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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty, Vol. 19: 2021 Hawkeye 100 at Boone

The A-Main: Put a 100 in the race name, and Bobby Pierce is proving to be the man. Fresh off his Illini 100 win at Farmer City Raceway a month ago, Saturday night  (May 1) saw Pierce pass Billy Moyer Sr. for the race lead on lap 30 of Saturday’s Hawkeye 100 at Boone Speedway and never look back.

Pierce, who weathered three late-race cautions with picture-perfect restarts, triumphed in a long-distance race that played out very different from the Illini race, where Pierce dominated only to face a fierce challenge in the closing laps. Saturday’s race opened with a bang, as Moyer and Kyle Strickler staged a furious side-by-side battle for the lead in the opening 10 laps. The racing up front for the lead was hot and heavy until Pierce took the point at lap 30, and from there the race calmed down.

Brandon Sheppard finished third and expanded his points lead over Chris Madden, who came home sixth.

The race made history as the first World of Outlaws Late Model feature to go green with a three-wide start (more on that later). Cade Dillard and Shannon Babb won Friday’s prelim “Twin Hawk” features.

The B-Mains

Defending World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet is on a Kyle Larson-esque tear to start 2021, winning all three WoO sprint car features this weekend in come-from-behind efforts. Thursday night (April 29), Sweet prevailed in a beat-‘em-up bullring show at the Jacksonville Speedway in Illinois, capitalizing when leader Sheldon Haudenschild lost the lead with a flat right-rear tire in the closing laps. Sweet came from ninth to first to win the first feature at I-70 Motorsports Park outside Kansas City Friday night, then again jumped Haudenschild on a restart with three laps to go Saturday to win the weekend’s final feature. Sweet leads the WoO points after the weekend, having won eight of the first 17 races on the season.

Superman Jonathan Davenport picked up right where he left off in West Virginia last weekend, winning Friday night’s $12,000 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at the Ponderosa Speedway in Kentucky. Davenport led the opening 18 laps of Saturday’s LOLMDS feature at Florence Speedway before Hudson O’Neal bested him for the race lead. O’Neal was strong out front, but lap 57 saw a determined effort by local racer Josh Rice pay off, with Rice using lapped traffic to pin O’Neal and make what would be a racing winning pass. 

The $15,000 triumph was by far the largest of Rice’s career, and his first LOLMDS race win.

Stewart Friesen used a harder tire selection to his advantage Tuesday night, taking the high side around Matt Sheppard inside of 10 laps to go to win the $5,500 Diamond State 50 Short Track Super Series race at Delaware International Speedway. 

Dale McDowell led flag-to-flag to win the $5,053 season opener super late model feature at Crossville Speedway in Tennessee on Friday night in what proved an underwhelming race. McDowell’s car was fast, but the Chickamauga, Ga., driver was bailed out on multiple occasions during the 40-lap race; McDowell’s car proved a handful dealing with lapped traffic, but a Cory Hedgecock spin while batting for the lead on lap 25, plus a flurry of late-race cautions, kept McDowell from ever having to navigate lappers to score the win.

Even though Justin Peck left the state of Pennsylvania, his red-hot luck came along to Ohio with him. Peck made mincemeat of the All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car field at Sharon Speedway Saturday night, easily taking home the $6,000 feature.
Toilet Bowl winner Tanner English cemented Clarksville Speedway in Tennessee as his personal playground, leading all 53 laps Saturday night to win the $10,053 Spring Nationals super late model feature. Selinsgrove, Pa.’s Blane Heimbach won the ASCS National sprint car tour feature at Selinsgrove Speedway, besting a field that included Pennsylvania 360 sprint car aces Tim Shaffer and Mark Smith.

Success Stories

Three straight wins. Eight wins in the first 17 races of the season. Fact: Sweet is the hottest sprint car driver in America.

Rice must have thrown 25 slide jobs on O’Neal before lap traffic finally gave him the window he needed to make the race-winning pass Saturday night at Florence, but that persistence paid off in more ways than one. Rice was convincing in scoring the biggest win of his career on Saturday, a triumph that surprised no one. Said fourth-place finisher Tyler Erb, Rice “has the been the fastest car here (at Florence)” for a while.

The 23-car starting field at Boone on Saturday night all deserve credit for navigating the completely indulgent and unnecessary “three-wide” start of the Hawkeye 100 late model race without incident (more on that later).

Sheffield, Mass.’s Andy Bachetti swept the season openers for both modified classes at Lebanon Valley Speedway in New York on Saturday.

The modifieds that look like racecars instead of aluminum siding saw several drivers end long losing streaks this weekend. Carlos, Minn.’s Chris Mensen scored his first career WISSOTA modified win after seven years of competition at the I-94 Speedway Friday night. That almost paled in comparison to Altoona, Kan.’s Brad Jarman, who broke a 16-year losing streak in a uniquely painted modified at the Humboldt Speedway in Kansas.

Jarman takes Zebra car to victory lane after 16 yrs

Posted by Humboldt Speedway on Saturday, May 1, 2021

Save of the weekend goes to Mike Glasscock at the Farmer City Raceway. Check out the video’s comments for a still photo capture of how airborne his late model got.

Vexed, Villains and Victims

On the other side of that spectrum, outside of Mason Daniel’s violent wreck at I-70 Speedway Friday night (more on that later), wreck of the weekend went to Daison Pursley for a nasty flip in USAC midget competition at the Kokomo Speedway Saturday.

For the second consecutive weekend, lapped traffic proved murder to Hedgecock’s super late model. This weekend, Hedgecock got the short end of the stick as both he and race leader McDowell battled for the point through lapped traffic at Crossville.

Haudenschild lost two sure-fire victories in the closing laps of WoO competition this week. Thursday night saw Haudenschild cut a right-rear tire while leading inside of 10 laps to go at Jacksonville, while Saturday saw Haudenschild bested on a late-race restart after leading the opening 28 circuits at I-70. For as dominant a season as Sweet is having on the WoO tour, if Haudenschild ever finds luck to match the speed of his No. 17 fans will have a real points battle on their hands.

Strickler proved to be vexed and victimized all weekend long at Boone Raceway. After an ugly qualifying run on Friday, Strickler executed a power move to win his heat race in WoO late model competition on Saturday and prevailed in a ferocious 10-lap opening battle for the lead with Moyer Sr. in the Hawkeye 100 feature. But any hope Strickler had at turning his season around went out the window on lap 23: having already lost the lead to Moyer, Strickler was flat taken out in turn 2 after Ricky Weiss completely overdrove the corner. Strickler would later lose a tire to bring out the yellow flag on lap 38, then was reportedly dumped in the closing laps in an incident that DirtVision’s cameras missed. Strickler leading the series points seems a distant memory at this time in the season.

The comments on this Facebook post from the Bakersfield Speedway page after Friday night’s IMCA racing event led me to watch the fifth modified heat, then to read the track’s rulebook. Six readings later, I still don’t know who the vexed and victims are. But the villain appears to be just as much a confusing rulebook as the flagman social media chose to go after.

Frontstretch Regulars

Former NASCAR Cup Series regular Dave Blaney won a heat race and finished third in All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car competition at the Sharon Speedway in Ohio on Saturday.

Former NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Cale Conley finished 14th in Saturday’s ASCoC sprint car feature at Sharon on Saturday.

Former Camping World Truck Series regular Tyler Dippel finished ninth in Tuesday night’s Diamond State 50 modified race after transferring through the consi race. Dippel returned to competition and finished 10th in Saturday’s big-block modified feature at the Orange County Fair Speedway in New York.

Truck Series regular Friesen’s hot streak in big-block modified competition continued this week. Only days removed from becoming the first driver to win the first three races to start a Super DIRTcar Series season, Friesen scored his second consecutive Diamond State 50 victory in Delaware Tuesday night.

Cup Series regular Larson looked human in World of Outlaws sprint car competition this weekend. Thursday night saw Larson spin in the closing laps after running a half-lap out of control, both slapping the turn 4 wall and driving directly into the path of leader Carson Macedo in turn 1. Friday night, Larson was directly involved in an early-race incident at I-70 Speedway in Missouri that saw Daniel shoot headfirst into the turn 4 wall before violently flipping. Daniel took responsibility for the incident, though the replays sure made it seem like Larson cut across Daniel’s nose. Regardless of fault, Larson’s average finish in a dirt car this weekend was 9.67, the worst weekend he’s had in 2021.

Former Cup Series regular Ken Schrader cut down a tire while leading the modified feature Friday night at Poplar Bluff Motorsports Park in Missouri. Schrader still managed to finish third.

Fanning the Flames

If the quality of the writing from Saturday night isn’t up to snuff this week, I apologize. That’s what happens when arguably the three biggest features of the weekend are all going at the same time on streaming apps that don’t offer next-day replays. DirtVision and MAVTV Plus both offer high-production values that do the series they cover justice, but not when one set of eyes has to keep their eyes on three screens. To every dirt streaming service out there, please take a page out of Flo Racing’s book and make replays available as soon as the event is over. Embed ads if you have to. There’s nothing to be gained by making viewers wait until Monday or Tuesday of next week to see races that by then have been talked about.

The only video of the incident picked up late in the scuffle, and having watched the replays from Jacksonville Speedway that triggered this fight a half-dozen times I’m still not sure why Aaron Reutzel and Wayne Johnson were this angry at each other (see below). But to Kevin Harvick, Matt Kenseth and every other pansy in a NASCAR garage that has either gone into a fight with a helmet on or attacking an opponent from behind, take note. If you’re going to fight someone, square up to their face and do it. Thank you dirt racers for keeping it real.

Oh, and this too.

While we’re thanking dirt racing, thank you Dodge City Raceway Park for keeping the tradition of the trophy girl alive. Yes, it does make the victory lane pictures look better.

The inaugural Hawkeye 100 WoO late model race deserves credit for actually being a 100-lap race. Where the event got the math wrong was all the gimmickry thrown into the mix. Friday night required dusting off an algebra textbook to figure out the event’s “points,” where points were assigned to drivers based both off of qualifying and two preliminary feature races (only one of which awarded actual WoO series points). Those points then set the field for Saturday’s heat races that set the actual finale starting lineup. That feature then decided to utilize a three-wide starting formation a la the Indy 500 despite the Boone Speedway being a tight bullring that the commentary booth made a point of saying was lacking in real estate. And all of that mess for a field of cars so small that every late model in attendance made the main event. Keep it simple, stupid.

Friday night at Crossville Speedway in Tennessee saw late model driver Phil Helton make his way to the grandstands after failing to transfer to the A-main event. Happens all the time at your local dirt track. What I haven’t seen happen before is for the track PA to ask said driver to leave the grandstands immediately … because Helton had his car’s transponder on his person and was screwing up timing and scoring. Fortunately for Crossville, McDowell’s dominance up front made scoring an elementary affair that night.

Considering that both times in my life that I’ve seen what is now I-70 Motorsports Park the racetrack resembled a trailer park after a tornado took up residence, to see the track renovated and up and running this weekend was a very welcome sight.

A marvelous transformation. 👏👏I-70 Motorsports Park was rundown, overgrown & essentially left for dead. Now, it’s back…

Posted by World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series on Friday, April 30, 2021

When you could actually see the track, at least; the lights in turn 3 cut out during the racing program Saturday night, and DirtVision lost their signal at the track for over an hour despite being within easy driving distance of metro Kansas City. But the most striking image of the weekend? The gargantuan catchfence on the track’s frontstretch. The T-rex fence in Jurassic Park was smaller.

We’ll close with our Facebook win and loss of the weekend. The win goes to I-80 Speedway in Nebraska, which has made a point this season of stating “our races will not be streamed” when there is no coverage to be had. That is proving a necessary adaptation, as dirt track pages across the country are being flooded every weekend by spam artists promising streams that don’t exist. Note to dirt fans, if a guy whose name is a string of 10 consonants that lists his home address as Tehran says he has a “pure stock” stream for you, be smarter than that.

For the FB loss of the weekend, we’ll take a quick jaunt south to the Salina Speedway in Kansas. The track did a good thing in posting the rationale for a controversial officiating decision in their Friday night Hobby Stock feature. The problem? Said posting also had a large bulletin at the bottom of it stating the track had limited who was allowed to comment on said posting.

So we will attempt to clear up the white elephant in the room. During the Hobby Stock race the #77 was taken out in…

Posted by Salina Speedway on Saturday, May 1, 2021

The appearance of impropriety is almost always worse than any alleged impropriety.

Numbers Game/h2>
70 – largest single-class car count, the Pure Stocks at Deep South Speedway in Alabama Saturday night.

171 – largest total car count, at 141 Speedway in Wisconsin Saturday night.

$30,000 – largest posted purse of the weekend, to win Saturday’s Hawkeye 100 at Boone Speedway.

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 four Coors Lights on ice. A legitimate 100-lapper, a race of the year candidate at Florence and the return of I-70 Motorsports Park to racing were notable events worth watching.

Up Next: The coming weekend is highlighted by the two-night Dairyland Showdown at the Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Wisconsin, culminating with a $20,000-to-win feature for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series Saturday night. Coverage will be available on DirtVision.

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