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The end of the All Stars left a big void, so what's next? | Daily 11-20-2023

The loss of the All Stars has left a void in Ohio, and we'll talk through their current messy sprint car situation. Plus Chris Windom has a new ride, Kyle Larson sweeps Hangtown, and more. Let's go!

It's Monday, November 20th, I'm Justin Fiedler. This is DIRTRACKR Daily.

If someone was going to start a national sprint car series to compete against the World of Outlaws, like High Limit has done, buying out the All Star Circuit of Champions from Tony Stewart makes a lot of sense. We've talked about some of the reasons why you'd do so here on the show. It clears the way for a more focused streaming situation for minority High Limit owner FloRacing. It takes out one less player in the market for big events and dates. In the case of High Limit, they are getting a lot of the big All Star shows like the Tuscarora 50 and the Rayce Rudeen Foundation race. It also cuts out a potential competitor for full time teams, and has some other, smaller, anciliary benefits like getting the All Stars' infrastructure. This deal made sense on a lot of levels, and gives the new High Limit national footprint a head start. But there are other effects and consequences to this deal that will not be felt or understood for quite a while. A big part of that is the hole left in the regional sprint car landscape, especially around Ohio. The All Stars had certainly expanded beyond that Ohio area, but they were still well paying shows that the Ohio guys could hit up a bunch of times a season. Drivers like Greg Wilson and Zeth Sabo were beyond 20+ All Star appearances in 2023. And you could be sure that Cale Thomas, and Craig Mintz, Travis Philo, Cole Duncan, Trey Jacobs, Cap Henry and plenty more would make 10 or 15 starts at least. Competing for wins wasn't off the table, plenty of top fives and top tens were to be had, and the money was still pretty good. But while High Limit will still offer some of these guys opportunities to race several times a season, a sizeable void has been left with the end of the All Stars. And there is no clear answer how that void will be filled. We know that High Limit decided to pass off Ohio Sprint Speedweek to Aaron Fry and the FAST series, but we are still waiting to see what that could look like. FAST also announced a bump to their standard purses, with many shows now paying $4000 to win and $400 to start. That's not All Star level though, with those shows previously at least being $6000 to win and $550 to start. And that's on top of a sizeable point fund and full time team benefits. The All Stars also offered a larger schedule, with more than 40 races completed in 2023. The FAST schedule had just 23 total. The good thing though, is the FAST footprint only included Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, plus scattered shows in Indiana and West Virginia. Fry will certainly do what he can, and he seems to be popular in the area, but this thing won't become an All Star replacement over night, even if it didn't have potential competition. And make no mistake, there is an active, ongoing effort to create another Ohio speed week, and a competing 410 winged sprint car series. I had thought by now things would be public on that front, but the situation remains fluid and wrought with challenges. One of the players behind that was Ross Paulson, who was previously an All Star official, but he posted to social media over the weekend that he was backing out of the effort. I assumed this meant the new series would be dead completely, but I've been told that efforts are still underway. So just in Ohio alone, we've got FAST already established with help from High Limit, and potentially a second competing series. We're not done there though. The new Maverick Winged Sprint Series in Indiana could certainly grab some territory here as well. I've been asked if this could be the All Star replacement, but again, it's way too early to say. They ran one show in 2023, have announced a mini speedweek for 2024, but full plans are still in the works. With all three situations, things change and evolve on a day to day basis, and what's true one hour, might not be the next. It's been tough to follow, which is why I hesitate to share any real specifics. We also know that World Racing Group's Brian Carter has talked previously about wanting to support regional sprint car racing with the All Stars now done, and they could be a factor in some of this as well. Maybe not in an ownership role, but definitely with support and streaming. In a recent post over at TJSlideways.com, TJ Buffenbarger referred to the situation in Ohio back in 2015 before Tony Stewart bought the All Stars from Guy Webb. Things were starting to devolve, and Stewart stepping in to take the series headed off what was going to be a mess between multiple parties. But now, eight years later, we are back to that as a serious possibility with multiple groups in play, and lots of manuevering happening behind the scenes. At least in the near future, there won't be one single winner, and for better or worse, drivers and fans will have multiple directions to go come Friday and Saturday nights.

In some driver news that is tied closely to what I just talked about, the Vermeer 55 team will have a new driver for next season. Just announced here a little bit ago, Chris Windom will will be the new Vermeer driver for next year, and he's bringing sponsor NOS Energy Drink with him. Windom ended the 2023 All Star season second in driver points, and fourth in owner points with Lane Racing. He had nine top fives and 23 top tens in 40 races. Vermeer ended the year third in owner points, but they had multiple drivers throughout the season, starting with Hunter Schuerenberg, then a brief period with Buddy Kofoid, before settling on Kerry Madsen. Madsen was solid in his tenure, picking a win, 12 top fives, and 18 top tens in 22 starts. This wasn't a move I had heard about, and it seemed like Madsen did a nice job. But Windom made serious strides in year two as a full time winged driver, and the ability to bring sponsorship is a key factor. There was nothing in the release about a series choice, and we don't know what this will mean for Madsen or Lane Racing going forward. Clinton Boyles will remain the Vermeer crew chief.

I've got a couple of other news items I didn't get to yesterday, but that I still wanted to share here on the show. First, as reported by TJ Slideways, Butler Motor Speedway in Michigan will have their Mace Thomas Classic on June 1st be a High Limit sprint car show for 2024. The track's promoter shared the news during their season ending banquet, and the show will pay $12,000 to win. A year ago, Butler hosted the All Stars in August, with Tyler Courtney picking up that victory over Kerry Madsen and Chris Windom. The Mace Thomas Classic event itself was previously held at I-96 Speedway. Before 2023, the All Stars hadn't been to Butler since 2016, and was previously a regular stop for the series. The last World of Outlaws event at Butler was way back in 2006. Besides weekly action, Butler has also hosted the Great Lakes Super Sprints and the Summer Nationals in recent years. Butler is a track that the Ohio regulars can easily get to, and hopefully they will show up for that High Limit race. It will be schedule dependent though. This race being $12 grand to win is in line with what Jeremy Elliott reported a few weeks ago when the High Limit national series announcement was made. The standard one day purse would be $12,000 to win and $1200 to start. Unlike the midweek series, not every High Limit show will carry those elevated purses, and with the Outlaws making changes, the two series should be in line for their regular events.

Also, Super DIRT Week will look a little different in 2024. Instead of running the 200 lapper for the big blocks on Sunday afternoon and evening, action will move up a day in October next year. Now that main event will be run under the lights on Saturday, which is October 12th in 2024. The reaction from the fans on the announcement looked to be mostly positive, and it should allow a little more wiggle room with Sunday available as a rain date. Every year it seems like some part of Super DIRT Week is affected by wet weather.

Out in California on Sunday, Kyle Larson made it a Hangtown 100 sweep, winning both the prelim night feature and last night's 100 lap main event. The race had five different race leaders, with Ryan Timms, Mitchel Moles, Justin Grant, Logan Seavey, and Larson all taking turns out front. Larson went 16th to second by the closing stages, and on a restart with nine to go, made his move around Seavey for the top spot. We had a brief three way battle for the lead with Shane Golobic also in the mix, but Yung Money got away late for the score. So he's now two-for-two in USAC midget competition this year. The midget teams have Monday off, and then they've got two nights at Merced Tuesday and Wednesday, they'll get turkey day off Thursday, before heading to Ventura Friday and Saturday to close out the season. I don't know what Larson's plans are for the rest of 2023. He did run Turkey Night a year ago, and the whole final swing two years ago, but I haven't seen anything shared publicly about if he'll run any of these final nights. With just three race nights left, Logan Seavey remains in control of the midget championship, leading Justin Grant by 230 points. Seavey's top ten streak is now 19 straight races, and he's been on the podium in four straight, including finishing second to Larson both nights at Placerville.

At Cherokee on Sunday, wrapping up a weekend of dirt late model racing in South Carolina, Chris Madden dominated the Blue Gray 100, scoring the event win for the ninth time in his career. It was also his third straight win at the Blue Gray. He managed to lead every lap from the pole, and unlike a lot of the competition, was able to go the distance on the same set of tires he started on. So $20,000 to Madden, with Saturday's Lancaster winner Ben Watkins finishing second, and Zack Mitchell finishing third.

That's it for today's Daily. Hope you guys have a great Monday out there, we'll see you back here tomorrow.