OCALA, Fla. – The early part of the season in Florida is noted for being the place to climb out of the cold and dreary months of winter and heat up with both the weather and the racing action on hand.
A few noted individuals have taken to bringing the heat themselves with victories in multiple USAC National divisions prior to the conclusion of the month of February.
Only five drivers have won in at least two USAC National divisions before the end of February in a single season: Billy Vukovich (1968), Tony Stewart (1998), Dave Steele (2006), Darren Hagen (2009) and Levi Jones (2010).
One driver this week, Chris Windom, has an opportunity to join that exclusive group this week with the USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car portion of Winter Dirt Games XI on Feb. 13-15 at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala, Fla.
Windom captured last Saturday’s USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget feature victory and will compete for Hayward Motorsports in the sprint car this week at Bubba’s where he was victorious in last season’s series opener.
Very few have accomplished what Windom is facing this week. After all, the Canton, Ill. native has erased one streak thus far in the new year, breaking the 59-year drought for a USAC Midget numbered 89 reaching victory lane.
Looking back, Vukovich, son of the legendary 1953-54 Indianapolis 500 winner Bill Vukovich. The younger Vukovich, himself, was named top Rookie at Indy in 1968. Just a few months before his first Indianapolis start, the Californian made history as the first driver to win both a USAC National Sprint Car feature and a USAC National Midget feature before the end of February in the same season.
A January sprint win for Vukovich at Rivergrade Speedway in Irwindale, Calif. got the ball rolling, followed by a midget win at El Cajon, Calif. He added another midget win for good measure in mid-February at San Jose, Calif., all three wins coming for car owner Doug Caruthers.
It wasn’t until three decades later when the feat was duplicated by Columbus, Indiana’s Tony Stewart, who on one afternoon on the first day of February in 1998 at Phoenix Int’l Raceway, swept both ends of the USAC portion of the Copper World Classic with triumphs in both the Silver Crown car, for owner George Snider, and the Midget series, in the famed Steve Lewis-owned machine.
Eight years later in 2006, pavement master Dave Steele would replicate Stewart’s dominance at Phoenix, sweeping both the Midget portion in one of Steve Lewis’ “Nine” cars. The National Sprint Car Hall of Famer from Tampa, Fla. then collected the Silver Crown portion of the event for 6R Racing, his fifth consecutive Silver Crown scores at the one-mile paved track.
Darren Hagen became the next, and first to do so on the dirt, when the National Sprint Cars and Midgets ventured west for early season dates. On Feb. 21, the Riverside, Calif. native crossed the stripe first with the sprints at Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, Ariz. for Dustin Morgan Motorsports. To close out the month of February, Hagen notched a midget score at the half-mile Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway for RFMS Racing.
The most recent of all drivers to accomplish two National victories before the end of February was seven-time USAC National champion Levi Jones whose successful evening at USA raceway in Tucson, Ariz. in February of 2010 saw him collect both the USAC National Sprint Car and Silver Crown features for Tony Stewart Racing.