Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Rico Abreu led all 30 laps fro the pole to win the annual Rayce Rudeen Foundation Race, this year held at the Plymouth Dirt Track in Wisconsin and the weekend’s richest race after the Historic 100 was rained out in West Virginia Saturday night (June 3).
While Abreu was the class of the field, his run up front was aided by the second straight major sprint car event being impacted by on-track contact between members of the Pennsylvania Posse. In this instance, a series of slide jobs that saw Anthony Macri and Brent Marks make contact with each other on consecutive laps derailed any shot either Pennsylvanian had of running down Abreu for the event win.
Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: While the on-track battle between Macri and Marks could certainly qualify as a dramatic moment, Friday night’s World of Outlaws late model feature that saw Kyle Bronson prevail for the race win at Tri-City Speedway in Illinois became just the latest super late model race to enter the fray as a race of the year candidate in 2023, with the top-four drivers all trading sliders for the win in the closing laps.
Knoxville Raceway got in on the action as well, with the USAC national sprint car feature at the track seeing Jake Swanson win the feature in the final corner.
What Dirt Racing Fans’ll Be Group Chatting About This Morning
It’s about damn time we got another super late model race of the year candidate. Yes, late model fans were spoiled by an early-season stretch that saw instant classics contested at Vado, Golden Isles and Volusia in the first two months of the season, but as good as late model racing has been this season, Friday’s show at Tri-City felt long overdue. Even with the Eldora Million sprint car edition looming 2023 remains the return of the supers.
Saturday night I was thanking my lucky stars that I opted to hit West Virginia Motor Speedway for Friday’s preliminary race instead of Saturday’s program, which fell victim to rain and reportedly a driver’s vote not to proceed or run a rain date on Sunday.
I can understand where drivers were coming from. A 50-lap race on a 0.625-mile oval is hell on an engine and the majority of the late model teams racing at WVMS this weekend are going to be headed to Eldora this coming week for the Dream, another track that is hell on engines and one of the few races in 2023 that actually can say yes, we pay more than WVMS.
Having said that, the sport as a whole has got to figure out a way to make racing at WVMS work. The facility, having walked every square inch of it this weekend, is immaculate. Everything about it reeks of professionalism. That the track staff were able to make everything run as smooth as it did this weekend despite a crowd that dwarfs what most dirt tracks see and having not hosted a race since last summer was a testament to the work Cody Watson and team have put into the place.
Schedule the race earlier in the spring to take advantage of lower temperatures that reduce engine stress. Come up with some form of co-sanction, as the XR Super Series and Iron-Man Series have, to hopefully drive up car count. Whatever is done, the “Speedplant” is too great a facility to lose again. Even the wildlife wanted a seat for the show.
For as good as the racing on the WoO late model circuit was this weekend, the sprint car tour endured some rough races on both Friday and Saturday night thanks in large part to back markers in the field driving poorly.
The feature at River Cities Friday night was a yellow-fever affair, marred by two red flags in the first five laps and a rash of solo yellows by drivers that nothing to do with the outcome of the race. Saturday’s feature at Ogilvie was even worse, with Tim Estensen (who was parked Friday for two unassisted spins) the center of an incident that collected the top-two in points. Even the late models weren’t immune to it, with Tanner English blocking Todd Cooney on track to admonish him after Cooney slapped the turn 4 wall at Paducah Saturday, collecting English.
Where am I going with this? The inherent risk of the Outlaw tours going off the beaten path with their flagship series. Seeing national tours truly act national and venture into markets that the big leagues are nowhere near is a great thing, but it also means that the cars filling the field are further removed from hotbeds that make WoO races in states like Pennsylvania and Ohio powerhouse events.
Now, let me be clear, I am NOT advocating for tours like the Outlaws to do anything to restrict who can and can’t attempt their races … the fluidity of dirt racing fields is one of its strongest assets. But I will say that I can understand and empathize with fans that were frustrated to see a rare visit by a national tour to their neck of the woods slowed way too frequently by drivers that frankly were not the show this weekend.
Now let’s go down another rabbit hole that surfaced Saturday night with the Outlaws at Ogilvie, a raging conspiracy theory that series regular Bill Rose brought out a caution flag deliberately to allow another series regular, David Gravel, a chance to finish repairs in the work area.
Seeing as I was at the Winchester Speedway over 1,000 miles away at the time this happened, I am not going to speculate on whether a relationship exists between Rose and Gravel (or their fellow competitors) exists that would suggest this type of behavior, though social media had no shortage of said speculation.
What I will say is that the current WoO work area rules would allow for such abuse to happen (for those that don’t watch the series regularly, there is a time limit for repairs in the work area. However, if the race restarts and then a caution/red flag happens before the next lap is scored, a team can keep working and get back into the race.).
The more I watch dirt racing, the more I believe they need to go more NASCAR in this ONE SINGLE SOLITARY AREA and get more objective about work being done under race stoppages. Because intentional or not, Rose was yet another backmarker have inordinate influence on a WoO race.
One passing note on this matter, if dirt fans learned anything from the Hunt the Front Super Dirt Series feature at Cochran Motor Speedway in Georgia Saturday, it’s that there’s no way to legislate talent level and expect a better on-track product. Despite having about as strong a regional super late model field as one could ask for, Saturday’s 50-lap feature turned into Chinese water torture, slowed by 16 caution flags. Hunt the front? Hunt the finish. No race had a more merciful ending this weekend than that one.
As our readers will see Monday night in this week’s Daytona to Dirt, NASCAR regulars past and present were out in force racing on the dirt this weekend. Christopher Bell was not one of them, given car owner Joe Gibbs’s hesitancy to allow Bell to run said extracurricular races; Gibbs was said in particular to be have been terrified by Daison Pursley’s nasty USAC midget crash in 2021 that left him with a back injury that parked him for months.
After this weekend, don’t expect that stance to go anywhere anytime soon. It’s not like it was going to go anywhere after Cup Series regular Alex Bowman missed a month of Cup racing after suffering a sprint car injury last month, but Pursley again went for a nasty ride, this time in a USAC sprint car at Knoxville. He was fortunately uninjured this time.
Art is known to mimic real life, but sports? Because after seeing video of a Georgia woman go Dukes of Hazzard ramping off a tow truck, it sure looked like Tom VanTuyl tried to replicate that experience in his dwarf car at Placerville Speedway in California Saturday.
Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Day
Parkersburg, W.V.’s KC Burdette deserves all the credit in the world for rushing a crew and car together to prepare a late model and show up at his home track at WVMS to ensure that the Historic 100 prelim feature on Friday night would go off with a full field of racecars. Burdette may not be a national name, but he certainly got the grandstands to react when James Essex announced over the track PA that he had arrived in the pits.
DirtonDirt had an excellent interview with Burdette, who stated his team made the extraordinary effort to race in support of the WVMS team. Said Burdette, “with this kind of pay, this race should get 60 cars.” Amen sir.
Dirt Racing’s Victims of the Weekend
Bobby Pierce lost a likely victory in the World 50 at Paducah Saturday night courtesy of a flat tire, and he pulled no punches on how costly a flat tire it was.
Lastly, as we had a race of the year candidate unfold at Tri-City on Friday, Knoxville saw a wreck of the year candidate emerge, with Isaac Chapple grabbing ever bit as much as air as Brady Bacon did when he literally left the building at Terre Haute Action Track two years ago.
Only difference is, Knoxville had modern walls that caught him. Chapple was fortunately not injured.
Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Wednesday morning (June 7) with coverage of the High Limit Racing Series from Eagle Raceway in Nebraska. 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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