Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Ricky Thornton Jr. Breaks Through After Golden Isles Heartbreak

Winning Moment: Ricky Thornton Jr. finally broke through for his first win of 2023 Sunday night (Jan. 29) at Bubba Raceway Park, staying out of trouble up front in a chaotic feature race and avenging heartbreak at Golden Isles Speedway the night before.

Dramatic Moment: That heartbreak Saturday night may well go down as one of the most dramatic nights of the 2023 season, with Brandon Overton executing a “hail mary” last-lap pass to win the $25,000 finale of the Super Bowl of Racing at Golden Isles.

Said Overton post-race, he was either going to knock the engine out of his car or get past Thornton using the high side the way he did.

In a Nutshell: Florida/Georgia Speedweeks kicked into high gear this weekend.

What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

If I’m in the Lucas Oil competition department, I’m doing everything I can behind the scenes to woo Overton to make a run at the series title in 2023. Saturday’s last-lap pass coupled with a genuine aww shucks attitude is a combination of personality and talent that belongs at the top echelons of dirt late model racing.

While the LOLMDS continues (in futility) to sell its convoluted playoff format for 2023, one change the series made that I will applaud is the decision to move away from a chalk start line for restarts in favor of a “restart zone” between two flags in turn 4. Yes, the restart zone allows for more gray area then a single solitary line, but seeing as I’ve never seen a dirt track in America actually call the start line the start line with that level of precision, giving the race leader discretion is a worthwhile rule.

I couldn’t help but chuckle hearing James Essex ask whether Lucas Oil could land a title sponsor for a “helmet toss” count after seeing Sylvester, Ga.’s Steven Roberts chuck his helmet at Kyle Bronson during a B-main Saturday at Golden Isles.


I will say this though, it’s odd that there was no video replay (at least that I could find) of the incident that got Roberts so angry as to chuck his headgear. That’s a big miss, and one could even argue it’s suspicious seeing as the focal point of Roberts’s anger, Bronson, happens to be the track owner at Golden Isles. Things that make you go hmmm….

Moving away from Golden Isles, this weekend marked the first time in nearly two decades that the USCS sprint car series contested a race at Volusia Speedway Park. Coupled with the USAC national sprint car tour hitting the track in a few weeks as part of a revamped DIRTcar Nationals lineup, it’s nice to see Volusia’s doors opening wider. The fact that the track is owned by the World Racing Group makes things complicated, but this is so good a track and facility that any touring series contesting Speedweeks ought to host a show.

I’m not sure which I enjoyed more about the Iron-Man Late Model Series Cabin Fever at Boyd’s Speedway on Saturday, that the battle between brothers JT and Sam Seawright was an entertaining race or that the feature was about as big a departure from the Ice Bowl at Talladega as it could be, be it in terms of track conditions, passing on track or lack of yellow flags. The Iron-Man tour actually looked like a touring series this weekend.

While I’m glad RaceXR gave me a place to watch said Cabin Fever, I’ve got to beg the folks running the service to take a page from Flo Racing’s playbook and make the full videotape of replay races available. XR for those that don’t subscribe actually cuts down the tape into separate videos of heats, B-mains and features, which is a nice feature, but is also cut so tight that often times there’s no explanation of why cautions fly or what happed under a yellow flag. For a subscription fee that’s more per month than DirtVision, raw video should be available as an option.

Hero of the Weekend

Senoia, Ga.’s Ashton Winger gets a call out here for pursuing an odd Speedweeks schedule that’s appearing to pay dividends. Rewind back two years ago and Winger got his career out of neutral by a late decision to depart his home racetracks down South and contest much of the DIRTcar Summer Nationals, racking up a number of wins that landed him a national touring series ride with GR Smith for 2022.

Winger since lost that ride, but looking at Speedweeks so far they went off the beaten path again and appear to have found momentum doing so. Winger actually spent Friday and Saturday night racing crate late models at East Bay Raceway Park, scoring two feature wins before making the short trip north to Ocala to join the Lucas Oil super lates at Bubba Raceway Park. 

The results speak for themselves, Winger was a top-five fixture all night. 

Victim of the Weekend

The defining moment of Sunday’s LOLMDS race at Bubba was not Thornton’s victory, but rather one of the most visually striking incidents dirt racing has seen at any level in the young season. Mid-race contact between Hudson O’Neal and Tyler Bruening triggered a massive multi-car crash that left Dennis Erb Jr. sitting on top of Tim McCreadie’s car, whose vehicle got by far the worst of the damage.

Numbers Game

4

Wins that Ricky Weiss scored in late model competition in the Early Thaw at Central Arizona Raceway (out of six races contested)

8

Dirt tracks that ran oval track racing programs this weekend in the U.S.

211

Nation’s largest car count of the weekend, Saturday at the Cabin Fever at Boyd’s Speedway.

$10,000

Thornton’s winnings for his LOLMDS win at Bubba Sunday night and $800 less than he earned for finishing second at Golden Isles Saturday.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Tuesday morning (Jan. 30) with the finale from the General Tire Winter Nationals at Bubba Raceway Park for the LOLMDS. 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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