By Richie Murray – USAC Media
SPEEDWAY, IN-The year was 2019. The place was Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind.
That night, Tanner Thorson made the comeback of all comebacks in USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship racing, charging from his 15th starting position to win in just his third race back after sustaining serious injuries in a highway accident just three months earlier.
Amid a frenzied celebration, a cerebral and candid Thorson wasn’t as caught up in the hoopla of the moment as one would think. In fact, his mind was already thinking long term, laying down the groundwork of what he would like to have come to fruition in the years to come.
“I have a lot of passion for this sport. The midget world, this is my gig,” the Minden, Nev. native said at the time in June of 2019. “I eventually want to own a team like Keith Kunz and be able to develop drivers and have a big company like they have. This is kind of my dream ever since I started there. I want to do this one day. I still want to race, but I want to help kids out and try to make them as good as they can and try to go out there and win races. I think that’s what pushed me along during those three months of just not giving up.”
Less than four years later, those ideas have become realized. Thorson debuted his new Tanner Thorson Racing team during the west coast swing for the USAC National Midgets in November of 2022, driving himself to a pair of top-five finishes at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway and leading five laps late during the Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway.
The 2016 USAC National Midget driving champion will make his 2023 debut this coming weekend in the season openers for the series on May 19-20 at the Belleville (Kan.) Short Track and on May 21 at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.
His own driving plans consist of a partial USAC schedule at some of his favorite places while also fielding others drivers in his cars along the way. Oklahoman Ace McCarthy and 2014 USAC National Midget champ Rico Abreu have already taken their turn in the seat of a TTR machine this season. But the end game is a long-term plan and Thorson is keen to build the team using a methodical approach.
“The biggest plan is to build up my team, get more parts, get more cars and get everything kind of built up so that I can have a super team,” Thorson stated. “I want to build it up slowly but surely and make sure I’ve got all the right pieces to the puzzle and go from there. I’ll race here and there, and race at the tracks I enjoy going to. Ace is going to run here and there for me throughout the year and Rico is in the works too.”
The 27-year-old Thorson made it clear he’s not finished racing yet. The 27-time USAC National Midget feature winner ranks 14th all-time in terms of series victories, tied with Gary Bettenhausen and Tony Stewart. Thorson intends to add more to his list starting this weekend but contends that the logistics and finances aren’t quite there at the moment to go full bore out on the trail.
“I’m not done racing yet,” Thorson exclaimed. “So far, we’ve only raced a few times, but every time we’ve been out, the cars have been really fast, and it’s showed, and it’s caught people’s eyes. I’ve had a lot of interest in people coming in and running. At the end of the day, the goal is to run somebody out on the road that I can run on my own dollar and develop.”
“I feel like I can offer a little bit more in the younger stages of a driver’s career and help them develop,” Thorson continued. “I can show them the right way to do things because I’ve done a lot of the wrong and a lot of the right as well. There are definitely paths you don’t want to go down and paths you do want to go down.”
Early on during the 2022 season, Thorson took a sabbatical from the racing scene that lasted through the summer. In the meantime, he got married and basically took a mental break for himself. All the while, he was in the beginning stages of putting his own race team together on his own time with an aim to be here for the long haul.
“I feel like I’ve put together and established two or three teams now that I’ve helped built up and had some success, but they weren’t mine,” Thorson explained. “I was under that blanket of wanting to do it myself, so I have something for the future. It was the hardest time as far as starting a team and getting the right equipment in place, but I’ve got a lot of great people behind me that’ve helped me get going and they’re still affiliated with this program. I want to keep building on what I have, grow slowly, but not too slow, and not too fast. I want to do it right. I don’t want to be here for a couple years, then have to sell everything and be done racing. It’s definitely a process.
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.
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.
On Sunday, May 21, at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports, the John Hinck Championship features the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship along with A-Class Micros. The pits open at 4pm Central with front gates opening at 5pm, the drivers meeting at 5:30pm and cars on track at 6pm. General admission tickets are $20 while children ages 6-12 are $10. Kids age 5 and under are free. Pit passes are $30 for members and $35 for non-members. 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