The Greatest Midget Car Drivers

by Bart Stevens of Irving, TX

Mel Kenyon saw his first race when he was a young teenager immediately following WWII just outside of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the home to racing great, Gus Schrader. They say the man later to be known as Miraculous Mel was hooked. He started his racing career in 1954 in stock cars and had immediate success with many victories.

Looking for new challenges, Mel and his younger brother Don started racing midgets in 1958. The Kenyons vaulted to the top of the ranks and stayed competitive for 27 seasons, racking up seven USAC Midget Championships and eight as runner-up.

The “King of the Midgets” won hundreds of races and many championships while always staying competitive. In 1965, Kenyon was burned in a serious wreck in Indy Cars at Langhorne but Miraculous Mel survived and continued racing and winning.

The Kenyon brothers, who always built and maintained their own cars, set the bar high for the well-funded corporate race teams.

Bill Schindler started his racing career in big cars in 1931 in his home state of New York. He then added midget racing to his resume in 1934 after he participated in the inaugural east coast midget event at Olympic Park in Irvington New Jersey.

Success in the midgets, or doodlebugs as they were called, led to Schindler battling the best in AAA action in the late 1930’s. By 1940 he was the president and first champion of the eastern based American Racing Drivers Club ARDC. With multiple championships to follow, Schindler became the man to beat when it came to east coast midget racing.

Schindler’s greatest success came at the wheel of the famed Caruso black deuce midget wearing his signature satin western shirt.

Sleepy Tripp made a name for himself in USAC midget racing by winning both Rookie of the Year and the National Championship in his first year running with the series. Tripp, who was a star athlete in school, had started racing in his youth and excelled at everything in which he participated. Tripp also won the USAC National Championship his second year in the series, then started competing in Australia in the off-season where he was, and still is, a crowd favorite. Tripp won over 100 features on his way to seven USAC Western Midget titles.