Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Ricky Thornton Jr., Donny Schatz Score Sweeps Amid Blue-Light Chaos at Peoria

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Less than 24 hours removed from a traffic accident that saw his souvenir trailer go flipping, Ricky Thornton Jr. scored his second consecutive Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series victory, dominating the CRST 50 at 34 Raceway in Iowa Saturday night (May 20).

Thornton scored the $15,000 victory despite defending LOLMDS champion Tim McCreadie leading the opening segment of the event. On the strength of back-to-back wins in Iowa, Thornton also retook the series points lead from Hudson O’Neal.


Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Donny Schatz broke into the win column with the World of Outlaws Friday night courtesy of a white-flag-lap pass on Rico Abreu at Attica Raceway Park.

Schatz followed that up with a dominant victory at Sharon Speedway on Saturday.

It wasn’t coming to the checkers, but the battle between Brady Bacon and Justin Grant that ultimately decided the USAC Silver Crown feature at Belleville High Banks Saturday night was some of the best racing seen anywhere this season. It was a crying shame to see Grant end the duel in a wreck.

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

It’s a damn shame that 2023 is the season the Lucas Oil late model tour abandoned a traditional points chase for their joke of a playoff system, because the traditional points have yielded a hell of a battle. O’Neal, Thornton and Brandon Overton have all led the series over the last two weeks and all of them are in form worthy of title contention.

What’s more, if traditional points were in place, this weekend would have had a whopper of a headline in that it appears that Thornton has gotten into defending champ McCreadie’s head. Not only did McCreadie nearly cost himself the lead early in the event when he ran into Ross Robinson’s car attempting to lap it under pressure from Thornton, McCreadie then drove off the banking late in the going attempting to take the lead on the race’s final restart. Those are not the type of mistakes common of the veteran McCreadie.

Did anyone else watching late models at Kankakee County on Friday do a double take thinking that Ryan Unzicker’s car was in fact Jimmy Owens’s? They’re indistinguishable from a distance.

As discussed in last week’s column, I remain steadfast that confronting drivers still strapped in to their racecars is as low-brow conduct as it comes. I will give Ryan Montgomery props though, as he put on a textbook example of how to make a point in the moment while not being ridiculous after getting flipped in World of Outlaws late model competition at Marion Center Speedway Friday. Gestures, strong words but no physical confrontation is something I can stomach if drivers absolutely have to make a point on the track.

See also
This Weekend in Dirt: Bobby Pierce Tops Fairbury, Chase Johnson Acts a Fool Out West

Speaking of physical confrontation, thank God Hickory Motor Speedway isn’t a dirt track. But the nonsense that played out there this weekend with Annabeth Barnes Crum and her husband literally assaulting competitors on and off the track is a prime example of what happens when a sanctioning body (NASCAR) promotes fighting in every ad they run. And sanctions Bowman-Gray Stadium for decades. Considering how much NASCAR insignia I saw on dirt races this weekend (Utica-Rome, Fonda), incidents like these make me hope that proliferation stops. Fast.

That’s not to say dirt racing is immune to scuffling, as was seen in the pits at Peoria Speedway over the weekend.

Having said that, the far larger issue that surfaced at Peoria (and led to the spectacular video below) was reportedly due to a carnival on speedway property drawing some undesirables into the crowd.

Now granted, misbehaving carnival guests spilling into an active pit area is not a commonplace occurrence for dirt tracks. But in a season that’s seen multiple tracks forced to enact limits on enter/exit privileges in the stands, ATV operation and sports equipment in facilities from Florida to the Midwest, short-track racing in general is going to have start rethinking how they handle security and enforce conduct policies. It’s 2023, assuming that guests are going to do the right thing and behave like adults is a fool’s errand.

Yes, Flo Racing has absolutely gotten heavier on the ads this season, and yes, seeing ads for pubic hair products, diapers and summer clothes feel really out of place on short-track programming. But my goodness, reading the amount of complaints on social media about said ads was bordering on the insane with how unrealistic they are. Flo continues to offer more content without raising prices. The only way that business model is sustainable is to grow subscribers and to raise revenue elsewhere. Race fans are going to have to pay up or shut up on this one.

I know that it’s common practice at pretty much every dirt track in America, but after watching one of the best green-flag battles of the weekend in XR Workin’ Man Series competition at Muskingum County get derailed by a car with a flat tire deliberately circling the track to draw a yellow made me think it needs to be rethought. Anything to remove an incentive for a driver to draw a caution needs to be on the table.

This column’s been a bit of a downer given there was some really good dirt racing this weekend, so we’ll end on a positive note. This has been in the making for some time, but Saturday marked the first time I’ve seen the progress being made on the Daisy Speedway down in Georgia. It’s rare to see a dirt track built from the ground up in this day and age, so this one’s worth taking in. Beautiful facility.

BUILDING UPDATE Getting closer to an opening date by the end of year ! *Flag stand complete * Handicap ramps &…

Posted by Daisy Speedway on Saturday, May 20, 2023

Dirt Racing’s Heroes of the Weekend

Zeb Wise won the All-Star Circuit of Champions feature at Outlaw Speedway in New York Friday night, meaning he won his first race back in a sprint car since a spectacular crash at Eldora a few weeks back left him with a concussion.

Schatz won consecutive WoO features this weekend, part of a notable upward trend in the 10-time champion’s performance in recent weeks.

Dirt Racing’s Victims of the Weekend

It’s hard to know the bigger disaster at Belleville was Saturday night, a horrible racetrack that led to a parade of a feature, or watching race leaders Bryant Wiedeman and Chase McDermand made contact running 1-2 with 13 to go, costing both any shot at the win.

It wasn’t intentional, but Tyler Bruening absolutely took out Jonathan Davenport in Saturday’s Lucas Oil feature at 34 Raceway when he drove all but straight into turn 4. Bruening’s move cut both his and Davenport’s tires down.

There was nothing midget about Adam Taylor’s flip in Badger Midget competition at the Plymouth Dirt Track Saturday night. Taylor was uninjured.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (May 22) with coverage of the XR Workin’ Man Series from Legit Motorsports Park in Missouri. Coverage can be found on RaceXR.

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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