From humble beginnings in 1988 to today’s colossal weekend that engulfs New Richmond, Wisc. – located just across the Minnesota/Wisconsin state line, northeast of Minneapolis, MN – this August tradition has transformed itself into one of the biggest happenings Dirt Late Model Racing each year.
The 2020 running of the USA Nationals kicks off tonight with a full preliminary show of World of Outlaws Late Models and USRA Limited Late Models on the card. Hot laps hit the track at 6:30pm CT with fans able to purchase tickets ($30 Adult, $15 Student, FREE 11-Under, $35 Pit Pass) at the gates. For those unable to make it, DIRTVision has a pay-per-view broadcast online for $24.99 tonight or a weekend package for $59.99.
With such a rich history dating back three-plus decades, we took a look at some of the unrivaled champions, the impressive statistics, some key moments, and more tidbits that have made up the first 32 years of the USA Nationals.
INFLATION RATE: One of the highest-paying races in the Dirt Late Model world today, the USA Nationals was once an $8,000-to-win event in 1990 and 1991. Since then, Cedar Lake Speedway has transformed the event into a crown jewel that pays $50,000-to-win. The first significant rise in pay came in 1992 at $20,000-to-win won by Billy Moyer; it rose to $30,000-to-win in 1997 when Rick Aukland took the money; the very next year in 1998 Donnie Moran claimed a boosted $40,000 prize; and Scott Bloomquist banked the first $50,000 payday in event history back in 2006. Most recently, the starting payout was bumped up to make Saturday’s feature a whopping $3,000-to-start.
TWO GOAT’S: It’s a debate that seems to be never-ending; Billy Moyer vs. Scott Bloomquist in the conversation for greatest of all time. In the case of the USA Nationals, both National Dirt Late Model Racing Hall of Fame inductees stand on even ground. Moyer (’88, ’89, ’90, ’92, ’93) has his five titles and Bloomquist (’99, ’03, ’06, ’08, ’10) has his own five, but both have done it in remarkably different fashion. “Mr. Smooth” has been dominant with more than 400+ laps led and $74,000 in first-place winnings; whereas Bloomer has been sneaky good with just 154 laps led and more than $230,000 in his event titles.
LATE RACE DRAMA: The USA Nationals main event has seen a pass for the win come within the final ten laps on eight different occasions. Those late-race moments include Billy Moyer stealing the inaugural 1988 title from Donnie Moran with 5 to go; Moyer again stripping Moran of the lead with 10 to go in 1989; Rick Aukland snookering Moyer on the final lap of the 1991 race; Aukland again finding magic with a pass on Bill Frye with 2 laps left in 1997; Rick Eckert passing Dale McDowell with 8 to go in 2002; Bloomquist besting Moyer with 5 laps left in 2010; Jimmy Owens fending off Bobby Pierce with 6 to go in 2014; and Chris Madden striking Brandon Sheppard with 5 laps left last year.
PLENTY OF PARITY: Since 2009, the USA Nationals has provided 11 different champions in 12 years. Cut the list to 2012 and you find eight different $50,000 victors in eight different 100-lap features. Even more impressive? Seven of those eight drivers since 2012 have all been first-time champions of the USA Nationals. Recent winners of Cedar Lake’s big dance include Darrell Lanigan (’12), Tim McCreadie (’13), Jimmy Owens (’14), Jonathan Davenport (’15), Josh Richards (’16), Don O’Neal (’17), Brandon Sheppard (’18), and Chris Madden (’19).
ALL OVER THE MAP: The 18 drivers to win a USA Nationals title at the New Richmond, Wisc. facility have hailed from 14 different states over the years. Tennessee owns the most titles at six with five going to Bloomquist and an extra one to Owens; Arkansas has five all from Moyer; Kentucky holds three with two for Jack Boggs and one for Lanigan; Georgia also has a trio of eagle trophies with McDowell’s two and Davenport’s one; Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Iowa and West Virginia natives all hold two titles; Ohio, Illinois, New York, Indiana and South Carolina each have one win for their drivers.
BADGER PRIDE: Outside of Jimmy Mars’ (Menomonie, WI) resume which includes two USA Nationals (’96, ’09) and ten top five finishes at the event, only three other Wisconsin natives have managed to record a top five result in their home state crown jewel. Dan Schlieper of Sullivan, Wisc. came the next closest to winning on home turf with a 2nd in 2000; John Kaanta of Elk Mound, Wisc. in 1990 and Paul Gilberts of San Creek, Wisc. in 1996 were the only other Wisconsin front runners with fourth-place finishes to their credit.
FLAG-TO-FLAG: Only three times in 32 years has a driver led all 100 laps of the USA Nationals championship feature. Ironically enough, all three instances have came in three different decades. Billy Moyer did it first in a 1992 beatdown, Dale McDowell left his mark on the race with 100-laps of domination in 2001, and Darrell Lanigan did it most recently with a crushing triumph in the 2012 version.
LEAD CHANGES GALORE: The 2014 USA Nationals holds the event record for most official lead changes in the championship feature with Jimmy Owens, Jimmy Mars, and Bobby Pierce swapping the top spot on six occasions before Owens sealed the deal on lap 95. However, the 2008 running of the USA Nationals is untouched in the department of different leaders with five drivers controlling the race at separate points. Billy Moyer, Shannon Babb, Brian Birkhofer and Tim McCreadie duked for P1 before Scott Bloomquist ultimately became the final leader on lap 71.
USA Nationals Podium Finishers
|1988||Billy Moyer Sr.||Donnie Moran||Larry Phillips|
|1989||Billy Moyer Sr.||Willy Kraft||Donnie Moran|
|1990||Billy Moyer Sr.||Rick Aukland||Jim Curry|
|1991||Rick Aukland||Billy Moyer Sr.||Bob Pierce|
|1992||Billy Moyer Sr.||Donnie Moran||Rick Aukland|
|1993||Billy Moyer Sr.||Jim Curry||John Gill|
|1994||Jack Boggs||Jim Curry||Tom Nesbitt|
|1995||Jack Boggs||Freddy Smith||Jim Curry|
|1996||Jimmy Mars||Kevin Weaver||Bill Frye|
|1997||Rick Aukland||Donnie Moran||Bill Frye|
|1998||Donnie Moran||Bill Frye||Steve Francis|
|1999||Scott Bloomquist||Skip Arp||Bill Frye|
|2000||Davey Johnson||Dan Schlieper||Scott Bloomquist|
|2001||Dale McDowell||Shannon Babb||Scott Bloomquist|
|2002||Rick Eckert||Dale McDowell||Steve Francis|
|2003||Scott Bloomquist||Brian Birkhofer||Shannon Babb|
|2004||Brian Birkhofer||Donnie Moran||Earl Pearson Jr.|
|2005||Dale McDowell||Billy Moyer Sr.||Steve Francis|
|2006||Scott Bloomquist||Brian Birkhofer||Darren Miller|
|2007||Brian Birkhofer||Scott Bloomquist||Earl Pearson Jr.|
|2008||Scott Bloomquist||Shannon Babb||Brian Birkhofer|
|2009||Jimmy Mars||Tim Fuller||Tim McCreadie|
|2010||Scott Bloomquist||Billy Moyer Sr.||Chub Frank|
|2011||Josh Richards||Brian Birkhofer||Jimmy Mars|
|2012||Darrell Lanigan||Jimmy Owens||Mike Marlar|
|2013||Tim McCreadie||Don O'Neal||Darrell Lanigan|
|2014||Jimmy Owens||Bobby Pierce||Jimmy Mars|
|2015||Jonathan Davenport||Billy Moyer Sr.||Dennis Erb Jr.|
|2016||Josh Richards||Jonathan Davenport||Eric Wells|
|2017||Don O'Neal||Mike Marlar||Bobby Pierce|
|2018||Brandon Sheppard||Brian Shirley||Jimmy Owens|
|2019||Chris Madden||Tim McCreadie||Brandon Sheppard|