Race Weekend Central

This Day in Dirt: Mid-Race Break Ruins Marathon Eldora Million for Everyone but Logan Schuchart

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: The richest race in dirt track history was over after the pill draw, with polesitter Logan Schuchart running away from the field and leading all 50 laps of the Eldora Million Thursday night into Friday morning (July 13-14).

Though Schuchart is a World of Outlaws regular on a multi-car team, the major-dollar win was a huge boost for Shark Racing, which made headlines in the offseason for their efforts to secure additional sponsorship heading into 2023. 

Fellow Outlaw regulars Carson Macedo and Brad Sweet rounded out the podium finishers. The $100,000 Macedo won for finishing second was the largest payday of his career.

2023 ELDORA MILLION RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: With Schuchart making the event academic up front, the story of Thursday’s race came after the race’s scheduled break after 20 completed laps. Coming back to green after open-red stops, top-five runner Aaron Reutzel spun on his own in turn 2 and triggered a violent five-car crash that took out contenders Spencer Bayston and Kyle Larson

All drivers involved in the wreck walked away from their machines.

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

One year ago, the dirt late model Eldora Million was legitimately the race of the year. The sprint car Eldora Million will go down in history for destroying a million dollars worth of racecars. We’ve done seven figures for sprint cars. It doesn’t need to be done again.

See also
Thinkin' Dirty: 2022 Eldora Million

I’ve been uber critical of the race format of the Knoxville Nationals and their scheduled mid-race break since I started covering dirt racing. I will level the exact same criticism here. 

The Eldora Million feature was literally heating up on lap 20, with the leaders in lapped traffic and commentator Chet Christner calling a three-wide battle in the top 10 mixed with lapped traffic when the de facto “competition caution” flew. There is NO way to argue that is a positive.

Under said competition caution/open red, five minutes of chaos ensued, with the end result seeing the Eldora frontstretch covered in speedy dry to clean up fuel spills and Twitter ablaze with speculation over whether race leader Schuchart’s car was damaged when his crew dropped it off the jack without a right-rear tire attached.

And let’s not forget that the mid-race break bunched the field back up and was directly responsible for the restart that trigged the lap 20 Big One that took out Reutzel, Larson and Bayston, three guys that legitimately had the speed to win this race. 

This did not have to happen. This race could have been 40 laps and it would have been just as epic, just as groundbreaking. At least five additional racecars would have left Eldora in one piece (let’s not forget the King’s Royal kicks off tomorrow, meaning five race teams likely to enter the event now have rebuilds to look forward to).

And while this didn’t come to fruition, imagine if the jack drop had done damage that cost Schuchart a race win. Pit stops are not part of sprint car racing. There is NO reason to make them part of their crown-jewel races.

And let’s be clear, the mid-race break did NOTHING to create a better on-track product. The three-wide action Christner was calling immediately prior to the mid-race break never surfaced again. Eldora and sprint car racing as a whole need to be thanking their lucky stars that a feel-good story won this race, because it was anything but a classic.

The opening heat races Thursday night bordered on demolition derby territory, with the first heat on the night lasting more than half an hour and seeing Brent Marks actually run out of fuel, an episode that angered the Posse driver.

Marks’s account on what Eldora had to say over the lap count for the cars to fuel to was in dispute on social media, but regardless I can’t say I side with the driver of the No. 19 on this one. There’s a competitive advantage to running with a lighter fuel load for a short heat race, but like with any competitive advantage there’s a risk that comes with it, especially driving a type of racecar that lends to extended cautions thanks to antiquated push-start technology. In this case, Marks got bit. 

Speaking of technology, it was something to see race officials swapping out team radios and checking for Apple Watches immediately prior to the start of the feature event. 

I’ve seen the Apple Watch check happen at least once this year in the late model ranks, but this was the most visible display I’ve yet seen of officials checking for said watches.

The idea here is to prevent drivers from using the watches to get communications that would otherwise have to be provided by two-way radio (which are not allowed on winged sprint cars) or signal sticks, the use of which is not prevalent among sprint car teams. No commentary here, I get why it’s being done, just a sign of the times.

It was very cool to see last year’s late model Eldora Million winner Jonathan Davenport in attendance for Thursday’s race, posing for pictures with Schuchart in victory lane as well after the race. Hopefully sane dirt fans out there will take this as a sign that the rivalry between late model and sprint car camps is petty, even if there is disagreement over push starts and inverts.

Speaking of Davenport though, I’ve got to give the guys props, because he’s developed an opinionated edge that’s made him a voice worth listening to in 2023. Not only did he publicly call NASCAR Cup racing a show during his debut with the series on the Bristol Dirt Track, “Superman” made waves across dirt racing this week with his fiery criticism of the use of inverts at Eldora.

I’m entirely with Davenport on this one, at least when it comes to crown-jewel races. The insistence of Eldora this week to use a format that awarded points for qualifying in roughly the same proportion as heat races did little to improve the on-track product and instead minimized Wednesday’s heat races.

Yes, seeing Schuchart go from eighth to first in his heat race Wednesday was impressive, but that didn’t outweigh seeing multiple backmarkers that didn’t qualify worth a darn turning front-row heat starts into Eldora Million checkered flags. Side-by-side racing should mean more than single-car qualifying in any discipline.

Of course, if racetracks are convinced that mixing up the field makes the on-track product better, get rid of single-car qualifying and go to a pill draw for heat races. Considering the Million lasted over six hours to run a single class of car, I’m all for shaving 45-60 minutes off the program.

It came off as self-aggrandizing at times and Chet Christner’s choice of music was a bit too esoteric for its own good at times (Monty Python is NOT conducive for pushing off 900-horsepower racecars), but Flo Racing on the whole did a very solid job broadcasting this event. It’s worth noting how confident they came off in their broadcast, repeatedly making reference to their competition, be it the World of Outlaws (which competes with the High Limit Racing Series and All-Star Circuit of Champions that Flo broadcast) or the DirtVision platform itself.

I really wish that confidence would translate into the service making the streaming numbers for this event available. 

Flo has done this before (they announced streaming numbers for the first Kyle Larson Late Model Challenge last year) and doing so would give dirt racing fans out there a very accurate picture of how big an event this was.

Dirt Racing’s Heroes of the Day

There will be no shortage of stories out there about Schuchart and Shark Racing’s rags to (literal) riches story, so we’ll go off the beaten path there. Buddy Kofoid gets a shoutout for winning hard charger honors on the night, going from 20th to seventh in the Eldora Million feature.

We’ll also give a shoutout to USAC regular CJ Leary, who despite making only his third start of the year in a winged sprint car qualified for the A-main and ran well, improving from 21st to 12th. Leary’s performance was the closest thing the Eldora Million had to Tim McCreadie’s strong performance at the Chili Bowl earlier this year.

Dirt Racing’s Victim(s) of the Night

The obvious victims on the night were all the drivers collected in Reutzel’s lap 21 spin and resulting melee.

But the ultimate victim on the day didn’t even make the A-main. That honor went to WoO regular Sheldon Haudenschild, who went for an early and violent tumble after being pinched by Marks in his heat race.

That result buried Haudenschild in a C-main, where he went to work. Going from 15th to second in his C-main, he then climbed from 22nd into the top 10 and was working on a transfer spot before getting tagged by Cale Thomas and wrecked, denying all present at Eldora a bowl of alphabet soup. Haudenschild was by far the strongest car to miss the Million field.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (July 17) with continued coverage from Eldora Speedway, this time of the King’s Royal. 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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