National racing series to make rare visit to Ace Speedway

Adam Smith / Times-News

ALTAMAHAW — Could the next Jeff Gordon or the next Tony Stewart or the next Kasey Kahne or the next Ryan Newman be pulling into Ace Speedway this weekend?

It’s entirely possible.

Those elite level NASCAR drivers cut their racing teeth in the United States Auto Club, which arrives at the race track in northwestern Alamance County for back-to-back nights of competition on Friday and Saturday.

“This series is where they came from,” Ace general manager Brad Allen said Wednesday. “This series, these cars, prepared them for what they do now. If you’re a race fan, you’re aware of the heritage that’s coming here.”

The USAC Mopar National Midgets and USAC Midwest / Eastern Ford Focuses, ultra-quick machines that resemble go-karts on steroids, are scheduled to practice this afternoon at Ace.

The visit marks something of a milestone for Ace, long a preferred landing spot for regionalized touring circuits — such as Hooters ProCup or various Southern Modifieds series — but rarely a stop for a national racing series.

“These guys are professional race car drivers. This is what they do for a living,” Allen said. “The fact we’re on the national stage here at Ace Speedway is a pretty big honor that we’re just realizing the scope of now. It’s something we haven’t seen here before.”

For example, Bryan Clauson will try to secure his third consecutive USAC Mopar National Midget championship this year. He also hopes to make his Indianapolis 500 debut, too.

From racing at Ace in March to the Brickyard in May, that would form an unheard of progression.

Other drivers to watch this weekend include Darren Hagen, who won a USAC event in February at Ocala, Fla., and has claimed Midget titles on pavement the last two years.

Levi Jones, Bobby Santos III and Mario Clouser also figure to be in the mix at Ace.

“They’ll be names that people know sooner rather than later,” Allen said.

And with NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit touching down nearby in Martinsville, Va., this weekend, maybe — just maybe — a Gordon or a Stewart or a Kahne might swing by Ace to remember their USAC roots.

“We’re right inMartinsville’s backyard,” Allen said. “You never know the odds of one of them showing up on Friday night.”