PERRIS, Calif. – The stars of the AMSOIL National and CRA sprint car series have their eyes on the largest prize of any USAC race this season – this weekend’s $25,000-to-win Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction at Perris Auto Speedway.
The 21st running of the event begins with an open practice for competitors on Wednesday that precedes three straight nights of racing Perris on Thursday through Saturday.
The highest-paying dirt track race in the entire state of California features a total purse in excess of $130,000 throughout the three-night event and pays a minimum $1000 to start Saturday night’s main event.
The Oval Nationals have hosted six different Saturday night finale winners in each of the last six years. Among the 48 drivers pre-entered for this year’s edition of the event are five former winners. They include the race’s only three-time winners, Bud Kaeding (2001-02-07) and Dave Darland (2005-06-13).
Additionally, the USAC/CRA series’ two most accomplished drivers in terms of feature wins and championships are entered for this weekend’s event. Five-time series champ Mike Spencer won the Oval Nationals back in 2012 while four-time USAC/CRA champion and current series point leader Damion Gardner won the prestigious event back in 2009 and 2011.
Chris Windom comes into this year’s Oval Nationals as arguably the hottest driver in the United States. Windom, the 2010 Oval Nationals winner, has won three straight USAC National Sprint Car features – Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track in October as well as a complete sweep of last weekend’s two features in the 49th Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway in Queen Creek, Ariz.
Rip Williams, the 1997 Oval Nationals winner, will have three sons competing in this year’s event – Austin, Cody and Logan – who will pilot of a trio of Jory-owned cars. Austin has won twice at Perris this season in USAC/CRA competition – May’s Salute to Indy and September’s Glenn Howard Classic.
Rickie Gaunt, the 1999 Oval Nationals winner, has been tabbed as this year’s grand marshal for the event.
Additional past victors of the “Oval Nationals” include inaugural race winner Jimmy Sills (1996), Rodney Argo (1998), (1999), Tony Jones (2000), Cory Kruseman (2003-04), Jesse Hockett (2008), Robert Ballou (2014) and 2015 winner, the late Bryan Clauson.
Brady Bacon brings a 257-point lead into the Oval Nationals and is a virtual lock to claim his second USAC National Sprint Car driving title, while also supplying the Hoffman Auto Racing team its series-record 11th USAC National Sprint Car Owner’s championship (1989-92-93-96-97-99-2002-04-08-14).
Special awards at Perris include the Tony Jones Hard Charger Award to the driver who passes the most cars in Saturday’s A Main, the Ray Sheetz Mechanic of the Race Award, and the Dean Thompson High Points Award for the driver accumulating the most points during the Thursday and Friday prelims. Thursday’s feature event is named in honor of longtime car owner Bill Pratt while Friday’s feature is named for his wife, longtime series official Evelyn Pratt.