The Curtain Call: Storylines For USAC Sprints' Red Dirt Finale

The Curtain Call: Storylines For USAC Sprints' Red Dirt Finale

The USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship ventures to Meeker, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Raceway for the first time on Friday and Saturday.

Oct 25, 2023 by FloRacing Staff
The Curtain Call: Storylines For USAC Sprints' Red Dirt Finale

It’s the first of times. It’s the last of times.

It’ll be the start of one chapter and the closing of another when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship ventures to Meeker, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Raceway for the first time on Friday and Saturday.

On the same token, the curtain will close on the 2023 series season. A champion will be crowned, and the ink on the 68th season of competition officially will dry in the record book.

We’ve witnessed how the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets have performed here, but we’ve never seen anything like this before – USAC National Sprint Cars spraying the red dirt of the Oklahoma kind for two consecutive nights to close out an historical season with the series.

Here are the storylines to think about when USAC Sprint Cars come to call on the 1/4-mile dirt oval for a $6,000-to-win event Friday night and a $10,000-to-win finale Saturday evening.

Grant Vs. Bacon – The Final Round

It’s not only the USAC National Sprint Car season that wraps up this weekend; it’s also the culmination of a championship season.

Justin Grant enters the weekend as the point leader with a 109-point edge over Brady Bacon. Grant is seeking to become the first back-to-back USAC National Sprint Car titlist since Bacon in 2020 and 2021. Meanwhile, Bacon is on the drive for five career series championships.

However, while not completely insurmountable, it would require an unprecedented comeback by Bacon in order to overtake Grant for the title this weekend. Only twice in the past quarter-century has a driver vaulted into the point lead on the final weekend of the season.

In 2001, Jay Drake held a 29-point lead but was injured in a regional midget crash at Terre Haute, which forced him to miss the final two events of the USAC Sprint Car season, ultimately losing the title to J.J. Yeley by 19 markers. 

In 2018, Kevin Thomas Jr. led Tyler Courtney by two points entering the Oval Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway. In the end, the pair were tied at the top of the standings, but by virtue of more victories throughout the season, Courtney earned the tiebreaker and the crown.

Both nights this weekend will feature the standard points format, with 6-5-4-3-2-1 available to the six highest qualifiers, 8-7-6-5 to the top 4 heat-race finishers and 4-3-2-1-1-1 to the top 6 in the semi. 

For the feature, the winner picks up 70 points for the win, and the points decrease by three per position throughout the top 10. For finishers 10-20, the points decrease by two points per position. All finishers 20th and back will earn 23 points apiece. All non-transfers receive 10 points each.

The Sooner The Better – USAC Is Back In Oklahoma

Oklahoma is a rare territory for the USAC National Sprint Cars to set up camp. Just seven previous appearances have been made by the series since 1966. 

In fact, the series’ most recent visit to Oklahoma came 19 years ago in 2004 – a victory by Jay Drake at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Motorplex.

Eventual three-time series champ Larry Dickson conquered the debut in Tulsa in July 1966, while Roger McCluskey took the next night in Muskogee. In 1967, Ralph Liguori scored the weekend opener at Tulsa, while Greg Weld prevailed in the weekend capper at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds.

After a wait of nearly two decades, USAC Sprints returned to the Sooner State in 1985 as part of the USAC vs. CRA Challenge. CRA’s Mike Sweeney was the triumphant party in the first of two Oklahoma dates at Lawton Speedway, and one night later, USAC’s Rick Hood cashed in at OKC, kicking off a string of four straight series victories, a feat that hasn’t been duplicated.

There’s one particular thread in common for all the previous years the series stopped by to race in Oklahoma. In every single one of those years, the eventual USAC National Sprint Car champion was among the feature winners. It’s an omen that either Justin Grant or Brady Bacon would love to continue this weekend at Red Dirt.

Red Dirt Is Okie-Dokie wit Daison

With several ASCS Elite Non-Wing and USAC Midwest Wingless Racing Association Sprint Car regulars planning to compete this weekend at Red Dirt, the field is set to be chock-full of Oklahoma natives.

Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma) is the all-time winningest Oklahoman in USAC National Sprint Car history with 53 scores in his illustrious career. However, Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Oklahoma) will be among those eying a first career points-paying victory with the series.

If you recall, back in 2021, Pursley earned his first career USAC National Midget feature win at Red Dirt, sweeping the night, in fact, after also earning a micro victory that same evening.

Pursley, who leads all 2023 rookies by sitting 11th in the USAC National Sprint Car standings at press time, aims to become the seventh driver to earn both his first USAC National Sprint Car and USAC National Midget points-paying event wins at the same track. 

The list includes: Bob Hogle (Ascot Park), Bobby Unser (Ascot Park), Gary Patterson (Ascot Park), Jack Hewitt (Eldora Speedway), Mack McClellan (Illiana Motor Speedway) and Mike Bliss (Indianapolis Raceway Park).

Red Dirt On A Smaller Scale

Being behind the wheel of a sprint car will be a new experience for most this weekend at Red Dirt. However, it doesn’t mean that Red Dirt necessarily is new to them.

Two drivers in this weekend’s USAC Sprint Car field have won USAC National Midget feature events at Red Dirt: Logan Seavey (2019) and Daison Pursley (2021). Seavey also ran as the runner-up in 2018 with the midgets at Red Dirt.

Justin Grant went 13th to second in 2021 and was second again in 2022. Bacon grabbed a fifth in 2018, and Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Indiana) collected a sixth in 2020, while Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, California) tallied a ninth in 2022.

Not to mention, three-time USAC Wingless Sprints Oklahoma champion Brett Wilson (Coweta, Oklahoma) has won twice with the series at Red Dirt, where he plans to be on hand for his USAC National Sprint Car debut this weekend.

Closing Time – Last Call For Methanol

Closing time, one last call for methanol. 

Yeah, crazy enough, the end of the USAC National Sprint Car season is here, and that means several achievements are on the line.

Only three drivers have won both the season-opening points race and the final in the same year: Pat O’Connor (1956), Rich Vogler (1986) and Brady Bacon (2020). Bacon the opener winner in Ocala, Florida, in February, will try to become the first to accomplish the feat twice.

Justin Grant already has won at the same track on consecutive evenings (August of this year at Kokomo) – three-in-a-row in fact. If he could pull off a sweep of the Red Dirt weekend, he’d become the fourth driver to achieve consecutive wins at a particular track twice in the same season. 

Pancho Carter pulled off the feat at Winchester and Eldora in 1976; Tom Bigelow doubled up twice at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 1977; and Brady Bacon pulled it off at Knoxville and Perris in 2019.

“Walking off” with a feature victory and a championship on the same night has been accomplished 10 previous times: Eddie Sachs (1958), Tommy Hinnershitz (1959), Parnelli Jones (1960), Pancho Carter (1974), Sheldon Kinser (1977 & 1982), Steve Butler (1988), Josh Wise (2006), Levi Jones (2011) and Brady Bacon (2020). Bacon and Justin Grant are in position to become the next.

Additionally, on eight occasions, a driver has won multiple USAC National Sprint Car features to close out the season. 

That list includes Roger McCluskey (1962), Sheldon Kinser (1982), Jack Hewitt (1997), Tracy Hines (2000), Josh Wise (2006), Jerry Coons Jr. (2007), Kevin Swindell (2008) and Tyler Courtney (2019). Hines (2000) remains the lone driver to win each of the last three to close out a season. Grant is riding a one-race winning streak entering the event.

Race Details

USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship (co-sanctioned by ASCS Elite Non-Wing Sprints) will compete at Meeker, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Raceway for two consecutive nights of competition on Friday and Saturday.

Sport Modifieds/B-Mods and Non-Wing Micros will comprise Friday night’s program, while Factory Stocks and Non-Wing Micros will be on hand for Saturday night’s event.

A practice night will begin the weekend Thursday from 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Central. Grandstand admission is free, and pit passes are $20 apiece.

On Friday, pit gates will open at 2 p.m. central, the grandstands will open at 5 p.m. and cars will be on the track at 6 p.m., with qualifying and racing immediately following. 

On Saturday, pit gates will open at noon central, grandstands will open at 4 p.m. and cars will take the track at 6 p.m., with qualifying and racing immediately following.

General admission tickets are $30 for Friday and $35 for Saturday. High school students and younger are $10. Tickets are available online at under the “Buy Tickets” tab and will be sold the day of the show, as well.

All-access passes (pit access and general admission seating) are available for $40 and available at the pit gate on the day of the show only. Pit passes for ages 5 & under are $10. The tailgate area is $175 per carload (up to eight people per car).