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DirtonDirt.com Dispatches

Dispatches: Title chase 'Hail Mary' for Williams

May 25, 2024, 5:29 pm
From staff, series, track and special reports
Pearson Lee Williams.  (Zackary Washington/Simple Moments Photography)
Pearson Lee Williams. (Zackary Washington/Simple Moments Photography)

Check this frequently updated story throughout the Memorial Day weekend (and beyond) with the latest notes and quotes from races and events throughout the holiday, including the Castrol FloRacing Night in America opener in Macon, Ill.,Schaeffer's Spring Nationals competition and Valvoline American Late Model Iron-Man Series action:

Hail Mary for Williams

Pearson Lee Williams has been in a tight battle with Donald McIntosh for the Schaeffer's Spring Nationals championship, but breaking an engine Friday dimmed the 27-year-old Dublin, Ga., driver’s hopes.

Williams entered Friday’s series event at Sugar Creek Raceway in Blue Ridge, Ga., two points ahead of McIntosh in the title chase, but engine woes forced Williams into George Mashburn’s car just so he could start the race and salvage as many points as he could. He retired on the 18th lap and finished 11th in a car that hadn’t been raced for two years but Mashburn had brought to the event with “4 Sale” as the number.

Saturday’s series event at North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth, Ga., was rained out, but Williams was still left trying to figure out what to do for the series points finale Sunday at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn.

“We actually have two motors. One of them is completely lapped out. … It’d be rough to try and keep racing it,” Williams said. “Our other one, it was fresh last night and we have no idea what happened to it. It just let go without any kind of warning.”

Without a powerplant, Williams got a helping hand from another racer when Christian Hanger of Winchester, Tenn., who stands third in series points, offered a ride in his backup car.

Getting to know each other in the Feb. 29 tour opener in Waycross, Ga., “we hit it off and he's become one of my best friends now,” Williams said. “Enough to where he let me race one of his cars. It’s a cool deal.”

Williams fell 12 points behind McIntosh in the series chase, but it’s still tight because drivers can drop their worst two finishes. Williams knows it’s a long shot.

“It's gonna be a Hail Mary,” he said. “Maybe we can get it done. If we didn't do everything that we could, you would never know what would've happened. I just don't know how to quit, I guess.”

McIntosh — who himself had to borrow Jordon Horton’s car in a series event at Buckshot Speedway in Clanton, Ala. — is a two-time champion on the Ray Cook-promoted series, but for Williams, a series title would be his first of any kind along with $10,000.

Williams drives the No. 121 Wynn Motorsports Longhorn Chassis powered by a Jay Dickens Ford powerplant, but he’ll have to familiarize himself with Hanger’s Rocket Chassis with a Chevy engine from Clements.

“It's completely different, but he has top notch stuff. Like I know it's gonna be good,” Williams said. “It’s all bars and tires, right? I’m ready to go.” — Todd Turner

Attica’s podium

Rusty Schlenk of McClure, Ohio, dominated Friday at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park for a $5,000 Valvoline American Late Model Iron-Man Series victory, steering a car he’d wrecked a week earlier at his home track, Oakshade Raceway.

"I didn't know if this thing could go around the racetrack again,” the third-starting Schlenk said, “but I think it goes around it even better.”

The 36-year-old Schlenk overtook polesitter Kyle Moore on the fourth lap and led the rest of the caution-free 40-lapper, putting all but five competitors a lap down while wrapping up his victory in 11 minutes, 22 seconds. He notched his third victory of the season at Attica and 41st of his career.

Moore battled much of the rest of the way with fifth-starting Seth Daniels of Jackson, Ohio, as the pair swapped the second spot multiple times. Moore secured the position with a last-lap pass and Daniels knew it was a good battle despite Schlenk’s dominance.

“If that race would have been for the lead, you fans would have been going nuts,” said the 24-year-old Daniels, whose third-place finish was his best career performance in a Late Model touring event. “But congrats to Rusty. He kind of stunk us up there a little bit.”

Thanking Wilson Excavating for believing “in me 100 percent,” Daniels said, he’s eager to gain more experience in the Late Model division. The former modified racer’s accomplishments include a $5,000 Dirt Track World Championship victory in the modified division in 2020 at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.

"We're just racing around trying to get experience. We're about as green of a Late Model team as you can get,” Daniels said. "This will be our second season in a Late Model and we’re learning every time we come race.”

Daniels won once in his rookie season, grabbing a Super Late Model victory at Skyline Raceway in Stewart, Ohio. Friday’s run matches his best finish of the year from April 27 at Atomic Speedway in Chillicothe, Ohio. Daniels finished fifth seven days earlier in Northern Allstars Late Model Series action at Lawrenceburg (Ind.) Speedway.

Holiday history

The World of Outlaws Case Late Model Series has never established a long-lasting Memorial Day weekend tradition, but that may change with Ultimate Motorsports Park in Elkin, N.C., posting the national tour's richest purse on the spring holiday.

The Ultimate Showdown, scheduled for twin $4,000-to-win semifeatures Friday and a $35,000-to-win finale Saturday, makes the 3/8-mile oval formerly known as Friendship Speedway the 12th track to host a Memorial Day weekend event during the WoO’s modern era beginning in 2004.

Tyler County Speedway in Middlebourne, W.Va., hosted eight series races on Memorial Day weekend 2012-2016, but no other track has hosted more than four events and in three of the past six seasons, the series didn’t compete at all over the holiday.

WoO never ran head-to-head against West Plains (Mo.) Motor Speedway's unsanctioned Show-Me 100 from 2004-08, but when the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series took over sanctioning of the Missouri showcase — it’s still the tour’s Memorial Day centerpiece at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. — WoO began scheduling on the holiday.

The World of Outlaws have averaged a respectable 37 cars per Memorial Day weekend event with about half the events carrying purses similar to regular-season events (twice WoO paid $25,000-to-win: May 26, 2012, at Tyler County in a race won by Darrell Lanigan and last season at Sharon Speedway in Hartford, Ohio, when Ryan Gustin captured the finale of a three-race weekend). The series drew a holiday weekend-best 65 cars for its first Tyler County event in 2012, but only one other event over Memorial Day in series history has drawn more than 40 cars.

(Two Memorial Day weekends are outliers for the World of Outlaws. In 2006, WoO opted for a weeknight lead-in race to the Show-Me, running a few days earlier at Missouri’s Bolivar Speedway with Rick Eckert winning. And in 2020, when Covid-19 postponements pushed the Show-Me to July, WoO ran at Minnesota’s Jackson Motorplex with Ricky Weiss and Ricky Thornton Jr. grabbing victories).

This year’s event in Elkin, N.C., marks WoO’s first Memorial Day weekend race in the Southeast, and it’s a lucrative one. The finale alone carries a total purse of $164,125. While the winner’s share of $35,000 is $15,000 less than Lucas Oil Speedway’s Show-Me 100, most Ultimate finishers will receive bigger paychecks than Show-Me counterparts including for third ($12,500 vs. $10,000), 10th ($5,000 vs. $4,000) and last-place money ($3,000 vs. $2,000). The Show-Me is scheduled to start 28 cars, four more than Ultimate’s posted payout.

Odds and ends

• The Northern LateModel Racing Association is scheduled to compete north of the border for the first time in nearly six years with the weekend’s McNaught Cup at Dead Horse Creek Speedway in Morden, Manitoba. The track, formerly ALH Motor Speedway, reopened last season and hosted its first-ever Late Model events with Shane Edginton and Mike Greseth grabbing victories. NLRA’s previous Canadian visit came in August 2018 at Victory Lane Speedway in Winnipeg, Manitoba (the track was then called Red River Co-op Speedway). NLRA was scheduled to compete in Morden, Manitoba, in 2011, but the race was cancelled. Saturday and Sunday’s programs each pay $2,000-to-win.

• Getting his holiday weekend off to an early start, Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points leader Ricky Thornton Jr. drove a Jordan Grabouski Racing entry to a $16,667 victory Wednesday during a three-weeknight show at Clay County Fair Speedway in Spencer, Iowa. The rest of Thornton’s holiday will be spent at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo., for the $50,000-to-win Show-Me 100 on the Lucas Oil circuit.

Bridgeport (N.J.) Motorsports Park hosts its lone Super Late Model event of the season Sunday with an invitation-only event paying $4,000-to-win, part of the track’s Triple 40s with big-block modifieds and wingless sprint cars also in action. The night’s Late Model fast qualifier will receive $300 from Chris Spotts Welding.

• A tight Schaeffer's Spring Nationals points chase will be decided as the Ray Cook-promoted tour wraps up with Friday-Sunday races at Sugar Creek Raceway in Blue Ridge, Ga., North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth, Ga., and Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn. Pearson Lee Williams of Dublin, Ga., holds a two-point lead on Donald McIntosh of Dawsonville, Ga., with Christian Hanger of Winchester, Tenn., further back in third. The rain-plagued tour has completed six events with six drivers grabbing victories.

• The Valvoline American Late Model Iron-Man Series, which in merging with the former Sunoco American Late Model Series has shifted toward more Midwestern events, is set to open with three holiday weekend races paying $5,000-to-win beginning Friday. Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park opens the weekend followed by events at Oakshade Raceway in Wauseon, Ohio, and Mudlick Valley Raceway in Wallingford, Ky. Oakshade’s event is the 35th annual Barney Oldfield Memorial, celebrating the racing pioneer from Wauseon who was a two-time starter in the Indianapolis 500.

Weekend watch

Where to watch this weekend's streaming special events:

Thursday, May 23

• Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series/Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. ($10,000-to-win) — FloRacing

Friday, May 24

• Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series/Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. ($10,000-to-win) — FloRacing

• World of Outlaws Case Late Models at Ultimate Motorsports Park in Elkin, N.C. (twin $4,000-to-win semifeatures) — DIRTVision

• Schaeffer’s Spring Nationals at Sugar Creek Raceway in Blue Ridge, Ga. ($7,553-to-win) — FloRacing

• Valvoline American Late Model Iron-Man Series at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park ($5,000-to-win) — DIRTVision

• Malvern Bank East Series at Davenport Speedway in Davenport, Iowa ($3,000-to-win) — IMCA TV

• Mid-East 602 Crate Late Model Series at Ultimate Motorsports Park in Elkin, N.C. (1,200-to-win) — DIRTVision

Saturday, May 25

• Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series/Lucas Oil Midwest LateModel Racing Association at Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. ($50,000-to-win) — FloRacing

• World of Outlaws Case Late Models at Ultimate Motorsports Park in Elkin, N.C. ($35,000-to-win) — DIRTVision

• Schaeffer’s Spring Nationals at North Georgia Speedway in Chatsworth, Ga. ($10,053-to-win) — FloRacing

• American All-Star Crate Series at Crossville (Tenn.) Speedway ($7,500-to-win) — Dirt Rich TV

• Coltman Farms Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series at Thunderhill Raceway Park in Summertown, Tenn. ($5,000-to-win) — SASdirt TV

• MARS Championship Series at Fairbury (Ill.) Speedway ($5,000-to-win) — FloRacing

• Unsanctioned Super Late Models at Port Royal (Pa.) Speedway ($4,000-to-win) — FloRacing

• Malvern Bank East Series at Maquoketa (Iowa) Speedway ($3,000-to-win) — IMCA TV

• Northern LateModel Racing Association at Dead Horse Creek Speedway in Morden, Manitoba ($2,000-to-win) — Watch FYE TV

• RepairableVehicles.com Tri-State Late Model Series at Worthington (Minn.) Speedway in Worthington, Minn. ($1,500-to-win) — Dirt Crown TV

Sunday, May 26

• Schaeffer’s Spring Nationals at Duck River Raceway Park in Wheel, Tenn. ($10,053-to-win) — FloRacing

• MARS Championship Series at Spoon River Speedway in Banner, Ill. ($5,000-to-win) — FloRacing

• Unsanctioned Super Late Models at Bridgeport (N.J.) Motorsports Park ($4,000-to-win) — Dirt Track Digest TV

• Malvern Bank East Series at Dubuque (Iowa) Speedway ($3,000-to-win) — IMCA TV

• Northern LateModel Racing Association at Dead Horse Creek Speedway in Morden, Manitoba ($2,000-to-win) — Watch FYE TV

Tuesday, May 28

• Castrol FloRacing Night in America Series at Macon (Ill.) Speedway ($20,000-to-win) — FloRacing

DirtonDirt.com Dispatches

In continuing to streamline our race coverage, we’ve added DirtonDirt.com Dispatches to our list of regular features on the site. The idea of the new feature is to spotlight key storylines of the weekend (and sometimes during the week), putting notes, quotes and accomplishments in context to provide subscribers a quick-hitting read on all the latest from tracks around the country. Our intention is to have a single file that’s regularly topped by the latest news, so check back throughout the weekend.

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