PUTNAMVILLE, Ind. — A surprise during USAC Indiana Midget Week has been the consistent presence of Anton Hernandez without his driver’s suit and helmet.
Instead, Hernandez has been turning wrenches this week as he seeks his next opportunity in the sport.
The Arlington, Texas, native has been working on Tye Mihocko’s sprint car during USAC Indiana Midget Week, doing what he can to stay present and fresh in mind after circumstances led him away from the local team he had been competing with in the southern part of the country.
“It’s just one of those deals,” Hernandez said Thursday night at Lincoln Park Speedway. “I didn’t have a ride and still wanted to be around so that people know I’m available. It’s not what I wanted — you always want to be driving if you can be — but we’ve been having a good time this week.”
Outside of Indiana Midget Week, Hernandez is working for KT Motorsports as the “tire guy” for Kevin Thomas Jr. on the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car Series trail.
“I want to stay in the sport and I’m learning a lot from those guys. They’ve been doing this a long time,” Hernandez said of Thomas’ team. “Hopefully, I can take some of the things I gain from doing what I’m doing to make myself better in the future. I want to be back behind the wheel when I can be.”
Hernandez was the runner-up in last year’s USAC National Sprint Car Series rookie-of-the-year battle. The Baldwin Brothers Racing No. 5 that he was driving in 2020 is being piloted by Logan Seavey this year.
— Cannon McIntosh seemed headed for hard-charger honors and a much-needed top-five finish Thursday night at Lincoln Park, but ended up backward in turn four on the final lap after a spin while fighting Buddy Kofoid for fourth place.
McIntosh, from Bixby, Okla., instead finished 18th and said it was his mistake that cost him the result his Dave Mac Motorsports team deserved.
“I just made one little mistake. I tried to slide Buddy for fourth there in turns one and two (on the final lap), and a couple of guys darted under me. I tried to get a run back on him on the bottom and just cooked an infield tire. Once again, I ruined our chances of a good finish.
“The car was pretty strong all night. It’s just been stupid mistakes on my part.”
— With four drivers separated by 11 points at the top of the Indiana Midget Week standings, the battle to determine this year’s IMW champion will be one of the most hotly contested in years.
Of the top four — Daison Pursley, Chris Windom, Buddy Kofoid and Logan Seavey — only Seavey has previously won an Indiana Midget Week title.
Seavey took the IMW crown in 2019 while driving for Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian Motorsports.
Notably, the closest IMW title margin in history came in 2015, when Rico Abreu won his second crown by a single point.
— Friday night’s program at Gas City I-69 Speedway could see unprecedented USAC Indiana Midget Week territory extended even further.
Through the first six races, six different drivers representing six different teams have stood in victory lane, the first time that has happened in Indiana Midget Week competition.
Four prime candidates to extend the record run to seven-in-seven at the Gas City quarter-mile are McIntosh of Dave Mac Motorsports; Windom of CB Industries; and both Emerson Axsom and Kevin Thomas Jr. of Petry Motorsports.
— The Indiana Midget Week flip count has ballooned during the second half of the week, up to 18 with two nights of racing remaining.
The tally was at nine following the halfway point of the mini-series at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind., on June 6, but seven flips at Circle City Raceway Wednesday and two at Lincoln Park have doubled that number.
All drivers have walked away from their incidents through the first six Indiana Midget Week races.
— Kyle Larson was last year’s winner of the Gas City Indiana Midget Week round, romping from 14th to first, but Larson will not compete this year — instead racing a dirt late model for Kevin Rumley during Double Dream Weekend at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Larson finished 13th after starting sixth Thursday night at the historic Eldora half-mile.