Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Local Travis Varnadore Scores Modified Win, Kaylee Bryson to Race East Bay

Winning Moment: Local Florida driver Travis Varnadore stuck to the bottom through a chaotic opening stanza and got by Buzzy Adams for the lead for good on lap 11 of the 25-lap feature, scoring a $1,000 Winternationals feature win at East Bay Wednesday night (Feb. 1). 

Dramatic Moment: Tuesday night winner Drake Troutman led the opening eight laps of Wednesday’s feature, but Adams broke the logjam up front on a lap 9 restart, going three-wide between Troutman and Varnadore up front to take the race lead.

See also
This Day in Dirt: Drake Troutman Smokes Modified Field at East Bay

In a Nutshell: Top-five finishes for Troutman, Adams and Lucas Lee has the points picture for the UMP modified Winternationals starting to take shape.

What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

The feature, with victory lane interviews, was done before 10 p.m. ET. That’s exactly how weekday shows should run. And that was with no shortage of caution flags throughout the program to boot.

The social media engagement that was prevalent throughout Flo Racing’s much-ballyhooed streams of the Chili Bowl Nationals and Wild West Shootout have given way to a social media graveyard for the Winternationals. I get that this isn’t a Flo Racing product like those other races are, but with all the promotion the streaming service is doing for its documentary content this week, it seems like engaging a little bit with their only live racing program would be in the cards.

Looking forward to the sprint car portion of East Bay’s Winternationals, the 360 winged sprint car field got a bit higher profile Wednesday with the announcement that USAC regular Kaylee Bryson will be competing.

I’m all for getting more attention paid to the non-late model divisions that contest the Winternationals, but I can also imagine that the wingless fans of the world are going to be watching this experiment with bated breath. Given how many standout drivers from the wingless ranks have gone winged racing in recent years to pursue bigger dollars, a strong run from Bryson could get the IndyCar prospect thinking in a similar way. 

Leaving Florida, the Park Jefferson Speedway up in South Dakota made some waves with their announcement that, in attempting to expedite completion of their weekly racing programs, that the sport compact class would be run separately as part of a late-afternoon program before the track’s regular IMCA classes start in the early evening.

We are excited to announce that we have changed the format of our races! Our goal is to run the races more efficiently…

Posted by Park Jefferson Speedway on Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Even if one concedes this is well-intentioned, this is a disastrous policy rollout. It’d be one thing if the track was going to rotate their divisions to run the early afternoon slot. It’d be another if they opted to start their programs earlier in the afternoon to try to end sooner. But this whole idea reeks of treating sport compacts as second-class citizens.

Look, I’ll admit it, when I travel to weekly tracks where I don’t have a dog in the fight, the second the sprint cars or late models are done I’m headed home. But sport compact divisions are a vital necessity for weekly racing tracks. They’re the most affordable class for hobby racers. They’re the closest thing to a stock car still racing. And in a business environment where many tracks are more dependent on selling pit passes to make revenue than ever before, sport compacts often bring the largest car count because they’re affordable. 

I’ve never been to Park Jefferson before, so I don’t know how efficient/inefficient their racing programs are run. But getting through five classes of cars by 11 p.m. on a Saturday should not require this type of splitting out of race classes. I get the feeling the promoters are going to regret this move.

Hero of the Day

It’s easy to pick the race winner, but Varnadore does get the nod here. One, for a local driver scoring a Winternationals win on his home track. 

And two, for making complete commitment to the lower line work. All three grooves around East Bay have proven viable two features into this weeklong event. That bodes well for all race fans. 

Victim of the Day

Louisa, Ky.’s Chris Wilson passed a lot of cars on the night, going from sixth to second in his B-main and 22nd to eighth in the feature, but he certainly didn’t make any friends doing it. Wilson triggered the largest on-track incident of the night during his B-main, turning Justin Galbreath in turn 2 and triggering a pileup.

Later in the race (though off Flo Racing’s camera), it appeared that Wilson made further contact with Denny Schwartz, who later in the heat race appeared to take a swipe at Wilson and was seen gesturing (profanely) at what appeared to be Wilson’s car off from the track infield after retiring his car.

Also of note, the other Chris Wilson in the field had a rough go as well, with Crossville, Tenn.’s Chris Wilson getting into a fight with a tractor tire during the sixth heat race that he and his No. 56 car lost.

Numbers Game

1

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

18

Yellow/red flags that flew across competition Wednesday night at East Bay.

59

Nation’s largest car count Wednesday, the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park. 

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Friday morning (Feb. 2) with continued coverage of the UMP modified portion of the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park. Streaming 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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