The prestigious Belleville Midget Nationals at the North Central Kansas Free Fair in Belleville, Kans. will exhibit a brand-new look in 2004 with the addition of a "shootout" featuring cars and stars of America's newest...
The prestigious Belleville Midget Nationals at the North Central Kansas Free Fair in Belleville, Kans. will exhibit a brand-new look in 2004 with the addition of a "shootout" featuring cars and stars of America's newest open-wheel racing series.
The USAC Ford Focus Midget Cars will make their initial appearance on Belleville's 1/4-mile dirt oval on Thursday night, July 29, while the USAC National Midget Cars compete on Friday and Saturday nights July 30-31.
Details of the three-night racing program are still being constructed, but Thursday's Ford Focus event will be open to participants from the entire country, marking the first truly "National" gathering of these exciting, new cars and drivers. Among those who may compete are USAC's 2003 Ford Focus Midget Car Champions Robbie Ray of Davenport, Iowa (Indiana Series), Todd Hunsaker of Chino Hills, Calif. (California South Series) and Josh Lakatos of Pasadena, Calif. (California North Series), plus stars of USAC's brand-new Carolina Ford Focus Series.
The new format will provide two complete nights of National Midget racing, utilizing all entered cars, producing unprecedented competition for starting berths in Saturday night's 40-lap "Belleville Midget Nationals" feature on the big 1/2-mile dirt oval.
"It's going to make for an interesting program," says Josh Wise of Riverside, Calif., winner of this year's "Belleville Midget Nationals" and 1999 Champion of USAC's TQ Midget Car Series. "I've always wondered what racing on the small Belleville track would be like and we're going to find out this year when the Ford Focuses compete."
Trenton Darland, son of two-time Belleville Midget Nationals Champion Dave Darland of Lincoln, Ind., finished second in this year's Indiana Ford Focus Series and looks forward to his Belleville debut. "I guess this is my chance to get some Belleville experience," he says. "I'd like to join my dad as the first father-son Belleville Champions."
Jason Smith, USAC's Racing Series Coordinator, also expresses enthusiasm about the new format. "I think this is a great move on behalf of the Belleville High Banks Committee to add the Ford Focus Midgets to the traditional of this American classic. The revised format should be more participant-friendly, while providing a more comprehensive entertainment package for loyal followers of this event."
Four drivers who scored USAC Midget Car victories in 2003 also competed in Ford Focus events, namely J.J. Yeley, Bobby East, Josh Wise and Michael Lewis. Wise, Yeley and East finished 1st, 2nd and 7th in this year's "Belleville Midget Nationals" main event.
"We are excited about the new Ford Focus car debut on our short track," added Raymond Raney, of the Belleville High Banks Committee. "It will expose our fan base to a new form of competition and should increase the interest in our keystone event."