By RICHIE MURRAY
DU QUOIN, IL – Unprecedented is a word not to be used lightly, but with a new title sponsor and a plethora of new teams and talented drivers joining the fray, the 2018 USAC P1 Insurance National Midget season is shaping up to be something that these eyes haven’t seen.
At press time, an impressive 19 teams intend to compete on a full-time basis with the series this year, trouncing last year’s 11 who took on the full schedule.
Another unprecedented part of the equation is Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian’s team of septuplets. Returnees include 2017 series champion Spencer Bayston of Lebanon, Ind., 2017 Rookie of the Year Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.), plus returnees Ryan Robinson (Foresthill, Calif.) and Holly Shelton (Sacramento, Calif.), although she has previously announced that she will miss this Saturday’s season opener at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin with a shoulder injury. Newcomers to the team include the experienced Tucker Klaasmeyer (Paola, Kan.) as well as Rookie of the Year contenders Sam Johnson (St. Peters, Mo.) and 2017 POWRi Midget champ Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.).
Clauson/Marshall Racing burst onto the scene last year by winning the season opener and putting all three of its full-time drivers in the top-six of the standings. Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) led CMR with three wins in 2017, while Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) won two for the team a year ago and returns sporting a new number, taking over the car driven to second in the standings by Shane Golobic. In his place, newcomer Zeb Wise (Angola, Ind.) joins the team in pursuit of Rookie of the Year honors.
USAC Triple Crown champion Jerry Coons, Jr. and current USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader Kevin Thomas, Jr. occupy the two seats of a potent Petry/Goff Motorsports lineup for 2018. Coons, the 2006 and 2007 series titlist out of Tucson, Ariz. is back for his second season in the No. 25 following a partial USAC schedule last year. Cullman, Alabama’s Thomas, meanwhile, is back in a midget full-time for the first time since 2015 when he captured two USAC victories. Thomas got off to a hot start in 2018, sweeping both nights of POWRi’s stop in Ocala, Fla. in February.
Tucker/Boat Motorsports has added a second car to its stable alongside Chad Boat (Phoenix, Ariz.), a winner of six series races for the team over the past two seasons. Stillwater, Oklahoma’s Zane Hendricks, a micro sprint racing veteran and relative newcomer to midgets, joins TBM for a full-time run in his Rookie USAC campaign.
Crew chief Rusty Kunz will have wrench two different rides this year with grandson Brayton Lynch (Springfield, Ill.) returning for his sophomore season in the RKR No. 1K. Joe Dooling’s No. 63 will run the full schedule with a pair of well-known gassers – 2016 USAC National Midget champion Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) and Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) – splitting duties throughout the season.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon is a two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ, but he and Frank Manafort Racing have also been in contention for a USAC National Midget title in each of the previous two years with four wins and a pair of third-place finishes in the standings in 2016 and 2017.
Tyler Thomas has been a regular on the circuit for several seasons now, but the Collinsville, Okla. driver is ready to take next step as he and the family-owned team eye their first career series win and a full-season run at a title. Fellow Oklahoman Matt Moore and Hergott Racing Development are newcomers to the scene as they make their initial foray to the series in a car that pays homage to famed “Nine” cars of year’s past.
The 21-race championship schedule begins with the “Shamrock Classic” this Saturday, March 10 on the 1/6-mile dirt oval inside the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin. Forty-eight midgets have entered the third annual event which also features micro sprints.
The timetable for the “Shamrock Classic” begins with participant parking on Friday, March 9, from 4-7pm. Saturday’s raceday schedule begins with pits opening at 8am. Spectator gates open at 10am, followed by a “pit sweep” at 11am. The micro sprint drivers’ meeting gets underway at 11:30am, with micro sprint hot laps set for noon and their heat races immediately following. A public drivers’ meeting for the midgets is open to all race fans at 3pm in the turn one grandstand. Midget hot laps begin at 4pm with racing for both the micro sprints and midget immediately following. The night concludes with the 50-lap midget feature event.
“Shamrock Classic” tickets are on sale now at https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-shamrock-classic-tickets. Reserved seats are $25 for the highly-anticipated event that brought over 50 of the top midget drivers in the country in each of the past two seasons, and the highest car count of any USAC National Midget points event during the 2017 season. Fans will receive a free “Shamrock Classic” event t-shirt with their purchase of a reserved ticket.
Adult general admission tickets are $20; kids 6-12 are $10 and kids 5 years-old and under are FREE! Pit passes are $30 for USAC Members/$35 for non-members. Pit passes can be purchased at http://www.tracpass.com/.
Fans who are unable to attend the event in-person can view the race LIVE on http://www.speedshifttv.com/.
For any questions regarding the event, email “Shamrock Classic” promoter Lauren Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.