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Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Ohio Sprint Car Speedweeks & the Im’POSSE’ble

The Headlines

The Posse does the impossible in Pennsylvania and Kyle Larson does Kyle Larson as sprint cars invade Ohio.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Spotlight: The ImPOSSEble
Where: Action Track USA – Kutztown, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: 410 winged sprints on this track is like putting Cup cars back at Bowman Gray Stadium. 

In a first-of-its-kind event, winged sprint cars took to the tight confines of the quarter-mile Action Track at the Kutztown Fairgrounds Sunday night, and the winner was no surprise, with 360 sprint car ace Mark Smith scoring the victory, taking the lead on a restart with 15 laps to go after leader Ryan Taylor biked his car exiting turn 2 and driving away.

Smith, who won the race driving an underpowered 360 sprint car in a 410 feature (more on that later), was perhaps the favorite of the Pennsylvania Posse drivers that entered the event; Smith has spent the past several seasons driving an outlaw 360 schedule, poaching races on the USCS sprint car tour that routinely tackles dirt tracks across the South that seldom if ever host sprint car races. If there was a driver in the field that would be suited to adapt to a new venue fast, it was Smith.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Spotlight: All-Star Circuit of Champions
Where: Wayne County Speedway – Orrville, Ohio (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: The only dirt race in America streaming on Monday night. And the hottest driver in America was on the entry list.

Slow and steady isn’t normally how Larson wins races, but the hottest driver in any form of motorsports in America did just that in grabbing yet another trophy Monday night, methodically navigating through traffic before catching and easily dispatching of leader Zeb Wise with five laps to go, grabbing a $6,000 victory and a trophy taller than the driver himself. 

Though Wise insisted that he felt he had given the race away to Larson with the lane he took on track, there was little doubt watching Larson cut through the bottom of turns 1 and 2 that the fastest car in the field won the feature.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Spotlight: All-Star Circuit of Champions
Where: Sharon Speedway – Hartford, Ohio (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: Because we were hoping Dave Blaney would be there to defend his World of Outlaws win at the track just a few weeks back. Shame he didn’t show, because…

Lightning certainly didn’t strike twice at the Sharon Speedway on Tuesday night. Only a few weeks removed from an instant classic sprint car feature that saw Blaney best Sheldon Haudenschild on the final lap, the ASCoC failed to deliver a similar feature. Instead, Danny Dietrich capitalized on track position on a track surface that was visibly slick even as the green flag dropped, leading flag-to-flag to win Tuesday’s feature. 

Series points leader Tyler Courtney caught Dietrich within the first 10 laps of the feature, but never was able to mount a serious charge for the lead even in lapped traffic as the track groove remained narrow all night long.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Spotlight: All-Star Circuit of Champions
Where: Waynesfield Raceway Park – Waynesfield, Ohio (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $6,000-to-win, Wednesday’s highest paying dirt race.

Wednesday night fortunately saw the return of a racy surface to ASCoC competition, and with that another Larson victory. Larson, who started on the front row, ran away from the competition until the yellow flew on lap 10 when DJ Foos jumped the banking in turn 2. Six laps after the restart, a run that Larson described his driving as “sloppy,” Rico Abreu pounced, using the low side of turn to get alongside Larson and pull a slide job in turn 3, leading lap 16. 

The move, which brought the crowd to its feet, awoke a sleeping giant. Larson pulled the exact same move on Abreu a lap later and never looked back, scoring his second win of Ohio Speedweeks and the 14th of his career. Larson, who after winning at Wayne County on Monday night said he was coming for Dale Blaney’s record of 32 Ohio Speedweek wins. It was a joke; Larson’s win Wednesday was his 14th on tour. Blaney met up with Larson in victory lane after the race.

Success Stories

Despite not winning a feature of yet in Ohio, Courtney‘s performances have been consummate for a points leader. 

That Abreu has not yet scored a win in 410 sprint car competition this season is in no way indicative of how he’s run across the Midwest over the last month. There are very few sprint car drivers anywhere in America that have managed to take the fight to Larson the way he did Wednesday night. 

Garrett Williamson’s Wednesday night at Waynesfield was not the traditional definition of “success,” but it was a noteworthy piece of driving nonetheless to be able to drive a sprint car away from this.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Dave Brown was responsible for more fireworks than he’d likely wish to have been in the 410 feature at Kutztown Sunday night. Lap 1 saw Brown, while running second, drive directly across the nose of race leader Billy Pauch, triggering a melee that ended Pauch’s evening. Continuing on, Brown proceeded to spin himself out in turn 3 18 laps later when trying to pass Taylor for the race lead. 

Fanning the Flames

Credit where it is due. Turn 4 exit proved hazardous at race speed for the 410 sprints, but at night’s end the show that the Posse put on at Action Track was certainly a viable racing product, and something the well-patronized midweek facility deserves to have. The ImPOSSEble was one of the more unique events 2021 has seen, and an experiment that was a success. Kudos to those who made it possible, and especially to the sprint car drivers that showed up to contest it.

And while on that story, as stated above, it’s no surprise that the race was won by the veteran Smith. But while there’s no rule against doing what he did running an underpowered 360 sprint engine in 410 competition, the question needs to be asked… should sprint car drivers be allowed to run undersized engines on tight tracks where the lack of such horsepower could actually be an advantage? If I drove a 410 against a 360 on a track that’d small I’d feel at a disadvantage. Races billed as 410 shows should be contested by 410 cars.

What Richard Allen said.

This past Saturday night was an interesting one, as the 100-lap Dream dirt race was running almost simultaneously with the 100-lap debut SRX feature at Stafford. Though Scott Bloomquist will be in the field this weekend and Tony Stewart’s brigade will be tackling the stellar Knoxville facility, I doubt I’ll be tuning in, because Saturday night’s SRX show put me to sleep.

Throw my obvious bias towards dirt racing out the window… Eldora put Stafford to shame on an objective level. The heat races at Eldora had consequences for those that didn’t finish up front. The SRX heats had to rely on a season-long points chase (that wasn’t even broadcast) to make their heats relevant. The dirt late models stayed side-by-side longer, both at the front and through the field, than Ray Evernham’s latest contraption. And there was objectively more passing occurring on the Eldora banks. If SRX is the future of short-track racing as Doug Coby put it, the bullrings are in a hell of a lot more trouble than we thought.

Speaking of preliminaries being significant, it was awesome to see the ASCoC tour a) have enough cars to field a C-main and b) utilize a race format that ran a C-main instead of two B-mains to set the field. If there’s one thing the Chili Bowl gets right, it’s that alphabet soup is as tense a race as can be set up.

Anyone that’s driven I-80 through Ohio knows full well that the state can resemble a place where God just got lazy making the Earth, but that still doesn’t explain the level of technical difficulties that have plagued Flo Racing’s telecasts of Ohio Speedweeks so far. Audio issues, fuzzy images and on one evening a complete lack of scoring tickers due to multiple transponder failures are not the type of problems one expects to see at the peak of the dirt racing season.

That’s literally the only negative thing I’ll say about Flo Racing, and here’s why. Anyone that follows dirt racing knows that the infamous DirtCar Summer Nationals (aka the Hell Tour) kicked off Tuesday night, and anyone reading this will realize I didn’t recap those races. There’s a reason for that… namely that DirtVision waits damn near a week to make video replays available. As such, when real life made it so I couldn’t sit down to watch a race Tuesday night, I was left with no means to watch said race, and I’m not going to do analysis on a race I didn’t see. Look, I get that selling ads to an audience that’s forced to watch live events is preferable, but it’s 2021. There’s no reason DirtVision can’t make replays available with ads built in that can’t be skipped. Flo Racing events will continue to get more exposure on outlets like ours as long as they remain the pinnacle of accessibility for dirt racing streaming services.

As I wrote earlier, I am firmly convinced that Larson was faster than Wise in winning the ASCoC feature at Wayne County Monday night. What I’m not sure of is whether anything Larson’s crew did to his car under the “open red” had anything to do with that speed. For those not familiar, in sprint car racing, tracks have the option to go to “open red” if cleanup of a major wreck goes long, meaning that crews can make adjustments and add fuel under a red flag. I struggle with this as a concept. On the one hand, sprint car racing officiating is very consistent… when a car tips over or flips, the red comes out, period. Consistent officiating means that the “open red” isn’t open to manipulation to benefit certain race teams, like it would be if NASCAR ever employed it. But, open reds also mean that crews that miss a setup get a second bite at the apple based solely on another driver’s misfortune. That does sort of cheapen a feature. Then again, Larson would have won anyway.

Lastly, this late model supremacist has to reference the fendered cars at least once. Mark Whitener getting a quality super late model ride in a major race is AWESOME news and will be a story worth watching come Lernerville.

Numbers Game

1 – number of laps Abreu was able to keep Larson at bay at Waynesfield Wednesday night.

6 – how tall in (feet) the trophy Larson won at Wayne County Monday stands.

9.743 – seconds that it took Tyler Reeser to set a track record at Action Track Sunday night.

10 – minutes the red flag lasted when Justin Peck and Ian Madsen tangled in ASCoC competition at Wayne County Monday night.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): The midweek gets three and a half chilled Three Floyds Dreadnaughts. The suspense of a truly new sprint car race at Kutztown was canceled out by a truly pedestrian return to Sharon Speedway.

Up Next: The “summer of money” kicks into full gear with both World of Outlaws tours, the United States Modified Touring Series and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series all contesting features, but none are bigger than the $17,554-to-win Dean Knittel Memorial that will end the All-Star Circuit of Champions’ Ohio Speedweek on Saturday night. Coverage will be available on Flo Racing.

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Tom B

Open Red should be in all motor racing. It benefits the fans in the stands. It is not the racers fault that a red flag was thrown.
Dumb thought about not allowing 360’s in a 410 event. You must be someone who tries to find something offensive everyday.

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