INDIANAPOLIS – Robert Dalby, the reigning USAC Western States Midget champion, loaded his shop, two cars, two engines and all his belongings to make a cross-country trip this offseason.
Dalby drove from his home in Anaheim, Calif., to Brownsburg, Ind., with his sights set on competing on the complete NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget schedule schedule.
That journey begins this weekend, Feb. 7-8 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
The 20-year-old Dalby captured three wins on the Western circuit a year ago en route to his first series title. Following the season, Dalby uprooted and made the first of three moves back-and-forth between California and Indiana.
“I took the first load over in December,” Dalby recalled. “It’s a 32-hour trip and I’ve done it three times now. I just completed the last of the three moves on Sunday. … We’re not doing it the easy way. We were driving straight through and getting it done as quickly as possible.”
Dalby’s 2019 season was his most successful, by far, reaching career highs in all categories which has seen him compete all or part of the past five seasons with the series.
He earned his first three career Western States victories consecutively during a summer stretch, with scores at California’s Merced Speedway, Santa Maria Raceway and Ventura Raceway.
Following the success out west, Dalby felt the time was right to make the next step in his racing career, making the move to the Midwest to live out a dream and compete full-time with the national series.
“Running a midget in California, you only get to run it once or twice a month, really, so moving out to Indiana just made sense,” Dalby said. “There’s a lot more racing and a lot more competition out here. If you want to go midget racing, this is where you’ve got to come.”
Dalby made the trek east the past two years to compete with the USAC national midgets outside of his native California. Last year served as his busiest national schedule to date with eight feature starts and a best finish of 10th at Jefferson County Speedway in Fairbury, Neb.
Those endeavors helped him gain experience competing against the drivers he’ll be battling this year from coast-to-coast.
“These guys are tough,” Dalby said of USAC’s national midget drivers. “They’re 100 percent, 100 percent of the time. They’re going for it and they’re really not sitting back and waiting. They’re on the hammer and ready to go.”
The good news is that Dalby won’t be on his own in his new venture.
He’ll have the help of a five-time USAC Western States Midget champion on his crew, leaning on the experience of a winner and champion who has experienced most of the venues on the national schedule and who also made the move from California to Indiana.
“I’m living with Ronnie Gardner,” Dalby revealed. “I’ve been buddies with him for a while, and with him working for Keith Kunz last year, he’s gotten to go to all these places. He’s going to help me out and travel with me a little bit this year and be there for guidance.”
Dalby’s goals for the 2020 season are humble as he tackles the entirety of the USAC National Midget Series schedule for the first time in his career.
“I’m most looking forward to learning and getting better every week,” Dalby admitted. “These guys are the best of the best; they’re serious. So if we can come out and get better every time we go to the race track, learn something new, and step up our game, hopefully we’ll be right there with them at the end of the year.”