By RICHIE MURRAY
SPEEDWAY, IN – Tanner Thorson will return full-time to the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship in 2019 as the 2016 titlist makes a run at another crown for Clyde Lamar’s Tri-C Motorsports team when the series makes its season debut February 8-9 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. for “Winter Dirt Games X.”
Thorson, of Minden, Nev., owns 12 career USAC National Midget feature wins and ran just a handful of shows last season, finishing in the top-five twice, including a 2nd place run at Lawrenceburg and a 5th at Putnamville during “Indiana Midget Week,” in only five starts.
In 2018, Thorson focused on his duties in NASCAR’s Truck Series (where he made 11 starts) and in Lamar’s wing sprint car out west. But there was the pull of midget racing that lured him back in based on his driving style, but also because that’s where he’s accrued much success since he came onto the scene driving for Keith Kunz in 2013, making 92 USAC Midget starts for the team and finishing in the top-five in 42 of those appearances.
“I feel like midget racing translates to my driving style a lot better than just about anything I run,” Thorson explained. I love running wing cars and I feel like we’re really fast there, but there’s something about a midget that has my heart, just like Christopher (Bell), Kyle (Larson) and Rico (Abreu), they love to get back and run them. It helps when you have a fast car to get back into; it helps the mindset a little bit and just makes it easier in the long run.”
Thorson’s bid for a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget title in 2019 comes on the heels of a top-ten run in Lamar’s No. 3c at the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla. earlier this month in which he felt he and the team made big strides, building off what they developed throughout their debut season a year ago.
“Lee (Lindgren) and I have already created some chemistry as far as him being my crew chief,” Thorson said. “We worked together back in 2015 on a sprint car deal and I think that’s part of why everything clicked so well right off the bat last year with the sprint and midget.”
Thorson credits the base of knowledge that has helped him get acclimated to his run with the Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian team between 2013 and 2017.
“Racing for Keith (Kunz) for five years and Rusty (Kunz) at the Chili Bowl, and a couple races after that, definitely helped with the midget side of our team to start off with a fast car,” Thorson continued. “I feel like having the time with those guys and them teaching me has done a lot.”
The USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship will make its debut at the 3/8-mile D-shaped dirt track in Ocala on Thursday, February 7, with an open practice, followed by two consecutive, full nights of racing on Friday, February 8 and Saturday, February 9.
Cars hit the track for engine heat at 6:30pm Eastern on Friday and at 5:30pm on Saturday.
The following week, USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing returns to Ocala once again for the ninth consecutive year to kick off its season at “Winter Dirt Games.” The mini-series will take place at Bubba Raceway Park with an open practice night on Wednesday, February 13, then three complete full programs on Thursday, February 14, Friday, February 15 and Saturday, February 16.