Column By: DYLAN TERRY / RPW – MECHANICSBURG, PA – It’s that time of year once again, time for the month of money in Central Pennsylvania.
With that, it brings the final battles of the season between the PA Posse and the World of Outlaws. Normally, the Posse and Outlaws only duel at Williams Grove and Port Royal as the season winds down, however the stakes are even bigger this year.
The newly-formed High Limit Series is coming to town, and the rescheduled date of the Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal is also next Thursday night. The party in PA kicked off last night with the “Commonweath Clash” at Lernerville Speedway, with David Gravel scoring a $50,000 prize. The focus now shifts east to the Williams Grove Speedway for one of the most prestigious crown jewel events in all sprint car racing, the Champion Racing Oil National Open.
After that, some drivers may choose to attend another High Limit show scheduled across the river in New Jersey at the Bridgeport Speedway on October 3rd. As I said above, the attention then turns to the Tuscarora 50 at Port Royal on Thursday, a potential teaser of the action we will see during the Outlaws’ “Nittany Showdown” weekend on Oct. 6th and 7th. So what do all of these big money races in the area mean? Bigger car counts, and a ton of cash on the line.
The “grandaddy” of all of these upcoming events has to be the National Open at the Williams Grove Speedway. The track is one of the most historic facilities in all of sprint car racing, and it also features a whopping $75,000 payday to the driver who can tame the half-mile on Sept. 30th.
In the past, the National Open has had typically around 45-50 entries each weekend. With the addition of surrounding races, it very well could mean that we may have the most anticipated list of driver entries for the Natty O in quite some time.
Many invaders come to mind, such as Brian Brown, Chase Randall, Aaron Reutzel, and more. So who is going to take home the $75,000 and the championship belt? Here are my favorites in each category of drivers heading into this weekend:
World of Outlaws:
#49 Brad Sweet – The Big Cat has been on a recent tear at Williams Grove, having won two out of his last six starts at the half-mile located in Mechanicsburg, PA. The only other full-time Outlaw driver to tally a win at the Grove in that span has been Logan Schuchart, but Sweet almost won that night as well back in July. A dominating performance, Brad led every lap of the feature until Logan snuck by Brad out of Turn 4 coming to the checkered flag on the final lap. Sweet’s wheel became packed with mud over the last few laps that night, which allowed Schuchart to make up the difference. Sweet has seemingly put his past paper clip struggles behind him, tallying an average finish of 7.0 in his last eight starts at Williams Grove. You can be sure that the Big Cat will be on a mission to check off one of the only crown jewel victories he has yet to take home throughout his illustrious career.
#41 Carson Macedo – When the Outlaws come to Williams Grove, it’s become almost certain to see the JJR #41 machine near the front of the pack each night no matter who is behind the wheel. After struggling at the Grove early on in his career, Macedo has taken a liking to the facility over the past few seasons. He claimed his first National Open title in 2021, and has been able to score 5 Top 10 finishes in his last eight visits to the tricky oval. He also qualifies consistently well there, averaging a starting position of 7.6 in that same timespan. Carson will be hungry to return to victory lane in Pennsylvania, as many of his loyal sponsors, partners, and supporters are from right nearby in the Keystone state.
#1S Logan Schuchart – It seems like the Shark Racing machine has risen to the ocassion during every big/crown jewel race this season. Schuchart won the Million, finished runner up in the Ironman at I-55, scored a Top 5 in the Huset’s High Banked Nationals, and was running in the Top 3 during the Knoxville Nationals prior to a mechanical failure. If that wasn’t enough, Logan also tallied his first Williams Grove victory this year, which I mentioned above. The 1S also was the runner-up during Macedo’s Natty O triumph in 2021, leading laps during that feature as well. The Hannover, PA native would love to ignite the hometown crowd again, looking to add his first Crown Jewel to the trophy cabinet in a very special way.
#83 James McFadden – The Roth Motorsports man has had a coming out party in 2023, tallying his most successful season to date with 6 victories. That is tied for the third most on the Outlaw tour, with McFadden even missing 4 shows due to a suspension early on in the season. The #83 machine has been sneakily impressive at the Grove ever since J-Mac took over the reigns of the Toyota powerplant. In seven starts at Williams Grove since he became the full-time driver for Roth at the beginning of 2022, McFadden has only finished outside of the Top 10 on two occasions. Given all of the star-studded lineups that the Grove always provides, that definitely is a statistic worth noting. You know that the Aussie would love the opportunity to do his first “shoeie” in the state of Pennsylvania, especially in front of a sold-out crowd that will be full of the “posse” faithful.
#39M Lance Dewease – While the season has been a roller coaster ride for the veteran, things are looking promising here recently. Dewease is starting to gel with his new Macri Motorsports team, and the results have been showing. He won last week’s local show at the Grove, which was also his first victory behind the wheel of the 39M. Lance also has won the event on five different occasions throughout his historic career. Oh yeah, Dewease is also the track’s all-time leader in victories. With all that said, you can definitely look for the 39M to be near the front of the pack.
#19 Brent Marks – While Marks’ 2023 season has not been as successful as his break out campaign in 2022, the Murray-Marks Motorsports 19 has still been up front in a lot of events that the team has entered this season. A winner of the Natty O in 2019, Marks consistently seems to finish within the Top 5 every time he decides to run at Williams Grove. He was on his way to winning a few weeks ago there, before a mechanical failure caused a DNF at about the halfway mark. Going back to last season, Marks has had eight appearances at the Grove against the Outlaws. He has tallied finishes of 1st, 2nd, 12th, 27th (he had a big flip due to track conditions while running within the Top 5), 2nd, 2nd, 6th, and 3rd in those events. With that much consistency, it’s hard to imagine Marks not being in the running for another Natty O crown.
#48 Danny Dietrich – The defending track champion at Williams Grove hasn’t posted an Outlaw win since 2019, so it kind of seems long overdue. In recent appearances at the Grove with the Outlaws, Dietrich has always struggled during the qualifying portion of the night, but then comes alive once the heat races begin. He’s passed a ton of cars during the heats, B-Mains, and features, so if he can finally solve his achilles heel of time trials, the #48 should be in good shape to compete for the crown. Dietrich also is a past winner of the Natty, so that doesn’t hurt his chances either.
#8 Freddie Rahmer – Freddie is the nation’s leader for 410 sprint car wins in 2023, tallying 17 on the season. 14 of these wins have came at the Lincoln Speedway, but 2 of them have also came at Williams Grove. Rahmer has given Dietrich a run for his money in recent seasons at the Grove. The duo battled for the point title until the final week of competition last season, and Rahmer currently holds the Lawrence Chevrolet 410 Sprints Point lead for this season. If Rahmer wants to earn the track championship for 2023, he will need to beat Dietrich this weekend. With a ton of money and honors on the line, Freddie will have to be on his A game this coming weekend.
#71 Anthony Macri – Guys, I know Macri is from nearby Dillsburg and has dominated all over PA over the past two seasons. But with a new ride based out of Indiana, I figured I’d classify him as an “invader”. The Indy Race Parts #71 car has historically only came near Pennsylvania during the “month of money” aside from some select appearances during the summer. This ride has always been fast in Pennsylvania though, as even a young 16 year old Giovanni Scelzi piloted the #71 to a National Open Preliminary night win back in 2018. It seems like a no-brainer that when you pair a good car with Macri who has been running the Grove for as long as many can remember, that the team seems destined for success during the weekend and will be certainly in the hunt for the title.
#24 Rico Abreu – Rico has been on an absolute tear this season, no matter where the 24 car has shown up to. He’s had the most successful season of his career, and is also coming off of his first victory at Williams Grove in July with the Outlaws. On that night, he did a fence climb in front of the “Beerhill Gang”, so you can only imagine what his reaction would be if he scored a Natty O crown. Prior to the July win, he also has had a few different podium finishes with the Outlaws at WG in the past. The west-coaster seems to have really taken a liking to the 1/2 mile paperclip of Mechanicsburg, so that could be bad news for the competition.
#13 Justin Peck – It’s crazy to think that the Buch Motorsports #13 has only been in victory lane just twice this season, at Lincoln in February and Kokomo with High Limit in August. In one of the most unluckiest seasons I’ve ever seen in the world of sprint car racing, it seems fitting that luck would maybe, just maybe be on the good side for Peck for this weekend. A World of Outlaw win is long overdue for the Buch Boys ever since Peck became the pilot of the #13. Peck was leading a local feature at Williams Grove just a few weeks ago, when he suffered a right rear flat with just four laps remaining. He always seems to have speed every time that the Outlaws are in town, so it’s only a matter of time for Peck. It would be sweet to see him earn his first win in front of the Central PA crowd, with the team being based out of nearby Lancaster.
#11 Cory Eliason – In what seems like a long shot, Eliason performed very well at the Grove during the Summer Nationals back in July. He finished 7th and 8th during those appearances respectively. He also time trialed well both nights, qualifying within the Top 5 both evenings. The Crouch Motorsports team seems to fair well every time they’ve came to Central PA, even going back to when Buddy Kofoid was behind the wheel. Eliason could be an interesting name to keep an eye out for this coming weekend, and may even surprise a few people.
Regardless of who takes home the big $75,000 paycheck, you can bet that this coming weekend will be full of storylines, drama, hard racing, and fun for some of the most die-hard sprint car fans in the entire world. Buckle up and get ready Pennsylvania, it’s (Almost) SHOWTIME at Williams Grove Speedway.