Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Logan Seavey Wins Final Chili Bowl Prelim; Pierce Stops Davenport at Vado

Winning Moment: Logan Seavey became defending Chili Bowl champion Tanner Thorson’s biggest competition with a powerful win in Friday’s final prelim feature (Jan. 13). 

Dramatic Moment: Bobby Pierce blasted past Jonathan Davenport with 13 laps to go to snap Superman’s three-race winning streak at the Wild West Shootout in Vado, N.M., costing Davenport at least $200,000 in bonus money.

In a Nutshell: The late models frankly topped the midgets this Friday evening, but all eyes will be on the Chili Bowl, both because Seavey was untouchable and the track took severe rubber that reduced the final prelim feature to a parade.

What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

Young Ashton Torgerson, the headline of the 2023 Chili Bowl Nationals under unfortunate circumstances, was fortunately cleared for release from the hospital in Tulsa late this afternoon. The entire racing community should be breathing a sigh of relief.

The good and the bad about the Chili Bowl surface. The bad news is that the quality of the track has declined as the race week went on, and it got ugly during Friday night’s prelim, with the lower groove taking rubber and making passing all but impossible. 

The good news? The track crew in Tulsa is elite. And if 2022 taught us anything, it’s that elite track crews against the wall for crown jewel races will get it right. The Volusia crew turned a muddy mess into the World of Outlaws race of the year in one day last February. The Eldora crew salvaged a disaster of a surface to create a pristine surface for the Eldora Million. I feel fairly confident that Chili Bowl Gravel will get it right tomorrow.

Though if there’s any pools going about how much time will be spent on track prep tomorrow in Tulsa, I’m taking the over.

Bobby Pierce’s performance in Vado, N.M. was a real conundrum for me. On the one hand, he literally became the first super late model driver in America capable of passing Davenport under green, and he kept him there during a pressure-packed final two laps after a late-race caution. Pierce’s victory was a command performance.

Having said that, Pierce’s asinine comments during a red-flag interview in his heat race, alleging that Davenport was being allowed by race officials to jump the start while he wasn’t (mind you, Davenport was not in even in Pierce’s heat race) was laughable. 

The results speak for themselves, Pierce spent Friday night in victory lane. But I can’t help but wonder if that type of non-sensical frustration is going to cost more trophies than it yields.

Flo Racing’s Chili Bowl content this week has been hit or miss, with some excellent stories and some other features that are just silly, but nothing has been more entertaining or valuable than Friday’s interview with two-time USAC Silver Crown Series champion Jack Hewitt. Some of his comments had me pumping my fist, others had me shaking my head, but Hewitt is genuine and honest if nothing else. Can’t fault any man for having those qualities.

Hero of the Day

It was tempting to give this to Pierce for finally shooting down Superman, but Seavey gets the nod because he put together the first thoroughly dominant run of the Chili Bowl Nationals. No self-induced spins, no real run-ins on track and driving for a Swindell Speedlabs operation that  already grabbed a Driller in the Tulsa Shootout a couple weeks ago, Seavey is easily the darkhorse tomorrow, if not the favorite over even defending race winner Thorson.

The honorable mention goes to Austin Barnhill for landing a flip that would make an Olympic figure skater proud.

Victim of the Day

Prior to Pierce knocking off Davenport, the headline incident of the night in Vado came in a heat race, when a pitched battle between Pierce and Kyle Larson was interrupted when the two made contact with the slower car of Trenton Jessen.

Not only did Jessen end up with a junked racecar on its roof, he was subject to a bevy of criticism on social media for being too slow, for being a hazard to faster traffic, the works. Frankly, watching that replay I’m not 100% sure what he was supposed to do different. Yes, he was way off the pace of the leaders, but said leaders have to deal with slower cars. Sometimes there’s only victims. 

Shout Outs

  • Dustin Sorensen faded lade in the feature Friday night, but he’s been showing steady progress every night in his debut ride with the MB Customs house team.
  • After that incident with Jessen, Larson went from 12th to first to win his B-main and then went from 20th to fourth in the feature. Plus 27 in 40 laps is pretty damned impressive.
  • Davenport was not the only driver to see a big bonus evaporate out in the desert – Dereck Ramirez lost his shot at a $15,000 bonus for failing to win Friday’s A-modified feature.

Numbers Game

3

Dirt tracks that ran oval track racing programs in the U.S. Friday night.

76

Midgets entered in the Chili Bowl Nationals Thursday night in Tulsa.

234

Nation’s largest car count on Friday night, the IMCA Winter Nationals in Arizona.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be focused exclusively on the finals of the Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa Saturday night (Jan. 14). Coverage can be found on Flo Racing.

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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