Race Weekend Central

Thinkin’ Dirty: 2022 Dairyland Showdown at Mississippi Thunder

The Headline(s)

A major late-race gaffe cost Tyler Bruening a career first, leaving Mike Marlar to grab yet another big-dollar win in 2022 with the $50,000-to-win Dairyland Showdown.

How it Happened

2022 Dairyland Showdown (World of Outlaws Late Models)
Where: Mississippi Thunder Speedway – Fountain City, Wis. (streamed on DirtVision)
Winner’s Purse: $50,000 (Saturday)

The stat sheet will show that Mike Marlar won Saturday’s (May 7) Dairyland Showdown finale at Mississippi Thunder from the pole, but it was anything but that simple. 

The early part of the race saw Marlar blown past by Tyler Erb, though Erb’s run up front was short-lived, as Marlar caught back up (Erb would say in his post-race interview that he was late to pick up on the groove in turns 3 and 4 where the track rubbered up).

The Tylers weren’t done though. A mid-race restart saw a three-wide battle for the lead send Tyler Bruening to the front, where he drove off with the lead. A career-first WoO win appeared in the cards until lap 69, when Bruening overdrove turn 1 directly into a lapped car, destroying his front end and ruining any chance for the win.  

For Marlar, his cold streak after winning the Wild West Shootout in January is in the rearview mirror, following up his Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge win with a $50,000 prize. 

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge at Volunteer

Points leader Dennis Erb Jr. scored a quiet top-five finish to extend his lead at the top of the WoO standings. 

Jonathan Davenport and Bobby Pierce scored wins in the Dairyland Showdown preliminary features on Friday and Thursday night, respectively.

Success Stories

Hudson, Wis.’s James Giossi told DirtVision following his late model heat race Saturday that it was just cool to be at the track racing with the guys that do it for a living. There was no follow-on interview post-race, but can’t help but wonder what he had to say about finishing fourth and scoring a $500 bonus for being the highest-finishing driver not to have won a WoO feature.

Tyler Erb has taken a contrarian approach to super late model racing this spring, opting out of some larger-money XR-sanctioned shows to run a Midwest-centric schedule, one that has seen him take advantage of the end of his suspension from Outlaws competition. Following a win at Atomic Speedway earlier this month, Erb finished third and second in the Dairyland Showdown features on Friday and Saturday, the only driver to score top-fives across those two WoO features.

Cade Dillard and Ryan Gustin were the only two drivers to score top-10 finishes in all three Dairyland Showdown late model features this weekend. Gustin also scored a top five in Saturday’s United States Modified Touring Series feature at Mississippi Thunder. On the modified side of the pits, Lucas Schott was the only driver to score a top 10 in all three USMTS features, winning Thursday’s preliminary race.

Vexed, Villains & Victims

There’s no mincing words about it, Tyler Bruening threw away a $50,000 win on Saturday when he overdrove turn 1 with seven laps to go and plowed into a lapped car, bringing his No. 16 to a halt with front-end damage. 

The mishap was part of a disastrous night for Capital Race Cars, as teammate Shane Clanton was disqualified from Saturday’s Schaeffer’s Spring Nationals race at East Alabama Motor Speedway the same night for getting into an on-track scuffle under yellow with Ricky Weiss.

Before Bruening’s race-losing move, the hard-luck driver of the weekend absolutely was Jimmy Mars. Thursday saw Mars have to duck off the track before the feature even started, never taking the green flag. Friday saw Mars get into a wreck with Brent Larson during his heat race, not even starting his last-chance showdown. Then Saturday, Mars clipped the wall during qualifying and didn’t take to the track the rest of the evening.

Winning the third heat race on Thursday proved to be a curse no matter what type of car a racer was driving. Jonathan Davenport was DQ’d from his heat win after failing the droop rule check in his late model, while Brandon Davis had his heat race win thrown out in the modifieds for an RPM chip violation. Davis then went on to flip his car during his B-main.

Gunner Frank, Blair Nothdurft and Paul Parker attempted all three nights of the Dairyland Showdown and failed to qualify for a late model feature.

Fanning the Flames

My God, was it childish to watch dirt racing Twitter melt down over the fact that the Dairyland Showdown stream was split between DirtVision and Racin’ Dirt; DirtVision is the exclusive home of the World of Outlaws late model tour, while Racin’ Dirt has the same arrangement with the USMTS modified tour. That meant that both outlets had large periods of dead air as their counterpart was on the track during the three-day event. Racin’ Dirt a month ago pulled no punches about their take on the matter.

I can empathize with fans frustrated by this situation. Considering what it costs to subscribe to both DirtVision and Racin’ Dirt, I do expect each outlet to carry support classes during their streams. Both services’ broadcasts suffered for having to fill so much time with cameras off the track. 

BUT, having said that, the outrage fans were expressing, especially citing Racin’ Dirt’s take on the matter, was at best naive. For one, of course Racin’ Dirt wanted to be able to stream the late models on their service. Let’s face it, the USMTS was the support class for the Dairyland Showdown, period. Imagine Flo Racing crying because FOX Sports wouldn’t let them stream a Cup race at a track that ARCA was racing at. Sound ridiculous? It is.

But more than anything, as much as race fans were lamenting an apparent lack of cooperation between the two racing series and streaming services, there’s commercial realities here that have to be considering.

Let’s take a hypothetical. I own a racing shocks company and I’ve signed a contract to advertise on DirtVision, the exclusive home of the WoO late models. Now imagine DirtVision coming to me and saying hey, we’re going to allow our exclusive product to be streamed on Racin’ Dirt, a company whose own broadcasts go over all night long with a big Integra Shocks logo in the upper right corner of the screen. Why would I ever be OK with that?

Two straight weeks now I’m finding myself defending the World Racing Group, the largest and most corporate entity in dirt racing. 2022 really is off its axis.

The real question lost in the streaming sniffle-fest was whether this program was too big for its own good. Combining a USMTS tour that routinely brings in 70-plus cars with a super late model program that taxes any racing surface it contests is from where I’m sitting the larger problem. Saturday especially turned into a marathon night even without a rash of cautions, thanks to a myriad of breaks for track rework as well as an extended delay before the late model feature for the track to allow for go-karts to run on their infield track.

Yes, it’s well-intentioned that the track wanted to let their local racers get a race under their belts in front of what was a record crowd at Mississippi Thunder Raceway. But get real. Nobody there or watching on TV was there to watch go-karts. And keeping all the headlining racecars off the track for an over an hour to allow for rework and go-karting was a promotional failure.

Even without the go-kart racing, I do have to ask whether this program was a good idea given just how much track rework was required to keep the surface in order Saturday night. Thursday’s track was immaculate, in part benefiting from cloudy conditions that kept moisture in the surface. And while the track wasn’t bad at any point on Friday or Saturday, it took a Chili Bowl-level of rework and dead time to continually groom the surface. Whether the show was that good is up for debate.

As I mentioned previously, the weekend’s format didn’t do the quality of the broadcast from either streaming partner any favors. A couple bones to pick with each of them. One, Racin’ Dirt. For a subscription that costs only $7 a month less than DirtVision but offers considerably less live racing and content, it’s criminal to be the exclusive home of the USMTS tour and have no graphics or real-time tracking of the passing points that the series utilizes. There is nothing more frustrating than watching a heat race and having no clue who actually advanced out of it.

DirtVision’s Dairyland Showdown effort was better, but not without its flaws. The DV crew over the weekend did make better use of their studio and Dave Rieff to provide updates during dead air, and the decision to bring Nick Hoffman in on Saturday night to offer driver insights was a welcome one. That doesn’t change the fact that over the weekend, despite all the dead air, that the broadcasts had several major misses, including next to no acknowledgement Thursday of Jimmy Mars’s exit from the track. And as for Saturday’s defining moment…

Numbers Game

40 – top super late model car count at the Dairyland Showdown (Friday).

73 – top modified car count at the Dairyland Showdown (Thursday).

75 – lap count of Saturday’s Dairyland Showdown late model finale.

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 Dairyland Showdown four White Russians. Saturday’s feature had some solid lead changes and late-race drama, and Thursday’s racing program was representative of a supremely racy surface. A ton of dead air and sloppiness from the streaming partners covering the event did detract from the experience for those of us not at Mississippi Thunder.

Up Next: The big money sticks with the super late models, as the XR Super Series heads to the Dirt Track at Charlotte for the Colossal 100. Three straight nights of $25,000-to-win prelim features culminates with the $50,000-to-win 100-lap event Saturday night. Coverage can be found on RaceXR.

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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