OCALA SPRINTS SPORT “NEW LOOK” FOR 2014 THIS WEEK
The AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series debuts this week at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. with new faces, new teams and new sponsors as participants begin their quest for USAC records and championships.
The “Winter Dirt Games V,” part of Bubba Raceway Park’s 3rd Annual Bubba Army “Winter Nationals,” features the top 2013 USAC drivers and some new stars in three consecutive nights of heart-pounding action on the D-shaped 3/8-mile dirt oval. A 30-lap feature caps Thursday, Friday and Saturday action.
It marks the fourth straight year the USAC stars have competed at Ocala. Bryan Clauson, winner of last year’s opener, will return to defend his 2013 AMSOIL National championship and will again face the challenge of two-time 2013 Ocala winner Tracy Hines and drivers Dave Darland and Kevin Thomas Jr., who, like Clauson, each scored seven feature wins last year. Darland wound up as the 2013 series runner-up, Thomas was fifth and Hines was sixth.
Darland and Hines are actively pursuing the all-time USAC National Sprint Car victory mark, held for three decades by Tom Bigelow at 52. Darland has 47 and Hines 45. Darland also hopes to break the record of A.J. Foyt and Mel Kenyon, who each scored at least one USAC National win in 21 consecutive years. He previously topped the Foyt and Kenyon records with his 22nd straight year in a USAC victory lane earlier this year at Peoria, Ariz. but that was not in a National feature. In addition, Darland owns 99 total (National and Regional) USAC career wins, so he is eyeing the magic 100 this week. Only Foyt, Kenyon and Rich Vogler previously reached that figure.
Jon Stanbrough, who was third to Clauson and Darland in the 2012 AMSOIL standings, will debut at Ocala with a new team, partnering with Kevin Thomas Jr. in a two-car assault on the title.
Former USAC Champion Levi Jones, who holds the all-time record for consecutive series starts at a remarkable 227, will be on hand, not in a driving role, but as crew chief for Jarett Andretti as Jarett and his father John pursue USAC glory in the 2014 AMSOIL series.
In addition to Clauson and Hines, previous Ocala USAC Sprint winners include Damion Garner and Darren Hagen. Gardner has three Ocala wins to his credit, while Clauson and Hines have two and Hagen one.
Florida’s spot in USAC history is solidified as it hosted the first-ever USAC Sprint race in 1956, won by Bob Sweikert, the previous year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, at West Palm Beach.
Advance tickets for “Winter Dirt Games V” are available at BubbaRacewayPark.com and live pay-per-view will be available through USACracing.tv! Stay tuned to both websites for more details. Practice night on Wednesday the 19th kicks off the action.