If one is looking for an up-and-coming open-wheel racer, the brightest star just may be Nevada’s Tanner Thorson.
The 20-year-old driver put together his best season to date last year, netting 17 midget victories across multiple touring series and captured the USAC National Midget Series championship thanks in large part to a late-season surge that included a sweep the Gold Crown Midget Nationals at Illinois’ Tri-City Speedway in October.
Thorson also made his debut in full-bodied stock cars, racing in both asphalt late models and the ARCA Racing Series.
That made for a full plate for Thorson, but he says he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
“It’s been great. I’ve been really fortunate and blessed to be with some of the better teams out there. I’ve been with Keith Kunz and David Gilliland and Venturini Motorsports this season,” Thorson said. “Those are probably the best three teams in racing that you could be with at that stage in racing. So I’ve been very blessed to be with them and it has been a great year.”
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His primary focus was capturing the USAC National Midget Series championship, but his pursuit of that title got off to a bumpy start. Minus a victory in the fourth race of the season at Lincoln Park Speedway during Indiana Midget Week, Thorson only mustered a best finish of sixth and finished outside the top 10 three times in the first six races.
“I just think we had a little bit of bad luck there at the beginning of the year in those first few races and even in Indiana Midget Week,” Thorson explained. “We had some bad luck losing right-rear tires and it didn’t help me out, obviously.”
That forced Thorson to play catch-up throughout the summer, slowly pecking away at the championship lead built by his Keith Kunz Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian teammate Spencer Bayston.
“We’ve kind of been pecking away, not really worrying about points honestly,” Thorson said in late October. “I’ve kind of been worrying about finishing and getting the points out of your head. Honestly, that’s kind of what kills you there toward the end of the series is you’re worrying about points. If you go out and do your thing and worry about winning the race rather than worry about winning the points, because it is what it is at the end of the year. If it happens, then that is awesome.”
Thorson collected five more victories throughout the course of the year after his early victory at Lincoln Park, but he made his biggest surge during the Gold Crown Midget Nationals at Tri-City Speedway in October.
Thorson swept the event for the second consecutive year and climbed from fourth to second in the standings, only nine points behind Bayston.
“It’s just a track that suits my driving style,” Thorson said of Tri-City. “It reminds me of a track I grew up racing outlaw karts on. The way you enter at the top and run the bottom, it just suits my driving style. Then again, you’ve got one of the best teams to run for (Keith Kunz Motorsports), so they make my job easy every time I get in the car. That made it a lot easier on me this year and last year.”
Thorson took the point lead during the Oct. 21 Jason Leffler Memorial at Wayne County Speedway and locked up the championship during the season-ending Turkey Night Grand Prix at California’s Ventura Raceway.