By Richie Murray
Odessa, Missouri (May 11, 2022)………It’s been more than a quarter century since USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship racing has hit the high banks of Odessa, Missouri’s I-70 Motorsports Park.
But this Saturday night, May 14, the two fixtures pair up for the first time since 1996, and this occasion once again provides a new challenge for the competition in the $6,000-to-win and $600-to-start main event.
The racing night is co-sanctioned by the Wholesale Batteries Midwest Wingless Racing Association that’ll compete in conjunction with the national series. The USAC national portion will pay full points toward the championship while the MWRA event is considered a non-points special event.
None of this weekend’s expected field of entrants have competed under the USAC banner at I-70, which had been shuttered and overrun by mother nature from its 2008 closure until its grand reopening in 2021.
Despite only hosting USAC National Sprint Car events on six occasions over the past half-century, this is, in fact, the third different iteration of I-70 Motorsports Park the series will compete on. In 1970, 1978, 1990, 1995 and 1996, the track was in a half-mile pavement configuration. In 1982, the half-mile surface was covered by dirt.
All six of those events had victories claimed by National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductees, evidence that it takes extra special attributes to conquer this place: Gary Bettenhausen (1970), Sheldon Kinser (1978), Jeff Swindell (1982), Steve Butler (1990), Tony Stewart (1995) and Eric Gordon (1996).
This weekend will feature a new first-time USAC National Sprint Car winner at I-70, which now measures as a 3/8-mile dirt oval, but retains its high banks, high stakes and high precision.
Among the leading contenders to accomplish the feat are USAC National Sprint Car championship regulars who’ve already tamed victory lane early in this 2022 season. Among them are top Rookie, two-time winner and championship point leader Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.).
Second in the standings is Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) who captured the most recent series event in the state of Missouri during 2020 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely and is a one-time winner this season in USAC National Sprint Car competition.
Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.), third in points, looks to slide back into victory lane for the first time since 2020 this weekend. Four-time series champ Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) enters as the most recent series winner at Ohio’s Atomic Speedway in mid-April and sits fifth in points.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) has won with the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship in Missouri during his championship season of 2018 at Sweet Spring Motorsports Complex and resides sixth in the current sprint car standings.
Seventh in points, Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.), likewise, has USAC winning experience in Missouri, taking the National Sprint Car stop at I-55 in 2018.
Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.), eighth in the series standings, scored a Missouri USAC National Sprint Car feature win at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley a decade ago in 2012.
Ballou, the 2015 champ, will be one of three USAC National Sprint Car titlists in Saturday’s lineup along with Bacon (2014-16-20-21) and C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), the 2019 series king, who was sixth in his last Missouri run in 2020 at Pevely and holds the 10th position in the current standings coming in.
Winning experience at I-70 comes from the USAC MWRA contingent. Wyatt Burks (Topeka, Kan.), the 2020 MWRA champ, scored a victory with the POWRi WAR Sprint Car series at the track in 2021 and finished 6th the night before. The opener of the 2021 race weekend was notched by Wesley Smith (Billings, Mo.) who traded places with Burks by running 6th on night two.
They’ll both be in the field as they vie for their respective first career USAC National Sprint Car wins. The I-70 experienced also includes Zach Clark (Olathe, Kan.), 11th and 15th in 2021; plus J.D. Black (Grain Valley, Mo.), 14th and 16th with WAR in 2021.
The majority of the field is rowing in the same boat with Saturday marking their initial I-70 experiences. That includes USAC National Sprint Car feature winners such as 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion and 2021 USAC National Most Improved Driver Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) as well as Carson Short (Marion, Ill.) and Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio), all single-time series winners thus far.
Series regulars and first-time USAC National Sprint Car winning hopefuls in Saturday’s field will sport the likes of 2020 Rookie of the Year Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.), 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver Brandon Mattox (Terre Haute, Ind.) along with current USAC West Coast Sprint Car point leader Ricky Lewis (Oxnard, Calif.) and series Rookie Alex Banales (Lafayette, Ind.).
The USAC MWRA series provides a healthy contingent of Kansas and Missouri natives looking to hold down the fort in their backyard. That’s a group that sees 2014 WAR Sprint Car champion Chris Parkinson (Gladstone, Mo.), Chad Tye (Independence, Mo.), Dakota Earls (Independence, Mo.) and one-time MWRA feature winner Xavier Doney (Odessa, Mo.).
Veteran sprint car and midget racer Chad Frewaldt Kansas City, Kan. is in that sector as well and will race a car owned by fellow MWRA competitor Kyle Lewis for this weekend’s USAC swing. Five-time USAC National Sprint Car feature starter Mitchell Davis (Auburn, Ill.) will be in the hunt as well. They’re joined by competitors on the brink of their first career USAC National Sprint Car appearance and their first career series start, a list that includes Mark Lane (Grain Valley, Mo.), Justin Johnson (Platte City, Mo.), Chase Howard (Olive Branch, Miss.) and A.J. Gilbert (Tonganoxie, Kan.).
Saturday’s event features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship along with Show Me Vintage Racing.
Gates open at 5pm Central with the drivers meeting at 5:30pm and cars on track at 6pm followed immediately by qualifying and racing.
Advance tickets are now on sale at: https://tickets.thefoat.com/I70MotorsportsPark/USAC+Sprints+%26+Show+Me+Vintage/tickets/event-239597/. Adult general admission tickets are $25.
Saturday’s event at I-70 Motorsports Park can be watched live and on-demand on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3KZSqAP.
It’s all part of a mega three-race weekend for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in Kansas and Missouri. Thursday starts the weekend on May 12 at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kan. for the first time in five years; followed by the return of the series to Osborn, Missouri’s U.S. 36 Raceway after a decade absence on Friday night, May 13; and the first run at Odessa, Missouri’s I-70 Motorsports Park’s dirt track in 40 years on Saturday night, May 14.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-281, 2-Justin Grant-278, 3-Chase Stockon-261, 4-Kyle Cummins-238, 5-Brady Bacon-230, 6-Logan Seavey-224, 7-Jason McDougal-216, 8-Robert Ballou-204, 9-Buddy Kofoid-200, 10-C.J. Leary-188.
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT I-70 MOTORSPORTS PARK:
None established yet on the 3/8-mile dirt oval – first race on this configuration.
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS AT I-70 MOTORSPORTS PARK:
1-Gary Bettenhausen, Steve Butler, Eric Gordon, Sheldon Kinser, Tony Stewart & Jeff Swindell
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS AT I-70 MOTORSPORTS PARK:
1970: Gary Bettenhausen (6/5)
1978: Sheldon Kinser (7/9)
1982: Jeff Swindell (6/6)
1990: Steve Butler (9/16)
1995: Tony Stewart (9/16)
1996: Eric Gordon (4/13)
PAST USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR FEATURE RESULTS AT I-70 MOTORSPORTS PARK:
1970 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Gary Bettenhausen, 2. Todd Gibson, 3. Rollie Beale, 4. Larry Dickson, 5. Jerry Poland, 6. Don Nordhorn, 7. Al Smith, 8. Dick Sutcliffe, 9. Sammy Sessions, 10. Johnny Parsons, 11. Cy Fairchild, 12. Jon Backlund, 13. Karl Busson, 14. Gordy Lee, 15. Greg Weld. NT
1978 FEATURE: (40 laps) 1. Sheldon Kinser, 2. Billy Cassella, 3. Ron Shuman, 4. Bob Frey, 5. Roy Hicks, 6. Tom Bigelow, 7. Chuck Gurney, 8. Larry Rice, 9. Greg Leffler, 10. Mark Alderson, 11. Rich Leavell, 12. Gary Gray, 13. Dave Peperak, 14. Roger Rager, 15. Billy Engelhart, 16. Bubby Jones, 17. Dana Carter, 18. Gary Bettenhausen, 19. Rich Vogler, 20. Bob East. NT
1982 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Jeff Swindell, 2. Danny Milburn, 3. Duke Cook, 4. Steve Long, 5. Bill Robison, 6. Jim Moughan, 7. Mike Thomas, 8. Buddy Wallen, 9. Dave Peperak, 10. Gay Rolofson, 11. Manny Rockhold, 12. Johnny Coogan, 13. Sheldon Kinser, 14. Rich Vogler, 15. Jerry Walkingstick, 16. T.J. Giddings, 17. Joe Saldana, 18. Jack Hewitt. NT
1990 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Steve Butler, 2. Eric Gordon, 3. Bob Cicconi, 4. Rick Howerton, 5. Jim Keeker, 6. Greg Staab, 7. Jeff Bloom, 8. Jim Mahoney, 9. Mike Zimmerman, 10. Charlie Workman, 11. Greg Wheeler, 12. Mike Vandermaas, 13. Tim Champlin, 14. Johnny Parsons, 15. Mark Alderson, 16. Don Schilling, 17. Donnie Adams. NT
1995 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Tony Stewart, 2. Chet Fillip, 3. Kenny Irwin, Jr., 4. Robby Flock, 5. Andy Michner, 6. Doug Kalitta, 7. Eric Gordon, 8. Jason McCord, 9. Brian Tyler, 10. Tray House, 11. Steve Barth, 12. Greg Staab, 13. Tim Cox, 14. Dave Throckmorton, 15. Mike Blake, 16. Jesse Plummer, 17. Mark Cassella, 18. Brett Pool, 19. Ed Kenens, 20. Rick Baker. 8:07.56
1996 FEATURE: (30 laps) 1. Eric Gordon, 2. Brian Tyler, 3. Dave Steele, 4. Doug Kalitta, 5. Tim Cox, 6. Gary Fedewa, 7. Tray House, 8. Mark Cassella, 9. Brian Hayden, 10. Gus Wasson, 11. Greg Staab, 12. Tony Elliott, 13. Billy Puterbaugh, Jr., 14. Doug Saunier, 15. Andy Michner, 16. Chet Fillip, 17. Brad Armstrong, 18. Jason McCord, 19. Jerry Hepworth, 20. Dave Throckmorton. NT