VENTURA, Calif. – It all comes down to Friday night for Robert Dalby in his pursuit of the USAC Western States Midget Series championship.
Dalby, from Anaheim, Calif., is one race away from securing the season championship, after a season that started slow but caught fire through the summer months.
A run of three-straight victories, combined with solid consistency, has put Dalby 29 points clear of title rival Cory Elliott entering Friday’s rain-postponed Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway.
Dalby noted that the 79th edition of the crown jewel event is not only “the perfect way to end the season,” but it’s also an appropriate stage to declare a champion on. He’s hoping that champion is him.
“It’s a big deal, for a lot of people out in California,” Dalby said of the Turkey Night Grand Prix. “In midget racing, it’s one of those races that everyone talks about, and it’s the last big race of the year before you start looking at Chili Bowl and getting ready for that out in Tulsa. So we definitely want to add it to our resume and it would be a huge deal to get it done, even a day later like it is this week.
“When you think about our series, being in a decent point battle, it’s just a big event to be part of.”
Dalby told Sprint Car & Midget in late October that his strong run in the Chili Bowl Nationals A-main in January was the catalyst for his entire year, which has featured a trio of Western States wins and built his confidence in a way that wasn’t there prior to the start of the year.
However, it’s been a bit of a different story within the USAC California Swing, which has seen Dalby struggle to make the field on several occasions just due to the sheer car count and level of competition.
That’s not dissuaded him any, but Dalby did say that the national cars amp things up to another level.
“Man, laps are laps,” Dalby noted. “They get to run 60 races a year, while we’re out here running 15 … so it kind of evens it out as to who’s going to be good and who struggles. We get to run Ventura three times, but they just have a lot of laps and a lot of time with their teams to get everything right. Plus those guys have a lot of cars, so they’re learning multiple things throughout the night.
“It doesn’t make it easy, for sure, but we’re out here fighting as hard as we can.”
To try and even up the data curve, Dalby brought in rookie Carson Sousa for the week at Ventura to add a second car in his stable, and the effect was immediate from a speed standpoint.
Dalby was second-quick in Wednesday night’s practice, while Sousa landed ninth on the board in his first run aboard a USAC midget after several years in outlaw kart racing.
“It has been nice so far running two cars; it definitely allowed us to try one or two different things and just continue to learn in a way that maybe we haven’t had the ability to before now,” Dalby said. “All in all, we’re happy with where we ended up on Wednesday and hope we can translate that into Friday night.”
As far as counting points, don’t expect Dalby to do that, even though he only needs to finish 10th or better to win the title outright if Elliott pulls off an upset and wins the Turkey Night Grand Prix.
The Aggie Trophy is the only thing on the 19-year-old’s mind at this juncture.
“Definitely, running up front and winning this deal is our focus,” Dalby stressed. “The championship will fall how it falls. I want to run well out here. We’ve been good (in the past). I think we ran like 12th or something here last year from dead last, but there’s no thinking about points, really.
“I just want to get this thing qualified well and go race up front like we’ve been doing.”