T.J.’s Takeaways from the 2022 GLSS Opener at Crystal Motor Speedway

Chase Dunham (#66) and Dylan Westbrook (#47X) racing for the lead Saturday at Crystal Motor Speedway. (Jim Denhamer photo)

After a wild night on an unseasonably warm April evening the Great Lakes Super Sprint season is underway for 2022. Here are a trio of takeaways from the opener.

• Saturday night I could have stayed home. My car had a mechanical issue (thankfully discovered before I departed for Crystal), there were plenty of entertaining races I could have watched from my living room and wrote about, but I had strong enough desire to make a very late departure for Crystal Motor Speedway to catch the B and A-Mains on Saturday for the GLSS Sprint Cars.

At this point in racing, I’ve been to enough events that I won’t go for the sake of going. If I’m going to a race, there must be some juice in the squeeze, meaning it must be an event our website users want to read about it and/or I want to enjoy covering it. This season it appears the Great Lakes Super Sprints will provide both of those things.

GLSS is on a big upswing. Saturday’s main event featured what I would consider 10 legitimate teams that could contend for the feature victory. The talent and equipment should go 6-8 deep most nights this season with GLSS. I don’t foresee a single team running off and winning all the races this year based on the quality of equipment and talent in the group.

The pit area had a very positive vibe on Saturday at Crystal. Part of it could have been the 80-degree weather during an opener at Crystal, which typically has weather suited for ice fishing gear, some due to the announcement of NRA and GLSS joining for 2022 that most of the pit area views as a positive move, but a lot of it has to do with the momentum and direction of the series.

GLSS seems to be coming into its own, even behind the scenes with things feeling much more organized this season. All the things above made a late-night run down M57 towards Crystal, Michigan worth it without thinking twice about doing it. Barry Marlow’s infectious enthusiasm seems to be trickling down to the teams and optimism seems to be at an all time high.

• Dylan Westbrook has something in common with his car owner Miles Hill. Both I feel don’t get as much attention as they deserve based on their success.

Westbrook is quickly developing into one of the top rising stars in our sport. There are some younger prospects getting a lot more attention, but Westbrook’s name should be mentioned with them.

This weekend I witnessed Westbrook go to a pair of tracks he had never competed at before, winning features at both. It wasn’t just the fact that Westbrook won feature, but how he went about them.

Friday while being stalked by Nate Dussel, a more then capable shoe with a lot of laps around Attica Raceway Park, for the lead Westbrook remained kept his cool and picked up his pace when needed late in the feature event, turning his fastest lap of the feature at the end of the event.

Saturday Westbrook was pacing himself through traffic. Late in the main he was boxed in with lapped cars, allowing second place Chase Dunham to get a look under him. Westbrook sensed this before Dunham showed him a nose, picked up his pace, and cleared the lapped cars to secure the victory.

Westbrook’s steady improvement over the past three seasons has been impressive. If Westbrook had a California address rather than Canada, he might be getting more attention.

Westbrook’s car owner Miles Hill also doesn’t get quite the publicity of other prominent car owners in the sport. When discussing Hill’s racing endeavors with another person respect within the racing industry, Hill does a lot of things many of us say we would want out of a car owner. At one point keeping three topflight sprint cars teams on the road along with supporting a variety of efforts in Canada and the United States with other drivers, the success of Hill’s Racing Team mirrors the steady climb Westbrook has made.

If Westbrook continues his steady rise, the next step I would enjoy seeing his current team combination step up to the All Star Circuit of Champions within the next couple of years.

• There have been a lot of changes leading into the 2022 season on the local Michigan sprint car scene. Part of this is a good thing due to the large influx of car owners that have entered the sport in recent years. Two of these changes in particular stand out as good storylines going into 2022.

Ken Mackey was quick to put Ryan Ruhl in his car after Ruhl and Smith Motorsports parted ways at the end of the 2021 season. Some of Ruhl’s best seasons were with Terry Stewart turning wrenches on his family-owned car. Now Ruhl will have someone turning wrenches on the Mackey entry who has been in the driver seat before in multiple time sprint car champion Ken Mackey. The Ruhl/Mackey combination showed speed the first night even though they missed the setup in the heat race when the track was heavier. Ruhl followed that with a solid top five effort in their first start.

The other is Tylar Rankin with Greg Wheeler Motorsports. The Wheeler opportunity is something Rankin has earned, showing speed in the Hart family entry the past several seasons. This is a huge opportunity for Rankin to showcase his skills with a team with more resources than his family-owned effort. While a crash shortened their feature Saturday, the team seemed to have some speed Friday at Attica Raceway Park and Crystal on Saturday. If they can hit on some things seeing Rankin win in the Wheeler car could be one of the feel-good stories of the 2022 season.