By: Richie Murray
OCALA, FL-For the 13th consecutive season, the 2023 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship campaign will launch at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park during the month of February.
The 14th annual edition of Winter Dirt Games will take place on February 16, 17 and 18 at the 3/8-mile D-shaped dirt track with a practice night set to begin the festivities on Wednesday night, February 15.
USAC’s one and only visit of the year to the Sunshine State will commence with three-straight nights of complete shows for the series on Thursday and Friday paying $5,000-to-win followed by Saturday night’s finale, which will feature a winner’s share of $10,000.
“We are honored to be able to start the USAC season at Bubba Raceway Park in 2023,” track general manager Tom Bean said. “We’ve been able to grow this event and we look forward to improving on it and again making this a destination for USAC Sprint Car fans in February.”
The three-night event will present a format that pays points throughout the weekend. Over the first two nights, total points will be calculated, which will “lock-in” the top-five in total combined points into Saturday night’s feature event.
The program for the USAC Sprints on Saturday night will have no qualifying, and will instead consist of three qualifying races, each 10 laps in length, lined up “straight-up” based on each driver’s best single points night. The lineup will snake with the driver possessing the 6th best single points night on the pole of the first qualifying race, 7th will be on the pole for the second qualifying race and 8th starting from the pole position in the third qualifying race, and so on.
The top-four finishers from each qualifying race will transfer to the feature. Those finishing 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th or 9th in each qualifying race will be placed into the semi-feature. Those finishing 10th on back in each qualifying race will be placed into a 10-lap C-Main, if needed, where the top-3 finishers will transfer to the semi-feature and occupy the final three starting positions of that race.
The winning drivers of each qualifying race will transfer into an eight-car dash along with the top-five locked in drivers. Locked-in drivers will draw for starting positions one through five followed by qualifying race winners drawing for positions six through eight when they stop for their winner’s interview. The finish of the four-lap dash will determine the first four rows of the feature.
The top-5 finishers from the 12-lap semi-feature will transfer into the night’s feature, filling the final five positions in the feature starting lineup.
Saturday’s feature will consist of 22 cars (not counting up to two provisionals) and 35 laps, as determined by the finishing order of the dash – 1st place finisher starts 1st, 2nd place finisher starts 2nd and so on. Thursday and Friday night feature races will be 30 laps in length.
If Thursday’s or Friday’s events are canceled, Saturday night’s event will retain the standard format.
Additional information on times and ticket prices for the event will be made available shortly.
Thirty-one previous USAC National Sprint Car events have been held at Bubba Raceway Park since 2011. Emerson Axsom (twice) and Justin Grant (once) won features on each of the three nights back in February of 2022 in Ocala. Brady Bacon, Bryan Clauson and Grant are the winningest USAC Sprint Car drivers at Bubba’s with four victories apiece.
Damion Gardner has won three USAC Sprint features at Bubba’s, while Tracy Hines, Tyler Courtney, Robert Ballou and Axsom have each scored a pair of victories. Kevin Thomas Jr., Chris Windom, C.J. Leary, Darren Hagen, Dave Darland, Thomas Meseraull, Chase Stockon and Hunter Schuerenberg have all won once.
Bubba Raceway Park is the longest continuously operating auto racing venue in the state of Florida, celebrating its 72nd season of competition after opening back in 1952. USAC racing and the “Sunshine State” have a history that dates back to the decade of the 1950s as well.
In fact, the first three USAC Sprint Car races ever held took place in Florida in February of 1956. Bob Sweikert won the first such event at Southland Speedway in West Palm Beach, followed by Chuck Weyant at Jacksonville Speedway and Pat O’Connor at Medley Speedway in Miami.