By Richie Murray
Paragon, Indiana (June 1, 2021)………Entering last year’s Indiana Midget Week, it had been 35 years since we had last seen USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing at Paragon (Ind.) Speedway.
The generation-plus absence had provided us with a myriad of questions: How good a show will the midgets put on? With no previous midget experience at the track to stand on, who will be the frontrunners?
A year later, we now know that everything about it was a resounding success. What we witnessed in 2020 at the 3/8-mile dirt oval was something that lingered in our minds this past year, something that we can’t wait to feast our eyes on again in the 2021 Indiana Midget Week opener this Thursday, June 3, launching the 17th edition of the mini-series, which boasts its largest schedule ever with eight races in a 10-night span starting at Paragon.
Kyle Larson (Elk Grove, Calif.), who is not expected to compete in this year’s Indiana Midget Week, won Paragon’s opening round of IMW with a late-race pass of Tanner Thorson four laps from the finish to claim the victory. He also broke Mel Kenyon’s 35-year-old track record by more than a second-and-a-half with a 14.813 sec. lap.
Thorson (Minden, Nev.) led a race-high 16 laps last year at Paragon before, ultimately, finishing 2nd behind Larson. The 2016 series champion owns four career Indiana Midget Week wins and is fourth in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget points entering the event.
Second in the series standings is reigning USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget champ Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.), a two-time Indiana Midget Week feature victor, who blitzed from 12th to 4th in last year’s Paragon A-Main after winning the semi-feature earlier in the evening.
Justin Grant, the third ranking driver in series points coming in, took 5th in the 2020 Paragon feature event after starting 7th. The defending USAC Silver Crown champ and one-time IMW feature winner won his heat race earlier that same night.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) was the biggest charger of them all at Paragon a year ago, driving to the victory in the C-Main, then went 15th to 4th in the semi and 22nd to 8th in the feature, picking up the ProSource Hard Work and KSE Racing Products Hard Charger honors all in one fell swoop. The 2019 Indiana Midget Week champ, and one-time IMW winner, was also the 2018 USAC National Midget titlist and is 10th in the series standings at the moment.
Current USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget point leader Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) is eying his first career Indiana Midget Week victory after finishing 9th in the 2020 Paragon IMW opener.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) is a one-time IMW opener in his own right. He finished 10th in his Paragon IMW run in 2020 after winning his heat race that same night.
Other feature starters from last year at Paragon looking to return to the lineup and contend for a win include San Jose, California’s Thomas Meseraull (11th), New Berlin, Illinois’ Jake Neuman (15th), Locust Grove, Oklahoma’s Daison Pursley (16th), Rossville, Indiana’s Cole Bodine (17th), Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon (18th) and Bixby, Oklahoma’s Cannon McIntosh (24th). Pursley finished 3rd with the USAC Regional Midgets at Paragon in August of 2020.
Looking for better fortune this time around after missing the feature lineup last year at Paragon are current top-25 points runners Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.), Ethan Mitchell (Mooresville, N.C.), Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.), Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) and Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.). Cummins finished 2nd with the USAC Regional Midgets at Paragon in August of 2020 with Bryson 4th and Reinbold 5th finishing just behind.
Top-20 points drivers hopeful to make their first Paragon IMW appearance a success are Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), who led all 20 laps en route to victory in an August 2020 appearance with the USAC Regional Midgets. Axsom also picked up his first USAC National Midget win at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway in April of this year.
He’s joined by top-ranking series Rookie Bryant Wiedeman (Colby, Kan.), plus fellow Rookies of the Year contenders Chase Randall (Waco, Texas), Brenham Crouch (Lubbock, Texas) and Brian Carber (Pipersville, Pa.). Crouch does have a bit of previous experience at Paragon, finishing 11th in the USAC Regional Midget feature held in 2020.
Thursday’s Indiana Midget Week round at Paragon features the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship along with the Paragon Sprint Cars.
Save $5 with purchase of advance tickets at www.TracPass.com. Tickets and pit passes will also be sold at the gate. Adult general admission tickets at the gate are $30 with ages 10 and under free. Pit passes are $35 for adults with ages 10 and under $15.
Pits open at 4pm EDT with grandstands opening at 5pm, drivers meeting at 5:30 and hot laps at 6pm.
Every Indiana Midget Week event will be streamed LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3dgONXz.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Buddy Kofoid-436, 2-Chris Windom-416, 3-Justin Grant-410, 4-Tanner Thorson-409, 5-Thomas Meseraull-392, 6-Emerson Axsom-378, 7-Daison Pursley-315, 8-Cannon McIntosh-312, 9-Jason McDougal-304, 10-Logan Seavey-296.
INDIANA MIDGET WEEK WINS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY:
INDIANA MIDGET WEEK WINNERS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY:
2020: Kyle Larson (6/16)
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY:
1-John Andretti, Mel Kenyon, Kyle Larson & Johnny Parsons
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINNERS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY:
1977: Johnny Parsons (8/13)
1978: Mel Kenyon (9/8)
1985: John Andretti (6/19)
2020: Kyle Larson (6/16)
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL MIDGETS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY:
1 Lap – 6/16/2020 – Kyle Larson – 14.813 – 91.136 mph
8 Laps – 8/13/1977 – Wes Stafford – 2:21.83 – 76.148 mph
10 Laps – 6/19/1985 – Andy Hurtubise – 2:53.15 – 77.967 mph
PAST INDIANA MIDGET WEEK FEATURE RESULTS AT PARAGON SPEEDWAY:
2020 IMW FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Kyle Larson (6), 2. Tanner Thorson (2), 3. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (3), 4. Chris Windom (12), 5. Justin Grant (7), 6. Tanner Carrick (4), 7. Tyler Courtney (9), 8. Logan Seavey (22), 9. Buddy Kofoid (5), 10. Kevin Thomas Jr. (8), 11. Thomas Meseraull (21), 12. Rico Abreu (11), 13. Zach Daum (19), 14. Shane Golobic (15), 15. Jake Neuman (14), 16. Daison Pursley (20), 17. Cole Bodine (24), 18. Brady Bacon (13), 19. Noah Gass (17), 20. Gio Scelzi (1), 21. Andrew Layser (23), 22. Chase Johnson (16), 23. Steve Buckwalter (18), 24. Cannon McIntosh (10). NT
INDIANA MIDGET WEEK CHAMPIONS: (2005-2020)
2005: Shane Cottle
2006: Shane Cottle
2007: Jerry Coons Jr.
2008: Tracy Hines
2009: Bryan Clauson
2010: Tracy Hines & Brad Kuhn
2011: Bryan Clauson
2012: Darren Hagen
2013: Christopher Bell
2014: Rico Abreu
2015: Rico Abreu
2016: Bryan Clauson
2017: Shane Golobic
2018: Spencer Bayston
2019: Logan Seavey
2020: Kyle Larson
ALL-TIME INDIANA MIDGET WEEK WINS: (2005-2020)
9-Bryan Clauson & Kyle Larson
4-Rico Abreu & Tanner Thorson
3-Spencer Bayston, Shane Cottle, Tyler Courtney, Darren Hagen, Brad Kuhn, Michael Pickens
2-Jerry Coons Jr., Davey Ray, Brad Sweet & Chris Windom
1-Brady Bacon, Chad Boat, Steve Buckwalter, Dave Darland, Zach Daum, Jay Drake, Justin Grant, Tracy Hines, Levi Jones, Johnny Rodriguez, Logan Seavey, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Kevin Swindell & Kevin Thomas Jr.