By T.J. Buffenbarger
(June 6, 2022) — Nate Dussel left Michigan early Sunday morning as the supreme conqueror of the Full Throttle Nationals at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan. Dussel, from Bradner, Ohio left the mitten state with three victories and a second-place finish in feature competition with the FAST on Dirt 410 sprint Cars and Great Lakes Super Sprints 360 Sprint Cars.
While Dussel made his sweep of both the 360 and 410 sprint car features on Saturday look easy, it was far from that with a multitude of challenges Dussel and his team had to overcome in route to winning both main events.
The unusual circumstances started during the dash with the 410 sprint car when Dussel noticed his car started to sputter towards the end of the event.
“We started sixth, was up to third right away got into second with maybe three to go and the motor started sputtering like, we’ve run out of fuel, and just kind of limped it home. And I just thought, you know, how crazy everything has been with two cars, maybe we just didn’t put enough fuel in the car. And we got in here and there was plenty of fuel in the car.”
Dussel and team went to work changing out the fuel cell and going through the fuel system looking for issues. Once they pushed off after their repairs, the car ended up running proper. That dash ended up saving what typically would have been a problem during the feature event.
“We’re still not sure, but something had to have gone wrong with the other fuel cell. I don’t know if something plugged up a line or what but I mean, it was all about luck. Typically, there’s no dash. If we didn’t have that dash, we would have not finished probably the feature.”
Dussel had a torrid race with Lee Jacobs and Dustin Daggett in the FAST 410 Sprint Car main event before pulling away in the later stages.
“I could see Lee was kind of running the middle, and I could really turn around that last tractor tire on both ends and really get some drive on the straightaway to build up a nice run on him” said Dussel. “We had a good battle there with Daggett, and Lee there for a while.
To top off the good fortune, Dussel’s left rear tire went flat when he pulled into victory lane following the FAST feature.
In the 360 main event Dussel had his work cut out for him starting 13th. Dussel decided on a strategy of patience to work him way up through the field.
“Just being super patient on the bottom,” is how Dussel described his strategy early in the event. If you miss your line on the bottom, you lose a ton of ground and you can’t really build it back up. I just wanted to make sure I didn’t blow the wheels off in the, you know, a lane off the bottom, just kind of roll the tractor tires, try to get to maybe fourth or fifth, you know, halfway through the race and then go to work on whatever everyone was doing ahead of me. But I could kind of run in a lot lower than everyone else they would enter you know, a lane or two up and try to dive down but I can kind of sneak in ahead of them.”
That strategy was going perfectly until some fatigue started to set in from running four full sprint car events in two days.
“I think the first caution came out with about five or six laps in and my hand was cramped up my right leg was all cramped up like ‘Man, this is going be a long race.” said Dussel about what happened to him during the 360 race. “I started running the throttle with my hand under caution just trying and stretch my leg out but being six foot two and a sprint car hard to stretch out. My hand was hurting bad, and I’m a left hand dominant, so it was it was getting difficult to hold the wheel and be smooth. But you know, there’s a lot on the line and I was just going to tough it out.”
Dussel did tough it out and had a sizeable lead built up in the feature until entering lapped traffic where Max Stambaugh started to chase him down. With two laps to go Stambaugh was able to get a look under Dussel for the lead.
“Max got really close to the lapped car and myself kind of skated out and gave him that lane,” said Dussel about seeing Stambaugh on the bottom while he was trying to navigate slower cars. “Then I just had to get back down there and force him to pass me on the top.”
That strategy paid off to wrap up what Dussel called the biggest weekend of his sprint car career.
It’s number one weekend,” Dussel exclaimed when asked where the weekend performance ranked in his career. “I just like I need to pinch myself. I’m happy with where our teams are. I can’t believe we came up here and we were damn close to winning all four features.”
The Full Throttle Nationals ended up being a culmination of that decision along with making some new fans in Michigan over the weekend.
“I haven’t raced in Michigan but one time before this weekend, so it’s pretty cool to get on the map up here and gain some new fans. “There are so many people that bought T shirts and hats this weekend and took time to come down and talk to me. I really appreciate that that’s because something I enjoy with racing is building the relationship with fans and trying to win them over.”
• 88 cars with 75 drivers took part in the 2022 edition of the Full Throttle Nationals at I-96 Speedway. Daggett was the only triple duty driver. Jay Steinebach, Mike Astrauskas, Keith Sheffer III, and Shawn Valenti did double duty between winged 360 and non-wing sprint car. Tylar Rankin, Ricky Peterson, Max Stambaugh, Nate Dussel, Danny Sams III, Zac Broughman (Friday only), Zane Devault (Friday only) did their double with the winged 360 and 410 classes. Tylar Rankin, Ricky Peterson, Max Stambaugh, Dussel, Danny Sams III, Zac Broughman (Friday), Zane Devault (Friday) did double 360 and 410 duty.
• Dustin Daggett was the busiest driver all weekend as the only competitor pulling triple duty both nights of the Full Throttle Nationals, drawing raucous applause from the crowd every time he hit the racetrack.
On Friday Daggett was racing for lead in the FAST 410 Sprint Car feature when contact with Zeth Sabo sent him sliding into the infield. Daggett came to rest far enough off track to not draw a caution flag. Daggett also put in a third-place finish in the 360-sprint car feature and a 7th place in the non-wing sprint car.
Saturday Daggett rebounded in the FAST program in the hunt for the victory leading one lap before ending up with a third-place finish. Daggett also had a fifth place run in the GLSS feature but dropped back in the non-wing main event to a 15th place finish.
• J.J. Hughes was someone I did not expect to make the trip north for Full Throttle Nationals weekend even though he has visited I-96 in the past for the “Roll the Dice” event in the fall. The Hughes family-owned team debated over the winter running the Full Throttle Nationals, but was going to opt for the program at North Vernon, Indiana on Friday until that was cancelled on Thursday due to rain. The North Vernon rainout resulted in Hughes calling his to put plans in motion to make the six hour road trip up to I-96 Speedway for two nights of racing.
Hughes missed the setup on the car Friday grinding out an 11th place finish. Hughes ended up on the hook early in the main event on Saturday before one lap could be completed.
• Some of the young talent whose families have deep roots in sprint car racing were on display over the weekend at I-96. Reece Saldana, whose Father Joey won his first career World of Outlaws feature at I-96 Speedway in 1995, joined Michigan’s own Darin Naida, son of former SOD champion Dain Naida, for the FAST on Dirt program for both nights of racing. Corbin Gurley, son of former sprint car driver Chris Gurley was also taking part in the FAST program. Saturday they were joined by Creed Kemenah, son of former All Star Circuit of Champions champion Chad Kemenah, competed with the Great Lakes Super Sprints.
Saldana and Naida, who raced each other frequently in micro sprints, ended up running 11th and 12th respectively on Friday night while Saturday Saldana picked up a 10th place finish while Naida ended up on the wrecker finishing 16th. Gurley had the strongest performance of the young trio in the 410 division with 9th and 7th place finishes on Friday and Saturday. Kemenah picked up a seventh-place finish on Saturday with GLSS.
• Mike Keegan also made his first I-96 Speedway appearance with his father Mark Keegan assisting. Mike had better luck than his father as Mark’s only trip to I-96 (that we have record of) was for an All Star program that eventually was rained out. Mike turned out a solid sixth place performance in the feature event on Saturday.
• Kesley Ivy made the trip north for both nights of the Full Throttle Nationals with a 305 cubic inch engine. Ivy’s crew indicated they tried to rent a 360 engine for the I-96 weekend but could not find anyone to do so. Ivy was joined by her father John Ivy on Saturday who competed in the FAST portion of the program.
After missing the feature by one position in the B-Main on Friday Kelsey rallied for a 14th place finish on Saturday’s feature event. John finished 14th in the FAST portion of the program.
• Hastings, Michigan driver Andy Teunessen’s return to sprint car racing continues to progress after being on the sidelines for several seasons. Saturday the driver affectionally known as “Tuna” ending up seventh fastest in qualifying, second place in his heat race, and started on the outside of the front row of the feature event, eventually dropping to 15th.
Teunessen mentioned that when he was getting frustrated earlier in the season one of his fellow competitors mentioned that he is technically a “re-rookie” due to his time off, noting the 360 division in Michigan has become tougher than when he exited the cockpit with larger fields of cars GLSS is drawing with a deep talent pool.
• Friday night Brad Greenup was involved in a flip in turns three and four that saw Greenup’s car get very high in the air before landing hard off the racing surface. Greenup was transported to a Grand Rapids area hospital and released on Sunday with undisclosed injuries.
• Road racer, driver coach, now sprint car driver Sean Rayhall made the trip north for the Full Throttle Nationals weekend. Rayhall was getting a lot of fan attention after his interview following a crash Monday at Lawrenceburg Speedway during a World of Outlaws event went viral. Rayhall ended up having an eventful program Friday when he made contact with the front stretch wall and ended up hung in the catch fence. Surprisingly the car was repairable as several teams jumped in to assist. Rayhall rallied for a 15th place feature finish on Friday and 8th place finish on Saturday.