For Cannon McIntosh, in a way, one could say that his season really started around last June.
Since that point, the 20-year-old Bixby, Okla. native has been among the most accomplished midget racers in the nation and carries a bevy of momentum and title aspirations entering the 2023 USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season.
Once more, McIntosh will take the wheel of the Dave Mac-Dalby Motorsports No. 08 for the full USAC campaign following a season in which he garnered 15 midget victories across all sanctions – three with USAC – all but one of which came after the start of the month of June in 2022.
This year, McIntosh has already added a Chili Bowl prelim night victory and an Xtreme Outlaw score to his resume, sending him off on the right foot heading into the new year.
In many ways, 2022 was a breakout year for McIntosh who put a rest to a personal 57-race winless USAC streak with a victory during the Indiana Midget Week finale at Kokomo Speedway. He further cemented his return to good graces with a 100-lap triumph at South Dakota’s Huset’s Speedway and notched another at Missouri’s Sweet Springs Motorsports Complex, while coming oh-so-close to marquee victories during the BC39 and the Turkey Night Grand Prix.
At the beginning of that turning point at the end of last spring, McIntosh sat seventh in the USAC standings. Since that moment, only Buddy Kofoid and Justin Grant have earned more points, signaling to himself and his competition that he’ll be a formidable force in the championship hunt this season when all is said and done.
“We had some misfortunes and struggles early in the year, and nothing was going right,” McIntosh recalled of the first few months of 2022. “Really, ever since that race, everything’s turned around. We had the speed, but we just really got in our element there and started clicking off wins, podiums and doing all the right things. It was just a matter of digging ourselves out of a hole and we were able to do that.”
Despite the stream of recent success over the past nine months, McIntosh is quick to not rest on his laurels and remain content. There’s no lament in his vocabulary or psyche on “what could’ve been” in 2022 had the season not started off so inauspicious. His focus is on the road that lies ahead, and he’s already displayed his strengths with a pair of triumphs this year.
“We don’t really want to look back,” McIntosh stated. “We’ve just got to take what we did last year and try to build on it for this year. We’ve already been able to show that our momentum is still there right out of the gate. We’re going to chase a championship, so we’re just going to push hard and take it one race at a time and let everything play itself out.”
To this point in his USAC career, McIntosh has accumulated 112 feature starts, six victories, 36 top-fives, 64 top-tens and nine fast qualifying times since making his series debut in 2018 in his home state of Oklahoma at Red Dirt Raceway. Twice, he’s finished fifth in the standings, doing so in both 2020 and 2022. However, McIntosh feels like this very well could be the best of the bunch as he eyes a continuation of his breakout in the coming year.
“I do think it’s a reality to win a championship and be a contender to win every night,” McIntosh said of his 2023 USAC aspirations. “We don’t want to overstep that, but we want to use that as part of our confidence. We don’t want to get cocky and overlook things because there are many very good cars to contend with every night. One little thing can take a race away from you, and it’s going to take a lot of consistency and a lot of patience. There are a lot of factors that go into it; I’ve been around this for a few years now, and I’ve seen what it takes for guys to win championships. I know it doesn’t happen overnight, and if you do have a bad night, you must perform the next night. Basically, you can’t have two bad nights in a row. That doesn’t work. You’ve got to have a short-term memory and minimize mistakes, and if you have a fifth place car, you can’t go out and crash it trying to win the race.”
During the offseason, McIntosh made the move from Oklahoma to Mooresville, N.C. where he is developing and maintaining a new micro sprint program. The midget team remains housed in Tulsa, Oklahoma under the care of crewmen Robert Dalby, Grant Penn and Ritchie Burcik. While there are the usual small tweaks to make here and there, the bulk of the foundation remains relatively unchanged as the team reloads its Crescent Tools sponsored Spike/Speedway Toyota for a run to the top.
“There’s always room to improve and they’re definitely doing that in the shop,” McIntosh noted of his team. “The parts that didn’t need fixing, they left them alone, and I think that’s how you find a very consistent and solid car by not messing up what’s good and, instead, focus on what needs to be improved upon.”
Right where McIntosh’s turnaround began, that’s where the USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget National Championship season kicks off its 2023 season on April 21-22 at Indiana’s Kokomo Speedway for the Kokomo Grand Prix.