FORMER CHAMPIONS LOOK FOR DAYTONA WINS
USAC fans are spoiled season after season by some of the most talented racers in the world, from the most entry-level classes through the three National Championship divisions. So it will come as no surprise to see many of USAC’s finest gracing victory lane this weekend as Speedweeks finishes up in the sunny state of Florida at Daytona International Speedway.
All of us at the United States Auto Club, along with the entirety of our loyal fan base, would like to congratulate these drivers on all their accomplishments and wish them luck, not only in their pursuit of a win at Daytona, but in their season-long quest for a championship. And, we remind them all that the talent in USAC is as strong as ever and set to put on some of the most fantastic racing we’ve seen yet.
Of course, USAC Triple Crown champion Tony Stewart again appears to be a favorite heading into this season and also on Sunday after winning his Gatorade Duel 150. He will start third in the 500-miler. Other former USAC champions in the field include Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman, Kasey Kahne, and Dave Blaney. Former Silver Crown Series competitor Carl Edwards took the pole for Sunday, and 2007 “Rookie of the Year” in both the National Sprint Car & Midget divisions, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., will make his first Daytona 500 start on Sunday.
Stenhouse will also start his Nationwide Series title defense on Saturday with a talent-laden field racing against him. Cole Whitt, 2008 USAC National Midget champ, will join him as he follows the Nationwide Series. The entry list also contains USAC champions Josh Wise, Mike Bliss, Stewart, Kahne, and J.J. Yeley, who unfortunately encountered mechanical problems in his attempt to make the Sprint Cup Series field. Former USAC Silver Crown competitors Justin Allgaier and Michael Annett are also expected to race in Saturday’s “Drive4COPD 300.”
Tonight’s Truck Series “NextEra Energy Resources 250” will feature Jason Leffler, a three-time National Midget champion, along with USAC Kenyon Midget Series champion Dakoda Armstrong.
Last weekend, ARCA newcomer and 2011 Sprint Car Series runner-up Chris Windom nearly stole the show before running out of fuel on the final corner. Also being bit by the fuel bug was Alex Bowman, former Focus champion and Midget standout. And again running for the ARCA championship in a car owned by Ken Schrader (USAC champ himself) is Tom Hessert, who competed across all three USAC disciplines.
The stream of talented racers never seems to stop, as evidenced by the initial wins in a Super Late Model by 2011 Midget & Silver Crown “Rookie of the Year” Kyle Larson at New Smyrna Speedway, just down the road from Daytona, during Speedweeks this year.
The good news for USAC fans is that there has yet to be a lack of drivers willing to step into the spotlight when one of these champions takes on a new challenge. No matter the ultimate goal, an impressive collage of racers is set to take on the 2012 USAC season. Some have even already been down the NASCAR path and are back for more USAC championships. Such an assemblage creates quite a scene – experienced veterans, talented as any in the world, with the task of adding to their legacy against a hungry young brigade of up-and-comers, keen on casting their own shadow in the racing world.
The 2012 USAC Mopar National Midget season commences on March 30-31 at Ace Speedway in Altamahaw, North Carolina, as Bryan Clauson will attempt to join Leffler as the only drivers since 1962 to capture three-straight National Midget championships. The AMSOIL National Sprint Car slate continues on April 14 at Lawrenceburg, Indiana, where Levi Jones will go for his fourth-straight title to add to his record five series crowns. And Jones is also the back-to-back and defending titlist in the Traxxas Silver Crown Series, which starts on May 19 at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
We look forward to an action-packed season and many more checkered flags for some of the greatest racers in USAC history.