NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 World of Outlaws Northern Tour at River Cities

The Headline(s)

Brad Sweet capped the World of Outlaws’s Northern Tour with a last-lap pass at River Cities Speedway, a rare bright spot in a yellow-filled midweek for dirt racing.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 World of Outlaws Late Models
Where: Eriez Speedway – Erie, Pa. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: Sunday was a choice between $10,000 to win for sprint cars and $10,000 to win for late models… and this writer’s all about some full-fendered racing.

Pouncing on a lap 2 restart to pass polesitter Dennis Erb Jr., current WoO points leader Brandon Sheppard survived a caution-plagued feature to lead the final 39 laps and win the WoO late model feature at Eriez Speedway on Sunday night, keeping a field of local ringers at bay to score his sixth win of 2021 and the 75th of his career, second all-time.

While Sheppard managed to keep the race under control up front, Pennsylvania’s finest kept the standing-room only crowd on their feet. Both Chub Frank and Boom Briggs scored top-five finishes, but the highlight of the night went to Waterford, Pa.’s David Hess Jr., who started 25th on a promoter’s provisional after a heat-race crash and battled back to finished second in the running order.

Sheppard’s win extended his points lead over Chris Madden, who finished sixth but remains in contention, as the WoO late model tour has yet to make its trek to Madden’s home tracks in the South.  

Monday, August 23, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Texas Monday Series
Where: Texas Dirt Track – Fort Worth, Texas (streamed on RaceXR+)
Why We Chose It: Monday’s only streaming dirt race.

Having his perfect season ruined a week ago, Texas modified ace Rodney Sanders whipped the outlaw modified field at the Texas Dirt Track Monday night, leading all 25 laps and going completely unchallenged to win his sixth feature in seven Monday starts at the track. Sanders is sporting an average finish of 1.16 at Texas this season.

Veteran driver Lance Mari, who spoiled Sanders’s undefeated run at the track a week ago, got dumped on the second lap of the feature and never recovered, finishing ninth.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Bash at the Beach (Short Track Super Series)
Where: Georgetown Speedway – Georgetown, Del. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $6,000-to-win, Tuesday’s highest paying dirt race.

Weathering a rash of yellow flags on a night that saw four center-drive modified cars barrel roll, Frenchtown, N.J.’s Billy Pauch Jr. got a run on a lap 19 restart that got him underneath race leader Tyler Dippel exiting turn 2, setting Pauch up to lead the last 16 laps and win the STSS feature at Georgetown.

With Pauch running away to victory, the last 10 laps were highlighted by a battle of Truck Series veterans, as Dippel held off Stewart Friesen to finish second. The feature was paused by two red flags; one on lap 2 when modified ace Matt Sheppard flipped in turn 3, and another around the race’s midway point when a portable light tower went out in turn 1.  

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Northern Tour (World of Outlaws)
Where: River Cities Speedway – Grand Forks, N.D. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, Wednesday’s highest-paying dirt race.

Last-lap drama again befell Sheldon Haudenschild, who saw dominant speed on the high side of the River Cities Speedway prove insufficient to hold off defending WoO champion Brad Sweet, who found speed on the low side of the track to best polesitter Carson Macedo inside of five laps to go, then passing Haudenschild in turn 2 to score the win.

Macedo led the opening 28 laps, including through a mid-race stanza that saw consecutive red flags for flips by both Kraig Kinser and Brandon Mullen. But, just as on Sunday night when Macedo spun while leading after rear-ending a lapped car, the driver of the No. 41 cited lapped traffic as the reason he lost the lead to Haudenschild on lap 28. 

Sweet’s win extended his points lead, as current runner-up David Gravel finished sixth.

Success Stories

The Eriez Speedway Facebook page described Hess’s run from 25th to second in Sunday night’s late model feature as one to be remembered, and it certainly was. Now granted, the DirtVision color booth sounded Waltrip-esque in describing how Hess was doing big things with a damaged racecar, but there’s no doubting this was a hard charger award above most awarded in 2021.

Gravel continued his successful 2021 debut campaign with Big Game Motorsports in the most appropriate way possible, winning Sunday night’s WoO at Huset’s Speedway… in a car sponsored by Huset’s Speedway. Gravel currently sits second in the series points standings.

It took more than 50 race starts this season, but Hanover, Pa.’s Jacob Allen scored his first WoO podium finish of 2021 Sunday at Huset’s.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

I get why Reynolds, N.D.’s Jordan Adams would be upset after he got caught up in a wreck and rolled in Wednesday’s WoO B-main, missing the feature at River Cities. But the post-race whining is a laughable take. Arguing small-team hardship while bashing local drivers in the same sentence reeks of entitlement.

Kinser had about as rough a five laps as one can have in a sprint car Wednesday night, bringing out the yellow on lap 16 when he came to a stop off the banking, had his crew thrash in the work area to get back on track, then flipping on lap 21. 

15-year-old Wyatt Wilkerson deserves some credit for getting off the racing surface as fast as he did, but his limited modified heat race at Texas on Monday still ended courtesy of a hand grenade.

There were no shortage of flips between the center-drive modified heat races at Georgetown on Tuesday, but the worst of it went to Hillsboro, Del.’s Kevin Sockriter, who got slammed on the outside of a three-wide exiting turn 2 during his heat race that saw his car hit a berm on the backstretch and go for a nasty tumble into a culvert. The driver walked away from the wreck.

Fanning the Flames

Allow me to echo this sentiment. If DirtVision just wants to stick with the Rolling Stones as their pre-race soundtrack moving forward I’d be plenty satisfied.

I will admit I’m a bit late getting to this story, but in catching up on my Area Auto Racing News reading I came across a rules change being made for the 200-lap finale of Super Dirt Week in New York this October, where the track will be utilizing a scheduled caution at the race’s midway point to allow for refueling; previously the race has utilized “quick-fill” apparatus to facilitate live pit stops. The AARN write-up tried to spin this as a positive, noting that not requiring “quick-fills” means that lower-dollar teams can enter the big-money events at Oswego without buying more equipment.

Sorry, but I have no soft spot for the underdog here. For one, I’ve been uniformly critical all season long of features that dub themselves a 100, 200, etc. lap event but with scheduled cautions. If the cars can’t run 200 laps on fuel, and pit stops are not something that can be accommodated, cut the feature to 100 laps and be done with it. Dirt racing could take a lesson from the ARCA Menards Series, which has been blasted by its own competitors for bastardizing its racing in the name of supposed cost savings. Besides, I can’t count on my fingers, toes and hairs on my head the number of 30, 40 or 50-lap dirt races that have literally outdrawn ARCA’s crowds in 2021.

And as for the removed requirement to buy fueling equipment, I again have no sympathy for teams that can’t afford it. The 200-lap finale of Super Dirt Week is a crown-jewel race, one that has achieved a great deal of notoriety and prestige because it’s long and because it requires pit strategy and conservation to a level most dirt races do not. Making this race a longer version of a regular weekly show may encourage more participants, but at the cost of actually diminishing the event.

On that same note, I’ve already said my piece about Adams’s post-race rant from Wednesday, but I want to call out in principal that I applaud the River Cities Speedway for running a B-main despite having 25 cars show up. I know plenty of fans and competitors alike applaud promoters for putting up extra purse money to start 25 cars in cases like that as opposed to running a B-main, but if I’m buying a ticket I’d much rather see a B-main with real go-or-go-home consequences get run. 

Credit to the decal wrappers that work on the NLRA late model series entries up in the Dakotas. There were more cars with legible numbers and decals in that field than any other I can remember watching this season that wasn’t part of a national touring series. Contrast is a beautiful thing.

AARN’s Stephen Bubb had an informed take regarding the recently-announced closure of Santa Maria Speedway, one that echoed similar to a column I wrote earlier this year describing how dirt tracks can ill afford to make enemies at the local level. Because if, as was stated by local officials, the closure of the facility stems not from racing, but from the owners of the facility hosting concerts without proper permits, racing’s worst enemy was its own promoters in California. I’ve said it multiple times in this column in 2021, there’s a reason the song goes, “I fought the law and the law won.”

On a completely different note, there’s no shortage of racetracks in California that are shuttered through no fault of their own. Outside Groove put out an excellent piece describing how the Dixie Fire raging throughout the Golden State has effectively shut down numerous dirt tracks, with the Diamond Mountain Speedway actually housing a medical camp in its infield to aid in firefighting efforts. For those that stream races on the weekends and can afford it, buy a PPV stream from a California track at some point this summer. Save an endangered species.

Numbers Game

4 – flip count of Tuesday’s modified racing program at Georgetown.

25 – sprint cars entered in Wednesday’s WoO feature at River Cities.

$2,390 – 50/50 winners share at Huset’s Sunday 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 Garage Band Kings from Half Brothers Brewing Company. Wednesday’s WoO feature was a thriller, but also another caution-filled race in a midweek that tore up too many racecars.

Up Next: The nation’s premier late model tours will duel with each other, as both are hosting $30,000-to-win features Saturday night. The WoO late model tour will spend three days contesting the Quad Cities 150 at the Davenport Speedway in Iowa, with coverage on DirtVision. Meanwhile, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series heads north for the three-day Rumble at the River program at the Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania. Coverage will be available on MAVTV Plus.

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