DIRTRACKR Daily Podcast - Episode Transcript

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No Knoxville Nationals or late model races for Kyle Larson? Plus Christopher Bell is back! | Daily 5-30-2024

Christopher Bell back on dirt, Kyle Larson's Knoxville Nationals and dirt late model plans are in question, John Trone hires another new driver, and plenty more today. Let's go!

It's Thursday, May 30th, I'm Justin Fiedler. This is DIRTRACKR Daily presented by Kubota Genuine Parts.

At Millbridge Speedway last night, we saw one driver return to dirt racing for the first time in almost two years. Out of nowhere on a Wednesday in May, Christopher Bell was back behind the wheel of a non-wing micro. The last time Bell was racing on dirt was at Texas Motor Speedway in September of 2022 for his own micro mania event. Stewart Haas Racing engineer DJ VanderLey was injured in a crash at that event, suffering a spinal chord injury, and Bell ended up pulling out of the event out of respect. Between that and Bell's NASCAR team, Joe Gibbs Racing, not exactly being supportive of his dirt racing exploits, CBell has stuck to just his pavement racing job over the past few seasons. That's meant absences from the Chili Bowl, where he's a three time winner, and no sprint car appearances since 2022. He has stayed involved though, fielding sprint cars and micros out of his racing shop, and taking Tyler Courtney to the Tulsa Shootout last year. Bell didn't seem to have any rust last night, going third quick in qualifying, fourth to second in his heat race, and ending up fourth in the 30 lap main event. Sam Johnson won that race that also featured Jade Avedisian and Daison Pursley fresh off that Huset's sprint car win. Jade was in a Dave Mac Dalby car, and Pursley was in a ride for Chad Boat. So do I think this will suddenly lead to a flood of dirt races for Bell going forward? No, I don't. He was a final four driver in the NASCAR playoffs last season, and with two wins already in 2024, he's right square in the title fight again. He will continue to keep the main thing the main thing and not jeopardize that. So I would not suddenly expect a winged sprint car schedule or midget appearances now that he's broken the dirt-less streak. I do think we could see him race at Millbridge here and there just to scratch the itch, but that's about it. Cool to see him back on dirt though, and in his happy place.

We mentioned yesterday that Callum Williamson had departed the John Trone 39 sprint car in Central Pennsylvania, and that team has acted fast to replace him. Jeremy Elliott at Sprintcarunlimited.com reported yesterday that Kody Hartlaub will be in the car Friday at Williams Grove, Saturday at Lincoln, and possibly more into the future. Hartlaub's best run this season was a 10th at BAPS Motor Speedway on May 19th, and he made the main event against the World of Outlaws at Lincoln, even appearing in the night's dash. Trone told Jeremy that Williamson and crew chief Kevin Frey were not seeing eye-to-eye and that it was probably best for the two sides to part ways. We'll see if Hartlaub can last longer than some of these other drivers have in the 39 here in the recent seasons. The folks on the interwebs aren't convinced, and it seems as though that team is starting to get a reputation around Central PA.

I do want to talk today as well about Kyle Larson. We know he wasn't at Grandview on Tuesday with High Limit because of a Goodyear tire test at Iowa Speedway, and that missing that race ended his bid for the midweek championship in 2024. At that tire test, Larson met with reporters for a few minutes and had a couple of interesting things to say. I had been told not long ago that Larson was putting the late model program with Kevin Rumley on pause for the remainder of the season, and Yung Money seemed to confirm that in his comments to those reporters at Iowa Speedway. Always Race Day's Connor Ferguson was there, and they shared the video. Larson said he told Rumley that he's taking a break from the late model for a while, and that he doesn't know when he'll be back. He said it could be a couple of months, a couple of years, or never. He made it clear that he's focusing on his NASCAR gig and that he wants to be around the family a little bit more. I was reminded though from a friend that Larson did not race the late model at all after June last year. So him stepping away here might not be a huge deal. Larson did also mention in that media session that he's unsure of his plans for the Knoxville Nationals this season. It falls on the NASCAR weekend at Richmond, and he said the logistics are much tougher coming from Richmond. So we'll see if he's able to come back and defend his win.

Around the country this weekend, there is plenty of racing to get into, including the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars at Beaver Dam in Wisconsin Friday and Saturday. Still a tight championship battle going on, and Carson Macedo and Buddy Kofoid streaking. The Kubota High Limit sprint cars will be at Lawrenceburg Friday and Butler on Saturday. Tyler Courtney just snuck ahead of Brad Sweet this week in that title fight. The USAC sprint cars are at Knoxville for two nights. Logan Seavey atop the standings there. And the Xtreme Midgets have a three day weekend, starting tonight at Doe Run, then to Cole County Friday and Wayne County Illinois on Saturday.

Up at Mississippi Thunder Speedway, the XR $100,000 to win modified race is happening this weekend. The Big Deal started last night with practice and qualifying, and racing action gets going tonight with heat races. Friday is the alphabet soup with all of the lower mains, and then Saturday includes B-Mod action and the $100,000 to win feature. That main event is $100k to win and $2500 to start. The initial entry list was well over 200 cars, but they ended up with 145 signed in last night for qualifying. Several big names who had initially committed are not there, including Jimmy Owens and Brandon Sheppard, but there are plenty of others there. Longhorn Chassis owner Steve Arpin is driving the B5 that Sheppard was initially supposed to run. That team is focused on getting their late model back together after BShepp ended up on his lid on Tuesday night at Macon. Drivers who did participate in qualifying last night included Ricky Thornton Jr., Drake Troutman, Kyle Strickler, Scott Bloomquist, David Stremme, Bobby Pierce, Mason Zeigler, Cade Dillard, Tyler Erb, and just about every big name modified driver you can think of. Quick time on the night went to Brandon Davis, and he's got a nice cushion now headed into heat races with passing points the name of the game all weekend. XR has their own streaming service, and racing can be watched there if you aren't headed to Mississippi Thunder.

If you're a dirt late model fan, you've got the Hunt the Front series at Swainsboro, and we'll get to see the debut of the Kubota paint scheme for Joseph Joiner. Brandon Overton leads that championship. The Spring Nationals has two shows, at Ponderosa and Lake Cumberland. Donald McIntosh was already crowned champion there. There is also $20,000 to win at Tri-City, which I would bet will draw a bunch of the Illinois and midwest teams. There is also a $15,000 to win crate show at Beckley. So no lack of options for dirt racing to watch as we edge closer to summer officially beginning.

Before we close out today, Eldora Speedway general manager Jerry Gappens has passed away. The track confirmed the news yesterday of Gappens' death at age 63. He'd been at Eldora since 2022, was previously the promoter at Gas City, and had spent more than two decades at Speedway Motorsports, working at tracks like Charlotte Motor Speedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

That's it for the daily show this week. As always, your support of what I do here is much appreciated.

Hope you guys have a great Thursday out there, enjoy the dirt racing weekend ahead, and we'll see you back here on Sunday!