USAC Midget Winner Lonnie Caruthers, 71

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USAC Midget Winner Lonnie
Lonnie Caruthers (right), seen here celebrating a win at Indianapolis Speedrome, died Friday. (John Mahoney photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Lonnie Caruthers, a five-time USAC National Midget Series winner who appeared in the top 10 in points five straight years between 1977 and 1981, passed away on May 8.

The Corona del Mar, Calif., native was 71 years old.

Caruthers made his debut with the USAC National Midgets in 1976, making a single start that year. The 1977 campaign saw him compete on the full series trail for the first time, finishing eighth in the final standings and collecting Rookie of the Year honors.

Caruthers saw improvement the following year in 1978, taking sixth in the final points.

With a single runner-up finish in each of the past two years, Caruthers finally broke through for his first series win in August of 1979 at “Little” Springfield Speedway in Illinois.

Less than a month later, he was back in victory lane at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Ind. His two victories secured a sixth-place standing in the final points, equaling the previous year’s result.

The next year, 1980, proved to be Caruthers’ breakout season, with three USAC National Midget Series victories, all of which came in the Hoosier State for the Californian.

He was victorious in May at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, again at the Indianapolis Speedrome in June, and his final points-paying win came that August at Whitewater Valley Speedway in Liberty, Ind., elevating him to a career-high fourth in the standings.

In 1982, Caruthers scored what may have been his most memorable victory and celebration, winning a 500-lap non-points USAC midget special at Indianapolis Speedrome.

Caruthers completed the entire 500-lap distance around the fifth-mile bullring without the aid of a single pit stop for fuel.

To show his excitement, and his level of energy following the checkered flag, Caruthers displayed a unique celebration, performing a handstand on top of his roll cage in victory lane.

“I could have driven another 500 laps,” he noted after completing the event in two hours, six minutes and 35 seconds while driving for his father L.T. (Red) Caruthers, with whom he drove for in each of his USAC midget wins.

Lonnie was the cousin of 1970 USAC National Midget Series and 1975 USAC Silver Crown Series champion Jimmy Caruthers, as well as 1971 USAC National Midget Series titlist Danny Caruthers and 1988 Hoosier Dome Invitational USAC midget winner Roy Caruthers.