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2016 Western World Preview

2016 marks the 49th annual Western World in Arizona

Event History


It’s November, so most of the best Sprint Car drivers will converge in Arizona, for the Western World!  The 2016 edition marks the 49th annual version of this event, but also introduces a very important introduction:  Arizona Speedway.  Traditionalists will say that the Western World “died” when Manzanita ceased operation.  Having seen the wild, blistering half-mile dirt oval with my own eyes, it’s tough for me to argue. However, I assure you that the Western World is not “dead”. In fact, one could argue that it’s better than ever!
The Western World continues to search for an identity, as this will mark the 3rd different Arizona track, within the last 3 years.  The format has certainly changed, as well.  After Manzanita’s doors closed, the Western World paired the best 360 Winged Sprint Car drivers with the best 360 Non-Wing Sprint Car drivers, battling it out on the large 3/8ths-mile Dirt oval, in Tucson.  Drivers with names like Schatz, Swindell, Kinser and Saldana found an outlet to end their season on a high-note. Let us not forget non-wing stars like Bacon and Darland, who continue to wage war on the USAC National Tour.  After a few successful years of Wing/Non-Wing competition, the Western World moved to the small 1/3rd-mile Dirt oval of Canyon Speedway Park, in Peoria, Arizona, just North of Phoenix. Canyon’s Western World still let 360 Non-Wing drivers flex their muscle, while allowing the best Midget racers to do battle on the same surface.  Epic races were a result, as the late, great, Bryan Clauson and Daren Hagen reminded us what Midget racing looks like on a wide 1/3rd-mile surface.  The 2015 Western World had USAC Sprint Car fans salivating, as it was the USAC National Tour vs. the USAC/CRA Series in 410 competition, while USAC Southwest Sprint Cars squared-off vs. West Coast Sprint Car regulars, in 360 competition.  For the first time in USAC history, 4 drivers would be crowned Champion at the same track, on the same night. Tucson hosted this epic event, but ownership woes have prevented it from repeating at the same location.
Arizona Speedway is a medium-banked, small, 3/8ths-mile Dirt oval located about 40 minutes Southeast of Phoenix
2016 caps the “winds of change”, as Arizona Speedway will host the Western World for the first time in its 49-year existence. The small, medium-banked, 3/8ths-mile Dirt oval is located near Queen Creek and San Tan Valley, Arizona, about 40 minutes Southeast of Phoenix. While the USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series have already crowned a 2016 Champion, the USAC Southwest Sprint Car Series will name its 2016 Champion this weekend!  The USAC National Tour and USAC/CRA Series will each name their 2016 Champion next weekend, during the Budweiser Oval Nationals at Perris Auto Speedway, in California.

Expectations


What can you expect? Simple, the unexpected.  This will mark the first time that 410 cubic-inch Non-Wing Sprint Cars have raced at Arizona Speedway. Logically, this also marks the first time the USAC National Tour and USAC/CRA Series have each visited the track.  I’ve visited Arizona Speedway a handful of times and I can assure you of one thing:  there will be a wide surface with multiple grooves!
An obvious statement: Arizona summers can be brutal.  110+ degree heat, combined with the track being surrounded by dirt, equals a drier surface than most would prefer.  However, 100+ degree days are a thing of the past, in Arizona, during November.  Arizona Speedway is located on a lot of dirt which houses a motocross track, along with a sand pit, for mud bogs/sand drag racing.  Even on a cool day, loose dirt is bound to find its way onto the 3/8ths-mile clay surface.  Fear not, as temperatures are predicted to only reach the low-80’s this weekend.  I think this will result in a very “racy” surface that should retain moisture well.  Even if the surface takes rubber, the Track Crew is well-known to lay additional moisture and do everything it can to ensure there is a surface which will lend itself to good racing!
Arizona Speedway has concrete blocks down the front stretch, protecting the diehard fans
Offering a unique appearance, guard rails line the turns & back stretch, with progressive banking that gets steeper

Past Winners


As mentioned previously, drivers like Donny Schatz, Sammy Swindell and Steve Kinser have claimed Western World victories, in Winged Sprint Car competition.  Brady Bacon has a history of running well on Arizona Dirt, in November, as he has claimed multiple 360 and 410 victories in Non-Wing competition.  The late, great, Bryan Clauson proved he is one of the best Midget racers in the world, claiming multiple Western World trophies, while creating the nickname “Clauson’s Speedway Park”, replacing the standard “C” meaning of Canyon.  BC also took the $7,500 winner’s purse in last year’s Western World, held in Tucson.

Bryan Clauson won the 2015 Western World, held in Tucson, Arizona.  Pocketing a cool $7,500!
Brady Bacon added to his Western World-laced trophy case, as he won the Friday show in 2015!

“The Madman” Robert Ballou claimed 2015 Western World glory, on Thursday night, en-route to the Championship!
2016 West Coast Sprint Car Champion, Brody Roa, looks to add another Western World trophy to his collection!

TDN Predictions


Also previously mentioned, it is very difficult to predict what will happen, being that this is the first Western World at Arizona Speedway.  However, that won’t stop us from making predictions! I think the current USAC National Tour points leader, “Macho Man” Brady Bacon, will win at least one night of the 2016 Western World.  “Big Daddy” Chris Windom will prove to be Bacon’s biggest competition and I won’t be surprised if he also “parks it” at least one night.  Also, don’t be surprised if “The People’s Champ” Dave Darland, posts podium-finishes on both nights.  “The Demon” Damion Gardner continues to dominate the USAC/CRA Series and I expect that he will pad his points lead.  However, I don’t think a USAC/CRA regular will have enough to contend with the USAC National Tour guys.  I think Gardner is good for at least one podium finish, but I do not think a USAC/CRA Series regular will be able to stake Western World glory this year.  Plenty of Arizona regulars will be on-hand, battling in both 360 and 410 cubic-inch competition.  RJ Johnson is the first name that comes to mind, as he is all but a “lock” for the 2016 USAC Southwest Sprint Car Championship.  Johnson also won a USAC/CRA Series race at Canyon last month, so don’t be surprised if the Arizona-shoe is competitive in both cars.  My dark horse is Stevie Sussex.  Stevie recently competed back East, in the familiar 71P car and proved that his talent is raw and real.  Sussex and Johnson have both turned some of the most laps at Arizona Speedway, in 360 cubic-inch competition, so I believe they may have the “upper-hand” in experience. Bottom line, you won’t want to miss the 2016 Western World at Arizona Speedway!
“Macho Man” Brady Bacon wheels the beautiful Hoffman Racing machine & looks to pad his USAC Nat’l points lead!
“Big Daddy” Chris Windom is always a threat to win, when he straps-in to a USAC Sprint Car!
“The People’s Champ” Dave Darland is arguably the most experienced driver on the USAC National Tour!
“The Demon” Damion Gardner leads a strong contingent of USAC/CRA regulars into battle this weekend!
2016 West Coast Sprint Car Champion, Brody Roa, looks to add another Western World trophy to his collection!
Arizona native, RJ Johnson,  is always a strong USAC Sprint Car competitor at his home tracks

Current Points Standings (as of 11/3/2016)


USAC National Tour

1. Brady Bacon – 2327
2. Chase Stockon – 2094
3. Dave Darland – 1968
4. Thomas Meseraull – 1955
5. Robert Ballou – 1919
6. Chad Boespflug – 1885
7. C.J. Leary – 1858
   Chris Windom – 1858
9. Aaron Farney – 1287
10. Max McGhee – 1264
USAC/CRA Series

1. Damion Gardner – 1293
2. Richard Vander Weerd – 1176
3. Jake Swanson – 1148
4. Brody Roa – 1080
5. Austin Williams – 1064
6. Mike Spencer – 935
7. Max Adams – 815
8. Logan Williams – 724
9. Cody Williams – 676
10. Chris Gansen – 632
USAC Southwest Series

1. RJ Johnson – 1355
2. Charles Davis Jr – 1234
3. Mike Martin – 1055
4. Matt Rossi – 1029
5. Tye Mihocko – 933
6. Dennis Gile – 902
7. Stevie Sussex – 822
8. Brian Hosford – 734
9. Chris Bonneau – 728
10. Landon Cling – 701

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