DIRTRACKR Daily Podcast - Episode Transcript

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Is a High Limit/World of Outlaws rivalry real, or just social media hype? | Daily 2-11-2024

Is an actual rivalry developing in big time sprint car racing, or is it all just social media hype? We'll talk about it today, plus bad news for James McFadden, takeaways from Volusia, Big Perm finally breaks through, and much more. Let's go!

It's Sunday, February 11th, I'm Justin Fiedler. This is DIRTRACKR Daily.

It was an intriguing first weekend of sprint car racing down at Volusia, with this added wrinkle now of two national tours. There were things happening on social media, and I'm a bit surprised that there actually seems to be some divisiveness between fans about High Limit vs. the World of Outlaws. We saw comments from Brad Sweet about a rivalry, and the High Limit Twitter account wasn't afraid to push things on the weekend, especially after High Limit affiliated drivers swept the podium on Friday night. There were some visceral reactions to the social media chatter, with some not pleased about it, and others celebrating the smack talk. It's clear there are some strong feelings among the fans, but I wanted to try and get a sense of how deep this actually goes, and if it's being felt in the pits. I've had conversations with a few drivers about the situation, and reactions were a bit mixed. Clearly Brad is all in on making a rivalry happen based on his public comments, and some others feel it as well. But there are drivers who told me it's mostly just hype. I do think it's worthwhile to point out that clearly these guys are hyper competitive people, and don't necessarily need added motivation to try and beat each other on any given night. But there does seem to be some measure of pride on the line. There was an interesting moment on the weekend that was captured by Cameron Saich, who does a bunch of content stuff for the JJR 41. Some close quarters racing between David Gravel and Sweet, which is a fun illustration of this whole thing. It even caught the eye of Kyle Larson. Publicly and via social media, I do think you'll see a lot of this cultivation of the rivalry stay pretty one sided. I do think there is value for High Limit to fan these flames, and that will probably continue. But don't expect the Outlaws to participate much. You might get comments from drivers about it here and there, but the Outlaw social media accounts and the series as a whole are not going to play along. The relationship between the two sides in a lot of areas remains not good, and you won't get the Outlaw side to engage. Fans can say they should, or that it's better for the sport, but in this competitive landscape, they just don't view it that way.

As for the racing itself, yes High Limit drivers did win twice and grab a bunch of podium spots, but it's two Outlaw affiliated drivers who come out of the weekend on top of the standings. David Gravel was the most consistent on the weekend, picking up a win and four top six finishes. He leads the way too early championship leaderboard over Gio Scelzi, and earned the weeklong title. Gio also consistent all four nights, with a seventh and three fourths, plus laps led on Saturday night. Sheldon Haudenschild took the big check last night, driving from third to the win and scoring $20,000. It was Sheldon's first Outlaw win since Skagit last August. It was his first Outlaw top five since the National Open at Williams Grove. It was a strong way as well to end what was a bit of a bleak weekend for the Stenhouse Marshall team, struggling with engines and finishing 25th or worse two of four nights. As for Tyler Courtney, his strong runs with the Outlaws just keep rolling. 11 straight top tens, two wins, laps led in four features, and eight top fives. I would not sleep on this team as the High Limit season gets going. The Outlaws are off now for a few weeks, and will return to racing back at Volusia on March 3rd and 4th. As for High Limit, their season begins tomorrow night at East Bay. They expect somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 cars to participate, and you will see several teams race Monday and Tuesday who weren't at Volusia. That might not make sense, why not maximize a trip south, but with as difficult as Volusia is on engines, some teams just aren't interested in taking that risk.

Also, I know a number of teams struggled over the four days at Volusia, but I wouldn't go full overreaction just yet. Volusia is definitely it's own animal, and won't necessarily be a great barometer for some of these teams.

One other High Limit note for you, James McFadden will not race this week at East Bay, and it sounds like the two nights at Golden Isles in a few weeks are in jeopardy as well. His passport and visa paperwork and clearance to return to the US has been delayed, and he's not stateside just yet. In his place, Dominic Scelzi will run McFadden's Roth 83 at East Bay, which the team announced over the weekend. That will keep the 83 in the hunt for the owner side of things, and with the charter stuff, but it will be a significant blow to a championship run for McFadden. You can't miss two races against a group like this and hope to climb out of that hole. It sucks to see JMac's season kind of unraveled before it's really even started.

Wrapping up UMP modified action at DIRTcar Nationals, Kyle Strickler charged from 17th to the win in the Big Gator finale, topping Tyler Nicely and Dustin Sorensen. Nicely won the weeklong championship, winning four times in six races.

Across the state at East Bay the last several nights, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series closed out their portion of WinterNationals for the final time. Brandon Sheppard won Monday night's makeup feature, with Jimmy Owens and Jonathan Davenport also earning victories. Owens hadn't won a Lucas show since 2022, and it was a stretch of 59 races between scores. As for Davenport, he ended an 18 race winless streak himself, but that team has had plenty of speed in between. The big question at least for the time being around Davenport, will be if he actually stays out with Lucas full time. With East Bay done, he sits third in the standings behind Ricky Thornton Jr. and Hudson O'Neal, and his plans remain not set in stone. As for Saturday night's winner, it finally happened. Nine second place finishes and laps led a bunch hadn't yet equated into a win for Daulton Wilson. But the driver they call Big Perm finally was able to erase that zero in the win column. He drove from sixth to the lead by lap 16, and led the rest of the way to bag his first ever Lucas win. He survived lap traffic and a late restart to finally make it happen. For a lot of these teams, they won't get a lot of rest. They have today off from racing, but late model action begins Monday at Volusia. Lucas itself returns to racing at Golden Isles in a few weeks.

Joining the late models at Volusia on Monday and Tuesday will be the USAC National Sprint Cars. And they opened their 2024 season Friday and Saturday at Ocala. Justin Grant started fourth both nights, and won both nights. Going back to 2023, he's now won three straight, four of the last five, and seven of the last twelve USAC national events. Robert Ballou, Logan Seavey, and CJ Leary also top five both nights. USAC will be back at Ocala later this week, once they are finished at Volusia.

And at All-Tech, Matt Sheppard continued his winning ways, bagging two of the last three nights of the Sunshine Swing. He won Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, with Stewart Friesen finally breaking through on Saturday to end Superman's dominance. Saturday was hard charger night at All-Tech, with Friesen going 11th to the win, Sheppard 10th to second, and Mat Williamson 18th to third. We won't see the Short Track Super Series again until March 9th at Georgetown. The modified racers down south though will get a few days off, and then the Super DIRTcar Series season starts Wednesday at Volusia.

That's it for the daily today, thanks for tuning in and subscribing to the show. Hope you guys have a great Sunday out there, enjoy the Super Bowl if you're a football fan, and we'll see you back here tomorrow!