Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals Champions Week at Butler

The Headline(s)

Bobby Pierce all but cements the 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals late model crown. Sadly, the Hell Tour’s latest salvo wasn’t the only hell dirt racing had to deal with this midweek.

Our Feature Spotlights

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Dick Tobias Classic
Where: Action Track USA – Kutztown, Pa. (streamed on Flo Racing)
Why We Chose It: At $5,000-to-win, Sunday’s highest-paying dirt race.

Frenchtown, N.J.’s Billy Pauch Jr. won a wild 75-lap SpeedSTR feature Sunday night, holding off Mike Bednar by a nose after the two slammed into each other down the frontstretch coming to the checkered flag. Pauch did lead the last 32 laps of the race.

The 75 lap $5,000 to win SpeedSTR race at Action Track USA last night was a real barn burner with Billy Pauch Jr holding off a last lap charge from Mike Bednar to win in a photo finish!

Posted by Kevin Fisher on Sunday, August 15, 2021

The fireworks and sportsmanship that decided Sunday’s event was nowhere to be found some 20 laps earlier, when a lap 55 racing incident between Steve Buckwalter and Jason Musser turned into a nasty crash on the backstretch that brought out the red flag… and led to punches flying (more on that later).

Monday, August 16, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 Texas Monday Series
Where: Texas Dirt Track – Fort Worth, Texas (streamed on RaceXR+)
Why We Chose It: At $2,500-to-win, Monday’s highest-paying dirt race.

It took a pair of ringers to do it, but Rodney Sanders’s months-long winning streak at the Texas Dirt Track came to a close Monday night, with California modified veteran Lance Mari passing pole-sitter Fito Gallardo on lap 10 of the 25-lap feature and holding off Sanders on a late-race restart. 

Sanders was also deprived of a heat race win Monday night, with late model veteran Cade Dillard taking a heat race victory after his team dropped off the World of Outlaws Late Model Series tour (more on that later).

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 ISCS Week of Speed (Interstate Sprint Car Series)
Where: Cottage Grove Speedway – Cottage Grove, Ore. (streamed on Dirt Oval TV)
Why We Chose It: The only dirt race streaming Tuesday night after the Super DIRTcar Series rainout at Brewerton Speedway in New York.

The ISCS Week of Speed wasn’t contested in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but boy did Tuesday’s make up for the year’s silence. Tyler Thompson survived an eventful 25-lap feature, proving the last leader standing and collecting a $1,000 check for a feature win that proved the only place to be was not up front.

Picked up the win tonight!

Posted by Tyler Thompson Racing on Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Justin Youngquist led the opening lap after pole-sitter Eric Turner clipped the berm on both sides of the track, but Turner would quickly rebound and lead the opening six laps. Youngquist got the high side working, taking the lead on lap 7 but then spun himself out in turn 2 while leading on lap 10. That handed the lead to Steven Snawder, who ran up front and was poised to score the win until disaster struck with three laps to, when Snawder spun himself out in turn 1 after making contact with a lapped car in turn 4 and losing the lead to Thompson.

Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Spotlight: 2021 DIRTcar Summer Nationals
Where: Butler Motor Speedway – Quincy, Mich. (streamed on DirtVision)
Why We Chose It: It’s been a while since we’ve checked in on the summer tour.

Bobby Pierce led all 40 laps of Wednesday night’s Summer Nationals feature at Butler, scoring his 40th career win on the tour and expanding a points lead that already looked insurmountable heading into the final week of the series.

Despite racing in a field that included a resurgent Ashton Winger and local firepower in Devin Moran and recent Wood Tic winner Rusty Schlenk, Pierce was never challenged for the win. The initial start was marred by an eight-car pileup that collected tour regular Tanner English, handing the driver of the No. 81E in first DNF in nearly three months.

Success Stories

Pauch Jr.’s victory at Kutztown on Sunday night saw him prove more versatile at changing lines on the track than any other driver in the field. That versatility got him the lead on lap 43, and just enough of a lead to preserve the win.

Kyle Larson’s hot streak continued, as he scored the USAC midget win at the Dirt Track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday night, his first win in a midget car since the Chili Bowl in January.

Sanders may have had his perfect streak at Texas snapped this weekend, but still finished second on Monday night despite not even driving his own racecar.

Malvern, Iowa’s Jesse Sobbing went from last to first to win his heat race in Texas modified competition Monday night.

While it’s disappointing to see a talented driver such as Dillard drop off the WoO late model tour, the driver opting to make that move to make sure he could be home for his daughter’s first day of school is a sure sign of having priorities in order. Best of luck for the remainder of 2021 to the “Thriller.”

And in breaking news, former NASCAR Cup Series regular Kasey Kahne is pulling the dirt racing equivalent of Matt Kenseth 2020, signing on to drive the No. 83 Roth Motorsports entry in World of Outlaws competition following Aaron Reutzel’s suspension for running an illegal chassis. And yes, this does mean Reutzel will not return to the Roth team.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Sticking with former Cup Series regulars, there’s no getting around it… David Stremme ran over Kenny Wallace battling for the lead of the second modified heat race at Butler on Wednesday night. To rub salt in the wound, even though both drivers restarted at the rear, Stremme battled back into a transfer spot. Wallace didn’t. Wallace did, however, win a last-chance qualifier and finished the feature in the top 10.

The on-track incident was soon overshadowed by the extracurricular activities, but the wreck at Kutztown on Sunday that brought out the red flag on lap 55 saw Buckwalter and Mednar not only wreck out, but lose out on a race they were capable of winning.

Flower Mound, Texas’s Sam Cox had the hard knock title for Monday night locked up when he bowed out of heat 2 while leading. He soon lost that title, however, when Kaufman, Texas’s Cody Smith broke in turn 3 coming to the white flag while leading the limited modified feature at the Texas Dirt Track.

Mount Vernon, Wash.’s Cody Anderlini had a bad enough night enduring the only flip in Tuesday night’s sprint car race at Cottage Grove, but from the one replay angle available it also sure looked like Central Point, Ore.’s Theron Smith bowled over him to trigger it.

Local driver Kinzer Cox may well have passed more cars in the sprint car program at Cottage Grove than anyone else. Add even a little consistency to said laps and that was his feature to lose.

Fanning the Flames

The Virginia Motor Speedway canceled their scheduled “Prelude to the World Championship” late model race for this weekend thanks to the ongoing tire shortage gripping the short-track racing industry. Every dirt track in America not named Virginia Motor Speedway breathed a sigh of relief at the news, given that VMS’s spring races popped enough tires to create a shortage even without the lack of labor and raw materials pinching production coast to coast.

A lack of rubber has already been seen to cancel a number of races in 2021, but a lack of water? That’s a rarer one. Unfortunately, the drought plaguing much of America claimed a victim in North Dakota, canceling the remainder of the racing season at the Thunder Mountain Speedway.

Dear Racers and Race fans The board of directors had a special meeting on Monday August 16th to discuss the…

Posted by Thunder Mountain Speedway on Tuesday, August 17, 2021

I was going to include another lamentation in here about in-race breaks after watching Sunday’s 75-lapper at Kutztown feature a scheduled caution mid-race that did nothing but break the momentum that only green-flag racing can create. But that headache was dwarfed by the migraine that was induced trying to keep track of Wednesday’s Stoop’s Pursuit, arguably the most convoluted format for an oval-track race I’ve ever seen.

And though a field that includes Chase Elliott and Ryan Newman was enough to get me to watch said event, again, my God what a headache. Elimination races are fine, but keep it simple. Eliminate the last-place drivers last segment and repeat. Last thing I want to do going to a dirt race is think “dammit, I left my matrix and calculator in the truck.”

Another asinine rule from the Stoop’s Pursuit… if a driver is involved in a caution, their race is over. First lap of the race, nine-car pileup eliminates Newman, Elliott and defending USAC midget champion Chris Windom. That’ll sell some tickets. Though Larson did end up winning…

Anyone that’s read Frontstretch long enough to remember that I used to cover NASCAR knows that to do this day I hold Matt Kenseth’s back-turned mugging of Brad Keselowski at Charlotte in 2014 to be about as low a display of conduct as I’ve seen at a racetrack. That may well have been topped at the Action Track in Kutztown Sunday night. 

It’s bad enough that the track staff couldn’t control their thimble-sized infield and had crew members on the racing surface mere seconds after the accident happened, but the on-track conduct after that was reprehensible. One such crew member that got onto the racing surface was able to accost Buckwalter even though he was still strapped into his flipped racecar. Track officials did get the crew member removed from that car, only to have said crew smack an official upside the head. Ugly enough, but it got worse when the same official waited until that crew guy had his back turned, then sucker-punched him from behind. 

Checking the track’s social media outlets, there’s nothing even acknowledging the exchange of blows as of this writing. Suffice to say, if this official hasn’t been permanently relieved of his duties, that’s a bigger failure by the Action Track than proving as adept at controlling their infield as the U.S. has at controlling Hamid Karzai Airport. It is an unwritten rule in all forms of sport that officials are off limits, period. Race officials taking that protected status and using it to get violent with competitors, no matter how wrong said competitors are, is unforgivable. If this official still has his job come next race at Kutztown, that’d be the equivalent of the witch that slapped Max Papis post-race at MoSport back in 2013 having kept her hard card.

Look, a Californian racing at Indianapolis!

For the second week in a row, another death in the racing family to report. This time the bad news comes from Lake View Motor Speedway in South Carolina, the current home track of longtime Frontstretch contributor Mike Neff. Dillon, S.C.’s Kevin Outlar, who raced many times at the track in the stock car divisions, passed from COVID-19 earlier this week. I’m begging y’all, get your shots and wear a mask in public, please and thank you.

Our deepest sympathy at lake view motor speedway goes out to the family and friends of Kevin Outlar during this time….

Posted by Lake View Motor Speedway on Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Numbers Game

6 – flip count in Sunday’s racing program at Action Track.

7 – number of Texas modifieds involved in Monday’s Big One.

24 – late model count at Butler on Wednesday night.

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 Breakside Black & Tans (we’re going with an Oregon beer after this column took a rare trip to the West Coast). The finish at Kutztown Sunday night was an instant classic, and that alone would have scored the midweek higher if that race hadn’t had combative officials and a built-in race break.

Up Next: All eyes turn to late models and the Batesville Motor Speedway in Arkansas, home of the annual Topless 100 for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Coverage will be available on MAVTV Plus.

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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