Carrick Reunites with KKM USAC Midget Team

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Tanner Carrick, who competed for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports on the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget trail from 2017-19, has rejoined the team for the remainder of the 2020 season, beginning Nov. 13-14 in the Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford at Arizona Speedway.

During his tenure with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports from 2017-19, Carrick won USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Rookie of the Year (2017) as well as his first series feature and Most Improved Driver (both in 2019).

After KKM and the Lincoln, Calif. driver parted ways following the 2019 season, Carrick teamed up with Petry Motorsports for 2020 before that pairing parted ways at the end of September.

Carrick, who currently stands 7th in the series standings, notes a close relationship with Keith Kunz, the 113-time feature winning car owner with the series (2nd all-time) who made the deal to have Carrick back in the stable.

“I’ve always been close to Keith, even after I left last year because I got an opportunity to race with Petry and try something new after racing with KKM for three years,” Carrick explained.  “Keith and I always talk to each other and we’ve went on hunting trips; we just always were together.  Coming into the west coast swing at all my home tracks without having a ride, Keith came to the table and asked me if I wanted to get in one of his cars and run with him and Pete (Willoughby) again for the rest of the year and see where it goes, and see what happens for next year, really.  It was hard to pass up.”

In 90 career series starts, Carrick has scored one victory, in 2019 at Sweet Springs, Mo., finished in the top-five on 16 occasions and inside the top-ten 50 times, while earning fast qualifying honors twice and finishing 9th, 6th and 6th in the standings in each of the past three seasons.  This year alone, all with Petry, Carrick has led 28 laps with 3 top-fives and 13 top-tens in 21 starts.

Despite feeling like he’s been plagued by bad luck at times this year, Carrick feels confident that he has stepped up his game this year, winning in winged sprint car competition in California, plus adding a pair of fourth place results with the midgets at Lanco in Pennsylvania and at Sweet Springs.

“I feel like I’ve raced the best I ever have this year, especially in our sprint car program,” Carrick said.  “We’ve definitely stepped up our game all around.  But with KKM bringing number one cars to the track every night and running up front, that brings a great deal of confidence to me and I know what I’ll have after racing with him these past few years.”

Carrick ran well at the 1/3-mile Arizona Speedway on the opening night of Western World a year ago, finishing 3rd for KKM and will be the most seasoned driver on the team’s eight car lineup for the 53rd annual event alongside Daison Pursley, Buddy Kofoid, Bryant Wiedeman, Kaylee Bryson, Cannon McIntosh, Brenham Crouch and Jesse Love.

Western World activities at Arizona Speedway begin this 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.

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 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.

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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.”

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