Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Las Vegas Dirt Nationals

Editor’s Note: As of 12:30 a.m., LCQ action was just beginning for the World of Outlaws late models at Volusia and this writer has an early-morning commute to look forward to. Recap of the LCQs and Thursday night (err, Friday morning’s) World of Outlaws late model feature will be covered in the weekend edition of Thinkin’ Dirty.

The Headline(s)

Happy, Texas’s Rodney Sanders capped Las Vegas Dirt Nationals opening night with a dominant run in the outlaw modified feature, his fifth straight victory in modified competition.

How it Happened

2022 Las Vegas Dirt Nationals
Where: Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway – Las Vegas, Nev. (streamed on RaceXR+)
Winner’s Purse: $2,500 (outlaw modified)

This one was over almost as fast as it started. DJ Shannon was able to run side-by-side with Rodney Sanders for a lap or so, but it didn’t take long for the recently crowned A-modified champion of last week’s Wild West Shootout in New Mexico to run roughshod over the field, scoring an easy $2,500 win that saw him lap nearly half the field in the opening 10 laps.

The win marked the fifth of 2022 and fifth in a row for Sanders, who won the last four features of the Wild West Shootout at Vado. The Bandit Outlaw Sprint Car series also contested a $2,500 feature on the opening night of the Las Vegas Dirt Nationals, with Waco, Texas’s Chase Randall passing Garet Williamson at the halfway point of the sprint car feature and driving off to victory.

Success Stories

Rodney Sanders has won five races in the first three weeks of 2022. Enough said.

Dale McDowell said he’s still at 85% health after ending his 2021 campaign early to handle surgery related to his cancer treatment, but he looked in vintage form at Volusia. At the time of this writing, McDowell was one of the fastest cars in qualifying and won the first World of Outlaws late model heat race of 2022.

Brandon, Fla.’s Zach Amundsen won the headline street stocks feature at East Bay Raceway Park to kick off the 2022 Winternationals. Amundsen benefitted from a track surface that had no viable high side during the street stock feature, but holding off Tim Gay in a street stock race anywhere in the state of Florida is an accomplishment.

Chili Bowl Nationals winner Tanner Thorson wasted no time making more headlines, announcing that he and his sprint car team will be taking 2022 to transition from full-time USAC racing to the World of Outlaws, with hopes of running that tour full time in 2023. Thorson joins Kevin Thomas Jr. and Tyler Courtney among USAC standouts making the jump into winged car racing.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Elm City, N.C.’s Austin Holcombe was recognized by the RaceXR+ crew as making one of the longest tows in the field to the Las Vegas Dirt Nationals, but that was about the only positive on opening night. Holcombe suffered a mechanical failure while leading the first modified heat and while holding off hottest mod driver in nation in Rodney Sanders, then endured a spin that brought out the only yellow flag of Thursday’s feature. He finished 20th.

Oakdale, Calif.’s Austin Sprague barrel rolled his sport compact half the length of the frontstretch early in Thursday’s Las Vegas Dirt Nationals feature. He fortunately walked away.

Sebastopol, Calif.’s Joel Myers clipped a tractor tire in turn 2 during the second sprint car heat in Las Vegas Thursday night and marked the first winged sprint car to flip in 2022.

NASCAR Regulars

Stewart Friesen wrecked his super late model after a steering failure during Wednesday practice at Volusia and will miss the entirety of the Sunshine Nationals as a result.

At the time of this writing, Kyle Larson had qualified second of the 47 super late models entered at Volusia Thursday night, and finished third in the second heat race of the evening. The news of the night came early, with DirtVision’s broadcast reporting that Larson and Kevin Rumley’s No. 6 late model team had 37 races booked on their 2022 schedule.

Fanning the Flames

The car count for the opening night of the Sunshine Nationals at Volusia was stupid good, but I can’t help but hope and pray that they’ll revisit qualifying all the support classes after having 123 crate late models show up to play with the World of Outlaws. Single-car qualifying should be reserved for the headline class only, WoO show or not… hot-lap qualifying is a thing for a reason.

(Edited to add: To DIRTcar’s credit, the race schedules for Friday and Saturday moved up event start times to account for the time needed to qualify so many racecars.)

MAVTV was lambasted last weekend not just for their handling of the Chili Bowl A-main telecast, but also for lacking customer service response to many Twitter users who reported issues using the MAVTV Plus app. My app worked just fine, so I can’t comment on their customer service, but it was noticeable to see just how proactive DirtVision was all day Thursday leading up to their season opener, actively communicating all over social media where to reach out if trouble struck. MAV could take notes here.

Put a late model feature on the East Bay Raceway Park surface and it looks like a shoebox. Watching mini sprint heats kick off the 2022 Winternationals at East Bay Thursday night, the place looked like Daytona. 

How not to do a schedule release, in Tweet form.

News broke this week that an investment group including Short Track Super Series promoter Brett Dayo purchased the Georgetown Speedway in Delaware. Love Dayo or hate him, the reality is this means a dedicated racer bought the track, and its future should be secure for the foreseeable future. Given the noise police are sniffing around Middleford and uncertainty about Delaware International’s future, this was welcome news.

Another piece of dirt racing’s future surfaced this week with confirmation that the Wild West Shootout will again run at Vado Speedway Park in 2023. That is expected to be the last year the event runs there, however, with the former owner of Arizona Speedway working to build a new dirt track in the Phoenix area to open in 2024. 

That’s great news that the racing community that’s endured the loss of both Manzanita and now Arizona Speedway will get a new dirt racing venue, but given just how good the racing was at Vado Speedway Park over the entirety of this year’s shootout, it’s a shame to think the event will leave New Mexico behind. I have a dream… can we possibly alternate the Wild West Shootout and Wild Wing Shootout between the facilities in respective years?

Numbers Game

5 – classes of cars contesting the Las Vegas Dirt Nationals (hobby stocks, dwarf cars, sport compacts, winged sprints and outlaw modifieds).

3.5 – hours it took to complete Sunshine Nationals hot laps and qualifying Thursday at Volusia.

170 – total late models on-site for the Sunshine Nationals opener Thursday.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): The evening gets two lukewarm original Four Lokos, because caffeine was needed to get through as much of the marathon program at Volusia as this writer did. That bloated program, coupled with a pedestrian Winternationals opener at East Bay and underwhelming car counts in Las Vegas made Thursday a chore for a weeknight. Especially when this writer has a commute to make the next morning. 

Up Next: More of the same this weekend, with the Sunshine Nationals and Las Vegas Dirt Nationals continuing into the weekend. Coverage can be found on DirtVision and RaceXR+, respectively.

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