MERCED, Calif. – For Thomas Meseraull and Tanner Thorson, Merced Speedway was a home away from home one year ago.
While he is a Californian, Meseraull made his first visit to the quarter-mile clay oval last year and won the penultimate round of the 2020 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship.
For Thorson, he won the 2020 season finale and became the first driver in 20 years to win both the first and last races of a USAC National Midget season. Thorson also established Merced’s 30-lap track record at seven minutes, 18.810 seconds.
Those two drivers will arrive at Merced this Tuesday and Wednesday, Nov. 23-24, to defend their victories in the final rounds of the latest national midget championship.
Looking at the larger picture, the USAC National Midget championship race is tight with three point races remaining.
Buddy Kofoid holds a 19-point advantage over defending champ Chris Windom in the title fight. Kofoid led a race-high 22 laps in the event last year before falling runner-up to Thorson.
The past two NASCAR Cup Series champs, Kyle Larson and Chase Elliott, add spice to the field, as well as three-time Indianapolis 500 top-10 finisher Santino Ferrucci.
World of Outlaws driver Carson Macedo is also registered to compete in the Golden State.
Larson, the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champ from Elk Grove, Calif., owns the one-lap track record in a midget at Merced at 11.838 seconds. The 30-time winner this year accomplished the feat last year, where he then finished ninth and fourth in the features.
Elliott, the 2020 NASCAR Cup titleist, will make his Merced debut.
Elliott has made three USAC National Midget feature starts this year, recently finishing 20th in Saturday’s Hangtown 100 at California’s Placerville Speedway.
Ferrucci, meanwhile, will debut for Dave Mac Motorsports after appearances with the midgets earlier this season. The IndyCar driver raced the Chili Bowl Midget Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., and finished 10th in the G main on the final night.
Matt Wood, on the other hand, shifts his focus from Hangtown 100 race promotion to car owner this week.
Three of Wood’s cars finished in the top 10 last year, led by Shane Golobic, Ryan Bernal and Mitchel Moles.
Four-time USAC National Midget winner and current sprint car driver Zeb Wise looks to improve on his 19th-place finish from 2020.
As for Logan Seavey, he’ll pilot the same ride, Tom Malloy’s No. 25, Thorson drove to victory lane last year.
Justin Grant, the Hangtown 100 victor, continues to lead RMS Racing, which won the opening night at Merced last year.
Two-time USAC National Midget winner Jason McDougal returns with car owner Dean Alexander this week. McDougal debuted with the New Zealand car owner at Placerville Speedway over the weekend.
Maria Cofer, Carson Sousa, Jake Andreotti and Caden Sarale are other Californians registered to compete.
Pit gates open at 2 p.m. Pacific Time, with front gates opening at 5 p.m. and cars slated to be on track at 5:30 p.m.