INDIANAPOLIS — USAC Indiana Midget Week marked both a sojourn and a transition point for 17-year-old Blake Brannon.
Brannon, from San Jose, Calif., spent the majority of his early career racing Division II midgets with the United States Auto Club on pavement up and down the West Coast, including earning rookie-of-the-year honors and the Western HPD championship in 2016.
A move to the Bay Cities Racing Ass’n three years later brought with it a shift to dirt racing, which led to selected USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget Series appearances last November in his home state.
But as Brannon looked at this year’s calendar, he and his family knew it was time for a bigger change.
“We packed up all our equipment and brought it out here (to the Midwest),” Brannon said during the penultimate Indiana Midget Week race at Gas City I-69 Speedway. “We don’t plan on heading back home for a bit.”
It’s part of a bigger-picture approach for Brannon, who hopes to build his skillset racing national midgets against the best competition in the country — even if that comes with a very steep learning curve.
Brannon failed to crack the starting field for any of the eight Indiana Midget Week features, but reflecting on those results did nothing to diminish the wide smile he sported throughout the week.
“Coming to dirt was sort of a no-brainer for us,” Brannon relayed. “Asphalt midget racing has sort of died off almost everywhere. One reason we came to Midget Week was for the great experience that we had; we didn’t really wreck too much stuff. More or less, it was about seat time for me.
“I’ve raced, probably, more this week than I have in the past two years on dirt and in California,” Brannon added. “It’s such a good opportunity for me to get some quality seat time with the best of the best.”
Brannon acknowledged that, for some drivers, it might be easy to throw in the towel over the results he had during Indiana Midget Week. He wasn’t about to let that be the end of his story, however.
“There’s no lying, this has been a grind,” Brannon said. “It’s been a little tough; sometimes it has been a little discouraging, but every time I went on the track this week, I learned some new stuff and I definitely felt a lot better at the end of the week than I had all week long. I’m just progressing and feeling really good about what we’ve done so far.
“Sure, I may not be the best out there, but I’m going to do all I can to learn and get ready for the future.”
While his transition from asphalt to dirt has been “tricky,” Brannon said he’s started to get the hang of things now that he’d had an extended period with more laps in a dirt midget.
“The feeling of going in the corner and lifting on asphalt is different; you’re driving it in straight, so it’s a pretty straightforward approach,” Brannon explained. “Dirt is pretty straightforward as well. It’s just the opposite kind of straightforward from what I expected it to be.
“We just looked at this deal as landing where we land, as far as how the week goes,” Brannon continued. “My goal was just to roll the car in the trailer every night and get as many laps as possible. I figured that, if we made a show, that’d be awesome. But we did the best we could with what we had.”
Going forward, Brannon hopes to run USAC’s Mid-America Midget Week in July before trekking home for school in the fall and USAC’s West Coast invasion in November — something he’s greatly looking forward to.
“Like I said, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Brannon stressed again. “That’s what we plan to try and do going forward … just learning every time we’re on the race track.”