Quick Time: 25th annual USA Nationals edition
By Todd TurnerDirtonDirt.com managing editor
Take a quick lap around the proverbial dirt track with managing editor Todd Turner for a roundup of Dirt Late Model racing through the latest weekend of action along with some other quirks of racing (along with occasional ax-grinding). Quick Time, one of the newest features of our website, will appear every Wednesday at DirtonDirt.com:
Frontstretch: Drivers of the week
National: Don O’Neal of Martinsville, Ind., moved into second in Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series points with his first career victory at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway.
Regional: Chris Madden of Gray Court, S.C., won three of the last four Schaeffer Oil Southern Nationals Series events from July 24-28 to wrap up his fourth championship in the tour’s eighth year. Honorable mention Jesse Stovall of Galena, Mo., for back-to-back MLRA victories at Humboldt, Kan., and Springfield, Mo.
Weekly: Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., for his July 27-28 weekend sweep at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill., and Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo. Honorable mention: Darrel DeFrance of Marshalltown, Iowa, with three victories from July 26-30.
Crate: Chase Washington of Houlka, Miss., buoyed his chances in the NeSmith Chevrolet Weekly Racing Series points chase with July 27-28 victories at Hattiesburg (Miss.) Motorsports Park and Columbus (Miss.) Speedway. He finished a close second at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus on July 29.
Turn 1: Defending Cedar Lake’s turf
Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., has twice won Cedar Lake Speedway’s USA Nationals, but success at the New Richmond, Wis., track hasn’t come easy for home-state drivers. According to research from World of Outlaws Late Model Series publicist Kevin Kovac, only eight drivers have cracked the top 10 in the event’s 24 years. Here are those Wisconsin drivers listed with their best finishes:
Ashley Anderson, Eau Claire, Wis. - Ninth (2007)
Turn 2: Sticking with WoO
Perhaps no Dirt Late Model race of its magnitude has gone through more changes in sanctioning than the $50,000-to-win USA Nationals, which runs in 2012 under the World of Outlaws Late Model Series for the third straight year and sixth year overall.
The race originated under the auspices of the original World of Outlaws tour operated by Ted Johnson, who was also running the WoO Sprint Car Series. After two seasons, it became the endpoint for the UMP Outlaw Nationals, a Summernationals-like stretch of racing the crept from the lower Midwest to Cedar Lake.
Then it shifted to the Hav-A-Tampa Dirt Racing Series, a tour that changed names to UDTRA and finally to the Xtreme DirtCar Series. After a one-year return to the World of Outlaws, four years the race ran unsanctioned before falling back under the WoO fold in 2010. Here’s the breakdown:
4 - Unsanctioned (2006; 2009)
Backstretch: Memorable Western performances
Watching Nick Bartels of El Segundo, Calif., mix it up on the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals was fun. It was also a reminder, along with several starts by fellow Californians Tony Toste and Jason Papich, that Western drivers aren’t quite on par with their Dirt Late Model counterparts in the East, especially away from home.
But it’s hard not to pull for drivers west of the Rockies to succeed when they’re venturing out or facing the Eastern invaders on their own tracks. Here are five of the most memorable performances I’ve witnessed from Western drivers:
Eddie Kirchoff of Gillette, Wyo. (Central Arizona Raceway, Jan. 16, 2008): The high-running Kirchoff led the final three laps of the Wild West Shootout event to beat Jack Sullivan of Greenbrier, Ark. The solid 44 entries also included John Anderson of Omaha, Neb., Will Vaught of Crane, Mo., and Terry Phillips of Springfield, Mo.
Trevor Glaser of Tangent, Ore. (Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Nov. 21, 2009): Glaser barely lost a late-race duel with Jimmy Mars of Menomonie, Wis., who was only wrapping up the biggest season of his career that included three $50,000 victories. “If Jimmy wasn’t here I would’ve won,” Glaser said, “but if Jimmy wasn’t here I wouldn’t have learned anything either.”
R.C. Whitwell of Tucson, Ariz. (USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 16, 2011): Capping a sterling Wild West Shootout week with his third runner-up finish, Whitwell nearly outdueled veterans Billy Moyer and Terry Phillips in a $10,000-to-win finale.
Kelly Boen of Henderson, Colo. (East Bay Raceway Park in Gibsonton, Fla., Feb. 7, 2003): Boen has since won dozens of big races, but his near-miss at Florida Speedweeks would’ve ranked as his biggest. Boen impressive fourth in the race won by Earl Pearson Jr., but briefly edged ahead of the winner midway through the 75-lapper. “Last night, I put on the wrong tires and I embarrassed the whole state of Colorado,” Boen said, “so I had to do something tonight to make it up to ’em.”
Clay Daly of Watsonville, Calif. (USA Raceway in Tucson, Ariz., Jan. 18, 2012): The 22-year-old mixed it up in the top five of the Wild West Shootout with Don O’Neal, Shane Clanton, Billy Moyer, Jimmy Mars and Ronny Lee Hollingsworth, finishing fourth and racing like he belonged. ”Running fourth to these guys, that’s a big deal to a California guy,“ he said. ”I knew we were capable of running decent. I couldn’t dream we’d get a top-five finish.”
Turn 3: Rain, rain, go away
Talking about rainouts is the best way to jinx a racetrack, but I’m going to take my chances considering tonight’s forecast in Kankakee, Ill., calls for clear skies.
Kankakee County Speedway’s fair race tonight (no Late Models, mind you) will mark the 48th consecutive event at the track without a rainout. That’s not a bad streak when you hear about some tough-luck tracks that, even in a year of drought like we’ve had, suffer multiple rainouts, like the current streak of four in a row at Delaware International Speedway.
Track publicist Paul Bayne pointed out the streak to us, adding that the track hasn’t rained out since Aug. 20, 2010.
Turn 4: Turn back the clock
Five items from this week in Dirt Late Model history:
Aug. 5, 1984: Ruble Maxey of Amory, Miss., scored his only career Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series victory at Whynot Speedway near Meridian, Miss.
Aug. 4, 1989: Kevin Gundaker of St Charles, Mo., won his lone career World of Outlaws Late Model Series event at Santa Fe Speedway in Hinsdale, Ill.
Aug. 2, 1996: Polesitter Skip Furlow, driving the car No. 40 in a 40-lap feature race celebrating the 40th anniversary of Stateline Speedway in Busti, N.Y., led flag-to-flag for a $5,000 victory.
Aug. 4, 2001: Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., build leads as big has a half-track margin in leading all 100 laps of the UDTRA-sanctioned USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis. McDowell pocketed $40,000.
Aug. 6, 2005: Jackie Boggs of Grayson, Ky., won the fifth annual American Heritage at Brushcreek Motorsports Complex to collect $10,000 and his third American Heritage Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He led all 58 laps in the MACS-sanctioned event.
Checkered flag: Five fearless USA Nationals predictions
• The event will have a first-time winner.
• The fast qualifier will be age 40 or over.
• Four FANS Fund drivers will make the feature lineup.
• Three or fewer Wisconsin drivers will make the starting lineup.
• The heat races will be slowed by a single caution.
(Last week: One out of five predictions correct)