The A-Main: Call it Bristol Redux. On a high-banked Tennessee dirt oval, “Superman” Jonathan Davenport bested “Yung Money” Kyle Larson, leading all 75 laps Saturday night (April 3) to comfortably win the $21,000 Lil’ Bill Corum Memorial race at Tazewell Speedway.
“Superman” Jonathan Davenport @TheFast49 climbs out of his @LonghornChassis $21,000 richer after winning the @SoNationals Lil’ Bill Corum Memorial at @Tazspeedway! @PRNAtTheTrack pic.twitter.com/RZ9XHnndDI
— Jack (@JackCofer94) April 4, 2021
Davenport was untouched up front in scoring his third $20,000-plus victory of the 2021 season. Larson was able to close within a few car lengths of Davenport prior to a lap 15 caution for Michael Chilton losing a wheel, but after the ensuing restart, Larson was able to get nowhere close. Instead, he was forced to battle with another Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regular in Tyler Erb to hold onto second.
Davenport’s margin of victory ended up being nearly half a lap.
“Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce will go down on paper as having dominated the 75-lap finale of the Illini 100 at Farmer City Raceway in Illinois Saturday, but the reality of his first career World of Outlaws Late Model win was a lot closer. Pierce, in fact, ran roughshod over the field for much of the event, leading the first 70 laps of the feature while holding off spirited charges from both Chris Madden early and Ricky Thornton Jr. in the later laps.
The complexion of the race changed on lap 71 when the caution flew after Thornton pounded the turn 4 wall after jumping the cushion. On the ensuing restart, Robeline, La.’s Cade Dillard got the best of Pierce for the race lead by navigating the bumps of turns 1 and 2 smoothly, forcing Pierce to pull one of the power moves of the season on lap 74 to re-secure the lead and the $20,000 win.
— World of Outlaws Late Models (@WoOLateModels) April 4, 2021
Pierce’s victory capped a stellar weekend performance at Farmer City for Illinois drivers, as Friday night’s $6,000 WoO LMS feature also produced a first-time winner in Manhattan, Ill.’s Mike Spatola. Spatola held off both Pierce and ARCA Racing Series dirt winner Ryan Unzicker for his first career touring series win.
It was the exact opposite story in World of Outlaws sprint car competition, with national series figurehead and defending series champion Brad Sweet sweeping the weekend’s two $10,000-to-win features at Federated Auto Parts Speedway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. Though he weathered a challenge from fellow veteran Kraig Kinser and benefitted from Donny Schatz’s mechanical woes on Friday, Sweet led flag-to-flag in dominant form on Saturday, becoming the first driver to win a WoO from the pole in 2021 while scoring his fifth win in only 11 races.
Series veteran Terry Phillips became the first repeat winner on the USMTS modified tour Friday night at Hamilton County Speedway in Webb City, Iowa, scoring the $5,000 win after New Mexico’s Johnny Scott endured a poor restart with eight laps to go. Saturday night’s $10,000 feature went to Rochester, Minn.’s Dustin Sorensen, who prevailed on the high side with three laps left when race leader Jason Hughes washed up in turn 3.
Monrovia, Ind.’s Justin Peck won the return to action for the All-Star Circuit of Champions Saturday at Attica Raceway Park in Ohio, besting Zeb Wise on the high side of turn 2 on lap 28 of the 40-lap feature to score the $6,000 win.
Sweet. See above. There’s no racecar driver in any discipline that’s in better form right now than the driver of the No. 49 sprint car. And sponsor NAPA Auto Parts had to be thrilled running wild on Federated Auto Parts Raceway.
Yes, I mentioned this Thursday, but the pass that Oskaloosa, Iowa’s Cayden Carter put on to win the opening round of the IMCA Frostbuster Tuesday night at Stuart Speedway is worth watching again. Carter followed that up by comfortably winning the second Frostbuster race at Iowa’s Marshalltown Speedway over the weekend and finishing second at Benton County Speedway Sunday afternoon.
The PA crew at Benton County referred to the high side of the track as being “the top shelf where they keep the good stuff.” In that vein, a shootout to two drivers that put the high side to unsung good use. First, to Chelsea, Iowa’s Dallon Murty, who ran a line two lanes higher than any other competitor at Benton County to get within a car length of victory despite starting near the back of a 15-lap stock car feature; Murty posted an average finish of 1.33 in stock car competition during the Frostbuster weekend. Second, to late model standout Rick Eckert, who owned the high side of the Farmer City Raceway to win his last chance qualifier WoO LMS race on Friday night.
Monroe, Wash.’s Dylan Resch became the latest local racing driver to end a long drought, returning to victory lane for the first time in eight years in the season opener at Deming Speedway on Friday.
It was announced Saturday night at what was scheduled to be the “last dance” at Arizona Speedway that track officials have reached an agreement to continue racing at the facility through November 30, 2021.
The track promoter acknowledged that November 30, 2021, will be the end date for the track, which had already begun selling off its equipment in anticipation of closure. However, knowing that the track and racing community now have six months not only to race, but to figure out a future without the speedway, is a major accomplishment. Arizona Speedway is also one of the few tracks out there that make their weekly racing programs available on pay-per-view. I’d strongly suggest catching a show at imca.tv at some point this season. There’s not a better racing surface in America.
Vexxed, Victims and Villains
Hanover, Pa.’s Jacob Allen finished 18th at I-55 on Saturday, a finish notable only because it marked the first time in four WoO events that he avoided a self-induced incident. After flipping from the lead at Cotton Bowl Speedway two weeks ago and again while running in the top five at Lake Ozark last weekend, Allen spun himself out while running in the top five at I-55 on Friday night. That pattern of results has Allen sitting 11th in points without a top-five finish; by comparison, teammate Logan Schuchart has a win and 11 top-10 finishes while sitting second in points.
Schatz, for the second time in 2021, had a sure-fire WoO victory slip through his fingers thanks to mechanical failure. Friday night at I-55, Schatz led the opening 17 laps and was proving the best in the field passing lapped traffic before coming up gimp on a lap 18 restart. Schatz and his Tony Stewart Racing ride have been up front all season long, but the durability issue is proving enough to keep their 2021 campaign in third gear.
It wasn’t deliberate, but the results don’t lie. Redding, Calif.’s Max Mittry slowing on the frontstretch during Friday’s 360 sprint car feature at Ocean Speedway in California ended up collecting teammate Chase Majdic while he was leading the race. Majdic ended up finishing a distant 10th after the contact.
WoO LMS rookie Kyle Strickler maintained the series points lead leaving Farmer City, but that’s the only way to quantify the weekend a success. Strickler, whose notable struggles on the tight confines of East Bay Raceway Park during Speedweeks led him to switch from the LOLMDS to the WoO LM tour for the 2021 season, ended up having to use provisionals to qualify for both Farmer City features this weekend, failing to crack the top 10 in either event. Of note, Strickler went through a crew chief change this week at the 25th hour.
Lastly, those that found the flooding at the Bristol Motor Speedway spectacular can eat their heart out. Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Ga. had to cancel their weekend’s racing for being literally underwater.
Here’s to a quick recovery for the facility.
Former NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Cale Conley won his heat race Saturday at Attica but faded to 14th in the ASCoC sprint car feature.
Former Camping World Truck Series regular Tyler Dippel finished sixth in the season-opening modified race at Orange County Fair Speedway in New York on Saturday.
Truck Series regular Stewart Friesen was forced to retire early from Saturday’s modified race at Orange County after on-track contact. He finished 17th.
Cup Series regular Larson finished second to Davenport in a last-minute late model entry at Tazewell Speedway on Saturday. Larson has posted an average finish of 1.67 in dirt late model A-mains in 2021.
Former Cup Series regular Ken Schrader went three-wide middle on a late-race restart to win the UMP modified feature at I-55 Saturday night. Schrader, who immediately asked for a beer after exiting his car in victory lane, told a raucous crowd, “I might be the oldest, but I’m not the slowest yet.”
Cup Series regular Ricky Stenhouse Jr. finished fourth and fifth in USAC midget competition in his namesake race at Riverside International Speedway in Arkansas on Friday and Saturday night.
Former Cup Series regular Kenny Wallace finished 16th in Saturday’s USMTS A-main at Hamilton County on Saturday night. Wallace missed a transfer into Friday’s A-main at Hamilton County on Friday by one position.
Fanning the Flames
Farmer City Raceway isn’t the first track to pull this stunt, but let’s be very clear on something: A 25-lap feature on Friday and a 75-lap feature Saturday does NOT equal the Illini 100. There’s nothing wrong or lacking with calling a major super late model race “The Illini.” Any race with 100 in the title better go for 100 laps or 100 miles, dirt or asphalt.
California sprint car driver Dominic Scelzi joined the DirtVision crew as a color commentator for the races at I-55 this weekend. I’m not wishing for any talented driver to get out from behind the wheel, but Scelzi did a really bang up and composed job offering a driver’s take on the races. A very welcome addition to the booth.
If you ever wanted to see the dirt racing equivalent of Richard Petty’s 1970 crash at Darlington that led to NASCAR mandating window nets, you’ve got a sick mind. Unfortunately, such a moment was captured this weekend in support class racing at Lancaster Motor Speedway. I’m not getting on a soapbox as to what should be done here. The photos speak for themselves.
Easter weekend seems as good as any for more sprint car sacrilege. As I’ve stated previously since I started on this dirt beat, I’m a proud Southerner, and with that territory comes the title of late model supremacist. Given the choice between a 602 crate late model race and a 410 sprint car race, I’d be torn harder than most.
Having said that, I’ve tried really hard to get into wingless 410 sprint car racing, watching events at California, Brownstown, Ind. and the USAC East Coast sprints season opener at Bridgeport in New Jersey this weekend. I’m not disputing the talent required to drive the wingless cars, nor their ability to produce slide jobs and passing on-track. Having said that, I can’t get past just how unimposing the vehicles are as they race. For as much noise as they make, put these cars on a half-mile and they borderline resemble midget cars, almost indistinguishable to the naked eye. Tradition aside, man has been flying since 1903. Put wings on these things.
More sprint car sacrilege. If we can’t put starters on sprint cars, maybe we can at least get them a tip assist bar to aid drivers that end up going over during competition. After all, the landing from a tip assist bar can’t be any rougher than the Ocean Speedway track crew were shoving flipped sprint cars right-side up this weekend.
75 – the number of laps that constituted the finale of the “Illini 100.”
197 – number of cars that showed up to contest the “Last Dance” at Arizona Speedway.
$21,000 – largest posted purse of the weekend, for the Rick Corum Memorial super late model feature at Tazewell on Saturday.
Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans, with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): We’ll give this one three and a half Bud Lights after Davenport chugged one in victory lane at Tazewell Saturday night. Three for a spate of mostly competent but unremarkable races across the different disciplines. The extra half goes to welcome news in the Arizona desert and classic Schrader in victory lane.
Up Next: We’re going, going, back, back, to Bristol, Bristol. The World of Outlaws Late Models head to the high banks for the Bristol Bash, culminating with a $25,000 feature on Saturday night. Of note for race fans, streaming coverage of the event on DirtVision will be provided for free.
For those late model drivers not fortunate enough to get invited to Bristol, the rescheduled Spring Nationals will be contested at I-75 Speedway Saturday for $10,053 to win, with streaming provided on Flo Racing.
For those in the open-wheel ranks, the World of Outlaws sprint cars will contest a pair of $10,000-to-win features at Kokomo and Tri-State speedways. Lastly, the center-drive modifieds of the Super DIRTcar Series will tackle the Can-Am Speedway for $7,500 to win.