The All Star Circuit of Champions sprint car series paid a visit to Limaland Motorsports Park for the eighth race of Ohio Sprint Speedweek last night, in an event marred by dusty track conditions and driver safety concerns.
Taking advantage of the lone off-weekend in the Cup Series schedule, both Alex Bowman and Christopher Bell have been competing in Ohio Sprint Speedweek. Bell, who pilots the Swindell SpeedLab #39, led all 40 laps of Tuesday’s feature at Sharon Speedway en route to his first sprint car victory of the season, and he was expected to be a contender again at Limaland. Due to heavy dust obscuring visibility, however, the #39 team decided to pack up and leave after initial heat races concluded.
“Unfortunately it sounds like they had a really wet, rough racetrack here recently, and that caused them to really under-prepare the racetrack, I would say, in fear of being rough for today,” Bowman told Pit Box Press after the race. “And then it’s dusty, you can’t see. They keep watering it, which just makes more dust. And then they water the infield, so we all run the infield. It just kind of created a really bad situation for everybody. Drivers couldn’t see, fans couldn’t see.”
In fact, drivers were so concerned about the track’s condition that the main event was nearly called off.
Fittingly enough, it was eventual winner Danny Dietrich that led the charge to keep things rolling. “It was either we fix it or we don’t race,” Dietrich told FloRacing. “Of course we all want to race. We don’t come here to run twenty laps and go home, you know, and not get paid. Thankfully, we came up with a solution.”
What ultimately saved the race was moving a set of barriers from the work area into the infield to deter drivers from running too low and kicking up unsafe amounts of dust.
Bowman was impressed by the process, if not the initial track preparation, telling Pit Box Press “It’s cool to see all the drivers get together and kind of brainstorm, like, ‘Hey there are these barriers here, we can put ’em in there to keep people out of the infield. Let’s keep water off of it. Let’s hot lap it, and blow it off.’ Did all the right things.”
“It wasn’t via text message, it wasn’t in a group chat. Everybody walked out there and did it, which was cool for me to watch,” Bowman added, drawing a contrast to Cup Series racing, where unanswered texts or missed calls can be headline-worthy events.
Ultimately, the main event proceeded without issue. Dietrich led all 25 laps, holding off a late charge by Parker Price-Miller to secure the win. Bowman, who had narrowly advanced out of the B-main by running the low line, changed his approach for the feature. Hugging the fence up top, he managed to pick up eight positions and earned the first All Star Circuit of Champions Hard Charger award of his relatively young sprint car career.
“It took a little bit longer to get out there than people wanted, but it sounds like it was a good race for the win, and we passed a bunch of cars,” Bowman said after the race. “I thought the race was fine,” he added, “I mean, nobody blew a tire, and the dust wasn’t an issue.”
Both Bowman and Bell will be in action again tonight at Portsmouth Raceway Park, as Ohio Sprint Speedweek concludes with the $20,554-to-win Dean Knittel Memorial.