Race Weekend Central

This Weekend in Dirt: Carson Macedo Bests Brad Sweet in Jackson Nationals Slugfest

Dirt Racing’s Winning Moment: Carson Macedo emerged victorious in a furious closing-laps exchange with Brad Sweet to score his second consecutive win in the Jackson Nationals in Minnesota Saturday night (Aug. 20)

The final five laps saw Sweet and Macedo swap the lead four times after a late-race caution bunched up the field. Macedo took the lead for the first time on lap 26 after polesitter James McFadden led the opening 25 circuits from the pole. 

Though there were no championship points on the line Saturday, the opening two nights of the Nationals event marked a hefty points payout for Macedo as well, who capitalized on David Gravel’s rough weekend to move to second in the World of Outlaws standings behind four-time defending champion Sweet.

2023 JACKSON NATIONALS RACE RESULTS

Dirt Racing’s Dramatic Moment: The most dramatic moment of the weekend decided Saturday’s race, but a close second came courtesy of one of the most spectacular crashes of the 2023 WoO season in Friday night’s Last Chance Showdown, a multi-car incident that saw Minnesota’s Scott Winters literally leave the building in turn 3.

Fortunately, both Winters and Tim Kaeding walked away despite nearly achieving low-Earth orbit.

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

Shark Racing patriarch Bobby Allen can’t stop making headlines. After shocking the sprint car world last week with the surprise hiring of Tanner Holmes to replace Jacob Allen in the team’s No. 1A entry, Allen made arguably the most quoted statement sprint car racing has seen Friday night after a wreck-filled evening.

It’s certainly not been a banner year for sprint car racing, at least in comparison to their fendered friends in super late models, which have seen an improved on-track product in 2023 while also undergoing a cardinal change in the sport’s tire.

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Whether the tire situation is in fact a problem, I’m hesitant to say. Looking at the front of the field, the top of the heap among the Outlaws ranks are still up front, leading the points and winning races. I wonder if the rash of crashes is less a product of difficult-handling cars and more a product of the ever-growing gulf between the top of the Outlaws pyramid and everyone else, from the backmarkers to those in local/regional 410 sprints.

Because, after all, sprint car racing is inherently dangerous. Period. Case in point, Friday’s wreck that saw Winters and Kaeding doing synchronized gymnastics with their sprint cars in the wreck discussed earlier. This wasn’t a case of Brady Bacon at Terre Haute or Bryan Bernheisel at Williams Grove, Jackson has catchfencing that puts 95% of the dirt tracks in the country to shame. Sometimes things just go wrong.

For all the concerns sprint car racing had earlier this year about the sport turning into the Wild West that is super late model racing, where drivers are not limited in competing other series and thus can cherrypick races across sanctions, this year’s Silly Season has effectively turned sprint car racing into just that. I damn near got a headache Thursday during the first night of the Jackson Nationals, trying to keep tabs of Chase Randall not racing a car with chicken front and center on it, Buddy Kofoid looking just like McFadden and Holmes racing the No. 1A. 

Another week, another unnecessarily complicated race format that ultimately lessens the spectator experience. Thursday and Friday’s heat races did not have transfer spots, rather relying on points, combined with points from qualifying, to set the preliminary feature field. Even watching on DirtVision, the loss of suspense watching a heat race where there was no way to tell who was going to transfer without a calculator was palpable. 

Though the “King of the Hill” format that replaced the traditional pole dash on Saturday night was even more underwhelming. Not only did the format change mean watching eight or so fewer laps of green-flag action, it also reduced one of the most important parts of the racing program to staring at a stopwatch.

I will concede I come from late model country and that my eye is not as well-trained when it comes to watching a sprint car. But, having said that, it’s one thing to watch qualifying for a local show, where there is a distinct lack of parity and it’s pretty obvious which cars are handling well and which ones aren’t. At the WoO level, where the pole was decided by .018 seconds, there’s nothing I can do sitting in a grandstand or watching TV to appreciate how McFadden bested Macedo for the pole. Less wheel-to-wheel racing is NEVER the answer. 

Dirt Racing’s Hero(es) of the Weekend

McFadden ultimately came up nine laps of short of sweeping all three nights of the Jackson Nationals, an accomplishment that has proven rare among the ranks of Outlaw drivers.

Still, winning two preliminary features and posting an average finish of 2.0 across three nights is a weekend no driver will complain about.

Holmes certainly made Shark Racing look good for their left-field hire, with the Oregonian scoring top 10s in all three features at Jackson on the weekend, including a podium result on Thursday.

Dirt Racing’s Victim(s) of the Night

Gravel had a disastrous three-day stint in Minnesota that way well have cost the Big Game Motorsports team a shot at the WoO title in 2023. Thursday night started bad, with Gravel burying himself in his heat race after jumping the cushion early in the going, then finishing 24th in the A-main after suffering a catastrophic tire failure.

Fast forward to Friday and Gravel again found trouble, this time getting collected in a lap 5 incident that damaged his car’s front end. Across the three nights of the Jackson Nationals, Gravel finished 24th, 11th and 13th on a weekend that Sweet and Macedo both were in contention for race wins all three nights.

On the other side of the proverbial Outlaws garage, Noah Gass also endured a rough three days up north. Gass missed all three feature races at Jackson, with his team losing an engine Thursday and enduring a spectacular crash on Saturday that the driver fortunately walked away from.

Up Next: Frontstretch will be back Monday morning (Aug. 28) with coverage of the Rumble by the River from Port Royal Speedway in Pennsylvania with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series. Streaming 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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