SPEEDWAY, Ind. – There’s no questioning the difficulty of winning a feature event on the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship trail.
One must be at the top of your game, up in the seat, and prepared for anything thrown in your direction, situationally or slider-wise.
There’s no slouching on this year’s 87-car, and growing, entry list for the Sept. 4-5 Driven2SaveLives BC39 powered by NOS Energy Drink at The Dirt Track at IMS. Nearly one-third of the field possesses a feature victory in the series, totaling 194 wins amongst 27 drivers.
Thirty of those 194 wins are held by 26th place BC39 finisher Dave Darland, which ranks the Lincoln, Ind., driver 11th all-time with the likes of Mick McGreevy and 12-time Indianapolis 500 starter Johnny Parsons.
Fifth place BC39 finisher in 2018, Christopher Bell owns 23 wins in the series and has been a constant of sustained success for much of the decade despite limited appearances over the past half-decade, winning nine of 26 starts since becoming a part-time USAC Midget competitor in 2015 following a championship run in 2013.
Jerry Coons Jr. has routinely knocked out top-tens and top-fives with the series for more than two decades. The two-time series champion from Tucson, Ariz., finished 9th in the BC39 last year and possesses 19 series victories, most among all full-time series competitors.
Like Bell, Kyle Larson has been a semi-regular competitor on the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget tour for much of the decade, but their talent supersedes the limited amount of seat time in a midget they have each year. The Elk Grove, Calif., native has been in position to win in three of his six series starts this season, winning once at The Dirt Oval at Route 66 in June for the 16th of his career, and was challenging for the victory on the final lap at both Putnamville, Ind. and Kutztown, Pa.
Tanner Thorson made a miraculous comeback from injuries suffered in a road accident in March of this year. With the scars remaining visible and the determination burning inside of him, the 2016 series champ from Minden, Nev., charged from 15th to first in Putnamville’s round of Indiana Midget Week in June, the furthest back any driver has started and won from this year, his 13th in the series.
Russ Gamester’s long and distinguished and career has seen wins in all three of USAC’s National divisions, including 12 in the Midget series where he collected the 1984 series Rookie of the Year and the 1989 driver championship. Gamester, along with Coons, completed IndyCar tests with Panther Racing in 2000 at Texas Motor Speedway, but never quite got their shot on the 2.5-mile oval.
Tyler Courtney has more than doubled his USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget win tally in just half a season in 2019, jumping from five to 11 victories in search of a first series title, leading the points as it stands now, just one year removed from claiming the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship.
Chad Boat, son of 1998 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter and 1998 Texas Indy Racing League winner Billy Boat, could be the next to reach the double-digit win club with the series after finishing second in the inaugural BC39, which would break a tie he holds with his father where they both stand at nine wins.
Defending BC39 winner Brady Bacon earned his seventh and most recent series victory at IMS last summer. Reigning series champ Logan Seavey, 13th in 2018, has six while 2017 champ Spencer Bayston has five alongside two-time NASCAR Cup Series winner Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 11th in 2018, and Kevin Thomas Jr., who led the first 30 laps of last year’s BC39 before finishing third.
The group of four-time winners is an eclectic bunch with 7th place BC39 finisher Justin Grant, 1990 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals victor John Heydenreich and Michael Pickens, the winningest driver from outside of the USA in USAC National Midget history.
Two-time Indiana Midget Week champion Shane Cottle, 15th in 2018, is a part of the three-win club with 2013 Hut 100 winner Zach Daum, 2006 Turkey Night Grand Prix winner Billy Wease and last year’s Stoops Pursuit winner at the BC39, Zeb Wise, 14th in 2018.
Critter Malone, whose father Shim was a long-time chief starter for USAC, has two National Midget victories to his credit, as does Chris Windom, 12th in 2018, who earned his first pair of wins this year after making more than 100-plus starts over the past decade before finally breaking through.
Those with just a single piece of USAC National Midget hardware in their trophy case are versatile Sprint Car, Midget and Silver Crown standout Steve Buckwalter, 2018 Jason Leffler Memorial winner Tyler Thomas, 22nd in 2018, and three drivers who’ve each tallied victory number one this calendar year, Tanner Carrick, Jason McDougal, 16th in 2018, and Cannon McIntosh.