SAN TAN VALLEY, Ariz. – This weekend’s 52nd Western World Championships presented by San Tan Ford at Arizona Speedway presents a unique opportunity.
It’s a chance to showcase versatility in both a sprint car and a midget on the same track on the same evening for two consecutive nights.
Only a select few have been able to tame both beasts on the same night, by winning both an AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series feature and a NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series main event in the same show.
In each of the past two instances in which the double-dip occurred, it was Tyler Courtney getting the job done, with both coming during Eldora Speedway’s 4-Crown Nationals in September of last year and again this September.
Back in May, Courtney was the fast qualifier in both divisions and scored the midget feature win, while Chris Windom captured the sprint car leg of the night.
Neither had the same fortune in the other feature that night; Courtney was 14th in the sprint car and Windom ended up 12th in the midget.
Both those two, as well as handful of others, are highly capable of doubling up and winning both features in one night, including the likes of Windom, Courtney, Kevin Thomas Jr., Brady Bacon, Jason McDougal, Thomas Meseraull and Logan Seavey this weekend.
The sweep has been accomplished 24 times to date in USAC National Sprint and National Midget doubleheaders and this crop of talent is certainly up to challenge to become the next.
The first such USAC National Midget/National Sprint doubleheader came 43 years ago, in 1976 on the high banks of Eldora Speedway. Dana Carter took the midget end of the deal while Clark Templeman scored the sprint car feature victory.
While no such USAC National Midget/Sprint sweeps occurred that particular night, there have certainly been their fair share of them over the years, including just a month and a half ago Eldora by Courtney.
It wasn’t exactly a clean sweep of all USAC events, with Courtney not winning the Silver Crown portion and securing a three-tier sweep with the Silver Crown car included, a feat that has only been done twice before.
Kyle Larson not only got the midget and sprint glory that particular evening at Eldora in 2011, he also capped off the night with a Silver Crown victory, just as Jack Hewitt did in 1998 at the 4-Crown, the only two times where all three have been won in the same night.
As far as USAC National/Sprint Midget sweeps go, the first one wasn’t so much a sweep, but is recognized as one of the greatest feats in USAC history, at Indiana’s Salem Speedway in 1977.
Double features for both the midgets and sprint cars were on tap that Memorial Day afternoon. Pancho Carter nailed down wins in both midget features, won the first sprint car feature, and came up just short in the second sprint main, finishing second to Tom Bigelow.
Ron Shuman did the deed a year later in 1978 at Reading, Pa., an Independence Day event which was televised on NBC.
Just two sweeps occurred in the decade of the 1980s, with Ken Schrader doubling up at Beaver Dam, Wisc. in 1982 and Rich Vogler getting the job done in 1986 at Eldora.
Jeff Gordon’s shooting star was at peak levels in 1990 when he took both on the high banks of Salem in June, then finished up the year with another sweep at the similarly-shaped and banked Winchester Speedway in November on his way to superstar status.
National Sprint Car Hall of Famers Hewitt and Dave Steele lead all drivers with three occasions in which they won both a USAC National Midget and National Sprint event at the same locale on the same day.
Hewitt got his first at Tri-City in 1991, then did it again in 1997 at Terre Haute, inheriting the midget win following original winner Kevin Thomas’ car failing post-race technical inspection. Hewitt’s third and final came in the never-to-be-forgotten 4-Crown in 1998.
While Hewitt garnered all three on the dirt, Steele collected all of his three on the pavement, all within a calendar year.
Steele’s first was at the one-mile Nazareth Speedway in 2003, again on a mile at Pikes Peak Int’l Raceway in 2004, and then for the last time just one month later at Salem.
USAC Triple Crown champion and Indy car and NASCAR Cup Series titlist Tony Stewart took two at Eldora in 1995, as did future NHRA star Doug Kalitta in the season finale at Winchester that same year. Dave Darland cashed in for two at Eldora in 1999.
Jay Drake got the first sweep of the new millennium, doing so in 2001 during the Buckeye Nationals at Eldora, shown on ESPN2.
J.J. Yeley added a pair of sweeps to his name within a month in 2002, first on the pavement of Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, then again on the dirt at Fremont, Ohio, where he flipped his sprint car in turn four while celebrating his big night.
Jerry Coons Jr. landed both wins at Missouri’s Lake Ozark Speedway in 2006, and the late Bryan Clauson became the youngest to sweep, shortly after turning 17 years old, at Salem in 2006.
Larson, meanwhile, became the latest to get three in one night in 2011 at Eldora.