By Richie Murray
Wayne City, Illinois (October 5, 2021)………Seven years. Seven races. Seven different winners.
That’s the kind of unpredictability USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget racing annually brings to the 1/8-mile bullring of Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Illinois.
Since the dawn of the Jason Leffler Memorial in 2013, a new winner has emerged on each and every occasion, and with just one past winner of the event expected to compete in this Friday night’s USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship on October 8, the trend may very well continue.
But not if Tanner Thorson has anything to say about it.
The Minden, Nevada drivers leads all competitors with seven series victories this season and enters as the defending Leffler Memorial winner.
In October of 2020, Thorson hunted down race-long leader Chris Windom with 11 laps remaining to capture the victory, a win that was quite meaningful as he and the race’s namesake share a camaraderie with both being past USAC National Midget champions.
The $5,000-to-win event honors the life and memory of Leffler, the four-time USAC National driving champion (1997-98-99 Midget & 1998 Silver Crown) who lost his life in a sprint car accident at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway in June of 2013.
“This is one of the races I’ve wanted to win for a long time. I’ve never really been in the right situation, but now we did it.,” said Thorson, the 2016 USAC National Midget champion. “I never knew Jason on a personal level, but I know a bunch of people who were really good friends with him and always talked about how good of a guy he was and that he was definitely a badass in the racecar. There’s no two ways about that. I wish he was here to throw some sliders and race with us. This is an awesome event to win.”
The 40-lap main event will pay feature points only to all USAC nationally licensed participating drivers and teams, and at this juncture, with every point being pivotal, Windom leads the series standings by just two over Buddy Kofoid entering Wayne City.
Windom (Canton, Ill.) led the first 29 laps of the 2020 Leffler Memorial before finishing second. The defending series champion also finished 6th at Wayne City in 2019 and paced the opening portion of the 2016 Leffler Memorial where he led the first seven laps, ultimately taking home a 4th place result.
Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) took a career-best 3rd in the event last season at Wayne City after previously finishing 10th at the Leffler Memorial in both 2015 and 2018.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif) has recorded top-five results in two of the past three editions of the Leffler Memorial. Grant finished 5th in 2019 after notching a best of 4th in 2018 and was 10th in 2020. Grant was a feature starter in the inaugural Leffler Memorial in 2013.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) finished inside the top-ten in the 2018 and 2019 Leffler Memorial. Seavey finished 9th during his USAC National Midget championship season of 2018 and bested that with a 4th in 2019.
Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.) started on the pole and was in contention for the lead throughout much of the 2020 Leffler Memorial before a fence bang dropped him back to 4th in the final running order.
Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) is one of several in the field eying a second career Leffler Memorial start, finishing 7th in the 2020 main while also setting a new 10-lap track record of 1:51.378 during a 10-lap heat race.
As freshmen last year, these now sophomores earned top-ten finishes in the 2020 event, including two-time 2021 winner Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.), leading series Rookie Chase Randall (Waco, Texas) and another two-time series winner in Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.), 5th, 8th and 9th finishers, respectively.
Four-time 2021 USAC National Midget feature winner Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) was 17th in 2020 while Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.) took 18th and Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.) 20th.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) will make his return to the Leffler Memorial this Friday night after making his only previous start in the event two years ago in 2019, finishing 16th.
Meanwhile, series regulars Ethan Mitchell (Mooresville, N.C.), Brenham Crouch (Lubbock, Texas) and Bryant Wiedeman (Colby, Kan.) are among those attempting to make their first Leffler Memorial feature start on Friday.
Friday’s 8th running of the Jason Leffler Memorial at Wayne County Speedway in southern Illinois features the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship, Hyper Non-Wing Outlaws, A-Class Non-Wing Non-Wing, Restrictors and Junior Sprints. Pits open at 3:30pm Central, grandstands at 5pm, drivers meeting at 5:30pm and hot laps at 6:30pm. Tickets are $25 for general admission and free for ages 12 and under. Pit passes are $35 while kids age 10 and under are $20.
It’s all part of a doubleheader weekend for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship. The following night, on Saturday, October 9, at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., Harvest Cup will feature the series along with MSCS Sprint Cars and MMSA Mini Sprints.
Both of this weekend’s USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship events can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Chris Windom-1931, 2-Buddy Kofoid-1929, 3-Emerson Axsom-1801, 4-Daison Pursley-1767, 5-Tanner Thorson-1760, 6-Justin Grant-1726, 7-Logan Seavey-1665, 8-Thomas Meseraull-1549, 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1523, 10-Cannon McIntosh-1375.
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL MIDGETS AT WAYNE COUNTY (IL) SPEEDWAY:
10 Laps – 10/9/2020 – Kyle Cummins – 1:51.378
12 Laps – 10/21/2016 – Ryan Robinson – 2:19.19
JASON LEFFLER MEMORIAL WINNERS:
2013: Zach Daum (8/28)
2014: Daryn Pittman (8/26)
2015: Bryan Clauson (10/23)
2016: Brady Bacon (10/20)
2018: Tyler Thomas (10/21)
2019: Tyler Courtney (10/17)
2020: Tanner Thorson (10/9)
JASON LEFFLER MEMORIAL WINS:
1-Brady Bacon, Bryan Clauson, Tyler Courtney, Zach Daum, Daryn Pittman, Tanner Thorson & Tyler Thomas
PAST JASON LEFFLER MEMORIAL RESULTS:
(2013-14 sanctioned by POWRi & 2015-present sanctioned by USAC)
2013 FEATURE: 1. Zach Daum, 2. Shane Cottle, 3. Dave Darland, 4. Shane Cockrum, 5. Bryan Clauson, 6. Chett Gehrke, 7. Dereck King, 8, Andrew Felker, 9. Hud Cone, 10. Daniel Robinson, 11. Bobby East, 12. Parker Price-Miller, 13. Tyler Robbins, 14. Justin Grant, 15. Jake Blackhurst, 16. Austin Brown, 17. Christopher Bell, 18. Darren Hagen, 19. Tim Siner, 20. Colten Cottle, 21. Tyler Robbins, 22. Seth Motsinger.
2014 FEATURE: 1. Daryn Pittman, 2. Christopher Bell. 3. Bryan Clauson, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Zach Daum, 6. Spencer Bayston, 7. Andrew Felker, 8. Darren Hagen, 9. Rico Abreu, 10. Tanner Thorson, 11. Chris Windom, 12. Tyler Thomas, 13. Dave Darland, 14. Daniel Robinson, 15. Garrett Aitken, 16. Nick Knepper, 17. Shane Cockrum, 18. Colten Cottle, 19. Chett Gehrke, 20. Austin Brown, 21. Brady Bacon, 22. Parker Price-Miller, 23. Seth Motsinger.
2015 FEATURE: 1. Bryan Clauson, 2. Rico Abreu, 3. Zach Daum, 4. Daryn Pittman, 5. Payton Pierce, 6. Brady Bacon, 7. Jonathan Beason, 8. Danny Stratton, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Kevin Thomas Jr., 11. Andrew Felker, 12. Tracy Hines, 13. Kyle Schuett, 14. Anton Hernandez, 15. Ryan Robinson, 16. Tanner Thorson, 17. Isaac Chapple, 18. C.J. Leary, 19. Dereck King, 20. Tyler Thomas, 21. Darren Hagen, 22. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 23. Austin Brown, 24. Spencer Bayston, 25. Justin Peck, 26. Tyler Courtney.
2016 FEATURE: 1. Brady Bacon, 2. Tanner Thorson, 3. Carson Macedo, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Andrew Felker, 6. Alex Bright, 7. Chett Gehrke, 8. Spencer Bayston, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Jerry Coons Jr., 11. Shane Cottle, 12. Justin Peck, 13. Grady Chandler, 14. Jonathan Beason, 15. Chad Boat, 16. Riley Kreisel, 17. Ryan Robinson, 18. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 19. Andy Malpocker, 20. Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 21. Jake Neuman, 22. Brayton Lynch, 23. Damion Gardner, 24. Colten Cottle, 25. Holly Shelton, 26. Jason McDougal, 27. Rico Abreu, 28. Gage Walker. NT
2017 FEATURE: Rained Out
2018 FEATURE: (starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Thomas (2), 2. Chad Boat (4), 3. Tyler Courtney (3), 4. Justin Grant (16), 5. Jonathan Beason (18), 6. Christopher Bell (7), 7. Spencer Bayston (8), 8. Zeb Wise (12), 9. Logan Seavey (9), 10. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (17), 11. Ryan Robinson (21), 12. Cole Bodine (11), 13. Sam Johnson (23), 14. Alex Bright (14), 15. Jerry Coons, Jr. (10), 16. Brady Bacon (6), 17. Tanner Carrick (15), 18. Dave Darland (13), 19. Jake Neuman (5), 20. Holly Shelton (20), 21. Tucker Klaasmeyer (22), 22. Jason McDougal (1), 23. Zach Daum (19).
2019 FEATURE: (starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (3), 2. Tyler Thomas (1), 3. Jason McDougal (2), 4. Logan Seavey (19), 5. Justin Grant (6), 6. Chris Windom (10), 7. Brady Bacon (16), 8. Daryn Pittman (15), 9. Sam Johnson (13), 10. Tucker Klaasmeyer (18), 11. Jesse Colwell (4), 12. Russ Gamester (21), 13. Gio Scelzi (11), 14. Daniel Robinson (8), 15. Zeb Wise (17), 16. Thomas Meseraull (12), 17. Tanner Carrick (7), 18. Jake Neuman (14), 19. Cannon McIntosh (22), 20. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (5), 21. Andrew Layser (20), 22. Holley Hollan (23), 23. Jerry Coons, Jr. (9).
2020 FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tanner Thorson (6), 2. Chris Windom (2), 3. Kevin Thomas Jr. (4), 4. Cannon McIntosh (1), 5. Daison Pursley (3), 6. Tyler Courtney (10), 7. Kyle Cummins (11), 8. Chase Randall (5), 9. Emerson Axsom (7), 10. Justin Grant (9), 11. Jerry Coons Jr. (15), 12. Cole Bodine (20), 13. Cody Brewer (18), 14. Robert Dalby (19), 15. Tyler Thomas (14), 16. Chase Johnson (12), 17. Buddy Kofoid (17), 18. Kaylee Bryson (22), 19. Sam Johnson (21), 20. Hayden Reinbold (23*), 21. Brady Bacon (13), 22. Logan Seavey (8), 23. Jason McDougal (16). NT