Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Kyle Larson Center of Controversy in Win at Tri-City; Thornton Finds Show-Me Redemption

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: For the second consecutive event, Kyle Larson scored the win in his own High Limit Racing Series, besting Rico Abreu inside of 10 laps to go at Tri-City Speedway outside St. Louis Wednesday night (May 31).

Larson’s win did not come without drama, in more ways than one. For starters, early-race leaders Brent Marks and Danny Dietrich both were taken out of contention when Dietrich slowed in turn 2, leaving Marks to run over Dietrich’s car.

More notable though, both Larson and Abreu owed their starts near the front of the field in part to a controversial officiating call in their respective heat race that saw both drivers maintain their 1-2 positions in the running order despite slowing on the track (more on that later).

2023 HIGH LIMIT RACING SERIES TRI-CITY RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Ricky Thornton Jr. didn’t have to wait long to redeem his Show-Me 100 loss, besting Bobby Pierce in a fierce exchange of sliders late to win the Flo Racing Night in America feature at Florence Speedway in Kentucky.

Thornton, who lost out on a crown jewel win over the weekend thanks to failing the droop rule in post-race tech, has now scored consecutive wins at Florence after winning the Ralph Latham Memorial at the track earlier in the spring.

See also
This Weekend in Dirt: Droop Rule Burns Thornton, Hands Devin Moran Show-Me 100

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

It’s not often that you see Larson and Abreu the subject of criticism in the dirt racing ranks, but they were, and rightly so, this Wednesday night. Let’s lay out the circumstances. 

On the last lap of the first High Limit heat race, Abreu slowed on the backstretch and appeared to be preparing to exit to the infield. Larson blew by Abreu to take the race lead, with the caution flag flying soon after. Under the ensuing caution, Larson reportedly stopped his car and weighed in on the situation with race officials. And, citing confusion over flagging (the flagman apparently waved the green flag with two to go in a glaring sun, then the white), both Abreu and Larson were allowed to restart the heat 1-2, positions that they maintained and thus earned them a spot in the pole dash.

There’s no shortage of issues to address here. Abreu absolutely slowed on track and was the cause of a caution, yet did not lose his position on track. Larson stopped his car on track to weigh in on officiating as a competitor and did not lose his position on track. There is NO objective reason to say both drivers should have been sent to the rear (and likely out of the dash, meaning they’d have had to start the feature buried deep in the running order). No getting around it, this was a major snafu.

Now having said that, promoter Brad Sweet deserves a TON of credit for addressing the situation head on. During an intermission in the program, Sweet got on the mic and addressed the crowd, taking ownership for the mistake made in officiating the race and also calling out that the Series opted to let Justin Sanders also start the dash, as he was the first driver from that ill-fated heat to lose a transfer spot thanks to the favor done to Abreu and Larson.

That’s hardly a fix. But mistakes do happen in officiating, and seeing a promoter man up, own up and address head on that a mistake was made is sadly a rare sight. This type of transparency is sorely needed in the sport as a whole, and it’s a credit to the High Limit tour that one of the faces of their series is delivering it. 

Wednesday’s High Limit program at Tri-City had nothing to be ashamed of with the field of cars that it drew, but it does need to be mentioned that the car count was far lower for this event than it has been for the earlier season tour events. Having Larson and Abreu front and center went a long way to conceal a largely inconsistent truth.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day

I thought long and hard before giving this shoutout to Larson. For all the controversy he’s going to have to answer for trying to play promoter from the cockpit of his sprint car, on-track he voluntarily chose to back up in the running order to chase extra winnings. As a result, the race winner Wednesday went 8-1 instead of 2-1. I’d wager 99% of the fans in the stands at Tri-City preferred it that way.

Dirt Racing’s Victims of the Night

Tyler Courtney went tumbling for the second consecutive High Limit event after leaving 34 Raceway tied for the tour points lead barely a month ago, one of four cars collected in the closing thing to a Big One dirt racing saw Wednesday night.

Abreu made consistent reference to how treacherous the cushion was at Tri-City Wednesday night, but Parker Price-Miller demonstrated in real time just how tricky it was, going for a nasty tumble while running second in the A-main.

Numbers Game

9

Number of dirt tracks in the U.S. that contested a dirt oval track racing program Wednesday night.

104

Nation’s largest car count Wednesday night, Action Track USA in Pennsylvania.

$31,023

Nation’s largest purse Wednesday night, awarded to the winner of the High Limit Racing feature at Tri-City (Larson).

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Friday morning (June 2) with coverage of the World of Outlaws late models from Farmer City Raceway in Illinois. 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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