SPEEDWAY, Ind. – The USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series completes its Midwest travels this weekend in an honorable way.
The ninth running of the Jason Leffler Memorial takes place this Friday at Wayne County Speedway in Wayne City, Ill., before the series races Saturday at historic Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind.
It all leads to the conclusion of a season that began the first week of February with nine November races in Arizona and California.
Friday’s 40-lap, $5,000-to-win event honors the life and memory of Leffler, the four-time USAC National driving champion (1997-99 in the midget and 1998 in the Silver Crown car) who lost his life in a sprint car accident at New Jersey’s Bridgeport Speedway June 2013.
Since the inaugural Jason Leffler Memorial late 2013, a new winner has emerged each season. With just one previous winner expected to compete this Friday, the trend may continue.
Tanner Thorson, however, can be the outlier.
The Minden, Nev., driver leads all competitors with seven series victories this season and enters as the defending Leffler Memorial winner.
In October of 2020, Thorson hunted down race-long leader Chris Windom with 11 laps remaining to capture the victory.
“I never knew Jason on a personal level, but I know a bunch of people who were really good friends with him and always talked about how good of a guy he was and that he was definitely a badass in the race car,” Thorson said in victory lane last year. “There’s no two ways about that. I wish he was here to throw some sliders and race with us. This is an awesome event to win.”
With 11 races left, Windom leads the series standings by just two points over Buddy Kofoid.
As for Tri-State, the Harvest Cup continues USAC’s long history at the quarter-mile clay oval that spans back to 1969.
All 12 midget trips to Haubstaut have produced different winners, with the two most recent races yielding first-time series victors.
Kyle Cummins broke through at the track in June while Thomas Meseraull did the same in his 89th series start last October.
Both Cummins and Meseraull will be in Saturday night’s field vying for the $4,000 payday.
Windom looks to add to his series lead at the track he finished runner-up this past June.
The USAC Triple Crown champ is also a winner at Tri-State in a sprint car, a feat accomplished in the spring of 2017.
Windom also set a one-lap track record in June for the USAC Midgets with a time of 13.377 seconds.
Thorson, meanwhile, charged from fourth to second to nearly win last year’s Harvest Cup.
The 2016 USAC National Midget champion also was a hard charger in the 2019 Harvest Cup A main, starting 17th and finishing ninth.
The 12-lap USAC midget track record belongs to Thorson as well at 2 minutes, 59.89 seconds set in 2019.