T.J.’s Takeaways from the World of Outlaws at Hartford

The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series races in front of a full house at Hartford Motor Speedway. (T.J. Buffenbarger photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

  • One thing that never ceases to amaze me is how the World of Outlaws drivers manage to put on great races on tracks and surfaces that logically should not produce good racing (more on this later). During different points of the night I never imaged we would witness a feature that had multiple lead changes including a pass during a late race restart for the victory. Friday was also a reminder of how cut throat the Outlaws can be at times. When Brent Marks missed the bottom by half a lane just for a split second in his heat race he was freight trained by practically the entire field. On the other side of the coin seeing multiple crews flock to Brad Sweet’s car in the work area showed how the teams often work well together. The on-track product with the World of Outlaws is excellent right now.
  • It’s impressive David Gravel and the Jason Johnson Racing are clicking during their first year as a combination on the World of Outlaws tour. While waiting to interview Gravel after the race I was able to watch Gravel and crew chief Phillip Dietz break down the feature and the car’s performance. Even with their current performance based on the conversation in that post-race debrief, I think Gravel and JJR have more speed that is obtainable. Last year I spoke to how difficult of a situation it was for Carson Macedo to step into that car at Knoxville following Johnson’s passing and how much class he handled the situation; Gravel has taken the reins with that and has handled the situation admirably.
  • Speaking of Macedo, I wouldn’t sleep on Kyle Larson Racing during the upcoming month of money. Macedo and KLR tested earlier this week in Michigan and hit on something with the car in certain track conditions the team felt they were struggling with. Macedo looked in the preliminaries and early stages of the main event. With two wins already this season if Macedo and KLR can build upon their findings during that test they could be in line to be in the conversation over the next month of big races.
  • Hartford also feature drama with the point race for the 2019 World of Outlaws title. When an opening lap crash swept up Brad Sweet’s car in the carnage no less than members of four different crews jumped in to get Sweet back on track. Sweet responded rallying to an amazing sixth place finish from the tail of the field. This could end up being a moment we look back on at the end of the season as Sweet and Schatz are in a tight race for the World of Outlaws championship.
  • I’m still on the fence about Hartford since the track was reshaped into a 3/8-mile distance three years ago. While I favored the intentions the actual race track itself doesn’t seem as good as the 1/2-mile layout. If you look at tracks that were dramatically reshaped or shortened like I-96, Kokomo, and Tri-City they produce awesome racing with modern race cars. I’m not sure if its the unusual shape of turns three and four, the width, the crown in the middle of the track, or the surface being tired (likely). With awesome facilities and great people that own the track I really want to see the actual track match the rest of the amenities. With that in mind after a lot of water that was put down before the feature the World of Outlaws mainw as the best race I had seen on the 3/8-mile layout. Hopefully it can continued to be tweaked, surface refreshed, or just have more prep to it during the week to keep delays to a minmum so the actual race track matches the rest of the fine facility.