Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 Nininger Tribute at Hagerstown, Racing Emotional Support Alligators?

The A-Main: Ricky Thornton Jr. led 49 laps of Saturday’s (April 17) Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series feature at Hagerstown Speedway in Maryland, but Tim McCreadie led the one that mattered. Finding a line on the low side of turns 1 and 2 in the closing laps, McCreadie got alongside Thornton on the final lap and forced the No. 20 high in the final corners, taking the $15,000 Nininger Tribute race.

McCreadie’s last-lap heroics, which allowed him to take the LOLMDS points lead, overshadowed a strong showing by local late model standouts; Middleburg, Pa.’s Dylan Yoder won a heat race and started the feature from the pole, while multi-generation driver Tyler Bare grabbed a $2,541 bonus for finishing seventh as the top local driver in the field.

Both McCreadie and Thornton benefitted from the absence of one Kyle Larson who, after posting a fast time in qualifying, withdrew from his heat race with a terminal engine issue.

The B-Mains

Jonathan Davenport capped a three-win weekend with a flag-to-flag victory in the River Valley 40 at Port Royal Speedway Sunday, winning $10,000 in LOLMDS competition by keeping Georgia’s Shane Clanton at bay in the closing laps.

Tony Stewart won a war of attrition on Thursday night at Virginia Motor Speedway, scoring a $12,000 win on the All-Star Circuit of Champions sprint car tour. Stewart, who was running sixth with less than 10 laps to go, benefitted from a rash of late-race cautions that saw each of the top-five cars cut right-rear tires in the closing laps, culminating when race leader Justin Peck lost his right-rear in turn 4 coming to the checkers.

The ASCoC Pennsylvania was in full swing across the state of Pennsylvania after a trip to the Old Dominion. Friday night saw Larson return to victory lane in a sprint car for the first time in 2021, topping Lance Dewease at Williams Grove. Saturday night, Logan Wagner bested Tyler Courtney late in the going at Port Royal while holding off a hard-charging Anthony Macri on two green-white-checkered restarts to take the victory. Macri would finally break through, winning Sunday night at the Bedford fairgrounds.

After the first two scheduled events of the series were rained out, the first Flo Racing Night in America super late model feature went green at Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.V., with Davenport leading flag-to-flag in the $10,000-to-win feature. Davenport successfully held off local ringer Jacob Hawkins and fellow LOLMDS regular Tyler Erb at bay on a racy but extremely dusty track surface.

The third time was also the charm for the Spring Nationals at the I-75 Raceway in Tennessee. Not to be outdone by Davenport’s exploits, Brandon Overton made embarrassingly easy work of the super late model field on Friday night, dispatching of leader Dale McDowell with a lapped-car pick mid-race and driving off to a $5,053 victory.

The Lucas Oil Midwest Late Models kicked off their 2021 season with a stretch of five races in five days that produced five different winners. Nipomo, Calif.’s Jason Papich capped the stretch with a win Saturday night in the $10,555-to-win Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway in Iowa, though the highlight of the series tour came two nights prior at 300 Raceway, where Papich came up short racing with Billy Moyer Sr. in a duel that went side-by-side for dozens of laps.

Success Stories

Already off to a red-hot spring in crate late model racing with three consecutive feature wins at the Winchester (Va.) Speedway, Linden, Va.’s Kyle Hardy swept the RUSH late models “Battle of Bay” this weekend, winning Thursday night at Georgetown Speedway, Friday night at Potomac Speedway and Saturday night again at Winchester. $10,000 richer, maybe it’s time for Winchester to put a bounty on this guy?

In the track’s first event since getting a new lease on life through the end of 2021, it was fitting that Arizona Speedway saw longtime Arizona standout Zachary Madrid put on a clinic, winning heat races and feature in both the IMCA modified and stock car classes. 

Verona, Ky.’s Josh Rice was emphatic in celebrating his $5,000 late model win at Florence Speedway on Saturday night, and for good reason. Forced to a backup car after suffering an engine issue earlier in the evening, Rice went from worst-to-first in the A-main to score the victory. On another note, another damn good late model race at Florence this weekend. I’m not sure there’s a track in America putting on better super late model races right now.

The two big dogs of super late model racing both made waves this weekend. Davenport scored wins Thursday at Tyler County and  Friday night at Mountain Motorsports Park before returning to LOLMDS competition and winning Sunday’s race at Port Royal. Meanwhile, Overton stayed busy as well, embarrassing the field at I-75 Raceway Friday night before returning to his home track (Modoc Speedway) in South Carolina and scoring the $5,000 Ultimate super late model feature.

Vexed, Villains and Victims

There was no place in America more vexed than being at the front of the field at Georgetown Speedway in Delaware Thursday night. Both Frewsburg, N.Y.’s Jason Genco and Addison, Pa.’s Ryan Frazee got off track on the opening lap of their RUSH late model B-mains after starting on the front row, with each failing to transfer to the A-main. On the opening lap of said A-main, Whitesville, N.Y.’s John Waters cut a tire after starting from the pole en route to finishing dead last. Worst of all, Georgetown’s own Madison Jefferson endured one of the hardest hits of the weekend, going headfirst into the frontstretch wall after a wreck while battling for the lead in a vintage modified. Jefferson was backboarded and left the track in an ambulance, though she later posted on Facebook that she was OK.

On that note, my thoughts go out to USAC sprint car racer Carson Garrett after taking a nasty tumble at Bloomington Speedway in Indiana on Friday night. 

All of us at Frontstretch wish Garrett a speedy recovery.

Ryan Gustin’s weekend on tour with the Lucas Oil Midwest late models was vexed on more nights than one. Wednesday saw his team disqualified after winning the feature event at Stuart International Speedway in Iowa. Friday got worse, with Gustin’s car going for a nasty tumble racing hard with Bobby Pierce. See the replay here.

And while we’re on this topic, though I saw nothing wrong with Pierce’s racing Gustin prior to Friday’s flip, getting into it with race fans in the grandstands post-race is often villainous behavior.

The lapped cars at Lincoln Speedway Saturday night did nothing wrong, but said lappers did force race leader Tim Shaffer off his preferred low line with two laps to go, all but handing the $6,900 race win to Salfordville, Pa.’s Freddie Rahmer.

Lawrenceburg, Ind.’s Scott James had then-race leader Robby Hensley dead to rights inside of 10 laps to go in Florence’s super late model race Saturday before disaster struck. Hensley jumped the cushion and got sideways in turn 4, leaving James with nowhere to go but into Hensley. As a result of the contact, Hensley was straightened and drove off, while James spun in turn 4 and got broadsided out of the event.

Dillsburg, Pa.’s Macri had a similar experience during ASCoC competition Saturday at Port Royal. Macri, who showed a ton of speed, ended up slapping the turn 2 wall in his heat race after Bill Balog got out of shape in front of him and forced Macri into evasive action. Macri, as a result, had to transfer through a B-main and started 21st in the feature. That Macri got to second by feature’s end suggests that without said wreck, Saturday’s win would have been his.

It takes a lot for me to say I’ve never seen that before, but the race team of Calera, Ala.’s Billy Franklin accomplished just that in Southern All-Stars late model competition at Smoky Mountain Speedway in Tennessee. Reports were sketchy as to what triggered this episode, but what is known for sure is that a crew member of Franklin’s team threw a jack handle onto the frontstretch during the pace laps of Saturday’s race, leading to one of the more bizarre pre-races that any form of racing has seen.

Someone just got thrown out of Smoky MTN for apparently throwing a signal stick on the track. ???

Posted by Tennessee Racing on Saturday, April 17, 2021

As the cars ran through extended pace laps, track officials surrounded the crew member’s ATV with tractors to prevent him from driving on track. After an extended argument, the crew member and his ATV were allowed to leave the infield… while Franklin’s late model was disqualified from the feature before it began. 

Frontstretch Regulars

Former NASCAR Xfinity Series regular Cale Conley finished 11th in the 410 sprint car feature Friday night at Attica Raceway Park in Ohio.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular Stewart Friesen won the $3,612 season-opening modified race at Fonda Speedway in New York Saturday night after breaking the track record during qualifying.

Friesen won the last-chance race on Sunday at Albany-Saratoga Speedway in New York after suffering a flat tire during his heat race. He finished seventh in that feature.

Current Xfinity Series competitor Daniel Hemric showed improvement in his second micro sprint outing at Millbridge Speedway Wednesday night, qualifying for the A-main without incident and finishing 11th.

NASCAR Cup Series regular Kyle Larson’s return to winged sprint car competition looked a lot like 2020, with Larson taking advantage of the one bad lap Williams Grove veteran Dewease ran to take the lead 10 laps into Friday night’s ASCoC feature. Larson’s win was his seventh consecutive podium finish at the Grove. Larson was less successful in late model competition this week, finishing third in Thursday’s event at Tyler County and posting fast time at Hagerstown for the LOLMDS event on Saturday before an engine problem parked the No. 6 car prior to heat races beginning.

Former Cup Series regular Ken Schrader finished fifth in UMP modified competition at Tri-City Speedway in Illinois on Friday.

Three-time Cup Series champion Tony Stewart credited his experience running longer NASCAR and USAC Silver Crown races in scoring the $12,000 “Thursday Night Thunder” sprint car feature at Virginia Motor Speedway Thursday night. Stewart also scored an ASCoC heat race win Friday night at Williams Grove.

Fanning the Flames

It took three tries thanks to rain, but the third time proved the charm for Flo Racing Night in America’s high-dollar midweek late model shows to get started. Thursday night’s program at Tyler County Speedway was a rousing success, with both a racy track and a stacked field of super lates. Granted, the stands were full, but speaking as a ravenous consumer of streaming dirt track content, I hope this made-for-TV model proves successful for Flo. Hell, while we’re at, let’s get the sprint cars in on it. With wings, of course.

I don’t know that I’ve scratched my head harder about a support animal since the airplane passenger that brought a peacock into the cabin. 

Come visit Wally, the emotional support alligator. He’s with us until 6.

Posted by BAPS Motor Speedway on Saturday, April 17, 2021

The idea of hugging a reptile aside, BAPS Motor Speedway is in Pennsylvania. That’s not gator country.

With this weekend in the books, Jonathan Davenport is the hottest dirt driver in America and both Tyler Erb and Mason Zeigler raced side-by-side in multiple features without so much as a swipe at each other. It’s proof positive that there’s two seasons in dirt racing: Speedweeks and the rest of the calendar. 

The weekly racing program at East Bay Raceway Park in Tampa, Fla. this weekend was canceled due to “lighting issues.” Considering this follows Speedweeks activity at the track which literally knocked down parts of the turn 4 wall, perhaps the real question surrounding the life expectancy of the track should be “Will EBRP last until 2024?”

I don’t have any ill wishes towards “Sunshine” Tyler Courtney, but I was pleased to see his sprint car lose a right-rear tire in the closing laps of Saturday’s ASCoC feature at Port Royal. As hard and well as Courtney drove, there should be consequences for running a line that makes hard contact with a retaining wall for consecutive laps. Kyle Busch in an indestructible CoT at Darlington 2008 does not make for quality racing.

The official Ararat Thunder Speedway Facebook page stated that Lashmeet, W.V.’s Tyler Meadows was disqualified from their Friday night Pure Stock race for having crew enter the racing surface and for threats made towards track officials. That’s a completely compelling reason for a DQ. However, you also must consider Meadows’s father posted video of the altercation on-track that sparked the mess, and having watched the tape, it’s hard to fault the Meadows team for being upset. 

Had the DOMINATE car once again and got taken out!!! We were on our way to to our first win of the season but instead…

Posted by Tyler Meadows on Friday, April 16, 2021

I can’t substantiate what Meadows had to say about the night’s driver meeting, but the Ararat rulebook does state explicitly that “overly aggressive/dirt driving is not allowed.” I don’t know how this incident didn’t qualify as such. 

Of course, said episode may also explain why the track had only 25 total cars contesting it’s five-class program.

Numbers Game

2.0 – Kyle Larson’s average finish at Williams Grove in his last seven starts.

3 – number of Thursday night dirt-track features this week that paid five figures to win.

3 – number of tractors utilized by Smoky Mountain Speedway staff to ensure Billy Franklin’s enraged crew chief did not pull his ATV on track during the pace laps of Saturday night’s late model feature.

$15,000 – largest posted purse of the weekend, to win the Nininger Tribute LOLMDS race at Hagerstown Saturday 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 weekend five and a half tall, cold Morgan Run ales from Winchester Brew Works. It wasn’t always great racing that led to great finishes, but last-lap craziness and big-dollar events abound made dirt racing a show worth watching for this entire week. 

Up Next: All eyes in the sprint car world turn to Bristol this coming weekend, with the World of Outlaws hitting the high banks for a pair of features Friday and Saturday night. Coverage will be on DirtVision.

The late models will feature an embarrassment of riches this weekend, with DirtVision hosting the World of Outlaws Late Models at Richmond, Kentucky and Brushcreek Friday and Saturday night. MAVTV will have the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Tri-City and Macon, Illinois on Friday and Saturday night. And Sunday night will see Flo Racing host a major Iron-Man Series late model race at rejuvenated West Virginia Motor Speedway.

Lastly, for our modified fans, RacinDirt will be back with coverage of the USMTS tour, which will contest $10,000-to-win events at Ark-La-Tex and Revolution Park in Louisiana.

About the author

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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