DIRTRACKR Daily Podcast - Episode Transcript

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It's been so crazy lately, did you notice this move? | Daily 3-20-2024

A dirt late model veteran quietly sets his schedule; Williams Grove changed their jumped start rule, only it's probably not better; and much more today. Let's go!

It's Wednesday, March 20th, I'm Justin Fiedler. This is DIRTRACKR Daily presented by Kubota Genuine Parts.

An avalanche of dirt late model news the last week or so has really dominated much of what we've been talking about around the sport. From the World Racing Group tire penalties for Bobby Pierce, Devin Moran, and Kyle Bronson, to the shakeup at Rocket Racing with Hudson O'Neal out and Tim McCreadie in. This week though, one driver and team have appeared to make their national tour choice, but I bet you didn't even notice. Through much of speedweeks, we were somewhere around 15 commitments for the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, but things always remain fluid, depending on how drivers perform down south. And one driver who's emerged in the top ten in the standings, who had yet to clarify his situation, was Jimmy Owens. He's run every Lucas race up to this point, and has a win, two top fives, and six top tens in 12 appearances. That's good for seventh in the standings headed to Atomic and Brownstown this weekend. After Golden Isles late in February, a post on Owens' website said that they had not yet committed to run the entire Lucas season. But that looks like it changed yesterday. On Facebook, the team shared that Jimmy's quote "drive for five" starts this weekend, and now the entire Lucas schedule has been added to jimmyowens20.com. Obviously the drive for five referring to Jimmy's four career Lucas titles, and the chance to add a fifth. The last of those championships came in 2020, when he had a dominant season, winning 11 times in 47 starts, and easily running away from Tim McCreadie. Things for the Newport Nightmare haven't really been the same since then, and he ended up falling off the series in both 2022 and 2023. That win at East Bay though back in February was his first since 2022 with Lucas, and an encouraging sign of that Koehler Motorsports team finding some speed. It won't be easy to get into that Lucas chase final four, but at the moment, Owens is only 50 points back of Daulton Wilson.

Jumping back to what happened on Sunday at Williams Grove. We talked about it earlier this week, but Cameron Smith was deemed by race officials to have jumped the initial 410 sprint car feature start, but by track rules, both Smith and Danny Dietrich were docked a row for the infraction. Instead of just knocking back the offender, the rule is that the entire row gets penalized. I didn't even know this was a thing, but I did have some of you inform me that this rule exists at a few tracks and with a few series. I understand why it's a rule, to hopefully stop drivers from playing games on the starts, but Dietrich absolutely did not deserve to get dinged. I and several others pointed out that this rule probably needed to be re-evaluated. In an interesting turn of events, we've got an update on this situation. But it's a good news, bad news type of deal. So, Williams Grove and Lincoln, who are aligned on officiating, did go back and re-evaluate, and they did make a change. That's great, hat tip to them for being flexible and taking another look at this. I'd honestly like to see that happen more often around the sport. Only in this case, the change they made is probably not better. Now, based on the change, if a car jumps the start, the offender will be warned and a second attempt at the start made. On a second jumped start, both cars on the front row will be docked. So the only real difference here, is the offender gets a warning initially, but the penalty for the second is still the same. I don't know why they didn't just change it to the jumper getting the penalty, since they will know who it is, but this feels like they over-complicated it. Maybe though, since it appears they can be flexible, they will again take a look at this after all the feedback they've received. This version of the rule might just open up a can of worms with warnings, and again the possibility of penalizing drivers who don't deserve it.

Alongside the USAC national series, there are several USAC sanctioned regional series, including the USAC East Coast Sprint Cars. It's a non-wing series that runs all over the northeast, including at places like Bridgeport, Williams Grove, Port Royal, Fonda, Action Track USA, and more. Briggs Danner was the series champion in 2023, topping Steven Drevicki and Joey Amantea. It's been a non-wing 360 series, utilizing the smaller displacement engines to try and help keep costs down, but that's changing for the future. Starting in 2025, the USAC East Coast series will allow teams to run 410 engines. Their hope is that this will open up the pool of available cars, and help prepare teams more to run competitively with other series and on the national stage. It is not uncommon for a lot of those non-wing teams based on the east coast to also have 410 engines, so that when the USAC National Sprint Cars come through, they can compete. There has been a lot of talk about the rising costs of 360 racing, with some saying it's not much different these days then going 410 racing. The series hopes that the availability of more used 410 engines, because of the prevalence of sprint car racing in that part of the country, will help with some cost concerns. They are also exploring some different engine rules, like 410 injector restrictors, to also keep the playing field level. We'll see if this will get some of the Ohio and Indiana non-wing teams to go east more often. Reaction seems to be a bit mixed, but it feels pretty rare these days to get a rule change to be roundly accepted by everyone.

One weekend schedule note for you, the World of Outlaws Late Model Series weekend at Thunderhill Raceway has been postponed until April 18th. According to the release, the track had a big improvement project over the offseason that included new grandstands, new catchfence, and more, but weather slowed down their progress, and things don't appear to be ready. So now we'll get a three race weekend in April, with Thunderhill on Thursday the 18th, and Talladega on the 19th and 20th. We won't see the Outlaws now for three more weeks, with Farmer City and the Illini 100 weekend up next, April 11th through the 13th. Because of Bobby Pierce's penalty, Brandon Sheppard is your current series points leader by eight over Chris Madden. We do have Lucas this weekend at Atomic and Brownstown, but after that, the focus in dirt late model racing over the next few weeks will really be on the regional series. The XR Super Series will begin their 2024 season on April 5th and 6th at Volunteer as well.

If you want some more dirt racing audio this week, Winged Nation has Gio Scelzi and Cole Macedo, Passing Points has Kyle Jones, Dirt Tracks and Rib Racks has Bryan and Cruz Stanfill, Hoogie's Garage has Chase Dietz and Ryan Timms, Dunewich on Dirt has Ben Watkins, Across the Groove has Mark Monico, Ohio Dirt has Rich Farmer, Plum Wild has Brett Wheeler, and there are new episodes of the Dirt Reporters from Dirt on Dirt, Dirt Track Confessions, Turn 2 Terribles, Getting up to Speed, and the Hammer Lane. To see all of the dirt racing shows and their newest episodes, head over to dirtrackr.com/podcasts.

That's it for the Daily show today. The streaming schedule has been quiet all week, and that continues today. It will start to ramp up this weekend though, and you can see it any time over at dirtrackr.com/watchtonight.

Hope you guys have a great Wednesday out there, we'll see you back here tomorrow!