Tue. Dec 1st, 2020

Kevin Thrift Memorial Trophy & USSGP Round 1

4 min read

Champion Speedway, Owego NY

The Qualifying format for the the US Open Speedway Championships, hosted each Labor Day weekend in New York State, has become more challenging as East Coast Speedway promoter Jason Bonsignore has come up with a qualifier series for this season, known as the United States Speedway Grand Prix (USSGP) which he feels is more fair and puts several more higher level events on the calendar for both riders and spectators.

The 3 round USSGP series kicked off at the legendary Champion Speedway in Owego, NY June 22nd and the top 7 riders in Points from last year were automatically seeded into the event with 3 Wild Cards being chosen and then an open round of qualifiers heats ran prior to the meeting to determine the last 6 riders for the 16 rider GP format race. The last 2 series rounds will take place at Action Park East in Greene, NY and if completed in time, the all-new Seneca Speedway in Waterloo, NY, later in the summer. Should Seneca Speedway not be finish in time, the final event will be changed to Champion Speedway. At the conclusion of the Series, the top 8 riders in the Standings will gain berths in the First Round of the US Open Championships Labor Day weekend along with the top riders from Florida, Indianapolis, Colorado, California and possibly Europe!

The June 22nd event at Champion Speedway was run in honor and memory of Kevin Thrift, an avid rider, and track worker in British Speedway, who passed in recent years and is the father of East Coast Speedway staff supporter, Richard Thrift. The Thrift family helped raise a generous amount of money that was added into the purse and the riders were very appreciative! The series would be run like the World GP format with the rider accumulating points through heats, semis and the final and the overall points leader from the evening not necessarily being the rider who wins the final. 

As the pre-event qualifiers took place, the top 7 in East Coast Points from 2018…Casey Donholt, Adam Mittl, Len McBride, Jeremy Parsons, Spencer Portararo, Dan Oakden and Dave Oakden, plus Wild Cards…Brian Hollenbeck, Tuff McBride and Alex Heath, waited to see who would be the final competitors. Coming through the pre-heats were Jerry Harman, Jesse Diem, Mike Cortese, Jonny Oakden, Dalton Oakden and Mason Higely. When Mittl’s spot became open, the “Doctor of Dirt” Russ Cornell defeated Pat Cliff in a runoff for the final position!

Four-time track Champion, Len McBride and Three-time Champ, Casey Donholt, looked very strong in the first several heat rounds, both remaining unbeaten. They would meet head to head next and great battle ensued which Donholt seemed to have control of but spun around in front of McBride on the 3rd lap leaving McBride nowhere to go but to ride right over the top of Donholt’s bike and go airborne! McBride did an excellent job of saving it barely and scrubbing enough speed to softly hit the wall in what could have been a much more serious crash. McBride was accordingly credited with the win with Donholt getting a zero.

Donholt on his Ministry Clothing Jawa would redeem himself and handily win the first semifinal with Parsons, Diem and Dan Oakden finishing in that order. 

McBride would keep his perfect score alive in the second semi on his Justice Bros/Oury Grip/Moonbeam/Scott’s Headers/Cobra powered GM. He lept out of the gate and did not look back as he outdistanced Hollenbeck, Portararo and Harman.

In the 4 rider final, Donholt would make a perfect start and use it to hold the lead for the checkered flag and the big money  just ahead of McBride while Parsons and Hollenbeck would have good pressure between them for the last rostrum step with Parsons taking it to conclude a great night of racing at the Kevin Thrift Memorial USSGP RD 1!

The next event’s on the East Coast Speedway schedule are July 19th at Action Park East and July 20th at Champion Speedway!    

USSGP Round One/Kevin Thrift Memorial Speedway Results

Heat Points:
Len McBride 12
Casey Donholt 9
Jeremy Parsons 9
Spencer Portararo 9
Jesse Diem 8
Brian Hollenbeck 8
Dan Oakden 8
Jerry Harman 8
Dave Oakden 6
Jonny Oakden 5
Mike Cortese 5
Russ Cornell 3
Alex Heath 3
Mason Higley 2
Dalton Oakden 1
Tuff McBride 0

Semi 1
1. Casey Donholt
2. Jeremy Parsons
3. Jesse Diem
4. Dan Oakden

Semi 2
1. Len McBride
2. Brian Hollenbeck
3. Spencer Portararo
4. Jerry Harman

1. Donholt
2. McBride
3. Parsons
4. Hollenbeck

Division 2
1. Mason Higley
2. Pat Cliff
3. Mike Hunt

Division 3
1. Ray Schweiger
2. Jamal Kelly
3. Thad Cotter

1. Levi Harris
2. Caleb Stewart


  1. Len McBride           17
  2. Casey Donholt        15
  3. Jeremy Parsons      12
  4. Brian Hollenbeck/Spencer Portararo    10
  5. Jesse Diem    9
  6. Dan Oakden/Jerry Harman 8
  7. Dave Oakden   6
  8. Jonny Oakden/Mike Cortese 5
  9. Russ Cornell/Alex Heath 3
  10. Mason Higely 2
  11. Dalton Oakden 1
  12. Tuff McBride 0
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