By Richie Murray
San Tan Valley, Arizona (November 11, 2021)………There’s nothing quite like an Arizona sunset, with its iridescent pink, orange and purple hues igniting the southwestern sky.
There’s also nothing quite like the moment the sun begins to fade into the horizon, and the horn is sounded for USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship racing to commence under the Arizona sky.
That’s the setting this Friday and Saturday night, November 12-13, as the sun sets at the end of the trail for both the National and USAC CRA Sprint Car seasons with the final two races of the year taking place at San Tan Valley’s Arizona Speedway for the 54th annual Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford.
Brady Bacon and Kevin Thomas Jr. remain in a dog fight for the USAC National Sprint Car title with just 52 points of separation between the two and Bacon seeking his fourth title while Thomas has sights set on his first.
Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) has been unflappable throughout the campaign, entering the weekend on a streak of 17-straight top-tens and eight top-fives in his last nine series starts. Bacon owns six Western World feature wins: ASCS Wingless Sprint Car wins in 2009 and 2010, then captured USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Car final night wins in 2016 and 2018, a prelim 360 score in 2017 and a USAC National Midget victory in 2019.
However, a USAC National Sprint Car win at the 1/3-mile dirt oval remains absent from Bacon’s resume. But he’s been oh-so-close, finishing 2nd in the 2017 opener, 3rd in both the 2016 opener and the final night in 2019 and 4th on the opening night in 2016.
Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) is fresh off a major score in last Saturday’s Oval Nationals at California’s Perris Auto Speedway. At Arizona, he’s a USAC National Midget winner during Western World, which came in the 2019 opener. With the USAC National Sprint Cars there, Thomas finished a best of 2nd in 2019 on the final night and was 5th in the 2018 opener.
No driver has been as consistent of a frontrunner at Arizona in USAC National Sprint Car competition than 2017 series champion Chris Windom. The Canton, Ill. native swept to victories on both nights in 2016. He’s also been 4th on four different occasions, in the 2017 opener, on both nights in 2017, and in the 2019 finale. He also corralled the Western World 360 Sprint Car feature in 2017 and collected the first night in 2016 for a total of four Western World wins.
Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) hit Western World paydirt for the first time with the USAC National Sprint Cars at Arizona in 2018. He reached the promised land yet again for the second time, first under sole USAC CRA sanctioning, in the 2020 opener. The 2020 Silver Crown champ also posted a 2nd at Western World in 2019’s curtain riser.
Damion Gardner (Concord, Calif.) is on the cusp of an eighth consecutive (ninth overall) USAC CRA Sprint Car title, possessing a 56-point edge over Brody Roa. Gardner has won with USAC CRA on two occasions at Arizona, first in 2018, and as recently October 2 of this year. The spoils of a Western World victory have eluded him thus far after a pair of runner-up results on both nights of 2016, plus a 3rd in the 2018 lid-lifter.
Roa (Garden Grove, Calif.) stamped his legacy on Western World lore, garnering a 2015 final night triumph with the USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Cars when the event was held at USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz. At Arizona, the 2019 Southwest champ has posted solid results in the latter half of the top-ten each year with a 9th in 2016, 6th in 2017, 7th in 2018 and 10th in 2019.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) owns a USAC Southwest Sprint Car score at Arizona Speedway, which he gained during the 2019 campaign with the 360 c.i. series. The Arizona Speedway one-lap USAC National Midget track record holder took a career-best 5th with the USAC National Sprints in 2018, a 9th in 2019 and a 10th in 2018.
Top USAC National Sprint Car Rookie Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) has a USAC National Midget win under his belt at Arizona Speedway, capturing the opener of the 2020 event. This weekend, however, will mark the 2016 USAC National Midget champ’s Sprint Car debut at the track.
For Arizona car owner Bill Michael, one of his lifelong dreams is to win at Western World. He has a substantial shot at it this weekend with 2019 USAC National Sprint Car champ C.J. Leary at the controls. The Greenfield, Ind. native has been in the hunt at Western World in recent years, finishing 3rd in 2018 and 5th in 2019.
Arizona Speedway’s winningest USAC Southwest Sprint Car driver is R.J. Johnson who’s far and away the leader in that category with 19 career tallies. The Laveen, Arizonian put up a pair of Western World prelim Sprint Car wins with the 360s in both 2009 and 2013. His most successful run with the USAC National Sprint Cars at Arizona came in 2017 with a 9th in the opener and a career-best 3rd in the closer. R.J.’s father, Ricky Johnson, collected a non-wing 360 sprint car win in the 1995 Western World.
Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) broke through for his first career USAC National Sprint Car win last Thursday night at Perris. At Arizona, he broke through with a 30-lap Western World prelim victory in USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Car action in 2018. Earlier that same season, he added a USAC CRA win at Arizona. The 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champ can count two top-ten runs with the USAC National Sprints at Arizona, an 8th in 2019 and a 10th in 2016.
Charles Davis Jr. (Buckeye, Ariz.) has quite a hefty notebook of success stories at Arizona Speedway with eight USAC Southwest 360 Sprint Car wins to his credit. His, at the time, best career USAC National Sprint finish came via a 4th in 2019 at Western World, which was ultimately eclipsed by his 3rd place result at South Dakota’s Huset’s this past September.
Arizona’s own Tye Mihocko (Phoenix, Ariz.) picked himself up a USAC Southwest 360 Sprint win at Arizona during the 2018 season. His lone USAC National Sprint Car feature start at the venue resulted in a 20th place showing during the first night of the 2018 event.
Returning to the Western World lineup this weekend are 2021 USAC CRA winners Austin Williams, Cody Williams and Max Adams. Austin (Yorba Linda, Calif.) took 9th in the 2019 program while brother Cody (Norco, Calif.) recorded an 18th in 2018. The third Williams brother, Logan (Yorba Linda, Calif.), was the 22nd place combatant in both 2017 and 2018. Adams (Loomis, Calif.), meanwhile, was 15th in 2019.
Tommy Malcolm (Corona, Calif.) brought the thunder for a 9th place finish in 2019, while Chris Gansen (Verdemont Heights, Calif.) was 16th in 2019 and Eddie Tafoya Jr. (Chino Hills, Calif.) penned a 20th in 2019.
Chase Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.) led the first 13 laps of October’s USAC CRA feature at Arizona before a mechanical issue sent him careening into the turn one wall. He looks to make his first USAC National Sprint Car start at Arizona after finishing 9th in the midget there in 2020. Johnson will pilot a car owned by Jack Yeley, a 1988 Western World winner in the Mighty Midget of Arizona portion of the program.
Fellow first-time USAC National Sprint Car starting hopefuls at Arizona Speedway this weekend include USAC Silver Crown, National Sprint Car and National Midget winner Shane Cottle (Kansas, Ill.), plus Arizona’s Sterling Cling (Tempe, Ariz.), Dennis Gile (Phoenix, Ariz.).
Also hailing from the Grand Canyon State are USAC Southwest Sprint Car and USAC Silver Crown veteran Brent Yarnal (Phoenix, Ariz.) and the Calderwood siblings from Goodyear, Ariz., Logan and Tuesday, who are the grandchildren of Dave Calderwood, a winning USAC Silver Crown, National Sprint and National Midget car owner during the 1990s.
Three-plus decade veteran and past California Racing Association feature winner Verne Sweeney (Lomita, Calif.) is on the road to Arizona following a 10th place USAC CRA finish in October while Sprint Car Rookie Alex Banales (West Lafayette, Ind.), seeks his first ever appearance at the track.
Forty-one previous USAC National Sprint Car events have been held in the state of Arizona. Bryan Clauson is the all-time leader in that category with five. Bob Cleberg was victorious in the inaugural Western World Championships held in 1968 at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz.
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.
On practice night, adult pit passes are $30, kids 7-12 pit passes are $15 and kids 6 and under pit passes are $15.
Both nights of racing at the Western World Championships can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/3frPoW6.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-2799, 2-Kevin Thomas Jr.-2747, 3-Justin Grant-2640, 4-Tanner Thorson-2517, 5-C.J. Leary-2499, 6-Chris Windom-2421, 7-Jake Swanson-2336, 8-Robert Ballou-1987, 9-Chase Stockon-1709, 10-Logan Seavey-1475.
ARIZONA SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS:
1-Justin Grant, Thomas Meseraull & Chase Stockon
ARIZONA SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS:
2016: Chris Windom (11/4) & Chris Windom (11/5)
2017: Thomas Meseraull (11/3) & Chase Stockon (11/4)
2018: Justin Grant (11/2) & Tyler Courtney (11/3)
2019: Tyler Courtney (11/15) & Tyler Courtney (11/16)
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS IN THE STATE OF ARIZONA:
3-Jerry Coons Jr. & Tyler Courtney
2-Dave Darland, Bud Kaeding, Chase Stockon, Kevin Swindell, Chris Windom & Josh Wise
1-Mario Andretti, Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Don Branson, Bob East, Chet Fillip, A.J. Foyt, Damion Gardner, Justin Grant, Darren Hagen, Tracy Hines, Rick Hood, Levi Jones, Mike Martin, Lealand McSpadden, Thomas Meseraull, Andy Michner & Brian Tyler
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT ARIZONA SPEEDWAY:
1 Lap – 11/5/2016 – Chad Boespflug – 14.625 – 82.051 mph
8 Laps – 11/5/2016 – Ryan Bernal – 2:05.61 – 76.427 mph
12 Laps – 11/4/2017 – Robert Ballou – 3:13.65 – 74.361 mph
PAST WESTERN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS FINAL NIGHT WINNERS:
1968: Bob Cleberg (Non-Wing Sprint)
1969: Bob Huebner (Non-Wing Sprint)
1970: Jerry McClung (Non-Wing Sprint)
1971: Jan Opperman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1972: Jan Opperman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1973: Earl Wagner (Non-Wing Sprint)
1974: Rick Ferkel (Non-Wing Sprint)
1975: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1976: Bubby Jones (Non-Wing Sprint)
1977: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1978: Lealand McSpadden (Non-Wing Sprint)
1979: Tim Green (Non-Wing Sprint)
1980: Jeff Swindell (Non-Wing Sprint)
1981: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1982: Steve Kinser (Non-Wing Sprint)
1983: Steve Kinser (Non-Wing Sprint)
1984: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1985: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint) & Lealand McSpadden (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1986: Bobby Davis Jr. (Winged Sprint) & Ron Shuman (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1987: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint) & Lealand McSpadden (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1988: Mark Kinser (Winged Sprint) & Jack Yeley (Mighty Midgets of Arizona)
1989: Sammy Swindell (Winged Sprint) & Gary Faucett (Midget)
1990: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint)
1991: Danny Lasoski (Winged Sprint), Wayne Bennet (Non-Winged 360 Sprint) & Ron Shuman (Arizona Midget Racing Association)
1992: Steve Kinser (Winged Sprint), Bob Ream Jr. (Non-Winged 360 Sprint) & Bob Broseman (Midget)
1993: Lealand McSpadden (Non-Wing Sprint)
1994: Ron Shuman (Non-Wing Sprint)
1995: Lealand McSpadden (SCRA Sprint), Ricky Johnson (Non-Wing 360 Sprint) & Josh Pelkey (Midget)
1996: Steve Kinser (World of Outlaws Sprint)
1997: Mark Kinser (World of Outlaws Sprint)
1998: Tyler Walker (World of Outlaws Sprint)
1999: Donny Schatz (World of Outlaws Sprint)
2000: Jay Drake (SCRA Sprint)
2001: Jeremy Sherman (SCRA Sprint)
2002: Bud Kaeding (SCRA Sprint) & Jeremy Sherman (360 Sprint)
2003: Tony Elliott (SCRA Sprint) & Jeremy Sherman (360 Sprint)
2004: Bud Kaeding (USAC Sprint) & Josh Ford (360 Sprint)
2005: Dave Darland (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)
2006: Josh Wise (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)
2007: Jerry Coons Jr. (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)
2008: Kevin Swindell (USAC Sprint) & Jesse Hockett (360 Sprint)
2009: Brady Bacon (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Sammy Swindell (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2010: Brady Bacon (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Donny Schatz (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2011: Tracy Hines (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Donny Schatz (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2012: Bryan Clauson (ASCS Non-Wing Sprint) & Wayne Johnson (ASCS Winged Sprint)
2013: Bryan Clauson (USAC Southwest Sprint & USAC Midget)
2014: Matt Rossi (USAC Southwest Sprint) & Darren Hagen (USAC Midget)
2015: Bryan Clauson (USAC Sprint) & Brody Roa (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2016: Chris Windom (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2017: Chase Stockon (USAC Sprint) & Chris Windom (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2018: Tyler Courtney (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Southwest Sprint)
2019: Tyler Courtney (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Midget)
2020: Tyler Courtney (USAC CRA Sprint) & Buddy Kofoid (USAC Midget)
PAST USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR FEATURE RESULTS AT ARIZONA SPEEDWAY:
2016 NIGHT #1 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Thomas Meseraull, 4. Brady Bacon, 5. Jerry Coons, Jr., 6. Ronnie Gardner, 7. Chad Boespflug, 8. Chase Stockon, 9. Brody Roa, 10. Jake Swanson, 11. Richard Vander Weerd, 12. Austin Williams, 13. Jon Stanbrough, 14. Ryan Bernal, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Carson Macedo, 17. Mike Spencer, 18. Isaac Chapple, 19. Aaron Farney, 20. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 21. Max Adams, 22. Cody Williams, 23. Chris Gansen, 24. Jeremy Ellertson, 25. Dave Darland, 26. Stevie Sussex. NT
2016 NIGHT #2 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chris Windom, 2. Damion Gardner, 3. Brady Bacon, 4. Dave Darland, 5. Chase Stockon, 6. Richard Vander Weerd, 7. Jerry Coons, Jr., 8. Ryan Bernal, 9. Carson Macedo, 10. Josh Hodges, 11. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 12. Chad Boespflug, 13. Jon Stanbrough, 14. C.J. Leary, 15. R.J. Johnson, 16. Brody Roa, 17. Thomas Meseraull, 18. Jake Swanson, 19. Max Adams, 20. Mike Spencer, 21. Matt Rossi, 22. Mike Martin, 23. Cody Williams, 24. Austin Williams. NT
2017 NIGHT #1 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Thomas Meseraull, 2. Brady Bacon, 3, Robert Ballou, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Kevin Thomas Jr., 7. Damion Gardner, 8. Chase Stockon, 9. R.J. Johnson, 10. Stevie Sussex, 11. Chad Boespflug, 12. Brody Roa, 13. Josh Hodges, 14. Mike Spencer , 15. Dave Darland, 16. Charles Davis Jr., 17. Jake Swanson, 18. Austin Williams, 19. Justin Grant, 20. Chris Gansen, 21. C.J. Leary, 22. Chet Williams, 23. Isaac Chapple, 24. Landon Cling. NT
2017 NIGHT #2 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Chase Stockon, 2. Thomas Meseraull, 3. R.J. Johnson, 4. Robert Ballou, 5. Tyler Courtney, 6. Brody Roa, 7. Chad Boespflug, 8. Justin Grant, 9. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 10. Chris Windom, 11. Damion Gardner, 12. Josh Hodges, 13. Brady Bacon, 14. Dave Darland, 15. Stevie Sussex, 16. Jake Swanson, 17. Charles Davis, Jr., 18. Danny Faria, Jr., 19. Mike Spencer, 20. Austin Williams, 21. Isaac Chapple, 22. Logan Williams, 23. Chris Gansen, 24. Cody Williams. NT
2018 NIGHT #1 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Justin Grant, 2. Tyler Courtney, 3. Damion Gardner, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Kevin Thomas Jr., 6. C.J. Leary, 7. Brody Roa, 8. Brady Bacon, 9. Dave Darland, 10. Logan Seavey, 11. R.J. Johnson, 12. Chase Stockon, 13. Thomas Meseraull, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. Matt Rossi, 16. Austin Williams, 17. Josh Hodges, 18. Cody Williams, 19. Danny Faria Jr., 20. Tye Mihocko, 21. Ryan Bernal, 22. Joel Rayborne, 23. Logan Williams, 24. Jason McDougal. NT
2018 NIGHT #2 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tyler Courtney, 2. Dave Darland, 3. C.J. Leary, 4. Chris Windom, 5. Logan Seavey, 6. Justin Grant, 7. Damion Gardner, 8. Kevin Thomas Jr., 9. Chase Stockon, 10. Thomas Meseraull, 11. Ryan Bernal, 12. Jake Swanson, 13. Brody Roa, 14. Isaac Chapple, 15. Brady Bacon, 16. Josh Hodges, 17. R.J. Johnson, 18. Danny Sheridan, 19. Matt Rossi, 20, Austin Williams, 21. Stevie Sussex, 22. Logan Williams, 23. Joel Rayborne, 24. Cody Williams. NT
2019 NIGHT #1 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (5), 2. Justin Grant (4), 3. Jason McDougal (9), 4. Charles Davis, Jr. (16), 5. Stevie Sussex (24), 6. C.J. Leary (11), 7. Josh Hodges (13), 8. Chase Stockon (3), 9. Austin Williams (2), 10. Tommy Malcolm (23), 11. Jake Swanson (10), 12. Thomas Meseraull (18), 13. Damion Gardner (14), 14. R.J. Johnson (15), 15. Max Adams (21), 16. Chris Gansen (19), 17. Brady Bacon (12), 18. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (8), 19. Brody Roa (20), 20. Chris Windom (1), 21. Hunter Schuerenberg (7), 22. Kyle Shipley (22), 23. Dustin Clark (17), 24. Logan Seavey (6). NT
2019 NIGHT #2 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (5), 2. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 3. Brady Bacon (2), 4. Chris Windom (10), 5. C.J. Leary (6), 6. Damion Gardner (4), 7. Josh Hodges (1), 8. Jake Swanson (8), 9. Logan Seavey (9), 10. Brody Roa (22), 11. Stevie Sussex (23), 12. R.J. Johnson (18), 13. Austin Williams (20), 14. Chase Stockon (13), 15. Thomas Meseraull (21), 16. Eric Wilkins (11), 17. Dustin Clark (17), 18. Chris Gansen (14), 19. Chris Bonneau (19), 20. Eddie Tafoya, Jr. (15), 21. Justin Grant (7), 22. Jason McDougal (16), 23. Charles Davis, Jr. (24), 24. Hunter Schuerenberg (12). NT