USAC Sprint Stars Ready For Kokomo Smackdown

USAC Sprint Stars
Smackdown IX will hit the track at Kokomo Speedway this weekend. (Jim Denhamer photo)

KOKOMO, Ind. – Sprint Car Smackdown is one of those events that makes one’s pulse race just thinking about it.

After all, it’s hard to fathom an event more tantalizing than AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Cars full throttle, on the wall, and wheel-to-wheel at Kokomo (Ind.) Speedway.

Now, multiply that over three consecutive nights. That’s Smackdown IX.

The ninth annual event arrives at the quarter-mile of Kokomo with three complete programs of racing Aug. 27-29, the final night of which puts more money on the line – $10,000-to-win and $1,000 to start – and ups the lap count to 40 for the main event.

The leadup has already led to the potential of having the highest car count in the history of the event this week, with more than 50 making plans to race in the event and drivers coming from as far southeast as Florida, as far north at Minnesota, as far south as Texas and as far west as California, and even spanning the globe all the way to New Zealand.

Tyler Courtney bested them all a year ago and owns two of the past three Sprint Car Smackdown crowns, taking the checkered in both 2017 and 2019.

In fact, all four of his Kokomo USAC sprint wins have come during Smackdown week, as he also took prelim victories in both 2017-18.

Courtney nearly won this past July at Kokomo during Indiana Sprint Week, clipping a turn two infield tire marker and spinning while leading with three laps to go.

Sandwiched between Courtney’s two final night wins was a second in the Smackdown finale of 2018, where Justin Grant defeated Courtney that night to win

It stands as the 2017 and 2019 track champion’s lone USAC National Sprint Car feature win at Kokomo. The current point leader of both USAC’s Silver Crown and AMSOIL National Sprint Car series, Grant also finished fourth on the final night of Smackdown in 2019.

Kevin Thomas Jr. took Smackdown top honors on the final night of the 2016 edition. The 2016 Kokomo track champion has collected a total of three USAC National Sprint Car wins at the quarter-mile dirt oval, once in 2013 and twice during Smackdown in 2016.

But no driver owns more wins at Kokomo Speedway than Dave Darland. Likewise, no driver owns more Smackdown finale victories than Darland, who won three-straight between 2013 and 2015.

The four-time Kokomo track champion has nine overall USAC National Sprint Car feature wins at Kokomo, dating back to 1993.

Drivers who’ve already won Smackdown prelim features at Kokomo, but are seeking their first victories on the final night are Chris Windom, a three-time USAC National Sprint Car winner at Kokomo; C.J. Leary, also a past Kokomo track champion in 2015; Thomas Meseraull; Logan Seavey; Robert Ballou; Indiana Sprint Week champion Chase Stockon; Tyler Thomas and Kyle Cummins.

Brady Bacon has been all around the top-five in his Smackdown career, finishing inside the top-five three times on the final night of the event in his career.

However, the two-time USAC National Sprint Car champion has won three career USAC National Midget events at Kokomo, including the first of his career as a 16-year-old all the way back in 2006.

Joining in the fray are a slew of Smackdown veterans eying their first Kokomo USAC National Sprint Car wins, including Shane Cottle; Dustin Smith; Damion Gardner and Carson Short, whose Daigh-Phillips Motorsports team is the winningest owner in Smackdown history with five total victories, including three with Darland.

Meanwhile, Colten Cottle – Shane’s nephew – is among the five entries aiming for a second Smackdown final night start along with Max Adams, Brian VanMeveren, Cole Ketcham and Clinton Boyles, a fourth-place finisher at Kokomo in June during Indiana Midget Week.

Among the drivers hoping to crack the Smackdown finale A-main for a first time this year are top USAC National Midget Series rookie Buddy Kofoid, who is teaming up with Seavey as a teammate in the Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports stable.

Kofoid scored a winged sprint car championship in 2019 at Ohio’s Fremont Speedway but this weekend will mark his USAC non-winged sprint car debut.

While Kofoid sits third in the USAC National Midget standings, Cole Bodine is eighth. Bodine has been running frequently on the local level in a sprint car, but this weekend will also mark his first USAC sprint appearances.

Reigning USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Dustin Clark eyes a first Smackdown start while Brandon Mattox is another first-time Smackdown final night A-main hopeful.

Three-time USAC Midwest Thunder Speed2 Midget champion Aaron Leffel is fairly new to the sprint car scene and is another Smackdown rookie hopeful, as is fellow Ohioan Matt Westfall, a past USAC National Sprint Car feature winner.

Westfall won the BOSS portion of the 2019 Smackdown.

Several of USAC’s finest western contingent are making their Smackdown debuts, including 2017 West Coast Sprint champion Jake Swanson, 2018 Southwest Sprint titlist Charles Davis Jr., 2017 USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year Stevie Sussex, Austin Williams and Eddie Tafoya Jr.

Several of the names from the rookie crop trying to reach the Smackdown final night A-main this year for the first time as well are Kyle Shipley, Anthony D’Alessio, Brandon Long, Kurt Gross, Tye Mihocko, Chris Phillips, Cody Gardner, Zack Pretorius, Chase Jones, Anthony Nicholson, Sterling Cling, Matt Goodnight, David Hair, Brayden Fox, Jadon Rogers, Robert Bell, Max Guilford, Jack James and Scott Evans.

For all three nights of Smackdown IX, front and pit gates open at 3 p.m. ET, the drivers meeting begins at 6 p.m. and cars hit the track at 6:30 p.m.

The BOSS sprint cars join the event card for the Saturday night program.