They have big hearts and a whole lot of horsepower.
The familiar refrain from Dave Despain’s opening statement on Thursday Night Thunder rings true of what it takes to go fast in a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car on a half-mile dirt track.
The series is headed back to the half-mile this weekend, Friday-Saturday, July 5-6, for the inaugural BRANDT Professional Agriculture “Corn Belt Nationals” at Knoxville Raceway, paying $20,000-to-win the Saturday night finale.
No two tracks are exactly the same in shape, banking, surface and other attributes, and that applies to the half-miles as well. But there is one part of a half-mile that is the same anywhere you go, being unafraid to stand on the gas.
The USAC National Sprint Car schedule formerly contested events solely on tracks a half-mile length or longer throughout its first 25 years of existence before the doors were opened for the series to begin competing on “bullrings” more often, thus changing the look of the championship trail drastically from 1981-present.
However, the half-miles remain an integral part of the tour today, making up around one-third of the schedule, with three races already contested and 10 remaining, including the next three – two this weekend at Knoxville and on July 17 at Eldora Speedway.
Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) won at Knoxville a year ago. He’s also won two of three on halves this year alone at Eldora and Port Royal, Pa., bumping him up to 7th all-time in that category alongside Bryan Clauson and Jon Stanbrough, who are both in the top-ten in terms of all-time USAC National Sprint Car feature victories.
Chase Stockon has already been victorious on the half-mile Terre Haute Action Track this year, getting the job done in May at the 49th“Tony Hulman Classic.” The half-miles are where the Fort Branch, Ind. driver has pocketed four of his 12 career series wins.
Nobody in the clubhouse has come close to touching Jack Hewitt’s staggering 28 half-mile wins in the USAC Sprint Car division, 13 of which came at his personal ATM of Eldora Speedway. Of active drivers who’ve competed with the series in 2019, Dave Darland (Lincoln, Ind.) owns the most with 16 on half-mile tracks.
Though USAC Sprints have only competed ten times at Knoxville since 1968, the top-three in terms of active drivers, Darland, Robert Ballou (13 wins) and Chris Windom (11 wins), all three past series champs, have yet to win at Knoxville. Darland and Windom (Canton, Ill.) will have a shot this weekend while Ballou remains sidelined following a fractured arm.
Like Courtney last year, Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Oklahoma) earned the sweep at Knoxville in 2011 by recording quick time in qualifying, winning his heat and winning the feature, one of his nine USAC Sprint wins on half-miles. Justin Grant, owner of six half-mile victories in a USAC Sprint Car, was the head of the class at Knoxville in 2017.
Dickie Gaines (Mitchell, Ind.) won a USAC Sprint race on a half-mile in Iowa, but it was at the one down road at Oskaloosa where he earned a memorable, high-paying victory in 2004. His father, Dick, won the Knoxville Nationals in 1974.
Additional Knoxville entrants Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.), Chad Boespflug (Hanford, Calif.), C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.) and Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio) are among those to have won on half-miles. In fact, the top seven in this year’s current series standings have all gotten the job done.
Nonetheless, that doesn’t mean somebody can’t step up and get it done for the first time weekend. Every driver who’s ever won before had to get there first before they could get two, three, or even 27 more on a half.
The right combo, the right driver, the right setup and the right circumstances can lead to a victory anywhere. But, to do so on this particular weekend, when the stakes are high and you have a chance to leave with a check with that many digits on it, there couldn’t be any accomplishment finer. After all, these drivers live for this, whether it’s Tuesday, Wednesday, or, yes, Saturday night.
On both Friday and Saturday, pits open at Noon (Central), driver sign in at 3pm, draw closes at 5:45pm, drivers meeting at 6pm and cars on track at 6:15pm.
Prior to racing action getting started at the BRANDT Professional Agriculture "Corn Belt Nationals," the official kickoff begins with a Fourth of July celebration, including a concert and fireworks at Knoxville Raceway on Thursday, July 4.
Tickets for the inaugural BRANDT Professional Agriculture Corn Belt Nationals are available at www.knoxvilleraceway.com/tickets or by calling the Knoxville Raceway ticket office at 641-842-5431. Tickets start at $20 for adults, $15 for teens and $10 for children 12 and under on Friday. Saturday’s tickets increase by $5.
The inaugural BRANDT Professional Agriculture “Corn Belt Nationals” on Friday, July 5 & Saturday, July 6 from Knoxville Raceway will have dual streaming coverage on Dirtvision and FloRacing.
Both nights of the “Corn Belt Nationals” will be streamed LIVE in their entirety on www.Dirtvision.com, the official streaming platform for Knoxville Raceway. FloRacing subscribers can catch Saturday’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car $20,000-to-win A-Main feature finale LIVE on www.floracing.com.
ALL-TIME USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS ON HALF-MILE DIRT TRACKS (1981-Present)
(Active USAC Sprint Car Drivers in Bold)
1. (28) Jack Hewitt
2. (16) Dave Darland
3. (14) Tracy Hines
4. (13) Robert Ballou
5. (12) Jay Drake, Bud Kaeding & Rich Vogler
8. (11) Levi Jones, Sheldon Kinser, Chris Windom & J.J. Yeley
12. (10) Rick Hood
13. (9) Brady Bacon, Steve Butler, Jerry Coons, Jr. & Damion Gardner
17. (8) Tony Elliott
18. (7) Bryan Clauson, Tyler Courtney & Jon Stanbrough
21. (6) Justin Grant
22. (5) Jac Haudenschild, Kevin Huntley & Kevin Thomas, Jr.
25. (4) Daron Clayton, Kevin Doty, Steve Kinser, Frankie Kerr, Cory Kruseman & Chase Stockon
31. (3) Rob Chaney, Cary Faas, Jesse Hockett, Tony Jones, Kyle Larson, Danny Smith, Tony Stewart & Josh Wise
39. (2) Chad Boespflug, Derek Davidson, Nic Faas, Darren Hagen, Larry Rice, Terry Shepherd, Mike Spencer, Robbie Stanley, Brad Sweet, Kevin Swindell, Sammy Swindell & Doug Wolfgang
51. (1) Tony Armstrong, Chad Boat, David Cardey, Mark Cassella, Brad Doty, Bob East, Aaron Farney, Dickie Gaines, Rickie Gaunt, Jeff Gordon, Richard Griffin, Chuck Gurney, Kenny Jacobs, Chet Johnson, Bubby Jones, Doug Kalitta, Kelly Kinser, Mike Kirby, Danny Lasoski, C.J. Leary, Brett Mann, Justin Marvel, Rusty McClure, Lealand McSpadden, Thomas Meseraull, Billy Pauch, Dave Peperak, Terry Pletch, Byron Reed, Boston Reid, Brody Roa, Ken Schrader, Ron Shuman, Jimmy Sills, Smokey Snellbaker, Randy Standridge, Jeff Swindell, Kevin Thomas, Brian Tyler, Rick Ungar, Matt Westfall, Cole Whitt, Rip Williams & Eddie Wirth