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Buying Format see all. All Listings A grinding wreck on a restart left Kemosabe with a skewed and bent chassis, and the car will be relegated to the show-car circuit, never to race again.

Lenny Puglio had a personal tragedy in his life recently — his wife passed away. He did return to the track after a while, racing in Florida in winged pavement competition with Troy driving. There were wins, but Lenny has now mourned the loss of his wife and is ready to dive back into racing with both feet, and is ready to spend whatever is necessary to win.

There are two new Hurricane chassis cars coming too. One will have a engine in it and will be for up north, with the Must See Racing series mentioned by Lenny. The other will have a for Florida competition. It may be later, after the series racing. So many times, Dave Steele was the favorite to win the Little , many times with Lenny. They were there with Half-Breed, a fine car. They were the first car out of the race after it broke a few laps into the race.

They were listed in 33 rd place — last place. With luck, then maybe, just maybe you might win. Lenny Puglio knows that. He expects to be there — with luck on his side, that is. That tied him with Matt Kurtz for the second most series feature wins during the year. Hayden followed that with a rampage through the first two months of Top Gun Sprint series racing this year by winning the first four races of the season.

Family heritage goes back a long, long time — back to my grandpa. Hayden moved up to sprint cars in , which was the same year that Harry Campbell died. Hayden only needed a period of a few months with the new chassis before he started getting wins, followed a few months later by the domination at the end of last season and the first four races of this season.

Matt Kurtz and AJ Maddox have been winning the championship driver title in Top Gun racing for years now, but that streak seems to be on the verge of ending soon. After he started racing at age seven, Hayden then wheeled his go kart to the Florida Karting Association championship, with numerous wins.

Next, it was on to the World Karting Association and more success racing in Florida. Hayden, who is a native Floridian, told me that his team is searching for sponsorship dollars. Hayden plans to be a future participant in that racing and is hoping that his recent success will bring in the sponsors.

Until then, the Top Gun series is where they will race, with plans to run all the series races this year. What about long-term goals? Hayden has several of those. He is looking beyond his current racing home in Top Gun series racing, and his current educational status as an undergraduate at the University of Central Florida, where he is studying pre-law and is on course to graduate in December this year.

His long-term career goal: He wants to go to a law school that is close to home, and still continue racing in Florida while studying law. He currently lives in Montverde, which is in Lake County, west of Orlando. Ultimate goal in racing would be to follow series racing, like the World of Outlaws or the All Stars.

I love sprint cars and I love the dirt racing. If I had that opportunity to run the World of Outlaws, and say after that someone came up to me and wanted to give me an opportunity with something bigger, then I would have to look at it. But, my mind right now is set on where my dream is to run the World of Outlaws.

How could you not love going to run a hundred races a year and traveling all over the country, getting to run sprint cars? Hayden also wanted to give thanks where it was due: Smith Titanium — Stevie Smith, those would be the big ones, those are the ones that help us to do well.

American pavement sprint car racing seems to have its share of oddities in When the King of the Wing national sprint car series schedule was released earlier this year, it did not have, and still does not have, a single race scheduled in the eastern half of the United States. The national series originally planned with four weekends of racing in four locales: The rest of the races during are in Colorado and further west.

No Southeast tour, no Midwest U. Never mind that the big half-mile high-banked track is suited for pavement sprint cars and is located in an area the Deep South states of AL, MS, and GA where there are no pavement sprint car teams, other than the black No. They could fill the field with some dirt sprint cars, and there are some of those in need of a race series — the former Southern Outlaw Sprints teams.

The debut of the new series for MIS last weekend drew a total of six cars for the feature race, one of them a year old car. No surprise, the pavement sprint car won, piloted by Todd Fayard. The old SOS teams mostly stayed home, as did all the Florida pavement teams. Those two races should be more of the same, without the Florida teams.

This oddity of a series may be on the way to an early demise. It is back on the King of the Wing schedule for one final race on November 3, , unless it survives life beyond the grave one more time and comes back again in It seems appropriate that the race is only three days after Halloween. The Midwest-based pavement sprint car series that does have races east of the Mississippi in addition to the Must See Racing series , the Auto Value Bumper to Bumper Super Sprints, has a race season that is so short, it seems to finish within a few weeks of getting started.

They race, they go home, and then they begin their nine-month period of preparation for next year. Unless they want to head to … somewhere over the rainbow in the distant West or the South. So, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. So far in , the best-performing rookie in pavement sprint car racing has been year-old high school senior Dylan Reynolds, who has already had four feature starts this year with the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series in Florida.

At his last outing with his family-owned team at Auburndale Speedway on March 17, , he won his first sprint car heat race and had a seventh place finish in the feature race, his second top seven finish in the first four series races this year. Dylan Reynolds and his family-owned car at Auburndale Speedway on March 17, Prior to , Dylan had six championships in three years in go karts, his last in They could now earn a better starting position in each race based on their results.

The team has been closely aligned with the Butler Motorsports sprint car team. Their equipment includes a Hurricane chassis bought from Shane Butler and previously raced by the Butler Motorsports team, which included Stan and Shane. Troy Thompson recently retired from open wheel racing and sold his sprint car and Silver Crown car inventory. It was placed into what was previously the red Butler Motorsports No.

I do all major engine work. Hopefully, I can get recognized, and get some big sponsors. We finished the year on a high note. We were kind of trying to free up the chassis. We fine-tuned everything over the winter to see if we can get a little more speed than what we had through the middle part of last year. We started out last year pretty good, than fell off a lot through the middle part of the season, and we ended up fifth in points.

We only ran one winged show last year, the year before we were only able to do two — it was weather both years. It is for me anyway. Then he went out and took finishes of second, third, and fourth in the first three races of the USAC sprint car schedule, races held last week at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala.

That meant he had the best overall record for the year so far, and the point lead for the USAC sprint car season. He was kicking butt on the track, and then verbally kicking butts off-track, but only when he felt they had it coming. What he says will probably be what many some? Then we started assembling our personal team back together raced in previous years.

Last time I raced for myself was in , basically we had to start from scratch again. And a lot of people helped me put my program back together and we ended up clicking off 20 wins there in total for One winged, 19 non-wing. It was a good year for us, to bounce back from the way it started, and then end the season with an Oval Nationals win.

The next significant event for Kevin was making contact once again with the Hoffman Racing team, a team he had driven for previously in A deal was made for them to race the full USAC sprint car schedule for Can he bring them championship number 12? We almost squeaked in there last year. Last year, there were winged racing commitments he had made, in the Buffalo Wild Wings sponsored car.

Then things changed, and wings were out. Winning the USAC sprint car championship is his primary goal now. Is there still a lingering desire for success in winged racing, the original goal at the beginning of last year, or will he be satisfied if success with winged cars never comes, but is replaced by continued success in non-wing racing?

I do love winged racing though. I think it teaches you a lot. His year competing in USAC sprint car racing had not gone the way he wanted. The success in USAC that he strived for, and had been striving for during the past 25 years, did not come in Retirement became a possibility … but not for long. A change was coming, or maybe it was more accurate to call it an emotional degree turn, a reversal of fortune.

Dave Darland poses with his Goodnight race team No. Had he felt that in any prior years — when his emotions took such a drastic turn from near despair to excitement and anticipation for the new season? In some areas, they were going good. I hopped in the Goodnight car for a few races, and that got my spirits back up.

So things are looking good. Dave Darland is going to make a run for a second USAC national sprint car series crown with the Goodnight family-owned team, in car No. Those championships came in a six-year span from to This year serves as sort of a reunification with the Goodnight family team, as he spent most of the year racing with them in and also ran some races with them at the end of last summer.

Those few races were classified by Darland as one of the highlights of his racing season. Another was the feature win at Kokomo Speedway in August, when he won the Bob and Joan Darland Memorial, a race that honors his late parents. But Matt and Gene Goodnight said that we can do the full schedule. Racing at Bubba Raceway Park, now a winter tradition for the USAC racers, is not a track tradition that he greatly looks forward to, neither does he dread it.

We have a good chance of having a successful trip here — looking forward to it, I guess, especially with my new team. The car was great last night and I ran the car three times at the end of last summer and it was great. I certainly am looking forward to this weekend driving for the Goodnight team.

This winter, vacation time for him and his family took place down under. I did two midget races while I was down there, three days of racing. Left Indianapolis yesterday morning, flew in here, practice last night, fly out early Sunday morning. Got here at the last minute, leaving the first thing.

After winning the Saturday finale at the East Bay Winternationals during Florida Speedweeks for two out of the last three years and , Mark Smith has continued his dominance in sprint car racing during Speedweeks by winning both USCS sprint car feature races last week at Bubba Raceway Park in Ocala. That race also comes with a title for the winning driver: Mark Smith, who races in Pennsylvania and the Northeast for most of the year, is a year-old veteran of decades of racing sprint cars on dirt ovals.

Mark is also a sprint car chassis builder, marketing his chassis design under the Mach 1 brand name out of his Central Pennsylvania shop. He has now won the last three USCS feature races, starting with that night, all of them at the Ocala track. Putting his Speedweeks emphasis on racing meant that he chose to skip the five nights of racing at Volusia Speedway Park which concluded on Sunday.

He has raced in events with sprint car series last year and in February at Ocala with the All Star series. They made this trip possible for us and just want to thank them. Twelve would be good. I enjoy working on my own stuff, and this year we actually built a motor to race down here and that was the first time we did that.

That fun in may include driving three other cars during the year, in addition to his No. M1 car, a Mach 1 chassis of course. This crew guy stuff is way more stressful than being a driver. And the reason that Dale was a crew guy was because he did not have a full-time sprint car ride for the season, despite being a six-time driver champion with the All Star Circuit of Champions, and an inductee into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in He is hopeful about that status changing — soon.

I spoke to him two days later, on Saturday. Hopefully first race will be mid March. As far as the possibility of going outside — or even way outside — his comfort zone, into dirt late model, non-wing sprint cars, etc. But, running a late model would be pretty cool. For the past two years, Ryan drove the iconic No. Dale is looking ahead. The target of his challenge, John Inman, has never responded publicly in kind.

He did not issue his own challenge directed at Troy DeCaire. He reached a one-race agreement with Mac Steele to drive the car in this race only. He expects to be back in his car after Saturday, with the anticipation of an engine repair being completed and the engine returned to him.

We missed one race last year and still won the championship. By the end of March, we hope to have something put together. He wants to win, minus the confrontation. It was significant because it was a turning point in his racing career, and he has now transitioned to racing full-time with the World of Outlaws.

Parker, easily the youngest-appearing racer in the series, wants a lot more wins. This year, he has a seat in the potent No. The year-old driver from Kokomo, Indiana, who was Rookie of the Year at the Chili Bowl in , was first named as the driver of the Destiny Motorsports sprint car in the fall last year. His first race with the team was on September 22, Florida racing will always be something special for him, as he got his first sprint car feature win here on February 20, , in a Thursday preliminary race during the East Bay Winternationals.

He was only 15 years old at the time, defeating racers who had decades more race experience than him. His racing plan for Hopefully we keep running strong. Last night Thursday last week in Ocala , we had a good run, led the first 21 laps of the race, and then fell back and finished fourth.

Not a bad night and pretty good start to our season. His racing goal for One World of Outlaw win last year, the first of hopefully many. If you get rained out, you can go somewhere else. We have 96 races scheduled. That was the partial year last year in the Destiny Motorsports car. I help the guys out when they want me to. The hired driver role is new for Parker. He was used to driving a family-owned car or a car in which he was a partner and spending a great deal of time turning wrenches and doing the adjustments to the setup himself.

Now he has a crew and a crew chief to do that for him. Passing time with the crew during downtime in the pits, and telling them how he wants the car to handle, and getting hands-on when he is needed and when the crew wants him to are new experiences for him, since last year.

Last year, I kind of was a hired driver, but I also had to work on it. So this is my first time ever just being a hired driver. If they want me to do something, I do it. I hang out with the guys, and go to the car wash with them, and work on it during the day. I used to work on it and drive it. He looked fast each night, and seemed primed for a win at any time.

His next chance for a Florida win comes on Wednesday, the first of five nights of sprint car racing at Volusia Speedway Park the first two nights with the All Star circuit, before switching to World of Outlaws sanctioning for the last three. Looking thin and trim, with his Australian accent giving him a suave, charming flair as it always does , I was fortunate to interview Kerry Madsen on night 2 of All Star racing last Friday.

That was the night of his first podium finish of the week at Ocala. Madsen has made a habit of doing well in February racing at Bubba Raceway Park in recent years, as he won a February feature race there last year. We got the opportunity to come here last year, and it was a no-brainer.

His goal for Look, I really enjoy racing with those guys. He was named as the new driver of the Stenhouse Jr. In November, he was also named as the World of Outlaws Rookie of the Year for , after a season with 12 top five and 41 top ten finishes in Outlaws racing.

Sheldon Haudenschild and his new car for , Stenhouse Jr. He had a solo win with the series last year in April, after a dominating year with the All Stars in when he won nine series feature races. That meant he had a nine-month drought of no wins with the All Stars going into last week.

The year-old baby-faced racer got his first sprint car win in the State of Florida on Saturday by leading all 30 laps and holding off the early challenge of Floridian Tyler Clem, and then the late race challenges of second-place Kerry Madsen and third-place Chad Kemenah. He praised his team for having great equipment and great crew guys after winning his 17th career feature with the All Star series.

Everything went smooth … passed some cars and finished the race last night, so that was good. Really, the whole package right now. One All Star win last year, no Outlaw wins. At this point in time Friday , he and his team had not committed to racing the All Star race on Saturday at Bubba Raceway Park, the race that they later won. Those two races are popular with the World of Outlaws teams as prep work for the Friday World of Outlaws season-opening race.

This year is his second year running the full World of Outlaws tour — he raced in the tour last year with a family-owned car and is looking to get his first career Outlaw tour win this year. Last year with the No. I had a great team last year, and I thought we had a great year. A lot of work went in to get to this point.

His father Jac takes over the family-owned car this year, and has decided to race in the All Star series. So does that mean that father and son will not be racing against each other this year? Sheldon Haudenschild and other cars on hot laps, Bubba Raceway Park, The All Star series has far fewer races this year, 54 races, compared to the 91 Outlaws races for Jac is going outside of the All Star schedule, but his son Sheldon is not going to race outside the Outlaws schedule this year, other than Florida in February.

That decision was fateful for Sheldon Haudenschild, as it brought his first win in Florida and his first win with a new team that has the potential to elevate his career significantly. Sadly, this February is the second consecutive year that a nationally known sprint car racing star that had made a habit of racing during Speedweeks will be missing.

Last year, that missing star was Bryan Clauson. Steele was inducted in his first year of eligibility. Of course, Dale Earnhardt Jr. It is noteworthy that both racers either arriving or departing are not among the white male majority that dominates the Cup Series driver lineup.

She gets experienced crew chief Tony Eury Jr. Bell follows Kyle Larson as the most recent sprint car and midget racing standout to follow a path certain to lead to further success in NASCAR stock cars. Their electric-powered karts sound like high-pitched drones as they whirl around the three kart courses in the , square foot building.

Volusia Speedway Park, renovated and safer than last year, shows off new, higher outside walls and catch fences in both the west and east end turns for the season-opening World of Outlaws sprint car race on Friday, February 9. Call to purchase bus tour tickets or for information or visit Living Legends of Auto Racing Facebook page.

Still the most exciting short track racing, and along with dirt late models, only one of two car types to be included in all three February race weekends, sprint car racing returns both with and without wings, with six sprint car series racing up to the day of the Daytona Sunday, February 18 , the same number of different series that raced last year.

Once again, there is no super modified or champ car racing during Speedweeks, but national midget racing returns to Florida for the first time since February 18, Wall, catch fence, and spectator stand in turn two at Volusia Speedway Park that have all been replaced since the date of this photo, DeCaire followed up on his challenge by winning the Southern Sprintcar season opening race on January 20, and the two sprint car racers are up next at New Smyrna on Saturday, February Also worthy of watching in , and placing high on the World of Outlaws win list are: Another new team is Stenhouse Jr.

World of Outlaws sprint car navigates Volusia Speedway Park's curved back stretch during Speedweeks, The half-mile high-banked pavement at New Smyrna Speedway has seen intense rivalries in previous Speedweeks super late model racing, with the battles between Harrison Burton and Ty Majeski in and showing the pavement skills of both racers, who seem assured of a place in future NASCAR Cup Series racing.

Burton has filed an entry for Speedweeks super late model racing, which is scheduled for seven races at New Smyrna from Friday, February 9 to Saturday, February Ty Majeski's car shows the battle scars from a Speedweeks super late model race at New Smyrna Speedway, Even though the news of Danica Patrick being guaranteed a start in the Daytona with Premium Motorsports is fairly recent, her odds of winning the Daytona have been assigned: One casino which uses a lion in their logo currently has 20 drivers with better odds of winning the Daytona This year, , brings a significant event in Florida pavement sprint car racing — the first full racing season in the post-Dave Steele era.

It was announced that Dave Steele was the first Florida race car driver to be inducted into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame in eight years Frank Riddle was the most recent, in It may not happen again for a while. The Dave Steele era was over, and there may never be a similar era in Florida again. Last year, only 12 races were completed in a year bedeviled by bad weather, including one major hurricane that slammed into Southwest Florida in September.

A new young driver champion emerged — John Inman. Two Florida pavement tracks present on the race schedule have disappeared from the schedule: The track which may most likely return is Citrus County, which hosted three pivotal post-Labor Day races last year. That leaves the schedule with six races at Showtime Speedway, four races at New Smyrna Speedway, four races at Southern Speedway, and a single race at Auburndale Speedway, which hosts sprint car racing for the first time in four years in March.

One race on September 15 still has a location to be announced. For the second consecutive year, all races are with wings. Returning series director Rick Day stated that there is the possibility of more races being added to the schedule. This was the initial plan, at the time of the summer meeting that gathered Florida pavement track managers and promoters together for a planning session.

Later, races were canceled due to a disagreement over funding the race purse between the series and Citrus County Speedway management , leaving only two races left — in February and November. Then, those two races were canceled too partly for the same reason, and also due to some late model races taking on greater importance for the track.

Citrus County was now completely off the Southern Sprintcar schedule. With that revelation, it was the right time for an old Florida racing tradition to make a comeback. That changes in It could be the best-attended race night on the schedule for the Southern Sprintcar series.

Southern Sprintcar 4-wide at Showtime Speedway. With the way we pay our drivers, we could not afford to subsidize the purse to keep the date. Was Rick Day surprised to see John Inman emerge as a winner and as the new champion in series racing in ? We offered him the two franchises for next year.

Regarding the possibility of racing at Five Flags Speedway and Mobile International Speedway, or another venue or event designed to attract out-of-town teams by using restrictors, Rick Day mentioned a prior attempt to do that four years ago at Showtime Speedway. We tried that in St. Pete four years ago, when Davey Hamilton came down — talked Robert Yoho into doing that lapper and we had eight cars show up.

Hoosier Tire ramped up early-year production to get the new tire right rear M ready for Florida and the January season start. Detailed race results and point tabulations show up on the webpage owned by the series: There is one confirmed rookie who plans to join the series in , Dylan Reynolds.

Reynolds has prior go kart championships to his name, but the year-old is not going to be permitted to race at the initial New Smyrna event on February 10, as he does not have prior high-speed oval experience. The series sponsors are all returning for , including Steele Performance Parts as an associate sponsor and a Hoosier Tire supplier. BG Products also returns as the title sponsor again, same as last year.

Rick Day feels that the current 16 races for will satisfy those sponsors and also the competitors and Florida race fans, and that attempting to schedule 20 to 22 races might be too many. The possibility of Desoto Speedway making a comeback, and also Auburndale Speedway wanting more dates later in could change that number, as could rainouts.

An attempt to schedule 20 or more races and a greater chance of back-to-back race weekends was ruled out. The stability of the Florida schedule is a contrast to the just-announced King of the Wing national tour, which does not have a single US Midwest race, and also lacks a single race in the entire Eastern half of the United States. That national pavement touring series used to have a Southeast weekend and a Midwest weekend that including US races.

Rick Day bragged about the group that he works with and the racers too. Maybe he should have been, or maybe it was as if he was on the board. He worked closely with series management. The biggest, most newsworthy story of the year in Florida sprint car racing was the tragic death of Dave Steele in a pavement sprint car race at Desoto Speedway in March.

Now that over nine months have passed since this tragedy, I felt that the passage of time warranted looking back at the year in sprint car racing not based on what was newsworthy, but rather to look back based on a different theme: There was some uneasiness in the atmosphere at the track that day, due to the passing of a Florida racing legend that was so loved by fans and racers.

By the time the two days of racing had been completed, the atmosphere had changed. It was even starting to feel like it was OK for them to smile once again too. He had just won his third series race of Once Inman was atop the tire, he unfurled a banner. He now had four feature race wins in series competition in He also had an insurmountable point lead in the Southern Sprintcar series points and was the series driver champion.

Just like the driver that he paid homage to one week prior, he was now a Florida state pavement sprint car champion. To make sure all the stars were aligned, Mac Steele was at the track that night, and Stan Butler was going to climb in the seat of the number 0 Mac Steele Auto Craft car for the feature race. Garrett Green won in an early-year non-wing sprint car race at Desoto Speedway shortly before the track canceled their remaining non-wing sprint car races of He later endured serious burns and an arduous recovery through the spring and summer before getting back in a family owned dirt sprint car later in the summer.

He ventured into pavement sprint car racing later in the year too. Hayden Campbell got his first Top Gun Sprint Series wins and ended the season with three series feature wins, and seems on track to be a future series champion. Justin Webster and year-old Conner Morrell both won open wheel championships in There were plenty of rainouts during the warm weather months, followed by the arrival of a Category 4 hurricane in September, Hurricane Irma.

Only one track has not reopened after suffering hurricane wind damage, Desoto Speedway in Bradenton. It was a tough hit for the community of pavement sprint car racers to lose one of their Tampa Bay area tracks during a year that had been a very trying time for the community, which also lost two of their active racers early in the year.

After a four-month layoff due to rainouts and canceled races, the Southern Sprintcar series was back on the track in mid-September, surprisingly getting up and running less than a week after the hurricane passed through Central Florida, then finishing the rest of their schedule through early December and crowning a popular new first-time champion. Top Gun suffered their share of rainouts and an unwanted extended break from racing, welcoming some new winners and a driver championship decided in the last race of the year.

AJ Maddox took the driver championship and won the most series features during the year five. One thing is for sure — both the Florida dirt and pavement sprint car racing communities are a pretty tough bunch of racers and have made it through the tough times in The proof — they will both be back racing in , beginning in just a few weeks.

That race will determine the East Bay Sprints champion, the last remaining sprint car champion to be named in Florida. Justin Webster is the favorite to win the East Bay Sprints driver championship. He goes into the final series race on Saturday with the lead in feature wins 5 this year and also with the lead in driver points he has a 53 point lead over second place man Billy Bridges.

For the second time in the past three years, AJ Maddox went into the final Top Gun series race of the year sitting in second place in season-long points, and then passed points leader Matt Kurtz in the final points calculation after the race was over, winning the Top Gun driver championship for the second time in the past three years and Kurtz won the driver championship in Ever had a conversation with a moth or any other non-human being?

I think I may have had such a conversation earlier this week, or so it seems. Not only do they distract the fans in Knoxville, they also engage in Twitter conversations with fans, racers, and even sometimes journalists. Has an important era in Florida sprint car racing history come to an end, namely the days and nights of sprint cars turning laps at Desoto Speedway?

The track, which began racing in , has not held a sprint car race since March 25, , the day that Dave Steele died in a sprint car at the track. It appears that the current owner may be behind in payments required to maintain his ownership, and foreclosure documents filed in Manatee County may result in him losing his ownership.

The track has been shuttered since the spring, at first claiming a comeback was pending with a new promoter, and then claiming to be making plans to repair serious hurricane wind damage caused by Hurricane Irma. There has also been a history of inappropriate remarks made in the past several years by a track employee on social media, and mistreatment of the media at the track in by that same employee.

There is only one remaining sprint car track championship in Florida, the East Bay Sprints at East Bay Raceway, and they also have one remaining race on Saturday, December 9. Both touring series experienced significant events earlier this month. That was the day that the series declared John Inman as the driver champion after he won the November 18 feature race in Punta Gorda and officially had an insurmountable lead in points.

Inman had also won the prior series race on November 11 in Inverness, and his series win total currently sits at four races. He was the man who owned and operated the business that was the series title sponsor for several years, Rick Gabor of Eagle Jet International. The announcement came on November 13 that Gabor had passed away in his sleep the prior night after fighting cancer for several years.

His passion was racing. Maddox currently leads the series win totals, with five feature wins in series competition, while Matt Kurtz has three wins and the current lead in the driver points tally. Saturday looks like it will be the day to determine the Top Gun Driver champion, as Matt Kurtz enters the final race day with a slim point lead over second-place points man AJ Maddox.

Without a published race schedule, the Top Gun series has dropped one hint about the makeup of their schedule next year, and it has something to do with what was perceived as a successful comeback for non-wing racing in the series at East Bay Raceway on November They returned to the USCS series in to race in sprint cars and sprint series cars.

Petersburg; Nicholas Snyder, Marco Island. The car is owned by my dad. Danny Sams III has already been doing that for a while — driving on a national tour while remaining a full-time student. The high school sophomore has had somewhat of an up and down year racing in He plans to go to college, to study Mechanical Engineering. The rest of his team members are: Her parents, Elaine and Ron, were there to help too.

There have been some worrisome moments on the track in the past for Danny. At a West Memphis, Arkansas USCS race last year, he was leading the feature race, seemingly on the way to winning, when he was taken out and wrecked by another car with two laps to go. The last time the series visited the Sunshine State in early April, there was a palpable feeling of uneasiness and uncertainty in the air, due to the tragic death of Florida racing legend Dave Steele one week earlier.

By the time the two days of racing had been completed, many felt far less dread, and some could even feel it was OK to smile again. Both drivers donated their winnings that weekend to a fund to benefit the family of Dave Steele. All future pavement sprint car drivers were going to be better protected. Their families, friends, and fans could breathe a little easier.

Tony Stewart leads Danny Martin Jr. The series persisted, and has been redeemed by the quality of its races held at Citrus County Speedway, highlighted by the Frank Riddle Memorial in October and its all-out late race on-track brawl between Mickey Kempgens and Shane Butler.

Neither racer backed down from the high-contact confrontation, in which Kempgens went airborne into turn three, collided with Butler again, got exhaust header damage, and later went on to take his second feature win in series competition. Fortunately for the series, they return to the scene of that racing excitement, Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, this Saturday.

It is also not surprising to see him attempt to achieve success on dirt and pavement in Florida. He went on to finish in 10th place that night, and in his two prior pavement races, he was 14th at Showtime Speedway on October 7, and 8th at Citrus County Speedway on September Johnny Gilbertson hooked me up with this ride tonight, so just got to thank him.

Mac Steele is 77 years old. In fact, he has plans to make a return to Florida pavement sprint car racing as a car owner. His most recent driver, Clayton Donaldson, has a new family-owned car to race in Florida pavement racing with the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series. Hopefully both cars will be ready. Mac has discovered and mentored younger, talented drivers in the past, including his own son, Dave Steele.

These drivers had talent, maybe in a raw form, which needed developing and needed the guidance of an experienced and knowledgeable car owner. Could he see himself in the position of being a mentor again? Today, Mac spends less time at his race shop. He is splitting his time each day between the two shops. I still do some engine work there.

Spending evenings at the shop are in the past. Mac described a previous routine work week, which typically involved hours far beyond the hour work week. The sprint car that Mac and Stan were working on during those late evenings was at the track last Saturday for the vintage sprint car race at Citrus County Speedway as part of the Frank Riddle Memorial race night, and both men were at the track too.

With Stan behind the wheel for the lap vintage sprint car feature race that night, the car and driver totally dominated the race, leading every lap. It was a night for nostalgia, and reminiscing about vintage race cars, along with old drivers and old car owners, seemed like the best way to top off the evening. For one to say that this has been a tough year for the Southern Sprintcar Shootout Series would be an understatement.

After the death of Dave Steele, their star driver and car owner, and series associate sponsor, in late March, the series made significant rule changes to increase driver safety in April. Mickey Kempgens feature race winner at Citrus County Speedway The summer race at New Smyrna Speedway, originally set for late August and then reset for September 9, the day before Hurricane Irma roared through Central Florida, was the first choice for the series return to racing.

Taking a risk by scheduling a race less than one week after the hurricane caused major damage to homes and businesses throughout South and Central Florida on Sunday and Monday last week , the series announced on Tuesday that they would proceed with a race at Citrus County Speedway in Inverness on Saturday. A polling of car owners showed that the likely field of cars would be near the average field for the series cars , or greater.

There was still a far greater problem than a possible low car count to overcome. Six million Florida homes were left without power after the major hurricane passed over 60 percent of all Florida homes , with some areas likely to go without power for a week or more. On race day last Saturday, 18 cars were present, with 17 starting the feature race after a hard crash by Francis Crowder in practice.

He was reported to be uninjured. Attrition in the feature race was high, with about half the field out after a yellow flag for the incident between the cars of Johnny Gilbertson and then race leader Shane Butler, who appeared to be on his way to a dominating feature win. With Butler out, there were only nine cars remaining for the last restart. Mickey Kempgens immediately jumped out to the lead and stayed there until the checkered flag waved on lap It was his first feature race win with the Southern Sprintcar series.

John Inman, the current series point leader, was second, and Carlie Yent, current second place in series points, was in third place in the feature, followed by Dude Teate and Brian Gingras to complete the feature top five. Carlie Yent, after her 3rd place finish at Citrus County Speedway, For Carlie Yent, it was her first top three feature race finish in sprint cars, with a fourth place finish as her previous best finish in sprint cars.

Last year as a rookie driver, Carlie Yent earned fourth place in overall series points and was ranked in second place in rookie points. She was also impressive on another Southern Sprintcars race day last summer, when she had top five finishes on a doubleheader feature day at Showtime Speedway on July 16, She also had a new multi-color vinyl wrap on her car last Saturday, one of several cars showing new colors for the first time that day.

Nichols is employed by them in sales of the pumps. He explained that a fuel pickup problem put him out of the feature when his car kept shutting off in the corners. The Donaldson family told me that Todd, wife Jennifer, and their son Clayton own the car, a Hurricane chassis.

Donaldson Motorsports is still a family owned team. Clayton went on to finish in sixth place in the lap feature race. That track reported minor hurricane wind damage and had racing last Saturday. Hendry County Motorsports Park, located in a swampy, low-lying area close to Lake Okeechobee, likely has flooded even without the lake overflowing its banks.

Subsequent to this, the Southern Sprintcar series stated, as of 6 p. Tuesday, that they will race this Saturday. East Bay Raceway Park: East Bay Raceway has a flooded infield and also flooded front straight, no other current damage report for now. New Smyrna Speedway was likely the first Florida short track that I found with a damage report, they have sign damage only.

Showtime Speedway in Pinellas Park has sustained "some damage", but intends to open tomorrow, Wednesday night, September 13, for practice. Their next scheduled sprint car race is on Saturday, September The track has made several social media posts in the past 24 hours, without any mention of damage to the track by hurricane winds.

Volusia Speedway Park is one of the latest FL short tracks to report damage: Has reported that they have no major damage, but a great deal of storm cleanup to complete and no power as of today. Hendry County Motorsports Park: No current damage report available, although the track has been closed for renovations for several months, and had stated that they hoped to be open again this month.

A sprint car race date in September was previously canceled. Garrett had the distinction of being one of the few sprint car drivers who has won a sprint car feature race on both dirt and pavement in the past two years, joining Sport Allen in that category. He had won a non-wing pavement race at Desoto Speedway in February, one of a couple of sprint car races there this year before the track shut down for the summer.

Garrett started in the back of his heat race, which had six or seven other cars. They finished fourth, happy with the passing points earned. This likely would place them in the top ten for the feature race, with hopes for a top five or better in that race. Garrett left the track at the completion of the heat race, heading down a long, darkened road toward the pits, a road about yards long with no lights.

The area where his team was pitted did have lights. A fuel line had loosened during the heat race and sprayed fuel on the engine and the cockpit floor while he was on this road. A fire erupted in the engine area and also in the cockpit, up to the level of the steering wheel. As he was being helped out of the car and away from the fire, his uniform pant leg was pulled up and a portion of his leg was exposed to the fire just above his fire proof sock.

A three-inch area around his leg was burned badly, later determined to be a third-degree burn. As he was taken to the ambulance, the car was still on fire. After fire extinguishers and a bucket of water over the engine were used, the fire was out. The ambulance crew treated Garrett and gave him instructions to go to the hospital, telling him that the burn looked severe.

Not wanting to be stuck in a hospital in Alabama for a week or more, his family agreed that they would leave and go directly back to Tampa, where they could get Garrett treated at a hospital close to home — Tampa General Hospital, which had a burn unit. Garrett was admitted for the burn to be treated, and the initial plan was to allow time to heal and then likely avoid a skin graft, as long as healing progressed steadily.

At five weeks mid-May , the burn was not healing as quickly as hoped for, as third degree leg burns should have noticeable healing after three weeks. Because of his age 18 , his doctor was going to allow him some more time to heal before scheduling surgery for a skin graft. Garrett was feeling some frustration about an unknown date for his return, and the possibility of losing part or all of the summer of racing.

By June, nine weeks had gone by since the fire and the decision was made — Garrett needed a skin graft on his left leg to move the healing forward and complete treatment. That meant a trip back to the Tampa General Hospital burn unit for surgery, which was done on June Even if the car was going to draw laughs and taunts, those were likely going to be followed by the ultimate compliment: While a comeback date was being set, Garrett celebrated his 19th birthday on August 3.

Now we need to keep him in the seat with the best competition we can get him in, in order to see if he still keeps excelling. Garrett was already spending time working with his father in his construction business, after graduating from high school in December The time to set that date had arrived.

With both wings damaged, Gary left Tampa in the morning with two new wings to allow them to race again on Saturday night. Two USCS races were planned for the weekend, and they wanted to race in both. With a limited engine at the ready, they may likely race with the Eagle Jet Top Gun series late in the race season their last race is on Saturday, December 2 at East Bay Raceway Park.

They still intend to enter one or more of the fall season Florida races with the Southern Sprintcar series, which races through December, in the pavement car owned by Lee Cipray. Aaron is bringing Sam Pierce Chevrolet sponsorship, but is not leasing the car, as he has done in Florida previously.

The September 9 series race, at Desoto Speedway, is the second planned race after an unusually long summer break for the Southern Sprintcar series. Southern Sprintcar series officials have been working on finalizing a schedule, getting commitments from several tracks for races, including New Smyrna and Auburndale Speedway, which has not hosted sprint car racing since March 15, New Smyrna has three dates, one during February Speedweeks on Sat.

The remaining tracks expected to return are Desoto, Showtime Speedway, Citrus County Speedway, and also Southern Speedway, the newest track added this year. In the near future, the series is showing that it has stable management, reliable partners, and tracks friendly to hosting their races. Their only recent trouble has been a single fatal racing accident and the uncertainty at Desoto Speedway, which claims that it will return to racing next month after recently losing several race-day and PR staff to Showtime Speedway.

Silver Crown team test, New Smyrna Speedway. His previous start, in April, yielded a sixth place finish at Phoenix Raceway. The team has a dirt champ car, but with the pavement experience of their drivers, they have stayed off dirt this year. The next race is this Saturday at Volusia Speedway Park. There has been no comment on whether the series will seek to return to All-Tech Raceway in North Florida, which recently resumed racing with a limited schedule.

Recent feature winner Tyler Clem has driven the last two races with a car owned by Gene Lasker after selling the motor he had used for limited racing. They also came close to getting a Little win in May, finishing second to Kyle Hamilton. I have received an initial positive response from staff at Anderson Speedway for an idea to present Little race-winning trophies to the duo that won in , Wayne Reutimann and Danny Smith.

After the two drivers posed for a photo together for the first time ever in May at the Steele Family Benefit in Gibsonton, they both confirmed that they did not have, or could not locate, the single trophy for the winning driver. The only things he saved from the car were the steering box, motor, and rear end.

He was uninjured and shortly after returning to the pits with the bent remains of his car, he was joking and smiling with fellow racer Tim George. You know how that goes — you just get the monkey on your back. Kurt Taylor was still able to laugh after flipping his car down the back straight at East Bay Raceway Park, I could be swimming in my pool and drinking a margarita!

At the time of the interview in late June, Kurt had not told his car owner or his wife of this decision, so an intentional delay in letting the news out was planned to allow him to tell all the important people in his life. Kurt chose the Nichols Brothers, his current sprint car owners, as his favorite car owner. Go ahead and get it. He calls me once a week: Call me and let me know how you did.

If you need anything, give me a call. The competition is really tough in this division. Guy Bos — he was a good competitor. Now, these young guys that are coming up are putting us old men to shame. These guys are good. Driver, car owner, mechanic, crew and everything. I met a lot of great people, and I got hooked up with Jack Nowling and we went racing out of town a lot.

With months of racing left in Florida with a season that goes to December, and that season barely half over, Kurt still looks to improve over his first half performance at East Bay and beyond. He wants to finish races, get two or three more wins this year, and load the car in the trailer in one piece. He has two complete cars for the last 4 months of the season.

He has also made a commitment to wear his HANS device every time he climbs into his race car, as he was wearing it in the East Bay crash and it protected him from serious injury. Just be safe and load it in the trailer, instead of tumbling down the straightaway! After a season-opening weekend on February 3 and 4 when they had the national sprint car media all to themselves as the only sprint car races that weekend, and then another two races in March, the run of good fortune and good weather for the Eagle Jet Top Gun Sprint Series ended.

As of today, the series win totals are as follows: There are a total of 10 races remaining at four different Florida dirt tracks through the first Saturday in December. With so little to report regarding on-track activity, I decided to pose two questions to each driver that I could locate at the most recent series race on Friday, June 30 in Ocala and use their replies for the Top Gun Series mid-year report, which follows.

How has your year gone so far racing on dirt? This is my fourth race in this car this year. This is my first Top Gun race, all of our other Top Gun races have been rained out. We wanted to be able to do that. We ran last weekend, but before that we got rained out like six races in a row.

Every year, I go through more than one or two motors. We ran the first six races of the year and we had the motor out four times, same motor. Last week we had the right rear knocked off of it and a bead lock started letting air out of it at East Bay. We just race for fun and do the best we can.

We go out and try to win them every week. You know how that goes, you just get the monkey on your back. The Winternationals was probably the best for me, being in the top five in the nationals, that was a career accomplishment fifth place in the East Bay Winternationals finale feature race on February Hopefully we can get some more races here, if the weather will cooperate.

We had planned on going out of town, to run some USCS, and like three weekends in a row it kept raining out. They kept rescheduling Phenix City and it kept raining out. We wanted to wait until this car was done. Trying to come back — just struggling keeping it together with me and Dad.

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