SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Everybody has to start somewhere.
The same rings true for everybody who’s ever won a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature. They’ve all earned that first win somewhere, some place.
Entering this weekend’s double-dip over a three-night span, this season has already produced four first-time winners with the series, the most in any year since 2008: Cannon McIntosh (Southern Illinois Center), Chris Windom (Lawrenceburg), Jason McDougal (Jefferson County) and Tanner Carrick (Sweet Springs).
This Thursday, the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets enter the eighth-mile bullring of Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill. for the 6th running of the Jason Leffler Memorial, a race which was won by a first-time winner in Tyler Thomas in 2018.
The namesake of the event, Leffler, was the winner of the second race held at the new 16th Street Speedway, which was constructed inside the former Bush Stadium, home of AAA Baseball’s Indianapolis Indians. That night in May of 1997 served as Leffler’s first career series win, which was also the first for car owner Pete Willoughby, a team which has thrived since that night more than two decades ago, a team now known as Keith Kunz Motorsports.
Leffler’s black No. 71 from his 1997 championship season remains relatively cosmetically unchanged from the cars campaigned by the team to this day for series rookie Jesse Colwell, who is on the lookout for his first series win. The team’s No. 71, with a K, was victorious this year with another first-time USAC winner, Carrick at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex.
Windom joined an interesting and exclusive club of drivers who’ve won a USAC National Sprint Championship prior to winning their first career USAC National Midget feature race, along with Greg Leffler and Levi Jones.
On Saturday, Oct. 19, the series heads across the border over to Indiana’s Tri-State Speedway for 10th appearance by the mighty midgets of USAC. Three of the first nine of those events have produced first-time USAC National Midget feature winners: New Zealand’s Barry Butterworth (1979), Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (2007) and Zach Daum (2011).
Many contenders lie in wait for their turn to live out their aspirations of joining the list of USAC National Midget winners. Among them are USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car point leader C.J. Leary, Tucker Klaasmeyer, Andrew Layser, Colwell, Karsyn Elledge, Holley Hollan, Ethan Mitchell and 2013 World of Outlaws champ Daryn Pittman, who’ll make his annual appearance at Thursday’s Leffler Memorial.