Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Flo Racing Night in America at Eldora/Brownstown

The Headline(s)

Jonathan Davenport and Kyle Larson, the top-two finishers in Flo Racing Night in America points a year ago, split the trophies during the first week of the 2022 tour.

How it Happened

2022 Flo Racing Night in America
Where: Eldora Speedway – Rossburg, Ohio & Brownstown Speedway – Brownstown, Ind.
Winner’s Purse: $22,022 (nightly)

Davenport’s winless streak to start 2022 already seems like a distant memory. The defending Flo Racing Series champion, Davenport took the lead from Mike Marlar barely a tenth of the way into Wednesday’s (April 27) feature at Brownstown Speedway and left the field in the dust, scoring his second super late model win of the year in convincing fashion.

Though Davenport remarked in victory lane that he felt like he was struggling with lapped cars, the outcome of the race was never in doubt. Though a number of drivers made steady progress through the field, by race’s end at Brownstown the running order was all but locked down.

The previous night at Eldora Speedway was far removed from those track conditions at Brownstown. A rainy spring and new clay at Tony Stewart’s famed Ohio oval made for rough track conditions similar to those seen at Volusia Speedway Park during the Sunshine Nationals back in January, though the damage through the field was nowhere near as acute.

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Sunshine Nationals at Volusia

As for the race itself, the hammer-down conditions left Larson to put an absolute spanking on the field, winning by a country mile and lapping up to sixth place despite the feature having been cut from 50 to 30 laps due to track conditions. 

The win marked Larson’s third on dirt in 2022 and first in a super late model. Larson has already won in a NASCAR Cup Series car, super late model, winged sprint and micro sprint in the calendar year.

Davenport’s win at Brownstown, coupled with a runner-up finish in the tour opener at Eldora on Tuesday, has the defending series champion leading the tour points after two races.

Success Stories

“Smooth Operator” Bobby Pierce got a welcome shot in the arm from the visit to Brownstown, scoring a runner-up finish less than a week removed from an underwhelming performance at the Florida Dirt Nationals, where he missed Friday’s feature at All-Tech Raceway. 

Defending All-Star Circuit of Champions title winner Tyler Courtney made his super late model debut one to remember, scoring a top-10 finish despite the treacherous track conditions at Eldora. Between Larson’s win Tuesday night and Courtney’s accomplishment, those who believe in the rivalry between sprint car and late model drivers had a field day.

Marshalltown, Iowa’s Ryan Gustin won hard charger honors at Eldora on Tuesday, moving from 20th to eighth in the feature, then following that up with a sixth-place run at Brownstown.

It may not have gotten the attention it normally would, but “Big Sexy” Brandon Overton was the only driver other than Davenport to score top fives in both Flo tour features this week.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

Any momentum Kyle Bronson took from a return to his home state at the Florida Dirt Nationals at Eldora went out the window Tuesday (April 26) at Eldora. After being forced to a backup car after qualifying, Bronson was leading his B-main in his backup car before an ignition box failure stopped the car in its tracks and sent Bronson home. The team opted not to race at Brownstown the next night.

The same thing happened to Kyle Strickler, though the High-Side Tickler at least made the Eldora field. Strickler saw a top-10 finish go out the window after cutting down a tire inside of 10 laps from the checkered flag.

Longtime Midwest competitor Shannon Babb scored about as little as possible for making both Flo Racing features this week, retiring early from the Eldora feature on Tuesday after getting caught up in an early-race incident and then finishing dead last in Wednesday’s feature at Brownstown.

NASCAR Regulars

Cup regular Chase Briscoe couldn’t replicate Courtney’s magic in his super late model debut at Brownstown Wednesday, suffering from damage after colliding with a spinning Dylan Thompson that forced his team to scratch from his scheduled B-main. 

Defending Cup champion Larson returned to form in late model competition this week, scoring the win at Eldora and a fifth-place finish at Brownstown that saw him one of the few drivers able to make passes late in the feature. Larson’s Eldora win extended a remarkable streak for the driver at the facility.

Fanning the Flames

For all the attention that Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s cameo in the NASCAR on FOX booth at Talladega got, for my money it was far more exciting to hear James Essex, the voice of the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, get a hall pass to call the Flo event at Brownstown. Super late models with Essex at the mic is about as good as it gets.

And while on the NASCAR bit, Davenport’s quip that Eldora’s racing surface was “rougher than a Mexican jail” made me laugh. That Davenport made such a quip during a live race broadcast and was openly lauded for it the same week that Denny Hamlin learned just how intolerant NASCAR’s thought police are for anything risqué was a happy reminder of how awesome it is to call the dirt racing beat home.

Let’s talk about the Lucas Oil tour for a minute. The LOLMDS ranks scored a major coup this week with the announcement that defending World of Outlaws late model champion Brandon Sheppard and the Rocket Chassis house team are going to pursue the Lucas Oil championship in 2022. 

I am thrilled about this. I’m not picking favorites, but I am of the persuasion that the competition on the Lucas side of the aisle is tougher. And, as Sheppard and team owner Mark Richards told DirtonDirt about the decision, the LOLMDS format, which does not use a random redraw as does the WoO tour, will often allow a stronger race team to prosper in an era where super late model racing is rife with parity. Tim McCreadie vs. Sheppard is gonna be good.

I didn’t have it on my dirt bingo card for 2022 that both Volusia and Eldora would see their season openers suffer from a subpar racing surface, but it’s April and here we are. Fortunately Eldora does have a number of event scheduled between now and the Eldora Million in June to get the new clay solidified and racy.

Having said that, part of me was happy that the Eldora surface was as messy as it was. With the Eldora Million looming in June, the race fan in me is thrilled that those that made the trip to Eldora hoping to take notes for the Million left with no usable tricks up their sleeves. If there’s one race in 2022 I truly want the best man to win, it’s that one.

And on that note, I will say that I’m happy that Larson will not be at said Million (Larson, as it turns out, will be attending his best friend’s wedding the same night as the race and made the correct decision to be there for the nuptials). I have no problem with Larson racing super late models, as he is racing at the top level of the racing discipline. But a $1 million purse is enough to change things in a HUGE way for a dirt racing team, and I’d rather see it go to a driver/team that doesn’t have the Cup Series to lean on for income.

Considering what I wrote earlier this week about the decision of Selinsgrove Speedway to shorten its sprint car feature after heat races were run, I’d say something about Eldora cutting the race distance. But it didn’t look like there were many fans there to get upset about it.

Numbers Game

28 – years since Brownstown had hosted a race with a winner’s purse as large as Wednesday’s.

49 – super late model entries for Flo Racing Night in America at Eldora.

$75,000 – points fund for winning the 2022 Flo Racing Night in America series crown.

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 opening salvos of the Flo Racing Night in America series three and a half Eldora Toilet Waters. Larson’s display on a treacherous track Tuesday was really impressive, and it’s always a treat to hear Essex call racing at Brownstown. But the track conditions at Eldora plus Davenport’s dominance at Brownstown made the events a tad pedestrian. Eldora also ran really late courtesy of a three-class program.

Up Next: The Flo Racing Night in America tour returns on May 11 and 12 for a doubleheader of midweek races at Illinois’s Spoon River Raceway and Lincoln Speedway, part of the larger inaugural Illinois Speedweeks in the region. Coverage can be found on, well, Flo.

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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