2023 USAC Corn Belt Clash at Knoxville Raceway

Capital Letters: Six Storylines For USAC Sprints' Corn Belt Clash

Capital Letters: Six Storylines For USAC Sprints' Corn Belt Clash

USAC Sprint Cars return to The Sprint Car Capital of the World, Knoxville Raceway, this weekend for a pair of events during the Corn Belt Clash.

Jun 1, 2023 by FloRacing Staff
Capital Letters: Six Storylines For USAC Sprints' Corn Belt Clash

The Sprint Car Capital of the World.

Those seven words are more than apt to describe the enormity of what competing at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway means.

And that’s just the opportunity this weekend’s crop of USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship talent will face across two full programs during the Avanti Windows & Doors Corn Belt Clash on Friday and Saturday.

The grandiose half-mile dirt oval is home to hall of fame performances and the actual National Sprint Car Hall of Fame itself, located just beyond the Turn 2 fence.

In fact, the list of USAC National Sprint Car winners at Knoxville is a who’s who in the sport, many of whom already have found their way into induction into the Hall of Fame: Sheldon Kinser (class of 1992), Gary Bettenhausen (1993), Tom Bigelow (1996), Dick Tobias (1997), Sammy Sessions (2003) and Sammy Swindell (2006), while Brady Bacon and Justin Grant in this weekend’s field are in the midst of hall-of-fame careers.

Without further ado, let’s check out six storylines to keep tabs on this weekend.

Atop The Points

Kyle Cummins currently finds himself in uncharted territory. The Princeton, Indiana, racer enters Knoxville as the USAC National Sprint Car point leader by 22 markers over Bacon, a four-time titlist.

Cummins led the USAC points just once before in his career, exiting a series of Florida events in February 2016 with the point lead, but he’s never held the lead this late in the season.

In a remarkable run of consistency, in his last 22 USAC National Sprint Car feature starts dating back to last year, Cummins owns 21 top 10s and 18 top 5s. He’s also won twice this season, including the most recent round on May 25 at Circle City Raceway in Indianapolis.

However, he’s only made one previous Knoxville start, which came in an 18th place result in 2010.

He’d more than love to get into contention this weekend. His team’s main sponsor, Avanti Windows & Doors, also is the title sponsor of the Corn Belt Clash.

Additionally, though it remains early in the going, Jake Swanson continues to lead the point standings for the Bubby Jones Master of Goin’ Faster Series presented by Spire Sports + Entertainment. 

Saturday’s round will be Part 3 of the 10-race series. In the first two, Swanson finished second at Eldora and third at Terre Haute.

Bacon Hearts Knoxville

Only one driver has won more than two USAC National Sprint Car features at Knoxville Raceway. In fact, that driver has won four throughout his illustrious career. That’s Bacon.

The Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, native scored at Knoxville in 2011, and he is the only previous winner of the Corn Belt Clash, sweeping both nights in 2019 and capping the weekend with his most recent triumph in 2020.

In fact, in eight career Knoxville USAC Sprint Car starts, Bacon has only finished outside the top 3 once. It’s a profile that features four wins, two seconds and a third, and no finish worse than 10th.

Bacon stands just 22 points out of the point lead (he's second) and is coming off a resurgent week in which he garnered three consecutive podium finishes, including one on the half-mile at the Terre Haute Action Track during the Tony Hulman Classic.

A Hall Of Fame Kind Of Weekend

This weekend’s event is special in more ways than one. 

It’s National Sprint Car Hall of Fame induction weekend, as 13 individuals will be honored for their contributions to the sport during a ceremony behind the grandstands at the Dyer-Hudson Hall on the Marion County Fairgrounds on Saturday.

The doors will open at 11 a.m. Central, with dinner catered by the Rib Shack at noon. The induction festivities will follow.

This year’s 33rd class of inductees includes Max Dolder, Ken Hamilton, Paul Hazen, Chad Kemenah, Cory Kruseman, Joey Saldana, Tommy Sanders, Ralph Shaheen, Johnny Capels, Bobby Marshall, Joie Ray, Johnny Vance and Alan Kreitzer.

Serving as the backdrop of this weekend’s Corn Belt Clash on-track activities, the modern day USAC National Sprint Car stars will be passing by the Hall of Fame each time they rip around the half-mile, but someday hope to stop by and have their name etched in as an inductee, some of whom already possess hall-of-fame credentials.

USAC Triple Crown Alert

One of those individuals with surefire hall-of-fame credentials is J.J. Yeley.  

The Phoenix native is one of two drivers to capture a single season USAC Triple Crown title (2003) alongside Tony Stewart (1995).

This weekend, Yeley will attempt to make his first USAC National Sprint Car feature starting lineup since July of 2009. Yeley will drive one of two entries for the Yeley-Petty Racing team alongside Chase Johnson.

Yeley captured a USAC Silver Crown victory at Knoxville in 2001 and finished second the prior year during the Non-Wing World Championship invasion in the summer of 2000.

To Halve Or Not To Halve

Half-miles have made up the majority of the venues throughout USAC National Sprint Car history, with just a little more than half of all events held on tracks that size or larger, 14 of which have taken place at Knoxville since 1968.

At least eight drivers in this weekend’s field have won USAC National Sprint Car features on half-mile tracks, led by Brady Bacon with 18.  

Robert Ballou has won 15 on the “halves,” while Justin Grant has notched 12, Chase Stockon four, C.J. Leary four, Logan Seavey two and Jake Swanson and Matt Westfall one apiece.

Already this season, Grant (Eldora), Leary (Eldora) and Bacon (Terre Haute) have bagged USAC Sprint Car wins on a half-mile. 

Additionally, Jake Swanson and Daison Pursley each grabbed non-points victories on the Florida half-mile of Volusia Speedway Park in February.

Tom Bigelow owns the most with 50 career USAC Sprint Car wins on half-mile or larger tracks but did the bulk of his work when the entire schedule was made up of said tracks, before tracks less than a half-mile were introduced to the schedule in 1981.

Dutch & Max & The 17GP

Max Adams has taken over the reins of Michael Dutcher Motorsports’ No. 17GP for the weekend, a ride which had been driven all year long to this point by Kevin Thomas Jr.

Adams (Loomis, California) has been mightily impressive of late in his family ride, conjuring a ninth and a sixth in his two most recent USAC feature starts on the half-miles of Eldora and Terre Haute, respectively.

Most recently, last Sunday night, Adams captured a big score in the BC Indiana Double at Kokomo (Indiana) Speedway. 

Adams has driven for Dutcher on occasion in the past, but this weekend will mark his Knoxville debut.

Race Details

The Avanti Windows & Doors Corn Belt Clash will take place on Friday and Saturday.

Friday’s feature will be 25 laps in length and pay $11,000-to-win. Saturday’s feature will be 30 laps in length and pay $12,000-to-win.

The third edition of the Corn Belt Clash features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship (co-sanctioned by the USAC Wholesale Batteries Midwest Wingless Racing Association).  

Knoxville Championship 360 Sprint Cars will be on the card for Friday, while the Knoxville Championship 410 Sprint Cars will be on hand Saturday.

Each night, the front gates will open at 6 p.m. Central, and hot laps will take place at 6:45 p.m., followed immediately by qualifying and racing.

On Friday, general admission tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for ages 13-19, $5 for ages 6-12 and free for ages 5 & under. Reserved tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for ages 13-19, $10 for ages 6-12 and free for ages 5 & under. Pit passes are $30.

On Saturday, general admission tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for ages 13-19, $10 for ages 6-12 and free for ages 5 & under. Reserved tickets are $25 for adults, $20 for ages 13-19, $15 for ages 6-12 and free for ages 5 & under. Pit passes are $30.

Advance tickets are on sale at KnoxvilleRaceway.com.

The entire weekend of events can be watched LIVE on FloRacing.