DUQUOIN, Ill. — Chase Briscoe and Shane Cottle are among the 30 early entries for the Junior Knepper 55 USAC National Midget Series special event, set for Dec. 16 at the Southern Illinois Center.
Mitchell, Indiana’s Briscoe won the 2016 ARCA Racing Series championship and recently wrapped up NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year honors and his first series win during the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
But Briscoe is certainly no rookie when it comes to open wheel dirt track racing, where he cut his teeth before moving into the NASCAR ranks. Briscoe made his midget racing debut at the Knepper 55 one year ago, finishing 17th, and will compete in his own No. 5 in his second Knepper appearance.
Two-time Indiana Midget Week champ and four-time Kokomo Speedway titlist Cottle has entered the event for a team fielded by Daryl Saucier and Shane Hmiel. It was with Saucier that Cottle won his two most recent USAC Midget features, back in 2007 at Gas City I-69 Speedway and in 2010 at Bloomington Speedway.
In March of 2016 at the Southern Illinois Center, Cottle led 28 laps and finished second at the Shamrock Classic drivng for Hmiel.
Third-place Knepper 55 finisher Chris Andrews of Oklahoma is entered, as are Tony Bruce, Jr. (sixth), Nick Drake (14th) and Daniel Adler (20th).
Jim Neuman has entered three cars for Jake Neuman, late model standout Brian Shirley and Austin Blair.
Kyle Schuett — the 2015 Indy Indoor Invitational victor from Philo, Illinois — aims to repeat his indoor racing success from a few years back, while Chris Urish has already tamed the DuQuoin State Fairgrounds in a USAC Silver Crown car back in 2013, but hopes to bring the magic indoors in his Tom Casson-owned No. 77u.
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.
In the inaugural running in 2015, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. electrified the crowd in the 55-lap feature, coming from the back of the pack to score the victory in the final laps. In 2016, Tyler Courtney earned his first career USAC-sanctioned Midget feature victory in his first start for the Clauson/Marshall Racing team.
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 No. 55 midgets and sprint cars raced to 58 career USAC feature victories, including 34 in sprints and 24 in midgets.
Knepper’s drivers included 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 alongside Derek LeMaster.
The full early entry list for the Junior Knepper 55 can be viewed on the next page…