Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Super Bowl of Racing Opening Night at Golden Isles

The Headline(s)

Devin Moran topped multiple series champions, including Kyle Larson, to win opening night of the 2022 Super Bowl of Racing at Golden Isles Speedway in Georgia.

How it Happened

2022 Super Bowl of Racing (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series)
Where: Golden Isles Speedway – Brunswick, Ga. (streamed on MAVTV Plus) 
Winner’s Purse: $10,000

“Mailman” Devin Moran was the fourth and final leader of the season opener for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Thursday night at Golden Isles, getting past Brandon Sheppard in a knot of lapped traffic on lap 18 and led the final 22 circuits, grabbing $10,000 for his first win of 2022.

Sheppard enjoyed a strong run, leading laps and finishing second by holding off Kyle Larson. Larson looked unstoppable early in the evening, winning both fast time and his heat race, but quickly proved vulnerable when Tyler Erb blasted past him for the race lead eight laps into the feature. 

The comeback story of the night was 2020 LOLMDS champion Jimmy Owens, who finished 10th after all but destroying his racecar in a violent wreck during qualifying. 

Brandon Overton, who led the nation in super late model winnings in 2021, failed to pass Josh Richards for a transfer spot in his B-main and missed the Super Bowl of Racing feature, his first race attempt of the season.

Success Stories

This is a rare time of the dirt racing season where my stats sheets are 100% up to date, so let’s give a shoutout to some national leaders. Modified drivers Ethan Dotson of Bakersfield, Calif. and Rodney Sanders of Happy, Texas lead the nation in dirt wins in 2022 so far with five. Dotson also leads the nation in checkered flags (features, heats, dashes, etc.) with 11. And super late model driver Mike Marlar leads the nation in winnings with $38,800 in the bank.

The Winternationals for the Locals aren’t contested at East Bay Raceway Park (head to Putnam County and North Florida for that program), but that didn’t stop Floridian Bryan Bernhardt from scoring one for the locals, winning opening night of the DIRTcar modifieds portion of the Winternationals Wednesday night. Bernhardt is the defending East Bay track champion but said in victory lane that winning the modified crown this week is all that matters for his 2022 season. 

Casa Grande, Ariz.’s Scott Sluka gets a shoutout for two reasons. One, even if the field was depleted (and it was), his IMCA stock car feature win at Cocopah on Thursday was his second consecutive after winning at Central Arizona Speedway on Saturday. Two, he opted in for a double-or-nothing challenge at the track, meaning his winnings double if he wins Friday’s feature, or go to zero if he doesn’t. Very racy stuff, well done.

Jimmy Owens fought the wall and the wall won, but for both he and his crew to take a car that literally had a door panel fall off as it was being worked on and go from the back to 10th in a competitive Super Bowl of Racing field at Golden Isles Thursday was a major accomplishment. 

Vexed, Villains & Victims

I didn’t think anyone would best Owens for the hardest wreck of the midweek honors, but then came Tempe, Ariz.’s Sterling Cling, who fortunately walked away from a nasty tumble during the third heat race for the USAC CRA sprint cars at Cocopah Thursday night.

It really is headline news not just that Brandon Overton missed a feature in his home state and in his first attempt of 2022. It’s even more of an eye-opener when considering how it happened. Overton posted the fastest time in qualifying, but became the first victim of 2022’s “droop rule,” which sent him to the back of his heat, and eventually into a B-main, where despite finishing third he failed to transfer. The perils of running without provisionals.

Being the early race leader in an UMP modified at East Bay has not been the place to be this Speedweeks. Wednesday night saw Owensboro, Ky.’s Tyler Nicely spin out unassisted while leading on lap 4 of the feature en route to finishing 22nd. Thursday night was even messier, with Steve Stevenson’s No. 33 car failing to get up to speed on a lap 6 restart that triggered a nine-car melee.

Nicely followed that up with another disaster Thursday, clipping his nose on an inside berm exiting turn 2 battling for the lead and destroying his front end.

Lowell, Ohio’s Cole Perine wrecked his modified at East Bay under the same caution that Stevenson triggered Thursday night, gassing his damaged car up to tag the rear of the field and instead going head-first into the turn 1 wall. 

NASCAR Regulars

Kyle Larson proved plenty fast with a quick time and heat race win in Thursday’s Super Bowl of Racing opener at Golden Isles. But, being at the dirt track didn’t stop the NASCAR Cup Series champion from going all Jimmie Johnson/Hendrick Motorsports during post-race.

Xfinity Series competitor JJ Yeley broke an engine and appeared to drop fluid during his qualifying attempt with the USAC CRA wingless sprint car series at Cocopah Speedway Thursday night. Though his team was able to get his car running long enough to start his heat race, Yeley ran less than half the feature and finished dead last in the 25-car field.

Fanning the Flames

I honestly was not expecting to see an inferno of controversy result from this week’s announcement from the World of Outlaws that fire suppression equipment will be mandated on sprint cars competing in the series starting next year.

While I agree with many that pointed out racetracks need to be pushing the limits of safety just as car owners are expected to, throwing a fit about fire suppression systems that are included in some form even at the 4-cylinder level at no small number of tracks across the country seems an odd hill to fight over. 

With websites for Cocopah Speedway, East Bay Raceway Park and the USAC CRA sprint cars proving largely devoid of information about posted race winnings this evening, let me say I am a HUGE fan of how transparent Golden Isles Speedway was with their Super Bowl of Racing event, as the full payout and rulebook for all three classes running Thursday night were visible and accessible on their homepage. Fans, like drivers, get excited about seeing big money on the line.

On the other hand, I am not a huge fan of how Golden Isles made the same mistake that Volusia did this past weekend, over-scheduling support classes to the point that the entire support program was delayed until after the headlining Lucas Oil late models ran their entire race program. Even if it is the “Super Bowl of Racing,” it is NOT a requirement that dirt tracks have to schedule both 602 and 604 crate late models on the same night!!!!!

Whether the crate late model program was worth staying up for at Golden Isles, I can’t say, because MAVTV’s coverage ended as soon as they finished post-race interviews with the Lucas Oil racers. I will go to the mat with anyone that the Lucas Oil late models are a superior series and product to the World of Outlaws tour, but there’s no doubting that DirtVision broadcasts put MAVTV to shame by actually streaming the entirety of their race programs.

Lastly, I agree with Jacob Hard 100% on this one, so I’ll let him speak for himself.

Numbers Game

21 – years in between Winternationals visits to East Bay for Thursday night modified winner Victor Lee. 

60 – modified car count at East Bay Wednesday night, the highest count for the Winternationals opener since 2017.

$15,000 – the newly announced prize money to win 2022 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series Rookie of the Year.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): The midweek gets three and a half American IPAs from Silver Bluff Brewing Company. It was great to see the Lucas Oil late models back in action, but an ad-filled MAVTV broadcast, along with a wreck-filled sprint car finale at Cocopah that kept this writer up way too late for a work night, kept the night from ever getting into a rhythm. Very disjointed for as much racing as went on this Thursday.

Up Next: More of the same. The Super Bowl of Racing continues at Golden Isles for two more nights, as do the UMP modifieds at East Bay. Coverage can be found on MAVTV Plus and Flo Racing, respectively. 

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