By: Richie Murray
Speedway, Indiana (April 7, 2023)………Records are meant to be broken and some of the greatest records in the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship history books are either being threatened or surpassed by today’s crop of current stars.
Throughout 2023, new records will be set, and new faces and names will be arriving at the forefront of several lists that feature some of the greatest accomplishments and statistical achievements in all of auto racing.
Here, we’ve scoured the record book to see for ourselves the milestones that are up for grabs throughout the 2023 season as well as those who are rapidly moving their way up the charts as the USAC National Sprint Cars resume the season this Saturday night, April 8, at Indiana’s Lawrenceburg Speedway.
DRIVE FOR 5
Brady Bacon’s pursuit of five USAC National Sprint Car driving championships has just one other driver currently standing in front of him on the all-time list. That’s Levi Jones who conquered the series with five titles in 2005-07-09-10-11. Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) currently possesses four series championships in 2014-16-20-21.
All four of Bacon’s crowns have come with the Dynamics, Inc./Hoffman Auto Racing team. Jones captured the latter four championships in the seat of a Tony Stewart Racing ride. One more title in 2023 would also put Bacon and Dynamics/Hoffman on top as the combo with the most driver/entrant USAC National Sprint Car championships as a team.
Speaking of combos, the first points race of the 2023 season down at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park presented Bacon and the Dynamics, Inc. team their 39th USAC National Sprint Car win together since first teaming up for victory in 2012 at West Memphis, Arkansas’ Riverside International Speedway.
The long-standing all-time record belongs to driver Pancho Carter and team owner Steve Stapp who achieved all-time record 40 series feature wins between 1973-80. One more victory would tie Bacon/Dynamics with Carter/Stapp and two more scores would push him to the number one spot.
FAST QUALIFYING TIMES
Tom Bigelow (65), Dave Darland (62) and Tracy Hines (60) have a lock on the top-three spots on the list of all-time fast qualifying honors in USAC National Sprint Car competition. Unironically, all three currently sit inside the top-three of the series’ all-time feature win list.
With that said, several of today’s current stars find themselves firmly within the top-five and top-ten or are on the cusp of cracking themselves into the premier group of time trial aficionados. Bacon is fourth all-time with 44 and C.J. Leary is fifth at 41.
Champions Levi Jones (39), Larry Dickson (37), Bryan Clauson (36) and Rich Vogler (35) stand pat in positions six through nine while Kevin Thomas Jr. (35) reached the top-ten a year ago. Chase Stockon (32) and Justin Grant (30) are just on the outside looking in, but considering their qualifying prowess, they’ll all be in contention throughout the year to hit the top-ten.
START ME UP
Dave Darland owns nearly every major record within the realm of USAC National Sprint Car racing as far feature wins, top-fives, top-tens, you name it. Needless to say, his feature start record with the series is untouched and incomparable. Darland’s 794 series feature starts since his 1986 debut are 310 more than the second closest, Tracy Hines, and with six more, he’d become the first and only driver to surpass 800 career starts.
In fact, the lists’ top-five has been in place for quite a while, but that is soon to change. Tracy Hines sits second on the list with 484 followed by Chris Windom (470), Jon Stanbrough (448) and Tom Bigelow (447).
With the 2023 schedule as it is, the top gunners of today would be able to slot into the top-five and even as far up as the top-three. Bacon is sixth with 442 starts with Ballou at 439 and Chase Stockon at 408. All are challengers to rise into the top-five by season’s end on the starts list while Kevin Thomas Jr. (373) already is a resident of the top-ten. Leary (369) and Grant (366) find themselves currently on the edge, just peering outside of the top-ten.
STATING THE CASE
Brady Bacon and Bryan Clauson have traveled this great land of the United States of America and have won at many different venues while doing so. As a matter of fact, Bacon and Clauson are tied atop the all-time list by winning USAC National Sprint Car features in 12 different states.
In his career with the series, Bacon has won in the states of Arkansas, Arizona, California, Florida, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In his favor on the 2023 schedule are four states that he hasn’t yet won a race in at the moment: Texas, New Jersey, Illinois and his home state of Oklahoma, which present him with eight events in which he can break the all-time record.
Also in contention to break the break the record is Robert Ballou, who’s won in 11 different states: Arizona, California, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Wisconsin. He has five potential states to add to his career tally with race dates scheduled for Arkansas, Texas, Iowa, Illinois and Oklahoma.
2000: A RACE ODYSSEY
Since 1956, USAC has conducted 1,988 National Sprint Car events from coast-to-coast, putting the series within 12 of hitting race number 2,000 during the 2023 season. Barring weather and any unforeseen circumstances, number 2000 is slated to take place on June 2 at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway during the Avanti Windows & Doors Corn Belt Clash during National Sprint Car Hall of Fame induction weekend. If that’s not the case, then number 2,000 would likely be reached during Eastern Storm in mid-June.
REELING IN THE YEARS
Consider this one as having already been checked off the list in 2023, and one we’ll all need to keep an eye on in 2024. With his victory at Bubba Raceway Park in February, Brady Bacon tied Sheldon Kinser’s all-time record by scoring a USAC National Sprint Car feature victory in 13 consecutive seasons.
Kinser accomplished the feat each year between 1974-86 while Bacon has gotten the job done each and every year between 2011-23. One season from now, Bacon will be in position to stand alone at the top of this list.
FLYING THE W
Brady Bacon has already shot up another spot on the all-time career USAC National Sprint Car win list, surpassing Jack Hewitt for fourth all-time with victory number 47 at Bubba’s in February. Heading into this Saturday’s event at Lawrenceburg, Bacon is now tied with Tracy Hines for third all-time.
One more “W” in the win column for Bacon would move him into sole possession of third all-time and within a realistic realm of catching Tom Bigelow for second on the list by season’s end, where the 1978 series champ stands with 52 wins. Dave Darland, meanwhile, stands above all as the king of the wins list with 62.
A tad further down the list, Kevin Thomas Jr. and Robert Ballou can make up an immense amount of ground with a big year in 2023. KTJ’s 39 victories are only seven outside the top-five, behind the likes of Hewitt (46), Larry Dickson (45), Pancho Carter (42), Bryan Clauson (41) and Gary Bettenhausen (40). Ballou currently owns the 11th most series wins with 37 while Justin Grant is 15th at 34.
As far as the all-time USAC National Sprint Car entrant win list goes, Dynamics, Inc. is far and away the number one seed with 129 victories at press times, a whopping 58 more than their closest counterpart, Tony Stewart Racing at 71. However, there is a gold rush to reach the top-10 on the list by season’s end.
Willie Davis, who achieved fame with Gary Bettenhausen as his pilot in the late 1960s/early 1970s, currently ranks 10th on the list with 34 series victories. At the moment, several current teams are just within earshot of the top-10.
Robert Ballou owns the title of winningest driver/entrant in series history with 32 triumphs in his Ballou Motorsports ride. He currently stands at 32 wins, just two victories out of the 10th slot, as does reigning entrant champion TOPP Motorsports, as they make a bid to move up the list with driver Justin Grant.
Scott Benic’s 2B Racing resides at 31 series wins thus far and have Logan Seavey behind the wheel in 2023 while Clauson Marshall Racing is just within shouting distance, having captured 28 victories since the team’s inception, and will run the year with the 2022 series Rookie of the Year Emerson Axsom.
This Saturday, April 8, marks the first Midwest appearance of the season for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship at Dave & Kim Rudisell’s Lawrenceburg Speedway. The event presents the KOI Auto Parts Modifieds and Bessler’s U Pull & Save Hornets.
Pits open at 3pm Eastern with the grandstands opening at 5pm and cars on track at 6pm with qualifying and racing to immediately follow. Adult general admission tickets are $30, kids 7-12 are $7, children 6 and under are free. Pit passes are $35 (all ages).
If you’re unable to make it to the track, you may also watch this Saturday’s Lawrenceburg event LIVE on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3ZjeooQ.