By RICHIE MURRAY
OCALA, FL – The beginning of a new year brings a myriad of new rides, new colors, new names and new faces when the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship arrives at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. for the series debut at the 3/8-mile, D-shaped dirt track on Feb. 8-9.
Three past series champions are expected to compete including reigning king Logan Seavey of Sutter, Calif., a three-time winner on the trail a year ago who returns to the Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian stable. Jerry Coons, Jr., the 2008 champ from Tucson, Ariz. is back with Petry Motorsports while 2016 titlist Tanner Thorson returns to make a run at another driver championship aboard the Tri-C Motorsports machine.
Both Seavey and Coons are one piece of powerful teams who have found success in the series. The KKM team has won eight-straight USAC Midget titles, but 2019 marks a sea change for the team with new drivers joining the fray. Tucker Klaasmeyer of Paola, Kans. returns as does Lincoln, California’s Tanner Carrick while series Rookie of the Year contenders Holley Hollan (Tulsa, Okla.) and Jesse Colwell (Red Bluff, Calif.) enter their first campaigns.
Along with Coons, Petry boasts a lineup of some of the biggest names in USAC racing today, including Kevin Thomas, Jr. of Cullman, Ala., who swept both midget feature events in Ocala a year ago. Impressive newcomer Cole Bodine of Rossville, Ind. has moved from to the Petry team along with fellow Rookie, and sprint car/off-road racing veteran, Sterling Cling from Tempe, Ariz.
The Clauson/Marshall team has reloaded with a loaded lineup of defending USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion Tyler Courtney of Indianapolis, Ind. and USAC National Midgets’ youngest-ever feature winner Zeb Wise from Angola, Ind. returning to the fold. Meanwhile, 2017 USAC National Sprint Car and 2016 Silver Crown champ Chris Windom of Canton, Ill. has landed a CMR ride along with Rookie of the Year contender, Collegeville, Pennsylvania’s Andrew Layser.
They join USAC National winners Steve Buckwalter (Royersford, Pa.), Tyler Thomas (Collinsville, Okla.), Sprint Car and Silver Crown standout C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) and 2018 National Midget runner-up Chad Boat (Tucker/Boat Motorsports in a star-studded “Winter Dirt Games X” Midget field.
Boat’s teammate Karsyn Elledge of Mooreville, N.C. is one of two females expected to compete. Another set of teammates, Sam Johnson of St. Peters, Mo. and Karter Sarff of Mason City, Ill. have a combined age of 31 as they set course on the USAC Midget trail in 2019 for owner Steve Reynolds.
A handful of drivers made a number of USAC National Midget appearances last year and looking to start off the new season on the right foot include Ethan Mitchell of Mooresville, N.C., Zane Hendricks of Stillwater, Okla., Chase Jones of Greenwood, Ind. and Adam Pierson, all the way from East Corinth, Vt. as one of 13 states represented along with Noah Gass of Mounds, Okla. and local Florida driver Oliver Akard from Ft. Myers.
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.