It’s “Homecoming Week” for Hunter Schuerenberg and Kevin Thomas, drivers whose auto racing roots are deeply planted in Arkansas soil, as the AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car Series heads for back-to-back races in the Razorback State Friday and Saturday nights.

Thomas, who used to race 600cc micro-sprints around the mid-south region before moving to Indiana to chase his Sprint Car dream, is looking forward to racing near his Cullman, Alabama home. “It’s a good feeling to go back and race close to home. “The Ditch” (West Memphis) is only about three hours from my hometown. A lot of people who I used to race with are from right around there, and we’ll get to see a few of them at the races this weekend, so hopefully we can put on a show being back for the first time in the sprint car,” Thomas said.

The series hasn’t competed in Arkansas since Mike Ward’s victory at Riverside International Speedway in 1985, but I-30 Speedway in Little Rock hosts Friday night’s event, while Riverside, located in West Memphis, is Saturday night’s venue.

Schuerenberg, who calls Sikeston, Mo. home, ranks seventh in the latest standings, while Thomas stands 10th. Both know what it’s like to win in the demanding world of AMSOIL USAC National Sprint Car racing, with Schuerenberg winning this year at Gas City and Haubstadt, Ind. and Thomas grabbing his first career USAC checkered flag at the Bloomington (Ind.) Indiana Sprint Week event.

Neither driver had been born when Mike Ward scored the only previous USAC Sprint win in Arkansas in 1985. Thomas was born in 1991. Schuerenberg, who was born in 1989, picked up his first career sprint car win at I-30 aboard a 360 winged machine. Schuerenberg counts Ward, who is expected to return this week as car owner to local favorite Tim Crawley, as one of his childhood idols and most valuable mentors.

Mike was a guy I watched a lot as a kid. When he showed up at our local track (in Missouri), it was a big deal. I gravitated towards him when we started racing winged sprint cars back in 2004. He offered us a place to stay when we were down near Memphis, and we used his shop and pitted beside him at the track. And Crawley, he could just win in anything. I remember our very first night down there, we pulled in behind him and his open trailer, and he ended up lapping us in the feature. He’s an incredible talent who has proven he can win in anything,” Schuerenberg said.

While a National title race hangs in the balance and the stars of the circuit hit two tracks most have never seen, both Thomas and Schuerenberg will be shooting for memorable wins at two of their most cherished places.

“Some people might think it’s funny, but if I were to win Little Rock, it would probably mean more than any race I could win this year,” Schuerenberg said, adding, “when we won our first sprint car race down here, it was just my dad and me. We beat some good guys then, and everybody thought it was a pretty neat deal. So to go back there seven years later is gonna mean a lot, and if we could get another picture down there on the frontstretch at the end of the night, that would just be the perfect way to cap it.”