Coming off a year in which a Rookie stormed into USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition to win three races and the series title, your eyes have to be focused on who can rise up to the challenge to, perhaps, repeat what Logan Seavey did a year ago.
Nine drivers thus far have indicated his or her intention to compete on the full series’ trail, a substantially-talented class of individuals who can certainly challenge for victories right off the bat beginning this weekend, February 8-9 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. for “Winter Dirt Games X.”
The first driver drawn to attention is Greenfield, Indiana’s C.J. Leary, whose seven career USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car wins and pair of Silver Crown scores are evident of the talent he possesses. Though he’s only made six USAC Midget starts in his career (8 career starts or less maintains a drivers Rookie status with the series), also consider the car he’s jumping into, the FMR Racing No. 76m, is the one in which Brady Bacon utilized to score five wins over the past three seasons, including the 2018 “BC39” at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This is sure to be a potent combo.
Cole Bodine got his feet wet with the series in 2018, making seven starts for Clauson Marshall Racing, beginning with a substitution role for the injured Zeb Wise in mid-summer. The Rossville, Ind. native was impressive, nearly pulling off the victory in just his fourth start at Sweet Springs (Mo.) Motorsports Complex, leading 28 of 40 laps and finishing second to eventual champ Seavey. This year, Bodine moves to the Petry Motorsports stable alongside Southwest Sprint Car and off-road racing veteran Sterling Cling of Tempe, Ariz. Bodine and Cling will have an opportunity to learn alongside two of the best in USAC Triple Crown champ Jerry Coons, Jr. and Kevin Thomas, Jr.
Seavey has a pair of new Keith Kunz Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian Rookie teammates who hope to emulate some of what he was able to accomplish in his maiden season last year. Red Bluff, California’s Jesse Colwell raced his way into a coveted opportunity and flourished in that role with a solid 12thplace finish in his lone start in the “Turkey Night Grand Prix” at Ventura (Calif.) Raceway. Holley Hollan of Tulsa, Okla. made three starts in 2018 as she enters the ring for a full-time run with the series this year. Fun Fact: six of the past eight Rookies of the Year have come from the KKM team.
Fellow female competitor Karsyn Elledge of Mooresville, N.C. has quite the racing pedigree as the granddaughter of Dale Earnhardt and niece of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., but the criminal justice major at IUPUI aims to make her own mark in midget racing aboard a Tucker/Boat Motorsports ride as a teammate to 2018 series runner-up Chad Boat.
The Mooresville, N.C. roots run further with Ethan Mitchell, a four-time starter with the series a year ago. But now with a little bit of experience under his belt, he’s gunning to up the ante on a more expanded basis in his Bundy Built Motorsports Honda.
There was actually another Rookie driver to taste victory for the first time with the USAC Midgets in 2018 in the talented Zeb Wise, who became the youngest winner ever in the series at Lanco last August. This time, Collegeville, Pennsylvania’s Andrew Layser steps into that Rookie role for Clauson Marshall Racing. Layser has started eight events over the past two seasons as a regular with the Eastern series, including an 8thand a 6thin “Eastern Midget Week” races at Lanco and BAPS, respectively.
In addition to the wins, titles and accolades for Seavey last year, he pulled off the rare feat of also being named Rookie of the Year in both the USAC National Midget and Sprint series in the same season. At press time, Stillwater, Oklahoma’s Zane Hendricks is the only driver aiming to replicate that feat as he sets off to run the complete schedule in both series, for Matt Goodnight in the sprint car and his own midget for the 2019 campaign.
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.
All nights of racing from Ocala will be live onhttp://www/FloRacing.com/.