Midget cars, also speedcars in Australia, is a class of racing cars. The cars are very small with a very high power-to-weight ratio and typically use four cylinder engines. They originated in the United States in the 1930s and are raced on most continents. There is a worldwide tour and national midget tours in the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.
Typically, these four cylinder engine cars have 300 horsepower (220 kW) to 400 horsepower (300 kW) and weigh 900 pounds (410 kg). The high power and small size of the cars combine to make midget racing quite dangerous; for this reason, modern midget cars are fully equipped with roll cages and other safety features. They are intended to be driven for races of relatively short distances, usually 2.5 to 25 miles (4 to 40 km). Some events are staged inside arenas, like the famous Chili Bowl held in early January at the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Some early major midget car manufacturers include Kurtis Kraft (1930s to 1950s) and Solar (1944-46).
Midget car racing was officially born on August 10, 1933 at the Loyola High School Stadium in Los Angeles as a regular weekly program under the control of the first official governing body, the Midget Auto Racing Association (MARA). After spreading across the country, the sport traveled around the world; first to Australia in 1934 at Melbourne's Olympic Park on December 15, and to New Zealand in 1937. Early midget races were held on board tracks previously used for bicycle racing. When the purpose built speedway at Gilmore Stadium was completed, racing ended at the school stadium, and hundreds of tracks began to spring up across the United States. Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin (near Madison) is another major track in the United States operating since the first half of the twentieth century.
Soon after in Australia, speedcar racing became popular with the first Australian Speedcar Championship being contested in Melbourne in 1935, its popularity running through the country's "golden era" of the 1950s and 1960s. Australian promoters such as Adelaide's Kym Bonython who ran the Rowley Park Speedway, and Empire Speedways who ran the Brisbane Exhibition Ground and the famous Sydney Showground Speedway, often imported drivers from the US including the popular Bob Tattersall and Jimmy Davies. Promoters in Australia during this period often staged races billed as either a "world speedcar championship" or "world speedcar derby". During this time speedcars were arguably the most popular category in Australian speedway with crowds of up to 30,000 attending meetings at the Sydney Showground and over 10,000 in Adelaide and Brisbane.
Speedcars continue to race in Australia, with the major events being the Australian Championship, and the Australian Speedcar Grand Prix (first run in 1938). Along with various state championships, there is also the Speedcar Super Series which travels throughout Australia. Speedcar crowds of 10,000 people are common in Australia for these major events.
In December 2013, POWRi Midget Racing began a 16-event Lucas Oil POWRi Midget World Championship that ran until June 2014. Drivers competed in New Zealand and Australia at the beginning of the 2013-14 season and ended in the United States.
Many IndyCar and NASCAR drivers used midget car racing as an intermediate stepping stone on their way to more high-profile divisions, including Tony Stewart, Sarah Fisher, Jeff Gordon, A. J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Kasey Kahne, Ryan Newman, Kyle Larson and others. The events are sometimes held on weeknights so that popular and famous drivers from other, higher-profiled types of motor racing (who race in those higher-profiled types of racing on the weekends) will be available to compete, and so that it does not conflict with drivers' home tracks.
In 1959 Lime Rock Park held a famous Formula Libre race, where Rodger Ward shocked the expensive and exotic sports cars by beating them on the road course in an Offenhauser powered midget car, usually used on oval tracks. Ward used an advantageous power-to-weight ratio and dirt-track cornering abilities to steal the win.
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