Kunz Team Targeting USAC Win No. 100

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Kyle Larson, shown during the Chili Bowl Nationals, won Wednesday's Indiana Midget Week opener at Gas City (Ind.) I-69 Speedway. (Frank Smith Photo)
Kyle Larson wheels a Keith Kunz midget during the 2013 edition of the Chili Bowl. (Frank Smith Photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Car owner Keith Kunz and team manager Pete Willoughby of Columbus, Ind., have sights set on a USAC milestone in 2013, beginning with USAC’s upcoming Florida Midget events at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach.

They hope to reach the century plateau (100) in terms of USAC National wins.

Kunz and Willoughby will campaign drivers Tanner Swanson, plus rookies Riley Emmel and Christopher Bell at New Smyrna. Both Emmel and Bell competed at the recent Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Okla.

Bell, from Norman, Okla., started three Indiana Midget Week races last year and was eighth in one of the Pontoon Beach, Ill., prelims in 2011. Emmel, from Saskatchewan, Canada, also competed in a trio of USAC races in 2012. Swanson stands alone as the only driver in USAC history with only three National wins to own one in each of the three series – Silver Crown, Sprint and Midget.

The owner combo of Kunz and Willoughby have combined for 97 USAC National victories (55 in midgets, 40 in sprints and two in Silver Crown). Although they have wins in 16 different states, Florida isn’t one of them. Adding in their six USAC Regional wins, they have a total of 103 USAC triumphs.

The first USAC Midget races in Florida since Josh Wise’s victory at Orlando eight years ago will offer plenty of challenges for the Kunz team. Expected to be among the entered drivers are defending champion Darren Hagen and former champion Bobby East, who won last year’s USAC Traxxas Silver Crown title.

“We look forward to being part of the New Smyrna Speedway activities for the first time,” says USAC’s James Spink. “New Smyrna has built a rich tradition in February and we are glad to be involved.”

Other top threats for victory are Kyle Hamilton, Caleb Armstrong, Bobby Santos and Tracy Hines, all winners in 2012 USAC National Midget competition. Jim Anderson, USAC’s 2012 D1 Midget Champ and Randy Cabral, the 2012 NEMA Midget king, are also expected to compete.

The Kunz legacy began with Page Jones’ victory at Kokomo, Ind., in 1992 and has also included drivers Henry Clarke, Bryan Clauson, Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland, Jay Drake, Darren Hagen, Tracy Hines, Page Jones, Cory Kruseman, Kyle Larson, Jason Leffler, Marc Jessup, Davey Ray, Ricky Shelton, Kevin Swindell, Brian Tyler, Cole Whitt and Josh Wise.