USAC DOUBLEHEADER HISTORY COMES ALIVE FRIDAY AT TRI-CITY
Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Photos By: Dan Demarco/RacersGuide.com
Granite City, Illinois (August 27, 2019)………The USAC doubleheader. An opportunity for a racer to showcase his or her versatile skills in multiple disciplines on one track in a single night. The chance for a rare breed to accomplish what so few individuals have done before them by succeeding and winning in both.
The stage awaits this Friday night, August 30, at Tri-City Speedway for the Brandt River Town Showdown, where both the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets and USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars occupy the 3/8-mile dirt oval in Granite City, Ill. for a twin bill worth salivating over.
One such event has already been held at Tri-City earlier this year, with Tyler Courtney scoring the Midget portion and Chris Windom capturing the Sprint Car leg of the night. Neither had the same fortune in the other feature that night; Courtney was 14th in the Sprint Car and Windom 12th in the Midget.
Both, as well as handful of others, are highly capable of doubling-up and winning both in one night, including the likes of Windom, Courtney, C.J. Leary, Jason McDougal, Kevin Thomas, Jr. and Zach Daum, just to name a few, this Friday night.
How likely are the odds a driver can win both in a single night? Well, it’s been done before and can, and will, be done again. Is this Friday the night it happens once again when one can stand tall on center stage at the end of the night, claiming sole possession of victory lane for an entire night, their night.
The first such USAC National Midget/National Sprint doubleheader came 43 years ago, in 1976, on the high banks of Eldora Speedway. Dana Carter took the Midget end of the deal while Clark Templeman scored the Sprint Car feature.
While no such USAC National Midget/Sprint sweeps occurred on that night, there have certainly been their fair share of them over the years, 23 to be exact, including last Fall at the 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora by Tyler Courtney.
It wasn’t exactly a clean sweep of all USAC events with Courtney not winning the Silver Crown portion, a three-tier sweep which has only been done twice. Kyle Larson not only got the Midget and Sprint glory that particular evening, he also capped off the night with a Silver Crown victory, same as Jack Hewitt did in 1998 at the same event, the only two times in which all three have been “swept” in the same night.
As far as USAC National/Sprint Midget sweeps go, the first one wasn’t so much a sweep, but is recognized as one of the greatest feats in USAC history, at Indiana’s Salem Speedway in 1977. Double features for both the Midgets and Sprint Cars were on tap that Memorial Day afternoon. Pancho Carter nailed down wins in both midget features, won the first Sprint Car feature, and came up just short in the second Sprint A-Main, finishing second to Tom Bigelow.
Ron Shuman did the deed a year later in 1978 at Reading, Pa., an Independence Day event which was televised on NBC. Just two sweeps occurred in the decade of the 1980s with Ken Schrader doubling up at Beaver Dam, Wisc. in 1982 and Rich Vogler getting a two-fer in 1986 at Eldora.
Jeff Gordon’s shooting star was at peak levels in 1990 when he took both on the high banks of Salem in June, then finished up the year with another sweep at the similarly shaped and banked Winchester Speedway in November on his way to superstardom.
National Sprint Car Hall of Famers Hewitt and Dave Steele lead all drivers with three occasions in which they won both a USAC National Midget and National Sprint event at the same locale on the same day. Hewitt got his first right at Tri-City, host of this Friday’s race, in 1991, then did it again in 1997 at Terre Haute, inheriting the Midget win following original winner Kevin Thomas’ car failing post-race technical inspection. Hewitt’s third and final came in the never-to-be-forgotten 4-Crown in 1998.
While Hewitt garnered all three on the dirt, Steele collected all of his three on the pavement, all within a calendar year, first at the one-mile track Nazareth, Pa. in 2003, again on a mile at Pikes Peak International Raceway in 2004, and for the last time, just one month later, at Salem.
USAC Triple Crown champ, and Indy Racing League/NASCAR Cup Series titlist Tony Stewart took two at Eldora in 1995, as did future NHRA star Doug Kalitta in the season-ender at Winchester that same year. Dave Darland cashed in for two at Eldora in 1999.
Jay Drake got the first sweep of the new millennium, in 2001, during the Buckeye Nationals at Eldora, shown on ESPN2. J.J. Yeley added a pair of sweeps to his name within a month in 2002 on the pavement of Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, then again on the dirt at Fremont, Ohio, where he flipped his Sprint Car in turn four while celebrating his big night.
Jerry Coons, Jr. landed both wins at Missouri’s Lake Ozark Speedway in 2006. Bryan Clauson became the youngest to sweep, shortly after turning 17 years old, at Salem in 2006. Larson, meanwhile, became the latest to get both in one night, in 2011 at Eldora.
Doubling-up hasn’t been achieved since Larson eight years ago, but the opportunities haven’t been as prevalent to achieve the feat outside of the 4-Crown since that time. That is, until this year.
One doubleheader at Tri-City has already been held back in May, while four more await both the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets and AMSOIL National Sprint Cars, starting this Friday, Aug. 30, at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill, followed by Eldora Speedway on Sept. 28 (with USAC Silver Crown), plus a back-to-back nights for the Western World Championships Nov. 15-16 at Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley, Ariz.
The “River Town Showdown” features complete shows for the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship and B-Mods on Friday night, August 30, at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill.
Registration and pit gates open at 3pm (Central). Grandstands and ticket office open at 5pm. Cars on track at 6pm.
Adult general admission tickets are $25 while children 12 and under are FREE. Reserved Top 2 Rows: $30 for adults, $5 for children 12 & under. Pit passes are $30 apiece for members and $35 for non-members.
Tri-City Speedway is located at 5100 Nameoki Rd, Granite City, IL 62040. You can reach the promotion team of Track Enterprises at (217) 764-3200 and Tri-City Speedway at (618) 931-7836. For more information, visit the Track Enterprises website at http://www.trackenterprises.com/, the series website at http://www.usacracing.com/ and the track website at http://www.tricityspeedway.net/.
Friday’s Brandt River Town Showdown will have live, flag-to-flag coverage on FloRacing. You can listen to live audio of the broadcast for free on the USAC app or follow along with live updates on https://www.facebook.com/usacracing/ and https://twitter.com/USACNation/ with live timing and scoring available on both the USAC and Race-Monitor apps.