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One-hundred lap USAC National Midget races are a rarity these days.
In fact, this week’s inaugural Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100 from California’s Placerville Speedway is the first such event in seven seasons. The last race of this kind was won by Brady Bacon at Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway in 2012.
Races of that length can create a completely different aspect to the event that you don’t see in standard 30 or even 40 lap events. There’s patience, concentration throughout the duration of 100 laps, the ever-changing track conditions and the preservation of equipment. Of course, those particular things go hand-in-hand with any event on any track, but you can multiply the impact of each aspect when it comes to 100 laps.
One-hundred lappers used to be commonplace in USAC National Midget racing. For instance, in the first year of the club in 1956 alone, 30 such races of that distance were held. Included was the very first USAC event ever held, at Memorial Coliseum in Fort Wayne, Ind. and won by Gene Hartley.
Between 1956 and 1959, at least 16 100-lap races were held each year from indoor bullrings to dirt half-miles such as Williams Grove and Terre Haute and even to one-mile pavement venues such as the Milwaukee Mile. By the 1970s, the 100-lappers began to gradually fade and became mostly confined to early season indoor events such a the Hut 100 and the Turkey Night Grand Prix, which remained traditions until the demise of the Hut 100 and the alteration of Turkey Night’s length to 98 laps. Dropping two laps off was to honor J.C. Agajanian and family whose No. 98 cars were legendary both at Indianapolis and on the short tracks of the west coast throughout the mid-20th century.
The 1990s never had a year in which there were more than four 100-lap races, with only a 1992 event at Wisconsin’s Hales Corners Speedway won by Page Jones breaking the mold as an outlier long-distance race outside of the norm of indoor, Hut and TNGP events, and wouldn’t happen again at an outlier venue until 2003 at Madera (Calif.) Speedway, won by J.J. Yeley.
The Indiana short paved tracks of Anderson and the Speedrome held their own 100 lap events in the mid-to-late 2000s. When the Hut 100 moved to the quarter-mile dirt oval of Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway between 2010-2012, it served as the last event of the distance until this week.
Brady Bacon, a recent winner in the series last Saturday at Arizona Speedway and an entrant for the Hangtown 100, won the last 100-lap USAC National Midget race, held at Tri-State seven years ago and will be a contender once more at Placerville.
After 381 100-lap USAC National Midget races between 1956-2018, Rich Vogler has the most in the category with 16 during his illustrious USAC career. Perhaps Bacon, perhaps somebody new will join a lengthy list of winners of a tradition renewed.