Ronnie Gardner Jack Reitz Photo

By Richie Murray

Speedway, Indiana (December 13, 2023)………”I won a lot of midget races on the west coast, but this right here is the greatest accomplishment I’ve ever had.”

For as successful as Ronnie Gardner was behind the wheel, that statement says a lot about the Norco, Calif. native who was recently the recipient of the Johnny Capels “Golden Greek Award” as USAC’s Chief Mechanic of the Year for 2023 along with a $10,000 reward.

Gardner, who won five consecutive USAC Western States Midget driving championships between 2013-17, turned in the steering wheel for a wrench and has kept on winning. Between his efforts with driver Logan Seavey, Abacus Racing and Rice Motorsports in 2023, Gardner amassed a pair of championships in USAC National Midget and USAC Silver Crown competition as a crewman.

“It’s been an incredible year; thank you to USAC for considering me,” Gardner stated. “I did not expect this at all.”

Ronnie Gardner’s family lineage in racing is quite extensive both behind the wheel and behind the wrenches. Gardner’s grandfather is five-time Indianapolis 500 starter and two-time Little 500 winner Ronnie Duman.

Furthermore, Ronnie’s uncles include Rick Duman, a 2005 recipient of Clint Brawner Mechanical Excellence Award at the Indianapolis 500, as well as Jack Gardner, a successful CRA and SCRA sprint car team owner who captured a USAC National Sprint Car feature win with driver Bill Rose at Paragon (Ind.) Speedway in 1997.

“I’ve got to thank my family, my dad and both my uncles for teaching me how to work on racecars when I was young before I even drove them,” Ronnie stated. “I never actually thought I’d get the chance to drive them. I was able to drive them later on in life in my 20s and it was a dream of mine.”

Gardner’s five straight USAC Western States Midget driving titles are unprecedented and his 23 career series wins rank behind only Sleepy Tripp, Robby Flock and Billy Boat.

USAC championships came in droves for Gardner again this past season, after multiple seasons of close calls on the Silver Crown side with Rice Motorsports. In both 2021-22, the team’s driver, Logan Seavey, took second in the final tally behind Kody Swanson in the driver standings. Nonetheless, the team still garnered enough points to earn the entrant title in 2021, but it still didn’t feel complete until wrapping up both the driver and entrant crowns in the 2023 season finale at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park by a scant seven-point margin.

“I screwed it up a couple years with Rice and we actually didn’t get it done,” Gardner recalled. “We got it done with the entrant title, but we never got Logan what he deserved. I am so happy to get Logan Seavey his championship with the Silver Crown series this year.”

Gardner thinks back to their earliest days of Silver Crown racing in 2020 when the outfit began as Prestige Worldwide, an homage to the hit movie, Step Brothers. At the time, the whole concept was new, and the expectations were measured, at best.

“We didn’t have any expectations,” Gardner remembered. “We just put a racecar on the track and hoped for the best for the first couple of races. Then it evolved into wanting to win races and win championships. I’m very, very proud of what we’ve accomplished.”

Entering into the fray in 2023 was Brent Cox of Abacus Racing, the midget team owner who joined in on the Silver Crown side and provided an extra boost to the team.

“Without Brent, that Silver Crown car probably stays in the garage all year long,” Gardner admitted. “That was huge for me, for Logan and for my future.”

With Cox’s involvement, Gardner also became part of the Abacus USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship effort with Seavey at the wheel and proceeded to win eight more times en route to the most dominant series title run in nearly two decades.

“You don’t win championships without a really great racecar and a beyond great driver,” Gardner noted. “And Logan was beyond great this year in everything that he drove.”

Gardner, who is married to longtime west coast car owner Ted Finkenbinder’s goddaughter, Amber, gives credit to his wife for making the thought of even doing this possible. In fact, it’s the unconditional support one receives amid the ups and downs of the sport while going up and down the road that truly makes much of this achievement most rewarding.

“To have a driver and a team lean on you to put the best product on the track night in and night out, and for us to win a championship that all of them deserve, is huge,” Gardner said. “I’m so proud, and as (fellow Abacus Racing & Rice Motorsports crewman) Kirk Simpson always says, ‘it takes an Army!’”



1998: Jack French

1999: Kelly Drake

2000: Keith Kunz

2001: Bobby Barth

2002: George Snider

2003: Galen Fox

2004: Matt Draskovic

2005: Scott Benic

2006: Pete Willoughby

2007: George Snider

2008: Hoffman Auto Racing

2009: Scott Benic

2010: Tim Clauson

2011: Brad Mariscotti & John Sayne

2012: Michael Dutcher

2013: Steve Phillips

2014: Bob Hampshire

2015: Keith Kunz & Derrick Bye

2016: Rob Hoffman & Dan Launderville

2017: Derek Claxton

2018: Tyler Ransbottom

2019: Davey Jones

2020: Matt Hummel

2021: Jarrett Martin

2022: Jarrett Martin

2023: Ronnie Gardner