Brandon Sheppard is still in a Rocket, at least for now. Anthony Macri has a new crew chief, we look ahead to racing tonight at Merced, and a lot more. Let's go!
It's Tuesday, November 22nd, I'm Justin Fiedler. This is DIRTRACKR Daily.
We are just a little more than a week away from the Gateway Dirt Nationals getting underway in St. Louis, and yesterday Brandon Sheppard and his Sheppard Riggs Racing team showed off their paint scheme for the event. They have partnered with Budweiser and TrueTimber Camo to spotlight the Veteran Golfers Association. It's a very cool patriotic scheme for BShepp with the red, white and blue done by Night Owl Design. Should be pretty easy to spot inside the Dome next week. What's interesting to point out here though is that in the design mockup, the car does have Rocket on the rear spoiler. There continue to be rumors and rumblings about this team switching to Longhorn Chassis, but at least for now it looks like they are sticking with Rockets. The team is set to begin their 2023 season at Vado Speedway Park for the Wild West Shootout, so there would still be plenty of time for them to make a swap if that was indeed what was happening, but again, still Rockets for now. I did have a YouTube comment where someone said there was a photo of the B5's pit cart at Longhorn Chassis next to a car being built, so if anyone has that photo, shoot it to me via DM or email. The Gateway Dirt Nationals start next Thursday, December 1st.
Up in Pennsylvania, Anthony Macri will have a new crew chief for next season on his family owned sprint car. 2022 was a bit chaotic for that spot with Macri, as the team split with Jim Shuttlesworth over the summer, and then got help from Bernie Stuebgen and Ryan Hand to close out the season. For 2023, Joe Mooney is moving from his car chief spot at Kasey Kahne Racing on the NAPA 49, over to that role with Macri. Mooney is from Pennsylvania, and just spent the past four years on the top team with the Outlaws. Before that he had a stint with Shark Racing as well. I like this move all the way around, as Mooney has been working with guys like Eric Prutzman, Rob Beattie, and Justin Adams the last several seasons. All of them experienced sprint car wrenches. And now he'll take that championship winning knowledge to Macri who is one of the sport's rising stars. As Macri continues to travel more and more away from Central PA, Mooney is a good pickup because of his knowledge and experience at tracks all over the country, plus he's just a nice guy. I've known Joe for a few years now, and am excited to see what he can do. It does mean change is coming to that Brad Sweet team, which they haven't had during this championship run. It was inevitable though that teams were going to come knocking for their guys. We'll see what KKR does for next season to fill that hole.
In some race track news for you today, Macon Speedway in Illinois has been sold. Longtime owner Bob Sargent and his ownership group that included Tony Stewart, Ken Schrader, and Kenny Wallace, have made the decision to deal the track to promoter Chris Kearns. If you don't know Kearns' name, you certainly know his work. He's the man behind the Wild West Shootout each January. He's also in the past promoted Santa Maria Raceway, World of Outlaws shows, and worked for USAC for a long time running the CRA, Western States Midgets, and West Coast Sprint Cars among other things. Kearns will take over the track for 2023, with Sargent sticking around to help aid in the transition. According to the local Herald and Review paper, Kearns is currently living in Kentucky, but will reside in Macon during the race season. Not a whole lot will change, at least initially, with Kearns planning to retain much of the Macon staff. This move for Sargent makes a lot of sense, as his company Track Enterprises has a lot going on, including the recent announcement that they are starting a national series for pavement super late models called the STARS National Series. Macon is home to a weekly program that includes late models, modifieds, street stocks, and more, plus they have a bunch of special events through the year. In 2022 that included the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, POWRi midgets and micros, and their regular Herald and Review 100 for the Summer Nationals.
Over at speedsport.com yesterday, Alex Nieten had a piece about Blake Hahn and his 2023 plans. Fresh off his second consecutive ASCS National Tour championship, Hahn is planning to expand much more into 410 racing next year. This move to 410 competition has been something that's been in the works for a while, but because of other factors just kept getting pushed back. He has made a handful of 410 appearances in recent years, including his first run at the Knoxville Nationals back in August. He ended up 15th in a Saturday C-Main. Hahn told Nieten they will most likely run a pick and choose schedule, with a mixture of World of Outlaws, All Stars, and High Limit races on tap.
And speaking of the Hahn family, also the owners of the Chili Bowl, I've got a few Chili Bowl news bits for you. We're still probably at least a few days away from getting a look at an initial entry list for the event, as they don't release names until they get to the first 100 entries. But we do know a few things. First, NHRA Funny Car driver Cruz Pedregon is returning to the event as a car owner, with plans to field two entries coming up. He's participated in the Chili Bowl before, and tweeted that he'll announce a driver lineup next week. He just recently purchased a car from Mike and Brian Dunlap, who campaigned cars last year for Casey Shuman and Gary Taylor. Also, fellow YouTuber and sprint car driver Tanner Holmes announced via his channels that he will make his first appearance inside the expo center. He's got a ton of laps in outlaw karts and sprint cars, but his midget experience is very low, so he is planning a test in advance of the event to get comfortable. If you want to know more about Tanner, check out his YouTube channel, and my past Conversations episode with him. Fun side note, me and Tanner are actually from the same place in Oregon. As we get closer to the Chili Bowl, we'll keep you updated on the entry list.
Looking ahead to tonight, Merced Speedway in California is set to host the USAC National Midgets and 360 sprint cars. Merced will again host tomorrow, before USAC goes to Ventura on Saturday for Turkey Night. I was messaging this morning with Merced's GM Doug Lockwood, and those guys are fired up for these shows. We should be north of 40 midgets in the pits, and Doug told me they are expecting at least 32 sprint cars. On the midget side, if Buddy Kofoid can add 29 points to his tally tonight, he'll lock up the championship over Justin Grant. Buddy and JG split the wins at Merced a year ago, with Tanner Thorson and Thomas Meseraull victorious there in 2020. Kofoid is on a two race win streak coming out of Placerville and has a ton of momentum on his side. The sprint car field will be deep the next two nights, and we should get some really good racing. The list I saw includes both Carson and Cole Macedo, Justin Sanders, Ryan Timms, Colby Copeland, Chase Randall, Kofoid, Logan Seavey, the Carrick brothers, Dominic Scelzi, Corey Day, Tyler Courtney and a lot more. And several of those guys will be doing double duty. If you're an open wheel fan, definitely make your way to Merced tonight, but if not, make sure to be tuned in on FloRacing. If you need a Flo subscription, click the link below or any of the Flo links over at dirtrackr.com.
Three items on today's streaming schedule. FloRacing has the USAC Midgets and 360 sprint cars from Merced Speedway, plus Flo 24/7. There is also DIRTVision Now. To see the full daily streaming schedule with links to watch, visit dirtrackr.com/watchtonight.
That's it for the show today, have a good Tuesday! Please hit that like button, and subscribe to the show if you don't already.
Thanks everybody for tuning in, I'll see you tomorrow for more DIRTRACKR Daily!