INDIANAPOLIS – It sounds as if the Driven2SaveLives BC 39 USAC Midget Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is going to be among the largest midget races ever. Yes, the Chili Bowl holds that distinction and will likely remain that way past the Sept. 5-6 weekend, but this new race at IMS held during the Brickyard weekend will rival the annual dirt race in January in Tulsa.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. is in. He announced that on Tuesday. But, who else may join him?
Stenhouse, told me that he thinks that this race has the potential to be something special.
“I sure hope so,” said the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver on if this could be like the Chili Bowl. “To me it will be special. I think there’s going to be a huge turnout. Maybe more than expected. I think it’s one of those events that you don’t know how it will go until you get cars on track and the week here. Being Brickyard weekend, I know a lot of my crew guys are like I hope we get the team plane in here early enough to watch the races.
“I know the whole garage area on the NASCAR side is fired up about it. Motorsports fans should be excited about it. It will have a lot of enthusiasm behind it.”
Stenhouse, has a lot of friends in the NASCAR community that has a similar background coming through the ranks as himself. Will any of them join him for the two-day show in September.
“I guarantee they’ll run it,” Stenhouse said. “I haven’t talked to them yet but I’m sure they’ll run it. I’m sure Kyle (Larson), (Justin) Allgaier and (Alex) Bowman will if their teams let them run it. Anybody that’s ever raced a midget that’s in our sport, I have a feeling are going to come over and do it.”
The only way that these drivers don’t run the 39 Lap race is if their contracts or team owners don’t allow it. Some drivers like Kyle Larson have clauses in their contracts where they’re only allowed to run a certain amount of dirt races a year. Think about, the Cup owners know how dangerous racing can be. When their prized possessions are out racing in other series’ bad things could happen. So, they try to limit their drivers’ participation away from their full-time gigs.
Stenhouse said that he doesn’t have any clauses in his contract and that his team owner Jack Roush is actually okay with him running in some extra curricular activities.
“I don’t,” he told me on if his contract has any limits like Larson’s. “Jack’s (Roush) been super lenient. There’s been some times where he’s asked me not to run and there’s been a few years of that, but he’s kind of back open to letting me race. He came over to watch me race the Outlaw car in Charlotte. That was cool to have him out at the dirt track. I think he sees why I enjoy it so much.”
Stenhouse notes that as much track time in no matter what kind of car you’re behind the wheel of certainly helps his full-time gig. He made reference to how successful Tony Stewart was and look how many races he ran during the course of a year.
“I think for me anytime you drive a race car, it doesn’t matter if I went and ran an INDYCAR in the middle of the week or a sprint car or midget, it keeps you sharp. It keeps your mind on focus to be able to adapt to different race cars. That was one of those things that I always looked at what probably helped Tony (Stewart) in his career. On sprint cars and the Cup cars I enjoy both of them. I think being sharp and being able to bounce back and forth is important.”
So, with that being said, what are some of the names that we could possibly expect to run in September.
Stenhouse, Kyle Larson, Alex Bowman, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, J.J. Yeley, Ken Schrader, Justin Allgaier, Christopher Bell, Chase Briscoe, Rico Abreu and maybe a few others.
You also can’t count on them running, but what about Jeff Gordon or Tony Stewart. Gordon, has always said that he’d be open to running events like this one and Stewart was the reason this whole thing even got traction when he made hot laps on a make shift track a couple of years ago.
“I made sure that one of my first calls as the story leaked was to Tony (Stewart) to make sure he knew that we were making this announcement,” said Doug Boles. “I’m not sure if Tony’s planning on running here or not, but we said that even if it was to do a stunt lap we’d love to have you. He’s been supportive of the effort. It’s really a Tony call and we’d love to have him. I know that weekend for him he has his cars at the track here that he owns and has the race that weekend in Eldora.