By Richie Murray
Rossburg, Ohio (May 3, 2023)………Eldora Speedway is special, and it’s always a special occasion when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship pays a visit to the Rossburg, Ohio half-mile dirt oval, a place the series has visited more often than any other track with 204 trips since 1962.
This Friday and Saturday presents the challenge once again as a fierce USAC Sprint Car field sets up to tame Eldora’s banks twice in a 24-hour span on May 5-6 for the seventh edition of #LetsRaceTwo in a unique, once-a-year two-night twin bill alongside the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars.
It’s finally back to business for USAC National Sprint Car drivers and teams after four consecutive wash outs due to Mother Nature. In fact, it will have been three weeks since we last saw action on April 15 at Haubstadt, Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway.
It’s time to get back to work, so here’s six storylines you should look for this weekend at The Big E.
THE BALLOU & GRANT & BACON SHOW
Between Robert Ballou, Justin Grant and Brady Bacon, the trio owns half of all #LetsRaceTwo wins in the event’s history which began in 2015. In fact, Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) and Grant (Ione, Calif.) won the first two #LetsRaceTwo events that same year with Ballou corralling the opener and Grant breaking through on the second night.
When 2017 came around, Grant and Ballou traded barbs again with Grant taking the opener and Ballou the closer. Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) was the show on the first night in 2018 while Ballou came back to score the most recent #LetsRaceTwo feature held in 2021.
To top it off, Grant is the most recent winner with the series at Eldora in September of 2022, and is the most recent victor on this year’s USAC Sprint Car trail with an April 15 triumph at Tri-State Speedway. Bacon, who won in Ocala, Fla., and Grant have already reached victory lane with the series in 2023, but Ballou remains on the hunt for his first of the year, which would move him into the top-five all-time in Eldora USAC Sprint wins. He currently stands at six wins, which trails only Jack Hewitt (13), Larry Dickson & Tracy Hines (9) and Pancho Carter & Rich Vogler (7).
While Ballou, Grant and Bacon have practically owned #LetRaceTwo over the years, a number of others would be adamantly elated to pick one up at a place that’s among the most difficult to win at.
C.J. Leary, Logan Seavey, Matt Westfall and Mitchel Moles have all had their taste of USAC success at Eldora but have, so far, been absent from #LetsRaceTwo victory lane. Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) has won each of the past two seasons at Eldora in a USAC Silver Crown car. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) has captured Eldora victories in both a Silver Crown car and a Sprint Car.
Westfall is in that category too, having earned a home state USAC Sprint score in 2006 and nearly picked off a Crown triumph in 2021. Meanwhile, Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) won his first ever visit to Eldora in a midget last Fall.
Furthermore, there’s a laundry list of individuals who’d give anything to add a first career USAC Eldora to their enormously successful resumes, namely Kevin Thomas Jr., who ranks inside the top-ten all-time in USAC National Sprint Car feature wins with 39, plus Chase Stockon, Kyle Cummins, Emerson Axsom, Jake Swanson, Jadon Rogers and Scotty Weir, all of whom have their fair share of USAC National Sprint Car feature wins elsewhere.
A NEW EXPERIENCE AT ELDORA
On the flipside, two drivers making their Eldora Speedway sprint car debuts have been mightily impressive with the series in their relatively short careers thus far.
Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) isn’t exactly a stranger to Eldora as he’s twice finished inside the top-ten at the controls of a USAC National Midget there. However, this weekend marks his USAC Sprint debut at the track, and he’s already been up to speed on the big, high speed tracks. In his second race out of the box this year, he scored a win on the half-mile dirt oval at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park.
Briggs Danner (Allentown, Pa.), meanwhile, has been a superstar on the USAC East Coast Sprint Car scene over the past two seasons, winning the 2022 series championship with an astounding 13 victories going his way. On the USAC National Sprint Car circuit, he was superb, leading several laps and scoring a runner-up finish at Pennsylvania’s Grandview Speedway during Eastern Storm. This time around, he takes on Eldora where a Pennsylvanian last won a USAC Sprint race at in 1996 (Frankie Kerr).
Both Pursley and Danner and more will be among those trying to make a run at becoming the first driver to win a USAC Sprint Car feature in his first visit to Eldora since Kyle Larson in 2011.
KODY’S RETURN TO A DIRT SPRINT CAR
Renowned for his USAC Silver Crown accolades as a seven-time champion in the big cars, Kody Swanson (Kingsburg, Calif.) plans to make his return to USAC National Sprint Car racing for the first time since 2019, incidentally, also at Eldora.
Swanson’s ride for the two Eldora events will be the Wedgewood Motorsports No. 98, which has been driven by the likes of Brady Bacon down in Florida to kick off the year, which were driven to finishes of 4th and 7th at Volusia. Saban Bibent has also competed regularly in the car at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.
Eldora is also home to Swanson’s best USAC Sprint Car performance on dirt where he finished 2nd in September of 2015. That same night, he also collected a runner-up finish in the Silver Crown race, but the aim is to go one better this weekend for the initial time at Eldora.
BACON, THE MASTER & THE KING
Brady Bacon is keen on getting back to Eldora Speedway victory lane where he owns a pair of victories with the USAC Sprints (2014 & 2018), winged sprints (2017) and Silver Crown (2019).
Bacon also enters the domain after winning last Saturday’s World of Outlaws feature at Tri-State. In fact, if Bacon wins either Friday or Saturday at Eldora, he’d become the first driver since Steve Kinser (1981-82-83) to win both a WoO and USAC Sprint Car feature within the same week.
He also enters the weekend as the reigning champion of the Bubby Jones Master of Going Faster series presented by Spire Sports + Entertainment, which begins with the first of nine events on the USAC Sprint calendar this Saturday at Eldora with the end-of-year prize consisting of a $10,000 bonus to the champion driver and $2,500 to the champion crew chief.
FOUR X FOURS
Thus far, the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season has seen four different feature winners and four different fast qualifiers. That’s the first time that’s occurred in the same season since 2012 – 11 years ago.
The four fastest qualifiers of the season to this point have been Jason McDougal (Feb. 16 at Bubba Raceway Park), Chase Stockon (Feb 18. at Bubba Raceway Park), Kevin Thomas Jr. (Apr. 14 at Bloomington Speedway) and Justin Grant (Apr 15 at Tri-State Speedway).
The four feature winners so far have been Brady Bacon (Feb. 16 at Bubba Raceway Park), Kyle Cummins (Feb. 18 at Bubba Raceway Park), C.J. Leary (Apr. 14 at Bloomington Speedway) and Justin Grant (Apr. 15 at Tri-State Speedway).
The four different winners would actually be six if you take into account the non-points events that took place in February at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park: Jake Swanson (Feb. 13) and Daison Pursley (Feb. 14 at Volusia Speedway Park).
#LetsRaceTwo features two-straight nights of full racing programs featuring the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and the NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprint Cars on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6.
On both days, ticket sales begin at the main gate, turn 4 and pit gate at 1:30pm Eastern. The grandstands open at 2pm. The drivers meeting will take place at 5:15pm. Cars will be on track at 6pm with qualifying and racing for both divisions immediately following.
Advance tickets are on sale now at https://eldoraspeedway.showare.com/eventperformances.asp?evt=517. For ages 14 and up, general admission tickets are $34 while reserved seats are $39. For ages 13 and under, general admission tickets are free while reserved seats are $9. Pit passes are $40 each night ($75 for 2-day pit pass).
The USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car portion of the event from Eldora can be watched LIVE on FloRacing both nights at https://flosports.link/3ZjeooQ.
2023 USAC AMSOIL NATIONAL SPRINT CAR STAT LEADERS
Driver Point Leader: Justin Grant
Entrant Point Leader: TOPP Motorsports #4
Most Wins: 1-Brady Bacon, Kyle Cummins, Justin Grant & C.J. Leary
Top Rookie in Points: 14th-Daison Pursley
Most Laps Led: 39-Brady Bacon & C.J. Leary
Most Top-Fives: 4-Justin Grant
Most Top-Tens: 4-Emerson Axsom, Justin Grant & Chase Stockon
Most Fast Qualifying Times: 1-Justin Grant, Jason McDougal, Chase Stockon & Kevin Thomas Jr.
Most Heat Race Wins: 2-Robert Ballou & Justin Grant
Most Feature Starts: 4-Emerson Axsom, Brady Bacon, Robert Ballou, Kyle Cummins, Carson Garrett, Justin Grant, C.J. Leary, Mitchel Moles, Daison Pursley, Jadon Rogers, Logan Seavey, Brady Short, Chase Stockon, Jake Swanson, Kevin Thomas Jr. & Matt Westfall
Biggest Charge of the Year: Feb 16: Bubba Raceway Park – Robert Ballou (22nd to 10th)
2023 USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVER POINT STANDINGS: (TOP-10)
POS. PTS. DRIVER, HOMETOWN
1 303 Justin Grant, Ione, Calif.
2 278 C.J. Leary, Greenfield, Ind.
3 270 Emerson Axsom, Franklin, Ind.
4 266 Brady Bacon, Broken Arrow, Okla.
5 250 Kyle Cummins, Princeton, Ind.
6 243 Kevin Thomas Jr., Cullman, Ala.
7 234 Chase Stockon, Fort Branch, Ind.
8 223 Logan Seavey, Sutter, Calif.
9 216 Jake Swanson, Anaheim, Calif.
10 204 Matt Westfall, Pleasant Hill, Ohio
(R) represents a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Rookie
2023 USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ENTRANT POINT STANDINGS: (TOP-10)
POS. PTS. ENTRANT, TEAM LOCATION
1 303 TOPP Motorsports, Rochester, Ind. (#4)
2 278 BGE Dougherty Motorsports, Evansville, Ind. (#15x)
3 269 Clauson Marshall Racing, Fishers, Ind. (#47BC)
4 265 Dynamics, Inc., Milford, Ohio (#69)
5 250 Rock Steady Racing, Dupont, Ind. (#3R)
6 242 Michael Dutcher Motorsports, Cicero, Ind. (#17GP)
7 234 KO Motorsports, Owensville, Ind. (#5s)
8 223 2B Racing, Marion, Ind. (#2B)
9 216 Team AZ Racing, Brownsburg, Ind. (#21AZ)
10 204 Ray Marshall Motorsports, Forest, Ohio (#33m)
2023 USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP ROOKIE DRIVER POINT STANDINGS: (TOP-10)
POS. PTS. DRIVER, HOMETOWN
1 182 Daison Pursley, Locust Grove, Okla.
2 58 Joey Amantea, Mount Pocono, Pa.
3 53 Tom Harris, Banbury, Oxfordshire, UK
4 35 Dalton Stevens, Scurry, Texas
5 30 Kevin Newton, Farmersburg, Ind.
6 10 Ryan Barr, Piqua, Ohio
7 10 Kayla Roell, Dillsboro, Ind.