Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Defending World of Outlaws champion Brad Sweet scored his first win of 2023 Saturday night (March 26), holding off a determined David Gravel to win the Black Ice Brawl at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Mississippi.
Sweet did a masterful job in the second half of the race navigating lapped traffic, though Gravel, who had stormed from 10th place seemed to have the speed to catch the No. 49. Several late-race caution flags broke the momentum Gravel had using the high side of the track in the closing laps.
Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: In arguably the hard-charger performance of the weekend, Daison Pursley successfully slid Jace Park by inches to score a last-lap, last-corner win in the POWRi National Midget feature at Port City Raceway in Oklahoma Saturday night.
Pursley went from 13th to first to score the win.
What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning
It’s a rare weekend that this column’s “winning moment” isn’t also the nation’s richest race, but that was the case this time around. The nation’s richest race was in fact won by Dan Ebert, who catfished Terry Phillips on the low side of the Humboldt Speedway to win the King of America feature with the United States Modified Touring Series Saturday.
It’s the third year I’ve covered dirt for Frontstretch and in each of those years I’ve tried to get into the USMTS series. And failed. Which is surprising, because the pieces are all there. Deep car counts, a talented driver roster, consistent big money and a national streaming partner. But despite all that, the series has never really clicked for me as must-see viewing as I pick and choose the features to bring to this column. There’s two reasons for that.
One, there is just way too much going on to set lineups for this tour. Inverts in heat races that then use passing points to set the feature and B-main lineups makes the eventual A-mains for the series feel like the product of a blender more than an unfolding race night. And as nice as it is to see car counts consistently at the half-century mark or higher, a field that produces three B-mains based again on passing points is a lot to try to keep up with.
Second, and maybe even more problematic, is that for all the good work Racin’ Dirt does to stream the entire USMTS tour, social media during the racing programs is more barren than the Plains in the winter. This weekend’s racing program was the richest in America, featuring a field of drivers including a World of Outlaws late model regular in Ryan Gustin and a Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series regular in Ricky Thornton Jr., yet there was more social media coming from a $1,000-to-win Carolina Sprint Tour feature on the same night.
I’d love to see the premier open modified tour in the country in the conversation with the Outlaws and super late models. Given what the USMTS pays, they should be. But until Racin’ Dirt starts acting a little more like DirtVision and Flo, they’re going to keep getting lost in the shuffle.
Now, to be fair, even had the USMTS had a social media presence this weekend, they’d have likely gotten lost in the shuffle anyhow, as the WoO program at Magnolia Motor Speedway was a barnburner. This assessment of the racing surface was not an exaggeration.
What’s more, the Mag wasn’t even alone in bringing excitement to Mississippi. It felt weird watching a Hunt the Front TV and not seeing an episode of On Patrol Live unfold, but the Mississippi State Challenge Series late model feature at Jackson Motor Speedway was the hidden gem of the weekend.
The dichotomy between Pennsylvania dirt tracks was again on full display this weekend, with Lincoln Speedway opting to proceed with their regular 410 sprint car program Saturday while Port Royal canceled after heavy rains Friday.
Lincoln, to their credit, got a full racing program in, but it was messy in more ways than one, with the grandstand crowd considerably off from both night’s of its early-season Icebreaker program and a tricky racing surface leading to a nightmare feature that took six tries to actually run a full first lap. It was so bad that the track had to red-flag the feature before the first lap was scored to allow for refueling and scrapped double-file restarts.
Some of the criticism online however, led to Pennsylvania Posse ringer Danny Dietrich launching a Twitter tirade; of note, Dietrich was one of the drivers that flipped racing at Lincoln on Saturday.
Dietrich’s comments were necessary, as at least one Facebook post on a Port Royal Speedway fan page alleged that the track surface at Lincoln featured both a rut and chunky clay that led to the rash of early-race incidents. That claim being repudiated by an actual competitor is necessary and powerful.
Dietrich’s statement also sparked a discussion relating to Lincoln’s use of handicaps for its racing program. Even race winner Chase Dietz acknowledged that he benefitted from his up-front starting spot in scoring Saturday’s win, and it was telling that even All-Star Circuit of Champions regular Justin Peck couldn’t make it all the way up front despite the attrition at the start of the race and the long green-flag runs that actually prevailed once the race got rolling.
I’m torn on this one. The premise behind handicapping makes sense, as especially in local racing, a powerhouse driver can quickly turn weekly racing programs into stinkers if they’re starting up front and driving off. However, it’s also 2023. Lincoln Speedway is narrow even on a good night and the parity in 410 winged sprint cars has never been higher. The meritocrat in me thinks the Outlaws get it right, where the fastest cars are rewarded and start up front. If anything, Pennsylvania’s lucky to have such diversity in its sprint car programs.
Atomic Speedway in Ohio did not race this Sunday, but there should be plenty of attention paid to the experiment they attempted this weekend. Dealing with the same rain issues that plagued much of the East Coast, Atomic officials made the announcement over the weekend that they’d race on Sunday if they hit 1,000 presale tickets.
They did not hit their target and faced no shortage of vitriol on social media for not racing. That vitriol is grossly misplaced. If anything, I hope more tracks start being this upfront with race fans about what’s needed to put on a racing program that breaks even. The folks at Atomic are among the best in the business at this; remember, it was the same Atomic Speedway that paid racers that would have otherwise been left in the lurch by the now-defunct Renegades of Dirt tour that rented the facility last fall out of pocket.
This wasn’t a race announced and planned for months ahead of schedule that went poof. It was a spur-of-the-moment offering that had a set goal. The goal wasn’t met. Good effort from the folks at Atomic.
Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day
It was tempting to give this shoutout to Dietrich after his objective take on racing at Lincoln, but instead it’s going to Sweet for his WoO win at Magnolia Saturday night. Not just because it was a major win on the season, but for Sweet it was a major career milestone that’s just another measure of how consistent and frankly dominant he’s been in a career that’s now spanned four consecutive series championships.
The honorable mention goes to Mississippi’s Brian Rickman, who came home third in the MSCCS but made every effort to challenge Kyle Beard and BJ Robinson for the eventual race win, damn near knocking the spoiler off his racecar in the process.
Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night
Alabama’s basketball team wasn’t the only thing from Tuscaloosa to find a rough end. Justin McCree suffered the most violent wreck of the weekend in the 602 late model feature at Magnolia Saturday night, fortunately walking away from an ugly barrel roll.
WoO regular James McFadden gets this unfortunate shoutout for the second time in as many columns, as he suffered his own flip during the WoO feature at Magnolia. Between that wreck and his ugly outing at Talladega on Friday, there’s not an Outlaw in sprint car racing more ready to kiss the Deep South goodbye.
Dirt tracks that ran oval-track racing programs in the U.S. this weekend (per MyRacePass and Race Monitor)
The nation’s largest car count this weekend, Saturday night’s Turnpike Classic at Port City in Oklahoma.
The nation’s largest purse this weekend, awarded to King of America modified winner Saturday at Humboldt (Ebert).
Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Thursday morning (March 30) with coverage of the latest micro sprint program 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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