Saturday, November 28, 2015

Clanton's Season Not to be Overlooked

Jonathan Davenport's season was simply amazing in 2015. It may very well be the best one in dirt late model history. And it was earned countless hours of preparation and the help of crew chief Kevin Rumley. And though we'll be talking about it for years to come, it may have overshadowed a great story of perseverance that played out in the same year.

Shane Clanton's 2015 doesn't have anywhere near the same gaudy stats as Davenport's has. But this is not a comparison between the two. This simply serves as a reminder, lest we forget (most of us won't anytime soon), that Clanton won a championship too this season, and it wasn't half as easy as it may have seemed it would be in February.

Pat Miller Photo

From the drop of the green flag in Georgia/Florida speed weeks, Clanton seemed destined for a great year winning four of the first seven World of Outlaw points events at Screven Motor Speedway, Bubba Raceway Park and Volusia. But afterwards, there was still a matter of 35+ races in which to give his early season lead back to the closest pursuer. And for any driver, it could have been fairly easy to give back that lead bit by bit over the course of the season.  Remember that Earl Pearson Jr. had a solid February and a Lucas series points lead only to be overtaken by Davenport.  A mistake in time trials here and there, a dnf or two, or another driver who might find their stride in mid season and rattle off seven or eight wins in a couple of months, any of these could have spelled disaster for Clanton....If he weren't on top of his game.

And that's why Clanton's 2015 should not be overlooked in the volumes of championship seasons. The length of the season is just enough time for mistakes to derail a title run, and at the same time, not quite enough races to throwaway a couple of bad finishes. It mattered not if perennial favorite Josh Richards was coming off a year he barely raced in 2014. Nor that Darrell Lanigan suffered car issues that at one point made him come off the road and re-evaluate. They both had great chances in the beginning when everyone started with 0 points. But neither could seize the early season momentum.  Clanton did.

Pat Miller Photo

But it would take more than just a nice early season point lead to make his first championship season a reality. It took commitment, preparation, and a driving style that saw him be patient when he had to be, not running so off the cuff that mistakes happened, and more aggressive when he needed to keep his pursuers behind him.  That's not an easy thing to do night in and night out, and series winners in any car or series would be the first ones to tell you that from Donny Schatz, to Dale Blaney, to Scott Bloomquist and Matt Sheppard. Clanton's car could be dominant at times, in the same vein as Davenport's on occasion. But what earned Clanton the 2015 championship, was the way in which he simply wore down his closest pursuer, Josh Richards by continuing to pick up wins later on in the season, and his 34 top fives in 41 events. When Richards picked up a win, he seemingly gained little to no ground, and that had to be frustrating and disheartening for him. And for Clanton, it was his fortification, his lead that he protected by not only riding around finishing races, but putting himself on the podium stride for stride with Richards.

But more than the performance on the track for Clanton in 2015, his perseverance in years of toil in the series, through difficult seasons that other series champions have not always had to endure. He'd been close in some years finishing in the top three at the end of the year on several other occasions. And he'd had years when he'd finished in the middle of the pack and suffered long gaps between wins that stretched over two seasons. And in some of those types of years, he had to be wondering if it made sense to continue running a national tour given the cost and sacrifice with sometimes very little in reward.

His hard work was rewarded in 2015 and although his season wasn't quite what Davenport's was, it is still more than worthy of a "season to be remembered". It may just mark the beginning of Clanton being mentioned more often in the same conversation with Bloomquist, Lanigan, Richards, Davenport, Owens and so on.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Dirty Thanksgiving 2015

Today, we give our thanks. We're a DIRT family you see, and we're in this together. We're all going to be in different places with family today. Hopefully, they're all doing well, safe and sound, and you're all going to be elbows deep in a feast together at some point during the day.

But even though we're not together in the flesh, the fans, drivers, crew, employees, support industry folks, and promoters that make up our family, we're together in spirit, and we've got a lot to be thankful for!

First off, we've got it better than these folks, the participants of the first thanksgiving.

They lived in constant fear of death, disease, famine and freezing. And none of them ever came close to seeing a race. If they had, they'd be as thankful as we are at this time of year. 

So today, when you're gathered around the table, sharing what you're thankful for on this day, try to slip in some of these, the things we're thankful for on this day.

  • We're thankful for well executed slidejobs, the one's that are so thrilling to watch that you sit there with your mouth open in awe. The one's that leave you thinking "how in the world can they do that and not even touch?
  • We're thankful for the Knoxville Nationals, the World 100, Super DIRT Week, and the World Finals. The places where we can watch our favorite crown jewels and leave with a memory full of great racing, the best drivers on earth, and the great times we have with our friends and family.
  • We're thankful for Steak on a Stick and Pork Chop Sandwiches, not gonna lie they're fantastic!
  • We're thankful for all the times when drivers walk away after an awful looking crash.
  • We're thankful for the sound as the green flag drops. Is there a better sound than 24 of your favorite beasts all hitting the gas at the exact same moment? 
  • We're thankful for the concession stand employees that know what we like, and have it ready when they see us.
  • We're thankful for every low budget, weekly driver that works 50 hours a week earning a living, and then another 30 hours getting the car ready. Thank you for all your hard work to make sure you're at the track for us to enjoy week in and week out. We appreciate it far more than you know
  • We're thankful for the promoters/GM's who open up on a shaky looking weather night just because there's a good chance to still get it in, even though they're taking a beating at the box office that night!

Those are things all of us are thankful for to be sure. But at this time, we'd like to turn it over to our wonderful staff here at TDN, so that they may pass long their thanks to DIRT Nation.
  • "I'm thankful for the atmosphere at the big races."- Josh Bayko
  • "Thankful for dedicated track help like those helping to bring back Pennsboro and keeping our current tracks alive" - Brian "Dobie Compton
  • "Atmosphere and having good friends to enjoy those big races with." - Patrick Miller
  • "I'm thankful for all the guys that work 60+ hours a week, but still find time to prep their car and make to the track every night. They put their heart and soul into their race car just to unwind at the end of the week. And everyone knows they'll spend their last dime whether they're competitive or not, they just love to complete." - Daylon Barr
  • My speedway family and all the advancements of the safety of the chassis and race gear that keeps my husband and all other driver safe when they junk it." - Caitie McFarlane
  • "I'm thankful for drivers like Dietrich and Davenport who drive hard, and I'm also thankful for the great people you meet at the race track that you wouldn't otherwise get to know." - Kyle Symons
  • "I'm thankful for everyone that puts their time and effort into keeping dirt track racing going strong." - Trever Steele
  • "I'm thankful for all the unsung hereos like track prep and maintenance guys that don't get near the credit they deserve." - Tyler Beichner
  • "I'm thankful that some of the best dirt racers in the country race in our backyard." - Jerin Steele
  • "2 for $5 red flag specials on beer and three and four wide salutes before the big feature" - Aaron Clay

And lastly, we're thankful for all of you, the folks that keep the greatest sport on earth surviving and thriving. Thank you for being at the track every week, thank you for telling all non-racing folks about what you saw at the races in the attempt to make one more fan, thank you for buying the tickets, tshirts, the beer and thank you for being a part of DIRT Nation!

So from all of us at TDN to all of you, Happy Thanksgiving! Have a Dirty one!

Monday, November 23, 2015

This Week In Dirt

If we had a banquet hall big enough, we'd invite you all over for a TDN Thanksgiving this week. We could gather around swapping stories, putting logs on the fireplace as we mistakenly set the chimney on fire, eating all sorts of racing related fare (Think Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Menu only with items you can find at the concession stand) and of course...drinking.really good beer! It'd be a blast!

One day when the proverbial ship comes in, we'll have to do that. But for now, we can offer you another edition of This Week In DIRT, and if anybody wants our recipe for beer batter turkey cutlets or french fry casserole, don't hesitate to ask! We're here to help..

Ballou Completes Dream Season

Robert Ballou came to USA Raceway in Tucson to finish business and so he did. Ballou capped off a 13 win season on the USAC Amsoil National sprint tour. The 26 year old wheelman managed a win, a runner up and another top five finish in the final three points races in the annual Western World Championship. The season saw Ballou come home with 13 wins, 26 top fives, and 35 top tens en route to his first ever USAC championship.

Aaron Clay Photo

"This year has been something that’s come from years of work and struggle. I’m really proud of Derrick Bye and myself for getting our program to this point, and I again have to thank all the people who have helped in any way to get us here,” said Ballou post race on the final night of competition when he came up just short of winning the final feature to some guy named Bryan Clauson.  Brady Bacon rounded out the winners for the weekend with his Friday night victory.

Aaron Clay Photo

Final USAC Amsoil National Sprint Car Point Standings:

1. Robert Ballou - 2274
2. Dave Darland- 2187
3. Chase Stockon- 2092
4. Brady Bacon- 2085
5. Jon Stanbrough- 1788

Madden Continues Rampage

Chris Madden continued to obliterate and terrorize the sun belt late model racing scene in the closing weeks and months with yet another five digit paycheck. This weekend, the veteran South Carolina based driver managed to take the 77 lap Gobbler held at Cleveland Speedway in Tennessee, leaving Dale McDowell, Randy Weaver, Chase Junghans and Jimmy Owens in his wake as he collected $10,000 on Saturday night.

 Of course from glancing the starting positions and the finish, one could gather that Madden was the class of the field by default as hardly any passing occurred throughout the feature event, but nonetheless, it was Madden's 6th win over 16 races since he resumed his racing season following several months off and in that time Madden accumulated over $65,000 in novelty checks.

Madden was seen with legendary crew chief Tommy Hicks in victory lane who kept badgering people in the celebration for a Marlboro and a lighter.  The tandem could very well be onto a winning combination capable of an amazing run in 2016.

Southern Nationals "Gobbler" Finish:

1. Chris Madden
2. Dale McDowell
3. Randy Weaver
4. Chase Junghans
5. Mike Marlar
6. Jimmy Owens
7. Billy Ogle Jr.
8. Riley Hickman
9. Derek Ellis
10. Jason Hiett

Williams Grove Fans Subjected to Big Block Modifieds: SDS Schedule Released.

The Super DIRTcar big block modified schedule was released at this weekend's Parts Peddler trade show in Syracuse, NY, and fans immediately had to do a double take as the series will make it's first appearance at the legendary Williams Grove Speedway in years.  The mecca of central Pennsylvania sprint car racing will host the huge, loud, lumbering machines on Wednesday June 22nd.

There will be 28 points races to the 2016 SDS slate including stops at Eldora and Sharon Speedways in Ohio as well as dates at the hopefully finished Central New York Raceway Park for the annual Super DIRT Week.  If construction is not completed in time, fans are encouraged to bring wheel barrows of dirt from their backyard to Oswego Speedway starting in September and continuing through early October so that children with large tonka trucks may begin preparing a surface over the famed 5/8 mile asphalt oval.

To catch a glimpse of the 2016 Super DIRTCar Series Schedule, click here: 2016 SDS Schedule


The All Star Sprint schedule was released this week. Here it is. ASCOC Schedule

Well that's about it for us. Have a great week and stay DIRTY everyone!

To keep up with the movement in the offseason, check out our 410/SLM/BBMod Silly Season Page

Want a dirty calendar? It just so happens we've got one of our own. And if you buy one, $10 goes directly to Racers For Tots, a wonderful racing charity that helps make the holidays brighter for kids in need. Reserve your copy today!  2016 TDN Calendar

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

5 Racers I'd Like to See Tackle a National Tour in 2016

Hey there people, it's been a while since I've posted anything, and I've gotten the bug to write a bit, so I figured I'd address something Ive been thinking about lately. I've seen both national late model tours multiple times over, and will definitely continue to going into the future, but I'd like to see some new faces going into 2016 (and beyond, for that matter). I don't expect you all to agree with my choices or reasoning, but still, it's just something I'd like to see. We do have a comment section on these articles if you'd like to offer your own choices and offer feedback. Don't be afraid to use it, it's only going to give us a better idea of what our readers are thinking and what they'd like to see.

So what I'm gonna do is bring up five well known regional racers with seemingly large enough budgets to give a national tour a full time shot. Most of them have won a race on one of the two tours (or both), and a couple have even given a tour a hot, but dropped off before completing the season. I'd like to see all of them go for the big money at the end of the year, even if it is just one season.

Here they are, in no particular order....

 Gregg Satterlee

Yeah, I know, the reasons He's never tackled a tour have been laid out a number of times. He's got a regular job with the family business, they don't have that much money in the team, they can make more money spending less just running regionally as opposed to nationally, etc...

That said, I'd like to see him throw caution to the wind and give the WoO a legit shot. I understand 2015 was fairly disappointing by his standards, but sometimes, getting out on the road with some of the best the business has to offer will make an already good driver a great driver. And crew chief  Robbie Allen has done the full WoO tour before, as Dale Beitler's crew chief for Austin Hubbard and Steve Francis. So, running tracks that Robbie already knows makes the most sense to me. 

 Randy Weaver

Randy has started the season saying he's going to follow the full Lucas schedule the past few years, but hasn't followed through with it yet. He clearly thinks he's got the money and equipment to pull it off, but for whatever reason, hasn't committed yet. I mean, he's won Lucas races arou nd his way before.

His ridiculous 8 race winning streak earlier this season proved he's got top notch stuff and an assload  of ability. I think it's time he really gives it a legit shot. I think he's be in the mix for the championship straight away. they understand how to make the car work to his favor, and he's done enough traveling the past few seasons to get a feel for the tracks he hasn't visited yet in a pretty quick manner. Plus, there's enough Longhorn cars out there on tour (on both tours, really) that finding somebody else to bounce ideas off of shouldn't really be a problem. 

 Jason Feger

I know, I know, Jason's budget isn't as big as people think. He's not the kind of guy to be able to raise the rumored 250k that it takes to compete on a national tour. And he had that issue with the WoO over the doped tires a couple years back. 

But, he's run a pile of WoO races since those issues, so it clearly isn't a lingering issue. He's run a pile of Lucas races too. He's been pretty competitive in most of them. His foray into Black Diamond cars towards the end of 2015 seemed to be a great move that should improve his program quite a bunch going into 2016. The budget issue might not be as bad as he thinks if he can stay on tour for the full schedule and can get the show up money that the WoO regulars get. Also, a move to a national tour could possibly help his sponsorship situation.

Tony Jackson Jr. 

I'm not going to pretend to know the full details of Tony's funding situation, but his switch from Rocket, to Club 29, then back to Rocket, then back to Club 29 all within the same 2 year span tells me that he's got a pretty big budget to spend on his racing if he so chooses. 

His results have been getting better and better the last few years, and he's been very competitive when the national touring guys come around.  So I'd like to see him go to a national tour. He's got the ability. It seems he's pretty tight with Darrell Lanigan, and Lanigan is going with Lucas for 2016. Having Darrell around to bounce ideas off of is probably the best course of action for his racing program. Unless, of course,he changes chassis again. Plus, his cars are always some of the sharpest looking race cars in the pits. I always like looking at nice race cars. 

Mike Marlar

I know, I know, Mike attempted the WoO in 2013 with Bryson motorsports, and dropped off pretty early in the season. I don't think car owner Ronnie Delk is some millionaire flush with cash, either. And I believe Mike has a regular 9-5 that prevents him from really going all out in racing. 

But he's said multiple times over the years that he wants to commit to a tour full time. Maybe now is the time. He's always been very fast when the big timers come around, or when he goes to the big timers at various races around the country. He picked up a pile of wins this year first in the Rocket, then the Capital race cars he piloted in 2015, and he's definitely not afraid to go to new tracks, and he seems to figure them out pretty quickly. He's obviously very versatile, because he's driven a bunch of different cars that had a bunch of different chassis under them over the years. It doesn't really matter to me which tour he tries, but it definitely seems like he prefers the WoO for whatever reason. 

And that's it. Five guys I'd like to see full time on national tours in 2016 and beyond. There are more, but I constrained myself to five racers, and these are the five I'd most like to see. Id' like to hear your thoughts, too. 

Have a good one, and see ya at the tracks in 2016. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

TDN Celebrates 2nd Anniversary With Special Message

Today at TDN, we celebrate the birth of what we've become. An informative place for our beloved dirt racing fans to have a new kind of experience. A site that truly paid attention to many divisions, delivered on point commentary, helped drivers get their stories out there, and covered the action at the track as well. Not to mention a place to make dirt racing a little more interesting with our incredibly successful national event pick'em contests.

We started out with an idea, that plain and simply, we'd be servants of the sport we love on different levels. And by serving the sport, we meant fans, drivers, tracks, sanctions, and support industries.  We've helped serve as a place for interested people to hone their motor sports journalism skills, and we're delighted to watch that end of it grow with well crafted storytelling and interesting topics of conversation. It is truly a labor of love as the contributors here at TDN spend their free time outside of full time jobs, families, and university commitments to add to the site. They do so because they love the sport and want to help it grow.

The journey we've been could not have been possible without our contributors. This site was a one man show for all of about 6 hours on November 17, 2013, when people stepped forward and declared that they wanted to become part of a team.  And from that moment on, we collaborated on a well thought out place to help enhance the dirt racing experience. 

We'd like to take this time to say THANK YOU, to every person who reads, uses, and enjoys what we've put together here at TDN. If it weren't for you, we'd probably have called it a day after a week or two. And in the beginning, we weren't sure how many people would be interested in what we were doing. But the numbers of readers grew, and the engagement level of them on a social media level was amazing to see and be a part of, and it made us realize that we had to keep going. Lots of people start blogs of various sorts, but it takes truly special people to commit to it week in and week out and we're blessed with many of those sorts of people on the staff here at TDN.

Original 2013/14 Logo From Tyler Beichner

We'll be continuing on with the same great stories and content you've enjoyed in the first two years, plus we'll be making our internet radio debut here in a couple of months. And we still live to our commitment. The one we made in our mission statement that reads as follows....

The mission of The Dirt Network administrators and contributors is to simply serve the dirt racing community including fans, drivers, tracks, sanctions, sponsors and racing related parts manufacturers and distributors. This is accomplished with our promotion of the sport by means of objective opinion, news gathering and sharing, increasing driver connectivity to the fan base, and also by offering sponsors and other industry related organizations another opportunity to get their message across.

We offer a gathering place for all passionate dirt racing community members to constructively submit their opinions free from the current trend of directing negativity towards any track, sanction, division, or driver.

Whether you are a Sprint, Late Model, Modified fan, or a fan of any other division that graces our area speedways, we will provide content to capture the interest of all, the information to help make choices on where get your dirt racing fix on any particular weekend, and the stories behind the drivers who put their heart and soul into their racing operations week in and week out.

On behalf of all the staff members here at TDN, once again we say thank you, and we hope you enjoy what we have to offer!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Meanwhile in Australia....

Pic - Peter Roebuck

Are you feeling down now that World of Outlaws has wrapped up for 2015? Sad that you will no longer be inhaling the sweet smell of methanol at your local dirt track each weekend? Well fear not, my fellow dirt track addicts! Sprintcar racing is heating up down under for season 2015-2016, and here’s some of what’s in store over the next few months from Australia to get you through the cold American winter…..

World Series Sprintcars: Australia’s premier Sprintcar series, contested over 11 weeks every summer, it makes its way from the east coast to the west coast, stopping in at all the major speedways along the way. Past winners include Max Dumesny, Steven Lines, Brooke Tatnell, James McFadden and the only American to ever take the crown, Daryn Pittman. Things have had a bit of a shake up this year with Hoosier being brought back as the control tyre of the series after the last few years when American Racer had to be run. We also see the series make a return to Valvoline Raceway in Sydney after quite a few years away. Contracted to the series this year are Daniel Harding, Jason Pryde, Luke Dillon, Ryan Jones, Australian Champ Dave Murcott, Steven Lines, James McFadden, current World Series champion Brooke Tatnell and flying the flag again for USA, Kyle Hirst. Make sure you check out Race Night Live on the World Series Sprintcars website for live audio, live timing and results as the happen. 

You can follow World Series Sprintcars at @WSS_Sprintcars or visit their webpage here.

Ultimate Sprintcar Championship: This newly formed series runs between Valvoline Raceway in Sydney, Hi Tec Oils Speedway in Toowoomba and Premier Speedway Warrnambool. The series has a NASCAR-esque feel to it with a chase format being a driver’s key to qualify. A driver must finish on the podium in order to qualify for the chase, and “The Chase” races will determine the ultimate winner. The series itself is being broadcast on “Clay-per-view” for those who want to live stream the action, as well as 26 30-minute episodes being broadcast on free to air television, focusing in on action in the pits, stories on drivers and teams as well as the races themselves. The series covers some major blue ribbon events, and some heavy hitters have already earned their place in the chase after only a handful of rounds at each of the tracks. So, if you’re inclined to stay up until 2am to get your Sprintcar fix (yeah, I see you guys tweeting, and you’re awesome!), these races are going to be your best bet!

Follow them at @ultimatesprint or visit their page here.

For the Live stream video of all USC races, check out Clay-Per-View here.
Lucas Oils Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic: The biggest race on the Aussie racing calendar and sister race to the Knoxville Nationals, the atmosphere is unlike any other race in the country. A field of over 100 cars nominate for the prestigious 3-day event held around Australia Day at Premier Speedway, Warrnambool. Last year it was taken out by American Kyle Hirst at a race that started at 2am after rain delayed the dual C and B mains. Last Classic was streamed for the very first time on PPV and I would think that The Cushion will be back once again for your viewing pleasure if you can’t make the trip over (Although I highly recommend you come visit… also, please bring cherry Twizzlers).

The 54th Australian Sprintcar Championship: Premier Speedway is the place to be this January when the Aussie title goes green on the weekend after the Classic. Only open to Aussie born racers, carrying the A1 on your tail tank is the ultimate badge of honour. Back-to-back winner Dave Murcott will be vying for the hat trick, but don’t discount young guns such as Jamie Veal, Steven Lines and two time former champion James McFadden, who put on an absolute clinic last time coming through the B main to finish fourth after junking his car the night before. 

Follow Premier Speedway at @SungoldStadium and for all the info you need about the Classic and Title, visit their page here.

Keep your eye out for:

Steven Lines: Fresh off his 2015 Australian Sprintcar Masters win, Linesy is gearing up for another World Series tour on board the Halls Motorsport W3. The two-time Classic winner is amongst Australia’s Sprintcar elite, and it’s surprising he hasn’t earned himself a ride in the US of A yet.

Jamie Veal: Warrnambool’s own young gun, Vealy is a regular visitor to the US and recently took the wheel of Jason Johnson’s World of Outlaw ride after Jason’s accident before stepping in to his own car to complete the rest of his American tour. Jamie also holds the lap record at the high banks of Sungold Stadium Premier Speedway with a 9.963 second lap set earlier this year. Don’t be surprised if you hear his name in the news!

James McFadden: The kid is just talent. He has proven he can wheel a Sprintcar with the best of them, carries two Australian titles, two World Series Sprintcar championships, two speedweek wins, won The Cotton Classic and has won several ASoC races, plus he has a few WoO podiums under his belt to boot. All of this and he is only 26. The future holds big things for J-Mac if he can pull himself out of the recent run of bad luck he has been experiencing.

Kyle Hirst: Your very own export, reppin’ the land of the free, Hirst won the 2015 Classic and is set to return to the Monte Motorsports number 17 for the 15-16 World Series tour. Can Kyle become the second American to take the championship away from the Aussies since Daryn Pittman won it in 2003?

Dave Murcott: Back to back winner of the Australian Sprintcar Championship, Murcott was also a regular at the front of all the World Seires rounds and the Classic before a fuel issue put him out of contention in the feature race. His partnership with Horrell Motorsports is proving to be a strong one yet again, and also has well known crew chief Glenno Inglis in his corner.

So who will I put my money on? At this point in time, I have no clue. The calibre of drivers on speedways across the country over the coming weeks is second to none. I know whom I would like to see on the podium, but it’s the best man, or woman, on the day that takes the checker. All I know is that there is nothing better than the roar of a 410 being held wide open and as it dances across the clay, and thanks to the internet and people passionate about racing, you don’t have to miss a single bit of it no matter where in the world you are.