Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Cajun Cade Dillard Grabs Home-State USMTS Win at Ark-La-Tex

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Home-state driver Cade Dillard scored his 20th career United States Modified Touring Series win at Ark-La-Tex Speedway in Vivian, La. Thursday night (March 30), holding off spirited charges from Rodney Sanders and Jim Chisholm inside the final 10 laps.

Cade Dillard wins his 20th career USMTS main event tonight at Ark-La-Tex Speedway!

Posted by RacinDirt.com on Thursday, March 30, 2023

Dillard’s win came on the first of three scheduled nights for the USMTS as part of Ark-La-Tex’s annual Cajun Clash.

2023 CAJUN CLASH OPENING NIGHT RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Dillard’s win came within inches of not happening. With 10 laps to go in Thursday’s 35-lap A-main, veteran Sanders got alongside Dillard and came within inches of taking the lead at the start/finish line. Lapped traffic in turn 1 forced Sanders off his preferred lower line into lapped traffic and forced a mistake, with Sanders spinning himself out in turn 3 trying to keep up with Dillard.

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

It’s been more than six years since my last visit to the Ark-La-Tex Speedway and I firmly enjoyed the visit, namely for having chairback seating and because it was one of the raciest surfaces I’ve seen for factory stock racecars. The surface was again racy on Thursday night and seeing improvements to the track (new pit grandstands and suites) is a welcome sight. Vivian’s track is a diamond in the rough.

Fresh off a heat race win, Jason Hughes was blunt with Racin’ Dirt, noting that winning a heat race from the pole still could mean racing a B-main and that he needed to learn how to properly sandbag to deal with the invert and passing points that continue to plague USMTS’s race programs. The USMTS field of cars is too deep to be utilizing gimmickry to blend the field up. It does no one any good to hear competitors openly admitting they need to slow down to better position themselves on race night.

Not unexpectedly, a post made by the Ark-La-Tex Speedway to their Facebook page prior to Thursday night’s race was not well-received by many fans. 

It’s not unheard of for tracks to assess a fee for fans to bring in coolers, and I would consider a track that previously didn’t allow coolers to give fans the option. But a $20 fee for said coolers is self-defeating. It either comes off, as a commenter put it, a means to ensure people won’t actually bring coolers, or creates a situation where fans that opt to bring coolers are going to stay 20 feet away from the concessions stand. If I’ve spent $20 to bring a cooler in, it’s going to be packed to the gills. I’d rethink this one a bit if I was promoting.

Dirtrackr (aka Justin Fiedler) remains one of the most rational voices in dirt racing, and his comments earlier this week that dirt racing ought to look at pushing their Speedweeks racing program in Georgia and Florida back several weeks to run later into February and even early March was a provocative idea that really struck a chord with me. 

Fiedler’s analysis in his Dirtrackr Daily was accurate about how dirt late model racing’s momentum leaving Speedweeks has all but evaporated after continued rainouts have meant more than a month without national touring series action, which on its own makes a compelling case for a schedule shift. 

But the most intriguing part of that idea to me is what impact, if any, it would have on the grandstand crowds that typically pack venues like East Bay and Volusia during and around NASCAR’s return to Daytona. From where I’m sitting, if the sport can still pack these venues independent of NASCAR being in town, it’d go a long way towards demonstrating just how viable a product major-league dirt racing is. This is an experiment worth consideration.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

Dillard was ultimately dominant in his home-state race, but tonight’s shout-out goes to USMTS regular Tyler Wolff for scoring hard charger honors, improving from 18th to eighth over the course of Thursday’s 35 laps.

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night

It’s hard to think of anyone that had a worse night at Ark-La-Tex than Chandler, Texas’s Lane Smith, who somehow managed to flip his car on the front straightaway during the second limited modified heat. But, Racin’ Dirt’s cameras failed to catch any video of the incident.

Instead, to allow for a visual, we’ll fast forward to the limited modified feature, where an early-race incident saw Texarkana’s Mewborns play family feud; Connor Mewborn went for a spin between turns 1 and 2, collecting his brother Colby. 

The brothers finished in the last two spots in the limited modified feature.

Numbers Game

1

Dirt track that ran an oval-track racing program in the U.S. Thursday night (per MyRacePass and Race Monitor)

123

The nation’s largest car count Thursday night, the Cajun Clash at Ark-La-Tex.

$3,000

The nation’s largest purse Thursday night, awarded to the Cajun Clash winner (Dillard).

Up Next: Weather permitting, Frontstretch will be back Saturday morning (April 1) with coverage of the 410 sprint car season opener from the Williams Grove Speedway in Pennsylvania. 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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