By T.J. Buffenbarger
(May 13, 2021) — After a high paying two division sprint car program last week I-96 Speedway brings another major event to the area with the Floracing All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 visiting the 3/8-mile facility on Friday.
The event honors Mace Thomas with an $8,500 to win first prize, which is the largest for any sprint car race in the state of Michigan this season. Thomas was a Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame car owner that was best known for being a car owner for Gordon Johncock during his supermodified days. Johncock won the Williams Grove National Open driving one of Thomas’ cars.
The All Stars will feature a different look than their last visit in 2019. Ian Madsen holds a 10-point lead over Justin Peck and Tyler Courtney in the 2021 championship standings. Of the trio only Peck was on hand during that 2019 event, scoring a third-place finish for the Sam McGhee Motorsports team that now fields a car for Madsen.
Peck has been one of the most talked about drivers during the 2021 season with a pair of victories in Central Pennsylvania and two All Star victories at Attica Raceway Park and Sharon Speedway.
Madsen has been fast all season, steadily improving to take the point lead from Peck. While Madsen remains winless in All Star competition, his consistency with four top-five finishes and six top 10 finishes leads the series.
Courtney last visited I-96 Speedway in its half mile configuration with the United States Auto Club in 2013.
I-96 fans will also get to see Zeb Wise for the first time beneath wings with I-96 being one of the closest events to his listed hometown of Angola, Indiana. Wise is currently fourth in the All Star point standings.
The local contingent will be led once again by Ryan Ruhl and Dustin Daggett. Both will look to rebound from lackluster performances during the American Sprint Car Series National Tour events last weekend at I-96. Last week’s top local finisher in the ASCS event, Zane Devault, will not be present. Instead, Devault will shed wings Friday at Gas City I-69 Speedway for car owner Loren Dalrymple.
In addition to the drivers mentioned above, Michigan fans will get their first chance to see Rico Abreu compete in the Great Lakes state as he announced his intentions on following the All Stars this weekend at I-96.
Friday is a gutsy move by I-96 promoter Jeff Dice bringing in two big shows on back-to-back weeks. In addition, it is only a three-division program, which is rare in the Great Lakes state.
If you factor in the drivers mentioned above along with Hunter Schuerenberg, Bill Balog, Cap Henry, Cory Eliason, and other travelers and this could be one of the most entertaining visits for the All Stars at I-96 in recent memory.
- I-96 Speedway’s ASCS/GlSS/GLTS/BOSS program got off a rough start on Friday when most of the teams and event BOSS series organizer found out about the program being cancelled on social media. That news would have been easier to swallow had rain been pouring down at the time, but with cool temps and the sun shining there were multiple teams frustrated about the last cancellation. Based on the cool temperatures when visiting one of my locations for my day job mid-afternoon not far from I-96 I felt their frustration was warranted.
Saturday brought a new day and a much better scenario as the sprint car double header delivered. I-96 officials prepared a great track for both divisions. While the ASCS race didn’t see an abundance of passing, the racing was very good. The BOSS feature stole the show though with multiple drivers coming through the pack. It was a nice rebound for everyone involved after a difficult start to the weekend.
- While Devault narrowly missed a top five finish for the local GLSS contingent the biggest surprise of the weekend were the local drivers we expected to see up front being non-factors in the ASCS National Tour main event. Daggett backed up from a promising front row starting position to be lapped, Ryan Ruhl was a non-factor, and Jared Horstman was also not near the front of the field before flipping off the track wildly in turns one and two.
- Butler Motor Speedway continued their upward trajectory trying to improve its image in the sprint car community. With an increased weekly payout for the next several weeks drawing a higher-than-normal car count, the sprint car feature was done at a reasonable hour. Hopefully, that is a trend that continues throughout the season.