Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – HANFORD, CA – Hanford, CA’s Keller Auto Speedway is back on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series schedule for the second year in a row, hosting the $21,000-to-win Tom Tarlton Classic this Friday, September 16.
Carson Macedo, who is the two-time and defending champion of the race honoring his great-uncle, enters as the favorite for his Series-best 12th win of the season this weekend. The Jason Johnson Racing #41 star will welcome championship competitors Brad Sweet and David Gravel to his home track with crucial points on the line.
Those three, plus the likes of full-time Outlaws Donny Schatz, Sheldon Haudenschild, Logan Schuchart, and Jacob Allen, will go head-to-head against California’s best for the ninth and final time in 2022. Be on the lookout for local sensations including Shane Golobic, Dominic Scelzi, Corey Day, DJ Netto, and many more.
Let’s preview what to watch for this weekend:
DOWN THE STRETCH: Only nine point races remain until The Greatest Show on Dirt invades The Dirt Track at Charlotte (Nov. 2-5) for the season-ending World Finals, and the championship chase remains tight with three drivers within 100 points of each other.
Carson Macedo (11) and David Gravel (6) both outrank Brad Sweet (4) in the “W” column, but “The Big Cat” has used his unparallel consistency to maintain a stranglehold over the points lead in pursuit of his fourth consecutive World of Outlaws championship. Sweet’s Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 averages a 5.41 finish through 51 point races, compared to 6.15 for Gravel and 6.52 for Macedo.
Entering Hanford, the current advantage for Sweet is 72-points ahead of Gravel and 98-points ahead of Macedo. Both Gravel and Macedo are the two most recent World of Outlaws winners at Keller Auto, but Sweet is no slouch at the Peter Murphy-owned track either, earning three podium results without a win thus far.
KEEPIN’ IT IN THE FAMILY: All eyes on Friday night will be on Carson Macedo, who looks to remain a perfect three-for-three at the Tom Tarlton Classic, a race held in honor of his great-uncle. The Lemoore, CA native grew up 15-minutes away from Keller Auto Speedway and turned his first laps in a Sprint Car at the track.
The 26-year-old topped the inaugural running in 2020, an unsanctioned event in the Tarlton Racing #21, and backed that up last year with a World of Outlaws win in the Jason Johnson Racing #41. JJR Crew Chief Phil Dietz will also be going for his third-straight win in Hanford, having previously won the 2019 World of Outlaws show with David Gravel at the wheel.
In recent memory, Keller Auto Speedway has morphed into arguably Macedo’s best track. In his last six starts, he owns a stunning 1.3 average finish thanks to four victories and two second-place results. Another win on Friday would not only complete the trifecta for he and Phil, it would also officially give Carson the winningest season of his World of Outlaws career with 12 victories.
CALI’S LAST CHANCE: While California natives such as Carson Macedo (Lemoore), Kyle Larson (Elk Grove), and Giovanni Scelzi (Fresno) have all topped World of Outlaws races in their home state this year, the true local Golden State racers have been shutout over the past 13 Series events on their own soil – dating back to Shane Golobic’s triumph at Placerville on Sept. 11, 2019.
Golobic, of Fremont, CA, is already a two-time winner in Hanford this year, including a Sprint Car Challenge Tour win in May. He was the lone local racer in the top-10 of Saturday’s Gold Cup finale and now heads back to the Central Valley hoping to end the streak.
Dominic Scelzi, of Fresno, CA, has been on a tear at Keller Auto Speedway lately aboard the family-owned #41S. The older brother of Giovanni, Dominic led his first-career laps with the World of Outlaws earlier this year and recently topped a NARC show in May. Other recent Sprint Car winners in Hanford include Corey Day (Clovis, CA) and DJ Netto (Hanford, CA), who are both expected to compete this weekend.
SHARK WARNING: Shark Racing dominated the headlines last month by sweeping the Knoxville Nationals preliminary programs, and they backed it up again last week with a spectacular 1-2 finish at the Gold Cup Race of Champions. It came down to the final lap as Jacob Allen beat Logan Schuchart by 0.050-seconds at Silver Dollar Speedway, delivering the biggest win of his career and back-to-back titles in Chico, CA for the Hanover, PA team.
Now the attention turns to Keller Auto Speedway, where Bobby Allen’s squad hopes to keep the hot streak rolling and end their West Coast swing on a high note. Schuchart, who recently passed 300 career top-10 finishes, has finished inside the top-10 during all five of his appearances at Hanford, including an unforgettable 2017 victory from 19th. The DuraMAX Oil, Drydene Performance Products #1S team is still in a heated battle for the fifth spot in points as they pursue a fourth win of 2022.
For Allen, the 28-year-old pilot has been authoring one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Sprint Car Racing this year. He’s set a new career best finish at a staggering 20 tracks this season, including last week when he made it four wins aboard the Pells Tire Service, Low-E Insulation #1A entry. The reigning Gold Cup champion look to continue that trend this weekend as he vies for his first top-10 at Keller Auto, which would extend his career-best mark to 11 consecutive top-10 finishes.