By Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (February 10, 2023)………For some, the “offseason” is a time to reflect on the previous year while simultaneously looking forward to improving upon last year’s performance.
For others, the “offseason” might entail wholesale changes with a new team, a new crew, a new number and new colors.
Here’s a list of the drivers and teams who fall into each column as the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship enters year 68 in Florida, starting at Barberville’s Volusia Speedway Park for two non-points special events on February 13-14 followed by three-straight evenings of full-points racing at Ocala’s Bubba Raceway Park on February 16-17-18.
THE NEW RIDERS:
C.J. LEARY | BGE DOUGHERTY MOTORSPORTS: C.J. Leary has joined forces with BGE/Dougherty Motorsports to compete for a second career USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in 2023.
Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), the 2019 USAC National Sprint Car champion, will partner with the team after competing for Arizona’s Michael Motorsports for the past two seasons, a team which has pared back its participation for 2023.
BGE/Dougherty found much success on the USAC tour in late summer of the 2022 USAC season, scoring three series wins during an August/September stretch with driver Kevin Thomas Jr.
KEVIN THOMAS JR. | MICHAEL DUTCHER MOTORSPORTS: The band is back together, so to speak, for Kevin Thomas Jr. and Michael Dutcher Motorsports as they both pursue a first USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in 2023.
Hailing from Cullman, Alabama, KTJ will wheel the #17GP with which he earned eight USAC National Sprint Car feature victories between the years of 2013 and 2015.
The team actually rejoined forces near the end of the 2022 season with Thomas leading 27 laps en route to a runner-up finish during a November Oval Nationals prelim at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway.
LOGAN SEAVEY | 2B RACING: Championship driver Logan Seavey and championship entrant 2B Racing / Benic Enterprises will compete as one on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship circuit in 2023.
Seavey, the 2018 USAC National Midget driving titlist, has partnered with Benic, the 2005 USAC National Sprint Car entrant champ, to contest the series this coming season in the No. 2B. Seavey possesses eight career USAC National Sprint Car feature wins while the 2B Racing team ranks 14th in all-time series feature victories with 31 scores.
When a new driver and car owner pairing combine to work together for the initial time, there are a fair share of unknowns. However, also in the mix on this year’s team include crewmen Derek Claxton and Matt Meeks, both of whom worked alongside Seavey at Baldwin-Fox Racing during their 2021 tear through Indiana Sprint Week, which saw them win three-in-a-row.
JADON ROGERS | BALDWIN-FOX RACING: Jadon Rogers ascended to the rank of first-time USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship feature winner during the 2022 season. Now, in 2023, the Worthington, Ind. native and 2020 series Rookie of the Year becomes a hired gun as the wheelman of the Baldwin-Fox Racing No. 5.
The 20-year-old Rogers put together his best USAC season yet in 2022, amassing 36 feature starts and a single win during September’s Haubstadt Hustler at Tri-State Speedway to go along with three top-fives and 16 top-tens en route to a ninth place finish in the standings, all career highs.
It’s a ride that Rogers has competed against on the regular and has even driven on occasion in recent seasons, debuting with Baldwin-Fox at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway during a local weekly show in April of 2021. After competing full-time for the Engler Family during the past year, the opportunity to race for the Baldwin-Fox team is one that Rogers relishes and is eager to succeed in this year.
DAISON PURSLEY | KO MOTORSPORTS: Daison Pursley will compete on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship tour full-time as he and KO Motorsports will take on the full series schedule in 2023.
The Locust Grove, Okla. driver has just four career sprint car appearances without a wing in his career, three of which have come in USAC events. Pursley has made his name over the past few seasons on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship trail for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports where he’s won twice.
In addition to a USAC National Sprint Car championship run, Pursley will also pursue Rookie of the Year honors with the series in 2023 starting with the first points races of the season on February 16-17-18 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Pursley competed in two USAC Sprint Car features for KKM in 2022, finishing 13th at Circle City Raceway and 12th at Tri-State Speedway. However, his debut runs came toward the end of 2021 with KO, finishing 8th with USAC and an impressive 2nd with the Midwest Sprint Car Series, both at Tri-State.
STILL THE SAME:
JUSTIN GRANT | TOPP MOTORSPORTS: For the larger part of the past decade, Justin Grant has stepped into each and every USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season pondering if this was going to finally be the year he broke through and overcame the hurdle that had separated him from the series driving title.
The Ione, Calif. native is now on the other side of that equation. He and TOPP Motorsports enter their sixth year together as the combination everybody’s chasing in 2023, jumping into the fray as the defending champions.
Now, Grant has his mind set on becoming the 10th driver to repeat as a USAC National Sprint Car titlist alongside Parnelli Jones (1960-61-62), Sheldon Kinser (1981-82), Rick Hood (1984-85), Steve Butler (1986-87-88), Robbie Stanley (1991-92-93), Brian Tyler (1996-97), Levi Jones (2009-10-11), Bryan Clauson (2012-13) and Brady Bacon (2020-21).
BRADY BACON | DYNAMICS, INC.: Brady Bacon and the Hoffman Auto Racing / Dynamics Inc. team are once again set to chase the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship in 2023 after a runner-up points finish in 2022.
Bacon will be chasing after a record-tying fifth career series championship, a mark that only Levi Jones has previously accomplished in the 67-year history of USAC National Sprint Car racing.
Bacon and Hoffman have combined for a total of 38 USAC victories and four championships (2014-16-20-21) in the eight seasons that they have competed together. Together, the pairing has rewritten the USAC Sprint Car history books as the Bacon/Hoffman combo stands second all-time in terms of total victories by a driver/entrant. Their 38 is now second all-time behind Pancho Carter and Steve Stapp’s 40 wins throughout the decade of the 1970s.
Bacon resides fourth on the USAC National Sprint Car win list entering the season, tied with Jack Hewitt for fourth at 46, one behind Tracy Hines (47) for 3rd, six behind Tom Bigelow (52nd) for second and 16 behind Dave Darland (62), who is number one all-time.
ROBERT BALLOU | BALLOU MOTORSPORTS: One of the most iconic drivers and personalities of his generation, Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) returns to his familiar #12 for the 2023 USAC National Sprint Car season.
Ballou experienced a renaissance season in a myriad of way by earning six wins, which were the most he’s earned in a single year since his championship campaign back in 2015.
His fourth place finish in the 2022 series standings was also his best performance in seven seasons as the man owns the record for most wins as a driver/owner in USAC Sprint Car history looks to keep things on the same plane as he did one year ago.
EMERSON AXSOM | CLAUSON MARSHALL RACING: Fresh off a stellar first season in which he captured USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship Rookie of the Year honors, Emerson Axsom is primed to compete for a season championship in 2023 during his second full season run with Clauson Marshall Racing.
Axsom’s 2022 accolades included a white hot start to the season by capturing wins in two of the first three events in Ocala, Fla. before ending the season in victory lane again late in the year in Arizona.
The 18-year-old Franklin, Ind. native finished fifth in the USAC National Sprint Car standings for 2022 while tallying three feature victories and seeks to climb even higher up the leaderboard in the coming year.
MATT WESTFALL | RAY MARSHALL MOTORSPORTS: In terms of single-season feature starts, top-fives, top-tens and final points ranking, 2022 was a career year for veteran Matt Westfall on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship tour.
Now, the Pleasant Hill, Ohio driver is eager to best his performance in 2023 as he goes full-time with the series as the driver of the Ohio-based Ray Marshall Motorsports No. 33m.
A year ago, Westfall made the feature field in 38 of his 39 appearances while reeling off three top-fives and 14 top-tens en route to a seventh place result in the final point standings – all career bests.
JAKE SWANSON | TEAM AZ RACING: Jake Swanson finished last season as one of the hottest drivers on the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship tour, recording five podium finishes in his final seven starts to conclude the series.
Now, the Anaheim, Calif. native aims to carry his substantial momentum into 2023 as he goes full-time with the series in the driver’s seat of Team AZ Racing’s No. 21AZ.
It was quite a run in 2022 for the 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion and two-time USAC National Sprint Car feature winner who now resides in Danville, Ind. In fact, it was a roll he hoped didn’t have to stop. Yet, as the calendar flips to a new year, he has no intentions of letting the roll cease anytime soon.
MITCHEL MOLES | REINBOLD-UNDERWOOD MOTORSPORTS: After a partial schedule in 2022, Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) finds himself on the hunt for a championship as he tackles the full series schedule for the first time aboard the Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports No. 19AZ.
Moles is fresh off a superb Rookie USAC Sprint Car season in 2022 in which he became a first-time series winner last July at South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway and once more later that same month for his initial USAC Indiana Sprint Week triumph at Lincoln Park Speedway.
The towering 6’3” tall Moles quickly served notice with his consistently stirring qualifying runs, tallying eight quick times in 2022, which were the most ever by a USAC National Sprint Car Rookie.
KYLE CUMMINS | ROCK STEADY RACING: Kyle Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) had his most successful single-season run with the series in 2022, tallying four wins and the best single-night payday of the year with a $35,000 triumph during Sprint Car Smackdown at Kokomo in August.
For 2023, the song remains the same as Cummins tackles the USAC schedule for Rock Steady Racing after finishing the past season as, perhaps, the hottest team on the trail.
At the end of last season, Cummins and Rock Steady put together a run of 13 consecutive top-10 results, punctuated by nine podium finishes in that string as well as a career-best four feature triumphs throughout the year.
CHASE STOCKON | KO MOTORSPORTS: The series’ ironman, Chase Stockon, has steadily moved up USAC’s all-time statistical charts as he returns to KO Motorsports for a run with the series in 2023.
Throughout his masterful career, Stockon possesses 14 feature wins, two of which came with KO, while also garnering 278 top-ten finishes, which ranks seventh all-time. His 408 career starts ranks eight on the all-time tally, including a record run of 324 consecutive starts between the years of 2012-21.
JASON McDOUGAL | KO MOTORSPORTS: Rejoining Stockon on the KO Motorsports roster for 2023 is Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) who owns two career USAC National victories.
His best result of the 2022 season came on opening night in Ocala, Fla. where he scored a second in the KO Motorsports ride, with which he now enters his third season.
BRANDON MATTOX | BRANDON MATTOX RACING
The black and orange-trimmed #28 has been a staple on the USAC National Sprint Car circuit for the past several years. Mattox will once again focus his competition on USAC in his own BMR machinery.
The 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver now ranks inside the top-80 in all-time USAC National Sprint Car feature starts with 116, all with own privateer operation based in western Indiana.
CARSON GARRETT | BGE/DOUGHERTY MOTORSPORTS: Making his home mainly with the Midwest Sprint Car Series over the past couple of seasons where he is a previous Rookie of the Year, Carson Garrett (Littleton, Colo.) makes his way into the USAC National Sprint Car ranks for 2023.
His previous USAC experiences are somewhat limited, making 11 career starts over the past two seasons for BGE/Dougherty Motorsports, for which he’ll compete in 2023 alongside new teammate and 2019 series champion C.J. Leary.
WHO’S GOT NEXT?:
The 2023 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season officially begins with a full week in Florida during the month of February, starting with a pair of non-points, special events at Volusia Speedway Park on February 13-14, followed by the first three points races of the year at Bubba Raceway Park on February 16-17-18.