Western World Opens USAC Western Swing

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The Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford.  It’s a name that oozes with a rich history dating back to Bob Cleberg’s triumph at Manzanita in 1968, and has seen a handful of differing iterations over the past half-century, wing, no-wing, 410s, 360s, sprint cars and midgets at a variety of racetracks in recent years.

The event has found a home over the past five years at Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley, which will host the 53rd running on November 13-14 at the 1/3-mile dirt oval, with a practice night leading off the proceedings on November 12 in conjunction with the USAC Western States Midgets as well as the AMSOIL USAC CRA / USAC Southwest Sprint Cars.

Midgets have only made sporadic appearances at the Western World in the past decade with Bryan Clauson (2013), Darren Hagen (2014) and Brady Bacon (2019) the only individuals who can lay claim to the throne as a Western World Midget champion.

This year’s event will more than likely present a new Western World Midget champ with tradition, and a tight USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget championship battle waiting in the wings with point leader Tyler Courtney and Chris Windom separated by only 15 markers at the top.

Defending series champion Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) and Clauson-Marshall Racing have won each of their three most recent appearances in USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car competition during Western World at Arizona Speedway, first in 2018, and twice with a two-night sweep in 2019.

In the Midget at Western World in 2019, Courtney was 8th and 4th over the two nights with a fast qualifying time added on the final night.  CMR teammate Cole Bodine (Rossville, Ind.) will be making his Western World debut.

Windom (Canton, Ill.), seeking to complete the coveted USAC National Triple Crown after previously capturing Silver Crown (2016) and Sprint (2017) glory, has won more at the Western World than any other driver in the lineup, with a sweep of the 2016 National Sprint features added to a USAC Southwest Sprint prelim victory that same weekend.  He completed the process with a USAC Southwest win on the final night of Western World in 2017.  In the Midget at Arizona Speedway a year ago, Windom finished 7th on both nights.

Windom’s TBM teammate Andrew Layser returns for a second Western World appearance after an 11th place finish on the final night in 2019.  Last year’s series Rookie of the Year, along with Windom, compete for the team co-owned by Arizona native Chad Boat, son of a past USAC National Midget winner in the state of Arizona, Billy Boat, who prevailed in a last lap thrash at Phoenix International Raceway in 1996.

Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) won in his last time out in USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget competition on Oct. 10 at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., his first career series points-paying victory after 22 seasons of trying.  He’ll be joined by Clinton Boyles (Greenwood, Mo.) in the RMS Racing stable for Western World.

Meseraull is both an Arizona Speedway and Western World feature winner in his career, taking the opening night of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car action in the 2017 event for car owner Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports.

Reinbold-Underwood will bring three cars to Western World, with a pair of past USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget champions as pilots and a Rookie: Logan Seavey and Spencer Bayston, along with first-time Western World entry, Hayden Reinbold (Gilbert, Ariz.).

Seavey (Sutter, Calif.) was last year’s opening night fast qualifier with the Midgets at Western World, then proceeded to finish 4th in the opener and 2nd on the final night.  The Seavey/Reinbold-Underwood combo has won at Arizona Speedway before with the USAC Southwest Sprint Cars in 2019.  Spencer Bayston (Lebanon, Ind.), the 2017 series champion, returns to the series for his first career Western World appearance.

Tanner Thorson (Minden, Nev.) is one of four past USAC National Midget driving champions in this year’s Western World field along with Bayston (2017), Seavey (2018) and Courtney (2019).  Thorson will make his Western World debut as a teammate on Tom Malloy’s team alongside fellow first-time event contestant Chase Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.).

Thorson won the Oct. 9 race at Wayne City, Ill., providing Malloy his first series win as an owner.  Thorson, 78 points out of the lead in third, remains in the title hunt with just Courtney and Windom standing in front of him.

Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.), a 2018 USAC National Sprint Car Western World opening night feature winner, has joined Petry Motorsports for the voyage to the west alongside talented newcomers and series Rookies Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) and Chase Randall (Waco, Tex.), all of whom will be making first-time Western World Midget appearances.

Eight cars in all will be represented by the Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports team.  Tanner Carrick (Lincoln, Calif.), who previously raced for the team full-time between 2017 and 2019, returns to the squad after competing this whole past year with Petry Motorsports.  Carrick finished 3rd on night one of the Western World in 2019 to go along with a 10th on night two.

For both Buddy Kofoid (Penngrove, Calif.) and Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.), Western World 2019 marked each of their first career USAC National Midget feature starts.  Pursley finished a best of 12th on the second of the two nights while Kofoid, a Sweet Springs, Mo. winner in Sept., took 22nd.  They represent the top-two in the series’ Rookie standings with Kofoid 4th and Pursley 6th.

Sandwiched between Kofoid and Pursley in the standings is teammate Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.), also a Sweet Springs, Mo. victor in Sept.  He’s one of five drivers on the team making their Western World debuts along with Bryant Wiedeman (Lubbock, Texas), Kaylee Bryson (Muskogee, Okla.), Brenham Crouch (Colby, Kans.) and Jesse Love (Menlo Park, Calif.).

Carson Macedo (Lemoore, Calif.) and Shane Golobic (Fremont, Calif.) have been winners with the NOS Energy Drink World of Outlaws Sprint Cars in their respective careers, but each have found a fountain of success in their USAC National Midget careers as well.

Macedo, the 2016 USAC National Midget Rookie of the Year, finished 5th during Western World’s night one midget main in 2019, and recently captured the victory in a USAC Western States Midget feature on Oct. 30 in Hanford, Calif. driving for the Tarltons.

Golobic, making his first Western World visit, won a USAC National Midget race in the 2016 opener indoors at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin and also prevailed as the 2017 Indiana Midget Week champion with car owner Matt Wood.

Reigning USAC Western States Midget champion Robert Dalby (Anaheim, Calif.) and Noah Gass (Mounds, Okla.) are among those expected to return for a second-straight Western World while Rocky Mountain Midget regular Ryan Oerter (Ellicott, Colo.) will make the venture out to the Grand Canyon State for his first Western World, along with Casey Schmitz (Chico, Calif.) and more.

Eighty-one previous USAC National Midget events have been held in Arizona.  In fact, the fourth ever race in series history occurred on March 31, 1956 at South Mountain Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz., a 100-lap feature won by National Midget Auto Racing Hall of Famer Johnnie Tolan, a two-time Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association champion in 1946-47, AAA Midwest Midget champion in 1950 & 1952, and AAA National Midget champion in 1952.

Logan Seavey holds the Arizona Speedway USAC National Midget one-lap track record of 15.426 sec. while Jesse Colwell maintains the 8-lap record at 2:07.777.  Both records were established on November 15, 2019.

The previous year’s Western World Midget winners include Kevin Thomas Jr. and Brady Bacon, who each raced their way to San Tan Ford / Beaver Stripes victory lane in 2019.

Western World activities at Arizona Speedway begin on Thursday night, Nov. 12, with open practice for both sprint cars and midgets.  Pits open at 3pm MT with on-track practice from 6:30-9:30pm.  Adult pit passes are $30 while pit passes are $10 for kids age 7-12 and free for kids ages 6 and under.  Thursday night’s practice will feature an extra treat with the Beaver Stripes Racer Appreciation BBQ dinner.

On both Friday and Saturday night, Nov. 13-14, the pits open at 1pm MT, grandstands at 3pm and racing at 6:30pm.  General admission adult tickets are $30, while kids 11 and under are just $10.  Pit passes are $40 for adults and $15 for ages 7-12 and free for ages 6 and under.

Western World tickets are on sale now at www.arizonaspeedway.net.

Both nights of the 53rd Western World Championships will be streamed live on FloRacing at https://bit.ly/2ZpafUr.

 

USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-1,508, 2-Chris Windom-1,493, 3-Tanner Thorson-1,430, 4-Buddy Kofoid-1,386, 5-Cannon McIntosh-1,290, 6-Daison Pursley-1,084, 7-Tanner Carrick-1,041, 8-Cole Bodine-945, 9-Andrew Layser-924, 10-Justin Grant-904.

 

USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS IN ARIZONA:

7-Mel Kenyon

3-Gary Bettenhausen, Bobby East, Darren Hagen, Tracy Hines, Dave Steele & Tony Stewart

2-Christopher Bell, Merle Bettenhausen, Jimmy Caruthers, Rex Easton, Chuck Gurney, Jason Leffler, Roger McCluskey, Chuck Rodee, Brad Sweet, Johnnie Tolan, Sleepy Tripp & J.J. Yeley

1-Chuck Arnold, Brady Bacon, Tom Bigelow, Billy Boat, Billy Cantrell, Bryan Clauson, Larry Dickson, Dan Drinan, Billy Engelhart, Robby Flock, Stan Fox, A.J. Foyt, Billy Garrett, Rick Goudy, Allen Heath, Parnelli Jones, Cory Kruseman, Kyle Larson, Michael Lewis, Jerry McClung, Bobby Olivero, Aaron Pollock, Larry Rice, Bobby Santos, Les Scott, Tom Sellberg, Bob Tattersall, Kevin Thomas Jr. Rich Vogler, Billy Vukovich, Bruce Walkup & Bob Wente

 

PAST WESTERN WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS WINNERS:

1968: Bob Cleberg

1969: Bob Huebner

1970: Jerry McClung

1971: Jan Opperman

1972: Jan Opperman

1973: Earl Wagner

1974: Rick Ferkel

1975: Ron Shuman

1976: Bubby Jones

1977: Ron Shuman

1978: Lealand McSpadden

1979: Tim Green

1980: Jeff Swindell

1981: Ron Shuman

1982: Steve Kinser

1983: Steve Kinser

1984: Ron Shuman

1985: Steve Kinser

1986: Bobby Davis Jr.

1987: Steve Kinser

1988: Mark Kinser

1989: Sammy Swindell

1990: Steve Kinser

1991: Danny Lasoski & Wayne Bennet (360 Sprint)

1992: Steve Kinser & Bob Ream Jr. (360 Sprint)

1993: Lealand McSpadden

1994: Ron Shuman

1995: Lealand McSpadden & Ricky Johnson (360 Sprint)

1996: Steve Kinser

1997: Mark Kinser

1998: Tyler Walker

1999: Donny Schatz

2000: Jay Drake

2001: Jeremy Sherman

2002: Bud Kaeding (SCRA Sprint) & Jeremy Sherman (360 Sprint)

2003: Tony Elliott (SCRA Sprint) & Jeremy Sherman (360 Sprint)

2004: Bud Kaeding (USAC Sprint) & Josh Ford (360 Sprint)

2005: Dave Darland (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)

2006: Josh Wise (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)

2007: Jerry Coons Jr. (USAC Sprint) & Cory Kruseman (360 Sprint)

2008: Kevin Swindell (USAC Sprint) & Jesse Hockett (360 Sprint)

2009: Brady Bacon (360 Sprint) & Sammy Swindell (Winged)

2010: Brady Bacon (410 Sprint), R.J. Johnson (360 Sprint) & Donny Schatz (Winged)

2011: Tracy Hines (USAC Sprint) & Donny Schatz (Winged)

2012: Bryan Clauson & Wayne Johnson (Winged)

2013: Bryan Clauson (Sprint Car & Midget)

2014: Matt Rossi (360 Sprint) & Darren Hagen (Midget)

2015: Bryan Clauson (USAC Sprint) & Brody Roa (360 Sprint)

2016: Chris Windom (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (360 Sprint)

2017: Chase Stockon (USAC Sprint) & Chris Windom (360 Sprint)

2018: Tyler Courtney (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (360 Sprint)

2019: Tyler Courtney (USAC Sprint) & Brady Bacon (USAC Midget)

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Christopher Bell Beats Kofoid In Thursday's Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Prelim

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The winning trend continued on Thursday night. 

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Rico Abreu Romps On Wednesday, Punches Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Ticket

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For the first time in five years, Rico Abreu unleashed a whole brand new look on his Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 97. What didn’t change? His Wednesday night dominance.

More Take Than Give Triggers Arizona Pileup

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QUEEN CREEK, Ariz. (Jan. 13) — Brian Shirley saw the situation one way. Ricky Thornton Jr. viewed it another.In the first controversial moment of the 15th annual Keyser Manufacturing Wild West Shootout at FK Rod Ends Arizona Speedway, there was simply no middle ground reached between the two drivers who saw their hopes for victory in Wednesday night’s 30-lap Super Late Model feature dashed by an early-race tangle.The pair of top contenders — Thornton logged finishes of first and second in the miniseries’s opening-weekend events while Shirley was just a bit behind with runs of third and fourth — were battling for third place on lap seven of the A-main when their evenings went awry. Shirley dived low entering turn one and slid up the track in front of Thornton, but Thornton clipped the left side of Shirley’s car and both drivers’ machines collected fifth-place Stormy Scott of Las Cruces, N.M.After Thornton retired for a 22nd-place finish and Shirley soldiered on to place 17th in a race captured by Jonathan Davenport of Blairsville, Ga., they stood in the pit area — separated by just a few stalls, in fact — looking back on the incident with differing opinions.“He saw his opportunity and took it,” Thornton said of Shirley, “and it pretty much didn’t work out.”“He could’ve hit the brakes, you know?” countered Shirley, pointedly questioning Thornton. “I don’t know what he’s thinking. I’m not saying it was all his fault because I did get in there hot, but it was because I wasn’t gonna hit him.”Shirley, 39, of Chatham, Ill., felt that he had cut his rival for position a break on the frontstretch and should have received the same treatment in return between turns one and two. The two drivers were charging hard in pursuit of second-place Jason Papich of Nipomo, Calif., with Shirley running high through turns three and four and Chandler, Ariz.’s Thornton sucked low until Thornton drifted toward the outside guardrail approaching the starter’s stand, prompting Shirley to abruptly cross over Thornton under the flagman and attempt a slider into the first and second corners.“Just coming off of four there, he was on the bottom and went straight to the wall, and I braked for him,” Shirley detailed. “Then I come down, cleared him like a mile, and he just come in there and doored us. They can watch the video. I never touched him.“I can hit the brakes, he can hit the brakes. I’m more disappointed because I braked for him and he couldn’t brake for me. It’s a two-way street.”From Shirley’s standpoint, his aggressive bid on Thornton was merely him reacting to the opening he was presented.“I made a move because when we were coming out of four, he pushed up,” Shirley said. “I was running the high side and he was running the bottom. He would’ve hit me if I wouldn’t have hit the brakes, so I moved down because I had the momentum to slide him. Instead of him turning back down to try and cross me back over he just ran into the left side of the door.“I don’t know what to say,” he continued. “I don’t know what I would’ve done any different. We wouldn’t have even been in the situation if he wouldn’t have pushed up out of four where I was already there. If he would’ve stayed on the bottom I would’ve went right by him without an issue, but he pushed out so then I had to figure out an exit plan.”Thornton, 30, certainly didn’t agree with the tactics Shirley decided to employ.“So I ran the bottom in three and four,” Thornton began. “I didn’t have all my speed down the front straightaway, and I kind of figured someone was gonna slide me. But then we entered and I thought we were good, and then he slid me, like, kind of late in the corner almost.“Watching the in-car (camera footage from his car), it looked like (Shirley) spun out, but, I think because he carried so much speed in the corner, he knew he was gonna destroy the wall so he tried to turn it sideways. When he did, he pretty much parked it (on the cushion), so then I had nowhere to go. At that point I was already back on the throttle. At that point there was no turning down or anything.”When Thornton contacted Shirley’s car, the right-rear deck and quarter-panel of Thornton’s SSI Motorsports Longhorn mount was pulled astray, leading him to limp into the infield with the sheet metal flopping along the track. Shirley’s Bob Cullen-owned XR1 Rocket was shoved into the outside wall before Scott slid into the back of both cars, eliminating him as well. Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., also slapped Shirley’s car as he passed by but was able to continue racing to a fifth-place finish.Thornton felt fortunate that his 3-race-old car escaped the crash with mostly cosmetic damage, but he was well aware that he lost an opportunity to move a step closer to the Keyser Manufacturing bonus dollars posted for winning three or more races.“It just ripped the whole right side off,” said Thornton, who, with three races remaining in the miniseries, remains alive for the bonuses of $10,000 (three wins) and $25,000 (four victories). “It got the body, left-rear shock, couple left-rear parts just from Stormy getting in the left rear.“It kind of sucks for that to happen, especially on lap six of the race or whatever it was,” he added. “I had a really good car. I took off and I was running hard, but not so hard that I was gonna kill my stuff.”While there was no love lost between the two drivers after the incident — a Thornton team member even expressed his displeasure by tossing a signal stick at Shirley’s passing car in the infield (the stick bounced off Shirley’s car and nearly struck a photographer standing nearby) — they were ready to move on to the concluding weekend of WWS action.“It is what it is,” Thornton said, “and we’ll get it fixed up and try again on Friday.”“Luckily it just looks like a lot of bodywork, but it still ruins your night,” Shirley commented. “We started 11th and was passing him for third so it wasn’t like we sucked. We’ve been trying different things, little bitty things every race we’re in. In the heat race I felt like we were horrible, and then, I hate to say, we just put the thing back to where it was when I won them races last year (three WWS features) and that’s how I went.“We’ll put it back together and hopefully next time circumstances might come out a little different.”