By Richie Murray
San Tan Valley, Arizona (November 9, 2021)………Amid a career year in 2021, Kevin Thomas Jr.’s nine USAC AMSOIL Sprint National Championship feature victories have him on the brink of one of the most historical seasons in series history.
On just 10 past occasions, among eight drivers, the double-digit mark has been reached in terms of single season wins. With one more score in one of the final two races of the year at the 54th annual Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford this weekend at Arizona Speedway, KTJ can join that elite crew.
The Cullman, Alabama native’s ninth win last Saturday night in his KT Motorsports No. 9K at California’s Perris Auto Speedway put him right on the cusp of an achievement which only a select few have previously encountered.
Tom Bigelow set the all-time record in 1977 with a blistering season consisting of 14 USAC National Sprint Car feature wins in Sherman Armstrong’s No. 43. In fact, the year of 1977 produced the only such season in which multiple drivers had 10 wins or more. Pancho Carter hit exactly 10 that same year. Here’s the kicker, though. Neither driver won the title. That honor belonged to seven-time feature winner Sheldon Kinser.
J.J. Yeley’s near unbeatable USAC Triple Crown season of 2003 included 13 wins in the Sprint division alone for Tony Stewart Racing in its first year of USAC operation, a number matched by Robert Ballou in his title season of 2015, which was the most successful championship drive by a driver/owner in series history.
Two championship drivers – Larry Dickson and Pancho Carter – raced to 12 scores in 1968 and 1976, respectively. Dickson’s 1968 campaign included half of those in succession when he tallied a USAC National Sprint Car record six-straight in the early part of the season for car owner Ray Smith before finishing out strong with Steve Stapp.
Stapp and Carter subsequently teamed up in the following decade of the 1970s, putting their best season together in 1976 with a dozen wins and a second series crown.
Dickson and Carter are also the lone two to reach 10 or more USAC Sprint wins in a season on two separate occasions. Dickson did it again in his second championship season of 1970, reaching exactly 10, for Kenny Lay’s team. Carter, meanwhile, did the feat in consecutive years, winning 10 more for Stapp in 1977.
Bubby Jones force of a year in 1979 led all drivers with 11 triumphs, but still wasn’t enough to overcome Greg Leffler in the final championship standings. Ol’ Bub finished second in the points in what was a banner season for he and car owner Don Siebert. Shortly thereafter, Bubby promptly packed up and headed to the west coast to become a California Racing Association superstar at the dawn of the 1980s.
Tyler Courtney’s dominant 2018 season made him a first-time USAC National driving champion as he collected a grand total of 11 Sprint wins in what was also the first USAC Sprint Car season for the new Clauson Marshall Newman Racing operation.
Nearly two decades before, Jay Drake got off the starting blocks at a torrid pace and continued his roll through mid-summer in the Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 67, taking 10 victories. A lack of a pavement ride until halfway through the year thwarted a grand opportunity for a championship, which he’d ultimately earn in 2004.
On top of that fact, Thomas also remains in the title chase, cutting rival Brady Bacon’s lead to 52 markers entering Western World this Friday and Saturday night, November 12-13, at the 1/3-mile dirt oval in San Tan Valley, Arizona.
On Friday, pits open at 1:30pm Mountain time, grandstands at 3pm, drivers meeting at 4:30pm and cars on track at 5:10pm. On Saturday, pits open at 1:30pm Mountain time, grandstands at 3pm, autograph session from 4-4:35pm drivers meeting at 4:45pm and cars on track at 5:10pm.
General admission adult tickets are $30, while kids 11 and under are just $10. Pit passes are $40 for adults and $15 for ages 7-12 and free for ages 6 and under. Western World tickets are on sale now at www.arizonaspeedway.net.
An open practice for sprint cars and midgets will take place on Thursday night, November 11 from 6:30-9:30pm Mountain. Pits open at Noon with a racer and pit crew appreciation BBQ in the pit area featuring free food and drinks set for 5-6pm.
Both nights of the Western World Championship racing can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.
MOST WINS IN A SINGLE USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR SEASON:
14 WINS: Tom Bigelow (1977)
13 WINS: J.J. Yeley (2003) & Robert Ballou (2015)
12 WINS: Larry Dickson (1968) & Pancho Carter (1976)
11 WINS: Bubby Jones (1979) & Tyler Courtney (2018)
10 WINS: Larry Dickson (1970), Pancho Carter (1977) & Jay Drake (2000)
2021 USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT CAR STAT LEADERS
Most Wins: 9-Kevin Thomas Jr.
Driver Point Leader: Brady Bacon
Owner Point Leader: Dynamics, Inc. #69
Top Rookie in Points: Tanner Thorson
Most Laps Led: 222-Justin Grant
Most Top-Fives: 34-Brady Bacon
Most Top-Tens: 39-Brady Bacon
Most Fast Qualifying Times: 6-Brady Bacon & Kevin Thomas Jr.
Most Heat Race Wins: 15-Robert Ballou
Most Feature Starts: 41-Brady Bacon, Justin Grant, C.J. Leary, Jake Swanson, Kevin Thomas Jr., Tanner Thorson & Chris Windom
Biggest Charge of the Year: 4/25: Path Valley Speedway Park – Alex Bright (18th to 4th) | 6/20: Bloomsburg Fair Speedway – C.J. Leary (21st to 7th) | 7/31: Tri-State Speedway – Brady Bacon (22nd to 8th)
2021 USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVER POINT STANDINGS (TOP-10)
POS. PTS. DRIVER, HOMETOWN
1 2799 Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow, Okla.
2 2747 Kevin Thomas Jr., Cullman, Ala.
3 2640 Justin Grant, Ione, Calif.
4 2517 (R) Tanner Thorson, Minden, Nev.
5 2499 C.J. Leary, Greenfield, Ind.
6 2421 Chris Windom, Canton, Ill.
7 2336 Jake Swanson, Anaheim, Calif.
8 1987 Robert Ballou, Rocklin, Calif.
9 1709 Chase Stockon, Fort Branch, Ind.
10 1475 Logan Seavey, Sutter, Calif.
(R) represents a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Rookie
2021 USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP OWNER POINT STANDINGS (TOP-10)
POS. PTS. ENTRANT, TEAM LOCATION
1 2799 Dynamics, Inc., Milford, Ohio (#69)
2 2747 KT Motorsports, Whitestown, Ind. (#9K)
3 2640 TOPP Motorsports, Rochester, Ind. (#4)
4 2517 Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports, Gilbert, Ariz. (#19AZ)
5 2499 Michael Motorsports, Chino Valley, Ariz. (#77m)
6 2421 Hayward Motorsports, Morrison, Ill. (#19)
7 2336 Team AZ Racing, Danville, Ind. (#21AZ)
8 2020 Ballou Motorsports, Tipton, Ind. (#12)
9 1709 KO Motorsports, Owensville, Ind. (#5s)
10 1611 Baldwin-Fox Racing, West Lafayette, Ind. (#5)
2021 USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ROOKIE DRIVER POINT STANDINGS (TOP-10)
POS. PTS. DRIVER, HOMETOWN
1 2517 Tanner Thorson, Minden, Nev.
2 859 Paul Nienhiser, Chapin, Ill.
3 660 Cole Bodine, Rossville, Ind.
4 455 Steven Drevicki, Reading, Pa.
5 436 Briggs Danner, Allentown, Pa.
6 336 Sterling Cling, Tempe, Ariz.
7 228 Carson Garrett, Littleton, Colo.
8 228 Ricky Lewis, Ventura, Calif.
9 162 Ryan Thomas, Indianapolis, Ind.
10 155 Harley Burns, Brazil, Ind.