Racing Series * Racetracks * CalendarThe SeriesNAMARS ChampionshipMidget Car SeriesFormed in 1994, the NAMARS Midget Car racing organization was purchased by JBT Interests in late 1998. In 1999, the series began competition under its current management headed by President Joe Mershon.
Based in Indianapolis and across the street from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NAMARS Midget Cars have run throughout the Midwest, having raced in Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Kansas, Illinois and even Florida. Mershon indicates the average field number currently approaches 35 cars.
The Midwest is a midget car haven with six other clubs in the area.
"To succeed it's necessary to cooperate and co-sanction with other clubs," Mershon explains. "There are probably about 250 midget car drivers in the Midwest, so we have to work together. During the 2000 season, we had 213 different drivers come to our races, and that will be exceeded this season.
"An advantage of dealing with midget cars is that most of the sanctioning groups have the same rules, making it easy to move from group to group. About the only thing we do differently is allow radio communications."
NAMARS runs on both pavement and dirt tracks with close to 40 percent of the teams having both types of cars.
The five-star event of the NAMARS group is the Five-Crown Nationals held annually on five Indiana tracks.
"We have had very good response from that event, and we have a total purse of about $140,000," Mershon says.
Tracks for the 2001 version, the third, included Twin-Cities Raceway Park, Lawrenceburg, Gas City, Bloomington and Lincoln Park Speedways. During each of its first two Five Crowns, over 100 teams participated.
NAMARS also sanctions a weekly local series every Thursday at the Indianapolis Speedrome. However, the event that caught the attention of the racing world was the NAMARS 500, a 500-lap midget car race at the same location. In addition, NAMARS also sanctions a regional traveling series, along with the motorcycle engine-powered Kenyon Midget Series. The latter series allows drivers as young as 12 to participate.
When you get right down to it, there were close to 100 NAMARS Midget Car races sanctioned by the group for the 2001 season. NAMARS also sanctioned the Hut 100 at Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track back in 2000 and the three-day Rich Vogler Classic at Winchester Speedway this past season.
The group has been successful in its goal to provide the best racing possible and promote driver development. A number of former NAMARS Midget Car participants have gone on to fame and fortune, including rising NASCAR star Ryan Newman, the Indy Racing League's Sarah Fisher, and many others. The longtime NAMARS motto of "Another Road to Indy" has a solid meaning here.
Midget car racing legend Mel Kenyon is also a longstanding competitor with the group and was a three-time NAMARS champion during the '90s. Current NASCAR star Tony Stewart has run with the group when his schedule allows, along with Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George.
Mershon runs a tight ship and it shows.
"We work hard to put on a quick and clean show. There is zero tolerance for rough driving, rage on the track or any off-color gestures. And believe me, all the competitors are well aware of this," Mershon explains.