Macon an Entrance: Six Top Gun Storylines for USAC Sprints in Illinois

Dating back to more than three-quarters of a century ago, we’ve seen our share of midget racing at Illinois’ Macon Speedway.
 
USAC has been part of the fabric of midget racing at Macon from practically the beginning, making 12 appearances at the 1/5-mile dirt oval since 1959.
 
Drivers such as Donnie Beechler, Christopher Bell, Don Boorse, Don Branson, Jimmy Davies, Tony Elliott, Danny Frye, Randy Koch, Brad Kuhn, Chuck Rodee, Bob Tattersall and Leroy Warriner have all found their way to several victory lanes across the country, and Macon Speedway is among those.
 
However, we’ve never seen anything quite like what’s on tap during Top Gun weekend at Macon as the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship makes its highly anticipated debut at the venerable bullring.
 
Nestled alongside the corn fields on Land of Lincoln soil, Macon awaits two full USAC Sprint Car programs on two consecutive nights, a 40-lap, $5,000-to-win feature on Friday, July 7, and the grand finale paying $10,000-to-win on Saturday, July 8.
 
True to form, just as the poster says, it’ll be like “Fighter Jets in a Gymnasium” with today’s premier class of talent such as Jake Swanson, Emerson Axsom, Brady Bacon, Justin Grant, Kyle Cummins, C.J. Leary, Mitchel Moles, Chase Stockon, Daison Pursley, Robert Ballou, Matt Westfall, Logan Seavey, Kevin Thomas Jr. and more all vying for newfound sprint car glory at Macon.
 
Here’s six storylines we’re keeping a watchful eye on this weekend at Macon.
 
 
CUMMINS, ROCK STEADY ON THE BULLRINGS
 
Right now, at this very moment, the name that first comes to mind when discussing 1/5-mile bullrings and USAC National Sprint Car racing is Kyle Cummins.
 
Just a handful of weeks ago in mid-June during the Eastern Storm finale at Pennsylvania’s Action Track USA, the Princeton, Ind. driver was the fastest qualifier, then worked his way from 6th to 1st in a span of 25 caution-free laps to win the 40-lap feature.
 
Cummins is among the few in the field who has won a feature event at Macon, taking a POWRi Midget round at the track in May of 2022. Odds might put him as the favorite entering the weekend, and Cummins tends to agree.
 
In a recent interview with Dr. Pat Sullivan, Cummins made clear his intentions and his expectations.
 
“I plan to go over there and make a little money,” Cummins stated. “If they keep moisture in it or rework it before the feature and the track doesn’t get black slick, it is my race to lose, especially if there is a big cushion by the fence. If it is juiced and gripped up, then I am excited to go.”
 
 
MACON BACON
 
Don’t look now, but Brady Bacon is starting to heat up.
 
Since enduring a troublesome Eastern Storm, the four-time USAC National Sprint Car champion from Broken Arrow, Okla. has captured each of the past two series feature victories at Wisconsin’s Wilmot Raceway and Indiana’s Lincoln Park Speedway, helping him become the series’ first four-time winner in points races this season.
 
Like Cummins, Bacon has also won at Macon in POWRi Midget competition, doing so as recently as 2013. Now, Bacon aims to contend for his third consecutive USAC National Sprint Car win in as many weeks.
 
Never before has Bacon won three consecutive USAC National Sprint Car features. In fact, neither has the famed Dynamics, Inc. team, which owns an all-time series record 132 feature victories, but three-in-a-row has not happened as of yet.
 
Macon presents that opportunity for the team to earn new accolades and push Bacon even closer to the all-time series win record. Bacon picked up series win number 50 on Monday and now ranks third, two behind Tom Bigelow’s 52 and 12 behind Dave Darland’s 62 atop the all-time feature win list.
 
 
YOU CAN POINT TO SWANSON
 
It’s been a continuous dog fight at the top of the USAC National Sprint Car standings so far throughout the first half of the calendar year. Already, in just 17 events, the point lead has been exchanged eight times between six different drivers.
 
Brady Bacon led the way from February 6 through April 8 and then again on June 3. C.J. Leary has led twice, on April 14 and from May 6-23. Defending series champ Justin Grant took the reins of the standings between April 15 and May 5. Kyle Cummins took over from May 24-25. Jake Swanson rose to the top from June 13-15 before Emerson Axsom elevated to the number one spot in the span from June 16-24.
 
Now, entering Macon, Swanson is back on top of the title race and is in the pilot’s seat with a three-point edge over Axsom. Swanson erased a 33-point deficit during the last round at Lincoln Park with a third-place result, which was his 13th consecutive top-10 result in USAC National Sprint Car competition, best in the series this year.
 
 
BIG HOPES, BIG DREAMS, SMALL PLACE
 
We have a relatively “small” sample size to go off when it comes to USAC National Sprint Cars on tracks 1/5-mile or smaller. Nonetheless, the cream always rises to the top regardless of the size of the venue, and that came to fruition in mid-June during the Eastern Storm finale at Kutztown, Pennsylvania’s Action Track USA.
 
Kyle Cummins set the tone early as the man to beat by setting fast qualifying time. In the feature, that very same prowess came through with Cummins winning the 40-lap feature.
 
Meanwhile, Emerson Axsom came on strong and led a race-high 24 circuits before finishing third. C.J. Leary snuck through to collect third late while Robert Ballou was a strong fourth and Justin Grant came home fifth.
 
All are drivers with several starts under their belts, save for Axsom, who’s now been full-time in the series for two-straight years. However, the track’s dimensions are also ripe for a first-time winner to make a breakthrough.
 
Besides Cummins and Bacon, who’ve already won at Macon in their careers, there’s a guy like Zach Daum who’s won multiple times in both POWRi Midgets and MOWA winged sprint cars at Macon, and he’s already done that this season. Daum is among the possible first-time winners in this weekend’s bunch in his own number 5d. After all, he’s already been in winner’s circle this season with the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship. A first USAC Sprint Car win isn’t out of the question.
 
 
50-LAP BEHEMOTHS!
 
Brady Bacon, Justin Grant, C.J. Leary and Logan Seavey have all won 50-lap USAC National features in their careers. However, with that said, never have any of the four captured a 50-lap USAC National Sprint Car main event win.
 
Bacon possesses a pair of 50-lap USAC Silver Crown wins at Ohio’s Eldora Speedway (2019) and the Belleville High Banks in Kansas (2023). Grant has collected a single 50-lap USAC National Midget feature win at the Southern Illinois Center (2017).
 
Seavey owns the most in the group with four 50-lap USAC Silver Crown scores at Eldora (2021-22) and Pennsylvania’s Port Royal Speedway (2022-23) in addition to one USAC National Midget win at the Southern Illinois Center (2018). Leary’s lone 50-lap USAC Silver Crown triumph also came at Eldora (2018).
 
In all, 50-lap USAC National Sprint Car events are rare, especially since the turn of the century in 2000. Since that time, just four dirt 50-lap USAC Sprint Car races have been held, the most recent being in 2012 at Eldora with Dave Darland winning the event.
 
 
STRAIGHT TO THE (APPEARANCE) POINT
 
Both nights of racing this weekend at Macon will award appearance points only with all licensed USAC National Sprint Car drivers and entrants receiving 50 points across the board each night regardless of finishing position.
 
It was the same scenario at Action Track USA, and there were some drivers who indicated that the appearance points situation on that particular night took the pressure off their shoulders and allowed them to just go race without the fear or repercussions of having a bad points night.
 
Similar instances may play out once again with championship stakes “at ease” for all intents and purposes at Macon. Thus, with the removal of one aspect, that might allow drivers to place their sole focus on the win and the paycheck rather than settling, not that anybody is into “settling” in the middle of heated competition.
 
You might see teams experiment a bit more with set ups. Drivers may take different approaches to their plan of attack. In fact, a handful of top teams at Action Track USA parked their 410 engines to compete with a 360 c.i. powerplant based on the tight confines, with the best of the bunch scoring a solid sixth place results. However, when it’s go time, the 20 drivers and cars starting each night’s feature will find themselves in a never-ending vortex for 40 laps on Friday and 50 laps on Saturday. You know, just like the poster says, “Fighter Jets in a Gymnasium.”
 
 
RACE DETAILS:
 
Top Gun Weekend at Macon Speedway marks the debut of USAC National Sprint Car racing at the 1/5-mile dirt oval. Two-straight nights of action commence for the series on Friday, July 7, and Saturday, July 8.
 
On Friday, the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship is joined by the HART Non-Wing Micro Sprints plus a huge fireworks display. Pits open at 3pm Central with the front gates opening at 4pm and cars on track at 6pm followed by qualifying and racing.
 
Saturday’s event features the USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship, plus Hornets and Vintage Full Body Stock Cars. Pits open at 3pm Central with the front gates opening at 4pm and cars on track at 6pm followed by qualifying and racing.
 
Advance tickets for both nights are on sale now at: https://www.myracepass.com/tracks/2052/tickets/package/1005.
 
General admission tickets at the gate on race day are $30 for adults and $10 for kids age 11 and under.  Pit passes are $40 apiece while pit passes for kids age 11 and under are $20.
 
Single day advance general admission is $30. Single day advance reserved tickets are $35. Two-day advance reserved tickets are $65. Adult two-day reserved tickets are $80. Advance two-day tickets for children age 11 and under are $40. Three-day advanced reserved tickets are $90 and three-day advance general admission tickets are $75.
 
On Thursday night, July 6, during the “Hell Tour” for late models at Macon, three USAC drivers will face off against three late model drivers in a hornet match race.
 
Fans can save $15 by purchasing a three-day general admission ticket in advance for Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Adult three-day tickets are $120 while children age 11 and under are $60.
 
Free camping and parking will be available as will a giant carnival slide for kids and the young at heart.
 
Both nights of USAC National Sprint Car racing at Macon this weekend can be watched LIVE on FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3punT8S.
 
 
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USAC AMSOIL SPRINT CAR NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Jake Swanson-1096, 2-Emerson Axsom-1093, 3-Brady Bacon-1064, 4-Justin Grant-1049, 5-Kyle Cummins-1036, 6-C.J. Leary-998, 7-Mitchel Moles-937, 8-Chase Stockon-894, 9-Daison Pursley-889, 10-Robert Ballou-854.
 
 
TRACK RECORDS FOR USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CARS AT MACON SPEEDWAY
 
None – First Events
 
 
ALL-TIME MACON SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR FEATURE WINS
 
None – First Events
 
 
ALL-TIME MACON SPEEDWAY USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR FEATURE WINNERS
 
None – First Events
 
 
USAC NATIONAL SPRINT CAR WINS IN ILLINOIS
 
4-Rick Hood & Sheldon Kinser
 
3-Jay Drake
 
2-Steve Butler, Tony Elliott, Jack Hewitt, Danny Smith, Tony Stewart, Rich Vogler, Greg Weld & Doug Wolfgang
 
1-Rollie Beale, Alan Brown, Tyler Courtney, Derek Davidson, A.J. Foyt, Elmer George, Chuck Gurney, Tracy Hines, Bubby Jones, Bud Kaeding, Kelly Kinser, Steve Kinser, Cory Kruseman, Ralph Liguori, Pat O’Connor, Johnny Parsons, Billy Puterbaugh Jr., Troy Rutherford, Terry Shepherd, Dean Shirley, Randy Standridge, Ron Standridge, Sammy Swindell, Chris Windom, Josh Wise & J.J. Yeley
 
USAC PR