Midget auto-racing began in California in the 1930s. Its popularity spread across the United States and to most continents. Originally, two different power plants were used. An outboard motorboat engine with the propeller drive connected to the gearbox. And the more dominant Offenhauser engine that gave these speed-racers the nickname "Mighty Midgets ".
Midget racing cars are small and have an astonishingly high power-to-weight ratio. If you are 5 feet, 10 inches tall (the average height for an adult male), then you are as tall as the wheelbase on a Midget. These pint-sized rocket ships use a four cylinder, fuel injected power plant that burns straight methanol and makes upwards of 400 horsepower while weighing in at only 900 pounds.
Midget racing is dangerous. Crashes typically result in a series of snap rolls or high-flying end over end accidents that cause a lot of damage to the cars and to the drivers. While they are designed for 1/2-mile tracks, a USAC Midget can achieve over 150 mph on a 1-mile track.
Ascot was known as a treacherous half mile of clay. Driving a Midget there was extremely demanding. It was a driver's track where you’d go super fast down the straightaways and wind up in tight corners. It took a lot of driver to win there. With all the tradition it had, you knew you'd go down in history if you won at Ascot.
Three of the most prestigious Midget auto races in the country are the Turkey Night Grand Prix, which is the oldest, the Belleville Nationals, and the Chili Bowl with crowds of up to 30,000.
Today, a competitive Midget will run you around $60,000 without the bells and whistles. The Midget alumni list reads like a who's who in motorsports: Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser and Al Unser Sr. to name a few. It continues to be a stepping-stone for high profile racing like IndyCar and NASCAR.