More than 300 race car drivers from across North America competing on more than half-a-dozen different dirt tracks. Nonstop dirt track racing in late-January through mid-February. If it sounds like a dream, it’s not. Instead, it was the happening known as Speedweeks 2020.
Great racing, hurt feelings, memorable moments, and more all made up the three-week saga. Without further ado, let’s talk about some of the sights and happenings of the annual pilgrimage south.
Feels Like The First Time
Perhaps one of the biggest storylines at Speedweeks was the number of first-time happenings.
2020 National Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame inductee, Terry Phillips led the way. He’s done a little bit of everything in his history. From Modifieds to Super Late Models, the Springfield, Missouri, driver has raced at tracks across North America. However, during Speedweeks 2020, he achieved a career-first.
For the first time in his 30-plus years of racing, Phillips competed both in the state of Florida and the high profile Speedweeks. Piloting a Modified for Alabamian Chris Smith, the four-time Lucas Oil MLRA Champion took part in events at North Florida Speedway (Lake City, Florida) and Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, Florida).
“Like 35-or-36 years ago, I went to a Larry Moore driving school at Volusia and turned some laps,” Phillips shared. “I’ve been down here to watch and to crew, but never to race. This deal with Chris Smith came together, so I figured why not.”
Phillips’ best finish came on January 31 at North Florida Speedway with a Third-place performance.
A host of other drivers also achieved career firsts during Speedweeks.
Devin Moran has always loved racing East Bay Raceway Park, but he had never picked up a Feature win. Moran changed that in the LOLMDS Winternationals opener at the facility when he streaked to the $5,000 victory.
Nevada’s Tanner Thorson picked up a USAC NOS Energy Drink Midget win on February 7 at Bubba Raceway Park (Ocala, Florida). His 14th-career win with the tour marked his first-career Speedweeks triumph. The next night, Chris Windom made his first trip to USAC Midget Victory Lane at the uniquely shaped, 3/8-mile oval. Hs victorious performance came in just his second start with Tucker-Boat Motorsports.
Meanwhile, two-time and defending Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) Champion, Aaron Reutzel achieved a career first. On February 6, the Texas native blazed to his first victory at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park. Reutzel added another Speedweeks win the next week at East Bay Raceway Park. Finally, the driver wittingly known as “A-Aron” ended Speedweeks with an exclamation point by scoring the $10,000 360ci Winged Sprint Car victory in East Bay’s Ronald Laney Memorial.
NASCAR Cup Series racer, Kyle Larson, had never competed at East Bay Raceway Park prior to the 2020 ASCoC doubleheader. The California racer quickly learned the ins-and-outs of the 1/3-mile oval. In fact, Larson visited Victory Lane at the facility on February 11.
On Thursday, February 13, Tennesseean Jimmy Owens topped the WoO Late Model Series feature at Volusia Speedway Park. His first win of the season also marked his first-ever win at the gumbo oval. Once Owens broke the proverbial seal, he went on a tear winning three-straight races to wrap up Volusia’s Speedweeks run.
Last but not least, defending Super DIRTcar Series (SDS) Champion, Mat Williamson, launched into the 2020 campaign with his first career DIRTcar Nationals triumph. The talented wheelman from St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada, pocketed the victory in the opening round of the SDS week on February 11 at Volusia Speedway Park. Then, Williamson bookended the week with a $5,000 triumph in the SDS finale at Volusia.
One For Barefoot Bob
A Second-place finish in the 2019 Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series (LOLMDS) points, paired with a brand-new ride, left Tim McCreadie optimistic for the start of the 2020 season. However, life has a way of throwing curveballs. Such was the case for the New York racer.
In late January, his legendary father, “Barefoot Bob” McCreadie fell extremely ill. Tim contemplated delaying his trek south to open the LOLMDS campaign at Georgia’s Golden Isles Speedway on January 31. However, upon the urging of his family, the 2006 World of Outlaws Late Model Series Champion ultimately made the last-minute trip.
The decision was rewarded with an emotional McCreadie victory on February 1 in the LOLMDS opener.
“When he started cracking and being rough on everybody, with the jokes, we knew he was getting better,” McCreadie said with a halting, emotional voice in Victory Lane after he received word earlier in the day that his father’s condition had dramatically improved. “They told me to come down here, and if anything happens, I can go back home.
“It just shows the dirt track people are just so good to each other. To just say, ’Hey, we were thinking about you.’ It’s pretty cool.”
McCreadie went on to win a total of two races during Speedweeks and left Florida with the LOLMDS point lead.
Long Way From Home
Jason Beaulieu, once again, made the arduous drive from his Campbell River, British Columbia home, to compete at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals. How far of a drive is it, you might ask? The answer is a mere 3,475 miles. With a total round-trip distance of almost 7,000 miles, Beaulieu has now made the trek for nine-straight years.
Cat On The Prowl
Defending World of Outlaws (WoO) NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Champion, Brad Sweet, hit the ground running at Speedweeks. The driver known as the “Big Cat” picked up the Ollies Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions (ASCoC) Sprint Cars season-opening win on Tuesday, February 5, at Volusia Speedway Park.
“I can’t thank my team enough for their hard work this offseason,” said the driver of the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 Sprint Car. “Anytime you can roll out of the box and win is pretty special. It’s extra special with my daughter and wife here. It’s pretty neat to begin the year like this.”
On the heels of both his consistency and his win, Sweet also captured the Big Gator championship for the week-long point battle at Volusia Speedway Park. Additionally, he vacated the Sunshine State with a two-point advantage atop the WoO standings.
The Amsoil USAC Sprint Cars kicked off its 2020 season at Florida’s Bubba Raceway Park. While the scheduled tripleheader on February 13-15 was reduced to two events by Mother Nature, one driver made the most of the opportunity to race. Oklahoma’s Brady Bacon swept both events. Additionally, he claimed both Hard Charger Awards after winning each Feature from the ninth-starting position.
Needless to say, the driver known as “The Macho Man” is off to a fast start to the new year.
A “Hughes” Win
More than 80 DIRTcar UMP Modifieds took part in the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park. Seven days of action culminated on February 10 with the annual Gator Championship. With a $5,000 winner’s check on the line, veteran-racer Jason Hughes from Westville, Oklahoma, started on the Pole. He was joined on the front row by 19-year-old Spencer Hughes from Meridian, Mississippi.
Jason Hughes controlled the majority of the finale and looked to be on his way to the victory. However, the caution flag flew as the leading duo exited Turn 4, coming to the checkered flag. The ensuing green-white-checkered, two-lap shootout found Spencer Hughes powering to the lead on the high side. The talented young racer led the final two laps for the coveted win in the Brian Foy Racing #11.
“This is just unbelievable to come out on top against such a great field of racers,” Spencer Hughes shared in Victory Lane. “I wouldn’t have won if that caution flag hadn’t come out on the first white flag lap. Jason [Hughes] had me beat, but we got a good run on the restart and got to the lead. Again, this is just unbelievable.”
Lightning Larry and Back-To-Back B-Shepp
New York’s Larry Wight, and Illinois’ Brandon Sheppard, might compete in two different divisions, but they had something in common at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals. Each driver repeated as the week-long point’s champion in their respective divisions.
With three-straight victories, Larry Wight claimed the Super DIRTcar Series Big Block Modified title. Meanwhile, with consistency and a pair of wins, Sheppard was crowned the Super Late Model champ.
New Kid on the Block
Lake City’s All-Tech Raceway converted from asphalt to dirt a few years ago. The facility has been expanding its repertoire ever since. In 2020, they kicked things up a notch by hosting a handful of events during Speedweeks. The 1/2-mile clay oval kicked things off with a triple-header with the Short Track Super Series Big Block Modifieds. Stewart Friesen pocketed a pair of wins, while Erick Rudolph won the $10,000 finale.
Additionally, the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series held its first-ever event at the facility with Jonathan Davenport visiting Victory Lane.
Until Next Time
The dust is now settled on another edition of Speedweeks. Great weather and outstanding racing headlined the legacy of the 2020 edition of the mega-gathering. Now, we all take a deep breath as we get ready for another long and entertaining year of racing action.
Safe travels everyone, and I look forward to hopefully seeing many of you at a track very soon.