As the name implies, Midget cars are small and light racing cars with a typical weight of less than 1000 pounds. Coupled with high-performance engines, usually of the 4-cylinder variety, these machines can produce between 200 and 300 horsepower.
Keeping these rocket ships stable and competitive on a dirt surface is extremely difficult, and is one of the main reasons this series is widely acknowledged as a conduit leading to higher forms of racing.
While Midget racing has been in existence since 1934, Toyota is a relative latecomer to the game, bursting onto the scene in 2006 in partnership with the 9 Racing team to debut their Toyota Beast racecar.
The Beast chassis, designed by Bob East of Beast Enterprises, has had a very successful run in USAC competition, winning 10 National Midget Championships and over 120 feature races.
When East decided to move on to the NASCAR Busch series at the end of the 2005 season, Toyota immediately partnered with his former team, 9 Racing, to introduce their newly designed Midget racing engine and create the Toyota Beast.
The Beast chassis, as per the USAC rule book, is a tubular steel design. It must weigh a minimum of 900 pounds, without the driver. Solid front and rear axles can be fitted with torsion bar or coil spring suspensions, and the entire car rides on 13 inch wheels fitted with bias-ply racing tires.
Depending on individual setup, the car has a wheelbase of between 66 and 76 inches, and an overall length of around 10 feet. Disc brakes can be fitted to all 4 wheels, and the motor is coupled to the rear wheels via a direct drive with no clutch or transmission.
At 166 cubic inches, the Toyota Beast engine is a completely new pushrod design. Using technology developed by their NASCAR program, Toyota has fitted the 4 cylinder aluminum-block Beast engine with the V8 cylinder head taken from the Craftsman Truck series.
The engine head features a fully planar valve train, Pro-Stock style rockers, and individual cylinder cross flow water cooling. The engine block itself boasts a wet liner, a fully enclosed camshaft tunnel with dedicated scavenge port and bronze lifter bushings. The motor is designed to run on methanol.
Tuned to produce in the neighborhood of 350 horsepower, the Toyota Beast engine quickly proved its worth, taking the pole position at the first race of the season, the Copper Classic, and then going on to win that race.
Toyota managed to top the podium in 4 pavement races in 2006. Other teams jumped on the Toyota Beast bandwagon, with Cruz Pedregon Racing becoming the first USAC Midget team to win a race on a dirt track with the new car setup.