BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – North Carolina teenager Ethan Mitchell put together a career night during Friday’s Indiana Midget Week stop at Bloomington Speedway.
The 17-year-old earned his first Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Time Award during qualifying at the high-banked, quarter-mile clay oval, then backed up that speed with a fifth-place finish during the feature after transferring his way into the field through the B-main.
For a driver who “barely has 20 starts in a midget” under his belt, it was a confidence-building breakthrough during one of the toughest and most grueling weeks in midget car racing.
“I’m kind of speechless over this one, to be honest with you,” Mitchell told SPEED SPORT. “To come out here and get a top five, it’s unreal. These guys are the best in the country and we’re just a small little family team trying to get our feet underneath us with this midget deal. To actually get a result that shows how much effort we’ve been putting in is phenomenal.
“We came here last year and made two laps before the race got rained out, so really, I’d never seen this place besides a glimpse until tonight,” Mitchell continued. “This place was basically brand-new for us, but I feel like we took to it pretty quickly. Things happen fast here, and that’s something that I grew up with racing outlaw karts at Millbridge (Speedway), so I feel like we were able to figure things out quick.”
Mitchell’s team was aided by a veteran member of the USAC pit area, who started his week fielding an entry for Brady Bacon but was able to offer additional support after Bacon moved back over to FMR Racing for the second half of the six-night stretch.
“The Four Piston guys helped us, and it was also a huge boost to have (No. 1st car owner) Daryl Saucier helping us with our program and the setup, since he wasn’t working on his car for the rest of the week,” Mitchell noted. “That was something huge for us all night long, was that Daryl was able to help us stay chasing the track and stay on top of what we needed all the way through the feature.
“I won’t lie, we were so excited after setting quick time that we didn’t change things for the heat race … which set us back a little bit, but we came back and had a good car on the bottom for the semi and transferred into a good spot for the feature,” he added. “Starting seventh helped us out a ton there.”
For Mitchell, whose car houses one of the few Honda motors in national midget racing, Indiana Midget Week began on choppy seas but has steadily progressed forward ever since the first night at Montpelier Motor Speedway.
“We started this week pretty rough, blowing up our first engine at Montpelier, but we got it changed in time for Gas City and found a rhythm that we’ve tuned on the last few nights,” he said. “We came from 17th to seventh in the semi Wednesday night and just missed the main, but tonight I feel like we finally honed in on everything and were better than ever. I’m glad it finally showed to everyone else watching.”
As he maneuvered his way through Friday night’s main event, Mitchell made sure to take a brief moment to soak in the magnitude of his strong run, knowing how tough it is to have those good days.
“It was crazy, sitting there under one of the red flags, and realizing that I’m passing cars and sitting fourth in a USAC midget feature,” Mitchell grinned. “I knew I was good on the bottom. Racing with those guys – Sunshine and Boat and Seavey – is just so much fun. It’s a lot more fun sitting up front than it is slogging around in the back and just trying to get through the night.
“My confidence is higher than it’s ever been now, and I’m looking forward to the last two nights.”