Race Weekend Central

Dirty (Half) Dozen: Eldora Lesson Learned, Was Kyle Larson Wronged at Port Royal?

1. Was Kyle Larson wronged at Port Royal?

There’s no debating that a lap 25 incident between Kyle Larson and Earl Pearson Jr. derailed one of the best late model battles of the 2022 season, leaving Larson with a flat tire and retiring Pearson with suspension damage on an ultra-racy Port Royal surface Sunday.

MAVTV’s stream did not play a replay of the incident, leaving just all about all involved to speculate, especially after Gregg Satterlee turned the race into a snoozer up front after both Larson and Pearson were essentially eliminated.

That MAVTV failed to provide a replay was a glaring failure in its coverage of what was arguably the best Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series race of 2022. But credit to the folks at DirtonDirt for getting to the bottom of the incident; Larson told the outlet that the incident was on him, acknowledging that he had come down on Pearson in turn 3 and initiated the wheel-to-wheel contact that took both out of the event.

Perhaps the most interesting takeaway? Larson cited the late model body, which features as door on the left-hand side, as a reason for his misjudgment; Larson does not run a door on the left-hand side of his sprint cars. 

How quick we’ve forgotten that Larson is less than two years removed from his late model debut.

2. Brady Bacon’s roughest night since Terre Haute?

Brady Bacon pulled a rare form of double duty Saturday night at the Lake Ozark Speedway, running both the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint and World of Outlaws races in wingless and winged 410 sprint cars, respectively.

Bacon was extremely competitive, leading laps in both features. But it’s hard to imagine the night going any worse for a driver that managed to do that.

It started with the Xtreme feature, where Bacon spun himself while leading only seven laps from the finish.

Fast forward to the Outlaws feature, and Bacon was again leading the feature, only to have Jacob Allen all but door him in turn 2 to take the lead inside of 10 laps to go. Bacon’s feature was then sealed when he cut a tire coming to the white flag, though to his credit he kept his car moving the right direction rather than stopping to catch a caution flag, a tremendous display of sportsmanship.

Bacon has been rightly lauded for his performance and his demeanor on Saturday, but there wasn’t a driver in dirt racing with less to show for his efforts anywhere in America this weekend.

3. Robert Ballou continues to choose violence

Last week, Robert Ballou made some of the harshest public comments criticizing the USAC sanctioning body for its handling of a tire testing fiasco stemming from the USAC Dirt Winter Games at Bubba Raceway Park in February (comments this writer strongly agreed with).

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Dirty (Half) Dozen: 6 Ways USAC Racing's Tire Debacle Rivals NASCAR in Inconsistency, Incompetence

That hot streak hasn’t tempered. Ballou commented on social media during USAC’s closed door sprint car owner meeting in response to the fiasco that drivers had not been informed of how to properly ask questions during the virtual meeting, comments that sparked debate and disputing of facts between USAC officials and other competitors.

Now, let’s head back to Lake Ozark. Ballou won his heat race in the Xtreme Outlaw ranks on Saturday night, but failed to report to the scales and was thus sent to the back of the B-main by series officials. That led to another disputed exchange on Twitter.

And while Ballou seemed to temper on his criticism of race officials in his post-race interview, especially after recovering to win the B-main and finish second in the feature, he wasn’t done firing off at Lake Ozark, also taking aim at besieged tire maker Hoosier, whose recent price increases in the midst of an ongoing tire shortage has irked many dirt racers.

Had Ty Gibbs not gone Power Rangers on Martinsville’s pit road Friday night, Ballou may have actually gotten some airtime in the larger racing world over the weekend. Agree or disagree with him, this racer is in the thick of it right now.

4. Old-school bounty collected out west

Bobby Horton in an IMCA hobby stock is one of the more statistically dominant drivers in anywhere in the U.S. right now, so to hear of Brawley, Calif.’s Thomas Daffern collecting a bounty by topping Horton at Cocopah Speedway in Arizona on Saturday is worth a mention for two reasons. One, Daffern took down one of the more statistically dominant drivers in the country (Horton already has 13 feature wins in 2022).

Second though, the use of bounties by promoters is a tool that is criminally underutilized. The big piece of this puzzle? Daffern won $400 for securing the hobby stock win, but scored an additional $931 for besting Horton. That’s the kind of difference in winnings to secure big guns, or at least big-time effort, for drivers to topple giants. Good work by both Daffern and the folks at Cocopah.

5. Learning from Volusia shows why Eldora’s the best

The race fan in me hates lauding any track for canceling, and there’s an irony to me writing this barely 24 hours after praising the promoters at Winchester and Hagerstown for taking the gamble and racing in my neck of the woods Saturday night.

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Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Conococheague 50 at Hagerstown

Still, reading the rationale that Eldora Speedway has cited for postponing its Flo Racing Night in America race from today (Tuesday, April 12) to April 26, all I can say to them is thank you.

If there’s any lesson to be learned from Volusia Speedway Park — a usually stellar racing facility that put on a literal disaster of a Sunshine Nationals event that saw a new, rain-soaked surface turn into a literal hazard for all drivers not named Dale McDowell — it’s that a new surface can’t be taken for granted, even if it’s on the nation’s premier dirt tracks. 

The delay means that Flo Racing’s fledgling late model tour will keep its season opener at Eldora, as great a venue for dirt racing as they come, with a far lower likelihood for a Volusia-like disaster.  

It sucks that we’ll have to find something else to do Tuesday night, but Eldora got this one right.

6. It shouldn’t take rain to inspire efficient dirt programs

Despite a rain delay in the middle of the modified feature, Winchester Speedway got its four-class program done in a tick over three hours and had all of us heading for the warmth of home before the sun went down, in time for this writer to settle in and catch the Lucas Oil feature at Hagerstown as it ran.

Hagerstown pulled off a similar feat, getting through the entirety of its Lucas Oil program in a little over three hours, with the feature going green just after 8 p.m. 

It’s amazing what tracks are able to do with their programs when the weather is threatening. The real question is how do we create that same sense of urgency on a warm summer evening?

About the author

Senior Commentator at Frontstretch

Richmond, Virginia native. Wake Forest University class of 2008. Affiliated with Frontstretch since 2008, as of today the site's first dirt racing commentator. Emphasis on commentary. Big race fan, bigger First Amendment advocate.

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