Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia

The Headline(s)

A month removed from his Sunshine Nationals win, cancer-free Dale McDowell proved ageless again, winning the latest late model feature of the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia.

How it Happened

2022 DIRTcar Nationals (World of Outlaws Late Models)
Where: Volusia Speedway Park – Barberville, Fla. (streamed on DirtVision)
Winner’s Purse: $10,000 (nightly)

Old age and treachery got the best of youth and exuberance on a mid-race restart, with Dale McDowell blasting by rookie Kyle Hammer and proceeding to hold off red-hot Devin Moran in the closing laps, scoring his second win of 2022 on the Volusia Speedway Park half-mile. Moran closed to within a car length on the white-flag lap but was unable to keep McDowell pinned going through turns 3 and 4 to the checkers.

For McDowell, the win marked the continuation of a miraculous return to form after ending the 2021 season early to undergo surgery for prostate cancer. McDowell remarked in victory lane that the team had not even planned to be at Volusia for the DIRTcar Nationals, only choosing to do so after their Sunshine Nationals win a month ago proved they were good enough.

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Sunshine Nationals at Volusia

As for rookie Hammer, he led the opening half of Thursday’s feature after polesitter (and Wednesday winner) Brandon Overton suffered a mechanical failure before losing the lead to McDowell on a mid-race restart. Hammer’s night went from bad to worse soon after, spinning out after contact with Ricky Thornton Jr.

With his runner-up finish, Moran extended his DIRTcar Nationals points lead and remains the runaway favorite to win the super late model points title for the second year running.

Success Stories

Tyler Courtney appears primed to defend his All-Star Circuit of Champions title in 2022, winning Monday’s exhibition race at East Bay Raceway Park and finishing third at the same track Tuesday. 

Greenfield, Ind.’s CJ Leary made history on Monday night, scoring the $5,000 win in the inaugural race for the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Series at Volusia; for those unfamiliar, the organizers of the World of Outlaws established this tour for wingless sprint cars that will run as companion events to other WoO shows in 2022. Youngster Emerson Axsom of Tulsa Shootout fame won the caution-filled season opener for the USAC National Sprint Car Series at Bubba Raceway Park, his first career win on the tour.

Peter Britten has been the class of the field at Volusia in the Super DIRTcar ranks, coming up just short in a classic battle with Stewart Friesen on Tuesday, then prevailing Wednesday with a last-lap pass in a photo finish. A third-place finish Thursday made three podiums in three days.

Perseverance, thy name was Brandon on Wednesday night at Volusia. Brandon Sheppard charged from the back of the field to third over the course of 40 laps, while Brandon Overton scored his third late model win of 2022, grabbing $10,000 despite driving with an engine visibly expiring in the coming laps. Overton’s No. 76 car had visible oil streaks coming out of the hood in victory lane.

Cory Eliason won Tuesday night’s ASCoC sprint car feature at East Bay, a far cry from Monday …

Vexed, Villains & Victims

… where the same Cory Eliason fought the turn 3 wall at East Bay on Monday and the wall won. To his credit, Eliason did more damage than most.

What a difference a year makes at Volusia. Kyle Strickler won two DIRTcar Nationals races a year ago, but this Speedweeks has been rough on the former modified star, seeing him miss Monday’s race after having a transfer spot from the heat races tossed due to a weights issue post-race, break a driveshaft on Tuesday and bow out early in both Wednesday and Thursday’s features due to mechanical issues.

Brady Bacon’s penchant for spectacular crashes continues into 2022, with the first true flip of the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Series. Bacon also struggled in the season opener for his USAC National Sprint Car Series title defense, involved in two yellow flags and finishing outside the top 15 at Bubba on Thursday.

NASCAR Regulars

Cup Series regular Alex Bowman ran in the top five early in his sprint car during the ASCoC feature at East Bay Monday night, but faded to 12th by night’s end.

Truck Series regular Friesen prevailed in Tuesday’s instant classic season opener for the Super DIRTcar Series, winning a relentless battle with Peter Britten that saw the lead swap more than a half-dozen times in the final 15 laps. The win was Friesen’s 10th career DIRTcar Nationals victory at Volusia. Friesen scored top fives in Wednesday and Thursday’s features.

Former Cup Series competitor David Reutimann won the second UMP modified heat at Bubba on Thursday night and finished fourth in the feature event.

Fellow former Cup driver Kenny Wallace finished fifth in the UMP modified feature at Bubba Thursday, nearly spinning out Reutimann in the closing laps.

Fanning the Flames

I’ll echo the accolades of the wingless sprint car drivers lauding the creation of the new Xtreme Outlaw wingless sprint series, if nothing else for putting more money on the table for wingless drivers. Having said that, adding them on as a third class to the regular DIRTcar Nationals lineup is a bridge too far. 

As Monday night showed, even running two full series programs plus hot laps for a third resulted in ending well after midnight on a weeknight. Too late, even for Speedweeks. Cut down the race nights for the modifieds in 2023, bump the purses for the nights they’re there, and make room for the wingless brigade.

It’s been a mixed bag at Bubba Raceway Park for the USAC sanction this far into Speedweeks. On the positive side, the USAC National Sprint Car Series actually outdrew the debut of the Xtreme Outlaw Sprint Series in terms of car count, with more than 40 cars taking time in Thursday’s qualifying session. On the negative side, the car count for the USAC national midgets was down both nights at Bubba last week. This story will be one to watch in 2022.

I will die on the hill that intro music is not needed before sprint car heats, especially given that they have to run at speed for engine heat. Having said that, the All-Star Circuit using “Danger Zone” was a damn fine selection for Monday’s B-main. Sadly for them, Johnny Gibson and the DirtVision crew topped them for music in every other instance this week. Speaking of Gibson, man, do I hope he’s around to call the Xtreme Series often this season.

Thomas Meseraull quipped during Flo Racing’s USAC broadcast from Bubba on Thursday that for those that believe drivers are out there making loads of money, he had spent much of his share of Tuesday’s winnings from Volusia on hotel rooms to get the team to Bubba. To paraphrase Beyonce, “put a wing on it.”

Oof, this was about as bad a week for track closures as they come. The Potomac Speedway is apparently on a three-year clock before it’s gone for good, with ownership wanting to turn full attention to motocross (the way the facility is currently situated, you can see jumping motorcycles over the oval track’s backstretch wall on bike days). 

The Dixie Speedway and Rome Speedway and Georgia are going on full hiatus for 2022, leaving an October date on the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in doubt. And according to local reporting, the Pahrump Valley Speedway in Nevada has been sold, with no guarantees that the new owner intends to continue operation of the track. Ouch.

The Pahrump Valley Speedway has sold for a reported $800,000 dollars to an unnamed individual. Previous owner Chad…

Posted by Local Pahrump on Friday, February 11, 2022

Numbers Game

37 – car count for the inaugural Xtreme Outlaw wingless sprint car race at Volusia Monday night.

$1,684 – winner’s share of Thursday’s 50/50 draw at Volusia.

$4,000 – Cory Eliason’s estimate of the value of the lumber he knocked off the Easy Bay wall Monday 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 midweek a solid four Hurricane Reefs from the Florida Beer Company. The Super DIRTcar Series put on two instant classics and the sprint car racing at East Bay made up for a caution-filled, rubbered track USAC sprint car opener at Bubba and some marathon nights at Volusia.

Up Next: The DIRTcar Nationals continue at Volusia, the Winternationals continue at East Bay and the USAC Winter Dirt Games continue at Bubba. Coverage can be found on DirtVision and Flo Racing, respectively.

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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