Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Aussie James McFadden took the lead from the drop of the green Saturday night (April 2) and never looked back, leading flag-to-flag to win the Texas Outlaw Nationals finale at Devil’s Bowl Speedway on an extremely narrow racing surface that never widened.
Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment(s): Friday night saw Superman Matt Sheppard use a last-lap pass to score a first-state win, slipping by a dominant Mike Gular on the white-flag lap to win the $8,500 Jake Marine Memorial at Delaware International Speedway.
The honorable mention goes to Tyler Bare, who completed a pass three-wide through lapped traffic to take the lead of Saturday’s Steel Block Outlaws late feature at the Bristol Dirt Track for good.
What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning
Tough question that no dirt racing fan wants to answer: Which was the bigger parade Saturday night? Ark-La-Tex Speedway’s rubbered-down surface for the United States Modified Touring Series Cajun Clash, or super-moist and super-narrow Devil’s Bowl Speedway with the Outlaws? You know it’s bad when Johnny Gibson is silent calling a race.
Having said that, it was welcome news to hear that the Outlaws will be returning to Devil’s Bowl, the track that hosted the original WoO race back in 1978, for two more dates this October.
The historic track was unfortunately rumored for potential closure during this past offseason and while those rumors have quieted, it’s hard not to notice how close warehouse development has gotten to the racetrack.
It’s freaking Texas. No one could find McFadden a proper cowboy boot to drink a beer out of?
Moving away from the Outlaws, it was a welcome sight to see a full house on hand for the season opener at Delaware Friday, as that race also marked the first for the racetrack under promotion by Brett Dayo, the wunderkind that has grown the Short Track Super Series and saved the Georgetown Speedway from likely redevelopment. Part of me worries about having too many eggs in Dayo’s basket, but Friday night was an unmitigated success.
Another track success to be commended was seen down in Alabama, where the Buckshot Speedway successfully hosted the Spring Nationals super late model tour for the first time ever. Buckshot brought dirt racing back to Clanton, Ala. late in 2021 more than a decade after the closure of Central Alabama Motor Speedway and has proven to be a wildly popular venue that was a rare example of complete new construction for a dirt track. It’s good to see such a venue continue to grow.
It was hardly a surprise to see late model Superman Jonathan Davenport spank the field to win the MLRA Spring Nationals finale at Lucas Oil Speedway in Missouri Saturday night, but his victory lane comment that he considered his upcoming race weekend the biggest in his career was; Davenport, if you’ll remember, is slated to drive a Cup Series car for Kaulig Racing in the Bristol Dirt Race this Easter Sunday.
It’s great to hear Davenport taking this opportunity seriously and with gravity, but part of me doesn’t like hearing such an accomplished racer refer to a one-off ride in a Cup race that’s all of three years old as such a big event. The sad reality is that today’s Wal-Mart Cup cars are their own unique thing, one that talented dirt ringers including Stewart Friesen and Mike Marlar have not proven capable of winning in. I’d love to see Davenport spank the Cup guys but I don’t see it happening.
This weekend was a stern reminder of the continued risks of front-wheel drive classes in dirt racing. It started Friday night, when a nasty crash reminiscent of Kyle Busch’s leg breaker at Daytona in Feb. 2015 did just that, breaking the femur of Dave Tolleson at Ark-La-Tex Speedway Friday night. Tolleson fortunately has begun his recovery, but a broken femur is a serious injury that will keep him out of his racecar for an extended period.
The very next night, it was a minor miracle that saw Kyle Jenks walk away from one of the worst barrel rolls in recent memory during a Sport Compact Dirt Racing Association event at Lake View Motor Speedway in South Carolina.
There is still a need for the FWD type of racecar to exist. They’re not only the most inexpensive type of racecar out there for those seeking to enter oval-track racing, they’re also the closest to a stock car racing at any level of motorsport in 2023. There is a value to having these classes on the track. But just as they’re throwback in how stock and accessible they are, they’re sadly a throwback in just how risky they can be to drive.
We’ll end on a very positive note, with the Texarkana 67 Speedway announcing its concessions menu for the 2023 season.
Why bring this up? Two reasons. One, after getting bent over a barrel at the Bristol Dirt Showcase on Saturday (where I paid $17 for a freaking personal pizza and a soda), it’s nice to see a reasonably priced menu. Second, and more important, if you read through the comments on the track’s Facebook page, you’ll notice that the Frito pies being advertised are going to be the same as those that used to be served at the now-defunct I-30 Speedway in Little Rock. For anyone that’s been there before, there’s few concessions items in dirt racing that can hold a candle to said pies.
Dirt Racing’s Heroes of the Weekend
I’ve already credited Bare for his race-winning pass, but the entire Steel Block Outlaws field deserves a shout-out for how well they handled racing on the treacherous high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway Saturday. Running four heats, two B-mains and a feature with no caution flags for contact despite racing extremely hard (the cars were visibly out of shape all 30 laps of their feature) is a job well done.
Recently arrested Ashton Winger didn’t seem to lift once over the course of 53 laps at East Alabama Motor Speedway on Saturday night. It was a sharp contrast in style to eventual race winner Brandon Overton, whose smooth and methodical style of driving landed him the $10,053 paycheck. But for Winger to finish second, and keep his tires under him, driving as aggressively as he did Saturday night made for a wildly entertaining race.
Lastly, Hunt the Front’s Joseph Joiner gets a nod for winning two super late model races in two nights at two different tracks, Friday night with the Spring Nationals at Buckshot and Saturday night with the Mississippi State Championship series at WhyNot Motorsports Park.
Dirt Racing’s Victims of the Weekend
Port Royal Speedway for whatever reason was feeling vengeful this weekend. The most notable first victim was Jason Shultz, who blew a right-rear tire while leading Saturday’s sprint car feature at the track with two laps to go (he finished 21st). This would be cruel to any driver, but even more so given that Shultz has spent the previous two laps doing a masterful job putting lapped traffic between him and a hard-charging Danny Dietrich.
However, it only got worse for Port Royal racers once they left the track. The Wagner Motorsports sprint car team saw their hauler end up in a traffic accident on the way home.
Even worse was late model racer Andrew Yoder, whose race team lost their trailer and had their racecar damaged by a fire as they were towing home.
Fortunately there were no serious injuries reported as a result of any of the incidents listed above.
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, the Easter Race at Central Arizona Raceway.
The nation’s largest purse this weekend, awarded to the Texas Outlaw Nationals winner Saturday (McFadden).
Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Friday morning (April 7) with coverage from the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge at Volunteer Speedway in Tennessee. Coverage 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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