Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Kyle Larson, Bobby Pierce Prevail in Games of Inches

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moments: Let’s go with a countdown, folks. One hundred laps of the USA Nationals finale at Cedar Lake Speedway was decided by less than a tenth of a second, with Bobby Pierce holding off a kamikaze last-lap slide job from Hudson O’Neal to score the $50,000 win Saturday night (Aug. 5)

Head south to Missouri Saturday night and Kyle Larson came out on top of a pitched duel with Eldora Million victor Logan Schuchart to win the Iron-Man 55 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Missouri on the World of Outlaws tour.

Larson and Schuchart raced for the lead for literally the last third of the feature event, but the final lap ending up telling the tale. Despite getting into the fluff in turns 1 and 2 on the final lap, somehow Larson got enough of a run down the backstretch to force Schuchart high in turns 3 and 4, securing the victory.

But the closest finish of the weekend came at Knoxville Raceway, where the 360 Nationals were decided by mere inches, with Brian Brown stealing the victory from a dominant Aaron Reutzel.

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: Take your pick of the three above. Dirt racing had an embarrassment of riches to pick from this Saturday night.

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

It kills the late model supremacist in me to say it, but this weekend belonged to the sprint cars, even with the close finish at Cedar Lake. After all the race of the year candidates that late models have enjoyed in 2023 (Vado, Golden Isles, Volusia) the winged guys have some events to hang their hats on. Fingers crossed the second half of the 410 Nationals this weekend is that good a race.

Speaking of the USA Nationals, the format for the weekend’s event was a welcome improvement. Gone were prelim nights of heat races only in favor of prelim features Thursday and Friday night. And though it seemed redundant to award points for qualifying when heat race lineups were set straight up based on qualifying speeds, a format free of inverts was a breath of fresh air.

Speaking of the USA Nationals, my God was there too much pre-amble for the feature. More than a half-hour of track prep, more than 15 minutes of pace laps, TWO pre-race ceremonies (driver intros and a four-wide). It wasn’t Chili Bowl bad but too much of a good thing is just that, too much. And while these comments were from earlier this week at Boone, WoO regular Chris Madden lent some credence to these concerns.

It almost makes me feel bad to throw a dark cloud over a new dirt track being constructed and scheduled for racing in 2024. Almost. Because the XR Events announcement that the return to Pennsboro in 2024 is going to in fact happen on a newly-constructed quarter-mile as opposed to the uniquely-shaped track that was featured on Lost Speedways felt as close to false advertising as an announcement can get without bald-face lying.

It’s great news that West Virginia is getting a new racetrack given I-77 Raceway Park’s closure and the future of West Virginia Motor Speedway being in doubt. But considering this outfit is the same one that hyped the return of dirt racing to North Wilkesboro only to have to cancel the event without a lap ever being turned, this was a classic oversell. Racing is returning to Pennsboro, W.V. in 2024. NOT to the “legendary Pennsboro Raceway.” Big difference.

We’ll end with some wishful thinking. The last time NASCAR’s media corps ran a driver out of town nailed to a cross with a holier than thou attitude, Larson returned to dirt full time and literally blew the competition out of the water. In that same vein, someone out there please give Noah Gragson a ride for as long as NASCAR and Toyota (that’s who pulling the strings at Legacy) continue to keep him parked. The sport will be better off adding his personality and talent to it.

Dirt Racing’s Hero(es) of the Weekend

Giving a shout-out to pairs of drivers responsible for two of the close finishes this article spotlighted this weekend not just for their exploits on track, but for the sportsmanship shown afterwards. Schuchart made a point to shake Larson’s hand in victory lane after their IronMan duel at I-55, while O’Neal could visibly be seen congratulating Pierce on the cool-down lap after he prevailed at Cedar Lake.

Seeing that foursome of drivers race hard, race clean and able to appreciate doing their jobs in damn fine fashion was a welcome departure from the toxicity swirling around much of racing this weekend.

Corey Day earned hard charger honors in a big way at I-55 on Saturday, going from 15th to fourth on the tight Missouri bullring. That’s not noteworthy in itself, but it’s getting the shoutout here because of just how big a comeback it was …

Dirt Racing’s Victim(s) of the Weekend

Because Day on Friday learned a very hard lesson that the fence always wins. Day endured a vicious crash on Friday night that ended the IronMan prelim feature early after he literally tore down the turn 4 catchfence at I-55.

Another weekend, another late model crown jewel, another very rough outing for Todd Cooney. Cooney endured not one but two crashes on Saturday at Cedar Lake, starting with a collision in the Last Chance Showdown that left him on less than four wheels for the second time in a week.

Cooney’s team did manage to start the feature, only to do more damage to the car when he ran into a crippled Ryan Gustin on lap 25 of the 100-lap event.

Lastly, I’ll admit the available video makes it hard to conclusively tell who was at fault for Friday’s violent incident at Williams Grove Speedway, but Freddie Rahmer definitely had knives out for him after being involved in the incident that sent Ricky Dieva for a nasty tumble.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (Aug. 14) with a full week breakdown and recap of the Knoxville Nationals. Streaming 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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