Makin’ Tracks – It’s Showtime for the “Greatest Show on Dirt” – DTD Exclusive

By BILL FOLEY

The atmosphere around Volusia Speedway Park was nothing short of electric as the Craftsman World of Outlaw Sprint cars made their 2017 debut with 36 potent race cars.

Several Arctic Cat All Star of Circuit of Champions competitors headed home after Thursday night, but the teams who replaced their numbers were quite impressive and in some cases surprising.

Joining the Sprint car field for Friday night were Terry McCarl, Tim Shaffer, Logan Schuchart, Jacob Allen, Ben Schmidt and Parker Price-Miller. Throw in Jason Sides who lost a motor in hot laps two nights earlier and had not seen action then this was a highly competitive field.

It wasn’t exactly a normal night for the Outlaws as fast time was 13.121 by Tony Stewart Racing’s Christopher Bell and he was followed by David Gravel and Jason Johnson.




Hot laps got off to a slow start and at least the first two groups got a do over as it turned out they were working the track in (something Outlaws don’t do) and so the time schedule went out the window at the beginning of the night.

Warm-ups and time trials certainly weren’t kind to everyone. Kerry and Ian Madsen each changed motors as did David Gravel (who would go on to lose two motors on the night and three for the past two nights). Texan and ASCS star Aaron Reutzel and his crew pulled the entire rear end out of the 87. His crew member told me that this has happened twice while they’ve been in Florida. It was a new type rear end so he indicated they were going back to what they used last year.

With time trials completed there were still 60 plus UMP Mods to go through group qualifying.

It was a chance to wander a bit and the midway is pretty good and the odors wafting from the various stands gives you the feeling of being at the state fair.

I stopped to visit Utica-Rome Speedway owners Bill and Kim Shea at the Ferris Industries booth and then went in search of a seat. I have found a decent location at the end of the front straight so that in the event I need to head for the pits I am 30 seconds from the gate.

The place was jammed. The grandstands were packed and the standing area toward the first turn was six deep with fans straining their necks to see even a little bit of the action.

Heats saw Gravel blow an engine while leading and giving the win to Ian Madsen, rookie Brent Marks finished second to eventual feature winner Jason Johnson.  Jacob Wilson flipped wildly several times in his heat after something in his steering broke allowing Sides to get the checker and Brad Sweet running away from Bell for a win in his heat.

One dash for the Outlaws and Bell won it. Only real action had Brent Marks and Ian Madsen battling for seventh and Marks lost the handle when he went high in turn four late and the rookie would start eighth in the main.

The B-Main was pretty loaded and there were more than four cars capable of getting in the main event. Terry McCarl was in a qualifying spot when Clyde Knipp spun out in front of him. TMac was done. Shane Stewart was a man on a mission with Gravel, Danny Dietrich and Dale Blaney in the Billy Pauch era Zemco graphically designed machine. It was at this moment Gravel lost engine number three.

The main-event was uncontested for the Ragin Cajun, but the Brian Brown, Brad Sweet and Bell battle was impressive to watch. There were some jockeying for positions in the pack.

Donny Schatz was in a rather unfamiliar position as he didn’t qualify for the dash and lined up 16th. Apparently he got the inside wall, pitted for a new left rear and finished as far back as I have ever seen him finish.

Pit Stops

I forgot to mention it by the All Stars leave the 17th starting position of the four abreast empty in memory of Bryan Clauson. Nice touch…

Greg Hodnett slid into the third and fourth turn wall in the main breaking a left rear shock….

Lucas Wolfe brought out the yellow with a broken wheel…

Shane Stewart bent a steering shaft in the main knocking him out of contention…

The Shark Racing team of Schuchart and Allen took provisionals. They fought an uphill battle all night long…

Danny Lososki in the Brian Brown pit and he has also been helping 14 year old Tyler Clem (son of the Bubba Speedway owner). Clem won a last chance UMP race, has his late model pit-side for next week and runs a sprint at Bubba…

Jason Johnson’s car was destroyed in the crash with Saldana on Wednesday night and the new car came out of the box, as Bentley Warren would say “Wicked Fast”. Johnson noted that a year ago “I hurt my motor here and had to run the B Main.  I guess 365 days later it is the best case scenario”. He noted he really wanted one of those Gator trophies…

UMP mods are really competitive. With the exception of a select few drivers the make up of the 20-lap feature fields changes nightly. It isn’t uncommon for only one or two yellow flags as the past two nights 28 started and around 25 or so finish…

North Carolina’s Nick Hoffman is one heck of a shoe. He captured his second Gator of then night and he has so many of those at home that it is obvious he is one of the best in this division…

Brian Ruhlman went into the night as the high point man and had his worst finish of the series after a first, second and third he finished outside of the top five….

Justin Allgaier is fun to watch as he just missed in his heat, won a consi and moved all the way up to around 9th before a last lap crash knocked him out of the top ten…

Kenny Wallace has been consistent and entered the night third in points. I will try to write an interview I did with him in the next couple of days…

11:44 p.m. the show ended…

They split the 60 plus UMP’s for the next two nights so three heats and maybe two less consolations might make for a more efficient show….

Pits pretty crowded with grandstand folks able to sign a liability form with their tickets and wander the pits…

Back in just a few hours to do it all over again…

Hope you are enjoying the DTD coverage. Our photographers are all over the place. It might be Florida, but the past two nights have been cold. Tough on us older guys.