Race Weekend Central

Dirty (Half) Dozen: Jimmy Owens Plays Mr. Feel Good & Too Much Icebreaker

1. T-Mez’s full-Size tirade after USAC midget race

Nationally, midget racing has been the closest thing to NASCAR 2022 that dirt racing has going in the sense that drivers, intentionally or not, have had no qualms or fear of running over fellow competitors even at the top levels of the discipline. The latest such episode unfolded Saturday night at Tri-State Speedway during the annual Harvest Cup race, with an exchange between Thomas Meseraull and Cannon McIntosh sparking perhaps the most notable interview since Ricky Thornton Jr.’s Gateway Nationals meltdown last winer.

Now unfortunately, Flo Racing’s broadcast didn’t capture a replay of the early-race incident that triggered this tirade, so it’s impossible for me to weigh on whether this was a case of T-Mez being rightfully upset or pulling a Sam Hafertepe Jr. 

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Short Track Nationals at I-30 Speedway

But the question I will weigh in on is whether this type of interview is of any more benefit to the sport than the very over-the-top racing T-Mez is lamenting. After all, this exchange got personal in a hurry. Epic taunting, but it kind of feels like a race to the bottom denominator type exchange that would feel right at home in big-league NASCAR.

And no one should want that for dirt racing.

2. Jimmy Owens’ feel-good story

Let’s go the complete opposite direction for a feel-good story courtesy of super late model standout Jimmy Owens. Owens was MIA as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series headed south to the Talladega Short Track, a race that saw Tim McCreadie clinch his second consecutive series title (of note because it was McCreadie that dethroned Owens from that series crown in 2021). Instead, Owens was behind the wheel of a crate late model, winning the Ty Veuleman Memorial race at Sabine Speedway in Louisiana.

I’ll credit the folks at DirtonDirt for telling this story, because I’ll admit I was unaware of it going into the weekend. The race served as a remembrance of teenage racer Veuleman, who lost his life in a roadside accident and had been mentored by Owens. Owens raced the Veuleman family-owned car at Sabine over the weekend, winning the $5,069 feature event. 

Besides being a feel-good story, it’s worth pointing out that the reason Owens was able to do this (it was, according to the Jimmy Owens Racing Updates Facebook page a deviation from the driver’s plan to instead be racing at Tri-County Racetrack on Thursday as part of the Flo Racing tour) was because instead of chasing a national tour, Owens has spent 2022 going the Davenport/Madden/Marlar route of chasing big-money races. Throw points racing from the train!

3. Getting flagging just right

Let’s stick with DirtonDirt for a second, as reading their weekly Fast Talk feature I was pleasantly surprised to see Frontstretch alum John Potts get a shout-out for his exploits as a flagman at the old Fairgrounds Motor Speedway in Louisville. Potts, whose archived columns are available here at Frontstretch, included many great stories from his decades working as a short-track official.

Such situations as Potts described in his work, where the flagman played a truly instrumental role in how a race unfolded, are going the way of the dinosaur in dirt racing. Case in point: This weekend, where I spent Saturday night at a go-kart track where short of displaying the blue flag to karts about to get lapped, the flagman did nothing but display what the track lights were showing. It was obvious watching the race that the drivers were cued in more on the track’s lights than the flagstand.

On the one hand, I get it. It’s 2022, technology has made the role of the flagman less necessary, and what’s more, with today’s super-sized racecar haulers, there’s no shortage of tracks where the flagman can’t actually see the whole track from the flagstand. Having race control operate from a press box where they have full visibility and often video replay does mean commands can be issued faster.

Still, there’s something to be said about having the human element officiating a race, just like any other sport. The never-ending pursuit to get things just right has dramatically altered soccer, for example, and is the reason American football games take four-plus hours to contest routinely. 

If there’s a message here, take a read of Mr. Potts’s work when you get a chance. He’s a presence missed among the staff here at Frontstretch.

4. A welcome dirt track return

With the demise of I-30 Speedway having been such an ugly headline in recent weeks, it was very welcome news to hear that Oklahoma’s Longdale Speedway will be returning to action in 2023 after a one-year hiatus. The track will run USRA sanctioned weekly classes, with four touring series reportedly slated to contest events at the track next year.

Credit goes to Terry Mattox, the owner of the American Sprint Car Series, for spearheading the effort to bring racing back. What will be worth noting is whether the track can make a limited, touring series-heavy schedule work (the track plans to run one Saturday a month). Such a limited schedule is necessary for the facility to avoid conflicts with other weekly racetracks, but as has been seen with the Bloomsburg Fair Raceway the last two years, such an erratic schedule can be challenging in building up a fanbase. 

At least Longdale doesn’t have a neighborhood across the street from the pit area.

5. Lincoln Icebreaker adding (unnecessary) second day

In what I’d consider one of the most disappointing 2023 announcements to date, Lincoln Speedway in Pennsylvania has announced that its annual Icebreaker sprint car race is being expanded into a two-day event.

I will concede that the likelihood of the Icebreaker actually being contested as a two-day event is low to begin with, as February weather in Pennsylvania is always cold and often unpredictable. Even the one-day Icebreaker format was vulnerable to weather conditions. 

But this really feels like overkill for an event that for decades has thrived as a quick, clean opener for 410 sprint car racing in Posse country. Last year’s race was a one-class program that ran and finished before the sunset, giving race fans an easy trip to and from the track while enduring as little winter weather as necessary to see a worthwhile race. Check out the responses to the tweet above for some more humorous takes on this story.

Feels a lot like a money grab. Sometimes less is more. Though this race is only two hours from home …

6. What is a moving picture worth?

A picture’s worth 1,000 words, or so they say. So what’s a moving picture worth that perfectly encapsulates both a caption (the caption was on a private account centered on FWD racing, but read “And we wonder why we get shuffled to the last race on the program…”) and a known truth at most dirt tracks across the country?

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Mike Kalasnik

Dirt racing in the cold usually doesnt lend to good 2 wide passing/racing. The icebreaker is usually just that. A lot of sprint cars going fast, but not much action. I usually avoid going to Lincoln until it warms up.

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