By T.J. Buffenbarger
(July 14, 2021) – After a wild night of racing and almost two years away from Eldora Speedway, here are a few of my takeaways from the Jokers Wild event that opened the 2021 Kings Royal weekend at Eldora Speedway.
• When 57 cars check in for a major World of Outlaws event you are likely seeing a collection of some of the best sprint car drivers on the planet. This was evident on Wednesday night when Eldora Speedway’s racing surface threw everyone a curve ball producing a heavy, “chunky” cushion to navigate.
With several cars sustaining wing and body damage throughout the feature, the drives were hammer down with relatively minor incidents the entire evening.
Before the start of the feature, I mentioned to someone I thought we were in store for more a start/go feature with a fuel stop due to the thick, chunky cushion in turns one and two. I was wrong and happy to be. The feature was decent with everyone remaining upright the entire evening.
I do not expect to see those track conditions the rest of the weekend. Eldora Speedway’s track crew was already running the sheepsfoot over it when I packed up, leaving some of the deepest divots I’ve seen in a while in the surface. On a nice day with high humidity combined with some of the recent rains were likely culprits. I would expect to see a more traditional Eldora racing surface the remainder of the weekend, weather permitting.
• Continuing with the theme of me being wrong about something, when the World of Outlaws announced their new format for large car counts that would maintain the four-heat race format by using two non-qualifiers races I not enamored with the news. I joked with one official that the Outlaws should dye their hair gray and start wearing red, white, and blue uniforms.
After seeing the format in person, I found it very enjoyable. If non-qualifiers races give me 12 car heat races at places like Eldora Speedway I’ll take this format anytime. The third and fourth heat races were arguably the best races of the night.
I still see a lot of grumbling about the Outlaw format and lack of inversions. If you look at the depth and quality of the field any kind of inversion would not have promoted more passing. With modern winged sprint cars the format seems to work with every pass on track being meaningful.
• Going into the Kings Royal weekend I felt there were at least seven World of Outlaws teams that were contenders to win one or two of the crowns this weekend and at least two or three non-Outlaw teams that could go home with a $175,000 payday as well. Even with Carson Macedo and Jason Johnson Racing’s dominant performance on Wednesday I feel the Royal is still wide open.
The flow of the season with team rising up to be strong one weekend only to be thwarted by another good team the following weekend is likely to continue this weekend. It wouldn’t surprise me if we see a completely different set of cars up front on Thursday due to the competitive nature of the 410 sprint car division this season and the unique Kings Royal format. Hopefully, this take holds and ends the trend of me being wrong.
• Wednesday was my first trip to Eldora Speedway since the 4-Crown Nationals in 2019 and only the second race I have attended in person since Super Dirt Week that same year thanks to COVID and a desire to work extremely hard and better my position in my day job.
I have never felt better walking into Eldora than I did on Thursday. I purposely walked over to seats in turn four to just look over the grounds.
Being away for that long and jumping right up on the infield fence at Eldora for unmuffled 410 sprint cars was eye opening even for someone that has been doing this for the past three decades.
It felt amazing. Now that I’ve knocked the rust off pounding out stories, photos, and takeaways for Thursday its time to see some of the best sprint car drivers in the world race for a $175,000 top prize on Thursday.