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Keith Kunz Motorsports remains pipeline for midget-racing success

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The richest midget teams in the land share one goal — to prevent the Keith Kunz Motorsports team from sweeping the podium when the midgets go racing.

By now it’s obvious to everyone in the sport Keith Kunz, Pete Willoughby and their three drivers are the best in the business.

Kunz and Willoughby have been at the top of their game for a long time. Regardless of who they have in the cockpit, they’re going to win way more than their share. However, because of their success, they attract the best drivers. The current team includes Christopher Bell, Rico Abreu and Tanner Thorson.

In a way, Kunz and Willoughby are victims of their own success. They hire the best drivers they can find, and they work with them to help them become the best.

By now, the motorsports world has learned to look for new drivers for their team and series in the Kunz pits. Kyle Larson went from the Kunz pits to NASCAR where he has replaced Juan Pablo Montoya in the Target-sponsored Chip Ganassi car. Certainly, not all of their drivers wind up in NASCAR, but most of them continue to make their living in racing.

When one of their drivers moves on, they are left with the task of selecting a new driver. They seem to have a great eye for talent. When they go to big races in the West such as the Turkey Night Grand Prix and the Chili Bowl in January, they look for a driver who seems to have the talent and attitude necessary to become a champion.

On July 5, the team made a trip to the storied Angell Park Speedway, better known to the midget racing community as simply “The Prairie” in honor of its location in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin. The Pepsi Nationals conducted there each summer is one of the premier midget shows of the season.

The Kunz and Willoughby team went there ready to win. Bell dominated both nights, while Abreu and Thorson swapped places from one night to the next.

The Kunz team now is preparing for the Belleville Nationals at the Belleville High Banks in Kansas.

Hupp wins at Lernerville

Twenty-one-year-old Logan Hupp of Columbus recently made his first trip to Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa. He is driving for Ray Marshall of Forest, Ohio, in the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series. The BOSS series is unique in that it campaigns non-winged sprint cars in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the heart of winged sprint car racing.

Marshall entered his car in the two-day program running at Lernerville Speedway on July 4 and at America’s Motorsports Park on July 5. Hupp drove to a strong feature win at Lernerville followed by Dustin Smith, Mike Miller, Jack Sodeman Jr., Tony Beaber, Michael Fischesser, Derek Hastings, Aaron Middaugh, Johnny Beaber and Andy Feil.

It was Hupp’s first trip to Lernerville, and he liked it. He said, “It’s a lot like Lawrenceburg. They had big crowds both at Lernerville and America’s Motorsports Park; and they apparently want us to come back for a couple of races each next year.”

On Saturday night, Hupp drove to a ninth-place finish at America’s Motorsports Park at Clearfield, Pennsylvania.

It remains to be seen whether or not the popularity of the BOSS series and the USAC cars in the Eastern Storm series represent a trend or not. However, hard core sprint car fans think the series will be well attended.

Hupp is scheduled to run several more times for Marshall in the BOSS series. In addition to the BOSS series, Marshall campaigns a winged sprint car. Bell will run at least the Kings’ Royal at Tony Stewart’s Eldora Speedway in Ohio.

Hupp will continue to run his own DRC/Williams at area tracks while Marshall is busy with his winged cars. Hupp plans to run the USAC Indiana Sprint Week races at Bloomington Speedway and Lawrenceburg Speedway in his own car. What he will do about the other Indiana Sprint Week races depends, in large part, on how things go at Bloomington and Lawrenceburg.

Hupp, like most racers today, started racing go-karts at 12. After a successful start with karts, he graduated to mini sprints. He drove a mini sprint with a Bob Nichols chassis. He said, “Nichols was like a grandfather to me. I spent much of my free time in Nichols’ shop.”

When he was 14, he moved up to sprint cars.

He ran sprints with continuing success at area tracks with increasing success until he won the Lawrenceburg Sprint Car championship in 2012. From then on Hupp has run sprints at a lot of different tracks depending on the competition, the prize money, etc. With the addition of the BOSS series races to his program, it seems that he is en route to his best season so far.

Sunday night Hupp drove a Terry Eaglin TQ at the Jennings County Fairgrounds race. He set a new track record in qualifications, won his heat race, won the dash, and he was on his way to a strong feature win when the engine let go.

Tim McKinney writes a weekly racing column for The Republic. He can be reached at 379-5632.

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