Fast Talk presented by Out-Pace Racing Products
Fast Talk: Sorting out racing's Easter basket
Our weekly roundtable sponsored by Out-Pace Racing Products considers Easter weekend results from special events around the country (edited for clarity and length):
Who found the best eggs?
Michael Rigsby, DirtonDirt.com co-founder and CEO: In this case the biggest egg was the best so I'll go with Chris Simpson's $15,000 prize at La Salle's Thaw Brawl. Chris and I were talking Friday and we agreed that Arizona felt like a year ago, and not two months, so it almost felt like he was starting his season all over again. Normally that January leap gives guys a head start, but with the weather pushing everything back, it sort of nullified that this year. So for him to "start over" with a $15,000 victory is a pretty big deal. Not to mention he had to run the top a bit to do it, and that's not exactly his cup of tea.
Kevin Kovac, DirtonDirt.com senior writer: The answer simply has to be Chris Simpson, whose Thaw Brawl victory at La Salle finally gave him the big-money success he’s been flirting with for several seasons. There wasn’t a more satisfied Easter weekend Dirt Late Model winner than Simpson, who was quite convincing in controlling the 75-lap feature once he passed his older brother Chad for the lead on lap 18. It might not have been a Lucas Oil or World of Outlaws event, but I think the confidence he gained with a $15,000 triumph will help him break down the door to victory lane at a national tour show sooner rather than later. Oh, and that fat check he received also had to help him fill his three kids’ Easter eggs with plenty of quality chocolate and jelly beans.
Alli Collis, DirtonDirt.com staff writer: Dale McDowell. Unlike the majority of the Senoia field, McDowell didn’t race in Friday’s opener. But that certainly didn’t slow him down Saturday, where he won his heat race to start outside the front row. That makes McDowell’s second victory of the season, and when he’s raced, he’s been really consistent. With a lot of regional and national events scheduled at tracks he’s traditionally ran well at in the coming weeks, I think we’ll be seeing McDowell in victory lane again soon.
Robert Holman, DirtonDirt.com weekend editor: I remember hunting for eggs when I was little and there were always two winners: the person who found the most and the person who found the biggest. More often than not, the biggest egg had some extra loot in it, usually cash. So while there were no multiple winners over the weekend, I have to point to the driver who scored the biggest win of the weekend, Iowa’s Chris Simpson. He may not have been a heavy favorite, but he was certainly at the top of the discussions when we turned our attention to La Salle Speedway’s Thaw Brawl. The $15,000 top prize was also a career best for Simpson, so I think that qualifies as the best egg.
Dustin Jarrett, announcer and DirtonDirt.com contributor: Fans, drivers, and promoters. After weeks of just miserable weather, cold temps, and even snow, we were finally blessed with a weekend full of racing. Sure it was a little chilly further north, but it was refreshing to see RaceWire hopping with activity, the photo gallery full of pics, and the first DirtonDirt pay-per-view in more than a month. Hopefully it's a sign that spring is finally here (of course, as I say that, there's an inch of snow on the ground here in Ohio).
Who had the best party?
Holman: It may have been low-key, but I think by the time Dustin Mooneyham’s Cash Money Dirt Late Model Series was finished, they were feeling pretty good. I had my doubts when they changed the schedule a little bit and decided to hold heats for Saturday’s $1,000-to-win main event Friday. Only nine cars were there on Friday so it looked like their party could be a bust. But when eight more showed up on Saturday to bring the field up to 17 for the new tour’s first race, I think they probably looked around and thought, ‘This ain’t too bad.’ They had a dash for rookie drivers as well, which was pretty cool. I think those guys have to believe it was a successful weekend. For $1,000 though, I’d like to see them try to keep their parties to one-day affairs as much as possible.
Collis: Seeing the photo on the homepage of DirtonDirt.com, it looks like those honors go to Hunter Rasdon, who picked up his first Comp Cams victory of the season Saturday at Lone Star Speedway. Rasdon topped a solid regional field, including Jon Mitchell, Jack Sullivan, Cade Dillard and others. Definitely not a bad way to close the month of March.
Rigsby: I'm a sucker for warm weather, and it sure looked like Senoia was having a hell of a time for their two-day Schaeffer's Spring Nationals show. Not only did they get a really good field, but I was glad to see guys commenting on how awesome — like old school West Plains — the slick surface was in Georgia. It buckled down a bit Saturday, but from Timothy Culp's hilarious tweet to Scott Bloomquist discussing it, Senoia when it's like that might be the truest "slick track" in America these days. It was very cool to see.
Kovac: I’ll just stick with Chris Simpson here as well. He didn’t have a big postrace bash in La Salle’s pit area, but when a driver captures the biggest win of their career there’s no doubt that they’re going to be up late savoring the accomplishment no matter how many people are around. And, of course, Simpson say in victory lane that some beers would taste especially good on his way home.
Jarrett: Trever Feathers and Chad Thrash. Feathers has really found his groove at Hagerstown the last few years as he bested a stout field of entries in the Ultimate Northeast opener at Hagerstown. It was a great win for Feathers who is one of my picks to have a breakout season in 2018. Thrash, while it's no surprise he won the MSCCS race at Magnolia, started 10th and passed Billy Moyer, Tyler Erb and others en route to the win. It was my first ever trip to Magnolia and, if you've never been there, do it. The hype is real and Johnny Stokes is still one of my favorite promoters!
Whose eggs got cracked or scrambled?
Kovac: Breaking something in the rear end of his car while running second with three laps remaining in Saturday’s Ed Gibbons Memorial at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway was a rough fate for Bobby Pierce, who hasn’t finished better than fifth in his 12 starts with Dunn-Benson Racing since returning from January’s Wild West Shootout. It was an encouraging run for Pierce, but there was also some extra heartbreak involved for the 21-year-old, who not only craved his first win of the season but also would have loved a home-state win for his North Carolina-based team and its hospitalized co-owner Carlton Lamm.
Holman: Everyone remembers that one kid who has a really nice bounty in his Easter basket. He’s running gleefully across the field without a care in the world swinging the basket wildly with one eye on another egg and one eye on his mom. And then he trips, does a full Peter Pan and finishes it off with a faceplant, both scattering and crushing eggs at the same time. That was Brian Shirley at La Salle on Friday night. He clearly has a $5,000 payday within his grasp. He arguably had the fastest car in the final five laps. And then he stubbed his toe on the cushion and watched helplessly as all those eggs flew away. I’ll admit that it was more difficult seeing Shirley do that than it is watching a little kid get airborne after an ill-timed stumble.
Rigsby: I saw an Easter Sunday photo of Shanon Buckingham fishing, and he probably needed it after the ride he took at Senoia on Friday night. It was sort of a bizarre flip where it never really looked like he was going to go over, and then all of a sudden he was on his lid. It's been a tough start to the season for the bass fisherman ace, and I'm sure his eggs were cracked a little after that wild ride.
Collis: Friday’s Thaw Brawl opener at La Salle was a heartbreaker for Brian Shirley, who got out of shape while leading with two laps remaining, settling for a sixth-place finish. Shirley had a rough Speedweeks, so I’m sure he was eager to get back to Illinois and get to racing around home. Despite Friday’s misfortune, Shirley did close the weekend strong with a top-five finish in Saturday’s finale.
Jarrett: I agree with those who said Brian Shirley. After Senoia's show Friday, we hustled back to the hotel to watch the feature from LaSalle on DirtonDirt's PPV. Just when it seemed like Shirley was able to keep Weiss, Schlenk, and Babb at bay, a bobble between turns one and two cost him the lead. It was no doubt a heartbreaker for him in his first race since a forgettable Speedweeks. I couldn't help but feel bad for him after he seemingly had the race in hand.
Is there a concession stand equivalent of the polarizing Peeps?
Collis: Everyone seems to love the hot cheese balls at Eldora, but I’ll admit they’re not my favorite. Give me the regular mozzarella sticks, because those are awesome. And for the record, I love Peeps!
Holman: Folks have such a love-hate relationship with the Peeps and I’m not sure I understand it. I always loved them. Heck, my wife even used to buy them for me. I think I only got burned out on them after she made it her go-to Easter item and apparently tried to corner the market on them for a couple years in a row. I think the bologna sandwich may rival peeps in both popularity and their disgustfulness. I like a good bologna sandwich as much as the next person, but I have to eat that stuff in moderation, and when I do, the bologna isn’t sliced an inch thick. But I’ve noticed more and more concession stands are offering super thick bologna, fried — or grilled — on a hamburger bun. I’ll pass and leave that to the bologna connoisseurs.
Jarrett: I was at Park Jefferson Speedway in South Dakota one time several years ago and they had gizzards on the menu. I don't know if they still do or not, but I remember seeing that and being befuddled. Peeps seems to be one of those Easter candies you either love or hate. I'm the guy who likes peeps, but there was no way I was ordering gizzards that night — or any night.
Rigsby: While I love it, the term "walking taco" always seems to either freak people out, or intrigue them with excitement. When I describe it to my non-racing friends, they look at me with horror as if I've just described the apocalypse of foods. But I'm telling you, if you get a good walking taco, it'll change your life. And for the record, Peeps are disgusting!
Kovac: Perhaps Eldora Speedway’s World Famous Pizza Burger. I’ve never personally eaten one, but I know there are people who swear by them so much that they’ll devour several during a race weekend. There are also others — I guess including me — who just shy away from them because the combination of burger, pepperoni and mozzarella is just a little too much for the stomach. As for Peeps, I love my sweets, but not those treats. I’m not a fan of marshmallow candy.
Where's the most intriguing post-Easter gathering?
Jarrett: If the weather cooperates, Tyler County's Earl Hill Memorial should have it's usual strong field of regional hot shoes as well as a few surprises. Everyone knows the Middlebourne, W.Va. bullring provides quality side-by-side racing as it is, but they have a lot in their favor this weekend, too. Several area tracks aren't open yet, the event is co-sanctioned by the Ultimate’s Northeast and Mid-Ohio Valley circuits, and the early spring weather should provide a lightning fast racing surface with plenty of passing.
Holman: It’s gotta be the Lucas Oil Series visit to Batesville. Though it may not seem like it in many areas of the United States, where leaving home without a heavy coat and quick access to a snow shovel could still leave you in a heap of trouble, but racing season is here. Batesville could give us a better indicator of what we should really expect on the Lucas Oil tour. With Farmer City the following weekend, how many of the World of Outlaws teams will make the haul out there? That track has been really, really good to Scott Bloomquist through the years as well, so he could be primed to gain even more ground on the series leaders. Or could another driver, like Tim McCreadie, Dennis Erb Jr., Gregg Satterlee or maybe one of the Clint Bowyer Racing teammates make a big leap forward? I think there’s plenty of intrigue there.
Kovac: For purely personal reasons, Friday night’s scheduled $4,000-to-win Schaeffer’s Spring Nationals at Crossville (Tenn.) Speedway catches my eye. Races at Crossville lead me to wax nostalgic a bit, back to the summer of 1987 when I was 14 and on a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway’s NASCAR race with my parents. At that point I was becoming gung-ho on going to new dirt tracks, and, after a check of the National Speedway Directory and a phone call confirmed that Crossville was racing on Friday not all that far away from Bristol, we headed over there for a show. It was my first time seeing a Dirt Late Model race in the Southeast aside from Speedweeks at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park (back then I was going to mostly big-block modified races in the Northeast) and I was impressed with the Crossville facility (cool drive-in section, comfortable concrete grandstand), and, 31 years later, I still recall that visit and, of course, find it interesting that I’m now writing about Dirt Late Models.
Collis: Weather permitting, I’m looking forward to Batesville’s Bad Boy 98 this weekend. There’s so many intriguing storylines heading into the weekend. Tim McCreadie won the race last year and is in need of a good run. Scott Bloomquist traditionally runs well at Batesville and is in need of a points boost. We’ve only seen Billy Moyer race a couple of times this year, but he’s slated to be in action. Then there’s regional guys like Jack Sullivan, Hunter Rasdon and Cade Dillard who have the potential to run really well. It should make for a good weekend!
Rigsby: I'll pick the low-hanging fruit and say the Lucas Oil Bad Boy 98 at Batesville. Like everyone's season, Lucas' has been stunted by weather, and April in central Arkansas is always a total crapshoot to get in or not. Also, will the Rocket House car team make the tow all the way to the Natural State still riding this high in points? What Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas guys might make their annual pop-ins at Batesville? Can Scott Bloomquist take another massive whack out of the points lead? All stuff I'll be keyed into this weekend.