The gold standard in American motorsport is the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, whose century-plus of lore has grown to encompass the myriad disciplines that compete at racing’s holiest shrine. As most people know, it doesn’t always involve the big rectangular oval. A few years ago, IMS management scraped a dirt bullring out of the third turn infield, not far from where today’s Snake Pit is located, and has been putting on a stellar summer gathering for Midget drivers, part of the Speedway’s great grass roots, ever since then. The race is called the BC39, to honor the name and car number of the late Bryan Clauson, a USAC open-wheel superstar and three-time Indianapolis 500 veteran who died in a crash at a landmark Midget event, the Belleville Nationals in Kansas. Last year’s BC39 was a COVID casualty, but it’s back this month, set for August 18-19 at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The above photo by my pal Steve Koletar gives you an idea just how much enthusiasm the BC39 attracts. The already-swelled entry list for the 2021 running has just grown with a fitting addition: Ryan Newman, who owns wins in both the Daytona 500 and Brickyard 400 in addition to a USAC Silver Crown title. Another new entrant is Indianapolis native Tyler “Sunshine” Courtney, a USAC open-wheel standout who’s recently taken to racing under a wing with marked success, banking a $175,000 to win one of the Kings Royal runnings that took place at Eldora Speedway in Ohio. More entrants include a pair of California shoes, current USAC Silver Crown champion Justin Grant and two-time 2021 USAC Midget winner Thomas Meseraull. Besides Newman’s, more NASCAR flavor will come from 2020 Cup champion Chase Elliott, who proved he’s got a taste for Midgets by showing strongly at the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa. Indianans Conor Daly and Chase Briscoe, from IndyCar and NASCAR Camping World trucks respectively, have also filed paperwork along with the BC39’s two winners to date, Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon – I’ve got his T-shirt – and Zeb Wise of Angola, Indiana, where there’s a really cool high-banked paved half-mile speedway.