Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Kyle Larson Cashes Own Check in Late Model Challenge

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Kyle Larson prevailed in an absolute slugfest with Jonathan Davenport, taking the lead with 13 laps to go to win his own Late Model Challenge race Thursday night (April 6) at the Volunteer Speedway in Tennessee.

Davenport and Larson started on the front row and were almost immediately locked into a battle of slide jobs up front that saw the two swap the lead three times in a caution-free race. Davenport led the opening eight laps and then retook the lead from Larson in lapped traffic on lap 26, but a tight condition in Davenport’s car made it impossible for him to block the high-side line Larson eventually ran to victory.

Veteran Dale McDowell finished second, getting past Davenport with seven to go as Davenport burned up his right-rear tire.

Larson actually took the checkered flag with a flat tire after making contact with the lapped car of Kyle Busch on the white-flag lap.

2023 KYLE LARSON LATE MODEL CHALLENGE RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment(s): Pick any of the lead changes between Larson and Davenport during Thursday’s 50-lapper. Flo Racing’s Dustin Jarrett dubbed Thursday’s feature “a banger at Bulls Gap” and that was no exaggeration. 

Be it Larson,

Or Davenport, two of the best in the business bested each other cleanly. Big-time racing.

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

Fifty green-flag laps, zero cautions, a fantastic race. There’s a reason the great James Essex remarks “please stay green” during every race he calls. Green-flag racing means comers and goers. Comers and goers means a show worth watching. Thank God short-track racing hasn’t forgotten that very simple formula.

Volunteer Speedway damn well better not close next week like they did after this race last year. If a racetrack can’t turn a profit drawing the type of crowd and field of cars that was in Bulls Gap on Thursday the business model is irrevocably broken.

See also
Dirty (Half) Dozen: Volunteer Speedway Goes From Flo to Closed After Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge

Thank God the folks at Volunteer chose to front-load the program with getting all the super late model program done first. Volunteer’s “combination” late model class includes crate late models, and where there’s crates, there’s caution flags. And, in the case of Thursday’s nightcap support feature, two red flags as well.

Though on the flip side, seeing the drone shots of just how much traffic had to actually exit the Volunteer Speedway after the headline feature, maybe the track needs to add a third class to this program? Adding something like the Delaware Super Trucks that run exclusively hot laps, than feature, might actually benefit the pressure this size event puts on a facility.

Part of me hesitates to complain about anything, because Thursday’s program was damn entertaining and done at a reasonable hour, but I do have a couple frustrations that I will air. First, Flo Racing’s telemetry and scoring was visibly off during heat races and pretty much absent during the super late model B-mains. It’s one thing if that happens during a weekly racing stream where it’s one camera and the track PA, it’s another for a full-fledged Flo Racing production. That should not happen with a race this big.

Second, there is NOTHING more frustrating than listen to a track talk about how they’re going to hustle a racing program along because of weather in the area, then prove capable of hustling said program along while putting on a good show. Why is that frustrating? Because it shouldn’t take the threat of rain to get tracks to run their racing programs expeditiously. Thursday’s program was easier to expedite given it was only two classes, but efficiency in dirt racing programs is not an unreasonable ask. Every night should be treated as if there’s rain in the area.

It didn’t cost anyone a spot in the field and I get the business rationale behind it, but it still rubbed me the wrong way to see both Busch and Chase Briscoe get promoter’s provisionals to start Thursday’s feature; Busch failed to transfer from his B-main despite starting in a transfer spot, while Briscoe didn’t turn a lap in either his heat or his B-main after a qualifying incident.

I couldn’t help but laugh at Tri-County Raceway opting to cancel their originally scheduled Thursday race because of a conflict with the Larson race at Volunteer, three hours away.

Thursday's King Ford Limited Late Model Spring Championship Pushed Back to Friday, April 14Due to a scheduling…

Posted by TriCounty Racetrack on Tuesday, April 4, 2023

I don’t dispute the rationale, but waiting until 48 hours before the event to cancel despite the Larson racing having been scheduled for months seems a little aloof.

Ending with some sad news, a late model racing staple not too far removed from Volunteer Speedway met an unceremonious end this week, as Boyd’s Speedway in Ringgold, Ga. has been sold and is expected to be closed permanently.

To close on my soap box, it is a great thing to see fan turnout like Volunteer saw this Thursday night. It’s vitally important that race fans turn out to their local tracks, even if the super lates aren’t on the ticket.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

Yes, Larson won his own race and yes, anyone that reads my columns knows how highly I think of Larson as a driver. There’s no reason not to shower Larson with praise this evening. Not only was the event just the latest example of how Larson continues to do as much for short-track racing as any other driver in the ranks of big-league NASCAR, the driving prowess Larson demonstrated during the feature event was immaculate.

Beating Davenport in a super late model race is a big deal. Driving away from the entire field, slapping the cushion lap after lap, getting faster even as he built a straightaway-long lead and putting on a show even while leading is a bigger deal. The best driver won Thursday night.

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Night

The video angle available is inconclusive, so we’re going to label both drivers as victims this weekend, as the top-two runners late in Thursday’s support class late model feature at Volunteer took each other out.

Both Bradley Lewelling and Philip Thompson were uninjured in the incident.

Numbers Game

1

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

68

The nation’s largest car count Thursday night, the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge at Volunteer.

$20,000

The nation’s largest purse Thursday night, awarded to the Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge winner (Larson).

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (April 10) with coverage of the World of Outlaws from US-36 Speedway in Missouri and the Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series from All-Tech Raceway in Florida. Coverage can be found on DirtVision and Hunt the Front TV.

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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Mike Kalasnik

Volunteer Speedway is my favorite dirt track. I havent been to one thats better. Fast, high banked, perfect surface with a high line. Judging by the crowd, I’m not alone in my thinking.

Keep in mind this wasnt a series race. If Larson is the promoter, he can do what he wants. Its not uncommon for a promoter to add in a big name or two to the field. Its what sold tickets and drew attention to the race.

Also I’d assume that other track moved their race as some of those cars were in the late model “combo” race.

As far as traffic, theres only 1 way in and out of this track, hence the traffic. Plus the spectator parking merges with the pit parking, with 90% of people hanging a right to get to I-81.

It has a 100k to win race next weekend. Its going to be great!

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