CONCORD, N.C. — For more than a year Tanner Thorson has searched for the right combination of luck and skill that would result in his first midget victory.
On May 25, it all finally came together for the 18-year-old from Minden, Nev., as he won a Lucas Oil POWRi National Midget Series event at historic Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis.
It’s been a long road for Thorson, who started racing an outlaw kart when he was just four years old. For the next 11 years he slowly worked his way up the classes driving a family owned entry. Thorson fully admits he isn’t even sure why he got into racing, but he certainly doesn’t regret it.
“I have no idea (why),” Thorson said. “My brother used to ride dirt bikes. My sister’s old boyfriend used to race late models and one of my buddies raced outlaw karts. After I sat in his outlaw kart for the first time I had one the next week.”
In 2011 an opportunity arose for Thorson to drive an outlaw kart for David Abreu, father of current Honda USAC National Dirt Midget Series championship leader Rico Abreu. It turned out to be a life changing opportunity.
“I was talking to Rico about running for him here and there and they actually gave me a call about a year later and asked me if I wanted to run one of their cars,” Thorson explained.
The partnership was fruitful with Thorson claiming multiple outlaw kart championships and big victories, including a pair of victories in the annual West Coast Nationals held in Red Bluff, Calif.
Last year Thorson transitioned from outlaw karts to midgets, joining Abreu and Christopher Bell with Keith Kunz Motorsports. While he didn’t find his way to victory lane in 2013, he was consistently competitive. He scored an impressive third-place finish in the Belleville (Kan.) Midget Nationals and was named the National Midget Driver Rookie of the Year.
“From the time I jumped in the car I felt really comfortable,” Thorson said. “Keith and Pete (Willoughby, team co-owner) and the whole team do an awesome job to make you comfortable. For them to do that also helped me out, knowing that I am with one of the best teams ever.”
The victory at Angell Park was particularly special for Thorson, who said the weekend began with a bit of adversity.
“It was a two-day show. The first night we were really good. We were actually going for the lead and we lost a motor and that set us off a little bit,” Thorson said.