With the calendar flipping to autumn and area farmers putting the hammer down on the harvest, it won't be long before young Spencer Bayston finds himself wending his way through the freshly barren corn and soybean fields of Livingston County, hunting for an addition to the Thanksgiving table.
Before that, however, there's a matter of bagging some pretty big game in the form of finishing off a quest for a prestigious USAC National Midget Series title and, of more immediate focus, the hunt for a MOWA/IRA Sprint Car Series victory this weekend as Fairbury's American Legion Speedway hosts its inaugural Sprint Mania FALS Classic.
Bayston, who turned 19 on Sept. 22, is a lifelong resident of Lebanon, Ind., but brings an area connection to this weekend's event.
His father, Brett, was a member of the final graduating class at Chatsworth High School before it was absorbed into the Prairie Central district. His paternal grandparents, Gerald and Helen Bayston, still reside in Chatsworth by the soon-to-be hunting grounds.
Bayston is widely regarded as one of the nation's top young racing talents with a goal of following in the footsteps of a long line of USAC open-wheel competitors who have made the march from the midgets into the majors.
While earning his accolades as a premier midget competitor and coming within an eyelash of winning the USAC National Midget Series title a year ago, Bayston is still a relative "newbie" to the ultra-powerful winged sprint car world that arrives in Fairbury this weekend.
"The speed and the downforce is the first thing you initially feel (in going from midgets to sprints)," Bayston said. "With the sprint car wing, all of that downforce makes life a little easier when the track gets slick. You stick a little bit better and with a bigger, more powerful motor, you're obviously going a lot faster."
California driver Carson Macedo easily shattered the all-time track qualifying record when the MOWA/IRA sprints made their first-ever appearance at Fairbury in July.
A year ago in a MOWA sprinter at Peoria Speedway, Bayston was a half second faster than that with a lap in the mid-10 second range while getting his feet wet in sprint car racing in a car fielded by fellow competitor Parker Price-Miller.
This season, Bayston has made a bigger plunge into sprint car racing, wheeling a car owned by versatile driver Kevin Swindell, who also serves as his mentor and crew chief.
In teaming with Swindell, Bayston is inheriting a ton of knowledge and racing experience on a number of levels. Swindell is the son of sprint car great Sammy Swindell, who rose to racing prominence as the chief rival to Steve Kinser in the World of Outlaws Sprint Car ranks, the nation's premier dirt track racing series.
Kevin Swindell is a four-time Chili Bowl midget champion, an accomplished sprint car competitor and a stock car winner in the ARCA ranks.
His driving career was put on hiatus when he was seriously injured in a sprint car accident at the Knoxville Nationals in 2015. Bayston is driving his car while he continues to recover.
"Ever since he was old enough, he was in the pits with his dad, so he's incredibly intelligent when it comes to sprint car racing," said Bayston of the opportunity to work with and learn from Swindell.
"An advantage of having him as a crew chief is he's also been behind the wheel and he knows first hand what you're going through. Plus, he's also younger (28), so we can relate pretty well on that level."
This weekend at Fairbury, they hope to add to the sprint car wins earlier this season at Attica Raceway Park and Muskingum County Speedway, both in Ohio and both on Tony Stewart's All-Star Circuit of Champions tour.
Overall, Bayston has 12 wins this year in a season that started with a pair of midget victories in New Zealand back in January. He's also piled up 36 podium finishes, 46 top 5's and 55 top 10's in 77 starts.
Driving for the powerful Keith Kunz Motorsports team with backing from Toyota, Bayston holds a 66 point lead over Oklahoma veteran Brady Bacon in the USAC National Midget Series title chase.
Three races remain, including the prestigious Turkey Night Grand Prix finale on Nov. 23 in Ventura, Calif., won a year ago by NASCAR Cup series front-runner Kyle Larson.
Bayston has been on a tear of late, winning his last four midget outings, including a victory in USAC's prestigious 4-Crown Nationals at Eldora Speedway on Sept. 23. He grabbed another USAC crown jewel with a win on the Belleville High Banks in Kansas on Aug. 5.
"We've been clicking off some really good wins lately," he said. "We've got a fairly comfortable lead. I just need to stay focused and not make any silly mistakes."