Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Driver Ashton Winger Arrested After On, Off-Track Incidents at Southern Raceway

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Cory Hedgecock submarined veteran Dale McDowell with 33 laps to go and drove off to win the Tennessean super late model race under Spring Nationals sanction Saturday afternoon (March 11) at 411 Motor Speedway in Seymour, Tenn., his third consecutive feature win at the facility after a crate late model win in the track’s Sweetheart race last month.

Hedgecock did have one close call in the remaining 33 laps, scraping the grass on the low side of turns 1 and 2 and nearly clipping a tractor tire with 20 to go.

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Full-contact racing between GR Smith and Ashton Winger in the opening two laps of Saturday’s Southern All-Stars series race at Southern Raceway in Milton, Fla. saw Smith disqualified for rough driving and Winger and his father arrested following a violent scuffle between the two teams in the pit area shortly after. 

The fracas started in the first turn of the first lap, with Smith making hard contact with Winger to take the second position in turn 1. Winger returned the favor with a cut-off slide job in turn 4 on the same lap, leading Smith to drive into Winger in turn 1 on the second lap, then running into him under caution during the ensuing yellow flag.

According to reporting from DirtonDirt, Winger’s father attacked Smith in the pit area and was arrested, with Winger and a member of Smith’s team also being taken away in handcuffs after a second scuffle when Winger’s damaged racecar returned to the pit area. 

Flight grounded.

Posted by Paul Clayton on Saturday, March 11, 2023

Winger’s father remains in jail on a felony charge as of the time of this writing.

The latest melee at Southern Raceway overshadowed more drama that unfolded in the Xtreme Outlaw Midget Series race at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQoin Saturday night, with Jade Avedesian prevailing for the feature win over Thomas Meseraull after the two made contact in the closing laps.

More to come in this article on the matter, as this was the second tangle the two drivers were involved in over the weekend.

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

What the hell is in the water at Southern Raceway this year? Saturday night’s battle between Winger and Smith and their respective race teams marked the second time in three weeks that fighting at the track led to arrests and assault charges. The track’s Twitter handle is TrackofChamps. Maybe they should change it to TrackofCuffs.

See also
This Day in Dirt: Violent Brawl at Southern Raceway Overshadows Reutzel Win at East Bay

Perhaps the most unlikely rivalry in motorsports is starting to unfold in midget racing, between 41-year-old Thomas Meseraull and 17-year-old Jade Avedesian. Friday night’s opening race for the tour in DuQuoin saw Meseraull make contact with Avedesian late to secure a podium finish, where he speculated on DirtVision that the younger driver didn’t seem to grasp that she had to leave a racing groove to a racecar that had gotten to her inside.

Fast forward to Saturday and the two decidedly made contact in the incident that decided the race win. While to my eye it looked as if Meseraull jumped the cushion, Avedesian was concerned enough to apologize for her actions in her victory lane interview.

None of that on its own is concerning to me. What concerns me is that there a legitimate on-track rivalry brewing between an adult and a minor (anyone that thinks I’m making a gender issue out of this can kindly eat crow, as my paper trail on this topic is a mile long). I’m not implying that Meseraull is dumb enough to do something violent or crazy should this tangle go further. I am concerned not just in this specific case, but as a larger issue, that national touring races for real money are going to start featuring on-track incidents where participants literally have to be handled with kids’ gloves.

It didn’t take long for my prediction from Friday that the boondoggle that was the Comp Cams Super Dirt Series race at Boothill Speedway in Louisiana would drive cars away, as the field was down seven entries Saturday. In fact, the biggest name in the field (Eldora Million winner Jonathan Davenport) packed up and hauled out, opting to skip Saturday’s $10,000 finale.

After surveying the damage from last night’s wreck and with additional precipitation headed towards the area tonight,…

Posted by Jonathan Davenport Motorsports on Saturday, March 11, 2023

Fortunately, Saturday’s feature at Boothill was not a repeat of the demolition derby from Friday night, but I can’t fault any race team, especially one like Davenport’s that has far bigger races left in 2023, for reading the tea leaves and deciding discretion is the better part of valor.

See also
This Day in Dirt: March Madness Destroys Late Model Field at Boothill Speedway

Considering Ashton Winger left Southern in handcuffs and GR Smith only got a DQ despite Smith starting the entire mess on track, I’m not 100% sold on the concept of karma applying to the racetrack. But in Kyle Hardy’s case at Winchester, it did. Watching Hardy lose a surefire victory in the limited late model class Saturday after being taken out by a lapped car with four laps to go seemed perfect retribution for a driver that rightly won the crate late model feature that same afternoon, yet played dumb as to why runner-up Mike Franklin had words for him on the cooldown lap.

Let’s be clear, Hardy did nothing wrong in winning Winchester’s crate race. But to act aloof as to why Franklin was unhappy was disingenuous. Hardy made contact with Franklin’s quarterpanel more than once and started doing so with eight laps to go in a 20-lap race. Again, nothing dirty, nothing wrong, but to act incredulous as to why Franklin, a longtime Winchester racer, was unhappy with him was beneath a racer of his caliber.

I didn’t get to watch the broadcast of the No Way Out 40 from Paragon Speedway Saturday, but from the pictures I saw, the promoters there deserve a real tip of the cap for making some serious upgrades to the spectator areas in the facility. Job well done.

With Port Royal and Williams Grove both canceling this weekend, Racin’ Dirt did fortunately provide a winged sprint car outlet with the Oil Capital Racing Series event from Red Dirt Raceway in Meeker, Okla., a race that came down to a last-corner pass for the win by Oklahoma City’s Tanner Conn.

🔥🔥🔥

Posted by RacinDirt.com on Sunday, March 12, 2023

It was nice to have that race streamed, but speaking as a writer/race fan based well over 1,000 miles from Oklahoma, the complete lack of a ticker on screen for any of the night’s events or any replays during the OCRS feature made it a much harder event to appreciate. For what Racin’ Dirt costs the offerings are feeling a little outdated.

Lastly, I missed this story Friday night trying to keep up with the path of destruction Boothill Speedway left, so Frontstretch wishes to send thoughts and prayers to sprint car racer Mark Dobmeier, his race team and family after the driver endured severe burns as part of a racing incident at Central Arizona Raceway. Fortunately, Dobmeier is awake and alert at a Phoenix hospital.

Dobmeier provided a further update on Sunday.

Dirt Racing’s Heroes of the Weekend

The first shoutout goes to Garrett Alberson for his super late model victory Saturday at Boothill. Watching Alberson methodically work the high side of the track to best a legend in Billy Moyer was not only expert driving, but as far a departure from Friday’s demo derby as possible. Alberson gets an almost sarcastic shoutout just because upon seeing a clean late model race, I all but yelled “FINALLY!”

Also heroic was watching Zach Daum set a blistering pace to go from ninth to second in the first Last Chance Showdown race in DuQuoin Saturday night, qualifying him for the Xtreme midget A-main.

Dirt Racing’s Villain/Victim of the Weekend

GR Smith was not only the villain of the weekend, he’s the villain of the year to date. His opening-lap contact with Winger was belligerent, as was each incident that he repeatedly hit Winger until he did too much damage to his own racecar. I have no idea what transpired in the pits after that, but Smith’s conduct on track has no business in big-league racing.

Any shot Mike Marlar had to win the Tennessean after scoring a heat race win went out the window 23 laps into the 71-lap race when Ricky Weiss bounced off the frontstretch wall, hitting Brandon Overton who made contact with Marlar and apparently broke the rear end of his racecar. 

Marlar was visibly unhappy with Weiss, pulling alongside him under the yellow flag.

Numbers Game

29

Dirt tracks that ran oval-track racing programs in the U.S. this weekend (per MyRacePass and Race Monitor)

159

Nation’s largest car count this weekend, at Kennedale Speedway Park in Texas on Saturday.

$15,000

The nation’s largest purse awarded this weekend, to Cory Hedgecock for winning The Tennesseean at 411 Saturday.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Thursday morning (March 16) with coverage of the season opening micro sprint race from Millbridge Speedway in North Carolina. Coverage can be found on DirtVision. 

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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Terry

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