Fairbury's small jewel of a racing track will have a bigger stage this year.
The USAC National Midgets will be appearing at the Jefferson County Speedway for a third straight summer, but the stakes are higher this year.
The fifth-of-a-mile clay oval will be the site for the Midwest Midget Championship on Friday and Saturday. Qualifying begins at 6:30 p.m. each night with racing starting at 7.
Capacity crowds have watched the previous two single-night USAC midget events at Jefferson County Speedway. And when the USAC National Midgets and the Belleville (Kansas) track — home to the Belleville Nationals — parted ways, the USAC series looked for ways to keep a heavy Midwest presence.
They rolled out a week of races crossing four states.
The series stopped in Meeker, Oklahoma, on Tuesday and Beloit, Kansas, on Wednesday. It will wrap up the week of shows Sunday in Sweet Springs, Missouri. Cody Brewer, who is helping put on the show, said the Fairbury stop is the "anchor event."
"The drivers and teams, they all like Fairbury, and we've had some cool shows the past couple of years," Brewer said. "The people of Fairbury, Jefferson County and surrounding counties have embraced the race and supported the teams, and made them feel like it was a special deal. They're all excited."
Brewer said more than 30 USAC midget cars are expected, and many of the series' top drivers will be in Fairbury. Tanner Thorson won last year's event in Nebraska.
Rookie Logan Seavey is the points leader, and Chad Boat and Brady Bacon, two drivers among the top five in points, are expected in Fairbury, too.
The track's tight quarters are expected to create some thrills.
"What makes it cool, the big tracks like the Belleville-type tracks, you've got to have the best equipment around (to win)," Brewer said. "You got the have the best motor, the best car. And when you get to some of the short tracks, a driver can overcome maybe not having quite as much power or not having a car that handles as good.
"The local guys like it, the lower-dollar team guys like it, but the big guys like it as well."
To accommodate the bigger event, more seating has been added to the speedway, and a new sound system was installed. Brewer said more than 100 loads of dirt were added, too.
"It's already a super-nice facility, and now it's even more so," he said.
This will mark the USAC midgets' lone appearance in the state.
The two-day event in Fairbury also coincides with the Jefferson County Fair, and the racing card includes the JayHusker nonwinged micro sprints.
General admission tickets are $20 each night. Children under 54 inches tall get in for $5.