Du Quoin, IL — USAC National champions Tyler Courtney and Tanner Thorson are among the final set of entries for the “Junior Knepper 55” USAC Midget Special Event this Saturday, December 15 at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin as the entry list soars to 74 drivers and teams for the fourth annual race.
Courtney, the newly-crowned USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car titlist, will lead a three-car Clauson Marshall Racing attack at Du Quoin alongside teammates Zeb Wise and Andrew Layser. Indianapolis, Indiana’s Courtney won the “Knepper 55” in 2016 while Wise, of Angola, Ind., became the youngest ever feature winner in USAC National Midget history at Lanco’s Clyde Martin Memorial Speedway this past summer. Collegeville, Pennsylvania’s Layser, meanwhile, will make his debut for CMR.
Minden, Nevada’s Tanner Thorson, the 2016 USAC National Midget champion, will drive the Tri-C Motorsports No. 3c at Du Quoin while Dillon Welch, who has a multitude of experience behind the wheel and behind the mic, drops the mic this Saturday to wheel Kami Ronk’s No. 99p.
This year’s stout “Knepper 55” field also includes defending “Knepper 55” winner Christopher Bell, of Norman, Okla., one of three entries for Tucker/Boat Motorsports alongside McKenna Haase and Tanner Berryhill. C.J. Leary has also thrown his hat into the ring, driving for NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman.
Last year’s race runner-up, Chase Briscoe of Mitchell, Ind. and 2016 “Shamrock Classic” third-place driver Thomas eseraull of San Jose, Calif., plus a pair of decorated USAC National Midget champions in Dave Darland (2001 & 02) and Kevin Olson (1982 & 87) are entered.
Five-time USAC Light Up the World Western States Midget champion Ronnie Gardner of Riverside, Calif. will make his “Knepper 55” debut aboard a car for RAMS Racing as a teammate to Justin Grant, the only driver to win races in all three national divisions in 2018.
Five-time Indy Indianapolis 500 starter Conor Daly, of Noblesville, Ind., steps into the Jody Rosenboom No. 22CD for his second career appearance in a midget. Beech Grove, Indiana’s Kyle O’Gara, the 2014 USAC Pavement Midget champ, belts into the SFH Racing Development No. 67 for the “Knepper 55.” Meanwhile, southern Illinois USAC Silver Crown star Shane Cockrum of Benton, Ill., twice a winner on the adjacent “Magic Mile,” will wheel the Harris Racing No. 91.
Elkhart, Ill. native Chris Urish, a Silver Crown winner in the “Ted Horn 100” at the adjacent Du Quoin State Fairgrounds one-mile dirt oval, will drive for Tom Casson alongside teammate and fellow Silver Crown competitor Joey Moughan of Springfield, Ill. Carson Short has won on the big stage before, capturing the 2016 “Indiana Sprint Week” round at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. He will drive his own No. 45 at Du Quoin.
Robert Dalby off Simi Valley, Calif. and Newcastle, Oklahoma’s Trey Marcham have each had success in the USAC Western States Midget division during their careers. Dalby finished third in series points this season and will drive for Loyet Motorsports, the team that won the second-ever USAC-sanctioned race at the Southern Illinois Center, a Midwest HPD Midget event in 2005. Marcham, who led the first 17 laps of the 2017 “Knepper 55,” picked up three victories with the series in 2014.
Brian Shirley, of Chatham, Ill. a standout in late model racing, will drive for Jim Neuman while winged sprint car warriors Ryan Smith, Tony Bruce, Jr. and Paul Nienhiser take the wheel for a rare midget appearance.
The Knepper family is once again sponsoring FREE entry for competitors to enter their midgets for the Saturday, December 15 “Junior Knepper 55” USAC Special Event at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Illinois.
Tickets are now on sale for the 4th annual “Junior Knepper 55” at https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-knepper-55-ticket-sales. The race will serve as the final event of the 2018 USAC racing season. Adult general admission tickets are available for just $19 in advance. Adult general admission tickets at the door are $20, kids 6-12 are $10 and kids 5 years-old and under are FREE! Pit passes are $30 for USAC members and $35 for non-members. Pit passes can be purchased at http://www.TracPass.com/.
Furthermore, on https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-knepper-55-ticket-sales, you may order your 2018 “Junior Knepper 55” event t-shirt now for just $25. Sizes small through 4XL are available, but make sure to get yours soon while supplies last.
The event carries no points toward the USAC National Midget season championship, but has quickly become one of the most coveted races to win on the series calendar, annually boasting a large car count and a star-studded field to boot.
Though the special event carries no points toward the season championship, it has quickly become one of the most coveted races to win. Boasting large car counts and a star-studded field, the “Knepper 55” has already produced its share of memorable moments on the 1/6-mile dirt track located inside the building adjacent to the famed Du Quoin State Fairgrounds one-mile dirt oval.
The 55-lap event honors the memory of one of USAC’s most accomplished car owners – Walter “Junior” Knepper of Belleville, Illinois – whose famed yellow number 55 midgets and sprint cars raced to 58 career USAC feature victories, including 34 in Sprints and 24 in Midgets, with drivers Bob Wente, Tom Bigelow, Mel Kenyon, George Snider, Dana Carter, Rich Vogler and his son Steve Knepper.
Nick Knepper, grandson of Junior and son of 13-time USAC National Midget winner Steve Knepper, will promote the event along with Derek LeMaster.
Last year, Norman, Oklahoma’s Christopher Bell celebrated his 23rd birthday in grand style after passing Chad Boat with four laps remaining to win the third annual running over Chase Briscoe, Shane Golobic, Boat and Justin Grant.
In 2016, Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney earned his first career USAC-sanctioned Midget feature victory in his first start for the Clauson/Marshall Racing team. In the inaugural running in 2015, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. of Olive Branch, Miss. electrified the crowd in the 55-lap feature, coming from the back of the pack to score the victory in the final laps.
Earlier this March, current USAC National Midget point leader Logan Seavey of Sutter, Calif. won his first career USAC race in the “Shamrock Classic” at the Southern Illinois Center.
Doors open for the event at 2:30pm (Central) on Saturday, December 15. A public drivers meeting will take place in the grandstands at 3:30pm. Cars are scheduled to get on track for hot laps at 4pm.
The race will be streamed LIVE on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/ with LIVE audio on the USAC app. As always, you can catch each and every USAC National event a day after the race is run, on-demand, on http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.
-USAC Press Release
-Photo credit: Travis Branch