Oval Nationals Looming For USAC’s Top Drivers

Oval Nationals Looming
The 2020 AMSOIL USAC/CRA Sprint Car Series calendar has been released. (Doug Allen photo)

PERRIS, Calif. – The best of USAC’s AMSOIL National, CRA and Sands Chevrolet Southwest Sprint divisions will make the voyage to Perris Auto Speedway Nov. 7-9 for the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction.

Kevin Thomas Jr. enters as the two-time and defending champion of the Oval Nationals and aims to become the first driver to reach three consecutive victories in the event.

Thomas has seen both ends of the spectrum in terms of Oval Nationals success with two wins and two finishes outside the top-20, despite leading numerous laps.

He makes his return to Perris coming off a win in the most recent series event at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway in early October.

Justin Grant swept both prelim nights during the 2018 Oval Nationals, leading a total of only four laps in the process before taking eighth in the Saturday night finale.

The Ione, Calif., native and 2007 BCRA Midget champion also owns three standalone Perris CRA feature victories, once in 2017 and twice in 2018.  He owns six final-night starts at the Oval Nationals, with a best finish of second in 2017.

C.J. Leary enters as the National point leader with just one win to his credit thus far, back in February at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla. He’s looking for a hot streak to close out the year, just as he opened up the season.

Leary’s won at Perris before, capturing the 360 sprint portion of the Oval Nationals in 2014. In seven career Saturday night Oval Nationals 410 starts, the Greenfield, Ind., driver has managed a best Saturday result of 13th, which is not indicative of his performances, which included 11 laps led before experiencing mechanical trouble with 14 to go in 2018.

USAC/CRA point leader Damion Gardner owns more starts, more championships and more series wins than any other driver. No driver has won more Oval Nationals final night main events than the three-time winner, whose tally equals that of three-time event winners Dave Darland and Bud Kaeding.

In 2016, the seven-time USAC/CRA champ became the most recent CRA series regular to notch a victory at the final night A-Main and owns the longest streak of top-10 finishes in the Saturday night finale, with 10 dating back to 2009.

Gardner’s already tasted victory at Perris this year, with a win back in July.

Brody Roa, a 2017 Oval Nationals prelim night winner, is the most recent non-USAC National series regular to capture a victory at the event. The 2009 USAC California Ford Focus Dirt Midget and 2016 West Coast Sprint Car champ from Garden Grove, Calif., leads the Southwest Sprint points by a slim 10-point margin over R.J. Johnson.

Roa, who also resides third in the CRA standings, won at Perris this past March. He has four-straight top-10 finishes in the Saturday night Oval Nationals finale, topping out with a fourth-place finish in 2016.

Tyler Courtney had a topsy-turvy Oval Nationals last year, leading 66 of the 100 laps run throughout the three nights, with two second-place finishes in the prelims and a fourth on the final night.

Despite the disappointment, Courtney was all smiles in the end, celebrating with champagne as the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champion. He remains 47 points behind Leary in this year’s point race with five events remaining.

The only driver to win in all three USAC National divisions in 2019 has two career final night Oval Nationals starts, which have both come in each of the past two years, a ninth in 2017 and a fourth in 2018.

Along with Gardner and Darland, Bud Kaeding has earned three final night Oval Nationals victories in his career. The three-time USAC Silver Crown champ from Campbell, Calif., is one of the most-tenured of all Oval Nationals participants with 16 starts to his credit.

Kaeding, also the 1999 USAC Western States Sprint Car and 2012 West Coast Sprint champion, has reeled off seven top-fives and 12 top-10 finishes dating to his most recent start during the 2018 edition, where he finished 19th.

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