NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Don Smith Classic at Terre Haute

The Headline(s)

Tyler Courtney and Rodney Sanders build on points leads, Logan Seavey makes Indiana Sprint Week “Seavey Week” in the Don Smith Classic and the mighty Brandon Overton is vanquished in Iowa… just barely.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Spotlight: All-Star Circuit of Champions
Where: Humboldt Speedway – Humboldt, Kans. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $6,000-to-win, Sunday’s highest-paying race that had a replay available for viewing this week.

ASCoC points leader Tyler Courtney has been red-hot coming off a King’s Royal win at Eldora, but was riding a nearly two-month losing streak on the ASCoC circuit heading into Sunday night’s feature at Humboldt. That streak came to an end late in the feature, with Courtney throwing a slide job in turns 1 and 2 that got the best of Visalia, Calif.’s Cory Eliason, leaving “Sunshine” to score his sixth tour win of 2021.

Turn 1 was the hot spot at Humboldt Sunday night, as it’s where Eliason lost (and nearly won) the race. Lap saw Angola, Ind.’s Zeb Wise wash up the track and make heavy contact with race leader Hunter Schuerenberg, forcing both drivers to back off to save their cars and clearing the way for Eliason, who went from the third row to first in the opening two circuits. 

Courtney would finish fourth in Tuesday’s ASCoC feature at I-70 Speedway in Missouri to further extend his points lead over Eliason.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Spotlight: Texas Monday Series
Where: Texas Dirt Track – Fort Worth, Texas (streamed on RaceXR+)
Why We Chose It: Because this writer was already scheduled to cover wingless sprints Wednesday night and opted to take a modified feature on Monday for the sake of variety.

Texas modified powerhouse Rodney Sanders continued to bat a thousand in outlaw modified competition for the Texas Monday Series, scoring his third win in as many events for the series for a cool $2,500. 

Rodney did it again! Congratulations on a Race 2 victory on Sunday night. #TMSatTMS

Posted by Texas Dirt Track on Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Sanders won the race two laps into the 20-lap feature, going to the high side first of any driver in the field and driving from fourth to first in turn 2 on the second lap never to look back. Special credit needs to go to the track prep crew, who delivered a racy surface despite extreme temperatures.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Hoker 50 (MARS Racing Series)
Where: Davenport Speedway – Davenport, Iowa (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, Tuesday’s highest-paying dirt race

Tuesday night’s regional touring series event turned into a national showcase for super late model racing, with Brandon Overton and a slew of Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regulars making the trip to Iowa. The feature turned out to be one of the better races of the summer, with LOLMDS regular Hudson O’Neal besting Overton by 0.026 seconds at the line to score the win (yes, that first photo was taken on the last lap).

Las Cruces’s N.M.’s Stormy Scott led the opening 26 laps, but soon after a lap 24 restart, O’Neal produced a monster run on the high-side of turn 2 that Scott had no prayer of stopping to take the race lead for good, running a line that fellow series regulars Jimmy Owens and Ricky Thornton Jr. struggled to stick during the feature. Two- and three-wide racing was prevalent throughout the top five, but the race’s defining moment came when the yellow flew with two laps to go when Bloomington, Ill.’s Justin Feger slowed on the frontstretch.

The ensuing restart saw O’Neal go high and Overton low, with Overton making up ground on the leader both laps before coming up a nose short at the finish line. Had this race been 51 laps long, “Big Sexy” would have topped the “New Deal.”

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Don Smith Classic (Indiana Sprint Week)
Where: Terre Haute Action Track – Terre Haute, Ind. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $6,000-to-win, Wednesday’s highest-paying dirt race. And why miss the return of wingless sprints to the site of 2021’s wreck of the year back in May?

Justin Grant made a race of it late in the going, but in the end Sutter, Calif.’s Logan Seavey led all 30 laps of Wednesday’s USAC national sprint car race at Terre Haute, scoring his third consecutive Indiana Sprint Week victory in the process, becoming the first driver since Kevin Thomas Jr. in 2013 to accomplish that feat.

Following a lap 10 red flag, Grant threw a massive slider through turns 1 and 2 that got him ahead of Seavey momentarily, but Seavey got a great run on turn 2 exit that nullified Grant’s efforts. Grant eventually ran down Seavey and got within three tenths of a second of the No. 5 car with four laps to go, but a bad run through turns 3 and 4 spoiled any shot he had at stealing the feature win.

Success Stories

In case a King’s Royal win wasn’t proof enough, another stretch of races with a win and top-five finishes aplenty continues to validate Courtney’s decision to run winged sprint cars in 2021.

The lap 26 pass that O’Neal made to win Tuesday’s Hoker 50 was authoritative. It takes nothing less than that to best Brandon Overton in a super late model.

Three races into the Texas Monday Series, and I’ve seen zero indicators that Sanders will lose an outlaw modified race this summer.

Having laid waste to the Hell Tour modified division all summer long, it was a welcome change to see Mooresville, N.C.’s Nick Hoffman make a step up into a super late model, even if it unfortunately came to pass because veteran Scott Bloomquist had to step out of his car with an apparent nerve issue in his leg. To Hoffman’s credit, he ran very well, posting a top-10 finish in Bloomquist’s car at Davenport Tuesday night.

The save Schuerenberg made to keep from flipping on lap 2 of Sunday’s ASCoC feature at Humboldt was masterful. Having said that…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

It shouldn’t have happened. Intentional or not, Wise ran all over Schuerenberg’s No. 55 as he was leading the feature.

San Jose, Calif.’s Thomas Meseraull lost an engine with two laps to go while leading his wingless sprint car heat at Terre Haute Wednesday night and was done for the night. Broken Arrow, Okla.’s Cannon McIntosh later topped that level of misfortune, flipping on the first lap of the semi while running third.

Former NASCAR Truck Series competitor Bo LeMastus hit for a cycle of sorts in modified competition at Terre Haute Wednesday, spinning out in hot laps, spinning out in his heat race, getting collected in a multi-car wreck on the first lap of the feature and then wrecking in turn 4 later in the event.

Tempe, Ariz.’s Sterling Cling endured the worst flip of Wednesday’s program at Terre Haute midway through the semi race, though Greenwood, Ind.’s Chase Jones took a vicious hit in the door in the resulting melee. Fortunately both drivers walked away, though Jones appeared to be shaken when he entered the track ambulance.

Fanning the Flames

I truly pity the marketing and decal folks that have to come up with visible, effective paint schemes to put on wingless sprint cars. The Tyler Sturgeon Racing entry is a rare example of success in that regard.

Some of the unfortunate fallout from this past weekend’s Silver Dollar Nationals is that the days of the I-80 Speedway in Greenwood, Neb. may well be numbered. Though the original report from the Lincoln Journal Star irritated track ownership per a report by Outside Groove, it does seem that industrial development has the days of I-80 just like those of East Bay Raceway Park down in Florida… numbered. From where I’m sitting, this one hurts even more than EBRP’s eventual closure because unlike the Florida bullring, I-80 is a pristine facility. Don’t jump down my throat, I know EBRP’s a special place, but the walls literally were falling down this Speedweeks.

With industrial and residential development alike continuing to nip at the heels of dirt tracks across the country, I couldn’t help but think watching the Monday night races at the Texas Dirt Track (which for those that don’t know is on the campus of the Texas Motor Speedway) that such tracks on larger sites are going to become a literal necessity for the sport. There’s only so many safe spaces left for motorsports venues these days, and as much as I don’t want NASCAR and its circus clowns touching dirt racing, if putting dirt tracks on superspeedway campuses provides dirt racers with reliable places to race, so be it. Having said that, this better not become an expectation of race fans anywhere:

Though there were times it led to the commentators getting distracted, I’ll give RaceXR+ credit for getting creative in allowing those streaming Monday night’s race program at Texas the ability to pick the music that played during the pace laps before each heat and feature. But, if this is going to be a thing moving forward, please mute the race control radios. Commentary, music and radio chatter simultaneously is too much even for today’s ADD-addled society.

Speaking of race control at Texas, here’s an adage learned Monday night. If a driver pulls out on the track for the wrong heat race, there’s something wrong with the driver. If three drivers pull out on the track for the wrong heat race, yes, there’s something wrong with the lineup.

Presented without commentary. When NASCAR puts big crashes in their marketing, they get scolded by millions that go all Mark Martin on superspeedway racing. When current USAC national sprint car points leader Brady Bacon puts his altitude-defying wreck at Terre Haute back in May on a t-shirt, he gets lauded for creativity and marketing prowess. 

Numbers Game

2 – flip count in the USAC sprint car semi at Terre Haute Wednesday night.

12 – laps the modified feature at Terre Haute went on Wednesday after being trimmed from 15 due to multiple on-track incidents

19 – super late models entered in Sunday night’s Southern Nationals feature at Rome Speedway in Georgia (Randy Weaver led flag to flag)

36 – wingless sprints entered for Wednesday’s Don Smith Classic at Terre Haute

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 four Wango Tangos from Terre Haute Brewing Company. Tuesday’s Hoker 50 was one of the best late model races in recent memory, and the Terre Haute sprint car show Wednesday night benefitted from a great surface but ran too long thanks to a marathon modified undercard race.

Up Next: There’s no shortage of $10,000-to-win late model and sprint car races this coming weekend, but all eyes of Thinkin’ will be on the Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois, where the World of Outlaws Late Models will be racing for a $50,000 top prize Saturday night. Coverage will be available on DirtVision.

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