The big news in the midget ranks was the debut of the Toyota midget engine. Yes, you read that right-Toyota is going grassroots racing. The engine looks very similar to the Ford engine from a layout perspective. Further digging revealed that the engine is based on the same head that is used in the Toyota Tundra Craftsman Truck engine. The remainder of the engine has a clean sheet design that was developed in partnership with Ed Pink Racing engines. The introduction of a new engine for the midget series is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good insofar as Toyota thinks there is enough growth potential within midget racing to see a potential revenue stream from the series. It's bad for the racer if the engine is better than the existing engines already entrenched in the series. Just how good was the engine? It sat on the pole and won the race. It was good for Toyota, but bad if you were running a different engine. But before we sound the death knell for the other engines in the field, let's look at the whole story with a more jaded view.
The only team with the Toyota engine was the team owned by Steve Lewis. This is a team with a history of many victories all over the country in every major midget race of any importance. The drivers were some of the best the class has to offer, with Dave Steele (the eventual winner) and Dave Darland. So, before the first race, Toyota played the trump card. The race itself was all about Bobby East, prior to his engine expiring. Had the engine in Bobby East's midget not expired, he would have been the real threat to win this race. But the record book will show a Toyota pole and a Toyota victory.
The midget race was one of the best of the weekend from a speed perspective; however, the best race, as far as on-track battles, was in the NASCAR Grand National division. The pole was won by a young racer named Spencer Clark from Las Vegas. He led the majority of the race with the perennial "I will race anywhere" Ken Schrader hot on his tail. Spencer held off Schrader until late in the race, when traffic became a factor. As trite as it may sound, experience was a real advantage, with Schrader winning the event. There was some real racing in this class, as it was filled with lots of passing at or near the front. Spencer Clark is one of those young men to watch in the near future as he tries to make his mark in the racing world.
As a multi-feature and multi-class event, the Copper World Classic is as filled with tradition as it is with entries. The race was fairly well attended from a fan perspective, although the new additional seating at PIR made what was a fairly large fan attendance look rather sparse, as the people were spread out over a much larger area. The future looks interesting, as we will see how the new formula for the USAC sprints will bear out. The Toyota engine and the impact that it may have within the midget community was one of the most interesting stories of the weekend. Only time will tell if this drama will play out favorably for the racer.
The craftsmanship on the midget...
The craftsmanship on the midget was elevated to an art form. Everything was well thought out and executed. In fact, as a whole, the teams that showed up to race at PIR were there to race-not work on their cars. There wasn't any junk or substandard equipment spotted in any of the divisions.
Reviewing notes and recommended...
Reviewing notes and recommended procedures from the engine builders and creating notebooks that referenced setups and notes from prior events was not uncommon. The use of documentation was more prevalent within the open-wheel group than was observed in the stock car crowd. This was exactly the opposite of what I expected to see.
In the midget pits, the water...
In the midget pits, the water preheater was hooked up and the oil system was primed prior to going out on the track. These guys were as serious as a heart attack. The level of preparation for the marjority of the teams in the midget ranks was first-rate.