NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Bob Weikert Memorial at Port Royal

The Headlines

The end of a United States Modified Touring Series drought, Stewart Friesen frozen out and the Posse strikes back.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, May 30

Spotlight: 2021 Nordic Nationals (United States Modified Touring Series)
Where: Upper Iowa Speedway – Decorah, Iowa (streamed on Racin’ Dirt)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, Sunday’s highest paying race that didn’t involve this writer buying a ninth different streaming subscription.

Fayetteville, Arkansas’ Tyler Wolff ended a four-year drought of USMTS wins on Sunday, leading all 40 laps of the Nordic Nationals feature event to score his second career tour victory. 

Though Wolff led flag-to-flag, it wasn’t without a challenge; lap 26 of the 40-lap feature saw then-points leader Derick Ramirez get alongside Wolff on the backstretch, with Wolff forcing Ramirez up into the wall to hold the point. Wolff apologized for the run-in during his victory lane interview on Racin’ Dirt.

Ramirez would finish fourth in the feature, but lost the points lead when he got passed for position by Texan Rodney Sanders in the closing laps. 

With 27 full-time competitors and only three markers separating Sanders and Ramirez at the top of the heap, the USMTS may well be the most competitive dirt racing series being contested in the country at this point in the season.

Monday, May 31

Spotlight: 2021 Bob Weikert Memorial (All-Star Circuit of Champions)
Where: Port Royal Speedway – Port Royal, Pennsylvania (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $29,000-to-win, Monday’s highest paying race. A car count of 40-plus 410 sprints didn’t hurt either.

It took two rain delays to get to arguably the biggest sprint car race of 2021 thus far, and it was well worth the wait, with the Pennsylvania Posse finally scoring a major trophy in defending their home turf. The win came courtesy of long-time veteran Lance Dewease, who cruised to victory after a thrilling duel with Anthony Macri culminated six laps short of the finish when Macri pounded the turn 4 wall.

Macri, who had the fastest car at Port Royal this Monday (he won his heat race by half a straightaway despite starting seventh), had battled from 10th starting position to the race lead on lap 20 after throwing three consecutive slide jobs at Dewease.

Series points leader Tyler Courtney rebounded to finish third in the feature after being collected in a first-lap crash in his heat race.

Tuesday, June 1

Spotlight: 2021 Clash at the Can (Short Track Super Series)
Where: Penn Can Speedway – Susquehanna, Pennsylvania (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: The only dirt race streaming on Tuesday night.

Fresh off scoring his 400th career win at the Land of Legends Raceway this past weekend, Matt Sheppard continued his hot streak Tuesday night, taking the lead from Stewart Friesen on lap 9 of the 50-lap feature and weathering five yellow-flag restarts without issue to score the $5,000 win. 

Sheppard joined Friesen and Anthony Perrego as the third driver with multiple wins on the STSS circuit in 2021.

 

Wednesday, June 2

Spotlight: 2021 Ronnie Tobias Memorial (weekly racing program)
Where: Action Track USA – Kutztown, Pennsylvania (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: Because the Castrol Racing Night in America late model show in Florence, Kentucky was rained out.

The track that calls itself Action lived up to its name on Wednesday night, with a pair of SpeedSTR open-wheel midget races providing a ton of midweek fireworks. The first 20-lap event, which was marred by three red flags for flips in the final six laps of competition, saw Tom Mayberry score his first career SpeedSTR win in dramatic fashion, taking the lead from Jared Silfee on a restart… right after said race leader sent his son flipping in another battle for the top spot on the track. The elder Mayberry pulled no punches in victory lane, telling the crowd his son belonged in victory lane and calling out the track for failing to park Silfee after his incident on track.

Any chance of an evening sweep went out the window three laps into Wednesday’s second feature, when the elder Mayberry went for a nasty tumble on the backstretch. Instead, Alex Yankowski prevailed in a series of slide jobs that culminated seven laps from the checkers with his No. 7 car getting the better of former Tobias Memorial winner Brooks Danner, driving away to victory by nearly a straightaway.

Success Stories

The $29,000 Weikert Memorial was easily the biggest victory scored by the Posse in 2021, and for Dewease it was a vintage performance worthy of the Hall of Famer. That Dewease pre-race called out Macri for whining about a poor pill draw despite having the fastest car on the racetrack, then went out and bested him was just icing on the cake. 

Though it was a banner weekend for the Posse, the Outlaws are still proving to have mad Twitter game.

Kenny Miller III showed up so late for his micro sprint heat at Action Track Wednesday that he literally had to hop right in his car after arriving from his college internship. Miller did just that and proceeded to win his heat race (he would go on to finish third in the feature). Stay in school kids.

Watching Macri go from seventh to first and then drive away from the field with authority in his heat race was arguably the most powerful display Port Royal saw from any driver all weekend. Having said that…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Macri definitely pulled a Sheldon Haudenschild in the closing laps of Monday’s sprint feature at Port Royal, hitting the wall seemingly in every corner trying to run down DeWease. Yes, the giant right-rear tires on sprint cars will allow a driver to tap the fence in search of speed. But no, winged sprint cars are not 2008-era Cars of Tomorrow at Darlington.

The only driver with a prayer of challenging Macri for the hard-luck award at Port Royal was Bill Balog. Caught up in a bad enough crash during his heat race that Balog was unable to start the B-main and forced to take a provisional start for the feature, the No. 17 got involved in another incident on lap 21 in turn 2 that left the driver throwing his helmet down the banking in frustration. 

Pole-sitter Billy Decker proved to have nothing for Sheppard or Friesen at Penn Can on Tuesday night, but he was still in line for a podium finish in the Clash at the Can before being forced to pit from the third position with a flat tire with only five laps to go. Decker finished 15th.

It took until Sunday night of the USMTS tripleheader over the weekend for Ramirez to actually run like the series points leader (he was lapped during Friday night’s feature at Rapid Speedway), but a fourth-place finish Sunday was still not enough to keep Sanders from taking the lead in the series title chase.

Whether it was dirty or not was debatable, but there’s no denying that Silfee‘s move exiting turn 2 on lap 14 of the first SpeedSTR feature at Action Track on Wednesday night sent TJ Mayberry flipping. Those that believe in karma were likely sustained when Silfee went on a flip of his own after dropping like a rock through traffic on the ensuing restart only three laps later.

Fanning the Flames

Listening to the audio of Racin’ Dirt’s coverage of the USMTS was a stark reminder of just how loud watching auto races from a fairground grandstand with a roof on it can get. The things you forget being away from a racetrack for 15 months and counting.

Possibly an unpopular take, but it really felt like Port Royal holding a memoriam for racers that have lost their lives at the “Palace of Speed” felt like a bridge too far, an appropriation on a day where it’s very clear whose remembrance it’s meant for. It’s great for any racetrack to have a sense of history and respect for its competitors, but there’s plenty of other race days to commemorate it.

Speaking of Memorial Day, Tyler Courtney wins the firesuit of the weekend award. Badass.

It hasn’t been without hiccups, but there’s no doubt that the promoters and staff that have brought West Virginia Motor Speedway back to life after being abandoned for nearly a decade are trying to do things the right way. Their latest effort, waiving entry fees for super late model race teams in advance of this weekend’s Historic 100, may be partly necessity after a disappointing super late model field showed up for the track’s “Return” event a few weeks back, but nonetheless credit where it’s due. Port Royal earned a lot of well-deserved kudos this weekend for paying a full purse despite the Weikert Memorial race being run on a rain date. This move by WVMS is very Port Royal of them.

The races I’ve caught the last two weekends from Action Track USA in Kutztown are the first I’ve seen at the track ever, so I can’t say if the new configuration of the dirt oval for 2021 is better than 2020. I can say it’s a damn fine track for micro sprints. 

Now having said that… Action Track is hardly the first venue to run a program with “twin” feature races on the same night, but I don’t know how in any form of racing such a program can ever be anything but anti-climatic. Two A-mains is like getting an A-minus… yeah it’s good, but no good competitor can be happy with that.

And we’ll close sticking with the school metaphor. If there was one downside to what was a true sprint car classic at Port Royal on Monday, it was seeing the ASCoC bring all the joys of math class to the race, with qualifying points and passing points determining the lineup for pretty much everything up to the A-main. Flo Racing actually tried (for one heat race anyway) to try to give fans a live rundown of the passing points earned. That was welcome, and I wish it had kept up for all events leading up to the feature. But truth be told, races being broadcast that insist on using passing points really need a live graphics package to keep viewers appraised. Because if we’re going to insist on staging math classes at races, the least promoters/tracks can do is show their damned work!

Numbers Game

4 – spots lost by Bob Weikert Memorial polesitter Cory Eliason on the feature’s opening lap.

6 – flip count for Wednesday night’s midget program at Action Track USA.

27 – full-time cars on the USMTS modified tour, which is damned impressive given the series’ geographic footprint

87th – birthday being celebrated by Lance Dewease’s crew chief as he drove to victory at Port Royal Monday.

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 midweek four Budweisers in a red, white and blue can. Memorial Day Weekend was hardly a vacation for this writer, but a stellar sprint car duel at Port Royal can cure a lot of ails.

Up Next: They may not be the biggest money races, but Thursday night marks the kickoff of Indiana Midget Week. Coverage will be available on Flo Racing.

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