Winning Moment: Sprint car veteran Mark Smith narrowly held off polesitter Paul Colagiovanni to win the $1,500 USCS sprint car feature at Hendry County Motorsports Park on Friday night (Feb. 3), the biggest race running in the state of Florida after the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series was rained out earlier in the day.
Dramatic Moment: Drake Troutman got just enough of a jump on the final restart of the Winternationals modified feature at East Bay to get ahead of Lucas Lee, pinching off his preferred line on the bottom side of the track and then using a high-side charge to take the checkered flag.
Only DIRTcar officials opted to make themselves the story, penalizing Troutman for allegedly “jumping the restart” and handing the win to Lee.
Easily the worst piece of officiating dirt racing has seen since the Chili Bowl.
In a Nutshell: Pretty much everything wrong with dirt racing came bubbling to the surface this Friday night.
What They’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning
Troutman had every reason to be upset and pretty much at a loss for words when interviewed after Friday’s modified race at East Bay, because he was flat robbed of a race win. Yes, Troutman was using the fan out move on the high side all the way to the ragged edge, but it was Lee that chose the inside lane to start on, it was Lee that restarted the race and it was Lee that was leading the race at the stripe when the restart occurred.
Besides, and I will die on this hill, if a flagman/race director believes that someone jumped a restart, then the restart should not be considered valid. The race should be immediately yellow-flagged and the offending driver penalized. If a jump-the-start call requires multiple laps to make a determination, it wasn’t a clear enough violation to warrant the officials changing the finishing order of a race.
Arguably the biggest headline to hit dirt racing yesterday was Lincoln Speedway being the first track to actually dial back streaming coverage of its racing events, presumably in favor of better grandstand attendance.
Enter Screven Motor Speedway. Between overnight rainfall saturating the grounds, issues with track lighting and an overly bloated program of seven classes, pretty much every single issue that a race fan could run into that would discourage them from attending a race in person was on display in Georgia.
And that’s not even touching on the fact that the track’s feature races didn’t start until 11:42 p.m. ET, Flo Racing’s broadcast spent the better part of four hours showing the “technical difficulties” screen more than the actual on-track events, and the booth sounding borderline intoxicated instead of actually calling the action. The quality of the stream was so bad that I ended up turning off the modified feature five laps in because I was getting a headache from the audio repeatedly cutting in and out.
Though I will say this, Screven Motor Speedway has the BEST concessions stand in dirt racing, bar none. Couldn’t agree with this food review more, other than to say it deserved a full 6.9.
It was funny as all get out to listen to the PA at Hendry County Motorsports Park make multiple references to the tiny tail tanks on the wingless micro sprints running at the track becoming a scoring nightmare for the tower. I still wonder how any successful marketing can be done utilizing cars that are indistinguishable at speed in person.
Though the super late models were nowhere to be seen Friday night after the rain out at All-Tech Raceway, late model Hall of Famer Scott Bloomquist was in the news Friday, with his second back surgery in the last few years potentially the last opportunity for him to resume his storied driving career.
Bloomquist has been a visible presence during Speedweeks, working with driver Garrett Smith at the Golden Isles Speedway at last week’s Super Bowl of Racing.
Hero of the Day
Troutman gets this one easily. Not only for the fantastic driving he displayed all night long (the battle between he and Lee battling through lapped traffic that led to their last-lap drama was superb), but because he appeared to show some real sportmanship once the race was over, though said sportsmanship was visibly not returned by Lee.
Villain(s) of the Day
It really rubbed me the wrong way to see Lee gesturing to Troutman’s crew because race officials gave him a gift.
But, seeing as the Lee/Troutman issue has already gotten plenty of ink here, we’ll give this honor on the night to Kenny Schwartz. Schwartz and Austen Becerra made no shortage of contact in the sixth heat race at East Bay Friday night. Schwartz spinning off Becerra in the heat sent both drivers to the rear, Schwartz for spinning and Becerra for contact. The two made contact again on the ensuing restart, sending Schwartz for a second spin.
That led to the first openly obviously case of rough driving of the Winternationals to date, with Schwartz slamming into Becerra’s car entering turn 3 on the restart after his second spin.
Schwartz was immediately parked for the night.
Dirt tracks that ran oval track racing programs Friday night in the U.S.
Nation’s largest car count Friday, the Winter Freeze at Screven Motor Speedway.
The nation’s largest purse awarded Friday night, to the modified, street stock and 602 late model classes at Screven.
Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (Feb. 6) with continued coverage of the UMP modified portion of the Winternationals at East Bay Raceway Park, as well as the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at All-Tech Raceway and the Winter Freeze at Screven Motor Speedway (signal quality permitting). Streaming coverage for all these events 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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