Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Texas 2-Step at Cotton Bowl

The Headline(s)

Sheldon Haudenschild and Carson Macedo split the trophies at the Texas Two-Step while David Gravel maintained his early-season points lead on the World of Outlaws tour.

How it Happened

2022 Texas Two-Step (World of Outlaws)
Where: Cotton Bowl Speedway – Paige, Texas (streamed on DirtVision)
Winner’s Purse: $10,000 (nightly)

Saturday night (March 5) marked a redemption song for Carson Macedo. At the same track that saw Macedo flip twice in the same feature one year ago, his first career top 10 at Cotton Bowl ended up being a feature win, besting home-state favorite Sam Hafertepe Jr. in lapped traffic going through turns 3 and 4 with four laps to go. It was Macedo’s first series win of 2022 and the 18th of his career.

Friday night’s feature, however, was seemingly a replay of 2021. For the second consecutive season, Sheldon Haudenschild took the opening night win at Cotton Bowl, in his case besting Cory Eliason with a move through turn 2 with nine laps to go, then driving away to an impressive margin of victory.

Success Stories

Leading the points five races into the 2022 campaign is last year’s runner-up, Gravel. Following up a feature win and Winternationals points crown at Volusia, Gravel finished the Texas Two-Step weekend one of only two drivers on tour to have scored top-10 finishes in all five WoO features to date. Given the momentum Gravel ended 2021 with, securing the early points lead is likely to be a huge shot in the arm for the Big Game Motorsports team.

That’s also hugely significant, considering it held the points lead at a track that three-time defending series champion Brad Sweet had owned coming into the weekend.

The only other driver in the WoO ranks to score five top 10s to start 2022 is 10-time champion Donny Schatz. Schatz joined Logan Schuchart as one of the two hard chargers in the respective Texas Two-Step features.

The closest result of any of the sprint car races run at Cotton Bowl this weekend came courtesy of Saturday’s second heat race, which saw eventual race winner Macedo best Brock Zearfoss by inches to secure a spot in the Dash. 

That proved to be the difference between Macedo starting sixth instead of eighth. Given that he made the winning pass with only four laps to go, those two spots could have been the difference between the trophy and a podium finish.

The weekend’s unofficial “Boomerang” award goes to Eliason. His second-place finish on Friday was as close as he’s come to ending a four-year losing streak on the WoO tour. However, come Saturday night…

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Eliason didn’t complete one lap of Saturday’s Texas Two-Step feature, getting collected in a first-lap collision between Jacob Allen and Kraig Kinser that broke his car’s shock tower and left it parked for the evening.

Speaking of Allen, while he’s shown no shortage of speed in preliminary events so far this season, the features have been a whole different ballgame. He lost a combined 14 positions from where he started across the two Texas Two-Step features this weekend, including a first-lap tangle Saturday night.

Also going the wrong way this weekend was Aaron Reutzel. Purely hypothetical, but it seems that Reutzel’s No. 8 team hits some limitations at Cotton Bowl Speedway, a bullring track where the engine power that was on display at Volusia Speedway Park during Speedweeks matters a whole lot less. Reutzel went backward from fifth to 14th on Friday and finished 18th Saturday.

Friday night’s factory stock feature had an about as eventful a lap with seven to go as a race can, with both the first- and third-place cars involved in a yellow flag. Third-place Daulton Faulkner spun out battling for second, then race leader Tim Homeyer pulled into the infield while leading under the same yellow flag.

NASCAR Regulars

Kasey Kahne had a rough Texas Two-Step weekend in more ways than one. He failed to finish his heat race after scraping the turn 3 wall mid-race, relegating the No. 9 car to the Last Chance Showdown. From there, Kahne had to give up a front-row starting spot after showing up late to staging. Though he finished third in the LCS and earned a spot in the feature, he ended up not starting the feature.

That was followed up the next day by the announcement that Kahne would sit out the finale of the Texas Two-Step, citing lingering injury concerns weeks after Kahne’s violent crash in the DIRTcar Nationals finale at Volusia.

Kahne’s longtime friend and former WoO champion Daryn Pittman was literally picked out of the grandstands to fill in Saturday night; Pittman finished 22nd in the feature.

Fanning the Flames

Even DirtVision could be heard chuckling during Friday night’s apparently rewritten rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. It’s hard to blame them. Thankfully, the track opted for a recorded orchestral version Saturday night.

I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a factory stock identify itself the way that Kenneth Montgomery’s did, spelling out the number four instead of running the No. 4. Not my cup of tea, but at least the decals were where God intended.

4 or FOUR for our 2022 digits?

Posted by Kenny Montgomery on Sunday, December 19, 2021

The folks at Cotton Bowl Speedway tried something unique with their 50/50 raffle at the track Friday night, with half going to a lucky fan and the other half going to a driver in the factory stock feature that was determined by a random draw immediately prior to the feature (it ended up being seventh). This draw was no small deal; the 50/50 pot ended up being over $1,200, while the posted purse for the race winner was only $1,000.

Problem is, well-intentioned as this promotion was, it has to be said it backfired. Not only does it make no logical sense for any circumstance to allow for a top-10 finisher to earn more winnings than the feature race winner, but it also created a situation where the commentary booth was incredulously criticizing Sinton, Texas’s Caitlin Leonard for making a last-lap pass to go from seventh to sixth because it cost her a pot of money.

Whether Leonard knew about the draw in advance or not, there should never be a circumstance created in a race where it makes more sense for a driver to be incentivized not to make a last-lap pass for any position. Ironically, Leonard ended up being credited for finishing fourth after two cars were disqualified in post-race inspection. Got $1,200 you want to give back to the racers? Great. Spread it out amongst the field. 

It’s no surprise the 50/50 prize was so high given that the grandstands were absolutely packed for both nights of the Texas Two-Step, but Johnny Gibson’s emphatic claim Saturday night that the crowd was the largest in the history of Cotton Bowl Speedway fell really flat without an announced sellout or crowd size.

Numbers Game

14 – number of drivers that have started all five World of Outlaws features in 2022.

29 – peak sprint car count for the WoO at the Texas Two-Step.

79 – features started by Cory Eliason since his last WoO victory in 2018.

Where it Rated (on a scale of one to six cans with one a stinker and a six-pack an instant classic): The Texas Two-Step scores four Lone Stars. Neither feature will go down as a classic, but both featured a relatively late pass for the lead and continued to see new faces stay relevant in the early-season title chase. And credit to the show organizers for having both racing programs complete in well under four hours.

Up Next: The richest program next weekend belongs to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, so Thinkin’ Dirty will be dialing in on 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn. for the aptly titled Tennesseean, offering $32,000 to win over Friday and Saturday night. Coverage can be found 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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