ODESSA, Miss. — It has been more than a quarter century since USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship racing has hit the high banks of Missouri‘s I-70 Motorsports Park, but that is scheduled to change with a series visit to the track on May 14.
This Saturday night, the two fixtures pair up for the first time since 1996, with this occasion once again providing a new challenge for the competition in the $6,000-to-win and $600-to-start main event.
The racing night is co-sanctioned by the Wholesale Batteries Midwest Wingless Racing Association, which will compete in conjunction with the national series. The USAC national portion will pay full points toward the championship while the MWRA event is considered a non-points special event.
None of this weekend‘s expected field of entrants have competed under the USAC banner at I-70, which has been affected by weather conditions and various external factors from its 2008 closure until its grand reopening in 2021.
Despite only hosting USAC National Sprint Car events on six occasions over the past half-century, this is the third different iteration of I-70 Motorsports Park the series will compete on.
In 1970, ’78, ’90, ’95 and ’96, the track was in a half-mile pavement configuration. In 1982, the half-mile surface was covered by dirt.
All six of those events had victories claimed by National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductees, evidence that it takes extra special attributes to conquer this place: Gary Bettenhausen (1970), Sheldon Kinser (1978), Jeff Swindell (1982), Steve Butler (1990), Tony Stewart (1995) and Eric Gordon (1996).
This weekend will feature a new USAC National Sprint Car winner at I-70, which now measures as a three-eighths-mile dirt oval, but retains its high banks, high stakes and need for high precision.
Among the leading contenders to accomplish the feat are USAC National Sprint Car championship regulars who‘ve already tamed victory lane early in the season. Among them are top rookie, two-time winner and championship points leader Emerson Axsom.
Second in the standings is Justin Grant who captured the most recent series event in the state of Missouri during 2020 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway in Pevely. Grant is also a one-time winner this season in USAC National Sprint Car competition.
Chase Stockon is third in points and looks to slide back into victory lane for the first time since 2020 this weekend.
Four-time series champ Brady Bacon enters as the most recent series winner at Ohio‘s Atomic Speedway and sits fifth in points.
Logan Seavey has won with the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship in Missouri during his 2018 championship season at Sweet Spring Motorsports Complex and resides sixth in the current sprint car standings.
The driver seventh in points, Jason McDougal, likewise has USAC winning experience in Missouri, taking the National Sprint Car stop at I-55 in 2018. Robert Ballou is eighth in the series standings and scored a Missouri USAC National Sprint Car feature win at Valley Speedway in Grain Valley a decade ago.
Ballou, the 2015 champ, will be one of three USAC National Sprint Car titlists in Saturday‘s lineup, along with Bacon and C.J. Leary, the 2019 series king.
Winning experience at I-70 comes from the USAC MWRA contingent.
Wyatt Burks is the 2020 MWRA champ who scored a victory with the POWRi WAR Sprint Car series at the track in 2021 and finished sixth the night before. The opener of the 2021 race weekend was notched by Wesley Smith, who traded places with Burks by running sixth on night two.
They‘ll both be in the field as they vie for their respective first career USAC National Sprint Car wins.
The majority of the field will mark their initial I-70 experiences on Saturday. That includes USAC National Sprint Car feature winners such as Jake Swanson, Carson Short and Matt Westfall — all single-time series winners thus far.
Series regulars and first-time USAC National Sprint Car winning hopefuls in Saturday‘s field will sport the likes of 2020 Rookie of the Year Jadon Rogers, 2020 USAC National Most Improved Driver Brandon Mattox, along with current USAC West Coast Sprint Car points leader Ricky Lewis.
The USAC MWRA series will also provide a contingent of Kansas and Missouri natives looking to hold down the fort in their backyard.