It’s hard to believe that it wasn’t all that long ago that the popularity of midget racing exceeded what we are currently witnessing in the sprint car division as far as the United State Auto Club is concerned.
In those days, we had ESPN airing the Thunder Series, which more often than not featured the USAC National Midget Series and the likes of a very young Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, the late Kenny Irwin Jr. and Robbie Stanley, Page Jones, Mike Bliss, Danny Drinan, Brian Gerster, Roy Caruthers, Doug Kalitta, Billy Boat and Stevie Reeves just to name a few. We would tune into watch on Wednesday, Thursday or Saturday, depending on the programming.
However, as those drivers moved on to the next level, ESPN’s decision that the World Series of Poker was more entertainment for its viewers than a good open-wheel, grassroots race coupled with the escalating cost of owning and operating a midget shooting through the roof, means the series has taken a backseat now to the Amsoil National Sprint Car Series.
The major exception to that is the upcoming USAC Honda National Midget Series’ Indiana Midget Week, an event that has grown each and every year since Kokomo’s Shane Cottle captured the first IMW crown in 2005.
Weather permitting tonight at the Gas City I-69 Speedway, the first of five straight nights of midget racing action will kick off the mini-series that is year in and year out one of the top events of the season.
A year ago at Gas City, Kyle Larson snuck by Tracy Hines in the last couple of feet to score the win that brought the huge crowd to its feet.
This year Larson won’t be competing as he is a front-runner for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, however a couple of his former teammates will and both are considered among the favorites to leave as champion Sunday night in Kokomo’s finale.