By RICHIE MURRAY
BAKERSFIELD, CA – USAC National racing continues its adventure out west this weekend, but now the focus turns to the midgets as teams point the compass toward California’s Bakersfield Speedway this Saturday, November 17, for the “November Classic,” the penultimate round for both the USAC P1 Insurance National & Light Up the World Western States Midget seasons.
Brady Bacon of Broken Arrow, Okla. returns to Bakersfield as the defending winner of the “November Classic,” where he led the final 24 laps to collect the victory. He’s second in points this year with one season score, which came at the $15,000-to-win “BC39” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Dirt Track in September, one of 11 different winners in 15 races this season.
Bacon trails series Rookie Logan Seavey, who carries a commanding 118-point lead in the National standings coming in and could, for all intents and purposes, lock up the title this weekend. Only two previous drivers have won the USAC National Midget championship in his Rookie season – Danny Caruthers in 1971 and Christopher Bell in 2013. Sutter, California’s Seavey has won twice this year and is one of only four drivers to have multiple wins with the series in 2018.
Multi-time winners Chad Boat and Tyler Courtney run third and fourth in the standings, respectively. Phoenix, Arizona’s Boat finished 12th a year ago in his first national appearance at the 1/3-mile dirt oval. His father, Billy Boat, won seven USAC Western States Midget races at Bakersfield between 1994 and 1997, including a National win there in 1995. Last Saturday, Courtney, of Indianapolis, Ind., wrapped up the closest championship race in the history of USAC with his first AMSOIL National Sprint Car title. He finished fourth at Bakersfield in 2017 in his first visit there a year ago.
Speaking of historical Rookie seasons, like Seavey, Zeb Wise of Angola, Ind. has had a memorable year, becoming the youngest driver in series history to win a feature event, in August at Lanco, after spending two months of the summer on the sidelines due to injury. The 15-year-old Clauson Marshall Racing teammate to Courtney turns a year older this Thursday. Wise made his USAC debut at Bakersfield a year ago, finishing 19th.
Spencer Bayston, the 2017 USAC National Midget champ, finished in the runner-up spot at Bakersfield in 2017. The Lebanon, Ind. native is sixth in points this year and part of a strong crop of Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian driver lineup. Along with Seavey, 2014 USAC National Midget champ Rico Abreu of St. Helena, Calif. is back in the saddle, plus teammates Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif), Ryan Robinson (Foresthill, Calif.), Tucker Klaasmeyer (Paola, Kans.), Holly Shelton (Sacramento, Calif.) and Sam Johnson (St. Peters, Mo.).
Carrick was 10th a year ago, while Robinson was 7th and Shelton 22nd. Those three and newcomers, plus Klaasmeyer and Johnson, are all seeking their first career USAC National Midget wins as are Jason McDougal (Broken Arrow, Okla.) and Brayton Lynch (Springfield, Ill.). Each of this year’s five Western States Midget feature winners are eager to pick up their first National Midget triumphs: Michael Faccinto (Hanford, Calif.), Alex Schutte (Redding, Calif), Damion Gardner (Concord, Calif.), Shane Golobic (Fremont, Calif.) and Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.).
Faccinto led the first six laps of last season’s “November Classic” before finishing 9th. He leads the Western States points by just two markers over Alex Schutte and won at Bakersfield in June. Schutte was the top of the Western States contingent in the 2017 “November Classic” feature, bringing home an 8th place result and finished 4th there this past June. Schutte (2010), David Prickett (2012 Dirt) and Shannon McQueen (2012) are past Western States champions expected to compete.
Gardner just recently collected his sixth-straight AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprint Car crown, and seventh overall, last weekend, but is always strong whenever he straps into a midget. He was victorious at Santa Maria in August. Shane Golobic swept both nights of the “Louie Vermiel Classic” at Calistoga on Labor Day weekend. He was the hard charger last year at the “November Classic,” racing from his 16th starting spot to a 6th place finish. Swanson, the 2017 West Coast Sprint Car champ, and 2nd place finisher in June at Bakersfield, won the most recent Western States race at Ventura in October.
The Bakersfield race marks the 160th combined USAC National & Western States Midget race. A Western States regular hasn’t won a National race since Danny Stratton in 2007.
All the action will be live on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/ with live audio for free on the USAC app. As always, all USAC National and Western States events will be available to view within a day following the race on http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.
NEW USAC P1 INSURANCE MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Seavey-911, 2-Bacon-793, 3-Boat-781, 4-Courtney-773, 5-Grant-772, 6-Bayston-766, 7-Carrick-727, 8-K. Thomas-711, 9-Wise-579, 10-Robinson-544.
NEW LIGHT UP THE WORLD USAC WESTERN STATES MIDGET PRESENTED BY CBD LIVING WATER POINTS: 1-Faccinto-695, 2-Schutte-693, 3-Josett-570, 4-Dalby-547, 5-Sarna-503, 6-Prickett-499, 7-Beilman-418, 8-Ronnie Gardner, McQueen & Guerrini-370.