Revisiting The History Of The USAC Midget Name

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Midget
The USAC National Midget Series has gone by numerous designations over the years. (Tom Macht photo)

INDIANAPOLIS – Using the term “midget” to identify the race cars smallest in stature among USAC’s national touring lineup seems as if it never went by another name.

They’ve always been known as “midgets,” or so many people would be led to believe.

However, there was a time at the start of the 1960 season where the use of the term “midget” fell out of favor as the name of choice, first to the “Offy 110 Division” for a seven-year span between 1960-66.

The reason given at the time for the change in 1960 was to give the public a better understanding of what type of race they could expect when they saw it advertised.

Per a story from the April 28, 1960 edition of USAC News, reportedly, there was considerable confusion over the name with such cars as the micro midget, quarter midget, half midget and three-quarter midget gaining more prominence at the dawn of the decade.

With more than 95 percent of the midgets registered with USAC in 1960 being powered by 110-cubic-inch Offenhauser engines, the name of the series was altered to represent that fact.

The exact limit was 109.999 cubic inches, but that name was considered to unwieldy to place on the advertising signs in front of the race track, and a little bit too much of a mouthful for even the most experienced announcer to enunciate.

In an issue of USAC News from June 16, 1966, it was reported that the name Offy 110 division was swapped out for “Compact Sprint.”

This move was brought about due to the increase in cubic inches in excess of 110, and the use of the Offy 110 moniker was then considered outdated.

“We aren’t running midgets in the common use of that word in today’s racing,” said Henry Banks, who at the time was USAC’s Director of Competition. “These cars are actually Compact Sprints, and that’s what they’ll be known as from now on in our racing.”

“Compact Sprint” as the name for USAC’s midget division proved to be even more short lived, sticking around for just a half a year.

In the off-season meetings between the end of the 1966 and the start of the 1967 season, the name was discarded in favor of returning to “midgets” due to the confusion of what a compact sprint actually was, with the media quite frequently truncating the “Compact Sprint” name simply to “Sprint” in their race reports.

The term USAC National “Midget” division officially returned in time for the 1967 season, and has never wavered since that point in time.

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