DIRTcar Nationals Opener: What We Learned

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DIRTcar Nationals Opener
Donny Schatz (15) had to race his way in through a B-main Wednesday at Volusia Speedway Park. (Frank Smith photo)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. — The sprint car portion of the DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford officially got underway Wednesday at Volusia Speedway Park, with plenty of intriguing nuggets already in play.

Even with only one night of 410 sprint car competition in the books in the United States this season, there’s already plenty to ponder as the stars of the dirt world work to get their campaigns off on the right foot.

• For example, Brad Sweet certainly didn’t waste any time in demonstrating he’s as good as he was last year, when he put together a career season and winning the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship.

Sweet led the final 12 laps of the 25-lap main event and beat Ian Madsen to the checkered flag.

• Consider that three-time Knoxville Nationals runner-up Brian Brown, 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz, two-time defending All Star champion Aaron Reutzel and Australian standout Kerry Madsen were all relegated to the B-main Wednesday.

That goes to show you just how tough the 34-car DIRTcar Nationals field is, and that Volusia’s half-mile of dirt doesn’t care who you are, it’s going to treat drivers all the same when it comes down to show time.

• While Schatz, Brown and Madsen all moved into the night’s 25-lap feature from the B main, Reutzel faded from third to sixth and failed to transfer into the feature.

With no provisionals on offer, the two-time defending All Star titlist was forced to watch the feature from the sidelines, an early shocker from the driver who has dominated the series the last two years.

• Just days after unveiling “Larson & Silva ‘20” t-shirts in support of grassroots racing, NASCAR Cup Series star Kyle Larson continued his recent dirt-track magic by charging from 14th to fourth at Volusia.

Larson has finished no worse than fourth in any of Silva’s machines — midgets or sprint cars — since the start of USAC’s West Coast Swing last November at Placerville (Calif.) Speedway. That includes a win at the prestigious Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals in January at Tulsa (Okla.) Expo Raceway.

Carson Macedo in action Wednesday night at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park. (Shawn Cooper photo)

• Larson’s hired gun for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, Carson Macedo, struggled somewhat Wednesday, qualifying for the feature and finishing 12th after starting 15th.

Macedo is carrying a new black-and-gold paint scheme to start the year, more reminiscent of his longtime tenure with Tarlton Motorsports, famous for their black race cars in California.

• Reigning Big Gator champion Daryn Pittman will have some work to do if he wants to repeat his Volusia performance from a year ago, when he claimed the week-long sprint car championship.

Last February, Pittman won both World of Outlaws-sanctioned features and finished second and third in the two All Star Circuit of Champions mains en route to the title. He finished 15th Wednesday.

• Parker Price-Miller debuted with Dietz Motorsports during the All Star opener, but saw little fanfare.

The Indiana native made the feature for the team owned by Phil Dietz, David Gravel’s crew chief at Jason Johnson Racing, but finished 17th while Gravel ran up from 11th to seventh in the feature.

• If you didn’t know Shark Racing was in the house on Wednesday for the DIRTcar Nationals kickoff, you might have missed them altogether.

A quiet night for the Shark duo saw Jacob Allen earn a top-10 finish in ninth after starting among the top five, while Logan Schuchart placed 11th after rolling off from the outside of row five.

It wasn’t a flashy performance, but certainly a clean one as the team looks toward Friday night’s World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series kickoff, the third of five sprint car programs at Volusia.

• The All Star Circuit of Champions sanctions its second and final night of competition during the DIRTcar Nationals on Thursday night at the half-mile Florida dirt track.

Sweet, who won Wednesday night’s opener at Volusia, is the defending Thursday-night winner.

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