Red Dirt Raceway USAC Sprint Finale Storylines To Watch
Series News Release - USAC Media
Meeker, Oklahoma (October 23, 2023) - It’s the first of times. It’s the last of times.
It’s the start of one chapter and the closing of another when the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship ventures to Meeker, Oklahoma’s Red Dirt Raceway for the first time ever on Friday-Saturday, October 27-28.
On the same token, the curtain will close on the 2023 series season where a champion will be crowned and the ink on the 68th season of competition officially dries on the record books.
We’ve witnessed how the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets have performed here before in this land. But we’ve never seen anything like this before – USAC National Sprint Cars spraying red dirt of the Oklahoma kind for two consecutive nights to close out a most historical season with the series.
Here are the storylines to keep your noggin glued to when USAC Sprint Cars come to call on the 1/4-mile dirt oval this weekend for $6,000-to-win on Friday night and a $10,000-to-win finale on Saturday evening.
GRANT VS. BACON – THE FINAL ROUND
It’s not only the USAC National Sprint Car season that wraps up this weekend; it’s also the culmination of a championship season.
Justin Grant enters the weekend as the point leader with a 109-point edge over Brady Bacon. Grant is seeking to become the first back-to-back USAC National Sprint Car titlist since Bacon in 2020-21. Meanwhile, Bacon is on the drive for five career series championships.
However, while not completely insurmountable, it would require an unprecedented comeback by Bacon in order to overtake Grant for the title this weekend. Only twice in the past quarter century has a driver vaulted into the point lead on the final weekend of the season.
In 2001, Jay Drake held a 29-point lead, but was injured in a regional midget crash at Terre Haute, which forced him to miss the final two events of the USAC Sprint Car season, ultimately losing the title to J.J. Yeley by 19 markers. In 2018, Kevin Thomas Jr. led Tyler Courtney by two entering the Oval Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway. In the end, the pair were tied at the top of the standings, but by virtue of more victories throughout the season, Courtney earned the tiebreaker and the crown.
Both nights this weekend will feature the standard points format with 6-5-4-3-2-1 available to the top-six qualifiers, 8-7-6-5 to the top-four heat race finishers and 4-3-2-1-1-1 to the top-six in the semi. For the feature, the winner picks up 70 for the win and the points decrease by three per position throughout the top-ten. For finishers 10-20, the points decrease by two points per position. All finishers 20th on back will earn 23 points apiece. All non-transfers receive 10 points each.
THE SOONER THE BETTER – USAC IS BACK IN OKLAHOMA
Oklahoma is a rare territory for the USAC National Sprint Cars to set up camp. Just seven previous appearances have been made by the series since 1966. In fact, the series’ most recent visit to Oklahoma came 19 years ago in 2004 with a victory by Jay Drake at the Tulsa Fairgrounds Motorplex.
Eventual three-time series champ Larry Dickson conquered the debut in July of 1966 in Tulsa while Roger McCluskey took the next night in Muskogee. In 1967, Ralph Liguori scored the weekend opener at Tulsa while Greg Weld prevailed in the weekend capper at the Oklahoma City Fairgrounds.
After a nearly two decade wait, USAC Sprints returned to the Sooner State in 1985 as part of the USAC vs. CRA Challenge. CRA’s Mike Sweeney was the triumphant party in the first of two Oklahoma dates at Lawton Speedway while, one night later, USAC’s Rick Hood cashed in at OKC, kicking off a string of four-straight series victories, a feat which hasn’t been duplicated since.
There’s one particular thread in common for all the previous years in which the series stopped by to race in Oklahoma. In every single one of those years, the eventual USAC National Sprint Car champion was among the feature winners. It’s an omen that either Justin Grant or Brady Bacon would love to continue this weekend at Red Dirt.
RED DIRT IS OKIE-DOKIE WITH DAISON
With several ASCS Elite Non-Wing and USAC Midwest Wingless Racing Association Sprint Car regulars planning to compete this weekend at Red Dirt, the field is set to be chockfull of Oklahoma natives.
Brady Bacon (Broken Arrow, Okla.) is the all-time winningest Oklahoman in USAC National Sprint Car history with 53 scores in his illustrious career. However, Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) will also be among those eying a first career points-paying victory with the series.
If you recall, back in 2021, Pursley earned his first career USAC National Midget feature win at Red Dirt, sweeping the night, in fact, after also earning a micro victory that very same evening.
Pursley, who leads all 2023 Rookies by sitting 11th in the USAC National Sprint Car standings at press time, now aims to become just the seventh driver to earn both his first USAC National Sprint Car and USAC National Midget points-paying event wins at the same track: Bob Hogle (Ascot Park), Bobby Unser (Ascot Park), Gary Patterson (Ascot Park), Jack Hewitt (Eldora Speedway), Mack McClellan (Illiana Motor Speedway) and Mike Bliss (Indianapolis Raceway Park).
RED DIRT ON A SMALLER SCALE
Being behind the wheel of a sprint car will be a new experience for most this weekend at Red Dirt. However, it doesn’t mean that Red Dirt is necessarily new to them.
Two drivers in this weekend’s USAC Sprint Car field have won USAC National Midget feature events at Red Dirt: Logan Seavey (2019) and Daison Pursley (2021). Seavey also ran as the runner-up in 2018 with the midgets at Red Dirt.
Justin Grant went 13th to 2nd back in 2021 and was 2nd again in 2022. Bacon grabbed a 5th in 2018 and Emerson Axsom (Franklin, Ind.) collected a 6th in 2020 while Mitchel Moles (Raisin City, Ind.) tallied a 9th in 2022.
Not to mention, three-time USAC Wingless Sprints Oklahoma champion Brett Wilson (Coweta, Okla.) has won twice with the series at Red Dirt where he plans to be on hand for his USAC National Sprint Car debut this weekend.
CLOSING TIME – LAST CALL FOR METHANOL
Closing time, one last call for methanol! Yeah, crazy enough, the end of the USAC National Sprint Car season is here and that means that several achievements are on the line.
Only three drivers have won both the season opening points race and the final in the same year: Pat O’Connor (1956), Rich Vogler (1986) and Brady Bacon (2020). Bacon, an Ocala, Florida opener winner in February, will try to become the first to accomplish the feat twice.
Justin Grant has already won at the same track on consecutive evenings in August of this year at Kokomo – three-in-a-row in fact. If he could pull off a sweep of the Red Dirt weekend, he’d become just the fourth driver to achieve consecutive wins at a particular track twice in the same season. Pancho Carter pulled off the feat at Winchester and Eldora in 1976; Tom Bigelow doubled up twice at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in 1977; and Brady Bacon pulled it off at Knoxville and Perris in 2019.
“Walking off” with a feature victory and a championship on the same night has only been accomplished 10 previous times: Eddie Sachs (1958), Tommy Hinnershitz (1959), Parnelli Jones (1960), Pancho Carter (1974), Sheldon Kinser (1977 & 1982), Steve Butler (1988), Josh Wise (2006), Levi Jones (2011) and Brady Bacon (2020). Bacon himself and Justin Grant are in position to become the next.
Additionally, on eight occasions, a driver has won multiple USAC National Sprint Car features to close out the season. That list includes Roger McCluskey (1962), Sheldon Kinser (1982), Jack Hewitt (1997), Tracy Hines (2000), Josh Wise (2006), Jerry Coons Jr. (2007), Kevin Swindell (2008) and Tyler Courtney (2019). Hines (2000) remains the lone driver to win each of the last three to close out a season. Justin Grant currently rides a one-race winning streak entering the event.
USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Justin Grant-2329, 2-Brady Bacon-2220, 3-Emerson Axsom-2159, 4-Jake Swanson-2101, 5-C.J. Leary-2040, 6-Kyle Cummins-2011, 7-Robert Ballou-1977, 8-Chase Stockon-1755, 9-Logan Seavey-1750, 10-Mitchel Moles-1733.