Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 World of Outlaws Debut at Dubuque Fairgrounds

The Headlines

Donny Schatz makes World of Outlaws history, Nick Hoffman bats a thousand and the Hell Tour heats up. Well, the late models anyway. 

Our Feature Spotlights

Thursday, June 17, 2021

Spotlight: World of Outlaws Late Model Series
Where: Stateline Speedway – Busti, N.Y. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, Thursday’s highest-paying race.

Score one for the locals. With the national powers of super late model racing scattered from Mississippi to Illinois to New York, Northeast power David Hess put his polesitter spot to good use, leading flag-to-flag to win Thursday night’s WoO late model feature less than an hour from his hometown in Waterford, Pa. The win was his second career WoO victory.

Points leader Brandon Sheppard finished second but was never able to seriously challenge Hess for the race win, though the finish did allow the defending champion to put more distance between himself and Chris Madden, who battled through traffic for a hard-fought fifth-place result.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Late Model Spotlight: 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals
Where: Tri-City Speedway – Pontoon Beach, Ill. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, the highest-paying late model race of the weekend that wasn’t canceled (and selected before the $12,000-to-win Lucas Oil show at Magnolia was moved to Friday night).

The box score will say that Tanner English led from flag-to-flag of Friday’s feature at Tri-City, but it was harder work than that. Having to hold off defending Summer Nationals champion Brian Shirley, English prevailed after a late-race caution in a photo finish with “Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce, who came within a few feet of scoring his third Hell Tour win in four starts.

The winner’s trophy, a nearly six-foot tall behemoth with a large glass on top of it, allowed English to enjoy a hard-earned beer in victory lane.

Open-Wheel Modified Spotlight: 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals
Where: Tri-City Speedway – Pontoon Beach, Ill. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: Because this writer had limited screens available on Friday, so having the late model and modified spotlight on the same channel helped.

The last time Hoffman was featured in this column, I believe I wrote the words “see Nick Hoffman. See Nick Hoffman race. See Nick Hoffman win.” Well, that’s what everyone has seen repeatedly on the modified slate of the Hell Tour thus far; Friday’s win made the modified powerhouse 4 for 4 to start the tour.

Sprint Car Spotlight: World of Outlaws
Where: Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway – Dubuque, Iowa (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, Friday’s highest-paying sprint car race.

It took a rocky track surface popping the tires of both leaders David Gravel and Aaron Reutzel, but 10-time WoO champion Schatz finally scored his 300th career victory on the tour, holding off James McFadden to take the win. Schatz, who was visibly emotional in victory lane after clearing the scales, had the luck of having both his parents in attendance for the milestone victory.

Said Schatz’s father, “he hasn’t disappointed us.”

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Late Model Spotlight: 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals
Where: Fairbury American Legion Speedway – Fairbury, Ill. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: At $10,000-to-win, one of Saturday’s highest-paying late model races that wasn’t rained out. And after Friday night’s finish, why not stick with this tour?

It wasn’t the finish that Friday night’s race was, but the racing at Fairbury on Saturday was damn good stuff. Shannon Babb, who was a rocket ship in the opening 10 laps before fading, pounced on a lap 31 restart, going from sixth to second in two laps before passing English for the exiting turn 4 on lap 34. From there, Babb proved untouchable on the low side of the track, driving off to his 99th career Hell Tour victory, his first in 2021.

At two times during the feature did a legitimate three-wide battle for the lead take place; on lap 26, with polesitter Shirley running the middle as English ran low and Frank Heckenast Jr. ran the cushion, and again prior to Babb’s eventual race-winning pass. 

Open-Wheel Modified Spotlight: 2021 United States Modified Touring Series Masters
Where: Cedar Lake Speedway – New Richmond, Wis. (streamed on Racin’ Dirt)
Why We Chose It: Because Hoffman has turned the modified slate of the Hell Tour into a snooze-fest.

It took Jake O’Neil less than 15 laps to get out front, and from there the race was settled. Though O’Neil had to weather a restart with six laps to go in the feature, the No. 0 drove off and was never seriously challenged, as the Arizonan scored his third tour win of 2021.

Dereck Ramirez remained the points leader after finishing fourth, losing minimal cushion to Rodney Sanders, who came home third.

Sprint Car Spotlight: 2021 JB Boyd Memorial (World of Outlaws)
Where: Beaver Dam Raceway – Beaver Dam, Wis. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: Sticking with the tour to see the encore to Schatz’s historic evening.

40 laps at Beaver Dam went caution free on Saturday night, with Sheldon Haudenschild pulling a slide job on polesitter Giovanni Scelzi in turn 2 on lap 20 that saw Scelzi’s corner exit impeded by a lapped car. Once out front, Haudenschild pounded the cushion and proved just adept enough at navigating lapped traffic that was treacherous in the field to score his fourth WoO win of the 2021 season.

Said runner-up Scelzi in his post-race interview, “the better driver won” the evening’s feature. Points leader Brad Sweet battled to finish fourth, while Schatz followed up his 300th win Friday night with a finish towards the back of the top 10.

Success Stories

Schatz has won 10 WoO championships, so there’s no adjectives to be used to describe his career that haven’t already been used a million times over. To see the raw emotion that overtook him in victory lane on Friday night after winning feature 300, then to see him overtaken with it to the point of being choked up again on Saturday afternoon was a very genuine display. Schatz is a credit to dirt racing.

Hoffman has won the first five races to kick off the Hell Tour. Dominance gets boring in a hurry… here’s hoping someone finds a way to keep up with him before following the mods becomes well, hellishly boring.

English, for winning from the pole Friday night at Tri-City and for celebrating with his Brad Keselowski 2012 impression.

Logan Schuchart rebounded from losing his second engine in two days during hot laps at Dubuque to go from 15th to fifth in his feature, winning the hard charger award Friday night.

Jimmy Mars absolutely flat-out stole the $10,000-to-win super late model feature at Cedar Lake Saturday, riding the cushion through turns 3 and 4 to make up six car lengths and power by John Kaanta at the finish line. 

AJ Diemel won his first career USMTS feature at his home track at Cedar Lake on Friday, but…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Diemel followed that up with a spin from a transfer spot on the white-flag lap of the second B-main and missed the USMTS finale at Cedar Lake Saturday. To his credit, Diemel did score a top-five finish in the late model feature at the track that same evening.

Not DirtVision, the service wanted fans at the Jacksonville Speedway in Illinois to know.

Mike Harrison had the speed to keep up with Hoffman Saturday at Fairbury, but the former Hell Tour champion jumped the turn 2 cushion at least three times before his car finally broke and hit the wall in turn 1 11 laps short of the finish. It was disappointing to see a driver that accomplished seemingly pushing erratically hard, because his No. 24 was fast enough to have challenged for the win.

The Hell Tour modified feature wasn’t kind to the regulars at Fairbury. Case in point, a nasty crash on lap 20 that saw Nick Clubb get absolutely clobbered by Steven Brooks in turn 3 after Nick Seplak and Clubb made contact heading down the backstretch. 

Fortunately, all involved walked away from the most violent wreck of the evening.

The USRA late model field at Cedar Lake Saturday night. Two spins during the track-pack and pace laps, then the feature opened with a Big One exiting turn 2 that collected more than a dozen cars and completely blocked the track’s backstretch.

Fanning the Flames

8:34 p.m Eastern, simultaneously had heat races for the WoO, Hell Tour and USMTS program under green. Watching three screens at once is one thing, but listening to three calls at once? Radioactive can eat its heart out.

The fans that showed for Friday night’s WoO show at Dubuque deserved it, as they’ve only been waiting years (the event was rained out in 2019 and a COVID victim in 2020), and Schatz told the crowd in victory lane he hoped the tour would come back. Whether it actually will remains to be seen, as prior to Schatz making the night historic it was an underwhelming display. A dismal car count saw the WoO short three cars (21 showed up) and the support class turn out only nine modifieds. As a result, the WoO fell victim to their own efficiency, putting on a show that featured a disproportionate amount of down time and track pack. Combined with a track surface that was described from the infield as “rock-filled,” and there’s a lot of room for improvement despite Dubuque being a racy track.

I know that it was an hour earlier local time in Wisconsin, but there is something very wrong when it’s 11:02 p.m. or 12:02 a.m. on race night and there’s two 50-lap features left to run. The car counts making up the USMTS and its support classes are admirable, the length of their programs is not. Of course, like any complaint, I’ll also keep things in perspective… I could have been at Beckley Motorsports Park enduring their blackout.

There’s no shortage of viral videos of midget cars climbing catchfences only to keep going, but until Saturday night at Fairbury I’d never seen a super late model do it. Whether Mitch McGrath would consider that a success story or not I’ll leave up to him. It felt odd that the incident didn’t get so much of a reaction from the commentary crew on DirtVision. 

Paint-scheme catch of the weekend… kudos to Wisconsin’s Josh Walter for the WWII-era pinup on his sprint car at Beaver Dam Saturday night. Nice touch.

Yes, Tony Stewart’s SRX tour ran on dirt this weekend. No, I didn’t watch it. Frontstretch has NASCAR writers for that. Besides, three straight days of manual labor on my uncle’s farm have made it hard enough for me to stay awake to write this feature, much less do it with a sedative on CBS. Danica Patrick’s “insight” into pretty much anything makes me feel braindead. 

While on the topic of in-race coverage, DirtVision’s coverage of the WoO this weekend benefitted greatly from having Dave Rieff in the infield. Professionalism in both delivery and content that was obviously well-thought out and sourced. Every other infield reporter on DirtVision coverage would do well to take notes.

Numbers Game

0 – yellow flags in Saturday’s WoO feature at Beaver Dam. Perfection.

32 – hours it took Thomas Hunzicker to tow his late model from Oregon to Illinois to kick off his Hell Tour campaign.

38 – WoO races between wins 299 and 300 for Schatz.

66 – entries for Saturday’s USMTS feature at Cedar Lake.

300 – career wins for Donny Schatz on the World of Outlaws tour, making him only the third driver in history to achieve the feat.

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 this weekend five cold Budweisers. The Hell Tour late models put on two good features, the World of Outlaws had a great race and a historic one, and the late-night late model feature at Cedar Lake made up for a tame USMTS race. 

Up Next: Between the World of Outlaws storming the Dakotas and the Hell Tour marching on, it’s going to be a busy midweek. This is the time of the year that DirtVision’s subscription really pays off.

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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