Love is in the air on February 14 each year, but so is the smell of methanol and the sights and sounds of USAC racing, at least on a handful of occasions throughout the club’s 65 years of history.
Friday night’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Winter Dirt Games XI event at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. marks just the eighth ever USAC event held on Valentine’s Day, February 14 (4 National Midget, 1 National Sprint, 1 Western States Midget and 1 TQ Midget).
The first four all happened to be USAC National Midget events. The winningest driver in USAC National Midget history with 111 wins, Mel Kenyon, captured the very first Valentine’s race with the series in 1965 at California’s Vallejo Speedway in Sim Clark’s No. 1. Six years later, in 1971, Burt Foland took the checkered in a 100-lap National Midget feature at San Jose (Calif.) Speedway aboard the Oliver Johnson owned No. 96x.
As was the case for many years, the bulk of the National Midget division’s early season occurred indoors, which was the case on February 14 in both 1975 and 1976. In ’75, John Batts took the victory on the first of two nights at the Oklahoma City Sports Arena in Ron McMahon’s No. 56. In ’76, reigning series champ Sleepy Tripp collected a 100-lapper at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum in his own No. 1 en route to a second consecutive championship.
In 1988, a USAC doubleheader featuring the USAC Western States Midgets and TQ Midgets were on hand at the Selland Arena in Fresno, Calif. Johnny Parsons topped the midget field for owner Jim Quinn and was the recipient of a ride atop an elephant in victory lane. Meanwhile, Gary Schroeder bested the TQ field in his self-owned No. 01.
It was more than three decades until the next Valentine’s Day USAC race, which came just last year in 2019 at tonight’s venue, Bubba Raceway Park. Chris Windom was victorious in the season opener at the 3/8-mile dirt track in Ocala, Fla. for Parallax Group/Goacher Racing, his first such sprint car victory in the event.
VALENTINE’S DAY USAC FEATURE WINNERS
1965: Vallejo Speedway / Vallejo, CA – National Midget – WINNER: Mel Kenyon (Sim Clark #1)
1971: San Jose Speedway / San Jose, CA – National Midget – WINNER: Burt Foland (Oliver Johnson #96x)
1975: Oklahoma City Sports Arena / Oklahoma City, OK – National Midget – WINNER: John Batts (Ron McMahon #56)
1976: Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum / Indianapolis, IN – National Midget – WINNER: Sleepy Tripp (Sleepy Tripp #1)
1988: Selland Arena / Fresno, CA – Western Midget – WINNER: Johnny Parsons (Jim Quinn #1c)
1988: Selland Arena / Fresno, CA – TQ Midget – WINNER: Gary Schroeder (Gary Schroeder #01)
2019: Bubba Raceway Park / Ocala, FL – National Sprint – WINNER: Chris Windom (Parallax Group/Goacher Racing #5G)