DIRTRACKR Daily Podcast - Episode Transcript

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Did Ricky Thornton Jr. hint at a switch to the World of Outlaws? | Daily 11-19-2023

Coming up, the World of Outlaws Late Model schedule is out, and could it be tempting enough to draw a major contender away from Lucas? We'll talk about that, plus Kyle Larson gets an offseason win, more drivers news, and weekend results. Let's go!

It's Sunday, November 19th, I'm Justin Fiedler. This is DIRTRACKR Daily.

Back on Friday we got our first look at a 2024 schedule for a major dirt racing touring series, with the World of Outlaws Late Models releasing their slate for next season. 54 races across 33 race tracks running from January through November. A bunch of new stops have been added including Thunderhill, Arrowhead, Raceway 7, Bedford Fairgrounds, Path Valley, the renamed Ultimate Motorsports Park, Independence, Hamilton County, Norman County, Wilmot, Highland, Spoon River, Maquoketa, Rome, Boothill, and Rocket Raceway Park. A lot of familiar races return though too, including the two Volusia weekends to start the year, the Illini 100, USA Nationals, the Prairie Dirt Classic, and the season ending World Finals. The one weekend that stands out to me though is the Gopher 50 at Deer Creek in Minnesota. This was previously an Outlaw show, but it flipped to Lucas in 2022 and 2023, becoming a nice payday on that schedule. But for 2024, it's back to being an Outlaw race, and a nice little coup for series director Steve Francis. That three race weekend will end in a $50,000 to win feature on Saturday, July 6th. As is always the case with schedules, you can't make everyone happy, but it looked like the reactions were pretty positive for this release. Now we'll see what Lucas does in response. A year ago, their schedule was already out by this point, and their big chase announcement came at the PRI show. We are still about two and a half weeks from PRI, but Lucas could have their schedule out any day.

With the Outlaw schedule now out, we'll also wait on more full time driver decisions. These could obviously come very late in the game. We didn't know eventual series champion Bobby Pierce was going Outlaw racing until he pulled into Volusia after the Wild West Shootout in January. In the category of things that make you go "hmm" was an interesting social media post from one of the top guys in 2023. Not long after the Outlaws put their schedule out, Ricky Thornton Jr. shared the link to it on his Facebook account, and there are a lot of comments on his post with people wondering if it could be a clue as to what his plans are for next season. RTJ had a dominant year out with Lucas, but didn't end up with the championship because of bad luck during the one race, winner take all chase finale at Eldora. The Lucas playoff format provided a very compelling finish to the season, but has been heavily criticized by a lot of the fan base for robbing a driver like RTJ of the title. The pushback from the chase defenders has been that the teams and drivers knew what they were signing up for, and they were compensated well in the final payoffs, but the detractors do have a case. I did hear at World Finals a few weeks ago that RTJ and his team hadn't made a decision yet for a national tour, and that the Outlaws were seriously being considered. Thornton hasn't made a ton of Outlaw starts in recent years, with only 44 appearances going back through 2019. He does have four Outlaw wins in that span, including this year's PDC and the final two shows at Charlotte. If for some reason Steve Francis is able to convince Thornton to flip from Lucas to the Outlaws, it would be a massive get for that side, and setup what could be a very entertaining Outlaw title fight next season. And depending on how things go with the Lucas schedule, RTJ could still potentially run something like half their shows in addition to his Outlaw commitment. Definitely a story to keep an eye on here going forward.

Also on the Outlaw late model side, we did have a bit of surprise on Saturday with regular big block modified competitor Max McLaughlin announcing he'll go full time next season in a dirt late model driving for GR Smith. He'll run for the Outlaw rookie of the year with backing from his current car owner in Al Heinke. McLaughlin has just one Outlaw late model start on his resume, an eighth place finish at Orange County Fair in 2021. He had four modified victories in 2023, including the opener at DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia. If things can stay together all season with the often volatile GR Smith, this could be a solid career move for McLaughlin. Drop me a comment, let me know your thoughts on all of this dirt late model news.

Out in California, the Hangtown 100 last night was rained out. There are going to try again today to get that race in for the USAC midgets. The Friday night show ended up going to Kyle Larson. It was Yung Money's first USAC midget win in two years, actually going back to the Placerville weekend in 2021. Larson only made three starts in all of 2022, and Friday at Placerville was his first appearance in 2023. In a race that went caution free, Larson drove from sixth to the lead in just 6 laps, driving by early leader and pole sitter Logan Seavey on the high side. From there, he wasn't challenged again, even through heavy lap traffic. Seavey and Buddy Kofoid rounded out the night's podium. The Sunday forecast for the Placerville area looks much better, so hopefully they should be good to go.

Behind the podium on Friday Jade Avedisian went 12th to fourth to earn the night's hard charger award. I bring her up at this moment, because earlier in the day Friday, she announced a new deal with Toyota Racing Development to continue her career going forward. With a new multi-year deal in place, Jade will make starts next season in the midget again for Keith Kunz Motorsports, appearing with both the Xtreme Outlaw series and USAC. The way things are worded though, it doesn't sound as though she's going to run either series full time, chasing another championship. Instead, it just says quote "races" and that she will run the complete Toyota GR Cup schedule. The GR Cup is a road racing series in the Toyota GR86 that is 14 rounds spread across seven race weekends, and is run as a support series to the GT World Challenge. It's clear that Toyota has hopes of her going further in pavement racing, and this will be her first chance to participate in a serious paved championship, while also getting some road course experience. I don't think that should come as a surprise to anyone who knows how the TRD program works.

One other midget note for you. Chase McDermand has found a new ride for 2024. We already knew he'll run the Trifecta Motorsports 7U at the Chili Bowl, but then after that he'll run the full Xtreme Outlaw schedule and select USAC national midget shows with Dave Mac Dalby Motorsports. McDermand ran the previous two years with Mounce Stout, and ended the 2023 Xtreme season fifth in the standings with six wins.

On Saturday, I sent out a new edition of The Slider email newsletter with a fresh piece from Pat Sullivan talking about the formation of the Maverick Winged Sprint Series. If you don't remember, this is the series that's coming in 2024, formed by Kevin Newton and the Spikers with plans on running winged 410 shows around Indiana. On Friday they also announced a little speedweek action, which they are calling the Maverick Mayhem Week. Four races, June 20th through the 23rd, with stops at Lincoln Park, Bloomington, Haubstadt, and Terre Haute. These shows will be co-sanctioned with the IRA Sprint Car Series. We are still waiting on a full 2024 schedule for this new series. You can see that Slider piece from Pat over at dirtrackr.com/theslider.

At Lancaster Speedway last night, Ben Watkins was a $10,000 winner with the Carolina Clash and Ironman Series. Today, action moves over to Cherokee Speedway for the Blue Gray 100 and $20,000 to win. The Cherokee show will include names like Chris Madden, Daulton Wilson, Trent Ivey and plenty more.

At Duck River on Saturday, it was Tanner English picking up the $10,000 win in the Gobbler. He topped Spencer Hughes and Jadon Frame. In an interesting move, Joseph Joiner stayed home and ran the Southern All Stars finale at Southern Raceway, and picked up that victory over Dalton Cook and Caleb Gay.

That's it for the show today. Make sure to stop by dirtrackr.com and see the streaming schedule as you do have several options for racing to watch tonight.

Hope you guys have a great Thursday out there, we'll see you back here on Sunday.