T.J.’s Notebook: Does Thunder Through the Plains Continue Post Pandemic?

Four Abreast Salute to the Fans (Serena Dalhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(June 8, 2020) — The COVID-19 pandemic has been the biggest challenge I have seen the entire motorsports industry forced to take on in my lifetime. Since series and tracks have slowly returned to action one unintended benefit has been some tremendous races taking place every week.

As states have started to loosen restrictions several of the bigger sprint car touring series immediately sought out places for their teams to compete. In the process the All Star Circuit of Champions rediscovered part of their past booking shows in Oklahoma, Kansas, and even venturing into Texas reviving the “Thunder Through the Plains” tour.

Originally Thunder Through the Plains featured cooperation between the All Stars and the then 410 National Championship Racing Association, often taking place the week after the Knoxville Nationals. The mini-series had a good following for several years, but the changing tides of the sport saw the NCRA 410 sprint cars vanish along with all of the 410 sprint cars in the Southwest, and the eventually the tour became a thing of the past.

By all accounts of people on hand at the races the crowds have been strong and the competition has been great when it hasn’t rained (as of this writing Sunday evening two of the races were rained out and rescheduled for later in the week). Friday’s feature at Red Dirt Raceway was described from several veteran onlookers as one of the best, if not the best sprint car race they have ever seen.

As this edition of Thunder Through the Plains winds down the question becomes does this mini-series have a future outside of the pandemic? It is difficult to gauge if such a tour would work with everything running normally in June. With so much outside competition car and fan counts may not be as good as they are on this edition, but if the timing was right I believe the fans of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Texas have proved there is demand for the All Star product.

Personally, I hope Thunder Through the Plains finds a regular spot in the All Stars schedule rotation. Even the tour took place every other year I feel sprint car fans in this region have voted by attending these races in strong numbers.


  • Cody Brewer and his family were in the spotlight in the best way possible after Friday’s spectacular main event at Red Dirt Raceway in Meeker, Oklahoma. Even stifling heat could not keep Red Dirt Raceway from producing multiple lanes of racing and one of the best features I have ever seen. It was not that long ago that people wondered what the future might hold for the then named Brill Motor Speedway. The Brewer family has slowly built up their facility, and hopefully Friday was the payoff for all their hard work.
  • After not having a sprint car pushed off for competition in # of months I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa will host the Great Lakes Super Sprints Friday night. Should be an interesting field of cars with no other 360 sprint car events scheduled in the area at this time. Look for more material in the Great Lakes edition on the effort to have the first sprint car race in the Mitten since the pandemic.
  • Attica Raceway Park was already going above and beyond racing Friday with no fans in the grandstands and with only a DIRTvision pay per view audience. They were rewarded with a rain shower that pushed the show into the wee hours of Saturday morning, proving that no good deed ever goes unpunished.
  • What was the most interesting thing I read on the internet this week? People happy to find news of racing being rained out rather than cancelled by COVID-19.
  • I had to fact check that the Jonathan Vennard I saw in action Saturday at 34 Raceway with the United States Auto Club was the same Vennard that used to compete with the series in the early 2000’s. A quick search confirmed it was Vennards first start sprint car start I had record of since 2011.
  • We are trying our best to keep the Allstar Performance Open Wheel Calendar up to date. Please be patient this week though as several tracks return to action this week We are continuing to audit the schedule to keep up with these changes, making each week the same level of busy as when schedules are typically released at the PRI show in December.