BELLEVILLE, Kan. — When Spencer Bayston won the 40th annual Belleville Midget Nationals last August on the historic, half-mile Belleville High Banks, no one could have predicted he might be the last winner of the crown jewel race.
But on the heels of midget car racing’s biggest event, the Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, it now appears that will indeed be the case, as Belleville’s famed Nationals transition into a new era.
The Fair Amusements Committee, which presides over racing activities at the Belleville High Banks, has confirmed that the high-speed half-mile has moved forward from midget car racing for the time being and will host a brand-new event, the Belleville 305 Nationals, in August.
The event will feature winged 305ci sprint cars, with sanctioning being handled by the United Rebel Sprint Series.
URSS will compete at Belleville on Aug. 3-4 during the NCK Free Fair, taking over the weekend that was reserved for the Belleville Midget Nationals for decades.
The 25-lap preliminary night feature on Friday will pay $2,500 to win and $350 to start, while the 30-lap finale on Saturday will carry a $7,000 winner’s check and boast a minimum of $1,000 to start.
The 305 Nationals will be the premier event of the 2018 URSS schedule and one of the highest-paying 305 events in the country, with a planned total purse of more than $42,000 for Saturday’s program alone.
A change from Belleville was anticipated by many after the United States Auto Club announced in December that the Belleville Midget Nationals would not be a part of its 2018 championship schedule for the USAC National Midget Series, ending a sanctioning agreement that dated back to 1996.
The High Banks’ move away from midget car racing comes in the wake of slimming car counts for the Belleville Nationals, with barely a full field of 24 cars making the call for the 40th running this past year, as well as the increasing cost of racing a midget on the high-speed half-mile.
But with a healthy pool of winged 305ci sprint cars running within a three-to-four hour radius of Belleville, as well as the growing affordability of the class, event organizers expect those factors to become much less of an issue.
“We can’t judge racing environment, what will be fan-approved, what will be affordable for the driver,” Raymond Raney, a member of the Amusements Committee, told The Belleville Telescope. “We can’t predict the future of a particular car.”
“We’ve already had fans who have sat in the same seats for years during the midgets call and ask us if they can have the same seats for the 305s,” Raney added. “Some people will come because it’s a sprint race on the Belleville High Banks. These cars are more local, and we think will draw more fans from a 300- or 400-mile radius.”
The 40-year history of the Belleville Midget Nationals ends with a list of winners that reads like a Hall of Fame gathering, including inaugural winner Eddie Jackson, as well as Stan Fox, Sleepy Tripp, Jeff Gordon, Jack Hewitt, Billy Boat, Jason Leffler, Dave Darland, Kasey Kahne, Brad Sweet, Bryan Clauson, Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell.
And while one chapter in auto racing and short track history comes to a close, the announcement may just mark the start of a brand-new racing tradition at one of the most storied venues in all of motorsports.
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 24-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.
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