MACON – Line up a full field of late model stock cars and as they carefully motor their way around the track, you’d be inclined to say those machines are just too big for tiny Macon Speedway.
Wide machines flying through tight turns can push three-wide racers into places they just don’t fit.
Line up a group of go-carts when they race each summer and you could conclude they’re just too small for Macon Speedway.
But when the track opened in 1946 – and still to this day – assemble a full field of midgets, drop the green flag and the conclusion hasn’t changed in 70 years: Midgets and Macon are a perfect fit.
Wayne Webb designed the track 70 years ago specifically for the open-wheel racers and that concept still fits like a glove, as will be demonstrated again tonight when the POWRi national midgets and POWRi micros invade Macon Speedway. UMP Late Models, Street Stocks and Hornets will also compete.
Kenny Brown, the founder and owner of the POWRi circuit, said their popular touring group finds Macon Speedway and Belle-Claire Speedway in Belleville – two tracks that are essentially mirror images – to be favorites of the drivers.
“They used the same footprint for those two tracks and probably the best midget racing around comes from those places,” Brown said. “That’s why Macon is one of the tracks where we consistently have the best car counts. That’s why we run there a half-dozen times each year.”
POWRi has become a proving ground for drivers on the rise.
Drivers can begin as 12-year-olds in the 600cc Outlaw Micro Series, then graduate to the National Midget cars. From there the possibilities depend on the skill demonstrated by the driver.
Take Rico Abreu for example.
The popular California driver had such success driving his midget that he earned a ride this season on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The same is true for Chris Bell, who was POWRi’s Illinois Speed Week champion in 2015.
“Rico is still racing in select events for us, but you want them to move on,” Brown said. “You don’t want a guy who stops here at the top of his game. You want them to move on so that others can progress and have their day in the limelight.
“We want to see new winners all the time.”
As a result, Brown is always scanning the up-and-comers, looking for the kind of special behind-the-wheel skill that will produce the series next star.
“That’s the beauty of racing,” he said. “New guys are coming all the time.
“I’m always looking for the next great one and he might not be from right around here. Guys are coming from go-karts and we keep our eyes on them. I have my eye now on a guy from California who’s a very good driver.
“You can tell a talented driver when he sets foot in the car and he’s immediately better than a guy who’s been driving for five years. This kid in California is 15. I’m watching him.”
Of course, it takes more than raw talent. “The biggest thing for them is to secure the proper sponsorship and get the proper ride,” Brown said. “When that happens, it works out well.”
Some go farther than others. Bryan Clauson was a POWRi midget star who is spending his time trying to qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
Brown is pleased with the current crop of POWRi midget drivers and won’t be surprised to see some of them graduate to a higher level. Some of those drivers will be at Macon Speedway tonight.
Brown mentioned Zach Daum of Pocahontas, Ill., Andrew Felker of Carl Junction, MO., Tanner Thorson of Minden, Nev., and Carson Macedo of Lemoor, Calif., as drivers who could be in contention tonight.
“Plus we have some guys from New Zealand and Australia who are here preparing for Speed Week,” he said. Illinois Speed Week runs June 8-12 with a stop at Macon Speedway scheduled for Saturday, June 11.
Admission tonight is $15 for adults. Children age 11 and under are admitted free.
Pits open at 3 p.m. Grandstands open at 5 p.m. Racing begins at 7 p.m.