USAC's 2001 racing season gets under way on Saturday night, March 10, as Indy Racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway present "Thunder in the Dome XVII" at the RCA Dome in downtown Indianapolis, IN. The invitation-only Midget car ...
USAC's 2001 racing season gets under way on Saturday night, March 10, as Indy Racing and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway present "Thunder in the Dome XVII" at the RCA Dome in downtown Indianapolis, IN. The invitation-only Midget car spectacular showcases 48 of the nation's top open-wheel drivers on the Dome's spacious concrete floor and the final invitations are in the process of being extended.
Defending race champion Johnny Parsons will anchor "Team Indiana" in its bid for a 13th victory in the race's 17-year history. Team USA won titles in 1994, 1997, 1998 and 1999 but Parsons' victory led another "Team Indiana" triumph last year.
Joining Parsons on the "Team Indiana" lineup this year are former "Dome" champions Russ Gamester (1992 & 1997), Michael Lang (1996) and Ted Hines (1991). Lang also won USAC's 2000 Dirt-Track Regional Midget Car crown, his seventh consecutive USAC series championship. Other 2000 USAC champions on "Team Indiana's" roster are Tracy Hines (Coors Light Silver Bullet), Tony Elliott (Stoops Freightliner Sprint Car) and Daryl Campbell (Speedrome Midget). Michael Lewis, winner of USAC's closest race in history last year at Anderson, IN, plus 7-time National Midget Car Champ Mel Kenyon, former USAC Silver Bullet and Sprint Car Champ Dave Darland and Indy Racing League veteran Mark Dismore are also "Team Indiana" members, as is 2000 USAC Silver Bullet "Most Improved Driver" John Heydenreich. Dismore finished fifth in last year's IRNLS point standings and won a 500-kilometer race at Texas Motor Speedway in 1999.
Occupying additional already-assigned "Team Indiana" positions are several drivers seeking their first start in the 100-lap RCA Dome main event, namely Tony Ave, John Batts, Derek Davidson, Bobby East, Brice Kenyon, Aaron Pierce, and Travis Welpott. Campbell also will be seeking his initial Dome 100-lap start. Completing the "Team Indiana" roster are Brian Gerster, Chris Malone, Justin Marvel, Tony Reed and Robbie Rice.
Jay Drake, who tied the long-standing record for USAC feature victories in a single season during 2000, leads the "Team USA" contingent. Jay won 19 USAC features last year to tie the record set by A.J. Foyt in 1961 and Sleepy Tripp in 1988. He'll be joined by former RCA Dome Champs Kevin Besecker (1999), Jim Hettinger (1994 & 1998) and Mike Streicher (1990), plus 2000 MCI WorldCom National Midget Car Champion Kasey Kahne and 1999 and 2000 USAC National Midget "Rookies of the Year" A.J. and Aaron Fike. Drivers with multiple Midget racing championships on "Team USA" include Steve Knepper, Donnie Lehmann, Kevin Olson and Danny Pens, while the only lady driver in the field is among "Team USA" drivers trying to crack the 100-lap feature field for the first time. She's Becca Anderson, a product of the United Racing Club's eastern sprint car wars and she's joined in the "rookie" category by Thomas Briggs, Wayne Chinn, NASCAR Craftsman Truck driver Terry Cook, Jason Fuller, Scott Hatton, Clay Klepper and Aaron Pollock, as well as Kahne, who is invited for the first time this year.
Toss in USAC legend Jack Hewitt, plus Jimmy McCune, David Thompson and Matt Westfall and you have a formidable foe for the defending champions.
A revised racing format offering 280 laps of racing and a more fan-friendly timetable, plus the involvement of the Indy Racing Northern Light Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway should create a spectacular atmosphere for the 2001 USAC opener.
Tickets for the Indy Racing and Indianapolis Motor Speedway present "Thunder in the Dome XVII" Midget race are available at Ticketmaster locations and at the RCA Dome box office. Gates open to the public at 5 pm and racing will begin promptly at 6. Each team will conduct a pair of 25-lap "quarter-finals" and a 40-lap team feature prior to the 100-lap main event.