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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty, Vol. 16 – 2021 Bristol Dash

The A-Main: Devin Moran pounced when polesitter Ricky Weiss‘s handling started to fade with nine laps to go in Sunday’s rain-delayed Bristol Bash finale, prevailing on a lap 33 restart to win the $25,000 World of Outlaws late model feature. Moran joined Kyle Strickler as only the second repeat winner on the tour so far in 2021.

Moran’s win capped a truly underwhelming weekend for the WoO late models’ debut on the Bristol track (the series wasn’t being contested the last time Bristol was covered with dirt in 2001). Featuring the lowest car count of any race on the WoO schedule so far in 2021, track position proved key to both Sunday’s finale and Friday’s opening feature (won by Josh Richards). Though Jonathan Davenport and Jimmy Owens were both able to make ground in Sunday’s race using the high side of the track, the weekend was summarized by this stat: out of 12 heat races, last-chance qualifiers and features contested by the late models this weekend, 10 were won from the front row, and the remaining two won from third.

Rookie Strickler’s struggles continued this weekend, with the No. 8 team losing the points lead to Brandon Sheppard and the Rocket House car after a savage crash Friday night (more on that later).

The B-Mains

Not to be outdone, the DIRTcar modified support class put the “Dull” in “Brisdull” just as well as their late model counterparts. David Stremme and Strickler led Friday and Sunday’s $5,000 and $10,000 features flag-to-flag respectively. For a minute I thought I was at Martinsville, because all I saw was freight trains.

Stewart Friesen pounced on the high side of a lap 76 restart to run away from a dominant Tim Fuller to win the $7,500 Thunder in the Thousand Islands Super DIRTcar Series feature at Can-Am Speedway in New York Saturday night. A 100-lap event, in the lead proved the place to be; Erick Rudolph got side-by-side with Fuller for the race lead on lap 55 but couldn’t finish the pass, while no one was able to challenge Friesen once he got out in front.

The “Invasion of the Posse,” as Tuesday’s sprint car race at Bridgeport Speedway was dubbed, was thwarted by Australian Kerry Madsen, who took the lead from Pennsylvanian Tim Shaffer on lap 7 and survived a one-lap finale to win the mid-week’s biggest race, a $5,000 410 feature. 

James McFadden used the high side to take the lead from David Gravel on lap 11 and never looked back, weathering a restart with three laps to go to win the World of Outlaws feature at Kokomo Speedway in Indiana on Friday. McFadden led the white-flag lap the following night in WoO competition at Tri-State Speedway, but he came up inches short in a furious battle with Carson Macedo. Though the last seven laps were outstanding racing (and left McFadden angry enough to bump Macedo post-race), it was Tri-State’s hot laps that provided the photo of the race weekend.

Buddy Kofoid proved the hard charger of the weekend in any discipline, coming from 16th to win a messy USAC midget feature at Port City Raceway in Oklahoma on Saturday, pocketing $7,000 for the win. Kofoid’s win came in a disappointing feature race that was chock full of yellows after the night’s heat races proved some of the raciest events anywhere in the nation this weekend.

Selma, N.C.’s Dustin Mitchell led all 50 laps Saturday at Lake View Motor Speedway in Nichols, S.C. to win the $5,000 season opener for the Ultimate Super Late Model tour. Opting to run the late model feature first, the track remained one groove for the entirety of the late model race, with Jeff Smith, Matthew Nance and Corey Gordon all unable to challenge Mitchell despite the race winner admitting in victory lane that he spent the entire race running quarter throttle. 

Tommy Davis Jr. of Wills Point, Texas took home $5,000 for winning the Autism Awareness 40 at 82 Speedway in Petty, Texas on Saturday night. 

Success Stories

The way McFadden is running with his Kasey Kahne-owned team, one has to wonder if teammate Brad Sweet would be the points leader. McFadden was red-hot all weekend long during the WoO’s first swing into the midwest, showing strength on the bullrings that will make up the meat and potatoes of the tour’s summer swing.

Let’s also give a shoutout to Macedo, the driver that bested McFadden Saturday night at Tri-State, just because it provides the excuse needed to rewatch that feature’s closing laps again.

Remember a few weeks back how Harrisonville, Pa.’s Scot Sipes won for the first time in 15 years? Well, he’s now scored three feature wins in a row at Hagerstown Speedway. And he earned number three this Saturday.

Gettysburg, Pa.’s Danny Dietrich took advantage of a caution-free 410 sprint car feature at Port Royal Speedway Saturday. Fresh off a fourth-place finish, Dietrich and crew loaded up, drove 90 minutes south, and raced again that afternoon at Lincoln Speedway using the same car (he finished 11th). Dietrich, who reportedly drove the hauler to Lincoln in his firesuit, made more headlines this weekend for his commentary on the upcoming sprint car races at Bristol (more on that later).

Lastly, we’ll give a tip of the cap to Ashland, Ohio’s Ryan Markham for prevailing in a late model feature that topped the sprint car action Attica’s famous for. 

Vexed, Victims and Villains

Strickler managed to cap the weekend with a dominant win in Sunday’s modified feature, but it’s hard for him to call this weekend anything but vexed after wrecking early in both the late model and modified features at Bristol on Friday and losing the WoO points lead.

There are some cases where the good guy and bad guy are a black and white call. This was one, with Ryan Timms a complete victim of Thomas Meseraull, who spent most of Saturday night at Port City driving over his head.

After seeing his hard charger performance Friday night at Kokomo go all but unnoticed, Sheldon Haudenschild put on a clinic on the high side of the Tri-State that saw him go from ninth to the lead by lap 24 of the feature. However, shortly after taking the lead, Haudenschild was forced to pit from the lead with a flat tire, taking him from contention. That Haudenschild missed victory lane entirely this weekend was in no way representative of how the No. 17 team is running.

Also finding trouble at the front of a WoO feature, Gravel spun himself while running second with three laps to go Friday night at Kokomo. He finished 12th.

Ronda, N.C.’s Nance single-handedly made a mess of Saturday’s Ultimate late model feature at Lake View. Lap 1, Nance spun himself out in turn 2 after starting on the front row and collected several other cars in the mess. Mid-race, Nance completely overdrove turn 3 and took out second-place Gordon, forcing Gordon to retire from the race. And only two laps later, Vance brought out the yellow slowing down in turn 1…and got back up to speed soon as the yellow flag flew. 

Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regular Billy Moyer Jr.’s season took a major blow after the driver suffered a foot injury at home, per DirtonDirt. 

Theresa, N.Y.’s Lance Willix wins the wreck of the weekend award for those that weren’t racing at Bristol. Willix was not injured.

Lastly, while the weekend’s weather kept most of the East Coast wet, the folks at Southern Raceway in Milton, Fla. got the worst of it, with the track suffering heavy storm damage. 

Well just after getting most of the damage fixed from Sept Hurricane, this morning wind got us pretty good. 4 roofs…

Posted by Southern Raceway on Saturday, April 10, 2021

Frontstretch Regulars

Former ARCA Series regular Steve Arpin suffered a mechanical issue in the closing laps of his UMP modified heat race Friday at Bristol, costing him a transfer spot. Arpin would fail to transfer from Friday’s B-main.

Former Xfinity Series competitor Tanner Berryhill finished seventh in his USAC midget heat race Saturday at Port City, but failed to transfer to the feature from the B-main.

Former Xfinity Series regular Cale Conley transferred from the B-main and finished 15th in the 410 sprint car feature at Attica Raceway Park in Ohio on Friday.

Former Truck Series regular Joey Coulter failed to qualify for both WoO late model features at Bristol on Friday and Sunday.

Former Truck Series regular Tyler Dippel won his heat race and finished sixth in the modified feature Saturday at Orange County Fair Speedway in New York.

Truck Series regular Friesen put everything that makes him so good at racing center-modifieds on display at Can-Am Saturday, making his way through the top five by becoming the first driver on track to utilize the high side of the racetrack, and proving Hornaday-esque on the lap 76 restart that decided the race. 

Current Xfinity Series competitor Daniel Hemric made his micro sprint debut at Millbridge Speedway on Wednesday night and made a quick impression, hitting everything but the pace car in his heat race. Hemric finished in the back of the B-main and failed to transfer to the A-main.

Xfinity Series regular Brett Moffitt had his micro sprint come up limp in the closing laps of Wednesday’s B-main at Millbridge and failed to transfer to the A-main.

Former Cup Series regular David Reutimann scored top-five finishes in both DIRTcar modified features at Bristol this weekend.

Former Cup Series regular Stremme had a tale of two weekends at Bristol. Stremme pitched a perfect game on Friday, winning fast time, his heat and leading the feature flag-to-flag. On Sunday, Stremme lasted only three laps before getting caught up in Dave Wietholder‘s spin in turn 4 and enduring heavy front-end damage.

Fanning the Flames

It’s no secret that the dirt racing community has been operating in ZFG mode since last summer, but it’s getting out of hand when the World of Outlaws PA crew has to make repeated announcements telling fans, no, you can’t take the sponsor banners off the catchfence home with you. And yes, that’s what happened Friday night in Kokomo, Ind.

As much as Matt Yocum came off as a fish out of water covering dirt late models at Bristol for DirtVision this weekend, I can’t help but feel bad for him. Watching freight-train races and being partnered with a woman that came off as a lobotomized Aubrey Plaza didn’t give him a lot to work with.

After watching the top-six starters in Saturday’s crate modified feature at Lake View spin out on the opening lap on an anorexia-thin racing groove, I was totally onboard with the PA announcer’s plan to hand the victory to David Victoria, who started eighth but was leading after one-half lap. And that was before the 15-lap feature turned into a yellow-fever plagued ice skating competition.

Despite my avowed preference for late models, I will concede that the entire reason that the WoO late models tackled Bristol this weekend was because World Racing Group was besieged by demands for their signature sprint cars to tackle Bristol the second the dirt track was announced (go check out that Facebook post if you don’t believe me). Now that we’ve done it, let’s not do it again, because Bristol is too fast for dirt cars.

Friday’s feature was a parade that even Davenport, the hottest late model driver in America and the defending Bristol Dirt Nationals winner, couldn’t navigate. Both Strickler and Cade Dillard endured vicious crashes that left their teams to completely rebuild racecars (Dillard was essentially reduced to a start-and-park effort Sunday, as his No. 97 team had already endured a savage crash at Smoky Mountain last month). And as stated above, the stats don’t lie… passing was at a premium on the high banks.

The March 23 edition of Area Auto Racing News reported that 41 super late model drivers were expected to contest the Dash. Only 29 actually showed up for the weekend. There’s a reason for that, and rather than a talking head like myself making the point, I’ll let the same badass double-duty racing Dietrich that drove his own hauler from race to race this Saturday do the talking (check out his Twitter feed for some observations worth reading about what Bristol is expected to do to sprint car equipment).

In closing, the finale of the WoO Late Models “Bristol Bash” became the third straight dirt program at Bristol to be delayed by rain. The racing gods are speaking. Here’s hoping dirt racing is listening.

I’m behind commenting on this story, but that’s what happens when my monthly copy of All the Dirt Racing News falls between the seats in my pickup. One of the better promotion ideas I’ve seen in 2021 came courtesy of the Rice Lake Speedway, which over the course of the season is scheduling an increased dollar value purse for each of its regular classes. The catch? The track won’t announce which class is getting the pay bump until after heat races are completed. I hope this scores some good car counts for the folks in Rice Lake, Wis., because this is a cool idea.

So apparently in a bid to make the fugliest racecars on planet Earth even more hideous, several cars in the DIRTcar Sportsman feature at Can-Am on Saturday were running fluorescent lights in the back of the cars’ cockpits. Aesthetics always take a back seat in dirt racing (and for good reason), but there’s something very wrong when the inside of your racecar resembles the inside of the hauler.

All dirt fans know that East Bay Raceway Park will never be replaced when it’s closed, but I will say this… the view from the hill at Desert Thunder Raceway in Utah may give the turn 3 hill at EBRP a run for it’s money.

Numbers Game

4 – number of times Templeton, Calif.’s Kaleb Montgomery swore in his USAC West Coast sprint post-race interview (said interview lasted maybe 15 seconds). Consider it the equivalent of Billy Tanner‘s career-ending tirade at the 2007 Talladega ARCA race.

112 – number of dirt tracks confirmed or scheduled to have hosted oval-track events this weekend.

$25,000 – largest posted purse of the weekend, to win the WoO LMS Bristol Bash on Sunday.

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 the weekend two lukewarm Busch Lights. The sprint cars did some good stuff in Indiana this weekend and the heat races at Port City were fist-pumping good, but wasting my entire Sunday afternoon fighting off a nap to watch late models parade around Bristol made me feel like I was back on the NASCAR beat.

Up Next: The winged sprint cars headline the coming week, with the All-Star Circuit of Champions set for some Thursday Night Thunder at Virginia Motor Speedway on the 15th and a $10,000-to-win feature at Port Royal Speedway on Saturday. Meanwhile, the World of Outlaws return to their home track of Devil’s Bowl in Mesquite, Texas. Coverage of the AsCoC can be found on Flo Racing, WoO on DirtVision.

For the late model fans, Saturday will mark the third attempt for the Spring Nationals at I-75 Raceway to be run, with coverage on Flo Racing. The Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series returns to action with a pair of features at Hagerstown and Port Royal over the weekend, with coverage on MAVTV Plus.

Lastly, for modified fans, the Renegades of Dirt tour will contest the King of the Hill 50 at Hilltop Speedway in Ohio Saturday for a $10,000 top prize.

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