Race Weekend Central

Not Quite NASCAR: Kyle Busch on Dirt, California 410 Sprint Car Season Opens Within a Drive of Auto Club

The NASCAR big-league circus returns to Auto Club Speedway this weekend, and I’ve got news for Busch Clash fans: what’s on tap for the weekend will look nothing like the Clash at the Los Angeles Coliseum. 

While late February sees the dirt racing scene in California still getting itself up to speed for 2022, there are several options/storylines out there for race fans looking for something more grassroots, and, let’s face it, fun.

See Two Generations of Busch on One Night

The news has been out all week that Cup Series regular Kyle Busch is slated to make his first dirt start since the Tulsa Shootout last month, accompanying his son Brexton to race micro sprints at the Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park Friday night (Feb. 25), a tick under four hours away from Auto Club Speedway.

What more needs to be said? A chance to see Rowdy and the next generation with grandstand tickets currently pre-selling at $12. $25 will get you a pit pass and a chance to be in the pits with the Buschs, though judging from the track’s Facebook page there’s already quite a few other fans with the exact same idea. 

See also
2-Headed Monster: Will Kyle Busch Ever Win the Daytona 500?

A California Track Reconfiguration Actually Completed

With Motorsport’s Jim Utter casting doubt on whether NASCAR will actually follow through on grandiose plans to turn the current 2-mile Auto Club Speedway into a short track, one California dirt track within driving distance actually did just that in the offseason. 

Keller Auto Speedway in Hanford, Calif., is a four-hour drive from Auto Club and will be debuting its new racing surface Saturday night with the Dave Helm Memorial, a four-class program that will be headlined by both the 360 and 410 divisions of the Kings of Thunder Sprint Car tour. The 410 drivers will headline the program, racing for $4,000 to win. 

The new surface is expected to produce a hammer-down race Saturday night due to forecasted rain and cool temperatures during the week. Among those that tested the new dirt was Kerry Madsen, the 2021 Nittany Showdown winner and former driver for Tony Stewart Racing’s No. 14 sprint car team. 

A couple of more laps today… #Toyotaisfast.

Posted by Keller Auto Speedway at Kings Fairgrounds- Hanford on Monday, February 21, 2022

The entry list for Saturday’s race will be made more interesting by the fact that the World of Outlaws has already canceled its scheduled races this weekend in Mississippi and Louisiana, opening the possibility that some of the Western-based sprint car teams (the Roth Motorsports No. 83 comes to mind) could now have an opportunity to contest the richest sprint car race this side of the Mississippi this weekend.

All the Views Without the Smog

The television spots for NASCAR’s return to Auto Club have made a point to call out the mountain views the track offers behind the backstretch. It’s true, those views are there … sometimes. Reality is, there is a smog problem in the Fontana, Calif., area, and it can and will obstruct those mountain views (I speak firsthand from my visit in 2017).

Fortunately, for those looking for a picturesque venue, make a four-hour trek south to Yuma, Ariz., and the Cocopah Speedway will deliver, with no smog to worry about.

Cocopah, which has raced as much as pretty much any track in America this far in 2022 after hosting the IMCA Winter Nationals last month, will contest a two-day program Friday and Saturday night, headlined by the IMCA modifieds. 

Looking for a name to watch out for? Bakersfield, Calif.’s Ethan Dotson, who is among the national leaders in dirt racing thus far in 2022 with seven feature wins already to his credit, has been spotted racing in Arizona multiple times this month and scored five wins at Cocopah during the Winter Nationals. If he shows up, he’s instantly the favorite.

See also
Dirty (Half) Dozen: Dirt Race Streaming Skewers FOX While JJ Yeley Skewers USAC

The Bottom Dollar

At the time of this writing, the cheapest seat available for Sunday’s Wise Power 400 at Auto Club is $46, including fees.

By comparison, grandstand ticket prices for the above listed venues are as follows:

Cocopah Speedway – $15
Keller Auto Raceway at Plaza Park – $12
Keller Auto Speedway – $20

Also of note, a pit pass at any of these three venues are available for purchase by the public and all will run less than the $46 needed at Auto Club on Sunday.

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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