NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek

The Headline(s)

Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek, featuring Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson and the Pennsylvania Posse.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Jackson Nationals (World of Outlaws)
Where: Jackson Motorplex – Jackson, Minn. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $50,000-to-win, by far Sunday’s highest-paying race.

David Gravel was able to best defending Jackson Nationals champion Logan Schuchart on the first two starts of Sunday’s feature, but the race’s only restart coming after lap 1 saw Schuchart run off and hide from the field, easily scoring a $50,000 win that was by far his biggest of the 2021 season and his second consecutive in the Minnesota event. 

Schuchart cemented his win during a mid-race stretch that saw lapped traffic bunch up the top-five cars in the lead pack, navigating lap traffic more effectively than any other car in the field. 

Aaron Reutzel, who was eligible for a $100,000 bonus after winning the Huset’s 50 last week, failed to crack the top 10 in any of the three features at Jackson, including Sunday, and never contended for the big money.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Drydene 30 (Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek)
Where: Lincoln Speedway – Abbottstown, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: The first chance to see Bell vs. Larson in a real dirt race since the Chili Bowl.

Justin Peck’s midseason pause after a crash has done nothing to slow down the No. 13, as Peck went flag-to-flag to win Monday’s sprint car feature among a stacked field of 40 410 sprint cars at Lincoln. 

While Peck was untouchable up front, there was plenty of side-by-side racing to be had, highlighted by a ferocious battle between Robbie Kendall and Larson for the runner-up spot that wasn’t decided until the final lap. With triple-digit heat scorching the racing surface at Lincoln (to the point that Flo Racing’s broadcast suffered technical issues throughout the early parts of the evening), the track nonetheless remained racy all night long. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Hodnett Cup (Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek
Where: Grandview Speedway – Bechtelsville, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, Tuesday’s highest-paying race.

Brent Marks held off Larson for 27 consecutive laps Tuesday night, but a late-race restart after Paul McMahan stopped in turn 4 inside of 10 laps to go in the feature was all the hottest driver in America needed to seize the lead with seven laps to go, motoring away to score his second consecutive Pa. Speedweek win at Grandview. 

Larson’s win marked the seventh consecutive season that either he or Bell has won the Hodnett Cup race at Grandview.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek
Where: Port Royal Speedway – Port Royal, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $7,000-to-win, Wednesday’s highest-paying race that didn’t involve this writer buying a 12th streaming subscription.

Larson had to “run his ass off” to score the win, but he did just that in dramatic fashion Wednesday night at Port Royal. Starting seventh after a bad redraw, Larson prevailed in an early-race battle with Rico Abreu, then trading blows with leader Lucas Wolfe late before taking the lead for good with two laps to go.

The top-five battle at Port Royal was good from beginning to end, with Posse regulars Danny Dietrich and Lance Dewease waging a ferocious battle for position in the closing laps.

The points chase for Pennsylvania Speedweek took a major turn during this race, with both the top two in points suffering early issues; Marks brought out the first caution on lap 3 with a mechanical issue, while Anthony Macri got caught up in a wreck with a lapped car while leading on lap 8 that sent his No. 39 to the pits for the night. Dietrich left with the points lead after his third-place finish.

Success Stories

Larson. The wins speak for themselves, but when the notoriously salty Pennsylvania Posse crowd can be heard exclaiming “what a driver!” after Larson stole a Port Royal win from said Posse, that’s about as high a praise as there is for a sprint car driver.

Ryan Godown definitely benefitted from lap traffic in keeping the rest of the 358 modified field at Grandview at bay Tuesday night, but the right man won that race. Between his heat race and the first half of the feature, I’m not sure Godown ever lifted until he had to actually navigate lapped traffic.

I’m not sure which drive was more impressive, Peck’s flag-to-flag win at Lincoln or his 10th-place finish at Grandview on Tuesday after getting spun in Bell and Jeff Halligan’s tangle in turn 2 eight laps into the 35-lap feature. Either way, Peck and the No. 13 are back up to their early-season speed.

It maybe unfair to Peck, but his triumph at Lincoln Monday night was overshadowed by a stellar drive by Kendall in keeping a high-side Kyle Larson at bay for 20-some-odd laps and prevailing to finish second in the feature. Kendall hit his marks lap after lap, be it to blunt Larson’s repeated crossovers coming off the turn 4 cushion or to keep up momentum when having to continually change lanes on turn 2 exit. Kendall’s composure behind the wheel was damned impressive to watch.

Not only was Dewease’s runner-up finish impressive in that he was the only driver in the field that seemed able to make the low and middle lane of Port Royal work on Wednesday night, but that his crew did it without making any adjustments after spending all their downtime chasing down a fuel-pickup issue that forced them to scratch from the race at Grandview last night was something else. Dewease has to be the favorite for the $15,000-to-win feature at Williams Grove coming up Friday night.

I have to agree with SprintCarUnlimited’s Jeremy Elliott, I’m not sure that I’ve seen a sprint car hauler better laid out than that of Dietrich. 

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Wreck of the midweek definitely goes to Beaver Dam Raceway, and it came with late models doing acrobatics they were not made to do. A terrible wreck for Thomas Hunzicker, and Cade Dillard’s worst hit since arguably Smoky Mountain back in early spring. Watch the tape… fortunately both drivers were OK.

Macri wrecked out of the lead in Wednesday’s sprint car feature at Port Royal when he was unable to avoid a spinning lapped car. A replay was not available, but the PA announcer said another six inches would have had Macri clear the wreck. Life’s a game of inches…

Winning both the Huset’s 50 and the Jackson Nationals was going to be a tall order for any World of Outlaws driver, given that the money involved made for a deep field of cars and that Huset’s and Jackson couldn’t be more different racetracks if they tried. Having said that, for Reutzel to finish outside the top 10 all three nights at Jackson and never contend for a feature win, much less a six-figure bonus, has to be viewed as an abject failure.

Fanning the Flames

The exact opposite of an abject failure were the efforts of the track prep crews at both Lincoln and Grandview Monday and Tuesday nights. For both tracks to experience the unseasonable heat they did and still be able to keep their race surfaces intact and racy for the length of their programs was a job well done. 

If Port Royal Speedway has taught racing on the East Coast anything over the past few years, it’s that there is always something to improve. And to their credit, they’re usually already improving it by the time someone finds it. Not this time. Whoever put a ’50s-sounding cover of Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” in the track PA for the second URC heat race pace laps needs to be banished. From all dirt tracks. In America.

For those that aspire to work in track safety, this first-person video capture from the Lincoln Speedway on Monday night is worth a watch.

The “King of the Hill” part of the Jackson Nationals program Sunday was as confusing and unnecessary a race feature as I’ve seen in 2021. I don’t care if you’re the World of Outlaws or the amateur sports car drivers that used to make laps at Texas World Speedway, if you need a freaking flow chart to describe your face format it’s too damn complicated. Besides, Chase-era NASCAR should scare any race-promoter away from anything resembling a bracket.

Matt Weaver penned an excellent feature for Flo Racing this week chronicling the seeming reversal in the Hendrick Motorsports camp that all but openly endorsed Larson running tons of dirt races while also competing in a Cup car full time. Reading these words coming from the Hendrick camp is peak 2021.

I’ve seen it at my local dirt track. I’ve seen it on paved short tracks. I’ve seen at the Cup level. There’s no getting around it, there will always been fans with pit passes that don’t follow rule No. 1, which is to keep your head on a freaking swivel and stay out the way of racecars while in the pits. Having said that, this is a poor freaking take.

Having spent years on the NASCAR circuit where getting a pit pass often took as much paperwork as buying a house, there is no positive argument to be made for limiting fan access to the competitive field. Not to mention that it’s really hard for me to take seriously complaints about danger from a form of racing where pit crews routinely show up to the track in shorts, smoke around race fuel and climb under heavy racecars without jack stands. 

Yes, pit road and work areas can and should be crowd-controlled; I’ll never forget having to help Joe Nemechek’s crew shove their way through Danica-maniacs on pit road at Daytona International Speedway in 2010 simply to get their fuel cart to the Sunoco station under green-flag conditions. But if there truly are situations emerging where the pits are being oversold and overrun, that falls on the racetracks failing to take responsibility for their home turf, not race fans sticking their noses where they don’t belong. And given that I fell out my chair laughing at the PA crew at Volusia Speedway Park back in February asking fans to socially distance after they all but sold out their grandstand, I’m inclined to point the finger at said tracks. Crowds getting bigger? Yes, that means hiring more track staff. Promoting and getting fans in the door is important. So is maintaining a sustainable competitive environment with said crowd present.

Numbers Game

10 – number of points Dietrich leads Marks by in the Pa. Speedweek standings as of Wednesday night.

35 – 410 sprint car count at Port Royal Wednesday night.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): This midweek is getting five ice cold Yuenglings. The rescheduled Jackson finale wasn’t worth the purse tied to it, by my God the 410 sprint car feature at Port Royal Wednesday night was one of the top-five dirt races of 2021, regardless of car type. Phenomenal racing. 

Up Next: The Hell Tour rages on, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series returns to battle mother nature and sprint cars continue their rampage through Pennsylvania. Take your pick.

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3 Comments
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Echo

“what a driver” I just enjoy watching him race, same as the Posse.

DoninAjax

Any one who hasn’t seen the Outlaw Sprints live is missing out on watching great drivers and really fast race cars.

Tom B

What was Kyle Larson trying to do to McIntyre, car 33, after he passed him at the checkers? It looked intentionally dangerous.

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