CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Despite a recent shift in his dirt racing plans for the summer, Tanner Thorson has plenty of reasons to be looking up heading into the busiest stretch of the season.
Thorson was elected to the 2018 class of the NASCAR Next program on Tuesday, in addition to revealing plans to pilot a Tri-C Motorsports midget during USAC’s annual Indiana Midget Week.
After being bumped from his expected midget ride with Dooling-Hayward Motorsports – which hired Kevin Thomas Jr. for the remainder of the season on May 10 – Thorson went to his sprint car team owner Clyde Lamar with an idea in mind that Lamar was eager to accommodate.
“After talking with Clyde and him pointing out that he’s almost 84 years old, he said to me, ‘I don’t have a lot more time to do this, so let’s do some cool stuff as a team,’” Thorson told SPEED SPORT during a NASCAR Next media event on Tuesday at StrikeCity. “We’re actually putting together a midget right now; we’re supposed to get everything we need in the shop this week and start putting it all together.”
Thorson’s midget will feature a Spike Chassis with Stanton’s new SR-11X engine, which debuted at last year’s Turkey Night Grand Prix before attacking the race track full-force during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., in January.
He and crew chief Lee Lindgren hope to assemble the ride in time for Thorson to race with the USAC P1 Insurance National Midget Series from May 29-June 3 on the six-race Indiana Midget Week trail, where Thorson is a former race winner and title contender.
“The opportunity that Clyde has given me to do what I want and get what I feel I need to be successful … I think that will make our midget team one of the best out there,” said Thorson. “I have a lot of passion for working in the shop, having the wrenches in my hands and doing stuff by myself, as far as building stuff and making it better. It’s something that I like to do, and when it comes down to it, I’ve learned a lot of stuff over the last five or six years that I’ll be able to take and apply to this midget. I think it’s going to be really good.”
After racing with Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports for five years and achieving much success, including a USAC National Midget championship in 2016, Thorson admitted it wasn’t easy to venture “away from home, so to speak” and drive for a different operation this season.
“I ran for five years with Keith Kunz, and it was hard to leave a team that was a dominant as his cars have been,” noted Thorson. “Not to be able to get to run with them was tough, but it was a decision I felt I needed to make to grow my career that much further.”
Despite things not working out to drive for Dooling-Hayward, Thorson feels he’s found a place at Tri-C Motorsports where he can grow, both from a driving standpoint and in mechanical knowledge.
He also knows the rich history behind the team as well, with California kingpins including Willie Croft and Jonathan Allard having steered the team’s sprint car in recent years.