AMSOIL Sprints
Monday, 15 February 2016


Dave Darland is among those who are in new rides this season, taking over the Jeff Walker Racing #11 for the 2016 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season. Dave Darland is among those who are in new rides this season, taking over the Jeff Walker Racing #11 for the 2016 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season.


By: Richie Murray

Once again, as we edge closer to this week’s opening of the 2016 USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship season at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla., a sea change of new driver and team combinations are readying for an assault on the 47-race tour.

Defending series champion Robert Ballou, a winner of 13 series races in 2015, returns to his own Ballou Motorsports machine, but this time with a new number.  For the first time since 1999 when the late Tony Elliott donned the number one in honor of his 1998 series championship, Rocklin, California’s Ballou will proudly carry the #1 instead of his familiar number 12 as he seeks to become the first back-to-back USAC National Sprint champ since Bryan Clauson in 2012-2013 and the first driver to win the series title using the #1 since Robbie Stanley in 1992.

Last season’s series runner-up, Dave Darland, returns to the Jeff Walker-owned number 11 for his third stint with the same team he won 13 USAC National Sprint features for in 2005-2006 and 2012.  The Lincoln, Indiana native looks to extend his record streak of 23 consecutive seasons with a USAC national feature victory, dating back to his first career series win in the “Tony Hulman Classic” at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 1993.  Darland, the winningest USAC National Sprint car driver of all-time with 57 victories, has also strung together 19 consecutive seasons of finishing in the top-ten of the USAC National Sprint series points.

The seat vacated by Darland in the Steve & Carla Phillips no. 71p will be filled by two-time defending USAC Silver Crown Series champion Kody Swanson.  The brand new father will be making his first assault on the USAC National Sprint tour as the Phillips team has combined forces with long-time driver/owner Kent Wolters to field a car for Swanson, a Kingsburg, California native.

Chad Boespflug of Hanford, California will pilot the NineEight Motorsports car co-owned by himself, Chuck Eberhardt and Fred Zirzow in 2016.  Six-time Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway track champion Brady Short, of Bedford, Indiana, will step into the Michael Dutcher Motorsports #17GP for the three-race “Winter Dirt Games VII” series.

Up-and-comer Max McGhee of Mooresville, Indiana plans to hit the trail for 2016 while Sioux City, South Dakota’s Bret Mellenberndt, an occasional USAC competitor throughout the last decade, travels the full circuit for 2016.  Canadian Lee Dakus and his DOW Motorsports team plan to take on the full schedule this year in pursuit of becoming just the third USAC national series Rookie of the Year from the great white north (Trevor Boys – 1980 Midget and Steve Arpin – 2008 Silver Crown).

Meanwhile, several regulars from the 2015 season are returning to their familiar rides for this year’s USAC campaign.  Series race winners Chase Stockon (32/TBI Racing #32), Brady Bacon (Dynamics, Inc. #69), Justin Grant (Baldwin Brothers Racing #5), Aaron Farney (Farney Motorsports #15F) and Thomas Meseraull (Amati Racing #66) are set to tackle the full AMSOIL National Sprint schedule.  In addition, Noblesville, Indiana’s Bryan Clauson will compete in several USAC AMSOIL National Sprint events in the Dooling/Hayward number 63 as he attempts to compete in 200 races in a variety of series in 2016.

Avon, Indiana’s Jon Stanbrough, who finished 5th in points last season and currently stands tied for ninth on the all-time USAC National Sprint win list with Rich Vogler at 35 victories will wheel his own Jon Stanbrough Racing number 81 once again for the full USAC season while C.J. Leary of Greenfield, Indiana, who has been knocking on the door for his first series feature win, is back in the family-owned number 30 for the year.  Tipp City, Ohio's Landon Simon returns to the seat of the LSR number 24.

Other new driver and team affiliations include USAC National Midget series veteran Isaac Chapple of Willow Branch, Ind., who competed in a sprint car on a handful of occasions last season, will pilot the LNR/Chapple number 52.  Tempe, Arizona’s Casey Shuman takes over the Jeremy Ottinger number 4J while 2006 Eldora USAC National Sprint feature winner Matt Westfall, Ludlow Falls, Ohio, steps into the new Dave Baumgartner-owned number 38.  Meanwhile, Kokomo, Indiana’s Shane Cottle returns to the Tony Epperson number 2E for three-race series in Florida, a car which he raced from 2012-2014.

Chris Windom is back in the Rick Pollock 21x for the three Ocala events while Jarett Andretti (Andretti Autosport Short Track #18), Kyle Cummins (Byram #3R), Mitch Wissmiller (Wissmiller #1w), Tom Harris (East #5E), Carson Short (Short #21), Robert Bell (Bell #71), Kent Schmidt (Schmidt 5K) and Brandon Spithaler (Burkey #57) return to the same seats as they each did in 2015 and are among the drivers and teams who all have plans to get their 2016 season started at “Winter Dirt Games VII” on February 18-19-20.