Winning Moment: Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer Billy Moyer Sr. blew past Gilbert, Ariz.’s Karl Tipton to win the $3,000 late model finale of the first week of the Early Thaw at Central Arizona Speedway Sunday (Jan. 22).
Dramatic Moment: Portland, N.D.’s Jason Strand drove over the banking in turn 1 while leading the Early Thaw late model feature Sunday, a slip-up that opened the door for Moyer’s eventual race winning pass.
In a Nutshell: After a 2022 season of races turning into routs up front, late model racing is proving competitive from sea to shining sea a month into the 2023 campaign.
What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning
Moyer’s win Sunday at Central Arizona was the 848th feature triumph of his career. Enough said.
I said the same thing about IMCA TV’s coverage of the IMCA Winter Nationals two weeks ago at Cocopah, and I’ll say it here… the lack of social media presence from IMCA racing’s streaming partners is really hurting the visibility of their racing events. With the World of Outlaws canceled on Saturday the Early Thaw out west was the weekend headliner, yet there were no replays or updates to be found outside of those that bought the PPV. Lots of missed eyeballs.
Considering how crate engines have effectively neutered late model racing in many places across the South, it scared me to hear Ricky Weiss referring to how the rules package being run at Central Arizona for the Early Thaw utilizes a restrictor plate. But I’ve got to concede, all four late model races at CAR this week were very entertaining affairs. Coupled with Vado being Vado and Volusia putting on two good Outlaw races, life has been good for late model fans to date.
Speaking of Volusia… how in the hell is there no rain date for the Sunshine Nationals finale?!
I get it if an Outlaws show in the middle of nowhere gets axed and can’t realistically be re-staged, but get real, 90% of the late model field that was at Volusia isn’t going anywhere given that the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series kicks off at Golden Isles Speedway in Georgia with practice on Wednesday. Really disappointing to see WRG axe a $20,000-to-win show.
Short Track Super Series promoter Brett Dayo made a splash with his promoted racetracks over the weekend, as it was announced that Fonda Speedway, Georgetown Speedway and Utica-Rome Speedway will all be sanctioned as part of NASCAR’s weekly racing program for 2023.
This isn’t unheard of for dirt tracks, as I-80 Speedway in Nebraska previously held the sanction and Adams County Speedway in Iowa currently does. But, I will concede surprise to see Dayo’s properties make the move because frankly, Dayo’s promotional efforts have proven successful across the board. And NASCAR sanction, for all its name power, isn’t free.
Dayo noted in the announcement surrounding the arrangement that the move was made to provide racers at his weekly tracks with additional potential winnings sources. As a fan of Dayo’s promotions, I hope it works out that simply. Because nothing’s ever simple or grassroots once in NASCAR’s bedroom.
Hero of the Weekend
Ham Lake, Minn.’s Don Shaw came up one spot short of victory in Sunday’s late model feature at Central Arizona, but Shaw gets the nod here nonetheless for being the braintrust behind the resurrection of the Early Thaw racing event. Not only was Shaw instrumental in organizing the event, the first major race for the newly-rebranded Central Arizona Raceway, he also used his own equipment to field late models for veteran drivers Moyer and Ken Schrader during the opening week of competition.
The car counts haven’t been anywhere close to what IMCA’s Winter Nationals drew at Cocopah last week, but the event has put on entertaining races all weekend. Hope to see this event return in 2023, whether Shaw’s behind the wheel or not.
Villain/Victim(s) of the Weekend
Being out front was not the place to be at Central Arizona Raceway on Sunday. We’ve already discussed Strand’s issues while leading, though his self-induced error wasn’t the only one.
Hawley, Minn.’s Cole Schill spun on his own while leading on lap 4 of Sunday’s Early Thaw race at Central Arizona, triggering a seven-car pileup that collected Weiss, the dominant driver in the late model ranks on the weekend.
- This column named Sarasota, Fla.’s Justin Webster the Victim/Villain of the Night Friday for his his flip while leading the Top Gun Sprints feature at East Bay Raceway Park and his attempt to confront Scott Baldwin under red. Webster opted to do his talking on track and won the Top Gun feature Saturday night at East Bay.
- If there was an award to give for command performance this weekend, it’d go to Albany, Ore.’s Bricen James. Winning the Saturday late model race at Central Arizona, James straight up beat Weiss in a race that went green long enough to deal with swathes of lapped traffic.
Dirt tracks that ran oval track racing programs over the weekend in the U.S.
Cars that were not running at the halfway point of Saturday’s Snowball Derby 200 enduro at East Lincoln Speedway (out of 41 that started).
Nation’s largest car count this weekend, the Early Thaw at Central Arizona Saturday night.
Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Friday morning (Jan. 27) following the resumption of the Early Thaw at the Central Arizona Raceway and the Winternationals at East Bay, along with the season opener for the Lucas Oil late models at Golden Isles. Coverage can be found on Speed Sport TV and Flo Racing, respectively.
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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