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This year marks the fifth running of the Driven2SaveLives BC39. (Chris Jones photo)

How The BC39 Became A Crown Jewel Overnight

INDIANAPOLIS — While the Driven2SaveLives BC39 is in only its fifth running, the USAC national midget race at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has acquired a hefty dose of prestige in its young life. 

Along with the Chili Bowl Nationals and the Turkey Night Grand Prix, the BC39 has rapidly become one of the headlining races for midget drivers across the country.

“It’s just a premier event in short-track racing,” said Brady Bacon, who won the inaugural BC39 in 2018. “We try to make it every year and we’ve made all of them so far.”

The four-time USAC sprint car champion doesn’t slide behind the wheel of a midget all too often these days, other than his regular treks to Oklahoma for the Chili Bowl and Indiana for the BC39.

“Those are the two biggest ones and those are the ones we want to win,” Bacon said.

Much of the revered standing of the BC39 is due to the late Bryan Clauson, the five-time USAC champion and three-time Indianapolis 500 starter whom the event honors. He died from injuries suffered in a midget racing crash during the Belleville (Kan.) High Banks in 2016.

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Brady Bacon kisses the wall of bricks at The Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (James Black photo)

As Bacon was close friends with Clauson before he passed, the win at The Dirt Track was an emotional one for the TKH Motorsports driver.

“Obviously way up on the list of my achievements, winning at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You know, big race, first time doing it and got to kiss the bricks on The Dirt Track,” Bacon recalled.

For USAC regular Thomas Meseraull, who picked up his first preliminary win at the BC39 on Thursday night, the annual race at IMS immediately caught his eye when it was added to the schedule.

“Growing up as a kid, watching the Indy 500, this was instantly a crown jewel for me,” Meseraull said. “We get the opportunity to come into the speedway, we get treated like royalty from Doug Boles (IMS president), who has no need to do that — we’re just a bunch of dirt racers.”

The RMS Racing driver’s best finish at the BC39 was third last year.

Meanwhile, for multi-time USAC feature winner Zach Daum, it took a few years for the event to earn the title of “crown jewel.” But that was also because it wasn’t clear in 2018 whether the BC39 would return the next year, or if it would be a one-time event.

“If I remember correctly, the first year, we were kind of worried they weren’t going to have another one,” Daum said. “Obviously, it’s going to be a crown jewel race. We’re inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway racing, and we’re racing in Bryan’s honor.”

The RAMCO Speed Group driver noted that the $20,039 payday adds to the prestige.

“We’ve been to races that pay decent for midget racing and we can’t get 20 cars to show up at that,” Daum said. “So I mean, 80 cars here, cream of the crop — I think that speaks for itself.”

For 2018 USAC national midget champion and current point leader Logan Seavey, all it took was Bryan Clauson’s name and the setting of Indianapolis Motor Speedway to give the BC39 all the esteem it needed.  

“I think pretty quickly it was top of the list, or close to it,” Seavey said. “It kind of feels like the Chili Bowl — everyone’s pulling their cars out of their shops to come to this race just so they can say they raced here. That alone puts it near the top.

“People want to race here and they want to win here, and that’s what prestige is, right?”