OVAL NATIONALS RACE PREVIEW
Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Photos By: Pete MacDonald/RacersGuide.com
Perris, California (October 31, 2019)………Made up our minds to make a new start, going to California with racing in our heart.
Golden state, here we come! The best of USAC’s AMSOIL National, CRA and Sands Chevrolet Southwest Sprint divisions make the voyage to southern California’s Perris Auto Speedway November 7-8-9 for the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction.
Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) enters as the two-time and defending champion of the Oval Nationals and aims to become the first driver to reach three consecutive victories in the event. He’s seen both ends of the spectrum in terms of Oval Nationals success with two wins and two finishes outside the top-20, despite leading numerous laps. He makes his return to Perris coming off a win in the most recent series event at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway in early October.
Justin Grant swept both prelim nights during the 2018 Oval Nationals, leading a total of only four laps in the process before taking 8th in the Saturday night finale. The Ione, Calif. native and 2007 BCRA Midget champion also owns three standalone Perris CRA feature victories, once in 2017 and twice in 2018. He owns six final night starts at the Oval Nationals with a best finish of 2nd in 2017.
C.J. Leary enters as the National point leader with just one win to his credit thus far, back in February at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. He’s looking for a hot streak to close out the year just as he opened up the season. He’s won at Perris before, capturing the 360 Sprint portion of the Oval Nationals in 2014. In seven career Saturday night Oval Nationals 410 sprint starts, the Greenfield, Ind. driver has managed a best Saturday night result of 13th, which is not indicative of his performances to date, which included 11 laps led before experiencing mechanical trouble with 14 laps remaining in 2018.
USAC/CRA point leader Damion Gardner (Concord, Calif.) owns more starts, more championships and more USAC/CRA wins than any other driver. No driver has won more Oval Nationals final night main events than the three-time winner (2009-11-16) whose tally equals that of three-time event winners Dave Darland and Bud Kaeding. In 2016, the seven-time USAC/CRA champ became the most recent CRA series regular to notch a victory at the final night A-Main and owns the longest streak of top-ten finishes in the Saturday night finale with 10 dating back to 2009. He’s already tasted victory at Perris this year with a win in July.
Brody Roa, a 2017 Oval Nationals prelim night winner, is the most recent non-USAC National series regular to capture a victory at the event. The 2009 USAC California Ford Focus Dirt Midget and 2016 West Coast Sprint Car champ from Garden Grove, Calif. leads the Southwest Sprint points by a slim 10-point margin over R.J. Johnson. Roa, who also resides 3rd in the CRA standings, won at Perris this past March. He has four-straight top-ten finishes in the Saturday night Oval Nationals finale, topping out with a 4th in 2016.
Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) had a topsy-turvy Oval Nationals last year, leading 66 of the 100 laps run throughout the three nights, with two 2nd place finishes in the prelims and a 4th on the final night. Despite the disappointment, Courtney was all smiles in the end, celebrating with champagne as the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion. He remains 47 points behind Leary in this year’s point race with five events remaining. The only driver to win in all three USAC National divisions in 2019 has two career final night Oval Nationals starts, which have both come in each of the past two years, a 9th in 2017 and a 4th in 2018.
Along with Gardner and Darland, Bud Kaeding has earned three final night Oval Nationals victories in his career in 2001-02-07. The three-time USAC Silver Crown champ from Campbell, Calif. is one of the most-tenured of all Oval Nationals participants with 16 starts to his credit. Kaeding, also a 1999 USAC Western States Sprint Car and 2012 West Coast Sprint champion pilot, has reeled off seven top-fives and 12 top-ten finishes dating to his most recent start during the 2018 edition where he finished 19th.
Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.) enters this year’s event with the longest streak of top-five finishes on the final night of the Oval Nationals with three. The 2017 USAC National Sprint champ took 2nd in 2016, followed by a 4th in 2017 and a 3rd in 2018. A veteran of nine starts, the 2016 USAC Silver Crown titlist won his first Oval Nationals main event in 2010 to become the youngest winner in race history at the age of 19.
Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.) returns to the west coast and Perris Auto Speedway where he earned a USAC Western States Midget feature win in 2001. His four Oval Nationals final night starts produced a best of 8th in 2008 and fast qualifying time on Saturday night a year ago. The 2019 Gas City I-69 Speedway Sprint Car track champ has had a career year with 18 total wins in sprints with and without the wing and in midgets.
Ironman Chase Stockon has 289 consecutive series starts dating to 2012, seven of which include the Saturday night portion of the Oval Nationals. In his career at the Oval Nationals finale, he’s had just one finish outside top-10. He was 2nd in last year’s feature and was challenging for the victory on the final lap. The Fort Branch, Ind. native won the opening prelim night of the Oval Nationals in 2017.
A 10-start veteran of the Oval Nationals, Brady Bacon has scored four top-fives in those 10 appearances, including a best of 3rd in his second showing in 2007. The two-time USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion from Broken Arrow, Okla. has a trio of 5th place finishes on the final night, first in his Rookie year of 2006, then again in 2013 and 2016.
Two-time USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget and AMSOIL National Sprint Car feature winner Jason McDougal came through the talent pipeline of Broken Arrow, Okla. His debut run at the “Ovals” last year resulted in a 22nd place finish on Saturday night. He’s, thus far, tallied USAC National victories in the East (New Jersey), Midwest (Indiana) and the Great Plains (Nebraska), and seeks his first on the upcoming western swing.
Hunter Schuerenberg (Sikeston, Mo.) has four Saturday night starts at the Oval Nationals in his career with a best of 12th in 2008 and 2011. Despite this year marking his first Oval Nationals appearance in three years, Schuerenberg has been no stranger to victory lane at Perris this season after capturing CRA’s Salute to Indy main on the half-mile in May.
Schuerenberg, along with Leary and reigning USAC National Midget champion Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), form a stout three-driver lineup for the Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports team at the Oval Nationals. Seavey made his debut last year, topping all race Rookies with a 6th place finish en route to co-USAC National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year honors. Seavey mastered Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway this past August for his first career USAC National Sprint Car feature victory.
Visalia, California’s Richard Vander Weerd notched two CRA feature triumphs at Perris this past April and June. In seven Oval Nationals Saturday starts, he took a best of 3rd in 2016. Fellow Californian Jake Swanson of Anaheim won at Perris in August CRA competition. His four starts have produced a best of 15th in 2017 and a fast qualifying time on a 2016 prelim night.
Austin Williams (Yorba Linda, Calif.) was standing in victory lane the last time CRA made the trek to Perris in September. The son of 1997 Oval Nationals winner Rip Williams was quick time on the final night of the Oval Nationals in 2015 and had a 7th place run last year, his best result in nine starts. Five-time USAC Southwest Sprint champion R.J. Johnson (Laveen, Ariz.) had a 10th place finish in 2016, his best in ten starts.
They’ll be joined by 2019 CRA feature winners Josh Hodges (Tijeras, N.M.), Chase Johnson (Penngrove, Calif.) and 2018 USAC West Coast Sprint Car champion Austin Liggett (Tracy, Calif.), along with Southwest series victor Stevie Sussex (Tempe, Ariz.), the 2017 USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Rookie of the Year.
The USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car road trip to the west begins November 7-8-9 at California’s Perris Auto Speedway for the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction. The season finale is set for Nov. 15-16 at Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley, Ariz. for the 52nd running of the Western World Championships. All the action will be shown LIVE on FloRacing.
OVAL NATIONALS ENTRY LIST:
0 Bud Kaeding/Campbell, CA (Morrison Williams)
4 Justin Grant/Ione, CA (TOPP Motorsports)
4x Damion Gardner/Concord, CA (Mark Alexander)
4G Chris Gansen/Verdemont Heights, CA (Dennis and Christol Gansen)
5 Tye Mihocko/Peoria, AZ (Tye Mihocko)
5G Chris Windom/Canton, IL (Parallax Group/Goacher Racing)
5x Tommy Malcolm/Corona, CA (Dino Napier)
7BC Tyler Courtney/Indianapolis, IN (Clauson/Marshall/Newman Racing)
7G Donnie Gansen/San Bernardino, CA (Dennis and Christol Gansen)
10 Richard Vander Weerd/Visalia, CA (Ron Vander Weerd)
12 Stevie Sussex/Tempe, AZ (ABC Body Shop)
12B Joel Rayborne/West Covina, CA (Rodney Rayborne)
13G Dennis Gile/Phoenix, AZ (Gene Gile)
13m Thomas Meseraull/San Jose, CA (Gene Gile)
15 Chris Bonneau/Peoria, AZ (Chris Bonneau)
19 Kevin Thomas, Jr./Cullman, AL (Hayward/Thomas Motorsports)
19AZ C.J. Leary/Greenfield, IN (Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports)
19BS Hunter Schuerenberg/Sikeston, MO (Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports)
19s Logan Seavey/Sutter, CA (Reinbold/Underwood Motorsports)
28m Matt McCarthy/Riverside, CA (John McCarthy)
32 Chase Stockon/Fort Branch, IN (32 TBI Racing)
34 Jake Swanson/Anaheim, CA (John Grau/Mike Burkhart)
42 Brody Roa/Garden Grove, CA (Dwight Cheney)
42x Jason McDougal/Broken Arrow, OK (Dwight Cheney)
44 Cody Williams/Norco, CA (Cody Williams)
44H Jake Helsel/Monroe, WA (Tony Helsel)
47 Charles Davis, Jr. Buckeye, AZ (Charles Davis, Jr.)
51 R.J. Johnson/Laveen, AZ (Ricky Johnson)
51T Eddie Tafoya, Jr./Chino Hills, CA (Eddie Tafoya, Sr.)
57 Steve Hix/Ventura, CA (Steve Hix)
68 Chase Johnson/Penngrove, CA (Shawn Thomas)
69 Brady Bacon/Broken Arrow, OK (Dynamics, Inc.)
Y69 Randy Waitman/Ramona, CA (Randy Waitman)
73T Max Adams/Loomis, CA (Josh Ford Motorsports)
74x Josh Hodges/Albuquerque, NM (Hodges Motorsports)
83 Austin Liggett/Tracy, CA (Tim Liggett)
88 Jace Vander Weerd/Visalia, CA (Ron Vander Weerd)
92 Austin Williams/Corona, CA (Tom and Laurie Sertich)
98 Verne Sweeney/Lomita, CA (Ken Tracy)
98x Jeremy Ellertson/Lawndale, CA (Jeremy Ellertson)