Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: .002 Seconds Wins Bobby Pierce Gopher 50, $50k at Deer Creek

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Darlington, meet dirt racing. A stellar weekend for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series at Deer Creek Speedway saw Bobby Pierce prevail by .002 seconds over Hudson O’Neal to win the $50,000 Gopher 50 feature at Deer Creek Speedway in Minnesota Saturday night (July 8).

The race, which saw Pierce charge from 10th to first to score the win, ended up being decided when O’Neal jumped the cushion in turn 2 on the white flag lap, opening the door for Pierce to throw a slider entering turn 3. O’Neal got a strong run on turn 4 exit but came up literal inches short of taking the lead back. O’Neal was exceedingly dejected in victory lane, apologizing to the entire Rocket Chassis organization for what he perceived as a let-down.

Devin Moran and Chris Madden won the preliminary features at Deer Creek Thursday and Friday night.

2023 GOPHER 50 RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: See above. Pierce vs. O’Neal was literally as close as Ricky Craven vs. Kurt Busch in 2003.

Having said that, any other weekend Friday’s finish for the USAC national sprint cars at Macon Speedway in Illinois would have likely taken this honor. An absolute banger of a finish saw Mitchel Moles emerge victorious, but Kyle Cummins make the headlines.

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

Dirt late model racing has not been lacking in 2023, but the Gopher 50 weekend at Deer Creek was just what the Lucas Oil tour needed. Points leader Ricky Thornton Jr. was all but invisible, a Rocket Chassis car other than O’Neal scored a win (Madden on Friday) and both Jonathan Davenport and Tim McCreadie showed the type of form that should let them keep RTJ honest as the summer continued. Aside from the mid-race yellow fever Saturday, this was a perfect weekend for the tour.

Well, almost. I was harshly critical of Williams Grove Speedway a couple years ago for a lacking catchfence that allowed Bryan Bernheisel to leave the facility in a nasty wreck that sidelined him for months. Fortunately, Shane Clanton avoided injury, but he suffered a similar crash at Deer Creek Thursday, “leaving the ballpark” as Flo Racing’s crew put it.

At this level of dirt racing, there’s no excuse for this. Either the wall needs to get taller or a catchfence needs to be added.

Yes, anyone alleging that the Lucas tour got the “photo” finish between O’Neal and Pearce wrong need to not only consider angles and perspective, but that both drivers involved had zero question over the results. Having said that, images like the one below are confusing, especially for race fans used to the precision that paint on asphalt tracks allow. It’d be a great move for dirt tracks out there to use paint or some other indicator so fans can see where their scoring loops actually are.

Was the scoring loop not at flag stand or was the transponder in the wrong spot

Posted by Call out those legal-Illegal Race Cars on Sunday, July 9, 2023

I’m with Pierce … the Gopher trophy is underrated and awesome.

Justin Grant had an abysmal weekend at Macon after flipping on Saturday, but at least he was able to take revenge on a push truck Friday night, and an Escalade at that.

For those that don’t remember, Grant fell victim to poor conduct by a push truck last month during USAC’s Eastern Swing at Grandview Speedway.

The Escalade push truck was the latest thing to get damaged at Macon Speedway, but the track deserves a tremendous tip of the cap for pulling off a massive week of racing despite being days removed from severe weather collapsing one of the track’s grandstands.

For the track to be able to host the Hell Tour and two nights of USAC national racing less than a week after said destruction is on par with how Huset’s Speedway recovered from their wind damage a season ago. Job well down to all at the venerable Illinois bullring.

Seeing this video from Crowley’s Ridge Raceway in Arkansas Saturday night made me cringe. And not just because of how violent the wreck was, but more so because I don’t want to see any of this Bowman Gray caliber crap near the sport of dirt racing. Spend five minutes in the Bowman Gray Facebook group and you’ll realize that track is the most toxic place in motorsports sans big-league NASCAR.

Race at Crowley's Ridge Raceway I bet everybody wants

Posted by Tyler Carter on Saturday, July 8, 2023

I wouldn’t call him either a victim or a villain, but Bill Balog probably had the biggest waste of an opportunity on the weekend when he overdrove turn 1 trying to pass for the World of Outlaws feature lead at Wilmot Speedway Saturday night. His car was fast enough on the long run to have challenged Carson Macedo for the win had he not buried himself on a mid-race restart, triggering a two-lap struggle that culminated when Balog made contact that sent James McFadden spinning.

Dirt Racing’s Hero of the Weekend

On that same note, Macedo gets a shoutout here for his win at Wilmot Saturday, his first since enduring a fiery crash at Knoxville last month. 

Sticking with sprint car racing, Zeb Wise won Friday night’s All-Star Circuit of Champions event at Ransomville Speedway in New York by a country mile, posting the largest margin of victory that tour has seen since 2018 according to the Flo Racing stream.

Dirt Racing’s Victim of the Weekend

The victim of the evening Friday goes to Jeff Sonnenberg and his nasty crash at Ransomville Speedway during his street stock heat race (the driver walked away).

Saturday’s night victim title goes to McKay Winger, who barrel rolled his late model at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois, again fortunately walking away.

Lastly, there will be a villain of the weekend and that goes to Chico, Calif’s Michael Ing. So much wrong with how this episode at Placerville Speedway played out Saturday.

Speeding on a track under yellow-flag conditions is wrong. Using a racecar as a weapon is wrong. Tagging a competitor at speed in the driver’s side door is grounds for disqualification even in the county fair demolition derby. And none of that touches on the stupidity of flipping one’s own sprint car over trying to damage someone else’s. Hopefully Placerville does everyone a favor and parks this clown.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Tuesday morning (July 11) with coverage of the XR Super Series from Dubuque Fairgrounds Speedway in Iowa. 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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