KNOXVILLE, IA – The richest one-day USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship event of the year is upon us, and for the majority of the last two seasons in the event, there’s been one driver who’s constantly been the one all others have been chasing – Brady Bacon.
Bacon goes for his third-straight BRANDT Professional Agriculture Corn Belt Clash victory in the third-running of the event this Saturday night, July 10, at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway, sanctioned by the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, the USAC Wholesale Batteries Midwest Wingless Racing Association and the POWRi Lucas Oil WAR Sprint Car Series.
The Corn Belt conversation begins with Bacon. The three-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion from Broken Arrow, Okla. is the winningest driver with the series at the half-mile dirt oval, emerging victorious on four occasions. His prowess at the Corn Belt Clash over the past couple of years has been phenomenal, including a two-night sweep of the inaugural Corn Belt Nationals in 2019, a 2nd place finish in the 2020 prelim and a dominating final night win in last year’s finale, which has netted him a total of $48,000 in prize money between 2019-2020 for those four races alone.
Bacon’s success at Knoxville dates to his Rookie USAC season of 2006 where he scored a pair of runner-up finishes on two-straight nights of Midget racing, leading a combined 11 laps in the process. In his first USAC Sprint Car appearance at Knoxville in 2010, Bacon was 2nd again. The following year, in 2011, the eventual two-time series champ authored a complete sweep of the night, recording quick time in qualifying, winning his heat and scoring the feature victory. In 2017, he ran 10th in the main and, in 2018, he led the first 19 laps of the 30-lap event, ultimately finishing 3rd.
Bacon owns both the 25 and 30-lap USAC Sprint Car track records at Knoxville, each of which were set during the Corn Belt Clash. The 25-lap record of 9:11.86 was notched in 2019 while the 30-lap mark of 10:19.56 made its way into the books in 2020.
Ione, California’s Justin Grant was the king of Knoxville in 2017, leading all 30 laps en route to the victory. When Grant returned with his new team in 2018, TOPP Motorsports, he didn’t miss much of a beat, finishing 4th in the main event. In 2019, he was 5th and 6th on each of the two nights and was the fastest qualifier on the second night. In 2020, the reigning USAC Silver Crown champion finished on the podium each night at Knoxville, taking 3rd on night one and 2nd on night two.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) was the fastest qualifier at Knoxville in 2017 and his lap of 18.548 still stands as the one-lap USAC National Sprint Car track record. The Cullman, Ala. driver’s Knoxville results in 2019 were solid with a 3rd on night one and a 4th on night two. On the first night, he led three laps. He was also 7th in 2017 and 10th in 2018. In 2020, Thomas took home a 13th on night one and 16th on night two and enters the event having won $7,000 during last Saturday’s Bill Gardner Sprintacular at Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway.
C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) is the only driver to have finished in the top-five at Knoxville in each of the past four years. He continued that streak in 2020 with a 5th on night one, in addition to fast qualifying time, and earned a 3rd on the final night. He was the fastest qualifier on night one in 2019, then finished 9th in the feature. The 2019 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion started 4th and finished 2nd on night two. After capturing a semi-feature victory in 2017 at Knoxville, he turned up the wick to finish 5th that night and climbed up the pylon to a runner-up result in 2018.
Chris Windom finished 4th on both nights of the Corn Belt Clash in 2020. He led nine laps and finished 2nd in the 2019 Corn Belt opener while garnering a 5th on night two. The Canton, Ill. native was 2nd behind Bacon at Knoxville in 2011 following an 8th place finish in 2010. The 2017 series champion scored feature finishes of 6th in 2017 and 9th in 2018. His 6th place result in 2017 came in a hard-charging performance in which he started from the 18th starting position.
Robert Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) set not one, but two Knoxville USAC Sprint Car track records on the same evening during the 2020 Corn Belt Clash, rewriting the books with a new 10-lap time of 3:09.379 and a 16-lap mark of 5:25.068. The 2015 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ took hard charger honors on the final night, finishing 8th after starting 19th. His first USAC start at Knoxville came in 2010, finishing 7th, which is where he also finished in 2018. Thus far, his best Knoxville result came in a runner-up performance in 2017.
Chase Stockon’s productivity at Knoxville has displayed solid results of note, a 4th in 2017 6th in 2018 and a 7th and 8th in two 2019 starts serves as his best results in the event. In 2020, the Fort Branch, Ind. driver set a brand-new 12-lap USAC Sprint Car track record at Knoxville with a time of 4:26.089 and raced to feature finishes of 11th on night one and 9th on night two.
Jake Swanson (Anaheim, Calif.) has been knocking on the door for a first career USAC National Sprint Car win in 2021. The 2017 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion’s first foray to Knoxville for the Corn Belt Clash in 2020 resulted in a pair of top-ten finishes, an 8th on the first night and a 10th on the second night.
Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), likewise, made his Knoxville debut during the 2020 Corn Belt Clash. The first evening netted the 2018 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget champion the hard charger honors after powering from his 20th starting position to finish 9th.
Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) was in the same boat last year as a first-time Knoxville Raceway visitor, with the 2016 USAC National Midget champ finishing 15th and 11th throughout the two nights of Corn Belt action. He currently leads the Rookie of the Year standings with the USAC National Sprint Cars entering Saturday’s contest.
Mario Clouser (Auburn, Ill.) returns to the Corn Belt Clash for the first time since 2019 where he finished 18th and 17th in his first two Knoxville feature starts in USAC National Sprint Car competition. He currently leads the POWRi Lucas Oil Sprint Car Series standings entering the event.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) has yet to compete at Knoxville, but will do so for the initial time this weekend in the Yeley Racing No. 2, the first appearance of the team in USAC Sprint Car competition at Knoxville since 2010 where driver Kyle Larson finished 17th.
USAC Rookie Paul Nienhiser (Chapin, Ill.) has prior experience at Knoxville with a wing, but the 2019 MOWA champion will contest his first series event at the track without one while Mitch Wissmiller (Saybrook, Ill.) and Robert Bell (Colfax, Iowa) will make return visits to Knoxville as they attempt to make their first Corn Belt Clash feature starting field.
A strong crop from the USAC Wholesale Batteries Midwest Wingless Racing Association have announced their intentions to race in this weekend’s Corn Belt Clash, a handful of whom have prior experience in the event.
Wyatt Burks (Topeka, Kans.) enters as the defending USAC MWRA champion, and was 11th and 13th in 2019 and 12th and 15th in 2020 at the Corn Belt Clash and started on the pole for 2020’s prelim night feature.
Lincoln, Nebraska’s Don Droud, Jr., a top-five finisher in a USAC Midget at Knoxville in 2006 and a former one-lap track record holder at the half-mile in a wing sprint car, finished 13th on night one in 2019. The MWRA championship runner-up for 2020 was 19th and 17th at the Corn Belt one year ago.
MWRA point leader and two-time 2021 winner Wesley Smith (Billings, Mo.) was a 10th place finisher on the opening night of the Corn Belt Clash in 2020 and was a night one Corn Belt heat winner and 12th place feature finisher in 2019.
Three-time and defending POWRi WAR champion Riley Kreisel (Warsaw, Mo.) has won with WAR, with MWRA and ran inside the top-ten with the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars as recently as a week ago. He scored his best Corn Belt finish of 12th on the final night in 2020 after starting on the front row the evening before.
Fellow USAC MWRA regulars who have Corn Belt Clash experience but are aiming to crack the starting field for the first time in the event include Chris Parkinson (Gladstone, Mo.) Jason Billups (Holt, Mo.), Terry Richards (Denton, Neb.) and Braydon Cromwell (Lone Jack, Mo.). The lineup of first-time Knoxville invaders from MWRA consist of J.D. Black (Grain Valley, Mo.), Dakota Earls (Independence, Mo.), Mark Lane (Blue Springs, Mo.) and Xavier Doney (Odessa, Mo.).
Although Bacon has had a relative stranglehold on the Corn Belt Clash over the past two years, the four USAC National Sprint Car events contested on half-mile dirt tracks this year have produced four different winners: Tyler Courtney (Eldora Speedway), Robert Ballou (Eldora Speedway), Chris Windom (Terre Haute Action Track) and Justin Grant (Selinsgrove Speedway).
All drivers and teams competing in the event that possess a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car license will be awarded 50 appearance points for the Corn Belt Nationals, which will go toward the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship standings. No prelim or feature points will be issued.
Time trials will consist of two cars at a time for two laps each with the best time of the two counting as the official time for each driver. Heat races are 8 laps apiece with the top-6 qualifiers inverted in each heat. The top-4 finishers will transfer to the A-Main with finishers 5-8 going to the B-Main and finishers 9th through the balance of the field going to the C-Main.
The top-4 finishers from the C-Main will transfer to the tail of the B-Main. The top-8 finishers from the B-Main will transfer to the tail of the A-Main. The A-Main feature is 30 laps in length and will invert the top-8 starters for the event based on their qualifying time.
This Saturday night at Knoxville, general admission tickets are $30 at the gate and free for ages 12 and under. Reserved seats are $35 in advance and $10 for ages 12 and under. Tickets are on sale now at www.KnoxvilleRaceway.com.
Pits open at 2pm Central with sign-in at 3:30pm and the draw closing at 5:45pm. The drivers meeting takes place at 6pm with engine warm-up at 6:15pm followed by hot laps.
FloRacing will have live coverage of the entire USAC portion of the BRANDT Corn Belt Clash (practice, qualifying, prelims and the main event) exclusively at https://bit.ly/3dgONXz.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Brady Bacon-1307, 2-Justin Grant-1253, 3-Kevin Thomas Jr.-1234, 4-Robert Ballou-1128, 5-C.J. Leary-1118, 6-Tanner Thorson-1069, 7-Chris Windom-1060, 8-Jake Swanson-1034, 9-Chase Stockon-796, 10-Paul Nienhiser-755.
USAC WHOLESALE BATTERIES MIDWEST WINGLESS RACING ASSOCIATION SPRINT CAR POINTS: 1-Wesley Smith-1275, 2-Kory Schudy-1260, 3-Chris Parkinson-1060, 4-Wyatt Burks-1050, 5-Chad Goff-975, 6-Zach Clark-945, 7-Xavier Doney-875, 8-Dakota Earls-770, 9-Zach Sanders-765, 10-Luke Howard-740.
POWRI LUCAS OIL WAR SPRINT CAR SERIES POINTS: 1-Mario Clouser-2150, 2-Wesley Smith-1930, 3-Xavier Doney-1890, 4-Riley Kreisel-1890, 5-Anthony Nicholson-1410, 6-Joe B. Miller-1390, 7-Zach Daum-1080, 8-Kory Schudy-1060, 9-Mitchell Moore-880, 10-Wyatt Burks-840.
CORN BELT CLASH WINNERS:
2019: Brady Bacon (7/6)
2020: Brady Bacon (7/11)
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS AT KNOXVILLE RACEWAY:
1-Bud Kaeding, Dick Tobias, Gary Bettenhausen, Justin Grant, Sammy Sessions, Sammy Swindell, Sheldon Kinser & Tom Bigelow
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINNERS AT KNOXVILLE RACEWAY:
1968: Gary Bettenhausen (9/6)
1971: Dick Tobias (6/5)
1972: Sammy Sessions (6/3)
1973: Tom Bigelow (6/3)
1982: Sheldon Kinser (6/5)
1988: Sammy Swindell (6/11)
2010: Bud Kaeding (8/8)
2011: Brady Bacon (8/7)
2017: Justin Grant (6/3)
2018: Tyler Courtney (6/9)
2019: Brady Bacon (7/5) & Brady Bacon (7/6)
2020: Tyler Courtney (7/10) & Brady Bacon (7/11)
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT KNOXVILLE RACEWAY:
1 Lap – 6/3/2017 – Kevin Thomas Jr. – 18.548 – 97.046 mph
8 Laps – 8/8/2010 – Bryan Clauson – 2:38.80 – 90.680 mph
10 Laps – 7/11/2020 – Robert Ballou – 3:09.379 – 95.048 mph
12 Laps – 7/10/2020 – Chase Stockon – 4:26.089 – 81.176 mph
16 Laps – 7/11/2020 – Robert Ballou – 5:25.068 – 88.597 mph
25 Laps – 7/6/2019 – Brady Bacon – 9:11.86 – 82.195 mph
30 laps – 7/11/2020 – Brady Bacon – 10:19.56 – 87.668 mph
40 Laps – 6/3/1972 – Sammy Sessions – 16:21.23 – 73.377 mph
PAST CORN BELT CLASH FEATURE RESULTS:
2019 PRELIM FEATURE: (25 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (6), 2. Chris Windom (1), 3. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (3), 4. Tyler Courtney (10), 5. Justin Grant (7), 6. Ryan Bernal (9), 7. Chase Stockon (5), 8. Jason McDougal (20), 9. C.J. Leary (8), 10. Matt Westfall (2), 11. Wyatt Burks (12), 12. Wesley Smith (11), 13. Don Droud, Jr. (13), 14. Korey Weyant (21), 15. Nick Bilbee (16), 16. Timmy Buckwalter (4), 17. Josh Hodges (22), 18. Mario Clouser (23), 19. Carson Short (19), 20. Dave Darland (15), 21. Anthony Nicholson (18), 22. Riley Kreisel (24), 23. Chad Boespflug (14), 24. Landon Simon (17). 9:11.86 (New Track Record)
2019 FINAL NIGHT FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (2), 2. C.J. Leary (4), 3. Tyler Courtney (6), 4. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (5), 5. Chris Windom (8), 6. Justin Grant (1), 7. Jason McDougal (7), 8. Chase Stockon (3), 9. Ryan Bernal (12), 10. Carson Short (11), 11. Matt Westfall (9), 12. Korey Weyant (23), 13. Wyatt Burks (10), 14. Josh Hodges (20), 15. Nick Bilbee (14), 16. Dave Darland (19), 17. Mario Clouser (16), 18. Steve Irwin (24), 19. Kory Schudy (22), 20. Anthony Nicholson (21), 21. Riley Kreisel (13), 22. Chad Boespflug (15), 23. Timmy Buckwalter (18), 24. Wesley Smith (17). 11:08.75
2020 PRELIM FEATURE: (25 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Tyler Courtney (3), 2. Brady Bacon (4), 3. Justin Grant (6), 4. Chris Windom (9), 5. C.J. Leary (8), 6. Ryan Bernal (14), 7. Carson Short (7), 8. Jake Swanson (10), 9. Logan Seavey (20), 10. Wesley Smith (19), 11. Chase Stockon (17), 12. Wyatt Burks (1), 13. Kevin Thomas Jr. (16), 14. Nick Bilbee (5), 15. Tanner Thorson (18), 16. Riley Kreisel (2), 17. Matt Westfall (15), 18. Shane Cottle (22), 19. Don Droud Jr. (23), 20. Jack Wagner (21), 21. Brian VanMeveren (12), 22. Dustin Clark (13), 23. Robert Ballou (11), 24. Dennis Gile (24). NT
2020 FINAL NIGHT FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Brady Bacon (1), 2. Justin Grant (2), 3. C.J. Leary (3), 4. Chris Windom (5), 5. Tyler Courtney (4), 6. Ryan Bernal (8), 7. Carson Short (6), 8. Robert Ballou (19), 9. Chase Stockon (7), 10. Jake Swanson (10), 11. Tanner Thorson (14), 12. Riley Kreisel (15), 13. Logan Seavey (13), 14. Nick Bilbee (9), 15. Wyatt Burks (11), 16. Kevin Thomas Jr. (12), 17. Don Droud Jr. (23), 18. Shane Cottle (21), 19. Matt Westfall (17), 20. Dennis Gile (20), 21. Dustin Clark (16), 22. Wesley Smith (18), 23. Glen Saville (24), 24. Dave Darland (22). 10:19.560