PREVIEW: USAC/MSCS Double Feature for Lincoln Park's Sprintacular
Series News Release - USAC Media
Putnamville, Indiana (June 28, 2023) - It’s the most Sprintacular time of the year!
It’s easy to be of good cheer when you glance at this weekend’s slate for Putnamville, Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway on Friday and Saturday, June 30 and July 1.
It’s back-to-back nights of USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship and Midwest Sprint Car Series racing on the 5/16-mile dirt oval for the ninth annual Bill Gardner Sprintacular.
The event honors the life and memory of Bill Gardner, who passed away in July of 2014. Gardner was born and raised in Putnam County, Indiana, and practically grew up at Lincoln Park Speedway. Gardner co-owned a sign and graphics business, was a crewman for driver Brian Hayden and was the founder of www.indianaopenwheel.com.
The event annually boasts the largest car counts of the entire USAC National Sprint Car season, and culminates with a 30-lap, $5,000-to-win feature on Friday followed by a $10,000 winner’s share following Saturday’s 40-lapper.
It’s a twin bill in the heart of beautiful downtown Putnamville, so let’s look at six of the storylines coming in.
A SMORGASBORD OF SPRINTACULAR SUCCESS STORIES
A smorgasbord of past Sprintacular winners and USAC National Sprint car victors at Lincoln Park will be on hand this weekend to try to put another “W” on the board.
USAC National Sprint Car champions Robert Ballou, Justin Grant and C.J. Leary have each won twice during the Sprintacular during their careers. Ballou (Rocklin, Calif.) captured night two in 2015 and the opener in 2016. Grant (Ione, Calif.) captured the finale in both 2018 and 2022. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.), meanwhile, has kicked off the last two editions of Sprintacular with an opening night score in both 2021 and 2022. Leary also won the LPS season opener in April of this year.
Also in the field for this weekend are one-time Sprintacular winners Thomas Meseraull, Kyle Cummins and Brady Bacon. Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) was victorious on the second night in 2016, and most recently, took MSCS feature winning honors in late May of this year. Cummins (Princeton, Ind.) collected Sprintacular glory in 2019. Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) made bank with a narrow 0.172 margin of victory between him and the third-place finisher in 2020.
Bacon has won three USAC National Sprint Car races overall at Lincoln Park and is one of several in this weekend’s field who’ve done so. Of that batch, there are several other LPS winners who are aiming to knock down a first Sprintacular triumph.
That includes USAC Triple Crown champion and the series’ all-time winningest driver, 62-time winner Dave Darland (Lincoln, Ind.), who’s won an all-time best six USAC National Sprint Car events at LPS. Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Calif.) reigned victorious at LPS in 2022 as did Brady Short (Bedford, Ind.) in 2015 and Chase Stockon (Fort Branch, Ind.) in 2020.
KEEPIN’ IT LOCAL
Lincoln Park Speedway possesses a healthy crop of talent who race at the venue on a weekly basis and are primed to be contenders when USAC enters the equation this weekend.
Defending track champion Tye Mihocko (Peoria, Ariz.) currently leads the Lincoln Park sprint car points with four feature wins to his credit in 2023 alone and won his most recent just last Saturday night. Harley Burns (Brazil, Ind.), son of 2000 LPS track champ Eric Burns, grabbed an LPS victory in May of this year. Jadon Rogers (Worthington, Ind.) has competed regularly with USAC this season, but has also made LPS a home on Saturday night and has grabbed himself four scores.
Brian Hayden (Fillmore, Ind.), third in 1996 USAC National Sprint Car points and a two-time Lincoln Park track champ in 1995 and 2013, returned to LPS victory lane in April. Jordan Kinser (Bloomington, Ind.) bested a field of 46 to win at LPS in late April.
While Brayden Fox (Avon, Ind.) hasn’t won yet at Lincoln Park, he’s won twice at Bloomington this season and currently sits fourth in LPS standings. He comes from a legendary pedigree, however, with his grandfather being USAC and National Sprint Car Hall of Famer Galen Fox. His father, Brad Fox, scored a USAC win at LPS in 1998 and was the track champ in 1997.
The diversity of winners within the USAC National Sprint Car ranks in 2023 is staggering. What’s even more staggering is the fact that four different drivers have already accumulated at least three feature wins this season. And it’s still June.
The previous record for the earliest in a season in which four drivers had achieved their third USAC National Sprint Car feature win came in 2010 when Damion Gardner, Levi Jones, Bryan Clauson and Jon Stanbrough each reached a triple by July 16, a full 23 days later than the new record set this year.
Entering this weekend, Brady Bacon, Kyle Cummins, Justin Grant and Jake Swanson have already reached the three-win mark. Two more drivers – C.J. Leary and series point leader Emerson Axsom – each enter this weekend’s races at Lincoln Park with two wins apiece in 2023. Axsom has recorded six-straight podium finishes dating back to the start of Eastern Storm on June 13.
Fun fact. In 29 of the division’s 68 seasons, there weren’t even four drivers to break three wins during the entire season, and that last came to be just a decade ago in 2013.
MOLES LOOKS FOR A BREAKOUT
To accentuate the fact above, to this point in the season, there are no drivers who have just a single victory to their name.
Among those is Mitchel Moles, who in fact, recorded a feature victory in the most recent USAC National Sprint Car event held at Lincoln Park during USAC Indiana Sprint Week in July of 2022.
That night, the Raisin City, Calif. native moved to the front of the pack on lap two and led the final 29 laps to score his second and most recent series feature win for himself and his Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports team.
It was at the start of summer in which Moles captured his first USAC National Sprint Car win a year ago, and the recent changing of the seasons from spring to summer may very well spring him back into the winner’s circle. He currently stands seventh in series points, the highest point ranking of his career thus far.
He’s got his work cut out for him on the basis of history, however. It’s been a quarter century since a driver last won consecutive USAC National Sprint Car features at Lincoln Park. Dave Darland was the most recent to achieve the feat, doing so across a two-year span that encompassed both the 1997 and 1998 seasons.
MEGA CAR COUNTS
Sprintacular has routinely hosted the largest field of the USAC National Sprint Car season since the turn of the decade.
In 2022, each night produced the two largest car counts of the entire series season with 58 drivers and teams competing on night one, making it the highest car count for a series event since the Western World Championships of 2008 at the defunct Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz.
Night two of 2022 featured 52 teams and necessitated the running of a rare D-Main on the opening night and C-Mains on both nights.
All in all, it means that the race to just make the feature field will be a wild affair in its own regard with only 22 positions available, with the majority of those in the pits being finished before the feature has even run.
CO-SANCTIONED & CO-FORMATS
With the event being co-sanctioned by both USAC and MSCS, both series’ traditional formats will be utilized. On Friday night, the MSCS format will take precedence. While it’ll be a full-blown points race for MSCS, the event will be an appearance points only event for USAC. Each USAC Nationally licensed driver and team will receive 50 points across the board regardless of finishing position.
In 2022, with the MSCS format, six qualifying groups were used and split evenly with nine to ten cars competing in each. Competitors qualified against their own heat, which was randomly drawn at MSCS trailer prior to the event. Thus, six heat races were held with the top-three finishers out of each race transferring into the feature.
The subsequent D-Main transferred the top-four into the C-Main, while the C-Main, likewise, moved its top-four finishers into the semi-feature. Four more transferred from the semi-feature with the top-four finishers going on to the 30-lap feature event. Heat winners start 1-6, second-place heat finishers start 7-12 and third-place heat finishers start 13-18, followed by the four transfers from the semi and up to two provisionals from both USAC and MSCS.
USAC’s format will be in place for Saturday’s program and will pay full points for USAC’s national competitors. Two-lap single car qualifying will be followed by four 10-lap heat races with the top-four finishers transferring out of each. The top-four will transfer from the 10-lap D-Main (if needed) to the C-Main, plus the top-four from the 10-lap C will move on to the semi-feature. The top-six from the $200-to-win 12-lap semi will transfer to the feature.
The starting lineup for the 40-lap feature will line up by qualifying time with the six fastest qualifiers who transferred through their heat races inverted by their qualifying time in the first three rows, positions 1-6. If a heat race winner is not in the top-six inversion, that driver will line up directly behind the six-car invert, based on their qualifying time, followed by the balance of the field based on qualifying time. Twenty-two cars will take the green flag for the feature, plus up to two provisionals from both USAC and MSCS.
The ninth annual IndianaOpenWheel.com Bill Gardner Sprintacular awaits this weekend, Friday-Saturday, June 30-July 1 at Putnamville, Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway.
On Friday, the program consists of the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series, plus 305 RaceSaver Sprint Cars and Modifieds.
Saturday’s event features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship co-sanctioned by the Midwest Sprint Car Series, plus the Midwest Mini Sprint Association, Super Stocks and Bombers.
The MSCS format will be utilized throughout Friday’s $5,000-to-win 30-lap feature while USAC’s format will be used during Saturday’s program, which culminates with a $10,000-to-win 40-lap main event.
Pits open at 1pm Eastern with the front gates opening at 4:45pm and hot laps at 6pm with qualifying and racing immediately following.
General admission tickets are $30, kids 10 and under are free. Pit passes are $40 with kids 10 and under free.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Emerson Axsom-1055, 2-Jake Swanson-1022, 3-Brady Bacon-986, 4-Justin Grant-976, 5-Kyle Cummins-970, 6-C.J. Leary-931, 7-Mitchel Moles-888, 8-Daison Pursley-846, 9-Chase Stockon-840, 10-Robert Ballou-798.