Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Terry McCarl Wins Duel of Sprint Car Veterans at Southern Raceway

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: A veteran battle through lap traffic saw Altoona, Iowa’s Terry McCarl do just enough to keep Mark Smith at bay to win the USCS sprint car feature at Southern Raceway Friday night (Feb. 24).

McCarl captures USCS Battle at the Beach night one at SouthernMilton, FL – February, 24, 2023 – Altoona Iowa's Terry…

Posted by USCS Racing on Friday, February 24, 2023

McCarl weathered nearly a half-feature worth of sustained pressure from Smith, who got alongside McCarl on several occasions but never was able to complete the pass.

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: In fact, Smith actually took the lead on what would have been lap 15. However, an incident that saw Terry Gray tip on his side in turn 2 saw the race red-flagged before enough cars passed the start/finish line to count the lap, handing McCarl the lead back for good.

What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning

Yes, 360 sprint car racing often gets lost in the shuffle with the World of Outlaws, All-Star Circuit of Champions and Pennsylvania Posse all making headlines with 410 cars. But just like with the Top Gun Sprints, Friday’s USCS show was wildly entertaining, in no small part because of the lack of parity in the field. Feature races that only have to run a handful of laps before putting the leaders in lap traffic are always desirable and create races worth watching. Though there’s some wisdom in this driver’s observations as well.

Actually being able to see said sprint car feature was a stressful exercise. The stream on Hunt the Front TV completely failed for nearly the entirety of the pure stock feature that preceded the sprint car main event. Fortunately, everything was up and running for the USCS show.

I firmly agree with the rule enforced at Southern Raceway that a spin on track results in an automatic caution flag during competition. Yes, it may lead to what could be considered a soft or unnecessary caution, but it also removes all subjectivity from officiating. That’s a great operating practice for any series, much less one that calls Southern dirt tracks home.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

Gray is the literal definition of a racing hero, given that he’s won the USCS sprint car championship 14 times. Friday night’s 15th-place finish certainly won’t stick out on his resume. But pulling a Dale Earnhardt 1997 certainly will. After going over on his side to bring out the red flag on lap 14 of Friday’s sprint car feature, Gray immediately called for a push truck to get back in the race without so much as a trip to the work area.

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night

It’s hard to list any driver that wins hard charger honors and finishes second a victim, but it’s still worth mentioning Mark Smith after Friday’s USCS feature. Smith was in prime position to qualify for Friday’s pole dash, having gone from last to first in the third heat race. But, he spun himself out later in said heat race, dropping him from the dash to an eighth-place starting spot.

Race winner McCarl drove a very solid race and may well have been able to keep Smith at bay even if he had started further up front. But given just how much pressure Smith had been able to put on McCarl, even in lap traffic after climbing through the field, I can’t help but think that heat race spin cost Smith a victory Friday.

Numbers Game


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


Nation’s largest car count Friday night, qualifying night for the TOMS Nationals at Southern Oklahoma Speedway.


The nation’s largest purse awarded Friday night, to the winner of the North Carolina Speedweek 604 late model feature at Fayetteville (York, S.C.’s Jeremy Steele).

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (Feb. 27) with continued coverage of the Bash at the Beach at Southern Raceway in Florida, as well as the Bama Bash for the Iron-Man Late Models at Fort Payne Motor Speedway and the Swamp Cabbage 100 at Hendry Country. Coverage can be found on Hunt the Front TV, RaceXR and Done Right TV, 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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