Western World Championships Will Live On! Sprint Car racing fans and teams can breathe a sigh of relief, especially those traditionalists among the bunch. While Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, AZ, held its farewell events this past weekend, many of the traditions that were borne of the 58-year-old speedplant will live on.
New Mexico's Hollywood Hills Speedway had already picked up the Buddy Taylor Memorial (May 23-24) and Tucson's USA Raceway had adopted the Hank Arnold Memorial (September 5-6), both of which are Discount Tire Co. ASCS Canyon Region events.
Which left race fans and race teams in limbo on one huge lingering question; what would become of the Western World Championships? Or would the history-rich event die a silent death?
Those questions were answered with the announcement that Tucson's USA Raceway will host the 42nd Annual Western World Championships on November 13-14.
"I think everybody was shocked by the news of Manzanita Speedway's closing," commented USA Raceway co-promoter Kevin Montgomery. "It's important to carry on these traditional events to keep Sprint Car racing alive and well in Arizona, we have to move forward in a positive manner. We're excited about bringing the Western World to USA Raceway in November."
It was also announced that this year's Western World Championships would be contested under the popular Sprint Bandits Tour 'N Topless (TNT) banner.
"We weighed our options and Sprint Bandits TNT was the obvious choice," according to Benji Lyons, co-promoter at USA Raceway. "Emmett (Hahn) and Tommie (Estes) and the Sprint Bandits TNT staff are noted for running a crisp, efficient program. And a reasonable sanction fee in comparison to other options freed us up to spread more money through the purse to the racers' benefit."
It will rank as one of the most lucrative Western World Championship events in recent years, with more than $60,000 in purse money to be doled out over the two-night event featuring the nation's top wingless, 410-ci Sprint Cars, with $12,500 up for grabs to the winner of the 42nd Annual Western World Championships.
The purse money will be spread around nicely with the runner-up to receive $6,000 and the balance of the top five receiving $3,200, $2,400 and $2,000, respectively. The championship feature event starters will pocket a minimum of $600.
The preliminary feature event slated for November 13 includes purse money well in excess of recent event history as well, with a $3,000 winner's share and $300 to start.
The Sprint Bandits TNT series has sanctioned non-wing, 410-ci Sprint Car events over the past four summers, with the weeklong Midwest Swing of events in August always a favorite among teams and drivers.
This November's Western World Championships at USA Raceway Park will put the caps on a 2009 Sprint Bandits TNT season that also includes the Fifth Annual Midwest Swing that features six nights of competition throughout Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Kansas from August 16 through August 22.
Tennessee's Kevin Swindell became the 25th different winner of the Western World by topping the 2008 edition of the event last November, adding his name to a prestigious list of past winners that includes his father Sammy Swindell, who won the event in both 1980 and 1989.
Steve Kinser has claimed the most Western World titles with seven triumphs including wingless wins in 1982 and 1983 followed by winged wins in 1985, 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1996.
Ron Shuman is next on the list with five Western World triumphs, all of the wingless variety, with other drivers posting multiple Western World wins including Lealand McSpadden (3), Bud Kaeding (2), Mark Kinser (2), Jan Opperman (2) and Sammy Swindell (2).
While a dozen renditions of the Western World have been run as a winged event, the 2009 edition while mark the 30th time sans wings and the tenth year in a row in "traditional" style.
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