Great Lakes Edition: I-96 Goes Full Throttle with Three Divisions of Sprint Cars

Phil Gressman (#7C) and Danny Sams III (#24D). (Jim Denhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(June 2, 2022) — The revival of the Full Throttle Nationals takes center stage in the Great Lakes State Friday and Saturday at I-96 Speedway. The first two editions were winged 360 sprint car events that put on two of the wildest features ever seen at the Lake Odessa, Michigan oval with Bryan Howland traveling over from New York to win the inaugural edition and Gregg Dalman scored the second edition by topping Chuck Hebing.

The third edition will be a sprint car smorgasbord with the FAST 410 Sprint Cars, Great Lakes Super Sprints, and the Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series co-sanctioning with the Great Lakes Traditional Sprints with no other support divisions on the card.

The FAST series will travel north to Michigan with 10-12 teams expected to head north to take on some of the local contingent. The Great Lakes Super Sprint portion of the Full Throttle Nationals should be compelling. With the National Racing Alliance idle expect to see a handful of Ohio teams making the trip north to I-96. The Buckeye Outlaw Sprint Series has brought strong fields in the past to I-96 Speedway and this weekend should continue that trend.

Dustin Daggett will attempt triple duty this weekend at I-96 Speedway competing in all three sprint car divisions. As of now Daggett is the only driver making their intentions known to compete in all three divisions this weekend at I-96. Daggett has winged and non-winged victories to his credit on the new 3/8-mile configuration at I-96.

Look for several of the top local teams to pull double duty this weekend. Max Stambaugh, Danny Sams III and Tylar Rankin have indicated they will take on double duty this weekend in the 410- and 360-winged sprint car divisions. Jay Steinebach, Ricky Peterson, Keith Sheffer II, and Zane Devault were still considering the option or unconfirmed possibilities for double duty as of Wednesday night. Sams is the most recent GLSS feature winner last Saturday at Crystal Motor Speedway and the GLSS point leader. Sheffer just missed out on a top-10 finish with a 41-car field on hand Sunday during BC’s Indiana Double at Kokomo Speedway.

One double duty driver Michigan fans will be seeing for the first time this season is Nate Dussel. Dussel, who has primarily raced at Attica Raceway Park and Fremont Speedway during his career, has decided to hit the road this season with the FAST sprint car series. Dussel also has a 360 engine at his disposal this season and will be making sporadic starts with it in 2022 including this weekend at I-96. Dussel is the most recent winner with the FAST series last Saturday at Fremont Speedway.

Dussel currently leads Lee Jacobs in the FAST standings by 36 points. Jacobs is expected to make the trip north along with up-and-coming Ohio driver Zeth Sabo from Fremont, Ohio who has shown speed early on this season driving for Rich Farmer.

Ryan Ruhl did double duty earlier this year at I-96 Speedway with Mackey Racing, but for Full Throttle Nationals Ruhl will only be racing in the 410-division due to the team still working out issues with his 360 cubic inch engine.

Darin Naida will make his third appearance in a full-size sprint car in his home state of Michigan. Naida has been competing at Attica Raceway Park and Fremont Speedway, earning a pole position starting position before dropping back to 14th during the FAST program Saturday at Fremont.

For the non-wing sprint cars, one might think the most logical driver to take on BOSS to defend home turf is multiple time Great Lakes Traditional Sprints champion Steve Irwin. Irwin is not the most recent winner from the Great Lakes State coming into this weekend at I-96 as Brian Ruhlman from Clark Lake, Michigan picked up his first career BOSS victory Saturday at Fremont Speedway. Ruhlman has shown steady improvement in the non-wing sprint car and looks to carry that momentum into the Full Throttle Nationals.

The GLTS teams will be taking on a stout contingent from BOSS including veteran drivers Matt Westfall, Dustin Ingle, Luke Hall, and Lee Underwood mixed with up-and-coming stars of the series like Sabin Bibent, Blake Vermillion, and Cody White.

Other notes….

  • Taylor Ferns picked up her career best finish in the USAC Silver Crown Series Friday at O’Reilly Indianapolis Raceway Park with a third-place finish. The result bested Fern’s own record of being the highest finishing female in the series during a main event. Ferns also was part of the Women in Motorsports North America event Tuesday at the at the Automotive Hall of Fame in Dearborn, Michigan. Ferns returns to action next weekend at Berlin Raceway when the 500 Sprint Car Series visits Marne, Michigan.
  • Jason Blonde set himself up to possibly be the only driver in the state this year to win a winged sprint car race on dirt and pavement. Blonde picked up his first win of the year Saturday with the Must See Racing series at Kalamazoo Speedway. Blonde also has a steady ride at Butler Motor Speedway and will look add a victory on the dirt on Saturday.
  • Last Saturday showed continued progress in the Michigan Sprint Car scene as both GLSS and Butler Motor Speedway had full fields of cars last Saturday watching head-to-head. Butler continues to make little improvements around the facility and I’m continuing to receive positive feedback from race teams. One team was stunned to see three officials come to their car after race asking questions about their night, asking where they could improve, and thanked them for coming.
  • One driver that fans might expect to see on hand with the ASCS National Tour idle is Dylan Westbrook. This will not be the case though as Westbrook’s team will be breaking in a new Fisher 410 engine with the All Star Circuit of Champions Saturday at Atomic Speedway.