By RICHIE MURRAY
One of the deepest USAC National Midget fields in years is set to hit the track for the first time in 2017 this Saturday, March 18th for the second-running of the “Shamrock Classic” at Du Quoin’s Southern Illinois Center.
Fifty drivers have already pre-entered for the $3900-to-win USAC Midget National Championship season opener that brings the series indoors to showcase the intense open wheel action on the 1/6-mile indoor oval that has routinely provided some of the most memorable races each season and features a number of the biggest names in open-wheel, dirt track racing.
Among them are defending USAC National Midget champ Tanner Thorson, who leads a six-car Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports stable into Du Quoin. The Minden, Nevada native won six features on his way to the title one year ago, and intends to kick off the year in strong fashion as he aims to become the first back-to-back series champ since Bryan Clauson in 2010 and 2011. Thorson is joined on the KKM team by Lebanon, Indiana’s Spencer Bayston, last season’s runner-up in points, who was victorious in last season’s Gas City round of “Indiana Midget Week.”
Christopher Bell, a USAC National Midget champion in 2013, rounds out the KKM lineup for Du Quoin. The versatile Norman, Oklahoma native recently won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event and is also a past winner in the USAC Silver Crown Champ Cars as well as the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series. Rounding out the KKM lineup is the California trio of Holly Shelton, Ryan Robinson and series Rookie of the Year contender Tanner Carrick.
The two most recent USAC Midget winners at the Southern Illinois Center have signed on to compete for the Clauson/Marshall Racing team. Fremont, California’s Shane Golobic will attempt to defend his “Shamrock Classic” victory in the CMR/Matt Wood Racing No. 17w while Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney, a Southern Illinois Center winner in last December’s “Junior Knepper 55,” will pilot the CMR No. 7BC. Filling out the CMR stable is current USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader Justin Grant who won just one month ago in the Sprint series’ season opener in Ocala, Florida. The Ione, California native won his first ever start in the CMR No. 39BC in a Chili Bowl preliminary night feature in January.
Dave Darland is one of just six drivers to have claimed titles in USAC’s National Midget, National Sprint and Silver Crown divisions during his career. The Lincoln, Indiana veteran will be in the seat of Gray Racing No. 11 in which he aims to find victory lane in the series for the first time in three seasons. During his illustrious career in which he has amassed more than 100 USAC victories, 30 of those came in a USAC National Midget event, ranking him 11th all-time.
The other USAC Triple Crown member in Saturday’s field is Tucson, Arizona’s Jerry Coons, Jr., the 2006 and 2007 USAC National Midget champ. Coons returns to the seat of the Petry/Goff Motorsports No. 25 for 2017.
In addition, Broken Arrow, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon is back in the saddle of the FMR Racing No. 76m for the 2017 USAC season. The two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ won last season’s “Jason Leffler Memorial” in Wayne City, Ill. on his way to a third-place finish in series points.
Chad Boat picked up his first three career USAC National Midget victories in 2016, all within the span of a week in early August. The first of which came at the bullring of Jefferson County Speedway in Fairbury, Neb. before sweeping both nights at Belleville to close out the weekend. The Phoenix, Ariz. driver is a two-time Rookie of the Year in both the USAC National Midget and National Sprint divisions and is the son of 1995 USAC Western States Midget champ and 1998 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Billy Boat.
Collegeville, Pennsylvania’s Alex Bright is renowned for his success in a midget on a resume that is highlighted by a 2016 ARDC title as well as a preliminary night feature win at the “Chili Bowl Midget Nationals” in Tulsa, Oklahoma in January of 2016. Bright has made 40 career USAC National Midget feature starts, including a second-place finish at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway in 2012, but is still seeking his first trip to victory lane.
Further entries include a handful of USAC regulars eyeing their first series victory. Oklahoma’s Tyler Thomas who finished in the runner-up spot in last August’s “Tuesday Night Thunder” in Fairbury, Nebraska. Up-and-comers Gage Walker and Tony DiMattia have sights set on a breakthrough season of their own.
Saturday’s race-day schedule begins with pits opening at 8am. Spectator gates open at 1pm. A public drivers’ meeting open to all race fans starts at 3:00 pm while hot laps get under way at 4pm with racing set for 5:30pm. Fans who are unable to attend the event in-person can view the race LIVE on http://www.speedshifttv.com/.
50 DRIVERS ENTERED FOR THE “SHAMROCK CLASSIC”
1K Brayton Lynch – Springfield, IL
1T Tony Roney – Herculaneum, MO
2 Kellen Conover – St. Louis, MO
3N Jake Neuman – New Berlin, IL
5 Kyle Cummins – Princeton, IN
5c Colten Cottle – Kansas, IL
7 Gage Walker – Fairland, IN
7BC Tyler Courtney – Indianapolis, IN
7K Justin Peck – Monrovia, IN
9 Korey Weyant – Springfield, IL
9JR Derek Hagar – Marion, AR
9K Kyle Schuett – Philo, IL
11 Dave Darland – Lincoln, IN
11B Brent Beauchamp – Fairland, IN
12w Billy Wease – Noblesville, IN
15 Tim Siner – Dupo, IL
15F Cole Fehr – Coatesville, IN
15M Shane Morgan – Morton, IL
15s Mitchell Davis – Auburn, IL
17w Shane Golobic – Fremont, CA
21 Christopher Bell – Norman, OK
22 Andy Malpocker – St. Charles, MO
25 Jerry Coons, Jr. – Tucson, AZ
28 Kory Schudy – Springfield, MO
29 David Hair – Indianapolis, IN
31 David Budres – Beloit, WI
35 Chris Baue – Indianapolis, IN
35T Tyler Robbins – Collinsville, IL
39BC Justin Grant – Ione, CA
50 Tony DiMattia – Malvern, PA
50A Daniel Adler – St. Louis, MO
52 Isaac Chapple – Willow Branch, IN
56v Matt Veatch – McLeansboro, IL
56x Mark Chisholm – Cheyenne, WY
57D Daniel Robinson – Ewing, IL
67 Tanner Thorson – Minden, NV
67K Holly Shelton – Gold River, CA
68 Kyle O’Gara – Indianapolis, IN
71 Ryan Robinson – Foresthill, CA
71B Robert Bell – Colfax, IA
71K Tanner Carrick – Sacramento, CA
75 Lee Dakus – Edmonton, ALB, CAN
76M Brady Bacon – Broken Arrow, OK
77 Alex Bright – Collegeville, PA
84 Chad Boat – Phoenix, AZ
88 Terry Babb – Harristown, IL
91 Tyler Nelson – Kansas City, KS
91A Chris Andrews – Sandusky, OH
91T Tyler Thomas – Catoosa, OK
97 Spencer Bayston – Lebanon, IN