AMSOIL Sprints
Thursday, 7 May 2020


J.J. Yeley during his 2003 USAC National Sprint Car championship season in 2003. J.J. Yeley during his 2003 USAC National Sprint Car championship season in 2003. Jan Dunlap Photo


By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Speedway, Indiana (May 7, 2020)………USAC’s history is full of legends who’ve won championships from the likes of Foyt, Andretti, Vogler, Gordon, Stewart, Clauson, and on and on.  But, who among them and others, have had the greatest individual seasons of all-time with USAC?

Here, we breakdown those greatest seasons among 13 different drivers who’ve accumulated at least 15 feature victories in a single season.


2003: J.J. Yeley - 24 Total, 23 National, 1 Special Event. (4 Silver Crown, 13 National Sprint - 1 Special Event Sprint, 6 National Midget (2 were also Western)

J.J. Yeley was simply dominant in 2003 in his first season for Tony Stewart Racing’s sprint car team. How dominant? Get this. In his first 14 USAC National Sprint Car starts, he was a top-five finisher every time out, only interrupted by one blip through the first 25 races of the season, in which he had 24 top-fives in that span.

During a run through July and August in the sprint car, which included a full eight-race slate of Indiana Sprint Week, Yeley never finished outside the top-three. The only aberration was at Salem where he finished 7th, but led early and spun, then restarted from the tail, got all the way back to 2nd and spun again. How did the Phoenix, Ariz. driver respond? He reeled off 2 wins, a 2nd, and two 3rd place finishes in the final 5 races to dominant the championship chase in one of the more convincing years by any driver in any discipline.  His 13 National Sprint wins on the year came one short of Tom Bigelow’s mark of 14 in 1977.

And that was only in the sprint car. Not to be overshadowed were the 4 Silver Crown scores with owners Tony Stewart and Bob East as well as 6 National Midget triumphs with the vaunted Steve Lewis team to his credit, which elevated him into becoming just the second driver behind Stewart (1995) to win all three USAC National titles in the same season.


2013: Bryan Clauson – 22 Total, 13 National (8 Sprint - Includes 1 CRA, 5 Midget, 4 West Coast/Southwest Sprint Special Event, 2 Southwest/West Coast Sprint Special Event, 2 Western States Midget & 1 CRA Sprint)

2016: Bryan Clauson – 15 Total, 9 National (7 National Sprint, 2 National Midget, 3 West Coast/Southwest Sprint Special Event, 1 Southwest/West Coast Sprint, 1 Indiana Midget, 1 CRA Sprint)

In the modern age, no driver was more adept to as wide of a variety of racecars than was Bryan Clauson, who seemingly showed up in the results of every USAC race across the board, Regional and National, year-after-year, time-after-time. His 22 total wins in 2013 ran the gamut, winning in every series he competed in that year except Silver Crown.  His 2016 season was on track to beat the legendary 2013 season as he chased the goal of competing in 200 different races, totaling 15 USAC wins and 9 National prior to his passing in an early-August USAC Midget crash at the Belleville (Kans.) High Banks, fittingly where he was accustomed, leading and headed for another incredible victory.


1987: Sleepy Tripp – 18 Total, 4 National (14 Western States Midget, 4 National Midget)

1988: Sleepy Tripp – 20 Total, 2 National (18 Western States Midget, 2 National Midget)

Sleepy Tripp, a memorable name with memorable talent, was the man to beat on the West Coast following a fairly brief, but highly successful run on the USAC National Midget trail in the 1970s, which saw him become the fifth winningest driver in series history with 59 victories and the 1975-76 championships. When he moved back to his California home in the early 1980s, he and the Zarounian No. 67 midget became synonymous as they racked up a record 104 USAC Western States Midget wins, double that of his closest competitor. But, his two finest seasons in terms of wins came in 1987-88 when Tripp collected a total of 38 USAC victories over a two-year span and protected the home turf, so to speak, with 6 National wins in that time when the National series traveled westward.


1961: A.J. Foyt – 19 Total, 19 National (4 Championship Cars, 6 Sprint, 9 Midget)

1964: A.J. Foyt – 18 Total, 18 National (10 Championship Cars, 5 Sprint, 3 Stock)

It’s about hard to argue which A.J Foyt season was better. In 1961, Super Tex won his first Indianapolis 500, a National Championship and one more USAC National race for a total of 19, but it was 1964 where he put together a string of seven consecutive wins in the Championship Cars, which still stands as a record for all USAC National series, with wins on both pavement and dirt at Phoenix, Trenton (twice), a second Indianapolis triumph, Milwaukee, Langhorne and Springfield, 10 total with the champ cars and 18 in entirety.


2000: Jay Drake – 19 Total, 17 National (1 Silver Crown, 10 Sprint, 6 Midget (Includes 3 Western States and 1 Dirt Regional Midget), 1 Additional Dirt Regional Midget, 1 TQ Midget)

After a frustrating 1999 season in which he seemed to suffer mechanical problems at such inopportune times, Jay Drake was poised to have a breakout year at some point. But, perhaps, no one thought it could become as dominant and spectacular as it did the following year in 2000 where seemingly every night in every type of car, Drake qualified up front, started up front and won features at will, especially in Keith Kunz’s sprint car where he won 10 times with USAC, then winning his first in the Silver Crown car at Knoxville for car owner Ralph Potter and 6 in the midgets despite the Potter team closing its operations mid-year.

The only thing that kept Drake from a Sprint title that year was the lack of a pavement ride, which he didn’t land until July after missing the first five events, yet still finished a mere 24 points behind Tony Elliott at the top of the final standings.


1964: Parnelli Jones – 18 Total, 18 National (2 Championship Cars, 8 Stock, 1 Sprint, 7 Midget)

Synonymous with winning in the 1960s, Parnelli Jones was at his peak in 1964 following USAC Sprint titles in 1960-61-62, and the Indianapolis 500 in 1963.  However, the year of the British Invasion was partially dominated by the Arkansas native whose diversified racing portfolio included a total of 18 USAC National wins in ’64, but most dominant was his performance in the Stock Cars where he won 8 times and earned the series championship. The year of ’64 also marked a season in which rival A.J. Foyt also won 18 times, creating one of the finest single-season performances by a duo of drivers in USAC's history.


2019: Tyler Courtney (18 Total, 18 National (1 Silver Crown, 9 Sprint, 8 Midget)

A banner 2019 season for the Indianapolis, Ind. native allowed Tyler Courtney racked up a total of 4,534 points between USAC’s Silver Crown, AMSOIL National Sprint Car and NOS Energy Drink National Midget campaigns, and one year following his AMSOIL National Sprint Car title in 2018, Courtney followed up with the second leg of the USAC Triple Crown in 2019 with a dominating NOS Energy Drink National Midget season in which he led all drivers with eight feature victories in 30 starts en route to the championship.

Courtney competed on a part-time basis with the Silver Crown series with a win at the Hoosier Hundred, and finished second in the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car points in 2019, just 18 points behind C.J. Leary., However, Courtney did lead all drivers in the series in terms of victories for the second-straight year with nine.  He was one of two drivers to win USAC National main events in all three series along with Brady Bacon.


1978: Rich Vogler – 16 Total, 16 National (11 Midget, 5 Sprint)

1988: Rich Vogler – 18 Total, 17 National (16 Midget, 1 Sprint, 1 Western States Midget)

On the eights, 1978 and 1988, Rich Vogler turned in his finest performances. However, who are we kidding? He was in fine form practically every year from start to finish.  His first USAC National Midget championship in 1978 came with the aid of 11 series wins, with 5 sprint wins tacked on for good measure to display the versatility that allowed him to become the first driver to win the USAC National Sprint and Midget championships in the same season (1980).

In 1988, Vogler nearly set a new record in terms of USAC National Midget feature victories, finishing with 16 (the most recent driver to reach double-digits in wins with the series), just one behind Mel Kenyon’s mark of 17 in 1967.  His 18 total tally in 1988 came along with a USAC National Sprint score and a single USAC Western States Midget win.


1995: Billy Boat – 18 Total, 3 National (15 Western States Midget, 3 National Midget)

The year of 1995 for Billy Boat is notable for a streak – the ultimate streak in USAC’s 65-year history. The number 11 wasn’t only made famous by Spinal Tap, but also by Boat for his 11-race USAC Western States Midget winning streak in during the season. It was an incredible feat that captivated the racing scene, his performance helping him toward an IndyCar career where he became a winner in 1997 at Texas Motor Speedway and the pole winner for the 1998 Indianapolis 500.


1967: Mel Kenyon – 17 Total, 17 National (17 National Midget)

The top USAC National Midget driver of all-time’s finest season has to be the finest single season ever, by default, right? Well, indeed you would be correct. The undisputed King of the Midgets had his best run in 1967, winning the second of his eventual seven USAC National Midget championships and 17 of his record 111 wins during the campaign.


2004: Bobby East – 16 Total, 13 National (1 Silver Crown, 5 National Sprint, 7 National Midget Cars – 5 were also Western States Midget – plus 1 Western Sprint & 2 Speedrome Regional Midget)

Bobby East dabbled in a little bit of every series back in 2004, winning in six different USAC divisions, garnering 16 total wins, 13 of which were on the National trail.  He collected wins on half-mile paved tracks, half-mile dirt tracks and even at the bullring of the Indianapolis Speedrome in tracks ranging from the west coast of California to the east coast of Virginia in one of the most versatile years in the history of the series for the USAC National Midget champ that year in 2004 who’d eventually tack on 2012-13 USAC Silver Crown titles to his resume.


1977: Tom Bigelow – 15 Total, 15 National (14 Sprint, 1 Silver Crown)

Tom Bigelow and team owner Sherman Armstrong were a dynamite package early in the 1977 season, racking up a record 14 USAC National Sprint Car races in the first 32 events by mid-July.  It’s a record that still stands to this day as the winningest season in series history. Quizzically, the pair went winless in the final 20 races of the season and missed out on the title by 75 points to Sheldon Kinser. Bigelow and Armstrong made up for it the following year, albeit with “just” 5 wins, but a more consistent run throughout the season that netted them the 1978 title by a whopping 223 points over Chuck Gurney.


1995: Tony Stewart – 15 Total, 13 National (7 Sprint, 6 Midget, 1 Western States Midget & 1 Speedrome Midget)

The bastion of legendary seasons stands with Tony Stewart, who did the unthinkable in 1995 by winning all three USAC National championships in a single year.  He repeated his 1994 National Midget title but did so by switching teams mid-stream from Ralph Potter’s ride to the Steve Lewis No. 9 car, winning six times.  In the Sprint Car, he took legendary car and engine builder’s Glen Niebel’s V-6 powered machine to 7 wins. Yet the Silver Crown championship was the most incomparable, needing every single thing to fall into place in the season finale at Sacramento, California’s Cal Expo State Fairgrounds, with both Dave Darland and Jack Hewitt falling to the wayside, Stewart leapfrogged both to win the title despite no wins and nary a lap led.