each Merced race this weekend will be streamed live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2Zs7zFP.
PROJECTED MERCED DRIVER ENTRIES:
07w MITCHEL MOLES/Raisin, CA
1x KEVIN WOODY JR./Victor, NY
4 ROBERT DALBY/Anaheim, CA
5 JUSTIN GRANT/Ione, CA
5G BEN WORTH/Coalinga, CA
7BC TYLER COURTNEY/Indianapolis, IN
7J MICHAEL FACCINTO/Hanford, CA
7x THOMAS MESERAULL/San Jose, CA
8 RANDI PANKRATZ/Atascadero, CA
9 DAISON PURSLEY/Locust Grove, OK
10 LANCE BENNETT/Aurora, CO
10B BLAZE BENNETT/Parker, CO
15 EMERSON AXSOM/Franklin, IN
15DJ DAVID PRICKETT/Fresno, CA
17JR RICKY STENHOUSE JR./Olive Branch, MS
17w SHANE GOLOBIC/Fremont, CA
19A LOGAN SEAVEY/Sutter, CA
19AZ HAYDEN REINBOLD/Gilbert, AZ
19m ETHAN MITCHELL/Mooresville, NC
19S SPENCER BAYSTON/Lebanon, IN
21 CARSON MACEDO/Lemoore, CA
25c CHASE JOHNSON/Penngrove, CA
25m TANNER THORSON/Minden, NV
27 COLBY JOHNSON/Penngrove, CA
27w COLBY COPELAND/Roseville, CA
31B JONATHAN BEASON/Broken Arrow, OK
31K KYLE BEILMAN/Snohomish, WA
37m ASHLYN RODRIGUEZ/Wilton, CA
39BC COLE BODINE/Rossville, IN
39JR CHANCE CRUM/Snohomish, WA
40 BLAKE BRANNON/San Jose, CA
51 BRODY FUSON/Bakersfield, CA
57 MARIA COFER/Macdoel, CA
63 FRANKIE GUERRINI/San Rafael, CA
67 BUDDY KOFOID/Penngrove, CA
67K BRYANT WEIDEMAN/Colby, KS
71 KAYLEE BRYSON/Muskogee, OK
71K CANNON McINTOSH/Bixby, OK
71R RYAN ROBINSON/Foresthill, CA
71w KYLE LARSON/Elk Grove, CA
81x DILLON WELCH/Carmel, IN
82 ANDREW LAYSER/Collegeville, PA
83 AUSTIN LIGGETT/Tracy, CA
88N D.J. NETTO/Hanford, CA
89 CHRIS WINDOM/Canton, IL
97 BRENHAM CROUCH/Lubbock, TX
97K JESSE LOVE/Menlo Park, CA
97w RYAN BERNAL/Hollister, CA
98 CLINTON BOYLES/Greenwood, MO
98K TANNER CARRICK/Lincoln, CA
ZEB WISE/Angola, IN
ALL-TIME USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS IN CALIFORNIA: (1956-2020)
15-Billy Cantrell, Parnelli Jones & Billy Vukovich
8-Jimmy Davies, Mel Kenyon & Ron Shuman
7-Hank Butcher & Don Horvath
6-George Benson, Stan Fox, Mike McGreevy & Sleepy Tripp
5-George Amick, Billy Boat, Jimmy Caruthers, Burt Foland, Kyle Larson & Bobby Olivero
4-Gary Bettenhausen, Johnny Boyd, Chuck Gurney, Danny McKnight, George Snider & Shorty Templeman
3-Christopher Bell, Dave Darland, Jay Drake, Bobby East, Billy Engelhart, Page Jones, Davey Moses, Lowell Sachs, Johnnie Tolan & Rich Vogler
2-Johnny Baldwin, Bryan Clauson, Terry Farrar, Billy Garrett, Joe Garson, Jeff Heywood, Tracy Hines, Bob Hogle, P.J. Jones, Jason Leffler, Michael Lewis, Earl Motter, Kevin Olson, Larry Rice, Tony Simon, Cliff Spalding, Dave Steele, Dave Strickland, Dave Strickland Jr. & J.J. Yeley
1-Mike Appio, Caleb Armstrong, Dick Atkins, Brady Bacon, Paul Bates, Tony Bettenhausen, Bud Clemons, Johnny Cofer, Roy Cook Jr., Tommy Copp, Kevin Doty, Edgar Elder, Robby Flock, Joe Gaerte, Rick Goudy, Darren Hagen, Jordan Hermansader, Dean Holden, Rick Hood, Chuck Hulse, Buddy Irwin, Bubby Jones, Brent Kaeding, Buddy Kofoid, Jerry McClung, Roger McCluskey, Don Meacham, Andy Michner, Warren Mockler, Russ Moynagh, Danny Oakes, Jan Opperman, Wally Pankratz, Johnnie Parsons, Johnny Parsons, Gary Patterson, Larry Patton, Henry Pens, Gary Ponzini, Porky Rachwitz, Keith Rauch, Bobby Santos, Gio Scelzi, Logan Seavey, Frank Secrist, Tom Sellberg, Sam Sessions, Jimmy Sills, Ned Spath, Tony Stewart, Bob Tattersall, Tanner Thorson, Bobby Unser, Bob Veith, Bruce Walkup, Rodger Ward, Billy Wease, Bob Wente & Tommy White