By T.J. Buffenbarger
After a lot of buildup and speculation from who might show up to what the weather would be like the first Sprint Car World Championship at Mansfield Motor Speedway went off with Tim Shaffer taking home the $100,000 prize. Even with rain being thrown into the mix before Friday’s preliminary night the event largely went off without a hitch.
Since I was on call Bob Buffenbarger took on most of the website duties for Mansfield. Since neither of us had been there since 1988 for an Ohio Speedweek Show I was interested in his perspective. The facility itself made the biggest impression. From the grandstands, midway area, pit area, and all facilities surrounding it Mansfield is one of the nicest Bob had ever encountered. The amenities at Mansfield were top notch.
Winner Tim Shaffer drove as well as you could ask for the entire weekend. From winning his preliminary feature, driving to the bottom ahead of a charing Aaron Reutzel knowing he was going there with two laps to go, to not panicking when Reutzel got by to put himself in position to cross over and retake the lead before the finish line was one of the better driving performances I’ve seen from start to finish in recent memory.
Both of us agreed the racing lived up to the hype of a $100,000 to win event. From some of the late surprises in the preliminary features to Saturday’s final three laps that have the sprint car world buzzing it appears Cody Sommer and his crews hit a home run with the April event.
With the first edition of the Sprint Car World Championship in the books where does the event fit into the sprint car landscape? Personally I think its location on the calendar is ideal. While the weather is unpredictable the late April date is early enough to draw cars from a large geographical area before they get tied into racing for points with various series and tracks. Other than Pennsylvania and Ohio there are a lot of tracks and series that are either just starting or not open yet at that time of year.
While the weather was extremely cold on Saturday night looking back on past years on the same date I was often outside in shorts and a t-shirt. If the Sprint Car World Championship were to move I would push for a fall date, but I really think the capturing everyone’s imagination early in the year has something to it.
Leading into the race a lot was made of the lack of involvement of the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series with the event. I believe the event drew a larger car count because of the Outlaws not being involved. Had that been a World of Outlaws show I think the car count would have ended up around 40-50 cars. Having the event in the sprint car hotbed of Ohio just close enough to make it accessible to Central Pennsylvania is the perfect location for a major sprint car race to be held without a sanctioning body.
While I’m still not in favor of Mansfield’s show in August the same weekend as the Knoxville Nationals, feeling it undermines a lot of work the sprint car community has done in support of the Nationals and other special events. Hopefully Sommer can continue to work with the April date and eventually the rest of the sprint car world can help embrace it as the first high paying sprint car race of the season.
Other impressions from the weekend….
The difference between success and failure can be so small at major sprint car races. When Lance Dewease ended up backwards in turn two it proved to be the difference between making the dash for the Sprint Car World Championship to relegating to winning the non-qualifiers feature. Dewease missing Saturday’s main may have been the biggest surprise of the weekend. Of all the teams that attended the Sprint Car World Championship the Dewease/Kreitz combination coming out created the most buzz among readers.
Another moment of heartbreak on Saturday was Carson Macedo’s flat tire after bouncing off the front straightaway fence while running in the top five. After winning one of the two preliminary features on Friday night Macedo looked destined for at least a podium finish on Saturday. Macedo and JG Motorsports have shown a lot of speed early in the season, but have had a few little things keeping them from victory lane. If a couple of things fall their way I could see this team racking up some wins this summer.
Reutzel second place on Saturday continues to cement his position as someone to watch coming up the 410 sprint car ranks. After honing his skills with ASCS and dabbling in 410 racing Reutzel is hitting his stride in the 410 division this season. With a World of Outlaws win under his belt Reutzel is one drive I’m looking forward to closing monitoring his progress to see where his career might lead.
Other notes from around the sprint car world
- Kasey Kahne looked sporty most of the weekend at Devil’s Bowl Speedway with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car series. A solid finish on Friday along with positioning himself on the front row for Saturday before fading was one of the more impressionable outings Kahne has had with the Outlaws recently.
- Zane Devault had a solid weekend running second at the K&L Ready Mix National Racing Alliance event Friday at Limaland Motorsports Park before winning Saturday’s Engine Pro Sprints on Dirt presented by ARP event Saturday at Crystal Motor Speedway. Devault will be the subject of an interview on the site later this week
- Sunday’s Silver Crown affair at the Terre Haute Action Track saw second and third place Kody Swanson and Tyler Courtney come from the tail to a podium finish after separate incidents during the 100 lap event. Swanson just came up short of catching winner Justin Grant. With 25 cars showing up for a half mile dirt silver crown race that was highly competitive makes me excited for the remainder of the season.
- As part of the USAC programs this year Richie Murray, Pat Sullivan, and various others will host a pre-race show at many of the National events this season. While the location has not been determined yet look for a pre-race show to take place at the USAC National Sprint Car event at Plymouth Speedway on Saturday