By: Richie Murray – USAC Media
Du Quoin, Illinois (December 10, 2018)………Recent “Turkey Night Grand Prix” winner Christopher Bell has filed his entry to compete in the “Junior Knepper 55” USAC Midget Special Event this Saturday, December 15 at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin as the entry list has exploded to 69 drivers and teams for the fourth annual race.
Bell, of Norman, Oklahoma, is one of three entries for Tucker/Boat Motorsports alongside McKenna Haase and Tanner Berryhill. Bell is the defending winner of the “Knepper 55,” taking the lead four laps from the finish to win the 55-lap main event. Ironically, it was a Tucker/Boat Motorsports car driven by Chad Boat that Bell passed to win the race.
C.J. Leary has also thrown his hat into the ring, driving for NASCAR Cup Series driver Alex Bowman. Leary was victorious in two USAC series this year, with a win in the AMSOIL National Sprint Car division at Bloomington (Ind.) Speedway and in the Silver Crown car at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio.
Five-time USAC Light Up the World Western States Midget champion Ronnie Gardner of Riverside, Calif. will make his “Knepper 55” debut aboard a car for RAMS Racing as a teammate to Justin Grant, the only driver to win races in all three national divisions in 2018.
Meanwhile, Elkhart, Ill. native Chris Urish, a Silver Crown winner in the “Ted Horn 100” at the adjacent Du Quoin State Fairgrounds one-mile dirt oval, will drive for Tom Casson alongside teammate and fellow Silver Crown competitor Joey Moughan of Springfield, Ill. Carson Short has won on the big stage before, capturing the 2016 “Indiana Sprint Week” round at Tri-State Speedway in Haubstadt, Ind. He will drive his own No. 45 at Du Quoin.
Brian Shirley, of Chatham, Ill. a standout in late model racing, will drive for Jim Neuman while winged sprint car warrior Paul Nienhiser of Chapin, Ill. takes the wheel of his own ride.
These are just a few among the crop of drivers to make up this year’s stout “Knepper 55” field, which also includes last year’s race runner-up Chase Briscoe (Mitchell, Ind.) and 2016 “Shamrock Classic” third-place driver Thomas Meseraull (San Jose, Calif.), plus a pair of decorated USAC National Midget champions in Dave Darland and Kevin Olson.
Darland, of Lincoln, Ind., captured the 2001 and 2002 series titles in addition to his 1997 Silver Crown and 1999 National Sprint Car championships. He will drive the RMS LLC No. 36D. National Midget Hall of Famer Olson, of Loves Park, Ill., won his USAC National Midget titles in 1982 and 1987. He will climb aboard Dennis Hoppe’s No. 5H on the 1/5-mile, indoor dirt oval.
Five-time Indy Indianapolis 500 starter Conor Daly, of Noblesville, Ind., steps into the Jody Rosenboom No. 22CD for his second career appearance in a midget. Beech Grove, Indiana’s Kyle O’Gara, the 2014 USAC Pavement Midget champ, belts into the SFH Racing Development No. 67 for the “Knepper 55.” Meanwhile, southern Illinois USAC Silver Crown star Shane Cockrum of Benton, Ill., twice a winner on the adjacent “Magic Mile,” will wheel the Harris Racing No. 91.
Robert Dalby off Simi Valley, Calif. and Newcastle, Oklahoma’s Trey Marcham have each had success in the USAC Western States Midget division during their careers. Dalby finished third in series points this season and will drive for Loyet Motorsports, the team that won the second-ever USAC-sanctioned race at the Southern Illinois Center, a Midwest HPD Midget event in 2005. Marcham, who led the first 17 laps of the 2017 “Knepper 55,” picked up three victories with the series in 2014.
Winged sprint car veterans Ryan Smith and Tony Bruce, Jr. will shed the wing for a night of midget racing. Bruce, of Liberal, Kans. was the 2006 Knoxville Nationals Rookie of the Year while Kunkletown, Pennsylvania’s Smith has won races with both the World of Outlaws and the All Star Circuit of Champions.
The Knepper family is once again sponsoring FREE entry for competitors to enter their midgets for the Saturday, December 15 “Junior Knepper 55” USAC Special Event at the Southern Illinois Center in Du Quoin, Illinois.
After visiting https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-knepper-car-entry, use the coupon code KNEPPER to enter your car for the race for no charge. The offer expires Monday, December 10th, 2018. The complete pre-entry list for the event will be published the following day, Tuesday, December 11th.
Additionally, tickets are now on sale for the 4th annual “Junior Knepper 55” at https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-knepper-55-ticket-sales. The race will serve as the final event of the 2018 USAC racing season. Adult general admission tickets are available for just $19 in advance.
Furthermore, on https://usacracing.ticketspice.com/2018-knepper-55-ticket-sales, you may order your 2018 “Junior Knepper 55” event t-shirt now for just $25. Sizes small through 4XL are available, but make sure to get yours soon while supplies last.
The event carries no points toward the USAC National Midget season championship, but has quickly become one of the most coveted races to win on the series calendar, annually boasting a large car count and a star-studded field to boot.
Though the special event carries no points toward the season championship, it has quickly become one of the most coveted races to win. Boasting large car counts and a star-studded field, the “Knepper 55” has already produced its share of memorable moments on the 1/6-mile dirt track located inside the building adjacent to the famed Du Quoin State Fairgrounds one-mile dirt oval.
The 55-lap event honors the memory of one of USAC’s most accomplished car owners – Walter “Junior” Knepper of Belleville, Illinois – whose famed yellow number 55 midgets and sprint cars raced to 58 career USAC feature victories, including 34 in Sprints and 24 in Midgets, with drivers Bob Wente, Tom Bigelow, Mel Kenyon, George Snider, Dana Carter, Rich Vogler and his son Steve Knepper.
Nick Knepper, grandson of Junior and son of 13-time USAC National Midget winner Steve Knepper, will promote the event along with Derek LeMaster.
Last year, Norman, Oklahoma’s Christopher Bell celebrated his 23rd birthday in grand style after passing Chad Boat with four laps remaining to win the third annual running over Chase Briscoe, Shane Golobic, Boat and Justin Grant.
In 2016, Indianapolis, Indiana’s Tyler Courtney earned his first career USAC-sanctioned Midget feature victory in his first start for the Clauson/Marshall Racing team. In the inaugural running in 2015, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. of Olive Branch, Miss. electrified the crowd in the 55-lap feature, coming from the back of the pack to score the victory in the final laps.
Earlier this March, current USAC National Midget point leader Logan Seavey of Sutter, Calif. won his first career USAC race in the “Shamrock Classic” at the Southern Illinois Center.
Doors open for the event at 2:30pm (Central) on Saturday, December 15. A public drivers meeting will take place in the grandstands at 3:30pm. Cars are scheduled to get on track for hot laps at 4pm.
The race will be streamed LIVE on http://www.SpeedShiftTV.com/ with LIVE audio on the USAC app. As always, you can catch each and every USAC National event a day after the race is run, on-demand, on http://www.Loudpedal.TV/.
“JUNIOR KNEPPER 55” ENTRY LIST
(69 cars as of December 10, 2018)
Car # / Driver / Hometown / Team
0 Johnny Murdock / Dallas, TX (Zero Motorsports)
05D Robert Dalby / Simi Valley, CA (Loyet Motorsports)
08 Grady Chandler / Piedmont, Oklahoma (Dave Mac Motorsports)
1T Thomas Chandler / Festus, MO (Roney Racing)
1z Chris Roseland / Carter Lake, IA (Chris Roseland)
2 Chris Baue / Indianapolis, IN (Baue Family Race Team)
2B Jason Grady / Farmington, NM (2B Racing)
2G Andy Gage / Whiting, IA (Andy Gage)
3 Alex Watson / Columbus, OH (3w Racing)
3N Jake Neuman / New Berlin, IL (Jim Neuman)
3s Brian Shirley / Chatham, IL (Jim Neuman)
4A Justin Grant / Ione, CA (RAMS Racing)
5 Chase Briscoe / Mitchell, IN (Chase Briscoe Racing)
5H Kevin Olson / Loves Park, IL (Dennis Hoppe)
5v Jesse Vermillion / Greencastle, IN (Vermillion Racing)
6D Don Dawson II / Carlisle, IA (Don Dawson II)
7 Cody Beard / Huntingburg, IN (Cody Beard)
7T Adam Taylor / Dwight, IL (Taylor Motorsports)
7x Jon Steed / Rushville, IN (Steed Motorsports)
8JR Anton Hernandez / Arlington, TX (Bear Wood)
9 Emilio Hoover / Broken Arrow, OK (Emilio Hoover)
9JR Derek Hagar / Marion, AR (Hagar/Proctor Racing)
9x Paul Nienhiser / Chapin, IL (Paul Nienhiser)
11K Gage Rucker / Bellflower, MO (Kruseman Motorsports)
11L Aaron Leffel / Springfield, OH (Team Taylor Racing)
11T Trey Osborne / Columbus, OH (Richard Osborne)
11y Travis Young / Casey, IL (Travis Young)
14c Danny Clark / Plainfield, IN (Bill Rose Racing)
14s Ronnie Gardner / Riverside, CA (RAMS Racing)
14x Jody Rosenboom / Rock Rapids, IA (Jody Rosenboom Racing)
15J Jeff Wimmenauer / Greenwood, IN (Bill Wimmenauer)
16 Joey Parker / Plainfield, IN (Bill Rose Racing)
17B Ryan Bickett / Ramona, SD (Jody Rosenboom Racing)
18 Tony Bruce, Jr. / Liberal, KS (Team Eights)
19p Brandon Long / Wichita Falls, TX (Brandon Long)
22CD Conor Daly / Noblesville, IN (Jody Rosenboom Racing)
23 Mitchell Davis / Auburn, IL (Patrick Ryan)
23x Patrick Lawson / Edwardsville, IL (Hunt Brothers)
29 Joey Moughan / Springfield, IL (Tom Casson)
32 Trey Marcham / Newcastle, OK (Trey Marcham)
35 Tyler Robbins / Collinsville, IL (Tyler Robbins)
36D Dave Darland / Lincoln, IN (RMS LLC)
36J Thomas Meseraull / San Jose, CA (RMS LLC)
39 Kyle May / New Palestine, IN (Kyle May Racing)
41 Oliver Akard / Fort Myers, FL (Dan Akard)
41x Howard Moore / Memphis, TN (Chris Chappue)
45 Carson Short / Marion, IL (Carson Short)
49F Taylor Forbes / Harrisburg, SD (Taylor Forbes)
50 Daniel Adler / St. Louis, MO (Mike Adler)
51B Joe B. Miller / Millersville, MO (Jim Neuman)
52K John Dyson / Chicago, IL (Kruseman Motorsports)
55 C.J. Leary / Greenfield, IN (Alex Bowman)
55x Nick Drake / Mooresville, NC (Troy Cline)
56x Mark Chisholm / Cheyenne, WY (Fifty6x Racing)
57D Daniel Robinson / Ewing, IL (McCreery Motorsports)
67 Kyle O’Gara / Beech Grove, IN (SFH Racing Development)
68 Ryan Smith / Kunkletown, PA (SFH Racing Development)
77u Chris Urish / Elkhart, IL (Tom Casson)
77w Joey Wirth / Waterloo, IL (Joey Wirth)
81 Christopher Bell / Norman, OK (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)
81B Seth Bergman / Snohomish, WA (Team Eights)
81x Drew Fuhrman / Belleville, IL (The Duke Racing)
85 McKenna Haase / Des Moines, IA (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)
88 Terry Babb / Decatur, IL (Terry Babb)
89 Tanner Berryhill / Bixby, OK (Tucker/Boat Motorsports)
91 Shane Cockrum / Benton, IL (Harris Racing)
92m Josh Most / Red Oak, IA (Most Racing)
95 Chris Andrews / Tulsa, OK (Miller Racing)
721 Brendon Wiseley / Sand Springs, OK (MLM Motorsports)