By Richie Murray
Belleville, Kansas (May 17, 2023)………A familiar venue, a familiar place but an unfamiliar racetrack (for many) will greet USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship competitors this Friday and Saturday, May 19-20, in Belleville, Kan.
For the first time ever, the quarter-mile short track at the Belleville High Banks will host the series for a pair of full programs on back-to-back nights on the grounds of the North Central Kansas Fair.
Friday’s program will culminate in a 30-lap, $4,000-to-win feature while Saturday’s main event presents 40 laps and $6,000-to-win.
Few individuals in this weekend’s lineup possess experience on the Belleville short track in a midget. Jerry Coons Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.) is among the most accomplished midget drivers at Belleville. He captured the final night of the Belleville Nationals on the half-mile in 2005-07-12 in addition to USAC prelim victories in 1996-98-07. Coons, a USAC career Triple Crown champion, swept the 2012 Belleville Nationals, including a prelim night held on the short track. He also hasn’t finished outside the top-ten in a midget race of any kind at Belleville since 2013, a decade ago.
Outside of Coons, Kameron Key (Warrensburg, Mo.) scored a Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association victory on the short track in 2021. Lance Bennett (Aurora, Colo.) was a top-ten runner in 2021, taking 8th. Corey Joyner (Concordia, Kan.) was in the Rocky Mountain starting field in 2021, collecting a 22nd place finish and also owns Sportsman Micro experience at the venue.
Speaking of Sportsman, both Blake Spicer (Marysville, Kan.) and Laike Imm (Phillipsburg, Kan.) own Belleville short track experience. Imm raced to a runner-up finish with the division in 2021 while Spicer took 4th. Spicer’s father, Curtis Spicer, competed in the Belleville Nationals on the high banks, collecting 14th during the 2016 running.
With that said, the majority of Belleville midget experience in this year’s field came on the high banks. Zach Daum (Pocahontas, Ill.) won a Belleville Nationals prelim night in 2014, in addition to superb finishes of 2nd in 2014 and 5th in 2015.
Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) brings his own team to Belleville for the first time where he’s been the fastest qualifier during each of his past two appearances in 2016 and 2017. The 2016 USAC National Midget champion has been knocking all over the door in search of a first Belleville win, taking 2nd in 2016 and 2017, plus a 3rd in 2013-15-17.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.), a four-time USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Champion in his own right, has competed at Belleville since the age of 16. In fact, the Bacon family has been in victory lane before on Belleville’s short track. The most recent USAC-sanctioned event on the smaller venue at Belleville came during a 2005 Oklahoma Ford Focus event won by Brady’s father, Leon Bacon. Brady’s best days at Belleville’s high banks came in a 3rd place result in 2008, a 4th in 2016 and a 5th in 2017.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) makes his way to Belleville for the first time in several years. At the turn of the 21st century, T-Mez turned in his best performances with a 4th in 2001, an 8th in 2000 and a 9th in 2000.
Meseraull’s RMS Racing teammate Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) has finished inside the top-five in both a Silver Crown car and midget at Belleville, taking 3rd with the dirt champ car in 2015 and a best of 5th in the midget in 2017.
Grant is one of four double-duty drivers in this weekend’s Belleville field along with Bacon, Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) and Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio). Westfall’s midget career at Belleville dates back to the 1990s where he finished 8th on the banks. He upped his performances in the ensuing years, cracking a 5th in 2001 and 2002.
Kyle Jones (Kennedale, Texas) raced to a 15th during the Belleville Nationals while, a year later, Chase McDermand (Springfield, Ill.) made his USAC National Midget debut with a pair of 23rd place results in 2016.
Many others in the field are making preparations to make a memorable first impression at Belleville this weekend. Among them are 2018 USAC National Midget champ Logan Seavey, plus USAC feature winners Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.), Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.), Ryan Timms (Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Jacob Denney (Galloway, Ohio).
Kansas natives Bryant Wiedeman (Colby, Kan.) and Andrew Deal (Caney, Kan.) aim to become the first Kansas natives to win a USAC National Midget feature in their home state.
Jade Avedisian (Clovis, Calif.) and Taylor Reimer (Bixby, Okla.) are on the hunt for a first career USAC National Midget victory as is Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports teammate Gavin Miller (Allentown, Pa.), who is competing for Rookie of the Year honors in 2023.
Chance Crum (Snohomish, Wash.) aims to climb the next step to victory after a pair of runner-up USAC National Midget finishes last year while Jake Andreotti (Castro Valley, Calif.) comes in from the west coast to take on the national scene as will Ethan Mitchell (Mooresville, N.C.), the east coast driver who is one of only three drivers to record a fast qualifying time with the series in each of the past four seasons since 2019.
Daniel Whitley (Ferndale, Calif.), Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.), Kyle Simon (Covington, Ohio) and Branigan Roark (Lincoln, Mo.) all possess previous starts with the series but will be attempting for their first at Belleville starting this weekend.
On Friday, May 19, at the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks, it’s opening night for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season in conjunction with a practice night for the USAC Silver Crown division. The pits open at 3pm Central. Front gates open at 5:30pm. Hot laps start at 6:30pm, followed by qualifying and racing. General admission and reserved tickets are $25. General admission and reserved tickets for ages 12 and under are $15. A one-day pit pass is $35 and two-day pit passes are $60. Advance tickets are on sale now at www.BellevilleHighBanks.org. Tickets will be available at the gate on both race days.
On Saturday, May 20, at Belleville, it’s a full race day for both the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget and USAC Silver Crown divisions. The pits open at 3pm Central. Front gates open at 5:30pm. Hot laps start at 6:30pm, followed by qualifying and racing. General admission and reserved tickets are $30. General admission and reserved tickets for ages 12 and under are $20. A one-day pit pass is $40 and two-day pit passes are $60. Advance tickets are on sale now at www.BellevilleHighBanks.org. Tickets will be available at the gate on both race days.
The entire weekend of events can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3ZjeooQ.
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL MIDGETS AT THE BELLEVILLE SHORT TRACK:
None – First event on the short track
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS AT BELLEVILLE:
5-Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland & Bobby East
3-Rico Abreu, Chad Boat, Kasey Kahne & Josh Wise
2-Bryan Clauson, Jay Drake, Jason Leffler & J.J. Yeley
1-Spencer Bayston, Christopher Bell, Billy Boat, Zach Daum, A.J. Fike, Robby Flock, Bobby Grim, Steve Knepper, Ryan Scott, Ricky Shelton & Brad Sweet
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINNERS AT BELLEVILLE:
1964: Bobby Grim (7/5)
1996: Jay Drake (8/1), Jerry Coons Jr. (8/2) & Robby Flock (8/3)
1997: Billy Boat (7/31), Jason Leffler (8/1) & Jason Leffler (8/2)
1998: Ricky Shelton (7/30), Jerry Coons Jr. (7/31) & Steve Knepper (8/1)
1999: Dave Darland (8/5), J.J. Yeley (8/6) & Dave Darland (8/7)
2000: Jay Drake (8/3), Kasey Kahne (8/4) & Kasey Kahne (8/5)
2001: A.J. Fike (8/2), Dave Darland (8/3) & Kasey Kahne (8/4)
2002: Ryan Scott (8/1), Bobby East (8/2) & Dave Darland (8/3)
2003: J.J. Yeley (8/7), Bobby East (8/8) & Josh Wise (8/9)
2004: Bobby East (7/30) & Bobby East (7/31)
2005: Dave Darland (7/29) & Jerry Coons Jr. (7/30)
2006: Josh Wise (7/28) & Josh Wise (7/29)
2007: Jerry Coons Jr. (7/27) & Jerry Coons Jr. (7/28)
2008: Bobby East (8/1) & Brad Sweet (8/2)
2009: Josh Wise (7/30 – SE), Bryan Clauson (8/1 – SE) & Bryan Clauson (8/1)
2013: Rico Abreu (8/1) & Christopher Bell (8/3)
2014: Zach Daum (7/31) & Rico Abreu (8/2)
2015: Rico Abreu (7/30) & Bryan Clauson (8/1)
2016: Chad Boat (8/5) & Chad Boat (8/6)
2017: Chad Boat (8/4) & Spencer Bayston (8/5)
USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS IN KANSAS:
6-Jerry Coons Jr. & Dave Darland
4-Jay Drake & Josh Wise
3-Rico Abreu, Christopher Bell, Chad Boat, Kasey Kahne & Jason Leffler
2-A.J. Fike, Russ Gamester, Bobby Olivero, Tony Stewart, Kevin Thomas Jr. & J.J. Yeley
1-Spencer Bayston, Billy Boat, Tyler Courtney, Zach Daum, Tony Elliott, Robby Flock, Mike Gregg, Bobby Grim, Jeff Heywood, Tracy Hines, Mel Kenyon, Steve Knepper, Kyle Larson, Thomas Meseraull, Johnny Parsons, Stevie Reeves, Ryan Scott, Ricky Shelton, Brad Sweet, Bob Tattersall, Tanner Thorson & Sleepy Tripp