Story and photo by Rhonda Beck.
Marion Limbaugh Promotes Carolina Clash Super Late Model Dirt Series
Marion Limbaugh was one of several dirt track racing series promoters, sponsors, and team owners present at March Madness, March 6, 2022 at Cherokee Speedway. Limbaugh promotes the regional super late model dirt racing series, the Carolina Clash, which was founded by Larry Lee. He spoke about the new season, which will now kick off on March 19th at Lancaster Speedway. Last year’s series champion was Michael Brown of Pageland, S.C.
Rhonda Beck: Marion, great to see you here at Cherokee Speedway. Can you give me a little insight into this year’s plans for the Carolina Clash?
Marion Limbaugh: We start our season next weekend at Lancaster. That’s a yearly thing with “Red Rose Rumble.” (After this interview, the race was moved to the 19th due to impending weather on March 12th.) We’ve got about 20 races scheduled. Basically, we’re racing in our region, the Southern region, like at Cherokee Speedway. And we go down to Georgia some to Lavonia. Fayetteville has always been a strong track for us, so we’ll be down there about three times this year. We end up getting to County Line down that way and Lake View. We have our annual race at Sumter with the Ed Gibbons Memorial. We’ve got the Shrine race at Carolina. This is a long-term race we’ve had with them. I’m excited about a good schedule this year with a lot of good long-term relationship tracks and we always wind up having good car counts.
RB: And for the Shrine 100 at Carolina Speedway, that’s the 50th anniversary. Do you have anything to say about that specific event? I know Billy Scott won the first one. Were you at some of those early races?
ML: I was at a lot of them. It’s been a good number of years back. I always enjoy the Shrine race; usually work with Dennis Stines on that. He’s very dedicated to the Shrine race. It’s just great to work with those Shriners at that race and they usually raise a good bit of money for that. It’s a great cause and we enjoy being a part of that.
RB: And Michael Brown won the championship last year and you had some other guys close in the battle for that. Who you’d say would be top drivers this year?
ML: That’s kinda still out. I don’t know who is gonna rise to the top. Anytime we can look at having Jeff Smith and Dennis Franklin—Rambo. And, Michael Brown, I know will be running with us a lot. Zack Mitchell usually races with us some. And then you’ve gotta look back to the previous two years. Brett Hamm won the championship and Brett always comes with both barrels loaded. So we’ve got a lot of strong local talent. I don’t know how many will make the whole season, but I know a lot of these guys will always be with us the majority of our races.
RB: You said Anthony Sanders and a few regular Clash guys might be here at this March Madness today?
ML: Anthony Sanders and I think Zack Mitchell will (Zack didn’t run because of what happened at Smokey Mountain the night before) and we’ve got little Trent Ivey. And I say little, but he’s not exactly a kid anymore. He’s still a small in stature guy, but really a great driver.
RB: I recently talked to Ross Bailes and saw him and others get their start in the supers. They always talk about how appreciative they are for the regional series and for a lot of them that makes more sense with their families and their jobs.
ML: Ross is always a strong competitor with us. I think he won three or four races with us last year. So when he shows up, he’s there to win.
RB: Anything else?
ML: I just hope everybody can support the Clash and a lot of our races. We’ve got a lot of racetracks that really help put it together. We’ve got some great sponsors with Hoosier, American Racer, and VP Racing Fuels. We’ve got a Ponce pole award with Nick Whitesides. It gives the drivers a little extra. And then Xtreme Custom Trophies–they do a lot of our checks and plaques and stuff. And Big A’s (Custom) Graphics; he races with us but he does our checks and any kind of graphics. He does a great job. And Thomas Clarke does our website. (Other sponsors and information can be found at www.carolinaclash.com, on Facebook at Carolina Clash Super Late Model Series and on Twitter @CarolinaClashPR.)
Chris Madden wins SAS Dirt Late Model March Madness at Cherokee Speedway
Gray Court, S.C.’s Chris Madden got the victory on Sunday, March 6, 2022 at Cherokee Speedway’s annual March Madness bash in Gaffney, S.C. Mount Holly, N.C.’s Chris Ferguson, who was the top qualifier with a time of 15.359 and won his heat race, took the lead and held it for the majority of the 50 laps. He appeared to be on his way to victory when a flat tire ended his run with three laps to go. Madden, who had been running in second and fending off several challenges from Brandon Overton, cruised on to take the checkered flag. It was his fourth March Madness win. Mike Marlar, of Winfield, TN, came home second and Jonathan Davenport, originally out of Blairsville, GA. and now living in Mount Airy, NC, was third.
Cherokee Speedway promoter Scott Childress was pleased with the event.
“It was a great weekend. Obviously, the weather really cooperated with us,” said Childress. “And this is probably my favorite race of the year, being the first race of the year. Everybody’s excited to be back. It’s good to see everybody. Glad to be back- 2022.”
The track is continuing to bring in different series, like last weekend’s Short Track Super Series Big Block Modifieds and Sunday’s Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series. The World of Outlaws Late Models will be in town March 25-26, 2022. The track’s local drivers and divisions show up weekly for consistent and competitive racing. Broadcasts, like FloRacing, also broaden the track’s reach and are great for those who can’t make it to the races.
“We’re just gonna try to continue to make the place better; make racing as good as we can and look forward to being at our second home,” said Childress.
Sunday’s winners included: Southern All Star Dirt Racing Series: Chris Madden; 604 Crate Late Model: John Ruggiero, Jr.; Mid-East Street Stocks: Andrew Blackwood; Thunder Bomber: Rod “Hot Rod” Tucker; Pro 4: Casey Towel; Saturday’s winners were: Limited Late Model: Jeremy Steele; Thunder Series Late Model: John Ruggiero, Jr.; Mid-East 602 Open Wheel Modifieds: Jeff Robinson; Pure Stock: Nathan Pierce; Extreme 4: Scott Cloninger
Local Drivers Discuss Their Seasons and Plans for 2022
I had the opportunity to chat with a few drivers before the race on Sunday at Cherokee Speedway. They talked about March Madness but also about their plans for the upcoming season.
Chris Madden, winner of the SAS main event, car no. 44:
RB: Chris congrats on all your success last year and this year. Do you have something to say about being here at March Madness again?
Chris Madden: Yeah, it’s good to be close to home. Obviously, to see a lot of fans and a lot of family here. They get to come out and watch us race.
RB: And you won the Blue/Gray in November here.
CM: Yeah. So this race, you’ve gotta have some luck and things go your way. Hopefully today will be our day and we’ll get everything lined up and get a win.
RB: Some people have been doing the tours, but others are doing the regional series. Do you have anything you’re looking forward to this year?
CM: I think we’re going to expand our racing out a little bit more instead of just running one series. We’re probably just gonna race the close major races and the money races. And probably do that this year instead of just travel the one series. That’s our plan.
RB: And do things with the family?
CM: Well, we’ll definitely still be wide open, but I’ll be home now during the week instead of being gone four or five weeks at a time like three or four times out of the year. So hopefully that’ll give me a little more family time.
Carson Ferguson, car no. 93 (Carson finished fifth in the SAS main event):
RB: Carson, you’ve just had two races in two nights. This is the third one in three days. Anything to say about the start to the season?
Carson Ferguson: Yeah, we went and tested at Swainsboro Thursday and then raced Friday and finished sixth. Thought we should have been better. I just had a few restarts not go my way. Last night we raced at Senoia and it was our first time there. And I kinda just misread the track. Like it had a mud ring where you could rip around on the top and I had set up just for the slick, you know, middle-bottom. I was the only one down there and I felt like we were good if it had been slick. But people could go right in that mud ring and I was just way too tight to run up there. So just certain circumstances last night put me behind. But you we’re here day four–race day three–and you know, this is what I want to do, so I’m pumped about it.
RB: And the Dryden Xtreme Dirt series–I had talked to Ross Bailes about it. And with you and Ben Wakins, there’s kind of a close points race.
CF: We really had a good start to that series and then last race we sort of got involved in somebody else’s wreck. So it kind of put us like forty points out of the lead from Ben Watkins. I really like Ben and I really like Ross; they’ve both helped me the past few years. I get to be teammates with Ben with Wesley Page this year. So I’m favoring him a little bit over Ross just for Wesley Page. But Ross, he’s always helped me. If I can’t win it, of course, them two deserve it as well.
RB: Is this your first time in the super for March Madness?
CF: Yeah, the only race we came to with the super here was the Blue Gray last year. We ran fourth in that. Strategy and all that played a big role into that. I think this is 60 laps tonight, so it’s gonna be all you can get for 60 laps, probably. We’ll see how we do and there’s a lot of stiff competition here.
RB: And anything to say about Donald and Gena Bradsher and all your opportunities?
CF: Yeah, Donald and Gena. I was actually selling my Rocket car. We just had a really bad 2020 and it made you question what you were doing. So Donald came to me and Wesley Page, and we got to driving Donald’s Longhorn last year and Wesley’s car. And then now they’re trusting me with the super car so I can’t thank them enough. You always look at people getting chances and you’re happy for them, but you wish it would happen to you. Now it’s happening to me, so I have nothing to complain about.
RB: Do you think you’ll do big races, like the Eldora Million?
CF: Yeah, depending. We’ve got a tentative schedule, nothing set in stone, of course. With the resources I have in my back pocket both with Wesley Page and Paylor Motorsports with Donald and Gena Bradsher, I’ve got a lot better than most people do starting out.
Daulton Wilson, car no. 16W (Daulton finished fourth in the SAS main event)
RB: You said you’re maybe going to follow the Lucas (Oil Dirt Series) and you’ve been at a lot of races down South already this year?
Daulton Wilson: Yeah, we did all of Florida and we’re going to follow it to start with and see where this year goes. There’s a lot of variables going around now. We’re going to follow it as long as we can and just race where it makes sense for us.
RB: And you’re from Fayetteville. Will you hit any Carolina Clash or Ultimate races?
DW: Yeah, we’ll run as much as we can. Like I said, the Lucas stuff will be the primary deal and then the local races; we’ll run as many as we can.
RB: Who has been supporting you or helping you along the way?
DW: James Radliff owns this deal so thanks to him and his whole crowd. And them guys have worked hard on this deal and my guys back home that have supported me and everybody that’s come along and been a part–we definitely appreciate them.
RB: Have you run Cherokee Speedway?
DW: Yes, we won the Prelude to the Finals here last year and the Cash Money 100 here last year, so we definitely had some success here in the past. And starting this new deal up we’re glad to be back here, somewhere that we have some experience and I’ve had some success with, to really see where we’re at.
RB: I used to go to the Prelude to the Dream and cover the Dream 100. Are you thinking of doing the Eldora Million?
DW: Ah, I’m sure we’ll wind up there.
Ross Bailes, car no. 79 (Ross finished 9th in the SAS main event):
RB: Anything to say about this race today?
Ross Bailes: Hoping we can run good. You know, this is my home track and we’re going to try our best to be up front.
RB: I know you ran the last couple races with the Drydene series. Are you still trying for the points?
Ross: Yeah, we didn’t have a good weekend, last weekend. We were going to go to Smokey Mountain or Senoia or a couple others but instead we went and tested and did a small trial up here to make sure we were where we need to be.
RB: And anything else at the end of March that you’re doing?
Ross: We’re going to finish out that (Dryden) Xtreme deal and then we’ll go to Bristol, which I think that’s the 1st of April; we’ll be there for that. I think we might go to Talladega in a couple weeks.
Trent Ivey, no. 88 (Trent finished seventh in the SAS main event)
RB: I talked to Marion Limbaugh and he said he was excited about some of the people, including you, maybe running some (Carolina) Clash and other races. What are your plans for this year?
Trent Ivey: Yeah, this is our home turf here and we normally run pretty good at this race. We’ve got all brand new stuff this year and we’re looking forward to moving around a good bit and still hit this hometown stuff. So it’s going to be a good year.
RB: Cherokee Speedway, specifically–any challenges you see today? Obviously, there’s a good group of racers here.
TI: Yeah, it’s always a tough race out here. All of the big guys come out to these early races because their season hasn’t really started up yet. You gotta deal with the Davenports and Maddens, but you gotta take the good with the bad. And we’ve beat ‘em before, so it’s another thing to do, to check off your list.
RB: And any big races planned this year? Eldora Million?
TI: Yeah, we plan on hitting both the Dream and the World at Eldora and go to the Dirt Track World Championships, Portsmith, and The World Finals at Charlotte. We’re going to hit all the really big races and some in-between as well.
RB: As far as Shrine 100, it’s the 50th anniversary at Carolina Speedway. You’re on the road more, but do you have anything to say about that?
TI: Yeah, Carolina’s been one of my most successful racetracks since I’ve started. We’ll for sure be there for all their bigger super races and look forward to helping out the Shriners. We always try to help them out.
Dennis “Rambo” Franklin, no. 2 (Dennis finished 21st in the SAS main event):
RB: Nice to see you. Anything to say about March Madness?
Dennis Franklin: This is the only race we ain’t won here and we hope to get it done here. And glad to have you back with us. Just glad to be here.
RB: As far as this year, will you get to a couple of Clash races or any regional or big races?
DF: Well, we were gonna run the Ultimate but we got a new car and we didn’t get it done. We come last night and shook it down some more. More than likely we’re gonna run the Clash.
RB: And the Clash, they have the 50th anniversary, running of the Shrine 100. And you’ve won it like five times?
DF: I just hope to get another win this year. Hope to get another championship. That’s the goal.
Johnny Pursley, No. 09, crate late model (Johnny finished 4th in the 604 crate late models main event)
RB: Johnny, nice to see you and at March Madness. Tell me a little about today and your season.
Johnny Pursley: Well, we’ve teamed up with Joey Malone and Mid-Atlantic Group and are waitin’ on our super motor to get back. So we’re going to play around a little with crates ‘til we get our super motor. Daytime racing is not my best thing, so we’ll see how the day fairs out.
RB: And I talked to Marion about the Clash and he’s always is glad to see you guys when you come participate. Are you going to do some of those regional races when the super is ready?
JP: Yeah, we’ll run what we can with the Clash. We’re not going to beat ourself up trying to race everywhere. My boys are racing now; we’ll race when we can.
RB: Where do they race?
JP: They race at Millbridge. They race the wing cars.
RB: They’re liking that?
JP: Yeah, they’re lovin’ that. It’s pretty fun to go, just help them get better.
Chris Steele & Jeremy Steel (no.22, Limited Late Model—Jeremy won Saturday’s Limited Late Model main event and finished third in Sunday’s 604 Crate Late Model feature):
RB: Chris, anything to say about today, March Madness and just how things have been going?
Chris Steele: Things have been doing good. This will be our fourth car race of the year. We’ve been to Florida twice. We were here last night and won the limited late model race (son Jeremy) and just last week he went back to his old roots of go-kart racing and picked up a win in go-karts. So a pretty good year to start off.
RB: Do you ever race anymore?
CS: I do. I think I raced two times last year. Then the car that I was racing we sold. And I’m looking possibly now of getting an open-wheel modified to keep in the shop for me to drive. But I’m just as happy if he’s racing. I’m at the point where I don’t care if I race as long as he’s racing. If he decided he ever wanted to quit—which I don’t think he ever will—I’d be back wide-open.
RB: They’re having that Shrine 100 50th anniversary at Carolina. Do you think you guys will go to that?
CS: I don’t know if we’ll be there or not. Because we run the GM crate engine, so a lot of times they don’t have the crate engine late models at the Shrine race. But they may have it this year; I don’t know; I’ll have to look at the schedule. Because Jason Walls owns the Mid-East Modified series and has started a 604 late model series. I know we have a race at Carolina, but I don’t know if we’ll be at the Shrine race or not.
RB: It was always fun watching you, Ron Parker, Steve Hendren and others race, and now it’s the kids.
CS: Yeah, this is the 604. We were racing against the Limiteds yesterday and they probably have 200, 250 more horsepower than we do.
RB: Congrats on your win last night and just anything to say about this year? You’ve been traveling and have had some good success?
Jeremy Steele: Yeah, thank you. We’re going to do some good traveling this year around to a couple places and we’re hoping to have big success. And I definitely couldn’t do it without Chris and XO Grading. He’s the biggest part of this team that makes it work. And there’s other people who help and the people who come to the track. We’re all going to get together and see what we can do this year.
RB: And are you excited about being here for March Madness. And yesterday?
JS: We had a really good run yesterday and I love March Madness. Daytime racing is always fun here especially when we can run with the Limiteds, with our little motor. And we’ll race with the crates and see what we can do today.
RB: And any special races you’re looking forward to this year?
JS: We’re going to run the Mid-East 604 Late Model tour and that’s gonna be a good little deal. Then my favorite race of the year is always the Powell Family Memorial at All-tech, $27,000 to win race. Coolest racetrack in the country to date.