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Kevin Thomas Jr. at Perris Auto Speedway. (Steve Himelstein photo)

Thomas Seeks To Make History In Arizona

SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. — Amid a career year, Kevin Thomas Jr.‘s nine USAC AMSOIL Sprint National Championship victories have him on the brink of one of the most historical seasons in series history.

Only 10 times in USAC history has a driver reached double digits in victories in the sprint car division. Eight drivers have turned the trick and Thomas hopes to join them during the final weekend of the season at the 54th annual Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway.

Thomas posted his ninth victory of the season in last Saturday‘s Oval Nationals at California‘s Perris Auto Speedway.

Tom Bigelow set the all-time record in 1977 with a blistering season consisting of 14 USAC National Sprint Car feature wins in Sherman Armstrong‘s No. 43. In fact, the year of 1977 produced the only such season in which multiple drivers had 10 wins or more. Pancho Carter won 10 features that same year. Neither driver won the title, though, as Sheldon Kinser was the champion with seven victories.

J.J. Yeley‘s USAC Triple Crown season of 2003 included 13 wins in the sprint car division, a number matched by Robert Ballou in his title season of 2015, which was the most successful championship drive by a driver/owner in series history.

Two championship drivers — Larry Dickson and Pancho Carter — raced to 12 scores in 1968 and 1976, respectively. Dickson‘s 1968 campaign included half of those in succession when he tallied a USAC National Sprint Car record six-straight in the early part of the season for car owner Ray Smith before finishing out strong with Steve Stapp.

Stapp and Carter teamed up in the following decade of the 1970s, putting their best season together in 1976 with a dozen wins and a second series crown.

Dickson and Carter are also the lone two drivers to reach 10 or more USAC sprint car wins in a season on two separate occasions. Dickson did it again in his second championship season of 1970, reaching exactly 10, for Kenny Lay‘s team. Carter, meanwhile, did the feat in consecutive years, winning 10 more for Stapp in 1977.

Bubby Jones force of a year in 1979 led all drivers with 11 triumphs, but still wasn‘t enough to overcome Greg Leffler in the standings.

Tyler Courtney‘s dominant 2018 season made him a first-time USAC National driving champion as he collected 11 sprint car victories for Clauson Marshall Newman Racing.

Nearly two decades before, Jay Drake got off the starting blocks at a torrid pace and continued his roll through mid-summer in the Keith Kunz Motorsports No. 67, taking 10 victories. A lack of a pavement ride until halfway through the year thwarted a grand opportunity for a championship, which he‘d ultimately earn in 2004.

Thomas also remains in the championship fight, trailing point leader Brady Bacon by 52 markers with two races remaining this weekend.

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