AMSOIL Sprints
Wednesday, 8 November 2017


Damion Gardner (silver) battles Richard Vander Weerd during the 2016 "Oval Nationals" at Perris. Damion Gardner (silver) battles Richard Vander Weerd during the 2016 "Oval Nationals" at Perris. Neil Cavanah Photo



By: Richie Murray – USAC Media

Perris, California………They made up their minds to make a new start.  They’re going to California with racing in their hearts.

Well, that wasn’t exactly the way Led Zeppelin wrote the song, but the gist of it is true.  The top USAC National teams and drivers have made the long tow to the west to take on the USAC/CRA on their home “turf,” if you will, for the season-ending Budweiser “Oval Nationals” presented by All Coast Construction Nov. 9-10-11 at California’s Perris Auto Speedway.

Most of the names from the National scene have become household in racing circles over the past several seasons due to their success on the trail.  Yet, success doesn’t come easy without the dedication of crews and sponsors to not only compete for a USAC national title, but also to hit the road to finish up a long, challenging season under the sunshine of southern California.

Among those who’ve started all 34 events run thus season include Chad Boespflug (Dynamics, Inc.), Tyler Courtney (TOPP Motorsports), Justin Grant (Sam McGhee Motorsports), Chase Stockon (32 TBI Racing) and Chris Windom (Baldwin Brothers Racing).  C.J. Leary has appeared at every single event on the calendar and has transferred to the feature in all but two.

The Dynamics, Inc. team has been a fixture on the USAC trail for nearly three decades with roots in racing established nearly nine decades ago.  This year, the team reorganized and teamed up with the Hanford, California driver who netted the Hoffmans a win for the 29th straight year at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway in April and are sixth in points.

Simply said, Tyler Courtney’s year with TOPP Motorsports has been a breakout performance.  The Indianapolis, Indiana driver is a career-best fourth in points and has a mathematical shot at the title 102 points behind the leader and has already scored five victories on his first full season on the USAC trail.  Coming into the season, he had just one.

Late in 2016, Justin Grant of Ione, California joined up with Sam McGhee Motorsports and since then, the team has been among the most consistently fast pairs on the circuit.  They’ve won four times and led the points for all but three races.  This weekend at Perris is make-or-break for Grant and McGhee, who now trail Chris Windom by three points and are within arm’s reach of their first USAC National titles.

Chase Stockon has had a topsy-turvy time in 2017, but the Fort Branch, Indiana native has begun to hit his stride down the stretch, leading 27 of 30 laps at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track on their way to a 2nd place finish just a month ago.  In the most recent series’ race in the “Western World Championships” at Arizona Speedway, Stockon reached victory lane for the first time in nearly 16 months.  He now resides 6th in series points.

Like Grant, another pairing that came together in the middle of 2016 is Baldwin Brothers Racing’s hiring of Chris Windom.  Windom’s second tenure with the team after a successful stretch during 2011-12 reunited him with crew chief Derek Claxton and has resulted in what, thus far, has been a dream season that could now put the Canton, Illinois driver in rare air by winning the Silver Crown and USAC National Sprint titles in consecutive years.

Dave Darland, C.J. Leary and Kevin Thomas, Jr. have each competed in 32 USAC National Sprint events throughout 2017.

Darland has bounced around to different rides during the season, but the ever-popular USAC Triple Crown champ and National Sprint Car Hall of Famer remains a threat everywhere he goes.  He’s shown speed by setting ProSource quick time on four occasions and was nearly victorious on three occasions in the Autumn, but luck hasn’t fallen his way yet to continue his streak of a USAC National victory in every year since 1993.  But the Perris Auto Speedway has been kind to him over the years, including three “Oval Nationals” wins and a “Turkey Night Grand Prix” victory.  And lastly, it is the home of his most recent triumph with the series in November of 2016.  Darland’s 10th place standing has continued another incomparable streak of finishing in the top-ten of the USAC National Sprint standings for the 20th year in a row.

Similar to Courtney, Greenfield, Indiana’s C.J. Leary has seen his fortunes change in 2017 to become a consistent threat to win night-in, night-out.  Prior to 2017, Leary had just one win in 149 starts.  During a 14-race stretch from July to September, he won four times, including two sets of back-to-back wins.  Leary currently occupies the seventh position in the standings.

It’s been amazing what Cullman, Alabama’s Kevin Thomas, Jr. has been able to accomplish despite missing the first two races this year.  From there, he stepped into a Pace Brothers car that was only intended to run a part-time schedule while KTJ got his own program up-and-running midseason.  He hasn’t missed a beat, immediately winning Indiana Sprint Week when swapped Pace’s 44 for his own 9K.  He’s now third in points and has an outside chance at taking the championship, just 85 points behind.

With 28 starts, Josh Hodges’ first full-year tackling a large portion of the USAC Sprint schedule has been a big step in the young New Mexico racer’s career.  He’s had his ups and downs as he becomes acclimated with many of the tracks on the schedule in his bright yellow No. 74x.  Perris has been a sweet home for Hodges before, back when he passed Perris CRA king Damion Gardner on the final corner for the win in April 2016.

Meanwhile, Brady Bacon’s initial intentions were to do a partial schedule of roughly half the races, but has turned into a full-time competitor throughout the second half of the season.  Bacon stepped into the Dooling/Hayward Motorsports ride and has been excellent, finishing in the top-5 in 17 of his 26 starts.  He sits eighth in points despite having the least amount of starts of any driver in the top-10 of the standings.

Robert Ballou and Isaac Chapple have had to overcome injury during their 2015 campaigns.  Ballou joined the tour one day following his clearance by doctors to resume racing.  No rust was evident when, in his second start back, Ballou put on a dominant display to win at Eldora.  Since then, he’s been one of the most consistent drivers in the series with 15 top-ten runs and two victories to claw his way into the top-10 of the points despite the late start.

Meanwhile, Isaac Chapple experienced his injury during the middle of the season in a nasty hot lap flip during “Indiana Sprint Week” at Terre Haute.  Despite being sidelined for the following five events, Chapple has improved from 20th to 15th in points from his first season to the second with the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars, earning three top-ten finishes.

Practice night on Wednesday, Nov. 8 from 5-9pm begins the festivities for the 22nd “Oval Nationals” at Perris.  Complete programs with 30-lap features hit the track on Thursday and Friday, Nov. 9-10.  Pits open at noon both nights with front gates opening at 4pm.  The drivers meeting takes place at 4:30 with cars set for on-track activities at 5pm.  For Saturday’s $25,000-to-win main event, pits open at noon, front gates at 3pm, an autograph session at 3pm, drivers meeting at 4:15pm with cars set to hit the track at 4:45pm.


All three nights of racing at the “Oval Nationals” will be streamed LIVE on  If you miss it or want to re-watch it again, http://www.Loudpedal.TV/ will have flag-to-flag on-demand coverage of each night posted a day following the event.