Belleville: Out With The Old, In With the New

Spencer Bayston en route to victory at the Belleville High Banks. during the Belleville Midget Nationals in 2017. (Don Holbrook photo)

BELLEVILLE, Kan. — In August Spencer Bayston won the 40th annual Belleville Midget Nationals at the historic Belleville High Banks.

It now appears Bayston will be the last winner of the midget racing classic, which has been won by many of the sport’s legends including Bryan Clauson, Rich Vogler, Stan Fox, Jeff Gordon, Dave Darland, Jack Hewitt Kasey Kahne, Kyle Larson and others, at the high-speed, half-mile dirt track.

The world learned in December that USAC would not sanction the event in 2018, and though disappointed with that decision, the Fair Amusements Committee, which governs racing at the track, has elected to move forward — at least for this year — without midget racing.

The Belleville 305 Nationals, featuring 305ci winged sprint cars, will take center stage this year during the annual NCK Free Fair, occupying the Aug. 3-4 weekend previously reserved for the Belleville Midget Nationals.

The event will pay more than $42,000 for Saturday night’s winged sprint car feature, with $7,000 earmarked to the winner of the 30-lap feature.

One of the things that clearly led to the demise of the Belleville Nationals was the low car count for the event in recent years and the high costs associated with racing a midget at fast, half-mile track.

Organizers believe that will not be a problem with the 305ci sprint cars as a large contingent of the cars race within a four-hour radius of Belleville.

“We can’t judge racing environment, what will be fan-approved, what will be affordable for the driver,” Raymond Raney, who is a member of the Amusements Committee, told The Belleville Telescope. “We can’t predict the future of a particular car.

“We’ve already had fans who have sat in the same seats for years during the midgets call and ask us if they can have the same seats for the 305s,” Raney added. “Some people will come because it’s a sprint race on the Belleville High Banks. These cars are more local, and we think will draw more fans from a 300- or 400-mile radius.”

While it may indeed mark the end of one of history’s great racing events, it could be the beginning of a new motorsports tradition at one of the world’s great race tracks.