USAC MIDGET HISTORY IN FLORIDA CONTINUES ON FEB. 8-9 IN OCALA

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USAC MIDGET HISTORY IN FLORIDA CONTINUES ON FEB. 8-9 IN OCALA

Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Photos By: Dan DeMarco/RacersGuide.com

Speedway, Indiana (January 23, 2019)………In recent years, USAC racing in Florida has become a staple of the season’s dawn. Since 2010, the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars have annually made a home for themselves in the Sunshine State at “Winter Dirt Games.”

But, this coming February 8-9 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets join in on the Winter Dirt Games festivities for the initial time in the event’s decade-long history.

While it may seem as if traveling to Florida is a new venture for the midgets, there is a short, but distinguished history in the annals of USAC’s record books that dates to USAC’s beginnings more than six decades ago.

For today’s USAC Midget standouts like Logan Seavey, Chad Boat, Tyler Courtney, Tanner Carrick, Kevin Thomas, Jr., Zeb Wise, Jerry Coons, Jr. and all others, though, competing with the USAC Midgets at Florida is covering new territory.

The initial foray for USAC Midgets in Florida came in February and March of 1957 with the “Tangerine Tournament,” 11 non-points races at seven different tracks in Florida during a month-long span. Andy Linden, the U.S. Marine veteran and two-time Indianapolis 500 top-five finisher, was the champion of the series, winning four races aboard Lee Elkins No. 73. Three of those victories came at Sunbrock Speedway in Orlando along with a single score at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa.

Al Keller won twice in the TT, including a 30-lapper at Hialeah Speedway and a 20-lapper at West Palm Beach Speedway driving Carl Evans’ No. 56.

Jimmy Knight won the opener in his own No. 10 at Pensacola Speedway. Sonny McDaniel, in the Texas Racing Club No. 53 and Leroy Warriner, in USAC Hall of Famer Bob Higman’s No. 67, were victorious at Fort Pierce Speedway. Al Alpern drove his self-owned No. 48 to the “W’ at Lakeland Speedway while Len Duncan captured the conclusion of the series at Jacksonville Speedway in Harry Hespell’s No. 1.

The first USAC Midget points-paying races in Florida came in a weeklong span during the 1963 season. Johnny Riva took the first at Miami’s Palmetto Speedway in the Jack Sims No. 73. Chuck Rodee put the Ed Loniewski-owned No. 87 in victory lane at Golden Gate Speedway in Tampa. The illustrious Bob Wente, who ranks third in series wins with 78, went back-to-back at Palmetto and Golden Gate to close out the Sunshine swing in Bob Shadday’s No. 23.

It was another 42 years before the series returned in 2005 for a non-points special event at Orlando Speed World Speedway, won by Josh Wise in Tony Stewart Racing’s No. 20. Wise joined Wente as the second driver to win a feature in Florida and capture the USAC National Midget title in the same season.

Eight years later, the series was back in Florida where the season opened at New Smyrna Speedway. Kyle Larson won night one of the two-night affair for the second of his two career USAC National Midget wins on pavement. Current USAC Silver Crown standout Bobby Santos blitzed to the win on the following night at New Smyrna in what is, to date, the most recent appearance for the series in Florida. Both Larson and Santos were behind the wheel of RW Motorsports machines that weekend.

This year, the USAC Midgets will make their debut at the 3/8-mile D-shaped dirt track in Ocala on Thursday, February 7, with an open practice, followed by two consecutive, full nights of racing on Friday, February 8 and Saturday, February 9.

Cars hit the track for engine heat at 6:30pm Eastern on Friday and at 5:30pm on Saturday.

The following week, USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing returns to Ocala once again for the ninth consecutive year to kick off its season at “Winter Dirt Games.” The mini-series will take place at Bubba Raceway Park with an open practice night on Wednesday, February 13, then three complete full programs on Thursday, February 14, Friday, February 15 and Saturday, February 16.

Both nights of racing action will be LIVE on http://www.FloRacing.com/.

“WINTER DIRT GAMES” USAC MIDGET SCHEDULE OF EVENTS:

Thursday, February 7, 2019
Practice Night: USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets & USCS 360 Sprint Cars
Pit Pass: $20

Friday, February 8, 2019
Race Night #1: USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets & USCS 360 Sprint Cars
Admission: $25 for adult grandstand tickets. $20 for kids (age 11-15) grandstand tickets.
Pit Pass: $35

Saturday, February 9, 2019
Race Night #1: USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets & USCS 360 Sprint Cars
Admission: $25 for adult grandstand tickets. $20 for kids (age 11-15) grandstand tickets.
Pit Pass: $35

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