Getting hot at the right time.
David Gravel went roughly a month without winning a World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series event, which had some wondering if he could put an entire season together. That questioned was, again, answered this week. The Connecticut driver captured the Brad Doty Classic a few weeks ago and pocketed a sweep over the past weekend, blasting to wins at Hartford Speedway and Wilmot Raceway. With 12 victories already this season, Gravel has shown he is a consistent performer and that he will be one of the favorites to capturing a Knoxville Nationals crown.
There were plenty of surprised fans walking out of Port Royal Speedway Saturday night after Rick Lafferty turned back Greg Hodnett and Lance Dewease to pocket $12,510 for winning the Living Legends Dream Race. This wasn’t, however, an upset to drivers in the pits or out of the area. Lafferty is good for two or three wins a season, and when his car is good, it’s really good, which showed over the weekend. Don’t be surprised if he adds another triumph to the list real soon.
Speaking of Greg Hodnett …
I’m not going to say Hodnett and the Mike Heffner-owned team is back to normal speed, but they did take a step in the right direction Sunday night at Selinsgrove Speedway. Hodnett earned the $6,000 win — his largest of the season — in the Mach 1 Chassis National Open at Selinsgrove Speedway. Yes, this was a 360 Sprint event, but any win at this point is good for a high-profile team that has struggled. Hodnett and Co. are making strides, albeit small, and head to Knoxville this week for the 360 Nationals.
Another driver struggling this season, at least in the 410 Sprint Car ranks, is Terry McCarl. The Iowa ace busted out of his Knoxville slump this weekend by sweeping the 410 and 360 Sprint programs at the famed half mile Saturday night. It’s the fourth time McCarl has won both ends of a program at Knoxville, which few can boast anywhere in the country. This guy is a hall of famer for a reason, and he will be a player at some point over the next two weeks. Bank on it.
Montieth wins … Finally.
With big events at Port Royal and Selinsgrove Speedway grabbing headlines, Brian Montieth’s win at Lincoln Speedway went almost unnoticed. Not to this corner. Montieth entered the weekend with one win this season before breaking a winless streak that dated back to April 1 … A stat that is hard to fathom. Whatever the problems, one has to wonder if this team has turned the corner? We’ll see next time Danny Dietrich, Freddie Rahmer and others are the field are back at the speedway … Circle the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions visit to Lincoln Aug. 19.
Sammy’s still got it.
Is there any doubt that Sammy Swindell is not only a legend, but that he can still win a race anywhere, anytime? There shouldn’t be. Swindell added a 26th career All Star win to his long resume and a $10,000 payday at Orange County Fair Speedway Saturday night. Sure, Swindell was passed by Caleb Helms at one point, but the pass was negated by a caution flag. Swindell owned the race from there and showed that he still has plenty of speed at 61 years old and is worth the price of admission.
Dietrich’s part-time gig…
It’s improving. Danny Dietrich’s decision to run part-time in the Tom Buch No. 13 appeared average at best early on, but this team is looking pretty good of late. The Gettysburg driver had a couple of top-five finishes during All Star Speed Week, posted a top-10 in the Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway and added a feature win against the All Stars Sunday night at Lebanon Valley Speedway. Dietrich loves to prove people wrong, and now he is a threat to win with two teams.
I believe Ryan Smith is one of the more underrated drivers in the country, and lately, he’s proved why that moniker suits. Smith blew by Kyle Larson for the lead during the Pennsylvania Speed Week show at Grandview before clipping the wall. He followed it up with a passing display in the Mark Coldren-owned entry, charging from 24th to fifth in the Kings Royal at Eldora Speedway. So, is it any surprise that he won his first All Star race of the season Friday at Outlaw Speedway? Nope. I would like to see this guy get a shot with more backing at the next level.
Another crown jewel.
The World of Outlaws will tackle tough Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 Friday and Saturday as part of the Ironman 55 weekend. The finale pays a hefty $20,000 to the winner of the event. This is one of the more difficult races on the circuit, not only because of the race distance of 55 laps, but also because the track is so demanding with its high banks and speed wrapped into a one-third mile oval. Rico Abreu is the defending champ, but I like Kerry Madsen or Donny Schatz to take Saturday’s win.
Back to Knoxville.
There is no bigger Sprint Car event in the world than the Knoxville Nationals. The best in the sport converge on central Iowa in search of $150,000 and Sprint Car immortality. But as big as the Nationals is, the 360 Nationals might be the best lead in. You have the best 360 drivers in the country and a smattering of 410 guys competing over three days for a $15,000 first-place check and bragging rights for the next year. I can’t wait.