Story by Rhonda Beck
Two days of racing at The Dirt Track at Charlotte had some local and Carolina super late model drivers fair well with a few making a main event on their first go with the XR Super Series. A couple of Carolina drivers also got the Colossal wins in the two Mid-East 602 feature races at the track. The 604 late model drivers were ready to go on Friday, but a major rain deluge around 4 p.m. and more weather in the area cancelled the event for the day. The series was coming back for its final day of action on Saturday, May 14, 2022.
The big XR Super Series winners on night one were Chris Madden, of Gaffney, SC, who captured the checkered flag after passing Scott Bloomquist in the final laps. Bloomquist was second with Jonathan Davenport coming home third. In the 602 division, Baron McDowell won the race while Jamison McBride was second and Preston Blalock, third.
Results for Wednesday, May 11, 2022: XR Super Series: 1. Chris Madden 2. Scott Bloomquist 3. Jonathan Davenport 4. Ross Bailes 5. Chris Ferguson 6. Tim McCreadie 7. Ricky Weiss 8. Kyle Larson 9. Jimmy Owens 10. Jensen Ford 11. Brandon Overton 12. Max Blair 13. Kyle Strickler 14. Mark Whitener 15. Dale McDowell 16. Kyle Bronson 17. Shane Clanton 18. Carson Ferguson 19. Ross Robinson 20. Camaron Malar 21 (DNF) Trent Ivey 22. (DNF) Joseph Joiner 23. (DNF) Zack Dohm 24. (DNS) Garrett Smith; Mid-East 602 Late Models: 1. Baron McDowell 2. Jamison McBride 3. Preston Blalock 4. Jake Jackson t. Dalton Jacobs 6. Nathan Walker 7. Evan Koehler 8. Mike Davidson 9. Keith Hawkins 10. Jason Welborn 11. Jeremiah Johnson.
On Thursday, the race ran green the entire time with Kyle Larson taking the checkered flag for the win. Brandon Overton was second and Chris Madden, third. On the 602 late model side, Preston Blalock, who was recently a winner in the Mid-East Series at Fayetteville, NC, dominated the race to get the victory.
Results for Thursday, May 12, 2022: XR Super Series: 1. Kyle Larson 2. Brandon Overton 3. Chris Madden 4. Tim McCreadie 5. Scott Bloomquist 6. Chris Ferguson 7. Dale McDowell 8. Max Blair 9. Jeff Smith 10. Michael Brown 11. Jonathan Davenport 12. Kyle Strickler 13. Ross Bailes 14. Shane Clanton 15. Kenny Collins 16. Garrett Smith 17. Ben Watkins 18. Ross Robinson 19. GR Smith 20. Anthony Sanders 21. John Henderson 22. Cla Knight 23. Jensen Ford 24. Carson Ferguson; Mid-East 602 late models: 1. Preston Blalock 2. Baron McDowell 3. Jamison McBride 4. Jake Jackson 5. Keith Hawkins 6. Jason Welborn 7. Evan Koehler 8. Nathan Walker 9. Caleb Simmons 10. Jeremiah Johnson 11. Dalton Jacobs. 12. Mike Davidson.
Throughout the week, several drivers shared their thoughts on the Colossal 100, XR Racing and racing at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, including Lancaster, SC’s Ben Watkins. On Wednesday Watkins first talked about the track being close to home and discussed the XR Super Series and his chances for a good run.
“This is not far from where the car is and where I stay at. So definitely would consider this our backyard, but they only get to run here a few times a year. We’re excited to be here, especially on this stage. That’s why a lot of people–all the big guys–show up. We’re excited to see what we can do, see where we can line up,” said Watkins, “It’s awesome to see this series put this kind of money up. Definitely a high quality of cars came here and a pretty good car count as well,” said Watkins.
Watkins, the 2015 Carolina Clash Champion from Rock Hill, SC, won the Clash season opener on March 19, 2022 at Lancaster Speedway. He then captured second place in the Drydene Xtreme Winter DIRTcar Series points championship after his finishes at Cherokee Speedway in Gaffney, SC the following weekend when the World of Outlaws Series was in town. He has some experience at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“We’ve had a pretty solid beginning of the year. Still trying to get settled in. We’ve only run here a handful of times with the crate cars and once with a super. That’s its own battle, but probably the competition’s more of the other thing just because everybody’s so good. You gotta be good and not make any mistakes every time you hit the racetrack, “said Watkins.
Watkins had a decent showing on Thursday, advancing to the feature through the B-Main. After starting 22nd in a race that was green the whole way, he finished 17th.
“The first night up here we kind of struggled and changed a lot of stuff. But to be honest with you, there’s so many great cars up here, you gotta be spot on everything. A lot of it I’m still learning, trying to do the best as I can behind the wheel. But we were definitely happy just to at least make the feature. And then during the feature the car felt pretty good, so we were happy about that,” said Watkins.
The main events also featured a solid group of racers from the surrounding area, many that Watkins has competed against over the years on a regular basis, like in the Carolina Clash and Ultimate Super Late Model Series. Chris Madden of Gaffney, SC won on Wednesday and placed third on Thursday. Mount Holly, NC’s Chris Ferguson picked up fifth and sixth place finishes for the first two nights. Clover, SC’s Ross Bailes finished fourth on Wednesday and 13th on Thursday. Dallas, NC’s Jeff Smith finished ninth on Saturday and Buford, SC’s Michael Brown was 10th. GR Smith of Charlotte, N.C. was 19th on Thursday. Concord, NC’s Carson Ferguson finished 18th on Wednesday and 24th on Thursday. Mooresville, NC’s Kyle Strickler finished 13th and 12th. Union, SC’s Trent Ivey was 21st on Wednesday and John Henderson of Aiken, S.C. was 21st on Thursday. Anthony Sanders from Spartanburg, SC, who now lives in Charlotte, made the main event for the first time after coming to The Dirt Track for ten years. Sanders finished 20th in Thursday’s race.
“That was awesome to see a lot of the local guys around here make it. And run pretty good too. That just shows you, with Anthony coming up here so many years; there were a lot of good cars that didn’t make the race. Everybody’s so good. So many good teams. So many good cars, drivers. That’s where you can’t make any mistakes and if you do, it puts you behind and it’s so hard to overcome. You gotta to be as perfect as you can every time you hit the racetrack,” said Watkins.
Drivers often talk about the challenge of setting the car up and how a good run one day doesn’t determine automatic success the next day.
“I was talking to Brandon Overton and he was telling me the same thing, saying, ‘The same set-up that I won with last year,’ he said, ‘I’m a mile away from it now.’ Like you said, it’s crazy just thinking about that. But you can’t be complacent–you gotta keep trying to get better all the time because everybody’s so good,” said Watkins.
Since it was a green flag run the whole way, Watkins knew the guys at the front were fast and he would have to manage his run while still trying to advance his position in the field.
“I knew with us starting deep, those guys at the front were so fast and they were gonna be coming. Then once I seen ‘em present me the move over flag, at that point I was just trying to hold a good line. And my common courtesy is once I see ‘em, then I’ll get out of the way. But until then, I’ll just hold a line so they can get around me. I’d just do what I would feel I’d want somebody else to do. At the same time there’s still racing going on. We were still racing with somebody in front of us. It gets interesting,” admitted Watkins.
In the coming months, Watkins will probably race local and regional races, but also go to some bigger events.
“We’re not going to run any specific series. We’re going to bounce around a little bit. We’ve got a few marked on our calendar that we definitely want to hit. Next week we’re going to go to Virginia Motor (Speedway) for the Commonwealth 100. I know that’s right around the corner. We’ve got a few big ones circled. And just depending on how everything goes from weekend to weekend, that kind of maps things the next race out. If we’re running good, we’ll venture out a little more. As of right now we do plan to go to Virginia Motor Speedway next weekend,” said Watkins.
Notes on some Carolina, regional and other veterans at The Dirt Track at Charlotte this week:
Kenny Collins, from Colbert, GA made the feature race on Thursday after finishing second to Kyle Larson in his heat race. He came home 15th in the main event. He’s had a decent start to the season and runs several of the regional series.
“I think we run second eight times now or something and we’ve won three now, so we’ve got to get to winning more. And we’ve had a good year so far and we’ve got this new car. Between the Carolina Clash and Ray Cook stuff and the Ultimate, we’ve got plenty of good regional stuff within two, three hours of the house. We’re going to run a lot of that and try to branch out and maybe go to Eldora and Fairbury and some places this year and try to get our feet wet at some of the bigger races. So those are our plans anyway,” said Collins
Collins has some experience at The Dirt Track at Charlotte but was making his first XR Super Series start.
“I’ve raced here a few times. We run second here in a Fuel series race about three years ago and then that’s about the best I’ve run here. I’ve run some crate races and some super races here but not much. Probably four times all together. And then I don’t think I’ve raced with XR yet so I’m looking forward to seeing what it’s all about,” said Collins on Wednesday.
Like the other drivers, Collins talked about the track’s chameleon-like ways.
“I don’t know that I’ve been here and ever seen it the same. The best I ever seen it, we raced after sprint cars and it was glassy black slick smooth. I started 10th and run second. You could race all over it. I’ve been here before and it’s been wide-open rough. It looks like it might be dry today. Last time we were here it was pretty dry and around the bottom. Maybe it’ll be a little racier today,” said Collins.
Dale McDowell, of Chickamauga, GA, was happy to be back in Charlotte. After winning early in the season in Florida at Volusia Speedway Park, he got his first XR win of the year at Bristol in April. He finished 15th on Wednesday and 7th on Thursday at The Dirt Track.
“It feels great. It’s always been one of our favorite places to come race. The atmosphere is good here so we’re hoping for a good weekend. We’ve had a pretty good year so far. A lot of good competition here, but we’ll just see what we can do over the next three or four days,” said McDowell on Wednesday.
McDowell said the track is always challenging.
“You never know. It’s so wide. You just don’t know where the groove’s gonna be. It’s bit us the last couple times we were here. Usually, we’ve been a top five car. Top five, top ten. So we’ve got a little bit of work to do on our set-up choices through-out the night but that’s what makes it fun. That’s the challenging part of it. We just hope for some good consistent runs and if we can stay consistently right around the top five, hopefully then you’ve got your shot to win. But it is tough. It’s not uncommon now to have a good night and the next night do the same thing and things just not work out. We’ll just kinda see what we do and try and have fun. And that’s the key. Have fun,” said McDowell.
McDowell talked about the XR Super Series helping the sport of dirt racing.
“We won at Bristol; we won one of the events up there. So I think it’s a good series. We’re fortunate. Dirt late model racing has grown. Got a lot of good support; got a lot of good companies and good partners in our sport. Several of series are out there are putting big races on in their region. We’re just glad to be a part of it and see what we can do,” said McDowell.
Obviously, as a veteran in the sport, McDowell has fond memories of starting out in racing 41 years ago. He was able to watch some great drivers and compete with some of them, including many known in this region, like the late Mike Duvall and Freddy Smith.
“I got to race against Mike Duvall. I was a kid back then. And I got to race with Freddy. Saw him a couple weeks ago; it was awful good seeing him. I started traveling, probably in the mid-early ‘90’s, so I got to race with a lot of those guys. Got to race with Jeff Purvis, that era. He was one of my heroes as a kid when I watched him. And then I got to race with him as he was tapering back out of his career and I was just starting mine. I got to race with a lot of those guys around my hometown. Right around the Chattanooga (Tenn.) area where we started racing. We had Ronnie Johnson and a lot of good racers from that area. Some of the guys, like Jody Ridley or Charlie Hughes that really had good success. I didn’t get to race with those guys much, so I got to go watch them. But it’s been neat; it’s been fun. I started in ’81, so last year was my 40th year and this year’s my 41st. The biggest thing is to just take it all in. I know I’m probably going to race a couple more years, hopefully if all of our partners stay and everything’s good. But I’m just enjoying it when I go, because you just never know when you come to these places, never know if we’ll get to come back next year or not. So I’m just enjoying the time,” said McDowell.
Trent Ivey, of Union, SC was making his first start with the XR Series. He made the main event on Wednesday night finishing 21st.
“This is our first time with the XR and it seems like it’s a good thing. There’s so many cars here they must be doing a good thing. We’re excited about that. And I actually won at Charlotte in a crate car in 2015 so we’re no stranger to Charlotte. But it’s just been a while since we’ve won here,” said Ivey. “This place is so close to home, but there’s not another racetrack like this around here. This place is more somewhere you’d race out of town. So it’s nice to be so close by and it races so good. It’s so wide like the others and it slicks off. And it’s very well-lit so you can see really good out there. It’s honestly one of the best facilities there is and racetracks too. It’s really nice for us to be able to come here.”
Ivey was glad to be back racing after an early season mishap at Cherokee Speedway kind of delayed his season.
“Honestly it feels like we’re just starting because we had that hiccup at Gaffney after setting quick time. And then we had to regroup and we had to get our car fixed and a couple other problems. We went back out to Carolina and tried to race and still had some things messed up. But I think we finally got the bugs worked out so we’ll start now,” said Ivey.
Another thing that Ivey has had some success with in in the past is iRacing.
“I got to tune in a little bit between sleep last night I ended up watching the rest of the interview this morning when I woke up. Fergy (Chris Ferguson) does a great job of keeping everybody involved in iRacing and XR as well. Springfling they had last night was a really big turnout. It has been for years. I only got to race in it once. Made the show—didn’t do well. We iRace for fun at night, so I never really have taken it real serious other than when we race on TV. But we’ve had some success and actually won a big TV. race at Charlotte on an iRacing broadcast, the first one they done on FOX. So our name’s there. We’ve been just in and out. We’ve got a lot of work going on at home, so we just try to race in between there. So hopefully gonna get back rolling on the racing side,” said Ivey.
Ivey also hopes to go to some bigger races this year as well as run the regional series.
“I tell you, for us being a smaller team, it really depends on how well we run. If we run good, of course we’re gonna go run some big races. But we haven’t really got to know how well we’re going to do yet. We’ll still have some bigger races like North/South and Eldora and a couple other ones like Port Royal that we want to go hit–but if we’re having a good enough season to go and if we can get tires,” said Ivey.
Jonathan Davenport, who won last year at The Dirt Track at Charlotte at the World Finals and has had dominating performances with the XR Series had a podium finish Wednesday night, finishing third. He placed 11th on Thursday and talked about the event earlier in week.
“It looks like they’ve got a great turn-out which is good. This place usually races really well, so hopefully we’ll put on a good show for the fans and everybody watching back home. The XR Series has been pretty good this year. It’s pretty laid back and we’ve went to various racetracks, pretty nice facilities. And this is just another one,” said Davenport.
Davenport commented on some of the track reconfiguration that was being done as well.
“Maybe a little bit it might change how it races some. Obviously, they’re going to reshape it just a little bit, but there’s only so much they can do with the outside wall and then the grass there. They can move the progressive banking around a little bit and that’ll definitely change how it races a little bit. We’ll just have to wait and see when we get out on it and see what it likes and see if we can tune our car to it,” said Davenport.
Davenport will continue to race the bigger shows this season.
“We’ve definitely cut back our schedule all year, not just because of the tire issue, but because there is a whole lot more bigger races this year. So we can stay home, get more prepared for the bigger shows, not wear ourself out for the smaller amount of money,” said Davenport.
Carson Ferguson of Concord, NC was making his first start in the XR Series at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. He finished 18th on Wednesday and 24th on Thursday. He also won a heat race. On Wednesday, he talked about his hopes for the week.
“I have zero expectations–just want to make the races. I’d like to make all of them, of course. So I guess you could say there’s a little expectation there. But just try to log all the laps we can get and just learn a lot. Growing up and going to The World Finals, it was always a dream to run a super late model around here. Dream is coming true this weekend. Can’t thank Donald and Gena Bradsher enough and all my great sponsors for making it all happen,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson recently got his first ever super late model win at Crossville, TN in a Schaeffer’s Oil Spring Nationals race. He is currently the series points leader.
“Yeah, it was awesome. I didn’t expect it. You know we’ve been running really good. It’s been hit or miss, but we’ve also been consistent here lately. So I’m thankful that we’re able to run up front. We’ve got a really good car and as long as I don’t mess up too bad driving, I feel like we can run in the top five and top ten even at these big races,” said Ferguson.
Ferguson acknowledged that the best of the best were at Charlotte and he was parked next to Tim McCreadie, who is one of them.
“This is a very stout field. You’ve got the best racers in the country here. We were able to race last weekend together at East Alabama and then of course this weekend. And having him here right beside us is also a plus,” said Ferguson.
Another driver who came on Wednesday to give the race a try was Dustin Mitchell, the current points leader in the Steele Block Bandits Late Model Series.
“It’s been a great start to the season this year. We’ve had some of my biggest wins of my career this year. We’re leading the series in the Steele Block Bandits and we’re still gonna to do that deal. Hit and miss some super shows here and there and hopefully go to a few bigger races at the end of the year,” said Mitchell.
Mitchell enjoys racing at Charlotte.
“We’ve been lucky and hoping to run over to this. If I can make a show or two, I’ll be happy, with the competition that’s here,” said Mitchell. “I love coming here. It’s a different animal than what we run on normally. Like it’s so big and wide open and you got to turn good here. And all these guys–they kind of do it for a living. If I can come in here, have a pretty good run, make a show or two, I’ll be fine with that.”
The Dirt Track at Charlotte is also closer to home for Mitchell and like many of the other drivers in town for The Colossal 100 week, he sees what the XR Series is doing to help dirt racing.
“It ain’t but two-and-a-half hours from home. I’ve never run an XR race yet. I’ve been wanting to get out and try to do some of these things ‘cause I think it’ll make me better running with them for that level of competition. Just coming home, we decided last minute to come on over here and try this deal. And they’re paying good money. If you just make the race, it pays what a second place pays to race at home,” said Mitchell.
Results for the final night of The Colossal 100 as well as more news about the 602 and 604 winners at The Dirt Track this past week, will be coming up at Speedwayreport.com