Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal

The Headline(s)

The nation’s winningest sprint car driver came from 19th to win a marathon Tuscarora 50 and $60,000 Saturday night (Sept. 10) at Port Royal Speedway.

How it Happened

2022 Tuscarora 50 (All-Star Circuit of Champions)
Where: Port Royal Speedway – Port Royal, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Winner’s Purse: $60,000

It all came down to a battle between the nation’s two winningest 410 sprint car drivers and number one stayed number one. Anthony Macri, who started 19th after a rocky heat race Saturday, held off Brent Marks after blowing by Port Royal regular Logan Wagner on a restart with 10 laps to go to win the Tuscarora 50, the richest win of his career and 20th feature win in 2022.

Macri, who said he was acting like “a little girl in the lounge” after a rough start to the night that saw him damage his racecar after tangling with Brian Brown in a heat race, said that the trouble was a motivating factor to charge to the race win, especially after seeing his pit crew wrench to repair his machine for the feature.

The 50-lap race, led entirely by Pennsylvania Posse drivers, saw Danny Dietrich lead the opening 20-lap segment before a competition caution flew to allow teams to add fuel and make adjustments. On the ensuing restart, track regular and defending Tuscarora 50 winner Wagner got a stellar jump and, through persistent pressure, forced a Dietrich mistake to take the lead on lap 27.

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Dirty (Half) Dozen: Keep Wilkesboro Paved, Scott Bloomquist Locked Out & Weekend Predictions

That battle was interrupted on lap 30 for possibly the scariest accident sprint car racing has seen this year. An ugly crash that involved Dylan Cisney and Freddie Rahmer got even more dangerous after the dust settled when Cisney’s fuel cell ignited, forcing the driver to literally jump from his machine only to have several other competitors slapping him to ensure no alcohol fire was burning him. 

The incident resulted in an extended red flag to clean up the fuel spill and repair the racing surface.

Once the event restarted, Macri made quick progress up to second, pouncing on Wagner for the race win after the race’s final caution flew 10 laps short of the finish when Tyler Reeser slowed in turn 3 with the leaders bearing down on him. 

2022 TUSCARORA 50 RACE RESULTS

Despite being an All-Star Circuit of Champions race, the series points chase took a back seat Saturday behind the Pennsylvania Posse drivers running wild. Current leader and defending series champion Tyler Courtney finished one spot ahead of Justin Peck in 11th Saturday, maintaining a 118-point edge.

Macri also won Thursday night’s preliminary feature. Defending Williams Grove Speedway track champion Lance Dewease scored the win in Friday’s “Night Before the 50” race. 

Success Stories

What more can be said about Macri? A 20-win season early in September, a $60,000 crown jewel victory in come-from-behind fashion, and that was his second trophy of the weekend (Macri blew the field out of the water in Thursday’s preliminary feature). If this guy doesn’t have a touring series ride in 2023, it’d better be for personal choice and not a lack of offers. 

A really late-night note, but Sye Lynch won the $2,000 non-qualifiers race, a victory that guarantees him a spot in next year’s Tuscarora 50 A-Main.

Alongside Macri, the drivers to score top-10 finishes in all three features at Port Royal this weekend were Tuscarora 50 runners-up Marks, Dewease and Justin Whittall.

Rico Abreu, Bill Balog, Dietrich and Cory Eliason were all drivers that scored multiple heat race wins over the course of the Tuscarora 50 race weekend.

Read on to get more details about the Cisney fire, but competitors Logan Wagner and Dietrich both got out of their cars to help Cisney avoid the blaze engulfing his machine.

And, speaking of Dietrich, while he’ll be disappointed he faded in the second half of Saturday’s feature, outside of the weekend’s feature winners there wasn’t a driver in the field that had a stronger showing than the No. 48. And Dietrich likely would have been a feature winner on Friday, as he was running down eventual race winner Dewease.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Before his car suffered a mechanical failure with eight laps to go in Friday’s “Night Before the 50” feature. Dietrich had Dewease in the crosshairs prior to that issue.

Devin Brenneman had a rough go of it in preliminary action all weekend, slapping the fence during qualifying on Thursday and missing his heat race as a result. Brenneman then brought out consecutive unassisted yellow flags in the second heat race Friday. 

Before Saturday’s feature, the wreck of the weekend belonged to Mike Wagner, who took sprint car gymnastics to a whole new level Friday night.

But, that was before Cisney’s fire Saturday night. Cisney already had a rough go of it Thursday night, falling out of one of the best battles of the weekend in the second heat race when he slapped the turn 4 wall dueling with Marks and Dewease for the final transfer spot.

However, Saturday took it to a whole other level. 

The damage done to Cisney’s racecar was bad enough, but the delayed start of an alcohol-based fire that was burning but not visible was truly frightening. Fortunately, Cisney was able to extricate himself from his racecar and got help from fellow competitors that had stopped under the red flag to ensure the fire did not spread to his body. As seen in the Facebook post above, Cisney is OK following the incident. 

NASCAR Regulars

Former NASCAR Cup Series regular Kasey Kahne had a mixed bag of a Tuscarora 50 weekend, failing to advance out of the C-main Thursday night before winning a heat race Friday and qualifying for Saturday’s A-main. Kahne was never a factor, though, finishing 18th.

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Fanning the Flames

I love that Port Royal Speedway continues to upgrade its facility, emulating the sprint car capital of the world in Knoxville Raceway and truly being an oval on par with that legendary racetrack. I hate that coming along with that apparently is having a crown jewel race emulate the God-awful Knoxville Nationals race format. A 50-lap race with a built-in competition caution is not a 50-lap race. And of course, the yellow flew as soon as Marks got within two car lengths of race leader Dietrich.

There was some criticism going around about the response time of the Port Royal crew to the Cisney fire incident.

Having seen the video earlier in this article, I’m not going to indict the safety crew, though if there is a way to make the response faster, it’s worth a look. The reality is this wreck, unfortunately, happened in the thick of race traffic, meaning officials couldn’t just rush onto the racing surface. The fire was nowhere near as visible from turns 3 and 4, where the fire crew was. The danger of alcohol fires is they’re not always visible, and that was the case as this one eventually engulfed Cisney’s racecar.

What I will say, though is that this incident was just another example of how surprisingly disorganized the Tuscarora 50 event felt, even though Port Royal is an elite track and the ASCoC a national touring series. The immediate aftermath of the crash scene once the flames were extinguished was reminiscent of a backwoods dirt track, with obvious family members and fans on the racing surface alongside actual officials.

That at least a dozen onlookers made it out of the pit area to gawk from the catchfence was a security failure.

Saturday night wasn’t the only example. Thursday’s second heat race narrowly averted disaster when a push vehicle violated race procedure and tried to push its racecar back to the pits in turn 4 as the field was coming to take the green flag. There was apparently a radio issue of some kind with the team in question, but how a track official didn’t stop the team from pushing the car across the track in the first place is cause for concern.

The whole cellphone lights thing has gotten completely overplayed in dirt racing and I really don’t like giving Wayne Aunger any more juice for anything. But even I’ll admit it that the crowd at Port Royal looked pretty damned impressive with both the grandstand and infield lit up.

Sponsorship and advertising are a necessary evil for motorsports to exist. But is it really necessary to interrupt a B-main that’s less than 20 laps long for a Tezos ad? Or to have an ad start literally as the field is coming to green in a heat race?

I appreciate companies like Tezos for taking on title sponsorships of major dirt racing tours, but the type of interruptions their ads created as I was watching the weekend’s replays would have me looking elsewhere should I ever be in the market for a blockchain solution. Pick your spots.

The All-Stars have the World of Outlaws beat when it comes to their four-wide. “Eye in the Sky” trumps a Whiskey Myers guitar riff any day of the week.

Considering Juniata Concrete is such a visible sponsor of the racing at Port Royal, why not give them a contract to put up concrete retaining walls all around the Speed Palace? Seeing Friday night’s qualifying delayed for a lonnngggg time after a pedestrian hit by Ayrton Genneten damaged the guardrail barrier enough to have to push welding equipment onto the track was uber frustrating, especially for a crown jewel event.

Numbers Game

4

Stoppages in Saturday’s Tuscarora 50 feature (two yellows, one competition yellow and one red).

54

410 sprint cars entered in the Tuscarora 50.

55

Runnings of the Tuscarora 50 after Saturday’s feature was completed.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): I wanted to enjoy this weekend more, but I’m giving the Tuscarora 50 a tepid three and a half Yuenglings. A laborious Friday program was a microcosm of a race weekend that felt like it was dragging on more than it was progressing. Credit to the Port Royal track crew, though; the surface was pristine as always.

Up Next: Thinkin’ Dirty jumps back on tour with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, as they head to Knoxville for the annual Late Model Dirt Nationals. Coverage of the $50,000-to-win A-Main can be found Saturday (Sept. 17) on Flo Racing.

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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