Short (Track) Story! Belleville Opens the USAC Midget Season May 17-18

Belleville, Kansas is a small town that packs a mighty punch.

The same could very well be said to describe the type of action the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship will present on the 1/4-mile short track when the series returns for back-to-back nights of full programs at the venue on Friday-Saturday, May 17-18.

In fact, it’s a twin bill in Belleville featuring a tantalizing two-night doubleheader as midgets take on the racy short track and Silver Crown grooves on the blazing fast high banks at the grounds of the North Central Kansas Fair.

Friday’s midget program will culminate in a 30-lap, $4,000-to-win feature while Saturday’s main event presents 40 laps and $6,000-to-win.

Here’s the long (and the short) of it with six Belleville storylines for the midgets!

HALLELUJAH, IT BEGINS!

Better late than never! After three earlier tries to launch the 2024 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season, the season will now kick off in the state of Kansas at the Belleville Short Track.

This year marks the third occasion in which the USAC National Midget season begins in the Sunflower State. In 2011, Bryan Clauson won at Dodge City Raceway Park, and in 2023, Ryan Timms scored the series debut at the Belleville Short Track.

This weekend’s lineup features a slew of USAC Midget full-timers champing at the bit to get underway, 15 full-season championship hopefuls, in fact. Among the group are defending series champion, Abacus Racing’s Logan Seavey (Sutter, Calif.), and RMS Racing’s Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.).

Zach Daum (Pocahontas, Ill.) returns for his first full season USAC run in a decade with RAMCO Speed Group while Kevin Thomas Jr. (Cullman, Ala.) returns to full-time duty for the first time in three seasons with Mounce-Stout Motorsports. Series winner Jacob Denney (Galloway, Ohio) is back for his third year of full-time series duty and second with Tom Malloy’s team.

Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, the winningest team in series history, will field rides for three USAC Midget feature winners in Ryan Timms (Oklahoma City, Okla.), Cannon McIntosh (Bixby, Okla.) and Gavin Miller (Allentown, Pa.). KKM newcomer Ashton Torgerson (Glendale, Ariz.), meanwhile, will be contending for Rookie of the Year honors.

CB Industries’ revamped lineup consists of series winner Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) and Zach Wigal (Belpre, Ohio), another addition to the 2024 Rookie bunch along with Hank Davis (Sand Springs, Okla.) aboard the Cornell Racing Stables machine. 

Brand new teams joining the series full-time are a two-car effort for 4K Kings Racing combatants Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio) and Jake Andreotti (Castro Valley, Calif.) as well as Joyner Motorsports’ Kyle Jones (Kennedale, Texas).

THE BELLEVILLE DOUBLE

Big track, small track. Big cars, small cars. This weekend’s racing festivities run the gamut.

Seven different drivers are planning to partake in double-duty by stepping back and forth between their Belleville rides in the Silver Crown and Midget divisions.

This group of double-dippers is highlighted by Logan Seavey, the man who won both series driving championships in 2023. He returns to the seat of his Abacus Racing midget and Rice Motorsports-Abacus Racing Silver Crown car. Justin Grant is back in his familiar rides with Hemelgarn Racing’s crown car and RMS Racing’s midget.

Jerry Coons Jr. (Tucson, Ariz.) will strap into the seat of Patty Bateman’s champ car and the Central Motorsports midget. Matt Westfall (Pleasant Hill, Ohio) will double up in his own Silver Crown ride and the new 4 Kings Racing midget. Kaylee Bryson will wheel the Sam Pierce-owned Silver Crown car and will also make her first appearance with Joyner Motorsports in a USAC Midget event.

Daison Pursley (Locust Grove, Okla.) will make his Silver Crown debut for Team AZ Racing at Belleville and will begin his first full season as the midget pilot for CB Industries. Kyle Steffens (Saint Charles, Mo.) will compete in the Silver Crown division for his own team and will make a rare midget appearance as he will attempt to make his first career USAC National Midget start for car owner John LeVecque.

TIMMS’ TIME IN 2024?

In his first run as the full-time driver of the famed number 67 for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports, Ryan Timms was called upon to play the lead role as the fabled car’s newest pilot for the 2023 season. Quickly, he made his own bit of history as the first ever USAC National Midget feature winner at Belleville’s Short Track.

He recovered from a couple of self-inflicted miscues during the second half of the 30-lap feature where he saw his lead slip away twice only to gain it back each time on the very next lap. In total, Timms led 27 of the 30 laps, taking control with a slide job of Jake Andreotti 12 laps from the finish line to earn, at the time, his third career series victory.

Timms finished the 2023 campaign with a solid tally of three victories and a fourth-place finish in the standings, a big step up from where he stood in 2022. Timms is geared up to make an even further step up in 2024 from race winner to championship contender.

A BELLEVILLE DAUMINATOR

For Zach Daum, Saturday night of the 2023 event at Belleville was a homecoming. In the summer of 2014, the Pocahontas, Ill. native captured a USAC National Midget feature victory on the Belleville High Banks half-mile dirt oval during a Belleville Nationals prelim night.

Daum was back in victory lane for the first time since that very night with the USAC National Midgets, and it just so happened to take place in the same locale, albeit at a slightly smaller version of it.

One night after becoming the first driver to finish on the podium of a USAC National Midget feature at both the Belleville half-mile and quarter mile, on Saturday, Daum became the first driver to win a USAC national feature on both portions of the venue in his career. In doing so, Daum ended a substantially lengthy winless drought with the USAC National Midgets as well.

In fact, the eight year, nine months and 20-day gap between triumphs is the fourth longest span all-time between USAC National Midget wins, ranking behind only Arnie Knepper (1970-1983), Chuck Gurney (1974-1986) and Larry Rice (1975-1987).

It was quite a debut for Daum and the RAMCO team who had reached out to Daum in the week leading up to Belleville and tabbed him as their wheelman. It turns out it was a perfect match as it was the fourth USAC win as a driver for Daum and the first for the Texas-based RAMCO team.

BELLEVILLE’S FAVORITE ADOPTED SON

Jerry Coons Jr. is undoubtedly one of Belleville’s favorite drivers. The Tucson, Arizona native has been making regular visits to Belleville, Kansas dating back to 1990, and has been a fixture practically every year since.

He ranks fifth all-time in career USAC National Midget starts with 421 since his 1987 series debut. The USAC Triple Crown champ has experienced some of his finest moments at Belleville, and several accolades to go along with it.

Coons’ first career USAC National Midget win came during the 1996 Belleville Midget Nationals on the half-mile, and he ultimately became the first three-time winner of the event following scores in 2005-07-12. During a 2012 prelim night, he also won on the 1/4-mile short track.

However, last year’s finishes of 23rd and 17th left an unsavory taste in the USAC Triple Crown champions’ mouth, something he is eager to rectify this coming weekend.

SEAVEY ON DEFENSE

It’s been almost half a year since the most recent USAC National Midget race, but yes, Logan Seavey’s historic streak remains intact.

Over his last 22 USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature starts, he owns eight wins, 20 top-fives and 22 top-tens, a run which started in June of 2023.

A 23rd straight top-10 finish by Seavey on Saturday would break the series record set by Jason Leffler in 1997. Leffler rode that streak into a series title in 1997, then followed up the next year in 1998 by winning the championship again. It’s certainly a feat Seavey would like to repeat in the 2024 season.

Oddly enough, it was an inauspicious start for Seavey and Abacus at Belleville in 2023 with ho-hum finishes of 6th and 16th across the two nights, certainly not indicative of what was to come throughout the rest of the year. Now, they get another crack at Belleville success this weekend.

RACE DETAILS:

On Friday, May 17, at the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks, it’s opening night for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season in conjunction with a practice night for the USAC Silver Crown division. The pits open at 3pm Central.  Front gates open at 5:30pm.  Hot laps start at 6:30pm, followed by qualifying and racing. General admission and reserved tickets are $25. General admission and reserved tickets for ages 12 and under are $15. A one-day pit pass is $35 and two-day pit passes are $60. Advance tickets are on sale now at www.BellevilleHighBanks.org. Tickets will be available at the gate on both race days.

On Saturday, May 18, at Belleville, it’s a full race day for both the USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget and USAC Silver Crown divisions. The pits open at 3pm Central. Front gates open at 5:30pm. Hot laps start at 6:30pm, followed by qualifying and racing. General admission and reserved tickets are $30. General admission and reserved tickets for ages 12 and under are $20. A one-day pit pass is $40 and two-day pit passes are $60. Advance tickets are on sale now at www.BellevilleHighBanks.org. Tickets will be available at the gate on both race days.

The entire weekend of events can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/usac.

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TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL MIDGETS AT THE BELLEVILLE SHORT TRACK:

1 Lap – 5/19/2023 – Justin Grant – 11.736 – 76.697 mph

10 Laps – 5/19/2023 –  Kevin Thomas Jr. – 2:05.91 – 71.480 mph

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USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS AT BELLEVILLE:

5-Jerry Coons Jr., Dave Darland & Bobby East

3-Rico Abreu, Chad Boat, Kasey Kahne & Josh Wise

2-Bryan Clauson, Zach Daum, Jay Drake, Jason Leffler & J.J. Yeley

1-Spencer Bayston, Christopher Bell, Billy Boat, A.J. Fike, Robby Flock, Bobby Grim, Steve Knepper, Ryan Scott, Ricky Shelton, Brad Sweet & Ryan Timms

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USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINNERS AT BELLEVILLE:

1964: Bobby Grim (7/5)

1996: Jay Drake (8/1), Jerry Coons Jr. (8/2) & Robby Flock (8/3)

1997: Billy Boat (7/31), Jason Leffler (8/1) & Jason Leffler (8/2)

1998: Ricky Shelton (7/30), Jerry Coons Jr. (7/31) & Steve Knepper (8/1)

1999: Dave Darland (8/5), J.J. Yeley (8/6) & Dave Darland (8/7)

2000: Jay Drake (8/3), Kasey Kahne (8/4) & Kasey Kahne (8/5)

2001: A.J. Fike (8/2), Dave Darland (8/3) & Kasey Kahne (8/4)

2002: Ryan Scott (8/1), Bobby East (8/2) & Dave Darland (8/3)

2003: J.J. Yeley (8/7), Bobby East (8/8) & Josh Wise (8/9)

2004: Bobby East (7/30) & Bobby East (7/31)

2005: Dave Darland (7/29) & Jerry Coons Jr. (7/30)

2006: Josh Wise (7/28) & Josh Wise (7/29)

2007: Jerry Coons Jr. (7/27) & Jerry Coons Jr. (7/28)

2008: Bobby East (8/1) & Brad Sweet (8/2)

2009: Josh Wise (7/30 – SE), Bryan Clauson (8/1 – SE) & Bryan Clauson (8/1)

2013: Rico Abreu (8/1) & Christopher Bell (8/3)

2014: Zach Daum (7/31) & Rico Abreu (8/2)

2015: Rico Abreu (7/30) & Bryan Clauson (8/1)

2016: Chad Boat (8/5) & Chad Boat (8/6)

2017: Chad Boat (8/4) & Spencer Bayston (8/5)

2023: Ryan Timms (5/19) & Zach Daum (5/20)

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USAC NATIONAL MIDGET WINS IN KANSAS:

7-Bryan Clauson

6-Jerry Coons Jr. & Dave Darland

5-Bobby East

4-Jay Drake & Josh Wise

3-Rico Abreu, Christopher Bell, Chad Boat, Kasey Kahne & Jason Leffler

2-Zach Daum, A.J. Fike, Russ Gamester, Bobby Olivero, Tony Stewart, Kevin Thomas Jr. & J.J. Yeley

1-Spencer Bayston, Billy Boat, Tyler Courtney, Tony Elliott, Robby Flock, Mike Gregg, Bobby Grim, Jeff Heywood, Tracy Hines, Mel Kenyon, Steve Knepper, Kyle Larson, Thomas Meseraull, Johnny Parsons, Stevie Reeves, Ryan Scott, Ricky Shelton, Brad Sweet, Bob Tattersall, Tanner Thorson, Ryan Timms, Sleepy Tripp & Bryant Wiedeman

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PAST USAC NATIONAL MIDGET RESULTS AT THE BELLEVILLE SHORT TRACK

2023 NIGHT #1 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Ryan Timms (1), 2. Jake Andreotti (4), 3. Zach Daum (11), 4. Daison Pursley (14), 5. Tanner Thorson (7), 6. Logan Seavey (5), 7. Bryant Wiedeman (17), 8. Jacob Denney (3), 9. Cannon McIntosh (13), 10. Jade Avedisian (2), 11. Chance Crum (23-P), 12. Kyle Jones (19), 13. Mitchel Moles (21), 14. Chase McDermand (8), 15. Hayden Reinbold (20), 16. Kameron Key (18), 17. Brady Bacon (12), 18. Ethan Mitchell (24-P), 19. Gavin Miller (22), 20. Taylor Reimer (16), 21. Thomas Meseraull (10), 22. Justin Grant (6), 23. Jerry Coons Jr. (15), 24. Kevin Thomas Jr. (9). NT

2023 NIGHT #2 FEATURE: (40 laps, starting positions in parentheses) 1. Zach Daum (2), 2. Jade Avedisian (5), 3. Thomas Meseraull (19), 4. Jacob Denney (11), 5. Justin Grant (12), 6. Ethan Mitchell (7), 7. Daison Pursley (16), 8. Tanner Thorson (10), 9. Gavin Miller (13), 10. Brady Bacon (15), 11. Kevin Thomas Jr. (4), 12. Bryant Wiedeman (1), 13. Chance Crum (23-P), 14. Ryan Timms (21), 15. Kyle Jones (20), 16. Logan Seavey (8), 17. Jerry Coons Jr. (18), 18. Mitchel Moles (9), 19. Mariah Ede (17), 20. Jake Andreotti (22), 21. Hayden Reinbold (14), 22. Taylor Reimer (24-P), 23. Cannon McIntosh (6), 24. Chase McDermand (3). NT

USAC PR