YOUTHFUL AND EXPERIENCED: LEARY AND COURTNEY CHASE USAC SPRINT TITLE

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YOUTHFUL AND EXPERIENCED: LEARY AND COURTNEY CHASE USAC SPRINT TITLE

Story By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Photos By: Pete MacDonald & Dan DeMarco/RacersGuide.com

Speedway, Indiana (October 29, 2019)………When it comes to thinking about this year’s USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship contenders – C.J. Leary and Tyler Courtney, you most certainly wouldn’t think of either of them as newcomers to the scene or flashes in the pan, would you?

Absolutely not. In fact, both drivers’ first career series starts came during the 2012 season, giving each individual nearly eight years of experience apiece while racking up numerous starts with the division. Leary’s 253 starts rank him 26th all-time while Courtney’s 172 place him right on the cusp of breaking into the top-50 in all-time feature starts.

However, in the grand scope of the history of USAC’s National Sprint Car division, in terms of age, both Leary and Courtney are on a rare track.

Series point leader Leary, at age 23, could become the sixth member of “Club 23,” the exclusive group of drivers who’ve earned a USAC National Sprint Car driving title at 23 years old. Bryan Clauson remains the youngest champ of all-time at 23 years, 4 months and 19 days old in 2012.

Levi Jones was just 13 days older than Clauson when he won his first in 2005. Leary, at 23 years, 6 months and 30 days, would slot in third in terms of youngest series champs if he were to secure the title out west in the Nov. 7-8-9 Oval Nationals at California’s Perris Auto Speedway and the Nov. 15-16 Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway.

Greg Weld (23 years, 8 months, 7 days) held the crown as the youngest champ from 1967 to 2005 before Jones took over the top spot. Jones’ Tony Stewart Racing teammate Josh Wise (23 years, 9 months, 4 days) won the title in 2006 while Robbie Stanley collected the first of his three consecutive USAC Sprint titles in 1991 at 23 years, 10 months, 26 days old.

Courtney, meanwhile, became one of the youngest champions in his own right in 2018 at the age of 24. He trails Leary by 47 markers entering the five-race swing out west. But if he were to successfully complete the comeback, he’d become the fourth youngest driver to win his second career USAC National Sprint Car title after Clauson (2012-2013), Stanley (1991-1992) and Jones (2005 & 2007).

The youth movement in the USAC National Sprint Car division has been at the forefront for the past decade. Every single driving champion with the series since 2008 has been under the age of 30, making it 10 straight years thus far of a champion in his 20s.
It’s a marked change from the past when only one driver under the age of 30 (28-year-old Ken Schrader in 1982) celebrated a championship between the years of 1980 and 1990.

On the flip side, only two drivers over the age of 40 have captured a USAC National Sprint Car driving championship: 44-year-old Don Branson in 1964 and 43-year-old Rollie Beale in 1973.

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.

YOUNGEST USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR DRIVING CHAMPIONS:
23: Greg Weld (1967), Robbie Stanley (1991), Levi Jones (2005), Josh Wise (2006) & Bryan Clauson (2012)
24: Pancho Carter (1974), Robbie Stanley (1992), Tony Stewart (1995), Bryan Clauson (2013), Brady Bacon (2014) & Tyler Courtney (2018)
25: Robbie Stanley (1993), J.J. Yeley (2001) & Levi Jones (2007)
26: Pancho Carter (1976), Robert Ballou (2015), Brady Bacon (2016) & Chris Windom (2017)
27: Johnny Rutherford (1965), Gary Bettenhausen (1969), Greg Leffler (1979), J.J. Yeley (2003) & Levi Jones (2009)
28: Parnelli Jones (1961), Ken Schrader (1983) & Levi Jones (2010)
29: Parnelli Jones (1962), Gary Bettenhausen (1971), Brian Tyler (1996 & 1997) & Levi Jones (2011)
30: Larry Dickson (1968), Rich Vogler (1980), Steve Butler (1986), Doug Kalitta (1994) & Tracy Hines (2002)
31: Steve Butler (1987)
32: Larry Dickson (1970), Rick Hood (1984) & Steve Butler (1988)
33: Roger McCluskey (1963), Rick Hood (1985) & Dave Darland (1999)
34: Sheldon Kinser (1977) & Steve Butler (1990)
35: Jay Drake (2004)
36: Roger McCluskey (1966) & Jerry Coons Jr. (2008)
37: Sam Sessions (1972), Larry Dickson (1975) & Tony Elliott (1998)
38: Sheldon Kinser (1981)
39: Tom Bigelow (1978), Sheldon Kinser (1982), Rich Vogler (1989) & Tony Elliott (2000)
43: Rollie Beale (1973)
44: Don Branson (1964)

USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR DRIVING CHAMPIONS BY YEAR (WITH AGE):
1961: Parnelli Jones (28)
1962: Parnelli Jones (29)
1963: Roger McCluskey (33)
1964: Don Branson (44)
1965: Johnny Rutherford (27)
1966: Roger McCluskey (36)
1967: Greg Weld (23)
1968: Larry Dickson (30)
1969: Gary Bettenhausen (27)
1970: Larry Dickson (32)
1971: Gary Bettenhausen (29)
1972: Sam Sessions (37)
1973: Rollie Beale (43)
1974: Pancho Carter (24)
1975: Larry Dickson (37)
1976: Pancho Carter (26)
1977: Sheldon Kinser (34)
1978: Tom Bigelow (39)
1979: Greg Leffler (27)
1980: Rich Vogler (30)
1981: Sheldon Kinser (38)
1982: Sheldon Kinser (39)
1983: Ken Schrader (28)
1984: Rick Hood (32)
1985: Rick Hood (33)
1986: Steve Butler (30)
1987: Steve Butler (31)
1988: Steve Butler (32)
1989: Rich Vogler (39)
1990: Steve Butler (34)
1991: Robbie Stanley (23)
1992: Robbie Stanley (24)
1993: Robbie Stanley (25)
1994: Doug Kalitta (30)
1995: Tony Stewart (24)
1996: Brian Tyler (29)
1997: Brian Tyler (29)
1998: Tony Elliott (37)
1999: Dave Darland (33)
2000: Tony Elliott (39)
2001: J.J. Yeley (25)
2002: Tracy Hines (30)
2003: J.J. Yeley (27)
2004: Jay Drake (35)
2005: Levi Jones (23)
2006: Josh Wise (23)
2007: Levi Jones (25)
2008: Jerry Coons Jr. (36)
2009: Levi Jones (27)
2010: Levi Jones (28)
2011: Levi Jones (29)
2012: Bryan Clauson (23)
2013: Bryan Clauson (24)
2014: Brady Bacon (24)
2015: Robert Ballou (26)
2016: Brady Bacon (26)
2017: Chris Windom (26)
2018: Tyler Courtney (24)

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