YOUTHFUL AND EXPERIENCED:
LEARY AND COURTNEY CHASE USAC SPRINT TITLE
By: Richie Murray - USAC Media
Speedway, Indiana (October 29, 2019).........When it comes to thinking about this year's USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car championship contenders - C.J. Leary and Tyler Courtney, you most certainly wouldn't think of either of them as newcomers to the scene or flashes in the pan, would you?
Absolutely not. In fact, both drivers' first career series starts came during the 2012 season, giving each individual nearly eight years of experience apiece while racking up numerous starts with the division. Leary's 253 starts rank him 26th all-time while Courtney's 172 place him right on the cusp of breaking into the top-50 in all-time feature starts.
However, in the grand scope of the history of USAC's National Sprint Car division, in terms of age, both Leary and Courtney are on a rare track.
Series point leader Leary, at age 23, could become the sixth member of "Club 23," the exclusive group of drivers who've earned a USAC National Sprint Car driving title at 23 years old. Bryan Clauson remains the youngest champ of all-time at 23 years, 4 months and 19 days old in 2012.
Levi Jones was just 13 days older than Clauson when he won his first in 2005. Leary, at 23 years, 6 months and 30 days, would slot in third in terms of youngest series champs if he were to secure the title out west in the Nov. 7-8-9 Oval Nationals at California's Perris Auto Speedway and the Nov. 15-16 Western World Championships at Arizona Speedway.
Greg Weld (23 years, 8 months, 7 days) held the crown as the youngest champ from 1967 to 2005 before Jones took over the top spot. Jones' Tony Stewart Racing teammate Josh Wise (23 years, 9 months, 4 days) won the title in 2006 while Robbie Stanley collected the first of his three consecutive USAC Sprint titles in 1991 at 23 years, 10 months, 26 days old.
Courtney, meanwhile, became one of the youngest champions in his own right in 2018 at the age of 24. He trails Leary by 47 markers entering the five-race swing out west. But if he were to successfully complete the comeback, he'd become the fourth youngest driver to win his second career USAC National Sprint Car title after Clauson (2012-2013), Stanley (1991-1992) and Jones (2005 & 2007).
The youth movement in the USAC National Sprint Car division has been at the forefront for the past decade. Every single driving champion with the series since 2008 has been under the age of 30, making it 10 straight years thus far of a champion in his 20s.
It's a marked change from the past when only one driver under the age of 30 (28-year-old Ken Schrader in 1982) celebrated a championship between the years of 1980 and 1990.
On the flip side, only two drivers over the age of 40 have captured a USAC National Sprint Car driving championship: 44-year-old Don Branson in 1964 and 43-year-old Rollie Beale in 1973.
The USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Car road trip to the west begins November 7-8-9 at California's Perris Auto Speedway for the 24th annual Budweiser Oval Nationals presented by All Coast Construction. The season finale is set for Nov. 15-16 at Arizona Speedway in San Tan Valley, Ariz. for the 52nd running of the Western World Championships. All the action will be shown LIVE on FloRacing.
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