The United States Auto Club returns to the historic and newly-repaved Indianapolis Speedrome in 2004, with regular Wednesday night "tripleheaders," featuring three different types of Midget Car competition on what is being billed as "Open Wheel ...
The United States Auto Club returns to the historic and newly-repaved Indianapolis Speedrome in 2004, with regular Wednesday night "tripleheaders," featuring three different types of Midget Car competition on what is being billed as "Open Wheel Wednesday."
Race organizer Joel Cohen will debut the unique USAC "tripleheaders" at his 1/5-mile paved oval on May 5 and USAC racing will extend through August 18 and include "regional" Midget, Ford Focus Midget and Kenyon Midget competition. The 2004 USAC Indianapolis Speedrome schedule is also expected to contain "National" involvement, with information regarding those dates yet to be finalized for release.
"USAC is back," pronounced Cohen, the track owner and race organizer. "We look forward to USAC's return and to an open-wheel Wednesday we feel restores the rich tradition of history already established here." The track records will most certainly be in jeopardy in 2004, with a new track crack-free surface replacing the old one, work slated to begin in November.
USAC Midget racing at the Speedrome dates back to 1958 and in the ensuing 45 years USAC has conducted 376 total events at the track, including 337 featuring the Midgets. Gene Hartley won the initial USAC race there, a 50-lap Midget feature on August 3, 1958. From 1981 through 1999 (except for 1988 and 1989) a "regional" series was conducted at the storied track. Special USAC events there included 500-lap Midget races in 1981, 1982 and 1983. The track has also hosted USAC events in late models and modifieds.
"USAC is pleased to return to the Indianapolis Speedrome and particularly pleased at the avenue this new program opens for aspiring drivers with three basic levels of competition," added USAC President/CEO Rollie Helmling. "A great tradition of excellent racing already exists between USAC and the Speedrome and we are excited that we are able to expand that rich heritage in a new and exciting format."
Involvement with the Kenyon Midget Cars is not new, with the Kenyon Cars as a conjunctive event with the USAC "regional" Midgets in the late-1990s, but USAC sanctioning will be new for that series. "I'm really excited about the prospects for the future," said Don Kenyon, whose innovative ideas have been instrumental in creating this new form of Midget racing. "USAC's progressive ladder is now complete and I'm proud to be a bigger part of it." Don and brother Mel, a 7-time USAC National Midget Champion, have long been USAC participants and between them own 11 National car owner championships.
Eric Bunn, National Director of the USAC Ford Focus Midget Car Series, adds: "Ford's involvement in this Wednesday night program is a natural and our participants are extremely excited about a regular weekly program of competition. We expect this to augment our newly-expanded Midwest Series and anticipate continued growth of this new and exciting form of motorsports."
Numerous drivers have progressed from Speedrome competition to the Indianapolis 500, including Gene Hartley, Eddie Johnson, Jimmy Davies, Mel Kenyon, Chuck Rodee, Rich Vogler, Bob Wente, Larry Rice, Tom Bigelow, John Andretti, Tony Stewart and Rick Treadway.
"Racing USAC Midgets at the Indianapolis Speedrome was a great opportunity to prepare myself for racing in USAC, Indy Cars and NASCAR," stated John Andretti. "The competition really helped me to hone my skills as a driver and learn how to race safe, fast and clean. I can't think of a better place for a young driver to get a start or for an experienced driver to enjoy the fun and excitement of the best open-wheel oval track racing."
Dates on the USAC calendar for 2004 at the Indianapolis Speedrome are May 5, 12 and 19, June 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30, July 7, 14, 21 and 28 and August 4, 11 and 18.