OCALA, Fla. – Five past Winter Dirt Games feature winners have entered the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series season-opening weekend, set for Feb. 15-17 at Bubba Raceway Park.
The ninth edition of the three-race series in the heart of Florida has had 11 different winning drivers in its 22-race history. The winner of the opener at the most recent trip by the series to Ocala was Justin Grant. The 2017 series runner-up finds himself in new digs this year as the driver of the TOPP Motorsports No. 4.
In an offseason chock-full of ride swapping, Kevin Thomas Jr. – a 2015 Winter Dirt Games feature winner – has added the Hoffman Auto Racing/Dynamics Inc. colors and the No. 69 to his arsenal for this year. The Cullman, Ala., driver led the series with six points wins last season, including the season finale Oval Nationals at Perris (Calif.) Auto Speedway in November.
Dave Darland, the winningest driver in the history of the series, has gone back to the future for 2018 as he will pilot a car for Gene Goodnight with a familiar number that was the Lincoln, Indiana driver’s calling card early in his racing career. Darland will take the wheel of the No. 36D for a full-season campaign beginning at Ocala where he was victorious in 2015.
Robert Ballou, the 2015 series champ, is the winningest active driver of Winter Dirt Games with three scores between 2015 and 2016. The Rocklin, Calif., veteran driver returns for a full championship assault in his own No. 12 after missing the first portion of last season’s campaign while recovering from injuries.
Brady Bacon is twice a USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car champ and twice a Winter Dirt Games feature winner. He raced to a pair of top-fives and was the hard charger on both nights of last year’s event and returns in the Dooling/Hayward Motorsports No. 63 that now adds support from NASCAR champion car owner Richard Childress.
Chris Windom of Canton, Ill., and the Baldwin Brothers Racing No. 5 come into the season as the defending series champs, yet lady luck hasn’t been on Windom’s side all that much when it comes to racing in Florida. He’s the only driver to start all 22 Winter Dirt Games shows since 2010, but has only found the top-ten on 10 of those occasions.
However, with that said, two of those top-10s have been runner-ups and, following a strong run last year at Ocala, the team will not lack for confidence.
Three-time USAC Silver Crown champion Kody Swanson has dominated the big cars over the past handful of seasons, but is still seeking to make his mark in USAC Sprint Car competition on the dirt. His machinery for Florida is potent, as he has aligned with the Rock Steady Racing No. 3R team that Kyle Cummins has driven for in recent years when he posted three top-three finishes at Ocala in 2016.
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