The Sweep: An In-Depth Look at the USAC Sprint Hat Trick

Tyler Courtney (#7BC) has earned the three most recent "sweeps" in USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car competition.
(Dave Dellinger Photo)

By: Richie Murray - USAC Media

Speedway, Indiana (October 3, 2019).........Much ado is made about perfect games in the fields of baseball and bowling.  However, a perfect game of sorts applies to the world of USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car racing as well.

Like a pitcher throwing a complete game of hitless, walkless, runless, errorless baseball and a bowler rolling 12 straight strikes without a single pin left standing, a clean sweep with USAC involves setting fast time in qualifying, winning the first heat race, then adding the proverbial cherry on top with a feature victory, all within a single night.

That signifies the ultimate domination any driver can achieve in a racing night outside of leading every lap.  Yet, in USAC, work has to be done to reach wins in heats and features for the fast qualifier due to the inversion, leaving a driver only 8 or 10 laps in the heat and 30 in the feature to race to first from their sixth starting position.
Over the past 16 months of action, only one driver has been able to pull off the accomplishment, Tyler Courtney, who has done it three teams over the last season-and-a-half, including last weekend at Eldora Speedway during the 4-Crown Nationals.

For Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.), it was his third such sweep in that time period, all coming on three of the most famous half-mile dirt tracks in the USA, Iowa's Knoxville Raceway (2018), Indiana's Terre Haute Action Track (2019) and Ohio's Eldora Speedway (2019), quickly moving him up the charts of drivers with the most sweeps during their USAC Sprint career - a feat that's been done 113 times since 1961.

Now with three total sweeps in the series, Courtney has moved himself into a nine-way tie for third all-time, standing behind only the ultimate sweep king Rich Vogler (7), Parnelli Jones (6), Tom Bigelow, Larry Dickson and A.J. Foyt (5), Pancho Carter, Jack Hewitt, Jud Larson and Roger McCluskey (4) - all of whom are inductees into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.

Among the venues where sweeps have taken place the most, the high majority of them are on the big tracks, those a half-mile in length or longer where cars and drivers can stretch their legs and have the room and the time to maneuver around traffic.  Not to mention, all tracks within the top-five on the list have tenure, with roots that date back to the earliest years of USAC.

No single track comes close to Indiana's Winchester Speedway in that regard with 21 sweeps, nearly one-fifth of all on the list.  Of the current venues on this year's USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car schedule, Eldora is the leader in the clubhouse with 10 sweeps while Terre Haute has nine of its own.
Interestingly, 62 of the sweeps occurred in the first two decades of USAC's National Sprint Car series between 1961 and 1979, nearly 55 percent of all that have ever happened.  Only 51 sweeps have happened in the four decades since beginning in 1980.

Theories can vary in that regard as to why.  The disparity in quality equipment among teams from top-to-bottom in those days may have been larger than it is now, with several displaying their ability throughout a schedule consisting solely of half-mile tracks both dirt and paved, making it seemingly easier for passing opportunities.
Once the schedule began implementing tracks shorter in length starting in 1981, sweeps became less prevalent and only 10 such sweeps have occurred on tracks less than a half-mile since that time, the most recent one happening in May of 2018 at the 3/8-mile Plymouth (Ind.) Speedway by Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Cullman, Ala.).

Thomas and Courtney, along with Brady Bacon (Knoxville 2011) and Dave Darland (2015 Eagle), are among the four active series drivers with a USAC Sprint sweep on their resume entering this Saturday's Fall Nationals at Indiana's Lawrenceburg Speedway where a sweep has been performed just once, by Jack Hewitt in 1995 on the former quarter-mile configuration there.  The series returns to the now 3/8-mile high-banked dirt oval this weekend.

Saturday is Pretty in Pink Night at the track.  Wear a pink shirt to show support of Breast Cancer Awareness and receive a chance to win a $100 Kroger gift card from Lawrenceburg Speedway.

Pits open at 3pm Eastern, spectator gates open at 5pm, drivers meeting at 5:30pm and cars on track at 6pm.  General admission tickets are $25 for ages 13 and up, $7 for ages 7-12 and free for children age 6 and under.  Pit passes are $30 apiece for all ages.

The Fall Nationals can be watched LIVE and on-demand on FloRacing, listened to via live audio on the USAC app as well as live timing and scoring on both the USAC app and the Race-Monitor app.

(113 times - updated 10/2/2019)
4/23/1961: Roger McCluskey at Williams Grove Speedway
6/25/1961: Parnelli Jones at New Bremen Speedway
7/4/1961: Parnelli Jones at Salem Speedway
7/23/1961: Parnelli Jones at Dayton Speedway
8/6/1961: A.J. Foyt at Salem Speedway
7/8/1962: Parnelli Jones at Indianapolis Raceway Park
7/29/1962: Roger McCluskey at Eldora Speedway
9/7/1962: Jim Hurtubise at Lancaster Speedway
9/22/1962: Parnelli Jones at the Allentown Fairgrounds
3/24/1963: A.J. Foyt at the Reading Fairgrounds
6/2/1963: Roger McCluskey at New Bremen Speedway
8/4/1963: Don Branson at Salem Speedway
8/25/1963: Chuck Hulse at New Bremen Speedway
3/24/1964: A.J. Foyt at the Reading Fairgrounds
6/14/1964: A.J. Foyt at the Terre Haute Action Track
7/4/1964: Bud Tingelstad at Salem Speedway
7/5/1964: Jud Larson at Eldora Speedway
7/18/1964: A.J. Foyt at Williams Grove Speedway
8/2/1964: Parnelli Jones at Salem Speedway
4/4/1965: Jud Larson at the Reading Fairgrounds
4/18/1965: Jud Larson at Eldora Speedway
5/9/1965: Jud Larson at Eldora Speedway
7/4/1965: Don Branson at Salem Speedway
8/15/1965: Johnny Rutherford at the Terre Haute Action Track
9/19/1965: Bobby Unser at Baer Field Raceway
6/11/1966: Bobby Unser at Reading Fairgrounds
7/10/1966: Roger McCluskey at Winchester Speedway
5/28/1967: Bob Wente at Winchester Speedway
9/1/1967: Ralph Liguori at Tri-City Speedway
4/19/1968: Larry Dickson at Heidelberg Raceway
6/2/1968: Larry Dickson at Dayton Speedway
6/21/1968: Gary Bettenhausen at Heidelberg Raceway
7/5/1968: Carl Williams at Lakeside Speedway
7/26/1968: Gary Bettenhausen at Stafford Springs Speedway
4/27/1969: Cy Fairchild at New Bremen Speedway
6/19/1969: Gary Bettenhausen at Reading Fairgrounds
8/22/1969: Greg Weld at Stafford Springs Speedway
6/26/1970: Larry Dickson at Berlin Raceway
5/15/1971: Sammy Sessions at Indianapolis Raceway Park
6/11/1971: Sammy Sessions at Berlin Raceway
6/19/1971: Mitch Smith at Williams Grove Speedway
6/27/1971: Larry Dickson at Winchester Speedway
7/17/1971: Mitch Smith at Selinsgrove Speedway
5/13/1972: Tom Bigelow at Indianapolis Raceway Park
6/24/1973: Jan Opperman at Williams Grove Speedway
7/13/1973: Tom Sneva at Sharon Speedway
8/26/1973: Jerry Hansen at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds
9/29/1973: Tom Sneva at Tri-County Speedway
10/7/1973: Tom Sneva at New Bremen Speedway
5/5/1974: Tom Bigelow at Tri-County Speedway
7/28/1974: Pancho Carter at Winchester Speedway
3/23/1975: Larry Dickson at the Reading Fairgrounds
5/3/1975: Pancho Carter at the Terre Haute Action Track
6/21/1975: Rollie Beale at Eldora Speedway
11/20/1976: Gary Patterson at Ascot Park
4/3/1977: Tom Bigelow at Winchester Speedway
5/15/1977: Pancho Carter at Winchester Speedway
9/17/1978: Bubby Jones at Eldora Speedway
5/28/1979: Tom Bigelow at Dayton Speedway
6/2/1979: Bubby Jones at Eldora Speedway
9/2/1979: Steve Chassey at Winchester Speedway
9/3/1979: Steve Chassey at Winchester Speedway
5/10/1980: Pancho Carter at Indianapolis Raceway Park
8/23/1980: Tom Bigelow at Hartford Speedway Park
5/5/1982: Jac Haudenschild at Millstream Motor Speedway
6/5/1982: Sheldon Kinser at Knoxville Raceway
6/6/1982: Jeff Swindell at I-70 Speedway
8/20/1982: Rich Vogler at Santa Fe Speedway
6/4/1983: Rich Vogler at Eldora Speedway
6/19/1983: Rich Vogler at the Terre Haute Action Track
4/1/1984: Jac Haudenschild at Eldora Speedway
5/4/1986: Rich Vogler at the Terre Haute Action Track
6/20/1987: Kenny Jacobs at K-C Raceway
7/30/1988: Rich Vogler at Winchester Speedway
8/24/1989: Rich Vogler at Indianapolis Raceway Park
8/26/1989: Rich Vogler at Winchester Speedway
6/9/1990: Jeff Gordon at Indianapolis Raceway Park
7/14/1990: Jack Hewitt at Richmond Raceway
10/21/1990: Steve Butler at Winchester Speedway
7/7/1991: Jack Hewitt at the Terre Haute Action Track
8/31/1991: Jack Hewitt at Tri-City Speedway
7/17/1993: Mike Bliss at Indianapolis Raceway Park
5/14/1994: Mike Bliss at Indianapolis Raceway Park
5/26/1994: Doug Kalitta at Winchester Speedway
7/16/1994: Doug Kalitta at Winchester Speedway
8/14/1994: Mike Bliss at Winchester Speedway
4/2/1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr. at Winchester Speedway
4/9/1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr. at Salem Speedway
7/1/1995: Jack Hewitt at Lawrenceburg Speedway
9/15/1995: Kenny Irwin, Jr. at Lakeside Speedway
9/16/1995: Tony Stewart at I-70 Speedway
4/12/1996: Dave Steele at Lakeside Speedway
7/26/1996: Kevin Thomas at Bloomington Speedway
5/22/1997: Brian Tyler at Winchester Speedway
8/27/1997: Doug Kalitta at Winchester Speedway
6/3/1998: Brian Tyler at Winchester Speedway
6/27/1998: Dave Steele at Winchester Speedway
8/15/1999: Ryan Newman at Winchester Speedway
5/6/2000: Jay Drake at Tri-City Speedway
6/10/2000: Tracy Hines at Indianapolis Raceway Park
8/11/2000: Jay Drake at Hartford Speedway Park
10/22/2000: Tracy Hines at Winchester Speedway
6/20/2002: J.J. Yeley at Fremont Speedway
5/17/2003: J.J. Yeley at the Terre Haute Action Track
6/18/2003: J.J. Yeley at Attica Raceway Park
7/26/2003: Tracy Hines at the Terre Haute Action Track
8/24/2005: Jay Drake at Tri-City Speedway
8/7/2011: Brady Bacon at Knoxville Raceway
4/24/2015: Dave Darland at Eagle Raceway
5/5/2018: Kevin Thomas, Jr. at Plymouth Speedway
6/9/2018: Tyler Courtney at Knoxville Raceway
7/24/2019: Tyler Courtney at the Terre Haute Action Track
9/28/2019: Tyler Courtney at Eldora Speedway

1. (7) Rich Vogler
2. (6) Parnelli Jones
3. (5) Tom Bigelow, Larry Dickson & A.J. Foyt
6. (4) Pancho Carter, Jack Hewitt, Jud Larson & Roger McCluskey
10. (3) Gary Bettenhausen, Mike Bliss, Tyler Courtney, Jay Drake, Tracy Hines, Kenny Irwin, Jr., Doug Kalitta, Tom Sneva & J.J. Yeley
19. (2) Don Branson, Steve Chassey, Jac Haudenschild, Bubby Jones, Sammy Sessions, Mitch Smith, Dave Steele, Brian Tyler & Bobby Unser
28. (1) Brady Bacon, Rollie Beale, Steve Butler, Dave Darland, Cy Fairchild, Jeff Gordon, Jerry Hansen, Chuck Hulse, Jim Hurtubise, Kenny Jacobs, Sheldon Kinser, Ralph Liguori, Ryan Newman, Jan Opperman, Gary Patterson, Johnny Rutherford, Tony Stewart, Jeff Swindell, Kevin Thomas, Kevin Thomas, Jr., Bud Tingelstad, Greg Weld, Bob Wente and Carl Williams.

1. (21) Winchester Speedway
2. (10) Eldora Speedway
3. (9) Indianapolis Raceway Park & Terre Haute Action Track
5. (7) Salem Speedway
6. (6) Reading Fairgrounds
7. (5) New Bremen Speedway
8. (4) Lakeside Speedway, Tri-City Speedway & Williams Grove Speedway
11. (3) Dayton Speedway & Knoxville Raceway
13. (2) Berlin Raceway, Hartford Speedway Park, Heidelberg Raceway, I-70 Speedway, Stafford Springs Speedway & Tri-County Speedway
19. (1) Allentown Fairgrounds, Ascot Park, Attica Raceway Park, Baer Field Raceway, Bloomington Speedway, Eagle Raceway, Fremont Speedway, K-C Raceway, Lawrenceburg Speedway, Millstream Motor Speedway, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, Plymouth Speedway, Richmond Raceway, Santa Fe Speedway, Selinsgrove Speedway & Sharon Speedway