PLACERVILLE, Calif. – NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series rookie Ben Worth is racing with a special purpose in mind during the tour’s season-ending California Swing.
Driving for veteran driver-turned-owner Dean ‘Kiwi’ Alexander, Worth is honoring fellow driver Grady Chandler by piloting Alexander’s No. 5g midget entry during the final stanza of the USAC season.
The familiar red-and-white car was built for Chandler and raced by the Oklahoma young gun during the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Okla., back in January. However, things took a rough turn for Chandler over the summer.
While racing for another team, Chandler was injured in a USAC Wingless Sprints Oklahoma event on July 26. He suffered fractures of the C1, C2, C3, C4 and C5 vertebrae, and has been recovering in hospital care for the last few months.
Alexander wanted to keep racing, not just for himself and his team, but for Chandler as well.
Enter Worth, who “happened to run into Kiwi” during the early part of the season and ended up agreeing to a deal to drive for Alexander when all was said and done.
“It’s really special for me to even have this opportunity,” Worth told Sprint Car & Midget Tuesday night at Placerville Speedway. “It’s nice to be piloting this car. I mean, for those who don’t know, this car was built for Grady to run at the Chili Bowl this past year … and I actually helped to get the seatbelts fitted for him, because they thought we were pretty close in size. With all the events that have happened, it’s a bad deal, but it’s cool to keep this No. 5g car out there.
“Everyone basically calls it the Grady Chandler car, and I’m glad to carry on for Grady in that way and it’s cool to be out there for Kiwi, too,” Worth continued. “I know he loves racing, and I love having his car out there. I like the whole Grady Chandler scheme and like the hashtag says, we’re doing it for Grady.”
Worth, 24, stepped up to the midget ranks from the micro sprint division this season after winning the headlining Winged Outlaw division feature at the Tulsa Shootout in January and has found quick success.
In fact, Worth won in his USAC Western States Midget Series debut with Alexander in April at Bakersfield Speedway, something that helped to serve as the catalyst for the duo to battle a national-level field during this week’s inaugural Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100.
“So after we won the Tulsa Shootout in January, and let me say again that that win was really cool … but at the beginning of the year in California, we kept getting rained out and kept getting rained out. I planned on running some micro stuff and some sprint car stuff, and we just couldn’t accomplish anything because of the weather. I happened to run into Kiwi, and we were just talking and messing around, but I brought up the midget and he goes, ‘well, we’ve been getting rained out and there happens to be a race over at Kern County near Bakersfield, do you want to go run it?’ So we went and did a round with the BCRA guys and got a sixth-place finish my first time in the thing.
“Then a couple of weekends later, our first race with the USAC Western States midgets, I was able to pull off a win,” he noted. “That was really cool for us and, I think at that point, made us realize that we could really go out and run solid in this car. We wanted to expand our horizons and challenge ourselves as the year went on here, and that’s led us to this point and coming here to Placerville this weekend.”
After an eighth-place finish in his Last Chance Showdown on Tuesday night, Worth will aim to finish off the Hangtown 100 at Placerville strong on Wednesday. He’ll then make a return to Bakersfield Saturday before moving on to the 79th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix at Ventura Raceway on Nov. 28.
Worth will cap off his fall and winter run with Alexander during the same event where Chandler’s path with the No. 5g began – the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals, Jan. 13-18 at River Spirit Expo Center.
It’s a sequence of high-profile events, but Worth is trying to keep his goals modest for now.
“I just want to try not to look stupid and do the best we can,” he said. “I mean, these guys are national guys. They have thousands and thousands and thousands of laps, where this is my first season in a midget, so just doing the best I can and being smart is the biggest key for me.
“This is a great deal. We’re pumped up, but we’re just going to take it one race at a time.”