DUQUOIN, Ill. — Chase Briscoe and Thomas Meseraull are among the latest drivers to enter the fourth annual Junior Knepper 55, as the entry list surges above 40 for the Dec. 15 USAC Midget special event at the Southern Illinois Center.
Briscoe finished second in the 2017 Knepper 55, behind winner Christopher Bell. The Mitchell, Ind., native and son of six-time USAC National Sprint Car feature winner returns to his own No. 5 for the event. The 2017 NASCAR Truck Series Rookie of the Year and Most Popular Driver recently signed on to become a full-time driver for Stewart-Haas Racing in NASCAR’s Xfinity Series for 2019.
Meseraull has been successful indoors at DuQuoin, finishing third during the 2016 Shamrock Classic. Meseraull was a two-time winner on this year’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car trail with victories during Eastern Storm at Weedsport (N.Y.) Speedway and on the Indiana Sprint Week visit to Kokomo Speedway. He will team up with Dave Darland in a pair of RMS LLC cars.
Among the other entries are a pair of decorated USAC National Midget champions in Dave Darland and Kevin Olson. Darland, of Lincoln, Ind., captured the 2001 and ’02 series titles in addition to his 1997 Silver Crown and 1999 National Sprint Car championships. He will drive the RMS LLC No. 36d.
National Midget Hall of Famer Olson, of Loves Park, Ill., won his USAC National Midget titles in 1982 and ’87. He will climb aboard Dennis Hoppe’s No. 5h on the fifth-mile, indoor dirt oval.
Five-time Indy Indianapolis 500 starter Conor Daly, of Noblesville, Ind., steps into the Jody Rosenboom No. 22cd for his second career appearance in a midget. Beech Grove, Indiana’s Kyle O’Gara, the 2014 USAC Pavement Midget champ, belts into the SFH Racing Development No. 67 for the Knepper 55. Meanwhile, southern Illinois USAC Silver Crown star Shane Cockrum of Benton, Ill., twice a winner on the adjacent Magic Mile, will wheel the Harris Racing No. 91.
Robert Dalby off Simi Valley, Calif., and Newcastle, Oklahoma’s Trey Marcham have each had success in the USAC Western States Midget division during their careers. Dalby finished third in series points this season and will drive for Loyet Motorsports, the team that won the second-ever USAC-sanctioned race at the Southern Illinois Center, a Midwest HPD Midget event in 2005. Marcham, who led the first 17 laps of the 2017 Knepper 55, picked up three victories with the series in 2014.
Winged sprint car veterans Ryan Smith and Tony Bruce, Jr. will shed the wing for a night of midget racing. Bruce, of Liberal, Kan., was the 2006 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year while Kunkletown, Pennsylvania’s Smith has won races with both the World of Outlaws and the All Star Circuit of Champions.
Chris Andrews and Josh Most normally just make a single USAC Midget appearance per year, usually at the Southern Illinois Center. Andrews, of Tulsa, Okla., finished third in the 2016 Knepper 55 while Most took home seventh in the 2017 Shamrock Classic.