Mike Haggenbottom of Levittown, Pa. not only achieved his goal of competing in all the USAC Silver Crown races in 2019, but he earned his first top-five finish in the national sanctioning body’s top division and improved his finishing position in the final point standings for the year by two positions.
Haggenbottom, one of only a handful of drivers based in the Eastern United States to tackle USAC’s premier division, finished 11th in the driver standings during his rookie season last year and ninth for the 2019 season, which recently concluded.
His brother and car owner, John Haggenbottom of Bristol, Pa., finished eighth in the owner point standings for the 2019 season, which consisted of 10 events.
What’s more, the Haggenbottom Racing No. 24 got a top-five finish in the race closest to its home base, as Haggenbottom finished fourth in the 100-lapper at Williams Grove Speedway in Mechanicsburg, Pa. on June 14.
“The race results don’t really show how far we came this year,” Haggenbottom said. “This year we’d at least seen most of the tracks we were racing on before, which helped. I think our asphalt program really turned the corner during the last few pavement races too.”
The USAC Silver Crown series is unique because it requires prowess on both asphalt and dirt tracks.
“Williams Grove was definitely the highlight of our year on the dirt, but I think the September race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis went well for us as far as our blacktop program goes,” Haggenbottom explained. “It was a little bit of everything that makes me say that. We put another car together, and then between Andy Belmont and Gene Nead tuning our car, I felt more comfortable there than I did in the past. We adjusted our shock program, and definitely made some strides.”
Belmont is a well-known retired NASCAR and ARCA stock car driver and team owner. He and his business, Belmont’s Garage of Langhorne, Pa., are longtime, enthusiastic supporters of Haggenbottom.
Nead used to be a NASCAR crew chief and now runs the NASCAR program for Brembo S.p.A, an Italian company that is a world leader in high-performance brakes. Haggenbottom has known him since 1986 when Haggenbottom worked for Frankie Kerr, another veteran NASCAR crew chief and a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.
In addition to owning his own landscaping business Haggenbottom works for ASi Racewear of Patchogue, N.Y., which produced some of Brembo’s racing caps this year in a deal that came about last December during business-to-business networking at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Show in Indianapolis. The entire relationship underscores how small a world racing can be.
Marketing and networking are the foundation of most successful businesses and racing teams, including Haggenbottom’s. In addition to Belmont Garage, ASi Racewear and Brembo Brakes, Haggenbottom’s team advertises Valley Forge, Inc. of King of Prussia, Pa.; Robison Racing Products of Dublin, Pa.; Speed Equipment Corp. (SEC) of Bensalem, Pa.; Kashady Automation of Bensalem, Pa.; Mershon Concrete of Bordentown, N.J.; Hooker Harness of Freeport, Ill.; PME Engines of Mooresville, N.C., and WDB Landscaping of Morrisville, Pa.
All of those companies followed Haggenbottom’s progress in 2019 closely through the media and the live-streaming telecasts by FloRacing.com.
“We had an ignition problem at Lucas Oil Raceway and a crash at Du Quoin that didn’t help, but we achieved our goal of running all the races, and overall as a team we were a lot better this year,” Haggenbottom said. “We want to thank the companies and individuals that supported our team; we couldn’t do it without them.”
The Ted Horn 100 at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds in Du Quoin, Ill. was one of Haggenbottom’s best races of 2018, as he placed 11th and won the KSE Hard Charger Award there. But this Sept. 1 Du Quoin was not kind to him, as he hit the wall and flipped in Turn 2 on lap six of the 100 lapper. Luckily he wasn’t hurt.
“That used up our inventory of parts, and took us out of a good top seventh or eighth-place finish in the points,” he noted. “However, all in all I think we did pretty well for all the travel we had to do.”
Haggenbottom feels he got better at tire management this season too. “These races are so much longer than a sprint car race,” said the former United Racing Club champion and multi-time RaceSaver sprint car champion. “Learning to adjust to and run a full 100 miles is very different than a 25- or 30-lap sprint car feature.”
He added that the winningest driver in USAC Silver Crown history, five-time and reigning champion Kody Swanson of Nolen Racing, “really helped us with our asphalt program.
“He helped with set-up and driving tips,” Haggenbottom said. “He babysat us. We could go to him with any questions, which we really appreciated.”
Swanson ran into his own challenges at Du Quoin when his team experienced engine problems. He ended up borrowing Patrick Lawson’s car for that race to salvage some points, which helped him win the drivers’ championship.
“I felt really bad that we couldn’t help him at Du Quoin,” Haggenbottom added. “We brought along a spare motor so his team could use it if they needed it at Springfield and Eldora.”
Haggenbottom Racing used three cars for the 2019 campaign: a Maxim chassis for the dirt tracks and a Stealth and a Beast for the asphalt tracks. The asphalt cars’ engines are prepared by PME Engines. The dirt car’s engine is a Rider out of Mechanicsburg, Pa.
Haggenbottom won several contingency awards during 2019. He earned the KSE Racing Products Hard-Charger Award June 14 at Williams Grove Speedway after he qualified 15th and finished fourth.
He snagged the Wilwood Brakes award at Memphis International Raceway in Millington, Tenn. at the season opener in March; at the Hoosier Hundred at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on May 23; at Lucas Oil Raceway in Brownsburg, Ind. on May 24, and at Madison International Speedway in Oregon, Wis. on June 28.
For more information follow “Mike Haggenbottom Racing” on Facebook and @MHaggenbottom on Twitter. USAC’s website is at usacracing.com.
SOME GREAT READING DURING THE OFF SEASON. I wanted to mention Chad Culver has a new book on racing coming out December 9th. Legends of Delaware Auto Racing will be released on that date! Culver’s previous books include: Delaware Auto Racing, Dover International Speedway, The Monster Mile and Kramer Williamson, Sprint Car Legend. The book will include thirty-four chapters on various racers, owners and promoters from the Delaware area such as Johnny Martin, Eddie Pettyjohn, Harold Bunting, Bobby Wilkins, Hal Browning, Ron Keys, Ron Slade, Eugene Mills, Charlie Cathell, Brett Deyo and many more! I have also recently expanded my museum which can be seen at www.culverautoracingmuseum.com I have included a few new photos of the museum and the new book cover attached. Check in at Coastal181.com to purchase books.
The World of Outlaws and CBS Sports Network are excited to announce the start of this season’s broadcast package. The schedule includes 16 different races from tracks across the country.
“This has been an incredible year for us, and for the sport, as we have significantly ramped up our efforts to bring dirt racing to fans far and wide through all mediums, including CBS Sports Network’s doubled coverage,” said World of Outlaws CEO Brian Carter. “Last year, we put Fairbury Speedway’s legendary Prairie Dirt Classic on national television for the very first time, and this year fans will be able to enjoy the Jackson Nationals, the Champion Racing Oil Nationals Open, and the Gold Cup Race of Champions for the first time in years.”
While the schedule will maintain the crown jewel events from year’s past — the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway (OH), the Firecracker at Lernerville Speedway (PA), and the Can-Am World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte (NC) — new tracks this year include Jackson Speedway, Silver Dollar Speedway, and Williams Grove Speedway.
CBS Sports Network will air 16 races in total, covering 10 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series races and six World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Model Series races. Events will air on Sundays from October 6 through January 19, with the exception of Thanksgiving Week.
Sunday, October 27 – Knight before the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 3 – Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 10 – Prairie Dirt Classic Night #1 at Fairbury Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, November 17 – Prairie Dirt Classic Finale at Fairbury Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, December 1 – Gold Cup Race of Champions Night #1 at Silver Dollar Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, December 8 – Gold Cup Race of Champions Finale at Silver Dollar Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, December 15 – Champion Racing Oils National Open Night #1 at Williams Grove Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, December 22 – Champion Racing Oils National Open Finale at Williams Grove Speedway – 7:30 PM
Sunday, December 29 – Can-Am World Finals Night #1- Late Models – 7:30 PM
Sunday, January 5 – Can-Am World Finals Night #2- Late Models – 6:30 PM
Sunday, January 12 – Can-Am World Finals Night #1- Sprint Cars – 6:30 PM
Sunday, January 19 – Can-Am World Finals Night #2 – Sprint Cars – 6:30 PM
IF YOU ARE FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO BE HEADING TO FLORIDA IN FEBRUARY. The decade of the 2020s for USAC racing gets underway in grand fashion over two consecutive weekends in February of 2020 with National Sprint Car and Midget racing in the state of Florida at Ocala, Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park.
The festivities begin on Thursday, February 6, with a practice night for the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship, followed by two-straight nights of complete shows for the series at the 3/8-mile D-shaped dirt track on Friday, February 7, and Saturday, February 8.
The action picks up again at Bubba’s a few days later with USAC AMSOIL Sprint Car National Championship practice night on Wednesday, February 12, followed by three nights in a row of racing on Thursday, February 13, on Friday, February 14, and the finale on Saturday, February 15.
USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midgets made their debut at Bubba Raceway Park in 2018 with Tyler Courtney (Indianapolis, Ind.) sweeping both nights of feature events. Meanwhile, USAC AMSOIL National Sprint Cars saw three different winners in as many nights during their Sunshine State trip with races won by Chris Windom (Canton, Ill.), Justin Grant (Ione, Calif.) and C.J. Leary (Greenfield, Ind.).
“Winter Dirt Games in February is one of USAC’s best traditions and is always one of our most looked-forward-to events,” said Levi Jones, USAC Series Coordinator. “Last year was a thrilling two weekends with the addition of Midgets to the lineup and it’s made this great event even greater. What a way to open up the season under the sunshine with both Midget and Sprint Car racing!”
While “Winter Dirt Games” has certainly proven to be a top-notch event among drivers seeking to get their season started off on the right foot, it’s also been the same for fans who exit the winter weather for a much-needed foray into the “Sunshine State” to witness the series’ lone appearance in the state during the year.
“This has become a must-see event that everybody circles on their calendars,” track owner Tom Bean said. “We thoroughly enjoy the USAC fans and race teams that make the trip to Bubba Raceway Park each year for the Winter Dirt Games, and in 2020, the tradition continues while getting even bigger and better with two premier USAC divisions on board again. We can’t wait to get the 2020 season started in a big way!”
Twenty-four USAC National Sprint Car events have been held at Bubba Raceway Park since 2011. Bryan Clauson remains the winningest USAC Sprint Car driver at Bubba’s with four victories in four different seasons. Damion Gardner has won three times while Grant, Tracy Hines, Brady Bacon, Tyler Courtney and Robert Ballou have each scored a pair of victories. Windom, Leary, Darren Hagen, Dave Darland, Thomas Meseraull, Chase Stockon and Hunter Schuerenberg have all won once.
The first three USAC Sprint Car races ever held took place in Florida in February of 1956. Bob Sweikert won the first such race at Southland Speedway in West Palm Beach, followed by Chuck Weyant at Jacksonville Speedway and Pat O’Connor at Medley Speedway in Miami.
Likewise, Florida and USAC Midget racing have a history dating back to the initial years of the club. Only 20 times have USAC Midgets ventured to Florida over the years. Prior to the 2018 visit to Bubba’s, the series took part in a 11-race series entitled the Tangerine Tournament in early 1957. Jimmy Knight, Sonny McDaniel, Andy Linden, Al Keller, Al Alpern, Leroy Warriner and Len Duncan were among the winners held at several different Florida venues. Linden took home the overall Tangerine Tournament crown.
USAC Midgets took on the pavement of New Smyrna Speedway in 2013, won by Bobby Santos and Kyle Larson. The first USAC National Midget points races in Florida came in a week span during 1963. Johnny Riva and Bob Wente were victorious at Palmetto Speedway while Chuck Rodee and Wente also picked up victories at Golden Gate Speedway. It was another 42 years before the series returned in 2005 for a non-points special event at Orlando Speed World Speedway, won by Josh Wise.
Additional info on the events will be made public in the coming months
One of the founders of the Eastern Motorsports Press Association in 1969 and the group’s president for nearly 40 years, Ernie Saxton was the driving force behind the EMPA for many years and along with his wife Marilyn. Saxton has also worked as an announcer at 174 tracks all across the country including Grandview until he retired from announcing after 45 years. Today Ernie lends his considerable experience in racing as a regular commentator for PennSports.LIVE.