Turning the Corner: Moles Continues Progression Entering Macon’s Top Gun USAC Weekend

”At the end of day, this isn’t an overnight thing. As much as everybody wants to believe, you can’t just show up and be good. Maybe for one night, but continuously and consistently, it takes time.”

To many, Mitchel Moles’ recent USAC Eastern Storm championship in mid-June may seem like a turning point of sorts. Yet, in reality, it’s the payoff of a complete turnaround in both his own inward view and the resulting changes that have come along in the Reinbold-Underwood Motorsports camp since last reaching USAC victory lane in July of 2023 at Illinois’ Macon Speedway.

As the Raisin City, California racer returns to the site of his most recent triumph at Macon this Friday-Saturday, June 28-29, he reflected upon the experiences throughout his first two years of USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship competition, which have run the gamut from jubilation to despair, and just about everywhere in between.

In a microcosm, that can be summed up from the time of that Macon victory nearly 12 months ago. Since then, he’s endured a hospital stay, torn up racecars, a nearly completely new crew and almost an entirely rebuilt team from top-to-bottom.

The payoff came in the form of a USAC Eastern Storm championship less than two weeks ago, a title which saw him make a comeback from the largest deficit ever to win it while simultaneously nailing down the second largest margin of victory in the 17-year history of the grueling six-race, six-night series throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“I think it was a big gain for our team as a whole,” Moles said of it. “I feel like, up until this point, basically since Indiana Sprint Week of last year, we’ve just been trying to rebuild and get everything right. We’ve lost a few crew guys and had to start over with a new team, which didn’t necessarily hurt us at all. It was just about getting used to everybody and getting back in the flow of things and trying to build confidence back up with myself.”

Prior to the start of USAC Eastern Storm, Moles’ average finish for the season stood at 9.125 throughout 16 events with a mere single top-five finish to his credit. However, during Eastern Storm, he bumped it up to 4.8 and finished each of his final five starts of the series inside the top-five.

The only blemish of the week was the opening night at Grandview in which Moles was running fifth but ended up 12th following a mag box issue. Initially, Moles figured that instance would wind up being the difference standing between him and an Eastern Storm title. But when point leader Brady Bacon suffered an engine problem in the finale at Action Track USA, Moles was there to pounce and secure the Eastern Storm crown with a third-place result.

Any measure of success in this sport is a huge deal for all involved. For a team such as RUM and Moles to deliver during one of the most grueling and grinding weeks of the season, that’s truly a testament to a team that has hit its stride, a fact that isn’t lost on Moles who feels the annual east coast venture is the toughest stretch they face on a variety of levels.

“The feeling is a lot different,” Moles said of it. “It’s so tough right now and I feel like it’s as tough as it’s ever been as of recently. (Logan) Seavey’s on a roll; Brady (Bacon)’s always good and (Kevin Thomas Jr.), I feel like is in the mix every night, plus Kyle Cummins, Justin Grant and all these really good racecar drivers, it’s just hard to hit that top-six every night.”

It’s certainly been a winding road for Moles, the former pro bass fisherman who grew up in a family of raisin farmers. Moles made a splash in his USAC National Sprint Car debut at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in 2022, leading 21 of 30 laps before finishing second, among the finest first starts by any driver in series history.

Although his first year was exceptional in limited duty, winning twice overall at South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway and Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway, when Moles looks back at the tracks he won on that year, he sees himself as a driver just hammering the throttle on a narrow but moistrous, super juiced-up surface. But winning a title at Eastern Storm’s array of racetracks ranging from 1/6-mile bullrings to 1/2-mile speed plants amid varying conditions represented something different, something perhaps even more special.

“I don’t just want to be good at those tracks,” Moles said of ‘hammer down’ track conditions. “I want to be good at every track. When it’s slick and super wide, you see Justin, Brady, KTJ and those guys I really look up to; that’s when they go forward.”

As time went on, the team’s search continued for Moles’ sweet spot to become both comfortable and fast. Now, team owner Andy Reinbold is at the point where he knows what to do with the racecar when Moles’ comes off the track, and his dialogue with new crewmen Dylan Cook and James Turnbull has helped guide them to a level of consistency this group hadn’t had since teaming up a couple years back.

“Andy and I have changed everything since I’ve gotten here,” Moles explained. “He’s done anything and everything to help myself and the car feel better. Where we were at on the racecar when I showed up compared to where we’re at now is incredibly different. I’m almost uncomfortable sometimes here and there while driving because I feel like my left rear tire is up higher than normal. But Andy tells me, “Well, that’s just a normal sprint car.”

Moles has also endured some of the not-so-wonderful side of the sport, especially following a string of successive incidents he went through during the summer of 2023, which caused him to miss a bit of action. Moles acknowledged it took a toll on him, especially when he was lying in a hospital bed with only the ticking of the clock and a slew of thoughts running through his mind – a stark reality of the profession.

“Everybody can act like they’re tough,” Moles begins. “You hear somebody say they won’t get hurt, but it happens. If you do this long enough or you’re driving hard enough, it’s going to happen. I feel like the biggest thing is what you can do when you come back from it. I got in a little funk there, and if your head is a little off, it takes a toll on you, and you just realize that it hurts. It hurts to crash; there isn’t any secret behind that.”

Moles has always had a penchant for going fast, but results and finishing, at times, in the past were difficult spots to overcome, admittedly. Moles took a different approach and has now been running at the finish in all of his 22 series starts this year. It’s a wholesale difference in that regard from one year to the next.

“We got to the point where we just needed to finish races,” Moles admitted. “I didn’t care if we ran 21st; we just had to finish races because it doesn’t do us any good to hang it from the fence every night. Some were my fault; some of them were not. That’s just the cards that you’re dealt, and you have to deal with it. I feel like we’ve made tremendous gains from there. I try not to look back on the past much, but I’m just getting better every night.”

Yet, it’s important to note that the past is at least a portion of the equation which has brought him here to his biggest success to date in USAC competition. A past which includes a photo finish victory in 2023 at Macon (Ill.) Speedway.

“Macon has been really good to me,” Moles beamed. “The last two races there, I’ve won one and ran fifth in the other. (The track) might be a little different; we might see a whole new Macon, or it could be exactly like it was. I go into every racetrack optimistic, but almost every place I’ve been to at this point has changed. I watch a video, then we go there the next night, and it’s completely different. It’s dirt; it changes all the time, and we’ll just try to keep doing what we’re doing. Wins will come but you’ve just got to stay positive, stay up front, and make things happen when it counts.”

On the heels of an Eastern Storm championship, more than anything, Moles now wants to end that yearlong absence from USAC victory lane and that’s what he intends to do.

“I want to win more than anybody and I try my hardest every night,” Moles stated. “Everybody wants to win, but getting back to victory lane with USAC is tough, especially with all the really good guys. But I try not to think about that too much. What I think about more is the racecar itself and making decisions. If you can get your racecar pretty good and make the right decisions at the right time, you can win these races.”


Top Gun Weekend features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship on Friday and Saturday night, June 28-29, at Illinois’ Macon Speedway. Both nights, the pits open at 3pm Central with the front gates opening at 4pm and cars on track at 6pm followed by qualifying and racing. General admission tickets are $30. General admission tickets for kids age 10 & under are $10. Pit passes are $45. Pit passes for kids age 10 & under are $25.