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Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Joker’s Wild at Eldora

The Headline(s)

Racing doesn’t stop in the Dakotas, momentum doesn’t stop for Spencer Bayston and the Joker’s Wild returns the King’s Royal festivities to Eldora.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Spotlight: Northern Outlaw Sprint Association Sprint Cars
Where: Huset’s Speedway – Brandon, S.D. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: The All-Star Circuit of Champions and Hell Tour programs both rained out Sunday night.

Sunday’s race at Huset’s seemingly mirrored a season-opening feature that saw Tea, S.D.’s Justin Henderson dominant up front only to fall to lapped traffic. The difference this time was that the close calls didn’t send Henderson spinning, and as such the driver of the No. 7 sprint car scored the 410 win on Sunday, his third at the track in 2021 and worth $3,000.

Henderson had an eventful feature despite his dominance in clean air, hitting the wall in turn 1 when avoiding Fargo, N.D’s Tim Estenson after he jumped the cushion and brought out the yellow on lap 10. He also got out of shape with two laps to on turn 2 exit as Rock Rapids, Iowa’s Jody Rosenbloom was running him down, however, Rosenbloom would clip the berm in turn 4 and lose momentum the same lap.

Henderson led 24 of 25 laps run on the night, losing the lead briefly while navigating lapped traffic on lap 16.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Dakota Classic Modified Tour
Where: Nodak Speedway – Minot, N.D. (streamed on RaceXR+)
Why We Chose It: The only race available for streaming Monday night.

Pahrump, Nev.’s Kollin Hibdon continued to epitomize the agony and ecstasy of racing on night number three of the Dakota Classic Modified Tour, leading 29 of 30 laps to score his second tour win of 2021 after winning the Tour’s opening race Saturday night at the Jamestown Speedway. Hibdon easily prevailed after a lap 28 caution flag that flew when West Union, Iowa’s Justin O’Brien jumped the banking in turn 2 and hit the tire wall near pit road exit.

For Hibdon, Monday’s win came after a disastrous night at Nodak the night before saw the modified fixture fail to advance to the feature after finishing eighth of nine in his heat race and running mid-pack in the night’s third B-main.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Brad Doty Classic (World of Outlaws)
Where: Attica Raceway Park – Attica, Ohio (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell on the same entry list.

Lebanon, Ind.’s Spencer Bayston has made the state of Ohio his personal playground, following up his first career All-Star Circuit of Champions win Saturday night at the Sharon Speedway with the biggest win of his career on Tuesday, stomping the field in the Brad Doty Classic World of Outlaws feature at Attica. 

Bayston made what would prove to be the race-winning move on lap 8, anticipating a block on the restart by leader Logan Schuchart and crossing over to the point exiting turn 2. From there, Bayston was never seriously challenged despite the best efforts of series points leader Brad Sweet, who finished second.

Tuesday night’s race marked the first time since 2019 that dirt powerhouses Larson and Bell squared off in a WoO feature, though neither proved to be a factor; Larson spun on lap 2 and became the first car in the field to retire with a faulty ignition box, while Bell never recovered from an early-race trip to the work area and finished 15th. 

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Joker’s Wild (World of Outlaws)
Where: Eldora Speedway – Rossburg, Ohio (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: It’s the prelim to the highest-paying dirt race of 2021.

The largest sprint car field to contest a WoO event in 2021 had nothing for Lemoore, Calif.’s Carson Macedo in clean air. Blowing past pole-sitter Brian Brown on the high side of turn 4 on the opening lap, Macedo led flag-to-flag to score the $10,000 win in the Joker’s Wild at Eldora.

Macedo needed less than a lap to get up to speed, holding a desperate slide job from Brown in turn 2 on the final restart with three laps to go at bay in driving off to victory. 

Wednesday night’s prelim feature to Thursday’s King’s Royal saw numerous cars suffer crumpled wing failures all throughout the field. Also of note, Larson for the second night in a row suffered mechanical woes, failing to finish his heat race after breaking a torque tube. Larson won the last chance qualifier race and battled from 21st to 10th in the 25-lap feature.

Success Stories

What more can be said about Bayston? Picked to replace a driver in Ian Madsen that was sitting second in ASCoC points when he was yanked out of the seat, Bayston won his first career races on the two premier 410 sprint car series tours in the country in a span of 48 hours against stout fields. And what better time to get momentum in Ohio than the week of the King’s Royal?

Fargo, N.D.’s Donny Schatz emphatically won Tuesday’s hard charger award at Attica, going from 22nd to fourth in the feature event.

Mooresville, N.C.’s Nick Hoffman won his 13th Hell Tour modified race in 13 starts Wednesday at Circle City. How dominant is his No. 2 car? The race ended with a one-lap green-white finish and he still won by nearly half a straightaway. 

Williston, N.D.’s Dalton Flory may have led Monday’s IMCA stock car feature flag-to-flag at Nodak, but the driver responsible for the most fireworks on the night was longtime stock car competitor Zachary Madrid of Phoenix, Ariz. Madrid, who entered Monday’s race leading the stock car division of the Dakota Classic tour, finished third despite driving over the banking in turn 1 on lap 1, being involved in a five-car pileup on lap 7 and being sent to the rear on lap 10 of the 20-lap feature for contact on the track. Attrition helped his case, but Madrid was arguably the raciest car in the field. Having said that…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Madrid’s penalty incurred on lap 10 for bowling over Lamar, Colo.’s Angel Munoz was well-deserved, as intentional or not it was one of the more brazen take-outs seen on a dirt track in recent memory.

Lemoore, Calif.’s Cole Macedo spun on lap 2, spun by himself on lap 4 and flipped on the frontstretch on lap 8 of Tuesday’s WoO feature at Attica Tuesday night. Enough said.

It’s hard to remember a night where NASCAR stars proved as completely irrelevant as they collectively did racing dirt this midweek. Tuesday, as previously discussed, Elk Grove, Calif.’s Larson succumbed to mechanical troubles, while Norman, Okla.’s Bell proved a non-factor the second he got mired in lapped traffic at Attica. Add in Dawsonville, Ga.’s Chase Elliott, who finished at the back of his USAC midget heat race and then spun out during the semi race at Red Dirt Speedway in Oklahoma, and it was a silent night for the big guns.

The trend continued Wednesday, with Larson again suffering mechanical failure, Stewart Friesen having to race his way into the Battle at Bloomsburg Short Track Super Series feature via a last-chance race only to finish 13th in a rain-shortened feature and Elliott getting rained out at Solomon County Raceway in Kansas.

The only driver perhaps wronged more than Munoz this midweek was Indianapolis, Ind.’s Tyler Courtney, who after showing strength in both qualifying and his heat race at Attica Tuesday got spun out racing for the lead with Schuchart early in the WoO feature. Courtney/Bayston would have been a barnburner.

Fanning the Flames

I’m still not going to subscribe to Kenny Wallace’s hyperbole from earlier this season that Kyle Larson has done more for short-track racing than any driver ever, but I will say this. It takes a hell of a driver to get Hendrick Motorsports so into dirt racing that they’re not only sponsoring a sprint car, but have essentially turned their No. 5 Cup team into the NASCAR equivalent of a “house car.”

I’ve had a hard time juxtaposing having watched some very competitive “stock” class races in 2021 with the fact that said stock cars always proved to be feathery wreck-fests at my home track here in Winchester, Va. Those memories came rushing back Monday night watching the Dakota Classic tour stock car feature at Nodak go yellow five times in the first 11 laps and see half the field parked by lap 10. Feature time always seems to be feast or famine in that class.

All the credit in the world for Eldora Speedway embracing the concept of having hot women in short skirts play a part in track festivities on a regular basis even in 2021, but watching one of the track girls walk Kerry Madsen to the microphone during opening ceremonies looked like the elf dragging Ralphie up to see Santa in A Christmas Story. 

The track staff at Attica Raceway Park ran a supremely efficient program Tuesday night that allowed the prestigious Brad Doty Classic to be completed less than 30 minutes before rain deluged the facility, no small accomplishment given a large field of 48 cars and a feature slowed by four cautions and a red flag in the opening eight laps. Fans took notice, as did the race’s namesake:

While I have no doubt that Doty is correct in that expediting race programs puts track staff to the test, I don’t necessarily agree that there’s a “middle ground” to be sought here. As much as I do enjoy spending my evenings at any dirt track, spending hours of time during intermission, lineups or track rework can often be laborious, especially when there’s no rhyme or reason to how long such activities are taking. If holding audiences captive to sell more concessions is being put into practice, there’s something wrong with the on-track product.

DirtVision’s commentary booth openly questioned whether the lap 6 incident between Schuchart and Courtney for the race lead at Attica on Tuesday involved any contact. This writer has no doubt there was. More importantly, the official WoO Twitter handle definitively said there was. 

The funny part of all of this is that intentional or not, the commentary booth on DirtVision, a streaming service owned by the same entity that owns the WoO, showed more independence than billion-dollar networks show covering NASCAR. 

I burst out laughing listening to a public service announcement reminding folks not to smoke in public areas at Eldora Wednesday night. My last visit to the track was eight years ago and I still haven’t gotten the cigarette smell out of my lawn chair from that evening. Such is hardly specific to Eldora, but the real question I’d ask is which policy is more laxly enforced at dirt tracks…no-smoking or mask mandates?

Anyone that’s read this feature knows by now that Nick Hoffman has put modified fans to literal sleep with the level of dominance he’s displayed on this year’s Hell Tour, such that he’s already all but clinched the title (Hoffman has won 13 tour races, with the tour taking a driver’s top-12 results) with more than a month left on the schedule. Boredom aside, St. Charles, Mo. modified racer Kyle Steffens offered some of the financial insight into what Hoffman’s obliteration of the field means for the competition.

No wonder the field wasn’t full Wednesday night at Circle City. 

A late-race caution at Gondik Law Speedway in Wisconsin Tuesday night produced a nail-biter of a finish, with points leader Brandon Sheppard holding off current runner-up Chris Madden by a literal nose. It’s not often that a series has an individual race that proves such an effective microcosm of an entire campaign.

Numbers Game

1 – car in the field in Hell Tour late model heat No. 4 at Circle City Raceway that wasn’t involved in an opening-lap pileup.

3 – flip count from 305 sprint car racing at Huset’s Sunday night.

39 – sportsman modifieds forced to race in consi features at Bloomsburg Wednesday night. 

56 – 410 winged sprint cars entered for Eldora’s King’s Royal, by far the largest entry list of the 2021 WoO season.

$390 – winner’s share of the 50/50 at Nodak Monday night.

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 midweek three and a half Eldora Toilet Waters. As great as it is to have so much racing during the midweek, for all the prestige of the sprint car races run the last few days none will go down as classics.

Up Next: Two King’s Royal races at Eldora. Even this late model supremacist will concede this is a weekend for sprint cars. Coverage of the richest 410 races of 2021 will be available on DirtVision.

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Tom B

Is there something about the Madsen’s Brothers attitude that keeps them losing decent rides? Years ago at Eldora I heard them talking, saying F**k the fans. On a positive side they are very talented Sprint Car Drivers.

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