There’s no bigger stage to breakout in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing than on than the stage of Indiana Sprint Week. Meet these six drivers who entered the consciousness of the racing world by conquering Indiana Sprint Week on their way to stardom. Tell us which driver on this list you feel has been the most successful!
6. Bud Kaeding (2000 at Twin Cities Raceway Park)
Bud Kaeding moved from his California home in 2000 to chase the USAC National Sprint Car tour as a Rookie. With the great heritage of the Kaeding family name behind him and an impressive resume to boot, Kaeding was spectacular in capturing his first career National win in 2000 at Twin Cities Raceway Park. He’d go on to capture a total of 17 career USAC National Sprint Car wins in his career plus three Silver Crown championships in 2006-2007-2009.
5. Justin Grant (2012 at Lawrenceburg Speedway)
Justin Grant was fast from the get-go everywhere he went when he arrived on the USAC Sprint Car scene in the early 2010s, particularly Lawrenceburg Speedway, where in 2012, he notched his first and was in position to capitalize when leader Bryan Clauson fell to the sidelines. Nearly a decade later, he has assumed his position as one of the stars on the USAC circuit and recently returned to ISW victory lane at “The Burg” in 2019.
4. Kevin Thomas Jr. (2012 at Bloomington Speedway)
Growing up in the state of Alabama, Kevin Thomas Jr. is one of USAC’s most unlikely stars of the modern based on geography. When he made the move to the Midwest to pursue a full-time racing career in sprint cars, he endured a tough learning curve that ultimately paid off with his first career USAC National Sprint Car victory at Bloomington in 2012, having to pass the star of stars in Dave Darland to get the job done. Now, Thomas is a star on the USAC tour and a perennial threat to win anywhere, especially at Bloomington where he has won the ISW round on three occasions in 2012-17-19 and captured the ISW crown in 2017.
3. Cory Kruseman (1999 at Bloomington Speedway)
In the latter half of the 1990s and throughout the 2010s, there weren’t many more west coast drivers as successful and popular as Cory Kruseman. Coming into 1999, the Ventura, Calif. had made two previous week-long tours of Indiana Sprint Week in 1997 and 1998 that had been less than stellar for his standards. In 1999, particularly at Bloomington Speedway, the Kruser hit his stride with the first of his 15 career USAC National Sprint Car wins in his star-studded career.
2. Tyler Courtney (2016 at Gas City I-69 Speedway)
In 2016, we still didn’t know just how good Tyler Courtney was going to be. A regular competitor with the series over the past few seasons leading into 2016 had netted the Indianapolis, Ind. driver some solid runs and the 2013 Rookie of the Year award. Following a first lap spin during the Gas City round of 2016 Indiana Sprint Week, it certainly didn’t appear to be the night Courtney would make his breakthrough performance. However, Courtney steadily picked off car after car around the quarter-mile after restarting 23rd and found himself in contention for the win in the final laps, passing his mentor Bryan Clauson for his first career USAC National Sprint Car triumph and going on to becoming a two-time USAC National champ in sprints (2018) and midgets (2019).
1. J.J. Yeley (1997 Everywhere)
In 1997, the drivers of SCRA were revered, but their voyage to the Hoosier state for Indiana Sprint Week was a new-ish novelty at the time. Though talented, the wonder was if any of them could win on Hoosier soil against the USAC regulars. J.J. Yeley changed all that single-handedly, winning at Kokomo and Terre Haute, then going on to claiming the ISW title in his first try which came on many tracks he was seeing for the first time ever. Yeley’s profile blew up after that run, leading him to an Indianapolis 500 start in 1998 and his placement as just the second driver (Tony Stewart) to win all three USAC National titles in the same season.