T.J.’s Notebook: Sprint Car Majors Continue with the Smack Down this week at Kokomo

Kevin Thomas Jr. (#15K) and Dave Darland (#36D). (Jim Denhamer photo)

By T.J. Buffenbarger

(August 23, 2022) — The focus of the sprint car world has revolved around winged sprint car racing most of August, but this week non-wing sprint car racing takes center stage for the Kokomo Sprint Car Smackdown Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at Kokomo Speedway.

Time has flown since the inceptions of the Smack Down 11 years ago. The three night affair that features racing, Karaoke after the races for charity on Thursday, band on Friday, and a charity auction and kick ball game Saturday has morphed over time from a big race into a true event. Not to mention the event takes place on one of the best racetracks on the planet with the potential of producing jaw dropping action on every single lap.

Justin Grant enters the Smack Down with a sizeable lead in the USAC Point Standings. Grant’s average qualifying position is third, has an average finish of 4.24, and has the best average finish per track size on all track distances this season according to dirttrackr.com. Grant also leads the series in +/- positions at a +64 spots gained during competition this season to go with his series leading 24 top five finishes this season. Grant also has been the most consistent over the last five races leading into the Kokomo event with an average finish of 2.80.

Brady Bacon has the same number feature wins (4) and top five finishes (18) as Grant coming into the weekend. Bacon is coming off doing a significant number of winged sprint car races during Southern Iowa Speedweek and the High Limit Series opener at Lincoln Park Speedway.

Robert Ballou is the leading feature winner this season with the USAC National Sprint Car Series with five victories and is the most recent winner with the series coming into the Smack Down. This week Ballou and Bacon both released t-shirts taking jabs about each other in referenced to contact made on the opening night of Indiana Sprint Week where Ballou was referred to as the “Balloudozer”. I am all for some rivalries and this one between veteran drivers will be fun to watch over three nights of racing.

While I consider Grant, Bacon, and Ballou the favorites going into the smack down, much like the Knoxville Nationals two weeks ago the Smack Down appears to be wide open. While this trio of drivers leads most of the statistical categories with USAC this season, the margins are all close. Seeing a C.J. Leary, series leading rookie Emerson Axsom, Logan Seavey, Jake Swanson, or a Thomas Meseraull end up in victory lane on Saturday night would not be a surprise.

Throw in the three-night format for drivers to accumulate points every time they hit the racetrack, king of the hill to determine first eight starting positions, and the feature where drivers can potentially earn $500.00 per lap, which could send the winner home with a $35,000 pay day if they led every circuit.

The Kokomo Sprint Car SmackDown is the kind of event non-wing sprint car racing needs and teams need to support to keep the profile of the division at a high level.

Other Notes

  • Tod Quiring, Doug Johnson, and the staff at Jackson Motorplex did a spectacular job of making lemonade out of lemons when two nights of rain dampened the start of the Jackson Nationals last weekend.

    With a Saturday double header to accomplish the track produced a last lap pass for the win during the daytime program and great racing throughout the program on Saturday night. With the hauler parade and block party taking place the night before and events after the race each night Jackson is becoming another destination race. Moving the date after the Knoxville Nationals also allowed a lot of fans the option to extend their Knoxville stay, including several international fans and drivers I spoke with over the past month. The 2023 Jackson Nationals dates were also announced at the end of the event for August 17-19.

  • Ryan Timms will make his World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series debut Friday night at River Cities Speedway. Timms, who turns 16 this week, is making one of the most anticipated debuts with a national sprint car series. I’ve discussed on social media earlier this week that it compares to when Bryan Clauson turned 16 and joined the USAC National Sprint Car Series during the Buckeye Nationals at Limaland Motorsports Park and scored a podium finish.

    Timms has nine feature victories to his credit this year across midget and sprint car racing including a victory with the USAC National Midget Car Series.

  • The final night of sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway for the 2023 season takes place Saturday night with double features for the winged 410 sprint cars due to one of the main events this year being rained out on July 23rd. Aaron Reutzel holds a comfortable lead over Brian Brown, who is mathematically still alive for the championship, but would take a major stumble by Reutzel to fumble the point lead.

    The 360 and pro sprint points are extremely tight going into the weekend. Terry McCarl holds a 18 point lead over Clint Garner going into the final event in what has turned out to be a highly entertaining season long dual between the two veteran drivers. Mike Mayberry holds a 12-point advantages over Tyler Groenendyk in the Pro Sprint division.

  • While Port Royal Speedway does not host sprint cars this week, Lincoln Speedway has the All Star Circuit of Champions on hand for the Kramer Klash along with Selinsgrove Speedway adding winged 410 sprint cars to their program for the Jack Gunn Memorial. Anthony Macri will fill in for Parker Price-Miller at the All Star events in the Sam McGhee Motorsports entry.
  • Cory Eliason, Brock Zearfoss, and Tyler Courtney will venture down under to compete in USA vs. Western Australia Speedweek in January. Most of the major 2022-2023 race dates for Australia are already available on our Allstar Performance Open Wheel Calendar.
  • 2022 Little 500 competitor Aaron Wilison won the Daofdill Cup this past weekend at at Westshore Speedway winning both feature events.