NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Prairie Dirt Classic at Fairbury

The Headline(s)

Sunshine at the Missouri State Fair, Natural Bridge Speedway racers wanna be like Tony Stewart and the Prairie Dirt Classic sees Kyle Larson makes history … again.

Our Feature Spotlights

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Ron Ditzfield Memorial (All-Star Circuit of Champions)
Where: Missouri State Fair Speedway – Sedalia, Mo. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: Fair races are special. $10,000-to-win fair races even moreso.

Australia’s Kerry Madsen kept it close on two late-race restarts, but Indianapolis, Ind.’s Tyler Courtney’s surging move past Zeb Wise on lap 8 was all she wrote in Thursday’s 30-lap feature. The driver they call “Sunshine” scored his seventh tour win of 2021 and his 12th consecutive top-10 finish. 

Courtney’s lap 8 move came as Wise attempted to use the low side of turns 1 and 2 to avoid lapped traffic, a move that brought his No. 10 car to a screeching halt.

While the win allowed Courtney to extend his series points lead, the highlight of the night went to Wise, who shortly after losing the race lead endured a violent roll-over that saw his car leave the racetrack over the turn 2 fence (the driver was uninjured).

On the ASCoC front, Madsen turned the tables on Courtney later in the weekend, scoring victories at the 34 Raceway and Knoxville Raceway in Iowa.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Race to Cure CF (American All-Stars Crate Late Models)
Where: Natural Bridge Speedway – Natural Bridge, Va.
Why We Chose It: For this writer, lifetime track No. 97

Natural Bridge, Va. – Lynchburg, Va.’s Justin Williams capitalized on starting up front in Saturday night’s feature, leading all 40 laps from the pole to score a $2,500 triumph in the nightcap of a four-class program at Natural Bridge. 

Justin wins tonight at Natural Bridge Speedway in the American All-Star Series Presented by PPM Racing Products special…

Posted by Justin Williams Motorsports on Friday, July 30, 2021

Williams, as with the other drivers at the front of the field, were given a golden opportunity when Winchester, Va.’s Devin Brannon, who had the dominant car of the night after posting fast time in qualifying and winning the dash, failed to cross the scales and was relegated to a sixth-place starting position. By the time the crate feature took the track, the surface at Natural Bridge had taken significant rubber and passing was at a premium (all four features contested at the track Friday night were won flag-to-flag by the polesitter). 

As with the ASCoC show at Missouri State Fair Thursday night, the highlight of the evening came courtesy of a wreck. During late model qualifying, Jeff Witt got high entering turn 1, jumping the guardrail and landing his racecar in the trackside pond. Witt was unharmed, though track officials noted they would not be able to recover the car until after the conclusion of Friday’s racing program.

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Prairie Dirt Classic (World of Outlaws Late Models)
Where: Falsbury American Legion Speedway – Falsbury, Ill. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $50,000-to-win, Saturday’s highest-paying dirt race.

A ferocious battle between NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson and current Hell Tour late model points leader Bobby Pierce ended with Larson in the lead and the caution flying on lap 32 for Pierce’s quarterpanel flying off his car. That was all she wrote. Though Pierce was able to close in the final laps, Larson won the 100-lap Prairie Dirt Classic in dominant fashion Saturday night.

The $50,000 win was the biggest ever win for Larson in a late model, a race that he stated he never thought he’d get a chance to race or win in victory lane. The zinger of the night came courtesy of Pierce during his post-race interview, telling a crowd that wasn’t entirely behind him that by finishing second, “he still made more money than everyone in the stands booing.” 

Success Stories

I was shocked to see Waynesboro, Va.’s Logan Roberson relegated to the B-main for Friday’s American All-Stars race at Natural Bridge (he would go on to win said B-main). I was not shocked to see of all the drivers in the field that it was Roberson that found a way to make passes on the high side, going from 10th to fifth in the feature, including besting Brannon in the closing laps.

Nick Hoffman’s wheel covers may well be hypnotic, but it’s the driving that’s keeping him relevant. 

Winning a last-chance showdown and qualifying for the Prairie Dirt Classic main event in a Bloomquist Racing car that’s been well off the pace in 2021 has the modified ace primed for a promotion this season or next.

Williams followed up his Natural Bridge win with a pro late model victory at Virginia Motor Speedway Saturday night.

Of all the places for Versailles, Mo.’s Ayrton Gennetten to have his best run of the season, the Missouri State Fair was the place. Gennetten’s third-place finish was convincing on the high-speed fair track, his first podium of the year in ASCoC competition. Gennetten continued to show progression with a heat race win at Knoxville Saturday night.

Of all his many accolades, this is quite the feat for Larson.

However, is that the story of 2021? The stats listed here are a little out of date, but for the second straight year a NASCAR regular is challenging the dirt racing community for the unofficial title of most dominant driver in the sport. Camping World Truck Series regular Stewart Friesen has quietly amassed a stellar 2021 campaign, one that he added to with another modified win at Utica-Rome Speedway in New York Friday night (Friesen finished third at Fonda on Saturday). He keeps this pace up for a couple more months and those numbers could end up Larson 2020-esque.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Both Wise and Witt not only managed to get their cars airborne over the catchfences at Missouri State Fair and Natural Bridge, but both also managed to land their cars in thickets doing so. I don’t know what the weather has been like in Missouri, but I can guarantee you Witt is happy that those of us in the Shenandoah Valley are in the middle of a drought. … Had the water level in the Natural Bridge pond been up, his late model would have taken a bath. 

And while on that note, I don’t know that a cornfield qualifies as a thicket, but the fact remains that Sean Rayhall did more damage to crops at Butler Speedway in Michigan Saturday night than any deer ever could.

Bradenton, Fla.’s Kyle Bronson was proof positive of the mercurial nature of this sport, following up his Silver Dollar Nationals win at I-80 last weekend by failing to qualify for the Prairie Dirt Classic after crashing out of his last-chance qualifier. When the field is more than 70 late models deep, there’s tons of talent that goes home early.

It’s not the first time this has happened in 2021, but late-race trouble happened again. Sheldon Haudenschild was leading the World of Outlaws feature in Weedsport, N.Y., Saturday night with two laps to go when he ran into the back of the lapped car of James McFadden, spinning himself out with two laps to go and handing the win to David Gravel.

Fanning the Flames

Prior to the start of Friday’s American All-Star Series feature at Natural Bridge, series officials tossed Frisbees into the crowd that had a driver identified on them. The fan that caught the winning Frisbee got to go trackside for victory lane ceremonies to have a meet and greet with the race winner. That’s a simple, low-cost and personal way to get fans involved. There isn’t a level of racing out there that couldn’t benefit from something similar.

Anyone else feel robbed when Justin Allgaier and six-time Hell Tour modified champion Mike Harrison essentially took each other out of the modified feature at FALS on Saturday night, leaving Hoffman to win his 19th Hell Tour win in 20 starts? It’s to the point that I’m off to do laundry any time I see DIRTcar mods on the racetrack.

Both Hoffman and Larson romped during the modified and late model features at Fairbury on Saturday, but the famed FALS racing surface was in stellar shape and did allow for racing all over the track by the rest of the pack. Problem is, DirtVision seemed to get tunnel vision during their coverage of the feature races, especially in the second half of the late model event.

I hate to get all NASCAR on y’all, but with a field that stacked in a 100-lap race, yes, some through the field would have been nice.

I’m still not sure how Matt Whitten was allowed to continue racing in the late model feature at Natural Bridge Friday after he got out of his car, threw his helmet and attempted to confront Buck Roadcap following an early-race incident. But the larger issue with helmet throwing on Friday came in the street stock feature courtesy of the driver of the No. 12 (as of this writing the track has not posted full results from the street stock program), who hid behind his car and jumped out to throw his helmet at a passing car. 

Two issues here. One, the impact of the gesture gets lost when a driver throws his helmet at a car that’s already beat up enough to be racing in a street stock feature, then hustles down the track to retrieve said helmet and put it back on. Two, watching said driver running up and down the racing surface under yellow had me worried/wondering that he was seeking another Kevin Ward Jr. incident.

Numbers Game

2 – helmet tosses in Friday night’s racing program at Natural Bridge Friday.

15 – podium finishes for Donny Schatz in WoO competition in 2021 (but only one win).

$137 – winner’s share of the 50/50 Friday night at Natural Bridge.

$2,500 – winnings Jason Feger turned down to take the final starting spot in the Prairie Dirt Classic feature at FALS Saturday 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 weekend four and a half Bourbon County Stouts (and it would have been five if the Larson/Babb battle had occurred with 10 to go instead of 70). FALS was racy for its signature race event, but two dominant feature winners and a pedestrian race program at Natural Bridge kept the weekend from being something special.

Up Next: It’s one of the quieter midweeks so far this summer, but there will be a $5,000-to-win modified feature at Mason City in Iowa and a pair of Super DIRTcar Series events up in New York on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The DIRTcar races will be streamed on DirtVision.

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3 Comments
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Echo

Nobody doubts that Kyle Larson’s heart is in dirt racing. But he’s smart enough and talented enough, to know he can set himself up for life by racing for the big bucks in Nascar. Just enjoy watching an exceptionally talented young wheelman. I find him refreshing.

James

Not all that young. And not that exceptional except on dirt.

Echo

lololol, anyone in their twenties is young in my book. Other than Kyle Busch, name a better natural wheelman in Nascar.

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